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Monday, December 16, 2013

Eight Months!

We've been out eight months today.  It's hard to believe we have less than a year left.  We are enjoying St. Lucia.  It is a beautiful Island and the Branch members are so warm and loving.  It's hard to believe that it's almost Christmas.  As I said before, after being in snow for every Christmas, the season is different without it.  I kind of miss it.  We attended a baptism early this morning at the beach.  Some of the members came with jackets and sweaters and I was in a short sleeved shirt.  I asked them how they could be wearing such warm clothing and they said they were freezing.  They even said their cooking oil freezes. Believe me when I say it doesn't freeze over here.  I think what they meant is that their oil hardens instead of being melted all the time.  I did singing time with the Primary today and asked if any of the children had seen snow.  All except for one had never seen snow before. Of course, we had to sing "Once Their Was a Snowman".  It was fun being with the Primary children.  

Elder and Sister Gartz left last Saturday, so we have this Island to ourselves as the only Senior Couple.  It is fun getting to know the members and working with them.  Our time is split between the Vieux Fort and Castries Branches.  They are both small and I feel they appreciate our help.  My time is spent teaching music in the Primary.  I have also been asked to teach Seminary.  They are doing home study Seminary, so I will teach it once a week. They are out of school for the holidays, so I will start Seminary the first of the year.  I'm excited about this.  It's been a long time since I've had any teaching assignment in Church and a long time since I have worked with they youth.  They are studying "The Book of Mormon".  I am also teaching piano to a young girl.  I hope to get more students.  Elder Gubler and I are hoping to be very busy in St. Lucia.

Last Monday we spent the afternoon with Sister Simone and her daughter, Christine and granddaughter, Carrise.  Elder Gubler the computer whiz set up their computer with a Magic Jack and also set them up with email accounts.  He showed them how to use the internet.  He searched out their names and pulled up some information on Christine.  She was so excited. Carrise, the granddaughter was familiar with facebook, but Elder Gubler taught her a few more things.  We enjoy helping the members and visiting with them.  They love the Missionaries.

We are planning a Christmas party for the Missionaries on Christmas Eve.  We want to go caroling and have a dinner afterwards.  It all depends on whether we get our van or not if we go caroling.  It is in Castries and we've seen it.  It's even been paid for.  We are waiting for a waiver of Custom fees from the Government.  So, who knows how long that will be. 

We hope that you all enjoy this Christmas Season.  We're thankful to be serving the Lord by doing this great Missionary work.  

Overlooking Soufriere.
Pitons are tall mountains.

A view of a dormant volcano near Soufriere.


Beautiful coastline of Gros Islet

Another view of our apartment.  We live
at the bottom.

Our humble Christmas tree.


Living room




Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to wish everyone a belated happy Thanksgiving.  This was our first and only Thanksgiving out in the Mission field.  We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner for the Missionaries on Tuesday.  I helped Sister Gartz in preparing the meal.  I cooked a turkey and made stuffing.  I had to improvise on the stuffing, as I couldn't find any sage.  I found a poultry seasoning with sage in it.  I thought it tasted pretty good.  Elder Gubler went down to the church to attend a District Meeting with the missionaries while I stayed at the apartment.  We cook with propane and I'm not use to it yet.  In Suriname we had a bigger tank than here.  Nevertheless, I ran out of propane during the cooking.  Our landlord left us an extra tank, but it was also empty.  I tried calling Elder Gubler, but no answer.  Dinner was being served in two hours and I still had 1 1/2 hours left on the turkey.  Luckily, I caught my neighbor who was just leaving and she gave me her extra tank of propane.  Oh how I miss my kitchen.  The dinner was good and it was fun being with the Missionaries.  They are great.  As I have said before, the best part of our mission are the Missionaries.  We had all the normal food that is served.  The Missionaries brought the desserts and we even had pumpkin pie.  Elder Schroeder actually cooked a pumpkin and made pumpkin pie.  It was pretty good.  He told us later that he didn't even have measuring cups or spoons.  I was very impressed.

On the actual Thanksgiving day (Thursday) we went with two Elders to Soufriere  It is a beautiful village down by the Pitons.  There currently aren't any Missionaries in that area.  The two that were there were moved to Castries.  It takes a little over an hour to get there.  The roads are very narrow and windy, up and down mountain passages.  The last time we took the Elders there, our borrowed car got a flat tire and also broke down on the way back.  This time we took the brand new car.  The Missionaries taught three discussions to different people.  There was a 27 year old gal that has been searching for a church that answered all her questions.  She has been very impressed with the message, saying she has never heard anything like that before.  She has visited numerous churches and has felt that there is something else out there.  As of now, President Mehr has said that the Castries Branch needs to grow more before opening up that area again.  In other areas where there isn't a Church, the Missionaries hold Sunday Meetings in their apartment which are called group meetings.  We were hoping to do that in Soufriere, but more work needs to be done in Castries.

Today was the last Sunday for the Gartz'.  They leave next Saturday.  Elder Gartz was acting as a Branch President for the Castries Branch.  A local member, Brother Debeauville, was called as Branch President.  President Mehr came out and set him apart.  Since this area is small, President Mehr is the Ecclesiastical leader over the two branches.  He has asked us to oversee these two branches and make sure they are operating properly.  He has asked us to train the members in the different organizations.  So our time here will be split between Castries and Vieux Fort. 

The Christmas season has started here in St. Lucia.  The shops are decorated and Christmas music is playing.  It is a little strange because it is so hot.  Elder and Sister Gartz gave us a small Christmas tree, so I will put that up shortly.  It will be nice having our own Island to work in.  We are looking forward to working with the members and getting to know them better.  As Thanksgiving has passed, I am so thankful for so many things.  Mostly my family and my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I miss you all very much and am so grateful for all that you do for us while we are out here.   We love you all very much and hope that you all enjoy this coming month as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.     


Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner

Baptism yesterday

Elder & Sister Gartz
Sister Gartz is wearing a St. Lucia
native dress.  Their last Sunday

Poinsettia tree outside our apartment.

Our view

Some more of our view.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Leaving Suriname on a sad note!

Time has gone by quickly since I last wrote on my blog.  Much has happened during that time.  We left Suriname on a sad note.  Brother Enrique from the Paramaribo Branch lost his wife and daughter in an auto accident.  Their vehicle swerved off the road and flipped upside down in a swamp.  They both drowned.  He has one other daughter who is currently serving a mission in the Dominican Republic.  They are from Mexico.  Their funeral was held Monday, Oct 28.  Also, that same weekend, the Branch President's wife from the branch we were attending, took her own life.  She is survived by her husband and two young daughters. Her funeral was Wednesday, Oct. 30.  It was a very sad and difficult week.  The members of the Church were all in shock over what had happened.  I helped the Relief Society sisters dress the bodies of Sister Enrique and her daughter.  It is vastly different from the United States.  The bodies were not cleaned or embalmed.  They were just put in a refrigerator. They had both died from drowning so there wasn't any trauma to the bodies, thankfully.  But it was still difficult.  We had to also help place the bodies in the casket.  They were to be cremated as Brother Enrique wanted to take the bodies back to Mexico.

All that aside, we are finally on the Island of St. Lucia.  It is a beautiful mountainous Island. Everywhere you look is a picturesque scene.  Our apartment overlooks Rodney Bay, which is a popular tourist spot.  Each time we leave our apartment we see that gorgeous view.  Elder and Sister Gartz have been great. They are the Senior Couple we will be replacing.  We are becoming familiar with the area and the members of the Church.  St. Lucia has two branches, one in Castries which is on the Northwest side of the Island and the other in Vieux Fort, which is at the Southern tip of the Island.  The members have been very warm and welcoming.  We will enjoy our time in St. Lucia, but will miss Suriname as well.  There are currently 10 young missionaries in St. Lucia, with two being Sisters.  Cruise ships frequently stop at this Island as it is so beautiful.  There are many resorts and beautiful beaches.  I'm glad I brought my swimming suit.  Elder and Sister Gartz will be leaving December 7.  It will be good to have an Island all to ourselves to oversee.  The best part of this mission as I have said is getting to know and work with the Missionaries.  They are all the best.

Elder Gubler has had to get use to driving up and down steep narrow gaps (streets) to get to various places.  I can't believe some of the driveways to homes here, very steep and awkward to get into.   Parking is also a difficult thing as there is not any, especially in the city. According to the Gartz, Elder Gartz will drive in and park in a nonparking area and do his business, leaving Sister Gartz in the vehicle to drive around the block.  Right now, we are driving a brand new Mitsubishi Lancer which will be the Sister's vehicle when the Gartz' leave.  We will inherit an old pickup, with no air conditioning, which will be replaced by a 12 passenger van.  That will be fun to drive especially with these narrow streets.  But, Elder Gubler, who is an expert driver, will be up to the task.  They tell us the van is suppose to come in on the 1st of December, but it was actually suppose to be here in September.  So, who knows when it will be here.  The Gartz' are tough people, driving around a vehicle without air conditioning in this weather.  They drove us to Vieux Fort, which is a 1 1/2 hour drive, and I was exhausted without air conditioning.  We have offered to switch vehicles, but Elder Gartz doesn't want to drive a new vehicle.  

Our apartment is in a beautiful area.  It's not as nice as the apartment in Suriname, but adequate and less expensive.  We have hot water and a dryer, which I am happy about.  It is on the lower level of a huge home, where our landlord lives.  He is very nice and accommodating.  He even installed an air conditioner in the kitchen/living room area.  It has two bedrooms and one bathroom.  It is older apartment, but in fairly decent condition. We are happy with it and will stay here for the duration of our mission.  We will close the Gartz' apartment when they leave.  Their apartment was difficult to get to as the road was bad and parking was also difficult, especially with a van.  

Elder Gartz has been able to help me with some dental issues that I've been having throughout this mission.  He is a retired Dentist and has a portable dental unit with all the drills and equipment necessary to perform most dental procedures.  He does a lot of humanitarian work as a Dentist.  He holds a dental clinic once a week in which he sees patients, free of charge.  He and his wife have been to many places in the world doing humanitarian dental work.  They are both amazing people.  They are in their 70's, which you would never have guessed, and this is their second mission.  They served in Cambodia prior to this.  They are from New Mexico and will also be celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary next month.  It has been great working with them for the short time they have left.  

We are both thankful to be here on this mission and to be serving the Lord.  I'd like to say something about the two funerals we attended in Suriname.  The first funeral, the family was sealed together in the Temple.  The husband/father knows that he will be with his wife and daughter in the hereafter and for eternity.  There's a different feeling, a feeling of peace, of having this assurance.  The second family was not sealed.  Though, there is a possibility of that happening in the future.  The feeling at this funeral was one of sadness.  I'm so thankful for the Gospel and the blessing of the Temple.  I'm so thankful that I have the blessing of Temple marriage in my life.  I know that my family will be sealed to me throughout eternity, if I continue to live the Gospel.  What a glorious and beautiful plan this is of our Heavenly Father.  I know he lives and I'm so thankful for His Son, Jesus Christ, who has made all this possible, through his atoning sacrifice.  This is why we are on a mission to share the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our last P-Day outing with the Suriname Elders,
great Elders, we will miss them.

Our beautiful view outside our apartment of
Rodney Bay

Sister Gartz and two sisters from Barbados

I counted over 50 mosquito bites that I
got in Uitkijk, Suriname.  I sure hope I
don't get denque fever!

Uitkijk Branch Primary.

The two Van Dyke girls who lost their

Fresh Bananas

My first Ocean Baptism in St. Lucia,
  it was very special.

Largest wooden church building in the
world in Paramaribo, Suriname

Waterkant Street in Paramaribo (Dutch style

Elder Gubler

Paramaribo market

Enrique Family, Mother and youngest daughter were killed.  Other daughter
is currently serving a mission in the Dominican Republic.

Van Dyke Family, mother took her
own life.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

A New Adventure Coming!

It has been awhile since I have written on my blog.  There have been many things happen in the past few weeks.  We really enjoyed conference.  It was hard watching it at the Temenga Chapel as there is no air conditioning.  It was live, but it aired three hours later, for instance, the 10:00 session started at 1:00 in Suriname.  We were able to watch all four sessions, plus Elder Gubler watched the Priesthood session, live, which ended at 11:00 p.m.  It was great watching conference in the mission field.  The spirit was so strong, I spent much of the time in tears.  We were in a room full of Elders and a few members who wanted to watch it in English.  Where in the world would you find 24 young men eager and excited to watch 10 hours of conference.  Many said that this was the first time they had stayed awake for all the sessions.  I love these Elders, they have all strengthened my testimony by their sacrifice and commitment they give to their missions. They are all so excited to be out on their missions and really love and care about the people here in Suriname.

It is with sadness that we will be leaving Suriname on October 31.  We will be going to St. Lucia to take over for a senior couple, Elder and Sister Gartz, who will be finishing their mission.  We are excited, but sad at the same time about this new outcome.  We feel it was an answer to prayer as I have had some issues with my teeth that Elder Gartz, a retired dentist, will be able to help me with before he leaves.  Since the mission will be losing half of the Senior Couples in a month or two, Suriname will have to survive with one senior couple. They should be just fine, the Vanderbeeks are a wonderful couple and quite capable of handling all the missionaries.  Elder Gubler has said that senior couples in South America have to be as tough as nails and the Vanderbeeks are.  I feel that the senior couples in Guyana and Suriname are some of the strongest couples in this mission.  

We have grown to love Suriname and the people here.  The members have been so warm and loving.  We will especially miss the missionaries.  The missionaries are having a lot of success.  In fact, there will be eight baptisms performed this coming Saturday.

We had our Zone Conference a couple of days ago.  I am so impressed with President Mehr and his ability get up an speak without notes and his knowledge of the scriptures.  Elder and Sister Olpin, his parents-in-law, told us that as a young boy he spent a great deal of time studying the scriptures.  That was his passion.  He has encouraged all the missionaries to memorize certain passage of scriptures.   It is amazing how these Elders will get up and quote 15 verses by memory.  In past meetings, President Mehr has stressed the importance of fasting.  He has asked each missionary to teach a member or members of the branch or ward they are in about the law of the fast.  The purpose for the past two fasts were for member referrals.  There have been many miracles happen in the Mission because of fasting. This meeting, President Mehr, stressed the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. He wants the missionaries to do the same thing, teach someone about the Sabbath and have them commit to keeping it holy.  The church is new in the West Indies.  In order to strengthen the wards and branches, the members have to get back to the basics.  Many blessings are promised if these members will obey the law of the fast and keeping the Sabbath Day Holy.  In our interview with President Mehr today, he told us that the mission has been really strengthened because of fasting these past couple of months.  There have been more baptisms and a greater attendance at church.  

I am so thankful to be on this Mission.  I am excited to go to St. Lucia, THEY SPEAK ENGLISH THERE.  I feel that I will be able to communicate better with the people.  I really admire Elder Gubler, he has spent so much time and energy in learning Dutch.  I know that he will be blessed because of his commitment to do whatever he has been asked to do.  He has had a good time conversing with the Elders in Dutch, but it has been difficult to understand the people with their accent and Taki Tak.

I have gained a greater testimony of fasting as I have witnessed and heard about these miracles.  The Lord blesses those who keep his commandments.  The church is true and that's why I am on this mission and that's why there are tens of thousands of young men and women sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

P-Day in the Jungle

Huge Spider Web, I'd hate to see the spider that
made it.

Our hike in the jungle

It was pretty steep

The Elders enjoying the waterfall


Suriname North Zone

Paramaribo taken off the bridge

Downtown Paramaribo


Old Dutch building



Elder & Sister Vanderbeek

Nickeri chapel

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Senior's Conference

It has been awhile since I have written on my blog.  We have had a busy couple of weeks. Last week we attended a Senior Conference in Trinidad for all the Senior couples.  We left Monday and returned Friday evening.  It was a very spiritual and uplifting Conference. President Mehr has a vision to bring the Church out of obscurity in the West Indies.  To do this, he has made us all Humanitarian Missionaries.  The Church is involved in many humanitarian projects around the world.  Some of the projects are:  small animal production (building chicken coops and providing chickens), Neonatal resuscitation training at Hospitals (the Church also donates resuscitation equipment), wheelchairs, donation of items to schools, health care facilities, clean water and sanitation, vision care, and etc.  The Church did a Neonatal Resuscitation training in Trinidad while we were there.  They get the local ward or branch involved in the project.  The Church has Humanitarian Missionaries that deal primarily with these Humanitarian projects.  A Humanitarian couple, the Cooks, just completed their Mission from here a couple of months ago.  The Church spends a great deal of money in this area with the Humanitarian projects and President Mehr feels that this is a way for the people here to recognize the Church and become more familiar with it.  He feels it will open doors for the Church with the Governments of these countries as well as opening doors for the Missionaries.  We both felt that he was truly inspired.  We are excited to start this work here in Suriname.

The Church is also planning a big celebration in the West Indies Mission for the 25th anniversary of the start of missionary work here.  All the Caribbean countries are involved in this celebration.  There will be shows and contests put on throughout the next couple of years to get ready for this event.  This will involve all the Wards and Branches and any nonmember friends they want to invite.  They want to get the media involved and make this a big event.  I'm sure you will read more about it in the Church News as time goes by. We will also be helping out the District in Suriname to get this going.  

President Mehr also mentioned that in the next three months ten Senior couples will be completing their Missions and going home.  Because of all the newly created Missions in the Church, that has left a shortage of Senior Couples.  There will only be three couples to replace the ten that are leaving.  Plus, the number of missionaries will increase.  He is issuing a plea for Senior couples to go on Missions.  He is also issuing a plea that you put down West Indies Mission as a preference.  The Mission has four French speaking countries and all of the Senior couples assigned to those countries are going home, with no French speaking couples coming out.  So, all you Senior couples that know French, WE NEED YOU! 

It was great to see all the Senior Couples and also to meet up with the Seniors from Trinidad. We have gotten really close to them and have a great deal of love for them.  They are all awesome people and have sacrificed so much to be on a Mission.  It was truly an honor being with these great people.  We are getting more and more use to Suriname and really enjoy the missionaries and the members.  They are having a lot of success here, with baptisms nearly every week.  Elder and Sister Olpin, a Senior couple serving in Barbados (Sister Mehr's parents), were here to give some members Patriarchal Blessings.  They are such sweet people.  We were honored to help drive them around.  They told us of a man and his son who recently joined the Church here in Suriname that received their blessings.  The gentleman, who was Roman Catholic, always thought there was something else out there that answered many of his questions.  He knew immediately that it was the LDS Church when he met the Missionaries.  I think if more people asked questions and tried to find the answers that the work would progress rapidly.  Many people are indifferent and do not care.  There is a bad problem with immorality in the Caribbean and it is creating serious problems with the youth here.  The children are raised by their mother with no father in the home and they have numerous brothers and sisters with different mothers.  The men often boast at how many children they have sired.  It is a sad situation and it breaks my heart for the youth and the children.  

The Lord is hastening his work by the amount of Missionaries serving all over the world.  I'm thankful to be part of this great work.  I know the Church is true and I'm so thankful to be a part of it.  I know there is a true Prophet of God on the earth today.  Why wouldn't Heavenly Father have a Prophet for us today?  I'm excited for General Conference which is coming up in a couple of weeks.  I love listening to the words of the Apostles and Prophet and all the other leaders of the Church.  I am currently reading the Book of Mormon for the 2nd time.  I know it is the Word of God and really feel the power and the spirit of this great book.  It has the fullness of the Gospel in it.  I'm thankful for all my family who support us on this Mission. We couldn't do it without them.  I love all of them very much.  I'm posting late pictures and will post more pictures as I get them.
Sweet sister recently baptized

Elder Gubler & Elder Hall

Elder Westra & Elder Alpeter

Local members

Elder Northrup & Elder Reise

Local members

Darling girls

Elder Bechan

Elder Jones

Local members

Beautiful family
Senior's Conference

Senior Conference

Senior Conference