Sunday, July 28, 2013


We killed our first centipede Thursday. It was in our apartment.

We had an awesome missionary experience last week. The subject for another post.

Satan can enter the temple. Know how he can? In your heart.

My cocoa Samoa keeps improving. It’s really good. Better than a week ago.

I bought a pair of black sandals about 2 months ago. They cost $85 Tala. Leon thought I said FIVE tala. He was so happy for me. Until he got to the cash register. I was so happy that he was happy that I thought for a moment it really was a good deal. Luckily I like them and wear them a lot. It’s our joke now.

Giving Leon a good haircut can turn a dark day into a bright one.

There is at least one store in town that understands good customer service. We’ve yet to find another.

My last grocery list included green bell peppers, also red and yellow ones. I saw them at Lucky’s.  I asked the produce girl behind the glass display case how much. $29 tala/pound.  I roasted veggies for dinner but there were no peppers in the mix.

We learned a trick from the Fife’s. When we juice lemons, we pour the lemon juice into our ice cube tray and freeze it. Then we keep a container of lemon ice cubes in the freezer, pop some in a glass, add sugar and water and we have lemonade quick as a wink.

It’s Sunday. As always we have been lifted and filled and renewed. Lessons learned in “days of peace” prepare us for strength in “days of trouble”, if we are willing. Lesson #27.

Leon requested a home teaching route. Today was our first home visits. We visited three families. Oh, how good it felt to visit in the homes of members.

Working in the laundry at the temple last week, I found it impossible to untie a tiny, tight knot in a drawstring bag holding some laundry. I left the task to take some items to the clothing closet where white clothing is stored. When I returned to the task, the knot was loosened enough to allow me to work it out.  A tender mercy.

It was announced in church today that “two sisters from America” will be the speakers at the YSA fireside Wednesday night. We learned after church from Sister Goodlet that one of the sisters is Sherry Dew.

Yesterday, learning from past experience, I accepted a new assignment at the temple that I have dreaded because of my lack of Samoan language. As it turned out, the need never arose for me to fulfill it. The key is that I accepted in spite of my terror. There is hope.

Way last March, Jesse posted on his Facebook page a snapshot he took of three fortune cookie fortunes with the caption, “Some great mission advice for my parents in fortune cookie form.” The three little strips of paper contained the following wisdom:  What you will discover will be yourself; The harder you work, the luckier you get; Today, taking a supportive role might benefit the group dynamic.  Amazingly accurate.

The picture below is typical of the fresh flower arrangements we enjoy at church each week, made by our Relief Society sisters. This is the blossom of the ginger plant. Oops.  Sorry it’s so blurry.

Yep. It's a centipede.

Driving from the west end of Upolu toward Apia at sunset.

 Leslie and her Daddy.
 Our day in the temple with Merrell's

And you wonder where old raod work signs go to die.

The day we left for Samoa, our neighbor let me video her cutting Leon's hair. I watch it before cutting. If it's a good cut, Marsha gets the credit.  If not, I don't take pictures. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Favorite Things

Dear Family and Friends,

Our week with our kids was heaven sent.  The break in routine, the opportunity to see more than we have ever seen of Samoa, and to share it with Leslie and James, Ben and Brianna was such a gift.  We were blessed to be given time off from the temple, which we hadn’t asked for. We relished every moment we were together. 

Seeing our missionary friends at church on Sunday and then again last night at FHE, I had to ask myself if I am normal. The sisters were so solicitous, expecting that I would be devastated that our family had gone home.  I assured them that I am okay.  Tiffany has a plaque hanging in her guest room that reads, “Don’t be sad that it’s over. Be happy that it happened.”  That is exactly how I feel.  Part of the lessening of separation anxiety for me is that we talk on the phone often. [May we recommend Magic Jack for your landline phones? We pay about $20 a year after the initial $80 for equipment. ] We email, send pictures back and forth, and feel quite connected to our loved ones. 

We’ve posted LOTS of pictures on Facebook, but I know not everyone who reads the blog is on Facebook, so I will include some here.  Rather than a play-by-play of our week, I will share some of my favorite moments.

  • ·         The arrival at Faleolo Airport.  It must be like this in heaven when we meet our family there. No words can describe the joy of seeing those angel faces. Granted, they were tired faces, but nonetheless angelic.
  • ·         The email I received from eleven year old Ben before they even left home:  Hi grandma I can't wait to visit I just got new clothes that are for Samoa I can't wait to see you!  XOXO                 love Ben  

  • ·         Ben buying a lava lava and wearing it proudly.
  • ·         Brianna hearing sounds from outside, opening the door and saying, “This is a good day to chase chickens!”, and out she went. (Did you know chickens can fly? Over a building? So… what’s with Chicken Run??? I’m so naive.)

  • ·         75%  of the Merrell’s trying the traditional Samoan food, and liking it! James and I are still alone on the Cocoa Samoa. 

  • ·         Leslie and James cooking a Samoan dinner for us, introducing us to an innovative way to use taro and palusami. Note: I dreamed of the day I would be able to eat taro and palusami again. It’s that good. And you can only find it here, at least cooked fa’asamoan style.

  • ·         Seeing them love the places we love and experiencing new places together.

  • ·         Sharing our ward with them. Those wonderful Aaronic Priesthood boys in their white shirts, ties and dress lava lava’s. And flip-flops. The reverence. The joy and total participation in singing the hymns. The inspiring talks and lessons.  The friendly smiles. I know your ward is just the same. But your bishop doesn’t say, “Let’s bring this meeting to a beginning.” And when sustaining those who have new callings, he doesn’t say, “As I call your name, please be upstanding.” Please understand, I am not mocking. I delight in the new ways to say the same things. And it’s not a bad thing to challenge people to be upstanding in their new responsibilities.

  • ·         The crystal clear ocean water with children who find sea life and are amazed and enthralled with all living creatures: tiny crabs that walk sideways up your fingers, a very patient star fish, and a sea cucumber. Really. It looks like the ones in my pickle jar.

  • ·         James choosing for his souvenir a huge conch shell.

  • ·         Ben surprising us all by blowing into it and producing the intended, but illusive to the beginner haunting sound similar to a ship’s horn, that called villagers to prayer for centuries.

  • ·         Watching James, Ben and Brianna fearlessly cliff jumping into waterfall pools straight out of the Garden of Eden, and sliding down natural rock waterslides that their uncles slid down when they were young. Even their Grandfather slid down them. And maybe me. I may have blocked it out. Or maybe it didn’t happen. Anyway, I’m sadly happy that Leslie takes after me and that Grandfather has gained some wisdom through the years so I had company in the spectator section.

  • ·         Laughing at the rain and not letting it spoil our fun.

  • ·         James driving the rental car with the steering wheel on the wrong side, using the windshield wipers to signal his turns, and laughing when Leon calmly said, “You might want to get over to the other side of the road. Soon.” Seriously, he did great.

  • Sharing our beautiful temple with them.
  • ·         Never seeing the jet lag drag them down. Oh, they must be sleeping late now. Or wanting to.
I wish we could share this experience with all of our children and grandchildren. That is highly unlikely. I’m happy that if only one of our kids makes it here while we are here that it was Leslie who was born here.  April, you would make up the other half of the miracle if you found yourself here someday as well to see your birthplace.
I don’t know why we are here. Oh, I know we requested and hoped and it happened. But why? Why were the stars aligned to bring about the opportunity in the early ‘70’s? Being here again, I have to ask why? It is clear that people come and go and little changes. But the people who come and go, do they change? I truly hope so. I hope we can learn all there is to learn here.
I promised pictures. Here are a few favorites.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Again So Soon?

Yes, I have to share before I forget the experiences of this week.  Each day is so full of surprises and blessings as well as challenges.  Our Merrell kids are en route now and will arrive tonight to spend 8 full days, not including travel days, seeing the island with us.  Leslie was born here during our first stay. We are excited for them to see her birthplace and make it a real part of their family history. But now, I will try to capture this week before it is a distant memory.

 I mentioned in the last post that we were preparing for a senior missionary FHE that night, and that Brett Macdonald, the church historian for Samoa, was teaching.  Instead of telling us of the first missionaries to Samoa, he shared journal entries from the first missionary couple to the South Pacific.  Actually, the journal entries were from the period shortly before they served as a couple. Louisa and Addison Pratt. The period was Nauvoo and the exodus west. Addison was called on a mission to the pacific islands, serving the majority of his time on the island of Tubuai. Louisa was left alone with the care of their 4 children, the youngest an infant.  He served five and a half years and it was well after the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum that he heard the news and could only wonder what had become of his wife and children.  It would be three years before he received a letter from Louisa.  On the day the prophet and his brother were murdered, Addison gave a blessing using the priesthood restored through that man. He wrote in his journal of the blessing given and his gratitude for the restored priesthood of God. On the same day Louisa wrote of the dark day of the martyrdom and the deep sorrow and darkness of spirit she felt.  Other journal entries juxtaposed against each other were poignant and had perhaps the effect he intended. We couple missionaries were able to put our challenges in perspective and feel so grateful to be serving together in this beautiful part of the world in the same cause and under far more favorable circumstances.

I have to share probably the most important thing Brother Macdonald said. He told us a little about himself and his family. He grew up in Hawaii, married a Samoan girl, and now they are raising their family in Samoa. He said his interest in the history of Samoa is at heart his desire that his children understand who they are by knowing something of the people they are a part of. He shares family history stories from his side as well, and all the lines that are a part of who they are.  He said this is very important especially for children of the islands.  Statistics tell the tale. Children of mixed heritage either become citizens of the world, comfortable in any society, or they feel that they don’t belong anywhere.  There is a disproportionate number of Polynesian youth involved in gangs in the US.  The Samoan people have not been record keepers. There is no written history of this nation and its people.  Brother Macdonald searches out the stories of his wife’s ancestors to give his children an anchor of faith and virtue from the examples of their very own family, and others of their Samoan culture and heritage.

The rest of the week was so incredibly busy at the temple that I don’t think I can adequately relate how that was for the patrons and for those of us trying to meet their needs. We’ve been told that now through August it will be this way. When school is out large groups come from the big island of Savaii and also from American Samoa to stay in patron housing and come daily to the temple. Their children perform baptisms for the dead and the parents participate in as many ordinances as time and space permit.  I will share two stories. 
Yesterday I became aware of a sister who was sitting in the locker room holding her foot which was bleeding pretty good.  She explained that she had somehow cut her big toe on the door of the temple when she entered.  I helped her into a private space and gave her some tissue to hold on her toe while I went in search of help.  Sister Sauni located some tape and came to help dress it.  The bottom of the ball of her foot and in between her toes were bloody, so before Sister Sauni arrived with supplies, I washed her foot, or rather wiped it off as best I could with wet paper towels.  Can you think with me how precious this experience was for me? When the cut was dressed and I was about to leave her, she kissed me on the cheek and said, “I love you Sister Crowley”.  We didn’t know each other but I do wear a tag. 

The last story started at Church last Sunday. In my last post I told of visiting with Sister Haleck, wife of Elder Vincent Haleck of the South Pacific area presidency. Also attending our ward that Sunday was a group of former missionaries and their spouses who had served under President Shute during 1968-71. [We were there just after him when Ralph Rodgers was mission president.]  In that group was a Samoan sister who had served her mission at that time. When she introduced herself and her black husband as Brother and Sister Freeman, I wondered.  In my visit with Sister Haleck, she confirmed that Sister Freeman’s husband was indeed Joseph Freeman Jr., the first black man to be ordained to the priesthood, on June 10, 1978, only 2 days after the official announcement was made that all worthy men now have the privilege of holding the priesthood of God. Sister Haleck said that both President Shute and her husband, Elder Haleck, had counseled Sister Freeman against marrying Brother Freeman, reminding her that their children would not be able to hold the priesthood.  “She married him anyway”, Sister Haleck said, and then added, “My husband says that was the worst piece of advice he has ever given.”  The Freeman’s were in the temple yesterday and we had opportunity to visit with them. They were kind enough to let us take pictures with them outside the temple.

I just had to share before we turn our attention to our visiting family. Very soon we will be driving to the airport to pick up our travel-weary kids and grandkids. My only regret is that there is only a sliver of a moon tonight, so they won’t get the view we had as we approached the airport. But there is time enough to see all we can pack into the next eight days. 

Good-night and God bless.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Five Days and Counting

It's Sunday afternoon here in somewhat blustery Samoa. It's midwinter here, you know. That makes for milder temperatures. It's been another wonderful Sabbath and once again I stand all amazed that we are here.  I have the sense that time is passing quickly and I on the other hand am definitely not as quick as I used to be.  That is a sobering concept to contemplate. By the end of the week we will have been here four months. Let's see four gusinta eighteen .... okay, sixteen divided by four is 25%, four into 2 goes .5 times, so does that mean at the end of the week 25.5% of our mission is over???? That is really scarey. Not only is the Lord hastening His work, He is shortening the days. Don't you think? I know for sure He is shortening the nights! Haha.

Speaking of shortening, I've made pies twice since we've been here: once for Brother Sauni's 80th birthday and once for lunch with the Fife's the week they left for the states. Sister Sauni sparked the pie making by asking me to teach her to make a pie [because it is her husband's favorite treat]. I'll let you know when the lesson happens and how it goes.  The first quest was to find pie tins. Sister Fife loaned me her disposable pie tins and said she found those right after Christmas, but hadn't seen any in any of the stores before or since. I guess it's kind of like the mail: pie tins after the holidays and my birthday card from Tiffany mailed in March has yet to surface. Thank heavens for email and cheap phone calls! Then we found some ourselves but couldn't confirm they were actually pie tins as the slant of the sides of the pans were somewhere between a cake pan and a pie tin and take my word for it, the slant of a pie tin is significant when it comes to placing the pie crust in the pan. The next challenge was to find a rolling pin. Eureka! We were so excited when we came across one. Not quite as excited when I got it home and realized it didn't live up to its name. It didn't roll. With time, it has loosened up a bit and only stalls occasionally. The good news is that among the miscellany we inherited from the Fife's, we now have a rolling rolling pin!

Wow. I really took a side trip there. Back to our Sabbath.  Elder Halek, counselor in the area presidency for the South Pacific attended our Pesega Lima ward today. It was fast and testimony day and he presided at the meeting and bore his witness of the Savior and this work we are all involved in.  Leon taught the lesson in  high priest group. He was already feeling anxious because of the high quality of the teaching here, and then President Halek sat right in front of him. As you already know, these men are men of God and so humble and personable. He participated in the lesson and was given time at the end to speak. His words complimented the lesson perfectly.

 I was able to visit with Sister Halek after our meetings and learned that her husband served as mission president here from 2008 - 2010. They were hugging and being hugged by so many they had known before. She said during their stay, President Hanks was temple president and he said the decision was made to send no more temple missionaries to Samoa. The temple had been here long enough to be self-sustaining and it was time for the local people to step up and fill the needs of the temple.  When she asked how many of us were serving now as temple missionaries, I was surprised myself to realize that we are the only ones without some blood connection to Samoa, well, other than our two daughters who were born here during our first stay.  Our sister missionaries were born here and living in Australia when called, Brother Merrick is palagi, married to Fiesta who is Samoan by birth and raised here with a large family of aunts and uncles, cousins, including her uncle, President Fitisemanu. As you may remember, Merrick's are not officially on a mission, but came to serve none-the-less.  Sauni's are also not officially missionaries, but definitely Samoan and definitely temple workers.

Fitisemanu's invited us all to lunch at their home after church.  You would not believe the amount of food.  President commented on the blessings of abundance here in Samoa. "You will never hear of a Samoan that goes hungry or dies from lack of food." I was glad he added, "Of course many die from too much food" because it is true.  Heart conditions, diabetes and high blood pressure are all common. They probably look with suspicion on a skinny person. Like, what's with that?? Did you forget to plant your taro?  But we are learning to guage what we can handle and stopping at what we know is our limit. Taking small or mini portions of many things, gravitating to any and all vegetables in a dish, and never passing up a salad.  Today I mistook the raw fish which was in a sauce with other things as being a fruit salad. I ate my first raw fish. It was actually very good. (Some of our kids are cheering). For Max's 10th birthday dinner, he chose sushy.) I'm not even sure how to spell it.

In one hour our Samoan neighbors and fellow temple workers will be here to help prepare for the senior missionary FHE tomorrow night. Our district is in charge this week. Our guest speaker will be Brother McDonald, church historian here in Samoa. He is an excellent teacher, so knowledgable and interesting. He will be telling us about the very first missionaries to Samoa. We are also going to give out the words to the national anthem and sing it together. Doesn't that sound fun? I hope our neighbors don't feel they have to bring platters of food for refreshements. That will be the tendency.

As Leon says, I was born with a lot of words. I fear this post is more interesting to me than to anyone else. Thanks for caring. I will have a LOT of interesting things to write about next time because our Leslie and James Merrell, Ben and Brianna are arriving at the Faleolo Airport this Friday, July 12th at 11:40 p.m. !!!
Until next time, manuia le po ma tofa soifua!  Five days and counting!