August has been HOT! We have only hit 100 degrees once, but the kicker is the humidity. On a day of 95, the heat index is like 105. We were at the Opening Football Jamboree. We were in our seats at 5:00pm and it was so hot and humid we looked and felt like we had been in a sauna. It still felt that way at 10:00pm when it ended. The stadium was packed and hardly anyone left early, even those with young children. ! Football is a big thing here....a REALLY BIG THING., The two young men in our branch, Stone and J.P. are on the team, and they really look forward to our being there.
Along with being very hot, we have not had any rain. To our surprise everything has stayed fairly green, but the grass has not hardly grown at all. Grandpa used to mow every Monday and the grass really needed it and now it has been almost two weeks and it sill doesn’t need to be mowed. I don’t know why it is so humid with the lack of rain, but it must be the humidity from the Gulf (of Mexico). The landscape of this part of Alabama is very rural with natural greenery on every side. It is similar to Oregon’s roadways’, but we do not have the large fir trees. In Utah by now, the greenery along the sides of the road would be yellow and brown and a huge fire threat. To our knowledge there have not been any forest fires in our area. The cotton plants are about 3 feet tall now and have an occasional cotton ball on them. I am super excited to see a cotton field in full bloom.
We are still working with the Branch, to strengthen the members in their callings and reaching out to the Less Actives. It is sad to see those who have once been so active, now so complacent and comfortable in staying away. They seem so warm and accepting as we visit with them, but they don’t come on Sunday. But we keep on friend shipping. We truly love them....no strings attached. We are having the Annual Fish Fry next Saturday. No one seems to know how many years they have had the Fish Fry, they just call it the Annual. It will be a typical Southern menu: Fried Fish, French fries, Cole Slaw and Hush Puppies (also some chicken for the non fish folks).
On Friday this past week, we had the Senior Couples Activity. Our Mission tries to have an activity every 6 to 8 weeks. Dad and I planned this activity to go to the Montgomery Stock Yard Grill for lunch ( A real active Stockyard on Mondays) and then on a tour of the Hyundai Automotive Plant. ( a great tour) We had 6 couples in attendance including our beloved Mission President and his wife. We were so glad they could join us and have a little time to relax. They have been out for a year and a half and they work every minute of every day helping, training, motivating and loving their missionaries. You can’t really appreciate what a Mission President and His wife do for a mission and especially each missionary. They love and care for them as if they were their own children. They have to be truly dedicated to their service. They do not get “days off”.
We have been invited to a barbque on Monday and the Sister will be here in our home doing their Preparation day messaging to the Mission President and to their families.
As this is a holiday weekend, we feel more tenderness about home....it is not really homesickness, just tenderness. We love each of you so much and are so grateful for our family. Whatever you do tomorrow, think of us for a minute. We look forward to seeing you in a few weeks. Love, Grandma and Grandpa
Here in Alabama the past two weekends they have held an Alligator Hunting Contest. The alligator is a protected specie, so it is illegal to hunt or kill alligators, except for these two weekends in August. The hunt starts at 7:00 PM and runs to 7:00 AM. So it’s a night hunt.
There are only a certain number of tags and Mandy Stokes drew a tag.
On the third day of the hunt this year, a new record gator was hooked. The 15 foot, 1,011 pound gator was caught here in Camden, on the Alabama River, just about 2 miles north of us. Of course it has been the talk of the town. The five people in the boat said the gator didn’t go down without a fight. Once the family got some large hooks into it, Mandy aimed her 20 gauge shotgun at the sweet spot behind the alligator’s eyes. His head ducked under the water and the shot only made him mad. The gator surged forward and towed the 17 ft boat across the creek at a startling speed. The towing continued until the boat crashed into a tree stump in the creek. Eventually Mandy got off another shot. “This time, water just exploded on all of us.” This time, she killed the alligator. There have been all kinds of
“gator stories” about this gator. Tonight we heard from a reputable source that inside the gator, was a small deer, part of a small cow and several beavers.” Pretty gory stuff, but thought the hunters in the family might appreciate the talk.
The previous Alabama record alligator was 14ft 2 inch , 838 pound gator also captured here in Camden on the Alabama River in 2011.
We have been to see this one. It is on a special travel rack and it has traveled all over the state to Schools and fairs.
I wanted to go up to Roland State Park just up the road about 3 miles to see the weighing in and try to see a real alligator, but they said I would have to go up and 7:00 in the evening and just wait until someone brought in a gator and I could have to wait until 2 or 3 in the morning and I didn’t want to see one THAT BAD.
Mission wise, we had another wonderful trip to the temple with Edward, one of our Branch Members. He was very hesitant the first time we went and now he is so happy to be able to serve there. We had 7 members at our Family History class on Thursday. This time we worked on Indexing and they really have taken to it. We set a goal of 800 names for the adults in the Branch, but we will more than make that goal. The youth goal is 150 names and we had our new Beehive at our class and she really liked it so I think we will reach that goal as well.
We think about you every day and know that you would love to see where it is we live and to meet the people we have grown to love. We will bring pictures. They have seen your pictures on our wall and on our fridge, so they are beginning to “know “ you. We love you and are so grateful for the love and support
We had a unique and beautiful experience yesterday. We attend a baptism over in Greenville, Alabama. We had not been involved with any of the finding and teaching of this man, but we followed his progress through our friends, Elder and Sister Spects and through several of the Sister missionaries who worked with him.
I hope I can paint you a mental pictures of the day. We all met in the front room of President and Sister Nimmer. (picture with words as we were not to take pictures) He was the Branch President of Greenville until just recently. There were about 40-50 of us. Even our Mission President and his wife came down. When the talk on baptism was finished, we all walked out to the Nimmer Pond. Many of the homes here in this area have built a pond on their property. They are used for fishing and maybe having a little canoe. This was a very large pond-I would call it a small lake. The day was absolutely gorgeous, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the birds were singing. The two men dressed in white lead us down past the dock and we watched ever so reverently as the two men walked from the beach down into the water. When they were sufficiently in deep enough, a peaceful silence filled the air as we heard the words of the Baptismal Prayer. The witnesses indicated that he had not been completely submersed and so the Ordinance was repeated. Again, the peaceful silence as the words were repeated. This time, both men beaming, came forth out of the water and then cheers erupted. Cheers of joy and happiness for him.
In Greenville, our church has purchased a small church from another denomination and it is a lovely old church and serves the people very well, but it does not have a baptismal font, so any baptisms are performed at a church in Highland Home about ½ hour away. This was a most special opportunity for us to be a part of such a beautiful day.
For those of you who have been baptized, pause a minute and recall what you can remember of your baptism. It probably was not in a pond, but still a most special event in your life. We are so grateful that we have had this opportunity to serve here in rural Southern Alabama.
We love each of you. Be Strong and Choose The Right.
Tonight’s letter will have to be short. I went with the Sisters to teach a second lesson and it took a little longer than usual and then we decided to go to the home of a less-active that we have not been able to get into since we got here. We pulled up and no one was home and just as we were about to leave they pulled in the driveway. I expected to just have a short meeting on the porch, but they invited us in. They seemed so excited that we had come and they talked and talked and talked. Grandpa was home by himself and getting more and more worried. Of course, I didn’t take my phone in the house as it appeared that we would only be leaving a note on their door. I finally asked Sister for her phone, but then they told us they don’t have coverage up there. Sister Manness (less active) finally called dad on their home line and let him know we were okay. We had been gone for 3 ½ hours. No wonder he was nervous. But at least we got to visit with them and they invited us back. First lesson went alright, but I think he is just enjoying the visits and really not interested in conversion. He listens and asks good questions, so we will go back and see what happens next time.
One cute thing. Friday we were in WalMart in Selma. We had finished our shopping as we didn’t have much to buy and we were waiting in the front of the store for the Sisters to finish there shopping. A sweet little tiny black lady with curly gray hair was sort of the “greeter”. She came up to me and said how nice I looked. I thanked her and commented on her cute name: “Billie” She looked at me with a smile and said, “ I was Billie Jean before Michael Jackson was born!” Such a cute little lady.
We are tired tonight. We have had a very busy week. In the last week we have put 1000 miles on our car. We have been to Montgomery 3 times as we had computer problems and that is the nearest Geek Squad and a trip to Birmingham for transfers. Our Sister Houston from Kaysville completed her mission and we have a new sister from Mesa Arizona. It seems like some days all we do is drive. We love you dearly. We are so grateful that Trevor was not hurt any worse than it was. Be safe. Say your prayers and thank him for all your blessings. We are a blessed family. Love Grandma and Grandpa
We have officially requested the extension of our Mission from November 4, 2014 to April 13, 2015. AND We have received an official approval of our extension:
To the Hepworths, our dear and wonderful friends....
You have been APPROVED!!!
DOUBLE AND TRIPLE HOORAYS!
You are extended until April 13th.
Blessings on you!
Richard D. Hanks, President
Alabama Birmingham Mission
Thought you would want to see our notification. Our Branch is so very happy that we are staying longer. We were at one of the members home last Tuesday night. He said his 1st wish was to go to the Temple and his 2nd wish was that we would move our family down here and stay. We really do love these southern friends.
Tonight I had the opportunity to go with the Sister Missionaries to teach a gentleman that they had met walking in downtown Camden. He is an “Ordained Deacon” in the Baptist Church and I was a little worried about bible bashing, but it was not that way at all. He knew a little about Mormons, but said he had never taken the opportunity to hear what they believed. We taught the lesson on the Restoration of the Gospel. He had some very good questions and I felt we were able to answer him with scriptures and with testimony. There was a wonderful spirit in the room and he invited us to come back for another lesson. It seemed to me that several times he pondered what was said, as if he were giving it extra thought. I was grateful for the opportunity to share in the gospel discussion. I am so grateful that I have a Testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that I am a member of His church. We have so many, many blessings in our lives because of Him and His Gospel. Cherish your Testimony. We love you and think of you very often. Love, Grandma and Grandpa