Sunday, November 11, 2012

Aranuka, October 19-21
South-Southeast of Tarawa
Sister Bush and I got to visit Aranuka with President Maunga (Sam) to conduct training, advance two brethren to the Melchizedek Priesthood and to hold branch conference.  It was a wonderful experience, with warm, dedicated saints of the church.
 Unloading luggage and sorting after the plane ride to Aranuka, about an hour away from Tarawa.  We stopped in Kuria, a smaller island, on the way there.

The plane carries only 17 passengers and the pilot/copilot are open to the passengers.  Air Kiribati has 2 planes in its fleet.  One has a partition between the passengers and the luggage and one doesn't.  This one does.

There is always a welcoming group of family and friends of those who come in on the plane, as well as people just curious to see what and who comes in.

We always have to confirm our return flight.  Just because we have a ticket doesn't mean we have a seat.  The man below is the head man at the Aranuka airport.
This maneaba was just built a few weeks ago.  The paper hung up has the words to an LDS hymn that the man is learning.  Bonto has been a member just 6 months and was just put in as the 2nd counselor to the branch president.

He used to work for the government as an agriculture extension agent.  As such he travelled among the islands and also learned English as a youth.  He is now retired and 61 years old.  He planted the palms below about 10 years ago.

Bonto's wife is walking to their house on the same property as their maneaba and grove.

Before they joined the church, they drank every day.   The young missionaries met them when they were drunk and just wanted to practice their English, but the elders kept coming back every day, teaching them.  They have great testimonies of the gospel and are a great support to the branch.
Near the house is the cooking area, where all the meals are prepared.
Even at 61, Bonto can climb up a 30-foot coconut tree quickly.  He was climbing this time to cut off branches for the sisters to weave into mats for the maneaba.  He uses the maneaba as a social gathering place for the members and friends.

They taught Judy to weave a mat.  Four fronds are used.  She is weaving 2 on the left and Bonto's wife wove the 2nd half.  The whole thing took about 30 minutes.

Since they had just built their maneaba, they still needed mats to sit on.

After stripping each side of the palm frond off the main vein, the leaves are woven with over-and-under pattern that joins leaves from 4 fronds.
Judy also learned to make a hat, which took about 10 minutes

Judy and Bonto enjoy sitting on the finished mat.

Sam rode on the back of the motor cycle with a counselor.  This is the main means of transportation for us on the island.

I wore Judy's latest creation as I rode the bike.  It was a little hard getting used to driving the Honda 90 with an automatic clutch, but no hand brakes.  The only brake was a right foot brake.
Our hotel is in the background in the picture below.

Bonto's wife sang with her husband, who also played the ukulele wonderfully.  They made beautiful harmony.

This picture is in front of the missionary flat, which is 5 feet from the maneaba where church services are held.

A Young family below attended the meeting and social.

There is a table between the elders' flat and the maneaba where they prepare all the food for branch dinners and socials.  The branch has a great feeling in it.

Elder Mendenhall with some of the branch members.  The woman leaning over in front of Elder M is said to be the best toddy person around.  She can climb the coconut trees quickly to place a bottle to catch the tree juice to make the drink.
 President of the branch and his wife.  He has been the president for 5 years.  He is well-known and respected on the island, as we noted when we were in the airport in Tarawa awaiting the plane.  Many people talked with him there, as well as back home when we arrived.

His little boy was pretty happy to see him, after he had been gone for over 2 months to Tarawa waiting to get dental work done.
 The new clerk and his wife.  He has been a member only 6 months.

When Sam (President Maunga) visited the branch last year for conference, only the branch president's family and 2 YSA young women were attending.  Now there are about 30.

Sunset on Aranuka, with 2 fishermen coming home.

Inside the church maneaba where we had sacrament meeting and training.

The members gave us 4 live lobsters as we left to get on the plane.  They can stay alive for up to 2 days and we had to cook them alive to preserve the meat.  The video at right shows the process.  It was an adventure we have never had before.  We hope you enjoy the experience vicariously.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tarawa East Stake Song Festival

The Tarawa East Stake had a song festival, an annual event, where every ward and branch sings 3 songs:  one that all are to learn, a second hymn of their choosing, and a third "fun song" that isn't in our hymn book.  This is a great way they have of helping the saints to learn new hymns and have a lot of fun.

This ward had all the sisters in the same blouse, with flower garlands for all their singers.
The Eita 2nd Ward had a fun song that included a sheep, for which the first counselor dressed the part.
Some of the choirs were small, but had great voices that sounded much bigger.

The North Tarawa Branch had to come by boat, but had a fun little choir with a few really young voices.

Sister Crowe was a dynamic leader for her choir.  Her husband, Norm Crowe, was the builder who was in charge of building Moroni HS and some of the chapels on the island.  He married this Kiribati lady and retired here.

Each choir actually slipped in a 4th song, which they sang as they marched up to the choir seats.

As you can see below, most choirs sang a capella because they don't have people who can play the piano.  Judy played for 3 units -- one of which just asked her that night just before they were going up to sing.

Some of the Moroni Ward girls are at right. 

The men on the front row are President Tekeiaki, Elder Wakolo (Area 70), and President Banririe.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October 6, 2012

Judy and I have had a few days with little scheduled.  It's funny how when nothing is scheduled that a lot comes along and needs attention, anyway.  We are able to catch up on a few things, tie up some loose ends and do some longer-range planning.  We usually plan at least a week ahead and confirm our plans the night before.  We also have time to update our blog.  The last time was nearly a month ago.
  Elder Dick and Sister Joyce Wells visited us from the area office in Fiji to do training in conducting audits and in general financial procedures for the church wards/branches.  Judy and I got to go with them to help them get where they needed to go for the trainings.

 We had the Wells attend a senior couples dinner (l to r Elder Ogborn, Val, Judy, Elder & Sister Wells, Elder & Sister Thorne, Sister Ogborn.

 Elder Tuilahangingie and Elder Ulutui had a whole family join the church together.  The mother is a widow with her 4 children in the Buota Branch on the northern end of Tarawa.
 Banking is interesting.  Customers play musical chairs as they wait in line.  Chairs are provided for everyone to sit in while they wait their turn with one of the 3 tellers for cash transactions.  As one customer goes up, everyone gets up and shifts one seat until they come up for their turn.

If we get to the bank at 9:00 a.m. when they open, we don't have to wait, but later in the day and on Fridays, it may take an hour to get your turn.  Judy uses the time to write in her journal or play with kids in line with their parents.
 On the right, you can see the roof of the new chapel being built for the Temwaiku Branch.  They currently meet in a wooden three-room building they built.
 The view from inside the chapel under construction is spectacular.
 This will be the cultural hall, which won't have walls.  Open sides lets the breeze come through and keeps it cooler.  The chapel is attached to this and has walls with windows.
 Judy and I flew on a charter plane to Tabetewea (Tab North) with President Maunga to visit the 2 branches of the church there.  There are only about 6000 people on the island.  It is pretty long and has a lot of open space between villages, with lots of coconut palms.
 Brentia and President Maunga by the 6-passenger plane we flew about an hour and a half in to get there.
The normal transport on the islands is an open truck.  This truck took us the 1-hour ride from the air strip to the Kabuna Branch.  We were late because the plane left an hour late, but they were waiting patiently for us at the air strip, and others at the church for a branch conference.

They had never had a branch conference and didn't know that we were supposed to have sacrament meeting, so a meeting was put together quickly.  Two people were called on to speak before they turned the time to Judy, me and President Maunga to speak.  Following the sacrament meeting, they had a meal prepared for us.  As usual, they had us eat first, then the  men, then the women and children.  That is their custom.
Elder Banks, with Elder Tarobwa, serve both branches on the island.  They live by the chapel at the other branch, though, in Utiroa.

 A causeay bridges a gap between the land on the atoll.
 At right, you can see that they have built a little gate to trap fish in the little lagoon that are brought in by the high tide, making them easier to catch when the tide goes out.
 Between villages looks like this.
 At left is the president of the Kabuna Branch.  He and his clerk (flowered shirt on the right) came to the Utiroa Branch meeting after their meeting so we could conduct an audit. The smiling man on right is Berentia, who came with us to check on projects the church has on the island.
 The Utiroa Branch had another meal for us before we left.  Judy got to speak in their sacrament meeting, along with President Maunga, but I was conducting the audit, so didn't eat with them.
 The women are always so gracious in preparing and serving wonderful food:  usually fish, rice, breadfruit and maybe some chicken.  This time they also had sea turtle, which is a little tastier than chicken. 
 President Maunga (Sam) sits in the corner of the truck.  Elder Tarobwa is left and a counselor in the branch stands on the right.
 The kids are always friendly, but sometimes shy.
 The Utiroa Branch has a nice chapel.  The little building with 2 doors in back is the restroom.  Behind that is the missionaries' flat.
Brentia, a counselor, President Sam, a counselor, Elder Bush

 Bro. Mortekai, a member of the Utiroa branch and a teacher in the local school, ponders a selection of food.  He had to really encourage the people to go ahead and eat before me, since I was still conducting an audit.

President Shaw came for a short few days, during which we had a zone conference.  Sister Bonnemort is trying to get a picture with her IPad of those standing at the front.

Front:  Elder Bush, Elder Norman
2nd row: Elders Anderl,  Butterfield
Sweep of room from L to R:
Elders Whippy, Tuilahangingie, Lewis, Mahe, Ulutui, unknown, Raizor, Elder Thorne, Teira, Sister Thorne.

Ant bites on Judy's ankle below, prompted a reaction on her foot, lower right.
Sister Bonnemort, mission nurse, drained the huge blister on top of her foot, which developed while she was speaking to the stake Relief Society in a fireside the night after the bites.

Sunrise on the island of Abemama.  The little hut on the left was a sleeping room I used the 2nd night -- much cooler.

President Maunga (Sam) and I flew on Air Kiribati to Abemama to hold training with the branch of the church.

The plane holds 17 passengers, the runway is gravel, and the plane flies about 2 times/week.
The Abemama branch that met on Sunday: the boy on the far right with blue tie was baptized in the ocean the night before.

The bedroom above was my hotel room the first night, with a mosquito net suspended above the bed.  It is dropped over the mattress at night so you don't worry about bites.  Even with the louvered window open, it was still hot, so I slept in the outdoor buia (shown below, but tilted sideways) the second night.

At right is the hotel shower (left side) and toilet (right side) that required getting a pan of water from the shower to flush.  It was better than just being outside.

Elders Maddy and Ataata live in a little hut built by the maneaba that is used for the church.

The inside of their quarters is pretty simple.  Their mats are on a coral gravel  floor.  Their clothes are either in a suitcase or hung from a cord strung across the ceiling.  They have a small table in one corner on which to position their water filter, which they handpump rainwater through for drinking and cooking.

Below, you see their shower and toilet facilities.  They stand on the concrete slab and have bucket showers.  The concrete commode at right is flushed with a bucket.  The pump for the water is a hand pump outside.

The 13-year-old boy will be baptized next month, following his parents, who joined last month.  The 15- and 17-year old girls are members of the church.

These are the parents of the boy above.  They fed us a great meal, including green peppers and cherry tomatoes they grew.

Back on Tarawa, the two stakes held a youth conference.  They had classes during the day and activities at night.  The kids really enjoyed getting together.  An  American seminary teacher from Fiji came and taught them some games that they really enjoyed.  He spoke to them, also.  His name was Bruce.

Bruce said someone once told him that the mission of the church in the islands can be summed up in 2 words:  Build capacity.