Wednesday, April 30, 2014


No photos with this one.

29 April 2014

This has been a crazy weekend.  We have been witness to miracles.  God cares for his missionaries.  Here is the story.

Pres Smartt was planning on going to the small islands over the weekend.  He has not been able to get out there as often as he would like, but he tries to keep up on his schedule.  He did not make the trip, however.

On Sunday afternoon two of our missionaries, one AP and one quite new to the mission, were walking from the church back to their apartment in Guaynabo, when a car pulled up beside them.  One of the elders looked in the window as the guy drove slowly past.  He said the man was really angry looking.  Then his companion looked in the window and the guy opened fire with a pistol from 10 feet.  One shot grazed the second elder’s elbow, but it was later treated at the hospital with a bandaid.  The second shot ricocheted and hit him directly in the thigh.  The bullet bounced off his leg, leaving a hefty bruise but no penetration.  The two young men took off running as more shots were fired.  

It turns out that the gunman was after a guy on a bike who was hiding behind the elders.  That man was killed by gunshot wounds. The elders ran to the mission president’s home, not far away, and police were called.  The elders were taken to the hospital where they were treated and released.

So on Monday morning President was still in Puerto Rico.  He greeted us when we got to the office, told us briefly that an elder had been shot twice but that both elders were fine, and he informed us that he would be gone most of the day to the police station to help the elders deal with the situation.  President Smartt is an attorney by profession, so his presence was extremely helpful to the young elders.  

Our friends and co-workers the Peterson’s were out of the office Monday and Tuesday with visiting family members.  We were sitting at our desks doing what we usually do when a kindly voice asked me for a sister’s phone number.  I looked up into the smiling, kindly face of Elder Cornish of our Area Presidency.  There were several of the young sister missionaries about the office, waiting to be interviewed by Elder Cornish and Elder Anderson, the Area President.  Meanwhile, young elders were coming in and out of the office, all dressed in their P-day clothes.  They had been instructed to wear casual clothes and no name tags for a few days.  Everything is on hold in the mission.  But there is more.

This morning, Tuesday, Gaye and I were up at 0500 to take one of our senior missionary couples to the airport.  They have finished their mission service and are on their way home.  We then left directly from the airport to drive to Arroyo on the south coast of Puerto Rico, where we were going to pick up a signed housing contract to return it to President for his signature so it could be returned to the dueno (that means landlord) so the elders could move into better housing that is much closer to their church house.  We drove directly down, picked up the contract, and drove directly back to the office.  We were planning on helping train some young missionaries who had been designated to our replacements in the various office functions.  President’s office door was open so I stuck my head in to tell him that we were back.  Imagine my surprise to see four young elders seated there in front of Elder Cornish, listening intently to what he was telling them.  He said he would visit with Elder and Sister Patterson shortly, so we sat down to answer the phone and do some other chores.

We received a call from one of the remaining senior elders, serving on Tortola, who was asking for help getting a flight booked. When Gaye asked him how he was doing he said he was in shock.  Word travels fast.  Gaye asked him if he had heard about the shooting.  He replied that he had, but that he was even more shocked at the news of President Smartt.  Gaye could not hide her astonishment and her curiosity.  What is going on!

So Elder Cornish called us shortly into the office to fill us in.  About two weeks ago our mission mom experienced some very disturbing numbness and lack of feeling in her legs.  (The Smartt’s are both in their very early 40‘s.) Diagnostics were done and it was concluded locally that there was a tumor about ping-pong ball sized in her brain, and the local doctor wanted to admit her and plan the surgery.  President said that would not happen.  She was flown home for more tests at the University of Alabama, where they know some of the doctors and have many friends.  President even received permission from a senior authority in the Church to go be with his wife as more tests were done.  He would be gone for one or two days, then he would be going to Area Offices for some training meetings with the authorities there.  The next time we saw President he said that the tests led to a diagnosis of MS, not a tumor.  I guess that was bad news and good news.  Sister Smartt has returned to Puerto Rico.

Back to the story.  Elder Cornish said that after some discussion among some very senior Brethren it was decided that President would be released so he and Sister Smartt could go back to get the very best medical help available.  So he was released and Elder Cornish is serving as a “temporary” president, for about a week, until another longer term temporary president can be called from the Seventy and make arrangements to come down here.  He will be here until a new president is called and trained to take over on July 1.  So in a little more than 2 months we will have four mission presidents of the PRSJM.  These elders and sisters can do it.  We will not be a part of what is coming in the future, but we have had a wonderful opportunity to work with them, train them, and also learn from them, becoming younger as we have felt their enthusiasm.

As part of the Church policy on dealing with this sort of event, the young people involved are immediately sent out of the area where it happened.  One of these young men is from a neighboring island, so he has been sent there to finish his mission.  The other is actually from Mexico and he has only one more transfer (6 weeks) until he goes home.  The Area authorities want him to go to one of our small islands.  However, his visa that allows him to enter the US is for one entry only.  If he goes out of the US territory he cannot return.  He has clearance from our security people to stay here for the duration of his mission, but he cannot leave and return.  The outlying islands are little countries of their own, and they don’t have much extra money for social support programs, so they require that the missionaries have a ticket out of the country before they are allowed to come into the country.  Since this elder cannot return to the US, he is not being allowed to go to that little island nation.  I booked his ticket yesterday with the understanding that we have 24 hours to cancel the reservation.  By the time we found out all this stuff it was past 24 hours, so they said they would not cancel the ticket and give a refund.  They talked about it, however, and decided they would really like our business, so they made an exception.  It is just awesome how the Lord blesses us as we do our best to do his work.  Even for an old skeptic like me, this is solid evidence of God blessing our lives.  Only God is smart enough to know how to do it in a way that does not interfere with our ability or responsibility to make decisions and live with the consequences.

There are actually more things that have happened in the past three days that I can’t even write about, mainly because I am too tired or the details have begun to slip from my memory.  Suffice it to say, however, that these events have strengthened my faith in marvelous ways.  As Elder Cornish said, “If you have been looking for a miracle to write about, this is surely one.”

So we are preparing to go home in a week. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lost and Found

Peace, amidst the storm clouds

Look what we found!  This car has been sitting in a parking lot for 4 months.
 It has only 2000 miles, so I am now assigning it to President Smartt.  We have still not had the car sale.  I have given up.  Every time I communicate with the area vehicle people I remind them that on May 8, I am leaving.  They don't seem to care.  I must admit that I don't really care, either.  They will figure it out.  Meanwhile, I will be working in my garden and making pots.

How did I ever get her to marry me?
My parents, George E & Laura W Patterson
My maternal grandparents, Earl R and Mahalia N Wilding

My paternal grandparents, Elva T and Joseph P Patterson

This is Easter Weekend.  Here in Puerto Rico this is a huge holiday.  Everybody takes Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday off.  The government gives them all these days with pay.  And then they get Monday to recover, with pay.

But there are more important things about Easter than it being a big long holiday.  Elder Oaks has presented some powerful conference talks on related subjects, but one of my favorites is April 2000, entitled The Resurrection.
Carl Bloch painting of Jesus being supported by an angel.  Gaye says it is His Mother.
Elder Wirthlin gave a wonderful talk on the subject too, in October 2006, entitled Sunday will come.

Even bigger than freedom from death is freedom from the bondage of sin.  Life.  Jesus gives us life. Satan wants to give us death.  But Jesus overcame Satan, and because He did, so can we.

So on this weekend when we remember the most important event in human history, I add my own simple witness that because of what Jesus did for us, we can continue to live. He opened the door and made it possible for us to repent, to be free from the misery Satan wants us to share with him.  We can be free of guilt and pain related to our sins.  We can be free!  Free at last, free at last.
              Thank God Almighty, we can be free at last!

The greatest thing we as members of the Church, missionaries all, have to offer to a confused and misdirected world, is freedom from sin, and from death and sorrow.  And it is because of what Jesus did for us.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Music Mission

One of the major projects we have been involved in has been teaching the keyboarding lessons to members here.  I say we, but Gaye has been the one who has done the teaching.  That came about as a compromise, too.  I have always felt that I could teach the keyboarding lessons with great enthusiasm and ability, but one day Gaye said that if she doesn't get to do the music she will not have anything to do.  Let's just say that a mission is a lot of give and take, whatever give means and whatever take means.  So Gaye has been the music teacher and I have been in a support role.

We had several people in Tortola, young and older, who were enthused to begin.  Not so many were enthused to continue, but some did.  We have had a few missionaries who have indicated a desire to work at playing the music.  When we left Nevis, Elder Rasmussen, a greenie from Utah, jumped right in and was soon playing hymns for the very small branch of the church there.  The program is inspired.  It really works!

We attended the English-speaking Metro Ward in Puerto Rico and I noticed that two of the bishop's sons handle the music in priesthood meeting.  The older one plays prelude and accompaniment from the Simplified Hymns arrangements while his younger brother, a deacon, leads the singing.  It is both cute and inspiring to see and to participate.
The Music Men

Here in Bayamon, actually in the Caparra Ward, we have been working with the most enthusiastic, most inspiring student of the whole mission.  Br Berrios was one of the first to greet us when we arrived here.  He was plinking at the piano at a baptism service, so I asked if they needed any help with music.  He quickly lit up and in minutes Gaye was playing for the service.  It has gone up from there.  Gaye has been the piano player for sacrament meeting.  We (she) have been meeting with Br Berrios every Tuesday night for an hour lesson.  He is just bubbly in his enthusiastic desire to play the piano instead of having the recorded music be the accompaniment for the hymns in the meetings.  Everybody else has been likewise enthusiastic with the arrangement.  Now the mission nurse is also attending the same ward and she has been alternating with Gaye.  She will be the pianist when we leave.  But I have played in priesthood meeting and that is where we can use some help.
The piano, the student, and the CD player formerly used for accompaniment.
So we have been working with Johnny to get ready to play a sacrament hymn.  He has chosen to learn to play How Great the Wisdom and the Love, which is a wonderful sacrament hymn, especially when verses 1,2,5,6 are sung.  He finally has the courage up to play this Sunday, which is our fast Sunday because last Sunday was conference.  So when the chorister told us which hymns are for Sunday, I suggested that Johnny play his number for the sacrament hymn.  She said, this is all by text by the way, that the counsellor over music will not allow that song to be the sacrament song because it is not about sacrament or fasting.  I said she should read the words to verse 5.  She said the Spanish version only has two verses, so the counsellor said that Johnny will need to ask the bishop for permission to play that one.  Good Grief!!!

Johnny will not be playing tomorrow.  I told him that we need to visit with the bishop and let him know what is going on.  The bishop is a wonderful, kind man, a good friend of Johnny, and there will be no problem with that song being played either as a sacrament song or as an opening song.  I told Johnny that he is a better man than I am.  He is at peace with the whole thing.  I, however, have a problem.  Oh well, I will pray for peace and go to bed.  Tomorrow will be another day.  I just feel so personally involved in this project.  He has worked hard to be prepared.  We have become emotionally involved in helping him have the confidence and the preparation to play.  He told me to let it go.  “Let It Go, Let It Go!”  I am really liking that song lately.

Sometimes I feel like we have done significant things and have actually made a difference.  I think we have done that.  But sometimes, I feel my legacy has been about like the hole that is left in a glass of water when I put in my finger and take it out again.  I have to remember that it is not about me, it is about building the Kingdom.  We are here to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the message of the Atonement and how it blesses our lives.  Alma had the right attitude in his exclamation in Alma 29.  I have to be periodically reminded of that.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Conference Notes

Conference Notes

There are may things I deeply appreciate about the April 2014 conference.  Perhaps at the top of the list, however, is the music.  The MoTab always does well, but the closing song touched me.  Come, Let Us Anew Our Journey Pursue.  Great message, beautifully arranged.  What really thrilled me, though was the quality of the Saturday afternoon and Priesthood Session choirs.  They were amazing.  That is really not surprising, though, because the rising generation is amazing.

Priesthood meeting was probably my favorite session.  Elder Oaks, as always, had my rapt attention from the first word.  I will study that talk again and again as I continue to clarify the doctrine of priesthood authority and priesthood keys.  He said that Jesus holds all the keys.  I think that is about all we really need to know.  The rest of us have keys delegated to us at various times, and at other times we have them withdrawn, or limited in some way.  Only the President of the Church holds the active keys on the earth.  Elder Oaks speaks on a frequency that goes right to my heart.  Elder Holland seems to speak on the same frequency, too.

I enjoyed seeing the women leaders sitting right in the middle of the center of the section where the men usually sit.  The ladies have been on the sidelines, in the wings.  No more.  I am not a feminist, and I don’t think there is anything to cry about, but I am totally pleased to see the visibility moves that are being made.  I noticed another sign, rather subtle but significant, along the same lines.  In the song, A Child’s Prayer, the voice representing God is usually sung by the men while the women represent the voice of the child asking, “Heavenly Father, are you really there?”  It started out that way again this time, but then when the two voices joined together the men sang the child’s part and the women represented the voice of God.

I learned to pray at my Grandma Patterson’s knee.  I am sure my mom and my dad taught me to pray, too.  I know that they taught my younger siblings and I can’t imagine my own life to be any different.  But perhaps my very earliest memory is kneeling by Grandma Patterson as she helped me say my prayers before I climbed into bed. I was staying with them in Bloomington, which I know I did at least twice.  This was probably when Merlin and Margaret were born.  Mary was staying with Uncle Les and Aunt Lola Skinner just up the road in Georgetown.  For some reason, there was something said at this conference that made me remember that time in my life, just short of 100 years ago.

We get conference here on BYU-TV on the Internet.  The live broadcasts are two hours later than they are in Salt Lake, so earlier in the day we also watched the Book of Mormon discussions as well as a rebroadcast of the Women’s Broadcast from last weekend.  That one brought tears to my eyes.  

So that’s it.  I look forward to studying the talks.  I am reading the Old Testament, and I am actually learning some things I did not catch before.  I feel like I need to be reading the Book of Mormon again, too.  It is like an old friend.  And Elder Ballard gave a firm invitation to be more involved in Preach My Gospel.  It really is an amazing book.

Have a wonderful week.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Hatches Visit PR

Time flies!  It has already been a week since the Hatchlings came to visit us in Puerto Rico. We missed Jackson, but it is good that he didn't come.  We visited the beach a few times, enjoyed the amazing bioluminescent water at Fajardo Bio Bay, explored Old San Juan, and spent some time snorkeling on Vieques.  We also visited the very small LDS branch at Vieques.  We were sitting in the room before the meeting started and in walked Jan Jones from our home ward in Twin Falls.  We were so surprised that we didn't even get a photo, but she sure was there.  What are the chances!  So here are some photos of our experience.

Fajardo to Vieques Ferry the day after the Bio Bay Kayak Trip.

This Ceiba Tree is 400 years old

This is living tree, not rock!

On our back patio.