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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Another gorgeous sunset. 

The past two weeks have been filled with many opportunities to witness the hand of the Lord here in Jamaica.

  Elder and Sister Martinez                       President and Sister Owen

A very unique and special mission conference was held on Saturday, April 29th. Evidently, this was an unprecedented and most likely a one time only meeting in which missionaries from the entire mission attended. Even the "off island" elders joined us via Skype - and luckily the connections were very good this time. Presiding at the conference was President Hugo Martinez, First Counselor in the Caribbean Area Presidency. He was accompanied by his lovely wife, Nuria. They are originally from Puerto Rico and now reside in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We also were honored to have President Stephen Owen, Young Men General President, and his sweet wife, Jane, here to address us. They are from Utah.

President Martinez shared their conversion story of missionaries knocking on their door when they were living in Jackson, Mississippi for medical residency. He spoke of the Holy Ghost touching their hearts allowing them to be receptive to the message of the restored gospel. He went on to teach about the power of inviting the Holy Ghost unto our hearts. 

2 Nephi 33:1 ...the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.

Christ enters our lives only by invitation. He knocks but we must open the door. There is no door knob on His side of the door. 
Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 

Whether as full time or member missionaries, we can express our love of the Savior in so many ways; hearts will be softened, Christ will be invited in, and lives will be changed forever. 

President Owen then addressed us. Several times he and Elder Martinez mentioned the value of hanging on to the principles and practices learned and experienced while on a full time mission. They encouraged us to remember the feelings we were having that day and throughout the mission.  I remember our children who served missions receiving the counsel that it was time to take off the badge bearing Christ's name worn over their hearts, but to never take Christ out of their hearts.

The rest of the all-mission conference followed the usual Zone Conference procedures with President Pearson and then each set of Zone Leaders and Sister Trainer Leaders presenting very inspiring training. The Assistants to the President announced that because of safety concerns bicycles would no longer be used anywhere in the mission. Apparently, this mission was the last one using bikes in the whole Caribbean Area. That's going to mean some big changes for many of the companionships. They will need to use taxis and buses much more often which will add to their overall expenses. We don't know, but perhaps their monthly allowance will be increased accordingly. 
The conference closed with the group singing "We'll Bring the World His Truth." The Assistants took a little leeway and asked us to sing, "We'll Bring Jamaica His Truth" instead. It was very powerful hearing over 100 people singing this song.

After the closing prayer, the Assistants announced all the changes for the upcoming transfers. Usually the missionaries find out the changes through phone calls, so it was really fun to be all together and to see and hear the reactions as the new companionships were announced. For example, two of the Hawaiian sisters who have worked or danced at the Polynesian Cultural Center are now companions. They will be a dynamic duo.

Sunday, April 30th, we attended church at the Hopeton Branch. We now have only one more branch to visit for Sunday meetings and then we will have visited every ward and branch on the island at least once. We were invited to teach the third hour combined adult class. Even though this was not pre-arranged, we welcomed this opportunity to explain exactly what we do as welfare services missionaries and what we don't do. There is often some confusion between member welfare needs which are to be handled by bishops and branch presidents and our responsibilities with mostly nonmember beneficiaries. It's always good to have a chance to teach the correct principles of providing in the Lords' way. We appreciated the comments made by several class members about the importance of self reliance. In conjunction with that, we were able to reinforce understanding about emergency preparedness individually, in families, in the branch, and in the community especially as hurricane season is upon us.

Monday through Wednesday of this past week, we were in the Montego Bay area in connection with the project at Westhaven Children's Home. Monday we were busy purchasing and organizing things for the Closing Ceremony to be held on Wednesday. 

On Tuesday, we followed our Mission President's excellent advice and took the day to enjoy the beach in Negril on the west coast. President Pearson makes it a point in every interview to counsel us to take time to experience the beauty and wonders of the island. He certainly doesn't need to tell us twice, and we are happy when our schedule permits a day now and then for recreation. 

                                                                                Need a hat?


Yummy conclusion to our fantastic day at the beach.

We travelled back to Montego Bay early Wednesday morning to arrive at Westhaven Children's Home for the Closing Ceremony. The whole place was a buzz of excitement in preparation for the "party" celebrating the completion of the humanitarian project. Once everyone was in place, Mr. Sydney Grant, Interim Director, welcomed everyone and made the formal introductions. Among the attendees were the following: the Deputy Mayor of Montego Bay, the Honorable Ms. Andria Dehaney; Mrs. Gloria Veira, Founder and Administrator of Westhaven; Sydney Grant, Interim Director; Members of the Board of Directors of Westhaven, Mr. Foster, Mr. Duncan, and Mr. Williams who are also representatives of the Kiwanis Club; Ms. Eunice Scott-Shaw, Regional Director of the Child Development Agency (CDA); Ms. Lenora Heaven, Savanna-la-Mar Division of CDA; Mr. Eric Vassal, Team Leader from Hanover CDA; Elders Quorum President and Sister Grant from the Montego Bay Branch; representatives from the Digicel Foundation; Brother and Sister Gillis and Sisters Barrett, Ferguson, and Chambers from the Montego Bay Branch; and last but certainly not least all the staff of the home.

Somehow we failed to get a group picture taken as we had wanted, but we do have some photos to share. 


The best part of the whole ceremony was listening to a precious group of residents of all ages enthusiastically sing, "I Know Who I Am." * The tears were flowing. 

 I was presented with a huge basket of fruit.

Buddy was quick to correct Mr. Grant's introduction of "the man of the hour" rightfully giving all the glory to the Savior and expressing gratitude to the people who so generously donate to the Humanitarian Fund of the Church to allow for projects such as this. 

* "I Know Who I Am"

We are a chosen generation
We've been called forth to show His excellence
All I require for life, God has given me
And I know who I am.

I know who God says I am
What He says I am
Where He says I'm at
I know who I am.

I'm walking in power,
I'm working miracles
I live a life of favor,
For I know who I am. 

Take a look at me. I'm a wonder
It doesn't matter what you see now
Can you see His glory?
For I know who I am.

We feel so blessed to be able to associate with the extraordinary children and adults who live and thrive at Westhaven. They are special spirits indeed. President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church 1995-2007, once taught, "Those who are close to the handicapped can frequently feel the nobility of the spirits who are confined in differently shaped bodies or who have crippled minds." We know this to be true.

We have been busily engaged in the advance preparations for the upcoming wheelchair training which will be in June. Specialists will be coming from Church headquarters to spend the week here for this training. Our responsibilities include coordination with our partner the Eastern Division of the Salvation Army in Montego Bay in matters such as the venue, the food, the equipment, etc. Stay tuned.


Finally, this last Friday, we drove to the small community of Junction near the southwest coast. The elder serving as the Branch President had initially told us about a boys' home near Junction and arranged for us to make the visit. We picked up his companion and him, and they directed us up through the hills to the location of the home. What a beautiful view from the tops of the hills; we could see all the way down to the ocean. We enjoyed meeting with the kind, dedicated director of the home and were impressed by his deep compassion for these young boys who have come from various backgrounds of abuse, neglect, abandonment, and petty crime. Our hearts were immediately touched, but we will need to do more research and gather more information. Since this is a government institution, we may not be able to offer any assistance, but hopefully the branch members will be able to render some service there in the future. 


King Benjamin addresses his people.

We cannot quote often enough the following words of King Benjamin as he counsels his people to serve one another. It is the foundation of all that we do and are in this stage of our lives. 

Mosiah 2:17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

Until next week...all our love. 


  1. As I read how you felt while singing with the young missionaries it brought to our minds the times we were in that position. "We are as the armies of Helaman" was one of those that always got me...Thanks for sharing some of your adventures!

  2. I just love reading and hearing all your adventures. It brought tears to my eyes this week to see you and dad again with your tags on and being together on this journey is so sweet! It's just so neat to see you guys as missionaries of our savior together. You are bringing so much joy to these people. I can't wait to serve a mission someday with Bobby!