Dear Family & Friends: We are having so many new and exciting adventures to tell you about. We get up around 5:45am and go as fast as we can until bedtime, learning our new responsibilities and having a peek at this BEAUTIFUL country. We hope in this blog we can express how blessed we are to testify of Jesus Christ and serve Him in this amazing corner of the world! HAERE MAI* to our blog, we're glad you are visiting us!.....(*This means 'WELCOME' in the Maori language)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Minister for Women

While we were in Fiji we were privileged to meet the Minister for Women, Dr. Luveni.  She was so gracious and generous to us.  The humanitarian department of the church has worked with the government on a variety of projects to lift and improve the lives of those less fortunate in Fiji.  Dr. Luveni has an ongoing project to provide sewing machines for each village so that low income women can become more self suffficient.  She is standing in front of a map showing where sewing machines have been placed.  The church has made contributions to this cause for the past several years.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beautiful Wall Dacor

We had bare, gray, boring walls, until our favorite artists sent us their masterpieces to cheer us up.  We 'hung' them over our kitchen table where we can enjoy them along with their pictures while we eat!  It makes us sad to think how much these little hands and feet with grow while we are away.  Our masterpiece is not complete, however, as we are waiting to add the work of three more artists to complete our collection!  
WARMING HEARTS IN CHRISTCHURCH

Thursday, July 28, 2011



CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand - Visiting members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sheri Dew, Virginia Pearce and Hillary Weeks warmed Christchurch women's hearts with music and the spoken word last night at a special meeting to celebrate women of faith.

Sheri Dew, a former member of the Church's General Relief Society Presidency and Virginia Pearce, a former presidency member of the Church's Young Women Organization, paid tribute to the courage and resilience of Christchurch women who have endured numerous earthquakes and aftershocks since September 2010.
Both women shared stories of compassion and courage which connected well with the 160 women in attendance at the Latter-day Saints' Cashmere Chapel in suburban Christchurch.
The audience were visibly moved by two musical items performed by accomplished singer/songwriter Hillary Weeks.

Included in the audience were Member of Parliament Rahui Katene and representatives from the Christchurch Interfaith Council Dianne Downward, Melanie Riwai-Couch, and Sister Bertha Hurley.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pants or Sulus???

Here are a group of young missionaries after church on Sunday.  Most of us are not used to seeing male missionaries in skirts.....well, sulus, as they are called in Fiji.  At first we thought it looked, well, funny, especially with a white shirt and tie, but as we soon found out, we saw many men, (non Mormon), wearing sulus with sandals, (or barefoot), with shirts and ties, when they were going to work or to church.  
  Somehow it just looks better on Fijian men and when worn with a tropical shirt.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Are They Safe!

While we were in the center of one of the few busy cities, we were driving down a crowded street and I saw these children sitting all alone.  I snapped a photo from the car.  People walked by without giving them a second glance.  I asked our driver/host if there was a concern that they might be kidnapped.  He said there is no kidnapping in Fiji, and he couldn't ever remember hearing about children being kidnapped.  Nevertheless, it was disturbing to see them huddled together all by themselves.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fiji Food Stories



It is an adventure to eat foreign foods that taste and look differently from what we are used to.  Sometimes this was a..... challenge.  At this meal we were served a complete fish.  (You can see the teeth in the lower left side.)  I wish I had been quick enough to snap a photo before it was cut up.  As guests, we were offered the head as this is a delicacy.  When we politely refused,  our host had the honor of showing us the fine art of sucking out the brains and eyeballs.

We were served taro at almost every meal.  It is a staple in most Fijian diets and is served plain with no gravy, sauce or butter.  It tastes about like it looks, and we only ate enough to be polite.
One day we were being driven to a meeting and dinner by another American missionary.  I asked him if he had trouble eating the food or drinking the water.  He said he was very careful about the food he ate, and he only drank filtered or bottled water.  He also cautioned us to avoid drinking orange punch which is a popular drink, as it is usually made with unfiltered water and is sometimes stirred by hand, not with a spoon.  Sure enough, that night we were served orange punch, which we politely refused.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bird's Eye View!

I fly, but I'm not a great flyer, so I was less than thrilled when we boarded a small plane to go to the small island of Taveuni.  (Especially since someone told us they were on a similar plane and there was duct tape holding something in place -yikes!)  Anyway, this was the no frills flight.  Our seats were right behind the cockpit, and when it was time to leave the co-pilot stuck his head out and said, "Everyone put their seat belts on, we're ready to take off".  
Here's the view out my window.
We passed over many beautiful islands and turquoise coral reefs on the way.
 Here's the airstrip on Taveuni.
We ran into a little turbulence.  Sister Pferdner didn't like that either!



Family Values Award

One event Public Affairs sponsors is to honor community leaders who uphold traditional family values, regardless of their religious affiliation.  Our goal is to foster good will among faith groups and to work together as communities to promote and support strong family values.  In Suva, Fiji, we held a special fireside and dinner and presented this award to the former mayor of Suva, a family man of integrity and and service.  As mayor he said he wanted to be known as the 'first servant' of Suva rather than the 'first citizen'.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Suva, Fiji LDS Temple

Suva, Fiji Temple
The Church is involved in many humanitarian projects to lift the lives of the people in Fiji.  In addition, the Church is known for the lovely, inspirational chapels and this beautiful temple built for the spiritual welfare of the people.  Below are more shots.



 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

This lovely family also lost their home to Cyclone Thomas, and members of the Church helped them rebuild.  They are so proud of their home and so grateful.  The oldest boy is the same age as our oldest grandson Taylor.  We couldn't help thinking about how different this young man's life is from our grandson, why people are born into the circumstances they are, and how different their futures will probably be.  But in reality, they both have the same opportunities in the things that matter.  Both young men are happy, have loving parents and siblings, and they have faith in Jesus Christ.  Both are rich in what counts most! 


This is a picture of their toilet facilities and their water supply.  I just couldn't ask if the toilet was hooked up to anything.

Friday, July 15, 2011

BULA, BULA FAMILY & FRIENDS!

THE DAYS FLY BY, WE WAKE UP EARLY, WORK HARD UNTIL BEDTIME, THEN FALL INTO BED EXHAUSTED, AND DO IT ALL AGAIN THE NEXT DAY....BUT WHAT A GREAT FEELING!  I CAN'T BELIEVE IT HAS BEEN SO LONG SINCE I LAST POSTED.  SINCE THEN WE HAVE BEEN ON ASSIGNMENT TO FIJI AND HAVE HAD SOME AMAZING EXPERIENCES AND MET THE MOST WONDERFUL PEOPLE AND SAW SO MANY GREAT HUMANITARIAN PROJECTS THE CHURCH IS DOING TO HELP THE GOOD PEOPLE IN
FIJI.
I WISH I COULD TELL YOU EVERYTHING, BUT THAT WON'T HAPPEN HERE, JUST SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS AS I CAN FIND THE TIME TO BLOG IN THE NEXT LITTLE WHILE.  SO HERE'S THE START:

Meet Mario
Mario lives on one of the over 300 islands of Fiji called Taveuni.  His house was destroyed last year by Cyclone Thomas and then 2 months later his wife died of cancer.  He lived in a tent for year.  Recently his neighbors and friends, with assistance from the Church, helped Mario to rebuild his house.  Mario remains full of faith and hope.  He is an inspiration to all who know him.



Mario in front of his new home



Many Fijians, especially those living on rural islands, live in very modest homes.  As you can see, there are no inside walls and contact paper takes the place of floor covering.  He has no electricity or indoor plumbing, or inside kitchen.  But the happy, vibrant colors of many of the homes we saw, match the happy, contented personalities of these people.


  This is Mario's kitchen which is a few yards down the hill.  All cooking is done on a simple fire.
You can read more about Mario in our story posted on the Pacific Islands Public Affairs website.  It was also picked up by several newspapers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

HOPES AND HOMES RISE AFTER CYCLONE THOMAS

July 13, 2011




TAVEUNI, Fiji — Six families on the Fiji islands of Taveuni and Rabi are now sleeping and living more comfortably thanks to the volunteer service of local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


The Church members worked alongside home-owners in re-building six homes for families whose houses were destroyed during last year's Cyclone Thomas.


Mario Banidawa is one of the grateful recipients of a re-built home. 60 days after his home was levelled by the cyclone, his wife passed away, adding greatly to his grief.


He recalls how his wife went to Suva for medical treatment, a journey of 10 hours by boat. Doctors could not identify her illness at first, so she attended the temple every day for two weeks seeking answers to her prayers. When she went back to the hospital, doctors were able to identify that she had terminal cancer.


Elder Taniela Wakolo, a senior Church leader from Fiji, visited with Sister Banidawa at this time. He remembers her telling him that the temple gave her peace, and was helping her and her family prepare for her passing.


Local Latter-day Saints rallied to help Brother Banidawa during this difficult time before and after his wife's passing. Recognizing that he was living in a tent since the cyclone, they also assisted with the re-building of his home.
According to Taveuni Church leader, Marika Lesuma, the outreach to the Banidawas has benefited the whole community.


"This humanitarian project has had a positive impact on the members of our faith and members of other faiths as they watched the priesthood in action," he said.


Brother Banidawa has a son serving a mission for the Church in the Marshall Islands, one daughter living in another part of Fiji, and another studying at Brigham Young University – Hawaii.


"Mario is an inspiration to all of us as one who endures to the end," said Sister Jean Sunderlage, a senior missionary serving with her husband on the Fiji island of Taveuni.


The project was made possible by donations from Latter-day Saints worldwide to the Church's Humanitarian Fund. Project funds were used to purchase materials.


"Members of the Banidawa family are separated by long distances and death, but are closer in Christ," Elder Wakolo said.


"We help people to help themselves because this is what Christ taught us to do."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

EDUCATORS SEE BRIGHT FUTURE FOR YOUTH

July 12, 2011




AUCKLAND, New Zealand — "When young people start to develop a vision of what they can achieve, they can embark on a wonderful journey of learning and becoming," according to Steve Coy, the new Pacific Area Education Manager for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Many of our young people across the Pacific are doing just that," he says.


Sakeasi Delaibatiki, a young adult from Auckland, told hundreds of his peers at an education fireside in Christchurch recently that there were two priorities in his home growing up — the gospel of Jesus Christ and education.

"Nothing but the best was expected of me, especially with my academic studies," he said. His mother was his best supporter and example. After 23 years of rearing 11 children, she went back to school to obtain a midwifery degree. He said that he learned from his mother that "education is knowledge, knowledge is power, and power is money, in a temporal sense."

"But in a spiritual sense," he added, "education empowers me to make religious decisions and serve effectively and faithfully. Obtaining an education is a religious pursuit."


Brother Coy's role is unique in the world and was created to create resources and initiatives to support co-ordinators of the Church's (religious education)
seminaries and institutes. His goal is to help children, youth and young single adults to achieve spiritual and secular educational outcomes.

Aleni Fuatimau, one of the Seminaries and Institutes coordinators in Samoa, believes there is a correlation between personal religious commitment of young people, and their desires for and efforts to improve themselves, such as in post-secondary study and vocational training.


"There are numerous spiritual and temporal blessings that come to those who take advantage of educational opportunities," he said.
Many times those opportunities are hard to see, he admits, especially when parents and peers have not had those options before, or when other cultural factors are at play. "That's where Church leaders, teachers, parents, and friends can step up and let our young people know that there are wonderful opportunities out there."

Information about some of these opportunities for young people in the Pacific Area can be found at a new 'Education Assistance' page on the
New Zealand/Pacific Islands and Australian country websites.

Next month, Elder F. Michael Watson of the Pacific Area Presidency will conduct education firesides across Australia. He will be accompanied by Steven Wheelwright, President of Church-owned
Brigham Young University-Hawaii. The Area Presidency education firesides are organized to encourage young people to aim high and work hard with respect to their educational and life goals.

Last month Pacific Area President Elder James J. Hamula told Latter-day Saint youth and their parents in Christchurch that
"For the Latter-day Saint, education is not simply a good idea, it is a religious duty."

Thursday, July 7, 2011


 PACIFIC EDUCATORS GATHER IN AUCKLAND
July 7, 2011



AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Educators from countries across the Pacific gathered in Auckland this week to discuss ways to help young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other students learn and apply the teachings of Jesus Christ.

"These and other teachers seek to help students understand in their mind and feel in their heart the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ," Pacific Area Director of Seminaries and Institutes, Wayne Maurer, said.

"This requires both the knowledge as well as testimony that come as doctrines and principles are understood from the scriptures."

There are over 20,000 young Latter-day Saints enrolled in religion classes across the Pacific Area.
"Because there are so many Latter-day Saint youth and young single adults in the Pacific Area," he says, "our Seminaries and Institutes coordinators work closely with stake-called Seminary and Institute teachers to improve their teaching skills, ensuring greater impact in their classes."

Brother Maurer says that 'Rescue the One' is a major focus in reaching out to students who are not enrolled. "We also try to rescue those who are currently not attending very often. We want all of our young people to receive the blessings of daily scripture study."

"One of the most concerning issues is the lack of dedicated regular attendance by some students. Parents could help in encouraging youth and YSA to attend Seminary and Institute classes."

Educators in this week's seminar include Aaron Wirepa (New Zealand), Mark Fell (Australia), Matthew Ellis (Australia), Etika Sefeti (Fiji), Aleni Fuatimao (Samoa) and Hakiau Pitau (Tonga). Also pictured are Wayne Maurer, and Steve Coy, Pacific Area Education Manager.

Next year will be the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of Seminary in the Church.