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.
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.
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!
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.
Comp and I teaching