Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spiritual Moments---Adding Oil To Our Lamps

The spiritual moments on a mission together are incredible. In an earlier interview with President McMurray, he encouraged us to experience something spiritual each day.  And, it happens--again and again.  When we are on the Lord's errand he blesses us in every little thing.  Through the difficult times—yes, Satan does all he can to interfere-- it’s those spiritual moments that help us work  even harder to accumulate oil for our lamps drop by drop in Gospel living so we may represent the Savior in all we do.

On a Sunday evening at the Senior Couples monthly  missionary potluck and fireside, President and Sister Shumway--temple president-- and President and Sister McMurray--mission president--say farewell to Sister Kinikini at the close of her 4th mission.  She was on her way home to Utah.President and Sister Shumway, Sister Kinikini, President and Sister McMurray In a period of weeks, Tongatapu has experienced a major earthquake, a volcano erupting, the formation of a new island, and a hurricane. We acknowledge that the message was sent and received!  We're thankful that our Father in Heaven watches over us all here.   These blowholes are a few miles from Liahona just before the hurricane:015 Looking towards Liahona campus from the Navu chapel.  Conference meetings were postponed because of the hurricane warning.012Storm from heavy rains and high winds damaged crops in the bush--the plantations--especially the banana trees (see the bananas?) Uproot banana tree from Hurricane  Breadfruit trees were uprooted:Breadfruit trees uprooted035 The Church cattle on the plantation were fine.Church cattle ranch014 Our heart hurts to see the suffering of the people here , but they smile and go on.  This house is boarded up for the storm.050 047  However, our sad-looking palm tree in the front yard is already sprouting  new fronds.061It was clearly time to talk about emergency preparedness!   So this week as 17 of us gathered in our home for family home evening, Sister Heimuli demonstrated how to make a candle with cooking oil, cotton string and a metal nut from a bolt. She took apart a piece of string from an old necklace to use one strand and then cut it into pieces about 4-5 inches long. The string was then threaded through the metal nut so it protruded about ¼ inch above it. Next, she filled the shallow dish with a bit of oil, lit the string with a match --and voila! A beautiful flame. When she lights it as a candle by her mirror in the evenings, the light is multiplied in the room to create ambience. This dish will burn 3-4 hrs.  in the evenings  for about 2 months. 

Then I saw that Sister Heimuli had placed the dish on her scriptures and Preach My Gospel book to elevate it during the demonstration. And I wondered, “Am I ready and prepared to receive His light? Do I have enough oil in my lamp to be led from the mists of darkness and storms in life onto the narrow path of Gospel truths that will guide us to happiness? I thought how we must each light our own lamps with oil enough to be prepared for His coming.002 003

007 006 Michelle McMurray, 15 year old daughter of President McMurray leaves home for BYU Provo where she has a four year scholarship and isn't old enough to drive yet!  So, the McMurrays came to enjoy a family home evening in our home while she said goodbye to her missionary "grandparents."   009 With lots of laughter too!  Elder Sperry does haka, New Zealand's Maori war chant.   014 Michelle holds her niece while standing in front of their "noni" tree.Michelle and her niece in front of their noni treeOur 6:45 a.m.  walk on campus the day Elder Richard G. Scott arrived:017 The young elder and sister missionaries on the island of Tongatapu sing Tongan hymns as they wait the arrival of Elder Scott:019 We missionary couples love hearing them sing:021Elder Scott shook the hand of every young elder and sister missionary and the couple missionaries before he began his talk:028Tupulu, newly baptized member and second in command of the Tongan police force waits to shake the hand of Elder Scott.  (Elder Sperry guiding him forward is 6 ft. tall :)Newley baptized member and 2ndElder Scott related the following tale to the missionaries there:  Once upon a time there was a cat who didn’t have anything to do and was dying of hunger. “What’s wrong with you?” asked the well-fed cat.   “I’m dying of hunger. There’s a rat in the hole and it won’t come out,” said the skinny cat.  The well-fed cat said, “You are not hunting the right way. Let me show you.” He put himself to the side of the hole rather than in front of the hole so the rat couldn’t see the cat. “Woof, woof!” he said. The rat thought that the dog had chased the cat away and came out........That was the end of the rat!   Can you see the advantage of being bilingual? I would love to speak Tongan, but YOU OUGHT to perfect your English. Why? (To raise their standards of living, to gain an education, to listen to the prophets in English; we can never translate all the materials of the restored Church that are in English.)  He then asked, "How many of you will make a greater effort to learn English on your mission?  Be grateful to do that!"

Elder Scott emphasized that one can’t be inspired by the Holy Ghost if commandments are not obeyed so that the individual and families will be blessed. "It is much like opening a combination lock with 4 numbers. If you put in three numbers just right but not the fourth, the lock won’t open. We learn guidance from the Spirit through the Lord's way. "                                      

Afterwards, Elder Scott met with the Prime Minister of Tonga.  Elder Hawley and I drove Brother Fulou Kioa (interpreter for Elder Scott) to the airport where he prepared to fly to Vava'u with Elder Scott and the McMurrays.  Fulou is the high priest group leader in our Liahona student 2nd ward.  (Remember, he roasted the pig for the Principal's Conference.)037  What a kind loving servant of God Elder Scott is, and we are so thankful to learn from Him:Elder Scott graciously has his picture taken with usElder Scott invited this sweet  missionary returning home to Vava'u from a mission in Guatemala to have her picture taken with him and President and Sister Makemaili.  He visited with her and Sister McMurray in Spanish while they waited for the plane. 040Sunday has been a spiritual feast of teaching, serving and listening to Elder Scott.   We missionary couples helped Sister McMurray feed about 30 adults and children who had come from the remote islands of Ha’apai to spend a week going to the Nuku’alofa temple. Cinder block shelters are built behind the mission home where the people can stay when going to the temple—single bare concrete rooms with bathroom and shower. These people sacrifice much to bring their children with them to be sealed together in the temple, and they have so very little by way of worldly goods, including food. They take shifts going to the temple and caring for the little ones. This time on the 6 hour boat ride to Tongatapu, a 3 month old baby got sick and died at the hospital that first night. It was a heartbreaking situation.

Tonight they were invited to the McMurray’s backyard to eat and meet with Elder Richard G Scott just back from Vava’u. As they sang hymns we mingled among them serving lots of sandwiches, ice cream and cake. They don’t have ice cream on their island. Most don’t speak English but are so grateful and humble. With President Makemaile (McMurray) interpreting, Elder Scott paid special attention to the children and then pronounced a blessing upon them all before going to speak at a multi-stake young adult conference in Liahona. He is a wonderful story teller full of humor and wise counsel.  044043 This gracious apostle of the Lord radiates "a certain testimony that Christ lives, that He expresses his love so intensely that it is impossible to describe."  He bore witness, "I know He lives because I know Him."  Elder Hawley and I also testify as witnesses of our Savior Jesus Christ that he blesses us in every needful thing as we serve in the Kingdom of Tonga.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Old Tonga and the Tale of the Octopus Lure

On P-Day, the missionary couples and President McMurray's family  enjoyed a visit to Old Tonga where Stake President Fehoako and his wife Tina took us on a wonderful personal tour.   The idea for Old Tonga began when he was a taxi driver taking tourists to find a  fale--a thatched roof hut with sides made of woven coconut leaves or reeds--but he couldn't find one.  So he determined to build  Old Tonga as a project in family self-reliance and to preserve Tongan heritage and traditions of the island.   Old Tonga is in the village of Pupua.  In 1982 a hurricane devastated many areas of the island destroying homes. The king gave the land  to the people hit by the hurricane. It was not settled at the time. In fact, it was a rubbish dump in a swampy area and the land is the lowest point on the island.  President Fehoako was the first bishop of Pupua. There were 400 members in that ward who met under a tent each week.   Now they have a chapel and lives in the village are slowly improving.   President Fehoako believes that one day the area will be prosperous if members continue to be faithful. It is now the largest village in the Kingdom of Tonga with  3 wards and 3 bishops, and the people are happy and find joy in the Gospel. 

Elder Thompson and Elder Hawley enjoy walking through Old Tonga.  Note the fale in the background:077President Fehoako demonstrates the beating of the Tongan drum--a wooden club against a hollowed out log.  In many places of Tonga, the beating of the drum and church chimes are heard at 4:30 a.m. each day, summoning the people to church:073 A Tongan bed with a mosquito net awaits guests who are welcome to stay for the night:081 President Fehoako is well-known throughout the South Pacific as a fine sculptor and wood carver, and his wife Tina designs beautiful Tongan jewelry and art pieces:093 A talented sister weaves a fine mat for wearing. It takes about 2 months of work to make one such as this:108 A mat like this is worthy of a Princess:A mat like this is worthy of a princess Preparing the tapa cloth and painting it is no easy task:A sweet sister is making tapa cloth painting tapa cloth Preparing for the feast:Old Tonga Roast Pig for the missionary couples  Elder Hawley is invited to sit in the King's chair, a gift from the king who died in 2007: Elder Hawley sits in the King's chair at Old TongaDo you recall Elder Monson's Tongan tale of the octopus lure? (Ensign May 2006, True to the FaithTongan fishermen glide over a reef, paddling their outrigger canoes with one hand and dangling the maka-feke over the side with the other. An octopus dashes out from its rocky lair and seizes the lure, mistaking it for a much-desired meal. So tenacious is the grasp of the octopus and so firm is its instinct not to relinquish the precious prize that fishermen can flip it right into the canoe.  President Fehoako was the fisherman who took President Monson out in the boat that day.

It's an easy transition to point out  that Satan has fashioned so-called maka-fekes with which to ensnare unsuspecting persons and take possession of their destinies.  Today we are surrounded by the maka-fekes which the evil one dangles before us and with which he attempts to entice us and then to ensnare us.

There is a trick to the octopus lure.  Fisherman chew coconut and spit it out to make the water oily so the octopus can’t see them. A fisherman uses different stones if they are not attracted to the first. He can use a second lure and the entire group of octopus will leave the first lure and go after the second. 117In his hand, President Feheako holds a strange-appearing fishing lure fashioned from a round stone and large seashells. This is a maka-feke, an octopus lure. President Fehoako and the  tale of the Octopus lure.  He was the fisherman who took President Monson on a fishing trip for the octopus. We are attracted to the graceful beauty of the hands as members of the church dance for us:129 The young women pour large amounts coconut oil on their hands and arms so they will shine to reflect the beauty of the dance:122130President Fehoako and his wife Tina give farewell gifts to Elder and Sister Thompson as they prepare to depart from their mission. Elder Hawley gave me a lovely red coral necklace made by Tina:   137 The setting sun is a time to meditate on the beauty and goodness of Old Tonga, the islands and the people :From Old Tonga

159156 The sun sets on Old Tonga

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Bit of Nuku'alofa, Capitol of Tonga

Elder Hawley and I are on our way to Havelu Middle School near Nuku'alofa, the Capital of Tonga.  This is a common sight:002 We pass the the country estate of King George Tupou V where he lives when he's in Tonga.The king's country palace We stop at an ANZ (ATM) for some Pa'anga (Tongan dollars); the gas station attendant there keeps busy:Gas attendant at an ATM service station Typical cemetery near Havelu Middle School with colorful quilts to honor the deceased: 003  These two policemen had such charming smiles until I took their picture (near American store).  But, having your picture taken is serious business!003 Bananas anyone?  Unloading them at the market in downtown Nuku'alofa.001This is the Parliament Building where all the schools  join in a parade with the king in May to celebrate Parliament Day.Parliament BuildingWe continue our walk past the Treasury and the Post Office012The Nuku'alofa Post Office is behind this huge Monkeypod tree: Post office behind moneypod treeMonkey Pod tree in downtown Nuku'alofa before traffic (7 a.m.)We walk by the side of the Queen's summer home in downtown Nuku'alofaQueen's summer home in downtown Nuku'alofa Bougainvillea blooms throughout the islands:Bougenvillia blossoms Walking up a hill in downtown Nuku'alofa--yes, a real hill where an ancient battle took place.Walking up the hill, the highest point downtown. Walking down the hill in downtown Nuku'alofa.Walking down the hill Tongan Army Headquarters:Tongan Army Headquarters Nuku'alofa030 Palm tree seed pods:Palm tree seed pods Nuku'alofa's one radio station:034

035 Elder Sing's  fan is woven from one leaf of a coconut tree:Elder Sing's handy fan woven from coconut tree palm Sphagnum Moss hangs from the tree:sphagnum moss hanging from a tree The burial place of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV who died in 2007 King's burial site in downtown Nuku'alofa 047 The Free Church of Tonga in Nuku'alofa:049 Yes, there's a church on every corner!  054 Tongans love to have their pictures taken.  They wear black when they are in mourning.  Close relatives of the deceased wear very large funeral mats--some so large that they go up to their heads. Tongans love to have their pictures taken--looks like there has been a funeral. Piggy, piggies:  Piggy, piggies We're warmly welcomed to the LDS Pakilau Middle School by Luti (Lutimela Ahokovi) a new principal this year.  Luti:  A Pakilau WelcomeIt's report card day as students & parents at Pakilau smile greetings.  Pakilau Middle School kids live in the bush--the country.Pakilau Students and parents--report card day-- English OnlyTongan broom at Pakilau Middle School:  Students and teachers are responsible for cleaning their own classrooms.  All LDS church school kids wear green and white uniforms.Each teacher has a broom for her own classroom.  This office broom is at PakilauKids riding home after school (not one of our schools) wave their greetings .  Kids on the way home from a Tongan school wave as we take their picture.

There's an LDS chapel in every village, and there are lots of little villages on this island!One of many LDS chapels Lots of colorful cemeteries throughout the island!018 Double hibiscus flowers on a shrub near a clothesline next door:Flowering double ----- near a backyard clotheline next door010