November 4 is the date the Martin Handcart Company left Fort Seminoe to go into the cove for protection and crossed the Sweetwater River when it was so very cold. The winter missionaries held a commemorative river crossing on Friday, the 4th. There were a few visitors whom joined us in our event. A couple from Utah, the Hathaways, have done this crossing every year for 13 years and have experienced all types of weather and conditions for the crossing. They were very interesting to visit with. They had invited another couple to join them which were descendants of Rebecca Winters which is a pioneer lady buried near Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Elder Smith and I were touched to hear the story of the moving of Rebecca Winters grave from this couple because when we did our Arkansas Youth Trek, we were the Winters family. Back to the river crossing, all together there were seventeen who crossed the river. The program began with a gathering to recite some pioneer accounts of the crossing and then I read a couple scriptures and gave a small spiritual thought. We then loaded up in the rovers and drove the actual trail from Fort Seminoe down about two and half miles where they would have left the trail. We then walked down the hill with handcarts to the river and crossed. The first step into the river was quite a shock to the system; it was extremely cold. By about half way across, I could no longer feel my legs or feet. Then we got out on the other side and the wind hit the legs and it hurt. I felt like ice picks were poking me over and over. It was one of the worst physical feelings I have had for quite awhile. The other sisters and I looked at each other and did not want to cross back but knew we had to. The weather was clear, very windy with temperature about 45. Knowing I had to get to the other side, I harnessed up in the handcart and started pulling. It was worse the second time across with getting numb and then climbing out of the river. I now have a much better understanding of the significance of the river crossing which occurred 155 years ago and the invaluable service the four valley boys rendered to the frail saints.
One morning as we were getting phone messages off the machine, we heard the voice of a young man whom wanted to know more about the church and wondered if we could talk to him. I returned the phone call with the thoughts I would get his information and do a missionary referral. When I reached him, he explained to me that he was using a friend’s phone so his parents wouldn’t get upset that he had called as they were Baptist. He explained that he had been reading a lot on the internet and wanted to talk to someone about what we believe. I mentioned having the young missionaries come speak with him but he was a bit nervous about that right now. I didn’t know where to start as he didn’t have a particular subject to discuss. He just wanted to know more. I was also a bit skeptical as I was sure this would end up as a prank phone call. After a short silent prayer, I started through the Articles of Faith and explained what we believe. He was very interested and had some questions while we were talking. I suggested he go to mormon.org to read some more as some of the information he had wasn’t quite on track. Then I suggested he go to one of our chapels on a Wednesday (he is 18 and still in high school) and I was sure he would find someone to talk to and would answer more questions if he didn’t feel comfortable with the missionaries because of his parents. He explained to me he was African American and was concerned about being entitled to everything because of his readings he wasn’t sure. I shared with him that my cousin was an active member, priesthood holder, goes to the temple and is African American and that I have a granddaughter that is African American which put his concern at ease. Being a recent convert I do not understand the total history behind withholding the priesthood from the African Americans and I was quite uneasy going any deeper. When the conversation ended I felt at peace with everything that was said. I am so grateful the Lord entrusted me with the opportunity to share my testimony with someone searching for the truth.
Elder Smith and I have had some great experiences in the visitors’ center lately. We served in the visitors’ center both Saturday and Sunday this past week. On Saturday, a couple came from Utah. They were the first family to go out on the trail after the dignitaries when the cove opened in 1997. They had cart #1. Then, she had been part of a support group for a trek group this past summer. Right from the beginning of meeting this couple, I could tell he was struggling with something and needed the time at the cove to work it out. They weren’t too interested in going through the center but graciously obliged me sharing thoughts and stories as we went through. He asked if he could take a handcart out and cross the river. Elder Smith hooked up a handcart on the rover and took them out to the river. Only he crossed the river and as he did so he would stop and ponder (which I am sure included some prayers). He crossed twice and the second time he crossed he placed rocks in the cart to symbolize his family and on the other side touched the rocks carefully as talking to them and then brought them back and put them back on the ground. It was heartbreaking to see him struggle but comforting to know he knew the right way to work out his struggle. On Sunday, we had a man and woman stop by on their way to Rawlins from Casper. He is the business manager for the Carbon County School District (recently moved to Rawlins) and she was asked to come and talk to their food service department as a consultant. Neither one of them members but she knew she was a descendent of a member of the Martin Company. They didn’t understand the story of the Martin Company before coming and didn’t realize their struggle. She was especially touched when she saw the name of her ancestor on the board in the center. She was so grateful they stopped by on their way to Rawlins and vowed to come back with her daughter. We have also had several sets of father/son visitors. I love it when the son is a teenager and spending time with his dad. It is so rewarding to visit with these young men and share with them the foundation of our church and challenge them with thought provoking questions while going through the center. I just love our visitors.
Our talents are truly being stretched. As I mentioned in the last blog, I am tagged with helping with the music for prayer meeting and some Sundays. It is coming along and is actually somewhat very enjoyable. Because we are a small group and all learning together, the acceptance of the missed notes or off beat leading is so comforting. I can also testify that practice really pays off and in itself practice is a good stress reliever. Just this past couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to stretch a bit more. Prior to the departure of the other missionaries and couple sisters made arrangements to machine embroidery our handcart emblem on white ties for our husbands. Cool idea but our machine broke during the beginning of the process and had to be repaired. It was not returned until after everyone had left. So Sister Fenn and I went to the store and received some lessons on the machine. We were both very nervous about completing the project and even talked to another business about doing it for us. But we attempted one and it went pretty well so we did a couple more. Well, when I left on Thursday, there were 40 ties done. Elder Smith has also learned quite a bit. The first was winterizing all the water lines and such all over the homestead. Just this week, he, along with the other Elders, had the puzzle of how to fix the flagpole which is about 35 feet high. The wind blew so hard that it broke the rope with the flags on it and carried them over towards the corral area. The pole had to be extracted and laid down, the pulleys repaired, rope restrung, and then placed back in place. The pictures will tell the story and each one of the Elders were in heaven playing with the toys to do the job. A tender mercy for the whole process was the wind did not blow (which is a monumental moment on the plains of Wyoming), not even a whisper of a breeze, during the process making it a safer event.
We are headed to Texas and Arkansas for the next couple of weeks. When our mission was extended, we were told we could take some time to go home for doctor appointments and take care of other business. Since we had prescheduled our appointments for this timeframe we are the last couple to leave the homestead for our leave. It is a bitter sweet time for us to leave the place we have grown to really love to head south. We are looking forward to seeing some of our family and friends and spending quality time with them.