Monday, March 31, 2014

Sunday, March 16th

As soon as we were finished with breakfast, I ran over to the school to check the internet. Dave and Alisha are having their baby today. When I got there, there was a note from Dave telling me that they were at the hospital. I responded and then checked a couple of more emails. By the time I checked back there was a note from him saying, “He’s Here!! Mommy and baby did awesome!! Just as I read that, Alan walked in and we called Dave on the Ipad. We were able to see our beautiful new grandson and his gorgeous mother. I couldn’t believe how good she looked right after having a baby! He was just about an hour old, all cleaned up and sucking the daylights out of his fingers. SOOOOOOO CUTE!!! This is when it gets really hard to be so far away from home. My arms ache to hold him and love him. Babies need to know their grandmas!! I’m glad that Julie will be there to love him for now.

After we talked to Dave and Alisha, we had to hurry home to get ready for church. I was speaking in Sacrament meeting today ---- or so I thought. When we got there they told me that it was High Council Sunday and they had other speakers. If they had time I could bear my testimony. WHAT!!! Could they not have told me that sooner?? I was to talk about the Relief Society. The birthday is tomorrow, not next week or next month. Why did they have a member of the Stake Primary Presidency come and talk about the primary??? Sometimes things just don’t make sense to me over here. In the end I didn’t talk.

In the midst of all that madness, the sister who was to give the Relief Society lesson today, didn’t show up. I am the first councilor, who is over the teachers, but no one bothered to tell me about it. Alan and I taught our Sunday School class and when I got to RS, I found out she wasn’t there. The president and the other councilor got together during Sunday School class time and asked someone to teach it. It all turned out well and we had a good lesson, I just wondered why I went to church today. Everything was totally crazy!

On Friday, we gave some money to Lopete, to help the 4 boys who have lost their parents. The oldest 2, the 14 year old and the 11 year old, came up to us at church and thanked us for helping them to have food. Alan and I just looked at those boys and I hugged them while Alan asked what else they needed. It about broke our hearts! They don’t have shoes and they only own the clothes on their backs. We are hoping that some of the moms and dads in the ward who have young boys will donate some clothes for them, but if not we will go buy them some. They don’t have shoes, they don’t have anything. I just want to hug them all the time, so that they know that somebody loves them. They are such sweet, humble young men.

When we got home from church I finished the sweet and sour meatballs and made some rice. I barely got it finished before it was time to go to the dinner. That was so frustrating! I wanted to call Dave and Alisha again.

Our President’s dinner turned our really nice. We had tons of food and all of it was yummy. We had the new dentist and his wife introduce themselves and then the Vai’nuku’s said a few words. They have been serving in Ha’api and they were there during Cyclone Ian. They didn’t talk about that, they will do that at a FHE. Alan told everyone that we had a new grandson and people wanted to know how many grandchildren we had. When we said that we had 12, Elder Vai'nuku, who served his mission with Alan and is our age, told us that they have 45 grandchildren with one on the way and 9 great grandchildren. Holy Cow!!! Greg had better get his act together, we have a long way to go!!!

Saturday, March 15th,

We didn’t get sick, so we did the washing and went into town to do a little shopping. I walked around the fair and that was a mistake. It is really uneven ground and by the time we got home my hip was aching again. I really wish I knew what to do about it. I am taking a lot of Ibprophen. It is the only thing that helps but I hate to take a lot of it, I know it isn’t good for me.

When we got home I found out that Elder Berger hasn’t been feeling well. The senior missionaries are passing some kind of bug around. I worry about him because he is all alone. I made a bread pudding this afternoon and took some over to him. Within an hour people were stopping by to try some. Like always, it was a huge hit. My grandmother really did make the best bread pudding ever! I will now be sharing her recipe with more people. She should be famous.

Later this afternoon I made meatballs. I am making sweet and sour meatballs for our President’s Dinner tomorrow and I won’t have time to get everything ready after church. I hope 100 meatballs will be enough!

Alan went for a short walk tonight but I didn’t dare go with him. I am protecting my hip.

Friday, March 14th

When I got up this morning my hip still wasn’t feeling right. Sometimes it is fine and then other times it hurts again. It seems to change with how I sit or how I walk on it. I didn’t see any reason to sit around the house, so I got ready and we went into work. I was planning to work on the Niua water project that we need to submit, but Elder Tukuafu called and wanted us to work on a different project. He has heard about a man that lives here that has leprosy. He has been in the hospital for 3 years and now the Red Cross is going to build him a small house. Elder Tukuafu would like us to partner with the Red Cross and see what we can do to help. Evidently the man is a member of the church. He has 2 sons, one is 17 and the other is 15. They both have the disease too, but are being treated with medication so they are doing well. Just the fact that they are infected has kept them out of school so they are working for a man who took pity on them. They live behind his business in a van. It is so sad!!! Where has the bishop and the stake president been through all of this??? Elder Tukuafu will get to the bottom of that. We had decided not to start any more projects, but when the Area Seventy asks you to do one. You do it. We won’t be here to see if finished, but we will do our best to help where we can.

I got my hair cut today. Baby, the lady who cut my hair when we first got here, is back and she cut my hair today. It feels good to have it short again. When we were done there, we stopped at the church to help get the food ready for our Relief Society Birthday Party tonight. There were plenty of people there already working so they didn’t need my help. I was grateful, I really didn’t want to stand there all afternoon. We went home and I was able to rest for a couple of hours before we left for the party.

We had our RS Birthday Party at the Warf. It was fun to go a little early and watch the sun set from the Warf. We didn’t have a great sunset tonight but we did get to see some of the fishing boats come in. We made a real point of the fact that we were going to start this party at 7:00. We were there, we got the food there on time, but there were only 6 people there at 7:20. We should have just started to teach them all that we meant it, but we didn’t. Most of the ward showed up at 8:00 but the bishop and the councilor in the RS who was conducting, didn’t come until 8:30. We did start without those two. We ate about 20 to 9:00, way too late for us!!! We had sword fish, which was good, but would have been really good if it had been hot. The macarroni salad had been out in the heat for 2 hours. I really don’t know how these people don’t get sick. I was afraid to eat most of the food on my plate. When we got home we drank some coke to kill all the bad stuff. MERCY!! I guess we just have to realize that we are not going to change these people or their habits. That was probably our last party so I am not going to worry about it any more.

I got a picture of Sister Mitchell in front of a Tongan fishing boat. There was a man on the boat eating a raw fish. She got a pictue of that, but I missed it.

When we started eating at 8:30 we still had a sparse crowd but by 9:00 it was packed.  Everyone comes to these parties, they just come so blessed late!

We really do have a wonderful ward with great people.  They are fun to socialize with, but by the time they arrive, we are ready to go home! 

Tonga just bought this new cargo ship. Well, not really, it was donated to them by China. The second mate took us on a tour after the formal handover ceremony and let Alan be the Captain for a few minutes.

There is such a need for this ship in Tonga.  It will take cargo to Vava'u and Ha'api.  We are thrilled that it finally arrived.  Now it will be much easier to get things up to Ha'api.

We didn't have a great sunset tonight.  The clouds were to dense, but it was fun to be on the Warf and look out over the ocean at dusk.

Thursday, March 13th,

I had a strange thing happen this morning. I was sitting in the chair in the living room, when the phone rang. The phone was in the kitchen so I jumped up to get it. As I got up, I heard something pop and felt pain in my left hip. I just tried to work around it and went into work.

Sia, a young woman that we love, came to see us today. She used to teach at Liahona, in fact she is the teacher that put our puppet show together for us, but now she works for the government. Her job is to try to co-ordinate all of the NGOs here in Tonga so that we aren’t all doing the same thing for the same people. She is so intelligent and this is such a needed process here, we were happy to explain the church’s program in Tonga to her and know that we can go to her for help in the future. Sure wish we had known about this months ago!!

When Sia left I got up to walk her out and I could hardly walk. I don’t know if my hip went out or what, but it was so painful! We stayed at the office about an hour to take care of the emails and what had to be done and then I had Alan take me home. I took some Ibprophen and got out my rice pack. I turned on the air conditioner and sat in front of the fan, but I needed that heat to help relieve the pain in my hip.

Alan took care of what needed to be done this afternoon here at Liahona. I stayed home with my leg up and tried not to move. It is feeling a little better tonight as long as I sit still it just aches but it hurts when I walk. This is just what I need right now. I have a huge day tomorrow and a big weekend. I am praying for a miracle during the night!

We had to miss temple night, I just couldn’t go. I HATE THAT!!!

Wednesday, March 12th

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO Parx!!! 3 years old, where has the time gone?????

Siua came from the hospital to get some wheelchairs so Alan spent a lot of the morning helping him. I was able to get a lot of information in to the Dasslers for the Mission History today. The internet was working much better.

We found out that one of the wheelchairs was for Brother Walters. He is a man that we know well here. He used to be our home teacher when we were in the Liahona Ward. He had a stroke and now he has pneumonia. He is 85 years old and he isn’t doing very well. We were sorry to hear about that.

A man from one of the Government Primary Schools came to see us the other day. They need desks for their students. We met him today at the school and took some pictures. They have over 600 students at that school, it is over 100 years old and it looks like it! The classrooms are small and they have so many students in the class, I don’t know where they would put the desks if we got enough for each student. There just isn’t enough room. It is so sad. I can’t imagine how they teach them anything in conditions like that.

After a quick dinner we went out to the east side of the island. We wanted to check on the Lavengatonga project and make sure everything is ready for the closing ceremony next week. Everything looked good, but the wind was blowing and the metal was making a funny noise. One corner needs to be secured. We saw Sione, our champion as we were leaving the village and he said that it was a small thing and easily fixed, “not to worry.”

On the way home we stopped at the airport to meet the plane from New Zealand. A new mission couple, the Beckstrands, arrived tonight. He is the new dentist that will be working here at Liahona and supervising the dentistry done on the outer islands. They will be here for 18 months.

The classes are so crowded at this primary school, some children sit at tables with benches and the rest sit on the floor.

The tables are really old!!  And the benches have splinters and holes.

This school is over 100 years old.  When it rains, this area is a small lake.  So sad!

Tuesday, March 11th

It is Parx’s birthday in Tonga but we won’t call him until tomorrow. His mother has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow so we want to check on her too.

We had a slow day at the office today. We checked our emails and then Alan went to send the wheelchairs to Vava’u and the water tanks to Ha’api. He had to pack up the wheelchairs and take them to the Warf. The tanks were delivered. While he was gone I worked on sending the information to Elder Dassler for the Mission History but I had a hard time getting the pictures to download. It’s going to take longer than I had hoped.

We had a conference call at 3:00. Ana and Howard are gone, so we went over to the Service Center and took part in the call from there. I had the spreadsheet all updated and after I made my report, Elder Reynolds announced to everyone, the Area Presidency and those in SLC included, that in a couple of months I would be available to be an accountant in case anyone needed one, and that one of them should snatch me up. We all had a good laugh and then they thanked me for doing such a good job of taking care of the Lord’s money. (I will be grateful when I can turn that responsibility over to someone else!)

After dinner we were able to take a short walk. We didn’t make it far before it started to rain again.

Monday, March 10th

We had a great turnout at our devotional this morning. The FM group did it and I love it when they are in charge. We always sing in Tongan and they can really fill a room with the most beautiful music!! It was kind of funny though, Howard sent out an email this week saying that attendance at the devotional was mandatory and then he wasn’t there today. He is off island, but it was still funny.
We thought that Ana was in Vava’u with Howard, but she showed up at the office this morning. Evidently they took the small plane, an 8 seater, to Vava’u and there wasn’t enough room for everyone to go. Ana was fine with not flying on that plane, she is scared to death of it and the weather was really bad on Friday.

  We were glad to have her here today. We have 12 wheelchairs that we need to get on the boat tomorrow and 2 x 10,000 Lt. water tanks. It is always easier when she is here to help us with the arrangements because some of the people we need to communicate with don’t speak a lot of English and Alan’s Tongan doesn’t include those terms.

Siua came from the hospital and put all of the wheelchairs that we needed for the main island together for us and then helped us get the others ready to ship. We are really going through these wheelchairs fast! We are already out of 3 different sizes. At this rate they will be gone by the end of the month or at least by April. That’s great, to have them out to the people who need them, but sad that we don’t have any more coming soon.

Elder Reynolds called us while we were driving into work this morning and said that the Vava’u Hospital Project had been approved by the Area Presidency and he wanted me to get it on CHAS, ASAP so he could send it on to SLC. We kind of did that backwards, it is supposed to be on CHAS first, but this is the project that the Area Presidency asked us to do, so it is a little different. That was a little stressful. Putting a project on CHAS is not an easy process but I had a hunch this might happen, so I had most of it already written up. It only took me about an hour to finish it up and send it off. There is still an outside chance, if everything goes smoothly, that we will be here to see that one close, but knowing the way things move over here, we are not holding our breath.

Just as I finished up that project, David called on facetime. They had just had a birthday party for Parx. His birthday isn’t until Tuesday, but they had the party on the weekend because they --- we --- are all anxiously awaiting our new baby!!! It was fun to see Parx and have him show us what he got for his birthday. He has grown up so much and he is really talking so cute now. We miss them all!

We got everything put in order at the office so that we can keep things going while Ana is gone and then we headed for home. I had some work to do on the Mission History and we needed to get ready for FHE.

We were having a game night for FHE tonight, but it didn’t turn out that way. Right now we have quite a few of the senior missionaries that are not crazy about playing games. I think it is because it is so blessed hot, but by 7:00 at night everyone is just exhausted and tonight they just wanted to sit and visit. We watched a few really funny clips that some of them had saved from the internet and we all had a good laugh. We also watched a very sad Mormom clip about bullying. It is really tragic what some people do to others, especially now that they can send things out into cyber space. Then the women started talking about good books to read. I don’t know what the men were talking about but we didn’t go home until almost 10:00! It wasn’t what we had planned, but everyone seemed to enjoy the night.

Sunday, March 9th

Sister Mitchell and I went in to church early for our presidency meeting today. We planned our Relief Society Birthday Party for this next Friday night. We haven’t had any activities this quarter because of the weather, so the Bishop is giving us a huge budget for this party. We are going to have steak and fish with Kamala, Tongan Yams, a salad, rolls and dessert. We are having it down at the Warf, looking out over the ocean, so it should be fun.

Lopete, the 2nd counselor in the bishopric, came to our meeting to talk to us. He has found 4 young boys that he wants us to help him with. They live somewhere close to him. Both of their parents have died, I don’t know how. They are living with their grandfather, their aunt and her 5 children and 5 other people. I don’t know if those last 5 are relatives or not, just that there are 14 people living in this house. The oldest boy, who is 14, is trying to take care of his little brothers. He has dropped out of school and he goes from house to house every day looking for jobs to do to earn some money to buy food for them to eat at lunch. The aunt takes care of her children but she doesn’t pay any attention to these boys. Lopete asked the grandfather for permission to bring them to church and to provide an education for them. He agreed because their parents were members of the church and he wants them to follow the path their parents would have wanted them to be on. All the rest of the family is Wesleyan and that is part of the reason that no one pays much attention to them. The bishop is trying to get the oldest one into school at Liahona and we are trying to help them with some school uniforms and food each day for lunch. We met them at church today and they are darling young men. It is just the saddest situation. It about broke my heart to hear their story and see the sad look in their eyes. We will also try to give them all the love we can while were are here. Alan and I both just can’t get them out of our minds. We will do all we can to help them.

There weren’t a lot of people at church today, I don’t know why. But our meetings were good. Our Sunday school class was small but we had a great lesson and we have developed such a love for the people in our class. I can’t even think about leaving them.

We came home to choir practice, we have a fireside on Tuesday. Then we ate dinner------------- we were STARVING!!!! And then relaxed for awhile and went for a walk. It was a good day.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Saturday, March 8th

It rained hard most of the night and it was hot and humid this morning. We had to do some laundry so we just put it in and prayed that somehow it would get dry. Later in the afternoon the sun came out and most of it did get dry. The rest we brought in the house and hung it over the shower rod and on hangers in the door frames. Then we turned the air conditioner on and we will just have to wait for it to dry.

With all this rain we didn’t want to go into town today so I spent the afternoon cooking. I made brownies for movie night tonight and dessert for tomorrow and then we made a big tin foil supper to last us for a couple of days. They both tasted really good tonight.

At movie night we watched the John Wayne movie “Hatari”. Some of these movies are soooooooo old!! It was ok, I don’t love that movie but I really like John Wayne. I would have liked a western better. The brownies were a real hit. It was a nice, relaxing night.
Friday, March 7th

We worked in the office for a couple of hours this morning, waiting for the weather to clear so we could find out if the boat would be going to Ha’api today or not. Just before noon we got word that they would be going so we made arrangements to load the root crops on the boat. We had a bishop and some of his ward members come and a Stake President sent a couple more to help us load two trucks full of the crops and then take them to the Warf and load them on the boat. While Alan was helping with that, I did all of the paper work on a shipment of wheelchairs that we were sending up on the same boat. Once we got the crops on, Alan came back to the office and we loaded up the wheelchairs and took them to the Warf and loaded them on the boat. It will be leaving at 4:30 this afternoon. That will be a good job done. It is very stressful trying to get things to the outer islands right now with the weather so bad.

We got word today that the Area Presidency has approved our Vava’u Hospital project. They are going to send it on to SLC for approval. That was a relief too. We have been working on this project for months. We are happy to see it go through, but sad to think that we will probably not be here to see it finished up. I guess that is a little selfish, the important thing is that the hospital will get the equipment it needs, but we really wanted to be here to present it to the hospital. We have developed a relationship with Dr. Reynold and we probably won’t ever see him again.

We had time in between the root crops and the wheelchairs, to call a couple of our kids on facetime. We called Dave because we wanted to know how Alisha’s doctors appointment went today. He said that the doctor stripped her membranes so we will anxiously wait to see what happens. We were able to get in touch with Kimi and spend some quality time with Grace as she ate Macaronni and cheese. Wow, I don’t think I have ever seen a baby eat that fast. She loved it!! And last, we caught up with Bryan in Island Park. He was on a fishing trip with Lars and we were able to talk to him and see a little of Island Park. Modern communication is really a miracle!

The Funaki’s, another couple who work in our office, went over to Waves, a small restrauant near our office, and brought back some French fries. NO WAY!!! That smell about killed us. On the way home we wanted to stop and have a hamburger but the Cottage Breeze, a cute little restrauant that makes the best hambergers on the island, was not open yet. We had to drive all the way home, wait a couple of hours and then drive back. It couldn’t be helped. We were both dying for a hamberger and fries. Darn those Funakis!!

We knew that it had been raining really hard this week, especially at night, but on the news tonight we found out just how hard. In one night, Wednesday night, between 5:00 in the afternoon and 2:00 in the morning, we received more than the normal amount of rain for the entire month of March, and this is the rainy season. There are still more storms in the forcast. I feel so sorry for the people in Ha’api. The water is good to refill their water tanks, but they are all back in the churches because they have not been able to rebuild their houses yet. I can’t even imagine how hard it must be up there right now.

We tried to end the day with a walk but we only made it half way around the campus and we had to hurry home because it was raining so hard. It could be another long night!

On the way home from work today we got behind a funeral. They were taking the body to the church. Many people here are still wrapped in Tapa cloth and simply put in the grave. This one was like that only they had put plastic over it for the trip to the church because the weather is so bad. The body was transported in the back of a truck.

Thursday, March 6th

I was able to get a ton done at work today. I have been working on a journal of what we have done while we have been here so that I can give it to the Dasslers. They are putting together a mission history and they want information from us. I gathered all of the information during the first part of the week and then sat down to compile it today. I didn’t get it finished, but I got a really good start. When I get it all written up I will go back and attach pictures to it. As I started working on it, I was humbled to see all that the Lord has let us be a part of in the last 15 months. We have learned so much and now it is time to go home. I guess that is just the way it is on a mission. As soon as you figure out what you are doing, your mission is over. Partly because you need to take that added knowledge home with you and put it to work in other areas of the church and partly because when you start thinking you know what you are doing you become less dependent on the Lord and start believing you can do things on your own. We haven’t reached that point yet. We know we are still totally dependent on the Lord to get this work done. Oh how we will miss having these spiritual experiences and seeing miracles unfold right before us. How I wish we could keep that Spirit with us always. People always leave a mission with that desire but somehow it just gradually slips away when you get back into the real world. I hate that and we will try not to let it happen.

We did mostly office stuff today. Ana will be gone all next week and we needed to take care of all the details before she leaves. We will be really busy loading the boat for Ha’api tomorrow.
Tiamani didn’t go in to work today so we took some time on the way home to go shopping. The American store will be closed for another week or so and there are no fresh vegetables around, so we went looking for apples and oranges from New Zealand. They are pricy but we have to eat something! It looks like we are going to be eating frozen vegetables for awhile.

It rained HARD most of the afternoon. That is quickly becoming the norm. The weather forecast says it will continue for the rest of this week and on into next week. We had to cancel our closing ceremony for Lavengatonga because of a funeral in that village. I was really sad about that but if it is going to rain like this everyday it was probably for the best.

I fixed some tacos for dinner and then we headed to the temple. It is always so cool, quiet and peaceful in there. That is one benefit of the rain every afternoon, it does cool it off --- a little.


Wednesday, March 5th

It rained all night again last night. So far this hasn’t been to bad, it rains mostly at night and in the daytime it is just partly cloudy so we still get to see the sunshine now and then. I hate it when we go for days on end without seeing the sun.

We had another adventure at the office this morning. We were in our office working when Ana came running in telling us to come out to the parking lot, she needed our help. When we got out there we found 3 trucks and a group of men unloading root crops into our garage area. They had gone with Ana to meet the boat from Eua. The members in Eua had sent a ton of food to us to ship up to Ha’api on Friday. On the way back from the dock, Ana had stopped by a couple of stores to pick up some food to feed them for breakfast. We had bread, butter, corned beef and drinks. She told us to cut each loaf of bread in half and then split the half not quite all the way through. Then we put a large slab of butter in there and topped it with a generous helping of corned beef. Those men went crazy over that. They love it!! They call it a Tongan breakfast. (yuck) It was fun to meet those men and we are so grateful for their help in moving the root crops. They will come back on Friday and load those crops up again to take back to the dock to ship to Ha’api. We couldn’t do this without them.

We got a lot done today. I wrote an email report about the wheelchairs and sent it to Elder Schnebly in SLC. Within 30 minutes it had gone to the head man over wheelchair distribution for the church, and then to New Zealand to see if we would be willing to do another wheelchair project in Tonga. New Zealand wrote to us and we will work with Ana to put together another project, but we won’t be here to see the wheelchairs arrive. We are praying that another couple will come here as Humanitarian Missionaries soon. We are going to bury Ana with unfinished projects if she doesn’t get some help.

We also got some of our bids back for the supplies needed to refill the emergency container. Pacific Timber, a hardware store here, had sent us one page of their bid, but they never sent the rest of it. We have asked for it a couple of time but today Ana got on the phone and called them. She told them the deadline had passed and if they wanted to be considered that they had better put someone in a car and deliver the rest of it to our office by 2:00. Sure enough, it arrived on time and it was delivered by a Stake President! Ana is amazing. When she tells people to do something, it gets done!

We didn’t get home for lunch today until 3:30. It wasn’t really that bad. We had some of the bread this morning, with a lot less butter and no corned beef. But that, plus a diet coke helped us make it through the day.

We got an email today that the air conditioner remote had been replaced in our office at Liahona. We checked on it when we walked tonight and everything is working great now. YEA!!! Things are finally back to normal. We are spending a lot more time down town now, but with a new baby coming we need to have quick access to the internet.

Alan went to the “Master” to have a massage today. Tonight he is complaining about his back hurting and he said that he feels like he’s been run over by a truck. REALLY??? And he wants me to feel sorry for him?? So far he doesn’t have any black and blue marks showing up on his back so I am reserving my sympathy until things get worse. He even had the audacity to tell me that he thinks I should go back. NO CHANCE OF THAT!!

These twelve men are amazing. They left whatever they were doing and came to help us get the root crops off the boat. It's like getting a call to go move someone in the ward, but look how happy they were to do it. We sure appreciate them!!!

In the corner are bundles of bananas.  The crops had to sit on the dock for so long because of bad weather, the first bananas ripened and they were given to a school in Eua.  This is the second try at getting them to Ha'api.

Inside the bags are Kamas.  They are the Tongan sweet potato and we like them the best of all the root crops.  They will be a real treat!

These are Taro roots.  It is a lot of work to dig them up, but they will feed a lot of people in Ha'api.

Tuesday, March 4th

We had a productive day at the office today. It is a lot more fun to go into work now. There are more people working in our building and it is nice to have people around. It is really a busy place. I was able to get some emails written and sent and I got a great response to one. I had written to New Zealand to see if we could spend some of the money we had left on one project to buy a camera for the Welfare Office. Steve Stebbings wrote back and said that he had a camera over there that he will send to us with the next person coming from New Zealand. It’s amazing, “Ask and ye shall receive”. That scripture is true!

When we got back to Liahona, we drove by the office to drop the computer off and turn the air conditioner on so the office would be cool when we got there. No one had brought a remote by and Alan couldn’t get the air conditioner to turn on. I told him to just leave it on until the remote showed up, but he didn’t listen. Now we can’t use our office until someone brings one. MERCY -- Tonga is trying my patience!!!

After lunch I went over to the service center to find a place to work. All of the conference rooms were being used so they gave me a cubical where Tavita usually works but he wasn’t around today. I don’t know how anyone gets anything done in a cubical! I now have much more empathy for my boys and the jobs they have had in the past where they had to work in a cubical. Sila was on my right and he was singing along with his radio. Mele was on my left and she was on the phone, talking in Tongan and having a great time I guess because she was laughing a lot. People were walking past me all the time. I couldn’t concentrate!! It turned out to be a blessing. I couldn’t do what I had planned to do, so I posted more things on the blog. It all worked out good, but I am still so far behind in my posts!!

Monday, March 3rd

We got an email from Bryan this morning that showed Greg at his house having cake for his birthday. Thank heaven for Bryan and Lisa. They are so good to take care of Greg and we know that all of the rest of the kids called, texted or both, on his birthday. We have a GREAT family!!

Alli sent us her email address so that we could facetime with her, so we did that today. Since it is Sunday at home we knew we could find her at home. That was fun!! Wow, our grandkids have really grown up! We also talked to Dave, Alisha and Parx. We are really getting excited about this new little grandson coming into our family and we need to know that we can keep in touch with them. Alan also needed to talk to Dave about our taxes.

The boat from Eua came in today and there was a family on it that had an 8 year old son who is handicapped. They have to carry him everywhere he goes, so they brought him to our office to see if there was anything we could do to help him. We don’t usually have children’s wheelchairs but in this last shipment we found 2. We didn’t order them but there they were. During the training both of them were assembled and put in storage. Ana is an assessor. She assessed this little boy and what do you know, one of those chairs fit him perfectly! The Lord sent the chairs and then He brought the little boy. Another Tender Mercy. It was such a sweet experience to see that come together and to see how grateful his parents were. Another “Tender Mercy”. This is a GREAT JOB!!

When we got back to Liahona we drove by our office to see if anything had been done with the air conditioners. I talked to Enismore this morning after our devotional and she thought that everything was fixed and working. She got right on it. When we pulled up at lunch time, the men were there working on them. Ours was ON AND WORKING!!! We told them not to turn it off, that we would be back. There still is no remote but they promised to bring one back to us. After lunch I was able to go to the office and get a lot done. We are so excited to have our office back!!!

We had a lot of fun at FHE tonight. We played Jeporady with the book, “The Other Side Of Heaven” as the source of all the information. We have that book, but we haven’t read it in years and only one couple has seen the movie in the last year. It ended up being the men against the women and some of us are pretty competitive. Elder Johnson kept stressing that it was more about learning new information than about winning, but by 7:00 at night, after a long HOT day, everyone was a little giddy. We laughed a lot, learned a lot and had a really good time. It was just what everyone needed to relax a little. When things got a little out of hand, some of them started giving Alan a bad time about losing control of the group. Like as the District Leader he could control them! I just smiled and said, “We are so done with this job, and one of you is going to have to do it”. That shut them up in a hurry. The men won by 100 points, but only because they cheated. We tried to cheat too, but we got caught. Seriously, missionaries!! It’s embarrassing!

This is the precious little boy that we were able to fit with a wheelchair today. Siua is off to the left. He puts the wheelchairs together for us and he came to adjust the foot rests for this little guy.


Sunday, March 2nd

I didn’t get much sleep last night. It was a long, loud night. It rained really hard off and on but not constantly all night, but the wind was sooooooo bad. Everything was really loud and things kept hitting our house. It was a little unsettling at times, but we never did feel like we were in danger. I just kept thinking that we didn’t have anything in the emergency container and what if we needed chain saws etc. I spent most of the night worrying about what the people of Tonga were going through. We are so protected at Liahona. The power was off all over the island, but we have a generator so we were fine. This morning we could see lots of branches down, lots of avocados and bread fruit on the ground and we are sure that there was a lot of damage to the crops on Tongatapu.

  Ana called at 7:00 to tell us that she was alright. She lives in a low lying area of the island but she did not get flooded. There were lots of families staying in the church last night and our church was cancelled today. She told us that the cyclone was circling around and would come back and hit us harder this afternoon.

We decided to go to church at Liahona, they were still having their meetings. We went back to the ward that we attended before we were asked to go to church in town. It was so good to see the people again and they are all so loving towards us. One of the young women that was in our Sunday School class, that we adopted as our Tongan- Fijian daughter, bore her testimony today. She is going back to Fiji to take care of her parents. Evidently they are both very ill and since she is the oldest child, the responsibility falls to her to take care of them and work to support the family. She is the only one in her family that is a member and it has been her dream to go on a mission. We pray that dream can still come true for her. Maybe her mission is to convert her parents. We were so glad to be here to be able to see her again and say good-bye. We will stay in touch with her.

Sister Fafita, who is the principal at Liahona, bore her testimony today and I was so impressed. When they got up this morning they found a palm tree that had fallen across the road where they live and it had taken out all of the power in their area. She told her children that they would have to hurry because that meant that they would have to walk to church. They probably live about as far away from the church as from our house to LEE’S grocery store. As they started their walk, she told her family, “we are leaving the world behind and Coming Unto Christ.” What faith and dedication. Not only is it a long walk but it was still really bad weather. She is such an amazing example to the students here and to all of us.

Elder Edwards taught the Gospel Doctrine class today. He is a retired seminary teacher and he has all the seminary movies. We talked about Abraham today and he showed two short video that I had never seen. They were wonderful and we had a great discussion. I didn’t realize how much I miss the Gospel Doctrine class.

Elder Edwards is here on a CES mission. He travels the South Pacific working with the Seminary and institute teachers. There was a World Wide Broadcast yesterday for the Seminary and Institute teachers and it was done by Elder Andersen. He filmed our mission prep class singing “Called to Serve” while he was here and he used it in that broadcast. I can’t wait to see it! Elder Edwards said he talked about the cyclone that hit Ha’api and then compared the youth to the trees in a strong wind. When a cyclone or other strong winds hit the trees, they have to put down deep roots to survive. He said that the advesary is just like the wind. He is constantly hitting our youth with temptations and unless they put down strong, deep roots in the gospel of Jesus Christ, they will not be able to withstand the constant onslaught of temptations. As trees grow to stand tall and strong in the wind, something happens inside the tree. Somehow the internal part of the tree is tempered and strengthened. So it will be with our youth, as they stand tall and strong for truth and righteousness, their Spirits will be tempered and strengthened. We will all need that kind of strength to get through the ‘Latter Days”.

We got home from church at noon instead of 2:00 so we had some time before we could break our fast. We wanted to call Greg again but there was no internet. Sure hope he had a good birthday. I was going to bake a cake for him and eat it in his honor but it was just to hot to turn the oven on!!

The second part of the cyclone seems to have missed us. Howard Niu is in the ward that we attended today and he said that he heard it stalled out over the ocean and then turned and went another direction. Another Tender Mercy from the Lord. A lot of prayers were heard and answered today!

Saturday, March 1st

GREG’S BIRTHDAY IN TONGA!! Wow, it turned out to be quite a day in Tonga. I hope his birthday in America is a little calmer.

When we got up it was cloudy but it didn’t look to bad, so we went ahead and did the wash. By the time it was done and ready to hang up, it had started to rain. We moved it all to the lines closest to the house and did the best we could. As the day went on, it just got worse and worse and our sheets never did get dry!

The cyclone stalled out in the ocean and picked up some power. It turned into a category 2 cyclone and it is expected to hit us tonight. It rained hard off and on all day and the winds have also gotten stronger as the day has progressed. We pretty much stayed home today. There wasn’t any where we really needed to go so we didn’t want to go out in this weather. The streets and lawns at Liahona are flooded now, so we hope it doesn’t get too much worse in the night. We are worried about the lower areas on the island and also the people along the beach front. We are also really worried about the people in Ha’api. We are hoping it doesn’t go that direction. They’ve had about all they can handle.

We did make a trip over to our office at Liahona. The air conditioner still isn’t in but it was cool enough with the windows open and all that wind, that I could put some things on the blog. We also called Greg while we were there. I think we caught him having a nap again. He has a hard time waking up to talk to us, that plus the fact that we didn’t get a good connection because of the weather, made it a little hard to have a good visit with him. We sure miss him and hope he has a good birthday. He hates anyone making a fuss over him, so he is planning a quiet day.

Friday, February, 28th

When I got on CHAS this morning we could see that the Nukuhelu Project still has not been passed in SLC. Sure hope they get that done QUICKLY or we are in big trouble!! That village has done everything we asked them to do and they are so anxious to get the new equipment installed and running. Alan is going to have a stroke if something doesn’t happen soon. His blood pressure goes up a little more everyday.

Our wheelchair assessors keep bringing in more forms for wheelchairs. We are so excited about the number of people that we have been able to help get wheelchairs. It is an amazing thing to see the joy and relief when they receive their chair. Our assessors are loving that experience and they tell us such great stories.

Elder and Sister Funaki moved into their office in our building today. They are over the YSA program for all of Tonga. There are 10,000 young single adults here. That is a lot of people to try to find and keep track of. We don’t envy them their job. It will be fun to have them in our building, they are wonderful people and we are so glad that they will be here with Ana when we go home. It will make it a lot easier for us to leave her.

Today I worked on trying to put together all of the things that we have done while we have been here for the mission history. That is going to be a bigger job than I thought. When I went back and thought about all of the different experiences that we have had, we really have been so blessed! It will be fun to have a record of the work we have done here.

Tonight we went to the Vakaloa Resort on the far western side of the island. We were hoping to be able to see a beautiful sunset over the ocean, but that didn’t happen. There is another cyclone headed our way and tonight we had some strong winds and heavy rain. We were worried on the way out because it was raining so hard but then it let up and everything turned out fine. The food was really good. They had a good variety for a Tongan Feast. They also had a live band that played really good music, they just played it too loud! I don’t know why they do that. It is impossible to carry on a conversation when the band is that loud.

The entertainment was a lot of fun. They had some good dancers and a good variety. The 7 year old boy that we saw at the closing ceremony of the Pacific Partnership last year, did the fire dance. He is amazing for a child of his age. WOW, what a show he put on. I got it on video so I can show it to my grandchildren when we get home. They will love it.

On the way home it started to rain again and just after we got in the house it really let loose. It rained hard off and on all night. Tonight they said that the cyclone is headed towards us, so it should be a wet, windy weekend. It is only a category 1 right now. We are hoping it doesn’t pick up more force on its way across the ocean.

We had a great time at the Vakaloa Resort. I took lots of videos but it was hard to get a good still shot, they were always moving!! The group that played for them and sang in Tongan, were really good too.

Thursday, February 27th

We took Tiamani into work with us this morning and then she got a call from Liahona asking her to come and sub. That meant that we had to drive her all the way back. It is a 25 to 30 minute trip each way. By 10:00 we had done it 4 times! That really cut into our day. I just had time to make sure everything was up to date for our conference call this afternoon and finish up our finances for the month of February. I am always glad to have that job done! Just 3 more to go.

I am teaching the Relief Society lesson this Sunday, so I ran off a few handouts and it was time to leave for the day. That was a fast morning!

Our conference call was a little shorter today. Things are starting to stablize in Ha’api. They have safe drinking water now and different churches are sending food up every two weeks. Our stakes in Vava’u sent some root crops over this week and the report we received was that the government received the shipment, took credit for it and distributed it to everyone, EXCEPT THE MORMONS! Our members got NOTHING!! We couldn’t believe it. That won’t happen again. We will pay our own shipping from now on and the food will be delivered to the Stake Presidents and Bishops. They will give it out to everyone, not just the Mormons but definitely including the Mormons. We are in good shape with the budget, so my part was easy this week.

We had a good session at the temple tonight. Lovely way to end the day.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


While we were in the Service Center one day this week, we ran into Lavenia Fonua. She is one of the Public Relations people for the islands. We work with her a lot. She had a lady with her that we didn’t know. When Lavenia introduced us her friend, the lady got this look on her face and then she asked Alan if he had served a mission in Tonga when he was a young man. When he said yes she got so excited and said, “You’re the one!” Alan asked, “the one what?” She asked him if he remembered Sipa Saekona from his mission. Alan remembers him well. He was his favorite mission companion. This lady is related to Sipa and she told us about a young man in their family, Sipa’s nephew, whose name is Webby. He was named after a palangi missionary who served in Tonga with Sipa. What are the chances of ever meeting this lady and of having her tell us that story. It was a tender mercy and what a thrill for Alan to know that there is a Tongan man out there somewhere, named after him. I loved it!!!

Sister Feahoko is a wonderful Tongan lady that makes beautiful Tongan crafts and jewelry. I had ask her to fix a cord for me so that I could wear my mother’s wedding band on it as a necklace. I have almost lost it twice over here. Before I got back to her shop to pick it up a couple of the senior sister were in her shop looking at jewelry. They saw a necklace that they loved and one of them wanted to buy it. Sister Feahoko said that she had made it especially for me so she wouldn’t sell it. When they told me how much they loved my necklace, I was confused because I knew I had not ordered it.

On Tuesday Alan went out the see President Feahoko, the Stake President who is Sister Feahoko’s husband and while he was there I asked him to pick up the cord necklace for me. I hadn’t told him about the other necklace because I really didn’t know much about it. I gave him $10.00 to pay for the cord and off he went. When he got there Sister Feahoko asked if he had come for the necklace. He said yes and asked how much he owed her. She said, “one fifty”. He handed her the $10.00 and waited for his change. She gave him the necklace and a funny look and then said, “It is one hundred and fifty.” Alan about fainted. He was so embarrassed, he didn’t have that much money with him. She explained to him that it was a necklace she had made especially for me from black coral. Black coral is very rare. It is only found deep on the ocean floor and now it is no more. It is found hundreds of feet below the surface and only scuba divers can get to it. Now it is forbidden to bring it up. This was the last black coral that she had. In the past she sold a necklace like the one she made for me for a lot more money, but she wanted me to have it at a good price. Alan was so shocked at the necklace and the price, that he forgot to ask about the cord that I sent him for. He promised to come back the next day and left.

I went with him to pick up the necklace. It is gorgeous! I asked Sister Feahoko if I had ordered the necklace and she just looked at me and said, “I made it especially for you.” I guess I will never know how this all came about, but knowing my mother and my grandmother I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some devine intervention. They both loved beautiful jewelry and this piece is certainly beautiful and unique. They probably thought that I had to have it. So somehow it happened. It may take Alan a little while to get over it. He doesn’t usually give me jewelry but this is a perfect 40th wedding anniversary present. I really love it!

Wednesday, Feb. 26th

Elder Reynolds is meeting with the Area Presidency in New Zealand today and they will be talking about the hospital equipment for Vava’u. I spent the morning writing up that project on CHAS so if it is improved it will be ready to go. We would love to be here to see it completed and then be able to go to Vava’u again to do the closing ceremony.

I asked Sister Feahoko to make a cord necklace for me so that I could wear my mother’s ring around my neck. When I am in an air conditioned room for a long period of time, my finger shrinks and I have almost lost it twice. We drove out to pick it up today. There is a funny story that goes along with this necklace, but I will write it up separately.

Alan had to call the town officer in Nukuhetulu and our contractor for that project and try to explain to them that we can’t install the engine in the village until the money has been put into the project in SLC. The truth is, the project hasn’t been completely improved yet but Elder Reynolds told us to “gamble” and go ahead with it because it was approved by the Area Presidency. We did that and now it is stalled in SLC. Sure hope they pass it or we are in BIG TROUBLE!!! We drove out to Nukuhetulu this afternoon to look at the service project the village has completed as part of the project. They have really worked hard cleaning up the area where the water pump and engine are and cleaning out the shed. Both the members and the villagers worked together for two days to get it done. That was an important part of the project and we feel good about how it turned out. I took pictures to attach to the project.

The town officer gave us fruit and coconuts. After our walk tonight I started delivering some of it to the other senior couples. We could never eat it all ourselves.

When we went out to Nukuhetulu this morning they had cleaned up all around the water shed. This whole area used to be weeds knee high.

They had really worked hard cleaning inside the shed too.

They took all the trash away that was in back of the shed.  We hope they will be able to paint the shed.

The village came together to clean this area as a service project for their part of the project.  They worked here for two days and they really did a good job!  It looks soooooo much better!

Tuesday, Feb. 25th

We had a fun experience at the office today. Saleisi, one of the village leaders that we have been working with came to talk to us. He wanted to check on the desks that we are trying to get for his school, but what he really wanted to do was tell us about his primary choir that sang for Elder Andersen at the Stake Conference last Sunday. He lead the chior and it turned out to be a great experience for him. We had heard how good that choir of children was and evidently Elder Andersen loved it. When the meeting was over he told the children to come up by him and have their picture taken with him. Then he hugged each one of them. Saleisi couldn’t stop talking about it. He said that he will never forget that experience. It was wonderful to see how happy he was and what an impact that experience had on him.

Before he left, Sione, the town officer from Nukuhetulu, came to see us. He wanted to tell us that the village is busy working on their service project so they will be ready for us to install their new engine. He said that the village is so excited and happy about getting the new engine. Then he took Alan outside so he could fill the back of our car with food that the village had sent. The people of these villages are so generous with their produce. We can’t begin to eat all of it. The other senior couples love it when we close on a project.

I got the spreadsheet updated today and sent to New Zealand. That is always a relief!

This afternoon we went to Kolovi to deliver a wheelchair to Mamana. She had more than she could handle on her own when she came yesterday, so we told her we would bring it out to her. She lives on the far west side of the island and it is about a 45 minute drive to our office. While we were there I was talking to her about our hygiene training. She is the one who is over it for the west side. She is the Stake Relief Society President in her stake and today I found out that she also teaches the Gospel Doctrine class on Sundays and does early morning seminary every morning during the school year! I wish I could introduce her to everyone who thinks they are over worked in their church calling. She has the most amazing positive attitude and now she is doing the wheelchairs and the hygiene training on the side. WOW, she is my hero!

While we were on the west side we went to the Vakaloa Resort to make reservations for Friday night. We are taking the senior missionaries out there for the dinner show as an activity. It is sooooo beautiful out there. I am praying that we will have good weather so we can watch the sunset over the ocean.

Monday, Feb. 24th

When we got into the office this morning Siua surprised us. He came with a truck from the hospital to pick up some of the wheelchairs and while he was there Mamana showed up too. She had come to pick up the wheelchairs that she had assessed and take them to the people who need them. She told us a little about how happy the people are when they receive their new wheelchair. She said she loves what she is doing to help her people. She is a wonderful woman.

Elder Reynolds needed all the information about the Vava’u Hospital Project today so he will be prepared to go into his meeting with the Area Presidency on Wednesday. It took me most of the morning to get that to him because we kept getting interrupted. First, Sione Tonga, our champion from Lavengatonga came to see us. Alan called him last week. We need to get to the bottom of the problems with that project and get it finished up. The village water master keeps finding things wrong with the tank and tower but he doesn’t tell Sam, our contractor when he is out there working on it. He goes to Sione and complains after Sam is gone. Today we were able to get Sam, the town officer and the water master together out at Lavengatonga and get it all straightened out. Thank heaven for Ana. Some of them don’t speak any English and she was able to talk to all of them and get to the bottom of it. We hope that will be the end of the problems and we can finally have the closing ceremony. We are going to give them a week to get everything cleaned up out there and hopefully that time will help them all to come together again.

We were hoping to take a flight to Ha’api tomorrow and go up to see how much work has been done up there. Today we found out that the flight we were scheduled to take would leave at 9:00, land in Ha’api at 10:00 and leave to come back at 11:00. One hour there was not enough time to make it worth our going up. We are disappointed but hope that we will still have a chance to go.

I took the Ipad over to the technical staff to get some help downloading our LDS email account on it. They did that, no problem, but now we have to put our password in every time we want to use it. THAT IS A PAIN!! Also, they updated everything, which I know needs to be done, but why to these techy people have to change everything every 3 months??? Now we have to learn how to work some of the apps all over again. Don’t they know that old people like things to stay the same for at least a year, any way we do. By then we will be home and our kids and grandkids can help us!

FHE was interesting. We watched a movie about the Tongan Kava Ceremony. We have seen one here so it was fun to hear about the history of the ceremony and see one where the King was a participant. The one we were at was exactly like the Royal Kava Ceremony. That made us feel special!

Sunday, Feb. 23rd.

Sister Mitchell and I went in to presidency meeting this morning. We are planning the March RS Birthday Party. We got the menu put together today. We will be having a formal dinner. We will eat fish steak with a German sauce on it, kamala, vegetables, rolls and a salad. Fish is a favorite here and it will be better than a roast pig. It is going to be a fancy night and we don’t have any fancy clothes, so we will just have to do the best we can.

Sacrament meeting was really scarce today. We are a downtown ward and most of the people live within the boundaries of the stake where Elder Andersen was speaking today. I think everyone went there. Our bishop was setting up the sound system at the chapel at Liahona for the missionary meeting this afternoon and one councilor was at the meeting with Elder Andersen. That left Leopeti all alone, but he did just fine. The speakers were good, they just didn’t have anyone to talk to. That was kind of sad.

We only had two sisters in our class today. The men were teaching other classes where the teachers didn’t show up. The lesson was on the different callings in the Priesthood and their various responsibilities. Not really a great lesson for two sisters. We decided to send them to the Gospel Doctrine class and we headed back home to grab a quick bite to eat before we headed over to the chapel to listen to Elder Andersen.

Our missionary meeting with Elder Andersen was 2 hours long and the time just flew by. When he first came in he said that he wanted to shake hands with everyone but that it had to be done quickly. There was no conversation, just a quick hello and a handshake. Still, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to shake hands with an Apostle.

We, the senior missionaries along with all of the young missionaries, sang the first song in Tongan and Elder Andersen came right to the edge of his seat. He and Sister Andersen smiled through the whole hymn and when it was over he said right out loud, “That was beautiful!” I have never seen a Tongan hymn, sung with full harmony, not bring that reaction. There just simply is nothing like it any where else in the world. I am REALLY going to miss that music!!

When Sister Andersen talked she thanked the senior missionaries for their service. She told the young elders and sisters that they were sacrificing a lot to go on a mission, but that it was nothing like what the senior missionaries sacrifice. She told us that we are their heroes. It was nice to have her be so grateful and complimentary. It is always nice to feel appreciated.

When Elder Andersen stood up, he paused for a moment as he arranged his books and then said. “I have been praying that the Lord will tell me what He wants me to say especially to you, something that will stay with you. I have some thoughts in mind, but I want to know what He wants you to hear.” Then he went on to talk to the Elders in Ha’api - and all those who have helped the people of Ha’api. (The meeting was being broadcast up to Ha’api) He said that the 1st Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wanted them (and I felt like we were included) to know how grateful they are for all that has been done to help the people of that island. And then with great power he said, “Jesus Christ is thankful for what you have done.” I could feel that love and gratitude come straight from the Lord into my heart. It was an overwhelming feeling and one that I wished I could hold on to forever.

Then he told us to write down the feelings and impressions that we got during the meeting, that they would change us and shape our lives. I know that he was not just talking to the young missionaries, but to all of us. The things that really touched me were:

1) You were who you were long before you came to earth and you will be yourself forever.

2) Being able to go to the temple during a mission is a GREAT BLESSING!

3) Your marriage and your family will be your greatest joy.

4) Embrace the Atonement.

“Repentance is not a free ride” Elder Oaks

“A person must suffer for his sins to truly change.” President Kimball

5) When you go back to America, bring more balance to your lives. Give up material possessions.

6) Tonga is the only country in the world, the only place in the world besides America, that little pioneer corridor in Utah and Southern Idaho, where there are so many missionaries going into the mission field. Right now Tonga has over 650 missionaries serving and there are many more with calls and waiting to go. That is amazing coming from such a small group of islands.

7) He told us to get the Gospel of Jesus Christ “down into your bones. It has to become a part of you.”

He left with a blessing, that the gospel would sink deep into our bones. That if we desire it, we will understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ more fully. He promised that as we serve the Lord we will come to know Him and to love Him. He ended by saying, “I know Him, (a long pause and tears) He is not absent from His Prophets and Apostles. He loves His church and He watches over it.” The Spirit was strong and we all knew that one of the Lord’s chosen witnesses had just spoken to us. Wow, what a beautiful meeting and what a spiritual experience.

Ana Ika, our Welfare Manager, had the opportunity to escort the Prime Minister's son at the Cultural Celebration. Her daughter came along with her.

The Stage where Elder Anderson and the other visiting authorities were to sit was decorated with the traditional Tongan Taupa cloths, woven mats and fresh flowers.

I couldn't get a really good picture of Elder Andersen and his wife, but I did the best I could.  On the right of Elder Andersen is the Prime Minister of Tonga and then President Hamula, the Pacific Area President and his wife.

Saturday, Feb. 22nd

We did the normal Saturday things, washing, cleaning, shopping and even found time to relax a little. The big event for today was the cultural night for Elder Andersen. I will kind of be glad when this weekend is over and we can get back to normal. The power washers have been going non stop on the Liahona campus. All the curbs and fences have been repainted, all the lawns mowed and bushes trimmed, flower beds have been replanted and everything is in tip top shape. It is amazing the amount of work these people go to when a high ranking church official comes to Tonga.

We went to the Ateli Stadium tonight for the Cultural Celebration. It was amazing!! Over 3,000 youth danced traditional Tongan dances for Elder Anderson and his wife. The costumes were beautiful and the music was fantastic, but the best part was the light in the eyes of those young men and young women. You could feel of their goodness and it was powerful. Along with the chuch authorities, the Prime Minister of Tonga came tonight. He spoke after the dances. He was very impressed and very moved by what he saw. He talked about the importance of the young people in the Tongan culture and how they needed to be good like what he saw there tonight. His son came out with one of the stakes. They introduced him as “not a member - yet”, but he has been attending mutual at one of the wards and he wanted to participate in the program tonight. It was a little hard to tell how his father felt about that, but everyone is hopeful that the son will join the church. After what he saw tonight, perhaps the Prime Minister will not be apposed to it.

Elder Anderson told the youth that when he gets back to SLC and tells President Monson how wonderful this celebration was, he is going to say, “I wish I had been there!” He was so impressed with our young people and he was very complimentary about everything that happened tonight.

When the evening was over, we went out to get in the van and go home. While we were in the celebration, the AP’s came and took the van to pick up some elders from the boat. They weren’t back yet. We stood outside -- in the heat-- and watched everyone else go home while we waited for them to come back. We asked the Mission President, as he left, if we could get in the back of one of the big trucks that was going our way and ride home. He said, ”NO!!”  He got right on the phone and got ahold of the missionaries. It wasn’t too long - only about a half an hour - before they were back. We had fun saying good-by and good night to everybody as they left. All in all it was a good night.

Some of the best people in the world!! This is Ana and Sam Fonua. They are in our ward and they both work with the youth. He is the Stake Young Men's President and she is the Stake Young Women's President.

Pua is in our ward too.  She has two daughters and one son that danced tonight and she helped with the youth of our Stake to prepare for this night.  She is amazing!  So talented!!!

The cultural celebration was amazing. So many of our youth dancing the traditional Tongan dances.

More pictures of the dancers and their traditional costumes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Friday, Feb. 21

We have officially entered the rainy season. It has rained everyday this week and rained most of the night last night. We are running out of clothes and needed to wash this morning, so even though it was pouring down rain, I ran a load of wash before we went to work. We never know if our clothes will dry or not, but we can always take them in the house and turn the air conditioner and the fan on.

We wanted to get some more wheelchairs put together today, but it was raining so hard that we had to put that off until next week.

Elder Reynolds wrote and told us that the Vava’u hospital question is on hold until next week. They are just too busy with the visit of Elder Nelsen and Elder Andersen to work on it right now. That works for me. I spent the day working on new receipts that needed to be put of the Cyclone Ian spreadsheet and doing our own financial report. Unless Alan uses that charge card again, the finances are done for February. YEA, just 3 more to go!!

Elder Dassler told me this week that he and his wife may be going up to Vava’u to live for part of their mission. They are the auditors here. President Tupou has asked them to put the mission history together and he wants information on everything that we have done while we have been here. I thought I had the rest of our mission to get that put together and now the deadline is March 1st! WHAT??? That is what I planned to do when things slowed down, now I have to cram it in somehow.

Alan is still screaming about his computer. They thought they had it fixed, but it’s not. I watched what he was doing today and I think I know what the problem in. He has both the hand held mouse and the finger mouse active at the same time. I tried to disable the finger mouse but I couldn’t find a way to do it. As soon as we get that taken care of, hopefully his blood pressure will go down. He is now writing all of his emails on our Ipad.

We are starting to receive the bids on refilling the emergency container. It looks like it is going to cost us over $100,000.00. We will need to get the approval from the Area Presidency before we can start purchasing things, but it will be good to start filling it again. It makes me so nervous to have it sitting there empty!

We ended the day with movie night. It was the Maile’s night to choose the movie and sister Maile wanted to watch a Fred Astaire movie. We watched “Top Hat”. It was a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie with lots of great dancing. Alan doesn’t love those musicals but this one had a good story line so everyone enjoyed it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Thursday, Feb. 20th

We stopped at the hospital and picked Siua up so he could assemble wheelchairs today. When we got to the office I worked on the wheelchair file. We have to be sure that we can account for every wheelchair that is given out.

Elder Hamblin called and set up a meeting for us this morning. Just after we agreed to it, we found out that there was a devotional at Liahona this morning which was a broadcast from New Zealand with Elder Andersen. We were really upset that we couldn’t go to that. No one had told us about the devotional. Somehow we didn’t receive the email invitation. We had an important meeting set up that we couldn’t cancel. We were soooo frustrated!!

President Tupou and Elder Hamblin brought the District President from Niua in to meet with us. He is here for the leadership meeting with Elder Andersen and he wanted to talk to us about a water project for his island. We called Ofa, our contractor and then met with all of them for over an hour. It was a good meeting and they have a real need. President Tupou asking for this project to happen will really help us to get it passed. I doubt we will be here to see it completed, but we will do all we can to make it happen.

We had a surprise show up on the email today. The doctor from the hospital in Vava’u sent us the list of the things they want us to donate to the hospital up there. We have waited for months for them to respond to our emails and nothing ever happened. We thought this project was dead. Suddenly it had been resurrected. We sent the information on to New Zealand and we will just have to wait and see what they want us to do. These two new projects with the possibility of one or two more, have helped us to set our target date for going home to June 3rd. It looks like we will be busy right up until then.

Yea, it’s Thursday, so we ended the day with a trip to the temple. That’s always good.

The bush in front of our house is in full bloom. They usually cut it back before I get a chance to take a picture but I got some today. It is really unusual but beautiful. I have no idea what it is called.

Wednesday, Feb. 19th

We stopped at the hospital on the way into work to pick up one of the boys that puts the wheelchairs together. He wasn’t there. We waited for half an hour and when he still wasn’t there, we left. Just as we were getting to the office he called. He gets to work on a bus and today the bus was really late. He felt so bad. That’s how public transportation is in Tonga, slow and undependable. We will try again tomorrow. We have a lot of wheelchairs that need to be assembled and delivered. Our assessors are doing a great job!

Alan’s computer has been giving him fits and he complained about it yesterday in an email to New Zealand. Today when we got to the office there was a whole string of emails all the way from SLC telling the technical guys to either fix it or replace it - NOW! Wow, he should have complained a long time ago. We had a man in our office before noon and by 3:00 it was fixed. We think. We’ll see how it does tomorrow.

We also had a flood in our office today. We thought it might have been from the rain, we have been having so much. But it didn’t come through the roof. We discovered that it was from the air conditioner. The man came to fix it just as we were getting ready to leave. You can’t work in an office without air conditioning right now. When we leave the office and go outside, our sun glasses fog up because it is nice and cool inside and so blessed hot and humid outside.

I have a list of 27 things I need to get done this week and I got 4 of them done today. That would be good, but I added 5 more by noon. I’m trying to figure out a way to get ahead and I keep falling farther behind. Oh well, this is Tonga, I’ll do it tomorrow. The helping hands vest arrived today. A little late, the mission president is pulling all of the extra missionaries off of Ha’api this weekend, but we can put them in the emergency container. It’s good to have them.

We got a call from the town officer in Lavengatonga today. They are complaining about something else now. Sam, our contractor is coming back to Tonga tomorrow. We will have to get him and his engineer to meet us and the town officer at the site on Friday and get this whole thing straightened out. We have got to finish up this project!!! Alan has had it with the whole thing and his blood pressure goes up every time the phone rings now.

When we got home Alan went to the mission office to talk to Elder Hamblin about the projects that the president wants us to do. I stayed home and worked on the spreadsheet for Cyclone Ian. Things have started to slow down a little and I haven’t had to many new charges this week. That is a relief for me! I’m grateful.

We called Tiff this afternoon and had a good visit. Our phone that we can call home on isn’t working well. There was static on her end and then all of a sudden we got cut off. We have got to figure out how to facetime with her, that works a lot better.

Tuesday, Feb. 18th

We had an interview with the Mission President first thing this morning. At least that is what he called it. It didn’t really turn out to be an interview, he had a list of things he wanted us to do! When he went up to the Niuas, he found a water project that he wants us to tackle and he also wants us to work on some service projects for the missionaries, helping the very poor people on the outer islands clean their sema-vis so their drinking water will be cleaner. We talked about what could and could not be done before we leave, so it looks like we will be busy for the rest of our mission! We were really hoping he would tell us that he is going to replace us as the District Leaders, but he didn’t. Alan gently reminded him that we will be leaving and he hopefully will start to think about finding someone to do that job soon. We have been doing it for 8 months now and really, that is long enough. We need some fresh ideas and new blood. The sooner the better -- I say.

When we got into work things really started to go crazy. The boat to Ha’api decided to leave today instead of tomorrow and we needed to get a shipment of wheelchairs on it and more supplies for the cyclone relief. Alan needed to go get the boys from the hospital to gather the wheelchairs together and I needed to get all the paper work ready. That was fun!!

We had told Amberly that we would try to facetime with her today, so we had to pause a minute and do that. We couldn’t get her but we got Lisa so we were able to see her and those grandkids today. It was great! We haven’t seen them in a long time and they are all growing up. They looked sooooooo good to us. We miss them all so much!! When we finished getting the wheelchairs ready to go we stopped again and called Morgan. We got to see all of Tiff’s kids too, except Cade. He was at a birthday party. We are loving the fact that they have iphones. It makes it so much easier to connect with them and we love seeing the grandkids! Today was President’s Day at home, so everyone was home. It was perfect.

I needed to get the legal contract put together for our Nukuhetulu project, so I went to work on that. I can’t believe how quickly I did that today. The first one I did caused me at least a week of stress, today I copied the one we did for Ha’utu, changed what needed to be changed and called it good. We’ve come a long way baby! Of course the fact that Elder Reynolds told us to just go ahead and do it ourselves and not submit it to the legal department in New Zealand had a lot to do with the lower stress level. We love that man!

I did find something to be stressed about though. I have lost a receipt and I have no idea what I did with it. We have to have the receipt for everything we charge on our card, and there is one that I just can’t find. I searched everywhere and then decided, oh well, all they can do is send me home. I will look up all the information on the computer, the date and amount and then go back to the store and see if they will give me a copy. I’ll cross my fingers that the answer will be “yes”. If not, I’m going to be in big trouble.

Alan and Ana took the wheelchairs to the Warf and got them on the boat while I finished up in the office. Then we headed for home. We didn’t get here until 10 after 4:00 and we hadn’t had lunch. I was starving and already had a headache when we walked into an oven! Our house was unbelievably HOT. I checked the temperature and it was 97 degrees with 82% humidity. I don’t know what they would say that feels like in degrees, but to me it feels like I can’t breathe!! Everyone is telling us that this is an unusually hot year, but we heard that last year. All I know is that I’m MELTING!! It took almost half and hour for our air conditioner to make our little house liveable. I am dreading going to bed tonight.

Monday, Feb. 17th

At our devotional this morning Howard Niu wanted to talk to the FM Managers about the upcoming visit of Elder Andersen. The only problem with that was, most of the managers weren’t there. Since the first of the year the attendance at the devotional has been dwindling. He was not happy today. There is so much to do before the Apostle arrives and they weren’t there to co-ordinate it. I felt bad for him. He is the one that is held responsible in Tonga and he isn’t getting the support he deserves and needs. Now he will have to talk to them at a different time and that is just one more thing in his busy schedule.

We went into the office and the Town Officer from Nukuhetulu was there to meet with us. He checks in every week to see if the project has been approved. We know that it will be, but it isn’t official yet because SLC hasn’t approved it. But they usually do if the Area Presidency approves it. Still, we can’t tell him that it will be done. I feel bad, he is so anxious about it. It seems cruel to make him wait. We encouraged him by telling him that it was approved by the Area Presidency so that helped. We will let him know as soon as we get the official approval.

Alan got a note today from our contractor that they have the engine we need for the Nukuhetulu project in stock. That will mean that we can get this project done very quickly if they don’t sell the engine to someone else while we are waiting for approval. Alan wrote to Elder Reynolds in New Zealand and told him about the engine, then asked him what he thought we should do. He wrote back late this afternoon and said, “Let’s gamble. Buy the engine.” We are excited to know that we can complete this project so quickly. We were worried that we might not get it done before we go home, now we should have it done in a few weeks, depending on the weather.

We are in the rainy season here now. We have had major rain storms every night lately. We hear really loud thunder in the night and see some lightning. The rain comes down in sheets and the streets and sidewalks are flooded all night. In the morning there are just puddles and in the daytime the showers are much lighter. All of that water goes into the ground. Everything is so green and lush. Now I know why my hips hurt so much at night. A lot of it has to do with arthritis and the barametric pressure.

We called John Pepin for his birthday but we didn’t get to talk to him. Hopefully he was out celebrating. We hope he had a good day and will have a great year.

This afternoon I spent some time at the Service Center posting some things on the blog. I am always so far behind on that thing. It will be good not to have to worry about that anymore, but it is a good way for us to show the family what we are doing.

Alan and I made a tin foil supper tonight and while it was cooking we called Bryan and his family. Bryan pointed out the fact that we haven’t talked to HIM since Thanksgiving. We couldn’t believe it. He was ice fishing when we called on Christmas and when we have called and talked to Lisa and the kids he hasn’t been home. We felt bad! We will have to do better!! Lisa said that she thinks he misses us, which was nice to hear, but we need to connect with him more often.

We went for a walk tonight. That felt so good. It has been awhile since we have been able to walk and I really need to do that everyday.