Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday, Dec. 30

In case you are wondering what we did on New Years Eve, this is it.

In the morning we prepared breakfast for the Elders. We had our zone leaders here and we had a district meeting after eating. On the left is Elder Boster who is from a part of Oregon that I did not know existed. He lives south Ontario, Oregon on the east side of the Snake River. I thought the state line followed the river but now I know. Elder Lohrman is from Germany. He is the oldest of the young missionary Elders at 27 1/2. He was inactive for 9 years, and playing goalie on a semi- pro soccer team. At 25 he turned his life around and needed special permission for him to go on his mission. Elder Bruce Haven was quick to help him as he had seen him change over a period of a year. We had a great meeting.
Before going to our English lesson we took what was supposed to be a 15 minute hike up to a world war ii gun in placement on a hill on the north side of the Grey River. The area is called Cobden, where most of the Tongan members live. This is looking south towards downtown Greymouth. We live three blocks north below the hill at the far end .
The hike turned out to be 156 steps up the hill.
This is a view of Cobden looking sw toward the jetty. On the right is a patch of grass and a yellow house with carport in the back. That is where we teach two boys English and the entrance to this trail is 2 blocks down their street.
Here is Sister Hoagland on our way back down the steps.
Here she is at the top at the gun emplacement. This is a ridge in front of a mountain that runs North and South. The foliage is so dense and the ridge so close you cant tell the ridge exists when you are off of it.
We went to teach the boys and they were not home. They were with their dad at the river while he was fishing with the other Tongan men. We were working with their older sister Hola on reading so we read with her and then went looking for the boys. This pictures is of the Branch President on the left catching a fish. He caught 22 this day.

Here are the boys playing on the rivers edge. They were all by themselves and did not know how to swim. We were concerned about that, but what can you do.
Here is the father, Aho Langi, on the left, and his friend Manase Toli on the right. I didn't hear how many they caught but they all have freezers and eat this fish for many months after the season is over. They are all on vacation from their work in the forest except Manase who is a teacher at a technical school.
Subway does very well here too. The read building houses a large discount store where missionaries and poor Tongans buy clothes. I have never been able to figure out their pricing yet. Most of the time I pay much less than I thought I was going to pay. We bought a little stuffed bear for Iriah Langi when he was in the hospital. It was marked 9.99 and the sign said 20% off. It cost $3.98
There are a number of talented missionaries in every mission. Here is Elder Lohrman's talent. I hope you are not offended, but he asked me to pick a hymn.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A trek with the youth and Christmas food

The branch was blessed this week with the Lords protection of our branch president and his family. Sister Kinikini fell asleep while driving back from Christchurch on Friday. While their van did not survive, none of the family was seriously hurt. Their 10 year old son spent a night in hospital with a sore rib. We made a visit to the hospital and found all was well.

On Saturday we returned to the hospital after learning that a member's 2 year old had swallowed petrol. He too is doing well, but we have had some really scared members here who are thankful for the Lord's blessing.

Sunday we had a real spiritual feast at the Kinikini's family home evening. In attendance were the children of one family who does not hold their own fhe. Also two non member youth and the Elders. They all feel welcome and are there because they want to be. It is true that some children turn out strong in the gospel in spite of their parents. As President and Sister Kinikini expressed their gratitude to the Lord for their safety, they mentioned their 8 year old told them at the scene of the accident that they had forgotten to say their family prayer prior to leaving for Christchurch. Every one there bore testimony.

Monday was busy. It is our "P Day" and I scrubbed the shower and washed the car before 8:00 am. We arranged for our youth to go on a hike with us. We had two members and two non members with us along with an adult driver. We trekked to the view point at Elizabeth Point from the Arapahoe side which was a challenging 2 hour walk there and back. Sister Hoagland & I should be ok soon! Following this trek, we had our usual volunteer work at the city library where we shelved books for 1 1/2 hours. Following that we went to Nuku's for a reading lesson. In the evening we tried to visit so families, but no one home.

This is a shot from the trail.

This was taken at the destination view point. When you click on this picture you may on the right horizon what look like white clouds. Those are the southern alps that are so famous on the south island.
I was a beautiful morning as you can see, with a calm sea.
A view of Arapahoe from the trail.
The river, the village, the surf, and the road north to Westport.
This is taken at the start of the trail and we could see where we would end up.
Sister Hoagland on the trail in the bush.
Here is the whole gang at the point. Samu is hiding for some reason. His Sister, Tupou is on the left, then Ana, Ola, and sitting is Pony. Ola is our primary president whom Sister Hoagland has worked very closely.
Ana was the slowest trekker, telling us she had never walked so far in her life. We hope to have an institute class for her when school begins in February. Tupou has a Sister, Ofa, the same age as Ana and we hope she will want to attend as well. Their father is friendly and attends church and other activities, but has a problem about membership. Ofa is close to her father and has many questions about the gospel message.
Pony in the back is a wonderful young man. He demonstrates responsibility and good character even though he looks tough sometimes.
Ola was sitting here waiting for us when we finally arrived at the short trail to the lookout. She is the mother of three very active young boys.
The following pictures of our two Christmas dinners. First we were invited by the Iriah's to their non member son's for a Maori dinner. The method of cooking is call umu, where rocks are heated over a fire and then placed on the ground, the wrapped food is placed on top then covered with a wet cloth, wet newspaper and then burlap bags. Here they are taking off the last covering.
The meat is wrapped in aluminum foil and the vegetables are put in cloth bags. The rocks are lava rocks from the north island and they also used some railroad rails.
This is the second time we have eaten in a garage on a special occasion. We were served Mutten, lamb, turkey, and pork. The vegetables were pumpkin, and kamara (sweet potato). They do not sweeten the sweet potato nor do they sweeten the puddings and other deserts. Glen Iraia was slicing the wonderfully cooked meat, while his mother opens her desert. The two girls are Sister Iraia's foster children. Her husband Davis was watching month old Rugby and came out to eat and then returned to the TV. We had a lovely time.
Here are two of Ola's three children playing with their new Christmas toys. These boys fight over their toys all the time so they got all of them the same toys, three of each. Richard is playing with the video games, while Apollo is playing with his remote controlled car. Just like home.
We had a funny thing happen at the Tongan Christmas dinner. Before we ate, we were all gathered into the kitchen/dining area. The hosts father was visiting from Australia, and stood up and began to speak Tongan in a very solemn manner. Sister Hoagland thought it was the prayer and had already closed her eyes. Ten minutes later (she never opens her eyes during a prayer) was wondering if the prayer was ever going to end. This in spite of the fact that their were at least two outbursts of laughter during the talk. Everyone noticed she had bowed head and closed her eyes. When it was over and the real prayer had been said, Elder Bair asked her if she thought that grandpa's talk was a prayer. With the answer being yes, the room erupted. Sister Hoagland was great, taking it with good humor and adding bits like, "I had heard long prayers but this one was getting ridiculous, and "I was thinking the laughter was a little disrespectful." Each comment brought more laughter. I just thought she was sleeping off the first meal. Here is the table laden with the Tongan feast.
Here on the men carving up the pig.
Here is the pine Christmas tree for the Tao home. They get these from the forests where they work. We are told that the balloons were full the day before. In the background are the men playing some touch rugby. I don't know how they can run after all that food.
Here is a little video of the Rugby action.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Trip to Christmas Zone conference

On Monday morning we drove with the Elders over to Christchurch for our Christmas Zone conference, which included all the zones on the south island. In the morning we had some words of importance from our mission president concerning the work and then he gave us a short talk about the nativity. He went through all the important elements of birth of the Savior, from the linage of Joseph and Mary who were cousins, the significance of the shepherds, the wise men and their gifts, etc. It was very beautifully done.

I have learned a great deal this year about Mary. For one, she worked in the temple from a child to the age of twelve. She was an Old Testament Scholar evidenced by the fact that her words of praise to Elizabeth alluded to 14 different Old Testament references. She was weaving the veil of the temple when Gabriel appeared to her. She was very temple oriented.

Following the president we were shown a film on the prophet Joseph Smith, in honor of his birthday. After a wonderful lunch, we all participated in a nativity presentation. Each district was assigned a scripture and a hymn which told the story from early prophesies of the birth through the rest of the story.

The conference concluded with a "Dan Jones" segment, where missionaries were selected to stand on a box and preach to heckling crowds. Dan Jones was a terrific missionary and an interesting character in the early history of the church. Look him up. Look at the video to see how that went. Even our mission president was a big heckler.

We had traveled from Christchurch by train when we first arrived in Greymouth, but it was winter time and prior to any snow fall so this was a much more beautiful trip. We could also stop when ever we wanted too. It is not unlike driving from the Willamette Valley to eastern Oregon, with all the green on the west side and the more desert like conditions on the east side, although you would not call Christchurch a desert area. That is why they call our side of the mountains the bush. All the mountains and valleys are lush with foliage. The following is a great piece of engineering that made the drive much easier than in years past. This shows how that handled a slide area and a water problem. Before building this the route was very windy and through an even higher pass.
This is the valley just before we make the climb to the summit, which is called Arthur's Pass.
We found these Kia mountain parrots at one of the view points. I guess they are kind of a pest too as they climb on your car and peck at your rubber window insulation. The tourist on the left is from Israel.
Here is an environmentally friendly viaduct just before the pass that again made for a shorter and straighter route.
Just past the summit we found meadows of these wild flowers. It was very beautiful.
This is the national park just east of the summit.

On our way we cross many one way bridges. The best view of the river and the mountains is right in the middle of the bridge so they do have a turnout area if you want to stop on the bridge.
Another picturesque spot was at Cathedral Rocks. This is a new home but right next to them.
More Cathedral rocks.
These next two pictures are also from the west side of the summit.
Elder Bair called these cows Oreo cows.
Here is the stake center where we held the conference. It was in a beautiful setting. I am taking the picture from a bridge that you cross to get on the property. It is only one lane so it must be a mess getting out of there when church or conference is over.
This is taken from the same bridge leading to the Stake Center. We just happened upon this wading juggler. We were wondering what he was doing there but as time went on we figured it was an easy way to practice as the balls float and he doesn't have to chase them all over. He doesn't even have to stoop down as far.
This is the couple we stayed with while in Christchurch. They had a little three bedroom duplex that was just 6 years old. It was very nice but there was only one bathroom. Fortunately the toilet is in a separate room. There was just one sink, but a separate glass enclosed shower and a tub. As you can see their garden was beautiful. This is Jack, Peggy, and Helen Thompson.
The first video is of Sister German from Delaware. The distinguished heckler is President Joliffe. Next is Elder Koito from Kiribati, pronounced Keer-ee-bahss. Sister Joliffe is in the foreground.


Sunday afternoon we gathered with others from the branch to go caroling to three nursing homes. It was a great experience, with the highlight, our individually wishing each resident a Merry Christmas. I took this picture of our group just before we entered our last home.
When we were finished we decided to go to the hospital and sing to one of our members who just had a baby boy. The member is on the left. She is Moari. That was a lot of fun and of course others came in to listen. The gentleman on the right was waiting to become a father.

Following the nursery visit we went to one of the wards and sang there. We were happy to see Sister Carpenter with us. She has had a real trial lately with the death of her son last month and her husband 18 months prior. She is our Relief Society president and choir director.
Here is another look at the carolers and the hospital. I was in this corridor several times this week as it leads to the critical care unit. We had a member from the West Port Branch there after suffering a heart attach. His wife stayed in our flat for three nights this week. Just that morning they flew them to Christchurch for treatment.

Greymouth Branch Talent Night

Since the branch had not come up with a branch activity for December we and the Elders in our little Greymouth district come up with something for them. A talent night and pot luck. The great part about it was we had 8 non-members in attendance. They also participated. These first 2 pictures are to show that we had a pretty good attendance. The room was L shaped so I took the pictures in the same spot.

Each family was asked to have an item (number) for the program. It is strange how these functions develope. It was scheduled for 4:00 pm and at that hour there were us missionaries and the branch presidents family and one other. By 4:40 we had enough to start. At 5:30 we had the full complement of people in attendance. We had a Karaoke group made up of foster children from the Iraia family. The blond in pink was a 10 year old boy who was a very reluctant dancer.
Cross dressing turned out to be popular in this outpost of the church. We will talk to the president about that. These two Tongan men brought the house down with their performance.
This was one of the more class acts with Hola and her two brothers and sister and Mele. A traditional Tongan dance, where they oil the arms and members of the audience can come up and slap paper money on their arms. A lot of the dancers made out pretty good that night. See the video of this dance. I can't show much because I can't upload enough video to cover the whole dance.
This is a Grandpa and grandson act. This boy is eight and loves to do the hula.
Sister Scott participated by telling a wonderful story where she used the name of a Tongan member as the main character. He is very shy and the punch line at the end got a big laugh. We and the Elders started the program singing Away in the manger. I'm glad we were first because I don't know where we would have fit in the rest of the program.
The first video is from the 5 and under group.