Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ba Women of Valor

She caught our eye as we bounced down the rocky road.  Red hair, a golden dress and she was wielding a cane knife like a pro.  The fact that Eta was only about 4 and 1/2 feet tall and advanced in years might have added to our interest.  Screeching to a halt so as not to miss a photo opportunity to capture this little fireball in action, we then found she was on her way home after hearty work in the field.  Pictures are scarce here for people to have so we were not surprised when she requested a copy.  She wanted us to meet her family and then sent us home with some newly harvested bananas. Her grand daughter who was visiting from New Zealand explained that her grandpa was not well and was suffering from a urinary tract illness and not expected to live much longer.  Over the ensuing months we were able to become friends with this gentle, humble man and his energetic and loving wife.  While we are unaware of their religious affiliation, Sikeli had made peace with his life ebbing out and has patiently waited for the Lord to call him home.
77 year old Eta scurried around their home and properties always mindful of her duties and yet sensitive to her husband's needs.  Sometimes we would stop by and find him in the care of  their daughter while Eta was in town taking fruit to the market to sell.  Her children were proud that their mother could still carry on as she always had, harvesting fruit and caring for their compound.  Easter Sunday was an especially reverent visit as we shared music and spoke of meeting our Savior again one day.  This was a couple who loves family and understands their relationship with their Creator.
Once at the market, she was able to sell the 7 Jackfruit to an Indian man for $30 FJD who would then resell them.  Not a bad transaction when you consider $50 FJD/week would be a pretty normal income in Ba for a full-time worker.  As she spoke of her wages, she happily acknowledged that paying their tithing would come first before money was used for anything else.  Sadly we missed recording her sweetly singing in her birdlike voice some of her favorite hymns to her husband.  Should we get to visit Ba again we will want to visit this special couple.
The image of Sister Naicker being carried down the stairs
 after her eye appointment is easy to pull up in our memories.
In all our mission time we have yet to feel the intensity of appreciation for anything we were able to do as we have felt from Rajamani Naicker.  Although we had such limited communication through words, her tears, her smiles, and her kisses on our hand and cheek all spoke to our heart.  A few months back, her very attentive niece and caretaker, Pillay, had gingerly asked us for a little help as she was planning on traveling to Australia for a family visit and wanted to leave all in order at the homefront. We were able to gather with some of the youth and their leader, Sis. Nairoqo, to help with some housecleaning and yard care.  Such simple service and again, she was most grateful and it was we who were blessed.  When we took this photo, Pillay had tears in her eyes when she said; "No one has ever done such a thing for us."
Gratefully, Sister Naicker has now had her second cataract surgery and both eyes should be seeing more clearly -- wish we could see her again and kiss those beautiful brown cheeks.

We first met Sister Mate at the Ba market where she had a meager little display of a few plates of raw ginger, a pumpkin, and occasionally some moli (little juicy citrus, as pictured below).
Sister Mate (right) visits with a friend at the market
On the traditional mat in their visiting room which also serves as
indoor kitchen and sleeping room
Prized possessions -- broken mirror and hair pic situated on a lovely
cloth covered ancient television that no longer works
Our regular Sunday evening lesson with Sister Mate and grand daughter Miriama
Though a member of the LDS Church, when we met this wonderful grandma she had been attending another church for more than ten years although LDS members had been encouraging her to return. One day, she told her minister; “I’m going back to my Church.”  We began visiting her shortly thereafter and eventually taught her the Temple Preparation lessons.  During that period, she referred her daughter and granddaughter to the missionaries and both were baptized.
Three generations - Ulamila, Miriama, Mate
One of the blessings grandparents have in Fiji is the ease of having their lives intertwined with extended family.  In Sister Mate's case, her 16 year old grand daughter moved in to live with her because Miriama's school was very near and that meant saving precious bus fare everyday.  This seemed to work out very well for both and Sister Mate was a great support in sharing her feelings about the gospel with Miriama during our lessons. 
While we were teaching Sister Mate, we noticed her love for the Bible and Book of Mormon and her excitement over them.  Her scripture bag went with her to the market every day. She told us that each night she asks Heavenly Father to wake her up by 3am so she can study the Book of Mormon until she begins cooking at 5am.  She explained her new-found passionate faith in the Book of Mormon when she said; “Each day before I begin reading I pray to Heavenly Father and say: What you going to tell me today?  What you want to give me today? What’s going to come today that I should learn?”  Every day, she reported that her prayers were answered and she was so happy!  She told us: “Today, I love the Book of Mormon. Before I got it, I didn't’ like reading.  But now I love it and read every day.”  We asked her if she understood the English in the Book of Mormon.  She replied: “Sometimes I don't, but then I just ask Heavenly Father to help me and I read the passage over and over again until He helps me understand.”
On our last temple preparation lesson, she bore her testimony of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and said; “Because my heart loves the Book of Mormon, today you talk about the temple and I can see myself there.”  We are an island and ocean apart now so we will miss accompanying her to the temple this November, but we too can picture her there beautifully dressed in white and beaming with joy. 

Though living in the most humble of conditions, these women exemplify some of the finest traits we hope to acquire.  They are living examples of the Savior's invitation: "Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourself of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ" (Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:32).


Leah said...

Such amazing women. I had a lot of anxiety watching that video however.

Megan and Ben said...

Oh, how I loved watching the video of Eta and reading more about these other beautiful and strong women. Eta really knows her tree! I can just imagine you there watching her- and praying she gets back to safety on the ground. Hearing your sweet voices made me smile.

emily a. said...

Amazing women and I'm glad Mom was in a lot of the pictures there because I include her as well. Eta is amazing. Not sure if I could/would have the nerve to climb that tree at 35, let alone 77 like her.

Ditto Family said...

Such sweet stories...just think of all the wonderful people you will have met over your 18 months. I sure wish you could take that lovely boat back for the November temple visit. Made my heart warm just "knowing" some of these women myself.

Matt said...

I love the simpleness of her testimony and faith!

Running Rinnes said...

We loved the great example of these women. Sister Mate's approach to prayer is very inspiring.