Week 46 – Lapaha

This week definitely saw some tender mercies. When we visited our investigator Leini she had just gotten off the phone with her dad and told us she wants to get baptized on June 17th. Her parents are already members but went less-active, however while in New Zealand the missionaries there have been working with them. We already knew Leini was going to get baptized but I was starting to have some doubts. Her parents get back on the 16th so she wants to get baptized the next day. Hopefully I’ll get to stay here to witness that happy reunion.

Another miracle was that we visited one of our members, Lupe, and she said there’s someone who told her she wants to get baptized. Lupe set it up for her to sleep over that night so they could talk and the next morning we went to go meet her. Mele is 78 and was actually already baptized in Vava’u when she was in her twenties but fell away a while after. Since it’s so long ago we’ll have to check if she has a baptismal record. I am just so happy that we can help someone return to church. She said her house feels like a prison because her children and grandchildren hate the Church and don’t give her the freedom to choose where she worships. She attended church on Sunday with Lupe and received a very warm welcome.

While we were getting to know Mele, Lupe told us a miracle of her own that she experienced. For a very long time she was allergic to manioke, lamb, and fish. Whenever she ate any of these she immediately got sick. This made it difficult for her to be accommodated, even at home. At the beginning of last year she asked the Lord to heal her of this allergy and promised to read the Book of Mormon twice that year. One night in September she finished reading the Book of Mormon the second time that year. The next morning at breakfast she ate a few kumala but was still hungry. Only manioke was left, so she told her daughter to pass her some. Her daughter was shocked because she knew it would make her sick. Lupe insisted and her daughter started to cry because she felt like she would be killing her mom. Lupe ate the manioke and was completely fine. Later that day they went to a restaurant in town and Lupe told her daughter to order some kale sipi (lamb curry) for her. Again, Lupe was unaffected by the food, and the same thing occurred for the fish. I was amazed by the faith that Lupe exemplified in this story. I learned that the Lord can make strong all kinds of weaknesses.

Monday through Wednesday was stormy almost the whole time so we mostly stayed inside the MQ. Here’s a kind of funny story. On Tuesday while we were staying inside we got a text asking if we were going to go teach our investigator Siaosi because he had been waiting for an hour for us to come. We were just baffled because we didn’t know the person who texted us, we never set up a time to go teach him, and outside it looked like a hurricane. Everyone knows we don’t have a car so it would be a 20-minute walk to get there. We thought about what to do, and even suspected it might be a prank, but finally decided to ask the neighbors to take us there. When we got to the house it seemed like nobody was there but we heard someone doing tutu (hitting the bark of a certain tree with a mallet against a log to flatten it and make tapa cloth) so we checked out the back and it was just the mom of the household where Siaosi is staying. We asked her about him and she said he went to town. Now we were really confused and figured it really was a prank, so we got a ride back home. Eventually we found out that the person who texted us is Siaosi’s girlfriend, and he actually was waiting for us but we went to the wrong Siaosi. We have two investigators named Siaosi. The only thing still strange is that she told us we were late to an appointment we never set, and expected us to go out during a huge storm! The good part of the story is that Siaosi’s girlfriend is an RM and a strong member in another ward so it’s not just us trying to convert him.

It seems to be a pattern in my mission and probably in life that when we endure trials the Lord blesses us. Some trials may seemingly go unrewarded until after this life but very often I have seen immediate blessings after passing successfully through the climax of a difficult week or month. Often the challenge is still present but we are gifted with the understanding or perspective to remain content and move forward.

Have a great week. Ofa atu.

 

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Week 45 – Lapaha

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Elder Hirinuki, Siliva, and I. Almost a year ago Siliva’s son Atu had dinner at our home in North Carolina. He promised that if I ever worked in his village his family would roast me a pig. Lapaha is pretty close, so Siliva came and delivered on the promise with some manioke, lu and puaka tunu.

Another so-so week. Nuki and I were pretty tired physically, mentally, and emotionally by the end of the week. Letdown after letdown just kept piling up. Lots of scheduled appointments fell through.

We were going through the ward directory with the ward secretary so we could be more familiar with the less-active families. It was depressing to see how many people were strong members in the past but have since gone backwards. If every family in the ward were active almost the whole town would be at church on Sunday. It makes me wonder how we’re supposed to do missionary work when everyone except strong opposers have already been baptized. I do believe it’s important to help strengthen less-active members because they bridge the gap between the active members and nonmembers. Often times it feels like fruitless work though as people lie to us, ignore us, or show absolutely no desire to change, even when they know what is true and right. Half the ward is angry at the bishop for this or that reason, and I don’t know what to say because maybe they really were dealt with unjustly. I wouldn’t know unless I asked the bishop himself, but it seems like a waste of time to get involved in matters like that. I sympathize, on a much lower scale, with the Prophet Joseph Smith when he said:

“I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen.”

So how do you reactivate someone who believes in everything we teach, but might have a legitimate reason to be at conflict with the bishop? And how do you know when it’s time to stop allocating time to a family because nothing we say will change them? If the home and visiting teaching was strong then we wouldn’t have to worry about that, but it’s not. If we don’t work with the less-actives then the investigators we teach have nobody to associate with or rely on, and will most likely turn into just another name on the directory and worsen the problem.

This week our message has been stronger and to-the-point. When we visited a less-active family I shared a message based on Alma 9:23 which says:

23 And now behold I say unto you, that if this people, who have received so many blessings from the hand of the Lord, should transgress contrary to the light and knowledge which they do have, I say unto you that if this be the case, that if they should fall into transgression, it would be far more tolerable for the Lamanites than for them.

The Lamanites who did not know the truth were more easily forgiven by the Lord than the Nephites who knew the gospel but rebelled against it. There are so many people in the world who haven’t had the opportunity to hear the gospel. Those of us who have heard and gained a testimony of its truth must keep the commandments or it certainly will not be well with us.

When we taught our investigator Uinipola I asked him in the beginning of the discussion what he thinks about what we have shared in the past. He said it is all true. Then I asked why he hasn’t joined the Church yet. His response was a familiar one: “We all believe and pray to the same guy, right?” I thought for a second and said “No, we don’t. For example we believe that the Godhead is three different personages.” Then we went on to reexplain that we believe this Church is the same one that Jesus established during his ministry and how he empowered and authorized his Apostles with the Priesthood so that the doctrines and ordinances of the gospel would be kept unchanged. But after the Apostles were all killed, various churches sprang up with different beliefs and ordinances from the way Jesus taught them. Then I pointed to the doctrine of infant baptism. Catholics believe that people should be baptized in their infancy while we believe that baptism should not be performed until the age of eight, when a child understands right and wrong and is able to sin. Is it possible for both to be true? Can there be two truths? He paused for a while, then said no. Hallelujah! Someone finally got in their head the most basic essential principle. There is only one truth. If two opposing ideas are present, either only one is true and the other false, or both are false. Of course everyone already knows this but the mind will come up with all kinds of excuses to avoid the discomfort of discovering a paradox in one’s thinking.

After the lesson I asked my companion and myself if the Spirit was present in our discussion. I fully believe I was led by the Spirit to say what I did. In fact I had no idea what we were going to teach until we sat down. The only reason I was unsure was because our message was stronger than usual and did not closely follow any of the Preach My Gospel lessons. I believe the Spirit is both the Comforter and the Discomforter. There is nothing cozy about repentance, but the Holy Ghost stirs us to make changes in our lives when God reveals our inadequacies.

To be honest I am kind of tired of working in this area, but it’s not like people are much different anywhere else. At the same time I am nowhere near giving up on the people I’ve grown to love here, and feel a stronger motivation to get something out of this transfer. Funny how pain is usually self-inflicted. When your desire is to work hard, don’t be surprised when it hurts. Another thing about pain is that it’s always humorous given a little time. Even just reading back on this post makes me laugh and throws a lens on my difficulties which makes them feel more manageable. Hopefully those of you reading can sense the humor too. I don’t want to depress anyone.

I love missionary work, and I love how it’s tough sometimes. If converting to this gospel and staying strong your whole life was easy I’d be a little more wary about if it was true. Lots of people slip down the slide and out of this church but nobody accidentally slips up the other way. All of this only strengthens my testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only church led personally by our Savior Jesus Christ, through modern-day prophets who receive the word of God through revelation. Jesus was a cause of stark division while he was on the earth and quite appropriately his Church is exactly the same. The other day I was wondering if the woman caught in adultery did as Jesus said and sinned no more, or if she returned and continued in her sin. Though it would be sad, the latter would not lessen Christ’s power. When members of the Church fall into temptation that does not make it any less true. It only testifies to the power of the adversary and the weakness of man.

Hope my dad appreciates this post for Father’s Day. Sorry it couldn’t be more cheerful, haha. ‘Oua aupito e fo’i ‘i he ngaue. ‘Ofa atu.

Week 44 – Lapaha

This blog post is basically my letter to president, with some minor changes. I might continue doing this because it saves time and lets you guys know how the work is going:

This week was alright. Having zone conference on Monday kind of threw us off a bit because we accidentally planned a bunch of stuff for Tuesday. Then on Wednesday we went on a great comp exchange with a couple RMs to go teach an investigator, but that feel through so we split up and visited less-actives instead. It was the first time since I worked in Talihau that I had done an exchange like that, and I loved it.

We also revisited a new investigator from last week named Uinipola, a 65-year-old Catholic man. At the beginning of the lesson, I asked him what he remembered from what we shared last week. He responded, “Repentance.” Both Elder Hirinuki and I were pleasantly surprised because a large portion of our message had been on repentance and the power of the Atonement. Just to give you some background, he and his buddy were drinking beer the first time we came, so maybe our message really hit hard. I am thankful for that second lesson because I felt led by the Spirit to say a couple things I had never said before in a lesson. First I touched on how wonderful it is that the Lord didn’t choose an educated, wealthy, or influential man, but a humble fourteen-year-old boy to begin the restoration of His Church. Second, at the end of the lesson Elder Hirinuki asked if he had any questions and he responded “no”, then I asked, “Is there anything we shared that you don’t believe in?” His response was “No, I understand everything.” It was comforting to hear. Now we just have to extend the baptismal invitation and find out what, if anything, is holding him back.

On Thursday Elder Moala, one of the zone leaders, came to our area so we fit in a couple hours in our schedule so he could visit his dad’s family in Hoi. It turned out pretty useful actually because we visited two non-member homes we have never been to, and two less-active homes. Literally every other appointment that day fell through and that was kind of the pattern set for the next two days as well.

On Friday we visited three houses that we planned to contact in our weekly planning. We got one new investigator from the first house, and hopefully we’ll get to teach her family too, and set an appointment to visit the second house another day. The third house wasn’t interested but we found out the lady there used to attend a ward in New Zealand and all her kids were baptized, just not her. We will try and find someone to get acquainted with her. There are lots of houses like these that I often feel like we should visit so this week we will try to contact them all.

Saturday was another less-productive day but we asked the bishop to go with us to a recent convert’s house, and he actually accepted. We visited him, our investigator Falekaono, and a couple less-actives to invite them to church. I was really happy with how that turned out because Falekaono really opened up like we had never seen before. He is still struggling with the Word of Wisdom but I have faith in him. I don’t know if he’ll be baptized this transfer, next, or a year from now but I’m sure it will happen.

We have a couple investigators that are fairly certain to get baptized. Leini is basically already a strong member, she’s just waiting for her member parents to return from New Zealand in June so they can be there when she gets baptized. I’ve thought about suggesting that she consider not waiting, since baptism and confirmation are so important to her spiritual growth, but I don’t know if that would be appropriate because I feel like my personal drive to get baptisms might be at play. Another investigator named Siaosi is married to a member here and they just moved from Popua to live at the wife’s family’s house in Talasiu. We started teaching him but the wife’s dad asked us if we could hold off for a bit while they teach him little by little how to pray, study the scriptures, go to church, things like that. Siaosi’s dad is a British man and nonreligious so he never went to church growing up. I am confident he well get baptized, maybe next month. He was super nice and sincerely interested the first time we taught him. I think his learning the gospel by living with a member family will be a very beneficial foundation which we will later add upon with the missionary lessons.

As I think about how we can make sure this next week is more productive than the last, all I can think of is that we just need to be more fakapotopoto (wise, clever) with our daily planning. We usually have a backup plan for at least every hour but those are liable to fall through and cause more time wasted walking around then maybe we should just knock doors around the area where our dropped appointment was scheduled. We also need to use the phone more to try and ask investigators when they’re available rather than walking all the way there just to find our they’re gone. Our effort is good, we just need to be smarter.

Of course, Happy Mother’s Day, although I think it’s officially over in America. Hope everyone had a good one. ‘Ofa atu.

Week 41/42/43 – Lapaha

Internet’s been down for a while and we had zone conference yesterday so P-day got switched to today. Elder Hirinuki and I are staying in Lapaha, thank goodness. Sometimes people stay in the same area for eight months, sometimes just one month so transfers are always uncertain. Hopefully I stay here a good while because I love the work here.

We have a big teaching pool of around ten investigators but many times we don’t teach all of them in a week because they’re busy or not at home. We have an even bigger list of about twenty people we want to start teaching – either referrals from members, family members of investigators, or certain houses we feel like we should knock. Then there’s a huge list of less-active members we keep track of. That is pretty much how the work goes here. In one week we try to teach all our investigators at least once, contact as many potential investigators as we can, and visit the less-active members.

The progress is slow but significant in this area. In just one transfer we got acquainted with almost all the active and less-active members of both wards and we’re even familiar with many nonmember families. A lot of times we get to know two different people but don’t find out until later that they’re closely related, which is often funny. It seems like everyone is related to each other here, which is fairly true for most villages in Tonga anyway.

We haven’t had any baptisms yet but sometimes I think it might be because we haven’t invited enough people to be baptized. Preach My Gospel says something like “there is power in the simple invitation to make sacred covenants with the Lord that often persuades the investigator to accept”. A lot of times we want to wait until the third lesson to extend the baptismal invitation but really it’s appropriate in any lesson, or whenever the Spirit guides you to do it. I’ve been thinking recently about how I usually want someone to come to church once before they accept the baptismal invitation but maybe making that commitment is the motivation they need to leave their current church and join the one true Church.

Hope everything is good back home. Don’t worry about me, I’m in the best place on earth. Ofa lahi atu.