Monday, June 25, 2012

Farewell to Paradise

It is hard to believe that 18 months have come and gone so quickly.  What a great experience this has been to live on this beautiful island paradise of Kosrae.  Because of the Gospel, we have had the opportunity of a lifetime being among these wonderful, kind, and loving people here.
Elder Wright on his coconut hammock

We have learned so many things from the members here.  Patience being the top of the list.  They do things at their own timing and leisure with no hurrys or worrys.  They do not stress over little or big things, and everything will usually work out in the end.  You just need to be adaptable to this slower pace of living. 

Beautiful views from behind our house.

We both agree that we will definitely not miss the humidity and being wet much of the time.  Elder Wright will not miss having to carry a sweat wrag with him everywhere, wearing shirts with wet collars, bug bites, heat rashes, and always having sand in his shoes.  Sister Wright will not miss cleaning mold and algae from windows, mini blinds, and bathroom tile. Nor will she miss rust on fans and appliances, or rats crossing the roadways.

Our final sunrise

We will miss the beautiful sunrises we experience each and every day, living on beach front property with an awesome ocean view, tropical greenery along the roadways, and lush rainforests.  Mostly we will miss the association with the people we have grown to know and love who are some of Heavenly Father's choice children.  We will also miss the tremendous young Elders who serve here as missionaries teaching and preaching the gospel.

One of the many beautiful sunsets we have witnessed

We were honored with a going away party by the district.  It was an extraordinary evening with delicious local food including fish, bbq ribs and chicken, taro, bananas, rice and banana pie.   Of course there was singing and dancing and some words of farewell by us.  Our lives will never be the same.  Being together 24/7 has been a rewarding time for us.  This truly has been a Micronesian Adventure.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Temple Blessings in Manila

When you live on a small island in the Pacific Ocean where you are far from a temple, it takes lots of preparation and time to get a trip organized for families to attend the temple.  The closest temple to us is in Manila, Philippines.  It is more than 2,000 miles from here.  We are so grateful for the Temple Patron Fund of the Church that helps families and individuals who are attending the temple for the first time. 
The cost is very prohibitive for any of the members to ever be able to afford to go.  None of us realize how fortunate we are to live in a close proximity of a temple.  Especially those of us who only live about 5-10  minutes from the nearest temple.  It was last summer that we first started to plan for a trip to the temple.   We had the privilege of teaching a temple preparation class with members of the branch.  As we got further into our class one of our members did not have a birth certificate and it took us months to get one for him so that he could get a passport.  Unfortunately it took too long and he and his family will go on the next trip as the request to the Temple fund had to be submitted to the Asia North Area for approval for the financing before he had his certificate.  There have been many stumbling blocks along the way as we have tried to help the George family who would be our only family going on this temple trip.  The original plan was for the family to leave in March, but the first hurdle was finding out that the temple was closed for maintenance at the time they were to leave.  Fortunately the flight was sold out when they went to purchase tickets.  That was our first tender mercy.  Each time trickets were reserved we would contact the temple with the dates only to find out they were extending their closure time for maintenance repairs.  The temple actually ended up being closed for 3 months. Then the price of tickets increased significantly and it was above the approved budget.  By changing the date to a later time the price for tickets were reduce to something more reasonable, so tickets were reserved again, but when they went to purchase them it was discovered that Sister George's passport only had 5 months before renewal and the policy here in the FSM is that there must be 6 months or more left when you travel from to and from the FSM.  So the next morning off to the immigration she went to fill out renewal papers and send them off to the capitol on the Island of Pohnpei.  She was told that they would be back just one day before departure.  There was also a problem with the check that was being written to purchase the tickets and they had to have the Church finance center in Guam actually do the purchasing.  The next tender mercy occured when the passport was returned in just 6 days.  Tickets were purchased and we thought all was well but one day before they were to leave as we printed the itinerary for them it was discovered that they had the wrong return date.  It was actually 4 days later than we had scheduled. So with some quick emails to Manila asking for additional days at temple housing they were on their way.  This is another tender mercy as they get to spend extra days at the temple as this may be a once in a lifetime trip.
This is our wonderful George Family who are now in the Philippines attending the temple. President George is a Branch President here in Utwe.  They were able to take four of their children with them. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Closing Social on the Beach

Everyone likes a party, especially when it is held at the beach.  This year to end our seminary and institute program we held a closing social at our home, you know the one with the beach front property.  Some of the young men and our teacher Brother Nena built a firepit using coral rocks from the ocean and putting a wire screen on top.  We even collected wood from along the beach for the fire.  Many students came early to help with getting things ready. 
They made local woven trays to put the food on and then some enjoyed sitting around and talking.  We had delicious marinated chicken cooked to perfection, except for the few pieces that got some sand on them when the wind began to whip up.  Of course we had to have rice, which I cooked. and many brought local dishes such as taro, breadfruit, bananas (cooked 3 different ways) and naturally it wouldn't be a party without ice cream.

2 Seminary students -- Diovil and Selyn
We played some games on the beach with water balloons and had so much fun doing it.  After we ate, the wind kept getting stronger and stronger so we were unable to play the game with the new frisbees that we bought.  But it was great to be outdoors and eat before we had to come inside. 
We played a fun end of the year game of Jeopardy with questions from the Old Testament.  Following the game we watched the movie "Plates of Gold."  There were about 30 in attendance including both students and teachers.  What a great way to end a successful year for both seminary and institute.

Graduation and a Wedding

Seminary girls
We held our seminary and institute graduation on the last weekend in May.  We had some great youth who were getting credit for completing this years course of study.  We couldn't be prouder of them, as all those in seminary who completed the year, also memorized all of the 25 scripture mastery verses in the Old Testament.  No one graduated this year, but look out for next year as we will have some graduating from high school and also getting a diploma for completing four years of seminary.  Tulpe was our only institute student who received a Certificate of Advanced Achievement.  She completed eight credit hours after already graduating from institute two years ago.   With all the problems we had with transportation in getting everyone to class each time, we ended up with one student, Jason Linus, who got 100% attendance.

This is only a portion of our institute students as some of them did not want to get their picture taken. 

Our theme for this year comes from
Proverbs 3:5-6.  "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

 Teachers, leaders, students and some future students.

Many of our students participated in giving talks about their reflections of Old Testament stories that had meaning in their lives.  All of our students came to the graduation, but we did not have too many that came to support our students.  Would you believe that they scheduled a wedding for the same day and just two hours before our graduation program.  The great thing about it was that all the people were at the Church for the wedding and so that made our graduation start on time, although many left to go to the reception that was held at a home about a mile away.

This was our first wedding to attend since coming to Kosrae.  What a great event to witness. It was the wedding of our Branch President's daughter, Kenye, who married a young man, Jared Albert,  from the Branch. The bride was lovely and the ceremony was somewhat different from those we have attended at home.  They did not play any wedding music as such. The bride and groom sat in chairs at the front of the Chapel and were rather serious looking as President
George officiated at the ceremony. 
 After he gave a wedding talk they stood up for the saying of their vows.  Everyone was able to greet them afterwards before they left for the reception.  The Chapel was filled with many friends and family who came to support and wish the new couple well.   The graduation program kept us from attending the reception, but we heard it was fabulous. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Year End Activities

The school year is now officially over and that means we have come to an end with our institute and seminary classes.  Studying the Old Testament has been a rewarding experience and both the students and teachers have learned a multitude of things about the house of Israel.  Hopefully this will always be beneficial in the lives of our students as we tried to apply the teachings to their lives now. 

President George was our biggest winner here

We thought it would be fun to have one extra week in institute and do some activities with them.  Before we got started on the activities we showed a DVD presentation to each of the classes.  One class was able to view the last CES Fireside broadcast and the other one watched "Only a Stone Cutter" as they had already seen the broadcast earlier.   Our Utwe Branch had not played the M&M game so we brought plenty of M&Ms and straws.  They quite enjoyed doing this game.

We tried some of the "Minute to Win It" games also.  We did not actually do the entire group of activities, but chose 4 diffferent ones to do.   We did the one where you had to build a pyramid with plastic cups and return them to a single stack, they they had to blow up a ballon and try and blow off the cups from a table. We tried the activity where you have to keep three blown up balloons in the air for at least 1 minute. 

We got such a good laugh from everyone playing these games.  Our only problem was that the balloons available here were not very good and kept popping on us.  Our teacher, Sister Jonathan,  really got into these games and had fun doing each activity. 

The last minute activity was to put the latter-day prophets in the correct order.  I was impressed on how well they knew all of these. 

Next we played a dice and number card game.  We brought 2 or 3 different kinds of cookies for treats afterwards.  But we also had suckers for those winning in the other games.  Everyone likes suckers here from the youngest to the oldest you can see them enjoying their suckers.

It was two great nights of fun in our institute classes.  How we will miss doing this next year.

We also had a scripture mastery challenge between our Lelu seminary class and the zone leaders, Elders Madsen and Agalzoff.
The Elders ended up winning by one point.  They were the fastest in giving scripture references to clue words, but the class was tops in finding it in the scriptures and quoting the verse from memory.  We forgot our to take our camera that day.  So sad.  What a great way to end our S & I year.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Happenings on Kosrae

The last couple of weeks have been rather eventful here on Kosrae.  We had the baptism on Jan Kilafwakun.  He had been taught by Elders Madsen and Agalzoff.  His brother Elmer and his wife joined the Church about 16 months ago and it is wonderful to have some of the other members of that family come unto Christ and make some great changes in their lives. He is a very enthusiastic young man and will be a welcome addition to our Branch in Lelu. 
We had our Zone Conference on April 30th.  These are always a much anticipated occurrence.  The  Zone leaders are in charge of the meeting and they put in a good amount of effort in the planning, conducting, giving a presentation of their accountability, and teaching.  These conferences are held once each quarter.  Elder Madsen and Agalzoff are the zone leaders here now.  I am so impressed by the quality and the  ability that these two Elders have in carrying forth with this responsibility.  The lesson that they taught was about having charity in our lives and why we need it.  When we have this pure love of Christ and let it guide our actions then many great things will happen.  Our relationships with others will be enhanced and we will only want what is right and best for them.  You can't preach the gospel and be effective without charity.  We are always uplifted and inspired by having President and Sister Mecham teach us in these conferences.  Being 1500 miles from the mission home we only get to see them on a quarterly basis at these zone conferences.   President Mecham pointed out from the Book of Mormon, some of the qualities that Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah possessed that enabled them to preach and convert many people to the gospel of Christ.  This was the last zone conference for us and Elder Madsen. We were given the opportunity to bear our testimonies.  It was a little emotional for all of us.  So many great experiences to reflect upon for all of us.

On Sunday we were able to hold our first group meeting.  A small group can be started for members who live far from the Church. This was held in Tafunsak at one of the members homes which is 9 miles from the Church house.   President Mecham has been encouraging the different islands to look for opportunities to have a smaller group who are part of the regular branch.  In order to have a group there has to be a priest to conduct the meeting and a member of the branch presidency attends regularly.  All of this was approved through the Area Presidency for the Asia North Area.  This is the first time small groups have been held here on Kosrae.  Other islands have tried small groups and one of them grew so much in numbers that it was turned into a regular branch.  We are hoping that the same thing may happen here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Termites on the Rampage

We are all aware of the destructive forces in nature such as tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanos, etc.  But there is also a very tiny insect that can cause some serious damage.  Here in the islands there is the termite that destroys anything in its path that is made out of wood.  It does not take long for this little insect to bring about its nasty destructive efforts.  We have learned that there are termites that come up from the ground as well as termites that have wings and can fly.  There are many homes here with a flat cement room because the pitched roofs have all been destroyed by this insect. 

Our beautiful Chapel here in Lelu was built and dedicated just 4 years ago in 2008.  It is a lovely building, probably the nicest one here on the island.  One day as we were helping set up chairs in the Chapel we noticed that the wood used to decorate the front of the choir loft and the Sacrament table had some water stains on it.  Later we were informed that it was not water damage but the beginning of termite damage.  

A few months later we got a called from our facilities manager asking us to come and take some pictures at the church for him.  It turned out that during the night the cabinets in the library had fallen off the wall.  Now what could possibly have caused this---TERMITES!!   The cabinets were disintegrating from the inside out.  Some of the doors only had the laminate facing left on them and all the wood was gone. 

The termites had even started eating the books that were on the shelves.  The entire library was a loss except that the family history computer that was housed there was spared.  When the upper shelves fell they did not hit the computer and it was then rescued and removed to a safer spot.  They thought that the wood they used was supposed to be protected from termites, but not in this building.  Such a tragedy.