Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,
Savaii Ferry Arriving
Talofa lava.  This has been a challenging week as we have been in the office by ourselves, with a lot of fires to put out.  A new single couple arrived last week and left last Sunday to go to Savaii where they will be serving.  I was told their house was ready, so that is what I assumed to be true.  What I wasn’t told is that it is the mission’s responsibility to furnish all the household items like dishes, silverware, small appliances, pots, utensils, cleaning supplies…so when they got over there they had nothing.  Usually missions have housing couples, but since they don’t arrive for a few more weeks it fell to Brent and I.  Because there are very few stores in Savaii we ran around Apia trying to find the items they needed (remember – there is nothing here than even faintly resembles stores back home), loaded the mission van and left Friday afternoon on the ferry to Savaii.  It is  only eight miles across but by the time they load all the cars, passengers and cargo and unload on the other side you are looking at at 3 hr. ordeal one way.

On the ferry ride over a nice looking gentleman came up and told me he had seen me at the temple.  He told me he was a bishop and was traveling home with his wife and daughter.  His daughter had just returned home from a mission and was ill so they had been at the hospital in Apia and spent all their money on medicine.  They hadn’t even had money for food so they hadn’t eaten all day.  We had brought some apples and snacks which I offered him and he took.  He also wanted $80 tala for the taxi home – I gave him $12 tala to buy water and food and told him I would help him find church members to get him home.  He then disappeared.  When we got to Savaii I told the Matagis.  Elder Matagi told me that he had met a similar gentleman riding the ferry the week before and he had given him $150 tala!  In talking to other senior missionaries we have learned that this is a common scam.  People see our badges and know we are an easy target for a con because they know we believe in helping people.  I was thankful this learning experience was relatively inexpensive.   

We were called as “office missionaries or to be assigned as needed”.  We are starting to realize that the last clause can mean everything from grocery shopping for the mission to fixing broken plumbing, to planning parties, delivering supplies to missionaries, arranging shipping for packages from the states, furnishing houses….whatever comes up.  One thing is for sure – we are NOT bored!  It is wonderful to be serving in whatever way is needed.  There was not a lot of time to take pictures this week, and no trips to the beach to play.  However, Savaii was gorgeous! Driving half way around the island to deliver supplies to the Zone Leaders was a treat, but we were on such a tight schedule to catch the ferry back that I did not think to take many pictures. 
Our blue van packed and ready for our trip to Savaii

My little office friend.  You would
be amazed at how loud he talks!

As senior missionaries we are allowed to watch TV.  However, pretty much all that is on is the worship services of different denominations.  As I have listened to some of these programs I recognize many truths from the gospel of Jesus Christ.  However, they don't have the whole truth.  Joseph Smith did not say that our church was the only true church - God did.  It is hard to argue with that.  I am almost done with the Book of Mormon again.    I have gained many new insights and am increasingly grateful for this scripture as it continually builds my faith that this is God's church and that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. There has been some coverage here about the Pope visiting America.  It is a great honor for our country, and I appreciate what a good man Pope Francis is, however I am so thankful that we have a living prophet to lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  If you want to hear what a prophet sounds like tune in to the LDS General Conference next weekend. It will be on TV in many places or on the internet.  If you have ever wondered what Mormons believe check this out next Sat. and Sun. You won’t only hear a living prophet but also living apostles.  I am looking forward to conference as it is always a spiritual boost.  I send my love to all of you.  Patty

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Week of Talofas and Tofas (Hellos & Goodbyes)

Brother Avei, Dr Larsen & Afalua making Palasam

Dear Family and Friends,
Talofo to the Hannemanns
& Love and Tofa to the Saunders

This has been a week of Talofas and Tofas (Hellos and Goodbyes).  We said goodbye to President Thomas Saunders and his wife Wendy,from near Calgary, Canada and hello to our new mission president Arthur Hannemann and his wife Peggy from Honolulu, Hawaii.  The Saunders were so awesome and so easy to love and to work with, we were a little apprehensive about who might show up.  However, the Hannemanns are also wonderful people, they have strong testimonies of the gospel and a real zeal for missionary work.  Best of all they own restaurants and love to cook!  Sister Hannemann has already treated us to her famous banana bread.

The day that the Saunders had gone to the airport to pick up the Hannemanns was the same time we got word of the earthquake in Chile and a possible tsunami headed our way.  I was very happy to say goodbye to that threat and am even more determined to help with an emergency action plan.  I have felt prompted several times since we arrived that there needs to be some kind of monthly drill for missionaries, but with the changes taking place in the office it hasn’t been a priority.  It is now a priority on my list.  Most of these kids come from the states and have never experienced a typhoon let alone a tsunami!  Most of them live in small villages with different circumstances, and they get moved around the islands.  One cookie cutter plan, like the one in place right now, is not sufficient. The key is working with the locals, as they know what to do in their particular area.

We also had an encounter with a large dog this week.  Dogs are a huge problem in some parts of the islands as they are not neutered, and roam around in packs.  Dog bites are a common problem.  We were driving home late one night from the airport (We had just picked up Brother and  Sister  Matagni) when one of these dogs ran right in front of the car.  If we were Samoan we would have just hit it, and kept going, but we’re not.  Brent instinctively slammed on the brakes, but was not able to avoid hitting it.  Unfortunately, the car behind us was following too close and rear-ended our car. So talofa and tofa to the dog and talofa to the repair shop.  I was just grateful no one was hurt, except the dog.

Afalua shredding coconut to make coconut creme - Yum!
Saturday we had a going away party for our two dentists who have been serving here for three months.  They wanted to cook fish for everyone so we never turn down an opportunity for good food.  Brother Avei, a Samoan, also showed us how to make traditional pasami with coconut cream wrapped in taro leaves, then banana leaves and then breadfruit leaves, and then cooked.  It is an acquired taste that I am actually starting to acquire.

Dr. Larsen (Price, Utah) and Dr. Orchard (Bountiful, Utah) are both widowers.  Every morning, starting at about 4:30 am, people start lining up in front of their office.  They have provided a great service to the people here who cannot afford to go to the dentist.  They work miracles with the most basic equipment and not always the supplies they need. (They have been ordered….but this is Samoa!)  Problems that would be referred to oral surgeons in the states, are handled with a prayer, pleading with Heavenly Father to help them pull a decayed tooth buried in the bone.  I never knew being a dentist could be such a spiritual experience.  

White people here are called “Palagies” (pronounced Pa-long-ies),  I think it means that we look like snowflakes.  (Like a Samoan knows what a snowflake looks like!) Anyway, mothers tell their children that if they are not good the Palagies will eat them.  That does not help a bit when a little kid gets a toothache and they go to the dentist , already a scary event, and who walks in but a Palagie!  Both doctors have great stories about how they have to show love to the children before they can work on them.

Feasting - Samoan Style
Dr. Larsen makes saddles as a hobby when he is home.  Several years ago he made one for President George W. Bush and was able to present it to him in the Oval office.  He also took in a Book of Mormon with his testimony written inside the cover, and challenged the President to read it and pray to ask if it was true.  The President obviously has not read the book, but maybe one day he will pick it up.  I've read it many times and testify that it is the word of God. 

Dr. Orchard practiced dentistry in Salt Lake City on the 4th floor of the Medical Arts Building, the same floor my dad’s office was on for 30 years.  He actually had bought his practice from Dr. LeCavalier, my dentist when I was a kid.  We had a great time talking about the Salt Lake of yesterday.  It is with great admiration and love that we bid these two brothers tofa.

Also a loving tofa to my dear friend Karen LaPratt.  She fought an amazing battle against cancer with such courage and spunk.  The world has lost a truly wonderful lady and heaven was just made a better place.
Tofa and love to you all!  Have a wonderful week – Patty (Sister Ellsworth)

ps: I don't know what's wrong with these pictures!  They refuse to go where I want them.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Tolofa Lava,
Parade of Countries
Opening Ceremonies
Another crazy week in Paradise!  It has been so exciting having the Commonwealth games here in Apia.  We attended the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremonies, and were so impressed that we went back for the real McCoy.  It was as close to an Olympic opening ceremony as we will probably ever get to attend. There were teams here from 63 countries all over the world including India, Pakistan, Ghana, South Africa, England, Canada, Belize, Namibia…..and a few countries or territories that I am embarrassed to admit (as a past World History teacher) that I had never heard of.  Beside the parade of countries there was a choir of hundreds, over a thousand dancers, acrobats, fireworks, and traditional Samoan firedancers.
Arrival of Samoa's Head of State - "His Highmess"

Arriving Missionaries from the States
(Samoan, New Zealand & Australia had not yet arrived)
 Unfortunately, because it was also transfer week we did not have time to attend any of the competitions.  We welcomed 19 new missionaries to the field on Monday, put them through some basic training, set them up with their new companions on Wed. and shipped them out to their assignments.  I am amazed at their courage to be willing to testify of Jesus Christ in a language they barely speak.  To trade in their comfortable living conditions in the states for what pretty much amounts to a two year scout outing.  We had five young sisters on this intake.  I thought about the Young Women’s camps and how they are great training for a mission.  One of the new elders called the office to tell us their hot water was not working.  Duh!  There is NO hot water!

On Thursday and Friday we said goodbye to 18 amazing missionaries.  We had the privilege of attending their last testimony meeting in the mission field.  The trials and challenges these young missionaries face and overcome in the field, change them from kids to mature young men and women who have incredible testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Every one of them bore strong testimonies of the Book of Mormon and of the life changing experience their mission had been.  Every one of them left the island totally fluent in the Samoan language!  It is a great blessing to have an association with them.  They are going to be missed!

Survivor Samoa Island
Saturday the Jacobs called and wanted to know if we were up to visiting “Survivor Beach.”  This is a private beach, owned by some church members, where the TV show “Survivor Samoa” was filmed.  They got permission to go from the owners, so how could we turn down that adventure?  After an hours drive through villages, palm plantations and spectacular scenery,  we arrived at the gate.  We drove on through on a very rough road through the jungle for about 15 minutes, parked the cars at the end of the road and hiked through the jungle for another 15 minutes to the beach.  Besides a wild boar and mosquitoes  we didn’t see another living creature (except birds).  The beach was beautiful with sand the color and texture of baby powder and coconut palm trees 100+ feet tall.    It rained off and on, and the surf was choppy but we stilled enjoyed a swim in the beautiful aqua marine water. However, after being there for a few hours, I was glad I didn’t have to stay and survive off the land for 30 days.  I was happy to hike back to the car and drive home to a nice hot shower (Senior missionaries get hot water J) and a nice, clean, comfy bed.

This next week our new mission president, Arthur Hannemann and his wife, arrive from Honolulu, Hawaii.  I am sure they will be wonderful to work with but we are sure going to miss President and Sister Saunders.  It would be hard to find two nicer people on the whole planet.  We have been out two months and this will be our 3rd Mission President.  I think that might be a record! 

 Our love and thoughts have been especially with the LaPratt family this week, but we send our love to all of you!   Tofa - Sister Ellsworth (AKA Mom, Grams, Patty)