On this beautiful, sunny day I am relieved and grateful for guess what? Well, a plethora of things, but at this very moment... technology!!! My family is in Beijing, Oliver is all over southeast Asia, my brother is in Mexico, and my dear grandparents are in the USA... but we are still able to connect, share pictures and stories, support and uplift each other, regardless of the miles or the oceans between us. I apologize for the missed emails last week! Being so close to the airport, our house is a popular place for missionaries and leaders coming and going. We played hosts and chauffeurs all of Pday. Between that, a few lessons, and the regular pday hustle and bustle we did not have a moment to make it to Mami Grace or the Parkers for emails!
Moment: A lesson with Erton and Herenoui.
Soeur Outz and I lock the clunky silver padlock on the brown gate behind us and slip our water bottles into our backpacks as we leave the house. Down the dusty side road out onto the street. The chapel is a two blocks to our left. We turn right and walk in line along the side of the road. No sidewalks here. Members, non members, and amis alike wave at us from their cars. Some slimy men make slimy comments, we continue. People we don’t know smile and tip their head. Everyone says Bonjour! The Papis say Ia orana! A group of strangers yell BONJOUR LES ELDERS (yes, they call us Elders...hahaha) from their truck. We pass a group of dogs on the right side of the road. A kitten and some chickens hiding in the bushes. A little boy carrying a bag full of baguettes skipping back home. A food truck. A city center where people go to dance and perform. We scramble across the highway at any moment we can and walk around the track/soccer fields to the other side of the city. Now closer to downtown, we walk by apartment buildings, past French couples and little stores. A tiny art store, a few French cafes. A pedestrian crossing bridge towers over head. Off to the right is a broken gravel parking lot. If we have our bikes, we take a deep breath and pick them up off of the ground. Up the first flight of stairs, passed the apartment with the old new Zealand papi who is always nice though always drunk. He greets us by name in English and rambles about something. We laugh and start to break a little sweat. Up another flight of stairs. The apartments have no doors, only sheets that blow in the wind. Empty. We set our bikes down for a minute, readjust, and haul them up onto our shoulders again. The top floor is Erton and Herenoui’s family apartment. Mami greets us first after we holler Bonjour!! at the open door. She comes out and starts to chat. Tiny woman, with bronzed, wrinkled skin and brown spots all over her body. Little frail wrists are decorated with a pearl bracelet. A faded pink dress hangs on her delicate frame, her snow white hair tied neatly into a bun at the nape of her neck. She is missing most of her teeth, has strikingly light eyes, and is like a peculiar, living work of art. Erton and Herenoui come out from the back of the apartment. We catch his firm handshake and kiss Herenoui on each cheek. They pull plastic stools and two metals chairs out from the back of the room and we sit in a little circle. The room is maybe 8 feet by 8 feet, has a few dark brown cabinets that are missing doors. We are all smiling because we LOVE this young couple so much! She is 23 and still in school, with a pretty face, long black hair in a ponytail, a vini t shirt and little pearls in her ears. He is 25, with short curly hair, barefoot, in surfing shorts and a soccer tank top. Erton chooses who will choose the song and who will offer the prayer. We sing in French and begin the lesson for the day. Erton talks about his family and shares experiences. We flip through scriptures in the Book of Mormon and read a parable in the Bible. Herenoui is gentle and supportive of her husband. She is a lifelong member with scriptures well marked and well used. Someone tears up during the lesson. They ask when we are coming back next. We laugh at how busy they are now that they are both members and joke that we will see them Wednesday for splits, Saturday for English, and Sunday for church! We fix a lesson for them and his little sister who isn't a member for the following Tuesday at 18:30. 50 minutes after we arrived, we grab our bags and our bikes and start to trek back down the stairs. The hardest people to reach are always the ones who are most worth the effort :)
So, where did I leave off?
Last pday was a miracle? Yvette decided to get baptized before she leaves for France. Her baptism took place this past Saturday and we were beyond happy for her and her entire family. Her sister is a member and just moved into the ward with her two teenage daughters. Her son Jean is 11 and wants to get baptized as soon as Mom gets back in October. Branco and Lorenzo, who got baptized last week, are proud new members in their white shirts and ties! We held a FHE for all of our amis and the members and watched the Joseph Smith movie. Soeur and I gave talks in Sacrament meeting. We held the best English class yet! Three members called US and asked if they could work with us! Meima decided to start taking the lessons with her children. Her husband even showed up for church. Two of our amis decided that they want to leave their concubines ( French word, meaning that they live together but are not legally married) so they can get baptized. We went out late last night to visit all of our dear amis who didn’t attend church and MIRACLES MIRACLES. We were invited into so many homes and fixed lessons with a family of three and a darling 17 year old girl. Tevei drove another one of our amis, Martine, to a fireside last night all on her own!! Erton brought his little sister to church -- she accepted the lessons as well! I see the members all over town. People wave at us as we walk around and around Tipearui day in and day out. I am starting to recognize so so so many faces and feel surrounded by support. Needless to say, the week has been busy with lessons, meetings, and projects!
I see the Lord’s hand working in the hearts and lives of the people here. It is so amazing to see people change!! And it is absolutely NOT because of us. It is the gospel. The spirit changes people’s hearts; which changes their perspective, their desires, and consequently, their lives.
Yesterday our house was the happy recipient of three Tahitian greenies [new missionaries] for the night! It is strange not being the newest missionary...hahaha...I enjoy the change! S Green and S Mann are training two of them. S DAnillo is headed off to Maupiti and S Ariioehau to the Presqueille (sp?) S Outz and I have really picked it up this past week and are really starting to run in stride and become closer. Missionaries... oh boy! We all laugh and cry together :) We talk about our amis, our struggles, our plans, our hopes, our families, our faith.
I love you all and think of you often! Not a day passes that I am not so filled with gratitude for my family, my home, my country, and all of the opportunities I have been given! It is still strange to think that I am in French Polynesia. As far as the French goes, I love it! Hahaha I actually don’t even notice the language anymore. School started back up and I LOVE seeing the students all walking to school in the morning or being dropped off by their parents. No matter the country or the language, everyone is really looking for a few things in life -- love, peace, and happiness. The gospel of Christ is the only thing that can give us an eternal supply of all of the above.
I am learning and stretching and growing in so many ways! A mission is certainly a refining experience, and sometimes OH BOY can you feel the burn! But in the end we come out a more pure and perfect work of art in the Master’s hands.
Je vous aime! Faaitoito!
Tahiti Papeete Mission
Soeur Bradshaw, Rebecca
Papeete, Tahiti, 98713