All right, so I only have 30 minutes left to email, and a LOT to say, so this is going to be fast and a lot and I hope you all enjoy it. And I'm keeping a good journal so we can talk about everything else later. :)
Life on Tarawa is AMAZING! Legitimately, every day has been a crazy adventure. We got flown back on Tuesday, I got in to radio and AP Maisey was sitting there waiting. "Marks, is that you?!" "Ya!" "GO TO THE AIRFIELD RIGHT NOW, YOUR PLANE IS COMING!" Oh, wow, that's how we rock transfers. So didn't get to say goodbye to anybody, tiabo Beru.
Flew to Kuria, where there is no internet and Loe has been working for ten months. He had no idea because the phone has been down too. So he had to leave, didn't get to say goodbye to anybody. He was pretty bummed about it. I mean, ten months?! I feel for him.
So then we got to Tarawa, and we're both working Bikenibeu 2nd! Elder Loe is from my MTC intake, a good ol boy from Delta Utah. He's spent most of his time on outies, but spent a couple months in Bikenibeu 2nd back in the day, so he's leading us around. Thank goodness, it would be rough otherwise.
It's so great, we're cruising around, everybody wants to give us referrals and fellowship investigators and talk about their missions (SO many RMs) and give us DELICIOUS food, it's just amazing. We're rocking worlds out here, I couldn't pick a better comp and area to finish in.
On Wednesday, we had my first and last zone conference! So that made for an interesting closing testimony. "Hi, I know nobody knows me, but I'm Elder Marks and I'm about to leave." And then bore my testimony.
And then we ate LASAGNA!!! And I didn't even get sick! Which is not normal, that usually puts Elders in a bad way, even if they've been in Tarawa. And outie folks get home and have problems anyway, so I figured that Lasagna combined with just getting back would kill me. NO problems, so that's awesome. :)
We had an amazing training on the Atonement of Christ. Our APs and mission president and his wife are all hugely inspired people, there was definitely a reason I got pulled in for that. Heavenly Father knew I needed it. President Weir said that he'd received revelation that God wanted to give us the message in Alma 7. And it's a good message! So that was good. :)
While we were out teaching one day, we met a man named Big Eddy. He claims that God was smoking, and the ash of his cigarrete fell and hit Eddy on the head, giving him incredible knowledge and now he's starting a church. Explained their doctrines to us, and I had SUCH a hard time not just busting out laughing when he talked about the cigarette. Up to that point I'd been just praying so hard about what we could say to help this guy, but when he said that I was just trying to not laugh. Great guy, great guy. :)
And Elder Tarati! My old comp on Beru, two months ago! We were walking home one night and a car pulls over, guy gets out and addresses us in perfect American English (He's good) "Hey, where are you guys going?" TARATI!!! The man is ENGAGED! He didn't even have a crush on anybody when we were on Beru, and he invited us to his huge engagement party! Which we got permission to go to on the other side of the island. :)
And there was a huge stake dance party, and Tarawa Ieta came, I didn't see them but all of a sudden I was mobbed by all those little kids that I absolutely LOVE! And then got to see them all, and some have already sent a letter to my house because they thought I was home! :) So that's where that came from. They all did so good, it was great seeing my old people, Thomas is still super faithful and led the dance, Taabita and her husband were there with their kids and looking good, and Biirati wasn't there but he's working on his mission papers! :) SO HAPPY!!!!! :)
We need to go! I'll try to email again later! LOVES!!!!!
Letter of May 25, 2015
Well, outer islands are fun! We have NO clue what's going on with my transfer! The word last week was this Friday, and then internet died, and it just came back on and saw an email telling me I'll fly tomorrow! So woohoo! We'll see how this all goes down, especially because now the APs aren't emailing me back, so they may have postponed the flight because I hadn't answered. Cell phones are a magical invention, NEVER take them for granted!
It's been pretty weird this week. Because of how short of a time I'm going to be in Bikenibeu, this really feels like my last area. I mean, I'm usually in an area for more than 5 months, now I'm going to be in one for two and a half weeks. :P So, it's strange. I'm realizing how much being a missionary has become part of my life. I mean, I am CONSTANTLY teaching, serving, trying to help people to live a better, happier life. Nothing I ever do is for me. And now, thinking about going home, I'm going to have a JOB! I'm going to go to SCHOOL! Why am I going to do such things? So I can have MONEY. For myself, not for somebody else! That just seems so dirty and bad! :P I mean, I know it's not, we have to work so that we can live and such, but I'm just so used to this way of living, it kind of freaks me out. I mean, my first day back, I'm going to wake up in the morning, study, and... I don't know! I'm sure it will be fun, but... I don't know. There's more to this whole life shin dig than fun.
Don't get me wrong. I am PUMPED to see everybody again. Family, friends, food, it's going to be glorious. Just strange. But I'm not the first Elder who's come home, and I won't be the last, I'll figure it out. I've got a couple more weeks, and Elder Loe and I are going to rock Bikenibeu like it's never been rocked before. :)
Anyway, Happy Memorial Day! I sang all kinds of patriotic songs to my companion last night, and I'll sing some more today. America is a great country, with great people who have defended it! Don't forget it! I love you all, and I'll see you soon!
Letter of May 17, 2015
SO! Seeing family on skype is about the greatest thing that any missionary could ever have happen to him! :) And wow we got lucky. Maybe ten minutes after we got off, internet died and just came back on today. So, Heavenly Father was watching out for us on that one! :) So good to see everybody, excited to see you all again in a month!
As for this week, remember how I said that the rainy season was over? I think Heavenly Father chuckled when I said that, because He then dumped an entire week of crazy rainfall on us. It has been a VERY soggy, muddy week! Which filled our rainwater tank right up. And then it leaked again, but now we knew how to fix it, so we're still a bit higher than it was last time. We told President about it, hoping he can fix it somehow. He has his ways. :)
Exciting stuff, I just found out that I'm getting transferred! Who knows when! This week or next, they told us to just keep checking in. I'm going to transfer to work Tarawa for the last few weeks! With Elder Loe, my buddy from the MTC who I love so very much but haven't seen for the last two years because we've both been outie bushmen! So pumped, we're going to blow the lid off of Bikinibeu. :) I may get to ride a charter plane back, which would be exciting. :) But we'll see! There's a chance the next email you get from me I'll be in Tarawa. But at this point, really no clue. That's Kiribati. We'll see! :)
A ship just came! So we'll get food again! :) We've been living off of fish jerky and coconut at our house. And no laundry soap. I'm telling you, when we do the game at Thanksgiving where we all say things we're grateful for, I am going to CREAM you ALL! :)
We got general conference talks too! It was such a great conference! Looking forward to hearing the Sunday session! Priesthood was an amazing one. I feel like every general conference is more legendary than the last these days. The savior will probably attend the next one in person. :)
OH! GOOD THING ABOUT THIS WEEK! SO HAPPY!!! I mean, we also had the fun stuff where I got in a fight with our branch president because he was refusing to even try to rescue less actives, saying that it's better that they're less active, and the normal fun outer island stuff, but! RAMTEN IS QUITTING SMOKING! Guy who was super faithful in the church way back in the day, except he could never get over smoking and hid it. (Normal here. :P ) So then when he was called as group leader, nobody wanted to come to church if he was in charge, so the entire church in his village went less active, and he followed. Went back to the Catholic, and has been ashamed to come back because he was a HARD CORE smoker. Like, we came to talk, and after 30 minutes he asked if he could smoke because he was feeling sick without it. Really bad. So we made a plan with him, and were going to follow up, but stuff kept happening and we didn't get to follow up for two and a half weeks. That means that the person fails at quitting smoking. 100% of the time, no fail. UNTIL RAMTEN! He was down to 2 smokes a day when we saw him last week, and tomorrow, we're going to have dinner with him to celebrate him quitting smoking! After we met with him, we were biking home and I was just praying thanking Father in Heaven. Ramten is such a good guy, and he's going to be able to come back to church!
So, that pretty much made my entire stay on Beru. :) Especially because we've been so long without feeling like we were really making any kind of progress, and that was a miracle that I needed. Made all the difference for me. Heavenly Father really knows how to make sure we have what we really need in our lives. :)
Anyway, I'm about to roll, got a gospel to preach. :) But I love you all! And I'll see you soon! :)
Letter of May 3, 2015
This week, I tasted the absolutely number one most scrumptious morsel of delicious savory joy that I have ever laid my taste buds upon. I ATE AN APPLE!!! :) My mission president came and visited (more on that later) and when he saw me, he opened up his bag and pulled out a bag of apples and oranges. I was a very happy man. :)
The APs came, one from Kiribati who knows me and one from Marshalls who doesn't, and the Kiribati one had to explain to the other why I was freaking out about a bag of apples and oranges. :) It's been a VERY long time! It was fast Sunday, so we didn't eat it until that night, and when I tasted it... OH MY HEAVENS! It was like a whole new rainbow of flavor was opened upon my senses! Such sweet tanginess, and such a glorious apple flavor! It tasted like home! To those who are Brian Regan fans, you know his one on the thousand dollar plate of food? How he described a thousand dollar plate of food being was EXACTLY how I was with that apple. Or in another description, Bob with his corn. And President also brought bread! REAL BREAD! Such a sublime, rich flavor! AH! We put it with corned beef to have some protein, but most of it I just ate plain because it was so delicious! I forgot what flavor was like!
I'm going to die when I get home. :)
But yes, it was a glorious week! Our mission president came, which was grand! It was short, only an hour and a half, because he was just on his way back from Nikunau and had to be back to Tarawa before dark, but it was so great. He talked in church, and it was so great to feel the Spirit! Usually, we're the ones who speak, and when we don't... It's usually rough, just somebody venting their frustration at everybody else for not doing what they want. :P
But that was amazing! And it was just what the people here need to hear. So I was really glad to hear that. Really short interview, where he said that I'd probably be here up to the very end, rather than doing the usual where they pull us in two weeks to a month early to avoid airplane problems. But he said not to worry, they'd charter a plane to get me out of here if they needed to so they can get me on the plane home in time. :)
That would be cool!
Anyway, wanted to share a thought I had this week after a hard day. We can't do anything great if we don't have anything great to do. You can't be a hero without a quest to complete! So when things get hard, we just have to remember that God is in control, and He's giving us a chance to be heroes. It's a glorious thing! :)
Anyway, love you loads, hope everything goes well back in the States!