Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas in Vanuatu!

A super happy me because I got
pretzel M&Ms for Christmas!
I hope you all had an amazing Christmas!!!  The highlight of my week was definitely having the chance to talk with my family, even if it was only for a short time.  I love my family soooooo much!

Christmas Eve, Sista Tagini and I went over to the mission home to help make gingerbread with Sista Granger and her two daughters.  We've spent a lot of time cooking with them lately!  We just enjoyed the day together sharing what we do at home for Christmas and preparing for the next day.  That night, Sista Tagini and I went back home and had two sistas from our zone over to our house.  We cooked an authentic Papa New Guinea Christmas dinner:  stuffed chicken and spaghetti noodles in soy sauce with juice.  It was actually pretty good! 
Sista Tagini and me at the mission
 home with the mission pet (Elda Rex)
 Christmas day in Vanuatu was very different, but in a good way.  I woke up nice and early (because I can never sleep late on Christmas!) and had the chance to read the Christmas story again in Luke chapter 2.  One thing I have loved about spending Christmas outside of America, or any place for that matter where Christmas is a big deal, is that I have had a lot of time to study the life of Christ and focus on what CHRISTmas is all about.  After reading the story, I made my family's traditional Christmas Morning Casserole.  It must have smelled amazing, because it got Sista Tagini out of bed!  After a delicious breakfast, we went for a walk along the beach and collected sea shells.  Once we got home, we opened presents and then headed over to the mission home for games, secret Santa, acting out the nativity, eating and even a sing-off!  We took turns throughout the day skyping our familes.  

December 26th is Family Day here in Vanuatu and because of all the drunk men everywhere we weren't allowed to go to our area. So, a few of us missionaries decided to jump in the mission bus and drive around the island again.  This island never ceases to amaze me by how beautiful it is!  Now that we've had more rain, every thing is turning green and it's just stunning!  I just can't believe that I live in such a paradise!

This week we didn't get to teach heaps, but we did have the chance to teach Doris and her daughter again.  They are progressing really fast because they already come to church and love to read their scriptures and pray as a family.  She even said that her husband said he might be interested in taking the discussions as well- WAHOOOO!!  That was our Christmas present!  

Thank you to everyone who sent packages or letters for Christmas!  It made my first Christmas away from home a special and memorable one.  I love you all.  Have a great week!

Photo on right:  Carving our roasted Christmas pig!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Kresmas en Vanuatu

With my companion, Sister Tagini
Merry Christmas on Friday!!!  I cannot believe that Christmas is only 4 days away but could not be more excited to talk with my family on Christmas Day!  Wahoo!!  

The weather here is transitioning from dry season to wet season so it's either blazing hot or raining.  Either way it's 100% humidity and I feel like I'm taking a shower all the time because of the constant sweat running down my face. . . got to love it!

Our ward Christmas party was on Wednesday night.  VERY different from what I am used to!  We decorated the outside of the church and then once it was dark and everyone was there . . . it was supposed to start at 5:30 but because we're in Vanuatu and everyone runs by "black man time" as they call it, we finally started around 8 p.m. . . . we had a short program and then ate pig and taro and all the island kakae (food) you can think of.  We had a bunch of new sistas staying with us and Wednesday was their first night here, so they got to experience a real Vanuatu feast!  We had a lot of fun and so did Emily and Shem with their family, Pauline's family, Letap, and Solomon.  We were even able to meet a lady who had come with a  member friend named Doris.  She was interested in hearing the discussions.  We met with her on Friday and I already love her to death!  She is so sweet and has 5 pikinini and we teach them all together.  Sista Tagini and I love going into their home, and we can't wait to go back and teach them.
Sista Casuga and I at the Christmas party eating dinner

Thursday night we had the chance to help Sista Granger (the mission president's wife) and her daughters again with the arrivals dinner.  We had 21 new missionaries join the Vanuatu mission this transfer!  It is always fun to meet the newbies and give them advise because, now that I've been out for a while, I know pretty much everything.  Haha!  In that group of 21 missionaries was around 9 American Elders and 1 Sister called to serve in Vanuatu!!  Yeah!!

While we were teaching Claudine earlier this week, some pikinini ran by throwing around something.  I realized that it was a huge spider, and I jumped up on top of the log I was sitting on.  One pikinini got a big grin on his face and ran over to me with this huge spider (that was literally the size of my palm).  I screamed like crazy and Sista Tagini told the boy to knock it off and give her the spider.  He gave her the spider and then Sista Tagini brought it right up to my face!!  What a sweet, loving companion I have!  I don't think I've ever screamed so loud in my life.  It was disgusting!! By the time she finally took it away, all the pikinini were laughing and I was almost crying.  Oh man.  I didn't think I was scared of spiders, but I guess I am when they're HUGE!!
Pikinini with that huge, disgusting spider
Saturday, Rexon, Enet, Claudine and Letap were baptized.  We combined the meeting with the Zone Leaders and had a lot of investigators show up to see a baptism as well as a ton of members to support the new converts.  Letap was probably the sweetest one to watch as she came out of the water with a huge smile on her face.  She's been waiting for this day for a long time and it finally happened.  
Baptism of Enet, Rexon, Claudine, and Letap
Sunday night we had the chance to watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional broadcast.  What an amazing program.  I loved David A. Bednar's talk that helped me picture what it would be like to live during the time of the Savior's life.  The music was amazing as well.

Because it is the Christmas season, I have been reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to learn more about the Savior and his life.  If you haven't ever read these books in the Bible, or if it's been a while since you've read, do it!  It's been amazing to not only reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ, but also on his life, work, atonement and death, and then His resurrection.  It has made me appreciate even more how much my Savior has done for me and continues to do for me each and every day.  I love my Savior and am so thankful for the chance the whole world takes to think about Him this time of year.  I hope we continue to do it all year long.  I love you all!  Have a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Zone Conference

This week started out with family house night over at the Bishop's.  We shared a small scripture and then the Bishop bore his testimony and then we ate dinner.  Our Bishop is awesome and is so solid in the gospel.  I feel so blessed to serve with him because he has the power to help the people of Vanuatu establish a foundation for a church that is just starting out here.  The people I’m teaching here are all pioneers in their own land.

Because we had zone conference this week and our zone consists of the islands of Efate and Tanna, the Sistas from Tanna flew in on Tuesday and stayed with us until the end of the conference on Friday.  We had so much fun!  Sista Lape is from Papa New Guinea and Sista Norton is the only other sista from America in Vanuatu!  We didn't get a lot of sleep, but it was well worth it:)  

My mission zone which includes the islands of Efate and Tanna.
Zone conference was fantastic!  The first day was full of training given by the mission president, his wife, the zone leaders and the assistants.  We learned about communication, safety procedures, using Preach My Gospel and many other things.  We all ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant that looks over the ocean.  The eldas had a fun time competing with the mission president to see who could eat the most food.  These islanders can eat TONS!!  After lunch we went back to the church and played games in the field and planned what we are going to do on Christmas- this Christmas is going to be soooo different from what I'm used to. . . .  That was followed by interviews with the mission president.  The next morning Sista Tagini and I were in charge of a musical fireside and, I have to say, Russ Whitelock (a musical genius from my home ward in West Jordan, Utah) would have been proud!  We went through the life of Christ using hymns, piano solos, singing, scriptures and quotes.  It turned out great--thanks to everyone's participation.

This is how we cook our root vegetables here in Vanuatu!
On Friday three sisters from New Caledonia who have completed their 18-month full-time missions flew in and stayed with us until they left to go back to their homes today.  They were adorable and a lot of fun, but it was stressful to have so many in our small home.  We also had the chance to help Sista Granger and her daughters prepare the food for the departure dinner on Saturday night, which was a ton of work!  The Granger's two daughters are the best though, and we get along well.  We already have plans to take turns visiting each other in America and Australia after the mission!  The dinner was a BBQ out in the President's back yard, which looks out over the whole island.  After dinner all the Eldas and Sistas going home shared their favorite scripture and bore their testimonies.  It just reaffirmed to me that the choice to let a mission change you or not is just that- a choice.  You can go through your mission or your mission can go through you.

 Transfer calls were on Saturday night as well.  I will be staying here in Ohlen with Sista Tagini for another transfer.  I'm excited to stay in Ohlen because the investigators are awesome.  We taught Netty this week and she, along with Latup, are scheduled for baptism on Saturday.  Netty is a house cleaner and she has two pinikini who are just the cutest things ever.  Her husband is abusive, so she moved on top of the hill to get away from him.  She is really struggling with money issues now that she has to pay rent as well as feed and clothe her pikinini.  She has so much faith and trust that God has a plan, and I love her to death for her goodness!

Kissing the graduation party pig for good luck!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Four New Members of The Church in Vanuatu

When people die in Vanuatu they mourn by making a ton of food and spending time together as a family.  Here are some photos of one family mourning the loss of a grandfather and making lap lap and eating sip sip (lamb).

Another amazing week down!  This week started off with Sista Eron sick . . . again.  We spent Monday night taking care of her, but she just got worse as the night progressed.  She had a burning fever that wouldn't break, was throwing up almost every 20 minutes, couldn't eat or drink anything, couldn't stand without falling and eventually even started throwing up blood.  I have never felt so helpless in my life!!  The hospitals in Vanuatu are AWFUL and so we couldn't take her to an emergency room or even to a clinic.  All we could do was put a cold rag on her forehead and try to help her any little way we knew how. We called the eldas to give her a priesthood blessing.  Luckily on Tuesday the mission nurse was able to give her an IV drip and get 2L of water in her, and on Wednesday the two of them flew to Papa New Guinea to get the medical care she needs.  We found out that she has abdominal tuberculosis and because there is a small, small chance it was contagious, Sista Rivera, Tagini and I were tested.  We all came back negative, so that's good.  Please continue to keep Sista Eron in your prayers.  She has a long recovery ahead of her and will most likely not be returning to her mission.

Mama Sarah's baptism with Sisters Rivera, Draper & Tagini

We had the chance to teach Grim again this week.   I don't know if you remember, but he is the man that has a ton of questions, kind of like Joseph Smith. . . .well, that's what I thought at first.  As we have continued to teach him we have gotten the feeling that he isn't interested in learning, but more interested in proving us wrong.  This week as we taught him, it got to the point where it just felt like we were "Bible bashing" and the spirit had left.  I prayed to know what to do and immediately I felt like we needed to bear our testimonies.  The three of us: Sista Rivera, Tagini and I, bore our testimonies that we know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is God's church once again on the earth and that The Book of Mormon is true.  When we were finished, Grim didn't have anything to say.  It was amazing to see what the spirit can do and the power it has to convey something that can't be put into words.

Friday we FINALLY moved (I say finally because we have been waiting over two weeks to get into this house)!!  The Coral Motel was just too small and we need a bigger house for hosting new and finishing missionaries.  I love our new house and I love it even more now that we have our Christmas tree up with lights.  Sometimes at night Sista Rivera makes milo (hot cocoa) and we just sit in our living room listening to Christmas carols and staring at the tree:)
Elda Christensen, me, Emily, Noel, Shem, Sista Tagini, Sista Rivera
 Saturday was the best day ever!!  We had a baptism for 4 of our investigators:  Emily and Shem, Papa Pakoa and Mama Emily.  Papa Pakoa is missing a leg due to diabetes and has a solid, solid testimony.  He teaches us, we don't teach him.  Baptizing him was a little hard, but with the help of our amazing Eldas, it was done and Pakoa couldn't have been happier.  Mama Sarah bore an incredible testimony after her baptism about how reading the scriptures and being taught by the missionaries has brought into her home a feeling she never wants to leave. 
Bong and Papa Pakoa

 Emily and Shem were our first "family" baptism.  They have 5 pikinini and 3 are already members.  The youngest is only 6 years old and we are going to invite their oldest son and wife to hear the discussions.  Emily was in tears by the end of the program and just kept saying how much she loved us and how happy she was.  Ahhhhhh have I told you how much I love being a missionary???  It's the best!! 
 I know this Church is true!!  I know it.  I know it.  I know it!  I am so thankful for the two hours of study time I have every day to learn from the scriptures and other church materials.  If you aren't taking the time each and every day to talk with our Heavenly Father and learn from him- DO IT!!  God is aware of us and loves us sooo much!

Monday, November 30, 2015

The FIRST Stake Conference EVER in VANUATU!!

I love this little island and I’m loving it more and more every day.  I might just have you all move here when I finish my mission instead of me moving back to Utah! Everything about Vanuatu is beautiful!

On Wednesday of this week we had zone training.  Both the zone leaders and sista training leaders give training, so Sista Tagini and I taught about receiving personal revelation.  It went really well!   I shared the story of President Thomason speaking at a stake fireside for the youth.  He was asking questions from the pulpit and then calling out names of people to answer the questions.  I remember sitting in the congregation thinking that there was no way that President Thomason knew my name.  We had never talked and I was just one of many young women in the stake.  After the fireside I went home and forgot about the whole thing.  A few days later, I got a letter in the mail from President Thomason.  He told me that after he finished speaking at the fireside, he sat down and looked right at me.  He said in his letter that he was so glad that he knew me by name and wanted me to know how much he and Heavenly Father loved me.  What an amazing experience, huh??  I talked about how in-tune to the spirit my stake president was to be able to know how much I needed that letter and how, as missionaries, we need to be just as in-tune so that we can help our investigators become truly converted and the only way that is done is through the Holy Ghost. 

Friday, Sista Eron and Rivera came back from their zone conference in Santo.  They brought back everything they own, so that means they will be staying here for a while.  Sista Eron's health is getting worse and worse every day.  They think that it is cancer, but she goes in tomorrow to confirm it.  Please keep her in your prayers. 
My  Missionary District
 Saturday and Sunday was the first stake conference EVER in Vanuatu!  The whole chapel, all the rooms, and two huge tents outside were filled with people.  The mission president talked, along with his wife and the stake president.  Before the conference all the missionaries were given a pack of pass along cards.  During the mission president's talk, he encouraged all the members to take as many pass along cards as the missionaries gave them and give them to those who don't have the gospel in their lives.  We had 40 packs of pass along cards and we gave them all away!  Talk about getting the members involved! 

Saturday night, my district decided to drive around the island.  We loaded up in two trucks and made the 3 hour trip around the island.  Boy is it BEAUTIFUL!!  Here are just a few of the pictures that I took.  The sunset was also incredible that night!  It is sooooo hard not to just jump into the ocean.  Look at how blue and green that water is and how clear it is!  Temptation is real people!  The time with the district was super fun as well.

Papa Pakoa had his baptismal interview this week.  He is scheduled to be baptized on Saturday, along with Mama Sarah, Same and Emily.  One cool story that happened with Emily and Same this week:  We taught them the word of wisdom and when we got to the part about not drinking coffee, Same stopped us and explained that he drank strong coffee while he was on his ship at night to stay awake.  After we explained why coffee is bad and that the word of wisdom is a commandment from God, he agreed right then and there never to drink coffee again.  He they started listing off other unhealthy things he eats and was willing to give it all up if that's what Papa God wanted.  I was amazed.  He has some incredible faith and I have the blessing of knowing him!

Well, that's my week.  I love you all!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Elder Benry and Elder Ratu

Pikinini with a giant lizard (yes, I put it on my head and when
it started to crawl down my face I freaked out!)
This week has been one of the hardest in the mission so far, I just need to trust that God is in charge and has a plan for each and every one of us.

That's so weird to think that it's getting cold back at home in Utah and that you're using the heater!  All I want is air conditioning!  There is nothing better than good old AC:) We are moving into a new house tomorrow that is bigger so that we can host more sistas.  It has everything. .  . . . except for A.C.

Earlier in the week, Sista Tagini and I were able to do an exchange with the sistas in Malapoa.  They are in a trio so I stayed in Ohlen with Sista Beniata and Sista Oramnatang while Sista Tagini and Tesinga went to Malapoa.  We were able to get a lot of work done and, because all three of us are pretty new, improve our language skills.  These exchanges help me a ton because the other sistas expect me to lead, so I get to improve on that during exchanges.  I love those two sistas and was sad when the exchange ended.  Good thing we see them every week at district meeting:)
Sister Rivera (serving in Malapoa) and Sister Draper
On Wednesday, Sista Rivera and Eron flew in from Santo because Sista Eron has been having random fevers for the last three weeks.  They've been to the doctors in Santo and in Vila and can't find anything wrong.  It's scary to see her go from smiling and laughing to weak and shaking in just minutes.  It has us all very worried.  Sista Granger is thinking about sending her to another country for a third opinion.  We'll see what happens. For now they are staying with us and we are doing our best to help her in any way that we can.

On Friday, we got a call from the sistas in Santo saying that Elda Benry had been killed.  We could not believe what we were hearing.  Later that night, Elda Iund called me and explained to me what had happened and asked us to pray and fast for:  the eldas involved in the accident, Elda Benry's family and the Mission President and his wife.  Apparently five eldas were driving to the airport to send one to come to Vila for a transfer when they decided to switch from the designated driver to another elda who isn't very experienced at driving.  The roads in Santo are not even and when they hit a pot hole, the driver over corrected and flipped the truck.  Elda Benry was killed instantly.  Elda Ratu, the elda from New Zealand that came with me to Vila, was ejected from the car and is in critical condition.  He has been flown back to Auckland, New Zealand for medical care and recovery.  The other three eldas were not hurt.  Our mission has been mourning and praying and fasting for everyone involved in the accident.  At the time, the Mission President was in Tanna (The home of Elda Benry).  He was able to fly to Santo that day and then Tanna the next day to be with Elda Benry's family during a small funeral.  Please keep these people in your prayers. (See the next blog post to read the letter from the mission president.)

The day following the accident, Sista Rivera and I had the chance to teach the Plan of Salvation.  Maybe it's because I've never had anyone close to me die before, but as I taught the lesson, I KNEW that what I was teaching was true.  By the end of the lesson our investigator, Sista Rivera, and I were all crying.   Elda Benry will see his family again!  This life is not the end, and because of that knowledge, we can continue our lives with a greater desire to live so we are worthy to live again with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  Elder Richard G. Scott was an amazing example of that as he did everything he could while he was in this world so that he could be with his beloved wife and two children who have already passed on.  

I love you all.  Thanks for the prayers and letters and emails.  Have a happy Thanksgiving!  
Crab for dinner!

Message from President and Sister Granger

This is what the Mission president sent everyone this week.   Elder Benry has been out for less than a year and is fairly new to the church.  Everyone that knew him said that he was the happiest, most loving person in the world and if anyone had to go, it would be him because he was ready.

My Dear Elders and Sisters,
We have some very sad news to share with you today and we are heartbroken to have to write this email to you all.
Last Friday, November 20th, on the Island of Santo, Vanuatu, Elders Dakunimata, Ratu, Benry, Daniel and Ned were involved in a vehicle accident.

Elder Katum Benry from the village of Saetsiwi on Tanna, Vanuatu was killed instantly. 
Elder Ratu sustained injuries.
Elders Dakunimata, Daniel and Ned suffered shock and minor bruising.

Sister Granger and I were on Tanna when Elder Dakunimata rang us with the news. We could not believe what we were hearing. We didn’t want it to be true. We immediately arranged for a charter flight to take us to Santo straight away to be with our Missionaries.

When we arrived at the hospital in Luganville there were lots of hugs and tears as we met with the Elders and let them know we loved them and were there for them and would help them. The other missionaries from the Zone were there as well as some members from the Church and relatives of Elder Benry.

Elder Ratu was a priority as we met with the doctor to determine the extent of his injuries and what needed to be done next to help him.
The hospital in Santo does not have the equipment necessary to give doctors a proper diagnosis of his injuries. The Missionary Department worked very hard to make all the plans necessary so that Elder Ratu could be taken by Air Ambulance from Santo to a hospital in Auckland so that he could get the best treatment and care possible. 
Elder Ratu was able to talk to us and tell us that he was coping okay. We arranged for him to speak to his parents. Elder Iauko and Elder Oten stood watch over Elder Ratu in the hospital all through the night in case he needed anything and he was airlifted out on Sunday evening.
We are hopeful that the injuries Elder Ratu has are not serious and that he will recover quickly without any lasting damage.

Elders Dakunimata, Daniel and Ned did not want to believe what had happened. They were overcome with grief and loss. We talked with them and reassured them and comforted them as best we could but they are taking it very hard.

As Sister Granger and I contacted Priesthood leaders and families and the Brethren at Area Office to make all the arrangements needed to help these Elders and also to take Elder Benry home to his village on Tanna we came to know that the Lord was with us and blessed us with many miracles to make the way easier as we tried to take care of everything. The right people were sent into our path and challenges were smoothed so we could accomplish our tasks.

A plane was chartered to carry Elder Benry home and Sister Granger and I were privileged to travel along with the coffin to Tanna where family and other missionaries were waiting to load the coffin onto a transport and begin the long drive up the mountain to Saetsiwi for the funeral and burial.

The District President of Tanna, President Morgan, had talked with the Village chief and offered on behalf of the Church to assist Elder Benry’s family with anything that they needed during this time. There had been some misunderstandings before but the Lord softened hearts and the spirit helped us to say the right words. We were able to organize to provide a bullock and a pig and other food as offerings of respect so the family could make a traditional feast.

The Chief also gave his permission for us to conduct a small funeral service for Elder Benry. It was a simple but meaningful service. 
After the service the chief thanked us for our help in returning Elder Benry to his family and for the gifts from the church.

Elders and Sisters, this is a hard thing for us all to bear. Many of you knew Elder Benry personally and remember his bright confidence and cheeky smile. He loved his Mission and loved being with his fellow missionaries. He was loved dearly by his family.

As we delivered his body to the waiting arms of his parents and family many of his aunties gathered around the coffin weeping and saying over and over – ‘He gave his life in the service of Jesus’.How true that is.

Elder Benry made the sacrifice to come on a Mission and share the Gospel with others because he had a love for the Savior and a testimony that was growing stronger every day. He was a young man who had a purpose in life and had committed himself to the service of the Lord.
How grateful we are for his time with us all and the memories we will have of him.

Elder Benry’s work as a missionary extends beyond this life because as a result of these events the Lord has sent the spirit at this difficult time to soften the heart of Elder Benry’s village chief and others and pave the way for the work of the Gospel to move forward in that part of Tanna. 

We may all be spread across three different countries and many different islands but may we be unified in our desire to follow the example of Elder Benry and be mighty missionaries with mighty testimonies as we continue to serve and teach the elect people of the islands of the Vanuatu Port Vila Mission. 

May the Lord comfort and bless us all as we come to terms with the loss of this great young missionary who always had a smile on his face and a sparkle in his eye as he served.

I invite you all to offer a prayer for the family of Elder Benry that they may be comforted in their loss; for Elder Ratu that he will recover quickly, and also for the other three Elders involved in the accident so that they may have peace and comfort as they struggle with the experience.

We love you and pray for you every day
President and Sister Granger.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mama Rachel was baptized!

Sister Tagini, Mama Rachel, Sister Draper, and Elder Iund
This week started off with an exchange with the sisters in Etas and Freshwota.  There is a major drought in Vanuatu right now and there is no water in Etas so the sisters are staying in Freshwota.  I went to Freshwota with Sista Lianos (from Micronesia) and Sista Monu (from Tonga).  We had so much fun in the area doing service together.  Sista Lianos even taught us how to bake a cake on the stove.  It so neat to learn things from people who grew up so differently than I did.  Teaching styles, life styles, everything is so different!  I can't wait for more exchanges to come.  We go to Malapoa this week and next week we'll fly to Tanna and stay there for 4 days of exchanges. . . that means I get to see the VOLCANO!!!  And I get to meet Sista Norton, the only other American sista in Vanuatu!  Ahhhhh!!!  I'm a little excited:)
Simone and Allison are doing well and come to church every week and Simone goes to Young Women.  The other day I helped her with Personal Progress.  Because the church is so new here, no one really understands what it is.  It was good to help her because I know what a blessing it was and is in my life.  

Sista Tagini's leg is doing better.  President Granger gave us money so that we could ride the bus to and from our area and that has seemed to help a little.  She still complains that her leg is going numb, but the pain is gone.  I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but we talk to the nurse again today to see what she thinks.  We also celebrated Sista Tagini's birthday this week (even though it was a month ago).  We bought her a cake and sang happy birthday.  She loved it!
Elder Willoughby, Sister Tagini and her birthday cake and Elder Aka
We continued teaching Papa Pakoa this week.  He is around 65 years old and has lost a leg due to diabetes (or "sugar" as they call it here).  We teach him what we've prepared and he contributes the most amazing and spiritual comments!  He's reminds me of Steve Christaens from my home ward in West Jordan.  His trials have made him an incredible person with an eternal perspective.  He KNOWS that God lives and is aware of him and because he KNOWS that he trusts God 100% with everything in his life.  I love teaching him and feeling the spirit he brings to the lesson.  

On Thursday night our stake had the opportunity to hear from the area presidency as well as the Young Men's general president and the second counselor in the Sunday School presidency.  They focused on getting young men ready to serve missions and how it all starts in the home.  They also encouraged every member, who is of age and worthy, to get a temple recommend.  The closest temple to Vanuatu is Fiji and it is currently closed, but they promised blessings to those who hold a temple recommend and live worthy of holding it.  I learned a lot and it was nice to have other white people in the room!

Mama Rachel was baptized on Saturday!!  Oh man, I love that lady!  She is so sassy and so funny and just loves the church.  She was super nervous about her baptism but was completely calm when it finally took place.  She is solid.  She bore her testimony after her baptism and even though it was short, it was powerful.  I love my job!

Yesterday I had the chance to speak in church about missionary work.  Great opportunity, right?  Yeah!  If I was only fluent in Bislama!  But I tried to do my best and I can say the gift of tongues is real!  Heavenly Father helped me give a talk in Bislama and helped the people understand my message, even if it was only just a little bit of what I said.  Every day I am amazed at how aware Heavenly Father is of us individually.  He helps us and carries us through so many hard things.  What a blessing!  I love you all!  God is real!  He loves yumi everiwan!! 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Fire, Snakes and an Earthquake!

Hope you all had a fantastic week wherever you are in the world.  I sure had one here in Vanuatu!  
This week we went over to visit with the Relief Society president in our ward, when we finished storying with her, we asked if she had any friends or family we could teach.  She gave us the name of two sisters and then took us to visit them in their homes!  We talked with one mama (Latup) and she said she was very interested and would love to story with us. We taught her for the first time on Sunday and she said that everything we teach in our church is crystal clear.  She says it just makes sense.  We explained to her that the spirit helps us understand things and brings light and truth to our understanding.  It was so neat to see her drinking in everything we (and the spirit) had to say.  Afterwards, we went to the other sisters home (Mama Emily) and she said that she would take the discussions and her husband would as well.  When we finished teaching them the first lesson on Thursday, Emily's husband, Samie, asked when he could be baptized!!  It was awesome!!  The Lord is providing and preparing so many people for us to teach.  His work is moving forward and I have the huge blessing of being part of it!!

On Wednesday night our Zone Leaders, Elda Aka and Elda Willaby, came by to drop off some letters at our flat.  They told us that a store was on fire just down the street.  So all four of us went down to check it out.  A huge Chinese store was on fire!  It was super sad because these people live above their stores, so not only was this family's way of financial income destroyed, but their home was as well.   In Vanuatu they have dinky little fire trucks that do absolutely nothing. Fires are devastating.

On our way back to our flat, after looking at the fire, we walked by a members home where everyone was freaking out.  We asked what was happening and they said that a snake had come out of the bush because of the heat of the fire and had slithered into their yard.  Elda Aka went right on over with a stick and smashed the snake dead.  When he pulled the snake out of the bush, I realized why the family had been freaking out.  Snakes here aren't like snakes in Utah.  This snake was close to five feet long and as thick as my arm!!  Elda Aka was a hero!!
The next day we went with Mama Lidianna to go "fishing" for service.  By now you would think I know not to expect things to be the same here as in America, but really, how different can fishing get???  VERY DIFFERENT!  We went into the bush and walked for about a mile through grass taller than me (the whole time I was freaking out that a giant snake was going to eat me)  and into a swamp.  We proceeded to wade into waste high soft mud, and with a mosquito net, scoop fish out of the soft mud.  It was gross and I am never, ever doing it again.  But we did fill up a 25 kg. bag full of fish to sell at the market. 
Friday we had a nice little earthquake during one of our lessons.  No one was hurt, but hey! I survived my first natural disaster in Vanuatu!
Sister Draper, Mama Lidianna and Sister Tagini
Saturday we went to the doctor because Sista Tagini's leg has been going numb when we walk up hills and hurts all day.  The doctor can't find anything wrong and so he told her to limit her walking to a minimum. . . kinda impossible as a missionary in Vanuatu!  So we go in to talk to the mission president later today to find out what he is going to do with her.  I'll let you know what happens.  Maybe we'll get a truck!

I love you all!!  Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers.  They help me get through every day.  Keep doing the basics:  reading the scriptures and praying- every day, every day, every day!  "Through small and simple means are great things brought to pass."

Monday, November 2, 2015

Transfers and Baptisms

My Jack-o-lantern from Vanuatu!
This week has been nice gogo!!!  We have stayed really busy and have worked a lot of hours in the hot, hot sun, but it feels so good!
On Tuesday we met with a new investigator named Grim.  He is a papa of two pikinini and is married to a beautiful young lady and plays in a string band.  We went to story with him and he sat down with his Bible and started questioning everything we taught him and asked for backup from the Bible.  He has read the Bible and is just like Joseph Smith.  He sees all the different churches, but doesn't know which one to choose.  We didn't have all the answers to his questions, but we promised to find answers and learn together next time we came.  That night Sista Tagini and I got to work!  We used "True to the Faith," "Bible Dictionary," "Preach My Gospel" and all other resources we had and we learned a ton!!  It was awesome.  Scott told me one time that you can find answers to any question you have if you look in the scriptures.  We found answers to all of Grim's questions and much, much more.  I am so excited to teach him tomorrow and show him what we found.  He loves learning and has such a strong desire to follow Christ's example.  The church is true!!  Proof is EVERYWHERE!

Beautiful sunset!
On Wednesday I got to go on an exchange with Sista Tune.  She finishes her mission this Wednesday so it was good to learn from her and see a different style of teaching the gospel principles.  She is over the Mapaloa area so I got to meet new people and stay in a new house for the night.  We had a lot of fun! She even made me pancakes for dinner:)
Elder Jefferies, Sister Draper, Allision, Simone, and Sister Tagini
Saturday, Allision and Simone were baptized!!  The baptism was supposed to start at 10 a.m. but Allision and Simone didn't show up until 10:45!  Luckily, we are on island time here in Vanuatu, so all was fine and the baptism still happened-- just an hour late:)  Elda Jefferies performed the baptism and did a fantastic job.  After the service, we ate lunch with Sista Tune and Sista Torea who go home this week.  It was sad to say goodbye, but they have done amazing things here and have done a lot of good.  A mission isn't a waste of time!

Transfers were on Saturday and I didn't know they would be so intense haha!  Elda Iloa told us he would call around 8 p.m. to tell us what would happen . . . but 8 came . . . and then 9 came. . and then 10 came. . . and finally at 11 (when I was sure I was going to die) he finally called!  Sista Tagini and I will be staying together in Ohlen, BUT we have been called to serve as the Sister Training Leaders over the islands of Efate and Tanna.  I feel pretty overwhelmed.  I haven't finished training yet and now I'm supposed to go around teaching others during exchanges and teach at zone training and conferences. . . I have a lot of praying to do and will be relying more heavily on the Lord to say the least. 

Thanks for all your prayers, thoughts, and letters.  I love you all so much and thank God for you every day.  Have a fantastic week!
Happy Halloween from Vanuatu!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dry Season

Dry season hit Vanuatu hard this week.  It went from nice, paradisiacal weather to unbearable heat.  Oh what I would give to sit in an air conditioned room for just a minute or two!  I literally take four showers a day:  One with water in the morning after we exercise, a sweat shower during the day while we're out teaching, another with water at night so I can sleep and not smell myself, and then another sweat shower while I sleep.  I prefer the showers with water and not the ones of pure sweat!  Ugh!  Sunscreen is pointless because I sweat it off, so I just have to learn to love the heat and the sunburns!  The good thing about the dry season is that no one wants to leave their houses, so we get to teach a lot of people.  It's great!

On Monday Sista Tagini and I went to the mission office to pick up my mail and there, sitting in the office was Sista Auelua!  We were so excited!! She flew in from Santo to get her debit card and got to spend the day with us.  It made my day!  I love that girl:)  We spent family house night at Mama Ellen's with her family.  We shared a scripture and bore our testimonies and then ate kumala (a type of sweet potato), taro, chicken and rice.  It was super neat to have family home evening in another country.  Just goes to show the church is the same no matter where you are!  Well . . . sort of!
My mission district.
We sent home one of our assistants to the president at our district meeting on Wednesday, Elda Bynon.  I had the "experience" of giving the training and then he bore his testimony and we all sang "God be with you till we meet again".  It was like watching The Other Side of Heaven when Elder Groberg goes home--super cool!

The Ninja!
Our service this week took us “to the bush.”  It was my first time going to the bush and it made me sooooo thankful that my first area is in Vila and not out in the islands yet.  The bush, as you can see from the pictures, is just that- a bush.  It almost made me feel claustrophobic because there was so much foliage everywhere I looked!  We spent time weeding a kumala garden and then helped pick beans.  We got to use MACHETES to do the weeding and I felt like a NINJA!

Sunday would have to be the most exciting sacrament meeting I have ever been to.  Everyone had just sat down and the bishop was giving announcements when all of a sudden we heard a loud "CRACK" and the building started filling up with smoke!!  Immediately, everyone jumped up and started running for the door.  Once we got outside, we realized someone driving by had thrown a torch at the church, but it had landed in the field and not hit the church.  The smoke had just come in through the windows.  What a blessing no one was hurt!  Once the fire was out church went on as normal.

We are working with 7 investigators right now who have baptismal dates:  Simone and Allison are cousins and are scheduled for this Saturday. They are 11 and 13 and love coming to church and bring all their friends with them when they come.  Agnes and Steven are a couple and he leaves to go work on a cruise ship for the next 8 months at the end of November.  Their goal is to be worthy to be married and baptized before he goes.  It's going to take a lot of work because they both love kava, but with faith and prayers and God's help I know they can do it!  Mama Rachel is around 70 years old and just wants to be with her husband again.  She loves the Plan of Salvation.  She works during the week but we get to see her every Saturday and she is making and keeping commitments every week.  Pauline has pushed back her wedding until November but we are still visiting with her regularly and helping her learn more about the gospel.  We found two new investigators this week too!  One we met while I was running in the morning.  The man asked what the name tags were and so we talked with him.  He doesn’t live in our area, but goes to show, God works in mysterious ways, even when we're out exercising.  The other is a member of a string band and asked us to story with him and so we'll story on Tuesday!

I love you all.  Thanks for the thoughts and prayers.  God is real and he is aware of each one of his children.  He wants us to be happy and succeed!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Lap-lap and Rain

Beautiful children!
What a week!!  I can't believe it's already Monday again!  I'm still in a trio with Sista Monu and Sista Tagini.  We don't know how long we'll be in a trio, but I'm just betting on the end of the transfer in two weeks.  It's a lot of fun having three very. . . unique girls in a one room flat, and it can be challenging sometimes.  One thing that I am struggling with right now is the language.  Because Sista Monu doesn't speak Bislama I am acting as a translator pretty much all the time.  My language progression has really suffered.  I just need to remember I have a year and a half to get it down, so two weeks of slow progression isn't going to kill me in the long run.  

On Wednesday, I went to my first zone training.  We have about 25 missionaries in our zone.  I got to bear my testimony in Bislama with all the other new missionaries and listen to the testimonies of all the missionaries going home at the end of the transfer- super neat.  We did some training out of "Preach My Gospel" and the scriptures.  Lots to improve on!
Grating manyo to make lap lap.
Thursday I helped Mama Lidiana make lap-lap!!!  Luckily it had to cook for a good 4-5 hours so I didn't have to eat any, but making it was quite the experience.  First we sat down and grated a TON of manyo. Then we cracked open 10 coconuts with machetes and poured the water out and took out the hearts and then grated out of the coconut, milked the grated coconut, spread out the manyo on banana leaves, poured the coconut milk on top, sprinkled some salt, tied up the banana leaves and put in in the fire.  It made me realize how long it takes the mamas here to make every meal!  
Spreading out the filling on banana leaves to make lap lap.
Friday, we were under house arrest again- boooooo!  We were teaching our first lesson of the day when the Zone Leaders called to tell us to go back to our area.  I HATE staying inside all day long when we could be doing so much with the people.  Hopefully things clear up soon and it doesn't happen again.

Our first baptisms were on Saturday!  Luke and Naomi.  We showed up early to help set things up and Luke and Naomi didn't show up. .  . . and they didn't show up. . . finally 2 MINUTES before the baptism started, they showed up.  We rushed to get them dressed and ran into the chapel.  When I sat down, I realized the Bishop had put me down to play the piano, so I had to play two songs I barely knew and then I got to give a talk, completely in Bislama, on the Holy Ghost.  Oh man it was a stressful 30 minutes! This was a really unique baptism because the parents of Luke and Naomi aren't members, but have been taking the discussions with their pikini (children).  They need to get married before they can be baptized, but need to save up the money to make that happen.  This is taking a while so they asked us to baptize their pikini so that they can have the blessings of being members of the church until they have the money to get married and join the church themselves. The baptism service itself was performed by Elda Christiansen and he said it in English.  It was really neat and the spirit was so strong.  I am so thankful that we have the opportunity to be completely clean and renew our baptismal covenants every Sunday when we take the sacrament.  What a blessing!
Sister Manu, baby and mother, Luke, Sister Tagini, Naomi and Sister Draper
It rained a lot this week, which is good because there's a big drought right now, but bad because that means our area is a big mud pit.  We come home covered in mud.  I'm so thankful for the hot showers I can take every night!  We need them:)
I had a super neat experience the other day.  I was really struggling and went out on our balcony to pray and read the scriptures.  I came upon the scripture where it says that the Lord will never forget us because we are graven upon the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16).  I looked down at my hands and it hit me that we literally are!  In Christ's resurrected body are nail prints from his crucifixion.  Think of all the times we use our hands every day!  The nail prints in His hands are a constant reminder of what He did for us and His love for us.  I think that is what grace means, that God knows exactly what we're going through and thinks about us constantly.  Just a thought, but it has helped me a ton.  

I love you all!  Thanks for all your prayers of support, they mean the world to me.
Cow skin and intestines.  They use it all here!