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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Another month is almost gone. Unbelievable!

We had a very busy start to our week. Early Monday morning, we traveled to Montego Bay in our very full truck to prepare for the culmination and Handing Over Ceremony of the back-to-school kits project in partnership with the Child Development Agency of Jamaica. 

We had previously arranged with the elders and sisters serving in Montego Bay to help us assemble the 405 back-to-school kits. We can't begin to express our appreciation for their willingness to assist. It probably would've taken us until midnight if we had tried to do this ourselves. I think everyone had a great time working together and getting to know one another better. Our pizza lunch was yummy too!

By mid-afternoon we had finished assembling the kits and setting up for the next day's ceremony to be held in the chapel/cultural hall. This is another example of all those years of practice setting up for ward or stake activities and even wedding receptions coming in very handy making this a fairly simple task.

The Handing Over Ceremony was held the next afternoon. The Elders Quorum President, who is our right-hand man for anything in the Montego Bay area, and his sweet wife who serves as the Relief Society President, as well as one other sister from the branch came to help us put the finishing touches on everything and to serve the refreshments. The elders and sisters came back also. We were delighted to have them there to be part of this event and to be instrumental with one of our goals of bringing the Church out of obscurity. Several comments were made about their hospitality toward those arriving for the event and their contributions to the overall event. The sisters shared their beautiful voices singing "Count Your Many Blessings" as part of the program. This is a very familiar song to Jamaicans; we heard several softly singing along. 

Montego Bay elders and sisters faithfully representing the mission and their home states of Utah, Arizona, and California. 

 "Count Your Many Blessings"

We are always impressed by the articulate and expressive manner of the Jamaicans who speak at these events. We never hear the you knows or uhs that seem to pepper American speech. The MC and several representatives of the CDA shared fervent testimonies of gratitude and gave the glory to God for the blessings of humanitarian efforts such as this project.

The Team Leader for the Western Child Development Agency stated, “The LDS Charities’ impact of open love and commitment to the youth has cemented strong partnership from this day forward. To the LDS Charities, you are blessed, and we are grateful in every way for your support. Both our entities have a mission to transform and to make a difference in the lives of others.  The school supplies rendered will seek to transform lives beyond measure as an essential tool kit to platoon the children’s pathway to success.”

The Handing Over Ceremony is just that; we are handing over the goods or services provided by LDS Charities to the recipients. In this case, the 405 back-to-school kits were for the Child Development Agency (CDA) in Jamaica. The kits will be distributed to children in foster care in the four regions. Protecting children, transforming lives, and securing the future is the mantra of the CDA, and we welcomed a chance to support their cause. Each school kit consists of one tote bag, three composition books, four pencils, eight coloring pencils, one eraser, one pencil sharpener, one pair of scissors, and one ruler. 

Elder Stewart presents the kits to the CDA representative. 

 Definitely a colorful project. 

We are so grateful that we were able to help in some small way 
to bring smiles to some very special children in Jamaica. 

We love a statement made at a recent Handing Over Ceremony, "Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot escape the light." We bask in this light which we know is possible because of the power of the Light of Christ. 

After everything was cleaned up and the truck packed up, we headed out to do our part of the transfer logistics. The poor Assistants to the President and President Pearson were exceptionally challenged with this transfer because out of the 14 new missionaries who were supposed to arrive only 5 were able to actually come due to visa issues, and then to add to that, flights were delayed for those coming in and for those leaving. Luckily, all went as smoothly as possible.

We picked up two sisters who had traveled up to Montego Bay from Mandeville to drive one sister to Ocho Rios and the other sister to Portmore. We love seeing the interaction of these adorable, hard working young sisters and their immediate desire to work cooperatively in their new companionships.

              Representing Utah, Arizona, Utah, Utah, Utah, Jamaica, and Utah. 
(In case you've wondered, we were asked in the MTC to not include names on social media posts. I always have two versions of this type of photo; I add captions with names on one to be able remember all these special people.)

Wednesday, we went to Victoria Jubilee Maternity Hospital to meet with two doctors, the Senior Medical Officer, and a nurse in charge of training, to discuss the potential of LDS Charities partnering with them to offer some type of assistance with a Proposal for Development of Maternal and Fetal Medicine in Jamaica. From the proposal, "Indirect mortality, specifically deaths due to non-communicable diseases, is the main contributor to rising rates of maternal mortality locally. This proposal outlines a multifaceted programme aimed specifically at improving outcomes among women with chronic non-communicable diseases as as establishing a service of prenatal fetal diagnosis, surveillance and treatment." 

It was explained to us that there are no social services for those who are not able to pay for or do not have insurance for private prenatal care. We were able to tour the new prenatal clinic they are developing. 

The two OB/GYN doctors (one who is actually our neighbor and new friend) were on one of the Jamaica morning news shows the next morning discussing their performing the first intrauterine transfusion in Jamaica. It was a great interview, and we later told our neighbor how much we enjoyed watching it and asked for his autograph. 😉 Both he and his wife laughed. He did have on a Superman shirt, and I said, "See there? You know you're super!"

This is just the last minute or so of the interview. 
L to R: Dr. Campbell (our neighbor) and Dr. Kelly 

At the meeting we respectfully informed the committee that LDS Charities could not provide assistance with the very expensive larger items - e.g. ultrasound machines, but we may possibly be able to write a proposal for a smaller project to help with office equipment for the prenatal clinic and maybe even some of the less expensive diagnostic equipment. 

The Church has a Major Initiative, Maternal and Newborn Care, which originates with specialists at Church Headquarters in Salt Lake, and our Area Welfare Manager has had communication with them, but as of right now, this proposal doesn't seem to fall within the areas addressed by this initiative, but there still may be some common ground that can help fill this need for improved maternal and newborn care in Jamaica. 

On Saturday, we took a quick trip to and from Ocho Rios to pick up a sister who needed to come to Kingston for medical care. Fortunately, she is in a tri-companionship, so it worked out well for her to come stay with us for the weekend, and then other two sisters could continue their usual missionary activities. We'll start early Monday morning arranging for her to be seen by a doctor. The Pearsons are off island again - in Nassau - but will be home late Monday. I imagine Sister Pearson will then take the lead on this particular medical need which is always fine with me. 

Until next week...love to all.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 23, 2017 Our Mission Hump Day 

Today is the half way mark of our mission. The time is going by so fast - which is good and bad. Good because we miss our family and will love being back with them, but bad because we love Jamaica and there is much more for us to do here and so little time. 

As far as what we expect to happen this next year...we expect to continue our work right up to the end. We will do much more than last year because we know so much more about our responsibilities and how things work here in Jamaica. Looking back we had a pretty steep learning curve at first even though our predecessors were fantastic to prepare us as much as they could by email and Skype even before we went into the MTC. They have been great to help us all along the way if we had questions, but of course, until you actually do something it's all theory; the practical aspects of some of the things we do were a bit shaky at first. Now when someone asks us what we do we don't have a quick answer; our calling has so many facets. 

We were in Kingston all this past week. We had a Handing Over Ceremony for the project with the Jamaica Society for the Blind. This is a project we've been working on since last fall, and it was all finally completed just a couple of weeks ago. We loved working with the director and staff at the society. They taught us a great deal about the culture and needs of the blind here in Jamaica and universally.

Part of the Press Release:

Jamaica Society for the Blind Receives Donation from LDS Charities

LDS Charities, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a leading provider of goods and services and proponent of giving aid to those in need has made a donation of seven (7) Perkins Braillers (Braille typewriters), twenty-nine (29) folding canes and nineteen (19) rigid canes, and partial funding for a Centrevue Fundus Camera to the Jamaica Society for the Blind in Kingston, Jamaica. This humanitarian contribution was for JMD $1,045,828.14 in equipment. The Braillers will re-establish a Brailler loan program for persons who wish to prepare materials in Braille to improve productivity and self-reliance; the canes provide increased mobility boosting confidence and self-reliance; and the fundus camera, a specialized low power microscope with an attached camera, is for diagnostic examinations at Jamaica Society for the Blind Vision Centre. All of these items will help further the cause of the society for the blind.

When asked about the support from LDS Charities Conrad Harris, Executive Director of the Jamaica Society for the Blind had this to say: “It has been a real pleasure working with LDS Charities. They have been very willing to sit with us and learn what our major needs are, and they have responded quickly once they find they are able to help. We are extremely pleased that the support they have provided will directly benefit the clients whom we serve.”

We feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to work with the inspiring people of the Jamaica Society for the Blind. Being able to facilitate this donation, to help the society fulfill its role in the community to help in the creation of more opportunities for the visually impaired, is one of the special projects we have been involved in during our time here in Jamaica,” stated Elder Richard and Sister Deborah Stewart, Welfare Services Missionaries of the Jamaica Kingston Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A special Handing Over Ceremony was held Friday, July 21, 2017 at 10:00 AM at the Jamaica Society for the Blind Vision Center located at 111 ½ Old Hope Road, Kingston.

 Buddy and  Damon McLean, Chairman of the Board

 L to R Standing: Sandra Harris, Director of the Vision Centre & us
Seated: Conrad Harris, Director of JSB & Damon McLean, Chairman
The above was the only picture in the press release.

 Mr. Harris with the new fundus camera

 and with one of the Brailers and canes

Buddy presented a new folding cane to one of the society's clients. 
His old cane had been run over by a car.

Of course, there are so many other NGOs in need of assistance here in Jamaica, but we would love to work with these people again soon. 

We have one sister missionaries companionship here in Kingston. We've had the opportunity to interact with them quite often. They are so dear to us. Friday morning about 1:06 AM, we got a call from them. Of course, whenever the phone rings in the middle of the night, all kinds of things go through our heads - especially when we are on medical duty like we have been the past 10 days while the Pearsons were visiting other islands in the mission. The precious young sisters had been without power for at least 8 hours and were sweltering in their upstairs apartment. It was a very hot night with absolutely no breeze. They said they couldn't sleep because they were so hot. We told them we'd be right over. Buddy checked the circuit breaker, and then he checked the meter outside. Sure enough, the "red tag of shame" was on their meter. Somehow the office financial elder had overlooked the payment. Oops. He's new at this job, and even if he weren't, no one would be angry with him; these things happen. We had this same situation at our apartment a while back. We had the girls grab their things for the night and the next day and took them to our apartment. We have an extra room with a bed and an inflatable air mattress just for these instances. They slept peacefully all night - most assuredly the coolest they'd been their whole missions. They stayed and did their studying and planning while we went to the Handing Over Ceremony. We told them to enjoy a nice hot shower - they normally do not have hot water - and to help themselves to lunch. Their power was still not back on when it was time for them to go to a couple of teaching appointments. We picked them up later to take them home, and fortunately the power was back on. We were so glad we could help these little damsels in distress. We love the young elders and sisters so much. We think of when our children served missions and how we prayed they would have people taking care of them. It is a pleasure to pay back all the kindnesses they were shown in some way. 

Ocho Rios

Today, we drove to the north coast to Ocho Rios for church. It is an easy and beautiful drive up there since we can go on a tollway. We always enjoy worshipping with the Ocho Rios Branch saints. One of the elders who is leaving this week bore a fervent, touching testimony of his love for the people he has served and for his Savior. He tenderly expressed his love for Jamaica when he said, "I don't know if I'm going home or leaving home." We wish him well.  

The Sunday School lesson today was entitled, "Establish a House of God." As a class we had an amazing and inspirational discussion of the blessings of the temples. 
Santo Domingo Temple
We will have a chance to go here on during the week of 
August 14-18 while we're in the DR for Area welfare training 
with the other Welfare Services missionaries in the Caribbean. 

Panama City Temple
We are going here August 28 - September 2 
with about 40 other people from Jamaica. 

Many Jamaican saints save for years before they are able to afford the long trip to a temple, and then it is often the only time they will go. Our teacher today told of saving for years to be able to go and the extraordinary experiences she had. Others spoke of being so emotional when it was time to leave the temple and crying on the bus all the way back to the airport. My heart went out to them for their faith and courage to make sure they received the eternal ordinances for themselves and their loved ones living and deceased. 

We have a busy week ahead with among other things a project culmination and Handing Over Ceremony in Montego Bay. We'll write about that next Sunday. This week is also transfer week, and we are involved with some of the moving to and fro of the elders and sisters. There are 13 missionaries going home, and I believe, 15 new ones were expected, but at the last minute, 9 of those became visa waiters and will not arrive yet. It is an exciting time as new companionships are formed and new missionaries are welcomed to the island to start their joyful journey.

Until next week...

All our love. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday, July 16, 2017

We had a fairly quiet week at home in Kingston. We were able to get a lot of paper work done for completed and current projects. We've received approval for two new projects and are anxious to get them underway. 

The weather is very predictable right now with lots of sun and warm temperatures in the earlier part of the day; then every afternoon about 2 PM the clouds roll in resulting in rain and thunderstorms. Just this afternoon we had a few loud claps of thunder, the electricity went out for about 10 minutes, and then the skies went back to just being very cloudy. 

Tuesday evening, President and Sister Pearson invited us over to the Mission Home for a lovely dinner with them and two missionaries who were leaving mid-transfer. This fine elder and sister have served diligently and will be missed. 

 Well, someone had to finish off the last of the yummy dessert. 

The next transfer is in two weeks. We have 14 missionaries going home and 15 new elders arriving. A lot of changes for the mission, but the work goes forth smoothly. 

Wednesday and Thursday, we had the wonderful opportunity to go on a teaching appointments with the Boulevard Ward sisters. It was a great experience, AND the investigator came to church today and stayed for all the meetings! He has so many questions and is a genuine seeker of knowledge and truth.

As we worked with these sweet sister missionaries we thought of our precious Emily when she served her mission in Chile. We know the people loved her there just as the Jamaicans love the sisters here. 

One of the projects recently approved is similar to one we finished up for our predecessors when we first arrived last fall but on a bigger scale. LDS Charities is providing 405 back-to-school kits for children in foster care all around the island. We have boxes and boxes of supplies stacked in our living room. We will take everything to Montego Bay next week. We have asked some of the missionaries to help us on their P-day to assemble the kits. We'll then hold a Handing-Over ceremony with the partnering organization - the Child Development Agency. 

We had to take down our usual "fancy" dining table 
(which is actually a round plastic folding table) 
to make room for all the boxes. 

The other project will provide some much needed kitchen equipment for a little neighborhood school. We are partnering with a finance company here in Kingston for this project. 

Yesterday, Saturday, we went to Portmore in the morning to inspect the sister's home. We always love visiting with our beautiful Hawaiian sisters. They informed us of a baptism they were having that evening, so we went back later to attend a very special baptism. Of course, all baptisms are wonderful, but this one seems extra special in that this man's wife and children are already members of the Church and have been praying for years that he would be baptized. Now, another family is on the right path toward becoming an eternal family. 

Parting thoughts 
(taken from Stand a Little Taller by President Gordon B. Hinckley)

Giving Loving Service

"Yea, and now behold, O my son,
the Lord doth give me
exceedingly great joy in the fruit 
of my labors." 
-Alma 36:25

                   Tremendous happiness and peace of mind are the results 
                   of loving service to others. Nobody can live fully and happily 
                   who lives only unto himself or herself. 

We humbly and gratefully testify of the truthfulness of this principle because we experience opportunities to give loving service everyday here in Jamaica in one way or another. 

Until next week...

All our love.