Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The other side of the postcard (Bora Bora - week #2)

Kia ora! 

Its been a pretty solid second week on Bora Bora for Elder Lee Chip Sao and I. We've been blessed again to find a large amount of new references, and we haven't even had time to contact all of them! But after being here for two weeks the excitement and the whole idea of being on Bora Bora is starting to calm down a little bit. Of course the island is beautiful and I'm stoked to be here, but when you start getting to work it feels like any other area. You see a little bit past the cliché paradise and you rather see the working life, the everyday struggles of people who live here. The other side of the postcard, you could say.

Front side of the postcard

Our week started out great Tuesday with A------- still progressing. We finished talking about the Restoration with him and he understood everything completely. The Spirit was powerful, and things were looking good, and we extended the baptismal commitment... and he said he'll think about it. At least he didn't say no! He said he'll read the Book of Mormon, and when we came back, you know it, he read the Book of Mormon! He still needs to pray and ask God if it is true, but its sure that once he gains a strong testimony of these things he will make the decision to be baptized. 

Then Wednesday, life got even more awesome! The 4 of us Bora elders had the privilege of going to Raiatea for a multizone conference with Elder S. Gifford Nielsen of the Seventy, along with hes wife. He's one of the coolest guys of ever. He's an old quarterback for the Houston Oilers, and he gave an awesome talk two or three conferences ago about having a missionary work game plan. We had a sweet conference with him, and the thing that stood out to me the most that he taught us is that we are on missions to become better parents. So basically I'm a dad in training. And its totally true, where else are you going to learn how to teach others the gospel, and acquire Christlike attributes like patience, charity, faith and the like? It was awesome, and I also got to play a hymn arrangement on piano for the conference. Its been a while since I've performed!

Multizone Conference with Elder Gifford Nielsen

The coolest experience was after the conference. Elder and Sister Nielsen were headed back to Bora with us, so we had the chance to spend some time at the airport with them. While we were talking, Sister Nielsen told us to listen carefully, and we all heard the song I Am a Child of God being plucked on a ukulele behind us. We looked and there was this big dude with long hair with his ukulele playing a children's hymn. He must be a member! So Elder Lee Chip Sao and I head over there to go talk to him. We find out that he's an inactive member, and he was waiting for a plane to Papeete. Then Elder Nielsen comes over and asks him to play the song again. It was pretty funny! He talks to him as well and finds out he's an inactive member, and then invites him to a stake conference in Faaa Saturday and Sunday. He said that he would come! After parting ways and getting on our plane, Elder Nielsen asked what we all learned from this experience, and probably the biggest thing that we learned was that this was a member who needed help, who wanted to come back and wanted us to find him. If not he wouldn't have played I Am a Child of God. There's people everywhere who must see us and want us to find them and help them come back. Puts things into perspective a little bit!

That's about all I have time for this week. The mission life is extraordinary. You learn a lot. I love you all and until next week!

Elder Ball

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pearl of the Pacific (Bora Bora - week #1)

Ia ora na!

So, voila la suite! Like I mentioned at the end of my last letter, I got transferred. It was a little expected, but nonetheless bittersweet. After being in Vairao for almost 6 months, it was tough to leave the members and the amis that i grew to love so much. I had the chance to bear a final testimony during testimony meeting, and at the end they decided to put God Be With You Till We Meet Again as the closing hymn. Whattup with that, that's not even fair. I almost cried! I said final goodbyes to the members before leaving that chapel for the last time in who knows how long, and before I know it that Sunday night I was at the airport ready to leave for Bora Bora.

And now the nitty gritty on Bora. I have been transferred to the Anau ward with Elder Lee Chip Sao as my companion. He's from the Papeete 1st ward, he's been 8 months on his mission and he's already been here in Bora for about 4 months. I already knew him well enough since he served in my last zone before and we've been on a split together which was totally rad. He's a total goofball, and I'm excited to serve with him.

Upon arriving at the Bora Bora airport (which is on an outer islet surrounding the main island), he and a couple young single adults from the ward were there to pick me up and we took off on a shuttle boat for the main island. This island is insanely gorgeous! The whole main island is surrounded by a huge outer reef mostly formed by smaller islets, so because of that there is a beautiful lagoon in between the main island and the islets. There are all kinds of shades of blue in the lagoon and on all of the islets there are white sand beaches that stretch out. If you want paradise, this is it. They call this island the Pearl of the Pacific, and it is rightly named.

On Bora, there are two wards, Anau and Vaitape. We live with the two elders for Vaitape, Elder Gilson and Elder Requillart. Their ward is kickin', and they do great work. As for the ward Anau... let's just say that the work has been low... and pretty low.  I'm supposed to see whats going on and boost the ward up a little bit, since there will be a division in the two wards in the coming month. It's a little different from my last ward, but despite the difference we got a ton of work to do!

I can say first off that the Lord has blessed us this week. After getting to know the area a little bit through the area book and the things that Elder Lee Chip Sao showed to me, we managed to fill our time up in seeing inactive members. On the island, there are around 1000 members... and there are maybe 400 that are active. So, this place could use some reactivation anyway! In doing that we were able to find a large amount of references, and that gave us even more things to do! Through one reference we found a new investigator named A------. He's living with a less-active member named K--. We had an awesome first few lessons with him this week, and he even came to church yesterday! First week and he's already progressing. We're stoked to be teaching him, and he loves the lessons!

I had the chance to meet a good amount of the members of the ward as well, including the leaders. I love these people already, and its apparent that our ward has a lot of potential and that most of the members want to work.  Our bishop took us around the area Thursday to see a couple inactives and to teach an investigator lesson with us, and we assisted the ward council and had a coordination meeting with our ward mission leader and everything. I'm confident that things will get moving here soon.

That's about it for the week! P-days are pretty awesome here, last week we went on a hike and today we spent time in a service project removing dirt from a mudslide that landed on the church building a couple months ago... and unfortunately, i cant send photos! There's a virus on my memory card thanks to the computer at Vairao, and I don't want to soil the computers here. Photos will come as soon as a clean it somehow! I love you all, and until next week!

Elder Ball

Alrighty, I managed to find a good photo on the computer, its a shot from the airport. Pretty cool

Monday, October 13, 2014

Welcome to Paradise (Vairao - week #24)

Ia ora na!

Well, it was a great week this week. Of course some difficulties, but life was great this week in Vairao. I truly realized how much I love the members here and how much it was a blessing to serve in this area. 

I'd like to talk a little bit about T-----. She's an investigator that we've been teaching for a very long time, even before we got here. Her husband, C---, is an inactive member. He hides from us or runs away whenever we come by. There was a time last month when T----- was ready for baptism and her baptism date was fixed, and C--- was all good with it, then like a week before the baptism C---changes his mind and doesn't want T----- to be baptized without him coming back to the church, which is dumb because he doesn't make any visible effort to reach that goal... he then fights with T----- , and by the end of the argument they end up drinking and smoking together... dang it!

Well at the beginning of the week Elder Millett and I were able corner the two at their house in a surprise visit, and fortunately they came out and we did a lesson with both of them! The lesson started great after we talked with them a little bit and followed up on their situation, and I felt prompted to ask a question: "C---, do you guys feel like your life is simple?" He thought a little bit, and then he just said "no way man, its way complicated. There's all kinds of problems." We then asked well, why? And if that's the case, do you think that God wants your life to be complicated? It turned into this awesome lesson about how obedience to commandments brings blessings and that while there's work to do, following Christ makes our life much simpler, avoiding so many problems that sin brings. The Spirit was there, and all in all C--- accepted to follow the lessons with T----- and not run away anymore. It's a step forward!

This week we also had a ward activity that was awesome! It was a Friday Saturday Sunday triple combination takedown that we called the Mega Super Weekend. Too rad. Friday night was an exposition of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We did it in an indoor playing field where all the functions of the ward such as relief society, primary, etc. make display tables showing their part in the church, and all the guest rotate stations. It was awesome and super well done. The members were enthusiastic about it, and the guest loved it. Saturday was a sports day, which was fun, and Sunday night was a fireside where Sister Taylor came and talked about her experience with the accident. It was awesome, and many investigators were touched by it. A lot of effort for this weekend, with some good results coming out.

Casey has been transferred to Bora Bora

That's what I'll leave for you guys this week! Oh, in other news... I got transferred. Ia ora na from Bora Bora. I'll leave you more details on that next week. Stay tuned ;) I love you all!

Elder Ball

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

G conf and an angry dude (Vairao - week #23)

Ia ora na tatou!

It's been a relatively rough but crazy week, to say the least. We've lost some investigators (P----- and T----, for example) as a result of choosing to follow other religions. It's truly tough, but that's just when you gotta buckle down and find some new amis. It's easier to find time to look for new investigators when the current investigators in your list start thinning out. We've found a couple this week, and hope to contact more next week! One ami is named R-----, she's a 9 year old girl of a part-member family. Her mother and siblings are all inactive members, while the father is a nonmember. He isn't too quick to accept us yet, but at least he approves of us teaching R----- which is great. It's a little difficult teaching R-----, since she has little to no knowledge of Jesus Christ, and since she's young it's hard for her to grasp all these new concepts. Luckily the Primary President lives just next door, so with her help R----- will be moving along here soon!

We had a solid lesson with T-------- as well. He read the chapter in the Book of Mormon that we gave him two times, and he said both times he felt such a warmth and peace as he read, and he felt the same things as he prayed. We told him that sure enough it was the Holy Ghost that let him now that these things were true. After reading a little of the chapter with him, he started to ask many awesome questions, like how to repent, importance of baptism, why was Jesus baptized, even how he could become a missionary. These are all questions that Elder Millett and I love to answer, without a doubt. In talking about baptism, we asked him what his thoughts were about being baptized and he said that he still wanted to. We invited him to be baptized in November, but he didn't want to choose a date yet! It's frustrating, but I know he'll make it to baptism soon enough. He progresses awesome! Just like his brother N----. Their both just awesome bros.

As for the craziness, Sunday Elder Millett and I went to do baptismal interviews for a couple. I ended up doing the interview for the man of the couple. He was a super nice guy, and he had some truly amazing experiences in his life that helped his testimony grow. Everything was perfect, until near the end when he revealed something that was not yet completely resolved. After talking about the sacred nature of baptism and of repentance, I recommended that we push the baptism back a little bit to give him more time to prepare. All of a sudden his countenance changed. Then he said this: "Elder, if I'm not gonna be baptized next week, I'm cancelling everything--the marriage, the baptism, and I'm kicking my wife and kids out of the house." ...uh, what? I definitely didn't want that to happen. I tried to explain to him that it's for the better if we push it back, but he just did not want to. This is when the devil and the angel appear on your shoulders: "Come on man, just let him get baptized, he's ready! It'll make the zone look good!" Then on the other shoulder "who you gonna fear, God or man?" Well, can't argue with that one, the Spirit was telling me he's not ready. So despite the threats, I told him we'll have to push it back at least a week. Turns out his partner wasn't completely ready either. They ended up accepting the decision, however unhappily. But it was a moment in which I was truly tested. I feel like I made the good choice!

Of course, just thought id mention how great it was to watch general conference this week. I especially loved Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talk from Saturday morning about finding truth. He talked about how long ago, scientists believed that there was nothing outside of our galaxy the Milky Way because that was as far as they were capable of searching. But as advancements in technology and honest efforts to search even farther increased, scientists were able to locate hundreds of galaxies and start systems, that there really is more out there. Believe it or not, it's the same with the Gospel. The mysteries of God will be revealed to us and truth will be found, if we search honestly and diligently enough, careful not to harden our hearts to it. That's what amazes me about the Book of Mormon; how could anyone reject this additional counsel from our Father in heaven, or at least not desire to see for themselves if it really is His word? People will only receive truth and light if they honestly seek it out without a hard heart.

Sunset in Tahitit

That's it for the week. Here's a picture after a lesson with R---------. This is his backyard. That's mystical Tahiti for ya. I love you all, and a faaitoito!

Elder Ball