Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Afalua and I food shopping for the mission
Talofa Lava and Merry Christmas to our Family and Friends,  We have loved talking to most of our kids and grand kids today, even though it is hard to see them and have to say goodbye again. I understand there is snow in Utah, and chilly in Nevada.  Here in Samoa we have had the hottest days since we have been here.  If you are outside for even a few minutes the sweat just starts to pour off of you because the humidity and heat are both extremely high.  It gives a whole new dimension to baking cookies to give to the missionaries for Christmas, as I dread turning on the oven!  However, the Mom instinct kicks in and urges me on; they are really going to like homemade cookies and they deserve them.
Constructing nativity costumes out of items purchased
at the 2nd hand stores in Apia
 The last couple of weeks have been hectic with preparations for Christmas and a 4 day trip to American Samoa with the Callahans.  We loved having the chance to visit the Schaefermeyers who are currently serving there.  They were great hosts and tour guides, making sure we saw the main attractions on the island of Tutuila.  To get there you fly in this little 15 passenger plane that has no air conditioning.  If you are claustrophobic this ride is not an option.  You have to get weighed before you get on the plane, and your seat is assigned according to how much you weigh.   Our other adventures included seeing the flying foxes (fruit bats) hanging from the trees, hiking up a mountain (again a very sweaty thing to do) to see a WWII gunnery post, eating lunch     at the Growling Rocks, a dip in the ocean in the rain, shopping at an American store similar to Costco, and drooling our ways through the aisles as we passed by foods we used to enjoy in the states, visiting "Charlie the Tuna" at the StarKist Plant, attending a Zone Conference, visiting with missionaries, and driving from one end of the island to the other.  It is a beautiful island with soaring mountains clothed in green, that shoot almost straight up. In the evenings we enjoyed learning a new game "Pounce", playing 5 Crowns, and going to the theater to see "Star Wars." I think we laughed more than is legal, and it was a much needed break from the stress of the office.   Life is sometimes tough when you are a senior missionary!
Elder Callahan getting on the plane at Apia

Arriving home on Monday evening we hit the ground running.  There were cookies to bake and decorate, gift bags to stuff, dinner for almost 100 people to organize (the main dish was catered), Christmas to put together for a family who had nothing, concert and nativity every night until Christmas....This on top of the regular duties that needed to be completed like food shopping for the mission and office work. However, it was not as stressful as Christmas at home - actually it was a wonderful Christmas!

Christmas Eve here was on Thursday.  Our missionaries had been practicing songs for the community Nights of Christmas that went for 7 nights.  All 7 nights we had the live nativity going. I was glad that President Hannemann settled for a Ewe and her lamb, and bagged the cow, donkey and pigs.  During the nights performances people of all ages would come to have their picture taken with the nativity.  It was a huge hit!   This activity was at the main government building, sponsored by the government and every night included songs of the Savior and Christmas.  Not a single person raised their voice in protest that their tax dollars were being used for religious purposes.  Today this activity could never take place in most of the USA without someone protesting about their rights.  It made me sad to realize what we have lost in the name of political correctness.

Thanks to my family, every missionary got a new pair of socks in their gift bag.  
Live Nativity with Missionaries

Christmas Eve day our Elders were treated to a delicious dinner of Teriyaki Chicken, rice, fruit salad and a huge array of cookies and desserts provided by the Senior Missionaries.  That night they gave an amazing concert of songs about the Savior.  At the end of the program a heavily tattooed Santa arrived in a fire engine, to sirens, singing and confetti being blasted out of large tubes. Such a perfect day!

Afalua is the Primary president in her ward.  She told me about a family in her ward who has eight children and lives under a tarp.  After clearing it with the Bishop, the seniors pulled together and bought food and toys for this family.  Even though the family is so poor and has nothing, the kids were happy, and the mother was gracious.  They were so excited when we arrived .  I can't even imagine how you raise a family in
these circumstances.  The ward had recently helped them get a tin roof and mats for the floor so they were feeling very blessed!                                          
A family of 10 live in this small Fale.  It was a pleasure
to give them a little Christmas.

Christmas was spent with the other seniors.  We started with a late breakfast of waffles, bacon, fresh pineapple and eggs.  After visiting we went home, (I watched "ELF") rested and came back at 5 pm for finger foods and games.  This is being sent today in the hopes that you all had a wonderful Christmas and let us all pray for a peaceful New Year.  My Scripture for the week is one of my favorites from the Old Testament, Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  

Love, Patty
Missionaries Enjoying their Christmas Eve Dinner

Saturday, December 12, 2015

"Mermaid  Lagoon" so named by Elder McBride who swam here
as a missionary 50 years ago.
 To Our Dear Family and Friends,
Talofa Lava from Samoa.  Living here we are removed to a large extent from the happenings in the states and the rest of the world.  It is almost like living in a bubble, which has been a nice change for me since when I am home I never miss watching and reading the news.  However, I have become aware of a troubling trend through social media, that has even made its way to the islands, and that is the hate language against Muslims. Some of the posts sound more like Nazi Germany than the freedom loving people we are.  Be reminded that the very first right in the Bill of Rights, even before the freedom of speech or press is the freedom of religion.  In defense of my Muslim friends, I just want everyone to know where I stand. I am including a recent statement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints concerning religious freedom that I support 100%:
"SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in regard to party politics and election campaigns. However, it is not neutral in relation to religious freedom. The following statements by Joseph Smith from 1841 and 1843 are consistent with the Church’s position today: 
If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a "Mormon," I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul — civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.

—Joseph Smith, 1843
Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Nauvoo, that the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-day Saints, Quakers, Episcopals, Universalists, Unitarians, Mohammedans [Muslims], and all other religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free toleration, and equal privileges in this city ...

—Ordinance in Relation to Religious Societies, City of Nauvoo, [Illinois] headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, March 1, 1841"
 Yesterday we escaped the world and visited a beach recently rediscovered by the McBrides and dubbed "Mermaid Lagoon."  Snorkeling here was like being in an aquarium, and you will be excited to know that I found Nemo!

While we were there, some kids on summer break joined us.  One of the boys, about 10 yrs. old, climbed up a huge coconut palm and pulled down fresh coconuts for us.  The coconut milk is delicious and very refreshing.

This next Thursday we will be traveling to American Samoa to visit the Schaefermeyers and to pick up supplies for our missionary stockings.  We will be returning next Monday. This week is going to be very busy as we prepare for Christmas. Last Friday President Hannemann informed us that the mission is putting on a live nativity for 8 nights, beginning on the 17th.  (It would have been nice to know this a couple of months ago!) Since we will be gone from the 17th - 21st, everything needs to be ready before we leave.  I delegated costumes to 3 sisters, and the President delegated the stable and animals to others.   Besides Mary and Joseph he wants 3 shepherds, 3 Magi and live animals.  Since pigs and mangy dogs are the only animals that are plentiful around here, I am not sure how that is going to work - it might be the first nativity in history to feature pigs dressed up like sheep.
Deacons taking the sacrament to a shut-in in Savaii
I love the picture to the left.  These two 12-yr old boys walk over a mile, one way, every Sunday to take the sacrament to a brother who is too old to get to church.  You see them walking in their jackets, under the sun, taking their assignment very seriously. It makes me embarrassed to think about how I grumbled to myself sometimes, when I had to take our sons around in an air-conditioned car to collect fast offerings.

Brent has stayed up until 2-3 am for several days last week, reading "The Great and the Terrible."   I am half way through book 5 of 6.  Again, this series grabs you and takes you on a crazy ride that will give you plenty to think about.  You can see how fragile our freedoms and lifestyles are, and how quickly our lives can be drastically changed.

I started the Book of Mormon again this week, as this book is the anchor to my testimony.  The title page in part identifies that the purpose of the book is  " the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations..."  I never tire learning from this book, which I consider to be a gift from God to all mankind.  My scripture for the week is from 1 Nephi 10:19 "For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in to to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round."

Alofa atu, Patty

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Ants Go Marching...

Brother and Sister Tuivaitai with Coral

7 of the 11 Elders who returned home
Talofa Lava Family and Friends,
Greetings from the beautiful island of Samoa.  The trees and flowers are  in full bloom, occasional cool breezes blow in off the Pacific, and even though it doesn't feel like Christmas, all the stores are decked out with Christmas decorations.  Since there are no pine trees here all of the Christmas trees  are  artificial trees, mostly in  horrid metallic colors.  When I go to the market Christmas music is blaring, and toy vendors have set up shop in every spare space.  Not exactly what I need to get me in the Christmas Spirit.  I need to find some CDs with Christmas music to play in the office, that might help do the trick.

This past week the Pesega College (High School) had their graduation.  My dear friend, Afalua, celebrated the graduation of her youngest daughter, Coral.  That means school is out for summer break until the middle of Feb.  This week, while we were out shopping, Afalua wanted to stop and get an ice cream.  She told me she had a favorite place that I had never heard of, so with her directions we arrived at the  "Oh-La-La" ice cream parlor and enjoyed an ice cream cone, the first since I arrived.  After dinner, that same night, Brent said he had a surprise for me.  We got in the car and guess where he took me?  You're right! "Oh-La-La's" ice cream.  He had discovered it on his own.  I had a good laugh, but not a second ice cream.  

My favorite "Christmas Tree"
 This past week we somehow got through transfers with no planning meeting or schedule, just a fly by the seat of our pants affair.  Luckily we only had seven new missionaries arrive, which made things a little less complicated than when they come in by 18-20 at a time.  I am trying very hard to adjust to the new president's way of doing things, but for someone who likes organization as much as I do it has been a real test!

Another test this week has been these itty bitty ants that seem to be everywhere.  If we leave any food out on the counter we have swarms of them.  I bought a box of cereal ($25 Tala or about $10 Dollars) and when I got it out of the cupboard it was literally covered with ants, inside and out.  The new box of pancake mix was also covered.  I went ballistic, smashing them with my hands. I poured the cereal and pancake mix into a large bowls and killed as many as I could, put the contents back in plastic bags and put them in the freezer.  I figured if they floated to the top when I was eating I would just scoop them out, and the pancakes would just have to have a little added protein.   Such is life in the tropics.

It has been a quiet week as far as my nursing duties go.  We did find out that the two doctors we have mainly been going to have not been to a real medical school. Apparently that is not a requirement to open an office here. I made a deal with the McBrides; they cover everything that has to do with bodily fluids and I'll cover the rest."  That worked fine until an elder came in with his ears plugged with wax, and we couldn't agree on what category that fell under.

Brent and I have both been reading Chris Stewart's "The Great and the Terrible" series.  I had never heard of it, but all six volumes were in our bookcase.  We both would recommend these books, as they give you a lot to think about.  Especially about the power of Satan and how he tries to work in our lives.  It is definitely not scripture but is worthwhile.

My scripture for the week is from Alma 42:15: " And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also." 

 I am so thankful that God recognizes that we are not perfect, that we make mistakes, that being here on earth is a learning experience, and that if repent and take advantage of the atonement of Jesus Christ we can live with him again.  That is really the greatest gift of the Christmas Season.  I send my love and best wishes as we all enter this busy time of year, that we might remember the reason we are celebrating.
Tofa, Patty