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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

One of our great feats this week was avoiding the sights and sounds of Carnival Sunday as we came home from church today. We had seen posters all over the city about Bacchanal this week, but we didn't know what this was all about. There are always posters around advertising this or that festival or concert. Yesterday, someone explained to us it was CARNIVAL week - much like in South America. It's actually a celebration in honor of Bacchus - the god of wine - so you can imagine. We saw some very fancy and scanty, we might add, Mardi Gras-type costumes in a department store window but hadn't connected it all together until yesterday. (You'll appreciate our choosing to not add any pictures. Yikes!) Today was the parade. We checked the parade route last night and found that our usual way home was part of the route. We saw people setting up this morning as we left for church, but we expected it all to be over by the time we got back. We attended church in Linstead and got back into Kingston about 2:00 to find that we could not take our usual route home. As is often the case with parades, everything was running late, so we used some creative navigating and found a way around it. Our Jamaican friend who had explained to us what was going on said she was praying the parade would be rained out. She doesn't like all the immodesty and craziness associated with the celebration either - especially, she said, not on Sunday. 

Our work kept us in Kingston again this week. We were able to accomplish quite a bit with many of our potential projects throughout the island and with our current projects here in Kingston. 

Early in the week, we picked up 62 cases of toothpaste from a local distribution company. These tubes of toothpaste are to replace the expired ones in our big emergency container. 
Loading dock at the distributors.
Our truck came in very handy this week.

We delivered several folding canes for specific recipients to the Jamaica Society for the Blind. We had the privilege of meeting and personally presenting a cane to one of the recipients. What a delightful and humble man he is. He expressed his appreciation
 to the Lord for watching over all blind people throughout the world. 
Left to right: Ms. Wallace who trains people to use the canes and to cook;
 Harris, Director of JSB; 
Mr. Gardner, a happy recipient of a new cane;
and of course, Elder Stewart

This is the computer training room at the Jamaica Society for the Blind.
Clients learn to use the computers with the aid of screen reader software. A screen reader provides information in two main formats. The first format is a voice output which users can listen to via the computer's speaker. This voice output lets the user hear the highlighted text and the keys they press. That is the format being used in these pictures. Screen readers can also provide a Braille translation of the text on the screen. 

Later in the week, we purchased and arranged for the delivery of several items for the project at the preschool here in Kingston we've mentioned before. They were so excited to receive materials for some small improvements and new much-needed appliances. 

 Materials for the new more secure kitchen door and door frame.

The delivery men couldn't fit the stove through the front door,
so over the wall it went.
 Already enjoying some cool air from the fans.

It works beautifully!

Some young boys were playing soccer in the 
"playground" across from the preschool. 
I enjoyed watching them and asked if I could take a short video. 
"Yes, Ma'm," was their instant and very respectful reply. 
They were so cute. Boys seem to play the same all over the world. 

Getting brave in my old age - I drove myself to a hair appointment.
I was fine, but I think Buddy worried the whole time. 
I actually enjoyed the drive and the confidence boost.
(We had a different truck for a few days while ours was having running boards installed - Yay!

President and Sister Pearson are on the island of Grand Cayman this weekend for a branch conference. So far, it's been a quiet weekend in regards to calls about illness or injury. I pray it stays that way for all our wonderful missionaries. 

We are looking forward to a special event this coming weekend. Elder Martinez of the Caribbean Area Presidency and Elder Stephen Owen, Young Men General President and their wives are coming to visit the mission. We are invited to a training on Saturday. We understand the training's focus is on teaching Young Single Adults about the law of chastity. We're sure we'll receive valuable, inspiring instruction.

Elder Hugo E. Martinez and Sister Nuria M. Martinez 
Elder Stephen W. Owen and Sister Jane Owen

A young, returned missionary sister whose family we've come to know and love spoke in the Linstead Ward where we attended today. Her final comment was that  there is nothing sweeter than the Gospel in her life. It is our prayer we too may always find the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be sweet in our lives and in the lives of all our loved ones. 

We solemnly testify that we know God is our Heavenly Father and He loves us. We know that His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer. We know that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God. He restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth and translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God. We know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's Church on the earth today. We know that this Church is led by a living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, who receives revelation. 

Until next week, our love to all...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017

 Happy Easter from beautiful Jamaica. 
 These gorgeous palm trees and the crown of thorns shrubs 
are right here in our apartment complex. 
Add to these the songs of the birds during the day 
and the peeping of the tree frogs (peepers) at night - 
yes, this is a tropical paradise. 

We hope everyone has had a wonderful Easter weekend. We imagine some of you have another day off from school or work tomorrow - enjoy. 

Our Easter bun and cheese.

The spice bun or Easter bun and cheese is a traditional treat at Easter time here. Of course we wanted to know the origin of this tradition; Google says, 

   The Easter holiday in Jamaica is marked by the enjoyment and delight of Easter Bun and Cheese. With a history that dates back to ancient Babylon’s hot cross buns, the Jamaican version is dear to the childhood memories of many Jamaicans. In Babylonia, cross buns were offered to Ishtar, the pagan queen of heaven. Similar cakes were made by ancient Greeks to honor the Moon. The tradition of baked goods as offerings to deities made its way to England, where cross buns were made and consumed on Good Friday with the cross understood as a symbol of the crucifixion.
     When the British captured Jamaica, they brought the cross bun custom to the island. Over time, Jamaica made the original English cross bun its own by using molasses in the mix instead of honey. And in Jamaica, the bun is eaten with cheese, a combination that is now an integral part of the island’s cuisine. In the present day, the custom of eating hot cross buns on Good Friday has waned in Britain, but it is still prevalent in Jamaica, with Bun and Cheese a dish eaten chiefly during the Easter holiday.

We just finished a yummy ham dinner for our Easter feast, so we'll try our bun and cheese a little later. Thank you, Jamaican pigs for the delicious ham. (Jamaica does not allow importation of pork of any kind.)

Our only travel this week was over to Mandeville on Monday evening for Family Home Evening with some of the other senior missionaries. Everyone usually gathers here in Kingston at the Mission Home, but the President and Sister Pearson were just getting back after a weekend in Turks & Caicos. It's a 2 hour drive to Mandeville, and night time driving anywhere except on the tollways is a bit unnerving, but we were glad to take our turn to make the trip. We had a delicious potluck dinner and a great time visiting together. 

For the lesson, we attentively watched an inspiring talk given by Elder Bruce R. McConkie at the April 1985 General Conference in which he bears his final mortal testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 

     Elder McConkie begins with, "I feel, and the Spirit seems to accord, that 
     the most important doctrine I can declare, and the most powerful testimony 
     I can bear, is of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ."

     He ends with, "I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel 
     the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my 
     tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s 
     Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation 
     comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way."
Elder McConkie died less than two weeks later. We recalled hearing this talk when it was given in 1985 and feeling at the time Elder McConkie was saying good-bye and wanted to leave no doubt of his infinite testimony of the Savior. 

"I Believe in Christ" 
written by Elder Bruce R. McConkie

We were so excited to receive the approval of a recently submitted project for a basic school (preschool) here in Kingston. This developing school is one of the first we visited when we arrived, but at that time a project wasn't going to work out. The sweet, young principal of the school is working so hard to provide a pleasant and suitable learning experience for the little ones.


Another of our current responsibilities is working with Church headquarters specifically with a couple who serve as the Technical Specialists for the Wheelchair Initiative. We are the In-Country Coordinators, and as such we will facilitate the organization of a 4-day training in June for wheelchair fitters and assessors. 

There are an estimated 20 million people in the world who need a wheelchair but do not have one. The Church wheelchair initiative strives to improve mobility, health, and educational and economic opportunities for people with physical disabilities. We help local organizations improve the services they provide to the physically disabled and provide a wheelchair or walking aid appropriate to the individual’s need and circumstances. With the help of volunteer trainers, the Church seeks to strengthen the capability of local organizations to assess individual needs, select and fit an appropriate wheelchair or other mobility device, train the individual and caregiver, and provide support for repair and maintenance. The mobility devices we provide include wheelchairs for rough terrain, hospital wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, and canes. Since 2002, over 415,000 people have received one of these devices.

We look forward to all the new things we will learn and the many humanitarian experiences we will have with this project.
This week we completed our task from the Area to train and disseminate materials for the creation of Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response plans in all 25 Church units in the Jamaica Kingston mission boundaries, i.e., Jamaica, Caymans, Bahamas, and Turks & Caicos. We instructed the unit representatives on how to have their unit councils go through the process to identify possible disasters, gather critical information, outline assignments and procedures, identify emergency communication methods, and encourage member preparation.

All Church members are encouraged to have an emergency plan and to update it regularly, and the Church prepares for emergencies the same way by establishing and maintaining emergency plans in every branch, ward, stake, district, and mission.

We met with the mission leadership on Thursday to support the updating of the mission plan. It is comforting to see these plans being created or updated, especially as we approach another hurricane season. 

Until next week...our love to all. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Crown of Thorns 
(Euphorbia milii)

Our calendar wasn't very full this week as far as traveling or meetings. We were able to get a lot of paper work, phone calls, and emails done to further the progress with several current and potential projects. 

We also had several wonderful morning exercise sessions in the pool! The weather is warm enough now to make it really enjoyable. One morning we walked to a local "mall" to pay our Internet/phone bill - round trip about 2 miles; we were so hot by the time we got back home. It's fun to take these walks as we're becoming more familiar with the regular vendors out on the streets. 

We had a good meeting on Monday with a private business whose employees have great Christian attitudes about helping the community. Specifically, they've "adopted" two schools in nearby Portmore. A member who works there set up the meeting to discuss the possibility of LDS Charities partnering with this company. We are encouraged to create such partnerships because they are especially helpful with the sustainability of projects. 

We did take one quick trip over and back to Montego Bay to make a payment on a project there. Trips like this seem shorter than they did a few months ago; I guess because we're becoming used to them. 

President and Sister Pearson are doing a lot of traveling this month with three weekend trips to the other islands in the mission, so we're the contact for any medical needs. Of course, we always pray for and are grateful for the health and well-being of our amazing elders and sisters, but I am especially grateful when they all stay healthy and safe when the Pearsons are gone. 

We hope everyone has a lovely week leading up to Easter Sunday. It is a special time for us to reflect on the last days of our Savior's earthly life. We are eternally grateful and with the Apostles of the Church we "testify of the reality of His matchless life and the virtue of His atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth." 

"He Sent His Son"

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Presidents Eyring, Monson, and Uchtdorf
187th Annual General Conference of 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

We are so grateful we were able to watch General Conference over the Internet and were excited to hear the announcement of 5 new temples: Brasilia, Brazil; the greater Manilla, Philippines area; Nairobi, Kenya; Pocatello, Idaho; and Saratoga Springs, Utah. 

All of the talks were inspiring and uplifting as they always are. We are very grateful for the righteous example of all the Church leaders and their willingness to share their testimonies of the Savior and His atoning sacrifice on behalf of all of God's children. President Eyring's talk Saturday morning especially left an impression upon me. He said through "the providence of God" we have received the gospel and the eternal ordinances for ourselves so that we can now provide the way for our ancestors to also receive these blessings. I turned to Buddy and said I would love to serve a Family History mission which actually could mean serving from home. An ordinance worker we knew at the Portland Temple had this opportunity. 


For the fourth consecutive Easter season, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is encouraging Mormons and others around the world to share hopeful messages about Jesus Christ. This year's focus comes from the Bible's teaching that Christ is the Prince of Peace. 

As with previous years' messages, this year's messaging initiative coincides with Holy Week - from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, April 9-16 - and includes three invitations:
1. Come to Christ.
2. Learn principles of peace from the Prince of Peace.
3. Share ways to find peace through the Savior. 

On Tuesday, we attended a combined Zone Conference for the Kingston and the Spain Zones. (The Spain Zone is what they call the Spanish Town area districts.) We always enjoy going to these meetings. President Pearson invited the missionaries to share examples of miracles they've had. We heard some amazing testimonies of faith and the resulting miracles. We particularly noticed how each missionary concluded their contribution with the principle they had learned. For example, one elder shared that their investigator was afraid to tell her mother that she was investigating the church, so the elders did a role play with her. (I used to do this with our kiddos. We'd think of all the possible scenarios when they were afraid about some situation - we'd  practice - you say; then they'll say; then you'll say ...remember?) The young girl gained the confidence to speak with her mother and was baptized last Sunday. Principle: The Lord opens the way for all to keep the commandments. 

We had special visitors at the Zone Conferences. Two men from Utah and Idaho who served missions here back in the 90s brought their 12 year old sons to visit Jamaica. They were here for a week sharing their experiences and the sights of Jamaica with their sons. They both spoke at the zone conferences. One of the men works for LDS Family Services. One of the main things he does is counsel with returned and prospective missionaries. He helps in the adjustment to being back and in the preparations for missions. He was a very engaging speaker. Much of what he said also had application to our role as senior missionaries. The other man is an entrepreneur with several businesses. His emotions were so tender as he spoke of life-changing experiences he had here which helped shape who he is today. Both men talked about the changes that are made before, during, and after serving a mission. Buddy and I reflected on a beautiful piece of advice our Jeff shared with us when we began our mission - To not resist the changes the Lord will make in us. We have seen this already. The speakers both spoke of the importance of keeping a journal and recommended returned missionaries - no matter how long they've been home - go back and read their mission journals to remember some of the sweet, precious feelings they had when serving.

We also attended part of the Zone Conference the next day in Montego Bay for the Mandeville, North Coast, and Bahamas Zones. The off-island zones always join in by Skype. We were in Montego Bay to help the branch in the process of creating an emergency preparedness and response plan. After the conference, the visitors followed us up the mountainous road to West Haven Children's Home. They had contacted us back in January asking if there was somewhere they could do some service. After introductions, we left them there to interact with some of the children. 

Instant friends. 

Spring fed pool close to Salt River 
outside of Freetown, Jamaica

We had one of the best experiences of our mission - at least so far - on Friday morning. We drove to Old Harbour to pick up the sister missionaries and then out into the country to meet the elders outside of Freetown to witness the baptism of a fine young man we've known for a few weeks. The elders told us the baptism was to be near the Salt River, but we certainly didn't expect the location to be this beautiful. We walked down a steep bank to reach this gorgeous clear water pool. We are very excited for this young man and all those he will influence through his righteous example. 

"Yes, we'll gather at the river, The beautiful, the beautiful river;"

Heather shared a poignant comment when 
I shared this picture with her in an email. 
"I love how the water is rippling! It's so symbolic! 
It makes me think about how our covenants are eternal and they go on and on, but it all starts with baptism."

I (Buddy) would like to add an entry from my journal:

"This morning we drove to Old Harbour to meet with the missionaries and a young man who was to be baptized. We picked up the sister missionaries to convey them to the baptismal site. We drove to what turned out to be a small spring fed pool in the country. This was a beautiful spot for a baptism. The water flowed from under a rock formation at the base of a hillside. It was clear and beautifully calming. Our little group of 10 sang hymns and had a talk on baptism. Young Brother Bryan was baptized by Elder Menlove. The simplicity of the service and baptism was wonderful. This was the best baptism that I have ever attended. Debbie and I were asked to bear our testimonies. We were grateful for the opportunity. This has been a day that I will never forget."

I am so glad that we are serving here in Jamaica. The love that we have for the people grows as we serve them and serve our Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you all for your support and prayers on our behalf.

All our love...