Truly, Milwaukee is a little hidden gem in the world. When we received the letter for our assignment, we looked at each other and wondered what in the world were we getting ourselves into by going to Wisconsin. We had lots of people who suddenly had lived there, knew someone from there, had visited there, etc. It was described in many ways, but the word “cold” came up a lot. That did not make us feel very secure about our assignment since we had indicated we didn’t want to go anywhere “cold.” We have yet to go through a winter here, but if you want perfect weather for the summer, please come and visit us. It will rain about 3 nights a week. When it doesn’t rain, we may still have cloudy skies on those 3 nights, but in the morning, when we wake up the sun is shining, a cool breeze is blowing, everything is dark green, and the world is alright. We love this weather!
Milwaukee itself touts its history. Downtown buildings with a European flavor are everywhere. This used to be the beer capital of the U.S., but many of the companies have moved away. However, it is evident this is a city that loves its alcohol. It makes us very grateful for the Word of Wisdom. We know that we don’t have to drink to have fun, and so we drink a lot of water (which by the way is really good in Milwaukee). So many neighborhoods that we drive through are beautiful. These people take pride in their homes. The majority of the homes downtown are several thousand sq. feet, two stories, lots of land around them. They believe in putting space between themselves. Elder Lenhard and I have remarked that we have never seen as many hardwoods as we see here. Most of the streets are lined with these giant trees. We can go to the zoo and never be out in the sun because of the trees.
One other thing we want to mention. The bus system here is great. Our missionaries actually spend a lot of time on the buses talking to those who will listen, and they have been very successful in the work. This past week we went to visit the Joan of Arc Chapel. Yes, it came from France and was built around the time she lived so it is dedicated to her memory. There is a charming woman who is the docent at the chapel on Mondays. She is the first non-Catholic who has been allowed to work in this capacity. In doing her family history, she found out that her gggggrandfather (not sure how many greats) actually signed the orders that condemned Joan to death. She is truly an historian, and we were mesmerized by her ability to tell the story of the chapel. It sits on Marquette University’s campus. We asked about her family history work and where she has it kept. She is the last in her line, and there is no one to continue it for her. We offered to help her get it online so that it would not be lost. What a blessing to get to know her.
We find the people here are so friendly. We have been told that Milwaukee has more Churches per sq. mile than any other place in the U.S. We believe it. It’s like Utah with our LDS Churches on every corner, but here on every corner there are church buildings that are huge and the architecture is something you see most often in books. They include Catholic Cathedrals and Basilicas, Lutheran, Sikh, Serb and other denomination buildings. We love to tour these buildings and most have times when it is possible to take a tour. Our time is somewhat limited, and we are having to get to them as we can, but we have had some beautiful experiences in visiting some of these places.
This area of the world is covered by the spirit of Elijah. We have never seen a group of people more into finding their family histories than here. As one of our responsibilities, we work with members and nonmembers to help them get started on their family histories or to help them continue the work they have already started and to do it by adding their trees to Family Search. As part of this, we get to attend several festivals here that involve genealogy work. This place is known as the City of Festivals. Every weekend in the summer, there is a festival somewhere. So far, we have worked at the Polish Fest , German Fest, and Irish Fest. We wish we had time to tell you of the education we have received by coming to know more of the histories of these people. It makes hunting their family members interesting. This month we will be participating in the Mexican Fiesta and Scottish Fest. Next month, it will be the Indian Fest and Scandia Fest. We work in a family history booth at each festival and help them get on the computer to find one of their relatives, or we give them information and encourage them to come visit us at a Family History Center at our church buildings.
In light of what we’ve written, this is our mission. We love the weather, the area, the people, and the assignments given to us by the Lord. What more can we say? The Lord knew where we belonged for our benefit as well as the benefit of others.
One last note and we will do a better job of writing. Missions are allowed so many Books of Mormon over a certain amount of time (who knew?). In a month, this mission gave out over 700 copies of the book to people who said they would read it. That is amazing. We were over our quota and needed more books. Our Mission President had to call Salt Lake and ask for more. They said we are over our quota and couldn’t get more. President Cutler, we were told he said this, “but we are doing the work, and we need more.” Every missionary companionship was goaled to find someone every day to whom they could give a Book of Mormon and who would commit to reading it. The missionaries have had marvelous stories to tell about their experiences in achieving this goal. We are being spiritually fed and continue to love doing the Lord’s work. He is certainly filling our schedule and helping us to become more involved in different aspects of the work in this part of the vineyard. We love our mission. It is truly a great blessing.