Friday, October 2, 2015

Taveuni - The Garden Island of Fiji

We had an amazing second trip to Fiji.   We were there from 30 of September to 17 October. This time I was VERY careful where I stepped so I did not fall down or break any bones!  But that is not all that made our second trip so special.   We were able to go to islands we had never visited before, Taveuni and Vanua Levu.   We very much enjoyed both places.

Taveuni is called "The Garden Island" of Fiji with good reason.  VERY tropical.
Most of the focus of this trip was working with people who lived in remote rural villages out away from where the Family History Centers are.

In recent years there have been many exciting technological developments in the field of Family History.  Family History Discovery Centers and the annual conference known as RootsTech are just two examples in the vast array of resources now available for learning about and sharing families information and stories.  In some parts of the world, however, just getting electricity or a decent Internet connection can be a huge challenge.

Wednesday - 30 SEP (Travel Day)
We left Auckland mid-day on , arriving in Nadi about 4:00 PM.  
We spent that first night at the Novatel and got a good night’s sleep.  That turned out to be a very good thing since there would be little sleep in the days to come.  The hotel was very comfortable – and we were pretty sure it was the same place we had stayed back in 2001 when we first visited Fiji with our family on a diving holiday.  It had a different name now and of course there were changes made in the years in-between.   But the place was right.  We had dinner in the restaurant and told each other stories about all the adventures and changes we had seen since the last time we had stayed at that same place.  We got up with the sunrise on Thursday (1 October) to head out for the next part of our journey, flying first to Suva, then transferring to a smaller plane to go on t
o the island of Taveuni.

We were met at the Taveuni airport by Brother Senikuraciri and the District President.  We went into Somosomo where we checked in to our motel, Chattu’s.  It was very basic, costing just $65 per night so certainly no resort.  But it was clean, had a comfortable bed and had the advantage of being walking distance to the Family History Center.   

After we got settled in, we went to the FHC where we were warmly greeted by the leaders and members who were waiting for us.  Sister Senikuraciri was there working to get members signed up with an LDS account so they would be ready for us to work with them to begin adding family names to their tree and identifying family members who they could do temple ordinances for.   We felt excitement in their anticipation.   Some of the Relief Society ladies prepared a lovely  island lunch for us of chicken, taro and polusami.   Once everybody was fed we were ready to get to work.

The internet initially was not working at the FHC,  but the Senikuaiciris had come prepared with a Vodophone Flashdrive dongle.  With that we were able to go online with our laptop to access FamilySearch.  Eventually the church internet did connect, so then we were able to speed up our work by using both our laptop and one of the center computers.   We would have liked to do even more, but the second computer at the center was not working.  It booted up but the mouse would not function so there was no way to bring up any websites.  Still, we got some great work done and felt we were off to a good start. 

We helped about 10 people submit names (not all had their photo taken).   Sister Senikuraciri also spent time training some YSA how to help people submit names so the work could continue progressing after we left.

We worked till about 7:30 that night, then took a break for hot cocoa and buttered rolls.  We had an enjoyable time visiting with the members.  There was much laughter and some good natured teasing.  When we finally made it back to our room we were dog tired, but happy…until the roosters started crowing at  11pm, then midnight  and on throughout the night.   

About 2:00 AM, just as the roosters began to settle down, jubilant voices erupted from all around us - people shouting for the Fiji Rugby team playing in the world cup game that was playing on TV.  I'm not a big sports fan in the best of times.  Hearing all the loud cheering in the wee hours of the morning made me groan big time.  Just when I FINALLY thought I might get some sleep after the sports fans settled down, mnah birds started chattering in the bush right outside the door to the room we were in.  Suffice it to say, it was a VERY long night.  .We were a bit bleary the next day, but kept our sense of humor intact and were eager for the rest of the work.                                        

On Friday morning Larry and I grabbed a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs at a nearby café and then along with the Senikuraciris we headed out to a rural branch on the other side of the island.  We were accompanied by the FHC director from Somosomo.

Chapel at Qeleny

Our vodophone dongle would not work there as that side of the island was serviced by Digicel.   Brother Senikuriciri went in search of a devise that would get us connected, but never did find one.   However, since the members had come prepared with their family information filled out in their MyFamily books, we were able to copy the information down and take it with us to input into FamilySearch later in Labasa.   By doing this we were able to submit names for four of the members.  We gave the Family Ordinance Request Forms to Bro. Senikuraciri to return to the members.  
Qeleny Branch and Mata Group members

These dear people were so appreciative of us coming to them.   They were very sincere in their desire to have their family members sealed in the temple, but living quite a long distance away from the FHC, it was very difficult for them to get there, and none had computers in their homes.  There are very few cars in that area.  Members walked long distances from their village just to come to church. They were thrilled to have the opportunity to get family names submitted.   

One highlight for me was working with a young girl and her grandmother.  I talked to them both about the importance of family stories and encouraged the little girl to listen carefully to the stories her grandmother told her so she would be able to remember them and share those same stories with her own grandchildren one day.   She promised that she would.  I was so touched by the sincerity of her sweet spirit I had tears in my eyes.  The little girl, Simone, got very serious when she saw this, saying to me “you have something coming out of your eyes”.  I smiled at her and assured her those tears were from the joy I felt.   The spirit was very strong among the members there and we felt we were surrounded by angels guiding this work.  Our testimony of the importance of sealing families for time and all eternity grew even stronger as we listened to the people speak of the great love they had for their ancestors.

Simone and her grandmother, Maca Finau Hill

Me with Simone Julixandra Beranayarayara     
We also enjoyed talking with a young boy who had spent time that morning chasing the wild chickens through the bush.   When we heard the birds squawking, someone thought there was a mongoose in the bush.  (We saw MANY mongoose scurry across the road as we were driving around the island).   The wise branch president just smiled and said “I think it is a two footed mongoose”.

We also visited a bit with two young elders who were serving in the area.   One was from Utah and the other from Massachusetts.  I took their photo and then asked them for their mothers’ email.   After I sent the pictures to the moms I got back very sweet replies of appreciation.

When we had wrapped up all our work there we took a brief side-trip to see nearby Tovoro waterfall.   On the trail walking to the falls we came to understand why Taveuni is called the Garden Island of Fiji.  It was truly beautiful!

That evening we were invited to dinner at the home of the FHC director and her husband.   We had a lovely meal and enjoyed visiting with their family.   He was the past district president in that area.

With that our time on Taveuni drew to a close.  We were able to get a bit more sleep that evening - which we sorely needed as we would be up early the next day to travel to our next island: Vanua Levu.

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