Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years in Emergency

We kept hearing how crazy it is in Pohnpei on New Year's Eve, but Elder Hedgpeth and I thought we would have a quiet evening, maybe hear some pans banging and even a few fireworks.
Instead we received a call about 7:30 pm that one of the Sister missionaries was on the way to the emergency room. When we arrived she was non-responsive and we realized that the fall down her stairs was much more serious than we originally thought.
The sisters and elders were definitely lead by the spirit as they gave her a blessing, started her breathing again and carried her out to their car and rushed her to the hospital.
We were very worried as she lay there for the longest time without being able to communicate or move her legs.
The missionaries stayed by her side, talking to her and even singing softly until she began to respond.
After over four hours she walked out of the Emergency room, looking just fine. Everyone knew there were some miracles that night.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Beautiful Pohnpei

This has turned out to be our favorite spot on the island so far.  There are rarely few views of the ocean because of the dense vegetation.  It is close to Kolonia and only a few minute drive from our apartment.  Tho photos don't do the view justice but gives you some idea of what it looks like here.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mand Branch

We like to visit a different church building each Sunday to get to know as many of the members as possible. This is Mand (pronounced Mont) and is in the most beautiful setting. They have their own baptismal font outside and just behind it is this small waterfall. As you can see a young man was cleaning up for the day.
My favorite part of being in this small, open building was when we were having Relief Society in the center of the building, I could hear the Primary children singing from the front and the young Women singing behind me in a different room.
In many church meetings there is no piano, so the person leading the music sings the first line of the song. It is amazing how well that works, but maybe because they all seem to have beautiful voices.

Palikir Baptism

We attended this Baptism after our Christmas Party at Wone. The older sister has an interesting story. A very poor family was walking quite far back and forth to church each Sunday. To do so they passed this woman's home. She began inviting them in to share dinner with her each Sunday even though she didn't know them at all. They began to share the gospel with her and she was taught by the missionaries. Now she is a member of the church and a great example to all of us.

Christmas party at Wone

This Christmas party was at the church structure for Wone Branch. We arrived 3 hours late due to some missionary responsibilities and we only missed a few minutes of the program. They were giving out gifts, but before the person could claim their gift they had to do a crazy dance. We brought candy for the kids so they performed a song just for us that they wrote. They are so cute. I took a picture of the little girl with fancy jewelry and her hair made so pretty. She stuck by my side all evening.
Then we were served a heaping plate of food. I'm holding up a fish, tail and all. The plates are hand woven with Banana leaves. They invited us to a Family Home Evening in a couple of weeks where they will teach me to make them.
This was a very competitive volley ball game. When I asked who had won, both sides claimed victory. They could easily compete very well in the States. When you leave you feel well loved.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Missionaries "Phone Home"

Christmas Day in Pohnpei and then Christmas Day in the States, we had all the missionaries in our
apartment making phone calls home to family. I made an old fashioned American breakfast for them, sausage gravy and homemade biscuits, sausage patties, eggs, cheese (in case they wanted biscuit sandwiches and our stand-by drink- Crystal Lite.
I thought my family could put away this breakfast, but they have nothing on these guys.
There were a few tears (mine included when we Skyped) and grateful missionaries to make that important connection with home.
Now back to work!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Gifts

Every Christmas Eve a counselor in the Bishopric in Panasang Ward invites all the missionaries to his home and gives out hand crafted gifts to each one. These gifts are normally sold in a gift shop and are expensive, so it is a very generous offering.
He is part of a group of people who once lived on a small island that was devastated by a storm. All the people on that island had to be evacuated. Pohnpei had a street of shacks that they gave to these people.
This structure of the party is just a gravel floor with a tin corrugated roof. They decorated it with palm fronds and a fabric banner made into small triangles. Plastic flowers were added to a small banana tree for a Christmas tree.
The missionaries presented their nativity program with Christmas songs. We even had sheep crawling on the gravel floor. Last Sunday we spoke in church. Mel told about our nativity every Christmas Eve and how the most coveted role is the sheep. The sister missionaries were there and loved to be those sheep and kept looking at Mel with a sparkle in their eyes.
The display is of some of the hand crafts that were given last night. We brought the extra home for the missionaries yet to come. Ours were the boat and the hand woven purse. The intricate boat was made by the elderly man in a wheel chair just to the left of the little girl. We were truly treated well.

Missionary Christmas Dinner

This is our Christmas Eve in Pohnpei. I cooked a Ham dinner for 26 missionaries. It was so rewarding to see them enjoy it, especially when a few came up to me and said, "This is what my Mom makes for Christmas dinner and it's my favorite.
After dinner they were practicing doing a nativity program. We had angels, shepherds, wise men, Mary, Joseph and of course a baby Jesus. The mission president sent each one a towel wrapped up with treats inside and tied with a red ribbon. They were very resourceful with those towels and ribbons as they became each character in the nativity. Even the baby was a wrapped up towel.
We are loving these missionaries as they try their best to spread the message of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pohnpei Lorikeet

We had to get Pohnpei driver's licenses.  There was a beautiful parrot on the license.  I have discovered that it is a Lorikeet, a small parrot.  They fly all over the island and seem to like the very large trees in front of our apartment.  It's difficult to get a good look at them but they fly in flocks and make a lot of racket.  They are only found on Pohnpei and a small number of them on the island of Chuuk.  They are not large like the parrots we are most familiar with and seem to be about the size of a pigeon or large dove.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Missionaries going home

This is an example to the send-off the missionaries get when they leave to go home. They receive so many leis and "crowns" that they can hardly move their head. The missionaries are excited and sad at the same time. They have grown to love the people and the beautiful island that they aren't sure they want to leave, but the thought of going home seems to make saying good-by possible.
Last week when the senior couple left who we are replacing, there were more than a hundred members at the airport to say good-bye.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Apartment Christmas

We have our Christmas stockings that Jill sent us hanging up hoping that Santa knows how to find Pohnpei.  The little tree in the corner adds to the spirit of Christmas.  We are speaking on the topic of the Spirit of Christmas which is really the Spirit of Christ this Sunday in the Panasang Ward.  There are lots of cheery lights around town but I don't think there is much chance of a white Christmas.  Merry Christmas to all who read this and we hope that your life is blessed with a knowledge of the Savior's birth and his grace that he so freely bestows on us.  After all the greatest gift that God has given us is the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kolonia businesses

Here are some pictures of typical Kolonia businesses.  The first is typical of street stores that all over the island.  Most are much smaller and sell the essentials.  Christmas shopping is in full swing and there are crowds on the streets and traffic a nightmare.  The second pictures is of a gas station.  The price of gas is usually $5 a gallon they require you to pay in cash or by check.  No pumping your own gas here.  The third picture is of the typical store in downtown Kolonia.  And we are fortunate to have the only movie theater in all of Micronesia.  You may not be able to see the movie selection but they are already playing the Hobbit and it's not out yet in America.  Pirating of films isn't an issue here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Eirike ward

This is the Eirike ward.  As you can see it is what is referred to as an open nas.  There has been a small building added on to the back where the bishop has an office.  Chairs are set up in the open area for sacrament meetings.  Sunday school is held in the tarped over area.  The children in primary usually meet outside if it isn't raining.  The bishop of this ward recently died and they awaiting the naming of a new bishop.  Even though this ward building is situated in the jungle it one of the closer ward buildings to Kolonia.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Church chapels

There is quite a wide variety of meeting places on Pohnpei.  There are eleven units from wards to branches to groups.  Some units like the photo above meet in what we could call a car port.  They are referred to as a nas.  Basically they are open structures similar to this one.  Chairs are put up and a makeshift pulpit is set up and the service is essentially outdoors.  The largest church on the island is the Sapwalop ward building in the bottom photo and also serves as the stake center.  It is a beautiful, modern building with air conditioning.  When attending church in the open nas you won't be surprised if dogs, cats, chickens or pigs wander into the meeting. But the spirit is strong among these humble people whether the meeting places are crude and rustic or beautiful and modern.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Island life

We were invited to a basketball game of one of our seminary students (Sadie).  It was to be held at an elementary school.  I thought it would be inside but as you can see it is an outdoor court.  Some of the kids had good tennis shoes while others wore flip flops or no shoes at all.  But they were good players and enjoyed the game.  The bottom picture is how some of the students arrived.  There must have twenty of them piled in the back of the truck.  Safety anyone?  They were hanging all over the top and sides of the truck when they pulled up.  The top photo is of a cute little hut on the edge of the mangrove swamps.  Mangroves surround the island.  There are very few places on the island where you can actually see the breakers from the ocean.  The island is also surrounded by coral reefs that protect it from storms and wave damage.  It would be nice to see the ocean more but the views of the bays are awesome.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas in the Jungle

We were going home from seminary and institute in the Eirike Ward and saw this home sitting right on the edge of the road and jungle.  It had the prettiest Christmas lights.  When my flash went off five or six small children almost immediately appeared on the road to greet us.  Everyone is so very friendly and inviting.  There are a few scattered lights on the stores in town so it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.  It's just a little odd for us in 85 degree steaming hot jungle.  But that's Pohnpei.  Merry Christmas to everyone back home.  We miss and love all of you!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mission Call

We had the privilege of taking a mission call to this young woman. The mail comes to our P.O. Box so this will be so fun. She is called to the Australia North Mission. A large percentage of the mission calls from Pohnpei are to Australia.
Her father is Bishop George. They are a great family, She is the first member of the family to go on a mission.

Family Home Evening

We were invited to a Family Home Evening at past Branch President Ongesel's home, We were well fed. Some of them had lived in America, so we had a mix of Pohnpeian food and American food. The potato salad tasted so good plus the Bar-B-Q chicken and the bananas they grow themselves.
There were three generations there and President Ongesel told us his story. His wife and children joined the church and he would drop them off at church, but then go on  his way. When the missionaries would come he would say Hi and then leave the room.
For a long time he was a BIG drinker and smoker. They would have parties in their humble home with all their friends who would drink into the night.
One day he was talking to the missionaries. He was at a point when he wanted to quit drinking so much and wished he could quit. They told him they had been praying for him and they knew if he had faith he would be able to quit. From that night on he quit and that showed him what God could do. His testimony never wavered after that.
He had a 10 foot long and 10 feet deep by 2 feet wide ditch. He walked all through his property and gathered all the beer cans and alcohol bottles and it completely filled that opening.
They are a wonderful family and example to many.

Seminary Christmas Party

This is our Seminary Christmas Party, The missionaries were our choir and the girl in blue sang 2 solos. She gave us goose bumps or tears, she has an amazing voice. Several missionaries arrived after this picture and 6 couldn't make it. This choir would rival any I have ever heard.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sapwalop Ward party

On Friday Dec. 5th 2014 we attended the Sapwalop Ward party (potluck) in honor of the Chandlers who are leaving next week and we are their replacements.  It was fairly typical of ward gatherings.  Typical "Pohnpei time" which is at least a half hour late.  There were over 50 small children and a dog that kept sneaking in.  It was so noisy that you could hardly have a conversation.  The food was great: fish, chicken, breadfruit, bananas presented several ways, rice dishes, noodles and cake.  We sang Christmas carols and several bore their testimonies.  I was asked to say a few words.  Pohnpeians always want to know how old you are and we were the oldest in the cultural hall.  There needs to be some benefit for being older as in the respect and honor they give you.  They treat us like royalty.  We were seated in front, given leis and ate first.  They also had brought us fresh coconuts with a straw to drink the sweet juice inside.  They like you to eat a lot and unless you fill your own plate it comes heaping high.  They give us spoons but the locals eat with their fingers.  I soon found myself eating with my fingers with some of the dishes like rice that is easy to ball up and eat.  The only problem I found with eating with the fingers is how to clean your hands.  No napkins were provided so you just have to lick your fingers clean.

The top photo is of the stake president (on the right), Pres. Lenspur Kalio.  The Panasang Pohnpei Stake was just created last year.  Pres. Kalio is a very humble man and has proven to be a great leader among is people and stake.  His is a bit famous in that there is a great you tube video of him and can be easily  found by googling "I'm a Mormon, a Pohnpeian and a spear fisherman".  Look it up for great views of our island and stake president and his family.

Missionary housing

As you can see from the picture above the missionaries live in very humble circumstances.  The refrigerator isn't dirty its just rusted but works fine.  All the missionaries seem happy even in these apartments and homes.  Most sleep on mattresses or cots on the floor.  They must be very careful about the water they drink.  Sometimes the water supply is shut off during certain times of the day so everyone in the village will have enough water.  For all you thinking about a mission you better learn how to cook.  No McDonalds or Burger King within a thousand miles of here.

In the second picture a pair of inventive missionaries cut down a small banana tree from the jungle behind their house and set it up as a Christmas tree.  They decorated it with native red flowers.  You might notice a small ginger bread house in the background next to the key board.  This elder has a family tradition of making a ginger bread house for Thanksgiving so his mother had sent him one to make.  All the missionaries, 24 of them, will be coming to our apartment in December to skype or facetime with their families.  Lenda will be making a ham dinner for them.  We are looking forward to that.

Beautiful Pohnpei

The pointy rock in the background is called the Witch's Hat.  On this day we were traveling around the island doing an apartment and car inspection for the missionaries.  This spot is the location of the Ice House where they produce bagged ice for the island.  The flowers and trees are very beautiful.  We have seen one particularly beautiful bird called a Cardinal Honeyeater.  It has a long curved bill and is red and black.  We are loving island life even if it is a bit hot and humid.  The locals say we'll get used to it.  Time will tell.

Seminary students

Here are some of the students we have at the seminary class at the high school (PICS).  They are so enthusiastic and love to learn.  Many are preparing for missions.  There are 34 missionaries serving from this small island.  Amazing!  Their faith in God and Jesus Christ is astounding.  They come from such humble circumstances but as you can see they are cheerful and positive.  I think they will teach us more than we can ever teach them.