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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sunday, December 25, 2016

We hope everyone enjoyed Christmas day. Having Christmas on a Sunday is always extra special. We attended a wonderful Sacrament Meeting with combined Constant Spring Ward and Boulevard Ward here in Kingston. We then went to a lovely luncheon at the Stake Patriarch's home. Every year he and his wife graciously host a luncheon on Christmas day for all the missionaries in Kingston. They have a beautifully landscaped backyard with an amazing variety of Jamaican plants.


 Crown of Thorns plant

In the picture above, the Mission President is taking pictures of a most beautiful hummingbird called the Doctor Bird, Jamaica's national bird. We saw it several times. This was our first time to see one in the wild
   (Can't take credit - this is a Google image.)



Our "work" this week was mostly devoted to cooking and serving Christmas dinner to all the missionaries in the Jamaica Kingston Mission. Even the off island missionaries serving in Turks & Caicos and the Bahamas were flown in for the special Christmas feast. The senior missionaries divided the cooking responsibilities and cooked for all four days, but we took turns serving at the mission home to serve 2 of the 4 daysOver the four days, we personally made 7 baked hams and 12 lbs. of frozen corn. We used 8 bags of small carrots, 12 cucumbers, 4 heads of celery, 6 cans of olives, 4 bunches of broccoli, and about 24 tomatoes. I made 5 - 9"x13" pans of a strawberry pretzel dessert (I heard several, "Oh, yay, my mom makes that."), and on the last day I added a crock pot full of sweet basil carrots. We also took a big tin of those yummy European fancy cookies and candy canes each day. Other senior missionaries made baked chicken, funeral potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, brownies, banana pudding, spritz cookies, Jamaican Christmas cake, and we had a local sister bake tons of rolls. Every day was quite a feast; there were few if any leftovers each day.

The missionaries shared musical numbers, played Christmas games, and just all around enjoyed being in the comfortable homey setting. As they left, missionaries were given their gifts from home with instructions not to open until Christmas. We love being with these young people; they are incredible.



Everything went very smoothly all four days - well, except on the very first day I dropped the strawberry dessert just as I was taking it out of our refrigerator! The inside of the frig, the freezer, and the floor were covered in sticky strawberry topping. Luckily, the pan landed flat, right side up, and I had enough extra topping to fix it. But what a mess. Our refrigerator and freezer are cleaner than ever now inside, outside, and under.



The Area Welfare Manager for the humanitarian work we do here in Jamaica lives in the Dominican Republic. He sent the above as a Christmas card (although his was in Spanish). We loved it and wanted to share the beautiful sentiment with you. Truly the greatest gift we can give to Jesus is to partake of the Sacrament, and as we do so truly remember and reflect on our Savior's great atoning sacrifice. 

Our prayer on this Christmas evening is that we can all hold on to the memories of this glorious Christmas time and continue to share the "glad tidings of great joy" with all of God's children throughout the coming year. 

We bear our solemn testimony that Jesus was the precious babe of Bethlehem and is the resurrected Lord, the Prince of Peace. 



Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday - December 18, 2016

Mormon 5:23 says, “Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that He hath all power?”
Every day we recognize the hand of God in everything we do personally and in our missionary work. We truly can witness, Yes, we know. We strive daily to invite the hand of God to direct us. As we do so, we are blessed beyond measure.

“Hands are one of the symbolically expressive parts of the body. In Hebrew, yad, the most common word for hand, is also used metaphorically to mean power, strength, and might. Thus hands signify power and strength…
“To be in the hands of God would suggest that we are not only under His watchful care but also that we are guarded and protected by His wondrous power.
(Taken from a talk by Elder W. Craig Zwick of the Seventy, October 2003)

Once a month, the senior missionaries get together for Family Home Evening. This month we had a big task to undertake, but before we began our Santa’s Workshop, we had a lesson entitled, “The Spirit of Christmas.”  It was our turn to do the lesson, and we chose a portion taken from an address President Monson delivered at the First Presidency Devotional in 1992. We created a Readers’ Theater lesson so everyone could participate. It was very touching and tears were shed as many of the parts were read aloud because everyone was feeling the love of and for our Savior, the babe of Bethlehem.  Emotions are tender at this time of year as we are all away from our loved ones, but we are so grateful to be able to enjoy these “mission family” times together.

Our task as Santa’s elves was to wrap ALL the presents sent to the young elders and sisters.  We had so much fun, and before long we had the room filled with colorfully wrapped gifts. Many families included extra gifts for other missionaries – so thoughtful. All the gifts will be handed out this week at the four Zone Christmas Dinners.  Even the “off island” missionaries are flying in for this special event. The senior missionaries have planned an amazing Christmas dinner for each night and a little entertainment too. The companionships of the young missionaries will come prepared to share songs too.  We’re looking forward to four wonderful nights of good food and great company.

Our humanitarian work this week took us up to the north coast to Montego Bay again to pick up the Branch President and Elder’s Quorum President for them to accompany us to visit a children’s home.  We drove about 8 miles – although it seemed much farther - way up into the mountains near Montego Bay to an area called Copse. It was such a beautiful drive that we didn’t mind the bumpiness of some of the roads. We were warmly welcomed by the directors, staff, and some of the young residents of the Westhaven Children’s Home. Westhaven was started in 1981 by a group of concerned citizens headed by Mrs. Gloria Veira, who through her work with the Family Court and Children services, became aware of the extent of neglect, abuse and lack of love suffered by children who have some form of mental or physical disability. The first cottage was opened in 1991. There are now five fully operational cottages that house 99 children and adults (4 years – 37 years). We toured the facility and were impressed by the well-maintained appearance of the cottages and grounds. We had some instant friends as some of the children followed us on our tour.  Over the years, members from the Montego Bay Branch have done many acts of kindness and service at this facility.  At the present time, there are NO working washing machines. The Relief Society sisters of the branch went to the facility on the International Day of Service and spent the whole day washing load and loads of laundry BY HAND!  We are already in the process of drafting a proposal for a project and hope to be able to provide some much needed items as well as continual volunteer service by members of the branch.


We visited the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay on Friday morning. A vision project providing training and equipment was completed here in 2006, and we had been asked by the specialists in Salt Lake to do an evaluation survey as a follow up. This was our first experience being inside a hospital here. We were not able to meet with the doctors who were there at the time of the project, but we were able to speak with the new head of the ophthalmology unit so we could complete our objectives.

We stopped for about an hour on Friday morning to sit in on the North Coast Zone meeting being held at the Montego Bay Chapel. Once again we enjoyed listening to the missionaries teach one another and share uplifting stories and support. We gave them some Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses – yummy - and then we were on our way.

We arrived back in Kingston just in time to freshen up and put on our as-Christmasy-as-we-can-get clothes, grab the small candy canes we had purchased, and then head over to the Constant Spring Chapel for a ward Christmas dinner. We placed the candy canes on all the tables, and in no time they were devoured by the children – well okay, a lot of adults, too. Yes, I guess I’m a bit of a Christmas candy pusher. The committee of sisters had prepared so much delicious Jamaican food; no one went away hungry. There were huge pots of rice and peas (a Jamaican staple – we would say rice and beans), baked and jerk chicken, baked ham, breadfruit salad (made like a potato salad), potato salad, baked plantain, and green salad. Of course, there was plenty of sorrel to drink. Sorrel is a traditional Caribbean festive beverage made from the petals of the sorrel plant with added cinnamon, ginger, etc. Most Jamaicans like their sorrel with lots of ginger.


We had such a good time fellowshipping with the members, visitors, and other missionaries. We were even entertained by some of the young men in the ward performing dubstep dancing to Christmas music; they were good!

Saturday, we spent – no kidding – at least 6 hours shopping for all the items we volunteered to prepare for the Christmas dinners for the zones. We even drove to a grocery store in the neighboring city of Portmore; it's the only place we’ve found Cool Whip. We’re taking baked ham with 4 choices of glazes, veggie trays, corn, the yummy strawberry pretzel dish that some call a salad, but I call a dessert, and some fancy cookies.  Others will provide rolls, stuffing, chicken and gravy, potatoes, cooked carrots, green bean casserole, and beverages.  We have quite an American traditional feast planned for these young missionaries; they deserve every bite! As senior missionaries, we’re all cooking our items for all four nights and serving two of the nights. Actually, Buddy and I really want to be there every night. We love being with the missionaries. I have a fun sing-along of “Must Be Santa” prepared with props and all.

Today we attended the Kingston Branch which is in downtown Kingston. We now have only 4 more branches to attend and we will have attended all the wards and branches on the island.  Then we’ll start all over and attend again whenever or wherever we are needed. Unfortunately, Buddy started feeling very sick right after Sacrament Meeting, so we came on home. Good thing we did too; it wasn’t long before he lost his breakfast. He's been running a low temp and has chills, but after resting for a while he’s feeling a little better. We hope this is just a quick episode. We don’t have time to be sick.


We hope this last week before Christmas will be joyous for you and all your loved ones.  Many of you are guaranteed a white Christmas, and some of us are seeing palm trees strewn with festive Christmas lights. Either way, it is a most wonderful time of the year as even the unbelievers may take some extra time to enjoy family and friends, and the believers in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ celebrate “the reality of his matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice” (The Living Christ). 

May we always share the Savior’s light and love with those around us.

 From our hearts, Merry Christmas!