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Christmas Memories

Christmas time provides us all with an opportunity to reflect on  those things that matter most in life–our families, the gospel, and our natural feelings  of love and generosity toward our fellow men.  The collective memories of Christmases past bring with them feelings of love, joy and peace.

Over the years, one of the simple joys of Christmas for me has been decorating the house with lights.  There is something about a house glowing with lights that brings with it feelings of warmth and joy–a sense of contentment and happiness.  Lights on the house, lights on the tree, and candles all bring those feelings of peaceful reflection and for children feelings of joyful anticipation.

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However, there are other, more practical memories of Christmas lights, and those not necessarily associated with peace.  The frustration of trying to get the pre-strung lights on the artificial tree properly connected and the burned out strands replaced–and the patience required as we waited nearly twenty years before being able to purchase lights for  the exterior of our home.  Then there are the hilarious moments associated with trying to get the outdoor lights properly attached along the roof line of two story houses.

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How Can We Teach As the Saviour Taught?

Never do for someone else what they can do for themselves.  The mistaken idea that we are helping others when we do  for them that which they can and should do for themselves is a great fallacy.  We are here to build strength in those we lead, to give them opportunities to discover their divine potential.  If we jump in to solve problems for others we are doing them a great disservice.  Instead, we need to encourage them to work out solutions, and rise to every challenge. This is how the Saviour taught.  He demonstrated confidence in the abilities of those He taught and helped them discover their own capacities.  He encouraged them to learn by doing.  We see this illustrated in the raising of Lazarus from the dead and again in the account of the Brother of Jared. In both cases Jesus allowed those He was teaching to learn by doing.  His divine power was introduced only when they had done for themselves all that they could do.

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At the airport in Larnaca ready to leave for home

How Has Your Mission Blessed Your Life?

Last week as we were flying home from our mission I took time to reflect on the many blessings we have received as a result of our full time missionary service.  I began by writing “What we had hoped for on our mission.”  It was humbling to realise that everything we had hoped for we received. We also received additional blessings that we had not sought.  The list included:

1.  An opportunity to influence lives for good.

2. Blessings for our families that “no amount of hovering over them will achieve–worlds without end.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, 2011)

3.  An increase in our individual testimonies of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

4.  A strengthened marriage.

As I wrote down these hopes I immediately recognised their fulfillment. We came home strengthened!

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Last Days in Cyprus

This week we were told by Keith’s doctors that his health is such that we need to go home and give his body time to fully heal from the mini-stroke he suffered last year.  It seems the stresses of our mission have been such that they have aggravated his condition and despite our best efforts to control it the only solution is to go home.  In a priesthood blesssing he was given we were told “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways.”  We recognize that although we would wish it otherwise, the Lord knows best, and it is His  will that we return home.  The doctor has been urging us to  go home since August–and we have finally realised we should listen to her!

We have been packing up to go and taking care of the details of returning home.  Keith had the thought that we might not return to Cyprus and that we should take a couple of days and see a few of the sights we have not yet seen.  We took time yesterday to visit the city of Paphos on the opposite end of the island. Although we have a small branch of the Church in Paphos we had not had occasion to visit there. We found Paphos to be a beautiful tourist destination, and most of the people we saw during the day were Europeans.  There were not many people who spoke Greek!  However, when Karen spoke Greek to a couple of the locals she was asked twice if she had either Greek or Cypriot heritage.  She was surprised that her Greek was that convincing!

We took time to put our feet in the Mediterranean  Sea, take a long walk along the beach, and to enjoy a relaxing meal together.  It was good to reflect on the love we have felt for the people  here, and the privilege it has  been to live and serve among them.

Journey of Paul

Visiting Paphos Where Paul and Barnabas Taught

In Paphos we visited a historical site where the Apostle Paul is believed to have preached and ministered.  It was a quiet location with a Church that is still in use surrounded by many ancient ruins.  It was a very peaceful place.  When we entered the Church we could feel a very special spirit there.  Skylights in the building’s dome allowed beautiful natural light and warmth into the room.  As we reflected on the experience later in the day we felt that the spot is  sacred because the of the great men who testified of Christ there and the good Saints who built up the Church in this area despite opposition.  We sense that the principle of “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” will apply here.  In a future day the Church will again be well established and strong here.

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Single Adult Hike

Single Adult Hike

There is nothing like the great outdoors to bring out the best in all of us.  Perhaps it is because it draws us closer to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ who created for us this beautiful world.

Last week we took advantage of the last days of Autumn and ventured to Athalassa Park with a group of Single Adults from our Branch.  We were surprised that some of them had never been to the park.  It was fun to introduce them to some of its lovely areas and take them on a short hike . It was great to be out in the sunshine together hiking up the hills above the city.

It would seem we can all leave our cares behind when we pause to enjoy nature!  Especially in today’s fast paced world with all its hustle and bustle it does the heart good to go outdoors, breathe the fresh air, bask in the sunshine, and remember that God is in the heavens watching over us all.

 

Us with Elder and Sister Jacobsen, Lisa, a returning member, and Frank a less active member.

Newly Arrived Senior Couple

This week we welcomed a new  Senior Couple to Nicosia, Elder and Sister Jacobsen from Saint George, Utah.  We are so happy to have them here.  Elder Jacobsen is a retired football coach (American Rules) and Sister Jacobsen has raised four children and worked in school office administration for thirty years.

They told us they were touched to learn after being called  to this mission that Sister Jacobsen’s Uncle had been the first mission president sent  to this area in the early 1900’s when the mission included Syria and Turkey.  He died  while serving and is buried in Syria.  We know that the Lord has sent them here for a specific purpose, and that her progenitors who  served here nearly one hundred years ago will have an especial interest in assisting in the work.

Here are a few photos of us with them at a recent Branch Movie Night.  The movie we  viewed together was “Chariots of Fire” which as it turned out was the perfect theme.  Elder Jacobsen of course was a coach, and a less active member, Frank who also attended is a professional footballer (soccer) from Camaroon.  We all enjoyed the movie and the message it portrays of courageous adherence to the commandment to keep the Sabbath Day holy despite pressure from outside sources.   I loved the scripture the main character Eric Lyddle quotes in the sermon he delivered the Sunday he had been scheduled to compete.

Hast thou not known?  hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth,  fainteth not, neither is weary?  there is no searching of his understanding.

“He giveth power to the faint; and to them  that have no might he increaseth strength.”

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:28-31