Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Wonderful Christmas Season

The Christmas season is a wonderful time of year wherever we are, but being in the mission field during the holidays has provided us with some very special experiences.  We would like to share a few of those with you.
Lights are always a part of the Christmas experience.

Gainesville's "duck pond"
Businesses in St. Augustine
Only those who work with books all day would think of creating this type of Christmas tree!

Christmas also provides an opportunity for special spiritual experiences.

The Gainesville Stake of the LDS Church put on the musical "The Savior of the World".  We had the opportunity to watch the musical several times during our experience as Guest Service Missionaries on Temple Square.  The presentation by the Gainesville Stake was excellent,.just as good as we experienced in Salt Lake City.  Those who attended one of the four performances had a special Christmas experience.

The Christmas season provided many opportunities to be with other missionaries.

One of those opportunities was the mission Christmas party and devotional.  The talent displayed by our young missionaries was very impressive.
Missionaries serving in the Gainesville zone.
Missionaries serving in one of the Jacksonville zones.
Try playing a Christmas carol on a bottle of water!

On Christmas eve, we enjoyed dinner and some time to share traditions and song with one set of Elders serving in our ward.
Christmas morning we helped serve the Gainesville missionaries breakfast followed by a "gift" exchange and a devotional at the institute building on the campus of the University of Florida.
This nut cracker was a "hot item" during the white elephant gift exchange.

Friends, both old and new are a special part of the Christmas spirit.

Elder and Sister Mullins are now serving in the Florida Jacksonville Mission.  Elder Mullins and Elder Wolff were colleagues in the Utah School Superintendents Association.
Three missionaries from Morgan County, Utah serving together in Gainesville, Florida.
 Elder and Sister Martin, new friends that are a big part of our mission experience.
Dinner with Tom and Glenda, Elder Wolff's brother and sister-in-law who live in Florida.

For those of you in the cold and snow, take a look at this weather forecast for the week 
of Christmas.

We hope your Christmas was as good as ours.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Opportunities Continue in November

The Work Goes On

On November 1, we celebrated the half way point in our mission.  It is hard to believe that as we move on to the month of December that we've been in the mission field for ten months.

The process of digitizing books for those doing genealogy work continues at a much greater pace as our competency increases and our center becomes more established.  As we begin the month of December, our total output includes 335,933 captured images and a total of 743 items on line with Internet Archives and Family Search. The books that have been put on line can be seen at

The books shown are the most recent that we've digitized and are awaiting approval from Internet Archive's quality control program before being returned to the library.  The baskets contain books yet to be worked on.  There are "always" more books!


One of the unique aspects of our mission comes from the fact that we're in a partnership that includes the University of Florida.  We work in one of their facilities and thus follow their calendar including time off for holidays.  Besides two days for Thanksgiving, we were also off on Veterans Day and for the University of Florida's homecoming.  That's right, the entire campus closed down for homecoming!  

We take advantages of holidays and Saturdays by visiting the sites within our mission's boundary.  On Veterans Day, we traveled to Cedar Key located on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

A great lunch of seafood in a local restaurant and a couple of hours in the community's museum made the day a success.

Thanksgiving - Time for Friends and Family

President and Sister Craig decided to spend their last Thanksgiving in the mission field with the senior missionaries.  Everyone was invited to the mission home for a Thanksgiving feast and fellowship.  
Currently, there are nine senior couples in the Florida Jacksonville mission with another couple coming in a few weeks. We enjoy the time we have to spend with President and Sister Craig.

Orlando Temple

It is always a good month when you have a chance to be in the temple with a room full of missionaries!  We had that opportunity again in November.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Friends and Family

One of the rewards of serving a mission is the chance to develop new friendships.  We've been blessed by the opportunity to meet many great people in our ward, at our work, and in our association with fellow missionaries (both young and seasoned).  Although we'll probably never see most of them again when we return home, they have touched our lives and we hope we've had an influence on them.

In celebration of their successful mission, we recently spent an evening with a couple who will be returning to Utah in the near future.

One of advantages that senior missionaries have over our younger counterparts is that there are no restrictions on our contacts with home and family.  Technology allows us to communicate with family members wherever they might be on a regular basis.  There are also opportunities for visits.

Elder Wolff's brother lives less than an hour from Gainesville and we've been able to spend some time with him and his wife.  A great friend from Utah who was instrumental in our conversion while serving as a young missionary happened to be in Florida on a business trip with his wife and spent one Saturday afternoon with us.  Our oldest son and most of his family just spent a weekend with us.  What a special visit!

Preparing to go "gator" hunting

This one decided to check us out - up close and personnel!

Gators aren't the only thing that we found.

The Sabbath Day is always special but it is even more
so when you can share it with family.

The day also included a birthday celebration.

Don't be afraid to leave your family in order to serve a mission.  They are only a few strokes on a computer or a couple of numbers on your cell phone away.  In fact, they could be knocking on your door before you return home!

November 2, 2015  - We've reached the half way mark already!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

September Highlights

September was a great month for us.

By the month's end, our total production for Family Search had reached 201,489 pages and a total of 439 books posted on Internet Archive's website.  If you are interested in seeing what we have been up to, the following steps will lead you to the collection:

  • Google search for Internet Archive
  • In Internet Archive's search bar put UF Family Search
  • When the next menu comes up, hit on UF Family Search - you can access all 439 books we've worked on
Our inventory of books grows every day. In the near future, the same books will also appear on line for Family Search.

Gainesville, Florida is the home of the University of Florida and "Gator" Football.  

The University of Florida's football stadium is called the "Swamp" and it is a crazy place especially when the Gators come from behind in the fourth quarter to beat Tennessee.  Attendance at this game was 92,500!

We enjoyed the opportunity to watch the game with our mission president, his wife and another senior missionary couple.  Go Gators!

Missionary work is alive and well in the ward that we attend.  We have witnessed six convert baptisms since our move to the ward in late April.  The fellowship is strong and the ward works well with the missionaries that are assigned here.  This combination helps to increase the opportunities for investigators to be touched by the spirit.

We love working with the young missionaries.  They bring a special spirit with them that lifts everyone they're around.  It is exciting to watch them teach and share their testimonies of the Gospel and our Savior.  They are changing lives, one person at a time!  This is even true when they are acting crazy!

As senior missionaries, we do have the opportunity to spend some time seeing the sights within our mission's boundaries.  During September, we visited St. Augustine.

There is nothing like a stop at St. Augustine's Alligator Farm or a sunrise on the beach to help you recharge for another week scanning books for Family Search and Internet Archive!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Family Search Missionary

Sister Wolff and I wanted to share with you a typical day in our life as Family Search Missionaries.  We hope that our posting will help spark interest in couples and single sisters who may want to consider this type of mission.

Monday - Saturday, we start our day with physical exercise.  You would find one and possibly both of us in the exercise room located in our apartment complex during the early morning hours.

By 8:30 a.m. we're out the door heading to our work site.  We work in a building located in the airport industrial park. The building is owned by the University of Florida.

We work approximately 30 hours a week.  We do have flexibility in how we schedule our time, but we prefer to work from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday - Friday.  Our responsibility is to scan books and republish them in a digital format.  The books are then placed on-line at websites for both Internet Archive and Family Search.  The books have been chosen because of their value for genealogy work.

Our Office

Finished Books Waiting to be Returned to Library

Other than the thirty hours a week that we spend at work, our time is pretty much our own to do as we please.  

After work, we spend some time relaxing.  Eat dinner and then find something to do. Frequently we either walk or ride our bicycles in the park and neighborhood surrounding our apartment.  We both read every day, church and non-church materials.  Our greatest shared reading experience thus far has been Jesus the Christ

We also choose to do "normal" missionary work each week by teaming with the three sets of proselyting missionaries assigned to our ward.  We love to teach the Gospel and bear our testimonies to those we come in contact with.  The missionaries enjoy having us along because it brings a different perspective to their lessons. We also enjoy attending a weekly Book of Mormon class.

We're active in the ward we attend.  Sister Wolff helps in primary.  We both attend the Gospel Essentials class with investigators and new members.  We visit a number of families who are either relatively new members or are inactive. We also participate in the normal ward activities.

As you can see from earlier postings on our blog, we do have ample opportunity to explore all there is to see within our mission boundaries.  We live in a nice apartment in a very good neighborhood.  We have most of the comforts of home.  We're in regular communication with our children and grandchildren through face time and text messaging.  We've had lunch with our oldest son on two occasions as he has been in the area for his work.  Our lifestyle is similar to what we were living at home although our spiritual growth is much enhanced. Periodically we look at each other and agree that we're living a good life while serving the Lord.

For those of you who question whether or not you want to go on a mission out of fear of being sent to a part of the world where the living conditions would be a tremendous challenge, you do have the ability to make requests as senior missionaries.  We chose to be records preservation missionaries in the Florida Jacksonville mission.  Our request was honored and we love the whole experience.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Another Exciting Adventure

We had been looking forward to a long weekend in Jacksonville highlighted by a trip into the Okefenokee Swamp with the other senior missionaries.  One of our children had purchased tickets for a few sightseeing activities in Jacksonville so the plan was to use them while there. We enjoyed the sight seeing activities but plans changed before Saturday's swamp trip.

Our first activity was to spend a little time on Jacksonville Beach.

We also visited Jacksonville's Museum of Science and History.

The third stop was at a preserve for "cats" that were no longer wanted by their owners.  Catty Shack was an excellent way to spend an evening.There were many big cats of all kinds and it was awesome to see them up close and friendly.

As we were travelling to Jacksonville, President Craig called us indicating that Internet Archive would provide us with additional training if we were willing to travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana.  We gave up the swamp trip and headed back to Gainesville Saturday morning.  By Saturday afternoon we were on our way to Fort Wayne, a trip of a little over 1,000 miles each way.

The Allen County Library in Fort Wayne has a significant commitment to genealogy work.  As part of that commitment, they house a substantial Internet Archive division, as well as a group of missionaries for Family Search.  We enjoyed five great days of training with the full-time IA staff, as well as an opportunity to meet the Family Search missionaries serving at the library.  A highlight was a tour of the library's Lincoln Collection housing a variety of items from President Lincoln's family as well as that era of history.

We also learned that Fort Wayne is in the Ohio Cincinnati mission where our former stake president, John Porter serves as the mission president.  We were able to make phone contact with him.  We enjoyed sharing each others missionary experiences.

When we travel, we take every opportunity to visit sites that are interesting to us.  After a quick stop for lunch with my mother in Ohio (you travel through Ohio to get to Indiana when coming from Gainesville), we made a couple of stops on our return trip home.

Fort Boonesborough State Park - Settled by Daniel Boone - Kentucky's 2nd Settlement - 1775
The State of Kentucky has made a very nice replica of Boonesborough that includes state employees teaching many of the skills that were practiced at that time.

Sister Wolff learning how to make fire with flint and steel.

Elder Wolff practiced throwing a hatchet into a log.  Sister Wolff caught the hatchet in mid-air for this picture.

Daniel Boone is part of Sister Wolff's family tree through "Susan Boone".  We were excited to see this monument including all members of the Boone family who lived in Boonesborough.

We made another stop at the national park recognizing the Battle of Chickamauga, which was a major battle in the Union efforts to gain control of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The last stop was at the national park in Andersonville where approximately 13,000 Union soldiers died in a Confederate prison camp over a period of 14 months toward the end of the Civil War.

We truly appreciate the training we received from the IA staff as well as the support we had from President Craig and the folks at Family Search.  We returned to Gainesville with increased skills necessary to further the work we're called to do.