Thursday, February 28, 2013

We went to visit a primary school in the village of Hofoa this morning. It about broke both of our hearts. The schools here that aren’t run by the church have nothing! In this village the school is across the street from a Wesleyan Church. Every morning some of the parents go into the church and carry benches across the street to the school so the children will have something to sit on. In some classes they still sit on the floor and use the bench as a table to write on. Then every night the parents and teachers carry the benches back to the church. The village leader called us and wanted us to come and see the school. They aren’t asking for books or chairs or desks, they have one computer that the government gave the school. ( they really have 4 but only one of them worked). However, the government will not let the older village children come to the school after hours and use the computer. The minister of the church gave his permission for the village to use a secure room above the church for free. The village leader asked if we could help them get a computer to put in that room so that their high school aged children could have a computer to use. They are not able to keep up with the students at the Liahona High School, who have a computer lab. They want their children to have an opportunity to have a good education too. If we can give them a computer they will pay the cost of hooking it to the internet and they will make sure it is used only for educational purposes. One computer for a village of over 500 people. Do we even begin to comprehend how blessed we are?
Tonight we went to a Tongan Dinner at the home of one of our ward members. Elani invited us a couple of weeks ago to come to her house along with 3 other missionary couples that are in our ward. She wanted us to experience real Tongan life and food. It was wonderful. They don’t live far from us but they are just off the main road and it was very private and peaceful. She and her husband have a lovely home. He has worked many jobs , all of them quite important, and she was in translation at Liahona until she retired last year. They have worked hard and done very well for themselves. He husband is a dignified man and he knows so much about the early years in Tonga. Alan was in heaven listening to his stories. Elani served us a huge feast that was something to behold. All the Tongan favorites complete with the roast pig and then potato salad and fried chicken to boot. We all ate way to much! The problem with going to a Tongan dinner party is that they don’t start eating until 8:00 or later. In fact, Elani and her husband didn’t eat anything while we were there. It is their custom to make sure the guests eat everything they want and take lots home and then they eat what is left. Because we were Americans there was a lot left, but Tongans would have eaten the whole thing. It was a fun night.

Here we are with some of the students, the principal and the Relief Society President - standing next to me. When we were ready to leave all the kids started hugging us. They are so precious I wish I could bring them all home with me.

This is the man who called and asked us to look at the school and the principal. In this classroom the children sit on little mats on the floor. The teacher sits at the little desk.

The teachers desk is smaller than a card table and she brings her own chair to sit on.

The desks are old and all carved up, you can't write without something under the paper. The benches are full of splinters and falling apart.

This is the school library. I had a hard time not crying as we walked around this school..

This is a classroom at the school we visited today. The small benches in the front with the books on them are for the younger students. They sit on the floor. They only have 4 classrooms so it is a multi grade level room.

Mon. Feb. 11th,
We had another sad experience this last weekend. There was a man here, he was the Stake Clerk in the other stake, and he was 32 years old. He went into the hospital last week because he had a kidney problem and he was bleeding internally. They gave him a transfusion and part of it was the wrong blood type. He became extremely ill and the Stake President asked Sister Cahoon to go and see him. She is the wife of one of the dentists here and she was a trauma team nurse. She is acting as the mission nurse until Sister Mitchell arrives. She could tell immediately what had happened and knew that he needed to get to New Zealand if he was going to live. Of course no one would admit that there had been a mistake and she doesn’t have a license to practice here so she tried to get the Area Presidency involved to get him off of the island. The Dr., the Stake President and the Bishop were asked to send emails explaining what had happened to the Area Authorities. Sister Cahoon sent 3 emails, including pictures as proof. In the end, hers were the only ones the Area received and it was to late, the young man died. He died on the same day that his 28 year old wife gave birth to their second child. He never got to see his new born son. What a tragedy! Sister Cahoon was devastated, there just wasn’t anything she could do. You can’t get sick in Tonga!!
We had a great FHE tonight. The Beans have been reading a couple of books about Tonga. They shared some stories from those books. One book was, “The Other Side Of Heaven” and the other one was “A Legacy of Faith”. We have the first one and I want to try to find the second one. They are beautiful stories about the people of Tonga finding the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
WHEW!! I survived the day! Things went well in Relief Society and our Sunday School class was much better. The bishop came in and sent the 18 year olds and the 16 year olds to other classes and we were left with only the 17 year olds. There are 20 of them but that is a big step back from 38! They were much more responsive today but I am afraid that I scared a couple of the boys to death. I asked VERY SIMPLE questions about the Plan of Salvation and I knew they knew the answers, but after they answered them they got up and left. I guess they just do that. One came back but the other one didn’t. The other boys said that he will be back and not to worry about it, but I am --- a little. Somehow we have got to get them to express themselves but finding our way around these cultural traditions is tricky. The girls on the other hand were great. They aren’t afraid to talk now and they know the answers. Slowly but surely we will try to come together on common ground.
Sacrament Meeting went well too. All four of us in the Relief Society Presidency talked so we didn’t have to take to much time. I told a powerful story about missionary work and that seemed to go over well. We have several YSA ready to leave on missions and then all those 18 and 17 year olds preparing. I hope that is it for me talking for a good long time!
We went to the Service Center to get on the internet but we are having a hard time getting our I-pad to work over there. We will ask someone to help us tomorrow. We get better reception on face time than we do on Skype but we couldn’t get anything to work today. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.
Tonight there was an Area Presidency Leadership Training meeting for all of the ward leaders. WOW was it ever powerful! I don’t know if they are speaking that plainly back in the states now too, but here they really tell it like it is. They told the leaders what needs to be done to follow the council of the prophet as far a going to the rescue is concerned. Then they told them exactly what to do. They want missionary work done every Tuesday night, by every leader in the ward. They are to go out and visit the ward members, especially the less active, and help them all to gain a testimony of the temple and eternal families. The goal is to help everyone to return to the fold and become temple worthy. Then on Wednesday night the priesthood leaders are to hold interviews, especially with the youth on their birthdays and 6 months later. The focus is to keep the youth and YSA strong in the church and prepare them to serve missions. It is the responsibility of the organizations of the church to pick up on them when they come back from missions and not let them get lost. The primary was also given guidelines on how to prepare every child for baptism and then make sure they move on into YM and YW when they turn 12. It was very plain and straight forward, not much room for misunderstanding what they were saying. There will be reports sent in monthly to show what is being done. It will be interesting to watch this process unfold. They put out some great ideas. I wonder if this will be a church wide program. It was all about hastening the work in preparation for the Second Coming. This program, plus all the new missionaries flooding the earth, really is a testimony of the winding up of the last days. It is humbling to be a part of it!
We went to the fair with the Szokas this morning. We needed a few things that we were hoping we could find there. I scored some real bargains! I found some Pace Picante Sauce and a huge jar of peanut butter. We also found some Grape Jelly and Hunts Spaghetti Sauce. Now if we could just find some minced meat to go in it! It was a good day at the fair. Alan bought me a Tongan purse that will be great to take to church and work. The Szokas also showed us some new places to shop that we had not known about. One is a fish market where we can buy fresh tuna. Alan got really excited about that!
We came home to do laundry and clean the apartment. We also worked on our Sunday School lesson and I put together a talk for Sacrament Meeting. The relief society president called me Thursday night and told me we would be speaking this week. I just did that two weeks ago! So I am conducting Relief Society, teaching Sunday School and speaking in Sacrament Meeting tomorrow. So much for having spare time to go to the beach on this mission!
Tonight was movie night for the senior couples. I was in charge of bringing the movie because I complained that the last one was to dark. I had “Second Hand Lions” so that is what I chose. It was a great success. We laughed and cried and everyone loved it. It’s a real feel good movie and it’s so uplifting. I love that movie!!

It was a relatively quiet day today. Most of the students are back in school now so things have really slowed down at the office. We had one village leader come in and ask for help with getting some computers for the students in his village. We had a good visit with him and put him on the list of people wanting computers. When Liahona gets new computers we try to give the old ones out to other schools and villages. We have quite a list of people who need them.
Alan went out this morning looking for mops and brooms. We need to find the best prices for the supplies for the missionaries. Hopefully our credit card will be activated soon. We are running out of a lot of supplies and we don’t have any way of purchasing more. The office couple has to come with us and pay for them with their card.
We had dinner with the Szokas tonight. It’s fun to get together with other couples once in a while and just enjoy a meal and a good visit. We took chocolate chip cookies and ice cream for dessert. For some reason nobody makes cookies but me. I don’t know why because everybody loves them. We stayed until after nine. Elder and Sister Fellows came over after dinner and they stayed just to visit. He is really frustrated with the way the school is handling the shop program here. He has spent $8,000.00 on new equipment and then this week found out that there is not a qualified teacher to teach the class. The teacher is a really nice man, a good member of the church and he has a temple recommend, all requirements to teach at a church school, but he has no experience in teaching shop and he is just not good with his hands. His talents lie elsewhere. Elder Fellows feels like he is banging his head against a wall. He is 78 years old and he didn’t put in for this mission, he was asked to come. He is soooo frustrated! We tried to help him relax a little, but I’m not sure we accomplished much. He hasn’t slept much this week and we are worried about his health, as is his wife. We are praying that things will get straightened out this week.
Today is Kimi”s birthday in America. Birthdays are going to be fun here, we get to celebrate them twice!! We called her and had a good visit. She had been out for a massage so she was kind of comatose, but we are glad that she is relaxed and happy. This will be a big year for her, a new home in Colorado and a new baby. Life is good and all this happiness was worth the wait. We are so grateful for Mike. He is taking such good care of her!
We were the only ones in the office today. Elder and Sister Bean had a meeting at Liahona so we held down the fort. Since no one else was on the computers I was able to get some information on the blog today. Yea!! I am starting to catch up. I wanted to download a lot of pictures and it took 4 hours to get them on, but I did get a lot done.
This afternoon we were going out with the Zone Leaders to check the MQ’s. When we arrived they were just finishing up a conference and all of the missionaries had to be shuttled back to their areas. That would take a long time so we decided to check the MQ’s next week. That was fine with me. My cough has really loosened up today and I have coughed all day. I needed to go home and rest.
We go to the temple on Thursday night but I was coughing so much I didn’t dare go. Alan went without me. I hate to miss a temple night. The temple has been closed for cleaning for two weeks. I am anxious to get there next week.
Today was the best day at the office so far. We received an email from Reed Mellor, the man in SLC who is over water projects. We sent him a project that we have been working on and he wrote back today and said, “ this is probably the best project that I have seen come out of Tonga.” Ok, I am not saying that to be cocky, we are just soooo thrilled! It is a project that we really want to pass so we are happy that it is off to a good start. It still has a long way to go but at least there is hope. We have heard that most of the projects are being turned down right now, so we are praying that this one will make it all the way. Elder Mellor is helping us write it up and getting it ready to submit.
I made chocolate chip cookies this afternoon. I found some actual chocolate chips at the American store and wanted to try them out before I buy any more - and I had some walnuts that Tara left me. We are in heaven! They taste different from what we are used to but a cookie is a cookie. Who doesn’t like a chocolate chip cookie? Ok, besides Lori and Kimi!
Speaking of Kimi, we got some great news from Kimi today. No surgery required on the mass!! It is a fibroid so now we are praying that it will break up and go away. It should not be harmful to the baby, who is growing and developing and looking great. We are getting to see some amazing pictures of that little one. The MRI picture was so clear we could really see how beautiful and precious she is. Can’t wait to meet her!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The white shirts for Papau New Guinea's missionaries.

We tried to get caught up in the office today. We have been gathering, washing and sorting white shirts to send over to Papua New Guinea. We have collected almost 300 and now we need to get them packed up and shipped out.
This afternoon I came home to put some wash in and get ready for our first Relief Society mid-week activity. I guess they didn’t have them at all last year and we want to change that. It was amazing! It was so much fun. We planned it to be all about good health. I asked the mission nurse to talk about how to stay healthy. She did a great job but they threw her a little curve. She is kind of shy and she says that she doesn’t have that great of a sense of humor, but they thought she was hilarious. They laughed at everything she said and the look on her face just made it funnier. Even though she didn’t mean a lot of it to be funny, it went over really well and they got a lot out of it.
Then we wanted to do some exercises, so we had the YSA women lead us in some dances. That was hysterical! These Tongans really get into their dancing and they laugh the whole time. I really don’t remember when I’ve laughed like that, all night long. These sisters really know how to have a good time. We had children looking in the windows and standing in the doorways. Everyone wanted to come to our party. At the end we served Otai, a watermelon, coconut and pineapple drink. It is yummy. We also had some pieces of watermelon and some chocolate cake. We were celebrating the birthdays of the sisters who have birthdays in February. (we can start being healthy tomorrow.) We started at 7:00, were done by 8:15 and had everything cleaned up by 8:30. We had 24 sisters there and 1 non member came. It was a great success. I sure wish that the sisters at home would let their hair down and have that much fun together.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The zone leaders were here today from all over the islands for Zone Leader’s Conference. We were able to give them the supplies that they need to take back to their zones. It was great, that will make our job a lot easier. Now we don’t have to haul them all over the place.
For FHE tonight Elder Howell, from Avon, the one who is going home on Wednesday and his companion Elder Jenkins from Vava’au came and talked about their missionary experiences. It was very interesting, well done and very spiritual. Elder Jenkins told a story that was touching to me. Since he was a little boy he has been deadly afraid of dogs, even small dogs. They just scare him to death. The dogs run in packs here, kind of like wolfs and at night they really are scary. Throughout his mission he has hated to walk home at night. One time a pack surrounded him and his companion. They stood back to back and swung their backpacks at them until someone came along to throw rocks at them and break it up. He started praying for help in dealing with this problem and asked the Lord to protect him. Shortly after the experience with the pack of dogs they were out late and he was terrified to walk home. His companion assured him that they would be alright and they started out. Suddenly out of nowhere came a big black dog. The biggest meanest dog he had seen in Tonga. It started to circle them but it was a wide circle allowing them enough room to keep walking. His companion told him not to look at the dog and to just keep walking. Along the way other dogs came at them and tried to attack them but the black dog would take them down and hold them down until they had passed. That happened several times before they made it home. Elder Jenkins then knew that the black dog was there to protect him, not to hurt him. He knew that his prayers had been heard and answered.
Sun. Feb. 3rd, 2013
There were 38 in our Sunday School class today! That is to many!! We did fine, they were a little more responsive, but it is just to big. Alan talked to the counselor in the bishopric and asked for help. They will talk about it and let us know.
I made some yummy chicken and rice for dinner today. Since it was Fast Sunday we didn’t eat until later so I had some time to cook. It looks like we will be eating chicken all the time now. There is no minced beef, (hamburger - sort of) on the island now. It could be up to 4 months before they have it again. Why didn’t somebody tell us about this before we left? I thought they would always have it, there are cattle all over this island. I don’t get it. Alan’s in a panic. He doesn’t like chicken all that well. I’ll be fine with it.
We were dead tired today, so we just relaxed and took it easy. We needed to gear up for next week. Alan was generous and shared his cold with me. I didn’t get really sick with it but it went into a cough that I can’t seem to shake. I’m hoping a little rest will help.

There is a chance that this is the same plane that Alan flew into Tonga on, 42 years ago.

We got up early, packed our bags, had a great breakfast of ham and scrambled eggs and the president picked us up at 8:20 to go to the airport. We flew home on a different plane. This one was built in 1932! Ok, that scared me a little, but it has been rebuilt several times. Actually, we figured it out and it could be the same plane that Alan flew over here on in the 60’s. It was flying into Tonga from Figi then and that is where he flew in from. It is a bigger plane and more comfortable, but it is very slow. It took us 25 minutes longer to get home than it did to get here. Oh well, it was a smooth ride so I just relaxed and enjoyed it. It gave me some time to think about all the places we had been and the experiences we had had. It was a once in a lifetime trip.
We were home by early afternoon so we had time to do some laundry but not much else. The elders stopped by and then Elder and Sister Fellows came for a visit. It is nice to know that we were missed. We worked on our Sunday School lesson, wrote in our journals and went to bed!

We had fish and chips for dinner. The fish was red snapper.

Elder and Sister Forsyth at "The Mango".

Our last stop was at another very small island called Otea. There is no dock there, just an outcropping of rocks. The driver backed the boat in and the plumber jumped in the water to guide it to a place where we could get out. It had been such a hot day I wanted to jump in too, but since I was wearing a dress I had to behave myself.
There is a MQ there but no one is using it right now and the lock has been changed so we couldn’t get inside. We looked in the windows and could easily see that it will need a lot of work. President will put missionaries back on this island when the influx of new ones come in March. We usually get 6 to 8 new missionaries at a time. In March we will be getting 20. He hasn’t had missionaries on this island of about 40 families because everyone on this island is a member of the church. They have their own small building and they do pretty well, but they will be happy to have missionaries here again. Once again it is an island of quiet, simple living and Japan-aid has started putting up the solar panels. It is nice to think that they might have some conveniences but on the other hand I hate to see it destroy their way of life.
We got back on the boat and headed for Vava’au. We were tired, dirty and sunburned, but so grateful for this unbelievable day. It was a gift from God, truly a tender mercy for us to have this experience so early in our mission.
When the president dropped us off at the Forsyth’s they were still at the school. We hurried and jumped in the shower and got cleaned up. I had to give thanks that the missionaries and President and Sister Tukuafu are such kind people. When I looked in the mirror and saw how the heat and wind had curled my hair up, I couldn’t understand how they could have looked at me all day and not made a comment. I looked awful! Oh well, it was still a great day and I was the one with the camera so no one will ever know how bad it really got.
When the Forsyths got home we took them out to dinner in appreciation for their hospitality. We went to a place on the bay called The Mango. They had great food. We had fish and chips. They make it with the catch of the day and today it was red snapper. It is a mild white fish and it was delicious! They also had DIET COKE!! A perfect ending to a perfect day.
When we got home we talked for a little while but Alan was falling asleep, so we gave up and went to bed.

Even though this is a small island, they have their own church.

The homes on this island are about like all the rest, there just aren't many of them. Only about 40 families live here.

There isn't a landing dock here, just an out cropping of rocks. You just get off the boat the best way you can.

This is a huge bat cave. At low tide you can drive the boat right in there. So sad, we came by at high tide.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Next we went to Nau'papu. We were dropping off the last two elders there. We got off the boat at a dock surrounded by a white sand beach. It was small, but beautiful just the same. We hiked up a natural stone staircase into the jungle where we followed a path with trees on one side and the ocean on the other. We walked for about 4 blocks and ended up in a village of about 100 to 150 people. We wondered through the village finding children, dogs, chickens and pigs along the way. There is a primary school there, but we saw a lot of young children that we thought should have been in school. They stay home to help their parents and grandparents. Children on these small islands don’t have much of a chance at getting a good education.
We walked to the MQ and found the missionaries cleaning like mad. I loved it, at least they heard what we were saying to them at Zone Conference. This MQ was really old and not in very good shape. We are going to try to get it cleaned and worked on. There is no electricity on this island. Japan-aid is putting those solar panels on the huts, but they won’t put one on a religious house. So these elders have no running water because there is no way to run the pump. They have a shower stall inside so they fill a bucket with water and shower from that, they also fill another bucket and use that to flush the toilet. They use a lantern at night. It was the closest thing we saw to how Alan lived when he was here, only he didn’t have brick walls and a metal roof. The drinking water was really bad because a filter won’t work with no sink. We are getting them some special filters for drinking water. These boys are going to be sick!
As we were walking back to the boat we noticed how beautiful and quiet the island is. No radios here --- yet. Just as we got to the dock the missionaries came down out of the jungle with long poles. As they got closer we could see that they were carrying sugar cane. They raise that here. The driver of the boat got out his machete and cut some small pieces, then President Tukuafu taught us how to eat sugar cane. It is stringy and tough but really sweet and tasty. We both liked it and had several pieces.
Once again we drove away leaving two missionaries in white shirts and ties waving to us from the dock. That really pulls on a mother’s heart strings!

President and Sister Tukuafu taught us how to eat sugar cane.

It's hard for me to drive away leaving the missionaries behind. But they love serving on these remote islands.

The homes on this island were very humble.

Pigs and chickens roam free on the island. I wouldn't want to have to dodge them at night trying to get to the outhouse!

Alan, walking down the path into the village.

We walked for about 3 blocks in the jungle before we got to the village.

There was a natural rock staircase leading from the beach to the jungle.

A fishing boat that was tied up at the dock.

This is the path leading up to the village where the Mission President's relatives live. It was a beautiful landing spot!

Next we went to the island of Lapa. 70 years ago the President of the Tongan Mission went to this remote island and found President Tukuafu’s father there as a young boy. That president saw something special in him and asked his family if they would allow the boy to return to Tonga with him and he would pay for his education. They agreed and eventually that young man was baptized into the church. Now his posterity is very strong in the church. President wanted us to see the island and meet his relatives that still live there. We met his Auntie, his Uncle and his cousin. There are only about 30 - 35 people that live on the island and none of them are members of the church, including these relatives. But president wanted us to meet them and he is hoping we made a good impression on them. I’m not to sure, they only speak Tongan so Alan could say a few things and then that was that.
There is an interesting thing happening here in Tonga. Japan-aid has come to these outer islands and put up solar panels in front of all of the dwellings. It is a humanitarian act to help improve the lives of the people who live out there. They have a battery and now they can have a light bulb and a radio, but that is about it. They don’t have any appliances and they couldn’t begin to afford them, let alone get them shipped out to the island. Still, this is a multi-million dollar project that Japan has taken on. We are wondering why. I’ll go into that later.
The people here eat fish, bananas, breadfruit, oofi and other root crops, seaweed, and occasionally chickens and pigs. They cook outdoors in pits called umu’s. The men build fires and get hot coals, then bury the food and let it cook all day. It is an interesting process to watch. There are fires going all over these islands by mid day. It is hot work in this climate.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When we were on one of the outer islands we met a sweet Tongan mother.  She and her children were happy to have their picture taken.

Monday, February 11, 2013


The AP’s and Zone Leaders picked us up and we met President and Sister Tukuafu at the dock. It was a small boat with two motors that we took off in today. We had a boatful, 4 elders, the president and his wife, us, the branch president from one of the outer islands and his family, the driver and a plumber we were taking to fix a sink at the MQ. The AP’s really wanted to go with us but there just wasn’t enough room for them.
It was an amazing day! It was like going to Disneyland multiplied by 1,000 because it was all real! The ride out was a little rough. Once we got out of the bay and into the ocean we hit some pretty big waves. The missionaries were laughing at me because I was taking pictures with the boat bouncing up and down but I didn’t want to miss a thing. Besides, I was laughing at them, they were in the back of the boat and they were getting soaked. Alan and I took a pill before we left and we both did fine.
We went to 4 different islands. The first one we stopped out was the farthest out. It took us about 50 minutes to get to it. The name of the island is Hunga. Alan served there for 8 months. As soon as you get off the boat you start hiking up a steep hill to get to the village. When we got to the top Alan remembered that he would hike up that hill and then go straight down the dirt path to get to his grass folli. We walked down that path and he could remember the area where he lived, although it is all different now. The grass follies are pretty much gone. Now there are wooden shacks that are so dirty. He liked the grass follies, they were natural and fit in with the surroundings. We did find a couple of them still being used and he is right. I took pictures of both.
The elders played a fast on one us as we got to their MQ. We had given our presentation at Zone Conference so one of the elders ran ahead of us to clean up the MQ so when we got there everything would be in order. We were so impressed with how clean it was and what a good job they had done taking care of it. We made a real fuss over them and when the Mission President got there we told him that it was the cleanest MQ we had seen so far in the mission. He smiled and said, “It had better be, it is only one month old.” The elders had a good laugh until I said that we would be back one day and it had better look just the same!
It was a little sad to get back on the boat and then drive away leaving those two elders alone on the island, waving at us. They stay out there for months at a time, working with the 2 to 3 hundred people that live there. Now I can understand what Alan felt like when he said that he would look out and all he could see was ocean. It’s hard to imagine that there is land out there somewhere, it is so far away.

I wanted a picture of us together on one of the paths on Hunga.

Us with the missionaries on the island of Hunga.

It was quite an experience to watch Alan walk down the same paths that he walked so many years ago.

The grass Folli that Alan lived in as a missionary looked a lot like this.

This view makes it easier to see how steep this road really is. It's quite a hike up, especially in the heat of the day.

The road leading to the top of the hill and then into the village is very steep. It was a dirt road when Alan served on this island but now it is cement. They have one truck on the island to haul supplies up to the village.

The people in this area travel from island to island on boats like this one.

This is the boat that we took island hopping. We felt secure because it had such a good name. Also because it is owned by the church and kept in good condition.


We met with Mosia today. He is the FM Manager here. We talked to him about the mission quarters and the cleaning supplies and how best to stay on top of what is going on here. He is a very nice man and it was good to get to know him and make face to face contact with the people we will be calling on the phone or emailing from now on. He is a Stake President so we were also able to talk to him about the Humanitarian needs on this island. It sounds like most of them are more in the Welfare area, so we will see what we can do to help get his needs addressed by the Area Authority. He had a full day planned today, so Elder Forsyth took some time to show us around. He drove us to a few of the MQ’s before we had to be to Zone Conference. The MQ that was the farthest away had the most beautiful view of the bay. It would be a privilege to live there. Too bad it was the dirtiest one we have seen so far!
This is an amazing island. It has mountains and pine trees. You can stand on a high place and see the water on 2 or 3 sides. Today the weather was beautiful, blue skies with just a few white clouds, still hot and humid. They don’t have a lot of beaches here, just a couple of small ones. It is mostly surrounded by coral reefs and steep cliffs. You have to go way out to find the beaches. We also drove down town. It is much like Tonga, just not as big. There are small shops and Chinese stores, narrow roads and quite a few cars. They do have a couple of nice hotels and 1 resort. It’s a step up from Haapai, but still a lot of poor people that just exist. They say, “ we have coconuts and bananas hanging in the trees, oofi and tara on the plantations, chickens and pigs running free, what more do we need?”
We did our presentation at Zone Conference and then had lunch. It was more Tongan food, chicken, bread fruit and a raw hot dog. I skipped that last part. I’m not really sure how they cook the chicken but my stomach has been a little unhappy today so I am being very careful what I eat. On this trip we have eaten a lot of native food all at once and I think I need to go slow.
Elder Howell conducted Zone Conference today. He will be going home to Avon, Utah in 4 days. It was amazing to watch a Cache Valley boy stand in front of these missionaries, speaking fluent Tongan and bear a powerful testimony of the Savior, the gospel and his love for the people and the islands. He really touched my heart.
We had a wonderful dinner with the Forsyths tonight and then headed out to a baptism. Elder Howell baptized a young woman and a teen-age boy. They did it in the evening, just at dusk and they do it outside. Everyone gathered around the font and they sang a beautiful hymn in Tongan. The boy was baptized first and then the girl. I was impressed when all of the men and boys turned around when she came up out of the water. They are so respectful of women here. We went back into the church, sang one hymn and they were both back, ready to continue. It was so fast! At home it takes forever for girls to get ready. The bishop talked and then the new converts bore their testimonies. It was a beautiful baptism. Afterwards they served curried chicken and rice. We passed on that and went back to the Forsyths and had some ice cream and cookies.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

We flew to Vava'hau on the "pencil plane". It is long and thin. Flying in Tonga is a real adventure!

I was able to get a shot of the island out the window this time. It's fun to see what they look like from the air. I don't know what island this is, we didn't go there.

We took the small plane back to Tonga. This time Alan tried to protect his ears.

The airport in Haa'pai

Our plans have changed. We were supposed to fly out this afternoon at 5:00 but now we are leaving at 10:50 this morning. The plane is broke! So we have to fly back to Tonga, wait at the airport until 2:00 and then fly up to Vava’u. The government of Tonga is taking over the airport and the current company that is flying between islands is being forced out of business. Right now they don’t care if people are happy with their service or not. They just try to fill the flights and save as much money as they can.
Our stay in Haapai was an education. The people that live on Haapai just exist. There is nothing to do and nowhere to go. The people raise what they eat and work the land. They cook, eat and sleep, that’s about it. Pigs and chickens wander freely. The people are very poor, but happy. I felt bad that they had to sacrifice so much to feed us.
The church is strong here, they have a middle school and a couple of primary schools. They also have a stake so there are church activities.
Villi, the Service Center Manager also runs the Distribution Center so people on the island can get garments and church supplies. He is a very nice young man and very conscientious. The church accountant told him to have 3 people with him when he counted out the money that we gave the missionaries today. He had 3 people count it 3 times. It was fun to work with him. We will be working with him over the phone and via email. He takes care of the churches and the MQ’s on Haapai.
When we left Haapi we flew on the small plane again back to Tonga. Then we waited at the airport for 2 hours for a flight to Vava’u. While we were waiting we had lunch at the airport. I had a ham and cheese panni and Alan had a hamburger. It was good food and the prices were much better than in town. We were surprised.
Our flight to Vava’u was on what the president calls the “pencil plane”. It is long and thin. There is an isle on this plane but just one seat on each side of the isle. So every seat is a window seat. The problem was that there is no head room. Even I had to duck down to walk down the isle. Tall men had to bend way over, it was fun to watch them make their way to their seats. It had 18 seats, 20 with the pilot and co-pilot.
Elder and Sister Forsyth picked us up and the airport. They are serving in Vava’u, working at the school there. We stayed with them in their 2 bedroom house and the president and his wife stayed at the hotel. They were jealous, they wanted to stay in the missionary housing but there was nothing available. We found out that before he was called to be the Mission President, President Tukuafa was in the construction business and he built the missionary housing on Vava’u. The Forsyths live in a house that is lovely. It is bigger and nicer than ours, but ours is home now and we are very happy there. It is beautiful here, but I don’t know if I would want to live here. The humidity is even worse than it is in Tonga. I am always wet!
Sister Forsyth had dinner planned for us but at the last minute the Zone Leaders and the AP’s showed up so we had to punt. We made cheese sandwiches with chips and gave them orange Fanta. That is a real treat for them so they were happy. We even had ice cream for dessert. After the missionaries left we stayed up until about 10:30 visiting, then got some much needed rest.

Look who came to dinner! I may never eat baby back ribs again.

Elder and Sister Pola'ulu. They are MLS missionaries on one of the outer islands. A delightful couple but they don't speak any English. We grew to love them quickly.

I am trying to get the "eye" for cool pictures. I really liked this one.

Tongans like to swim at night when it is cool. It also turns into a nightly bath.

Sunset at the warf in Haa'pai

The sign right across the street from where we were staying. We were in a Tsunami Hazard Zone.

It rained hard all night but the weather cleared in the morning. We went to the Chinese shop by our house and bought some oatmeal and milk. Then we set out for the day. We met with Villi, the FM Manager for Haapai. He is great and it should be easy to work with him. We checked out the supplies for the MQ’s and then went to Zone Conference and did our presentation. The local people brought lunch and once again it was all Tongan food, and more than we could possibly eat. Alan and I shared one lunch and took the other one home for dinner. Alan took a quick nap and I went out on the dock for a walk and saw WHALES playing way out in the ocean. It was so fun to see them jump and splash, but they were too far away to get a good picture. I had to call Kimi though, she loves whales.
When Zone Conference was over we went back to the church and handed out the month’s money to the missionaries. The president has been so kind. He is so grateful for the load that we are taking off of his shoulders and we are so grateful for the chance to be with him and see these islands. He did interviews until almost 8:00 so Alan and I went ahead and ate our left over lunch for dinner. We were glad that we did. A little after 8:00 more of the local members came with a roasted pig and all the trimmings. It was just a baby pig. I may never eat baby back ribs again. The locals love this food and this was a real sacrifice for them. They are so poor, but they love the Mission President and his wife. There was an older Tongan couple that came to Zone Conference. They are serving on one of the outer islands. They stopped by and were happy to share the nights meal. They love the skin of the pig because it is crunchy. ohhhhh They also drink HOT CHOCOLATE with their dinner and breakfast. Even if it is 100 degrees, they love their hot chocolate.
Alan and I went for a walk down to the pier. It was just at sunset so we got some great pictures. There were lots of the locals there swimming. They think the white people are crazy for going swimming in the day time when it is so hot. They swim in the evening. I think the parents take them there to take a bath.
We had a nice conversation with the president tonight. He is such a spiritual man. He told us many of his experiences as a mission president. It is a 24x7 job for 3 years and many nights he doesn’t sleep. When he got here the mission was not running well and he had to send quite a few missionaries home. Most of them were Tongan. It was hard on him. Just as we were leaving to come on this trip, at the airport, he got a call telling him that one of the missionaries father had just passed away. He was so humbled that he had been inspired to put that missionary in a companionship with another missionary whose father passed away while he has been serving too. It has been very special to have him share some of his spiritual experiences with us.

Alan tells of walking from one island to another when the tide is out. This is where he used to walk. They have built a one way road there now but at high tide it is dangerous to drive on it.

It's easy to see why they call the resort Sandy Beach. This is the most beautiful beach we have seen so far.

This is the social area at the resort. They serve all three meals here but it is really expensive and not included with the price. However, you have to eat there because there is no where else to go!

One of the cottages at Sandy Beach.

If they want to fish from a boat they will take one of these out.