Back on the regular emailing schedule. Now I need to catch up on all the things I missed. I was so happy to be eating thick, creamy American food that I ate tons of it. I ate cheesy pasta, stuffed potatoes, and sloppy joes for a week and loved it. They also baked tons of cookies and sweets for us. I’m very grateful for them.
The Temple Open House was one of the best times of my whole mission, if not the best time. All thirty sisters in the mission were staying together in the temple patron housing. We had some great bonding time. We had a culture night for the Mission President where I was the only kai valagi to dance (I did the Papua New Guinea dance. I wore a bright red sulu and painted my face black and white, and the PNG sisters officially adopted me.) We got to serve each other, we got to share stories about our previous areas and companionships. We also got to meet all of out potential future companions. By the end of it all, all the cliques had disappeared, and we became the best of friends.
Sister Mitchell and I got to spent a lot of time in the reception tent, where people go after the tour. There, we got to speak one on one with people after they had gone inside the temple. It was such a sweet, special experience. Some of the people shared all their thoughts and feelings with us. They all felt peace, thought it was beautiful. Some people really changed. I had the opportunity to meet one young woman that went through and felt so different, she wanted to know how to feel that peace and direction all the time. I pulled out a Book of Mormon for her, explained that she could find answers to any question inside and she was so happy she hugged me. Another woman came in, she’d just finished a divorce that morning, and told me that she finally understood how important families are while sitting in the temple. She now has a better idea of how she’s going to repair and rebuild her family since she knows it can last forever. I had these experiences and so many more talking to people of all kinds of faiths that all felt the love of our Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost inside the temple. I got to go through a few times with the people I’m teaching and I just wanted to stay inside the whole day.
We also showed the introductory video and started the tours for many, many people. We watched that video at least fifty times. It was beautifully done, but by the last day we had trouble focusing. Our third to last video presentation, Sister Mitchell and I had a little tussle over the remote, dropped it, it broke. The audience gasped and laughed a little, we pieced it back together. But then I tried to say, “Welcome to the Suva Fiji Temple Open House”. All that came out was, “Welcome to the Soovy Fooja”. I figured it sounded so wrong, I couldn’t possibly say it any worse, I tried again. But I said the same thing. I looked at Sister Mitchell with what she described as a, “begging, pleading look” in my eyes, and she started the presentation instead. We recited almost the whole script together this morning during companionship just for the memories. It was a wonderful video though, and the people really loved it. It was all about families, temples, Jesus Christ, all in ten minutes, and the pictures were lovely.
We also helped with the comment cards which was a real blessing. People were open on the comment cards. We received about 3,000 of them, and we delegated the typing to the sisters but organized all of them. The last day, we got 500. We both loved it. It was so fun to read what people said, and sending the referrals out to the elders felt so good. Knowing that the people were going to receive visits and lessons felt even better. Here are some of the comments..
- “It was very beautiful. I like the fact that you make it feel like home and that you strengthen family relationships” (Catholic friend).
- “I learned wonderful and powerful things about the Lord and how families are important to the religion as well as your promise to obey the commandments and progress religiously in life.” (Methodist friend)
- “A good experience to visit the Temple with smiling faces of the brothers and sisters. It’s a blessing to be in the Temple of Jesus Christ.” (Methodist friend)
- “In deed a work of art and great hard work. Once inside it felt as if you’re cut away from the world and thus you exist in a different dimension.” (Islam friend)
- “The reception, hospitality, greetings from this church is amazing. Humility is evident here and I thank the Lord for your love and this Church.”
- “Real blessing to visit your most sacred place. Beautiful to see heaven and earth. The tour guides were great. Blessings…” (Methodist friend)
- “An eye opening tour that really provided thoughts about serving our good Lord, Jesus Christ. A good way to self-reflect on issues such as marriage, baptism and walking in the light.” (Methodist friend)
- “The tour was magnificent! I’ve never experienced peace and serenity like this. I believe this has really helped me spiritually.” (Jehovah’s Witness)
- “I thank Elijah and the Savior for visiting us. The tour really was encouraging and teaches us that Almighty God is Holy. I would like to invite others to come and visit. Vinaka Vakalevu. Guide tour is so humble. (Assembly of God friend)
- “The temple was beautiful and wonderful. I don’t have many words to describe. I’ve always wanted to know what is inside and it was like a dream inside.” (Hindu friend)
- “Awesome! Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be able to learn more things about life and to know more about what is eternity. (Assembly of God friend)
- “I have had an amazing experience, just by visiting all the sacred places in the temple. Best place I’ve visited so far is the sealing room because that is where they strengthen our family bonds.” (Catholic friend)
The work has picked up a lot here, the elders are having trouble keeping up with the almost 2000 referrals they received. Now we’re just looking forward to the cultural celebration and temple dedication next week. I know I’m going to end up crying since we’re singing one of my favorite Fijian farewell songs for President Eyring and I’m going to be wearing traditional Fijian wear and it’s the exact same day as my half-way mark in the mission.
Starting training for another missionary has made me reflect on my own mission experiences. They’re not perfect, but they’re priceless. I’ve learned so much, so much more than I could ever pay for. I’ve learned about people, the gospel, time management, feeling the Spirit. I’ve learned a lot about the Fijian people, and I actually got to speak lots of Fijian in the reception area. One lady thanked me so many times for learning her language. I was a little shy because I don’t think I’m as good as she gave me credit for, but she expressed genuine gratitude for the things I have learned. When I walked away to go talk to other people after our first conversation, she got the other sisters to bring me back again, and kissed me at least three times on the cheek. The love and kindness of the Fijian people is amazing.
Staying in the temple housing was a really treat, it kept me healthy. I miss you all, I love you all. I had a great three weeks, and I can’t believe how fast time is going. I got lots of good news from you this week. I’m happy for my friends and all their progress.
Sister Hawkins and her new companion, Sister Mitchell, from New Zealand.