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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

August 19-23, 2016 Wi arrived inna Jamaica, Mon!

23 August 2016

After a somewhat harrowing trip, we finally arrived in Kingston, Jamaica late Saturday evening.  We had an 8 hours delay out of Salt Lake City to Atlanta, so we subsequently missed our connection to Jamaica. Delta was kind enough to provide overnight accommodations at a nice Marriott near the Atlanta airport. We fell into bed about 2 AM Saturday morning. Allen and Phyllis Stewart (Buddy's brother and wife) came to the airport to have lunch with us and to see us off.  It was so good to be with them. 

Allen gave us a copy of the book, Jesus the Christ that has accompanied 10 other missionaries from the Stewart family. Aunt Nelda (Buddy's aunt) gave this book to Allen when he left on a mission to Japan in 1975. Allen served in the Japan Nagoya Mission 1975-1977.  This special book has been passed on to the next missionary serving from our family. Allen to Ryan Crandall (Washington Spokane Mission 1994-1996), to Jeff Stewart (Russia Novosibirsk Mission 1995-1997), to Collin Stewart (Venezuela Valencia Mission 1998-2000), to Spencer Crandall (California Roseville Mission 2002-2004), to Cameron Stewart (Mexico Monterrey East Mission 2003-2005) to Emily Stewart (Chile Santiago East Mission 2005-2006) to Blake Stewart (Texas San Antonio Mission 2008) to Jessica Crandall (West Virginia Charleston Mission 2008-2009) to Aimee Beth Shortridge (Brazil Vitoria Mission 2011) to Richard and Deborah Stewart (Jamaica Kingston Mission 2016-2018). Quite a legacy.

20 August 2016 Atlanta Airport -  with Phyllis and Allen

Once we arrived in Jamaica, it took us extra time to get through customs because one of our pieces of luggage hadn't shown up. We had to file a report, but we found out luckily the bag just had not been put on the plane in Atlanta and would be delivered to us the next day. Once that was accomplished getting through Customs was no problem. We were relieved to see President and Sister Pearson (the Mission President and wife) still waiting for us. Wi arrived inna Jamaica! We had arrived in Jamaica. It was a very warm evening which we soon found to be typical for Jamaica. The Pearsons offered to take us to dinner. We were very hungry, so we gladly accepted the invitation and went to a very nice Chinese restaurant before going to the Mission Home.  

Sunday morning we travelled with the Pearsons to attend church at a branch in May Pen - about an hour west of Kingston. We had our first view of the beautiful Jamaican countryside. The building was very nice but not air conditioned, but I think we were the only ones affected by the heat.  I kept looking around thinking, Isn't anyone else hot? They didn't seem to be; so maybe there's truly hope that we'll eventually acclimatize like everyone keeps telling us. We enjoyed meeting and worshipping with the wonderful saints in this branch. We learned and renewed our understandings from the Sacrament talks, Sunday School lesson, and Relief Society and Priesthood lessons. 

After a nice lunch with the Pearsons, we loaded up our mission truck and drove to our new apartment. YES! Buddy drove! Since Jamaica was a British colony, they have retained the tradition of driving on the left side of the rode, and most vehicles have the steering wheels on the right side of the vehicle. He did a great job following Sister Pearson even with my constant, "Watch out! Curb!" He just kept saying, "This just feels wrong." Sister Pearson cautioned he would mistakenly turn on the windshield wipers thinking he was using the turn signal, and sure enough he did.

So here's our new home. It is a very nice fully furnished two bedroom, two bath apartment. Gratefully, it has great air conditioning units in each main room. I'm sure we will be very comfortable here.

 Front view of our apartment complex.  
We're on the ground floor. Our mission truck. 

A little courtyard at the side of our complex. 

The complex gazebo. Reggae music anyone?

The complex pool. 
We'll be trying it out soon.

Unfortunately, I've been dealing with a horrible cough since we left Atlanta. It's such a nuisance. I feel pretty crumby during the day and have not been sleeping well at night.  I hope it runs its course soon. Buddy's been very compassionate and thoughtful.  

Monday, August 22nd - A big Happy Birthday, to our #1 grandson, Zach, who turned 17 today. Today we ventured out to the Mission Office. It was quite an experience as we made our way through the busy streets of Kingston. We got a little lost, but my superb navigating and side-seat driving and Buddy's fearless driving finally got us to the office safely. We met the office staff and several elders who were there using the computers to email home. It's transfers week so there are elders and sisters leaving and new ones arriving. Special times for all.

Sister Pearson kindly accompanied us to MegaMart (similar to a small Walmart) for our first experience with grocery shopping. It was so helpful to have her along to advise us. Okay, ready for sticker shock? Our first Jamaican grocery bill was $42,530.20. And you thought your grocery bill was high! It's really not that bad when you convert from Jamaican to US dollars. 

We spent the afternoon and evening continuing to organize things in the apartment. Buddy began getting caught up on emails and becoming familiar with policies, procedures, and projects. We have a lot to learn, and we're thankful that no one is pressuring us to know it all right away. 

Tuesday, August 23rd - Today we decided to stay in the apartment for office work including some phone calls. It was also extremely hot out today, and with me not feeling all that great, it was a blessing to be able to stay in. 

August 14-18, 2016 MTC - Second Week

The Purpose of the Welfare Services department of the Church is "to relieve suffering and care for the poor and needy of all nationalities and religions."

We received so much information this week that it's a little hard to wrap our brains around it all, but it has been and will be helpful. We were so impressed by the responsibilities of the people who came to speak with us. All of them are managers or directors of their departments, so we got things right from the top. We appreciated their taking time to come train us.

To clarify, Welfare Services is sometimes called LDS Charities or Humanitarian Services.

There is a wonderful website that explains in details of What We Do, Why We Help, and Where We Work. www.ldscharities.org

From this website:
"Our humanitarian signature programs are built on the principles of personal responsibility, community support, self-reliance, and sustainability. We employ these principles even during times of critical aid and emergency response. Our efforts are designed to give individuals and communities the tools they need to improve their own circumstances in permanent and meaningful ways."
"We seek to align ourselves with partners that share our desire and commitment to meeting humanitarian needs around the world. By working with those organizations most capable of meeting the needs outlined in our various initiatives, we are able to put the donations we receive to the best use. By working with us, our partners are able to increase their impact through our funding and volunteer resources."

Monday: Five couples called to be Welfare Services missionaries in Bosnia, Vanuatu, Albania, Guatemala, and of course, Jamaica, went as a group to tour and receive training at Welfare Square in SLC. Wow! We then enjoyed a very nice luncheon up on the 10th floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. In the afternoon, we received more training about how all the pieces of Welfare Services work together and heard from the director of Emergency Response. Again, wow! It is astounding to hear all the myriad of things the Church does in the context of the gospel.

Tuesday: We were trained by a sister who is a program manager and analyst of some of the Major Initiatives. She helped us see how we fit in the overall scheme of things. Major Initiatives (or sometimes called Signature Initiatives) are the bigger projects that are headquartered in SLC. Our job will be to facilitate when a team of specialists comes to start-up, follow-up, etc. in our country. We learned the organizational structure from Church headquarters down to us. We talked a lot about serving as Ammon did.

Here’s a quick synopsis of Ammon’s mission to the Lamanites. (Nephites and Lamanites are the two groups of people in the Book of Mormon who inhabit North and South America from 600 B.C. to 400 A.D). Ammon (a Nephite) goes first to the land of Ishmael. He is captured by the Lamanites and taken before their king, Lamoni. Lamoni asks his purpose in straying so far from Nephite lands. When Ammon replies that he wants only to serve, the king, impressed, offers him one his daughters. Ammon refuses and offers to become a servant in the king's household, assisting others in caring for the king's flocks. When bandits attack, Ammon directs the others to encircle the flock so they will not scatter and confronts the bandits. Fellow servants tell him they will be killed if the bandits acquire any of the flock. As he is seemingly outnumbered, the thieves attack Ammon. From a distance he kills several with his sling and then in hand-to-hand combat cuts off the arms of every robber who attacks him. After this event, the king asks where Ammon has gone. He wants to thank him for his courage in saving the flock. The king is told Ammon is out feeding the king’s horses. Ammon does not seek recognition or praise. Ammon's defense of the king's flock convinces the servants and the king that he is favored by God, and they desire and ask to hear his teachings.

As Welfare Services missionaries we are not trying to go into a place and take over - thinking our western ways are always best. We also learned how the Church does not do give-aways except in the case of major disasters and when immediate aid is needed.

So simply, there are Major Initiatives and Area Initiatives. There are 6 major: wheelchairs, vision, newborn and maternal care, clean water, food production, and immunizations. (Bobby and Emily, I kept thinking of you as we learned about the Helping Babies Breath projects. I could picture you, Dr. Bobby, right in the forefront of such a project helping so many with your expertise in pediatrics with Emily right by your side.)

The Area projects are specific to a need in our country; many are already underway, or we will propose new ones. Worldwide 46% are medical projects. A couple of examples: in Jamaica we will continue working with the Jamaica Society for the Blind. Another is in the South Pacific islands where they are working with other (NGOs) nongovernment agencies on education, prevention, and treatment of diabetes. We did a practice case study about a proposed project for helping equip a clinic for treatment of foot sores, etc. on diabetic patients.

Wednesday: This morning we had a very interesting training session with the director of Family Services. He has a PhD in family counseling. (I thought of you, Collin. I know this is something you're interested in.) He had tons of information, was a lot of fun, and led us through a bit of a therapy session as we all struggle at varying degrees with the immensity of the work we will be doing. We watched the funniest, but oh-so-true video about marital relationships. It's called, "It's Not About the Nail." I need to check to see if it's on YouTube; it's priceless!

Thursday: We were trained on several nuts and bolts kinds of things land specifically how to use the Church Humanitarian System (CHaS) which is a data base and reporting system we will use to write up project proposals and to keep track of progress and budgets. During the whole proposal process, we will need to enter all types of pertinent data including all the who, what, when, where, and WHY. Once a project is approved, we use the same system to record all the plans, implementation, development, budget, pictures, evaluations, comments, etc. It's quite a process. (I thought of you, Tom, they're rolling out a new version this fall.) As far as budgeting, the amount of money for a project determines who exactly is involved in the approval process.

One of the biggest principles that was repeated over and over this week is that we are to be the helpers not the doers. We actually can make things much worse if we don't remember that.

I have so many good quotes and spiritual thoughts I'd love to share. Maybe I'll go back through all my notes and compile them, but then again, they probably wouldn't mean as much to anyone else. One I will share, "We need not always look to SLC for direction, instead we need to look into the handbook, into our hearts, and into heaven." I think this applies to any calling in the Church and really life in general. Look to heaven for guidance.

With every aspect of this training and all the multitude of world-wide welfare projects, I kept thinking of something each of our sons and daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law would do so well. I am so grateful for all of them.

Monday, August 15, 2016

August 8-13, 2016 MTC - First Week

August 9-13, 2016

I want to go back to record some things about our first week in the MTC. This blog not only serves as a way for us to share our experiences, but it is also a great way for us to keep a journal.
In the previous post, I mentioned watching an inspiring video Monday evening. It is of a devotional Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave on Christmas day here at the MTC in 2011, entitled, "The Character of Christ." I highly recommend viewing it; it is available on YouTube.

A few pictures from our first days at the MTC.

We received mail on our very first day at the MTC. 
Thanks, Paidan, Liam, and Faryn!

This photograph of baptisms taking place in some foreign land hangs in one of the hallways of the MTC. If you look closely you'll see some men with different tools in the left of the picture.  It appears they are poised and ready to fight off crocodiles or some such threat. Yikes!  

The rest of our week was a busy schedule of training meetings in small and large groups from 8 in the morning until about 4:30 each afternoon. We received training as all missionaries do to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ even though our primary assignment is as Welfare Service Missionaries. Throughout the week, we were taught how to use the manual on missionary service called Preach My Gospel as well as all the standard works of the Church: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, to help us prepare to be effective missionaries. 

We had wonderful instructors who were all young returned missionaries. They were so enthusiastic and motivated in every session. We were impressed and touched by their knowledge, expert teaching skills, and inspiring presentations. We ended the week with such love in our hearts for these fine young people and will be forever grateful for their dedication to the Lord. 

Tuesday evening we attended the weekly devotional with ALL of the young missionaries, senior missionaries, leaders, and teachers here at the MTC. It was an awe-inspiring sight as over 2700 elders and sisters filled the auditorium. The choir had over 1000 people in it. Jeff asked us later in a text if we sang "Called to Serve." I replied that, yes, we did, but I told him it was mostly that everyone else was singing; we were so overcome with emotion it was hard to sing. The special speaker for this devotional was Elder Neal L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He spoke about our charge to help the kingdom of God roll forth throughout the earth. He reminded us that a mission is not complicated, but it is also not easy.
     “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.” (Doctrine and Covenants 65:2)

On Wednesday and Thursday, along with continuing to learn from our instructors, we had two opportunities to role play as a missionary couple in the TRC - Teaching Resource Center. We were to use the various principles we had learned so far, and especially we were to listen to the Spirit to direct us to know what our "investigators" needed to be taught and to know how best to invite them to come unto Christ. It was a little scary at first, but amazingly, even though this was not a real teaching appointment, we could feel the presence of the Spirit and knew what we were teaching and discussing with them was truth. I told Buddy and others, that I felt so much love for the two people we taught even though we'll probably never see them again. 

We watched several short video clips from various talks and devotionals in our classes throughout the week.  One that we watched in a large group meeting is called, Because of Him. It can be found on YouTube or lds.org. Please watch it when you have a chance. It's less than 3 minutes, but oh my, it is powerful!

Friday was our last day with all the senior missionaries, with our district, and with our wonderful teachers.  In the morning , we heard from a couple who have served about 10 missions. They had some amazing stories. We also had another couple come in to speak to our district in our last small group meeting.  This couple has served 4 missions together. The brother had also served as a youth, and the sister had served another mission with her first husband who is deceased. They were so cute and eager to encourage us.  

In the afternoon, all the senior missionaries met together for one last large group meeting. At the end, it was sad to tell the others in our district good-bye. We are so grateful for all we were able to learn together in such a short amount of time. Our lives are truly changed. 

A few more pictures from the week:
Our name tags and daily planners
Doing laundry
Studying in our room
Our nice room at the MTC
The next two pictures were taken after our tour of Welfare Square in Salt Lake City. We went to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building downtown for a delicious luncheon and training meeting with several of the managers and other staff for the Church Welfare Department.
Salt Lake City Temple