Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Last Six Weeks of our Mission

April brought an outbreak of Pink Eye to our island – actually it started in Western Samoa and spread (like wild fire) to Tutuila.  We bought lots of hand sanitizer and eye drops….   Sunglasses were a common sight as well...
This spot on the island is known for the cleanest air on earth
Many of the people here think you can get Pink Eye just from looking at someone who has it, so many of our students would avoid looking at us if they had it, even though we explained it was a virus and could only be spread by touching.   It seemed to take about a week to run its course.   
It got so bad that people who had it were not allowed board the airplanes – which caused a bit of an inconvenience for many.  The schools on all three islands were closed for at least a week, and they even closed the temple for a few days.  Thank goodness that Dennis & I were able to avoid getting it, and only about 1/3 of our 34 missionaries caught it.  We were so grateful for that little blessing.  
We were driving down the road one day and noticed a stalled bus on the road.  NO PROBLEM – all the men on the bus jumped out to push start it!  Then they all jumped back on and they went merrily on their way!  We just had to take a picture of it - it made us laugh...
Everyone push….

We had a wonderful missionary experience one afternoon at Carl’s Jr.  We were having lunch with Lela Elisara, our awesome ‘adopted daughter’- previous student – now a working girl preparing for her mission…  The three of us were sitting at a table and a young man (Palangi) came and sat at the table next to us.  Lela, noticing that he was alone asked if he wanted to eat with us.  He accepted our invitation, and the usual conversation took place – where are you from, how long have you been on the island, what brought you here, where are you living, etc.  He said he
Jump in Guys…  We are on our way again...
was from Pocatello, Idaho and came to American Samoa for work.  In the course of our conversation he asked us what had brought us here and then he stated asking us questions about the Church.   I was a little surprised that growing up in Idaho, he knew so little about the LDS Church.  He was VERY WELL versed in the bible and asked some very intriguing questions.   Anyway, we spend a couple of hours discussing how the Book of Mormon does not replace the bible and how they go hand in hand to testify of the Savior and his teachings.  He quoted some scriptures from the bible and asked for our explanation and understanding.  As the three of us
Institute Farewell Party  - Elder & Sister Krogh on the far left.
attempted to answer his questions you could feel the spirit working – even in the noisy crowded dining room at a fast food establishment.  He kept asking questions and was genuinely interested in what we were sharing.  Several times we attempted to leave, but he kept asking more questions.  Before we left he agreed to attend a missionary fireside with us.  This experience never would have happened if Lela hadn’t followed her impression to ask him to join us.  That is what missionary work is about – receiving and acting upon promptings.
Our institute students had a devotional/farewell party for us where we had
Yum, Yum, Yum
the opportunity to share our testimonies and express our love to each of them.  Of course, there was food – lots of it!  You can’t be in Samoa without food…
We bought a new Ping Pong table for the institute as our parting gift to them.  The one they had was four pieces of plywood that they put on two banquet tables when they want to play.  It is such a small token of our appreciation and love to them for all that they have done for us.  Words can’t begin to express what they have meant to us.  We will forever cherish their friendship, their hugs, their smiles and their laughter (as we attempted to speak their beautiful Samoan language).  They accepted us with unconditional love and taught us so much more than we were able to give them.  These memories will be locked forever in our hearts!!!

April 18th was a bittersweet day for us.  We picked up Elder & Sister Krogh, the senior couple who will be replacing us when we go home.  What a delightsome
Pizza, anyone?
couple.  We felt an instant kinship to them.  We had three weeks with them to ‘show them the ropes’ – so to speak, before we handed over the reins to them.  They were called for 6 months and will only be on Tutuila until the Saunders (the couple actually called to replace us) arrive in late June.  Then they will go to Western Samoa for a new assignment.  What an inspiration they are to us...  
WOW – those three weeks went fast…It was a great experience for us to be able to share and review with them the duties they will have as they take care of the needs of the missionaries that we have grown to love so much!  We loved sharing the sights of this beautiful island with them.  As we spent our last Monday and Tuesday delivering mail and water to the missionaries many, many hugs were shared, and lots of tears were shed.  It was so hard to say goodbye.  Because of mission rules they are not allowed to be at the airport to bid us farewell - which was probably easier in the long run.  Seeing each of them at their individual houses made it more personal - one on one..
I think a new Ping Pong table is in order...
 We took the opportunity to visit the island of Aunu’u one last time to say goodbye to the Lotoa family.  We had the opportunity to spend a night on their beautiful
Farewell to Aunu'u
island as guests in their home and were treated like royalty.  We were also in the MTC with one of their daughter’s.  It was so fun to see her come home and share in that experience with the family.
One of the highlights of our mission was our Thursday night PMG class.  It was such a great experience having the students in our home.  We suggested that we hold the class at the church, but the students said they would rather crowd into our house, so that is what we did.  The last night of class Dennis did a quick review of what we had been studying and then asked if there were any questions or concerns.  The young adults started sharing their feelings and testimonies and appreciation to us.  WOW, the Spirit was so strong and we felt so humbled as we listened to them.  We will cherish the memories of that evening forever. 
Thursday night PMG Class at our house...
Our last week on the island was incredible and so hard all rolled into one!  We were asked to speak in the MIW (Mesepa International Ward) sacrament meeting a couple of weeks before we left.  Then on our last Sunday, at the end of Sacrament Meeting they asked us to come to the stand and everyone stood and sang, "God Be With You, Til We Meet Again."  Looking into the faces of all the people in the ward we had grown to love is something I can't begin to
Party with our Filipino Family at Pili's
describe.  We were treated to so many farewell parties (Fia Fia's) and were showered with so many gifts.  Their outpouring of love to us was over-wheming…  Our farewell dinner at the Pili's with our Filipino friends was so special.  Being with all of those we had seen accept the Gospel was a big pay day.  Ali, and Sir Phil (the names the Filipinos lovingly have given to the Pili's) have given and done so much to help and fellowship this group of about 20 people.  What a great example they are of our Savior...  

We shed so many tears the last couple of weeks that I am sure if they could have been contained there would be enough water to float us all the way home.  To say that we were humbled by it all does not begin to adequately describe our feelings.  

We left Tutuila on Saturday, May 10th.  Over 50 people showed up to say goodbye.  More tears….  We crossed the International Date Line arriving in Apia (40 miles away) on Mother’s Day, May 11th.  
What a beautiful way to spend Mother's Day night

We took the opportunity to spend the night at Lupe Sina Treesort, a bed & breakfast built in a Banyon Tree.  It was a great adventure.  Even though we didn’t need the mosquito net, we slept under it, just to say we did.  The mission hosted a farewell party for us - more tears.  We were also able to see several of the young missionaries we had served with on Tutuila, who had since been transferred to Upolu or Savai’i.  We also bid farewell to Sister Tanuvasa, a sister missionary who served her entire mission in our stake in Utah.  We feel so blessed that our lives were able to touch again - this time as we served in her country.  We love her so much – and even though she is no longer serving as a full-time missionary, she is a perfect example of a member missionary.   She gives the missionaries more referrals than anyone on the
Sister Leota with us at the airport...
island.  As we look back on the last 22 months we are so humbled by everything we were able to experience.  There are no words that can begin to express how we feel.  We will cherish those memories forever…  The senior missionaries we served with are such great examples to

us, and we developed a kinship that will last into the eternities!  Saying goodbye to President and Sister Leota was especially difficult.  We have grown to love them so much!  They are truly great disciples of our Savior and such a great example to so many.  As excited, as we were to return home and be reunited with family and friends again, it was very, very hard to say goodbye to our beautiful Samoan friends (no friends is the wrong word - we consider them FAMILY).  We have grown to love each of them so much!  We took thousands of pictures to help us remember the last 22 months, but words and pictures can't begin to describe how we feel...

Into the Welcoming Arms of Family
and Friends...
Emotions were high as we left Samoa,and peaked again as we landed in Salt Lake into the loving arms of family and friends.  It was so awesome to come down the stairs at the airport and see so many waiting to welcome us home!  WOW - how our grandkids had grown… We were especially surprised and happy to see Elder Lolofie, one of our returned missionaries along with his sister there to greet us.  As we bid farewell to 'our missionaries' as they left their missions, we promised that we would see each other again - and seeing him there waiting to greet us helped us to realize that a new chapter in our life is just beginning…  We hope that we have made a difference in their lives as we had the blessing of serving with each of them. We know they have made a difference in ours!  What great examples they were to us…  We look forward to sharing their lives with them as they marry and have families of their own…  We were blessed to be able to work with 76 wonderful young elders and sisters from all parts of the world.  How awesome is that?  We also saw over 30 of our institute students leave to serve missions.  Getting emails from them is such  treat!
Elder Keith Lolofie - one of our many awesome missionaries

Hello my precious Ashton.  I am your Grandma...
The experience we had, being able to live on a beautiful tropical island paradise,
the friends (now family) we made, the miracles we witnessed, and the opportunities that were ours as we served as part of God’s Army in the Samoa Apia Mission, will be cherished forever.

Farewell Tutuila - You will forever be a part of our lives…
July 9, 2012 - May 14, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March 2014

March 2014

This has been another amazing month for us. 
We have had some great experiences, seen some funny things, and just enjoyed being part of this island.  Dennis celebrated his birthday on the 13th, and he had dozens of birthday wishes via email and Facebook.  It was so fun to hear from so many.  You made his day even more special.  Thanks to everyone for remembering!  We are so blessed to have such wonderful family and friends!  
I got him a Samoan War Club - with the help of our dear friends, the Goodlets.  
Happy Birthday Dennis
He  had no clue he was getting it, and that added to the fun.  It is not often I can pull the wool over his eyes….
Elder & Sister Layne, the mission dentist and his wife stayed with us for a couple of days.  Their visit gave us a chance  to get to know them better and to share the beauties of this island with them.  We really enjoyed We visited an observatory on the East side of the island.  It is run by NOAA Commissioned Crops and among the things they do is measure air quality and monitor the Ozone.  We learned that the hole in the Ozone is closing – should be closed by 2050.  The air on the top of the mountain where the observatory is located is known as the “cleanest air on earth”.  Needless to say, when we were up there we all took lots of deep breaths – just so we could say we had breathed the cleanest air on earth.  It was really an interesting afternoon.  One of the exciting things was the drive up there…  The road was so steep – in fact one turn was so sharp we were not sure we were going to be able to maneuver it in our van (affectionately named “Tommy
Cleanest Air on Earth….  Breath Deep...
  However, Dennis used his driving expertise and we made it.  I don’t think backing-up would have been a very good option….
One morning I woke up and looked out the window to discover one of the bushes in our front yard had blossomed overnight.  I don’t remember seeing these flowers last year.  They are beautiful.  As we look at the pictures of our yard taken when we first arrived, we realize how much everything has grown.  The lemon tree is almost twice the size – and still bearing lemons non-stop.  We are going to miss all those lemons and the fresh squeezed juice, lemon-aid, lemon bars and pie that are the result…

We picked another pineapple from our yard – probably the last one we will have before we go
We have one more bunch of bananas that will be ready to pick in a couple of weeks.  Yummy…  We have eaten so many bananas since we have been here – which is good.  There are several varieties and they prepare them in different ways.  One of our favorites are the small bananas – about 3-4 inches long – and they are so sweet.  They also have large fat ones that they cook and serve plain or covered in coconut cream.  I like them with the cream on top, but
when they are served plain, they taste like cardboard.  The ones that grow in our yard are more like the ones we get at home.  It has been fun to watch them grow – almost overnight – and then enjoy their sweetness.  Our yard has provided us with bananas, pineapple, papaya, and lemons.  It has been so fun harvest things we can’t grow at home.  We also have several mother hens and their babies that frequent our yard daily.  It is fun to see those baby chicks follow their mothers around and watch them grow…  We haven’t seen our ‘attack rooster’ for several weeks.  We gave him that title because if he is anywhere near the lemon tree and we go near it, he ruffles his feathers and squawks at us as if saying, “This is my territory – no trespassing!”  He loves the lemons that have fallen on the ground.  We just give him his space – it is safer that way!
Does anyone have a bar of soap?

We were delivering supplies to missionaries one afternoon and saw something I am sure we will not see at home.  There was a break in a water main.  These men really believe in getting into their work!!!

It is amazing how the Lord can direct our lives to accomplish his needs.  The other day we were in the process of delivering mail, water and supplies to the missionaries on the West side of the island.  We had planned to stop at the airport after we left the first missionary house to send the boxes of mail to Apia, but when we got to the intersection, Dennis said
Practicing for the Long Boat races to be held on Flag Day (4/18)
he thought he would wait to go to the airport after we had finished our deliveries.  That really made more sense, because sometimes the missionaries here have mail and boxes they want to send to missionaries on the other islands and we could include them in the boxes we had ready to send, but on the other hand, we were close to the airport and it would have saved gas and mileage as well as time to go as we had originally planned.  Long story short…  as the day progressed we had several phone calls that caused us to detour from our scheduled deliveries so by the time we finished making all our visits we
The flowers are so beautiful…  We have many friends
who love to share with us.  
were much later going to the airport than we had planned.  When we drove up and started unloading the boxes a young man came up to help – which is always so appreciated.  Anyway, he said he was flying to Apia and then on to New Zealand to get his visa in preparation for leaving for his mission.  He had never been off the island and so this was really a big adventure for him.  He introduced us to his family and we had a great visit.  The FM (facilities manager) here was also at the airport attempting to get a seat on the same flight.  After visiting for a few minutes, we wished them all good luck and left.  A couple of hours later we got a call from the AP’s who
These little girls know how to beat the
hot sun - or the warm rain...
were to meet the potential missionary and take him to the mission home until his flight to New Zealand left the next day.  They said they couldn’t find him and wondered if we knew how we could get in touch with his family.  They had no idea that we had met this young man at the airport earlier – they were just attempting to find a contact over here that they could call to verify that he had made the flight.  They had been given the wrong tine his flight and so they got there an hour late.  When there was no one waiting for the missionary at the airport he was a little freaked
Elder & Sister Layne
We had a great visit...
out because he didn’t know what to do or who to ask for help (remember this was his first time away from home).  Luckily the FM had been able to get a seat on the flight and he noticed that there was no one there to pick up this young man.  He explained the problem to the person who was there to pick him up, and they decided to take the young man to the missionaries that were serving close to the airport.  They figured the missionaries could call the mission office and arrange to have him picked up.  When the AP’s called us, we were able to contact the family and they told us their son had called to let them know he had arrived safely and that he was with the missionaries.  We were able to call the AP’s back and tell them where to find their lost elder… Had we not changed our plan to go to the airport later, we never would have met that young man or his family.  And,
We never get tired of the Samoan Sky...
when the AP’s called us we wouldn’t have known who to call.  And if we hadn’t run into the FM and introduced him to that young man, and he hadn’t made that flight, he wouldn’t have been at the airport to notice a stranded young man.   It was a testimony to us that the Lord had “directed out path’ that day.  How grateful we were that we followed the promptings of the Spirit.

We thought that after Christmas the volume of mail would decrease – but not so.  We are kept busy picking up and delivering the mail to

our precious missionaries.  We send an average of 200 pounds of letters/packages to mission

headquarters every week.
  The number of missionaries has more than doubled since we got here, and so the volume of mail has doubled as well.  We receive great joy in delivering that mail – it is like the lifeblood of the mission – especially since the missionaries here are not able to email.  We get several emails from parents every week, wondering about the welfare of their sons/daughters.  It is another wonderful blessing of this mission – getting to know some of the parents!
Elder Brown and Elder Henrie
We appreciated their help with mission mail to go to Apia

We attended a Primary Testimony Fireside in the Mapusaga 3rd Ward.  On Sunday the children were challenged to memorize their testimony in a different language and share it with everyone at the fireside on Friday night.  They could choose from 5 languages other than Samoan or English.  Returned missionaries from the ward worked with each group to teach them.  They bore testimony in Spanish, Fijian, Tongan, Tagalog and an African language.  To witness kids between the ages of 5 and 12 bearing their testimonies after only 3 practices was amazing.  Most of them had it memorized.  I can bear my testimony in Samoan, but I have to read it… 
The Spirit was so strong in that room you could almost cut it with a knife…  “From the mouths of babes…..”
We had a wonderful institute party this month.  Our students wanted to share with us the experience of cooking in an Umu – a traditional way of cooking.  We also had grilled chicken, sausage and turkey tail – cooked on a large ourdoor grill - by several of our students.  The night before the party they came to our house and made the marinade for the meat.  They started preparing the Umu early the next morning.  They picked fresh coconut, shredded it used the coconut juice and mixed with Mackrel 
Preparing the Umu
and cooked it in coconut shells in the Umu.  It is SO GOOD…  They also baked bananas, and taro in the Umu.   With what was cooked in the Umu,  the meat cooked on the outdoor grill and the 20 pounds of potato salad, and 4 batches of brownies I made, we had quite a feast.  The party went from early morning until dark – and beyond.  It was quite a day!!!  Lots of music, laugher and just plain fun!  How we love the young single adults on this island!!!  What a blessing to us to be part of their lives…

Chicken being cooked on an outdoor grill - they cooked over 100 lbs.  of chicken...
We were able to participate in the Malaeimi Stake Conference.  The visiting authority was Elder
Tukuafu, an area seventy from Tonga.  We were invited to eat with him and the stake presidency,
bishops and their wives.  It is a blessing to hear the messages and testimonies of the brethren, but being able to be with them on a more personal basis is something I will never forget.  He expressed
his sincere thanks for us for our service – which was so humbling to us - because we are receiving so much more than we are able to give.  We truly feel the love of our Savior everyday in so many ways…

We were able to witness another baptism in the ocean.  Baptisms are amazing, but seeing it happen In the ocean is special…  
One of the stakes had their Girls Camp this month.  We took the opportunity to visit, and it was so great!  I have to admit that I was in “7th Heaven”.  It was so great to feel of their spirit and see how many of the things they were doing are the same as what we do.  I even ordered a camp shirt!  So if you count our brief visit to Girls Camp last year on the island of Upolu and our short stay at camp this year I can say that I have attended Girls Camp 33 times!  It is in my blood…..
Beautiful Young Women at Camp...
Family Tid-Bits…. Stephen, Melissa and their boys, Alec and Sean were able to take a trip to California this month.  They sent pictures and it looked like they were really enjoying themselves.
Melissa with her two awesome sons...

Last month our Jacob lost his first tooth, and this month Lexie lost two of hers.  She says, “It is hard to say Rhythm, and pronounce words correctly in speech class.”
Smile Lexie...
Devin wrote that he asked Rhythm how he slept.  His answer – “With my eyes closed!” 
Todd sent an awesome picture of Josh. He is certainly not a little boy any more.

We were able to talk to Michael and his family the other night.  They are busy as ever – and soccer is right at the top of the list.  Tyler did hit his head on the chandelier requiring 5 staples.  But his smile is still captivating…  Jeff’s family is busy as ever and doing great.  We are so excited when our family shares with us…
Does this look familiar Girls?

2nd Ward Campsite

The ever faithful priesthood at their campsite...
It seems that not a day goes by that we don’t witness little miracles.  Some are so subtle that they are hardly noticed, while others are so powerful that it almost takes your breath away.  That is one of the blessings of serving a mission – being in an environment that makes it easier to realize how much we are all blessed in so many ways!
Several months ago we met someone from the Area FM office and she suggested that because of my background as an FM we should consider visiting the FM offices in Fiji and Tonga and attend the temples in each country.  We thought that would be a great opportunity and started making plans to do
Showers at camp...
that on the way home.  We met with a travel agent to figure out the itinerary and costs.  It was all so exciting to think about.  We figured that as long as we were this close it would be silly to not take the opportunity.  However as time went by we both felt uneasy about making the trip.  We couldn’t put or finger on it, and neither of us expressed to each other how we were feeling.  Finally I told Dennis that for some reason I felt we should just got straight home.  When I finally expressed my feelings verbally, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from by chest.  Dennis said he had felt the same way, but knew how much we both wanted to go and didn’t want to
Primary Children at a missionary welcome home party…
They love playing games on Dennis' IPad...
disappoint me.  Wow – we are not ashamed to admit that we both were more than a little humble when we finally expressed our feelings to each other.  He asked me if I felt there was a need to get home sooner than we planned, and I said it wasn’t that. I just felt we shouldn’t go to Tonga and Fiji.  Later that day we were in a meeting with some of the missionaries and President and Sister Leota.  He mentioned several times that ‘if we would just extend our mission again’ this or that would happen.  Everyone in the room laughed each time he said it, and we all joked about it.  After the meeting, President Leota asked if we could take them to the airport to catch their flight back to Apia and on the way Dennis asked him
Pago Harbor at Dusk...
if he was serious about our extending.  He got really quiet and emotional and then asked us if we would consider staying just two more weeks to allow more time to train the couple that would be taking our place.  Then it became very clear to us why we had both had the feelings we did about making the trip to Fiji/Tonga.   Sometimes we don’t understand the ‘why’, and as disappointed as we are that we will not see that part of the world we feel peace.  Who knows, maybe our next mission will be in that part of the world.  We will just put our trust in the Lord….

Our mission is fast drawing to a close and leaving is going to be BITTERSWEET.  We are anxious to see our family and friends, but we have made so many awesome friends here and it is going to be SO, SO hard to say goodbye….