Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mothers Day in Florida - 2013

I had a great Mother's Day even though I wasn't able to see any of my children or grandchildren or great grandchildren in person.  They showered me with gifts, cards and calls.  I felt very loved and I want them to know I really appreciated their attentiveness to me on Mother's Day.  It meant a lot to me...and I might gain a few pounds in the process with the delicious Shari's Berries and chocolate.  Thanks Brent & Kristy, Robert & Kim and Leslee & Win.  My wonderful husband made me a delicious dinner also and bought me a new odometer for my bike.  Now he just needs to get it programed correctly so that I know how fast I'm going and how far.  It was on Kilometers at first and now I don't know what it's on.

Taking pictures of the gifts was not my first intention but I promised Melynn I'd take a picture of the flowers she sent because you never know what flowers are going to look like and these were particularly pretty with miniature variegated roses.  What was funny is the fact they came from Folkston, Georgia which is about 30 mile north of us.  There aren't very many florists around us much less any other stores - just dollar stores and pharmacies.

Now, thanks to Jalene & Tim, I get to show off my grandkids where ever I go because I have a phone cover for my Iphone with pictures of them on it.  Jen and John sent me a cute apron with the kids hand prints on it - so cute and I don't have an apron here although I don't want to get it dirty!  Derek and Hilary sent me a cute Hawaiian skirt (I'm getting tired of my old ones, much appreciated) and the rose (Brent's idea) was from church.  What can I say, I am truly blessed!!!    

Thanks again for all of your gifts and thoughtfulness.  We love you very much and pray for you each day.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

We were blessed to be able to find and work with Faith Raulerson, a 13 year old young woman and her step dad Tony McMaster for the past several months.  We found them back in December when we were looking for Faith's mom (now Tony's wife) but with the holidays, scheduling conflicts etc. it took a while to establish a schedule for lessons etc.  In late January or early February we finally asked if we could pick up Faith on Wednesday evenings and take her to Young Women's and have her start lessons with the Elders prior to the YW meeting.  Faith said she would like to go and her mother Melissa thought that was a good idea.  We were also able to arrange to meet with Tony each Wednesday night when we brought her home.  Tony had had a couple of lessons with some missionaries 2-3 years ago but felt they were pushing him too hard and quit seeing them.  We promised to just go at whatever pace he felt comfortable with, told him to ask as many questions as he wanted to and he was willing to proceed on that basis.   Now after a couple of months and many prayers and good discussions he was baptized on the 4th of May along with Faith.

Our mission President tells the Elders to give short powerful lessons, no more than 30 minutes, but our conversations with Tony went way over that.  We are there for well over an hour each time and sometimes we are there nearly two hours but it has been a great experience for us.  He is a good man that wants to have God and Jesus Christ in his life.  He gave up his tea and alcohol immediately, has been working on cleaning up his dockworker's language, started to have prayer and  family meals together as often as they can in the evenings and has been anxious to be baptized.  Faith has been anxious as well.  She gave up her sweet tea immediately after the lesson on the word of wisdom and when we picked her up for YW last wed. as soon as she got in the car she excitedly said "only 3 more days until I get baptized!"  It has been amazing.

Both Tony and Faith were baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints yesterday, May 4, 2013.  Brent was able to baptize Tony and Faith's uncle, Josh Rayburn baptized her.  Brent confirmed Tony today in sacrament meeting and Elder Tibbitts confirmed Faith.

It has been a wonderful weekend.
Tony McMaster with Brent and Sharyn
Faith Raulerson with Brent and Sharyn

Tony, Faith and Melissa

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Today is April 8, 2013.  It is our P day once again and we visited the Okefeenokee swamp with some friends/members. It was a great day, nice and warm but not too hot, bright sunshine, small crowds, no bugs and we saw quite a few gators.

We really enjoyed conference this past weekend.  We took an inactive member named Roy Hartzog to the chapel on Saturday AM to watch the session.  There were 5 of us there.  Elders Tibbitts and Johnson, Roy and us.  We attended again on Sunday morning and there were 7 of us.  The two Elders, our investigator named Tony McMaster and Bro. and Sister Godwin.  But I have to say that it was a very spiritual experience.  Tony is a good man and will be baptized before too long and it was great being there with him listening to the Apostles and Prophets.  We watched the afternoon sessions at our apartment both days and I went to the chapel Saturday night for Priesthood meeting.  As I did so I thought about my sons and expected that both Michael and Robert were taking their sons to the meeting and going out for a treat afterwards like we used to do.  John will have to wait a few years for Blake and Zack to get old enough for that but I hope that will be a tradition for them also.

We have been working with both Tony and Faith McMaster, his 13 year old step daughter, Tom Gordy and Catie Gann, Craig and Shelley Sperry, and a few more.  We also spend a lot of time each week finding inactive members and inviting them to attend our meetings etc.   We have become good friends with the Taylor's, the Sturdivants and others.  We have found most of the people on the roster that actually live in the area and all in all feel that we are making some progress.

Since it has been quite a while since we have posted anything to the blog we are putting on quite a few pictures taken at various places we have explored including St. Simons Island, Amelia Island and the swamp.  The swamp pictures are all in the Okefenoke, the Armadillos and the cycling in the rain are in Fernandina, the boat garage and some of the others were taken on St. Simon Island.  It is beautiful here
and never too cold although it has been cooler than we expected.

We have come to love the people here, some of them are very diligent and strong in the church.  It is not as easy to be that way here because they are so spread out and there is not as many opportunities to associate with each other.  They do watch out for each other though and do as much as they can to help each other when there is a need.
On St Simon Island they preserved all the trees by building the road around them.  

St Simon Island boat garage
Looking out at the swamp from a tall tower

Alligator nest where she lays her eggs

Closer look at the alligator nest

The swamp from our boat tour
Alligator on shore - friendly guy!!!

How would you like to meet this guy while out swimming
Alligator on the shore
Our friends, the Sturdivants at the old timey village at the swamp

Sharyn, Earl and Norbra

Brent and Earl at a homestead near the swamp

Skeletorn of a 13 1/2 ft. alligator in the Visitor Center

Cute armadillo at Fort Clinch

Drenched in the down poor at Fort Clinch
                                                            Riding in a downpour

Well it is now the 21st of April.  It took us a while to get this together and ready to post because we have been pretty busy lately.  We have some more pictures of some of the youth in the Branch, our service project of moving a Sister to Huntsville, Alabama (over 500 miles one way) and some other activities that we will put on line soon.

We had good meetings today.  One family we expected to be at church didn't make it and if they and a few other regulars had shown up we would have set an attendance record today.  We did have 97 people though and that is a great number for here.

We have met a lot of good people, some active and some not.  We can see that the gospel could really be a help to those who are not active if they could just soften their hearts and give God a chance to enter their lives and receive his blessings.

There were two men there today that we have worked with.  Roy Hartzog and Gerry Walsh.  We have had many discussions with Roy, have taught him a lot of lessons, took him to see Gladys Knight and have run him around to the doctor. and the store since he doesn't have a car.  The Elders have also taught him a couple lessons and he showed up with a member today so that was good.  Gerry used to be the president of his 70's quorum in the midwest years ago but he fell on hard times, got divorced, was in a car wreck and had some addiction problems but is a good man and wants to get his life on track again.  It was good to have him there today as well.

Things are going well overall.  Those of you who have been on missions know that there are plenty of up's and down's but more up's than down's so we are happy and healthy.

We hope the best and pray for y'all everyday.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

We are nearing the end of our 4th month here.  It is starting to feel like home.  We know our way around much better, have met nearly everyone on the roster and are working with some great couples that we love and we pray they will have a bright future.  Your prayers for the Sperrys, McMasters, Mallards, Catherine Gann, Tom Gordy and the rest of our inactive members will be appreciated. 

Activity in the Branch is improving.  We usually have 80-90 people in attendance at church versus the 60-70 that came when we first got here.  We can't claim to be the cause of it but it is good to see.

Gladys Knight and the Saints Unified Voices Choir is coming to our Orange Park Stake center for 4 performances the 15-16th of March.  It is to be a very spiritual experience but unlike anything I have ever seen in one of our buildings.  There will be professional lighting, sound, big screen TV in the cultural hall etc. so it will be a big deal.  Gladys Knight conducts the grammy award winning,  100 voice choir, will sing a few songs and will talk about her conversion story and bear her testimony.   It will be a rock and roll/gospel music performance and it will be great.  Can you imagine that kind of performance going on in one of our Stake centers where the stage is the podium and the audience is in the chapel as well as the cultural hall???  It is approved by the church and Gladys and her husband have actually been called as missionaries.  It is a free performance but people will need tickets and we are lining up some of our inactive members to take.  It will be a great experience and hopefully a boost to the missionary work in the whole area.

We have been enjoying our P-days.  Last week we went back out to Amelia Island and ate at our favorite Mexican restaurant and then took a walk on the beach.  The week befroe we drove about 60 miles up into Georgia to Jekyll Island.   What a beautiful place that is.  Back in the day it was the winter place for some of the Rockafellers, JP Morgan and the like.  The old origianl club house has been turned into a great old hotel that reminds us a bit of the hotel Del Coronado off the coast of San Diego.  We had lunch there and rode our bikes along some of their great bicycle paths.  That is where we saw our first alligator.  He was laying on the bank of a small pond that was probably only 50-60 ft. across and maybe 100 ft. long with a stream entering and exiting on each end.  The bike path runs right past it so we took the pictures from 10-12 ft. away.  He looked at me when I took the picture through the brush but didn't seem to be interested in my being there.  I guess he wasn't hungry!

Jekyll Island Club Hotel

Hotel grounds
We saw this Chapel at a truck stop on the way to the Island

It is a beautiful Island with lots of history dating back to the mid 1700's.  A couple of other interesting things were the beautiful croquet court in front of the hotel and people in all white early 1900's style clothing playing croquet.  It is complete with a score board and a referee or some kind of official.  I can just imagine the elegance of the place back then with the horse drawn carriages, top hats, fancy dresses, servants etc. etc.

Another interesting thing was the strip mall.  We are used to seeing a lot of trailers around the area where we live.  There are single wides, double wides and triple wides all over the place.  We didn't see any on Jekyll Island until we found the strip mall which is the only retail area on the island.  It is all trailers!  The market, the bank, the post office, the hardware and liquor stores, hair salon - everything is in a trailer.  Sharyn laughs about it everytime she talks about it still.

Triple wide grocery store

Variety Store, etc.

Real Estate Office on the left and Bank on the right

We were given permission to go the Orlando Temple for the Stake "Day of Consecration" where the members of our Stake were nearly the only ones there on that day.  It was an all day event.  We left at 7 AM, drove for 3 hours, did 2 endowment sessions and 1 sealing session and then drove home.  It was an excellent day. It is a beautiful temple and it was good to be there for the whole day.

Orlando Temple

Our Branch President and his wife in front of the Temple


Elder Ball was transferred last transfers and Elder Tibbitts from Orem took his place.  There are some days that Sharyn would like to transfer me but fortunately Pres. Barry won't allow it.

The cute Elders and Sisters in our District.  Elder Ball & Elder Green are in the rear by Brent

We picked a good time to be in Florida from what we see and hear about the Utah weather this winter.  We wish you all the best and keep you in our prayers always.

We love you,

Elder & Sister Brown

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


It's February and the grass is starting to turn green, a farmer just north of town is plowing and planting his fields, the trees are starting to bud out, insects are getting more numerous and the days are getting warmer.  It was 83 degrees one day last week.  The next night if froze and the high was in the 60's.  But there is no snow, no smog, no ice and all in all the weather is good.

We have worked our way through most of the Branch members directory.  We have found many people, determined that a number of them have moved and we have a pretty good handle on who's here and who is not.  We are starting to wonder what we are going to do next.  We are teaching a couple of great families and have had some success in getting others to come to church, sometimes at least.  We are so excited when people say they will be there on Sunday and we feel so bad when they don't show up,  but that is missionary work.  Lots of highs and lows.  There are so many blessings available by subscribing to, and living according to the precepts of the gospel.  We have seen it over and over again in our own lives and in the lives of people we know and we would love to see more of the people here realize those blessings for themselves and their families.

We had a great discussion last Sunday afternoon with a part member family.   The woman was active until her mid teens and her significant other grew up a Lutheran but they have both been going to the 1st Baptist church here for sometime.  He has been a Deacon in the Baptist church previously but is a great guy and is very polite and interested as we discuss our religion even though we have to assume that he has heard his share of Anti Mormon propaganda.  They had read a bit in the Book of Mormon in anticipation of our visit and had some questions relating to the plan of Salvation.  A 28 year old member of one of their families died recently in a motorcycle accident.  His Father had him cremated and many of the family members were very upset.  They wondered what our church teaches about cremation.  Our meeting lasted for about 1.5 hours, (a bit too long).  We set an appointment for a return visit and we were able to pray with them at the end, so it all went well and we are excited to go and talk with them again.

There is another family that we had heard were not friendly ever since we got here.  It was said that the woman's parents lived with them and they are very Anti- Mormon so no one in the branch had contacted them for quite a while.  We too have been a bit hesitant to go but we went there last Saturday afternoon and had a great conversation with the wife for about an hour.  She is a great lady.  She warmed up to us within a few minutes and things went very well.  Her mother died a couple of years ago and her father moved to an extended care facility a few weeks ago so maybe it was the right time for them to have some contact with the church again and we were very happy to be able to be the ones to do it.  We are looking forward to visiting there again as well.

We went to a meeting with our Mission President last week.  He told us of a great event coming up in the middle of March.  Gladys Knight will be coming to our Stake center in Orange Park (west side of Jacksonville) to do 4 firesides.  They will include a lot of gospel music, a full blown sound/lights/video performance that will rock the house.  Very unusual in an LDS meeting house, but it is being done with full approval of Salt Lake and in fact has been done many times in many places over the last ten years.  We had no idea, but we are really excited about it.  Gladys and her husband are both called as missionaries for the church.  We didn't know that either.  She will be bringing/conducting the "Saints United Voices Choir."  It is always a very spiritual event that does a lot to bolster the missionary work wherever they do it.

So, bottom line is that things are going well and we are very happy to be here.  It stretches us and causes us to do things, hear things, see things and have experiences that we could have never anticipated prior to being here but it is great.  

We send our best wishes to all of our family and friends!!

P.S.  Some of our P day activities the last few weeks.  We went to Saint Augustine, a great town on the coast, Fort Clinch by Fernandina Beach and today we road the Jacksonville/Baldwin biking trail.

Street Musician in St. Augustine

Cannon at the fort protecting St. Augustine

Cost a lot more to die now than it used to!!!
Notice at Fort Clinch (note Professional Mourner 30 cents)

Frog in drinking fountain seen while riding the Jacksonville/ Baldwin biking trail

Monday, January 14, 2013

Honeymoon ride for Cade and Erica?

January 13, 2012

Today is Sunday and it is a good day.  It was ward conference so with all of the Stake leaders there we had 101 people in attendance and that is a record during the time we have been here.  There should have been more but many are sick with the flu.  It seems to be an epidemic, not only here but all across the country.

We got permission to go to Washington DC to attend Cade and Erica's wedding on the 29th of Dec. and that was a real treat.  Missionary work was slow at the time and it was good to get away, travel and see family members for a couple of days.

The wedding was great and the DC Temple is beautiful.  Neither of us have been there since right after it was completed.  We drove our car (700 miles) and took 2 days each way so it was not a difficult trip.  We were very happy to witness the wedding and to meet Erica's family.  They are very nice people.  And it was good to spend some time with Win, Leslie, McKenna, Lance and Kara.  We were blessed to be able to be there.

We tried to see some things in DC before coming back but Sharyn was not feeling well, the wind was blowing about 40-50 MPH and it was really cold so we just drove around town for a while, then started home after taking a few pictures.

We are continuing to sort through the Branch list to determine who is and who is not here.  It is not an easy task but we are slowly whittling it down.  We stopped by another address recently where the people listed moved from there over 6 years ago!  The records are a bit out of date.  Sometimes it takes several trips to the same address before we find anyone home and most of the telephone numbers on the list are not correct.  But it is coming!

We have recently been working with three great younger couples that we have high hopes for.  But on one day everything seems to be going well and the next there is great disappointment but that seems to be the nature of missionary work.  Some people we meet are not at all excited to see us, especially when they see the badge, others are accommodating but not interested, some don't even know they are members of record and there are a few that are interested in becoming active again.  All in all there are currently 4-5 families that we feel have potential for reactivation.

We were able to (finally) dedicate the chapel today.  Construction on the addition was completed over 2 yrs. ago so it is great to be meeting in a bldg. that is now dedicated to the Lord.

The weather is interesting.  It had been cooler (in the 60's) but the last few days it has been over 80.  The bugs and ants are more active now and the grass is growing plus the days are already getting a bit longer.

Tomorrow is our P day and since that is kinda between our birthdays we are going to go to either JAX beaches or to St. Augustine.  We just found out today that we have a great looking timeshare in St. Augustine.  We won't be staying there anytime soon but hopefully before we leave we can do that.

We have seen some pictures of home recently with lots of snow and icicles and we are glad that old man winter is doing his thing in Utah.  But it is kinda nice to be here for now.

Service project with the Elders this week.  Removed a long wheelchair ramp and built a hand rail at a sister's home.  The ramp was about ready to fall down.
We send our love to everyone at home and thank you for your thoughts and prayers.  God bless you everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Its Christmas eve and we have just gotten home from delivering some gifts to a few people.  We are getting ready to nestle down on the couch with our little Christmas tree, a littel nativity both loaned to us by a Branch member, a door covered with cards from family and friends that reminds us of all those we love back home, and a really cool wood carving made by lady in the Branch.  I bought it from her.  I have been telling her that she needs to sell them and that I want to be her first paying customer so she said she was going to do that.

Although we miss Y'all, especially at this time of year, we are happy to know that you our family is all getting together and we will be there in spirit