Monday, September 26, 2011

It's a small world...

Vince and Michelle,

I listen in on the LDSMMPacific group. I'm excited to see your post today! Our son, Jacob is in the Fiji Suva mission, speaking Fijian. He's been out just over a year, and has been in Suva, along with a few small towns (Kuku and Sigatoka) on the main Island of Fiji. 

For Michelle, your husband was my fellow-shipper and best friend when my family first joined the church in Carpinteria. I actually knew him a little bit from the Presbyterian Community Church there, but when his family joined the church, he "disappeared" for a while. It was funny to see him at the "Mormon" church in Santa Barbara the first time I went, and think, "oh, of course, that's why I haven't seen him a the Community Church for a while!"

Jacob is our youngest. His big brother went to Washington, and I was grateful that we got eased into the "distance" aspect of them being so far away. Fiji still seems so far to me (even though I went to New Zealand on my mission). Vanuatu is pretty remote--even compared to Fiji. Bless you guys for being able to do that with your first.

I like to sail, and one of the sailing magazines I used to get had an article from a couple that visited Vanuatu. They talked about Bislama, and how a lot of it is based in English. One of the funniest Bislamic words they encountered was the word for pianos. Roughly translated it was "a big fellow box, it has teeth, some are white, some are black, you bang on it, it sings".

Fun to see you guys online. Vince has always been one of my heroes. Good luck with whole Vanuatu experience. 

--Dave Duncan

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A few words about Gaua

The letter to follow is the kind response I received after emailing the mission president for details about how we are to continue to stay in touch with Jansen while serving on Gaua. 

Included you will note that mail service will be irregular for Jansen while serving on Gaua with no email access.  It sounds as if he will be in for a zone conference to a more developed area  every 6 weeks at which time he can read emails and access letters so blog posts will be more sporadic during this time.   This said, I know that the emails and letters he receives lift his spirits greatly, so please continue to send them, and just know that it may be a while before they reach him.

Dear Sister Sears;
Your email has been forwarded to the us, the Warners who are the missionary couple in Port Vila,  Vanuatu. Elder Warner serves as 1st counselor to the mission president who resides (when they are not traveling) in Fiji.  We are from Bountiful. Elder Warner and I have been in Vanuatu for a year now and are loving being with these lovely people and the young missionaries. We lived in missionary housing on the Island of Ambae (which is next to Gaua) for 3 months at the first of the mission.  What a choice experience living closer to the “people”.  Scrubbing laundry by hand, reading by candlelight and taking “cup” showers (pour water from a bucket over your head) was like being on a camping trip. We felt spoiled because we had a little gas cooking stove so didn’t have to cook over a fire.  The Elders usually hire a Mama member of the church to do their laundry but I didn’t feel like it was right for me to.   

Elder Sears is a fine young man and you can be proud of him. We love him.  He will have a wonderful experience on Gaua.  His companion is one of the most experienced missionaries who is a district leader and is Ni-Van (Native of Vanuatu)from the island of Tanna, so no worries, he is familiar with living among the people. We love Elder Namariel and he will look after your son well.  He speaks French, English, Bislama and his village as well as other village languages so he is very comfortable with the people.        

We are able to contact the missionaries at most anytime by telephone and they can call us if they need as they carry a mobile phone.  They are also able to keep in contact by phone with their zone leaders in Luganville. The Zone Leaders in Luganville talk via telephone to the Elders in Gaua several times a week getting reports and checking on them. The Zone Leaders also go to Gaua regularly and meet/teach with the Elders on Gaua. There are flights to Gaua twice a week from Luganville. (I can think of a lot of places in the U.S. that don’t have that kind of service.)

Many of the islands have very limited electricity so computers, internet, television – all the things we think are part of life, are not available. Surprisingly every remote corner of every island we have been on, we have seen plenty of mobile phones.  In fact, I had to ask a local young man how to program names on my phone. Phones are also used to take pictures, function as a radio and flashlight. All ways that I’ve never even used mine.  A funny experience: We went to a very remote village on south Ambae and a fierce looking young man, in native war dress, blocked our path to the village.  Soon he reached into his pocket and pulled out his ringing mobile phone telling him the village was ready for us.  He then lead us into the village where the village presented us with a custom welcoming ceremony. He was part of the “show”.  I have never felt my safety threatened on the islands but rather protected by the people.

Many of the missionaries on “outer” islands only get mail every six weeks. Oh, how grateful we are for the U.S. postal system.  Vanuatu mail service is slow, slow everywhere in the country as nothing is automated. We have a church office post office box as there is no mail delivery to homes or businesses.  Elder Warner and I pick up the mail every other day.  We hold all the missionary’s mail  at our apartment until we or another missionary is coming or going to a specific island.  Some of the missionaries prefer to have the mail sent to the island they are serving on but it doesn’t seem to be as reliable and often arrives after they have been transferred.  Sometimes boxes are slow coming because of going through customs, I think.  I don’t know what to tell you about a box sent in July if it was sent to Luganville.

We will be having a Christmas Party/Zone Conference/Fireside in Port Vila early in December.  All the missionaries in Vanuatu will be flying and staying in Port Vila at that time.  It would probably be good to send Christmas packages to the office address here: LDS Missionaries  P.O. Box 1412 Port Vila, Vanuatu (no zip).  The largest flat rate boxes that our family have sent, usually arrive in 2-3 weeks and cost just over $50 to mail.  All U.S. mail for Vanuatu comes to Port Vila first as we have two flights a week from Fiji.  Please do not send jerky because there is a charge by customs when it is listed in a box.  Often the boxes are opened in front of us but not before.  Leaving candy in the original package is a good idea too.  One time someone sent a box with peanut M&M’s put in a ziplock bag and the customs agent was sure he had found drugs but I laughed with him and explained – he was from Ambae and so was I so that helped. 

Skype is a free download and we have it on our laptop. I suspect he will  not be using it since he will stay with some of the other missionaries while in Port Vila.  Christmas is not celebrated in the same way here, usually  just some Christmas music. The missionaries do have a party and a big meal and provide a fireside for the members and investigators. 

This is such an exciting, great place and time for young missionaries to be serving.  Please email me anytime with inquiries and we look forward to meeting you when we return to Utah sometime next year.  I’ll take some pictures of your son to share.

Love, Sister Warner

Sister Sears,

My name is President Klingler and I am Elder Sears’ new mission president.  I had a very good interview with him at the beginning of the month.  This was my second interview with him since I started my mission on July 1st.  He is doing very well!  The following is the mailing address you should use to get mail to Elder Sears while he is in Gaua:

c/o Elder Warner
PO Box 1412
Port Vila, Vanuatu

This is the address of our Senior Missionaries in Port Vila.  They will make sure he receives his mail.  This will be the case for Christmas gifts as well.  We will be having our Christmas Zone Conference in Vanuatu the first week of December so he will be in Port Vila for that event and will be able to pick up items that are there at that time that may not have been taken up to him previously.

Elder Sears and his companion have a cell phone.  All mission leaders will be able to contact them and they us at will.  They contact the Zone Leaders once per week (generally on Sunday evening) to report proselyting results for the week.  In addition, they will be visited by the Zone Leaders once every six weeks.  Elder Sears will be coming in for Leadership Training and Zone Conferences.  Between these two meetings, he will be back in either Luganville or Port Vila about every 6 weeks.

You shouldn’t plan on Skype being available.  We do keep close tabs on our missionaries.

Warmest regards,

Kenneth D. Klingler
Fiji Suva Mission President


Sunday, September 11, 2011


Hello family,

So.... My first transfer! I'm headed to Gaua. It's a small island in the Banks Island group. I feel very lucky to be able to go here. Few missionaries get the chance to go. It's just us 2 missionaries. Also this is the place for watermelon and fresh fish. Also the most "bush" of all the places. Absolutely no power or running water, washing clothes by hand. Pretty awesome. I'll be wan "manbus" (man bush) in no time. So as for this week. It was pretty successful. Work is going well in Fanafo and Palon. We set baptismal dates for 9 people this week! 2 families included. To be honest I'm a little sad I won't be able to attend their baptisms but as long as they take this step it's alright. Also this week the Palon branch held a branch activity. It was really fun. We went to the beach and played beach volleyball and roasted all kinds of meats. So this will definitely be a challenge for me.
As for Guau, Elda Fotukava, the zone leader and close friend of mine here LOVES it. It was his first area. He said when he got transferred he didn't want to leave at all. Also one cool thing is there is another close up island called Mere Lava and we can go over whenever we want to sightsee, teach or whatever. Everyone who has served theresays  it's their favorite.
 A mission is so hard and so rewarding. I know I'll have plenty of aid. This will be kind of a baptism by fire type of learning. It'll be hard but I'll learn quickly hopefully. Anyways sorry for the short e mail. I love you all very much and pray for you daily. Thank you so much for all the prayers in my behalf, I know I've been blessed because of them.

Elda Sia

Monday, September 5, 2011

September 4th, 2011

Hey family,

So this week has been pretty interesting. Well, first of all I went to my first Lavet. A Lavet is a custom celebration. This one was for a member who had just acquired his mustache. The custom here is when you start to grow facial hair you can't shave until someone of respect is chosen to shave you for the first time. After the razor is presented to you  you have to right to shave and youre a man ,haha. The other part was the purchasing of a woman. To get married  a man has to have to buy her first. The man and the father shook hands and he presented his big pile of taro, a pig, and his money. After this the woman came out of the fathers house with all her belongings destined to never return to her fathers house under custom. Another custom which is pretty interesting is in the village of Paama. If you get an injury you must hide it. If you don't and one of your uncles comes and sees it he'll destroy your house or things in it. This is out of disappointment and to show he cares a lot about your well being haha. Adding insult to injury. Afterwards we had a feast, It was pretty awesome! The next day we went to Marathai, a small village in Fanafo. When we got there the Chief Mowaes (Or more wise) was there. He came up to me and  it turns out he was a member and he had received the arronic priesthood! He came and listened to our lesson with one of our investigators, Kristof. Afterwards, he pulled me aside and thanked me in behalf of the US army. He asked that I would relay his desire to join them along with his son haha. He liked me a lot haha. Also we met a returned sister missionary at the house market (closest to fast food you'll get) She finished  her mission in 1999 and suprisingly still has herBislama! Also we met a very persistent jehovas witness missionary. That was pretty interesting haha. The biggest 2 religions I've seen are Jehovahs witnesses and SDA. The jehovas witness talked with us a little and went straight to adam and eve. Let's just say he got pretty crossed up in his words. Also this week we committed a boy to baptism. His name is Kenidi and he's about to turn 17. HE  and I hit it off really well and he's asked that I baptise him. I think I might be baptizing a future missionary. So this week was a training meeting with the mission president. He came here to Santo and we all stayed in a hotel close by. Training was really good and I ate fries! At this hotel Elda Potrie and I  met a man from Germany. He opened up a conversation with us. He's done lots of study into religion. We talked for a really long time and he shared how he almost died a few days back. Today we're going back to give him a Book of Mormon, we'll see what happens. I've thought about our discussion with him and I realize a lot of the words weren't mine. The spirit was teaching the both of us. So it looks as if I'll be training somewhere around next week! I'll be taking a new missionary from either the US, Vanuatu, or Papa New Guinea. Also I've been called as Clerk and 2nd counselor in the bishopric haha. I did all the tithing and fast offerings yesterday for the members. Also I was robbed today haha. I had just bought some orange juice here in town and as we were walking a man approached us. Without a word he reached for the juice. Out of instinct I pulled it back a little but he grabbed the plastic it was in and ripped it and ran off with my juice! haha. After I talked to a member and turns out he's mentally ill. After I went back to him again (holding my second bottle of juice of the day) and gave him 500 vatu. We've also started teaching a man named Toka. He's so awesome. He had never gone to church growing up so he has almost no background. We're teaching really basic principles but I can tell he's really liking it.He smiled really big and then after he reached for my juice again haha. So this week has been really good. I'm starting to learn how to teach with the spirit. I've felt it a lot this week. I can't think of a better feeling than sharing a message when you have the spirit. This because it can go straight to their heart. I was reading and i came to Moroni 7:48. I love verse 47 + 48 so much. Verse 48 has really helped me to gain the spirit. When you pray to have Christlike love and your heart is filled with compassion and concern you can really help them.  My heart is filled with gratitude for this great opportunity. This is such a great experience. Thank you so much for all your prayers.

Love you all so much,
Elda Sia