Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Suriname LDS History

Suriname LDS Statistics: Total Church membership: 1,430
                                         Congregations: 6
                                         Family History centers: 1

The Jay and Shirley Bills family lived in Suriname from 1969 to 1972 and held their own Church services. Their daughter Lisa Bills was baptized at age 8 in August 1967 in a river outside Paramaribo, the first known baptism in the country.
Former Netherlands Amsterdam Mission President John Limburg and his wife, Beverly, were called to begin missionary work in Suriname. The Limburgs arrived in Paramaribo in October 1988. By the beginning of 1989, approximately 16 people were attending services. 

On Easter Sunday, March 26, 1989, August Marengo and two sisters, Eleni and Maudi Treonosimitoe, became the first converts baptized .A month later Iwan Nathaniel and Philly Denswel were baptized. Denswel’s extended family lived in Lelydorp, which led the Limburgs to begin holding worship services there in December 1989. Membership had increased in Paramaribo so that in November 1989 a branch (a small congregation) was formally organized. By 1990, attendance at the branch averaged about 100 people.

 Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve (the second highest governing body of the Church) visited in February 1990. Four men saw in the newspaper an announcement of Elder Ballard’s coming to Suriname and attended the meeting. All four joined the Church, including Stanley Cooman, who became the first native branch president.

 In 1990, Don and Lorna Rapier received copies of pre-recorded radio broadcasts about gospel principles from missionaries in Holland and arranged for broadcasts on a local Dutch-speaking radio program. Irena Manakavera heard one of the broadcasts and was later baptized. She was influential in bringing 28 people into the Church, including several members from a local Carib Indian tribe. In 2001, there were 495 members in Suriname. The Paramaribo chapel was dedicated in July 2001 and, due to membership growth, the Paramaribo Branch was divided in September 2002 to form the Wanica Branch.
Source: LDS Newsroom

Weather 27/30C 
Short rainy season: 1st half of December till 2nd half of January
Short dry season: 2nd half of January till 2nd half of March
Long rainy season: 2nd half of March till 1st half of August
Long dry season: 2nd half of Aug till 1st half of December

Arrival in Trinidad

30th December 2015

I´ve arrived at the mission-home in Trinidad this morning! I called home to tell Mom & Dad that I´ve arrived sound and safe on the island. Cool thing is I was able to talk to Jeff & Dan as well cuz Mom put the call on speakerphone. I´m not staying in Trinidad though, tonight at 7pm is my flight to Surinam! So excited, my companions will be Sister Wood & Sister Zeegalaar.

At the Mission- office
Here I am at the Mission office receiving training before I fly to Surinam and what do I see on the a board full of photos from brother´s photo...right there he is...Elder Vernes

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Trinidad LDS History

We haven't heard from Amy yet as she is traveling today but did find some interesting church facts from this island.

Off the east coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea, Trinidad & Tobago is a parliamentary democracy where the people speak English as the official language. The major religions are Roman Catholic, 32 percent; Protestant, 29 percent; and Hindu, 25 percent.
A visit to England by Elizabeth Rogers led to her baptism there in April 1974. When she moved back to Trinidad in 1976, she wrote to President Spencer W. Kimball requesting missionaries. Howard J. Marsh, Venezuela Caracas Mission president, sent missionaries into the country for short periods of time as early as March 1975, but official recognition of the Church was denied and permanent missionary work could not be established for many years.

Among the first converts to the Church were Lucy Payne and the Basil D. and Felicia Borde family baptized in 1977 by missionaries Daniel Rector and Michael Willis. Basil Borde worked as a newspaperman and wrote articles about the Church in order to dispel misconceptions held by public and government officials. During a visit to Trinidad by Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy and Venezuela Caracas Mission President Dale E. Miller, the Trinidad Branch was organized on 5 June 1980 in Port of Spain with Errol O. Balfour as branch president.
Trinidad was transferred to the West Indies Mission in September 1983. The first missionaries from the West Indies Mission were Chris Doty, Doug Mathews, Randy Clark and David Roos who helped organize a citywide cross-country race that raised the Church's profile. Missionaries still could not actively preach in the country, so in 1987 Frank Talley, Regional Representative in Puerto Rico, and his wife, Arline, organized a Health Fair in Trinidad to teach hygiene and principles from the Word of Wisdom. The fair resulted in 300 referrals and the baptism of Kelvin Diaz. He was chief executive of the Boy Scouts of Trinidad and head of civil service training for the government. Diaz used his influence with the government in April 1988 for 10 missionaries to enter the country and subsequent missionaries to proselyte in the country

On 22 February 1990, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve visited Trinidad along with Elder Charles Didier of the Seventy and blessed the land. The Trinidad Tobago Mission was created on 1 July 1991, but discontinued in 1994, with Trinidad becoming the new headquarters of the West Indies Mission. Growth in Trinidad led to branches developing throughout the island in Port of Spain, San Fernando, Arima, Sangre Grande, Couva and Curepe. The Port of Spain Trinidad District was formed 3 March 1996 with Albert Alleyne as district president.
President Gordon B. Hinckley stopped in Trinidad on 20 May 2002 after dedicating temples in Brazil and Paraguay. He addressed 900 people at a member meeting in the Cascadia Hotel conference center in St. Anns. Also in attendance was Donna Carter, the minister of religions for the government of Trinidad and Tobago. Prior to the meeting, President Hinckley met with the prime minister of the republic, Patrick Manning.
In 2002, there were 1,778 members.


Number of Missions:         1
Number of Units:               1 Stake
Number of Congregations: 5 Wards, 5 Branches

Source: Church news

Monday, December 28, 2015

Goodbye Utah

29th December 2015

Goodbye Utah

Its time to say goodbye! The MTC Provo experience has been good, I´ve learned a lot, I´ve made new friends and now I´m looking forward to finally really start my mission and go out and serve! 
(Weather in Utah -4C)

Trinidad...I am ready! 
(Weather on the island 29C!!)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Provo Temple by night

Beautiful Provo Temple by night

149 Temples world wide - 14 under construction- 10 announced - total of 173 

Setting apart 2

13th December 2015 - Setting apart photos - Gillingham - England
 Mom congratulating me via Facetime

Hannah Hawkins

My 2 sistas

Congratulations from President Stephen Hunt

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Calling home for Christmas

25th December 2015

Be a light unto someone

As we follow the example of our Savior, ours will be the opportunity to be a light in the lives of others - President Thomas S. Monson

I got to call home! Mom & Dad stayed up to await my phone call, for me it was 4.15 pm for them it was 00.15 am. The cool thing is also that my parents immediately called Jeff & Dan, Whitney & Oliver, thru FaceTime (audio)...meaning all of us could talk together! The connection was very clear and we even sang: we wish you a Merry Christmas. What a great opportunity to inform them about my experiences and to hear their voices!! Joking, laughing & expressing our love for one another!  

I had the pleasure of hearing Elder Bednar, we were allowed to text our questions to him in advance and he personally answered all of our questions. It was awesome.

MTC...we call it here a spiritual "prison" cuz we go from classes to classes not being able to be outside much, Jeff knew exactly what I was talking about ,) I do learn a lot but looking forward to go out and teach! 

Monday the 28th of December is the last time for me to receive letters thru Dear Elder/Sister, the day after I´m leaving on a jet plane: Salt Lake City - Chicago - Trinidad Port of Spain! Leaving the MTC bright and early. I´ll be staying on the island (or other islands in my mission field) for about 3 months or so till I receive my visa for Surinam. Next P-Day I´ll report about this new adventure.

Merry Christmas everyone!

The distance is far but we´re close in our hearts!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Meet my MTC homies

 with Sister Lindsey & Sister Maughn (they will be serving in Belgium)

It has been an emotional roller coaster here at the MTC! I absolutely love being a missionary...I love serving others!

A few days ago we´ve had a devotional where Elder Nielson (a member of the Quorum of the Seventy) gave a powerful talk. It really helped me to stay focus during my mission.

I already have my ticket for Trinidad Port of Spain! I´m so excited but also scared because that means my mission will finally start!

I cant wait for Christmas Day! I´m hoping that Elders Jeffrey R. Holland or Dieter F. Uchtdorf will speak to us.President Thomas S. Monson would be pretty cool too but I doubt it.

I love you and speak to you soon!

Christmas at MTC

25th December 2015

Christmas is a time of giving. Heavenly Father loves us and He gave us His Son, because our Savior loves us...He sacrificed himself for us!! Take advantage of this gift! This is what I think when I read Doctrine & Covenants 20:21-25

 P-DAY!! I haven´t done much. We had a class from early morning till noon. After that I picked up my package from Jeff & Dan. Thank you, I was quite excited as I opened it ;) again see all my Dear Elder/Sister letters!!

Before entering MTC

25th December 2015

Some before the MTC photo´s

The driving around last minute to get the forgotten items 

Last night at the hotel, where Mom couldn´t sleep because of supposedly my snoring 

Spending the day with my Boo

Meet my MTC companion/ sightseeing Provo temple

25th December 2015

Provo Temple

My current companion Sister Walter
In this district are more sisters; most of them are Samoan. My companion is from Germany. I´ve learned a lot from her. She´s extremely hard working, determined & not afraid to say whats on her mind. She got baptized 4 years ago and will be serving in Saint George, German speaking mission.


24th December 2015

Look at all these letters!

I´ve received so many Dear Elder/Sister letters...its INSANE!!! I feel quite bad though because I´m the only missionary receiving letters. But they make me so happy. So thank you everyone for taking the time to write me!

The food here at the MTC is horrible! I don´t know what happened 8 years ago when Jeff served. They also do not have any vegetarian food...but I don´t mind. The only "food" that´s good are the cookies which they get from Subway.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas story

24th December 2015

As we´re looking forward to hear from Amy on Christmas Day and this phone call being very special to us...I know she would like me to share this with you: 

It was a spring night more than two millennia ago and quiet on the hills of Bethlehem. Certain shepherds stood watch over the ewes on the hills, awaiting the arrival of lambs in this season of lambing. These men had a unique commission to watch for the birth, of these particular lambs and keep them safe.

From the writings of Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915-1985) we learn: "These were not ordinary shepherds nor ordinary flocks. The sheep there being herded-nay, not herded, but watched over, cared for with love and devotion- were destined for sacrifice on the great altar in the Lord´s House, in similitude of the eternal sacrifice of Him who that wondrous night lay in a stable, perhaps among sheep of lesser destiny.

When the Savior was born, His birthplace, Bethlehem, was near these special flocks of sheep spoken of in Luke chapter 2- close enough, in fact, for the shepherds to soon find the infant. We read that "they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manager."
This month we are immersed in the commemoration of the Savior´s birth through song, gatherings, testimonies, and spirit. What patterns do we find in the events of Christ´s birth that can apply to us today?

We rejoice and  ponder the mighty event of our Redeemer´s arrival to earth, made all wondrous by the extreme humility of His earthly circumstances. He, born near fields of lambs, was to become the Great Shepherd of us all. Are we not His under-shepherds today?
What would happen if we, as teachers, learners, parents, and followers of Christ, took upon us the patterns of Christ? What decisions and actions would we make or change if we took seriously
Christ´s admonition to "Come, follow me?

Pres Howard W. Hunter: "This Christmas, mend a quarrel...Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again."

By such Christlike service and with the Savior´s grace we can become His true under-shepherds, bringing others into the fold of God.

Let us nurture His flocks, our friends, fellow members, and families with love and sacrifice. As did the shepherds of old, may we come to Him with haste and then go our way glorifying and praising God.


Merry Christmas from our home to yours where-ever that may be. 

Entering MTC

19th December 2015 MTC - Provo - Utah

This photo was sent to my Dad by Brother Evan Larsen from Missionary Department, Thank you so much!

I´ve got my Name Badge on December 16th

 First of all I do regret not speaking Dutch more often at home (Mom used to call me her German baby cuz I´d rather speak German). I don`t particularly find it hard and I love speaking Dutch now!

A lot has happened in the last 3 days..feels like 3 months though ;)
So Mom dropped me off and the host took me to lunch (huge meal) I was so nervous that I could not eat at all.
Due to also having a red dot on my badge everyone kept saying: " Welcome to the MTC"
At first it was cool but after a awhile it got annoying.
I´ve met some amazing people & I absolutely love my companions.

My language teacher said that I´m supposed to be here for 6 weeks. However these lessons are boring for me. I already know the language and I feel like I´m wasting my time especially if I could be teaching someone instead! I decided to talk to my Branch President told him how I felt and that I desperately want to go out in the field.
Long story short...I am going to another district where I´ll be teaching in English! 
This also means leaving the MTC on December 29th to Trinidad! I´m so happy!!!

I had the opportunity to teach an investigator for the first time in Dutch for like an hour! It went really well and I could feel the Spirit guiding me.

Any ways I have to go now but just know that I love you all! Speak to you next week! 

Setting apart 1

13th December 2015 - Me being set apart as a Sister Missionary - Gillingham - England

As Mom was at home in Germany, Stephen Hunt (Stake President) allowed my Mom to be there via Face Time.

Me giving my testimony, I was a bit emotional not for leaving just cuz I´m so excited! Thanks to all who stayed to be part of this special day!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Finally at the MTC

16th December 2015 Finally the MTC - Provo - Utah

Alright so after the last minute shopping tour we hit the highway towards Provo! As we´re getting closer to the MTC both Mom and I are getting quiet and quiet, Mom did give me some last advice about loving my companions, tidying up my room (sheesh do I really need that advice? ;) eating healthy but foremost about letting my light shine and loving the people I´ll be teaching! Honestly I am getting a bit nervous now...this is truly it!! I am about to enter the MTC!! About 10 weeks ago I was happy upon receiving the call but did not register it that much, meaning I was focusing more on Elder Hawkins getting ready to serve. And now its really downing in on me...This is it people!! The time has come to truly serve for 18 months! I´m giddy, nervous but especially so excited!! I am ready to serve for my loving Heavenly Father! Do not worry about me peeps...He will watch over me and you all while I am being on His errand! 

They let us thru the gate and told Mom to park at the curb someone will be waiting for Sister Vernes there. Mom looks at me and said: are you ready babe? I smile and say: YES!! 
We get out of the car and immediately a Sister missionary walks towards us saying: Welcome to the MTC Sister!  Mom insists on getting my luggage out of the boot, squeezing me tight. A picture is taken, we hug tightly again, say our I love yous...and off I go inside the MTC. Mom still sits in the car before the building, I turn around and with a huge smile I wave goodbye one last time! Till we meet again, Mommy dearest!  

This is it

This is it!!

16th December 2015 @ 3 am!

All of a sudden I woke up from a deep sleep...completely shocking my Mom, she was awake any way but did not expect me to wake so suddenly. Any ways I now remembered that I did not finish or even started to fill in the forms about my vaccinations! And this had to take place before I arrive at the MTC!  Typical Amy, my sister Whitney would and did say ;) So we ran off to the hotel lobby in our PJ`s mind you at that hour there were no other guests any ways. Sitting there filling in the form took awhile cuz I had everything in German and we had to figure out which vaccinations were meant in English. At some point we called Dad because he was the one who took me to all my doctors appointments. Seriously it would have been better to fill this way before than last minute, and of course Mom was freaking out. And I´m like: Mom...chillax, I´ve got plenty of time ,) In the end all was good, I finished and printed it out and had time to Facetime my sister one more time! And my big bro Jeff called while he was in between work meetings, I talked with my sis in-law  Dan, and my beloved nephew Charlie. He was saying my name over and over! Such a cutie! And also Dad called!


Being up so early has got its advantage. Whitney was so nice to pack my suitcase before I left England, but hey me...uhm..did mess it all up again...typical she would and did say again ,)
Mom did not really helped me much saying that she wouldn´t be there so I´m better off figuring it out by myself. I really don´t like doing stuff like that. My boyfriend, Elder Jacob Hawkins, is serving in Calgary Canada mission, he left on December 1st, gave me this stocking full of presents! I cant wait to open it all on Christmas Day! Mom being curious tried to convince me to open at least one. No way Jose!

I´m so excited and cant wait to be at the MTC!! Mom is a bit nervous and trying not to show it ;)
Not only did I forget the forms...uhm..I had also forgot some items at home! So now Mom is completely freaking out...we decided to have an early breakfast and head out to the stores to get last minute items like...running shoes ( forgot mine at home), hairbrush (Mom was wondering how I combed my hair the last couple of days) SD-card reader and a bunch of other stuff. After breakfast at the hotel (I had French toast...they were divine;) went back to our room, grab my suitcase and hit the road off to the stores.  I had to report at the MTC before noon and we had to drive for about an hour to get there. As usual Mom gets lost even with the Sat-Nav! We managed to get everything and were on our way!

Visting my best friend

15th December 2015 Provo - Utah

I get to see my bestie today! Mom took me to Provo so I can spend a few hours with Amanda! Amanda and I met a few years ago in Frankfurt - Germany while she´s was being an exchange student. We picked her up for church and it just clicked between us, we would have her over, have sleep overs watched movies and just talked and talked into the wee hours of the morning. We kept in touch all this time via Skype and other social media. And we saw each other last December 2014

So happy to spend time with her before I start my mission! Of course my Mom got lost trying to find Amanda´s place, actually we were not too far but neither Mom or I had a clue where she lived. After giving Amanda some clues she came and found us ;)

We talked a lot today about anything and everything! We went to the University Mall in Provo, Amanda bought some stuff for her mission. Of course its a lot easier to find missionary attire right here in Utah! We also talked about the gospel, temple and about the love we have for our Heavenly Father and wanting to serve so badly!

Amanda is also serving a mission soon, she´ll be going to the Alpine Mission, covering Switzerland, Austria and Southern part of Germany. She´ll leaving in February 2016

God speed my boo...till we meet again!

Travel experience

Snowstorm in Utah!

14th December 2015 My travel experience! 

Before I go to the MTC (Missionary Training Center) Provo let me tell you what happened.
Starting at the airport: It was extremely foggy in Paris so the pilot announced that we`ll be having a delay. my connection flight was departing at 10:20 am I thought I had plenty of time to catch it. The guy next to me asked the flight attendant: when will we be arriving in Paris? The answer was 10 am, so he turned to me and said: we´ll make our connecting flights. His next flight was 10 minutes before mine. However as we landed he had 1 minute left and I had 10.

 I was getting a bit stressed by now cuz I had no idea which gate my next flight was departing from! As soon as we landed I grabbed my stuff and started running as fast as I could, which wasn't very fast. There were so many people who had a connecting flights, I was being pushed and people were just plain rude. Eventually my airplane buddy passed me and waved goodbye. Finally found a Info screen and I noticed that my flight was boarding and it was final call! I had to hop on a train to take me to the next gate in another terminal...again being pushed and I barely made it out of the train! Just barely made it to the aircraft where I think I was the one of the last passengers to board!

Flight to Salt Lake City was alright, had an aisle seat, only annoying thing of such a seat is...everyone who walks by...seemed to touch me...obviously not on purpose.
I did enjoy this flight a lot more though. So many LDS (Latter Day Saints) members on board, the guy next to me served 2 years in Korea. He was extremely nice to me and took me to the baggage claim (my luggage did not arrive it ended up in Atlanta) Not long after that I saw my Mom! So here we are in snowy, blizzard Utah!

At London Heathrow Airport

14th December 2015- London - Paris - Salt Lake City Utah

Will miss these guys

Will miss my sista, my bro in - law & little Charlie

My big bro and sis in-law...will be missed

Tender moments with Dad
My Mom is not in the pictures cuz she will be meeting me in Utah on the same day

Last night with La Familia

Last night

13th December 2015

Last night with the familia! All my bags are packed and I´m ready to go...well almost. I was pampered with present but foremost the love my familia showed was awesome! 
So its finally time to say goodbye!! I am so grateful that I´m able to serve the people in Trinidad port of Spain mission and preaching the gospel in the Dutch language. I know that our Heavenly Father loves his children. And as time is getting closer to Christmas remember the only gift that we need to have in our life is the Savior. I love you all and cant wait to see you after my mission. 

If you would like to know more about the church and in what I believe in, check out the church´s website:

See you in 18 months! 

Love my family

Its official

It´s official...Sister Vernes

La Familia

Sisters forever!

A Missionary is someone who leaves their family for a short time, so that others may be with their families for eternity. Amy see you in 18 months - from Whitney Smith

London temple

London Temple - taken by Pieter W. Vernes

This temple was built in 1955 and Amy´s Dad also went to this beautiful temple in 1973 to be sealed to his family for time and all eternity. Pieter was ca. 11 years old at the time.

First London temple experience

Oct 23rd 2015 London Temple!

As part of the Mission preparation Amy attended the London Temple for the first time! She´s been reading her scriptures, fasted (abstaining from 2 meals) & prayed to receive inspiration.
An exciting day and as her parents we lovingly sustained her in visiting the Temple.

What are temples used for?

Temples are houses of the Lord, the most sacred structures on the earth. Anciently, the Lord directed Solomon to build a temple (1 Chronicles 28:1-6). This temple was a place where God could dwell, was a place of prayer, was a place of sacrifice and a place where the principle and covenant of sacrifice was fundamental to worship.

At the time of the Restoration, the Lord commanded Joseph Smith to once again build temples on the earth. Like ancient temples, today´s temples are also sacred places where God may dwell; they are places of prayer and although we no longer offer animal sacrifices because that was done away with when Jesus Christ became the Eternal Sacrifice for our sins, the principle and covenant of sacrifice is fundamental to our temple worship.

In temples, church members participate in ordinances designed to unite their families together forever and help them return to God.


My Mission Call

After attending FSY (For the Strength of Youth convention) in 2014, Amy felt that she needed to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. So she started to prepare herself by daily scripture reading, attending all her Church meetings, graduated for Seminary and attending Institute. All her friends knew she´s a member, never been ashamed to talk about the church. 
When she was 6 year old she even told her after school Day Care teacher about the church. After sending her Mission papers off she started to do any necessary preparations that were possible and needed for her mission as you can see she documented as much as possible in her video.
She´s so ready and excited to serve for 18 months in the Trinidad Port of Spain Mission. This field covers Trinidad, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Guyana and Surinam. Pay close attention to the reaction from her brother Jeff; best mission in the world (he says), he served about 8 years ago in the same mission field!! Oh the joy of serving a mission! 

Mission papers

And off to Salt Lake City - Utah

On 30 September 2015, Our daughter Amy Vernes received  her mission call.

This is what was written in the letter that was signed by President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints;

Dear Sister Vernes,

You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.You are assigned to labor in the Trinidad Port of Spain Mission.