Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Our trip to Malaita

Friday 14 October 2011 Sister Mitchell and I boarded the Empress as first class passengers and left Honiara at 8AM for Malaita to visit the Branch there.  Pres. Misitana of the Honiara Branch had made all of the arrangements and guided us for the 3 day trip.

Two and a half hours later we arrived at the dock in Auki, Malaita.  Our driver, James was waiting there to pick us up in his well worn Toyota 4x4 pickup.  Not withstanding the bald tires on the front, rough idle, no shocks and probably a half million miles on rough roads we made it 39 kilometers to the Branch and back every day.

Our driver James, Pres. Misitana, Elder and Sister Mitchell

We paid $1000 SBD (Solomon Bank Dollars about US$1 to $7SBD) each day plus the fuel.  The "gas stations" were interesting.  Just four liter jugs of kerosene, diesel, or gasoline lined up on a board.  It was full service as the attendant took the jug and a funnel and poured it in the tank while another attendant held a huge umbrella, if it was raining, so no water would get in the fuel tank.  The gasoline was not cheap at $14.60SBD per liter or about US$8 per gallon.

Brother Rimou, Father Michael, Pres. Misitana, & Simon in front of the Clinic we will renovate with the  humanitarian fund

One of the purposes of our trip was to assess what needed to be done to renovate the Medical Clinic in Fouabu.  Father Michael, the Anglican Priest, has responsibility for the Clinic which is in terrible disrepair.  There are no funds to fix anything not even money to purchase fuel for the generator so when we come we will need to provide all of the building materials and even the fuel so we will have power for the tools.  We will clean and paint the entire building inside and out, replace the 4 hollow core doors with solid doors and new locks.  Replace the broken louvers in the windows, add benches outside, provide 4 tables and a desk and chairs, build shelves for the supplies to get them off of the floor, replace all of the screens and heavy wire mesh over the windows, replace the facia boards and much of the exterior masonite and batten boards  and repaint the roof.  A total renovation.  Father Michael is very excited to think that we can do this and can hardly believe we will complete the project by early December.

Saturday we were blessed to be in attendance of the baptism of 5 young women in the ocean.  Elder Maesi baptised them and Elder Vi conducted the baptism.

After the baptisms the sisters and young men performed native dances for us.  Sister Mitchell joined in with Sister Margaret Rimou the senior Sister missionary.

Michael, a young member of the Branch climbed a coconut tree to pick fresh coconuts for us.

Fourty six attended Sacrament Meeting on Sunday in the small chapel the missionaries built for the Branch.

Sister Mitchell teaching the youth a lesson on prayer during Sunday Shool in the shade of a small tree.

Sister and Elder Mitchell, Brother and Sister Rimou, Elder Maesi, Deven, Pres. Misitana
front row:  Lisa Rimou, Elder Vi, Nathan Bata

Elder and Sister Mitchell with Auki harbor in the background prior to leaving for Honiara Sunday afternoon.

View from the mountain above Auki with reefs and small islands in the sea.

The only boat available for our return trip to Honiara on Sunday evening was an old fishing boat that had been converted into a passenger boat.  We arrived at the boat at 7:30PM for a scheduled 8PM departure, but the boat didnn't leave the dock until about 9 oclock.  Pres. Misitana spoke with the captain early in the evening and made arrangements for Sister Mitchell and I to travel in the wheel house.   We sat about 4 feet behind the wheel of the ship and watched the crew manuver the ship all night long.  This was the "slow boat to China" making a slow 12 knots all night long on the trip back to Honiara.  We spent most of the night siting in the best seats on the boat, a counter with no cushion but right behind the captain.  The other passengers spent the night strewn around the boat amongst the cargo, dogs, chickens etc, wherever they could find a place to lie down and sleep the night away.  Some slept on the top of the boat where there was no railing.  I was affraid that they would roll over and fall off of the boat in their sleep, but I guess they are used to traveling like that.  They seemed very comfortable.  We were grateful for our special accomadations.  At 4 AM we arrived at the dock in Honiara and were excited to see Elder Gisa and Elder Tamihana waiting for us at the dock.  A very long night but safe and happy to be back home.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

12 October 2011

09 October 2011
Our house here is nice, but it has no insulation in walls, floor or attic.  The PFR from Australia said they will try to insulate the attic with bats after the first of the year.  I imagine it will be r-11, but it should help alot with the cooliing.  Mom and I are becoming aclimatized day by day or maybe rather we are getting used to the heat and humidity.  The floor here is just like the cabin, 4 inch tongue and groove hardwood plank over floor beams.  Pres. Misatana's office is below our bedroom and we can see light through a crack here and there at night when his lights are on.  The interior walls are a similar t&g hardwood. except the kitchen and baths which have a finished or painted masonite product on the walls and ceramic tile on the floors.  For a 3rd world country it is very nice.  There are many comparable homes to this in the city, but in the poorer neighborhoods there are just very small huts made of native materials.
10 October 2011
The telecom repairman was just here and replaced our wireless modem.  I am using it now and it seems to work very well.  He said that they had installed ours and one other like it and had complaints from both of us so we got a different one.  He also said that we should be able to skype with the connection we have so we'll have to set up an appointment with one of you and try it soon.  We are excited to think that we might be able to skype.

12 October 2011

View from the Panatena grocery store parking lot
Our favorite grocery store is in the Panatena Mall.  The shops here are more American than any others that we have found and though we can't get many of the things we buy back home, some are available here.  Of course the prices are a bit high, but if you want something bad enough it is usually worth it.

12 October 2011
Yesterday we met with a member from Burns Creek Branch, John Seti Iromea.  He has rented an old Catholic church to us to hold our branch meetings in for the past while. 

John Seti's church building in Burns Creek

He evicted the Branch last Wednesday because the Church would not purchase land from him for a new building in his village.  He describes himself as the Chief and made threats toward the Church and leaders.  I have been negotiating with him to calm him down and we settled on paying him 3 additional months rent (October-December) and he signed an agreement that he would make no more threats or do any harm to the Church, it's members, missionaries, leaders or property.  He agreed and also agreed to attend church in the Honiara Branch this coming Sunday.


Driving thru the palm oil plantations

Our trip today to visit Brother Simon Dowden was an opportunity to drive north past Henderson Field and out thru the palm oil plantations. 

Looking down the palm oil rows
The rows of palm oil trees seemed to go on forever and covered hundreds and hundreds of acres.

Palm oil pods that have been harvested

Elder James, Simon Downden, Elder Mitchell, Sister Mitchell, Elder Perere, Elder Doun
Our visit to Brother Simon was rewarding as we walked about 1/4 mile through the jungle on a poorly traveled trail covered with fallen coconuts and cocoa shells until we came to a little opening that Brother Simon had cleared.  He had a small lean-to roof where he and his family stay until he can build a house from native materials.  He had a large garden planted in sweet potatoes and had been working hard.  It was a crude camp much like the pioneers must have had when they first arrived at their destinations.  Sister Mitchell thought that it was interesting that with almost no modern posessions he had a battery radio playing country music when we arrived.  It is far too remote for him to attend Church but he has a firm testimony and hopes to spread the gospel and build the church there were he lives.   

Sunday, October 9, 2011

One Week

Honiara off the wing of our airplane flying in to the Solomon Islands

Hello everyone- We have been here 1 week and thought we would let you all know how things are going.  We have been very busy.

President and Sister Fata
 Pres. and Sister Fata met us at the airport Wednesday afternoon in Honaira. We were so surprized!! They thought our plane was coming in an hour later than it did and it arrived about 30 minutes earlier than it was supposed to so we waited about an hour for them and the APs to pick us up.  I told mom that in 15 more minutes I would hire a taxi to take us to the house where we stay and about that time they showed up.  When we got to the Church all of the members of the Branches were there to welcome us.  They placed leis around our necks and sang a song they had composed especially for us.  These are the words:

We waited and waited to welcome you here.
We long for the day you will come.
And now you are here we are glad and rejoice.
For this is our very warm welcome.

Welcome to Solomon the place that we live.
Welcome to you our couple.
And now you are here we are glad and rejoice.
For this is our very warm welcome.

They sang it two or three times and then all of them shook our hands and smiled brightly at us.  Then then fed us a dinner they had prepared with native dishes.  What a wonderful and warm welcome.

Pres. and Sister Fata stayed with us until Monday morning when they had to fly back to Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby.  They trained us and held Zone Conference with us and all 8 young elder missionaries in the Solomon Islands.  They also held a youth conference Friday, Saturday and Sunday here for the 3 Branches on Guadal Canal, Honaria, Burns Creek and White River.  Then Sunday held a conference for the 3 Branches as well.  We gave 3, 40 minute talks during the meetings.  The Branch in Malaita is too far away to come here normally and only the 2 Elders from there came in.  It is not possible to recieve General Conference sessions here because there is no satelite dish and the time difference is so great.  T.J. figured out that we add 7 hours to our time here and subtract one day, or you would add 17 hours to Utah time. 

Pres. and Sister Fata were so nice to us and so fun to be with.  They took us to dinner at really nice resturants here on 4 different nights.  Pres. Fata gave Mom and I some pretty heavy responsibilities with the work here in the Solomon Islands both with the missionaries and the Branches.

Our home in Honiara for the next two years and the Toyota Land Cruiser we'll drive
We also found out that when Pres. and Sister Fata or any of the General Authorities come they always stay in a nice hotel down town so you can come anytime of the year you want to and stay with us.  We have two queen beds in our big bedroom and two other bedrooms with 2 single beds in each room.  Plus the family room is probably 20 by 30 feet.  We just suggest that you check the weather for that time of year on the internet because we still don't know exactly what to expect during the rainy season.  It has surprised us that so far we have had sprinkles twice in this week, but neither time did it cover the ground.  The tempurature here is 75 or so at night and 90 or so in the day with humidity between 50 and 80 percent so far

Pres. Fata told us we would be going to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea at Christmas time with all of the other Elders.

We will be going to Maliata to visit the Elders and the Branch and to assess what service we can do at the Hospital there in 2 weeks. 

On November 20th Pres. and Sister Fata and Elder Hamula will come for a conference to organize the first Solomon Island District.  What a historic event that will be and we are excited to have them all visit.

We don't know if we can send photos mainly because we will have to figure it out.  We have recieved photos from Brenda and Scott so far so we know we can recieve them.  We have 5 or 6 SD cards 4gb each which we will transfer to our computer when they are full and then mail them home.

The official language is English, very British.  They sound to us like Jamicans.  English is usually their 3rd language.  They speak pidgin most of the time even in Churh sometimes and it is hard to uderstand but we are learning how to interpret it a little.  I saw a sign that said "uz im toilet paper".  You figure it out.  Here are the words to I Am A Child Of God in pidgin:

Mi pikinini blong God
Hem sendem mi long hia
Hem givin mi gudfala pies
Witim Mami an Dadi tu

Lidem mi gaedem mi
Waka baot witim mi
Helpem mi faedem wei
Tisim mi evriting mi mas duim
Fo stap witim him oldwe

Mi pitinini blong God
Oketa nids blong mi hem bik
Hilpem mi fo save wod blong hem
Bifo hemi kam to let


Mi pikinini blong God
Ris blesing hemi stap
Sapos mi lanem wil blong hem
Bae mi stap withim hem oldwe


Solomon Island Zone
left to right Elders Parere, Maesi, Pakalani, Vi, Gisa, Tamihana, Daun, James
The Elders that are serving here are Elder Gisa (Neesa) from Samoa, Elder Tamihana from New Zealand, Elder Pakalani from Tonga, Elder Parere from Daru (Papua New Guinea), Elder Vi from Samoa, Elder Maesi from one of the other Solomon Islands, Elder James from Fiji, Elder Daun from Paupa New Guinea (the place where they had all the baptisms in the crocadile infested river), English is their 2nd or 3rd language. We listen very carefully to understand them.

Our walks in the morning are on a dirt road. (we are just beginning to find places to walk) on this dirt road, we can see the sea after 1/4 of a mile! It felt so good to really walk fast. We had been walking in the compound. around and anound and around!!! We are safe as long as it's daylight. There is not much crime here the missionaries say, but they all come from places that we don't understand. Our not much crime means something different than their not much crime.  In Malaita there is a man who hates the Mormons, he has chased 2 different sets of missionaries with a big bush knife!

We now have our official VISAs and work permits and our drivers licenses and opened our bank account with ANZ bank.  We didn't even have to take a test or anything to get the licenses, only show our passports and US licenses and pay 94 Solomon dollars each.  I drove about 25 miles today and did pretty good.  Mom thinks I do OK and she is comfortable with me driving here.  We also went to the Market and shopped in town with the 8 Elders following us, carrying our bags of food and looking like we were important and they were our security detail.  It was fun.

We hear thunder right now so probably well get our first rain this week tonight.

Quite a week don't you think?

Love, Elder and Sister Mitchell