Sunday, August 31, 2014

Summer 2014

As most of you know, we maintain this now sporadic blog for friends and family back in the states.  It primarily consists of photos and commentary intended to give that specific audience insight into the experiences of our nuclear family.  Much of the work I do or that Laurel does in working with the mission and church is not accounted for in the blog directly. 

Looking back at a few prior entries recently reminded me, however, that working in a mission as we do is an all day, every day experience which exerts influence on nearly everything we actually do as a family.  Everything from family night on Mondays to scriptures in the morning to grocery shopping on Saturday is impacted by the goings on of the mission.  It is a wonderfully, exhaustingly, exhilaratingly consuming experience for each of us.  

The first picture from the blog evidences all that.  Laurel took it on the evening of my recent 43rd birthday.  After a full day, Laurel and the kids took me to a great dinner.  After returning home and seeing the kids to bed there was more to be done.  One pending crisis, another blessed opportunity to take advantage of, and always missionaries to talk with.  Such a wonderful time in our lives!

As you may have noticed by now, I (James) have the blog today.  None of the pictures are in chronologic order.  Much of my commentary will be disjointed and jumbled.  Please be patient and forgiving.  Fortunately, Laurel's great pictures speak for themselves.

Summer 2014
My 43rd!!

Two great new groups of missionaries!!

Late spring and early summer bring fields filled with golden flowers into my travels through both countries.

Elder Kleiner and Elder King in Ceske Budejovice.

More pictures from the road.

Evie participated in the high school choir this year.  She had a great experience and had the opportunity to travel to and perform in Budapest for a choir festival.

These are pictures from Wilson's graduation from middle school.  Glad he wore a bow tie!!  Two weeks ago he started 9th grade/high school.  Laurel and I can't believe that we now have two in high school!!!

This is Hyrum's teacher from last year on the last day of school.  His name is Ryan and his impact on Hyrum's interest in school and education has been profound.

These are all pictures from one of our Sunday visits to the Liberec Branch in Northern Bohemia.  The branch has an exceptional branch president and wonderful members.

This is Elder Barber, one of my recent assistants.  He served all but the last two months of his mission in Slovakia.  I invited him into the office as an assistant at the end of his mission.  There are very few young man as good as Elder Barber.  He is nothing short of remarkable.  We miss having him with us very much.

Mexican food provided at a recent Zone Conference by the great Mendenhalls.

Elder Knapp and Elder Sewell came back for a visit.  Somehow, they've come to feel and fit in just as if they are one of our children.  You can see from the photos above that our kids have similar feelings.  In the series of photos at our dining room table above, they had Evie and Wilson laughing as hard as I've ever seen them laugh.


A Czech sunset!

Elder and Sister Teixeira visited in June for a mission tour.  Elder Teixeira is the Area President for Europe.  We spent 3-4 days with them traveling, counselling and training missionaries with them.  We admire the strength of their marriage/partnership and the spiritual way in which they interact with missionaries.

Family photos after hyrum's violin recital!

Elders Earle, Weyland and Bushnell after a recent sports night.

We get lots of visitors here in Prague.  Laurel and the kids showed a few of them, who they met earlier at church that day, St. Vitas Cathedral.  In the following photo, we welcomed the family of Elder Burton for dinner.  The Burtons traveled from Hawaii with their youngest daughter pick up their son at the end of his mission.

One of the great experiences for Evie has been the opportunity to dance with the International School of Ballet in Prague.  The school provides a modern dance class in which Evie participates.  She enjoys the opportunity to dance twice a week and we've enjoyed her recitals in the great Magic Lantern Theatre in downtown Prague.

The two pictures above were taken in the park next to the mission home.  It is called Letna Park and is perhaps the most well know park in Prague.  Many of the great demonstrations of the Velvet Revolution in '89 took place there.  One of the walking paths leads to a few toys the boys enjoy playing on and a spectacular view of Prague.

Laurel and the kids hiking in an area where supposedly some of the Narnia films were made.

P-day activity: Celebrating one year on the mission with lunch at the boys favourite burger joint called the Tavern.  The bacon double cheeseburger puts Wilson into an odd, very satisfied looking trance. :-)
Near the Tavern, a radio and television tower.

A few of our remarkable sisters and Evie.  Ev often used to wish for sisters.  In these good women, she has found them.  From top to bottom, Sis. Roubickova, Hicken and Graham.

Evie and some friends from school.  Evie has really taken advantage of the international nature of her school (ISP or International School of Prague).  She has made interesting and good friends from all over the world.

A selfie on the way to school.

Laurel and the kids in a field of the flowers I described above.  This photo was taken in Germany on our way to the Freiberg Temple.  I had meetings there with our area seventy who invited the kids to come along as well.  The visit gave us a chance to be in the temple with our two oldest and catch up with our friends the Edgerens who are serving in the Warsaw Poland Mission.

More miscellaneous shots including umbrellas (?), balloons (?), some sort of modern art (?), and people standing in front of an old church building (?).  I'm going to confess that I'm gone a lot and not sure what the significance of these photos is.  But they are provided, nonetheless, for your viewing pleasure.

A great man recently baptised in the Prague Branch.  Elder Sylvester and Brittner taught him the gospel.

Miscellaneous photos of Wilson riding his leaf blower hovercraft at school, with classmates and watching a volleyball game.

This is the first of a few photos related to a visit by the BYU men's volleyball team to Prague.  The team, their coach and a bunch of supporters visited Prague for an exhibition match.  We were able to attend.  I resisted the temptation to show up in my Ute gear and opted instead to continue my representation of the Church by dressing as the mission president and graciously welcoming the Cougars to the Czech Slovak Mission.  I think the song from primary goes something  like, "I'm trying to be like Jesus . . ."

A walk in the park

A tank park in Banska Bystrice, Slovakia.  Laurel and the two youngers joined me there for a branch conference.  Because it was also father's day, they gave me a new speedo.

Pictures from the Banska Bystrice conference and the great missionaries that serve there (Elder's Rasmussen, Lamb and Roosendal).

Dinner with the remarkable Pilkas.  Martin was the first missionary to be called following the Velvet Revolution in '89.

We made the drive to Banska Bystrice for the above described branch conference on a Saturday (our p-day).  It is a six-plus hour drive from Prague.  We broke up the drive by stopping for ice cream and a quick look in at a castle.  The boys were able to hold the birds during the castle visit.

Transfers mean goodbyes to people that we love very much.  Elders Boysen, Prymak, Barber and Sis. Grahm are all headed home in this picture.
Our friend Maren made a surprise visit to Prague.  Great to see her!!

This is me translating for Jack Wixom.  Jack was my stake president as a young man when I served my first mission in Czechoslovakia.  He and his wife, Pres. Rosemary Wixom of the General Primary Presidency visited in June with Elder Kearon of the Seventy and Sister Reeves of the General Relief Society Presidency.  We enjoyed a great week with all of them traveling from Prague to Brno to Bratislava, where they spoke to the saints and trained leaders.

Wilson still plays the guitar.

These two pictures are of Elder Boysen.  He served as one of my assistants and came back for a visit from his home in England recently.  Seeing him again reminded me how much I miss my regular gospel conversations with him.  He is a spiritually wise young man.

Very soon, I will no longer be the tallest member of our family.

Some of our great members heading to temple week in Freiberg.

Laurel's balcony garden.

Laurel's sister Michelle and her family visited in July.  It was wonderful.  She and her husband Jens are kind and generous.  Their children are the same age and best of friends with ours.  The time they spent visiting was joyous and rewarding.

More photos of or related to the great Elder Boysen.  He brought me some wonderfully moldy and tasty cheese from his hometown in England!

With apologies to my first mission companions, this one is easily my favourite.

The Grays on their first day in the mission.  Elder Gray's son and I served together in the bishopric of the I2 ward just before we came to Prague.  

Is this Laurel or her sister Michelle with Evie?  You decide.

The BYU mens volleyball team.  Out of deference we won't report the game's final score.  It was, after all, just an exhibition.

A picture with all but one of my assistants to date. The great Elder Osterloh was there in spirit.

The Czech Slovak mission home, the Prague chapel, baptistry, YSA centre, etc.

Walter McCall and me.  He and I served together during the first mission.

Sisters Hicken and Huggard at Mission Leadership Counsel.

More with the Jenkins.

Elder Earle just before he transferred to Olomouc.

These are all pictures from our trip to the temple in Freiberg.  Laurel's parents served there around 2001.  It was fun for all of us to think of them during our visit to the temple and the great city that hosts it.  The sign above Wilson's head in the photo where he appears to be holding an accordion made us feel right at home as a family in the pension where we stayed.

Happy Birthday Wilson! Breakfast in the penzion in the town of Liberec just before branch conference.

Laurel, the kids and Elder Sewell on our family's favourite walk to the Prague Castle.

Elders Sewell, Neumann and Knapp.  All three of these elders were back visiting on their own or with family.  They happened to converge on the mission home at the same time and we snapped this picture.

A game of basketball revenge in the parking lot.  Wilson's birthday wish.
Happy 14th Wilson!
Cooking with George.

Evie and the great Sister Steglich!

More pictures from our great visit with the Wixoms, Reeves and Elder Kearon.  I particularly benefitted from the time spent with Elder Kearon.  He has had influence on me at remarkably opportune times in my life.  This visit was no exception.

Wilson was recently ordained to the office of teacher.  Because his extended family was half way around the world at the time, we invited the missionaries in Prague to stand in for each of them.  In the picture above, the missionaries are each holding a small card with the names of Granddad, Grandpa, Uncle Bry, Uncle Jens, etc.  The third picture is Hyrum with Elder Sylvester.  Elder Sylvester's dad was recently the subject of a Mormon Message entitled "The Hope of God's Light."  If you haven't seen it, its more than worth the five or so minutes it takes to watch.

These three photos are from our dinner and time spent with a great group of missionaries headed home.
Eva Mlcochova on the day she visited my office to be set apart as a full time missionary in the London England mission.  My good sister hosted her for the weekend in Salt Lake City before delivering her to the MTC.  As my dad, brother and sister all served in London, I imagine that they tried, but no doubt failed, to convince her that the London mission is somehow greater than Czech Slovak Mission.

More with the Jenkins.  We were able to spend a day with them in the mountains of southern Bohemia.

Church in Cesky Budejovice, being greeted by Elder Jaynes and Elder Kleiner.

More with the Jenkins, including a sister shot.

We arranged for Wilson and his two cousins to have a missionary experience.  They studied, street contacted, taught and even challenged an investigator to be baptised.

Elders Payne, Huffaker, Bailey and Cowley in the city of Brno.

Laurel and I with the YW of the Czech Slovak Mission following a fireside.  When asked whether or not they were planning to serve missions, nearly every young woman attending the camp answered in the affirmative.  This is a great group.

Sharing time: Our boys in the Prague primary.


The wonderful Bells at Karlstejn.  The Bells are humanitarian missionaries in the Czech Republic.  They are exceptional people.

More with the Jenkins, including a goodbye at the airport.

Studying with my new assistants Elders Bushnell and Howell.  We are working through the key sections in the Doctrine and Covenants together.  These are bright and wise young men.

These are from a family camp organised by and for member families in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.  We attended with our two youngest for about a day and a half and learned a lot from the Czech and Slovak Saints.  The other photos are from a visit Laurel and the kids made to our friends the Gordon-Smiths near Plzen.

These two are from a recent Mission Leadership Counsel.
George and H.
Evie and Wilson were able to visit family back in the states this summer and participate in the SL Highland Stake Trek.  This picture was taken with our friends, the Moenchs, serving as missionaries who direct Martin's Cove in Wyoming.  We are grateful to our family, ward family, and friends who so graciously helped and hosted Evie and Wilson!!

This year and last on the 24th of July we gathered all our Czech Missionaries at Priest Hill near Karlstejn Castle to commemorate the dedication of Czechoslovakia for the preaching of the gospel by Elder John A. Widstoe.  A great spiritual day.

The Prague missionaries from last transfer.

More with the Jenkins.  Please notice Jens' fancy pants and, if you run into him in Salt Lake, ask about them.

More from the Mormon Family Camp organised and held near Trebic, Czech Republic.  I ran with the boys in the race they organise annually.  Again, it was a great learning experience to be at the camp with so many good member families.

New missionaries at the airport!!

The first day of school!

Olga Campora, one of the legends of the Church here in the Czech Republic and Slovakia made time to participate in our recent zone conference.  She is visiting from her home in Baltimore.  It was wonderful to have her and the insight she shared with our missionaries was tremendous.

Well, I'm certainly not as clever as the kids or as spiritual /thoughtful as Laurel, but I hope the great pictures she has posted have made up for my failings.  We love and miss you all.  May you be blessed and cared for in all that you do.


  1. Happy birthday, a few days late!!

  2. You did a great job! We love seeing all the pictures. Thank you for doing it.

  3. We loved seeing your children on Trek! Thank you for this post. JB and I are so grateful for your service.

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  5. I love these posts so much! It's fun to hear from each of you. The pics of Evie and Wilson laughing are my faves. We love and miss you all!