Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sister Missionaries

Future Missionaries Grant, Sam, Henry
Shortly after President Smartt arrived he replaced the elders on the islands with sisters.  
Lunch by the beach with President Smartt

When we visited with him on Nevis a month ago he said he would love to have more sisters.  I am learning what he means by that.  
Sister Sierra from Mexico, Sister Tapia from Chile

The elders here on St Kitts drove the truck until we were sent to Nevis and took the truck with us.  That left them with no means of transportation.  Sister Sierra is not quite 5 feet tall and of proportional weight.  Her first companion was from Idaho and much taller.  They were walking everywhere, but that only slowed them down in their physical locomotion, not in their desire to serve.  The elders would walk to the church and play basketball in the parking lot, hoping that some young men would come along and want to play and they would then have someone to teach.  Not the sisters.
Cottle Church built 1824 for owner's kids and slaves' kids to worship together.
The other senior couple here decided it was their duty to take the sisters to all their appointments, but the young ladies still walked a lot.  

The Idaho sister was moved back to PR and Sister Tapia came here straight off the plane from the MTC.  She is from Chile and the two young ladies got along, both being Spanish speakers. They worked hard, walking many miles each day.  They found lost members and began to teach them, and they made contacts and began to teach them.  Sister Tapia was transferred to PR and Sister Paredes from California, out about 7 months, took her place.  She is about the same physical size as Sister Sierra, and not a step behind her in spiritual and physical commitment to missionary duties.  They tried to fix the bikes but when they then attempted to ride them, they could not reach the pedals!  Back to walking.
Sister Sierra smiling for the camera
So now President Smartt has sent young elders to Nevis where they are riding the bikes many miles up and down big hills each day.  They are loving it, and the work is growing over there.  Meanwhile, the other senior couple has been moved to PR, so now the car is being driven by the sisters. They are so short that I can barely see them from outside the vehicle, but they are doing fine.

Last Sunday we saw a nice family of man, woman, and two boys sitting on the back row.  The sisters went over and sat by them.  The boys went to Primary and quickly learned the songs.  During the week the sisters invited us old folks to go with them to meet some of the members they have been working with, and to meet this investigator family who was there on Sunday.  We had a nice discussion with them.  The format of the investigator discussions goes like this:  

1. Visit and feel comfortable with the people.
2.  Sing a hymn together.  Sometimes the investigators try to sing along. Always the Spirit adds His voice.
3.  Open with prayer.  They are very effective in inviting and in getting the member or investigator to offer the prayer.  Tears are usually running down my cheeks by then.
4.  Lead a discussion following closely the lessons in Preach My Gospel.  Questions are effectively asked and the others open up with their feelings and observations. Important points of doctrine are taught, testimony is shared, and commitments are made.
5.  Closing prayer is offered by one of the family.
Sisters are like flowers among the stems
After a visit with the sisters to a less-active member who had some “issues” that she wanted to discuss, a discussion that covered the breadth of subjects from why is there race and what is the big deal with Joseph Smith, to which I responded in typical 5th-generation-Mormon high priest-know-it-all-and-you-should-listen-to-me confidence, which went nowhere, we left after a closing prayer.  Sister Sierra looked at me and smiled and said forcefully, “Elder Patterson, you should study Preach My Gospel, chapters 3 and 10!”  Those are “What to Teach” and “How Can I Increase My Teaching Effectiveness?”  Okay.  I am sufficiently humbled.  It has always been hard for me to keep it simple.

Yesterday we went to visit the Soundar family who were again at church services yesterday morning.  This time we were there to help him quit smoking.  He is moving ahead with everything else, but the weed still has a hold. The sisters came over to our apartment 2 hours before the appointment so we could get our act together on how we were going to present a stop-smoking program developed by two missionaries in Ireland in the mid-80’s.  We read the approach, we rehearsed our parts, we prayed, and we went to the family armed with the power of the Love of God, or Charity.  We followed the  usual format, singing Choose the Right.  Br Sundar called on Sister Patterson to open with prayer.

We presented the lesson we had rehearsed, except that the two little boys were a little rambunctious so I took them on my lap and kept them entertained with my iPhone games while the ladies presented the ideas, including getting all the necessary commitments from Br Sundar.  At one point the lesson calls on him to wad his pack of cigarettes up, which he did.  At the end of the lesson he prayed, and tears were running down his cheeks as he thanked God for the blessings of the Gospel coming into his family.  We then had a piece of a noodle confection that he had made especially for us.
We took the sisters to dinner at Blue Bombay 
Our job this week is to visit this family every day and reinforce them, especially him, as he makes the transition from smoker to non-smoker.  We will take some veggie sticks and lots of encouragement.  He will do it.  The baptism is scheduled for the end of the month.

But there is more to this story.  When we first arrived here she was at the apartment with the other senior couple because Sister Tapia had left for PR and Sister Paredes had not yet arrived.  She was sitting beside Sister Patterson and quietly said to her, “Can I have a hug.”  Gaye turned towards her and put out her arms and Sister Sierra melted into the embrace and sobbed her little heart out.  She was worried about her mom. Sister Sierra’ mother is dying from kidney failure in Mexico.  The doctors have done all they can and have sent her home.  President Smartt has been made aware of the situation and he has spoken with her father by telephone.  They do not want her to come home early (her mission will be finished the end of November), but to stay here and complete the work.  Both her parents served missions as young people.  She had permission to call her mother to see what is going on.  She spoke with her dad and mother for a total of 6 minutes.  She said her parents want her to stay here.  
Sister Galvis from Colombia, Sister Sierra from Mexico City, Sister Paredes from Los Angeles
I spoke with President Smartt and he said she has completed a wonderful mission and can go home a few weeks early, with an honorable release, to be with her mom before she passes on. He thinks she should do that, but he has left it up to Sister Sierra. To strengthen his suggestion he sent Sister Galvis, another LM from Colombia with whom Sister Sierra has developed a very close relationship, here to St. Kitts to talk with her.  (The new mission leadership council is made up of elders (AP) and sisters now, and she is here in that capacity.)  Sister Galvis returned to PR this morning after supporting and strengthening Sister Sierra.  Sister Parades gets along very well in Spanish, too, and they have had a lot of time together to work through this crisis.  Sister Sierra has not made up her mind yet.  She wants to read her emails this morning before she decides.  They will be here in a few minutes to use our computers for an hour or two.

I have tears in my eyes just thinking of what a blessing it has been for me to work with these sisters.  They have the power to call down the blessings of heaven as real as any person I have ever been around, man or woman.  My life will never be the same. 

A local lily

Milkweed Pods
Some Kind of Palm
Interesting Seed Pod


  1. We love Sister missionaries! My heart goes out to Sister Sierra. I will pray for her and her family. (My dad had renal failure as well).

  2. Awesome post. I'll pray for her too. Interesting (and great) that sisters have a role in the office too.