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

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