Saturday, January 7, 2017

2017 Is Here--We're Wishing You a Marvelous Year!

Hello, and how's it going for yous?  

No, it's not a typo!  We've learned that Aussies have their own version of  Texans' "y'all."  "Yous" is plural for you---among youth especially!  By now you're no doubt all back to your normal work and schools schedules, and we hope your holidays were filled with lots of fun times together with loved ones and friends. How fun it was to catch up with family via holiday Skyping, and we loved the kind contacts we received.  Thanks to each one of you!!  "Outta sight, outta mind" isn't necessarily so!  

Thanks, dear River 1st Ward, for our amazing pillow cases which are full of love and well-wishes! Though the postage to us "down under" dwellers is shocking, we appreciate you remembering us at a time of year when we naturally miss you all so much!  We enjoy reading the ward news through emails, and wish all of you dear friends and families a productive, fun, faith-filled and self-reliant year!  

Samoan Dancing Missionaries!  Well, at least the Sisters knew the dance.  The Elders just added  great comic relief.

The holiday season here goes on and on and on!!!  That's because it's SUMMER VACATION! Aussies know how to time it right to get the most out of the holidays---about 6 more weeks to play.  Things slowed down only a hair, however, as we were heavily involved in Ward and Mission celebrations which really helped us to feel a fullness of joy throughout December! The Christmas celebration for the whole Australia Brisbane Mission (175 young and 20+ senior missionaries) was held on Friday, Dec. 23rd, and lasted almost all day with our service projects, program, meal, and other celebrations, including each Zone in Brisbane giving a "talent" of
How to organize 200 hungry missionaries for a Christmas photo?  Tell them with a LOUD voice lunch is getting cold!
Guess it doesn't matter if the "wise Elder" with the beard can't keep a straight face! Mary & Joseph are a young couple from our ward who are expecting their first baby in March!  He's our  Logan Stake Executive Secretary!    

some sort.  These ranged from classical to crazy in nature, and we laughed ourselves silly over a few of the humorous presentations that only missionaries can dream up!  Elder Yates and I were in charge of the spiritual program, and did a simple nativity with narrators from the different zones. Working with our narrators was inspiring as many are "new" English speakers and really wanted to give their best to the Lord on His birthday!  And they DID!  We kept the Nativity very simple , as the program was in the chapel.  During the program, each zone provided a lovely "solo" 1st verse of each Christmas  hymn before the other 190 joined in on the remaining verses.  What a touching spirit that brought to the program.  

Vista of the "Glass Mountains" surrounded by national parks.
Finally, we spotted a koala outside Maleny's Cheese Factory that didn't run and hide!  
With our manager's blessing, the day after Christmas we took off north heading up the Sunshine Coast  for a 3 day respite and sightseeing!  Our fine Mission President McSwain even told us to go swimming and take off our badges and relax!  The only time we did take off our badges was to go swimming, and many neat things happened with four missionaries being tourists! We adore being missionaries, and wanted to spread the joy, even while "touring." The Osbornes, the only other Self-Reliance missionaries in all of Queensland,  went with us and Elder Yates drove.  The Sunshine Coast has world renowned beaches, is only 1 1/2 hrs. north. Our first day was filled with a roving trip through Glass Mountains,  so named because to the old settlers who named them they looked like the remains of the old chimneys on the glass-making factories of England. Known as the 'hinterland, beautiful and breathtaking views greeted us around every corner for 3 days.  Truly, Queensland is pristine and gorgeous, from its tropical rain forests to the yawning extensive beaches which beckon even missionaries to jump into the South Pacific Ocean even amidst the lifeguards' multiple warnings!  
No worries--swimming's OK for Senior missionaries!
Giant  poisonous Jelly who sadly gave it all up on shore!

Tuesday we headed out to the Sunshine Coast driving to Noosa Heads' Sunrise Beach, where we swam with the jellyfish, tiptoed around the myriad of species of the strange-looking stingers lying on display out on the sand or bobbing in the surf.  The "blue bottle" jellyfish was about 2 inches long and looked like a puffy little bottle but had a whip tail about 2 feet long!  A little girl near us got stung! We took the advice of the lifeguards whose warning of powerful dumping waves and strong sweep were not an understatement!  San Diego Sisters, it was reminiscent of our rip tide days in Pacific Beach!  But the "savage seagulls" were a kick!  They devoured any little crab or fish that landed even for half a second on the sand!  Swoop and gobble were their watchwords!  Hmmmm, wonder why they left the stingers (jelly fish) untouched.  Yep, because they're all STINGERS!!  This specimen was bigger around than a soccer ball, but so unique.  I was happy to throw all the little fish back into the surf if I could beat the seagulls to them, but picking up a 4-pound stinging jelly fish was above my compassion level. We drove South from Noosa Heads stopping about 6 times to go check out other stunning sights of beaches that cover ALL of the east coast of Australia!  Truly, they should be proud of their beaches with the clean sand, gorgeous views, and surf that boarders worldwide come to experience.  The southern-most beach we visited that day it was Tweed Heads,  a point of land jutting out into the ocean, creating a beautiful bay called Coolangotta-Rainbow Bay.  There was no rainbow at the moment, but about everything else--surfers, wind surfers, swimmers, and many memorials from WW II because much of the war in the Pacific involved Australia!  It's poignant to remember how impacting that war was to the entire world!  Dozens of memorial plaques marked the demise of ships or submarines that were involved in battles along the shores of Australia.  How grateful we are to those who sacrificed so much to protect our freedoms! For many of us, it was our own parents who did their duty in this world-wide threat.  We pray that history won't have to repeat this again.
Coolangotta-Rainbow Bay at Tweeds Heads Beaches, Sunshine Coast, AU 

Take a gander at this valley view and think of the lucky cows below--never a snowstorm to interrupt their idyllic lives!
Our last day of  travel brought us inland again to the hinterlands where there are so many National Parks with tremendous waterfalls & forests.  However, it's the heat of summer now, and the waterfalls aren't "falling."  It's not too far from Brisbane to take a day trip to some of them when the rainy season comes and the heat dissipates.  Yet the vistas were stunning!  Valley after valley boasted  pure beauty and many happy cows, horses or sheep grazing in highland pastures.  Even the Garden of Eden wouldn't sniff at these hinterlands!  The nice part is that outside of Brisbane, the population is scarce and spread out with lots of growing space.  After our tiny flat and crowded city, it seemed doubly spacious to be greeted by such open lands. Large, inviting farms and classy homes in cozy villages dotted the landscapes sparsely.  
Classy Residence with Bed and Breakfast Options  Book a room, anyone?  

The semi-tropical forests are packed with flora and fauna in immense varieties.  Getting to the end of lovely hikes which were to end at waterfalls was never disappointing, falls or not!  And though I'm standing by an OLD GUM TREE, there was no kookaburra there to laugh with me! It was great to see some of the beautiful country we're happy to be living in.  Also we're glad to get back to our cozy flat to get ready for the new year, and set our sights high for much success in our self-reliance endeavors.  For our New Year's Eve day we traveled to the Gold Coast and helped teach some of the 1000 youth who attended the Young Single Adult Australia 5-day Conference.  Our boss, Carl Maurer, was in charge of the workshops, and wanted our help on a couple of the Education/Budgeting classes.  We were amazed to see so many YSA from the whole country and beyond!!!  Rubbing shoulders with this solid core of faithful youth was very heartening!  
Monday Jan. 2nd, we hosted  at our flat the Senior Missionaries and mission President and wife for the monthly Family Home Evening. It was fun to be together and share a last little bit of holiday cheer.  We shared a lesson on integrity and also President Eyring's challenge to "find ways to recognize and remember God's kindness."  As you count your many blessings daily, and reflect and record these tender gifts from our Heavenly Father, Pres. Eyring promises our testimonies will grow, and we'll feel more gratitude and the softening and refining that come because of our Savior's atonement.  As the picture indicates, we had fun games and healthy (so many New Year's resolutions could be kept) and not-so-healthy snacks (so as not to disappoint those with a sweet tooth).   

It's the perfect time, with a fresh new year ahead, to count our blessings and share the joy we have because of the truths we know and love so dearly.  Also it's the perfect time to tell each one of you how much we love and appreciate who you are, and the wonderful lives you lead, giving us fine examples to follow, and hope for the future!    

Signing off with much love coming your way...
Elder and Sister Yates,  Dad/Mom
David/Marsha, Grandpa/Grandma