“For Me, It All Started Here…”

Laie and the Temple Complex
Laie and the Temple Complex
Yesterday during a particularly quiet period at the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center early in our shift, a fellow in a suit and tie came up to me and said, “For me, it all started here thirty-five years ago. I’m sure the missionaries never knew.”

Well, that definitely piqued my interest, so I invited him to tell me the story.

Thirty-five years ago, in 1981 about this time of the year, he and a buddy had come to Hawaii and were driving around Oahu. They saw the Temple from the highway, wondered what it was, and stopped. “The Visitors’ Center was a whole lot different then than it looks today,” he said.

They took a tour conducted by an older man who was a missionary at the Center. In the back corner where we now have the FamilySearch exhibit at that time was a talking mannequin … a kind of an automatron. After the mannequin give its spiel, the senior missionary bore his testimony about the Book of Mormon. “That really spoke to me,” he said. He bought two copies of the Book of Mormon (in those days people had to buy the book in the belief that if someone paid money for the book, they would think it had more value) for fifty cents each, one for him and one for his friend. He started to read it a few days later, quickly became bored with the book, but took it with him when returned home to California the following week. Then two young men missionaries knocked on his door. He recognized the name tags as similar to the one the senior missionary at the Visitors’ Center had worn and invited them in. “Two and a half weeks later,” he said, “I was baptized.”

This was his first time back to Hawaii since then. He had done a session at the Laie Temple earlier that morning and walked through the Visitors’ Center to see what it looked like now. “I’m sure that missionary never had an inkling that I had any interest in Mormanism. I don’t even remember his name. I just remember how I felt when he bore his testimony.”

Every day people tell me how beautiful and peaceful it is on the Temple grounds and in the Center. “There is a special feeling here…” I hear very often. It certainly is sacred ground and when people just stop and listen with their heart for a few seconds, the spirit of the place manifests itself. Through the Church’s computer systems we learn each week that some five to ten people that the sister missionaries have referred to local missionaries have been baptized. We will all be shocked in the next period of our lives when we meet the hundreds of people who were touched by our testimonies of the Book of Mormon or just by the spirit they feel when they are on the Temple grounds and later acted on that feeling and come to say, “For me, it all started when I stopped by the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center … and you never knew.”

It’s been a good week! Ta ta for now!

Visitors’ Center, Trams, Rinse and Repeat

Greeting Potential Tram Tour Guests
Greeting Potential Tram Tour Guests
The fall slowdown at the Visitors’ Center is in full swing. This morning between the time we opened at 9am and 11:30am we had fewer than twenty people come into the Center. The afternoon is always busier than the mornings, but we had plenty of time this morning to spend with the few guests who came into the center.

One fellow came in and in talking with one of the sister missionaries, said that he sang opera. He was enticed to sing something (“It’ll be very loud,” he said. “We like loud!” replied Nina). He then sang The Lord’s Prayer. It was just delightful! He was able to fill the Christus room with his beautiful voice singing the traditional setting of that hymn. His visit was a real treat.

We’re having issues with the air conditioning at the Center. As a result we’re keeping the temple engineers busy coming down to reset the system and cool the building off again. Eventually they’ll be rather fed up with the issues and will get the contractor to fix the system!

We also had another outstanding experience this week on Monday and Tuesday. The managing director for the Church’s visitors’ centers was here for two days and gave us six hours of very beneficial training. He had a number of other meetings and other obligations, but spent some very quality time with us. He was there as the mainland Chinese tour buses made their daily appearances where the Center fills up with Chinese tourists very interested in learning a bit more about this Church. Although he knew about this phenomenon before coming, there’s nothing like seeing it first hand. One take away he had is that we need more exhibit information written in Chinese characters … a lot more! We have none at present. Everything is in English.

Time is flying by! Ta ta for now….

A Week With Nina’s Sister

Nina's Sister Pamela Mills
Nina’s Sister Pamela Mills
Nina’s sister Pamela Mills arrived at the Honolulu Airport late Saturday morning, September 3rd. She’s been saving up for this trip for quite a while, consequently we tried to make this trip as memorable as possible for her. She rented a bedroom across the street from the Polynesian Cultural Center for the eight nights she was going to be in Hawaii.

Nina and Pam at the Pali Overlook
Nina and Pam at the Pali Overlook
We did some sightseeing in Honolulu, including the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, locally called the Punchbowl cemetery, as well as taking the Pali Highway across to the windward side of the island. During the week Nina and I still had most of our assignments at the Visitors’ Center to take care of, although the other senior couples freed up as much of our time as they could. Some of the other adventures during the week included:

Makapu'u Lighthouse
Makapu’u Lighthouse
The Makapu’u Lighthouse. This was intended to be one of several stops along the southeast side of Oahu that day. The hike is about three miles round trip with close to a thousand feet of elevation gain. It was hot and humid, but we all made it to the top and back down again. After that we just made our way back home with a stop for lunch/dinner along the way. The path to the top of the hill above the lighthouse is paved and the last half of the path has a number of places to sit and collect one’s breath. From the top of the hill the islands of Maui and Molokai were barely visible on the horizon.

Checking Out Pineapple Fields
Checking Out Pineapple Fields
The Dole Plantation. Pineapples grow in bushes near the ground. A bush produces a pineapple and, after that one is picked, produces one more about six months later. After that, the bush is finished. The Dole Plantation not only has a huge number of acres under cultivation, but has a nice souvenir shop with all things pineapple. A further attraction is the twenty-minute train ride around a part of the plantation. All of the Chinese buses that stop at the Visitors’ Center have the Dole Plantation on their agenda, meaning the last Chinese bus that stops at the Center arrives before 4pm.

Luau Pig on Display
Luau Pig on Display
Aloha Luau Show. Nina and I were assigned to guard the exit at the Aloha Luau. We spent the afternoon that day at the Polynesian Cultural Center and Pam came with us to our assignment. After the roasted pig is taken out of the imu (underground oven), it is paraded around for the audience to take pictures, and then is taken right past where we sit when we have the assignment. Pam was not particularly thrilled by the pig, as evidenced by the expression on her face!

Byodo-in Buddhist Temple
Byodo-in Buddhist Temple
Byodo-In Buddhist Temple This temple is up against the mountains in a very large cemetery. It’s a beautiful building in a beautiful setting. We enjoy going there and walking through the grounds, the temple, and the gift shop. Pam came to visit us when we were living in Japan back in the late 1990’s, so this was a nice reminiscent taste of Japan for her. The two of them noticed that I was quite enamored with a dragon souvenir and bought it as a gift for me. I’ll post a picture sometime in the future.

Laie Temple and Visitors' Center From the Air
Laie Temple and Visitors’ Center From the Air
A Helicopter Ride. Heather and Ty had given Nina and me a paid-for forty-minute helicopter sightseeing flight around the island. We hadn’t used that gift, primarily because of Nina’s fear of heights as well as just not making it a priority. Pam decided that this was the perfect opportunity and she’d take the helicopter ride with us. The short version is that we all had a superlative time. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe how much fun and how exciting the trip was … and there was no sensation of height, or at least the fear of heights did not manifest itself. We flew all along the windward side of the Island, dropped down into Pearl Harbor, and then came back up through the middle of the island, landing back at Turtle Bay 41 minutes after we left. I want to do it again….

Pam Headed Back to the Mainland
Pam Headed Back to the Mainland
And, eight days after arriving Pam was back at the airport headed to the mainland. She planned to spend five or so days with her daughter Ashlyn and son-in-law Eric in Salt Lake City before flying back home to Kirtland, Ohio. The once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii was over seemingly before it even got started! We had a great time and I’ve plenty of photos from every one of those activities. Maybe I’ll put up a blog entry with many of these pictures.

Meanwhile, ta ta for now!

Some Random Pictures

Heather in the Meditation Garden
Heather in the Meditation Garden
Heather and Ty stopped in Hawaii for a couple of days on their way back to Mumbai, India after their annual home leave. Top of their list of things to do was a session at the Laie Hawaii Temple which we took care of the very next morning. After the session we walked through the meditation garden at the back of the temple. Two beautiful banyan trees grace the garden and the relative size is shown in this picture with Heather standing underneath the tree. A lot of students come up to this garden during the school year to get a bit of peace and quiet and to enjoy the sweet spirit on the temple grounds. The gardeners (all four of them) do a world-class job of maintaining the grounds, the flora, and the fauna.

Getting Some Beach Time
Getting Some Beach Time
Heather’s time on home leave was more than hectic. So much to do in so little time, including doing the initial planning for Danielle’s Temple Wedding in December. That meant that Heather and Ty were quite content to just sit around for a while and just plain “talk story” (a Hawaiian idiom used very often, meaning to sit around and “chew the fat”). We also did all of the important tourist things as well, including spending Wednesday afternoon at the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. The Pearl Harbor stop was number two on Ty’s list. His grandfather Hal Hardy had served during WWII in Honolulu and throughout the Pacific on a Navy LST (landing ship transport).

Walking Through the Polynesian Cultural Center
Walking Through the Polynesian Cultural Center
We took the opportunity to ride the Laie Tram Tour from the Polynesian Cultural Center over to the Temple and back. That gave Heather and Ty a brief overview of the history of Laie as well as a chance to meet and visit with some of the sister missionaries we work with. After we got back from the tram ride, we walked through the Polynesian Cultural Center. All of the islands were closed, which made for a very nice, peaceful walk. No crowds, no noise! Along the way we met up with some folks working on a biology project … catching fish from the PCC canal to use in a hydroponic project (the “fish poop” feeds the plants in the hydroponds). They were being very successful with their fishing using Taro Rolls for bait.

Aunt Pam Arriving at the Honolulu Airport
Aunt Pam Arriving at the Honolulu Airport
on Saturday, September 3rd, Nina’s sister Pamela arrived for an eight-day visit with us. She’s been working and saving for this trip for the past couple of years and was really psyched up to finally get here and experience Hawaii with us.


Mountain in the Mist on Pali Pass
Mountain in the Mist on Pali Pass
On our way back from the airport to the North Shore, we stopped at the Pali Overlook on the Pali Highway going from Honolulu to Kaneohe. This is a Very Popular Tourist Spot … which by itself is an understatement. This highway started out as a very treacherous footpath that was upgraded and expanded over the years to what became a nice 4-lane highway in 1957. Since that time two more highways have been punched through the Kualoa Mountains which bisect Oahu.

Nina and Pam
Nina and Pam
We joined the dozens of tourists (it was well after 6pm in the evening) to take pictures on the overlook. The city of Kaneohe is on the background left, the city of Kailua in the background right, and the Marine Corps Base Honolulu directly in the background. There’s a humorous (unless your a victim) sign as one walks up to the overlook warning visitors to beware of bees in the high winds.


Sunrise Near Our New House
Sunrise Near Our New House
About five mornings a week I walk up the hill at the end of the road by our house to the water tank and back (about a half mile) and then continue down the hill and around a cul-de-sac and back home. The whole thing takes just over a half hour and is right at a mile. The climb is very strenuous and takes the most time. Already, though, it’s getting a bit faster each day. However, after all I ate this evening at the monthly Break-the-Fast, I’ve probably regressed significantly. The sun is just peaking over the horizon on the right side of this picture.

Lead Up to the Proposal
Lead Up to the Proposal
Every few weeks we get to witness a marriage proposal at the feet of the Christus in the Visitors’ Center. Today was another of those opportunities made even more interesting because Nina’s sister Pamela was there to see it happen. The young man had arranged for a friend to come to “take some pictures”. He took a couple of pictures, then told the fellow that his shirt wasn’t tucked in correctly, using that as a way to slip the fellow a box with the engagement ring inside.

The Proposal
The Proposal
With the ring in hand, the fellow dropped to a knee and proposed marriage! The girl was stunned, surprised, and although I’m sure she knew the proposal was coming some time, was delightfully dumbfounded by the sudden proposal. He actually had to repeat his proposal so she could be sure she had heard him correctly!


She Said YES!
She Said YES!
The proposal was accepted, followed by a Very Big Kiss. Lots of applause from people in the know as well as all the other visitors at the Visitors’ Center. They fellow and his now-fiancĂ© took many more pictures, while she hung onto him quite tightly; clearly she wasn’t going to let him get away!

Marriage proposals happen fairly often at the Visitors’ Center, but usually around the end of a term at school. The fall term is only a few weeks underway and this is the first proposal of this school term. The other event that occurs fairly regularly is students opening their mission calls.

Surf’s Up!

Pounders Beach
Pounders Beach
Last year Hawaii managed to stay out of the way of five hurricanes. This year we’ve dodged the first one, Hurricane Madeline, which made its way yesterday just south of Hawaii’s Big Island and was downgraded to a Tropical Storm as it passed. Another hurricane named Lester is on it’s way here by Sunday, unless it also changes course and goes south of us. Sometimes hurricanes this close to each other merge and make themselves into huge weather patterns. In any case, we’re probably going to have heavy surf and lots of rain for the next several days.

National Weather Service's Forecast Track for Hurricane Lester
National Weather Service’s Forecast Track for Hurricane Lester
Nina’s sister Pamela is flying into Honolulu on Saturday, staying through the 11th. She should get here just ahead of Lester’s arrival and may well experience her first hurricane! The probability is fairly low, though.

Today I took down the four ham radio antennas I had up at our previous house. Tomorrow I’ll look at the possibilities of getting a couple of them back up in the air. I’d really like to be able to do some ham radio play in the remaining five months we’ll be here. With the antennas down, we’re now completely moved out of the house on Lanihuli Street. The workmen are making good progress and are saying they’ll be completed mid-November! That would be wonderful if it really happened. The latest report from the Missionary Department in Salt Lake City is that we’ll need housing for at least 31 sister missionaries by late November. Depending on visa processing, it could be a couple more. Unfortunately, visa processing right now by the US Government is incredibly slow and more capricious than it has ever been.

Our new location is near the end of the road and right up against the Kualoa Mountains which bisect the Island of Oahu. Another road continues after the end of our road, but it is blocked off to vehicular traffic. About a half-mile up (and I really mean UP) is a huge fresh water tank. I walked up there and back yesterday for a very nice workout. Today is our Preparation Day, and Nina walked with me this morning. It’s a very nice walk on a paved, well-maintained road with plenty of trees for shelter from any heavy rains.

View From Water Tank Road to the Ocean
View From Water Tank Road to the Ocean
Up near the top of the road is a nice look out at the Pacific Ocean. This walk will be my morning jaunt most every morning from now on, weather permitting. While ‘buns of steel’ aren’t in my future, weak calves are currently making their presence felt….

This week started a new transfer and two new sister missionaries arrived today from the MTC. None of our sister missionaries completed their mission this transfer. One of our Chinese-speaking missionaries came back from her full field proselyting experience and two have gone out for that experience leaving us with a net zero gain/loss at the Visitors’ Center. The additional sisters later this year will be very welcome as they’ll help balance out the workload. They bring another interesting issue, though. Each of the new sisters needs a seasoned sister missionary as a trainer!

Tomorrow morning we’ll be back at the Visitors’ Center. Our schedules shifted last Monday so we’re now Monday and Tuesday afternoon at the Center, Wednesday as our Preparation Day, and then Thursday through Saturday mornings at the Center. Life is good … so, ta ta for now!

We’re Pretty Much Moved!

The New House
The New House
We have almost everything moved over to the new house, which is 3.3 miles south of the old place where we used to live. The old house itself is empty. My ham radio antennas, four of them, are still over there and I’ll take them down in the morning for the move over here. How to put any or all of them up is a bit of a problem to be solved. More on that on some future date.

Our living area includes half of the car port and the front part of the house. Another family is living in the back half of the house. I haven’t been into the back area, so I’ve no idea what it all looks like. The house is a three-bedroom two-bath arrangement, but what would be considered to be the master bedroom / bath is “closed off” for us. That was the landlord’s concession to reduce the rent from $2,300 to $1,850 a month. We’re here on a five and a half month lease. The Mission is hoping in the meantime to find a place in Laie itself at a better price while the landlord is hoping to find a new tenant that will pay the full price.

Left Half of the Great Room
Left Half of the Great Room
The front area is a great room arrangement with the kitchen on one side. No dividers, just a huge space with a tiled floor. Down the hallway are three closets, a bathroom on the right, two bedrooms on the left, and the master bedroom at the end of the hall. We’ve put our bed in the second bedroom and will use the first bedroom as a kind of a study and I’ll put my ham radio setup in that room. The house has a shared hot water heater, washer and dryer, mailbox, and wifi. The budget for utilities is $500 a month and if they go over that amount, the difference is split between the two tenants. I’ve no idea how that’s going to work.

So far we’ve got about 80% of the stuff put away in it’s likely permanent location. The other bedroom still has a number of boxes to be unloaded. I have to make a decision about whether to use the existing wifi or to have a new internet drop put in place. Bishop Goo is the Oceanic Time Warner guy so I need to talk with him to see what my options are. I’ll put in a change of address tomorrow. As I said, its a shared mailbox with the family living behind us. Our old address still works as no one is living there.

Right Half of the Great Room
Right Half of the Great Room
So, Nina has set up a desk in the front room with her stuff. I’ve set my computer and such on a table in the front room. We definitely have plenty of space in this area. However, there’s no air conditioning! We have three box fans in the windows, an overhead fan, and a rotating pedestal fan plus another window and pedestal fan in the bedroom. The past two nights were very sticky, tonight is much nicer. The weather will be cooling off over the next month or so with the humidity going down significantly. That’ll make a difference for sure. A little over five months. We can do this.

Ta ta for now!

Getting Ready to Move

Former Garage Is a No-Go Zone!
Former Garage Is a No-Go Zone!
I had expected that we’d be in the same apartment our entire 23-month mission and would have three moves: into the MTC, to Hawaii, back home. Well, we’re adding a fourth … a move to Hau’ula (pronouced ‘how”ooh-lah’. The contract hasn’t been signed, yet, at least as far as we’ve been informed. However, we’re setting up to move on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning next week. We’ll be working the morning shift on Thursday and the afternoon shift on Friday, so that should give us enough time to be moved. The housing coordinator from the Mission is bringing up the Mission’s pickup truck to help with the move.

We’ve been watching a little bit of the Olympics on TV and I’ve noticed some ads from Enterprise Car Rental that they also now rent trucks. I’m going to give them a call to see if we can get a truck larger than a pickup for next week to make the move much faster … perhaps even down to one trip with both vehicles.

Renovation work has started in earnest. Today they started the asbestos abatement in both our garage and the other senior couple’s garage. I’m already missing having a garage to store things. We don’t have a staging area for this move!

The Temporary Move Staging Area
The Temporary Move Staging Area
We’re stacking boxes in and around the couch. Since the apartment is unfurnished, almost all of the furniture here is going over there. The benefit is that we won’t have to unload and box up drawers. But, there’s still more than plenty of stuff that needs to get into boxes.

BUT! We’ll have a short reprieve from all this move hullabaloo. Heather and Ty are flying in on Monday afternoon on their way back to Mumbai!! They’ll be here a couple of days and leave late morning on Thursday. They’re making a bit of a travel sacrifice for this trip … flying Korean Air from Hawaii to South Korea and then from there to Mumbai. They’ll be in Business Class, so I’m pretty sure they won’t be surrounded by all the Korean tourists bringing all their loot back home. I’ve heard that Business Class is pretty much OK, but Economy can be quite an adventure. It’ll be so very much fun to have them here with us for a couple of days.

So, with that ’til next time. Ta ta for now.

We’re No Longer Homeless!!

Two days ago I got a call from a lady who had an apartment for rent in Hau’ula, the town just south of Laie. I had called her about the place a week ago and she’d just rented it. That fell through so she called to see if we were still interested. It’s a three-bedroom two-bath unfurnished apartment on the ground floor with a carport. No air conditioning, but it certainly would be sufficient for the next 5 1/2 months. She wanted more that the Church was willing to pay, however, so it looked like it wasn’t going anywhere.

This morning she called back and agreed to rent at the price the Church was willing to pay for 5 1/2 months given that she could close off one bedroom and store some stuff in there and, for some reason, close off one bathroom. There is another bathroom in the master bedroom, that just means anyone coming to the house would have to use the bathroom in our bedroom (but it also means one less bathroom to clean). We also can’t have anyone else stay in the other bedroom unless we pay vacation rental for that time. It’ll make a nice study / office. 

So, the final contract is being drawn up now and we should be able to move in next week. 

Today we finished getting everything out of our garage so they can start the work in there. The first job is asbestos abatement. Personally I’d rather be out of the apartment when they start disturbing the asbestos insulation in the ceiling of the garage, but that’ll not happen. 

This is good news today. The new address is 54-174 Kawaipuna St., Hau’ula, Hawaii. Ta ta for now!