Ni Sa Bula Vinaka!
Things are going great here.
This Monday, we had a Family Home Evening with Eseta, our recent convert. We explained the love and unity that comes from having family devotional with songs, scriptures, and games, once a week can bring, and we really enjoyed demonstrating it that night. Eseta loved Family Home Evening. It was just us, her daughter, and her grandchildren. She got so into it, she even played the game we had prepared for her grandkids (Put a biscuit on your forehead and wiggle your eyebrows and nose until it slides into your mouth). We laughed the whole time, and Sister Siale and I really felt at home that hour we got to spend sitting together with our family in a house on stilts on the banks of the Rewa river.
Tuesday is always district meeting day. One of our zone leaders gave a really powerful insight on the importance of temples and family history work. He quoted D&C 128:15, and talking about our families said, “their salvation is necessary and essential to out salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers – that they without us cannot be made perfect– neither can we without our dead be made perfect.” I know it’s true. We are not complete without our families. I always knew it, but I’ve really felt it now. I treasure my family. They’re a huge part of who I am. If they’re happy, I’m happy. No matter what’s going on in my personal life. And I know that missionary work, love, and service are the only things that would ever keep me away from them for eighteen months.
We spent most of Wednesday with a wonderful sister who was baptized in 1993. She shared four referrals with us, some delicious pumpkin curry, and her life story. Everyone I’ve met in Fiji has a story, and I’ve found that all of them are interesting. In hers, she received a Book of Mormon three years before she got baptized, and she read it just about every night, “like a storybook”. She didn’t know that it was scripture, but she loved reading it. She met missionaries three years later that somehow manged to sneak their way past her two big dobermans. She took the lessons from them, was baptized, and wanted to go to the LDS temple. The closest temple at the time was in Tonga, so she worked for months and months to gather up the money she needed for the plane fare. She bought about a hundred chickens and worked to sell eggs to all her friends and neighbors until she earned enough to pay off the chickens and pay for her fare. She was able to do her own temple work, came home again, and found out that her oldest son had passed away. Her family and friends shunned her, blaming her change in religion for her son’s death. Heartbroken, she still did everything she could to reach out to those around her, and her husband was baptized soon after. Now, the family is strong in the gospel together, and her family is an example in the community of love, faith, and service. Sister Siale and I really enjoyed the time we spent with her.
We found out on Thursday that one of the families we’ve been teaching for a couple of months were able to make use of the things we’ve been sharing. They haven’t shown interest in coming to church with us yet, but they were able to attend a combined service in Nakasi with the LDS, Methodist, and Catholic faiths. There, they heard the LDS choir singing a song that we’d taught them and sung together, “I Am A Child of God”. They were excited to come back and tell us about the experience, and they said they love the song.
Friday, we had a lesson with Meri, a young mum and a sweetheart. She’s so humble, and she always shares everything she’s got with us. This time, we wrote down our contact information for her on a pass-along card so she could tell us if she was going to head to the village or not this weekend. The front of the card had a picture of the Salt Lake City Temple on it. She took one look at that picture and just asked, “It is real???” Then she looked at us, looked back at the picture again and held it in her hands. “I can keep it?” Sister Siale and I smiled, and told her she could keep the picture. She told us she’s going to go there some day and kept looking at the photo for a good five minutes with a smile on her face, “I’ll go there one day.”
Had a taste of Fijian dental care on Saturday when I had to respectfully decline the Tang our recent convert wanted to share with me. I told her my teeth had been hurting, and I was avoiding sugary drinks and treats. Once she heard I was in any kind of pain, she got a concerned look on her face. She told her granddaughter to bring the coconut oil, and she grabbed my hand and started rubbing my left hand, and pinching the skin between my index finger and thumb. It hurt enough that I forgot about any other kind of pain I was experiencing. Then, she told her grandson to go bring 14 vasa leaves and stack them (One pointing up, then down, then up again until they were all in a neat pile). She told me to chew the leaves at night and in the morning. (I did at night, but I forgot the morning leaves). After this, she told me I’d be good to go and offered me the Tang again, but said it was okay if I wanted to drink water. The water was nice.
Yesterday, we had Stake Conference. It was wonderful. Elder Pearson and Elder Hamilton of the Seventy both spoke, and I wish I’d been able to record the whole thing. The spirit was so strong as they shared about our identity as children of God and about how important each of us are. We got to sing the Fijian farewell song together as a congregation, “Isa, isa”. I saw lots of familiar faces from my hometown of Nausori and got to take the bus back to the chapel with one of my best friends from the koro, Salote. She’s in her fifties or so and just got baptized a month ago. She grabbed my hand and made sure I sat by her on the bus as we rode back for our lunch together at the chapel in Waila.
I love you all tons and tons.