Monday, July 22, 2013

Whew! Time's flying now!

Turtles..... again!  Another YSA activity, a new senior couple joins us, and an amazing young man baptizes his younger brother!
 The fourth of July in the WIM!  We had a devotional in the morning where we sang a rousing rendition of America the Beautiful. We talked about our parents, battlefield experiences they had, the greatest generation and how much we missed our beloved country!
 Since we didn't have a barbecue and fireworks to look forward to with family surrounding us, we decided to go to the most American place we have here; Ruby Tuesdays, and have classic food from home! Hamburgers and fries.
Ribs and fries! (+a salad bar just to assuage our guilt)  We all had one or the other, even our vegetarian sister!
On Elder Monson's birthday at devotional, he was surprised with a birthday cake (thanks to Sister Black!)  Talking to all his kids on Skype was awesome!
 Remember our trips to Guyana?  The Beechers hosted us there and took such great care of us!  We got to return the favor when they went home for their son's wedding, stopping here on their return to see the Turtles and teach a career workshop.
The day before our turtle trip we attended their career workshop and were thrilled with the turn-out we were able to  drum up from the YSA's here in Trinidad.  They said it was the largest group they have taught. It is sooo helpful and we have heard from many that attended how much they appreciated being there!
 On our way to the turtles at Grand Riviere, we saw a man walking with his bird!!  Yes!!  I have tried to get a picture of this my whole mission.  People take their birds on walks all the time!  They also take them to friends and place bets on which bird can sing the longest or the loudest.  Watch out Vegas, this new wave of gambling is a serious threat to pulling down some silly handle on the side of a big noisy box!
We arrived, had dinner, went to the beach and finally went with the guide to see 8 turtles nesting!  It was awesome, as usual, and the Beechers really enjoyed it.  I still say it is the one thing worth traveling to this country to see.  It was too dark to take any pictures so after going to bed at midnight, we got up at 4:45 to be down on the beach at 5:00 to see if any turtles were still nesting.  This picture is at dawn.
 Here's the carnage done to the turtle eggs by the dogs, birds, and other predators. Those white spots are all parts of turtle eggs.
 Before the sun is completely up.........
 The sky filled with the birds that apparently had a built in alarm system.....fresh turtle eggs for whoever gets there first!
 line up men, stick together and we will prevail!
 start digging!
 There is a fresh water river just 40 feet from the ocean.  Because of the lights from the town, the turtles get confused and after laying their eggs, go into the river rather than back to the sea. This morning we found a stranded turtle in the river.
 The dog knew she was trying to return and was ready to do battle!
 I saw her coming towards the edge and tried to move and distract the dog.  No success!
 She had the right idea, but those dumb dogs were going nuts!
 The turtle weighs 800 pounds and the dogs 20, but as Elder Monson says, its the fight in the man, not the man in the fight that prevails.  I kept trying to shoo them away, but as she got right to the edge, she chickened out and turned back. Seriously, she could smash them, but she didn't know it!
 Turning back, the guides would eventually have to come set up a barrier to allow her to safely get from the river back home.
 The dumb dogs; all fat and sassy on turtle eggs, singing, "Oh Solo Mio!" I wanted to throw rocks at them, but since I have this missionary tag on my shirt, I decided against such an open display of hostility!
 We had to guard this little lost baby all the way into the water.
In ten years, this little guy will be as big as a dinner plate!
 With transfers coming up and things changing, the "girls" decided to celebrate Sister Jewel and Sister Gossard's birthdays.  We all went out to Fridays for lunch and then came back to our apartment.  The companions, Sister Taylor and Sister Grigg, had sneaked me a sack of gifts to hide all over our house and the cake mix for the party.
 Sister Gossard and Sister Taylor
 look at those crazies!
 The birthday cake, and since I had no matches, I made a paper towel torch and burned my thumb BAD.
Searching for the hidden presents-
Sister Taylor drove all the way home and brought her burn cream back to save my thumb!
 This young man baptized his younger brother a couple weeks ago.  He has only been a member about three months.  He has had a serious illness that could take his life, and yet he joined the church, has incredible faith, has been an example for his family and called yesterday to ask what he can do to help with the YSA program.  He is 18 and is an amazing young man. 
 His family at the baptism.  His mother attends faithfully and is trying to resolve complications in her family so she can be baptized also. 
 Some beautiful babies at church
 The following letter was shared with one of the senior missionaries who shared it with us.  I have printed it here for a day in the future when I return from my mission and take for granted the temple that is 10 minutes away from our home.
Dear Elder,
First of all let me thank you for all the help and support both my family and I received from the church to make a dream come true. Going to the temple sometimes seem for some like a walk to the park but for us it was a step on the moon. Unlike most elders I did not had the opportunity to go to the MTC or to the temple before my mission. I went after, at the conclusion of my mission. It just so happened that I was to be released on my birthday. It was the same day I got my endowment. It was a birthday gift from the Heavens. It was a great celebration. Angels attended and the Spirit was just everywhere. I remember sitting in the temple praying after I was endowed. I told my Father in Heaven that I was afraid to go home. I don't know what Suriname holds for me. What future do I have there I asked Him. Then in a sudden, a face came to my mind. It was the face of a young woman. The Spirit said that she is waiting. The funny thing about this is that she never liked me before my mission but I came home. Can you imagine my joy to be able to sit with this same person, at the same spot in the same temple ten years after and being able to be sealed to her and our beautiful children for time and all eternity. I have not words to describe the joy and the happiness that temple has given us.

Our entire world changed as we started to prepare to attend the temple seven years ago. Our house rent was too high so we couldn't save to go to the temple. We prayed about it and shared our concerns with my in-laws. They suggested we move in with them. We did that. We had bought a piece of land to build but couldn't continue paying for it and if we decided to stop the payment we would lose all the down payment that we had made. We didn't care for the down payment because we had to save to go the temple. I then had to quit my job because my boss did not want to pay me. I got another job the same day and started immediately. We had another piece of land we had gotten from the government. They said if we wanted to keep the land we would have to build something on it. My wife and talked about it and took our problem to the Lord. The Lord listened and then replied, you know what do. We let the land go. Then suddenly our daughter got sick with her eyes. We spent two years going to different doctors almost every week, sometimes even twice a week. After much fasting and prayers she received a surgery on her eyes. She is still healing from that. Then one month before leaving for the temple they told us that our children cannot go with us because they are not Surinamese and will not get a Surinamese passport. I went to the embassy of Guyana and apply for two passports. They came a week before our trip, then the embassy said our children are not allowed to travel with those passports unless I cross the border to Guyana and come back. We had to do so. On coming back from Guyana it was too late to travel to Paramaribo so we had to spend the night in Nickerie. We couldn't find any hotel or place to stay so we slept on the floor of a house and attended church the next day. When we came back our son got sick and needed a surgery. He did the surgery and we left for our temple trip.

If we had to do it all over again we would. We have learned so much and have grown so much closer because of these trials we had. We have felt how much our Father loves and care for us. We had an amazing time at the temple. This is the only church that has the keys that could seal us as a family. I am so grateful to our Father in Heaven for the blessing of being a member of his church.
 Regards, name withheld 
 Our July activity was a Career Fair.  Various professions were presented.  We had a self-reliance assessment and a identity scavenger hunt and some fun activities. 
 Lining up to play Cops and Cooks- by the flip of the coin, a designated team chases the other to their safety, tagging as many as possible.  If tagged, they must switch sides.
 Elder Monson rigging the toss to keep it interesting! 
 This little bug-eyed friend was on our wall and I wanted our grandchildren to meet Charley.  Pretty cool he stays stuck to the wall on those crazy big toe pads, huh?
 We welcomed a wonderful new couple to our mission, the Rays. 
 All the senior missionaries came for a potluck dinner to welcome them.  We had to play the new couple initiation game.  How many cotton balls can you put on the plate on top of your head with a spoon, blind folded?  We died laughing.  Elder Ray was a great sport along with Elder Black and the OTHER Sister Ray!
 The Champion, receiving his trophy and thanking his parents for this priceless moment!
This country has stunning sunsets!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Trinidad Miracles

We experienced a must-be-recorded miracle since my last post and bid farewell to the Browns. 
 Here we all were at the farewell lunch at Fridays in Chaguanas.  Even President and Sister Mehr joined us to send them off with our love and best wishes. Back row from left. Gublers, Mehrs, Monsons, Blacks (she's in front of him), Sister Ray, Reeses and Browns in the middle.
 Elder Monson said we needed to take a picture of this billboard since once inflation hits America, the price for the hamburger will be accurate!
 How many CEPEP workers does it take to watch a dump truck unload a bed of asphalt?
 These darling babies, new members of the church, were blessed at church recently. 
 Little brother went first
 Walking back to his seat all pleased
 Big Sister's turn
After the blessing, the new bishop, who is an American married to a local Trinidadian with two beautiful children, stood up as he was conducting the meeting and said, "wow, that was awesome.  It is the first baby blessing I have participated in where, at the close of the blessing, the baby said, Amen!"
 We had a YSA beach activity that was a service project and activities day.  Here is Sister SuePaul and Bro. SuePaul taking charge and doing a fabulous job!  The sky was blue and it looked perfect!
 We started the clean-up, (there is garbage everywhere here) and made some serious head way working for the first hour or so.  Find Elder Monson?
 As we set out all the food on the table for lunch, the skies turned black and poured buckets of rain.  We quick covered the food and huddled under two umbrellas while everyone else ran for cover under a nearby pavilion or in vehicles.  We held the lids on top of the food while the wind raged and soaked us. 
I shared with the YSA's with me under the umbrella that when I was raising my children and we needed a miracle, we would combine our faith with constant prayer by taking turns praying.  So we went around the circle taking turns pleading with the Lord that if  possible and according to His will, would He please temper the weather so we could continue having the YSA activity to which they had so looked forward. When we had all prayed twice, going around the circle of people clutching the umbrellas over the food, the sky cleared, the rain stopped and we gave a prayer of gratitude before everyone returned to have lunch.  It reminded me of when I was a part-time missionary at the Hill Cumorah pageant in New York when the same thing happened, only the whole cast prayed together until the rain stopped and the show continued that night.  These experiences fill my heart so full I can barely write these words.  I am so thankful that Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers.
 After lunch, we began some fun activities!  Tug of war was a hit!
 Group Volleyball
 Three legged races
 Six legged races and relay races!
It was an amazing day!  How good is this mission??  I love these wonderful young people!  I had no idea Rhonda had to eat my wonderful mission hair while this picture was being taken!  Just as we were packing up to leave, the rain started again.  Such a blessed day!