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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Our missionary assignments continue to diversify. 
We are wearing many different hats these days. 

We began the week with a trip to Mandeville – about 2 hours one way – for a couple of reasons. We first completed a white glove (not really) inspection of the Mandeville sisters’ apartment. We love being with the young sisters whatever the occasion. They are such darling, hard-working missionaries, and they are very conscientious about and obedient to the mission guidelines for stewardship over their living quarters. There are four sisters in this particular location. It is inspiring to witness these young adults exhibit gratitude and kind behavior to one another.

We then went to the Super Farm Store in downtown Mandeville to meet with two members of the Mandeville Member Welfare Garden Project to purchase some more supplies. We stopped at the garden project property on the way out of Mandeville. The farmers hard work is paying off; the crops are thriving. It is exciting to see the success and progress toward self-reliance for these families.


Mandeville Member Welfare Garden Project - 5 acres

Labour Day in Jamaica

Jamaicans celebrate Labour Day each year by volunteering their time and energy towards the beautification of homes and communities across the island. It truly is a day of labor for about 50% of the population; the other 50% simply enjoy being off work or out of school. A friend was telling us that she remembers as a child everyone would be out working in the communities. People would spend all day sprucing up not only their own homes but also helping their neighbors to do the same. Everyone would work together to clean up their neighborhoods and surrounding areas. She said it was a time of national pride and hates to see the involvement dwindling.  

So for this Labour Day, we had a prearranged visit at a small community preschool in Portmore where a service project of painting, cleaning, organizing, and gardening was in progress. We are exploring the possibility of partnering with employees of a finance company here in Kingston who have somewhat adopted this little basic school. Here in Jamaica, almost all children 2-5 years old attend basic school. The schools are not funded by the government, yet there is involvement with the Ministry of Education as far as regulations. The principal of the school has been running this school for 26 years. She was explaining to us that if children come to school but perhaps tuition is not being paid, she cannot turn them away. The school is expected to feed the children breakfast and lunch. Many times they come to school hungry. If the school isn't receiving the payments from the families, other school funds have to be used to purchase food. LDS Charities does not provide consumables, but we may be able to propose a project to donate a few needed items to help supplement their budget.

We have to be discerning because we could spend all our time answering requests to assess the needs of these preschools, but of course, there are so many other types of needs. This one may work out since there is another organization interested in partnering with LDS Charities. 

We thought it'd be fun to share this photo. This is a a very common sight here in Jamaica in all the grocery stores. This was taken at Price Smart (same corporation as Costco). The Jamaicans love their sweeties - especially cakes, donuts, etc. We try to avoid those isles. 

On Saturday, we attended a baptism at the ocean. This was in Kingston out by one part of the harbor. Certainly not the prettiest of beaches by far - a lot of trash - but the Spirit was there, and this sacred ordinance was carried out beautifully. The young man who was baptized has many relatives who are already members of the Church. Two were there with him, and of course they very excited to witness this special event. This had been a long time in coming. The family and the young man were late getting to the place because of transportation issues. As missionaries, we are not allowed to transport people in our trucks, so the family took a bus to get as close to the place as they could and then walked the rest of the way - to and from - quite a distance. Such dedication. We got a bit sun and wind burned, but it was a wonderful way to spend the early hours of an afternoon. 

We were very busy the past five days handling the medical needs again for the mission while President and Sister Pearson were conducting Zone Conferences and missionary interviews in the Bahamas. 

Unfortunately, two elders have been diagnosed with very serious eye infections in the past three weeks. The second instance occurred this past week. Both of these situations progressed so rapidly - within two days. The ophthalmologists here recommended treatment in the states as soon as possible. It was crazy. 

Both cases advanced to the critical stage as the Pearsons were leaving, so we were the ones in place to work directly with the elders. Buddy was especially very involved in accompanying the elders to all their doctors' appointments and helping the elders through the preparations to leave. Buddy was in almost hourly contact by phone with President and Sister Pearson as they communicated and received direction from the missionary department in Salt Lake. With both elders, Buddy had the unwelcome task of telling them they were going home, but he did so with Christlike compassion. It all happened so quickly both times, but every step of the way clear explanations were given to the elders by the doctors, the Pearsons, and Buddy, and we witnessed the elders exercise faith and courage to accept the necessity of leaving. It was still hard. We were touched by the demonstrations of love and compassion by their respective companions and all the other missionaries involved in the whole whirlwind process as these two fine elders experienced not only physical but emotional pain. 

All of us are fervently praying for their speedy recoveries.

In addition, we were very busy with other types of medical needs from stomach aches to strange rashes to small injuries necessitating our spending a good deal of time giving good ol' motherly and fatherly advice, scheduling doctors' appointments, making follow up calls, and even accompanying a missionary to the emergency room at 1 AM Sunday morning. Thank goodness for mobile phones so we can stay in contact with Sister Pearson. We had more than the usual number of calls and texts back and forth during this off-island trip. We are grateful the Pearsons returned safely Monday evening, and at the moment everything seems to be under control. 

Doctrine and Covenants 18:15

Alma 29:9

A definite highlight of this past week was our being able to give a referral to the missionaries here in Kingston. We met a very nice lady and her 4-year-old daughter at the eye doctor while we were waiting with one of the elders. The little girl gravitated to me; that truly happens quite often. (Actually this was mentioned specifically when I was set apart as a full-time missionary.) She, her mother, and her grandmother had been waiting even longer than we had, and the little girl was getting very fidgety. She noticed me writing in my book of Sudoko puzzles and wanted to write numbers too.  After she tired of that, I shared pictures of our family with her - especially pointing out all the 4 year olds. She wanted to know the names of all 27 grandchildren. She even watched part of an episode of Sophia the First on my phone. Noticing our name tags, her mother asked the location of our church, and as the conversation progressed we were able to invite her to church and to get her contact information and her approval to share it with the missionaries. We told her we would be out of town attending a different ward this Sunday, but we would have some of the young missionaries contact her and warmly welcome her at church.

On Sunday, we enjoyed visiting the Ocho Rios Branch up on the north coast. We were beyond excited to receive a text message from the elders in the Constant Spring Ward telling us "our" investigator and her daughter were at church. Fortunately, our meetings ended in time for us to get back to Kingston to be at the church just as the ward was ending. Two wards meet in that building, and this was the later ward. We were able to talk with our new friend and her daughter. They had really enjoyed the meetings, and a time was arranged to meet with the missionaries for a lesson. We know the elders will be awesome in helping this woman and her daughter feel the love of the Savior. 

We had another encounter in Montego Bay on Monday leading to a referral, but we'll save that for the next post. 

We can't believe it's the end of the school year. We love hearing about all the summer plans of our children's families. It sounds like it's going to be a great summer. 

Summer has certainly arrived here, so we're grateful whenever there's a nice to breeze to keep the air moving. We have acclimated somewhat to the heat, but it can still feel terribly muggy especially after a rain shower. We sure appreciate our air conditioned apartment and truck. 

We are extremely busy, but we wouldn't have it any other way. Thank you for your prayers and support for us and for all the missionaries serving all over the world. 

All our love...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Congratulations to our precious grandson, Landon, on his baptism on Saturday, May 20th, his very special 8th birthday. It was hard to be so far away and miss this sacred event, but the most important people were there for this significant ordinance, Landon and his righteous father to baptize him. We are very pleased with the decision Landon made to prepare himself to be ready to enter the waters of baptism for the remission of sins, to be confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Left to right: Emily, Grandpa David Cohoon, Landon, 
Grandma Robyn Cohoon, Eli, Savannah, and Bobby

The rains came down, and the floods came up!

We were in Kingston all week mostly working in our apartment office. It was definitely a good week to be able to stay in because of the torrential rainfall all over Jamaica causing major flooding and landslides. A weather system across the central Caribbean dumped extremely heavy rain on most of Jamaica. The flooding affected 10 of the country's 14 parishes, with Clarendon (one parish west of us) being the worst hit. Some parishes received more rain over four days than the usual average for the entire month of May. One area received 10 inches in less than 12 hours. That's a lot of water! Bridges washed away, and many roads were damaged marooning several communities. 

Jamaica is right in the light pink - over 10 inches of rain.

We were supposed to meet this week with a young sister who lives in Linstead which is up in the mountains northwest of Kingston, but she couldn't get out of Linstead because of the flooding. We are grateful we were safe and dry in our apartment. Our prayers are for comfort to those affected by this severe weather. 

The Rio Cobre comes down out of the mountains 
and meets the Caribbean Sea at the Kingston Harbour. 
You can see it's almost up to the bridge. 

Buddy took this video of the Rio Cobre on one of our quick errand trips to the southern area of Kingston. 

Saturday, we participated in a Relief Society enrichment activity on Disaster Preparedness. The Relief Society President had asked us to give a short presentation about 72 hour kits - certainly a timely request. We gathered items from around our apartment to assemble a make-shift 72 hour kit for demonstration, but we quickly found we were lacking several essential items. Where we live is not vulnerable to flooding, but we realized if there were some other type of disaster necessitating evacuation, we are not as prepared as we need to be. 

We're being told that hurricane season is upon us, so we are extra motivated to get more prepared. Evidently, usually the hurricane season begins in June, but we have already seen two potentially dangerous weather patterns out in the Caribbean that fortunately did not develop into tropical storms. 

Of course, back at home, we've concentrated for years to make sure we had well-stocked 72 hour kits for our home and for our cars. We are certainly motivated now to get one put together for here right away.

Doctrine and Covenants 38:30 "If ye are prepared ye shall not fear."

We have had two opportunities for wonderful interaction with members of the Portmore Ward over the past two days. First of all, we went to do the apartment inspection for the Portmore Sisters - our lovely Hawaiian sisters. They actually live right by the ocean in Hellshire outside of Portmore. I received a very special belated Mother's Day gift as they sang "Love is Spoken Here" for me. Yes, we cried, but we assured them they were happy tears as we heard them sing this special song which is associated with so many memories. This is a song we sang in Family Home Evenings, at family reunions, and even at the funeral of a dear nephew. One of the sisters plays the guitar beautifully, and their voices were angelic. 

Today we then attended the Portmore Ward for Sunday meetings. After the regular block of meetings, we met with the bishop and some members of the ward who are participating in a Member Welfare Project that was just recently approved by the Area. The families involved in this project will be raising broiler (meat) chickens. These types of projects are a blessing to those who are seriously seeking to be self reliant.  Member Welfare Projects are under the direction of the local Priesthood Leaders. A Project Champion or Project Manager is a member of the ward or branch who may or may not be a project participant; they oversee the project. Our role as In Country Coordinators is to monitor the progress of the project, but we are never to direct or take over the project. We facilitate the budgeted purchases in connection with the project. We ensure that the local leaders maintain good working relationships with honest, reliable vendors and follow up with the local Project Manager to see that project materials are delivered to the project participants. During the implementation phase, we make certain that the leaders have engaged the services of a local expert to assist the Project Manager. We will have some type of bi-weekly contact to receive a report on the progress of the project participants, and especially at the onset we will make two on-site visits to the project participants. We then report to the Area Welfare Specialists. We appreciate working within the orderly structure of the programs in the Church. 

We are learning a lot about chickens. We're thinking something like this would be awesome in our back yard when we get home. But then again, having to care for livestock might inhibit our frequent traveling to visit the grandchildren. That would never do!

Until next week...

All our love.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day to me.
Even though we are so far away in miles, these gorgeous flowers from our six beautiful children assured me we are always together in heart and mind. 

We attended the Boulevard Ward for Sunday meetings. Our hearts were touched as five youth speakers gave the most loving tributes to their mothers. 

After church, we had the wonderful treat of hosting four companionships of missionaries for dinner. We extended the invitation not only to share a meal with these amazing young adults, but also to afford them the opportunity to use our two laptops to Skype their families. It was a great way to spend Mother's Day. Overhearing a little of the conversations certainly brought back tender memories of our phone calls during our kids' missions. They served before the days of Skype or Face Time. We staggered the times for the companionships to come throughout the afternoon and evening. Buddy made four pans of delicious lasagna, and we had sides of hot Italian bread, tossed salad, with strawberry shortcake for dessert. We thought this menu was a convenient way to have a fresh, hot dinner ready at the different times. It worked out beautifully, and we don't think anyone went away hungry. 

This past week we had another exciting outing with other senior missionaries. We missed having President and Sister Pearson with us. They were preparing for an off-island trip. We met in Mandeville and then traveled to Black River near the southwest coast to go on the Black River Safari. It was a fantastic day. This adventure is known for its gorgeous scenery and abundant wildlife, especially the CROCODILES. It was so cool!

Right when we arrived, our guide, Captain C, showed us the dock-side pet, but we were cautioned that she is often very cranky and is VERY FAST so to not get too close. 
There was a huge rookery of white and blue heron right at the start of the tour, and the nests were full of babies. A big ol' lazy croc was lurking right under the trees just hoping for one of the chicks to fall out of a nest. 

White heron on nest
 Blue Heron
Not a log - but a crocodile with its mouth open. This is how they keep cool. Our guide told us they will stay in the same positions for hours and hours. 

Another mouth breather. 

Captain C was trying to call this crocodile over to the boat. He even opened the gate on the side of the boat inviting the croc to come on in. Yikes! I guess as Captain C said as long as a crocodile never tastes humans we are safe. 

If you look closely at the next three pictures - you may see a gorilla in the trees. And we always heard there were no primates in Jamaica.

They're actually termite nests.

Lilly pads and water hyacinths

When we got back to the dock, the big cranky croc was out of the water by one of the other boats. Of course, the elders all wanted to get closer for a photo, but not too close.

Close up of the flowers on a bush outside the entrance to 
the Black River Safari building. Stunning!

"Crocodile Buddee"

Especially for the grandchildren...

After the safari, we drove to the coast to Treasure Beach for lunch at 
Jack Sprat's Seafood and Pizza Restaurant. It started to rain just as we were finishing lunch. We'll need to go back to spend a little more time there in the future. 

Fish 'n' chips Jamaica style

I forgot to include a picture last week. These pictures were taken in our friend's yard in Williamsfield outside of Mandeville. She told us, "Oh, you should see this when they're really pretty."  We thought how could they get any prettier. 

This is our dear young friend, Elder Walker. He is one of the first people we met when we arrived last fall. He is the son of the principal of the preschool in Linstead where we recently finished a big project. When we first began our work on that project, he was waiting for his mission call. Finally, he received his call to Dominican Republic and is serving in Jamaica while he waits for his visa. We are so proud of him. He will be an awesome missionary. 

I had a crazy fall on Tuesday night; fortunately I'm just fine. I slipped on some water on the tile floor and thought for sure I had cracked open my head and sprained my foot. Buddy gave me a blessing as soon as I was able to calm down; I was really scared. I am so grateful for his worthiness to be able to minister to me and for our faith in priesthood blessings. By Wednesday morning all I had was a stiff neck - kinda' like from a whiplash.  Buddy's head is still sore from his bad fall back in March, so we now have matching tender spots on our heads. 

We add our testimony to that of Elder Neil A. Anderson, "Through the ordinances of the priesthood, ...all of us receive comfort, strength, protection, peace, and eternal promises."

So many milestones are passing by back at home, and we certainly miss being part of them, but we know this is where we are supposed to be right now. We regularly offer prayers of gratitude for the loving support and encouragement from our family. Just since January, we have had a faithful grandson being ordained a Deacon, a young granddaughter and a grandson learning to drive, a granddaughter receiving a scholarship for ballet, a granddaughter becoming a teen-ager, and next Saturday, a grandson being baptized. Congratulations Darren, Kaylee, Josh, Tamri, and Landon; we love you and all our precious grandchildren so very much.  
We're so thankful for Face Time, a Magic Jack for inexpensive calls to and from the U.S., Facebook posts, and almost daily texts or emails keeping us in the loop of the busy lives of our friends and family.  

May the Lord continue to bless us all and keep us in one another's hearts and minds as we continue to find joy in the journey through mortal life. 

All our love...