Monday, May 13, 2013

"... I Remember Those Who are Upon the Isles of the Sea"

When the Lord says, "I am able to do my work", I believe that promise included providing for his children upon the isles of the sea, even providing for their medical emergency needs when logically there is no help available in many such cases.

Just last week the mission nurse and her husband, Elder and Sister Hanson, completed their 18 month mission and returned to their home in Payson, Utah, their four married children and the grandchildren they had missed so much, ....that is when they had time to think about home.  Their mission, Elder Hanson serving as his wife's assistant (as he expressed it, he paddled her canoe) took them all over Upolu, Savaii, and Tutuila ( American Samoa), treating any and all physical complaints of the young elders and sisters serving in the Samoa mission.  They were essentially on call 24/7 for a year and a half.  Besides the young missionaries, they were a comfort and a help to the senior missionaries and the mission home staff as well.  Elder Hanson told a story from their mission experience that I want to share with you.  He was kind enough to leave a copy of a newsletter he sent to family and friends telling of this extraordinary experience.

Before I share the Hanson's experience with you, let me share some of the miracles that we were close to forty years ago. While in Salt Lake for the October General Conference in June of 1971, Percy Rivers, one of the priesthood leaders from our stake here in Pesega, had a heart attack, which would have taken his life had he been here at the time.  Elder Russell M. Nelson was the surgeon who operated on him and extended his life and service here among his people.  We learned that the exact scenario had taken place with another priesthood leader from Samoa not long before we were here; that is he experienced a heart attack while attending general conference, and Elder Nelson was the attending surgeon. Coincidence?

Just a few weeks before we were scheduled to return home in June of 1974, Leon was in his wood shop at CCWS in the middle of the school day.  One of his students was shaping a bowl on the lathe.  A screw came loose and caused the lathe to increase to full speed, throwing the bowl into the face of the student with such force that he was flipped over, head down and feet up.  When Leon got to him, he saw that the blow had opened a hole in the young man's cheek and jaw exposing his throat.  At that precise moment, school superintendent, Sam Atoa drove his station wagon up to the dock connected to the shop.  The two of them loaded the student into the vehicle and drove to the Moto'otua Hospital, now known as the National Hospital, minutes away. It happened that a visiting plastic surgeon from Germany was just exiting surgery as they arrived. He quickly prepared himself and the room and immediately began to put this boy's face back together.  After eight hours he emerged from the operating room to report that he had successfully connected the nerves, the glands, secured the bones supporting the eye, put his jaw back together and the prognosis was that he would have full function of his eye, facial nerves, saliva glands, would have no permanent damage and little scarring.

Let's count the miracles:

  1. Superintendent Atoa had not once before in the 3 years of Leon's tenure visited his shop.
  2. A renowned  plastic surgeon just happened to be visiting the hospital.
  3. The surgeon had just finished a lengthy surgery and was available.
  4. All of the intricate pieces were in tact enough to reconstruct the boy's face.
  5. Those who knew him have said that you would not ever know he had been injured.
So if you're still with me, I will give the Reader's Digest version of the Hanson's miraculous story.  I will use quotation marks when quoting directly from Elder Hanson's newsletter.

He tells the story of Sister Aiono (Eye-oh-no). When Maggie Aiono was four years old, she was hit by one of the many buses that provide the main source of transportation for Samoans all over the island. The accident resulted in the loss of her left leg and left her a cripple. "Probably with the assistance of a missionary or a doctor, the Shriner's Charity in the US found out about little Maggie. . ..took the needed measurements, and Maggie received her first prosthesis. Her life changed once again--she learned how to run and play with her friends, and was even a severe threat on the volleyball courts seen in every Samoan village."

Maggie continued to get help from Shriner's, receiving her last prosthesis leg at 16. At 18 she was no longer eligible for help from them.  When she turned 21, she turned in her papers and was called to serve her mission in her homeland of Samoa.  "By now she had grown another inch or two . .. .and the leg had taken a real beating. The foot had literally been worn through by the steel post that gave strength to the leg and she found herself walking on the metal end. Somewhere she found some heavy industrial rubber pieces and attached them to the post to soften the shock of each step. To maintain the appearance of a foot, she taped the remnants of the old one to the leg. The result was a hobbling limp that brought pain to her hip and back, but at least she could walk."

Serving in the Samoa Apia Mission, her main mode of transportation was walking. Six to eight miles a day is usual.  "In spite of Sister Aiono's determination, she had finally been faced with an obstacle she could not surmount. Sister Hanson, the mission's Registered Nurse, sought help from the Area Medical Advisor, Dr. Anton Anderson, but although a search for a solution was made, nothing came of it."  

Though the Hanson's had previously been attending a Samoan speaking ward, they "had strong feelings that they should be attending the only English speaking ward on the island -- the Pesega 5th. Soon after [they began attending the new ward], some visitors came -- Brother & Sister Bracken from Saint George, Utah.  They had business in American Samoa,, and although they had not planned to travel to Samoa, they yielded to an impulse and made the flight across the ocean to Apia and sought out a place to attend church."  As Nylene Bracken was being introduced in Relief Society, relating this unexpected visit, she was asked,"what is your husband's business?"  "He's a Prosthetic Engineer"  "Sister Hanson felt as though she had been hit by a bolt of lightening. She jumped to her feet and said, "I know why you are here. Can I talk to you when this meeting is over?"

Arrangements were made for Brother Bracken to meet with Sister Aiono the next morning in the mission compound. Brother Bracken assessed what was needed to repair and rebuild the leg; parts were ordered and arrived 6 weeks later. Brother Hanson worked through the night rebuilding the badly damaged leg, being coached via skype by Brother Bracken who had returned to the states. A trial fitting, adjustment made, and Sister Aiono was walking 3 miles a day and no longer needed a cane.

"A month later all of the missionaries on the island were called to a special meeting presided over by Elder Dallin H Oaks who was visiting the mission.  Elder & Sister Hanson were seated in the chapel across from the Apia Samoa Temple when Sister Aiono walked down the aisle with her companion to take their seats. Tears came to both of the older missionaries eyes as they watched this beautiful young lady. There was nothing that would tell any observer that she was walking on an artificial leg. The limp was completely gone, and in addition she had lost about 20 pounds. She was a beautiful sight to behold."

Are you still with me?  Then this is meant to reward you for your persistence.  I've mentioned that President and Sister Ho-Ching of our temple presidency left nearly two weeks ago for their home in Arizona to receive needed medical attention for an undiagnosed debilitating pain that Sister Karen Ho-Ching was experiencing.  It turned out to be a pinched nerve and resulted in surgery to remove and replace two discs with stainless steel discs. Thankfully the surgery was successful and she is doing well.  As Karen was coming out of the anesthetic in ICU, a nurse, obviously distressed,  rushed out of her room and asked her daughter, "Does your mother speak a foreign language?"  "Yes, why?"   "Because we can't understand a thing she is saying."  Her daughter followed the nurse back into the room and translated.  She told the nurses, "Mom is asking to see your temple recommends."  Ha ha!  We are hoping to have them back to finish out their mission. They are sorely missed.

Thanks to all of you for prayers and sustaining words.  "God bless us, every one!" ~ Tiny Tim

Sister Crowley

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Growing Pains

What a week this has been!  Did you ever have 'growing pains' when you were young and growing?  I did.  I guess my mom asked the doctor about the pain I experienced occasionally, which to be honest I couldn't accurately describe today. I do remember a specific time that whatever the pain was, I found it difficult to walk home from a friend's house some distance away due to this 'growing pain'. So maybe the doc told her not to worry, that it was just 'growing pains'.

This week I have experienced 'growing pains' once more, but not the kind that respond to a heating pad. These are the areas - and I can clearly identify them for you - where growth (hopefully) is occurring. I may not be as accurate in identifying the cause. My experience is that it can usually be traced to one or all of these three common problems: pride, vanity, or selfishness.  Hey, that can't be. Can it?  So the areas that are causing so much pain are (1) Samoans speak waaay too fast! Samoans speak slang, which greatly hinders learning by listening.  For nearly every 'T' they substitute a 'K'.  Believe me, this is a problem.  (2) When you ask a Samoan a question, no matter what the right answer is, they may smile and nod "Yes".  That may mean they do not speak English and did not understand, but sometimes the answer to 'do you speak English' is also a smile and an affirmative nod.  Communication is a real problem when they ask you a question as well.  Especially if you don't understand that you have just been asked to do something and you didn't get that message at all so you don't show up for an assignment.  (3) Samoans don't like to be corrected. Of course that is not true of all Samoans, . . .. Okay, three or four patrons this week.  Combine the speed of their speech, and their determination to press forward and not respond to gentle, persistent efforts to instruct, well, it's a problem. It's especially a problem when the 'instructor' has just barely learned herself.  "Did I hear what I thought I heard? or Did I not hear what I should have heard?"  It's not possible to have an instant replay.

Growing pains also came as a result of facing a very real possibility that the Ho-Chings, our friends and mentors, may not be able to finish their mission.  We have grown to love them and we have depended on them like a new convert depends on the missionary who introduced them to the gospel and baptized them.  They have played such a crucial role in helping us in the temple, and in everyday life. Sister Ho-Ching is very ill and as a result she and President Ho-Ching, counselor to president Fitisemanu, are back in the states to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.  He also has severe pain in his ankle, which has been getting worse. He is diabetic. Of course we are anxious to hear from them and pray a positive outcome and for their return, the good Lord willing.  Without them, we have had numerous and varied opportunities for growth.

This is what the "Doctor" ordered for these growing pains: a big dose of humility and patience, to be taken daily as needed, preferably with a large glass of understanding.  The fine print is the most important part.  This is what it says.  "These children of the Islands are My children. Do you see the evidence of My love for them?  Is there any hunger here? Any war? Poverty?  Is there beauty here?  Abundance?  Do you know of their sacrifice to visit My House?  Do you understand the miles they walk, the hours they spend waiting for a bus?  Do you see how they love each other?  Do you feel the love they show you?  Do you notice the limping ones, the blind ones and the aged? Do you sense their faith, how strong it is?  Have you ever seen a House of the Lord more beautiful than this one I have provided for My Samoan children?  Do you realize what a privilege I have granted you to serve them here in My House?  Were you not aware that serving a mission is hard work? That it requires sacrifice and obedience, and selflessness?"

He promises if I will continue to take my medicine every day that I will grow strong and capable of serving my mission with honor and without regret.  I have the best Doctor. I've learned to trust His diagnosis and treatment.