Savai'i Missionaries
Upolu Missionaries
Tutuila Missionaries
We are not a social media mission, so we were not able to participate in the Church's social media campaign of "He is the Gift." However, we shared the gift and joy of Christmas with the children of Samoa. We organized and held three children's carnivals/parties on each of the three islands, complete with games, chasing of a greased pig, and a Santa! I am not sure who had more fun, the missionaries or the children. It is summer here and very hot and humid; that did not deter the children from coming or the missionaries from entertaining them. Please see all of the photos on the Life with Missionary page. I tried to get enough pictures that you can get a flavor for the fun that we had. I got a call from a friend of ours following our final carnival. He said his sons got into the car after the carnival had concluded and together said, "This is the best Christmas EVER!" It was thrilling to watch the missionaries and the children participate in the joy of the Christmas season.

Following our fun, we gathered for lunch and a devotional. Each missionary received a mission shirt. The saying on the back of the shirt means "even on the darkest night" and features the Southern Cross constellation. The stars shine the brightest on the darkest nights. Our emphasis was that even on our darkest night, in our darkest hours, the Savior is ever watchful and present. Even on the darkest night, we don't give up hope. We asked the missionaries to let their shirts and the stars at night be a reminder that He never gives up on us and is ever close.

When we struggle with "dark night" events, we cannot trust our feelings about what God may or may not be doing in our lives. We can only trust the doctrine and the witness of the scriptures. There are hundreds of statements made by the Savior himself regarding His efforts in our lives:

"Behold, I have engraven thee upon the palms of my hands."

"Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you."

"For all flesh is in my hands; be still and know that I am God."

"Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will uphold thee."

We know that the Savior's most important concern is to sanctify us and redeem us. Sometimes it means things will get hard and dark as we are tutored under His watchful care.

We never give up hope in our "dark nights" because He has promised that He will rescue us.  President Tolman taught that the word used for faith in the original Greek scriptures meant trust in another person. If we truly have faith/trust in the Savior, then we don't have expectations about outcomes. We simple do what He has asked, never give up hope, and allow the Lord to work in our lives.

At times when we struggle, we find ourselves praying with greater intent, studying more diligently, and seeking direction from the spirit with open hearts. Why would the Lord want to change our circumstances when it is those very circumstances that have caused us to draw closer to Him?

In the Church's Christmas video, we are taught that HE is the gift and then invited to discover the gift, embrace the gift, and share the gift. He guides us to discover and embrace Him through our darkest nights; it is in these moments when He is the closest. 

Elder Jeffery R. Holland helps us understand God's efforts in our mortal lives: "In striving for some peace and understanding in these difficult matters, it is crucial to remember that we are living--and chose to live--in a fallen world where for divine purposes our pursuit of godliness will be tested and tried again and again. Our greatest assurance in God's plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came. It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive."  (General Conference, October 2013)

We invited the missionaries to discover and embrace the gift. We hope you will join with them in this effort. May this next year be filled with trust in Him who is the Gift.

Have You Learned for Yourself?

Elder Moe, Elder Hodges, Elder Shepherd
We said good-bye to an assistant this week, Elder Shepherd, and welcomed a new one, Elder Hodges. These young assistants learn and grow at a very fast pace while they serve and lead other missionaries. Elder Pearson taught our missionaries last month that their missions are meant to teach them to be powerful leaders. It is a joy to watch as missionaries learn the skills necessary to lead. It is profoundly remarkable to see them lead by the Spirit and do as the Savior would have done. As I have watched this happen for so many of them, I have come to a greater understanding of why God chose a 14-year old boy to be the Father of the Restoration. These young hearts are easy to touch and influence. They listen a little bit better than those of us who are a little older. Once these young missionaries determine that they are going to give their entire will to God, heavenly direction comes in fascinating ways.

There is something instructive in Joseph's words as he visited with his mother immediately following his visit with the Father and the Son. When his mother asked what was wrong, he replied, "I am well enough off." And then this statement that should teach each one of us something profound, "I have learned for myself." God has not put us here on this earth to follow blindly; that was Satan's plan. We have the opportunity to choose good or evil, life or death, happiness or misery. In order for that choice to hold real meaning, we must learn for ourselves. While God's plan is to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man," He has an individual plan for each of us. We agreed to and chose to come and follow that plan and path, but if we don't learn for ourselves we will never receive all that He has for us.

Elder Hodges, Elder Moe, Ashleen, Elder Shepherd

We were blessed to watch a young woman find her path and God's plan for her. Ashleen was baptized yesterday morning. She was taught the Gospel by Elder Moe and Elder Shepherd. We were privileged to have her in our home for one of her lessons. She spoke at her baptism and shared that she had many years of experience with the Church. She attended Sunday meetings for a long time, participated in many activities, and had many friends who were members.  It wasn't until she wanted to learn for herself that she understood God's plan for her. She shared that the Book of Mormon changed her life; she now really understood what the Gospel, the Church and God could mean in her life. Once she learned those things, the path was clear.

"And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?" (Alma 5:26) It is through that mighty change of heart, Ashleen learned for herself. It is the same for each of us. If we want to learn for ourselves we must seek and ask. It is required of us to find God again; to awaken our memories to that which we knew before we came here. He know us each, He knows our names, He stands ready to guide us if we will do the work necessary to learn for ourselves. What a joyous message it is. He came to offer life and safety and peace.

"When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us." Joseph Smith

PS Stayed tuned next week--our version of #ShareTheGift.

United We Stand

Every mission president is different. They each have their own style and priorities. Their wives are different, too. Some have children with them in the field, some do not. Each mission president couple must work out together how their mission will operate.

I am very grateful that President Tolman and I work as equal partners and a team. The only thing he does on his own is worthiness interviews. We work together on everything else. We have always been a good team, but working together for the good of God's missionaries has been an incredibly sweet experience. 

When we work side-by-side in the work of the Lord, remarkable things happen. I believe it is part of the reason that our missionaries have companions. We learn to love others who are different from us. We become friends with someone who under different circumstances we may have never even talked to. We find power in each other's strengths and discover ways to change weaknesses. Testifying of the Savior as authorized representatives sent two-by-two invites the Spirit, who really provides a tender and God-filled testimony.

Do you remember Elder Oaks talk entitled "The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood" given in April 2104 General Conference? He said this, "We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman-young or old-is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties."

As President Tolman and I exercise our authority together and with the Savior, powerful things occur. It is impossible to articulate what those things are, but it is a clear communication through the Spirit directing the affairs of this mission. 

Serving in this way, together with shared authority, has given me a glimpse of the heavens. There is no other church currently organized that has the same deep, rich and clear doctrine regarding women. Sometimes we, as women, shy away from the notion of carrying and acting in authority. Let us remember that during the Savior's ministry "women were not just bystanders but engaged contributors to his ministry." (Nyla McBain) We must be willing to be engaged and lend our spiritual power and authority to His work, in His way, and in His timing.