Monday, September 4, 2017

A New Adventure Begins

In the beginning was the Word, 

and the Word was with God, 

and the Word was God.

A new adventure begins on the 15th of August we began our travels first to San Francisco then an overnighter to Auckland New Zealand.  Whew!
We began our stay in the Mission Training with a breakfast of Bangers and Beans, this was a bit much after the long flight, but we jumped in anyway and began our first experience in New Zealand. After breakfast we met and began an orientation.  During the day more missionaries arrived, with their parents dropping them off, it was a similar sight from a few years ago when the parents would drop the children off at the Provo MTC, tears and hugs.  I went outside to visit the new missionaries as they came in, the question was always where are you from? That simple conversation led to the meeting of a Tongan family living in New Zealand that had previously lived in West Valley City and now are in New Zealand.  The church certainly does make the world small.

There were only two senior couple  missionaries the third couple were still trying to get visas, which created a little bit of concern since I had not yet received a visa for Fiji.  My visa finally arrived Thursday, we left on Friday.  I was thinking during that week of thoughtful prayer that maybe Janet could go on ahead and get our flat ready, she said NO to that idea.  The week in the MTC was a great experience as we learned from Preach My Gospel. Our teacher was a returned missionary from Tahiti, he did a great job our getting us into the spirit of our mission.

We left Friday morning 7:45 for Nadi Fiji, it was a three hour flight, after landing in Nadi we needed to quickly get to a domestic terminal for our flight  to Suva.  Let me step back a bit, and tell you a story of blessings.  When we left for this adventure we were allotted on one bag each of 50 pound which was a big problem so we decided that we would pay the extra and let Janet take two bags, that worked  because we also had carry on bags and a computer bag that we could place under the seats. You know it's easier for me to travel light but not for Janet, it's a girl thing.  OK, here's the story when we got the airport to  fly to Fiji the rules changed we would need to again pay for the extra bag and the carry on, it could only be 15 lbs and the computer bag only 7 lbs, also my carry on was to big at this airport so it needed to be loaded as baggage.  Now with our last experience and a lost bag in Paris I couldn't afford the risk of losing my carry on because I had 3 months of medicine in it.  At the airport as we were checking in for some reason my passport wouldn't check through in the computer check-in, so we had to go to get a air New Zealand worker to help us with the check-in.  Well, she happened to be a member of the church, as we explained to her our concerns she was able to make arrangements with the manager for us to take the carry on on to the plane and let us through with the baggage at no additional cost.
Nadi Airport
In Nadi the plane was so small they had to load my carry-on as baggage, which wasn't bad because we were only going one place, Suva.

We arrived in Suva and were greeted by senior missionaries the Felsmans and the Wards.  They are both from Idaho and both are serving as Self Reliance Missionaries.  The Wards arrived the previous week and the Felsmans have been a couple months.  They took us to the temple where a car was waiting for us and told us to follow them to our apartment.  Elder Felsman is a retired law enforcement officer and if you know their kind they like to drive fast so, needless to say that was our first adventure in Suva!  We also went grocery shopping after we got our baggage unloaded, our flat was just rented a couple days before we got there and was devoid of any thing edible.

Saturday they  came and took us to Cost-U-Less to finish buying things we need at our flat.  It was in this store that sticker shock hit, the cost of two bottles of Peanut butter that you might buy at Costco's was scary.  To ease the pain a little the exchange rate is about two to one, so in American that would only be about $21.00.  We had an appointment with our Mission President  and his wife so we left to meet them, but sister Felsman needed some vegetables so we stopped at the market to pick some up.After stopping at the market we went  to meet with our Mission President and his wife about 12:30 to get to know them, and have lunch.  He took us into Suva city to a Holiday inn.  It was nice there because the Inn is right on the waterfront.

President and sister Higgins are from New Zealand and arrived in Fiji the  first of July.  As we listened to him I think he is a great fit, he is a very fast learner and is willing to let those around him help guide him through the first bit of time here, oh, and he's a surfer.

Church on Sunday, it was ward conference, so we met our stake president, who also happens to be a teacher at the college. Pres. Qaqa.  What an amazing man.  When sacrament meeting started I realized how humble and pure many of the saints here are.  A sister said the prayer in a way I have never experienced, she started the way anyone in the church might and gave thanks for all we have and the church and the temple and anything we might  have now and in the future, and then she started again. She is an inspiration to me.  I knew then the reason I was called here is to learn Humility.  Our ward
is the Samabula !st and our Bishop is Bishop Quqa, he is the stake presidents son.

Monday Morning bright and early we went to the the college to meet the staff and get acquainted.

We met for a Monday morning devotional and faculty meeting, we were taught by the Seminary teacher who, I believe, teaches all of the Monday morning devotionals.

Following the faculty meeting the students were gathered in the gym and and a student devotional.  The students had had a two week hiatus and were returning from their holiday.  They sang their school song and had a few words of greeting from the principal and assistants, then went off to prepare for a feast of some sort.

 I'm not sure what the feast is about, but I will fill  you in in the next blog.  The students went to the farm and picked vegetables and cleaned chickens.  I think they know  where their food comes from and it isn't the meat and  produce aisle in the grocery store.

Well I guess I'll finish and prepare for tomorrow.  We will start teaching the courses next week and that should be a learning experience for me.

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning, Prov. 1:5.  I know it is an old scripture but I hope that the teachers and I will be in tune with it.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is real and will bless the lives of those that search and find and act upon it's principals.

Friday, April 5, 2013

There is beauty all around "For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation" Psalm 149:4

OK.. so it's been a while since I last wrote, this will be a fun trip.
We were in Pokhara this past week attending a wheelchair distribution.  During the event I saw a young women that received a chair for the first time in her life.

It was a touching scene.  You may think that she was overjoyed, but it wasn't about her, it was about her family.  The following are pictures of her climbing into the chair.

The real story is about how this family got to this point.  They are squatters living in Pokhara.  Basically they are homeless and live where they can.  Someone asked them if the needed a  wheelchair and of course they said yes, but couldn't get one because they were  poor and couldn't afford the cost.  They were told to contact NRSD to get some help with a chair, but again they couldn't because first they didn't have a phone and second had no money to travel.  The person took their name and contacted NRSD, told them about the family and an assessment worker found them and made the assessment.  The young women qualified for the chair according to the LDSC standards and the deal was done.  All they needed to do was to come to the distribution point, which was the ceremony.  In case you think LDSC needs some sort or recognition for the work we do that is not correct.  The ceremony is so the government can see openly where the chairs are going, it called transparency.

Back to the story of the young woman, she didn't show a lot emotion because she is also intellectually handicapped.  She couldn't speak except in unintelligible sounds, which I believe her parents understood.  This is a picture of her with her parents.  The older woman you can see was very happy, she kept telling me she was the mother and the man to my right was the father and the girl was their daughter.  They got to the ceremony with her crawling, which by the way, she was very good at.  Their entire lives they had carried her and were tied to her, because of her needs.  This wheelchair has helped not one but at least three people,

 unless you count this little woman sitting on the ground waiting for things to get moving,  She is the grandmother, and very vital to the success of the family.  As you can see each person that receives a chair impacts the lives of many others.  In this case the mother and grandmother will be able to get places faster and easier.  Father can work more and made more money, maybe get a real house someday.

These wheelchairs were just put together and are waiting for someone to call them theirs.  Look closely and you will see two different styles of chairs.  The chair on the left front is called a rough rider chair, it is built heavier and has a lower center of gravity, for rougher travel.  They are much heavier and harder for some people to use.  Most people like the Standard chairs better because they are lighter in weight, users can get them in and out of public transportation easier.  That is Janet talking to and greeting people.

We left Pokhara and while driving saw some women planting rice,

Janet had the brilliant idea to help them plant.  Off she goes into the rice paddy (mud again) to help her.

 About half way up her calf in mud and other stuff, that we will not talk about at this moment.
The locals made it look easy but just walking around in the stuff was difficult.

It looks like she's got the hang of it, now if she can go a little faster.  The women in the field, I'm sure, wondered what was going in the the minds of these fair skined maidens.

 Just so you don't think I am making this stuff up here is one of those women just watching and wondering "what's up with them".  After the planting was done there was time to find a NBF (new best friend).  This is the chief of the field and Janet made a friend.  The
question is how do get a photo op in the rice paddy with your new friend without getting that stuff all over each other.  Janet found a way, Janet's NBF.

Now the job is done, now how do you get these fair maidens back in the travel van with out offending the other passengers   Correct!  Make them take a shower, at least their feet. to the nearest shower, yup right by the barn.  Why not, the animals need to be watered and the house is right there and the family needs to keep clean, great location and very efficient.  Long story, here's Janet doing her best to keep clean.  (see the calf in the barn)

Time to move forward with the adventure.

Between Pokhara and Kathmandu is a small village on the top of a very high hill, called Manakamana.  The is a very sacred temple there and we stopped to visit.

They are burning the undergrowth from the hills and it was very smoky getting to the top.  I  wonder why all of the trees didn't catch fire.
When we got to the top it was also very smokey, but lots of people got there and we saw some very beautiful Nepali faces.

This picture is so typical of an older Nepali man, I just had to take it.

As I looked around I found another young women deep in thought.  I wonder what she was thinking. She is a very beautiful young women.

She had just walked up to the village from her home on the hill side, I guess she might have been a bit tired too.

Of course there is always the village priest just waiting to have his picture taken.  They sit lined along the wall waiting for tourists to take their pictures, and then they demand money from the unaware photographer, oh well, every one has an angle.

On the way down we passed another small village with shops on each side of the trail.  Janet stopped for me to take her picture.

It is kind of steep and the stairs that they carve in some place are very unique, to say he least.

As we walked we saw this woman tilling the manure pile, she will take it to the paddy's on the hillside and use it to fertilize the soil.

These are the happy campers down from the treacherous hike.  The best part of these couple of days is the girl time for Janet. Thank you Chris and Marsha for spending time with us and enjoying the adventures we are having.  If you don't see Mark in the picture it is because we lost him.  That story is for another time or ask Mark and Marsha.

On the way home we got the message that the highway was closed because of a bandh in Damauli.  A man was arrested the night before and while the police were taking him to jail he fell out of the truck and died.

The family was protesting, so the village got together and closed the highway until the government would do something about it.  The road was closed for about 12 hours when the government said they would pay the family some amount of rupees to compensate for the death.  Magic!!
Because the road was closed for so long we went back to Pokhara and waited until the next day and started home again.

Leaving the next day we were able to see some other spring preparations for the farmers.
Because the paddy's are terraced it is easier to take the water buffalos into the paddy's and plow and still maintain the dikes that hold the water.  This man and his partner were mixing the dung into the paddy in preparation for planting rice, it is slow work, by our standards, but very effective.  by the way that is the stuff Janet was wading around in the day before, different location same stuff.

As I watched the farmer I saw two girls at a diversion ditch just watching and talking it is a good picture of Nepali teenagers.

It reminds me of Lauren and Kennedy in our back yard just talking, and talking, and talking...etc.

I guess teenagers are the same everywhere you go.

As we watched the plowing and the girls, we also were being watched by the neighbors.

During all of this I saw a great picture of Manchapuchre and went to take a picture and found something even better, this great little family.

The grandmother was taking care of the kids and thought we were a little weird when we kept saying they were a beautiful family.  Look closely. they really are.

Here it is Machhapuchhre or Fishtail Mountain in the Annapurna Mountain range.  Its not the tallest but it just sticks out when you see it.

The mountains in the foreground are about as high as the mountain around our home.  In Nepal they are called hills, it is easy to see why.

Next stop is Swayambhunath or the monkey temple.

These are the prayer rolls that surround the stupa.  Each roll has some mantra or prayer inside and when you walk by it you spin in to send the words up or somewhere,  I'll check that out.

The best part is always the people around these temples and stupas.  Here some very interesting older women.

These women were hanging around and waiting for someone to give them money, kind of boring way of life.

We are always greeted by these kids when we get home and they are not in school.

This day Chris and Marsha had a present for them. Pencils and friendship bracelets made by some of Chris's students,  as you can see they were a hit.

...and of course we found Mark he is always a hit with the kids.

I guess that is enough for today the gospel is true and people everywhere will hear the good word and chose the correct path to eternal happiness!

Next time  "busy, busy, busy"

Friday, February 15, 2013

Keep the Faith "But you will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another." Mosiah 4:15

In a small village in the south eastern part of Nepal named  Malangwa exists a subdivision of the village called  Saptari.  This village is where people called untouchables live their lives.  They, as the name implies, are not to associate with other castes of people and live together in poverty.  As we visited Malangwa to distribute blankets  as a protection against the cold that had become so severe that people were dying.  There were between 5 and 8 people dying each night, and we, LDSC, were requested to provide blankets for them.  This is a journey of the small community and the lives they live.  The picture to your left is the home and environment in which they live.  At the bottom of the picture you can see log shaped things, these are the cow dung that has been formed to make chips for burning.

They are used primarily for cooking, but are also used to help warm them.  One of the most noticeable things,to me, was the open sewage.  At the bottom of the building is a trench that the sewage runs along.  It is not used as a toilet just the sewage water that runs through the area.  They have no toilets, they just go out behind the house, in the field, where ever.  As you look at the people in the picture you might think that they are cutting across a field or open area, not true that is the main road in and out of their area.

I would like to digress to Mosiah and refer to the talk of King Benjamin as he spoke to us regarding our duty as children of Christ towards the children of men: "And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; "ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the begger putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish." Mosiah 4:16

These are the children of men and it is our obligation to help them find a pathway to their Heavenly Father.  With that said, do they look untouchable to you?  Every where we went they wanted their pictures taken and then they wanted to look at the pictures.

I found this picture of the new and the old, This beautiful child and her Hajur Ama.  When you look at these two you can see the love from the child to grandmother and back.  The sweet innocence and trust that she emanates.  As we explored some more we found some of the work they do to sustain themselves.

This women makes these baskets for home and to sell, she was showing us her wares.  You can see immediately behind her where she makes her goods.

These children are all standing in one of their houses, you can see a mat that was just completed for them to sleep on behind the girl to the left of the picture.  This area called the Terai is a belt of marshy grasslands, savannas,and forests located south of the outer foothills of the Himalaya. The lowland plains of the Terai lie at an altitude of between 67 and 300 meters.  With all of the information you can see why this was such a dangerous time.  The temperature fluctuates very quickly and the high and lows are extreme.  During this crisis the highs were in the mid 60's F and drop down to the mid 20's F.  Two factors regarding the temperature were the it would only stay for possibly an hour in the high range and plummet quickly to the low 30's F, about 90 minutes to drop that low.  The other contributing factor is the lowlands are marshy and wet creating a penetrating cold, and then the poverty they live in, all they have is what they can produce from their environment, the mats they sleep on are not to warm them, just to keep them out of the dirt.  When you bring all of these  things together and put a very young child or an older, or possibly ailing person they can not survive.

During our walk around the area I found another picture of a well.  This one was managed at the time by a young girl.  When I took her picture she showed off to me how strong she was and pumped like crazy for me.

Something that is very important about this picture is that this was not a game for her, this is her life.  She has responsibilities to collect water and bring it to her home and as you can see the buckets are fairly large.  Once the buckets are full she will carry them home.

This last picture in Saptari is indicative of the culture.  Look closely and you will notice the pump well and just to the right there are two pigs.  Pigs are considered a very dirty animal and are not touched by any one else except this Caste.  They run around the area and get into everything, especially the garbage, so... the pigs themselves become untouchable by everyone except the untouchables.  They are acceptable to eat, I don't get it!

This area Saptari is the area that was identified by the Village Development Committee (VDC) to receive the blankets, now off to the distribution.

The blankets arrived and were unloaded,

 Elder and Sister Rempp with Rakesh Hamal and the delivery truck and driver.  The ceremony would begin shortly.

The people were beginning to gather to receive the blankets, but first a ceremony to hear from the various organizations that had organized with LDSC the blankets and their distribution. These are some of the people that were there.  This is interesting and I am not sure what it means but, women and children were in the front, and the men sat to the side.

You can see that there is great anticipation for the blankets.

With all of the activity that was going on there is still the innocence of youth.  I caught these two just to show how we really are all God's creation, children of men or otherwise.

Janet at the same time decided to feel just what an untouchable felt like. She said, "this is a wonderful!",  and just had to carry the baby for a while to get her grandma fix for the day.

You be the judge, is it dangerous to touch this child?  I guess the jury is still out we will wait and see if she get warts or something.

Back to why we were there, the blankets.  This man was very pleased to get the blanket and made a big deal about the gift.

Janet handing out blankets

The people who live in this area have very little education, this is changing and the children are getting more of a education than their parents.  When they received a blanket they needed to sign and to accommodate their illiteracy the organizers would get a thumb print.

A couple more pictures before we hit the road.

Beautiful woman and a boy with great hair.

Last but not the least is Janet's new best friend.

This is a teacher at the school near the blanket distribution.  She just kept hugging Janet and wanted to touch her hair and crying, she was so excited that we would talk to her and recognize what she was doing.

It is time to get back to Kathmandu and so off again to the city.  We are at a very low elevation so began an interesting drive back.
You can see that the roads a very steep, but the view is amazing.

We reached the summit and stopped for a bite to eat and then home.  This picture below is from inside the place we stopped and had fried fish with beaten puffed rice.  Yummy heads and all.

This view is of the Himalayan and we could see them very well it is amazing what you can see from the top of the world.

To sum it up - we serve and because we serve we are blessed beyond measure.  Our testimonies grow beyond what we could do alone, when Heavenly Father shows you His will through the people you meet and his creations you see more clearly the need to better understand His will.

Next time - There is beauty all around.