Week 33

Malo ‘etau lava.

At the beginning of the year President Tui’one gave us all a commitment to read the Book of Mormon everyday, following a schedule that would lead us to finish reading it in 90 days. I started reading in Tongan but got distracted by other scriptures and stopped around 1 Nifai 15. On Monday last week I decided I need to renew and complete that commitment. I have to read a lot more each day than the 90-day plan called for but I’m glad because it has really helped me to teach from the scriptures in our lessons, and of course to learn the language. It’s kind of embarrassing that I still haven’t read the Book of Mormon in Tongan but I am genuinely committed this time. I don’t really have a choice actually because President’s son borrowed my English quad while he went on an exchange with the APs, and conveniently forgot to return it. I was a little devastated to find out they were gone because of how long I’ve had them and all the markings and notes I’ve made in them, but thankfully it is the mission president’s son so I trust they’ll make it back to me someday.

We baptized our investigator Brooklynn on Saturday along with three of the APs’ investigators, including the Kiribati lady I got to help teach. I performed all four baptisms because nobody else had white clothes, which seems to be a common occurrence, since I have my own personal pair of white pants while there are a limited number of white tupenus running around. It’s okay though, I still really enjoy baptizing. The Kiribati lady kept thanking me over and over again, which was a nice reminder not to forget the personal significance of baptism to the investigator, even when as a missionary it seems so routine.

Alright, here are my notes from the mission conference two weeks ago:

Elder Renlund:

  • There were three important messages he wanted us to know:
    1. Thank you from the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and our Savior Jesus Christ.
    2. You are called by prophecy to serve in the location we were assigned to. You have a right and obligation to know this; when you receive that revelation, write it down.
    3. President and Sister Tui’one are also called of God by prophecy and they love you.
  • When Elder Renlund was first called to be an Apostle, Elder Cook was assigned to be his mentor in adjusting to all the new responsibilities. One time Elder Renlund felt overwhelmed and in a private meeting with Elder Cook, he expressed that he felt like an imposter in the quorum meetings because of the comparatively little experience he had. The next week he received one of the strongest rebukes from the Lord he had ever experienced. The main thought that came to his head was: “You have no right given the spiritual assurance of your calling to express inadequacy to anyone except your wife and the Lord.” This story left an interesting impression on me, wondering how it can be applied to my life now as a missionary or supposing it will have greater meaning in the future.
  • Elder Renlund drew a chart with Attitude on one axis and Effort on the other. He described how there are different states that a missionary can be in of either negative or positive attitude, and negative or positive effort. The section of positive attitude and positive effort is where miracles are witnessed, because the missionary works with joy and faith. Elder Renlund admitted that his natural tendency is the negative attitude but positive work. I think my own tendency is the same, and I have seen how nothing results from the work you do without the proper attitude.
  • Elder Renlund left us with an apostolic blessing, the most significant part to me being that “…as you continue faithful you will know as clearly as I know that this is the work of God.”

The other speakers were also amazing but I’m running out of time! Ofa lahi atu.

 

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Week 32

This week was pretty great. Starting on Tuesday we went on a vilohoa (comp exchange) with the APs. Elder Soakai and I went to go teach a Kiribati lady who they had only briefly met before. Naua, the investigator, is living with a member family so of course right when we walked in they invited us to come eat. The fried fish was super good. After chatting with Naua’s member friends for a while we went to the living room and started teaching the first lesson, in English. It was the biggest breath of fresh air to teach in English, like my thoughts were completely unrestricted from turning into words. I feel like I’ve said this before but I’ve grown since the start of my mission to the point that I would be completely confident meeting and teaching anyone, if they spoke English. Makes me wish sometimes that I went stateside because compared to my finding and teaching skills in English it might take many more months until I reach the same level in Tongan. Anyways, enough whining. The lesson went for almost 90 minutes but it was really good because we made sure Naua understood everything we taught and took things slowly if necessary, and nobody seemed impatient the whole time. One of her member friends with us in the lesson used to be the principal at Liahona, so her English was incredibly good. She started talking about the Council of Nicaea to show how the doctrine of the nature of God was changed in early Christianity, and I thought “Whoa, that is definitely the only time I’ll hear that get brought up during a lesson”, haha.

On Friday we were walking home around 8:30 pm when we realized that one lady had been walking by us for a long time. Elder Teutau said hello to her but she didn’t respond at first. She started crying and eventually she started talking, saying something about how she needed to go back to church. She said she had four brothers who served missions so she knew she could trust us. As we walked her home she opened up more about her problems and how she wanted help. When we arrived at her house she said she wanted her kids to get taught. She wants Sisters though so we referred her to the Sister Training Leaders. Pretty cool experience of how we were in the right place at the right time.

Our mission conference with Elder Renlund was on Saturday. He was accompanied by his wife, Elder Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Halleck the Pacific Area Seventy, and their wives. I don’t have time right now but next week I will write more about what I learned. See you next week.

Week 31 – Pahu

Just a little coincidence, today is seven months since the day I entered the MTC. Feels like forever ago.

Staying with the APs has been way fun. Also nice that they often give us rides, since our area is about a 20 minute walk  from the MQ and 45 minutes to the church. They are both really studious so we’ve already had some good doctrinal discussions.

On Friday we met with all the zones in Tongatapu and watched the worldwide missionary broadcast. The big news from that is the change in the missionary schedule and key indicators. The main changes in the schedule are that we do planning in the morning, get two more hours to prepare on P-day, and they want us to start proselyting at 10:00 am and end at 9:00 pm, inserting companion and language study somewhere during the day instead of in the morning. The key indicators have been reduced from nine to only four: baptisms and confirmations, baptismal dates set, investigators’ sacrament attendance, and new investigators. These are the only numbers we report to the office now. I like the reason that was given for this change in the broadcast: those four statistics are really the only “key” identifiers that an investigator is progressing towards baptism and will stay faithful afterwards.

Elder Renlund is coming this Saturday. President has been preparing us the whole last month to meet with him. I’m guessing we’ll probably discuss some of the new changes.

Sorry this post is so bland. Ofa atu.

Week 30 – Pahu

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Transfers were yesterday so we had no time to email until today. Elder Teutau and I are still together but we moved to another MQ in Fasi. We also lost Ward 9 but gained Ward 14 while still keeping Ward 7. So it’s a tiny transfer but still sad to leave Ward 9 because of how involved they were in missionary work. Our MQ is pretty big so the APs are staying here too. It will be interesting to see how different their workload as assistants to the president is from most missionaries. This morning I heard their alarm go off at 5:30 and they were gone before I woke up again. Wouldn’t want to be in their sandals right now, haha.

Our baptism on Wednesday went smooth. We had to delay Paula’s baptism but the three Soakai kids (Tevita, Meleane, and Emeli) were joined by a girl who just turned 8 so we ended up baptizing four people anyway. All the primary kids showed up at the program. It’s fun seeing how excited they get to watch a baptism. The Soakai kids were super prepared to be baptized. Even though they’re only 9-11 years old they had a strong desire to make that covenant with the Lord.

I think I’ll start a list of animals I’ve eaten in Tonga because I feel like I’m not even halfway through everything they eat here and I want to make sure I do. I’ll update it on the blog so you can check if I’ve tried anything exotic recently.

Kuo u lau ‘i he Tokateline mo e Ngaahi Fuakava he uike kuo ‘osi ‘o fekau’aki mo e ngaahi me’a ofa ‘oe Laumalie. ‘Oku ou ilo ‘oku mo’oni ‘ae ngaahi me’a ofa ko eni, pea ‘oku totonu ke tau holi mo kumi ke ma’u ia. Te tau tapuaki’i lahi ‘ae ni’ihi kehe ‘i etau tui ki he ‘Otua mo etau ngaue’aki ‘a etau ngaahi me’a ofa fakalaumalie. ‘Oku ou faka’amu te mou lotu koe’uhi ke mou ‘ilo ko fe ‘ae me’a ofa ‘amoutolu ‘oku foaki kiate kimoutolu.

What I was trying to say is that I know the gifts of the Spirit talked about in 1 Corinthians and D&C 46 are real, and that we should seek to obtain these gifts, as spoken by the prophets. We can bless the lives of others if we have faith and use our spiritual gifts. I hope you all will pray to know which gift you have been given. Ofa atu.