Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcoming the New Year

Our holiday remembrances wouldn't be complete without sharing with you one more event from our Christmas Conference held at the LDS Church College in Suva.  All the zones were asked to prepare an "item"(Fijian for a talent presentation).  Our leader, Elder Key (to Annie's right) is Samoan and was a patient teacher and choreographer of our Meke - a traditional island dance.  You'll notice that he also is the most natural and best dancer!
This handsome group of missionaries represent the western side of Fiji  .  They are hard working, dedicated young men plus they were good sports about us dancing the Meke with them.  It is an honor to serve with them. 
Enjoy these shots of the LDS Church College campus and our performance!  This represents a lot of sweaty practice days...

The highlight of our Christmas day was a sweet experience with an elderly Indian member, Sister Naicker.  She has been bed ridden and wheel chair bound for months from a hip/leg injury and her niece asked if we could find a walker for her to help her gain strength and walk again.  We have looked everywhere (Red Cross, the hospital, clinics, etc.) in both Ba and a nearby town and walkers just don't seem to exist.  Finally we located one and took it to her after Church.  When we brought it in, her niece wheeled Sister Naicker right up to it and helped her to stand up.  When she took hold of the handles and stood, she just bowed her head and began to weep and pray for several minutes (in Hindi).  Then she would grab our hands and kiss them and then pat our cheeks and kiss them. This went on for some time and we felt we had done so little but had been profoundly humbled by this sweet woman who only wants to get well enough to make a long trip to the Suva temple and be sealed to her husband and children who have passed away. It was a joyous moment.

Between Christmas and New Years, we enjoyed two particularly vigorous rain storms.  During the first, we went for a wonderful walk to visit the Mateiwai family (sorry for the blur):
When someone sees that you're going to walk home in
the rain, they say: "Oh, you're going to take a Fijian rain bath!
 During the second, we just enjoyed the rain bath on our own bathroom:
For three days we either went without water
or turned on the water briefly to stock up while the bathroom pipes sprayed water everywhere, filling our bathroom.
And did we mention the same thing was going on in the kitchen?  From ceiling to floor, fridge to stove we had
water spraying out from broken pipes (caused by a not so savvy "handy man").
Our son Seth and his family live in very similar circumstances in Africa and he commented the other day that there is simply no good that comes from calling a "repair man."  How true.  The first handy man hired by the land owner looked at the leaking sink and then took out his only two tools -- a screw driver and a pair of wire cutters.  He looked up and down and then started to pound away at the faucet.  After breaking the handle off he looked curiously at the sink and said, "I'll have to come back."  He never did.  The next repair man took a more vigorous approach by shaking and twisting the sink basin.  That didn't seem to fix the leak but soon after he left the pipes failed altogether and we soon had about 2 inches of water in our bathroom (which thankfully is a step down version with a drain).  Night time trips to the bathroom were a joy for the next few days -- wading through who knows what in the dark and hoping the Geckos were not taking refuge on the toilet seat!

Whether we're speaking of the rain, the plumbing, the heat and humidity, the sweat running down your forehead and back, or the occasional hot flash -- we're wet much of the time.  Our only cool reprieve is a shower but the towel fibers don't seem absorbent so you can't actually dry off anyway.  We go through the motions of drying off and "pretend" that we are accomplishing the intended purpose but to no avail. Each element gives us a daily opportunity to laugh or cry, so we mostly laugh.

On Thursday we went to teach Eloni, one of our wonderful investigators.  Before arriving we stopped in a nearby village to take a picture to Tuliana and Olivia.  As we left, Tuli asked if she could accompany us and on our way out she picked a beautiful multi-colored orchid and gave it to Annie to put behind her ear (pink, purple, white).  It was so delicate and lovely.  When we arrived at Eloni's home about 8pm, it was still very hot and as often is the case, there were many mosquitos and bugs crawling everywhere.  We taught him of the Savior's life and atonement and of His invitation to for us to be obedient to the commandments.  At one point when Annie was sharing her testimony, I looked over at this beautiful woman I am so joyed to be serving with and she had sweat running down her forehead and back, but over her ear was that beautiful orchid and combined with her testimony the whole moment seemed divine to me.

When New Years Eve came along we decided to attend a party at the Assembly of God church nearby as an expression of respect and interest we have taken in a fabulous young married man we have met and who was "on the organizing committee."  It was all in Hindi and really wasn't that fun, so we sweated our way to the street party at the town center but didn't last too long before we went home.  The blaring Indian music and aromatic heat waves coming from the crowd just didn't seem too enticing. We were feeling kind of tired and blue and were happy to retire to our air-conditioned bedroom.  We heard later that in Suva their street party ended with a surprise at midnight with 2 fire trucks spraying everyone with fire hoses as a way of sending everyone home!

Today we had church at the regular time and just before starting, our bishop arrived completely soaked from sweat.  It was a very hot day and I asked if he had walked, to which he said "yes," because it was a holiday and no transportation was running.  We didn't initially understand the ramifications of this.  No transports means that you have to walk if you're coming to church and that meant a 60-90 minute walk for most of the members (added to the fact that they were fasting).  They all came in sweaty and wilted.

I noticed that Brother Nairoqo was walking a little funny and he light heartedly showed me his flip-flop which had broken (1/4 of the back was broken off and the toe piece had pulled through the base).  They live particularly far out in the country and he had ingeniously fixed one sandal by putting a clothes pin on the underside of the toe piece to keep it from slipping out and on the way home he added some stout plant fiber to enforce the other.  We joked with him that he would be a great shoe repairman:

The most humbling part of the day though, was a testimony of a widow during a discussion on service and charity.  She commented that a couple days earlier a man in the village had taken ill.  She decided to cook some fish and taro for the family and take it over to them.  The next day, a boy from the family came asking if she had any money to help them.  Few Fijians have much money and she said she didn't really have any cash but a few dollars she was saving to go to church the next day.  However, she decided to give the money anyway and when they left this morning to come to church and no public busses were running, her son said; "I think we should just go back home."  This faithful woman replied; "No, I think it would be better for us to just walk to church."  They did and like most everyone else who showed up today, they each had come at great sacrifice and effort.

Nani (age 73) lives about 15 miles away and is always at church and on time every week.  Today we were able to take her to the central bus station in Ba where she could catch a bus home.  As we walked her to the bus, we were astounded at the step up that was up to the middle of her thigh.  She laid her purse down and hefted her leg up and nimbly boarded the bus.
After church many members were sitting out on the cement under a shaded overhang.  We asked them what they were up to and how were they going to get home?  This was about 1:30pm, and they said they would wait until the sun went down and it was not so hot so they could walk back home.  How could we ever complain about the difficulties we face? There we were, about ready to get in our air-conditioned truck and drive away and we just couldn't do it (insurance rules for church vehicles "preclude" transporting non-missionaries).  So we told them that we would be the transport today and we went back and forth to different villages with a truck-load of happy members.  We were happy too and wish all of you the same as we embark on a new year.


emily a. said...

I bet it's so hard to not give rides when you see all of that happening. I know we all keep saying it but all of those people are so lucky to have you in their lives. (And I know you feel blessed having them in yours.)

The dance was awesome. When we were watching it Sage kept saying, "Ami is just so pretty." It's true.

Love you both!

Ditto Family said...

I felt like I was totally back at BYU-Hawaii at the Folk Life Festival. I LOVED being apart of the dances and always wished that my dancing talent were as good as my desire to be awesome. I'm totally impressed with how quickly everyone learned the dance -- it was long and awesome!!!

I love the story of the Bishop and his shoes and of course the weekly sacrifice that all the members make to get to and from church is just amazing!!

By the way, have you met Brother Samisoni Kulitapa (I think he also goes by Kulitapa Quaruvania). I think he is the Bishop or branch president in Nausori, Fiji. He served under Brooke's parents in the Denver mission. He is married and I think has a child or two. Melba and Earl are hoping that you could meet them.

Strahls said...

Happy New Year!!! Hope your water is fixed soon. Makes me think twice about whining about running out of hot water in the shower with all of us trying to get ready to go somewhere! May God bless you and your friends there in 2012.

Matt said...

Seems hard to imagine that kind of heat right now. Thank you for the update. I'm amazed at the strength of the people there!

Running Rinnes said...

Happy New Year Tom & Annie! The things you are writing inspire us both to be better throughout the coming year. We love you. Heikki & Vicki

Janis said...

Thank you for sharing. I am always humbled when i read what's going on in your part of the world. Happy new year to the sweetest two people in the world. I have always loved and admired you both.

Janis said...

Thank you for sharing. I am always humbled when i read what's going on in your part of the world. Happy new year to the sweetest two people in the world. I have always loved and admired you both.

MamaBear said...

What a great post! It makes me yearn for adventure! You guys were awesome dancers!