June 27 – July 3 The Rugby Game of the Century…

Seta_Tamanivalu51.jpgImagine a SF 49ers vs Oakland Raiders game being played in Canada. But make that the New Zealand Chiefs and Crusaders rugby teams playing for the first time ever right here in Suva.  Both teams have some Fijians players, so just about every Fijian in the country watched it live stream or in the stands.  Restaurants and stores were packed and roads were closed so crowds of people could walk to the stadium.  It was like Cheyenne Frontiers Days, but by the beach.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 IMG_2479.jpg                                                We joined a group of senior missionaries and sat in the stands in pouring rain.
Fortunately the rain let up right after the game started, and didn’t start again until the last few minutes of play. We went home soaked, but it was fun to be a part of history.  What an experience!

A highlight that evening was a halftime performance of the traditional Meke. Don’t know why the New Zealand teams didn’t do their Haka for us, but when the game was over, we all sang the Isa Lei song for the teams.

 

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Meanwhile, back at the institute, we are trying to get a head start on course completion by encouraging students who need to do make up work to do it now instead of waiting until the end of the semester.  Lupe and Tetika were the first to turn it in — we love these two!IMG_2476.jpg

Helping in the kitchen (and a priesthood blessing from Elder Whitehead) helped Sumeet overcome discouragement as he waits for his mission papers to get through some glitches so they can be sent from here to Salt Lake.  Tuesday Jeanette and Lini baked with him.  I am so grateful for their help — and so are those who come to class.  You can never have too many refreshments!IMG_2474.jpg

IMG_2470.jpgWe did some major Spring cleaning of our cupboards this week and Rachel was a great help with that, too. Don’t know what we would do without her. Plus, she’s really good at taking on  Elder Whitehead at Jenga. We leave the game out during the week and have a little competition going to see who can break the record for making the tallest stack.

We had some really rainy quiet days this week, but then good days, too.  It is such a blessing to get to know the young single adults who come to the institute.  For some, it is their home away from home during the day, which makes us feel like family. We worry when we don’t see them, but are so happy when we hear of those who have gotten jobs or are in school. We especially hope to see their faith in the Lord grow.  It’s fun to see the love and concern they have for each other.  IMG_2475.jpg

Sunday we attended the Naulu ward in Nausori. What a great ward!  Naulu will be our last ward assignment before we go home– it’s hard to believe.  It is an English speaking ward, but about half of the testimonies and prayers we heard were in Fijian.  The amazing thing is that the Spirit is the same, so we’re fine with it.  We have had some ups and downs this week, but still feel incredibly blessed.  This mission is truly “wananavu!” (awesome).

 

 

June 20 – 26 Warriors fans in Fiji

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This is what happens in Fiji when the Warriors lose (see the head in hands?).  But we also had a few at the institute rooting for the Cavaliers, so we saw high fives and smiles, too. Still can’t get over the fact that those teams are of such great interest here — even though only watched on a tiny cell phone.

We had fun helping Peni create his LDS account and prepare to submit mission papers this week. One day as he conducted our opening exercise before a lesson, it was as if I could see him as a future leader here.  I hope that comes true.IMG_2384.jpg

As Elder Whitehead taught a lesson on Tuesday about Adam, Eve, and the importance of marriage, he showed a picture of us on our wedding day. The class loved it when we struck the same pose we did 39 years ago. The YSAs love looking at our family pictures, and seeing us in our younger years. We all had a good laugh at how different we look now. Some were surprised that I used to have dark hair – they thought I was blond (no joke).IMG_2386.jpg                                                                                                                                                                               Wednesday we had another great experience performing baptisms.  We love doing that.

IMG_2395.jpgThursday Liahona invited me to come to the temple as she received her endowment, and it was a wonderful experience.  I’ve never seen such a happy crowd of extended family and friends to meet someone afterwards! I was thankful to see she had that much support because her parents live far away and couldn’t be there.  FYI: It is a common thing here to see people walk outside to the front porch of the temple in their white clothing.

Friday the Institute was closed for National Sports Day, so we drove two hours up the coral coast and spent Friday afternoon and Saturday at the Outrigger Resort.  We’ve never experienced anything like it, and hope to be able to go there again.

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Both Sumeet and Vicky gave talks in the Samabula ward today. Because it was Vicky’s first talk as a new convert, he asked Elder Whitehead for help preparing it. I gave Sumeet a reference for his talk. We drove from our ward after sacrament meeting to theirs so we could hear them speak, then back to ours again, but it was worth it.  We were happy to see that Sumeet’s mother came to hear him, too.  It is a rare blessing for a YSA here to have parents who are faithful in the gospel, and yet they are as committed as any of Helaman’s stripling warriors.  Single adults fill many (or most) ward callings.IMG_2456.jpg

Today was our last Sunday in the Suva 3rd ward.  I will miss meeting with these lovely sisters.  Sister Tuivaga (pink scarf) is a recent convert and has been especially kind to me.IMG_2458.jpg

We will also miss seeing these darling twin boys (Isaac and Zach, Lydia’s brother’s) in their sulus each Sunday.  What little boy wouldn’t just love being able to go barefoot to church?!  Bare feet, sulus, dogs and frogs, it’s all the same gospel, and we love it.IMG_2463.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

June 13 – 19 Father’s Day in Fiji

IMG_2362.jpgThis was a great week. James, Mia and Lini said they wanted to bake, I gave them the ingredients, instructions, and left the kitchen.  Going in for a drink of water, Elder Whitehead told me he noticed that things didn’t look quite right.  That was because somehow 1/2 cup of milk was translated to mean 4 in the mixture for No-Bake chocolate cookies.  We strained off the extra (everyone loved the chocolate milk), and they successfully finished making refreshments for our class.  Yum.  Maybe we’ll do it that way on purpose next time!

IMG_2364.jpgWe taught out normal Pearl of Great Price and Missionary Preparation lessons this week, and attended Bro. Stanford’s Doctrines and Teachings of the Book of Mormon.  We are learning tons!  We all said goodbye to Manny again — oh, how we will miss him!  He is on his way now to Provo to learn Gilbertese.

Wednesday we tried to help William with his mission papers, and hit a glitch.  No matter how many people we asked to help, it couldn’t be fixed.  He had a great attitude though, saying the opposition he faced was just steeling his resolve to serve:)IMG_2376.jpg

Saturday I attended a Relief Society Retreat at the stake center.  I had a wonderful time learning about the Self Reliance program and how families can use it instead of relying on “kerekere”(begging / borrowing, relying on someone else).  I heard that the Self Reliance program is coming soon to the U.S., too.  I enjoyed visiting with sisters as we ate bakau (scones) and didn’t realize until I was on my way home that I hadn’t taken any pictures.  That has happened several times lately, and I think that’s because it feels so normal to be here.  We arrived in Fiji one year ago today.

IMG_2377 (1).jpgWe discovered where our old ping pong table ended up: at the LDS Primary school (a.k.a. the Samabula chapel), where these guys get up as early as 5am in order to play before school starts!  They sure love to play.  I took them some poppy seed bread, which they only allowed themselves to eat as a reward when they won a point. (You have to keep your priorities straight and focus, even in ping pong).

 

IMG_2379 (1).jpgIt won’t be Father’s Day here until September, but we celebrated nonetheless.  Sister Knight made these darling little envelopes holding Big Hunk candy bars to give our husbands, and I made our traditional apple pie to share.  It is one thing I make here that tastes exactly the same as it does at home, and that makes Elder Whitehead happy.   We decided to visit the Wailoku ward, and discovered that had we not come, the YSAs would not have had a class.  Little things like that help to make us happy to be here.  As we stood on the temple steps Friday night and looked out at the beauty surrounding us, we couldn’t have been more content. We feel so blessed to serve and learn and grow here.  This mission is performing miracles in our lives.

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June 6 – 12 Want to be a missionary now?

IMG_2348.jpgAnybody want to come serve a mission in Fiji? During training on Friday with our director Ngatai Smith from New Zealand, he instructed his secretary to post a missionary opportunity for a couple to come replace us. YAY! This is the best mission ever – please come! You have six whole months to prepare.  Or, because summer break is from Dec 2 until the middle of January, you could come in time to teach next January. You’ll love it.  It’s like living in paradise — especially now that another group of bright flowers are blossoming everywhere.

To celebrate our one-year mark we attended the temple with our MTC-mates, Elder and Sister Alldredge and Elder and Sister Martin. Time has just flown by –- it really does feel like we just came. We had a pleasant visit afterwards (who can complain when ice cream is involved?). We are thankful to be in walking distance of this beautiful, peaceful temple, and to serve here with wonderful people we have grown to love.

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Thursday the Prime minister was up our way, so the main road was closed. That caused the early closure of LDS Church College, so one of our regular attendees led a huge group of 13th year students down the hill to come and join us for the afternoon. Some of these students (all 18yrs old) had never been inside the institute before, so it was a great opportunity to welcome them and invite them to come for classes.   They watched movies in the classroom, moved couches and set up the ping pong table next to the pool table, used laptops in the front classroom, and played on a carrom board in the kitchen. We were busting at the seams, but sure had fun.

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Mele came in to show us that his dislocated elbow is healing. Last week his arm was double its size, and we were worried. He showed us the special leaves he was given from the Solomon islands that cause warmth and have helped the healing process.  Wish we could grow some of those in our backyard!  Would rugby be as much fun if it were less of a bone-breaking-joint-dislocating contact sport?  Don’t think we’ll ever find out.IMG_2340.jpg

IMG_2339.jpgAnother treat was when Epeli, who we haven’t seen in months, came in to show us where he had been given a TB test in preparation for submitting his mission papers.  What a happy surprise!  We are excited for him.

Our YSAs are doing so many great things.  First thing Tuesday Steven and a friend came in after finishing service as ordinance workers for the 5:00am endowment session.IMG_2338.jpg

 

And they aren’t the only ones getting up at 3:30am to be anxiously engaged in a good cause:  during our training Saturday morning a sister from the island of Kadavu told us her seminary class BEGINS at 4:30am.  (Her students start their day at a provincial school before 6am).  How can we even think about shirking our duty when we are surrounded by people with such strong faith and devotion?  People like Manny (hugged below by Tetika), is the only member of the Church in his family, baptized just 18 months ago, yet full of faith and excitement to go serve a mission in Kiritibati.  The leis were given to him today as we all sang “God Be With You.”  I love how that is done here.IMG_2360.jpg

Another fun surprise today was meeting up with Conor Searing, whose family lived in Colorado Springs when we did.  Conor is here for a week with a group of BYU Study Abroad students.  He even wore a sulu! What a small world — even half a world away.IMG_2356.jpgTonight is our senior couple Family Home evening and dinner at the mission home, where our institute coordinator and his wife will share their conversion stories and testimonies.  We just go from one good thing to another, and feel so blessed.

 

 

 

 

 

May 23 – June 5 Something to cheer about

One day I heard lots of hollering, gasps and cheers coming from the lounge area of the institute. When I asked what all the hoopla was about, and it was the Golden State Warrior’s basketball game! Who would have thought that clear over here in Fiji young men raised on rugby would care about the Warriors –- but they sure do. They are also very interested in our presidential election, and ask about it all the time.  It is surprising how far our influence extends.IMG_2283.jpg

IMG_2281.jpgThis week Rachel and Brandon volunteered to defrost our little office refrigerator freezer and did a great job.

Another group took over making refreshments for class. Who said too many cooks spoil the broth?  The cookies were great.  I love it when the YSAs offer to bake -– and they love doing it, too.

IMG_2284.jpgWe were also excited to have the old broken ping pong table replaced with a very good quality new one – paddles, balls and all. Everyone loves it!IMG_2285.jpgIMG_2287.jpg

A large number of our YSAs are applying to go to school at BYU-Hawaii, so our front classroom has kind of turned into an online application center. We will miss them, but are happy to see them receive more education.

Friday was another important day. We met with Pres Varea, Pres Bhan of the Suva North stake, and Bro Sefeti to talk about the way forward as they organize multi-stake activities and as we coordinate together through an Institute Advisory Council. There is a lot more work to do, but we are making baby steps. The theme for last week’s fireside to kick off the coordination of multi-stake activities was “What Seek Ye?” Jesus asked that of John’s disciples who heard Jesus speak and then began to follow Him. We need to find out what those who are in our stewardship seek in life, and help them turn to follow Christ.

IMG_2294.jpgWe were asked to do some training at a Suva North stake YSA fireside and dance. To try to include the YSAs who live forty minutes away in Navua, the stake rented busses, and the event was held in Navua.  Because of bridge construction, the trip to Nauvua took much longer than usual. We arrived before the busses, so enjoyed a gorgeous sunset.  It was a great evening. Everyone participated in our presentations, and we both felt the Spirit.  I think part of that was a reward for the sacrifice of so many to make the effort to support the few in Navua.

Saturday we used our preparation day to hike Mount Korobaba, elevation 1,384 feet.  It was very steep and slippery root and rock covered hillside, but oh, was the view at the top worth it!  From the pinnacle we could see a sliver of Kadavu island 55 miles away, and two other closer islands. Bro Qima was our guide, and we sure couldn’t have done it without him. There’s a gospel analogy in that, too, isn’t there?  It was a great way to end the week.unnamed.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 23 – 29 YSA activities are on the way

IT FINALLY HAPPENED!  Friday night Elder Johansson held a YSA fireside to announce how multi-stake YSA activities will be organized in this area.  Now activities will be coordinated, planned and budgeted under the direction of priesthood leaders.  By the end of the meeting 120 young single adults were in attendance.  It was a great evening, and we have great hopes now for the future.IMG_2243.jpg

The YSAs were even treated to a curry chicken and rice dinner to top off the evening.IMG_2252.jpgIMG_2247.jpgIMG_2251.jpgIMG_2245.jpgIMG_2249.jpgIMG_2248.jpg

We look forward to supporting Pres Varea, who has accepted the assignment to coordinate and organize the multi-stake YSA activities.  An LDS Student Association and Institute Advisory Council were even discussed.  We hope to see them created.

Meanwhile, we are doing our best to do what we were sent here to do, and provide institute classes worth our YSAs time!. We have really appreciated Elder Oldham for substitute teaching Bro. Stanford’s class this month, and for all the technical training he has given us.  The Stanfords went home to Canada for their son’s wedding.IMG_2240.jpg

Going up to the LDS Church College this morning to attend Tamavua 2nd ward brought back so many memories.  It is such a beautiful campus! We loved being able to say hello to our first Fijian friends.  In Sunday School we talked about doing things for the right reason and as we are led by the Spirit (instead of just filling a square).  That’s when miracles happen — I know that is true.IMG_2258.jpg

After church we delivered a birthday cake to Tetika’s twelve year old sister, Mokura.  IMG_2259.jpg

And in return, they sent us home with this gigantic pacific lobster!IMG_2262.jpg

Now that’s a trade!  We wouldn’t trade this mission experience for anything:)

 

May 16 – 22 The LDS College’s big 40!

Bake sale!  The LDS Church college started celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this week with a dance, speeches, unveiling of a gigantic number 40 in the gym, and a bake sale offering items like the brownies Tandra and Amelia made at the institute.  They were yummy!IMG_2231.jpg

The LDS Church College began as a vocational school, but now offers academic classes to students in grades 7 through 13 (college freshman).  Here, those grades are called “Form 1-7.”  The school still offers technical training, along with released time seminary and institute.  Several Form 7 students also attend our Institute of Religion classes, and we love seeing them come straight from school, still wearing their uniforms.

We welcomed a new face to the institute this week — Lasarusa, who just returned from his mission to the Philippines.  It’s been fun to see the reunions of returning missionaries with their old friends, like David and Lasarusa shown below:IMG_2220.jpg

Tetika was able to have a reunion of his own with the two young men from Kiritibati seated in the picture below.  They have received mission calls, but are here waiting for visas, so we were happy to have them join our Mission Preparation class.  The one holding the Preach My Gospel book described how confused and unsettled he was after his father’s death, but that when the missionaries found his family and he heard them explain the Plan of Salvation, he was filled with incredible peace, and knew that what they were saying was true.  I’m sorry he has to wait for his visa to Washington State, but we’re thankful he was here long enough for us to hear his humble testimony.IMG_2227.jpg

Jeannette (a member of our Institute council) told us her father wouldn’t let her sit for a driver’s exam until she learned how to parallel park and do a three point turn, so Elder Whitehead took her straight out to the parking lot and demonstrated:IMG_2224.jpg

Can’t you just hear “varoom-varoom?”  It was hilarious to watch.  Mission policy prevents us from allowing anyone but missionaries in our car, so later Elder Whitehead had Jeanette stand on the sidelines so she could at least see him park and turned in our car.   Which was all perfect timing for me to use as in introduction to a lesson on Hyrum Smith being told to wait to preach the gospel until he had learned more. (Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word…).  It was great.

Our YSAs continue to keep the temple running — most are ordinance workers there, and these two were kind enough to leave the institute the moment we received a call from the temple presidency asking for help. We are so proud of them!IMG_2228.jpg

BIG NEWS!!  Finally, after months of waiting, the meeting to organize multi-stake YSA activities under the priesthood is scheduled for next Saturday, May 28th.  HOORAY!  Elder Johansson considers this to be such an historic meeting that it will be held in the Berry Road chapel, where the Church began in Fiji.  We’ll let you know how it goes:)