Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Major Catch-up Time

Our time in the MTC flew by!  We enjoyed getting to know the other couples and our very talented young instructors.

We arrived in Athens, after a very LONG flight, on October 15.  That same day our new missionary friends took us up to Lycabettus Hill for a late afternoon overview of the city.

We were in a temporary apartment for the first two weeks and relied on the other senior missionaries, especially Brad and Dantzelle Allen, to show us the ropes.  Later in October we were visited by Russell and Eileen Healy, the Europe Area Welfare Specialists, based in Frankfurt.  In addition to many hours of training, we were treated to some sight-seeing, guided by our mission president, Bill O. Heder and his wife, Leeann.

L-R Russell and Eileen Healy, Susan and Brent in front of the ancient theatre at the base of the Akropolis.

At right:  President Bill and Sister Leeann Heder, with us at the Odeon theatre ruins.  Beautiful October weather that day in Athens!

After some valuable training, and Susan's recovery from an annoying virus, we ventured out to deliver hygiene supplies and fleece hats/scarves/gloves to two camps northeast of Athens, Oinofyta and Ritsona.  Here we are at the warehouse at Ritsona with our "driver" (and friend) Brad Allen and some appreciative staff from Echo 100 Plus, the NGO managing the camp.

We were invited to share a special moment with our mission president and a departing couple from the UK, Andrew and Lesley Margaret Perry, at the end of October.  We went to Mars Hill, the site of the Apostle Paul's address to the Athenians, where each of us were able to share a few words of testimony in an historically sacred spot.  A Greece Athens Mission tradition...

Another project we were tasked to complete was "baby sleeping boxes", an ingenious idea.  The kit consists of a plastic storage box, fitted with a foam pad and filled with layette-type items.  The box can be used as a sleeping space, or a bathtub.  When the baby is too big it can be converted to a storage box.  The mattress covers for the foam pads were sewn by a refugee tailor at Oinofyta camp, on sewing machines previously supplied by LDS Charities.

Thanksgiving was celebrated at President and Sister Heder's home with all of the Athens area LDS missionaries, most of whom are not American.  We had fun sharing our traditions with our European friends.  Elder Petchey, from the UK, even treated us to an informative slide show about the European origins of the Puritans and Separatists, that gave rise to the holiday.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Little Background

I'm taking a breath from our whirlwind schedule at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah to update our blog.

Brent thought it would be nice to include some history of how our mission came about.  This is a talk I gave at a stake conference on September 18, 2016 that describes our experiences.


(Let me know if you can't open this.  I'm VERY new at blogging!)

After we received our mission call on May 24 we decided we should try to learn Greek.  Eeek!  Fortunately our church has great support for senior couples in a program called Technology Assisted Language Learning or TALL.  We signed on for the online materials and Skype tutoring and for the optional week of "language immersion" in Provo, which we did in mid-July.  

On the left is the location of our classes.  We spent about 8 hours/day in the Amanda Knight Hall, an historic building (with no central A/C).  We are pictured here with one of our volunteer tutors, Clayton Cook.

On the right you can see what kind of a toll learning the Greek alphabet took on Brent!

Brent retired in July and we spent August in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming so he could get a little taste of what retirement is like.  When we returned in September we were treated to some terrific send-offs.  His partners, Iris Yang and Rich Brown, hosted a wonderful farewell party for him September 10.  Thank you everyone who participated!  Some long-time clients travelled all the way from Santa Cruz to honour him with a Mayor's Proclamation declaring September 10, 2016 "Brent Hawkins Day" in the City of Santa Cruz.

Amongst all the proclamation jargon are expressions of appreciation for his 30+ years of service, including helping the City rebuild after the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Similarly, though in not quite as dignified a fashion, Susan's Jazzercise class gave her a festive send-off in their very best approximation of something Greek-themed….including dressing her in a "toga" for her last class on September 24.

The best news came a few days before when she learned that Jazzercise Inc. was going to extend her franchise to Greece and not require her to resign during her absence.  She even got permission to offer "charitable" Jazzercise classes (free) for humanitarian purposes.  We will be fascinated to see how that plays out…..

Some of my very best Jazzercise buddies.  Note the Greek colors!
Davis Jazzercise instructors.  Who's the goofy girl in the costume??

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Welcome to our blog!

We are on final countdown!  7 more days until we leave on our Welfare/Humanitarian Mission to Greece.  This is our first post.  Stay tuned