Saturday, December 19, 2015

Merry Christmas!

December 25th is almost upon us, and the Spirit of Christmas is in abundance even in these hot and humid islands of the South Pacific. The Prime Minister’s Office of the Government of Samoa and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have teamed up to produce a week-long series of Christmas pageantry.  Each night various church denominations are invited to present songs and dances on the lawn in front of the Government Building.
Samoa Government Building
Elder and Sister McBride have helped in the production of the live nativity scene starring young full-time missionaries (and a couple of fairly well-behaved lambs).  The young men and women have to stand for about two and a half hours every evening for a week.  Despite the heat and humidity, they have made no complaints at all. And the audience loves them! Each night parents bring their children up after the performances to have their pictures taken with our nativity scene. (As we write this, we are watching the recorded telecast of the program on Samoan television.)

Our Live Nativity Scene
Sister McBride and Sister Afulua (she is the cook in the Mission Home) have played major parts in making the costumes.  They have collected bits and pieces of material from different places around the island; cut up old dresses (including one prom dress); altered existing robes (including even an abaya and a thobe from the Middle East, making us homesick for our dear friends in Saudi Arabia); and sewed and sewed and sewed. Their final products are nothing short of magnificent. Each night we take the sweat-soaked costumes home and wash and dry them.

Sister McBride and Sister Afulua in the middle, our seamstresses
For Sunday night’s program, Elder McBride was surprised when he was asked to give the invocation.  He did so, in Samoan.  His prayer included a request of the Lord that He would hold back the rain.  It had rained a lot that day, and there was concern that more heavy winds and rain could cancel the program. There was no rain that night, but there was a nice cool breeze that kept things from being too hot. Afterwards, one of the security guards (not a member of the Church), commented to one of our members that the Lord had answered the prayer of the Mormon palagi.

In the meantime, our day jobs continue.  We greatly enjoy visiting the homes of the missionaries; inspecting them for cleanliness; and checking on the general health of the elders and sisters.  We are becoming experts on the treatments for boils, bed bugs, mosquito bites, and dengue fever.
We love our missionaries!
Sometimes we meet up with unwelcome guests at some of these missionary houses:
Sister McBride did not like this visitor
 As we drove around the island of Upolu recently, we happened upon a celebration underway marking the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Sara’emila Stake (sah-rah-ay-mee-lah). We got to watch several wards performing traditional Samoan dances.  This is only a snapshot of one of them:(You probably can’t see this short video clip from the email on your hand-held device; you will have to click on the webpage and scroll down to it.)

 A special treat for us recently was welcoming Elder Robert Kennerley and his wife, Sister Taimi Kennerley, back to Samoa.  Elder Kennerley and Elder McBride were missionaries at the same time in Samoa some 50 years ago.  The Kennerleys are from New Zealand; Sister Kennerley is originally from Samoa. He and Elder McBride are enjoying talking about the good old days.

Every other week or so we do get to take a few minutes for fun.  We stopped one day on our travels to see the magnificent Fuipisia Waterfall.  (You probably can’t see this short video clip from the email on your hand-held device; you will have to click on the webpage and scroll down to it.)  If you can hear Elder McBride on the video, you will hear him say that some 35 years ago, when his father and mother visited Samoa to teach some speed reading classes, his mother stood right about where Sister McBride is standing:

We also visited what must be one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world, and we went swimming and snorkeling there.  This is Vavau Beach, and Elder McBride and his companion occasionally found it necessary to take their weekly baths here long ago.  (Not a bad picture, considering it was taken with an iPhone 6):
We have dubbed this, "Mermaid Lagoon"

We thank Our Heavenly Father for this great opportunity of serving as missionaries in Samoa. We love to see the temple here, a place of love and beauty. We add our testimonies that it is the House of the Lord.
The Samoa Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
 And we thank Him especially for the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas to all!
Picture from LDS Media Library

Friday, December 4, 2015

Islands We Go Unto


It was a cloudy, overcast day when we took the one-hour ride on the ferry recently to the big island of Savai’i.  (Savai’i rhymes with Hawai’i.)

 Savai’i is the second biggest island in Polynesia (not counting the two islands of New Zealand), with a population of about 50,000. It is bigger than the island of Oahu in Hawai’i, which has a population of about a million. It is about 40 miles in length (east to west) and 30 miles wide (north to south).  We went there to check on the conditions of the houses of the proselyting missionaries and bring them needed supplies. We had Elder Gillette, a senior missionary from Idaho, with us, and he is a miracle worker when it comes to needed repairs.

We were able to circle the entire island in two days.  We were pleased to find that, for the most part, the elders and sisters there have been doing a good job of cleaning and maintaining their homes. We did stop a few times to admire the marvels of the island, such as this blow hole,

and this waterfall and the pool at the foot of it.
Unfortunately for us, we were there on business, and had not brought our swimming gear with us. 

Later that evening, however, we did find time to jump in the ocean, a few yards from our quarters.

It’s been about 25 years since there has been an original episode or a sequel to the ultra-popular television series, “Gilligan’s Island.”

(Elder McBride could never figure out just why Gilligan and his friends or anyone else would want to leave the island.  He brought this up with one of his law school classmates whose father was Sherwood Schwartz, creator of the TV series.  The classmate did not know, but he did give Elder McBride a photograph of the cast of the show signed by all of them.)

A lovely palagi woman on Savai'i who is rumored to be the real Mary Ann from the TV series allowed Elder McBride to take her picture in the shadows of some jungle bushes.

Many stories – some true, some very questionable – have been told as to what finally became of the S.S. Minnow. One such story is that the real Gilligan’s Island was actually one of the smaller islands in the Samoa chain.  Support for this theory comes from an old Samoan we met on Savai’i.  The man said the boat in this picture substantiates his story; however, we could not find the name “Minnow” on the boat. 

  We may never know the full truth of this story.


In contrast with the “big island” of Savai'i, Manono is one of the smallest. It has a population of about 900 and is so small you can walk all the way around it in less than an hour and a half. Elder McBride was a missionary on Manono 50 years ago, and we were excited to go there recently.  You can see the island in the background, about 20 minutes across the water from Upolu, where we live.

We traveled there to help a team of Young Single Adults and a few missionaries as they canvassed the island identifying LDS people on the island.

We took their picture while they were there, and watched them depart back for Upolu as they left.

It was such a delightful place!  It has no cars, no roads, no dogs, and no trash anywhere. We enjoyed the walking path around the island.

The path is lined with flowers and hedges except for the section that is narrow and cuts straight through the jungle.  We saw a huge bat flying over head with a wing span of about 2 feet.  There are no snakes or dangerous animals in Samoa, so a hike like this is pretty safe.  This island has no or little crime.  It looks like the Garden of Eden but feels like heaven.  Sister McBride needed to go to the restroom and when she asked a complete stranger, the lady invited her in to use theirs.  Another woman brought out a plate of bananas to share with us.  About half the houses were open fales.  We just walked up to them and started talking to them.  We sat down in about 10 different fales that day and talked about the Church. We were never turned away from any house, and all accepted our offer of a Book of Mormon.  The few LDS members that live on this island take the boat to the main Island of Upolu for church.

Some High Chiefs on Manono who control most of what goes on there say they don't want anymore churches on the island; they feel there are enough already.  So someone who might go against them really can get "voted off the island" (or perhaps just get their water turned off).

Sister McBride especially likes this scene of the banana plant in a field of flowers.

We plan to go back before too long.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Life in Samoa

With this blog post I would like to just share interesting things Maurice and I encounter here in Samoa.

Recently we had the help of a senior missionary here who is simply brilliant with all things electrical and mechanical.  Here is Elder Larry Gillette doing what he does best:  fixing things. He is repairing a broken drain pipe under a missionary house.  The mosquitoes from the pond that had formed under the house were so bad that we had to keep fanning him for a half an hour.

At one point we were changing a light fixture in the ceiling that had gone bad. When we pulled the fixture out, some small, white balls fell on the floor.  At first I thought it was broken glass, but upon closer look realized they were lizard eggs.  I never knew that lizards laid eggs! And certainly not in a ceiling light fixture!

 Many people here do not own a car; they either walk to where they are going or ride a bus.  I took this picture Sunday after church let out.  These are a few of the members walking home after church.  This is on the Island of Savai’i and the ward is the McKay Ward.  It is named after President David O. McKay because as an Apostle he had visited them back in 1921.

Samoans have some of the strongest fences in the world.  They plant a stick in the ground from a certain tree which then spouts and puts out foliage and puts down roots.  After the tree gets a good root system going they cut off the top part of the tree.  This fence will last for years.  This land is so fertile that the tree will re-sprout and start to grow again.  Our farmer friends from the deserts of the Rocky Mountain West are particularly amazed to see you can put a stick in the ground and it will grow a tree.   Look closely at the picture and you see the fence is growing again.

Speaking of trees and foliage, this is a picture of a tree the Samoans call a “flaming” tree.  The picture does not do justice to just how beautiful it is.  We see a lot of these on the islands. In the background is the Church’s high school; beyond that is the Samoan Temple.

 This is a picture of a small branch chapel of about 100 people that was recently formed.  They are meeting in an open fale.  The church would like to build a chapel here but the land owner who wants to give the land to the Church is having trouble getting clear title to the land.  Notice the dog; dogs are everywhere.

This is a picture of the branch president and his family, together with a representative of the stake president who helps advise the branch president.

 Animals are everywhere. It is not uncommon to see pigs, horses, and chickens grazing in a family’s yard, with no pen or fence to keep them in. The speed limit here is 25 mph because there are so many animals and people in the road.  Occasionally we get up to break neck speeds of 40 in the remote areas on the back side of the island.  

Mormon Chapels are some of the strongest built buildings on the Island.  They are some of the few buildings that can withstand a cyclone, and the government here advises people to take refuge there in case of a major weather disaster. This chapel is one of the smaller ones, located deep in the tropical forest. All but a few of its members walk from their villages to it.

 This is one of two ferries that carry people and their cars from the main Island of Upolu to Savai’i.  If the sea is very calm it can be a pleasant ride.

I love this picture because it shows what a contrast there is between the way people live and the church house.  This is a typical Mormon church surrounded by local village.  It was hard to get it all into the picture, but look at the open fales and tin roofs surrounding this beautiful building.   This is a picture taken from inside a room where the missionaries live; a member family shares their house with the missionaries, at no charge. Many times graves are located in a family's front yard.  In this picture, the family is using the grave to dry wet clothes.

The picture below might be called a Samoan kitchen.  They usually eat twice a day, at 10 and 7.  Many Samoans have several fales.  One will be for sleeping, one for visiting with company, one to hang their wet clothes in, one for cooking, etc.  If your family has any money you will have a house to sleep in but you will still have at least one fale for welcoming visitors.

Here our crew is installing a water filter system in the kitchen.

Many Samoans do not have jobs.  They just live off their land.  A typical family will have a breadfruit tree, a banana plant, mango tree, taro plants and a papaya tree.  They may have a few chickens and pigs just running loose.  A member of the family may be a good fisherman, or the family may buy fish from those who do. They eat these foods for almost every meal, every day.  They love their food and never seem to tire of it.   These fruit trees are everywhere; food is everywhere.  The newspaper recently said there is no hunger in Samoa.  People may not have any money but they do have food and lots of it.

An interesting tree that grows here is the kapok tree.  Its pods contain something very similar to cotton.  Samoans use it to make pillows and mattresses.

If you are familiar with very many Samoans you know they can be huge people.  And strong!  The other day I had to drag a 5-gallong jug of water over to one of our Samoan sisters to put in their new house.  She casually picked it up and handed it up over her head to someone standing on a porch above her.

All Samoans wear sandals or flip flops, or simply go barefoot. It can be a challenge sometimes to find a pair of shoes that will fit them.  You can see my shoes as I am standing at the front door of a missionary house.

 Finally for this blog, take a look at this group of Primary children learning a traditional Samoan dance. Every church house has a fale like this next to it for games and other church gatherings. You probably cannot see this using a hand-held device; you will need to open it on a desktop computer.

 Elder and Sister McBride wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Water, Water

We arrived in Samoa four weeks ago today, and as the saying goes, “We hit the ground running.”  In those four weeks we have worked 6 and 6 1/2 days a week and worked 10 and 12 hours a day. Even Sundays usually require our doing some responsibilities related to our callings.  We have taken a total of two half-days off.  Together with the other senior missionary couples, we have been to a place called Papa Se’ea (Sliding Rock) and to the Matareva Beach.

Papa Se’ea

A little ways inland from where we live, and high up on a mountain side, there is a deep gorge formed by a volcanic lava flow. To get to it, you drive a few miles up into the mountains.  From here you can see out over the capital city of Apia and to the ocean.  If you looks closely (click to expand), you can see the temple and the Angel Moroni atop the top spire.

You then have to walk down a long flight of stairs.

 There in the jungle is a series of small waterfalls and pools.  Samoa is still in its [relatively] dry season, so the water is not flowing as fully as it will in a few months.

It took a little coaxing, but soon even Sister McBride was in the water.

There were three places to slide down.  The first was a little steep and Elder McBride contemplated how fun it could be to go down it.

 “Don’t do it!” demanded Sister McBride.

 Seeing that the pool was barely chest deep, Elder McBride agreed that sliding down that particular rock could, indeed, result in a broken leg or two. One of the other senior missionaries commented, "Elder, if you break your neck, we'll have to bury you here, as we aren't going to lug your body back up that climb." To which that elder's wife said, "Don't tell him that.  That's Elder McBride. He'd probably love to be buried in Samoa."  Nevertheless, Elder McBride chose not to make the attempt. The following slide, taken from the Internet, shows what that slide and the pool below it will look like it in a few months.

But the next pool down, although a bit smaller, was perfect.   And here's the video to prove it:

Our group of senior missionaries sees each other frequently in our work; it was good to spend some time with them just relaxing. We all had a nice time together, although only one of our group chose to actually slide down the rocks.

It was a long hike back up to the top where the cars were parked.

Along the way, one cannot help but marvel at the lush, green, tropical forest.

Matareva Beach

On the south side of the island are many good beaches.  Our group this day chose Matareva.  Elder McBride drove the group in the 12-passenger van up over the inland mountain and down to the ocean on the other side. The beach itself was several miles from the main road down a winding, rocky one-lane dirt road.

 If frolicking in the waves is what you like best, there are better beaches. Matareva has too much coral, and it would be easy to cut your feet.

 But we were there to snorkel, and here there were beautiful blue, silver, yellow, and black-and-white striped fish slipping in and around the coral.

 There was even a “kiddie pool” where less adventuresome ladies could lounge with their husbands.

 While there we were amazed and delighted to find that we could “Facetime” on our iPhone with our son, Scott, and his bride, Madi. We hope they will be able to come join us sometime next year.

On the way back to the main road we found that a tour bus driver on the way to Matareva Beach apparently could not navigate the sometimes rocky road especially well.

We hope the team of rescuers were able to finally pull him out of the ditch.

Sister McBride likes for us to stop and take pictures of just about every chicken we see on the road. For example:

Back on the main road, we came upon a couple of young men with white shirts and ties and with name tags reading “O LE EKALESIA A IESU KERISO O LE AU PAIA O ASO E GATA AI.” No matter where in the world we see that image, and no matter what language that name tag is written in, it always gives us a feeling of joy and inspiration to see them. We feel so very blessed to have the opportunity of serving and supporting them.  May God continue to bless and protect these young men and women.

They are true messengers of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.