Tongan Beach

Tongan Beach

Monday, June 13, 2016

Week 36: Vava'u- The rain came down and the flood came up

You know, when God wants us to learn something, I think He always asks us this question, "Are you going to learn this is the easy way or the hard way?" Here are my thoughts on the matter: the easy way is a lot better and nicer, less pain, no embarrassment and humiliation; you feel enlightened and you catch a glimpse of the Glory of God. The hard way is different. You experience heavier pain, you undergo the greater change. You get more than a glimpse of the Glory of God; you get a full blast of it to the face. You are dragged down to the bottom by your own mistakes and then God pulls you up to a place that's higher than you've ever been before. I cite my reference from the Prophet Lehi, "there must be opposition in all thing". "It's always darkest right before the dawn" (Fictional source) 
So this week we had a person we were working with who is rather frustrating to me. He does things that I don't agree with and in my judgment (notice I said "my") is wrong. So characteristic of me, when I see something wrong I feel a desire to fix it. It’s not a bad desire; it's what is motivating me to keep trying to help people. But it's wrong when I pass judgment. Especially when it's not my place to judge. This individual was not under my jurisdiction or authority and so my duty is to work with and love this person to the best of my abilities and not judge rashly or treat him differently. So... that lasted like two months and finally last week I was like what the heck. So I called President, and asked him what to do. First comment, he said I was the 30,000th missionary to call about this guy. (I hope he's exaggerating) Second, he told us to repent. That one hurt my pride a little. I was like (on the inside) hey, I’m doing the best I can here, giving it my all, and you just called me out. But I listened to what he had to say until the storm cut him out and he said he would call later. I figured God gave me the message I needed to hear and it was conveniently so stormy we couldn't work the next day so I had plenty of time to figure out where I went wrong. I learned a lot and recorded a lot of my understandings of the doctrine and so I guess I’ve grown. I was so very frustrated with this issue, and then the issue of me making a mistake when I was trying so very hard to give it my all. Maybe it's a lesson everyone knows already but I learned it. The lesson is, "why does God let us fall when we give him everything we have?" that question is kinda anti-religious until you understand. So in my capacity of an unforgiving, quietly judging missionary, I was able to accomplish lets say, 30 units of work. It was 100% of my full-blown effort to achieve those 30 units. I gave God my all, but when I fell, I learned. So when I came back, I was able to muster 45 units of work. Still giving my 100% chest-heaving effort. You see, when we fall we learn, (aka the hard way) and it sticks with you and you are able to accomplish more. So the thing I learned from this, if I want to be successful in whatever I do, I should expect lots of crappy infuriating failure. Which will eventually lead to blazing and glorious triumph. Haha, something fun to think about.
The good part of the message is when I was having trouble forgiving this individual and working together with him, I was able to pray for the help from God and He always rewards effort. Through nothing but the goodness of a benevolent God my feelings of frustration and anger and judgment somehow faded and now I have a brighter future. Obviously it won't be easy, but I’ll remember what I learned and use it to accomplish more than before. I am Elder Stark.
PS. Note on the weather: It has been ridiculously rainy this week; I’ve almost run out of dry clothes because there is no place to dry them inside the house and outside is one constant Idaho (different weather like every 5 minutes). It will change from pounding, livid rain to bright sunshine and chicken and pigs enjoying a muddy world and back to flash flooding rain. When we go out and work it's nice and in between houses, the rain came down and the floods came up and the little Elder Stark got washed right back to his house to wait for it to be over.

Ofa and atu. 

 a basket I learned to weave

kids in the rain/gutter

Week 35: Vava'u- Making a plan

Dear family and friends, 

So my letter this week will be kind of short. I had some great spiritual experiences, most involving just me. My comp got sick for a bit this week so our work wasn't as huge as other times. But yeah... so life moves on. I don't know if I mentioned but we have an investigator that only has one leg, and we were able to get him a wheelchair because the church is so very, very nice. He’s a nice guy who likes to talk forever.
So a looming and depressing feeling of failure has overshadowed this week. Not failure of the week only, although that is part of it, but of my own personal failure. This week I felt like I was wasting my time, I was going day to day in virtual silence, and I felt like I was rendered dumb because of the language and culture barrier. Everyday we would go out and work and I would end up being very quiet and let my companion do all the talking. The reason of this is he is Tongan and everyone understands him and he gets along with everyone and knows how to become friends and so he would just do everything. Every night when I would come home I would be in a black mood because I have a drive within me to work, (which has proven to my benefit before) but my drive to work would leave me feeling useless and pointless and I was so frustrated. I wanted to work so badly! I would think of President Hinckley’s mission advice "stop complaining and get to work" and I would think, that's the exact thing I want to do!!!! But I can't! I don't speak the language, I don't get along with the people, and the people in general don't talk to me, only to my companion. Essentially, I wanted to shut up and do the work, but that was the one thing I couldn't do. So I was quite frustrated and being frustrated on a mission is a really frustrating thing, I can't put in my metal and rap music and drown it away with people screaming, I can't go hide in the garage and light stuff on fire and hit stuff with a hammer, I can't go drive to Emmett and go cliff jumping or get my lawn chair and go sit in the river with some Mountain Dew. So basically I decided it was time to deal with my problems. I got on my knees and gave a detail presentation to the Almighty God and then got to work. There is a scripture in the Bible Dictionary that says "All blessings require some effort on our part before we can obtain them" whether this effort is a simple prayer or going to extra-ordinary measures to achieve them, it requires effort. I did my scriptures studies and made a plan, which I believe is revelation in the purest sense. The plan consisted of 3 words. Talk. Pray. Listen. To fix my problem, I had to talk more to other people. There is simple no way of inviting others to come unto Christ if I don't say or do anything. The action I would be performing however, aside from talking to other people, is using my faith. I planned to trust in God enough that he promised to help me if I would do my part. I simply had to make the effort and He would assist me to accomplish His design. Faith in a working sense. The next was Pray; I needed to make my prayers more real. Too often I pray for what I know is right, but my actual heartfelt desire has been lost somewhere in another subject, so I decided to pray for real, going off my actual deep desires and what I felt. I can feel the Spirit in an increased and wonderful way during my prayers. Last was to listen, as is listening to the Spirit. I felt sure if I would pray with real intent and do my necessary action, then promptings would come and all I had to do was listen. I felt like I wasn't alone and I had help now. I had a plan, even with my limited capabilities, could accomplish and I was determined to do so. My scripture I have taken to heart is the end of Alma 33:23. "... And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen".
The last thing I’ll leave you with is a story. On Monday I almost died laughing because we did a family home evening with this family we have been working with. They did an activity where they put on some modern hip-hop music and made all the old men dance. It’s a terrible thing to laugh, but watching a couple of 60 year old men trying to dance is so freaking funny, especially when they are trying really hard to do it. Man... I’ll leave that for everyone to imagine.

Elder Sitaki

When you get married in Tonga you wear these cool outfits. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Week 34: Vava'u- Thanks for the prayers

Dear family and friends. 

I don't have any clever ways to start this email so I guess I’ll just start off with saying thank you for anyone who's been praying for me. I appreciate it. Overall this week has been positive, obviously there have been challenges but the improvement has definitely overcome the negative things. First thing to improve was my relationship with my companion. We were walking back for the church, just finished our emailing and it started to rain, which was kind of dampening my spirits. We put our bags in our house and decided to go Fakauha, (this means playing in the rain, or can mean a rain bath (as in you get into your short shorts and grab a bar of soap and just take a shower in the middle of the rain) Needless to say, I did not get into my short shorts (because they are in America), but we walked around in the rain, completely soaked, pretty normal. I don't know if this was God-sent rain, but it began to lift our spirits and we began to talk. We ran around and did our fakauha and then changed and prepared to go to a family home evening, which ended up being a little spiritual experience. 
So we went to family home evening with these 3 families combined, but it was intensely muddy. Like I don't know how to explain how muddy it was, but my slippers (flip-flops) were like 8 inches tall because of all the mud stuck to the bottom of them. We went anyways and talked to the families and decided it was canceled. We were planning to do it with bishop's family too; he was going to meet us there. Towards the end of our visiting the 3 families I get a call from a number that I had saved in the phone as this lady who lived across town. (This was a mistake because it was the bishop's wife) she asked us if we were going to do family home evening. (Me thinking it's the lady across town) I was like crap. Yeah sure we can come over. So as we are walking down to a different road, bishop is coming to the house by the top road. We finally get to the lady's house (she a single mother with 5 little kids, one of which is an adorable baby) and ask her to start family home evening. She was confused but like, oh, sure. We asked her if she called and she said no, so we called the number back and found out it was bishop's wife and it was like woops. The family home evening we just canceled was back on and bishop and all them were waiting for us. Luckily bishop is a boss and said he would do it and we should do it with the other family. I think it was God's hand directing us over to the other house; there was no man in the house and everyone was laughing and having a good time and I think maybe we blessed them. I don't know, good experience though.  
Okay, other experience. This week I felt like I wasn't doing anything to help the people and that thought gave birth to two different thoughts. First, one morning as I was doing my work-outs and listening to church music I had a inspiring thought, I would ask God how I could give more of myself to the people to help them. Then later during my studies I was directed to read the Preach my Gospel book from the church and I read about charity and love as Christ-like attributes I should try to develop. This section of giving of myself and loving the people stuck out to me really hard and I determined that I needed to love these people if I want to serve them more. Just another prayer answered by God. The other thinking is with the lack of work and success, I feel like I am not so much helping other people, but I’m in a highly intense and demanding school to learn how to be a man of God. I am learning patience with the language and other people, I’m learning to love others even when I really don't like them and they tend to make me really angry, I’m learning to work diligently when times are rough and more importantly, stay positive and hopeful and keep a good attitude (this one is very difficult.) I’m also learning humility, I know a lot of people have suffered a lot more than I am and they don't complain and still praise God, and here I am, a little sweaty, a little dehydrated, a little sick and fed up with the people and language, and I’m complaining my butt off. I've thought a lot about the pioneers and the crap they had to wade through and they have always been happy singing songs, and here I am being a grumpy gus and blaming everything on everything else. I decided one day to make a change and love what comes. I've been happier and more fun to be around and the language has started to make more sense to me and I understand me. So my "Man of God" school kind of sucks sometimes, but I’ll just try to love what comes and maybe I’ll be different when I come home.
The last experience was a culture thing. So on Thursday this guy got married, he's part of the Mormon Church and he married a girl from the Seventh-day Adventist church. Or in Tonga you say 7-day church. On Sunday, Bishop asked us to speak (supposedly there was going to be like 30+ 7 day church people) so I was like.. hmmm... I’m gonna pull some serious preaching. With prayerful consideration, I wrote my talk, and it was the entire first missionary lesson. I was going to deliver it from the pulpit to the non-believers. Well I was very nervous, my public preaching skills have never been the best but I felt supported from God so I went courageously up there and began to preach. Here's the bad/good part. First, my method of giving talks is interesting. What I’ve found to be most effective is I write my talk in English, and then when I get to the pulpit and just translate what I wrote and if I forget what I wrote I can check and keep going. Maybe I have a future in public translation, but I doubt it. I'm not super flowing but whatever, it gives me opportunities to pop in whatever the spirit wants me to say. The good/bad part is the 7-days people came, but they arrive like 2 minutes after I sat down. So my talk was wasted. But, oh well. The next part is the culture thing. They had a huge kaipola, which means like feast for the wedding. Tons and tons of food, the bishop told us after we are done with our talk we should head over there, but we had to stay for the other ward. The culture thing is, we can't just walk over there. Its super embarrassing and shameful if we just come over; we need an invite, as in a person to walk with us and bring us over. It was supposed to be bishop but he was unavailable and couldn’t walk with us, so we had this momentous feast and it was our lunch, but we couldn't go to it because we didn't have someone to walk us over. Luckily some other family was able to feed us, but I was a little disgruntled until the other family had this really good sausage and I was happy again after filling my stomach with chicken ufi and sausage and luu. So that's life. The rest of the day was fun and Monday (today) we cleaned the crap out of our house so now it's clean. 

Ofa Atu,

Elder Sitaki