Sunday, August 15, 2010

This week's adventure = Rabi Island

So back in March, we got to travel to Kiribati for 2 weeks. While we were there I had someone make me one of these custom, traditional blouses. I love the way they do smocking and create a word right in the forefront. Some people display their name or the word "mauri" which means "hello" but I chose the name of this special country.
This week, we went to a "mini" version of Kiribati called Rabi Island and I was dressed appropriately.

Rabi Island is part of Fiji. Back in the 1940's, the British found a valuable mineral on an island in Kiribati and decided to remove all of the people living on that island so they brought them to Rabi Island in 1945. I won't go into the whole story because it is very complicated. It involves a huge law suit and trail but the Kiribati people ended up losing the suit and their homeland and so they continue to reside on this island.

There is a Branch of the Church on this island. It is connected to the Taveuni District. We have been to Taveuni three times and each time the Nuku Branch leaders have sailed over to meet with us. Last time we visited with them was back in April and we told them that next time WE would sail over to meet with them! We had been told it was about an hour and a half boat ride but it could be quite rough sailing depending on the weather. For the week before we were to take this adventure, I began praying that we would have good weather for a smooth sailing. We scheduled to take our trip on Thursday but the winds were way too strong so we postponed the trip until Friday. The winds had slowed down quite a bit but it was still quite a bumpy outing.

Most all of the population lives along the coast. There are about 2000 people that reside on the whole island and it is quite a good size island. Very lush and green; just like all of Fiji!

Here is the boat and the group that we traveled with. From left to right: the 2 young elders who are assigned to this area. They actually live on the Taveuni island but travel over here every couple of weeks. They have quite a few investigators and they really wish they could be assigned here full time. Elder Gashler is from Sandy, Ut and Elder Wall from Layton, Ut. Next is Pres. Lesuma. He is the Taveuni District President. He is a really wonderful and committed leader. He gave us a lot of confidence and peace of mind about taking this outing. Next is the ship captain. He is the brother-in-law to Pres. Lesuma and a very experienced sailor. The ride was rough and long but we never felt unsafe. Paul and I and Pres. Lesuma wore clothes that we didn't mind getting wet and then changed into our missionary attire once we arrived on the island.

Isn't that just a gorgeous view!!!

Here is the MAIN road through the town of Nuku with a few of the sights along the way...

Groups of people just hanging out and enjoying the day...

I thought this "house" proves how plants grow everywhere!!!

Are you ready to see this? This is the Chapel here for the Nuku Branch... very humble! This is one of the original Colonial homes built back in the 1940s. Every person who moved to Rabi was promised a house like this but it never happened and most people lived in tents until they could construct their own homes mostly from coconut trunks and woven fronds.
The pictures below didn't really end up in the order I wanted them but they still tell the story of our outing just fine.

Our main purpose for this trip was to do the mid-year audit of the Branch finances and training on updating and handling the membership records.

After the training and auditing was completed, the Branch served us lunch. Honestly, these dear people have next to nothing so we felt like we were eating their next meal when we got served. One of the wives of the Branch Elders Quorum Pres fixed us corned beef spaghetti served over rice along with sodas and biscuits (cookies) for dessert! I have to admit this was the first time I've ever eaten corned beef spaghetti... very interesting!

Here is Sister Mary who fixed the meal... look at her beautiful hair! and face! and personality!

Here are some of the Branch leaders we met with. From left to right: first is Pres. Natantamokin, the Branch President. Bless his heart! He does such a great job as the Branch President and this Branch is growing. They have about 70 members in attendance at Church each Sunday and like I mentioned, quite a few more investigators. Next is Bro. Mateka. He is the Branch clerk but he has only been a member of the Church for 3 months and was called to the Clerk calling just recently so he is still learning what he is supposed to be doing but he seems to be catching on quickly. Next is Pres. Lesuma who was so much help to us. He really made our job go smoothly. Last is Bro. Valu. When he showed up and sat down, I thought I understood that he was just a member of the Branch. He is a Tongan man but has lived on Rabi Island for many years. He joined the Church in Tonga but has been inactive until just recently. He showed up one day and said he wanted to come back to Church and his wife and 6 children all wanted to be baptized! It turned out that he helped me a lot by translating what I was saying in English to the Branch President who mostly only understands and speaks Kiribati, not even Fijian. Believe me, these kinds of meetings are always really interesting! What I loved the most was that by the end of our training, the Branch President decided to call this Tongan man, Bro. Valu to be the Branch Assistant Clerk over membership records! They even went into the next room and set him apart!

Aren't these children darling!
We always seem to attract quite an interested audience when we
pilangies show up!

Here is quick tour of a bit of the Chapel. Here is the sacrament meeting room. It is really small. They have grown so much that they really struggle to get all the members to fit into one room. Some times, members have to sit in other rooms on the other side of the walls. This shot is facing forward....

this is facing opposite of the podium. Quite tight quarters!

Here is one of the classrooms

and this is the Primary room. Notice the "blackboards"! The songs are written on the walls.
It may not have been one of the nicest Chapels I have ever been to but it was about one of the cleanest! I was really impressed with how neat, clean and organized all the rooms were despite the lack of nice facilities. Unfortunately, I have seen really nice buildings that are not watched over and maintained anywhere near to how well taken care of this humble facility is cared for.

So, as usual, all good things must come to an end. We were only on the island for about 2 and 1/2 hours but we felt like it was a very productive and worthwhile outing. We feel like it is important to visit these outer Branches and show them that we appreciate and recognize all that they are doing and that they are important enough to us that we will come to them not just always expect them to come to us. We find we are always touched and edified by meeting these dedicated, willing, humble and committed Church members. It helps remind us of all that we do have instead of how we sometimes just seem to focus on what we don't have.

The ocean was lots rougher on our return trip and it took about twice as long to get back. By the time we approached Taveuni island, it was low tide and the captain ended up having to get out into the water and push the boat forward from behind while....

Elder Wall helped push from upfront with a big stick!

Then we finally all just disembarked and waded through knee-deep water until we arrived at the shore!

We walked quite a ways... you can see out boat just below the right-side of that large island. We loved it! Makes for a fun story!

Here is another story: We weren't the only people in the ocean. For the past month or so people have been flocking out along the shores around this area when it is low tide. They are harvesting what they call "caterpillars" ...

I'm thinking they are more like squid or slugs or something pretty creepy! Apparently, these slugs or whatever, show up about once a year and are a greatly desired delicacy to Chinese people. So the locals dig them out of the sand, boil them and then dry them and then sell them to the Chinese dealers who I guess then export them over to China. After I caught a glimpse of these squishy little beings, I was glad I made it a shore without having come in contact with any of them!

Just another WONDERFUL day in the life of a missionary!