Friday, December 23, 2011

Felicitations from Fiji !!!

And a new star appeared, giving light and life to the world
     As we come to our first Christmas away from home we think of you all and what a difference you have made in our lives.  For every moment we have shared together, for every Church meeting, service project, play day, family gathering, and yes - even the teary days, we thank you all.  You have made our lives more rich and meaningful.

    You can imagine our great mix of feelings.  We are devoted day and night to the work of building people and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ which is so much more meaningful to us just now.  As you know, when we submitted our mission papers we secretly hoped for a cute little cottage in Ireland or Scotland -- but we were committed to go where the Lord wanted us to go.  When we received our call we were shocked at the assignment to Fiji and had no idea whatever about what it was like here.  A few times, our lofty ideals of "go where you want me to go," have been put to the test. We have had our days of struggle and sadness, of despair and complaint.  If it would really do any good, we could spend a lot of time murmuring.
     In retrospect, we are usually embarrassed at these shallow moments and are inclined to remember the tender poem, "A Little Place"

Where shall I work today, dear Lord            
and my love flowed warm and free.
He answered and said,
"See that little place?
Tend that place for me.”
I answered and said,
"Oh no, not there,
No one would ever see
No matter how well my work was done,
Not that little place for me!"

His voice when He spoke,
Was soft and kind,
He answered me tenderly,
"Little one, search that heart of thine,
Are you working for them or Me?"
"Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.”

     One day while we were in the temple at Suva, a humbling insight came.  It was related to the experience of Adam and Eve soon after they left the Garden of Eden (see Moses 5).  They had been directed to worship God and "offer the firstlings of their flocks" and had been obedient to the command. But they really didn't understand why they were doing it, nor what it's full meaning was. "And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto [them], saying: 'Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?' And [they] said: 'I know not, save the Lord commanded me.' And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth."
     At that moment, an overwhelming feeling came that in the smallest of ways, we too had sacrificed to come on a mission because all adult Latter-day Saints who are able have been invited to do so.  We came not really understanding what we were coming to and we had given up the comforts of home, family and friends to do so and perhaps we too were walking in the "similitude" of our Savior. On a much more divine and grand scale, Jesus gave up all that he was in the kingly courts on high to be born in the humblest of circumstances.  He was "despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53). He was obedient to his Heavenly Father and triumphed over sin and death that joy and eternal life might be available to all.  And He did all this willingly "for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world" (2 Nephi 26:24). The apostle John said that "We love him, because he first loved us" (2 John 4:19).
    Jesus's statement to Peter; "If ye love me, feed my sheep" has become more meaningful than ever to us.  Being with these humble and wonderful Fijians, serving and loving them always brings us back to reality and we experience a joy we could never have imagined. We quickly forget ourselves and are humbled by their cheery nature and unbounded sharing of anything they have. So we have been spending the last few days finishing up preparations for our Christmas visits to those we have come to love.  Annie has been busy baking loaf after loaf of banana bread and muffins and we've assembled gifts of hymn books, gospel art books, scriptures, and a few other specifically tailored gifts: art supplies for a wonderful person who sits in a destitute cement home barren of anything and who draws with a pencil on scraps of paper; a clock for a home without; some cornmeal for a family that loved Annie's cornbread and have never tasted it before; pictures of Jesus and children for the little kids in villages; etc.
And now a glimpse of some of the people we'll be delivering Christmas remembrances to -- 
how beautiful they are!
Olivia and her children with sister Tuliana whom we first contacted at a store where she works
The Nairoqo family whom we are helping to prepare to go to the temple
Eloni is a co-worker of Tuliana and she brought him to a lesson at our flat.  He was so kind and humble and
wanted us to begin teaching him at his home in another village.  
A nephew and niece of Eloni

Daniel and his wife and child (Isaac).  He works at a hardware store that we frequent
and approached us about what we do.  We are teaching his family & two brothers.
Laisiasa is a relative of a member and a new investigator and obviously a great uncle
Next are a few pictures from the ward Christmas party.  It was a "lovo" which is Fijian for cooking stuff in the ground.  We had chicken, fish, cassava, taro, taro leaves stuffed with something awful, and fruit.  Most of these kids belong to families we'll be taking Christmas gifts to:



Some of the mob who run together on Sundays.  In truth, everyone lives in extended families and all are welcome
anytime.  So kids and people just hang out together and take care of each other as family all the time.
The beautiful Mateiwai family with a couple extra
 Now if you thought we were done -- NO, we have saved the best for last.  The creme de la creme is of course our own beloved family back in the states.  Since many of you won't see their Christmas pictures, we thought we'd finish with the kids and grandkids we love most:
Lizzie, Matt, Jessica, Sofie ~ Salt Lake City
Sara & Birch with kids (left to right): Tyler, Alysee, Chloe, Nate, Cooper, Alex ~ Yakima, Washington
Ryan, Sage, Emily, Mila ~ Yakima, Washington
Isaac, Kate, Leah, Lucy, Geoff ~ Mapleton, Utah
Tommy, Seth, Cali, Caroline ~ Zambia, Africa
Laura, Isla, Jared ~ just moved to SLC!
Luke (and niece Kate) ~ BYU
We leave you with our love and prayers for blessings to you in the coming year. Christmas is all about the Savior of the world and the little family where it all began as depicted in this simple scene at the Suva Fiji temple grounds and in the sweet song of the missionaries:



                   

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Circumnavigating Viti Levu



 When we left the Suva Fiji mission home in October after our arrival, we traveled south and west on the Queen's highway across the island and then north to Ba, about 5-6 hours away.  Last week, we travelled from Ba north and east and then south on the King's highway back to Suva for our Christmas mission conference.  We have now circled the entire island of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji -- and the King's highway is much prettier, less travelled, and has smoother roads which are a rarity in Fiji.  Here are some of the beauties we encountered:

Leaving the western side and headed to the east.


 Watch closely as Annie strokes the leaves of this "sensitivity" plant.  They are very common and enjoyable to watch as they respond to stimulation.

As we drove along we noticed another common site - a bunch of villagers net fishing in the river.  They string the net out into the river and then a number of them begin smacking the water with poles frightening the fish into the net which is then pulled together into a ever tightening circle to secure the catch.  On an earlier trip, we found these net fishers in the midst of scaring the fish into the net:






On the north end of the island, the highway cuts across the interior of the island with its beautiful villages and rain forrest.
Marking the entrance to a village.
The clothes lines are lifted up with bamboo poles allowing much more hanging room and the clothes are out of the way.-- So ingenious.
Color adds so much to these simple homes.

We weren't sure whether this was a mid week religious gathering, a cava gathering or something else.
                  Here we are crossing one of the wooden bridges with a village in the background.
All terrain, 2 seat, 4  legged horse power works pretty well. 
Beautiful traditional bure
 Everywhere in Fiji on the weekend and most evenings, you can find kids playing rugby, soccer, and volleyball.  If you look closely at the right pole you'll notice two kids holding the standard upright.  This is really common technique - one kid leans against the inside of the pole while the one behind wraps his arms around him and they both lean back to create tension on the net.  The kids take turns doing this and then rotating in to play.


Along the way, we stopped to to cut some bamboo to use for a curtain rod in our kitchen.  This kind man was sure Tom needed his help and was very pleased to smooth out the pole for us.  He said he was born here in the rain forest and that it rained most everyday.  Sure enough the skies started to sprinkle on us as we talked.


The road is still under construction and at times our 4 wheel drive came in handy. 

We were struck with how unfazed the people were with the rainstorm.  Life went on as always.
So many smiles we encounter along the way.  We wave to all and it is almost always returned with a big smile and a wave back at us. 
Even baby buns are strong here.  Not sure why he was being led back home...but his mom definitely had a plan.
Humble circumstances, but so much better than having to travel to a bigger city.


Sorry for the jiggles, but we couldn't pass up the opportunity to get a picture of these joyful women zooming along in front of us.  Fijians are generally happy and laugh with great enthusiasm as they pass the time together.  Most everyone walks, takes busses, or "transports" like this truck when traveling from one distant place to another.  30-90 minute walks are nothing to these people who visit each other in neighboring villages regularly.  We travelled to Suva on Sunday afternoon and people were all dressed up for Church walking, carrying food contributions to their destinations, and playing with children as they went.  We passed banana laden trees, coconut palms and the staples of Taro and Cassava are grown everywhere there is space.  It is really pretty cool.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Bainivalu Family

Just a brief post here and we hope to do more soon.  In the attached movie, we visit a little settlement of 3 homes on a hill.  They are all pitifully poor but have one of the best kept gardens we've seen at any village.  The kids just love it when we come and all run around hoping to sing or do some activity together.  When we're in the village, everyone looks dirty and ragged, but when they can afford to get to church, somehow they all look cleaned up and neatly dressed in their best.  These are dear children with no parent to really help them spiritually - we feel for their plight and think of the Savior's lament that there is so much to do and so few laborers.  If these kids had parents who took the lead, they would blossom and flourish in the Church.  When we do visit and sit down with them, the first thing they do is run to one of the homes and get hymn books so we can sing together and pray together -- they just love that and sing with volume and enthusiasm, knowing many hymns by heart.  How could Heavenly Father not provide a great mansion for these innocent beauties?




Our love to you all,

Mom and Dad

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Making Do or do without...



  There is a great Pioneer adage that goes something like this: "Use it up , make it do or do without." Fiji has given us ample opportunity to  utilize this philosophy.  As spoiled Americans we have come to rely on availability of resources and conveniences which we have come to realize do not exist in much of the world, Fiji included.  We are not camping, but some days we feel a bit of the "pinch" of adjusting to what we have to work with.  Good thing I come from pioneer stock and was raised by resourceful parents because usually we can see the absence as a challenge and we get to laugh a lot too.  We thought we would share some of those with you today.

Yogurt is pretty much a staple in our diet, yet tasty yogurt here is only available in Suva (5 hours away) and very expensive so we went back to the original way of getting yogurt and make it now.  Aren't we smart??  It is so easy and rewarding.  Now we are set with "sour cream"and "buttermilk" and I used to do it all the time but had gotten lazy.

Who knew cardboard has SO much potential.  When we arrived here we were blessed to get a new stove and refrigerator that came in BIG boxes.  Hating to destroy something that had potential we hung onto it.  Tom and I try to do Pilates every morning.  At home we just lay down on the carpet and are ready to go.  It should be no surprise to learn that carpet is non existant here and the ceramic tile in our flat is not cushie.  At first we thought  we would hunt for yoga mats and then realized we had the solution in our extra bedroom.  I have found the only drawback is that my backbone tends to groove out the center of the cardboard matt and I am hoping it will last the mission. We actually have a spacious living room area but have found it so much more pleasant if we use our bedroom where we have somewhat of an air conditioner which makes our heated up bodies happier as we workout, hence we are really cozy in our small work out bedroom.

As we have prepared lessons we have wondered, "why didn't we come prepared with more teaching aids?"  (Hint to those of you who are preparing for your own missions.)  In their absence, card board has come to our rescue for making props, visuals, and teaching aids.  Nothing fancy, but perhaps adequate for the circumstance.  When we use our computer it always seems so out of place when we are all sitting on the floor of a humble home with beautiful hand woven mats.



Our kitchen shelving is not solid pieces of wood, rather slats and I found things weren't as stable as they would be on a solid surface so out came the cardboard.  It works.

And don't throw out any used containers because they come in very handy for storing things that ants, cockroaches, humidity or who knows what else might find.


Our clip on bed lamps  themselves were a feat to obtain.  We must have asked in 20 stores (that means 2 towns worth of stores) for lamps.  No one even understood what we were asking about.  I think Fijians only read during the day because their homes are extremely dark (electricity is so minimally used) so when I spotted some potential clipon lamps we snatched them up.  Once home we found they could not clamp securely to the bed railings so we pulled out the cardboard and wrapped it around to increase the surface area the clamp had to grip onto.  Again, magic!

Mattress pads don't seem to be a necessity here but then neither are beds, so when we were hoping to find a cover for our new mattress no one understood our request.  In fact sheets come only with a fitted sheet and pillow case because most nights, a top sheet is not needed.  During our last trip to the bigger town of Suva, we happened onto a thrift store.  I asked them where their things came from because Fijians definitely do not discard belongings.  Her reply was "Australia".  A nearby bin had some linens in it and  a huge lovely quilted cover for a king size bed caught my eye.  I know you are thinking bedbugs, etc. but I figured all would be well after a good soak in the washer.  It came out smelling sweet and so soft; now much of it covers our mattress.

As you can see, we have use of a beautiful new 4 wheel drive Toyota truck while here in Fiji.  We love it and are so grateful for it.  Although we have only had need of the 4 wheel drive a couple times thus far, we are told the rainy season will allow many opportunities to engage all 4 tires.


The only problem with our beautiful truck is that it was required that all the seats be covered with clear indestructible vinyl.  Think 90+ degrees,  hot shower humidity and very warm body masses glued to the truck seats.  Tom especially was not a happy camper.   For some reason he does not like to peel himself from the seat when we get out of the truck, so I pulled out our extra set of towels and lined the underneath side with left over quilt material, pinned them together with safety pins and voila, we now can sit more comfortably.

Cooking presents many opportunities to be creative. I could find a few spices I recognize but not always ground.  Since we do not have a mortar and pedestal, I find a hammer works pretty well to crush whole cloves and smells wonderful.  Looking for some whole grains to add to making our bread, we almost bought chicken food that also is sold in grocery stores until we were advised to the contrary. In the open market there is a vast array of beautiful legumes used in Indian cooking.  Tom made fried rice the other day but it lacked sprouts so a couple days ago we bought some mung beans and found sprouting here is a cinch.  In spite of the vast number of choices of currys, marslas and many other spices with exotic names, basil was not to be found.  While in Suva on the same trip a few weeks ago, I spotted some fresh basil.  We have kept it in a glass of water allowing it to grow roots and today I planted the starts in a makeshift pot.  Hopefully it will continue to grow and produce many sprigs of fragrant basil for our use.  Speaking of spices, I discovered a new use for cinnamon and curry.  As a gift for one of the special families here,  I was making a wall hanging.  The only paper I had was white and I wanted it to be off white, so I tried rubbing the spice into the paper and and got just what I needed it to be.



We have the luxury of a washer, drier and an ironing board but we still chuckle when we sit down to iron on this minature ironing board (Fijians do not own irons and the Indians are short - hence the micro-ironing board height).  Speaking of laundry, when we moved into our flat it had a musty smell and we wanted to counter that with a better fragrance so we puled out the newly acquired drier sheets (for fragrance and anti-static) and I stuck them in the key holes in the  bedroom doors,  closets, and drawers and all smells much better now.  Maybe we just got used to it??  To insure we know it is Christmas here, we will be simmering cinnamon, cloves and ginger on the stove;  it may be the only familiar part of Christmas this year.

When we go out in the day, we have found taking frozen bottles of Fiji water is a treat because it easily melts and then we have ice cold water to drink, but we found another use for the frozen bottles is to put them in a little insulated lunch bag we were given and then we can take home butter or fresh meat and not have it go bad on the way back home. And speaking of meat, we find chickens are much smaller here, in fact they are all the same size!  They are sold frozen in 1 kilo size bags or maybe 1.2 kilo size.  How do they do that?  We picture the chickens lined up ready to be weighed and awaiting their fate.  There is a  nice butcher here in Ba that we have become acquainted with.  Each week he patiently waits for the meat truck to deliver.  Yesterday when we went in (he had told us Thursday was the best day to come because the shipment came in) his cooler was mostly empty.  Apparently they only kill on certain days and he was still waiting, so are we.  We have found USDA meat is not available here.  Surprised?  Neither were we but we also find that parts and pieces we find here are not recognizable to us former WINCO shoppers.  The other night as we chewed and chewed on some beef, I asked Tom to,  "Please pass the connective tissue."  I guess that's why corned beef, corned mutton and other canned protein is so common on the grocery shelves.




 We have scheduled a lesson from a former fish monger we are now teaching who has offerred to give us some tips on buying fish from the fish market.  Clothes pins may take on another use as you can imagine the smells that await us.


Although we sweep several times a week and mop in between, we find we need to wear flip flops or we are constantly brushing off ash from our feet that comes in the windows from the cane burning and sugar mill.  I recently purchased a pair of  blue flip flops so I could use them as slippers.  The other day I noticed blue smudges around the flat.  My first instinct was to assume my flip flops were melting -- it now seems they actually are.  Is that because of the heat or the quality?  Time will tell.