Sunday, April 27, 2014

Harken ye people from afar, and ye that are upon the isles of the sea . . .

We returned last night from a 10 day visit to Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae where we trained leadership in Family History and introduced the members to the new "My Family:  Stories That Bring Us Together" booklet.  It was both a humbling and challenging experience.  

Our first stop was Chuuk, a lagoon state and largest of the Federated States of Micronesia where district and branch leaders gathered at the Mwan Chapel on the main island of Weno.  Relief Society sisters helped us teach the members how to use the booklet.

The young man at the end of the table is the President of the Tonoas Branch who is planning to attend the Manila Temple in June, along with 15 others from the branch, to be sealed to his wife and two children.

Next stop was Pohnpei island, the largest, highest, most populous and most developed single island in the FSM and seat of its government. A stake was created here in March and a temple trip is planned for June. Several Family History Consultants have been called and are helping members here.  

This is Bradley Spirin, an new member and enthusiastic consultant in the Pangasang Ward, Pohnpei. 

Saturday morning we visited the mysterious ruins of Nan Madol.  We had to wade through the tidal pools to reach it- thus Grant's style-setting apparel.

This ruined city adjacent to the eastern shore of the island of Pohnpei that was the capital of the Saudeleur dynasty until about 1628.

Easter morning we met with the Saints of the Kitti Branch in their rented chapel.  

Brother Iopplite Route served as our interpreter as we taught the importance of seeking out and providing ordinances for our dead.  He delivered our message with a strong spirit.  Here he is with his wife Patsipa and family. They plan to attend the Manila temple this summer to be sealed.

President Eugene Conrad of the Kitti Branch is doing all he can to encourage and support temple work and attendance among the members of the branch.  His wife is the family history consultant as well as the Seminary teacher.    

Mayleen Lipai is a 14 year old Young Woman in the Pangasang Ward, Pangasang Pohnpei Stake who enjoys learning about her family and filling out the "My Family" booklet.  

Next stop was the tiny island is Kosrae, easternmost of the Caroline Island with a population of just over 6,500, where Tulpe Nena serves as family history consultant in the Lelu Branch and Wanda June Linus in the Utwe Branch.  We met with members there and introduced the "My Family" booklet.

This beautiful family is planning a trip to the Manila Temple this summer to be sealed.

 Members work on the "My Family" booklet with the help of Elder Despain who translated for us. 

As usual, the Relief Society sisters of Kosrae provided a wonderful meal for all of us after the presentation which included traditional foods such as breadfruit, coconut, banana and taro 

as well as famous Kosrae tangerines introduced to the island by the Japanese in the last century.  

Tuesday afternoon we were bumped from our flight back to Guam and spent an extra four days in Kosrae.  We  took the opportunity to snorkel, hike to the Menke ruins through pristine rain forest, visit the Lelu ruins, and kayak in the mangrove channels.  

The rain forest was stunning and full of interesting colors and textures like this Eucalyptus trunk,


wild ginger

and fern.  

The most amazing thing about these islands are the members who, despite economic and technological challenges, strive to make and keep their covenants, love their families and love the Lord. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Livin' in a post-colonial paradise

Hafa Adia!  We continue to help people with their family history here on Guam. On Tuesday night we met with the Young Women and a stray Scout who came in to index and work on their trees.  They are planning a trip to the Manila temple in August and are each supposed to take at least one family name. The darling girl in the foreground is one of our Family History Consultants.

Barrigada youth doing Family History!

Thursday we helped Daisy, a schoolteacher from Palau whose family also included folks from Korea and Japan, prepare family names to take to the temple.  She had not submitted a name since FamilySearch came online.  Her reaction, "This could be addicting.  Now I know what I am going to do when school is out."  She told me about her Korean-born grandfather who disappeared when the U.S. took back Palau in 1944. The Laanans also came into the Family History Center.  They are Chomorro with a dash of Filipino. Grant worked with Roberto and I worked with Rose and I think we got them hooked too. I loved hearing Rose talk about her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins as we found them in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 census all living together in the village of Agat. The common denominator for all these people, of course, is a love for their families and a desire to know more about them and to provide saving ordinances for them.

Friday evening we drove down south to the village of  Talafofo to the Banana Festival.  It was on small, laid back and friendly and held right on beautiful Ipan beach.  There were all sorts of interesting kinds of  bananas like these "praying bananas" below.  

Friday I participated as a judge in History Day at the University of Guam.  The topic was "Rights and Responsibilities" and I came away with a new appreciation for the ambiguous and sometimes frustrating position of Guam as an unincorporated territory of the U.S. and one of seventeen Non-Self Governing Territories identified by the Special Committee on Decolonization of  the UN.  Its history and political status is dictated by its strategic position in the Asia Pacific.  It is also something of a cultural crossroads where an amazingly diverse mix of people coexist quite happily.  That is something that makes our assignment here so fun.

One of the great people we work alongside at the Service Center is Susan Alec from the Marshall Islands.  Here she is with her youngest daughter. Susan coordinates the translation services for the Church in the various languages of Micronesia.  For the past month she has been working long hours to assign, receive back and review translations for the Womens Conference and General Conference. Today in the Barrigada Stake Center we saw the fruits of her labors.  While we watched the rebroadcast of Conference in English it was also being shown elsewhere in the building in Chuukese, Marshallese, and Pohnpeian.  She also coordinated Yapeese and Kosraen translations.  The Chuukese were the largest group and gathered in the Primary Room, some in chairs and some on the floor.  All the women were dressed in their colorful loose fitting dresses (like muumuus).  After the morning session we had a potluck.

You can't see it, but behind the cooler is a long table with lots of island food.

 Here is a photo of my plate: cooked banana, fried fish, and something called "red rice."  I passed up the Spam Soup and the hot dogs and I didn't eat my fish head.  Susan, however, ate all of her fish except the bones including the eyes!

And finally, below are two of our lovely Samoan Sister Missionaries and a member of the Barrigada Ward.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Icons, reminders of war and beautiful ocean!

Busy week as people are starting to come into the Family History Support Office for help with their family history.  It is interesting to watch people come in almost always with a statement to the effect, "I just feel this is something I really need to do."  And then as they begin to find information the invariable emotional responses to their discoveries.  One lady, originally from the Philippines, but raised on Rota, one of the Mariana Islands north of Guam, exclaimed with tears in her eyes when she found her great grandparents whose names she had never known:  . . . now I know where I belong.  It is really quite moving.  As it is not always appropriate to share photos of such things, most of the blog postings are the fun, off-duty activities.  But, there is more going on than meets the eye.  So much for the disclaimer, here is a sampling of this week's extracurricular activies.

Lots of interesting things available at the local office supplies store!

The Spanish brought water buffalo to Guam in the 1700's.  Here they are called "carabao."  
Now they are an icon and honored by multiple recplicas throughout the island.  A sampling: 

 Three Japanese 140 mm coastal defense guns still stand near the village of Piti.  They were never operational as the U.S. forces landed before their installation could be completed.

Entrance to the War in the Pacific Museum, an excellent little museum about the war.
This is a Japanese WWII two-man submarine - talk about claustrophobic!

Asan Beach:  Grant with sea cucumber and Jeanette swimming.  This is where the U.S. forces landed in July 1944 to re-take the island.