Friday, December 21, 2012

Gifts From God

Gifts don't need to be wrapped and under the tree, they come in many simple  forms of nature, service and shared skills of heart and hand.  The best gift of all is Heavenly Father's gift of his son, Jesus Christ. We love Him and are so grateful to be in His service at this time of year.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son. that whosoever
 believeth in Him should have everlasting life."
John 3:16
Fiji is surrounded by God's handiwork in nature.  Flying several thousand feet above the azure ocean gave us a heavenly perspective of these jewels of the South Pacific as we recently flew between islands.

From God's perspective, perhaps a rainbow is a smile for us on earth.  For us, this sweet and infectious smile brings God closer to earth.

And she is in good company
Not to be outdone by youth, Brother Stolz has 69 years of finding joy in partnering with God in the garden and he is a master at it without any extension service or chemicals!  He continues to refine his skills, understanding, and to teach and share his abundance.

Needing a trellis to conserve space he opted to grow these
cucumbers up a tree
Grew his own bamboo to use for trellis work.  Note the lettuce that
was planted to grow in the shade of the pole beans
Grateful for his long bean harvest
This dear man is full of wisdom born of experience and thoughtful acknowledgement of God.  We asked if he was able to sell all the produce from his bountiful garden.  He responded that he couldn't sell it.  Mistakenly, we thought he was having trouble marketing but he clarified that the original seeds had been a gift from the LDS Church and what was freely received must be freely given. That's right, all that he grows with the exception of a small amount for himself is given away to others in the village.  Since he lives alone, he also provides the raw food for a resort and they provide him with a prepared meal each day.  Brother Stolz devotes his waking hours to nurturing the garden and giving it away -- such gratitude!  Heart and hand working in perfect harmony.

The next lesson came quickly when we observed that the produce had very little disease or insect damage -- a rarity in Fiji.  When asked whether he used an insecticide, he said; "No, I have a secret treatment."  Thinking it to be some organic solution, he brought us back home to his fundamental philosophy: "If you give it away, the insects don't bother it."

And give it away he does.  We left with a armful of cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and later with a truck load of his specially planted bamboo from which we made Christmas presents for our friends in Fiji.
In our own backyard, we have abundant evidence of gifts from God.  Coconut, papaya, mango, breadfruit, and banana trees grace the grounds and we're slowing learning how to harvest and use them - Fijian style.
In the spirit of community and giving, we happened onto a community fund raiser for an elementary school in southern Taveuni.  We found our friends in Vuna calmly working together to prepare a lovo meal for over a hundred with no kitchen in sight.  Everyone joined in some part of the preparation or performance hoping to raise part of $5000 needed to construct a new classroom wing.  If an expansion was needed, families would have to fund it and they happily joined together to get the job done.  We loved our evening with them and the food was delicious!

Children are honored and celebrated in the church community as well at the annual Primary program.

 Everyone came together to laud their children's accomplishments with a
traditional feast-gifts from their gardens and the sea
Cassva, roti,chop suey, fish and crab cooked in coconut milk and curry 
 Fish harvest from spear fishing the previous night and cooked over the open fire
"Community" and "Village" are not mere terms in Fiji.  They are a way of life and source of pride.  When you ask a Fijian where they are from, they will always tell you their birth village regardless of long they have lived away.  So it shouldn't have been surprising that Frances Piquemel has continued to bless her village of Somosomo, Taveuni even though she has lived most of her adult life in Australia. Quilting and people are two of her loves and the results were astounding as you will see in the video.  Planning and preparing with dear friend, Jenni Steventon and their quilting community in Sydney, they gathered and shipped  boxes of fabric, batting, handmade pin cushions,  handbags, rotary cutters, cutting boards and 20 sewing machines to Taveuni for a community quilting workshop.
Some 40 women were blessed by this private donation as they had their first taste of quilting.  In the end each woman had made their own quilt and 29 baby quilts were also made to donate to the hospital.  The colorful quilts, handbags, and eyeglass cases speak for themselves but also launched in those two intense weeks were friendships, confidence, possibilities for future, and hope.  Each time we wandered through the work area, happiness, fulfillment and success filled the air.  Between those layers and stitched pieces of fabric was love and concern carried from generous and talented women; that is what will keep these Fijian women warm.  What a gift from heart and hand! 
Laughter often filters in our windows and catches our attention as local kids find their way to the nearby river. On this day, after their swim and harvesting a bag of leaves for dinner, they were anxious to enjoy their papaya and sat in front of our house in a rainstorm relishing this treat and laughing, always laughing and teasing each other.  Though they won't be opening presents this Christmas, they continue to find joy in such simple gifts.

Bathing and playing together and no membership fees
All these joyous kids draw our hearts out to our own children and grandchildren this Christmas season.   It has been a significantly challenging year in so many ways for each of them yet we cannot diminish the Lord's hand and watchcare.  We have not been spared difficulties yet we have been strengthened in faith and family.  From youngest to oldest these are our most cherished gifts from God.
Luke Sherry-senior in Fine Arts at BYU
Jared, Laura and Isla Watts in Salt Lake City, Utah
Sawyer Lee Watts, born Dec. 3, 2012
Caroline, Tommy, Cali and Seth Sherry back home in Corvallis, Oregon 
Isaac, Kate, Leah, Geoff and Lucy Wright in Mapleton, Utah
Ryan, Sage, Mila and Emily (+baby soon) Andersen in Spokane, Washington
Tyler, Chole, Birch, Nate, Sara, Alysee, Alex and Cooper Ditto in Yakima, Washington
Jessica, Lizzie, Sofia and Matthew Sherry in Salt Lake City, Utah
"Son of God, love's pure light"
The spirit of the season was beautifully set by these two missionaries generously sharing their gift of voice and passion for the Savior at our recent Christmas mission conference.

Our love to you this Christmas!


Ditto Family said...

Man am I jealous of your glowing tan skin!!! What a sweet post! I'm thinking you might be hooked with blog Christmas cards and might have turned in your color pencils, sewing machine, and glue stick for the computer :)

Love you guys!!!

emily a. said...

I know you both wouldn't mind switching places for a bit to wear a sweater and slippers but your tan skin and warm weather sound pretty good to me right now.

Can you eat all of that fruit before it goes bad or do you share it as well? That's a pretty fancy way of cutting the coconut- reminds me of how dad would chop it up with a screwdriver growing up.

That meal looked amazing and it was so neat to see so many people working together. Reminded me of what a rush our world is and how they all seemed to prepare the meal with love and patience.

Man, those elders (especially the native) were amazing.

MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and I hope we'll be able to chat sometime this next week.


Strahls said...

Merry Christmas!! We are thankful for your service to the Savior!! Wishing you a blessed 2013.. The Strahl Family

Matt said...

What a beautiful post of simple love and service. Each example was amazing. Merry Christmas to you both...we love you and are grateful for your incredible love and service.

You both have serious machete skills!

Vicki Rinne said...

Dear Elder and Sister Sherry, your post was about gifts from God and you also lovingly depicted the many gifts that people give to each other in Fiji, just through their service and their lives.

Might we add a big thank you for your gift to us--your friendship, your example, your missionary service, and sharing with us the experiences you are having. Merry Christmas, and hopes for the best coming year, ever.

Love, Heikki & Vicki