Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Hilton Family!

The Latest Updates…

Katrina (2) is speaking in full sentences and brings smiles and love to all who see her. She loves little dolls, receipts and writing utensils. Joseph (5) loves Joy School and is starting to read. He also loves dirt piles and bugs galore. He made his first jump off the diving board and can swim the length of the pool. Maria (7) continues to do well in her Chinese immersion program. She loves homework (seriously) and writing stories and also loves taking piano lessons from her aunt. Annemarie (9) is at the top of her 3rd grade class (also Chinese immersion), and was happy to start wearing glasses and loves helping around the house, cooking food, and mothering Katrina. She is amazing. Levi (10) is a genius who can correctly identify every country in the world on a map (not counting small islands). He has been very interested in football and loves to play it whenever he can. He can finally run faster than his mom in a sprint and is a sensitive and wonderful son. Lani published her first book - What guys need to know about girls/What girls need to know about guys. She ran her first half marathon, had great experiences at EFY, Education Week, and speaking at firesides, but the most fun was satisfying motherhood moments of joy and gratitude, children serving each other, smiles and kindnesses shown and feeling so content. (These moments help her get past the many other not-so-perfect times). John did some very fulfilling work with Seminaries and Institutes at the beginning of the year, and also helped with the LDS youth videos and website. In the summer he was hired as an Assistant Professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU and has been loving it there. Firsts for 2011: Yellowstone and feeding bears at Bear World--wow! A week at Aspen Grove’s Family Camp, a trip to Seattle for John's sister Janet's marriage, floating the Provo river, hiking Mt. Timpanogas (this was a first for John), and John and Lani traveled to China with John’s brother Cameron (a first for Lani). The highlight of the year: the Hilton Family had an incredible service opportunity where we lived in a Hogan for 5 days and helped a Native American family construct a bathroom for their house (previously they had used an outhouse). We feel heavens blessings permeate our lives and find joy in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Love, John and Lani Hilton family.

A prettier version of this card, with additional pictures, is available below...(Update: sorry for the low-res picture. My bad).

Amazing Experiences in the Anasazi Valley

When I heard the talk "Opportunities to do Good" by President Henry B. Eyring in the April 2011 General Conference I excited about the blessings he promised, particuarly to families who served together. Following the example of a great family in the ward we (as a family) have been doing regular service with the Provo Food and Care Coaltion, but I wondered if there was more we could do. Another family in the ward had had a great experience serving in Mexico with Charity Anywhere, and we arranged to go to Tijuana for Christmas (that's why we were making blocks). But as the time drew closer, we were nervous about being in Tijuana. Many of our friends who lived in the LA area warned us of kidnapping, drugs, danger, etc. We had already paid money to Charity Anywhere toward the trip to Mexico, but I called the leader (Gordon Carter) to see if he was anywhere of any state-side service project we could do. I set a tentative deadline of Wednesday meaning that if another door to serve opened up by Wednesday great, and if not we would go to Tijuana. On Wednesday night we got a call from Gordon Carter asking if we wanted to be an answer to somebody’s prayer.

There is a family that for 20 years has no bathroom. They just recently got electricity installed and Home Depot had committed to donate materials for the bathroom but that day (Wednesday) they had backed out. The leader of the program was so bummed and could scarcely bear to call the family and say that no indoor plumbing would be made available.

Then within one hour he got a call from Gordon Carter explaining of our interest in serving. For him it was an answer to prayer. Everything worked out quickly from that point.

So on December 15 we drove to St. George and got things ready to go. We were actually serving in a place 15 minutes outside of St. George, a place called the Anasazi Valley. It is a place sacred to some
Native Americans. A couple named Jake and Betty live on 80 acres there and serve as caretakers of the property. Jake is in a wheelchair; both are in their 60s or older. Their home is probably 600 square feet, no electricity, no indoor bathroom (there is a sink). It is heated by a wood stove.

Some generous members of the Native American Branch had framed an indoor bathroom and gotten several things ready – we came down and did the insulation and dry wall. We also did several other projects for Jake and Betty like feeding their animals (that was a hit with the kids), unloading and chopping wood (Levi loved chopping wood), and picking up trash around the property.

We stayed in a Hogan that was a stone’s throw away from Jake and Betty’s house. It is a real Hogan. Some people are hoping to turn the Anasazi Valley into a historical area where people can learn of the Native American ways and brought the Hogan there is a relic of sorts. But for us it was home for 4 nights. It had a wood stove that kept it warm…the only problem was you had wake up every hour to add wood. The first night we all fell asleep and woke up cold at 1 AM. But my fire skills were so weak the fire never got restarted. The next day we got lighter fluid, and the next night we did a little better. By the fourth night we were warm all night (but mostly because Lani got up 5 times to add wood to the fire). It was much easier to keep the fire going than to let it die out and try to start it again.

The kids loved hearing Jake, and another Native American named Anna tell stories. Jake did a lot of Indian drumming. We got to work closely with some great people from the Native American branch, including President Saling, Nephi and Reuben. We had two nice dinners with their family (President Saling made amazing food). The service was great and brought us closer together. We also had some fun times – we went to the Snow Canyon and played in the sand dunes. We also went on several hikes and saw petroglyphs. We went to the Native American branch Sunday services as well as their Christmas party and enjoyed both. We felt loved, and able to give love.

You know it’s a rough environment when the state park bathroom looks like a paradise, and sleeping on somebody’s apartment floor seems like an upgrade from the Hogan, but the memories and experience were priceless. Jake and Betty were so grateful for the service we provided them, and we were grateful to them.