Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Crowley House of Commas

We’ve had a LOT of rain. A week ago it rained all night Saturday and all day Sunday.  There were times when it was coming down so hard that it woke us up. We had showers off and on all week, and then again this Saturday and Sunday it really came down.  We took the mission van to town Saturday after the temple with Sister Moaga and Brother and Sister Sauni to get our groceries for the week.  Our last stop was the open market which is a large outdoor market where the local people sell their produce and handicrafts. You can buy a hand of bananas, a stalk of sugar cane, fresh papaya, coconut, Chinese cabbage, lemons, limes, taro, tamu (yam), tomatoes, cucumbers, star fruit, pineapple in season, cooked taro in coconut milk, palusami, breadfruit, niu, breadfruit chips, taro chips, banana chips, charcoal equivalent which is coconut shells, Samoan oranges which are not orange, handcrafted necklaces, earrings, bracelets, woven baskets, fresh flower arrangements usually featuring the blossoms of the ginger plant. This is also where our son-in-law, James Merrell, found his beautiful conch shell.  On this day, even with our umbrellas, we were all pretty wet by the time we finished.  The market is covered by tarps, but in between the tarps and from the van to the tarps was enough to get us plenty wet.

We wonder if it is the rain that has brought more than the usual number of millipedes into our apartment. We were encouraged to put a barrier of sorts inside our front threshold to discourage the creeping things from entering.  We did that.  It is the same idea as those used sometimes at home to keep the draft out on cold winter days.  We call it the millipede speed bump. Leon sprayed it with some repellent, so mostly they come here to die. They make it over the speed bump but don’t last long. When they die, they curl up in the shape of a comma.  England has nothing on us. They may have their House of Commons, but we have our House of Commas.

When Ho-Chings were here they told of a time when it rained so long and hard that their apartment was flooded. The water rose up about a foot outside their apartment causing the bugs to climb above the waterline in masses. We were so relieved when she said that our apartment didn’t flood. The image as she described it would have given me nightmares if ours was in danger.

We like our apartment. It isn’t furnished as nicely as some, especially the teachers’ housing where we lived in the ‘70’s. But we’ve learned that the back-up generator that services the buildings and apartments in the temple complex, (mission home, service center, distribution center, translation and travel offices, temple president’s home and missionary apartments) does not service the teachers’ housing.  So, though our living arrangements are simpler, but when the power goes off, the generator kicks in within 10 seconds.  Not so for the teachers. During the cyclone and the aftermath in December they were without power for two weeks.  We remember those outages from before. We were without power many times and for extended periods. They would give designated hours each day when we would receive power for a couple of hours to keep our refrigerator and freezer cold. We would plan ahead so when we opened either appliance, we knew what we were after and got out quickly. So the teachers tease that we live in the celestial kingdom.

Two things have happened recently that are significant blessings to us. As missionaries, our membership records remain in our home ward in the states, so we wouldn’t necessarily receive a calling here. Leon asked the high priest group leader in the ward we attend if we could be given a home teaching district. Brother Craig was happy to comply. There were a couple of sisters who both needed home teachers and they were praying to know who should be assigned to visit them.  We were given three homes to visit:  Sister Lupe Ieremia, Sister Daphne Keil Papali’I, and the Meredith family.  We love these families already after one visit.  This has filled a need in our lives that I couldn’t have described but only felt.  To be in the homes of these people, learn their histories and who they are is to love them.  I will devote a post to them so you can get to know them too. I will just say that when our young tour guide at the Polynesian Cultural Center many years ago, called us ‘cousins’ because “In Samoa we are all cousins”, she wasn’t far off.  I need to take notes on our visits to be able to remember all the connections to other families we know of in the ward, or have known before.

Leon has taught twice in the high priest group and will teach a third time in November.  Now I’ve been called to teach the 3rd Sunday lesson in Relief Society. I’ve always wanted to teach in Relief Society.  And then Sunday, Brother Paramore, counselor in the bishopric, asked us to speak in sacrament meeting next Sunday on the blessings of the temple.  We approach the assignment with great humility. We are always so strengthened by the sacrament meeting talks, including the youth speakers. We are blessed to attend the Pesega Lima Ward.  Our Sunday School teacher is the church historian for Samoa and a masterful teacher.  There are 15 young missionaries currently serving from the ward and another young man has his call. 

Speaking of missionaries, in just the last week 26 new missionaries arrived at the mission home - eleven from the New Zealand MTC and later, fifteen from Provo.  We were at the temple when fifteen elders came on Friday.  It is unusual that most were palagi.  I happened to be by the baptistery and laundry as they came to turn in their temple clothes.  A couple of elders lingered, taking in the beautiful font. I had the opportunity to point out to them that this temple is one of only three that features a font resting on the full bodies of the twelve oxen. Most are represented by the front half of the oxen, but don’t extend the hind quarters under the font. Then I asked them what they thought the oxen represented. They didn’t have much trouble answering that one. Then I asked them the meaning of the symbolism of the baptismal font resting on their backs.  This one proved more difficult. The light went on when I reminded them that Abraham was promised that through his seed all of mankind would be blessed. The responsibility for taking the gospel to the world and providing the saving ordinances required for salvation and exaltation rests upon the twelve tribes of Israel.  I love the temple.

Pictured below is a photo Leon took of a painting that hangs in the mission home representing the first missionary couple to serve in the islands of Samoa, Joseph Dean, his wife, child and infant daughter arrived in the 1880's. The painting also hangs in the temple foyer. I am often where I can gaze on it and imagine what it must have been like for them. Those first missionaries were pioneers in the truest sense.  The work continues to go forward. I found an interesting site,, giving brief history and 2009 statistics of Samoa.  Here is a pertinent segment of the information found there.

Christian: 98%
other: 2%
Denominations                   Members  Congregations
Latter-day Saints                  69,244       133
Congregational                     64,512
Catholic                                37,248
Methodist                             27,456
Assemblies of God             13,248
Seventh Day Adventists       8,534           40 (includes American Samoa and Tokelau)
Jehovah's Witnesses              391            9

We send our love to all of you and prayers for your health and happiness. Alofa atu ia te oe.

 Clark Kelly Price, Artist

From the sublime to the gross. This was our biggest morning harvest yet. 
The color scheme goes nicely with the painting, though, don't you think?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


A little over two weeks ago, Monday afternoon, July 22nd, Sister Nele Moaga needed to exchange some Australian money for Samoan, so we headed to town, stopping in front of Western Union for her errand.  We waited in the car for her. She told us later that she heard someone yell, “Hey!, but not realizing they were directing it to her, she hurried into the building. Moments later, a man squatted down to speak to Leon through the car window. (Remember we drive a Hyundai Getz; ‘squat’ is an appropriate descriptive word if you wish to address the driver of a Getz.) Understand, we had a run-in with a cunning hustler maybe six or seven weeks ago, so we were naturally on guard. But this man was different.  Leon rolled down the window (yes, he ‘rolled’ the window down with a little handle on the door for that purpose – remember those?) (but, take note, the windows were up because, though it may be a humble little car, it has great a/c!).  Back to the story.

The man was clean and (how would we know this), good. He did not ask for money. He was not selling anything. He did not ask for a ride. He simply told us that he recognized that we were Mormons and quickly added that he is not a member of our church (some with hidden agendas claim to be members when they see our name tags), but that he is aware that it is a “big” church in Samoa (did you know that 25% of the population are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?) with many members. Because of that, he hoped we might be of help. He told us with obvious urgency that his 15 year old niece was in the hospital badly in need of type AB blood.  We asked him for her name and a contact number for him, which he gave.  He said she was in the maternity ward, though we are unsure now what he called it. The women’s hospital or something. We made an assumption that this might be a little girl in trouble with a pregnancy. No matter. She needed blood and this man, her uncle, cared enough to reach out to anyone he thought might help. We told him we would do what we could. By then Sister Moaga was back in the car, they spoke in Samoan and clarified that she was in the maternity ward. I wish I could adequately tell you what I felt from this man. He seemed familiar somehow.

We talked about it on the way home, thinking that we could send word out to the senior missionaries, and maybe the office couple could help us discover if any of the young missionaries had type AB blood. 

This was Leon’s day to wash our little car, so while he was busy with that, I headed over to the mission office. I told my tale to Sister Gertsch, who emphasized how careful we need to be when approached by strangers. I assured her this man was not asking us for more than our help in finding a blood donor for his niece. She was hesitant to send out an unauthorized email request w/o verifying with someone above her.  President Leota was not in, so I couldn’t refer to him, but he was expected shortly.  She took the info I had jotted down and said she would email it to someone in the service center (I can never remember his name). She reminded me of the unsanitary conditions of the hospital, the danger of asking our missionaries to give blood, which would require needles, which may be reused, who know what terrible things might happen, etc. I hadn’t thought of bringing danger to anyone. I couldn’t imagine the hospital would reuse needles, but I do have memories of childbirth at the Mootoatua Hospital, of cockroaches and showers that caused me to wear flip-flops while showering and hold the soap in my mouth by the lid of its box. So I wasn’t entirely untouched by her fears.

As I walked back from the mission home to talk with Leon, who was making good progress on the car, it occurred to me that the very least we could do was to offer to give this girl a priesthood blessing. I suggested that to Leon and he agreed. So back I went to see if I could solicit the help of the two assistants to the president, who are often close by.  As I entered the office, Sister Gertsch informed me that the unnamed authority in the service center answered her email that he ‘didn’t know this man’. Hello.  Luckily, President Leota walked in just then, happened to have a minute, so he ushered me into his office and I explained the need.  He was supportive and surprised at the concerns that had been raised, but said he definitely would ask his assistants, Elder Amituana’I  [say Ah-me-too-ah-nah-ee] and Elder Kepu,  [say Kay-poo]  if they would accompany us to the hospital and administer to Eneleata Epati  [say Eh-nay-lay-ah-tah  Eh-paw-tee], 15 years old and in need of a blessing. He suggested that I inquire about the procedures the hospital follows in taking blood.  

He picked up his cell phone and called his assistant. As he was asking Elder Amituana’I what his schedule looked like in the next little while, the elder walked into the office with his phone on his ear. Haha.  Yes, they would be free in 45 minutes and would go with us. I finally felt peace. Leon finished his task, cleaned up, and with the elders in the back seat of our sparkling clean Getz, we were off to the hospital.

I must take a moment here to explain ‘the hospital’. The Mootoatua Hospital, as it was called when April and Leslie were born there, was an old WWII one story building, looking its age. We have driven to the site of the old hospital more than once trying to figure out if it is still part of the medical complex that now sprawls over half a city block and which includes a spanking new two story red and white hospital built by the Chinese government. More about that later.  We walked instead back through an older building and inquired of a laborer nearby where the women’s section was.  Following his directions and with a few corrections in our course, we found it. The nurse at her station directed us to the maternity ward, a large open room with six beds, the curtains drawn back where all could visit. There were a few family members or friends there, each with their patient.

There on her bed lay beautiful Eneleata Epati, her dark hair pulled back, her dark eyes accepting and patient. Her mother stood by her bed. I introduced us to her and explained that Eneleata’s uncle Aleni, had asked us to help locate her blood type and that we had brought these two young elders of our church to give her a blessing if that would please her. Her mother introduced herself as Fay. She was pleasant, smiling and grateful that we would come. She said she didn’t know that we would minister to those not of our faith. Of course I’m paraphrasing. Once the introductions were over the elders conversed with them in Samoan.  We observed that Eneleata was receiving type A blood through a drip.
And so the blessing was given. Leon was privileged to lay hands on her head with the elders as they administered to her.  We learned that this precious girl has been bleeding more heavily than is normal for the past year to the extent that she was in need of a transfusion.  We asked if it would be alright for us to check on her later to see how she is doing. Her mother said yes, we could.  The elders left with knowledge of the village where the family lives, the church they currently attend, and an invitation to visit in their home. On the way back to the mission home, they told us that they felt the spirit very strongly in giving the blessing. These two elders are so dedicated, so fun and happy in the work. They obviously enjoy working together.

The next morning, waiting outside the temple at 4:30 a.m. for the doors to open, we filled Sister Moaga in on what had transpired the night before. She then told Brother and Sister Sauni (in Samoan) all that had happened. And guess what. Brother Sauni has type AB blood. And that’s not all. Sister Moaga’s niece is serving a mission here and is working in the very village where the Epati family lives. I have said before that we are living in a land of miracles.

Leon tried several times in the next couple of days to reach Aleni by phone, but without success. He finally called the hospital and learned that Eneleata had been released and gone home.  When he reached her uncle Aleni, he told Leon she was doing well and was back in school.  He thanked us for blessing his niece. He was very grateful that she is doing so well.

We were so blessed to have been part of this. The truth is we all live in a miraculous world. And if we are willing, we can all participate in miracles. The good news is that it doesn't require a name tag. I hope when the tags come off, the miracles will continue. 

 This is the new hospital. The sign tells that the grand opening was July 2nd this year. It was built by the Chinese government, who brought their own workers and materials, built it, cleaned up after themselves and went home. A couple of issues remained. First, the windows do not open, and although there was air conditioning installed, there wasn't enough power on the island to power it. They ponied up with a generator, so that was solved. Then when they were ready to admit patients, it was discovered that the electrical plugs were like those at home for 110V, while the plugs here are altogether different and are for 230V.  Stop everything. Remove the furniture and move the equipment. I haven't heard if they are in business yet or still working on it.  But it is a beautiful building, don't you think?