Saturday, August 31, 2013

'Oku ma 'i Tonga!!!

We are finally in Tonga! We've been Internet-less, wireless-less except for in the mission office which is pretty slow and doesn't always work, but, it is great to be here!! We jumped right into things, too. We arrived Saturday night, Aug 24 at about 8:00 and reluctantly dragged ourselves away from President and Sister Tupou's and off to bed after 11:00. We had so many things to talk about that it was difficult to leave and go to bed. Then it was off to church in 'Utulau first thing Sunday morning. It was their ward conference, and the stake president asked if we would speak. Yikes! So, we each bore a short testimony - in  Tongan :) I still can't think in Tongan very well, so I had to write my testimony out and read it. Hopefully soon we will be able to speak better Tongan. I told the missionaries they can only speak Tongan to me when they come into the office. My lea fakatonga is si'isi'i, but I'm going to work on it.

I need to back up to last week. We spent four days in office training. We had great teachers, and learned lots. There are definitely some challenges here in Tonga because we don't have high speed internet access yet, but are working on that. We're working hard to try to implement the things we learned. Garth already met with a stake president about the key indicators the church follows, and he is very excited to use those indicators to help the people in his stake "bring others to Christ."

Our office class
Ryan and Wesley - our wonderful shuttle drivers who drove us each day to the MTC

Our office teachers - Sis Fairbanks, Bro Free, Bro Chauncey, Bro Clark

After we left the MTC Thursday afternoon, we drove to Salt Lake and met Sarah, Lyle and Jana Williams, little Sarah, Biffy and Thatcher at the airport. We got to spend a little bit of time with them before going through security. One last good-bye. Thank goodness for Google Hangouts!!!!
Garth, Lyle, Jana, Biffy, Sarah. Little Sarah and Thatcher are in front.
After saying good-bye we flew from Salt Lake to Los Angeles, then overnighted to Auckland. We arrived early in the morning. We got some good tips of things to do from Brother Gardner, our Tongan tutor, who served in New Zealand, as well as a flight attendant on Air New Zealand. We ended up taking the bus to downtown Auckland, caught the ferry to Devonport, and spent most of the day there walking around. The architecture is Victorian, and even though the huge city of Auckland is a short 10-minute ferry ride away, it was like driving into the country. We tried meat pies (delicious!!!) and some New Zealand chocolate from a little chocolate store that made their own chocolate (SOOOO good!!!). We tried to find a KFC because we were told New Zealand has the best KFC, but we couldn't find one. So, whenever we get back to New Zealand we will find a KFC. We loved Devonport. Maybe we'll move there?!?
Landing in Devonport...foggy morning

Boats anchored up outside of Devonport

Looking from Devonport towards Auckland with the Sky Tower peeking through the fog

Looking out to sea from atop North Head

Auckland from Devonport

Now, back to Tonga....Today is only that right? I'm sure we've been here longer than three days. We are madly trying to keep up. Monday we got acquainted with the rest of the office staff. They are great. There has been no office couple here since January. The assistants and Sister Mitchell, the mission nurse, have been holding things together and doing a fantastic job. They didn't have the benefit of the training Garth and I had in Provo. Elder and Sister Maile are here, but they haven't been here very long, either. They've only been here about a month. So, we're all learning together. The assistants are great...Elder Napa'a and Elder Toki. Although Elder Toki goes home in a week and a half. We will miss him.

Tuesday afternoon we had three elders come from the New Zealand MTC. They will only be here temporarily. They are waiting for visas to come so they can go to their assigned missions in Australia, Solomon Islands, and New Zealand. Sept 10 we will get 33 new missionaries! Fourteen are coming from the MTC in Provo, and the rest from the MTC in New Zealand. We're still working on finding housing for them all. This will be the largest group of missionaries they've ever had come in at one time. The next largest group was 11, who arrived last month. We live in exciting times!!

Tuesday afternoon we got to Hangout with everyone but Tyler, who was sick. I'm not sure if I'm buying that. I'm going to give him a really hard time for not hanging out with his mom and dad who are half a world away!!! Hangouts are always an adventure with Brielle. We just sit back and watch the entertainment. Next time we'll remember to bring popcorn, too :)

On Tuesday evenings the radio station broadcasts a message from the church. Pres. Tupou does one week a month and stake presidents take turns doing the other weeks of the month. Sister Tupou informed me Saturday night that she and I would be singing for the broadcast this Tuesday. So, we practiced a couple of times, and recorded Tuesday afternoon and the broadcast played at 5:30 Tuesday the entire kingdom of Tonga!! Scary!!! We recruited wonderful Sister Meyers to play for us. Great accompanists are hard to find, and she is one of the best. The mission is doing a musical fireside this Sunday night, and she is going to play for us to sing again. She's also going to play for President and Sister Tupou and Elder Hamblin and I to sing a quartet. Sister Tupou and I are also going to play a piano duet. Whew......I'm tired thinking about it. Elder Haleck is also coming in today and will be here through Friday. Not sure how much practice time we're going to get in. Saying lots and lots of prayers!!! After leaving Tongatapu Elder Haleck is going to Vava'u where he will divide a stake this weekend. That will make three stakes in Vava'u. The church continues to grow in Tonga. We're excited we can be a part of these exciting times.

Loving Tonga!!!!

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