Thursday, April 26, 2012

Day two - Sweet Fijian Sabbath

Sunday morning we woke up to birds chirping and the sound of rain.  Just as I was ready to start fixing my hair the power went out.  Boy, was I happy that I had just gotten my hair cut short.  The afternoon before we were leaving for Fiji I whipped up several headbands that were put to good use as soon as the power went out. 

This is my parent's home.  They live on the bottom floor.  Their home is owned by the city of Ba's mayor, a very kind Fijian-Indian family.  As you can see their home is much nicer than the majority of the people they interact with.  Just having a vehicle is the exception in Fiji but my what a blessing this truck has been to them (and the ward of Ba).  Ever since January when the flood ruined their chapel my parents have been hosting Bishopric meetings, Institute classes, and religious discussions.
This is their front room and dining room.  The home was partially furnished when they moved in.  It's more extravagant then they need but after spending a couple of days visiting the locals I can see how nice it would be come home to a place of your own.  (Note:  All these pictures in their home were taken with a wide angle lens so the rooms aren't really as big as they look.)
Kitchen -- mice have been a real problem so they are very careful to keep everything in containers (which are a real treasure to find).  The process of preparing food is much more labor-intensive then we are used to -- washing fruits and vegetables in bleach water and then filter water.  Due to the extreme heat (and no air conditioning) fresh food does not last long.
The famous Rampton/Sherry flowers that have made their way around the world.  We brought an abbreviated version due to space availability. 
 My parents room -- this is the only room they have air conditioning in -- so you can see why they spend most of their time at home in here.
This was Birch and my room (also the ward clerk office -- since the office at the church building was flooded).  They had found a real comfy mattress.

Then it was off to church.  For the last several months the Ba ward has been meeting in a Catholic church hall.  Within minutes of arriving we were swarming with children all so excited to meet Elder and Sister Sherry's daughter and husband.  Birch was quite at home in his sulu (skirt) and even bought one to bring back home.

These boys were just the sweetest.  They were all wanting to hold our hands and fighting over who would get to sit next to us during sacrament meeting.  Everyone knows my mom gives the best hand massages so all the little kids try to sit next to her each Sunday.  I think they were hoping that this gift ran in the family.
 Birch had the opportunity to help prepare the sacrament.  We all kind of laughed about two things in this situation - 1) an eight year old boy is also helping;  2) we are getting water out of a non-filtered drinking source used for washing feet.  The local Fijians are used to drinking the non-filter water but my parents try very hard to only drink the filtered water.  This has become increasingly important since the flood because the water has really become contaminated with all sorts of goodies.

This is the meeting hall that the ward is currently meeting in.  Each Sunday my parents load up the truck with the hymn books, microphone, tithing box, etc...and haul it to the building. Then my parents and whomever arrives first hurries and sets up all the chairs and sacrament table.  It was an especially small Sunday the week we were there due to the stake chartered bus arriving early.  Since no one had power they were all down in the river bathing and as a result many missed the bus when it arrived.  Throughout the three hour church meetings families slowing added to the group as they walked the miles to the church building in their flip-flops or bare feet.  Birch and I were asked to sing and share our testimonies in church.  Normally this would have thrown me into a tizzy not having any preparation time but I truly felt so loved by each ward member that fear subsided substantially.  Birch and I sang "I Need Thee Every Hour" and I shared the scripture in Isaiah 49: 15-16 "Can a awoman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not bforget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me."  As I was sharing these words I felt a testimony of how the Lord loves all his children wherever they live.
Before church started Birch and I were surrounded by these sweet people wanting to kiss our cheeks and tell us how much they love my parents.  My mom has this little 4X6 photobook that she keeps in her Sunday bag and all the kids ran to get the little album and have us over and over and over again point to each of our children and tell them their names and ages.  They were totally enamored with all my siblings and their families as well.  I was amazed how many of the Fijian children knew the names of all the grandkids and little facts about each one.  They LOVED seeing my brother's little girl Lizzie who is African-American and all asked if she was Fijian!  It was SO sweet!!
Only one teacher arrived at church this Sunday to teach primary.  The Primary President had a baby recently and so most of these kids were left without a teacher.  My parents and Birch and I jumped in and took over primary for the day.
 The primary kids didn't have a room to meet in the week we were there so we all just sat on picnic tables that were outside.
 Poppi (Elder Sherry) was so entertaining with the kids.  He had them all singing and doing funny little games to keep them all occupied.
We started running out of ideas of what to do with the kids so my parents whipped out their laptop and showed the kids some of the animated scripture stories.
Birch taught all the kids how to sing "I hope they call me on a mission."  It was amazing how quickly the kids all caught on and joined in loudly.

 Epi Mateiwai is such a cute kid!!! 
 By the end of primary we were really running low on ideas so we started playing Simon Says and doing photoshoots of all the kids.

 Okay, I'm in love with this kid -- Simi.  I can't help but look at this picture and smile.  From the first moment Simi laid eyes on me he was smitten -- truly he was by my side from the second church started.  He sat REAL close to me and sang SO LOUD all the while he was looking into my eyes flashing me a huge smile. 
The Lords loves all his children
My sister Laura bought these silicone bracelets for all the children in the ward that said, "I am a child of God."  They were all so excited to pick out which color they wanted. 
 These girls were so happy and helpful!  They sang out loud and really were such a delight.

 Grace and Lily -- beautiful

Johnny is such a sweet kid.  His English is really amazing.  Johnny just moved to Ba from Suva where he had been attending LDS Primary School.   
Okay, this kid is a favorite of ours...why because of his name.  His parent's named him James E. Faust.  How can you not love a kid with that name?   
When the three hours of church finished this big old bus came to pick up all the ward members.  The stake hired this bus to pick up the members after the flood in January and has continued to provide weekly transportation.  The city buses do not run on Sundays which is a real burden since most everyone relies on the city buses to take them everywhere (when not walking).  After the stake hired the bus the ward attendance has increased dramatically.
 After church we stopped by the Mateiwai family's home to visit with Ben (who hadn't come to church because he was sick).  Ben and our son Alex have been pen pals and have even talked on skype once.  Alex really wanted us to take something special to give to Ben.  He gave him a really cool CTR ring to help him remember to "Choose the Right."
 After church we went home and had lunch together.  Then we packed up the truck and started to drive around to many of the ward member's homes that did not make it to church.  This family is really having a struggle financially right now but when you see the kids you just see the light of Christ.  Most families do all their cooking outside over fire.  We thought it was so fun seeing these kids all on their own cooking up "pancakes" (like fried scones) for their dinner that night -- not one adult was around.
 The Ratu family was pleased to see us especially when we brought treats and bracelets for all the little kids.  When we first arrived at the Ratu's home I planned on giving the kids each a whole candy stick.  I decided last minute to break them in half which turned out to be such a blessing because out of no where more and more kids would trickle in as word got out that the Sherry's were their to visit and had treats. 
 About this time the rains came again and it started to pour hard!  We would drive to one village and park the truck at the bottom of the dirt "road" and then start walking up to visit each family.  Frogs were jumping everywhere and the mud was thick.  At each home we were greeted with cheek kisses and a warm welcome.  For many families we had something special from America that we had brought to either make their lives a bit easier or tastier.  We delivered several magnification eye glasses to those that could no longer read their scriptures easily.  It felt so wonderful to provide such a small service.
 A common site while driving any where in Fiji -- a cow tied with a rope on the edge of the road.

 Next it was to the Nairoqo family's home.  This family is very close with my parents and they enjoy their time together.  Their home was filled with many extra children as they come for the weekend to all hang out together and watch movies on their tv (a rare treat).  They welcomed us again with such warmth and invited us to sit on their mat.  The girls served us all hot Milo (like Hot Cocoa) and Roti for an evening treat.

 One of the things that we brought with us were two lawnmower wheels.  These puppies were heavy but we could tell they were going to provide hours of fun to the Nairoqo family.  We never saw any toys at anyone's home but the kids are very inventive with things they find.  The kids attached a long stick to the wheel and then pushed it around pretending they are driving a car. 
 They were not too successful at finding a good nail so instead Birch taught them the game of "rolling the wheel over the homemade ramp and jumping the dirt road."  They all had a great time!

Around 6 pm darkness begins to settle in but our night was just beginning.  We spent the rest of the night bouncing around on SUPER BUMPY dirt "roads" (again I use this word loosely) visiting with several other members of the ward that were in need. 

Our first stop was to a Fijian-Indian family that had really been hit hard by the flood.  The father is not a member of the church and has not been real supportive of his wife's desire to attend church.  Our mission that night was to deliver 50 pounds of food to their family.  After the flood the Bishop went on a major shopping spree and purchased lots of food for those families that were in need.  This family lives far out and had not yet received the food help that they so desperately needed.  We were again met with open arms and had a wonderful little visit with this family and their extended family. 

Next stop was to visit with a thirteen year old girl that had been interested in learning about the church.  She has been living with her grandmother and shortly after the flood had stepped on something that had now turned into a severely infected big toe.  Birch was able to use some of his wound care knowledge and "treat" her wound.  Unfortunately all we had was some triple antibiotic ointment, bandaids, q-tips, filtered water, and advil.  As we entered this humble dirt floored home that was only lit with one small gas lamp we were greeted with such thankfulness that we were there to come help.  I held a flashlight pointed to the girl's toe while Birch tried to examine it.  Birch cleaned her toe as best he could and made a crud bandage using several bandaids to wrap around her swollen infected toe.  He advised her that she needed to cover her foot with a plastic bag while walking (since the bacteria is so prominent everywhere after the flood and everyone is walking barefoot).  After being able to do a small amount of care we closed our visit with a priesthood blessing.  After the blessing my dad asked if we could sing a song together before we left.  The girl chose for us all to sing "I need thee every hour."   This brave girl was in such pain but knew that at this time only Christ could help her.  I looked over in the darkness and could see her grandmother crying.  I hope I never forget this time together with this family!

After bidding this family farewell and encouraging her to go see a doctor the next morning we drove to another woman's home who also had a foot injury.  This woman was surrounded by her husband, children, and several extended family members.  She had stepped on an earring back and again the bottom of her foot was swollen huge.  She had put on a knee brace because the infection was going up her leg and her knee was bothering her too.  She had gone to see the doctor but had only been given some pain medicine (that didn't seem to be working) but no antibiotics.  Birch and my dad were again able to give her a priesthood blessing and encourage her to return to the doctor tomorrow and get an antibiotic.  The children all surrounded me before leaving and gave me big hugs.

We again packed so much into one day; to me it was the epitome of missionary work and loving as Christ loves.  Seeing my mom bake several loaves of banana bread to deliver to the families throughout the evening brought back such sweet memories of growing up and seeing my mother give to so many.  The young Elder Missionaries were with us most of the evening as well and it was really special to see first hand what a missionary does.  We were able to be God's hands...and it felt so good.


Amanda Stevens said...

Sara it has been so fun and enlightening to read your posts. Particularly about home organization and your parents mission. I wouldn't have known but you generously made your thoughts, family and blog available through Facebook. It is somewhat uncanny how our lives, though a state apart, have paralleled . My parents just returned from a mission in Nauvoo. My fifth child was just baptized and I gave a RS lesson last week on home organization. I look forward to reading more about your parents mission and I hope you have a wonderful week. I need more families like yours to live near me...I am the largest in my ward...and the youngest with teenagers!

Matt said...

What a wonderful post giving so much detail of what you did and what the people were like. I felt/feel so much love for them...thank you!