Sunday, February 2, 2014

Vehicles and Apartments

Gaye and Stephanie, Caparra chorister
January has been a month of busy-ness.  Gaye has been working on getting housing squared away.  I have the responsibility for vehicles in the mission.

On January 1, 80% of the vehicles in the mission were parked for good.  That does not include the vehicles in the islands, just in Puerto Rico.  This mission has been one of the most expensive missions in the world, but it is also one of the only places where the membership has been declining.  That is not because of the quality of the missionaries or of the people.  Many members move to the US because Puerto Ricans are US citizens and can go anywhere in the US they choose to go.  Anyway, the cars were parked and missionaries were told they had 6 weeks to dispose of their bicycles.  They could sell them, give them away, or send them home.  They will not be allowed to transport them when they are transferred.  The next transfer is February 11.  I will write more about the bikes in  day or two.

This came about in a rather interesting way.  President Smartt has been focussed on getting the budget under control.  He worked out the plan to get the missionaries out of the cars and on their feet, in part at least to save the church a huge amount of money.  Just insurance and maintenance costs have been staggering.  Contacts and baptisms have been down.  The missionaries need to be out among the people more.  Just as he was ready to suggest the plan to the area presidency there came a call from one of the First Presidency asking if he would consider parking the vehicles.  When he told the area presidency that he had already worked out a plan, everyone took it as a humble witness that God really is in charge of this work.

New apartment for these sisters

With the vehicles being parked the housing of the missionaries had to reevaluated.  I must say that this does not affect the smaller islands and it does not affect the office staff, AP’s, or Sister Trainer Leaders (called STL in this mission).  President wants every missionary working in an area not more than 2 miles from the chapels.  It does not good to teach and baptize people who cannot get to church.  So we have been trying to find and open apartments that meet the criteria and to close apartments that do not qualify.  If has meant a lot of time on the road. Puerto Rico is not a very big island, although is sure seems big after living on the little islands for a year.  I have been around the island three times and there are more trips coming in the next few days.

First we had to go out to every chapel and get the keys of the cars that are parked there.  Some of those vehicles had body work that needed attention, so those have to be driven to the office where we have shuttled them to the body shop a couple of miles from here.  

Some of those problems were the results of bike racks on the trunks.  The newer models fit into the trailer hitches that have been bolted under the rear ends. 

There were also a couple of cars that had serious crashes, so they have also been taken to the body shop.

Now I have to get the reports all put together for the vehicles, get a value established for each vehicle, and send all this stuff to the area fleet manager who will take it to a committee at the area office before we cha plan and hold a car sale.  This could get really complicated, so I won’t try to tell it all at once.  
Roadside stand. Bananas $2 per bunch.
Saturday we went with our friends and associate office workers, Elder and Sister Peterson, to make a deposit on an apartment, sign up another apartment, and deliver some supplies from the office.  It took all day, so we were tired when we got home.  We visited Crash Boat Beach near Aguadilla, 
Crash Boat Beach
Sharon was hit by a sneaky wave
where we bought some yummy goodies at a beach-side stand.  
Chicken, pork, plantain, and fish.  Yumm!

We also took a little side trip to visit Window Cave on the way home. 

Through the window looking at Arecibo River Valley

Cave access. Bring flashlights because that is all there is.

It was full of stalagmites and stalactites 
The Face in the Rock
and the bat guano was several feet deep.  
Eroded bat guano

We also saw a lot of the interior of the island, which is very mountainous and covered with thick vegetation.

I’ll write more soon.  I guess I ought to do this more often before the three people who actually read this blog give up.

Stay tuned.