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

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My new blog


I got kind of attached to regular blogging during my mission. I plan to add things occasionally to this blog - and will continue the country by country information. But every day I have ideas that I want to share that aren't really suited to a mission blog.

So - I just created a new blog called 'Journeyings'. It's about living happy - spirtually, physically, intellectually and socially.

I would love to continue my online 'friendships'. I know that nothing will ever be as sweet and exciting as sharing images of missionary sons at work - but I think this will be fun.

Here's a story. Yesterday my husband and I were running errands and a women came up to us and said, "Hi, I recognized you from the blog" and we had a nice chat. Fun, eh? I felt like a 'blogger celeb' (not really). But I loved connecting with a friend I had never seen before.

I actually used to blog a bit before my mission. I created Granny Tech - for women of a 'certain age' trying to get into computers and technology as well as Granny Macs - for a friend who got her first mac computer. But I didn't do much with those blogs during the mission. Granny tech did become a venue for answering senior missionary's tech questions - but it wasn't very organized.

So now I'm going to create a new version of Granny Tech and start the new Journeyings blog. We'll see what happens!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Country by Country - French West Indies

Or I should really say, "Les Antilles" ?

There are about thirty French speaking elders serving at any one time in the West Indies mission. The French speaking areas are:
  • St Martin (half of island)
  • Guadeloupe
  • Martinique
  • French Guiana (in South America)
There are usually more than enough French Elders to cover those areas, so sometimes the missionaries serve for a transfer or two in English-speaking areas.

There is also one French-speaking couple currently serving in Guadeloupe. The mission needs more - so if you know of a prospective French speaking senior couple, or any prospective couple for that matter, please email me at dfrweb@gmail.com (We are particularly anxious about replacing the one couple that is in Guadeloupe as we do not have anyone for their replacement.)

Here is some information on each area:

St Martin

  • Population of about 73,000
  • This island is divided roughly in half between France (northern half) and Netherlands (southern half); it is the smallest inhabited sea island divided between two nations. About half of the entire population lives on each half of the island.
  • The island is widely known for its hundreds of gourmet (and more moderately priced) restaurants on both sides of the island.
  • Sint Maarten, the Dutch side, is known for its festive nightlife, beaches, jewelry, exotic drinks and plentiful casinos, while Saint-Martin, the French side, is known more for its clothes, shopping (including outdoor markets), and rich French and Indian Caribbean cuisine.
  • French and Dutch are the official languages but English is widely spoken, especially on the Dutch side.

There are two LDS Church branches in St Martin:
  • Margot Branch - a small French speaking branch in a rented building in Marigot
  • Phillipsburg Branch - an English speaking branch in a church-built chapel in Cole Bay

Missionary Work:
As of June 2009 there were four young elders, two French speaking and two English speaking serving in St Martin plus a senior couple - the Olivers (in front)

Missionaries usually fly to Guadeloupe for zone conferences.


The Clair Dinane Family was baptized in Guadeloupe in 1980 and moved to St. Maarten on 1 December 1982. They held meetings with Utah natives Stirling and Mary Jane Wadley, until the Wadley’s returned to the United States and then the Dinanes held meetings by themselves or with other visiting American families. On 16 January 1984, Kenneth Zabriskie president of the West Indies Mission organized the St. Maarten Branch and called Clair Dinane as president. In 1984, Thad Ariens and Victor Quarty were the first missionaries to arrive. They taught in English on an island jointly administered between the Dutch and French governments.

Robert Salomons arrived on the Dutch side of the island on 14 April 1985 and was called as first counselor to Clair Dinane in May 1985. Later that year, the Salomons began holding meeting in Dutch with the help of missionaries that arrived on 11 August 1985.

The St. Maarten and Marigot branches were combined to form the Phillipsburg Branch in August 1992 with Arnold Blazek as president. Property was purchased for a chapel in January 1992. Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy visited on 7 January 2002 and met with members of the branch.

A glimpse of the West Indian joy of life on a beach close to the Marigot Chapel

A French side baptism in the sea

Painting the Phillipsburg Chapel

Here's some pictures with text from Sister Oliver


  • Population is about 406,000
  • This island is owned by France and is part of the European Union. It’s currency is the euro
  • French is the official language but many of the inhabitants speak Creole
  • Christopher Columbus is credited with discovering the pineapple on the island of Guadeloupe in 1493 during his 2nd voyage.
  • Tourism is its key industry
There are 6 LDS Church branches in Guadeloupe and about 400 members
  • Abymes (church-owned chapel)
  • Basse-Terre
  • Capesterre
  • Gosier
  • Lamentin
  • Moule

Missionary Work
As of June 2009 there were 14 elders serving in Guadeloupe and one senior couple - Elder and Sister Collings

Among the first converts in Guadeloupe was the Claire Dinane family. Dinane came into contact with the Church because of his duties as a customs officer where he met Latter-day Saints. His family soon moved, but a nucleus of members had joined the Church through contact with Dinane. The Guadeloupe Branch (a small congregation) was organized in June 1982, but was discontinued several months later due to the apostasy of a member of the Church.

In June 1984, West Indies Mission President Kenneth Zabriskie sent French-speaking missionaries to Guadeloupe who had been transferred from French-speaking missions in Europe. Through their efforts the Grande-Terre Branch was organized by Elder Ronald E. Poelman of the Seventy (one of the governing bodies of the Church) in August 1984. The branch was strengthened by Dusan Kolvic, a Yugoslavian refugee who learned of the Church in France, but was not baptized. Kolvic’s work as a policeman for the French government required a transfer to Guadeloupe, and one evening he was dispatched to arrest a drunkard who was attacking two missionaries. Kolvic later joined the Church and served as branch president from 1986 – 1988. Because of Guadeloupe’s connection to France, there have been several members from France who have lived on the island for a few years and brought valuable experience to the Church there.

In April 1998, West Indies Mission President Kenneth J. Mason dedicated the first chapel in Guadeloupe at Basse-Terre.


Happy elders in Guadeloupe

They know how to have fun on their preparation days

There is a font in Abymes but occasionally baptisms take place in the sea or in a waterfall pool

Gorgeous waterfalls everywhere

And blue blue sea


  • Population of about 402,000
  • This island is owned by France and is part of the European Union. Its currency is the euro.
  • French is the official language but many of the inhabitants speak Martini can Creole.
  • Martinique has an active volcano—Mount Pelee that last erupted in 1901.
  • Enjoys a higher standard of living than most other Caribbean islands.
  • Is mentioned in the Beach Boys hit "Kokomo" with the line "To Martinique, that Montserrat mystique"
There are 2 congregations on Martinique and nearly 200 members
  • Trinite (very small branch)
  • Fort de France
Missionary Work:
As of June 2009 there were four elders serving in Martinique. They fly to either St Lucia or Guadeloupe for zone conferences.

Andre Condoris, a young man baptized in France while serving in the military, returned to his homeland in August 1980 and was the first known convert from the country. In July 1983, West Indies Mission President Kenneth Zabriskie visited Andre Condoris and Joell Joseph-Agathe, who had also been baptized in France. The two members welcomed missionaries Mark Richards, Stan Jones, and David Simons in May 1984, and held the first meeting on May 6. One month later Elder Ronald E. Poelman of the Seventy (one of the governing bodies of the Church) visited and a few months later Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Seventy visited. The Martinique Branch (a small congregation) was organized in October 1985. The work has been slow in the country partly due to opportunities for members to immigrate to France.


Mt Pelee in the distance, where two elders were found after being lost for three days and three night

Rented building (upper floor) in Fort de France - I think this is changing soon or maybe has already changed

Upper floor of a house where the Trinite Branch meets

French Guiana

  • Population of about 222,000. As with Guyana and Suriname, the majority of the population lives along the coast.
  • French Guiana is a region owned by France and part of the European union (the largest member outside of Europe). Its currency is the euro. The official language is French
  • Fishing, mining and timber drive the economy
  • French Guiana has a large Haitian population (French is also spoken on Haiti)
There just over 300 members and three branches of the LDS Church in French Guiana:
  • Cayenne (Church-owned chapel)
  • Kourou
  • Matoury
Missionary Work:
As of June 2009 there were six elders serving in French Guiana. They travel all day by van, canoe and then taxi to join the Dutch speaking elders in Suriname for zone conferences.

Charles Fortin, a native of French Guiana, was baptized in France and returned to his homeland in 1980. Rosiette Fauvette, also baptized in France, returned to French Guiana in July 1981. She attended Sunday meetings at Fortin’s home in Cayenne. Charles Fortin introduced the Church to many people before his death in April 1986. By then, several other members were attending services, including Gerald Charpentier, who later became president of the first branch (a small congregation). Meetings were then held in the home of the Masinski family until January 1987 when they were moved to Rosiette Fauvette’s home in Kourou. In August 1987, the Francois Pratique family moved from France to Cayenne and began attending meetings.

Elder Charles Didier of the Seventy (one of the governing bodies of the Church) visited in March 1988 and organized a group. In November 1988, Serge and Christie Bonnoit of France became the first converts in French Guiana. In May 1989, the Kourou Branch was formed and in August, the Cayenne Branch was created with Francois Pratique as president.
In July 1989, the first missionary couple Wilbur and Jacqueline Wortham arrived in the country. They were followed in November 1989 by A. Edward and Louise P. Schmidt. The newly organized branch in Cayenne had about 23 members. On February 27, 1990, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve (the second highest governing body of the Church) blessed the land and with Elder Charles Didier visited branch members in both Cayenne and Kourou.

The Church has grown slowly in French Guiana due to members immigrating to France. A chapel was constructed in Cayenne and was dedicated in March 1999 by West Indies Mission president Kenneth J. Mason.


Cayenne Chapel

Kourou building

future missionaries ready for church

The elders take this canoe to reach zone conference in Suriname

There's a font in the Cayenne chapel but in other areas baptisms can take place in the sea

French Guiana elders serve in the furthest and most difficult to reach area of the mission - but they are tough enough to handle it and love the work!

Amazing wildlife

Sea turtle laying her eggs (with President Robison looking on)

A sloth!


Almost every West Indies missionary falls in love with Guyana.


Unspoiled beauty, adventure, rapid Church growth, sweet loving people - what more could a young (or senior) missionary want?

  • Known as the "land of many waters'
  • The only English speaking nation in South America
  • Bordered to the east by Suriname, to the south and southwest by Brazil, to the west by Venezuela, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The only state of the Commonwealth of Nations on mainland South America
  • Guyana has a population of about 86,000 where 90% of the population live on the narrow coastal strip.
  • The population comprises groups of persons with nationality backgrounds from India, Pakistan, Africa, China, Europe, along with several Aboriginal groups as the indigenous population.
  • Guyana is a major breeding area for sea turtles (mainly Leatherbacks).
  • It has one of the largest unspoiled rainforests in South America, some parts of which are almost inaccessible by humans. More than 80% of Guyana is covered by forests.
  • Agriculture is its main economic staple
  • English is the official language but Guyanese Creole is widely spoken
  • One quirk of Guyanese English, particularly in the lower classes, is the fact that English pronouns are almost completely interchangeable. E.g. "he" "I" "we" "she" "them" may well be used just about in any combination in a sentence. An example, “I said to the police, why are you bothering me?” would be said, "Me says to dah pleece, why them bodder with we?"
  • Guyana's culture is very similar to that of the English-speaking Caribbean islands, to the extent that Guyana is included and accepted as a Caribbean nation.

As of June 2009, there were two districts, fourteen branches and two groups. The Georgetown District is working on qualifying to become the second Stake in the West Indies Mission. It is very close.

Georgetown District branches (with date created):
  • Demerara (4Oct2004)
  • Diamond (16Dec2007)
  • Garden Park (28Nov1994)
  • Georgetown 1st (17Mar1989)
  • Georgetown 2nd (20Jul2003)
  • Parika (26Oct2008)
  • Patentia (11Jul1996)
  • Vreed en Hoop (12Nov2006)
  • plus the Lindon Group (Spring 2009)

Canje District branches (with date created):
  • Bushlot (28Sep2008)
  • Crabwood Creek (23Mar2008)
  • East Canje (19Mar2006)
  • New Amsterdam (13Feb2000)
  • Rose Hall (19Mar2006)
  • Rosignol (16Mar2004)
  • plus the Skeldon Group (Spring 2009)

Missionary Work:

As of June 2009, there were fifty elders serving in Guyana, organized into five zones: Georgetown, LaGrange, Canje, Berbice, and the newly created Lindon zone.

There were also nine senior missionary couples: a couple each for CES, humanitarian, and family history plus six proselyting couples.

The missionaries meet in two separate zone conferences - one in Georgetown and one in Canje.

Missionary work is very successful in Guyana. Many people are willing to listen to the missionaries' message and a good number of them keep commitments and progress to baptism. One of the great challenges in Guyana is accommodating rapid church growth. The senior couples do an amazing work in this area, through friendshipping, training and shadow leadership.


Missionaries held the first sacrament meeting in Guyana in September 1988. Among those who attended were members of the Majid Abdulla family, who had been baptized previously in Canada.

The Church gained recognition in February 1989, and a small branch in Georgetown was organized in March with about 23 in attendance.

In March of 1991, additional missionaries were sent to Guyana and the branch membership soon numbered more than 100 members. Later that year, Guyana became part of the newly created Trinidad & Tobago Mission, but shortly thereafter the name of the mission was changed to the West Indies Mission. By the end of 1993, there were about 270 members. By 1996, membership grew to about 500, and another branch was organized.


Amazing sights

Kaieteur Falls - one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world

Black water rivers

Brown water rivers

Incredible sunsets

Colorful fruits and vegetables

Growing Church

Georgetown Chapel

Newest Church building - LaGrange Chapel

Beautiful people

"Mighty Chief" of an Amerindian tribe, baptized in 2008

Sweet school children always in uniform

Occasional challenges

Trenches everywhere - be careful!

Oops, Sister Bullock fell in!

Plenty, plenty rain

Lots of creatures

(don't worry moms - these caymans were NOT alive)

Curried Anaconda anyone?

Interesting living conditions

Missionary life

Guyanese life

The most rewarding work in the world


The SWEETEST part of the "work"

Filling the font - they are three traditional church fonts, many of these outdoor fonts, and in some areas no fonts where baptisms must take place in the sea or river

Two elders (on their mission only 5 months), one weekend, three families

That's why we love Guyana!