Sunday, July 1, 2012

"The Days Of Our Lives"

Need anything?  We could likely find it for you at one of the many "shopping centers" spread around the cane fields near Ba. They specialize in kerosene, wicks, hard-tack biscuits, and "tin fish" (canned mackerel in tomato sauce) -- just in case those are high on your list .
Or perhaps you prefer the privacy of a village spa:
Need a lift to the hospital? Elder Sherry is always on duty . . .
Or, do you just need your re-bar twisted?
And, where were you when we cooked for 20 hungry missionaries?
Makings for Minestrone soup (we also had sandwiches, fruit, banana splits,
and luscious coconut brownies)
How could we have known that the days of our missionary life would be so wonderfully varied and in many ways unexpected?  Our general commission is to strengthen the church and individuals, share the gospel, and spread good-will. The framework of our days include study and lesson preparation, training leaders, teaching the gospel, and interacting with the community.  It's our sincere desire to be instruments in the Lord's hands to do good wherever we can and we're often surprised by how many ways that is accomplished.  Of course there are times we don't accomplish much of what's planned but it's not because we didn't try -- Fijian foibles just get the best of us sometimes (but hey, "no worries").

Most days start with a plan, which sometimes begins to unravel.  Like today for instance: We wanted to support a young man we're teaching by attending his rugby game which he repeatedly assured us would start at 9am.  By 10:25 the whistle blew and most kids actually had arrived and some even had their uniforms on (no shoes yet, but they were working on it).
Joseph Bainivalu
Fijians are crazed with Rugby but sometimes a little low on gear -- we saw one boy take out
"the team mouth guard" and pass it to his replacement.
Ok, back to the "fall throughs": There are lessons and appointments that simply don't happen and with no phones (that work, anyway), we never know what really went on.  But here's one that should never have happened -  last week we drove 30 minutes to an area training meeting by local Fijian leaders.  After waiting an hour and a half, we were informed that they had "gotten a bit of a late start."  After 2 1/2 hours, rain had started coming down and some of our Ba leaders, who were still waiting outside to be picked up by the transport carrying the visiting leaders, said they were cold, hungry, and tired and one of them had a 3-month old baby with her.  Seemed like we had all waited long enough so we told them that we would return to Ba and take them home (another 30 minutes).  We never really knew just what held them up so long and the leaders never bothered to inform us.  Oh well, maybe next year? But there was still time to stop by a home where the couple had asked us to visit about family problems. It went well and on the way home we encountered a vehicle with a flat tire and no torch(flashlight) so we pulled up behind them, shining our headlights on the tire and held a torch for them.  They spoke Hindi so we didn't talk much but we parted with a smile, handshake, and secure tire -- at least that was successful! It was a day full of surprises.

The week before we had a day that went like this: We found out that some American ophthalmologists would be in town to do free eye exams as a cooperative with the Lion's Club.  We made arrangements with the caretakers and neighbors of an 84 year-old Indian woman to get her in to be seen if she could come by 8am.
Sister Naicker after we gave her a pair of reading glasses so lovingly donated by the Ramptons
and Sara and Birch.  We didn't know at the time that her cataracts were likely so
bad that she couldn't see with them anyway.  But she thanked us profusely so we
thought they were helping!
We arrived at 7:45am to get one of the 50 reserved spots of people to be seen that day and then at 8, Sister Naicker arrived in a car driven by her son -- and it was the first time she'd been out of the house for about a year since a hip problem.  But the exam room was up two substantial flights of stairs and she had only just recently begun to walk again with the help of a walker.  The assistant organizer helped her out of the car and then sweetly said (in Hindi); "Nani - put your arm around my neck" ("Nani" is the fond term for "sweet old lady"). Then with one whoosh, he bent down and scooped her up and scampered up the stairs.  Here she is coming down 4 hours later after her exam:

Get ready - here comes another kiss from a woman who is endlessly
grateful to everyone who helps.
Then it was off to help Rafele Vutaga with the "oh-so-slow" process of building a new home after his was lost in the flood.  We love going there each week and we're learning a lot about Fijian building methods.
Only enough money to build one column a day and fill it with cement.  Then
they knock off the wooden frame and reuse it for the next column.

In the future, we'll do a whole feature on this house going up -- so interesting!
After finishing at Rafele's we hurried back for a tuna sandwich and then were off to another far out location to meet with a 58 year-old widower and teach a lesson about the gospel and church as established by the Savior during his lifetime.  Petero is a wonderful man who is the youth mentor and music director for a Pentecostal church.  He is well read and sincere and we love sharing with him.  But alas, when we got to his little home, he was not there.  We waited for some time and then left him some banana bread -- only to find out later that he was out in the field cutting grass by hand for a thatched bure and lost track of time. He went running after us but we never were aware and left him jogging down the road -- how sad!  The next week we were successful and he was very apologetic for the missed appointment.
Petero Biligi
By this time, we had found out that Sister Naicker was in need of immediate eye surgery to the tune of $500 which she did not have.  Annie got on the phone and contacted the head of the local Lion's club, an Indian man named Birj Dayal and told him of Sister Naicker's plight.  He asked us to write a letter describing her financial situation and bring it to him.  We had no idea that he was the head of a very large and successful construction business and we had a gracious meeting with him where he felt certain he could get the price of the surgery significantly reduced, perhaps even free.  We're still waiting for the board of directors to make a decision but we are hopeful.  On the way home, we stopped at the church to work on the records, which are full of mistakes due to the Fijian custom of many names which change often and little interest in dates -- time is just relatively unimportant to them.

Then it was off to Sonica's home where Annie wanted to explore fixing her sewing machine (and she was successful).  Very few people own sewing machines and her husband was unhappy that she had spent the money and now it wasn't working. Annie to the rescue!  Sewing, even by hand, is not common here and people often ask Annie to fix something even though we have no machine here and all her work is hand stitched.  Recently we were at the Viliame Bainivalu home to take a picture, visit, and watch The Black Stallion together (their kids love horses).  Annie had observed Joseph's torn sulu and offered to fix it, noticing the offer his sister brought out a skirt that needed to be resized, then another sister came out with a school uniform that needed a new pocket.  As you can all guess, two days later Annie had everything adroitly finished.
The whole Bainivalu family with a couple cousins thrown in
We don't get bored!  And when we have unplanned time on our hands we can always deliver one of the many donated balls which came from the Kings in Corvallis, or make a swing for some of the village children.
Simione helping out with the construction
Sikeli and niece
Another privilege of visiting people in the villages is observing first-hand the faith of people who struggle with a lot of sickness, disease, infections, and injuries -- but who have no money for private doctors (and the public health system is very minimal).  Too often we'll be visiting and someone is limping around on one foot, suffering from boils, has a leg wrapped from an injury, or is down with an unidentified illness.  They either seek out or willingly accept an offer for a priesthood blessing.  Between that and their faithful prayers, it's amazing to see how many of them are healed from serious maladies, and very quickly in most cases.  This has been a constant source of miracles for which we are very grateful to be a part.

And the greatest miracle of all is to have the privilege of teaching someone the gospel, having them discover for themselves their divine heritage, and come to know that the restoration of the gospel actually occurred. To be part of helping a person travel that path is a distinct privilege.  We first met 15 year-old Miriama while visiting her grandmother.  She was conscientiously studying and doing her homework by a kerosene lantern.  We were impressed by her quiet yet intense nature and some weeks later were able to visit with her at church when she accompanied her grandmother.  She is an only child and because her grandma lives close to her school, she can attend without having to travel and pay bus fare.  The two of them do quite well together and these past few months we have been humbled to sit upon their mat and share truths and blessings of the restored gospel.  She even started attending Seminary(after school religion class where the Old Testament is being studied) weeks before her baptism.  Her mother willing supported Miriama's desire to be baptized and is now preparing for her own baptism.  As we have so often expressed, these people live in such humble circumstances and yet are ever desirous to be be nourished by the good word of God.
Grandmother, Mate Vidri, and Miriama
Miriama Saqali at her baptism, June 9, 2012
No, we never could have imagined the variety of experiences which fill a missionary's daily life.  What will be happening tomorrow?  We'll just wait and see.