Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tying Up Loose Ends

Sunday 9 September 2013

I had better get some things written down before I forget them.  Sundays are pretty much spent doing our employment fireside. On the 25 of August we were at Constant Spring.  It was fun to be there as that is where we were originally assigned and so feel a little like home there even though we have only attended there half a dozen times.  Our fireside went well—they sure do work better having them in the third hour of the meeting block rather than expecting that people will stay after the block for another meeting.  The Branch Presidents have been very gracious in letting us do this.  I don’t feel too bad about it though because it is a good fireside and has real spiritual and inspirational elements in it.  

That Monday we went down to the car to get Bob to the eye doctor for a check back and discovered a car that would not start.  So we called the man Larsens always took the mission cars to and he actually made a house call and came and fixed it—after he had to go out and buy a battery leaving us pretty much stranded the whole day.  We worked on our training material for our replacements.

 We stopped by the office before leaving town and were able to visit a few minutes with these new missionaries who just arrived from the MTC in DR.  Sister Patchrina Hudson on the left was the RS president in the Junction Branch, Sherida Lafayette was in our branch and a live wire leader of the youth, especially in performing.  Sister Llewellyn taught RS the first time we visited Ocho Rios.  Sisters Hudson and Lafayette were assigned "off island" in Nassau--pretty exciting for girls who have not even been anywhere in Jamaica!  All three are 19 I think.

Thursday we drove to White House a town on the way to Savanna La Mar.  That is where the Girl’s Camp was held.  They invited us to speak at camp—I expected an outdoor situation with lots of mostly young girls.  I expected that they might have trouble hearing us.  I guess I expected what I was accustomed to at girl’s camp at home—and it wasn't anything like that!  They told us to call when we got to the shacks where they sold fish.  Well we didn't exactly recognize the right shacks but we called and Pres Blake tried to talk us in.  We had to turn around twice but finally they said someone would be on this certain road to meet us so we went back to the first place we tried and there was a young man sitting on a log—fortunately he recognized us!  So he took us to the “camp”—which was very confusing as we were in a residential area.  I was a little taken aback when we pulled into the yard of a good sized house and were met by several young men and lots of little children and a few young women.  There were actually more young women but some of them had to go back to Sav (about 20 rough miles away) to register for school.  So Sister Robinson rather unceremoniously gathered the remaining girls together in what was the front room of the house where they sat on the floor and brought us chairs to sit on (thankfully!) After a song they sang to us accompanied by recorded music and a prayer Sister Robinson turned to us and said “Okay you can go now.”  We talked to about 10 young women from ages 15-18 and three leaders (one of whom slept on the floor beside us and another two were in and out the whole time.)  We talked on their theme for this year:  “Stand in Holy Places”

After we spoke we answered a few questions.  Even in light of our more spiritual talks Sister Robinson sort of guided them to questions regarding employment.  One that generated quite a bit of discussion was about young women getting an education or being stay at home moms.  At least that was the discussion—I can’t remember the question.  Then one of the girls gave us a formal thank you speech and another girl with another rather formal speech presented us with a picture of all of them taken at the first of the week.  It was a very nice experience.  When we left we took three of the leaders back into Sav.  One was the Montego Bay Branch President’s wife.  She needed to catch the bus back home, the other two, a young man and a young woman needed to get to Western Union to get some money.  (I did not realize until later that this money was probably coming from family abroad—one of the biggest sources of national income for Jamaica.)

Girl's Camp, Sister Robinson, the YW President in on the far right.

These girls are from different Branches but Girl's Camp always brings girls together.

A group picture before we left girl's camp.

The picture they gave us.  We love it.

It was raining one of Jamaica’s quick down-pours as we drove a section of some of Jamaica’s worst roads.  But even as we drove I was glad we were taking these people and that they were not having to wait for a taxi or having to even ride in a taxi in these conditions—not that they aren't very used to it and were not even giving it a thought.

When we dropped them off at the bus station (where the other two were going to have to catch a taxi back to the camp) we drove on to Negril where we checked into a very nice hotel, The Grand Lido, for a couple of nights.  This was arranged by Sister Blake, a PEF participant and the wife of the Sav Branch President, who is the head of housekeeping at the hotel.  It is a beautiful old hotel and it was very nice to see Sister Blake again, and we were treated very well, but the first night our room turned into an old broken refrigerator.  The air conditioning was turned so low and we were still freezing, so we turned it up and eventually off because it was not getting any warmer.  It ended up raining in the evening so I am sure that added to it also, but our room eventually became WET.  The mirrors were totally fogged with condensation, the tile floors were slippery wet, and the walls were so wet that it made the roll of toilet tissue wet as it touched the wall.  It was miserable.  When we told them about it they were a little less friendly but very quick to move us into another room.  They implied that happened because we turned the AC off but I am not convinced—I think the AC unit was not working properly because we turn off our AC all the time in our apartment. 

The Grand Lido Hotel in Negril

Just after the rain storm.

This is a new look at missionary life!

 The Hobie Cat we took out and the bay we learned in.

Anyway we did not let this ruin our stay.  We did something Bob said he has always wanted to do and that was learn to sail a Hobie Cat—a small catamaran.  I have never before heard Bob say he wanted to learn to sail a Hobie Cat—just goes to show some of the secrets men keep from their wives!  A young man took us out into the bay for a few minutes then brought us back in and sent us out on our own.  We did pretty well though I was not the least confident and I did not feel Bob was either but we did not feel unsafe because the bay was pretty small and the waters pretty calm.  We really enjoyed it and looked forward to doing it again but were not able to the next day because of time.  

So while Rob and Andrea were getting married and their families were all enjoying their day, we were driving from Negril to Kingston across the North Highway.  We had a Fireside in Spanish Town the next day.
That Sunday was very busy.  We did our fireside in the Spanish Town 2 branch during their Priesthood and Relief Society time, then we met with Audrey Simpson and Paula Steele, our Church Service Missionaries taking over PEF, during Sunday School for the first branch; then we moved into the chapel and did our fireside again for the first branch.  If that wasn't enough we went home for a couple of hours to have dinner as it was Fast Sunday, and turned around and went back to meet with these two sisters again at Sister Simpson’s house.  We were very tired but also very impressed and happy about these two women.  They will be very good.  They pick up very quickly and they are not at all hesitant on the phone.
Monday Bob had a Dentist appointment and we went to the office where we told Pres Brown of our need for phones for our Church Service Missionaries.  He was a little less than gracious about telling us no and that we would have to talk to the new Self-Reliance Director for the Area.  We were hurt and a little upset by his manner so we spent the next few days trying to work that out.  But we now better understand the new direction of PEF/Self-Reliance.  We immediately contacted the Area Self-Reliance director and soon got authorization to buy one phone.  (We will need to get another asap.  Phones are a big deal here as people pre-pay for minutes/credits and they are very precious to them.  That is why they often text or call and ask us to call them back.)

Bob with Sister Paula Steele and Sister Audrey Simpson our new Church Service Missionaries for PEF. (The first CSMs in Jamaica I think)

In the meantime we drove back and forth to Spanish Town to further train and allow these women to make the necessary phone calls using our phone.  It is not terrible (about half an hour)—people here do it all the time—but I am not crazy about driving at night because there are so many pedestrians and I really do pray to get through this mission without killing one of them. 

Tuesday, we drove to Spanish Town to have lunch with one of our PEF Participants, Krishna, with whom I have established a nice relationship.  It was so fun to meet her, she has a very sweet personality and gentle manner.  After pizza (the only eating places we know in Spanish Town) we drove her home and she took us in to meet her mother and niece.  Mother has the same sweet gentle manner.  She has shared some of her struggles with me so this was a very special experience.

Thursday Bob had an orthodontist appointment and then we met with Pres Britton for a few minutes about some new PEF loan applications then we took off for Montego Bay for a planned vacation at the Rose Hall Resort.  We had a fireside scheduled in Savlamar that Sunday so we just took in a couple of days at Rose Hall before we go home.  This is a very nice all-inclusive place (we stayed here when Steve and Regina came in April).  Friday we went out on a Hobie Cat on much rougher water and a much bigger bay.  I think we were both a little nervous for the first few minutes then we settled into how things worked and really enjoyed it—they had to signal us to come in as we stayed out so long.  Then we went up and got a non-alcoholic pina colata and floated on inner tubes around their nice lazy “river”.  Then we got our Kindles and sat by the pool until a threatening rain storm sent us to our room where we just lazed around until it was time to eat again.  Saturday was a repeat of Friday.  We really enjoyed the Hobie Cat, the lazy river and water slide, and the lounge by the pool.  This time we did not let the rain send us inside, we just shared the umbrella of the life guard and stuck it out—it was not at all bad nor was it cold as other rainy situations you might find yourself in.  Instead of Jerk Chicken and Festival for lunch/snack this day we had French fries—we did not want to spoil our appetite for dinner.

This view from our room of the water and the golf course just about convinced Bob he was ready to go home!

This picture does not do this scene justice by any means.  This was from our window in the evening and it was really gorgeous!

We haven't seen many steel drums while in Jamaica but this evening made up for it.  This "orchestra" was great and boy could they dance while playing those drums!

We got a little rain and wind in the afternoon sitting by the pool but it was still beautiful!

 Rose Hall Resort, lovely!

It was a very nice couple of days vacation and we did accomplish a few things for work while we were there.  We had lots of opportunities to talk about the Church and what we are doing in Jamaica.  People are very interested in what we are doing and I think impressed with the Church as a result.

Sunday we got up a little early and drove a new road through the end of the island instead of around the end, as we have done in the past, to Savanna La Mar.  We really liked this new route.  It is quite similar to the road between Ocho Rios and Linstead which we really like.  This was our second to the last employment fireside.  Savlamar of course is filled with a lot of our favorite people so it was really fun to be there and see so many of them.  Sister Robinson, the YW President who invited us to Girl’s Camp and her husband who is a councilor in the branch presidency were the speakers.  It was a very good meeting.  Sunday School was also quite good.  Something new:  The teacher, in a very soft voice at the beginning of the class when I was not even sure everyone was ready to start, announced “there is no talking in my class unless you say it for the whole class.”—And there wasn't!!  I was astounded—this is not Jamaica! Interestingly though she did several other things very different from anything else we have seen here—or at home.  She started the class with a hymn, prayer, and scripture reading.  Then everyone in the class read in unison the purpose of the lesson which she had written on the chalk board.  Maybe this is the kind of discipline that is needed here.  (The reading was done “on two” which is how they begin singing when there is no keyboard or piano.  It means, without even a pitch, everyone starts singing after the count of 1, 2.  Surprisingly it doesn't take them long to come to the same (or similar) key for singing.)

Our fireside went really well.  We both were really keyed into the people present and to the Spirit.  The Branch President was not only there to listen but gave very supportive encouragement to the people after we finished.  Only one other branch president has been as supportive, which is a shame because the branch president is the key for making the concepts we are teaching work.  When we were saying goodbye to Sister Blake she asked if she could have a copy of our presentation to modify and use with her staff at the Grand Lido, where she is the head of housekeeping, as I mentioned earlier.

In addition it was very gratifying to receive a phone call on Monday morning from a man in that branch who called to ask if we could send a copy of our presentation to his wife.  Soon after sending it we received a thank you email from her saying she was considering quitting her job until she heard our presentation and now she not only feels better about her own job but wants to use the presentation to help her co-workers. 

Monday we spent quite a while getting the phone for our CSMs and then just before going to our PEF meeting I got a phone call from one of my PEF friends in Sav telling me about how her court appearance with the father of her children went.  He wanted proof that the children were his, which he got.  Fortunately he was very repentant and asked her forgiveness and told the judge he intended to provide child support.  So that turned out well for her and she called to tell me about that and her personal struggle with breaking up with another man she was briefly engaged to and hoped to be sealed to in the temple.  We were almost late for our PEF meeting but I could not—would not-- cut her off.

Our PEF meeting was shorter than usual which was good as we had to get to the mission home for dinner and FHE with the Browns.  After dinner the Pearsons taught a lesson for the children about Abinadi and Alma using popcorn to represent the 450 people who were baptized in the Waters of Mormon.  Everyone enjoyed the lesson—even the kids.  The “lesson” for the adults was a spotlight for Bob and me as they went around the room telling us goodbye and saying nice things to us.  Bob is greatly admired because of his age and all he still is very capable of doing. The only impression I have made is that I am the only senior sister who drives a car here.  O well I am glad I can be good at something.

I learned later that the popcorn people sprouted in the baptismal water after a couple of days so Johnathan planted them in a planter outside.  I hope some will come up.

Everyone was very interested to see what was going to become of those "people" and the dish of water.

Sister Pugmire and Gabrielle Brown, now age 13.

Yesterday we worked really hard trying to finish up some loose ends and then at 3:30 we picked up Sister Simpson from her work and drove to Sister Steele’s to get her and went to Sister Simpson’s and worked until about 7:30. When we got home around 9:00 I fried eggs for supper and even though we were very tired we worked until about 11:00 before dragging ourselves to bed.

I woke at 4:30 this morning worrying about all that needs to be done to prepare to leave so.  I finished this post because I am quite sure I will not have time to post again before leaving Jamaica.  So the plans are we will pick Sister Simpson up at 3:30 again today and work with her alone.  Then work with Sister Steele probably tomorrow because of new time constraints on her time.  (Her single-mother sister she lives with is going to NY to be a nanny and earn a little money, leaving Sister Steele here with her three kids.  This will really change things for Sister Steele’s ability to serve as a Church Service Missionary.) 

Bob just informed me we have to meet with someone we had not planned on—so plans have changed.  It is a good thing Senior Missionaries are flexible!