Idyllic panorama, busy schedule

John and Debra Kelley have strong ties to the rich, reddish soil of Kentucky, where they live on a farm that has been in their family for generations.

The oldest parts of their home were built in 1830. The stately house can be seen past rock pillars at the end of a long lane, leading off of Richmond Road. A green lawn and trees surround the building, and a still pond reflects the house and its surroundings.But behind this serene panorama is a very busy family - John and Debra Kelley and their four children. They have acres of row crops, orchards and cattle. Brother Kelley, a convert of about 11 years, also operates a marina and equipment barge on the nearby Kentucky River.

The children help in the garden. Sarah, 12, twins Rebekah and Rachel, 6, and Amanda, 3, weed and help harvest beans, blackberries, strawberries, beets, corn, apples and other foods.

"We try to cook and eat for health," said Sister Kelley. "There are so many good things that come from this farm - we make use of them." They also share with others.

The children enjoy riding with their father on the broad, 26-by-100-foot barge. The barge, with its 300-ton capacity, is used to haul equipment - including cranes, front end loaders and bulldozers.

And, as if running a farm, a marina and barging service aren't enough to keep the family busy, they are also involved in the Bluegrass Ward, Lexington Kentucky Stake.

For the family, attending Church meetings means "running a taxi service," said Brother Kelley. "On Thursday, we drove our 12-year-old daughter to Young Women, and my wife was to have an activities committee meeting. We have our bishopric meeting that night also. My wife and I have been attending an institute class on Thursdays as well. We take the children and put them in one of the small rooms in the meetinghouse where they are watched, and then everyone goes to meetings."

Sister Kelley has been going to meetings for nearly 20 years. She joined the Church while a university student.

"I knew I needed something in my life," she said, recalling her conversion. "I looked in the phone book for the Mormon Church because a friend of mine had been taught by the missionaries. I invited them by and they taught me. The Church has been wonderful for our family."

Brother Kelley was introduced to the Church following their marriage. Friends warned him that, "She will get you into the Mormon Church."

"Not me," he remembers saying.

Actually, he recalled, it was his home teacher who involved him in the Church. "He made sure I was involved. I was treated like a member and soon the missionaries were teaching me. Debra was there to reinforce what I'd been taught.

"I was baptized June 16, 1982. I remember the date. Ten days later, I baptized my children." His oldest son, from a previous marriage, later filled a mission in Hawaii, and the family has been sealed in the temple.

Brother Kelley was soon called as ward executive secretary. He then became stake Young Men president, and later was high council adviser to the Young Men. He was recently released from the high council and called a second time as ward executive secretary.

"Our stake," he said, "is one of the fastest growing in the area. Our members care about others. Giving is one of the things Latter-day Saints do best. When the river flooded we reached out to help everyone. I know they reached out to me. Recently a Russian group came to their area while touring America. The Kelleys were delighted to host them in their home and helped organized a local tour.

"Caring is important," said Sister Kelley. "And being thankful is important. I think of all the things people have done for us, and all the Lord has done. We must do the same."

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