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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday, June 25, 2017

After being extremely busy the last two weeks, it was nice to have a little more time at home and in our office. We like being busy, but we don't like feeling behind on paperwork. We've said this before, but we continue to marvel at the diversity of responsibilities, experiences, and callings we've had in the past which prepared us in so many ways to serve in this calling. We each have our strengths and weaknesses, and so far we've worked in harmony. For example, I really don't like to call people on the phone; Buddy doesn't mind it at all. I'm pretty good at composing concise clear emails for follow-ups. I don't mind filling out forms and organizing presentations, while these are not really Buddy's favorite things to do.  We acknowledge the hand of the Lord in our work here in Jamaica. We know if we are doing our best, the Lord will continue to help us. We especially recognize the need for discernment and are grateful for inspiration we have and will continue to receive. 

We travelled to Santa Cruz last Sunday for the regular block of meetings and then to hold a kick off meeting with the group involved in the Member Welfare Project (MWP) there. We once again were grateful for the opportunity to bear our testimonies and worship with the faithful saints of this branch. We now have officially attended every ward or branch on the island at least once. 

                                   Santa Cruz Branch Meetinghouse

This Member Welfare Project group consists of six families. Two families will be raising meat chickens, and four will be keeping bees. We are impressed by the organizational skills of the branch president's wife; she has been and will continue to be such an asset to this group. She works as a paralegal, and her administrative skills are top notch. Many times the load of paperwork the families have to manage in connection with these projects can be overwhelming, but we are confident she will assist others and keep them up-to-date. The record keeping is crucial to the success of these projects. 

We had read, especially in Renaissance literature, about the requirement to post the banns of marriage or intentions of married, but we'd never actually seen such a document until we saw this on the door of the office at the Santa Cruz Branch building. Evidently, it is still a very common practice around the world and was in the United States in colonial days. 

The marriage officer's certificate or Certificate of Banns requires the publication of Banns following the receipt of the notice from the parties or party of their intention to marry at morning or evening service. After this, the contents of the notice must be entered on paper which must be attached outside the principal door of the place of worship for seven days. Again, at the expiration of the seven days and there being no objection, the marriage officer's certificate is then issued by the priest, minister or pastor, who must be a marriage officer, authorising the solemnisation of the marriage.

Very interesting. This would certainly put some wedding chapels out of business in Las Vega - maybe not a bad idea. 

Jamaica Kingston Mission - Kingston, Mandeville, and Spanish Town Zones

A tri-zone conference was held on Tuesday for the Kingston, Mandeville, and Spanish Town Zones. Usually the zones meet individually, but because a family who was visiting from the U.S. was to give a special presentation, President Pearson wanted as many missionaries as possible to be there. The father of this family of five served here 1998-2000. The family comes back to Jamaica almost yearly to visit and do various activities with the members. We all were inspired by their testimonies shared through word and song. 

We enjoyed meeting the seven new missionaries who arrived just last week representing the United States, Canada, and South Africa. They are ready and eager to serve. After the family's presentation, lunch, and inspirational training in the afternoon by the zone and district leaders, we had the tender opportunity to hear final testimonies from the missionaries who will be leaving soon. [Sometimes missionaries leave mid-transfer usually due to college schedules. Interestingly, the South Africans always leave mid-transfer too. We're not sure why.] Many of the elders and sisters who just left or will be leaving this summer have been serving in demanding leadership positions throughout the mission. We know the Lord will "raise up" faithful replacements, and the work will proceed. It's grand to experience the orderly turnover of missionaries. We have been here long enough now to witness the growth that has taken place over their many months of service. We pray they will remain steadfast and immovable as they go back to their families and begin the next exciting chapter of their lives. 

Yallahs Branch Meetinghouse
We attended the Yallahs Branch today. We both were asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting, and this time we actually had a few days notice. We don't mind speaking on the spur of the moment, but it was nice to have a few days to prayerfully consider what the Lord would have us share. I based my talk on the principles taught in Elder Neil A. Maxwell's talk from General Conference in April 2000, entitled, "Content with the Things Allotted Unto Us." Elder Maxwell taught a powerful lesson on finding contentment and peace with whatever we are allotted in this life. In Alma 29:1-4, we read about Alma learning to be content with what the Lord had allotted to him. The same contentment awaits us if our own desires can be worked through and aligned with the will of the Lord.

"Life's necessary defining moments come within our allotments, and we make 'on the record' choices within these allotments. Our responses are what matter. Sufficient unto each life are the tests thereof!" Matthew 6:34. "

"What we could and have done within our allotted acreage, therefore, is known perfectly by the Master of the vineyard."

Buddy used the analogy of his flying career and his process to qualify for certification as an Airline Transport Pilot to teach about the blessing of qualifying for and faithfully remaining worthy to hold a temple recommend. Just as with the many months and years it took to earn his ATP, there are commandments to keep and lessons to learn before we can qualify for a temple recommend. It is the same process for the newest 12 year old Deacon or Beehive within the youth of the Church to the end of our earthly life. Even though Jamaica is not yet blessed to have a temple, he encouraged everyone to be worthy of and hold a current temple recommend. 

After the regular Sunday meetings, we met with the new branch presidency to discuss a potential Member Welfare Project after the regular meetings. One of our fine elders who will be returning home soon had been serving as the branch president and had completed some of the preliminary paperwork for the project. We presented some training so the new president could move on with the process. 

At zone conference, the mission president's wife invited us all to participate in a Book of Mormon Summer Reading Schedule. To build unity, not only will all missionaries in the Jamaica Kingston Mission be kneeling in our companionship morning prayers at the same time - 6:30 AM, but we also will be reading from the same chapters in the Book of Mormon each day from now until September. This is in addition to the reading and studying in other scriptures we all do each day. 

Until next week, all our love...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuesday, June 20,2017

Picture taken by Elder Schnebly.
Picture taken on my iPhone.

Sunrise to sunset, we are anxiously engaged in many good causes. 
(D&C 58:27)

The past two weeks were jam packed with humanitarian activities and events. 

During the week of June 4-10, we had the satisfying opportunity to participate in a very important phase of a Member Welfare Project in Savanna-la-Mar. The six families participating in this project worked very hard for months building coops and completing the Self-Reliance Course - Starting and Growing My Business - and were ready to receive their livestock and feed. 

These 6 families chose to raise broiler (meat) chickens. With the help from LDS Charities, each family was able to build a new chicken coop. They were now prepared to receive the first batch of chicks. Each family received 100 chicks and enough feed and medicine for two batches of chickens. The chickens will be ready to sell after 6 weeks, and then the families will receive one more batch of 100 chicks. From that point, the plan is that they will have earned enough money to purchase subsequent batches of chickens, feed, and medicine about every 6 weeks. In other projects, a family may choose to raise chickens for eggs. In that case, they receive 24 chickens and feed for one year.

Chicks settled in to their new home. 

We met the group at the farm store early in the morning and started a very busy day. It was so hot, but we still enjoyed being part of the progress of this project. Ideally, the welfare couple doesn't need to help with picking up the chicks and feed, but we were excited to help and our truck was such an asset. The farm store receive new chicks twice a week, so there was a flurry of activity with people picking up chicks and feed. The sound of peeping chicks filled the store and beyond. During our time at the farm store, in and out about 4 hours, we saw two semi-trucks come deliver feed. I can’t begin to estimate how much feed was unloaded that day. Our group alone took 240 bags (25 kg each) of chicken feed. Each family received 10 bags of crumbles to feed the baby chicks and 30 bags of pellets. It took 5 pickup loads to get all the feed delivered; one family picked up their own. The young men loading the truck were working so hard in the stifling heat, and Buddy and the recipients worked hard unloading at each location. One of the families lives way up in the mountains in Darliston about 25 km outside of Savanna-la-Mar. I usually waited at the farm store during the deliveries of feed, but I went along for that trip, and I’m so glad I did. It was a beautiful drive, and when we arrived, we found that one of the family members is a master woodworker who makes beautiful furniture.
Blue Mahoo tree wood (national tree of Jamaica)
Cedar tree and lignum vitae wood (national flower of Jamaica)

Wheelchair Training 2017

Saturday, June 10th, we arose early to finish packing and be out the door and on our way to Montego Bay. We met Elder and Sister Schnebly and Elder and Sister Hart from Salt Lake City at the Montego Bay airport about noon. After many months of phone calls and email communication in preparation for this event, we were excited to meet one another and begin the wheelchair training in Jamaica. Elder Schnebly is a retired physical therapist, and Sister Schnebly is a retired nurse. Elder Schnebly is quite the energizer bunny. He is 71 years old and has run 59 marathons with plans to run another in the fall. The Schneblys have been in 18 other countries to provide wheelchair training. Elder and Sister Hart are the Wheelchair Specialists for LDS Charities’ Wheelchair Initiative. They coordinate and administer everything in connection with this initiative all over the world. They actually served in the Caribbean until a year ago as the Area Welfare Specialists in the Area offices in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We work very closely with the current missionary couple in the DR, so it was wonderful to be able to get more information from the Harts about other aspects of our calling since they so recently served a welfare services mission. This was their first wheelchair training to oversee and will now travel extensively to facilitate trainings. We think they did a marvelous job.

Here is a little background about the Wheelchair Major Initiative.
LDS Charities works with partner organizations that serve people with mobility disabilities to provide appropriate manual wheelchairs to individuals. According to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, they ensure each person is assessed, fit, instructed, and given ongoing support. In 2016, 55,500 people received chairs in 48 countries. We are humbled to be part of the statistics for 2017. The Salvation Army received 315 wheelchairs in the latest shipment from LDS Charities. It will probably take about a year for all of the chairs to be distributed. 

After picking up the Schneblys and Harts, we went to the Salvation Army facility to plan the set up and coordinate all the arrangements. We then went to check into the Holiday Inn resort. That may sound a bit extravagant for missionaries, but actually with having all the meals included, the cost was equivalent to what it would have been to stay at another hotel and eat out all the time. We were so busy each day, we didn't get a chance to enjoy the beach or pool until the last day when we took a quick walk out to the "private" island to enjoy the tropical breezes for about an hour. Some of us did take in some of the evening entertainment after dinner. There were amazing performances including a young man doing the limbo under a 1 foot high, 3 foot long FLAMING platform - pretty exciting.

Sunday, the six of us attended the Montego Bay Branch and each had the opportunity to share a brief testimony. After church, we had a yummy buffet lunch at the hotel, changed into work clothes, and then returned to the Salvation Army to set up. We assembled 15 wheelchairs, hung posters, and arranged the room. It would've been better to set up on Saturday, but that wasn't possible since this corps of the Salvation Army holds their church meetings in the same facility. 

Thirteen people attended the 3 days of training to become new assessor/fitters. Buddy and I were also trained since one of our responsibilities now will be to go to a percentage of the wheelchair recipients over the next year to conduct follow-up evaluation interviews. 

Besides Elder and Sister Schnebly, we had a local physical therapist assist with the training. She has been an instructor for several other LDS Charities/Salvation Army trainings. She is a very out-going, fun-loving, confident women, and we appreciated her expertise and ability to help us understand the culture to better interact with the other Jamaicans in the class. 

During the 3 days of very thorough and rigorous training for new assessors/fitters, we learned the importance of appropriate assessment and fitting of a wheelchair. We received instruction in how to teach proper maintenance and care and the safe use of a chair. 

We learned how to maneuver in a wheelchair and how to teach the mobility skills including how to negotiate rough terrain, slopes both up and down, small obstacles, and stairs.

We had a spiritual thought, a prayer, and a song entitled, "We Are Together Again" at the beginning of each training session. We were quick learners and were able to join in the singing on the 2nd day. 

We are together again
Just praising the Lord.
We are together again
In one accord.

Something good is going to happen;
Something good is in store.
We are together again
Just praising the Lord.

Something good definitely did happen during the afternoon of the 3rd day of training. We held a clinic to actually assess, fit, and provide wheelchairs to qualifying recipients. This was an amazing culmination to the training. We saw our commission, to relieve suffering and seek out the poor and needy of all nationalities and religions, realized as we administered and ministered to those who came with the hopes of receiving a wheelchair. Humble people arrived by any means possible despite the torrential rainfall.

Most came with family members or friends and with medical conditions that touched our hearts. Among other needs, we had two gun shot victims and one young man who had fallen out of a coconut tree who were paralyzed from the waist down. Another person had a broken ankle that had never been set. Expressions of gratitude abounded and filled our hearts to overflowing. Everyone recognized that these blessings were possible because of a merciful Father in Heaven and the loving generosity of those who contribute to the humanitarian funds of the Church. 

Usually the wheelchair projects here in Jamaica do not provide for children, but this year's shipment mistakenly included 12 pediatric chairs. 
A sweet mother brought in her son who has cerebral palsy with very little use of his legs. After careful deliberation, Elder Schnebly made the decision to provide a chair for this young boy. Not a one of us could imagine saying no.

We held a brief but very touching closing ceremony after all the recipients left. Each of the newly trained assessors was presented with a certificate. There were tender moments as the Schneblys and Harts spoke of the unlikelihood of ever seeing the participants in the class again but yet knowing the bonds of friendship we now share will carry over into the eternities. 

We held a refresher course training on the 4th day for 9 previously trained assessors. The seven of us took turns reviewing the various modules of the training with the class members, and we had another clinic after lunch. Only 4 people come in to be assessed, but it was still a wonderful experience.

We will never forget this experience. Our hearts are full of gratitude for the generous donations to the humanitarian fund of the Church which allows for compassionate projects such as this. So many lives are touched all over the world every day. 

We've already had a couple of grand experiences this week, but we'll include those in our next post.

All our love...

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Matthew 25:1-13

We taught a lesson about preparedness in Relief Society in the Boulevard Ward here in Kingston today, and in Sunday School we discussed what we can do in our lives to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ, so all the various aspects of spiritual and temporal preparation are at the forefront of our minds this evening. 

Our 72 hour kits

As we mentioned in earlier blogs, we have been involved in the training of representatives from all the wards and branches of the mission in the creation of emergency and disaster plans over the past few months. We continue to follow up with the units offering what little expertise we have in regards to home storage, 72 hour evacuation kits, etc. Of course, what works best here in Jamaica is not exactly what we are most familiar with, but the principles are the same. We are in the process of ordering just a few more items to be shipped here to complete 72 hour kits for the apartment. There are several things that we haven't been able to find here since camping equipment is really not in high demand here.

We were back on the north coast for Monday and Tuesday. Monday, we were in Montego Bay to make final payments for the last of the work done at the children's home. We had a security cage built around the new water pump. We love visiting the precious residents there, and even though the project is completed, we're pretty sure we'll drive up that crazy mountain road every now and then to check in with our dear friends. 

Monday evening we stayed at a nice - though older - hotel in Ocho Rios. Our predecessors had recommended the Mystic Ridge Hotel, and we were very pleased with the accommodations. We could not believe how loud the peepers (little tree frogs) were all night long. We've become very accustomed to the rhythmic chirp; it's a comforting sound that I'm sure we'll miss.

Mystic Ridge Hotel, Ocho Rios - view from our balcony

Jamaican "peeper"

Our purpose for staying in Ocho Rio overnight was to have a day to explore and make contact with some non-government organizations for potential partnership opportunities. There is not much evidence in our file cabinet of many welfare projects being carried out in the Ocho Rios area over the years, and just like everywhere, there is great need. We invited the young elders and sisters to meet us for lunch and enjoyed being with them. We noticed them look at their watches making sure they didn't take too long for lunch; obedient missionaries for sure. Just as we were getting ready to leave a lady seated nearby began talking with the elders. She had noticed the Book of Mormon on the table and asked what the book was. Those wonderful elders didn't miss a beat and were soon seated at her table sharing a message as we left. It was a wonderful sight to see.

On Thursday, we were able to drop off a donation of several boxes of newborn kits to the largest maternity hospital in the Caribbean here in Kingston. When we found out our neighbor is a OB/GYN there, we coordinated with him to donate these kits. We know the contents of the kits will be put to good use. We hope to develop a project with the hospital in the near future. We've already been in communication with our Area Welfare Manager who then shared an outline of a proposed project with specialists in Salt Lake. 


We also attended the Kingston Zone Conference on Thursday. We were able to meet some of the new missionaries who arrived the last transfer. The training was excellent, and the Spirit was felt by all. The brownies we made were a hit too as always. 

Friday, we took a quick trip to Mandeville in connection with the gardening project over there. We both commented that the drive doesn't seem nearly as long as it used to. 
We will be anxiously engaged in project work the next two weeks. We have meetings to attend, purchases and deliveries to make here in Kingston, and the long-awaited chicks for the multi-family Member Welfare Project in Savanna-la-Mar are arriving on Thursday. We'll be driving over there early that morning to help with picking up and delivering chicks and feed to the project families. That will be exciting. 

We also have some last minute preparations to make for the wheelchair training we're involved with in Montego Bay June 10-16. The two couples who are the specialists from Salt Lake will arrive on Saturday, and then the training begins on Monday. We hope all the months of preparations by the specialists, the Salvation Army (our partnering organization), and us will bring about the desired results; if not, it is what it is (our mission president's wife's favorite saying), and we will make it all work. We know that if we are doing the Lord's will and listening carefully for direction and guidance, it will all be great. 

Doctrine and Covenant 58:7 
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; 

1 Corinthians 28:9
Serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind,

We are looking forward to learning yet another set of skills, and we'll be sure to share the details about the wheelchair training when it's all over. Who said you can't teach old dogs new tricks? Learning new things every day is one of the perks of serving as senior missionaries. 

No sitting in recliners for us - oh, but that would feel very good every now and then. 😉

All our love...