As I near my 70th birthday, I am amazed that I have made it this far. I mean, it wasn’t long ago when I thought 70 was old, as in Really old, and here I am at its doorstep.
I am the oldest of the Senior Missionaries in Riga, but not the oldest Senior in the Baltic Mission. I think that honor goes to The Senior Couple serving in Tallinn, Estonia. Perhaps this is why the other seniors here look to me to head up Senior activities even though they themselves are a bit more qualified.
Julia and I visited a big-box store here in Latvia, which looks like a baby warehouse store, then went to a mall to eat with another of the Senior Couples here in Riga, the CES couple who have a car assigned to them. They were so kind to take us, but more important was the conversation we engaged in. They told us about their marriage and hard years and the blessings they had from their almost-rural home in the middle of an orchard, and of the hard work involved in making it on a teacher’s salary; then they asked about us.
It wasn’t until we tried to give a short history of our path to this mission that I really began to see the Hand of the Lord in what happened to us. We mentioned the following in as accurate an order as I can remember (probably leaving out many of the things we mentioned);
• Julia singing in the Tabernacle Choir for 10.5 years and going on several foreign trips, but missing others because she was pregnant and then what caused her to leave the choir after Jeremy was born.
• The events surrounding the first time we met at a Sacrament Meeting in my student ward at the U of U. I don’t think I mentioned we married after dating for less than 3 months.
• Julia teaching choir in Junior High School and all the choirs singing to us at our wedding reception.
• How Julia had gotten several of her teaching jobs without ever applying for them, focusing on a particular job where she replaced a Tab Choir friend who had died suddenly.
• Why I left Southeast Furniture and got a job with U and I Sugar which took us to Kennewick and how it took 5 years for Kennewick to feel like home.
• How I got bamboozled into being a Scout Master for the ‘87-‘88 Boy Scout World Jamboree in Australia and how I determined I’d never go back with 36 boys.
• The time in Kennewick when Julia asked if I was happy. I didn’t have an immediate answer but finally said ‘no’ which led to my quitting work at Hanford and returning to school at BYU seeking another Master’s Degree, which I didn’t finish because of overtime at WordPerfect.
• The fact that I became a birder when I stared face to face with a mature Bald Eagle at a turnout on the road from Kenai to Homer, Alaska in 1987 and then went on to found the Utah County Birders in 1993. This eagle was what is called my ‘hook bird’, the bird that caused me to become a birder. Actually, it took two eagles but that is another story.
• Once when employed at WordPerfect, I had completed my programming task and had several days before WordPerfect was to ship, Dave Hallmeyer asked me to make the cursor in reveal codes more noticeable. I found the right place in the code, changed it into a small rectangle, then called Dave to see what color it ought to be. He told me to decide for myself, so I made it red. I am typing this on WordPerfect X7 and the cursor is still red, now at least 18 years later.
• How once Jorgen got stuck up in the mountains in the winter with his friend Kyal, Julia and Kyal’s mother looked all night for them, scanning every place where they could have run off the road into the river, only for them to phone home in the morning after walking to a place where they had cell coverage.
• We mentioned how I was called into a Stake High Council at BYU where then ‘President’ but now ‘Elder’ Garrett Gong was the Stake President.
• Then we got serious and told about Julia being diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer and what she went through; the radiation and chemo before the operation where they took out her esophagus. We mentioned getting the family together the Sunday night prior to the operation where we explained the seriousness of the operation that was to happen the next day, shocking all our children, especially Jorgen who had not considered he might lose his mother the next day. I mentioned the concern I had about giving Julia a priesthood blessing and worrying about wanting my own will rather than God’s will. President Gong gave me a book to read about a General Authority who had had the same concerns, then he came to the house and joined in the circle where I gave Julia the blessing. We mentioned the survival rates we have seen for esophageal cancer and how three of our friends with it have died, but Julia is still here. We discussed the Hand of God in preparing her so the operation would be successful.
• After this, we spoke about our children and grand-children, mentioning the good things that have happened to them.
As we left these friends for the evening, Julia and I discussed how talking about these events had caused us to remember how mercifully the Lord has treated us over the years and how this had led us to dedicate ourselves to His service for as long as we can which brought us to Riga, Latvia where we currently serve in the Baltic Mission office.