Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mission Shoes

Mission shoes are probably one of the most difficult things to shop for.  You'll want something stylish, yet you'll also want something that lasts.  I remember thinking, "I'll figure it out when I get there."  So, here is what I figured out:

1) Not all the shoes you buy will last your entire mission.

No matter what brand or style, your everyday shoes will probably start to give out around 9-12 months; if they do last, they will most likely show wear and tear.  The longevity of your shoes depends on where you serve - some islands have rougher terrain than others.  I knew very few sisters whose shoes lasted them.

So, while mission shopping, here are a few things to consider.  First, look at the sister missionary clothing guidelines (http://missionary.lds.org/dress-grooming/sister/dress/shoes/?lang=eng).  The shoes listed under Everyday (and the 3rd picture under Flats) are shoes that will probably last you into the year mark range.  Flats can also last, depending on how much you wear them.  Second, consider buying shoes that are black or brown.  They can be polished, which will increase the life of them.  Third (this probably only happened to me), you can buy new in-soles for your shoes if the original ones gives out.  Fourth, well-known brands won't necessarily last you longer, though they often will.  For example, I had two different pairs of Naturalizer's - one I purchased while preparing and the second while I was serving.  The first pair (which looked more like the Everyday shoes) lasted me my entire mission (though I had to replace the in-soles).  The second pair (which had a sole like this) lasted me about 4 months before the finishing started wearing off.  I had a companion that had a nice pair of Clark's sandals - they lasted her 14 months before the strap on one ripped.  Beyond the broken strap, the shoes still looked good.

2) If you need to buy shoes while serving:

Island-to-island shoe shopping varies.  Grenada and St. Lucia (and most likely St. Vincent) usually don't have women's shoes that will last - if they do, you have to search.  I think I saw Hush Puppies in Grenada, but the styles weren't ones that would work with day-to-day walking.

Barbados, St. Maarten, and Trinidad (and most likely Tobago) have standard brands.  Cave Shepherd in Barbados has high quality shoes; there is also a store in St. Philip (by the Emerald City grocery store) that sells Naturalizers and other recognized brands.  Barbados and Trinidad have Payless (I bought some American Eagle brand shoes from there and they lasted me my last six months, and they're still wearable).  Trinidad also has a store in a mall that sells Clark's.

Sisters have recommended the following brands as ones they saw last: Clark's, Naturalizer, Sketchers, and Champion.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Did you know...

...that several mormon.org videos feature people from the Caribbean?

Anita, who is from Trinidad


Paul, whose mother is Jamaican

Sheryl, whose parents are Haitian


Thursday, April 18, 2013

General Conference Talks

While serving, I had the opportunity to read more Liahonas and Ensigns than I'll probably ever get to read again.  I loved reading the counsel from modern day prophets and apostles.  Below are a few of the talks that I found helpful while I was a missionary.  While some of these teachings might be too complex for those you teach, they will strengthen your own testimony and deepen your understanding.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks - "Fundamental Premises of Our Faith"

Elder Oaks gave this talk as a lecture at the Harvard Law School, and a shortened version of it appeared in the January 2011 Ensign and Liahona.  I read the shortened version while serving in St. Lucia, and I liked it so much that I went on LDS.org on a preparation day and printed the full article.

In this talk, Elder Oaks outlines 3 "clusters of truths" that he chooses as being "fundamental to our faith."  He denotes them as 1) the nature of the Godhead, 2) the purpose of life, and 3) the sources of truth, and how we can know them.  One of my favorite parts of his talk is when he talks about the after-life: "eternal life is family life with a loving Father in Heaven and with our progenitors and our posterity."

The Ensign (short) version can be found here: http://www.lds.org/ensign/2011/01/fundamental-to-our-faith?lang=eng

The full lecture/article can be found here: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/fundamental-premises-of-our-faith-talk-given-by-elder-dallin-h-oaks-at-harvard-law-school  I highly recommend you read the full lecture.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland - "The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent"

Towards the beginning of his October 2007 General Conference talk, Elder Holland addresses two doctrinal points: our view of the Godhead and our belief in the principle of continuing revelation leading to an open scriptural canon."  He addresses the first point in this talk, outlining that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are Christians.  Elder Holland skillfully explains the true nature of Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  He further explains how God has a body.  In addition, he also uses historical evidence to explain how the knowledge of God's true nature was lost over time, and how it has been brought back.

Read the full talk here: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/the-only-true-god-and-jesus-christ-whom-he-hath-sent?lang=eng

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland - "My Words...Never Cease"

In his April 2008 General Conference talk, Elder Holland addresses "the other major doctrine which characterizes our faith but which causes concern to some, namely the bold assertion that God continues to speak His word and reveal His truth, revelations which mandate an open canon of scripture," which he mentioned in his October 2007 talk.  He outlines that "Continuing revelation does not demean or discredit existing revelation."  I love how Elder Holland explains that God reveals His truth, as He did in the past, in the present, and as He will continue to do.  Elder Holland also uses historical examples, in addition to scriptures.

Read the full talk here: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/my-words-never-cease?lang=eng

Proselyting Movies

One thing I liked during my mission was seeing the different types of movies the Church has produced.  Several areas in the mission do not have copies of the proselyting DVDs - so if you want them, I suggest having your own copies.  You can either order them at home, or order them while in the field (they will be discounted).  Some are also available for download.  While not necessary to have, they can be useful.

Videos available for download

Here are a few videos (made available generously by the Church) that you can download, burn to a disc, and take with you.

1) Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration

You've probably seen the earlier version of this (made in 2005) that has Joseph Smith narrating, interposed with the story of the girl from the United Kingdom immigrating with her father.

The 2011 edition of this film is amazing.  It's been recut, so it tells the story from beginning to end, with Lucy Mack Smith narrating.

Miraculously, the Church has made this film available for free download.  You can download it (in a variety of formats) from here: http://www.mormonchannel.org/joseph

I highly, highly recommend you burn a copy of this movie.  It shows that the Restoration is more than the First Vision (for example, priesthood and why we build temples).  It addresses concerns an investigator might have (such, "Does the Book of Mormon replace the Bible?").  Since the Church has made it so widely available online, they do not make DVDs of it (if you want to learn more about it, here is an article: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/film-about-joseph-smith-now-available-online)  I loved showing it to people.

2) The Bible Videos

I'm not very familiar with the Bible videos (they were released while I was on my mission).  However, if you want to download them, they are available here: http://www.lds.org/bible-videos/videos?lang=eng

3) The Youth Videos

In 2011, the Church started producing videos that were tied to the Mutual theme.  They can be downloaded here: https://www.lds.org/youth/video?lang=eng

DVDs available through store.lds.org

Suggested movies:
The Testaments
Between Heaven and Earth (This film has scholars from different faiths and educational backgrounds discussing temples built anciently, and the temples The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint builds today.  There is a 10, 30, and 45 minute cuttings of it on the DVD)

Other DVDs to consider:
The Doctrine and Covenants Visual Resource DVDs (Contains the 20 minute Restoration, John Tanner Story, Only a Stonecutter, and the 2005 version of Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration, in addition to other short videos)
Together Forever
The Seminary DVDs (The Old Testament Resource DVDs also have the videos from the Old Testament Seminary DVD - I think it has all of them)
To This End Was I Born/The Lamb of God (I read somewhere that it's the same film)
Mr. Krueger's Christmas
Joy to the World

Another thing - several of these DVDs (such as Finding Faith in Christ) have several different languages on them, which is great if you're teaching someone for whom English is their second language.

Hope that helps!

UPDATE:  You can also download the Seminary DVD presentations from LDS.org and burn them to a disc.  For convenience's sake, I say it's easier just to buy the DVDs (they're about $4.50 or less, depending on where you order them).  Here is the link to the Book of Mormon segments: http://www.lds.org/media-library/video/book-of-mormon/book-of-mormon-presentations

Monday, April 15, 2013

Memory Cards and Flash Drives

If you're like me, you never owned a flash drive because you could upload everything to Gmail.  You didn't worry about your memory card's size because you could just upload everything to your computer.

Mission life is a bit different.  Here are some tips to avoid future, data-induced headaches.

Towards the beginning and middle of my mission, I thought, "You know, I'll just have smaller memory cards, then I'll have a flash drive where I can just move the pictures once it's full."  However, for me (and missionaries who did the same), that proved time consuming and it ate up emailing time.  It presented other problems.  At an internet cafe (which is usually where you'll email), an elder I knew lost all of his mission pictures he saved on his flash drive because the computer had a virus.  A sister I served with had some pictures saved on a flash drive, and they disappeared.  I lost pictures I had copied from a companion (note: they were lost on my flash drive, she still had them on her memory card).  Now, it could be that those pictures ended up in hidden folders, but you won't have time to look for them while you're emailing.

Other missionaries used memory cards and flash drives without incident.  However, if you want to play it on the safe side, I recommend buying several high capacity memory cards before you leave on your mission.  Once one is full, you won't have to worry about moving pictures off of it.  They are cheaper in the US (example: an 8 GB memory card can cost under 10 US, but costs a standard 20 US on the islands).  To give you an idea of how many gigabytes of pictures you might take:  I probably took a medium-amount of pictures on my mission.  I didn't take a lot towards the beginning (because I only had smaller memory cards), but I took more over time.  Totaling it, I have about 24 GB worth of my own pictures, give or take.

Now, for flash drives!  I think I mentioned before, but you may want to consider bringing a high capacity flash drive so you can copy your companion's photos.  These are less expensive in the states (for example, a 16 GB flash drive can cost you under 20 US, while it costs about 37 US on the islands).

If you have to buy memory cards or a flash drives while serving, they have normal brands like HP, Kingston, and PNY, depending upon where you serve.

My last piece of advice:  If you let a missionary besides your companion borrow your memory card, make sure you get it back, or that you know where they placed it.  Slightly obvious, but this might also save you a lost memory card.


I feel like every entry is going to start with "before my mission...", but that's okay.  Before my mission, I wasn't sure about a camera.  The one I'd had during high school and college had just died.  I didn't really want to spend money on one.  There were other things to consider - did it rain a lot in the mission?  So, should I buy a cheap one, in case it got ruined?

If you're having any of these thoughts, this entry is for you!

If you need to buy a new camera for your mission, consider buying one with a rechargeable battery.  Some countries (such as Guyana, Barbados, and Grenada) have American-style plugs.  On other islands (such as St. Lucia), they have converters and/or adapters, so you'll always have a way to charge it and you won't have to worry about buying batteries.

If you want a high quality point-and-shoot, I suggest buying a Canon or a Nikon.  I don't know much about Nikon - however, I do know just a little about Canon!  If you're going to get a Canon, I highly recommend getting a Powershot SD with ELPH (I don't know any technical camera terms, so I apologize if I'm butchering this).  They seem to be more consistent in their picture quality, and they're not terribly expensive ($100 - 150).  One of the sisters I served around had an SX model (it might be this one, but I'm not sure), and it had great image quality.

Most cameras will take quality pictures in good lighting; however, you may want to think about a camera that works well in low-lighting situations (such as your missionary apartment, evening time church activities, etc).

But what if my camera breaks?
From what I gathered, most of the islands have brands such as Sony, Panasonic, Casio, and Olympus, which all work well (I knew several people who had Casio cameras, and the cameras performed well).  If you want to get a Nikon or a Canon, they sell them in Barbados at Cave Shepherd.  They probably also have them in Trinidad.  You can occasionally find them in Grenada (at The Grenada Computer Store in Grand Anse) or St. Lucia (at Courts or The Cell), but they're not stocked frequently.  However, keep in mind that cameras are sometimes more expensive there than they are in the US.  Additionally, check if the camera you're getting has the features you want (for example, one model of the Panasonic Lumix does not have video).

Some missionaries (and senior couples) I knew had water/shock proof cameras.  Personally, I didn't see much of a difference in functionality between them and a regular camera, as long as you're careful.  I knew someone that had one like this and it had high picture quality).

Please note that the Missionary Handbook states, "Do not use cameras while you are proselyting. Be careful never to look like a tourist" (26).  This rule will help you not have your camera get soaked when a passing cloud comes, and it will help increase the life of your mission camera.  Don't forget a camera case.

Hope that helps!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Missionary Handbook

You know, before my mission, I thought the missionary handbook was a little mysterious.  All I knew about it was that it contained the rules that a missionary would live by.  If you're feeling the same way, I have some good news for you!  The Church has uploaded the Missionary Handbook as a pdf!

This pdf is easy to navigate.  If you're currently preparing to serve a mission, I suggest you read over the Missionary Handbook at least once.  The standards of missionary conduct and mission rules will obviously be more meaningful to you once you're in the mission field - however, becoming familiar with them before you begin your service will help you to be exactly obedient more quickly.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mission Music

Lots of missionaries I served around had a flash drive with music on it, and speakers that would work with the flash drive or another music player.  Personally, I saw this worked better than having an iPod.  iPods have a greater potential to break or get stolen, but I didn't really see that happening with flash drives.  You can also update them more easily, and even trade music with other missionaries.  In addition, several of the newer mission vehicles have a slot for flash drives.

From what I saw, very few of the missionary apartments have CD players.  However, you may want to bring CDs to use for the car.

Here are some websites where you can download free music!

https://www.lds.org/youth/music?lang=eng This website has songs from EFY, the seminary and new youth DVDs, General Conference, and more.

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/music?lang=eng This website has the music from sessions of General Conference dating back to 2006, and it has an old-timey sound.

http://setapartalbum.byu.edu/download/ Entitled "Set Apart," this album contains hymns as performed by BYU's Men's Chorus.

https://www.lds.org/music/library/music-for-youth?lang=eng This website has links to seminary music, Young Women camp songs, and selected Young Women's music.

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/conferences?lang=eng You can download conference talks dating all the way back to 1971!

If you know of any other websites, feel free to leave a comment.

Friday, April 5, 2013


Congratulations on finding this blog!  As I've recently returned from the West Indies, I'll be updating this blog with some advice about serving in this mission.  If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment.

A post for advice about sisters' clothing can be found here: http://brissononamission.blogspot.com/2012/12/advice-for-sister-missionaries-serving.html