Called to Serve

We have loved traveling and being with family for the past two years but we felt the call to serve another mission so here we are in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania for the next year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas in Guam

We love our mission and have had such wonderful experiences here but this was our first time ever not to be with family (even though it was only the kids and us in Saudi Arabia) for Christmas and I was feeling a bit down about it. Turned out to not be bad at all.

I posted pictures of the light and sound show at the Mall. That was the closest we had come to it feeling like Christmas. But last week was full of holiday activity. It started out mid-week with our Ward Christmas Party. The meal was catered - it helps that our Branch President (we still have not had a Bishopric called for the new Ward) works at the Marriott. We had turkey, ham, barbecued chicken (have to have it for the islanders), mashed potatoes and gravy, salads, corn on the cob, etc. Ummm ummm good!

The Activities Committee did one last hurrah and made the Cultural Hall very festive.

We had lots of entertainment. Two of our Hawaiian members sang several island songs. The Branch Presidents daughter is learning to play the ukelale and played right along with them. One of the songs they sang was a Guam version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Signs were given to 12 different groups and they were told to stand up, sing their parts and act it out. The verses were:
a chicken in a giant mango tree.
2 turkey tails (a big delicacy here)
3 bags of rice
4 flower marmar (like leis)
5 roasted pigs
6 boiled taro
7 tuna fish
8 fried bananas
9 bowls of ramen (a staple in missionary diets)
10 cans of spam (an island favorite)
11 pounded breadfruit
12 missionaries
Guess which group got #12. It really was a cute activity. Some of the groups really got into the parts.

They also sang the island version of Jingle Bells:

Way out here in Guam, there's no hope for snow
Beneath the lovely palms, a typhoon's sure to blow.
Santa surely knows, what the tropics will allow
Instead of using eight reindeer, he'll use a carabao.

Jungle bells, coconut shells, stickle burs all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride, in a carabao cart today Hey!
Jungle bells, coconut shells, stickle burs all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride, in a carabao cart today.

After the sing-a-longs, each auxilliary went on stage to sing a Christmas hymn. There was no practicing ahead of time but the groups all did really good jobs. The program listed the missionaries so we had to go up too.

At the end of the evening, Santa Kim (aka President Kim) handed out goodie bags to all the girls and boys.

On Friday, I stayed home from work so that I could bake and prepare for the evenings activity. Wayne turned on the NPR station and as I listened to Christmas music and baked the whole day it made it feel a little more like the holiday. Christmas Eve all of the missionaries gathered at the Mission Home for soup and bread. Not my traditional Christmas Eve dinner but it was delicious and we all enjoyed being together as a mission family.

After dinner, everyone sat around in a circle and played a white elephant gift game.

As you can see, there were a few interesting gifts.

We ended the evening by watching President Monson's talk from the First Presidency Christmas Devotional and a reading from Luke. The perfect ending.

As we do at all missionary gatherings, we took group pictures.

And the sisters always have to have one of just the ladies. How is it that I always stand near the shortest people? Not to mention the skinniest.

The next morning we started our Christmas day in the perfect way. We Skyped Australia at 6am and got to watch the grandkids open their gifts. It was really nice that Stacy had taken her laptop and so she was able to walk around and show us Jonathan's house. He only has Skype on his desktop.

Our next activity was at the church at 7am. Our cleaning team was assigned to clean. I had wondered who would come out on Christmas morning. The answer? No one but missionaries far from home. Our wonderful team leader, Brother Batimana, was there but we expected to see him. We also had help from Elder and Sister Hertzberg who have only been here for a couple of weeks and have not been assigned to a team yet so they help us. We wanted it to feel a little like home for Christmas so Wayne made our traditional egg souffle and I made a pull apart and we had breakfast at the church when we finished the cleaning. It really did feel good to be able to start the day out giving service.

After cleaning, we headed home to do our Pday activity, laundry, and start cooking for our Christmas dinner. We had invited the Hertzberg's and Sister Miyazaki over for dinner. We actually had forgotten to open our presents until Ashley skyped us. She spent Christmas at Bass Lake with Josh's family. They took their laptop and we were able to see the tree up there and hear all about their Christmas. Of course, we can't get too much of seeing the baby either.

Dinner was at 1:00. We had also invited one of the men in our Ward whose family is not yet here. Unfortunately he did not show up. The five of us who were here had a pleasant afternoon but everyone left too soon. We had a quiet time the rest of the evening.

Jason and Tamera had gone to Madera to spend Christmas with her family. They came home late Christmas day which is our Sunday so we got to Skype them in the afternoon. They had left all of our presents to them at home and so we also got to watch Ashlyn and Preston open their gifts.

All in all, we had a good Christmas. We really missed being with the family and I know that our being here changed the entire families Christmas traditions but maybe it is good to shake things up occasionally so we appreciate what we have more. I know that I really appreciate my family and look forward to being with them next Christmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December Doings

We have had a lot of things going on in the month of December. I am sure I am leaving out some of the things that we have done but I am going to hit the highlights. We had Zone Conference a couple of weeks ago. We always have such good things presented by the Assistants and President Dowdle. This time the sisters got to meet seperately with Sister Dowdle though. She gave a wonderful message and it was just nice to be able to meet with all the sisters. We have a great group of sister missionaries. They are doing fantastic work here in Guam and we also got to meet with the sisters from Saipan who also are great.

On December 8th we went to the airport to pick up the Hertzbergs. They are the new Family History Couple and we are so excited to have them here. Elder Clarke has had a great time acting as tour guide while we have acquainted them with Guam. We look forward to getting to know them better.
On December 10th Elder L. Tom Perry arrived to form the new Barrigada Guam Stake. We had some really good meetings with him and it was fun learning a little bit more about him and seeing what a warm friendly man he is. I was so surprised to see how tall he is - 6'4". I have always seen him from the top of the Marriott Center at BYU or the Conference Center top balcony and from that distance he seemed small. I loved listening to him and all the other speakers at conference.

Monday night we spent FHE at an investigators home. He has invited us to share in his Theme nights. He is fixing dinner for his extended family and the missionaries teaching him each Monday. We are anticipating his baptism on Jan. 1st. He truly was a golden contact. His desire to learn and his enthusiasm has been inspiring to us.

We had our final Institute class of 2010 on Thursday. It was a bit sad because it was Juliette's last night for good. She is going to be moving to Palau and we are so sorry to see her leave.

One of our students has proven to be a great cook as he keeps bringing treats each week to Institute.
One week he made cream puffs and then dipped them in chocolate to serve us.

Last week he brought apple pie and ice cream. Thank you Andrew for all your good works.

We have made a habit of playing games after our lesson each week and this week we set up a badminton net and brought out the ping pong table.

I must say we have a few very competitive kids in our group.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Micronesia Mall to see the decorations in the center court. They were impressive but the highlight was the light and sound show. Last night, we invited ourselves to the Yigo Ward Christmas Activity which was a treat and then we took the Hertzbergs to the mall to see the light and sound show. My favorite number was a Mannheim Steamroller number. I had to go home afterwards and play my Christmas music.

It is moments like that that have made me feel like it is actually Christmas. It is not in your face as much as it is at home and when it is 85degrees and sunny it just does not seem like it can be Christmas. We are looking forward to Christmas Eve with the missionaries to make this Christmas a special one. We hope that this will also be a special Christmas for all of you.