Archive for February 2012

Opportunities to serve where ever we are.

We are being truly blessed in our work here in Pennsylvania. We are meeting and working with some wonderful families.  We have seen an increase in the number of people that are now participating in the Mansfield Branch. Our Sunday meeting attendance has almost doubled since we arrived. We are loving serving with these wonderful people.

Although we miss our family and friends we are grateful to be here. Other members of our family are very involved in serving others.  This is a letter and pictures that we received from our daughter Laurie who is living with her family in Guatemala for a year to help the people there. As you will see from the letter and pictures below they are doing an incredible job. Enjoy. If you want to donate to the shoes project, email me and I will tell you how to get money to Laurie.

Dear friends and family,

I tried to keep this story short, but still do it justice. Hopefully you have time to read it because I think it will make you smile.

A few weeks ago I sent out an email about a widow who needed shoes for her 7 children, asking if anyone would like to help us buy shoes for the family. Well, as I assumed would happen, there were lots of people who wanted to help and we had more than enough money donated to help the family. A few days after we gave the mother the money, she came to our house with a couple of her kids. She reached into her bag and pulled out a new pair of shoes for one of her kids and proudly showed them to me. Then her son, who I would guess is around 11-years-old, lifted up his pant legs and with a big grin on his face, showed me his pair of brand spankin new black gym shoes. The mother was planning to get the rest of the kids shoes soon, and I’m sure she has by now.

But I want to share what happened next, all because of you who donated. About a week later, I went with a couple of my kids to the market. Every Thursday and Sunday, people come in from all the surrounding communities to buy and sell at the market. It’s incredibly authentic and typical, and is really quite an experience – it’s like going back in time. I don’t think much has changed in this little local market for centuries. We live a half a mile or so away from the centro, or town square where the market is held in the shadow of the large Catholic Church. This particular day as we walked to the market, we passed a mini-van bringing people in from the aldeas . . . which are little village areas outside of the city of San Martin Jilotepeque. What I love about being here is that we see the real Guatemala . . . no tourist presentations here. These people coming into town for market day are the real deal…as Guatemalan as they get. Many of them literally live in bamboo huts at the end of dirt paths that trail off through thick foliage. They generally wear only the traditional handwoven clothing, they all carry their things in baskets on their heads, and if they have a baby, it will be wrapped in a cloth and tied around their back. They live in some of the poorest conditions I’ve seen. Some of them speak Ka Chi Quel, the native dialect from this area, better than they speak Spanish, in fact, some of the elderly only speak Ka Chi Quel.

It was one of these elderly aldea ladies that caught my eye. She climbed gingerly out of the mini-van and walked over to the curb and sat down. She was hunched over, unable to stand up straight, and she was barefoot. As I stood there watching her for a minute, looking at her bare feet, I remembered the extra money that had been donated, leftover from the family that we bought shoes for. “Look, she doesn’t have any shoes,” I said to Ryan and Lauren who were there with me, “I’m going to buy her some”. We crossed the street and I sat down on the curb next to her. Just before I got there, she looked up, saw me, and broke into a beautiful, warm smile. Her long black hair was in two braids, connected by ribbon running through the braids, indicating that she was very staunch Catholic. Her clothing was tattered and she needed a bath, but her eyes were alive and happy amidst her very wrinkled face. I smiled back and asked if she spoke Spanish. Fortunately she did, because I only know one word in Ka Chi Quel, and that’s “good night,” which would hardly have been appropriate.

“Would you like some shoes?” I asked as I sat next to her. She quickly lifted her hand and rubbed her fingers and thumb together, saying “no money.” “I want to buy you some shoes,” I clarified, “right now, in the market.” I looked down at her feet, and asked again, “Would you like some shoes?” Her feet were wide, flat, and very worn. It was obvious that she hadn’t had shoes for a very long time, if ever. For a split second I wondered if there was a chance that she she wouldn’t want any shoes…maybe they would hurt her feet after so long without any. But she did want some, and we walked the last two blocks to the market together, my kids tagging a little bit behind. She was hunched over and moved slowly with age, but her feet were so calloused that not even the cobblestone plaza seemed to trouble her. I wouldn’t have made it even one step without shoes on. In fact, as I walked next to her I felt guilty in my new comfortable tennis shoes.

Before long, a nice lady at one of the shoe stands had helped us find a good quality pair of leather slip on shoes, padded for comfort, and wide enough to get her feet in, but tight enough to not rub and give her blisters. They’ll be the last pair of shoes she’ll ever own, so I wanted them to be good quality. With a nice pair of thick socks for cool nights, the total came to 150 Quetzales, which is a little under $20 bucks.

It’s tradition to greet friends and acquaintances, and say goodbye, with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I didn’t hug her when we met, but I did when we said goodbye. It was a very long hug because she wouldn’t let go, and she must have said, “God bless you,” a half a dozen times. As she walked off into the market, before she bought anything, she wound her way through the stands of fruits and dried fish for sale toward the Catholic church, climbed the small set of stairs, and headed across the court to the entrance. I told Ryan that I thought she wanted to thank Heavenly Father for her new shoes.

For as long as the “shoe fund” lasts, we will be buying shoes for anyone we meet walking through these streets barefooted. I feel guilty taking the fun part, but thank you to all of you who donated for the family, and now for this sweet old lady, and for all those whom we’ll find in the next months before we leave.

I’ve attached some pictures so you can be a little more a part of the experience. Notice the rough stone in the market place . . . that was what she was dealing with. The pictures start at the curb where I met her, and end with her walking away with her new shoes on.

Love, Laurie

Laurie and children with Guatemalan woman

Going to buy shoes

Buying new shoes

Walking over the market cobblestone

Leaving with NEW shoes on.


Happy Birthday – Sister Jackson’s Dad turns 90!

My father, Blaine Porter, turned 90 this last week. We love him and miss him, especially on his 90th birthday. There was a party for him and many came from all over to see him. He is a great example to everyone of a kind and loving man. We hope to join him for his 92nd birthday party. I think he looks GREAT! I’m glad I have his genes.

Five Generations - taken last year.

Another five generation photo with Isabella happier.

Leadership Training in State College, Pennsylvania

We attended another incredible day of training in State College this week. We continue to be amazed by the leadership, testimony, and example that these young Elders and Sister demonstrate. Of course President and Sister Topham are incredible as they work and train all of us.

Eating lunch with some of the missionaries.

Leadership training group 2-22-2012

Valentine’s Week – Workshops, Conferences, Food, and More!

This week we had a MLS (Member and Leader Support) Senior Missionary Workshop for the Senior Missionaries in our mission.  It was wonderful to get together. The four missionary couples met at the Altoona Stake Center at 10:00 am on Tuesday, February 14, 2012. Yes, we actually celebrated Valentines Day together at the workshop. We came from the four corners of our mission and Altoona was the most central place to meet. We found the workshop useful and uplifting. We shared challenges and successes with each other and came away with new ideas and determination.








Lunch was held at a round table in the cultural hall and included Subway sandwiches, chips, a vegetable tray, water, orange juice, and baked goodies for dessert. It was a great time to visit and get to know each other.

Visiting during lunch








Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission MLS Couples 2-14-2012



Just so you don’t worry that we didn’t have a fun Valentines day we did stop at a nice restaurant for dinner on the way home. Then Saturday night the Stake had a Marriage Conference/Dinner/Dance. We had a great time and even danced!

Still loving being together!

Our Current Family Miracle

You may have remembered at the beginning of our Pennsylvania Adventure we mentioned that our daughter Melissa had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. We were just leaving the MTC on November 11th, 2011 when we found out. Well your prayers and ours have been answered.

Here in her own words is what happened:

February 10th, 2012

I met with the oncologist today to get the results of last week’s scan, and I have blessed news. He said there is some “residual cancer” in my hips, but the other spots (lung, lymph nodes, spine) appear to have minimized enough that it’s like they’re not even there. As we looked at the scans, Sam said, “That’s pretty good, isn’t it?” And the doctor said, “That’s not just pretty good. That’s great!”

After he reviewed the results with us, he said, “It looks like your prayers have been answered.” And I said, “Well, we’ve had a lot of prayers” (because I know so many friends and family have been mindful of us). And he said, “Well, they worked.”

We feel so blessed, and know that your love and prayers have been and will continue to be a part of the healing. Thank you all for praying for and believing in God’s hand. Love you all . . .


Here is a picture of Melissa with her family.

Melissa and Family

Thank you for your continued prayers in her behalf. Our family is being very blessed.

Changes in Zone and District Leaders and a new Missionary

We are excited to welcome new missionary leaders to our Zone and District. We also have a new missionary. Here is our new group.

New District as of 2-8-12

We look forward to working with these Elders. They are all incredible.

Elder Auga has a welcome experience for the “new to our district” Elders. It is a stick pull with a hand crafted and carved pole. The winner is the best two out of three pulls. How do you think you would do?

Get ready . . . get set . . . PULL!

Pull harder Elders

Ohhhhhh, not quite hard enough.


Another Elder gives it a try.



I told them I didn’t want to embarrass them by beating them all, but since I am always wearing a skirt or dress it just doesn’t seem appropriate. If I did it I’m sure I would be the one flying.

Palmyra, New York Temple Trip

The Branch had a special temple trip to the Palmyra Temple on February 4th. One of the sisters from our Branch went for the first time. It was a special day for her and for all of us.

Mansfield Branch group at the Palmyra Temple


It was a beautiful day, even in the winter.

Palmyra Temple in the winter.

Missionary District Meeting and Changes

We had some excellent training at our District Meeting on February 1st. The Elders do an incredible job teaching. This week, my personal favorite, Elder Jackson taught the missionaries about Knowledge. He did a fantastic, incredible, and super job, in my unbiased opinion. Several of the other Elders also taught.

Elder Jackson teaching the missionaries.








Since Mission transfers are next week, this was the last District Meeting with this group. We are hoping that we don’t loose very many of these wonderful Elders. We have really grown to love them.

Last time together with this group.








We went out to lunch after.

Elder Jackson and Elder Medina visit at lunch.