Dear Grandchildren, (Daniel, Leah, Jessica, Samuel, Paul, Mikelle, Rianne, Noah, Audrey, Caroline, Talia, and two more soon-to-be born precious children)
Your Grandma and Grandpa are far away, but we still love and miss you all very much. Because we love you and we love Heavenly Father, we have accepted the call to show our love and gratitude by giving two years of service, and I want to tell you about the children we are helping in Nicaragua.
Before we came on our mission, I was Jessica’s teacher every Sunday morning, so I learned all the Primary songs and all about how to have a wonderful Primary program. When I got here, I discovered that the leaders did not know how to teach Primary. Most branches had a nursery class to occupy all the children aged 1-11 years old while their parents went to Sunday school class. No one was teaching them anything about Jesus or Heavenly Father, and they did not know how to sing any songs. A few teachers tried to teach lessons, but they just opened the lesson manual and read in a boring way, so no one liked to learn. The first time I played my keyboard and sang a song with the children, they all just sat there and looked at me. I wrote the words on the board and asked them to sing along, but they were too self-conscious to do it, because they had never sung a song before! Finally I thought of a trick. I started singing and had them fill in the next word when I stopped. They could not resist finishing my sentences. “Soy un hijo de …….Dios” (I am a Child of . . . God).
Two weeks ago, we had a choir of Primary children sing for a conference, and last week there was a cultural night to celebrate the end of the week of mothers. Without any extra rehearsals, I asked the children to come to the front and sing two songs: “Baptism” and “I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ.” They sang with great enthusiasm. I am teaching the children how to sing, and I am teaching their teachers how to have a good Primary program. Children singing for cultural night
Another thing we are doing for children is teaching piano lessons. When we came here, someone would stand up in church and count 1-2-3 and everyone would start singing the hymn on their own pitch and melody and timing. Look up the word “cacophony” in a dictionary to know how it sounded.
No one here has a real piano and there is no one in the city that teaches music lessons, so this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people to learn to play music. With the donation of 16 keyboards and simplified hymnbooks from the Harman Fund, we teach piano lessons in three different cities a total of 18 hours every week! Everyone over the age of eight is welcome, and most of our students are children under the age of 15. They are amazing students, and we now have a full schedule and waiting list of students to play every hymn in each of the four branches we help. When a student is scheduled to play in church, we let them borrow a keyboard to practice at home that week. Their parents tell us that they love having the beautiful spirit of love and worship that comes to their home when they have the music of the church. This also helps our students know that they have an important contribution to make by giving service at church. Some children who are 8 and 10 years old are even learning to play the simplified versions of the primary songs, so the primary will still have music after we are gone. We left 16 keyboard with students who completed the course in Granada last year and will probably do the same here this year. Our students playing the piano and leading the music–and the other pianists waiting for their turns
Grandpa spends a lot of time helping the young men like Daniel. When we came, the boys were all staying with their dads when it was time to separate for classes. No one was helping them learn how to serve in their priesthood responsibilities. Some of the boys would go out in the parking lot and sit on the motorcycles or just go home. The girls would sit on the benches in the hall and visit. None of the kids were working on their Duty to God or Personal Progress goal booklets. Now they all know that when we visit their branch they will have a class from Elder Sorenson, who really loves them. We hope you won’t feel jealous that some of them call him their adopted grandfather. Our goal is to help train other people to give the same kind of love and service when we are gone, but they haven’t learned that yet, so we aren’t done with our job. One more thing we do for the children is a little harder to see but it is very important. We try to help their families have love and unity by living the gospel of Jesus Christ at home. Grandpa has been teaching marriage and family relations classes, with strategies for helping people show love, eliminate conflict and anger, communicate better, and solve problems. We went to visit one family that was having problems, and they invited us to stay at their house for a family home evening. One of their daughters played the keyboard for an opening song and then they had a prayer and watched a church video. After that, the father started showing a lot of love for his family. He said that they needed to pray more and go to church as a family. Finally he said, “We need to have more love.” We really did not say anything special to teach the father. But just by being there, we helped him invite the Spirit of the Lord into his home, and the Spirit taught him the lesson he needed to learn.
Grandpa acting like a grandpa!
We can be here teaching the children of Nicaragua, because we know that you, our dear grandchildren, have plenty of loving teachers and righteous parents to teach and care for you while we are gone. Thank you all for choosing to be righteous. Thank your teachers for their excellent lessons and your music teachers, scout leaders, and parents for helping you learn how to live joyfully and receive the great blessings that God has given to our family. We love you, Grandma and Grandpa