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  • Writer's pictureSean Foley

Pepeha and other ponderings

Monday night we arrived back in Singapore following our journey to Utah. It has been nice returning to our routine and realizing that we are starting to feel at home in our apartment and surroundings. With a little quieter week, it’s a good chance in this blog to go back and mention a couple things that got missed with all else going on.

What's a Pepeha? At our Singapore Zone conferences at the start of March, our mission leader taught about the power of connection to family, using the tool of a Maori custom of the Pepeha. He has Maori ancestry while Sister Tolman has Samoan ancestry. They shared some of what their ancestry means to them, and worked to help each missionary do similarly, regardless of ethnicity or nationality. (I estimate that of our 100+ missionaries we represent citizens of a dozen countries and many more ethnicities.)

The word pepeha references a form of self-introduction, where the speaker describes their ancestry and connections to the natural environment (such as which canoe your ancestors arrived on, and what mountains, rivers and temples are important to you and your family roots). All this of course didn't translate easily to some of us from very different and very diverse backgrounds, but it was actually in the process of translating that we got the most value.

All this reminded me of a Ted Talk I created as an MBA project, based on an article by the talented Bruce Feiler and some research out of Emory University. It shows that one of the greatest predictors of resilience in children is knowing their family story, both the good and the challenging. I am very grateful that my parents put a high focus on this, and I try to do so for my children. Knowing that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves is powerful!

Proactivity required! One of the most striking things about senior missions to us has been the degree of self-starting that is required. There can be a tendency for people to wait for clear direction and even to complain when it is not there...or when it is there and not what we wanted. In our mission, and I believe in most, it has been critical to to be proactive, to seek out opportunities to serve rather than waiting for someone to tell us what to do, and to not be afraid of (or offended by) correction when our ideas aren’t perfect the first time. This is very much my style both as a leader and a follower. It can be uncomfortable, but it brings the greatest growth and I am grateful for wonderful mentors and examples.

One example is in the reporting that we are doing to the mission leaders each week, and to the Area leaders each month. There is no manual that specifies what is expected, but we know the value that reporting back has in building relationships of trust. Then as we have received feedback (both positive and constructive) we have been able to sharpen the reporting and provide more value. Another example is in cleaning out the Singapore office and establishing a better supply process for the young missionaries. This has also had side benefits of us getting to know them better and lend encouragement to them as they stop by.

Three anecdotes:

  • While in Kuala Lumpur we went out for a walk between meetings. We hadn’t packed our umbrellas thinking to "travel light". Well of course that’s the perfect way to ensure rain, and we found ourselves a few blocks from the office when the heavens opened. We ducked first under a tree and then under an awning, but still got soaked and needed to get back for appointments. So we finally called our mission leaders’ daughter who was so kind as to come with a vehicle to bail us out.

  • We don’t know how universal this is here, but neither our kitchen nor laundry room have hot water. Not liking how clean our clothes and dishes were getting, we have started boiling water manually on the stove and taking it to the sink and washing machine. It is not exactly a challenge that would make the pioneers cry in sympathy, but it is a good example of taking things for granted.

  • I had a chance to teach the young men of the Jurong Ward about family history and indexing. Toward the end of the evening I looked around the room and was touched to see this group of Singaporean, Chinese, Japanese, American, and European descent indexing birth records from 1970's Zambia. We are truly part of a global community!

Blessed Easter! We are so grateful for our Savior Jesus Christ and that He lives! I had the chance this week to teach a special Easter lesson in Institute and uncovered a couple of amazing new Easter videos, both under 2 minutes long. Check them out here:

  • Rise (You Can Rise above Life’s Challenges) [1:42] [English]

  • John 3:17 (The World Through Him Might Be Saved) [1:33] [English]


1: Pepeha

2-4: Family pictures from our wonderful family visit to Salt Lake

5: Project: English class

6: Project: Helping to create pass along cards to our Singapore chapels

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