Friday, December 28, 2012

The Hastening in Happening

Dec. 28, 2012

THE HASTENING IS HAPPENING                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     December 2012 MONTHLY MISSION UPDATE from Elder and Sister Beecher

We were checking out some schools and universities when Brother Chowdhury, Dean, of GreenHeart Medical University came up to us and introduced himself.  He lives in Maryland, grew up in Germany, was a missionary under Jon Huntsman, Sr.  and is a medical doctor.  He was born in India. He invited us to a dinner to be held the next evening at the Coastal Inn for their Christmas Party.  It was a fancy event with a group of doctors and instructors at the University of Guyana, GreenHeart Medical University, Rajiv Gandhi University of Science and Technology, and maybe American University of Peace Studies. We were seated next to the son of the Ambassador from India and his wife Neha (which means love) and on the other side an anesthesiologist, who teaches part-time at GreenHeart.  I was asked to say the blessing on the food.  Brother Chowdhury is most anxious to help with the missionary effort  in Guyana and he has many ideas and connections. He left the next morning at 4:00 a.m. after the dinner to travel to India where he is hoping to raise a million plus dollars to build on to the medical school and purchase a C-scan machine and MRI equipment.  He comes back to Guyana often and wants to further the Work, especially amongst those who are educated, want to be educated, and are leaders/future leaders.                                                                                                                                                         We left the dinner promising the MathTeacher (I think at the University of Guyana and Greenheart Medical University) a Book of Mormon, who asked to read it. I thought I had one in the car, but had left them at home.  The Personal Assistant to Brother Chowdhury told me at least 3 times that he wants to talk (I am pretty sure it is regarding religion). He was willing to open the computer lab so that the Elders could skype on Christmas Day/Christmas Eve Day or both. The ambassador’s son and wife asked for our telephone numbers and put them in their phones.  She called us as soon as we got home and wanted to make sure that we had her telephone number. All in all, there were several impressive people in attendance who are already highly educated, skilled, and leaders.  I was so impressed with how gracious and how they knew how to get things done.  I feel that this is a group of people who can really make a difference and are accustomed to doing so.
It is now a week later and today Elder Beutler and I dropped a Book of Mormon off to the Greenheart Medical School  for the math teacher and while we were there we met another member of the Church that we did not know worked at Greenheart Medical University. Her boss, Mrs. Abdool, agreed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon.  She is a lovely gracious lady whose husband is in charge of security for the President of Guyana. She has been involved in charity/service work for many years.  She was the hostess at the big dinner.  Elder Beutler challenged her to baptism.  She is certainly a capable, lovely lady.  After that Elder Beutler and I went to the other Greenheart campus and met with Doctor Tom Yesudas.  He is the Personal Assistant to Brother Chowdhury.  He is most eager to read the Book of Mormon.  He admires a member of the Church, Brother Barrows, whose place Tom took at Greenheart Medical.  He is coming on Monday for dinner and wants to discuss the Church and the Book of Mormon.  He is inviting us to India.  He will write the letters necessary to get us visas so that we can preach.  I asked him, “Where would we preach?”  He replied that we would preach in his home, in his father’s home, and some other place.  He is serious about this.  He said that he is going back home for three or four months and he has a ticket in June, but he could change it to leave in July if that was better.  He said that August was a good time to visit India.  Sister Beecher describes him as “radiating” and he does have a grin from ear to ear.  He knew that the Church was restricted from door-to-door preaching in India.  He is almost insistent that we go to India.  We told him that maybe we could arrange for someone to preach in India.  He has connections with the Ambassador to Guyana from India. When we told him that we were committed to stay in Guyana he wanted the dates of when we would be available. He said that he would arrange to go back to India when we were available. We asked if he were wealthy or came from a wealthy family.  He said that he was rich in God’s blessings and that he was neither rich nor poor in monetary means. He was willing to come late to our meeting on Sunday after his three hour block of meetings that start at 7:30 a.m.
And then there is sweet Chaplain Khublall, who has a congregation of 80 to 120 in attendance to his three-hour block of meetings on Sundays.  The Cooks, the Humanitarian Missionaries who now live in Suriname, have worked with him on a project that he is working on to remodel a building to be used as a school for nursing. Humanitarian missionaries are not allowed to preach the gospel, but they certainly planted a fruitful seed.  He called and asked if he could go with us to a friend to take her a Book of Mormon.  So before 9:00 Elder Beutler and I were on our way to pick him up. He got in the car and started quoting Book of Mormon scriptures to us.  He really enjoys Alma , chapter 5.  When we got to the place where the lady works, we found that she is the Secretary for the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph.  She was giving orders right and left.  She is used to making decisions.  She had spent Christmas day discussing the Bible with her sister.  Mr. Khublall presented the Book of Mormon to her stating that the Book of Mormon is an inspired book.  She was too busy to talk. People were coming in and out of her office and she was needing to take phone calls.  She acted excited to read the Book of Mormon and the pamphlets.  Back in the car I asked Mr. Khublall what his motive was to give a Book of Mormon to his friend.  I asked was she a member of his congregation. “She is a friend that enjoys the scriptures and I have my personal reasons for wanting to share the Book of Mormon.”  Mr. Khublall invited us to come in when we got to his property.  He built a small house on the back of his property and a large room with a large covered area on the side for his church.  Inside he built benches facing a blackboard where the words to a Christmas hymn were written.  He also has a library which includes several bibles, religious books, and tubs filled with crayons. They have activities for the young children. The property was mostly cemented in, but had grow boxes along the sides for his garden.  It was very tidy.  His wife, daughter, and several young children listened from the second story balcony of their home to our discussion and prayer. The young children are his parishioners’ children that they care for while their mother is working.  Khublall’s live in a dangerous area known for murders, knifings, prostitution and mostly for drugs and related crimes such as robbery.  It is exciting to share the Gospel and we are looking forward to  more interaction with these wonderful people.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas in Guyana

The main activity in Guyana is cleaning your house or business and yard in preparation for Christmas.  If you have enough money you can remodel and paint. Some people started in October getting ready for Christmas.  I have heard that people move all their furniture to one side of the room and cover it with sheets.  Then they clean everything.  On Christmas they take off the sheets and rearrange the furniture. They like to hang new curtains. They do decorate their houses and many people put up Christmas trees.  They prepare pepper pot, meat cooked in cassava syrup, and black cake, a fruit cake with liquor in it.  Then of course their favorites, roti, a tortilla type bread only thicker and greasier, cook up rice (rice cooked in coconut milk with vegetables in it), chicken curry, egg balls (a boiled egg with mashed cassava around it and fried), and fried chicken.  At the branch Christmas party they served fried rice, macaroni and cheese, and potato salad - heavy on the carbs.
Driving in Georgetown is even crazier than normal.  There are so many people in the streets shopping.  It is the rainy season now, so many trees, bushes, and plants are blooming.  There are so many different colors, red, pink, peach, orange, yellow, white, purple.  They are beautiful.  
Here are some pictures of the market place in Vreed en Hoop.  It was pretty slow going driving through the crowds.
At the branch Christmas parties they have talent shows.  The people get excited about it and have a great time.
The market place in Vreed en Hoop

Close quarters.

Vreed-en-Hoop Market

Lots of traffic on this main road.

Lots of people

Christmas Eve Day with the Elders

Dec. 24, 2012  Christmas Eve Day with the Elders

Elder Rollins, Elder Giddings, Elder Juchau, Elder Mackenezie, Elder Anderson, Elder  Andreamanantena, Elder McClain,
Elder Wilson, Elder Nedd, Elder Mecham, Elder Beecher, and Elder Beutler

Beutlers, Summers, and Beechers
Sister Beutler, Sister Summers, and myself prepared ham and funeral potatoes, rolls, corn, bora, and pineapple and watermelon for the elders for their Christmas dinner.  Then we had cookies and pumpkin bread for dessert.  We had a great time.  The main event was the tie trade.  Elder Rollins had about 60 ties and he knew the lineage of each one.(He has been here the longest.)  The ties had been traded and passed around and shared.  After dinner we played the left right game, and the Elders sang, "The Twelve Days of Christmas", Guyanese style.  Then they watched "Jingle Bells".  We decided to go home and the Summers came and we watched "It's a Wonderful Life".  It was a fun day.

Trip to Suriname

Dec. 6, 2012  Trip to Suriname,

We drove through Berbice, clear to Corriverton and Cherry Creek, then ended up on a narrow road which led to the Guyana/Suriname Ferry Service.

The walls of the office where we checked in were covered with quotes.

After going through customs and waiting, Katie and the elders had to walk across the ramp that led to the ferry. The ramp at the end lifts up so that it will be on top of the boat. 

We sat on these benches on the ferry and filled out our immigration papers during the 45 minute ride.

Elder Palmer, Elder Salima, and Elder Juchau

The ramp just folds up so you can drive on the ferry.

Nice flat straight road in Suriname.

Elder Palmer and Elder Juchau under the Guyana flag
with Wim the monkey at the Guyana Consulate.

In the Corriverton area there are many big tractors.  They plant
rice and sugar cane there.  There are also some nice homes.

Every three months all the
missionaries have to take a trip to Suriname to renew our visas so that we can be in Guyana legally.  Elder Beecher and I went a few weeks early because Elder Salima from Samoa needed to go before we did.  We took Elder Palmer, Elder Juchau and Elder Salima.  First we went to the Suriname Embassy in Georgetown and filled out forms and paid $100 each for Elder and myself and we have a visa to go to Suriname for the next five years.  The Elders paid less for a shorter amount of time.  Then we left at 6:15 in the morning because we had a three and one half hour drive to Berbice and all the way past Corriverton to catch the ferry and cross the River to Suriname.  We had to pay for the car and for each person to ride the ferry.  It took about 45 minutes to go across.  Then we drove for a half hour in Suriname to Nickerie.  We were so impressed when we got to Suriname.  It was clean.  The road was flat and straight with lines on it.  There was very little traffic and people stayed in their own lanes.  Wow!  It was like a breath of fresh air.  We found our hotel, and Called President Emmanuelson, the  Nickerie Branch President.  He said that he would be there in 10 minutes and he was there in five.  He took the Elders out to visit people and to his home.  Then they walked back to the hotel.  President Emmanuelson came back and took us all to the church.  He showed us the church which was well stocked and nice, and then we had a meeting and sang songs for 20 minutes or so until it was time for the Elders to be in for the night.  Pres. Emmanuelson has a branch full of inactive members.  He was so happy to see us.  He showed us pictures of the branch members and pointing to each one said they were either inactive or dead.  The Elders compared him to Moroni when his people wanted him to lead the army, but they were all wicked.  The next morning we worked on getting Elder Salima's visa.  Because he is from Samoa it is a challenge for him to get a visa.  We paid for a 6 month one, but at customs after the ferry boat ride back they just stamped it for three.  Then we drove back home.  After two days and about $350 dollars we are all legal for three more months!  It didn't take very long before Elder Beutler decided that in the future we should just ride the ferry over and come back on the return ferry.  This saved a bunch of money and time.

December 17, 2012 Elder Barstow and Brother Mingo

Yesterday a fine young elder, Elder Barstow, went to the airport to report to President Mehr before flying home.  Every time I was around Elder Barstow I became more and more impressed. He had a difficult assignment, which he fulfilled admirably.  He had served in that area once before with good success.  He was able to make suggestions without taking over the situation.  He was assigned a fun-loving young Guyanese, who was helping out serving a mini mission.  Brother Mingo would say to us, "Hi, Mom and Hi, Dad."  One time, when he first said that to Sister Beecher, she replied that she would like to adopt him.  We then worried for a couple of weeks that he was taking her statement literally.  He seemed to be more and more attentive.  Then Sister Beecher heard him call another sister, "Mom" so we knew that he would not be crushed that we were not adopting him.  Brother Mingo was barely able to read.  Elder Barstow would help him read the Book of Mormon everyday.  The missionaries had the goal to read the Book of Mormon every three months.  THAT is an aggressive reading schedule unless you take a lot of time.  They finished reading the Book of Mormon yesterday, which was 4 days past the reading time schedule, but one day before the original targeted date.  President Mehr called on Elder Barstow in front of the group of all the Guyanese Missionaries to see if he was on schedule with the goal of reading the Book of Mormon.  This was done about 6 weeks ago at the mission zone conference.  Elder Barstow simplied replied that he was behind. President Mehr praised him for his honesty and went on. There were more of us in the audience that winced at the question and applauded the honest answer with a humble reaction.  President Mehr handled the situation well. I think he regretted calling on him. Sister Beecher and I believe that the reason that Elder Barstow was behind in his reading was because he was teaching Brother Mingo every day to read from the Book of Mormon. Did I mention that Brother Mingo was baptized last August? He went on a 6 day mini-mission a few days later and then has been on another mini-mission the last three months.  He has matured so much.  The changes are amazing.  I remember Brother Mingo sitting behind us in Church at General Conference and borrowing crayons from a little girl and coloring in her coloring book. He did so many immature things.  I remember saying, that Brother Mingo is a handful!"   Elder Barstow and Brother Mingo had two recent baptisms, a young man, and another convert, Roy from Canada, who was baptized by his brother-in-law.  Elder Barstow had tried and tried to get a hold of branch members including the branch presidents. He ended up typing up the program, filling the font, conducting the services, speaking, taking care of the wet clothes, cleaning the building, and I am sure other things.  Brother Mingo is too shy to speak or even give prayers. We ended up attending the baptism and helped with the music and a couple of other things. The other set of Elders did come and help with a talk, prayer and being official witnesses.  On Friday Elder Barstow and Brother Mingo went with us to visit some members. We had only driven on the main road so they helped show us where a couple of members lived. One family, living in incredible poverty had a dog that was drowning in the water surrounding their house.  Elder Barstow spotted the dog struggling in the water and got the father to rescue the dog. It was quite dramatic and a little traumatic.  The dog was unable to walk and lay on the bank, his back legs were broken and he fell or was thrown into the ditch.  The father, who is currently the Elder's Quorum President criticized us severely for not starting the meeting with a prayer.  He has not been to Church in over a month and said that there was a personal problem.  It seemed like he wanted to argue, more than anything.  Elder Barstow has spent a lot of time in that home and he tried to bring the conversation around to where we could feel the spirit. There was a feeling of hostility. Elder Barstow apologized for "losing it". He was referring to when the brother criticized us for not starting the meeting with a prayer. I said something about we were certainly distracted by the dog in the ditch. Elder Barstow said that we were not teaching a lesson.  Then the brother lit into Elder Barstow.  Elder Barstow simply said, "I never thought I would see the day when Brother __ would be saying ..."  We did end with a song and then he gave a a rather sweet prayer. Yesterday Elder Barstow spoke in two Sacrament meetings and he helped out in many ways during and after the meetings.  He was a great example of enduring to the end.
Sunday during the announcements, Branch President Bharat turned and looked at me as I was seated to his side and slightly behind him at the piano/organ. He thanked me "for bringing a little magic to their branch through the music."  The "thank you" should have been addressed to Sister Beecher.  It did bring a great deal of emotion and a few tears to hear that and especially from that branch president.  He has a tendency to be controlling.  He has had a hard year.  I don't know how long he and his wife saved to go to the temple, but shortly before they left they were robbed.  When they broke open their temple trip money jar there was just enough money for them to go.  He said it was worth everything to be able to go to the temple. He dedicates his time to the church, helping the members.  He is especially mindful of the youth and the young single adults.  He supports them so much.  He has a small canteen that is set up near a school and also sells things from his home. Some of the things they make to sell.  The Young Single Adults are definitely the strength in the branch.  The other day there was just one woman other than Katie in RS.  This woman's husband used to be a counselor in the district or something like that.  While he was out of town working she got a boyfriend, a member of the church, who moved in.  She and her husband were endowed members and he was unkind to her.  He was in his mid-thirties when they married and she was 17.  She would like to divorce her husband, get married to the boyfriend and get her life straightened out.  Many of the Guyanese have unmarried parents with children from different partners. There seems to be a re-occurring theme of not being able to be baptized because one or both have former spouses who will not give them a divorce, they can't find, or they cannot afford to divorce or get married. I am confident the Lord will figure everything out, I certainly can't. Two men that Elder Barstow was teaching wanted to get baptized.  The one is the husband of an active member with active beautiful children. He was refused baptism because he was not worthy.  The other man, whose sons are inactive and a Hindu wife, cannot get baptized because he had an affair a couple of years ago and he is afraid to tell his wife, who is unaware of his lapse of fidelity. 
It is now Tuesday evening. Elders Beecher and Beutler went to visit a man that has expressed interest in learning about the Church.  He is a construction superintendent remodeling a former Police Academy into a school that will teach nursing, among other courses.  He is also a preacher and has a congregation on Sundays.  He is reading the Book of Mormon and keeps making comparisons to the New Testament. He is a faithful man and humble.  He is on the city council and after the construction/remodeling is done he is going to donate the building and land to the community.  When asked how he will know how he can ensure that the building will be used for the intended purpose, he said because of his position on the council that it will be used properly.  He asked that we pray at the end and wants to continue with talks. Later in the afternoon when Sister Beecher and I were picking up some printing.  A man came rushing towards us. He asked that we pray for him.  His brother recently died and it has really set him to contemplating his life and he knows that he needs to make some changes.  He is looking for religion.  Please pray for Kerry. He mentioned his wife and then his other wife that was in the front seat of his car.  He has so much love that he wants to share it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Trip to Linden to train Troy and Shondel and stay with the Summers

Dec. 4 & 5
Linden is south of Georgetown, out in the country.  When you
get to Linden a dirt road continues to Brazil.
It is about a two hour drive to Linden.  You drive along the Demerara River.  There are fruit stands along the way and we even stopped to buy some honey.  The pineapple is amazingly good.  We brought back four.  We like getting out of Georgetown and getting away from so many crazy drivers.

All the school children wear uniforms.  Every school has a
different kind and color.  The villages along the way have great
names.  There is Garden of Eden, Supply, Friendship, Good
Hope, etc. One of our favorites is McDoom.

This home is in Linden.  You can't see all the shiny mirrors in
the tile, but it is pretty fancy.                                                      

We  loved being in Linden with the Summers and staying in their home.  Went for a nice quiet walk in the morning and picked some "caleo" from a friend's garden and Sister Summers made us a spinach shake:)  It was delicious!
Troy and Shondell are planning to get married as soon as she can get a divorce from her past husband.  He has moved to an island somewhere.  She knows where he is but he doesn't want to give her a divorce.  Troy and Shondell are living the gospel and staying worthy of a temple marriage, but they are anxious to be married and start a family.  We really admire them for staying so strong.  They have plans to start a business.  They have a spot for a business and a lot for a home.  What a challenge.
On Dec. 4th we drove to Linden to train our Employment Specialists there.  We have two, Troy Fullington and his fiance, Shondell Dainty.  We went to the Summer's home.  Elder and Sister Summers are missionaries and Elder Summers in the branch president.  We spent all afternoon going through the Career Workshop with Troy and Shondell and then again the next morning.  We were so impressed with the wonderful material.  It is

so empowering.  We wish that our family members could take the course.  I think they can at an LDS Employment center.  We also met with two of our PEF girls and worked on the buck bead necklaces.  They, hopefully, are making the necklaces to pay off their loans.