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.