Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Another mission trip to Lae and Ujae Islands!

One of the last things I said six months ago upon our return from Lae Island was,  "Boy, I hope I NEVER have to do that again!" Don't get me wrong, I LOVED the people and the island is beautiful and we had some amazing experiences.  It's just that the nine-hour boat ride was trying and LOOOOONG, and like I said.... nine.hours.each.way.  Nine hours of just sitting and staring into the open ocean (some people can sleep, but I can't because it makes me even sicker to my stomach).  We went in a 50 foot fishing vessel out in the elements on the open sea with nothing more than a pillow and a mat to sit on.  I know, I know.  Never say Never!  I have always said that as a parent with growing children as you never know when you are going to eat your words.  Well, judging by the title of this post, you now know I ATE MY WORDS!   President Weir and Sister Weir, our mission President and his wife, were supposed to go with us last time, but got called away on other duties.  Six months later, they were rearing to go.    So, go we did.

I told Elder Becker going on this trip is something similar to child birth...... you might have some extreme pain and discomfort through the hours of childbirth (boat ride), but as soon as you see that wonderful creation (the island and it's people) then all that pain was so worth it.  And so with this trip, as time dulled my memories of the boat, my sea sickness and the heat, what stood out to me were the GOOD memories of the island, the wonderful new friends, and inspirational and spiritual meetings.  The beauty of the island beckoned to us once again.

OCTOBER 24, 2014
There were about 25 of us on the boat this time around.  We had the same boat, the same crew, and a few of the same people with us.  For Sister Weir, this was an entirely new experience.  And that's saying a lot since she has seen some amazing things from all her travels around the mission from the Marshall Islands to Kiribati (Gilbert Islands) and to Christmas Island.  I felt blessed to have three wonderful women with me from the Kwajalein District to help with the training, Annmarie Loeak, District RS President, Maria John, District YW Counselor, and Sandy Bellu, District Primary President.  Just the week before I had asked the Priesthood leaders for more help for the women, and these sweet sisters stepped up to the call.  Amazing!

It was our intention to start loading the boat at 6am, but it was pouring rain.  So, we had just a bit of a delay as we waited for the storm to pass.  After we filled the hold with goods and ice we managed to slip away from the dock at 10am (only 2 hours behind schedule).  We left the rain behind us, and never saw it again!  Smooth sailing all the way.
loading the people!
loading the ice with Carl Kilma

So long Ebeye!
Pres and Sister Weir on the right
goodbye Kwajalein Atoll!

The boat ride this time was SMOOTH SAILING!  It was so nice.  And much, much better than last time.  The boat engine and the waves are so loud that you can't really talk much unless you are real close, so most of that time is spent in introspection.  That's what I call it.  Elder Becker just calls it SLEEP.  He takes the Dramamine pills and falls asleep for hours on end.  Me?
Bro. Thomas,the missionaries heading to Lae,
Elder Barlow and Elder Whetstone, and Pres. Weir

Sister Loeak, being the "stewardess"

I just sit and read my Ipad, play a game or two, sing to myself, and just stare out at the endless waves.  I'm not much at sleeping while traveling as it makes me more sick, so I just sit and sit and sit and wait.   With the Dramamine, it's kind of a mind-numbing trance at times.

Some people enjoyed some homemade bread (pilawe),
chicken (bao) and rice, but I stuck to my peanut butter and honey sandwich.  I don't have much of an appetite on the boat.  Many of the islanders like to smell orange rind, as they say it helps relieve sea sickness.  Once I remembered that, I pulled mine out and shared my oranges with those around me.  I don't know if it helps or not, but it does smell good!
my "spot" for the next 8 1/2 hrs! yikes, not too lady-like!

I did get in lots of reading!

these 4 brought us in, Thelma Ned, Langbata, Elder Becker, and Drebon
We managed to make it in record time, only 8 1/2 hours!  Yahoo!  Land ahoy! As Elder Becker and his cohorts "guided" us into the Atoll, Langbata pointed to a small island (2nd one on the right) and dubbed it "Becker Island".
Becker Island!
And that's what we called it all week long.  Hmmm, better write up the papers and make it legal so we can start building!  ha, ha.

royal greeting by the locals; greeted with singing and flower leis
arrival feast of rice, salt fish (raw), breadfruit, sea clams, pork, coconut milk and a coconut drink

visiting the sisters
our visit with Doreen outside her home.  they sat on the coral, but gave me a mat to sit on!  wimp!

fresh coconut to drink; great knife work!

visiting another sister in her home

Sister Weir sharing her testimony after our sister visits

beauties!  I love them all!

Sister Weir and some of the children

Young Women training with the YW leaders

Elder Barlow, Actson Langbata, Elder Whetstone

I LOVE these women!  Sandy Bellu, Annmarie Loeak, me, Maria John, all from Ebeye and Sister Weir.  We helped strengthen the Lae sisters through Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary trainings as well as home visits.
The men went to Ujae on Saturday to see the missionaries and to check on the progress they have been making in the church.
Ujae Elders Siale and Price with Elder Becker and Pres. Weir

walking through Ujae

Ujae visit

representatives to Ujae from the District and Lae.
Monday Morning Bro. Langbata and his dad took us on a cruise around the Atoll in a small motor boat.  There are about 20 small islands in the Lae Atoll.  This is the same boat they use to off load us and all our supplies from our fishing boat.  We went to Langbata's island and then on to Becker Island!
our "three-hour cruise" around the Atoll

walking around on Langbata's island
stepping foot on "Becker Island"!
Weirs and Beckers
daily afternoon volleyball game in the church courtyard

always looking for another mother like daughter!
We had a wonderful weekend filled with church gatherings, Lae Branch District Conference, leadership trainings, Family Home Evening, relaxing under the coconut trees, searching for shells, visiting with the locals, women doing "rescue visits" (visiting people who haven't been to church in a while that might need some encouragement or help), men going to Ujae, playing with the children, a boat "cruise" around the Atoll, and trying to stay cool.  Remember no air conditioning plus high humidity = hot and sticky ALL.the.time.

I gave out some lice combs to the sisters
typical home
love these ladies!

Pres. Weir speaking at the Conference

my buddy, Steven, and the Nebo girls

Steven playing thumb wars with Pres. Weir

Training class under the trees

bringing in supplies from the big boat

Lae church grounds
 All in all, we had an amazing time on Lae and Ujae.  We made some wonderful connections (and re-connections) with the people, had inspirational training sessions, and we felt the spirit guiding us.  There are approximately 350 people on this small island, of which there are 108 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  At our Sunday services we had about 135 in attendance, and then on Monday night at our Family Home Evening we had 177 people present!  It was amazing! We would dance if we had attendance percentages like that back home.  Several members of the High Council spoke at the FHE meeting, including Elder Becker.  I felt the spirit so strong there in that meeting.  It matters not where you gather as Heavenly Father and Holy Ghost will be there to lead you and to guide you.  Even on a remote island in the Pacific.  Elder Becker's talk that night was the best talk I have ever heard him give.  I felt the spirit so strong, and I knew he was being guided in what to say. He stopped reading his notes and the words just flowed.   He spoke on charity and the love of God.  He talked about helping one another, and then he spoke about the highest form of charity, that being forgiveness.  The best act of charity we can give one another is to forgive others their tresspasses.  That is a very good lesson for all of us to remember.

Now, it was time to say good-bye.  That is always hard to do as you never know if you will be coming back.  But, I have this sneaking suspicion that we will be going back in six months.

I must say, the boat ride home was a ride to remember.  I do not say that lightly, nor do I say that with any degree of fondness.  We were met with the typical fall storms.  In fact, we were already drenched before the captain even turned over the engine.  Needless to say, it was a ride we will always remember.  In fact it was too wild for the men to even fish.  Now I know that's rough when they can't do that.  Sorry no Tuna or Mahi Mahi to bring home this time.  And it was too wet and wild to even take a picture.  We were just glad we MADE IT HOME in one piece.   Elder Becker's description of our trip was the most accurate of all, "it felt like we were on the spin and rinse cycle in a washing machine for nine hours."   We tossed and turned, were rained and sprayed on by the waves, and were wet for the entire trip.  As I sat there in my solace the words of two songs kept running through my head.  And then I sang them out loud since nobody could hear me any way.

Master the tempest is raging!  The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o'er shadowed with blackness, No shelter nor help is nigh.
Carest thou not that we perish? How canst thou lie asleep.
When each moment so madly is threatning A grave in the angry deep?
The winds and the waves shall obey thy will: Peace, be still.
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea or demons or men or what
ever it be, No waters can swallow the ship where lies The Master of ocean
and earth and skies.  They all shall sweetly obey thy will:  Peace be still;
peace, be still.  They all shall sweetly obey thy will:  Peace, peace, be still.

I prayed and prayed and prayed that the waves and the sea would be calmed.  But it did not happen. The wind did not die down and the waves kept crashing in on us.   What happened instead was that I received calm in my own heart.  I had the faith that Heavenly Father could calm the seas if He wanted, but that was not His will.  I knew that he was with us and protecting us, and I felt comforted by that thought.  Then, my thoughts began to change gears and I started singing another song in my mind.  At first it came to me in Marshallese (crazy, I know!), and then I would sing it in English.  Funny how prayers are answered sometimes.  But, this gave me peace, especially as I thought about the words to the hymn.

Count your Blessings
When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed, When you are discouraged, 
thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings; Name them one by one.  Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.  Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.  Count your many blessings; See what God hath done.

Marshallese chorus:
Bwini menin joij kajo iair! Bwini im lo bwe ej Yokwe Yuk!
Bwini im lo watok kajo iaiar, Bwini menin joij an Anij non yuk.

I have been blessed in so many ways that I will never be able to count them all.  I am grateful for all the experiences and people in my life who have made my life so rich.  Jerammon aolep! (Blessings to all)