Monday, August 14, 2017

8-13-17 I feel so unbelievably blessed

Kaise hamaar julum parivaar~!!

For some reason they start qito early in this zone, and I need to look for a new bag in Lautoka town (my shoulder bag zipper broke and I reckon a backpack would be more convenient for travel anyway) so today and probably the next few emails will be a bit short. I wish I had more time because so much is happening! We're getting heaps of work done here and finding heaps of people every day! Lately we've been blessed to be lead to heaps of Christian Indian homes, which is way sick. Wayy stoked to progress with the people we've met! 

Pretty much our whole week was finding new people in this and that area. 

Afrosh and Shahana came to church for the first time yesterday! They seemed to really like it and are keen on coming next week. Yesterday morning was actually pretty tough because were expecting to have about eight investigators in church, but when we called each home, each had a reason not to come. Ragni's was that she was going to her own church instead, which is why we may actually drop her. Church is a HUGE part of conversion, and investigators attending church is a huge indication of their genuine interest in the gospel and dedication to their gaining a testimony. Afrosh said that Shahana was too sick and asked us to come over before church to give her a blessing. When we arrived, Shahana suggested that we take Afrosh and that she'd be fine at home. After a bit of talking between the two, they decided they were well enough to come. We didn't give a blessing, Shehana just got ready and we were all out the door in ten minutes. What a tender mercy that was, and I strongly feel that is was Shehana's faith and knowledge that she had to go to church that healed her so suddenly.

I think I'll use the rest of the time to respond to my siblings, but I'm so glad everything's going well back home! Lately I've been thinking a lot about how much everybody has already grown and accomplished since I've been out. I can't wait to come home and see it all for myself! This morning I woke up to the crushing realization that I really don't have much time left at all. We're nearing the end of the year, and once the end of the year comes, I'll only have five months left. Not that I'm counting. Anyways, in the meantime, I have other families here I need to help before I can see my own again. I've come to love so much the focus of the family in the gospel. Something I always like to share with people when we introduce the concept of eternal families is that death will always be a sad thing. When we lose a loved one, of course it's disheartening  because we can't hear their voice or feel their touch anymore. However, everyone will die one day, and what a blessing it is to know that once we've been sealed on earth and reunited in the kingdom of our father, we will never be separated again. No force can part our families after the point of physical death. On Tuesday we'll be asked to share in district meeting why our particular families are unique and what we love about them. I love that our family has such a distinct sense of humor and an appreciation for art in it's countless forms. Most of all, however, I love that our family is built on a foundation of Christ. I've seen how families fall apart when their foundation is weak, and it's especially sad because they blame the foundation they didn't strengthen when it caves in. I feel so unbelievably blessed to have a strong base in the gospel built by generations of faithful servants of our Father in Heaven. 

I love yous all so much, keep being that shining light in this ever-so darkening world; it needs yous. 
I love you all so much, have a blessed week! 

Khyaal rakna, 

Elder Ishibashi 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

8-6-17 I'm loving the area and the work!

First of all, soooobo dad no say dat kine! Don't ever worry about being too busy to write, I'm totally aware of everybody's responsibilities at home, especially now! With so much going on, I reckon free time is a tight thing to acquire as everyone's trying to take care of this and that. I learned early on in the mission that when I came out, yous gave me to the Lord for two years AND vice versa. I know the Lord is taking care of yous and blessing my family immensely in my physical absence, and know that he's doing the same for me! Thank yous so much for the check-ups and status reports on blessings obtained over the last week, I can't say how much I appreciate them, but you all have responsibilities in the church to attend to, just like me. PLEASE don't let me get in the way at all of your fulfilling your responsibilities to the best of your ability! Yous making me feel bad! (I mean don't STOP writing me but don't prioritize me)

Anyways, KAISE HAI hamar pyaari parivaar?
This last week was awesome! First full week in Nadi. Nadi actually reminds me heaps of Kona, WAY hot and dry. Almost everything is dead or growing out of cracking ground, but the dry ground does produce what the people here need to get by comfortably, which is great. 

On Tuesday we held the first district meeting of the transfer with the new district, which is a BIG one (I think, 5 companionships)! We had some fire trainings and set a good transfer goal that everyone felt comfortable with after consulting with the Lord about it. After which, we were accompanied by one of the YSA in the ward who came out teaching with us. James should be receiving his mission call soon, and this was the first time he went out proselyting with the elders, so it was good for him. 
I met Shehana and Afrosh for the first time. They're a young, non-practicing Muslim couple and they're waaay cool. We have Afrosh on date to be baptized the first week of September. He has such strong faith in Christ, loves the discussions, and keeps all the commitments we extend to him! He has a smoking problem and has been doing an awesome job at rationing his tobacco since we taught the Word of Wisdom on Tuesday! He'd JUST bought a little pack when we got there and we invited him to ration it until Friday, and on Saturday he'd be able to buy another one (He smoked about 3-4 packs a day, so this would be a big step for him). When we went back on Friday for service, they were both proud to announce that he did it! Shehana is suuuper good for him, way supportive of his efforts to quit and helps him with it heaps. Though she's not quite ready to change right now (though she even shared that it's definitely a possibility that she follow Afrosh into the church), she loves the discussions, asks heaps of good questions and even loves the Book of Mormon and other LDS literature. She believes the things we share, she's just not ready right now to make the change. They're a power couple with a lot of faith and humble hearts. 

When we left their home, and went and met heaps of new people. James was such a big help and I know he'll be an amazing missionary! 

Another family we visit heaps is the Singh family. Elder Kioa and his last companion found 
them last transfer and they're way onst. We usually just meet with Ragni (the mother) and one of her three kids. Ragni previously belonged to the Souls to Jesus church, but as the missionaries have been visiting, she's gained a testimony of the restoration of the fullness of the gospel in these latter-days. She knows the church is true and is on date to be baptized on the same day as Afrosh, but her husband doesn't let her go to church. We're still trying to figure that out, and we will! We're praying that Brother Singh's heart will be softened so that Ragni and her kids can go to church and be baptized.

The next day, we were asked by a less-active member to visit her after a long while of missionaries not coming by. Sherlini introduced us to her partner Amesh and his son, Anish. We learned that Sherlini is a returned missionary, her partner and his son are not members, and that they want to be! They both have a lot of faith in Christ and are really interested in getting baptized, just several things complicate the situation. One of those is that Amesh was never properly educated throughout his life. He can't read, write, or speak much English. Sherlini and Anish, however, are more than willing to help us and Amesh to understand the importance of our message. Another complication is the fact that Amesh and Sherlini are living together despite not being married. Amesh is divorced, but Sherlini's divorce is still pending and the work is being done in Canada, where she was married. Until she goes to Canada and finalizes the divorce in October, they'll either need to separate or Amesh will need to wait for the divorce to be made final AND for them to be legally married before he can be baptized. These things won't affect Anish's eligibility to be baptized, so we may baptize him early just so that the home can have the priesthood in it. We're really looking forward to seeing them again! 
We're way excited to continue to teach these people and help them to come closer to the savior. We met heaps of new people last week, so the next week will be a lot of follow-up appointments.
We're looking at a good week and more new water for Nadi's dryness!

In response to the love: LET'S GOOOOO MAKANA!! You seriously have no clue how stoked I am for him! SPANISH!! HOW SICK IS THAT! Oh my goodness, and what a cool thing for him to set that example for Hoku and his friends. Makana is going to looove his mission and the Dominicanos are going to looove him!  MAN so excited for him! 

Glad everything else back home is all good! Everyone looks so good, thanks for all the pictures I received! I'll respond to the individual emails as well, and I'm running out of time, so I'll close this letter now.

Know we're in great health in spirits, Elder Kioa is still the man and pushes me hard!

"It's okay to be weak when you've exhausted all the strength you could possibly muster. Until then, leave nothing in the tank."

I'm loving the area and the work! 

I love you all, thank you all again so much for the love and blessings I receive as I search the Nadi desert for Christ's dwindling sheep! Have a blessed week all of yous! 

Khyaal rakna, 
Elder Ishibashi

P.S. I feel like yous might know Elder Kioa's parents aye? That Fijian guy knew both our parents and Aunty Sia and Brother Maiwiriwiri know Brother and Sister Kioa as well, just wondering.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

7-30-17 President Higgins reassigned me

Kaise hai vinaka hamaar pyaari parivaar!

This last week had definitely been a very interesting one! So much to write about!

On Tuesday we held a really nice district meeting which consisted primarily of role plays and sharing OYMing methods. It was pretty fun because we'd planned to have a potluck lunch after district meeting but nobody had time to cook that morning, so we ended up using the chapel's kitchen to cook/prepare our lunch DURING district meeting. Since the people in the house are cooking a lot of the time we approach them, we reenacted several scenarios where a member of the house prepared food for their guests and listened in while the missionaries shared a message with the rest of the family. It was fun, we learned a lot and was able to get a lot done during our district meeting. As we were preparing to leave the chapel, transfer calls were circulating throughout our area, and it was our turn to receive. 

President Higgins reassigned me to serve in the Nadi Hindi area!

That night, I received such a tender mercy from the Lord that I don't reckon I'll forget any time soon, and I'll cherish it for as long as I remember. The Tarbiti family always felt bad that some members of the family would still be out in town whenever we arrived at their house, so we'd have to wait a little for everyone to arrive and settle before we could start the lesson. Because of this, we always ran out of time before our dinner appointment so we'd have to quickly close and rush out the door to make it on time. Last week, Fifin asked us to make sure no dinner appointments are scheduled for Tuesday so that THEY could feed us and we wouldn't have to stress about having to be somewhere else. We made sure the Tarbitis were the last family we had planned for that evening, we held a great lesson with the family about the importance of baptizing the same way Jesus Christ did, and a niiice feast was placed in front of us. Before we ate, Fifin told us how much she appreciated our visits and the spirit we bring into their home. She said it was a custom in Vanuatu to give gifts to people who visit the family often and ultimately become good family friends. She and Betisha (9 year old daughter) went into the back room and brought out two of the most gorgeous Vanuatu lava lavas I've ever seen. Betisha came to me, wrapped hers over my left shoulder and tied the ends together under my right arm (like a kihe), and Fifin did the same for Elder Mo'unga. It was only after this that Elder Mo'unga told them that I'd be transferring on Friday and that we'd be busy Thursday night because of transfers, so that would be the last time I got to see them. Fifin was sure, as am I, that the Lord arranged for that evening to be so special. Tuesday night was especially significant for two reasons:

One, I felt like we definitely could have done more work or found more people. My ultimate goal when I enter an area is to leave it better than I found it, and though I can in all honesty say that for Suva, I felt like I could have done more and I was sad. That night, I really felt like we made an impact on that family's lives. Their love and appreciation for us was so evident, and that night, I felt like I'd been successful in that area. The second reason that evening was so special is because it was easily the most love and appreciation I've ever been shown since I've been here. I've taught people who ended up being baptized and even myself helped several into the waters of baptism. The Tarbiti family had not received an answer yet as to whether or not our teachings were true, but they were humble and so willing to find out. Some had no indication, some had received light promptings, but there was no surety yet. Despite this, they knew we were sent from our Father in Heaven and that the Spirit was evident when we entered their home, and they were grateful for that. Even though they haven't been baptized yet, I'm sure they will be one day. That was an amazing night. 

On Wednesday we were joined by Elder Fonua, the Hindi elder from Lautoka who was called to train a new Hindi missionary. That night, he taught me heaps of Hindi words that I didn't know that don't even have real English definitions, and I realized how much serving in the city limited my Hindi haha. The next day we were joined again by him and his trainee and we were able to see a good lot of people and teach the yougin his first Hindi words. 

Friday rolled around and by 9am, I and 8 other missionaries were on a bus to Nadi. After a nice and beautifully scenic four hour drive, I met my new companion at the Nadi airport. 

Elder Kioa was raised in San Mateo, California, but has been living in Utah for the last few years. He is SOOO chill, so humble and suuper funny. I'm super excited for the next transfer, I feel like we're going to have a lot of fun and get a LOT of work done together. This particular area is notoriously dry (in the air and in the work), so I'm really looking forward to getting some good new water flowing these old dusty pipes. It's a bit difficult adjusting to being a senior companion because I feel sometimes that I lack confidence and sufficient enough Hindi to teach someone (even though his Hindi is WAYY good, way better than mine was at his stage), but in time my leadership skills will kick in and I'll be able to preside over this area effectively. But yeah since I'm Elder Kioa's first companion out of training, I am, in missionary terms, his mother! Anyways, Elder Kioa and I are ready for work and we're about to SMASH it here!

I really enjoyed church yesterday as well, Nadi ward is awesome! The members are so loving and inviting. I was actually blessed to give a talk in sacrament yesterday, and I don't know why but I almost threw up on the podium because of how nervous I was. The members seemed to enjoy my nervous twitches, stutters, and facial expressions, so I know they also have a sense of humor. Speaking of which, I was oddly insulted when my new ward mission leader called me haole during our brief Missionary Coordination Meeting, MCM after church. He also needs some time to learn how to pronounce my name, so until then my name is either Elder Islamabad or Elder Istanbul. I'm excited to see what world capital city he can come up with next... he really is a funny guy though. 

I learned this morning that my new companion is an excellent disciplinarian (and thus will make an excellent senior companion himself one day). I've come to Nadi for three reasons: To preach repentance and baptize converts, to follow-up train Elder Kioa, and to get black and skinny. Nadi is also notorious for doing that to people, so I'm excited. This morning, we went running. I haven't gone running since that one time in Nasinu, so my legs still feel like they're full of lead. I'm pretty disappointed at this moment because I thought that I had to have run like four miles this morning, but I just checked the distance on google maps and it's just barely two miles there and back. It's okay, a hard run is a good run. Elder Kioa noticed I struggled the first time to our destination, so he was right behind me the whole way back egging me on and pushing me to keep going despite my pleads to let me stop. THAT's a good companion, those kinds of people in paddling and judo always got me through the season. 

MAN but yeah, everything is way good! I'm happy and healthy and glad to be in the West zone.
Thank yous so much for your prayers, I know I wouldn't be receiving all these blessings without them. I love you guys so much, hope all is well at home!

Sorry for the lack of pictures, now that I don't have Elder Mo'unga or the other missionaries to leach pictures off of, I may need that camera a little sooner than initially anticipated. Don't worry about it though!

Please give grandma as big a hug and kiss as you all can without hurting her for me, and massage her feet for two hours each (one for every year). Hau'oli lā hanau e ku'u tūtū! Aloha nui wau iā 'oe, e ho'omaika'i a me mālama pono! 

Again, love you guys so much! Have a great and blessed week!

Khyaal rakna, 
Elder Ishibashi

Elder Kioa

Monday, July 24, 2017

7-23-17 Humbling experiences

Bula vakaise hamaar parivaar wananavu!

Man it's been a long week, which is always way good! We were able to go out on exchanges with the zone leaders and the other elders in our district, double-exchanges weeks are always longer but heaps productive. 

When I was out with Elder Roberts (ZL) on Tuesday, I had several humbling experiences. 
I haven't had an umbrella for a long time (I have a horrible habit of losing or breaking them), and I haven't seen much use for one lately since we haven't seen heavy rain in a while. We saw it on Tuesday. While we were out finding, I was getting dumped on and soaked. We contacted a few houses in the rain, all of which bese'd us. I was cold, wet, my shirt became transparent and my kamakis were uncomfortably visible. As we walked, I received several impressions to knock on several doors/gates, but I ignored them because 1. I didn't want to sit on someone's couch soaking wet and 2. I didn't want anyone to see my underwear through my shirt (3. I didn't want people to pity me for not having rain gear). I bought an umbrella a few hours later when the rain cleared, and I haven't had to use it once yet. I didn't think much about the promptings I ignored. 

Tuesday night, we visited the Tarbiti family. Their 11 year old son was in the hospital having a tumor removed from his ear. Last we heard, he's doing alright and the operation went well. We brought a member with us to the lesson (another RM from Vanuatu) and taught a good brief lesson about the importance of receiving personal revelation through prayer, reading the Book of Mormon and church attendance. I led the lesson. When we left, I was mortified to realize that we didn't start the lesson in a prayer. We've made that mistake with that family a couple times before; it's usually because we're waiting for our member-present to arrive when the family starts asking questions about the reading assignment we gave them in our last visit or particular things they heard/noticed in church. We start answering the questions, then accidentally connect our answers to the topic we were planning to discuss with them and head straight into the lesson. Since Elder Mo'unga always leads the lessons, I blamed this last incident on him and the fact that it's happened before; like I was just ma'a starting the lesson without a prayer.

When Elder Roberts and I got home that night and discussed our exchange, I thought about the decisions I made throughout the day. 

Something happened a few transfers ago that I never wrote home about, but it's one of the most humbling experiences I've had so far in my mission and I feel like I need to share it. 
I told yous about how I found Shryna, the little girl I taught in Nasinu that was baptized improperly a couple years ago. There's more to that story that I found significant as I've gained experience over the last few transfers. When we were out that day with Raymond Koyamaibole, Elder Datoon told me to OYM a nani sitting on her porch. For me, if I receive a prompting and I have a good attitude about it, I'll OYM without hesitation. I personally felt no prompting whatsoever to talk to this nani, so I said no. He went off on all that "maybe she's the one you came to Fiji for, she's been waiting for you since the pre-existance, you're denying her salvation" stuff, and in all honesty while it was helpful in the end, it made me super mad. After several stubborn no's and with a really stink attitude, I walked back to the house and asked the nani if we could share a message with her. In the middle of my asking, she waved us away like flies. I was already upset, but after that I lost the fire to work. I walked silently ahead as Elder Datoon and Raymond conversed behind me. After a few minutes, I received a really strong prompting to knock on the door of a pink house on the left side of the street. As the spirit prodded at me, I told him "No way, I'm not in the mood right now" and walked past the house. Immediately afterward, Raymond told us to stop. He pointed straight at the pink house and said that he used to visit the family there with the missionaries. That's how we found Shryna. I don't believe she's being visited anymore because the missionaries after me expressed some difficulties with her, but I learned heaps of teaching methods (and patience) in our visits. 

Reflecting on Tuesday made me think about that experience. You'll be pleased to know that I'm definitely receiving my lessons on humility by our Father and I'm learning every day. I've stressed it countless times in my letters over the last year haha, but DON'T IGNORE PROMPTINGS. Blessings are promised as we follow the Holy Ghost wherever he'll take us; often in odd or unexpected ways, but they're blessings nonetheless.

I talked about how I saw my role as a junior companion in my email two weeks ago. I realized how selfish I was to throw Elder Mo'unga under the bus because I didn't begin the lesson in a prayer. I often feel like if anything goes wrong in a lesson, it's his fault because he leads the lessons and it's his responsibility to tell me what and when to teach/testify. I often forget that I have my own conscience and that there will be a time where I preside and will have no one to shield me.

Speaking of which, it's transfer week, and several sources say that I may be made a senior companion in the coming week. 

The sisters in the district held a baptism for two young men on Saturday, to which President and Sister Higgins were invited. President Higgins said something in his closing remarks that I always knew but never really thought about. He told the young men who were just baptized that at that very moment, they were completely anew. As they sat there in that chapel, they were without sin or blemish, like a baby straight out of the womb having committed no sin. In that moment that they left the water, they were perfect. It made me think of the urgency of receiving the gift of the holy ghost as soon after baptism as possible. Newly baptized members NEED that guidance to keep themselves clean and pure. Inevitably sins will be committed, but repentance will consciously become an important and essential thing in our lives as have the spirit and are sensitive to his promptings. 

This last week was definitely one of reflection and learning haha. We'll be heading out soon because Elder Mo'unga had a lot of things he needs to do as he approaches his last six weeks in the mission.

RIGHT OOOOON JADEN!!! It's not Fiji but HOLY SMOKES I'm so happy and excited for him! Tell me when he reports so I know when i can start writing him!

WAYYY GOOD ON MAKENNA, ILIHIA, AND SANDY AS WELL!! That really is awesome that they all get to serve in the same mission! It's like one area too I think, I don't really know how the temple square mission works but MAN how lucky for them!

Suva is doing an excellent job at sending missionaries out, in my time here we've already dismissed three on their missions. This week, two will be leaving, and another five or so over the next month! What a beautiful thing to see the work of the Lord increasing in numbers and vigor.

Alright we're heading out now, know that we're busting out as much as possible before one of us leaves the area and that we're doing it in great health and spirits! Can't wait to see what the next transfer has in store! I love you all so much, hope all is well! Have an amazing and blessed week! 
Khyaal rakna!

Bahut pyaar, 

Eldar Ishibashi

-Service project two weeks ago in the teitei (cassava patch)

After Church on Sunday 

-From museum P-day

Museum P-Day

-From last night

-Let me eat in peace

With an old Indian tapestry