Sunday, July 26, 2015

Fiji Experience - Week 2 in the West

Monday – 20 July

We picked up the Senekuriciris at the service center in Suva and headed out for the west side of the island.  After a week of working together our trust and affection for each other was well established.  We had a long drive which was spent getting even better acquainted.  We had a great visit as we watched the countryside go by.

We passed through Nadi and went on to Lautoka.  We stayed at the Tanoa Waterfront Hotel.  It was nothing like Holiday Inn, but only a fraction of the cost.  The rooms were clean and it met our needs.  With no breakfast included we simply went to a local grocery store to buy cereal and milk which was fine with us.

Lautoka is the second largest city of Fiji and very much an industrial center for the island of Viti Levu.  In the heart of the sugar cane region, the sugar processing plant there is a major employer and cane trucks and trains are frequent sights.

According to Wikipedia, other industries in the area include timber milling, garment manufacturing, distillery, brewery, jewelry, blending, steelworks, fishing, hatchery, domestic items, paints, and construction. The wharf is a busy place in Lautoka and there is a lot of business going on downtown.

While many in Fiji still live a traditional rural village life there is also high tech communication
 and increasing national investment in newly paved 4 lane roads, sidewalks, streetlights
and other infrastructure in the populated cities.

Downtown Latoka
Tuesday – 21 July

On Tuesday morning we trained  a group of consultants from Lautoka ward and one of the priesthood leaders (I believe he was the High Council advisor, but I don't recall his name.)
That evening we did the full stake leadership training.  In addition to priesthood leaders there were consultants from several different wards and branches from all over the west, some travelling for several hours to get there.

Lautoka ward consultants

Stake President Solomoni Kaumaitotoya

Lautoka stake leadership training - full group
Stake Priesthood leaders

Ba Branch Consultants

Senikuaciris with Nadi Ward FH leaders

Nawaka Ward

Rakiraki Branch

Tavau Ward

Lautoka Second Ward

The training went well and there was much fellowshipping and laughter afterward as people came together who generally saw each other infrequently due to long distances and limited transportation.  A group of women had prepared sandwiches and pizza to feed the group after the meeting.  There was a gorgeous sunset that night.  It was a very memorable evening.

Wednesday – 22 July

On Wednesday we travelled to the FHC in Tauvua for another skills training for consultants.  We we were starting to move through our days on auto-pilot as we were not sleeping well and the pain and frustration of my broken hand was wearing me down.  Still, when we were teaching we would feel the spirit of Elijah kick in and we were grateful to be there.

Thursday – 23 July

On Thursday we checked out of the Waterfront and travelled back to Nadi.  The Senikuraciris showed us how to find the FHC there and then we took them to the bus station so they could return to Suva.  Our parting was bittersweet.  They were eager to get back to their family and we were feeling very ready to wind up the last of the assignment so we could get back to New Zealand.  Still, it was sad to say goodbye to our new friends, not knowing when we would see them again.

We checked into the Raffles Gateway Hotel and then went out exploring to familiarize ourselves with Nadi.   We saw many brightly colored houses and a bustling downtown area.

There were frequent sugar cane trucks and trains moving this dominant crop from fields to processing plant.:

Cane trucks were a frequent sight

cow in a cane field
The loud horns of the trains that move the cut sugar cane woke us in the early morning.

We visited the Hindu temple in Nadi and took photos of other houses of worship we saw as we travelled around.  We were very impressed by the way it seemed the people of Fiji were able to live peacefully with their different religions.   It reminded us of the 11th article of faith: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

We stopped at a small shop in Nadi to buy some cold drinks.  We met a sweet lady there who we struck up a conversation with.  We gave her a MyFamily book and spent some time showing her ours.  We were not sure if she could read Fijian, (she spoke good English but her native language was probably Hindi). Still, we felt prompted to talk with her about preserving family stories and we trusted that something valuable might come of the time we shared with her.
Friday – 24 July
Friday morning we went to the Nadi FHC for our usual consultant skills training.  There were some newly called consultants who had never been on FamilySearch who were very apprehensive  about using the computer at all.  However, there were also others who were very capable and showed a real aptitude for guiding their peers.

That night we held our last leadership training.  By then we were dragging, nearly out of voice and out of steam.   But again, once we started teaching we felt supported by the spirit.  After we went through  the PowerPoint presentation explaining the My Family 15 in 15 program,  the Stake President gave a very powerful testimony about the importance of Family History work in which he relayed a dream he had about his deceased mother urging him to complete the temple work for his ancestors.  The group was very moved by his words.
We were so exhausted by the end of that night we didn’t get any more group photos.  We were very ready to go back to our room and collapse.

Saturday- 25 July

Saturday was our P-day.  We were all done teaching, so we took a bus out to Denarau island where we relaxed on the beach and had a nice lunch.  Denarau is the resort area where there are several 5 star hotels and upscale time shares, luxury condos and retreats for the rich.  As we saw the golf course, high price boats in the harbor, and spacious vacation homes we could not help but notice the extreme difference from the very modest village homes where often families of ten or more people would live in a single room.

On the way into Denarau we met a lovely family on the bus who we talked to and gave a My Family book.    We also gave one to a taxi driver we met in Denarau.  Everywhere we went we found opportunities to strike up conversation, savoring the open friendliness of the people. Even though it was our “day off”  we continued to share messages about the importance of preserving family stories every chance we could.

 People would notice my cast and say things like “Oh you poor thing. What happened to you?”   That would lead to us introducing ourselves as missionaries and asking them about their families.  We will never know in this life if any of those one time conversations made a difference, but we felt we were planting seeds that could possibly lead to people connecting with their family in new ways or having a better understanding of the importance of writing stories down.

We saw wonderful beaches at Denarau and enjoyed taking the “Bula Bus” to shuttle between the various beautiful resorts.  But the images that captivated us the most was not the fancy hotels or resort attractions.  It was the every day people of Fiji we met and the conversations we had from chance encounters along the way. 

Sunday – 26 July

We attended church in the Nadi ward, and as usual we were asked to speak in Sacrament.   Larry talked about family history and the My Family 15 in 15 goal for the pacific.   I talked about coping with adversity and used my broken wrist as an example.   I stressed that when we write our personal or family histories we should not “sugar coat” the stories, limiting them only to the accomplishments and blessings.  I explained we should also record the challenges we or our ancestors have and how we overcame them.

After the meeting we had a very powerful experience talking with a woman in her 70's who shared her life story with us.   It was one more confirmation that we were exactly where we needed to be and that we were being guided in what to say and do.

Members and missionaries from Nadi Ward

With that our service assignment to Fiji was done.  The following day was spent preparing to return and waiting around in the airport.   We had a smooth flight home (this time on Air New Zealand, so it was a much more comfortable flight than coming out had been).    Fiji was an amazing experience, but we were glad to get back to “Base Camp”,  our temporary Kiwi home.  

 Every time we take a trip it feels strange to come “home” and not really be home.  Our hearts still miss our family and friends and familiar surroundings of Boise, Idaho.   But there is no doubt in our minds that right now we are doing exactly what our Father in Heaven wants and that we will remember and savor these experiences as long as we live.

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