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!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Yeah for Uncle Mark!

I'm in tears right now because of the news about Uncle Mark!  I am so so soooo happy to hear that he was baptized!  I know that this is the true church and that through receiving the saving ordinances we can be together forever and have joy now and in eternity, nothing is better then that!  Mark has just taken the first step on an amazing journey!  I love you Mark- congratulations!!

This week has been, as always, a memorable one:)  We started off with teaching with a sister from our ward who is leaving on her mission soon.  She wanted some experience so we gave her 3 days of it!  Her name is Sista Androse and she is an absolute doll.  I hope she gets called to Utah!
On Wednesday a call from our zone leaders saying that two new sisters had come and would be staying with us for a day.  The sisters are Sista Manu (from Tonga) and Sista Auleau (from Samoa).  They ended up staying with us for the rest of the week and Sista Auleau just left this morning to go to Santo (one of the islands in Vanuatu).  Sista Manu is still with us and waiting anxiously for her assignment.  It has been so much fun to have 4 sisters together at once, it's like a big sleep over every night!
Sisters Auleau, Manu, Tagini and Draper
Pig for dinner, anyone??
On Friday, we were out teaching lessons when we got a call from the APs saying that we needed to go back to our flats immediately because there had been a shooting.  Of course the new sisters freaked out and practically ran home thinking we were going to be shot and killed.  We were told to stay in our flat until further notice.  Turns out it wasn't a shooting and that 7 men were actually being put on trial and there was a big rally.  President Granger (the mission president) just wanted all the missionaries to be safe.  Sounds like there will be another trial this Friday as well, so we'll be staying home then too:(
Do you see the sun canopy on the right?  That's how we watched General Conference.  Does it remind you of the people during King Benjamin's time when they faced their tents towards the temple to hear God's prophet?

Saturday and Sunday have been my favorite days so far on the mission.  I finally got to watch conference!!  It was absolutely amazing and I loved every minute.  The whole chapel, connecting rooms and a tent outside was filled with members and a bunch of our investigators came as well!!  I don't think anyone went away without learning something from those two days.  I loved the focus on learning to listen to the promptings of the spirit and acting on the promptings once we receive them. I cannot wait to get the magazine next month and have the chance to read and reread the talks again.

I love my mission and I love this gospel!  I know, and am seeing it change lives for the better and bring ETERNAL happiness!  I am so blessed to have the chance to serve and learn for the next little while.  I love you all.
Sista Sarah Draper 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Mi luvam olgeta!

The days here just keep getting better!!  I'm adjusting better and learning to love my home for the next 18 months.  

This week, Sista Tagini and I spent a lot of time doing service and helping our investigators.  We've found that these people always need help with something so it's a good idea to serve them and then teach them after we're done.  Then they seem more willing to listen and trust us.  

One family I have especially learned to love is the family of Mama Pauline, Papa Jaxon and their pikininis (children): Nolan, Trisha, Melody and a baby on the way.  

Mama Pauline & Papa Jaxon with their children

Mama Pauline was referred to us by our Bishop on my first day out proselyting in Port Vila.  We went to their house and they immediately let us in and continue to welcome us every time we come to teach.  Papa Jaxon is a member and a previous fighter.  He decided a few months ago that he didn't want his pikinini to grow up seeing their Dad fighting others and beating their mama when he got mad.  He is now trying to do all he can to turn his life around so that he can teach his pikinini what is right and help them find Papa God.  Although his pikinini aren't old enough to be baptized, his wife is, and she's ready to learn.  They will be married on October 23rd on the beach (and because Sista Tagini and I have taught them, we get to go out of our area to go to the wedding!!!) and then Mama Pauline will be baptized the 24th of October.  I love to see families come into the church TOGETHER.  Families are so so so important and I thank Papa God for mine every day!
This is a view that Sista Tagini and I saw as we
walked along the beach to get home one night.
Yes, I do in fact live in paradise! 

We have four more baptisms on the 17th for Netty, Luke, Naomi and Son and a wedding on the 16th for Netty (the culture here in Vanuatu is to buy your wife and because people are so poor they skip marriage and just live together.  In order to be baptized, people have to live the law of chastity = marriage so we get to plan a lot of weddings, wahoo).  We also found a Mama and Papa and pikinini who want to hear the discussions.  We start teaching them tomorrow. 

This Saturday, I got to watch the General Women's Meeting at our church!  They had a room broadcasting in Bislama and another in English so I was able to watch AND understand- Bonus!!  I loved all the talks but especially President Uchtdorf's about choosing to be happy no matter our situation.  We can't always determine what life throws at us but we can always determine our attitude.  God didn't intend for us to be miserable, he intended us to have joy.  I think every one has room to improve there!

Just a few more things I have learned this past week have been that people here have no shame.  During church yesterday, I turned around to shake an investigators hand and sitting next to her was a mother breast feeding her baby not trying to hide anything and the kids love to run around naked too haha.  
One lady agreed to let us teach her if I allowed her to braid my hair . . .
so I sacrificed my hair for a good cause.  I better not get lice!!

I also finally figured out why I'm always hearing kissing noises. Apparently that's cat calling here! The teenage boys just love to cat call to the "white woman" and my companion thinks it's hilarious.  Let's just say I'm just glad we have to be in our flat by 6 p.m. haha!

I love you all and I love this gospel!  I know that Papa God is watching out for each and every one of us olteim!  He wants us to be happy and we will be when we focus on what is most important now and in the eternities.  Thanks for all your prayers and thoughts, they help me so much. 

-Sista Draper

P.s. For those of you sending me letters, it takes almost exactly a month for letters to get from Vanuatu to America, so I will write back as soon as I get the letter but it might be 2 months before you get a response:)

Poverty amid Paradise