Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Family baptism, Pitch lake, Easter dinner, Grenada visit

The Gerard Family.  A wonderful mission experience! The Andrus', who were the office couple when we first arrived in Trinidad, was assigned to the Chaguanas branch where this great family was found.  They worked tirelessly to visit, help, and support them in their search for the Gospel and then went home.  Right before they left, they took us to meet them. We visited for awhile and got to meet their three adorable girls.  This visit was in the first months of our mission.  The girls came to youth conference, but the Andruses completed their mission and returned home. They stopped attending for quite an extended period of time.  The Andruses continued to call them from home and stay in contact.  The missionaries tried to work with them, but eventually they were dropped because they weren't progressing.  Sister Gerard had very close friendships in her church congregation and was reticent to lose those friendships.  Fast forward to the end of our mission when Sister Shirts and Sister Schindler learned about the family and went to teach them.  They seemed happy to have the missionaries teaching them again and accepted teaching appointments regularly.  At one visit they told the Sisters that Bro. Andrus had told them he would fly out and baptize them.  At district meeting Sister Shirts reported, "I felt impressed that I should ask them if they would be baptized - whether or not the Andruses could come."  They were quiet for a few minutes as they thought about the question and then quietly said, "Yes, we want to be baptized; we are ready."  As much as they love the Andruses, they had to be converted to the Lord, not them, and that day had come.  It was a beautiful baptism, one of the most spirit-filled,  at the very end of our mission.
 This young couple came to their baptism.  They just had their first baby, and we are so proud of them.  When we first got here, they were YSA's.  They were engaged to be married and kept the standards of the Church prior to their wedding.  They are somewhat of a novelty with Superstar Status in this culture because that is soooooooo rare here.
 Beautiful brand new baby - almost as adorable as my 3 new baby boy grandsons that have been born while we have been serving our mission.
 Here is the beautiful family with us, and the Andruses, before the baptism.  Crazy thing is Jim and Mary are from Saint George!  In our Stake!  We did not know them before our mission, but such is missionary service - you make friends from around your own corner!
 Such a sweet and beautiful family entering the kingdom of God. 
 As Elder Andrus baptized them one at a time; first Dad, then Mom, and right down the line, the Spirit was soooo strong.  It seemed to get stronger and stronger with each new baptism.  They came out of the water and walked down the stairs to join the rest of the family newly baptized; we were all overcome with joy and emotion.  
 Mom bought matching shirts for them to wear after they were baptized.  The heavens seemed to shine on them all!
 Their youngest, Kaylee, said, "Sister Monson, let's take a picture together because my dimples are just like yours!  Isn't she sooooo beautiful!  I told her that mine are just fading into wrinkles, but I could remember when they were angel kisses on my cheeks just like hers!
 Elder Byron, a great young missionary from St. Lucia, had to certify with Elder Monson that everything about a mission is just a-ok!
 Elder and Sister Gerard have a furniture business and also do catering.  They brought a huge meal, which they prepared, for everyone that came to the baptism.  Wonderful, generous people.  They will make a huge difference in the Chaguanas branch.
This is Pitch Lake!  We have heard that it is one of the 7 wonders of the world and so, yah, we thought we should stop by and look at it since we drive right past it every time we drive out to church in Point Fortin.   On Easter Sunday we were asked to speak there, so on our return, we turned in and looked at it!  Wow.  Do not fly here on vacation to see it!  The following information is from the internet.  " The La Brea Pitch Lake attracts about 20,000 visitors annually. People occasionally swim in the waters of the pitch lake which some say is therapeutic because of the sulphur content. (important word here.....occasionally)  Once every decade or so!
Mining of the lake started in 1867, and an estimated 10 million tons of asphalt has been extracted since. Tar from the La Brea Pitch Lake in Trinidad has been used to provide high grade road surfaces not only in Trinidad, Tobago and the other islands of the Caribbean, but it has also paved streets in over 50 countries including the United States of America, England, India, Singapore, Egypt, and even Japan. The lake is estimated to contain reserves of around 6 million tons, which would last 400 years at the current rate of extraction."  There you have it!  Pitch Lake!  And yes, WE have seen it!
Here's a parting shot.  Feel free to copy this and send it to all your friends to let them know that you have actually seen a close up of Pitch Lake in Trinidad!
We must record this memory - one morning we got out of bed, Elder Monson went into the bathroom and was greeted with this!!  His shaving cream, of its own accord, exploded all over his stuff.  Hmmmm, another first from Trinidad!  He bought the discount double pack, so we brought the other can home, and the first week exploded too!!
We had all our dear friends, Batemans, Rays, and Sister Ray over for Easter dinner.  We shared the cooking, and everybody brought something.  It was yummy!
Quite the feast!
Everybody picked an egg and colored it, then prepared for the traditional egg roll
Fierce competition between Sisters Bateman and Ray.  Sister Sue Ray was victorious!!
In the last few weeks of our mission, we took a final trip to the beautiful Island of Grenada to try to jumpstart a lagging Celebration committee.  The Smiths took us around and we had a marvelous time.  The meeting went well and they seemed to make progress, but we left before their first show.  The Francoms will follow up - we sure hope it happens!
We went to a fun store up high in the mountains in Grenada to buy spices, nutmeg syrup, and gifts to take home.  Pretty colorful walls, huh?
 This was a lady whose livelihood is taking pictures with the tourists in this crazy hat that no native would ever really wear, but during busy tourist seasons, people line up to give her a tip and have their memory made!  She was nice and very excited to encourage us to take her picture.
We went to a beautiful lake up in the mountains with a fun walk to get there.  Grenada really is beautiful; of the eleven islands in the West Indies mission, among the top five.  We rate them, after having seen them all: Guadeloupe, Barbados, Saint Martin, Grenada, Saint Lucia.  That rating is for tourist visits. The people are amazing in all of the islands, and we highly recommend serving missions on any of them.
Pondering the verities of eternity overlooking the lake.
 We were soooo lucky!  The Smiths said that everyone tries to get a close-up glimpse of the monkeys that live up there.  We were totally clueless.  Elder Smith stopped on the way up and bought some bananas at a fruit stand and said, "We might get hungry!"  Then after we took the picture of the hat lady, Elder Smith went off woofing for the monkeys.  Several people had been trying for awhile, but we hit the jackpot.  They came right up to us.  This guy has it all together!
He jumped right up on Elder Smith, coaxed by the banana, and sat there on his shoulder munching contentedly while we took pictures.  Sooooo fun!
After he had his fill, he went up to tell all his friends about his cache.  However, another bunch of tourists, woofing away, had no success......they were full!
The Smiths had packed a delightful picnic, and we sat by the lake and enjoyed hearing about the amazing things they are doing in Grenada: teaching English, supporting the missionaries, helping the branch in a thousand ways.  We had a great visit!
On the way down, we saw a familiar site: climbing up for a coconut.  People, no matter how poor, do not starve in the West Indies with a plethora of fabulous free choices growing on trees.
We returned to Trinidad, probably never to return to Grenada.  A beautiful last shot at the airport.

A beautiful testimony we heard on our mission:
Kevin, a YSA we love, bore his testimony at church.  He had been a member for ten years when he drifted into complete inactivity.  He started to do everything bad the world had to offer.  He said, "I noticed, as time went by, that life got harder and harder in small ways.  I was not receiving the blessings I used to take for granted.  One night I took a buddy and went out partying.  I thought about how much my life had changed from the time I used to go to church.  The next day at work, I reached into the bottom drawer of my desk looking for some papers I'd misplaced and saw a book there.  I picked it up, and it was a Book of Mormon.  I was shocked to see the Book of Mormon there.  I had been working at that desk for over a year and had never seen anything in that drawer.  I am the only member of the church at my job and in the entire building, as far as I know.  The name, address and phone number of the missionaries was written on one of the pages.  2Nephi 31:21 was the scripture that was marked in the book.  As I read, "This is the way and there is no other way to enter the kingdom of God,"  I knew that God was speaking directly to me.  I felt a rush go from my head to my foot.  I testify that God never forgets his sheep.  That experience opened my heart again to the Spirit of God - it brought me back to the missionaries and to church where my blessings have now been returned to me, and I am active today."

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