Sunday, 22 February 2015

Music, music, and more music!

Well it's the same in the Church world-wide I think - tell people you play the piano and you suddenly become very sought-after...
My first piano (ie, keyboard) student can play the right hand of his first hymn already, and would've played it in church to accompany the congregation today if he hadn't been called away on another assignment instead...I think he is very brave! My young comp is also learning; and today we added a 15 year old girl from Sangre Grande (pronounced Sandy Grandy) Ward to the student roster.
The ward I live in (Curepe) has had a great keyboard-learning program for the last couple of years, and their learners take turns playing one hymn apiece during Church services; while the others alternate conducting the music.

Curepe ward chapel - I love the bright flowers!

Our view out the mission office window while the a/c was broken earlier this week

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

(I'm still trying to learn how to blog - so this is out of order, sorry!)

So now I'm here! and I'm still excited! but still not quite sure where I fit yet....I've done my first two days at the West Indies Mission Office but not the duties I expected - as it was just announced that the mission is splitting in July 2016 and lots of organization and cleaning up of old files has to be done in preparation. Currently there are 3 official languages spoken in the mission - Dutch, English and French - but I also sorted some missionary tags today that were printed in Creole and Portuguese.
Come July, one part of the mission will become the Barbados Bridgetown Mission and the other, the Trinidad Port of Spain Mission.

I'm finding the local people here a bit guarded (as my local, 20 year old companion described it) and a little reticent; but when I talk to them first, I find they're curious about where our church is and what we're doing. We have taken "travel" so far - which means taxi's and maxi's (mini-vans)- as so far I'm scared to drive on the "wrong" (ie, left or British) side of the road. (Maybe because here the lines on the road are just a suggestion not a "commandment"?) Sister Daviana Atkins, my young companion, is used to "travel" but she's not used to this area, as her home is not in this part of the city; so neither of us realized taxi's were unavailable on Sundays here. We waited at the normal stop for quite a while in the heat on Sunday til I was beginning to worry we'd either be late for church or I'd broil like a lobster, or both. (We'd started out 1.5 hours early and thought we had allowed lots of time; we'd taken "travel" to the TrinCity Mall on Saturday, which is further away, and it went smoothly).

It reminded me of the faithful young adults in Red Deer and how inconvenient the Sunday bus routes/times were for them!

Finally a man in a car honked at us (which means "get in, you can get a ride here") and we walked over to see him. Turns out he was an employee at the gas station right by the little shopping plaza where the mission office is located. He was at work but said he'd drive us to the maxi (mini-van = bigger bus stop/more popular route). While he drove I asked about his family. He said he'd seen the missionaries come and go (at least I think that's what he said - the accent here sounds almost Irish sometimes, and if people speak fast I miss lots). When we got out and I offered to pay him, as is customary even if it's not a formal licensed taxi, he refused; he wanted to help us because we were church workers. I was touched by his gesture of kindness to (rather naive) strangers.

(p.s- they don't understand MY accent here either! so I try to speak slowly....fortunately Sister Atkins is used to American elders/sisters so we can communicate ok. I just love the sweet sound of my name in the local dialect - "Sistah Millah" - it sounds so musical).
I just finished reading the mission newsletter today. There are many baptisms here (some in the ocean!) Many people here are humble and looking for purpose in their lives.
Fun fact: T&T pennies are each worth about 1/5 of a Canadian penny - the parking lot outside the local grocery store is littered with them. Eventually they'll become part of the pavement

Friday, 13 February 2015

Sunday, 8 February 2015

We don't get a regular "P-Day" (preparation day) like the young missionaries....

..instead, as the Mission Office staff we fit in with whatever needs to be done. Usually, like yesterday, we have Saturdays off to clean house, wash clothes, etc. However, the Financial Secretary and his wife still often have to handle emergencies such as missionaries losing their bank cards, on weekends...there are about 170 missionaries in the West Indies Mission.
On Sundays I'm involved in music in the local wards. Today I really enjoyed going to Primary in Sangre Grande (pronounced "Sandy Grandy") - there were 6 children there today, altho soon cute little 8 year old David got tired of singing (and holding my music book page so it wouldn't blow in the breeze, b/c the louvered windows were open) and he took off to go play outside instead.
The Primary children learned the new song called "I Know That My Savior Loves Me". It says: "a long time ago in a beautiful place, children were gathered round Jesus..." then the 2nd verse continues "Now I am here in a beautiful place" and while playing the keyboard I added "in Trinidad", having no idea that the other senior missionary lady had printed out a picture of Trinidad for her visual aid! We were both on the same track; it made us (and the kids) smile...
These kids sing beautifully, not very loud, but right on key, not sharp like I heard in Africa; and not flat like I'm used to at home! I found the song a little bit hard to learn when practising it here in the apartment, but I'm really getting to like it now: "I know He lives; I will follow faithfully. My heart I give to Him, I know that my Savior loves me."
About the weather: The humidity is always high here; when you buy envelopes, the flaps are already stuck shut; and if weed seeds land on power lines, they continue to grow up there...but I've seen very little "rain" yet like we get at home - mostly, the sky has just "misted"so far- but it's not the rainy season yet. Local people complain about the mists, but I enjoy the unexpected warmth of the rain...
About shopping/money: This week my companion and I got a ride to PriceSmart, the Costco-type big box store about half an hour away. It's right beside a ScotiaBank! and I've also seen the RBC (Royal Bank) logo several times....Canadians are well respected here - it seems almost everyone has relatives in Canada, usually in Ontario, but sometimes in Calgary; and I also met a man from Okotoks, Alberta who used to work here in the oil and gas sector who returns to Trinidad often to visit friends.
At home, we call Costco "the $200 store" (revised up from "the $100 store" of past years) - but here I spent $1000! Really. That's because the Trinidad currency - called TT's  (meaning Trinidad and Tobago dollars) is devalued to the point that $200 Canadian buys $1000 TT's.
Copper-colored TT pennies litter the ground by the local grocery store; no one bothers with them; as they are worth only 1/5th of our Canadian penny, which no one bothered with either (so the government retired Cdn pennies recently). I've also found 10 and 25 cent pieces lying around. I wonder if it's the same in the less prosperous areas of the city?
Apparently in the South American country of Guyana (which is also in our mission), a new senior missionary couple spent $48,000 on their first grocery order! which was one cart the local money is devalued even worse there....
I hear glimpses of what's going on with the Canadian dollar, and I have some sympathy....
About family: I am thinking of Grant's dad Rex Miller tonight, as he turns 94 tomorrow
(on Feb. 9th). Wish I could be there to share DQ chicken fingers and fries with him and say Happy Birthday. I'm going to send an email to a friend, who will take it over and read it to him. A card in the mail would probably get there about the time I get home in July...although we haven't tested that out yet - the only package I've sent (to my older sister) hasn't arrived yet. It's also the birthday of my youngest sister tomorrow. Thank heavens for the internet - Facebook/FaceTime and email - and a MagicJack for the phone - it's not like the "olden days" when you felt far, far away when you were far away - it's great to feel so connected. It has totally changed the world for the better, in my opinion. Mind you, us senior missionaries get very "relaxed rules" about contacting family...and we also get naps!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

hardly anyone here uses mac computers! augh!

....which is why I haven't posted lately. I have no idea how to put photo's on here! I continue to post  on Facebook though (Jackie Hudson Miller is my Facebook name).
What can I say about Trinidad? It's warm :) - both the weather and the people - although they're perhaps guarded at first... but by the time I attended the Carribean Area Stake Conference broadcast this morning in Port of Spain stake center, I knew quite a few members. (And it's only my 3rd week going to church here!) Instead of saying "hi, I remember you" they give you a big hug...

I continue to be amazed at the young missionaries - they are dedicated and loving, fun to be around. I know they get tired, but they get up the next day and go out again...they truly want to help people find more light and goodness in their lives. I wish I could post the photos of the times I've gone out with the young sister missionaries - such a nice break from the mission office work!

At one appointment we climbed down some rough stone steps in a beautiful, lush, remote rainforest area, where the sisters were teaching someone living in a shack with no electricity. We stood outside, reading our scriptures by cell phone light, as the sun set (at around 6pm here) and the fireflies came out. Then we saw the stars come out overhead. As the scriptures say "all things denote there is a God" (Alma 30:44)- so stunning.

This past week was Seniors Conference, where senior couple missionaries came from all the islands of the mission into Trinidad. It will be last official one in the West Indies mission! as the mission is dividing July 1st, mostly because of the complications of dealing with so many different languages and currencies/airlines etc. (Stake Conference was broadcast today partly in Spanish, partly in English; and also translated into French, Dutch and Creole). For seniors conference, about 14 couples came in from other islands; and all the office staff got to attend as well. It was the culmination of many people's hard work and planning.We got to witness another stunning miracle of God when we toured the Caroni Swamp Bird Sanctuary and waited for the scarlet ibis, the national bird of Trinidad, to fly back to roost for the night. The tide was high so it took a little longer; but soon they flew in, in droves - hundreds, maybe thousands of them...bright scarlet red among the green trees. We were fortunate that they kept moving around, giving us an even better view; the guide said he'd spotted a hawk the night before, so the birds were extra cautious before finally settling down.

Many people are religious here - you see religious slogans on store windows, the back of taxi's, etc - much different than home. Yesterday while I was out shopping in our little nearby mall, I ducked into a fancy dress shop just to look at the sparkly prom-type dresses. In conversation, I found out the young clerk works 6 days/week - not uncommon here. I explained we only had to work 5 days, but we didn't get paid - "we get God's pay" I said. The cute, fashionable young girl exclaimed enthusiastically "that's the best pay!" and I have to agree. (See Alma 30:34)

Until next week....