Friday, August 31, 2012

Chapter 12 - Loving this Island...

I think that finally I have shared some of the awesome things that we have experienced since our mission began.  I said before that we would be using this blog as the journal of our mission so some of the posts have been rather lengthy...  There are some beautiful blow holes on the West end of the island.  We took the time the other day to go see them.  We never get tired of looking at the ocean and watching the waves....

Fishing Boat in the harbor...  Haven't seen it move since we got here.

Blow Hole by Vailoa

Blow Hole when the waves crash on shore...

Standing on the cliff above the blow-hole area

Notice the black Lava rock...

This is an elementary school.  Each little hut is a classroom...


Chapter 11 - Spiritual Experiences

We have been blessed with so many spiritual experiences in the few weeks we have been here.  Of course one of the highlights was attending the Samoan temple.
In front of the fountain at the Samoan Temple
The people really love to sing – and they sing with enthusiasm and volume.  One of the first baptisms we attended was not a convert baptism, but for an 8 year old boy.  The Primary children in the ward sang two Primary songs and then the boys sang one song again, while at the same time the girls sang the other one – almost like when we sing “A Child’s Prayer.”  I wish I had had a tape recorder.  It was so beautiful.  The children were singing parts and without a piano.  Both Dennis and I were moved to tears.  What a spirit they brought to that baptismal service.
The next baptism we attended was for a young lady about 14 years old.  The young women in the ward sang “As Sisters in Zion” and then the young men sang “Armies of Helaman.”  Then they sang both songs together.  There were about 16 youth all together and they sang from their hearts!  It was beautiful!
Last Sunday I passed the Primary room and again the singing was awesome.  I stuck my head in and there were only about 15, maybe 20 children.  It sounded like at least double that many.  Music just seems to come naturally to them – they harmonize and sign parts right from the beginning.  There are no pianos except in the chapel – and so the director gets up and sings a couple of measures and everyone joins in.  It is amazing…
I mentioned that we want to attend all the ward Sacrament meetings and even though we can’t understand most of what they are saying, the Spirit is so strong!  Most of the men wear lavalavas – and it is so fun to watch the Aaronic Priesthood boys pass the sacrament in their brightly colored lavalavas.  Some of them have suitcoats with lavalavas to match.  They look really sharp.  So many people come to church in flip-flops or barefoot.  In fact when we spoke in sacrament meeting a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the bishop was barefooted. 
There is such a great respect for the missionaries here.  The other day I was taking some boxes on a hand truck up to the counter at the airport to be mailed and a lady came running up and said, “Oh sister, please let me help.”  At first I thought she may have thought she needed to help that ‘old lady’, but she was about the same age as me!
Today we were in the customs office picking up some boxes and the man behind the counter kept calling Dennis REVEREND!   We got a real kick out of that!
We started teaching institute on Monday the 20th, and it is going to be such a great experience.  They are so eager to learn – but their knowledge of the gospel is very basic so that is how we will channel our teaching.
Even though there are lots of church members here, there are lots of other faiths as well.  I mentioned that everyone here goes to church – and almost everything is closed on Sunday.  A lot of stores close early on Saturday to prepare for the Sabbath. 
However, there are some villages that still will not let the church into their village to proselyte.  If the chief is against the church, then the members of his village usually will not listen to the missionaries for fear of being banned from the village – and if they are banned it is hard to find a place to live.  So the missionaries have to know which villages they are not welcome in and avoid going there.  They can walk on the main road to get through the village, but they better not venture off the road if they know what is best for them!!!
Dennis with his new friend...
She gave him a big smile when he held her
up so she could see the baptism.  When he put her down
she flashed another smile and give him a big hug!
And of course he hugged her back....
We were at a baptism last Saturday and the font was in a small room surrounded by windows.
  So other than the family, everyone else stands outside and looks in the windows to see the baptism.  There was a little girl – maybe 5, who was trying to see in, so Dennis reached down and picked her up so she could see.  She didn’t understand English, but she gave him the biggest smile! We live next door to the stake patriarch and his wife, Falemao & Ali Pili.  They have been so much help to us since we got here.  What a blessing to have such wonderful neighbors!  She introduced us to a couple from the Philippines – Henry and Judith and their little boy.   He is four years old.  They were baptized a couple of weeks ago.   They took the missionary lessons at Pili's home.
He is being ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood on Sunday.  He has a friend who is taking the discussion right now and has set his baptism date.  We got together with both couples on Monday for Family Home Evening.  I took a lemon meringue pie (made from the lemons on our tree).  It was a great evening!
Eating powdered sugar donuts and lemon meringue pie...
Judith said her favorite part was the crust!
 Judith shared her testimony about the blessings that come from paying tithing.  She told us when they learned about tithing that they both felt they should start paying – this was even before they were baptized.  They have been here only a couple of months – she has a job at an insurance company.  Henry is unemployed right now.  He tends their little boy, and does odd jobs to bring in extra money.  So to pay tithing was a real test of faith.  She said that after they paid their tithing they got a check from the Philippines that they hadn’t expected…  They have such great faith!  What a great example to us.  We have learned to love them so much!
Judith and Henry at their baptism...

Judith, Ali with us at the baptism.
Notice the little head at the bottom left of the picture?
That was a much as we could capture of Judith & Henry's son...
Last week-end they created the 5th stake in Samoa.  Elder Hamula of the First Quorum of the Seventy was here to make the change.  He held a special meeting for just seminary and institute teachers.  It was awesome to be taught by him.  He was at he 2nd FIA FIA that we went to, and we were privileged to sit at the same table as him and the stake presidency.  Again, we felt like royalty.
On Sunday we arrived at stake conference at about 9:30 AM.  It appeared that they had already started the meeting.  The chapel and 
cultural hall were full to overflowing.  People were standing in the halls (which are not really halls – but outside corridors).  They hadn’t started yet – but people had been there since 7:00 AM to get a good seat, so they stake president that was conducting was just talking to the congregation until it was time for the meeting to start.  Because he was speaking Samoan we did not understand what he was saying.  We were each presented with a lei as we entered the lobby.  Then we made our way to the back of the cultural hall – thinking that we would be standing during the meeting…  Well, one of the Aaronic Priesthood boys saw us and led us to two empty chairs.  I think they were the only ones in the cultural hall.  I hope that no one gave up their seats for us – I would feel really bad if they did.   After the meeting was over we were asked why we did not sit on the stand – that that is were we were supposed to sit…  We were sort of called to repentance.  We were happy just to be in the congregation and feel the spirit that was there.  
Brother Aiono, who is employed by the Church as the Seminary and Institute Director for the island and the one we report to for our institute teaching assignment, was sustained as a new stake president.  He is a spiritual giant on this island and will do such a great job.
We met with President Leota, our mission president this week.  It was so great to meet with him and his AP’s.  We talked about the missionaries and our role with them as their spiritual advisors.  What a great blessing we have to be able to rub shoulders with them on a daily basis.  Although much of what we do with/for them is not of a spiritual nature, but more physical, we love being here for them and being able to help them in whatever they may need.  There are 18 missionaries on the island (4 more coming in a couple of weeks), and last week we had nine of them sick with the flu.  It is amazing how much trust they have in us.  It is kind of scary – and we pray every day that we will be directed in what to say and do for them.  We love each of them already – they are like our sons and daughters.
One of our institute students told us in class the other day that whatever we tell them they believe – because we have been called by the Lord to teach them.  WOW – what an awesome responsibility!!!  We both feel the weight of that comment and pray for guidance to live up to their expectations.  
Every day we are here we see the great faith of these people, and experience their love – it is incredible!  They live such simple lives and are so happy.  It makes us realize how spoiled we are – and that all the material things we have been blessed with really don’t matter in the whole scheme of things.  We hope we can learn from their example.
Wherever we go we are being watched, and that is an awesome responsibility.  The Lord has put a lot of trust in us.  We pray every day that we will live up to that trust… 

Chapter 10 - FIA FIA Celebrations

They are creating a 5th stake on the island this week-end and so the Pago Central Stake, had a celebration (Fia Fia) to honor the out-going stake presidency.  The president has been in the stake presidency for 18 years.  We were invited to attend the festivities.  Friday night (8/17/12) we were invited to a stake dance.  We thought it was probably a youth dance, but when we got there it is for everyone on the stake (the whole family).  There were over 200 people there and everyone danced - young and old alike.  When we walked in we just kind of stood back and were watching what was going on.  All of a sudden a brother came up, shook our hands and introduced himself as the high counselor in charge.  He told us to follow him, and he led us to a table right in front and instructed us to sit down.  It was the table where the stake presidency sat throughout the evening.  And we were treated like royalty all night!  They introduced us and made such a fuss it was embarrassing (actually it was - no almost about it).  About half way through the dance they brought us a pork soup and rolls to eat, plus water and soda to drink.  Then they brought dessert!  We had a great time dancing, and by the looks and number of times we got our picture taken, I don't think they are used to senior missionaries dancing - especially the fast dances!  The last dance is always a traditional Samoan dance that only the stake presidency and a select few participate in.  We were asked to participate in that dance.   Kind of scary - everyone watching and us trying to follow along.  I am sure we looked really stupid, but what an honor to be asked.  We laughed all the way home...
Then on Saturday at 10:30 they had a FIA FIA - a big celebration where all the wards in the stake (9 and one branch) each put on a program which included dancing, singing, testimonies and honoring the outgoing stake presidency.  
I think he played football in days gone by...

Their hand movements are beautiful and
they are so graceful!

Each ward took their turn - it was like the programs they put on when a temple is dedicated.  It went until 4:30 that afternoon.  

Some of the dancers
When we drove up we hadn't even got out of our van and a brother came up to us and said he had been instructed to take us to our seats.  Well, we were again put at the table of honor where the stake presidency was sitting.  
More dancing
They recognized us in the welcome and made such a fuss that we felt like royalty.  They brought out big plates of fresh fruit for everyone at the table, and they kept filling them up.  Then about 1:00 they started bringing out more food.  We each had a plate with shrimp, salad, sausage, ribs, 2 kinds of ham and some kind of noodle.  
Ham, sausage, salad, soup and inside the
foil was coconut baked in Taro leaves..
Crab and Lobster

There was enough on the plate to feed four people.  Then they brought out a soup made with okca - and it was really good.  More fresh fruit and a plate with a whole fish covered in grilled onions.  The fish still had the head and tail on it - but you couldn't see the eyes for all the onions.  IT WAS SO GOOD.  If that wasn't enough, each ward then brought us more food – a gift to show respect.  That is 10 somethings... One ward brought out a dripper size pan of rice and ham for each couple at the table, and they gave the president a whole roasted pig (head was tail still intact).  They stuff the pig like we do a turkey and then wrap it with leaves to keep the stuffing from coming out.  We had enough food for a ward dinner...  
This picture shows about 1/4 of the food that they brought us...
I am sitting next to the Stake Patriarch's wife.  She was so delightful!
Then they brought out a whole cake for each couple sitting at the table.  We tried to taste everything so we wouldn't offend anyone, but there was no way we could eat it all.  But no worry - they came with foil and foam trays and packed up what we didn't eat so we could take it home.  It filled our fridge.  
Each ward as part of their program presented the stake presidency with gifts.  I am not talking about a single gift.  It was nothing for each ward to give the president and his counselors 2 or 3 quilts, 3 or 4 large woven mats - that signify honor, gift baskets, fans, homemade baskets and more food.  And each ward did that.  The gifts each of them got filled the backs of their trucks!  It was amazing...  As each ward finished their part of the program, the presidency would do another dance, along with the bishoprics to signify farewell.  These people really know how to celebrate!!!   We attended two FIA FIA celebrations - One on Saturday 8/18 and one on Friday night 8/25. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chapter 9c - More pictures of the house...

Well, I just turned on the computer and even with the power bump I guess the post went anyway...  When I turned it on right after neither of them showed up so I thought they were lost in cyber-space...  I can't believe it!  Oh well - this will show the guest bedroom and bath.

This is the bathroom in the hall.  

This is the guest bedroom.  It also has a king-size bed.

This little gecko lived in our shower for about a week.  He stayed up
close to the ceiling...  We named him "Chase" because he gave us chase
every time we tried to catch him...
He is the only one we have seen in the house - but they eat the bugs, so
we consider them our friends...

This is our carport.  We have never had to empty
our garbage can since we got here.  The
people in the village do it for us.
Have I mentioned before how well they treat the missionaries?
It does not matter if they are members of the Church or not - they consider
it an honor the look after the missionaries...
Every night about 9:00 we have 2 - 4 men from the village that sit outside our gate to make sure no one bothers us or the house.  They stay until about midnight...  Again, it is something they do to show respect for the missionaries.  So I guess you can say we have our own body guards...   We have taken them cookies a couple of times and told them how much we appreciate what they do for us.

Chapter 9 - Pictures of our house

Please excuse the chapter 7 post...  I was tired when I did it and accidentally put in some pictures of the inside of the house - after I realized that I had named a post chapter 8 and missed 7 all together...   This afternoon I was ready to  post again and we had a power bump and I lost everything.  So I took a break and make cookies...  Anyway, I am going to try again to send some pictures of our house.  We were really surprised when we got here at how nice the house is.  There is no sacrifice here as far as the living conditions - except we do have to buy bottled water to drink.  The water filter on the sink in the kitchen does not filter out the harmful stuff - it only makes the water taste better.  But we only have to pay $3.00 for 5 gallons, and the place where we buy it is on the way to the post office, so it is no big deal.   We have an extra step when we do dishes - we have to rinse them twice - first in hot water and then in water that has a little bleach added to it.  But other than the water issue (which we expected) everything is great!   
This is the house from the front.  The living area and kitchen are behind the van.
The bedrooms/bathrooms run from front to back (left side).  The carport is on the right side...
Standing in front of the TV - facing the dining room.  The door goes out to the carport.
The kitchen is on the left. 
Standing by the dining table.  Next to the entry to the hall is the study area.

This is the front entrance to the house.  On the wall opposite the desk are two bookcases.
That is where the mission supplies for the missionaries are kept.
All of the rooms have big windows so it is nice and bright...
I can see the ocean out the kitchen window.
It is too far away to hear the waves, but I can see them crash onto the shore...
There is a sister in the ward that brings a flower arrangement for the chapel each Sunday.
She gets the flowers from her yard.
The first Sunday she gave it to me and said she would be honored if I would take the arrangement
each week to brighten up our house!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chapter 9b - More pictures of the house

We really can't complain...

Master Bathroom
Master Bathroom
Picture of carport and shed.  Every week someone comes and empties our
garbage for us...  The village does it as a service for the missionaries.
We are really spoiled!
Master Bedroom - King Size Bed

Chapter 9a - Pictures of our House

Sorry about the last post.  It was very late when I was doing it - the pictures of the bedroom were not
 supposed to be there...  I will try again.

This is the center bedroom with a single bed.  The cabinet
containing the medical/first aid supplies are kept in here.
This room is also where the desk and teaching materials for S&I are located...
This is the kitchen - notice the water purifier on by the sink...
 Every week at church a sister brings a flower arrangement from her garden  for the chapel.
Then she gives it to me - her way of showing honor to the missionary couple for taking care of the young missionaries...

The back door leads out to the carport.  There is a shed on the other side...
Looking towards the dining area.  The opening on the left leads to the bedrooms and bathrooms...
The study area is to the left of the door...

Just inside the front door is the study area.  On the wall opposite
the desk are two bookcases were the mission literature and supplies are kept...

Chapter 7 - More About the Food and Animals...

FOOD – I have mentioned some things about the food, but I have to tell you about the Coconut Crab.  They eat coconuts so they taste like coconut.  We haven’t tried one yet, but are looking forward to it.  The crabs are BIG.  Our bishop showed us a picture of one they caught last week.  It filled an ice chest!!!  Their claws are so powerful that people have been know to loose fingers if they got too close.
I think I mentioned Turkey Tail.  They bar-b-que it and then pour coconut cream over the top.  Our trainer in the MTC told us it was SO GOOD.  Then I remembered that Grandpa Kendrick used to say it was the best part of the turkey.  We are looking forward to trying it.  I will let you know what we think of it.
Taro is something else they eat a lot of here.  They also pour coconut cream over it.  They use a lot of coconut cream – it reminds be of sweetened condensed milk, and I am sure it has just as many calories.  The best way I can describe it is It tastes like a baked potato but with less flavor.  Breadfruit and Taro are two staples – and they are OK, but not as good as an Idaho Spud!  They eat lots of potato chips – but they are really expensive so I don’t know how they can afford them on their incomes.  So many of them don’t work outside of their homes or farms.  The kids eat a lot of Ramen Noodles, but they eat them dry right out of the package.
Cocoa Samoa is a drink like hot chocolate.  The beans grow in a pod on the tree.  They remove the seeds from the pod and cook them until they are dark brown, then they add water and LOTS of sugar because it is very bitter otherwise..  The seeds are white in the pod.  The other day we were visiting the sisters at their apartment and they cut the pod open and gave us a seed to suck.  They are very sweet and taste like chocolate.  I was just sucking away on it and it slipped down my throat!!!  (Jessica - my sweet, sweet granddaughter will appreciate the fact that it tasted better than her contact!) They laughed and laughed at me because I had swallowed the seed.  But I was on a chocolate high the rest of the day!

The is the Cocoa Samoa pod cut in half.  The seeds are
about the size of a dime...
Cocoa Samoa Tree - notice the pod...

HOMES – I have mentioned that the homes are very humble, but everyone takes great pride in their yards, and even though there is a lot of litter, you always see people working in the yards, raking and pruning.  If they didn’t keep things cut back the jungle would soon take over.  You see lots of weed-eaters and very few lawn mowers.  It takes a long time for them to mow because they are doing it with weed-eaters.  Usually you will see Fales in front of their houses and there is only one cemetery here.  Most people bury their family members in their front yards.

Sister Amituana'i (from Australia) and
Sister Sevesi-Paepae (from Samoa)
in front of their apartment with Dennis
 ROOSTERS & CHICKENS & DOGS – They are everywhere and really colorful!  In fact we have an attack rooster in our yard.  He likes to eat the lemons that fall off the tree.  Dennis went out to pick some lemons and he spread his wings and hissed at him as if to say “Stay away – this is my territory.”  
Remember me mentioning how many dogs there were?  Well here is a picture of platforms they build to keep the dogs away.  I am a little puzzled though - most of the dogs can jump up on the platforms...

Garbage Platform

The people are very modest here.   If you are on the beach, it is OK to wear a swimming suit, but you never walk around in town or in the villages without having a cover-up on. You don’t see people laying on the beach sunbathing.  Of course they have natural tans – so why layout?   You see very few bare chested men...