Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Blog #19 – September 22, 2011

Time is winding down quickly for us now. We have just 2-1/2 months to go, and I’m still trying to get this blog up to date. Five of our kids and two spouses, Macae and Kelly, Kimmy, Frank, Janelle, Kelly and Kevin, are coming to visit us next week, on September 30th and will spend a week trying to see two to three weeks worth of Samoa. We had the same problem when our son Benj and his wife came several months ago and I think we really wore them out. Gratefully, all of our children will have been able to come down, even though some of the spouses couldn’t make it. We are so excited to see them and are cramming hard to get many things done ahead on our mission duties so we can spend time showing them around. I was hoping to get this blog segment out in the next two days so maybe Kelly will have time to send it off before she takes off herself. I realized that I probably don’t have time to finish it, and Kelly, who’s trying to get her four kids arranged for while they’re gone for 10 day, probably has less time than I do. Since it won’t happen before the trip, it will just have to happen after. I’ve certainly been this far behind before.

Since we wrote last time we’ve put miles and miles, or kilometers and kilometers, on our little car taking trips up and down the coast several times a week visiting families, collecting and distributing missionary mail and packages and transporting missionaries back and forth to the hospital or the wharf, etc., when the vans from two different zones were in the repair shop for over a week at the same time, and of course, teaching piano classes. On one of our trips north, we decided to stop at the black sand beach to pick up a couple of pretty round rocks to use as stepping stones by our porch, only to discover that the black sand had just disappeared since we had been there a few months ago.
This is the picture we took there a year ago with John playing in the sand and surf with a little girl visiting from Provo. Notice the beautiful smooth sandy beach.
This is the very same beach a year later and all of the sand has been washed away. We were just shocked when we saw it. I’m sure there must have been a huge storm with monstrous waves that took out the sand and a few more palm trees that had survived the tsunami two years ago.

The day we took the picture of the rocky beach, the wind was blowing hard and the tide was all the way in and what a difference from the time Dad and Benj fished off that very same, dry point several months ago.

On that day back then it was very calm and the tide was way down. We were astounded at the change with the sand gone, trees down and huge waves. Nobody knows if the sand will get washed back any time soon, or ever. We continue to have enormous respect for the power of that ocean, and are so disappointed that there’s no black sand beach to show off for now when our visitors come.

The senior missionary population on Samoa has made a radical change over the last few months. Many of our dear friends had completed their missions and headed back home and have been replaced with more new couples that we’re getting to know. Two of those new couples have had to turn around after only a couple of months and head back home because of serious health issues that just couldn’t be dealt with here. We lost the new mission nurse and husband, the Curries, as well as the new institute director and his wife, the McDonalds. We understand they are both doing a little better now, even though neither one is completely out of the woods yet. I guess, when you have missionaries our age, health problems are not too surprising, even though I’m sure it was very disappointing for them to have to leave, as it was for all of us. Those two couples had to up and leave in such a hurry because of their emergencies that we didn’t even have time to get over and say goodbye, and there was certainly no time for a farewell party, like they usually throw for the outgoing seniors.

Over a period of a month, we had big farewell celebrations for the Kellys, the Eves and our outgoing mission President, President Halleck and his wife. We were able to get over to Pesega for those parties, even though it meant an extra couple of trips across on the ferry.

The Kellys were in the MTC with us and it was really hard to see them go. Sister Kelly was the mission nurse, and Elder Kelly was her right hand man and ran the medical office.

This picture of us with the Kellys was taken at some other celebration, but I can’t figure out what it was. I thought we looked so pretty in our flowers, but I can’t even remember why we were wearing them. That doesn’t matter; it’s a good picture of the four of us. They’re going back to eastern Canada, so I’m not sure we’ll have much chance to see them again. We’ve actually discussed getting together at a Palmyra Pageant sometime, which we’ve never seen, so that will be a good excuse to get back to their neck of the woods.

The Eves are from St. George, and were in charge of keeping up with all the missionary fales (houses) and ta’avales (autos) and were continuously travelling all around all three big islands to keep up with the cars and lodging of all the missionaries. I think they probably travelled more than we did. They live in Laverkin, down by St. George, near two of the couples who are here now, the Gouldings and Merrills, and hopefully a trek down that way won’t be too far afield after we all get home.

This picture was taken at the celebration for the Eves and Kellys, where those two couples are lined up with another good friend of ours, Wayne Shute, who was in the mission field with John years ago, and has also been mission president and Temple president. Wayne compiled the book that has John’s plane crash story in it and it was so good to see him again. He was just in Samoa for visit. His wife passed away a few months ago, and he was travelling with another ex-Samoan missionary, pictured with them and who we did not know.

The last farewell celebration held that month was for President and Sister Halleck, the now-ex Mission President and his wife. President Halleck is a native Samoan, even though he claims his name from a German Grandfather I think. He served a mission in Samoa under President Wayne Shute and went on to BYU/Provo, where he met and married his wife, Peggy, from Orem. They’ve lived most of their married life between Samoa and Hawaii. President Halleck was just recently called to the Quorum of the Seventy and they are now living in the Salt Lake area.

Elders serenading Hallecks

President Halleck farewell speech

Sister Halleck farewell speech

Farewell gift

Sr. Samoan sisters performing

OCTOBER 28, 2011

Well, here I am again after a few weeks. Sorry for the big delay. It’s been over a month since I started this blog segment and probably almost that long since I last wrote. We have just over 5 weeks left before we go home and still could use a couple of months to finish up some projects we’re working on. We won’t have those two months though, so we are cramming really hard to move ahead on everything, as we’ve been doing since after the kids left on October 8th.

Their visit to Samoa was just a wonderful time for us. We worked so hard to get ahead on some of our activities before they came and then filled that week they were here to the very brim. I’m not going to spend a lot a time on the details, because there is just so much to tell and also my camera ended up in the Wanberg camera bag when they left, and I have no pictures to add. The kids took plenty of pictures while they were here, and I’ll try to figure out how to get some of them off the files they shared on line and I’ll add them later.

We had everything all scheduled before they came and had reservations for three different hotels around this island. We had made arrangements to swap our little car for a large 15-passenger van over at the mission car pool. When we went to pick it up that morning before we went to the airport, someone had forgotten to reserve a van for us, even though our name had been on their calendar for almost a month. I was totally panicked, since our little car will hold 5 adults and maybe a little luggage. We needed space for 9 adults and all our luggage for a week. The car pool sent us back over to the mission office to see if they could come up with something for us. After the Mission President, the office manager and the Senior missionary who’s in charge of missionary autos put their heads together, they came up with a van for us. It was a lot smaller than what we had planned, but compared to our little car, it seemed like a bus to us. It was only a 12 passenger van and had absolutely no extra room for much luggage. When the mission office manager was helping us load all the mail and boxes for the missionaries over on Savaii, like we do on every trip we make over and back, it became evident that there was no way we could take all of that, plus 9 people and their luggage, so he insisted we unload all those boxes. We at least kept the small box of letters to deliver to the elders, and Elder Merrill said he’d make sure the other boxes got over some other way. It was still a tight fit once we picked up the kids at the airport, but we made it work at least until we got back over to Savaii and left some of the luggage at our house while we toured around that island.

When we went to the airport to pick up the kids, their plane was about 2 hours late, which became a potential problem for us, because we had planned to have some quick lunch somewhere and then head straight back to the wharf so that we could catch the 4:00 p.m. ferry, which was the very last one of that day. If we hadn’t been able to make that ferry, it would have thrown a huge kink into our plans. We’d have had to find somewhere to stay on Upolu that night; and there was a family, in one of the wards over on Savaii that we worked in, who had planned a large feast for us that evening, and they had probably been cooking all day to be ready. Gratefully, the kids were able to get through customs fairly quickly and we were able to get back to the ferry with a little time to spare. They’d had no lunch on the plane and we’d not had time to stop, so we grabbed a few munchies at the snack shack by the Wharf to carry us over the water to Savaii. That ferry ride on an empty stomach isn’t all that comfortable. We gave them all some motion sickness pills and I think everyone was okay.

While we were on the ferry, John got a phone call from Elder Merrill, the mission office manager, and he had arranged for a zone of elders over here on Savaii to trade vans with us for the few days we were going to be here. They had a big 15-passenger van and were kind enough to do with a smaller van for a few days so that we could use the big one. Elder Merrill was really our guardian angel that week.

We spent a lot of time in that van and went all around the island in it over about four days and we really appreciated having the use of it. We spent several days at beach resorts, so there was a lot of sand in the car when we traded back with the elders, but the floor was vinyl and there was a small broom in the van, so we were able to get it pretty well cleaned out by the time we turned it back over to them. We loaded everything from the big van back into the smaller van that last day on Savaii, headed back to our place to load up the other luggage and made it back to the Wharf in time to get on the 2:00 p.m. ferry for our trip back over to Upolu. Once we got back to the mission compound in Pesega, we were able to unload the luggage into the house and just take along those things that we needed for each day, so it wasn’t quite so crowded.

Of course, we had more things than we had time to do on the schedule for those days, and in spite of getting lost a couple of times, where we ended up way off our intended path and had to forego some of the sites, we were able to see the most important ones. I hope the kids have a good memory of that whole trip, even though they were dog tired and we had a few little setbacks along the way. We loved being able to share this beautiful country and her delightful people with them. We’ve said so many times over the past two years that we wish our family were here to experience and enjoy it with us. It was a dream-come-true to have it finally happen.

We were fortunate when we went on over to Pesega at the end of the week to have the use of a large 4 bedroom home on the Church compound for those three nights. It worked perfectly for us. We had two bathrooms, a large living room with TV, dining room, kitchen, laundry facilities and internet hook-up. There was even a nice piano in the house, but I’m not sure anyone even had time to sit down and play it.

It was such a joy to have them here and show them all around the two big islands, to share our love for snorkeling (first time for some of them) plus having them meet several of our special new Samoan friends. It went by so fast it made our heads spin, and I’m afraid it left us a little ‘trunky’ after they left (‘trunky’: a condition that affects missionaries right before they go home, so they just sit on their trunks instead of working). We didn’t have too much time to sit on our trunks however, and plunged right back into our usual schedule of visiting families, teaching piano classes, delivering mail and packages to the local missionaries, taking care of their medical needs, giving emergency rides during auto breakdowns, reimbursing all their extra expenses, for which we were also reimbursed when we went back over to Apia, not to mention arranging for and paying for (also reimbursed) catering of a special Zone conference with the Mission President and Area Seventy and all island missionaries. While John went to the zone meetings that day, I had the privilege of escorting the Mission President’s two daughters, Rachel, age 21, and Pearl, Age 16, plus Elder Pearson’s 13-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, all around the island to see sights and spend some time at the beach for a picnic and snorkeling.

We actually had a wonderful time and I think I enjoyed the day more than the missionaries did, since Elder Pearson was apparently very bold in calling to their attention several areas where they needed to make improvements.

All in all, I guess you could say that we are the Savaii Senior Missionary Banking Co., ambulance and hospital pharmacy, chauffeur, mailman, member support missionaries, piano teachers, grandma and grandpa, etc. Every day is a new adventure for us and we never know what to expect. That, coupled with what we do have planned and do expect, makes for some very long, interesting days. Since we are apparently not going to be replaced over here when we leave, because there’s quite a shortage of senior missionaries all over the world, it will be a puzzle as to what the mission will do without a mailman, banker, medical advisor, etc. on this island. They have made that comment to us several times, and jokingly asked if we’d be interested in a two-year extension. I think we are ready to come home, however, and will leave them with the opportunity to work it out; but we are at a loss as to how it will be done, unless some new senior missionary couple just pops up from somewhere. Miracles do happen in the mission field. There is one other senior couple here on Savaii, the Gouldings, but they are pretty much pinned down up at Vaiola teaching classes, and only have access to a car part time. We could never have done this job without a full-time auto, and we are on the road a big percent of the time.

The piano classes and lessons are still going strong, and we teach at least one, and sometimes two, per day Monday through Thursday. Because we’re a little worried about two of our piano classes which are lagging behind, we’re planning to double up on their lessons and try to have two a week instead of one. Several of the students have gotten behind because of their big year-end government school exams and have had little time to practice. The other class, which is mostly non-English speakers, has been very slow from the start because of the language barrier. The two elders in that area, who could both play piano and speak Samoan and English, were transferred out a couple of weeks ago. They were a huge help to us, and we have really missed them. The two new elders don’t play any piano, but might be able to come and help us translate a little. We’re going to add another class for that ward on Saturday morning each week until we go. Unfortunately, that class is our longest drive during the week, and now we’ll be doing it twice. If we can just get these two classes to the point where they are reading music fairly well and playing a little on their own, we’ll feel more comfortable leaving them. School is out for all of them for their Summer Vacation next week and that will help a little in the time for extra classes and practicing. I’m just not so sure how we’re going to make the time for too many more classes. We’ll need a miracle too, I guess, for which we pray daily.

In case you’re wondering if we are actually doing any real missionary work, we feel really good when we go back to some of the wards we’ve visited before and found some of those families who started going to church are still attending. Unfortunately, there are others who are not. We try to visit them again, but think it’s almost hopeless for some of them at this point. We are especially happy about some progress that has been made with a couple of families we’ve worked with for several months. I think we told you early in our mission about the twin brothers, Liai (Lehi) and Nifai (Nephi), who were both inactive and we had several visits and family home evenings with both families, but no luck with reactivation. Their bishop had finally suggested that since they’ve all been working with them for a long time with little success, we might use our time better in another area. Gratefully, the ward didn’t give up on them completely and Nifai and his family have become pretty well activated. He is now in the Elder’s quorum presidency and their family went to the Temple last month. We haven’t worked in that ward for quite a long time and were delighted to visit recently and learn about their progress. That made us want to try working with Liai a little more. His wife and kids have been going to church quite a bit, but not him, probably because of his smoking. We had a really wonderful family home evening with them this past week, where Dad courageously told them about his own Father’s reactivation when Dad was about 12, when Grandpa stopped smoking and drinking and began to set a better example for his family, and the results were a fully active and happy extended family, because of his change of heart. Liai seemed very touched by the story and recognized that it was certainly meant for him, and promised John that he would work hard to overcome those habits and set a better example for his 9 children and become more active. We were so excited when we left, and will keep close tabs on them for the next few weeks, not to mention alerting his ward leaders and members of the need for further fellowship.

The other family we’ve been working with, mostly teaching 7 members of their family piano lessons twice a week, is made up of several adult non-members, as well as two inactive LDS members, Sineva and Kalila, who have 5 children. They all live in the same little compound around Grandma and Grandpa and have been very welcoming to us and appreciative of our efforts in teaching them piano. They invited our own family to come and visit during their stay in Samoa and performed a lovely little piano concert for them, as well as feeding all 9 of us. Last night during our piano class at their fale, Dad took Sineva aside and asked if he’d like to come to church with us on Sunday, along with his wife and any others who wanted to. He didn’t get an answer right away, but we noticed him talking to his wife about it. This morning we went back for a short visit and invited the non-member Grandma and Grandpa and a couple of other adults, and they all accepted, except for the grandpa. He’s had a stroke of sorts and has what appears to be Bell’s palsy on one side of his face and is embarrassed about meeting strangers; however, he has really warmed up to us since out first visit there many months ago. We’ll pick them all up Sunday at Noon and are praying for a good set of meetings and a welcome reception from ward members. We hope we’re not pushing too hard, too soon, but our time is running out and we’d at least like to see that ward members can begin to help with the friendshipping process before we leave. All of a sudden our time is moving along way too fast, and even though we’re anxious to be home with the family, we feel we’re leaving some unfinished business behind. I guess that’s what most missionaries feel when they go home. We’d be a lot less concerned if we knew we were being replaced like most missionaries are. Hopefully, we’ve done our part and will have planted some seeds that will sprout and grow without us. I just wish that it would be easier to communicate with them here in Samoa from the USA, since practically none of them have computers or do emailing, and just getting a letter to and from them in the mail, takes forever, if its possible at all. They have no addresses, other than their village name. If a letter does get to the one post office on the island, they somehow have to check there once in a while to see if there is any mail for them. There’s no delivery of any sort. Hopefully, we can keep in touch with the missionaries to see how these families are progressing.

I realized that I’m making this sound like our last blog from Samoa. WE still have 5 weeks and expect plenty to happen in that time that we’d like to share with you all. It’s possible that if things get really cramped up toward the end, the actual last blog will have to be finished when we get home.

This last paragraph was written when we had 5 weeks left. I’ve written another segment already that was supposed to be part of this blog, but when I discovered how many photos I had to add, I realized that I had better quit now and let that next section with all the photos from our family’s Samoan trip follow along a few days later.

Here’s a little sneak preview of our family get-together in Samoa. More to follow.

Krogh family tourists

Snorkeling in Piula cave pool

We send our love to you and all your families and hope that you are all looking forward to the upcoming holidays.

Much love,
John & Karen


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