A Few of My Favorite Things

When each of my own boys went on missions, I gave them a small stone from home. I suggested that they keep it in their pocket so that every time they put their hand into their pocket they would feel the small stone. I asked that they use it as a reminder of how they are loved by family and how close we really are. I also asked that they see it as a reminder of the strength of the Savior and the love He has for them. 

We had been here about a month when we received a package from home. When we first arrived the mornings were a bit chilly (weird), and when we went for a walk, Reed felt like he needed a long sleeved shirt. We asked Ryan to send one. Included in the package was a small stone. No note about the stone, but none was needed. I was flooded with gratitude for the reminder that it presented me-love from home and from our Savior. I keep the stone in my very large purse. Often when I am digging for something I will come across it. I pull it out and let memories and love wash over me. I don't think it is a coincidence that I seem to find it on the very hardest of days. It has very quickly become one of my favorite things.

I was taught a significant lesson by one of our missionaries during our most recent zone conferences. He said, "Charity can only occur between people. We can't have charity towards other things. We may love food or our pets, but charity can only exist between people." While I probably have always known this, when he said it, I realized how right he was. It is the charity of others that brings us to a place of greater peace, understanding and clarity. 

I think there may be times in our lives when we miss seeing the charitable acts of others. We don't often think of family love as charity. But isn't that exactly what it is? There seems to be no better sphere to be charitable than within our own families. "And charity suffererth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."(Moroni 7:44)  Can you imagine what our homes and families would be like if this was our driving force?

The scripture continues: "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all . . .." (Moroni 7:46) I have always evaluated my own charity against this standard. While that evaluation is important, I have come to understand it in a new way. I am nothing without the charity of others. I am nothing if their charity towards me fails. As I cleave unto others' charity for me I discover what is greatest of all. This little stone signifies charity and love; the kind of love that is the greatest of all. 

This past week, we had our Mission Leadership Council. This day has become my favorite of the entire month. We gather all of the mission leadership and counsel together. It is a time of exploration and discovery. These leaders represent the best of the mission. They bring great insight as we discuss issues and concerns. It is a time of renewal and recommitment for us all. We had some changes and had some new zone leaders this time. We see the wisdom in change; new ideas and perspective are important as we work to lift and move the mission forward. What powerful representatives of the Savior!

And finally, some of my very favorite people. This is Dallin and Fita Talataina and their darling son Liam. We met Dallin when we served here before teaching institute. He quickly became a friend and a great support to our efforts. Dallin embodies everything good about Samoa. He is true to his Samoan heritage, yet governs his life and his family based on gospel principles. Dallin and Fita were married in Salt Lake City a couple of years ago. We attended the wedding. As I embraced him following the ceremony in the Salt Lake Temple, I realized just how much I had missed him. I have learned much from Dallin about generosity and optimism. It is a tender mercy to be here again and spend moments of time with one of my favorite people and his new precious family.  

A Call to Action

We finished our zone conferences on Friday. It was, as always, uplifting to meet with the missionaries. They carry amazing power and strength. Serving a mission is hard. I think it is meant to be that way. Getting a glimpse of the change that takes place as they submit to the will of God is a sweet gift. Be sure to check out the pictures on the Life with Missionaries page.

Meet the Harpers. They are our newest senior couple. They come to us from Idaho. As you can see, they are young! Their assignment is to train and support internet specialists in the stakes of Samoa, plus to work some magic with the internet and the systems in the church buildings. We are delighted they have joined us.

In 1999, Sherri Dew said, "This is a call to arms, it is a call to action, a call to arise. A call to arm ourselves with power and with righteousness. A call to rely on the arm of the Lord rather than the arm of the flesh. A call to "arise and shine forth, that our light may be a standard for nations." I echo her words and issue a call to action. The Lord needs senior missionaries like the Harpers. There are over 130 missions in the world that don't have senior couples. They are vital to the workings of a mission. Our office couple goes home the first part of December. As of right now, there is not one coming to replace them. We would love to have you join us. It will be nothing like you have ever experienced! I know that there are worries associated with leaving family and home. But I also know that the Lord can and does take better care of my family than I am capable of doing. I have witnessed it for myself; my children and grandchildren have witnessed it. "Be strong and of good courage" and come.

In a recent address, Elder David Bednar said "The Lord is hastening His work, and it is no coincidence that these powerful communication innovations and inventions are occurring in the dispensation of the fulness of times. Social media channels are global tools that can personally and positively impact large numbers of individuals and families. And I believe the time has come for us as disciples of Christ to use these inspired tools appropriately and more effectively to testify of God the Eternal Father, His plan of happiness for His children, and His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior of the world; to proclaim the reality of the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days; and to accomplish the Lord's work."

There are some missions around the world where the missionaries are using technology in the work of conversion, retention and activation. The Samoa Apia Mission, however, is not one of them. But now that our missionaries can email, we together can accomplish what Elder Bednar has asked. Through blogs and other social media we can share the miracles that occur in this mission. Parents and friends of missionaries, please use the stories and pictures your missionary sends home to help hasten His work.

Elder Bednar provided some important guidelines.  He said, "First, we are disciples and our messages  should be authentic. Our messages should be truthful, honest and accurate. Second, we and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than to argue, debate, condemn or belittle. Third, we and our messages should respect the property of other people and organizations. This simply means that you should not create your own content using someone else's art, name, photos, music, video, or other content without permission. Fourth, be wise and vigilant in protecting yourself and those you love. We should remember that the Internet never forgets. Anything you communicate through a social media channel indeed will live forever. Only say it or post it if you want the entire world to have access to your message or picture for all time."

He then offered this call to action, "Beginning at this place on this day, I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth-messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy-and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood."

As we post things about the Samoa Mission, let us share those things that communicate the dignity and sanctity of the calling of missionaries. Let us be mindful about the content and follow carefully the guidelines outlined by Elder Bednar.

It is an incredible journey that each of these missionaries experiences here in Samoa. I know you have heard stories of growth and strength. They probably have told you stories of struggle and of the sweet feeling of finally being rescued by the Savior. Please mindfully share their stories of faith and testimony.

For those of you who read this blog and do not have a missionary in Samoa, this call of action is for you, too. The Lord is hastening His work. Will we keep pace? Will we use these wonderful inventions of this last dispensation in His work, in His way? What do you share with the world? Do they know what is most important to you by what you post on social media? Let us flood the earth with the goodness that is His Gospel!

I Missed a Sunday

I don't mean that I missed posting last week, although I did. We missed the Sabbath. We were in American Samoa last weekend for a celebration commemorating the landing of the first mission president, Joseph Dean. We flew out of Pago Pago early Sunday morning and arrived here in Apia 35 minutes later on Monday morning. It is a tricky process to plan and purchase flights, etc., when we are a day ahead of American Samoa. It felt pretty awful to miss the Sabbath. It made me even more grateful for the blessing that the Sabbath day is.

Beginning with the Creation of the world, one day was set apart from all other days. "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it." Even God rested from His labors on this day and expects the same of us. Central to Sabbath day observance is worshipping God and partaking of the sacrament. We read in the Doctrine and Covenants: "And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayers and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High..."

In our family, we have tried to make the Sabbath a day different from the other six days in the week. It was a day for family and church. It has become our life-long pattern. I truly missed it last week. It seemed that there wasn't time to catch my breath. There wasn't time to stop and remember all that He has done for me. There wasn't time to ponder and find clear direction for the new week. There is great power in the Sabbath day; it is our time to touch heaven for just a moment.

The celebration in Aunu'u was a glimpse into old Samoa. We watched and listened to a talking chief as he greeted visitors and shared history. We ate and ate and ate. Elder Anderson was introduced as Joseph Dean's great-grandson. It was a remarkable moment to see history come full circle in the Anderson family. We were blessed to share the experience with him.

Boat ride to Aunu'u
Dock at Aunu'u

Following are pictures of the fafaga. 

All of this food was for me! There was more that I couldn't fit into the picture.

My day prior to the celebration was spent with Elder and Sister Saunders. They are a missionary couple who serve in Pago and take care of the missionaries there. They are incredible people who have bridged meaningful friendships with our missionaries and the people of Pago in the few short months they have been there. We rely on them and are so grateful for their willingness to always help.  It is hard having missionaries on three different islands; we worry about them. The Saunders keep that worry at bay for us.

Sister Saunders, Elder Anderson, Elder Haws, Elder Saunders

The Lesas joined us, too. They are part of our mission presidency. They serve with willing hearts. We appreciate the way that they help our missionaries understand the culture and customs as well as motivating them to work hard. They bring a spirit of enthusiasm to the work.

Sister Saunders, Elder Anderson, President and Sister Lesa

We started zone conferences this week. They will continue through next week as well. It always brings a sense of strength as we meet with the missionaries. When they are together, it seems nothing is impossible. These are God's soldiers. They live places that are primitive, do their wash in a bucket, work in the sometimes oppressive heat and humidity and yet they thrive! It is a sweet thing to watch their hearts change, to see them find God, and to understand how much He loves them. The pictures from the Upolu zone conference are on the Life with Missionaries page.

We welcomed a new missionary this week! Elder Wallwork was supposed to come with the group in August, but he broke his finger and had to stay behind and allow it to heal. We are thrilled to have him. He is the great-grandson of Percy Rivers, the first stake president of Samoa and a great disciple of the Savior. I am sure that Elder Wallwork will feel the presence of his great-grandfather as he continues his work here in his beloved Samoa.

And last, but certainly not least. The Samoa mission is now an emailing mission! When we carefully look at past experiences, we can clearly see the Lord's hand in His work and our lives. Emailing in Samoa just a couple of years ago proved to be impossible. Internet cafes are very scarce. Not all church buildings had internet and there was no network on the island. Now every church building has internet and computers. The stake presidents and bishops will be working with the missionaries to give them access to the buildings so they can email their families, send a letter to President Tolman and report their work electronically. We are thrilled and so thankful for the positive cooperation of the stake presidents. Parents, be patient; it may take a couple of weeks to work out the bugs. God is good, and we are sweetly blessed to witness how He is hastening His work.