Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Our Beloved Temple Closes for Renovations

This is how the Fiji Suva Temple looks all golden in the evening sun. It greets me daily as I go to the Mission Office which faces the temple across the courtyard. You can see three views of the Pacific Ocean from the hill. 

 The temple is there as a constant amid the storms of life--leading us back to our Heavenly Father.

Inside we make sacred covenants that help direct our paths here on earth.

Eternal families begin in the temple. 
Sister Bechu and Elder Inia both served in the Fiji Suva Mission while I was serving. After they completed their missions, they were encouraged to meet by Elder and Sister McFadden who knew each of them when they served at different times on Taveuni Island. Now they are Ana and Benjamin Inia--beginning their eternal life together on 11 September 2014.

Here they are being photographed in front of the temple 
after they were sealed for time and all eternity.

Beautiful gardens provide peaceful places to meditate.

We walked around the temple a few days before it closed
and found it lovely in the early morning light.

Yes, that is a bird perched on Angel Moroni's horn.

This is my good friend Milika Kadonavatu and her two sons, Iliesa and Waisaki. Through a series of miracles, she was able to go through the temple for the first time the day before the temple closed. She was so excited! Her sons were very happy for her too. They came with her and stayed in the visitor's room while she made her covenants with the Lord. Her husband is such a good man and really supported her through this process.

Selvik Singh is from Fiji and also served in the Fiji Suva Mission. He pioneered work in the first Hindi speaking area in our mission. His lovely bride is Ragni Kumar, who also is a returned missionary. Their temple marriage was the last ordinance to be performed before the temple closed. Aren't they lovely!

The bride's parents are by the groom 
and the groom's parents are by the bride.

Beginning Monday, October 13, 2014, through December 15, 2015, the Suva Fiji Temple will be closed to accommodate an extensive renovation of the temple. Following the renovation, there will be an open house for the public and then the temple will be rededicated. The Suva Fiji Temple was the first temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Melanesia and in Fiji. It was dedicated on 18 June 2000 by President Gordon B. Hinckley. I have loved attending the temple weekly and will really miss that opportunity the last three months of my mission. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Diwali--Hindu Festival of Lights

There are a significant number of Hindus in Fiji. Diwali is one of the biggest Hindu festivals commemorated here and all over the world. It is celebrated with much fanfare, gaiety, and enthusiasm. Here is a nighttime procession that we followed when it passed our house.

Before Diwali, families spend hours making sure their homes are sparklingly clean, well-decorated and full of delicious aromas. Food is prepared for weeks in advance. Our neighbor Sarita Chandra prepared this beautiful feast including many Indian sweets which are made on the stove, not baked.

These are delicious Pera made with paneer (Indian homemade cheese), milk, sugar, and cardamom. 

  Gifts are exchanged—especially Indian sweets. 

New clothes are purchased. Here is beautiful Sarita in her new elegant sari and her beautiful home. 

Homes and shops are decorated with many small electric lights.

Rangoli, stunning folk art designs created with colored rice, sand or flower petals, are at the entrances to homes. Usually these are lotus flowers. Our neighbors, Vimal, Sarita, and their son Vineel Chandra invited us over to enjoy Diwali with them. They created this beautiful rangoli to welcome people to their home. 

It is a celebration of good over evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance. Hindus in Fiji usually open their homes to other families to share in the traditional sweets and foods of Diwali in Fiji.
Here in Fiji, it is a public holiday. Traditionally it is a harvest festival because it usually falls in October or November. The exact day of the festival is determined by the position of the moon. 

“No moon day” is the perfect day to celebrate. Candles are lit to drive away the darkness. Diwali means “rows of lighted lamps.” Small earthenware oil lamps called diyas are lit in profusion around people’s homes. Here Vimal and his son Vineel light the lamps.

I couldn't get this photo to turn around.

Then they relax after decorating their home.
Last year it was on Sunday, 3 November 2013. This year it will be on Thursday, 23 October 2014. Next year it will be on 11 November 2015 and in 2016 it will fall on 30 October. It is actually a five-day festival with Diwali falling on the third day. 

Oh, and did I mention the fireworks and sparklers. Those continued for a good month after Diwali. Boom, boom, boom late at night—I felt like I was in a war zone.

Our first introduction to Hindu culture came when we attended the Fiji Hindu Society fund-raising program on October 24, 2013. It was outstanding. This woman played a unique keyboard instrument with her right hand while operating the bellows with her left hand, singing beautifully at the same time.

This man could really dance. I wish I could post the video.

Again, lighting candles is a very important part of every Diwali celebration.

The sounds this drummer could create almost effortlessly from this small drum were amazing.

These young women danced in a very unique way and their costumes were very intriguing.

Afterwards we got to meet some of the other attendees. 
This Fijian woman now lives in California. Isn’t she beautiful in her sari. 

Here are a mother and daughter in exquisite saris. 

We were surrounded with a beautiful fashion show 
of dresses (worn by unmarried young women) and saris (worn by married women).

This woman is a sister to our dear friend, Sandhiya Singh.

At the end of the Diwali season, we learned more about Diwali at one of our senior missionary Family Home Evenings. We enjoyed lamb curry and all the toppings and roti (a bread much like a tortilla).

The women enjoyed visiting with each other on one side. 

And the men conversed on the other except for two women who perhaps found their discussion more lively..

Afterwards we took a group picture. What a wonderful bunch of people devoted to serving the people of Fiji and their Savior, Jesus Christ.

Seated: Elder Collins, Sister Davis, Sister Collins, Sister Klingler, Sister Limburg, Sister Newsom (me), Sister Hogge, Sister Wells, Sister Christiansen, Sister Tennis, and Sister Whitehead.
Standing: Elder Hogge, President Davis, President Klingler, Sister and Elder Updike, Elder Whitehead, Susan and Frank Stanford (wonderful volunteers), Elder and Sister Jackson, Elder Wells, speaker, Elder Christiansen, and Elder Tennis.