Thursday, May 29, 2014

Office, Caves and Missionary Work

Back from our 8 day trip to the beautiful islands of Kosrae, Pohnpei and Chuuk.

Several weeks ago I mentioned to Elder Luong that I love Pho Vietnamese soup. Elder Luong was born in Vietnam but raised in the US. After we came back from our little trip he surprised us with a spice pack to make the soup. He asked his mom, and she mailed her recipe and the spices to him. So, last week we invited him and his companions over for dinner. It was quite the process to prepare. We cooked soup bones overnight with the spices, chopped up lots of veggies, added rice noodles, meat, fresh Basil, Cilantro to the soup. Elder Luong and I (Elder Martin) loved it the most.

Office work just piles high when you leave it for eight days. Over 50 rent payments to process, 25 area gas payments to missionaries, processing paperwork to set up new vendors and landlords, 39 utility payments, ordering extra tires for our Toyota Yaris cars, shipped tires to the island of Palau, checked inventory and then ordered more Books of Mormon(various languages), DVD's and pamphlets, mission vehicle work, calls to/from concerned Zone Leaders on financial issues, processed receipts and refunded Zone accounts from 4 islands, checked and signed off over 100 credit card charges, around 50 disbursements and then balancing and refunding petty cash, deposits to the Bank of Guam, taught the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine class on Ruth and Hannah, etc., etc.

Sister Martin reserved over 40 United Airlines flights for missionaries (also several cancellations and changes), printed mission history books and bound them, about 30 letters to missionaries, Bishops, etc., over 40 baptisms records to research, correct and then process. We both handled tons of emails and requests. Last Monday we hosted the senior couples and Sister McClellan over to our apartment for a general conference edition of Jeopardy and homemade chocolate chip/pecan cookies. Whew...!  We love it! Especially the interaction with the missionaries. They are excited about teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to so many that are prepared and want to listen.

Two great Missionary stories...

In an earlier blog we talked about a young lady walking in off the street and asked to be taught the gospel. She said she couldn't wait for the church referral to schedule an appointment with the missionaries. Well, she was baptized in the ocean a few weeks ago while we were in Pohnpei. Today, Sister Martin saw her in the service/distribution center (about 100 feet from our office door), getting some books. She is one of the Relief Society teachers in the Talisay ward.

We were getting lunch a few days ago at the Hawaiian BBQ a few blocks from the office (quite a ghetto looking place), and a man walked up to us and said he would like to be taught the gospel. He lives in the AP's neighborhood and they have called him and set up an appointment.

Now for P-day fun. A Saturday morning hike to Pagat Caves.

We left our apartment at about 5:45am, not my favorite time of day but we were hoping it would be a little cooler than later. About 6:00am we arrived at the trail head and started down the mountain trail. They call it "medium" difficulty.

A few church members met us there which made it more fun. Two were in Young Women's that missed last week's hike here and wanted to come.

Sister Martin used a stick to clear away the spider webs along the path.

Quite rocky in some areas. There were a lot of these huge Hornets along the way. Bishop Davis said they look scary but they don't sting. Tried to get a picture as one was flying away.

Saw some interesting berries and flowers along the way.

Then we saw a beautiful butterfly fly by.

Then a hermit crab inched by.

About 20 - 30 minutes to reach the cave entrance.

Good thing we brought our water shoes.
As Sister Martin rolled up her pant legs she asked, "How deep does the water get?"

It get 4 - 6 feet deep in areas. We brought flashlights to light the way.

Looking up.

Time for a break.

Let's take a side trail. Also pictured...Marthalina and Bishop Davis.

Wow...the ocean!

We enjoyed hiking with Elder and Sister Hurst too.

Going back.

Up the steep trail back.

Photo Opp!

We made it.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Chuuk...Ruggedly beautiful and Inspiring

Our final stop, yet perhaps the most interesting group of islands in our journey...Chuuk, formerly known as the Truk Islands.

Upon arrival, we looked for someone with the Blue Lagoon Resort that would give us our rental car. They easily found us. Of course, we're not hard to spot with our name tags and all.

We hopped in a rugged (ragged) looking old Toyota Rav 4. We were about to find out why it looked a little ragged.


The first little bit out of town seemed OK...but then the paved roads of "Chuuk" seemed to have the biggest "Chuck" holes we've ever seen. It had just rained so the holes were all filled in so you don't know what's down there. They tell us that some chuck holes are a foot deep, and I believe them. The road must have been paved over 20 years ago and has never had any work done. That's the last time I'll complain about road work because this is the alternative.

We bucked like the rodeo, so we slowed way down. About 40 min. or so to go about 5 miles. We drove by the Mwan LDS church and it seemed like one of the most popular places in town, even in the rain.

Arriving at the Resort was like driving into a different world. Very nice grounds. The pictures show it all.

Elder and Sister Crisp, the only senior couple on Chuuk, met us for dinner that evening. We loved getting to know them and had a lot of fun talking about missionary work, the islands, the young missionaries, the schools and more.

The next morning we dropped by the Mwan church again and a young man named Brandy Henry greeted us. He said he had been recently called on a mission to Long Beach, California. We met the District President and his councilor. Brandy showed us around a bit more and then we went next door and talked to Elder Obray and Elder Selander, the Zone leaders. We also met  Tarson, Elder Roque and others.

I later asked the Crips if we could drive around with them a bit, especially to Sapuk because five of our current missionaries are from there.

We went to Mechitiw chapel and right next to it were the missionaries. Elder Vehikite demo'd a weight set made of concrete blocks.

Said "hi" to Elder Canakiavata and friends and then we were off to Sapuk.

Elder Rainey and Elder Hunter showed us their humble abode with their outdoor palm leaf shower and then Elder Hunter chopped open a coconut for us to drink.

They said they were going to have 3 baptisms that Saturday and the Chuuk area about 20. The Chuuk area goal for the month of May was 51.

The main treat of the island was our opportunity to go to the high school. It was sort of a pre-graduation event. First a Blue-Grass band from the states, sponsored by the US Embassy, performed for everyone. They were professional and everyone enjoyed it.

But then a group of four seniors sang in Chuukese.

JT Ande
Nuno Kata
The young men had "Team Sapuk" t-shirts on. Most are from Sapuk I suppose.

We found out that two of the young men to the right, JT Ande and Nuno Kata have mission calls to South Africa and Australia. I was told that Nuno's brother Elder Kata, served in this mission last year, and JT's sister is Sister Ande, currently serving near our office in Guam. 

They were really good singers. Sister Martin and I both took videos of their performance. Several missionaries, like Sister Rotuk, wanted to see the video of them singing. Sister Rotuk just became a trainer to Sister Mika who just arrived last week.
This Priesthood - Chuukese

On the back of their t-shirts was written "This Priesthood" written in Chuukese with their names.

After the concert a man from the High School came up to us and the Crisps and thanked our church for donating guitars and keyboards to their music department. The Crisps filled us in as we knew nothing about the donation.

The next morning we were notified that our flight from Chuuk to Guam was canceled until the next day. So, we decided to visit one of the outer islands called Tonowas. It was about a 15 minute boat ride. We walked around and saw an old Japanese hospital built around 1912.

We then went to the Tonowas Chapel and met Elder Plocher and Elder Tafuna. There were a lot of members and investigators playing volleyball.

They have no electricity on the island. Elder Plocher said the solar panels were not working. This is really roughing it. We noticed that most of the chapels with missionary quarters have a rainwater collection system.

One of the boys asked sister Martin if we would be coming to church on Sunday because he wanted to pass the sacrament to her.

And a few crabs on the beach.

We then took the small boat ride back to the main island. President Naka, the branch president of the Tonowas chapel took our picture and was our tour guide for the island.

The missionary work is going well. Many people we have met have firm testimonies that the restored church of Jesus Christ is true and have expressed a love for the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It's amazing how many are planning to serve full time missions from Chuuk and the other islands we visited. Our testimonies have been strengthened. We love it and are thankful for this great opportunity to serve.

After visiting all three of the island groups, we gained a greater appreciation and love for the missionaries serving there. It was clear that we all have different skills and talents, and that those serving use those talents and strengths for the common goal of strengthening the mission and furthering the Lord's work.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pohnpei - Not only rain but the spirit showered upon us

Forgot to mention seven little things before we boarded the plane in Guam for Kosrae...
Early in the morning before going to the airport, we went to the mission office to pick up the laptop computer charger. We opened the door, walked in, and there was a seven legged visitor on our wall near the mission map.

He looked as surprised as us. With the main door opened, I persuaded him to go back outside. Sister Martin and I have wondered what other creatures may be under our desks while we are at work.

After Kosrae, we left for Pohnpei on Saturday. It was less than an hour flight. When we exited the airport, Elder and Sister Chandler were there to greet us. Very thoughtful of them, since we had never been there. We got our rental car and followed them to our hotel.

After getting settled in, the Chandlers came back and asked what we wanted to do. We had heard about a little village nearby called Kapingamarangi, that offered hand carved wood items like sharks, turtles, etc., and also tiny weaved decorations/wall hangings. The Chandlers knew exactly where it was. We wound in and out of tiny streets, not much bigger than a large sidewalk.

It was uncomfortably hot and humid in the shop. Elder Chandler said, "Let's see how long you can stand being in the shop, I'm waiting outside." Immediately beads of sweat broke out all over our bodies.
We stayed long enough to buy a few things and then we went to the outdoor shop to see the wood carvers in action. They had a lot of very nice crafts and are very skilled.
Kapingamarangi village wood carving shop - See wood Hammerhead Sharks with real Shark teeth
After a nice dinner at the Cliff Hotel we went to the Panasang church building for a Stake Youth conference. It was supposed to start around 6:30pm, but it didn’t start until around 8:30. We think it was because they had to make more food and plates. 

While we were waiting a member told us a story that happened many years ago that strengthened their testimonies that God cares about His faithful saints. Some missionaries were going to teach about the gospel of Christ in a local school. A minister pulled out his gun, loaded it, and threatened to shoot any missionary, Mormon or investigator that came to the school to hear the message. But, he fell asleep, and the meeting went well without any interruption. They thanked God for protecting them and causing him to sleep.  

The young men and young women were dressed in their Sunday best, almost like a Prom. In the Chapel/Cultural hall they had two long tables set up with leaves and each place had a hand weaved bowl for their food. They had a variety of island food, like breadfruit, bananas, chicken, rice, and several other things.  Each one had a coconut which was individually cut on the top so they could drink the juice. 

The boys escorted the girls and got their chair for them. There were so many youth that they ran out of places at the tables so they set up more chairs and lined them up on both sides of the room. It was amazing they were able to weave more plates and have enough food for all of them. I think they had about 200 youth there, 14 and older.

We were seated on the stand with the Stake Presidency and the Bishops. The Stake President was amazed that so many came, he said it was about double from last year's event. 

Then the testimonies began. The youth kept coming and coming up to the pulpit to bear their testimonies. All but one or two spoke in Pohnpean language. Even though we didn't know what they said, we felt the powerful, peaceful spirit of their testimonies. One young man said he was just baptized that day. Another was baptized one week. Others were investigators, interested in the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Most testified they knew that Thomas S. Monson was a true prophet of God, even though they will probably never see him in person. 

Panasang Chapel
At church the next morning we sat behind two young women that had attended. One girl's first name was "Rejoice". The Sister Missionaries said the girls had been to several church activities and meetings and were about to be taught our wonderful message about God and His wonderful plan for us. What a wonderful time at church. The holy spirit continued to pour down in abundance upon us. 

After church we enjoyed an excellent meal prepared by the Chandlers. One of Sister Chandler's salads was called a Snicker Salad. 

It is a fruit salad with Snicker candy bar pieces and whip cream mixed in. 

The missionaries came over for lunch, and to make calls or Skype with their mothers  and families for Mother's Day. 
Sister Roberts talking to family on Mother's Day 
Sister Komra
Sister Orrock, Roberts, Ioane, Ilaoa, and Komra made mother’s day cards and cookies for Sister Chandler and Sister Martin while we were driving around with Elder Chandler. 

Recently a drunk man broke into one of the Sister Missionaries apartments at night. The sisters took a broom to him and literally kicked him out. Later, the authorities made him come and apologize. It is also the local custom to drink something like a coconut juice together during the apology.

The next morning we decided to walk down the main street of Kolonia. Elder Bourne from England and Elder Nansen walked up and we talked with them for a few minutes.

Note the approved shoes for the mission...Crocs or similar
Then we slowly walked back to our hotel. When we arrived it started to rain, and rain, and rain. A few minutes later it seemed like a river was going down our street. It poured like sheets. We were glad we didn't get caught out in the storm.

Later we were checking out one of the mission vehicles in need of body work.
Sometimes I think if you looked too hard at a Yaris it will dent
There were dents and scratches everywhere and the hubcaps were gone. Two lug nuts were missing from the wheels. The Zone leaders said the auto parts stores on the island are out of lug nuts so we'll need to order some.
A lot of dirt roads on Pohnpei as you can tell
It was easy to find which road our hotel was on because of the obvious landmarks. They don't have the kind of street signs you would expect. This forklift was abandon on the street corner many years ago and a tree grew through and around it. It is now a permanent landmark. It's common to see this on the islands. When a vehicle quits, it often stays where it quit. 

That evening we joined the Chandlers and drove down to the south of the island near Rohi. There the Mauriso family had a simple dwelling where we enjoyed a wonderful meal and an amazing Family Home Evening. They called there home a "Nahs" which is open, with no walls or doors, just a roof and a floor.
This is a video of us singing "Let Us All Press On" in Pohnpeian language in the home/shelter of Peter and Carleen. We also met Eric, Rockson, Marielee and others.

We sat on the cement floor and ate the dinner they prepared for us.  They first served snacks that were like chips but were actually fried yams and fried breadfruit. They also served yams fried in a ball and some sort of banana dish. The food was picked and prepared from gardens and trees in the area, and from the ocean, not bought at a store.

They served us food and watched us eat, before they ate. We were the only ones who had a plate and spoons. Everyone else just ate from the platter with their hands.

For dinner they served tuna, chicken in a gravy that he Peter called curry, white rice, and fried rice. They said if the tide was higher, crabs would've been served. For desert we had chocolate cake that Sister Chandler made. 

These new members have so little, but great faith and a love of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Many people who live in the rain forest have no houses. They cook outside and just hangout outside. They sleep on the floor of their Nahs, which is raised up above the ground  just enough to keep them dry when it rains and when it rains it comes down in buckets. We all shared our testimonies with each other and the missionaries translated. There were about 20 family members of parents and children who were related. 

One of our churches is a Nahs that we visited after church on Sunday. 

It is located in a village called Nett. 

It is an outside, open church building. Sometimes, pigs, chickens and dogs, pictured here, wander into the meetings. We were told the Deacons often have to push them aside while passing the sacrament. 

The next morning we went with the Chandlers to Seminary at the High School. They teach during lunch time in one of the school rooms. 

It was standing room only with some of the Sister missionaries sitting on the floor. 

They taught with a lot of visual aids and videos. They also showed a slide show created from photos of youth conference. It was exciting and students outside were peaking in the windows. There were several investigators attending seminary as well. 

What a great place to visit and good-byes are always difficult. 

Our three days in Pohnpei went so fast. We will definitely miss the Chandlers.  

We love the missionaries, we love the people on the islands and we love the Lord.

Our next blog will be on the rugged island of Chuuk.