Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Where Does The Time Go?

A few weeks ago Alicia and I flew in a little 14-passenger plane east over to American Samoa, a distance of about 80 miles.

Not a bad little plane
We departed Upolu Island, Samoa, on a Wednesday at 12:00 noon; we arrived at the Pago Pago International Airport on Tutuila Island, American Samoa, on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.  Go figure.

Some passengers were a little leery of the adventure.
No, seriously, go figure. We flew east across the International Date Line and arrived a half an hour – I mean 24 and ½ hours – before we left. Look, if you fly east from, say, Kansas City to Washington, D.C., you lose an hour. But if you fly east from Apia, Samoa, to Pago Pago, American Samoa, you gain an hour. Or rather, you gain 25 hours. Go figure.

Passengers are each weighed and then seated so as to balance the weight.
Coming back to Upolu Island, of course, we lost a day.  We left Pago Pago, American Samoa, on Thursday for the half-hour flight back to Apia, Upolu Island, Samoa, and arrived on Friday.  It reminded me of the Kingston Trio song, “To Morrow.”

It was great to be back in American Samoa.

I had served there for about a year more than 50 years ago.  It has changed a lot – more cars, more houses, more large shipping vessels in one of the most perfect and beautiful, natural harbors in the world. But the people are still pretty much the same, the mountains and palm trees and crashing waves are the same.

One funny thing we saw on Tutuila was this tree full of bats.  Those dark images in the tree are bats.  They open their wings and flap them to cool off.

While in American Samoa, we took a small boat over to the Island of Aunu’u.

The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Samoa begins on Aunu’u. Very few people live there now, but we do have a thriving branch of the Church on Aunu'u,

and a set of excellent missionaries.

Few missionaries ever get to serve on Aunu'u, or to even visit it.
We never get tired of riding out over the water.  This video can be viewed by going to the blog page itself.

This past week we took another trip to Pago Pago, only this time we went by boat, the Lady Naomi.

The Lady Naomi carries cargo and passengers.
We had some bulky materials we wanted to personally handle, and we wanted to see how well we could both handle a long trip across water.  There is more background to this story, but we will include it in a future post.

This trip to Tutuila Island was a 9-hour trip over moderate to rough seas. Alicia took a good dose of Meclazine before embarking, but it wore off after about 6 hours.  Yes, she was seasick, and had she had the strength to do so, she would no doubt have given me a black eye for talking her into the trip.  But then she took another dose, and soon all was good.

It helped that we stayed that night in The Tradewinds hotel, the nicest on the island.  We were pleased to find a few good books to read in the room.

Needless to say, we took the plane back to Upolu.

Friday, February 5, 2016


We live in the most beautiful place in the world. We love the sunrises, we love the sunsets, we love the gorgeous jungle mountain views, we love the gorgeous ocean views, we love the rainbows (seen almost every day), we love swimming in the ocean.

We have not seen roses in Samoa, but we do have beautiful floral arrangements that Church members make up out of their own yards and bring to the chapel each Sunday.

 We love being around our young missionaries. Wearing white shirts and black name tags just like they do makes us feel (almost) young again.

 We love being able to serve the beautiful people of Samoa.  It is a great feeling when they complement me (Elder McBride) on my language ability; I know they are not being entirely truthful, but it feels good to hear them say it.

It is a thrill to be able to attend the temple here and worship with the Samoan Saints, some of whom I knew and even baptized 50 years ago.

 Sister McBride loves it here, and even loves the Samoan food.

We have a wonderful Mission President and his wife.  Recently we got them to pause between proselyting visits and took this picture of them.

 We have a great team of other senior missionary couples that we socialize with on weekends.  Some of the seniors are here as teachers, some as auditors, some as welfare specialists – only the McBrides and one other couple are actually assigned to the missionaries. Recently Elder Gifford Nielsen, a member of the First Quorum of Seventy and a counselor in the Pacific Area Presidency, and a former BYU football star, was here, and he had a few hours to relax.  We took him and his wife swimming at our favorite place.

Samoa was blessed recently by a visit from Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Alicia and I were privileged to help with a dinner put on here at the Mission Home, and to help arrange for a press conference the next day with the local press and Elder Christofferson.  Pictured from left, Elder & Sister Fata, Area Seventy; Elder & Sister Nielsen; Elder & Sister Christofferson; Samoa Temple President & Sister Jessop; Sister McBride. Front:  Samoa Mission President Arthur Hannemann & Sister Hannemann, Assistant Chief Bottle Washer Elder McBride. This picture is a little misleading because Alicia and I were not part of the group, but we happened to be in the kitchen when someone said, “Elder and Sister McBride, come out here and get your picture taken with the Apostle.”

It is no doubt because of these glowing reports that we recently received the following words in an email from a dear friend:  “After digesting the intriguing contents of your blog and messages, I'm not entirely convinced you will receive credit [in heaven] for a mission. Where is the adversity, hardship, challenge and antagonism?”

Good point, Charles.  So here goes with a little of the challenges we experience.  Not great hardships, to be sure, but certainly some challenges.

Sorry I can’t report on much adversity, however; about one-fourth of the people here are LDS, and the rest are almost always polite and smiling wherever we go.  Those whose livelihoods depend on contributions from their congregations are not quite as accepting of us, but you can’t really blame them, can you?

At 1:00 in the morning this past Tuesday, we got a call from some sister missionaries. Someone was trying to break in to their little wooden house. They had tried calling their missionary Zone Leaders, but no one answered. We quickly dressed and rushed out to their place. Of course, it was the middle of the night, and they live in a house some ways off the main road, so it took us a while to find it in the dark.  We got them situated in the mission conference room on the floor, found them some bedding, and tried to get things resolved the next day.

 We were glad to get to bed a little early that Tuesday night (10:00 pm), when we got a call from an Assistant to the Mission President saying one of our elders was covered with an angry red rash and he was throwing up.  Zika? Chikungunya? Dengue fever?  Who knows?  All are transmitted by mosquitoes, and the symptoms for each are pretty much the same. (These pictures may not show clearly the red rash, but rest assured it is obvious to the naked eye.)

We rushed him to the emergency room in [what is called] a hospital here.  At 12:30 a.m. he was settling down, and the nurses in triage said to take him home and come back in the morning for a blood test.  “It might be Zika,” they said. “Can you test for Zika here?” I asked.  “No.  But we can test for Dengue fever. Bring him back at 8:00 tomorrow morning.”  After less than four hours of sleep, I had him back into the hospital at 7:30 a.m.  The doctor did not arrive until 9:30, and he sent the elder to the emergency room where he stayed for the next 24 hours. Unfortunately, the blood results are not yet back.  We still don’t know for sure what he had – I mean, has.

We do live in the tropics, and we do have a few zillion  Aedes aegypti here.

One of our senior missionaries has one of the three diseases now.  Will we get it?  Good chance.

Before leaving the hospital, we made it a point to wash our hands thoroughly.  Lying on the sink next to the wash basin we saw a syringe. Don’t know who had left it there, nor whether it had already been used or was ready for use.

We will probably never know what the elder had – I mean has.  He is staying now in the Missionary Recovery Center in the Mission Home.  Fortunately for the younger missionaries, the symptoms for all three diseases generally run their course in about a week or two at the most.

Another day:  The phone rings.  “My companion has a boil.”  (Big deal.  We get a lot of boils here. ) “I’m sorry to hear that, elder.  How is he feeling?”  “Well, he can’t see out of one eye, the boil is so big.”  So off we went and brought him to the Church compound here where there is a dentist, a volunteer who is retired and goes around the world serving the Church in far-off places.  This is what it looked like.  The dentist is a life-saver.

 Another day:  We delivered supplies to some missionary houses, when one of them asked us to look at his foot.  Yuck!  We took him to get the sores dressed. He is on crutches now, but his foot should heal in a matter of a week or more or more than that.

Did I say we have boils here?  Some big, some small. This one was not small; we brought him in to the Church compound to see the dentist.  Again the dentists lanced this one and today he is just fine.  (Yeah, I know – the dentist working on a foot!)

 Note:  The Samoa Apia Mission is between nurses.  That is, we have been without a nurse for a few months, but we are expecting a new sister missionary who is a nurse, to arrive next month. We can hardly wait!

 We also get to help change out the water filters on our missionaries’ water filtration units.  One filter gets changed every 2 months.  That’s the one on the right; it was white when installed – yucky, huh?  One gets changed every 4 months (the middle one). The one on the left gets changed yearly.

So, Charles, I am afraid you are right. We are not really building up much credit in heaven on this mission, but we are thoroughly enjoying our time here in this life.