Saturday, August 4, 2012

 Elder Spens and his brother Bill
 We found some blueberries!
 Kaitlyn and Eddie are going to be married in the Salt Lake Temple next week.
 A visitor means another trip to Denali Park.
 Denali Park was originally set aside to preserve the Dahl sheep like these high on the mountain.
 A grizzly bear mom munching on grass to build up fat for winter.
 Here are her two lazy cubs.  It's beginning to look like fall in the park.
 How many Ptarmigans can you count?  (It's Alaska's state bird.)
Try out this recipe for blueberry pie.

We have had a fun and busy week.  Bill flew into town, so that gave us the opportunity to show him around a bit.  We had a chance to try our hand at panning gold and showing off the oil pipeline.  On Wednesday we went to Healy for Institute class.  We were pleased to have three students and one nonmember there.  Bill was happy to make some thoughtful comments as well.  

Thursday was Institute class in Fairbanks.  We always enjoy meeting with the young adults and sharing the gospel with them.  I made a big batch of chicken enchiladas.  It's fun for me to see the students enjoy the food so much after classes.  

On Friday Bill wanted to try his hand at fishing.  We asked the experts where we could fish close to Fairbanks.  The best suggestion was the Chatanika River.  It was a cold and wet day.  At one point the thermometer read 47 degrees.  Great weather for someone visiting from the hot Salt Lake valley!  Bill tried several spots with no luck.  However, Jerri Olsen had told me of a place she likes to go to pick blueberries, and since she was out of town and we were very close, we gave it a try.  Berry picking is the Alaskan thing to do in August.  Last year we didn't know what to look for.  I think the spot we found had been picked already, but we still got enough berries to count.  If you want a real Alaskan experience, try the blueberry pie recipe.  

Today, Saturday, we drove to Denali Park and took the bus to the Eielson visitor's center.  The clouds were hanging very low on the mountains and it was a bit chilly.  The colors have started to change a little.  It's surprising how much things change here week by week.  There was even snow on the tops of some of the lower mountains this week.  We enjoyed our trip and were able to see a lot of the park animals.  

Kaitlyn and Eddie had a reception here in Fairbanks before leaving next week to be sealed in the Salt Lake Temple.  After a reception in Salt Lake, they will be going to Missouri where Eddie is from for an open house there.  They are a wonderful couple.  Kaitlyn has come home to Fairbanks the past two years from BYU and has been a wonderful part of the branch.  Like so many others, they will be going away to finish school and start their lives together. 

On the home front, our grandaughters Gabi and Cate turned eight years old this week.  Cate was baptized today on her birthday, and Gabi is in Brazil visiting her grandparents there.  When her dad, Daniel, flies to Brazil next week, she will be baptized there.  It makes us so happy to see our grandchildren make the choice to be baptized and become members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The missionary work continues to go forward here and we love serving and sharing our testimonies of Jesus Christ.

Have a wonderful week,
JoAnn and Jim

 Kaitlyn and Eddie's quilt with a lot of blueberry prints.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

  This is our kale garden here in Alaska doing very well.  It is an excellent climate for cool weather crops and along with the long hours of sunshine things do very well.
   This is our kale garden a few days latter after a moose had eaten a good portion. We do not always see the moose that travel through our yard but the evidence is irrefutable.
 Cameron, Gary and Matt who have been in the YSA group from the time we started almost two years ago.  They have all served faithfully in the branch presidency.
Rose and Taylor who both actually knew each other and grew up in Barrow but have re-connected here in Fairbanks and now are engaged to be married. They have not set a date yet.
Mushrooms are popping up all over the forested land and this one is coming up from under the deck in front of our apartment.
A tree used to grow here in this plot at the institute the tree died and now it serves as a  zucchini patch.
                                        President Olsen and his wife Jerri in our apartment.  We have become great friends with both of them as they are our closest member neighbors.

The weeks go by as days as we enter the last month or so of our mission service here in Alaska. We have begun to train in earnest our replacement couple the Hulls. They are a local couple who will be serving a stay at home service mission and will be taking our place on the 20th of Aug. However they will be off to Utah for the marriage of their youngest daughter Kaitlyn in the Salt Lake Temple. When they return we will have about two weeks to complete training with them and then our service here will come to an end. After nearly two years in this calling we finally feel like we are starting to understand how to accomplish the supervision of the early morning seminary and the directing of the institute program as well. Both of these programs are truly great systems for the salvation of the youth of the church. They are not just nice programs but are now vital to the youth of the church and it has been a great privilege and honor as well as a spiritual blessing to both of us to have served in this mission calling for the past two years.

Like any missionary we will leave with mixed emotions as we have come to love the people and especially the YSA of the church here in Alaska. The church continues to grow here. Investigators are baptized and the church is continually being introduced to new people. We have the great opportunity of teaching investigators in our institute classes on a regular basis. The young people bring their friends and the missionaries teach them the official lessons and we teach them the unofficial lessons of whatever the institute curriculum happens to be. The spirit will however, often direct us to teach certain things when investigators are present that hopefully will meet their individual needs.

The Olsens whose basement we live in are on a three week vacation to Utah and than on a cruise ship to return back to Alaska. So we are house sitting for them. However, a new law clerk and his wife and their dog are living upstairs temporary until they find a place of their own. It is not as quite as it might have been if we had been here alone for three weeks.

We actually shipped some stuff home and I have been getting our winter tires ready to mount on our car for the return trip. We will be driving the AlCan highway on our return trip so it will be like a road-trip vacation at the conclusion of our service here. We are certainly looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends upon our return.

Elder and Sister Spens(Jim and JoAnn, Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa)