Saturday, September 8, 2012

Elder Pearson's visit to Tarawa

We had a wonderful conference with the missionaries and Elder Kevin Pearson of the First Quorum of the 70.  He is in the presidency of the Pacific Area.  He is flanked by an enthusiastic Sister Barlow.
The senior couples planned for a couple of weeks and cooked for several days to have a wonderful lunch for about 85 people during the conference.
Seated are Sisters Valo (Papua New Guinea), Tenoa and Babo (Kiribati), and Balenecagi (Fiji), next to Sister and President Davies.  President Davies is currently the temple president in Fiji, but was mission president in Fiji in 1972 when he opened Kiribati to the church and found a way to introduce missionaries to the country.
President Davies, in 1972, received a request from a principal in Kiribati to allow 12 students to attend Liahona, the LDS high school in Fiji, because the British government limited the level of education for Kiribati children in order to keep them becoming discontent with their lives.  President Davies went to visit Kiribati and tried to get missionaries allowed in.  The British government said they had enough churches and wouldn't recognize the church unless we had 30 members, but wouldn't let missionaries in until we had recognition.  But the Lord was smarter than Satan and smarter than the British government.  President Davies accepted the Kiribati students, who later joined the church and returned to Kiribati, providing the 30 members needed to get official church status and open the country for missionary work.
    At right is some of our missionary force.  We currently have about 50 in Kiribati.  Here, they enjoyed an American-style lunch of hamburgers, Elder Thorne's famous baked beans, chips, pickles, brownies and ice cream -- not too common in these parts.

These garlands were prepared for the honored guests at a culture night performed for Elder Pearson; Elder Wakolo, an Area 70; President and Sister Davies of the temple; President and Sister Shaw of the Marshall Islands Mission (includes Kiribati); and all the senior couples.
  The garlands were placed on our heads by native dancers at the end of their first dance.
Boeboe Tabaru, stake clerk and assistant finance man for the church service center, with Elder Bush.  We didn't know he was such a dancer and musician on the drum and singing until we saw him in action with his ward's dance.
President Davies, Elder Thorne, Judy and Sister Davies after the dance performance with their fragrant garlands.
The garlands are made of local flower parts and leaves, woven to make a beautiful ornament.
From left, President Iotua Tune (East Stake), Elder Kevin Pearson, Elder Wakolo, Area 70 from Fiji, President Shaw.

President Pearson spoke to the gathering of young performers and older members that night.  He has a lot of energy to keep the schedule he does, speaking at missionary meetings, youth firesides, 2 sessions of stake conference, besides interviews and selecting a new stake president.

The senior couples are treated very well here by the Kiribati people.  They put us on the front row, or sometimes second row

The missionary conference had all the missionaries brought in from all parts of Kiribati -- even from Christmas Island.  We had great counsel and inspiration from our leaders.  Elder Pearson mentioned a couple of things for us to do.  Try this yourselves.  Complete the following sentences:
"Because I am a desciple of Jesus Christ, I no longer ______________________________________."
"Because I am a desciple of Jesus Christ, I now __________________________________________."

He had remarkable insight into the spirit of each person he met there.  He mentioned that he could go up and down the rows of missionaries and tell who was committed and who wasn't, who was focused with full purpose of heart and who was still waivering.  He then encouraged every missionary to be the kind of missionary their mother thinks they are, because when returning home, the mother and the stake president will know within 30 seconds.

I wish I had had a camera when, after stake conference, an 8-year-old girl went up to Elder Pearson to ask a question.  I was in the choir seats behind and most of the choir had left.  But Elder Pearson just sat down with the girl (Kate) and they were facing each other as he took about 5-8 minutes to talk with just her.  I went to Kate's mother, Rusila, and asked if she knew where her daughter was and then pointed to her with Elder Pearson.  It was a touching scene.  Her question?  "Why don't girls get the priesthood?"  His explanation of different roles and that both men and women receive all the blessings of the priesthood through the temple covenants satisfied her.

Elder Wakolo was a great teacher, too.  His messages included the link between covenants and ordinances -- that niether was effective without the other, like two sides of a dollar bill.  He also talked about the difference between water that is 211 degrees being just hot water, while water at 212 degrees becomes steam, with expansion power that drives engines.  This is comparable to the difference that happens with just a little more effort, which can make all the difference.

President Shaw mentioned breaking through the ceiling of our expectations for ourselves.  We all impose limits on ourselves concerning what we think we can do.  We can break through that ceiling and rise to new heights in personal growth, effectiveness and vision.

We hope those reading this blog get to also hear, or read, or feel the importance of the work going on here to elevate the lives of the people by drawing them to Christ and their own eternal potential.

We love serving here, even though things are definitely different than Idaho in what is available, the climate, the family associations temporarily distanced, and a full schedule, working with a different culture and language barriers.  But what a beautiful and kind people are here!  With very little of this world's goods, they are gracious and happy and we have made some dear friends.

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