Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bula Vinaka!

Well we're starting a count down now,  2 2/3 weeks left on our mission.  I think Heavenly Father didn't want us to be bored, as we just got word that 8 temporary (visa waiter) missionaries are arriving Tues Dec 31st to help us start the new year right.  I'm hoping to get the last three approval letters for the 17 missionaries due to arrive 2 days before we leave this week, and Sister Klingler (went to her son's wedding in the US) and the new office couple are arriving January 6th so I'm gearing up to train Sister Terry but not overwhelm her.
Add to that moving to a different flat which has been more of an adjustment then we thought it would be, but we're hanging in there and hope to finish strong.  We have a portable scale from the office that we're going to use to weigh our luggage tonight and make sure we're under the 50 lb limit.  If we can make arrangements for a rental car this week we'll be set for our trip to New Zealand with the Wells before we travel home.

We hope your Christmas was a good one, here are some highlights from ours:

Sister and Elder Wells planned a special FHE Dec 23rd English Christmas Dinner (in honor of the Watlings our new temple couple from England)  President and Sister Davis offered their home to hold it in.  We had Chicken, a sausage dish, Yorkshire pudding, cauliflower in a creamy sauce, breadsticks and a salad.  For dessert we had Trifle.  Each couple came prepared to share a memorable Christmas and Elder Watling ended with some spiritual thoughts.  

Sister Davis had a lot of candles around the room, and a traditional tree in the corner

I had to take a picture of this little guy, I haven't seen a dark brown Gecko with gold dots up his back before.  

We went shopping at Vinod Patel and I had to capture this funky St Nicholas playing a saxaphone figure!

Fijians loves trees with sparkle

This is Sister Tago she's been here for a medical concern for about 10 days and knows how to merge letters,so I had her do a bunch of letters for March which will help Sister Terry stay on top of the paperwork for the March intake.

Christmas Eve Sister Limburg and Newsom planned an evening visiting the Old Folks Home with the missionaries from one of our smaller zones in Suva.  I went around and took pictures before the program began

Sister Trammell and two residents who are here due to mental limitations

They were in their seats 1/2 hour before we were going to start, so the missionaries went around and visited.

When we did the nativity, we were told two residents wanted to participate and represent Joseph and Mary, but when we began draping the costumes on them, this lady jumped up and I said "do you want to participate?"
she nodded and we had two ladies be our shepherdesses.

Sister Lavaka sitting by the man who wanted to be Joseph, he had about 3 teeth in his mouth but the most wonderful smile and cheerful countenance.  When I escorted him to the front it was obvious he had suffered a stroke and had to use the wall to balance the hand and foot on one side of his body that didn't function well, 

Sister Faasalafa and resident

Elder Moka and Fijian woman who portrayed Mary

2 residents and Elder Hancock

Younger man on right was funny.  We have a couple - the Petersons who brought chimes with them and the missionaries played them.  They practiced in back of the residents while we set up and sang the first song, then I went up and asked them to go to the front of the room so we could see them.  This guy picked up his plastic chair and followed Sister Peterson to the front, plunking his chair right behind her as she led the music (I think he really liked the chimes and wanted to be close to where they were being played.  Sister Peterson took it in stride.

Sister Trammell offered to take my picture, now if I can just get back up off my knees.


Wisemen - Elder Lauti, Tremea, Arthur

Mary Joseph and baby Jesus

This was a wonderful surprise I discovered on top of the gate of our new flat.  I recognized that it was a Christmas Cactus because my mother used to have one in her TV Room.  Christmas morning we were invited to a breakfast at the Collins and while we waited in the rain for the Wells to pick us up, I saw that it had bloomed.  Richard told me to wait until later when it was sunny to take the picture, but I'm glad I took it then because later the blooms closed and a day later they were willted down and preparing to drop off.  It was a sweet reminder of my mother and the biggest Christmas Cactus I'll probably ever see in my lifetime.  I'm sure it got it's name because it blooms at Christmas time. 

The Collins had a feast of egg casserole with cassava, and waffles with yummy toppings of whip cream, frozen blueberries, jams, raspberry whip cream and fresh fruit.  We sat and talked for hours and heard some crazy stories from Elder Collins (a definiteDaniel Boone type guy) about his adventures killing grouse and cottontail rabbits with a sling shot and a bobcat with a tire jack while on his mission....a local paper printed the story which got back to his mission president, and he was called in to have a a serious discussion with his mission president.  

Our landlady surprised us with a nice Fijian meal at lunch time and gave us two silky sulu's as a gift.
L-R Breadfruit, dalo, fried fish, top green veggie is Ota and the lolo (coconut sauce made everything taste good)
Wells invited us over for dinner and a game and we had cheese enchiladas and a salad.  It was a nice relaxing day.

Well, we had a meeting with Zone Leaders Friday and Elder Hogge turned our copy room into his loading
dock of water filters that are due to be changed in all the flats at the first of the year.

I stayed busy labeling bags to be used for wet baptism clothes.  We hope to eventually supply all the mission zones with them, but it's a slow process.  I bought everything Vinod Patel had (16 ) and that covere one of our 5 zones.  So it will be a slow process as they only get a small supply in 

December Birthdays 

When we came these cards only went to the silver border and now is spreading across the 2nd board

Elder Heath enjoying the sweet comfort of our office chair

Bright orange closets in the master bedroom.  A king size bed that's comfortable and helped my back feel better.

Big bathroom/shower/laundry/drying rack room

Elder Hogge's suite (he snore's and I'm a light sleeper)

dining room/living room

A pretty big pantry considering I didn't have one in the last flat

The sink area is small, the oven is nice and big, the kitchen
table  is used to prepare  food . 

We want to wish you all a Happy New Year and are excited that we will see you who live in Arizona soon.  
Love Elder and Sister Hogge 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Siga ni Sucu (Fijian for Merry Christmas),

Christmas is coming and we are loving this season.  The Indian people don't celebrate it unless they are Christian (a rarity), but Fijians are nearly all Christians, so they are living the season.  They are poor so they don't buy gifts, but they love to feed the missionaries, so everyone is happy.  I wish this attitude would last all year.

We are busy to the end.  I just found a flat two days ago for a couple of Elders, and had to furnish the place.  I am still looking for two more flats for the new missionaries before I leave next month, and a new one for the couple that is replacing us, so I'm pushing to the end.  The Lord always provides for His missionaries, so I'm not too concerned as long as I do my part.  The difficult part is finding them in a specific area that Pres. Klingler wants. Mary is also busy with preparations for 16 missionaries coming in January (you know, all the paper work that immigration requires), and the 16 departing missionaries with all the letters and flight schedules for each of them.  She's a trooper but goes home tired every night.

We had to move out of our flat this week due to a "difficult change of plans" with a different senior couple's flat.  We will be in this flat for a month and then leave it for a Canadian couple who lives here. It  was sad to leave the old flat, an emotionally draining situation.  The new couple who is living there is called to be the Institute director and teacher, and they needed a flat close to the institute, so we left.  The new flat is just fine but we miss our familiar, well worn, flat.  

The lady in pink is sneaky Sister Wells...she invited us over to dinner and to play games on Friday Dec 6th
and it turned out to be a belated birthday dinner for me complete with a large iced banana birthday cake. 

Monday Dec 9th I brought the leftover birthday cake to the office for the Missionaries to polish off (it's their p-day) and had no sooner cleaned the dish off the bar when in walked Joyce with a banana cream pie.  I was confused, and then Sister Newsom, Limburg, the Updikes walked in with more pies and surprise, it was a belated celebration
 for my Birthday.  So if I look fat when I get home, you'll know why.

These 5 Elders headed home December 10th
Elder LeDoux, Elder Olsen, Elder Gatoloi (not going home but in the picture) Elder S Smith, Elder Peleseuma

Elder Olsen headed home, was home a day before flying back to Fiji with his family for a two week visit.

We will miss these guys, they have been strong and faithful missionaries

These two elders are heading to Tuvalu (a small narrow strip of an island with not many  modern conveniences)
I wanted a picture, knowing we wouldn't see them again before we leave.
(Note how happy Elder Hogge looks with his tie undone so the heat around his collar can escape).

I had to have a picture of this lei Elder Peleseum left behind.  Ana who cleans our office said it's from Hawaii.  It was made of the dark seeds that grow in hawaii and the yellow (popcorn kernal looking things) are 3 little rings made of tiny yellow seeds that were varnished together.  I thought it was a really striking lei.  

You'd think I would get tired of taking pictures of flowers, but I guess I will do it until I head home.

Friday Dec 13th we had a zone conference with 3 zones (fed 120) then headed to Suva First for the traditional talent night

Some danced, Sisters traditional and Elders from US improvised

This group came from the back of the room with lit candles and sang a beautiful Christmas hymn

This large group did a skit and song.  There is no stage so they had Sister and President Klingler sit on the front row

More dancing with beautiful arm movements and two elders in the back
(one from French Polynesia lead out while the US Elder followed his lead)

The improvised costumes says it all

and they got President Klingler to join them in a sort of can can line

These Elders got my vote for most creative.  They used their ties like a head band and entered
from the back of the room doing a loud tradition sounding chant, then quickly pulled their ties around their
neck, sang a Christmas song beautifully, and when done, pulled their ties back onto their head and
did another chant as they exited to the back of the room. 

Elder Pence came over to us after the program to get a picture, before heading back to a
small island to the East of Suva, called Ovalau where he is currently serving.  

Surprise, the beautiful natural wood house that was being built next to our old flat is now pink!
All I can say is the people of Fiji love to paint their houses all sorts of bright colors.  

This one's for you Rob... One of our Elders got a postcard from his brother  who is serving in Cochabamba, and since I sort the mail, I had to take a picture for you.  I still remember those delicious fruit drinks we had there,seeing you and Justin speaking Spanish in the temple to help the workers, and the sweet family that took a long trip on a bus to
 meet us at the temple.  I understand even more today then I did then, what you meant when you said that our
treating them to a meal at McDonalds was something they couldn't afford to do.

This is an archway off the driveway at our newflat

a long the side of the driveway a traditional shell here that used to be used to summon villagers
and is not allowed to be taken off of any of the islands of Fiji.

I had to unlock several doors that are not used much that opens ontoto a slim porch to get a good shot at
this pretty pink Frangi Pani (plumeria) that grow outside our kitchen window.

We've had three nights of heavy rainstorms and stopped to check on several flats.  This is the side yard of the
flat built on the side of a hill and has 32 steps leading down to it.  They said their flat was full of water,
but it eventually drained.  One of our sisters flats also got flooded, but everyone was okay.

Nearing the end of our mission has caused me to reflect on all that Elder Hogge has done to take care of the missionaries in the Fiji Suva Mission.  He's found 47 of the 68 flats we are currently renting, plus take care of the Seniors needs in the last 17 months.  Friday he took down 5 or 6 large boxes to the dock filled with 25 packages and made sure they got on the boat in time for missionaries to get a package from home.  He's taken care of cars, shopped to furnish flats, fixed malfunctioning doorknobs etc.  I'm working hard to have everything in order for Sister Terry who will be replacing me and Sister Klingler is leaving Dec 24th for the US to attend her son's wedding.  We just got word that 8 temporary missionaries will be arriving December 31st but as the Fijian's say "no worries".  As Richard stated at the start of this blog, we are going to be busy right up to the day we leave, but we've loved serving in Fiji.  We have stretched and grown in so many ways, and felt our Savior's love through all our struggles.  We love you all,
and hope you Christmas will be one of joy and happiness as you spend time with your families.

Love Richard and Mary