Monday, September 28, 2015

Poverty in the midst of paradise

This week has been quite the experience!!  After the long, long, loooonnnngg plane ride from Utah to San Francisco, California, then to Auckland, New Zealand and finally to Port Vila, Vanuatu we met the mission president and his wife (Paul and Gayle Granger from Adelaide, Australia).  They took us to lunch with the APs where we ate french fries and chicken- not what I expected for my first meal in Vanuatu!!  Then we went on a tour of the island and met a few of the people and then ate dinner at the mission home with the 2 other new missionaries, APs and mission president, his wife and daughter. 

Sister Tagini from the Solomon Islands
Then they sent me off to my flat where I met my companion, Sister Tagini.  She is from the Solomon Islands and is the only active member in her family.  She speaks a lot of broken English but it is enough to get by.  We live in a motel that is right off the ocean!  Every morning I open up the window to a view of the ocean and palm trees:) We also have "hot" showers and a fridge- wahoo! The only problem with our hotel are the geckos, they bark all night long and keep me up, but we keep them around because they eat the centipedes and the spiders. That first night I slept very well! 
The next day we went to our area and taught and that's what we do everyday here on the mission 

Here are a few things that I have observed here on the island:
Language-  The people here speak Bislama and only a few words in English.  I have gotten to the point where I can understand what people say, it's just the speaking that is coming slowly.  The language is made up of English, French, Spanish and any other language these people decide to throw in haha!  

Food (Kakai)-  The lap-lap is disgusting.  Period.  End of subject.  I have tried to eat it two times now and every time I do, I have to turn away so that they don't see me gagging.  It doesn't have a taste but it feels like I'm eating rubber and bubble wrap at the same time.  The problem is, everyone eats it here and they all love to feed the missionaries, so I need to learn to like it fast!  For breakfast everyday we eat breakfast crackers and mio (hot chocolate)  and then for dinner we eat rice and cabbage- yummy to my tummy. . .  
The People-  I LOVE the people!  Whenever I have a hard morning or get down, the people make me happy again.  These people literally have nothing when it comes to worldly things.  They live in shacks made of scraps of wood and metal and run around with no shoes on and holy clothes with flies landing on them and yet they are the happiest people I have ever met.  They love me right back because I'm white, so obviously I look just like Sister Tate and they loved her:)  The kids (pikinins) are my favorite.  They love to sit on my lap, hold my hands, play with my soft hair and just look at the "white man"!  
Church-  Church is the same all around the world and it was pretty much the same here except the people sing without a piano and sing super duper slow.  After Sacrament Meeting I made the mistake of telling the Bishop I play the piano. . . so now I'm the ward pianist and will be teaching a weekly piano lessons to anyone who wants to learn on Thursday nights.  I'm sure Mom and Dad are reading this and wanting to say, "I told you so!"  oh boy. . . wish me luck!
Party Time!

My favorite day this week was Saturday because Sister Tigini and I got to go to a birthday celebration for 4 children.  These families had all pitched in to the buy a cake and rent speakers for a little party.  We got to blast "One Direction" as we ate lap-lap, rice and fish and danced.  Ahhhh I just wish you could all see how happy these people are with so little!!  The birthday kids didn't get any presents but were as happy as could be with a piece of cake and friends and family around them.  I hope I can be just like them eventually!  

I know that God is aware of me and helping me every step of my journey here in Vanuatu.  It hasn't been easy at all adjusting, but he gives me little bits of happiness that make it all worth it.  This church is true and it brings LASTING happiness and TRUE joy.  I'm so blessed to get to share it with others. I love you all!

Sista Draper

Thursday, September 24, 2015

First Day in Vanuatu

Two new Elders, Elder Jeffries, Sister Draper, Sister Gayle Granger
and President Paul Granger from Adelaide, Australia.
Hey Mom and Dad, it’s Sarah just letting you know that I made it to Vanuatu.  I am assigned to serve in Port Vila for the first transfer and am in the same place Sister Tate was her first transfer (so that means I have clean water and hot showers-yeah).  It’s beautiful here but extremely poor.  My P-day is on Monday so I will email then and let you know how things are going.  I love you!!

We didn’t place a Book of Mormon on the flight over here, but I did give away a pass along card, so that’s something!  The plane from San Francisco to Auckland was 13 hours long and my ankles swelled sooooo much!!  But it was a super nice plane, now I just have to get used to the time change.  Flying into Vila was a shock.  You can see the island from a distance but it isn’t until you land that you see how third world it is.  The people flying in our plane coming for a vacation thought they were in the wrong place!  These people literally have nothing, but yet they are super happy.  They call it the happiest place on earth and it is, I just have a lot of adjusting to do.

I am in my area now, It’s called Port Vila 1.  My companion is Sister Tagini and she is from the Salomon Islands so she speaks a little English but not a lot and when she speaks Bislama she speaks super fast, so it’s hard, I need lots of prayers but I can do it.  It’s easy to understand but hard to speak.

The mission home and offices are in my area. The office staff  are super nice and welcomed me with fries and chicken.  Elder Jefferies (from my MTC district) is in my same area, but he seems like he is in shock. . . I don’t think this is what he expected at all, but then again, you can’t really prepare yourself for this!!

I have to go now, but I love you Mom! And I’ll email you on Monday.  Enjoy the General Women’s meeting!

From Sister Stevens

Vanuatu from my airplane window.
From Sister Stevens, a senior missionary serving in the Vanuatu mission office:

Dear Sister Draper,

Yes your daughter arrived here safely!! – Finally!!  We felt so bad that the MTC driver didn’t pick up their packets with their visa paper in it and they had to go all the way back to the MTC for a couple of days.  I gave her a big hug. I have to say they looked pretty bleary eyed. I told her if they had to go back to the MTC it was too bad it wasn’t on a Wednesday where they have the ice cream and chocolate and marshmallow sauce! We have another sister from Kiribati coming in today – Sister Oreamatang. Her original flight from Fiji was cancelled.

One of the AP’s – Elder Crowell from Washington – was definitely being the “brother” type and showing her pictures of icky food to eat and not so nice places to live.  I wanted to smack him. Honestly! – the girls on this island live in nice places with full kitchens and washing machines. (We have a swimming pool where we live but it hasn’t been repaired yet since the cyclone last March.) The mission president and a whole bunch of other elders took the new arrivals all out to lunch at a nice restaurant.

My husband and I were “transferred” here from Melbourne. We had been there for a month and 3 days when we got the call saying they were desperate for an office couple here – just had a couple of elders doing everything – and they/we have to do all the visas here. Anyway, it took another couple of months to get our visa so we got 3 months in Oz (Australia) so we’ve only been here in Vanuatu since August 5th.

The Mission President here in Vanuatu is also new – just since July. I will talk to him about letting the missionaries email home. I just think he hadn’t thought about it yet.  In Melbourne we always let the new missionaries email home the second they hit the office.

With love,

Sister Stevens
Vanuatu Port Vila Mission
O: 678-23146
M: 678-550-1272

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Last Day in the MTC

Hey everyone!!  I would love to say that I am writing this email from the lovely islands of Vanuatu. . . but unfortunately I can't.  On Sunday,  Elder Jefferies and I went to the airport to fly to Vanuatu but when we got to the front desk to get our tickets, the lady said our passports hadn't been stamped with our visa.  Because it was Sunday, no one was at the travel office to help us so we were taken back to the MTC and told we might be here for another 2 or 3 weeks, depending on how long it took to get our passports processed.  I was devastated!  The MTC is great and all, but I was so ready to get out and teach!  

The next morning, Elder Jefferies and I went to the travel office right when they opened and talked to the main lady about what had happened.  She said that the driver had forgotten to give us our papers that were in the office all along and that we had our visas and would be leaving on Tuesday (today)!!  Huge relief!!! I fly out tonight at 5 p.m.  We fly to San Francisco; then to Auckland, New Zealand; and finally to Vanuatu!  God is watching over us:)  Except for that little bit of excitement, that last week has been pretty normal:  classes everyday, teaching TRC investigators, enjoying my new companions and killing my district in basketball;)  My new companions have been amazing and I love them sooooo much and already miss them like crazy, even though they've only been gone 2 days. They will do amazing things in Barbados. 

Today at breakfast I met two sisters and one elder who came from Vanuatu.  They just got here yesterday and are going to Haiti on their missions, French speaking.  I listened to them speak Bislama for a little bit and am a little scared!  They spoke so fast and I couldn't understand a word they said.  I guess I should be thankful for the few more days in America where I can still understand people!

On Sunday night Lloyd Newell, the spokesman for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, came and spoke.  We got to do a MTC "Music and the Spoken Word."  He talked a lot about not giving up and we sang songs about the pioneers and their drive to keep going when things get tough.  I loved it!!  Must have been part of the reason I didn't leave on Sunday.

Because my district left on Sunday night and I came back on Sunday night, I was reassigned to a new district and given two more companions (if you're keeping track, I have now had 5 companions in just under 2 weeks- that has to be a record!)  Their names are Sister Abagellan and Sister Filmilaro.  They are super sweet and super obedient.  It's been good for me:) 

I'll let you know how this week goes!  Thanks for all your prayers, letters, emails, packages and support.  I love you all.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

First Week in the MTC

My incredible MTC district.
Hey there everybody!!  This is SISTER Draper reporting from the Provo MTC!!  This week has been one of the hardest and most stretching weeks of my life.  But, I know, without a doubt, that I am supposed to be here.  I love, love, love this gospel and my Savior!  I cannot wait to get to Vanuatu and serve the people there!  

A little bit about my district.  We have 10 people total (3 sisters and 6 elders).  Elder Jefferies and I are going to Vanuatu, 6 others are going to Barbados and 1 to Trinidad.  We call ourselves the island district and always do the hang loose sign, cause. . . we can!!  They are amazing!!  They all have such strong testimonies and we all help each other out.  It's great because even though we come from all over the country and have different backgrounds, we have one thing in common:  our desire to learn and teach about Jesus Christ and we love each other for it.  I leave for Vanuatu on the 20th at noon.  I'll fly from the SLC airport to San Fran to Auckland, New Zealand (Parker and I will be on the same island!!), to Fiji and THEN to Vanuatu.  The whole trip will take about two days. Elder Jefferies and I will stay busy teaching the people on all four of our airplane flights, so no worries:)

Big shout out to anyone who's sent me a letter!  My district leader has started putting all the letters on my desk instead of sorting them out to everyone.   He says there's no point and they're all for me anyway haha.  So, girls if you wan't a missionary to write, Elder Kasteler is welcoming letters, he doesn't get any apparently (except from his mommy) and is feeling quite deprived:)

Last night we got to hear from Sister Roxanne Wixom, general primary president, about making the best our of our missions.  She told the story of Nephi and his brother's going on a "mission" to get the plates from Laban.  She pointed out that even though they both completed the mission, they came back with completely different attitudes and outlooks on life.  We need to love and turn outward and THEN our missions will be successful.  I also got a hug from her afterwards, so that was a bonus:)

Sunday was the best day at the MTC so far.  We had personal study and then had sacrament meeting.  I got called on to talk about repentance and so that was fun.  I've talked 3 weeks in a row- wahoo! .  . That night we got to have  a devotional and watch a movie by Elder David A. Bednar about the character of Christ.  He stressed the importance of being unselfish and looking for ways to serve others rather than focusing on ourselves.  I loved the talk and have set a lot of goals for myself. 

I have seen a ton of people I know here and it's so much fun!  I've seen Abby Jensen, Chandler Morris, Parker Atkein, Mitchell Walters, Josh Newbold, Taylor Walker (answer to pray running into her) and so many others.  It's pretty neat to see people you've grown up with doing something so amazing:)

I love it here.  I really do.  I am supposed to be on a mission:)  Thanks for all your email, letters, prayers and love.  I love you all!