On Saturday I went with the women from the Pesega 5th ward which we attend here in Samoa to an activity held at Malololelei Gardens, a spot owned by one of the members high up in the mountain.
We gathered together at the church at 5:30 AM and then carpooled up in three vans. It was a precarious road, made all the more treacherous by the recent rains. But we all made it up to the top without any problems.
Once we arrived, we found our pathway through the bush to the area where we were to meet had been prepared for us with mowed trails and lit torches set every few feet. Following the flaming torches along the trail through the dark reminded me of the importance of knowing who and what to follow when I am uncertain or feeling lost. An umu (pit oven) was baking with our breakfast. A lot of work went into setting this up!
When we first got there it was still quite dark, so I could not yet appreciate the visual beauty of the place. Instead, I was able to totally immerse myself in the sounds. Birds were calling all around me, crickets were buzzing, and the soft laughter of women coming together set the tone for the experience we were about to have.
A campfire was started and women sat all around it. There were young and others old. Some were married and some were single. Among the group of women gathered were native Samoan, American, and Canadian. Some were mothers and some were not. Some had been members of the Church all their lives and others were relatively new converts. There was much difference in how we have lived our lives. Still, the unity and love that I felt between these woman who had joined together with their common faith was absolutely amazing.
As the sun came up we had an opening prayer, song and talks about the importance of family. There was a presentation by a mother and one by her daughter. Testimonies were shared. We all had an opportunity to reflect on our power of influence as women and how we can strengthen home and family.
As the soft light began to filter through the trees I was struck by the beauty of the place and the stunning view to the city down below.
We had some fun with one of the YSA sisters leading the group in singing rounds to the tune of "Row Row Row Your Boat" with the circle of women divided into sections, one group singing "La", one sang "Lo", one sang "Le" and one sang "Lu".
Our Relief Society President, Rebecca Lolo, (in red) did a great job of gathering ideas from the women there of topics they would like to learn about at future RS meetings.
Suggestions the women came up with affirmed for me all over again how much I had in common with these women - many were things I have seen taught in my home ward. They asked for things like yoga, gardening, budgeting, baking and building healthy relationships.
The closing song was "Love At Home" which I captured on video and plan to post here later on.
Then we all shared a meal of umu breakfast. I'm still not a big fan of taro, but the breadfruit was yummy as were the other dishes - lamb, mackerel, and the ever popular paulusami - tarro leaves cooked with coconut cream. Yum!
|Sister Arda Shields is from British Columbia. She is serving with her husband|
to provide dental care here in the islands.
As we drove back down the mountain we sang songs together, laughed, shared things about our families. Truly, these women are my sisters. I felt so deeply connected to them. No matter where I may go in this world, through our common bond of the gospel of Jesus Christ, what unifies us is far more important than our differences.