Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Nevis LDS Twig

Green Gecko
LDS church units are called wards and stakes.  In congregations not large enough to be a ward, usually in the missions but sometimes in the stakes, the smaller units are called branches.  That is always true when the units are part of a mission or district but not a stake.  When there are very small groups of LDS members who cannot get to the regular meetings of the branches, a family group can be started.  It is under the direction of the branch president and his presiding officer, but it is separate in where it meets and often in the meeting format.  Sacrament meeting is always the main focus of any basic unit of the Church.  That is why we meet in the first place.  Everything grows outward from that important meeting because that is when we partake of the blessed emblems of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the bread and water (our approved substitute for wine in these latter days) that follow the pattern Jesus set at the Last Supper on the night when he was taken by wicked people, tried in an illegal mockery of a trial, and sentenced to die by crucifixion the next day.  It is the most sacred, most remembered, host glorious act of love ever carried out in the history of the universe.

Well, we are on the little island of Nevis, the smaller of the two "sister isles" of the St Kitts and Nevis Federation.  The inconvenience and expense of traveling to St Kitts by ferry for the weekly Sunday meetings has led to establishing a small dependent branch here, really a part of the St Kitts Branch of the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission.  Some months ago the church rented an apartment in Charlestown where the local Saints can have a place to meet together each Sunday to share fellowship, sing and pray together, and especially to partake of the sacrament.  Usually someone came over from St Kitts to meet with the few members on Nevis, mainly women.  Since the end of June, Gaye and I have been living in that apartment with the assignment to find the members here and bring them together.  I don't know if we meet in our apartment or if we are living in the chapel.

It has been an interesting experience to be here.  The island is very small with about 7000 total inhabitants.  The road around the island is about 17 miles long.  Charlestown, the main city, is about 1500 inhabitants, although it has pretty much everything that is needed for a reasonably comfortable life.  We drive the nice 2011 turbo-diesel Toyota Hilux 4-door, 4WD truck.

The biggest blessing to us has been to work with the Allen family here.  They have been members for many years but have been in various stages of activity and inactivity in church programs.  We are working with them and they have really come alive.  Br Allen is almost ready to be ordained an elder.  Sister Allen had been to the temple for herself and she is excited as we work with her and Br Allen to get ready to go to the temple in Dominican Republic, perhaps even this year.  Their 21-year old son Evanson is also preparing for ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood and a temple trip, in preparation for serving a mission.  Their faith is amazing and a strong testimony to us of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to bring joy and meaning into the lives of all who will live the way of life we are instructed to live.  Some look at those instructions as restrictions.  I am totally convinced that those commandments are guidelines of safety and instruction that will get us safely home.  They remind me of the chains placed along the trail to Angels Landing in Zion NP in southern Utah.  Keep your hand on the chain and you will be safe.  Try to do it on your own and there might be some unfortunate things happen.

So we are growing in testimony and faith because of the beautiful examples of the sweet people we have been sent here to work with.  I am not sure who is benefitting the most.  I am certain, however, of the love our God has for each of us.  We serve such an awesome God!  I just want to stand up and shout Hallelujah! all day long. Time is hurrying past each day and there is so much to do.

We have found another family with two pre-teens who are starting to take the piano lessons.  They have not been baptized but their parents are members, so this is a good start to building the relationship that needs to exist as we invite them to come in and participate in the glorious supper provided by the Lord for his obedient children.  That is the way to happiness.  Is there no other way?  There is no other way.

Life is good.  The little coqui frogs sing up a storm each night.  At least that is what Gaye says.  I can't hear them.  That is something I need to get fixed when I get home, if I can.  There is a constant ringing in my ears at the same frequency as the frogs and crickets and birds, so I really can't distinguish the ever-present noise from the night sounds.  Oh well, my blood pressure is still 120/80.  Cant' have it all.

Here are a few photos of Nevis.  Next time I will have more people photos.

A foot path through the vegetation.

The vines cover everything

Old Sugar Factory

Moody Mt Nevis

Precious from Nigeria

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Some interesting thoughts

I find my thinking challenged by statements like these.  Perhaps you will, too.

Women of God

“We know so little, brothers and sisters, about the reasons for the division of duties between womanhood and manhood as well as between motherhood and priesthood. These were divinely determined in another time and another place. We are accustomed to focusing on the men of God because theirs is the priesthood and leadership line. But paralleling that authority line is a stream of righteous influence reflecting the remarkable women of God who have existed in all ages and dispensations, including our own. Greatness is not measured by coverage in column inches, either in newspapers or in the scriptures.The story of the women of God, therefore, is, for now, an untold drama within a drama.” (Neal A. Maxwell, “The Women of God,” Ensign, May 1978). 

“When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses? When the surf of the centuries has made the great pyramids so much sand, the everlasting family will still be standing, because it is a celestial institution, formed outside telestial time. The women of God know this” (Neal A. Maxwell, “The Women of God,” Ensign, May 1978, 11).

Elder J. Richard Clarke said that “the family is society’s strongest and most important institution” (Conference Report, April 1995).  Since that is true, wouldn’t God want His finest warriors and most obedient servants assigned to stand guard there?  Men guard the Church and help in the home, but women guard the home and help in the Church. (Ted Gibbons)  Spencer W. Kimball said that mothers “have been placed here to help enrich, to protect, and to guard the home –which is society’s basic and most noble institution” (Ensign, November 1978, p. 103, emphasis added). 

He also said:  How special it is for ...women to be given the lofty assignments they have been given by our Father in Heaven, especially those of you who have been privileged to be born in this part of this last dispensation.  Let other women pursue heedlessly what they perceive as their selfish interests.  You can be a much needed force for love and truth and righteousness on this planet.  Let others selfishly pursue false values, but God has given to you the tremendous tasks of nurturing families, friends, and neighbors. (Ensign, November 1979, p. 104).

And these:

Graduates by E B de Vito

Knowledge comes, in a way, unsought,
as in the Chinese tale
of the youth who came for daily lessons
in what there was to learn of jade.
And each day, for a single hour,
while he and the master talked together,
always of unrelated matters,
jade pieces were slipped into his hand,
till one day, when a month had passed,
the young man paused and with a frown,
said suddenly, “That is not jade.”

As Life is something, we are told,
that happens while you make other plans,
learning slips in and comes to stay
while you are faced the other way.

Gardner’s polemical 1978 essay On Moral Fiction begins with a 
charming story:

It was said in the old days that every year Thor made a circle around 
Middle-earth, beating back the enemies of order. Thor got older every 
year, and the circle occupied by gods and men grew smaller. 
The wisdom god, Woden, went out to the king of the trolls, got him in an 
armlock, and demanded to know of him how order might triumph 
over chaos.
“Give me your left eye,” said the king of the trolls, “and I’ll tell you.”
Without hesitation, Woden gave up his left eye. “Now tell me.”
The troll said, “The secret is, Watch with both eyes!”

And this one: 
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Earth's crammed with heaven
And every common bush
Afire with God,
But only he who seest
Takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it
And pluck blackberries. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Nevis Summer Camp

Nevis Summer Camp
Neat early 18th Century Church
One day last week I was on my 2-mile walk and decided to go into a school office to see if they could use me to present a dental discussion to the students.  I found out that school was out for the summer the next day, so I told the administrator that if I am still here in September when school starts up again I would be happy to participate.  He was grateful for the offer.  I left the office and started walking up the hill when a young boy approaching me indicated that someone wanted to talk to me.  I turned around to see that one of the young ladies who had been in the office was trying to catch up with me.  I turned around and walked back to meet her.

She said she is a teacher at the school, and that she is running a summer camp for some kids and she would love to have me come and do a presentation at the camp.  I gave her my phone number so she could call me when she knew the specific schedule. The rest of the walk was the usual sweat-a-thon and I picked up a few mangoes along the way home.

On Monday I received a call from I-Shana, the young teacher, asking if we could come on Thursday morning to do the presentation.  We are excited to be doing anything constructive and useful, so we confirmed the time and started getting the presentation ready.  There is an abundance of material available online so it was not hard to put something together.  One of the problems was that the age range was from 3 to 11 years of age.  That is always a challenge since there is not much in common between those ages.
Emmaus Chapel
Thursday came and we went to the Emmaus Chapel where the camp was being held.  The kids and their teacher first had a little devotional with prayer and some songs.  The teacher is only 19 and has one year of education beyond high school, but she had control of the situation and the kids were enjoying it all.  When one little one would get out of hand I-Shana would firmly call on the child to come to her and she would then firmly but gently have the child sit on the edge of the stage next to her.  It was actually uplifting to see how she handled the situation.  There was a young man the same age there helping her with some of the technological stuff and just being an extra set of hands and feet.  The camp was for 5 days and cost the students (their parents) $10 for morning sessions and $15 for all day, from 0900 to 1600, Monday through Friday.  There were about 25 kids, so she was getting about $250 for the whole week.  That is EC money, so the US equivalent would be about $92.50US, which is for all the work that went into the program and having those kids for 30 hours.  She paid for the materials she used and she also gave some of the money to the church she was using.  That figures out to about $3 per hour gross and she still had to pay her costs.  Still, she was happy to do it and the kids loved it.  She will do the same thing after school starts up and then takes a month break for Christmas.
Elder Dr Patterson telling the tooth story
The dental presentation was okay.  The younger kids lasted about 3 minutes and some of the older ones were gone after about 5 minutes, but when I asked if there were any questions the older kids came up with some very sophisticated questions that led to some interesting discussion.  

This morning Jason, the young man who was helping with the tech stuff, called me to see if we could come to the church at 1430 this afternoon to receive a certificate for our participation.  When we left yesterday he had called on one of the girls to speak to us “on behalf of the entire group” to thank us for our participation, so we wanted to honor their efforts.  We ended up staying at the church for a couple of hours while they finished up the whole camp and gave everybody a certificate.  I-Shana even had me up there on the stage with her, handing out the papers to the kids who had participated and having them pose for a photo with me.  It was quite an honor.

While Gaye and I sat on one of the benches to await the ceremony, we were soon surrounded by all the little kids.  They wanted to give high fives and there were a couple of the smallest ones who just wanted to snuggle up to a grandpa and grandma and get a little hug.  It was fun.  The kids thought my bald head was really interesting and soon they had their hands and fingers running across my slick scalp. I was fine with that. 
Feel that slick head!
I asked one of them what had happened to my hair.  “Did you take it?”  “NO,” he said. When I asked him where it was he smiled and said it was in the street and was already blown away.

Also during the week Brother Thomas, a member of the St Kitts branch presidency and a returned missionary, came over from St Kitts to do some Family History work in the government office housing birth certificates.  He was looking for birth certificates for his great grandparents.  He paid a small fee and was given access to some large old records, the original copies of where births were recorded.  We were looking in the books that had 1890-1930 records from three of the parishes on Nevis.  It was really very interesting.  Many of the entries had a mother listed but no father. I looked on one side of the open book and he looked on the other page, so we covered the material in a couple of hours.  He actually found one of the birth certificates he was looking for.
Jared Thomas

Beautiful Penmanship!
The pages in the books had a column that contained expressions like Clr, Blk, Black, Brown, and Cold.  I asked him about those and he said that was for Colored (mixed-race between African and European), Black or Brown.  "What is Cold?" I asked him.  He said that refers to people who were "really dark."  I asked him what the purpose of race is.  He said that is a good question.  I asked him if most Black people think God is Black.  He said they do, just as most Chinese people think God looks Chinese.  It makes one think.  After all, God is the Father of us all.  Interesting.

We are doing fine.  Nevis is a very isolated spot.  The road around the island is only 17 miles long.  Charlestown, the largest population center, has about 1500 of the 7000 inhabitants of the island.  Will our new president move a pair of young missionaries here, will he leave us here alone for a while, or will he pull all the missionaries off the island?  Stay tuned.
Nevis Egg Plant is a little different variety than found on Tortola

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mangoes or Mangos, You Choose

Nevis is known by Kititians for having lots of mango trees. They really are everywhere, and right now is the heart of mango season.  There are literally hundreds of mangoes lying on the ground under the hundreds of trees that line the roads and decorate the yards.  The Allen family here sends mangoes to their kids on St Kitts.  They don’t have a car, so when we go to their house, as we did last night for FHE with them, they give us a box of mangoes to send on the ferry.  I take it to the boat, pay the small fee, and they pick it up at the other end.

I am learning that mangoes are like apples in that there are many varieties, and they all taste like mangoes, but they also have subtle differences.  So here are a few photos of mangoes.  By the way, the big ones with the red on the skin were given to us by Francesca, one of our members who came over last night for FHE with us.  We actually hold two FHE on Monday nights, one with the Allen family and one at our apartment with whoever wants to join us. Anyway, those two big mangoes were plucked from the Tree of Life.  Really.  It really is the fruit most sweet and delightful above all other fruits, and it is desirable to make one happy.  Just not quite in the same way as the other Tree of Life.

Maybe you will enjoy this, but not nearly as much as we enjoy eating them.

Mango Varieties

The cup is for size comparison

A few mangoes on the ground.

At St Kitts chapel, priesthood meeting is held out here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

More Nevis

A week ago we had a visit from a family from Ohio.  
Tom Dalziel was a missionary on St Kitts in the early 1990’s. Since then he has married Barb, a dental hygienist among other qualifications, and they have 5 good looking wonderful kids. They came down here for a week to do some humanitarian service projects, enjoying a family vacation on the side.  We spent a couple of days with them and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  They presented a great dental disease prevention program to a couple of youth groups and to an orphanage in Basseterre.  They stayed at a house that was available for rent, seen here.  

This is a shower for salt and sand removal

We are still working on some of the ideas they gave us when they were.  Tom is a professor of entrepreneurial development (or something like that) at University of Cincinnati. 

Here are some random photos of things we have seen and experienced on Nevis.  It is a small island that takes about 45 minutes to drive around if we keep to the speed limit of 40 mph.  The truck has a km/h speedometer.  Fuel is sold in imperial gallons.  I just drive the truck, put fuel in when it is half empty, and play like it gets 50 miles per gallon.  That is a lot easier than trying to convert everything to mpg.

Read the wording.  Interesting.

Elder Hayes, Elder Taylor, Some Old Folks, President Alvarado

Flamboyant Tree

One of the interesting things here is how the vegetation covers everything up.  Every vacant lot is covered with vines that have a little red flower.  Here are some interesting examples we have seen.

Dump Truck


Rudyard Kipling called this "letting in the jungle"

Live in the bottom, work on the top. All reinforced block.

Medical School on Nevis

Cool old Anglican Church built in the 1700's still in use

Mt Nevis in one of her moods

Nevis Beach near Hot Water Springs

Wind-kite surfing, or whatever it is called.  Looks exciting.

I was in a store last week for some household stuff and I noticed the lady behind the counter had an interesting name.  I also noticed that her name tag was round.  I asked her if I could take a photo of her name tag, to which she readily and happily agreed.  So if any or you need a photo of a round to-it, as in the thing many people don’t have when they fail to do something that needs to be done, here it is.  Now you can show them a round Tuitt. 
(You know the line they use--I just didn’t get around to it.)

What season is it?  To us it feels about the same as it did in December, except that the sun comes up earlier and goes down later.  I think it is hurricane season but we have had no challenges so far. I think a tropical storm came through the area last week but other than a couple of 3 minute showers we didn't notice anything unusual. We are past the hump now so the daylight hours will become less as the sun swings back to the south side of the sky.  My head is totally, totally confused about which direction is north.  I don’t think it will get straightened out until I get back to Idaho.
Nevis Sunset

What's Up Doc?

Okay, it has been a long time since I put anything here.  There are several reasons but you won't get any of them.  Here is what has been happening.

We were just settling into our apartment on St Kitts.  
St Kitts Apartment
I had lots of Monarch larvae (caterpillars) in various stages of development, including one that had just emerged from the chrysalis to reveal one of the ultimate miracles of the universe filled with ultimate miracles--a magnificent Monarch butterfly.

We had learned where in the apartment we could get the best reception to connect to the Internet.  
Nevis Apartment

St Kitts Bedroom

Our landlady was the branch Relief Society president and connecting to her wi-fi network was one of the benefits of living in that apartment.  We had been gathering up ripe mangoes from the trees at the church.

Priesthood Meeting is held under the Mango Tree of Life

(I looked it up and found that the plural can be either mangoes or mangos) at the church from the tree of life, one of two mango trees that produce the best tasting mangos on the planet.  I am not exaggerating one bit.  Most mangoes have lots of stringy fibers that get stuck in the teeth (which does have the benefit of encouraging immediate use of dental floss).  None of those in these mangoes, though.  They are so sweet and juicy that it is impossible to eat one without it simply running off my chin.  And I don’t even care.  The yellow spots on my shirt come out with straight Clorox, too, so the only remaining problem is the big spot on my tie.  I call it my survival tie because I could soak it in water and survive for another couple of days.

We had moved the furniture around in the apartment, bought a table to use as our desk, were getting comfortable to driving a right-hand steering wheel on the left side of the road, as opposed to the American left-hand steering vehicles on the left side of the road in Tortola, and we had begun to find our way around the windy roads of Basseterre, St Kitts.  We knew which grocery stores had the Fraites $7 bread (the best) and which had the best bananas.  We knew where the potholes were in the road, differentiating the inconvenient ones from the front-end suspension rearranging ones, and we had even found the only Subway sandwich shop we had seen in months, as well as some other nice places to eat.  We should have known.  2 Nephi 28:24.

The phone call from Elder Tower began innocently enough.  He is the counsellor in the mission presidency who sort of supervises the senior couples in the islands.  He is really just a yes-man for the mission president.  We need someone who will stand up for us, but that probably won’t happen.  Niceties were exchanged for a minute and he then said that we were being moved to Nevis.  

Nevis!  That is a small island next door to St Kitts, part of the same federation.  “The apartment over there is not too bad!” was all I could get from him.  Our young elders were going there for the coming Sunday meeting with the 2 or 3 members there, so we asked them to get some photos for us.  (Probably should have just gone over cold.)  When would we be going?  Oh, as soon as the Mangum’s arrive from St Croix, in a couple of days at the beginning of the next week. It turned out that Elder and Sister Mangum, from Pleasant Grove Utah and even older than we are and having more difficulty getting around than we are, took two days to get to St Kitts.  They had to stay the night on St Maartin because their flights were so messed up that they missed the only connection to St Kitts, but that is another story.

We were also told that we would be taking the truck from the young elders.  We really did feel bad about that.  They were just moved into their new apartment during our first week on St Kitts.  Now they would be riding bikes or walking.  Walking, because they only have one functioning bike.  They were really good about it, though.  That is one thing we have really grown to appreciate--the contact we have with these marvelous young people who have answered the call of the prophet to come out and preach the Gospel under rather trying circumstances.  
Truck and Apt (with the open door)

So we loaded our bags into the truck, a 2011 Toyota Hilux turbo diesel with 4 doors and 4WD, silver in color, short bed--a really nice little truck--and headed down the peninsula to the Sea Bridge ferry terminal that takes vehicles between St Kitts and Nevis.  (I have shared my frustration with matters vehicular before.  Just know that the frustration continues.)

Finding the apartment was a little challenging because we had never been to Nevis before.  We did have a couple of descriptions left by previous missionaries, so we tried to find the reference points from which we could locate the apartment building.  We never did find them.  After searching around for 30 minutes, driving  six or seven times past the same group of people standing in the small town square who were looking at these two pale-faces with increasing humor, we called the previous senior elder who kept us on the line and gave us turn by turn directions until we arrived.  It didn’t look all that impressive, I must admit.

The apartment is used as a meeting place for the very small group of LDS members on Nevis.  There are some other families who live out a few miles who do not have vehicles, so they do not come in to the church meetings.  We have been FORBIDDEN to give any of them rides, so the members all have to find their own way to the meeting place.  Do we live in the church or are we holding church in our apartment?  Who knows!
Nevis Apt/Chapel

The apartment/chapel Nevis

My best description of the apartment is that it is like a 28-foot camper trailer with a couple of nice slide-outs.  The windows were covered by a single panel of 19th century curtain material.  There is a small kitchen area with a small gas stove, a small sink, very little storage or counter space, a big dinner table with 6 chairs, some really uncomfortable, cheap furniture to sit on, a bathroom with a shower and a sink and a comode that had a toilet seat that didn’t fit (which I replaced the first day), 

and two bedrooms with air conditioning.  One bedroom has a small double bed.  

The other has two twin beds that the elders would sleep on when they would come over to Nevis once a month to hold sacrament meeting.  We pushed the two beds together to make a king-size bed.

We have sheets that fit, too, so that part is decent.  In fact, I like it this way because when Gaye moves during her sleep it does not make my side of the bed bounce.  And vice versa.  

We have upgraded it to a Motel 6 Suite.  I think we can live here for a few weeks.  Now if someone will just tell us how long we might be here, at the end of the earth.  After going without an internet connection for more than a week we paid to have it installed.  That was way too long being out of connection to our kids and other things we like to connect to.  How did I do it as a young missionary in South Africa a hundred years ago?  We were not allowed (because it was practically impossible) to call home for the whole 2 1/2 years I was there.  Letters took a week to travel between Idaho and wherever I was stationed at the time, and longer when a transfer was taking place.  I have become soft, yes I have.

So here we are.  The first Sunday we had 8 people in our living room for sacrament meeting and Sunday school.  Four of them were the Persaud family from St Kitts who were assigned to come and visit us.  We had become close to them during our temple trip back in April, so it was great to have them visit us. 

The second Sunday we had just two local sisters at our fast and testimony meeting.  
Precious is from Nigeria and is a RN working here.  She was raised in the Church in Nigeria.
Precious and Amparo
Amparo is from Dominican Republic and has a hair salon in Charlestown, Nevis.  She understands English quite well but is not really comfortable speaking it.  When it was her turn to bear her testimony she wanted to pass but I urged her to do it in Spanish, which she did.  We all understood what she was saying.

On our third Sunday, July 14, 2013, we had Precious and Francesca, another sister from DR.  There was also a man who had been invited by Precious.  She is a great missionary!  Small group, but we get great comfort from knowing that where 2 or 3 are gathered in the Lord's name, there the Spirit will be also.

That’s it for now.