Monday, January 21, 2013

Groundhog Day sunshine every day!

We love our assignment!  We are working with the youth and YSA programs across the mission.  We travel each week to a different branch, unit or ward in Trinidad and, since the New Year began, we have been modeling the New Curriculum for youth in the YM & YW and Youth Sunday School classes.  Some of the sweetest teaching experiences of my life have happened in the last few weeks.  So many of these youth come from religious backgrounds where they have had no or very little exposure to the notion that God is the literal Father of our spirits, that we lived as sisters and brothers before we came to this earth, that he is intimately aware of us, loves and seeks after us as a loving Father (which most of them do not have on this earth.)  To see that thought settle in their hearts and touch their spirits has been humbling and astonishing.  We, who grew up as children knowing our Heavenly Father is ever present, that we can talk to him and walk through life assisted by His Spirit, cannot begin to imagine the difference that knowledge makes to them. 
Finding these branches is a real challenge.  See the Church sign? We drove around this block three times before we found the Chinese restaurant pictured here.  The Church meets above it and there is a market across the street. It was full to capacity, every seat was filled. 

 Many of the teachers have only been members a short time, many have been called by bishops, unit or branch presidents that have barely been members.  They are called to teach, handed a manual and  just try to figure it out.  We had one very prominent leader say to us, “I was raised by a single mother, I don’t know how to be a husband, let alone have any clue how to fulfill this major leadership role I hold.  The only example I have ever had is Dr. Huxtable on the Cosby Show.”  The culture for men is tragic.  The majority of men embrace a culture that condones men drinking, partying, sleeping around, addicted to drugs and even beating their wives.  A member of the Church confided to me that her mother told her, when he husband openly had a girlfriend, to not worry about it because all men did that.  So needless to say, the dearth of righteous priesthood leaders is a big problem here.  It is a huge leap in this culture for a man to become a man of God, leave the false traditions of this culture, and commit to serve in the church and his family.  There are so many women with broken lives and broken hearts reminiscent of the women in the book of Mormon. (Jacob2:31) "For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people…… in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands." 
This is why we have been commissioned to focus on the youth and a new generation willing to rise up and answer the Lord’s call to serve missions, keep His commandments and separate from the culture of the society they live in. They are doing it!  Just look up Trinidad Carnival 2012 online and you can get a sense of what they have to deal with.  Carnival happens every year during February in Trinidad.  It is Mardi Gras on steroids! They are noble youth and making great sacrifices to walk in opposition to the ways of the world and stand strong with the lord and the standards he has set. They inspire us more with every interaction!
We were there early while they were setting up listening to the cacophony of traffic and shopping just outside the windows.  
The Elders came over for breakfast this morning and as we were washing the dishes looking out our window we saw.........yes, a monkey!  That is not something we have ever seen looking out our front window before!
 Elder Monson ran outside and got some more shots of him as he waltzed along the fence.
 and moved happily on down the street!
Welcome to the, "unusual trees in Trinidad" section of this post.
 There are lots of these strange fan palm trees.
 Another variety of palm. Very different than the ones in Saint George.
 Coconut trees.  Everywhere; in peoples yards, and coconuts are sold off the streets.
 How would you like to pick a coconut from the back yard?
 These skinny downward hanging trees are kinda sad looking!
 Look carefully at this Park.  What is missing?  Observe the ground. They all look just like this!

Trini Culture lesson for the week
This was the process last week for a single sister to get her license.  She arrived two weeks before we did so we will be looking forward to this experience soon! However, we have been assured that every single experience, (guidelines, only guidelines) is completely different.  Never complain about your DMV again! 3 days, 3 trips driving to the license location, an average of 3-4 hours per day.  The first visit: stand in line for three hours to get the forms required, and the test booklet, one of which is a mandatory Doctor’s physical form. Second day: start the day by going to the designated Dr. for the physical form to be filled out. This sister in this story is the mission nurse. (Good thing they didn’t know that)  She described the physical thus: Actually took blood pressure, wrote the result on the form. Just filled in any old number for eyes, (wrote down 20/20.)  She wears glasses and they didn’t check with or without them.  Put any random number down for respiration, pulse and weight.  She has a heart murmur so she was worried.  They never listened, so it wasn’t an issue.  She passed!  They signed the form; she paid money, and returned with the completed physical form. The office opens at 8:00 am, but this day there was a guy out in front on a ladder fixing something so 43 people stood in line watching him for forty five minutes. The office opened at 8:50 that day.  Wait for three hours to get the {Approval To Take Exam} form because the { Physical Exam} form was now completed and COME BACK TOMORROW! Third day: Wait four hours, in fact be the very last person waited on (complexion disadvantage & not being a naturalized citizen) to take test, take picture, and go skipping merrily away with your license! We are soooo excited!!

 We had an appointment this week with a family who requested Senior Missionaries.  The Elders came with us for our first visit.  We met them and I guess we passed the first inspection because we have an apt. with them on Wednesday.  They have seven children, one of their daughters has a baby also and they live up this path.  The branch has just added another room to their home. They really need it..

 Here's Elder Monson out in front of their home.
 The Dad, some of the kids and mom without her head.  Great photography!
 Mom's head and another one of the kids.
 The daughter's daughter.  Isn't she beautiful!
 The top of a nearby house where the kids have a flat surface to play. 
 Ever since we got here, we have heard about the amazing bake n shark sandwiches at Richards on the beach! It's about an hour away, so when we were 1/4th the way there for Stake training prior to Conference on Saturday, our fellow missionary invited us to experience the much regaled hot spot for missionaries!  Look what we found!  We really are in the Caribbean.  It was beautiful!
 The overlook on the way to the beach.
 Our friend, compatriot and the notorious winner of the Oreo "down the forehead and in the mouth first" game!
 The famous place we have heard so much about! Find Elder Monson in line? The Sandwich is a scone with two lightly breaded shark fillets deep fried with a condiment table full of tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cabbage, onions and a bunch of sauces to put on top.  It was as yummy as we had been promised, though not for daily fare, we are thinking!
 The beach across the street from Richard's.
 We finally found a bunch of tourists!  Even some typical tourist jewelry selling stands.  Until next week, think of us suffering in this interminable 80 degree temperature!

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