Gae's first photo, from hotel

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Visits to Tonga, Samoa and American Samoa

We left on 22 February on a two-week trip to Tonga, Samoa, and American Samoa. We really enjoyed meeting so many new friends face to face and learning about what they are doing in their calls. We shared some of the good ideas and information that we have learned in the last ten months. We met with other leaders and gathered information for our work.  We also got a couple of Fiji stamps in our passports.  We passed through Suva and Nandi but we were only at each for a few minutes while in transit. 

This is a typical bus in American Samoa - this one was built on a
Toyota pickup truck frame.  We saw hundreds of buses like this.
We are not surprised in any way, but everyone involved in a Public Affairs calling was really working hard to do their job and, most importantly, doing a good job.  We had the temerity to offer suggestions on several fronts in all three countries, but everything we could think of was already started or finished with a successful outcome.  We communicate with these good people regularly by email, phone, and video conference.  It is important to get some actual face time so that they and we can communicate better going forward.  In summary I can report that the Church’s public affairs in these island nations are in good hands and are being actively worked.

Terry scoping out the lagoon at Pago Pago, American Samoa

We did have a travel day from heck as we travelled from Samoa to American Samoa.  Motisha Solo, the secretary of the Samoa national public affairs council, mentioned that there were flights from Fagalii Airport to American Samoa, so we double-checked our itinerary but it said Faleolo Airport.  So when Mark Moors, Samoa National Director of Public Affairs, dropped us at the Faleolo Airport we went to check in and the lady at the counter (very young) told us that we would check in soon at the end counter.  We waited 45 minutes, but no one came to that counter so we asked someone else and, yes indeed, our flight was leaving from Fagalii.  So we grabbed a cab and tried to make to Fagalii Airport, about a 30-minute drive.  We had to take a later flight (only two hours later) because the airline said it was too late to check in although the flight wasn't leaving for 25 minutes.  We were very lucky, because there is not always another flight the same day.

So when we finally got to the hotel in Pago Pago, American Samoa, our room a/c did not work.  We had to wait more than an hour to get a room with Internet AND a/c.  Oh well, travel gets worse than that, but it was a frustrating day.

Tonga, Samoa, and American Samoa are all beautiful places, each charming in its own way.  All of them are hot and humid, especially this time of year.  We survived quite nicely with mostly air conditioned cars, sleeping quarters, and meeting rooms.  We decided we could get used to that kind of heat, but we have no idea how long it would take.  We enjoyed this trip very much.  We met wonderful people, members and nonmembers of our Church, and found them to be universally nice to us.
 There were geckos in our sleeping quarters (Church housing in Samoa and Tonga, hotel in American Samoa).  Neither of us minded the geckos.  It is good to have them to eat insects, spiders, and other bugs.  Gae managed to murder one gecko when she shut a kitchen cabinet door without noticing the gecko was on the edge of a shelf.  Terry was amazed that she didn’t freak out when it fell onto the counter while she was making breakfast.

Elder Bednar visited New Zealand just before we left.  We were able to attend a zone conference in which he taught by fielding questions from missionaries.  He is very bright and has a deep knowledge of scriptures and the gospel in general.  He also has a deep understanding of human nature.  His responses to questions were very powerful.  We feel very blessed to have so many opportunities to see and hear general authorities of the Church on a regular basis.

This is a freshwater eel in a pond in one of the Auckland City parks.

Just before we left for the island trip, we were taught in our weekly office devotional meeting that when appropriate we should teach less by lecturing and more by discussion, which can be invoked by the teacher asking for questions.  As we had our various training meetings in Tonga, Samoa, and American Samoa, we decided to approach using our time in this way.  It was very productive because we were then able to teach and discuss principles of public affairs on the points and at the levels of the person who raised the question.  The end result was that we used our time very effectively, directing discussion to create understanding.  This may seem obvious, but the difference between this approach and simply lecturing is amazing to both of us.

As always, there was a little extra time to drive around and see interesting things in each country.  Each had such beautiful beaches and greenery that even pictures don’t always do them justice.  Terry did drive on the right (as in not left) side of the road in American Samoa without a hitch, which was a surprise to us both.  When we switched back to the left side in Samoa and New Zealand the driving went smoothly as well.  Switching sides does make one sit up and pay attention while driving, at least for a while.

Fish photos taken by Terry while snorkeling.  There were a
lot of fish of many varieties.

Gae is becoming more and more adept on matters relating to computers.  Many of our readers know that she was not a computer enthusiast when we left home, to put it mildly.  Now she can find information, files, and other things without having to think about it.  Her writing skills have improved dramatically as well.  This is the result of determination and maintaining a good attitude.  Terry is very proud of her.

Terry and Gae Pearce at Ha'amonga 'a Maui in Tonga.  Built about 1200 AD, but it is not known how or why it was built.  The top cross piece is set into notches in the vertical rock.  Tough job without a crane.

Tony's and Carrie's Visit

Much has changed. We had 3 missionary couples in our public affairs office here in Auckland. Pat and Paul Streiff completed their 23-month mission and went home. Due to a lower influx of senior couples volunteering as missionaries they will not be replaced. We have been asked to support several additional countries and another multi-stake public affairs council in New Zealand as a result. These are the units we support:
Pat and Paul Streiff

• Auckland, New Zealand area and north multi-stake council
• Hamilton, New Zealand multi-stake council
• Hastings-Gisborne, New Zealand multi-stake council
• Tonga
• Samoa
• American Samoa
• Cook Islands
• Marshall Islands
• Kiribati

Fortunately we have good people in each of these councils which will keep our load lighter.

We noted the passing of our halfway mark on February 10th. Every missionary says the same thing: that it is hard to believe our mission is half done, and we are no exception.

Tony and Carrie Pearce, Terry’s brother and business partner and his wife, came to visit for ten days starting January 12th. We had a great time with them. Tony wrote a great history of the visit and you may read it here. It is a good read with lots of photos. We had a fun time planning the trip and we surely kept Tony and Carrie hopping.

While Tony and Carrie were here, we all went to see Jiries and Marcelle Giacaman, the woodcarver, as Tony reported. A couple of weeks later they invited us to come to dinner to try Palestinian foods. It was a very special evening and the food was great. Jiries and Marcelle are from Bethlehem and, as Christians, were feeling crushed between the Jews and the Muslims with all of the conflict that has occurred in Palestine. There are only about 3% of the population that are Christian. So they made an opportunity to come to New Zealand and start over – about 30 years ago. They still believe it was a wise decision. They took us on a tour of their little farm with many kinds of animals, vegetables, and fruiting plants. I’m sure the visit will be one of our special memories for a long time. It is rare to find people who are so humble and genuinely kind in every thought and deed.

Terry and Gae on P-day at Lake Tarawera

We are enjoying our mission and the chances we have to do so many diverse things and meet so many people in and out of the Church.