Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Trip to Tavenui Island

We traveled to the next largest island, Tavenui. We had to take a 1 1/2 hour ferry ride to the island. We were a little concerned about "seasickness" but we both took some ginger laced water and sat on the top, in the open air. We talked to people and were able to look out at the views rather than look through a small window. No worries! President Alafi, 1st counselor in district presidency, that Jackie talked to. He was sustained the day before to the "new" presidency. He was a Pentecostal elder for 35 years. His wife joined the church without his knowing.  It took him 10 years before he joined. He was shunned by his Pentecostal friends; sounds like a loving church. Finally she told him he needed to be baptized or she would leave him. Now he is in the District Presidency. Both have an impressive story about when they knew the church was true.

We spent time with another Senior couple, Elder and Sister Vermeeren, and they took us around the island. This is literally what they did. Monday we traveled to the south end of the road in a village called Navakawau. This village was hit so hard by the cyclone that there was nothing standing when it was over. They are still living in tents that were donated by the church and other humanitarian groups. They are now working on getting water from the top of the hills to the village by way of PVC piping. They have drilled a couple bore holes to get to the underground water, then pump it up into a large water tank, then they have several lines that go down the hill, using gravity, to different places in the village. They hope to have the first one working by weeks end. While we were there, we watched a village volleyball game. They say they have tournaments every Saturday. They were quite good,

Volleyball in Navakawau village

We then went to a spot on the island where the International Date Line crossed the island. Jackie stood on one side and I stood on the other. Literally "yesterday and today". We visit a very beautiful but remote spot where they have some "blow holes" as the water crashes ashore. We did some shopping at their all of maybe 10 to 15 small stores, Kurt got a haircut, and we had some movies downloaded in an internet shop in town, Somosomo.

The next day we went to the other end of the road on the north to a  very small village, Lavena. This village was another one that the cyclone seemed to take great pains in destroying. They are rebuilding schools, homes, etc. Gardens are beginning to show signs of getting fresh vegetables for the families. Most of them grow just enough to feed their own family, but the village has it's own welfare plan; some grow lettuce, carrots, others grow melons, cucumbers, etc. and they share with one another. We also hiked to the Bouma Falls,a very beautiful place, but the hike is up and down hill on uneven steps, rocks and mud. We loved it but were very happy to get back. Our legs, particularly the calves, were very sore.

Both these villages were on the eastern side of the island which took the full hit of Winston.Those on the west side were protected by the mountains so the damage was not as severe, but still devastating.

If any are interested in seeing the damage immediately after the cyclone, go to and look at the posts from March 2016. This is the couple that we visited, they leave in 6 weeks to go home to Calgary, Canada. they shared with us their wisdom and advise they learned in the past 18 months. We learn new things every day.

These people have so little but they seem to believe that they have everything. Especially the saints here. As long as they have family near and the gospel. They are blessed and their humility is one to be envied, if that is not a sin. In each village or branch we visited, the little kids came running and wanted to hold our hands, have pictures taken with us, and then we had to show them the picture, because they really don't have access to any kind of technology. Yes, they have cell phones and a few with satellite dishes, etc. but the kids have each other and the outside.

In a sacrament meeting last Sunday, we sustained a new district presidency. Each one of them bore their testimonies and you could feel the spirit was very strong in these men. They will be great leaders and spiritually giants in this part of the world. We met on July 24th. Now Fiji doesn't celebrate the 24th but it seemed appropriate that we were starting a new era for these saints on the same day we celebrate our pioneer heritage. These people are true pioneers here in Fiji. They were challenged to work hard to increase the membership and to share what they know and feel about the Love of Christ with their friends and neighbors, so soon they would be able to have a stake and wards, rather than branches and groups.
Lavena Village - Feet in the water

Lavena - 5 months after the cyclone

International Date Line
Jackie in today, me in yesterday
After the 3 hours hike to 3 waterfalls

A beautiful place but the falls are all uphill

First fall

Stairs up, always up

2nd fall

Friend we found along the way

Always up

3rd fall - rest time

Ferry ride to Tavenui

President Alafi, his wife and my sweetheart

Ferry ride view

Left hand is where we live, right is Navakawau Village
Ferry ride was from the land just above my right hand

Navakawau Village - tents are now their homes 5 months later

Wheelbarrows are the "strollers" for many

Navakawau Village

Jackie and two of the schools teachers

These girls must carry water for the village. In time a large water tank,like the one
behind them will be fill at the top of the hills next to the village. Running water.
Captain of the boat

Vemeeren's and Roberts

Dock, Where is OSHA?

Small ferry to go home

Tonight's dinner while on the ferry

Friday, July 15, 2016

"Getting to Know You"

16 July 2016

We have been here 4 weeks and and now getting to know the area, people and what is expected of us here in Savusavu Fiji. The people are so wonderful. I know I have said that before but it needs repeating.

We are working with a young man to get his mission papers in. Because he doesn't have internet in his small village, I go and pick him up and bring him back to our flat so we can enter the information. We are also working with several families and a sister and future elder with temple prep classes. It requires that we travel to their homes and present the lessons. We also have a Sunday School class for this on Sunday, but a few people live so far away from the chapel they cannot get to church on Sunday.

We also work with returning missionaries in areas of education, church activity, employment, etc. We will be trained in September about the Self Reliant aspect of all this. There is such a problem that these missionaries come home and fall back into a life of doing nothing.  Some are so far away from any kind of "town" and unemployment is so great here that they live from one day to the next. They have such strong spirits, but they have a tradition of living off the land/sea and work and money seem to be a low priority. Education is desired but not a high priority for most. Our calling is to work with them and help them see the advantages of that so they can break that cycle of poverty. The cyclone was devastating for many people, particularly for those who were already struggling for survival. Homes were destroyed and there are many that still need to be repaired or rebuilt.

We are in the process of undergoing a reorganization of the District Presidency in the next couple weeks. They had called a new presidency a couple weeks before we arrived and two weeks later he had a heart attack and died, he was 42 years old. President Layton has been involved in completing zone conferences for the entire mission and this reorganization process. It is a time consuming process, but in two weeks we will have the pleasure of sustaining the new district presidency. President Layton is going around to all the Branches to complete the business of sustaining and training for that leadership and the local leaders.

We live next door to the branch president and his children will stop by to say hi and we will show them a Disney movie. They are so excited to see these movies. they always have a smile on their faces when we go for a walk or see them after school. When we go to church, they are the first to run up and shake our hands and say "Hi".

We are constantly learning about this area, where the members live, how to get around, where to go for food and services and just getting to know how to better serve the Lord with His children in the part of the world.

We love meeting with the saints and being able to assist them in receiving blessings from the gospel. The Church here has many programs that can assist the saints in improving themselves, both temporally and spiritually. We love what we are doing, where we are and we know that we are being blessed daily by our Father in Heaven for our efforts. We are constantly praying for His guidance and assistance in our ability to do the work He requires of us here in Fiji. We love the Lord and pray that He will continue to lead us and help us in the work He has sent us here to do.

 This is the Cagilaba family. They are taking our Temple prep classes.
 This is the daughter.
 This the road we have to drive/walk to get to one of the families we are working with. It is narrow so we walk part of the way. I can't turn the truck around in the narrow spot by their home.
 This is the view when you get to their home. The view is beautiful. Their home is still not rebuilt.

 These five pictures are the road I had to drive to go to FHE this past week. Keep in mind, it was in the dark and we didn't know for sure where we were going. In the day it doesn't seem as daunting.
These three boys come running when we arrive to present a temple prep class to their sister. They haven't spent much time in a truck and were so excited to be there. They love having their picture taken.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Still finding our way

We are starting to get the feel for the area, but it is very small in population but the area is quite large when speaking geographically. We have several branches and several "groups". The best way to describe the "group" is to say, a small number of saints live outside the towns in villages or on a farm. They hold church there and on fast Sunday they travel and meet with the branch nearest them.

We are teaching a temple preparation class in the Savusavu Branch and have been asked to "take it on the road" to have a class in these "groups". It is difficult setting up and scheduling the same day and time each week, and travel to and from is time consuming. I wait for the group leader to call and set a date and time to begin a class; there are two young men wanting to go on a mission that need the class. I will call Brother Sepo today to see if he can set something up. We have one sister that already has her mission call to the Marshall Islands that is taking the class. She is eager and has a smile that will light up a room. You cannot help but feel happy when you look at her.

We have been told that it takes a couple months to get acclimated to the area and to find out what is needed for us to do, but that "waiting" is hard for us. We pray everyday for guidance, so we know what we need to be doing and how we can help.

We had the missionaries, 6 Elders and 2 Sisters, to our house for their district conference. Jackie made Taco soup to feed them after the meeting. These missionaries are so dedicated to the work and some of them live in a more remote area than we do. They have electricity a couple hours a night, cook on a camp stove and travel a great deal just to see people in order to find someone to teach. One of the biggest efforts here is the re-activation of members. Many members live far from the meeting house so they just stop going. Re-activation is easier because they have a name and location where they live, but they still have to pray for guidance with these inactive members.

When dinner was done on the 4th, we invited some volunteers from Utah that are here working in the town to assist an elementary school repair their playground and replant a garden. They brought sparklers to help with the 4th of July celebration. Fun was had by all.

A few pictures of the planes we had to take to get to or island. Some are of the Geckos that are on the ceiling of our porch and looking for food. There is also a picture of a Chinese cat for the Justus's, who were in China with us and are now in Melbourne on a mission. Also is the picture of the missionaries that attended the zone conference a couple of weeks ago.

Love from Fiji and please pray for us, we need all we can get.

Elder and Sister Roberts

Elder Condie, back row on left with the red tie, is from American Fork

Memories of China, especially for Elder Bill and Sister Nanette Justus