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!!