We’ve had an interesting week. It started like all weeks, with a meeting on Monday. This was a Zone meeting. One where we feed a dozen or more Elder and Sister Missionaries. We try to be different with what we feed them but we’re starting to run out of recipes, none of which we brought with us. We have new District and Zone leaders so I wish we would have taken a picture of the new young people that have joined us. We are so impressed at the character and strengths that each bring with them when they join us. Elder & Sister Howes are beginning to relish the many characteristics and differences that God’s children come in, both in our missionaries and those that live in this area. Elder Howes has had to examine many preconditioned biases and thoughts about “perfection” in himself and others. Every meeting we have in the Branch start 15 minutes after scheduled. It is a rare occasion that someone comes prepared to teach or to give a talk and almost everything is planned at the last minute, if that. But the Lord’s work is moving forward under the keys of the Priesthood held by the great local leaders. And even though we would like to see the perfection we think we see in our minds eyes for them we are learning to remove the mote from our eye and work under the keys that we know they hold. I think that is part of the reason that we’re out here, to learn to be tolerant and how to follow the Lord’s anointed. When we do, both we and they are blessed.
Our Temple assignment on Thursday has also provided an opportunity for us to meet some awesome and eclectic group of folks. Many are from Utah and many others from others parts of the World, all called to serve for a time in the Manhattan Temple to help staff and teach. Many learned of our assignment 90 miles north and want to get away to see other parts of New York while they are assigned here. We have Missionaries serving in West Point and we learned that the Post Historian is LDS. We contacted him and he agreed to conduct a special tour for the Temple workers. So as soon as lunch was complete from our Zone meeting we packed up our pans and dishes and dashed over to West Point to meet as many of the Temple workers as could find there way. The Historian, Sherman Fleek (even sounds like he should be at West Point), is a walking encyclopedia. What a treat for all.
We started at the Cadet Chapel which was completed in 1910 using granite quarried at the West Point site. Pictured above is the Galilee Potico (Latin for Porch). If you click on the pictures you can see some of the symbolic detail of the entryway called the Galilee Portico (latin for porch). Notice the two handed sword embedded in the cross above the main entry to the chapel. The sword is a symbol of the warrior’s ancient duty to fight evil and protect all that is holy.
The Nave is the main seating area within the chapel. As you can see, it is shows the chapel’s dignity and devotion to all things spiritual and military. You also notice all of the stained glass windows added by gift from every Graduating class beginning in 1802. The battle flags hanging in the Nave have meaning as well. All are now replicas but represent National colors, Corps of Cadets standards, and the battle-honored Army regiments from the 1812, Mexican, Civil and Spanish-American wars of the 19th Century.
Above is Brother Fleek portraying Elder Holland when he spoke to the cadets and a picture of the Sanctuary, the most holy area of the church. The limestone carving in the center is the patron saint of soldiers, Michael the Archangel as he defeats the dragon, the symbol of evil from Revelation 12:7-12. The carving was provided by the family of Ulysses S. Grant.
Because of Brother Fleek, we were able to see parts of the chapel that no-one gets to go. Pictures above is a few of the pictures of the Crypt below the Sanctuary. It is not used as designed but perhaps as you can see it is today used for Jewish services at the post. Interestingly enough, it has also been home to LDS services before the congregation grew to large for the space.
The above pictures tell the story of why West Point Academy is were it is. On the left is a picture of the Hudson River from the main road above the Academy and shows to critical point that this area was on the Hudson. During the Revolutionary War whomever controlled the River controlled the War. At right is part of chain that was stretched across the Hudson at the area where West Point is located to prevent passage of enemy water craft and providing the Colonies a strategic advantage. To put in perspective the size of the chain, our car is in the background less than 20 feet away.
This series of pictures is nearly self explanatory. It shows a variety of guns either showing them as they were used or built into War memorials that are found all around the grounds of West Point. Now, as I said nearly self explanatory, the lower right picture is a miracle. As Sister Howes was taking this series of pictures and pointed the camera towards a line of black guns and in the distance, cadets preparing some sort of flag ceremony (perhaps you can notice a screen of smoke under the trees?) a mock cannon was fired! Yow, talk about needing some stronger underwear. All of the “visitors” were in shock and Brother Fleek was only in shock at our reaction. Apparently, this is a daily activity, retiring a flag, and normal for them. For the rest of us it was time for a bathroom break.
Pictures above of a variety of buildings on our way to the center of the campus to see, at Sister Howes request, the mess hall (cafeteria). Notice all the symbol on the building and even the two guns that greet you on either side of the doorway on the picture on the lower right. And finally;
The pictures above show some of the inside of the mess hall. They feed 4500 cadets in one hour. Each table eats “family style”. There are 10 cadets at each table where they share delivered dishes of food carried into the halls using the stainless cart pictured in the center of the first picture in the series. Sister Bladder (lower left) is standing in the exact spot that General Patton delivered on of the famous speeches depicted in the movie by his name. Surrounding each hall in the mess hall are flags from different eras of history and one from every state in the union. In the upper right side you can see the flag of Utah. At the end of each Hall in the mess hall are murals. One is very ornate and shows depictions from all times in history dealing mostly with great heroes and battles.
Well I could easily fill our blog with pictures of West Point but it’s time to move on. We had a great day with the Manhattan Temple workers and Sherman Fleek and appreciate his generosity and knowledge.
Special P Day activity!
On Wednesday we had the opportunity to attend a Baseball game at the new Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and the Cleveland Indians. I’m not sure that pictures can adequately portray how awesome it was to be at an event like this with 200 some missionaries in white shirts and ties with there missionary badges on and to hear the comments as this group stood together outside the game waiting to get into the game.
Pictured above Yankee Stadium, a group of Missionaries waiting for their tickets outside of Yankee Stadium, President Morgan and one of his Missionaries, Sister Howes, and a picture from our seats into the stands including our Missionaries. We were in the “nose bleed” seats. For Elder & Sister Howes their seats were literally the highest seats in the stands which ended up being great. We had shade and a breeze that you could not feel if you were even one seat down. The bottom right picture shows the grounds keepers who stopped mid grooming to sing and act out the song YMCA. Yankees won 6-4 with C.C. Sabathia going the distance.
Passive / Agressive
New York has the most interesting style of drivers anywhere. Every time we take the Missionaries somewhere they tell me that the only driver more aggressive than the New Yorkers is Elder Howes. I’ve tried to learn from these comments even though it’s not easy. New Yorker’s are very aggressive drivers but one of the unique qualities they possess is that even though they drive all out they are OK when cut-off and will even let you in when they see that your trying cut-in on them. I’m trying to, at least, learn from them, if not repent from the win-at-all-cost driving style.
We had what seemed to be an uneventful trip to Manhattan for our shift at the Temple. We left late but the traffic allowed us to arrive on time, we found a spot just down the street from the Temple on Columbus street, and the meter where you buy a ticket actually worked. We bought a ticket and went right in to serve our shift. After leaving the Temple we came out to find a parking ticket on the windshield for a parking violation. $65 Seems that the parking permit ticket was upside down and could not be read by the parking police, a violation. I’m beginning to believe that David Rasmussen’s advise to take the train and avoid the frustration has great merit.
Our week was rounded out by beginning the second round of teaching the Strengthening Marriage series we travel around to teach. We traveled to Kingston, New York in a driving rain storm arriving to teach two couples and a single man who arrived 10 minutes after the scheduled time for the class. We talked about leaving just minutes before they arrived but we had a great time with them and are starting to understand that this part of New York has Mormon standard time on steroids.
Sister Finlinson called us on Saturday evening and asked what we were doing. We told her that we were studying all of the lessons for all of the classes for the next Sunday. We are certainly glad that we did. We both got assignments “on the spot” during the Sacrament meeting, taught Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society. Life in a small Branch has taught us to be better prepared than ever. We feel blessed that they Lord trust us enough to provide so many opportunities for us to grow and feel like we learn something new each day we serve.