23 March 2013 USA, 24 March Fiji
|Well wishers at the Taveuni airport|
We had flown on Wednesday from Taveuni to Suva. There we stayed with President and Sister Klingler for the night and then one day in Suva to do some errands and have dinner with them and some other couples. We shared our testimonies, as did they, and then went to bed. We arose Friday morning and zipped off to the airport for a short flight to Nadi. There we had the joyous reunion with Jared Clavin, our son Matt’s best friend, and he joined us for the day as we drove to Ba and visited dear friends there (Jared had come to Fiji with his company on business/pleasure). In some ways it was wonderful, as we visited Sister Matte, Ulamila, Miriama, the Nairoqos, Tuli and Olivia, the Ratu family, and the Tabualevu and Luveitasau families. Here's some shots of our final reunions in Ba:
By the end, we were more than ready to go home as the feeling of “attachment and obligation” to Fiji was
fleeting. We noticed how tired we were
of the heat, humidity, dirt, and sounds of Ba (Hindi music, chanting, barking
dogs,etc.). We longed for home.
|The Nairoqo Family|
|Tuliana and her sister Olivia's family|
|The Ratu Family|
|Part of the Matewai Family|
|Rafaeli's Family and home we helped build after the 2012 floods|
After visiting Ana on the way from Ba to Nadi, we boarded a 10pm flight to LA and arrived safely 9 hours before we left! We had a long layover during which we washed and rested up and had a nice meal of really delicious salad and a hearty soup. In the washroom I noticed some mud between my toes and in my toenails and realized it had come from Ana’s home. Now we were in LA with asphalt and cement and cars and modernity. One day earlier, we had been walking barefoot in a poor little village where Ana’s auntie was cooking over an open fire and part of their roof had blown off in the recent cyclone. I don’t know whether we’ll undergo some version of re-entry culture shock, but the differences are stark and difficult to even imagine – we have lived in a different world, an old world of simplicity and lack of modern development for the last 18 months (particularly in Taveuni).
In an hour, we will arrive in SLC to some sort of welcome that we imagine will include some portion of Leah, Matt, and Laura’s families and perhaps Luke. We will then stay a few days at each of their homes, be in SLC for the General Conference, and afterward head to Washington to see Emily and Sara and families before getting back to Corvallis on April 17th.
What can I say to sum this all up? We go home with a big mixture of feelings. It was a hard mission, a wonderful mission, a refining and eye-opening mission. We had moments of such deep and indescribable joy that we hope to never forget. Our testimonies have grown and our dependence on, and love for the Lord have certainly become deeper. We heard one missionary share his testimony upon departure, using an allusion to the Lord taking Peter, James, and John “a little further” into the garden of Gethsemane from the other 8 apostles so they could “watch” with Jesus as he suffered. The missionary said that he felt his mission had taken him “a little further into the Garden.” I loved that sentiment and feel just the same.
Our experience has sharpened awareness of poverty and all the scriptures that so repeatedly speak of the poor, the lost, the downtrodden and other's obligations towards them. It has been striking to see how insistent the Lord is on true disciples becoming more aware of, and more helpful to the poor. It’s a very tricky topic in some ways, and yet in others it is simple: those who have must share, and that includes our time and emotion and empathy and money. The poor are, in Jesus’ words: “always with us.” So why is this so tricky? Because you really have to confront the fact that it is nice to help the poor and the socially outcast – but from an arms length. However, the poor, and infirmed, and mentally ill, and emotionally broken need more than money – they need us. And do I really want to give more of me? That’s the struggle and I feel somewhat as the scripture states; “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
As is the case with all spiritual things, the biggest struggle is not getting spiritual experiences, it is in deciding to give up the things that preclude them. One retiring professor of religion at BYU commented to the faculty: “I have learned over the years that almost everyone wants God in their lives, they just don’t want too much of Him.” That is a good summary of the human condition, particularly for every would-be disciple of Christ. How much are we really willing and interested in giving, and giving up as we pursue a life of imitating the Good Shepherd who ministered so lovingly and consistently to the poor? So all this weighs on my mind and I feel the inward struggle wondering if I’ll carry through with my hearts intent, or will these emotions get lost in the busyness of life when we settle back into friends, callings, home, and family. Time will tell.
In any case, my heart is filled with gratitude for these past 18 months. We were pushed to the edge of our faith and endurance, and true to Heavenly Father’s plan, we have been blessed and grew through it all in ways we perhaps could not have anticipated or experienced in any other way. God surely knew where we should serve on this mission and sent us there. It has been the perfect place at the perfect time, and hard as it was, I am filled with gratitude.
I know that God lives, that Jesus is our beloved Savior, and that they truly did appear to Joseph Smith and called him to the work of restoration in these latter days. May we be as true to them, as they have been to us.