Another Report From Middle Earth
Another wonderful week spent in Middle Earth! And yes, Middle Earth is magical. Spring has awakened the earth and here that doesn’t mean only gardens blooming to brighten the world with color. Besides fields of yellow daffodils, poppies in every color of the rainbow, and nodding blue and white bell shaped flowers, the trees are cloaked in purple, red, yellow, white, pink, and blue like princesses parading at a ball. Not only that, the fragrances floating on the breeze saturate the air with the most alluring surprises. All that and the gospel, too!
We are so busy and every day brings new delights. Classes are going well, the students are working their way more and more into our hearts (which seems impossible since they are deep in there already!), and the things we are learning are bringing us closer to our Savior.
A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to go with our stake to the temple in Hamilton on the North Island. We are used to attending the temple once a week, and since we hadn’t been for six months it felt pleasantly home-like to go again. And to be there with so many friends and loved ones! I imagine that’s what heaven will be like. It is a beautiful temple and immersing ourselves in its warm goodness all day for several days was incredible.
Two weeks ago we participated in the Christchurch Interfaith Council “Pray for Peace” Ceremony. Listening to representatives from the many faith groups in Christchurch offer prayers from their religious traditions was inspirational and interesting. There are so many good people in this world. It’s a shame the news doesn’t focus more on that good instead of the bad! Afterward the ceremony, I got to ring the peace bell!
We also had the opportunity this past week to participate in the dedication of a new chapel in our stake, the Ashburton chapel. I was asked to play the amazing, new organ for the dedicatory service and the Ashburton YSA choir sang two songs. They sounded like angels and set the tone for the service! After the dedication, a feast was held in the cultural hall. Feast is the only way to describe it. These people know how to do food. There were three rows of tables set up that stretched from one side of the cultural hall to the other, and every table was covered with food—lots and lots and lots of food. The people loaded their plates from those tables and then went outside or sat in chairs around the perimeter of the cultural hall to eat. There was no room in the cultural hall left for tables from which they could eat.
One exception, however! There was a fourth row of tables, a head table, again stretching from wall to wall at which the stake presidency, their wives, the couple missionaries, and a few other people were seated. The food and decorations on this table were astounding. Three whole roasted pigs formed the nucleus of the décor and from each pig bowls of every kind of fruit imaginable, meats, fish, muscles, shrimp, salads, chop suey, taro, bananas cooked in coconut cream, potatoes, bread pudding, and more flowed around the pigs like lava from a volcano. Bottles of both juices and water graced every setting, and as if that weren’t enough they enticed us with a mango, pineapple, and coconut cream drink that I know came straight from heaven because it could not have originated any place else. Then when I was so full I thought I’d burst, they came around with huge tea kettles full of their amazing hot, dark cocoa drink that I’ve fallen in love with. Full as I was, there was no resisting the Samoan cocoa. In short, we didn’t need to eat for two days after that!
Those who know me well will understand the difficulty for me of eating with a pig’s snout still attached to the rest of the pig just inches away from my plate, but the love of the people filling the large hall and floating around the room kept my attention elsewhere so that I managed the event with no problem. It was wonderful!
I’m learning so much from these people about love and joy and contentment and peace! I only hope I can give them a fraction of what they are giving me!