We thought we would share a missionary experience with all of you that was written down by Sister Chynoweth, the Mission Office secretary/assistant manager. This will give you an idea of just how the Lord works among those serving Him. We quote from Sister Chynoweth's letter:
"A few weeks ago in a meeting we attended where President Brewer asked his assistants, Elder Frei and Elder McNeil, what they knew about Ifira Island, a small island nearby. They said they had never been to the island, and didn't know anyone who had. They were instructed to "go and check it out". They talked about what to do with the assignment and pondered how to go about it, but didn't really know where to begin. You have to understand that each small island has a set of chiefs that run the show; one head man and several other lower men who make up the tribal leaders. Everything that happens within the territory of the chief must have his approval. The Elders were still pondering how to begin the assignment when they attended District Conference. There among the crowd of members attending the conference was a sister from Malekula. She had been baptized last year by Elder Frei, and they were delighted to see each other again. He learned that she had moved from her home island and was living... you guessed it, on the island the Elders were instructed to research. She said that she and her boyfriend want to get married, and that he is very interested in learning about the gospel and getting married in the temple. She asked if the Elders would come to her island to teach him. She said she would try to arrange a meeting with the chief to see if he would give permission for the lessons to be given. A few days later the Elders got on a boat and headed for their appointment with the young couple. On the ride over they sat next to a native grandma lady and struck up a conversation with her. When the boat docked, they asked if they could please help her carry her heavy bags to her destination. She was grateful for two clean, strong young men who were willing to help her. She asked where they were planning to go, and when they told her they had a meeting with friends, she smiled and said, "I live very near your friends, I will show you where they live." They proceeded through a labyrinth of small streets and paths and at last, arrived at a place they could never have found on their own. The young couple and the missionaries talked together and made a plan. A meeting with the chief was arranged.
When the missionaries met the chief, he was reluctant and suspicious as he greeted them. He asked if they were Jehovah's Witnesses, and if they were going to expect to be paid to preach. They introduced themselves and explained that they were from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that they were serving as missionaries, at their own expense, for two years. They told him that the young lady and her boyfriend wanted the missionary discussions and said they had come out of respect for him as the chief, to ask for permission to teach on his island. His countenance softened, and he told them they had five minutes to convince him it would be a good thing for his people to learn what they had to share. The chief called in one of his 12 counselors to join in the meeting, and the Elders began... they spoke of their commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and their sacrifice to be in Vanuatu. They talked about the importance and eternal nature of families and of another testament of Jesus Christ that had been written on plates of gold. The Spirit came, minds were opened, and hearts were softened. The Chief said, "I can not stop God". He gave permission for the Elders to come to teach the young man. Then the chief asked if they had power to give blessings. The Elders affirmed that they held Priesthood power and could indeed give blessings. The chief said he was in pain; he had been having pain in his chest and he needed a blessing. All eyes were on the Elders as Elder Frie anointed chief Mantoi Kasekau III. Then Elder McNeil placed his hands upon the head of the chief and pronounced a blessing. The chief was told in the blessing that because he had been kind to the servants of The Lord, he would be blessed and that as he led in righteousness he would be blessed with strength and with wisdom, and that his family and his whole village would be blessed and prosper. At the moment the Elders lifted their hands from his head, the chief's burning pain in his chest stopped and a feeling of cool comfort replaced it.... he was healed. The chief was amazed and impressed. He gave his full permission for the missionaries to come to the island and teach anywhere, any time.
It is wonderful to see how the Lord works among His children. It is wonderful to see how the Lord guides our path in all that is needed to accomplish our assignments."
We are indeed blessed to be working among these humble people. We hope our efforts will indeed help lift them up and bring joy to their lives as they realize the importance of gaining knowledge and training to help them become self reliant. It takes time and patience and for the most part the results of our labors won't be realized until after we have left Vanuatu. We know this is where we are suppose to be laying the ground work for the future of many in Vanuatu.