Sunday, January 22, 2012

OUR FIRST P DAY (actually 4 hour P Day)

FIRST A LITTLE CLEAN UP FROM PAPUA NEW GUINEA.  We forgot to show part of our cultural experience while in PNG at Christmas.

Christmas dinner was a real cultural experience in Papua New Guinea.  Pres. and Sister Fata asked all of the missionaries to bring something to the dinner and Bishop McCarthy, Pres. Fata's Executive Secretary, brought a pig.  Yup, the whole hog!!!  There it was in all it's glory tail, snout, ears and hide right up in the middle of the table.  Actually it tasted quite good after Elder Fui had helped cut it up.
When Sister Mitchell first saw our little pig she ran to Elder Mitchell and exclaimed, "you've got to see this".

I guess it's not so strange, many of us have seen a turkey prepared in much the same way at a Thanksgiving dinner.
There were lots of native foods on the table and everyone including us had a great time.

Every time you get home from vacation it seems like the world caved in on you with everything that didn't get done while you were gone, now looking you right in the face.  Well, ours was just like that, 18 days in Papua New Guinea, and lots of things were waiting for us to do as we arrived home. 

We of course hurried to the Post Office hoping for some packages from home..........nope, maybe the boat sunk, who knows.  The good news was there were 7 parcels from the Service Center in PNG waiting for us to pick them up.  Noooo problem, except there were customs charges of $2300 due before they would release them to us.  Noooo problem, we've done this before.  The drill is you go to the Anglican Press and purchase the customs remission forms, write a letter on Church letter head (that Elder Mitchell copied and created, don't tell anyone, please) explaining why the Customs Office should remit the charges, take the forms in duplicate and the letter to the customs office but wait a minute, it's 11:55am and they are closed for lunch and a guy walking by tells you they don't come back until 1:30pm.  We go back at 1:45pm and wait for a really long time until someone helped us and signs them off.
Perhaps the wait has something to do with the inbox visible through the window on the right of this picture of the Customs office, who knows?
Then we went to the Inland Revenue office to pick up another form and fill it out.  Then to another office at Inland Revenue and talk to Timothy and present him with the signed and stamped forms from Customs and the letter and the completed forms from the other office at Inland Revenue except he is out of the office and they don't know when he will be back and he is the only person authorized to sign the release on the island.  The next day he is finally in and he is happy to sign the release.  Then back to the Post Office to get the parcels.  Then pay the "handling fee" of $35 per parcel and zingo, just like that and they are ours. 

What's a handling fee you say, well it's just a fee for handling your parcel.  How is the amount determined you say, well, this is a heavy parcel so it's $35, a smaller parcel is less.  But the postage has been paid you say, well the handling fee has not been paid.  So you pay and you're happy you got the parcels.  Only, there's just one more thing, since you were last at the post office, 5 more parcels arrived from the PNG Service Center and there is $1800 Customs charges on them so why don't we have all this fun again tomorrow?  No, Folks, we are NOT making any of this up!

It's Wednesday, the 18th of January 2012 and we decide it's time to pay a visit to the Prime Minister's Office and make an appointment with him.  On the 28th of November when we introduced him to Elder Hamula at the Honiara Hotel he asked if Elder and Sister Mitchell would visit him to continue the conversation of how the Solomon Island government and the Church could work together.  With the Fauabu Humanitarian project and our trip to PNG for Christmas this was our first chance to pursue our invitation.

We went to the Prime Ministers Office building and the Security Guard escorted us to the Prime Ministers Executive Secretary.  She was very cordial to us explaining that Gordon Lilo was out but that she would ask him if he could see us and contact us with the details.  We were very happy with the reception and hope to hear back soon.

On the way out of the building we walked by the open door of the cabinet room and took this photo.

As we left the building we greeted a man coming in.  He looked at us as though he was interested in us and Elder Mitchell asked him how he was doing.  He asked if we were from the Church of Jesus Christ and then said he was from Fiji and was going to join the Church.  His name is John Fadama and he has been meeting with the Missionaries in Fiji and has decided to be baptised.  He has just arrived in Honiara to work for a year.  We got his name, address and telephone numbers and our Zone leaders have contacted him and we will take them to meet with him on Monday.

As we left for our car Elder Mitchell remarked that we had accomplished so much already today that we could just go take a nap and call it one of our most successful days.  Sister Mitchell laughed and said, "lets go for a ride".

Now that's a novel idea, we have been on our mission for 4 months tomorrow and we are yet to have a Preparation Day when we have done anything really fun.  It's always drive the Missionaries to Western Union to pick up their support funds, go shopping etc.  Or fix this, or visit someone, or prepare for Family Home Evening with the Elders, or plan for a District Training Meeting etc.

So............ we drove north and west up the Guadalcanal coast just to see what we could see.

Some of the most beautiful scenery you could ever see, the Solomon Sea on the right and mountains on the left and palm trees everywhere.

Beautiful lush grassland and not a cow in sight.

Our trusty little diesel Land Cruiser with banana trees and tropical landscape behind.

The coast was amazing with beautiful beaches of many different colors and clear beautiful water.

Sister Mitchell especially liked this black sand beach right across the road from Selwyn College.

Cheryle always wants to touch the water...........

But in this case the water decided to touch her.

 This road seemed to be maintained especially well and Sister Mitchell commented along the way that there must be a relative of the Minister of Roads that lived down this way because this is the only road on the island that shows any repair.  We were shocked to see our first road grader actually working, since we arrived on the island, and felt like we had to document the occasion.  The driver was amazed and delighted that Elder Mitchell stopped to take his picture.

The road began to get narrower and narrower the farther we went and Elder Mitchell kept saying that he was sure we were almost to the end and anytime now we would come to a little village and the end of the road.  Well, it wasn't long until we came to a little wooden bridge over a creek except the planking had been repaired with coconut trees and Sister Mitchell suggested that this was "the end of the road".  Because we hadn't seen anyone for about 10 kilometers, Elder Mitchell reluctantly agreed and we started to head back.

Sister Mitchell has never driven on our Mission and has said she didn't care if she ever did.  However, she was persuaded by a very persistent companion to try it while we were in a rural area.  She had a great time as you can see.  She even remembered how to shift gears and never missed one!  This lefty does right fine on the left side of the road! LOL

At a road side fruit stand we met 3 RAMSI nurses who asked us for directions to the WWII out door museum.  That's a laugh!  Anyway, we had hoped to find it while on our little adventure and they told us to follow them, they thought they knew where it was.  After quite a time we found it at the end of a dirt wheel track road in the middle of nowhere.  It seems the signs had fallen down some long time ago and had never been replaced.  That doesn't surprise us much.  Anyway it was worth the hunt.  Notice the folding wing so this fighter could fit on the aircraft carrier.  Someone smarter than us will have to tell which model this is.

This pretty flower is called "birds beak" and it is totally breath taking!

All of these aircraft have been salvaged from their crash sites

Elder Mitchell operating a Japanese howitzer

This is a good bridge, concrete and about 12ft wide with no guardrails.  Oh well, we really never use guardrails anyway, they just give us a sense of security.
The day ended as we had a late lunch at the Heritage Hotel in Honiara and then picked up the Elders and brought them home from White River.
We had a great P Day and hope to plan more in the future.  To go and do just some fun things together.  We love the work here!  We seem to be running all of the time but what a blessing to feel so useful and needed in the work of the Lord.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


WE GOT BACK TO HONIARA from Malaita on Sunday night, December 11, 2011 and found an email from President Fata telling us that we would be receiving tickets to fly to Papau New Guinea on Saturday the 17th. 

Elder and Sister White picked us up at the airport and took us to the Mission Home.  They explained that all of the Elders were under lock down for their safety because of political unrest in the country.  It seems that a new Prime Minister had been elected and the old one wouldn't relinquish the position. The 90 young Elders were living at the Mission Home, a compound called Besele, and Gabuto were we were to stay.  These compounds are all protected by 24 hour security guards and fully fenced with chain link and razor wire fences. Elder Hamula, the Area President had called for the lock down and all church travel to PNG had been canceled.

President Fata explained that he didn't ask if we could come because he was pretty sure of the answer and he wanted us to be there with all of the missionaries.

The Elders had been in PNG for two weeks before we got their and had spent their time while locked down practicing for performances that they put on every evening through the holidays.  On Fridays and Saturdays they performed at Vision City, the largest Mall in Port Moresby.  Each performance was filled with music and native dances.  They were always a hit with the crowds.

Elder White and some of the Elders built a stage from bush materials, a stable and nativity scene, and a huge video projection screen in front of the mission home.  Pres. Fata invited a different Ward, Branch, Stake or District to perform at the program every night through the holidays after which the Missionaries performed.  Rain or shine the programs were held every night until Christmas.

Sister Van Duker leads her Branch Choir in Christmas carols.

90 Missionaries sing on the stage in front of the Mission Home which can be seen in the background with the Christmas lights on.

The Elders spent every day practicing and perfecting their native dances from their respective homelands.

President Fata worked with each different group to help them perfect their performances.  He would review each "item" that was to be performed that evening during the afternoon rehearsal and allow them to perform only if they were good enough. 
This is the Samoan group and he wanted them to be especially prepared because he is from Samoa.

More practice, and more practice.

Our New Zealand "son", Elder Tamihana, teaching the Hakka with diagrams on the chalk board in one of the chapels of the Gabutu Stake Center.

Sister Fata playing her ukulele and teaching a Samoan song to some of the Elders with Sister Tao helping.

Our new Solomon Island Zone leader and the only missionary from Tahitii, Elder Tauira, practicing his native dance.  By the time he performed, about 20 elders had been adopted as Tahitians and were dancing with him.

Elder Mitchell with his "apprentices", Elder Fui from Samoa and Elder Gibson from Papua New Guinea drilling a door and installing a lock set.  Actually, Elder Fui supervised a crew of 5 finish carpenters prior to his mission and is an excellent craftsman.

Elder and Sister Mitchell standing on the chapel site where local members hope a temple will some day stand.  The gulf of Papua is in the background.  This is a beautiful site.

Brother and Sister Suapaia a Senior Couple assigned to Daru.  They are from Samoa.  Sister Suapaia was so kind to make a coconut frond fan and give it to Sister Mitchell.

Elder and Sister Te'o from Samoa are the Senior Couple assigned to serve in Rigo.  Elder Mitchell's "brother Chief".  Elder Te'o is a real Tongan Chief even tho he is from Samoa.

An Elder making a costume for the Daru dance.

Sister Mitchell and Elder Parere who used to serve in the Solomons is from Daru.  He is wearing his costume he made from coconut tree fronds.

The two Elders on the right are brothers serving in the mission.  Elders Bourne. 

The Hakka again.  Elder Mitchell said he doesn't know how such nice young men can look and act so mean while performing the Hakka.

The Van Duker family at a Branch Christmas Party.
Sister Van Duker was Gretchen Travis' room mate in Provo.  Who says US people can't live in Papua New Guinea?

The Tongans getting "down" during their performance at the mall.  They even did this in a heavy rain storm in front of the Mission Home on the wet asphalt road!  What sacrifice and dedication!

Sister Te'o, Sister Mitchell, and Sister Fata, trying on the Papau New Guinea Mud Man masks.  Lookin good!!!!

               Elder Tamihana leading the elders in the Hakka at the Vision City Mall.

Elder Palupe and Elder Seumanutafa, the talent behind all of the musical performances.  They both worked so hard to make sure the performances were done professionally.

                                                  Our 2011 Christmas Mission Picture

Elder Vuataki and Elder Schwenke, the AP's, with Elder and Sister Mitchell.  What good, good Elders!

President and Sister Fata and their youngest Son.  He teaches at the New Zealand MTC and helped with training between Christmas and New Years.  What a great young man.

Pres. Fata demonstrating the art of cracking a coconut.  He is very skilled with a bush knife.

Our 8 Solomon Island Elders leaving Papu New Guinea.  Elder Haromera, Elder Pukari, Elder Yama, Elder Bourne, Elder Asuafi, Elder Tago, and Elder Tauria, and Elder Asia in front.

What a great, unexpected, and wonderful experience to be able to be with all of the missionaries in Papua New Guinea for Christmas.  We never dreamed we would have this opportunity.  How blessed we are to be called to serve the Lord in this part of the World!  We really love our Mission!!!