Week 50 – Hoi

Week 50? What the heck!? Fun fact, my assignment says that my mission ends exactly a year from now.

Here’s the letter I just wrote to my mission president:

Dear President Tui’one,

First off I’m grateful for the assignment to train. It is definitely an opportunity to grow, for both the trainer and the trainee. Elder ‘Eukaliti is coming along really well. One thing we have been focusing on is effectively using study time. We usually use companionship study time to roleplay lessons we’re going to teach that day. I used to dislike roleplaying but I know how helpful it is now. Last district meeting we roleplayed Lesson 1 and it seemed like everyone was immediately happy with the experience. I plan on us doing a roleplay every week for district meeting.

Speaking of district meeting, I also set some district goals which everyone agreed to, which are (in the next two weeks) to reach: 5 baptisms, 10 baptismal dates, 15 investigators attending sacrament meeting, and 40 new investigators. We discussed the new goals that you set (2 baptisms, 7 baptismal dates, 7 investigators attending sacrament meeting, and 20 new investigators, per companionship per week) and I asked if we’d be able to reach them this week. My point was that I don’t think we’ll be able to this week, next week or maybe even not for a few months, but there will be a time that we achieve those goals if we work from where we’re at right now and build up the missionary work in our wards. In fact I’d be ecstatic if I could reach those numbers in just one week of my entire mission. I don’t know if those numbers are a goal, a vision, or an expectation but either way the only thing we can promise is how hard we’ll work and how obedient we’ll be. Everything else depends on the members, the investigators, and the Lord. I don’t mean to sound like I’m lecturing; really I’m lecturing myself on things I’m sure you have much more experience with than I.

The only question I have is on the gap between 7 baptismal dates and 2 baptisms. 5 investigators who accept the baptismal invitation but then don’t get baptized seems like a lot. Personally I wouldn’t want to commit so many people to a baptism they’re not actually going to follow through with. I guess the question is, is it always better for the investigator for us to set a baptismal date if it is unlikely they will actually get baptized? Is the significance of the baptismal invitation weakened if we extend it liberally to those who will accept but very likely not follow through?

I think I just realized while writing that maybe the method of my baptismal invitation is what needs fixing. If the invitation is not to be “baptized on this date” but to “prepare to be worthy to be baptized on this date”, then that is an invitation I want to give to everyone. Now the seemingly high number of baptismal dates compared to baptisms makes sense to me.

Thanks for all your service, President. Ofa atu.

Personal revelation is an amazing thing. I also just understood for the first time why humility is necessary for having the Spirit as a constant companion. If we always think our ideas are the best for us, then there’s no room for the Holy Ghost to suggest things that run counter to what we naturally think is right.

Another thing I want to touch on is journal writing. I think it’s so incredible how a lot of what we now consider scripture, started off as just a letter or a journal entry. The initial perception of scripture is that it is the word of God, which is literally true in many cases but just as often it is records and personal histories which an authorized prophet, like Mormon, was inspired to include into a collection of writings which would later become accepted as scripture. Not only are the sermons of mature prophets like King Benjamin inserted but also the recollections of those like Nephi and Alma from their pre-prophetic times, when they were weak and vulnerable and often made mistakes (Nephi breaking his bow, Alma the Elder as a priest of the wicked king Noah, Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah persecuting the church). When we write in our journals, I believe we can consider it our personal scriptures. That doesn’t mean that everything we write in them in true and inspired by the Holy Ghost, but like the early experiences of the prophets I mentioned before, they recognized their faults and their false beliefs. They were able to grow out of those experiences and apparently we can learn something too from reading them because we have them today canonized as scripture. Like scripture, our journals become more valuable as time passes. I recently went back and read some old blog posts, which was definitely an enlightening experience. The older entries seem to enrich the more recent ones as they provide a basis for comparison. That is why I believe and recommend the prophetic counsel to keep a journal, so we can have our own personal scriptures to study and benefit from just as we do with the standard works. Start one today if you have not already, and write even when it seems like there is nothing worth remembering, or record old memories from the past. I really regret having not written much in my journal before because it’s so unsatisfying relying just on memory.

Have a fantastic week. Ofa atu kamoutolu.

Week 49 – Hoi

Yep, I’m training. My son’s name is Elder ‘Eukaliti (even Tongans have a hard time saying it) from Nukunuku, and he’s just waiting here until he can go to his assigned mission in Papua New Guinea. To be honest the first day or two was kind of stressful, which reminded me of when I was being trained. The whole week before I had been going between areas while I waited for my new companion and busy with ward and stake programs. Then Thursday hit, I got my new comp and the work was kind of dead after being left untouched for a week. No appointments set up for the first couple days, which I felt bad about because I remember being disappointed when the same thing happened to me when I met my trainer. I think the main stress of training is that usually you and your comp rely on each other to make a whole working companionship but now it feels almost like I’m the whole companionship by myself. Of course the goal of training is to bring your trainee up to a level that they can do everything on their own and you’re back to a normal companionship. I used to think training a palangi would be easier back when the language barrier was stronger but now I’m so thankful to train a Tongan because he’s already comfortable in his own culture. I’d hate to deal with a palangi like me when I was being trained, unable to speak and always getting sick, haha.

On Saturday all of the missionaries in Tonga had a meeting with Elder John H. Groberg, or more popularly known as Kolipoki. He and his wife shared some experiences from when he was serving as mission president about fifty years ago. Most of Elder Groberg’s talk was in Tongan which was really cool to listen to. For probably not speaking it all of the time he still sounded almost like an old native Tongan, especially the way he expressed with his hands and voice while telling a story. Elder Groberg is an amazing example of hard work and obedience.

This weekend was also stake conference and all the speakers were just great. Elder O’Riordan from Australia came to preside and spoke at every session. Something he said that benefited me was that our invitation to others outside of the church is simple: Come bring the faith that you already have and we will add to it and make it stronger. This Church is the only one with the fullness of the gospel as established by Jesus Christ. Anyone who joins this Church will experience an increase in faith and happiness. President Tui’one also attended our stake conference and shared a story about how the Book of Mormon even helped his 10-year-old son be content with moving from New Zealand to Tonga. The Book of Mormon has the answers not just to the big questions in life but also the small daily problems we encounter. That is why we are counseled to read it every day.

Happy American Father’s Day! Ofa lahi atu ki he’eku tamai!

 

Week 48 – Hoi

Another week, another P-day. Also another transfer but I’m still not sure what’s going on because I haven’t been told who my new companion is, which probably means I’ll be training someone. Elder Nuki left on Thursday right after Mele’s baptism to replace another Elder who just finished. We didn’t know until that day he would be leaving but I guess we were inspired when we set Mele’s baptismal date, haha. He’s going to go be a zone leader somewhere else so I guess that means I’m district leader since the other Elders in the district are fairly new.

This week I was thinking about the influence that we have on other people, even if we don’t realize it. I feel like a lot of times as missionaries we look at the big list of things we need to do, tackle them one at a time as best we can, then move on to the next thing. At the end of the day you look back at what you did and mostly it’s an analysis of your own performance, how your teaching was or what you could have done better. I think what triggered me thinking about all this is our recent convert Mele. Every time she sees us she gets super happy and asks if we’ll come over tomorrow. To me it feels like all we did was teach a few lessons but for Mele it means so much more. As missionaries we have the opportunity to help change people’s lives for good. Off the mission it would be pretty amazing helping just one person convert. On the mission we do it all the time without even realizing and I want to be better at recognizing those moments, otherwise they might go unnoticed and unappreciated except by the person being converted.

That’s all for this week. Ofa atu.

 

Week 47 – Hoi

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Nuki and I at a family home evening. That’s my lou’akau bag in front of me which I traded for with another missionary.

This week we moved to the MQ in Hoi while the zone leaders took over Lapaha. President wants them in a town near the center of the zone so that’s why we made the switch. Now we only have one ward in a fairly small area. I like the change because before we didn’t get to work as much in Hoi because of the distance but now we can focus completely on this area. We really want to meet all the less-actives and at least get to know them, if not bring them back to church. I’ve been working on a map of the town using the satellite image from Google Maps to trace all the roads and houses. Then I just ask the kids to identify each house on the map, since everyone knows everyone here, and cross-check those names with the ward directory. Nobody can hide from us!

On Saturday we met a couple new investigators. Actually we had met one of them before, a lady named ‘Ofa, who talked to us on the street about two months ago because she found out we had visited her brother who lives out in the farmland. She asked if we could all go visit him together sometime because she’s worried about his kids and grandkids not going to church. She also said she had a question for us but didn’t tell us right then. The visit to her brother never worked out but we talked to her a couple other times on the street. Then on Saturday we decided to visit the house just to ask what her question was. Surprisingly we ended up talking for over an hour with her and her daughter about various subjects she was curious about. They are both Pentecost and their knowledge of the Bible is impressive. Thankfully oursĀ is decent too so we had a really interesting conversation on LDS beliefs and how they compare with the Bible. I love talking to people like them who are well-read in the scriptures and listen respectfully with an open mind, not just trying to bash us. By the end we were just having a good time and even laughing when the daughter kept calling out her mom for going off-topic. Even if they remain strong in their current faith I am happy just to discuss our beliefs and start friendly relationships with people of other faiths. On the other hand we had a not-so-good experience with another church. One of our investigators told us this week we could no longer visit them because they had been reported by their congregation for allowing us in their home. They have a calling in their church and the pastor threatened to release them if we kept visiting. It’s sad that some churches imprison their members in such a way.

That’s all for this week. ‘Ofa atu!