So far these are the highlights of our Christmas season!
Our participation began last weekend with the Annual Missionary Fun Day on Saturday. This event is really for the young missionaries to come together from all over Fiji and get to spend time together in games and sports and meals! It is a huge hit! The Senior missionary couples were involved by preparing and serving lunch and dinner. Those 2 meals were huge hits also. Thankfully I wasn't in charge but I did get to contribute brownies and enchiladas and dish them out to 90+ hungry young men and women. The evening event was a talent show put on by groups of missionaries from the various Zones. I did get coersed into, I mean, asked to be one of the 3 judges which was really not easy! The performances, including clever costumes, were original, enthusiastic and very well performed. Most all of the items were Fijian dancing and singing done by non-native participants. A few months in this country and they can perform like they grew up here!
Here are the residents we got to visit with. A variety of ages and disabilities. From l-r in the back, boy:19, boy:6, girl:32, girl:18 and upfront, girl:16 Very humbling to say the least! But we tried to bring a strong feeling of love and Christmas joy as we sang Christmas carols and visited and ...
That's the Taits standing on the left and the woman on the right is the dear person who runs the facility. They were so appreciative of our tiny effort and we left feeling that joy you do when you get to serve somewhere that you know needs whatever you are willing offer.
This group just showed up unannounced. They were all decked out in their tropical island Christmas attire: colorful suluvakatogas (skirts) and salusalus (floral lais).
expressed appreciation for business from the Service Center and handed over this yummy cake,
then concluded by inviting us to dance along Fijian-style! I wasn't going to turn down that kind of celebrating. Paul stayed back to snap photos!
The next big event in the office that afternoon was a Goodbye Party for the Service Center Finance Department Manager, Arama Puriri. We have been very lucky to have made his aquaintance and work with him daily for the past 17 months. He is a really high-quality person not only at work but in his Church callings and as the father of 6 young children (5 boys and one girl named Nauvoo - I love her name). He is of Maori decent and he and his family are moving back to New Zealand as he has a new job at the Church's Pacific Area office.
Yesterday, Wednesday was another really great holiday outing. This time the Service Center employees set up a Christmas caroling outing. About 15 individuals including Paul & I went to 2 special locations and enjoyed bringing a little attention and warm Christmas feelings to people who sometimes get neglected. The first location was a Catholic Church-sponsored old folks residence called Home of Compassion. There were only about 8 residents and 5 staff but they seemed to enjoy our songs and smiles. Almost all of the dear elderly folks were in wheelchairs or had some kind of obvious physical challenges but they smiled and were very welcoming. Next we drove to an area that Paul & I had never been to. There we visited a place called House of Hope. This is for unwed, young, mostly teenage mothers and their infants. We were told that the youngest mother living there was 13! There were 2 dormatories with 8 rooms in each domatory. One domatory was for moms and infant sons and the other one was for moms and infant daughters. The newest baby was 2 months old. Once again we could tell that we had cheered them up with the familar sweet Christmas messages. It was reciprocal; it cheered me up to be around so many sweet little ones.
Finally, do you remember my story of going Visiting Teaching with the 2 new VT sisters? That was back in October. Last Sunday, the 3 of us decided we would go visiting again this week and take some Christmas love to the women they visit. Once again, it was a very dear experience. Swati (on the left) and Jyoti (on the right) are the two companions. Jyoti invited her husband to come along. The woman they visit is such a dear soul! Her name is Kailash Pati. She is around 82 years old but still in quite good health. She speaks some English but it was best when all 4 of them conversed in Hindi. Swati read from the book of Luke about the birth of the Savior and then Bro. Chand translated and shared the message to her in Hindi. What a special experience.
So that is how we have been enjoying this wonderful season. We know this is a very unusual year and are trying to make the most of focusing on the purpose of the Birth of Jesus Christ and finding ways we can make our gifts reflect His Gospel through serving those we are blessed to come in contact with.
We miss ALL our loved ones -- family members and dear friends -- during this Happy Holiday season but we are so grateful to know the purpose of that infant, Jesus Christ that was born in a manager who's birth the world acknowleges at this season. We are so grateful to be serving Him at this time and sharing His love with those who are seeking for peace and looking to the Savior to find it.
"For God so loved the world that he sent his only Begotten Son"