October 3 – 9

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Happy Fiji Weekend! Fiji Day isn’t until Monday, but that didn’t stop the festivities from starting this week. Little boys wore their sulus to school last Friday to honor the special day, and on Saturday there were celebrations galore! There was a marching band, Chinese dragons, speeches and a cake cutting ceremony.

IMG_2998.jpgEach government ministry had a sidewalk display, and an award given for the best one. Downtown was again a sea of turquoise, with faces painted like the Fiji flag, and a choir dressed in turquoise singing on the sidewalk. Now that all the excitement’s over, on the 10th everyone can picnic and relax.

On Monday Sister Stanford introduced me to these talented ladies at the flea market downtown. Ma and Emily sit on the floor making bows and other crafts all day long. They are amazing women! They use a lot of masi for their crafts. Masi is tapa cloth decorated with a design of some kind. Kind of like plain cotton material being called gingham because it has a checkered design on it.IMG_2970.jpg

Elder Whitehead had a special experience in his class Tuesday. He asked the students what evidence of God’s love they saw in their lives.  Hand after hand shot up, each student telling stories of blessings that helped them feel loved. No doubt about it – we are loved!

We also sang “God Be With You” to Jethro at the end of class. He’s on his way to the Philippines! He’ll be in our prayers. IMG_2978 (1).jpg

It was fun to meet Osea and Lai, who both returned from their missions last week. We’ve been looking at their pictures the whole time we’ve been here, and it’s nice to finally meet them in person. It’s also great to see friends whoop and holler and give bear hugs when a returned missionary first walks in the door. Of all the missionary pictures on our board, now there are only two or three we haven’t helped send out.  Osea, Epeli and Tetika:IMG_2973.jpg

Wednesday we closed the institute at 12:30 and joined some YSAs to clean the temple. Can’t think of a better place to be with these wonderful YSAs!

Tonight was our senior missionary Family Home Evening at the mission home.  Pres and Sister Maiwiriwiri came and shared their testimonies. He is a counselor in a stake presidency and the temple recorder, and Sister Maiwiriwiri is the principle of LDS Church College. They lost a second child this year, and have truly been through the refiner’s fire, yet their faith is an inspiration to us all.  Listening to them was a tender and uplifting way to end the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 26 – October 2

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IMG_2951.jpgWe sure had fun with visitors this week. Nine future missionaries (one not in the picture), were here in Suva to apply for visas, and spent some time at the institute. They were from Tahiti, Tonga, and the cities of Savusavu and Lobasa on the Fijian island of Vanua Levu, which was heavily damaged by cyclone Winston. Their English was limited, but it really was interesting to get to know them. They even helped bake! They attended both of our classes, and it was great to have them there.

We also had a surprise visit from Jasmine, who was a volunteer with a humanitarian group when we first came to Fiji. She was such a faithful member of the institute crew, we really missed her and the other U.S. girls when they left. Truth be known, she didn’t actually come all the way back here to see us — she and Sean are “long distance” dating.

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IMG_2955.jpgWe said some sad goodbyes this week. Elder and Sister Martin went home due to health issues. We learned much from them, and will miss them! They refuse to take credit, but we know they put in countless hours coaching those who served on committees for the open house and cultural event before the temple re-dedication, and know it would not have been the same without them.

 

IMG_2966.jpgWe made our last trip to buy popcorn, too. Our wonderful Indian vendor, Joti, has been such a treat to get to know. She loved to give us generous samples of her spices, telling me how to cook with them and letting me smell or taste them. She and her daughter were always so kind to us.

This was the first time I ever saw octopus for sale on the street, and figured that, and the crab and lobster, were picture worthy. Somehow they just don’t look the same when you see them on a plate at Red Lobster!

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Work is also being done on our home in Wyoming in preparation for our return, which makes it feel like it’s really going to happen. I cried just saying goodbye to our popcorn lady! I hate to even think about what will happen when we say goodbye to the young single adults who have come to mean so much to us! Tonight we will attend a Self-Reliance graduation, and I will just have to start giving them all extra big hugs so they’ll all know how much they are loved by the time we go.

 

September 19 – 25

Wednesday we performed baptisms in the temple with thirteen young people from six different countries — Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Rotuma, Kiritibati, Tonga, and Fiji. Three more were Fijians of Indian descent. Of the six adults there, three were from Canada and three from the U.S. We were quite the melting pot next to the baptismal font that day!

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We welcomed two wonderful new students to my Mission Preparation class this week – Elenoa and Savaira.

Kaiava will leave for his mission to the Philippines in two weeks.IMG_2877.jpg

IMG_2880.jpgOur senior missionary outing this month was a trip to Magoon’s Lagoon. And what a trip! I love Sister Magoon. Her granddaughter Nicole Hussein was in the MTC while we were there, and helped us by telling us all about Fiji. Sister Magoon has been widowed for three years. She and her daughters cater to groups who come from America, and wow, does she know how to cook! I helped her serve once when she catered an LDS Primary school dinner, and now that we have seen where she cooks it all, I don’t know how she does it.

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On one side of this kitchen they prepare the food, and on the other side is an open fire where they cook it all (on the table is the roti they served us with our lunch).  They fed us Fijian pancakes, scones, bhajia with a delicious tamarind sauce, egg rolls, jack fruit salad, curry chicken and potatoes, dahl soup, roti, tomato chutney, okra, rice, Irish stew (the Magoons descend from a pure Irish ancestor), green salad, cabbage salad, and fish. Of course, fish. Part of the Magoon’s Lagoon experience usually involves net fishing. Unfortunately the tide was too high while we were there, so she invited us to come out again. I would love to see a hundred fish all at one time in a net.

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They have ducks, chickens, pigs, and a litter of dogs under the house.

Natalie and Thomas showed us how they catch crabs for bait, and then fish with only a hook on the end of a line held in their hands.IMG_2910.jpg

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While some went boat fishing, Elder Whitehead organized the first ever Magoon’s Lagoon International Frisbee Golf Tournament (from their smiles, you can tell Fiji won). IMG_2918.jpgHe also took on Thomas in Tic Tac Toe, and Thomas won the gold there, too.

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It was a great day:)

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Today we visited Tamavua 2nd ward, where we heard the YSAs sing “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy” to the tune of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” in sacrament meeting, and then again during Sunday School.  It was so beautiful it moved me to tears and I could hardly speak when I offered the closing prayer. It was wonderful to be with them.  The shorter girl with the white shirt in the front of this picture just came from China.  She can barely speak English, but there she was, willing to sing her little heart out with the group.IMG_2937.jpg

We received an email yesterday from Pres. Layton announcing that we will be replaced by a couple coming in January!   They are in for a remarkable experience.  We hope to learn more about them soon.

 

 

September 12 – 18

IMG_2849.jpgRachael helped prepare a bride for her wedding by painting mehndi on the bride’s hands with henna. Some of the henna got on Rachael’s hands, and the tradition is that when that happens you have to paint your hands, too. Such an intricate, beautiful design! Another tradition is that if the henna goes dark, the marriage will be a long and loving one.

IMG_2858.jpgTomasi asked me to type out a fireside program in Fijian. That was a first for me! The program included the words to hymns, and it was a little bit of a trick deciding if groups of letters were separated syllables or a different word, but Tomasi proof read it and only had to make a few corrections. Wananavu!

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We enjoyed meeting Shinvani, who just finished serving a temple square mission in Salt Lake City.  It was fun to see  her greet old friends. She joined us performing baptisms at the temple, too. We look forward to getting to know her better.

Speaking of missions, Jeanette received her mission call! She will serve in Kobe, Japan, and is SO excited! We are happy that she will be here with us until we go. She will report to the Provo MTC Dec 7. James Sharma also received his call: Australia, Brisbane mission, and will report to the MTC in Dec.

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We visited the Nacinu 2nd ward today, and were surprised to see one of our YSAs, Elder James Johansson! He entered the mission field back in April, but has been serving here these five months while he waited to receive his visa to the U.S. The ward sang “God Be With You” at the close of our meeting (I love that tradition!). He will be leaving for Las Vegas this Friday.  What a culture shock that will be for him…but a blessing to the people he will serve.

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We were introduced in the Nacinu YSA Sunday School class and then (as it has happened in other wards) were invited to teach the class because they had no teacher.

We team taught and it worked out fine. I just happened to read some scriptures early this morning that went with the lesson, so that made it easy. Sure would be great to see these wonderful YSAs being taught each week by a teacher they could depend upon, though. There are some strong young adults in their group – I’m sure they could have led a discussion by themselves if we hadn’t come. I’m impressed by their strength.

We ended the evening watching the re-broadcast of Elder Quentin L. Cook’s World Wide YSA Devotional.  Our days are full of ups and downs, but days like today make up for it.  We’re thankful to be here:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 5 – 11

IMG_2829.jpgClasses are going well, stake institute classes and activities are building up, and multi-stake YSA activities are being organized under the direction of priesthood leaders, so life is good.

We have made every effort to help strengthen the stake institute classes, including changing the courses we are teaching so we don’t offer the same classes at the same time.  If a YSA chooses to attend both their stake institute and the Institute of Religion, we want them to IMG_2830.jpg be able to receive credit towards graduation. So — Elder Whitehead is now teaching Doctrine and Covenants Sections 1-76,  Bro. Stanford is teaching Church History in the Fulness of Times, and everybody’s happy.

We labored on Labor Day same as any other day, but Wednesday we closed the Institute and celebrated the nation’s first ever Fiji Constitution Day.  An ex-British territory, Fiji became independent in 1987.  After much upheaval and military coups, a fourth Fijian constitution is now in place, and was honored for the first time on September 7.  This latest constitution is supposed to abolish old ethnic based provisions of the electoral system, lower the voting age to 18, put a check on seats in parliament, and the requirements of Senate.

IMG_2820.jpgFijians used to honor this day by requiring those 21 years of age or new to Fiji to register to vote. I’m not sure if that still happens, but even in the rain, everyone enjoyed a day off.

 

We drove up to Pacific Harbor, marveling all the way at this glorious paradise.IMG_2825.jpg

IMG_2813.jpgI took Sister Jensen shopping this week for items the senior missionaries will put into little Christmas bags for the junior missionaries, and for material she needed to make a table cloth.  Almost every other store downtown is a fabric store, which tells me more people here sew than those at home.  We had fun going in and out of all the Chinese shops in the rain.

We have come to love some of the store clerks, especially those in the grocery stores we see as we shop each week.  One we will really miss when we leave is Sarah, who weighs our fruits and vegetables in the produce department at IGA.  We didn’t see her for a while after the cyclone because her home was damaged, so we’re especially thankful she’s back to work and doing ok.IMG_2814.jpg

Which brings me to the bitter-sweet news that our plans for traveling home have arrived! We had some glitches and difficult moments getting the itinerary right, but we will leave Fiji Dec 2.  We love so many people here.  I keep telling the YSAs I wish I could put them in my suitcase and take them home with me.  One of our missionaries shared this quote:

“I wrote your name in the sand,

But the ocean washed it away.

I wrote your name in the sky,

But the wind swept it away.

I wrote your name in my heart,

And there it will always stay.”

We have 83 days to add more names, and will leave with heavy hearts:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 29 – September 4

IMG_2793.jpgAre you sitting down?  Sumeet received his mission call to…Leeds, England!  What a shocker!  With most of the missionaries from Fiji being called to serve in the Philippines, we thought for sure that would be where he would go.  He is so excited!  We have learned there is a large Hindi speaking population there, so this will be a perfect fit for him and a blessing to those of Indian descent who are ready to hear the gospel.

IMG_2794.jpgIt was another busy week helping students apply for BYU-Hawaii, enroll in classes we teach, or just taking the time to encourage them as they came in between work and other activities.  We love to know they are busy.  Tetika has been busy with a new attachment (internship) and translating materials into Gilbertese for the Area Presidency, so we were happy he had a minute to stop by.

We also are happy when YSAs volunteer to bake!  We all love to have refreshments after class, but it’s even more fun when they are made and served by our YSAs.  They are the best!IMG_2795.jpg

Bro. Stanford invited some of his Super Kids to his class Thursday night.  We had a great discussion about Ephesians 4 and the church being being built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.  Getting everybody home was a trick, so some rode in style in the back of Bro Stanford’s pick up truck.IMG_2796.jpg

Today is Father’s Day (again!).  Elder Whitehead really lucks out: he’s had four Father’s Days since we left home.  Rachael was sweet and brought him a cake to celebrate.  It is a tradition for a child to feed the father/grandfather a bite, so we had that little ceremony and then cut it up and shared it with everyone there. Then when we attended the Naulu ward today, he was given a cute paper tie.  What more could a father ask for?!  It’s great to be a father in Fiji:)IMG_2798.jpg

 

August 21 – 28

IMG_2756 (1).jpgWe had a great time welcoming Pres. and Sister Cziep to the mission this week.  Bro Cziep will be a counselor to Pres. Layton in our mission presidency.  They are from Idaho, but own a home on the island of Taveuni so they can come snorkel and scuba dive.  Now instead of being snowbirds, they will stay for a whole eighteen months.

Taveuni was one of the places hardest hit by cyclone Winston, and they told us amazing stories about it. They said that one group of people took shelter in a very narrow space under a house.  When they came out after the storm, the entire house was gone.  Others broke through some cinderblock of a large water tank, packed in like sardines and stood in a foot of water until the storm passed.  Seeing sheets of metal wrapped opposite directions around trees right near each other was evidence that the eye of the storm passed over them.  What an experience!  The Czieps told us of miracles, lives and property spared, and evidence that the tender and watchful eye of the Lord was also over them.

IMG_2759.jpgWe are back to school!  Elder Whitehead taught the first class of “Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel”, I taught “Mission Preparation,” and then substitute taught “Teachings of the Living Prophets” for Bro Stanford.  Our numbers are down, but it was a wonderful week.  Many students went home to villages during the break, so we hope to see more this coming week.

During Bro. Stanford’s class, Raymond, Shanal and Misi presented a portion of Hugh B. Brown’s “Profile of a Prophet.” Undergirding and overarching all the rest, they did a super job!IMG_2763.jpg

It’s been raining almost every day, but how can we complain when we are surrounded by so much beauty?!IMG_2769.jpg

As Twilight zone leaders, we set up a temple session Saturday morning followed by lunch at the historic Governors restaurant.  What a wonderful way to start the day.  It was a special experience for us all.  We also welcomed Elder and Sister Harper, who will serve as Self-Reliance missionaries in Nadi.  We are getting to be quite a large group!IMG_2777.jpg

IMG_2780.jpgToday we went to the Kuku ward in Nausori with Pres. and Sister Olsen.  We were asked to bear our testimonies before the Olsens spoke.

In the YSA Sunday School class, we met Alipate, a recent convert.  Last February missionaries invited Alipate and his family to attend the Suva temple open house.  Two flat tires made them so late to the open house that everyone had gone home –except Bro Maiwiriwiri, who gave them a personal tour.  Alipate felt the Spirit there, and decided he wanted to feel that again.  He was baptized four months ago, and just glows!  After church today he helped fill the baptismal font with buckets of water so another person could feel that same Spirit, too.  I am certain the Lord has something in store for him.

Relief Society was fun, even though it was almost all in Fijian.  I followed along with the lesson by reading it in English, made a few comments, and was asked to offer the closing prayer — which I did in English.  I’m thankful Heavenly Father knows my language.  It was a great day.