Week 37 – Lapaha

Malo e lelei! ‘Oku ou fiefia ‘i homou lau ‘eku ki’i “blog”.

My new comp’s name is Elder Hirinuki, or just Nuki because that’s easier for people to say. He’s from Auckland, New Zealand and he’s quarter Maori, quarter Polish, quarter Cook Island, and quarter Niue. Everyone thinks he’s Tongan though which is funny when we meet people. If we’re together for long I might accidentally pick up his Kiwi accent because it’s pretty contagious.

This new area I’m working in is enormous. It’s actually two areas combined because there used to be Sisters working in Hoi/Talasiu but we cover that too now. If we walked from one corner to the other it’d probably take over an hour, which wouldn’t really be that big if we had a car but it means we have to leave extra time in between appointments just to travel back and forth. If we plan well then we should be able to get everything done in one town and then move on to the next one.

This was definitely one of the best if not the best week of my mission so far. As my comp always says, this area is “gangster”, and we met tons of really cool people. Yesterday Elder Nuki said “I think we made someone cry every day this week”. It was a good kind of crying though because we had some really sincere conversations with members, less-actives, and nonmembers alike. There are a few people I want to share with you guys:

First is our taki faifekau, or ward mission leader. He is a recent convert from less than two years ago. On Saturday morning we went to his house to see if we could go around with him meeting some ward members. He said he was about to go to town but we ended up talking with him for almost an hour and a half. This guy is the perfect example of a convert and what every missionary hopes their converts will turn into. His testimony is solid and he is extremely humble. When my comp asked if there was anything we could help him with all he asked is that when we go back home we remember his family in our prayers and he will do the same for us. His neighborhood is all Catholic, except him and his family. He described it like being a sheep among wolves, but I told him that means his area will be the best place for us to work. He’s 30-something so he didn’t get the opportunity to serve a mission but if he had converted earlier he would have gone immediately and wishes he had grown up in the church like I did. He said he was surprised when the bishop called him to be the ward mission leader but now he takes that seriously as his chance to be a missionary. I am super excited to work together with him in Lapaha. His Catholic background will help us reach out to the mostly Catholic population here.

Another person is Leini, a lady whose husband is already a member and served a mission. She started taking the lessons from the missionaries before us and we continued by teaching the Plan of Salvation to her and her husband. It didn’t take long to figure out she already knew almost everything about the lesson. She asked an important question, “What if I would rather live in the Terrestial Kingdom so I can be with my family?”. I hadn’t really thought of an answer to that before but I responded by saying “Our Heavenly Father’s love for us and our love for him is much greater than the love within earthly families, but we just don’t remember it. That’s why it’s important that we all try to go to the Celestial Kingdom, so we can reunite with our Heavenly Parents.” At the end of the lesson she bore her testimony, which the husband said she was preparing for when she gets confirmed a member of the Church. The only thing they’re waiting for is her parents to get back from vacation in New Zealand. She asked that we include all the little details and scriptures to back them up in our lessons so her testimony can be mature when she gets baptized. Her husband said one time he found her asleep in bed with the Book of Mormon under her head like a pillow. He joked saying he thought she was doing it to scare away the devil like some people do with the Bible, but no she was actually reading it. Hopefully I will still be here when she gets baptized.

The last person I want to talk about is a Catholic man who we found while knocking doors. He was getting a haircut and told us to go sit on a concrete block while we waited for him to finish. At first he was telling us all kinds of directions to the area since we were new. Eventually we started the lesson. His understanding of prophets was really good. When Elder Nuki asked if he thought we needed a prophet today, he said yes, very much. When I asked him what he thought the role of the Apostles was, he said to testify of Christ and help the prophets. We were both really surprised to hear how similar his understanding was to ours, especially Elder Nuki because he was Catholic for a while. We explained the Priesthood super well, talked about how Peter held the keys to the Church and how the Apostles ordained new Apostles to the work in the same way that Jesus had ordained them. Then we got to Joseph Smith and the First Vision. We asked what he knew about Joseph Smith and he said he was the prophet that founded the Mormon church. I could tell he was surprised to learn about the First Vision and it really held his interest. We talked about how the Priesthood was restored to Joseph Smith, then discussed the role of the Book of Mormon. I feel really good about this investigator. We just taught him the Plan of Salvation earlier today and my feeling is the same. After explaining the Fall of Adam and Eve we asked if he thought it was necessary for them to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, and he replied saying “Yes, them eating part of the fruit was part of God’s plan because he knew beforehand how they would act” Again I was shocked because his understanding was exactly the same as ours, though I thought most of Christianity believed that if they hadn’t eaten the fruit, we would all be living in a paradise world today without sin. Then he asked what would happen if they hadn’t eaten the fruit, and I explained my belief that the adversary is also part of God’s plan, and that He knew Satan would succeed in tempting Eve. Our investigator also seemed to already have an understanding of the three kingdoms of glory. It was one of the most interesting discussions I’ve ever had with an investigator. When we asked about his reading the Book of Mormon he said he hadn’t started yet but he meant to, and that his wife had started reading on her own. We asked if we could meet and teach his family and he agreed for us to come on Wednesday. I feel incredibly good about him and I think it’s a good sign for our work to come in this area.

No offense to my Tongan companions in the past but having a non-Tongan comp is exactly what I needed this transfer. I have an equal part now in every conversation and lesson, and the language has improved incredibly. The last couple lessons I haven’t felt at all limited by the language in expressing myself. I’m so thankful that I finally feel content with my grasp of the language considering how long I’ve been out.

This was a long post but I needed to write more about the work than I usually do. I’m not sure what I thought my blog would turn into when I started but it’s become sort of a journal for my thoughts and experiences which I think will be valuable when I look back on the mission. Thank you to my parents for suggesting that I make a blog. Ofa lahi atu, tau toki sio he uike ka ha’u.

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Author: Elder Patrick Watts

I am serving a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Tonga Nuku'alofa Mission.

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