Monday, December 10, 2012

The Heart of the Matter

Although, the idea of "late" does not exist in Fiji, our "Palagi" mind set sometimes chides us if we leave a bit later than planned.  We gather our "supplies" for the day near the front door anticipating what it may or may not hold for us -- think of Michelle Pfeiffer's purse in the movie, One Fine Day.  Recently, we laughed as we climbed in the truck and took inventory of all we had loaded: lunch, first-aid kit, Family Home Evening lesson, drinking water for the day, garden seeds for distribution, toy for a young child we'd recently met, plumbing supplies for a project in southern Taveuni, shovels, large cane knife (like a machete), Leatherman multi-tool, insect repellant, computer and teaching aids, shopping bags, scriptures, mail to be distributed (only one post office on the island), curriculum supplies, reading glasses for distribution, sewing machine and fabric, cameras, handi-wipes, phone, hymn book, and various pamphlets about LDS beliefs. Some, but not all these things fit in Annie's purse so if it takes us longer to load up and get away than expected, why worry?  Again, "late" just does not exist so we wonder why we sometimes get ruffled over the loading time and delayed departure.  By the time we're off, we really appreciate the blast of air conditioning the truck provides -- a true luxury that we never take for granted.

Somedays, we know what to plan for but other days just develop as we go.  Taveuni has brought new friends and varied opportunities to serve, but recently we had the opportunity of hosting a dear friend from Ba, Adi Tabualevu.  As an infant, her eye was injured when a piece of dry vegetation from the ceiling of her bure (hut/home) fell and stuck in her eye.  Her well-meaning aunt tried a home remedy and some combination of the two events caused her to go blind in that eye.
Rotary International paid her way to come to Taveuni for a free eye clinic they host each year where they do over 200 eyes surgeries, restoring the gift of sight to many.  Unfortunately, her condition was inoperable but the trip brought renewed friendship and a wonderful few days together.  We're not sure if she has ever had a "day off" or any kind of vacation so the sadness of her eye assessment was eased by our opportunity to be together and explore some of the natural attractions of Taveuni.

Adi's humility and goodness under difficult life circumstances was always an inspiration to us as we shared the gospel and helped her prepare to attend the temple for the first time.

Adi and her family (3 boys) live in a modest tin home that has never had electricity.  She and her husband, a good man who cuts cane for a living, had saved and saved to be able to afford a power line to their home.  Her dream was to just have "one light and one power point" (outlet).  When it looked like purchasing the required pole, supplies, and government approvals might be out of reach for them she said she just went in the corner of her home and knelt down to ask Heavenly Father to intervene on their behalf.  Soon thereafter, a relative said she would give them a pole, left over from the flood damage in their village.  The Tabualevus couldn't afford to get the pole transported from that village to their home so we were able to get it with our faithful truck that has performed so well in many unexpected circumstances over the months.
The pole had been submerged in flood mud and weighed several hundred pounds
If it weren't for this guy's ingenuity, we never could have balanced the
pole on the truck - a feat that took a lot of engineering
Secure but shaky, we crept along the road to the Tabualevu house a several miles away
Final resting place of the power pole near their home -- happy day!
Once the pole was in place, our mutual electrician friend Rafele Vutaga (see previous blog) donated his expertise to do the wiring.  

Wired but waiting until $62 more can be earned for the final permit and fees
before their dream will become a reality 
Electricity won't modernize the kitchen where cooking is done over the
open fire.  Thirteen year-old Sikeli stayed home one day when his mom
was not well and fixed a breakfast of casava and lemon leaf tea
Sunday was a special time to have her travel with us to the southern tip of the island where she jumped right in teaching and speaking in church.  On Monday we headed to discover some of the beauties of the island, all new to us as well.

Lots of rain had swelled the river over the road but we just headed through

On way to Bouma Falls

Apparently not wanting to be unidentified if I drowned,
I unintentionally kept my name tag on 
Her first time to swim in the ocean, collect seashells and have a picnic -- she loved them all
On our way home we passed this medical facility that is about as big as this picture
and the cutest thing we have seen here.  Thanks to Rotary International for giving
this village a valuable resource.
Headed for the ferry to return to her home, we stopped at the International Dateline.
Friendship across time and culture
 As Adi left Taveuni, we felt again that though we have many varied opportunities in Fiji, the heart of what we do always centers around people.  We've grown closest to those we've served and taught.  While helping to improve the temporal circumstances of people is always fulfilling, in the end, the most important thing we do is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ which improves and gives meaning to life now and lasts for eternity.

Our primary purpose as missionaries is to: "Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." Our mission theme scripture further highlights our commission: "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life" (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 5:13).  This is truly the heart of the matter -- the thing we do that is of most worth.

On our first visit to the southern district of Vuna, we met Ela at church.  She had been invited by a friend in the village and we were immediately taken by her bright smile and sincere interest.  She was drawn to Tom's conversion story as a young adult and requested that we begin teaching her. At our first lesson, her sister Ana joined us and thus began a wonderful relationship we'll always treasure.  Their young brother, Apatia was already a member and he sat in on occasion for the lessons.
Ela (21), Ana (16), and their brother, Apatia (12) -- a family of bright countenances
On the way to their home one day, we passed by an open door to a neighboring home where we found Litiana. No one seemed to be concerned or took notice of her culinary experimentation.
Learning to prepare roti can never start too young
Ana and Ela frequently take care of little Litiana and she loved her balloon ball
kindly made and provided by friends in America
We loved teaching these two sisters who were so intent on learning
Often extras joined us as we taught them.  This day, the sounds from a movie
we were playing drew them in.
Several months of meeting culminated with their desire to be baptized.  It was simple, and wonderful to gather by the sea with friends to witness their baptisms.  We might acknowledge their concern when they were sure they saw some large creature swimming nearby which they assumed to be a shark.  The young boys threw shells out at it so all would be safe and also checked the sea floor for spiny things.  All went well and we lost no one, and we added a beautiful daughter of God to His fold.

Because Ana had been sick, a few days later she was baptized in an evening service just as the sun went down.

Each week our bumpy rides to Vuna have brought blessings to us to know and love these young women and the wonderful members there, many of whom live and work on the copra plantation.  As the saying goes, "these are days never to be forgotten."


emily a. said...

I'm glad you got to reunite with an old friend. I bet she felt like a princess having such a nice vacation.

Leah said...

The baptisms brought a tear to my eye. Such wonderful, humble people you are meeting there. How lucky are we to have them as a part of the fold!

Ditto Family said...

What another fabulous post!!! How fun to help provide a much needed (and deserved) vacation for Adi. I totally laughed reading about your purse full of goodies for the day -- but where are your almonds?

Vicki Rinne said...

I loved the little clip of Litiana preparing "roti." It must be characteristic of children all over the world--such fun to be had in getting into the food supplies and pretending to cook.