Sunday, April 30, 2017

Family and Friends

Along the coast looking for seashells
This was going to be my weekly email to family and friends this week but I decided to post it on our blog.  I think the reason will become obvious.  If you are one of our children please read this to our grandchildren.  We do want them to hear this if possible.  I hope that our experience will touch you in the way it did us (yes we did tear up just a bit on this one ... but hey, that's what we do when things touch our hearts).

We were in a meeting this week where one of the sister missionaries we have grown close to bore her testimony just prior to returning home to New Zealand from her 18 month mission.  It was definitely one of those special moments we all have from time to time.  She is the sister missionary mentioned in one of our earlier posts that baked cookies with Lepeka and I taught a few chords to on the ukulele.  You can read that blog by clicking here if you missed it.

Let me interject into the story here by giving a short explanation of Tongan culture as it relates to women (as I understand it).  First, the elderly are very respected and children and grandchildren lower their voices when around them, never interrupt them, in fact, they will go outside to go around rather than cut in front of them.   Second: the Tongan family is very much matriarchal in regards to family matters.  The father's oldest sister is called the "Fahu" and pretty much runs the family (including the brothers and sisters families).  Status and rank play a powerful role in personal relationships within families.  It has been described to us as the man is the head but the woman is the neck.  This is probably an incomplete description but in any case, the oldest female pretty much runs the family (including the extended family) and is shown the utmost respect by all.

Back to our sister missionary ...  She has family here even though she is from New Zealand and received permission at the end of her mission to visit with her grandma and her extended family.  She invited them to attend church with her on her last Sunday in Tonga in a ward near their home (they are not members of the church) and her grandmother consented to let them go with her (a bit unusual for her as she has never been very receptive to the Gospel).  There was a family party planned for her visit so they could all see her and enjoy some time together.  

One of the rules at her grandma's house is that religion (and politics) get checked at the door.  When this missionary was given the opportunity to talk to the family, this brave young sister started by saying, "I know it is a rule here that our religion gets checked at the door but if I have to hang my religion outside, there is no reason for me to be here".  She then went on to boldly share her testimony with her family especially as it relates to the eternal nature and purpose of families.

We may never know what the long term effects of this bold missionary are but what a great lesson this was for me and I think that sometimes I unintentionally "check my religion at the door".  Not to act in a way contrary to what I believe but rather by keeping my opinions (my testimony really) to myself for fear of offending someone.

I have always loved my family and extended family but, I have grown to more fully understand the importance of families and their eternal nature and sincerely regret my serious shortcomings as a young father.  There is no way to go back in time but I can go forward striving to live and teach the things I have learned in my life and now testify to be true.  

I am so thankful for a loving Father-in-Heaven.  I know he loves me and hears and answers my sincere prayers.  I just need to be living in such a way that I am able to recognize the promptings of the Spirit and also realize that what I ask for is not always what I need.  He has provided me everything that I need to be able to return to His presence if I strive to do my best and go forward with faith, and repentance.

My gratitude towards our older brother and Savior, Jesus Christ makes me weep.  As I sing sacrament hymns prior to partaking of the Sacrament, I am deeply moved as I am reminded of Christ's selfless sacrifice for me.  Sometimes I look back and wonder how he must hurt over some of my life choices.  I am a humble repentant sinner striving to live up to His teachings and example.  I want Him to know how much I love Him through my words, thoughts and deeds.

I try my best (and am getting better) at not judging others so please do not take this as "I think I am better than you".  I have heard it described as, "don't judge me just because the way I sin is different that the way you sin".  I do make judgements all the time but try to focus on acts and not individuals.  I try not to do the things I judge to be wrong.  I learned when I was out of the church during a part of my life, that I was the one who was actually judging people who were church goers harshly while at the same time proclaiming them to be the judgmental ones and hypocrites.  I think we are all just trying to do our best but it takes more than just settling for what we are doing no matter where we are in our life's progression.  We have to do more than stand still.

We must do as we have been counselled but the Prophets to read our scriptures and pray daily.  We must study the life of our Savior and do our best to incorporate His teachings into our lives.  We must be kinder and more loving to all of His children.  We must help each other every day and always strive to be better than we were yesterday.

I pray that I may constantly improve through a sincere desire to be better, through repentance, and studying our Savior's life.  May God bless each of you my family and friends.  You are part of who I am and I feel blessed to have had your presence in my life.  I went through the list of my friends and family that typically read this blog and I can honestly say that each of you has had a positive impact in my life, some very directly and some from afar as I hear of your trials and accomplishments.  Some of you have had a tremendous positive impact on me throughout my life and for that I will be eternally grateful.  I look forward to our continued association in the future (don't expect me to hang my religion at the door).  

It's never to late to change.  It's never the wrong time to do the right thing.  You are loved!  I love you!  Our Savior loves you!  Turn to Christ, He is the answer.   That has never changed and never will. 

I ask each of you to kneel down at night and pray for us.  We need all the help we can get!  You are in our prayers as well.  Ofa lahi 'atu!

Dusk from looking West from behind our apartment on Sunday evening
 4/30/2017.  The crescent moon doesn't  seem to show up very well from
the photo taken by this nice expensive iPhone but you can sense the
tranquility of this place..

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hand Hygiene Happens Here

Hand Hygiene Happens Here ... hmmmm
Sign on one of the Hospital exam room doors.
(they all have the same sign and look like this)
Lepeka and another senior missionary (both nurses) were asked to  do a walk through inspection of the hospital to make recommendations on how they could make some improvements in their cleanliness.  They do have limited resources and are trying to make the most out of what they have.   I have to admit that it is pretty neat that they are seeking input from outsiders as they look to improve.

The Tongan people genuinely want to help one another and healthcare is no exception.  Everyone we work with including Doctors, Nurses, Therapists, etc. have such great customer service attitudes.  They want to help.  It is difficult to compare healthcare with what we are used to in the good ol' U.S. of A. so we make these observations not as a critique but as the opportunities we see here for improvement.

Private hospital room.  We rounded up
the   chairs but one of them was broken. 
We had our busiest medical week as one missionary broke three bones in his foot and one was sick and actually in the Hospital for two days, so we thought we'd take this week to highlight healthcare in Tonga.  We are not trying to run it down but we thought it might be interesting to some to see what their healthcare consists of since so many of our friends back home are healthcare professionals.  From the photos you can tell that they do keep the patient rooms tidy and clean.

The room also had a nice sink that
worked, a soap dispenser but no paper
towels or garbage can.
Lepeka is great at making them feel loved and cared for as she takes care of the blisters, boils, sprains, occasional dog bite (only one so far) and various other maladies like rashes, hay fever, dehydration headaches and diarea dehare diahreahea the runs.  The toilet and shower are located in a community bathroom at the end of the hall.  Before Lepeka discharged the missionary from the hospital, they wanted another blood sample.  The doctor came in to the room to draw the blood.  Lepeka told him in America doctors didn't draw blood.  He smiled and said doctor's draw all the blood and if they didn't do that, what would they do.  Lepeka commented - 'they could sit around the nurses station and talk about their last golf game or next trip around the world'.  He laughed.  Guess he doesn't play golf!

Hospital bill for one day stay (to be
paid prior to discharge). TOP $30.00
(approx. $13.80 USD)
The bill on the left is for one full day in a private room and must be paid in full (cash only) prior to discharge.  Everything is included except the sheets and pillows, food, any drinking water, soap, towels, etc.  (no T.V. or internet).  Because the missionary was not from Tonga, we had a bill.  Healthcare is free for those who are from the Kingdom.  Just so you don't worry, both missionaries are doing great and are well on their way to a full recovery.  It was interesting finding an orthopaedic boot anywhere on the island, but with persistence and inspiration, we finally prevailed.  Plaster casts don't do well in this humidity and fiberglass is well ... there may not actually be a Tongan word for that.

We didn't get much done on the technology side this week as the seriousness of the missionary health issue took front stage but we did manage to get one more site survey completed and I was able to get started on the translation of the training material into Tongan. I also scheduled a formal technology training class for this Saturday morning.  I hope it goes well.

We also had a new missionary couple come in this week.  They were welcomed with open arms as we have not had any other couples arrive since we did in January and we have had 5 couples leave in the past month.  The Oldroyd's arrived safe and sound on Friday.  If you are a senior and feel the prompting of the Holy Ghost to serve a mission, you might consider Tonga as a destination preference on your application.  I can guarantee you will love serving here.  The Tongans are the best this world has to offer!

Viola Hospital in Nuku'alofa

The Kingdom of Tonga consists of 176 islands (31 inhabited) approx. 108,000.  Viola Hospital is located on the outskirts of Nuku'alofa on the main island (Tongatapu) and serves most of the population.  There are 3 community hospitals located on other islands and a few health clinics.  We try to avoid taking missionaries to the hospital as we really seem to be able to take care of most of the ailments with a little bit of nursing care, the local physician clinic ran by Dr. Latu (we really like him and he treats the missionaries very well) and some personal "mom" medicine".

When we're not doing technology training or meetinghouse surveys, I am mostly Lepeka's chauffeur, but I have wrapped a sprained ankle and given several Priesthood blessings.  I also help inspect their MQ's for cleanliness and reinforce her instructions if I sense someone needs additional coercing.  In addition to that she has made me the keeper of the lollipop.  We have a box in the car and pass them out as we meet the missionaries while we're out and about.  We also carry vai (water) in our cooler so we have that if needed.  I think the lollipops are actually what cures most of the ailments but don't tell Lepeka.

Pretty typical to see chairs (from your local church) set-up in the back of a truck, or
if they are youth, they typically just stand and cram as many people on as possible.
I didn't get a photo but I did see a tractor towing a truck with a flat bed similar to
the one above with school kids in the back.  I guess the truck must not have been
running and they needed to get the kids to school.

See if you can locate the 3 broken bones.  We have to take photos of any X-rays
to send them to NZ to be viewed by the Area Medical Authority.  We typically
just use the PC for back lighting and take the photo with our iPhone (it's the
best we have).  I think I may have been able to convince one of the techs to
upload the image to a USB next time.  We'll see how that goes but I did get the
eyebrows up signal so I'm hoping.

L-R, Elder Malimali (Tonga),  Elder Mafi (Seattle), Elder Faleao (Lehi, UT)
At our home for breakfast on Saturday morning.  They wanted grilled cheese
and ham sandwiches and a couple of fried eggs, orange juice, chips and salsa and
guacamole, ice cream and cookies.  At least all of the food groups were covered.
We love getting to know the missionaries, it is on of the highlights of our mission.

Geckos feasting on the bugs that are attracted to the light just outside the local
pizza shop across the street from Liahona High School.  As you can see,
they are well fed.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Two Moon or Not Two Moon

Okay, you got me, the lower light is actually a street light,
but you can see Jupiter in the background.  It was not visible
to the naked eye but showed up when the camera light adjusted.
This photo was taken about 8:45 P.M. on April 11th 2017
about 100 meters from our apartment on the Liahona campus.
Click on the photo to see a larger version with better detail.
The full moon is just rising in the East at approximately 8:45 P.M. on April 11th.  I tried taking several shots but the this one seems to be the best.  The bottom "moon" of the two, is actually a street light near the Temple. You can clearly see Jupiter in the night sky a little bit above and the the right of mid-center of the photo.  We didn't even know it was there until we came back to our apartment and looked at the photos.  Then we had to do some research to see which planet it actually was.  There are some faint clouds lower in the background and some stars as well.

The iPad SkyView app (shameless plug for a free app) is really a neat app for looking at the location of planets and constellations.  You can hold the iPad up to the night sky and it adjusts to show you what you can see in the sky.  There may be an Android version as well.

Say "hello" to my leetle frind.
This is one of the many little  creatures that roam around.  We also see praying mantis, spiders, and cockroaches (but not too many - only one inside the apartment so far).  Ants come and go as the crumbs are available.  We haven't been bothered much by mosquitos, flies or other flying insects (at least up to now).  Some of the missionaries occasionally get little critters in their MQ's but we spray the outside of our apartment monthly and encourage them to do the same (around screens and doors and that seems to keep them at bay).

Kuo tree in full blossom
We haven't been able to identify
 this flower yet but it isbeautiful.
It has cooled down a degree or two and the humidity has also dropped into the 70% range so it's been pretty pleasant this past week.  Not much precipitation with mostly just a sprinkle here and there.  We got some interesting new orange flowers blossoming on the Kuo trees this week and they are beautiful.

Early morning rainbow captured through
a rain spotted windshield.
We also saw this incredible full double rainbow on Thursday morning but is disappeared so quickly that we only got this one photo. I wasn't fast enough getting the window down and the camera out to capture the double rainbow but at least Lepeka got this shot looking through a rainy windshield.   The photo doesn't do it justice but hey, it does create a great memory for us.  We're trying to get better at having our cameras ready to go as we miss so many great photo ops each day.

First community education session
with a few of the locals.  We ended up
8 in this session which lasted about an
We also met with a group of 8 locals for a community education session on computers.  There is so much interest and not many places to learn.  We're hoping to work a few of these classes into our schedule as well.  We're actually hoping that some of the people we train will start their own classes with a little nudge and support from us.

Sione Lauti (on the far right in the blue shirt and hat was attending Rick's College at the same time Lepeka was there and an instant friendship was formed.  We met him at a diabetic clinic held at their ward one night and he was interested in learning about computers.  He talked to his Stake President about the STS calling but nothing has come through yet.  We're still hoping as he is very interested.  We'll see what the Lord thinks soon.

Some of the missionaries in the Halaleva zone (April 2017).
L-R, back Elder Soakai (NZ), Elder Teutau (Tonga), Elder St. Clair (Arizona),
Elder Laulea (California) - front Sister Malunganu (Australia), Sister Vea (NZ),
Elder Ofa (Oregon), Elder Moala (California)
There is a serious photo posted under missionary photos.

2 Youngsters playing on a trampoline at a home near the MQs.

At the baptism on Saturday April 15th.  Elder Rosales and Elder Talisa are the missionaries.
The families of the two little boys fed us the crab and lobster you see in the
photos below. They always give their best to guests.
We are humbled by the great lessons the Tongans teach us daily.  We need more of that at home.

This is a short clip of the welcoming committee at one of the MQs 
we visit regularly.  At first, Lepeka was a little bit leary, now she 
jumps out before I can even run interference.

Crab, Lobster, seafood salad and Uli (yams)!
This was really a treat!
Lepeka trying her best with Tongan utensils.

Industrial strength dining utensils were needed.

Liahona students during one of the breaks between classes.
They love having their pictures taken and pose at the drop of
a hat.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Th' th' th' That's All Folks!

Uma feast between sessions of conference
Due to the time (and date) difference, conference weekend was April 8th and 9th here in Tonga.  Conference was recorded (or downloaded) for all the Stakes to play this weekend.  It just so happened that it was President Tui'one's birthday as well and we were invited to the mission office to watch conference.  Between sessions there was an 'umu cooked feast for lunch (prepared by the mission staff, President Tui'one and Sister Tui'one).

An 'umu is an earth oven, a pit is dug, then a fire built in the pit.  When the fire starts to smoulder the food is placed on top of green vegetation that protects the food and provides moisture.  More hot rocks may also be added, then covered with more vegetation and a layer of earth.  This will cook for several hours (all day in some cases).  You can see the delicious result just waiting to be carved and eaten.  We also had 'ota (raw fish), uli ( kind of like a potato), lu (much like spinach), pork ribs, barbecued chicken, kele moa (chicken curry), tossed salad and other Tongan dishes we are still learning, plus a good old spiral cut ham from Cost low (our version of Costco).  At the end of the feast there was red velvet cake for dessert.  Needless to say, after all of the amazing Tongan food, there wasn't much room for cake!  Of course, we did get to sing Happy Birthday to President Tui'one as well.  Sister Tui'one gave him the option of 45 or 54 for the top of his cake.  He stated you could just add the 4 and 5 and make 9. We have really grown to love President and Sister Tui'one and their family!

Lepeka wanted me to use this photo so
you could see her Harry Potter broom
and see that they are not just for travel.
Tongan brooms are made from the coconut palm frond.  First you gather several palm fronds then the leaves are separated from the spine by scraping with a knife.  Once you have enough of the spines you gather them in a cluster around a stick and bind them tightly around the top with a tape that is similar to electrical tape.  These brooms are used as rakes as well and do a great job since the spines are very stiff and durable.  Each broom can take 4-5 hours to make and sells for $10. (TOP - about $4.50 USD).

What a wonderful spiritual day this past Wednesday was for us.  We were invited by the mission president to attend the Temple with about 24 Missionaries (all of the zone leaders in the mission).  It was my first time going through listening in Tongan since I was ill when Lepeka went before.  It really makes you concentrate and feel the Spirit.  I'm glad I've been through enough times that I could rely on my memory where needed.  Lepeka took one of the names that Diana gave her through for her endowments.  We hope she spoke Tongan.  She didn't pick up the card with the name after the session, but found out from Diana that the patrons at the temple had also sealed her to her parents the next day.  What amazing people!  We prayed for each of our children and grandchildren by name and hope you feel the calming Spirit in your lives. Please know how much we love you all.

We were asked to sing one of our songs in the mission office meeting this week so we sang 'Ofa i Api (Love At Home) with ukelele accompaniment.  They asked us to sing again this week but it looks like the meeting has been postponed indefinitely.  The President wasn't in the meeting when we sang our song, so all we can come up with is that he heard the recording Sister Tui'one made and decided he didn't want anymore singing by this dynamic duo!

As far as our missionary callings are concerned, the missionaries have been pretty healthy the past two weeks although Sister Kapp has had a cold and sore throat for the past few days.  She never complains or lets anything slow her down at all.  We also had some good success working with Stake Presidents and surveying stake centers.   We have lots of issues with computer equipment and one Stake president joked that he would like to take care of things his way (he's about 6'5" and 350) but he knows it needs to be done the Lords way so he'll be patient.  He's working on calling a Stake Technology Specialist and I'm going to do my best to get them trained ASAP!

We really do miss our family and friends but know we are being blessed for our service. We pray for you daily and hope you feel the blessings from the Lord in your lives.  He is aware of each of us individually and wants to pour out His blessings.  We do love you all.

This is at the airport. If you click on the photo you can read that it is a luggage
wrapping machine.  Basically to wrap boxes with plastic wrap.  The machine
must have been broken so the man you see here was doing the work (only $5 TOP)

An interesting tree in the middle of a cemetery, somehow it seems to work.

Internet support tech troubleshooting the phone line outside
the church building in Pelehake.  No safety equipment and
the ladder looked pretty unstable especially in the wind.
He didn't want me to help hold the ladder and he survived
but it took him about 4 hours going from pole to pole to
finally locate and fix the problem.  Pelehake now has internet
for the first time in about 6 weeks.  There is also a short video
clip below (if it works) you can see the bats flying as he works.

L-R, Elder Vave (on loan awaiting visa to Zimbabwe,
Brother Tu'poumalohi (Elder in training),
Elder Bingham (he wants royalties for the photo)

Never mind the photographer.  I thought I was taking 
still photos but the result is still pretty fun to see.  Yes Bats!

Working without a net.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Marshall Dillon! Marshall Dillon!

Chester is on the far right.  He stands
with one leg raised and walks just
like Chester from Gunsmoke.
As we make or visits around the island to the various MQ's we start to recognize many of the animals especially a few of them.  We have Chester the chicken.  He has a severe limp from some injury.  I suppose it might have been a dog, or a car or maybe a deformity but he stands on one leg and when he walks it reminds us of the old Gunsmoke character Chester Goode played by Dennis Weaver in the early episodes of Gunsmoke.  For those of you who may not remember you can see the first episode on youtube by clicking here (fun trip down memory lane).

Chester the pig (one of several).
We also have Chester the pig (I guess I'm not very creative).  He limps on his front left.  You can't tell much from a still photo but it is almost comical to see them walk around limping.  You may be able to tell he just emerged from the mud puddle you can see at the top of the photo.

These are the hexes Lepeka is making.  The fabric is local and
very colorful.  She's not sure how she will lay them out in the
finished product but I'm sure we'll take a photo and post once
it's done.  Thanks Sister Kathleen Watts for sharing her talents.
It's now world-wide!
We have been working to get the internet connection more reliable as well as solve some printing issues in the Malapo ward of the Vaini Stake.  The issues have been ongoing since about November of last year.  While I was working through some of the technical issues, Becky often was sewing hexes for a quilt while she was waiting.  On one occasion the Bishop's wife was there to let us in the clerks office and and saw what Becky was making.  She later asked Becky if she would teach what she was doing to their Relief Society.  So, Becky bought some material, needles and thread and went to their R/S meeting last Thursday.  You should have seen their faces light up as they each participated and learned how to sew the hexes.  This was one of the things that Sister Watts taught the young women when Becky was YW president.

Elder and Sister Radmacher at the airport headed for home.  We will miss them
They are so loved by the people and gave so much of themselves in everything
they did.  I'm sure their family is proud of them and they will be missed here.

Elder and Sister Funaki.  He has served on the faculty of BYU
Hawaii since the early 1970's.  This is their second mission to
Tonga.  They are currently serving as self-reliance missionaries
 in Mu'a.  We really enjoyed getting to know them better.  What
great people!
We have a Senior Missionary Couple pot-luck dinner every fast Sunday and this week we came in and sat by this couple.  As we started talking to them we discovered that he is the brother of Sepi Ngatuvai.  We told them a little bit about our immersion week experience at BYU just prior to our mission.  Sister Funaki asked Lepeka to repeat the first name again and turned to Elder Funaki and they started to chuckle.  He said, "She's my sister".  What a small world.  We immediately became good friends because of our common acquaintance.  We so appreciate those that gave so much of their time freely to teach us the Tongan language and culture.  Theirs is a gift that keeps on giving to us.
Zone conference focused on 1 Nephi 18
(the vision of the Tree of Life)

Combined Zone Conferences this week with the focus of the conference on 1 Nephi 18 (the vision of the tree of life). (Picture below) The talks were almost all given by the young Elders and Sisters as they taught each other Gospel principles and shared their testimonies.  What powerful these young men and women are.  I hope that I can serve in my calling as well as they do in theirs.  They are absolutely amazing.  If any of you have a chance to have the Elders or Sisters in you home you will know what I mean.

It does seem a little bit weird that Saturday General conference starts here at 5:00 A.M. Sunday morning.  The sessions are recorded to be replayed next Saturday and Sunday.  We have already downloaded the Women's Conference talks and have listened to several of the talks today but I will have to download them between midnight and 6:00 A.M. (that's when I have unlimited downloads). I'm sure we'll watch them all over the next few days.  How great it is to have modern day prophets to help us understand the important issues facing us and know they speak the Lord's will to us.

View from one of our favorite restaurants in Nuku'alofa.  You may be able to
see the ocean if you click on the photo to see a larger view as it is located right
on the coast about the middle of the island to the North (Waves is the name).

R-L, Elder and Sister Kapp with Sister and Elder Funaki at the Senior Missionary
couples dinner April 2nd 2017.

Sign on the main door of PT at the Hospital.  Now that's
how to hang a sign!
Zone P-day activity prior to their conference, L-R, Elder Manu (West Bountiful,
Elder Cox (new missionary from American Fork), Elder Winward (Franklin, Idaho),
Elder Wilson (Pleasant Grove).  This is a fun group of Elders, great testimonies,
great personalities.  Elder Cox is just trying to toughen up his feet (note the smile though).

Object lesson on the Tree of Life and following the direction even when you
can't see.  L-R, Elder Takapu and Elder Sopu.
Ien, the IT manager.  It's Saturday so he's casual.  We're
trying to contact the Bishop as Ien locked his keys in his
office and we didn't realize it until we were onsite to install
the firewall.  This is at the MQ where we tried to get the
contact info for the Bishop.  We did eventually get in and
completed the work.