Is it hot in here or is it just me? No wait, IT IS RIDICULOUSLY HOT! I never knew 85 degrees could feel like 120. I'm trying my best to get used to looking ugly and sweaty for a year and a half. Not an easy task.
I trust everything is fantastic back home! I have so much news its nuts so I'm gonna try my best to get going here.
First off, we're isolated mail wise. All our mail goes to the mission home in Kingston and my area is in Lucea or Hanover, which is on the total other end of the island. So I only get snail mail at zone conferences and the like which is gonna be every 4-6 weeks. Because mail is so hard here, President Graff has made it that as long we e-mail home first we can e-mail others as well. That means you can send me e-mails! I get an hour on the computer every monday, which still isn't a lot, but any timely information is best to come that route rather than via letter because I won't get letters for awhile. Still send me snail mail, just make the information in those letters less important than the information in the e-mails. Ya feel me? Also, if you e-mail me I'll e-mail you back. If you don't e-mail me well then, I probably won't email you. All right.
So, our mission here covers Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, The Bahamas (Nassau), The Grand Cayman, and Guantanamo Bay Cuba. We cannot go to Cuba, but the members that are there are looked over by Pres. Graff as their ecclesiastical leader. To go off island is an extreme privelege. You have to be highly trustworthy. You aren't really looked after out there. Most companionships serving are the only missionaries on the island. I most likely will not go to any of those areas as a sister, they need to keep a close eye on me. But it is still cool that those places are included in the Kingston mission. President Graff has kicked this mission into gear. He has doubled baptisms here with less missionaries than there were before. We only have 60 missionaries in the entire mission, and only 6 of those are sisters (2 Jamaicans, 4 Americans). My trainer is Sis. Smith from Utah. She's only been here 6 weeks, and was trained by Sis. Meddows. Sis. Meddows is the Jamaican sister who was serving in Georgia, and on her flight back to Jamaica her plane crashed and she walked away with a couple bruises. It was kinda big news. I got to meet her - she's AWESOME. So she came back to train the first 2 American sisters, then we came six weeks later. So you have four white girls running around Jamaica. It is hard work. Thank goodness we are serving in the same area as the senior couple The Russells. They feed us, and give us rides out of town, and give us rides at night so we don't have to walk around after dark. Elder Russell is the branch president here and Sis Russell pretty much does it all at church. It is a huge blessing to have them in our area, especially since we got white washed in here.
Oh yeah, so our area. Lucea is very very small. It is what they call a bush area, meaning there's a lot of jungle and such and very little city. Most houses are up on giant hills that are a challenge to get to, and we do our lessons outside in the dirt. Most people build their own houses up here and they don't have electricity. If they're lucky they have cement and mortar to build their house, but most have wood and sheet metal holding up their walls. They have a very struggling branch here. Out of 48 total members in the area, we have 34 less active. Many disappeared and we can't even find them anymore. They don't have addresses here, or names for their roads. And most people have their birth name and then a street name that everyone knows them by. It makes finding people extremely difficult. There are crazy rocky roads here. They have huge pot holes everywhere you go. It is like riding the indiana jones ride except not as fun anytime you take a drive. There's goats and dogs that randomly just roam the streets. We have a goat right outside our house that wakes us up in the morning. Bahhh... All the dogs have fleas. We're told not to touch any animals here. People drive like madmen here, and yes it is on the left side of the road which is actually awesome. We're not allowed to drive ... yet. They may just change that but we're not sure as of right now.
The area of town is called the Hanover Parish. Our specific neighborhood so to speak is called Malcolm Heights. They do baptisms here in a little beach area known as Bull's Bay. There must be a kajillion 7th day adventists here. Sundays no one is out in the streets - so we can't hardly contact anyone. They're either in their homes observing the Sabbath, at church, or downtown in another city partying. Saturdays are slower too cause of the 7th day people. There is a rule that we can't proselyte within 25 yards of another church. That's hard here - there's churches on every corner.
There's tv programs here that slander the church. In fact one less active member refuses to have any contact with us because she believes we are vampires, thanks to whatever Jerry Springer type show she was watching on TV. Lovely eh? People carry machetes around here all the time which at first totally freaked me out, but then I realized a lot of people have jobs just going out to the bush cutting down fruit and selling it, or cutting yards for people. So now everytime I see one I just think "that's their lucky machete".
A lot of times since I've been here I've stepped back and thought "WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING HERE?" And you know what - I still don't know. But I do know that I am where the Lord wants me to be. Never before in my life have I gone to bed every night so comfortable with the stage I'm at in my life ... knowing that if I died tomorrow I'd be in good standing. That is a really good feeling. I've been thinking a lot about something Glenn L. Pace said at a fireside before I left the MTC. He said that in the premortal life, we most likely made a commitment to those that we are going to teach on our mission that we would bring them the gospel. That changes my perspective on a lot of things. It is easy to be scared, or feel like giving up. But when I talk to someone, even if they don't end up getting baptized, knowing that I fulfilled my end of the commitment is huge. Speaking of the MTC, I got to give the closing prayer in our departure devotional - in front of the MTC president and his wife. INTENSE!
Okay now what everyone is waiting for... the patois I've picked up since I've been here.
Well it has only been a week so it isn't much. But "chat" - as in "let em chat at ya" - means to give a hard time or make fun of. "bush" is a real jungle area, vs "cush" that is a real rich area (ie Mandeville or upper Kingston). "jah" is a reference to Jehovah, so they use it to mean God a lot. It is mostly a Rasta word. "scandal bag" is a grocery bag. People say "good night" as a greeting, and use "all right" to mean absolutely everything. "i'rie" means all right. And they say "lata" instead of goodbye. I can understand most poeple when they're talking to me. But when they're talking to eachother? Forget it. Totally lost.
I have so much more to write about but I'm about out of time! I will write it all in my next letter I'm sure. For now, just know that I'm safe and all is well. It is hard - the hardest thing I've ever done, me thinks. But I know that the church is true. I know that God is watching out for me and I know that he loves each and every one of the people I'm meeting out here. What a huge testimony builder it is to me to see God's children, who are so different than I, still need the same assurances and still needing to follow the same gospel that Jesus Christ set up - for all of his children. You are all in my prayers. I miss home, but I'm focused on the work. The Lord qualifies who He calls, and He's called each of us to something different. Exercise your faith in Him and He'll take care of you through His grace. He's really made it easy on us. We just have to trust Him.
I commit all reading to go an entire week without complaining. NOT ABOUT A SINGLE THING. The people here have so little. They are so poor, you cannot even imagine. Not all parts of Jamaica are like what you see on the travel channel - in fact Lucea is nothing you could even imagine. And they save up their money to take a taxi to church on Sunday. They walk through rain to go to work at 7am til 7pm, just to feed their families. Their culture doesn't respect them, their government is more corrupt that you could even think (there are far worse things than socialized medicine, believe me I see it everyday). So just try it. Don't complain. You have plenty of food, air conditioning, hot showers, a chapel to worship in, and clean clothes to wear.
Count your many blessings.
All my love. Cool runnings,
(the pics are out of order.. i think. ) enjoy!
me and the boy - cutest little boy! he's related to a member of the branch. He LOVED taking pictures on Sunday :)
the group in front of the house - elder roberts, sister speakman, me, and elder hoffman - the morning before we left for all of our areas. elder roberts is in mandeville, sis. speak in montego bay (mo bay), and hoffman in spanish town and me in lucea (pronounced lucy). we all came over together from the MTC.
some of the most gorgeous sunsets i've ever seen here! Sis. Smith (my comp) and I when the Russells took us to Bull's Bay where they do the baptisms
Sis Smith and I on Sunday in front of our church building.