Bula Vinaka Oct 7, 2009
Well it's been about a month since we have updated you on our life here in Fiji. Things are going well. We have had the opportunity to travel to Vanuatu (Van u waa too) and Labasa (Lambasa) for Zone Conferences. Both were great experiences, we had the opportunity to get to know the missionaries in both areas and it was good to put names and faces together. We also had the opportunity to see the area and some of the people that live in these areas. Vanuatu is much more primitive but the missionaries have a special spirit about them. There are several sisters there that are natives from here in the islands. They are tough but have the sweetest spirits of any of the sisters we have met.
We went to Labasa last weekend. The furthest northern city on the Northern main island of Fiji. It was yet another culture shock. Mostly Indian people. It is the home of many sugar cane plantations and the sugar cane factory. Trucks of sugar cane line up for more than a mile to unload their trucks. As sugar cane is processed it has a terrible odor so we would have to say that Labasa is not the sweetest smelling town in Fiji in spite of the sugar. Labasa felt much different to us than Suva. We actually were glad to get back "home" to Suva!
We also had the opportunity to visit the Hospital in Labasa and then again in Savusavu which is on the southern coast of the Island. Another culture shock. However the shock of it all is subsiding. One of the elders has terrible sores breaking out on his arms and legs. I took him to the "ER" to get an antibiotic. It was quite the experience. I just hope we don't get sick while we are here.
Other than strange skin conditions all the missionaries seem to be doing well. No major illnesses. Elder Sidal recovered well from his traumatic experience getting his wisdom teeth out and Elder Robonakadavu's Head CT was negative for anything major and the doctor's blame "stress" for his headaches.
Our Zone Conference went well. The highlight of the weekend was on Saturday. We spent 13 hours in a 4WD truck traveling with Elder Nay and Elder Bennett (AP's) to the outermost parts of the mission. Most of the trip was on bumpy dirt roads. We were a bit scrambled by the end of the day but the trip was worth it. We drove to Savusavu which is the resort area of the upper island. Very beautiful with blue water and nice beaches. We had lunch there in a restaurant on the wharf then off to the remote villages. What an experience! We visited the missionaries flats and chapels in the outer area. It gave us great new respect for the missionaries and what they are experiencing. One of their flats was literally a wooden shack, no power and limited running cold water. The thing that was the most humbling was that their living conditions were better than most of the islanders living in the villages. The Branch President's family travels by bus every Saturday several miles from their village to the Chapel where they sleep on blankets on the floor so they can be there on Sunday. They were so happy to see us when we drove up. We met several members who were so loving and kind and so excited to see us.
We are official Fijian's now. We both have our Fijian Driver's Licenses. What an experience. DMV's are the same everywhere only the one here is in slow motion. It took a process of 5 hrs over 2 separate days to get our license!
We are getting used to the dark skin and when we see polongies (white people) we wonder where they came from because they are so out of place. We stand out and are recognized by everyone not only because of our skin color but because of the white shirts, ties and name tags. Everyone seems to know who we are.
Our Suva Zone Conference is this Friday. We can't believe it has been six weeks since our first ZC here in Suva. We are working on our presentation. I am doing a Power Point presentation about skin diseases with some pretty graphic pictures taken of various elders. Elder Seare has been working hard to get all the Mission Flats up to standard. The missionaries respect him and are happy to comply with his requests to keep a clean flat. He has had several companionships doing a pilot program to keep their flats clean and then see if it makes a difference with their spirituality and general attitude. They will "return and report" at each upcoming Zone Conference.
We are looking forward to the next three months. We are a week behind all of you for General Conference so we will be hearing/watching reruns at the chapels this weekend.
November 10th President Uchtdorf arrives for a visit. All of the Fiji missionaries will be brought here to hear him. It will be a fabulous experience that everyone is looking forward to with great anticipation. He will have dinner at the Mission Presidents home. One of the priviledges we have here is to help with such occasions so we will be helping to prepare and serve dinner to him. An honor an privilege for us.
A little over a month after that we will be celebrating Christmas. Once again all the missionaries will be brought here. It will be two very busy months preparing for these two events.
The work with the Ward is a little frustrating but we are doing the best we can with them. The commitment level for many of the church leaders here is nothing like the commitment level we have always known. It has been quite an eye opener for us.
We are constantly learning new things and having new experiences. It has already been life changing and we can't wait to see what awaits us over the next few months. We pray everyday that we can learn what we can do here to make a difference. The Lord has blessed us and we are becoming so much more comfortable and eager to continue our work here.