Under the Coconut Tree

The following week brought with it many emotions, probably every emotion a human body can possess. The end of our current adventure was on the horizon and no matter how many times we turned our heads or prayed for cancelled flights, we were facing the inevitable: leaving our Fijian family and the land we had all grown to love.

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Sunday, we worshiped at a Methodist church in a neighboring village called Loa. This was the 3rd of 3 main churches on our side of the island. The entire service was in Fijian, but to our pleasure different groups presented special music.
The new group of doctors for the week had arrived by the time we walked back from church. The MNC had once again taken on a new look. An eye team took over the surgery and prep room. From floor to ceiling, the walls were lined with new supplies and various medications. Even the refrigerator stocked with cold drinks had a new addition: 2 corneas and a little vial of amniotic fluid for eye repair. Many rooms, even the holding area outside of the doctor’s office were used for all the various types of eye screenings. In the midst of all of this, the gynecologist found a home in Dr. Anibal’s office. The pediatricians set up their area in the worship room. Nestled on the other side of the clinic, in a room set up to host 4 dental patients, another dentist prepared himself to work alongside Dr. Grandpa, a 94 year old patron of the MNC.

Monday was a very busy day. Nani requested the 3 of us split up and offer our assistance in the areas of gynecology, eye screening, and eye surgery. Hundreds of patients from all around neighboring villages, towns, and even islands came prepared to stay for the whole day or even over night. Hallie assisted Dr. Ackerman and a group of Pepperdine students to see a range of gynecological patients. In the bustle of the day, Hallie even found herself assisting him to remove a fatty tumor from a patient right there in the doctor’s office. Sarah and another group of students divided and conquered the daunting task of eye screenings. This was necessary to prioritize the patients in dire need of eye surgery. Ashley had a long day in the operating room. Some of the tools necessary to ease the cataract procedure did not work requiring the doctors to go about the surgery using the older, longer method. In the OR she learned so much from the doctors performing the surgery and the nurse, Giana, assisting them.
After spending every waking moment together in and out of the office for the past 2 months, a day apart called for a night of sister time.

As mentioned in our last blog we had once attempted the volcano hike, but turned around shy of the crater. With Hallie leaving this day, we only had one obstacle standing in our way from a proper send-off. At 0411, 6 hours before the departure of the bus we would take into town, the 3 of us alongside our jungle men and Marta Tooma set out on a mission. Under the cloak of dawn and the low beam of 3 flashlights we filed into the jungle. The Fijian to set our pace served mostly as the path clearer/ bore spotter. While he seamlessly glided up the steep dirt walls, those of us trailing behind (Sarah and Ashley) fought to keep up. In the time it once took us to make it halfway, we had reached the summit and were the first in the world to watch the sun rise (or so they say). Seeing that we would be able to make it back in time for one more worship service we kicked it into high gear. Each taking a “hand hold” or Fijian, we all slipped, sled, and slammed our way down the mountain. In an area heavily populated with bamboo trees, one of the jungle boys, Saula, produced a Fijian trumpet or simply a hallow stalk of bamboo. Our hiking crew instantaneously became a one pitch band. Our favorite tune: seeing who could blow into the bamboo the longest. With everyone around us now awake, we rejoined everyone back at the mission. As a final salute to Hallie, she found herself being the ‘someone’ in a game we liked to play called “someone’s going in the pool.” Worship was conducted outside on this day and lead by some of the Pepperdine Students.

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ImageDuring our whole time in Fiji, we have been amazed by just how super human Fijians truly are. During this last worship with Hallie, we were faced with the Fijian kryptonite: saying goodbye. With tears in everyone’s eyes the Farewell song was sung to Hallie. “See you laters” were shared and another busy day got underway. The 10:30 bus rolled around all too soon and we embarked our last journey to town together. By the time we arrived, we only had time for our farewell treat: toasted coconut ice cream. After saying goodbye to many sweet friends we made during our weekly trips to the market and being assured that we would always have a place to stay in Fiji, we boarded the last bus out of town and set out for Hallie’s final destination, the airport. After a quick goodbye on the side of the road, Ashley and Sarah looked back, sad to see one sister go, but happy for the new adventure that was starting for this European angel.

ImageLife back at the mission was just not the same anymore. As mentioned before, Hallie was our designated terminator. Without any warning to Ashley and Sarah, as soon as Hallie was out, the wildlife had moved in. If the cockroaches the size of rats or the near traumatic experience Ashley had trapped in the bathroom with the LARGEST spider she had ever seen and a lizard wasn’t enough, the “spider eggs” (later to be determined rotten timber scratched away from the rugby players above us) on Ashley’s bed really put us over the edge. With our emotions already frazzled and our can of bug killer empty, Ashley and Sarah had no choice but to scream, cry, and shoe anything and everything that moved out of our house. During all of this commotion, Siwa ran over expecting to see a cow in our yard. Questioning our sanity and survivability out in the jungle without Hallie, he decided Ashley and Sarah shouldn’t be left alone, so he let his daughter Mila slumber party with us for the rest of our time there.

Wednesday was another busy day in the clinic. Sarah spent the afternoon in the OR with the eye team while Ashley spent her day between the OBGYN and the doctor’s screening eyes. Sarah had a fun day in the OR with a future nurse from Pepperdine. Sarah and Giana were able to walk her through her first IV! The last patient of the day, Ashley and Sarah left for this new nurse to take on from start to finish. With another successful IV under her belt and her charismatic personality, Ashley and Sarah knew the clinic would be left in good hands. At the end of the day, the doctors de-stressed from a busy day by taking turns on the zipline.

Thursday Sarah and Ashley rotated their time with the doctors. Sarah was with the OBGYN and Ashley, once again, scrubbed in for surgery. The flow of the clinic was as steady as the first day. New patients were in and out making bookings for the next group while other patients were leaving the clinic feeling happy in the restoration of their health.
Thursday evening was a fun cultural experience for all. Villagers from Loa came over and sang traditional songs while men carrying spears decked out in tribal paint and grass skirts performed Fijian rituals. Later, our Fijian meal was pleasantly interrupted by the arrival of the “Natuvu warriors” from a day of battle defending the mission. The sons/ friends of the MNC workers performed a Fijian dance. To no surprise, this battle dance was followed up by a unique performance from the “Kipe warriors of Southern California.” The night ended in an uproar of hysterical amusement as Siwa was finally thrown, fully clothed, into the pool. Not going down without a fight, Siwa chased and carried Ashley to the pool with him. Suddenly it was a free for all. Who went in the pool? It started with an E and ended with veryone.

ImageAfter a very emotional worship Friday morning filled with encouraging words, advice for the future, pleas to return, and special music Sarah and Ashley found ourselves lying on the concrete floor of our house emotionally exhausted. Shortly, Raijeli came over to retrieve us for the surgeries for the day. Reluctantly, we got up and headed over to the clinic. Once we got there Raijeli confessed that actually the doctors were packing up to leave today and she just wanted our entertainment as she cleaned. To this point, Ashley and Sarah had discovered a new song, a theme song for the duration of our trip, called “Coconut Tree.” From the moment the two of us heard this song, it never left our lips or the ears of those around us. Forgetting our emotions of sadness, joyful dancing and much laughter ensued for the rest of our day.

Saturday we all boarded the boat with captain Serino and set out for Kioa Island. We were graciously accepted on the island and each given a headdress of beautifully and intricately woven flowers. After a quick tour of the village and the new Kinde school, the women of the village hosted a lunch for us all. A table as wide as the room itself was loaded with all kinds of meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, and other Kioan delicacies. There was such an assortment of every type of food. Many of us played the game “try everything” or “try each type of fish” while others were playing “take a bite of the hottest pepper in the entire world and try to survive.” Ashley and Sarah were able to meet the wife and family of one of the workers, Pese, who only travels home to Kioa on the weekends and lives at the mission during the week. In order to live on the island, one must have a family or friend that lives there. Yes, Ashley and Sarah did attempt to use their connection with Pese to attempt to stay in Fiji longer. After lunch, the ladies turned the meeting room into a shopping area displaying their impressing hand-woven handicrafts. We hit the volleyball court after for a quick round of games before we departed from the island. One the way home, Serino docked the boat in a good area for snorkeling. The rest of our day was spent swimming and flipping off the boat.

ImageJust as we hiked the volcano with Hallie on her last day in Fiji, Ashley and Sarah couldn’t leave without one last adventure. Accompanied by our Fijian friends, we set out for Buca Village to hike the “Cannibal Caves.” According to Siwa, the skeletal remains found here were left behind from his cannibalistic ancestors. The hike was just as intense as the one up the volcano with 30-foot rock wall to scale. After many slips, trips, and dips we reached the top to enjoy one last look over all of Buca Bay.

ImageImageAfter a morning full of adventure, we decided that we wanted the rest of our time spent at the mission doing something we all loved: playing volleyball. After many laughs we shared one last lunch with everyone. As the time for the taxi’s arrival was drawing nearer, we began saying our goodbyes.

There are no words to describe the impact the past 2 months have had on us, the relationships we have made, and the times we shared together. We all truly became a family and no amount of distance will sever this relationship. Though we were departing with contact information and sure of our promises to return, saying goodbye for the time being was so difficult. All of the encouraging words shared by MNC staff and Pepperdine students have stuck with us and helped us to make the transition to this next journey in life.

Thank you all so much for being a part of us on this journey. Thank you for your support to help make this adventure happen and for the prayers daily. We truly felt your support and could not have done all that we have without such great support from our friends and family. The Mission at Natuvu touched all of our hearts and changed our lives and we hope that by this blog, your heart may also be touched.

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New Friends and New Places

What a busy last few weeks it has been for us. It seems like we hit a turning point and everything started happening at once. The clinic was closed Monday, April 21 to allow time for those traveling over Easter weekend to get home and settled before beginning work again. Tuesday was another typical day in the clinic. We cleaned a couple flesh wounds and applied dressings to prevent infection and saw another case of Dengue Fever.

On Wednesday the prime minister came to the school in Vatuvonu for the grand opening of the secondary school. He personally cut the ribbon in celebration of the completion of the computer lab and economics building. The celebration was huge and included a warm welcome with the Fijian national anthem sung by the entire crowd, a special performance by the school’s marching band, a question and answer session regarding community progress and requests, followed by a village feast for all. Somehow, however, the fact that we were invited to join in on the feast was lost in translation, so the three of us missed out on the traditional Fijian meal. Hallie and Sarah were quite upset, but Ashley was quite relieved that she didn’t have to choke down any more fish eyeballs.

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Later that afternoon Siwa and his son, Vili, took us hiking up the volcano. This “quick and easy” hike for the barefoot jungle men turned out to be a little more than the three of us “European Angels” expected. After walking 1.5 hours into the jungle, trailing a fearless and untamed Fijian man armed with a handmade machete swinging vigorously from branch to branch to clear the path, the ascent started to get a bit steeper. By steeper I don’t mean we began to lose our breath. By steeper I mean we began clawing left and right for a branch, a root, or even someone else’s limb to prevent us from sliding down the wall of dirt and mud we seemed to be scaling. We scrambled and scurried and scuffed our way up the side of the volcano until the afternoon rain shower presented a tough dilemma. Do we continue climbing in the rain and mud and risk a slippery, dangerous route back down after an unrewarding view of rain clouds at the top? Or do we turn back in hopes of another chance to summit with a beautiful view of Buca Bay and a much safer descent on a later date? We reluctantly opted for the latter which will be described in the next blog post.

The climb down the mountain proved to be just as challenging and gruesome as the climb up. While Siwa was coaching Ashley down the vertical mud wall, he suggested she let go of the rock she was clinging to in order to descend a few paces closer to him. Ashley doubtfully, yet trustingly released her tight grip on the rock and suddenly found herself plummeting down the mud slide and bringing Siwa along with her! Thanks to Sarah’s bravery and strength, the speeding duo were stopped along the way before any bones were broken. Thank goodness muddy clothes and a hearty chuckle were the only results of all the commotion.

During our hike back we enjoyed a juicy pawpaw (papaya) plucked freshly from the tree. We also stumbled across a massive bundle of lady fingers (miniature bananas) that were too tempting to pass up. Siwa hacked his way into the forest to chop down the tree and retrieve the treasures. We tied them to a tree branch and marched them out of the jungle. They were proof of a successful journey after all.

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Later on during the evening Ashley found a friendly lizard creeping and crawling around her suitcase. Since it was nearly time for bed, and she was fearing for her life, she called down to Hallie (the house exterminator) for some assistance. A few minutes later the two girls were swiping and swatting at the lizard, attempting to catch it inside a ziplock bag to release the little guy outdoors. Unfortunately, they were out of luck (after scoring such a fruitful bundle of lady fingers) and the lizard got away.
Thursday and Friday were typical days at the clinic. We didn’t see any special cases requiring surgery but treated several dermatological and respiratory cases.

On Saturday we attended the seventh day Adventist church with Dr. Anibal and Nani. The speaker was actually a special guest from Australia whose message focused on empowering teachers for spiritual education. Even though we’re nurses, not teachers, we appreciated a full message in English! We joined Dr. Anibal and Nani for lunch at their house afterward. Once again, Nani impressed us with spinach pie, polenta pizza, tuna and rice salad, coleslaw, homemade pineapple juice, and ice cream with fresh passionfruit and lemon cookies for dessert. We enjoyed hearing more about their kids and previous life as missionaries in Madagascar.

Monday morning was a big day for us because we taught the entire staff CPR. It was so encouraging to have everyone’s undivided attention and eagerness to learn the skill. We did the best we could, considering English isn’t their first language. After our sufficient, albeit brief, explanation and Dr. Anibal’s vivid demonstration of chest compressions on his accordion, I think we really hit the message home.

Since there was a tremendous amount of people staying in Vatuvonu, the village just down the road from us, for the weekend’s Teacher’s Convention, Tuesday brought us a lot of action in the clinic. Many of the visitors stayed an extra day in order to see Dr. Anibal with their health concerns. We had a constant influx of patients all morning. With such a high patient load, we were unfortunately forced to start turning people away.

That afternoon we hosted a Farewell Potluck at our house for all the staff members. Once again we had nearly 25 people in our living room feasting on traditional, and some untraditional, Fijian dishes. Before digging into the meal, we expressed how grateful we were for everyone’s generosity and love over the past two months. It was an emotional time for us as we knew our time in Natuvu was coming to an end much quicker than we desired. We managed to hold back any tears since we still had a couple weeks left and a lovely feast before our eyes. And feast we did! When silverware was short, a spoon was offered by one attendee then licked and instantaneously reused by another. In Fiji, everyone is family!

Tuesday we went to Labasa with Dr. Anibal and Nani in search of extra mattresses since the group of Pepperdine students and physicians soon to arrive was larger than expected. We didn’t get to see much of the city, but we did manage to bring back three new mattresses for us to sleep on. During our pit stop in Savusavu, we stumbled upon God’s gift to mankind.. in the form of homemade toasted coconut ice cream. I think we dreamed about it for many days following!

The next morning was busy with preparations for the Pepperdine students to arrive that evening. Since the doctors who are coming with the Pepperdine group would be staying in our house, we moved to a smaller house just next door to the clinic in order to give them more space. There was much work to be done on our new home so we moved beds, laid vinyl, painted walls, and cleaned sinks in our new home. Later in the afternoon we heard a lot of commotion in our yard near the volleyball court. Pepperdine had arrived! We spent the rest of the evening playing games, learning names, and getting to know one another. It didn’t take long for us all to get acquainted. We grew very fond of the students rather quickly and knew our limited time with them the next couple of weeks would be treasured.

Thursday and Friday in the clinic was a learning experience for everyone. Unfortunately, the team of physicians were not to arrive until Sunday, but we kept busy with the six circumcisions scheduled for each day. It is Fijian culture to be circumcised between ages 8 and 14. It is a coming of age ceremony for the young boys and is quite a big deal for them. After the surgery, each boy took a fully exposed photograph and then received a ceremonial sulu to wrap around his body. They each walked out of the operating room with their chins a bit higher and their chests a bit fuller.

The three of us helped in surgery and also saw patients as usual, allowing a few Pepperdine students at a time to watch the process of triaging. We taught them how to take blood pressure, what types of questions to ask patients who present with different signs and symptoms, how to take a medical history, and any other helpful hints we could think of. In the afternoons we played volleyball or rugby with the students and local villagers. We also played spot-the-Fijian-in-the-80-foot-coconut-tree! Whether drinking fresh coconut water, having choreographed dance parties, or throwing others in the pool, there was never a dull moment!

Saturday morning we traveled with the Pepperdine group to Taveuni, the garden island of Fiji. We took a 45 minute boat ride across the bay, thanks to Captain Mo. Upon arrival we embarked on a short hike to the natural water slides amidst the Fijian jungle. Over many, many years, the power of the water flow has smoothed the surface and carved a curvature in the underlying rocks to create a natural water slide. Though it does in fact resemble a water slide by the looks of it, the water has failed to smooth out the surfaces 100%. After several hours of repetitive and continuous trips down the falls, nearly everyone walked away in extreme pain with bruises already surfacing on our backsides. Regardless, our time there was pure joy at the feeling of being a small child again. And there was no shortage of laughter while watching the horrendous faces made by those brave enough to face the biggest waterfall. We were even joined by Marta Tooma herself! Up until this point we had merely heard stories of this legend. Marta, a dentist, and her husband. Tom, an ophthalmologist, are the founders of the Mission at Natuvu Creek. We were thrilled to finally meet her! She exceeded all of our expectations after hearing so many impressive and fascinating stories about her. She even confirmed that she had once kayaked all the way from the Mission to Rainbow Reef Resort, a 25 minute high speed boat ride, in 4 hours. What a woman!

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Immediately following the water slides, we zipped across the bay back to Vanua Levu to Rainbow Reef Resort where we spent the afternoon. We were greeted with fresh coconuts, homemade pizza, pawpaw salad, and coconut snowball ice cream. After filling our hungry bellies, everyone split in opposite directions to play volleyball, paddle board, kayak, hike, or just enjoy one another’s company in the Fijian sun. Thankfully, after a wonderful but exhausting day of adventure, Captain Mo got us home to Natuvu safe and sound. We were grateful for a lovely day spent with new friends!

Over Halfway

Ni Sa Bula Vinaka,

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We now have three weeks remaining in our memorable journey. The feeling is bittersweet. We are all excited to be home to see our family and friends, but the relationships and adventures we have experienced are unforgettable. We are now well known on the island, as we are some of the only white people here. News travels fast when there are three nurses visiting for two months.

Last week, a dentist from Seattle came to volunteer for four days. He brought along with him his wife, Shannon, and four children, Bella (6), Ben (8), Tommy (10), and Jake (13). We had an absolute blast with the Beatty family. We moved up into the dorms above the clinic for the week so the family could stay in our house. At worship on Monday, we got to join in with the staff in singing the Fijian welcome song. The night before, one of the workers, Tevita, played his guitar and practiced with us. In the first verse of the song, everyone sings the same pitch. In the second verse, however, we all take different parts and harmonize together. On Monday morning, Ashley and Sarah forgot that we only harmonize on the second verse, so when the end of the first verse rolled around, they really belted out a high note that nobody was prepared for. Luckily, Fijians sing so loud that they were able to disguise their mess up.

Each day we assisted Dr. Lucas (the dentist) in the clinic as he extracted teeth. His two sons, Tommy and Jake, also assisted and served as dental hygienists. Dr. Lucas informed us that many of the tools he was using were very primitive and no longer used in practice in the United States. Regardless, many extractions were successfully performed! On Monday we saw about ten patients. We had high hopes that those patients would return to their villages to spread the word that a dentist was in town. When Tuesday arrived, the clinic was empty. We saw about three patients in a two-hour time span. At this point, Siwa borrowed a workers bike and rode to the secondary school, where he alerted the teachers and principle that the dentist was here. Within an hour there was an entire class in our waiting room. That day, some of the workers even got their teeth checked out. Wednesday and Thursday were similar, with patients coming in through word of mouth.

Each afternoon we got to play with the doctor’s kids. This consisted of swimming, zip lining, and our favorite, RUGBY! Siwa taught us all the quick version of the game, and two afternoons we played boys vs. girls. Some of the workers children also joined in so we had more players. The first day the girls won, and the second day we tied (and no the boys were not going easy on us). After our final round of rugby, we all boarded The Mission boat, and went over to Rainbow Reef Resort, where Dr. Lucas and his family would be staying for the weekend. As we drove off in the boat, some of the local staff members lined the wharf and yelled their farewells. Even though we were not the ones leaving, this brought a tear to all of our eyes. It reminded us to cherish and value the remaining time we have here.

On Thursday, Ashley led the devotion during worship. It started off with the teaching of the song, “10,000 Reasons,” by Matt Redman. The theme of the week was the body. On Monday, Siwa discussed how altogether we form the body of Christ and the importance of each member. Ashley discussed during her devotion the body and our holiness on a more individual level. She talked about how God wants all of us, and not just part of us, and how each of us needs to be the best example of Christ that we can be. On Friday, Sarah and Hallie led the devotion and discussed the struggles of feeling as if our best is not enough. They reminded everyone that we are here to serve God and not man, and that comparison is a defeating reminder from the devil. They focused on the fact that God’s grace is enough, and like any loving father accepts a gift from his child, he graciously accepts our sincere attempts at holiness.

Saturday morning we woke up bright and early because we headed out to Rainbow Reef Resort to spend the day with Dr. Lucas, Shannon, and their family. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. The day was filled with laughter, paddle boarding, volleyball, and a delicious lunch. We all discussed coordinating future trips to Fiji together because of the unforgettable times we shared with this family. We were sad to leave that night, knowing it was the last time we would be seeing the Beatty family; at least for now.

Sunday morning, Palm Sunday, we went to a nearby village called Vunikura to attend the Catholic Church. The receptionist at the clinic, Tina, invited us to join her so we agreed. This day felt particularly hot, as we stood in the beaming sunlight for the first 15 minutes of church. We eventually wandered under the shade, trying to understand a bit of the Fijian message that was being preached. At the end of the service, we were delightfully introduced to many of the villagers. We spent the afternoon sitting in the shade and enjoying the company of those around us. Some of the young men played the guitar and sang for us, while we drank “Kava,” a traditional Fijian beverage served during social gatherings. Kava is normally offered to the chief as a gift when visiting a village, so we were honored to be a part of this experience and we greatly appreciated the hospitality offered to us. While in Vunikura, we met a woman named Ana. In this village there is a very special school called the Kinde School. It is part of the Fiji Kinde Project, and Ana is the teacher. She explained a little bit more about the opening and importance of this school for the village. In 2008, David and Ann Cooper founded the Fiji Kinde Project. The project works to send teams of educators to develop early childhood education throughout villages in Fiji. There have already been 70 Kindes established, impacting over 1500 children, with over 200 trained teachers, Ana being one of them. We had heard about this project previously, but it was neat to see the impact and reality of the school ourselves. To learn more about the Fiji Kinde Project go to:

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 With Easter approaching, the next week went by very fast, with only two days being in the clinic. One of these days, we assisted in surgery. A man came in with an old soccer injury in his heel, where his bone overgrew and would therefore no longer fit inside of his shoes. We gowned up and Dr. Anibal began chiseling away. About an hour later, his heel was sutured and he was ready to go. We worked Monday and Tuesday, and then went to town Wednesday for our usual shopping trip. This day however, was not usual. We typically either ride home with Dr. Anibal, or take the 1:00pm bus. This day we decided to stay longer and take the last bus, the 2:30pm bus. About 15 minutes into our 2.5-hour journey home, the bus came to a screeching stop. With everyone talking Fijian around us, we did not know what was going on. We finally realized that the bus was broken down, and we would have to wait for either a mechanic, or another bus to come pick us up. So we sat there for an hour and a half, making many friends, until another bus eventually came. Arriving home around 6:30pm we were all exhausted and vowed to never take that bus again. The only thing keeping us going that day was the fact that we all were able to get cheesecake and ice cream while in town.

Easter is a very big deal here, and many people travel to other islands or return home to their villages. Because of this, we had Thursday, Friday, and the following Monday off from work. Here, they celebrate Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Sabbath Saturday, Easter Sunday, and they honor Monday as a travel day. During this time, Dr. Anibal and Nani invited the children from Vunikura to come each night to the chapel at The Mission. For about one hour each night, we sang songs and watched a video clip of what happened each night leading up to Easter. He tried to explain to them the importance and meaning of Christ dying for our sins. Saturday, we attended the Seventh Day Adventist Church and were amazed at how many people were there. Many people from villages nearby and other islands came to the church and camped out all weekend. The service was in English because the Seventh Day Adventist President of the Pacific led it. On Sunday, we returned to the school to watch volleyball and rugby, as well as enjoy the company of friends whom we have gotten to know thus far. That night, we returned to the chapel at The Mission for the final night where we taught the children the song, “Lord I Lift Your Name On High,” as well as the hand motions. It was a great ending to a wonderful weekend.

 

Prayer Requests:

 

  1. That we will be able to maximize our remaining time here and be able to share God’s word through our actions and service.
  2. That Sarah and Hallie would be able to solidify plans upon our arrival home regarding jobs, travels, and places to live.
  3. General safety and health.
  4. Pepperdine University sends a team of 25 medical students and they will be arriving next Wednesday. Please pray that God will prepare all of our hearts that we can use this time together to maximize our service.

Love,

Ashley, Sarah, and Hallie

 

 

 

 

A Week Full of Celebrating

Ni sa bula vinaka (a very warm hello),

We are still alive and thriving on this beautiful island we call home.

The clinic has been busy this week with patients we had to reschedule from the last week. Last Wednesday when we were in town with Dr. Anibal and his wife, the doctor was stricken with a fever and became very ill. What ended up as an infection in his foot, sentenced our doctor to spending four days in bed with his foot elevated. He only came down to the clinic for one special case. The clinic remained open Thursday and Friday, we were just instructed to reschedule the patients we could, provide any education to those who traveled far, and only call the doctor for an emergency. As luck would have it, at the peak of Dr. Anibal’s sickness, he was awoken to a casual phone call from Ashley simply stating: “a patient has come in with one of his fingers dangling from his hand and needed sutures”. A man (who had never been to a clinic before) had cut his knuckle completely severing his tendon while weeding some brush. He walked 2 hours down the road praying for a clinic, when low and behold he arrived at the front door of MNC. Dr. Anibal came down, took one look at the guy’s hand, shook his head, and told Ashley and Sarah to gown up (donne a surgical cap, mask, and shoe covers). He was going to open up this man’s hand, fish out the retracted tendon, and stich it back together. As mentioned before, the doctor was feverish so this intense hour long surgery was done without any air conditioning. Following the surgery, there wasn’t a dry spot on the doctor’s scrubs. True to the nature of the Fijian superhuman, this procedure was done with only lidocaine and in a follow-up appointment the hand is healing well with no signs and symptoms of infection.

Thursday night, we were invited to go fishing by Moses (Captain Mo) and other grounds workers. Around 7:30, Tavita knocked on our door and we walked around gathering Captain Mo, his daughter Silvia, and Serino. Currently in Fiji, there is no moon so without any type of light you can forget about seeing your hand in front of your face. As second nature, the men prepared the boat, got us out of the inlet and into the calm seas. Around us we could see lights from other boats and in the water we could see glowing phytoplankton. The night sky was lit up every so often with lightening from a passing cloud. When a light was shown out on the water we could see dozens of jumping fish flying all over the ocean. Once we found our spot, Captain Mo and the other men prepared our boat by putting a lantern in white bucket and hanging it off the side of the boat then squeezing a can of tuna juice and flakes in the water, both of which he says attracts the fish. Before beginning the night’s work, Mo asked Ashley to pray over our fishing trip as the fish we were catching would be the meal of not only his family, but also for the families of Serino and Tavita for the week. He then handed us our fishing poles: an empty 20 oz. bottle wrapped in fishing line. Next, it was time to bait our hooks with something we like to call “tuna dough”: flour, water, tuna flakes. We were instructed to drop our lines 6 meters (arm spans) down and then the fun began. Hallie, sitting next to Captain Mo (in very potent tuna water), caught 4 to add to Moses’ 10. Sarah, Ashley, and the rest of the boat had to get creative to attract the “salala” (stupid fish). We resorted to singing songs, unfortunately with no luck. The salala made away with plenty of Sarah’s bait. Ashley’s dough went unscathed as she snuck in a cat-nap on the bow of the boat later in the night. Moses told Sarah and Ashley not to be defeated by their catch, or lack thereof. Typically, a good night of fishing is around 80 fish. With any hunt, some days are better than others and we were invited back to try again. Hopefully next time Sarah and Ashley will become one with the salala.

The week following came with much anticipation as it brought with it birthday celebrations for Sarah. At worship the week prior, we invited all of the mission workers over to our hacienda (The Hawthorne House) for a Fijian potluck during lunch on Thursday. Sarah’s birthday was Wednesday, a fun filled day we spent in town dining on enchiladas and chocolate cake with homemade coffee ice cream. The best part about this day, aside from all the ‘sister time,’ had to be the dinner prepared by Hallie. The celebrations continued the next morning in worship when everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to Sarah accompanied by Dr. Anibal on the accordion. Dr. Anibal instructed everyone to work hard that morning for at 1, “we party.” Everyone prepared a Fijian dish including: fish, lolo (coconut cream with onions), palusami (taro leaves and coconut cream), various forms of plantains, assorted types of kasava, tarrro, potato salad, polenta, the list continues. For dessert, Sarah was surprised by the biggest cake she has ever seen in her life and another 2 rounds of the birthday song. This day culminated to be more than anything any of us could have imagined, by the end of we all felt like each one of our birthdays were celebrated as our time was spent so joyfully among our new friends. The festivities ended when Sarah was summoned to take a solo picture with the bananas she has been trying to ripen for the past week and a half. As Ashley was counting down for the picture, sneaky Siwa had come up behind Sarah with a huge jug full of water. On the count of 3, Sarah was soaked and everyone erupted in laughter. Rejuvenated, everyone left ready to finish the day’s work.

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One more thing we have started doing every morning after worship is offer an educational discussion on topics important to the workers. So far we have talked about dengue fever and dehydration. Other topics we have been brainstorming include: gastrointestinal parasites, CPR, choking, food sanitation, flies, diabetes, blood pressure, hygiene, etc. We dedicate “Fun Fridays” to a day where the Fijian’s teach us something. This morning we learned the Welcome Song and are anxiously awaiting our singing debut on Monday when a dentist and his family join the crew for the week.

This week brought with it even more good news, on Monday Ashley was offered a position in a new grad program at Children’s Hospital in Knoxville. She gratefully accepted this position and is so excited to start this new chapter in her life upon her return. A special shout out to Dr. Mixer, Dr. Brown, Dr. Hodges, Dr. Chyka, and Ms. Helms for filling out her reference survey.

Prayer requests:

1. As we have started teaching the workers every morning, our prayer is that our topics are simple enough to be understood and that our thoughts come across clear through the language barrier. We also ask for prayers regarding topics, as we don’t want to neglect any important teaching points.

2. Every morning a worker prepares and shares a short devotion during worship. We ask for prayers regarding topic choices and that the Lord speaks through us and meets the needs of those listening.

3. Please pray for the workers and all the hard work they do. It is so encouraging to be around so many men and women who appear genuinely happy every day despite all the challenging circumstances so many of our friends are facing.

4. After spending time in the village and discussing life in the villages with co-workers, we just want to lift up all of the villagers and the problems they face including, but not limited to alcohol, grog (a type of drink with narcotic effect), and drug consumption. Life in the villages is much different than the life we see outside of our house around the clinic.

5. Lastly, we would like to lift up the dentist and his family that are arriving on Sunday for the week. As Dr. Anibal works as a primary care physician, a new dentist will bring with him many new cases. We pray for all the patients we will see and that the Lord’s name will be praised with each surgery.

 

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A weekend full of adventure!

Bula Friends and Family,

We have a lot to update you on! Last Friday we had the honor of attending Buca Bay Village’s first annual National Youth Day event. Our transportation to the village was arranged for 9 am “Fiji time” which meant our leaving Natuvu at 9:50 am sharp. The program was planned to start at 8 am but had only just begun when we arrived shortly after 10. The first half of the day was dedicated to informational sharing from the Health Department, a Police representative, and other counsel members. They each spoke about the purpose and benefits of their branch of the counsel.

At the 10:45 break we introduced ourselves to the congregation and told them what we will be doing during our time here in Fiji. We were then greeted by the counsel with a traditional Fijian welcome, a handshake and an ear sniff. We even got to meet the tuicama, the village headman. Typically a gift is presented during this time in order to receive the chief’s blessing, but this was not expected of us since we were specially invited. After the break for juice and pie, we broke up into groups of men, women, and youth, which ranged from late teens to early thirties. Each group discussed the positive and negative aspects of the youth’s generation and suggestions of how to bridge the gap between the older and younger generations. Each group designated a spokesperson to share with the entire congregation what they had discussed. Some topics covered included the use of tobacco and alcohol in the village, not using the land to its full potential, the decreasing value of marriage, and the lack of respect for the opposite generation. Many excellent solutions were discussed and agreed upon by both parties.

The village then came together for a traditional, communal lunch. We dined on fresh fish from the bay, chicken curry, beef lo mein, roasted tarrro (a Fijian root crop much like a potato) that had been prepared in a lovo (an underground earth oven), and fresh coconut water picked straight from the tree. We were told, “What you don’t eat, you swallow.” Sarah took this advice and even slurped the fish’s eyeball, a Fijian delicacy.

Next, our newest friend Barb gave us a tour of the village where we saw the lovo used to prepare the day’s lunch, her family’s home, the village’s welcome sign which proclaimed, “Buca Bay- Always Nice!”, the tuicama’s home, and the creek where we cooled off and skipped stones. Hallie then joined in on the village’s game of volleyball. She quickly learned that Fijians take no mercy on newcomers and aren’t afraid to spike it at them!

We took the bus back to Natuvu Creek, which again arrived on Fijian time. When we disembarked, we heard a loud, repetitive squeal that caught everyone’s attention. Much to our dismay, two men were walking a live, wild boar tied to a limb over to the bus stop. They casually loaded the squirming boar into a storage compartment under the bus and hopped on board. Welcome to Fiji. The three of us then journeyed home to rest for the remainder of the evening.

Saturday we attended church with Dr. Anibal and Nani again. The message was focused on Matthew 14:22-33. We learned that the boat signifies the church, therefore, “If you want to walk on water, get out of the boat. If you want to walk with Jesus, get back into the boat”, thus explaining the importance of walking with a community of faith. After the service, the congregation walked across the street to the beach to watch the baptism of 21 individuals who publically proclaimed their faith in Jesus and, in doing so, became members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. During the ceremony, we were recruited to the front row of the choir even though every hymn was sung in Fijian. There was a village-wide lunch afterwards in celebration of the new members. Each family provided a plate, and no one went home hungry. Dishes ranged from palu sami (tarro leaves boiled in coconut cream), tapioca salad (similar to potato salad), coleslaw, lentils, fish over plantains cooked in sugar, fish boiled with carrots, fried fish, vegetarian meat made from gluten, lamb sausage, lo mein noodles cooked in pineapple juice, roasted sweet potatoes (they’re purple here!) and tarro, chocolate cake, and freshly squeezed pineapple juice. Pastor Pita assured us that Fijians don’t build plates, they build mountains. The rest of the afternoon was spent napping, swimming laps, making dinner and relaxing.

Sunday morning we rose early for the big day ahead of us. Ora, one of the workers at the Mission, was traveling to Rainbow Reef Resort to repair a washing machine. Since Rainbow Reef Resort is partially owned by Tom and Marta Tooma, the founders of the Mission at Natuvu Creek, Dr. Anibal suggested we go with Ora on our day off to experience another side of Fiji. We left at 7 am for a thirty-minute boat ride around the bay. We were in disbelief when we arrived to the beautiful, white-sanded beach. We asked why there was such a startling difference in the color of the sand compared to that at the Mission. Ora explained that there is a particular species of fish that lives in the bay that eats only coral reef. The waste it produces is what creates the beautiful white sand. One fish can produce up to one ton of white sand in one year!

Since Rainbow Reef was closed to guests for yearly maintenance and repairs, we enjoyed a day in the sun with the entire resort to ourselves! We basked in the sun, snorkeled over the coral reef, hiked to look-out points around the property, were pushed on a rope swing over the water, cruised on stand-up paddle boards, and played with Ora’s two children. Ora even took us on a boat ride to see the pod of over 20 dolphins swimming in the bay. At some points, we were within an arm’s reach!

The ocean proved to be much rougher on the ride home. Ashley, riding on the bow of the motorboat, suffered much greater pain than Sarah and Hallie. She walked away with minor spine compressions and a very bruised derrière! (Pardon the exaggeration!) Exhausted from a long day of adventure in the sun, we rested the remainder of the evening in order to prepare for another week’s work.

Prayer requests:
1. Dengue Fever- we have seen an increasing number of patients in the clinic suffering from the illness. It is still very prevalent in the area.
2. Relationships- we really aim to nourish the bonds we have already built and are yet to form in the village.
3. Workers at the Mission- The people here truly live on the Lord’s provision for the day. They don’t know when or what their next meal will be. Please pray for the Lord’s blessing upon them and their families.
4. Safety and security- For the Lord’s guidance and protection over our work in and out of the clinic.

Love,

Ashley, Hallie, and Sarah

Our First Week In Fiji

Bula friends and family,

We have arrived safely and have now been here for a whole week! The Internet in our house is not working which is why this post is so delayed.  In order to get Internet we have to climb a very steep hill to the doctor’s house. Here is a recap of week 1.

Sarah and Ashley flew together from LAX to Nadi, where they met Hallie. Due to the time change, March 12th does not exist for Sarah and Ashley. They left LAX at 11:30 pm March 11th, and landed in Nadi at 5:30 am March 13th. Fiji is 16 hours ahead of Eastern Time in the U.S. All together, the three of us took a TINY plane to Savusavu where somebody picked us up and took us back to the Mission. None of us had ever been on a plane before where the co pilot is also the flight attendant. There were no more than ten people on our plane. The airport in Savusavu consisted of an open air small hut. When we arrived, everyone was extremely friendly. We were introduced to most of the workers at the Mission, and while touring the clinic a patient came in. He had had a bearing stuck on his finger for two days and his finger was almost dead due to the lack of circulation. Without any thought, the doctor proclaimed we are going to amputate it. All three of us quickly put on dusty scrubs from a cabinet and went to the “Operating Room.” HIPAA laws do not apply here. The doctor talks about patients and their diagnoses in front of other patients all the time. There is also no such thing as sterile technique. Everyone was wearing sandals and there was a fly buzzing around in the room. The doctor numbed the patient’s hand, prayed with him, cut his finger off, stitched it back together, and the patient got up and left. Simple as that. Rumor has it, Fijians have a rare type of blood that makes them superhuman. This was proven true during the procedure when our patient fell asleep and started snoring with no anesthesia. The three of us were stunned by what we had seen.  Hallie left the room during the surgery because it was extremely gruesome. Once she heard the bone crunch she had to leave. We then went back to our house, unpacked, and called it a day.

Friday was a typical day for the clinic. We all assisted the doctor in diagnosing and treating the patients. Our regular schedule consists of worship in the morning at 7:30 followed by work in the clinic from 8-1. The afternoons are free to adventure.

The doctor and his wife, as well as many other workers at the Mission are Seventh Day Adventists. For this denomination, Saturday is their Sabbath day. We joined Dr. Anibel and his wife Nani for church, which lasted two and half hours and was half Fijian, half English. We then joined them for lunch, homemade by Nani, and got to learn more about their background and how they came to the Mission. They are both from Argentina, and have traveled and worked in Paraguay and Madagascar also. Marta Tooma is the founder of the Mission and also Dr. Anibel’s cousin. Seven years ago, she personally asked him to serve and take over as doctor at the Mission in Fiji. This is when their life here began. They have continued to serve year round ever since. After multiple glasses of guava juice and much laughter by all, the doctor suggested we go home for “siesta time.” The doctor has a heavy Argentinian accent, and Ashley interpreted this as “sister time.” Either way, the rest of the afternoon was enjoyable.

Sunday we did a devotion amongst the three of us by the pool, and we enjoyed the Fijian sun. We swam out to a floating dock shortly off the shore of Buca Bay. Three Fijian men approached the wharf in a motor boat and greeted us with a warm, “Hey ladies and ladies!” After telling him we were from the U.S., he then told us we were, “Three European angels floating in the Bay.” After a few good laughs we headed in and stayed home the rest of the evening. That night, about an hour after we fell asleep, an earthquake struck the island. All three of us jostled awake and Sarah ran frantically into Hallie’s room. Very worried, they stared out the window anticipating a tidal wave about to strike next. When this didn’t happen, everyone went back to sleep.

Monday and Tuesday we worked with the Fijian nurse, Siwa, who has no medical training whatsoever. He gained all of his knowledge working his first job at the local village school and reading medical literature in his spare time. Siwa has been working with Dr. Anibel for the last seven years, gaining more knowledge and experience. He taught us their system of triaging the patient’s and preparing them to see Dr, Anibel. We saw a variety of patient’s and procedures, including patients with a stroke, tendonitis, Dengue fever, dehydration, an ingrown toenail, and many boils. We even saw the doctor biopsy a potential cancerous mole on a woman’s cheek. The afternoons were spent with Siwa who took us on many adventures. We opened coconuts to drink the water and eat the flesh, learned how to husk a coconut, and climb coconut trees. We also went kayaking and learned to roast breadfruit. Monday night Ashley was very frustrated because her long hair kept getting tangled in the pool and it was causing her to be extra hot in this humidity. On a whim, she decided to let Hallie cut ten inches off of her hair. The three of us went home, got Sarah’s nursing bandage scissors, and went to work on the kitchen counter. Five minutes later Ashley’s ponytail was cut off and she was happy as a clam. She saved her hair and put it in a bag to donate to Locks of Love.

Wednesday we woke up bright and early to go into town with Dr. Anibel and Nani. Every Wednesday the clinic is closed so the doctor can go into town and get supplies and food for the following week. On our way in, the biopsy from the woman’s face was sitting in the cup holder of the truck. While in town, we discovered homemade Fijian banana and coffee ice cream. Best day ever. After doing a little shopping, grabbing some lunch, and getting our groceries, we hopped on the bus to head back to the Mission. By car, Savusavu is a little over an hour away. By bus, however, it took us two and a half hours to get home, including two stops for pie.

We are slowly but surely adjusting to the culture and life here in Fiji. It’s hard not to feel welcome when your neighbor brings you mosquito coils and fresh papaya and coconut.

 

Current prayer requests:

  1. Communication- although most people here speak English, it is their second language and can be quite hard to understand, especially when working in a healthcare setting.
  2. Dengue fever- this year has been the worst outbreak since 1974. There is no vaccine to prevent it. Although we are equipped with bug spray, we are also being eaten alive by these mosquitos (really just Ashley’s legs).
  3. Relationships- we want to learn how to better serve the people here without offending their culture or knowledge.
  4. General safety and protection.

 

Thank you everyone for your love and support. We will continue to post updates when we are able to use the Internet. Stay tuned. Vinaka!

Love,

The Three European Angels

First Day on the Job, check out the rolled scrubs and chacos.

First Day on the Job, check out the rolled scrubs and chacos