Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Moving Again

St Thomas Anglican Church, 1700's. The oldest grave is about 1649.
We have really enjoyed some of the local fruits, in addition to the mangoes, which are now all gone.
Local starfruit and avacados

Sugar Apple.  Yummm!

Local bananas.  Juicy, not dry.

Bread Fruit

Jack, Jill, and Nanny

Fishing from the dock, Nevis

Last week we had a visit from our new mission president. 
 Philander Knox Smartt III is an attorney from Alabama.  He is 43 years old, has two young daughters and lovely wife whom we have not yet met, and has enormous amounts of energy.  He was so frustrated with trying to work with the LIAT airline dysfunctionality after trying for three weeks to get on a flight to St Kitts, that he has sent for his airplane.  He said he will now be able to leave San Juan after breakfast, travel to any of the islands, and be back to the office for lunch.  LIAT would win anybody’s contest for most dysfunctional airline on the planet. Even flying space-A with the military would be more predictable.

President Smartt has a very different philosophy about senior missionary couples and how we are to be treated and used in the mission.  Before, we were just considered to be missionaries like the younger models, so the transfers would come with a day’s notice, and nobody ever asked what we would like to get out of this missionary experience.  We were expected to do and report the things that the bean counters were asking from the YFTM (that means Young Full-Time Missionaries.)  We have kids who want to come and visit us, which is not only allowed but encouraged by the Brethren, but we could not tell anybody where we will be at Christmas time or any time in the future, for that matter, because the moves were not planned out more than a day. So the kids can’t purchase their tickets when there might be a discount available because they might buy a ticket for Nevis and we might be on Dominica or anywhere else.  Pres Smartt changed all that immediately.  He asked us where we would like to serve and what we would like to do!  We were amazed.  We told him that we will serve wherever he wants us, but that we would like to let our kids know where we will be.  He immediately said, “You need to be in St Thomas.  You will go there in early October.”  And presto! the uncertainty and panic and all those other negative emotions that we have been feeling for months all went away.  

Palms get old and the tops die out, like people

We also discussed what we would like to be doing on our mission.  We told him that we enjoy teaching the temple prep classes, the music lessons, working with the branch choir, and even teaching the Preach My Gospel lessons to investigators and new converts.  We have really enjoyed working with Br and Sister Allen to get them ready to go to the temple as soon as they can. None of these things go into any categories kept track of by the bean counters, however, so it looks like we have been doing nothing. He commended us for our attitude and for what we have accomplished with the Allen family and the other members here, but that we are being underutilized on Nevis.  So here is the plan for the rest of our mission.  (President Smartt said he likes to plan ahead at least 6-9 months.  When we arrived last November we were told that the president then would give us an assignment, but that he might change it the next day.  He felt that is how inspiration works.)
Two young elders are coming to Nevis tomorrow.  They will be living here in the chapel. (We have been holding church in our apartment.  I know that because we have been paying the rent.  They will be living in the church.  I know that because the Church will now pay the rent.) They will also be on bikes, which will quickly get them into shape or kill them off.  They will hold sacrament meeting and Sunday school here in town on Sunday morning, after which they will ride their bikes the five uphill miles to the Allen home where they will hold sacrament meeting and Sunday school with them.  That makes for a full and fulfilling Sunday schedule. If it rains that won’t be a problem because it will be warm water, so they will enjoy the cooling effects and they will dry off quickly.

Br Robert Allen.  How we love him!

We are going to St Kitts tomorrow to get the new elders and their bags and bikes, and bring them back to Nevis.  We will show them around the island for a couple of days, go to meet the members we have found, show them where to shop, show them areas to stay away from (more on that in a minute), and help them get grounded here.  One of the elders will be a Greenie, brand new from the MTC. They will both speak English and Spanish because we have three members of the group here who come from Dominican Republic and speak Spanish.  And they have many friends who will then become the next layer of investigators and members here.  These are such wonderful people!  We will really miss them.

Our plan is to move back to St Kitts as soon as Elder and Sister Mangum move out of the apartment there.  There was a cascade of events back in June that brought them to St Kitts and us to Nevis.  We questioned it then but we now see that the Lord often works even with unwilling missionaries to get the work done.  I am so grateful to our God for his patience and long-suffering.  I will try to be less resistant and head-strong in the future.  Nevis has been an awesome opportunity for us.  

The Mangums are a little older than we are and frankly in much more frail physical condition.  However, they go at the work each day and they don’t complain.  They were on St Croix and were really enjoying that assignment when they were suddenly uprooted and sent to St Kitts because another senior couple was being sent to St Croix, where there is a VA hospital that the other elder needed.  The flight to St Kitts was a horrible nightmare for the Mangums with long delays and missed flights and unplanned overnight stay on St Marten, so when they got here Sister Mangum made it clear that she was not about to move again unless it was a direct flight.  Period.  It was because of their physical limitations we were suddenly moved from St Kitts to Nevis so they could have the St Kitts senior apartment.  Two days later we had a new mission president.

President Smartt has brought in the elders who were serving in the islands and replaced them with sisters.  That was an inspired move, but the vehicle that the elders had been driving was given to the old couple being sent to Nevis (us), which left the sisters without wheels.  They tried to get the bikes the elders never rode fixed up, but when they tried to ride them they could not even reach the pedals!  So they have been walking everywhere.  Now they will have the RAV4 that Sister Mangum has been driving (Elder Mangum cannot drive), we will be over there with the Toyota Hilux 4WD, 4-door, turbo diesel truck that somebody decided was absolutely essential to the success of the missionary effort here. Thus, the elders on Nevis will be on bikes.  But President said he has no pity for them, and they will be fine.

We will be on St Kitts until October when we will be moved to St Thomas.  Around the beginning of the year, however, President will bring us into the office to manage the vehicle and housing department.  The couple handling those duties now will be going home at the end of 2013 so he will need us to help out there.  We will go and we will do our  very best.  It will be a hard job but it needs to be done and we can handle it.  

That is EC$, about $1.60US

We had a conversation with our friends the Petersons, with whom we were in the MTC and came out in November.  They are now in the mission office and they were telling us about the reverse culture shock they went through as they came back from the islands into the realm of Costco, Wendy’s, shopping malls, and such other modern necessities.  They were afraid to tell us about all those things because they didn’t want to make us feel bad.  I told George (Elder Peterson), “I am going to have a nap this afternoon, but enjoy Costco!”  Come January we will be there, too, well rested and ready to go to work for the 14-hour Monday-Saturday schedule of the mission office.  We can handle it.

Finally, a note about one of the physical features of Nevis.  There is an old hotel, built in the 1700’s, called the Bath Hotel. That building is now a government office building. 

Below the building is a stream bed that has hot water springs along its course.  
Bath Hotel/Government Building
Over the years individuals and the government have improved the pools with cement walls and even improved one spring with steps and a roof.  We have been there and thought it would be a good place to come and soak a little.  Gaye would probably get right in and I would stick in my big toe. 

Well, we went walking through that area one day last week on our daily 2-mile stroll and noticed a woman at the covered soaking tub, which is completely open to the world around it, wearing only a very brief bra top and even briefer bottom.  I mentioned that the water was too hot for me and she calmly told me it was not hot as she unhooked her bra, while talking to me, and proceeded to dip her hand into the water to give herself a bath.  I turned my back, but Gaye was on her way down to the water, so she carried on a conversation with the lady.  I briefly turned my head towards the tub and noticed that her bottom piece had also been removed.  No showmanship, no effort to flaunt anything, she was just there to take a bath.  Soap is not allowed, but that did not matter.

We left soon after that, and so did she.  She just got out, put her clothes back on, and walked away.  The next day we were visited by an LDS couple from St Thomas who we had met at the temple in DR in April, and who were at the 4 Seasons Resort on Nevis to celebrate their 40th anniversary.  We went to dinner with them on Friday night 

Wendy and Kim Lindquist, from Boise

and then picked them up for church Sunday morning.  After church we were showing them around the island and drove to the bath pools, only to see a couple of men stripped to their bronze birthday suits, taking a bath.  Okay, that is enough.  We will make sure the elders know that area is off limits.  By the way, Gaye now has no interest in soaking in any of those tubs.  Being the microbiologist she is, the idea of the various strains of strep that would be cultured in those pools has really turned that idea off.  I agree.

I’ll try to write more regularly.


  1. Great overview. I love the story of meeting your new mission president.

  2. I guess we know now Philander(er) is a sleeze...

  3. Yeah, now we know this man is a sexual predator according to the news and newspapers. Who would ever think that back in 2013...

  4. why do you still have a picture of the mission president?

    1. Because that was then and this is now. I won't post a photo of him now, but the point of view is changed. I find it interesting that people who know nothing about anything are the first to try to change history. I don't favor removing statues of Robert E Lee or Jefferson Davis, either, even though by today's interpretation what they did was not acceptable.

  5. You know this dude is a sexual predator, right?

  6. Why are you people trying to get the picture of Philander Smartt Removed? Where else are we likely to find one other than this and his mugshot?

    Leave it up. This is history.

  7. https://www.facebook.com/mormontransparency/

  8. I am not trying to change history. I am also not trying to defend the totally unacceptable behavior. At the time I knew him, to the extent that I knew him, he was doing some good things, and that is what this blog is about. What he did (and I do not know any more about the details than you do) behind the scene of what I knew then was not acceptable. However, my observations of that period of time in my own circumstances are still valid and accurate. I refuse to be his judge, and you should too. I will continue to pray for his soul, for the peace of all affected by his actions, and for you, too. I hope to be judged as I judge others. There are a few in the Church who have been appointed judges. I am not one of those. I try to exercise good judgement in the decisions I make. I encourage everyone else to do the same. But judging is to be done by the Judge.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I am sorry you deleted your response. I think you have some very good observations. I decided to not remove anything, including silly or ignorant replies to my blog. History is made up of events. It is all past tense, so unpleasant comments fit right in with the whole scenario. Truth always wins. Falsehood and coverup never do.

    3. I'm sorry for removing reply. I failed to understand the stuff. I thought you'd deleted once their photo, but then I'd discovered that it wasn't this way, so I've decided to remove hoping my comment that you haven't seen it. :D

      But yes, I can repeat that sometimes God calls people to high positions knowing that they will act unrighteously. Sometimes it's needed. Judah was called as an apostle of Jesus Christ! And The Savior said that it was needed. But it was for Judah's blame. But it was needed anyway.

      And again I can repeat that as Judah had an authority from The Lord (despite the fact that The Savior knew that he would fail), Brother Smartt also had an authority from The First Presidency (and I'm sure, inspired by The Lord! :) ), so it's OK that you respected him as leader who held then priesthood keys. It's OK especially considering that you even didn't know about such abominable things.

      I think that part of such callings is that God tests our faith. And only if we have a strong faith and strengthen our testimony, all dots will be connected and we will know mysteries of God. :)

  9. Thank you for this beautiful answer. You are undoubtedly a true disciple of Jesus Christ. I've been so troubled by the news reports and criticism of the Church. You have brought peace to me and I hope now to follow your example.