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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday, March 26, 2017

 Rafting on the Rio Grande

As promised here are the details and some pictures from the river rafting trip we took this week. We had such a grand time lazily floating down the Rio Grande River on the north coast just west of Port Antonio with most of the other senior missionaries. The weather was perfect; it was warm, but there were fluffy clouds to periodically provide some shade. 

We began our day by meeting the other missionaries at the end point of the rafting adventure - which is right on the ocean. We purchased our tickets and then took a 30 minute taxi ride up river to the beginning point. Our taxi driver shared a little bit of the history of the area. Errol Flynn, the legendary swashbuckling movie star, who made Port Antonio his home, introduced the idea of rafting as an attraction. Prior to this, the rafts were used to transport produce, especially bananas, from the interior of the island. Torrential rains rushing down from the Blue Mountains feed the river. The taxi driver showed us a water depth indicator which went as high as 20 meters, and this was pretty far up on the bank.

We met our raft captain named Richards - a 69 year old who has been doing this for over 20 years, boarded our comfortable bamboo raft (we even had cup holders made out of bamboo), and started out on a beautiful, relaxing trip on the river in what we consider the most scenic part of the island. We were told the captains of the rafts start out by being the ones to bring the rafts back up river - a really difficult job - they pole back up just like they would going down river, but of course they're going against the current. After they've become more experienced they are allowed to captain the rafts. There are many captains, so they are on a waiting list and only get to do this when their number comes back up to the top of the list - about 2-3 times a week. It is a good source of income for them. Our taxi driver also works as a captain. He said that rafting is his gym!

Below is a map of the location of the river and the part we were on. You can see how lush the vegetation is in this part of the island. 

Left to right: 
Elder & Sister Brown from Illinois [Member and Leader Support (MLS) Missionaries], Sister Dennis from Jamaica [Self-Reliance/Pathway Missionary], Elder and Sister Chandler from upstate Washington, [Church Educational System (CES) Missionaries], Us, Elder and Sister Gotfredson from Utah [also MLS Missionaries].  President and Sister Pearson weren't able to join us, but they've taken this trip multiple times since this is their second mission here. 

The Browns - so you can see the full raft. 
Their captain was 77 and has been doing this for 60 years!

Taking a raft back up river. 

About mid-way, we stopped for lunch at Melanie's - a riverside restaurant for the rafters run by an amazing cook. She lives on the other side of the mountain, and she carries ALL of her equipment and the food here every day by herself. Another man sells drinks, so together they raft across the river to this place. She offers jerk chicken, red snapper (pictured below), and crayfish. Buddy had pre-ordered the crayfish and was disappointed to find they were finished (as they say here, which means she was all out.) Evidently, these craydads run about a pound - more like a small lobster. 

The ladies' and gents' room.

Too soon, we arrived back at the ocean and came to the end of this amazing trip. We'll definitely be doing this again! One of the workers said we should come back in the summer when the water is more calm. We told him we loved white-water rafting and had enjoyed the few little riffles. 

I've tried to insert a few videos; I hope they'll play for you. 

We hope spring has arrived at your house. Here in Jamaica there are only slight changes in the seasons. Compared to the heat when we arrived in August, the somewhat cooler weather especially in the evenings since December has been wonderful. The days are becoming warmer and the nights are not as cool, so summer is on its way, but we'll continue to enjoy the little bit cooler weather while we can. We were told last summer was exceptional hot; we hope that's the case, and that perhaps this summer won't be quite so hot. 

We celebrated Buddy's birthday by having a lovely dinner at a nice restaurant here in Kingston. It is a favorite place of ours, and all of the church visitors we host always put a trip to South Avenue Grill on the itinerary. It is an outdoor restaurant with great ambiance. One of the waitresses, Rita, has become a dear friend who always greets the women with hugs.

Happy 66th!

We were excited to receive the go ahead from our Area Welfare Manager to continue to the submission phase for one of our potential projects. We're now in the process of entering everything into the online system. We have another project ready to propose and hope we'll be able to get both underway very soon. 

Transfers took place this week; it's always an exciting time. I believe six of our wonderful missionaries left this time. One Jamaican elder has been waiting since we arrived in August to go to the Netherlands and was finally able to go begin his mission there. The rest returned honorably to their families. It's fun to receive pictures of their homecomings and to now keep in touch through Facebook. We welcomed five new missionaries - 3 sisters and 2 elders - hailing from Utah, Idaho, Hawaii, and Arizona. This week is Zone Conferences, so we'll get to be rejuvenated by the youthful energy and enthusiasm always present in any gathering of missionaries. 


I hope all the sisters reading this were able to watch the General Women's Session broadcast Saturday evening. If not, I encourage you to do so as soon as you can. I was inspired and uplifted by all the talks, and I particularly loved Sister Linda K. Burton's message. She shed a whole new light on the idea of being a certain woman as she expounded on the importance of this adjective when we consider the many meanings of the word certain - e.g. unquestionable, beyond doubt, sure, definite, unchallenged, etc. This truly is an incredible way to describe many women in the Bible. 
In just the following two examples, we can gain great insight if we think of certain in the way Sister Burton explained.
Luke 10:38
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
Luke 24:22
Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;

We are looking forward to hearing messages of inspiration and guidance from the First Presidency, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other General Authorities and General Officer of the Church during the upcoming sessions of General Conference. 

Click link below for live viewing time and options...

Until next week...all our love.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

For those of you who are still dealing with winter weather, 
just remember, spring will come eventually, 
you could come visit us in sunny-getting-warmer-every-day Jamaica. 
Notice the bamboo rafts? 
We're going rafting on the Rio Grande this week 
with some of the other senior missionaries. 
We'll be sure to post some pictures next week.

After being so busy for three weeks, it was nice to have a bit more time this week at the apartment office to get caught up. We were able to work on proposals for a couple of new potential projects. The process isn't really difficult, but it can be time consuming. We did have one long trip on Monday with stops in Linstead (central), Montego Bay (NW coast), and Mandeville (SW), and then
making a full circle back to Kingston.

During this trip, we took a large generator to West Haven Children's Home. This is the last big item to deliver there, so now we just need to finalize overseeing the installation of all the water tanks for the project to be complete. 

We were excited to see the laundry area cleared of the usual piles and piles of laundry.They're finally all caught up thanks to the new washing machines and water tanks. 

   Before                                          After
Newly installed water tanks for the laundry room.
On Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed attending the baptism of two fine men at May Pen. They actually both attend the Old Harbour Branch, but because that building does not have a font, the baptism was held in May Pen about 20 minutes away from Old Harbour. All the young missionaries from both towns were there; it's always a treat to be with them.




Stony Hill Road
Today we made one of my least favorite drives because of the rough, windy, narrow roads through the mountains, but one of the most beautiful drives because of the scenery to travel to Port Antonio on the NE coast. There has been a great deal of rain up in the mountains, and we saw several landslides and a lot of standing water. We attended all the regular meetings, and then we held a training for the members of the Branch Council. Under the direction of our Area Welfare Manager, Elder Acosta, we are training all 25 units' councils in the mission to help them create Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans. The Church has great resources for us to use including preparedness.lds.org (check it out). 

You know how sometimes people will post Pinterest "nailed it" or "failure"? Well, we had a Jamaican cooking failure. We tried our hand at rice and peas - so yummy made by other people - so yucky made by us! Yesterday at the grocery store, we ran into one of our dear Jamaican friends who works at the Mission Office. He was accompanying the two administrative office elders showing them what to buy, and then he was going to teach them to cook. We were lamenting our awful results, and he assured us he could teach us how to make the best rice and peas ever; we bet he can. Yay! Jamaican cooking lessons. We'll let you know how things turn out, and if we get really good at it, we might even cook something like this for you when we get back. 

Rice and peas with a Scotch bonnet on the top.  We've been warned to not puncture the Scotch bonnet.

From our study this week:

1 Nephi 19:18 "And I, Nephi, have written these things unto my people, that perhaps I might persuade them that they would remember the Lord their Redeemer."

What does it mean to remember the Lord?  

How do the scriptures help us remember Him?

President Henry B. Eyring taught, "We keep our covenant to remember Him every time we gather our families to read the scriptures. They testify of the Lord Jesus Christ, for that is the message and always has been of prophets. Even if children do not remember the words, they will remember the true Author, who is Jesus Christ" (Ensign, May 1998).

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Jamaica doesn't need to participate in Daylight Saving Time.
The sunrise and sunset times here vary only by a few minutes all year.
Interesting contrast.
We have been very busy with various events and activities the last three weeks. Since the last post, we've had three sets of visitors - the Cohoons, three brethren from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, and the McBrides from Canada. We also have been very involved with moving forward several humanitarian projects.

We were delighted to welcome all the Cohoons - Emily, Bobby, Landon, Eli, and Savannah - plus Bobby's parents, two brothers, a sister-in-law and four other kiddos - to Jamaica on February 22nd. It was so fun to see the look on Savannah's face when she saw us. For months we had talked on Face Time about them coming to see us, but until she saw us in person, I don't think she really understood. She certainly did NOT understand why we weren't getting back on the "cruiser" with them when it was time for them to leave. These good-byes are so hard, but we're grateful for every moment of these visits. 

Their ship docked in Montego Bay. After lots of hugs and happy tears, we loaded up in the big mission bus and drove a few miles up into the hills to give them a taste of Jamaican side roads and to let them enjoy the beautiful scenery. The kids especially loved seeing all the goats along the roads. We then drove right through downtown Montego Bay to also give them a look at a very busy, very crowded Jamaican city including all the vendors lining the streets. We then went to one of the nice beach areas called Doctor's Cave right on the main strip of Montego Bay. 

The night before the Cohoons arrived, we stayed in a hotel right across from the beach. We had an unexpected bonus of a fantastic steel drum band performance while we ate dinner out on the front veranda the night before. The band had 8 steel drums, bongos (large and small), a full drum set, and a bass guitar. They performed for an hour and a half, and they didn't just play the instruments, they danced the whole time while playing - what energy! It was so exciting. 

Positive Vibrations Steel Drum Band

Our picture is so dark, so I found a better one online.

The Cohoons arrived with all kinds of
goodies for us from the states in a huge
suitcase - thank you, thank you!
Couldn't get enough hugs.

Grandma surrounded by sweet ones.
We love you, Uncle Jake, even though you photo bombed our picture.

Brothers Poulson, Rich, and Hollist in front of the May Pen Chapel

The last week of February, we had the pleasure of hosting three wonderful men who are Church employees from Salt Lake City. They were here to conduct focus groups with youth, parents, and youth leaders to collect and analyze input about church materials for the youth. The leader of the group works in the Research Department. The other men work in the Priesthood - Family Department; one as a Product Manager and the other as an Audience Manager. 
They had fun-loving, outgoing personalities. It was great getting to know them and all about their young families. We often heard, my wife would love seeing this; my kids would be amazed by that. We enjoyed sharing some of the sites, sounds, and food of Jamaica as best as we could in the three days they were here. They appreciated learning about the people and the culture of Jamaica. They commented that they broke all the rules and guidelines they'd been given about foreign travel, e.g. eating the local foods, etc. Buddy teased with one of them calling him the "Woodchipper" as he consumed more than his fair share of sugar cane purchased at a road-side stand on one of our drives through a beautiful gorge up in the mountains outside of Kingston. Just as we have been, they were impressed by the friendliness of Jamaicans and by the spirituality and commitment to the Gospel of the members they met. 

Our humanitarian work continues at a quick pace as we are in the process of writing proposals for two more projects and gathering information for others. The steps to writing a proposal are complex, but the program we use - Church Humanitarian Systems (ChaS)- takes us step by step through the process, so now that we have had more experience it's not too overwhelming. We complete all the steps as concisely as possible and then send a detailed written proposal to the Area Welfare Manager, Elder Acosta in the DR. He goes over all the details including the budget; if it is complete and he approves of the project, he then submits the proposal to the Area Presidency for final approval. We appreciate the thoroughness of the process and the seriousness shown for the stewardship over the Lord's sacred funds. There are so many needs here in Jamaica and all over the world. Not all needs can be met, but many, many can be and are because of the generous contributions of so many. 
Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church, 1995-2008, once said, "I repeat that the Church is frequently spoken of as an institution of great wealth. When all is said and done, the Church is wealthy only in the faith of its people." It truly is the faith of the saints that allows humanitarian missions like ours to 1) relieve suffering, 2) foster self-reliance for people of all nationalities and religions, and 3) provide opportunities for service. 
Sample emergency hygiene kit

Elder and Sister McBride from Canada, Member Welfare Specialists for the Caribbean, came to spend another week here in Jamaica just as they did last December. They were here to follow up on several potential Member Welfare Projects for food production - e.g. chickens, bees, goats, pigs, and gardening. Their month-long travels this time took them to Haiti, Cayman, Bahamas, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic. Phew! I'd be exhausted. We continue to learn so much from them about the process for these worthy projects. We share in their excitement as many of the projects here in Jamaica have come to the point of proposal submission. Their proposals go directly to their manager in Salt Lake City. We serve as the In-Country Coordinators for these projects after approval. We take care of purchasing all materials for construction and repair of coops or pens, livestock, feed, tools, seeds, fertilizer, etc. We then give continual support to the priesthood leaders and project members.
McBrides visiting family for potential chicken project
Two of our sweet sister missionaries teaching a familyat a site for a potential bee project

This week we participated in a wonderful Closing Ceremony for the successful completion of this humanitarian project at the Smart Start Basic School in Linstead. Jamaicans enjoy ceremonies and parties to celebrate successes of all kinds. Several members of the school board and supporting priesthood leaders gave inspirational messages of gratitude and recognition of the progress of this great little school. We have loved working on this project and will continue our relationship with Sister Walker, the principal, and all her staff. Sister Walker's son, Claron, recently received his mission call to serve in the Dominican Republic. His older sister, Jodee, served a mission here in Jamaica and now is one of the teachers at the school. 

Our dear, eternal friend, Sister Jennifer Walker,
Principal and Owner of school
Former Jamaica Kingston Mission President, Kenneth Brown

Jodee Walker, returned missionary, teacher at school

Claron Walker, recently received mission
call to serve in the Dominican Republi

Pictures below show some of the things donated by LDS Charities. 

Educational toys, tables, and chairs

Partitions built by parent and branch member volunteers

Teachers' desks

Much needed fans
Enjoying lunch and treats after the ceremony -
love the fun beaded hairstyles

Jacob 2:18-19
But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. 
And after you have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good - to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.

All our love.