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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

We started our week making a day-long trip to Montego Bay to complete some purchases for the project at West Haven Children's Home and to make a quick visit there - the home of some of our favorite extraordinary people in Jamaica. We were excited to see the new beds set up and in use. These beds were so needed; we are happy LDS Charities could provide them. 

Old beds

New beds for the boys' room

New beds for the girls' room
The installation of the 4 new water tanks was delayed because heavy-duty and higher platforms are needed to hold the larger tanks. The plans are all figured out now, and work has begun.

Final check of plans and materials.

Monday evening, 
we had a wonderful Family Home Evening at the Mission Home with most of the other senior missionaries. (We missed not having the Browns and Sister Dennis with us.) Everyone brought something made with pumpkin for the dinner. Admittedly, we were a little worried about not liking all the dishes; we haven't been known as pumpkin connoisseurs. We were pleasantly surprised by the delicious, nutritious pumpkin soup made by the Pearsons; the yummy, moist pumpkin bread made by the Gotfredsens; the clever, tasty macaroni and cheese with pumpkin made by the Chandlers; the delectable, betcha'-can't-eat-just-one pumpkin dinner rolls also made by the Chandlers. We even enjoyed our contribution - a luscious, calorie-ridden pumpkin torte.

You're right, this isn't an actual picture of our torte,
but no kidding, ours looked just as appealing. 
We truly relished the time we had around the dinner table, full as could be, to discuss the multitude and variety of experiences we're all having as we serve in our various capacities. We were also able to set the dates for a few senior outings in the near future. There are many interesting things to do and see here in Jamaica, and it's fun to share these events with others. Because there are so many activities and sites to enjoy and limited times to get together, many of the attractions we'll take in as individual couples. For example, I am so anxious to tour some of the Great Houses (old plantation homes) located around the island. Top on our list is Rose Hall, a Georgian mansion built in the 1770s. We've enjoyed reading about the history of this and other grand old manors. Rose Hall even has a spooky legend about one of the residents of the home. We'll be sure to post more pictures when we finally take the tour.


We made a follow-up visit to a basic school here in Kingston. This preschool was one of the first places we went to discuss a potential project. There was some miscommunication; we thought the school had closed, and the director thought we weren't able to help so hadn't gotten back to us since our last visit. We have certainly learned a lot since then, and we hope now to be able to partner with parents and members of the community to help with some much needed improvements. 

We closed out the week by attending a baptism in the Spanish Town 1st Ward. A young girl was baptized by one of the elders. She is part of an active family in the ward, and we could feel the joy of the other family members as they witnessed this sweet little girl make these eternal covenants and begin her journey back to Heavenly Father. Her auntie (who is actually the same age) was baptized just a few weeks ago. She bore her sweet young testimony of the special feeling she had when she entered the water to be baptized. That's how it all begins. Now line upon line, precept upon precept, these darling young girls will learn more and more about their divine nature as daughters of God - paraphrasing President Uchtdorf - to prepare for a future greater than anything they can imagine.

Look at those great smiles!

We attended church at the Yallahs Branch today. Yallahs is about 25 miles to the SE of Kingston. The trip didn't seem nearly as long or bumpy as the first time we drove there. We're evidently becoming accustomed to the travel conditions here. It was great to be back with these fine saints we met several months ago. One of the young elders serves diligently as the Branch President; he's doing a fantastic job. We were asked to speak 
as is often the case; we're fine with that. At first we thought we were both going to speak, but it ended up just being me. Once again, I was blessed by the Spirit to be able to spontaneously and coherently share a few thoughts from my recent study in 1 Nephi 5:10-22 about the blessing and importance of the scriptures preserving the word of God.

The amazing Yallahs Branch elders honorably representing their home towns of Rigby and Boise, Idaho; Ogden and Cedar City, Utah. 

We are so excited to welcome Emily, Bobby, Landon, Eli, and Savannah to Jamaica on Wednesday. Several other members of Bobby's family will be joining in the fun we plan to have that day. We hope to share typical Jamaican countryside, culture, and food and to spend time at the beach. I'm sure we'll have a lot of pictures to share next week.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Some of our plans changed early in the week, so we didn’t think we'd be traveling much around the island, but actually we ended up spending quite a bit a time on the road. I believe I mentioned last week, we like to listen to General Conference talks, audio books, and such as we travel. This week as in times past we used the time to listen to, study, and discuss the Sunday School Lesson for the week. This week's lesson is entitled, "I Will Tell You in Your Mind and in Your heart, by the Holy Ghost." We had such good discussions of the glorious blessing of personal revelation. We particularly always enjoy the quotes of latter-day prophets and apostles in these Sunday School lessons.  

Such as:
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve taught: “Visions do happen. Voices are heard from beyond the veil. I know this. But these experiences are exceptional. … Most of the revelation that comes to leaders and members of the Church comes by the still, small voice or by a feeling rather than by a vision or a voice that speaks specific words we can hear. I testify to the reality of that kind of revelation, which I have come to know as a familiar, even daily, experience to guide me in the work of the Lord” (“Teaching and Learning by the Spirit,” Ensign, Mar. 1997, 14).

We found a comment made in Sunday School today especially helpful. Each of us needs to learn how the Holy Ghost reveals things to us. Of course, we receive revelation and answers to our seeking in different ways and feelings depending on the situation, the stage of life we’re in, and the need, but it’s extremely important for us to personally know, for example what a YES is like to us, or a NO for that matter.

We’re glad to report that Collin’s back surgery went well, and his recovery is going okay. When we’ve talked with him, he expressed how good going back to work sounded. We’ve probably all had times of illness or injury when we were bed-ridden or house-bound. Even though the thought of not having to do the usual daily routine might sound nice, it sure gets old quickly. Collin is a very conscientious teacher and expressed multiple times how much he missed being with his students. They’ve had so much snow and ice this winter there in Idaho that Collin really couldn’t go outside to take short walks. He said he has read several books and has watched a lot of little girl movies with the twins, Paislee and Jaidree. They have been great at keeping their daddy company and taking good care of him while the older two girls and Megan were gone. 
Who wouldn't want these darlings as care-givers?

We pray Collin will be back to 100% physical activity soon – just in time for spring.

Speaking of spring, we have no idea whether or not good ol’ Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this year on Groundhog Day. It doesn’t really matter; it’s always summer weather in Jamaica. Today is actually fairly cool, and there’s been a light rain falling all day. It almost – for just a fleeting moment – felt like home in early fall or late spring. Usually when it rains here, it is a real gully-washer with flooding in all the streets, but today it’s been more like a Washington rain. There are actually gullies all over the cities and the countryside to try to handle the downpours. Unfortunately, sometimes these are used for trash or become overgrown with vegetation aggravating the flooding.

Our time on the road this week was mainly two trips. We went to Savanna-La-Mar to take care of a business matter at a hardware store for the purchase of more materials for chicken coops. It was a long drive (about 7 hours round trip) for a transaction that only took about 30 minutes, but that’s okay – it’s done and now the progress can continue for this worthwhile project. On Friday evening, we went on an errand-of-mercy to Mandeville to deliver some medication to a sick elder. The drive to Mandeville usually takes only about 2 hours, but late afternoon and evening traffic n Fridays is horrendous getting out of Kingston. It took us 1 1/2 hours to just get to main road outside of Kingston. We were glad though to be able to help; we’re always willing to do anything we can for these wonderful young missionaries. Mandeville is up in the mountains to the west, so it’s usually cool there in the evenings. It was a gorgeous night with a beautiful full moon, so it was mostly an enjoyable drive. I just get a little tense when we’re on some portions of the mountain roads at night. Let’s just say, sometimes the other drivers aren’t quite as cautious as I think they should be.

Actual satellite view of some of the roads we often travel. From the right side of this picture to the left, there's an over 2000 foot change in elevation.
Lots of lower gears and braking! 

Elder Julio C├ęsar Acosta, Area Seventy
We were able to have an hour long Skype session with the Area Welfare Manager in the DR. We always enjoy talking with him and receiving enlightening and inspirational council. We have a new assignment in connection with our other humanitarian responsibilities. We are to organize and present Emergency Preparedness and Response trainings for all 25 units in the mission. This is a big undertaking, but we know as we seek the Lord’s guidance and help we will be blessed and be successful in disseminating very crucial information to the units to help them create and implement sustainable plans in case of disaster. Even though this will be a lot of work, we look forward to meeting with the representative from each unit and sharing this time of learning and council with them.

We’re counting the days until the arrival of Emily’s family on the 22nd. They’re cruising with many of Bobby's family, and one of the ports is Montego Bay, so we’ll get to spend a great day with them. Can’t wait!

It's hard to be so far away from all our loved ones, but we are so grateful for technology that allows us to stay in touch screen-to-screen. The extra, extra special bonus of in-person visits is definitely like the cherry on top.

All our best – until next week…

Isaiah 12:5-6

5 Sing unto the Lord, for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.

6 Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.

Romans 8:28

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.