Friday, August 30, 2013

Forgotten chicken feet!

The events I am sharing here actually pre-dated the last post. I am still catching up! 
This shot is from the meat department at Pricesmart.  Haven't you seen these at your Costco?  Look closely at the fingernails on the chicken feet!  One of the feet somehow escaped and was sitting on top of the package!  Chicken feet are somewhat of a staple here.  I just cannot get used to taking a big bite of Palau... or as they call it in Guyanna, Cook-up, and finding those fingernails attached to chicken feet underneath the rice!  Why, indeed, should one part of a bird be more advisable for food than any other????
If you read the last post about the YSA conference, you can appreciate these wonderful young single adults!  We meet the Sunday after every monthly activity to assess the previous activity and plan the upcoming one for the next month.  At our meeting, I noticed several of them had on purple, so had to get a picture.  I love how colorful everybody is here!  Such handsome people!
 President Francique, of the Arima branch, and his wife blessed their new baby this month.  I have shared his amazing conversion and testimony in previous posts.
Such a beautiful family!
Rhonda's baptism was this month also.  She is an amazing young woman. 
This was before the Gublers left for Suriname and just after the Rays and Smiths arrived. Rhonda was pretty terrified in these before pictures.  Afterward, she glowed with the spirit and bore a powerful testimony of her choice.  So many people here do not know how to swim. In addition to making a life-changing decision, they have to conquer their terror about going completely under the water. 
  She described the persecution she had endured for eight years as she came to church.  Her family criticized and people mocked her.  She began drinking as a teenager, but she would always come back to church and felt loved and welcomed there.  When she turned 18, she decided that it was time to commit to the Lord and do what she wanted to do, not what others thought she should do.  She, like so many others here, is the only member of the church in her family.  She said she knew it would be hard, but she had her family of the ward to turn to when she needed support and she testified that she had made the decision the Lord required to return to His presence.    She is a very powerful young woman and a pioneer for future generations to come.
 Wow!  We had to record this........a BUSY policeman!
 This was a huge payday for us.  We have now been on our mission for 9 months!  Two of the young single adults from Couva ward called and invited us to come to a local YSA activity that they had thought of, planned, invited less-actives, made assignments, approached their branch president for permission and budget, and then invited missionaries to join them! Cintra and Shandell conducted the whole evening starting with team charades which were planned in advance!  Wow!!
We were SO thrilled at their initiative and the GREAT job they did!  They had prepared games, asked us to bring a movie, (seventeen miracles), we all cried....again, and we had dinner together.  They did have some less-actives join us and we had a great time!  You can see Shandell behind THE WINNING TEAM!!  She selected Elder Monson and me as the team captains so the pressure was intense!
Everyone contributed food to the dinner including the young missionaries who brought brownies that were pretty fabulous.  We brought a salad.
This guy wins!  He has the longest Rasta tail we have seen in half our mission!  He was walking out of Pricemart and I had to record his picture forever!
This moth of unusual size was on wall outside of our apartment! I thought my grandchildren would want to see it!
August 31st was independence day in Trinidad, so all the senior missionaries went to a NEW RESTAURANT in Port of Spain called Angelos.  It was really astoundingly good and wonder of wonder, all 9 of our meals came out at the same time!
The next day we went out with our friends and neighbors, the Rays to start our fast.  The festive Independence day balloons were still adorning the ceiling.  We laughed and laughed!
Great people!  Our China inspiration!
 The baptism on Saturday was amazing.  Devindre's testimony was on the previous blog.  This was Steven's baptism at the same time.
 He was paralyzed in a construction accident.  He demonstrated incredible trust when the Elders and others lifted him into the water for his baptism.  He was introduced to the church through a humanitarian wheelchair project when the church delivered to his door a wheelchair. 
 He told us afterward that he was certain as he came out of the water, that it was the most correct choice he had ever made.  
His entire family came to support him.  None of them were interested in learning about the church, but they are wonderful people and very supportive of his choice.  We missed his and Devindre's confirmation because we were late to church for the first time in our mission. In our assignmet, we rotate to all of the wards and branches on Trinidad.  There are nine different locations.  The driving in this country has already been discussed in previous posts.  Suffice it to say, before we get on the road we are always certain to include in our companionship prayer driving safely to our location.  So this fast Sunday, we were slated to go to San Fernando, one of the more distant south locations.  We have the exact route down at this point of our mission, but as soon as the path is changed for whatever reason, we are in treacherous territory.  There are skinny, twisting roads which go every which-way so we always stay with the known paths.  However, this day, the rare occasion of seeing multiple, engaged, policemen busily escorting about thirty five bicycle riders in an independence-weekend-race distracted us and we passed the freeway exit.  We found ourselves in completely unfamiliar territory having no clue where we were or how to get to the church.  It turned out to be a very sweet experience; a tutelage in following the Spirit and listening closely to gentle promptings that we feel instead of know.  We made some mistakes initially, but as we asked, what do you feel, we could more and more quickly be able to say, in unison, at every turn, I feel right, or left, and when we were in agreement, we would go that direction.  It was very humbling that we came to the church from a very different direction and arrived in time for the sacrament.  We felt very blessed and it felt like a workshop on feeling the guidance of the Spirit and waiting until we both felt the same impression.  A tender mercy from the Lord for which we were both very thankful.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Time to repent!

The last two posts have spanned two months on our mission!  It is time to repent!  I have to get back to weekly posts even if they seem same-ole-same-ole!  So much has happened! We have been so busy that I just never seem to have time to maintain our own blog.  Throughout our mission I have been keeping another blog for the mission; for other countries to access activities, events and resources that might be helpful to them in their locations.  There just has not been time to get around to this one!!  So strap on your seatbelts.....and scroll through the endless pictures quickly........
 What a cute little table fireplace!  We wanted to roast marshmellows!
 Pretty good Indian food here!
 The Smiths have arrived.  Elder Smith is a much needed doctor and Sister Smith is amazing, too.  We just love them already and they will be going to Grenada as soon as their visas come. 
 Elder Hatch and Whitlock and a whole bunch more elders on the way to pick up 9 new cars from the dealership!!  How much do you think this dealership likes the church??
 All these kids driving away in brand new cars! Yikes!
 Handin' out keys, inspecting the goods!  Elder and Sister Reese did a great job organizing this before suddenly returning home because of health reasons.  We will miss them.
 We bid farewell to the Gublers, who finally got their visa to Suriname, and hello to the Smiths.
 THE SHINING RAYS! Elder and Sister Ann Ray and Sue Ray......what are the odds?
 We went to Maracas beach to show the Smiths the sliver of beach on this island and it was a deluge!
 Every time we visit Chaguanas, Maria, Moriah, and Markey come up and hug-hug-hug me.  They helped me accompany and would not leave my side at the piano.  No one here seems to mind a few little friends helping.
 Every transfer we inspect the young missionaries apts.  Here are the winners!  Their mothers would be proud!  The prize was a plate of my sweet rolls!
 Elder Monson and Elder Hatch exchanged their "special ties." Elder Monson's tie was given to him before coming on the mission from Landon Hedgepeth, a friend who was not able to finish his mission due to health issues.  It is now back in a great line of excellent missionaries!

We had an amazing experience at the YSA conference August 16th and 17th in Port of Spain!  The theme of the conference was, "DESIGNING AND BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL FUTURE." Somehow the t-shirts got messed up, so the theme on the shirts read, "designing and building a secure future."  Oh well, that works too.  If it is a successful future, it should be secure too!
 As the YSA's arrived, they checked in and then went to the computer station to fill out online a personality profile.  You can find it at  It provided information that was part of the deciding input from which we matched compatibility later on.  Elder and Sister Smith assisted at this station.
The next station was the written questionnaire.  They each filled this out with the help of Elder and Sister Ray
Filling out the values part of the survey.
The next event was the devotional.  Bishop Hooker was the speaker.... his  message was, "find your spouse here, go on dates, and get married!" (The shortened version!)
Afterwards, two of the YSA reps lead the group in ice-breakers to get everybody comfortable, fast!

They had a blast!

John and Mary, YSA reps, leading the party.  We were so proud of them!  After the icebreakers, we had dinner and then a dance.  No one ever dances - so we made a dance card!  Each person you dance with signed your card.  If all the lines were filled out, your card went into the draw for the prize - a date wrapped in a cereal box of lucky charms.  Two tickets to a movie, and two certificates for cold stone creamery.  Man, did it work!  EVERYONE DANCED!!!

While they danced, we went upstairs and put together the dating compatibility tests.  

Figuring out a system to hook these people up???

Let's just say it wasn't an exact science!!

By 12:45 am, we were like, well, this is a boy, this is a girl, they are about the same age.....Perfect!

 The next morning started at 8:00 am with breakfast and then four workships:  Laws of Success: Elder Monson, Marriage Prep: President and Sister Danzell, Mission Prep: Collan Moore and Jason Byng, and Career Building: Sister Raphael and the Career bus, all of 
which were big hits!
 After lunch, another YSA rep, Nicoda Pathay, divided the group into fours and they went to one of 14 locations in the building for speed dating.  They had five minutes in each location and then two minutes to rotate to the next location.  They had a list of topics to discuss and were able to safely "date" and get to know other YSA's from different areas.  Asking several of them at the end of this activity how they liked it met with very positive answers!  One young man said, "I met someone I am very interested in getting to know better!"
 Different locations for each group worked great.
 Four people instead of two was a good decision, too.
The YSA's went to shower and change and return for dinner, the devotional, testimony meeting and the "elegant" casual dance the second night. 
Aaron and Rhoda, both have been baptized since we have been on our mission.
This photo was taken on Saturday.  Steven, (in the wheelchair) and Devindre (directly in front of me) were baptized.  At the conference, during the devotional, Devindre bore a first and very fervent testimony. He explained that his mother abandoned him when he was 16-months old; his father abandoned him at the age of 3; he was raised by his grandparents who kicked him out to live on his own at 17-years old. He said he had never felt a parent’s love until the missionaries came and told him that he had a Heavenly Father and that we are all brothers and sisters. He testified that the Spirit bore witness to him that God is his father and that he is loved by a loving parent who will never abandon him.
Two weeks later, on August 31, 2013, Devindre was baptized. The following day he was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is the testimony he bore in fast and testimony meeting that day.
“I used to ask myself how do members know that the Book of Mormon is true, and how may I know this is true? Well, how does one know joy and happiness unless first he knows pain and suffering? How does one know light until he has experienced darkness? He can one be saved and rescued until he knows he is lost?
“Brothers and sisters, in my life I was lost in darkness and at the depths of misery. When I learned of the Book of Mormon and of the Church, I knew this was my light to take me out of darkness and ignorance. When I met the missionaries and the members of this church, I knew this is my happiness to take away my sorrow. And when I was baptized yesterday and washed by the blood of Jesus Christ and born again, I knew that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, and he has saved me, and I am truly found.”
This is the most promising prospective priesthood holder that Elder Monson and I have seen join the Church in the almost 10 months we have served here. This young man represents all that is wonderful about being part of the Lord’s work and making our small contribution to building his kingdom.
 Two of our elders called us and invited us to go meet their investigator who works at a steel pan production plant.  Steel pan bands are a signature, cultural icon of Trinidad musical instruments from which entire bands are comprised that play a broad range of music including classical.  These instruments date back to around the time of WW11.  African slaves struggled to maintain their connection with Africa and music was their only link.  African rhythmic patterns were reproduced on bamboo stomping tubes by bamboo bands who marched in the streets during Carnival.  These tamboo instruments were constructed by cutting varying lengths of bamboo sticks, stomping the larger sticks on the ground, and striking the smaller ones together.  In the early 1930's the bamboo tamboo was banned and the steel drum beating of tin pans, biscuit drums, dust bins were referred to as "pan bands."  The very first pitched steel drums were made from smaller metal containers and were convex in shape.  They were crude and had no intentional pitches.  In the 40's and 50's pan innovators experimented with the styling or note patterns, and improved upon the tuning.  Today the steel pan drum is constructed from the bottom of a 55 gallon barrel, sunk down in a concave fashion, and tuned with precision.  Steel pan began in Trinidad because of the oil production native to this Island and the abundance of huge empty steel drums.
 Here is a worker tamping down the convex shape of the steel drum.
 Our tour guide holding two pans to demonstrate the process.
 Giving us the grand tour!  He was awesome!
 Some of the traveling structures that take the pan instruments to performances etc.
A band of pans.  Notice the different lengths of the drums producing the different octaves and sounds including low c tenor, double second, double tenor, double guitar, triple cello, four cello, tenor bass and six base drums in a variety of finishes.  The prices in US dollars range from $700.00 for a powder coated low c tenor/D-lead to $2300.00 for a six base powder coated pan.
 Our elders getting into the action.
 Tuning the drums.
 Our very own private performance!
 Some pans waiting to be finished.  What a tour!  I'm bringing a little tourist one home for my grandchildren to bang on!  Elder Monson will be glad for his hearing-loss!
 We thought it about time to take a picture of district meeting.  We are responsible for the northwest zone of missionaries in Trinidad.  Each senior couple is assigned an area and they are to be the first caretakers of the missionaries; helping them with challenges, health problems, supporting them at district meetings, bringing them mail, taking care of them, inspecting their apartments and helping them in any need they might have. This mission covers 11 countries, 9 currencies, three languages, one stake, four districts and fourteen mission dependent branches.  The mission president and his wife spend so much time traveling, training, and guiding that the Senior couples fill in to assist him in this fondly referred to, "Mission Impossible."  The young missionaries are soooo inspiring to us.  One of our beloved sisters, Sister Shirts, went home today.  She has been such an inspiration to us as she has struggled for a month with health problems that cannot be addressed sufficiently in the West Indies. She has gone home to get the medical care she needs, and hopefully, will return to us soon.  She is an excellent missionary and will be dearly missed until she returns.
We got to see her the night before she returned.  My sister, Julie, was her librarian in elementary school and knows her well.  What a small world!
 This picture is of stake conference this last Sunday!  The choirs at both meetings are something of a miracle!  Musical training is sooo minimal here.  People just do not have the opportunity to be musically trained.  Working with the choir director was inspiring to me!  Though he didn't know much at all about music, he gave it his heart, practiced hard, and in the end, angels sang with them, and it was beautiful!
We had to leave the country and fly to Grenada for the most terrible lunch in the airport and then return to Trinidad to be legal to drive again here.
Each transfer, every six weeks, I teach a cooking class to the new missionaries.  They come so new, so hopeful, so faithful and obedient.  It is inspiring to be a part of this work.  I type up their thoughts and feelings as they arrive and as they leave in a format that assists the mission president in his interviews. They take it home with them and record how they have changed and grown on their missions.  The stories and testimonies are amazing.