Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas 2015 - making it just under the wire!!!

Seriously. I've written this Christmas blog 3 times now. Someone is trying to tell me something. Obviously, my message needs to be reviewed and revised. So I'm going try this one more time.....

Beloved and I are going to answer 6 questions. Also, we shall share some of our favorite pictures from this year. Ron's answers are in red, mine are in blue

1.  What is the best thing you’ve done this year?

Finding opportunities to do the right thing in the right way at the right time

Visiting Maui was a big highlight, but I’ll have to say that getting to know the beautiful people of Hawaii and beyond is what I’ll carry with me forever.

2. What is the hardest thing you’ve had to face while on your mission?

Realizing that not everyone wants to “   “ 

My own shortcomings and the fact that I don’t deal well with them.

3. What lesson have you learned?

It is easy to enjoy peace in paradise, but Laie HI is not paradisiacal at all times and in all ways with all peoples

That a mission isn’t automatic Nirvana – that life is hard on purpose – that I have more to learn, do and conquer.

4. What is your most favorite part of PCC?

Soooo many things to enjoy, fix, eat, see, experience and love

The villages bring me great happiness, peace and joy

5. What advice would you have to give to anyone considering a senior mission?

Anywhere, at any time; Heaven, earth and hell can be anything you make of it. Choose wisely, what you choose to make of it.

Throw pride and expectations out the door, and build up your relationship with your spouse, because you will need each other desperately.

6. What would be your Christmas wish this year?

Pick a cliché; Peace on earth and in my heart; joy good will toward man; no-worries; sunny days with cooling breezes; A happy face on Nina and I; the kingdom of God on earth.

A clue about what the future holds would be great! Also, holding/loving/enjoying my children/grandchildren is my fondest wish. But beyond that, I wish for peace in the knowledge that the Lord knows me and my needs and will always guide and protect me. That is different from my fondest hope, by the way, which would be that I become successful in being an instrument of the Lord by sharing Aloha every day with everyone I meet.


I want to tell you a bit more about "Sharing Aloha". It isn't just a tourist phrase for the islands. The Polynesian Cultural Center's motto is "One Ohana sharing Aloha". Let me clarify how important this statement is.

This summer, a prophet and representative of our Church leaders - and more important - of the Lord, President Deiter F. Uchtdorf, came and gave a blessing on our beautiful Center. In that blessing he said: "May those who come here with heavy hearts or weariness be re-energized, enriched, comforted and uplifted. May they find a place of refuge. May those who come out of a hectic world, with a hope for serenity, neighborly love and for wholesome recreational activities never be disappointed. May families and individual find here a home away from home."

To us, the workers and volunteers, he added "May the PCC and its people be a blessing to the visitors who come from many nations and cultures."

These are powerful words, but also extremely appropriate. The Polynesian Cultural Center was built to share the beautiful cultures of our Polynesian Islands. Part of those cultures - and especially part of the Hawaiian culture, is the sharing of Aloha (or Bula, or the equivalent word from each island)

Aloha literally translates out to "the presence (alo) of breath (ha)". For us, as hosts to the world, it means that by saying aloha, we're are asking "how can I be a source of life to you? What can I do to help?" To say Aloha means to live Aloha.

When I walk the PCC grounds, I say "aloha" over and over and over again, and I never mean it as a trite greeting. I really am trying to open myself up to whatever need that person - be it guest or staff - may have. I LOVE to help people, because it is an act that gives both ways. It lightens their load, and lifts my spirit.

My department participated in a staff training yesterday. We were asked "where did we most feel that "Place of Refuge" spoken of by Pres. Uchtdorf at the PCC. For me, it is at the Mission Chapel. I love that building. It brings me back to center whenever I am off kilter.

We were then asked "Name someone who brings you Aloha". That for me would be the Funiomoanas, who I've spoken of before. Despite illness, age and personal needs, they are the light that shines brightly when I'm feeling in the dark. Isn't it handy that their post is right there, on the porch of my cherished chapel?

So - This last year has been beautiful, exhausting, crazy, full, surprising, frustrating, miraculous, and hard. Really, really hard. But as Pres. Uchtdorf says, "if life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most."

I am grateful that I am given the opportunity to review and refocus everyday. My priorities change very little, but my understanding and my commitment to those priorities change constantly.

I want our friends to know that we appreciate them so very much. I wish I had the time to write to everyone individually. I feel horrible that we didn't even get cards out this year, but there honestly is no time - and isn't that the way it should be?

I want our family to know that I miss them so very much. Not a moment of this mission passes without the knowledge that it is because of you that we are here. We love you, we pray for you, we dedicate our hearts and our efforts and any success that we may experience to each of you. Thank you for being a part of our soul.


Okay, some MORE pictures from this past year!

Ron's team of Blue Shirts, and some of the missionary wives
My outstanding department members and their families. Notice all of the bare feet? SO Hawaiian!!!!
A typical outing with some of our Sister Missionaries - oh, and beautiful Kalia

A Christmas Tree designed by our team and built (mostly) by Elder Jones with a bit of help from me...
and amazing assistance by Sister Glaus!

Just sharing some Aloha/Bula greetings we've posted on our sites.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Radiating the Spirit - Nephi Setoki and the power of living an honorable life

I have this problem with names – I can’t remember them. I remember waking up one morning, looking at my husband sleeping and suddenly panicking because I simply could not remember his name. It took me a good 5 minutes to come up with it.

This problem has manifested itself in a strange sort of way here in Laie’. I seem to have the problem of calling every Polynesian man “Nephi”. Especially this poor guy named Seth. Wonderful fella in his own right, but all the same, I’m always calling him Nephi.

I’d better explain.

I work with Nephi Setoki. He is our webmaster – with a big emphasis on the word MASTER.
Nephi during a promo trip. That's him on the right.
For those not of our faith, the name Nephi comes from an ancient prophet in the Book of Mormon. It is a noble name, one that carries with it great promise and responsibility. Nephi Setoki honors that name with the same faith, courage and humility as Nephi of old.  

Nephi was born in Samoa – and moved here as a child. He is a graduate of our own Kahuku Middle School and High School just north of the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC).

He has always worked for PCC. He started as a dancer. He then moved to the Promo Team, then over to Sales and is now working in Ecommerce, where I am assigned.

Nephi is the most humble, unassuming man. First and foremost, his family is the center of his world. He is a self-taught photographer, he plays a mean ukulele, and he is well trained in the ancient Hawaiian hula and his own Samoan dances. Besides that, he is a big, muscular, imposing looking dude.

Nephi modeling his own clothing line - and developing
his own graphic art
He knows absolutely everyone here. It’s very difficult to walk through PCC with him – especially when you are in a hurry. EVERYONE stops him to talk story, hug and laugh. Nephi’s laugh is the best laugh you’ve EVER heard, so that's always part of the fun.

To truly explain his character and grace, I want to share a quick story. Nephi has a very pronounced scar on the back of his head. I never asked what happened, but Elder Jones, who never hesitates when he is curious said, “Nephi, I noticed your unusual scar. Tell me the story”.

Nephi explained that one day, back when he was a dancer, he was performing in the canoe pageant. Suddenly he collapsed with a seizure right in the middle of the performance. He was rushed to the hospital where they found that he had a brain tumor. 

“This scar is my badge of honor,” he told us. “It saved my life.”

This is actually a picture of Nephi on that fateful day when he found out that
something was obviously not working quite right....
We discussed whether to include this very personal picture. Ultimately,
Nephi decided that he would as he has been hoping for years to
locate the doctor in the crowd who stepped up to help him. Maybe
sometime, somewhere, someone will recognize the picture.
This was in the Summer of 1991.

That Nephi not only survived, but flourished is a testament not only to his courage, but his great faith. Nephi knows where his strength comes from. He has a solid and abiding love of the gospel as well as the culture, the purpose and the beauty of the PCC. He personifies the deep commitment many of our Polynesian brothers and sisters have to this blessed place. It is one of my greatest honors to be working with him. His kindness and dignity inspires me every day.

So I call all Poly-men Nephi because he is the measuring stick for me.

Luckily, when I call Seth by Nephi’s name, he politely corrects me and then always adds “but thank you, that’s quite an honor”.

Nephi 4:20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

30 Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.


Just for fun, I've included the link to a video clip I found. Nephi (in the white shorts) was helping to coordinate this dance for the 2013 50th anniversary of the PCC. This was the practice video for the following dances - (CLICK HERE) The Sasa and the Lapalapa

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Perfect Package - Steve and Bea Cheney

By now our friends should be getting the idea that we live in a remarkable area with remarkable people. It is such a pleasure sharing their stories.

It's time for another.

Let me introduce Steve and Bea Cheney. Gosh, I love these people. They are the perfect package: Humility, faith, hard work and adorable. See if you agree.

Steve Cheney has had quite the life, His mom loved to entertain. Not entertain as in lovely dinner parties. Entertain as in grab the instruments, train the children, throw the whole family up on stage and play music for the customers. He spent much of his childhood playing 'gig's in and around the Salt Lake area.....sometimes even in a hidden 'bar' in downtown Salt Lake City, and later in Honolulu.

Steve playing bass (age 13) at "The Homestead" in Midway, Utah
with mom, step-dad and grandfather

In the meantime, his future bride, who was born and raised here in Hawaii, worked hard and studied harder. She was a quiet girl, sweet, respectful, and a stunning beauty.

Steve didn't grow up in an active family - but there was a point in his life at age 19 that the Lord's hand guided him towards the Church. This came about because he began attending college at The Church College of Hawaii (now renamed BYU-Hawaii). It is there that Steve and Beas's paths crossed. It was there they fell in love. It did not take long before they knew that they were going to be married, but first, Steve clearly came to understand that he needed to serve a mission. He was called to serve in the "Western States Mission"

So, off on a mission he went. Bea supported him, the Lord guided him, and his testimony grew.

After his mission, he returned and resumed classes. He and Bea married within weeks. Steve augmented their very tight budget by playing the steel guitar, which he had learned to play in 1961, at various venues across the island. He studied wood working and cabinetry making in school. Both of these activities were wonderful skills to have around the island. It helped them to continue in school and to start a family.

One day, however, catastrophe struck when Steve lost parts of three fingers on his left hand while in woodworking shop. It was impossible to play the steel guitar. It was impossible to do carpentry work. Steve and Bea fell into some very lean times, indeed and had to live off of Bea's salary at the PCC, but Steve was determined. He found a way, through much practice and some modifications to play the steel guitar, and as soon as he healed, he began carpentry work again.

Their living conditions were basic, their income spotty and so Steve eventually ended up leaving school.....and their family grew. They had 8 children in all, 7 boys and 1 girl.

Steve found after a while that his family needed a bigger place to live. But how? The industrious Cheneys knew that the solution was in their hands, and so....they built a house. It took 2 years, but with very hard work, both on the house and with the two jobs necessary to obtain their goal, the Cheneys were now homeowners.

And still the family grew and grew, so much so that only two years later it became clear that it was time to find a larger house. And so the process started all over again.

As I read through Steve and Bea's extensive biographies, it became clear that challenges were constant. The entertainment business is a dog-eat-dog world, and the construction industry is no less so. Steve suffered a number of broken contracts, false promises and outright swindles. Yet he and Bea worked through the disappointments and chose to forgive and move on. Some people may even fault them for being that 'soft', but I found the opposite. Their great faith, positive attitudes and determination to move forward is a talent and virtue that has sustained them through trials that would crush most of us. One of the most difficult happened during this time in their lives.

It was a hot afternoon in 1983. Steve and Bea had just successfully obtained a building permit for a new home that morning. Steve relates that he was inside his house when he heard a squeal of brakes and a thud. Running outside, he found that his 7 year old, Ammon, had been hit by a car. Despite great efforts by medical personal and bystanders, Ammon was declared dead upon arrival at the hospital.

The loss of a child did not change the fact that they Cheneys needed to continue moving forward. They built their 2nd home and moved into it in 1985. It was only partially finished, and took several years to complete, but they did what they've always done and finished it bit by bit.

In 1986 Steve had a clear impression that he needed to return to college to finish his education. It turns out that this was extremely providential as the degree he was working towards was dropped shortly thereafter.

Some of Steve's handiwork.....

His handmade steel guitar

During these times Steve was either working at The Polynesian Cultural Center or BYU-Hawaii. Both his musical and woodworking skills certainly came in handy!

In reviewing Steve's biography through the 90s up until the early 2000s, life was pretty normal for the Cheney family. Sons went on missions, and one-by-one the children began to marry. Steve worked hard by day and played music by night. He and Bea traveled a bit to attend conventions and musical events. It seemed as if they were finally able to live a simple, carefree and happy life.

I refer to his next entry, from 2006:

Bea was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease this year.  At first it was traumatic to Bea to be diagnosed but I constantly reassured her that I would take care of her and be there for her.  This initial diagnosis was incorrect as years later it was found out to be DRPLA.  For Bea’s sake and to her wishes, we tried our best to not make a big thing about her disease and just lived life as normal as we could as the disease progressed.   We try to keep her condition low key to others as much as possible.

It becomes difficult not to mention Bea's diagnosis, not because of the tragedy of it all, but because of the quiet triumph that comes from two humble people who love each other so much that they can and will take what comes and utilize it to the best of their abilities. Steve is a devoted husband, and there is no doubt that Bea would be lost without him. But Bea is still Bea. She is loving, she is funny, and she is in every way Steve's other half. They are an eternal unit, formed through trials, tears, happiness and faith. They don't travel, but then again, they don't need to. They don't live in a mansion, but they live in a sturdy home built with their own hands. They aren't the world's definition of famous, and yet.....they are known around the world.

Every evening except for Sunday they come to the Polynesian Cultural Center luau as volunteers. Steve plays his handmade steel guitar. Bea cheers him and the other performers on and helps to guide guests coming in and out. Whichever of the missionaries assigned to 'Exit Duty' gets to sit next to Bea and drink in her beauty, be touched by Steve's quiet dedication, and in all circumstances witness a perfect marriage. Perfect because it accepts imperfections. Perfect because it is built on trust, hope and faith. Perfect because it is eternal.

As I said earlier, the perfect package. God bless them.

"I have spoken here of heavenly help, of angels dispatched to bless us in time of need. But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. There are those angels who come and go all around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, mortal and immortal..." Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Courageous Devotion - Comes From Food & Beverage

A couple of Saturdays ago the Food & Beverage Department held their annual devotional. It was a wonderful experience for all who attended. The speakers were especially inspirational.

Taylor Young was faced with the challenge of being courageous when her father died while she was still a young girl. She described being a teen who missed her dad, and making the decision to come to BYU-H. The transition was difficult, and has taken much courage, but she is finding great blessings. "We all have small moments of courage," she said.

"I am inspired by the dishwashers and BBQ Lunch Crew," she continued. She explained how the dishwashers make it a point to fulfill their job. Even after a hard day they push to complete their responsibilities. She then highlighted the BBQ Lunch crew. “They have great experiences, because they choose to portray a positive and enduring attitude.”

President Peter F. Uchdorf, during his visit to the PCC last week,  stated that our 'efforts will be bless if we continue in faith". Taylor takes great courage in this promise. She is very proud of the entire crew for their faith and their courage.

Imeleta Coffin is both a returned missionary and a convert to the Church. She discussed the importance of moral values, quoting our prophet, Thomas S. Monson, who said " order for us to make the correct decisions, courage is needed—the courage to say no when we should, the courage to say yes when that is appropriate, the courage to do the right thing because it is right."

She compared the act of courage like unto Nephi, when commanded to return to Jerusalem to obtain the plates. He did not waiver, but went and did as his father told him to do.

Imelta also had to face fear and make a decision based on faith, even though it was very hard. She was raised in a devoutly Catholic family. Her father went to Mass every day. When she decided to go on a mission, she went to her father to tell him of her decision. He was very angry and told her "if you leave, you are no longer my daughter."

She had to choose whether to stay and be a daughter to her dad or go to do what the Lord wanted her to do. She had faith that the Lord would touch her father’s heart in the future.

After her mission, she went home. When she arrived at the house, her father asked her to come over and sit by him. She was surprised, because she expected him never to speak to her again. He told her "I am proud that you came home and served with honor".

"You are not still mad," she asked him?

He placed his arm around her and asked if she would go to his baptism the next day, while she was still ordained a missionary.

Two years later, she was attending school here at BYU-Hawaii when she received a call that her father had passed away. This has been very difficult, but she is so grateful for the gospel in her family’s life.

Imelta explained that Jesus Christ gave her the courage to push through. After all, it was Jesus Christ, in the Garden who had the courage to take upon Him the sins of the entire world.

Siniteke Fotu is from Tonga. She talked about how nervous she was the first day of work at the PCC Food & Beverage Department. "I thought, I hope I won't cut off my finger,” she explained. “It was not long before I found that I loved my job".

She shared a great quote: "With hope you gain courage. With courage you gain confidence. With confidence you will find that there are no limits to what you can do."

She told us that "we may come without knowing how to do our jobs, but because of our willingness, we learn so fast. Some of us are happy to receive a paycheck, some are happy for the experience, but all of us feel nervous. Maybe we worry about how to respond to a guest, or how to cook the food".

"Small and simple things make great things come to pass," she said. "When we have courage, everything is possible." (Alma 37.5)

The last speaker was our recently retired VP of Operations, Logo Apelo. He gave the students great words of encouragement. "It takes courage to do whatever it takes to get an education. Look at all of the people depicted on the art work in the murals on the wall," he instructed. "It took courage for these people to build this place so that you and I can have a better future." He thanked the students for their courage to do what is right and advised us all that "with the spirit of our ancestors, we all work to make sure that the PCC will continue on. We've faced tough times all these 50 years", he reminded us.  "Do you know how we survived? Through the courage of our employees."

Logo finished with these words: "Let's do everything we can and leave the rest to the Lord."

And with those amazing words ringing in our ears - and with our hearts full of gratitude and inspiration, we headed off to feast and dance.

Chef serving our Administrators
One of his marvelous creations (fish)


A quick note regarding Fifita Unga, head of F&B. This is a woman of grace, courage and an amazingly level head. She is a mentor and example to her staff. She is exacting in what she wants - which is for her department to be as good as they possibly can. She starts at the top, with herself, by giving her whole heart and best effort. We all love and respect her very much.