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.

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