Here’s the latest from the Queen of Kiribati…
Ok so these past couple of weeks have been so crazy! We had Transfers, Christmas, a Mission Tour with President Haleck (I gave birth that same day) and New Years. I thought it might be more fun and to be honest, faster, to share about these past couple of weeks with a series of photos and captions, which, let’s be honest are more like epistles.
This photo of Sister Tutu’ila and I was taken on our last full day together before Transfers! I would be transferring to Teaoraereke (which is actually not that far from Bairiki) and Sister Tutu’ila would be staying in Bairiki. We visited Ametira and her family to read with them from the Book of Mormon. When we arrived she was busy weaving a mat so Tutu and I decided to climb the tree next door and take selfies, which is what we do best. It was so sad knowing that I would be transferred from her but at the same time I was excited for her and for this next part of her mission – she’s the new STL! I’m so proud of her and all that she has accomplished. She’s an exemplary missionary and I know that she will serve her fellow missionaries with all of her heart.
The Zone Leaders announced Transfers on Wednesday and they happened that Friday. They didn’t know what time it would all be happening so they told us to be ready for anything and at anytime. I really wanted to see Kaeua and her family before I left Bairiki. Kaeua was one of the first people that I had witnessed being baptised when I got to Kiribati and I have developed a great love for her and for her family during my time in Bairiki. I knew that if there was one family I wanted to see on my last morning before I left, it would be them. Sister Tutu’ila, Sister Ukenio (who is waiting for her visa to serve in the New Zealand Wellington Mission) and I all went to their house that morning and ended up having breakfast with them. It was a great way to say “see you later” and meant so much to me. I love this family so much.
So leaving Bairiki literally broke my heart. I was so depressed haha. Really, I was so sad. I thought that I would at least be able to spend Christmas there. I had even prayed, asking God if I could stay in Bairiki for Christmas. Bairiki is my first love. Being in Teaoraereke was a struggle. I just kept thinking about all of my families and friends that I had made in Bairiki and found myself wishing to be back there. However I knew that I needed to accept that Teaoraereke is where the Lord wanted me and so I tried to push away those thoughts. On Christmas Eve a miracle happened, well it was a miracle to me anyway. We happened to see Taubo and Kiribwa in our area. They were visiting family in the area. They told us that their family would be getting together that night to celebrate Christmas. We (Sisters Heni, Beria, Boss and I – Heni and Boss are now companions) didn’t have a dinner appointment and so we asked if we could have dinner with them. Later on that night, we went to their house and spent Christmas Eve with them. My heart felt so full of gratitude that Heavenly Father would bless me to have been able to see one of my investigators from Bairiki and to be able to spend Christmas Eve with them! We had rice, fish and chicken. We ate in a house that was made out of wood and pieces of metal. There were no decorations or lights or a Christmas tree. There weren’t any presents. Rain was falling and people gathered at the Catholic Church next door (literally like 2 metres away). But spending Christmas Eve with that family and in that way was one of the best experiences of my mission thus far. In the humblest of circumstances is sometimes where we are able to feel the greatest abundance of the Spirit. What was revealed me to that night was what truly mattered most – family!
This photo was taken on Christmas morning! It’s me trying to use the phone at Teaoraereke which didn’t actually work. But I did get to call my family using phones at Eita. Some missionaries were able to Skype their families which was fun because we’d then Skype-bomb their calls. Their families were so lovely though and always wanted to see us. Not sure how the missionaries felt though hahaha. Being away from family is hard period. But being away from family and friends especially at Christmas so TOUGH! But I am so grateful that I was able to talk with my family through a telephone call.
On the way to our Christmas lunch! All of the missionaries serving in Kiribati were brought in to Tarawa, which is the main island, for the Mission Tour with President Haleck. It was so awesome being able to see everyone again! Missionaries are sent to so many different outer islands and only ever come back to the main island if they are transferring or for medical reasons. It was definitely a highlight being able to see them all again!
This is Violet! The Olsons (who are currently serving as the Self-Reliance missionaries here in Kiribati and who also work closely with Renee Solomon and Dean Westerlund #ShoutOuts) children came to visit them for Christmas and this is their daughter. She’s the cutest little girl and has a real sassy attitude. Kevin, the Olsons’ son, is a dentist so while he was here he volunteered at the local hospital. I was able to accompany one of the sister missionaries there and it was a real eye opening experience. Let’s just say, you don’t to get sick and have to go there.
One of the greatest blessings from these past few weeks was being able to see Sister Baldwin again! She was transferred to Christmas Island a few months ago and is going to finish her mission there so we didn’t think that we would be able to see each other again. But as soon as we did, we stuck to each other like glue. Every opportunity we could, we would be together. I love her so much. She is definitely one of the greatest friends I’ve made since being on my mission. When I first came to Kiribati she was one of the STL’s and always gave me much needed encouragement and love. She’s almost finished and I’m about to die from missing her so much. She’s definitely a kindred spirit!
Introducing… Sister Moungatonga! So I gave birth a few Fridays ago. I didn’t know that I was training Sister Moungatonga until a few days after Transfers were announced. Sister Mavae told me and I was so surprised and so happy. I know Sister Moungatonga from the YSA in New Zealand. I met her a couple of years ago while we were both studying and attending Institute in Auckland City.
So for New Years Eve President Haleck and President Larkin along with all of the missionaries were invited to President Taneti Mamau’s (who is the president of Kiribati) house in celebration of the Mission Tour. Stupidly, I forgot to bring the camera battery for my DSLR and almost cried because of all the events I wanted to take photos at, it was this one. But luckily for us Elder Berends let us take a few photos on one of his cameras.
Elder Jim looked so handsome that I just had to share this photo! I was so proud of my little Micronesian brother. Elder Jim has come so far and I’m just the proudest big sister. It was actually so funny because one of the elders had cut his hair for the event and had given him a few designs on the back of his head so he tried using his sunglasses to cover them throughout the night. I kept trying to tell him that he should just take them off and that no one even cared. I think he kept them on until it got dark enough.
And that’s a wrap guys! As you can see Sister Lee’s social skills are still thriving.