Sunday, March 29, 2015

It’s time to play catch up with stories and pictures!

We have been working, playing, working at playing, playing at working.  Honestly, the biggest news is that we FINALLY got our taxes done.  Sad, but true.  It took this long to make sure I had all expenditures in the correct column.  Not fond of doing those taxes, but then again, who is?

So, with that great news, I thought I’d share a couple of experiences and a few pics this time around….






I went on a business outing with the on-line marketing team.  We went to the big city….woo hoo!  (That would be Honolulu….) After our meeting, our manager, Jeff wanted to take us to this lunch spot called the Mermaid Bar at Neiman Marcus.  No booze (that I know of), just a nifty spot to eat. 





Yeah, kinda like these gals.....
So, here we were – sitting in this fun little place when Jeff said “ah, here comes the models”.  I looked up, and yes, indeedy, there were two tall, wispy looking things floating their way thru the cafeteria.  I thought “huh, those are some pretty and incredibly thin young ladies – wonder if they are going to split a grape for lunch”.  It honestly hadn't dawned on me that they were actually…..models!  But it became apparent as they drifted over to our table that they were were women with a purpose.





I was absolutely fixated on this gorgeous suede crop top one of the gazelles was wearing.  She looked me in the eye and informed me that “today’s selection was taken from the Hoozawoozit Collection on the 3rd floor and I would be able to find my way to it by ascending the escalator two floors and turning left”.  Then, and I’m not kidding here, in unison they stepped one step forward, swirled and took two more steps, swirled again and did this absolutely amazing dosey-do move,  finishing with hands on hip (still in unison) and a classy sassy smile.  I thought to myself “do I clap?”  Instead I offered a heart-felt “thank-you so much” and watched them float away.

Yeah, kinda like this skirt
Now I mention this interesting interlude to emphasize the next experience.  

I wanted to look all business-like for the earlier meeting, but with a pretty flair, of course, so I was wearing a beautiful silk wrap-around skirt made out of sari material (from India).  It’s quite the rage here, and I receive many the compliment on it. 

So, here I am in all my silky smoothness eating lunch at Neiman Marcus’s Mermaid Bar feeling all sorts of special.  Immediately after the mini floor show concluded, it was time to go. I stood up to leave when all of a sudden I felt…..a breeze…..on my upper thigh. It took a little while for it to sink in.  Yes, I was feeling oddly cool because the tie on my beautiful little wrap around skirt had come loose.  Oh, mind you, it was still on……mostly.  But it was listing to the left side at a sharp 45 degree angle giving me a lopsided low-rider/way past hip hugger effect.  In other words, Sister Jones was not dressed to mission standards, in front of God, patrons and – wouldn’t you know it – a former bishop. I mean, I have nightmares about these kind of things! The kindly (yet distinctly mortified) waiter quickly stepped in to assist me with my predicament, mostly by blocking this amazing scene from the rest of the paying customers. He may have had good intentions, but I suspect his assistance was to make sure that others didn’t confuse my flailing and twisting with the beautiful modeling that was presented just moments before.  

So, life lessons:
  1. Trying to locate the long, silky smooth ties of a rapidly descending wrapskirt is near impossible to do when you’re panicking.
  2. Double knots are sometimes the key to happiness.


The second experience I’d like to share happened yesterday. I knew that it was time to get Elder Jones out in the sun for some much needed light therapy. The weather seems to be turning and the water is not uncomfortably cold anymore. So we headed out to Sharks Cove, one of our favorite snorkeling spots. The tide was lower than we had ever seen, so I ended up having a grand time in the ‘protected pool’ area while Elder Jones headed off to the 'open water' area. Swimming around as the low tide contained the various selections of fish into concentrated groups enabled me to see lots and lots of different beauties.

Yeah, kinda like this fish

I was especially excited to see a translucent green pipefish – a very long, very thin fish. Then there was another, and another and they were far larger than I had ever seen before. I moved along to the side of one and discovered that it was longer than I was. Truly magnificent!




Suddenly, someone grabbed my fin. I turned to see Elder Jones. “Do you want to come out where the big fish are?” he asked. “It’s really calm out there.”

“Promise?” (I am not a confident snorkeler, so avoid big waves like the plague). He smiled and took my hand.

Yeah, kinda like.........oh, nevermind

For the next hour we really did swim with the fishes. There was a tremendous school of silvery fish that we joined. What a feeling, being surrounded by luminescent flashes of light and movement!


Because we were not in a contained area, the floor of the ocean dropped far down and there were definitely bigger fish, and more variety. 


There is such serenity in silently gliding along while viewing the glorious creations below the water – it feels like a whole different world. I could feel the currents and waves carrying me gently in different directions, and each new area had something new to behold. 

Because I was in unfamiliar waters, my comfort zone was to cling onto my husband’s hand (he let go once and meandered off - and paid for it by getting a slow motion beating while underwater when he finally returned.....obviously it didn't hurt, so, exacting my revenge, I PINCHED him instead).

So, back into my comfort zone - and holding onto that man's hand with both hands, we finished our tour of the ocean.  Wish I had an underwater camera, but here are a couple of on-line pics that showcases some of the marine life we saw.





It was a great day.  We smiled all the way home.  

-----------

Hey, it's an adventure everyday.  Just a few pics to prove it!

Whale Watching

Touring a chocolate factory


Adorable daughters of some of our ward members

Cultural Night at BYU-H
Tonga!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Walking Among Giants - Sery Kone from the Ivory Coast

The more we are here at BYU-Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center, the more we recognize that we are walking among giants.  We are getting to know more and more students, many of whom sacrificed everything to be here. We think we know sacrifice. Elder Jones and I carry on about giving up our home and our possessions in order to serve the Lord. We worry over being separated from families for a period or lament the loss of a steady income.  We talk about aching bones and mental exhaustion after a long day at the PCC. These may well be considered a sacrifice.  But they are nothing compared to our students.  Our students would give all that they have to take on those blessings that we foolishly call challenges.

Let me tell you about Sery Kouma Kone.....

 -------------------------------------


We have known Kone since we started attending the Laie Married 4th Ward.  He is the First Counselor in our Bishopric. Even still, we knew nothing about him or his personal story until this last Monday when he came to speak to the missionaries at their weekly Family Home Evening program. Sery is from the Ivory Coast, or as they refer to it, Côte d'Ivoire, a West African county that sits between Libya and Ghana.  It is the world’s largest producer of cocoa.



Sery was born in the large port city of Abidjani.  When Sery was 4 years old, his parents divorced. His father decided to pull him away from his mother, so he took him 1,200 away from his home and placed him with a woman he didn't know in a small village by the name of Kolia.  His father left him there, never to see him again.  The woman that he lived with was very poor and the only way to survive was for Sery to work.  He became a child slave.  

The woman was wise enough to know that children deserved an education. She insisted that the children in her home went to school. But when Kone was not in school, he would go to work, sometimes walking as much as 35 miles to a cocoa farm. He would work 10 hours. He was beaten if he did not work hard. He was not well fed. He had no choices, no protector and no hope.  He worked hard for 6 years. And then, the woman died, and he lost even the comfort of food, clothing and supervision. Still, he kept working.  


After a particularly hard beating by a rancher when he tried to encourage a tired little boy working next to him to rest, he said "I have had enough". He got onto a bus heading to the big city where he was born. He said to the driver, "I have no money, but my family will pay for me when we get there". The bus driver refused and told him to get off, but he was not going to go back to slavery. "I would not get off," he said. "I would not go back." After much arguing, a kindly rider paid for his fare. Kone went to Abidjani, a two day ride, to find his family. He stayed in the streets for 4 weeks. Then he was taken in by an orphanage and worked odd jobs as he could. He lived there for 6 months.

One day, a man came up and called him by his childhood name. "I am your uncle," said the man. Kone did not believe him and he ran away. But the man persisted in finding him. It turns out that he really was his mother's brother. He was a school teacher and he took Kone into his home. Later on, Kone asked him “how did you know it was me?”  His uncle answered “you looked so much like your mother, I knew it was you.”  

Kone found out that his mother had passed away in great sorrow, because her only son had been taken from her. This left Kone embittered and frustrated. He felt deeply that God had been so unfair to him, and his anger boiled out of him. Now a teenager, he found entertainment in arguing with Christians, especially Jehovah Witnesses. For some reason, he found them an easy target for his anger.

Kone remembers a day when two LDS missionaries were walking by. He thought they were Jehovah Witnesses. "Hey," he called out. "Why don't you come here and talk to me?" He meant it more as a challenge, but the two young men replied that they were happy to share their message. They came to his home and began to present the "Plan of Salvation." This struck Kone to the heart. He knew their message was true and could see from the truths they taught that Heavenly Father did care about His children and had provided a clear path for them to find happiness and someday to return home to Him.

Kone joined the LDS church and found much peace in being a member. His uncle supported him while he went to public school. When he was 20 years old, he went on a mission in the DR Congo, where he worked very hard. Following the completion of his mission, Kone was accepted to BYU-Hawaii, where he is about to complete his studies in Finance. He will soon be heading out to obtain an MBA at BYU-Provo. His goal is to become an Investment Counselor




Kone has served Heavenly Father in many ways, and he was blessed for it. He married a beautiful daughter of God in a temple of the Lord and is raising an eternal family. He has a beautiful baby boy named Kenneth.








With all of these blessings poured upon him, Kone had finally found a peace and joy he never thought possible. But he was not completely happy. He wanted more. This desire was not born out of greed but rather gratitude. He wanted to reach out to other children trapped in child slavery. He wanted to help communities to become stronger. He even wanted to reach out to the cacao ranchers and help them improve their systems so that they would not need to depend on utilizing low wage workers in order to make a profit.





Kone has organized a movement called WELL Africa (World Education for a Legacy of Liberty). Since 2012 WELL Africa has taken 300 children out of cacao farms to receive an education and over 250 women have received micro financing loans to start businesses. They have trained men in bee keeping. In 2014 WELL Africa completed the construction of its first school.



The next goal is to build a self-sustaining hospital in order to provide healthcare services to the poor communities in Ivory Coast.


Kone returns home in between semesters to plan, educate and build. “It is always an interesting experience for me to be back in the villages and to see what used to be my life. It helps me appreciate the blessings that I got. It also represents a great source of inspiration and humility as I see what I was and what I have the potential to become now that I am going to school.”




He knows that the key to permanent change is education, support and concern.“When a community is empowered and included in the search of solutions regarding problems it faces, this is the results! The 50/50 Partnership initiated By WELL Africa is working” he explains.


Kone shares that WELL Africa's mission "is to provide long term solutions to the issue of child labor in the chocolate industry." My goal with WELL-AFRICA is to tell to those kids that they can rest, dream, and hope for a better future. I stand today as a driving force to get those kids out of the farms, offer them an environment where they can reach their potential, and build schools where they can make their own dreams come true.”


Sery Kouma Kone has asked us to help him tell the story of WELL Africa and to join him in the movement to end child labor. I am very blessed and humbled to know that I may have – in some small measure - the means to help.  I have connections. Those who know me well know that I have gone on a few medical outreach clinics to 3rd world countries. One of the organizations I worked with, Project Cure, has a program to donate medical supplies, including beds, and medical machinery to these types of organizations. I am trying to see if we can match these two programs up. It won't be easy.  Although the equipment is free, the shipping costs can be astronomical. Kone and I are working together to see if we can satisfy all of the clerical and monetary requirements to make this important goal become a reality. I'm asking for your prayers and faith that we will be successful.  

Kone would be the first one to say that he is only a part of an amazing group of people who love the children of the world and want them to be safe, happy and educated.  The members of WELL Africa are working hard to unite all parts of society - the haves and have nots, the workers and the consumers, the government and the medical personnel to make a change that affects everyone positively. It thrills me to use this blog to bring these important stories to my friends and family.  I hope that you share this with others not only for educational purposes, but also to for inspiration!

If you are interested in in learning more, please go to:

or to view WELL Africa’s Facebook page, go to:  https://www.facebook.com/WellAfrica




Monday, March 9, 2015

Just sharing some pictures from this week's adventures in Paradise

Our last post was almost all narrative.  I thought I'd turn the tables and just share some pics.

Beautiful morning over looking the PCC Lagoon and the Fijian Village

Hula Class - I know - crazy, huh?  We were playing a game.  I lost.
Sisters Cummings and Edginton putting on their best "Vanna" imitation
This was the distribution of door prizes during PCC's Employee Appreciation Day Event.
I've been asked to help make costumes for the Native American
Club in preparation for Culture Night.  This is what they want.
I'm feeling sorry for them that they have to use ME to be their seamstress.

We hiked to the Makapuu Lighthouse - and had a grand time!




Our Gareth - wearing the Aloha Necktie Grandma
sent for his big Baptism Day!  How we miss him!

It was also a big week for our son-in-law - and
we think he's the greatest.  Congrats on your
advancement



Our dear, dear friend Palapala.  Isn't she gorgeous????
That glow comes straight from the heart.

There you go - another great week!

Missionary Thought:  I plead with you to control your tempers, to put a smile

upon your faces, which will erase anger; speak out with words of love and 

peace, appreciation, and respect. If you will do this, your lives will be without 

regret. - Gordon B Hinckley

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Special Day for Gareth


This weekend my grandson, Gareth is getting baptized.  We all know how difficult it can be to miss these wonderful family events.  I miss my family very much, and they let me know that they miss me too.  So Saturday will probably be a little difficult.  I will probably cry a little and feel super sorry for myself because I won’t be there to share the joy of someone that means so much to me becoming a member of the Church I love so well.

I remember when I first joined the Church, thinking to myself “this is exactly what I need and want in my life.  I want to get everything out of the Gospel that I possibly can in order to have a happy life.”

For many years that is exactly what I got out of my faith – lots of joy and comfort.

Once we had our children, once I struggled thru parenthood and those glorious teen years, and then when they started to become adults, my vision of the gospel expanded greatly.  I began to feel a new desire.  I thought about how much my elder brother sacrificed, and continues to sacrifice for me.  I understood His love more as my family grew and my capacity and understanding of love expanded.  My love for my beautiful family actually became – and I had to really ponder to find the right word – exquisite

Alma understood this state of mind, when he said:

Alma 36:21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.

Because I understood love more completely, I understood the Savior more.  With that knowledge, I began to recognize that I wanted something different in life.  I wanted to give back.  I wanted to serve God.  I moved from the question “what can the Gospel give to me” to “what can I give to the Gospel”?

Heavenly Father provides us the opportunity for happiness no matter where we are in our progressions.  He doesn't push us as much as leads us – sometimes gently, sometimes with a yank – but it really is an exquisite process, don’t you think?


1 Corinthians 13:11 Paul stated
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.


When I talk to my grandson this weekend, I will tell him that I am happy for him, and that I love him.  In fact, I love him so much that I crossed the seas to serve a mission, knowing that Heavenly Father would bless him, protect him and teach him.  I have the faith to know that He keeps His promises and also that He loves Gareth even more than I do.....  and for this I am grateful and humbled and full of joy.