Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Last weekend we visited a cathedral on Beach Road across from the harbor in downtown Apia.  It is the most beautiful Catholic church on the island of Samoa.  We were amazed by the artistry and craftsmanship and thought we'd share some of our pictures

From the back of the cathedral

Detailed woodwork in the ceiling

Stained glass above the pipe organ in the back 

Dome - the picture depicts a traditional Samoan fale (house)
Cathedral from outside

Lots of stained glass

Sister Spencer and Angela talking to one of the parishioners 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Valentine's Day with Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson Museum on 300 acres
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day (Saturday is also our Preparation or P-day) and we decided to get out and see more of the area.  About 5 miles from our apartment at the base of Mount Vaea, is the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum (author of “Treasure Island” and other novels and poems).  Stevenson spent the last 5 years of his life in a large homestead that is now a museum.   He died unexpectedly at the age of 44 in 1894.  To show their love for Stevenson, the Samoan people cut a path to the top of the mountain for his burial.   

Start of the hike - full of hopes and dreams

Rustic steps along parts of the trail

Are you kidding me? 
The path, called the “Road of Loving Hearts” has two ways up and down – one steep and slippery and the other one steeper.  We took the short one (1/2 mile) up and were ready to lie down and die next to his tomb when we reached the top.  We finally caught our breath, took a few pictures and headed back down the longer path (1 ½ miles) that turned out to be narrow, slippery and with a very steep drop-off on one side.  The jungle terrain rivaled anything I have seen on TV - pretty, but also buggy, hot, humid, and moss growing on everything.  We were definitely challenged by the hike.  We were feeling our age, when we heard several of the Samoans that passed us say they did it several times a week for exercise... 
RLS Tomb at the top of Mt Vaea
Inland view from the top
We made it!

A fairly rare site - a cruise ship in the harbor
At the end - where's the water and the A/C? 
Cleaned up and ready to eat
 That afternoon (after a shower, a gallon of water and a nap) we went to Giordano’s for a late lunch.  It is one of about 6 places where we will eat, including McDonald’s.  (As an aside, this has been a big adjustment to us, since we ate out almost every day in the States).  It was our first time there.  We had salad, pizza and dessert.  It was very good, but a little pricey (about $46).  Although not air-conditioned, we had a good breeze and enjoyed the atmosphere.  And best of all, we were with our Valentine.
Great Pizza

Friday, February 13, 2015

Attending Our First Baptism

Last weekend we attended the baptism of one of the volunteers at the Self Reliance Center (SRC).  Ina (pronounced E-nah) Samuelu has been volunteering as a receptionist at the center for about the last 6 months.  She is very helpful keeping things organized in the reception room (we generally have 10-15 people at once in the room), controlling the use of the 6 computers, and being our translator at times.  She is married and has a 7 year old daughter.  Saturday was her baptism and Sunday she was confirmed a member of the Church and received the Holy Ghost.  For those not familiar with baptism in the LDS Church, this is the same as being baptized by water and the Spirit described in the New Testament (Acts 8:14-17).  We are very happy for her and are glad we will be able to fellowship her in the Gospel.    

At the baptism of Ina Samuelu with Elder and Sister Roos
PS - You can see that Elder Roos has "gone Samoan" with his lava lava, which he wears all the time. He told me it's because he "outgrew" his slacks, but I think he just likes to wear them.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Our 1 Month Anniversary

Today we celebrate being in the mission field one month.  To be honest, it has felt like a long time coming because of our steep learning curve, the start of a new semester for the local universities and trade schools (which drives the PEF loan process), and getting use to our new home.  Now that school has started and we have learned many of the processes for our calling, I expect things will go quicker and more smoothly.  Elder and Sister Roos, who we are replacing will be flying home on the 27th.  They have been such a help in learning about the Perpetual Education Fund and other responsibilities we are taking on.  We know they are excited to be back with their family after 18 months, but we will be sorry to see them leave.

We have our area coordinators from Auckland, New Zealand coming next week to give us some additional training.  This is probably better than if we had stayed a few days in Auckland before we came here, because now we can ask intelligent questions (I hope).  I'll let you know next week...
I am continually amazed at the flower arrangements at church each Sunday

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Black Sand Beach

Angela under the tree
The weekend after we got to Samoa (Jan 17), we were invited to go to one of the black sand beaches with several other senior couples.  Only one of the couples had been to this particular beach, and it’s probably a good thing, otherwise I think most would have decided there is an easier way to see sand in Samoa.  Only after we got back and saw a map did we realize the road there is one of two that say “4-wheel drive only”.  After 1 ½ miles of the worst road and densest forest we have seen, we arrived at the beach.  It’s not a “true” black sand beach, with a mixture of volcanic material mixed with brown sand. When we would walk along the water’s edge, we would sink 4 inches into the sand.  As with most places in Samoa, it was very pretty.  And this beach was deserted (I wonder why). 

Footsteps in the sand
Arriving at the beach

A little wet due to the rain 
 All beach property, including this one is owned by a village, and before you swim or snorkel, it is proper to seek out the local matai (village chief) or someone in the village, to pay a usage fee.  The cost can range from 10-20 Tala (about $5-10) per car to 10-20 Tala per person.  Many of the couples brought snorkeling gear, which they generously offered to us to use.  We politely declined this time, but may get the snorkeling bug as we acclimatize ourselves to the island life.  January is one of the rainiest months for Samoa, so true to form, it rained the whole time we were there.  It was still fun getting to know our new friends and having some time off before we start learning our new assignment.

Some of the other couples we went with 
Just fyi, we have 9 US/Canada couples here in Apia (in addition to a number of Samoan temple and maintenance missionaries).  Sounds like a lot, but everyone is busy and we could use more.
Elder and Sister Jackson – mission office couple. They leave in June, no replacement has been identified.
Elder and Sister Roos – PEF (Perpetual Education Fund).  They leave this month with no replacement.  We are picking up the bulk of what they are doing in addition to our calling as education specialists.
Elder and Sister Hammond – ITEP (International Teachers Education Program).  They coordinate and teach at the church schools here on the island of Upolu.  They leave in July.
Elder and Sister Stonehocker – ITEP.  They do the same thing as the Hammonds for the island of Savaii.
Elder and Sister Jacobs – Area Audit missionaries, here until November.
Elder and Sister Harper – Serving a 6 month "bridging" mission in systems technology, leaving this month.  They came after two other couples were not able to come due to health reasons.  Their replacements come in May. 
Elder and Sister Layne – Serving 18 months providing dental services to missionaries and others for free.  They leave in May.

Elder and Sister Lamoreaux – Temple couple.  They leave this month and not being replaced.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sauniatu (Saw-nee-ah-too) - Prepare to go Forth

About a week ago we went with our neighbors, Elder and Sister Hammond to a place on the Island called Sauniatu.  There is a church school there and they were having an in-service class with the teachers for this coming semester. To get there, we drove along the coast for about 30 minutes from Apia (where we live), where we saw the beautiful beaches and the Pacific Ocean rolling in. Then we drove to the top of one of the mountains. While they were teaching, we had a chance to see the area. A few pictures are below.    

Sauniatu is considered by members of the church here to be one of the most sacred places on the islands of Samoa.  Quoting from the plaque that is placed there (see the picture with me and Angela):

 "In 1904, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased approximately 800 acres of land in this valley.  It served as a refuge and gathering place for the early members of the church.  The area was called Sauniatu which in English translates as "prepare to go forth." 
Sauniatu's legacy is the result of the early pioneer experiences and sacrifices of people Liek Opapo and To'ai (who had eleven of their fourteen children die before adulthood), and Sai Masina who was head man of the village for many years.
On Tuesday, May 31, 1921, Elder David O. McKay dismounted from his horse near this spot, hung his folded umbrella on a branch of the tree and left an apostolic blessing on the people and land of Sauniatu.  He called this place one of the "first temples" and blessed the people that their lands would be able to produce the necessities and comforts of life.  He prayed that the plantations would be fruitful and the leaders would be wise.  He asked for a special blessing on the mothers, fathers, young men and women and especially the little children.  Above all, he prayed that they might have a "clear understanding of the truth" and make a rapid progress in gaining a knowledge of God and his work.  "May thy peace abide here in the village of Sauniatu."

Us at the Sauniatu plaque as you come into the area

The McKay Fale (house) built in 1968 in honor of
David O. McKay when he visited as an apostle in 1921

Bust of David O. Mckay inside the Fale
Bird of Paradise 

Scene from on top a hill at the village
Waterfall a short distance from the chapel and school 
Church building next to the school and teachers' housing

Beach scene on the way to Sauniatu

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Angela's Dad Passing Away

Angela and her Dad on his 90th birthday
Early our Monday morning (Sunday morning in Texas), we heard that Angela's Dad had passed away. He was 94 years old.  The possibility of this happening while we were gone was one of our concerns preparing for another mission.  We decided that given the distance, that we would not come back home.  And while this sounded good in theory, it was really hard for us (especially Angela), to not want to jump on a plane and go home.  As Angela said to me, "it's a good thing the mission president has our passports, or I'd be on a plane today."  Fortunately for technology, we were able to reach all our sons and let them know about his passing.  Some of them had already heard.  All of them are trying to be there to represent our family and participate in the funeral service.  Despite his often cantankerous spirit, we loved Grandpa Hare and will miss him.  We truly believe he is in a better place, and has been able to leave the frailities of this mortal life behind.

Back On Line

Whew! This past week has been a whirlwind of activity, both related to our assignment as education specialist and in getting set up in our new home for the next 12 months.  As they say, we have been drinking from the proverbial "fire hydrant"  We are doing well, just trying to catch our breath.

I always try to find the humorous in life (sometimes it only humorous to me).  On our short 36 hour flight over, I was amused to see they served us "Hokey Pokey" ice cream.  It brought back fond memories of teaching the youth in India the Hokey Pokey dance, and then waking up the next day with a sore back.

I was also amused when we got off the plane to Auckland, New Zealand to see painted on our plane the dragon, Smaugg, from the Hobbit movie.  That might explain some of our turbulence getting here.

Within a day, we had a two bedroom town home, a new car, a phone and beautiful surroundings. One of our kids asked, "Are you really on a mission". Not one to complain, while a few things are nice, between driving on the left side of the road and being almost 6000 miles from family, we definitely are on a mission.
Angela in front of our home and new car (Hyundai Tucson).
Solar water heater - hot when it's sunny, luke warm when it's
raining and this is the rainy season

Our living room, dining room, and study. Our 1950's kitchen
with salmon colored cabinets is off to the side, 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

We're Off

Today we leave for Apia Samoa at 3:15 p.m.  We fly from Dallas to Los Angeles, then to Auckland, New Zealand and then finally to Apia. We should arrive after 3 flights and two long layovers in 36 hours on Wednesday evening Samoa time (Western Samoa is 20 hours ahead of Dallas/Houston).

Last night we met at Eric's house with his family and Bryan's for dinner and to be set apart as full-time missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Being set apart involves having our Stake President, David Larsen, lay his hands on our heads (first Angela and then me) and call us as missionaries, and give us each a specific blessing of guidance/direction, support and comfort. Afterwards we spent some time talking about why we were serving another mission and express our love to our kids and grandkids.  And they in turn got to express their feelings to us.  Tears all around, but it was a great experience, only surpassed by having Tyler, Julie, Zachary, Brandon and Jared and Jen here.  We are grateful for all of our boys, their wives and our grandchildren and the support and love they have given us this past year as we have prepared to go.  We love them all and will miss them greatly!

Our Setting Apart by President David Larsen (far left)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

We're Almost Gone

Today is our last day in the home we are renting.  We leave for Samoa on Monday.  It's been 9 months since we made our decision to serve another mission.  We haven't needed all that time to prepare, but I thought I would provide some advice to those senior couples that are thinking about serving a mission

  • Start downsizing now - It's amazing how much "stuff" you acquire over the years.  I don't consider us to be pack rats.  We have moved 8 times since graduated from BYU and have tried to get rid of "non-essential" stuff each time (Angela and I have different definitions of that term).  With this move we gave away three beds, a couch, 2 overstuffed chairs, all our area rugs, an exercise bike, a treadmill, a large TV, and then made 8 trips to Goodwill with our SUV stuffed.  Even at that we needed to rent a 10x30 storage unit that is stacked to the top of it's 9 foot ceilings with our essentials.  
  • Think about what you're going to do with your cars.  We traded in Angela's SUV to the dealer, but since we weren't buying another car, we didn't get a great deal.  But keeping them means keeping them insured, registered, inspected and driven occasionally.  It's been good to keep my older 4-Runner to finish our last minute running around.
  • Start early on your physicals/dental - We are in relatively good health, but it was amazing how an out of range blood or urine test led to ultrasounds, MRI, cat scans, to confirm that "people of a certain age" like we are fit for duty.  If you're going overseas, make sure your teeth will last until you get back.
  • Getting untangled from life in the US is like the tar baby in Aesop's fable.  If you are selling your house, address and contact info needs to be changed for health plans, life/car insurance, pensions/401K, etc.  Utilities, phones, cable, etc need to be cancelled or disconnected.  If you have ever tried to cancel something you know how difficult it can be.  You wait on hold for extended periods of time, only to get an agent who must surely be paid to convince you not to cancel and to aggravate the heck out of you.
  • Spending time with family/friends before you go.  This is the best and hardest part of leaving. Taking time to travel to see siblings, parents and children/grandchildren and others in your life under the guise that this is the "last time" you'll see each other is both joyful and tearful.  But before you know it, you're back (hard to believe but we left for our first mission to India 2 years and 8 months ago).
  • The final angst, is trying to fit all you're going to need in your remote/3rd world home into 2 suitcases a piece (Valium anyone?).  It really helps you consider what you can and can't live without.
I hope I haven't discourage anyone from considering a mission.  In the end, preparing is a lot about "stuff" and is far outweighed by the great experiences you will have, the fabulous people you will meet, the new friendships you will make and the life altering way you will come home with a new perspective of what's really important in life.  We are excited to serve the Lord's people in Samoa. We hope we can help you feel what's it like through this blog. Talofa.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Tender Mercies

Back yard of the home we have been renting
All of us receive blessings in our lives that make them better and help us overcome difficulties.  The Lord refers to these as tender mercies.  One such tender mercy relates to us finding a place to live temporarily before leaving for this mission.  We have lived in Houston since coming back from Nigeria in 2007.  It has been great to be able to spend time with our two grandsons, Zach and Brandon who live by us, we haven't had as much opportunity to do the same with our other 9 grand children in Sunnyvale (near Dallas).  We planned to spend Sept-Dec living closer to them so we could be involved in school and holiday events. Our son, Eric offered to let us stay in  their cabin near Athens, but it is 80 miles from Sunnyvale, which would not allow us to be around during the week and would involve a lot of driving each weekend (as well as living out of suitcase a lot).  We looked for homes to rent in the Sunnyvale area.  There wasn't much to choose from and most were unfurnished and required a year lease.  What to do?  Then a week before we moved from Houston, unexpectedly the home of a church couple (who are serving a mission until July 2015) became available, and we were asked if we were interested.  What an great blessing it has been.  The house was furnished and we have been able to rent for as long as we've needed without a contract.  It has allowed us to spend a lot of time with family here in Sunnyvale that we wouldn't have been able to have otherwise.

The world would call this a coincidence, but I believe there are no coincidences...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Why Are We Going on Another Church Mission

Several people, including our family, have asked us why we are going on another Church mission so soon after coming back from an 18 month mission to India.  The simple answer is as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are taught that being of service to others is one of the the fundamental prinicples Christ taught when he was upon the earth.  When we got back from India, we felt a need to be more fully involved in serving others and what better way than by being set apart to serve where we believe the Lord has called us (in this case, Western Samoa).

Senior couples that are assigned overseas generally serve for 18-23 months.   We decided that 12 months would be right for us at this point in our lives as we balance the desire to serve where we are needed with the desire to be involved in the lives of our grand kids as they grow up.  We hope they see that we love them even as we leave for a "short time" to serve.

Our Family - Our 4 boys, their wives and grandkids