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!