We have frozen this blog as a historical, yet informational view at what life is like in the West Indies Mission for all those called to serve. This blog was designed for the families and friends of those missionaries serving in the West Indies Mission from July 2006 to July 2009. Every six weeks, photos taken at zone conference as well as a new slide show including every person baptized were posted on the blog. All of the slide shows are also available on our You Tube channel. The current West Indies Mission blog can be found here. Posts on our missionary experience can be found here and earlier. And finally, if you are a returned missionary who served in the West Indies, there is a current blog for you. Click here or visit westindiesrm@blogspot.com

Monday, March 30, 2009

Success Stories - March 23

Here's the latest Success Stories (a little late)

Elder Damm - Trinidad
The gospel really changes peoples lives. We were teaching a man who had a scruffy beard and had lost faith in Christ. He just wasn't put together. Well Sunday morning came around and he was dressed nice, clean shaven and told us he really felt a difference and was gaining his faith back in Christ.

Elder Findlay – Guyana
Well this last saturday I got the privalage of seeing the other half of a family enter into the waters of baptism. It was so good to see a full family that had entered into that covenant with our heavenly father. I know that there are more prepared families out their like ***'s family. It was strengthening to me to here the mother of the family say how grateful she was to have her whole family baptized into the true church of Jesus Christ. The work is moving forward at a rapid pace. I know that if we are diligent seekers of those who are looking for the truth that we will cross paths and rejoice in this glorious gospel.

Elder Riding - Suriname
There is a lady that lives near the church, that has never been too kind to us, and also the other missionaries that have been in this area, but she was taught a long time ago. Don't know what went wrong, but she came to church all of a sudden and couldn't meet with us after, but we're going there tonight. That was sweet and we just never know how the Lord will prepare his people to hear the Gospel and I'm excited. Her name is Graciela.

Elder Barker – Guyana
this last fast saturday we fasted for our investigator family, 888 and her family, that her husbad would come home and that they could get married, well we went over there yesterday (sunday) and our prayers were answered, they informed us that he is coming home today(monday) it also ends up that one of the daughters also prayed that he would come home. it is amazing what fasting and prayer does.

Elder Nielsen – Trinidad
The other day Elder Palmer and I were tracting around an area that was full of Hindus. We'd been hittin it hard for hours with pretty much nothin to show for it, but we tried one more home. Can you guess what we found there? More Hindus haha, but they referred us next door to a Christian home. There we met 888, a 19 year old girl who was prepared beyond belief! She read 150 pages of the BOM and then fasted and prayed (something she learned in Relief Society) to see if she should be baptized. The answer came, and she is going to be baptized this Saturday, only 11 days since we met. There are prepared people out there.. . . You cant catch fish without your line in the water :]

Elder Young – Trinidad
bro. 888, the head of one of the families we are teaching is the highlight of the week. we are reading with he and his wife, or rather they are reading together and we are following up and discussing what they read every day. he is already to 2nd nephi after beginning the book at the beginning of the week. he is recognizing the power in the book and it is laying a strong foundation for his testimony, he is sharing that excitement with his wife and helping her to find that same joy. my testimony of the book grows as i share in his excitement and hunger for learning from its pages.

Elder Parrish – Crabwood Creek, Guyana
The sister of a member here in crabwood came from orialla to stay for a week. This sister from orialla is amazing, her daughter was baptized here in crabwood about 4 months ago, she went back to orialla and converted her whole family. The mother demanded to be baptized. However she needs to be married, so she is going back this week to get her husband and come back to be married, and then she wants her whole family to be baptized. She has read the book of mormon, and knows its true. We sent her with a box of tracts, and copies of the book of mormon, and gospel principles books. She said she will give out all the materials so the church can start in that part of Guyana. Who knows what the result will be?!

Elder Jones (Benjamin) – Trinidad
This whole week we have been praying to find some really good new investigators. Well, the Lord answer's prayers. On Saturday evening we were tracting and both Elder Guy and myself thought to go up this one road, and then up this long set of stairs, and then even further up the hill. Eventually we wound our way around the top of this hill until we see this man sitting on the ground with about 4 children around him flying paper airplanes. His name was *** and we taught him and his wife the restoration with the spirit really strong. When, towards the end of the lesson, they learned that families can be together forever they got really excited because they were always taught that after death you won't know/remember your family. They committed to come to church the very next morning to learn more- they are definetly a prepared family.

Elder Huntsman – Tobago
This Sunday as we were about to start a man walked in I didn’t recognize. Elder Barton talked to him and they sat down. I was able to talk to him and get his full story after. He was contacted on the street about 4 months ago and that Sunday he decided to show up to church. This was a great testimony builder about contacts. Often times I think if nothing else I am getting my contacts because we have been commanded to do so, but what I realized is that sometimes people promise to come that week, then don’t, still may come later, when that are more prepared. Thanks Elder Marshall for contacting!

Elder Scott – Guyana
so this week we had ***'s baptizm and another investigator of ours we'll call her "betty" was at the baptism. she had fulfilled all the requirements for baptism but just felt like she couldnt do it. she saw the baptism...and felt the spirit so strongly that she had to get baptized too. we got her interviewed and long story short she was baptized! dont you just love happy endings? getting investigators to baptisms is such a great way to help them along.

Elder Olsen – Guyana
The Thirst Park Elders gave us a referral the other day for a man who was moderately interested. He had a nice family and seemed alright, but he was a "Try-er". You know the type- "I'll try, but I'm not making any promises now buddy." Well, he came to church and LOVED IT. He asked me during Gospel Principles how he could be saved and I shared about the gospel. After church he said that our church had filled in an empty space that he had inside of him for his whole life. He quoted preach my gospel in a Guyanese way. I am so excited for his family!

Elder Koenen - Suriname
we are the light of the world. we had this miracle. we were biking to a random place and this man across the street said, hey friend help me with my bike, i have flat tires!. i thought , o boy. for a second i thought to say we were busy but i decided to turn around and help the man. i helped him with the tires and inflated them with my bike pump. i never saw there was this man right by us. He sad in a busstop and started to talk to us and asked if the church from us was still in the same place it used to be. that was more then 10 years ago he used to visit it. not he had a great problem. he lost all he had because of drugs. he said his life was dark and it was time for a change. The spirit was so strong when this man started to talk he allmost gave up on life and started to believe there was no more love in the world. He said when he saw us turn around to help this random man on the streets he saw the love of Christ. He had to think of Christ leaving the flock to rescue on lost sheep. He explained his life and that the entire week people told him to change his life and now he knew what he had to do when we explained him about church and the gospel that will heal his soul. We found this man because of service and living the way we need to show we follow Christ. It was a very special experience and we will keep praying for opportunities to help others and find those prepared who wait for us out there!

Elder Holtz – Suriname
So every Monday we play soccer with a lot of kids from the city and last week Elder Pence (somehow) got the address from one of the kids and set up an appointment while we were playing. Went to the appointment and shared a quick lesson with him and told him we'd come back Sunday morning before church to pick them up. Turns out we showed up on Sunday morning and ask them if they wanted to go to church and the answer was anything but what we wanted to hear. Anyways we left to got to church and set things up and about 3 minutes before church starts one of the kids from the house walks into church with his KJV Bible and a Book of Mormon! He said the Book of Mormon is from his mom and we've got a return appointment to go back this week!

Elder Kinghorn – Suriname
One of our recent converts, ***, has had some really bad family problems in the past couple weeks. However, on Sunday, she was the first person waiting outside for church. As soon as the other members got there, we couldn't even talk to her. They were all talking and laughing with her. It was amazing to see. The church has become her second family. And its a place where she feels loved and welcome. That's the true church of Jesus Christ!

Elder White – Trinidad
Late a few nights ago, we were left with not too much to do, so we
decided to visit an appointment that fell through earlier in the day,
and talk to everyone on the way. we ended up walking with most of the
people, and they were all going the same way. We overshot the street
we were going to turn down and kept on talking with people walking the
wrong way. Then we met ***, a soldier who we spoke with who
recieved the message quite well. We taught him a restoration lesson in
front of his house by a busy road because his wife was putting the
children to sleep, but the Lord took that road a cleared it for us and
the spirit was very strong. At the end of the lesson, I testified--
"the Holy Ghost has told me here tonight that this message is true by
the feeling in my heart"-- *** said that he could tell the message
was true and promised to pray to ask the lord to tell him that this
message was true. The Lord does really put people in our path.

Elder Romney – Guyana
prayers do get answered. the elders quorum presidents niece came to live with them for the next few years and she just loves the gospel. missionaries tried to baptize her before but right before the baptism her mom called from the interior and said she can't get baptized so i guess she just wasn't ready yet. so as we were there for a Family Home Evening we challenged her to pray about getting baptized. She got an answer to her prayer! that night she prayed for a sign that she should get baptized and that night she had a dream...in this dream everyone at church was going to heaven but her cause she wasn't baptized, so she started begging her uncle to baptize her and he said it was too late. but then right before she woke up she heard a voice that said its never too late! ITS NEVER TOO LATE! she woke up and called her mom and got permission! elders its never too late!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Guyana - Excerpts from a Letter

Elder and Sister Hymas are a senior missionary couple who started their mission about six months ago in St Lucia. They were just transferred to Guyana this month so that Elder Hymas could serve as a counselor in the mission presidency with the special assignment to help prepare the Georgetown, Guyana District to become a stake.

They sent an email to family and friends today describing their experience and gave me permission to share a few excerpts.

What we knew about Guyana, was that is was like being on an extended camp out. That there were snakes, little alligators, heat, humidity, lots of cement, cheep stuff, brown dirty trenches, boils, bugs, dead dogs and ohh so much more. We were told not to judge it until after our first week or two here. So I am here to give you the report....

While it is true that all the above is here, the positives far outweigh the negatives. We were told that the people here are terrific. I didn't think they could be as good as my lucian friends, but I think the saints here can hold their own in my heart. We have been warmly greeted every where we have gone. There are about 8ish branches close to us and about 6 or 7 a two hour drive from us. We have been able to meet 6 of the other couples, that work so hard to serve in their different capacities. We have been a part of calling a new district presidency (like a stake presidency) made up of all powerful, young, local returned missionaries. One of whom is married with a baby. That in and of itself is history in the making. They are great....

I am here to say that while it is true that there are snakes, alligators, bats, bugs, boils, a brown ocean, dirty mud trenches, lots of busy city, poverty, theiving, burgler bars on all doors and windows, strange music... that the lines for a drivers licence and anything else are hours long, that the air conditioning in the car doesn't work, the shopping limited and ineffecient, that we share the road with dogs, horses, donkeys, horse driven carts, cows, smoking trucks, and crazy honking drivers, That the only fast food places are all fried chicken places, that our large spacious home is sterile and colorless, that we have been warned to either give the police a bribe when pulled over or face the stinky lock up jail for 48 hours, that the missionaries are all attempting to be here legally, that my oven both burns and leaves raw the brownies at the same time, that I have to hand filter the water for each cycle of my clothes washing, and with all the other little challenges of daily life, We are glad to be here.

We are so glad to be a part of the growth and development of the church here. We are thrilled to sit in a 6x6 living room singing songs to children at their request, while their mom is interviewed for baptism. We are thrilled to see that the members here know the hymns of the church without a CD player or piano. We are thrilled to see men of the priesthood biking to their meetings, 10 miles away with their ties flapping in the wind. We are thrilled to see the priesthood of God in action as deacons pass the sacrament. We are thrilled to hear the primary songs ring out the windows onto the loud and hopeless streets. We are thrilled to see the saints walk, bike, taxi or bus to church in an attempt to worship our Heavenly Father and be edified by His gospel. We are learning to appreciate sitting in a building where you can see the dirt on the ground through the wood slats of the floor, with open windows and chipping paint. We are thrilled to share our growing testimony that this work will roll forth and change the lives of so many humble and prepared people. There is no greater joy. Our perspective is forever changed. Our love for the sacrifices of those who have gone before us is forever deepened. Our love of the gospel is more complete. This is an amazing church to be apart of. The Lord surely does have his hand in His church. Like a mighty army moves the church of God.

Here are some pictures of Elder and Sister Hymas's Guyana experience (so far)

(new District Presidency)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

New Georgetown Guyana District Presidency

On Thurday, March 19th a new District Presidency was called for the Georgetown Guyana District.

President Barrow has served tirelessly for the past six years as either a district president or counselor in the mission presidency. Prior to that he had only been a member of the church for three years.

The new presidency will build upon this great foundation as together they prepare Georgetown, Guyana to qualify for a stake later this year.

Here they are

Left to Right: President Yohann Pooran, First Counselor; President Colin Goodluck, District President; and President Dellon Murray, Second Counselor.

Yes they look young

They are!

But they are all returned missionaries - a first in a West Indies district presidency

President Goodluck, served in the West Indies as a missionary. He is married, has completed college, and he and his wife have one child
President Pooran also served in the West Indies, but with us until the mission was divided and he finished in the Puerto Rico, San Juan East Mission.
President Murray served in the Jamaica Mission, also in the Caribbean Area.

The presidency along with Brother Cardon McKenzie, the executive secretary, and also a returned Missionary from the West Indies, gathered for training with President Robison and President Hymas (counselor in the mission presidency living in Guyana)

Of course, behind every good man is an even better woman

Here is President Goodluck's beautiful wife and son. Sister Goodluck is from St. Lucia.

Trinidad Zone Conference - March 27

We already had a great Trinidad zone conference at the end of February with Elder Neil L. Andersen.

As we were finishing our tour of the mission, we decided to pull the Trinidad missionaries together one more time so they could participate in the discussion topics we shared with the rest of the missionaries. So - they actually got two zone conferences this tour - one with a general authority and one hearing from us (President Robison, the assistants, and myself)

It was an excellent conference and the elders were wonderfully involved in the discussion.

President Robison told some of his fun Church history stories

The elders loved it

Also - March 27th just happened to be the birthday of three people present - Sister Myers, Elder Barton, and President Robison

Of course we sang

Ate a very Caribbean cake


and Subway sandwiches

And shared birthday wishes

It was a wonderful day

Happy Birthday - President!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Island Zone Conference - March 26

We flew from St Martin to St Lucia yesterday (the famous Piton mountains are at the far right)

President Robison interviewed all the island missionaries last night

This morning we had zone conference (actually most of the day - from 8:30 to 1:30)

Tonight we fly back to Trinidad.

So - relaxing on the gorgeous beaches of St Lucia is (unfortunately) not part of the program

But I did get to peak at one this morning out my window

However, we enjoyed an even more glorious sight - the missionaries of the islands

Here they are island by island


Elders Macintosh and Tycksen, Elder and Sister Wood (who finish their mission next month), Elders Owens and Youngyen

St Vincent

Elders Muse, Fox, Sarager and Biver (the Hattons could not make it)

St Lucia

Elder and Sister Collings (newly arrived from Trinidad), Elders Fox, Garrett, Proctor, and West, Elder and Sister Faux (brand new) and (in front) Elders Rosales and Nestegard

Elder and Sister Faux will do a wonderful work in Vieux Fort St Lucia

We had two St Lucian prospective missionaries with us

Janiel (Lily) Aimable (baptized last November) and Davey Goddard (baptized about a month ago on Valentines day)

After I took that picture, they said - "We need one with OUR missionaries!"

We had fabulous musical number by Elders Youngyen, Young and Biver

We finished with a nice lunch after (I forgot to take pictures)

The missionaries are healthy and happy and working hard!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

St Martin Zone Conference - March 24

We had one last zone conference in St Martin (we think).

Generally the St Martin elders fly to Guadeloupe or St Lucia for conference. But, because there are four 'displaced' elders from Guadeloupe temporarily serving in St Martin, we flew there for a conference. It was fun to have a largish gathering there.

Here's the group

and here they are - companionship by companionship

Elders Larson and Neff

Elders Catherine and Julian

Elders Gray (who finishes his mission on April 1st!) and Maihota

Elders Anihia and Vogel

We can't forget the couples!

The Collings (left) were with us, stopping for a few days in St Martin on their way from Guyana to return to Guadeloupe; and the Olivers (right) are serving in St Martin

We have been traveling with Dr Millet (area doctor) and Sister Millet. They are a wonderful couple called to serve in the Dominican Republic for 18 months. Dr Millet will tour the mission once per year to check on missionary health. He says they are remarkably healthy young men!

The conference was wonderful!

President told some 'legendary' missionary stories from church history. Elder Julian helped him out by reading a particularly fun part spoken with a Welsh accent

Elders Neff, Gray and Catherine, accompanied by very accomplished Sister Oliver, sang one of my favorite hymns (in French) - "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"

After the conference we all dug into a yummy taco salad lunch (organized by the Olivers)

And then the elders shared some of their pictures with me. That's how I get such wonderful images for the slideshows. I have an amazing collection!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

First District Created in French Guiana

On Monday, March 9, 2009, the first district in the history of the country of French Guiana was created. There are over 250 members who live in French Guiana and currently it has three branches: Cayenne, Matoury, and Kourou.

Pictured here are (from left to right) President Robison, Andre Litampha, first counselor Jean Magny, and the President of the Cayenne Branch, Dabreau Guy.

On hand to witness the historic event were the elders in the French Guiana District: Elders Silvester, Taerea, Pahio, Lines, Tevero, Kempenaars. Formerly, the French Guiana District was part of the Guadeloupe District which includes two branches in St. Maarten, two branches in Martinique in addition to the branches in Guadeloupe.

Many parents of the missionaries do not hear much about this country which lies the furthest away of our South American countries in the mission. Here is a brief summary that I found online about its history:

"French Guiana was discovered by the Spanish in 1496, who established a few settlements in 1503 and 1504. The French first moved in a century later. Under the 1667 Treaty of Breda, the Dutch, who had also shown an interest in the area, were forced out. Numerous changes in control followed over the next 200 years, alternating between France, Britain, the Netherlands and Portugal, until the territory was finally confirmed as French in 1817. The colony enjoyed a brief period of prosperity in the 1850s when gold was discovered, but afterwards went into a decline from which it has never fully recovered.

French Guiana was finally given French Overseas Department status in 1946, under which the territory effectively became an integral part of the French nation. However, the territory was largely neglected by Paris and continued to deteriorate until civil unrest broke out in the 1970s. After a security crackdown, the central government promised various improvements. These failed to materialize until the Mitterrand presidency, under which a series of reforms was introduced in 1982-83. Some decentralization also took place: local affairs are now dealt with by the Regional Council.

The President of the Regional Council since March 1992, Antoine Karam, is French Guiana’s single representative in the French Senate. Karam is a member of the Parti Socialiste Guyanais (PSG), which has long been the strongest political party and is allied to its French namesake. The Socialists’ principal rivals are the Forces Démocratiques Guyanaises (FDG). The PSG is the largest party on the Regional Council following the most recent election in March 1998 but, lacking an overall majority, relies on the support of other left-wing parties. A new non-aligned party, the Walwaries, has made something of an impact on French Guianese politics in recent years; the Gaullist Rassemblement pour la République (RPR) also has a small presence.

The political complexion of the territory was last tested at the 2002 French presidential election, where Jacques Chirac won a handsome majority (see France section). The domestic political agenda has been generally dominated by peated complaints over the territory’s relatively poor social and economic conditions compared to those in France. The alternatives to being an integral part of the French state are self-government and independence. However, enthusiasm for either is lacking and the small independence movement has made little headway in recent years. Paris has also made it clear that it will not countenance any change in French Guiana’s status for the time being."

French Guiana is home to six missionaries. We do not have a couple serving there, although we would like one. To come to zone conference, these six have the greatest adventure every six weeks of all the missionaries. They generally leave after Church on Sunday and pile into the van which is owned by the mission. They travel from Cayenne to Kourou to gather the remaining two elders and then have a two hour trip to the border with Suriname. There they leave the van and board a motorized canoe, that often leaks, and take a one-half hour ride across the river at St. Laurent du Maroni in order to enter Suriname. (Ever wonder where the name Maroni came from?) After entering Suriname, the elders then take a taxi for another two hour ride into Paramaribo where they stay with Suriname elders overnight in anticipation of the zone conference the next day.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Georgetown and Diamond Guyana Zone Conference - March 20

We completed our South American tour yesterday with a zone conference in LaGrange, Guyana.

It was another great experience with excellent missionaries

Here they are!

Georgetown Zone

Diamond Zone

Here's a closer look, district by district (slightly expanded because of the displaced French elders who will be returning to Guadeloupe and Martinique on April 1st)

Elders Moses, Bowens, Averett, Weiderhold

Elders Bryan, Romney, Mulder, Marshall, Green, Mecham

Elders Ficklin, Olsen, Worthington, Gilley

Elders Tupou, Williamson, Fillerup, Jones (French), Ison (French), Kelly (French)

Elders Fisher, Chambers, Barker, Sookram, Brenkmann, Snow (French)

Elders Ali, Carlson (French), Harris, Findlay, Daines, Moala

Elders Falatau and Vaea

One of the best things that is happening in the West Indies is a rapid increase in local missionaries serving missions or preparing to serve. They will bring incredible strength to the church in the next few years.

It is interesting that a new district presidency was called for Georgetown Guyana this week and they are all returned missionaries who served in the Caribbean (I will post their names and pictures soon).

So here are four missionaries from the West Indies serving in Guyana

Elders Bowens (St Vincent), Moses (Guyana), Ali (Trinidad), and Sookram (Trinidad)

And here are three wonderful prospective missionaries

Gavindra Sookoo, Francelene Stephen, and Chris Sustin (not sure I got his last name correct)

Another great plus for the West Indies Mission is the service of many tremendous senior missionary couples.

Here is the Georgetown/Diamond group

Elder and Sister: Evans (proselyting), Hymas (newly transferred to Guyana so that Elder Hymas can serve as a counselor in the mission presidencey), Handly (family history), Whitehead (humanitarian), and Collings (proselyting - here temporarily from the French side) - plus the Langfords (not pictured) serve as CES missionaries

As always, there was a little food and fun after the conference

Musical Elder Olsen and friends