Sunday, October 3, 2010

Aug 20 - 30 Sep 2010

We are in Tarawa and the internet is down because there is a worker from Salt Lake who is trying to improve the internet here and make it work quicker. We have had a lot of events since we last wrote. On Monday, we received the keys to the new Mission home. We decided to wait to move in it until we come back from this trip. We had an office meeting to prepare for Elder and Sister Hamula to come to our Mission. Elder Hamula is in the first Quorum of the Seventy. He is also in the Area Presidency of the South Pacific Islands. He is six feet six inches tall! He and his wife Joyce have six children ranging from twenty four to fourteen. The only ones still living with them are two fourteen year old twin boys, Sister Hamula had those twins while they were serving as Mission President in the Washington DC South Mission. They are still very young in their early fifties-just babies!
On Tuesday the Hewstone’s and the Davidson’s surprised us by moving all of the new furniture for the Mission home out of the storage container and assembled it and placed it in our home. That was so helpful for us because of our limited time to do so ourselves. We have four couches and three chairs one being a lazy boy, and a beautiful kitchen set that can seat twelve people. There are some book cases and coffee tables, and a new bedroom set as the home has three bedrooms.
On Thursday, the packers (household goods movers) came from the Philippines to pack up the Smith’s things-the former Mission President who had to go home early. This was also the day that the Hamula’s arrived. They were supposed to get in at 10:00am. However their flight was delayed. They did not arrive until 1:00pm. So that threw things off schedule a bit but we were able to fit everything in. We fed them lunch and then we had a meeting with him and Sister Hamula, and mission leaders. Sister Hamula and I left early from that meeting. We then went to the new Mission Home. She asked who was going to landscape it because it still looked very dirty with a lot of trash all over. I told her that it actually looked a ton better than it had! While we were talking two or three people came past right on the patio on the ground floor to get to the other side of the wall. We have definitely determined that we must have a fence put up on either side of the house so that we will have more privacy. We have told the builder that we want a fence but who knows when they will get to that? We have been told that without the fence we would have people sleeping on the patio all night and lounging on our property. I like slumber parties but that would be a bit too much! So Sister Hamula and I just enjoyed talking and being inside the cool apartment. There was a dinner scheduled at 5:30pm for all of the Stake Presidency and wives. They also had the President of the Marshall Islands (His Excellency Jeluang Zedkaia) there, because they were going to present him a gift from the Church. Elder Hamula did the presentation of the Hansen Classic statue of the Family and a Family Proclamation. He did a beautiful job and the President gave a little speech as well. They then had a Priesthood/Auxiliary Leadership meeting afterwards. The Stake President was in charge of the program. Sister Hamula was really tired and so I took her back to the Apartment. They had not seen the agenda of the meeting until two minutes before it started. He had Sister Hamula speaking and so Elder Hamula leaned over to Tom and said you are Sister Hamula! We felt bad but had no idea that she was supposed to speak.

The next day started out with our mission Zone Conference. We had everyone there, even from outer Islands except for Lae. They did not bring them in because the couple (Mills) from Ebeye and some ward members had gone there to train, teach and help the members. While there they had a couple of baptisms and had been given several referrals because of their visit. They did not want to pull the Elder’s out because they wanted to follow up on those referrals while the desire was still fresh. It was so good to meet the other Elders who came in. We also took all of the Island Elders to eat at a restaurant. A few of them couldn’t really eat much because their stomachs were not used to that type of food! Elder and Sister Hamula gave excellent talks at Zone Conference and the Missionaries were excited to be with them. We had a catered lunch and then we recognized those that had Birthday’s since the last Zone Conference. We gave them a card and a little goodie. After that Tom told all of them what the transfers would be. We released Elder Lasky from being an Assistant and put in a new one-Elder Rix. The reason we made this change was because Elder Lasky had served on the Kiribati side and we wanted him to finish his Mission in Kiribati as a Zone Leader. Some were a little saddened with the changes because of people they were teaching and some of the baptisms that would be coming up. I remember when our boys were serving that they would get transfers as well when they were teaching some golden contacts. But we have learned that the work still goes forth and that the Lord blesses all of them no matter where they are serving. Tom and Elder Hamula then had interviews all afternoon. I took Sister Hamula to Laura which is my favorite part in Majuro. I’m not sure if she saw very much as we were talking a mile and minute! We did walk on the beach long enough to find her a shell. We had an enjoyable time. We had another dinner planned for that evening which was prepared by the Senior Couples, it was great. Sister Hewstone headed it up and everyone helped in the preparation and clean up. Our Senior Couples are so awesome and always are willing to help out. We then had a missionary fireside where we and the Hamula’s spoke. It was a fireside for the members to bring their less active friends, family and investigators. It was well attended. Again the talks were wonderful, and had to be interpreted as we gave them. I then took the Hamula’s to their apartment as they were really tired and hot.
The next day was Saturday; we fed the Hamula’s breakfast and then took Tom and Elder Hamula to the airport to fly to Ebeye. I did not go as the packers were still there and we also received those things (household goods) that we had shipped in July. Tom will have to write about their experiences there. This is the place where they give you such a warm reception and shower you with gifts. Sister Hamula also left that afternoon to go back to New Zealand. After she left I tried to take some things over to the new house but didn’t accomplish much as there was a down pour.
The experience in Ebeye was magnificent! We arrived on schedule in Kwajalein and checked into the hotel on the Army Base. We were met by Dr. Skinner (LDS member stationed on the base) and he took us to the pier to board the water taxi to Ebeye-about a 15 minute fast boat ride. We were welcomed there by Elder & Sister Mills, Elders Edwards, Parco, Aisake, Gardner and Sisters Ruiz and Hansen. We then walked to the chapel and as we approached we began to hear beautiful singing, the members were there lined up from the sidewalk to inside of the chapel. The site was breathtaking; we were each given 7-8 shell necklaces and two fresh flower leis. Elder Hamula was taken aback by the love and spirit of the people. We all went into the chapel where Elder Hamula said just and few words and thanked everyone for their love. We ate lunch with the missionaries and then had a Young Single Adult Session of District Conference. The spirit there was wonderful and we all enjoyed the messages. We then ate dinner with the District Presidency and clerks and talked about what the district would need to do to become a stake. Following dinner we held the Adult Session of District Conference, the chapel was full and the spirit great. Following this meeting we headed to the pier to take the water taxi back to Kwajalein and the hotel. We arrived safely; it is really interesting to speed through the dark of night in the ocean at 40 miles an hour and not able to see anything but the stars.
The next morning we were invited to go to the Skinner’s for breakfast before departing the base. They were wonderful and provided us many wonderful meals during our stay. Sister Skinner, Ashley and Austin accompanied us to the pier (Dr. Skinner was on call that weekend and could not attend the conference sessions) where we were expecting the water taxi to be waiting, but not taxi. At 9:10am I called Elder Mills asking where the taxi was and he thought they had left a few minutes ago. We waited and waited and still not taxi, finally at 9:30am we see the boat coming around the corner going about half speed. It docked and we all jumped in and away we went, but only at half speed, it was now 9:50am and we were supposed to start the General Session in ten minutes-Elder Hamula stated that it was nice to know that they would not start without us! About half way to Ebeye one of the engines shut down and the crew begin to look around, they grabbed the gas tank and evidently there was not much left so they slowed the other motor down to trolling speed and were tipping the gas tank so what little fuel remained would run to the corner and the pump would pick it up. We were still only two-thirds of the way there and it was 10:05am, we knew that we were going to have to lean over the side and paddle with our hands to even make land. We all said silent prayers and the motor continued to run until we reached the end of the island. We later learned that there was no fuel on Ebeye and they thought they had enough to make it…but just barely! Well, we had a 20 minute walk ahead of us to get to the Community Center where the General Session was going to be held, but all of a sudden the golf cart taxi came around the corner and we were saved from walking. We finally arrived at the center at 10:25am and immediately began the session.
The session was great (under a giant roof with open sides) but the spirit was strong. We had a recent convert (Christina Titus) translating for us but it was so hot that she almost expired while doing this. I motioned to Elder Mills to get her some water and fast she was having problems. Well, the remainder of the meeting went fine and all were edified. Oh by the way, the Community Center was about a block from the chapel and the brethren had single handedly carried all of the chairs and organ from the chapel to the community center and as we were returning the chairs and organ to the chapel it started to rain and rain and rain. That didn’t stop the saints as we had another meeting planned and they were not going to miss the chance to hear from Elder Hamula. We had started the meeting before the organ arrived, but had to stop the proceedings as the only door they could get it through was the side door adjacent to the stand. They had to lift this thing up over the railing and then back down; it hurt my back just watching what they had to go through. These people really are amazing and so loving. They would give you the shirt off of their back even if they didn’t have one to give you.
The water taxi was a problem following our experience with running out of gas. There is a shortage of gasoline on Ebeye, and seeing that the person that owned the boat had made us pay in advance-this made no difference, there was no fuel to be had. We will have to collect back money from him. To make a long story short, prior to contracting with this company we had approached another owner about using her water taxi and she had quoted a price, we went to pay her and she said that she had made a mistake and that the price would be double-we thanked her for her help and found this other taxi. Well, no fuel meant that we would have to take the US Army Ferry that ran only at certain times and takes three times as long as a water tax, this would have disrupted our timing for meetings, but we agreed to that fact. We left the evening meeting at time to catch the ferry, but to our surprise the members had a water taxi ready for us. It was the taxi from the lady that had upped the price a few days before. She felt sorry and proceeded to taxi us back and forth for that evening and the next day. This eliminated many problems and allowed us to complete our scheduled meetings. It is pretty impressive the way the Lord works to bring to pass His work. Elder Hamula was really impressed with the saints in Ebeye and has promised to do everything in his power to provide them with the resources they need to become a stake in the next few years.
Sunday I went to church. They asked for the youth to come up and talk the girls first and then the boys. No one got up which to me was uncomfortable. The counselor then stood up again and said that he and the Bishop and other counselor would give the talks. I went to gospel essentials where they had one new member of the church and two investigators. This class is taught by the full time Elders. Elder Gulbransen interpreted for me so that I could understand.
Monday morning I got up early to move as much stuff as I could over to our new house before I left that evening for Hawaii. I was putting drawers and bags in the truck when a man who is always out and around where we live came up and started helping me, which was great. We had taken one load over and were putting more things in the truck when the two office Elders came and asked if they could help. I told them that I would have the man help me and then I would pay him. So they carried a few things out and then left. I got all the food but the refrigerator food, and all of the drawers full of stuff over. Of course I was sweating bullets-the thing I do best! I then went with Sister Teichert to a viewing for the Stake Presidents wife’s (Angela) Mother who had died. It is a huge production over here and can last up to a week. They have to feed all the people who come over every day, and they usually go in to debt to do so. They had the coffin in the house with plexi- glass over the top half of the coffin. They say that many people put money on the glass as they pass by. The family was planning on taking a boat to a small island where she was born to bury her; the boat trip was a three day event each way. We had already given her a card with money in it so we just talked with her and left. We then went to a field where the Missionaries were playing rugby and volleyball for preparation day. Many of them were barefoot running around in a field of dry weeds. They were having a ball and didn’t seem to mind the scorching temperature along with the humidity! I then got ready to go to the airport to get on the same plane as Tom and Elder Hamula were on, coming back from Ebeye. They got off while they refueled and then we got on to go to Hawaii. We arrived at Hawaii at 2:00am exhausted.
The next day, Tuesday, we went to lunch with Elder Hamula to discuss how things went during his stay and how we could improve some things. He seemed pleased with our efforts and thanked us for our service. We then parted and he went to speak at BYU Hawaii and then was leaving that night to go to New Zealand. Boy we don’t know how they keep up the pace with all of their responsibilities, but they do! We then went shopping for some much needed medicine for Tarawa and some clothing items that we will leave in Tarawa, so we don’t have to pack so much every time we come here. We left at 12:00pm for Fiji. We arrived there at 7:30pm. We had an expensive Pizza brought to our room which we didn’t really care for but we ate as much as we could stand! We got up at 2:00am to get to the airport by 3:00am for our flight to Tarawa which departed at 5:00am-we had little sleep and arrived in Tarawa at 8:00am. We had bought some Pineapple in Hawaii to leave in Christmas Island an intermediate stop on the way to Fiji. They would not allow us to get off the plane but we found two young men who were willing to take it off and give it to a member who would get it to the missionaries. We also bought a box of three pineapples to give to the Senior Couples in Tarawa. When we arrived in Fiji they (customs) came unglued that we had this pineapple because you are not to transport any fruit from other countries. They had to quarantine it and we had to pay $10.00 for them to keep it overnight. We really didn’t think that we would get it back. But the next morning we went to quarantine and they gave it to us. We then began to wonder if they would take it away at the Airport in Tarawa. We lucked out because one of the Kiribati Stake Presidents was on our flight. He stood with us as we went through customs, and we don’t know what he said to the girl, but we got to keep the pineapple and they did not open our bags at all. The Stake President, director of Seminaries & Institutes in Kiribati, afterwards told us that the girl was a former student of his! So we have given the pineapples to the couples and told them to enjoy them as much as possible because it will never happen again! We also had brought some macadamia nuts that were in our suitcase and they made it through. We are here in Tarawa earlier than the Hamula’s to get things in order for when they get here. They will be arriving next Tuesday and will be here until Thursday. It will be a full two days of meetings and Zone Conference. The people here are so excited to have them come and they are rolling out the red carpet.
Tom was busy interviewing all of the Elders and Sisters in Kiribati. It was Ward Conference and they had and activity every night because of it. They had a scripture chase one night, a game night, and a movie night. Then on Saturday the ward had a service project and party on an outer island. We had to wade out to the boat which had 77 people on it; you might call it a water taxi. When we got to the island we had to wade in also because the tide was out. We cleaned up the grounds and then the party started. We ate lunch, and then we played in the water which was great because it was so hot. They also had some games set up to rotate around to. Tom was unable to come that day because he was still interviewing the Elders and Sisters. I told them we would have to have a party again when Tom could be there, so he could show off his water fighting skill!
On Sunday we went to the Moroni High School Ward. It was so good to understand everything because it was in English. They had asked us to speak at a youth fireside that night.
On Monday we went to lunch with the entire outer island Elders. We went to a Chinese place which was pretty good. They were all so quiet it was hard to get them to talk. Some of them were returning to an outer Island and some of them were not. They definitely all knew how to eat well! Then we decided to go see some of the war relics that are on that Island. Many American Soldiers were killed there. That day they were having a special ceremony commemorating those who served there. Many of them were buried there and they have a bunch of trash on the same grounds. They have been digging up some bones and sending them back to the families so they can be buried properly. As we came back to the campus all of the Missionaries were there playing soccer/rugby. We watched them for a while. They sure love to get together and play. That evening we took the senior couples to dinner. Apparently some of them saw a rat up by the ceiling on a ledge that went around. I did not see it thankfully! We actually had a good dinner there we had fish and chips. I’m sure that if I had seen the rat I would have lost my appetite!
Tuesday was the day that Hamula’s were arriving at about 3:00. They had been busy making the campus look clean and neat for their arrival. We had a meeting with the service center about the itinerary of the Hamula’s from the time they arrived. Every detail was written down. They had the van that we were to pick them up in cleaned to perfection! They had a backup car in case there were any problems with the van. They had written down cool car one half hour before Hamula’s would be getting in. They also had to cool the Apartment where they were going to stay an hour before their arrival. They had bottled water available always. Two of our Zone leaders Elder Vanisi and Elder Green played it to the hilt. They both had earphones in their ears, matching sunglasses, and ties. They would act like they were talking into their watches and being bodyguards and secret servicemen! When they Hamula’s actually arrived they quite doing all the extra motions! We told the Hamula’s of some of the details that were in place and about the secret service Elders and they had a good laugh! The principle of Moroni High gave us a little tour of the campus after they had taken their luggage to their apartment. We then headed to Institute chapel for a meeting with all of the Zone Leaders and District Leaders. We then ate with them a catered dinner which was okay. After the dinner there was a young single adult fireside. Because of time Tom and I bore our testimonies so that the Hamula’s could have enough time. They also had two young adults bare their testimonies. It was a great day.
The next day was very full. We started off with a breakfast at the service center after which they had a devotional for all of the Students at the school. There were 650 students there. It was a beautiful sight to see them all. They wear a uniform that is white and blue. They sang “I am a child of God” for the opening song. It was so touching to hear them all sing that song. They all have beautiful voices and harmonize so well. The Hamula’s spoke and they had a special musical number that was wonderful, it was “Whenever I hear the Sound of a bird,” I don’t think that is the title but it is our favorite primary song. The closing song was “God Be with you” and everyone was very emotional. They had given us a beautiful leu before it started. We then headed to another church building for our Zone Conference. We all talked there. It was great to see all of the Missionaries together. They were all very excited to hear and see a General Authority. The meeting went until 12:30 then we broke for lunch. We then got back together again and finished the meeting at 2:30. They were getting restless at that point. We then gave out candy bars and cards for the Birthdays that had passed since the last Zone Conference. Then Tom announced the transfers; the part they were all anxious to hear. After each companionship was announced they cheered and carried on about each change. We really have some wonderful Missionaries in our Mission, the best in the entire world! Then Elder Hamula and Tom interviewed some Elder and Sisters. We then had a little break so the Steeds took the Hamula’s and me to a typical little village, where they had been teaching a family. These are some dancers in Tarawa, they were doing a short program at the airport for two Elders and one Sister Missionary that we leaving on their missions. It was heartwarming and very intense and interesting.The people here live in groups of families; so their homes are close to one another. As soon as we walked down the dirt road the little kids started to follow us. We took pictures of them which they love and talked to them. We then drove to the war sites that Tom and I had already been to. We got back just in time for dinner which was prepared by the Stake Presidencies of both stakes and their clerks and wives. We then went to a cultural show put on by the students at Moroni High. It was amazing and they have so much energy! They had their native costumes on. They gave each of the Senior Missionaries head leis after one of the dances. They imitate birds in one dance that almost seemed like a little bit of brake dancing. The leader of the singers and drummers was so entertaining to watch. He was a show boat! When the dances were over we had a meeting for all of the Priesthood and Auxiliary leaders in both stakes. We were again behind in our time frame so Tom and I bore our testimonies and then the Hamula’s talked. Because we were not already tired enough we then had a meeting with all the senior couples! It was such a wonderful day but quite exhausting too!
We then went to get our suitcases at the Phippen’s place as they had arrived home that day from Fiji. We had been staying in their apartment until they got back. We then went over to the Otintai Hotel for that night. The next day we flew out with the Hamula’s to Fiji. When we arrived we went to lunch with them at our hotel. We had a good relaxing lunch with them. They then left to go to their hotel and were going to leave that evening to return to New Zealand. They were going to leave the next day to for Utah and General Conference, and to stay for two weeks. We really enjoyed our time with them. They taught us a lot.
We just laid low the rest of the day and Tom had many emails to attend to. We went downtown the next day on the bus. This is the kava root from which they make a very strong and "relaxing" drink, the only problem they drink it until they are comatose.We bought a souvenir from a shop that was owned by a member of the church. It is good to buy things in Fiji because our dollar is worth more there. We went to the hotel’s swimming pool and got rejuvenated. We really like this hotel. We both mentioned that it is pretty strange to act like it is very commonplace to be in Fiji and Hawaii! We flew to Hawaii that evening. This flight is long and tiring because we fly all through the night and then we are bushed when we arrive.
We rented a car this time which was great. Our first stop was at Wal-Mart where we bought some curtains and curtain rods for the new mission home. We hope they will work out, because there wasn’t a huge selection in what we wanted. We were able to get in our room a little early which helped. We stayed at the Ala Moana again and we were on the 35th floor!
The next day we left in the morning to go to Laie. It was a great drive. We stopped at the Dole Pineapple Plantation and had this wonderful "Dole Whip" with fresh pineapple around the edges. We went to the temple to see if we could see what changes they have made. It must be all on the inside. The people there are excited for it to reopen because it has been closed for a year. We ate at the McDonalds right by the Polynesian Cultural center, you all probably remember going there before. This is the first time that we have gone to this side without going to the Cultural Center. We drove around the BYU Hawaii campus which we haven’t done for a while. They are going to double their enrollment in order to give more Pacific Islanders a chance to further their education. If you have served a Mission you can get a wonderful scholarship which a lot of the missionaries take advantage of.
The next day was Sunday. We went to church in the Hawaii Tabernacle, which is close to our hotel. They had a big ward. We talked with several people who asked us where we were serving as Missionaries. One Counselor said that his daughter’s friend was serving in the Marshall Islands. She came to us in July. Also we talked to some full time Missionaries who one was from Layton and said that Kurt Randall, our Brother-in law who is a Patriarch, had given him his blessing. He also lives in their home ward! What a small world the church becomes as someone knows someone that you both know! After church we went for a ride on the East side of the Island; Hanauma Bay and Diamond Head and Punchbowl (National Cemetery of the Pacific). We went up in the hills where the big homes are, it was so beautiful and green.
The next day, Monday in Hawaii will turn into Tuesday when we land in Majuro. We have been gone eighteen days and are now returning to our new mission home to put things away and pictures on the walls. We have purchased more pineapple, two boxes for the seniors in Majuro. We hope there will be no problem with them once we land in Majuro. It will be good to see everyone again and to get caught up on things there. We had a new couple come while we have been gone; the Christensen’s. They are going to work in the office. The two Elders who have been working in the office will now be back out in the field. What a tremendous mission we have. Everyone helps and does their part which makes things run smoothly. We are so blessed to have this opportunity to serve here at this time. The people are wonderful, happy and many are accepting the Gospel with open arms. They are learning how to run the church here in their homeland. We love the Lord for his goodness for his loving care. We know he will help us every step of the way. We love all of you and feel of your prayers in our behalf. It was so great to Webcam with all of our immediate family. If only we could just reach in the screen and hug all of you but for now we will settle for blown kisses! Keep the pictures coming on the photo bucket we love to see them. We love you all with every fiber of our being. Love Mom and Dad / Nana and Papa / Pres and Sister Shaw.

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