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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Our week was spent working mostly in our apartment office. We had a great deal of correspondence to take care of, so fortunately we had time to do that and to accomplish further planning and research on current and potential projects. 

This week Elder Claude R. Gamiette, an Area Seventy, came to visit the mission. Elder Gamiette resides in Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe with his wife and five children. He has been a full-time employee of the Church since 2006 working as a coordinator for Seminaries and Institutes in the West Indies. He was named a member of the Fourth Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 6, 2013. His focus is Self-Reliance. 

We had the opportunity to council with him one-on-"two" for about an hour to ask him a few questions and to receive inspirational guidance specific to our humanitarian responsibilities which often are in a close relationship with self-reliance work here. Elder Gamiette is a very kind, enthusiastic, spiritual man of God. We felt very blessed to have this time with him. 

On Saturday, Elder Gamiette presided over a meeting with all the Kingston Stake priesthood and auxiliaries leadership and full-time missionaries serving in the Kingston area. Elder Gamiette began by sharing his thought that this could be an historical meeting or just another meeting. The difference is what we would do after the meeting. This is a true principle; application is key.

It was uplifting and enriching to experience his remarkable teaching methods as he helped us as individuals and as a group discover valuable tools to improve our personal scripture study, to enhance our understanding of gospel doctrine and principles, and to improve our teaching. With this increased knowledge and additional tools in our toolbox, we are better prepared to share the good news of the gospel with others, so that they too may come unto Christ. Even though, as Welfare Services missionaries we are not called to formally proselyte, we are are always emissaries of Jesus Christ to the people of Jamaica. 

Today, we attended the the branch in Old Harbour which is about 35 minutes from Kingston. Once again, we were called upon to be the main speakers in Sacrament Meeting. We appreciated the opportunity to share brief messages and especially our testimonies with our new friends in the gospel. 

We have a busy week ahead and eagerly look forward to opportunities to serve others as we continue our charge to relieve suffering and care for the poor and needy of all nationalities and religions.  

Be sure to check our blog next week. We have some very special visitors coming in on a cruise. We are excited that we'll be able to spend the day with Carly and Kegan and two other couples on Friday. I'm sure we'll have pictures to post of our day of adventures - maybe even Jamaican bobsledding - Can't wait!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017

 2 Nephi 2:11 "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things."

We took this picture the other day when we were out and about here in Kingston. We thought it was such an interesting contrast between the razor wire and the beautiful rainbow. 

The weather has been so nice lately - really since before Christmas. We still need to run the A/C in the room we’re in most of the time in the house, but at least it’s not the stifling heat that greeted us in August. The day time temperatures are lower, and in the evening it is quite pleasant outside. We were out walking out in the parking lot of our apartment complex on one of the cooler evenings lately, and our young friend who works as the complex guard/handyman in the evenings was all bundled up. He was worried we would be cold. “You need a pullover, mon.” Nope, we were fine and enjoying the cooler temperature.

This week we had the opportunity to visit a very special charitable facility in Spanish Town – the Mustard See Jerusalem Centre. We were there to introduce ourselves as the new LDS humanitarian missionaries. Our predecessors told us of the great relationship LDS Charities has had with this organization for many years, but this was our first visit there due to the director’s schedule. She is a lovely, compassionate, intelligent woman who is very dedicated to the residents and staff.

Here’s some information from their website we used in our write up about our visit.

In 1978, Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon started Mustard Seed Communities (MSC) in response to a disturbing trend on the streets of Jamaica: the abandonment of children with disabilities on sidewalks, empty lots and even trash cans by families so marginalized and impoverished that they could not afford another mouth to feed. Monsignor Gregory decided to do something about it. He came across some unused land and gathered some friends and financial support to begin building a home for a handful of the children who had been living on the streets of Kingston. So began the first Mustard Seed Community.

Today, MSC provides residential care to over 400 children and adults in 13 homes across Jamaica. The populations they care for comprise the most vulnerable groups in Jamaican society: children and adults with disabilities, children affected by HIV/AIDS, and young mothers in crisis. MSC also manages a number of community outreach programs to combat poverty and malnutrition, and to provide targeted education to local populations. These Caring, Sharing, and Training programs not only take place in Jamaica, but in also in Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. 

Their vision is to create a loving and caring environment to aid in the physical, mental, and spiritual development of the residents. At the same time, they strive to uplift and empower the surrounding communities through outreach initiatives inspired by the principles of sharing and training.

The center's 135 year old chapel. 

As we drove through the gates, we were impressed by the inviting appearance. Buddy commented that it felt like an island of hope in the middle of the surrounding community which has a history of some pretty violent times. There are ±140 residents ages 8-47 living at this location which is on 13 acres.

One of the administrative staff took us on a tour of the whole facility. We visited the farm which is quite a flurry of activity of food and animal production. They eat the food they produce and sell whatever they don’t use. They have broiler chickens, laying chickens, goats, sheep, and two fish ponds. They also have a productive garden.

Here's the center's billy goat gruff. Our tour guide told us she's afraid of him; evidently he's mean. 

We were able to walk through the nursery, the boys’ and girls’ dorms, and The Village – which are adorable little cottages that house small groups of residents who can care for some of their own personal needs. We saw an open-air activity area and an enclosed area where those with hyperactivity or severe autism can safely participate in activities.

On the day we were there, a group of about 30 students who are studying neurology and occupational and physical therapy from the University of Rhode Island were also visiting. They were in the activity area and out on the grounds interacting in various ways with the residents. We were told church and school groups from all over the world come to this and others locations of their facilities quite often on mission trips to do volunteer work.

We will be in close contact to ascertain needs and explore ways we can possibly help out in the future. We were told we could come back any time to visit or to help with the residents’ daily activities. We look forward to doing that very soon.

Friday through Sunday we were in Montego Bay for project work. We were busy purchasing water tanks with all the necessary hardware and beds and mattresses for the West Haven Children’s Home. It is very rewarding to be a small part of this process. We get to interact with wonderful people who are generous and caring. We were fortunate to have the Montego Bay Branch President and Elders Quorum President accompany us for these purchases. As I mentioned last week, they have been amazing about sharing their time and efforts to make this project successful. They both are longtime residents of the Montego Bay area and are very well known and respected. They know the best places to get good quality and good deals.

We attended Sacrament Meeting at the Montego Bay Branch and actually ended up speaking. The Branch President asked us on Saturday if he could call on us in case the speakers were not there; we of course said yes. He wanted us to focus on the youth. When he asked us, I immediately had two phrases from two hymns come to my mind: “Shall the youth of Zion falter?” (Hymns, number 254) and “Blessed honored, Pioneer” (Hymns, number 36). These two lines were the foundation for my remarks. Youth here as everywhere are in need of encouragement and recognition. Buddy also followed the Spirit and used a flying story to create an analogy of the struggles youth face. It’s such a blessing that the Holy Ghost can give us continual inspiration and direction when we seek it.

Not only were we busy with the humanitarian project this weekend, but we also took the medical calls for the mission while President and Sister Pearson were off island visiting the branch in Cayman. We had a situation come up which necessitated phone communication with the mission doctor who resides in Dominican Republic, but fortunately everything turned out to be okay. Our amazing Office Elders and Zone Leaders were so attentive and helpful. We love these missionaries so much and fervently pray for their health and safety every day. We know millions of other people are also praying for them. Thank you.

We are grateful for the diverse and interesting experiences we are having here. At least once a week, we look at one another and say, "We're in Jamaica!" It's still sometimes surreal that this is where the Lord called us to labor, and that we have already been here for over 5 months. While Jamaica and this type of a mission were not on our radar so to speak, we constantly recognize how many things in our lives in and out of our church service prepared us to do exactly what we're doing. We have a strong testimony that mission calls are truly inspired.

Thank you for your continuing love and support.