Wednesday, 18 March 2015

March 2015 - All about our trip to Samoa

Hello all our friends and family.  I keep thinking I am going to have more time to blog but we have been so busy. Today I have a little time so I am going to try to update you about our wonderful trip to Samoa.

We were so blessed and excited when the Area needed to send someone to Samoa and asked us to be the ones.  We left early in the morning on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 and arrived in Samoa at 1:30 p.m.  We were greeted by Elder and Sister Stevens our new Education Specialist Missionaries serving in Samoa and of course, rain, humidity and heat!

We were able to stay in house 22 on the Pesega campus and they arranged for us to have a gray van (just like the one we used to drive) to get around.  We went straight to the house, unpacked the suitcases, were greeted by a couple of dead cockroaches, thank goodness they were dead.  Nada did not even freak out, just made sure Reed was the one to get rid of them!  Then we headed over to the school campus. 

As soon as we started walking onto the campus someone yelled, SISTER SPENCER, and came running.  It was Annalynn Wilson one of our favourite young students and she also belongs to the Moto'otua Ward which we attended.  Her father is now the Bishop of that ward. She gave us a big bear hug and it continued like that for the next four days.

Annalynn Wilson and Sister Spencer outside of the middle school classrooms.

There were a lot of structural changes to the school since we left in December of 2013.  They have covered walkways from the office to the learning center and seminary buildings now. That helps keep the students from getting soaking wet between classes.

This is the covered walkway and the graduating class of 2014 put up these banners on the entrance to the school campus by gate 2 which was the gate we always entered to go home.

They have redone the offices to the Middle School and the College (high school).  They are so nice and have a very professional look and feel.  They have changed the learning center to two labs and three other classrooms which is where the middle school office, counsellors and our office used to be.  They cut a second door into every classroom so there are now two entrances or exits and it helps with air circulation as well.  A lot of improvements in just one year!

We were able to attend the opening meeting for the new bridging program that we are helping with.  It is a program where up to 50 students can take classes either Year 11 or Year 12 after school to make up for the years they missed.  A lot of kids drop out of school when they are young to work on the plantations or because they just don't want to go anymore.  This is to help give them a second chance to earn a certificate so they can go onto university or be able to get into a trade school.  Most of them are Returned Missionaries. 
This program is being piloted at both the LDS Church College in Samoa and Liahona High School in Tonga.  Below are the students and parents listening to Elder Fata, the Area Seventy, in the school library during orientation.

On Wednesday, February 18th we met with Elder and Sister Stevens and Bruce McCarthy, the Self-Reliance Manager for Samoa.  Our missionaries are working along with the Self-Reliance Missionaries so it is important for us to know and network with these people.  We then went to the school and had a meeting with Leo the principal.  Then the fun began.  During lunch time we walked down the middle school wing and were greeted by every teacher with hugs and kisses.  They were all so excited to see us and we were so happy to be there.  What a wonderful experience.  Words cannot even express our feelings of gratitude to these people and how loved they make us feel.  They all wanted us to look at their bulletin boards with the Tier 2 and Tier 3 Words.  It was so fun.

The doors on this side of the middle school wing are all new since December of 2013.

A couple different classrooms with Tier 2 and Tier 3 words that we had talked about so many times and vocabulary words.  They really are using the skills Reed worked so hard on for 17 months.  That makes us happy.

A couple of the teachers we were really close to wanted to take us to lunch, Maylani and Celeste.  That was so fun to be with them and catch up on all that was going on with them.  It was almost like we had never left.  We ate at the Seafood Gourmet and it brought back lots of fond memories.  Celeste Ah Chong, Nada and Mayloni Ah Hoy, left to right in the picture below.

Later that evening we were able to have dinner with all the senior missionaries as they were celebrating two of the couples going home.  It was nice to see a few that were still there from when we were serving.  They were the two couples going home, the Roos and Lamereauxs.
We then went and spent the evening with Sister Lesa and her family at their home.  She is one of the school couonselors and was our Relief Society President.  We became very close to her and her family while serving in 2012 - 2013.  Her Jane, became our Samoan Jane and it was exciting to see how much she has grown and how well she reads and speaks English.  It was a wonderful evening.


This is Sister Lesa's family.  Her parents, Brother and Sister Afualo are sitting with the leis on.  They went and showered and changed for the picture, he is the Stake Patriarch.  Our Samoan Jane is sitting next to Sister Afualo and her mother, Sister Lesa, is standing behind her holding their youngest, Janettsar, next to Sister Spencer and Elder Spencer.  Sister Lesa's two sisters and their families live there as well.  Great family!
Thursday we met with Elder Fata, President Tolman and his wife, mission president, and Elder and Sister Stevens.  It was an interesting meeting.  They really didn't understand much about the Education Initiative or what Elder and Sister Stevens role would be.
We did some more visits with teachers then met Elder and .Sister Aland, the Area ITEP Coordinators. at the house.  They are staying with us in house 22.  We are good friends and will be taking over for them for a while until the new couple can be called and arrive so we were visiting together.  We attended the third night of the Bridging Program.  The students got their schedules this afternoon and met their teachers.  Hopefully the classes will actually begin next week.  We thought they would start last night but they did more talking and let them leave early.
Later that evening we went to the Temple.  What a beautiful Temple.  It was so great to be inside that beautiful building once again.  We ran into the Utai'i family while we were there.  They were four of our YSA kids while we attended the Moto'otua Ward.  Oh it was wonderful to be with them again and in the Temple was the icing on the cake!
Elder and Sister Aland, Sister and Elder Hammond, the ITEP couple serving in Samoa at Pesega and Sauniatu, and Sister Spencer right before we entered the Temple.

Friday morning we arrived at school at 7:30 a.m. to join Sister Maylani Ah Hoy and a scripture ready group she has going.  She saw a need and has this group meet in her classroom for half an hour three mornings a week.  They read the scriptures in English and stop and talk about words they don't understand or after so many versus the young person leading the discussion for the day stops and asks them to talk about what they just read.  It is helping them with their English and comprehension skills.  It was great.  Elder and Sister Stevens also attended.
After this study group time. we went to visit the Utai'i family.  These are such great people  Their father was our Stake President and has since be released because he is going to school for some training in Papua New Guinea. 
Left to right, Simon, Louisa, Sister Spencer, Elder Spencer, Anne and Lee all family.  Oscar their other brother just returned from the New Zealand Auckland Mission two weeks ago and took his mother to a funeral.  Simon is just getting ready to leave for the Marshall Islands on a mission and the other ones are all returned missionaries.  We just love these young people.
We went back to the school and said our goodbyes and everyone kept asking us when we would be back.  We then picked up the Hammonds and Alands and headed for Sauniatu.  The drive along the ocean was so beautiful, we never grew tired of that drive.  The road on the turn off to Sauniatu was just as bad as when we left.  The Alands have also served in Tong but they said they have never been to any place any more beautiful than Sauniatu.  We have to agree!
 Sister Aland was hoping to read with the students but they were having a field day when we arrived.  At least they were able to see those cute little faces that we remember and love so much.
 Sister Maugatai, Sister Spencer, Sister Peresetene and Elder Spencer.  These two teachers are some we got so close to.  There are a lot of new faces at Suaniatu since we left.  We only new about half of the people there now.
 They all wanted to swim in the waterfall pool and loved it.  Friday was a very hot day and they all enjoyed cooling off.  Nada stayed on dry land and took pictures

 Reed under the waterfall.  He loves this pool.  He says the water coming off the falls is very warm!  The picture below are new stairs.  They have put in a new way to get to the pool.  This is much safer and the railing goes all the way down.  Now you don't have to jump off the edge and can actually walk right into the pool.

Friday evening we were invited to visit with the Taavao family.  We had pizza, fruit cocktail and ice cream.  We thanked them for dinner and they said that was only refreshments.  Ingrid had told them Palangi Missionaries (white people) don't eat after five, just refreshments.  We laughed but were grateful because we did not want them to spend all day cooking a meal for us.  We wanted to visit with them.
 This is Ingrid and ReeNada (our Samoan grand daughter)  She is 1 1/2 years old now.  She took a while to warm up to us.  Ingrid is expecting another child in April

 Above is ReedNada, Ingrid, Sister Spencer and Sister Taavao who is Ingrid and Faamagalo's mother.  She does not speak a lot of English but much better than fourteen months ago.  To the right is Elder and Sister Spencer and Faamagalo.  He arrived home after serving faithfully in the Philippines the 29th of January.  Oh it was so nice to see him and how well he is doing. These kids were the first ones to really talk to us and get close to us when we first arrived in Samoa.

 On Saturday we took the day off.  We needed the Alands to see how beautiful the snorkelling was here in Samoa.  We first took them to the Papapapaitai Waterfall.  It had been raining all morning so the water was beautiful  Then we drove them to one of our favourite places Vavau Beach.  The snorkelling was not great but the water was beautiful. 
 After a while we drove to the other side of the island and went snorkelling at Matareva Beach.  The weather was perfect and so was the water.  Inside the reef the water was very calm and you can see fish within one minute after putting your face in the water.  The corral is growing back and it was perfect.  The Alands said they have never snorkelled any where any better than right here.  The water never gets too deep and you see so many different colors, sizes and types of fish and corral here.  FANTASTIC!  We had to get a picture of all four of us after we were done in the water.  What a great day.
We got home after 5:00 p.m. and hurried and cleaned up because we were meeting with our YSA friends at 6:00 p.m.  Sister Lesa had sent out a Facebook and text message saying we were in town and would love to see them.  We had no idea who would be there.  Oh my, it was wonderful.  We had a fabulous turnout.  We did not know what to expect but they just came and we told them about our new mission responsibilities and what we were doing.  They told us about what they were doing and we just enjoyed being together.  They were all delighted to see us and we took a lot of pictures.
These are some of our wonderful YSA kids from when we served in Samoa.  Lincoln top left, Oscar, top middle with strap around him and Richard top with white shirt and tie all returned home from their missions in the last two months.  Tiare on the top in red just received her mission call to Denver, Colorado.  Great kids.

 They wanted to do some silly poses.  Sister Spencer joined right in with them.
 The picture on the right.  The girl (Pepe) in black and the boy with the yellow green shirt (Neal) are the only two that are not President and Sister Uta'i's children.

Picture below just a different shot with different kids.  We probably took pictures for half an hour.  Then we hugged and they all went home.  What a blessing these young people are in our lives.  We want only the very best for all of them!
 The picture below is of Faamagalo, Elder Spencer and Star.  They arrived after most everyone else  had left.  Faamagalo is one of the young men we helped get on his mission and have stayed very close to him.  Star is getting ready to turn in his papers.
Sunday we went to church at our old ward, which is now the Moto'otua First Ward.  They divided them a few months ago.  It was wonderful to see everyone again.  Some did not know we were there so they were very surprised.  They asked us to share our testimonies in Sacrament meeting.  We attended the YSA class.  There were a lot of kids in there.  Ofeira Malifa taught and did a great job.  She just joined the church in August of 2013.  We waited outside of the chapel so we could see the rest of the people we wanted to that now attend the 2nd ward.  Oh my, our cup runneth over.
We visited with the Lepule family, a couple of times, who is another one of our Samoan families.  They wanted Reed to come over and take a family picture.  All the people told us how much they have missed us and our camera.  Especially that teachers and principals at school.
 This is the Lepule family.  We just love them.  Sister Lepule speaks very little English so we communicate through the children and Brother Lepule.  Below is a picture of Brother Lepule and their little boy born on January 1, 2014 and named Spenda for Spencer and Nada but they call him Spencer.  Now we have two Samoan grandchildren.  So cute and we feel so honoured.
Elder and Sister Stevens invited us over for lunch then we packed up.  We went to this Catholic Cathedral that was being built while we were there and was finally dedicated in the Summer of 2014.  It was beautiful inside.  They let us take pictures.  The stained glass was gorgeous as well as the wood carvings.  They really put a lot of time, money, talents and love into this building.
 You can see some of the stained glass her and the whole ceiling is carved wood.  Beautiful.
 This is what it looks like from the street.
We were able to go over and say goodbye to Leon, Ingrid and ReeNada.  What a wonderful time we have had.  We thought we may never see these wonderful people again in this life and here we were just 14 months later hugging and talking.  We feel so blessed.  They were all so kind to us and made us feel so loved and welcome.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is so true and connects us in so many ways,
Tofa Soifua, good-bye for now!
Elder and Sister Stevens were great to help us this week and arrange to pick us up and take us back to the airport.  We went a little early so they could get back to their home before dark.  We had such a great time.  We flew out of Samoa at 9:30 p.m. and arrived in Auckland at 1:00 a.m.  We had to wait in customs because we brought back a carved wood tray.  We finally got into bed at 3:00 a.m.  It was all well worth it.  We are so grateful for this wonderful experience.  We hope you all enjoyed our visit with all our friends back in Samoa.  Thank you for letting us share these experiences with you.  We love you all.  Alofa, atu, Elder and Sister Spencer (Reed and Nada)


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