Wednesday, June 29, 2016

1st Zone Conference

We went to our first Zone Conference on Tuesday in Labasa. This town is on the north shore of Vanua Levu and 85 km from Savusavu. I have been driving on the left side of the road for a couple weeks now and there are still no new dents in the truck. Roads are narrow, especially the dirt ones that we must use in many cases to get around. We had to pick up another senior couple, Elder and Sister Vermeeren, From Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They will be leaving for home in August. We had to travel about 50-60 km to pick them up when they came to our island on the ferry. The live and work on Taveuni. We came back to Savusavu for lunch and some chopping for them, there are very few stores on their island. We then went the 85 km to Labasa on Monday to prepare for the conference on Tuesday. We stayed in the Grand Eastern Hotel there and it was quite nice. The pool was nice and we were in a good location for walking the town and, of course, shopping. I purchased two more Sulu's and Sister Roberts found many things she was looking for; i.e. seeds for planting, counter cover to do her prep for baking, clothes pins, peelers, can openers, some clothes and other things for the house and some sweets for those time when you want to indulge yourself.

There were about 18 elder missionaries and 6 sister missionaries in attendance. President Layton gave an excellent discussion on the atonement. He was able to paint a picture in our minds about the process that Christ was going through. I really feel I learned some things and had my eyes opened so I maybe understood this a little better than I did before the conference. I know there is so much more to learn but I have some more information and it will be of great benefit to us and our family. The assistants to the President gave a couple presentation and it is no wonder why they are his assistants at this time. The zone leaders also presented so great reasons why we need to study the scriptures about the atonement. These missionaries are the ones serving in Savusavu. We have gotten to know them better and they enjoy Sister Roberts's baking. They know the area so we are relying heavily on them to show us where we need to go and how to get there to visit with the members and the "groups" in the district.

President Layton gave us some additional information regarding our specific assignments in Savusavu.
#1 Teach temple classes and prepare members, especially those that are preparing for a mission, to attend the temple. There is one sister who already has her mission call and leaves for the Marshall Islands (I think). She leave in October.
#2 Mentor the return missionaries to stay active and get involved in the branch in their area. They need to get a calling within two weeks of their return.
#3 Encourage them to get into school some place. And we will be getting some additional "self reliance" training in the near future to help us with this.

Labasa is a town of about 8000 people and it's major industry is sugar cane. They have truck coming down the main road loaded with cane going to the factory. Large trucks, tractors pulling trailers are loaded. They unload in the middle of town, just off the main road and traffic is very hectic. Our hotel was just a block south of the factory. Great location for getting to the main street and shopping but the noise can be very disturbing. They were also having a carnival, similar to those "Days" that every small town in Utah and Wyoming have during the summer; i.e. Strawberry Days, Steel Days, Lamarama Days,  Pioneer Days etc. Monday night is was so loud that Jackie couldn't get to sleep. I seem to have no trouble sleeping. So we went to see what the noise was about. Food vendors, games of chance, carnival rides for all ages, and some sort of concert that went until 2 am. Most sleep a bit better Tuesday night. Then we had shopping to do on Wednesday before we came back to Savusavu. I got two more Sulu's to wear. They are quite comfortable to wear but I have to learn to sit like a lady better, but when the breeze blows it is quite nice.

The elders and sister missionaries that are working in the district are so good, so humble, so willing to do whatever it takes to be of assistance, we have only to ask and they will respond. Maybe they like the idea of getting a meal from Jackie once in a while? We will be going with them so we can find those that are wanting to go to the temple. Sometimes they live so far away from the church that it is difficult to attend, but they still want and need to associate with the saints.

As we spend time with these humble, loving, accepting people, we learn that we can do with much less but we all need the companionship of the Holy Ghost and need to be progressing to come close to the Savior on a daily basis. We must be better today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow that we are today. The Lord doesn't care where we are on our journey, but He wants on the correct path and improving each and every day.

Look! I found the Minnow.

Very comfortable, but watch out for that wind.

This reminds me of Worland during the beet harvest.

Cyclone damage to trees and shoreline.

Elders sang a special musical number for conference.

Elder Kubers, Hilo, Hawaii; Elder Amai, New Zealand;
Elder Johnson, Holladay, UT; Elder Condie, American Fork, UT

Saw these sister at the carnival.
The sister on the left goes home in a week.

Pool at Grand Eastern Hotel in Labasa, Fiji

Phone booth with attitude.

Shopping was too much for us.

Our selfie as we travel the island.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

We went with the Elder Amai, New Zealand, and Elder Kubera, Hilo, Hawaii. They both speak Fijian very well. We went to some members homes who had been participating in the temple prep classes that had been taught by the previous senior missionaries that were here.

This is Sister Lavinia Maria Lutunavuca, their home was destroyed by the cyclone and they have yet to be able to re-build. We didn't see any electricity or water in the home.

This is Sepo Cagilaba, he is the group ("twig") leader in his village, Vunavesi. It is not hard to fall in love with these people. They are so welcoming and accepting of us.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The church for the Savusavu Branch

Rugby is a life style here. These are elementary and high school rugby teams in the area.

Sign here are a lot like in China, but these really make sense. We are walking to the school grounds to watch some of the rugby.

I love the message this gives.
First Sunday in Savusavu, 20 June 2016

We went to church for the first time in Savusavu. The branch was very small, only about 60 people there. There plenty of little kids that ran around just like at home. It is one building with four small rooms off the main room. Both relief society and priesthood meet in the large room, one on one end and one on the other. Priesthood was in Fijian and RS was in English. Jackie thinks it was for her, but the priesthood didn't seem to worry about if I could understand or not.

Sacrament meeting was very nice. They had no microphone, so we had a difficult time hearing and understanding what he was saying. There was no pianist so we sang a'capella. After two of the speakers, i was waiting for what was to happen next and a sister in front of me told me I was the next speaker. Opps, I will have to get that hearing aide when I return. Sister Roberts and I talked and then there was another speaker after her.

They were so loving and kind to us. Everyone wanted to shake our hands and talk to us for a little bit. The branch presidents wife and 5 of her kids walked us home and showed us a shortcut to our house. She lives just a couple house from us. She has 6 children of her own and has taken in 4 of her sisters. Her sister die a few months ago and her brother-in-law is paralyzed and lives on another island. We met some humanitarian kids working with a small school here. Most are from Utah or Idaho and are members of the church. They help in the school class for special education students and have been putting in a new playground for kids.

We are still trying to figure out where we are and where we need to go for different things in town. We will be going with the Elders on Wednesday and Jackie is making cinnamon rolls as a relief society activity. We have talked with the Branch President and he is trying to setup a class at our home on Tuesday night to get acquainted with the couples that have been working to get to the temple. We are not sure where they are but will be prepared to teach some temple prep classes. Mostly it is to get to know them and them to know 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Arrival in Fiji

Met with the Mission President at the airport as he was heading to a zone conference in Nadi. Elder and Sister Knight took us to dinner and then the mission office for us to get into our "guest room" at the temple site. We had to get up by 4:30 am to catch the taxi to the airport in Suva for a 40 minute flight to Labasa on the "North Island". We were met there by Elder and Sister Petreo who took us to their house to pick up our truck and we drove 85 km (62 miles) to Savusavu and our flat there. They took us to town to do some shopping and by 1:00 pm we were on our own. We went home and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.

After eating we unpacked and tried to organize our stuff. Jackie did some inventory on supplies, etc. and we had to go back to town for more items for the kitchen and house. There was no can opener, potato peeler; and internet was and is very slow, just like China, we had to get a mobile hot spot for wireless internet. We are trying to get our clothes washed and ironed after suitcases are unpacked. The iron works for a while and then goes cold. We think it is the extension cord we are using? So Jackie is in a corner to plug in because the iron cord is quite short. I guess we have another item to look for in town. Today I bought a Sulu, the native dress for men and missionaries. I think I will still wear shorts under it for awhile. 

Mom (Jackie) says my driving on the left has been "OK", except for the one time after a turn around I got on the wrong side of the road. Fortunately there was no one coming and I soon corrected. Roads a very narrow and the buses and trucks take lots of room. Locals drive very fast so I get passed on double lines quite a lot. I don't care at this point. The mission President said one senior couple got here and the first day were hit on the drivers side, the next day the passenger side. I have made it past two days without one dent. (Knock on Wood)

We have met many people who are acquainted with the church. They see the name tags and will stop to talk to us. Many members have come up and introduced themselves to us, but we can't remember the names yet. We have met the branch president, Vetu, a young man who works in one of the stores in town. Stores here are a lot like the small ones in China. He lives a couple of houses down from us. His mother came over to introduce herself to us today. Today in town we met the Elders, district leaders, in this area. One is from New Zealand and the other is from Hilo, Hawaii. We have two sister missionaries here but have not yet met them. Church is just down the road and starts at 10:00 am. The chapel is a small building that has one large room, sacrament meeting, and four small ones at the end of the large one; primary, YM/YW, office and not sure what the other would be used for. We went in, door was unlocked, and looked around. there was a bulletin board with pictures of missionaries that have served, serving and getting ready to serve. There are about 20-25 pictures there. This is quite impressive for such a small branch. Our main assignment is to work with the YSA to prepare for missions and stay active after service is complete.
We have a zone conference the 27th of this month in Labasa. So I have to make that drive again. Fortunately I know how to get to the main road, there is only one, and it is the only way to the north side of the island. Getting to the chapel after arriving is still another matter. We only were here for 1 hour when we went by it and left town. I hope Jackie remembers and can help navigate. If we get in trouble, we will ask for directions to the police station, the chapel is just across and down the street.

We can't drink the water and have to wash our vegetables; i.e. lettuce, tomatoes, etc. We have not seen much fruit in the local market yet, all we have seen is pineapple, apples and coconuts. I think the apples are from New Zealand? 

We can only think how much we are blessed with the "things" we have because these people have nothing. Unemployment is very prevalant here. We know that the Lord has sent us here for a purpose and we must work hard and pray for guidance that he will lead us to those that have been prepared to us to arrive.

This is all for now and I will try to get the blog working. We love you all and ask for your prayers in our behalf in this work. We are reminded every day the counsel given to us by King Benjamin in Mosiah 2:17, "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."