Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chapter 8 - What We Do To Stay Busy

When we first received our call we knew we would be teaching institute classes at the community college and be responsible for the mission mail.  Other than that we did not know what to expect.  In talking with couples that had been here before we heard that although we would be busy, we would also have our share of free time and there would be time each day for a “nap”!  What a radical concept…
When we met with our CES directors in New Zealand they added a few more duties to the CES side of our mission.  Then when we met with President Leota, our mission president and expressed our desire to be of service in whatever he needed, he asked us if we would consider doing additional things that the senior missionaries had not been doing.   We readily agreed and are happy to be able to serve where we are needed.

So, our list of responsibilities grew! Each missionary couple that serves has specific responsibilities and because we are the only couple on the island of Tutuila (American Samoa) we are their advocates here.

This is how we fill our days…

TEACHING - We teach Monday – Thursday.  One class on Monday & Wednesday at 8:00 AM and two classes on Tuesday and Thursday at 8:00 and 9:00.
We have also been asked to visit all the early morning seminaries a couple of times a week.  They start at 5:00 AM.  One is located on the island of Aunu’u .  So we will go by boat.  It is only a couple of miles off shore – and it is the island where the Church first landed in Samoa.  I think I mentioned this before.  There are no roads on the island, so after we get off the boat we have to hike to the church.  We are excited to visit there because of all the history that surrounds the island.  However, the ferry takes off at the opposite end of the island from where we are, so we have an hour drive before we get to the boat dock.  I guess those mornings we will be up and going by 3:00 AM.  Either that or go the night before and stay with a family in their home – which they are happy to have us do.  It will be like Girls Camp – sleeping in a Fali on a mat on the ground…
We have in-service meetings once a month that we attend.  It is great meeting with the seminary teachers.

MAIL  - All the mail for the mission is sent to American Samoa and except for the mail for the missionaries on this island,  we are responsible to forward the rest to the mission office for distribution to the rest of the missionaries.
Monday – after class we head to the post office to pick up the mail.  The post office is at the opposite end of the island so it takes about 45 minutes to get there – depending on traffic.  The road is one lane each way and follows the coastline – if we could go straight (as a bird flies) it would be about 15 minutes away.  On the way back I separate the mail that stays here from the mail that is sent on to the mission office in Apia.
At noon we meet with the zone leaders at our house (we have four zones on the island)
·      They turn in all their reports – which have to be scanned and sent to the mission office right away because the mission has to turn in the weekly summary reports to Salt Lake by the end of the day on Tuesday.   BUT remember they are a day ahead of us, so it is already Tuesday there.  After they get our scanned reports they have to compile their report that afternoon in order to meet their deadline to Salt Lake.  If for some reason the scanner is not working here, it creates problems for everyone. 
·      After we make sure all the reports are complete and copies emailed to Apia we give the missionaries their mail.  AND of course they have to have nourishment while reading that mail.  So I try to have cookies, brownies or banana bread on hand.  We thought we would try making scones one day and we found a recipe for breadfruit chips (like potato chips) we are anxious to try.  Breadfruit grows on trees and is like a potato only they are kind of bland.  That is where sour cream and butter work their magic.  We have a tree right next to us – so we thought we would experiment.  They say the chips are really good!
·      We then box up the mail and packages, along with hard copies of the missionary reports and the zone leaders letters to the president, and make a trip to the airport to send the boxes to mission headquarters.   We usually have to wait in a long line to have the boxes weighed and checked in.  There are usually 5 – 6 large boxes to be sent, costing between $75 - $100 dollars depending on the weight. Everyone who flies on the small planes has to be weighed while holding their carry-on and that determines if the luggage and boxes get on the same plane.  The more passengers on a plane, the less luggage and boxes can go.   Sometimes it takes a couple of flights to get it all to Apia.  We then email the mission office and tell them how many boxes were sent.
·      The mission office sends all the outgoing mail and boxes to us once or twice a week so we can mail them for the missionaries.   We pick up the boxes from the airport after they have gone through customs (the mission office lets us know how many they sent).  We have to go to the parcel office, pick up a slip that tells customs how many boxes we will be picking up, then we go to the customs office (on the the other side of the airport), pay a $5.00 customs charge, sign for the boxes, and take the receipt back to the parcel window and they give us the boxes.  The boxes contain mail for the missionaries on this island (from other missionaries or family) and letters and packages that need to be mailed to the US.   We separate it all and head to the post office to send it out.  The mail goes out two times a week (three times in the Summer and during the holidays) when the plane from Hawaii comes, but boxes are only sent on Fridays.  So if we have boxes to go out we have to make sure we have them to the post office by Thursday afternoon or they will be delayed a week. Tuesday after we teach we usually have boxes/mail coming from the mission office, with the letters that were written on P-Day.  We want to get those letters from the missionaries home to their families as fast as possible, so we make another trip to the airport and then go to the post office to send off their letters.  We have two PO boxes, one for the mission and one for CES (seminaries/institute) to check.  If there are packages to pick-up - and there always are - we have to go around to the back of the building to pick them up.  We have a hand-truck to transport them, and usually have to make a couple of trips.   There are customs officers there to check all the boxes as people leave.  Funny thing though, they never check our boxes.  They just motion us through.
·      Wednesday we usually don’t have to go to the post office or the airport unless we get notice that something is being sent from mission headquarters.
·      Thursday, if there are packages to be sent to the US or New Zealand we have to go to the post office so they can go out on the plane Friday
·      Saturday we have lots of mail because of the cargo plane delivery on Friday.  So we make another trip to the post office.  If we wait until Monday there is too much mail to allow us time to pick it up and separate it by noon on Monday when the zone leaders come for their meeting.  So it is just easier to make two trips – Saturday and Monday.    
·      I forgot to mention that any mail to or from missionaries who are from Samoa serving on this island, we handle that mail as well.  So we can get mail to/from family, friends, bishops etc. that we deliver to the PBO (area office for American Samoa).  The other day a mother called and said please don’t take the boxes to the airport yet.  I have a box that needs to go to my son in Apia today.  So we met her at the PBO on the way to the airport.  Lots of money is spent in this mission just to get the mail in and out.

MISSIONARIES – When we got here we told President Leota we would do whatever he needed us to do.  He has asked us to be more involved with the missionaries than the couples that have previously served here.  The members call us Spiritual Advisors to the missionaries.  It is such a blessing to be involved with them every day.  We have been asked to attend their zone meetings.  So we go to a different zone each Thursday after we get through teaching.  It is so wonderful to sit in on those meetings and listen to them teach each other and talk about how they can improve their teaching.  The spirit is so strong and it has been one of the highlights of our mission.  There are four zones so we visit each of them once a month.
·      After zone meeting we visit their living quarters to inspect them.  We are amazed at how humble their places are.  It makes the missionaries places at home look like palaces!  We are not so concerned about cleanliness, but checking more to make sure they have all the things they need.  When we checked the sisters quarters we found that they did not have a shower curtain and their 4’ mirror was broken and all they had was a little piece about the size of a dinner plate.  Needless to say, we went out that day and bought them a new mirror!  They also had only one table and nothing to put their clothes in, so they had their suitcases on the table.  That left no place for them to study, so they were either sitting on their beds or on the floor. 
·      We also inspect their vehicles.  That is not too hard as there are only three.  One of the zones has to walk everywhere – or ride the bus.
We help with transfers if needed - including meeting the missionaries being transferred to this island at the airport to welcome them.
Transfer day 
  We get a check every month that we have to cash at the bank and give them their monthly allowance.  They each get $30.00.  That isn’t much even with the members providing them dinner.
·      We are their first point of contact when they are sick.  We have a large cabinet with medicine and first aid supplies at our house.  All those years at Girls Camp and learning first aid are paying off.
·      We are responsible for the petty cash.   Missionaries get reimbursed for:
a.     Bus fare.  If they ride the bus, they are reimbursed for that. 
b.     If they come from any of the islands in the Pacific,, or New Zealand – because they don’t have a social security card, American Samoa will not issue them a drivers license so they have to pay each month for the privilege to drive.
c.      Water
d.     Prescriptions
e.     Any extra expenses they may have that they are not expected to pay for from their monthly allowance.
f.      We use petty cash for office supplies, cleaning supplies or anything we need to purchase for the teaching, the house, medicine for the missionaries, mailing expenses to name a few.  So bookkeeping skills have come in handy as well.
We attend as many baptisms as we can, and that is usually 3 or 4 times a week.  Many of the baptismal fonts are inside the building (but in small separate rooms).  But some of them our outside in the courtyard – most of the meetinghouses have no closed hallways, and the rooms open into courtyards.  They are beautiful – grass and beautiful flowerbeds.    
This is the courtyard in one of the meetinghouses.  The baptismal font is behind the blue double doors
This is a baptismal font located outside in the courtyard...
This is another view of the baptismal font...
The stairs lead up to the stake suite...
We are trying to visit every ward’s sacrament meetings. They speak Samoan in all of them but one, but it is surprising at how much we pick up even with our limited knowledge of the language.  The members all speak pretty good English, so at least we can communicate with them.  They are so gracious when we visit.  There are 41 wards or branches on the island, so we try to attend 3 sacraments each week.  We have been asked to teach the Temple Preparation class in our ward, so we have to do some creative planning to make it all work.  But what a great blessing it is, to be out and meet with the members!
Another view of the stake suite

This is the stake suite in the building we attend.
It is located in the attic above the font...

Of course there is always things that come up everyday that we don’t plan for.  Yesterday the sister’s fridge went out so we had to pick up one from the FM office and take to them.
We got a call that a sister missionary from Savaii was flying here on her way to the MTC in Provo.  She had no family on the island and she had an 8-hour layover.  We were asked if we could pick her up and be with her until her flight left.   She had never been off her island before and was scared to death.  When she left here she was flying to Hawaii, on the Los Angeles and then to Salt Lake.  She got into Salt Lake a little after midnight.  I just hope there was someone from the MTC to meet her.  Anyway, it was such a great experience for us.  She shared her conversion story with us, her struggles to get ready to go on her mission, a little about her family, and of course her testimony. We took her to dinner, and she had never had a hamburger before, so that is what she wanted.  She loved it – and the fries!!!  We drove her around the island and showed her some of the sights.  She was so excited – because she saw so many new things.  She is going to Fort Worth, Texas, so we tried to fill her in on what to expect.  I don’t think she had any comprehension when we tried to explain how big the city was.  But she was so excited.  She will make an awesome missionary. 

There is so much to tell – but I have mentioned before that we are going to use this blog as our journal and I want to try to write down as much as I can so we don’t forget…  

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