24 August 2009

We can all reach the finish line


Derek Redmond was running in the 400-meter race in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. He already held the British record in this event. In the previous Olympics he had been forced to withdraw 10 minutes before the race because of an Achilles tendon injury. Now four years later he was here, ready to compete, determined to win a medal in the 400. His father was in the stands watching.During the semi-final heat, Redmond was only 175 meters away from the finish line, when his right hamstring suddenly popped and he fell to the ground. As all the other runners raced past him, Redmond knew that once again his Olympics dream had been snatched away from him. But Redmond was determined to finish the race, so he got back on his feet and started hobbling towards the finish line. He was in visible pain with each step, and it was unclear whether he could even make it.Suddenly, his father gets out of his seat and jumps onto the track, running around the security guards, and comes alongside his son on the track. He puts his arm around his son’s waist and encourages him to keep going. And as 65,000 people in the stadium rise to their feet in applause, father and son make their way around the track to the finish line together. Redmond did not win his Olympic medal. But with the help of his father, he finished the race.

One day each of us will cross the finish line. Will it likewise be to the cheers and encouragement of those we have loved and served? Hopefully it will be to the approbation of our Savior, who because of our faith and good works, will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Heavenly Father created a beautiful plan. He wants us to succeed and have joy in our life and become like Him, however he allowed us to experience trials in order to gain strength. Sometimes those trials can be painful. He wants us to reach the finish line and return back to him. If you ever wonder how you can gain that strength and reach that finish line, please visit with our missionaries. http://www.lds.org/

Our son Jeff is trying to help people in the West Indies understand the great plan of happiness that God created for us and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in its fullness. God has sent his Son Jesus Christ to redeem the World from sin and bless us with eternal life. We need to have faith and work hard to reach the finish line and if we cannot make it on our own, He will give us strength when we ask for it and Jesus Christ will be the finisher of our faith.
I like to thank all those people that support Jeff with letters and the local members in the West Indies for their love.

What did I get myself into?

Things are going really well here. The storms passed us by and are on their way to Barbados and other islands. All we got was a little rain and wind, but nothing too bad.

We were able to have a great week. We had 4 people at church and they liked it. We have some investigators that only speak French, but I do not speak French and neither does elder Muse. I decided that I was going to try and pick up some French from the little booklets about the restoration that we have in the apartment. When we went over to teach the people things turned out really well. We were able to communicate and they understood the message of the restoration. We also have a young man helping us. His name is Frantz and he is a little less-active. He is about 17 years old and speaks both English and French. Because we are working with him and he is helping us teach people he has started coming back to church. It is great to see how the Lord works and how people's lives are blessed through missionary work. I have seen people receive blessings and stronger testimonies because they have been doing missionary work. This includes me of course.

We will be having a talent show on Friday in which I will be playing piano. I will play a duet with Sister Oliver. Elder and Sister Oliver are the senior couple here on St Maarten. They are great people. Sister Oliver has a Ph.D. in Piano Performance. We played together yesterday and I thought it was horrible. I thought, "What did I get myself into?" She was able to read and play the music without any problem and I was trying to keep up while making so many mistakes. I was discouraged at first but then I realized that she has a Ph.D. and I do not, so I do not need to be as good as her. I will spend some time today to practice and everything will go well on Friday, I hope.

Well, that's about all for this week. All in all I really love St. Maarten. It is a beautiful place. The people are great.


17 August 2009

We are prepared for the hurricanes

This week has been great. We were able to teach lessons with members present and many other lessons. It has only been our second week, but we are seeing great success in the area so far.

People are a little scared over here because they say that there is a tropical storm coming and that one was due this morning. We had a small storm in the middle of the night, but right now the weather looks fine. The people from the hurricane watch say that there is another tropical storm coming our way which is due thursday. The schools are closed today, and we were advized to fill up all of the bottles that we have with water just in case the water is cut off during the storm. I do not know much about storms or anything like that, but we bought enough food to last us a while and we have enough water to take care of ourselves. Who knows, this storm might just pass by. We'll have to wait and see what happens but we are prepared.

We were able to have 3 investigators at church and they all liked it. One of them is a referral that we got from a member and the other two are family members of a member. We were not really able to set any firm baptism dates with them, but they all felt good about the church and will be coming again. In total I would say that we had about 40 people at church, so it was not a bad week, but we can do a lot better. Elder Muse and I are working hard to get some less-active members back to church. We were able to have 3 people that we visited that are less active come back to church on sunday. It was great to see that our efforts are bringing forth results. I really hope we can help this branch grow.

Thank you for your prayers and your emails.



10 August 2009

Message in a bottle arrived from St. Maarten

Travel distance from Suriname to St. Maarten is ~ 2,000 km (~1,200 miles)

We left Suriname on Wednesday morning. We arrived at the Paramaribo airport at 11:30 pm on Tuesday evening and waited for the new elders to come in. They then left us there to wait for our flight which was to leave at 6:30 am on Wednesday. Elder Muse, my new companion; Elder Jestice, a missionary that is finished with his mission; and Elder Ritchey, a missionary that was heading to the MTC to start his mission; and myself spent the night at the airport. It was not the most comfortable thing to do, but we managed.

We flew to Trinidad that morning, but we did not leave the airport. We had less than 2 hours in Trinidad. The other two elders left us there and Elder Muse and I flew on to Barbados. When we landed in Barbados we did not even get off the plane, so we did not see anything. That same plane then took us to Sint Maarten where after the the plane flew on to Jamaica.

St. Maarten is a nice island. The landscape is very dry, but there are plenty of beaches. As you can imagine the beaches are off-limits for us as elders except for baptisms. The people are really friendly. I have not been shouted at or anything like that yet. The people do not seem to care if you're white or not.

Elder Muse and I work on the Dutch side of the island. We have one half of the island as our area. The other half is being worked by Elder Butler and Elder Wright. They work the French half of the island. The interesting thing about all of this is that I have only met about 5 people that speak Dutch. None of the people on the street that we talk to speak Dutch. They either speak English, French, or Spanish. I don't speak French or Spanish, so when we contact someone on the street we try to tell them to come to church in whatever other languages we know. I tried inviting someone to church in very broken and rusty Italian, which seemed to work. :-)

The branch is great. There were not that many people there on Sunday, but we are visiting a lot of less active members and trying our best to get them back to church. We are hoping to find new investigators by working with the less actives. I have seen it work. We set a goal to baptize 2 people this transfer and I am confident about all of this. I think we can reach our goal if we work hard and do our best. The island has not seen many baptisms in a long time.

That's about all for now.


04 August 2009

Wanica Bedankt!!!

Bij deze een groet van de andere kant van de Atlantische Oceaan
Lieve Broeders en Zusters,

Als ouders willen wij u hartelijk bedanken voor de steun en liefde die u onze zoon, Elder Vernes in de afgelopen maanden gegeven hebt. Hij schreef wekelijks over de lieve mensen in Wanica en was erg ontroerd om de gemeente te verlaten. Hij houdt erg veel van zijn broeders en zusters in Wanica.

Groetjes, Familie Vernes

03 August 2009

God be with you, till we meet again...

Well, I am being transferred and weill be going to St. Maarten this week.I am excited to go, but sad to leave. My companion will be Elder Muse from Texas. He is a good missionary and he is serving here in Suriname as well. He has been on his mission for a long time. He will be going home in two transfers, so it is great to be able to serve with him. I will be able to learn a lot from him.

I am sad to leave Wanica. The members have been so amazing and I feel that they have become close friends. I cannot wait for you to meet them when after my mission. Yesterday was one of the hardest Sundays on my mission. The day itself was good. Brother Siegfried got the priesthood and he is now a priest. He is doing well. The thing that made it hard was the fact that it was my last in Wanica.

It is great to know that when I leave, there will still be music because I was able to help Valerie Ritfeld with the piano. She has made so much progress and she has gotten so good at it. I think she plays the piano amazingly well.

I was able to bear my testimony and talk to them about the Book of Mormon I told them that I knew that the Book of Mormon was true. I asked them to read it and to find out for themselves. I told them that they are amazing members. I am amazed at their testimonies and their faith. At the end of the meeting the branch choir got up and sang "Israel, Hoor God Roept U Allen" (Israel, Israel, God is calling) for me in the most beautiful arrangement I have ever heard. You will not be able to find such singing anywhere in the world but here in the West Indies. The harmony was beautiful and they did a great job. I am grateful for the chance I had to work with them as a choir. I thanked them after the meeting. It was an emotional meeting for me.

After church we had one last choir practice together in which I made them promise that they would continue on their own after I leave. They said that they would and we spent some time singing together. I did not lead the music, but left it over to one of the members in the choir they sounded really well. At the end of the practice they sang "God Be With You, Till We Meet Again". It meant so much to me. I had to fight hard not to cry. Some of the members of the choir were crying as well. It is hard to say goodbye to such great friends.

We were invited over to President Druiventak's house for dinner yesterday. President and Sister Druiventak are amazing people. They have been to the temple and they are working on going again. I have been able to learn a lot from them. We are invited at the Tjong-A-Jong's house tonight. That's the man that called on father's day. He is an amazing man with and amazing family. And on Tuesday we will be going to the Ritfeld family to say goodbye. These people and many others have really become dear to me, I love them and I really will miss them. I hope to be able to get the chance to serve here in this area again. I told them all about my family and they cannot wait to meet my parents. I took a lot of pictures that I hope to be able to send soon.

That's about all for this week. I still need to do a lot of packing. I hope to finish it up today.

I do not know what information to give you for mail in St. Maarten yet, but I will let you know as soon as I know more.