Sunday, October 30, 2016

Week 34 Report

Monday was a cloudy, rainy day. Work went well at the office. We had the monthly Missionary Leadership Conference with about 50 missionaries. The office staff prepared a nice lunch of chicken croissant sandwiches, pineapple, kale salad, clementine oranges, chips, and cookies. After the conference is over the office is always flooded with missionaries coming in for supplies. We love it! We had a new sister arrive from the MTC. She is so sharp. She has been studying Mandarin Chinese and will be serving at the Laie Temple Visitor’s Center. She is the only American sister we have speaking Mandarin. Her new companion came to the office to meet her and they were having a good time speaking Mandarin and giggling.

In the evening we went to a local member’s house for senior FHE with the members of the McCully Ward. There are 3 wards that meet in the Honolulu Tabernacle: McCully, Makiki, and Manoa. Each senior office couple is assigned to one of the wards. We are in Manoa, but we get invited to events in every ward. The members really do love the missionaries – senior and junior.

Tuesday was Hawaii at it’s best, weather wise – beautiful blue skies, refreshing trade wind breeze, and air that felt crystal clean. It was a quiet but busy day in the office. Not many interruptions, so we were able to get a lot of work done. I even was able to have a nice, short nap. We made another trip to the Toyota dealership to pick up the remaining new cars for the office. In the evening Sister Overduyn and I attended a Relief Society event for the Manoa Ward. The RS president was recently released, so she and her counselor had a dinner/social at her home to say thank you to all the sisters that served in any capacity with her. I was included because (1) I’m a missionary, and (2) I play the piano for RS. There were about 30 sisters attending. Sister Mataele’s home is high up on the hills above Honolulu. The view of the city and sunset was beyond amazing. We had a wonderful, bountiful turkey/ham dinner with all the trimmings and then some. We visited and played a cute game. It was just wonderful to be with these special women. They truly practice the aloha spirit – old and young. It is pure joy to be in their presence and share in their love of the gospel and each other. This is such a special place!

Wednesday was cloudy with misty-like rain off and on – someone called it Hawaii snow. We had a good day at the office and then spent a couple of hours running errands for the office. Devon needed to restock apartment supplies, and I needed things from Office Max. We came home and had yummy leftovers I brought home from the RS dinner last night. It was just as good the second time! Our absentee ballots finally came in the mail. We filled them out and dropped them in the mailbox.

Thursday was much like Wednesday – more clouds and rain off and on. After office hours we hopped on the bus and went back to the Fossil store at the International Marketplace to have the band on my new watch adjusted. They were happy to fix it for me. We walked around a little and then caught the bus back home. It cost us each $1.00 to ride down and we used a transfer ticket to ride back. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Stunning light/skylight in the International Marketplace

 Again on Friday we had rain off and on. I spent a good portion of my day updating my instruction book. The previous mission secretary left me amazing instructions – I would have been lost without them. But, things have a way of changing and we’ve added a few new things…so, I’m updating. It seems really strange to be thinking about my replacement - didn't I just get here?! Friday evening we went to dinner with the Overduyns. The restaurant was just okay – Italian, but can’t hold a candle to Olive Garden (which we, unfortunately, don’t have in Hawaii).

Saturday morning I went to stake choir practice at 7:30 am. They are preparing for their big Christmas concert and today was the first practice. After that we loaded up the mission truck with a queen bed, fire extinguishers, a vacuum, and a package - items that Devon needed to deliver to various missionaries in Kaneohe and Laie. It was rainy again, so we carefully wrapped the bed in tarps and then headed out. The ride was lovely, and everything got delivered. We were so pleased to see the progress of the new senior missionary couple apartment in Hau’ula. The owners have made it adorable – cute furnishings and colorful accent walls. I would love to live there. Hope the new couple feels the same.

After everything was delivered we stopped at the Settlement in the PCC. I have fought the urge to begin a Hawaiian quilting project, but finally gave in and bought a small project. Most of the Hawaiian quilts, pillow coverings, and wall hangings you find here are made in the Philippines. If you find one made in Hawaii you pay $$$. I finally decided the only way to get a reasonably priced one made in Hawaii was to make it myself. So for $28.00 I bought a kit – now to get started.

We decided to drive around the North Shore (the long way) to get home. We stopped at Seven Brothers for late lunch. Hawaii is noted for it’s wild chickens. They roam all over the countryside. Of course, we don’t see any in Honolulu. Anyway. I had to take a photo of some we saw while we were having lunch in Kahuku.

 Devon is so good to me! He let me stop at The Ukulele Site store in Hale’iwa. I had my ukulele with me and wanted to ask about different strings. The sweet Hawaiian man working there was so helpful and encouraging. He helped me pick out some new strings and put them on my uke for me. I have a beautiful koa wood Kanile’a super concert, which he agreed was a prize. He played it and WOW! The new strings give it a different sound – more mellow, which was what I was hoping for. Now all I need is practice, practice, practice!

Sunday was restful. I attended ward choir practice. The talks and lessons were all excellent. Bishop Halstrom had us all stand as we sang the intermediate hymn, "I Believe In Christ." It was so powerful! They have called a RS pianist, so I’m out of a job, unless she needs a substitute. I suppose that is okay, but I did enjoy playing. It’s a good calling for the sister, so I’m happy.

We end our week feeling grateful and very blessed. Between the wonderful people and the surroundings, there truly is beauty all around us.

? - but look at the interesting leaves

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Week 33 Report

Monday…crazy busy Monday! I was fully expecting a quiet start to the week, but that never happened. It seemed I was stomping out fires and answering questions at every turn. I had a ton of advancement letters to prepare and print – easily the most I’ve had with any transfer. The fact that we have 27 new trainers for 27 new missionaries was the biggest factor. President was inspired to call missionaries who have only been out 2 transfers as trainers. They are fresh, committed, and excited about the work. I think it’s brilliant. Devon spent a good part of his day delivering household stuff and bikes to missionaries. Monday evening we had FHE with the other senior missionaries at President Bekker’s home. It is always relaxing to get together, visit, eat, and play a fun game. President gave us a great thought from Preach My Gospel. It was a welcomed relaxing end to a stressful day.

Sitting L to R: Sister Evans, Sister Overduyn, Elder Overduyn, Elder Haskell, Sister Haskell (on floor). Sister Sturgis, Elder Sturgis.
Standing L to R: Elder Evans, Elder Reeder, Sister Reeder, Elder Tufts, Sister Bekker, Sister Tufts, President Becker, Sister Eldridge, Elder Eldridge, Sister Bentley, Elder Bentley, Sister Yim.

Actually, the best part of Monday was a couple that stopped by the office. They are from Utah and are here on vacation. They want to serve a senior mission in Hawaii and stopped by to see if there was anything coming up. Well…there certainly is! We are due to be released in March. This couple has extensive banking and secretarial experience and would love to work in the office. WooHoo! I think we have replacements. Nothing is guaranteed, but we have a need and they are available. Hopefully it will all work out.

Tuesday was also busy, but steady. I finally was able to shred two sets of files for the departing missionaries, and create files for new incoming missionaries. I also had time to organize my Come and Go Binder for upcoming transfers. It’s a genius method of keeping track of what needs to be done and when. I used to be afraid I would forget something, but now I have full confidence in this system. I updated and emailed the weekly Come and Go Report and emailed the mission newsletter to all the parents. I also mailed letters, release certificates, and travel information to the stake presidents and bishops of our November departing missionaries. Devon was crazy busy updating the addresses and phone numbers after transfers. It is such a mammoth task and it changes every 6 weeks. He is also getting paper work competed for the new senior apartment, and getting ready to close out another. In the evening we drove to Super Cuts for hair cuts with our favorite girl, Vicki.

Wednesday and Thursday were more of the same at a manageable pace. I got started on the next round of departing binders and I’m ahead with handouts and letters That always makes me feel good.

One of the things I make every transfer is the above “Planner Add-ons.” They are quick teaching references for the missionaries to use. They add them to their planners. Months ago I reformatted the text. Now I just have to print the four pages back-to-back, laminate, and cut each page. Then I take them to have holes punched so they can add them into the spiral binding. It is labor intensive, but so much cheaper for the mission if I do the work instead of taking it to Office Max – heaven knows we spend enough money there with other things. I also print, laminate, and cut two other information sheets for the missionaries. It always feels good when these are out of the way.

Friday was a quiet day. Work was steady and we didn’t have many interruptions. Sixteen new cars for the mission have arrived and needed to be picked up at the Toyota dealership. So a group of us drove over to get them. Sister Reeder and I have started having “ukulele Friday.” We bring in our ukes and play for a few minutes in the afternoon. It’s so much fun. We’ve started working on Christmas music. Friday evening we went to dinner at a great Mexican restaurant with all the office staff. After dinner we walked to a store called Martin & McArthur’s. It is a high-end store specializing in products made from Hawaiian koa wood – very beautiful and very expensive. It was almost like a museum.

We bought these koa wood Christmas trees, but passed on the $34,000 table and $14,000 headboard.

A couple of the new cars we picked up are going to be shipped to the Big Island. Before that can happen they need to be driven around to get the gas tank below ¼. Elder Reeder, the car czar, asked us to take one on Saturday and drive as far as we could, and we were happy to help him out.

Does this look like a mission car? Well it is, and it is the car we got to drive around. Pretty sweet! Our assigned car is a 2013 Toyota Corolla with 18,000 miles on it. We don't put many miles on...after all, we are on an island, and we walk back and forth to work and church all week. 

First we went to the Dole Pineapple Plantation.

Then we drove to this quiet cove and went snorkeling. There was a fair amount of fish. But as I was paddling back to shore, along came a huge school of yellow stripped fish  and some blackish fish – probably 50 or more! I followed them around a bit as they stopped and fed off the rocks. They didn’t seem to mind me at all. After the beach we headed home for quick showers before we made a run to Costco, Safeway, and WalMart. With all that, the gas gage was still at ¾.

Sunday was beautiful and relaxing. In the late afternoon we decided to take a drive up Tantalus Drive to see the view of Honolulu from the mountains. It did not disappoint.

This photo was taken from the balcony of our apartment building.

It's been another wonderful week. We're rested and grateful to have another week to serve in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Week 32 Report

Our big transfer week is over. The missionaries arrived as scheduled and seem to be doing great. Time will tell. It’s a harder adjustment for some than others. Twenty-four elders and sisters from the Provo MTC arrived Monday on the usual 2:30 pm flight. Three sisters from Europe arrived at 9:30 pm. They had been “visa waiters” for the last 2 to 3 months and were on temporary assignments in their home country while they waited for their visas. Six of our new missionaries are from foreign countries: England, Netherlands, Norway, Samoa, and 2 from Japan. We are happy to have them all here.

Monday I spent most of my day working on the Area and Assignment Histories for the November departing missionaries. I mail a copy to each of their stake presidents and put one in their departing binder. With 16 going home it takes me quite a while. I also worked on the Come and Go Report. We had a new senior MRS (Military Relations Support) couple arrive on Saturday, so I added them to the various contact rosters, and filed papers for other PCC and BYUH arriving senior missionaries. The MLS couple is friends with our England mission president. Also one of the new missionaries is the nephew of my Highland 16th Ward visiting teacher. It is a small world within the church.

Tuesday I emailed arrival letters and three photos to the parents of each arriving missionary. I also printed 18 months/2 years worth of letters between the president and the October departing missionaries to go in their departing binders. I’m so grateful for a good printer and three-hole punched paper. The new missionaries came to the office for orientation and a tour of the Tabernacle. I got a phone call from the mother of one of our zone leaders. His uncle had passed away and she wanted to speak with him. President will handle that. We have had 3 missionaries with deaths in their close extended family this past week. They handle it well. One is scheduled to go home in November and was given the choice to go early, but said no. She wants to finish her mission.

Thursday I made the transfer board cards for all the new missionaries – 27. It took me most of the day. I also filed all the new missionary profile/contact sheets, pulled the departing file folders, and filed the arriving folders. The departing missionaries left at various times today. Four missionaries flying to Philippines, Cambodia, and New Zealand left this morning. A couple of these missionaries were having a hard time leaving. Their life is so much better in the mission field. It sort of breaks your heart, especially after they have been such good missionaries. Those flying to the USA left about 9:30 pm. We had a few new missionaries stop by the office with their trainers. It’s always fun to see the look in their eyes as reality sets in. It’s all so new and they feel lost as first. We give lots of hugs and reassurance.

Devon has been super busy with apartments this week. Having 12 additional missionaries to house creates challenges. He thinks he gets it figured out and then something comes up and changes have to be made. We made another trip to Wal-Mart for more household supplies. Bikes and telephones needed to be switched around as well, so he’s been super busy. Hopefully it will settle down next week.

Friday was another busy moving day for Devon. He dressed in his jeans and spent most of the day moving elders from one apartment to another. He also collected bicycles that weren’t being used so he could deliver them to elders that needed them, and took a new mattress to another apartment. He was gone most of the day. I finished the November Area and Assignment Histories and caught up on odds and ends. In the evening we went to dinner and a movie – “The Magnificent 7.” Nothing like a good cowboy movie to remove all the tension from the week – at least it sure works for Devon.

Saturday we got up early and went to the lab to get some routine blood tests done. Then we headed up to Laie. Our assignment was to find suitable housing for a senior couple. We looked at three units. The first two were dismal, but the last we think will work.

The owner of the apartment we want to rent for the senior couple collects old surf boards and carves designs in them. He carved this one for the missionaries to sign. He is not a member, but loves the missionaries (everyone does). This is a fairly new project as the signatures are all current missionaries.

We also checked out a couple of apartments the sisters were using. They are going to be vacant for the next six weeks, so I think we will use them and stay a couple of nights in Laie when Emily comes to visit in November. They need some cleaning, so I suppose we’ll be going up to do that on another weekend. It was an absolutely beautiful day! When we left Honolulu it was rainy and overcast, but as soon as we hit the other side of the island that all disappeared. Usually it’s the other way around – they have far more rain on the other side than we do.

After completing our assignments we went to the PCC for a short visit and then the Temple Visitor's Center. I never tire of being at this beautiful place, and Saturday was stunning!

We decided to drive home via the North Shore so we could stop in Haleiwa for dinner at Cholos and a shave ice at Matsamotos. It was dark when we arrived back in Honolulu. We made a stop at War-Mart  (more apartment supplies) and Foodland before arriving home exhausted, but grateful for a wonderful day on this beautiful island.

Are you wondering what happened to Wednesday? Well, I had my routine CT scan on Friday – results were good - everything stable! But Tuesday morning I noticed a fine rash on my legs. By the end of the day it had multiplied and spread up my torso and arms - and was ITCHY! I was up most of the night. Wednesday I made an appointment with a dermatologist and she confirmed it was a delayed allergic reaction to the IV dye used for the CT scan. I’ve had the dye numerous times, but apparently I’ve developed sensitivity to it. She prescribed a 15-day course of Prednisone. Within about 3 hours I began feeling relief and had a great night’s sleep with the help of Benadryl.

After feeling pretty rough for a month or so - even worried I might have to go home early - I can’t believe how wonderful it is to feel well! I have a renewed source of optimism. I feel so blessed. I was promised when I was set apart that the Lord would take care of me, and He surely has. It is such a blessing to be on this mission. I am where I should be, where I want to be, and with my favorite person...WIN! WIN! WIN!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Week 31 Report

The weeks are running into each other. We are as busy as ever. I think we are so much more comfortable with our responsibilities. I feel like I have a good routine. My saving grace is a tracking system that helps me keep track of when things are due for each arriving and departing group. Things overlap. At any given time I will have assignments I’m working on for three different transfer groups. The thing that causes me the most anxiety is the travel. This next week we have elders and sisters departing to far away places. One sister is having a layover in a hotel in Manilla, and other missionaries have up to 4 flight transfers. Yikes!!! I’ve gone over the itineraries with them, and President Bekker will do it again before they leave. I wish they could send me a text and let me know they arrived safely. I’ll just have to trust the Lord.

Devon and I have been busy this week shopping for house goods for new apartments. We’ve made about three trips to Costco and Walmart. Wednesday we delivered things to a new apartment in Kaneohe and helped those sisters move in. Sunday we made a delivery to Laie for two more apartments there. After this transfer we will be up 12 missionaries throughout the mission. This means finding new apartments, and doubling up in the larger apartments. It also presents a problem with a lack of cars. That affects Devon because if they don’t have a car he has to find them bicycles. Guess he’ll be buying a few new bikes this week.

While we were in Kaneohe on Wednesday, we stopped at the Kanilea factory. They produce handmade custom ukulele (the Hawaiian alphabet doesn’t have an “s”, so there is no such things as ukuleles or leis). It was fascinating! I have a new appreciation for a Hawaiian ukulele and understand why they are so expensive. I splurged and bought one about 2 months ago. It’s a treasure!

This is where a ukulele begins. Live trees are never cut to make ukulele. They harvest trees that have died. The Kanilea company has a reforesting program on the Big Island. The dead stumps "cure" for 2 to 4 years in the forest before they are used.

The stumps are sliced into about 1/4" slices...

...and then matched. The front and back pieces are two mirror image slices of wood that are glued together.

The front and back are matched with side pieces and stored on this shelf.

The neck is laser cut out of various types of wood, but not koa wood.

The front and back of a tenor ukulele. You can't see the glue line. This one has an abalone shell inlay.

Unique bracing system of Kanilea ukulele.

Molding the sides of the ukulele.

Nearly finished ukulele. They have a unique uv type of finish applied after they have been sanded various times by hand.
Kanilea factory showroom.

Friday was Sister Overduyn’s birthday. I bought a yummy chocolate cake from Costco and got the word out to the local missionaries. President Bekker was in the office for interviews, so between the local missionaries and the ones coming for interviews, we had a steady flow of missionaries dropping in to wish her a happy birthday. She was thrilled, and she deserves it. In the evening we went to dinner at Red Lobster with Overduyns and Bekkers and had a really nice time relaxing and visiting with each other.

Saturday we met the Overduyns and took the city bus to the International Marketplace in Waikiki. It’s been newly remodeled and so we were interested to check it out. I was really disappointed. I had expected a street vendor type marketplace, but this is an actual mall with very high end stores. It was beautiful – no doubt! It was build around a magnificent Banyan tree – stunning. We walked around a little, but I have no desire to go back.

The International Marketplace had these beautiful statues of beloved Hawaiian royalty: Queen Emma, King Kamehameha IV, and their son, Albert.

Saturday the missionaries found out their fate – whether they would be transferred or stay. There is always so much anticipation. It’s so bittersweet. I know a couple of elders that actually teared up at the thought of losing their companion. Those that are going home don’t want to talk about it! Many want to start all over again. Transfers is a time of high emotions. Sharing God’s love truly touches your life. These are a few missionaries that have touched mine.

L to R:
Elder Furner, Elder Hardy, Elder Eborn, Sister Smith, Sister Ogawa, Elder Sant, Elder Ramsey.

L to R:
Elder Jones, Elder Orihuela, Elder Ball, Elder Sant.

L to R:
Elder Kempe, Elder Johnson, Elder Phair, Elder Villanueva.

Sunday was Fast Sunday. Our wonderful bishop request that the ward come together and fast for greater involvement and commitment to missionary work. Right after church we met together in the gym for a short talk from the bishop and then a pot-luck dinner. It was really nice. This is a really great ward.

And so our week ends. We feel blessed to be here and love serving our mission. It’s hard work, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Personally, I have felt so many tender mercies – sweet heavenly gifts of reassurance, comfort, and confirmation of God’s love for me. I wouldn’t trade a single minute.