Monday, July 22, 2013

Sunday, July 7th

Church attendance was down again today. Tonga High School had a big multi class reunion and a lot of our members were fixing food for the huge feast today. So much for not working on Sunday! They think if they do it at home it doesn’t count as work. This should be the last of the big events for awhile. I’m glad, these poor people are stressed to the max! They can’t afford all of this. Plus, air plane tickets have gone sky high these last two weeks, so their relatives need help getting here and then getting home. Funny, when we can’t afford to go somewhere --- we don’t go!! Not in Tonga, it is expected and you had better come prepared to donate a lot of money to the churches of Tonga when you get here.

Our Sunday School class was great. We had a few missing, but we still had a great discussion about Temple Ordinances and Covenants. Next week we will be talking about Family History and Genealogy, my favorite topics!!

On the way home from church we stopped by the house that is next to the Mission Office to make sure that it had been cleaned. There is a new mission couple coming tomorrow. IT HAD NOT BEEN CLEANED!! They will be here at 11:00 in the morning so we started calling people to make sure that is taken care of first thing in the morning.

Today was Fast Sunday, so when we got home I put a meatloaf in the oven with some potatoes. That is a real treat because you can’t get onion soup here but I brought a few packets with me. We really enjoyed that meal!

The rest of the day was spent reading and catching up on the journals. The Szokas stopped by for a visit, which we really enjoyed. We are surely going to miss them when they leave for home next week!

They don't have poinsettia plants here, they have poinsettia trees! It is winter here so they are blooming all over the island and they are beautiful!!

The flowers on these poinsettia trees are just gorgeous!

Saturday, July 6th

I got a lot of the laundry done on the 4th so I didn’t have much to do today. Alan had to go work on the plumbing issue at the MQ so I decided to wash the windows in our house. WHAT WAS I THINKING??? It is a lot cooler than it has been, but not that cool. By the time I got the windows in the living room done I was sweating like crazy. I did the ones in the kitchen and called it quits for the day. There are 18 slat pieces of glass in each window and I did 9 windows. We have a whole wall of windows in the bedroom plus one on each side of the room, that plus the bathroom was just more than I could muster today. So I turned the fan on in the living room and vacuumed the furniture instead. I should not be left alone!!! It was quite an adventure, really. As I washed the windows the geckos came out to see what was happening. One was all over the kitchen walls. Then when I moved the furniture I found a dead cock roach and some other critters under the couch. YUCK!! At least they were all dead, but how long have they been there???

That reminds me of something I forgot to write about. The other day at the office there was a cock roach in our office and Alan was gone. I saw it run across the room and started screaming. Our new secretary, who is just one year out of high school, came running in, saw the cock roach and walked over and picked it up WITH HER FINGERS!!! She just looked at me, smiled and said, “they don’t bite Sister Webb”. I still can’t believe she did that. She said that she was raised with them, they don’t bother her a bit.

When Alan got home we spent about an hour with the Szokas. They came to visit and bring us some things that they are leaving when they go home on the 15th. I really hate to think about them leaving. They have become such good friends and who knows if we will ever see them again - in this life, anyway. I’m sure we will see them on the other side.

We went for a good long walk today. We waited until it cooled off and then walked out to the plantation and around Liahona. Alan wanted to walk through one of the villages so we did. Suddenly 4 BIG DOGS came out of a fenced area after us. Someone had left the gate open. Alan started yelling at them and swinging his hat at them, I just kept walking and started praying for help. I couldn’t even look, but I didn’t hear Alan trying to get away so I didn’t think they were biting him. We escaped without injury but I am not going back there again. Now Alan knows why I like to walk around our block and not all over town. I think he will be fine with staying on the Liahona campus from now on.

Friday, July 5th

Alan had to make a trip to town this morning so I was alone in the office. He is trying to get things moving with our water project contract and he needed to stop in at the hospital and talk to Sione about wheelchairs and artificial limbs. While he was gone I worked on putting all of the pictures with the hygiene training. There are lots of pictures that need to go along with each lesson and they all needed to be run off and sorted. The translation is just about done so hopefully we can actually start in the next week or two. We will be making a trip to Vava’u sometime this month to put together a project for the hospital up there so we want this moving before we have to leave.

For some reason the internet was working well today so I was able to put a bunch to pictures on the blog this afternoon. Alan had to go to an MQ to work on a plumbing problem so I spent most of the afternoon working on the blog. It was a good day!!!

Alan didn’t get home until after 7:00 so we had a late dinner. By then he was exhausted so we didn’t get to walk today. I hate that, I really need to walk in order to feel good and sleep well.

Thursday, July 4th

Today is a holiday in Tonga. It is the day they celebrate the King’s Birthday. It isn’t the King’s real birthday, just the day they celebrate it. They had a big parade in town and the King reviewed the military troops, but we stayed home and watched it on TV. We did some laundry and just relaxed a little this morning. We have really been pushing it for such a long time that having a day off was a very welcome diversion.

I called my sister for her birthday call today. She told me all about her hot air balloon ride. She loved it and it sounded like such a wonderful thing to do, expensive, but she felt it was worth it. She now has a certificate stating that she is a certified ballonatic! What fun!

This afternoon we had a Senior Couple 4th of July Picnic. We wanted to go to the beach but the weather didn’t co-operate. It was cool and windy so we couldn’t build a fire to cook our hot dogs. We ended up having it at the Service Center. The Szokas came up with a scavenger hunt around the Liahona campus. We divided up into teams. I was the captain of one team. We didn’t have our spouses on the same team. To bad for Alan, my team won!! It was a little surprising how competitive some of the seniors are. We had a good time and learned a lot about Liahona.

President Tupou and his wife came to the picnic and participated in the hunt. They are great! Very down to earth and lots of fun. After we had dinner President Tupou talked about his vision for the mission and Tonga. He hasn’t lived here in the last 30 years and he really wants to see this country rise above it’s current level. He feels that in order for the church to move forward, the people of Tonga have to move forward. He has only been here 4 days and he already has made some major decisions. He is getting I -phones for all of the missionaries, including US!!! That will be fun, one more thing to challenge my old brain! I know my kids are laughing, but I am determined to figure it out. He wants to know where all of his young missionaries are and what they are doing at all times.

He has an office couple coming in August. A couple from Alaska that he knows well. He doesn’t want elders in the office, he wants them out working. He also has another couple coming that will be working with the housing. He is hoping they will be here by September. So are we, we will be getting 30 young missionaries in September and they all have to have a place to live. We don’t know if they will take over the care of the MQ’s but that would be fine with us. Just having one full time mission call would be nice. These 50 to 60 hour weeks are hard on old people!!! Sister Mitchell, the mission nurse has been working in the office. She will be happy to just have one calling too. President Tupou said that there are several couples that he hopes will come to our mission. There is quite a Tongan community in Alaska and he wants those people to come back and help in the work.

He was telling us some stories about the government and church relations here. King Tupou the 4th, (yes, our president is related to the current King of Tonga- distantly. He is of Noble birth, not Royal.) anyway, the King made an agreement with the church that they would lease the land that Liahona is on for $1.00 a year for 50 years. When that lease ran out the Tongan Government decided to lease the land for $13,000 a month and tax the church. We now have members of the church in Parliament and they said that if you tax the Mormon Church you must tax all churches. The Government wants money so they agreed. Our church pays the taxes but the other churches in Tonga are slowly going bankrupt. A Noble in one village decided that he wanted the land back that the church was built on, thinking he would have a wonderful building to turn into a town hall or something. (The Noble’s control all the land in their village and they can do that.) The church couldn’t talk him out of it, so they agreed to let him have the land back. When they turned it over, he got the land but the church was gone. They had torn it down. Very Slowly, Tonga is starting to realize that they need the church here to keep the country going.

We also found out that the LDS Church is the ONLY unit that has signed up for the new fiber optics! It is so expensive, no one else is committing to use it. Without us, it wouldn’t have come to Tonga. We had better get good internet service out of this!!!! They are now saying that it should be up and running by the middle of August. It did get here in June, so it MIGHT happen.

Our President also said that he wants a lot of interaction with the Senior Missionaries. He values our opinions and wants our ideas. We are feeling very good about this new president. With Elder Tuku’afu as the Area 70 and President Tupou running the mission, we are in excellent hands

We had a great time with our missionaries at the baptism.

We were so happy to witness the baptism of this sweet lady and her two children.

Wednesday, July 3rd

Sister “Y” came into the office today with the translation for the hygiene program. That hasn’t turned out quite like I had hoped it would. She translated it, then Ana had to go over all of it and “fix” it. Our cute little secretary that took over for Ana Lupe while she is in America, typed it all up and she fixed a lot of thing too. She just graduated from Liahona last year and she is working on getting her mission papers ready. She is very smart!! We love her. Anyway, this has turned out to be a bigger process than I anticipated. I should have known better. Oh well, we are just about ready to get started so I am excited about that.

I had a little time this afternoon so I was able to get the Family and Friends letter put together and sent out. Thank heaven! That took such a long time to get put together and it was weighing heavy on my mind. I am glad to have it done.

We went to a baptism this evening. A mother and two of her children were baptized. She is going to be a great influence for good for the church in Tonga. She is the lady who sings opera. She sang at our Black and White Ball. She is very well known and highly respected. It was a beautiful evening and the baptism was so special. What a sweet experience it was to watch her watch her son and daughter be baptized and then to see the emotion in her face when it was her turn. She spoke after the baptism and bore her testimony. She told of how very hard it has been for her to give up smoking and drinking but she was determined to do it. She was so grateful for the principle of repentance and to know that she was washed clean meant everything to her. Then to conclude, she sang “I Need The Every Hour”. When she got to the second verse “temptations lose their power, when thou art near,” is was very emotional for her --- for all of us. What a special lady. We are so grateful that she made this decision. She has set the course for her family, for all eternity.

After the meeting was over, she invited us to a “little party”. It turned out to be a huge feast. I hate going to those things. They always make the palangis go first and they seat us at the best table. It wasn’t about us, it was about her and we didn’t want to take away from her big night. The Stake President came and sat with us. He is a very important man here in Tonga. We found out tonight that he wrote the Tongan to English, English to Tongan dictionary that all the missionaries use. He served here years ago but he is a couple of years younger than us. He and Alan had a lot to talk about. That’s the one good thing about going to these parties. It gives us a chance to mingle with the local people and get to know them better. We love the people!

We didn’t get home until almost 10:00, so we went straight to bed.

Tuesday, July 2nd

Today is my sister’s birthday. I’m not going to call her until Thursday because she is going up to Heber to take a hot air balloon ride for her birthday. How fun would that be??? I can’t wait to hear all about it.

We took the money out to the missionaries and inspected their MQ’s today. We gave out all of our Snickers and had to come back for more!!! YEA, they are finally starting to kick in! I know that they are not clean every day, but they are at least really clean once a month and that is a huge improvement. We only saw one today that was a disaster. I left a note telling them WE WILL BE BACK! We’ll see.

It was much cooler today and it felt soooooo good. Hopefully we will have a stretch of cooler weather now. They keep telling us that this is winter but so far we have not seen much of a change, I never thought I would think that the mid to upper 80’s was cool, but for Tonga it really is.
We went for a walk tonight and with the wind blowing I actually thought about wearing a jacket. I didn’t, but I thought about it. Alan is sleeping all bundled up with a blanket at night. It’s not that cool! But it sure is more comfortable at night.

Monday, July 1st

We spent the morning in the office. I was able to stay busy catching up on a few emails and looking at pictures of Baby Grace!! Alan ran out of things to do quite fast so he started working on the MQ’s. We will be taking the money out to the missionaries tomorrow so he has to get all of the supplies ready to go.

We had 6 bundles of clothes and bedding in the back room of our office that were left over from the USS Pearl Harbor trip. That equals 600 pounds of clothing and bedding!!! We have been pulling them apart and Ana Ika takes some out to people every day. That woman is amazing! She knows people all over this island and she has a heart the size of Texas. We are trying to help as many people as possible and she just keeps coming up with more and more to help. Alan and I wondered if we would ever get rid of all those clothes and they will be gone in no time.

We went to the Mission Office this afternoon and talked to the Zone Leaders. It is the first time we have been in a meeting with our new Mission President and his wife. We are really excited about them. Sister Tupou is going to be much more involved with the missionaries. She really backed me up when I told them how important keeping their MQ’s clean is to their health. We asked the President if he wanted us to give the missionaries certificates instead of Snickers, because they are so expensive, but the elders about died. After he saw their reaction he said, “Buy the Snickers!” It was pretty funny. I guess we will keep the Snickers program going.

We had a Pizza party for FHE tonight. We all chipped in and brought items to put on the pizzas. The Williams, who were in charge for tonight, supplied the dough. It was fun and the pizzas turned out great.

We had 600 pounds of clothes and bedding to give out after the Pacific Partnership left Tonga.

Sunday, June 30th

There weren’t many people at church today. There has been a huge Wesleyian convention here this last week and today they had their final feast. Most of the people in our ward have relatives here from other countries and they are probably fixing food and taking it to the feast. It is expected. That made our Sunday School class very small today but we still had a great discussion about families and the spirit was strong. There was a new man there today. As I was talking to him after class, I learned that he went on his mission to Taiwan and he knows Shane. They were in the MTC together. It’s a small world!

We had a restful Sunday. We were able to catch up on our journals and do a little reading. Alan and I are both so impressed with how the Tongan’s keep the Sabbath Day holy. Nothing is open and the campus is always quiet and peaceful. Everyone stays dressed up all day and we don’t even go for a walk until in the evening. We were able to go for a nice walk tonight. It was cool and it felt so good.

On our way home from the airport today we ran into a funeral. We pulled over and waited while they made their way to the cemetary.

The family and friends follow along behind. They all dress in black and wear the mats as a show of respect. They will dress like this for weeks, months or even a year depending upon how close their relationship was with the person who died.

The elders of the village follow at the end of the procession.

Saturday, June 29th

When we woke up this morning it was raining hard. It had rained most of the night. We had to go to the fair this morning. I really needed some Clorox. The other stuff you can buy here just doesn’t work and I don’t want our clothes to look awful for the second half of our mission. The Szokas wanted to go with us, so off we went. By the time we got into town it had let up a little so we hurried and got what we needed. Just as we were leaving the fair it started to pour again, so the timing was pretty good.

It was not a good day today though. The Szokas told us that they will be leaving in two weeks. They have been here for 21 months and were planning to stay for 24, but they found a job offer on the internet that they couldn’t pass up. They will be going to teach in a school in Kazastahan. They will each be paid $5,000 a month and they get 2 trips home a year, one at Christmas and one for the summer break. It will really help them with their retirement. They sold their house at a loss to come on this mission and this is a huge blessing in their lives. They plan to stay for 2 years, maybe 3 if they really like it. They have been in the military and lived all over the world so this is not unusual for them. We are happy that they have this opportunity but really sad to see them leave so quickly. They have become very good friends.

Our new Mission President and his family arrived today. We all went out to the airport to meet them. He is Tongan, his wife is not and they brought two sons with them, an 11 year old and a 9 year old. They both look very Tongan and will fit right in here, except that they do not know the language. They are really cute boys and it will be fun to have them around the mission. They were all extremely tired and they have relatives in Tonga so we didn’t spend much time with them. We will get to know them better next week.

We were able to Face Time with Mike and Kimi and our precious baby Grace today --- sort of. We kept getting kicked off but we were determined to be able to see little Grace. SHE IS BEAUTIFUL!!! It was so fun to watch her kick and move while she was laying on the floor. Then Kimi put her little face right up to the screen so she could give Grandma and Grandpa a kiss. How am I ever going to survive not holding her until she is almost a year old? I just can’t think about it.

It was movie night tonight. We watched a good movie. It was called “The Crossing.” I think it was a made for TV movie because it was a little blurry when we blew it up on the wall. It was about George Washington crossing the Delaware. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about that time in American history. I enjoyed it.

The old and the new. President Tuku'afu, now Elder Tuku'afu and President Tupou, our new Mission President.

President and Sister Tupou and their two boys arrived safely in Tonga today. 'We can't wait to get to know them.

President and Sister Tupou's sons, Jessie and Thomas. We can tell just by looking at them that they are going to be a lot of fun!!

Friday, June 28th

I am totally stumped. Today when I tried to send the pictures one at a time, I couldn’t even attach a file to the email. NOTHING!!~ I worked for four hours, trying everything I could think of and I couldn’t send one picture! On the other hand, once I gave up on the emails I decided to try putting some pictures on the blog. They went on without any trouble at all. Go figure! I think I could go CRAZY!!!!!

We called Alisha for her birthday today. It was so good to talk to her and to hear Parx talking in the back ground. He has turned into a little chatter box. We couldn’t understand a lot of what he said but it warms our hearts to hear his sweet voice and know how happy he is. Dave and Alisha are such good parents. We have been so blessed!!! Alisha had been up Logan Canyon this morning on a walk with Parx. That made me a little homesick. Even in the midst of all these palm trees, I miss the mountains and canyons back home.

I spent the afternoon at the Service Center downloading the pictures one by one and sending 19 different emails in order to finish up this report!! Each picture took over 10 minutes to download so I was there a GOOD

Thursday, June 27th,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALISHA!!! We tried to set up a call to Alisha but didn’t hear back from her. We will call her tomorrow, on her birthday in America.

Not a lot happened at the office today. I couldn’t send any of the pictures that I downloaded yesterday. Every one of them came back as a failure notice. So far I have spent over 9 hours trying to get this report finished and it I’m still not done. It’s a good thing that we aren’t really busy this week or I would be screaming!!

We called Kimi on our lunch hour and they brought the baby home today. She has a little jaundice so she is under lights. Mike sent LOTS of pictures, so we feel like we aren’t missing out on to much. Kimi’s right, she is one cute baby!!

This afternoon the senior missionaries went to the Service Center and did the mob dance for the Ki’iles. They were so surprised. Sister Ki’ile cried through the whole thing but she said she loved it. I think they were both touched. The other people in the office took pictures and videos. It had better not end up on Face Book!!!

Then I went to the conference room to try to send the pictures again. Once again, failure notices!! What is a woman to do???? Tomorrow I will break the emails down and try to send the pictures one or two at a time. This is ridiculous!!!

Alan went to the temple alone tonight. I still have such a bad cough that I didn’t dare go. As soon as I tell myself that I can’t cough, that is when I start coughing!

Wednesday, June 26th

I woke up feeling awful! By the time I got out of the shower I was ready to go back to bed but I couldn’t. I had a meeting today with the lady who is translating our hygiene program for us. I didn’t want to think about that, I just wanted to think about Kimi, Mike and our darling baby. I forced myself to go to work, at least for awhile. When I got there I found more pictures on our email so it was worth the effort. She’s a beauty!!

I also had a lot of positive feed back on the report that I wrote for the Area on the Navy project. Our Area Welfare Manager even sent it on to Salt Lake City and I had emails from the head people at the Church Office building. That made it worth doing. I am so grateful that I did it on Monday night, because I could never have gotten it done yesterday. It’s amazing how Heavenly Father helps you in so many little ways.

Sister “Y” came and we went over the translation that she is doing on our hygiene program. She has 3 of the 5 lessons done. Out secretary will type them up for us, Ana Ika will proof read them, and then we will meet with Sister “Y” to go over everything before we print them off. She is also going to call 6 sisters to be the teachers in the first round of training. I am getting excited now, slowly we are moving forward.

After our meeting I went home and slept for a couple of hours. I had a hard time waking up but I know my body needs the rest. In the afternoon I went over to the Service Center and worked on the pictures again. Today I was able to download all of them into separate emails that I sent to myself. I could only send 4 at a time so there are 6 emails. Tomorrow I will be able to forward them on to the people who need them ----- I HOPE!!! At least they are saved on my email. I was able to get them all done and some new info on the blog and it only took me 2 hours. I am so glad to have that almost done. I am praying it will go off smoothly tomorrow.

Alan went into town this afternoon and had a massage. Hopefully he will continue to feel better. He has been doing a little better every day this week. Good Grief, we are falling apart!!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tuesday, June 25th

Ok, today was probably, no, definitely the hardest day of our mission so far. When I turned on my computer this morning there were emails all over the place. “Mom, call me! --- I need to talk to you! --- Grandma, call my mom.---It’s Baby Time!!! --- SHE’S HERE!!!! ----- This baby is so darn cute!!!” Kimi had her baby while we were sleeping!!!

I couldn’t decide which email to open first, so I started with “SHE’S HERE!!!” It took FOREVER to open and then there was a picture of Kimi holding our precious new granddaughter. I cried. She’s really here and mommy and baby are so beautiful! How can I be so far away?? I remember feeling exactly this way when Dave and Alisha had Parx and we were in Ukraine.

Alan and I opened each email and looked at the pictures that Mike had sent. Then we tried to call but couldn’t get through to Kimi’s room. We called Tiff for help and she gave us another number that worked. When we reached Kimi she was tired but SOOOOOOOOO HAPPY!!!!!! Everything went smoothly, it was an easy delivery, no problems with the tumor, and our little Grace is just perfect. Every prayer was answered, so even though I am sad that I can’t hold her and love her and her parents in person, we are so very thankful for the blessings we have all received as a result of our serving this mission. Heavenly Father has been so generous and mindful of us in every way. Strangely enough, our being on a mission makes this separation doable somehow. There is a peace and comfort that I know we would not feel if we were not here. Thank heaven for modern technology, we can see Grace and talk to Mike and Kimi any time, that eases the pain a little too. Once we got off the phone with Kimi nothing else seemed to matter any more. We just wanted to go home to contemplate being grandparents one more time.

I did have a couple of things that I needed to get done though. I emailed my report about our experience with the Pacific Partnership to the Area Office and the people involved here in Tonga. It was a relief to get that done, although I could not attach any of the pictures I wanted to send. I will have to send them in separate emails.

Once things settled down and we had had time to think about the great blessing that had just come into our lives, I remembered waking up 3 times in the night thinking about Kimi. I wondered if I would recognize the Spirit if I was prompted to know that she needed me. I GUESS NOT!! Perhaps it was because she didn’t NEED me, everything was going smoothly. Or maybe it was a tender mercy, trying to tell me that Grace was making her way to earth and to our family. Which ever, I am grateful I experienced it but sad that I didn’t act on it. Although I couldn’t walk clear across the campus in the middle of the night to check the email!!

This afternoon I tried to put the Pacific Partnership 2013 pictures in an email and send them. I couldn’t get ONE TO GO! After 2 and a half hours I gave up and came home.

I haven’t been feeling the best today. I think I got over tired last week and now I am trying not to get a cold. By the time we went to bed I had started with a bad cough. I think I have turned into my mother, everything goes straight to my lungs. I took some medicine and went to bed.

Monday, June 24th

After our Monday morning devotional we headed straight in to work. We had a huge day at the office today. I received an email from New Zealand asking for forgiveness. I’m sure that Elder Reynolds had a bad day at the office on Friday and also didn’t realize what was happening here in Tonga. My first priority for the day was to make sure that Ana was alright and then I helped her find the answers to the questions New Zealand wanted answered on that ancient project. She made some phone calls, I entered the answers on CHAS and sent them off. I added that I hoped that would be the last time any of us had to worry about that project and then added the icon of the smiling face with hands clapping. Elder Reynolds wrote right back to thank us and then told us that we are “GREAT!” I just hope he really believes it.

I wrote up a report about what we did last week in connection with the USS Pearl Harbor visit. I will insert it even though a lot of it will be repetitive, I want a copy of it. The Public Relations lady that asked me for the pictures never did show up to get them. I don’t know why I stress over getting things done here, no one else does!

Sione at the FM, gave us two surplus computers today. We were so excited to get them, they are very hard to come by. Alan called the village leader in the village of Hofoa and we took them out to him this evening. He was thrilled!! We just hope they will work and work for a long time. They will be a great blessing for the young people in that village.

Today is Carolyn Gray’s birthday in Tonga. (Tomorrow in USA) We called and had a great visit with her and Dennis. It was good to hear about what is happening at home. We miss our neighbors!

We had an interesting FHE tonight. We have a couple that will be leaving to go home the first part of July. We decided to go into their work station at the Service Center and do a “Mob Dance”. We practiced it tonight. We will be singing “Have I Done Any Good In The World Today?” It should be interesting! Some of these couples have at least one partner who does not dance all that well. Oh well, it will be fun and the Tongan’s will love it! The Ka’ili’s, the couple who will be going home, have now served 6 missions! He really wants to do one more - he is 79! They are amazing!!!

Alan, handing over the computer to the village leader in Hofoa. He was so happy to have computers for the students in his village!

Sunday, June 23rd

I got up, took a shower and then went right back to bed. I had planned to go to church but I just couldn’t do it. Sitting on the hard chairs at the church would have crippled me for life. I took some Advil and kept my feet elevated until Alan got home. We made a batch of Taco soup and some corn bread muffins and just took it easy for the rest of the day. I am hoping to be able to get out and walk tomorrow. I know that is why I am having trouble, my body is not used to sitting at a desk or standing still all day. I have got to find time to walk! (It couldn’t be that I am getting old??!!!)

I spent a couple of hours putting the pictures that we took last week in order and then copying them on a flash drive for the Public Relations people who will be doing a news article on the Pacific Partnership visit. I don’t understand why they didn’t attend the events and take pictures themselves, but obviously they didn’t.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

We had the honor of working with these amazing military men and women every day for a week. Our country is in good hands!!!

Wednesday, June 19th -- Thursday, June 20th and Friday, June 21st.

Everyday we did basically the same thing, we went to two schools a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The military would play with the kids for about an hour, the Navy band would play for half an hour and then the Commodore would come, say a few words and then we would take over. Alan spoke to them in Tongan for a couple of minutes. They loved that part!! Everyone was so excited to see the Palangi man who could speak Tongan. Then I would tell them about the book bags and show them what was in them. Ana helped me by translating what I said. Then with the help of the military men and women we gave out the bags. Each time it was a different yet very special experience. The children were so excited and the teachers were so grateful.

On Wednesday we received a call from Church Headquarters! I about dropped the phone, it kind of scared me. But what they wanted was for us to find a place for two ladies to stay for the rest of the week. They are the sisters representing LDS Charities. The weather has been very windy this week and since the ship is docked 9 miles out, when they can get in to shore they want to stay here and not go back to the ship. We said that we would be happy
to take care of them and then called and made arrangements for them to stay in one of the houses at Liahona. Because the seas were so rough, the people who were on the island stayed on the island all week and the people who were on the ship stayed on the ship. That was terrible for the two sisters who were on the ship but great for us, because we were able to represent the church at all of the places where they should have been. They finally made it to shore on Friday morning. We picked them up and took them with us to the closing ceremonies.

The Prime Minister and many members of Parliament were at the closing ceremonies. They had a huge tent set up with chairs for all of the invited guests. We were standing off to the side, just watching what was happening when an important looking lady walked up to us and told us to follow her. We did, and ended up sitting right behind the Prime Minister! They brought us leis and treated us like dignitaries. We were able to watch the whole ceremony seated in the shade, it was great!! Then they escorted us to another huge tent where they served us a feast like I have never seen before. There were rows of tables because it was for all the dignitaries and the military. Alan sat next to the Ambassador from Australia and I sat next to and across from 3 military men from France. There were roasted pigs in the middle of all the tables, probably 4 to a row of tables and then bowls and platters filled with food. There was hardly room to put your plate on the table there was so much food. We couldn’t begin to eat all of the food in front of us, but I noticed that when we were finished and had walked away, the villagers and parents of the school children came in, sat down and began to eat. I know that they had been required to provide all of that food and they are so poor to begin with. It breaks my heart to think about what they had to sacrifice to provide that feast.

The school children put on a wonderful performance for us. Two little boys ages 9 and 7 did the fire dance. It was amazing! They dance for money. Their father died of cancer a year ago and their mother is in New Zealand right now doing chemo treatments. There are 10 children in their family. I know they made a lot of money, the military people were very generous. It was a good cause. At the end, all of the school children, dressed in Tongan costumes, sang to us and did a traditional sitting dance. All in all it was another amazing experience.

We took Elaine Bond and Jana Davies, the LDS Charities sisters, out to dinner later that afternoon and then they and Ana Ika went to Relief Society Enrichment meeting with me. The Enrichment leader call me last night at 9:45, after we got home from the Temple, and asked me to be the featured speaker at tonight’s meeting. I talked about how to have a happy marriage. It ended up being a good evening but it started out slow and late. It was scheduled to start at 6:00. The Enrichment leader and two sisters who came to help her decorate were there at 6:00. I was there with my 3 guests and that was it! The building was locked so we stood outside and visited until 6:25 when the 1st Counselor came with a key to let us in. The Presidency showed up at 7:10 and we started at 7:15. I was really embarrassed. There really is no excuse for this ‘Tongan Time” idea. It is just plain rude! We wanted to be home by 8:00 to watch the closing ceremonies on the news. I was talking at 8:00, we didn’t get home until after 9:00. We had a good time and the Spirit was strong, it just wasn’t a good way to start.

Saturday morning we cleaned, washed and sprayed for bugs. Then we took Elaine and Jana out to see the blow holes. The wind was blowing and the sea was rough but that makes the blow holes even better. It was high tide, the sky was blue and the pictures I took are beautiful. We left straight from there and took them to the airport to catch a flight home. They are amazing women, not only very intelligent and good at what they do, but also adventurous. We don’t know how old Elaine is, but some where in her 70s and Jana is 60. They stayed on the ship for almost a month, sleeping in beds that were 20 inches wide with the next bunk 18 inches above your head. I can’t imagine how some of the men we met can even get in those things. Needless to say, they were living in very close quarters and
functioning on military time, which meant that they were up at 4 AM every day. It kind of makes me feel guilty about complaining about the schedule we are keeping --- but not really. At any rate, we were blessed to get to spend some time with them and learn from them.

I checked our email at the office today and found one from New Zealand reprimanding us for not closing out a project that was completed 2 years before we got here. Ana receive the same email and she called me all upset. She was so worried about it that she was making herself sick. I was exhausted from the week’s activities and I saw red. I wrote back and listed all of the things that we had accomplished this week and then asked for patience and compassion. We might be going home sooner than we thought, but so be it, I am not happy about that email!

We went out to dinner with all of the other senior couples tonight. We went to the Emerald Hotel downtown. They have a Chinese restaurant that is pretty good. We all ordered something different and then we all shared. They had a private room where there was a large table with a huge lazy Susan in the middle. We just kept spinning it around and trying all the different items. It was a fun evening but we were there for 3 hours and that was to long for me. The chairs were very uncomfortable and there wasn’t much room to move around. By the time we got up to leave I could hardly walk. We have been standing outside at schools all week and standing is hard on my back and hips. This dinner was the final straw. By the time I got home I was really in a lot of pain and it’s going to be a LONG night

We had so much fun talking to the school children before we gave the kits out to them.

Alan loved handing out the school kits to the kids.

It was such fun to see the look on the faces of the children when they received their very own school bags.

We loved this teacher and she loves her students. She will be retiring at the end of this year after 45 yeas of teaching. Her classroom was wonderful, full of color and happiness.

This is one of the nicest schools that we visited. They really have much more than most schools on the islands. They keep all of their supplies in these boxes.

Everywhere we went it was so blessed hot! The teachers always had coconuts for us to drink. I am adicted to coconut water now. It not only tastes good but it is really good for you and it quenches your thirst much better than water.

The Navy band was a hit at every location where they played. The school children especially loved them.

When the Navy band played, they would hand out simple instruments to the kids to play. This little boy took his over to a long and played along with every song. When the band was finished, the drummer went over and worked with this boy, encouraging him to keep learning. It was sweet to watch that interaction.

The people of the villages had a great time dancing with the military personel while the Navy band was playing.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

We watched the missionaries put their MRE lunches together. They have really improved those things and the missionaries loved them. It was a great change from the Tongan food that they eat every day.

We showed up at this clinic in Moua' at lunch time and the elders weren't to busy. The boxes contain the hygiene kits that they handed out and the other two elders are holding MRE's that the military gave the missionaries to eat for lunch.

Our missionaries worked at the various clinics, translating for the doctors. This is one of our missionaries and some of the nurses that he worked with.

Tuesday, June 18th

When we got to the office today we had 5 emails from home. Funny how that happens. We can go for weeks and not hear from anyone and then all of a sudden everybody writes on the same day. We are not complaining!! It is so good to hear from our friends and family and get caught up on the news. We had a huge day, so we weren’t in the office for long.

We went out to visit two schools today. The Navy ship brought pallets of school kits to be given out at the government primary schools. We were invited to do the presentations at the schools today. It was an amazing experience to be a part of these programs.

First the Navy captain explained a little bit about what they were doing here and then the military men and women played games with the school children for about an hour. They played soccer and rugby and field games. It was fun to watch the interaction of the military people with the kids. Most of them have left children at home for 3 months to serve in the South Pacific and they loved being with the kids.

Next, the Navy band showed up and played and sang some really fun songs. They got the kids involved playing simple instruments and dancing. They LOVED IT! When the band finished up they did the presentation. The Commodore talked first and then he turned it over to us. The looks on the faces of those sweet children was priceless. They were so thrilled to have a school kit all their own and the teachers and principal were overwhelmed and so grateful for such an important gift. They told us that they would make sure that the children took good care of everything and those supplies would last them for a long time.

Then we headed out to Mou’a to check on the medical clinic there. We found 4 of our elders working hard translating for the military people handing out hygiene kits. The elders said that they love being a part of this project. They have really enjoyed working with the military. They give them MRE’s to eat for lunch and it has been a fun experience for them. We saw some of that food today and it didn’t look bad at all. One elder was fixing a drink, just add water and shake and you have a chocolate milkshake. What’s not to like??

In the afternoon we headed to another village on the other side of the island and repeated the morning’s experience at a different school. This one was much smaller and much more in need than the first. While we were there we learned that a teacher had been transferred from another village to teach in this school. She couldn’t find housing in the village so she is living in one of the classrooms. Everyday we learn something new that amazes us.

We came home tired but uplifted. We feel so blessed to be able to be a part of this Pacific Partnership and to represent the Church in distributing school kits and hygiene kits. It brought back so many memories of putting those kits together in the Stake House back home. I know the time, the effort and the love that goes into getting them here. I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to hand them out personally. The Lord has been so generous with his blessings to us. These are memories we will cherish forever.

Alan with the Comodore, the Stake President and the Church Public Relations Manager. He's keeping pretty good company over here.

When the Navy Band showed up and started to play the kids got up and started dancing. They LOVED IT!!!

It was so much fun to watch the kids as they played.

The military men and women played games with the kids at each school for about an hour.

The students waiting for the presentation to begin. The kids in these primary schools are so cute, they really make me miss my grandkids!!

Monday, June 17th

Alan slept alright last night, but not great. His back is a little better but still very stiff. I got ready and went to the Monday Devotional. He stayed home and took his time getting ready. I made a rice pack for him on Saturday -- who would bring a hot pad to Tonga? He was sitting with that on his back when I got home from the devotional, so I went to work without him. It is such a blessing that our office is just across campus now. He came over later and did what he needed to do in the office. Today was Father’s Day in America and he received some great emails from the kids. Our kids are amazing and it is wonderful to see how much they love their dad. That really lifted his spirits.

I called Ying, the lady I go to for a massage and made an appointment for Alan. While he went in to take care of that, Ana and I went down to the dock to see if we could get a schedule of what is happening and when. We just happened to walk right up to the man with a written schedule so now we know when the LDS Charities items will be given out. That was not a coincidence, it was an answer to our prayers and another tender mercy. We would have been lost without this schedule and now we will be going to different primary schools Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Today we drove to the different village clinics to see how everything was going and there are hundreds of people showing up for medical check-ups everyday. It is great!!!

We also stopped at the hospital to talk to Sione about the prosthetics project. We didn’t have any idea what had been done here in the past and we are having a conference call on Wednesday with Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and the US to discuss doing a new project in Tonga. Diabetes is so prevalent here now that many people are losing their limbs to amputation. We want to keep as many of them out of wheelchairs as we can, especially the young.

When we got back to Liahona, Ana drove Alan over to the office so he could work for a few minutes and then we walked slowly home. I think he is doing a little better. He said that Ying really worked on his back but so far he doesn’t feel much different. Hopefully he will sleep well and things will be looser in the morning. We have a full day tomorrow and he wants to be back at work.

The clinic in Nukunuku did a lot of work with the children.

People waiting in line in Kolovai to get an eye exam.

There were huge crowds at the clinics today.

Sunday, June 16th

Alan had a much better night but he could hardly get out of bed this morning. He stayed home in bed and didn’t go to church today. Sister Mitchell and I borrowed the ITEP van and went into town at 8:00 to pick up the 5 members of the church that are on the ship and take them to church with us. When we got to the dock we found out that because the weather was so bad last night, the transport had not been able to return to the ship. That meant that all of the military people who worked on the island on Saturday were put up in hotels and were now on their way back to the ship. No one would be going to church with us. We were sad about that, we had really been looking forward to spending some time with the members of the church today. 

I just can’t get over how they do some things in Tonga. I’ve already written about how the High Councilmen don’t like to come to our ward and speak because they don’t like to speak in English. Well, this week was High Council Sunday. Our Bishop is in New Zealand and when the Executive Secretary got to church this morning he found a message on the answering machine. It said that the High Councilman couldn’t make it to church today. So they had to come up with speakers for Sacrament meeting which starts at 9:00. Two return missionaries spoke and then the Executive Secretary and the 1st Councilor. It was a good meeting but I can’t get over what a bad example the High Councilmen are setting for the rest of the Stake. It was probably a good thing that Alan wasn’t able to be there today, I’m sure they would have asked him to speak.

I taught the Sunday School class by myself today. The lesson was on “Obedience” so it wasn’t to hard. We have such good participation in our class that the time went by really fast. There were 10 people in our class and everyone was so worried about Alan. They are so kind, he was remembered in every prayer today

There was a lady visiting from Utah at church today. She is a grade school teacher from the Salt Lake area. Her husband died 2 years ago and she has always wanted to tour the South Pacific so she set up a schedule and here she is. She is traveling all alone and doing whatever she wants. Her plan was to stay in Tonga for 3 days, go to church here and to the temple. She seemed fine with traveling alone, but I sure couldn’t do that. What fun would it be to be all alone?

This evening we had a farewell dinner for President and Sister Tuku’afu. He will be released as our Mission President in two weeks. Sister Tuku’afu has been working so hard packing up their old home here in Tonga and preparing to move into a new home that their family has built for them. She wasn’t feeling well tonight and so she didn’t come. I really missed her, I love that sweet woman and I will miss her.

We gave the President a picture of our last missionary gathering that all of us had signed. He seemed pleased and said that he already knew where he would put it in his new home. Then he told us about his trip to Ha’api to attend a celebration commemorating the establishment of the first stake there 30 years ago. The Governor of Ha’api was there as well as other local government officials. The ministers from all of the other churches also attended. President Tuku’afu spoke about the first missionaries to arrive in Ha’api and that led naturally into an explanation of the Book of Mormon. Then he preached a powerful sermon about the church. I love that man, he has given his life to the Lord and he is fearless. By the time the feast that was held after the meeting was over the missionaries had given out 125 copies of the Book of Mormon to the people of Ha’api. The church is moving forward in Tonga!

Saturday, June 15th

Yesterday was a very stressful day, running all over this island trying to get things set up with the military people. They didn’t give us a schedule of where they were going to be or how much help they would need. They should have had a woman in charge, it could have been done so much better! Anyway, by the end of the day Alan’s leg was killing him and he was nerved up over the whole day. We are responsible to see that things go smoothly with this ship and they aren’t making it easy! Alan didn’t sleep well last night and this morning he just sat down and his back went out. He was in a lot of pain and he had a very bad day! I gave him some medicine and sent him back to bed.

Sister Mitchell and I drove out to the village clinics to check on the missionaries and to make sure that all of the needs were being met. We took more pictures and really had a good time. We also went down town and did some grocery shopping.

When we got home a couple of the senior missionaries had stopped by for different reasons and they found out that Alan was not doing well. Elder Szoka and Elder Bean came over this evening and gave him a blessing. I was so grateful! He just won’t ask for one and he really needed one. It was beautiful and the Lord truly knows Alan. He was told to use wisdom and go slowly, not to over do and to do everything in moderation. Hopefully that will sink in and he will follow the counsel and get better.

I did the laundry this morning so I was able to iron tonight and get everything ready for next week. It will be a big week! Alan is really frustrated, it is such a bad time for him to feel so awful.

Dr. Williams, the dentist who is working here now, came over and brought Alan some Aleve to take. He said that it works well on back problems. Alan took two and hopefully he will sleep better tonight.

These are the signs that are posted all over the island at the different events. I thought it was sad that they didn't mention the name of the church. But there were other donors too.

One of the dentists at the clinic in Nukunuku was a member of the church. We were able to spend a little time with him and he went to the temple with us on Thursday night. What a great young man!!

There was also an eye clinic at Kolovai, where they handed out glasses. Hundreds of people waited in line all day long to receive an eye exam and a pair of glasses.

The military were handing out the hygiene kits at the clinic in Kolovai. They told us how grateful they were to be a part of handing out these supplies to the people of Tonga who needed them so desperately.

We went to the dental clinic in Nukunuku. The nurses gave the school children some flouride tablets to chew.

Once the tablets are chewed, there is purple dye where ever there is plaque in your mouth.

I just loved this little boy, he was so darn cute! Look at all the plaque in his mouth!

Then one of the nurses taught them how to brush their teeth and their tongues.