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


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