Friday, August 30, 2013

Zone Conference, Missionary Comings and Goings

Sunday, August 18, 2013
Tuesday, we had a departure dinner for 2 of our Kiribati missionaries, Sisters Babo and Tenoa.  It’s different sending them home when it is just a 15-20-minute drive.  There are no transportation, food or hotel concerns.  And we get to see them after their release.  We have come to know them well, and they both speak English, so we have enjoyed getting to know their personalities.

Sisters Babo and Tenoa are both from Kiribati.  Their trip home was a 20-minute car ride.

 Elder & Sister Robison joined us for the departure dinner at our flat.  The Robisons have been here just a month at this point, but are taking hold well.  They are from Chubbock, Idaho.
 Both of these sisters have served on Christmas Island, as well as on Tarawa.  We enjoyed knowing them  and working with them for over a year of our mission.
 Attending our bi-zone conference were Elder & Sister Haleck, of the 1st Quorum of Seventy. The 2nd row has Elder Kakau, Sister Babo, Sister & Elder Robison, Sister Cassita,Sister Haleck in the salmon-colored jacket, Elder Haleck, Val, Judy, Sister & Elder Edwards, just arrived to work with seminary teachers for 3 months.
We met for only 2 hours in Teaoraereke and then had a lunch for them.  We cooked for a couple of days to get everything ready.
floral center piece at the Senior Sisters' flat for Elder & Sister Haleck's dinner

 The sisters somehow found frozen corn on the cob.  The rest of the food is fish, carrots, chicken & potato salad.  Elder Haleck was born in Samoa, but his parents moved the family to the U.S. so the children could all get a good education and opportunities.  He speaks English without an accent, and served as a mission president in Samoa from 2009-2011, during which he was called to the First Quorum.  His wife is a wonderful speaker and great communicator.  She sent thank-you cards and emails after their visit.

A cultural celebration was held in their honor, along with the stake leaders.  Elder Haleck came to reorganize the West Stake presidency.  

 Elder Maddy shows off his sea turtle shell.  Although they are on the endangered species list, sea turtles are a common food source on some of the outer islands.
Sister Johnson, from Farmington, Ut
It took a while for Elder Tait to shed his suit coat.  

 Elder Smith brings his bags toward the pickup.  It took a couple of vans and a pickup to collect everyone.

The new group of missionaries are outstanding.  Sister Johnson is only 19 but has the testimony and commitment of someone much older.  Elder Rafael Sion is from Michigan, but his parents are Honduran.  He expressed some concern about learning the language, but he bore his testimony in Temwaiku today on short notice and did it all in Kiribati for 2-3 minutes.  Elder Kim, from California, did the same in Eita 2nd.  Elder Loe is the tallest – about 6’4”.  Elder Maisey is from North Dakota and is committed.  Elders Tait and Smith finish out the Tarawa group.  We will never meet Elder Marks and Sister McFarland who went directly to Christmas Island.  Time is getting short, with less than 11 weeks for us.
Back row:  Elders Tait, Loe, Maisey.  Front: Elders Kim, Smith, Sion, Sister Johnson.Thursday, we had an intake of 9 new missionaries – all from the States. 

Two were to go directly to Christmas Island.  That was a late decision by Pres. Weir, so Judy contacted the Salt Lake travel person to have them stop at Christmas Island instead of coming all the way to Tarawa and then having to backtrack, returning to Fiji to catch the flight back to Christmas Island.  The lady sent back an email chiding us for the late notice and all the extra money it cost to reroute the missionaries, but she had the itinerary.  However, the itinerary looked really off.  It had the missionaries flying directly from LA to Brisbane, then to Perth, Australia with a hotel for the night before going directly to Christmas Island.  We thought immediately that she had scheduled them to the wrong Christmas Island.  I looked on a map, and sure enough, there is a Christmas Island northwest of Australia, just below Indonesia – 3500 miles out of our mission.  Judy tried to get in touch with the travel scheduler, but she was on vacation.  It was Friday, and the missionaries were leaving Monday from Provo.  So Judy called Salt Lake and got it changed.  In addition, no one met the missionaries in Hawaii or Fiji to help them and the church hadn’t paid for the hotels they needed in each place.  The missionaries had to use personal credit cards to pay for the lodging.  In addition, the travel office hadn’t given them the work visas that Judy sent, so the Fiji government wouldn’t let them onto the plane to Kiribati without a return flight, so the church was contacted and booked return flights to get them here.  With the huge increase in missionaries, the logistics needs more people, and they don’t all understand the systems, requirements or protocols.  One of the problems with a growing church.  We received a couple of emails of sincere apologies, but we got the missionaries where they were supposed to be and the church paid for the hotels and the hotels should reverse charges on the credit cards.  We just have to have the missionaries follow up to make sure it happened.

We had the orientation meeting with our new missionaries at the Robison’s flat.  We baked the breakfast casserole and Judy made cinnamon rolls the night before to feed everyone at the end of the
1 ½ hour meeting before we took half of them to the bank to open their accounts.  When the Robison’s took Sister Johnson to the bank to open her account, they wouldn't do it.  We found out there is another Elizabeth Johnson who is wanted by the police.  We’ll go back with her police clearance (required from home to obtain the work permit) and get her set up.

Today we got to greet Elder & Sister Wells again.  He is the assistant area auditor and is here again from Fiji to conduct training and do some audits.  They have visited 22 islands, so far,  and unfortunately have uncovered a few real problems with some church leaders misusing church funds.  Some were innocently using the money just trying to help people.  Some were stealing money for themselves, falsifying and altering receipts.  Dealing with those are the difficult part.  But the Wells are still cheerful, wonderful people and have become good friends.

Last Sunday Judy announced at the end of Sacrament meeting that we needed guitar and ukulele players to learn to accompany a song for the Moroni Ward at the upcoming music festival.  Each ward is to perform 3 songs – a hymn chosen by the stake, another hymn of the ward’s choice, and a “fun song.”  Last year, we helped them and came up with “Prayer of the Children,” which the Moroni students did great with.  This year Bishop Banimone asked Judy to help again.  We racked our brains for a song we could do with actions, but nothing we know relates to Kiribati people.  “Comin’ Round the Mountain” just didn't fit.  Finally, I told Judy we ought to modify the words of “Country Roads” to fit Kiribati and sing that.  We worked in the names of all the islands as the home to be taken to, and instead of country roads, we use “ocean waves”.  We had 6 young men and a New Zealand man here on a work project show up – 2 with ukuleles.  The others said they have guitars at home, but couldn't get them this fast.  We had a great time practicing and it will be wonderful.  We even worked Idaho in as one of the islands to be taken home to.

We keep seeing beautiful sunsets here in Kiribati and have a whole file of pictures just of those.  I think we'll close each blog with one of them.  This is at low tide, seen as we were driving home one night in Bikenibeu and the sun was just setting, setting the whole sky ablaze.

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