Friday, September 27, 2013

Monday was an interesting day at the office. Elder Reynolds called from New Zealand and had a couple of questions about the project we submitted. He wanted us to change something in the budget so he had to decline the project in order for it to come back to us and then we could make the changes. When I went in to make the changes, I couldn’t. Instead of coming back “declined”, it came back “opened”. That meant that it was approved, which also meant that I couldn’t make any changes to the budget. I called Elder Reynolds and he was stumped. It has to go through 10 levels of approval before it can be “opened”. I told him it was a sign. This is a really good project that we have worked on for months and it should be automatically approved. He laughed but said that it didn’t work that way. He had to get in touch with Salt Lake to find someone there who can fix it and send it back. We need this straightened out ASAP because if the Area Presidency doesn’t look at it this week in their meeting, they will be gone for 2 weeks for General Conference. That will put us into the middle of October!!! Good Grief! Nothing is easy in Tonga!!!!!
We had a very interesting FHE this week. We had a guest apeaker. His name is Danny Vaie. He ia a Tongan serviceman who is here of leave , visiting his family. He is serving in Kwait. He told us about the church in the Middle East. It was very interesting. He told us about a visit from Elder Holland to organize a Stake in that area. One stake would include wards and “groups” in different countries.

Danny joined the army in America. He is a facilities manager, not an important officer. He had a great desire to shake Elder Holland’s hand while he was visiting there and prayed that that might happen. When Elder Holland arrived, Danny’s Stake President , a high ranking officer in the army, approached Danny and asked if he could make arrangements to be available to be Elder Holland’s driver while he was in Kuwait. It was an answer to Danny’s prayers and he was able to spend a lot of time with Elder Holland.

He also talked about the Muslim people who love the church, but can’t become members. They will be executed by either the government or their families if they do. They will have the opportunity in the next life to make that decision. It was an informative evening.


The young woman with the darling baby came back to our Sunday School class today but her live in boy friend didn’t. He said that he would come again so we will patiently wait. We can’t force him. She cried through most of the lesson. Her heart is so tender and she wants the gospel in her life so badly. It about breaks my heart to watch her go through this. Hopefully even if he isn’t interested in the church he will allow her to come and be active. We also had another young mother in class today. She is married to a returned missionary. He comes to church but he stands out in the church yard and talks to the other guys instead of coming into class. She has been totally inactive but she is a member of the church. It was good to meet her and have her in class today. We are at the end of the Gospel Principles book, talking about the Mellenium and the Final Judgement. Kind of heavy stuff to start out on. We will go back and start at the first in a couple of weeks and that will be better for these new ones. We are hoping we can get the older class members to the temple and then work with the new ones.
Saturday the 21st was a day of rest! Ooooo that felt good! We did make a quick trip into town but most of the day we just kicked back and relaxed. We had movie night and watched The Philidelphia Story with Kathryn Hepburn, Carry Grant and James Stewart. It’s a really old movie, but a good one. A good day!

I don't think I have ever posted pictures of our new car. We have had so much rain that we had to wait until the weather was nice enough to wash it.

We have really enjoyed this car and it has been a lot better on Alan's leg. It does eat a lot of gas though!

On Friday we worked all day in the office. We were determined to get the Ha’utu Project off. The Stake President finally stopped by and talked to us but he still didn’t have the answers that we needed. He promised that he would go right to his office and make some calls, then get back to us within an hour. (That was at 10:00 in the morning.) By 3:00 in the afternoon we still hadn’t heard from him so we just made our best guess and went ahead and submitted the project. You can only wait around so long and then you start going crazy! Now we start praying that it will be approved. We feel really good about it but you never know what everyone else will say.

On Thursday we had a meeting with the Church Public Relations Committee. We met with all of the Multi Stake Directors, the National Director and Elder Tukuafu. It was soooooooooooo helpful for us!! Brother Mataele, the National Director knows everyone in Tonga, or at least it seems like he does. We talked about the projects that we couldn’t get going because people won’t respond with what they are willing to contribute. After the meeting he got right on the phone and called Vava’u about our hospital project. They have not sent the list of prices for the equipment they requested. They told him they would have it to us by tomorrow!! He is also helping us on the Prevention Center Project. He knows the people who work there and he will make sure they contact us by next week. I guess Tonga is just like America. It’s all about who you know!!!
We went into Nuku’alofa on Wednesday the 18th, to attend a meeting about the Country Disability Policy. We were invited because we hand out so many wheelchairs in the Kingdom of Tonga. We were surrounded by very important and powerful people. The Minister of Health, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Internal Affairs were there. The meeting was put together by a delegation from the United Nations. They are trying to form a policy for the disabled throughout the Pacific. It was interesting to be a part of such an important meeting but by the time we were done we knew why government meetings never accomplish much. Everyone was trying to promote their own cause and get someone else to be responsible for doing the work. We were glad we were just observers. They need our wheelchairs and are willing to help us get them here and off the dock, but they didn’t really want any imput from a couple of palangis who are only here temporarily. So much for being important, we really weren’t.

We took Lavenia, a lady that we met at the meeting, back to Liahona with us. She was going to the temple. She has been the director at the disabled center here for 30 years. She donates her time and teaches classes to disabled children who can’t go to school. She is proud to be a decendent of Nephi and she told us that she has done work for 10,000 people in the temple. There has to be a special place for her in heaven. She is hoping that is true. She has spent her whole life living in poverty and giving of her time and talents to others. She has great faith and hopes that eternity will be a much better place for her.

We still didn’t get to submit our project because we haven’t heard back from

Elder Colson on our budget. FRUSTRATING!!!!!

We took a trip out to the village of Fa’ui to have a look at the night school for the children there. I took pictures.

These are the students that come to the night school. They are all in primary school and are willing to work hard twice a week to be able to pass the national test. It made my back hurt just looking at them writing on the floor.

When they hold town meetings in this hall, even the old people, older than us, sit on this cement floor. We have got to find some surplus chairs for this village!

Tuesday was a holiday in Tonga. It is the Crown Prince’s Birthday. We didn’t have to go into work but we had set up an appointment with a man in Fo’ui. He is trying to help the children in his village succeed in school. They go to the primary schools for grades 1 thru 6. At the end of the 6th year they have to pass a test in order to continue with their education. He said that the parents are very supportive of their children’s education when they are in primary school but once they are out of the 6th grade, that support really falls off. He thinks that it is because the parents are not educated and they can’t help their kids with their school work passed that level. If the kids don’t pass the test they have to repeat the 6th level or they drop out of school. If they drop out, you have kids 11 and 12 years old with nothing to do. They start getting in trouble, smoking and drinking and their future looks dim. He is trying to help all the children in the village pass the test. He has organized the village and they pay 2 teachers to come to the town hall and tutor the children on Wednesday and Thursday nights for 2 hours. They are paying the teachers 200 pa’anga a night, which is unbelievable. That is how committed he is to help. There are between 25 and 30 kids that come each night. They sit on a cement floor and bend over and write on the floor to take notes. He is asking for some tables and chairs. It about broke my heart to hear his story. I think about my grandkids at home with not only beautiful schools and desks, but they have computers and every advantage imaginable. Why are some children born into such poverty and others born into such ease???
Monday we were back in the office and things got interesting. I was looking for some pictures that the Dr. took for me at the dinner we had at the resort last week. I found an email from a health sight and thought they had arrived. WRONG!!! I opened it and it was an add for Dr. Oz. That started an ugly chain of events. Everyone on my contact list started getting strange emails. I tried to write and let people know what was happening but I couldn’t send them. I went in and changed my password but I am still having trouble with sending group emails. It is so frustrating! It isn’t a virus but it is a pain in the neck. If someone opens the email that came from me they will have the same problem, junk going to all of their contacts. OHHHHH the electronic age!!!

We are determined to submit our Ha’utu Water project this week. We keep waiting for people to finish up the last details but on Monday we decided to do it ourselves. We made a trip to Ha’utu and talked to the Town Officer. He is our champion for this project. Then we went to the Fahefa Primary School and found out who the principal is and got a phone number. Now we have all the information, we are just waiting for Elder Colson to approve the budget and I will hit “SUBMIT”. It takes forever to get these projected put together. It’s making me old before my time, oh wait, it is my time!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The weekend was kind of quiet and relaxing. I loved it!! We need one like that every once in awhile.

We had our dinner with the Mission President on Sunday evening. We had a soup and salad bar and then a dessert bar. It turned out great! We have some amazing cooks serving here. I made Taco Soup and it was gone! We fed 25 people. Paul Tupou, the President’s son who just got home from his mission, spoke after the dinner. He told us about his mission and some of the experiences he had. He is a very impressive young man and I’m sure he was a great missionary. He is very humble but from some of the things he told us, it was easy to see that he had many leadership positions and a lot of responsibility. His exit interview lasted all day long. He was leaving a newly formed mission with a new Mission President. I’m sure that Paul was a great help to him. He is very good looking and the girls over here are going crazy over him. He is hoping to go to school in Provo and try to play basketball. That is his love.

This is Paul Tupou, the Mission President's son. He is driving all of the girls over here crazy!! Not only is he good looking, he is one very sharp and spiritual young man.

On Friday we went back into town to meet with Dr. Mapa from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He had called and asked to meet with us. We didn’t know why we were meeting with him, but when he arrived he had 3 other people with him. One was the head of the Disabled People’s Organization, and the other two were from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.. They are visiting Tonga trying to link all of the policies and the suppliers in the different countries together so there won’t be any duplication and the whole process of helping the disabled will be more co-ordinated. The Church is one of the major players in helping the disabled because of the wheelchairs that we provide is so many countries. They want us to come to a meeting they are having next Wednesday, where they will be putting together a National Disability Policy. That is really humbling. Two unimportant people being invited to such an important meeting, working on a policy that will be implemented by the United Nations! We will be totally dependant on the Spirit that day!

We also met with Mele Folau today. She is our public relations person who has put together all of the volunteers for the Pacific Pharmacy Painting Project. She is amazing!! This is a huge project with 44 volunteers working together for 4 days. Most people would think that it is a lot of work and a lot of headaches. Not Mele. She is so excited about it and she has been working with the Town Officers and District Leader to organize everything. She can’t wait to do this project so she can go out and look for more to do. What energy and enthusiasm. We need more people like Mele in the church!

On our way home we stopped by the new office of the Special Olympics to drop off our gift of the computer to Viliami. He was so thrilled and grateful to receive it. We just hope that it will work for many years for him and we know that it will because he has such great faith. He is a member of the Church of Tonga and his wife is a member of our church, but she is not active. We are hoping that our helping him will soften his heart and he will be more interested in the church. He will not allow any of the athletes to smoke, drink or drink Kava, so he is already on the right path. Today I wanted so much to do more to help him. When we got back to Liahona I went over to the FM and talked to Silongo about letting us have a desk and file cabinet to give to him. Hopefully we can have them by next week. It will be such fun to stop by and give him something he didn’t even ask for. That is what makes our job fun. The joy we feel being an instrument in the Lord’s hands to help His children who really need to feel of His love.

Alan, Viliami and one of the men that helps out at the center. There are awards and medals on the table. We are hoping to be able to do more to help at this center.

Ana and Alan handing over the computer to Viliami, the director of the Special Olympics Center.

On Thursday we went to meet the man who is over the Special Olympics for Tonga. He works with disabled athletes and helps the best ones get to the Olynpics. He has had a job with the Red Cross and then just did this on the side, but now he is giving up his job and going into this full time. It is volunteer work and he will not get paid. Alan asked him how he was going to live. His answer was, “by faith”. He has some land in the bush where he will grow his food and now he will have the time to go out and look for the funding they need to keep this program running. He asked us for a computer. We never have surplus computers that are good enough to give away but this week we did. His faith is working! I hope we can find other ways to help him. He is so dedicated to helping these young people who really need him. WOW, there are some great people in this world!

I had a truly disgusting experience today. On the way home from town we were driving through the bush. We saw some cars lining the road and because the roads are so narrow we had to slow down to get passed them. I looked over and saw a cow down on its side kicking it’s legs and I thought it was having a calf. WRONG!!! The man leaning over it was at the wrong end. He was cutting it’s throat! There was blood everywhere and the cow was struggling. I almost lost my lunch!! It was awful. I could have gone my whole mission without seeing that.

We found out today that Sister Meyers, the new senior missionary from Idaho, just lost her father. They knew when they left the states that he would not live long and she has been in constant contact with her sisters, but it is still hard to lose your father. It has been a very hard day for her. I wish there was something I could do to help her but I know there really isn’t. I feel so helpless.

There was a bud on the Olympic Caldron for each country that participated in the Special Olympic in London. When the games were over, each country received their bud as a gift. This is the one that came to Tonga.

This was on the back of the torch. It also said "Tonga" but I couldn't get it all.

On Wednesday, the 11th, we hosted a dinner for 33 Heart Surgeons from Australia. They have been in Tonga doing humanitarian work for 2 weeks. They come every two years and do life saving surgeries for the people of the islands. They bring all of their own machines and use the new hospital wing to do the surgeries. This year their youngest patient was a 2 day old baby! If they hadn’t been here when she was born, she would have died. Now she should live a normal, heathy life. What a gift they give!! They are able to do about 30 surgeries while they are here and then people start getting screened for their next visit. It is socialized medecine in Tonga so it is all free to the Tongans. The Dr’s pay their own way here and they love coming. They told us that Tonga is their favorite place to go because the people are so friendly and appreciative. We had a great evening with them and they seemed to really enjoy themselves.

We took them to a resort on the western side of the island. They have a great meal and then a traditional Tongan floor show. We were impressed with the meal. They had a good variety of food. We ate a little bit of everything except the raw fish salad and the octopus. I had a Tongan Dr. sitting next to me and she loves octopus. When Alan and I didn’t have any, she asked for our share and then thanked us for not having any. She had ½ a plate full of those creepy things. I hate the way those tenicles look back at you ---YUCK! They also had the traditional pig. We watched a Tongan man go back for seconds and come back with the head. I still can’t believe that they eat the heads!

The floorshow was lots of dancing from the different islands of the South Pacific. At the end they did several fire dances. They were amazing! I had a lot of trouble with my camera. It just stopped on me and I knew that I had a full battery. I took the battery out and then put it back in to see if that would make it work. It did, but for some reason I lost every picture that was stored on my camera! I wanted to cry. I had most of them copied onto my computer but not all of them. Especially the ones that I had taken earlier in the evening. I asked one of the doctors that had a nice camera if he would email some of his pictures to me. He said yes and I am praying that he does because I have to write this up and pictures make it so much better. Also, I want to put some on the blog.

The fire dances we saw tonight were amazing! My camera went crazy and I lost everything I had stored on it. I took these after the tragedy.

These are the only two good pictures I got after my camera went off. I did get some great video though. It will be fun to watch when we get home.

Tuesday the 10th of September was the arrival date for the first huge batch of missionaries into our mission. We welcomed 33 today. Wow, what a great group of young men. There were 18 in the first group that were from Utah, 2 from Idaho, one from Califirnia and one from Arizona. We went over to the Mission Home to help feed them. It is just to much to ask of our Mission Mother to expect her to do all of this alone. The senior couples all pitched in and helped her cook a dinner of fried chicken, cole slaw, potatoes and rice. We also had rolls and watermellon. They ate a TON!! They are all going to go into shock tomorrow, coming out of the MTC with all that food and then this wonderful dinner tonight. From here on out it will be very different but they are excited and ready to go. It was wonderful to see and feel their enthusiasm. We can’t help but wonder what the people at the airport thought when they saw all of those young men in suits get off the plane. IT’S GREAT!!! I took pictures of them but my camera is going crazy and I lost everything!!!

Some of the trees in Tonga are very unusual. We see these all over, especially here at Liahona.

It doesn't grow leaves, it grows moss. Usually there are one or two flowers on the very tip of some branches, but it has been really windy and they all blew off.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The first of the week started out pretty calm, I am trying to get all of my ducks in a row to submit the Ha’utu Water Project. The finances on these projects just scare me to death. This one and the painting project are ready to go now and the budgets just have to be right. I guess if we go over budget the worst that can happen is that they will send us home. That won’t be a punishment, we just found out today that Dave and Alisha are GOING TO HAVE A BABY!!! We received a cute picture of Parx with a note beside him that said, “I’m going to be a big brother!” We are so thrilled and couldn’t be happier. Except for the fact that the baby is due in March, two months before we get home. So close, but we will still miss it. Oh my heart! We just have to remember how blessed our family is and then it is all worth it.
FHE this week was done by the Dasslers. They had gone into the new LDS video about the prophets and put together a quiz. We had to identify each prophet, choose which one certain life experiences described, guess what food was their favorite and then try to pick which testimony went with each one. It was interesting, informative and challenging. A great idea.
Our Sunday School class was extra special today. We talked about the Plan of Salvation. We had a young couple there today that the Hamala’s brought with them. We are wondering if Vince, the young man, is their son. They didn’t say and we didn’t ask. They are a great young couple with a baby that is 4 days younger than our baby, Grace. I wanted to eat her up!! She has a head of thick black curly hair and she was beautiful. During the lesson as we were talking about the importance of the Atonement, repentance and how much our Heavenly Father loves us with an unconditional love, Alan asked them how much they loved their baby and what they wanted for her in this life. The mother started to cry and told us that they are not married and that she wanted a better life for her daughter than what she was living. She is a member of the church but she has made a lot of mistakes and now she is trying to find her way back. We aren’t sure about Vince, if he is a member or not. We were able to testify about the blessing of repentance and the power of the Atonement. She seemed to sit there and soak it all in. We aren’t to sure about what his feelings were, but when the class was over he said that he would be back next week. Tongan’s are known for saying what they think you want to hear, so we aren’t sure if we will see him again or not, but we are praying that we will. We would love to be able to fellowship them, help them get on the right path and find the happiness that they are searching for. That precious baby girl deserves a mother and a father who love her and who love God. I am so grateful that all of our grandchildren have that security and love in their lives. We take so much for granted. How blessed we are to have the gospel in our lives and know who we are, where we came from, why we are here and where we can go if we are faithful. Thank heaven for the Gospel!
Alan and I both woke up early on Saturday, the 7th. Probably because we ate so much spicy food so late last night. The party started at 6:00 but we didn’t eat until 8:30 and we had dessert at 9:30. That is way too late for us. Now I know why all of the Tongans are so heavy. They eat way to late at night! Anyway, since we were awake we decided to get up and go into the fair and see if the ship has come with new stuff. We found a few things we needed. Alan found some razor blades that he has been needing. He is cutting himself all the time with the last ones he bought here. That was a great relief. Tiff is sending us a package with our new sandals in it and now we know what we need her to put in the box with them. If it takes two months for it to get here, we need her to get it off so it will arrive before it gets to hot.

It was our movie night tonight. Most of the couples had the Saturday night session of Stake Conference, so we thought they would want to cancel movie night. No way!! We just had it a little later. We watched Calamity Jane with Doris Day. I haven’s seen that movie in over 30 years. It was a fun one and everyone enjoyed it. I made some thin mint cookies to take. I found some Ritz crackers this week and I brought some mint flavoring. We have chocolate chips right now so I decided to splurge and made a fun treat. They were a big hit, it was worth it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

We had a High Priest party this weekend and the men cooked dinner for their wives. Cesi knew that it would be a long time before dinner would be served, so she made some appitizers. The ones that look like onion rings are actually fried squid. I didn't know that until after I had tried one. They were really good, but then just about anything battered and deep fat fried tastes good. We also had wantons, watermellon and bananas. We didn't eat until 8:30 so these treats were needed.

I watched closely to make sure that they were washing the chicken. They washed it alright, but not in filtered water, this house didn't have a filter. It all worked out, they boiled it for over an hour. We were safe.

The men even made fresh salsa from scratch. They really got into this part and made sure that everything was "finely chopped". It turned out very well, I got the recipe.

We had pineapple upside down cake for dessert. It was fun to watch these two put it together. They were so careful and wanted it to look just right when it was done.

While dinner was cooking, everyone gathered in the living room to do a little singing.

On Friday the 6th of September, we spent the day in Nuku’alofa. We have been working on a project to restock the emergency container here in Tonga. It is in really sad shape right now and if there was a disaster we would not be able to offer much help to anyone. There is very little in it but we are learning that when you store things in a container that sits out in the sun in Tonga all summer and then goes through the rainy season with all the mold and mildew, you have to be careful what you store in it. We had to throw so much away from the last time it was filled. They need to find a way to rotate things. It is so expensive to restock it, we can’t afford to let things go to waste.

Alan was almost physically ill as we did the window shopping to get a price list for the budget. 1 wheelbarrow costs $591.00, a push broom is $57.00, a mop bucket - on sale - is $125.00 and the one that got Alan the most was one of those 2 gallon, red gas containers, that you use to fill up the lawnmower, was $80.00 ---EMPTY!!! We can not figure out how the people here do it. Now we know why the farmers don’t have wheelbarrows. They put their crops in big cloth bags and carry them or hold them in front of them on a bicycle as they ride down the road. On the way out of the store, Alan stopped to look at a lawnmower. It was a rear bagger mower that Alan thought would have cost about $300.00 at home. Here it is $2,290.00! We only have $25,000.00 to work with on this project. We are going to have to be pretty creative to get all of the items we need for that amount of money.

Friday night we went to a High Priest Party at the Kaufisi’s. Sonny is the High Priest group leader so he decided that the High Priests should have a dinner for their wives. The men were to do all of the cooking and the women were to just show up and relax. It really turned out to be that way, except for Sonny’s wife Cesi. With all of those men in her kitchen, she stayed right in the middle of them and made sure they knew what they were doing. We had chicken curry with rice and salsa and pineapple upside down cake. Everything was delicious! The men here are very good cooks and Alan and President Tu’itavake did a great job with the dishes. While the food was cooking they sang karaoke songs in the living room. Tongan’s have good voices, so that turned out pretty good too. We had 3 investigators come. Two of them were men and they came right in the kitchen and helped. It was a good activity.

When we got home there were two dances going on. Two wards had a dance at Liahona because it is their Stake Conference this weekend and there was a YSA dance at the Nauvoo church across the street. The music is SOOOOO LOUD!!! It sounded like all of them were playing right on our front lawn until 11:30 pm. Funny, but we are getting used to that. They don’t have a lot of things to do here, no movie theaters and no one has much money, so there is always a church dance going on nearby. This week is the school break for a whole week, so there was a dance in the village behind our house on Thursday night and then 2 tonight.

The Chicken Curry with rice. They really loaded up the plates and it was pretty spicy. We asked for a little smaller portion. It turned out great, those men can cook!

Not only did the cake look great, it was delicious!

When the party was over, the men acturally got Cesi's kitchen back in good shape.

On Wednesday the 4th, the Kaufusi’s, one of the couples in our ward, invited us to their house for dinner. Sister Mitchell went with us. They had made lasagana and it was wonderful. It tasted soooooo good to us!! They have both spent a lot of time in America and they are both great cooks. She even sells some of her cakes to the Nobles and Royalty here for their special occasions. They are a wonderful young couple, somewhere in their 30’s and they have one little boy named Henry. He has a new puppy named Charlie that he let me hold and play with. That felt good!! I took a banana cake for dessert and Sister Mitchell took some ice cream. We had a great visit after dinner and a really enjoyable evening.

On Wednesday the 4th, the Kaufusi’s, one of the couples in our ward, invited us to their house for dinner. Sister Mitchell went with us. They had made lasagana and it was wonderful. It tasted soooooo good to us!! They have both spent a lot of time in America and they are both great cooks. She even sells some of her cakes to the Nobles and Royalty here for their special occasions. They are a wonderful young couple, somewhere in their 30’s and they have one little boy named Henry. He has a new puppy named Charlie that he let me hold and play with. That felt good!! I took a banana cake for dessert and Sister Mitchell took some ice cream. We had a great visit after dinner and a really enjoyable evening.

We met with Howard Niu this week to go over the list to update the emergency container for Tonga. We have it stored here at Liahona and it is almost empty. It is a real challenge to know what we can safely store in a small, dark place like that, that gets so incredibly hot in the summer and is subject to mold and mildew. All of those things present their own challenges. It will take a few days to come up with a list to submit, but it is something that needs to be done before a natural disaster hits this island.

While we were working on the list, Howard told us a wonderful story. Back in the early 90’s when they had the last really bad cyclone go through here, all of the power lines went down and there was no electricity on the island, except at Liahona. The King has a residence on the west side of the island and he was driving into the Palace in the evening. The island was totally dark until he came to Liahona. The lights were on in the houses, the Service Center and the Temple was all lit up. He told his driver, “This is what we need to do. We need to be prepared, like the Mormons.” When the Liahona campus was built, all of the power lines were put under ground, trees cannot knock them down. We have our own generators here and they are constantly upgraded and repaired so that if the power goes off it usually takes about 10 - 12 seconds to get power back up. What a blessing that the church thinks so far ahead and is prepared for whatever might happen, in every country.

Our FHE on Monday, September 2nd, turned out really well. We finally found the video we have been searching for on the history of Tonga. Eric Shumway put it together years ago and it tells about King Tupou I giving the land of Tonga and the people of Tonga to God. It shows so much of Tonga and the people here, tells the history in a way you can follow it and understand it, and the spirit is strong in the presentation. Even though it doesn’t say anything about the church, it wasn’t here at that time, it shows how the King loved God and the people of Tonga love God. Everyone really enjoyed it. We are glad that our turn is over!!!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

September, 2013

There weren’t many people at church today. It was too cold for them! (68 degrees when we left the house) Really??? We just had to smile. It feels so good to us. It is fast Sunday today and I have been fasting for my brother Jim. I asked Greg to go to Temple Square and fill out the card to send the missionaries to visit him. We requested that they send a Tongan Missionary. I am praying that something will soften his heart and he will have a desire to change and listen to their message. I know if he will give up the bad habits that have been holding him down, he will find peace in his life and the joy that Heavenly Father wants all of his children to experience. I love him with all of my heart and want so much for him to be part of our eternal family. We feel that way about all of our extended family and pray that our serving this mission will draw down the blessings of heaven upon them and their families.

Our Mission President and his family put on a musical fireside tonight. It was for members and investigators. They are a very musical family and Elder and Sister Hamblin, who just arrived from Alaska and are good friends of theirs, are also really talented. There was a quartet of Tongan men that sang and President and Sister Tupou’s son Paul, who just returned from his mission to Brazil on Thursday, also sang. It was a spiritual night of beautiful music and testimonies. The highlight of the evening for me was the testimony of Liu ‘Akau’ola. She is a young mother who was in our ward when we went to church at Liahona. She has 5 children of her own and she has adopted 18 others! They are raising 23 children, giving them a chance to go to school at Liahona, and preparing them to serve on missions. 3 of them are in the missionary prep class right now, 2 are on missions and at least one is going to school at BYU Hawaii. It is just as amazing story.

She was raised by her grandmother in Texas. When she was in her early 20’s she came to Tonga and met her husband, Siope ‘Akau’ola. They were married in the church of Tonga. Her grandfather was a preacher in that church and that was the church she was raised in. Siope also grew up in that church. She said that she had everything a young Tongan woman could want, a husband, a house, transportation, clothes and food. But still she did not feel peace. Her husband would go with the other men of the Church of Tonga and get drunk every Friday night. When they had children she told him that she couldn’t live that way any longer. He needed to stop drinking or she was going to leave him. He didn’t want his marriage to end, but that is what the men of the church did. All of them, even the minister, got drunk on Friday nights. The next Friday night he was walking to meet the men and he walked by one of our church houses. The men were all outside cooking food and the women and children were playing on the yard. He saw two of his children there, playing with the others. Tears started to run down his face as he saw those happy families. He turned around and walked back home. He told his wife he knew which church was true and he was going to join the Mormon Church. She told him that he couldn’t do that, his family would disown him. That did not stop him. He found the missionaries, quit drinking and joined the church. She, on the other hand would not join the church because of the trouble it would cause in her family. As her children got older she took them to church with her and made up excuses as to why their dad didn’t go with them. They would always have to wait for him before they could eat on Sundays, because their meeting lasted an hour but his lasted 3 hours. One Sunday she realized that she was lying to her children about where their father was and teaching them to lie. She made the decision to join the church. She had seen her husband change and she knew it was because of the gospel. Her family disowned her, which was devastating, but she found the peace that she had been searching for. They have been members for 11 years now. They live on the Liahona campus because Siope is a teacher. They have seen many senior couples
come and go. Liu told her husband that she wanted to serve a mission when their children are all grown and gone. He told her that you never know what way the winds of life might blow. They had better do all they could do to send others on missions and hope that one day they could go together. So that is what they have done and are doing. Many of those children were not members of the church when they were taken in by this amazing couple. But eventually they all have joined the church. Eventually a brother or a sister of one of their adopted children will come to stay with them for awhile. They will join the church, get adopted and move on in their education and go on a mission. Even some of the original parents have softened their hearts and joined the church. There has to be a special place in heaven for this couple. What an example they are to us!
It rained HARD all day on Saturday. We made a quick trip into town to go to the US Mini-Mart. Their shipment from America arrived and we wanted to stock up on a lot of things. I bought 3 packages of chocolate chips! I hope I can make them last. I also bought a 3 lb package of walnuts. It cost me $45.00!!! It still takes my breath away just to think about it, but in the end it is cheaper than having someone ship them from America. The owner of the store told us that he buys a case of Shasta in America for $4.00. He has to pay to ship it here and then it costs him $8.00 a case to get is off the dock. He has to add his profit to that total cost to make any mony, so pop here is VERY EXPENSIVE. The government makes more money on his food than he does and he does all the work. It really is sad and just about impossible for the people here to get ahead. He spent $50,000.00 to buy food in America, $5,000.00 to ship it here, $22,000 pa’anga duty to get it off the dock and we spend hundreds of dollars a week to buy it and eat it. I am going to go crazy in the grocery store when I get home and I used to complain about the cost of food there.

Saturday, the 31st of August is the last day of winter in the South Pacific. Somehow that just doesn’t sound right to me. I have been enjoying the cooler weather. Today it was actually down in the 60’s. People were bundled up in heavy winter coats. We did pull out our jackets but mostly because it was raining, it wasn’t that cold. I hope this cooler weather stays around for awhile. I know eventually we have a long HOT summer to look forward to.

The most important thing about today is that it is Addy’s Birthday!!!! What a precious little grand daughter she is. She is growing and changing so much and she is at such a fun age. She is really excited about her birthday. Her mom said that she chose Carl’s Jr. for her birthday dinner. (because she likes the slides there) We will call her tomorrow night, on her birthday in America, and find out what she ate and how she liked it. She is still at the age where she doesn’t have much to say on the phone but we want to sing to her and tell her how much we love her. We don’t want her to forget us!!!

On Friday we had a special dinner at the Liahona Gym. We were invited by some of the students that used to be in our Sunday School class to come and see what they were doing for their final grades in a Commercialism and Tourism class. The students, under the direction of their teachers, put on the whole evening. They served us a lovely meal. We started with a meat slider served with a mushroom sauce, then a plate of fruit and breads, next was the main course, a stuffed chicken breast, beef chow main, a crab salad and oofi (a root vegetable like a potato) served with dollar rolls and butter. For desert we had cake and ice cream. It was a Tongan meal, way more than we could eat, but really good food and well prepared. The rest of the night was full of entertainment and they did a fantastic job! Dances from all of the South Pacific islands were performed and the MC’s did a great job of tying it all together. It was a fun night and we really enjoyed watching the students that we have come to love put together such an amazing experience. We gave them all an A+.

These young women served us and they all did a great job, not only taking care of our food needs but also making sure that we were having a good time.

This is the table where we sat. There were over a hundred parents and guests served at this dinner.

This was the whole group as the party came to an end. What a fun night!

These are the teachers of the classes that put on the dinner and the entertainment. They are both so much fun! Great women.

This is our sweet Tapika, a student from Figi that was in our Sunday School class when we taught the youth at Liahona. These are her adoptive parents. Remember them, I will tell their story in my Sunday entry.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sister Tukuafu, our first mission mother, and her children. He son danced in the entertainment. It is amazing to watch the young men dance!

On Thursday, President Haleck of the Area Presidency, came to Tonga. He is here to visit the mission and to reorganize a stake. We met with him for a fireside on Thursday night. He is from Samoa and his wife is originally from Utah. They met at BYU. (Everyone is a graduate of BYU! We need more Aggie senior couples in the mission field!!!) They both spoke and they are so down to earth and genuine. She spoke about what an influence her grandmother had been in her life and how important it is for us as grandparents to stay close to our grandchildren and make sure that they know where we stand and what we believe. President Haleck spoke about the importance of senior missionaries and the blessings that are promised. He told us that “The Lord remembers his faithful servants. He will be aware of your children and your grandchildren. Consider this a Celestial experience. Look for little bits of heaven in your mission every day. If you do your part and serve faithfully in the Lord’s Kingdom, the Lord will remember what you have sacrificed.” We were able to spend some time visiting with both of them after the meeting. It was a wonderful way to end the day.

What a great group of senior missionaries! President and Sister Haleck are in the middle, with President and Sister Tupou next to them.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Alan was assigned a sister in our ward to home teach, so we went to visit with her on Wednesday, the 28th. She only lives two or three miles from us so we didn’t have to drive all the way into town. We were so surprised when we walked into her home. It is beautiful!! Very much like what you would see in America. She has lovely furniture and beautiful art work hanging on all of the walls. The walls are painted a soft green color and she has accent pillows on her couch and love seat. It was very comfortable, much nicer than any other home we have been in in Tonga. Her name is Nita and she is Ana’s sister. (Ana, the lady we work with in the Welfare Office) We had a nice visit with her and learned so much about her and her family. She has one son and he is serving a mission in Atlanta, Georgia right now. She is not married but she didn’t tell us if she is a widow or if she is divorced and we didn’t ask. She is in the Stake Relief Society Presidency so we don’t see her at church every week. They spend a lot of time visiting other wards. She hasn’t had a home teacher for a long, long time so she was thrilled that we would come. It will be a good experience for us and hopefully for her.

When we got into the office on Monday, the 26th, it was a complete turn around from last week. Last week we spent way to much time waiting on other people, but this week things really took off. The Bishop and Stake President from Ha’utu came in to see us. We have been waiting for this bishop for about 2 weeks. We found out that our Fahefa Water Project is actually the Ha’utu Water Project. The Fahefa Government Primary School is actually located in the village of Ha’utu, which is right across the street from the village of Fahefa. Who knew??? Anyway, we got that all straightened out and they were able to answer all of our questions. Now I have all the information that I need to enter it in CHAS and submit it for approval. YEA!!!
I got an email from the Stake that is helping us with the Central Pharmacy project and they have put everything together for the painting of the pharmacy. Now we need to get the bids for the paint and supplies and then we can submit that project too. The next email was from the Dr. at the hospital about the information I needed to put a project together for the Health Promotion Unit. We still have a little ground work to do on that one but we will soon have all we need for that project too. When it rains it pours!!! All of a sudden we have three projects to submit. That worries me a little, I don’t want them all going in at the same time. It might hurt our chances of getting them passed.
Church on Sunday the 24th was fun. I was “glowing“!! I told them that this is what you look like when you are on fire with the Gospel. One of the men in our Sunday School class talked in Sacrament Meeting. He quoted the scripture in Eather12:27, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble.” Then he told about how this scripture has changed his life and how overcoming his weaknesses has brought him closer to Christ. It was amazing, first that the people here are so open with sharing what has happened in their lives and second how far he has come and how strong his testimony is because of the journey. Every week I love these people more. Which is hard because one of them is moving out of the ward. Paulae, the man that translates for us when people do speak in Tongan, is moving across the island and will be attending a ward out there. He is a stalwart in this ward. He comes to everything and he is always on time to church. He holds a Stake calling. He will really be missed, especially by us!

I heard another fun pig story today. One of the ladies in our ward went to the outer islands with the King and Queen this last week. It was in honor of “Agricultural Days” for the islands. The King visited all the islands and attended produce fairs. On one island there are very few cars. Everything that was available was used to transport the King, Queen, Prime Minister and their party to the port to catch the ferry to the next island. It was a LONG ways away and the only way for Ana and the others to get there was to walk. Suddenly a large truck came along the road and stopped to offer help. It was transporting the “Royal Pigs”, two huge pigs that were being given to the King and Queen. The driver offered Ana and the Nobles and Chiefs that were walking with her, a ride to the dock. They climbed in the bed of the truck with the pigs and off they went. She said it made her think about how the Lord is no respecter of persons. There were common villagers, Nobles and Chiefs all in the back of that truck with the King's pigs. She related that to how when we go to the Temple, no one knows if the person sitting next to them is common or important. We are all doing the same work and your station in life, how much money you have or what you look like doesn’t matter to the Lord. He loves us all unconditionally. I am grateful that I know that.

Some of the senior couples went whale watching. This is the boat that we went out on. It was a perfect day and we had an amazing experience!

We stopped for a quick picture in front of Sam's Deep Blue Diving business before we boarded the boat.

Alan decided to "captain the ship" while Sam looked for the whales.

One last shot of the Palace as we pulled out of the harbor.

Sam, the man who owns the boat we were on, is standing at the front of the boat looking for whales. He is very experienced and he is always able to find the whales and then get very close to them. He is the best guide in Tonga.

This weekend was one of the highlights of our time here. We went whale watching. WHAT FUN!!! It was a beautiful day and we were able to see several whales. They tell us they aren’t as big here as they are in other places, but they were plenty big and beautiful. There were some young people who went with us and they went swimming with the whales. They were able to swim with a mother and her calf, which is very unusual. The mother usually takes a calf away when a boat is in the area. They got some amazing pictures.

It was a long day and Alan and I both got a little sea sick. I did fine until there was no land in sight and then when we pulled up beside a whale the boat would go over it’s own wake and really rock. There was nothing to focus on that wasn’t moving and my vertigo started to kick in. We left shore at 10:00 and didn’t get back until almost 4:00. I did alright until about 2:30 so it wasn’t too bad. It was worth it, what an experience! On the way home I layed down in a recliner on the back deck and went to sleep. My sun screen had worn off by then and I got a pretty good sun burn. It wasn’t to painful but you can sure pick me out in a crowd!

Our first sightings were kind of far away. Eventually we were able to get much closer to them.

Gradually everyone came out on deck to watch for the whales.

We found a mother and her calf. They were very hard to get close to at first, but with time the mother began to trust that we were't going to hurt her baby and she let us get a little closer. It is amazingly hard to get a good picture of whales. They are up and down so fast.

We don't know if this is the father of the calf, but he was swimming not to far off and seemed a little protective. He was huge!

We had several young people on the boat with us and they went out to swim with the whales. In this picture they were swimming right on top to the mother and her calf.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Things at work this week have been a game of hurry up and wait. We are still waiting for the Bishop from Fahefa to come in and give us the details so we can submit that water project. Alan saw the Stake President and he said that the village has been without water 4 times this week alone. What constitutes an emergency with these people? If they would do their part we will do all we can to help them but we can’t do it for them!!!

Sister Uai “Y”, is still not back from Hawaii, so the hygiene training is sitting in our office, waiting to for her to return so we can get started. I’m really glad that we didn’t start it before she left, we would have lost all of our momentum.

Elder Fasom left Tonga to return to Logan, Utah today. He was one of the AP's and a really good missionary. We will all miss him but luckily he lives close by and we will see him again when we get home. Plus he is an Aggie, not a Cougar!! Elder Jenkins and Elder Williams, who was also an AP, are also Aggies and will be going to school at USU this fall. It just goes to prove our point, we have lots of good missionaries here that will be Cougars, but the VERY BEST ones, are Aggies!!!

On Monday and Tuesday we went to the airport and picked up new Senior Missionaries. Sister Kinikini is a single sister who is here to serve in the Tonga Temple. This is her 8th mission!! Her husband died suddenly when he was 50 and she has spent many years dedicating her life to serving the Lord. She has 10 children. She is amazing! This is her 3rd mission to Tonga. She is Tongan and was born and raised here. Her last mission was in Nauvoo. She knows the Young’s from Smithfield and the Ward’s that we stayed with when we were in Nauvoo. It’s a small world!

We also picked up the Meyers. They are from Rexberg, Idaho. They live about 1 mile away from our friends, Buddy and Cheryl Calderwood. He told us that Buddy is like a brother to him and Buddy and Alan grew up together. Once again, a small world!

We have a great group of senior missionaries serving in Tonga now and there is still one more couple that will be arriving this Saturday. The Hamblins will be working in the mission office. They are from Alaska and they are good friends of President and Sister Tupou. In Alaska, Elder Hamblin was the Stake President and President Tupou was one of his councilors. They are planning to stay in Tonga for 3 years and work with the Tupous. They will be a great blessing to the mission and to Tonga.

Sister Kinikini is going to be so much fun. She loves life and her happiness is contagious.

Elder and Sister Meyer with President and Sister Tupou. They Meyers are from Idaho!!! They have to be great people!

I called the Forsyths, the senior couple in Vava’u, on Tuesday the 20th to see if their children had made it safely home. “NO!!” They were forced to fly on the new plane because there is no other way off of the island. Their plane was to leave Vava’u at 4:00 on Monday so they arrived at the airport at 2:45 to check in. The plane had taken off early --- WITHOUT THEM!! There are 8 of them! No phone calls, no explainations, they had simply missed the plane. The next flight did not leave until Tuesday morning, which meant they missed their connecting flight to America. When I talked to Sister Forsyth she was a wreck. They were sitting at the airport waiting for the plane to arrive. It had started out from Tonga in the morning, but had turned around because of heavy rain. ( It is a big plane, capable of flying in heavy rain, but it is being flown by inexperienced pilots). She said that if the plane was not able to pick them up and get them into Tonga by 4:00 in the afternoon, they would miss their connecting flights again and the next flights out would be on SATURDAY!!
Good news, the plane went back to Vava’u, they made their flight and arrived safely in Tonga just in time to make their connecting flight to Fiji. They are now safely home. Whew---- When I talked to Sister Forsyth again she was ready to collapse. That was quite a strain on her, knowing she was putting all of her children in a plane that the church has told us not to fly on. They had no choice, so they prayed together as a family and put their trust in the Lord. From now on they won’t fly in it.

Monday, August 19th is MIKE’S BIRTHDAY!! How grateful we are to have that young man in our family! He is amazing. He has made Kimi so happy and we are touched each time we see or hear him interact with Grace. It is easy to see how much he loves those two. A great husband and daddy, Yes! Kimi did good!!!

This was another hard day for mom and dad in Tonga. Bryan was sustained as the 1st Councilor in his Bishopric today in Farmington. It is just so hard not to be there to support him and for Alan not to be able to stand in the circle to set him apart. Those are such choice moments in a parents lives and it takes my breath away each time we miss one. I know the Lord understands the feelings of our hearts and we are grateful for the peace we feel as we continue our important work here. We know that Bryan will be a great blessing to his ward. He is so capable and the members will love him as they get to see a little more of his true personality. He is a lot like his dad in that way, he doesn’t like to be in the lime light and people are surprised when they see how funny he really is. Bryan is also very thoughtful and caring, this will give him many opportunities to reach out and help others. He will be a great example for the youth of that ward. We know this calling will be a great blessing in his life and it will bring many blessings into his family. We are so thankful that our children are faithful and worthy to accept new church responsibilities. Once again, I am counting my blessings!!

Things have gotten interesting lately in Tonga. On Friday we watched a news cast that said that the two smaller planes in Tonga, the ones that we are still allowed to fly on, have been grounded. There is a crack in the body of the big one and the smaller one has something wrong with it’s wing. They are out of commission until further notice. We talked to Howard Niu about it at our devotional this morning and he told us there is a lot of politics going on here. The airline is trying to force everyone to take the new plane, to ptove that it is safe. Well, the church will not be forced, so they are chartering a plane from Fiji or Saoma to fly the church leaders up to Vava’u for their Stake Conferences. If the two smaller planes are out of commission and the church doesn’t fly on the big one, Real Tonga Airlines will be in financial trouble in the very near future. The church probably provides half of the airline’s business, flying church leaders and missionaries from island to island. The missionaries will be stuck on the boat, the poor things, and the church will make other arrangements for the leaders. This could get interesting.

These new restrictions have already affected out work. It has effectively cancelled our Dental project until something is worked out and it will severely effect our Vava’u Hospital project. Our hands are tied until a safe plane is available in Tonga.

On Sunday the 18th, Heneli, the young man that just went through the temple, spoke in Sacrament Meeting. He did an amazing job. He was so thrilled with his trip to the temple and he did an amazing job of putting his feelings into words. He has such a strong testimony for a man that has only been a member a year. He is determined to help his family become members of the church and everyone else that he meets along the way. It is wonderful to see how excited he is to share what he now knows is true. He loves the Lord and wants to do his part to bring others unto Christ. We were standing next to him and his wife after Stake Conference last weekend. The visiting General Authority came up to us and we introduced Heneli to him and explained that he had just gone through the temple. When Elder Thompson asked him if he had any children, he said, “no, not yet.” Elder Thompson, without missing a beat said, “Well, keep practicing!” I thought Akata, his wife was going to pass out and Heneli’s face went so red, so fast! Nobody knew what to say. Alan and I just stood there with our mouths hanging open, trying not to laugh. AWKWARD!!!!