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.


  1. I always enjoy your posts. The Jamaican people are beautiful. Thanks for all the pictures.

  2. Hello from Sade and Marani. Beautiful blog :)