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.