Friday, December 7, 2012

Celebrating The Holidays

As we race through our day to day schedules, how often do we slow down and ask ourselfs, Why?  Why are we here, right now?  What is the most important thing we can be doing with our talents?  Where are we going? 

From Dec. 5th  to the 7th, I got the opportunity to live on the outer Island of Tanna.   My assignment in our mission field is to upgrade the apartments of our missionaries.  So while we were working on a home in Whitegrass, a truck with about 10 men pulled up into our yard.  They were introduced as members of our church, who preform as warriors to show their father's customs to the tourists.  They all walked a short distance away and changed into their warrior outfits with dark painted faces.  After a few minutes, a loud noise from a sea shell sounded and all heck broke lose.  The warriors made very scary, loud noises, ran with spears, drums, and hammers around the tourists. 

They explained to the tourists several old customs, like how they circumsized the boys at age three, with a bamboo stick, by holding the youth and all the villagers shouting so the mothers could not hear the cries of her boy. 

They danced and talked about how they select a spouse as the young women become of age, the young girl goes to a lake to swim, then the woman of the village protect her as she goes back to the village, and the men try to kidnap her. If one of the young men puts a feather in the young girls hair, it means they will marry some day.

As I was watching everything from back stage, It occured to me, that the warriors all knew exactly where they came from, why they are here, and know where they are going after this life.  They all have a strong testimony of God, and His Son Jesus Christ.  So...after the party was over, I walked up to the tourists, who were thinking how advanced they were with respect to the natives. The tourists had alot of money and technology, lived in big homes, drove cars and were convinced they were superior to the warriors. I told them that all but one of the performers were LDS, and knew more than all of them combined.  The tourist's eyes opened wide and their mouth dropped a bit .  I explained that as members, they had strong testimonies of their Father in Heaven and knew exactly how to get back to heaven.  Elder Maukura, standing next to me, just said it is true.  One man from France, with eyes still wide open, said over and over, it is true, it is true.

We all have much to learn from simple people, who live off the land, just like it was in Eden, and have their priorities in order.  It is a challenge to be in the world, but not be so worldly.  I hope we can all have a great Christmas, knowing why Christ came, and what we should be doing about it.   I love you all.

Friday, October 12, 2012

First 100 days in Vanuatu

THE FIRST 100 DAYS........

This is our new neighborhood.  This picture was taken next to our home.  Vanuatu is everything you would think a South Pacific Island should be.  You can drive around the perimeter of this Island in just over two hours.

Home sweet home. Our home is across the street from our Mission President's home, in a very safe neighborhood.

There are 30 branches in our mission, seven of them on our Island.  This Branch house is Mele, the Branch which we get to attend each week. 
Since the Mele meeting house is so small, the Priesthood, YM, YW meet under the trees.  It is interesting when it rains.
We live in the big city of Port Vila, a city much like any in the USA in 1950, but on the other Islands of our mission, like Tanna, shown here, it is very primitive. This is our chaple.  Up to 300 saints meet here on Sundays.  Last Saturday, five people were baptized in this area.  The outer Islands have much more baptisms than Port Vila.
This is part of the Primary at Saet Siwi, one of our six Branches on Tanna.  We have 101 young missionaries, of which 30 serve in very primitive areas.  They have no power, no running water, and eat off the land.  On this Island, 8 missionaries are Sisters.  All of the missionaries on the outer Islands are my heroes.  I would love to trade them places.
At WhiteGrass, this is where the Sisters shower.  They catch the water from their rain gutters, and with a bucket and a cup they stand on mud inside this plastic shower stall.  Their toilet is so bad, I didn't dare show it, thinking maybe one of their parents might see it also.
It really takes about 100 days for our minds to realize that we are really here, and not in Kansas any longer.  Mary's responsiblity to take care of the health issues of the missionaries is very difficult for her.  She has risen to the challenge and has been of unmeasurable help to many missionaries.  Some missionaries have had TB, Malaria, broken bones, and many have had stomach and muscle problems.  She has prepared a first aid kit, to be in each apartment. Together with medications for each missionary to avoid some of the local problems.   Mary works very close with a Dr. Anderson, from St. George, Ut. who is serving in New Zealand. In the USA, missionaries are screened very closely for medical problems, but the missionaries from the South Pacfic Islands, come with many problems, and then are thrown in very primitive areas, will all kinds of diseases lurking about.  There are alot of mental issues with missionaries trying to live together,when they are from different cultures.  A huge challenge Mary has is the difficulty in communicating with people, that only speak French, Bislama and very little english.  It is one thing to say hello to someone, it is another to talk technical issues with them.
On a similiar calling, my assignment is to bring each missionary apartment up to minimum standards and take care of the seventeen cars in Vanuatu.  Currently, we are building water towers next to each apartment, so that the sisters can take a shower indoors, and have a real time toilet, similiar to those in camp grounds.  We are installing solar power in every apartment, with up to four lights and a battery charger for their cell phones.  We are now moving some of our trucks from Port Vila to the outer Islands.  This will mean that Mary and I will be walking and using the bus system. 
In summary, we are so blessed to have been called to this mission.  There is an enormous demand for senior couples.  We love the other senior couples who also serve here. We currently have six couples, but will get four more by next January.  They run the office, pay the bills, get people to the temple, complete paper work, that allows missionaries to get pass ports, work permits, flights, they teach seminary, operate the perpetual education fund, and assist to get local missionaries papers completed. Our mission President Brewer, together with his Assistants and Zone Leaders all do an excellent job of keeping all 116 of us on track.  We love it here and look forward to the next chapter in this glorious opportunity.  My dad fought here in the South Pacfic, but it is so much nicer for us, being here under peacefull times and being able to share the gospel with wonderful people.