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Tuesday, April 30, 2013


This is a poem by Marianne Williamson, called "Our Greatest Fear."  I have had it posted on my bulletin board in my office for months now.  

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our own darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and famous?"

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking 
      so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us, it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give 
     other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Living in the tropics where days do not shorten and lengthen as much as they do in more temperate latitudes, I have come to rely on the rhythms of the sun to measure my day.  If I wake up and the sun is above the trees, I know I’ve overslept.  But if the sky is just beginning to brighten, then I know I have time to get ready for the day without rushing. 
Sunrise in my back yard.  Yeah, it's a hardship assignment here.

The other night we ate dinner with friends at a restaurant, watching storm clouds approach the northern shore of the island.  Their dark, heavy appearance made us willing to hurry through our dinner and get back into the car, to get home so we could be safe.  We knew that the clouds would bring only rain, not high winds, but the foreboding nature of the clouds was enough to make us concerned.  We had no care to stay and experience the coming rains, as announced by the clouds.  So, we hurried back to enjoy the storm from the safety of our little home, turning on electrical lights to fend off the darkness of the clouds and rain.  As I sat and pondered in our home, some very loosely connected thoughts came to me:

1.  I have heard darkness defined as “the absence of light”.  That definition is used in black and white photography, but I also see it as a metaphor for my life.  The light of knowledge, the light of truth, the light of understanding – my purpose is to seek for light, and then use it to guide my decisions.  I know the standard of light - the quality of light I want to develop in myself.  I must guard myself against absenting myself from the light, and make my choices based upon the quality of light each alternative will provide.  

The other day I was working with some of the leaders of the boys' dorm, and we talked about the word "praiseworthy."  We talked about making decisions based on the praiseworthiness of each choice - which of two good things would you rather be congratulated on?  Which of two (or more) good things would you want your parents, or your leaders, or the Savior, to see you doing?  That is the praiseworthy test.  

One teacher doing a presentation in one of the
classes I teach after school.
2.  The light of education has been easy for me to seek. I have a deep love for the light of learning.  I appreciate the new understandings I gain when I search, and for the new understandings I can impart to others as I teach.  As I work with teachers here in Tonga, I love to watch the light in their faces as they master a new skill, or comprehend a new concept.  But there is so much more for them, and me, to learn.  May we have enough light to understand how to accomplish our worthy goals.

My "tall sister" and her daughter - I am the short sister!
3.  Light is within us all.  I need to remember that.  As I work together with others, I need to remember to bask in the light of others, and absorb the light of understanding - exemplified by the woman in this photo, who asks me almost
as many questions as I ask of her;  the light of patience, exemplified by a teacher who sat there with me for eight hours while we tried to get the computer to cooperate (eight hours - seriously????); the light of love, exemplified by Lehua (at lower left), one of the dorm girls who I have been blessed to know.  When I allow myself time to absorb light from others, I can do more than reflect the light of others – I can become a stronger source of light for others. 

Whether I seek physical sunlight, or the light of education, or the light of love and understanding, or even the light of Jesus Christ, the benefits are the same: increased happiness and capacity.  And isn’t that what we all want in life?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Just a crazy quilt today of pictures and thoughts.  No special connections, no "moral of the story" - just a hodgepodge.

This is a picture of a semi-traditional Tongan home.  It's probably about 12 feet wide by 6-7 feet deep.  Most of the more traditional homes have only two rooms - parents' sleeping room and a common room. All the cooking is done outdoors, on an open fire, and bathroom needs are met by hand-dug latrines and buckets of water.  The shutters, closed against the rain in this picture, can be propped open to allow for ventilation.

This house is more indicative of how most people live in Tonga:  a simple, concrete structure with four or five rooms (common room, parent bedrooms, boy's bedroom and girls' bedroom, perhaps a room for extended family).  The corrugated metal fencing around the yard is to keep the pigs out of the yard, so it's called a pig fence.  This house even has a catchwater system, to store rainwater for household use in the big cement cistern to the right.  The smaller green cistern to the left holds treated water, delivered to the house, for drinking and cooking.  

This is a picture of a missionary, standing beside a child who in my book is an expert fisherman - he caught this small leopard shark with his bare hands.  Not bad for a 9-year  old boy, eh?  "Hey, mom, I got dinner for all of us!"  Families are often seen wading through the waters at low tide to harvest shellfish and urchins to eat - and my goal is to get a picture of a pig in the water, rooting for urchins!!!

This is a typical scene on the road.  You can see whole truckloads of students being delivered to the school here each morning - people find a place to sit, on the corners of the truck bed walls, or standing and holding on to the frame behind the cab window, or just lying down in the bed of the truck.  Don't panic, though, most of the time they're holding on very well, and the trucks rarely go more than 30 mph!

This is John (in Tongan, Sione = say See-OH-nay), one of our security guards here at Liahona.  Our school colors are green and white, so someone found these shirts and bought them for the security guards.  I have to smile when I read the pocket tabs, though:  Homeland Security.  Without going into detail, let me assure you that security at Liahona is much more relaxed than any security system I've ever seen anywhere else.  But we don't need a lot, either.

This is the fire station here.  And by "the fire station", I mean THE fire station.  There's only one in Tonga.  They stay busy!  They have a couple of small tank trucks and a pumper.  Does anyone know a multi-millionaire who would be willing to donate a couple million dollars to build and equip a second station on an island of 70,000 people?

The next picture is just so you know we aren't deadly serious all the time.  This was a mock trial at our recent principals' conference - English powdered wigs and all - charging principals with (shock and horror) making improvements to their educational programs!!!  Turns out they were all guilty, and each was sentenced to eating a 24-ounce chocolate bar at one sitting!

This last picture shows the dais built for the King of Tonga when he came to hand out diplomas at graduation.  This temporary structure was built out from the stage in the school gym/auditorium, and then covered in traditionally woven and painted mats.  The different weaves, patterns and styles of decorating reflect the different clans on this and some of the other islands in Tonga.  But the thing that amazed me most about the whole graduation ceremony was that students climbed up the steps at the right, received their diploma from the king, and then BACKED DOWN the steps again, because it is disrespectful to turn your back on the king!  

Life in Tonga is simple, unstressful, and slow.  And I am learning to appreciate that.