Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Onward, Ever Onward!

Dear Family and Friends,

I'm a little scatter-brained as to where to start....so much has taken place over the last few weeks.  

We had a wonderful Relief Society Birthday Party! (171 years) We first met in the chapel and had an opening song and prayer, then some sister's shared their conversion stories and the great help they received from sisters in their wards.  It was very humbling to hear just how difficult life really is for the people out here in the islands.  But they are also very strong. 

Then the party moved to a Maniaba (big hut) where each ward or branch performed their "Entrance March and Dance". 

 It was a blast and it felt like the whole place turned into a "sweat lodge".  The costumes were beautiful and yes, I even sewed my own lavalava:)


And the night before I stayed up and helped make our head leis and leafy skirts.  It was so good to get to know the sisters.  I love the sisters in my ward!  The Kiribati people are the most friendly people and they love to give hugs and kisses!  This really helps when I'm feeling a little homesick. 

    I received my first piece of mail..yeah!  A baby shower invitation
for my new grandson, Tristan.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend, but I'm sending my love to both Taylor and Sophie.  Thank you, Maddison for giving your soon-to-be nephew a wonderful baby shower. 

My first Sunday here, I was asked to teach Relief Society, which went well.  Then I was asked to teach Gospel Doctrine when the teacher didn't show up.  The brother conducting looked straight at me and said, "Sister Cassita, will you please teach us?"  We had a great discussion and all of us were taught by the Spirit. 

Later in the week the Bishop asked if I would serve as the 4th Sunday Relief Society teacher.  There is much to be done here, (as I'm sure it is with any mission...) especially with the in-active members.  The retention rate is only about 25 - 30%. 
Here are some of the many hats that I wear - Nurse,
flat inspector, marriage clearance for investigators, bicycles, newsletter photos and stores, R.S. teacher, and anything else that I'm asked to do! 
Sometimes, I even have to be "nurse" to myself!  Yeah, cut my finger pretty bad cleaning my stove.  But it's all better now:)

I spoke in church last week and boy, am I so grateful for the Spirit! I misunderstood the Bishop...when he called me on Tuesday, I thought he had asked if he could seem me after church.  But when I walked out my front door, it just so happened that he was walking by and asked if I was ready to speak in sacrament meeting.  Yikes!  I said, "no..." and then we laughed and I said that I would do it and that things would be fine...and they were:)   

Most people here in Tarawa live in Buias.  They are built up on stilts to keep from getting wet and to keep the critters out. 

Everything crawls here - shells and all!  
I love serving with the other missionaries here and the other Senior Couples.  We are such a support to one another!

The past several days have been challenging for me, even though I have been busy, I have been a little homesick and lonely...but I just keep saying, "One more day! The sun'll come up tomorrow!" And it always does!!!

Thank you all for your love and support.  I couldn't do this without you!  

"I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save He shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

I love my Savior so much and oh, how I need him every hour!  I know He lives and loves all of us.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

With all my love, 
Sister Cassita

Sunday, March 10, 2013

En Route...finally!

Dear family and friends,

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness! Wearing this name badge and being a representative of the Lord has been an absolute miracle. I love being a missionary where ever I am in this wonderful world.   
So I was supposed to fly to Tarawa out of Majuro on March 27th. One problem…the plane that was going to fly from another island to come and get us wasn't able to come due to the runway being littered with shells, coral and other sorts of debris from a storm.  So, I was sent the long route (which was fine with me) - Maruro to Hawaii to Samoa to Fiji to Tarawa.

I arrived in Hawaii at 3:00am. My Taxi driver, Bryce was a wonderful man from Japan. He told me that he had read every Bible that he could get his hands on. As our conversation went on, he was so delighted just to have someone that wanted to talk about God, Jesus Christ, repentance, forgiveness, love, and why we are here on earth. We talked for 45 minutes in the front of my hotel. He wanted a Book of Mormon and we were going to meet again for further discussion but the timing didn't work out. Hold onto his name…

While I was at the airport in Hawaii, waiting to board the plane, I met Brother and Sister Wheelwright;
he is the president of BYU Hawaii. They are absolutely wonderful people doing so much good for the young adults at the school. President Wheelwright was called by President Hinckley 6 years ago and he has been a close friend of President Monson since he was a young boy. Both he and his wife love to serve and are a great example for me.

From Hawaii, I had a two hour layover in Samoa, then on to Fiji. What a beautiful place! I arrived on Saturday March 1st. While I was eating dinner I met 2 captains of a ship - Paul and Ron, and Paul's son, Nic. They shared some amazing stories with me. The next day I had a taxi driver take me around to some of the villages and to the Marina. I walked down one of the piers to take a picture and there was Paul and some of his help working on his ship! He let me come aboard and take some pictures. (The crew thought that it was awesome that I wanted to come aboard.) They really know how to work hard! I was amazed, as they were 30-40 feet up in the air fixing sails on the masts.

That night as I was eating my dinner, Nic had a lot of questions for me regarding religion. He is a wonderful young man! We talked about faith, God, Jesus, where we came from, where we're going, and lots of good quality building friendship stuff. He really wanted a Book on Mormon as well. I took down his information and told him that I would have the missionaries bring him one and that he could have further conversations with them as well. He is such a delightful person.

The next morning I checked in at the airport at 2:00 am. Everything in the islands is slooooooooooow. My plane wasn't leaving until 5:00 am so I had lots of time on my hands. I met one of the airport workers. We had a great conversation and he wanted a Book of Mormon as well. (I should have brought some with me!) So, I got his information as well. Then as I was sitting by myself and reflecting on these three investigators, I was a little overwhelmed at how I would go about reaching all the mission presidents to get a Book of Mormon to all of them. I guess I was asking loud enough in my own mind that God could hear. I looked back… and there were the Wheelwright's and another member of the church with his friend. I went over to say hello and met this other member. (I can't remember his name…) He and his friend were from New Zealand and were headed to Moroni High School to do some work. This school is run through BYU Hawaii and this is also where the Wheelwright's were going and this is where I would be living, on campus.

I shared with them my concerns and the miracles just kept happening! The Wheelwright's live in Hawaii so they took the Information for Bryce. Then the other member was from Auckland, New Zealand, (also where Nic is from), so he took his information. Brother Wheelwright took down the name of the gentleman at the airport in Fiji and said he would give his information to the area president, which he would be seeing on his way back from Tarawa. Wow!
So, yes!! I have finally arrived in Tarawa - otherwise known as Kiribati and this is the language that I will be learning.                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                               I love these people so much. They had me as an honored guest at a special dinner. Oh my, do they ever know how to sing and dance! I love these people so much.
I took a boat ride on the mission boat to one of the outer islands to drop off some supplies and 2 bicycles for the two Elder's that are serving on that island. It truly is the “Other side of Heaven” out here in the Pacific Ocean. Not only is it beautiful to the eye, the people are the most giving, kind, generous people and yet they have so little.


I am reminded of the many talks I've heard from our Prophet, Thomas S. Monson and his Apostles about getting rid of the distractions in our lives. I can see the importance of this message as I am here and feel of the spirit so strongly every day. The spirit cannot be present with noise and all the electronics, loud talking, TV, ect. - Whatever it is for any one of us. We are allowing ourselves to miss out with one on one time with the Lord. I feel that this is one of Satan's ways of keeping us from progressing and moving forward. It is my prayer that we will all find more time to spend with our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ; that they may increase our learning through the spirit, which is the most important of all learning we can do for ourselves.

I love all of you so much. We are all brothers and sisters with a loving Heavenly Father who desires nothing more than for us to return unto Him. May we find ourselves standing in Holy Places, lifting and helping those in need of knowing what it feels like to be loved. We are his hands, eyes, ears and feet. If we will but let Him guide us we can and will do many great and wonderful things for Him, and the glory be to God, our Eternal Father who is in Heaven.

I leave this message with you along with all the love in my heart, in the name of His only begotten Son, even Jesus Christ, Amen

Sister Cassita