‘Utulau – Week 71-72

Malo homou lelei!

Tonga has been going crazy the past weeks over the Rugby League World Cup. There is barely a moment where someone isn’t mentioning or screaming Mate Ma’a Tonga, which is the Tongan national team name and means “Die For Tonga”. That’s how intense Tongans are about representing their nation in sports – or anything for that matter!

Transfers were supposed to be last Sunday but President was busy attending the establishment of a new stake in Vava’u. So it was delayed to Monday, but then delayed again to this upcoming Sunday. Bit of a strange twist, but I think we are staying here in ‘Utulau anyway.

We were blessed yesterday to receive two new investigators, thanks to the work of the members here. They are two young girls who are relatives of a member of the ward. We shared the message of the Restoration and gave them both copies of the Book of Mormon to read and pray over. It had been a while since we had taught a full lesson in such a way, so I thought I might be a little rusty but it turned out to be one of the best lessons I have been in. The Spirit guided us and reminded us of what we needed to teach. I am looking forward to seeing the progress of these two.

Something I have pondered over and received more understanding of recently is how faith is not something we can obtain by ourselves but is a gift from God. Faith is not something we should ever struggle alone over; we must rely on God to give us faith when we feel that we lack it. Doubts will come naturally and are not sinful but the correct action is then to ask God for faith to overcome those doubts. I have always thought doubts were to be overcome by reasoning, which has its place, but the only permanent solution is that we must plead to God for the gift of faith.

Some have this gift naturally as described in D&C 46 –

13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.

– but as 46:11 explains:

11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

The conclusion that can be made is that many, maybe even most people do not naturally have faith. And since 46:26 shows that all gifts, including faith, come from God…

26 And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.

…then the only way they can receive faith is by asking God for it. We are given the promise in 46:30 that…

30 He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.

I personally testify to the truth of these verses. It is hard to describe exactly how an increase in faith feels – it is simply an empowering feeling and a perceivable increase in trust and love for God that can’t be explained except that I have asked God for that gift. I have realized that this is the only sure way to maintain my faith, by continually asking God. Others may have inherited the gift of faith and don’t need to do that, but probably for the majority of people it is the sure method.

Malo e ‘a’ahi mai ki he’eku ki’i blog ko ‘eni. Nofo aa!


Week 69-70 – ‘Utulau

Another biweekly post from Elder Watts. Last week we had stake conference, this week we had MLC and Mission Tour. Elder Cardon of the Pacific Area Presidency attended our MLC and Tuesday’s session of the mission tour, and then Elder Juan Uceda of the Presidency of the Seventy visited us today, along with Elder Halleck and Elder Tukuafu. It was a blessing to have them here sharing their insights and teaching the mission. Elder Uceda especially is an amazing speaker. His wife only speaks Spanish so there was a lady translating to Tongan for us. It was funny thinking how I hadn’t heard a language I didn’t understand in a long time (despite taking four years of Spanish class).

Elder Uceda was effective in reminding us that prayer is our source of power as missionaries, which means we also need to exhort our investigators to pray. I really connected with his words “Prayer is the doorway to spirituality”. There is no way someone can preach with power if they aren’t praying sincerely and on a constant basis. As Elder Uceda said, if we want power then we must pray, and not just say prayers.

The work is coming along fine in ‘Utulau. Our focus has been introducing people to the Book of Mormon. I think it’s Preach My Gospel which says it is the best conversion tool, along with the Holy Ghost. For me personally I also find it the most exciting and natural thing to share with people. We have even been visiting the members here and encouraging them to read the Book of Mormon. There is no better way to get inspired to share the gospel than to read the many stories of the missionary prophets in the Book of Mormon.

Hope all is well in the world! ‘Ofa lahi atu.

Week 67-68 – ‘Utulau

Malo e lelei!

President gave everyone a 90-day Book of Mormon reading challenge a while ago and today is the halfway mark. It’s been nice reading at a consistent, steady pace. Usually I’d read ten chapters in one day then get sidetracked on something else for a while but keeping with the daily chart has helped the verses really sink in. Here’s something I read a few days ago from Alma 8:

8 And it came to pass that when Alma had come to the city of Ammonihah he began to preach the word of God unto them.

9 Now Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah; therefore they would not hearken unto the words of Alma.

10 Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance.

Something that stuck out to me is that although the people of Ammonihah wouldn’t listen to Alma, there was still labor for him to perform. I felt reminded, even prodded by the Spirit that even though I work in a little town no larger than my own neighborhood back in America, that is no excuse to work less. When the people don’t listen, then is the time to “labor much in the spirit” and “wrestle with God in mighty prayer”. Even as a metaphor, wrestling with God doesn’t sound easy! Sometimes I miss my previous areas with multiple wards where it seemed like the work just kept flowing in but the little areas like ‘Utulau are the real crucibles.

Another thing I noticed this week during a teaching is that when an investigator asks questions, that is always a good sign! Actually I have realized that for a while but the reverse finally became clear to me: If an investigator doesn’t ask questions, that’s probably a bad sign. There are plenty of questions to be asked which we don’t answer in a single lesson. I want my teaching to be clear enough so that the investigator understands not only the details of the lesson but also why it’s important to them. Once they understand its significance to them, then they’ll start asking questions because they actually care about what they’re learning! So that’s something I’ll be working on to improve the manner of my teaching.

‘Ofa atu.

Week 65-66 – ‘Utulau

Hello, hello! Transfers came and I’m staying in ‘Utulau. Elder Vakautakakala went back to Vava’u to be a zone leader there. My new companion is Elder Mohulamu from Niutoua, Tonga. We actually came in to the mission at the same time and went to Vava’u together so I’m already familiar with him.

On Sunday night we had our big musical fireside which we’ve been planning for a couple weeks. The week before we didn’t have many teachings because of MLC and planning the fireside but it was all worth it because it turned out great. Tons of nonmembers came and the speakers and musical numbers were all excellent. This week we’ll be busy following up with all the invites who came. There was one girl we ran into the day before actually while we were inviting people to the fireside. I asked if she had ever talked to the missionaries before and she said yes, she had been taking lessons from the Sisters in Matangiake. They both moved this transfer though so we’ll take over teaching her now in ‘Utulau. The Sisters said she was progressing really well so we’re excited to follow up with her.

Last week WordPress wouldn’t load so here’s my blog post for last week:

There were a couple days this past week where I felt pretty down. I felt like I wasn’t being social enough and not being a part of conversations even though I understood perfectly. It felt like my mind was just empty when talking to people. I think it’s been something affecting me for a while this transfer but until then I was still trying to talk. The day or two last week though I just stopped trying. My companion and I went to go check out the beach one day when a couple teachings fell through, and I gained the courage to ask him for help. He had noticed a change in me too and gave some advice, but I think the most helpful thing was just letting him know what I was facing.

At first I told him I felt like I couldn’t have conversations or care about what people were talking about, but by talking with my companion I realized I had just hit a slump during this transfer which wasn’t there before. I remembered back to Lapaha when I was with
Elder Hirinuki where I always talked to people and loved doing it. A few days later I even ran into a missionary I hadn’t seen in a long time and, commenting on the improvement in my language, he said that Elder Hirinuki told him I always loved talking to people. That actually really helped me feel better because it reinforced that I hadn’t always been in this slump. Elder Vakautakakala also added that he felt bad because with him being close family with a lot of ‘Utulau, more attention was given to him than me, so I had less opportunity to talk.

Whatever the reasons were, being open with my companion was the best solution. Now I can talk openly without feeling like I’m messing up or slowing down the conversation because my companion knows I’m just trying to talk more. We also agreed that if I ask a question that he already knows the answer to, then he should let the person we’re talking to answer instead of him so I can have that conversation, which is really more important than getting the answer. I think what I learned the most from this experience is that it was only painful while I faced my problem alone. When we have the humility to seek help from our Heavenly Father and those he has given to help bear us up, then although the burden may still be there, it will be lighter and no longer a cause of stress.

‘Ofa lahi atu kiate kimoutolu.

P.S. P-days are on Wednesdays now!

Week 64 – ‘Utulau

Malo e lelei! Mou fefe hake?

Our open house program this week was pretty successful. An open house can be lots of things, but the way we ran ours we started the program in the chapel, then divided the congregation into two halves and had them go through a rotation of rooms where the presidency from each houalotu (can’t remember what it’s called in English) did a 5-minute presentation on what they do in their houalotu. For example the Young Women talked about the Young Women’s purpose, Personal Progress, Mutual, etc. Then everyone returned to the chapel and two nonmember attendees were asked to give a short talk on what they learned.

The first lady talked about what she learned from the Primary program as a teacher herself in the kids’ Sunday school class in the Methodist Church. Then she praised the 72-hour-kit displayed in the Relief Society and the work the Church does in preparing its members for natural disasters. The next speaker was pretty for special for us, but especially my companion because it was his grandpa. We’ve been visiting him on his farm at least once a week and just talking but haven’t started teaching him yet. Everyone was pretty surprised to see him show up to the open house; apparently it was the first time since the chapel was built 30+ years ago. Hopefully this opens up the opportunity for us to start sharing our message with him. It’s a pretty special opportunity serving in Tonga to be often working towards the family members of my Tongan companions.

To finish off the open house, a missionary who just returned from Australia gave his testimony and then the bishop did the closing speech. The RM that spoke, his family is part-member so they’re a great family we’ve been working towards. Similar to the story of my comp’s grandfather, it was the RM’s sister’s first time in our church. She came again on Sunday and even stayed after sacrament meeting for classes. I think the lesson I l learned from these experiences is that inviting friends and family to church can be the best way to spark their interest in the gospel. Often times the hardest step for an investigator is going to church but if they can knock that out before even being taught then that makes them much more receptive to the lessons. It also provides an excellent environment for them to feel the Spirit while singing, partaking of the sacrament and listening to talks. My advice for anyone wanting to introduce a friend or family member to the gospel is to simply invite them to church, then let them decide if they want to learn more from the missionaries.

Ko ia pe ‘eku fakakaukau. Ofa pe te mou ma’u ha aho fiefia! Ofa atu.


Week 63 – ‘Utulau

Malo e lelei! This last week was pretty busy. A lot of time was spent teaching and preparing three of our investigators for baptism on Saturday. On Sunday night we were finally told the topic we would be teaching on in zone conference the next day, so we hurried coming up with a plan for that. It actually turned out really good though. We taught on Chapter 9 in Preach My Gospel, which deals with how to find people to teach.

At one point in our teaching we led a roleplay where six missionaries became a mixed family of strong Church members, less-active members, and nonmembers. The other two missionaries had to share a message that would help all members of the family, despite the different stages they were in. From Preach My Gospel we learn that the first missionary lesson, the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is powerful and should often be the first message we share with others. The manual also teaches that families are one of the most important topics we can talk about with people because they are something that everybody cares about. So we told the two missionaries to share a short but powerful message of the Restoration which relates to families. The result was powerful, even just as a roleplay. In President Tuione’s comments on the roleplay he said that we should always be talking about our own families; it is the easiest way for people to feel the power of our message – that it is really strong enough to temporally take us away from those we love so we can spread its truth. The inspiration for doing this roleplay came from a family we recently taught who are in a similar position. My companion and I learned a lot from this zone conference on the importance of not just looking for investigators on the outside but inviting members to help us share the gospel with their immediate family. After all, the family is the whole purpose of the message we preach.

‘Ofa lahi atu kamoutolu. Bye!



Week 61-62 – ‘Utulau

Sorry I don’t have much time to write but here are some pictures showing some stuff we did the past couple weeks. Last Tuesday we went to the temple with the youth in our ward and helped with baptisms and confirmations for the dead. The other temple picture is from when we went to the temple another time for MLC. The rest is pictures from when we helped Elder Vakautakakala’s uncle get the food ready for a program at the Methodist church. I’ll write more next week!