Saturday, May 12, 2012

On Earth and In Heaven

The Suva Fiji temple stands on a prominent hill overlooking a beautiful bay at the edge of a peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean.
Taken April 17th during Sara and Birch's visit
President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the building of the Fiji temple in April 1998 and it was completed in June of 2000 (prior to this, members in Fiji had to travel to New Zealand or Samoa to attend a temple).  A picture of serenity, the joy of the temple completion was marred by a serious political/military crisis (an attempted civilian coup on May 19th) that prevented the public dedication of the building.  Over 16,000 people had attended the brief open house before its cancellation due to the unrest.  After touring the temple, an Assembly of God pastor was heard to say, "This is heaven." In the end, only President Hinckley and a few others were allowed to be present at the formal dedication on June 18th. In his dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley included; "We pray dear Father that these beautiful islands may be blessed with peace, that there shall be no abridgment of the great freedom of worship afforded by the government of this land.  May thy Saints be recognized as good citizens and may thy work grow and flourish in this part of thy vineyard."  

"Heaven on earth" is about as good a description as we know of for the feeling at any temple, but we now have a real soft spot for this beautiful House of the Lord in Fiji.  One of our missionary blessings here is to help prepare individuals and families to attend the temple for the first time.  The temple is a wonderful house of faith, prayer, and spiritual education.  Another quote we like from President Hinckley emphasizes the latter: "The temple becomes a school of instruction in the sweet and sacred things of God.  Here we have outlined the plan of a loving Father in behalf of His sons and daughters of all generations.  Here we have sketched before us the odyssey of man's eternal journey from pre-mortal existence through this life, to the life beyond."  In the temple, we feel especially close to the Savior and better understand His immeasurable love and sacrifice for us.  How we appreciate that and feel increased gratitude for the expression of John the Beloved: "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

Over the last few months, we've been meeting with Viliame Nava (27 years old), and the Nairoqo family so that their first time at the temple would be more comfortable and meaningful.  On April 27th we met them and other members from the west side of Fiji after a 6+ hours bus ride to Suva.  Viliame is a terrific young man whose father died when he was a young boy.  He farms and generally takes responsibility for a large extended clan as well as looking after his 67 year old mother, Miriama.

They were so happy to be at the temple and to have their family "sealed" for time and eternity.  That is one of the great blessing of the temple, to know and be assured that God intended marriage and family to extend beyond the grave.

Little Lilly Nairoqo (6) had been been counting the days leading up to this trip and her mother, Elenoa, said each day when she came home from school she would run up and ask, "Is tomorrow the day?"  Finally, that day had come.  We cannot express the joy we had to be in the temple with this family.  Knowing all they've gone through to grow in faith, and seeing the happiness that has come from it has been a singular joy for us.
Elenoa's mother joined them for this happy day
On the way up the stairs to the temple that morning, Tom put his arm around Saimone and said, "You finally made it." A few days later, we asked him how he felt about what he learned in the temple and having been sealed together with his family.  He reflected on Tom's earlier statement and said; "Remember when you said we had 'finally made it?'  Really, I think we have just begun."  How perceptive and true.


Matt said...

What a beautiful family and meaningful comments.

Ditto Family said...

This is especially meaningful as we have a soft spot for Viliame and the Nairoqo family.

Strahls said...

Love this! It makes all the sacrifice and flood clean up seem so worth it when you see families partaking of eternal blessings! Hope things are well now and that the weather will temper for the Fijian people.

Running Rinnes said...

Thank you so much for giving us not only a sense of the temple and its blessing to the Fijians, but also for letting us have a personal glimpse through the eyes of Viliame and the Nairoqos. Heikki & Vicki