Friday, March 30, 2012

LDS Hawaii Heritage night

Several months ago I had some of our old home-movies transferred onto DVD. Among the stacks of VHS was a movie my Uncle George Stokes recorded while on his mission in Hawaii in 1957. It starts out with him standing in old-town Honolulu, wearing a suit and a hat, standing in front of Diamond Head. This was before the large hotels, before the loads of tourists, back when life in Hawaii was still quiet and simple. He takes the video camera around with him for the next 2 years, capturing bits of Hawaii as it was before.
What I love most about this video is the images of the church members at that time. It shows several baptisms in the ocean, and members socializing outside church chapels, next to their 1950's cars, with their 1950's hair-do's. There are many shots of children running around and laughing, and people standing in places unfamiliar to our times, such as Laie before it was very developed. There is one shot of Laie, where it is mostly all coconut trees! It shows the Laie Temple before it was landscaped, plain and simple. It shows gatherings of missionaries, playing the ukulele and smiling. One of my favorite scenes is a baptism on Maui, where after a Hawaiian man is baptized, he swims joyously around in circles, with a huge smile on his face! At the end of the video there is a hula performance, some fire-knife dancing, and a visit from President David O. McKay, who has come to dedicate the Church College of Hawaii, which is now Brigham Young University Hawaii.

I have always loved this video, for so many reasons. It reminds me of the unique history of the Latter-Day Saints here in Hawaii, as well as the beauty that has come from combining the truth of the restored gospel with the Hawaiian culture. It also reminds me of how my family ended up here, because of the mission of my father in 1967. I have grown to love and cherish these islands, and love being a part of this rich, cultural and gospel history.
Me and my best buddy Shannon in front of the Laie Temple, 2001

After viewing this video, I felt inspired to share it with the youth in our church, somehow. After thinking about it for several days, I came up with the idea for a
"LDS Hawaii Heritage" night.
I wanted our youth to be able to look back in time and see how their lives (weather they are from Hawaii originally or not) are woven into the history of Hawaii and the gospel, through being members of the church. I wanted them to feel the spirit of those who came before them, who led the way for them to be followers of Christ, and know how their past has affected their future, in these latter-days. I wanted them to walk away having a stronger foundation of who they are, and what they stand for, because of their gospel and cultural history.

The "LDS Hawaii Heritage Night" was this past Wednesday night, and it turned out really great! I am so glad I did this! We had a group of about 25 Young men and women come. I started by sharing a large time-line I made, to showcase the dates in history of most significance. I wanted them to have a visualization of their history up to 2012. I started with our Latter-Day history beginning in 1820, just 192 years ago, when Joseph Smith knelt down to pray, and received the first vision. The time-line ended in 2012, where we are today in Waikahe Ward, Hilo Stake, on the Big island, Hawaii.

Here's some of the significant events on the time-line that have led us to where we are today:
(**Resources for this time-line include the book "Moramona, The Mormons in Hawaii" by R. Lanier Britsch, Wikipedia, and which I have hyperlinked, The Book of Mormon, and my own knowledge.)

1820:Joseph Smith, a young farm boy living in Manchester, New York seeks guidance from the Holy Bible on which is the right path to follow, or which is the right church to join. He is reminded in James 1:5, to pray and ask in faith, and he would receive answers. He went to a grove of trees to pray and was visited by two personages, which he knew as Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They told him not to join any of the churches of this day, for they were all missing key pieces of the true gospel of Christ. This was the beginning of a new church that would be formed, an everlasting gospel for the Latter-days.
By 1830-The Book of Mormon has come forth through an angel, translated from ancient script by Joseph Smith, been published, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is officially organized.... aka the Mormons.
1844-The Prophet Joseph Smith is shot and killed in Missouri, by people who hate and despise the church. The Latter-Day Saints are persecuted and seek refuge in the West.
1847-A new prophet is called, Brigham Young, who leads the Saints to Utah where they are able to settle in peace, free from religious persecution.
1850- Brigham Young sends ten missionaries to Hawaii, which at the time is called "The Sandwhich Isles Mission."
December 1850-The first LDS missionaries arrive in Honolulu, Hawaii. One of the more faithful and determined missionaries, George Q. Cannon, begins to learn the Hawaiian language after 2 days, and can communicate effectively with the native Hawaiian people after 3 weeks.
February 1851-The first Hawaiian is baptized into the LDS church, a 16 year old boy.
by 1854-The Book of Mormon has been translated and then published into the Hawaiian language, with the help of Jonatana H. Napela, a Hawaiian man that was converted to the gospel on Maui. Many Hawaiians are converted to the message of the gospel after reading the Book of Mormon.
1854-1865-The missionary efforts continued to move forth, although there were many setbacks and struggles along the way. At one point the Saints decided to build up a settlement on the island of Lanai. This plan wasn't successful due to many problems with failed crops, isolation, and disease, which wiped out many of the members at that time. At one point Brigham Young ordered all the missionaries to come back home to the mainland, which halted the work in Hawaii. The newly baptized Saints were left alone, with very little guidance on how to perform ordinances or carry out correct doctrinal instruction. There were even some haters who tried to destroy what was already accomplished.
1865-Missionaries had come back and purchased the Laie plantation, a 6,000 acre area on the North shore of Hawaii. This was to be the next place the Saints would try to settle, building schools, churches, and a community of Christian Saints.
Stakes, wards, and missionaries are spread out over all the islands, as the church members begin to grow in large numbers.
1919-The Laie Hawaii Temple opens to the people of Polynesia, a place of refuge and worship for the Saints of the pacific. Hawaiian families from outer islands and Polynesian families from all over the Pacific, save up to come to Hawaii, to be sealed together as eternal families forever.
1957-Here we stopped and watched the video of my uncles mission. The footage was originally 26 minutes long, but I edited it down to 15 minutes. To be honest, I was really worried the youth would get bored after 5 minutes because of the slow nature of the video, but I was so wrong! They loved it, they were totally immersed in it, and I knew they felt the spirit of the message I was trying to send.
1963-The Polynesian Cultural Center opens in Laie, which becomes a pathway to exposing millions of tourists to the gospel each year!
1967-I talk briefly about my Dad's mission, and how our family ended up in Hawaii. I talked about my great, great, great, great, great Grandmother Lydia Downer Gates, who was baptized in the 1820's after reading the Book of Mormon, a really amazing story you can read more about here: Lydia Downer gates (1810-1896)

I stopped again here and had a sister from our ward, Celeste Ha'o, get up and speak for about 15 minutes about the impact the church has had on her family, as descendants of Hawaiian ancestry.
Celeste's families' roots go way back to before Captain James Cook landed here, before Hawaii was developed into a Western culture, back to ancient times, when her families religious values and belief systems were based on natural mythology, and folk tales.
She got up and bore a beautiful testimony of how the restoration of the gospel, and the knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ changed her families lives. She told about the conversion of her great grandmother, and how because of her grandmother's belief in the gospel, it allowed her family and their ancestors to be sealed together forever in the Temple for eternity.
Lastly, I had the youth come and write their names on the time-line at the year in which they were born. I felt that this allowed them to see how important they are, as history continues to grow. They are now a part of a ward, and members of a church, that has the ability and influence to bless the lives of their families and friends for good. They are part of a beautiful combination of gospel and cultural history, that they can cherish and pass on for the eternities. I encouraged them to go home and find out more about their ancestral ties to the church, or if they are the first ones to be baptized in their families, to go home and write down their histories, starting now. Someday their great, great, great, great grandchildren may want to read all about it, thus strengthening their own testimonies.

I was really glad I did this, as it was a very positive experience for me. The way the Polynesian Saints have grasped the truth of this knowledge and continue to live it with love and faith, is inspiring to me. I am not Hawaiian, but I grew up in Hawaii, so I don't often feel connected to any one group of people or ancestry. My ancestors are originally from Europe, a place I have never even been. It's hard for me to visualize where I actually, historically, came from. But after exploring the history of Hawaii's gospel ancestry, I feel a deep connection with my LDS family history. I feel like the people in my church are my family, because we share the same history, the same beliefs and values, and the same future in mind. I don't feel very burdened to live far away from my family, because I have this gospel family here who supports who I am.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Heritage

I am grateful for so many things. I am grateful for my life and the experiences I have that open my eyes and give me new perspective. I am grateful for my family, for 3 wonderful sons who bring so much happiness into my heart each day. For a husband who strengthens me spiritually, and has shown me the endless possibilities of knowledge and learning. He is truly a gifted teacher, and a wonderful husband.
I am so grateful to have health, and energy, and the good conscience to make right choices. I am grateful to be right where I am right now, even though I sometimes wonder where we are going next. It's tough sometimes, to not know, but exciting to think of all the possibilities.

I think it hit me after we had been here for several months, that after packing up and moving all the way to Hawaii, I was still homesick for Hawaii--my Hawaii. The one I had grown up with where we spent carefree days rolling around the sand and swimming in the crystal clear waters off the North Shore of Oahu. My Hawaii, where the sun was always shining and friendly faces shown around me, in my little community.
Here on the East side of the Big island it is rainy everyday. The rain forest is thick with vegetation that goes on for miles. The shorelines are rocky, with great, steep cliffs. The ocean often seems chilly, stormy, and uninviting. It has been hard for me to connect with other people, because of the great distance between us on the massive land, and because of the expectations I had about my life here.

However, things are improving and I am feeling more at home in this foreign land. We are moving closer to town, which will be really nice, and not so isolating. We have really grown and bonded as a family, more than ever. We have been able to push through some really hard things, and make some really good decisions regarding the needs of our growing children.

I have also been researching more about the unique history of Latter-Day Saints here in the Hawaii, and it is really exciting! Reading about the heritage of the people here, and how their choices have affected my life, has helped me feel more connected to my island home.

Everyone has a history here, and this is part of mine.

In 1967, my then-19 year old, California-surfer Dad, served his LDS mission here in Hawaii. He served for 2 years between Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island. After his mission was completed, he went back to the mainland and met my mom at BYU Provo in Utah. They were living in Huntington Beach, California, with 4 children, when they up and moved us all to Laie, Oahu in 1984. I was 5 years old.

This was always the beginning of my history here in Hawaii, and how I've always started my story. However, after reading the pioneer stories of the Latter Day Saints, I feel my story actually starts in 1850, when the first missionaries were sent to "The Sandwich Isles" to spread the message of the restored gospel. Because of the missionary efforts here, my Dad was called to this same mission 111 years later. And now 45 years later, here I am raising my family in these beautiful islands.
Hawaii used to be a home exclusively to the Hawaiians, but is now a cultural melting pot, filled with people from all over the world. Since Captain James Cook landed on the Hawaiian islands 284 years ago, this place has become a refuge for immigrants, adventurers, and natives, all seeking for a better life.
The history of Hawaiian islands is enchanting, beautiful, culturally diverse and unique. These are all things I love about Hawaii, and have grown to love more as an adult. Over here on the East side of Big island I don't have my white, sandy beaches or perfect surf, but I have found a little piece of myself in it's history.

I never know where life is going to take me, but I am always open to whatever possibilities are out there.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Popping in

Just popping in to update my life, bloggy style.

I ran 4 miles this morning and it didn't rain, and no dogs jumped out of the bushes at me, so I am feeling pretty good! Hahaha. I still love running!

We decided to move to Hilo, closer to everything. When we landed at this house, in this location, we were testing the waters about where we wanted to be. Turns out I am not too fond of rural living. I thought I would love it, seeing that I am originally a small-town-girl, but small-town and rural are two totally different things. Small town is where you see friendly people everyday, and have activities and plans surrounding your little community. Rural is where I feel isolated, lonely, and disconnected from the entire Universe. So, this was one experiment that was good for me to know, as hard as it has been, I am now committed to living the rest of my life in a town with other people. I am SO ready to move on. (as is the rest of us)
So, we are house-hunting right now and really excited to live closer into town where we have better access to the beaches, the library, the farmer's market, the sidewalks for running and biking, and the friendly faces of community.

Now for some kid updates:
Zadok turns 6 this week! He lost his first tooth last Sunday, too! I honestly wasn't expecting it to happen so soon! It was wiggly all week, then popped out in his Sunday school class. He has been so proud. He left the little tooth under his pillow for the Tooth Fairy to take. The Tooth fairy came, and brought him one dollar in exchange for his tooth. He was stoked! He's been really obsessed with making money lately, wanting to save it for "a really expensive toy". Tonight Zadok went into the back room and said he was going to be busy coloring. A few minutes later he came out with 3 pictures that he said he drew for Micah, Sally, and Odin. He told us,"I drew you guys pictures with your names on them!" I replied immediately,"Wonderful! How nice of you!" And he replied immediately back,"They cost one dollar each."
We got a good laugh out of that. It reminded me of those ladies on Waikiki beach that put a beautiful lei around your neck and then ask for 5 dollars. haha Zadok is really good at math, and loves counting, numbers, and money.
I don't know what he would buy if he did have money. He is always so happy with whatever he finds or makes. This past week he wanted a watch that would turn him into aliens, so we made him one out of Toilet paper rolls. Here he is wearing his creation:

The Ben-Ten TP roll alien watch:

And Odin turns four this month!He is very excited to turn four and was practicing really hard how to hold up four fingers. He laughed hysterically when I showed him how to hold up 6 fingers. He finds some things really oddly funny, and I love his little giggle. He loves making crafts. Today when I came home from my jog he was at the table with the hot glue gun, and a bunch of Popsicle sticks, creating a masterpiece. Odin is also the one who goes outside everyday to check the chicken eggs, collect them, wash them, and put them away in the house. He likes to be busy, and is such a cutie pie!

Jonah is 19 months! Jonah brings us his favorite animal encyclopedia and has us point to everything over and over again. He knows every animal and can point to them if you ask him..i.e "Where's the Tasmanian devil Jonah?" Or, "Point to the scorpion, Jonah". He loves to sit there and have you tell him all the words. If you don't respond right away, he screams at you. "AAAAAAAaghhhh!"
He is saying new words every day. This week he said Yucky yuck, Hi, and Ball. He calls his milkies "Na-na", which is really far off from the word milkies, but he came up with it on his own, which is adorable. He is a very busy toddler. He loves to go outside, and wander. He loves his Dad. He loves cheese, and bananas, and broccoli, and cracking open hard-boiled eggs, though only sometimes eating them. He loves giving hugs and big, open-mouth kisses, and I love him!

So life is busy, as usual.
I am excited for this move.
I am grateful for the friends who have come into my life and helped me and motivated me in all these transitions.
I am so grateful for Micah, my husband and best friend. We have really grown in ways I didn't know possible, and feel much more happier and secure in our marriage than ever before.
I am glad I got this calling in Young Women's, even though I have to leave it now. I feel it really served an important purpose for me these past few months, in feeling more connected.
I am also feeling much better about homeschooling, as we've made more friends and found ways to connect with other people.
I am grateful for God who knows me so well, and continues to lead and direct my life. For putting me thru the refiners fire, so I could be better off in the end.

Til next time! Aloha!