Sunday, February 5, 2012

Is it on, or is it off?

 Two days ago, we sent the following brief letter to our family:

We wanted to write a quick note because of the unpredictability of things down here.  Our power and water has been off 2 days and heavy rain and a cyclone are predicted to move in soon.  Church has been canceled and our much looked forward to meeting with the Kings  on Tuesday is now in jeopardy because that is the day the cyclone is supposed to hit.  We still have water to use but no where to refill now that the power is off unless we went to the village which I guess isn't so bad.  Hopefully we will be able to recharge the computer from the kindness of the corner store man.  Plenty of food but obviously the frig has limited time.  We have a baptism to go to in a bit that will be done in a rather brown river.  We were down there a couple days ago scrubbing off the muddy chairs when we were preparing for this Sunday.  It will be memorable for all I am sure.

Now we have time to relay more of the "rest of the story":

Power and water have become such a factor in how we accomplish our day's tasks.  Is it on or is it off? Just when we think we are safe and can quit planning around the possibility of losing either one, we find ourselves back at working without the basics.  I'm not sure which is more unsettling to be without, but both at the same time is less than desirable because every household need and personal care task is altared or not possible.  Yes, we like and admire the simplicity of  pioneer life but we're having second thoughts about the realities of what it meant day in and day out to live wondering where your water would come from, is it clean, how shall we store it,  are clothes dirty enough to put in the dirty clothes bin, and how will we accomplish a task for which we do not have the means to power.  It gets dark early, food spoils much faster, clothes need washing and sweeping just doesn't do the same job as a vacuum at picking up all the tiny bits of dirt, bugs and whatever else we are constantly cleaning up.

As we tromp up the muddy trails and swollen creeks to visit families, we smile thinking that a few months ago we could not have imagined ourselves doing this.  Missionaries wear nice shoes and have clean feet and walk on sidewalks, right?  Not here!  I was on the phone with a friend from Suva last night on our way to an appointment.  As we stepped out of the truck into the mud and 8 or so inches of water, holding a flashlight, an umbrella and my filled bag, I tried to keep my mind on the conversation.  Hearing the splashing water, she asked, "Are you doing the dishes?"  "No, I giggled, we are just headed to our next appointment." When we got to the home, they offered us a bucket of water to wash off with and then we were ready to begin the visit.  It's only been 4 months since arriving in Fiji but life seems extra fine these days when we can turn the spigot and get water and flip a switch and have power.  In the last 2 weeks, about 80% of the time we've not had these luxuries.  The weather reports have been ominous speaking of more flooding and possible cyclones but in reality, we a have had only days and nights mixed with rain and clearing in between.  This has allowed ongoing clean up from the flood to take place and lives are being put back together.

In preparation for our Sunday services that were to be held in a church member's borrowed industrial garage, we gathered together some willing hands to retrieve some of the chairs from the church.  That sounds like a rather simple task until you experience the setting, think several inches of VERY slippery, stinky mud.  Just two weeks ago we had spent hours with the ward members cleaning and shining up the building to give it a sparkle, now here we are skidding across the same floor in several inches of gooey mud.There was some joking about all the "chocolate" we were surrounded in.  Imagine iceskating across the chapel and loading chairs from quite some distance.  We formed a fire line and passed the chairs one to another so the treacherous walking was more limited.

Practicing for the Fijian mud skating Olympics
Bishop Ratu guided us to a location along a river where he thought we could wash them off.  Along the way, I noted men dressed in orange jumpsuits carrying large hunks of wood on their shoulders.  It occurred to me they were from the nearby prison and were out to accomplish a purposeful task of retrieving firewood.  A bit further, we noticed a group of people rummaging through piles of muddy garbage.  Bishop Ratu explained that the stores had dumped flood damaged goods there and salvageable items were being gleaned.

 On to the river...if it looks muddy it is, but it served us well.  Without running water, it's all we have to clean with.  Add a good scrub brushing and some elbow grease and we were able to accomplish the task.  There was a mixture of play and work and the bishop in his thoughtfulness offered me a chair to sit on while I cleaned.  He also wanted me to understand that Fijians use sand to scrub their pots and pans when steel pads are not available. (I already knew that from my camping days but I didn't let on.)

Bishop Ratu and Lusi
By the time we finished, the rains had returned and we loaded all the hard workers into the back of the pick up and with rain pelting down, we headed back up the extremely potholed road.  They loved bouncing along in the back and Tom may or may not have hit a few extra pot holes to give them an extra thrill.

You may recognize Lusi from the chair cleaning activity
The Elders have been teaching her for quite some time.  She has suffered from lack of stable family life until recently when when she took up lodging with the Bishop's family.  I'm actually not sure of their relationship but it has allowed her the blessing of hearing the gospel.
She was determined to be baptized rain or shine and in the end it was definitely in rain and wind.  Her baptism was brief yet special to witness this young woman desire the follow Christ's example and admonition.
A quick congratulatory hug from Mataiasi Ratu
On the way home, we stopped by the grocery store because the Elders wanted to celebrate this special event by providing lunch for Lusi and the bishop's family.  They were soaking wet but big smiles on their faces knowing this young woman is on a path that will bring her much happiness.

So tonight the power is on and we are getting a very small trickle of water.  Our clothes got washed albeit taking hours to fill the basin, we vacuumed, the frig is cold and I even heated some water for my "bath".  Life is good, we're just hoping the cyclone keeps heading south out into the South Pacific and away from us.


Leah said...

What a beautiful baptism. I'm sorry to hear of your situation. I don't like that. I do like that you're able to help so many people though and that mom is wading through mud barefoot, because I'm pretty sure I did that in high school and got in trouble.

emily a. said...

Glad you've got some moments of power and that you're checking in with us all. It was such a treat talking for so long earlier this week. It really does make the distance seem much more manageable.

Sage's prayers have become quite predictable and we've been talking to her about adding some new things to them. Even when she adds new things to be grateful for she still always prays for "Ami and Poppy, Miffonaries far, far away" every single prayer.

Julie said...

So glad your having some basics restored, though it's been quite the wait. Makes the broken faucet flood seem minor :) Love human resilance and see you have alot of it! All the best to you both.

Running Rinnes said...

How different life is for you there. I feel like we are not only on different sides of the world, but maybe not even in the same world. How we would love to send you weeks and months worth of clean water and electricity. We'd definitely go without, if there was a way to share.

Ditto Family said...

Chloe prays every day that "Ami and Poppi will have water." So sweet to see a child recognize the beauty of something we often take for granite. The baptism totally reminded me of a Mark Marby painting. I love that the Bishop offered you a chair to sit in sitting in the river. So sweet and funny at the same time. I'm thinking you might like a few new clothing items when we come in a couple of months?

Strahls said...

WOW!!! I am just speechless at all the mud and damage to everything. And I'm gathering this isn't a rare occurance...I hope your water situation will stabilize soon. I am a real whiner about camping, so I really admire your positive attitude and "endure to the end" philosophy. Blessings await you and your family for all you hard work! :) Thinking of you with love from the Strahl family.

Matt said...

You guys are amazing! How could you have ever dreamed that this would be what your mission would entail, but how blessed those people are to have you serving among them!