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Monday, September 18, 2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017

All is well in Jamaica.

Beautiful sunset in Negril 
(taking just with my iPhone)

We were on the road Friday through Sunday for project work in Lucea, Savanna-la-Mar, Santa Cruz, and Mandeville. We did have one evening "off" and were able to watch a beautiful sunset. 

While in Santa Cruz on Sunday morning, we attended the branch for their branch conference. President and Sister Pearson were also there and both gave inspiring talks. 

President Pearson shared this wonderful account of keeping the Sabbath holy and of faith preceding the miracle; we had never heard this before. 

Pure Religion Moment: Sunday Miracle

In 1946, the presidency of the Wells Stake in Salt Lake City helped establish a tannery to tan hides and produce fine leather for the Church’s welfare program. Lowell G. Fox, who had studied the process of tanning leather, was called by Elder Harold B. Lee, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to work under the direction of the stake presidency, Fred W. Schwendiman, Nicholas J. Teerlink, and Clarence E. Schank. Brother Fox wrote about what he called a miracle:
“We have experienced many blessings at our welfare tannery. Let me tell you of a miracle which happens there every weekend. It was brought to our attention the day following our first holiday.
“Upon returning to the tannery after the holiday the hides being processed were spoiled, and we wondered what caused it. A careful check was made to see if these hides had been handled in a different way. They had been washed, cleaned, cut, and placed into large vats filled with lime water where they were to stay for four days. At the end of this time the hair would come loose from the skins.
“On regular work days the hides were removed from the vats every twelve hours, the solution strengthened with fresh lime, stirred thoroughly, and the hides returned to the lime solution. This had not been done over the holiday. However, the change was never made on Sundays, and we had never found spoiled hides on Monday morning. That could not be the trouble! There seemed to be no reason for the spoiled hides.
“All went well at the tannery until the next holiday when the incident repeated itself. Once more the hides spoiled. Not understanding why, we wrote the Technical Institution of New York to help us solve our problem. They verified the fact that while hides are soaking in the lime solution they must be stirred several times each day in order to keep them from spoiling during the time the hair is loosened; they must be taken from the vats every twelve hours, while fresh lime is added to the solution.
“This brought a strange fact to our minds: holidays are determined by man, and on these days just as on every week day, the hides need to have special care every twelve hours. Sunday is the day set aside by the Lord as a day of rest, and He makes is possible for us to rest from our labors as He has commanded. The hides at the tannery never spoil on Sundays. This is a modern-day miracle, a miracle that happens every weekend” (Handbook for Guide Patrol Leaders [Primary manual, 1964], 37).

We are so very grateful for the teachings we receive from righteous people every day whether through reading the scriptures, listening to inspiring talks, or participating in every day experiences. 

Until next week...

All our love. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sunday, September 10, 2017

We had an interesting week carefully monitoring the path of hurricanes Irma and Jose. We were pretty sure the storms would miss Jamaica, but the storms can change so quickly; we were in preparation mode. We are grateful Jamaica was not in Irma's path, but parts of our mission were not as lucky. We have "off island" missionaries serving in two cities in the Bahamas and in Turks and Caicos. They were all brought safely back to Jamaica before the storm hit. We also have elders in Grand Cayman, but we haven't heard if they were evacuated. This week was transfers, so several of the missionaries had basically just arrived at their new island locations. We went to the airport to pick up the sisters from Turks and Caicos on Tuesday evening. They had only arrived in T&C on Friday, had just barely moved into their new apartment, and had stocked up on food when they received the call that they were to evacuate. Unfortunately, we're not sure what they'll have to go back to or when they'll be able to return. We understand that all the evacuated missionaries will be here for quite awhile until it's safe for them to return to their off island locations. One report was that power may not be restored for 3-6 months on these islands. We are so thankful they are all safe and pray for those who have been affected and for those waiting for the storm.

Otherwise, our week was uneventful. The only thing traveling we did this week connected with a project was to go to Portmore to purchase some electrical wire and sockets for the little preschool we're helping there. We stopped by to get the correct measurements and were greeted by all the darling 3 to 6 years old children in their freshly laundered and pressed uniforms. Adorable! The following pictures are from a field trip and their career day last spring. 

 Future Jamaican Defense Force,
office and retail clerks,
the constabulary,
...and our favorite - the pilots!

In closing, we recommend this article. We were so glad to be able to partake of the sacrament today; it had been 3 weeks because of travel and District Conference. 

When You Reach for the Sacrament, 
You Reach for the Savior

Bread first: break, bless, pass, eat.

Water second: bless, pass, drink.

Repeat weekly. It’s a simple routine. It’s all over in a matter of minutes. I’m as guilty as the next person of sometimes just going through the motions. But though I’ve taken the sacrament more times than I can count during my lifetime, lately it’s taken on new meaning for me. It’s become anything but routine.

Seeing Things Differently

We all spend time in the refiner’s fire. Lately, though, I’ve wondered if my family has seen more than our share of the flames. Over the last few years we’ve been through some really hard things: deaths in the family, health problems, financial worries, loved ones dealing with divorce and addiction—you get the picture. All families have their struggles. We’re not unique. But sometimes it just feels like too much. Honestly, sometimes it is too much.

As the deacons made their rounds with the sacrament trays on a recent Sunday and I sat in the pews, these worries weighing on me, a thought came that made me see the sacrament in a way I’d never seen it before.
I remembered the account in the gospel of Mark, where a sick woman reaches out in faith to touch Jesus’s robe as He walks by, hoping to be healed (see Mark 5:25-34).

In almost all the artistic representations of this story the artists show a feeble woman crawling on her hands and knees with one arm outstretched, reaching, straining to touch the hem of Christ’s robe. You can see in her eyes that she has suffered greatly in her life, that she is yearning to be healed, that there is intent in her gesture to receive this blessing, and that this may be her only chance to be whole again. I bet she was just plain old weary.
And as I reached out my hand to receive the bread and the water that day, I imagined myself in that woman’s place. Was I reaching with the same faith she had? Like her, did I believe that this experience, thanks to Christ’s Atonement, could make me whole, despite any hardships?

Healing Is within Reach

In truth, healing is exactly what Christ is offering to each of us every week as we receive the sacrament. But we have to want it. We have to yearn for it. We have to reach from deep down inside of us and bring forth our brokenness, believing that He will receive our broken selves and heal us. This requires faith. It requires focus, as much focus as was present in this suffering woman. Our brains get distracted and wander so easily. The cares of the world seep in so effortlessly. Our shame and guilt beg to stay hidden even from ourselves.

And [there was] a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse.

So I pondered: how did this woman find the faith to reach out to the Savior? After all of her trials, and through the fog of despair, she found the strength to put herself in a place where she could reach out.

When she had heard of Jesus, [she] came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may but touch his clothes, I shall be whole. Mark 5:27-28

I let my mind follow her, back to when she first heard of the Savior, how her heart burned with confirmation. Do I prepare for the sacrament by reading about the Savior and letting the Spirit fill my heart? Then this woman, in poor health, made her way among the throngs of people to a place where she could see this Jesus whom she had heard of. OK, so I can make my way to church physically, but can I be better at getting myself to a spiritual place where I can reach out to Him? It dawned on me that we sing a hymn for this very reason. I tried focusing on the words, letting them be a prayer. And the woman waited. That is the hardest part, being patient. So between prayers, I try now to still my mind and wait. I know His Spirit is near. Just be patient and let it arrive.

And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?...And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. Mark 5:30, 32
When she touched Him, there was a physical exchange. The Savior perceived that virtue had gone out of Him. And she perceived that something had transformed inside her. This is something to ponder as we symbolically partake of His body and blood. What transforms inside of us? Here the words from the prayer came to mind: that we may always remember Him. That we may always remember how we feel, how we are changed when we take the sacrament with full purpose of heart.

But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, they faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague. Mark 5:33-34

Break. Bless. Pass. During the weekly sacrament we, in our need, can touch the hem of the Savior’s garment as our hands and hearts reach to receive the Bread of Life and the Living Water, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We, like the woman, can be made whole.

Brent Croxton has lived on both coasts of the U.S. and some places in the middle—California, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, and Utah. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. He is the dad of five boys and PopPop to four granddaughters with a fifth on the way.

Until next week...

All our love.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Sunday, September 3, 2017

 Our first view of the temple on Monday evening

and our last on Sunday morning

We are very excited to share all the amazing experiences of our trip to the Panama Temple. 

Monday morning, August 28th, we gathered at the Norman Manley Airport in Kingston with 33 other Jamaican saints from around the island to begin our fantastic week. We can't begin to express the joy we felt all week as we shared this time with these wonderful, faithful Latter-day Saints. 

President Medley and his sweet wife, Sheryl, were the main organizers of this temple trip as well as many other trips in years past. President Medley serves in the Kingston Stake Presidency, and Sister Medley, along with supporting her husband in his demanding calling, serves diligently as a Family History Specialist for the stake; she also helps members all over the island. She spent countless hours helping people use the Church's website, familysearch.org. 

Doing Family History research can be quite a challenge for many Jamaicans because culturally the family structure is often very complicated. Many people do not have the close family connections to allow them to gather the information they need. Sister Medley shared with me some of the miracles she has witnessed over the years, and I testify of the truthfulness of these occurring. I have seen them in my own Family History and Temple work over the past 41 years. 

The Mission of Elijah
“Many of your ancestors died never having the chance to accept the gospel and to receive the blessings and promises you have received. The Lord is fair and He is loving. And so He prepared for you and me a way for us to have the desire of our hearts to offer to our ancestors all the blessings He has offered us.
“The plan to make that possible has been in place from the beginning. The Lord gave promises to His children long ago. …
“'Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
“'And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse' (Malachi 4:5-6).”
—Henry B. Eyring, “Hearts Bound Together,” Ensign, May 2005

President (Elder) and Sister Brown - Member Leader Support (MLS) Missionaries
President Brown serves as a counselor in the Mission Presidency, and Sister Brown serves as a counselor in the Mandeville District Relief Society Presidency. Along with their busy callings in these positions, they also train instructors of the Temple Preparation classes all over the island and teach and train members and leaders in the doctrines and procedures in the Church. We will be sad to see them leave when they finish their mission in early December. 

This is the Patron Housing. Visitors coming from long distances 
to attend the temple can stay here for a nominal fee. 
The Temple Presidency and other Senior Missionaries' apartments are also in this building plus a few offices, a large meeting room, and the LDS Distribution Center.

This beautiful facility is as close as one can get to sleeping inside the temple. Just like in the temple, everything is of excellent workmanship and numerous paintings of the Savior and His life adorn the corridors. There is a reverence here unlike any place else we've ever been outside of the temple. 

 President Medley addresses the group in the large dining room.

We celebrated 2 birthdays during the week - 
Elder Brown and one of the young Jamaican boys

Our amazing cook of the 3 yummy meals each day such as this plate of a
pork chop, stewed eggplant, boiled plantain, and potato salad

View of the lush countryside surrounding the temple

From the Panama City Temple Dedicatory Prayer August 10, 2008, "The Plan of Salvation, taught in the temple with simplicity yet power, will be as a never-failing beacon of divine light to guide our footsteps and keep them constantly on the pathway to eternal life.
As we do work in this temple for those who have gone beyond, we are reminded of the inspired counsel of President Joseph F. Smith, who declared: 'Through our efforts in their behalf, their chains of bondage will fall from them, and the darkness surrounding them will clear away, that light may shine upon them; and they shall hear in the spirit world of the work that has been done for them by their children here, and will rejoice.'"

Priesthood Power

Happy Eternal Families


President and Sister Wingo

 President and Sister Bigelow

The Medleys and the Bigelows

Buddy had the privilege of being this young man's escort

Our new dear friend, Tracy, and the Browns
The four of us had the extraordinary honor of attending this beautiful lady every day in the temple. She loved the temple and just couldn't get enough of serving within its walls. 

Tracy is absolutely amazing, and we are better from being in her presence. This was Tracy's first time to the temple. She was baptized when she was nine and is a very strong member. She was stricken with a rare nerve condition about 8 years ago which left her blind and affected by paralysis in all four limbs. She was told she would never walk again. Since then, she has regained most of the feeling in her arms and legs and can walk short distances. She is still blind and has very sensitive parts of her body so that even a light touch can be painful and having any clothing next to her skin in these places causes discomfort, especially on her left arm. The Temple Presidency and Matrons suggested she wear short sleeves inside the temple. They were so accommodating which to me is the Lord's way. The Lord wants all of His daughters to receive the blessings of the temple.

Unfortunately, many people including some Church members are not very willing to interact with Tracy. She and I discussed the issue of some people often just not knowing what to do or how to react. Many Jamaicans have pretty out-dated attitudes toward any type of disability. We hope this trip and the interaction she had with other sisters will change some of that. 

Tracy has a Bachelor's Degree in life science, Master's Degree in some field having to do with agriculture I can't remember exactly what it's called, and was working as a agro-physicist in a lab and on her PHD before she became blind. She is so interesting to talk with. She desires to become much more involved in advocacy for the blind here in Jamaican. We know she has the faith and conviction to do just about anything she sets her mind on. 


One evening, I went walking around the complex as I was waiting for Buddy to come out of the temple. You can see the density of the surrounding area. It was a beautiful evening, but I decided I didn't want to be out there by myself much longer; it was getting dark quickly. I heard all kinds of animal sounds - Yikes! We don't have those sounds in Jamaica!

 Meetinghouse in the Temple Complex

Here are a few pictures of some of us holding completed temple ordinance cards. We're anxious to find out the total number of ordinances performed. The Medleys plan to compile a memory book with all the pictures and copies of our personal testimonies. That will be a treasure. 


Since the temple closed on Saturday afternoon, we took the Browns, Medleys, and Tracy to see the Panama Canal. This is definitely something we had always wanted to see, and we were not disappointed. We watched three large ships make their way from the Atlantic to the Pacific. 



We were excited to see this little group of capybara (also called chiguire) in a grassy area by the parking lot at the canal. We had seen pictures Collin took of these unusual animals on his visits to the zoo during his mission in Venezuela. They are the largest living rodent in the world.

Sorry this is so blurry

 Panama City 

Allbrook Mall carousel

We also took a quick walk through one of the gigantic malls in the city. We were surprised by how cosmopolitan the city is; I guess we were expecting it to be more like Kingston. Elder Brown was quite a happy man when we bought him a box of Dunkin Donuts - something he has talked about doing first thing when they get back to the U.S. Now the wait won't seem quite so long. 

We had a very special testimony meeting the last evening before dinner. Testimonies abounded of personal spiritual growth, renewed commitment, gratitude, love for family and the new eternal friendships.


Much too soon, it was time to leave this beautiful place of peace and join in the hustle bustle of an airport. We flew out of Panama City and arrived in Montego Bay about 11:30 AM on Sunday morning. We said our good-byes and loaded into two chartered buses. One bus took everyone who lives on the western side of the island, and the other took those going to the Kingston area.

We will forever treasure the new friendships created on this trip. As sons and daughters of God who have shared this wonderful experience, I hope we will always remember the special feelings we had and will continue to have as the blessings of the temple touch our lives. I pray we will be covenant-keeping people evermore. 

The LDS Young Women Theme states, "We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will 'Stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places' (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women Values, which are:

Faith • Divine Nature • Individual Worth • Knowledge • Choice and Accountability • Good Works • Integrity • and Virtue
We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation."

Buddy's thoughts:

This week has been an incredible experience for us, and Debbie has captured the essence of it in her usual expert fashion. We awoke on Sunday to the 41st anniversary of our baptism and confirmation into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As I pondered the years that have passed since then, I have been filled with gratitude and thanksgiving to a loving Heavenly Father who loved/loves us enough to provide the way to return to His presence and has the patience to let us come to know the way for ourselves. 

This intense week-long temple experience has been a spiritual boost and has enabled me to love our Father, our Savior, and Debbie to a greater degree than before. I am grateful for my membership in the Church and for the way it has shaped my life and the lives of our family. I love being a Husband, Father, and Grandfather. I love being a Disciple of Jesus Christ. I love being a missionary in His service. I testify that His gospel and His church have been restored to the earth and are the only hope for a troubled world. 

With all our love, until next week........