What an amazing way to start off the new year! The Senior Missionaries all over the West Indies Mission came together at the mission home for three days to be inspired, strengthened, physically and spiritually fed, and enveloped in the love and guidance of the mission presidency and their wives. It was a wonderful experience, finishing with a testimony meeting which was very difficult for the three couples and a sister who are completing their missions before the next conference.
Here is a picture of our entire group at the close of the conference. Pres. Mehr and his wife have on the blue jacket and blue tie in the front row. To his left is the first counselor Pres. Bennion and his wife and to her right is President Goodluck and his wife. The Goodlucks live in Guyana and the Bennions in Guadeloupe. The rest of us are all "Where's Waldo?" Yup, we are in there somewhere and you might find other people you know. We did! Amazing how small the world is. Elder Dunford grew up in Salt Lake and his Father's brother was Burns Dunford who lived two houses away from me growing up!! Dwight went to school at Harvard with Pres. Bennion's twin brother, played church ball with him and he was his first project manager at Bain and Company! Finally, one of the senior couples looked amazingly familiar to us and we realized after a bit of visiting.......we were in the same ward in Sandy Utah thirty years ago!!!
Elder Monson and I gave a presentation on the second day which was a little stressful, but we felt that it went well and was what the Lord wanted us to present. There were so many amazing stories that were shared at the conference. President Goodluck and is wife told about how desperately they wanted to go to the temple, but didn't have any money, no electricity, no water, and no refrigerator. They decided to trust in the Lord, use the money they had to go to the temple and when they returned they felt blessings pour into their lives and were able to greatly improve their circumstances.
One of the many breakout sessions where we worked together on WIM challenges.
President Goodluck, President Mehr and President Bennion
President and Sister Mehr, both amazing people!
We all rode together in low lying boats through the Caroni Bird Sanctuary. It was a maze of waterways through a mangrove swamp considered to be the best in the Western Hemisphere. We saw mammals, reptiles, unique vegetation and some of the most amazing birds we've ever seen.
Look closely in the tree to find the curled up 9 foot snake taking a nap! We stayed pretty quiet as we passed under that one!
We saw many of these huge pods of millions of termites!
Our guide gave us information as we floated slowly down the waterways.
Pretty awesome, huh! The best was the finale yet to come, but required sundown to occur.
It was a great time!
The boats pulled to the other side of the river and we were silent as the sun quietly retired and the birds came in to nest.
This was the first time on my mission that I wished I had brought my expensive camera instead of my ipad for blogging. I really wanted to zoom in farther but couldn't. The white birds came in and then the Scarlet egret; (I think that was the name) a stunning bird that is incapable of developing the deep scarlet color in captivity. It is the tree crabs, shrimp and crustaceans diet combined with the strenuous exercise of freedom, taking 3 years after birth, that causes the deep red to develop and replace their original white color. All the red dots on the trees are the birds! There were thousands and the sound was astounding!
No pictures on my ipad could do this experience justice.
Red birds against a pinking sky! Amazing!
As we floated back to our cars in the waning light, I couldn't help but thank God for the beauties of this earth and for the opportunity to be serving this mission in the West Indies.
In our assignment, we go to all the wards and branches across Trinidad and eventually across the mission. While there, we model the new curriculum teaching method as we meet and teach the youth in YM&YW and Sunday school youth classes. For three weeks now, we have both had the experience of going to a class room searching for youth and finding 2, then 4, then 5 youth just liming in a classroom (translation: liming means hanging out in English.) When asked who their teacher is they respond, “Oh, she didn’t come today, or he went home, or we don’t have one!” I have compiled a list of their names as my life, and my prayers, have been changed by Andrew, Jessie, Benjamin, Daniel, Cowen, Matthew, Samantha……..and more. These youth are HUNGRY for the good word of God!! It is amazing how smart, humble, patient and appreciative they are. The experiences learning with them; searching the scriptures, opening their eyes to what can be found in the topical guide, bible dictionary, cross referencing, and finding answers to their questions, have been some of the sweetest spiritual experiences I have ever had. We just say, “would you like me to teach you today?” They respond so thankful, appreciative, and attentive it blows my mind! Yesterday, one of them said to me after class, “when will you come again and how long will you be here in Trinidad?” It is very humbling and tender to feel how much they desire to learn, how grateful they are that we want to be with and teach them. I wish youth in North America could feel for just one minute the hearts of the youth in the West Indies. We love them so much! They are truly the future of the church here. It is so reminiscent of the children of Israel...... only the younger generation was allowed to go into the Promised Land. We love our assignment!!!
Here's another window into these good people. As we walked out of the branch yesterday, a sweet dear woman reached out to me calling, "sister, sister." When I turned to her, she gave me a hug and asked if I would remember her in my prayers because her cataracts are getting worse in both eyes and she needs some extra help from God. Would that we could be so open and trusting with our trials at home and as certain that the combined prayers of our brothers and sisters in the gospel of Jesus Christ will bring desired blessings. I love these people!