Friday, December 14, 2012

Grateful for Freedom

Hola again family and friends . . .

When we had our Thanksgiving buffet some (if you  had a sticker on the bottom of your plate) were asked to take a minute and share what "they were thankful for."   At the end our Area President Anderson said he was recently reminded of how grateful he was for freedom.  He was just returned from a trip to Cuba.  He had visited with the Branch President there.  His daughter after many years had received permission to go to the states for schooling.  She is living and going to school in Salt Lake City.  The Andersons had visited her in October when they were there for General Conference.  She isn't sure she will ever see her parents again.  She had small gifts for the Andersons to take back and hopefully give to her parents when they went to Cuba again.  One was a 6 inch replica of The Statue of Liberty.  He said it spoke volumes to all that were there and caused him to contemplate those blessings of having our freedom!  We all felt the spirit of his experience.  Indeed we are so grateful for our freedoms as US citizens. 

Our work has caused some situations the last few weeks that are difficult but needful.  We spent 5 hours one Sunday talking with several leaders/members about financial expenditures in a ward that are not adding up right with the paperwork . . . I was so done with listening and not understanding much Spanish!!  Chuck has been out in the evening several times with others - visiting and trying to pin things down as to what has been happening - such as were activities really held for which there were expenditures?  It is a hard/sad thing to search and see if there is wrong doing.  But, that is what we are here for in this assignment.

Saturday we went west on the island to Azua - our second time there to deal with a missionary that was sent home from the MTC located here because of some undisclosed financial problems he had while serving as the branch clerk.  It is wonderful that he felt the spirit work on him to disclose that he had been dishonest . . . the sorry part is it wasn't a large amount that has caused him all this sorrow.  After all is said and done it is only 1850 pesos that he is responsible to repay - about $45.00 - a very small amount to us but huge for him!  It was awesome to see the burden lift from his countenance . . . he said, "I can do that" and then he can return to his mission clean and forgiven!

The Haws are Humanitarian Service Missionaries here - they got a new little Toyota truck when the vehicles were rotated.  It was so funny to hear them tell of how in the city traffic men will randomly jump into the bed of the truck for a ride and then hop out without saying a word.  At first they were alarmed - now they realize it is harmless and just part of the culture!  There aren't too many pickup trucks. 
Next Tuesday evening we start working a shift in the temple.  We have worked on and off many years in the Mesa, Arizona Temple.  I can tell this experience will be different in many ways and yet the same - of course the main block for me is the language!  The blessings are the beautiful people, gorgeous peaceful atmosphere and surroundings and joyful service done there.  Chuck will be wonderful and I will give it my best . . . .

I read this advice from Jeffery R. Holland's Christmas article in the "Ensign" this month - love it and want to practice it: Keep your faith. Look for the good in your situation.  Do something kind for someone.  Seek Christ devoid of wrapping and tinsel.   We are thinking of the preparations for Christmas with you all.  We are among the couples here helping with newborn kits, hygiene kits and baking cookies for all of the MTC elders to receive their own goodie bag.  Angela, we will be rooting for you as you conduct a fantastic Stake Christmas Concert this Sunday . . . good luck! 
Some have asked for this info:

For letters, pictures (real), articles, cards, please send to:
Elder Charles and Sister Vickie Rucker
2250 NW 114th Ave., Unit 1A
Miami, Florida 33172

For any packages, please send to:

Elder Charles and Sister Vickie Rucker
8532 NW 66th Street
Miami, Florida 33166

 MUCH LOVE TO YOU - ENJOY THE SEASON . . . Mom and Dad, Chuck and Vickie, Grandma and Grandpa     XOXOXOXOXOXO

Chuck's barber shop

How do those eggs keep from flying out with a sudden stop? 

Lunch time . . .

Friday, November 23, 2012

Training Still To Do

Hola family and friends . . .
We had to come on a mission to get a new car!  They switch out the cars at about 3 years.  Most of the church cars are white but there was a gray one and Chuck chose it.  It is a Honda Civic - we are just glad to have a car - able to rent a car!

Last week we had the sad experience of going to a chapel to retrieve the financial records from a Bishop's office.  We spent the next day and a half going through them - mostly checking a report to see if the receipts matched.  It is a huge struggle in this area of the world and probably other places also to have the people turn in a receipt when they need to be reimbursed for expenses.  They don't give receipts on most exchanges.  Like yesterday Chuck asked for a receipt at a gas station and was told they couldn't do that "today" - come back tomorrow!  So . . . it is very difficult to get the people to see the importance of this aspect of the church finances - it is not their culture.  Here is what we found . . . you want receipts?   There were receipts stapled to each report expenditure . . . just receipts . . . nothing matched the totals on the reports.  Maybe a report for an activity with food and the receipts were for office supplies . . . O.K. it started to get funny when we realized what we were dealing with . . . you want receipts . . . well, here you go . . . lots of receipts they dug up somewhere!  There is training still to be done . . . .

We hear Utah had some good snow . . . a novel thought here in the tropics.  One of the senior couples got a great snow picture from their kids with a snowman - they printed it and took it to show their apartment house guard - all apartment buildings have a guard.  They said it was so funny - their expressions of "what is that?" - questions like how does it feel and they had no idea what a snowman was.  They tried to explain a snowball fight . . . not sure they got that across! 
We are losing our assistant in Jamaica, Kevin Brown - he has been called to be a mission president.  He is a good man.  Perhaps we will NEED to go to Jamaica and train the new one . . . we will see what happens.

The Buckmisters are friends in Maricopa - McKay their son is "watching" our yard for us.  They gave us some money when we left to do a small project here.  Our friends the Dunfords attend the Consuelo Branch an hour out of the city and knew of some little boys that needed a white shirt and tie for Sunday.  We went with them and got to attend church a couple of weeks ago and give the shirts.  The rented building is in a "colorful" location w/a little store across the street - I got a picture of a boy riding up on his horse . . . you can see the chunks of meat laying on the counter to be sold.  They will get their own chapel in the near future - included is a picture of Elder Dunford presenting the Branch President a picture of the beautiful little chapel that will be built and you can see his excitement!

A favorite missed picture was a man on the back of a moto (motorcycle) reaching back and holding the handlebars of a wheelbarrow to bring along.  There are tons of motos and they zig zag around/between traffic and have no rules!  The most passengers we have seen on one is five.

HOPE YOUR THANKSGIVING DAY WAS WONDERFUL AND YOU HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND! Monday all of the couples will have a turkey dinner - there will be about 60 of us. We didn't have it yesterday as the Casa cafeteria where we meet was scheduled with people from Puerto Rico here a week for the temple.  I brought tablecovers, napkins and other deco stuff from when we were home in October - yea for the dollar store!    It will be festive and very tacky . . .
Hearts certainly think of home at this season - words can't say how grateful we are for all of you and the priviledge of being from the USA!!  We are thankful for the atoning sacrafice of our Savior - Jesus Christ and give thanks for our bounteous blessings both temporally and spiritually.   MUCH LOVE TO ALL . . . Mom-Dad, Chuck-Vickie and Grandma and Grandpa  XOXOXOOXOX

Chuck at the gate of the rented church building in Consuelo.

Boy in the store directly across the road - note meat on the counter.

The Branch President loves the picture of what will be their chapel.

Family of four leaving church - note her heels even on a moto!

Bradley in his new white shirt. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

It Comes With the Territory

Hola family and friends . . .

Elections were hard to watch - so many things in trouble about wonderful America. 
Chuck has been dealing with a sore knee - could still be from the steep waterfall climb several weeks ago. Then he tweaked it again doing push ups - but, he is doing better.  He has his 66th birthday tomorrow and it is just one of those aches and pains that seem to come w/the territory!   When was it we thought we were immune to all of that?

Last week for Family Home Evening the whole group had an instructor on DR dancing . . . merenguebachataand salsa.  It was sooo fun . . . loved it!  Too bad Chuck had a bum leg.  It was pretty amazing to see how many people have absolutely no rhythm . . . very funny.

We have been singing Christmas hymns the last couple of weeks in church - decorations are up everywhere so why not?  I have noticed that the people love to sing . . . even if the melody may not be exactly right - no matter.  On Sunday the gloria chorus to "Angels We Have Heard on High" was sung with particular gusto - made me happy that they were enjoying it so much!

We are in the office during the week most days from about 8:30 - 3:30.  Chuck has been putting together statistics from the audit reports - taking note where there are consistently no receipts turned in, if deposits match the documentation, if one name appears too often in the writing of checks etc.  He keeps a good "unit concern log" and we/others are always working on that.  What do I do?  Well, he gives me assignments sometimes - but lately I have been helping the Public Affairs people prepare for a seminar they have in a couple of weeks.  Just thought I would throw in those thoughts so you know we actually do things besides play.

Saturday we had a trip to a different beach - same boring thing :) :) :) beautiful blue water, white sand and swaying palms . . .  no shells at this one and the weather was sorta too warm but ultra relaxing!   We take home a ton of sand no matter how much we rinse things off.  After the beach we went to a baptism with the Dunfords (public affairs couple) at the small branch they attend.  Here is the "judge not" lesson that we were reminded of.  A young woman about 20 was being baptized.  Her fiance is a returned missionary and was there in a red shirt and not participating in the baptism.  So, we were "wondering" why he wouldn't at least have on a white shirt and tie.  Found out later he only had one white shirt and since she needed white clothes to be baptized . . . she had on his shirt.   I felt ashamed to have thought anything negative when we found that out.

We went to church with Rolando Marte (one of our assistants) on Sunday and they had us for dinner.  Ahhhhthe food is always so interesting - here's what was on the table:  large bowl of rice with corn in it, platter of shredded lettuce with sliced green tomatoes and a few cucumber slices sprinkled w/vinegar, small bowl of cooked meat, plate with a pile of fried eggs, sliced avocado and a bag of too ripe bananas (at least for me) that were cold from being in the frig.  Not too bad - got filled up!  Am sending a photo of him with his meranguedrum . . . he was showing us the different rhythms for the dances. I commented that he and his wife probably used to do a lot of dancing . . . he said "Oh, we still do!" They gave us a demo right there in the small living room.

There was yet another holiday for the office and we were invited about two and a half hours away to a "cabin" . . . more like a gorgeous villa!  It was so fun to visit such a lovely place . . . I kept thinking what a terrific spot for a family reunion!  There was a large dining area with a long table that would seat at least 30.  Ellie, the cute live in maid (her husband was the gardener/grounds keeper) cooked tons of food and we had taken potluck dishes.  I had a piece of chicken and hadn't noticed (until we were cleaning up) the additional pieces that we usually don't cook . . . note the included photo.  It was raining like crazy when we left and I was fearful we would go off the mountain on the washed out road - but we made it and it was a great day!

So sorry we are missing Briley's Ariel performance tomorrow night . . . BREAK A LEG KIDDO!!!
LOVE TO ALL XOXOXOXOXO Mom and Dad, Chuck and Vickie, Grandma and Grandpa

This is a picture of the school yard that is next door out our window.

Creative coconut grater from a mazola oil can - "necessity is the mother of invention" 

The Marte home and his merangue drum.

What piece of the chicken do you like? 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Marvelous Training Trip

Hola family and friends . . .

We are thinking it may of been harder to leave home this time than it was in August!  We had a marvelous training trip - gaining a broader appreciation for the auditing work/challenges all over the world.  It was the 15 International Area Auditors that gathered - all except the U.S. and Canada.  Thanks to Dr. Ray for a complication free root canal!  It was glorious fall weather in Utah . . . loved the fading colors and falling leaves!  It was fabulous to see all but the Florida part of our little family -  made our hearts sing.  I am now singing these words from a hymn about what is before us  "I have fought my way thru; I have finished the work thou didst give me to do!"

The crockpot made it safely and I am so excited to have it!  Ahhh the little things that make senior missionaries happy.  I am cooking beans in it today for a trial run - yummo! 

The drive to the area office is along the ocean . . . we love it!  It didn't seem as strange to see the old beat up taxis and buses.  There is always a man hanging out the door of the bus watching and waving for riders.  When someone gets off they slap the side of the bus - guess it tells the driver they are clear. The taxi driver usually has a hand out with 1, 2 or 3 fingers up telling all how many more riders he can take.  They pile 3 in the front seat and 4 or 5 in the back of these small taxis.  Can't figure out how anyone knows where they are going!  The major intersections have digital timers counting down to when the light turns green . . . very helpful!

There is construction going on here at the office - redoing the lower level.  It is loud with lots of pounding and drilling.  They dumped a huge pile of sand right on the floor to work with in laying tile.  Chuck finds it very interesting to see how they are doing things.  Our office area will be moved or re-configured somehow in all of this.  We had people measuring it before we left.

Chuck is figuring out what to do next with our assistants and training.  We have a couple of visits to go observe.  We are glad they are so well qualified and pretty much up to date with their training of new leaders.

We have had tons of rain for two days . . . outside rings of Hurricane Sandy I guess - many didn't get to the office yesterday - some of the streets don't drain well, but it is amazing that most do fine.  More rain than we see in years in Arizona!

My Dad's last living brother passed away this week - Uncle Clyde Hansen.  There is rejoicing going on . . . especially by him to be released from that worn out mortal body!  We will think of those that gather for his service.

Get out and VOTE!  Thinking of and missing you . . . YEAH for all the technology to keep in touch!!  LOVE TO ALL xoxoxo Chuck and Vickie, Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa
Just taking a load of bananas to market . . . wonder if any get bruised?

This really is a working taxi . . . amazing huh? 

We stopped at an intersection and this was on the curb - we helped give thousands of these wheelchairs away with the church logo for humanitarian projects in Argentina.

Yes, he needs to tuck in his shirt and pull up his pants . . . but the kids loved the trick! 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Audits Are In

 Hello again . . .

All of the audits are in for the area and now we are working on resolving the "exceptions" which are issues where they haven't had documentation with receipts, signatures or proper approval for expenditures. They are extremely minimal but still need attention.  The church is not so concerned about the money as they are about the well being of the men involved and therefore also their family.  Many of them are very poor and the temptation of dealing w/money received from tithing and fast offerings is hard. 

We had a recent Monday that was a holiday here so the office was closed.  Ten of us "senior missionaries" piled in two of our small cars and headed to find a couple of waterfalls.  The drive was gorgeous . . . all shades of green, plush tropical mountains and growth.  There were many local vendors along the road with stands selling all kinds of interesting things . . . would of loved to stop and roam!  The first "salta" (waterfall) was a 15 minute hike with 5 suspended bridges - gratefully not high but over huge boulders.  One of the missionaries is a retired engineer and he was asked what he thought . . . he gazed at the construction and said "it's just a matter of time!"  Not reassuring!!  I could go in great detail about the hike to the second saltathirty minutes down the road . . . but won't.  It was STEEP switchbacks on a narrow path that was slippery with damp leaves and tiny gravel with no guard rails of any kind.  After about 25 minutes I decided to call it quits along with another gal.  We could see the less than impressive salta through some foliage and that was good enough!!  Chuck did the whole thing but said I was the wiser one!   Iguazu Falls in Paraguay it was not.  Wish you could of seen where we stopped to eat . . . pretty unbelievable . . . nobody got sick!  They took us inside their little home to use the bathroom . . . there was no sink in the bathroom or TP. Your mind goes crazy huh?

The Hammons "over our office partition wall" are the Welfare Service missionaries.  She has gone to the states to help their youngest daughter with a first baby.  He asked us to "chaperon" him to a training he had to do in Puerto Plata on the north side of the island a 2 1/2 hour drive.  It was great!!  Sunday morning I went to a class by myself because Chuck and Brother Hammon were in a welfare meeting.  Turns out I sat by a lady that she and her husband were the first converts of the church 33 years ago in Puerto Plata . . . the Sanchez family.  The Dominican Republic had just been opened to missionaries a few months previous.  They knew the Davis' that are Rick Tarwater's (our brother-in-law) aunt and uncle.  They were very instrumental in getting the church established in the DR. 

After church we went to check on a woman that had received a prosthetic leg from church welfare.  This turned out to be one of those humbling experiences that haunts you as to why we are so very blessed.  This women was in a tiny dark house/room about 7'x7' on a small bed that took up half of the room.  There was cardboard on the walls.  The daughter borrowed a chair from a neighbor and offered it to me to sit down.  The daughter had a darling baby maybe a year old.  Circumstances are impossible to justify or to understand . . . I always have to pause and remember that the Lord loves them every bit as much as he loves me.  I really don't know how they function.  They were clean and gracious as could be.

We are blessed to be able to attend the temple often.  It is two blocks away but not a direct route to drive or walk there.  We are often longer in traffic than if we could just walk.  It is larger than you might think and serves all of the Caribbean Area.  The stained glass and woodwork is gorgeous.

Know many of you enjoyed General Conference as much as we did!  We are thrilled with the announcement of a temple in Tucson and memorable to be present for the change in ages of missionary service . . . glad to have to re-listen or watch whenever we want!

It seems weird . . . yet good to be headed home for a few days . . . I HAVE A LIST!!  Love to all and know you are thought about often and prayed for daily . . . Mom and Dad, Chuck and Vickie, Grandpa and Grandma     XOXOXOXOXO

Chuck on the suspended bridge to the small waterfall.
Us with the Sanchez couple - Puerto Plata 1st converts
Daughter (w/baby) of the woman with the prosthetic leg - she is on her bed through the green door.
Dominican Republic Temple

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mission Update

Hola family and friends . . .

We were relieved and grateful when the Annual Training was over and we took the last ones to the airport!  It seemed to go really well.  Those over us have only expressed compliments and we haven't been asked to go home . . . so we will press on.  It was a learning experience and we were impressed with the quality of the assistants that we work with . . . it was good to put faces with the names!!  Most are young enough to be our children and we loved getting to know them.

We are grateful to my cousins Phyllis and Danny for keeping us updated on Uncle Buddy Raymer's recent care and ultimate death on September 14th.  He was my mother's only brother.  Uncle Bud was a good part of my growing up years.  Even in recent years his joyful, joking spirit always shown through when we would visit him.  As Phyllis said . . . we were amazed how he still could come up with "new material" to bring a smile to our face.  He leaves us a wonderful legacy of faithful perseverance in the face of extreme health obstacles.  We love Uncle Buddy!!

A visit to the dentist was an adventure.  After carefully checking off all of the health issues to be gone 18 months ~ a month in I found myself with a toothache . . . grrrrr!  I got a dentist referral from the area doctor . . . address didn't show on the GPS . . . we got directions . . . found the street and need #13 building . . . stopped to ask 5 people . . . they look right and left and point in all directions and somehow a Taco Bell is mentioned . . . not one in sight . . . we finally call the office for the third time and she tells us the color of the building . . . still no Taco Bell.  We see the dentist's name in the building directory as on the 5th floor.  There is no 5th floor on the elevator buttons.  I finally have an examination from what seems like a competent doctor . . . x~rays and about a 30 minute visit . . . $13.00  How do they do that?  It was all rather hilarious!!  October 10th we will fly to Phoenix to visit favorite Dr. Ray for a root canal then on to Salt Lake for our Auditor Training the next week.  Nice break huh?   Sorry just don't want to get that root canal done here . . . ok call me chicken!

We finally visited a beautiful beach!  Indeed just like a postcard . . . crystal blue, refreshing, perfect temperature and the ever present swaying palms.  Chuck enjoyed a little snorkeling but wasn't too impressed - didn't look like a tropical fish tank!  We took home lots of sand and had a fun time with 3 other couples.  Be sure to bring beach shoes if you visit . . . it's sorta rocky in the water.

Beach Therapy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
At church last Sunday there was a group of about 30 visiting from Suriname.  They are here for temple work and staying all week at the "Casa" by the temple.  All of the couples had been sealed in the temple on Saturday.  They speak different strengths of English, French and Dutch.  In Relief Society (women's meeting) it made me chuckle to see about 6 groups holding different translations of what the teacher was teaching in Spanish.  It all sounded like confusion and it literally was ~ but they sure were sweet, friendly women!

Except for 2 ~ all of the audits are in for the area ~ 406 units of the church from this Caribbean Area.  Percentage wise . . . we are #1 in the well . . . world!  There are 15 areas of the church outside of the USA. The Mexico Area is second . . . but we have to admit they have over 2,200 units of the church . . . but hey . . . we are going on percentage!!!!  It is a real accomplishment and awesome to see this work of the assistants in helping to get things done on time.   There is an audit every 6 months.

We are enjoying our mission and feeling more comfortable.  It is good to get to know some people and making new friends.  Miss you all and love you OH SO VERY MUCH!!!!  Thanks for keeping in touch ~ we thrive on it!!  XOXOXOXOXO

Love you Mom and Dad, Chuck and Vickie, Grandpa and Grandma

A horse drawn cart with something that looks like cheeries and limes but we don't really think it is cherries????????
Assistant Area Auditor Training - group picture
Botanical Garden . . . a funky tree!!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Our Buddies Slick and Inca Cola

Hi family and friends . . .

Today is our 44th anniversary . . . wow that's crazy to think of that number!!
Since we arrived we have been working on the Annual Area Auditor Training that is tomorrow and Saturday the 14th and 15th.  Have done all of the scheduling for meeting agendas, flights, food and lodging for the 7 assistants and their wives to come here to Santo Domingo.  We are having dinner catered for Friday night but Saturday breakfast and lunch we are arranging ourselves.  Do you know the effort to find ice chests and tablecloths etc. when you aren't "home?"   But . . . we think we are under control.  There are also three men coming from Salt Lake  . . .  the three over the Church Auditing Department.  Wish us luck!!

Richard and Hazie Brown came Tuesday from Trinidad ~ they are the couple over the West Indies ~ and have been staying with us.  It was a stressful airport run at midnigtht on unfamiliar roads that do not have good lighting - we felt watched over and blessed.  We have had a great time visiting with them and getting to know such good devoted people.  
Have I mentioned how curly my hair is here . . . I have pretty much gone with it.  I always feel pink and hot!
We went to a fun restaurant that advertised Peruvian Grilled Chicken ~ the Peru thing drew Chuck in and it was delicious!  He even got to enjoy Inca Kola that he has such a love for from his young missionary days.  

Chuck enjoying his Inca Kola . . . a bubble gum tasting citrus thing.

There are about 30 couples here that gather every Monday for Family Home Evening ~ usually in small groups of 4 or 5 couples with an assigned host couple.  We meet in the apartments of those that live at the Casa by the temple.  Sometimes they all gather in the cafeteria room and have refreshments together.   Last week our lesson was on the history of the Dominican Republic and Christopher Columbus.  It was so informative!  I did not know he never landed on the mainland of the "Americas!"  He made four trips and landed here at each one.  His son Diego Colon has a "restored" home here that was built in 1512.  We went to tour it on Saturday ~ it was very interesting.  It is totally made from the coral stone that is the foundation of this island.   The whole Columbus thing was quite the history lesson! 
Diego Colon (Columbus) home

It is interesting to know that last February Elder Bednar was touring this Caribbean Area and visited Cuba to dedicate it for the preaching of the gospel.  There is a small branch of the church established there and recently the branch president and his wife were here to be sealed in the temple.  
For anyone thinking they may visit us one day and would like to work on a project to bring . . . white shirts are always greatly needed here at the MTC ~ size 14 through 15 are in the greatest need.  No need for bigger sizes.  Also, young boys white shirts are needed outside of the cities.  Newborn kits are always a great thing to be delivered to outlying hospitals.
Don't know how we would get around without our buddy Slick . . . yes, we've named our GPS because indeed she is such a slick little thing . . . MAGIC! 
All is well here with us - just need to get through these next few days with the annual training and we will be glad to have it successfully over . . . we hope!   We love you and pray all is good in your lives.  Thank you for the emails and phone calls to keep in touch - they are joyous to us!   LOVE TO ALL xoxoxoxooxoxoxxo  Mom and Dad, Chuck and Vickie and Grandma and Grandpa

This is the entry picture of our apartment . . . poor missionaries!

Moving day for someone - sorry, most of my "local color" pictures are from the car.