Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Liahona Christmas—Gifts of the Season:

The Kingdom of Tonga sits directly on the International Dateline where the sun rises to welcome a new day before anywhere else in the world. These islands are where time begins! 

One year ago on December 20, 2008,  Elder Hawley and I arrived here to serve as ITEP senior couple missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and what a ride it has been!  Hard work and long hours, yes, but we are nourished with golden moments along the way.   Elder and Sister Hawley in Tongan dress

A Merry Christmas from the Kingdom of Tonga!                     [Blossoms shaped like red Christmas trees]049“Christmas” trees bloom brilliant red bouquets  in December   [Liahona campus]153

091Bougainvillea festively decorates the island:002 101Poinsettias in July---but hey, it’s winter then:July poinsettias

A Nuku’alofa White Christmas:                                                          As fingers touch, we walk under Liahona skies of blue.    028The clouds are edged with gold--006 As gold turns to pink and light fades to grey,                                           we gaze in wonder towards the Nuku’alofa temple.                           There is our star of Bethlehem, our Wayfinder                                    and conduit to our heavenly home.    

[Sunset from Liahona campus]016The softening dusk is fragrant with white plumeria  as we pause in thanks for His gift to all the world. 014We return from the temple under stars displayed in black velvet knowing our Savior is the light of the world who can penetrate all darkness and bring us  heavenly peace. 

We invite you to enjoy the gifts of the temple this season and have a “White Christmas” all year long:Nuku'alofa Temple

Long Walk Part of the Gift!

The story is told of a missionary in Africa who taught the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus.  He explained that the Wise Men had traveled hundreds of miles to see the Christ child.  The presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh were an expression of  joy for His birth.  One small African boy listened carefully and then left.  A few weeks later, on Christmas day, the boy brought to his teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty.  “Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?” the  teacher exclaimed. 

The young boy named a sea coast several miles away where such extraordinary shells could be found.  The teacher was  astonished.  “Why…it’s wonderful!  But you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me.”   

The boy’s eyes brightened, as he replied, “Oh teacher!  Long walk part of gift.” 

Long ago shepherds made haste to see the Christ child and the wise men traveled afar with precious gifts; we too must undertake a personal search for our Savior, Jesus Christ.  There is no better time than now to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.   “Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.” (D&C 64:34.)  

Pres. Eyring has stated, “You make choices every day and almost every hour that keep you walking in the light or moving away toward darkness.”  What a joy it is to walk the lighted pathway that leads to our Savior.                                      [from Liahona campus]023

Friday, November 27, 2009

All Things Bright and Beautiful Bring Gratitude--Pres. Uchtdorf’s Visit

What a joy it is for us to serve as senior couple missionaries in Tonga. When President Uchtdorf spoke to us here he said, “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the call! You are an extended arm of the quorum of the 12 apostles and the Lord will bless you to magnify your sacred calling. Always try to live up t0 this wonderful assignment.” The he added, “Read what your name tag says about you. Your name and then Jesus Christ are the most important things that go together.”

This Thanksgiving we share with you some golden moments we’ll tuck away to remember with gratitude. Each of us can take time to pause more often and express gratitude for the beauty around us. We each can unclutter our lives to enjoy the simple pleasures that cost so little.

Primary: A favorite song the Primary children sing begins this way: All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all. (Picture following Sunday Primary program: )112 Malakai Kioa, a recent returned missionary, teaches the Valiant Primary boys and they do sing valiantly!Malakai and Valiant BoysWe loved having Britt and Yvette visit us with an added bonus: school supplies from McKay’s Eagle Scout project for Havelu, Pakilau, and Eua middle schools. Malo aupito, McKay! 025Waving greetings and thanks to McKay CourtBlessings flowed with President and Sister Uchtdorf ‘s visit to Tonga : (Entrance to the airport)President and Sister Uchtdorf and daughter are welcomed at the airport:President Uchtdorf Visit 052 025 Pres & Sister Uchtdorf and daughter at airport Elder Hawley, Sione, Inoke and Elder Checketts await their arrival at Liahona:Elder H Sione Inoke Elder Checketts at Liahona (3) Liahona High School rolls out highly valued tapa cloth to welcome President and Sister Uchtdorf to the island: President Uchtdorf Visit 187 041Pres. and Sister Uchtdorf enjoy time with students and teachers during a walk-about on Liahona Campus. With great emotion he expressed his love for the people here, for their goodness, their smiles, their laughter and their beautiful voices: Lita the Librarian 081Pres. and Sister Uchtdorf at Liahona enjoy displaysPres. Uchtdorf at LiahonaGift of tapa cloth art within tree trunk:President Uchtdorf Visit 194 Tamaline, a lovely mother of 5 feels blessed to enjoy President Uchtdorf’s visit to the campus. She teaches at Liahona High.075There is a great spiritual feeling prevalent among the people of the island as they prepare for a servant of the Lord to arrive. They did all they could to please. A stunning island cultural celebration of song and dance was held at Liahona for President and Sister Uchtdorf:President Uchtdorf Visit 201 031This young boy slipped his lei over my head following the cultural dances. It’s a lovely tradition they have--to give away their leis:056President and Sister Makemaile (McMurray) enjoy the celebration: 018

BEAUTY of the BLOW HOLES: Nothing in the world can compare to the Blow Holes in Hoema, Tonga just a few miles from Liahona. Roaring ocean waves explode against the reef sometimes up to 90 feet into the air for miles along the shore. (We were thrilled to share the beauty of Tonga with Neil and Jeanene.)134 This young boy from the village of Hoema calls to the ocean to bring in the large waves (note the ledge before and after the wave in the 2 pictures):Tongan boys call in the big waves He dives into the waves:141 Secluded beach at the blowholes Pathway to a secluded beach near the blowholes:Pathway to secluded beach at blowholes From the cliffs at the Land Bridge we see a powerful ocean:Landbridge-Neil, Jeanene & Elder Checketts Huge “waves” burst onto the reef at sunset (Keleti’s beach): Keleti's Beach at sunset President and Sister Fehoko (Tina and Steven) are founders of Old Tonga. President Fehoko is a renowned wood carver in the South Pacific and Sister Fehok0 can weave or design anything, including those beautiful Tongan nativities:President and Sister Fehoka 046My Other Side of Heaven: 058Albert and Mary Pope welcome the senior missionaries for Thanksgiving to their home and beautiful beach (Laulea) near the village of Fatumu:002Our Thanksgiving at the Popes: Elder Hawley carves the turkey and Elder Sing makes the gravy. 007 Ahh…such exotic flowers Mary grows in their yard:052 014 024 3 water birds enjoy the waves! 034 Flowers from Mary’s yard:017

018038 032 042 044At a dinner fireside for senior missionaries, Pres. Makemaile greeted us with smiles and said, “Isn’t it great that after having a challenging week, the Lord sees fit to bless us with those special little moments in our lives?” The last minute date night at The Friends Cafe became even more fun when President and Sister McMurray and Danny unexpectedly joined us on the outdoor patio for lots of laughing and good company under a tree of red blossoms. Yes, we feel gratitude for those cozy moments that nourish us. 018

Senior missionaries become our family away from home:Senior Missionaries at FiresideThe beauty of Liahona Skies:Liahona Sky