Monday, January 28, 2013

We're on our way!

Several of the initiatives we have been working on since we first arrived in the mission field were kicked off this weekend, and we are thrilled! First, your Trinidad culture lesson for this week.

 This is our home office and we have found the coolest thing to deal with the Carribean flying creatures!  Some of you know our love for tennis....well, we have found a replacement.  The electric bug zapper!  I'm just dying to take one of these up to the cabin. We ARE bringing one home!  It electrocutes and evaporates bugs on contact with a pop like a firecracker! Endless entertainment! Here's his backhand shot.
Forehand.  Got it!
 I made him hold still so you could actually see it! We have way too much fun with this thing and the minute we see anything flying in our office, the race is on to get to the bug zapper first!!  I can hardly wait to entertain my grandchildren with this in a whole swarm of mosquitoes in the Uintahs!
I just had to include this billboard.  They are all over the place.  The first time we saw one, we were like, "You've got to be kidding?" It has led to several interesting discussions about the culture as it relates to men.  A man we love in a very senior leadership position from Guadaloupe explained it thus when we met privately with him.  "You can never understand, Elder Monson."  He had his arm on his shoulder and was looking deep into his eyes.  "The men here are suffering! They try to prove their manhood in any number of destructive ways.The Gospel of Jesus Christ heals them, but it is a long, long process."

After a meeting this Saturday with the Stake President, we had a chance to just lime with him for awhile.  Lime= hang out and chat in Trini.  All the youth go liming on the weekend!  Anyway, we discussed this a little more with him.  He is a great man.  We love him!  He basically gave us a history lesson going back decades, and we are starting to figure it out.  The families were fractured in slavery, men ripped from their homes to be sent somewhere to work never to return. So the Africans became a matriarchal society, that is until the children got old enough to be torn away to be used as  work implements too.  It had rippling effects that are still keenly felt. The sense of belonging, of community, of family was not part of their history.  As their culture evolved, that translated into an isolationist, every-man-for-himself, survival-of-the-fittest, you-do-your-thing-I-do-mine mentality.  Add to that the lack of initiative and drive that comes from a government-entitled, dependent society and you see many of the problems here in Trinidad.  Then, the Church comes along with its focus on family, building your brothers and sisters, service and community in ward, branch or unit. It is a huge stretch!  The happy thing is happening!  The Lord does heal them and the future of the Church in the Carribean radiates in these noble youth, returned missionaries and young leaders!
This is a perfect example.  We went to New Beginnings this week.  The young woman on the right is adorable, and she is standing next to her STAKE YOUNG WOMENS PRESIDENT!!!! The girl is 14 and the president is a recently returned missionary She is 23!  That is the case through all of our areas of responsibility, the High Councilors, the Stake Presidency, they are mostly young, with few exceptions, by North American standards. They are the stalwarts!  They see the vision!  They get the Gospel of Jesus Christ! So, you see why the mission president has been inspired to dedicate a senior couple exclusively to youth/YSA needs and concerns, and we are the blessed couple that get to have that assignment.  We are driven to get these wonderful youth nourished with the good word of God and going on missions because they are needed immediately upon their return to build his kingdom!
 Some more of the girls at New Beginnings
The Girls at New Beginnings in front of the refreshment table.  Look closely at the girl on the far right and the girl on the far left. I have to share this story because it must be recorded in our journal.  I was playing the piano for the opening song when the missionaries came in with these two girls.  The elder came up and whispered to me that they had to go and would I sit by them during the meeting and take care of them.  I went down, introduced myself, and we sat together during the meeting.  Afterward, they got some refreshments, and we"limed" until we were the last ones to leave and Elder Monson and I gave them a ride home.  I love these girls!! One of them has had three discussions and been to church once.  The other just came with her best friend for fun and knew nothing about the church.  With that information, I asked them if they had a clue what on earth Personal Progress was???  They laughed!  I explained it and gave them a book.  I told them they could ask me any questions they had about the church.  The one said, "Well, the missionaries keep talking about a word that I hear over and over, and I don't know what it means,"  "What is it,"  "Atonement." That was a revelation and led to a great discussion.  They wanted to know what "Fireside" and "Steak" (Stake) President meant since he spoke in the meeting.  I invited them to the first of our youth/YSA monthly firesides beginning the next day (after explaining there would be no marshmallows), and the one said she had a conflict and could not come. Her friend said she would walk there by herself, would read the Book of Mormon, and would talk to me tomorrow more about it.  She did come, she had read third Nephi chapter 9 through 11, and when asked how she felt as she read it, she said, "I loved it so much that I wanted to go back and start from the first!"  As we embraced, I told her that I know that she is my sister and we have the same loving Father in Heaven. We both cried. There is nothing sweeter than seeing the Spirit touch the heart of another person!! I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY! I LOVE YOUNG PEOPLE SO MUCH; the honesty of their hearts, the direct, raw way they are who they present themselves to be, without any hypocrisy or guile!  I just may have to stay on my mission the rest of my life!  My children know the Lord and their children are being taught the gospel by righteous parents, and there are soooooo many people who don't have that incredible blessing!
 I had to preserve this daily experience. Elder Andrus, above, (from St. George, within walking distance from our home, in our stake and no, we didn't know him and his wife before the mission....remember this is Utah, not Chicago) presides from his desk while the rest of us sit across from him.  They are returning home, along with Sister Galbraith, in one week, so I had to record a picture of our morning devotionals before they left.
 The other side of his desk!
Our morning routine is to get up at 6:30 am, walk in our neighborhood for three miles, get ready and be to our office devotional at 8:00 am.  The office missionaries, the nurse, travel sister, and auditor sister join us, and we rotate leading the devotionals alphabetically.  There have been some amazing messages shared. One was from the auditor sister, whom we love, and she was telling us that in her family, (she joined the church when she was 18) there are seven children.  Three of her siblings have died, two of alcohol related illnesses and one of a heart attack.  Of the remaining 4, one has struggled all his life with drugs, in and out of rehab; the other three joined the church and have raised their families in the church.  She talked about the tangible blessings of being an active member of this church, and how sometimes those blessings are not apparent when you are young. When you look back at your life from a 70-year perspective, at children and grandchildren and the fruits of the gospel in their lives, it is staggering to see how blessed one’s life is because they choose to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and strive to keep His commandments.  It was an amazing perspective. 

 R to L Sister Sanner, Us, Sister Andrus, Sister Brown, Sister Galbraith
 I had to include this picture of the adorable scripture bags that the YW in Port of Spain made from a placemat, some ribbon and a fabric flower.  They also made the tissue paper balls hanging above them.  Their leaders are awesome and great examples of the New Curriculum teaching method. 

After a four hour youth YSA meeting, we drove home three youth.  It was a two hour drive so we got some good visiting time.  Two of them are brother and sister and shared their conversion story.  They were Hare Krishna’s prior to becoming members, and yes, they did the chanting and wore the robes.  They did not shave their heads though!
They said their mom and dad were struggling and decided to divorce, so he moved out into the front house (6'x8').  They all stayed in the back ( 12' by 12'). Their Mom felt there was something missing in her life; saw the missionaries walking down the street and actually pulled her car in front of them to block their way.  Surprised, they went over to her window and asked, “May we help you?”  She responded that she wanted them to teach her.  Surprisingly, they obliged!  She and her youngest daughter joined the church.  The two teenagers were not interested; they really liked their Hare Krisna church.  The missionaries would come teach, and they would sit in the back and pretend not to listen.  When they started talking about repentance, and how Dad could repent, change his ways and they could be an eternal family, they were interested.  Eventually  Dad would come from the front house and listen too.  They really started to pay attention when Dad was baptized and moved back into the house, and Mom and Dad got married again.  Now, two years later, these two young people and their family’s lives have completely changed.  She is engaged to be married, and when I asked them about the wedding, they said they are saving every dime to be able to get married in the temple.  They have been inspired by President Goodluck and his wife who went without electricity and running water for 8 months after getting married to save money to go to the temple.  They used candles and hauled water rather than use money for electricity and pipes for plumbing.  When they married they were determined to save enough within one year and were able to make it in 9 months.  For righteous people in this country, they get married, with only parents in attendance, at a government office with no fanfare whatsoever, not a dime spent, that would detract from the money they are saving daily to be able to be sealed in the temple.  Her brother has received his mission call and will be leaving in March on his mission and has served three mini-missions.  The gospel changes lives!  
Phew!  That was a ton of writing and not enough pictures!  The good thing is...... it is not a meeting...... you can leave whenever you want!!  Till next week, adieu


  1. Wow what a great post! You are where you are supposed to be. You guys are so great with the youth and clearly the youth there really need some amazing support. Rylynn came in and saw the picture of the billboard and said, "No it's not! That's stupid":)

  2. Hello Monson's! This is Chris Busk. I've just spent the past 45 minutes going through your blog. It is fantastic and I'm really enjoying the photos and stories. They evoke memories I have of my mission years in Venezuela - which has many similarities in terms of climate and people. You have a wonderful family.
    Take care of yourselves and may God be with you.

  3. "I just may have to stay on my mission the rest of my life!"
    I'm glad you're enjoying yourself, but no more of that.
    And Rylynn's right. Those billboards are stupid.