One of the really sweet experiences we're having is teaching the preparatory lessons for those who are wanting to go to the temple for the first time. Families are EVERYTHING in Fiji -- and when these wonderful people accept the Gospel and learn that their families can be sealed in the temple and then exist together in the afterlife, they are thrilled. Here's some shots of this extraordinary family and a little about our experiences with them.
Saimoni and his wife Elenoa built their home on 8 acres deeded to them by the chief of the village about 20 minutes from Ba by car. They are tremendously hard workers, farming their own sugar cane and vegetables as well as Saimoni cutting cane full time for the 6 month harvest period (he earns about $100/week and 15-20% of that goes to the transport trucks to get them to church on Sunday). In spite of the drain on their finances, they are determined to not only go to church but be there on time; "We want to be the first family there," said Sister Nairoqo. Yesterday was Sunday and there they were when we arrived. In speaking to them, they related that they had left the house in two waves, the kids wanted to get going and left earlier walking towards the church several miles away. The parents left 15 minutes later and when they got to the main road to meet the kids, they had decided to walk all the way and were out of sight. The night before we had taught them about tithing worthiness for the temple and Saimoni commented that he had just been talking to his wife about "being honest with the Lord" in paying a full tithe. We had talked about the Lord blessing them for their faithfulness and then the next morning, when they arrived at the main road to catch a transport carrier, there was a friend driving by who picked them up and brought them all the way to church; "right to the front door," exclaimed Elenoa! Annie said to her, "that's a blessing from paying your tithing." The kids had been so excited that they must have walked fast as they were there on time as well.
When we came this day, Elenoa was out in the cane field dressed in several layers of old ragged clothing and with a sock over her hand because both the cane and the weeds have sharp "saw-like" edges (she was barefoot). She had gotten up at 4:45 am to the sound of her husband listening to and singing hymns. She was so joyous over that since her husband is a relatively new convert and usually listens to "worldly" music before he heads off to the cane fields. He commented to her that he was only going to listen to hymns from now on because it brought such a wonderful spirit to him before he goes off to work. They sat together and sang for a while before she they ate something and fixed his lunch. Fijians eat very little in the morning (likely because of expense) -- they often have something to drink and hard-tack breakfast crackers. After Saimoni left, Elenoa fixed all the kids something, did the laundry (by hand, of course), hung it out, and then headed for their cane field to weed.
This is Emily, their niece at the kitchen just behind the home. They have run out of kerosene and can't afford to buy more so they continue to cook with wood - the almost universal scene at most homes in a village. Next to the kitchen is a 3-sided "shower" area for taking a bucket bath/shower. They currently have no running water so they purchase water from a neighboring home (about 100 yards away) and carry it in jugs home each day. On the most recent night we came, they were having boiled sweet potatoes for dinner (very fibrous, dry, and not really sweet). They wanted to share with us but we declined so they sent us home with a large potato which we ate with our dinner. Elenoa put it in her husband's lunch box, we assume because it was the only "take away" container they had. Annie fixed some cornbread and filled the box to give back to them the next day. They never had cornbread before and all seemed to enjoy it.
Since there are very few entertainment things available, the kids endlessly create games from whatever is around. Here Simeon has found a skate - it doesn't really fit, no laces, and one wheel kept spinning off but hey - you can do a lot of tricks balanced on one of these!
Above and below are two of the kids in the mango tree next to the house -- they all love to climb trees and are great at it. No one seems to worry that they climb really high regardless of their age -- if they can do it then let 'em go! This brought life to the scene in the movie, "Other Side of Heaven" where the little boy falls out of the mango tree and is healed by Elder Groberg. Since there are no addresses in the villages, here's a sample of directions to the Nairoqo home: "Go to Vesaro village, pass the pine trees and take a right at the large Mango tree, then go left at the yellow flowered bush and travel through the cane field until you see some coconut and mango trees on a little rise, their home is under those trees."
As is almost always the case, many kids from the village gather at each others homes to play. Below are some shots of us teaching the kids how to jump rope ("hose" in this case). They were so joyous at a new game!
Lili is the youngest Nairoqo and is a pure ray of light. In the first picture of the family, we are all seated on a woven matt brought outside from the house so we could sit and teach in the cool breeze (well, slightly cool that is). The evening was coming on and that brings out the toads and geckos, all hopping and scurrying around with the other insects, rats, and mosquitos which freely go in and out of the open homes. They are very proud of their home which Saimoni built himself and they take great pride in keeping it as nice as possible along with their farm area -- it's all beautiful perched up there on a little hill. Below, Annie sits with 15 year-old and Lusiana.
On this night and one previous, everyone sang their hearts out as is the custom here. We continue to be surprised by how many hymns they know by heart and they want to sing an opening and closing hymn every time you come. After we had the lesson, they chose to sing; "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go, Dear Lord." Both Annie and I could not contain the tears as we sang the hymn, particularly the line: "there's surely somewhere a lowly place in earth's harvest fields so wide. Where I may labor through life's short day, for Jesus the Crucified." There we sat, in what is by American measures, a very "lowly place" but it was divine to us. We both shared our testimony with the family that when we were called to Fiji we knew nothing about it and had a difficult time adjusting, but we had promised Heavenly Father that we would go wherever he sent us. There in the Nairoqo home, we came to know that the Lord had sent us here and we felt blessed beyond expression. This Sunday, the same hymn was sung and later I was visiting with the parents and they said: "Did you hear your favorite hymn?" Then Brother Nairoqo looked at me and quietly said; "I'm glad you kept your promise."