Thursday, October 30, 2008

Amanda's Baptism

The Villafana's

Three generations of members! Namindry Dookran, Amanda Villafana and Ann-Marie Dookran

This is the Dookran, Villafana family. This is where Linda and Mamindry live down the hill from the Villafana's.

Amanda Villafana (11) received permission from her dad to be baptized. Permission has been a long time coming because dad doesn't like the white man's church the mother of his children attend. Ann-Marie (28) joined in Sangre Grande when she was 14 and a couple of years later she entered a relationship with Allen Villafana (now 56) who was much older than she. Allen attended the baptism, which was performed in Roxborough where they live.

Namimdry Dookran, Ann-Marie's mother, and her youngest daughter Linda live near the Villafana's in a place without electricity. They just recently hooked up to running water. they used to catch the rain water, which is abundant because they live near the rain forest and receive rain year round.


These are our neighbors. The Hindu flags belong the the house on the right, which have been placed at the beginning of his driveway. They have been adding a room onto their house, hence the stack of red blocks. The flags represent ceremonies and the bigger homes have a place for prayers and often the flags are placed beside it.


The tall poles of bamboo are slit and bent to accommodate the small candles. The small clay pots are fill with oil with the wick coming off the side and sitting in the small lip made in the pot.

Elder Barton, Pamela and Patrick Ramkissoon, Elder Marshall

These small shrines are often on the premises of Hindu's and the flags are often planted by them. The use them for their prayers each day.

The Baynes family attend our branch. They dropped in to the Dewali about the same time we did.

Carol is President Ramkissoon's sister. She comes to church ocassionally.

Dewali, the festival of the lights is a Hindu holiday. We were invited to attend by our branch president and his wife. Her family are active Hindus and invite the community to attend each year. It was held on the Kissoom compound which includes 3 homes and the hardware store. There aren't many Hindus in Tobago, but we live next door to one of them. He had a few lights burning when we retured from the celebration at the Kissoom's. They served food to a few hundred people.

Strange noise

For a couple of days we could hear a rhythmic tapping on one side of our apartment. Dad kept searching for the source of the tapping. He looked up at the metal utility pole and spotted a woodpecker who was trying to enlarge an existing hole. He was very persistent for several days before he gave up.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Zone Conference with GA

October 24th was Zone Conference in Trinidad. We flew over on the 23rd and had a couples meeting with President Vinas, a member of the first Quorum of Seventy, currently serving as the 1st counselor in our area presidency. His responsibility is to regulate the affairs of the church. He is touring the mission with President Robison to see the status of our preparation for stakehood in Guyana and Trinidad. He serves as a second witness of what is being taught in the 26 stakes in our area, which is the smallest area in the church because the church is so new here. President Vinas has a long history with Elder Holland and Elder Scott. He asked about our concerns as missionaries and about the mission from our point of view. Dad asked about couple getting married the day before their baptism. It happens alot here. Pres. Vinas feels they need to have a period of abstance to show repentance for living together outside the bonds of matromony. It was an interesting discussion and I know all didn't agree with him.

We didn't talk about becoming a stake during the meetings. I suspect President Robison didn't want to appear to be lobbying for it. When Dad made a comment about our concerns in Tobago, Pres Robison quickly stated we weren't part of the proposed stake. Pres. Robison talked to the couples after we left Trindad and told them it would be Feb at the earliest. Recently, President Monson has instructed there be stricter guidelines for a district to become a stake. As a result, our application hasn't been submitted to the committee yet. Pres Vinas will have to put his stamp of approval on it first. He has a good understanding of the process that an area must go through to be ready. We only have a few second generation members here, which is a disadvantage.

President Vinas was in charge of the zone conference. He talked about unity and how the first presidency is united and well as the Quorum of the Twelve. They table decisions when they aren't united in the decision. He talked about the need to repent of the traditions of our fathers for areas like ours who are new to the church. It runs all through the Book of Mormon and is applicable today. We need to keep ourselves in the process of repentance. Quoting Henry B Erying, "Unity comes when what we want is what God wants".
He said that we need to put family first, then work, then church, then ourselves.

Monday, October 27, 2008

An Open Letter to my Grandsons and Granddaughters

First, I love you all so much! Now let me tell you something about what it is like to serve a mission: We have written a great deal about all the wonderful things that have happened to us while we are serving. In fact, so many great things have happened that I sometimes want to pinch myself to be sure I’m not dreaming. Still it is important to me that I tell you something I have learned about missionary service that I want you all to understand. I don’t want there to be any confusion. That way, when you go on your mission, you will know what to expect and you will be able to “hit the ground running” and never look back!

A mission is tough!!!

But don’t let that scare you. The work is hard and sometimes conditions are hard too. Just last night we went to visit our branch president at his home. He lives in a one room shack that is probably 10 feet wide and 20 feet long. As we walked in, we realized that this one room was his bedroom, living room, kitchen and every other room in the house. At the end of the room was his bed. He and his wife sat there while we sat on the only other chairs. There was no air conditioning, only a fan. Doors and windows were open and mosquitoes and moths moved about freely. You might think it was a terrible environment but you’d be wrong. This couple was very happy and the home was filled with the spirit. It was a wonderful visit.

Here is the main point I want to share with my grandchildren: Missionary service is very difficult but it will bring you more joy and happiness than you can imagine. I have been trying to think of a comparison that you can relate to. I know that the Hannays and the Gillelands enjoy playing football. I also know that the Rosses and the Martins enjoy playing soccer. In both sports there is a lot of sacrifice required for success. You must work hard, sweat a lot, even suffer a little pain and disappointment. In this way it is much like missionary work. You work hard, sweat hard, suffer a little pain and disappointment. But the rewards are so great… it is like the feeling you get when you score a touchdown or a goal. It is all worth it.

So don’t think you will serve a mission and coast along for two years, enjoying the scenery. You will work hard and love every minute of it. The Lord will bless you and compensate for every sacrifice you make. I can’t wait to hear my first grandchild’s mission report to confirm my feelings.

I love you all!!!!

Grandpa Ross

Friday, October 17, 2008

Back in Business!

We finally have Internet! We had about given up hope. It took us a couple of weeks to get our phone hooked up, first a faulty line, then a faulty phone. We had to have a phone before we could start on the Internet even though we set everything up when we found the apartment. Then we waited for a technician to hook up the Internet, supposedly only a couple of days. Nothing. Finally, after over a week of waiting, dad called several offices here and on Trinidad and they said, “Come pick up your modem”. We rushed down to Scarborough and after 24 hours of trying to get it to work, dad called some offices again and got an online technician. Low and behold, they didn’t give us all 6 digits of the password. Amazing what a difference the last digit made.

We overlooked this pool as we ate breakfast.

We were suprized at the tiny room that smelled of moth balls.

A table was set up for us each morning and breakfast was served in courses. It was great!

A summary of the past few weeks…………

We moved out of our apartment in Valsayn on September 14 and into the mission home where we camped until the 22nd. We spent 2 nights at Norma’s bed and breakfast. While we were at the mission home, we packed all our belongings into the small van that the Zone Leaders would drive over via the ferry to Tobago on the 24th. We purchased many of the things we would need to start a new apartment, like dishes, silverware, pots and pans, some of which, the mission paid for because we were opening up a new area for couples. We also bought a big pack of toilet paper, paper towels, case of milk, can goods, pancake mix, etc at Price Smart to save a little on initial setup in Tobago.

We had to be at the ferry (departure 12:30 pm) on the 24th. It was Republic Day in Trinidad, a big holiday for them. We left Valsayn at 9:30 am with the elders driving our car and George driving the loaded van. We had to wait in line for over an hour before they started lining us up at 11:00 to enter the ferry. We were impressed how quickly they loaded all of us on and we were underway by 12:00. They had gambling, food for sale, a movie on large screens in the seating areas. Some people were working on laptops, reading books, or talking on cell phones.