Sunday, January 26, 2014

December '13 - Month of Memories

The month of December was SO busy, but so awesome...
We started the month with a trip to Apia for our annual (and last) S&I Seminar, which I addressed in the last blog. 
S&I Seminar
Housing for Senior Missionaries and School Teachers at Pesaga
(Church School in Apia)
We knew that when we got back to Tutuila we would be in the middle of the Christmas Mail rush.  Knowing that the number of missionaries in the mission had almost doubled since last year meant that the volume of mail would also double.  We were not disappointed.  We picked up mail two or three times a week and sent the boxes that were not for missionaries on our island by small plane to the mission office.  We weight varied from 300 – 500 pounds each shipment.  It seemed like we were boxing mail in our sleep.  We were still getting mail well into January – marked “Do Not Open Until Christmas!”   We teased the
We picked up mailed twice a week.  The boxes filled the back
of the van as well as both seats...
missionaries when they got their boxes after Christmas that they had to wait until next Christmas to open them…  Ha, Ha, that didn’t happen.  Mail is such an important part of missionary life, and so important to keeping up moral, and it is just fun to be a part of all of it.  The sad thing is that so many missionaries get very little mail – if any, and it is hard to watch the look on their faces go from anxious anticipation to sheer disappointment when we tell them there is no mail for them.  I wish their parents could see that look, and maybe then they would be more diligent in keeping in touch
Boxes ready to send on the small plane to Apia
(where the mission headquarters are)
with their missionary.
On the 20th of December we experienced another mission miracle.  We got a phone call from a lady stating that she thought she had my wallet.  I told her I didn’t think so, that I had my wallet in my purse, but when I looked – NO WALLET!  I felt a rush of panic inside when I realized I had just put $200.00 into it that morning to pay for the boxes to be flown to Apia.  Many times when we go to the airport to ship things to the mission office the credit card machine is not working and we have to pay cash.  I also had about $60.00 cash and my credit card in there.  Then I thought, “We are going to the Temple with Jeff’s family and Mom next week, and my temple
Polynesian Air Cargo Office employees that do such a great
job in sending our mission mail back and forth...
recommend is in there.”  I asked the women on the other end of the phone if the money was still there.  She said, “Of course!  It’s Christmas!”  I had visions of someone picking it up and taking the contents and just tossing the wallet.  But she assured me that everything was there.  Her granddaughter (about 10) found it and brought it home and they found my phone number inside.  She said we could come and pick it up and explained where they lived.  Keep in mind there are no addresses on this island so that presented a bit of a challenge.  She said her husband was an LMS Minister that they lived right behind the
Ward Christmas Party in outdoor Fale...
church in Vitogi, a village on the West end of the island.  We were so thankful that a sweet little girl with integrity was the one to find it, and that what could have been a disaster turned into a blessing – we made new friends and were able to do some PR for the Church in the process.  We know the Lord had a hand in what happened and we are so thankful.
All the wards invited us to their Christmas activities and firesides.  Our December calendar was full – sometimes with several activities on the same night.  We juggled the best we could and tired to make an appearance at all of them.  The West stake
Vince Whuillas was Joseph in the MIW Ward
Primary Program
hosts a party every year for all the missionaries on the island and it was quite an affair.  They fed us an awesome meal (of course all activities in Samoa include lots of food), and each district performed a skit as part of the program.  Then each missionary was presented a LARGE gift basket containing things they could use – soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, lotion, shampoo, hair gel, shaving stuff, goodies, etc.  Most of them said they wouldn’t have to buy any of those things for the year.  We just used the last tube of toothpaste from our box from last year….  I don’t know if the stake realizes what a great thing this is for the missionaries – especially
Nativity Scene in Fale
when they only get $50.00 a month, it helps that they don’t have to buy those essentials. 
I was surprised to see how many houses put up Christmas trees and outside lights.  They decorate for the season and really get into the spirit – but most people don’t go overboard on gift giving.  Instead they choose to spend time together doing family and Church activities.  On Christmas Eve almost every church (Mormon and non-Mormon) have activities.  They play games all night – basketball, volleyball, etc., enjoy singing and dancing and just being together.  We went to a couple of ward activities on the East end of the island and came back about 10:00 to the one in the
Every party or activity (FIA FIA) includes music and dancing
building next to our house.  They had a dance, which ended at 11:00, than everyone went home to change into sports clothes so they could play basketball and volleyball.  They played all night…  The early morning found them at home for individual family time and in the early afternoon they were all back at the church for more games!  We went home about in the wee hours of the morning, and because we were going to Skype with Alicia and her family to watch them open presents we thought it was useless to go to bed, so we watched a Christmas movie we had rented.  About 3:00 AM we Skyped Alicia’ family and after that we Skyped Michael and Michelle
Acting Silly and enjoying time together...
and their boys showed us what Santa had brought them.  It was so fun, because they each played us a Christmas song on the piano and sang us a beautiful Christmas song they had learned.  It was so fun to share a part of their Christmas with them.  About 8:00 AM we crawled into bed and slept until noon!  When we got up, we called the rest of our family to wish them a Merry Christmas, and just spent a relaxing afternoon and evening.  Dennis took the movie back we had rented and I did the dishes from dinner while he was gone.  It was such a quiet day, but we really enjoyed it – in fact I stayed in my pajamas all day!!!
One of the highlights of the month was the island wide mission activity for all the missionaries.  We started the day with a devotional and heard some inspiring words from President and Sister Leota.  After than everyone changed clothes and spend several hours participating in games and activities.  That evening the Pago West Stake hosted a dinner and program for all the missionaries.  They presented every missionary with a LARGE gift basket filled with items that the missionaries use (shampoo, soap, deodorant, after shave, toothpaste, mouthwash,hair gel, razors, scissors, combs, etc. - and lots of
President and Sister Leota with their two daughters
(Pearl & Rachel)
goodies). It was such a generous gift and so much appreciated!  The elders and sisters really enjoyed being together, and of course we loved being a part of it!  

Two days after Christmas we received a wonderful gift – Jeff, Natalie, Logan, Landon and my Mom all came to spend a week with us.  We had a wonderful visit.  We took them with us on our mail/water/supply run to all the missionaries and they were able to meet them and see where they lived.  We did some sight-seeing and showed them this beautiful island.  We sent swimming – and Mom even tried snorkeling!  It was great. 
Small plane we took to get to Apia
On New Year’s Eve we flew to Apia to send a couple of days there.  It was fun to see Mom’s reaction when she saw the SMALL plane we would be flying in.  It is about 40 miles from here, but on the other side of the International Date-Line, so we flew out on our Tuesday and arrived on their Wednesday.  We missed New Year’s Eve…  Mom commented that she was anxious to see how they celebrated New Year’s Eve in Samoa, but we missed it all together….  
Our dear friends, Elder Neal and Sister Barbara Goodlet, a senior couple from Australia were our escorts.  Because they live on the church compound, and know their way around the island - much better than us - and  are used to
driving on the 'wrong side' of the road, we  asked them to accompany us.  It was so fun to have them with us.  Barbara fixed some awesome meals for us - and the two of them spoiled us rotten...  They even taught us some Australian phrases…  We had some great things planned to do while in Apia (the Capitol of the Island of Upolo), but the weather didn’t cooperate very well.  It rained!!!  We did go swimming in the ocean (Mom even tried snorkeling),visited a tree house built in a large Banyon Tree, visited the Robert Lewis Stephenson house, did some shopping and spent an afternoon in an infant orphanage where Neal and Barbara volunteer a couple of times a week.  It was such a great experience!  Those little babies just clung to us as we held and cuddled them.  Everyone one of us were touched by their tender little spirits.  In fact Logan has expressed a desire do plan his Eagle project doing something to help the orphanage.  We were so blessed to attend the temple while
It was a cloudy, rainy day, but it did stop raining long enough
for some sight-seeing and swimming...
we were there.  We had arranged for Logan and Landon to do baptism for the dead with a ward while we were doing an endowment session.  However, the ward didn't show up, so after we finished with our session the temple workers arranged a special baptism session so the boys could do baptisms.  Jeff was able to perform the baptisms and Dennis acted was one of the witnesses.  Natalie, Mom and myself were able to watch, which was really special.  It was hard to say goodbye when the week was over, but as we drove home from the airpot, we both agreed that we were so glad that we were not going home.  We are just not ready for our mission to end

Our Samoan Nativity...
Additional pictures from a wonderful Christmas Season….
Our Christmas Tree
The fruit bats here are called Flying Foxes (their face looks like
 a fox).  Jeff & Dennis had a great time trying to get pictures…
Their wing span can be up to 5'.  The are not nocturnal -
you can see them in the daytime as well as at night, but the
best time to see them is a dusk.  They are called fruit bats
because they love to eat Mangos….
Mom's Bear to Welcome her to Samoa...

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