Thursday, November 14, 2013

November 12, 2013

November 12, 2013
 The last few weeks have been filled with so many memories and experiences and as we look back we realize just how fast this mission experience is going and we find ourselves wanting to slow down time…  We have learned so many things while serving in Samoa and are so thankful for the experiences we have been blessed with.  Some of our cherished memories we share with those we love….

There are so many beautiful flowers here on the island!!!
This one grows from a pod that resembles a star.  The flower is so delicate – it almost fell apart in my hand when I picked it up.

We had a fun Halloween giving out candy to the local village children.  We had about 200 children Trick or Treat at our house.  It was so fun to see their excitement.  Some had bags for their candy, and others just ate it as they got it…  It made us miss giving out candy to all the kids at home. 
… Special note to the Turcsanski children – we are looking forward to your visits when we get home!  Are Tootsie Rolls still your favorite candy?
One of the customs here is to remove your shoes before you enter a house.  This is our neighbor’s doorstep one night when we shared family home evening with them and some of our Filipino friends. 

The work is hastening on this island.  We average 8 – 10 baptisms a week between the 5 stakes.  When we got here there was a handful of Filipinos who were members.  In just 15 months there have been so many join the church that it won’t be too long before a Filipino branch will be created.  We hope we have the blessing of being here when it happens.  We are looking forward to attending the temple in a couple of weeks with two couples that we were instrumental in their conversion and they have become very good friends.  We are so excited for them to be able to be sealed as a family for Time and Eternity!
Henry, Judith and Vince Willis
When the storm hit the Philippines last week, and because many of the Filipinos here still have family in the Philippines there has been a lot of concern and many prayers offered for the safety of their loved ones.   A fund-raiser was organized to help those affected by the storm, and it was amazing to watch the entire island come together in support of their cause.  It is humbling to witness the support and out-pouring of love the people of this island (no matter their nationality) have for those in need.  So many of them barely
have enough for themselves, yet they don’t hesitate to give – sometimes all the cash they have – not knowing if they will have money for the next day to buy food.  It makes the story of the Widow’s Mite a reality…  We have learned so much from the wonderful people on this island!
This week Jim and Cherri Budgett, a couple we met in the MTC, visited us from Savaii where they have been serving as ITEP missionaries.
Bidding farewell to the Budgett's
They finish their mission the end of this month.  They, along with the Spencer’s, who will be leaving in early December, are like family to us.  It was hard to bid them farewell.  Even though we said we would keep in touch, life happens, and we know that our association will not be as close and frequent as we would like.    
The young men and the young women enjoy many of the same activities as our youth at home, but one of the activities they enjoy is Ward Mission Day.  They gather and go out as companionships to share their testimonies with non-members in their ward. 
Young Men on Missionary Day...
Some wards even have blank missionary badges (no names on them) for them to wear as they participate together.   They are not ashamed of the Gospel and are willing to share it. They approach this activity with so much enthusiasm.  They seem to approach service projects with the same attitude.  We could all take a lesson from them.  I know that sometimes when I have the opportunity to serve I do it out of obligation rather than love.   I hope that I can learn from their example.
Young Women enjoying Missionary Day...

Last week our institute director, Sonny Aiono, was in New Zealand for meetings and so he asked us to teach his classes for him.  Teaching extra classes was no big deal, but switching gears every hour to teach different subjects was a challenge, especially since the same principles were being discussed in each lesson and the basically the same students are in the classes.  Needless to say, we (well Dennis) had to do some creative thinking to come up with different ways to teach the lessons.  He taught Missionary Preparation, Doctrine and Covenants and Book of Mormon one day and the next day he taught Old Testament.  The subject I was teaching in the Gospel and Productive Life course was on Celestial Marriage.  The class I taught for Sonny was the course on Celestial Marriage.  So I had to come up with some new material to teach because what was in the manual was the same as I had already taught for two class sessions in my own class.  The 2nd lesson I taught for him (also from the Celestial Marriage manual) was titled Intimacy in Marriage.  That in and of itself was a challenge because in this culture there are certain subjects you just don’t talk about… intimacy being one!  But with the Lord’s help we were able to have a great discussion and I think from their comments that it went well.  Despite the challenges, teaching those extra classes was a blessing to us, and challenges always make us grow…

We took some pictures of some of the construction practices here.  No doubt that OSHA would have a holiday here!  The picture on the right was taken through the windshield in the rain, but you can see the lack of mortar in between the cinderblocks...
Todd, if we finished concrete like this we would be fired...
We got home the other night and someone had left a bag of avocados hanging on our door.  There were 6 of them in the bag – and the smallest one was about the size of a coconut – the six avocados almost filled the brown grocery sack.  I made 8 sandwiches from one avocado.  What a treat!
The next night we were given a large papaya. (picture)  I ground it up to put in papaya bread (I use my banana bread recipe) and it was enough to make ten small loafs.  Our missionaries love it when we give them banana or papaya bread – especially when I put chocolate chips in it.  The pictures show the Papaya on a dinner plate before we cut it.
The seeds remind me of the ones you buy for fish bait.  The smell is really unique.  It took a while to get used to it.  Smells like vomit….  But the fruit is really good…..

We were delivering supplies and mail to the missionaries on the other side of the island and saw a long boat in the harbor getting ready to do a practice run.  It is so fun to see all those rowers working together to propel the boat through the water.  (picture)  I can’t believe how fast and how smooth the boat glides through the water when they are all working together.  There is a lesson to be learned here – how smoothly things can go when we all work together for the same purpose.

Count the number of rowers….

The following is our ‘mission miracle’ for the month…
We received an email from Sister Evans - Elder Evans’ (Teancum Zone Leader) mother. She said there was a Brother Sasa in their ward whose father, living in American Samoa, was really sick and in intensive care at the hospital. She wondered if her son and his companion, Elder Jensen could give him a blessing.  She explained that he was not a member of the Church, but his son, who is a member, was anxious to have his father receive a priesthood blessing.  The elders
Every rower must be in unison...
went and found the man hovering between life and death.  No one from the family was there, but they gave him a blessing and asked the nurse to let the family know they had been there.  Dennis told them they should go back when the family was there so that they would know of their brother’s request.  When they went back to the hospital they found the bed empty where the man had been.  Because of how sick he had been they assumed that he had died.  But the nurse told them that he had been moved to the ward.  Surprised by that news they proceeded to find his room.  When they got to the door the man looked up and said his two daughters (who had come from the states to bid their father farewell, and to plan his funeral),  “These are the two young men that put their hands on my head and healed me!” 
When the elders told them that they had given their father a blessing at the request of their brother they were very surprised.  They said they didn’t even know that their brother had joined the Mormon Church.  The father told the elders that he hadn’t been able to walk for a long time, but since his blessing he has been able to walk. 
A week after the blessing the father was vacationing with his two daughters on Savaii – walking only with a cane.
Brother Sasa told Sister Evans that he hasn’t talked to his father for over 10 years, and they haven’t seen each other in almost 20 years.  Since that miracle blessing, father and son have reconciled and the son is planning a trip with his family to visit his father.  The father told his son that he wanted him to come visit and that he wanted to take him to the temple…  The door was opened in a miraculous way and missionaries have contacted the elder Brother Sasa to share the Gospel with him!
Bread dough wrapped in banana leaves and baked in the coals…  It is delicious!

Life is GOOD and part of what makes it special is our family and friends.  We love you all!   

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