[we were teasing Spencer about a war in North Korea, so that's why the reference there. Rhett is his cousin, who just started a mission in South Korea.]
I was wondering what was going down with Rhett and war over there! We've started to hear quite a bit about war in Korea, so I've actually started to believe that it was actually happening. I guess that'll be fun for him!
So... Ya! I'm going! This week hasn't been fun, we've been dashing back and forth like chickens with our heads cut off trying to figure out what on earth our people in Tarawa our thinking for getting us back, finally we just booked our own tickets and we'll talk with them on the phone today.
It's hard for them because they're in the process of welcoming ten new Elders in Tarawa (That's huge, the last intake was 5 and the intake before it was 4, the record ever is 9) so their heads are spinning, and it's already near-impossible to communicate ibuuki. Ah well, the glories of being a missionary in Kiribati. :)
As far as biking over the rawa, ya, low tide is the time for that. For the rawas in the area, that'll be the plan, but the last one to Tarawa is the edge of our area, and is thus out of bounds. So we'll be super close to everything, but we might as well be in Arorae for all the good it'll do us.
So, this week has been crazy cause we've been trying to figure out our transport and saying goodbye to everybody. And I HATE goodbyes. I really just want to be gone! Don't get me wrong, I LOVE ALL of these people here, and it kills that I have to go, but I feel like my effectiveness as a missionary right now is very low, because everybody just wants to say goodbye and have bootakis. I WANT TO WORK! [note from Doug-- this reminds me about when Spencer got to Nonouti and all the people talked about the great bootakis that Elder Grover used to throw.]
I want to get to Tarawa Ieta and blow the place out of the water with spiritual power! I'm starting to realize how many friends I have in the mission going home (well, not that many, cause I don't know people, but it's a high percentage!) and I'm realizing that I don't have any time to mess around! And so I want to be on Tarawa Ieta doing the work I came here to do!
So, odds are, this is going to be it until Christmas (I'm figuring they'll pull us in for Christmas, because it's only an hour boat ride and boats go back and forth every day) ! So I just want to say a wee bit about this whole mission thing before I go.
First of all, to anybody who reads these emails and is considering serving a mission, GO! YOLO, for crying out loud! :) There is no better way to spend time than in the service of the Lord! And it doesn't matter if you get called to Kiribati, France, Brazil, New York, or Boise! It's the same work, no matter where you are in the world, and the Lord knows EXACTLY where you need to be to receive the most blessings for yourself and for the people you will grow to know and love!
We're like the Avengers, except for real, because the real world isn't saved by just a few people with crazy powers. The real world is saved one person at a time, as the Children of God choose to turn their hearts to Him and receive His blessings in their lives! And the people who help them to make that turn? The Elder and Sisters of Israel.
It's a great work. As a missionary, you can't have a conversation with a true convert and not see what a huge blessing the gospel is in their lives. Just the other night, we were chatting with Meme, an awesome lady who was baptized forever go, then fell away because she moved to Nonouti where there was no church. She was just so happy and so grateful that the Elders (Tait and Grover, before my time) came back and found her and worked so hard to get her back, because she has SO much more happiness in her home now than when she was in the KPC. God has made a big difference for her and for her family, and those are blessings that she'll feel forever.
And that's ONE PERSON. Shoot, one person like that is enough to get you to do the work. And I could just sit here all day typing the great stories of people whose lives have been blessed by the Lord through the work of faithful missionaries in Kiribati. But maybe that'll be for after the mission. For now, it sufficeth me to say that it's a glorious work! The Gospel is true! The Lord has Restored His Gospel in our day! The Spirit of God is working a marvelous work among the children of men, and we are part of it! One person at a time, the world is a better place because of what we're doing, and the work will continue until the whole world is blessed!
The Devil can oppose it, he can send every weapon in the book to try to slow it down, but no unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing, and the nations of the earth will be blessed because of it! I love the work, I love the Lord, and I feel blessed to be a missionary.
And here I come, Tarawa Ieta.
I love you all, have a great rest of the year, say your prayers and read your scriptures, and remember what an incredible gift we've been given in the form of the temples of God! You'll all be in my prayers, see you for Christmas!
Letter of August 24, 2014
[I told Spencer about having ice cream sandwiches with Richard and Nancy and their family for Grant's birthday, so that's the reason for the beginning]
Ice cream and chocolate chip cookies... I am going to get SO FAT when I come back home! I'm going to need a running partner.
All right, that's a lot of questions about Tarawa Ieta, but FIRST, before I tell you what you want to know, I'm going to tell you what I want to tell you! Haha, ultimate power. :)
THIS WEEK WAS AWESOME!!! So, you remember the man with the beard that you met on Skype, who is freaking awesome, and who we want to prepare to be the branch president? Well, when President Weir came, he said that it wasn't going to work because to be a branch president, he has to have a wife and they're preparing to go to the temple together. And Rosary, Tokarerei's wife (Rosary is a pretty common name among catholics here) was not baptized, or even taking lessons.
Well, temple class books arrived, and since their house is right next to the airfield, the people just dropped them off their. So we show up, and Rosary has LOADS of questions about it, and end of the story, SHE CAME TO CHURCH ON SUNDAY AND IS GETTING BAPTIZED NEXT MONTH!!! Right after I leave... Sad day there, but still PUMPED for both of them! :)
And then we had an AWESOME day at church! We were worried, because we had loads of people from here leave for Tarawa, some moving permanently and others just on vacation, but then we had enough less actives and investigators come to church to more than fill up the gap! Including Robwati and his wife Moaniti. He's the planner for the KPC in Mwakauro, which is the highest non-ministerial position in a local congregation. So that was cool! And loads of other people came too! Basically, it didn't show up much in our numbers, but church on Sunday was MIND-BLOWINGLY awesome, and it'll probably show up in the numbers when our vacationers come back.
So, back to what you asked about. :)
Tarawa Ieta, if the sea level was down about 10 feet, would be the same island as Tarawa. If you look at it from Google Earth, it'll probably look the same until you zoom in. If you look at Tarawa, it kind of looks like a drunk backwards L. The bottom part of the L is Tarawa, and the side is Tarawa Ieta. But when MISSIONARIES talk about Tarawa Ieta, they mean the Tarawa Ieta area, which is north of the rawa north of Boata.
Boata is a good size village north of the airport, and a rawa is an area where it's water when the tide is up and beach when the tide is down, so you can't make a road to drive cars on it. Everything north of the rawa will be my area, and it's sketchy because, well, no cars can get up there. There are several rawas in my area, so we'll have to be watching the tide pretty closely to make sure we can get where we need to be.
Right now there are no missionaries on the island, so I don't know where we'll be staying, or what the bathroom situation will be like. There isn't internet... So, we'll be radioing in our stats every Tuesday, and I guess you folks can hear from me when I get back! :) Usually opening an outie is a 6 month gig, but I'm guessing they'll pull us in for Christmas, so we can talk then! :) I still have a week or two until that happens, so no worries there.
Just us two Elders, me and my kid, and everybody says it's just like an outer island, so food will be same as Nonouti. Except it's wetter, so there are BANANAS!!!!!!!!!!!!! And apparently there are basic shipments from Tarawa, so ice cream is a possibility. Either way, I'm buying ice cream when I hit ground in Tarawa, pretty pumped for that.:)
And way pumped to be training again! Seriously, I love training. (That may be why I'm doing it, most missionaries seem to hate it.) My kid just arrived in Tarawa, and he'll work there until I get pulled in. Then I'll grab him, and we'll baja it out there with Outie Zone Leaders! It should be glorious!
Anyway, hope everything keeps going well back there! Love you loads!
Letter of August 17, 2014
First of all, I have gained respect for Job this week. The man's body was covered in boils? HOLY FRIKKIN CRUD boils are JUNK! Got one on each hip, and I sleep on my side. Got blood marks on my pjs from it. And the belt rubs! Job, man, job...
Also this week, got a crash course in amateur pig wrestling. One thing about local government here, they never actually bother to enforce certain laws until the council is running low on money and they need the money from the fines to keep running. One such law is that you have to have your pig tied up or in a pen. So they load a bunch of guys up in a truck, give them a net, and drive the length of the island, picking up pigs that aren't tied up. Since they never enforce the law, pretty much everybody's pigs are just roaming around, and so they get the pigs, and then you have to pay 13 bucks to get your pig back, or they auction it off.
We were at the house of one of our people that has 12 pigs, and his son came back on the motorcycle and said that the pig-catchers were out. So, we had to catch all of our pigs before the pig catchers did, and we didn't have a net. We started off by opening some coconuts with a hatchet, because as soon as the pigs here, they all come running because they know it's meal time. We got two there, the rest ran away. And one by one, we tricked them with food, or just straight up trapped them. But pigs, man! Tricky little runners, but we got them all before the pig catchers came! Tied some up, threw some in a pit we dug and threw coconuts in to keep them happy. Just saying, pretty sure that pigs screaming is the closest thing on this planet to the sound that demons make.
Other news, baptism this week! Forgot to bring my camera today, I'll try next week. Old lady named Beeti (Pronounced Bessy, named by an imatang.) She lives down South, in Tenanoraoi (the south side of Taboiaki, on that map) so we've been devoting our Thursdays to going and visiting her along with her friend Raate, who's blind and a long-time member. Love the CRUD out of both of them.
They've been having a lot of problems, because Beeti used to be really strong KPC, and they're the only Mormons down there, so they're having some problems selling their coconut (which is the only way they can get money, and they're 60 something and 70 something years old) but she basically just says, "they can laugh, they can pick on us, I don't care." I love the woman! Has that old-lady, take-no-junk-from-nobody, I've-been-around-the-block-50-times-and-still-getting-stronger kind of attitude. :)
So we got to her house on Thursday (usually we baptize on Saturday, but we only go down South on Thursdays) and forgot to check the tide first, so we ended up waiting until 7 at night for the tide to be high enough. Sunset baptism! Seriously, one of those ones where the sun is behind the clouds, but the sunbeams are streaming out from behind so it looks like the second coming. Beautiful, and since we did it lagoon side the ocean was almost perfectly still. Never get over how much I love baptisms. :)
Big news on the island this week, Nei Maria came to town! It's a great big picture of Saint Mary that the catholics have been hauling around the island. She's on a canvas hanging from a nicely decorated wooden frame/stand that's all decorated with flowers. Every catholic house prepared a nice little place for her, and the priests and catholic people walked the [see below]
One more thing, just been noticing this week how sketchy my food is. We eat the cheap Indonesian version of ramen noodles, the cheap Chinese version of spam, and cold corned beef. And those are considered the super nice expensive foods. :)
AND I JUST RECEIVED TRANSFER INFORMATION! I'm going to Tarawa Ieta! Opening it up! And training again! Apparently you can only get to Tarawa ieta by boat, I don't really know much about it besides that, but crud, I'm going outie again! But apparently this one is going to be way easier, there are two branches that are actually part of the stake, and ice cream too! Can't believe I'll be training again! A guy named Smith, ZL thinks he's from Canada. So it should be great! And I'm also getting a grandkid! Poor Elder David is going to be training another kid out here. :) Only 3 months and getting his own kid. It'll be good, though, he's a prodigy at the language.
Boy oh boy, great things afoot today. :) Don't know the exact day yet, but it's probably going to be next week.
Anyway, that's it for this week! Love y'alls, keep rocking worlds back there! Love, Elder Marks
Sorry, just realized that my explanation of Nei Maria got cut off by my excitement about finding out about my transfer. :) so I'll start from where I dropped off. :)
Every catholic house prepared a nice little place for her, and the priests with some of the catholic people would walk a couple miles every day, between the villages, stopping at every single house. We got to see them stop at a house next to where we were teaching once. They walked up chanting (the whole walk, the priest chants something, and then the whole crowd repeats) and then when they get there, they set Nei Maria down and the person whose house it is says, "Hello, Mary, thanks for coming to our house today" and then goes on with a prayer to this picture.
They did this over the course of the week, from the South to the North end of the island, (apparently they're doing this on every island in Kiribati) and then when they got to the last one, they walked all the way back. It's a really long island, so it was night time as they were coming back through our place, and they lit coconut/kerosene torches next to the road and walked along chanting. Motorcycles, a car, chanting, the whole nine yards, passed our house at about 3 in the morning. Everybody who wasn't a catholic was pretty irritated with them. :)
[Note for Pictures]
Spencer said, "All right, and here we have our high-tech, all-natural, state-of-the-art, all-renewable-fuel-burning, completely biodegradable stove. :)"
This is the Kiribati girl Spencer mentions in his letter.
And the third is the view from their toilet (Spencer's words).
Letter of August 10, 2014
First of all, let me express my DEEPEST sympathy and MOST SINCERE condolences that your air conditioning has been out. That must be SO hot and miserable, I CAN'T IMAGINE how hard that must be! :) I'm just jealous that you get to play in the lake. :)
As far as the week goes, well, I guess I'd better explain the picture first. We were at the birthday party of one of the young girls in our ward, and her mom asked me if I could get a fiancé for her in America. I thought about it a second, and then realized that I had the picture book of our family with me. And it had the picture we took with the Day family right before Blake and I left on missions! All of our Day cousins, except for the Wrights. So I whipped that out, and she looked at it, and decided that Gavin is the lucky man! So, Gavin... She's a great girl, family is strong in the Church, she's the smartest girl in her class, fun, great sense of humor, good at English for a Kiribati girl her age, and WAY good at cooking fish and rice, so... Just saying! :) I'd be TOTALLY ok having her as a cousin in law. :) The crown she's wearing is a Kiribati party hat, and the background is the buia that we have church on. [her picture is above.]
As far as this week goes... Not gonna lie, I was REALLY hoping I'd be able to email today and tell you folks where I'm going next! It's killing me to know that I'm about to be transferred, but not knowing exactly when or to where! I really just want to either stay here and build the church on Nonouti for the rest of my mission, or leave and move on. :P I'm loving the work here, but man... having this hanging over my head for a month and a half is killing me. :P Ah well.
But yup, lots of biking, my comp was down for a day with heat exhaustion, and we've been eating more rice than Taiwan.
Our Relief Society has voluntarily started weekly visiting teaching AND visiting houses to help clean, weed, etc, I'll be learning a Kiribati dance today, and...
OH ME GOODNESS! All right, just remembered a fantastic story! So, we showed up at an investigator's house a few weeks ago, and his brother in law was there. He sat in on the lesson, and afterward said, "If you guys have some time, maybe you can visit me in my house up in Tebuange." When we tried to set up a specific time, he just said, "oh you know, whenever you have time." Well dadgum it. Tebuange is the farthest village we visit. So we came once, he wasn't there. But we came again this week, and man! Got through the whole first lesson with the guy (usually we have to break it up into 3 or 4 chunks, because in a country with so little schooling, that's a lot of new abstract information to process) and at the end, he told us a story about how he gained his truth in the Church, back when there were sisters teaching seminary at his school and he skipped his own to go to theirs. And we're like, what? We just started teaching and you're telling us you already believe the church is true? He reads the Bible every day, and said that he'd start reading the Book of Mormon too, said that his goal is to be able to teach from it someday. The MAN! So, long bike ride, throws about 45 minutes to an hour more onto our biking time, but for that guy, worth it. (For y'alls information, Tebuange is North of the village labeled Benuaroa on the map (which... no such thing as benuaroa... I think they mean Matabou) and we live a bit south of the little port symbol.) Anyway, glorious times, looking forward to seeing him again tomorrow!
You should be getting some more pics from me in a bit. Enjoy summer back there, try to survive not having air conditioning, I love you all and you're always in my prayers! Love, Elder Marks
Letter of August 4, 2014
Sorry, this week is going to have to be fast and short. First of all, I love you! Second of all, ranch dressing is delicious on breadfruit! Third of all, I wish President Weir had never told me that I was transferring in August, it's killing me, and I still don't know when/where I'm going! Fourth of all, Preach My Gospel is the bomb! Do the Christlike Attributes activity at the end of chapter 6!
Fifth of all, despite the KPC legitimately targeting the Mormon church, attempting its destruction on Nonouti... We have a KPC deacon with a baptismal date. :) The truth will not be stopped! No unhallowed hand can keep this work from progressing!
Anyway, love you loads, here's hoping everything keeps going well this week! Love, Elder Marks