Friday, February 7, 2014

Saint Martin Celebration return visit

All the senior missionaries cut and color their own hair on the mission. We finally got an actual qualified hair stylist, Sister Bateman,  so her salon was out in the parking lot of our apartment!  Elder and Sister Bird came for a humanitarian project and jumped into the party!  Great times and no cleanup - well - the birds feather their nests a little and are grateful!
Driving to the airport to go to St Martin, the French side, we passed this nifty house-on-a-truck.  
Here are the side and back windows - all ready to be dropped off in someone's yard; add the curtains, a door mat and voila - your house is ready for occupancy!  Life is so much simpler here!
We got to our hotel right on the beach where the huge jets fly over and people gather to fight the jet stream when they take off.  Last time we visited this hotel was full, but we lucked out on this trip.
This island is geared toward tourists!  They are in high season now - it is cold everywhere else!  They had a parade out in front of the hotel and an open hors d'oeuvres buffett for the Super Bowl - we didn't join in because we went out to dinner with the senior missionary couple, the Thompsons. 
They are wonderful- we had such a great time with them.  This is their apartment - what a view!
We want to remember this meeting forever!  Luckily, I took out my iPad and typed as the people spoke. 

The young man seated in the second seat of the row on the left bore his testimony.  He said, "I was close to God, but sinning.  I went To Guadeloupe and read my Bible and started studying.  I went to Jehovah Witnesses searching for God's truth.  Mormon missionaries came to my house, and I was like, nah, I do not want that church.  The Jehovah Witnesses made me feel good.  I read Matthew and many other scriptures in the Bible and thought maybe I should go Adventist.  I was still sinning and asking forgiveness and telling God that I knew I needed a church to go to, as the scriptures said.  All of them were wonderful and nice to me.  I don't have a problem with any of them.  I am welcomed at all, but I want the truth and want to know what God wants me to do.  I said to God in prayer, the next church that approaches me, I will know, is the church you want me to join.  I was working at a car wash at the time and President Gamiette brought his car to be washed and we started talking.  He left me with a brochure.  He approached me the next day and asked me to come meet with him.  I went there and saw the missionaries that I had met earlier and dismissed.  I met with them, studied with them, but I was very worried about what all my friends and family would think.  It is really weird to be a Mormon, but I kept studying.  As I read and studied, God testified to me that the Book of Mormon is true.  It is through my stubbornness and fear that I am not baptized as yet because the Spirit has borne witness to me that it is true.  Why is it that my friends and family do not care if I join any other church, just not this one?"  Elder Monson and I were so impressed with this young man - his honest searching and questions.  He had been on this journey for two years.  We spent time with him after the meeting, and he committed with the missionaries at church to be baptized next Saturday!  We are so sad that we will not be there for his baptism.  Later that evening when we were at the Thompson's, (he is the branch president) he got the call about the three baptisms next Saturday and this young man was one of them.  What a thrill to be there today, talk with him and hear his journey and courageous decision to follow the Savior in spite of the sacrifices he will have to make.  
It was an amazing meeting because right after him another young woman stood up and said, "I also prayed to find out which church God wanted me to go to.  I was feeling like I wanted to give my all to  God and not follow the empty path of the world.  He hears and answers prayers, especially when you honestly pray to find out which church to go to.  I felt an impression to move back here,  and I was a little overwhelmed with my studies.  I prayed and the missionaries met with me.  Heavenly Father reminded me in my mind, - remember I helped you find your place and you promised you would find my church and give me your all?  I meant what I said to him, so right after that the phone rang, and it was the missionaries.  It was around Christmas time.  I really wanted to find God's church.  When I came to Christmas dinner at the church, I met the youth, and they were singing the next week and asked me to come.  I prayed and fasted and continued to meet with the missionaries.  I felt certain that this is what God wanted me to do, so I called my family and told them I was going to join the Mormon church.  They did not respond well, but I knew that was what God wanted me to do.  In my confusion, I said a prayer and opened to the thirteenth article of faith. This church IS virtuous, lovely and of good report, and it is right to seek after it.  After the Spirit confirmed that, I felt good in my heart that this is what I wanted, and the right thing to do, no matter what.  I was baptized and received the Holy Ghost.  I know this church is true.  It has made my life full and meaningful.  I know that Jesus Christ really atoned for my sins and that He lives.  I know that President Monson is a prophet of God on the earth today and that the Book of Mormon is true.  Maybe at first your family may not understand and be concerned, but they will see your example and your happiness and that will bring them closer to Him, too.

Elder Thompson, the senior missionary and branch president, closed the meeting with his testimony. "I also joined the church as a young man.  I was 17 and have been a member for 52 years and never had one moment of regret.  I was the first member in my family, also.  My mother questioned me and was so worried when I joined this church.  I could have joined any other Christian church and she would have been fine.  She was a faithful baptist, and her husband was a preacher.  When I joined this church, there was nothing but opposition against me from my friends and family.  That was evidence to me that this IS the true church of Jesus Christ.  Satan desires to oppose the growth of the true church of Jesus Christ.  I, likewise, learned that any other church caused no challenge from anyone I knew,  except this one.  There is truth in every church, but we have the whole truth and a personal relationship with God. We have to expect we will have opposition.  It is the church of Jesus Christ, not of man.  All should take courage through that opposition and see it as evidence of the growth of God's true church.  We are the lights which should not be hid under a bushel.  God needs a courageous people.  I bless all of you, as Branch President, to have the courage to follow the Spirit and bear witness of the truth in your soul to those around you.  The Lord is hastening His work and preparing the earth for His return.  The time is growing close that Jesus Christ will return to this earth and call up those who confess His name in all things.  In the measure of man's time, it is not very long."

What a remarkable testimony meeting.  We were thankful to have been there to record it.  After the block, we met with the Celebration committee and were very encouraged by the things we discussed.
This was the view right outside our balcony window straight ahead.
This was the view to the right outside the window.
Early the next morning the Thompsons picked us up at the hotel to explore the Island with them.  On the way, we found that local people provide for themselves with produce stands here as they do in almost all other Carribean countries we have visited.
We passed this canal which looks very European, even Venetian.
Oh man!  We stopped for breakfast at a boulangerie/ patisserie that makes French province areas distinctly heavenly!  Amazing! - we had an apple one, a strawberry one and brought along a spinach goat cheese for later.  Fabulous!  The missionaries in these French areas struggle with gaining weight on their missions, needless to say!  Good thing we just visit here occasionally!
We parked near the beach and found a table where the owners of a grill allowed us to sit and eat our breakfast.  We had passed a bunch of school kids in their uniforms, following after their teachers, ending up right in front of us for PE class.  How fun would it be for PE class to be swimming in the ocean!  Not a Wasatch Front experience, for sure!  We watched them with their boards go out one at a time and swim around a clearly designated area,  kicking and swimming with the life belts you can see on those in the foreground.  We were happy to see that.  They do not do that in Trinidad which is why almost none of the young people there know how to swim.
Here we are riding on a boat out to a tiny private Island, Penil, to spend some time.
Our trusty captain
The view of the water from the chairs on the Island.  It rained intermittently while we were there, but the umbrellas provided pretty adequate cover. 
The view of the beach as we walked back to get on the boat for the return home.  There was a tiny restaurant there and a restroom and that's about it.

On the way back, we stopped and watched some tourists taking in the wind surfing options.

We had a chance to walk over to the windward Atlantic side.  The waves were enormous compared to the Caribbean side.  The wind and color of the ocean is different too.  I just can't get enough of the color of the Caribbean water.  The aqua, teal colored water is the most beautiful color in the world!

We got back to our hotel, showered and changed and went to a fabulous restaurant on the beach.  Look at the phenomenal yachts out in the harbor at night.  We saw Steve Jobs'
 yacht that cost one hundred forty million dollars, commissioned to be built for him.  I wonder, now, if he is thinking that was money well spent?
We returned to Trinidad and put together a birthday surprise for Sister Sue Ray in the office.  She was very happy and pleased!  It was fun.  Sister Anne and Elder Ray sneaked around in the wee morning hours with a sturdy pair of scissors gathering up bouquets of flowers hanging over garden fences.  

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