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After School Vistors

The smell of cinnamon buns was wafting through the house and making everyone hungry. None of the girls that were bouncing around my kitchen had ever had a cinnamon bun before, so we were excited to share them. Early this morning, when my little girls went off to school, they asked me if it was okay if they brought some friends home to play. Being the awesome mom that I am and never wanted to miss a chance to win points with my kids I enthusiastically said “you bet”!

A few hours later piles of kids poured through my front door. This was not a few after school friends! I was pretty sure they had brought the entire school home with them! The girls were giggling as they took off their blue and yellow uniforms and folded them neatly across tables and chairs. It was too hot to keep the uniforms on and most the girls had a change of clothes with them. After quickly stripping their skirts they ran down to the ocean with both my daughters in tow and splashed and swam. The radio had sent out an extra large wave warning, so the girls thought that was the perfect invitation to go and play.

Squealing, and screaming and laughing could be heard over the crash of the giant, frothy waves. I went down to watch them and make sure everyone stayed safe, but who was I kidding? These kids could swim better and further and than I ever would be able to. Swimming was like breathing, and they had been doing it since they were tiny.

I headed home and a few minutes later, the group of girls came back too. They were all shivering and cold. My girls quickly offered them a hot shower (most of which none had ever had a hot shower before) and sometime before my gas tank had been completely emptied of it’s expensive liquid, the girls all tumbled out. They wrapped themselves up in every dry towel I had and began to play basketball outside.

I was fascinated by the large group, and sat staring  out the window at them, not quite sure what to do. I had been expecting a few little girls to come home with mine and had made a little snack of cut up pineapple and watermelon for them to share but that was not going to do it!

I quickly thought up a plan, I’d do a cooking class. I told them all that today we were going to make cinnamon buns. They were delighted and threw the basketball through the hoop one last time before running inside. I tried to ignore the puddle of water all over the floor and the messy kitchen, telling myself that they wouldn’t notice either- so neither should I. I divided them into groups of 4 and  taught them how to make the tasty, sticky treat. I don’t speak Bislama very well, and they don’t speak English very well, but we did alright as I mimed and acted out exactly what steps happened next.

They stirred, and kneaded and rolled and sprinkled and cut until every pan I had was covered in cinnamon buns waiting to be cooked. Every girl there cooks on a fire in her village. None of them had stoves or ovens, so they were mesmerised by everything in the kitchen. Giggling each time I gave them an instruction or pulled out a new dish.

As the cinnamon buns cooked I told the girls it was time to clean up the messy kitchen. It had already been a disaster with dishes piled high in both sinks, before we had started and now it was even worse. Those girls only needed to be told once and they took their job very seriously. The counter was wiped about a hundred times, and each dish was washed, dried and within 20 minutes the kitchen was immaculate.

Little girls with frizzy black hair, and dark brown skin, sparkling white teeth and beautiful smiles were all being dropped off now that it was pitch black and drizzling with rain. I wondered if their parents even knew where they were today, or wondered what took them so long to come home from school, and I wonder what magic will happen in my house tomorrow!

An Island Thanksgiving Dinner

In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving on the 2nd Monday of October. While living in Vanuatu we have been subject to all manner of degradations in our food standards (beatles in the pasta, bugs in the rice, maggots in the cheese, larvae in the beans, worms in the fruit etc.) Lindy is almost ready to go home and we wanted to do something fun to celebrate. So we invited every neighbor around as well as some favorite family friends to our home for a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner.
 
Making anything traditional in a developing country is exciting, so try not to laugh at Lindy and I’s lack of knowledge without the regular staples like ‘stove top’ and turkey while we attempt to create a Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner in Vanuatu.
 
Despite a few setbacks and difficulty finding all the ingredients that we usually have access to, we had a wonderful and fun filled Thanksgiving with all our neighbors and some brand new friends. Missed the turkey but loved the company:)

An Island Relief Society and Primary Dance

We all wore our best island dresses as we headed out to our activity. By the time we arrived there was just enough light to make out the bunches of fresh flowers hanging from strings that were criss crossed across the outdoor cement pad. Several long extension cords ran across the yard and out onto the street bringing enough electricity for one small light and the portable stereo that was blasting the island music.  We had all been invited to an island dance in the village of Mele for our Friday night church activity.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

It took us a while to find the house in the first place and of course we were the only ones besides Sister Davidson that arrived in a vehicle. When we did arrive the table was covered in plates piled high with unidentifiable food,  and woman and children were chatting and laughing on blankets on the ground. There was three kinds of watered down juice- red, yellow and blue. There was only two cups which everyone shared for about an hour until a stack of disposable ones were retrieved and brought out.

Photo Credit: Lights for All occasions

Naomi and I chuckled as we danced in the dark with the women and children as a very inappropriate song came on for the 5th time- I’m pretty sure they didn’t know what it meant 🙂

The dance was lots of fun, and the kids were delighted at being invited to a special event just for them. I made a little video and thought I’d share it with you- please excuse the terrible lighting, the whole event was too authentic to not post about.

 

Thanks for reading my blog, xoxo

Beckyboo

 

 

 

True Independence

37 years ago today, the combined governments of both England and France agreed to give Vanuatu its independence. (How generous, right?) Vanuatu does not take it’s independence lightly. It’s been non-stop parties for the last 7 days. (Trust me, I know, I’ve been at all of them) Music, Dancing, Kakai (food), Wrestling, pig wrestling, Karate, Soccer, Basketball, Boxing, Singing. There is an never ending list of talents that are on display for the 8 days celebration. It goes from early into the morning each day to early into the morning the next day. Live music ends somewhere between 3:00-4:00am and then starts again between 6:00-8:00am. The entire thing is broadcast via 6 massive speakers. You don’t even have to be anywhere NEAR the celebrations to HEAR the celebrations!!

Entire villages  show up to enjoy the festivities and little children and old grandmas share woven grass mats that are strewn across the field for days on end. It’s quite a site!

Photo Credit: Dan McGarry

Because of all the celebrations, our local church leaders asked each group of saints to meet as early as possible, so that families would be able to participate in the community celebrations for the day. Our branch chose 7:30. Yes that’s 7:30 AM! Did you even know that you were allowed to meet for church at that time?! There weren’t as many people as usual this morning at church. LOL. But for those of us that were there it was a treat. Sister King gave  talk that was really special.

 

She talked about a story that she heard last week from president Basille (he’s the leader of the local church branch we attend). President Basille said that 44 years ago there was no Mormon church on any of the islands of Vanuatu.

Missionary work began in Vanuatu in 1974 after several Latter-day Saint Tongan families moved there. Elder Harman Rector Jr., of the Seventy (one of the highest governing bodies of the Church) and President Davis visited Port Vila in April 1974 to determine the possibility of assigning full-time missionaries to the island. Elder Rector felt it was essential that the area receive missionaries”

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/facts-and-statistics/country/vanuatu

After prayerfully considering the possibility of sending full time missionaries to Vanuatu, the church leaders determined that that is exactly what God wanted. They gave the assignment to an LDS French ambassador to come to Vanuatu and meet with both governments to ask permission for the Mormon Church to send missionaries. When the LDS ambassador arrived in Vanuatu his meeting with the English government went well and they agreed to allow missionaries. However, the meeting with the French government did not go so well. The government official representing the French government was rude and disrespectful to the  LDS man telling him that there was absolutely no way that missionaries would be allowed to preach in Vanuatu. Discouraged, the LDS ambassador went home and reported to the church that they would not be able to send missionaries to Vanuatu.

Several months later the French LDS ambassador was back in Vanuatu on business of his own. As he was finishing up his business he felt like he must go and visit the French government official again. He wondered at this feeling due to the very rude way  he had been treated last time, however, determined to follow this prompting he made an appointment to meet with him.

To the LDS ambassadors great surprise the French official was overjoyed to see him. He was very kind and welcoming and invited him to sit down with him for lunch where they could talk. After just a few minutes of visiting the French official gave his official invitation for the Mormon church to invite missionaries to come to Vanuatu.

The LDS ambassador was stunned by this sudden change in attitude. He finally had the courage to ask the French official “Why are you allowing us to have missionaries in Vanuatu?” The official replied “When I last left Vanuatu I had to walk to work everyday. Each day I passed a beautiful church building that said ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’. The people were always smiling and saying hello to me. They planted gardens and made the area clean. They had many activities and were always respectful, getting involved and helping out in the community, making it a better place to live.  Every time I saw people go in or out of that building they were filled with a special light and happiness that I’ve never seen anywhere else. If we have missionaries in Vanuatu will they do that here as well?” The LDS ambassador assured the French official that they would do that here and ever since then missionaries have been allowed in Vanuatu. Isn’t that such a beautiful story?

There hasn’t been a Sunday that goes by that at least one or two or three people are getting baptised. Our little branch on the island of Efate is growing faster than we can fit inside the building. On the other islands the church is welcomed with open arms as well. One man I met on the beach last week explained one reason why this is the case.

Jacob’s family was from Tanna- they knew Nathaniel’s mother (that’s my nephew). He said that after Cyclone Pam (an absolutely devastating cyclone that flattened the island) there was many aid organizations that came in to help our their island, but there was one that came first and left last. They wore yellow t-shirts and they delivered shipments of food, water, money and supplies. They not only rebuilt the houses of their own members but they rebuilt the houses of entire villages. Now, whenever someone finds out that someone is from the Mormon the church, they kiss them and hug them and thank them. And many, many people have joined the church because of that.

Of course our goal is not for people to join our church, our goal is to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and allow it to change hearts and lives in others as it has in us.

Watching the way Vanuatu celebrates their independence humbles me. These island people are truly, emphatically, and deeply grateful for their independence. They know that the only way to be truly free is to be with God, and they are. And so today, because church was over so soon, do you know what the entire island is doing? They are raising their flag together, and singing their anthem together, eating together and then they are going to listen to 10 hours of preaching together. Yes, that’s the activities for the entire island. Every store is closed and every family is on their mat in the big field. And it doesn’t matter which church you belong to because today everyone is together worshiping God through those same 6 big speakers that have been blasting out music for the last week.

True independence comes from knowing who you are. True independence comes from recognizing that every man is and every woman is your brother and sister and that Pappa God really is our Father, all of us.  God doesn’t see as Mormons or Catholics or Muslims,  or as black men or white men, he sees us as His children. The message from the preacher in park today was that as brothers and sisters we need each other. And we need to be our best selves, so instead of focusing on the mistakes from yesterday or last year we need to take care of being the best that we can be today and unite in our respect and honor of God.

Happy Sabbath 🙂

XOXO

Rebecca