These photos were all taken early September 2013.
It is a sad fact in missionary life--all missionaries eventually go home. Our time in Fiji is short: eighteen months to two years. Each missionary blesses your life. Here are Elder and Sister Terry who served in Labasa as Mission Leadership Support (MLS). Elder Smith (we had four Elder Smiths for a while) served most recently in Tamavua as a Zone Leader and he is from New Zealand. Elder and Sister Kennerly served in Ba and Tuvalu also as MLS. She is from Samoa and he is from Australia, but they will be returning to Washington State. Sister Lawenitotoka comes from Fiji and served in Fiji. These people all made a difference in the lives of those they served.
It was fun to meet Elder Smith's parents. They live in Australia now, but value their New Zealand heritage. The beads are given as a gift while the congregation sings "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" when people leave a ward. I told the Smith family about my great-great grandfather William Paxman who served as mission president in New Zealand from 1886-1889. He initiated the first translation of the Book of Mormon into Maori. In April 1888, 2000 copies were printed and sold for 5 shillings or $1.25 each to cover the cost of printing. Later 500 copies were distributed at the April Conference in 1889 at Te Hauke. My grandfather stood on a table with books stacked all around him while he gave a history of the Book of Mormon. The people were so happy and gave him many embraces including rubbing noses as was their custom with someone they loved. His dear wife took care of the missionaries while they were translating and her work helped her as she grieved for their little 18-month old daughter, Sarah Jane Love Paxman, who died from pneumonia while they were serving.
We helped Sister Klinger (far right), our mission president's wife, prepare this feast for the departing missionaries. Sister Klinger was known for her cooking and she loved to serve by cooking, sewing, playing the piano, leading music, and visiting. They also have gone home.
This was a very large intake of missionaries. Look at all the suitcases! Everyone is leaving for their first assigned area. The prophet has lowered the age for young men to 18 and for young women to 19 to help hasten the work. One of our leaders said that young members of the Church spend the first 18-19 years of their life preparing for their mission and then spend 18 months to two years on their mission preparing for the rest of their life. They learn so much on their missions. They firm up their testimonies of their Savior, gain a love for serving others, learn to love their many companions who come from all kinds of backgrounds, learn to live on their own, cook, clean, launder, iron clothing, and budget their money. They also learn to teach the gospel directed by the spirit. Each missionary is a true miracle.
Here are just a few of the new elders. They have just purchased sulus (wrap around tailored skirt for men with pockets). They all love their sulus--very cool in the hot humid weather. We are one of the few missions (perhaps the only mission) to allow their elders to wear sulus. Left to right we have Elder Higa, Elder Johnson, Elder Raju, Elder Tanoai, Elder Haretuku, Elder Vole, and Elder Po'ona. They all became very fine missionaries.
Here is the feminine side of missionary work. Two of these sisters (Sister Fanene and Sister Agavale) have already gone home. The other three have also proved to be wonderful missionaries. Left to right they are Sister Fanene, Sister Manusavai, Sister Agavale, Sister Chong, and Sister Rich.
Check back in a few days and hopefully you will find another blog from me.