25 Jan 2016

Malo e lelei!
It turns out the kid we were supposed to baptize on Wednesday is only seven years old. That was a disappointment. He turns eight in July.

Another cyclone hit Tonga. A few elders in Ha'apai were crossing a bridge and their car was taken off the road into the water. One of the AP's broke his ankle and got sent home. We didn't have a lot of time left on his mission, so he's not scheduled to come back.

We were able to take Mele to church yesterday. It was stake conference, and she was very bored. But at least she came. He is scheduled to be baptized on Wednesday.

The Koreans convinced another one of our investigators not to take the lessons.

Kind of a slow week this week, and I'm all but out of emailing time.
Ofa lahi atu!
Elder Brown
Eating a doggy
The best choir or earth
Rare stuff
The Tamoepeau family
Musical fireside
Crazy nice Italian restaurant

Kina and Larry Pierce

Malo e leilei Elder Brown!

This is Sister Pierce from our ward, who made the beautiful flower leis (with flowers from her yard) for Jacob and Ali's graduation.

She met her husband Larry in Tonga, where he served as a Peace Corp worker in 1971. 

He had no drinking water, and had been without for three days.  He was SO thirsty! Kina and her sister took water to him the first day they met.  Isn't that sweet? 

His friend taught him to fish in the ocean with a bow (he made it himself!) Locals called him "Leli" so he carved it into the wood.  

He asked where you were serving, and his eyes bugged out when I told him- that is exactly where he lived!  Kina's family brought the gospel to the city next to you!

Larry's Uncle George Earl served a 3 year mission in Tonga in 1924, bringing the gospel to Kina's hometown on Vava'u!

Larry's family were pioneers in the truest sense, walking into the great Salt Lake Valley with the saints. 

He is also my friend, and I am so glad we have this connection!  Not a coincidence!

Love you so much honey!

18 Jan 2016

Malo e lelei!

We worked hard this week, but everyone with a baptismal date seemed to fall through at the last minute. One just didn't come to church, the other two were kept from coming to church; we're still disappointed about this one, but we've been working since yesterday to make sure it doesn't happen again. It would be a funny story if it didn't involve keeping people from baptism.

The two kids in question, Mele and Salesi Tamoepeau, have been going to a Presbyterian church for years. An old couple from Korea serve as the ministers. They hold church meetings in their house.

We were supposed to meet the two investigators at 12:00, so we had time to walk to church by 1:00. We got there and Mele was ready, but Salesi had gone to his old church (because he was hungry, he later told us) a couple of hours prior and hadn't returned. She convinced us to stop by and pick him up. It wasn't far away, and we had plenty of time, so we stopped by. When she went up to the door, the wife grabbed her and took her inside, while the husband came out to yell at us. He doesn't speak Tongan, only Korean and a little English. He told us they were his members, that they'd been coming to their church for 5 years, and to go away.

A 10-year-old recent convert, who walked with us and was a former member of that church, decided to go in and get them, but the ministers wouldn't let him in because he'd been baptized in the LDS church. They pulled him aside and told him he was going to hell if he went to Church with us, etc. and they tried to pull him inside. He started yelling, so we ran up and helped him. We went all D&C 121:43 on them, testified of the truthfulness of the gospel, and went on our way. 

We went later that day to follow up with them and to give their father a priesthood blessing. We went back to our house to get some ibuprofen for him, and when we got back the crazy Koreans were there telling the parents that they would all go to hell if they came to our church. We were way mad at that, but felt impressed not to make a confrontation out of it. We walked down the road a couple hundred yards, and felt impressed to apologize to them for interrupting their church service. We did so, and they yelled at us for a good fifteen minutes in front of the whole family. We told them we loved them, and asked if we could come back today to talk, and to resolve some issues they brought up. We were way mad for a little bit, but I think we handled it nicely.

We returned this morning at 10:00, listened to them yell some more about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, etc., shared the message of the restored gospel, responded to comments as appropriate, and explained our motives in inviting their members to our Church. It may not sound like we accomplished anything, but they understand us better as a result of that meeting. We made it clear that Mele and Salesi wanted to be baptized, and that we would do all we could to help them. They weren't especially thrilled about that, but at least they know our intentions up front.

We taught 15 lessons with members this week, which is a lot of improvement from last week's 6. The previous companionship's record was 9. We have a baptism on Wednesday. We've been working hard. The language is coming along.

Ofa lahi atu,
Elder Brown

The zone

By the way, I said I was always hungry on my first email. That was supposed to be a joke.
I can't tell is I've lost weight, but my waist has gotten like three inches smaller. A good sign indeed. I'll keep the work up.

Pizza is like 60 bucks in Tonga. They also have pineapple fanta, which is very nice.

18 January 2016

       Malo e lelei!
Time keeps on running! I've just come to grips with the 'year mark' thing and that was almost 2 months ago. Just 9 or 10 months left before I'm allowed to go find a wife.

We had zone conference and my companion and I shared 10 minutes teaching the (squabbling) missionaries about humility, patience and love. I get nervous teaching in front of large groups, but I felt confident, and I think that it went very well. 

The night before I overthought the whole thing and stayed up until midnight making a lame list of questions I would ask, thinking about what answers would be acceptble, putting it in order, and cutting it down to 10 minutes. The last zone conference, me and my comp did separate teachings but this time president told us to do it together and keep it short, and it ended up being really good. We shared Helaman 10:4-5 and based our questions and conversation around that. It was a verse and an approach I never would have thought of myself, and with my companions help it ended up being exactly what we needed to teach. And, despite the varying levels of English/Tongan proficiency, the audience understood well.

I feel like I'm in my comfort zone now; although I still have a ways to go, I feel like I can comfortably do missionary stuff in Tongan. Lack of knowledge/experience rarely seems to come into major play, and even if things aren't going well or change at the last minute, I feel like I can still stumble my way through anything. This is a really good feeling and I'm proud of the progress I've made. This last 14-ish was the hardest thing I've ever done, and I feel many of the things that made it hard have gone away or gotten a lot smaller. People have been sharing this with me for a couple months now, but I've only just started to feel it this week.

Daylight savings time switched again, which was really weird, I swear it only changed a few months ago

My companion finishes in a little over 2 weeks, and we're doing our best to keep the steam levels up. I love hime to death and I'll miss him a lot

Good week! I'll try to get more letters off later

'Ofa atu!
Elder Brown

11 Jan 2016

Malo e lelei!
A good week.
Some of the numbers reported in district meeting were a little troubling, to the point where we had to have both the zone leaders and the AP's come. My companionship is doing fine, but not everyone else's is.

We had a little miracle yesterday. We've been teaching the Tamoepeau family. Two of them want to be baptized, but their mother said no. In fact, she was very angry at the Idea. Yesterday, on our way home from an appointment, we decided to go and talk to her. She had been talking to her husband and thinking about it, and she decided it was ok. We explained what baptism is and what it means, and she seemed to think it was cool. She doesn't want to be taught, though. We'll work on that. This was an answer to prayer. Very very cool.

We taught two new investigators, which is some kind of new record. one of them seems interested.
Not a lot was especially different about this week. I'm just getting the hang of things better. 
My language is getting less bad. Reading the Book of Mormon in Tongan really helps.
Sorry for the shortness of the message. It was a good week, and things are getting better.

Ofa lahi atu,
Elder Brown
The coin, given to me by the drunk guy (who, we just found out last night, is going to let his kids be baptized. An answer to prayer indeed)
 Mischievous little booger.

Sunset over the rugby field

Helping bishop out with dinner

4 Jan 2016

Malo e lelei!

My first area is Tofoa, a quasi-suburb of Nuku'alofa on Tongatapu, the main island. Elder Siale, my companion in the MTC, is going to Ha'apai and Elder Lutui (from my district as well) is going to Vava'u. I'm stinking happy for them. Both of those places are notoriously cool. They made fun of me when I told them where I was headed; Tofoa, apparently, is rumored to be the place where they sent the lazy, disobedient, and underachieving missionaries so the president can keep an eye on them. which I was oh so glad to hear.

I've been told transfers occur in Tofoa every six months or so (or more, my trainer has been here for nearly 7 and won't leave for another 3). It's a poorer area of Tongatapu, as I understand. Not in a dangerous way; (that I've experienced, anyway) the people just don't have a whole lot. They're all happy, though. So are we.

My district leader got bit by a dog. We gave him a blessing. He went to the hospital because he's a weenie. It's infected to the point he can't walk on it. That's what he gets for sleeping in.

My trainer is Elder Winward from Preston, Idaho. He's obedient; we do daily planning, wake up at 6:25, stay out until 9, etc. etc.  the "way we do things in Tofoa" is to wait for an investigator to fall into our laps, teach them, have them come to church once, baptize them, and visit them every day for four months as part of the retention initiative. We don't set aside time to talk to people or tract because "That's not how it works." My Tongan is too lame to do anything about it. Not yet, anyway. (muahahaha)

I'm not sure I get his methods, but he's a good Elder, my companion. I feel the spirit with him, when i'm open to it. I'm praying for love, and that seems to work. I'll keep working. I don't feel I give him enough credit for his work; I'm just discouraged at the way things have gone in the area and the method by which things are (and aren't) achieved.

The zone leaders told us we're probably the only ones in the zone (besides themselves, I think) that are up on time, do all our studying (or more, in my case) and are out the door on time. This hasn't been an especially obedient mission, historically, which can be a real problem if there is only one companionship on a small island. There are rumored to be a lot of kids in the outer islands named "Elder," after their fathers.

President Tupou, the mission president, has the heart of a Polynesian, which is just overwhelmingly awesome. He spent his career working in the Alaska prison system, however, so there's not a whole of room for nonsense. He sent over ten people home when he first assumed the presidency, and he doesn't hesitate to kick people out who are dumb. Which is, as I understand it, quite different from how the previous mission presidents would react. That kind of nonsense has all but gone away, but when it does happen, the perpetrators are promptly ousted. 

I got kissed by a drunk guy at an investigator's house. He gave me a Secret Service challenge coin as a "token of his sorrow" and I accepted. I'll send photographic evidence some other time. It still smells like rum.

The drunk in question lives in a house with like 25 other people, from 4-year-old boys to 60 year old recovering alcoholics. I'll send you pictures; we go there almost daily to teach (we have a member with a baptismal date there, which is relatively rare given the methods used to find them).

We've been teaching a girl named Milika in English (she insists we teacher her in English) who is a Wesleyan. The Free Wesleyan Church is one of the main churches in Tonga, probably the most outspoken against the Book of Mormon, the prophet Joseph Smith, etc. (besides the Jehovah's Witnesses, which we have yet to encounter). Although she denies any desire to be baptized (because of her mother, I suspect) she's received the lessons, came to church yesterday, reads the Book of Mormon, acknowledges Joseph Smith as a prophet, and even bore her testimony in fast and testimony meeting yesterday. We taught her mother and her little sister the other day (because she wasn't home), and they were both outrageously respectful. She isn't the fondest of the LDS church as she understands it, but she sure loves us. She agreed to sew our tupenus for us, because she's the best. We try to hide money in her house because she won't let up pay her. We don't know how, but she always finds it and makes us take it back. We will talk to her more about baptism. I think, with the spirit there, there's a real possibility she'll be open to the idea. A neat opportunity indeed. Please pray that it works out.

I convinced my companion to come contacting in a part of the area where he's never really gone (because no referrals have come from there) and we had a bit of an adventure. Most of the pictures I'll send you are from this little foray of ours into the 'uta. We talked to a few people, found a couple of less actives and talked to them. It was very clean; most of Tofoa is covered in litter, but the area in question (even along the roads) was beautifully well taken care of. It was very cool. hopefully I can use this little adventure of ourn to convince him to come out and contact more later.

I can see progress daily with Tongan, both in the ability to comprehend and the ability to speak. I had excellent teachers in the MTC; the transition from MTC to the field has been practically nonexistent. I understood Tongan just as easily when I got off the plane as I did when we got on; the "language barrier" is a lot thinner that expected. I have my teachers to thank for that; they really were stupendous.

Let me be clear: I can't speak Tongan worth much of a darn. I can't understand either. But I'm getting theres. I take advantage of every opportunity I get to practice the language; we practice the baptismal invitation, the baptismal ordinance, and the first vision as we walk, I read Shumway's 'Intensive Course in Tongan' book (a godsend), and I try very hard to speak Tongan with my companion. I have promised to read the Book of Mormon out loud in Tongan before March first. This is a mission-wide challenge from our mission president, President Tupou. The Book of Mormon has been the best way for me to learn Tongan so far. Very nice indeed.

A typhoon hit the Niuas, Vava'u, and Ha'apai. They recorded 75 knot winds. Nobody's been hurt, as far as I've heard.

I love it so much here. It's beautiful, the weather's great, the food's great, the people all love Christ, and we feel the love they have for us. I stink at Tongan, am hungry all the time, don't really know what's going on, and am often frustrated with things not going my way, but I feel good at the end of the day. I know why I'm on a mission and I know who's Church and who's Gospel this is. I think this will be the best.

Ofa atu!
Elder Brown

Goodbye, MTC
The Air New Zealand 777. Very nice indeed.
Long plane ride from LAX to Aukland. Elder Ofa sat to my right.
I randomly say my old boss from the BYUH dishroom in Aukland. She was the best. Freakin random.
In Tonga
Off to teach
more cool stuff
 I convinced him to turn right. And so begins our foray into the bush.
 My and my comp, shortly after I had him convinced that this was a good idea
It was like this 360 degrees in every direction. I took a few panoramic videos, but they're too big to send. you'll just have to wait till November of 2017.
This is the pose all the gangsta wannabes in the country make. Fie kovi aupito!
The road less traveled by (by us, anyway). Very very very cool spot.
A night mission. teehee. We do a good job of staying out till 9.
My DL. he leaves in like 3 months. He's been staying home all week because of a dog bite. 
Talking to a less active member.
Another cool one.

Someone's camera has 'beauty effects' built in. it helps with beauty
                    Comp and I teaching
Me and the kid who always sneaks up and hits people where the sun don't shine with a stick. He's great, despite this flaw of his. The house you see behind us it the residence of the drunk guy who gave me the coin.