Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter in Martinique

I started collecting info about church a few days in advance.  I didn't want to be left day of without the info needed to get to church.  We had not been anywhere near a branch last week, so with there being one on the island of Martinique I wanted to make sure we could go.  We were having trouble lining up a car rental to explore the island, so I couldn't count on us having a vehicle to use to get there.  Also I still had to figure out exactly where the church meeting was held.  THe map on is often incorrect.  In many of the places we visit addresses are not used so the church website may post an address or a neighborhood, but that only gets us in the vicinity, and then we still have to hunt for where the meeting are.  SOmetimes a phone number is given on the church website, but often no one answers that number during the week.  It would be great if they would list missionary phone numbers.  I need to email the church and suggest 2 things.  One they list missionary phone numbers and 2 they use GPS coordinates to place where the church is located on their map.  THat would be so much more helpful.  Their location was only a mile away from where the branch actually meets, so we most likely never would have found it.  Last year after searching many a Sunday mornings for buildings--always an adventure, and we had several great experiences-- but wanting to get the info right, I finally realized I needed to ask the missionaries for the Mission Office or Presidents phone number and just call them for accurate info for whatever area we are in.  So before we left the boat last spring I had opbtained the West Indies Mission office number from the missionary couple in St. Lucia.  Now I could use it.  I called and they happily gave me 3 phone numbers for missionaries here in Martinique and told me that all the missionaries spoke English-- good, b/c my French is terrible.

I called the first number and reached a Senior Couple.  They were happy to hear we would be attending church with them, but they couldn't give me directions bc they had just gotten to martinique themselves 10 days ago and didn't know how to explain where the church was or how we could get there.  So on to the next phone nuymber in my list.  The Elders were also happy to supply info, if my phone would work!  I was attempting to use my internet phone, and the connection was terrible.  I finally had to suck up the $3US per minute and just call from my cell, church was worth the cost anyway.  They gave me a few simple directions to tell a taxi driver and with my good map skills I was able to guess on the area of where the church was within a few blocks.  

We had been trying to figure out how to best get us all there.  We were on a very "french" island, where shops and places close most afternoons and weekends, especially on SUndays.  And it was Easter Sunday.  Friday was a holiday here, and so is Monday.  Our chances were looking slim.  ALso I had read that Taxis charge 40% more on Sundays.  hmmm...

On Thursday we had moved the boat to anchor 3 miles across the bay from the main city Fort de France, and church was only a few miles away from where we could get ashore, so our chances were good.  On friday David and I headed over to Fort de France to grocery shop and stock up on some much needed food items.  while there we asked around about the buses and other areas in town and how to get there.  We collected enough info that we planned to take the kids back the next morning to explore the downtown area and ride the bus out to see the big mall, and pick up some more food.  On our way back to our tender we sat to rest for a moment on a bench.  I looked down the walk way and spotted a very white couple dressed in church clothes with a small black badge on their left shoulders.  Who else could it be?  I hurried over to them and introduced myself.  Sure enough they were the new couple I had talked to just a few days before.  They had parked nearby and were using a nav system to get around, and onit it had the exact location of the church.  Turns out I was pretty close in my guess on where the church was, but even better now, we had the exact spot and all the info we needed to get there for sure!

After riding the bus the next day to the mall we saw that the bus stops within a half mile of the church area, so we decided we would take the bus Sunday morning to get there.  After arriving at the bus terminal dry from our 3 mile journey across the bay,(we had dressed in rain gear prepared for wind and waves in crossing the bay to wet us) we were able to catch our bus, but after our short walk we arrived  late to church.  But we were there.  And the members welcomed us. We arrived just in time to hear the women stand, mostly wearing all white, to sing a beautiful Easter hymn.  The talks were of course all in French, and we didn't understand a thing, but the spirit was felt and it was wonderful to be there.

The kids were then welcomed into primary with the other children, and missionaries translated for us in Sunday  School and Relief Society for us,.  The lessons were excellent and as usual I am always strengthened by the comments and testimonies given in these wonderful branches filled with faithful followers of Christ.  How they bless my life.  

The missionaries had mentioned that the buses stop running after noon on Sundays, so as soon as church ended we quickly made our way back to the bus stop.  The schedule listed a bus time of 12:30pm so we hoped we could make it in time.  We arrived before 12:30, and waited, and waited, and waited.  No bus.  After an hour it was time to come up with a new plan.  The kids were hungry and getting impatient.  It had rained on us once already.  The crackers I had brought were gone, and the water dwindling.   We had a phone number for a taxi driver so we called him and thankfully he came to get us.  Thankfully he spoke good enough Englsih that we could tell him where we were.  We crammed all 9 us plus the driver into a 5 seater taxi.  We squished, but we all made it in and back to the tender to cross back to the boat.  Church, is always an adventure, but one worth taking.    

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