Monday, December 31, 2012

Good-by 2012

December 30, 2012

Sunday.  George and Sharon Peterson are staying with us.  They came over from St Thomas yesterday and stayed last night.  George is one month younger than I and Sharon is one month younger than Gaye.  We get along very well, and it is especially nice to have someone our age and in our own circumstance to talk to.  We have enjoyed comparing our experiences, our joys and frustrations.  We were all at the MTC in Provo together and flew to San Juan together.  

Today we went to the beach at Long Bay and the Kalama family were all there, too, so we enjoyed being around them, riding on their paddle boards, and just soaking in the water for the afternoon.  It was partly cloudy but very comfortable.  The water was a little cool when we first got into it but we quickly adjusted to it.  Following the afternoon of relaxing in the water we cleaned up and went to dinner at a nice restaurant.  It was a nice day.

We have three vehicles at our place now.  I still want to drive the truck.  It is bigger and more difficult to park, but it is also more comfortable to ride in and has more power to handle the steep hills.  Today we drove both.  We picked up three loads of branch members for church.  Then we took them home again after church.  

Gaye and I have been trying to help get the Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching set up in the branch.  We have able and committed priesthood and Relief Society leaders.  They want to get it going, but they don’t quite know how to go about it.  So after the meetings were over and the shuttle of members was completed, the branch presidency, the EQ presidency, Elder Peterson and I loaded into the truck and went to visit some of the members who have not come to church for a while. We ended up with a few of the leaders in the back of the truck.  So much for that rule.  We visited Br St Rose, the father of some of the strong young men in the branch. He and Sister St Rose are divorced and he has remarried. I didn’t know we would be taking our truck so I did not fill it up with gas.  I really do not want to fill up the truck and then have the YFTM’s drive it.  We got to the top of the ridge and we were almost out of fuel.  I had to ask Br St Rose if I could buy some fuel from him.  He had a gallon that he just gave to us.  That was a nice thing to do, and it got us down the hill where se purchased some more. It was good to meet those members and it was good for them to meet us, but what we need is to get the method of home teaching established in the branch.  I have an idea of how to do that.

I will go home teaching with the EQ president to a couple of receptive families, including his counselor.  We will visit with the family members, have a message prepared, have a discussion about the message, close with prayer, and leave.  Each visit will be about 20 minutes long.  Then we will report to the home teaching supervisor.  The next night I will go with that counsellor we visited last night and do the same thing as we visit the EQ president and his family.  Then we will report.  Next I will encourage each of those two priesthood leaders to get with one of the stronger members of the branch and go out to two other families following that same pattern.  Reporting the visits and status of each family will be an important part of the visit.  Finally, the priesthood leaders will report to the branch president.  The same pattern will be followed with VT, with Gaye taking the RSP, visiting the strong sisters of the branch, etc.  The idea is to establish a pattern of how it should be done and then have the leaders teach each other.

Normal Sunset
The visits took a couple of hours so we were late getting home from church.  Usually we get home around 1 pm, but today it was almost 4 o’clock. Gaye had dinner waiting for us.  It was Sharon Peterson’s birthday so we were going to celebrate.  Earlier in the day the RSP asked me if we could spend some time at her home in the afternoon after church. I told her we would love to do that, but then we went on the visits to the branch members so we were later than usual.  As we were sitting down at the apartment to eat our dinner I called Sister DaSilva to tell her we would just eat and be right over.  She said she had dinner ready and for us to come and eat at her house.  I immediately guessed that was her plan from the beginning, but I had missed that essential part of the message.  So the four of us loaded into the car and drove over to their house.

The DaSilva family live in a small apartment a couple of miles east of our apartment.  There are four in the family.  The two boys, Jose (Jo-sie) and Winston, are in one room.  The kitchen/living room is small and compact.  Br DaSilva works 12 of 14 days and never comes to church.  But his wife and his boys love him and respect him, even though he sometimes drinks alcohol.  I wish we could get to work with him, but he is always working at his job as a boat mechanic.  Sister DaSilva loves to cook and had prepared a big meal of chow mein for us.  She also had a nice salad and some hot sauce for the main dish.  I decided to try a little of the hot sauce.  Holy Cow!!!  I think I lost all the skin off the dorsal surface of my tongue for a while.  Then suddenly, after about 15 minutes of silent agony the burn was gone and the numb went away.  I am sure glad we went overt there.  She would have been really disappointed, and besides, we had a nice visit with the branch RSP.  We went home and had some birthday cake for Sharon.  We will eat the lasagna tomorrow.

We have been planning on going to Virgin Gorda tomorrow to go snorkeling at The Baths, a world renowned snorkeling site.  We have some snorkeling gear thanks to the Peterson’s bringing it over from St Thomas.  That plan has changed, however.  President Alvarado has let us know that he is coming over tomorrow on the 9:30 ferry and he wants to meet with us.  Okay, we will meet the ferry and meet with him.  We will make the snorkeling trip on January 1.  Then George and Sharon will go back to St Thomas a day later than originally planned.  No problem with us.  Besides, I want to talk to President about the building site options and help him see why we should drive the truck and the YFTM’s drive the Suzuki.  It will be an interesting day.  The mission theme seems to be “the only constant is change.”  
Good Ice Cream
It is time for some photos of some of the people here.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Boxing Day Break

Krystin and Samora

 December 26, 2012

A Day of Relaxing

Today is Boxing Day, a big holiday in the UK, so today we took a day off and went to the beach with the Kalama Family.  Frank is the BP of Tortola Branch.  Originally from Hawaii, he served a mission to Spokane Washington and then married Tau from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.  
Tau, Gaye, Frank
They have lived on islands all their lives and they know how to enjoy living by the sea.  We spent a few hours at Cane Garden Bay.
We were going to go yesterday but the wind was up and the waves were too high.  There were actually some surfers out on the waves.  But today was very nice.  We drove the long way to get there.  We could go by the Ridge Road, but Frank wanted to show us how to get there, so we drove through town and around the south side.  Next time we will be on our own.  It is fairly hard to get hopelessly lost on this island.  Drive far enough and you will be where you started.  We drove almost to the West End, then over Zion’s Hill to Cane Garden Bay.  It is a big sheltered bay where the cruise ships like to bring their passengers.  Actually the ships don’t bring them, the taxis do. They are trucks with open seating in the back.  I imagine it is quite a thrill to ride up and down the steep roads in the back of a truck.

We had fun riding the paddle boards.  They are like very large surf boards upon which the rider sits, kneels, or stands and paddles around.  The Kalama’s have been at it for a long time and do very well standing up.  
Tau and Frankie Kalama
Hina and Tau Kalama
I got to my knees and actually made it to standing before I fell off.  
Brave Elder Patterson
Gaye was content to just sit and paddle around.  
Not so brave Sister Patterson
The water was so clear and so comfortable.  At times there were even rain squalls that rolled through.  It was so fun to just stand out in the rain and get wet.  It diluted the salt from my body.

We saw some guys take a big fishnet out and haul in a load of fish.  It was interesting to watch.  I asked one of the guys hauling the net in how much they made per haul.  He said a good day would be about $2500.  How often do they do it?  Every day he said.  
Cast Your Nets on the Other Side
They watch to see the fish stirring the surface and out they go.  We could actually see the school of fish as they got into a bunch of smaller fish and the bigger ones were stirring up the water as they went after their prey.  Too bad, though, because that attracted the attention of the fishermen and now the fish are in the fish market.  There were also big old frigate birds swooping down to grab a fish or two.  
Frigate Bird

Today is also the big horse racing day on the island.  There is a race track that takes up a good size piece of the valuable flat land.  Boxing Day is the big race day.  We drove past the track as people were arriving for the races.  There did not appear to be any parking for a mile up or down the road.  It would actually be fun to go, but that is not going to happen.

Tomorrow we have a few maintenance things to do. Bills need to be paid.  Telephone, water, cable, etc. are due at the first of the month.  But they do not send out statements.  They just tell their customers that the money is due at the end of every month and if it is not paid on time the service is cut off.  Not a bad way to do business, really, especially when there is no competition.  Many of the services are getting set up to take payments online.  That will be a lot better.  

Tomorrow we will also pick up the new Suzuki Grand Vitara.  This is a small wimpy SUV.  It can haul 5 people and has a reasonable cargo area.  I have mentioned the problem with who will be driving what.  
Steep Driveway
President is quite adamant about the senior couple driving the SUV (or is it that he does not want the YFTM’s to drive it?).  
Elders' Apt Top Right
The truck is more powerful and certainly more useful, but we will do what he tells us to do.  
Hillside Homes
It is looking like President Kalama will be able to purchase one of the trucks, too.  That is great.  That will make it more convenient for them to transport some of the members who do not have vehicles.  We have been doing some of that transporting but the authorities up the line don’t want us to do that and we want to be obedient.  

Life is good.  This is a slow time as the locals take a break between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Two big cruise ships just went past out location on their way to Road Town, so the town will be full of White tourists, mainly American and European.  They are noisy and dress sloppily.  We just try to keep our heads down.

Happy New Year!  We pray for the blessings of heaven to accompany each of you through 2013.

That’s it for now.

Friday, December 21, 2012

More on Buildings and Cars

More on the building

Road Town from on the ridge
Today we drove out to the DMV to get temporary driver’s licenses.  It was a nice bureaucratic experience. Take a number. Sit. Sit. Sit. Answer a few questions, pay a few dollars.  Everybody is happy.  On the way back into town I decided to take a road that led to somewhere, but it was somewhere other than where I thought it led.  A few minutes later we were on a very steep narrow road climbing up the side of the hill above Road Town.  We even met traffic going both directions. These photos will give you an idea of what it was like.  It is only an idea, though.  The real-time experience was much more exciting.  It really is a lot like driving the Jeeps on the trails near Moab.

I am also including some photos of some proposed sites for the building.  This will be interesting to see how it all works out.  The branch needs a building in which we can meet.  Having that building in a visible place will help increase the image of the Church on the island.

Decrepit building in town

The photos above show the derelict building President would like to buy and replace with a nice chapel. It is right in the middle of town and would surely be noticed.

 We have lots of geckos here.  This little guy was as interested in us as we were in him.

This area is all landfill.  In 1970 it was ocean.

Road Town Harbor
The men often have more hair than the ladies.  They put their hair in big  knitted caps.

Possible site, hidden away
We have been told that we are getting a new vehicle for the island.  Rumor has it that the senior couple will drive the new SUV and the elders will drive the new Tacoma.  I would rather drive the truck.  It is bigger, more powerful, and more useful than the Suzuki Grand Vitara.  Both are new so it is not a matter of having the seniors crive the new vehicle. One thing for sure--we will not be able to haul members to and from church the way we have been doing if we lose the truck.  We want to be obedient, and we want to be useful.  What do we do when those two desires conflict with each other?

The parking lot by our meeting place is interesting. It would make a great place to build a chapel, but it is already under plans for a much bigger complex to be built.  When that happens our parking will be in serious trouble.  Anyway, when it is dry, as it has been for most of the past couple of weeks, the huge mud holes dry up and 4WD is not needed to ford the ponds.  When it rains, those potholes fill up with water.  There is a boat parked by the largest, dubbed Lake Tortola by previous missionaries.   
Lake Tortola
Having a boat near that one is not a bad idea.

BYU won over SDSU.  Way to go Cougars!

Building the Church

Building Project  December 20, 2012

President Alvarado gave me an assignment when he was here last week.  He said he wants a building site for a chapel in Tortola, and he wants it now. He has been trying to get some action for 6 months.  He looked out the window and identified three sites he would buy today.  I told him I will get the information.

The first place he pointed out is an old derelict building across the street from where we now meet.  It would be torn down of course and a nice chapel would be built there.  The original instructions given to our predecessors a few months ago asked for a building lot on level ground of 1.5-2.0 acres size.  This lot is 100 x 65 feet!  President feels the visibility of the location makes up for the small size.  For a building to work on that site would take some creative design.  We would need parking space and enough floor space to meet the needs of the branch for many years, including growth to what President sees as 300-400 members.  Okay, I will work on that one.

The other two spots are presently parking areas.  One is paved and is committed to a government building.  The other is where we park right next to our present location.  It is full of huge potholes.  I mean VW Beetles would get lost in some of them.  We do fine because we have 4WD.  We have not needed a snorkel yet.  Anyway, that lot is also committed to another project and is not available.

Road Town Tortola is an interesting place.  We get a cruise ship or two every day here now.  They look big as they slowly move past our apartment, but when they are docked in town they are huge!  
Cruise Ships Tortola
The passengers debark and spend the day walking around town looking at the small shops, and riding in large open taxis on the few roads on the island.  The visitors get quite a thrill as they are driven up the very steep hills to the top of the ridge.  Of course the view is spectacular once they get there.

There is no level ground available that is in town (another requirement) and of reasonable cost..  The main part of Road Town sits on land that has been reclaimed from the sea.  The main work was done in the 1970’s.  The government (Queen Elizabeth) owns all the land and it is not for sale.  It can be leased for 100 year blocks of time, but it is not for sale.  The price of the leases are governed by supply and demand.  Since most of the island is very steep hills the level ground is rare and very expensive.  Finding 2 acres that is not already occupied is really not possible.  President doesn’t want to hear that.  

Maritha took us out of town to the West End to look at some land.  It is also reclaimed and is actually an old garbage dump/incinerator location.  It is also right next door to a large Baptist church.  It is 2-3 miles from town center and would pose a problem for many of the branch members, present and future, to get to.  Keep looking.

She took us to the top of the second highest hill on the island. 
View from Hope Hill
 The view is commanding, but access would be really challenging.  She showed us a nice lot at the top of the ridge just above town.  There is adequate land there and it is actually quite level, but access would be a problem for the members. 
4WD Road to member's house
 Keep looking.

We looked at a site about 2 miles out of town towards the East End, where we live.  It is right next to the nicest school on the island.  The problem is that it is a 6.5 acre piece right on the water.  It could be divided up, but the owner wants to sell it as one piece.  He needs a lot of money quickly because he is in financial difficulties.  It is out of the reclaimed area so it could actually be purchased-for $5 Million.  No, I think that is outside our budget.  Keep looking.

There are actually two places that would work.  They are close to town and are owned by important families on the island.  One would be leased for 200 years but is not for sale.  It is in a commercial development, but the Church site would be at the edge of the development.  Maybe, but the Church likes to own land, not owe for land.  A lease would be payments for ever.  That is probably not what we want, although the decision is made a lot higher up than by us missionaries.

The other place, and by far the most suitable, is on 7 acres owned by a well-landed family.  This is the one we are really interested in.  The problem is that the family has close ties with the Anglican Church.  It is owned by the family, so the family will have to make a decision as a group.  Land is a big indication of prestige and importance here.  In addition, there is some concern that the family might not want to sell their land to the Mormon Church, competition to their Anglican heritage.  I have written up a description of what the proposed building would be like, including a photo of a typical Phase 1 chapel. 
Phase 1 Chapel
 We have submitted a brief statement of our family-centered doctrine and practices.  We have indicated that the proposed building would actually be used for community activities as well as our regular church services.  So now we need to pray fervently that the Lord will soften their hearts and agree to sell a bit of the land to us for our building.  We invite you all to join with us in petitioning the Lord for those blessings.

One of the members of the branch is Tyler Dawson.  He was born in BVI but moved to South Africa where he was raised.  He served a mission there, became a qualified baker, and returned with his wife and three boys to Tortola, where he has established a bakery.  
Tyler Dawson in his Bakery
We happened upon his shop by accident shortly after we arrived here.  I had heard about him from our elders but had not met him, so when we stumbled into his bakery to ask directions it was like finding a long-lost friend.  We have been back several times for baked goods.  His bread is terrific, and he bakes all the other goodies one would expect in a bakery, too.  We sometimes go there for a sandwich.  We buy a loaf of bread once or twice per week.  He is busy with his bakery and his wife is not active in the Church at the moment, so we have not seen him at meetings since we got here.  That is one of the reasons we go to his shop every few days.  Tyler is a good guy and has the capability of making huge contributions to the stability of the branch.  I hope we can influence him to become more active in Church happenings and to get his sons involved.  Without his active involvement they will grow up without the blessings of Church activity in their lives.

Christmas is a fun time around here, but far less commercialized than up North.  Businesses are open on December 24 to late afternoon.  December 26 is Boxing Day, a legal holiday in the UK.  New Year’s Day is a holiday, but New Year’s Eve is just another business day.  There are decorations up on many businesses and both the traffic circles are filled with Christmas lights. Christmas music is played loudly outside many businesses.  Most of it is rather raucous and lively in beat and background, not at all like what I listen to, but that is okay.  People clean their houses and often paint them a whole different color. Interesting.  The elders plan on working, with phone calls to home thrown in.  I think we might go to the beach.

I have a lot more to say but I think these blogs are too long, so I will stop.  We actually have a TV in our apartment, so I started to watch the BYU-SDSU game last night. 
Rhode Island Red Rooster
 It did not start until 9 pm here, it was boring, so I went to bed after the half.  Who won?

Harvesting Coconuts

Merry Christmas!  Celebrate the potential peace available to the inhabitants of this confused world through the life, teachings, and example of Jesus Christ.  That is what all of this is about.

That’s it for now.  Ken

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Visitors from the North

Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple

Last week we had visitors from San Juan.  President Alvarado announced about a week earlier that he was bringing 4 elders and 2 sisters to Tortola. There would also be sister Alvarado and Cari Anne, their lovely 17 year old daughter. They would present a Christmas Fireside of song and word and they wanted the chapel full of people.  We put out the word to all the branch members to come and bring a friend.  Then they told us they wanted to sing at hospital and old folks homes and anywhere else that would like to hear some Christmas carols.  We made up a schedule.  It was very tight but it would work.
The group would be arriving Thursday, December 13, from St Thomas, in the USVI, by ferry.  That is a short ferry ride, but we had a tight schedule because the ferry would arrive at 12:30 and they were to sing at the old folks home at 1:00.  So we made arrangements to transport the visitors to town in the three mission trucks on Tortola.  It is sort of like the puzzle with the foxes, goats, and cabbages being ferried across the river.  We couldn’t have elders or sisters alone with each other, but they were all safe with us old folks.  We have three trucks so we figured it out to the smallest detail.  There would be no empty seats but it would work.  Then we received the itinerary of their travels.  President and Sister Alvarado would arrive at the airport, at the very far eastern end of Tortola.  The rest would arrive by ferry at the far western of the island.  Now we have a problem because they would all be arriving at 12:30.  We scrapped the plan and started over.

I called our branch president to enlist his help.  He was glad to pitch in.  His family is the backbone of the branch and they are called on to haul members who don’t have autos, they provide a lot of the food at the branch activities because people here don’t have much extra, and they do a million other things.  Therefore, I had wanted to avoid calling on them to assist with the transportation.  So Gaye would drive our truck to the airport while I took one truck (we still have the 2008 Toyota Tacoma that the new Tacoma replaced, but we have been promised it will soon be sold.  Good.  I am tired of washing it), and the Tortola elders would drive their truck to the ferry terminal where President Kalama would meet us to hustle everybody back to Road Town to the singing appointment.  When the ferry pulled in we could see the Alvarado family, minus Cari Anne, on the boat.   Okay, change #347.  I called Gaye, who was waiting at the airport, and told her we would meet at the church in town. She smiled.

Sister Alvarado, Right
By the time they were cleared through customs and we rearranged our seating arrangement (cabbages and goats), we were too late for the nursing home.  We went to the hospital where they would put on their program.  They needed some apple juice for the singers’ throats.  Okay, we found some.  After the hospital we would be driving to the prison at the east end on top of the high ridge that runs the length of the island.  It would take us 30 minutes to get there for our appointment to sing for the inmates at 3:00 pm.  The time was 2:45 as we started to load into the vehicles. We arrived at the prison at 3:30 and still had to clear through security, so it was 3:45 when the YFTM’s started to sing.  The program had to end at 4:00, so they compressed it.  We left just after 4:00, to go to the church to set up a reading glasses clinic that was to go from 4-6 pm, followed by a quick light supper at 6.  We needed to get it eaten and cleared up quickly or the members would arrive and think the food was for them, which it was not. We arrived at the church at 4:45 and someone made a decision to not hold the glasses clinic.  That someone had not consulted with President Alvarado, so when he heard it was scrubbed he was concerned that our plans had been changed without asking us first.  Hmmm.  Let me think about that one for a minute.  Nope, we were fine with the change.

The dinner started at 6:15 and we fed several branch members the chili and rice and salad.  There was plenty to go around, too.  Sort of like feeding the 5000.  The program started at 7 and went well.  Then the members and missionaries sat around visiting for a while, then we took them to where we had arranged for them to sleep.  Of course that arrangement changed when we saw that Cari Anne had not been able to come, and that we needed to have the Alvarado’s to the airport by about 0730 Friday morning.  That meant they would need to stay with us instead of us putting the three sisters up.  We put two elders and two Alvarado’s into our two trucks and drove to our apartment.  We have a second bedroom for occasions such as this, so the elders made beds from the couch cushions and everybody slept fine.  

In the morning we took them all to the airport and left them there.  The elders were on a flight a few hours later but they volunteered to stay there and study.  We hustled back to town, about 8 miles, to pick up a load of sisters and luggage and return them to the airport.  One of them had to leave at noon, but the others in the group were leaving at 2:20.  They all wanted to sing for a lady they had met on the ferry so they did, making everybody late to the airport for Sister Harvey’s check-in time.  She made it a few minutes before they closed the flight.  No problem.  Everything went perfectly smoothly.  Gaye and I went home and had a nap.

That is what happened by the clock.  Now I will tell you what happened by The Spirit.  There was never a feeling of panic or even anger or frustration.  Communication was obviously not very good but it all worked out fine.  The people at the hospital loved the singing and the PR guy there wanted them to keep singing.  He even asked if they could come back.  When they went to sing Friday morning for the lady they met on the ferry she invited them to keep singing for her friends.  Soon shop owners from up and down the block were stopping by to hear the missionaries sing.  That is why we almost missed the flight.  At the prison there were some of the inmates who were heckling and laughing, but there was one guy in the hall near where they were singing, whom I could see but whom most of the missionaries could not see, who sang along with every song they sang.  They obviously touched him.  “I was in prison and ye visited me” came to mind, and tears ran down my cheeks.  President said he was quite uncomfortable going in there, but after I told him about the guy singing along he smiled and said he felt much better.  

It has been a great week.  Stay tuned.