Published here is a collection of pictures representing our activities of Christmas 2015 on Tarawa. The people don't celebrate as much like we do (presents and all) but instead celebrate more the spirit and real meaning of Christmas. It is refreshing--no commercializing.
There are trees here that grow these piney looking needles. You'd swear they were Ponderosa, but they are merely branches not the whole tree. We used our fun, homemade decorations from last year. Sis Waldron rigged up four water bottles, tied them together and wrapped them with some fabric to form the tree stand. Filled with water, each bottle had one branch and it balanced up nicely. She wrapped it with some fun local fabric.
On the Wednesday prior to Christmas we spent the evening assembling Christmas packages for all the missionaries. The packages consisted of all the Yule Season candies we could bring on the plane with us when we came plus whatever candy we could find here that seemed Christmassy. After the candy, we filled them with popcorn. Guaranteed to send the average missionary off the wall in a sugar high for hours.
On Christmas Eve we all went to Teaoraereke for a huge baptism. Two families and several others were baptized including 11 souls.
The font at the stake center being on the fritz, we retired to the beach and proceeded to baptize them in the ocean. The surf was quite high and baptizing the little ones was challenging. This is Takaria, one of our good friends here, baptizing his daughter.
This is a view from back a little so you can see the beach area where the baptisms were performed.
Christmas Day saw all the missionaries gathered at the mwaniebwa on the campus. The seniors had prepared a good old summer picnic type meal for the kids. Hamburgers with all the trimmings including: Sis Waldron's homemade buns, Heinz ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, cabbage (lettuce cannot be had here), tomatoes, potato chips (Aussie), Oreo cookies (plus our homemade and decorated ones) and cold slough.
The American Elders thought they'd died and gone to heaven. The local missionaries even enjoyed the fare.
Shown here are a few of the leftover gingerbread cookies. With 30 odd missionaries, we made four dozen plus brownies and the Oreos.
Currently there are only two American sisters here in Kiribati. Sisters Baldwin and Eubanks are both from Cache Valley (I think), at least Sis Baldwin is. They are good hardworking missionaries and despite the conditions, roll with the punches and proselyte with the best of them.
Pictured here are all the sisters on Tarawa. Represented here, besides the two from Utah, are sisters from PPNG, Tonga, Hawaii, Kiribati, Micronesia and Fiji.
A larger contingent of US Elders are represented here. There are not quite half of the Elders who hail from islands of the Pacific. These two pictures do not, unfortunately, represent the elders and sisters who serve on the outer islands; too far to come in for Christmas. Our mission covers a geographic area about the size of the continental US, but the total land mass could fit into Weber County...twice.
Here we see the stalwart senior missionary contingent on the island, including President Weir. Oh, I forgot, Sister Aldredge, the mission nurse was ill today and couldn't make the party. After the lunch, we set up a makeshift theater in the choir room to which the missionaries assembled and watched Freetown, a terrific movie about some Saints in a revolution torn country in Africa.
On Saturday, their P-day, the missionaries all made arrangements to get somewhere so they could contact their families, one of the two times a year they are allowed to "call" home. We had four come to our apartment and interestingly, thought the lines were full, the connections were quite good. The kids in our apartment all made contact and had great conversations with their families. One of our little gals was Skyping with her family in Herriman, Utah. I was surprised because though she is Samoan, her family was in Utah.
It was a great week and a Merry Christmas. We enjoyed losing ourselves in the service to the young missionaries. They work so hard here, have so little and are so appreciative of everything we do for them. They are chipper and positive and wouldn't trade their missions here for the world. We love them.