Friday, June 23, 2017

6/23/2017 M R Missionaries in the Uh-hia

June 23, 2017
Dear loved ones:
            Summer feels like it has most definitely arrived, but our friends here tell us it will still get a lot warmer and much more humid.  This is a good thing.  It allows us the option to swim through the air without changing into swim attire.  It’s also comforting to know that our chances of frostbite are minimal. 
Some cultural instruction in the mission home.  Our vacuum cleaners are "sweepers" here.  "Been a minute" is a long time.  "Please?" means please repeat yourself.

            It’s time for a bit more Cincinnati culture.  Specifically, panhandlers.  We have two, in particular, that are really hard workers.  For bums.  They appear to be brothers.  They hold up signs saying they are homeless, but when we saw one of them leave what looked to be an apartment complex and dash back to his post, their homeless act became less convincing.  Donning rain gear also makes them look less homeless, but they are really picking up their act in others way.  Most people pretty much drive past them, but one day last week one alleged brother suddenly developed cerebral palsy.  Or a stroke.  His elbow and wrist abruptly became rigidly flexed against his chest, and his foot on that side turned inward—thus necessitating him to limp when he ran, err…shuffled…, to car windows to pick up his cash.  Shuffled quite quickly, actually.  The promise of money was really therapeutic for his gait.  The first time I saw him after his “stroke” there were five other cars at the stoplight, and they all (yes, all!) handed over cash.  I’m hardhearted and unfeeling, so I didn’t.  At least that time.  But don’t worry too much about my soul—I gave him money before his stroke.  I, at least, was planning ahead.  So there.

            I wouldn’t want you all to think that panhandlers all present a moral dilemma. Some of them are hilarious.  One evening when we had just arrived at the church with our elders, a rather large African-American bum gentleman drove his luxurious but older model SUV up to us and said he needed a job.  I am not currently hiring, but fortunately for him he had an interview the next day.  I was happy to hear that.  I guess.  He needed some nicer clothes.  I initially thought he must have meant nicer than the slacks and dress shirt that he was wearing, but he said he needed to purchase a pair of Dickies pants for $19.99.  (I later checked, and the price at least was accurate.  Amazing.)  Maybe the Dickies would look nicer?  Not?  He had been “driving all over town all day long trying to raise money.”  I have to admit that I figured the chances were at least 110% that I was being played, but I admired his gall so much that I handed over $20.  And laughed to myself, because driving that car all over Cincinnati would burn WAY more gas than $20 would buy.
            But wait!  It gets better!  Next, he said that he needed another $3 for gas to get home.  This was so outrageously cheeky, that I handed it over also.  I almost suggested that he have a stroke and stand by exit 3, but remembered that spot was already taken so instead I gave him a pass-along card and asked him to come to church the next day.  He assured me that he, “Certainly would.” He was obviously not a YSA, so we told him to come to the 11 a.m. meeting. We don’t know if he came. We didn’t hold our breath.

            Next, I feel compelled to say that there are some activities that we don’t do on missions that I really miss.  One is hunting.  I understand there are many quality hunting locales, particularly in Kentucky, but I’m not sure I can pass the licensing exam.  I’ll include a portion of the exam so you can all experience my consternation.  This first question on the exam concerns proper Kentucky hunting language.  I invite all of you to decode this exchange between two duck hunters.  
"em are ducks; em are not; Oh es ay are; Oh, em are ducks"
I had an interesting exchange with the mother of one of our missionaries this week.  Perhaps you recall me posting about the young elder with what looked like a superficial oral fungal infection?  It may jog your memories if I say that he’s the one me and our area medical advisors wanted to treat with vaginal suppositories taken orally.  Anyway, his tongue appears to be colonized with yeast--a condition that I usually wouldn’t treat at all.  But she had their family doctor mail him two prescriptions for anti-fungal antibiotics--which, according to him, didn't work at all. He sent photos of his mouth home to her and she sent them on to me and Sister Welch and demanded that we get this taken care of immediately because, "When he gets home he's going to want to kiss girls and doesn't want to have a mouth infection or bad breath."  Wow.  There is much more to this story, but I shall forbear.

            The sisters had a great baptism on Saturday, June 17.  He is a young man named Dylan Beyer.  The girl standing next to him in the photo below is named Haley Hand.  She was dating him and introduced him to the church and the missionaries.  She told him that she didn’t want him to do it for her, but he assured her that it was for him.  He has attended Institute several times, and is a most kind and gentle soul.  Haley leaves on a mission next week to Salt Lake City East Spanish speaking.  Saying that we’ll miss Haley is an understatement.  She’s introduced two people that we know of to the church that have been baptized just since we arrived here.  She is amazing. 

Dylan Beyer with Haley Hand and her little brother on the right

Our Institute class bidding Haley goodbye
            Earlier that day Sonja took me to a rather famous butcher shop named Bridgetown Meats, and as promised it was a blast.  It was absolutely swarmed with customers, all of whom could easily work as salespeople.  They extolled the virtues of the various offerings.  I wanted to purchase them all, but I ended up choosing some of their gourmet burgers.  We had them for Father’s Day dinner and they were amazingly delectable.  We got to have Carter, Whitney, and Noah visit us that day on their way back to Chicago from Charleston, SC.  They also gave the burgers two enthusiastic thumbs up.  It was tons of fun.

The Bridgetown Meats menu of gourmet burgers.

We chose the Bearcat.  Delicious.

            On Father’s Day we kicked off a branch push to read The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ in 90 days.  We celebrated by having Sam’s Club make three sheet cakes decorated with blue frosting and yellow lettering.  Of course we served the cake a la mode.  We are not barbarians. 

All of us missionaries with Daniel Rellaford on the bottom right--our most excellent branch mission leader
A panorama shot of the linger longer festivities
             Monday we spent some time cooking Sister Welch’s “million dollar spaghetti” recipe to help with a celebration at the mission home for several senior missionaries that are going home soon and two senior sisters that are joining us.   We’re always happy to spend time with the Welches and other missionaries.  We got to sit in on the senior missionary orientation slide show, which is where we got the slides of the Kentucky hunters and the Ohio lexicon.
When we got home, Taylor & Katie's Father's Day card had arrived.  They had a sheet of questions that each of their kids filled out about me.  Anna said I'm 60 years old, spend my time helping people on my mission, am really good at being funny, and always Grandpa always says "That he loves us."  Grandpa loves her because "I'm his grandkid.”  Max said I'm 56 (really close!), I'm good at being a doctor, I always say "I love you," and when grandpa was little he used to "help his Mom."  Max loves his Grandpa because "He always knows what to do."  Charlie’s said I spend most of my time thinking, I'm really good at math, I always “chuckle,” and when grandpa was little he used to "build his testimony."  Charlie loves his Grandpa because "he loves everyone."  Georgia says I'm about 43, spend most of my day teaching people about Jesus, am really good at babysitting, always say funny things and nice things, used to "play" when I was little, and Grandpa loves her because "I'm Geo-ie."  I even got a handwritten letter from Simon.  It was very sweet.

We had another great Institute class in which Sonja taught powerfully about a recurrent and pervasive principle taught in The Book of Mormon:  deliverance.  I, for one, have noticed that 1 Nephi 1:20 teaches that one theme of the book is that “…the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen…”  However, neither of us had consciously realized that the ending of the verse states, “…because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”  (emphasis added) 

It has been a wonderful week as we have taken some time to consider some of the stories that demonstrate the Lord’s power of deliverance, including Lehi and his family leaving Jerusalem before its destruction, Nephi from Laban and his brothers, and Helaman’s stripling warriors. 
It is interesting to contrast the deliverance of King Limhi and his people with the people of Alma near the Waters of Mormon.  King Limhi and his people suffered many things while in bondage from the Nephites, but when Ammon arrived they were soon delivered by getting the Lamanites snockered and sneaking out the back door.  It appears that it was quite rapid.

In Mosiah 24 we learn that despite the fact that Alma and his people were peaceful, righteous, and had already been baptized, their deliverance was not immediate.  It began first with being comforted in rather than from their afflictions by the Lord as a reward for “the covenant which ye have made unto me.”  The Lord eased their burdens, that “…even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage…”  Next the Lord tells us why: “and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.” (emphasis added)

We remain madly in love with each other and always feel blessed to be here on the Lord’s errand.  We pray daily for inspiration for us to do better, and for protection and guidance for those that we love.  The gospel is true, the Lord answers prayers, and miracles are around us all.  It is a humbling experience to offer prayers only of gratitude.  We are blessed beyond expression and above what we even begin to recognize.

Lots and lots of love,
Your Ohio Missionaries--Elder Kent and Sister Sonja Davis

Feeding our YSA missionaries, and sadly bidding Elder Swainston (left) goodbye because he's being transferred

Renisha showing off her new scriptures and her matching dress--always a fashion plate
Diligent sister missionaries trying to convert a condiment

Saturday, June 17, 2017

6-17-2017 GA in the Ohio

June 17, 2017
Hello, loved ones in the blogosphere:
            First, I must include a copy of Cam’ron’s (pronounced Cam-Ron) powerful testimony that he bore—at his own baptism.

"For three and a half years I have been pondering and searching the scriptures with the help of the Lord and through his timetable he has brought me here, months ahead of when I thought I would be. I know he has urged me to keep studying throughout those years and I know He continues to prompt me to study and increase in knowledge in all areas, especially spiritually. My life has changed in immense ways as a result because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it has changed my perspective on life, it has caused me to stop seeking my purpose because I have found it. It has helped me create a deeper and more meaningful relationship with my Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ. It has just in general made me a much more happy person and not have any inclinations to be angry or upset or depressed. And most of all, it has helped me develop an overwhelming desire for truth and improvement, to increase in light. 
I bear my testimony that Joseph Smith is a prophet of the Lord who restored the Church of Jesus Christ in this last dispensation. I know of a certainty that that he saw God the Father as well as the Son, Jesus Christ. I bear witness that the Book of Mormon is true, that it was translated by Joseph using the gift and power of God. I know That this beautiful book of scripture complements the Bible and does not compromise and contradict it, and that these two scriptures conjoined with all the other scriptures that God has given us comprise of the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ live and that they both love each and every single one of us and this love is unmatched. I know that he guides this church every second of every day. And of these things I solemnly testify, amen."

            It is truly humbling to be able to work with such an amazing young man—a man who will be a powerful missionary, a bastion of the Church, a leader in spirit and deed, a righteous husband and father, and an example to us all.  He is truly an example of the believers.

            We got to take Cam’ron and the sister missionaries to the Indianapolis temple on Saturday.  It’s much larger than Columbus.  This time my companion and I did sealings while the other three were in the baptismal area.  We took a memo from Carter and took some rather epic photos outside afterwards.  It was fantastic.

Cam'ron with Sisters Lee and Evensen

            Branch conference was a powerful reminder to us all that our Heavenly Father is a God of miracles. We had 133 in attendance—a record.  But much more importantly, the spirit was powerful.  Some stake leaders were overheard wondering if they were in the right meeting, because things are so, so different.  Our great young people are excited, unified, and filled with the Spirit, and all of our branch and stake leaders are wonderful.  My companion and I often tell about anyone who will listen what a great assignment we have.  Wow.

We also really had a great day Sunday because Carter, Whitney, and Noah stayed with us that night on their way to a family vacation in Charlotte, South Carolina.  It was tons and tons of fun.  Whitney is now 32 weeks pregnant with Hannah, and she looks beautiful.

Noah escaping from scary adults

Carter & Whitney leaving for Charlotte, South Carolina
Fortunately, someone's around to water the frog!
             We had our first general authority visitor to the mission since we have arrived—Elder Dyches (dikes).  He is also an ENT doc, and we both really wanted to sit down and chat.  But, GAs are always busy, and I happened to also be busy after our conference with him on Thursday.  So, we savored maybe 5 minutes of him telling us stories about his training at Washington University in St. Louis.  Sadly, Sister Dyches injured her foot the evening before our meeting, so we didn’t get to hear from her.  But, he is a powerful teacher and a kind and loving man.  We loved it.
The very definition of color coordinated--I even match the flowers.
            Ours was the second day that Elder Dyches met with missionaries, and it sounds like things at the first were a little too exciting.  There were nuts in the protein bars that were served at the break, and two missionaries had pretty profound allergic reactions.  “Profound” defined by the use of Epi-pens.  Wow.
Our zone with President & Sister Kryminzsky, the Welches, and Elder Dykes

            Sadly, one of our sister missionaries’ father passed away the night before our meeting.  She and her companion spent the night at the mission home, and the next morning she actually attended mission conference.  She sat right behind us.  The poor thing appeared to be in a different universe.  Sad.

            Sister Welch also allowed us to help with the dinner afterwards back at the mission home.  She has an amazing roast beef recipe that we prepared on Wednesday so she could heat it up afterwards.  We dashed back here after I was done seeing missionaries and baked the rolls, delivered them and the meat to the mission home, and then headed back down the hill to UC for Institute.  It was a great day.
This week's institute class mixing things up

            To maintain my medical license, I have to log 20 hours of AMA Category I Continuing Medical Education (CME).  I read medical literature pretty much every day, so I feel like I’m as up to date as a guy like me can be while not actually practicing.  But, just reading isn’t enough to satisfy the Idaho Board of Medicine.  So, I have to do something official.  Certified.  Approved.  And, as it turns out, really, really fun.  But just to be perfectly clear, fun isn’t an official requirement.  It can be agonizing, tortuous, and excruciating as far as the BOM cares.
            Since my sophomore year in medical school I have subscribed to a publication entitled The Medical Letter, which evaluates new medications and medical treatments.  It is published every two weeks, and included with the (rather considerable) cost of subscription is a free CME example worth 2 category I AMA credits.  I’m a fan, actually, of the CME requirement because I definitely learn more when taking the exams.  Since June 4, I have logged 34 CME hours.  Whenever I sit down to my computer the temptation to do another exam is almost overwhelming.  It’s so much fun!  I have to admit that I try to save up as many exams as I possibly can in order to maximize the fun when I log back into their website.

            It’s also been a fairly busy week medically.  I’ll include a few representative photos.  There are always a few emotional issues out there as well, but I won’t include photos of them.  It’s tough to photograph emotions.

            Now I’ll admit that I’ve been saving the best for last.  Let me include a photo of our new grandchildren. (Sonja: We hope and pray! Tina and Chris have been doing another round of IVF. These two cute little embryos were transferred on Wednesday and now we hope and pray! Please join us!)  Don’t worry—they’re only five days old.  Past conception, that is.  But, we expect them to improve with time—9 months, to be specific. 
Embryos do look lots better after a couple of years.  Just look at the potential!
             This is about it for this week.  Thanks for all the prayers.  Please don't forget to include our two little embryos!

Lots and lots of love,
Your Ohio Missionaries

Friday, June 9, 2017

6/9/2017 The stone cut out of the mountain without hands continues to roll forth

June 9, 2017; Saturday
This has been, yet again, a totally fabulous week.  I know I sound monotonous, but it’s the truth.  Let’s start with some truly inspirational stories.
Wednesday night we again attended the Cincinnati North Stake missionary report.  President Foister, our 40-year-old stake president told a great story.  About 11 or so years ago when pass-alone cards first came out, he was on the high council.  The stake president challenged each high councilor to give three of them away every week.  He said that he took the challenge very seriously, and if it came around to Saturday he worked really, really hard to get it done.  He downplayed his faithfulness by telling us that he didn’t want to be asked by the stake president whether he had fulfilled his quota and have to say no.  Of course, the rest of us knew that he wasn’t doing it to please a stake president.  He was doing it to please God.
The next thing we learned from President Foister arose when we were talking about how to increase missionary success in his stake.  He said that stake leaders have to be able to tell stories from their own experience, and “they have to be in the present tense.”  I think the way I sum up that statement is that we can only pull others along with us, never push them ahead of us.
Now the last lesson from President Foister.  He served his mission in Spain, which at the time was the lowest baptizing mission in the Church--67 baptisms for the year.  That's in a mission of about 200 missionaries.  Wow.  He read Alma 26: 27--"Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us…"  President said that this verse alone is a testimony of the Book of Mormon.  Only a person who has actually been a missionary could have written that phrase. 

Our last blog post was Saturday night, so I definitely need to share the story of our Sabbath day.  At Cam’ron’s baptism, Renisha told President Welch that she was going to get up, and, “It’s going to be really good.”  How can you not laugh at that?  But President Welch went one better—he came to hear her.  Ryan, a convert of three weeks, blessed the sacrament for the first time.  Cam’ron was confirmed and given the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Right after the counselor finished his testimony, a bunch of kids jumped up to speak, and a steady stream continued the entire meeting.  Both Cam’ron and Renisha bore powerful testimonies, and they were indeed really good. 
President Welch sat right in front of us and next to a high councilman and his wife.  All three of them were just amazed.  And inspired.  The Spirit in the branch is completely different.  The promised miracles are definitely happening.  President Welch was asked to give the final testimony, and he was (as always) amazing.  Renisha gave the closing prayer, and of course included her trademark, “You have a real nice day,” wish/request to God.   The Spirit in the branch was strong enough to cut with a knife the entire day.  I wonder if the Fat Boys we ate after the block helped?  
After the block, President Peterson interviewed Cam’ron to receive the priesthood.  We ordained him right then so we can take him to the temple tomorrow.  Next the President interviewed him for his first temple recommend.
Our best effort thus far at photographing Cincinnati from the Kentucky side of the Ohio River
Perhaps the coolest building in Cincinnati.  We'll learn more about it later.  We hope.
About 10 days prior, a lady that worked in our dry cleaners was in tears when I went in.  She told me that it was the 1-year anniversary of her father’s death.  She asked me to pray for her, and I told her that I would.  But I didn’t do anything else!  Not even a pass-along card!  I kicked myself for days for blowing it so badly.  When I next went in last P-day, I gave her a “Meaning of Life” pass-along card, and she again wept.  This time I asked if she wanted to learn more, and she made an appointment with us the following evening.  She’s not YSA age, so we passed her off to the APs, Elders Searle and Bunderson, to teach.  We went to her first lesson, of course, and it went well.  She asked if it would be possible to arrange a ride to church for her.  We said we could arrange that.  Her name is Shonia (Shawna) Long.    Then end of the lesson was hilarious.  Here's my text summary to Sister Welch:  …we had a lesson with the APs and our dry cleaner lady.  She’s a hugger.  As she went to throw her arms around Elder Searle, he said, “As missionaries we’re not really supposed to … (hug) … well, we’ll work on that.”  Epic. She also told us that when her sister, Karen, saw the card she was disappointed that she didn’t get one also.  We took care of that the next day.
We were humbled by the story of Sister Young.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I. Had. No. Idea.  She acts like your basic Utah Mormon, but WHOA!  She was born in Russia and her family moved to Muldova. They were a desperately poor family.  Her father was out stealing food for them to eat when he heard sirens in the distance.  He got so worried that he might be arrested that he had a heart attack and died. At least that’s what Sister Young thinks happened.  That left the four children in the care of their alcoholic mother.  Sister Young well remembers going out in the middle of the night to trade silverware for money for alcohol for their Mom.  Eventually, the Grandmother discovered the wretched state the children were in, and sent all four kids to an orphanage--the two older kids in one and the two younger ones in another.  Sister Y says she was really blessed, because a couple from the US went over and out of all the children chose her and her older sister to adopt.  They were taken to the US and started learning English. Sister Y was 6 years old.  When her new parents realized they had two other siblings, they went back and adopted them also.
Sister Young using a spare moment to study her scriptures during new missionary training in the mission home
 Sister Young doesn't really remember her Russian, but says the Spirit has told her she needs to relearn it--perhaps for family history purposes.  I am so, so sheltered.  And blessed.
The best T-shirt of the week award, worn by Sister Kishpaugh.  I took and entered this photo mainly for Colby.

We had our last zone conference of this transfer, and they are always great.  We're starting to get the idea of priesthood directed finding.  The missionaries are great, and it's always amazing to see the Welches work.  I got a great suggestion to all of our would-be member missionaries.  Put a copy of the Book of Mormon on your coffee table.  The purpose isn’t necessarily to give it away, but rather to remind us to pray for opportunities to share the gospel.  I have a strong testimony that the most important thing to do to be a good missionary is to pray.  This is God’s work, and He will accomplish it.

Dinner at the Montgomery Inn after zone conference:  Elders Taylor, Swainston, Bunderson, & Searle.  Eating ribs is messy work, hence the bibs.

Typical of Kent--at a nice restaurant and I choose a hamburger and a salad

Sonja here. We had a record number in institute last night! There were 19! We do love teaching them. Thursdays can be quite a crazy day for us trying to get prepared for institute. We also had branch missionary coordination meeting at the church. We picked up the elders and drove to the church. That takes about a half hour each way. Our meeting was rather long because our branch mission leader went to France for a week and we had oodles of branch stuff to catch him up on—a baptism, Sunday meetings, how all of our new converts are doing, how our investigators are doing, how gospel principles class is doing, etc. Anyway, by the time we finish teaching institute on Thursday evening, we feel like we’ve finished running a marathon. Well, I’ve never run a marathon, actually. And, I never intend to. Suffice it to say, life is good here…and busy! Very busy! But, fun!
Our record Institute night--19!

Oh, and on Wednesday we had new missionary training. That’s when most of the brand new missionaries and their trainers come to the mission home for more training. The ones who are in areas far away tune in via skype. Kent teaches them a little bit more about the procedures for getting medical care. We do talk to them three weeks before when they first arrive in the mission but, at that point, they are so tired and shell-shocked that we don’t expect much to sink in. Sister Welch has been having me teach them about using correct prayer language. We also help with serving them lunch and the assistants work with them on teaching the restoration lesson and we join in on the role-plays. That’s pretty fun! When we were finishing up, the Welches mentioned that they were headed up to Ft. Wayne for missionary interviews. When I said, “Interviews, already?!” They reminded me that they needed to because next week they will have a GA here for the mission tour! Wow! We think we are busy but I seriously don’t know how they do it! They have to have help from on high because I don’t think, otherwise, that they could keep up their pace! 
Lest you forget that we do medical work, check out this reaction to a spider bite!  Cool, eh?!

Today (Friday, June 9) we got to sleep in some, which was awesome.  We worked on medical issues, enjoyed and fed the YSA sisters when they came over to Facebook, did some shopping, and wrote this blog post.  We get to take Cam'ron and the sisters to the temple in Indianapolis tomorrow.  Yippee!
Our YSA sisters (Lee and Evensen) trying to convince us that our couch is comfortable.  Not.

We sure love all of you! Thanks for keeping in touch!

Lots and lots of love, your Ohio Missionaries

Saturday, June 3, 2017

6/3/2017 Exhausted but Ecstatic in the Ohio

June 2, 2017
ummer has arrived in Cincinnati and has been tailgated by humidity.  Why are we already talking about summer heat before the full effect has arrived?  Simple:  we are wimps.  And lest I forget, how do you all like the “dropped letter” that began this paragraph?  It appears to be rather biblical, don’t you think?  I plan to poke around in MS Word further, but this time I hope to be able to discover a widget (whatever that is) that will produce a full illuminated manuscript.  I’m not expecting a Gutenberg Bible or anything, but some gold leaf would be nice.  And vines, maybe.  And little tweety birds even.
            I also owe you an update on roadkill:  they are definitely bloating now.  The bacteria have come out of hibernation.  There is one racoon, in particular, that is right on the side of West Fork Road near our apartment.  As he bloats, his snarl keeps getting wider and wider.  More ferocious, even.  One of these first days he’s going to burst, which will be a shame.  If we are anywhere nearby. 
            My next written soliloquy will be concerning navigation, specifically terrestrial navigation in the Ohio Cincinnati Mission.  While maintaining my innate sense of modesty, I have to admit that I have a pretty great sense of direction.  With a quick glance at my surroundings and my watch, I am pretty much oriented in four dimensions.  But not now.  It turns out that the Kent Davis GPS doesn’t triangulate satellites, but rather mountains.  And my watch died.  These days I’m perpetually lost.  With the exception of Graeder’s ice cream shops.  I can track those puppies down like a … well, puppy.  Bloodhound puppy, that is.  Cincinnati has quite a few hills, but without a GPS I can’t find my bed.  Mountains they are not.  It is truly a sad commentary, and one that has profoundly affected my confidence and even self-esteem.  Or not so much.  Our GPS usually gets us there. 
            Now on to the meat of our message (and not the roadkill type).  As I write this we are sitting in the back of our second zone conference of this 6-week transfer cycle.  We LOVE zone conferences.  We get to rub shoulders with missionaries, see the Welches work, and be inspired.  We also get to do some medical work.  Our first conference on Tuesday was in Muncie, Indiana—home of Ball State University.  After the conference, I ran a nose bleed clinic for an elder and a sister.  For a headlamp, I use one purchased to ride my bike after dark.  Or in the tunnels on the Route of the Hiawatha.  I have a toolbox full of medical supplies, and I must admit that it’s fun to use them.  The Elder, in particular, had really been struggling for months with nosebleeds.  It was just like old times to pull out the Afrin, cotton balls, and silver nitrate.  This whole mission thing is fun in SO many dimensions.
Sonja here: can I just say that the missionaries dig the heck out of watching these “clinics”! They love having a doctor to ask all kinds of questions to! And, they do call and line up at zone conference to ask questions. As part of zone conference, Elder Davis presents on some medical-related subject that Sister Welch chooses. They get pretty excited for this. His last one was on acne and between that and the entertaining medical pages he has written up for their missionary notebooks, they know they are in for a good time. Yesterday, in the morning they were asking what the subject was going to be and Kent and Sister Welch wouldn’t give it up. They expect comedy and they aren’t disappointed. They get taught important stuff but it’s a laugh a minute! Yesterday, after his presentation on nutrition and dieting, referring to the comic relief, Sister Welch said, “they need this!” Back to Kent.
Now that I am back, and read that little bit from Sonja, I’ll give you all a bit of the back-side story.  I prepare and give pretty much the same talk in all three zone conferences.  This cycle I spoke about diet—mostly from the perspective of weight control.  I’ve been studying for weeks, and have felt rather overwhelmed by trying to boil it all down into 20 minutes.  The first talk was just OK, and I was rather disappointed.  That night, I prayed diligently (which I do try to do) and confessed to my Heavenly Father that I really needed help.  The presentation popped into my mind in an instant, and it was hilarious.  I was actually trying to stifle my laughter by burying my face in my pillow so my sweetheart wouldn’t call for the nice men in white.  I hurriedly got up and wrote down the basics, and it was tons better, and tons better than I could possibly do myself.  I have learned that God does, indeed, have a sense of humor, and is happy to share.  The second talk went much better.  I could hear the Welches spinning around in their seats on the stand, trying to see my slides and figure out what was so different and why our missionaries were rolling in the aisles.  Life is indescribably grand here in the Ohio.
            After all was finished we visited with our new Area Mental Health Advisors who stopped by on their way to their new home of Pittsburgh.  They are both counselors, which is good because they cover the entire North America Northeast Region—something like 20 missions.  They were delightful, and will be a great resource.
            Our Elder Swainston from the YSA branch worked in Muncie, Indiana, and has told us a couple of times that we simply had to eat at Amazing Joe’s.  So, we did.  They have a “Fugedaboutit Burger,” which I’m quite certain means forget about ever being able to eat this entire thing.  It contains things such as:  a fried egg, mozzarella sticks, steak fries, onion rings, and much more.  I ordered one just so I could say I had.  It was delicious! 
Sister Davis with her amazing pantomine at Amazing Joe's

The plan of attack was probably the biggest obstacle:  knife & fork?  Nah.  Too civilized.

And Elder Davis doing his best with the "Fugetaboutit Burger"
            The theme of zone conferences is priesthood directed finding. Bishops play a critical role in finding new investigators, but what really matters for those that visit our small chunk of blogosphere is this:  For decades, we have prayed that the missionaries find those who have been prepared to receive the gospel.  WE NEED TO CHANGE OUR PRAYERS!  We SHOULD be praying that WE will find our brothers and sisters that the missionaries can teach.  The same is true for Elder and Sister Davis here in Cincinnati.  We diligently pray, and the Lord supplies the investigators.  It is His work, and He allows us to assist.  This is an inspired tectonic shift in sharing the gospel.
            I need to add my testimony here.  This is not new to me.  The most important thing we can ALL do is to pray for missionary opportunities.  Every time I have consistently done that, the Lord has delivered.  It always happens.  I’m thankful for the atoning sacrifice of our Savior, because I haven’t done this very much.  I regret that I have missed so many opportunities.  But, I’m repenting, and the people that I could and should have introduced to the gospel will get their chance.  Let’s all commit to praying for faith in finding people for our missionaries to teach. 
            (Fast forward two days later—Saturday, June 3.)  I am happy to report that my repentance has begun to bear fruit.  This morning I prayed that we would both have and take opportunities to share the gospel.  Sonja and I attended a seminaries & institute inservice meeting near Dayton, and afterwards we headed towards a mall I had noticed on the drive up.  It’s pretty hot and humid by now, so we do our walking indoors—usually in malls.  And Ikea last night, but it made me dizzy.  Anyway, the Liberty Center was a new find for us.  I ended up buying a light jacket, and the clerk asked me if I was having a nice day.  I told him how spectacularly nice our day was, which of course is because of our faith.  He was interested, had never heard of the Mormon Church, and asked me about it.  I answered that we are very serious about families, and try diligently to live in harmony with true Christian principles.  He liked it.  A lot.  And was interested in coming to church.  (I just happened to be ready with the address and time.)  And he gave us his name and cell phone number.  And responded to a phone call from our sister missionaries, and accepted an invitation to come to church.  And later contacted them back and said he was busy tomorrow, but set an appointment with them to be taught on Wednesday.  It was pretty darn simple, and it started with a prayer.
            WAIT.  Did you think the story was over?  Nay, I say.  We needed to return something to Sam’s Club, and I got the duty of waiting in line for customer service.  I struck up a conversation with a really sweet lady who lost her beloved sister two months previous.  I pretty much nodded and listened to her talk.  And I prayed and prayed and prayed the entire conversation.  Get this:  she had no idea that I am a missionary.  Yep.  No kidding.  You all can do it too.  Just talk to people.  While you pray and prepare ahead by carrying a pass-along card or copy of the Book of Mormon or whatever.  It doesn’t require a black badge.   
            Before I continue the recitation of events, let me count a few of our blessings:
--We have testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and were both born of goodly parents.  Our covenants with our Heavenly Father give our lives meaning and give us hope for the worlds to come.
--We are full-time missionaries!   
--We get to spend all of our time together, which is a blast.
--The YSA branch, and everything we do there is just wonderful.  Again I say that we have the best assignment in the mission.
--We LOVE Institute.  Being able to teach, and especially on the campus of University of Cincinnati, has required a series of miracles.  It also required lots of prayer, faith, and patience.  Setting a date to start also was critical.  That allowed the Lord to really get involved. 
--We enjoy and relish our medical work, and we love the fact that it is our, not just my medical work.  It takes both of us to remember and keep track of all of the balls we are juggling.  It’s wonderfully gratifying to be able to take this burden from the Welches.  Mostly.
--The Welches.  They are indescribably wonderful and amazing.  President Welch is a sanctified vessel brimming over with rich ecclesiastical experience, diligence, leadership, revelation, faith and humor.  Sister Welch is his perfect counterpart:  poised, spiritual, loving, and cheerful.  
--Our small apartment.  We spend almost no time taking care of our “home,” and no time in the yard.  We love our home and yard, but in this season of our lives simplicity is a blessing.
--My wonderful, missionary parents.  They set a great example for our entire family.  It’s hard to be apart, particularly when their health is a bit precarious, but we feel their prayers and love every minute. Sonja: Dad, you told us it was your goal to be alive when we get back and we expect you to deliver on that! Be safe from falls but keep going and doing! Mom, we are praying for you to be healed of your recent bout of breast cancer and we have faith that you will be! Back to Kent.
--Our children, who among other things have chosen wonderful spouses, and we love and admire them all. And, our grandchildren!  It’s impossible to prioritize blessings, but if I were forced that one might very well be at the top of the list.
This list could literally go on forever.  But, onward to other things.
            Last Saturday, May 27, was a celestial day.  We took all four of our YSA missionaries along with our latest baptisms, Angel and Renisha, to the Columbus temple.  How GREAT is it to get newly baptized members into the temple?!  Our rules are that missionaries can attend the temple with their recent converts, and they even help them generate their own family names to take with them to the temple.  While we were going in, we also saw Ryan arrive with the Hamilton Ward missionaries.  Sonja and I got a little selfish and did an endowment session.  That meant the others had to wait a while, but it was a gorgeous day and they enjoyed it.  The Columbus Temple is just like the Spokane Temple—small and holy.  It was a spiritual feast, and everyone was very grateful.
Gotta love our Sequoia--a real people mover

Clockwise from L:  Sisters Lee & Evensen, the Davises, Elders Taylor & Swainston, the ever-fashionable Renisha Cohen, and Angel Brohas

The crew at Long Horn Steakhouse after the temple trip

            Sunday, we had branch PEC, then the block.  We had about 110 people there, and it was great.  The wife of one of the branch presidency, Sister Daniels, had invited the four younger missionaries out to dinner, but we all (missionaries) had a mission fireside down in Kentucky that we all wanted to attend, so she brought the food to church and was nice enough to include us.  How kind!  For “linger longer” we bought eight double chocolate bundt cakes from Sam’s Club.  They were a big hit.
            The fireside that night was amazing.  We had numerous musical numbers, mostly by missionaries, and truly inspiring testimonies from several recent converts.  The first young lady was a bit nervous, but did a wonderful job.  The second recent convert was every bit as inspiring. The third brother acted like he was a member of the stake presidency.  Before he spoke, we figured he was, because he was sitting next to the stake president and seemed to belong there.  He got baptized three months ago. Wow.  The Lord is truly hastening His work in the Ohio.
            I believe I will finish with an update of the story of Cam’ron.  Three and a half years ago, Cam’ron was doing some online gaming, and had a bit of a cyberspace interaction with another gamer that was LDS.  They didn’t game together for long, but she told him about the Church, and from then on he couldn’t leave it alone.  Somehow Cam’ron made contact with the missionaries.  Those missionaries passed him along to our YSA sisters, who knew he was golden from word one. He had read the Book of Mormon and that he knew it was true. Golden isn’t sufficiently superlative, is it?  Platinum?  Still not great enough.  Pearl.  Yes, a living Pearl of Great Price. 

Sister Lee, Sister Evensen, Cameron Smith, Elder Davis, Sister Davis

Us with Cameron's Mom, Andrea, and his Dad, Mack
            I have mentioned before that he has dealt a lot of opposition from his Mother.  But she attended his baptism today, and strongly felt the Spirit. His father (they’re divorced) was also there along with an aunt and uncle.  Both of the Welches were there, and the room was packed.  The Cincinnati YSA branch knows how to support a baptism.  It was dignified, cheerful, joyous, and the absolute best kind of a party.  I got to stand in the waters of baptism with that young man, and uttered yet again the simple words of the baptismal prayer.  When he came out of the water, he was crying his eyes out.  We threw our arms around each other and rejoiced.  I might have cried just a bit also.  While Cam’ron and I were changing, he said, “I’ve been working for this day for three and a half years.” 
            During the changing break, they had a testimony meeting.  Ryan, who was baptized three weeks ago, bore powerful testimony.  Afterwards he told the President and me that his family and coworkers tell him that he looks different. He told us how badly he wants to raise his son in the church and share the gospel with his family. 
Renisha was there also—our very own YSA convert of three weeks.  She was in a dress, which is progress, and sported a nifty hairdo that took her sister 3 days to do.  She said, “Tomorrow is testimony meeting, and I’m going to get up.  And it’s gonna be great!”  She’s a branch missionary now, and is already arranging rides to church for investigators.

Renisha's latest (and new) hairdo

I have shared some text message threads previously about our medical work.  (Notice the “our” again?  Cool, eh?!)  Now I’ll share one that you will find a bit different:
Sonja:  Thank you for allowing us to serve in the YSA! I just feel so much gratitude!
President Welch:  ... The energy in the branch and among our YSA missionaries is [incredible].  So honored to serve with you and love you both.

Sister Welch:  You two are PERFECT for the YSA! So happy you are having such a good experience. My goodness, what powerful baptisms! Love coming to them.

Sonja: What an amazing kid!! We've got to keep in touch with him so we can watch and see what the Lord has in store for him!

Sister Welch: So true hope we're all still alive when he serves as a Seventy or something like that!

Sonja: No kidding!

Kent:  Now that I’m not driving etc., I also need to weigh in on the unfolding miracles we are all privileged to witness.  Sister D and I have never been happier or felt more blessed in our entire lives—and we have been richly blessed.  I’m grateful that we all have the Spirit helping us comprehend what is happening, because words are truly inadequate.  It is turning out to be even more of a privilege to serve here than we ever could have imagined, and the miracles continue accelerate in magnitude far faster and greater than we ever could have expected.  What.  A.  Joy.  This.  Is.  Thanks to both of you.  I continue to have the greatest confidence that things are going to keep picking up in pace and intensity.  Thanks to both of you for joining us out on this limb.  The view is truly fantastic as far as I can see.  As of now…

President Welch:  … Watching the sweet and tender embrace between you and Cam'Ron dressed in white, standing in the font dripping wet brought tears to my eyes and is a memory I will never forget.

Much love and rejoicing,
Your Ohio missionaries

PS:  At the end of every prayer, Renisha says she hopes God has a really nice day.
PSS: Sonja here. We watched the Idaho Falls Temple Rededication Cultural Celebration tonight. It was beautiful! A little piece of my heart is kind of aching to be there and be part of the dedication and I might be tempted to have a “feeling of sorry” that Elder Choi spoke about in the last general conference except that Heavenly Father has given us a really celestial day here in the Ohio and I feel so much gratitude for the amazing experience that we are having here that there are no feelings of sorry! Instead, words really cannot describe how blessed we feel to be a teeny tiny little part of this work! We love you all!