Sunday, May 6, 2018

5-6-2018 I love finding new ways to be productive

Kaise haiii!

I tell you, everyone is more excited for me to leave this country than I am...

Every time I see another missionary, they say something like 2 MORE WEEKS or YOU GO HOME NEXT WEEK, all the things I'm trying so hard not to tell myself, haha. It honestly just blows my mind to think that in just 12 days, I get to be with you all again. I finally get to meet Pierce and Talia, hold them, and just talanoa (wala'au, I think is the right translation) with everyone. BUT, again, trying not to think about it. Luckily, we have a lot of good things happening in the area right now to keep me distracted. This next week will be really hectic, given that we planned heaps of teaching appointments, lunch and dinner appointments, baptisms, and I still need time throughout the week to pack. Oh my goodness, I have to pack this week. I need someone to give me the line between charity and wastefulness, because even though I didn't buy with my own income a lot of the things that I have, I've already given away so many things, and there are more than I can give that I don't necessarily need. I lowkey feel like I'm wasting the money yous spent on things for me to live well by giving it all to other people, but then again, it does make me and them happy. Not to worry, however, 100% of the money yous have sent me over the last few weeks is going to cool stuff for you guys.

This last week was great. I love finding new ways to be productive. While shopping for some "cool stuff" in an Indian shop, we spoke to and got the numbers of six employees who want us to come over and share the message with their families. One pretty neat thing about having a haole companion is that these people just lose their minds when he opens his mouth and their native tongue rolls out, especially so fluently. As soon as he begins to speak, people flock. A tiny downside is that most of the people aren't wayyyy interested in the message of the restored gospel per se, they just want a holy white man that speaks Hindi sitting in their home praying and eating their cookies. We always do get in, and whether or not they're genuinely interested in the message, they're always very kind and pleasant. We were lucky with several of those families, however, as we visited them on Friday and set return dates for tomorrow. 

Yesterday was especially nice. We received a text from President Higgins earlier in the week, indicating that there were two YSA aged men in Navatuyaba that needed to take the discussions. Given that there are no elders currently serving in that area, the responsibility fell on Elder Hess and I to contact and teach them. We decided to abandon Nausori ward and Waila ward for a Sunday so that we could attend the Navatuyaba ward sacrament meeting and teach Josefa and Timoci during the class block. Timoci was brought up in an LDS family, but he himself never joined for his own reasons. His father passed away several months ago. Timoci has been attending church over the last few months with his friend, Josefa, and has realized what the church really teaches and what he's been missing in his life. He regrets not having joined sooner in his life, and wishes that his father could have seen him in that chapel and taking the discussions from the missionaries. I know that he does see Timoci, and beams at Timoci's growing desire to enter the fold. What initially sparked the interest of Timoci and Josefa, however, was the fact that they were dating a couple of YSA girls in the ward, who made it clear that they would marry in the temple of the Lord, whether to them or someone else. Timoci and Josefa started with simple questions about the temple, which lead to heavier questions about the greater truths of the restored gospel. Their questions were so sincere, and always made sure to ask more if they didn't understand anything, until they did perfectly. They are beyond prepared, and though I won't be here for their baptisms, I'm SO excited for that day and for the lives of joy and happiness that they will have with their families as a result of the gospel. 

Driving from Navatuyaba to Naulu for that ward, we received a text from a member in Nausori ward indicating that he had a referral for us. His cousin (a less-active member) is getting married soon. It's an Indian custom that the wife follows the religion of the husband's family, and given that the bride-to-be was raised Hindi, she was granted permission by her father to convert to Christianity. We'll start teaching her the lessons tomorrow night. We're hoping that this process not only enlightens her to fully accept Christianity and baptism, but that her bridegroom will reactivate himself in the church. He wishes to marry her in the temple, so we'll see how her desire is tomorrow night

When we reached Naulu, we saw that Sonu wasn't in church. Sonu is scheduled to be baptized on May 19, being the day I leave. We compiled the plan for his baptism to take place first thing in the morning, I leave Suva for a bit to be able to attend his baptism, then get straight on a bus to Nadi from there. However, when we saw that he wasn't there, the plan went down the drain as that Sunday would have been critical for him to come to be able to be baptized on that day. The family that usually drove him to church was already there, so we sat down just a bit discouraged. For me, personally, I don't care when they get in the water, whether I'm able to attend, or that I'm able to baptize them personally. As long as I receive word that someone that I taught entered the waters of baptism READY, it means the same to me. Of course I love being the one to personally escort new sheep into that saving ordinance, or seeing it done, but the real joy and comfort rests in that they understand the covenant they're making, and they're ready and willing to keep that covenant. As these things ran through my head and as I listened to the testimonies being born, an exhausted mass of Sonu quickly walked through the doors and plopped itself in the seat just beside me with a heavy sigh and a big smile. Upon waking up late, he decided to stay home and enjoy a peaceful sabbath in his bed room. However, an undismissable prompting drove him out of bed, into his sunday best, and into a taxi to the chapel. So, the plan is still in movement, and Sonu is awesome. We left Naulu after classes to talk details with Joseph (the member from Nausori) about the referral, after which we again met Sonu at a self-reliance fireside. We were addressed by Elder Johansson of the Area Seventy, who gave his life story. Something he shared that stuck out to me was: 'In the scriptures, we are implored to "seek learning".' He talked about how he never finished school, nor did he ever earn his degree. However, he's always been a very keen learner. He loved to learn, and learned everything there was to know about anything. Circumstance disabled him from finishing school, but because of the knowledge he was able to acquire doing small-time jobs and studying on his own, he was able to see a lot of success in his life and obtain his current position overseeing church operations in 9 South Pacific countries. He carried on to instruct " -don't seek a degree; seek learning." Now this could easily be interpreted the wrong way, as in Wow, so I don't need a degree to be successful... why try? Don't worry, I didn't take it that way. To me, it means that I shouldn't study just for the sake of receiving a degree to get it all over with. Knowledge truly is power, and knowledge opens so many doors and possibilities. I've never been very academically inclined, never been all that much of a scholar, but I do have a newfound love of learning new things and applying those things to my life. He also instructed us to "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto [us]." I'm so ready and motivated to go to the temple as often as possible and to take a calling that may be available for me upon my return; do things that will keep me spiritually in tune so that I can receive spiritual guidance as to what I need to do.

Anyways, this last week was just really good and we saw a lot of good things. 

So, I received the big scare (news, rather) on Saturday night at a dinner appointment. As I sat there, Sister Tuinamoala said "Elder, you're from Hawai'i right?" I said "Yeah!"
"Oh, an earthquake shook the Big Island today, activating tsunamis and volcanic erruptions! How scary, aye? What island are you from?"
"... the Big Island."
"Oh! Oh... u'oh..." BUT I figured everything was alright. Yesterday in church, several members -knowing I'm from Hawai'i- approached me and asked how my family was. Not knowing, I just asked what the magnitude of the earthquake was. One member responded by showing me the news report on her phone. Not only did I see that it was a 6.9, but that the red dot indicating where the tremors began and where the volcanic fissure had opened was dead in the center of Puna. Oddly enough, none of it scared me. I was completely confident that you were all okay, and that whether I came home to my own home or somebody else's, everything would be alright. Though the idea was in my head that we may lose our home, something inside just didn't mind and was completely comforted in the fact that my family was fine. However, I checked the reports and it looks like the lava is heading the opposite way, which is comforting. I also checked up on Keolani, remembering that they stay in Leilani Estates, and was relieved to know that they were safely situated in California due to Brother and Sister Bandmaan's inspiration to book their tickets and fly out early. I hope their home is preserved. I think the McCubbins live near there as well, right? Are they alright? Finding out about the homes that have been lost so far made me think about what I shared before, that when devastating things happen out of our control, it's God's will. There's definitely nothing anyone could've done about an earthquake ripping a hole in the middle of a small Hawaiian settlement and spewing molten lava all over the place, but they can still have faith and act. The Lord has a plan for those whose homes were lost, and their needs will be provided for according to their diligence, faith, and perseverance. 
"[Heavenly Father and the Savior] never do anything to hurt us or torture us; they only do things to help us. That's all they do." 

Anyways, glad you're all safe! Are yous still in Puna, or have you all migrated somewhere? Is the house in the track as well? I saw videos and pictures of the flow. It looks hellish, but pretty sick. I say that because Te ka hasn't eaten my house yet, I guess, but my prayers do go out to those families (the very first movie I wanna watch when I get home is still Moana).

MEEEAAN LEHIA! HOW cool is that, you got to travel off-island for State Championships for a sport you've only been playing for what, four months? AND you win a match! We're hitting the mat as soon as I get back (you are, I mean, cause I no lose). You'll only get better and better and win more and more matches as you keep up with your practice, keep a positive attitude, stay humble, and persevere. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JEREMIAS, I'll bring something nice for him. Also, forgive me my horrible memory, but Herbert's birthday is soon I just don't remember the exact day. MARAUTAKA NA NOMUNI SIGA NI SUCU TALEIGA, NA TUAKAQU WANANAVU SARA! Kua ni leqa, au na kunea e dua na ka set saraga vei kemuni. BRASS e sega sara meu wawa medaru talanoa vakadua! I'm obviously still learning, but kerea moni vulici au kei vosa vei au i vosa vakaviti ga so I can pick it up.
OH, we're planning to skype next week Monday morning (that's what works best for Elder Hess and his family). I'm not fussing all that much, because I literally get to see you all six days later. We still haven't established exactly where we're skyping, but we'll check up at some point throughout the week to finalize details. The plan right now, however, is Monday morning.

I gotta go, I love you all so much! Have a great and blessed week, be safe! 

Khyaal rakna, 
Elda Ishibashi 


-Herb, do you remember Lavenia Kabetebete? You baptized her, and she sends her loloma.

-Elder John H. Groberg

-After the devotional

-Elder Scofield is 6'7


Sunday, April 29, 2018

4-23-18 Really looking forward to working with these people!

Kaise hei! 

I don't have a lot of time, just popping in briefly to let you know I'm alive.

Yesterday was hectic, hence my not being able to write. We as a zone went to a beach for our zone P-day, which was wayyy fun. Because of my self-reliance class and my having to run around the zone for pick-ups to shuttle over to the beach a good hour drive away, I only had time to jump on and check without responding. 

This last week was great, though! It was a pretty normal week of good work. On a bit of a sad note, Elder Hess and I thoroughly went through our teaching pool and determined that half of them weren't keeping their commitments, so we dropped some and others are pending. However, the other half are doing great. We're looking at a baptism this weekend for Deo, and we had heaps of people referred to us by members over the last week and they're all way onst. Really looking forward to working with these people! 

No super significant things to report from the last week. 

I'm excited for zone conference on Thursday. The focus of zone conference this time around will be on chapter 7 of the Preach My Gospel: How can I better learn my mission language? The reason being that President Higgins and the older missionaries in this mission have noticed that the language ability of the missionaries have recently died down significantly. More and more lessons are being taught in English, and the missionaries don't have all that much of a drive to get really good at the language. We're sending home and spawning missionaries that are content with their decent Fijian. President doesn't want decent Fijian speakers, or even good or great Fijian speakers. He wants missionaries to go home fluent. He wants missionaries to be able to teach the principles of the gospel so well that there can be no misunderstanding of doctrine. More than this, however, he really wants to stress to sisters the importance of learning the language as well. When I first came in, we had some golden Fijian-speaking sisters here. They weren't fluent, but there's a culture within this mission that sisters just aren't under the same obligation to learn the language because they're always assigned to serve in English wards and branches anyway.Every now and again we have a sister missionary that has really good Fijian "for a sister". President wants to break that. I don't know when he'll start putting sisters into Fijian wards and branches (there's one such area right now, Toga), but he wants them to go home with as good Fijian as they can obtain over 18 months. I would love to see how this new language learning stress helps the mission, and I know that it'll be huge in motivating FSM missionaries to study and speak their assigned language all day every day.

Elder Hess and I are conducting a training on language learning principles and how the culture ties in. We determined that embracing the culture and adopting its customs, no matter how odd or different they may be, is essential in learning the language. For example, what are the contents of a normal conversation in Hawaii? Hunting and fishing laws, volleyball championships, politics, work, school, the economy, etc. Fijians typically converse about their teitei (plantations), how hot the day is, rugby, where they were and where they're going, and 80% of the conversation is a joke. We talk about different things and think different ways, and when we learn to adopt their thought patterns, politics, sense of humor, and so forth, their word choice, structure, and vocabulary begin to make sense. Indians talk about their sick family members and their favorite foods and the sale happening at Max-value. When we come to understand the things they're passionate about, we learn how we can better reach out to them and meet their needs. Over all this, we need to learn the vocabulary we need to converse about all such things and how to go about talking about it.

Again, I'm way excited. Sorry, I left my camera in the car again, but I'll send all the pictures next week. Mean, Lehia! That was a CLEAN win! Still lick you in three weeks, though. Also, Kala'i looking sliiick, what a skuxx! Still lick you too.

I'm glad Anya is cool, send her my love! And I don't know what 'Io's plans are or what he's willing to do, but I don't reckon he'll stray from home for the sake of marriage. I think he'd have the strength to make her stay in Hawaii, unless otherwise prompted by the spirit. Honestly, unless the spirit impresses me that I should follow my wife to the state/country of her origin, she's definitely staying on the islands. But that's quite a ways off to start thinking about. 

Anyways, I'm glad everyone is safe and doing well! 

I love you all so much, have a great and blessed week! 

Khyaal rakna,
Elda Ishibashi 

4-27-18 To obey is better than sacrifice

Kaise hei! 

Got back from self-reliance class a bit late, and we're meeting as a district soon to picnic by a nearby waterfall for p-day, so I'll be a bit brief.

This last week was way good! Found HEAPS of people to teach by trying something we've been finding a good groove in. As I said, we dropped a fat lump of our non progressing investigators, and we dropped several more last week. As we sat in the chapel parking lot one afternoon deciding what we should do, Elder Hess felt impressed that we needed to see a couple of ward members, just to check up on them. We visited each one, shared a message with them, and asked if there were any people on that road or anybody they knew that might be interested in taking the discussions. Every family referred to us at least three other families, either neighbors or close acquaintances. Visiting with each of the families referred to us, we found that they were all golden and ready for the lessons. We're beyond excited to follow-up on them! That night (Wednesday), our dinner appointment fell through, leaving us with a couple of hours to spare in the night before our appointed time to be home. We called several investigators asking if we could come by, but nobody was free at that short notice. Stumped, for a short moment, we bowed our heads in prayer and inquired of the Lord what we should do (because being home too early sucks). We both felt impressed that we needed to go and visit with more members, despite the lateness of the hour. We thought of several families in a certain area and made way to them. Each family had someone ill or injured in the home, and each asked for a priesthood blessing on the afflicted. We were blessed with the opportunity to bless four members that night, and we came home feeling accomplished and edified. 

One of our most promising investigators right now is Sonu. He's 23 years old, is studying accounting at Fiji National University, and works at the Cocacola factory. He's such a pleasure to teach because when we speak, he's so engaged and he listens intently to all of the new teachings. He also asks really good questions (an indication of interest and desire to understand and know more). He's accepted the invitation to be baptized and we're teaching him tonight. WAY cool and down-to-earth man, with such a humble and sincere spirit. He came to church for the first time yesterday, too! 

Zone conference on Thursday was awesome. The downside of being a zone leader is that you have to give the same training three times and you don't get to receive the other trainings by the other zone leaders or STLs. Our training, however, went really well. Given that we were training on cultre and the principles of learning a new language, Elder Hess came up with the idea to wear our shirwanis in representation of our embracing the Hindu culture. I think it helped get the message across of how important it is for us to embrace the culture, customs, and lifestyle of those we serve. When they see us making an effort to adopt the way they walk and the way they talk, the things they eat, and the way they think into our own lives, they'll be more willing to help us more fully understand how we can become like them in our mannerisms, behavior, and speech. It was so much fun, haha. We also received some excellent insights from President and Sister Higgins as well as the APs. One particular insight from President Higgins that stuck out to me was about Saul and Samuel in 1 Samuel:15. Saul was appointed by the Lord through the prophet Samuel to be king over Israel, and was given a simple task to prove his loyalty to the Lord and to the kingdom: Go to the nation of Amalek and wipe it out. Destroy everything that they own, everything within sight, and leave nothing behind. No man, nor woman, nor child, nor ox or camel. Saul gathered a number of men to accomplish the task, and made way to Amalek. He did as was commanded and slew every man, woman, child, and unclean animal he could find. Of the clean and favorable animals however, he took for burnt offerings unto the Lord. When Samuel and Saul met again, Saul confidently explained that he had successfully performed the commandments of the Lord. Saul responded with something along the lines of "... I hear sheep and oxen. What's that supposed to mean?" While trying to justify his actions, Samuel simply and boldly stated to Saul how in sparing the best of the flocks, he sinned in the sight of God still. Samuel explains "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the rat of rams." As a consequence, Saul was denied his kingship and the Lord's blessings.

Sometimes, we cease to fully obey the commandments of the Lord because we think we understand what He wants us to, and act according to our own understanding. In reality, the commandments are very direct and very simple. Blessings are promised in their purest form as we follow and obey them exactly. 

I have to head out, but really quickly, we attended a SICK fireside last night in Suva. We were addressed by Elder John H. Groberg, or Kolipoki from The Other Side of Heaven. It was an incredible fireside that helped me understand more fully why we receive hardships and how we can allow them to mold us into the people God needs us to be. I left my planner in the car (again, sorry, as well as my camera) but I'll go more in depth about the fireside when I have my notes and more time next week. In closing, I remember one quote from Elder Groberg "Heavenly Father and the Savior never does anything to us to torture us or get us down. They only do things to help us. That's all they do." Everything we receive in this life is for our benefit or the benefit of those around us, whether we see it in the very moment or not. When things happen out of our control in our lives, we can rest assured that it plays a part in the plan God has established for each and every one of us. 

Gotta go, but I love you all! Have a great and blessed week! Glad everything is going well back home, can't wait to skype you all soon! I had the horrific realization yesterday that I only have two more sabbaths in Fiji before I leave. Agh. Love you all so much, see you all soon! 

Khyaal rakna,
Elda Ishibashi 

-Zone conference

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

(Backup) 4-16-18 Just photos

-Checking up on the missionaries that had been evacuated to the chapel 

-LOVE the Singh family

-Sister Taylor



-Local youth take the liberty of setting up the road blockades due to the flooding of the Navatuyaba bridge

-Village kids waiting under a bus stand on their bilibili (raft)

This is Elder Hatch, from Arizona.
It was through him that I was able to witness the raw power of sincere prayer.
There came a point where our mission in Naitasiri to obtain Elder Haderlie's property could not continue unless a number of us crossed a heavily flooded highway by foot to the hill that lead to the flat. Elder Astle offered a prayer, after which it was decided that Elder Hatch and I would wait at a bus stand with everybody's stuff to keep it dry while they made their way up the flooded street. At this time the rain was pounding down relentlessly, the cold wind beat and bit at us in every direction, and the current was strengthening under the surface of the water. As I sat under the shelter looking through pictures on Elder English's camera, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Elder Hatch was kind of just standing there in the middle of the shelter. When I looked up, I saw his arms folded, eyes closed, and head bowed in earnest prayer. I watched him pray, inspired by his faith and care for the other missionaries. As I watched him, however, the weather changed dramatically. Over the course of two minutes, the rain ceased completely and the battering winds calmed. More than this, the clouds cleared to azure skies and the sun shew itself. Elder Hatch opened his eyes, looked around, bowed his head for another brief moment, and I could just see his mouth form the words "thank you". He looked at me, smiled his big Hatch smile, and sat down beside me.

Monday, April 16, 2018

4-15-18 Humbling day

Kaise hei!

Boy. Aggghh boy. These last few weeks. It's lowkey been P-week because of all the weather, transport, and health complications within the zone that we had to tend to, but as important as ministering is, we were blessed to be equally productive in administering to the needs of our missionaries and progressing investigators. 

We probably had about three cyclones hit Fiji over a week, resulting in the flooding of several areas in our zone and the inability for those missionaries to return and work in their areas for several days. You know I used my new camera wisely as I tried to very thoroughly document cyclones Kala, Keni, and Josi. Hopefully all those photos and videos go through. I actually just remembered that I had a lot of missionaries requesting I send those photos to them, so I'll have to do that. Anyways, it was a bit rough having to transport missionaries back and forth between there areas (when conditions permitted) and safer areas (when they again riled up). Several emergency transfers within the zone also took place, resulting in the closing of two areas and the need for several trips between Nausori and Suva. However, everything is situated now, everyone is safe in their respected areas and the work is moving forward. The other missionaries in Waila have been shifted, leaving Elder Hess and I as the only missionaries in that area. With all their investigators and recent converts now under our care, our teaching pool and responsibility just doubled. I'm really excited to get to meet all those people!
I'll share more stories from the week with the pictures, but it has been a really good week. Elder Hess continues to be an excellent companion and mentor, I learn so much from him every day. I had self-reliance again this morning, and rest assured it's not making me trunky, it's just getting me really excited about what may lie ahead! I'm excited to start schooling again and looking for opportunities. I've been under this odd impression that I need to do something that I'm good at and will support me and a future family; whether I happen to like that something or not. Self-reliance has helped me to see the importance of finding something doable, something that will help me to supply the necessities of life and then some, and also very importantly, something that I like to do. When money becomes the only drive to get up, get ready, and go to work, it becomes a miserable process and one that drags over years that should be enjoyed. I'm still looking at my options, but my vision is a bit more clear. The migrate-to-Utah prompting is becoming uncomfortably strong, but I think I just need some Hawaii for that to simmer down.

It's been a great week and we're looking at another great one! 
You all be safe during the storm, but I'm glad everything is going well other than that!
'Io looks mean, haha. Is he doing siva?? That's way sick! 
I hope you all have a great and blessed week, take care!

Khyaal rakna,
Elder Ishibashi 

I forgot to mention MLC. I guess that'll tie into my other stories though.
We had MLC (Mission Leadership Counsel) on Thursday morning. It was WAY nice, all of the zone leaders and Sister Training Leaders in the mission reported to the temple Wednesday night, and whereas the MLC would usually attend a session, we were unable as the temple is currently closed for renovations. We were, however, allowed to enter and clean the lockers, dressing rooms, and font. It was a really nice experience. Anyways, we were gathered together afterwards in the mission home and given time to ask President Higgins anything we wanted about church doctrine or missionary work. I learned heaps from him and the other leaders. At MLC the next morning, we received trainings on how important the Holy Ghost is in the work, and how important it is for us to drop our "nets" (weaknesses, limitations) that we might be more effective followers of Jesus Christ. 
It was a great experience!

I also just realized that I left my camera at home and will not be able to send those photos today, so I'll just very briefly tell of the adventure we had on Thursday.

We left the house with the intention of taking the Navatuyaba elders back into their area, if the water over the bridge had gone down. We were also asked to take the Toga sisters back into their area if the road conditions allowed. From the main road upon approaching Navatuyaba's entrance, we could clearly see that the water had doubled in depth and a raging river swept 20 feet over the top of the bridge. Awestruck, given that this was the least flood-prone area of the most flood-prone areas in our zone, we decided to check the others. We were quick to inform the Toga sisters that it would likely be several more days before they could return to Toga, as we arrived to find little boats floating around the streets. This excited us even more to check out Naitasiri, it notoriously being the worst flooding area in the zone. The elders anticipated that the bridge just before their house would be completely underwater, but that we'd at least be able to make it to that point. We were blown away when we arrived at the first bridge only to find it, the highway, and the school yard beyond covered by 10 feet of water. This was in the midst of emergency transfers. One of the elders needed his things from the flat, as he would be flown to Rabi the following morning. The chances of him obtaining his belongings dropped almost to impossible, when the AP's gave us permission to take the boats shuttling people through Naitasiri. In short, the cyclone strengthened brutally while we were out on the boat and trails, but by the tender mercy of our father in heaven, we were able to obtain Elder Haderlie's property (safe and dry) and he was able to fly to Rabi with everything he needed. That journey took about five hours, and MLC service at the temple would start an hour after we returned home. We had to quickly shower and pack for our overnight stay in Suva with the other mission leaders. It was definitely a very interesting, productive, and humbling day.