Monday, April 29, 2013

A Typical Normal Day

110.Daily log

One of our kids asked what a normal day is like out here.  I am not sure there is a normal day, but I will describe a how a typical week goes.

We usually wake up around 0600 without an alarm.  I have found that I am less tired when I wake up by my body time.  We often just lie in bed for a few minutes talking about what we will be doing for the day. We get up, get dressed for exercise, drink a few glasses of water, have our prayers individually and together.  (We actually drink about a gallon of water each per day.  Most of it is eliminated through the skin.)  We have a discussion about teaching and how to be prepared for what is coming that day.  Study time is usually throughout the day at various opportunities.  We are usually in bed before 10 pm, and often by 9:30.

Usually before 0700 we are in the car driving to our walking route.  It is about 2-1/2 miles from here, about 10 minutes by car. Kids are already out on the street waiting for their bus to school.  People are out walking, stopping at the grocery store, or just going to work.  I will write a longer report on our walking trail with some photos.

We are usually back home around 0800.  Sometimes on the way back from the walk we stop in at a small Rite Way grocery store to get something for the day. Our apartment has a fridge with a freezer top but it really does not hold more than a few leftovers and some frozen items for use later in the week.  Milk is about $12/gallon, so we mix sawdust with the fresh stuff and it is actually very good.  

On Monday mornings we have the YFTM over to our place for the P-day activities of laundry and writing letters. They use our laundry facility and use our computers to send their letters to family and friends.  It works out well.  We then feed them lunch. They eat a lot. We also feed them on Friday evening, so they get two good meals per week.  We asked them what they eat when they are not at our house.  They do not get asked out by the branch members, most of whom have a hard time making ends meet as it is.  They basically act like typical college roommates, buying individual food and preparing and eating it individually.  Some like to eat junk food, but others are more sensible.  There are no chain fast food places on Tortola, so they take a lunch most days so they don’t have to drive back to their apartment, way on the other end of the island over very high, steep roads. Sometimes they eat out, but their budget doesn’t allow that very often.

The morning is spent in reading and responding to messages, reading scriptures, reading Preach My Gospel, making phone calls to people about the day, writing thoughts for journal or blog, working on projects assigned from the mission, etc.  We are usually here in the apartment until after lunch.  Then a short nap is always a refuel activity before we head for the church for piano lessons and seminary.  

While Gaye is teaching piano lessons I often go for a walk around the town. I frequently have conversations with people along the way, so it is as close to tracting as I will get.  I go to the mail box at Khoy’s Mail Service.  Usually there are only bills, but they have to be paid.  I sometimes go to see our realtor, Maritha, to see if anything new has developed in our building project.  I go to LIME (the cell phone company we use) to work out an occasional kink in our phone service.  I walk to the BVI Electricity office to pay our electric bill for our apartment.  I go to the Cable TV office to pay for our TV service. It is basic service, but it is nice to see the news and an occasional ball game or talent show.  I go to the car insurance office to sign for the YFTM so they can drive their mission vehicle.  International Motors is not too far from the church, so I go there to pick up our car when it has been worked on. I did a lot of running around to get the paperwork done related to selling the two Toyota trucks the missionaries used to drive.  I don’t do all these things every day or even every week, but they all need to be done.  Sometimes I stop by Dr Buckley’s office.  He is my dentist colleague who comes over from St Thomas a few days per week.  He has been very helpful in getting our boys ready for their missions.  All these places are within a half-mile of the church and it gives me something to do while Gaye is teaching the lessons.  I always walk because it is good exercise and there is good parking at the church but not anywhere else in Road Town.

Seminary is held Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday after school.  It usually starts at 5 pm, but the kids arrive at the church shortly after they get out of school at 3:30.  That is why Gaye schedules most of her piano lessons for that period of time.  There are a few adults who are trying to learn to play, but most are high schoolers who are waiting for Sister Millington to arrive for seminary after she finishes her teaching job.  

Mutual is on Wednesday evening.  The kids like to have activities on Mutual night.  Coming up with meaningful things to do is sometimes a challenge.  There is really not a YM/YW organization functioning, so President Kalama conducts the activity.  He is always happy to have any help he can get, so we are often the teachers or activity leaders.  We have made snowflakes for the Christmas social decorations, made kites for the Easter Monday kite festival, had speech classes, employment classes, made pizza at the Kalama’s house, and lot of other things.  I would rather see the young people plan and carry out their own activities, but that part of the branch is not functioning very well.  We need a couple more good solid, dependable leaders to help carry that out.

After the seminary or Mutual activities we help transport kids home.  It is working out pretty well now.  Sister Millington takes some home, the Kalama’s take some, and we take Jamoll and Jose because they live out on the East End, past our apartment.  Then we go to our place to eat and are often finished for the day.  We have had a couple of teaching opportunities in the evenings, so sometimes it is 9 pm or so before we get home.  That is about time to go to bed.  If we are home earlier we usually turn on the TV and watch Fox News for a summary of some of the things that have gone on in the world.  Every news service has its own bias.  We prefer the bias of Fox to MSNBC or CNN.  CNN is not bad, but I cannot bear to watch MSNBC.  They are so liberal they actually emit an offensive odor!

This routine is pretty standard for every day except for Tuesday and Sunday.  Tuesday mornings we are at the church at 0800 for our missionary meeting with the YFTM.  It is conducted by SKYPE so we are joined by missionaries from other islands, but most often it is with St Thomas.  Just this past month the Peterson’s have been moved from there to Antigua and both YFTM have been pulled out and two new ones sent in.  The elders call that a whitewash. i would think that would done very rarely, but apparently it is not so rare.  It sure makes continuity hard because every couple has to start over from scratch every time and when both young elders are changed somebody is always lost in the shuffle.  So Tuesday mornings we do not get in our morning walk.  The meetings usually last until 1130, when we go back home for lunch and a nap before coming back to piano lessons.  

Saturday is a little different because after our walk one of us drives to town to open the church for Sister Stewart so she can have her Girl Guides activity.  Two or three of the girls are LDS but most are not.  Thus they are becoming acquainted with us that way.  Often on Sunday we have a few of those girls present for our church services.  Sister Stewart is from Australia and served a mission a few years ago.  (She also teaches the Gospel Doctrine class occasionally.  I always have a lesson prepared for emergencies.)

Sunday is a completely different schedule, of course.  We get up at the same time as every other day, discuss what is going on that day, review what we will be teaching, eat breakfast, get shined up for church, and leave the apartment about 8:50.  We go east to pick up Jose and Sister DaSilva for church.  Lately we have also been picking up two of the St Rose boys, so sometimes it is crowded in our little car.  We drive them to the church, then Gaye or I will go pick up the Pollard family, who live about 1-1/2 miles from the church.  Then we return to the same area and pick up Orlando and Nakisha and whoever else from their family is coming to church.  That makes a busy morning before church even starts.  Gaye is usually the organist, so I do the driving, but sometimes we switch.  In fact, the past few weeks we have had some of the music students play, so Gaye and I take turns driving the taxi.  

The meetings last for only two hours instead of the usual 3-hour block.  That means we are at the church less time, but it also means that some very important things are not happening the way they should.  The new YM/YW lessons are inspired and will help the youth learn to teach, but usually the YM meet with the EQ and the YW meet with RS.  On alternating Sundays we have Sunday school, but the youth again usually meet with the adults.  Again, it is not what it ought to be.  I think we need to have the 3-hour block, but there is resistance so we continue to fly with one wing.  The kids are the ones who are hurt.

Getting everybody together at the church is a real challenge because of transportations difficulties.  That is why the Senior Couple has become a taxi service.  If we have leadership meetings that means the rest of the family members have to hang around the church for the duration of the meetings.  If we have them before services, people do not get up on time and everything is late.  If we have them after, the meetings lose importance and just seem to fade out.  I have decided to have choir practice at least twice a month right after the block for just 20 minutes.  It is not much time, but we are getting better, and there is a feeling of unity that was not there before we started to sing.  

Sunday night we also report our numbers to our DL.  The Senior Couple report to Elder Tower, 2d counsellor in the mission presidency who has direct supervision over the islands.  Puerto Rico speaks Spanish but out here we speak English, sort of.  At first I was really quite upset that we would be reporting to the young elders on such things as how many member-present lessons were taught and how many contacts we had for the week.  I have since repented of my rebellion, but I still feel that the bean counters miss the importance of what we are trying to do as member and leader support missionaries.  There are no bean categories that reflect that we are doing much missionary work out here.  In the Army everybody is Infantry, even when I was a dentist or somebody else was a cook or worked in the PX.  In the world of missionary work everybody is a proselyting missionary.  In any case, we make a report on Sunday evening.  That way everybody sleeps better.

For several months before we arrived the Senior Couple was looking for a place to build a building.  President Alvarado said we were qualified for a building because of our MP and tithing stats.  When we arrived we really began to focus on finding an appropriate place. The Area office said we need to have a 2 acre site.  In a pinch we could get by with 1-1/2 acres.  It needs to be visible land, flat, have good access, and meet the budget restrictions.  There are very few 1-acre flat parcels, let alone 2-acre sites.  Because the supply is so low the demand is high and the price is about $1M per acre, a bit higher than Area wants to pay.  They also require that the land be purchasable, not leased. Good Luck!

We found one place that has been owned by a family since the slaves were freed in 1834.  We tried to get them to sell a couple of acres but they are closely connected to the Anglican Church and said they will not sell it to us.  We found some other sites but they all have problems of one sort or another.  We finally found a place that would be ideal, but it is for lease, not for sale.  We had Elder Stecker from the mission office come and look at it.  He is actually an architect who has worked on several church building projects.  He wrote it up and sent it on to DR, but he also told me to not get my hopes up.

The Area Office replied that we are not qualified for a building!  That would have been nice to know before we got so deeply involved.  Then we started looking around for another place to rent.  There is actually a building that was almost contracted for about 6 months ago, but then somebody up the line said they had just signed the lease for another year for our present meeting place. Suddenly we have learned that the lease is due to be renewed at the end of May!  What happened 6 months ago?  Nobody seems to know.  So we have been rushing around trying to get the Area Real Estate office to send somebody out here to inspect this building and give approval so we can do the necessary remodeling and be prepared to move in at the end of May.  Things appear to be moving in that direction, but we have learned to not get our hopes up.  I am often impatient, so maybe this is a good opportunity to acquire more of that virtue.

We have other duties that also take up our time.  When we have visitors from the mission, usually a couple of times per month, we are the ones who pick them up at the ferry terminal or at the airport.  They usually need a ride somewhere, so we are also the means of transportation.  Those visitors have been the mission president, some of his family, other missionaries, both counsellors in the mission presidency, and an auditor from St Kitts.  We also travel a little.  We have been to Virgin Gorda, St Thomas, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic.  We might also be going to some of the other islands to do dental exams to help get the missionary applications moving.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Beautiful Baptism Day

Alonzo was baptized at 0700 this morning in Baptism Bay.  That's what I call Long Bay.  It was a blustery windy day, but it was sweet.  Alonzo will turn 12 next month and be ordained a deacon.  His parents have promised to support him in his church attendance.  Dad is a member who found the missionaries when they were out contacting and told them he wanted his family to be members of the Church.  He had not had contact with any members for at least 5 years.  Mom is not yet a member.  They both love their son and are great people.

Alonzo was baptized by Orlando who was baptized last September.  It was a thrill for him to perform this ordinance, and now Alonzo has a "big brother" in the branch.  It really doesn't get much better than this.
Elder Delcompare from Guatemala and Andrew Pollard, Elders Quorum President

Alonzo, Elder Delcompare, Elder Gasu (Samoan from California)

Elders, Alonzo, and his parents

Leading Alonzo into the water

Hold Your Nose with This Hand

Need a little coaching from Elder Gasu

Alonzo has a New Birth Day
Yes, the water really is this color.  It was not cold, just about 80F.  Orlando was as thrilled as Alonzo.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Santo Domingo Temple Trip

This past week we made a trip to Santo Domingo Dominican Republic.  That is where the Caribbean Area offices are, the Caribbean MTC is training young missionaries, and the crowning gem of the Caribbean, the Temple, is a bright beacon on a hill.  We had been planning and preparing for the trip for about 6 weeks. We were not disappointed.
Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple in early morning light

The temple is much like the one in Rexburg Idaho in size and layout.  It is made of beautiful rose-colored stone with marble everywhere.  At night it is visible to much of the area.

We flew in from Tortola via San Juan on Wednesday morning.  There were two young people on the flight who quickly became attached to our group-a young man from New Zealand and a young lady from Panama.  They are missionaries just arriving at the MTC located inside the walls around the temple complex.  They will have 4-6 weeks of training and then be off to their missions.  Hermana Dominguez is coming to our mission.  I don't suppose we will see her because we do not have sisters in The Islands, but she is a lovely young woman and will be a great missionary. She speaks zero English.

One of the highlights of the trip was actually an assignment we were given to watch after four young people while their parents were in the temple receiving their own endowments.  They were from two families, one from St Kitts and one from Dominica.
Kimberly, Ari, Gaye, Tiffany, Mia, Teo
Tiffany (15) and Theodore (11) Persaud are from Guyana originally but have been living on St Kitts for two years.  They helped us entertain Mia (2) and Arianna (4) Joseph from Dominica.  Another young woman from St Thomas, Kimberly, was also helping.  Kimberly doesn't speak much English (mainly Spanish) but that didn't slow her down one bit.  One more little girl, Darlee Rose, waited for her mother, a sweet single mom, so we had fun with her, too.  We all got along wonderfully.  The little girls were a little hesitant to let their mother leave, but Gaye with her gift for teaching and loving little ones had them sitting on her lap, giggling, inside of three minutes.  What a gift!
Kimberly, Mia, Gaye, Ari, Darlee Rose

The MTC has about 60 missionaries at the present time.  More are coming as the bolus of new missionaries arrive.

When President Monson announced the lowering of age for missionary service I don't think anybody knew the full impact of the change.

Nobody knows even now, but there are now 65,000 in the field with 20,000 more in MTC or with calls ready to go, and another 6,000 in the system ready to receive their calls.  What power this rising generation has!  It will be the salvation of this confused world, in spite of what Satan and his minions try to do to stop this work from going forward.  It is such a joy to be a part of it.
Casa (Guest House) Kitchen

South Side

At the temple many things come in Three.

Iguana at the Parque

Exercise Area at the Parque

Above the Iguana Pen

Monday, April 1, 2013

Alonzo and Kites

Alonzo, age almost 12,  has been coming to church every week.  Yesterday was fast Sunday.  This young man came to the front of the chapel with his parents not even present and expressed some tender feelings from his heart.  He said, “I am not a member of the Church, but I know that I like the feeling I have here.”  Then he sat down.  
Tears welled up in my eyes as the Spirit testified to me that he has a testimony.

Kaylee, 3,  and Sister Millington
The branch has been working on making kites for the last three Mutual nights.  Easter Monday is a big celebration in Guyana. They make kites and come together to fly them at a central location.  Apparently that place on Tortola is a large empty space near the cruise ship docks.  It is rather loosely planned, but nobody seems to be concerned about that.  I made a small box kite, about 29 cm long.  I also made a larger delta kite with 3 foot spars.  This will be interesting to see if they fly.  I have looked all over town for kites or kite materials and I have found nothing.  Even the string to fly the kites has been hard to find.  This could be interesting.

Homemade Kite
We just returned from flying kites all day in town next to the cruise ship dock.  

The dot Right of Center is a 4-ft kite
We arrived about 1100 and there were only a couple of cars.  When we left about 1630 the lot was full of cars and the sky was full of kites.  There was one that was almost beyond being visible with the naked eye.  I think he had at least 800 yards of line out.  The wind was really quite stiff, which made for good kite flying conditions.  It always blows from the east and from the water to the shore.  I made a small 29cm box kite.  It sort of flew.  I also made a delta kite, but it did not even get out of the car.  The instructions said it is a breeze kite, not a strong wind kite.  I even bought a box kite from Bolo’s.  It flew quite well.  I also had a small airplane kite that I gave up on quickly but Vanessa, one of the youth in the branch, worked with that little thing and flew it for hours.
Vanessa, age 12. Note her YW Medallion
She was so very patient with getting the string all tangled up and the kite crashing.  I also got a royal sunburn.  I wore a hat, but my arms look like they do in Idaho when I go out for the first sunny warm day in the spring.  I told the branch members I am a paleface and not blessed with skin like theirs.

We had several branch members come out, 
Frankie, Br Millington, Jose, Kalyee
including Alonzo.  He was trying to fly a standard shaped kite but it wouldn’t go up very well.  The kite experts worked with it and after they got about 20 feet of tail on it the kite flew quite well.  
Alonzo's is the white one
Totally homemade.  There were several very interesting homemade kites that flew very well.  The builders knew how to make the kites and attach the bridles so that the pull-point was in just the right place for the wind conditions.  They could even adjust them as the wind changed.
Adjusting the bridle on the Singing Kite
One kite was so small it fit into the maker’s hand.
The smallest Kite.  It actually flew well!
Anyway, I learned more about flying kites today than I have learned in my entire prior accumulated life.  Activities like this strengthen the branch, for they increase the interpersonal contact with each other. Even some who don't come to church come to some activities.  We were happy to see Patricia stop by.