Week 58-59 – Tokomololo

Malo ‘etau ma’u e pongipongi ni. Ko ha ‘aho fiefia ‘eni, he koe ‘aho ia oku fai ai e volipolo moe ta’o kuli. ‘I ha fakalea ‘e taha, koe ‘aho P-day ‘eni.

Something scary I realized this week: I only have ten months left. Even stranger, the sister missionaries I entered the MTC with are done at the end of this year. Time flies even faster when you’re both having fun and in the service of the Lord.

One of our investigators was supposed to get baptized on Saturday but tragedy struck Tokomololo! There was a putu (funeral) on Friday, and the way funerals are done in Tonga anyone can show up and tons of people usually do, often for the food. Apparently the hot dogs had been sitting around for a while after they were cooked and over forty people, mostly children, went to the hospital that day and night. Our investigator started getting sick as she was about to do her baptismal interview and eventually went to the hospital later that night, so we delayed her baptism to this Saturday. Thankfully nobody got too sick. My companion joked that it was an unfortunate coincidence that the food little kids get most excited for is, of course, hot dogs.

On Sunday the bishop asked us to give a talk and since I recently started the Book of Mormon over again, I talked about 2 Nephi 4:17-35, or the “Psalm of Nephi”. My favorite part is verses 26-27, as Nephi questions the reason of his own sorrow and temptation. It’s important that we recognize our sins and shortcomings. Then we should ask, “Why am I like this?” or “Why do I do this?”. I believe that if we aren’t constantly self-evaluating and actively trying to change ourselves, then we¬†will only be acted upon by other forces. Something I’ve realized on the mission is that one of my “spiritual gifts” is a self-awareness of my own feelings and emotional impulses, and easily recognizing and facing faults in my own logic. The reason I believe it’s a spiritual gift is that it undoubtedly must be one of the traits of Jesus Christ and a skill that helps us become more like Him. When we understand what makes us do what we do, we can better resist temptation and master control over our thoughts and actions.

Some members told me about the hurricane in Texas. Might seem odd but it makes me grateful to be on this little island in the middle of the Pacific. Hopefully it’s comforting for those affected to know that people here are praying for you.

Transfers are already coming up this week, so we’ll see what happens. Ofa atu!

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Week 56-57 – Tokomololo

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The work has been pretty good the last couple weeks! One of our investigators named Lu’isa has been progressing really well. It’s been an amazing experience teaching her because I think she is the first adult investigator I’ve taught who went from no interest or understanding of the gospel to hopefully being baptised soon and becoming a strong member of the Church. Most of my other investigators had already received some lessons before or didn’t end up accepting baptism while I worked with them but this is the first time I’ll get to see the full progression.

This past week we received tons of referrals from the members, so we have a ton of potential investigators to visit this week. Some of them already go to church, but with us trying to make it to all three wards on Sunday sometimes we don’t realize a nonmember showed up to sacrament meeting. Yesterday I told my companion that was the busiest Sunday on my mission, or my whole life even. From 6:30am to 9:30pm our schedule was completely full with only an hour of rest. Big change from my last area with only one ward and hardly any meetings.

That’s all for this week. Ofa atu!

Week 55 – Tokomololo

You might be surprised reading the title because last week I said I was moving to Nualei. Last Monday the AP’s took me and Elder Hirinuki to the Tongan equivalent of the DMV so we could get our drivers licences. For me it was super easy, they checked my American license, took a picture and printed out the new license right there. Elder Nuki didn’t have a full license though so he’ll have to take an actual driving test. Beyond having a license you also have to get certified by the mission, so as a result President decided to send an already certified driver to take my place in Nualei and I moved to Tokomololo instead.

That same day I watched a bunch of driving safety videos at the office and drove to town once with one of the couple missionaries. I guess that was enough for them to trust me, though I was pretty nervous driving on the left side for the first time. Also having to take into account people and animals on the road was new for me. It’s been fairly quick getting used to driving though.

My new companion is Elder Vakautakakala from Auckland, New Zealand. He’s about nine months in his mission and a transfer into this area. The first week here has already been really fun. The wards are strong, especially the young men and those preparing to serve a mission, which is a new experience for me. There’s a lot of people here eager to help us in the work. On Sunday we had four new investigators just from members inviting them to church, and we taught them after sacrament meeting.

I’m excited for this week of work and MLC leadership training! I couldn’t be happier with this area and my new companion. Ofa atu!

Week 51-54 – Hoi

First off I want to apologize for not writing for an entire month! There really isn’t any good excuse; sometimes I’m just lazy and don’t feel like thinking of something to write about. I will try to return to writing every week, even if it’s just a short paragraph.

Training has certainly been a growing experience, maybe even more for me than for Elder ‘Eukaliti. Being a trainer puts your integrity to the test – how hard will you work when it’s completely up to you? Watching Elder ‘Eukaliti progress was a reminder of the many stages I went through in the first year of my mission. I would probably sum up a mission as progressively taking on more and more responsibility, and learning how to cope with that. Starting out it’s a bit shocking but after a year you’re so used to it, it’s just natural to accept more duties. One of the best lessons I’ve learned in Hoi is getting involved with the ward. On Mondays we join a family for family home evening, Wednesday we visit the less-actives with the ward mission leader and teach an English class that night, Thursday we go door-knocking with stake leadership in another area, Friday we teach at the primary school, Saturday we invite people to church with the bishop, and on Sunday we teach a gospel principles class and I play piano in sacrament meeting, plus any ward/stake activities and firesides during the week and all the lessons that we teach with the members to investigators. It didn’t start out that way though; over the past three transfers we’ve been working them in one by one. We started to see the results the last couple weeks as members have been helping us a lot more in the work, such as giving us referrals and helping us teach investigators. When Elder Hirinuki and I started in Lapaha and Hoi we kind of went at it on our own and the results were still okay because we worked hard but not like it is now. So I can testify that getting involved and working to strengthen the ward is the best way to be and feel successful as a missionary.

I love the saying “leave the area better than you found it”, and it’s now relevant because we got transfer news yesterday. President Tui’one called and let me know I’ll be moving to Nualei to be comps again with my man Nuki. I’m super excited to work with him again and from what he’s told me it’s a great area for the work. Elder Hirinuki was made zone leader last transfer and now I’ll be stepping up to that position to replace his companion who just finished his mission. It’s great because all four of us Elders from my original MTC class were just made zone leaders and we’ll get to see each other at MLC (leadership training) next month.

I testify that this is the true restored gospel of Jesus Christ which we are teaching. Our Saviour personally leads His Church through the prophet Thomas S. Monson and His Apostles. I testify that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and strengthens our testimony of Christ and the Atonement. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ofa lahi atu kiate kimoutolu.

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.