Like said in an earlier blog, we're not given to "hero worship". But if we were, here are two couples that would be high on the list -- Bill and Annette Moon, and Farrell and Marilyn Barlow.Here are Brother and Sister Moon -- Bill and Annette. We have had some interesting intersections in our lives with them. Marsha taught Sister Moon as a Laurel many years ago when her family and we moved into Ygnacio Valley Ward in Walnut Creek in 1968. Thereafter Annette married a young man from YV Ward, and had a little boy. Unfortunately he was killed in an accident in December 1973, leaving her as a young widow.
She went back to BYU, and eventually met a handsome man named William Moon. They fell in love and were married, and eventually had a family of 8 children -- his, hers and ours. They lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for years, where Bill was an extremely successful pioneer in Silicon Valley. In the 1990's, we both moved into houses in the Riverbottom in Provo in the same ward. They have blessed lives of people wherever they have lived, and our ward in Provo was no exception. Eventually Bill was a councilor in the bishopric and Annette was Stake Relief Society President (for you non LDS church members, this means that she and two other women were responsible for overseeing a church organization for roughly 1,000 ladies that lived in 13 congregations in our neighborhood).
Eventually Bill got tired of commuting to Silicon Valley weekly and retired. He has the most amazing mechanical aptitude, and can literally fix anything. Annette specializes in fixing people's souls with her never ending attitude of service and happiness. They sold their large home several years ago and moved into a condo to get ready for a post-career lifetime of service to others. Within three weeks, Bill was called into the bishopric of his new ward -- a great testament to his ability to serve others spiritually.
Meanwhile, here we were in the Congo with a pressing need to find a new couple to work with us in the office of the mission, to replace the wonderful office couple, Bro. and Sister Thomas who were to be released at the end of March 2008. We were getting desparate and praying for guidance on whom to recruit, since the Church Missionary Department was having trouble finding anyone who would volunteer to come here.
Marsha felt inspired to call the Moons in mid December 2007 and ask them, "How'd you like to spend 18 months in the Congo as missionaries?" Annette's response was, "Gee, we'd love to do that but Bill has some business complications right now that really preclude us from doing that." We felt that the Moon's would be the perfect replacements for the Thomas's, and were really sad that apparently they couldn't come.
One day Marsha was reading emails and screamed a shout of joy and yelled, "Come read this!!!" It was an email from Annette saying,"I can't believe that we are doing this, but we are now able to come and would love to serve a mission." Heavenly Father had opened doors in a miraculous way, and closed others similarly, to where they could now come. Even so, there were more obstacles that seemed to get tossed in their path, but with their faith and prayers and Heavenly Father's help, each problem was resolved and in early March they entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo, and arrived here March 13th.
Because Bill can fix anything, I told him to go down and buy out Home Depot -- bring two of everything. So he arrived with 12 bags of luggage -- many of them portable power tools -- 4 drills, saws, sawzalls, etc. and 8 batteries (something no one in the Congo has ever seen), clamps, fasteners, screws, bits, wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers -- you name it. (A big thanks to Karl Smith, a non-member of the church in Provo, who bought the Moon's large home and gave a substantial gift to defray the cost of all the tools.)
What have they done -- maybe more like -- what haven't they done since they arrived. When they had been here 9 months, I sent an email about them to one of their children in the U.S. Here are some condensed thoughts from that email:
1 They run one of the most efficient and effective mission offices in the church. Other missions have 3 or 4 couples to do what they do. The secret -- they're very organized, and they often stay and work until 10 or 11 at night.
2. They teach an English class to 30 to 40 people for 2 hours every Wednesday night, and they make it fun with songs, Gospel teachings and dancing the Hokey-Pokey. You haven't seen "moves" until you see them "shake it all about".
3. Bill can, and has fixed everything, from $ 150,000 lasik surgery microscopes to 50 year old devices in hospitals. If the hospitals had their way, he would just spend 40 hours a week helping them to get their equipment to run correctly. Anything that breaks in the office, he's on it, and fixes it.
4. They have obtained many referrals and done a wonderful job teaching the lessons to some people in English.
5. Helping in their ward -- Annette is the ward music director and Bill does everything -- even offering prayers in French on 2 minutes' notice. See the post about the Kasavubu Ward Christmas party to see one of the many ways they have helped.
6. Putting up with the archaic banking system and fledgling Church Temporal Affairs operations here. You have to have the patience of Job, or of Bill and Annette, to do that.
7. Smiling and influencing everyone for good.
8. Being great friends to the other senior couples and Eustache and Pascal in our office.
The list could go on and on, but you get the idea.
These other heros were here when we arrived and unfortunately (for us) finished their mission in October 2008. More correctly, they finished their mission in September 2008, but willingly stayed on an extra 3 - 4 weeks so they could help orientate their replacement couple as Humanitarian Directors for the Church in the DR Congo.
Meet Farrell and Marilyn Barlow from Salt Lake City. In December 2006 when we were called, the Program Director at the BYU Center for Entrepreneurship, Linda Rich, said, "I've got a cousin going to the DR Congo Kinshasa Mission -- my cousin, Marilyn." Knowing anyone with genes like Linda's would be terrific, we were excited to meet the Barlows and work with them.
What a great couple. They took their little Isuzu pickup truck all over Kinshasa, into places where few would venture, to scout out and then provide Humanitarian Aid projects for the Congolese people. In Humanitarian Aid, the church deliberately stays away from projects that would appear to help members of the church. Humanitarian projects are chosen to benefit the people of the country, without regard to age, gender, religion or any other factor.
What helped the Barlows to be the fabulous success that they were is the unique combination of their skills and talents. Sister Barlow never met a project that could help people that she didn't like. Many times she would start investigating and then campaigning for a project over Bro. Barlow's reservations. With persistence and vision, she would win him over. Then he would use his unique ability to gain the confidence of complete strangers to initiate, plan, perform and evaluate the projects. Sister Barlow's many years of skills as first a nurse and then a training program supervisor for a large group of hospitals and a healthcare HMO were invaluable in working as a team with Bro. Barlow.
The list of their projects goes on and on. Water projects -- wells, and the largest water project undertaken by the church (to bring clean water from a set of springs in the hills over 30 miles to communities of roughly 175,000 people); wheelchairs for the handicapped; health and sanitation informaton and training programs for communities; mattresses and other materials for a community of 10,000 or so homeless people; aid to orphanages; neo-natal training for doctors and nurses; vision care projects; materials for hospitals; and many more that we've forgotten.
They have a terrific blog which modestly lists their accomplishments and their 18 months in the Congo. Go to barlowsinthedrcongo.blogspot.com, and enjoy.
Although they are now back in Utah, their influence is still felt here. They were wonderful people who exhibited the best of caring for others with no thought of themselves. And a great inspiration and example to all of us.
There are so many people like these two couples in the world. We need all of them. We need more of them. Look into your heart as you get to position where you might be able to serve. It won't be convenient or easy. With the current economic climate, you may think that you can't do it. In reality, you can't afford not to do it. Instead of seeing all the reasons "why not", just think about "why - yes". You can do it. And like these two great couples, you will leave the world a much better place, and you will grow so much yourself.
Don and Marsha