July 6-12

“It’s all good!”  We hear this phrase all the time from our YSAs, and it’s true: life here really is good!

When Lyanne and Timoci (aka Jimmy) dropped in one day, they told us that Fiji is known as the “ISLES OF SMILES”–  and have we ever seen some beautiful smiles! Lyanne told us she is studying nursing, and Jimmy is a contestant for the Hibiscus King who will be chosen for the week long Hibiscus Festival in August. Two other YSAs, Sukanika Qaqa and Faith Jedidiah, are among the final ten contestants for Miss World Fiji. We have quite the super stars in our group!

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Lyanne Simmons and Timoci (Timothy) Tupua

We are learning so much as we teach our classes – from the lesson material and from those who attend.  One returned missionary told us about being chased out of his home when he joined the church.  He prayed that his family’s hearts would soften, and they were.  Right after serving a successful mission, he was called to serve as an Elder’s Quorum president. It is very common for prospective or newly returned missionaries to be called to leadership positions in their wards and stakes. A young sister named Oni was called as Primary President just two days after returning home!

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Elder Whitehead teaching “Principles of Leadership”

Saturday game night was a blast: playing charades, listening to people taking turns playing the guitar or ukelele and singing, playing ping pong, billiards or cram board while eating lots of homemade cookies or sucking on “lollies.” Our goal is to just give these wonderful young  people a safe, happy place to socialize. We love being with them.

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Playing charades using a cell phone app was super fun!
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Faith and Dan strumming together

Before game night, we listened to the broadcast of Pres Boyd K. Packer’s funeral online, then visited the Spice Gardens with some senior missionaries.  The Spice Gardens were fascinating — especially smelling the cinnamon tree! Our guide showed us how they strip cinnamon bark, dry vanilla beans and process lots of other spices.  It was like walking through the garden of Eden — but a bit muddier because of the rain!

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Our guide Ogi showing us how bark is stripped from a Cinnamon tree

We had dinner Sunday evening at the mission home with the senior missionaries and other guests.  What a treat!  Pres. and Sister Qaqa (pronounced Gon-gah) told us their incredible conversion stories.  They went from the darkest life you can imagine to a happy home filled with light — and eleven children!  What a difference the gospel makes! Our Mission President, Pres. Layton, was out of town with our Area Seventy, Elder Johansson, so they were unable to attend. Seated in the picture L-R is Sister Layton, Sister Johansson, Sister and Pres Qaqa (the Johansson’s young son seated on the floor), and Sister and Elder Decker, the zone leaders of our senior missionary zone, called the “Twilight Zone.” We are standing in the back along with our next door neighbors, the Knights (mission nurse and finance missionary),  the Martins (auditors), Smiths (mission leadership support), Alldreges (vehicles and secretary), Bro Stanford (volunteers as Assistant Country Welfare Manager for Fiji), Naylors (temple construction) and Jensens (also mission leadership support).

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Senior Couple Family Home Evening at the mission home
And to finish off a great week, our new Fiji Temple president was announced: President Jackson Yee. He is a native Fijian with Chinese ancestry.  Everyone is especially excited to have a local called to serve.  He and Sister Yee are in our ward, and we can’t wait to get to know them better.

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