Friday, December 27, 2013

Dominican Republic - December 27, 2013

Hola to all -                                                        December 27, 2013

We trust you have had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to celebrating a New Year!  We have had fun activities to keep us fairly occupied and memorable experiences. 

A sad event was going to the office on the 10th and learning our friend Aydy's baby had passed away.  Her desk/office is right across from us.  He was about 8 months old and had been born with some heart issues he could not overcome.   The graveside service was to be that morning - we and the Crismons attended.  I have never seen a more lovely cemetery - it truly was luscious green, serene and well kept.  We are told it is tradition to wear white for a funeral and it was so perfect to see Aydy, her mother and little girl all in beautiful white dresses with flowers and ribbons in their hair.  I loved it. 

The Dunfords came to stay with us the last couple of days before they flew home.  It was so fun!  They had to be out of their apartment and we so enjoyed having them!  We will look forward to seeing these good friends another day!  The night before they left we went to a mall where the West Mission missionaries pulled off a flash mob of Christmas caroling.  It was a great experience and we loved watching it. 

Our assistant from Haiti - Jean Rossely Bernardo couldn't get his visa to come to the training held in November so last week he was finally able to come over for two days so Chuck could teach/train him.  He speaks English well enough that it wasn't a problem - Chuck's French is lousy!  It was a privilege to be with him in the temple as he was able to participate in doing the work for his father. 

Last Monday there were about 15 of us that went out to a small housing area in the cane fields called a batey.  Haitians live there - about 40 families and work the cane.  They are extremely poor - there is a tiny school building and some housing - all in the dirt.  We took lots of items that Crismons and others had gathered - each couple also took rice, beans and oil for 5 families.  We expected it to be a marvelous experience . . . it turned out to be rather chaotic and we didn't feel much gratitude.  It continues to be such a problem with how to help people without making them totally dependent on that continued expectation of help.  Much of the time you just have to give and then let it be in the Lord's hands.  That is why in the Church we try so hard to train the leaders in the proper use of funds to help people be able to help themselves.  I also had my camera stolen while there . . . bah humbug! 

How wonderful to have visits with all the family - technology is so awesome.  Chuck even got to narrate the nativity via Facetime with the Florida kids as they acted out Luke 2 Christmas Eve!  Christmas morning the senior missionaries played Santa elves and gathered to put together a goodie plate for each missionary at the MTC.  Each couple took 45 "somethings" - we put one each on 45 plates - wrapped them in cellophane tied w/ribbon and went singing to the cafeteria where they were all gathered.  We sang to them - they sang to us and even though a little homesick rejoiced that we get to spend Christmas in the Caribbean! 
We also delivered the 90 baby kits we had put together . . . indeed there were more than 90 babies at the hospital that morning.  We got to walk through the rooms singing and wishing the mothers "Feliz Navidad" - lots and lots of tiny babies and mothers - some didn't look like they felt too well and we almost felt like we were imposing but it was a wonderful experience. 
A favorite sighting this week was watching a man trim/shape a small tree with his very large and sharp machete - definitely is a tool of choice for all things here! 
Greatly missing home at this time of year but enjoying counting our blessings here in the Caribbean!   LOVE TO YOU - Mom and Dad, Chuck and Vickie, Gma and Gpa    XOXOXOXOXO

Pictures -
Goodies for the missionaries at the MTC - Chuck is far right
Haiti Nativity sets . . . do you see and love the giraffe with the cow and sheep??? 
Batey kids lined up for gifts
A new baby and mother at the hospital with one of our newborn kits. 


Friday, December 6, 2013

Dominican Republic - December 6, 2013

Hola family and friends . . .                                            December 6, 2013
One morning last week I was sitting as assigned by the chapel door here in the Santo Domingo Temple.  There was a hymn softly playing and no one was coming or going.  I was alone in the corridor and the whole temple seemed quiet.  I had the thought that there were probably more worthwhile things I could be doing.  Then the thought came to me from a poem where the Savior says "There, tend that for me."  I thought of all the places in the world including our homes that people are "tending" for the Lord and the work can be lonely or invigorating but all needs attention and care.  It was a moment that caused me to pause/ponder and I have thought of it often.   
On a lighter note . . . we had a tasty and fun feast for Thanksgiving.  Wow - all these "grandmas" know how to cook!  I scattered DOTS candy (acorns) among the fake fall leaves - that and Crismon's sea shells were a hit.  It was a fun gathering. 
There are several events planned for the Christmas season - we will take advantage of them all to keep our minds off thoughts of events we are missing at home!  Last Sunday evening we had a concert from the acapello men's group that we have heard previously.  They are wonderful to listen to!
There is a large park across the street from the temple/Casa/ MTC compound.  They have been making improvements outside/inside the park for months and stringing Christmas lights (it has been advertised as 26 million) and a lot of other decorating.  They turned on the lights last Sunday night.  We were afraid that all the area electricity would blow - and it did for a brief minute but then it was fine!  The park is rather more Mardi Gras looking with a Christmas theme - most of the trees are wrapped with orange, green or purple lights.  The Dominicans do love Christmas - decorations started going up in early October - those millions of lights . . . it could be true!   
Jill Dunford, Joy Crismon and I all each baked 100 cookies and we took them around the office Monday singing and giving Merry Christmas wishes.  We did this last year and it was fun to do again.  Everyone enjoyed the mid-morning snack and probably thinks we are a little wacky!
Our auditing work is low key at this time.  Chuck is working on getting some regular training in place for leaders on the dispensing of welfare funds.  That seems to be the area where much of the misuse of funds happens.  If it is misunderstanding of the proper procedures that is one thing - but, a small percentage is intentional wrong doing.  Those are the sad situations that we have to deal with.  Another aspect is that the stake audit committees need to understand to be able to discern proper procedures. 
I have thought much of my Aunt Sybil this week. She passed away Tuesday, December 3rd.  I have wonderful memories of family gatherings growing up in Missouri.  Her husband, Uncle Buddy, is my Mom's only brother.  We will miss being with loved ones to celebrate her good, long life. 
Know you are enjoying the season - it is wonderful here also!  LOVE TO EVERYONE - Mom and Dad, Chuck and Vickie, Grandma and Grandpa
"It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags. . . What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store?  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
Thanksgiving feast - we added more leaves after this was taken - Caribbean festive!
Lights in the park taken from the temple driveway . . . . just a little corner of the park . . .
Cookie delivery in the office w/Jill Dunford and Joy Crismon 
Trash to be picked up - crazy system - animals and people go through it and scatter it everywhere!