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