Saturday, October 3, 2015

Tukevesi Branch

Early Saturday morning we took the ferry to Vanua Levu.  We were met there by the District President who took us to Tukevesi Branch. This is a very tiny rural branch. The chapel is a structure built onto the front of the house of one  of the members there. There was no electricity and no internet,  so we  wrote out people's family tree information on paper with a promise that we would check it against FamilySearch records when we got to Labasa where there is a FHC to see if we could find any names to be submitted. 

We had seen other very small branches and simple chapels. This one, however, was without question the most basic we had seen so far.   At one point the congregation had been meeting in a tent, so getting the shelter they had was a big step up for them.   We were very impressed by the faith of the people there and recognized that the type of building they met in was not important.  What mattered was the strength of their testimonies of Christ and their desire to follow His teachings.    

As with the members in Qelemy, those at Tukevesi were also very appreciative of our visit as they were a great distance away from the only FHC available on the island.  They received us with incredible kindness and we all enjoyed our time together.

The members we met in Tukevesi were very eager to share their family stories and hopeful that we would be able to help them prepare names of their ancestors for temple ordinances

After our work was done the members provided a lovely meal.   Always up for trying something new, I tasted one of the tiny chilies from a plant they had.  It was HOT!  I started shoving breadfruit into my mouth to cut the burning and chased it with lots of water.   Not for the first time I was very grateful that Fiji is one of the few island countries we travel to where the tap water is perfectly safe for drinking.   I wanted lots of it! 

 We also had opportunity to meet with the young elders serving there.  Elder Lemusu was from Australia and Elder Davis from California.  I talked with Elder Davis at length, hearing his conversion story.  He had joined the church just shortly before coming out on his mission.   This parents had abandoned him when he was 11 years old and he grew up on the streets of California, escaping the formal foster system by simply couch surfing with various friends so he could stay in school.  He spoke of supporting himself through his teen years by doing tattoo work in parks.  He talked of being introduced to the gospel by someone he knew and how that had changed his life.   He bore powerful testimony of the power of repentance and how God’s love makes all the difference. 

As we left that village area, we were again impressed by how many of the simple houses had solar panels to provide electricity for the people living there.

But of course, there were also plenty of houses that didn't have these.  I wondered what it would be like to grow up living in a place like this, so far away from any town with little contact from the larger world.

As we traveled on to the next community I marveled at the beauty of the island and everywhere we went the people were incredibly welcoming and kind.  I could not help but recognize how different these people's lives were from all that I knew, and yet in so many ways we were the same.   We all wanted good things for our family.  We all wanted health and to have love in our lives.  Our customs and knowledge base might be very different from one another, but as met people in various Fiji villages and listened to them sharing stories of their family, over and over again I felt deep connection to these people.  In a powerful way, I felt very much at home.

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