Monday, May 27, 2013

Goin on 4 weeks already!

Bonjour mes amis!

I wouldn't believe it at first, but now I can actually admit that time really does fly by here! They say that the days are long but the weeks are short MTC, and somehow it's completely true. Time just flies by when you're having fun!

So this past week is really hard to remember, I'm not going to lie. Our lessons are going great, and the French is ever more improving. We committed Manuarii to baptism, which feels so good! We extended the committment several times before and he just didn't accept it, and in addition to that he hasn't been keeping his other committments, so I figured out that I actually had to figure out how to give him that last little push. I prayed about it, knowing I would get the right answer, and sure enough the next day I just decided to memorize Moroni 10:4-5 and it popped into my head, "Duh! Use this scripture!" So I did, and I testified that if he prayed to know that what we were teaching was true, Heavenly Father would give him his answer through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. I committed him to continue to pray about it, and Elder Lovelock extended the baptismal commitment and he decided to take it! He's still got some things to go with some drinking and smoking problems, but we'll help him out, somehow! And our other investigator Marc is doing good too, he's been keeping his commitments and exercising repentance. I know that these investigators aren't real or anything, but it helps so much to pretend that they are.

Our unity in the district has been going great! I'm starting to become even better friends with Elder Lovelock. I can actually make him crack a smile every now and then, him being the super serious Aussie and whatnot! And his French has been getting so much better as well. We've been starting to teach equal amounts in our lessons, because before he was only able to say a few lines and I was able to kind of carry a conversation and talk more. But it's definitely improving between both of us! Teaching equal amounts really develops a sense of unity between us, which I discovered is much needed to teach effectively.

This past week we had a really good devotional. On Tuesday our district got to usher, so we got really good seats right up at the front! We heard Elder Marcus Nash of the Seventy speak, and he gave a great talk on how we were foreordained to be missionaries even before this life, and how we've been training for years to be here. He also talked about how important our calling is, and how the salvation of men and women everywhere depend on us. A little scary, but it really impressed upon me the importance of my calling! I couldn't feel luckier now to be representing the Savior who I love so much, and bringing others unto Him so that they can know the same happiness that I have felt my whole life. It's just plain awesome!

I also found out last week that this upcoming week, on Wednesday, is the day we go to San Francisco to get our visas! I'm absolutely stoked to go back home for a day and spend time in the city I love. I'm also stoked to proselyte and place my first Book of Mormon/pass along card!. I'm pretty set on doing it, and I know I just gotta talk to everybody and do my best! It'll be good practice, and I'm just guessing from experience but the people of Tahiti seem much nicer than the people in San Francisco. It'll be tough, in the best way possible!

So I have a few more pictures, and they're actually good ones. Haha.

Elder Herring and me! I'm so blessed to have this guy in my zone. We're meant to be buddies, for sure.

Me, Elder White, Elder Lovelock (my companion) and Elder Hanson! We're the four elders in our district.

My work station for the day! I got my French Book of Mormon side by side with my English one. Fun stuff.

Elder Tago and I. He's a Samoan from Sydney, Australia. He's one righteous dude,
and I go on splits with him on Sundays because both our companions are district leaders and have meetings in the mornings.
I'm still having tons of fun here, and am working hard! We have about a week and a half left of French, and then we start getting to the fun stuff and learning Tahitian! I really can't wait, it's such a sick, manly language. It's a nice contrast to the femininity of French.

Anyway, thanks to you all for your letters, and I love you! This work is glorious, and is the best decision I have made in my life so far.

Avec l'amour,
Elder Ball

Write Casey at:
Elder Casey David Ball
MTC Mailbox # 174
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604-1793

Monday, May 20, 2013

Crazy Week! Week #3

Bonjour mes amis!

What a week! It was definitely an incredibly busy one, and full of ups and downs for sure.

Tuesday night we had the very awesome privilege of hearing Elder Russell M. Nelson speak to us. He gave such a fantastic talk about improving ourselves as missionaries and being good representatives of the Lord. My favorite thing that he said: "Draw attention to Christ, not to yourself. So have character, don't be one!" Very clever, profound words haha. But he talked so much about striving to rely on the atonement of Christ for strength and improving our character, and also how to be proactive, bold and not lazy as a missionary. He spoke true words of wisdom, and he inspired me to always step out of my comfort zone for the sake of the work!

Some of the other days have been tough. On Thursday we had a new investigator, Marc, who is of course another teacher pretending to be an investigator, but he was a tough case... apparently he hits his family and my companion and I were not ready for that haha. Out French was just suffering as well and we could not remember any of the things we studied to say. It was depressing, and I really felt bad afterwards. But later that day we had this session called TRC or Training Resource Center, where local Church members came in and we taught them a simple lesson. We taught this Tahitian woman, and she is probably the nicest woman I have met in my entire life. Even though our French was completely broken and difficult to understand, she still loved us, and we definitely loved her! The spirit was so strong during the lesson, and it improved my day for sure.

We also had a really great lesson on Saturday with Manuarii about the Plan of Salvation, and it was awesome! Elder Lovelock and I studied so hard, and we delivered like champions. We even were able to review stuff from the previous lesson with him. And here's the kicker: we went in without any notes! We remembered all of our phrases and vocab from memory, and we asked such awesome questions for him. It was definitely the gift of tongues at work, and it's amazing to see how quickly my French can improve in the matter of a week.

So to answer a few of my mother's questions, I'll go ahead and respond to them!

1. For exercise, I pretty much run around the indoor track for about ten minutes, use some of the machines in there, and then go play volleyball for the rest of the time. I'm really starting to enjoy volleyball quite a lot. Sometimes I go out to the field to play some beach volleyball in the sand pits, and that's way fun! I hope to play it enough times when I get to Tahiti. I find it more fun than basketball personally! I'm actually not bad at it, for real.

2. I often see friends from school here! This past week tons of people I recognize came in and it was so good to see them. I expect more to come in in the near future! As for people from my home stake, I haven't seen a lot of them yet but that will happen soon too!

3. I see Elder Herring quite a lot. it just so happens that he is in my zone, and lives just down the hall from me! It is such a blessing to be able to see him every day, talk about what we improved on and just relate with some old memories. It sure helps me when I start to miss and think about home sometimes. Elder Herring and I are meant to be friends I guess!

4. Pictures... I don't have much, but here ya go!
Here are the pictures:

1. My name tags!

2. A selfie... why not?

3. We went to the Papeete temple! Just kidding, it's a postcard

4. Elder Taylor from the last Lyon France district caught us some breakfast in the residence one night...


Anyway, there you go! Just some wise words from King Benjamin in Mosiah 2:17. "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, you are only in the service of your God!" So always serve others around you, because they are God's children as well! And if you love God, then love his children as well. That's what I remember while I'm working!

Thank you for your letters and emails, and I love you all! Faitoito!

Avec l'amour,
Elder Ball

Write Elder Ball:
Elder Casey David Ball
MTC Mailbox # 174
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604-1793

Monday, May 13, 2013

So good! Week #2

Bonjour mes amis!

The days here are truly flying by now, and they are so good! We are all learning such valuable things, and I've truly figured out how to center all my work on who really matters, the people I will be teaching in Tahiti! All the language, lessons, teaching techniques, everything is learned with my progressing investigator in mind. It really helps motivate me for the right cause and it increases my sense of love and charity for others. It is an attribute I have been praying for for a long time, and I can finally feel its true goodness!

The French language is definitely coming along! It is getting to the point where I can understand people speaking pretty clearly, and i can pronounce things correctly for the most part, but forming sentences and speaking a conversation off the top of my head is still definitely a challenge. Our district has been trying our hardest to speak as much French as possible, all the time. It really is hard because we are so used to being able to easily make our point, but that's we we can speak Franglais! (English and French, equivalent of Spanglish) It's better to say what we know in French and what we don't know in English than to not speak any French at all. If I work hard enough, I know I will be blessed and learn it well enough in due time!

So yes, our district is 4 elders and 4 sisters, consisting of Elders Lovelock, Hansen, White and I, and Sisters Bradshaw, Taylor, Van Wagenen and Chytraus. We all get along super great! It really is hard to imagine getting tired of all these people after 9 more weeks. I can only see us becoming closer and better friends and uplifting to each other by the end of the MTC. Sometimes it feels like we love to have a little too much fun, so we have to remind ourselves to get back to work. It is definitely a blast to work with all these Elders and Sisters, ils sont trés amusant!

Our progressing investigator, Manuarii, is actually one of our teachers (surprise, surprise). But he is an excellent teacher for us! Very rarely does he speak any English, so it takes a lot of attention to listen to his French and try to take in what he's teaching. He is definitely passionate, and he pushes us like no other. He gave us 2 minutes to prepare the first Preach My Gospel lesson in  English, and then 5 minutes to share it with our companions. Then he gave us 5 minutes to prepare the lesson in French, and then 10 minutes to teach it! It was difficult, both in English and French! We had to make our lessons consice and to the point, saying only things that were the most important. We had to deliver it meaningfully and powerfully too! It was difficult in French especially, with so little time to prepare and so little things to be able so say! But it worked out, and I felt like a delivered efficiently. It was a sweet experience.

We practiced contacting as well, with our other teacher Frere Coulson. It went well, but it didn't go well at the same time. The reason I say that is because I felt confident about what I was saying, and I could remember well how to say a lot of the key phrases that I have been studying! It was definitely the Gift of Tongues playing a part. But after our short message he said he didn't want to take our lessons. He rejected us! All Elder Lovelock and I could do was bear our testimonies one more time and leave him our number in case he was interested. It definitely felt pretty bad, and I felt like we failed! But afterwards Frere Coulson said we did an excellent job, and that we responded to the situation appropriately. He also said that when he rejected us I visibly changed (I can believe it, I was a bit upset!) and that when I bore my testimony again, I said it with so much power and with the spirit, and he said that I need to bear my testimony like that every time. I took that feedback to heart. Even though you can only say so much in French, a few powerful, hearfelt words can go a long way!

Yesterday (Sunday) was fantastic! It is awesome to be able to hear many different people speak at devotional every Sunday night. Last night we heard from Shane Littlefield, the Coordinator of Pre-Missionary Learning or something like that. He gave an excellent talk about having the right attitude as a missionary! I learned that I need to be bold and not shy, dilligent and not lazy, kind and not rash, and obedient and not disrespectful. He said that the best and most blessed missionaries were the most obedient and hard-working. These are words of wisdom that I take seriously. I also had a great experience reading the Book of Mormon during personal study. When I was reading through 2 Nephi, I felt a burning and a swelling within my chest as I read about the Savior Jesus Christ and his atonement, and my desire to read more and more grew! I felt so much happiness about what I was reading, and as I contined to read the swelling grew, and I knew that what I was reading was true! It kept growing to the point where I just about teared up right in the middle of class, and I knew that these teachings were true happiness! It is a true wonder how plain and simple truths stated in these scriptures will make you feel the spirit, the Holy Ghost,  just while you read them. This experience manifested to me that these teachings are, without a doubt, true, and the spirit truly did manifest it to me. The Book of Mormon contains true principles, and anyone and everyone can and should read it! Just give it a try, even if you're not religious it contains priciples of hapiness that are beneficial to living life. I promise this!

I found a piece of paper at the devotional with this message written on it, and it hit me hard. It is a quote by Elder Neal A Maxwell, and it says "God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availabilty, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability!" This is just awesome! It is a reminder to me to never doubt how well I can prepare or teach the gospel, and that if I trust and have faith in God he will comfort and bless me with the spirit. I would type down Alma 26:12, but I don't have much more time. It basically supports this saying in a beautiful way, so go read it!

Anyway, that's all I have time to say, so peace out and love life! I love you all, and thank you for your letters! I will try to send some pictures in the near future. Faitoito!

Avec l'amour,
Oromatua Popo
Elder Ball

Monday, May 6, 2013

I'm still alive! Week #1


Well, I'm still alive! I might be tired and somewhat unconscious, but I'm still alive! Haha so I'm going to start off by saying that the MTC isn't at all what I expected. Once I got there, I got my name badges, room key, books, dropped my stuff off right at the room, and got right to work on gospel study/language study. This place is amazing! The work is hard and constant, and the first two days were probably the longest days of my life.  But the work is also fun! When President Carmack said that I was so lucky to have this opportunity to dedicate my life to one thing and one thing only. And when that one thing is the gospel, life is just great. One joke I heard that rather than being a concentration camp, it was more like a "Consecration Camp." Haha. Seriously, whatever doubts I had before have been erased by the strong spirit that is in this place. Every hour until bedtime is work work work, whether it's reading the scriptures or learning the language or practicing teaching, it's all work but it's great! The fact that I'm in here for 10 more weeks is still a little daunting, but I'm still stoked!

Alrighty, so my district is definitely a blast. My companion is Elder Lovelock, from Melbourne, Australia. He's a rad elder, really laid back, sick accent. He's kind of a no-nonsense guy too, but that's whats so funny about him. The other elders are Elder Hansen and Elder White, both from Utah. They're both super funny guys, and they're bound to be the new zone leaders once the other zone leaders leave for France. Speaking of which, Elder Erickson and Elder Dover are my zone leaders, and they leave for Lyon, France in about a week. They're the best zone leaders and examples a guy could ask for. They're quite a dynamic duo and you can tell the real bond in their companionship. All the French speaking missions are in the same zone and branch, and all the French missionaries are fun to hang out with as well. Since they leave in a week, a new batch of French missionaries are gonna come in and live in the same hall as us. I'm absolutely stoked on that as well. (I'm talkin to you, Elder Herring!)

Learning (or relearning) French is waaay fun! So far I've been reviewing pretty much all the things that I learned in high school. It's a little bit of a head start compared to some of the other missionaries who have never spoken a lick of French (Elder Lovelock, for instance!), but they'll definitely catch up to me eventually. We've mostly been learning how to say prayers and bear our testimony and such. Elder White, and one of the Sister Missionaries in our district Soeur Bradshaw, are extremely good! They've taken like 5-6 weeks of French and are definitely the go-to's when it comes to help. Frere Coulson is our teacher, and he's such a cool, relaxed guy. I can almost tell that before his mission that he must have been a total goofball, but after serving in Tahiti he's really mellowed out. It's fun to learn about our mission from him.

On Friday and Saturday we taught our first "investigator" named Manuarii Noho. The reason I say "investigator" is because we're pretty sure he's a member. His prayers are too good! He's from Tahiti and is half-Tahitian, he's a really cool guy as well. I swear, if all Tahitians are as nice and chill as he his I will be so grateful. It's easier to teach when the investigator is nice! The biggest catch of these lessons was that we had to teach the entire lesson in French! It was extremely difficult, and on my lesson plan I wrote down a few lines that I tried so hard not to look at during the lesson, but it was just too hard not to. The best part was, Elder Lovelock and I both bore our testimonies in French at the end, and I felt the spirit so strongly because it was amazing how I was able to communicate such heartfelt things in a completely different language. He received it so well, and we asked him to pray at the end. His prayer (at least from what I could understand) was so nice, and I definitely felt the comforting power of the Holy Ghost when he prayed for us. It was the best.

Also, I got the chance to hear the football player Chad Lewis speak at a devotional! It was probably one of the greatest, most motivational devotionals I've ever heard. He's a funny and inspiring guy. And he can jump pretty high.

So yesterday was fast Sunday, and we fasted for 26 hours... I would have only done it for 24, but because of our schedule we had dinner on Sunday at 6 instead of our regular time at 4 so it was a long, tiring day. I bore my testimony in French during sacrament meeting, and that was a great experience. This morning we went to the temple to perform ordinances, so all day yesterday and today so far I've been feeling greatly spiritually edified. Every day is getting better and better, and apparently Sunday was the day that if we made it till then, we'd be just fine. So I'm happy to say that I made it!

Last night we watched a recording of Elder Bednar's devotional talk "Character of Christ". That was definitely a new side of Elder Bednar I've never seen before! He's funny, but he goes right for the throat when he wants to get a point across. Basically he said that this mission is not about us one bit. It's all about others, the people we will teach! He said that the best missionaries and the best members are the ones who reach out to others, even in times of their own hardship and trial. It really opened up my eyes that to be the best missionary and to get the most out of it is to be as selfless as I can be and focus on solely the welfare of others. I'm not here on a mission to learn a sick language and get a tan, and I'm definitely not here to get catered to and served whenever I feel tired. When I focus on trying to love others, including the people in Tahiti who I haven't even met yet, it definitely helps the work move right along.

I've been missing home a little bit, and the life I had before I came here. I've been longing for my guitars, especially! But I read in 1 Corinthians 13:11 "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I was a man, I put away all childish things." Now that I'm out here, and need to put away those things for a while and focus on what really matters and become a man! It's definitely a kick in the pants to stop longing for life back home, because that's not gonna matter for the next 2 years!

Well, that's about all I have time to say! I miss you and love you all, especially you Mom, Dad, Thomas and Jenni. Thanks for the letters Mom and Jenni! And to Thomas I appreciate the little email you sent me haha. I'll get back to you soon enough. Keep posted, I'll write another email next week!

Oromatua Popo
Elder Ball