Tuesday, December 4, 2012

St Thomas Day 2 - some churchin, some es'plorin

One of my favorite things to do on vacation is hit the local ward or branch for service.  I love meeting new people and seeing how my church functions the exact same way all over the world.  I love soaking up the experience.

We did wake up to a downpour of rain, but no worries mon!

We had already arranged for Miguel to pick us up at 8:30.  Tiburon, ever prepared with the directions guided him towards the local meeting place.  There is only one branch on the island, not even enough people to constitute a ward, so it wasn't a place our driver was familiar with.  Twice he passed by other churches and was willing to drop us off.  "Nope, that's not ours, keep going"

Finally found it, and we made arrangements for him to pick us up in an hour and a half.  It was pouring rain so I grabbed a sweater to put over my head.  Instead, there was an elderly gentlemen that offered to hold the umbrella over mine and Tib's head and walk us in.  He told us what a blessing the rain was because the island had been so dry and then told Tib to slow down a couple of times.  Love the brutal honesty!

The building looked more like a double wide trailer that a construction company might use for an office.  We were led into the makeshift chapel and found some seats. Most of those attending were clearly tourists and white.  A few locals, but not a lot.

Everyone was kind and welcoming and the meeting got underway.  The first Sunday of every month in my church is set aside for Fast & Testimony meeting.  We fast for 24 hours devoting our time to prayer, scripture study and serving others.  We donate the money we would have spent on the meals eaten in that 24 hours and it is dispersed to help others who need it.  The meeting, after the Sacrament ordinance, is then opened to those attending to stand and share their testimonies of Jesus Christ and His gospel.  My favorite meetings because you really get to hear what is in people's hearts and be inspired and uplifted.

There was a couple who stood first.  Wife then husband.  Their current calling is living on their boat and going up and down the Caribbean as missionaries to the different islands.  During hurricane season, the dock in Puerto Rico, but the rest of the time, they travel and proselyte on all the other islands.  I.WANT.THAT.GIG!  They were the coolest people and clearly meant to be doing what they were called to do.  A few other missionaries spoke.  Adam bore his testimony.  And then a young man, clearly a visitor went to the mic.  He wasn't a member, but had come at the invitation of his friend who is living there attending the University.  He talked about how he wasn't sure if he was supposed to take the bread and water (the Sacrament) but figured that "God wouldn't be mad at him".  He talked about how he liked how he felt there in the meeting and was grateful that he made the decision to come even though it was early on a Sunday morning and raining.  He had lot's of reasons to back out, but was glad he had decided to come.  I found that very inspiring.  He just got up, said his feelings and sat back down again.  Pure and simple.  Exactly what it's all about.  I bore my testimony and then a few more others before the meeting was ended.  Interesting to note that of the less than about 50 people there, only three were actual members of the branch (other than the branch presidency and their families).  I have never had the privilege of being in such a small meeting and yet - it was one of the best I had ever attended.

Since Miguel wasn't coming until 10:30, we stuck around for a part of Sunday School.  First we had introductions and met all the other tourists that were there.  Started a discussion on the Book of Mormon, and next thing I knew it was time to go.  Another couple slid out at the same time so we were able to get some pictures.

Loved the whole experience and will remember it forever.

Miguel was waiting for us in the parking lot so we quickly loaded and back to the hotel we went.  As we were talking on the way home Miguel had asked a question about our church and we started a very nice discussion.  In his broken and heavily accented English, we learned that he was originally from the Dominican Republic and had only come to the island about 7 years ago.  Back in the DR, he remembers missionaries coming to teach him ("always in two's) and how much he liked it.  He liked that they would help him do his work first before having any gospel discussions.  He had no idea that the  "mormones" were on the island and he said he was going to go back there next week and attend church. Now that he knew where it was and what time.  We had a great talk.  
He dropped us off and I got a quick pic
(Dev do you recognize him? lol)

We were talking about how interesting it was that we stumbled on Miguel in the store parking lot the night before, hired him to take us to church and it ended up in a missionary opportunity.  Love it!

After some changing clothes, it was time to meet at the pavilion in the hotel and listen to all the excursion guides pimp their services.  
So many fun things to do!  So much money!!
We decided on a couple and made arrangements for what days, and prices.  Oh my goodness -we are gonna have some adventures this week!!  GAH!!  I can hardly wait!

Next up was venturing to town and finding some dinner

First off, these people drive on the wrong side of the road.  On purpose.  There are no sidewalks and no shoulders so it's quite risky walking around.  Rules of the road seem to be merely suggestions and they are aggressive with their horns.  I am SO glad we decided against renting a car.  Such a bad idea!

Our hotel is set up on the hill so it's about a 12% to 14% grade down the driveway.  We made our way and then to the main street.  With the harbor on one side and the town on the other, we wandered.  Interesting enough, the entire town seems to shut down on Sunday's.   The views were nice though and it was cool to get a little oriented.
Look we saw a mermaid!

Dipping our tootsies in the warm water

The view BACK at our hotel

We found the Green (something) place that was open and ordered dinner
I found it hysterical that they would use a HUGE plate to put three little things on.  And NO those aren't turds, they are plantains and they were delicious!

Some more wandering and pic taking
in touch with my "inner islander"

Yes.  That's blood

barkers?  what are barkers?

We caught a safari taxi back to the driveway of the hotel 
and funny story.  We had asked the driver if he would take us to Bluebeards Castle.  He replied  "one block away".  So as we neared, he turned on a street he would not normally turn and the local passengers started GOING OFF!  All kinds of irritated mon!  Tib spoke up and explained it was for us and immediately, it was "no problem mon".  Like a switch.  All kinds of pissed off to all kinds of no worries

We hiked up to the hotel and garnered some more shots

Then it was time for a little pool side in the dark, clean up and go get birthday dessert for our birthday girl!

Happy Birthday Tiburon!!!

Back to the deck, and then finishing up the night with games.

What a perfect vacation Sunday!


Vanessa said...

Maybe Elton taught Miguel while he was on his mission in the Dominican Republic :)

Looks amazing! Can't wait to see the rest of the week!

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Valerie said...

Wow! What a coincidence, right? ;)
I'm loving your trip details...keep 'em coming!

I'm thinking a "Barker" is referring to people who set up shop & try to sell you stuff...

Ann Marie said...

I love that you shared the Gospel with your driver! Who knows what that simple discussion will bring!

Awesome of you to find a ward house. Those missionaries DO have an awesome set up! Cool beans!!

tammy said...

My favorite part of this post was the missionary experiences, both your driver and the young man who felt the Spirit enough to get up on testimony meeting. Love it!