Wednesday, April 16, 2014

September through October 31 was a bit of a blur, as we prepared to conclude our mission time in Kiribati.  One of the biggest issues we had was trying to complete the support work to help the saints on Abemama get to the temple.  Four families (15 people) wanted to go and filled out the application for funding from the Church temple fund to help them get there.  We had to find baptismal records, get some records transferred into the branch from years ago.  The record keeping is a problem, with some ordinances not being recorded or submitted.  We found success, with a lot of diligence and some inspiration. Unfortunately, some were not able to go because they couldn't find a birth certificate -- a necessity for a passport and visa.
Tongoi, the mission's 1st counselor, relaxing in from of our hotel in Abemama.
 We were the first visitors to stay at the new hotel, which had its own shower and toilet down the hall.

Our hotel room with a bed and table.  At night they will put a mosquito net over the bed.  Lights go out at 10 pm, though because the solar power can't be counted on after that.

The lounge was also the dining room.

Tongoi ready for breakfast.

It was the branch president's birthday and his wife made a cake for us all to share.

The sisters came with the cake after their husbands finished with their training meeting.

Judy, branch president Mwemweata and wife, 2nd counselor and wife, 1st counselor, Tongoi.  These couples and their kids and the clerk and his family were those getting ready to go to the temple.  To do so, they had to fly to Tarawa, wait for the plane that flew twice a week to Nadi, Fiji (3 hour flight), and then travel by bus across the island 4 hours to get to the temple at Suva.  They would stay a week in temple housing before reversing the trip.  It's a great sacrifice to go, but the blessings are worth it all.  These are a happy people!!!

This missionary flat was built by two elders.  The members helped by building beds off of the ground.

Small maneaba by the chapel and missionary flat, used by elders to study, but also was a Sunday School classroom.

Sunday School class in the Abemama branch.  Most of these children would be on the temple trip.  What beautiful children!

Missionary bikes that we used on Sunday to go to the hotel and back to the church.

It was hard to get bicycle seats into Tarawa.
 So sometimes the elders fixed the bikes the best they could.

Bucket shower and cement toilet for the elders and also the branch members on Sunday.

One motorcycle for three of us.  First trip will be Tongoi and Val.

Tongoi getting some sleep using his scriptures as a pillow.

This water tank had a hole in it and Val brought super glue and a piece of tire tube to fix it from the inside.  They had tried patching from the outside, but the pressure always blew off the patch.

Elder Trussell is trying to find the holes that need to be patched.

Receiving instruction from Val.

Job done!!  Then we set the tank back on its platform and hooked up the rain gutter to fill it at next rain.

These two young people were baptized by Elder Trussell in the ocean.  

They had to wade out quite far at low tide.

Enjoying time learning about music and the hymns before lunch. 

Branch President of the Abemama branch.  Within 3 months of becoming the president, he had doubled attendance at church by just taking his counselors and going to visit the less active people and invite them to come.

Most of the manuals are not translated into Kiribati, but they participate with the lessons and those who can speak English read the lesson material and translate.
2nd counselor and clerk.

Elders Faust and Trussel with thier investigator at church.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Before we left to come home,  we had several going-away parties.  The senior couples got together for a dinner at a restaurant attached to a hotel called "Mary's."

Marvin and Sister Robison were our replacements.  They celebrated their first anniversary together on their mission, both having lost their first spouses to death.  They came from Chubbuck, Idaho.  We had 3 months to train them in everything we did:  working with the government to obtain work permits (visas) for all the missionaries, secure and inspect missionary flats, obtain and distribute missionary supplies and bike parts, buy airline tickets for transfers, finances and work with local leaders.
 Elder and Sister Edwards were just finishing up 3 months in Kiribati, where they worked with the seminary teachers.  They were rotating among several missions doing the same thing, having been in Fiji already.
Richard and Gloria Rasmussen became very good friends.  They are from Ogden, where she had been an elementary principal and he had been air aviation electrician at Hill Air Force Base.   She was there with ITEP to help teachers become certified and to do trainings.  Elder Rasmussen helped us in fixing bikes and entering all the convert baptism records -- no small task.  Often he would have to contact the missionaries to get correct information, such as birth dates, spelling on names, which branch they were baptized in, etc.  They were very willing to help with anything we asked.
 Dewayne and Bonnie Youngberg, from Payette, Idaho, were the humanitarian couple.  They finished the airport restrooms (a 2-year project, it turned out) and developed the "Learning Garden," where they could teach the saints self-reliance through gardening.  The structure they built, as it turned out, matched a building above the ground that Bonnie had seen in a dream before they even came to Kiribati.  She realized it when she saw its completion, which followed a plan different than the old stake president wanted.  They also helped with PEF and career counseling for RMs.
The senior sisters were amazing in their effectiveness reaching out to less actives and inviting them to return to the church.  They trained ward and branch leaders, also.
Sister Talataina was from Samoa, where she had been over church translation.  Her husband had been the stake president, but died suddenly a year before she came.  Sister May Ucunibaravi was a retired school teacher from Fiji.  Her husband had died 24 years earlier, and she had raised all 6 of their children to be active in the church.  It turned out that each had also been a teacher and mentor for some of our young missionaries that happened to be in our mission.  There are no coincidences.

The saints in the branches we worked in had some going away parties for us, too.  The Service Center and Moroni ward put together a program and feast, complete with dancing and singing.
Sister Ataaki (Buota), Reba (aid from Bikinebeu),  2 teachers (from Eita wards), making garlands

 Betira, dorm mother at Moroni and a neighbor, shows some of the finished product head garlands.  Betira made garlands for almost every function we had at Moroni.  She was always smiling and a joy to be around.
Elder and Sister Edwards were also about to leave, and Raffi (Rafael) had come from the Marshall Islands to help out at the Service Center in their maintenance logistics.  He was originally from the Phillipines and was amazing in his productivity.

No party is complete without singing and dancing.  L to R Sis. Ataaki, Bebai, Taraia, Turian, Betira

Brown, who works at the airport, had been a counselor in the Temwaiku Branch, and was the MC for the program.  Several people were asked to speak about the influence we and the senior sisters had been there, which was a little humbling, but a great send off.

Saints at the Temwaiku cultural area for the party.  This was where we attended church the last 6 months of our mission.  We got very close to the saints there, visiting some in their homes, teaching some of the Sunday classes, and working with the leaders.

They gave me the mic to say a few words.

"Leaving Kiribati is harder than leaving home.  When we left home, we knew we would return and see our friends and family again.  We probably will never be able to return to Kiribati."

Below, Judy participated with the Temwaiku sisters in a sitting dance. The ocean is right in back of the chapel, for a beautiful setting.

 The second video is our senior sisters doing a little dance on the program.  They were a hit.

 Our last party was in the Buota Branch, where we had spent 4 months working with the saints and leaders.  Ukenio and Beebe are seated left, as Judy talks to the people and the RM who translated.
Buota had a nice spread for us, with eggs, fish, taro, bread fruit, pandanas, lobster, cake, etc.

Sister Tenoa, one of our missionaries who had completed her mission in Kiribati and was marrying Sam Itbeta from Buota.

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Sam and Sis. Tenoa, who will be married in December in the Fiji Temple, both returned missionaries and great young people.

In back, Ukenio and Elder Ataata (Vanuatu).  Front: Beebe, Judy, Val, Elder Ulutui (Samoa)

When Kamumuna was translating the comments of this dear Relief Society counselor, she took a little license, and interpreted:  "And when you get back to America, find a nice husband for me."

Young Women presidency in Buota from left, counselor, Kamumuna, counselor

One of the oldest members in Kiribati, and always smiling.  She joined the Church when in high school.