|Lae Island, oh what a beautiful sight! Now that's what I call a tropical island!|
When you step onto Lae Island you truly take a step back in time. A place unadulterated by the outside world (for the most part). A place where there are no resorts, no pools, no air-conditioning, no paved roads, no cars, no refrigeration, no stores, no running water, no ovens, no phones and internet (OK, occasional access at the NTA "office"; more on that later). It kind of reminded me of living on a perpetual camping trip. For some, it's not much different than what they have on Ebeye, except there are no stores. It was one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life so far and I can check it off of my list of things to do someday. Remote island? Check!
After our nine hour boat ride from Ebeye Island in the Kwajalein Atoll we finally sailed into the Lae Atoll. The atoll is too shallow for large boats to dock, so we dropped anchor a few hundred yards off shore. We ferried to the island via small motor boat from our "large" 50 ft. fishing vessel. As we approached the island our eyes were busily taking in all the sights. The clear clean water, the white sand, palm trees swaying in the breeze, the scattering of buildings up on shore, and a long line of islanders waiting to greet us on land. The women were dressed in colorful Marshallese dresses and many of the men and boys were dressed in white shirts, ties and pants. As we approached shore our ears detected the beautiful melodic Marshallese singing, accompanied by a ukulele. There began our adventure on Lae Island for the next five days.
|Welcome to Lae Island! Now this is what I have dreamed of! The women and girls were in front singing with flower leis in their hands, and the men and boys in the back of the line.|
|Elder Becker shaking hands with the children of Lae.|
|Fine looking young men of the Lae Branch waiting to welcome us and shake our hands.|
|Here I am with my beautiful (and oh so fragrant) flower lei and a fresh coconut to drink. I don't think I look too bad, if I don't say so myself, after our 9 hr. boat ride! Behind me is the church building and to the right is the Elder's apartment.|
Come with me as we stroll through our weekend in pictures. I hope you enjoy it as much I did! I will try to explain it a little as we go. I must warn you, though, this is a LONG post. There are just too many pictures.
|All of our belongings, tools, food, and supplies had to be ferried, a boat load at a time, from our fishing vessel. Including about about a thousand pounds of rice and flour. These men worked hard!|
|Fish, pork, sea clams (front), breadfruit (fixed 2 ways), rice, and fresh coconut milk|
|Feasting on our dinner as Branch President Phillips welcomes us.|
|This is about all I could eat (I was still rocking from the waves) .... until they brought me this warm coconut pudding-like goodness (front right). Heavenly!|
|Hot chocolate? No thanks, too hot for me!|
|Pres. Kajai and company fixing dinner|
|with the Elders in the cooking area|
|fresh catch grill|
|view from the cooking hut, Chapel on left, Elder's apt and bathrooms|
|the main road away from "town"|
The Kwajalein District, lead by Sister Seremai, brought many items for the members on Lae. Clothing, toys, sandals, flip-flops, candy, treats, toiletries, sheets, towels, and many other items were all donated by the caring sisters from the District. These were carefully and systematically distributed to the children and women.
|children waiting for their goodies|
|this little girl cracked me up. I don't think we were ever able to make her smile. I don't think she liked our white skin. Somehow she managed to snag an extra bear as well!|
|Sis. Seremai reading letters from her preschool children to the children of Lae|
|sorting the clothes|
It was fun helping Sister Seremai distribute the items. Everything they received was so appreciated.
We "kicked" the Elders out of their apartment, so this is where Elder Becker and I slept. I purchased an inflatable mattress for the trip enabling us to get a half decent sleep. We primarily used the apartment to sleep and to shower. Every time we went into the apartment there would be little children standing outside trying to get a look at what we were doing. They would stand and just stare for what seemed like forever until we would shoo them away.
|little piggies running around all over!|
|inside the Elder's apartment|
|The kitchen. The Elders have a sink, a couple of drawers for their dishes, a butane hot plate for cooking and a table with 2 chairs for eating and study. That's about it!|
|"our" bedroom. wood floors, slatted glass windows, the bed against the wall.|
|waiting for a meeting to start inside the chapel|
|Primary singing time|
|Speaking at the Fireside. James Jelke, left, was our interpreter.|
Saturday night we held a fireside for the Branch. We have about 95 members of the church on Lae. There are about 300 people on Lae Island, so about 1/3 of the island attend church. Several of us visitors from the District were asked to speak and share our testimonies. Elder Becker and I talked about the temple and our love for the temple. The other speakers spoke on prophets, the priesthood, the importance of family, and the Book of Mormon. We each talked for about 15-20 minutes. Each meeting was a spiritual experience. The fine leaders of the Lae Branch are doing a wonderful job leading the congregation.
After the fireside we ate a typical late dinner, about 9:30pm.
Sunday meetings went as usual, almost as if we were back home attending Sacrament meeting in the states. We had Sacrament meeting, followed by classes for the Priesthood and the Primary. The Relief Society women adjourned to the cooking hut where they had to start preparing food for the large group of people.
|Beauties on the beach! Sister Tafili, Thelma Ned, Sister Butler joined by a little islander|
|shelling fresh coconuts|
|They love to pose for pictures! And what an amazing backdrop!|
After dinner we visited and played games, and I even joined in the fun, making funny animal sounds and dancing. They told me I was a pretty good dancer! Not sure about that, but it was fun!
|the front of the Lae church, with water catchments on either side|
|walking on the beach with these beautiful sisters and Elder Becker. (notice my plastic bag for shells!) I can't walk on a beach and not collect shells!|
|sailing in the lagoon|
|the only way to cross was to wade through|
|walking the beach|
We wandered through the rest of the island, escorted by our missionaries. We visited with members, met new friends, including a doctor, and took in all the sights.
|empty airport building|
|this is the runway for when the planes are flying|
|medical clinic; they have a doctor, but no medicine|
|frying breadfruit chips. Yummy!|
|new elementary school to open this fall!|
|current elementary school room|
|school buildings, old and new|
|NTA - the only place to make a phone call and get internet access!|
|The NTA "building"|
|basketball court - with solar panels!|
|Protestant church, the only other church on the island.|
And we were treated to the most beautiful sunset for us to remember Lae by!
And then it was almost time to go home to Ebeye before we knew it. But first there were a couple of things to do before we say goodbye to our new found friends.....
|Fisrt, they kill a pig for our final dinner......|
|Then the women sang to us at our farewell Yokwe. So, touching! I shed tears as they sang their good bye songs|
|clowning around with our new friends. such wonderful people!|
|sending us home with lots of new jewelry, all lovingly hand stitched|
Farewell to our wonderful friends on Lae! God be with you til we meet again! A finer group of people could never be found. It is so true that no matter where you go in this world you will find true and valiant people who share your same values. These people have firm testimonies of the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have the same faith, as do I, that if we live righteously then we can live once again with our Heavenly Father and with our families. And when we do, I hope to be there with these fine people once again. I love you, my friends from Lae. You will ever be in my heart.