Saturday, January 26, 2013

Jan. 19th, 2013

We had an auxiliary training meeting this morning at 8:30 AM. That was a bummer because Saturday is our only morning to take our time getting up. When we got to the church there was only the senior couples that have teaching callings and the 2 bishops of the wards that are meeting together for the summer. Come to find out that the meeting had been changed until tomorrow evening and no one told us. But the trip to the church was not a total loss. The bishop asked if he could have a word with me. Then he told me that he would like to sustain me as the 1st councilor in the Relief Society Presidency tomorrow at church. I said, “I thought we were going to teach Sunday School.” He shook his head yes, and said that he would sustain me to both callings tomorrow. I just stood there with my mouth open and then said “OK”. I am still in shock. We are really filling two full time mission callings right now and then I will have two church callings too. Guess I won’t get bored!!
We went home and cleaned the apartment and did some laundry. We have a dinner at the Mission President’s home tomorrow, so I made some rolls to take to that dinner. Our freezer door won’t stay shut so I am hoping that I can keep them frozen until tomorrow.
We went to the Szoka’s for dinner tonight. What a delightful evening! Dinner was very simple, sloppy-Joes, sort of, but it was good and the company was great. They are such fun people and very down to earth. We stayed and visited for almost 2 hours and enjoyed every minute of it. They are from Colorado --- what’s not to like???

The Zone Leaders took our picture at the blow holes.

Jan. 18th, 2013

The internet was still very slow at the office today so I worked on our missionary housing assignment. I got on excel and made a spread sheet to keep track of the items that we give the missionaries each month. Ok, I didn’t do it all alone, but I did learn a lot while Tara helped me. That thing is so complicated, I would need a class to understand it all. She is just helping me learn what I need to know to do the basics.
After lunch we went with the Zone Leaders from the west zone to check the houses it that area. I am sad, mad and mortified to say that we found 3 different companionships at home, napping. It was shocking. Even our worst missionaries in Ukraine would not do that! The rest of our afternoon however was delightful. We saw parts of the island that we hadn’t seen yet and it was beautiful. We also saw some of the nicer areas, where the homes are nice and the people are wonderful. In one village that we went to there are 3 wards! Almost every village on the main island has its own chapel. It’s amazing. We loved the time we spent with the Zone Leaders. It was good to be with the young missionaries again. We will really enjoy that part of our work here. They ended our visits with a trip to the blow holes on the west side of the island. WOW! That was something to see. I took some pictures but they don’t do it justice. We want to go back and watch the sunset there. They say it is breathtaking.
Elder Sozka lent us a movie to watch. All the couples that serve here leave movies behind and there is quite a collection. He has them all organized and you just go pick one up when you have time to watch one. I had some ironing to do so we watch “The Gambler 5” . It was frustrating because it must have been a TV movie and it ended with “to be continued”. That was a bummer but the movie was good, we enjoyed it.

Another view of the blow holes, they are beautiful.

These are the blow holes that are about 15 minutes away from our house.

Alan in the middle of our wheelchair inventory. We gave out more chairs today. It is starting to go down.

Jan. 17th, 2013

Today things went better at the office. The internet was slow but at least it was on. We were able to get a few things done. We also loaded up 15 more wheelchairs and sent them over to the hospital to be assembled and given out. We are excited about that. It is good to see them moving. We will need to order more soon.
We had a fire in our apartment this morning. Not to worry, it was just a little one, my curling iron caught on fire. It is a really small one and I guess it just couldn’t handle the current change. Oh well, it wasn’t doing me much good anyway. I use it to straighten my hair, not curl it and with this humidity it only lasts about 10 minutes anyway. My hair is out of control here and I have decided that it is just the way it is going to be, so that’s that. They tell me there is a lady here that knows how to cut hair quite well. All of the sister missionaries go to her. I will just keep it short and hope for the best.
On our way home from work we stopped in the American Store in town. They get lots of canned goods from America. We were able to buy some tuna fish and some cream of mushroom soup. I’m trying to build up a little storage so we will have food in the house if a cyclone hits.
We went over to the service center and I worked on the blog. It took over an hour to download some pictures, slowly but surely it is starting to happen. I don’t know if I will ever get caught up. Right now I am exactly one month behind! Mercy!!!
Tonight was our temple night. It was kind of a sad one. Elder and Sister Johnston are temple workers here and they are leaving for home in the morning. They were the officiators for our session and Alan and I were the witness couple. We all got a little teary by the time it was over. We have only been here for 3 weeks, but we have already made some very strong friendships. We will miss this good couple.

Alan with the village leaders. Sione is the large man in the middle. They are all really excited about us trying to help them. We sure hope this project will go through.

This pump cost the villagers over 10,000 pa'onga. The came up with all of that money themselves.

The new water pump that the village bought is housed in this little shed.

Jan. 16th, 2013

We went to the office today for no good reason. The internet was down the whole time we were there. I did some filing and reading and Alan caught up on his journal. We have got to find a better way! Either we need an office at Liahona or they have got to do something about the internet. Elder and Sister Bean had 5 kids that they were trying to help get PEF loans and they had come from long distances. They weren’t able to accomplish anything either.
Just when we were all about to go crazy, it was time to go to lunch. We took Tara and her husband out to lunch because she will be leaving in a little over a week. We went to the nicest restaurant on the island, The Waterfront. It is fine dinning at a high price, but worth it once in a while for a special occasion. The food is really good. It is a dining experience, so it takes 2 hours to have lunch, but we all really enjoyed it.
At 2:30 we met Sione, and drove to the far side of the island to see his village. They need a new water tank and a stand for it to sit on, so we went out to take some pictures to submit with our project request. It was very interesting to see where he lives and also to see how these water projects work. The whole village is made up of mostly farmers. They live on their little plot of land and farm it. They eat what they grow and sell what they can in order to buy some clothing. They are extremely poor but happy and content with life. These families have lived in this village forever and this is the only life they know. Sione has a job in town and he is trying to make life a little easier for the people of his village. He is a very good man!
By the time we got home we were exhausted. It really drains you when you are out in the heat for very long. We walked a lot in the village and the mosquitoes loved us! I was really glad that we had some left over tinfoil supper that we could eat for supper tonight. I put in a load of wash, ate dinner and then relaxed. I am making a hot pad to give to Tara before she leaves. I gave one to Sister Johnston this afternoon. I wish I had brought more yarn! It’s a nice going away gift, something small and light but also something that they can remember us by.

You can see under the tank how rusted out the stand is. It is only a matter of time until the whole thing comes down.

This is the water stand and tank that need to be replaced.

The Village Water Man is sitting on the ground fixing a leak in the pipe. The others are members of the water committee for the village. They are very serious about their water lines and keeping them in good shape.

Jan. 15th, 2013.

We had another meeting at the Service Center this morning. It was a devotional that was supposed to go from 8:30 until 9:00 but it ended a little after 10:00. It was a really good meeting and we were able to meet face to face some more of the people that we will be working with. That was great but it really cuts into our day. By the time we got to the office it was 10:30 and then the internet was down so it didn’t work most of the day. This is soooooo FRUSTRATING!! I know the Lord sent me here to learn patience but I could go CRAZY before I learn that lesson. About all I got done today was ordering some metal carts for the Welfare Center. We saw them in the storage unit and they are surplus items so we asked if we could have them to put the wheelchair boxes up on when our storage unit floods --- which is often. Hopefully we can get them this week since we are into the rainy season. We were expecting a Cyclone today, but they down graded the warning to a severe tropical storm. So far all we have had is a lot of rain and power outages, although some of the outer islands got hit harder. The worst part is that just before a Cyclone it gets very still and HOT! Just when I thought it couldn’t get any hotter --- it did!
We went to our first “missionary yard sale” this afternoon. When a couple leaves they put out all of the things that they have collected during their stay in Tonga that they can’t take home with them. Then the other senior couples come over and pick out what they can use. The best part is that it is all free. The couples just keep passing things on to each other. It was good for us, since we are new. We were able to pick up quite a few things that we can use and now we won’t have to buy them. That turned out to be very helpful.
We had a pot luck dinner for the Johnstons tonight. I made a huge tinfoil supper. We were feeding 20 people but others brought main dishes too so we had plenty of food. They seemed to enjoy the tinfoil supper, it was a taste of home with memories attached. It was a fun evening even though it is sad to see the Johnstons leave early. We pray that the Lord will bless their family. We know He will.

Jan. 14th, 2013

Today was pretty much a wasted day. We started out with a meeting with the Service Center Manager and that was good. But we didn’t get to cover the things we really needed to talk about and he is so busy that we never saw him again. Things will slow down in a couple of weeks but right now it is really hectic! After that meeting we were meeting Tara and going to see the man we will be working with in the FM group and then drive out to a village to get some pictures of a water stand and tank. Tara got caught in a meeting that she couldn’t get out of while we waited around for 2 and ½ hours!!! By then the man we wanted to see had gone to lunch and it was raining cats and dogs. That took care of driving out to take pictures.
We spent a little time in the Service Center trying to pull up the internet but it was spotty because of the weather. There is a Cyclone headed this way and there are warnings out for the island. People are stocking up on food, etc. but we weren’t going to drive into town in rain and wind that severe. We haven’t been here long enough to really have any kind of storage, but we will be working on that SOON! By late afternoon the storm had been down graded to a severe tropical storm, although the outer islands were still in the main path and could get hit pretty hard. I was able to get a few posts up on the Blog. With Kimi’s help I was able to post a picture and hopefully when the internet is more stable I can get some more on.
We had FHE tonight. The Tongan couple that work in the temple did the lesson and it was all about the temple. They did a beautiful job. I LOVE THE TEMPLE!! There was a sad part though. One of the couples that we are serving with, the Johnstons, will be going home this Friday. They have been here 11 months. She is the mission nurse. His daughter is having some problems, they didn’t tell us what, and they felt that they needed to be with her. We will miss them, they are wonderful people.

Jan. 13th, 2013

Church is always good, although it is hot during Sacrament Meeting. I bought a fan and that really helps. It was High Council Sunday and our High Councilman is Howard Niu, our Service Center Director. He talked about the importance of education and supporting your children in their education. Evidently the Tongans are very supportive of their young children but when they get to be teenagers they are on their own. His parents didn’t even go to his high school graduation. The church is trying to change that philosophy.
When we were through with our meetings, Alan told me that the bishop had called him out of priesthood meeting and called us to be Sunday School teachers. We will teach the 17 year olds. We don’t know why he didn’t call me in too, but he didn’t. Oh well, when in Tonga do as the Tongans do. That should be a good calling for us. We can do it on Sunday and then not have meetings during the week. It will be fun to be a part of the new program the church is starting. We just pray that we will be able to get the information that we need from the internet during the week.
After dinner Elder and Sister Fellows came for a visit. They are the older couple from Australia. He is really frustrated with the Votec program here. He will be working in that area and they were shown pictures of all the new equipment that was purchased to start the school year in 2012. It is all gone! And the classroom was a disaster area. The students -- or the teacher --- who is not here anymore, took everything! He will have to go out and buy everything again and it will cost over $8,000.00 to replace all of the equipment. The school doesn’t want to pay for it and the church won’t pay for it because they paid for it last time. If somebody doesn’t pay for it he said that he is going home. There will be nothing for him to do here. It’s a mess! We love this couple so we are really hoping they can sort it all out but they will have to hurry, school starts in less than 2 weeks.
There was a Stake Relief Society Fireside tonight. It was wonderful but also kind of shocking. It was all about saving the family. The Stake President talked and he was pretty blunt. He told us that he is having to excommunicate at least 1 person a week. If that keeps up we will lose the equivalent of one ward soon. He said that the husband is the head of the household, but the woman is the neck. It is the neck that turns the head and he needs the women to be faithful and righteous and turn the men from drinking Kava, a strong drink here, to the temple. He also talked about saving marriages. When young people get married they should cleave unto one another. The tradition here is to live with the families after marriage. It is how they survive because they are so poor, but there is too much interference from the parents in the new marriage and then there is trouble. The church is trying to get the members to follow the council of the Lord instead of the traditions of the culture. WOW, that is a steep mountain to climb!!! It was a very interesting and eye opening meeting. It was all in Tongan, so we had translation. The best part was the music. It is so beautiful, I love to sit in the chapel and just let it surround me. It’s heavenly!

Jan. 12th, 2013

We got up early so we could go into the fair and be home before it got to hot. We left at 8:00 but it wasn’t early enough! We needed to get some things from America and that is the best place to find them. We found a bottle of Clorox and a can of hair spray. Then we went to the store and bought a carton of ice cream and 2 small packages of chocolate bits, they don’t have chocolate chips here. I found a store that sells cans of Diet Coke so we bought 6 cans for $9.00 --- it was worth it! The heat is messing with my blood pressure and giving me some bad headaches. Drinking a Diet Coke today really helped.
When we got home we ate a little snack and then went with Elder and Sister Johnston to visit some missionaries. She is the mission nurse and he is her assistant. There was an elder at the other end of the island who was sick, so we went with them so we could learn our way around. There are no road signs on the island once you get off the main road. You just turn at the blue building or at the palm tree that is split up the middle. It will take us a little time to figure it all out! We saw one missionary house that was in great shape and one that was disgusting. It really isn’t the fault of the missionaries that are there right now, it is just old and it has not been kept up. There is soooo much work for us to do to get these places up to the standard that will be safe and healthy for the missionaries to live in. That is of course how I see it. Most of these Tongan missionaries have never slept in a house with doors and windows or even in a bed. They are used to sleeping on a mat on a dirt floor. I guess it is all a matter of perspective.
While we were out and about, we found a couple of new places to shop, a bread store that is lots closer to our house, that makes cinnamon rolls - which were actually pretty good, and a roadside shop where the lady will order things from America for you. Her mother buys them in Cosco and then ships them over here. A lot of people make a living that way, but she is the first one that we have found that will take orders. It might take months to get here, and you have to be there when she unpacks the crate to be sure of getting it, but at least there is a chance. Of course, it will be very expensive. They add at least 40% onto the price of each item. I found a small bottle of hand lotion today that was from Bath and Body. It would cost less than $5.00 in America but it costs $25.00 here. So you can see, if you ship in a bunch, even though you have to pay the shipping, you are making a good profit. That is if you can get someone to buy it. I’ll pay a lot for food, but not $25.00 for hand lotion!
By the time we got home from our little trip it was mid afternoon. Not a good time to start cleaning the house but we only have one day to do it. I did some wash and by the time we got everything done and the floors mopped, the sweat was dripping off my face and my hair had curled up so tight! I told Alan to take a picture, just so the family would believe it, but he wouldn’t. He loves me to much to let me be seen like that. I wear the neck cooler that Carolyn Gray gave me when I clean, and it helps, but nothing can cut through this heat.
Saturday night is always fun, we have movie night. Tonight we watched the movie 7 pounds, the men chose it. I don’t recommend it. It is too depressing. It is an interesting story and it holds your attention but it is hard to watch. So much for that fun evening. The ladies get to choose next week.

This is what a new missionary house looks like. It was just one room but they have added on a bathroom.

Jan. 11th, 2013

We had a meeting with the Mission President this morning so we didn’t go into the office. We met with him to talk about the missionary housing. First thing, he thanked us for the presentation that we did yesterday and said, “It was just perfect! I don’t know of anyone who could have done a better job.” He is so kind and sincere. We have already come to love him. He explained to us what he wanted us to do and told us what to expect in some instances. When he came to Tonga there were 80 missionaries here and now it is up to 135. By the middle of this year we will have 180. He is trying to find housing for all of them and that will really add to our work load but working efficiently we hope to be able to handle it. At the end of the meeting he looked at me and asked me if everything he had said was alright with me. I said, “certainly” and he said, “I don’t want to over work you, I just want you to be happy.” I love that man. He is so kind and considerate.
We went into the office and checked our email and then did a little shopping. I bought a block of cream cheese today. It would be the size of 4- 8oz packages at home. It cost me $20.00. I just can’t get used to how much food costs. When we come home I will think even the expensive items at the grocery store are a bargain.
It was so blessed hot today that we were exhausted. When the temperature is at 87 degrees, the humidity makes it feel like it is over 100 degrees. I know my blood will thin out in time, but right now I’m dying! I sweat from the minute I get up until long after I go to sleep. We put the fan in the doorway to our bedroom last night and we both slept much better. I don’t know what we are going to do when the real hot weather hits. They tell us that February and March are the worst --- can’t wait!

Jan. 10th, 2013

I didn’t sleep very well last night worrying about that stupid CD. Alan didn’t worry about it at all, but this morning when he realized that we had a meeting at 11:00 that we didn’t have the material for, he started to panic. How do men do that? Sleep all night and then panic in the morning. I don’t get it! Anyway, I took the computer over to the school before we went into the office. No one was there to work on it so I had to call one of the computer specialists and tell him the problem. Later he called me and said that there was no CD in the tray. Duh!!! I explained it all to him again and he took the computer apart and found the CD. Somehow it sucked it up off of the tray and it was stuck just above it. It scares me, I am a little bit afraid to use it now.
It wasn’t a great start to our day, but by 11:00 everything was back in order and we were able to do our first orientation for the new missionaries. There were 9 of them, 5 from the states, 3 of which were Tongans and 2 white boys. We felt good about what happened in the meeting and the president seemed pleased, so I guess I lost all that sleep for nothing. I’ve got to learn to think like a Tongan --- oh well, not to worry.
This afternoon I spent an hour and a half sending an email to our friends and family with pictures attached. The internet was so slow that by the time I got the pictures downloaded, it had kicked me off. I got back on and by the time I had selected the people that I wanted to send it to, I was kicked off again. Then when I finally got it all put together and sent, 12 came back with failure notices! I had to go back in and send it again with no pictures attached. By the time I was done I was so frustrated! And I thought the internet was bad in Ukraine! The fact that we have to go to the school to use it just makes it worse. It is really hard not having it in our home. They tell us that they will have a new system up and running here in July. We just aren’t sure in July of what year. Everything moves according to Tongan time. We will wait and see. Pray for us!
We did end the day on a much higher note. Thursday is the day all of the senior couples go to the evening session at the temple. They do it in English and it was a perfect escape from the frustrations of the day for me. I love the temple! As we came out, we talked to a young sister who was in the parking lot. She is a student at the high school here. She was born in Taylorsville but when she was a small child her grandmother, who lives in Tonga, told her mother that she needed a girl to live here, to grow up in her home to take care of her. The mother sent her young daughter over to live with the aunt and the grandmother, who is now 93. She has lived here the whole time and has not been back to America. When the grandmother dies, she will be able to go back to her family in the states. The grandmother is the head of the family in Tonga, and it is tradition for her to make the decisions for the family. This young woman felt no bitterness about what had happened, but she is looking forward to being reunited with her family again in the near future.

Jan. 9th, 2013

When we got to the office today, we met with 2 men from the hospital. They came to pick up 13 wheelchairs. They take them back to the hospital, assemble them and then give them out to the people who qualify for them. It was great to see some going out. They have been in storage for a long time and only 30 have been distributed. That is not good. With the 13 we sent out today we also had a request from a Bishop for 4 and we have two more individuals that we are working on. That will be 19 since we got here two weeks ago. We are praying that we can keep things going and get them out to the people that really need them. Then we will be able to order more.
While we were in the office, Tara told us a little more about the funeral of the man who died last Saturday. In Tonga, if a member of your immediate family dies, it is a custom for the family to go to the cemetery and stay at the gravesite for 3 days, (24x7). That means that his poor widow and her children were out all night in that terrible rain storm Sunday night. It just hurts my heart to think about it. They also have very formal mourning here. Those closely related to the deceased will wear black for a year. Friends will wear black for as long as they want, usually several months, to show respect. Because he worked with the FM group, the people we work with, everyone we saw today was dressed in black.
We spent some time working on our presentation for the new missionary orientation tomorrow. We will talk to them about their housing and keeping it clean and neat. Our Mission President has a power point presentation that he wanted us to use. It is all in Tongan and it took me a LONG TIME to type up some handouts in Tongan. He had a copy in English on a CD that he gave to us and we looked at it while we were over at the school. When we put it back in to go over it tonight our computer ate it! It is stuck inside the computer and we can’t get it out. I’m sure that he will be very impressed with our skills when we meet with him tomorrow. Good Grief! How could that have happened?

Alan with one of the young men that comes from the hospital to pick up the wheelchairs. He puts them together.

We gave out 13 wheelchairs today. We store them in a shed behind our office.

Jan. 8th, 2013

We all went into work a bit tired today. We had a HUGE tropical storm last night. We have a tin roof on our house so it was very loud and it rained HARD most of the night. The power went out a couple of times and was out when we woke up this morning. I don’t know how Alan can sleep through things like that. There was thunder and lightning and I was awake until about 2:00.
All people see things differently. It has been very dry here and the people have been worried about running out of water. Last night’s storm put a lot of water in their tanks. It also was a time for taking an out door bath. We talked to a man today who said that he and his son were out in the rain from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am. They take baths and just play in the rain, they love it. To each his own, I’m exhausted!
I’m not the only one who didn’t get much sleep last night. Tara, the girl we work with, and her family have rented a small home in Tonga. She said that when it rains that hard all the bugs try to get where it is dry. The drain pipe that goes into their water tank blew off and her husband went out to fix it. There were HUNDREDS OF COCKROACHES lined up along the foundation of their house trying to stay dry. She got her poison out and started spraying the door jams and all of the window seals. Then she sprayed the mop boards and even some towels to stuff around the doors. Her daughter was worried about being gassed, but Tara was more afraid of the bugs than the fumes. Oh the joys of living in a tropical climate. I came home tonight and sprayed all around our house again, just in case some of it washed off.
When we got in to the office today the parking lot was flooded. There is no drainage system there. They tell me that it wasn’t even that big of a storm, I can’t wait to see what it looks like after a big one!
While we were outside hanging up some clothes after work, Alan saw a centipede that was about 8-10 inches long. I ran into the house and got the butcher knife and he chopped it up. You have to kill them when you see them. They are poisonous and can kill you or make you VERY SICK! That’s fun to think about, wonder if I will get any sleep tonight???

Our parking lot after the rain. We need a drain!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Jan. 7th, 2013

We went into the office and plowed through the files today. There are so many projects that were turned down. Tara told us that Elder and Sister Sanders got so discouraged that they wanted to go home at one point. That’s when they started doing missionary housing. We know that it will be difficult, but we are hoping that we can find that one thing that will really make a difference. We know that with the Lord’s help, we will.
We drove ourselves to work today for the first time. Alan did great. You have to be defensive every second, with the crazy drivers, pot holes and driving on the left side of the road. It takes two of us to get safely there and back. It is the first time that Alan has been glad to have me there to tell him how to drive!
After dinner we went to FHE. We hold it in the conference room at the school because there are so many of us. Tonight we had 20 because there is a Dr. and a dentist here doing service work in Tonga. They came with their wives. One senior couple does FHE each week. They do the lesson and prepare the treats. The Coles did a presentation on coming unto Christ. It was very well done. A good way to end the day.
Jan. 6th, 2013
It was fast Sunday and a very tender one for our family. We were fasting for Kimi and her baby. What a special experience. We felt so very close to the Lord all day and to our family. Even thousands of miles away our faith and prayers bind us together and strengthen us. Oh how we love our children, their spouses and our grandchildren!
Our Fast and Testimony meeting was wonderful. There was a constant line of people to bear their testimonies and they were beautiful. These people have so little and yet they have great faith. It is a privilege to serve among them. One of the men we work with in the FM group, he assigns the cars, died last night. We didn’t know him well, we just met him, but he works closely with the missionaries. He mowed his lawn yesterday and then had a heart attack and died at 11:00 last night. His funeral was today at 3:00. They do it within 24 hours here. He was only 45 and left a wife and family. It was so sad! Tongans look at death in a very matter of fact way. You die when it is your time to die. They don’t question why and how you die just doesn’t matter. Still it is devastating for his family.
Sister Fellows came to see us tonight. She needed some information about a book I had. She and her husband are here from Australia. He is a vocational education teacher at the high school. They are in their late 70’s and she is not happy about being here. He has a lot to do and she has nothing to do. She is the cutest lady, totally blunt. She says exactly what she thinks and if you ask her how she likes it here she will say, “next question.” She has a wonderful accent and so many cute phrases. She thought she and her husband would serve in the temple in Australia until “they turned up their toes.’ I LOVE HER!! She is very careful with her money and she and Alan were talking about how expensive it is to live here. She looked right at him and said, “now don’t you worry about it one more minute. You are here doing the Lord’s work and he will watch out after you. I mean it! Don’t think about it again. It will all work out, you’ll see.” She is great. We are so blessed to have them here. They got here the week before we did so we will serve the whole time with them. I’m so glad, she is a breath of fresh air.
I baked some banana muffins tonight. YUM! We have so many bananas that we need to use up. We can’t even give them away fast enough. I also made chicken nuggets, and got homesick for my grandkids!!!!!

A fun P-day at the beach!

It was a little bit hard to get to the beach, but well worth the effort.

Jan. 5th, 2013

It rained a lot last night and I thought that would cool things off a little but it didn’t. However this morning there was a nice breeze and that helped. We got up and went right to work washing and cleaning so that we could play this afternoon. We washed the sheets and then sprayed the bed for bed bugs. I also sprayed all of the window seals and the mop boards with a powerful poison that is supposed to kill all the creepy crawly things. I wanted to do it when I could open the windows and I knew that we would be gone.
We went to the beach for a picnic and some relaxation. Elder and Sister Jensen took us and we met the Smith’s there. That is Tara, her husband Kevin and her two children, Caden and Clair. First we went to see the Land Bridge and the cliffs that surround it and then we hiked down to the beach. It is kind of a hard spot to fined so it is pretty private. We ate lunch, hunted for shells and then played games. It was a cloudy day so the pictures don’t have that blue sky, but it was still breathtakingly beautiful. I’m not sure the pictures will do it justice. It was a fun and relaxing Saturday. It rained before we left, was cloudy the whole time we were gone and then poured when we got home. The people here are ready for the rain. It has been very hot and dry and their water tanks are almost out of water. For many villages rain water is their only supply of water. We have well water for our drinking water, but rain water supplies our bathroom and our washing machine. We only have 3 houses on our tank so we are still in good shape.

There is a cave at the end of this rock formation. They are all over on these beaches.

That looks like a good place to snorkle but there is no way down there.

This is a natural land bridge over the water.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Our new truck. Alan would be thrilled to have this truck at home but it will be expensive to drive it here.

Jan. 4th, 2013

I checked the email first thing when we got to the office this morning. We have been waiting to hear from Kimi and Mike. WAHOO, WE HAVE A NEW GRANDCHILD!!! We are so excited that Kimi and Mike are expecting a baby this summer. We are a little anxious because the ultra sound found a possible problem, not with the baby, thank heavens, but we know that with Michael’s blessing and our family fasting, everything will be just fine. How grateful we are for the power of the priesthood and the power of prayer!!
Once we settled down we got our LDS email accounts set up and now our computers should be ready to support all the work we will be doing while we are here. That means that next week we can really get started. We had two appointments with men from different villages today. One man was the city leader of his village, kind of like the mayor. He wants us to provide chairs for their community building. They have fixed it up, painted it and now they would like chairs to sit on. They have been sitting on mats on the floor. Most people do that here but he has spent some time in America and he would like them to have chairs. If they have surplus chairs at the Liahona High School we will see if we can get some for him. He also wants a new pump for their water well. Japan-aid put it in for them 3 years ago and said the pump would last for 25 years. He claims that the contractor did a shoddy job and now the pump won’t work. We told him he would have to go back to Japan-aid and get them to fix it, the church isn’t going to do that project. Alan had a really hard time with that one. He has such a big heart and he wants to help. He is going to have to toughen up a little, everyone here has a need.
The other man that came in was Sione, the man we ran into yesterday. He had filled out the paper work and came to resubmit the project. His village has saved money and purchased a $10,000 pump. The people in the village have purchased pipe and dug trenches to get water to their houses. They need our help with buying the water tank and the stand to put it on. They have one now but it is 30 years old. It has just about rusted through and if there is a major storm here the stand will fall and they will lose their water supply. They have done all they can to help themselves, we are really going to try to get this project passed and help this village.
When we got home tonight we walked over to the Mission Home and picked up our truck. It is a Toyota truck that runs on diesel fuel. That hurts, diesel fuel is almost $8.00 a gallon. We are hoping to get some kind of a budget for our humanitarian work. The mission won’t pay anything for the driving we do to check on the missionaries or to take them supplies. This mission is costing us WAY MORE than we thought it would. It is really expensive to live here.

The Tongan Temple is right in our back yard!

Jan. 3rd, 2013

We went in to get Alan’s driver’s license today. It is a pretty simple process. You show them your American driver’s license, pay them $60.00, they take your picture, print the license and you are on your way. You have to buy a new one every year so I am waiting until June to get mine. I really don’t want to drive here very much. Driving on the left hand side of the road is still a little intimidating to me and the truck will have a stick shift which I haven’t driven since we got married. I’ll have to practice.
We also went to the hospital today for the first time. It is a lot like the hospitals in Ukraine, only a little bigger. I don’t want to get sick here. We took some crutches into Sione, the physical therapist. He works with us in the distribution of wheel chairs, crutches and walkers. We supply them and he fits them to the patients. He works in one room with basically no equipment and what he has is in really sad shape. It about broke my heart!
As we were leaving the hospital we saw another man named Sione. He has been trying to get a water tank and stand for his village. Tara knew about him but there is no paper work in the office about his project. It was a tender mercy that we ran into him. Now he can come in and fill out more paper work and we can try to help him. I know Heavenly Father put us together.
Andrew, the technical manager from the service center is trying to get a phone for us. Hopefully by the weekend we will have some of the things we need to be more self sufficient. We are moving ahead in baby steps! After talking to Andrew we stopped at a hamburger place to have lunch. It wasn’t bad. We had two cheese burgers, one order of fries and two drinks for about $10.00. That’s a bargain!
We went to the temple with some of the other senior couples tonight. On Thursday nights they have an English session at 7:00. It will be good to be able to go often. The Distribution Center here has just been remodeled and they don’t have it fully stocked yet, so we had to rent our clothes. My dress was so big that I could have fit in it twice. Tongan sizes are a little different. It will be fun to be an extra small size for awhile. The temple is beautiful and it was a wonderful evening.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jan. 2nd, 2013

We didn’t have to hurry today, we had a meeting with the Mission President at 10:00. We can walk to the Mission Office in about 7 or 8 minutes if the gate by our house is unlocked. We are finding out that that is not reliable, so we have to leave a little early just in case. Our meeting with the president was very nice. He is a wonderful man. Very humble and very kind. He told us what he wanted us to do for the mission as far as checking the missionary apartments and keeping them supplied with what the missionaries need. The man that did it before us was a plumber and Alan was a little concerned about not being able to fix things, but President said “forget about that, you don’t have to fix anything. We have an FM group for that.” He said that he didn’t want to force us to do this job. He said, “I want you to be happy!” But, the truth is, we need a mission car and in order to quality for one, we have to have a job in the mission. We really need a truck for our humanitarian work so it will all work out. Besides, we want to stay busy. All this waiting around for the holidays to be over has about driven us crazy!
This afternoon we went into town with Tara to get a driver’s license for Alan. The line was so long that we will have to go back in tomorrow morning. We can’t get the truck until we get a license. Tara took us to several stores and showed us the best place to buy meat, bread and cheese. She is really a go getter and she knows how to get things done. We aren’t sure how we are going to get along with out her and so far there is no one to replace her.
While we were gone today someone came to fix our oven. The FM group fixes problems in the missionary houses. They have a master key. You have to be VERY CAREFUL here what you leave out. Alan left his glasses on the counter in the kitchen. When we came home they were upside down and he NEVER leaves them like that. Everyone knows how Alan feel about anyone touching his glasses. He won’t leave them out again! A lesson learned.

Pictures from our New Year's Eve party at the beach.

Our office in the Welfare Offices down town.

Dec. 31st - Jan. 1st

We went into the office today, even though it is a holiday, because one of the technical specialists said that he would help us get our computers set up today. It took us all morning to get them up and running with our information on them. Sometimes I wonder why we even go down there, the internet is sooooooo slow! While we were there the locksmith came down and he made some keys for us. Now we can get into the building and into our office. Yea! Progress at last!
When we got home Alan was able to take a little rest and I put things together for the party this afternoon. All of the senior couples met at 4:00 to go for a picnic at the beach. We each took our own sandwiches or hot dogs and then something to share. We knew that it would be low tide so we didn’t plan to swim, just wade.
The beach was beautiful. It was one of the ones we scouted out the other day. We have an older couple serving here, the Fellows, from Australia. We needed to make sure that they would be able to walk into it. It was perfect. With the tide out we were able to walk clear out to the reef and watch the waves roll in. We built a fire on the beach, ate dinner, played in the water, gathered sea shells and then watched the sun set over the ocean. What a great way to see the old year out. It was really fun and we all had such a good time. It was good to get to know the other couples a little better. I never dreamed that we would be able to do things like this on a mission.
There was a stake dance at the stake center but we didn’t get home until almost 9:00 and by the time we got showered and cleaned up, we were so tired that we just went to bed. It’s tough to be old. Only two couples went to the dance but they said it was fun to see. They had a live band and everyone really dressed up for it. They don’t serve any food, they just can’t afford to do that, but they had over 300 people attend. The Tongans love a good party. We will have to go to the next one. Even though we went to bed, we didn’t go to sleep. The fireworks went off until way after 1:00.

We had to be up bright and early on New Years Day. We went with the Zone Leaders to deliver money to the missionaries. There are 3 Zones on the main island so three senior couples go with 3 sets of Zone Leaders to take the money out and check the apartments. We will be doing it every month from now on as part of our mission assignment as Housing Coordinators for the young missionaries. We are excited to get to spend a little of our time with the young missionaries. We love them! This assignment will also allow us to go to the other islands and check on the missionaries. The housing here is very humble. They have a very small house, about the size of our bedroom. There is a small room with 2 twin beds in it. A study area with a long table and two chairs and a bathroom with a small shower, a toilet and a sink. That is it. They don’t have hot water and they are dependant on the members in the area for their food. On the outer islands they still live in huts and sleep on the ground. They have no running water, just rain water, no electricity and they bathe out of a bucket just like Alan used to. It hasn’t changed much on the outer islands in the last 40 years. All of the missionaries here do their laundry in a bucket with a stick or piece of PVC pipe to pound them with. It’s amazing, but their shirts really look good. I have been impressed. Of course there are always those who are slothful and live in dirty conditions, but we will try to change that.
In the afternoon we went to the school and worked on posting on this Blog. Kimi is helping me get it up and running. There are still a few problems but we are getting close to having it working. I will be so glad, I hate being so far behind. We were also able to call our kids on Face Time. It looks like that will work the best for us here. It cuts out at times but it is better than Skype. We can get Greg, Kimi and Mike and Dave and Alisha, but we are still having trouble connecting with Bryan and Lisa and Tiff and Jake. We are hoping to get that worked out soon!
We visited with some of the senior couples tonight and then went to bed and listened to the fireworks again. It was only until about 11:00 tonight, not to bad.

The view from our office. Not to bad!!

Dec. 27th - 30th, 2012

We went into the office for the first time today. We have to leave home about 8:00 AM because it takes 30 minutes to drive down the one lane roads into town. We passed people on bikes, walking and some in cars. You have to yield to dogs and pigs. Most of the cars are old and dented up. All you have to do to get a driver’s license here is pay the money. There’s no test or driving experience required. Pray for us!!
Our office is right across the street from the ocean. If there is a huge storm or tsunami here it will be gone. Don’t worry, the Lord will protect us and we can watch the weather for approaching storms. There was a pretty good rain storm the other night and our parking lot and some of our building flooded. It isn’t really in the best location but the church has rights to the land and they don’t want to give it up, so we will stay put for the time being.
Tara Smith who is managing the Welfare Office right now came into help us get set up and oriented. She is wonderful. She is just a volunteer but she is really running the show right now because the lady who is paid to work there is in Australia going through cancer treatments. We don’t know when she will be back or if she will even come back to work. Tara will only be here for another month, so we are trying to learn all we can before she leaves. Elder and Sister Sanders were only here for a few months and they left in a hurry because he had cancer, so the whole office is really up in the air. It will take some time to get everything sorted out.
We went out to lunch at a very nice place today, but we won’t be eating out much here. Downtown it costs $18.00 for a hamburger! They have to import everything except what they can grow here so food is very expensive!
Tara took us to 3 beautiful beaches this afternoon. Alan and I decided that it would be fun to go to the beach for New Year’s Eve. We had to check them out and pick the best one. It was a tough job but somebody had to do it. We will go out in the afternoon, have a picnic and maybe swim, then watch the sun set from the beach. Sounds like a good way to welcome the new year to me!
On Friday we went over to the service center, which is right across the street from our house, and used a room there to down load a program I need to get the pictures from my camera onto the computer so I can add them to the Blog --- if I ever get the Blog set up!! I tried to do it at our office yesterday but the internet is so slow there that it would have taken over 2 hours to download. In the service center it only took about 15 minutes. The internet is as good as it gets in Tonga there. It is set up by the church and they monitor it but it still isn’t very fast. But when you consider that Alan had to call home via short wave radio 40 years ago, things have progressed. We were working on our computer and a technical specialist came in and gave us an internet connection that is ours to keep and told us that we could use the conference room over there as an office any time we wanted to as long as there isn’t a meeting scheduled in that room. That will be fabulous. When we have work to do that doesn’t need to be done in our office, we will just go across the street.
The director of the Service Center is on holiday but we met his assistant, Verna, and she took us through the center and introduced us to all the people that work there. She also introduced us to all the people who are a part of the FM group. These are the people that we will be working with when the missionaries need repairs on their houses and they will also help us with bids and finances for projects that we do on this island. They are all very friendly and Alan made instant friends when he spoke to them in Tongan. He is having a hard time remembering the language because every one talks to us in English. Still, they are really impressed at how well he speaks. He spends time every day working to get the language back. When we were through with the tour Verna took us to lunch. We went to a little cafĂ© called “Friends”. They had wonderful food! I had chicken and rice and Alan had a Tuna Steak. It was expensive but great. Verna is well connected and while we were there she introduced us to a man who is a Noble here and he is also a member of Parliament. He is a member of the church and he was very excited to meet us. He will be a great help with some of the work we will be doing here.
When we got home we called Tiff on the phone we bought yesterday. It is a pay ahead phone, so there is no plan. You just put minutes on it and add more when you need them. We can call the US for $2.50 for the first 4 minutes and then we get 40 more minutes on the same call for free. You can’t beat that! We had a good connection with Tiff so we think it will work well for us. No one can call us because it is terribly expensive to call from the US to Tonga. Skype didn’t work very well on Christmas but Face Time did, so we will at least have a way to keep in touch with the family. There is a delay when you talk, but we expected that.
The Johnson’s invited us to play games at their apartment, so we went. We played Rumi-cube. There were 4 couples there. We played 3 games with 3 different winners. Alan and I won one game so we did alright. David will be proud, I can’t beat him!

We walked early Saturday morning and it was beautiful. No matter what time you leave, you come home sweating! Then we went into town to the fair. It is just like the Renick in Ukraine but they call it a fair here. There are rows and rows of outside booths filled with everything you can think of. The people here have relatives in the United States and they go to Cosco and Sam’s Club and send them all kinds of things to sell. That is how they make their living. We were able to buy a lot of things that we needed but the prices are soooo high here, it takes your breath away. We bought a large jar of peanut butter for the equivalent of $16.00. Wesson Oil was 6 dollars and ice cream is 9 dollars a carton. We will have to be careful and really watch what we buy at the store. On the other hand, the food that they grow on the island is quite reasonable and we are used to eating cabbage, carrots and onions.
After the fair we went to some of the shops in town and I was able to buy a fan to take to church with me. YEA!!! I about melted last week. Then we headed for home and started cleaning again. I tackled the stove and finished cleaning out the cupboards and Alan vacuumed the furniture. We were able to get a vacuum this week and it is really a good one. Things are starting to come together now. I got the grandkids pictures on the wall, my family calendar up and some pictures on the fridge. It is home now!
I cooked my first meal in Tonga today. We have been invited out or have eaten leftovers from those meals every day since we arrived. That has been wonderful, but we were ready to get back on a regular schedule of the food that we are used to eating. The people here eat tons of bread, lots of starchy foods and fried foods. We really don’t want to gain a lot of weight and you can’t help it if you eat that way every day.
We went to movie night tonight. The Senior Couples have a movie night a couple of times a month. They make popcorn and bring treats and tonight we watched “It’s A Wonderful Life”. It’s a classic, but not my favorite Christmas movie. Alan had never seen the whole movie and he thought it was a little depressing. It will be a fun diversion a couple of times a month. It has been a little hard to adjust to this mission. We are used to teaching the gospel and working with the young missionaries and we really miss that. We know that when this holiday is over and things get back to normal we will be busy, but right now we have to much spare time.
I love Sunday’s in Tonga. Everything stops and people spend the day with their families. Nothing is open, it’s against the law to be open on Sunday. Our church meetings are wonderful. We heard from the 2 bishoprics today and then the Stake President closed the meeting. These men are so humble and sincere and the talks they gave were all about setting goals for the new year. How to be better parents, better members of the church and be of more service in the Lord’s kingdom. One bishopric is made up of very young men. They talked about how they didn’t have money to buy presents for their children, but they spent time with their families and what a wonderful Christmas it was. We saw one of them at the fair yesterday. Their family makes doughnuts and muffins and sells them at the fair. That is how they make extra money. They grow the food they eat on their own plantation. What a wonderful family!
I made a meat loaf yesterday so that we would have dinner for today but it turned out that we didn’t need it. A lady in the ward brought us a full Tongan dinner. Alan was in heaven! We had ufi, (like a potato) kamala, (also like a potato only it is purple) lupulu, (corn beef wrapped in taro leafs) and some fresh pineapple and watermelon. Actually it was all pretty good. I’m not crazy about the ufi, there isn’t much flavor but if you put seasoning salt on it, its not too bad. That was so thoughtful of her. The people here are incredibly generous.
Later in the afternoon I made chocolate chip cookies. I bought what I thought were chocolate chips but they are little tiny oblong pieces of chocolate. Oh well, they taste good so they will work. The first batch turned out great but the second one took forever to cook, in fact it never did cook. The oven stopped working. We have a short in the wiring. It took me all the rest of the day to get those cookies baked. I guess that is what you get for baking on Sunday!
When it cooled off a little, we decided to go for a walk. We like to walk through the school grounds and then out onto the church plantation. They have a lot of cattle out there and they also grow coconuts and other crops. Tonight we came on to a bull that really wanted to be in where the cows were. He was making a lot of noise and just as we got up to where he was he came under the fence! He was huge and we were scared! We took off running because in America bulls are usually very aggressive. But this one wasn’t. He was more interested in the cows than he was in us, thank heaven. We walked back to the school and reported that he was out, so hopefully someone took care of that.

Friday, January 18, 2013

This is our little home away from home.

Our bedroom, notice how huge our dresser is!

Our bathroom, after intense mildew removal.

Our kitchen. Only parts of the stove work, but we have a microwave so we do alright.

The living room and the rest of the kitchen.

Our favorite wall in the living room. Everyone thinks our family is so good looking. DUH???

Dec. 23rd - 26th 2012

The sounds here are so different from what we are used to that we woke up off and on all night and tried to figure out what we were hearing. At 5:00 in the morning there was no doubt that we were close to a plantation that housed a LOT OF ROOSTERS! They really greet the new day with a lot of noise. About a half hour later the cows added their voices to the chorus and it wasn’t long before we decided to get up.
Today is Sunday and our church starts at 9:00. They have two English speaking wards here at the school and since the students have all gone home for summer break, from December to the end of January, they have combined the wards. We met a lot of wonderful people but I will never remember all of their names. Our meetings were great. The people are very educated and they speak English quite well but with a thick Tongan accent that will take a little getting used to. President Groberg held a fireside on Sunday evening and it was for all of the main island. They bussed people in from all over and filled the gym, the cafeteria and a huge tent that had been set up outside. He spoke in Tongan and his talk was really good, they just needed to cut the 7 speakers before him down a little and not let it go so long. We had been to church for 3 hours and then the fireside went for over 2 ½ more, all on hard chairs. My back was screaming by the time we got home. The sun is up early right now so I decided to walk early. If you start at 6:30 and walk for an hour you still come home sweating like crazy. It doesn’t cool off much unless there is a breeze, then it is doable. We got cleaned up and went to the Mission Christmas Conference at the Stake Center. President Groberg and his wife spoke to the missionaries. Once again he did a wonderful job. I was a little sad as we left there though. I didn’t see one missionary carrying any packages from home and the mission didn’t give them anything and no dinner was served. They just put them all on buses and sent them back to work. All of the senior couples had received packages from home so I know some things get through. If the mission president will let us, next year I want to give them some little thing. Even just some candy would be nice.
We spent the rest of the day unpacking and trying to get settled. Our apartment was really full of mold and mildew so we scrubbed and sweat our way through the day. We also wiped out all of the cupboards and then sprayed them with poison to help keep the critters away. You have to keep everything in zip lock baggies here, all your spices, flour, sugar, etc. I brought some with me but they won’t last me long. I hope I can buy some here.
After we ate and then took a quick run into town. There was so much we needed to buy! Alan said that the city had changed so much he didn’t even recognize it. There are more businesses now but most of them are run by the Chinese or people from India. We saw a few new buildings that have just been built but they aren’t up and running yet. Most of the stores are small shops and they are pretty run down. It was the day before Christmas so there were tons of people in town. Lots of them drive cars, pretty old, beat up cars, but Alan said that there were hardly any cars here 40 years ago. We were able to go to several shops and find a lot of the things we need to set up house. Mildew remover, toilet cleaner and a new shower curtain were at the top of the list! We also wanted to buy a fan but didn’t find one the first time out. It is really expensive to run the air conditioning.
In the evening we had a dinner with President Groberg and his family. It was another full spread. Then he spoke to the Senior Couples. This time it was all in English so we didn’t have to have it translated. It has been fun to watch Alan. He listens to the translation for a little while then he takes the headset off and tries to see how much he can understand. It’s slow, but the language is starting to come back to him.
President Groberg said that the Lord doesn’t really look on one people with more favor than another, but that he loves the Tongan people because they are humble and faithful. It doesn’t matter to the Lord how much stuff we have, how big our home is, what positions we have held, he loves humble and faithful people. He expressed his gratitude and the love of the Lord for Senior Missionaries, that they would leave their families, humble themselves and go into a strange culture and faithfully serve their Father in Heaven. He promised that our families will be blessed, as will we, as we humbly and faithfully do our very best. I felt the spirit testify that what he said was true and it made me so grateful to be here.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! We had a small tropical storm last night. Thunder, lightening, rain and lots of wind. It was really loud and a little scary, but the breeze going through our room felt so good that I had to be a little grateful for the change. I am having a hard time sleeping it is soooooo hot!!
We had a Christmas brunch at the office couples house today for all of the senior couples. It was great food and once again we had a chance to get to know the other couples a little better. We walked home. The Mission Office is about two blocks from our house and in between is the temple. It is so beautiful! And so close. The couples go every Thursday evening because they do a session just for us in English. I can’t wait to see what it looks like inside.
We spent the rest of the day cleaning and washing. We have a great little washing machine but no dryer. We hang things on the back porch but it is so humid they don’t really get dry. Tara and her family stopped by to see us today. She is a volunteer that works in our office. She was at the brunch today and we were talking about what we needed for our apartment. She and her husband and children are moving to Whales the end of January, so she loaded up a bunch of things that they don’t want to move and brought them over to us. It was a GREAT CHRISTMAS!! We were able to buy a really nice fan from her and she brought pans and spices and bowls, just lots of little things that we will really use. I love her already!!
We also had couples drop by just to visit and it was fun to get to know them one on one. The Beans, the Perpetual Education couple had us over for dinner. They work in the same office that we do so we will be riding into work with them for a few days until Alan can get a drivers license and we are issued a car. Driving will be expensive here, gas is almost $8.00 a gallon. We haven’t met with the Mission President yet, he has been really busy with President Groberg here, but he announced at our dinner on Monday that we would have an additional job with the mission, checking missionary apartments. That means we will be driving the whole island every month. The couple who did that before us spent about $240.00 a month on gas. Alan will try to reduce that considerably!

Now, MERRY CHRISTMAS to you! We celebrated yesterday and now we get to celebrate again with you. We were able to call all of the kids today and at least talk to them. Skype doesn’t work well here unless you have a really good connection, which we didn’t. We went over to the high school and used the internet in the seminary department. It was a dial up connection and we were able to talk to Tiff and her family, Greg and Bryan, but the video didn’t work well enough to see them. Then Elder Johnston came over and he knew the pass word to get us on to the wireless connection. We were able to Face time David and Kimi and Mike. That was lots of fun. We will hopefully receive a key to that building soon and then we will be able to call everyone again and see them all, since Santa was so generous this year and now every family has at least one device that will work with Face time. It was so good to hear all of their voices again and hear about their Christmases. There is lots of snow in Smithfield and lots of sunshine in Tonga.
We were invited to the Jensen’s for dinner tonight. They are the couple that works in the office. We met several of the missionaries who will be going home on Friday. There are 11 of them and they are all Americans. That is so different from when Alan was here. There were only 12 missionaries in the mission and only 2 of them could be from America. It was fun to visit with them for a minute and hear of their mission experiences. Our dinner was lovely. We had enchiladas with a fruit salad and veggies. Then topped it off with banana cream pie. You can get a lot of American food here if you can find it. They say that when you see it you have to buy it because it may be months before you see it again. When dinner was over Sister Jensen asked us to plan a party for New Year’s Eve. There was method in her madness, she fattened us up for the kill! They want some fresh ideas so we will try to come up with something fun.

Our first few minutes in Tonga were very, very special!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A sweet reunion with an old mission companion!

Dec. 16th - 22nd

We went to church with Tiffany and her family on Sunday morning so we could get on our way to Bryan’s house early. It was a teary good-bye at the church for all of us and then another good-by with Alisha and Parx after lunch. I was glad when that part was over. That has been the hardest part so far for me. Saying good-bye and waiting to leave. David drove down to Bryan’s house with us so he could bring the car back and so he could be there for Zach’s ordination to the Priesthood. We were so grateful that we were able to be here for this special occasion. Greg came to Bryan’s and Lisa’s sister Brittney was there also. The 1st councilor in Bryan’s bishopric and his son, who is the Deacon’s Quorum President came and they did the ordination in Bryan’s front room. Bryan, Alan, Greg, David and the councilor stood in the circle. Bryan gave the most beautiful blessing I have ever heard at an ordination. It was powerful and full of council and promised blessings. Now Zach needs to live worthy for all of the promises to be fulfilled. It was a wonderful experience followed by a steak dinner prepared by Lisa and Bryan. YUMMY!! It was a great last meal for us in the states. We spent some very special time alone with Greg and I will cherish those memories for the next year and a half.
On Monday Kris, Alan’s sister, came to pick us up at Bryan’s and drive us to the airport. She took us to the airport and it was sweet to have her with us again. It was another hard good-bye for us as we left Bryan’s family, but not as hard as the last time. We all know that the time will go by quickly and there will be many blessing come into all of our lives in the next 18 months. We got to the airport in plenty of time, went through a LONG line to check in and our bags were perfect!! Two at 49 lbs and two at 50. We can only take 15 lbs in our carry on luggage when we fly Air New Zealand, so our carry on bags are almost empty and my purse weighs 25 lbs!! My neck and back will be in bad shape by the time we get to Tonga.
We flew to L.A. and met a missionary from Boise, Idaho that was coming home from Tonga. He begged us to trade places with him but when we wouldn’t he gave us some Tongan money that he had not spent. I know that will be helpful to us when we arrive.
The trip from L.A. was a killer. The plane was a little better as far as leg room was concerned, but it was PACKED!! We sat in the middle section. We each had our own TV screen and that helped, but 14 hours plus time changes is hard on everyone. Alan slept quite a bit but I just dozed off and on. The man next to me was watching something funny and every time I would fall asleep he would laugh really loud and wake we up. With those head phones on you can’t really tell how loud you are, plus he had quite a bit of wine. He was however a very nice man and we had a good visit when we were both awake.We left L.A. on Monday night and arrived in New Zealand on Wednesday morning. The Halverson’s, the Area Welfare couple picked us up at the airport and took us to their office. They gave us a small room where we could repack our carry on luggage for the trip to Hamilton, New Zealand that afternoon. It about killed us to open up every one of those suitcases and pull stuff out, knowing we would have to pack them again and weigh them all again. Then we went to the Halverson’s apartment and took a shower and got cleaned up. It felt sooooo good to freshen up. Alan took a quick nap but I stayed awake because I wanted to be able to sleep well that night. The Halverson’s apartment is very upscale and lovely, but also very expensive. Even with the church paying what is left of the rent after $1,400, New Zealand is a very expensive mission.
We left that afternoon to drive down to Hamilton, where the temple is located. We stopped for dinner on the way. Alan had a steak sandwich but I had bangers and mash. I haven’t had that since I was in Europe years ago. It is sausage, like Polish sausage, and mashed potatoes. It was actually very good. When we got to Hamilton we checked into a nice motel. It had a jetted tub and a very comfortable bed. I was sad that we didn’t have much time there so we didn’t get to try out the tub, but I took pictures. That night we drove out to see the Christmas lights at the temple. It was beautiful. This temple is about 50 years old and is scheduled to be closed for a couple of years for a complete remodel.
After a good nights rest we both felt much better. A little jet lag but nothing like Ukraine. I guess if you skip a whole day you don’t notice it as much. We spent the morning at a Zone Conference for the mission here. It really made us miss the young missionaries that we worked with. There were more missionaries at this one conference than there were in our whole mission. The work is going well here and the goal for 1013 is 2,000 baptisms. It’s had for us to imagine with our goal being 60. After the meeting the Relief Society served us an amazing lunch. They had it all decorated for Christmas and the food was fabulous. It was a good experience.We left the church and drove to the temple to do a session. It was fun to see the inside of the temple. Even though it is old, it is beautiful and so peaceful. We were asked to be the witness couple, so that made the experience even sweeter. After that we walked around the temple grounds, which were just beautiful. New Zealand is a very beautiful country. The weather was perfect, about 75 degrees the whole time we were there and the sky was blue at least part of every day. On the way home we stopped in a small town called Pocono to buy an ice cream cone. It’s like driving to Bear Lake for a shake. The Ice Cream is amazing and people come from all over to buy it.
That night we stayed in a lovely hotel in downtown Auckland. We were on the 19th floor and they treated us like we were important. It was fun. I took some pictures from our balcony. When we got up the next day we went into the Area Office for training. We spent the whole day there in meetings with Steve Stebbings, the Area Welfare Director, and then getting our financial account set up and registered on all of the church sites. It’s a huge responsibility to spend the Lord’s money and we are a little overwhelmed by it all. We met Elder Oaks, the Area President here. He will be coming to Tonga next year and said that he will be sure to pay us a visit. Everyone has been so kind to us and so encouraging. They all have great faith that we have been sent to do something important for the people of Tonga and we know they are right. We just pray the Lord will guide us every step of the way.
We had to be up by 4:45 on Saturday to be ready to head to the airport. A shuttle picked us up and we thought that we would have tons of time. Just as we were leaving the hotel the man behind the desk came out and asked Alan if he had any New Zealand money. Of course we didn’t. It was then that we found out that we needed to pay the shuttle driver $50.00 for the trip in. The Hotel was supposed to add that on to our bill and give us the cash, but nobody told us. It was a tender mercy that he stopped us or we would have been in a huge mess when we couldn’t pay him. When we got to the airport there were people everywhere! It was the weekend before Christmas travel jam. We stood in line for over an hour to check our bags in. When we got to the front of the line a lady from a different section of the check in area came and got us and she checked us in. We don’t know if she saw our badges or not, but she was so nice to us and she didn’t charge us one cent to send our bags on to Tonga. We were expecting to pay $200.00! That was another tender mercy.
When we got through customs and up to the gate area, we ran into the Pacific Area Medical Advisor and his wife. They were flying to Australia. He is from Murray and he knows my sister and her husband very well. He and Gerry had their offices in the same building for years. It’s a small world! We visited with them and then headed to the loading gate. While we were sitting there President Groberg, his wife and daughter and her family walked in. President Groberg walked right over to us and he remembered Alan instantly. We were able to visit with him for awhile before we needed to load the plane.
It is about a 3 hour flight to Tonga and when we got there we had to walk down the stairs outside onto the tarmac and then walk to the terminal. When President Groberg and his family came in they whisked him away into the VIP lounge. In a couple of minutes they came and got us and we went in there too. A Tongan lady took our passports and the next thing we knew they brought us our luggage and we didn’t have to do anything. That was fun!!
All of the senior couples and the Mission President and AP’s were there to greet us. They gave us leis and hugs and kisses all around. Of course the spot light was on President Groberg, but we were happy to be in the background and be a part of it all. When we went outside to meet the senior couples, there was a distinguished Tongan man standing with them. As soon as we went through the door he walked over to us, looked at Alan’s name tag and then started to cry. He had been one of Alan’s companions all those years ago. It was such a sweet reunion. I cried and the senior couples got misty too when I explained what was happening. They all know President Nau. He has been a Stake President here and he came to meet President Groberg. He had no idea that we were even coming. That was the third tender mercy in one day! There is no doubt that the Lord is with us on this mission. I can‘t begin to express my gratitude.
On the drive to our new home I was humbled by the circumstances that the majority of the people live in here. Their homes are much more humble than what we saw in Ukraine. Yes, there are some that live in brick or cinder block houses, but most of the ones that we saw on the way from the airport were just tin huts or dwellings made out of whatever they could find. They have fields of coconut trees and banana trees and there are pineapple and watermelon stands all along the road. The fruit will be wonderful here.
We will be living in a duplex and our number is 23. It is missionary housing on the Liahona Campus, the church owned high school here. Right now there are 7 or 8 couples serving in Tonga. That is more than they have had in a long time but we don’t know if the ones who will go home in the spring will all be replaced. One of those couples is serving on another island and he is Mini Hall’s brother, Eric Hall’s uncle. Once again, a small world!
Our apartment is going to be fine. It has been the apartment where other couples have stayed until something else opened up but now they are all full. It is bigger and nicer than anything we had in Ukraine so we are fine with it. There are a few things we will have to fix and a lot of things we will need to buy, LIKE A FAN! But the bed is quite comfortable and that is important to us. The furniture is a little saggy but nothing like Kherson, so we will do just fine here. It is just so blessed hot and humid. Our blood just needs to thin out a little and hopefully we will be able to handle it. There are times when I feel like I can’t breath it is so hot.
The senior couples had their Christmas party the night we arrived. They had a full Christmas dinner, turkey, ham, (not roasted pig) potatoes, rolls and all kinds of salads and veggies. It was really nice and it gave us an opportunity to introduce ourselves to everyone and to get to know them too. By the time we got home we were exhausted so we went right to bed.

The Senior Couples that came to meet us at the airport.

The Auckland New Zealand skyline

The New Zealand Temple

This is NOT our apartment! This is how the Senior Couples in New Zealand live.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dec. 10th - 15th

We spent our second week at the MTC, not at the MTC. Monday we went to Welfare Square and spent the morning having a tour there. It was wonderful. I had been there before, but it was the first time for Alan. At the end of the tour they give you hot bread made there, with peanut butter and jam made by the church, a piece of cheese and chocolate or regular milk made there too. It was yummy!! Next we went into Salt Lake City to the Joseph Smith Building to have lunch with the Director of the Church Welfare Services Department and his staff. One of them, the man over the church employment services, just happened to be Brother Don Johnson. He and Alan used to play ball together when they were in high school. It was fun to meet him and they had a great reunion. After lunch we went into separate rooms for some one on one training with those who were over our areas of focus. We got back to the MTC in time for dinner at 5:30 and then we were through for the day.
They have now moved the senior missionaries over to the church that is just through the parking lot from the MTC. There are 3 wards that meet in that building, so every morning at 7:00 a crew of young workers goes in and sets it up for the day. The front lobbies become offices for the senior missionary coordinators who used to have lovely offices in the MTC. They are now carrying everything they need around in those big plastic totes. The technical crew comes over and sets up computers for the offices and the class rooms that use them. By 8:00 we are ready to begin. Our classes go from 8:00 to 12:00 with lunch in the cultural hall and then from 1:00 until 4:00 or 4:30. By 4:30 the computers and tables are being taken down, the offices equipment is stored in one room that can be locked and the church is set back up so the wards can come in and use them at night. It was amazing to watch and exhausting. They have no idea how long it will be like this but by January the influx of missionaries will start to happen. They expect 2,000 new sister missionaries here by February and then to triple the number of missionaries here by April. It’s kind of controlled chaos right now.
Everyday this week we had presenters who came down from Salt Lake to teach us how to use the computer programs and to explain a little about what kinds of things we might be doing. They keep telling us it is between us and the Lord what work we will do in Tonga. We are to meet the people and then pray for guidance about what the Lord wants to happen there. No pressure there!! Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were spent talking about the different projects that the church supports and how to find partners in our country to help us implement them if that is what we decide to do. It was very interesting and a little bit intimidating. We sure hope we can do all this. It is for sure that we can’t do it on our own, but with the Lord’s help miracles are possible.
There is only one other couple here this week that is going on a humanitarian mission. Elder and Sister Madsen. We were hoping that they were related to Mike, but we couldn’t find a connection except that he was a Jag Attorney for the Army too. He served his mission in France and then went back as the Mission President. He is fluent in French and they have been assigned to open up Morocco. They will try to establish relations with the government and do some humanitarian projects in the country to try to bring the church out of obscurity there. They are not allowed to mention the church or wear name tags. They can’t even represent LDS Charities. It will be called Deseret Charities there. They will have to walk a delicate line but they are amazing people and they will be fabulous. We felt privileged to be trained with them.
We finished early on Thursday and headed for home. We had planned to see Zach on our way home because it was his birthday, but he was still in school. We dropped his card off on the way home and we were able to make it home by 6:00. Alisha fixed us a wonderful dinner and then we popped in on Lori’s dance review, which was soooo cute!! She did great! It was fun to see the family again, even for just a minute. We did a couple of loads of wash and headed straight to bed. We were exhausted!!
Friday and Saturday were spent running some last minute errands and changing the winter clothes we had used in Provo for the summer clothes we will need in Tonga. We went to the ward Christmas
Breakfast on Saturday morning and said our last good-byes to our neighbors and friends. Then spent the afternoon packing and weighing our suitcases 500 times to make sure they were right at 50 lbs.