As we get closer to Celebration shows all over the mission (and here in the Stake) we feel like the days are on hyper-drive. We have so little time left on our mission and still feel that there is sooooo much to do!
For our YSA activity in February, the theme was building testimonies, but they haven't had a dance since the first activity when we arrived in the mission field. So they decided to have a devotional before the dance and have everyone walk with (local phrase meaning bring it with you) their favorite scripture. Elder Monson and I met with Bishop Moore in San Fernando to design our decorating plan for the building.
After the plan was finished, we went home to put it into action. The overhead fans, essential in West Indies chapels, could not be obstructed. So we had two window walls and the front and back to decorate.
Two straight days making tissue paper flowers! Small and huge ones.
The secret: Youtube and "how to make giant tissue paper flowers." Add some spray glue and glitter in the centers.
The adorable Sister Missionaries helped us, as well as the Bateman's, senior missionaries living in San Fernando and serving as Branch President in Point Fortin. It basically took the whole day, but turned out gorgeous. They loved it!
The front when we were finished.
Both walls looked like this
The entrance to the chapel. These darling girls were the first to come. The second from both sides are brand new members of just a few months. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming to them.
We had 72 people there, and all had a marvelous time. The young man in the light blue shirt on the right came to sit by me and told me he had been investigating the church with the missionaries for quite a long time, but decided that night that he wanted to be baptized and invited us to come to his baptism. He told me that the Spirit he felt when the YSA reps talked about their favorite scriptures and the love and good feelings he experienced there with all the other young people convinced him that he wanted to be a part of this church. It was awesome. What a wonderful day! We love our assignment!
All lined up to go in for the refreshments.
The YSA's organized all the food and did a wonderful job.
We had dance cards, and all those that had theirs filed with different names put it into a drawing. The winner got gift certificates to TGIF for a date.
We cleaned up, and as we drove away at 1:00 am, this was the scene at the end of the street. There were so many people in the bar and so many outside the bar, drunk and drinking. The stark contrast of the complete lack of standards in the culture here and the wonderful young people that are striving to live lives of goodness and obedience to the commandments of God was dramatic.
It was a short night! We got home at 2:30 am and got up at 6:00 am to be at the baptism of a dear sister that we have been able to teach and visit in their home with the missionaries. This family is amazing. They have been investigating the church for quite awhile, and we were blessed to be a tiny part of it. Sister Frontin asked me to speak at her baptism on The Holy Ghost. That was such a special honor. The Frontin family is so impressive and we just heard that Brother Frontin has set a baptismal date now, too.
They will have a powerful impact on the growth of the church in Trinidad. Since I first started working on this post weeks ago, Brother Frontin has been baptized. We were able to go to his baptism too, and then had the family and their missionaries over to dinner. It was so sweet. After the missionaries left, I asked Bro. Frontin what made him certain to move forward to baptism. He shared an amazing story. He said that from the first time he met with the missionaries, he knew deep down that what they were saying was true, but he didn't want to know, wouldn't open his heart to accept it. The day came that he knew that he was ready to be honest with himself. They both told us how much they love Elder Hatch who had been teaching them through three sets of missionaries. Bro. Frontin asked Elder Monson to speak at his baptism and as part of that, he promised him that though he had been baptized previously, he would feel the power of true priesthood authority that would make this experience different. Bro. Frontin told us after dinner, that when he was baptized, he was by himself in the baptismal changing room and just bawled. He told of a physical weight that he had been carrying for years that was his past sins. He said that as he went under the water and was raised again, he felt an incredible lightness! The weight was completely gone; he felt so overwhelmed with the love of the Savior who had picked up his weight and was carrying it for him that he was overcome for quite a time before he could come out of that room. The Spirit confirmed his words. We were so thankful he shared that experience with us.
We got on a plane later the same day and headed off to Barbados for their Celebration. The plane was delayed, (SURPRISE!!) and we barely made it to the show, missed the first few performances, but were thrilled with the show on February 22nd.
Their show was composed entirely of youth! It was awesome!
Here is the amazing Celebration Committee that led the way in the West Indies mission with the first Celebration show. It was held the same night as the St. Vincent show which we heard great reports about from the Birds. They said there were many non-member participants.
Back home in Trinidad, meeting with our awesome NorthWest and Central Zones of missionaries for whom we are responsible to inspect their apartments, go to their district meetings, comfort and assist them, repair their clothes, provide medicine and needed items for their apartments, and make them feel supported and loved! They are! We feel so privileged to know and love them - we are inspired by their dedication and obedience.
It is so wonderful to be back home in Trinidad - here are some warm and fuzzy sights in paradise. Aren't you dying to go to…"Sprang returns D cabin on March 30th???
I think this is particularly comforting to know that our home island provides best value guaranteed - we can always feel safe and protected. We have not seen one of these anywhere else!
There is a living sculpture element here, too, that is inspiring.
Freshly slaughtered. They do not feature that at Harmons, as cool as they think they are……...
When we inspected the apartments of our missionaries, we were certain, as we walked into this new apartment in our central zone, that they had adequate electricity. I mean they are hooked up!
Our wonderful central zone! Transfers are every six weeks. We take lunch to them once a transfer and inspect their apartments. They look forward to the contest and to the prize! The competition is fierce for the winning plates of sweet rolls. They all get one, but the winners get a plate of 8. We can have as many 1st place winners as possible. Here are the winners for both of our zones this transfer. Aren't they adorable!
The winners! I emailed these pictures to their moms from district meeting. I would have been proud to get this from my kids when they were missionaries!
Elder Felix on the far right is leaving us this transfer. He was the winning apartment three transfers in a row so we developed a special award just for his great effort! We love this first missionary to serve from Saint Lucia!
Our entire northwest zone right before they separated at transfers. Wonderful young people!
This was a crazy coincidence. Elder Monson was visiting with some of our darling missionaries at the cottage meeting fireside which President and Sister Mehr held, and he asked Sister Wilson what her grandpa's name was, since his mother's maiden name was Wilson. She said, "Theron Hudson Wilson!" That is his mom's brother so she is the daughter of his first cousin, Kevin! Small world. He had fun sending this picture to his cousin who did not even know we are on a mission in the West Indies! Another funny association is that people often ask her if she is my daughter because she is tall and has curly hair!
Carnival came, and we were gone on Celebration travels. Most of Carnival is Mardi Gras on steroids - (the missionaries are on lock down) but there are some amazing aspects of Carnival like the steel pan and costume competitions all over the country. One of our friends in San Fernando, Gloria, and her son, Marlin, and his wife, Laura, and their son, Antonio, all participate in the family business. Her story is an inspiring, typical one, but with an unusual outcome. Marlin was born and his father left soon after. Like so many women here, she was left with a baby and no way to provide for herself and her child. She is uniquely talented and began making costumes for the country-wide carnival contests. This year she won King and Queen costumes, plus first and third place. She has done so well over the years (see the trophies) that she has been able to provide the beautiful home that she and her family live in. She is resourceful, works really hard and has provided a wonderful life for herself and her family. She's an impressive woman.
Here she is in front of her home with her grandson and son just coming out of their house. She also planted and tends all the beautiful roses in her garden!
We went to her house with the Rays and had a delightful tour.
We love our friends the Rays!
The costumes are twenty five feet wide and just as high and they wear them.
After viewing many amazing pieces, she showed us videos of the competition and winning costumes she has created from past years. Astounding. One had fireworks coming out of it!
Just one final shout-out for all the people our age who are hesitant to serve senior missions. One of the strongest reasons to serve is simply your lives and choices - which are rare in so many cultures in the world. A woman came up to us as we walked out of a recent baptism and asked us how long we had been married. When we told her 40 years, she said that we are her inspiration, that it really is possible to believe in eternal marriage. We were just holding hands and she told us, "It means so much to me to see you together; it gives me hope of things the Gospel promises in eternity, but which we seldom see in our culture."