Sunday, December 29, 2013

Manuia le Kerisemasi !

This Christmas in Samoa was unique and memorable for its simplicity and its island flavor.  Almost daily, friends and co-workers sent us home from the temple or stopped by our apartment with papaya, pineapples, avocadoes, taro and palusami. Whether these were gifts inspired by the season, or just the result of generous hearts and abundant harvests, it was very much appreciated and certainly enjoyed.  Samoans love to celebrate. Celebrations always involve lots of food and lots of singing and dancing. There was plenty of that. We attended the annual Christmas party held for all the temple workers and the temple presidency, where they sang spontaneously their Samoan songs with their calls and claps. They danced  their traditional siva, so elegant and lovely, to me the loveliest of all Polynesian dances. They piled their plates high and returned to the bounteous table for seconds and thirds. We temple missionaries with the presidency sang a Samoan version of the twelve days of Christmas (for which we had numerous practices, no doubt for the benefit of the Lamoreaux's and the Crowleys.) It brought the house down.                                 
                                                                                                                               The Siva

On Monday the week before, the senior and temple missionaries were invited to meet in the conference room at the mission home to assemble gifts that Sister Winter (serving with Elder Winter, auditor for the mission) had painstakingly prepared over the past many weeks while she had been laid up with an injured ankle. Her experience in being directed to do this, is one I will tell in detail at a later time.

On Christmas Eve, all the senior missionaries and temple missionaries enjoyed a lovely dinner of turkey, ham and umu roasted pork (the whole pig), with all the trimmings you would expect. Guests of honor were South Pacific Area President James Hamula, his wife and four of their six children (17 year old fraternal twin boys, and two young adult daughters), Mission President Leota, his wife and two daughters (Rachael recently returned from her mission in the USA and a younger sister whose name I do not know), Regional Church Historian Brett Macdonald, his wife and three young children, delightful people all. The two assistants to President Leota and a third young elder did an inspired reading from the Bible and Book of Mormon, interspersed with Elder Amituana’i’s tender guitar accompaniment and their voices singing a Michael Mclean song. It left us all in awe of God’s gift to us of His Beloved Son.

Christmas morning before it was light found many of us senior missionaries in the mission home kitchen, preparing breakfast to feed an army, or so it appeared.  The Hamula’s Christmas this year was devoted to serving the children housed by the Samoa Victim Support Group “House of Hope”. The residents from very young to eighteen years of age are assured of a safe and loving environment there, protected against their abusers by a high fence and a locked gate. We did not understand at first that we were all invited to go with Hamula’s, Leota’s and Brett Macdonald, to serve the breakfast we had prepared to the children and the small staff. The next couple of hours were humbling. These children, mostly girls from preteen to mid teens, some pregnant, greeted us with “Merry Christmas” as they smiled and kissed our cheeks, one after another.

Sorry, my head is in the way. That is Sister Moaga prepared to serve. She resisted my insistence that she come with us to visit the children, but thanked me afterwards.

After breakfast, there was singing by the children. They sang with gusto, as is their heritage. When they sang a song of thanks for our visit, their young leader wiped her eyes repeatedly while maintaining her impressive conducting of the music. At one point someone handed a little boy, maybe 12 to 14 months old to Leon. The little guy snuggled into his arms and stayed until he was retrieved later by an older child.

There she is, her back to us, leading the singing of the children.

The Hamula’s had been there for several days, serving the children and getting acquainted with them. They brought gifts and clothing, donated or gathered as part of the twin’s eagle project. When some time was given to them at the end of the festivities, both boys broke down in tears as they expressed to the children how they loved them, how much they had learned from them, and how this was the very best Christmas of their lives. They told them they would never forget them, and surely they won’t. None of us will.

The Hamula's daughter, Jennie. See the girl in the foreground. She is wearing one of the tie-dye tee's that Jennie and her sister dyed for the boys and girls.




One of the items Sister Winter prepared and we assembled were binders full of colored prints of scripture stories taken from past issues of the Friend magazine. Each story has a page to color. You can also see that the tie-dyed tee's were enthusiastically received.





Tomorrow is our New Year’s Eve. 2014 will bring changes to our mission. We will say good-bye to Sister Moaga, whose temple mission ends on January 6th. Losing Sister Moaga is no small loss. I can hardly think of it. She is a stalwart at the temple, one you can always turn to for help, advice, or clarification. The Lamoreaux’s and we are taking her to lunch tomorrow.  She has never married and never attended university in order to care for her widowed mother who passed away before she came on her mission. I’ve been hammering her to get into school when she returns to Sydney, Australia. I’ve also cautioned her to stop hitting people because if she is going to marry a temple president one day, she cannot serve as the temple matron if she goes around slapping the sisters. Granted, it is playful, but really? Sometimes it even hurts!  She just laughs and says, “Whatever” in her Aussie accent. Leon says it to her all the time, mimicking her accent – “Whativah”.

We wish each of you a very HAPPY 2014.  May we all focus on the things that matter most, strive to be better than we are, and accept others as they are, children of God, so loved of Him that He sent His Son to atone for all our sins. Oh how we love Him and His Son, our Hope, our Advocate and our Friend. 

Light dawns on a new day and a new year.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Legacy of Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson came to Samoa on the recommendation of its climate being potentially therapeutic for his tuberculosis.  He came for a visit and stayed until his death four years later in December of 1894. These were his best years as an adult, having suffered from his childhood with the constant illness and weakness of the disease. They were also the most productive of his writing career. He wrote thirteen booksduring his years in Samoa.

We have visited his home, Vailima, twice now since we arrived, and I’m sure we will visit there again before we leave. There is a wonderful spirit there. It is beautiful, peaceful, and full of history. Mt Vaea rises abruptly behind the home, or rather off to the side. It is visible from RLS’s study on the second floor where he did his writing. In the early ‘70’s, our young family in tow, we climbed the steep path to its crest where he is buried.  From the front veranda, looking across the groomed landscape, the sea is visible through the trees which surround the 350 acre estate. When the estate was new and being developed, Stevenson, his family and his host of Samoan help, had a clear view of the sea as the trees were not yet grown to maturity.

Stevenson put his heart into Vailima and into the nation of Samoa and its people. They gave him the name Tusitala, meaning story teller.  He was a true friend of Samoa, an advocate for the independence of her people from foreign rule, and an understanding and appreciative observer of their culture. It seems more than coincidental that the few short years he lived there were pivotal years in Samoan history, when Germany was entrenched politically and economically, and England and America were more than silent observers.  Two rival chiefs (matai) each with legitimate ties to the throne by lineage and both with large and loyal followings, had positioned themselves for war. Germany had sided with and exercised great influence over Maleatoa Laupepa who sat as king, while Mata’afa stood for the traditional Samoan way of selecting their kings and governing their country. RLS supported the rebels and considered Mata’afa a friend.

Following a bloody battle between these two factions, the Germans deported Mata’afa to the Mrshall Islands and took approximately 20 chiefs of Mata’afa’s camp prisoner.  Within a week they built a prison to contain them. Confined to 6 dark cells, these chiefs who knew nothing but freedom, were terribly despondent.  When Stevenson saw their conditions and realized what little food they were subsisting on, he pressed the European powers to allow them to build 8 fales to house themselves , and to allow their families to feed them and visit them. The prison commander, himself appalled at their conditions, went further and allowed some family members to live with their men in prison. Stevenson continued to petition the foreign government to release the chiefs, who he maintained were no threat to the government. Eventually his untiring efforts in their behalf were rewarded by their release.

By way of thanks, the chiefs built a road to Vailima, which Stevenson named, The Road of Loving Hearts. These high-ranking chiefs normally would not themselves be about road building. This was a gift born of gratitude that would endure as a symbol of their love for their Tusitala. They would take no pay, neither expect nor accept any food or supplies while work was underway.

On the Sunday following Thanksgiving in that same year of 1894, surrounded by family and his beloved and devoted Samoan staff, Stevenson offered this prayer at evening vespers:
“We thank Thee and we praise Thee. We beseech Thee, Lord, to behold us with favor. Be patient; suffer us yet a while longer-with our broken purposes of good, and our idle endeavors against evil. Suffer us a while longer to endure, and help us to do better. Bless to us our extraordinary mercies, be with our friends, be with ourselves. Go with each of us to rest. If any awake, temper to them the dark hours of watching. And when the day returns, return to us, our sun and comforter. And call us up with morning faces and with morning hearts, eager to labor, eager to be happy, if happiness be our portion. And if the day be marked for sorrow, may we be strong to endure it. Amen.” 

December 3rd, 1894 was to be his last day at Vailima. Surrounded by family, he passed peacefully into the next world. The diagnosis of the doctor was a blood clot to the brain. Sorrow settled on Vailima. High-ranking and ordinary Samoans came from villages far and near to pay homage to their friend, Tusitala. His oft expressed wish to be buried at the top of Mt Vaea  was honored.  Throughout the night the sound of machete and ax could be heard as those same chief’s who built The Road of Loving Hearts, chopped and slashed a path 500 vertical feet to the crest of the mountain. The next day his coffin was carried on the shoulders of his loving Samoan staff, up the steep mountain side, where he was buried by these adoring friends and servants.  As requested, he died with his boots on. The following verse was written by Stevenson years before, but seem prophetic.

Requiem
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
Here may the winds about me blow;
Here may the clouds come and go;
Here shall be rest for evermo
And the heart for aye shall be still.
This be the verse you grave for me
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea
And the hunter home from the hill.


~ Robert Lous Stevenson

Vailima (Five Rivers)


The bed (with original mosquito net) where he rested and did some of his writing.


The Great Hall where mourners came to view his body.
This room was the scene of many happy celebrations and gatherings while he was yet alive.




Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Afterword

I received two responses to Going Bananas that I thought were worthy of addressing. First, my friend Liz McGuire shared this 'FWIW' information on the possible context of the Jacob and Esau story. I found it interesting and thought you might also.  I am indebted to Liz and Geri for their thoughtful responses.


In the [apocryphal] Book of Jasher, Nimrod has the garments which the Lord made for Adam ("with which Nimrod prevailed over the whole land"). Ham had stolen them from Noah (possibly the real reason Ham was cursed), and they were handed down to Nimrod. ....For unknown reasons, Nimrod is jealous of Esau (one is left to fill in the backstory and how the two might behave because of this). One day Esau is out hunting, sees Nimrod, and hides himself until Nimrod and two of his men are near. Then Esau jumps out and slays Nimrod. Esau fights desperately with the two men and kills them as well. But "all the mighty men of Nimrod" heard the cries during the fight and came to see. Esau steals the garments, runs, and hides them in his own house.

Then Esau took the garments and ran into the city, "on account of Nimrod's men" (presumably they're still hot on his trail). He goes to his father's house and meets Jacob there. He tells Jacob he's going to die that day, so what good is his birthright? "And Jacob acted wisely with Esau in this matter, and Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, for it was so brought about by the Lord."

Esau is never brought to account for the death of Nimrod, so we might infer that Jacob hid Esau and saved him from being found and killed by Nimrod's men...

So, perhaps Jacob should have helped Esau without condition, or perhaps this was as the Lord wished all along. Certainly, Esau shouldn't have gone around murdering and thieving... Either way, there's an awful lot of conflict between Esau and Jacob, not just in this story.

Geri Hooker was intrigued by the account of Cathy and Seig Arp sharing food with four families in one night. She wondered if this was unusual and if it is a cultural thing. The answer is, yes, and yes.  As Cathy once explained to me, all that is necessary for anyone asking for help of any kind is to extablish a family connection.  Here on this small island, that is not difficult. You don't have to go back far to come to a family relationship.  The family is critical in every part of Samoan culture. It controls land holdings, leadership and status (matai titles), and exerts great influence on politics, education, village life and on and on. There is an expectation that when help is needed, the obligation is to provide if at all possible. Sadly, in some cases, debt will be incurred to meet the request of someone in need. In the case of Seig and Cathy, as it is with many, they grow a variety of staple crops on their land, and could have and probably did provide without great out of pocket cost.

So now you know. Or think you know. Or wonder even more. That's about where I am. 


Saturday, November 16, 2013

GOING BANANAS !

We have been inundated with bananas. Have the banana trees only just recovered from the December cyclone? Why all the bananas? I don't have the answer. People are giving us bananas of different varieties everywhere we turn. We go to the temple and in the break room the table is full of bananas –not only bananas, but banana soup! There is one variety that is about the length of the bananas you are used to (here they are called palagi bananas), but at least twice as fat. They are very tasty—especially with ice cream and chocolate sauce. The little misilukis are anywhere from tiny to small, and very good, very good. I think bananas are fattening, attract mosquitoes, and may cause constipation (that’s just a guess because when a baby has diarrhea, bananas are part of the recommended diet). But bananas are what we have in abundance, and we eat them. On cereal, under a scoop of ice cream, alone, baked in coconut milk, or boiled in soup (for my part the latter is only eaten because of peer pressure), we eat them. 

Misiluki Banana

Today is Sunday. Leon taught the lesson in his priesthood quorum. The subject was Loving God More Than We Love the World. He used the picture of the monkey, his hand grasping a banana inside a jug, caught between his hunger and his need to be free.   He shared the story of Jacob and Esau from the Old Testament. You remember the account of Esau coming in from hunting, tired and hungry, and trading his birthright away to Jacob for a ‘mess of pottage’, which we commonly think of as hot cereal. Anyway, the response from the class to that story was totally unexpected, but on further reflection, totally fa’asamoan.  A brother spoke out indignantly: “That would never happen in Samoa.” Another chimed in, “He should have fed his brother.” They were totally in Esau’s corner.  And they were absolutely correct:  it would never happen in Samoa. Brother Macdonald said right out loud, “I hate that story!”

I also taught the lesson in Relief Society, however we are one lesson ahead of the priesthood, so my subject was Doing Good to Others. In response to my question as to whether anyone had ever pulled themselves out of a gloomy mood by serving someone else whose need was greater, one sister told the following experience. Cathy Arp is actually one of the two sisters I visit teach. She is a diabetic whose health is declining. On a particularly hard day, night actually, she was very tired when the phone rang. On the other end of the line was someone whose cupboards were bare.  Was her husband home? No, he was not. There was an apologetic request for the need of food and the lateness of the hour. Cathy responded by answering the need. No sooner was she home again a second request, a critical need for food, came from another family, again asking for Seig (Cathy’s husband). Before the night was over, she had delivered food to four families. In each case they were very apologetic, saying they had asked so many times before, and hesitated to ask again. But as each had prayed for guidance, Seig came to mind. So even at the late hour, need overcame humiliation and they called the man who had never turned them away. Cathy said that while her strength and patience were worn thin by the end of the fourth visit, she realized what a blessing it was to be married to such a man to whom the Lord would direct his children in time of need. I didn’t ask Cathy, but beside whatever else she provided, I’ll bet she took them some bananas.

In another sense, we are going bananas over a care package we received from home this past week.  Leon and I looked at each other and wondered and hoped that we had sent care packages to our missionaries when they were out. That was so long ago! We’ve since been assured that we did. I had no idea how fun it could be to receive any mail from home, but especially to have received a box full of ingredients for holiday cooking! Rather than packed in packing peanuts, it was packed in mini candy bars, which we sorted out like a couple of kids, setting aside our personal favorites and sharing others.  A few weeks ago we received another care package from the Fifes, who had personal knowledge of how valuable some of the contents of their box would be: namely the tp which they labeled, “For special occasions”.

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, we have to list near the top the modern technology that allows us to call home anytime with such clear sound that it’s hard to believe how many miles separate us. We check our email inbox daily and are grateful for the timely communication between friends and family, and especially hearing from our two grandchildren currently serving missions.  Skype is a modern miracle we plan to employ on Thanksgiving Day when nearly all of our family will be gathered together.  As for us, we will celebrate Thanksgiving with all of the senior missionaries on Saturday, November 30th, because that is the day everyone, including us temple missionaries, is free in the evening. That will be your Black Friday as we are a day ahead.  
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!
Give Thanks and have some Banana Cream Pie!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

OBSERVATIONS


SINGING:

·         Samoan children LOVE to sing. Our friend Lupe Ieramia told us that when she was a little girl sitting by her mother in church, if she wasn’t singing, her mother would pinch her. So maybe some learn to love to sing.
·        The deacons stay on the front rows after the sacrament is passed. The teachers remain at the sacrament table. They all remain there for the entire meeting.  These Aaronic Priesthood boys sing the hymns. The primary age boys find joy in singing out. They ALL sing. There is almost no horseplay during singing time. Today was the primary sacrament meeting program. Many of us wept for the beauty and truth they spoke and sang. 

·         There is an LDS father-daughter duo that performs during the lunch hour at a wonderful little cafĂ© called Mari's that faces the harbor. We often have lunch there on Fridays after the temple. We are such regulars that the father acknowledges us by name when we come in. Their harmony and his guitar accompaniment is pure heaven.

·         I am often serving as greeter at the temple at the first of our shift, and as greeter, I remain there during preparation meeting. That early in the shift, the foyer is quiet and their singing can be heard. They sing accapella, men and women. The rich bass and the female harmonies carry the familiar hymns throughout the temple through the closed doors. Sometimes if there are a few patrons in the foyer, I can hear them picking up the harmony and quietly singing along.

·         Sister Latu serves as the assistant coordinator on Friday mornings with me. She is the one the Lord inspired me to ask for. On the first day we served together, while we were getting ready in the locker room, she started singing quietly, “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord, I’ll be what you want  me to be.” We were the first ones there and all alone.

COURTESY:

·         Courtesy is paramount in Samoan culture. When a young (say, 9 or 10 year old) boy answers the door, he invites you in and invites you to be seated. He excuses himself to get his parent.  We’ve even had one 8 year old bring us a drink of water. They are taught courtesy at a young age.

·         If the food is being served to you, the men are served first. (Chiefs) All men are given that respect.

·         Because we are guests in their country, the sisters at the temple don’t like to let me wash my own cup or clean up after anyone else in the kitchen, or serve them. I have a hard time with that and sometimes just do it anyway and make a joke of it. They are learning to accept me and laugh at my antics.

·         One never walks in front of another person w/o saying ‘tulo’, meaning ‘excuse me’. You bend slightly so as to indicate respect while walking in front of others.

j     The common greeting is a hand clasp and a kiss on the cheek, or just pressing your cheek against theirs while clasping hands.
      
      Samoans always smile at you, whether stranger or friend.

FOOD:

·         It’s very important to provide plenty of food.  You are expected to eat some of everything offered.

·         I’ve got a bit of a tummy like I’ve never had before and the sisters seem to think that is a very good thing.
·         I have scored lots of points by really enjoying cocosamoa. It has raised my status in their eyes considerably.
·         I’m not kidding. I really love cocosamoa. I’ve learned how to make it and I always have it on hand. Last week two sisters, independent of each other brought me cocosamoa from their own plantations. Both said it’s the best. I’m not a connoisseur yet. I buy it off of every little kid I see. But according to these sisters, I’m about to experience what real, freshly roasted cocosamoa tastes like.

·         I have also learned to make supoese (papaya soup – it’s really a drink, not a soup). And I make pretty good sapasui (chop suey faasamoa style).

·         This is kind of, well, personal. I wonder if there is a special blessing on missionary food. Because the simple meals we fix at home taste so good. Honestly, I think to myself as I’m eating, ‘Did food ever taste this good?”

·         There is a little grocery/bakery near us that has the reputation of making the best bread in town. The sign on the front says Maryons, but everyone calls the store Siosi’s. Don’t ask. We don’t know why. When we learned that they sell their bread dough, we became regular customers. From it we make bread, rolls, and scones. Mighty good.  They also sell these giant rolls that are baked in a pan of coconut cream. Yeah, they’re good.
     

The How-To Portion of this blog.
Cocosamoa:
This is how it is sold: wrapped in plastic wrap and sold in a styrofoam cup
My hero grates it into a bowl.
I measure it and put it in this sauce pan with this sugar that is less processed than white sugar.
Add boiling water and bring back to a boil on medium heat.
Simmer for awhile, maybe an hour.
It's very good. Especially if you like dark chocolate. It's even good chilled. Tastes like a fudge bar.

This is how you make Supoese.
Cut ripe papaya in half lengthwise. The small bowl you see on the far right is tapioca, covered with water.
Scrape out the seeds and discard.
Scrape the fruit into a bowl or pan.
Cover with hot water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring often.
Add the soaked (therefore softened) tapioca, and stir until tapioca becomes clear.
Add coconut cream and stir. It pours from a can, but when refridgerated, it thickens, as pictured.
Continue to stir until well blended. It can be enjoyed warm or chilled.
Depending on the amount of tapioca added, it can be a drink or a pudding.

The sapasui how-to will have to wait until another blog.

So now you know why I have more of a tummy than ever before. Probably the most important observation.

Tofa Soifua ma manuia le aso.






Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sunday, October 6, 2013 Draft

Sunday, October 6, 2013.  This may not ever make it into print, but I want to try to find words for what I have experienced during the past few weeks, and especially what happened last Friday.

We’ve been here for seven months now.  We are just beginning to understand the culture. It is a key to understanding everything else.  It allows us to make sense of so many things. We are beginning to find humor rather that frustration in the clashes between the cultures – ours and those we are here to serve.  As recently as yesterday, I found my blood pressure on the rise because once again I lost sight of the fact that it is my responsibility to let go of my cultural paradigm and remember that I am the guest here. It didn’t happen all at once, but as I fulfilled an assignment which immersed me in a sacred ordinance and the Spirit was so present, my anger melted away. That must be the meaning of how our troubles are “swallowed up in the joy of Christ”. With my soul quieted, I was taught once again that this is not my world. I am a guest here.

This is your conference week-end. Ever since we arrived Leon has requested again and again that the tv antenna on our roof be fixed or replaced. It pointed to our roof. You can imagine the poor reception. BYUTV airs on a local station here. That’s a great thing for us because we don’t have cable and only get 3 channels.  In desperation, Leon called one of the engineers again and said, “Just bring me a ladder. I’m going to fix the antenna myself. I want to watch conference and I’m going to fix the antenna.” With visions of a senior citizen falling from the roof and the imagined repercussions, immediate action was taken and we have great reception. We caught a little of the Saturday morning session this morning before church, a little of the afternoon session when we got home.  I especially appreciated Elder Dube’s talk on meekness. Mostly because that is what I lack. It was a great help to me in recognizing what I need to do.

My lack of meekness was actually what caused the rise in my blood pressure yesterday. The Sunday session will be broadcast live tomorrow (Monday) from 6-8 am and 10-noon. That is the day we do our household chores at the temple, while it is closed. Monday is also the day the temple missionaries had a calendared activity to watch conference.  However, on Friday we were told that instead we were going to go to Piula to swim; that we would keep to the regular 6 a.m. cleaning schedule and then go on our activity as soon as we were finished.  I spoke to the matron Saturday morning, asking if it would be possible to change the time of our Monday assignment so that we could watch both sessions of conference live at 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and then come directly to the temple to do our work at noon. She reminded me that the sessions of conference will be rebroadcast the following week-end in the stake center and also they will be broadcast "all the time" online and on tv during the week.  Do you see the problem? I was standing there with one foot in West Jordan Utah, and one foot in Samoa.  It was terribly uncomfortable.  Fortunately, sometime in the next few hours, I was able to pull my foot out of Utah, and plant both feet firmly right here again, where everyone realizes that for Samoa, general conference is one week later than in the states.

Monday it rained so hard we hoped maybe there would be a change of plans. Not so. As it turned out, we enjoyed ourselves on the activity, though to start with, inside we went screaming and kicking. Following President Hinckley’s *advice, we put a smile on our faces and joined the group. There were 2 vans of us. Fitisemanu's drove one van. We rode with Paugas and I had a great visit with Sister Pauga and got help with the language as well. It was a fun day.

One week later.

Saturday, October 12, 2013.  General Conference was well worth waiting for. We were able to attend the English sessions in the chapel directly across the street from the temple.  Most of the Samoan temple missionaries also attended there as the building is the ONLY air conditioned chapel on the island. It is the one that hosts the visiting general authority meetings. In the morning session, the projected images seemed over-exposed. People looked a little washed out. It was especially noticeable when the choir was on the screen. I wondered for a minute if we just hadn’t seen so many white people together for a long time. Actually, I think that was part of it.  But it was a color adjustment problem that was corrected in the afternoon session.  I strongly suggest that if you don’t want your daughters to marry Polynesians, you don’t send them to BYU-Hawaii. The bronze skin color is beautiful. We look at ourselves and think, (as Elder Gertsch expressed), “Am I getting pinker?”

There was definitely a missionary theme going on today. But I also felt that we needed to ponder the talks in reference to how they are to prepare and protect us against the events of the future. Perhaps answering the call to become involved with the full-time missionaries and doing our part to bring people to Christ is the very thing that will protect us and enable us to endure the challenges ahead.  Is there anything that could increase our faith and deepen our conversion more than missionary work?

It is getting late. I was hoping to say so much more, but evidently I’m still recuperating from my Friday temple assignment, and need to go to bed.  I so appreciate your prayers in my behalf. It takes all I have and then some (the Lord’s grace and tender mercies) to fill this coordinating assignment. I know I am being sustained through prayer.

Love to you all and thanks for your prayers,

Mom/Grandma/Friend

* “Don’t be gloomy. Do not dwell on unkind things.  Stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunshine.  Even if you’re not happy put a smile on your face. ‘Accentuate the positive.’ Look a little deeper for the good. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, with great and strong purpose in your heart.”                       ~ President Gordon B. Hinckley


 These are some pictures I took that day at Piula Cave Pool.

I'm standing on the sea wall, looking toward the cave at the end of the pool.
L-R: Elder Crowley (doesn't he look pink?) He's reminding me where to find the zoom on our camera. 
Sister Tafua in white Tee (new from Huntington Beach, CA), Sister Nele Moaga, behind her is Sister Collins, Sister Fitisemanu in center, Sister Tavete behind her, the Sauni's are behind Tavete, and in front is young Sister Afualo. Sissters Collins and Afualo have been serving in the temple and have now left for their missions to ID Pocatello and Australia Sydney respectively.
Elder Bob and Sister Peggy Lamoreaux, from Orem, UT, parents of 14 children. This is their 3rd mission, the first was to Romania, second to Mongolia. Samoa is their reward.
Lamoreaux's with their backs to the sea. Remember the cave pool is a fresh water pool, separated from the ocean by the sea wall.

President and Sister Pauga. She's the one tutoring me on my Friday assignment.
President Fitisemanu
These two girls prepared the food while we were in the temple. As you might expect, there was more food than we could possibly eat.
The Samoans learn to sit in this position from the time they are babies. They can sit this way for hours. Not us.

Manuia aso confesi.
(Blessed conference day)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Constancy of Change

We are experiencing what all missionaries experience. We’ve said good-bye to people who are and were an integral part of our mission. It will be impossible for us to think of this time without thinking of Sonny and Karen Ho-Ching, Chuk and JoAnn Fife, who were here for us when we arrived. There we other missionary couples who have since left that gave us a sense of home and familiarity while we adjusted to being immersed in another culture. Now we find ourselves, out just 6 months, being there for others.

Yesterday we had the unusual opportunity of picking up the new temple missionary couple from the Faleolo Airport. Normally this would fall to the temple presidency or the temple recorder to do, but circumstances placed them away on other assignments.  Elder Robert and Sister Peggy Lamoreaux from Orem, Utah, arrived at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 21st. It so happened that President and Sister Leota of the Samoa Apia Mission were there waiting for the same plane to arrive, bringing their daughter, Sister Rachel Leota Leulua’iali’I, home from her Utah Provo Mission. They were there with other family members holding large posters of welcome. We had written Lamoreaux on a piece of paper and I was holding it in front of me, standing next to reps of several resorts with signs of their own for arriving guests. President Leota came up behind me and said, “Sister Crowley, I don’t think the sign is necessary.Your [missionary] tags are all you need.” Earlier we had followed him up the stairs to a long bank of windows and looked out on the Air New Zealand 767 which held our missionaries. We watched the ground crew bring the stairs out and place them at the front and rear exit doors of the plane. Soon the doors rolled up and passengers began disembarking.  We spotted Sister Leota. Not long after, we saw our missionaries. They were easy to spot. Who wears a suit coat, white shirt and tie to a tropical island? Right behind Elder Lamoreaux was his wife. Even with my poor vision, I spotted their tags.

Elder and Sister Lamoreaux

So the Lord has provided once again. The Lamoreaux’s are seasoned missionaries, having served two years in Romania and eighteen months in Mongolia.  Prior their missions, Elder Lamoreaux served as a trainer in the Provo Temple. Temple service will be new for Sister Lamoreaux. As parents of fourteen children, she had plenty to do at home.  These people are stalwart. We will be so blessed to serve with them. The Lord hears our prayers.  (That part about fourteen children? It was not a typo.)

We love ‘our’ Pesega Lima Ward. (Lima means 5). Every Sunday the sacrament meeting program lists families by name, who are assigned to clean the chapel. Each area of the building is assigned to a different family, and one family every week is in charge of the grounds.  On the same page is a list of families assigned to feed the missionaries for the next seven days.  We found our name listed in last week’s program for Monday night.  We thought we would be feeding the two assistants to President Leota. As it turned out they were on splits. Elder Amituana’i (assistant) and Elder Fuatimau, who is staying in the mission home for a while due to a broken collar bone from a bike accident, were our guests.  

Left, Elder Fuatimau; right, Elder Amituana'i

Such good young men. As is their custom, after dinner, Elder Amituana’i shared a spiritual thought and a scripture with us.  He told us his own conversion story.  He said that he was not attending church after a certain point in his teen years.  When his younger sister sent in her papers and received her mission call, she said to him, “It makes me sad that when I am set apart, you can’t stand in the circle and lay your hands on my head.”  Her words cut him to his heart. He said sometime later, the sister missionaries were in his home one evening and as they were preparing to leave, they also wanted to leave a spiritual message with the family. One of the sisters asked, “What is the job of a missionary?”  He rather flippantly gave the standard answer – “To bring souls to Christ, to baptize people”.  

It was probably more the way he said it, than what he said.  At this point in telling this experience, Elder Amituana’i lowered his head and was very quiet. Finally when he was able to speak, he said, “I can still see her face. She looked down and finally said,’ You say it like it means nothing.’”   Those words were burned into his mind and heart. It was the beginning of change - a change of heart that resulted in him joining his sister in the mission field. He says of his parents, “They were the most patient people. They never forced the issue, never wavered in their love for me”.  I have heard him say that if it were possible, he would extend another two years. We don’t really know when he will finish his mission. He doesn’t like to talk about it.  He is one who will “waste and wear out his life” serving the Lord and His cause. 

There was a baptism in the ward a week ago on Saturday.  We had not previously attended a baptism here, but felt a connection to both of the candidates, so we went.  We are so glad we did. Seventeen year old Dolly Keil was the first to be baptized.  The Keil family is everywhere.  There were nine children and they are successful business owners of various businesses in Apia. Tragically, the parents of this generation of Keils were inactive, and the legacy continues. We are so impressed with those we have met. Dolly is a granddaughter. Her father, Clint, is Orlando Keil’s brother. We home teach Orlando and Rita’s daughter, Daphne. Are you with me? I’m just telling you we care about this family. 

The other candidate was Amaramo Alesana Sialaoa (he goes by Ramo).  This ten year old boy comes to church alone every week. We have substituted in his primary class a few times. He brings his scriptures, answers correctly the questions, is attentive and participates.  His father brought him the Sunday after his baptism, but they arrived late, as the sacrament hymn was being sung. After the sacrament, the bishop called him up and was voice for his confirmation.  The blessing he received spoke of education and accomplishment of his goals. It was quite amazing. His father stayed through sacrament meeting.  We taught that class again today. Fifteen kids, about half and half boys and girls, They were engaged and participated throughout.  The Roth’s (dentist) say how much they love this class. We understand.

Ramo

Today, Sister Caroline Kamerath, the new mission nurse, invited the Lamoreaux’s and us to dinner. Honestly, it felt like coming home.  It was a lovely Sunday dinner, set on a beautiful dining table of inlaid wood. There were fresh flowers on the table, and wonderful people to share it with. Our visit in her comfortable living room was interrupted when a phone call gave her an update of a sick elder suffering the effects of food poisoning, which necessitated a call to Dr. Anderson, who advised drinking a flat coke. Nothing else has stopped his symptoms and hospitalization is being considered. Hospitalization is a last resort. It isn’t where you want to go even when you’re well, but especially when you’re sick. That is our nurse’s professional opinion.

Our mission nurse, Caroline Kamerath

Like the missionaries before leaving a home, I will leave with you a spiritual thought from our sacrament meeting. The Kelemete family spoke. The entire family speaks when the invitation is given by the bishopric. Six speakers, an intermediate hymn, and we ended on time. The subject was LOVE. From the youngest child, to the father, their words were taken from the scriptures and carried by the spirit.  The thought I want to share was given by the mother, Sister Leilani Kelemete. She taught us that when we forgive all, we qualify to be called friends of Jesus Christ.  She said when we refuse to forgive, we are in effect negating the Savior’s atonement and the gospel he preached. We are in effect saying we never felt his influence upon us to forgive others. It is worthy of pondering the critical importance of forgiving others, not only the problem of not forgiving, but the purifying power of a forgiving heart. To be called a friend by Jesus Christ is worth striving for.  

May your week be full of blessings and your heart full of gratitude.

Alofa atu ia te oe.
Sister Crowley

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lupe Ieremia and The Village of Falelatai

Lupe Ieremia was born in Falelatai, a beautiful village around the west tip of Upolu toward the south, a good way past the wharf. Her father and mother, Lo'i and Fetua'i Vaatuitui were the first members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a village predominantly LMS (London Missionary Society). Her family endured persecution but remained faithful. Lupe was one of nine children. The closest LDS chapel was (and still is) 2 1/2 miles from their home. She remembers as a young child how very long the walk to church was for her little legs. Her father carried the twin babies in baskets woven of coconut leaves. The baskets were attached to opposite ends of a pole which her father carried across his shoulders. Her mother carried similar baskets full of food which the family ate under the trees in the church yard between meetings. Many other families did likewise.

Her father traveled daily to Pesega where he cared for the grounds at the CCWS where Leon taught from 1971 - '74. The drive today takes over an hour. Lupe discovered later in life how little he actually made. How he provided for his large family and allowed her mother to be at home with the children was a mystery to her until she realized that it was only possible through his faithful payment of tithes.

When Lupe was 12 years old, her older brother had the opportunity to sit a test that would, if he scored high enough, grant him a scholarship to attend school in the United States.  The information given to his parents instructed their son to bring with him a #2 pencil. Not having heard that term before, they were concerned that he needed a very special pencil. When another of their children explained that they had several #2 pencils around the fale, their son had already boarded the bus with the hope he could purchase the special pencil before the test began. Lupe was given the assignment to catch the next bus and take the pencil to her brother.

When she entered the classroom where the test was to be given, she looked all around for her brother. When she didn't see him, she found a seat and took the test herself.  Sam Atoa was an administrater at the school. When the results of the test were in, he found her father, his first cousin, working on the grounds and asked why he had allowed Lupe to take the test when she was too young to participate. He answered that he had no idea Lupe had taken the test. It seems her brother had no intention of sitting the test and spent his time playing rugby with his friends while the test was being administered. Then Sam told her father that Lupe had scored the highest of all the students. Having the autority to do so, he granted the scholarship to Lupe which allowed her to attend Granite and then graduate from Highland High School in Utah. While there, she lived with her mother's youngest sister, Auntie Toe Freeman. Yes, her aunt is the wife of Joseph Freeman Jr. whom you met in an earlier post.

Her father was a humble and faithful bearer of the priesthood and was given authority to organize several branches of the church during his lifetime. He died at the age of 50. People came from all over the island to pay their respects to this faithful servant of the Lord. Buses lined the street in front of their home. Each busload of people from other churches as well, not just LDS people, came to sing. His wife was very ill at the time of his death, dying within the next 2 years from undiagnosed cancer of the stomach.  Lupe, who was still living in the family home, was grateful for Sam Atoa that day, as he was her advisor in how to handle this overwhelming crowd. She asked incredulously why so many had come. Sam said that obviously her father had touched all of these people in some way. The buses began to arrive at 4:00 pm and the last one left at 2:00 a.m. the next day.

There is a custom which is strange to us, but very old. The village of Salelesi plays a role in funerals. They are irreverently referred to as dogs of the high chief. A representative of the village comes by ancient privilege to funerals, enters into the fale to howl or wail. Mourners bring gifts to the bereaved family and place them near the coffin. The tradition is that this Salelesi is allowed w/o objection or interference to choose one gift and take it with him when he leaves. At her father's funeral, such a man arrived and entered the fale. He was smoking a cigarette, and was not wearing a shirt. Both of these things were forbidden by her father in his fale. Lupe, who was in her early twenties, took this man by the arm and escorted him to the road in front of their home. She told him that his appearance and behavior were offensive to her father and he was not welcome. She then instructed her brother to carry to the man two boxes of corned beef from the many food items given to the family.  As she was walking out with this man, several of the neighbors chastened her, discounting her behavior as being ignorant of Samoan tradition, presumably from her years in the U.S., and in very poor taste.  As she returned, she told them that her father was Tongan, not Samoan, and she didn't have to follow faasamoan tradition, but rather honor her father.

It is true. Her father is Tongan, her mother, Samoan. Both have passed away. Her father in 1993, her mother two years late. Lupe and her youngest daughter, Breanna, who turned 12 yesterday, and Lupe's brother Toia Vaatuitui, are the only ones that live in the family home today in Falelatai. We had the extraordinary pleasure of traveling to Falelatai on Saturday to visit their family home.

Lupe and her cousin Gail led the way in her Toyota pick-up. She took us over an inland route where we saw coconut and taro plantations planted by Germans on land they traded for rifles and ammunition that I am reading about in the historical novel, Samoa, by J. Robt. Shaffer. From here to the sea is all coconut palms.


Where the land isn't cleared and planted, it is lush jungle.



We stopped for a photo op near the crest of the hill before descending to Falelatai and Lupe's home.


From left to right: Breanna, Lupe's adopted daughter, Breanna's sister Kathy (living with her birth mother), Sister Crowley, Lupe, Gail.


Fuel for the travelers, Leslie's famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Nobody can eat just one.


The view of Falelatai from the crest of the hill...and inexplicably, Lupe's truck. We need photoshop:


Both Lupe and her brother Toia work in town, Lupe in Apia and Toia at Pesega. Before we visited their village and their home, I felt sorry for the long commute. Now I know it is worth it. What a place to begin each day.

The family home.

The open air fale where the nine children slept. Originally the floor was small pebbles covered by layers of banana leaves and then mats to make a softer bed. Now gleaming tiles cover the floor.




The cooking fale is separate from the house.
In the center is where the umu would be built up on the circle of  rocks. In the foreground is a carving block and work space.
The large drum we think may be a bbq.

Behind the house is a family cemetery that we regret not photographing. Her father is buried there. Her mother, having sought medical help in the states, was buried in Utah where most of the children are living.
Out past the little graveyard and through a fence is the beach, all part of the family property which has been theirs for generations. The family name, Vaatuitui means 'knock on the boat'; vaa=boat, tuitui=knock. Tradition is that when Tagaloa first came to Samoa, he sailed his canoe into this bay and knocked on the side of the boat, signalling his arrival. It was according to family tradition, the first of the grandfathers to claim this land after immigrating from Tonga, who went out to meet Tagaloa.  I must investigate further this tradition because according to my limited understanding, Tagaloa was the name of the Samoan god of the sea

Toia accompanied us to the beach while Lupe and the girls prepared sandwiches. With him is one of their three ridgeback pups, 3 month old Skittles.

Lucky pup.
Toia explains that before the last cyclone in December, it was a beautiful sandy beach front. Now many rocks have been exposed which previously were covered with sand. You can walk to the reef w/o getting your shorts wet.  Below is a fisherman preparing to place his nets in the water.




We took the beach road home, past the wharf and the Faleolo Airport. We made note of the chapel where the Vaatuitui family attended church. It would have been a long walk for a child.  From here we could see the small islands of Manono, Apolima, and the big island of Savaii. In the last photo you can see far off in the distance, the last ferry from Savaii heading to Upolu. 



Lupe is one of those strong, immoveable souls we are so privileged to call our friend. What a blessing it is to have seen her lovely village and the family home. Little by little we are learning her history. Always I am anxious to learn more. 

Thank you for allowing us to share with you this amazing opportunity to serve the beautiful people of Samoa. Tofa Soifua.