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:

video


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. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Wonderful Week

Much of our time this past week was spent visiting the homes of missionaries, delivering needed household materials and checking on the cleanliness and safety of the mission-owned missionary houses. Some of their houses are a wee bit less than spic and span, as in, "How can they live this way?"  We find a lot of illness due to mosquito bites. Some missionaries develop boils. It is our job to help improve the health and living conditions of the missionaries.
  
Fifty years ago we did not have indoor plumbing, and I think things were much more sanitary.  Back then we bathed at the village pipe outside, or in a river, and we used the outhouse back in the woods or out over the ocean.  I would rather bathe under a public shower pipe with water coming down from the mountain top than stand in a moldy shower stall inside a tiny missionary house.

Elder McBride 1963
 I would rather sit on an outdoor toilet house out over the water than in a fale palagi with a moldy, soggy, sagging floor.
1963
The other day we took a team of three sister missionaries and four elders to clean two houses.  Alicia and the sisters took one house; I took the four elders and we did the other.  It is not our job to clean houses, but we do instruct and supervise the young missionaries on what they should be doing.  (One of the elders is a son of a BYU football coach.  I leave out names here on purpose, out of privacy considerations.)

Sister McBride and Team
Afterwards, we thought it proper to take this team to lunch at a nearby beautiful little place, “Seabreeze Resort.”

SeaBreeze Resort
The food was good, and the chocolate milk shakes were great. It was a little pricey, but worth it. Almost all of it was new, having been rebuilt after the 2009 tsunami.
Dining at SeaBreeze
Just around the corner from the resort was a scene I remember well from 50 years ago.  It is a burial chamber – I guess you could call it a sepulcher -- built on a tiny islet about 100 yards from shore. It is about 10 feet in height. I realized we were still in my old first proselyting area. (It was a cloudy day; picture could be better.)
Sepulchre near Vavau
We had one more delivery, one which took us to the south west side of Upolu.  As we drove along, we passed by several LDS chapels.  It was so nice to see that the gospel has continued to spread since I was here. I was not sure what the names of the various ward houses were.

We came to one chapel where a man apparently dressed for a church meeting was standing out front.  He wore a white shirt, tie, black lavalava, and sandals – standard dress for a Mormon here on Sunday, but this was Saturday.  It turns out that that weekend was their stake conference, and he was on his way to a priesthood leadership meeting.

I asked him the name of the village we were in.  It was Lotofaga (“lo-to-fong-ah”), which was my last proselyting area and where I was district leader 50 years ago. Things look so different now.  I asked him if a missionary house had once stood where the outdoor basketball court now stands.  He said yes.  I asked him if the river in which Elder Peter Hardman and I had bathed almost every day was still there.  Of course it is.

Then he asked me if I remembered the names of anyone in that area back then.  I tried to remember the name of the branch president. I couldn’t, but I described him to the man.  “His eyes were a bit droopy; it was as if he were always sleepy,” I said.

The man grinned.  “That was my father,” he said proudly.  I was sorry to learn that he passed away some years ago.

I can’t express how thrilled I was!  Not only had my friend stayed strong in the Church, but he had gone on to become the stake president.  And now his son, born about 10 years after I left there, was in a leadership position in the area.


We usually put in 10 or 12 hours a day in our calling. The other day, for example, we had an 8:00 a.m. meeting with President Hannemann and his assistants; then two trips to the nearby Falealili Airport; two trips to a local gas station (for two cars); a trip out to Lufilufi to pick up the belongings of a sister who is being transferred; then did downtown shopping for supplies for missionaries; took a car in to get it washed; and even spent a few minutes doing paper work in the office. We got home at 8:00 p.m.  Another very full day! Another wonderful week!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Day Never To Be Forgotten

Maurice’s grandfather, Don C. McBride, began or ended many of his missionary journal entries during his two missions to Samoa with the words, “Today was a day never to be forgotten,” or words to that effect.  Today’s events will rank high on our own "never-to-be-forgotten" list.
                                                       
The day began with what we thought would be a rather simple, if time consuming, assignment: Drive the van to the sisters’ house in the village of Vaovai on the back side (south side) of the island and pick up their broken bicycles; travel on to the village of Leagiagi at the eastern end of the island and deliver some much needed cleaning supplies to the elders there; then make the drive back to mission headquarters in Pesega (a suburb of Apia, on the north side) and drop off the broken bicycles in the repair shop.

The whole trip should have taken 3 hours or 4 at the most – except that many roads and landmarks have changed or been added since Maurice was here 50 years ago, especially after the 2009 tsunami.  We got lost repeatedly.  Several times we had to stop and ask directions, back up, get lost again, and find ourselves heading in the wrong direction.  Heavy rains from time to time did not help.

But the scenery along the way was breathtaking!  The rain did stop from time to time, and we could take a few pictures.  This one is in the garden of a family we saw along the way:



The first part of the trip – getting to Vaovai – should have been pretty straight forward, but we had been asked to make a couple of side detours to a few other villages first.  Then finding Leagiagi proved even more difficult.  We now realize it, too, was pretty straight forward, or at least it will be next time.



Throughout the day we stopped and asked directions, and frequently we came across young men and young women with name tags reading “Elder” or “Sister” someone.  We enjoyed stopping and visiting with them and – when they saw we had cleaning supplies, mosquito nets, fresh water jugs, and other missionary supplies – we enjoyed playing Santa Claus and distributing needed items to them.



One such encounter was with the elders serving in the area of the scenic Sopoaga Falls.  The picture at the top of this blog is professionally taken of the Falls; the one below is ours:



 At one point we stopped for gasoline and saw a large group of nicely dressed men and women walking from one fale to another.  In the large open yard was a newly prepared gravesite.  (People here are often buried in the front yards of their fale.) The gas station attendant informed us that it was a group of LDS members attending a funeral.  It was interesting to watch the ceremonial giving of gifts (cans of beef, fine woven mats, and money) conducted by two Samoan “talking chiefs.”  We saw no one else taking pictures, so we did not, either.

By late afternoon we found ourselves somewhere in the vicinity Leagiagi, but we kept going in circles.  We were totally lost.  The Google Map on Maurice's iPhone can work well here sometimes, but as we were looking for small villages on recently created small roads, the GPS was useless, as it did not have the names of the villages we needed.

We then saw a lovely young woman walking on the road, and stopped and asked her for directions to Leagiagi.  “Please,” she said in excellent English, “let me go with you and show you the way.  I am LDS, too.”  We readily accepted, after which we insisted on driving her to her own home.  She said her name was Mele, and explained that she was walking home from the local school where she is teacher.  Her English was good, she said, because she had graduated from the LDS school in Pesega.

As we came to the turn-off into the road that would lead through the tropical forest to her house, she said she could walk from there.  We refused, recognizing that her kindness to us warranted a little assistance from us.  The van bounced and bumped as we made our way through the green wonderland, over a shaky-looking bridge, and into a lovely grass yard with a Samoan fale.  At times we wondered if we had made a wise decision.

Along the way the young woman told us that her widowed mother serves in the LDS Samoa Temple two days a week.  She takes a bus into town, stays overnight, and takes the bus back.  We took time out to come into their house and introduce ourselves to her mother.  Maurice asked the elderly lady how many years she had worked in the temple.  “Since 2008,” she said. He explained to her that his sister served as a temple missionary here about five year ago.  “Perhaps you knew her,” he said.  “Her name is Sister Anderson.”

The elderly woman’s eyes welled up with tears.  “She is my best friend.  I love her,” she said in English. She immediately went into the back room of the fale and came out with a picture – the same picture that hangs today on the living room wall of Maurice’s sister.  Hugging the picture to her chest, she said, “Sister Darla Anderson.  She is my best friend.”  There were tears all around.



As we left, the family brought us four papaya and a cup of Samoan cocoa (“koko Samoa”) mix to use at home.  We made our way back to the main road, and had no trouble after that finding our way back to Pesega.

On the way home, we stopped and took in the view of one of the most beautiful scenes in Samoa, the Le Mafa pass.



We can’t help thinking that if even one of the distractions and delays today had not occurred, we might never have met the young woman at that particular time to ask for directions, and we would not have met her mother.  Truly, a day never to be forgotten.

News flash!

Dateline 15 October 2015, Apia, Samoa:  Today Sister Alicia McBride, recently called as a missionary to serve in the Samoa Apia Mission, got behind the wheel of a 2014 Hyundai Tucson (not the "nice big van") and drove for over one full hour.  Her faithful companion, Elder Maurice McBride, was seated at her side (her left side), and he struggled manfully to stop trying to step on the brake (because it is not located on the left side).  Sister McBride managed to avoid dogs, chickens, little children, and oncoming trucks and buses.  Good job, Sister McBride!


Thursday, October 8, 2015

SAMOA!

We arrived in the mission field on Sunday evening, October 4. We landed just in time to see a beautiful sunset. Another senior missionary couple met us at the airport and drove us to our apartment, a modest but comfortable one-room place in the Church compound here.




Because we will be in charge of housing for the full-time missionaries, and we will at times be helping in the transferring of missionaries from one area to another, we have been assigned a “nice big van,” one which Alicia vows she will never drive.  True, it is taking a little time to get used to driving on the left side of the road, especially inasmuch as the steering wheel is on the right, and the stick shift is located to the left of the wheel. So far, we have had only a few really close calls, but no accidents.  The house across the street (in the rear of the picture of the van) is similar to ours.



Our job is challenging and terribly fun!  We get to drive around and inspect missionary houses and teach the missionaries how to clean their homes, most of which are Church-owned one-bedroom little houses close to an LDS chapel.  There are a couple of dozen on this island alone.  Because sister missionaries are (1) a little more dedicated to cleanliness, and (2) a whole lot more reluctant to live in houses that have not been well maintained by the elders, we are focusing first on the sisters’ houses.  Here is a picture of Sister McBride and two really wonderful Sister Training Leaders (pretty much like Assistants to the President, only for sister missionaries).



This friend of the missionaries makes its home under the house where the sisters live.  They may be evicting him soon, or they may find a good use for him.



And driving around the island (twice so far this week) is making this a glorious experience for Elder McBride.  I can’t imagine a more perfect calling!  We get to drive all over the mission, rather than sitting in an office. And I get to chat and visit with real Samoans. The language is coming back to me faster than I had hoped it might.



It can be hard to find the houses where the missionaries live on the back side of the island, as there is no such thing as real addresses. A typical Samoan house these days might look like this:



We happened to meet the gentlemen below, and it turned out it is in his house where some sister missionaries live.  He is the Elders Quorum President in his ward.



Fifty-two and one-half years ago my first proselyting area was the village of Vavau.  The Vavau Branch at that time consisted of about 10 or 12 people, and we met in a Samoan fale (pronounced fah-lay).  Today there is a strong ward in that village, with a beautiful chapel.  In this picture I am standing in front of the church, looking across the street to where I once lived (although the houses which were standing there then have long been replaced).  You can imagine the emotions I am feeling as I stand there.



This is a tropical island, and fungus and mold grow nicely in the shower stalls and bathrooms and small kitchens of the missionaries. Today Sister McBride and I and 5 other missionaries (two young elders and three young sisters) cleaned, scoured, scrubbed, swept, mopped, and emptied trash out of a house that had not been used in a while.  It took two hours, and when we left, it sparkled! Rest assured that Sister McBride did not hesitate to take charge of the cleaning crew, leading by example, and giving specific instructions. Now that the house is quite livable, we will make sure they have check lists and reporting on how well it is maintained.  We hope to make this a program for the rest of the mission.


And by the way, our Mission President, Arthur Hannemann (whose grandparents came from Samoa) and Sister Hannemann are simply wonderful.  You have to see them in action to appreciate them, but it is obvious why they were called.  They are great!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cousins in Provo

Most of Wednesday was spent again on mission office procedures. Alicia learned about how letters and newsletters are produced. I learned the Church’s software program for monitoring vehicle use.  Very impressive! Very sophisticated! (I suppose some future reader of this paragraph will chuckle at that term, but it certainly applies in 2015!)

One might think that the office training might be dry and boring.  It was neither.


In the evening we had a little get-together of cousins here in Provo at the BYU Creamery, where they make what may very well be the best ice cream in the world.

From Left:  Leah Jennings (granddaughter of Virginia Blunck Oaks), Tara Kay Skeen, Sterling Jones, Elder McBride, Sister McBride, Evan Skeen, Michael Skeen, and Michael’s friend, Jessica Johnson.