Saturday, April 8, 2017

Just How Big is an Aussie Cyclone?

Nothing but DARK CLOUDS do we see lately!
 PS:  Who can spot the hidden cockatoo?
Hello to all our dear family and Friends!  
"Oh, Mom!  This storm's too scary!  I'm
hiding my eyes until it's over!"

A local 3-Ft. Submerged 'Road Closed" signs not far from our flat.
Cyclone Debbie hits 500 miles north of us in wild fury.

This blog will be soaking wet and wild, because that's what our current weather situation  is here in Brisbane.  A huge Category 4+ cyclone made landfall up the east coast a few hundred miles, leaving much damage to the area and the properties of the 25.000 people that were evacuated where it hit the hardest. All was sunny here in Brisbane until  the stalled storm did its lazy reversal and headed straight for us! For 3 days the warnings have been given:  prepare for high winds, torrential rains, and much flooding.  Debbie, the cyclone. had just about settled down when a huge massive storm kicked up south of us in Sydney.  The two wicked fronts collided here today, and life in Brisbane came to an abrupt halt.  Both exits from our neighborhood are flooded and the roads are closed!  The high winds are downing branches and rain has been pelting us for days.  Today it hit its apex, sending an expected 15 inches of rain in about 8 hours.  There is nowhere for this much water to go!  We are fine and safe, and feel blessed to still have power.  Everyone is under "house watch" with the media and law enforcement telling everyone to go home and STAY HOME!  Today's school closings were extended through tomorrow at least. 

Today we were supposed to feed lunch to 50 missionary Zone Leaders and Sister Trainer Leaders for their quarterly  training with President McSwain, etc.  We confirmed with the Mission Pres.'s wife that yes, the meeting would go forward today.  This AM when we heard news of the fronts colliding by about 1 PM, we called the Mission Office.  "Yes, training is on!"So we finished our preparations and just as we were starting to load up the car with the menu of pulled pork sandwiches on FRESH bakery buns from our friend Jean's bakery, baked beans, cookies, fruit, coleslaw with all the trimmings the call came:  "The Temple is closing, and the police want everyone out by noon!"  (The meeting was in the Stake Center which shares the Temple Property.)  So, lunch was cancelled!  What does one do with four huge crock pots full of food, 72 buns, etc when one has a cozy little fridge to fit our cozy flat?  Hmmm.  We got creative and will feed missionaries Monday, and Tuesday, etc. at their Zone conferences until the food runs out!  (Pictured with Sister Yates is Sister Kolia from Samoa who stayed with us a while when recouperating from foot surgery and was unable to tract. She had never tasted snow peas, sweet red peppers, nor tangelos, all of which we'd packed in our sack lunches on this very busy day a few weeks ago!  But all three were winners, and I've never EVER heard such happy lip-smacking during a meal!)

In mid-February we flew up to Townsville, QLD, to present the Self-Reliance Initiatives to the Priesthood Brethren in the District there. The Townsville District has seven branches and a very motivated leader, President Mayer.  He had his Branch Presidents come for Saturday training with us, and he skyped those two in who were too far to come in.  This district is about an 8 hour drive from east to west, and 5 hour from top to bottom!  The meeting was very successful and we felt blessed to give a fireside to the membership the next evening, Sunday.  They are at the ground level of implementing some Self-Reliance Initiatives, and some good outcomes have been forthcoming since our visit!  One senior missionary couple, the Redds, are a big help.  Elder Redd is a counselor in the District Presidency and Sister Redd is the District Relief Society President.  That has been most helpful because after our visit to Townsville, in early March they flew to Brisbane for a Seniors' Mission Conference and stayed 3 days with us. This allowed us to give them more Self-Reliance materials and training to take back with them.  Sister Redd is a former Mormon Tabernacle Choir soprano, and since I was in charge of music for the conference, I asked her to sing a solo.  It was a blessing to accompany her and we share a common dear friend and sister---Joan Yarrington!  What a small and wonderful world it is!

We had some extra hours when in Townsville  and were able to enjoy their beautiful beaches, wildlife, and history.  While eating dinner at President Mayer's home, we heard an awful  screeching outside.  Asking what it was, Pres. told the story of hearing the same noise when he first came to Australia.  He was a guest overnight at his future in-law's home, and heard the screaming.  Thinking the neighbors were having a row, he decided to go back to sleep, but was awakened several times during the night with more screaming.  In the morning he carefully asked if the neighbors were all right or did they have squabbles because he heard a lady screaming off and on throughout the night. Their  hosts chuckled as they told him it was a bird whose proper name is a curlew, but has the rightfully-earned nickname of "Screaming Lady Bird."  This bird was everywhere in Townsville, and we were at peace knowing that despite the noise, no one was suffering at all!   Their beaches are beautiful and we walked miles on them! The rare black cockatoos were not rare here, as they were harvesting red berries and munching them delightedly.  They are all black when still, but in flight put on a show of brilliant red beneath their wings and under their tails. A history lesson was had as we hiked up to a sharp peak along the ocean called "Kissing Point Fort."  This point was of great strategic importance in both WWI and WWII and battles were fought in WW II over this point which protected much of the Australian Coastline from invasion.

Elder Yates at Gunner Doors, Kissing Point Fort, Townsville 
Rare Black Cockatoos harvesting red berries for their "fancy feathers"
We never get enough of  Australia's exquisite coastlines!  

Friends throughout History, Two Flags  Wave Unitedly
10 minute old loggerhead hatchling
What would this world be without beautiful scenery and the flora and fauna go match it? We are very blessed as Senior Missionaries to have the opportunity to go anywhere in our mission, which is all of Queensland, and down into parts of New South Wales.  We work hard every day with our fulfilling missionary duties, and derive much joy!  Then we're told by our Manager Carl Maurer, go do something fun.  So when he went out of town, we did too!  The other Self-Reliance couple, the Osbornes, and we drove north to Bundeberg about 4 1/2 hours and saw one of the most magnificent things we've ever seen in nature.  The very endangered Loggerhead turtles were laying their eggs on this stretch of beach near Bundeberg.  75% of all the loggerhead turtles in existence still lay their eggs on this beach.  A ward member had told us how wonderful it was to go see the turtles lay their eggs at night.  We were blessed to go at the end of the laying season and the beginning of the eggs hatching.  Seeing a huge mama loggerhead lay 128 eggs was stunning but the eggs were laid in an area that has predator            foxes who dig up the eggs as soon as they're laid.  We watched the mama head out to sea to swim the 2.000 miles to her home.  She will not rest nor eat until she arrives---about another 6 weeks.  This was her 5th and last batch eggs for the year, and she doesn't eat during the whole laying period, because there is NO ROOM for food!  Her hard shell makes her have to fast for the entire 4-month period of laying and returning to her home.  She won't be back for 2 years to lay as it is so hard on them to fast and make the journey.  What about the foxes?  We got to carefully take the eggs (look like ping-pong balls) by flashlight down the beach a ways to a "fox safety pen" where they were expertly buried by a ranger at the exact depth and coverage the mama turtle created. So awesome!  We human mamas should not complain about our childbearing conditions, ever!  As we were preparing to leave, a call went out that if we'd like to see some new baby loggerhead hatchlings, there was a batch hatching up a ways on the beach.  You bet we scurried into the group and saw these little eggs hatch and the hatchlings push their little heads and bodies out of the sand.  38 hatchlings appeared within the hour and began their journey to the sea.  They only have to swim to the nearest reef, about 15 miles, where they will stay hidden from predators, hopefully, to grow up!  Unfortunately, only about 1 in 1,000 live to maturity!  That's a sad fact, and why they are so endangered, but beautiful!

I am the King of Kangaroos--A big RED you don't want to cross! 
We finally got a chance two weeks ago to visit a koala and kangaroo sanctuary where one can roam among the boomers (roos), and hold a live koala. Ah, our AU dreams are coming true, one by one! These baby koalas are too cute for words.  There were all species of  Queensland kangaroos here, from the small wallabies like the one pictured above, to the huge big red ones who stand taller than Elder Yates who is 6'4"!  You don't want to anger one of these feisty fellows, for they look like body builders in their prime!  So muscular and huge!  

Considering the number of "nature" stories we tell, you might get the wrong impression of our mission. Yes, we work hard and love the many duties and opportunities we have on our mission!  But we want to share a bit of the culture, beauty and natural wonders that make Queensland the gorgeous place it is to us, day after day!  Back to some highlights of our labors this month.  We completed teaching  a Self-Reliance Course called My Foundation: Principles, Skills and Habits of Self-Reliance, to the Samoan Ward Young Women in our Logan Stake.  They are an incredible group of faithful young women who love the Lord.  There is such love and unity among them and we have felt their love during these lessons.The great story behind this is that when the YW President Sr. Kiso  took over a few years ago, there were only 6-8 girls attending.  In looking on her membership rosters, she found out there were over 40 on the rolls.  She and her counselors, along with the girls  began to reach out to these "lost" ones.  It has been a miracle to see the growth in the past few years, and the joyful spirits they have.  In the back row with the orange shirt, you'll notice Sister Yates, the only pale face in the group as Elder Yates was the photographer, 😄
Our Logan Ward's Relief Society Birthday Celebration with Jaydan in Sister Yates' arms.  She's always ready to hold a baby due to lack of grandkids!  This is typical Sunday dress for our very Polynesian ward.  Out of the entire ward, only about 5 families aren't South Pacific Island transplants

Now it's Saturday, April 8th and we just had a while to finish this blog.  A quick update as to Cyclone Debbie and the backlash heaped upon Brisbane  Thursday, March 30 when this blog began.  Most areas of Brisbane sustained more than 2 feet of torrential rain in 12 hours.  Many topped at 3 feet.  Bridges were washed out, major flooding, and hundreds of trees downed because of the winds.  Whole sections of Brisbane were out of power for  2 days, but gratefully we were fine! Mother Nature put on a show we'll never forget, and the cleanups and rebuilds will go on  for weeks.
 Participants in our Goal Setting Class where we assist them in identifying goals and plans in many areas prior to their leaving the mission.  Most Aus. Brisbane missionaries are from Asia and the Pacific. Many go home to poor job/educational opportunities but want to improve themselves.  We assist as we can. Elder Apable on right is from the Philippines, and Elder Ho, left, from Germany.  

Today, April 8th, we've been out on our mission exactly 8 months! What!  Already?   It's uncanny how fast the time is passing and how little we feel that we have accomplished.  We remind ourselves that in many regards, we are the "seed planters" who sow the seeds of Self-Reliance in Wards, branches, stakes and districts, and pray and work to help them grow!  These inspired initiatives are very new to most, even the Priesthood Leadership oftentimes. So we teach the doctrine and look for how we can support the Priesthood in their turning their keys to begin helping their members as they determine how to  best accomplish that .  What an opportunity to watch lives change as people get excited  about becoming more self-reliant!  They often then take a class that helps them get into a trade or university, get a better job, improve their English, manage their personal finances, or learn  to support their children in school better! One by one, and group by group, we're seeing CHANGE, and we love being a small part of that growth here in Queensland!  

We send our love to each of you, our faithful family and friends, and wish you a wonderful Easter this next week.  We are so blessed because of our knowledge of the blessings that the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ can and does bring into the lives of every soul who has ever lived upon this Earth!  He is Risen!

Always with love, 
Elder and Sister Yates, Dad/Mom, Grandpa/Grandma, David/Marsha     

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the update. We regularly receive inquiries about your adventures from neighbors and at church so its nice to have some new material to share. We hope you continue safely with the wild weather and pray for your continued success and well-being! Love you both so very much.