With a special
announcement experience of last
Sunday, March 24, 2014.
Sunday was our annual ward conference with its attendant stake visitors on the stand. The second counselor released the bishopric of our ward, then read the names of general, stake and ward officers for a sustaining vote. He then announced the names of our new bishop and his counselors, asking for a sustaining vote. NEWS FLASH: In all my years in the church this is the first time a change in a ward bishopric has not been preceded by speculative conversations among members of who they thought would be called as the new bishop. I could attribute that to our somewhat unique connection with the ward, but we have enough contact in settings other than Sunday meetings that I find it very impressive that not one word or allusion to this change was obvious to me.
There were fewer speakers than has been our experience back home. Our Relief Society president, Rebecca Lolo, was given five minutes to bear her testimony. She chose to use her five minutes to share counsel received in a recent leadership training given by our Area Presidency under the heading, Annual Plan for Strengthening the Church and Hastening the Work in the Pacific where Elder Pearson, counselor in the area presidency, taught that at the heart of strengthening the church, is the need for each of us as members to Deepen Our Personal Conversion to Christ and His Gospel. Our bishop of the past six years, Uele Vaaulu, gave the most beautiful, insightful and candid reflection of what it means to be a bishop that I have ever heard. He had written it out and stayed with the text of his talk. We have learned to have great respect for this good man and his leadership. Our new bishop, Ete (Edward) Pauga, who’s father is counselor in the temple presidency, and his first counselor, Andrew Craig (sounds palagi, but he is Samoan), were both counselors to Bishop Va'aulu. Bishop Vaaulu was followed by his counselors, newly sustained Bishop Pauga and Brother Craig. After a beautiful interlude of young women’s voices singing a new-to-me song of their commitment to the Lord and His work, our stake president Lake Ah Chong spoke to us of the price of liberty and conversion, comparing the two. I will share some of his talk with you as that is really the point of this post.
President Ah Chong related to us a story of conversion. At the time of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, he had two young daughters serving in the US military. Shaken at the imminent reality of war with the country they had sworn to defend with their lives, they called him, pleading to come home. As their father, he too shared their fear. In a soul-searching process, his daughters chose to be true to their commitment to serve. That process led them to the realization that theirs had not been a casual commitment, allowing them the advantages of a uniform without the duty it represented. Likewise, they determined that the cause they had espoused and pledged to defend was worthy of sacrifice. They serve still today along with another of President and Sister Ah Chong’s daughters, converted to the cause of liberty, not counting the personal cost. Their fields of operation include Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.
It is the same, he said, with the gospel. Echoing Sister Lolo’s message, he challenged us to deepen our commitment, our conversion to Christ and His work. As his daughters learned, we too either have faced, or will yet face the reality that we are at war against the powers of darkness in this world. We face the same choice his daughters and their parents faced; the words we sing (perhaps without thought) ask, “Shall [we] falter when defending truth and right? When the enemy assailed, shall we shrink or shun the fight?” Truly, the war that began before the earth was formed is the war of bondage vs. liberty, and continues to thwart the work of God whenever fear overcomes faith. I receive strength personally from the scriptures which remind me that when we stand firm for truth and righteousness, we never stand alone. The spirit in our meeting bore witness of the truth that was spoken.
IN OTHER NEWS: We are experiencing an epidemic of PINK EYE in Samoa. Our mission nurse, Sister Kamerath is inundated with providing meds for the young infected missionaries. Pesega schools are closed this week in hope of limiting contact and containing its spread. It has been estimated that half of Samoa is infected. That estimate was made by a medical doctor, which may have influenced his perspective. It is reasonable to assume that most if not all families have someone in their family with pink eye. President Pauga, counselor in the temple presidency is out this week as a result of contact with an infected patron. The joke is that if you see a person wearing sunglasses before the sun is up or after it sets, they are hiding something. They have posted a placard at the recommend desk, advising anyone with pink eye to wait until it has cleared up before coming to the temple.
That’s all the news from Lake Wobegon where the missionaries are strong, the temple stands as a beacon, and most of the patrons are not wearing sunglasses. (Shout-out to Garrison Keillor fans. TLB)