Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year!

 This is a picture of our son Benjamin, with his newborn son, Redek!  Congratulations to Molly, who did all the valiant work and to all their little family!  Benjamin's hand looks the size of his head.  What a miracle that tiny little person is going to grow up to be a man.
When we skyped with Redek's big sister last week, I asked her if her Mommy was going to have a new baby soon.  She said, "No, Nana, I am going to be the Mommy.  It is going to be my baby." 
 This is a picture of the guy who delivered our bed. It is also the front of our blue apartment building. I asked him if I could take a picture of his hair and he looked at me a little strange and said, "sure, if you want."  I visited with him.  A really nice guy that delivers furniture and is a disc jockey for his other job.  The other guy that helped deliver the bed has really short buzz hair.  I told them I wanted to get the straight story on the hair here.  I asked them if it had to do with a religious thing, which I had been told, and they said "no, we just like it."The shaved guy said his hair was that long too, but he cut it off for a job.  Apparently, you cannot apply for government jobs with long hair. He did not get the job and was sad so he was going to grow it back out.  I asked him how long that would take and he responded, "about six years!!!"
I already posted this pic but I have taken no other pics since Christmas.  We have been working hard on our presentation to the Stake President and met with him yesterday and he supports our suggestions for the youth and YSA programs so we can begin our initiatives now!  Yippee!

Just had to record two amazing stories this week. This is my journal as well as our blog!

One was shared at church today.  A woman that looked to be in her 60's spoke and said that when the missionaries first taught her, she didn't know how to read.    She felt the spirit as they taught her about Christ and read to her from the book of mormon.  She asked them to teach her how to read the words and they went through some short simple verses pointing to the words and showing her how to sound them out.  She said after the missionaries left she prayed to God to be able to learn how to read the book.  Every time they came she would learn more words and with practice she was able to understand most of the words.  Some of them are still hard for her today but the church changed her life.  Eleven years later; today, she had written her own talk, read some verses and testified that the Book of Mormon (the first book she ever read), is from God and that Christ has directed and led her life ever since that book came into it. Afterward, she showed me the paper she had painstakingly and with perfect effort and precision written the words she chose to speak.  When I asked her about her life, she said her husband was mean and selfish and knew how to read but would not teach  her.  It didn't matter though because God, the missionaries, and the Book of Mormon opened her eyes and understanding to how much Jesus Christ loves her. She loves the church, her brothers and sisters, everything about the church and is so thankful to be where she is to write a talk and read most of the words of the book of mormon. She has read it three times.  It is a very slow process.

Have you ever thought about the blessing of being born in a part of the world where your parents made sure you learned to read?  Can you imagine living until you were 60 years old not knowing how to read, completely dependent on other people to tell you what the signs all around you say, unable to read sweet saving words from God in the scriptures?

The second story is the conversion of the first counselor in the stake presidency.  He is a testimony of what we are trying to accomplish here in Trinidad.  He was 19 and was at his sister's house.  The missionaries had recently been by to teach her and left a Book of Mormon which was on a table in her house.  This young man noticed it, picked it up and since he had been playing basketball with a friend at the mormon church for awhile, decided to ask her about it.  She said he should take it if he wanted to read it.  Later, noticing it laying in his house, he had a feeling he should pick it up and read it.  He read the introduction, the testimony of the witnesses and the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  He immediately felt that he should get on his knees and pray to God to find out if the book was true.  While doing so, he felt a very strong feeling even stronger than before, that confused him. His parents were both Presbyterian, but not practicing.  He went to his Father and explained what he had felt and his Father told him to do nothing, that it was a cult.  He told his friend with whom he played basketball about the strong feelings and asked him what it meant.  His friend said, "well, it means God was answering your prayer."  He asked," what does someone usually do after they feel the Book of Mormon is true from God."  His friend said, "well, I guess you should have the missionaries teach you about the church of Jesus Christ."  "Oh.  All right," was  his response.  He said he did not like the missionaries at all.  Everything they said seemed to be memorized and they didn't answer any of his questions.  So after the missionaries left each time, he and his friend would talk about what they said until it made sense to him.  He finished the lessons, was baptized and within three months was inactive.  He said it was just too hard.  He said he hated being the center of attention, having people ask him questions he didn't know the answers to in public meetings, was terrified that someone would ask him to speak in church, didn't have any idea what they were talking about most of the time and it was easier to not go at all.  A friend he had met at church kept calling him to come play basketball and do things with other young people.  She is now his wife.  He came back to church, served a mission which changed his life, and is now an amazing man who serves in the Stake Presidency.  He said the truth of the Book of Mormon and his mission changed his entire life. 

Today, I taught three young men in the Aaronic priesthood during Sunday School who had no teacher and were sitting in a class by themselves.  They were great young men and so grateful when I said, I would love to be your teacher today.  The Spirit led our discussion from one scripture to another as we studied together.  It was an amazing experience. 

Serving a mission is soooooooo awesome.......such a privilege!

Sorry there is so much writing and so few pictures this week!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of you from Trinidad
Senior missionaries met together Sunday afternoon and put together gift baskets for each of the young missionaries to receive. Christmas Eve morning the senior missionaries made a big breakfast at the mission home for all the young missionaries.  The President gave a Christmas message, the missionaries sang carols, had a huge breakfast, made cards for people in their areas and sang to Sister Mehr who has been very sick with Legionnaires disease.  She is doing much better now and was able to come out to hear the missionaries sing to her. 
 See Elder Monson in the background and all the missionaries turning to sing to Sister Mehr.
 Christmas Eve night we had dinner at our apartment for all the senior missionaries that live close.  We had turkey, dressing, yams, cranberry salad, rolls, cheesy broccoli, and christmas pudding for dessert.  It was truly a miracle cooking that meal with tiny pans and about 1/2 the actual ingredients for each of the different recipes!  Somehow it turned out and after dinner we played some really fun games.  This was the pencil game.
 The semi finals for the pencil competition.  I took the prize!
 We each brought white elephant gifts and they were sooooo funny!  The most sought after was the blood remover!
 Elder Brown, former stake president Brown, got a lovely fake rose which you can see he adored!
 Here he is wearing it on his ear!
 Here is the mission nurse playing the Oreo game.  You must work the Oreo down your face and into your mouth without using your hands!  The competition was fierce.
 Sister Brown, one of the mission auditors, was pretty good but could not stop laughing!
 Elder Monson was determined to win, nah, that would never be the case!  He was on a mission to figure out the fastest way to do it and it had to have something to do with grimacing in just the right way.
 ..............and arching and flailing around.......

with perfect poise and grace. He didn't win but it sure was fun watching him try so hard.  I about had a heart attack laughing!

Christmas day we had some young Elders over for lunch and they skyped their families from our computers and then we skyped our families and the young Sisters dropped by to visit.  It was a quiet  recognition of the great gift of the Savior to the world.

I wanted to share a story from church last Sunday, the day before Christmas Eve.  You should tell it to your children if any of them are disappointed in what they got for Christmas.  
When we travel to different wards and branches every week we get to attend the Young Adult class and the YM and YW classes.  The YW president in this branch was teaching the lesson.  She said that since it was so close to Christmas she wanted to have the girls come up and tell what they were thankful for, draw a picture of a Christmas carol on the board and then we would all sing the carol together.  She started by telling what she was thankful for and then turned the time over to the three girls that were in class.  She had provided a tree for their ward for Christmas and had brought it home after the Christmas party and since she  had already decorated her house and didn't need another tree, she asked her housekeeper if she would like it.  Her housekeeper began to cry and said she would love it because her children, (6) had NEVER had a Christmas tree and it would mean so much to them.  The children were so excited to have the tree that they went rumaging in the neighborhood until they found some discarded containers of different sizes and scraps of discarded paper and wrapped them and put them under the tree while she was out of the house.  When the mother returned and saw the wrapped items under the tree, she asked the children what was in them.  They explained that nothing was, of course, they had just seen pictures of gifts and wanted to have presents under their tree. The YW president said that this woman, raising her 6 children alone, had never had electricity in her tin house!  The three girls came to the front of the room.  The first YW said that she was so thankful because she lived in a family where she could have food to eat in the morning.  Some of her friends were not so blessed and only could eat one time a day and she was thankful she could eat breakfast too.  The next girl, 16, said that she was so thankful because she had been living with her family in her Uncle's home and they finally were able to get their own house.  She was thankful for a house.  The third girl said she was so thankful for her friends at church because she had problems at home and she was not allowed to get baptized until she turned 18 but she could come to church and feel safe and feel the spirit.  

Merry Christmas is....... because the Savior lives, loves and sustains all those who turn to him and seek to follow him.  He can make burdens light, He has promised He will help lift them.  

Until next week.....................................

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Big Changes in Trinidad this week

 So much has happened since my last blog post!  We are in our permanent apartment........ we actually believe we are on an Island, this was pretty much in doubt since we arrived a month ago in the dark of night and have seen tiny glimpses of water since and .........we have had amazing experiences to celebrate the birth of Christ!
Isn't that gleaming floor beautiful? We spent two days scrubbing paint, tile adhesive and dirt off the floor  with a dear senior sister friend who helped us.  We are so happy to be in a clean apartment.  Furniture will come from the mission home when they refurnish it in January. 

 Trinidad I AM (their Walmart) provided this cool cabinet that came in a box and our friend put it together! Elder Monson put the one on the left together.  The senior couples here have been so kind and helpful to us!
 We found that blue plastic counter extender cabinet at the (plastic store.)  That's what one sister calls the Walmart type store.
 The church bought this table from the previous owner.  Take note of the basin in the dining room.  I'm a fan of this Hindu custom!  I think I want to have one put in my dining room at home!  Guests to our home might think it a little weird, but I think it very practical!  Think how helpful that would be with little kids!
 Blue and yellow were my wedding colors a zillion years ago!  We are going backwards in time and I am really enjoying the blue and yellow all over again!

 Here's the second bedroom that we use as our office.  I got curtains made for privacy with the generous help of my neighbor Sister Brown's sewing machine. 
Blue kitchen, blue bathroom
We have ordered a bed but we have been sleeping on air mattresses for a week waiting for it!  We are thankful our fellow Elder and Sister had these we could borrow or it would have been a really long week.  We are expecting the bed today, hopefully!
 Meet Bhagwansingh's aka Home Depot.
 This is one of the saddest things!  There is trash EVERYWHERE! 
 Our p-day trip to the beach! Yes- it is an island!

 Sister Sanner and I were searching for shells for our grandchildren!

 These are the pictures you were expecting from our mission, right?
It really is beautiful.

 Very large birds on the beach!
A few of our feet loving the feel of the sand!  It sure doesn't feel or look like Christmas! Guess which are mine and Elder Monson's?
 Speaking of Christmas, this was anther branch's Christmas party.  Here's their version of the nativity play.
 The choir performing!  One of my three moo moo skirts.  When we got our first call to the Congo, I was told we could wear moo moos.  Not here. So I brought them, cut them off and now they are skirts in Trinidad.
 The Elders performing some kind of Hindu dance!
 All the members...everyone comes to the Christmas party!
 On our pday beach trip, we traveled a long distance (this Island is as big as Delaware) and saw some amazing things.  How would you like these cooked up as Escargot?  They were huge!  It would definitely move them from an appetizer to an Entree!!
 The sales lady playing with her food!

 The same snail lady. This was the first book of Mormon I placed for the day,  They were interested but could not read.  Illiteracy is a big problem here. After testifying to the truth of the book and reading the purpose from the cover page,  he said he would like to have it and promised he would take it to a person in his family that could read it to him. 

  This is a little architectural tour.  The houses look askance because they are put together as the people can afford materials, sometimes over years which account for the different structures, colors and textures. In previous posts, you saw the mansions of the very rich people in Valsayn where the mission office, home and office senior couples live.  Everyone else seems to be poor or very very poor.

 The grocery store entrance.
 Perfect picture of the covering of their heavy thick braids to cool off in the heat and humidity. 
This is the branch president of one of the branches.  His hair is beautiful.  It is hard to see here, but to the left of his tie is part of it.  It reaches almost to his waist.  He is a great man and has an adorable family.  I'd guess he's about 31.
 Look closely at what the man with the blue tshirt is holding.  A goat's head.  All the hanging bags sell parts of the goat, every imaginable part!
 This was the sign behind their stand.  They are muslim and this was the second book of mormon placement for me for our pday outing. The Halal means it has been prayed over. 
We talked about Christmas, Christ's birth, the actual date of his birth (they knew) and his divinity.  These people promised to read the Book of Mormon. 
 The story I want to share with you this week is very sacred to me.  The young woman on the right has become a special person to us.  We love her.  When she was 17, her parents and her brother were shot and killed.  She and several of the other YSA invited us to go with them caroling on Sunday night.  We went to less active members of the church and investigators.  It was my day to drive (Elder Monson and I trade off since the driving is so crazy, we have to practice frequently) and seriously as our three cars, there were about 13 of us, wound around (San Francisco reminiscent) skinny and precarious roads, we thought it would be our last day!  The evening touched my heart in a way that no other Christmas experience ever has. 
 Several missionaries joined up with us. We practiced at the church building with the hymn books, brought them along and loaded up into three cars. 

Look closely at this picture.  Before we got here, one of the missionaries said this is the neighborhood they tract daily and to get ready because we are going straight up a mountain.  Notice the people going straight up toward the light at the top.  I was holding onto Elder Monson's belt buckle and it seriously reminded me of hiking straight up mountains at the cabin only in the dark with missionary shoes and a skirt on!
 Literally perched n the side of these mountains on stilts of raggedy planks of wood were shacks where families live.

 This house was much nicer than the first one.  This was the last house we visited on that hill.  The first house was so hard to get to and so slippery that I was sure I would slide down.  We reached the top and there was no door just a single light bulb in the middle of a tiny one room shack.  The mother, father and six children came out as we began singing to them.  The father walked over to the side and kind of squatted down in the dirt to listen.  The children, all barefoot on a dirt floor in the one little room that constituted their home, clustered around their mother just outside the opening to listen to us sing.  We sang the first Noel and then Silent Night.  The children and mother seemed to hang onto every note and for some reason, our voices seemed to blend better than the previous rendition.  As I watched the children smiling and so happy to hear the sacred words of hymns that celebrate His gift to the world, the scene of the birth of the Lord resonated in my heart with a poignant realization. The wisdom of God in having his Son be born in the most humble of circumstances made perfect sense suddenly and powerfully.  All of his children must be able to come to him, to find there understanding and hope.  The message of joy eternally, of infinite potential to feel his love regardless of our mortal experience, to be lifted daily by his atonement above the constraints of this life, hit me like a wave and I was grateful for Christmas in a way I had never before imagined.  How thankful I am for this experience.  That family experienced joy, hope and love in the message of Jesus Christ and for a moment, we all had the same experience, in spite of vast differences.  All are alike unto God.  God is no respecter of persons.  There is no shortage of his love!  There can be greater happiness in a one room shack clinging onto the side of a hill than in a lavish mansion in any number of cities in the United States.  It isn't the size of the room in your home but the room available in your heart that makes Christmas!

This is the family pet of Mary's children.  They caught it two nights ago on the side of the hill. 

  Merry Christmas ........until next week!