May 30, 2011

Immigrant Emirami Glad for Opportunities

Today I want to write about one of my kids good friends, Emirami Pepe.  He’s from Fiji, which explains his unusual name.  It’s pronounced ‘Em-er-ah-mee Peppy.’  Last week our local newspaper published an article about Emirami.  I learned more about him and wanted to pass on his remarkable story. 

Emirami was born in Fiji.  That’s an island East of Australia and North of New Zealand.  He spent his days farming to help the family have enough to eat.  When he was 9 years old, his mother married an American man and his life changed forever.  His step-father brought his family to Georgia, and Emirami started attending school.  He said, “Each day I’m grateful for this opportunity that my other family members [still in Fiji] are not getting.”
He was excited to attend school in America, and became a good student, an athlete and a concert level violinist.  He also joined several clubs, becoming President of the National Honor Society at his High School.

He earned good grades in school, graduating last week with a 3.91 GPA.  Eight of his classes were College level (Advanced Placement) classes, which are much harder than normal high school classes.  He had all A’s except one B throughout his High School career. 
His Mom liked to watch tennis, and especially liked to watch Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal.  Emirami spent hours copying his tennis style, trying hard to learn how to do his famous ‘spin’ although Nadal is left handed.  He’d practice for hours inside his garage with an old beat up racquet.  He made the Varsity tennis team his first year of High school and played Varsity all four years of High School.  

His step-father told him he didn’t think he could play the violin, and that became a challenge for Emirami.  He practiced for hours until he mastered it.  He was the first 9th grader to be in the Chamber Orchestra, the school’s highest orchestra group.  He was also the youngest violinist to be the ‘Concert Master,’ or violinist that leads the whole orchestra.  
And he did all of this simultaneously!  Sometimes he’d stay up until 2 am working on a project after a late tennis match.  The teachers at the High School often asked him when he was going home, since he usually stayed late.  He often stayed late to tutor students, attend various meetings and practice tennis.

He will attend the University of Georgia this fall, so he can eventually become a Cardiac Surgeon.  He wants to go back to Fiji and help the people there.  He’d like to join the ‘Doctors Without Borders’ group and provide medical care to Fiji and other underdeveloped nations.  I’m sure he received many scholarships toward this endeavor.

I wanted to tell his story to show that he made the best of a good situation.  Emirami said that if he hadn’t come to America, he would have become a poor farmer like most of his relatives have done.  Now he’s going to become a Doctor who can do a lot of good.  Not only did he take advantage of his educational opportunities in America, he also took advantage of his athletic and musical opportunities here.  Sometimes we take our opportunities for granted, not realizing how fortunate we are to have such opportunities.  When we take advantage of them and work hard, we can do amazing things. 

If you want to read the article on him, see:
Brigman, Brandon. "Busy Star: South's Pepe Juggles Hectic Schedule." Gwinnett Daily Post 25 May 2011: 1B and 6B.

May 23, 2011

Girls Camp Skill in the Hands of Jeannie Castillo Saves Brother

This is Stephanie.  Today I am going to tell you about one of my best friends, Jeanie Castillo. I have known Jeanie since seventh grade. She has two brothers, Jared and Jason.  Jason is seven and he has Down syndrome. I don’t know if you know what that means, but I’ll tell you anyway. Down syndrome is something that Jason was born with and it means that his brain doesn’t develop the same way that yours or mine does. Jason is a very happy kid and spreads sunshine wherever he goes. Everybody who meets him loves him.
               Well, one day, the Castillo family was at a party at a friend’s house, when they realized that Jason was missing. They started looking for him. Jeanie’s dad felt that he needed to check the pool, where they found Jason floating. Jeanie’s dad pulled him straight out and gave him a blessing, but Jason wasn’t breathing and he didn’t have a pulse. Someone called 9-1-1, and Jeanie felt impressed to start doing CPR, which she learned at Girl’s camp. Let me tell you, Stephen, it is a miracle that she remembered how to do it. I have to re-learn it every year for Girl’s camp, and this is my seventh year! The holy Ghost must have been working with her that day, because by the time the ambulance got there, Jason had a weak pulse. Jeanie’s quick thinking saved his life.
               Jason went into a coma for a couple of weeks, and after that, he was hooked up to a machine that helped him breathe, but he was able to come home for Christmas after three months in the hospital, which was the best Christmas present for them. Today, he is just as happy and smiling as ever, and his family is so grateful for that. Jeanie is heading out to BYU this fall, at the same time as me, so that she can become a teacher that helps other kids like Jason. She is one of the nicest people I know and she has helped me a lot in my life.
               This story has taught me that God does care about us and is there to help us. Although it wasn’t easy for the Castillos when Jason was so sick, God helped Jason get completely better, and the Castillos are so grateful for that. God also helped Jeanie to know what to do to save Jason’s life.
                                             By Stephanie

May 17, 2011

Molly the Miracle Horse

My Sister-in-law Kathy sent me this story in an email that someone had forwarded to her.  It’s such a fun story I wanted to share it with you.  It’s about a horse named Molly.  When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, many people were forced to leave their homes.  This young pony was left behind.  After surviving on her own for several weeks, she was rescued by a group of people rescuing animals.  She was placed in a shelter with many other animals who had also been rescued.

At the shelter, a pit bull attacked her and hurt her right leg badly.  The wound became infected.  Caretakers weren’t sure if she could be saved.  But a sympathetic surgeon saw potential in her because Molly was patient, could handle pain and wanted to survive.  He saved the pony by taking her lower leg.  A prosthesis was made for her, so she can move about normally again.  

Her vet said, “She asks for [her prosthesis.] She will put her little limb out and come to you and let you know that she wants you to put it on. Sometimes she wants you to take it off too.”  And sometimes, Molly gets away from the Vet.  “It can be pretty bad when you can't catch a three-legged horse,” she laughs.

The bottom of her prosthesis is shaped like a happy face.  Each footprint Molly makes in soft dirt stamps a happy face footprint.  I think that’s really fun.

Now Molly visits nursing homes, rehabilitations centers, hospitals and shelters, giving people hope.  She survived a hurricane and the after-effects, a horrible injury, surgery and now she’s helping others.  She’s living proof that one can get through hard things and come out on top.
It’s pretty amazing to see a horse with a prosthetic leg!  Molly must help people cope with their difficulties by showing that almost anything is possible.  

This was originally published:  Goodman, Brenda. "After Surviving Hurricane and Being Mauled by Dog, Pony is Still Standing." New York Times 15 May 2006.

May 16, 2011

God Hears our Prayers

By Scott Johnson

I ove the story that President Gordon B. Hinckley told about a young boy and his Primary teacher.  One evening when he was eating dinner with his family, Artel Ricks heard his parents talking about tithing.  They said that tithing was one tenth of our money that we give to Heavenly Father to show Him that we love Him.  The little boy loved Heavenly Father and so he made up his mind to pay his tithing.  

He went to his room and found his piggy bank.  He carefully counted out his tithing.  The boy then went to the only place in the house that he could have some privacy—the bathroom.  He went into the bathroom and locked the door so he could be all by himself.  He knelt down on the floor and held the coins up in the air in his open hand.  He began to pray to Heavenly Father.  He said, “Heavenly Father, I want to pay my tithing.  Please come down and take it.” 
He waited and waited.  Nothing happened.  He was sure that Heavenly Father would come and take his tithing, but He hadn’t.  He was so upset!  What had gone wrong?  

A few days later, Artel went to Primary.  In his Primary class, his teacher said, “I feel like I need to teach you something different from the lesson I planned.”  She then went on to explain that, when you pay your tithing, you give the money to your Bishop because he is a servant of God.  The boy was so happy.  That day he not only learned to whom he should pay his tithing, but more importantly, he learned that Heavenly Father knew who he was and cared enough to answer the prayer of a boy through the words of his Primary teacher.

I love this story because it reminds me that Heavenly Father loves each one of us.  He cares for us and often answers our prayers through other people.  I know this is true.  He loves you and will answer your prayers.  It may not always be in the way you expect, but it will always be with great love. 

This story is told in:
Hinckley, Gordon B. "You Are a Child of God." Ensign May 2003: 117-119.
Ricks, Artel. "Coins for the Lord." Ensign December 1990: 47.

May 8, 2011

Big Hearted Boxer Manny Pacquiao

I wanted to tell you a story today about a boxer named Manny Pacquiao.  ‘Pac-man’ as he’s sometimes called is currently the World’s Boxing Organization Welterweight Champion.  That means that for his weight grouping, he’s the best in the world.  That’s pretty cool, but what I think is even cooler is how he treats people.
Most successful boxers beat the pulp out of their opponents, even when it’s clear that he’s won the fight.  Manny stops once he knows he’s won.  In a recent fight, he stopped the fight to ask his opponent if he was okay.  When people told him he should have knocked him out, he said, “It’s a sport and I didn’t have to hurt him.  I beat him up enough.”  He’s been called the ‘most compassionate fighter’ people have ever known.  Once, when winning a fight with one of his idols, his coach had to urge him to knock him out.  “At the end of the seventh round, I said, ‘Manny, your job is to knock him out.’  I’ve never said that to another fighter in my life.”  Manny just didn’t want to end his idol’s winning streak.
Most boxers trash talk their opponents, to hype up the fight and to intimidate their opponent.  Manny speaks highly of his opponents.  He said, “I never believed that you had to say bad things about your opponent to make yourself bigger.  You can be popular or be a champion without trash talking.  And you can be a good example for people, especially children.” 
And most successful boxers make a lot of money.  Usually they spend it on nice cars and big homes, and lots of fancy things.  Manny gives it away.  He earned $32 million dollars last year, as one of the world’s top earning athletes, and he gave lots of it away.  As he walks around his hometown, he hands out money.  His trainer said, “[My biggest concern is that he’ll] give it all away.  He’s that good of a guy.  I hope it never happens.”
Why is he like this?  I think it’s because Manny was once a little hungry boy.  He was born in the Phillippines and begged for food and money as a child.  He began fighting at age 14 to support his mother and her six children.  He knows what hunger feels like and he wants to help others who are hungry too.  He said, “Every time I saw poor people sleeping in the street, it made me think that one day I hoped I could help them.”  
In May 2010, Manny was elected to the Phillippines House of Representatives for the province of Sarangani.  As a Congressman, he visited with President Obama at the White House on behalf of a job-creating bill for the clothing sewing industry in his homeland.  “More than a mere boxer, he is a lawmaker, philanthropist, singer, spokesman and bona fide hero to the masses of his impoverished homeland,” says article writer Jon Saraceno.  
I know I didn’t mention the ‘singer’ part.  He actually sings lullabies to his 4 children.  And he loves to sing love songs to his fans on Karaoke machines.  Not very macho, but very sweet. 
Anyway, I like Manny Pacquiao because he hasn’t forgotten his difficult childhood.  He’s rich and famous, but will never forget who he is.  One reporter said, “He can’t shake his past, even if he is earning millions.  He knows he came from nothing.  He knows what it is like to be poor, to beg for food and money.”   Manny said it best when he said, “I always pray.  Without God, we have nothing.  I give Him thanks.  It’s common sense.  Without God, we are not here.  He created us and the universe.  It is very simple.”  
Saturday, May 7th, Manny won another fight, billed as the fight of the year.  He won by knocking out his opponent in the third round.  He will bring home $20 million, most of which will probably end up in the hands of those who need it more than he does.

For more information, see:
Saraceno, Jon. "Mosley has 'own set of weapons'." USA Today 6 May 2011: C12.
—. "Packing a punch for humanity." USA Today 5 May 2011: C1-2.

May 5, 2011

LIttle Mary Saves her Family with Water

By Paige Johnson

I would like to tell you the story of my great great great great aunt on my Mom's side.  Her name was Mary Campbell Steele and she saved her parent's lives when she was very young.

It all began while her father was away in 1845.  Mary's mother became very sick and was very feverish.  When her father returned, he too soon became ill.  Before long, sickness befell her littles sister, Margaret and her little brother, John.  Her family became so sick that they couldn't get any water for each other or for themselves.

Miraculously, Mary had been spared from the sickness and was able to care for her family.  Mary brought little cups of water to the sick family members.  Sadly, her two ill siblings died from the sickness, but her parents survived.  But at the climax of the illness, her parents were very ill and seemed to be about to die.  A woman called Mother Bullock even came to speak with John and demanded to have Mary because he and his wife were about to die.  John refused and proved her wrong when he and his wife survived the terrible illness.

Mary was only four or five when these things occurred and that's amazing to me for her to be able to do that.  Kids CAN do hard things.  I hope my story, really my great great great aunt's, helped you.  To me the moral of the story is that everyone has a purpose in this life and Heavenly Father will always find ways to help you in times of trouble.

Heavenly Father loves you and wants what's best for you.  But sometimes life won't be perfect and He may help you in ways you might not expect or want.  I know I sound like a cheesy grownup, but I just wanted you to know that.  (Story gleaned from John Steele's Autobiography)