Sunday, May 26, 2013

Some Random Experiences

I have hit upon a new form of scripture study (for me) that I really am enjoying.  As I read the RS lesson (I love Pres Snow's teachings) or as I read a conference talk I mark passages that strike me.  Then I go back and read it again paragraph by paragraph and go to every scripture noted and make notes in my scriptures--often inserting quotes from the talk or lesson.  It really has helped me learn to apply the scriptures to my life better and I appreciate them a lot more.  Seeing how someone has used it to illustrate a point helps me recognize how it applies to my life.

Another thing I have done that I really enjoy and feel I benefit from is reading an especially good talk by Elder Holland or Elder Bednar or some other favorite and then going back and taking notes on it or sort of abridging it, extracting the parts that strike me the most and then inserting the condensed version as notes in my scriptures and/or filing it in a special file.  It is so easy to listen to a good talk and say wow that was good and then forget the message completely (at least it is for me)  This way I not only read it but pour over it to extract my notes.  

Yesterday while at the mission office Pres Brown went out and got some mangos off the trees that hang over the parking lot.  We used to pick them up off the ground and take them home until I got tired of pealing them.  But Bob still picks them up occasionally.  Well Pres Brown brought them in and he and Amba, his secretary (whose hair I have shown a couple of times in my blog) started eating them.  They just pealed them with their teeth and made very little mess—unlike I make with a knife.  So I watched them and finally said something.  They were appalled that I used a knife to peel mangos.  Then we started talking about the hairy stuff you get in your teeth from mangos and they said there are several different kinds, not all of which are hairy.  Then Amba said she was going to let us in on a Jamaican secret--there are some  that have worms but Jamaicans love their mangoes so much they eat them anyway they just eat them in the dark.  Latoya Williams came out of her office and Amba, wanting to verify her story asked her to tell us how Jamaicans eat Mangoes.  Latoya sat down on the step and demonstrated taking a big bowl between your knees and pealing them with her teeth and eating a bunch of mangoes.  Well Amba was not satisfied so she went and got Pres Medley, the District President who has his office there as well.  He came in and she asked him to tell us how Jamaicans eat mangoes.  He pretty much did the same thing that Latoya said and then Amba said what if they have worms and quick as a wink and with a straight face and a shrug of the shoulder he said “O, we just eat them in the dark.”   I cracked up!  It is obviously true.  They eat the mangoes in the dark so they won’t see the worms, but they will not give up their mangoes because they have worms.
So I came home and tried pealing a mango with my teeth—IT WORKS!  I still don’t like the hair in my teeth though.  Tonight I pealed one for Bob with my teeth and didn’t have any trouble with the hair until I took a bite out of the fruit.  I did not get any from pealing it.

This tiny little girl probably around 2 is pealing mangos with her teeth.

 Her mommy is paying careful attention to what Bob is teaching but this baby is serious about her mangos!

Well, so now I am a piano teacher.  Yes, it is true I gave someone a piano lesson--my little friend Kerry.  I am trying to find things for her to do during the day besides sit around the house and walk around the neighborhood where she could get into trouble.  I got her a journal in which she has written 3 pages.  I got her coloring books one of which she did in almost monochromatic color.  I talked to her aunt and found that she has a keyboard, so I took a keyboard and the Church’s music course and thought I would try to see if she has any natural ability since she loves to sing so much—she often sings to me when we meet.  Anyway, I probably did everything wrong but I fear there is really no natural ability there. But she loved the idea of playing so I think I will pursue it a little longer and perhaps teach her a couple of little songs instead of trying to teach her notes and fingers.

 Last night I was listening to Bob counsel one of our PEF participants over the phone.  He was really involved in a serious situation and was giving good counsel as well as listening to her concerns.  It caused me to think about another sidelight of our mission here—maybe not unpredictable but still sort of different.  I too am pretty involved in counseling with one of our participants.  We have exchanged phone calls as well as many emails.  She is pretty alone in her struggles and has found a friend in me that she does not have in her branch.  

A young man who recently experienced a heart breaking divorce called me for recommendations for some good young women for him to get acquainted with.  I often talk to women who are alone and would like to be married but there are few men available for these good women. Even at institute class there are more young women than men.  I understand there are people who are interested in each other but I do not see them dating—not sure what that looks like here.

Friday we were torn because there was a baptism we wanted to go to, Institute class which I especially hate to miss and a going-away party for the Larsens in the Kingston Branch.  I sent Bob to the baptism and went to institute class.  While they were reviewing a little I slipped down stairs for the baptism.  I’m glad I did, Pres Hendricks was speaking about the Holy Ghost to this little 8 year old.  He said, “You know I am going home to Texas in a few weeks and the sun shines a lot there just like here.  So one morning you are going to wake up and the sun is going to be shining in your bedroom window.  That same morning I am going to wake up and the sun is going to be shining in my bedroom window.  So where do you think the sun is really shining in Jamaica or in Texas”.  He said, “That is how the Holy Ghost is.  He can be lots of places at the same time because he is a Spirit”.  I thought that was a really good analogy and explanation for a kid.

Right after that talk I ran back upstairs to institute class; Pres Brown was just starting a discussion of the temple and getting a temple recommend.  I arrived just in time to whip mine out to help him illustrate his point. He was trying to help them understand how important it is to go to the temple but he was also trying to illustrate how important it is to be worthy of a temple recommend no matter how far you live away from the temple.  I feared he was coming on a little strong so I interjected that you do not have to be perfect to go to the temple you need to be trying to be as good as you can be.

Interestingly Bob hit upon this same topic today when he spoke in the Santa Cruz Branch.  He tried to help people understand that being worthy of a temple recommend is a major step towards returning to the presence of Heavenly Father.  He did a really nice job and if I say so myself, I did a pretty good job too.   

The Branch President asked us to speak about 5 minutes before the meeting.  I thought it was just a brief testimony which often happens, but no, we were the program.  Fortunately we had arrived early at the church so I started reading the introduction to the Book of Mormon in preparation for reading it again this year.  (I just finished reading it in Spanish for the second time—fun.)  I used the intro as a basis for a talk and testimony about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s call to be a Prophet and the Restoration of the Priesthood on the earth. 

Back to Friday night—After the baptism Bob came up to institute class and Pres Brown was just getting started in the next discussion so we slipped out and went to Kingston to the Larsen’s party.  It was very nice to see them honored.  They are great people and have had a real impact on many people in all three branches in Kingston—to say nothing of the other missionaries.  They will really be missed.
At the party each Auxiliary took part and sang songs.  It is amazing how they love to perform and are so unselfconscious about it—even when they are not very good.  Bob and I talked about it and decided they are very childlike—meaning the adults as well as the children.

They don't quite get the idea of line up and look at the audience--especially when there is a microphone to be attended to!

I guess even if they line up the microphone is still an issue.

The young man in the background is one of Sis Larsen's prize keyboard students.  He is 14 and has now been called as the music specialist in the branch because he is the main organist for meetings each week.The young man in the blue is his brother and the one in the red is the branch president.

 Audience?  What audience?  We got a mic and that's what matters!

Elder and Sister Larsen's teary farewell.--Love them.

 I thought the refreshments at the Larsen's farewell were interesting.  The white triangle is a corn beef sandwich, the dark brown is Tato Puddin, (made from sweet potatoes) the orangey brown is a festival (fried bread) and the fish are fish! (garnished with hot peppers and shredded carrots. I ate everything but the fish--which I did actually try.

Just as we finished our Job Seminar in Santa Curz today it began to rain so hard we could not even hear Bob speak.  By the time we left about 20 minutes later the street was running like a river about 6-10 inches deep.  I got frustrated with Bob as he was trying to take care so I would not get wet.  He went to the car to get the umbrella and got soaked and did not seem very concerned about getting soaked!  I expressed my exasperation at him getting soaked in the presence of the Branch Pres.—I was not angry but I can still see the look of surprise in his face to hear my exasperation.  (I called him later and explained I was not angry only concerned about Bob getting so wet while he was trying to make it so I would not get wet.)  Anyway, I got paper towel from the bathroom and took off my shoes and waded in ankle deep water to the car. I had Bob take off his shirt and we turned the air conditioner in the car to a little higher temperature and dried off the best we could with paper towel and took off. 

It was slow traveling for the first 10 miles as the rain was so hard and the puddles were so deep the water would splash up onto our windshield.  But it wasn’t long before it was pretty clear and it stopped raining.  So most of the trip home was uneventful, though we did have to locate a man on the side of the road near Mandeville to pick up a wheel barrow to bring back for Pres Singh—fortunately just as we saw him he spotted us and started waving his arms so we knew we had found each other.

I just want to mention another little miracle from being on this mission.  Bob sold his California condo!  He has been renting and leasing it and was about to sign a long term lease when his agent emailed and said don’t do anything till you talk to me.  He called her and she said she had a buyer—for a decent price and for cash.  So we are happy even though we spent considerable time this last week at the US Embassy getting signatures notarized and at the mission office faxing and faxing. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Being Missionaries is Hard Work

I would love to say things have been pretty quiet and that is why I have not got a lot to write about the last couple of weeks but the truth is things are quite intense and we have been very busy—not just busy but we have been working very hard.  Bob is especially good about working hard on some of the hard things we have to do so I try to keep us afloat with a lot of mundane tasks. 
As Bob says we have completed most of the easy work we have to do here particularly in PEF but I would say in Employment also.  That leaves the hard stuff.  That means working to get some of our more reluctant participants to start moving forward; it means trying to get people to use the automatic payment system instead of counting on having money when it is time to make a loan payment; it means getting people to use the deposit slip we have worked so hard to revise and hope will clear up all unidentified payments; it means getting branch presidents to cooperate with our requests, as they are the only way we have to physically get things and information to people; it means figuring out how to revise a loan so a participant can pay when they have not been paying because they don’t have the money to do it; it means working with people in the Area who haven’t quite caught up with Bob and his ability to solve problems.

We are also being swept up in some of the swirl of motion and emotion of a mission president preparing to leave and the new mission president preparing to take over.  I doubt this kind of thing happens very often but Pres Brown coming in already knows almost all Pres Hendricks knows and still knows he has a ton to not only learn in his weekly tutoring sessions but do in his current position to prepare for his replacement.  He knows his position will be different with PEF when he is the Mission President but he also knows the program has soared with us here and may suffer when we leave. (I say that in modest honesty.  It is not necessarily the Pugmires –just the fact that missionaries have been at work.) The changes will directly affect his replacement in that he will be LESS involved than Pres Brown has been, and he knows it, but at the same time he (Pres Brown) has to keep it going in this crucial time of year when many people are seeking new loans and need to take the seminar he teaches in order to be able to be considered for a loan.  We are really only peripherally involved with this but since we are so involved with the program and with Pres Brown we are feeling the stress and anxiety as well.

We are working very hard to clean up as many issues as we can before we leave and before we get a lot more participants.  They will come on our records about the time we leave—so who is going to take care of them?!  This is part of the stress of the whole situation.  There are, at this point NO, that is 0, senior couples scheduled to come to Jamaica within the foreseeable future.  We even tried to recruit the Smiths who have been here for 23 months and left yesterday.    We suggested they do what so many missionaries do in the SLC Family History—go home for a couple of months and come back.

In the meantime we are also totally involved in the Employment part of our mission—we have 5 more job seeker seminars to give in 5 more branches and then I think we are going to spend the last remaining time giving employment firesides.  That is our plan though we have not really discussed it with either mission president—I am positive both would approve anything we suggest.  We are very involved with the newly called Employment Specialists in the two Jamaica Districts and have also convinced the President he needs to call someone from the west end of the island to coordinate the dependent branches.  Interestingly we are now instructed to train these specialists—so much for keeping a low profile in Employment.  (To say nothing of the fact that I especially know nothing about employment!—and don’t want to.)

As part of what we have been doing in employment we have (Bob has) contacted all the branch and district presidents and made a record of all unemployed leaders in the district and branch leadership. (I created the forms for Bob to fill out.) We have trained two district specialists in this process, and have sent the reports to the Area Employment.  Bob has also taken all the mini resumes I have typed up from all our job seeker seminars and has put all the information on a spreadsheet and has created an amazing database with about 280 names—so far—of unemployed members.  This will be a HUGE asset to employment specialists and leaders as they really start to attack the problem of unemployment here in Jamaica.

We are dragging our feet a little on another assignment because we really don’t know how to do it but we are trying to gather information on emerging jobs in Jamaica and preferred courses and preferred schools for our members and PEF participants to get the training and education that will get them quickly into the work force.  There are several people working with us on this and I sure hope they know what they are doing because I DON”T.  We are going to have to act on this soon.
I hope this gives you a little idea of what we are doing and maybe gives a little excuse for not having some fun exciting pictures to display this time.  

But we have been to May Pen and Port Antonio with our seminars since I wrote last.  We had planned to stay in May Pen and type up the mini resumes on the Sunday we presented the workshop but there turned out to be about 31 to do and it would have taken too long so we got one of the people who comes into Kingston to agree to deliver the minis the next Sunday.  We did however stay in Port Antonio, which is considerably more difficult to get to.  

We left at 7:45 in the morning and headed up the mountain.  The first time we tried this on our own we immediately got on the wrong road.  This time it took us a little longer to find a wrong road but we found one!  It was so narrow and windy and steep with vast drop-offs at the edge of the road that Bob was actually frightened.  And the GPS had not a clue where we were.  Finally we had to resort to asking people along the road for directions.  I was reluctant to do that as we were obviously lost and I felt a little vulnerable to anyone who may wish to take advantage of us.  We chose individuals alone and eventually found the road we were supposed to have been on.  We arrived a little late at Sacrament meeting but were able to enjoy the bulk of the meeting, as well as Sunday School and RS/Priesthood meetings.

Interestingly, we were discussing in Relief Society the lesson from Pres Snow on Eternal Families and I had an opportunity to share my story of being 56 before I married for the first time and how important it was for me to wait for the right person than to marry for the sake of being married, and how I had absolute faith in what Pres Snow and other prophets have always taught about all blessings being available for all the faithful.  The women, about 20 of them where crammed in to a very small room not quite big enough for 15 chairs.  One woman came in and without a word started to wiggle her bum between two other women.  They didn't react in the least, just scooted over so she could sit on the crack between the two chairs.  She got up and left for a minute and when she returned though there was another empty chair but she wiggled down in her former spot.  

Our Job Seeking Seminar in Port Antonio

After I made my comment I sort of became the center of the conversation for a few minutes—I had not intended to but I was glad for the time to try to make such an important point for these women.  There are tons of faithful women in the Church here and very few men.  I really bore my testimony as fervently as I could that they needed to wait for the right opportunity, even if it means into the next life, otherwise there is too much chance of being taken down and off course towards the Celestial Kingdom.  A couple of people asked me some specific questions, but the discussion became very animated and energetic.  Their understanding of the doctrine seemed okay for the most part but then in the end an elderly woman vehemently asserted a position that I fear was her own regarding living with a man and having children and grandchildren and never even thinking about getting married.  She was very sincere and concerned and several people answered her with correct doctrine regarding marriage as a standard in the Church.  But I was a little concerned that she would even have such a question and be an active member of the Church.  Not that I judge her as bad in anyway only that I am surprised anyone who is active hasn't heard and learned differently. 

Two of our PEF participants in Port Antonio:  Fiona Blake and Terry-Ann Dixon.  Terry-Ann is the one I wrote about months ago.  We met her in Constant Spring and she helped Bob with his scriptures and acted as if I was her favorite aunt.  We talk quite a bit and I love her.

But after class a woman (who had been quite vocal in the class) told me about her impending marriage to a returned missionary who wanted to get married in the temple but didn't want to be sealed because something might happen to him as it did with his father when he got cancer and died.  I was stunned!  How had such a basic and important doctrine been so seriously misunderstood?  I don’t know if she represented her fiance correctly of if those were her misunderstandings but I quickly explained that that is the whole purpose of temple marriage so people can be sealed for eternity and not just in this life.  She had absolutely no knowledge of that idea and she has been a member for some time.  I still feel stunned and deeply concerned about the depth of knowledge and conversion of some of the people.  I think I sort of compare everyone to the standard of the students in the institute class we attend.  They have wonderful understanding and depth of conversion and conviction.

The institute kids role playing situations and applying scriptural lessons.

Anyway, because Port Antonio is so difficult to get to we decided we would stay there and type up the minis and prepare them and leave them there.  That was going to be okay because we had only about 12 participating in the workshop and then at the last minute 3 teen age girls came in and of course wanted mini resumes.  So I began as soon as I could get the computer away from Bob and while he finished up the presentation I started typing the mini resumes.  We stayed until almost 5:30 and decided to make the decision when we got to the junction whether we would drive to Ocho Rios 2 hours away on good roads or go ahead over the mountain for 2 hours and end up driving in the mountains in the dark.  We amazingly decided to go for it and save the extra trip the next day.  Thankfully most of the trip was in light to dusk and only the latter end was in the dark but we managed to stay on the right road and got home safely at 7:45 that evening.  12 hours!  Tired!

in our lives as much as he does the big things.  He loves us that is why! faulty which
Part of the reason we wanted to get home was because I had to make soup for FHE at the mission home Monday night and we had a 2:00 meeting with Pres Brown and a 3:00 meeting with the PEF committee.  Those went well—sort of related to all the things I wrote about at the first of this entry.  Our senior missionary FHE was a farewell dinner for the Smiths who are going home.  They were called as MLS missionaries but he told of how they had been prepared by their stake president for a Spanish speaking mission and were surprised by the call to Jamaica.  But then Pres Hendricks explained why he thought they were there.  He apparently saw on their forms that Elder Smith was a Patriarch.  So he called SLC and pled with them to make an exception and allow Elder Smith to be able to give Patriarchal Blessings while on his mission.  The exception was made and Elder Smith gave 250 blessings in the 23 months he was here.  The people feel tremendously blessed-- It really was a wonderful thing for Jamaica and the Jamaican Saints. 
The Larsens had some of their kids with them as they had been vacationing in Ocho and had hurried back for the FHE—It will be their turn next month.  The Hendricks’ also leave at the end of next month, then in August the Mortensens leave, the first of October we leave, and the Wrights leave in November.  That will leave the Evans, Murdocks, and Pearsons!  No more senior missionaries!  That will be very difficult on the mission.  Senior missionaries play a very special and important role in the branches here.

I took these pictures some time ago but they are so cute I wanted to include them even though they have nothing to do with the narrative.  I think I made this little girl cry but then I got her to calm down again but look at those big tears in her eyes.

I have to report one more important thing.  A miracle really--Though some will only laugh.  My iPad battery has been dying every day and my scripture program became extremely sluggish which made it more difficult to study the things I was studying.  So I asked at the video counter at Pricesmart (like Costco) and he told me of an Apple service center—which it turns out I knew exactly where it was.  I took it in and they ran some tests and said if it was the battery and servicing it would be $80000 JAM (about $80) because I said the warranty was run out.  Of course I was prepared to pay that no matter what (actually I would have to have had Bob pay for it).  So as we were logging it in and preparing for the service they discovered the warranty was actually good—for 6 more days!!  So I had to take it home to back everything up on the Cloud.  They took it to verify the battery is faulty which it is and now they have ordered me not a battery but a new (refurbished) (free) iPad (which will have a new warranty.)  Don’t you agree that is a miracle—Heavenly Father does care about the little things in our lives as much as he does the big things.  He loves us that’s why!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Perhaps The Most Rewarding Experience of Our Mission

Soon after we began making our PEF phone calls I started feeling particularly close to some of the women in SavLaMar.  I knew the branch pres there had encouraged many of the older single mothers there to apply for the loans to get an education to help support their families. At first I was concerned that there were so many exceptions made for the age limit but as I talked to the women I came to appreciate what he was trying to do and I realized how much the women appreciated him and loved him for what he was doing to help them.

So I got this idea in my mind that I wanted to meet them in person. I started thinking about getting them all together for a party or something. Long before we were to go to SavLaMar for our employment seminar we decided we would try to arrange it. We called Pres Blake a couple of weeks in advance and he said that would be fine and he would announce it. So we went a day early and took refreshments and were prepared for a social.

When we got there they were waiting for us. They had the chapel set up for a small meeting. We were not prepared for a meeting but after hugging each one and laughing about if we all looked like what we had envisioned and taking everyone's picture we started a little meeting with about ten women and one man. My heart was so full I was just giddy. I was filled with love--the greatest love for every single person and as I hugged them and took their pictures they returned my love in abundance. So when it was time to start our "meeting" I was as high as a kite!  Bob was slightly less high! (but apparently he was a little panicked by our unpreparedness.)  I cannot even remember what I said but I introduced us and expressed all the love I had for them and then said something like we were not prepared for a meeting or program but I know if I put a nickel in him he will have lots to say.

He had an opening prayer and then asked them to tell us a little about themselves and their experience with PEF and I interjected and asked them to give us their testimonies as well. When they get started Jamaicans are not at a loss for words!  Sister Tracy Ann Gayle started. She is one I loved after the first call. She was very excited about going to the temple for the first time.  She talked about finding the church while listening to the missionaries teach the children of her husband. I'm not sure how it worked but she joined and then told him they needed to get married and if they were going to do that he needed to join the church also. So he joined and they got married. I'm not sure he is as converted as she is--he did not go to the temple with her in November when she went with a group of women from that area. She is now the Relief Society President

Then Shanigue Paynado who is new to the church but planning a mission already got up. She was short but basically said the Church was her family even though she came from a big family.  She is very excited to go to the temple.

Sister Gayle top, Sister Paynado right, Sister Gordon left.

Susan Gordon was next and her story sort of surprised me. Even the fact that she talked--for several minutes surprised me. I have not actually talked to her on the phone because she is on auto debit and current with her payments. So I didn't know anything about her except her record and when I met her she seemed shy to me even though she is the institute teacher. She told about being unmarried and having three daughters. The father of her children is Buddhist and not interested in the Church. They ran and perhaps still do run a business together. She tried to get him to marry after their first daughter and again after their second. But he said he was not ready. So when she was pregnant with their third she found the church and tried again to get him to marry her but he was still not ready so she left him for the Church. She still has a house and a car so she must still have part of the business and she says they are still good friends. He was not impressed when she wanted to go to school but now apparently brags to others that she is getting an education. She told me later that a couple of years ago she was diagnosed with cancer but she prayed and promised The Lord she would be faithful and two weeks ago she got a cancer free report.

Pamela Robinson was next. She got her degree in early childhood education and has opened a little school in her home. I have sent her mini resumes as a model for advertising her school. It was interesting--she got emotional talking about her tough life and finding the church and one particular woman who really supported her. When she had to stop talking, little Shanique went up to her. She did not try to take her in her arms at all but put her hand on her shoulder and just talked very quietly to her. I could not hear what she was saying but it looked like an older person talking to a child almost. (Pamela may about old enough to be her mother.). Anyway she got herself together after a couple of minutes and Shanique sat down. The interesting thing was that nearly every other woman referred to what a support Sister Robinson is to them. She was the RS pres but is now the Young Women's pres. She is energetic with lots of personality.

Sister Robinson                      
                                                         Sister Smith


Juliane Smith was next and talked about the support she has felt from our contacts as well as from Pres Blake. She is really lovely--very attractive, cheerful and outgoing.

My special friend Veniece Dixon was next. She made people laugh even though it was sort of a sad story--hard life as a child, father left when she was 12, pregnant before she could finish high school, lived with his mother, had another baby, he went to the Bahamas to work, came back, she got pregnant again, went to Bahamas with him until after the baby was born, came back, lived on her own with the three kids, he came back she got pregnant again, two more times.  Then he came back with a business associate and her little boy told her his dad was married to the business associate. So nearly 20 years and five kids later he is gone for good. She was self conscious about having five kids until she found the church and started feeling better about herself. At the end she waved her hand around and announced she is getting married to a nice young man--younger than she is and a member of the church. She loves doing nails (Which is the training she received with the PEF loan.) because it makes women feel good about themselves. Every time I talk to Sister Dixon I feel good because she is always so positive.

Bob got up and started to close the meeting though many people had not yet spoken but Marsha Murdock wanted to talk. She said she would be short but she ended talking about a skin product she has developed that is a miracle product. But she is grateful for her PEF loan and her Practical Nursing training because of the medical background she is getting for developing her skin products.

Sister Dixon

                                                 Sister Murdock

Several more people came in during the meeting so we met Keriban Anderson, Michelle Morgan, Ted Samuels, Margia Dixon, as well as Brian Woolery, who didn't speak, and Dwight Smith (the husband of Julaine) who came from work after we were finished and Randy Beckford who came and then went before we could talk to him. He is also planning a mission.

 Brother Woolery
                                                         Sister Morgan

 Sister Anderson
                                                  Sister Margia Dixon

                         Brother Samuels

Sunday we met Rashelle McLeary Campbell, Randy Beckford, Angela Townsend, Valine Brown. I also forgot to mention that we met Paulette Blake, wife of the branch president at the hotel where we stayed because she is the manager of housekeeping there.  She told us her other daughter Sade McLeary was there visiting and was actually staying at the hotel.  We met up with her later and met her baby and boyfriend.  We met her for the first time a few months ago before the baby was born.  She lives in Spanish Town now but is also a PEF participant.

 Sister Blake (Branch President's wife)
                                                      Sister Townsend

 Brother Beckford
                                                       Sister Brown


 Sister McLeary Campbell

Sade McLeary, Miguel and Marony

(I know all these names are not of much interest to anyone else who may read this journal but they will be of interest to me later.)

That meeting last night was an amazing highlight of our whole mission. It was wonderful being in their meetings with so many friends around and then we had an amazing jobs seminar where several of them attended as well. It was by far the best seminar we have had.  There were over 30 people there and they were very responsive. One little single mother I am sure is illiterate was there but one of our PEF folks just moved in and helped her fill out her worksheet. In addition one of our participants is pretty much illiterate also and another one again moved in to help her. This is a wonderful branch. I wish they were all like this.

This was also the best workshop we have done because Bob and I really worked well together and entertained as we taught.  I think it was because we were so happy and so comfortable and felt so loved and accepted by the people. 

We stayed Sunday night in Negril and got up and worked on the mini resumes almost all day on Monday.  Unfortunately when I started printing them the printer ran out of ink.  I was upset because I had intended to bring extra ink and did not do it.  So we went to two stores in Negril that had no ink and ended up driving back to SavLaMar (about 35-40 min away) to get ink.  Fortunately we almost drove right to the place.  We called them and got directions but we have no idea how we actually ended up on exactly the right street when we came into town on a different street than we intended.  Heavenly Father does care about little things in our lives too.

On the way back we stopped at a little restaurant Sister Blake recommended and had a nice meal.  It poured rain while we were eating but when we left it had stopped.  We went back to the hotel and I finished printing and cutting the 31 mini resumes we made and printed and cut and sorted the many pictures I took as well.  We had planned to leave on Monday originally but luckily we had changed our minds earlier so we were able to work until about 11:00 that night.  Tuesday I needed to send a mass email which always takes a long time, so by the time we got up and ate breakfast (which took over an hour to serve—French toast and an omelet?? and got the email off the office was calling us about our check out time.  So our departure was rushed but included a sweet goodbye with Sister Blake who will deliver our mini resumes and pictures to our friends.

Instead of driving back the way we came which is the southern highway through lots of towns, and windy, rough roads we decided to take the longer, smoother, straighter northern highway back through Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.  We spent the night in Ocho and had a little sun time on the beach and then headed home over one of my favorite windy mountain roads which includes the river drive from Linstead to Spanish Town.

Yesterday was another very special day.  I called a participant early on in our mission and discovered she had withdrawn from school about 7 years ago and had not made a payment since.  At first I was critical but after a few months I got to know and like her.  Then I heard that her school had closed up and left the country with everyone’s money and she was not able to finish her program.  So then of course I felt sorry for her not having the degree but having the debt and no job to pay for it.  Then a couple of months ago or a little less we got a copy of the official guidelines for PEF.  I don’t know why we got it and I don’t know why I read it so carefully—I usually avoid that kind of reading.  But I did and discovered a little clause regarding loan forgiveness if a school closes making it impossible for the student to complete their program. 

I of course immediately thought of this woman and got right on it and found out how to apply for loan forgiveness.  It took a long time (everything does here) but we finally got it approved.  I asked the missionary in DR to write a letter to her that I could deliver to her.  And that is what we did yesterday.  It was very sweet.  For a long time she did not know what to say then we started talking to her about her lost dreams and time.  Then I mentioned to her a Planning for Success Workshop that Pres Brown is planning for new PEF people this month and suggested she might attend the workshop even if it was just to get her focus and self confidence back.  That is when the tears started rolling down her cheeks.  I think they were tears of relief, joy and most of all hope. 

She is older now and her health is not that good but I hope she will be able to do something positive with her life now that she has that loan off her shoulders.

We stopped at the Banhan’s hardware store on the way out of town and talked with Sister Banhan for a long time.  She is one of the pioneer Saints here. (Her husband’s was the convert baptism we attended our first Sunday in Kingston.)  We were going to stop and get a pizza to take home and share with the Larsens but we could not reach them before we passed the pizza place so when we did talk to them they invited us to stop by for supper with them.  We had Jucie Patties which has never sounded too good to me so we have never had them, but they were good!  We visited for a while then headed home.--good people.  I will miss them when they leave next month.