Saturday, August 24, 2013

Finishing Strong

Saturday 24 August 2013

It seems like we have been very busy and yet we have done very little to write about.  We have actually spent a lot of time just sitting and working at our computers.  We are trying to get as many PEF participants squared away before we leave as possible.  We have been having some difficulty with the finance department—communication problems as well as technical and human error.  But hopefully those are starting to get cleared up as of the last couple of days.  We have gotten pretty discouraged at times but I think we are better now.  

We spent several hours last week training Audrey Simpson who will be a Church Service Missionary to work with PEF.  We are hoping we will have another Church Service Missionary because as we learned officially this week our replacements (two senior sisters) will not be here until Dec.  Sister Simpson is a woman we met shortly after our arrival.  I was impressed with her from the beginning.  She is very bright and obviously capable.  She is one of the really good teachers we have had here.  Anyway we spent a couple of intense hours then went to lunch and continued.  Then we took her to do her grocery shopping and dropped her at her house.  She has a darling little house she rents from a couple who are in the US.  It is always interesting to see people’s homes.  Anyway, I think she will be really good.  We were going to meet again today but can’t.  She said she has read the 9 page document we gave her and with what we told her she feels pretty confident.  We will have her listen in to some of our phone calls and then have her make the rest for September as we will be gone when October comes!

We have done three employment firesides since I wrote last, Portmore, Linstead, and Mandeville.  They actually go very well.  It is a good message and we are both well prepared and the PowerPoint presentation is pretty good.  I actually have used some of the pictures I have taken around the island as decorations for the slides so they look nice even though they may detract a little from the message.  We hurried from Linstead to Spanish Town so we could meet with Pres Britton and his branch planning committee for a program they are planning on self-reliance including the Heart Trust group.  But unfortunately they did not meet (and the program is still pending—much to Bob’s dismay).  We hope they will get it off the ground before we leave as this Heart organization has education and training for many different programs all over the island.  It is much needed for our unemployed and young members.

On the day we were in Mandeville we had to hurry from there to May Pen to meet with Latoya Watson, who is the district employment specialist.  We did some more training and gave her some materials.  It was good to meet with her—she is a very industrious and successful young single woman.

Last week at our PEF committee meeting, Elder Cornish from the Area Presidency was in attendance.  He had been working with Pres Brown so sat in on our meeting.  We seemed to dominate the meeting with issues we are concerned about and hope they get taken care of before we leave.  One was the difficulties we were having with the finance department.  Elder Cornish took a copy of the issues Bob had written out and said he would talk to them—which he did in the next few days.  It may have caused some hurt and hard feelings towards us but I think it helped the communication and to get some things moving.  Elder Cornish really likes Bob, I think because he can see his talents and he really gets things done and doesn't let his age slow him down a second.
Last week we also invited the Evans to go with us to lunch at the Grogg Restaurant at Devon House.  We had been the week before with the Murdocks so we were a little surprised when they also got out of the Evans’ car.  They liked it as well as we did I guess.  We had a nice time and a very pleasant lunch in beautiful surroundings.

Monday we had Family Home Evening with the Brown family again.  We had a nice dinner and then the Wrights taught a lesson to the children and then another to the adults.  They had a raw egg named Mister Egbert who wanted to know why the Brown family is so happy.  They put him in a jar of water and with each reason the children read from slips of paper Sis Wright had prepared stating why they are happy, they added a scoop of sugar to the water.  It took all the sugar they brought but eventually Mr Egbert floated to the top of the water.  The adults enjoyed the lesson as well as the kids.  But Pres and Sister Brown got the biggest kick out of it because of course as Mr Egbert started to float the kids got less involved with the questions and answers and more involved with getting the sugar into the water.  It got a little “Typical” before the end.

Their lesson for the adults was good also—the children had retired to the other room and Elder Wright asked each of us to describe what it was about our spouse that had made our marriage a success.  He started with the Browns which was probably a wise thing since they have only been married 14 years and some of the others were 30-50 years.  There really were no duplicates and it didn't seem to be difficult for anyone to do.  The interesting thing I thought of after Pres Brown thanked us for all we had said and what examples we are for him—was that they probably have never had much experience with older couples who have been married for many years and served in the Church for many years.  There just aren't any real examples of those things in Jamaica. And though he has worked with senior couples before and she has probably known many they probably have not known them well enough to learn the things that were discussed that evening.

I was obviously Leah Brown’s favorite that night.  She helped me set the table and then sat on my lap for a good part of the evening.  I should write the word “sat” to indicate something less than a quiet relaxed body in repose.  I purposely did not even take my iPad and she did not find the iPhone, but we used the arm cover on the chair to make things.  With a little effort I remembered how to make the two babies in the cradle that Mother used to make for the children out of a handkerchief—she was particularly fond of that one—though she did like the airplanes too.

Bob and I had to get our Temple Recommends renewed that evening also.  We were sitting in Sacrament meeting listening to a talk on Temples when I decided to look at mine.  To my shock I discovered it had expired!  Bob gave me a bad time till he looked at his own and discovered the same thing.  All is well now thankfully.

Bob got some more dental work done this week and has one more appointment.  He also had an eye issue we had to see a doctor about.  Thankfully that is cleared up now too but we have a follow up this week.
We were supposed to meet with Bro Alvarado, the Area Self Reliance Director and Bro Negron the Area Employment Director this morning after very short notice of one day.  But with no notice they got stranded in Trinidad and could not make it.  We heard from Sister Evans that they were stranded or we would have gone to an 8:00 meeting this morning that did not happen.  We were looking forward to meeting with Bro Alvarado but we may yet have that opportunity.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Denbigh Fair and More Employment Firesides

Sunday 11 August 2013
I forgot to write about a very funny thing that happened the day I was keeping Leah Brown from disturbing her parents during the Mandeville District Conference.  Bob had gone back into the meeting and I was with the two little kids in a side room.  Leah had lost interest in the iPad and Jared was now playing with it.  Leah and I were sort of playing chase.  She stopped and said something to me which I did not understand and required her to repeat 3 times then I asked Jared what she was saying and had to ask him to repeat.  Finally, enunciating very clearly and firmly as if to an imbecile he said “She has to urinate!”  Oh, okay.  I can understand that.  So I took her to the bathroom.  She was wearing a rather bulky diaper (which was showing much wear) so even though I did not have a spare I had to remove it.  She was very capable of getting on the toilet (though she is only 2) so I closed the door and let her have privacy.  After a long time I opened the door and asked if she was through, she said I have to defecate.  I held back my chuckle and closed the door.  A little later she said she was not through defecating.  While she was taking care of this business I slipped in and called Sister Brown out to ask about a new diaper.  She said she was going to have to run to the store because she had forgotten to put an extra in her bag.  So she left the meeting and ran to the store.  She really was not gone all that long but in the meantime Leah is still sitting on the toilet.  

Finally I asked her if she was through and needed me to help her wipe.  She leaned over the toilet which of course grossed me out because she had both hands on the seat.  But that was not enough while I was busy with one end she stuck her head in the toilet!  I was horrified thinking she may have dipped one of her braids in the water.  When we finished with that job I of course wanted her to wash her hands—and take a shower(which was not available)—I sat her on the counter and got her hands all soaped up and got her to wash.  She had been running around barefoot so she was actually leaving a muddy mess on the counter but I thought it was more important for her to get washed so I didn’t worry about that.  

Sister Brown got back and I got the counter cleaned up and Leah was ready when her mom came back to get another diaper on.  Of course when all that was done I had to wash my hands again!

We had a really good Employment Fireside at Portmore Branch.  It was really fun to see some of the people we love from there.  The Andersons, (Ramonah (Tracy) is the one who showed Derek around the hospital when he was here, and Rondall her husband is in the District Presidency—both are PEF participants).  The Dennis’—whose pictures I have included in my blog before because they are so darling.  Bob has really helped Sibthorpe get his PEF loan organized.  And others we have met on other visits and occasions.  Bob helped one young man with his finance plan because he seems to be having trouble getting things in the proper priorities.  Anyway, we felt really good about how our fireside went and were pleased to have the Murdocks there as well as a couple others visiting from the DR.

Monday was supposed to be a Senior Missionary Outing but it turned out to be the Mortensens and the Pugmires.  We went to the Denbigh Fair (pronounced Denbee) .  Larsens had told us about it when they were here and so we were glad to get to go.  We did not know where it was held except it was in May Pen so we told the Mortensens we would meet them there—they didn’t know where it was either.  Anyway, we got into town and stopped and asked a woman on the street and she told us to just go straight along.  (That is a very common direction here.)  But it worked and we drove right to it.  We parked in a big field and walked towards the gate.  I loved the ticket booth.  They had pulled a small air conditioned bus in and placed portable barriers perpendicular to the bus so that they formed aisles for people to go up to a window in the bus and buy their ticked form someone sitting in the bus.  I thought it was an ingenious idea.  

We got there a little ahead of the Mortensens so we went into a couple of display areas (they were actually small buildings—like fairgrounds at home).  The first one caught my attention because of the hydro planting in the 3inch PVC pipes.  Then I was fascinated by the coffee bean cycle.  The beans are picked when they are red.  They take off an outer shell and then the green bean is aged for a while then processed to remove another thin skin type of thing before the beans are roasted and ground, etc.  The first outer shell is used to make compost.  They mix in some nice red worms and the worms process it to make a very fine soil enhancer.  I have seen the red worms do their work on something else before but I can’t remember what—I think Karen will remember.  Anyway I found this display very interesting.

Bob thinks he is going to take up Vertical Gardening when he gets home.

 This is the Hydro garden where the plants are basically sitting in water.

Then we went to one I liked even more.  It was Disaster Preparedness for animals.  This farming organization is trying to help people see the importance of protecting their animals from hurricanes and floods.  They had two miniature buildings built to show how to protect goats and another for pigs.  I have sort of vaguely worried about animals in storms but not really knowing anything I did not really think it out.  This woman explained that bigger animals like horses and cows can sort of protect themselves and they can swim but pigs cannot swim and so if they are caught in a lot of water they will be drowned--Same with goats apparently.  So they want the farmers to take better care of their animals.  She definitely gave us the impression that much of their education and instruction is falling on deaf ears.  But this was a new concept for me so I found it very interesting.

 Elder Mortensen and Bob in their cowboy hats.

When we finally caught up with the Mortensens we went into several other areas and had a nice time.  They are very comfortable to be with.  He loves to eat so we told him about a jerk place we found and then we stopped for a cold drink.  Then he and Bob bought cowboy hats which actually were a good idea as the sun was very hot that day.  Elder Mortensen finally even talked his wife into a hat which she had been refusing all along.  I resisted but suffered for it.  We ran into the Medleys (the district President) and Sister Barrett (wife of the Linstead Branch President) which was kind of fun in a big crowd.  We ate chicken for lunch at the place we had located earlier and then looked around a little more and decided we had seen enough and said goodbye and went home.  Nice day.

The fruit and vegetables make beautiful displays.  I was particularly interested in the sprouted coconuts here.  The colorful little things around the bottom of the coconuts are Scotch Bonnet peppers--very hot.  When you cook with them you put them in while cooking and then take them out before eating the dish.  

Some of the veggies are common to what we have at home but many are not.  We have not tried them all by any means.

We are recognizing our time is running out.  We have heard several rumors about replacements but nothing before we leave and nothing really definitive at all.  So we have been trying to clean up as much as we can with our PEF participants—we really have made a lot of progress with many of these people and are loath to see it fall apart when we are gone.  Bob especially has been the brains behind the clean- up work.  He has worked so hard with the finance department in DR and with our Director in DR.  He suggested that for our fast this month that we pray especially for the finance department.  I thought he was being irreverent but he was serious so that is what we did and first thing this week we got a call from the director of finance and had a long conversation that really helped clear things up.  Heavenly Father really does watch out for the little things in our lives and wants us to be successful. 

The other thing we are doing is trying to write some instructions of the things we do on a routine basis.  I do most of the computer generated reports etc. so I have been trying write instructions about how to get them even though I know some of them require authorization.  If they need these reports they will be able to get the authorization as well.

Today we did our fireside in the Linstead Branch and spent some time with one or our participants trying to help her get some issues solved.  It doesn’t really look hopeful but we are trying.  The fireside went well and the people seemed very receptive.  Pres Barrett spoke afterward for a minute and reinforced our message which really does coincide with what Pres Brown is trying to get the Saints fired up about right now.  Our fireside is about employment but it really spills over into daily living as Latter-day Saints so the message is very pertinent to his goals for Jamaica.

We got a nice compliment today.  Pres Blake from the Savanna La Mar Branch called and asked us if we would come and speak at their girl’s camp in a couple of weeks.  I know this is because Sister Robinson is the YW President but it is still nice to be thought of.  (This is the branch with all the PEF participants we love so much—we went there and had a party with them a few months ago.)  
More visitors from DR this week—keeping us on our toes.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

President Kevin George Brown, Jamaica Kingston Mission

Friday, 2 August 2013

The time is starting to slip by and I don’t seem to have a lot to show for it this week.  Derek left a week and a half ago and it seems like all we have been doing since then is trying to solve problems—which is what we were involved with the week before he came.  But finally today there are email messages from DR that indicate we may be making a little progress.

Since we had to go to Montego Bay for our employment fireside a week ago (when Derek was here) we missed our Spanish Town District Conference.  We have heard nothing but absolute raves since.  Everyone is catching Pres Brown’s fire.  The first thing he told us when we saw him after the conference is that we are getting a Stake in Jamaica.  This is what Jamaicans have been dreaming of and praying for for years.  So he must have found out just before the conference and he really got everyone fired up and excited.  We were so sorry to have missed the conference and the announcement.

So in attempts to get some of the fire ourselves we decided to go to Mandeville to their District Conference on Saturday.  We had another fireside on Sunday so we knew we would not be able to go to the Sunday session but we thought we could benefit from the Saturday session.  We were disappointed.  In the first place NO ONE came.  They had only one of five branch presidents there and that was a missionary!  This was the Priesthood session for which I sat in the other room reading for most of the time.  It was a great disappointment for Pres and Sister Brown as well.  

Secondly, I was disappointed because they had brought their 3 younger children.  The 10 year old sat and played games or something but the 2 and 4 year olds were very active.  They stayed with me and Bob for a few minutes then wanted to be with their parents on the stand.  When Sis Brown was talking Pres Brown took Leah out.  I did not feel it was right for him to not be on the stand so I went and took her into the other room where she played Angry Birds on my iPad.  (She is extremely bright for a 2 year old!).  Pretty soon Bob came out with the little boy, Jared.  I signaled Bob not to let him come in where we were because I knew they would fight over the iPad but that lasted only a few minutes and in he burst--and indeed demanded his turn on the iPad.  So we closed the door so they would not disturb the meeting and we got to hear none of it. I finally convinced Bob to go in and hear at least a few minutes of Pres Brown’s comments.  There were quite a few more members here at this meeting thankfully—but not enough.

While we waited during Priesthood meeting Sister Brown and the kids joined me at my study.  Leah snatched my phone out of my purse and knew exactly what to do with it--sort of.  (I did a little cropping of this picture of her mom.)

This is Leah a 2 year old!  I included my picture in the background because she took about 20 pictures of herself and her expression never varied. The only way you could tell they were different pictures was because my expression was different every time.  I looked like a flickering movie and she never even blinked!

 Leah made herself comfortable on the sacrament stool during District Conference.  Pres Brown and Sister Brown are on the left.  Pres Eulett, one of Pres Brown's councilors, is on the far right.  Leah was helping herself to his iPad just moments before this picture.

I didn’t really mind keeping an eye on the kids but I was disappointed not to get to hear Pres Brown.  I talked to a PEF participant during the week and she told me the meeting on Sunday was more wonderful than she even had words for.  I was impressed as she is a person I was a little worried about in terms of commitment to the church.  So it must have been really good.

Our fireside this week was in the Boulevard Branch so we did not have to travel—that was good.  I must admit I am getting a little tired of the long hard drives.  The fireside went well.  We feel we are making a little difference in terms of getting and keeping people thinking about employment.  In this fireside we really encourage them to help and look out for each other which is another thing that is needed here (and everywhere).

Monday we went with the Wrights to the Grogg Restaurant (the same one we went to with Derek).  We had a very nice time as we always do in their company.  We told them the news we heard about the Mortensens who are extending and so we called them there and then on the speaker phone and they verified the rumor.  Pres Brown called them and said “The Lord wants you to extend.”  They did not bat an eye they extended for another year!  They had been concerned about getting home so it is not as if it was not a sacrifice but when the Lord speaks, faithful saints respond.  I am glad for the mission, they are good people.

The highlight of the past week and a half was our Zone Conference yesterday.  We got to feel of Pres Brown’s fire.  He was so energetic and excited I think some of the missionaries’ heads were spinning.  But they were and are behind him 150%.  He explained to them that in 2003 there were 5000 members in Jamaica.  In 2010 there were 5000 members and in 2013 there are 5004—some figures like that.  Anyway, it was rather shocking.  I cannot believe that those numbers reflect a huge emigration.  But whatever it is there is work to be done to produce 60 more tithing paying Melchezedic Priesthood holders by January in order to be able to form a Stake out of the Spanish Town District.  He says we must baptize, reactivate and advance.  He put huge responsibilities on the missionaries to work with the branch leadership.  Nearly all the branches have multiple missionaries now and we are expecting 15 more next transfer.  We still really need more senior missionaries to support the branches though.  Pres Brown really emphasized reactivation because of its two fold value.  First people need the gospel to be truly happy and secondly the Church needs priesthood leaders and strong members—not just here but everywhere.

Pres Brown is very physical with his missionaries (as he was with his institute students).  As he walks down the aisle he will pat people on the head or shoulder.  If he stops to listen to someone across the room he will stroke the back or head of whoever is nearest to him.  Yesterday he actually took the head of a missionary and leaned down and kissed the top of his head as he was listening to someone else on the other side of the room.  He called this one missionary up and put his arms around him and pulled his head right against his own and said “I love this guy.  "There is no black or white here."  We love each other as brothers.” He was trying to teach the missionaries how important it is to love the people.  And he does this very well by his example.   I also noticed just as he was taking his seat at the beginning of the meeting he passed his wife and leaned down and kissed her cheek.  (I was talking to a woman at the mission office a couple of weeks ago and as he walked by he kissed me on the cheek without a word and just continued what he was doing—I teased him about it being sticky because he was eating a do-nut.)

He explained one time, that when he was growing up there was no demonstration of affection and he determined he was going to be different.  He told how he had to get his courage up to tell his mother he loved her and how she passed it off but he kept trying.  I left the meeting with Sister Brown to get extra muffins and as we drove she told me Jamaicans love people and they are quick to hug but they do not say I love you.  I told her I had felt much love from and for the Jamaicans I have met.  She said yes but they can’t say it.  Another thing, I don’t think they really have any prejudice about white people.   They love us just as well as anyone else and sometimes maybe more.

Sister Brown observing the role play between Sister Richardson and Sister Collier and the Evans'.
Sister Richardson is the daughter of the Branch President in Hopeton. We first met her in DR when she was in the MTC there.

The Mortensens are role playing with Sister Bezin in the white and Sister Makai, who is from South Africa.  These two Sisters are the Sister Leaders (APs).

 Pres Brown is observing a role play.  Elder Dawkins on the left is Jamaican.  Elder Gill in the middle with the glasses is from Canada.

It was a great meeting and there is no way Jamaica is not going to have a stake in January and another one next year and a temple before too long!  I don’t know who could possibly keep up the momentum after Pres Brown but we don’t have to worry about that for 3 years.  And by then it should be running on its own steam.

This week as I was walking I listened to a talk by Tad Callister, who is one of my favorite speakers.  It was Our Identity and our Destiny.  I don’t know exactly why but it really struck me as one of the most important talks I have ever heard.  It is not even a topic I think about very often but I come down from my walk so inspired I had to look it up and send it to my family.  He was talking about the doctrine of mankind being spiritual offspring of our Heavenly Father and therefore having the potential of becoming gods.  This is a doctrine I have never had any difficulty with as it is so basic to the gospel, but for some reason I was totally inspired and filled with the spirit.  I really loved how he made it all so easy and logical and without criticizing the critics basically refuting any criticism of the doctrine. I wish I had that kind of spiritual power to express my beliefs and ideas.

Studying has become one of my favorite past-times now.  I love to read a lesson from an Institute manual or a talk for example and then look up the scriptures and see how they have applied them.  It really has enhanced my understanding of many scriptures and my ability to apply other scripture lessons to myself.  Now that I am learning to apply them in concept I sure would like to learn how to apply them in my daily behavior and attitudes.—Constant Battle!!