Friday, August 31, 2012

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… 

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