OUR SECOND MISSION
In December, 1946, we returned to the
Southern States under more favorable circumstances. The war was over and we could buy the
gasoline we needed, so we took our car and we were able to travel and visit the members of
the Branch over which we presided, even in the small towns some distance out from Winter
We left home November 18, 1946, accompanied by our daughter Luella and her husband, LaMont Walker.
The morning we left home we received word of the death of John Van Wagoner, Jr., my wife's oldest brother. We were very sorry to have to leave that morning and not be able to attend the funeral but we were scheduled to leave according to instructions from President Callis who had sanctioned us going back to the Southern States.
(This seemed to me a test of Sarah's faith. We were in the missionfield when her brother Dean died and she could not go to his funeral, then her brother John died the morning we were leaving for a second time.)
That the reader might know of our travels while LaMont and Luella were in Mississippi, a distance of 117 miles. It was at Senatobia where we met President Meeks and Anton R. lrvins and there we received our appointment to go to Winter Haven, Florida, but would receive further instructions at the District Conference to be held at Tampa, Florida, December 2nd and 3rd.
According to the instructions given to us, we would still have a few days yet to visit. (President lrvins told me to be sure and visit the Moore Herd of Polled Herefored at Senatobia before leaving there.)
At Conference, Sarah and I saw many of our former friends of the North Mississippi District.
After leaving Senatobia, we traveled the route as follows:
From Tupelo to Birmingham, Alabama
From Birmingham to Columbus, Ga.
From Columbus to Albany
From Albany to Jacksonville, Fla.
From Jacksonville to Miami
From Miami back to Vera Beach, Fla.
From Very Beach to Winter Haven
The total distance we traveled
about 100 miles
I again quote from my diary:
November 28. Started for Flori.da. At
Birmingham blew out head gasket. Was delayed about two hours. Thursday was Thanksgiving
Day. We drove about 400 miles and stopped for night just over the Florida line and about
43 miles from Jacksonville. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we visited down the East Coast of
Florida. Traveled through Jacksonville, St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United
States, with quaint old houses and narrow streets. This city has been preserved as much as
possible in its primitive condition.
We visited Daytona Beach, Melbourne, Vera Beach, West Palm Beach, and Miami. The above mentioned are all great resorts where thousands of tourists visit and stop.
It was at Vera Beach where LaMont and Luella left us. They returned home on the Railroad Train by way of Chicago. It was after dark when they left us. It was a wonderful trip and experience for us all. But oh, how lonely and homesick did Sarah and I feel when they left us.
I know it was hard for LaMont and Luella to leave us. As I write this, l can hardly hold back my tears, and there seems to be a lump in my throat. Luella was to have the first ride of her life on a passenger railroad train.
Monday we drove about 100 miles to Winter Haven and then located a former President Jamison who resided at Lake Charles and according to his advice, we were soon on our way to Tampa, a distance of 50 miles. That day we traveled from the East Coast to the West Coast of Florida.
We there attended the District Conference and again met President Meeks and President Ivins and their wives and also many of the saints and Elders and Lady Missionaries residing and laboring in the North Florida District.
Wednesday we had dinner with Brother and Sister Howard from Sacramento. He is President of the Winter Haven Branch of the Church.
That night we attended the Aaronic Priesthood Banquet. About 150 persons in attendance and most all were members of the church. A wonderful program and a delicious chicken supper was offered. The banquet was held at the beautiful Cyprus Gardens.
Before leaving, President Meeks gave us our appointments. I was to take over the duties of Branch President of the Winter Haven Branch. Sarah was to be the Relief Society President. Brother and Sister Howard would be released to return home.
From the time we arrived at Winter Haven, we were kept quite busy. The one thing that caused us much annoyance was getting a permanent apartment. Winter Haven is very crowded with tourists that time of year. We moved four times before we could get located permanently. (Several weeks we lived at Lake Hamilton about 8 or 10 miles out. Each day we would drive to Winter Haven to take care of our duties.)
On Christmas eve there was a nice party at the Church and then Brother and Sister Moore took us to the Bok Tower to hear the bells chime the Christmas Carols. The bells commenced chiming at midnight. Again we went to the Bok Tower on New Years Day. This time Sister Mathie and Sister Johnson were with us.
The Bok Tower is located by the beautiful Cyrus Gardens Resort, which is very noted as a grand place for beauty, boating, etc.
We soon were settled down to work and learned to know and love the people. The attendance at Sunday School and Sacrament Meetings continually increased and before we left there, it was not uncommon to see more in attendance than the membership of the branch, on account of the visitors.
The members were generally extra good tithe payers, and paid regularly as they received their wages each week, or twice each month. I would spend nearly one day each week working on records.
As I understand, Florida is the largest citrus fruit area of any place in the United States and a large percentage of the saints are busy all winter and spring packing and canning fruit. (Mostly oranges and grapefruit.) It is interesting to go into the canning factories and watch the people working. The factory hands are paid according to the amount of fruit they prepare for the canning process, so they learn to work very fast.
In the neighborhood of Winter Haven, there are about 100 small lakes, and whenever the orchards need water, it is pumped from those lakes and the sprinkling system is used entirely.
The land is almost straight sand and is very loose and uneven so it would be hard to irrigate except by sprinkling. A person driving a car has to be careful if he drives off the main road or he may get his car stalled in the sand.
On days that we were not too busy, we did quite a lot of visiting and we became quite well acquainted with the roads and country round about Winter Haven and for miles out.
From my Diary of January 16, I copy the following:
"Received telegram from President Meeks inviting us to attend the funeral services of President Callis but it was time for the funeral when we received the telegram.
Wednesday night we went to the Boy Scout Court of Honor at Lake Alfred; there are about 180 Scouts in the Lakes district. The Scout work here takes in the girls also. These scouts are members of many churches including the L.D.S. Church. "
I take from the January 25 entry:
Went to Winter Haven on Saturday expecting to go to the 7th Day Adventist Church Meeting, as we previously agreed to do, but the Minister gave us the slip and drove away.
January 26 entry:
We are holding meetings as follows: On Sundays: Sunday School and Priesthood Meeting and Sacrament Meeting in the evening. MIA on Tuesday evening; Relief Society on Wednesday; Friday,
Primary at Dundee at 3 P.M., Study Class at 7:30 at the Church House.
In the afternoon of January 25, had a nice visit with a Mr. Jameson over across Lake Howard and loaned him a book on Church Welfare.
Events of following week of note:
Sunday morning: held Sunday School at church. Drove 50 miles to Orlando to Union Meeting. Held Sacrament Meeting at night. (At this time we were living at Lake Hamilton.)
On Monday morning, my second counselor, appeared at our apartment at about 8 a.m., he having walked most of the way, a distance of about nine or ten miles. He had gotten a ride part of the way in a wagon but was afraid to get in a car for fear of a wreck. He seemed very much disturbed.
He related to us his experience in administering to his little child. He had whipped her and. then attempted to quiet her by the power of the priesthood. He said that while attempting to administer to the child, he lost his strength and was struck with a pain in the chest. He declared he had lost his priesthood by using it at time of unworthiness. I was unable to convince him differently.
We took him back to his home and had prayer with him and his wife. We administered to him and rebuked the power of the adversary. I told him to humble himself and to pray to the Lord for forgiveness of his sins and for faith that the power of the adversary would trouble him no more.
During the week following, he seemed unable to regain his strength or power of understanding. He searched the scriptures and he said the scriptures seemed to condemn him.
He said, "I awake in the night and hear voices saying, "You talk to him,' 'I've got him,' 'You talk to him,' 'He won't listen to me,' etc." He said he heard a voice say when administering, "You have no priesthood."
On Sunday following, in fast meeing, he bore his testimony and said he had lost his priesthood and asked forgiveness of the saints assembled and asked for the prayers of the saints that he might be restored to membership in the church and be able to become a humble servant. He said he felt all his power and priesthood raise from his body and his body fell helpless to the floor and a pain struck his chest.
He wrote a letter to President Meeks. I told him not to mail that letter, but to wait a few days and I would take him to Conference at Tampa. There he would see President Meeks. Then he wanted to go to Atlanta, Georgia to see the President but I convinced him that was not the proper thing for him to do either.
My wife and I spent much time with Brother Green, trying to reconcile him and to make him feel better and to persuade him that he must not give way to the power of Satan.
February 5 Brother Green said, "I hope I can live to go to conference at Tampa on February 8.
On Saturday, February 8, we took to Conference Brother Green Charles Darby, Sister Worton and Sister Johnson, the Lady Missionaries. While at Conference, Brother Green talked to President Meeks.
President Meeks and I placed our hands upon the head of Brother Green and gave him a blessing. President Meeks instructed him similar as my wife and I had done and told him he must not give way to the power of the adversary. He must be humble and prayerful and do his duty. He was told not to try to delve into mysteries he did not understand.
Brother Green returned home feeling much better.
The Saturday evening program at Conference was given mostly by Winter Haven Branch members, MIA and Boy Scouts.
Sunday morning we held testimony meeting from 8 A.M. to 12 noon. We listened to some humble testimonies and some wonderful advice and testimony from Brother and Sister Meeks.
Brother Meeks related some of his experiences while at Jacksonville one week or more helping to organize the New Stake of Zion. He spoke of how near to the Lord Brother Callis had lived. If anything was not quite clear in his mind, he would ask for a little time to pray about the subject. President Meeks said, one day they were undecided as to whether or not to include a certain little branch about 100 miles away in the new stake to be. After the presiding Elder of the little branch had been called in to give his ideas and the way he felt and all the other brethren in counsel had given their view on the subject, then Brother Callis asked that he might have time to go to the Lord for counsel.
That night he stayed alone in the little room he and his wife used to occupy while there as President of the Mission.
The next morning he said, "Brethren, I talked to the Lord last night and we won't include the little branch of the church we had in question in the Jacksonville Stake."
President Meeks also related another experience which happened at Brother Callis's funeral services at Jacksonville. He said, "When Sister Callis was alive, she and Sister Lee often sat together at church and council meetings. At the funeral there was a vacant seat by Sister Lee and she felt impressed that Sister Callis wanted to occupy that seat during the services, so accordingly, she opened up the seat as she felt impressed to do.
Just at that time, Elder Lee arose to read a telegram from the First Presidency of the church, but as he looked over the audience and saw the vacant (?) chair, he was unable to speak he was so overcome. Brother Meeks said, "Shall I read the telegram?" Brother Lee nodded ascent."
The Sister of the Tampa Branch served a wonderful dinner in Cafeteria style. After the evening meeting, we drove 50 miles to our home via Winter Haven where we left our company and then Sarah and I drove out to where we lived at Lake Hamilton.
The Winter of 1946 and 1947 seemed to pass very rapidly with us, and we had many friends.
The Gold and Green Ball was held at Orlando in May at the time of our District Conference. We had previously understood that we would receive our release at that time. Accordingly we sent messages home and Vern and Ruth Huff, Elmer and Eva Kohkonen and Malin and Stella Lewis loaded themselves into Vern's new car and were soon on their way to Florida, arriving there a day or so before the Gold and Green Ball.
After Conference, we started for home, but visited the Saints at Booneville and saw nearly all the saints and friends there.
Vern and Elmer, being anxious to see a good baseball
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