Serving in the Caribbean Area Presidency Office in
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

19 December 2010

The best week of our mission

Back in June at the San Juan Stake conference a stake temple excursion to the Santo Domingo Temple in the Dominican Republic was announced for November .  This was thrilling news to the 5 members of the Vieques branch that had come with us to attend the conference.  Upon returning to Vieques we invited all the members of the branch to prepare to go to the temple and we began a temple preparation class.  Originally 8 members said that they were planning on going.

It is not easy or inexpensive for Puerto Rican's to go to the temple.  Of course the most important preparation is to become worthy to enter the House of the Lord.  But in addition to that, passports have to be obtained, about $500 per person must be saved for airfare, etc. and time off from work must be arranged.  Gradually the numbers of Vieques members who would be able to go dwindled.  But Andy and Aida Lopez were determined to make their covenants and receive the sealing blessings for themselves and their deceased ancestors.  They began to research their geneology.  While doing so they had some miraculous experiences that let them know that their family on the other side of the veil were close to them and wanted these blessings also.

On Tuesday 23 November 2010 Andy and Aida entered through the doors of the temple and made covenants with their Heavenly Father that will enable them to be together forever if they are faithful to the end.  It was our great privilege and joy to be at their side during a wonderful week in the temple.  Now, because of their example and love for the temple, the branch of Vieques is planning on a temple excursion for all the faithful members in early 2011!  We look forward to returning to Santo Domingo with 10 more of our dear friends from Vieques who want to enter the House of the Lord.

Andy and Aida Lopez at the door of the Santo Domingo Temple

28 November 2010

Picking Up Speed

The pace of our mission began quite slowly on the little Island of Vieques.  Those are days now long past!  In October and November we have traveled all over Puerto Rico on assignments from our Mission President.  We have loved the variety and volume of what we have been doing.  Here are a few glimpses of our activities:

President Alvarado asked Elder Button to make a presentation at the mission office to departing missionaries to help them with their education and financial planning post-mission.

President asked us both to help plan and organize a zone conference for the senior missionaries.  It was a great experience.  Here is Pres. Alvarado during one of the sessions.

Our fellowsenior  misionaries at a restaurant in Viejo San Juan during the conference

The Alvarado kids brought us a lot of joy at Halloween

President sent us to Yauco to present a fireside on financial management and provident living.  This took us to the southwestern part of Puerto Rico.
Next President had us go to the five zone conferences to make a presentation to help the missionaries budget the money they receive each month for food and hygiene.  During that week we traveled to Aguadilla on the far western coast of Puerto Rico, where the above picture was taken.  Next to Ponce on the southern coast, then to Caguas in the center and finally to Bayamon for two other conferences.  We logged almost 2000 miles in the month with all our travels.  We love our mission!

23 October 2010

You heard it here first!

I'm sure that you'll all want to know what is on this billboard in the outskirts of Fajardo -  I'll translate for you:  May 21, 2011 Begins the Judgement Day. The Holy God will destroy the World on October 21, 2011.

 I don't know about you, but I appreciate the good intentions of the people who paid for this billboard.  But they could have saved themselves quite a bit of money if they'd read the Bible where it clearly says in Mark 13: 32, 33 "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is."

The Mailman Miracle

Last weekend President Alvarado asked Elder Button to fly to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands to help train a new branch clerk.  Because the airfare is so expensive, Elder Button had to go by himself without Sister Button.  To get to the airport in San Juan to catch the flight, he would have to leave Ceiba at 4:30 am in the car.  That would leave Sister Button without a car.  He also would have to take the phone with him to contact the people in St. Thomas when he arrived, so Sister Button would be without a phone all day also. 

Our personal phone went bad during the second month of our mission due to the humidity.  We sent it back home to see if it could be repaired or at least have the numbers transfered to another phone. But that took longer than anticipated and we still were without a personal phone.

Elder Button was worried, although Sister Button said she wasn't, about leaving Sister Button  in the Ceiba apartment alone, without a car and without a phone from 4:30 am until 8:30 pm when he would return.  The best option that he could come up with was to have some of the members and the missionaries check on her a couple times during the day to make sure she was okay.  But he still didn't feel very good about the situation.

On Saturday evening as we walked from our car to climb the stairs to our apartment, Sister Button noticed a box sitting on a chair in the downstairs apartment patio.  This patio is behind a locked iron gate and is never used because the downstairs apartment is vacant.  It looked like a Flat-rate box from the post office.  We had received these boxes before but always had to go to the post office in Ceiba to pick them up after receiving a notice in the mailbox that something had arrived for us.  We asked the caretaker for the apartment who live a couple houses down to come and open the gate so we could see if the box was for us.  It was ...and it included our personal phone that we had been waiting for!   Now Sister Button wouldn't be without a phone and a way to call for help if needed!

Many people would say this was just a coincidence.  But we know better because these types of little "coincidences" are happening repeatedly during our mission - we just don't write them here in the blog. We know that the Lord is blessing us how and when we need it.  Think about this - the mailman had always just put a slip in the mailbox so why didn't he do that this time?  If he would have followed standard procedure, we wouldn't have been able to get the box until the next Monday because the Post Office was closed when we got home from working.  To put the box inside the locked patio, the mailman had to walk about fifteen feet, open a sliding gate that is very hard to open, then he had to push the box through a tight space between the bars of the patio and then toss it on a chair.  Why did he go to all that bother?  Why did Sister Button notice this box inside the locked patio?  Why did the box arrive the very moment that we needed it so badly?

Sunset in St. Thomas

The view from the tarmac at the airport in St. Thomas
We marvel at the tender mercies of the Lord to us.  We know that He lives and that He loves us.  We know that He loves all His children because we feel that love so profoundly as we work with the people here in the Caribbean.

09 October 2010

Week in Review

Week in Review

We began the week watching General Conference. It was wonderful! There were two different rooms where conference was shown – air conditioned in Spanish and not in English. Here is a picture of the missionaries and some youth standing and singing the rest song.

We were delighted to receive a call from our dear friends, Luis and Teresa Mejia, from back home. They came to Puerto Rico for a vacation. We met them and showed them some sights in El Yunque, the rain forest of Puerto Rico. It was wonderful to see them and catch up on the happenings with their family.

We are still doing our tutoring of Accounting and English at the Inter-American University in Fajardo. This is one of flyers hanging on the wall to invite students to come for tutoring. We have had only four different students attend so far, with many others stopping by to say they will come ‘for sure’ next time. We suspect that as the semester progresses and the tests start coming, we will have more students attend. It’s interesting the parallels between the tutoring and our proselyting work. In both cases we freely offer that which will greatly benefit people. We try to let as many people know about it and possible and make ourselves available to share. Unfortunately very few take advantage of what is offered…but when times get tough, they’ll come looking for help. That’s okay. Just as long as they come.

Visit from the kids

Our grand-daughter Sadie came to Puerto Rico – and brought her parents. We had a wonderful time together. They went to church with us where Sadie enjoyed nursery in Spanish and Mike got to sing in the choir.

We went to see El Yunque and learned why it is a RAIN forest.

We took the ferry to Vieques and played at the beach and went snorkeling.

We drove and saw the beautiful Isle of Enchantment – Puerto Rico.

We walked through Old San Juan and saw El Moro – the castle.

We had a wonderful time but it was very hard to say goodbye.

24 September 2010

Who needs a horse trailer anyway?

Living in Lehi for so many years we have seen quite a variety of horse trailers.  There are luxury multi-horse trailers, the very basic well-used trailers and the old run down, barely still useable ones.  But today driving down the road in Puerto Rico we saw something we have never seen before and thought, "Who needs a horse trailer anyway?"
Our highlight of the day was a visit from our dear friend from home, Daren Shumway, who was in Puerto Rico on business!  He drove out of his way to visit with us for a few minutes.

Elder Button's hair really looked normal in person, although it looks funny in this photo!

19 September 2010

This week in the mission

Every Tuesday at 6:30 am we have our district meetings in Luquillo, a 20 min drive from our apartment.  We enjoy meeting with the Elders in our district. 
Sister Button & Elders Button, Simons, Harvey, Nuauhi, Udall, Losee and Francis

September in Puerto Rico is known for tropical storms, so yes, we had plenty of rain this week.  September is also the season for avocados (aguacates) and annonas.  Yum!!!

Our friend Bethsaida made arepas for us - delicious!

For preparation day we drove to the veterans hospital in San Juan to visit Manuel, our friend from Vieques
Hurrican Igor created tremendous waves that made our ride on the ferry to and from Vieques very jumpy, but the Lord blessed us and we didn't get seasick!

09 September 2010

Humbled in their presence

Do you ever feel that you have really sacrificed to obey the Lord's commandments and that you are giving all you can to demonstrate your commitment to God?  To be completely candid, we confess that we may have fallen into some self-righteous pride in that regard in the past.  But we have been humbled by the family in this picture - the Dicksons.

The Dicksons are members of the Fajardo branch who live on the island of Culebra.  They have callings and attend church every week in Fajardo.  If you go to a map you'll see that Culebra is several miles off the northeast coast of Puerto Rico.  To attend church that starts at 9:00 am on Sunday, the Dicksons have to catch the ferry boat in Culebra at 6:30 am.  (Just imagine when they have to arise to get themselves ready and prepared for the day.)  The ferry ride lasts an hour and a half, and the seas aren't always smooth.  So they arrive at the dock in Fajardo about 8:00 am and then have to walk about a mile to the chapel.  Although church lets out at noon, the next available ferry doesn't leave until 3:00 pm but often it runs later than that.  So the Dicksons bring their food and make lunch in the kitchen of the church and wait until it is time to walk back to the ferry.  You'll note from the picture that the Dicksons have a newborn baby, about a month old in this picture.  Mother and baby started making the trip about about a month after the birth.

What are people with this type of commitment and faith capable of doing with the Lord's help? The story continues with the next picture -

This picture is of Ray and Nick, also from Culebra. They are investigators of the church who will be baptized in early October. The Dicksons invited them to come to church with them and they accepted...clear back in January of 2010! Almost every week since then these two young men attend church making the trip with the Dicksons. In addition, they are taking seminary from Sister Dickson during the week in Culebra.

So the next time we start to think that attending church, sharing the gospel with our friends, or anything else the Lord askes us to do is too much of a sacrifice, let's remember these magnificent people...and humbly follow their example.

06 September 2010

Answers to prayers

 Here in Ceiba our apartment comes with "neighborhood" dogs at no extra charge.  These dogs are not owned by anyone, according to our next door neighbor.  She says that they were simply abandoned by someone and she feels sorry for them so she feeds them.  What this picture doesn't allow you to comprehend is how absolutely miserable these dogs are.  I suppose that due to the tropical climate and bugs, they are infested with skin diseases that covers their skins with sores and their hair is very splotchy.  I felt sorry for them until I tried sleeping in this apartment.  The dogs tend to bark off and on all night long just under our windows. In the wee hours of the second night I seriously considered putting them out of their misery but realized that that probably wasn't the best idea.  I decided to resort to another solution - I prayed that God would do it for me.  I have learned that when we have faith and are trying to live like we should, the Lord will always give us what we ask for - or something better.  So when the dogs were still alive the next day, I decided there must be something better.  The next night I prayed that God would make the dogs stop barking at night.  Apparently God had something better instead because the dogs continued to bark throughout the night.  Finally the thought came to me to pray that I wouldn't be bothered by the dogs.  This must be what the Lord wanted me to learn because I now can sleep even with the dogs barking.  You may be inclined to think that this is a silly little story, but I believe it applies to many of our problems.  Often we pray for the Lord to change other people or our environment.  Sometimes the thing that most needs changing is us.  I know that God always answers our petitions by either giving us what we ask for or giving us something better.  So if we aren't getting what we asked for, we should seek to know and recognize the Lord's better answer.

Matthew 7:7-11

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened.  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.  Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?  Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

26 August 2010

Beautiful Puerto Rico

Last weekend we returned to Vieques to work with our dear brothers and sisters there.  As we got off the ferry, Sister Button exclaimed "We're back home!"  As we walked to our apartment this is what we saw as we looked back to the west at Puerto Rico:

On Monday we returned to Fajardo to resume our work there.  Wednesday was our preparation day.  After cleaning the apartment and doing a few other things we decided to explore the southern part of El Yunque, the rain forest on the eastern end of Puerto Rico.  The following pictures don't really do it justice but hopefully gives you enough to know that God loves Puerto Rico.

15 August 2010

The parable of the GPS

Being lost while trying to find people and places here in Puerto Rico has been a frustrating and an almost daily occurence.  In many places there are no street signs or numbers on the houses.  Until recently we had to rely on verbal directions which were only slightly better than nothing ... and in some cases worse.  We also tried to use maps drawn by others, which again were usually of very little value.  To resolve the problem we asked our kids back home to send us our GPS (Magellan).  When it came we were excited to put it to use, but we quickly found that it was also very limited - it showed roads that didn't exist and didn't show others that did.  The straw that broke the camel's back was when we were in the city of Caguas looking for Costco.  We had the exact address from the internet which we entered into the GPS.  It took us into neighborhoods where we knew no Costco would ever be found.  After stopping and asking directions of several people, I came to the realization that none of them really knew where it was.  In frustration we gave up searching and decided we would just go home...Then I had an idea - I prayed and told Heavenly Father that we needed His help to guide us since nothing else and nobody else could.  As I started to drive I didn't hear a voice or have a vision, just a quiet feeling to go in a certain direction.  After a couple of turns and driving for about 5 minutes, there it was!  Our first purchase at Costco was a new GPS specifically updated for Puerto Rico.  Since then, going where we need to go and finding what we need to find has been amazingly better!

This situation is a parallel for many people here in Puerto Rico and throughout the world.  They wander through life looking for happiness and meaning.  They resort to various opinions, books and philosophies/religions.  Many of them give up after coming to the false conclusion that nobody really knows the way. 

But as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we do know the way and we do have the "perfect GPS" to guide people to where they can find eternal truth, happiness and safety.  As missionaries we pray that others will realize that they must turn directly to God for their answers.  When they do that, He guides them to us or us to them.  And when they listen to our message, He tells them through His Spirit that they have found the way home.

11 August 2010

Ceiba - our new home the fishbowl

We were transferred to Cieba, on the big island of Puerto Rico, working with the Fajardo branch.  We still have our apartment in Vieques, where we will go every other weekend while we continue to work with the people in the Vieques branch.  We are excited because we have alot more work to do.  We call our upstairs apartment the "Fishbowl" because there are so many windows.  The decor is very interesting!
Our favorite room in the house is the bedroom with our a/c unit

The following picture is the shower head in the Ceiba apartment.  In Vieques our hot water is produced by an electrical attachment to the shower head like the one you see in this picture.  Our hearts sunk when we saw that this one was burned out.

  Initially Marilyn was trying to be brave about the fact that we didn't have hot water in the apartment.  The first two days of showering were quite a challenge for her.  Leon, on the other hand thought the cold showers were very refreshing.  At the end of our second day Leon moved the faucet handle to one side and discovered.....HOT WATER!!!!  Unfortunately for Marilyn she had already taken her cold shower that day.  We are very pleased to have hot water in the bathroom and the kitchen!!!  In Vieques our only hot water is in the shower, so we haul the hot water to the kitchen to wash the dishes.

02 August 2010

Introducing our new Granddaughter!

We are the proud grandparents of
Maryn Grace Terry  
August 1 2010
6:09 PM
6 lbs 11oz 19 3/4 in

Here she is with her very happy family!!

Tender Mercy from Above

The Lord blessed us with a tender mercy yesterday afternoon.  (To preface this you need to know that we pray always to be able to find the people the Lord wants us to find and who are prepared to receive His gospel.)  There are a few people whose names are on the church rolls but whom we haven't been able to find yet.  Yesterday we felt a desire to look for a mother and her daughter whom we had been told lived in a certain part of the island that we never had visited.  We had no idea where in the neighborhood they lived, what their house looked like or what they looked like.  As we drove in this new neighborhood over steep hills around sharp turns, we passed many homes.  All of sudden Sister Button said that we should stop and talk to some people sitting outside a certain house.  By the time she said that we had already passed the house.  The roads are so narrow that it isn't easy to turn around so I asked her if she was sure.  She paused a minute and then said yes.  So we went down the road a ways until we could find a place to turn around.  By the time we came back and parked, the people had gone inside their house.  So we followed the Caribbean tradition - we went up to about 20 feet of the house and called out "Buenas Tardes."  There was a radio blaring on the porch that prevented the people inside from hearing us.  After calling out a few times we were about to leave when a lady came out the door and shut off the radio.  This time when I called out she heard us and walked toward us.  We asked her if she knew the people we were searching for, not really expecting her to know them but hoping that that this would be an ice breaker that would lead to a gospel discussion .  To our surprise we discovered that she was the very person we were looking for.  Here is a picture of the house -

Sister Button pointed out that this represented two miracles: 1) The Spirit had whispered to her to help us find this lady; and 2) That I had been willing to listen and follow her prompting.  Regarding this second miracle, I hope that she is just teasing me, but I must confess sadly that it has taken me almost three decades of living with my wife to figure out that she is right most of the time.  I used to think that she was right when what she thought agreed with what I thought.  Now when she has thoughts that are different than mine, I have developed the humility and wisdom to question my thinking rather than hers.  I can only imagine how life would have been different if I had figured that out in the early days of our marriage.

01 August 2010

Lessons lessons lessons

Sister Button is touching people's hearts, ears and stomachs.  She touches their hearts with her countenance, her love for them and her efforts to communicate with them in Spanish - which by the way is going very well and getting better every day (muy bien y mejor cada dia.)  She is touching their ears by teaching them music lessons.
Luz Romero learning to conduct the hymns.  Last week she conducted one hymn, this week she did all three!

President Velez and Yarisbel Colon learning to play the piano!

On Wednesdays we give English lessons.  We haven't had as many people attending as we would like so we decided to teach people during English class how to make the wonderful bread and cinnamon rolls that Sister Button has been giving to lots of our friends here in Vieques.  The attendance at this class was at an all-time high!
Chegui putting the rolls into the oven.

Yarisbel, Gloria and Maribel putting the dough into the bread pans.
Enjoying the fruits of our labors!