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.