Last night we had a huge Days for Girls Event here in Orem. We had about 400 Young Single Adults in one place at one time, creating something that will change lives. It was amazing. There’s a good deal of preparation that goes into an event this big. Imagine keeping that many kids busy and productive for 2 hours! It was so much fun.
We can prepare cotton and flannel fabric by purchasing, washing, folding, ironing, cutting and matching and organizing projects. We can have washcloths and underwear dyed and ready to fold. We can have 100s of bags sewn, ready for threading drawstrings. We can have instructions printed and classrooms organized, but nothing we did prepared me for the conversations I had with individuals who learned why we do what we do, and responded with, “How can I be more involved in this movement??” Tonight I also saw lives changing here. For some, all it takes is awareness and an opportunity to help. I love being involved with an organization that introduces good people with open hearts to ways they can share and help others. It’s magical.
This next generation is pretty amazing. Come take a look:
Refreshments served:Unloading the 3 carloads of finished goodness after the event:Life is good here and life will be WAY better for the girls who receive these kits someday soon. Thanks to all who came to help last night. I think we all went to bed happy.
This last weekend, John, Claire, Graham and I flew to Fresno, then drove 40 minutes to my hometown in Reedley. I love going home. I love the good memories of the people and places of my childhood. I love showing my family now what my family then was like.
Sometimes I feel a little panicky about losing my past. I may be one of the last to hold some of the important memories. I don’t want them to be lost. Sometimes being a Record Keeping Rememberer is such a heavy job. I also worry that others may not really even care to know the things I know or to feel the things I’ve felt. They have their own memories to hang on to, they’re not interested in mine. I wish that didn’t make me feel sad, but it does.
Ian Frazier, author of Family, describes his thoughts at his mother’s deathbed in this way: “Soon all the people who had accompanied me through life would be gone, too, and then even the people who had known us, and no one would remain on earth who had ever seen us, and those descended from us perhaps would know stories about us, perhaps once in a while they would pass by buildings where we had lived and they would mention that we had lived there. And then the stories would fade, and the graves would go untended, and no one would guess what it had been like to wake before dawn in our breath-warmed bedrooms as the radiators clanked and our wives and husbands and children slept.”
I thought about that as I wandered through the home where I grew up. There are different books on the shelves now, and the furniture was all changed after my mom died, but the place is like a box for my memories.
I looked at the patched hole in my old bedroom door where my brother kicked it after I escaped from his wrath. I felt how my bedroom drawers still stick when I pull them out and I remembered where I used to keep my stuff. The mirrors and the hair dryer that was mounted on my bedroom wall are gone, along with all my bookshelves and the bulletin board. My room is a guest room for other people now. I am a guest there. I wish I could step back in time and see it again as it was.
Below are a few photos I snapped, of this and that, things to remind me of where I came from.
Reedley is famous for the Blossom Trail each year in February and March. People travel from all over to drive through the countryside and see the blossoms. It’s a peaceful and fragrant time in the Valley, as preparations begin for the busy hot harvest months.Peaches and nectarines have pink blossoms. Plums and almonds have white.New varieties are grafted in.
Our backyard, looking north:
Here is the pool where we cooled off in the summer heat. I came out here often late at night, after a date, or activity, and I would sit, stare at the sky and dream about my future.
The back door, where all the comings and goings happened. Today my Dad’s walker waits here for him. The boot scraper and metal shoe mat are the same.
This bench is where the milk man would leave our milk each week when I was young.
Dad’s office still feels the same, with his farm books and pictures of Germany on the walls. Every year my brothers and I raised money for Christmas by picking and selling tangerines. The sign is the same–used for the last 40-50 years. Fruit still hangs on the citrus trees and the tangerine stand is still in the driveway, now closer to the house where they can keep an eye on it. But now the money box has a lock on it. When I was there, we used a quart jar and trusted everyone to leave money and not take it.
These Camellia flowers reminded me of my grandma’s flower garden next door. She grew pink, red and white camellias.
Dad’s old boots.
Dad in his recliner.
Last Sunday after church, we drove part of the Blossom Trail. These almond orchards were spectacular. The blossoms petals on the ground looked like snow!
The vineyards are also in bloom–with Fiddleneck, the golden flower we hated as kids. They made our legs itch as we worked in the fields tying vines and taking out the stump wood. We had to take the wood out of several rows every day after the pruning was finished.
Here are two of our old vineyard wagons my dad built that we used to take the wood out of the vineyards. We’d put the sideboards in, and pull these long narrow wagons behind the tractor. Driving was the fun job, so we rotated who got to be on the tractor. Between my two brothers and me, we’d take 3 rows at a time, one walking on each side of the one we drove down. As we walked the rows, we searched for the stumps and wood pieces that were too large to be disced under. These larger wood pieces were hucked into the vineyard wagon. The tractor driver watched the middle row and alerted the others when there was a big piece. We saved all of this wood in woodpiles to be used in our fireplaces and in grandma’s kitchen wood stove throughout the rest of the year.
These are the old tractors we used. They’re still used to pull the bin trailers in from the fields today.
This is the tractor I learned to drive on at about age 8.
We took a drive up into the foothills Sunday afternoon, to Wonder Valley, then on to Squaw Valley. The Lupine bushes were amazing!
On our way home, we drove through Orange Cove, where my mother taught school for many years. Mom was a 3rd grade teacher and she loved being in the class room. She said 3rd graders were the best age–still innocent and inquisitive. She taught reading and cursive handwriting like no other. At the end of every summer I got to go with her to G. W. School Supply in Fresno to pick out new things to decorate her bulletin boards with. Then we’d go decorate and set up her classroom before the first days of school. I loved doing that with her.
We also drove over to Kings View Hospital Farm. Dad leased and farmed this farm during all of my childhood years. The Mennonite Church manages the hospital. It used to be a hospital for the mentally ill. Dad farmed 43 acres of Thompson Seedless raisins, Simka, Friar and Santa Rosa plums and some peaches there. In the earlier years, we’d move the fruit sizer packing machine into the orchard and pack fruit on site. Later all the fruit was hauled to our packing shed.
The farm backed up to the Kings River. Sometimes we’d fish there or go hunting for bullfrogs. In the early summer we ate mulberries from the wild trees that grew along the river banks. Kings View was an extension of our back yard, a few miles away. We came and went freely, usually on our bicycles, then on mini bikes or motorcycles. The patients never bothered us and we never bothered them. We were told most were from rich families in LA. One time we happened upon a group of them skinny dipping in the river. That was unexpected!!
Kings View had this swimming pool for the patients. In the evenings, after long hot days of summer work, Dad would take us to the pool here. This was in the years before we had our own pool All 3 of us were on the swim team in Reedley, and we loved the water. We’d beg to go to the pool. We went 3 or 4 times each week. There used to be a diving board where we learned to do front and back flips. We’d turn the pool lights on and rescue moths and bugs that flew into the water. We loved this pool.
This is my grandparents’ home on Road 52, next to our home. After coming to America from Germany, Rudolf and Elsa eventually purchased this home and they raised their family here. The house used to be all white and Grandma’s Camellia bushes were on the northeast corner (lower right in this picture). Eric’s packing shed now stands on this property where Grandpa’s old barn used to be. Eric rents the home to a gal who helps clean the shed in the evenings after the packers go home.
Eric took us on a farm tour. He took us around the farm and explained to the kids and John about grafting trees and branches, pollination, irrigation, fertilizers and insecticides, and all those kinds of farm things.
Our first night at home we had dinner at Foster’s Freeze, where we ate after every home swim meet all summer long. I’d always order a cheeseburger, fries and a lime slush.
We had a great long weekend in Reedley. It included some really great Mexican food from Sal’s in Selma and Ortega’s in Reedley. It was great to be with family and to remember parts and pieces of my childhood there.
Eric, Dad and me before the goodbyes.Until we meet again, dear people in a dear place.
Very few things in this world make my heart pound like having more space for BOOKS!! This bookshelf is a new addition to our bedroom today.
We had our carpets cleaned and stretched this last week. That meant taking Everything off the carpets in every room. Our tiled bathrooms, laundry, and main floor hardwood areas were stacked and piled with furniture, bedding, and mounds of all of our stuff. That stuff included my book piles from almost every room. I think John liked seeing the carpet under them so much, he consented to adding another bookshelf!
Today we met with these leaders from US Synthetic who have been coming to learn about the process of making Days for Girls kits. They are preparing for a huge company-wide 2-day conference that will include several hours of humanitarian work making and assembling DfG kits. It’s been really fun to work with men who work with engineers. They analyze each step of the process, timing themselves, looking for ways to improve and streamline the process. They are going to use these processes to teach their employees about innovation in production processes and teamwork. It’s going to be fun!
I am impressed that this local company, who employees more than 900 people, takes the time to involve their employees in humanitarian work. Their plan is to make 100s of kits AND distribute them in their corporate travels. Bravo, US Synthetic!
We’re working hard to enhance the lives of people in our neighborhoods and communities, to the children in our local schools, and to the less fortunate around the world. We’re lending a helping hand to those that need a little extra help through our Engineering Good initiatives. Engineering Good, through the generosity of our own employees, donates thousands of hours of service yearly and tens of thousands of dollars to local community and international humanitarian organizations. Come join us in Engineering Good.
They timed each other to see who could work the fastest.Today we tackled the shields. Next week we’ll work on bags.
This week I learned that the mother of a friend of mine has graduated to a care center, where she can be taken good care of as she approaches the end of her life. She suffers with dementia. She also suffered with some compulsive habits, like buying fabric and sewing machines, which she would take apart and try to put back together. Her apartment was full of fabric, neatly ironed, stacked, and folded by color, floor to ceiling.
My friend is an only child and she told me years ago that when her mother passed, she’d have some fabric to donate to Days for Girls. So this week we went to help move the fabric from her home to our DfG home at Building Q.
It was interesting (as a fabric buyer and collector and quilter) to handle this fabric, so lovingly purchased, but never used. Hundreds, thousands of yards, untouched. Every color, every print, all beautiful, waiting to be used.
It occurred to me as we filled 5 large vehicles with fabric that maybe sometimes Heavenly Father blesses people with means and desires to accumulate things they will never use, knowing they will end up in the hands of others who will know how to use those things to bless the lives of others in need.
This week we saw a transfer of fabric from a dear old lady who purchased and loved it, to women who will sew it for girls who need it. What a sweet economy! I was happy to be there for this transfer. And I am grateful for my good friend, who made this possible.
Filling our vans and vehicles:
Unloading at our Days for Girls work rooms:What an amazing gift!
Posted today on Ann’s Stories: https://annlaemmlenlewis1.wordpress.com/
In the Doctrine and Covenants, section 85 is a Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, November 27, 1832. This section is an extract from a letter of the Prophet to William W. Phelps, who was living in Independence, Missouri. It contains instructions from the Lord on what kinds of records he, as a church historian, should keep.
As I read these instructions today, it occurred to me that if these things were important to the Lord then, they are important today. Here’s what was asked in verses 1 and 2:
1 It is the duty of the Lord’s clerk, whom he has appointed, to keep a history, and a general church record of all things that transpire in Zion, and of all those who consecrate properties, and receive inheritances legally from the bishop;
2 And also their manner of life, their faith, and works . . .
This made me think of the Stories I am posting here. Yesterday my 600th Story was posted, and there are 100 more written and scheduled for publication in the coming months. I will continue to add to these stories as long as I can find and prepare them. I think it’s quite miraculous how they come to me, sometimes out of nowhere, sometimes after much digging and searching. The urgency I feel to share them is an indication to me that they are important, and these stories need to be told. It’s important for us to understand the manner of their lives, their faith and their works. We can learn from every single person who came to this earth.
Nothing in Nature lives for itself.
Rivers don’t drink their own water.
Trees don’t eat their own fruits.
The sun doesn’t shine for itself.
A flower’s fragrance is not for itself.
Living for each other is Nature’s rule.
In 2019, let us rise by lifting others.
We had a Wonderful Christmas this year. It was great to have all the family together, sharing the love. Here is an overview of how we celebrated:
We picked out and brought home a beautiful tree the first week of December.On December 15th we had a Missionary party here for anyone in the area who could come. We took a large group to sing carols at a care center, then came back to our home afterwards for hot chocolate and treats.
We took our traditional over-night outing to Salt Lake for a nice dinner out and a trip to see the lights at Temple Square.
I attended a South Africa Mission Reunion and got to visit with Sis Lorna Wood, my Mission President’s wife. Oh, how I love her!
Christmas stories are one of my favorite parts of Christmas! This year baby Josie joined us!Oh, how we love this new little one!
Christmas Eve is my favorite evening of the year! After singing a Christmas hymn and reading the Christmas story from Luke and Matthew, the kids opened their special gifts. On Christmas Eve, I prepare a gift of family–something that brings us closer together. This year each of the kids got the new Bushman Book and DVD from our reunion in Pennsylvania, and I compiled a binder of all of the letters to Santa the kids have written over the years.The kids poured over the Santa letters and we all relived the history of gift-giving in our family. That was Fun!Claire discovered her first spread sheet. Her mind has worked in spread sheets since she was little!
Christmas Morning!Stockings are always first, after sticky buns!Then it’s time to go into the living room where the tree is.There the fun begins!Claire gave me flannel for Days for Girls!Clark was the main attraction!After the gifts, we lounged and read books and played games.
John and I were asked to speak at a Stonewood Stake youth Fireside this evening about the growth of the Church in Africa and how we can apply what we learned there to our lives today.
As I thought about what I might say to the youth of our stake, I remembered something David McCullough said at a BYU Forum in 2005. He was talking about the Founding Fathers and how they had no idea what the outcome of their actions would be. He started his masterful discourse by saying:
One of the hardest, and I think the most important, realities of history to convey to students or readers of books or viewers of television documentaries is that nothing ever had to happen the way it happened. Any great past event could have gone off in any number of different directions for any number of different reasons. We should understand that history was never on a track. It was never preordained that it would turn out as it did.
Very often we are taught history as if it were predetermined, and if that way of teaching begins early enough and is sustained through our education, we begin to think that it had to have happened as it did. We think that there had to have been a Revolutionary War, that there had to have been a Declaration of Independence, that there had to have been a Constitution, but never was that so. In history, chance plays a part again and again. Character counts over and over. Personality is often the determining factor in why things turn out the way they do.
Furthermore, nobody ever lived in the past. Jefferson, Adams, George Washington—they didn’t walk around saying, “Isn’t this fascinating living in the past? Aren’t we picturesque in our funny clothes?” They were living in the present, just as we do. The great difference is that it was their present, not ours. And just as we don’t know how things are going to turn out, they didn’t either.
(You can find his talk here: https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/david-mccullough_glorious-cause-america/)
That certainly was the case in Africa 38 years ago, as we went village to village teaching and helping our friends there. Who could have guessed what would happen in those little villages in my own lifetime!
Here are the notes from my talk:
When I was 17 or 18 I had a strong impression that I was to go on a mission. I went off to BYU, and I started to prepare to be a missionary while waiting to turn 21. I memorized scriptures and discussions and passed them off to my returned missionary roommates. It seemed my wait lasted Forever.
When I was finally 21 years old and able to go, I had my papers ready to send. I’d had my physical exams, my dental work was done, everything was in order and complete. But when I went to put my mission application into the mailbox, I was stopped. It felt like a brick wall came down around me. I could not put the letter in the box. I was stunned. I didn’t understand why. I had waited so many years to go. Why the impression not to go??
Confused, I went back to school. Then, after a couple of years, the impression returned: “Now it’s time.”
This time I filled out the forms, and nothing stopped me from sending them to Salt Lake. Several weeks later, a big white envelope was delivered to our mailbox. It took me a long time to open it. I knew that what was written inside that envelope would change my life forever.
I was right. I was called to serve in Africa. When I got to the MTC to learn Afrikaans, I discovered that I was the only Sister in the MTC going to Africa. They had only just started sending American Sisters there. Had I submitted my papers 2 years earlier, who knows what path my life would have taken, or where I would be right now.
I learned to LOVE my brothers and sisters in Africa. That love went deep down into my heart as I sat in humble circumstances, teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, in mud brick homes with dung floors and thatch roofs, often by candlelight.
Ann Laemmlen teaching in Illinge, Transkei, South Africa
Not long after returning from my mission in South Africa I listened to news reports of a horrible weather pattern called El Nino which was causing severe droughts and destruction around the world, especially in Africa. My heart longed to return, to go help in some way. One night I could not sleep at all. I spent the entire night on my knees praying to know how to help.
The very next day an invitation came. I was asked to go to Nigeria for 3 years to help direct a child health project. I was 25 years old and I wept tears of joy.
Ann Laemmlen with Doraty Bassey in Eket, Nigeria
In Nigeria, we worked hard to teach and train village health workers in dozens of villages throughout the region. We taught principles of basic home health care, nutrition, sanitation, water purification, and self reliance.
We were young and had dreams of saving the world. Instead, we learned that our efforts were a drop in the bucket, at least that’s what it felt like then.
Eket Branch 1983
I was the Relief Society President in a tiny branch that met in this home in a village called Eket. Samuel Dickson Paul (seated) was the Branch President. His wife, Cecilia, was my mentor and dear friend. I lived in the compound next to this wonderful family for almost 3 years.
During the years I lived in Nigeria, my team and I worked in dozens of very rural villages in the area. Several missionary couples came to teach our friends and loved ones there. The first branches in Nigeria were growing.
Here is one baptism we helped with. More than 60 villagers were baptized on this day, in 3 different sites in this river, which felt like the Waters of Mormon.
We were the very small beginning of the church in West Africa. We had no idea what the future would hold. We were just little tools, doing what we could, drops in the bucket.
Here I am with my companion, Mary Ellen Edmunds, at the dedication of the first LDS chapel built by the church in the city of Aba. (In the villages we met wherever we could, in mud brick homes or village meeting places with open to the world windows and doors.)
Aba Chapel Dedication
Today there is a temple in Aba. Last October a 2nd temple in Lagos, Nigeria was announced by Pres Nelson!
Aba Temple Dedication
Not long ago, in a Gospel Doctrine class, we talked about the beginnings of the church in many lands and the miracles surrounding the saints and pioneers who were firsts. One of the pioneers mentioned was Anthony Obinna, who I met in Nigeria. As I sat listening in class, it occurred to me that I was there! I was a very small part of the miracles happening in Africa. At the time, I had no idea what the Church in Nigeria would look like, now 38 years later.
My friends in Eket tell me there are now 5 Stakes in the region where we worked in a handful of branches. It is almost unbelievable to me!
Today in Nigeria:
more than 600 congregations
Membership approaching 200,000
2nd Temple in Lagos announced last October (2018)
We each have small offerings, or tools to help build the kingdom, in the places we serve. We may never know the end of the story, or what the final outcome will be, we just help in whatever way we can, wherever we are called to serve.
We are promised:
“If ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work.”
Where you heart is, opportunities follow.
Sometimes that service feels like a little drop in the bucket, but if we all do our part, where we are called, “out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” That’s what’s happening in Africa right now.
I will close by reading a journal entry made several years ago about one of the lessons I learned after another trip back to Africa.
This evening in my Doctrine & Covenants class we talked about Jesus’s words in Section 38, “I have made the earth rich, and behold it is my footstool.” Jesus tells us the riches of the earth and the riches of eternity “are mine to give.” In the same breath, his words implore us to “look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer.” He could make every family rich, if he chose. Why has he chosen not to?
Whenever I read words like these, or like King Benjamin’s, I immediately see the faces of children who live in remote villages far from here, who pull contaminated water from drying wells and who’s meager diet consists of millet for every meal eaten from a communal pot. They sleep on wooden planks or on mats on the ground under nets to keep mosquitoes with deadly bites from infecting them. They work hard and long under scorching sun. Their feet are calloused, cracked and dry, their clothing, worn and tattered.
I wonder about my relationship to them, these children of the sun, and their families. I think about them at night as I slip into clean sheets under beautiful quilts and look out my bedroom window at green pine boughs covered with snow. My skin is soft, my belly is filled, my head swims with new ideas and exciting projects every night. My children are safe and healthy and comfortable. We have abundant lives. There is no need unfilled.
Why, why, why such abundance? Why do I live here and now? Why do we have so much more than we need?
I believe these children of the sun are here, on this earth, more for my sake than I am here for their sake. I need them more than they need me. They are here to help me learn to share.
Too often we look away, we fail to notice them, we ignore their need. They, and others like them, are so far from us. We pretend they don’t know what they are missing. They may not know, but I do. And so I must help.
I thought of this poem tonight, my constant prayer:
God–let me be aware.
Let me not stumble blindly down the ways,
Just getting somehow safely through the days,
Not even groping for another hand,
Not even wondering why it all was planned,
Eyes to the ground unseeking for the light,
Soul never aching for a wild-winged flight,
Please, keep me eager just to do my share.
God–let me be aware.
God–let me be aware.
Stab my soul fiercely with others’ pain,
Let me walk seeing horror and stain,
Let my hands, groping, find other hands.
Give me the heart that divines, understands.
Give me the courage, wounded, to fight.
Flood me with knowledge, drench me in light.
Please–keep me eager to do my share.
God–let me be aware.
–Miriam Teichner b. 1888
Last month many of us finished reading the Book of Mormon. In Mormon 8:39, Mormon, who saw our day, asks,
“Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?”
I pray for 3 things:
That we will all have desires to serve.
That we will all be prepared to be a Drop in a Bucket wherever we are needed.
That we will all be aware and notice those around us and Help.