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