Sunday, January 14, 2018

1-14-2018 Kaise hei hamaar pyaari parivaar!

Kaise hei hamaar pyaari parivaar!

First things first, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!

I love you soooo much and I'm SO glad you're safe and in good health right now.
You really are the greatest mom anybody could ever ask for, and I know you doubt that sometimes. Nobody's perfect, we definitely could've been better kids growing up haha, but nothing can rid me of my knowledge that you are exactly the woman that was predetermined in the preexistence to mother this family. Our family has unshaken faith in this true, restored gospel. You have two returned missionaries (one on the way [soon]), two married in the temple and sealed to their families for eternity, and a total of seven kids who know the love of a Heavenly Father. You've been my caretaker, my shoulder, my support, and my example for almost 21 years. This family wouldn't be what it is and I wouldn't be what I am if it weren't for the incredible, faithful woman that you are. I love you so much mom, I hope you had a wonderful birthday!

This has been a very interesting last week/ few days.

We got calls on Tuesday. Now at this point, I thought one of two things were going to happen.
(1) I'd be called back to Nasinu to whitewash train a new missionary in the Hindi Branch that was just organized, or (2) I'd be staying in Nadi and following someone up. I really wanted to stay because we've really been receiving a lot of referrals and seeing a lot of success that I looked forward to carrying on with. I just didn't want to go to Labasa, because it's so isolated from other missionaries and not a lot of English is spoken there. 

When the call from President came, the first thing he said was "Well, I'm sorry to inform you that we'll be taking you out of the beautiful Nadi Hindi area." (Well, shoot) "Now Elder Ishibashi, we need you to pack your bags, because we're gonna be sending you aaaaall the way-" (...no...) "-to Labasa!"
SO, I immediately began the always-sad vakamoce process. I loved the Nadi ward and Elder Tui'one, but my place is being taken by Elder Lee Chip Sao, who I hear is a great missionary, so I trust that Nadi and Elder Tui'one are in good hands. 

I flew out Friday morning and landed on Vanualevu 45 minutes later. Being here, I'm really excited because I'm certain I'm gonna come off with wayy better Hindi and the people here are wayy nice. I also thought nobody here would know who Herbert is, given he's never set foot in the North, so this would be my first area he's never really served around. HOWEVER, Herbert apparently cast his legacy TOO FAR I was wrong. My companion told me that when he told one of the members that I was coming, she said "... to be with you?" Yeah! "... but he speaks Fijian." Nope, he speaks Hindi, and he's coming up tomorrow to be my companion. "No, he went home a long time ago" I served around Elder Tavake in Nadi, so he knows about Herb, so he corrected the woman and she understood. Given that she was brought up in Labasa, hooOOW does she know Herbert?? Herbert planted way too many seeds out here, I'm telling you. 

Anyways, I love Elder Tavake. He's from Draper, Utah, and is my fourth Tongan companion in a row. My Tongan is better than my Samoan at this point. He's wayy crack up and is super dedicated to the work. I'm really excited to work with him here for the next transfer or two. His mom was brought up in Waikiki, I don't know if you know any Mataeles from that area but I reckon it's worth a shot asking if yous might know her haha.

The last few days have been consistent of visiting members and investigators, all of which are awesome and I love them. I'm here leading the Labasa district, which consists of four areas: Nakawakawa, Seaqaqa, Labasa Sisters, and Labasa Hindi. I still haven't met with the Nakawakawa or Seaqaqa Elders yet because they weren't able to come down for district meeting yesterday (yes, district meeting is on Sunday here due to travel complications), but everyone will be coming down this weekend for district conference on Sunday. 

I'm serving in my first branch, and the Labasa branch is great. The members are all really sweet and were so warm and welcoming yesterday. SO stoked to be here and work here for the next four months before I finish. I reckon this is my last area. 

Nothing else to report really, this has already bit a long report haha so I'll start responding to other emails. I love you guys, SO HAPPY you guys are safe! And SO HAPPY for RACHEL! How lucky is that?? I know she's just up in the clouds right now, but why is everybody leaving RIGHT before I get home? They're leaving when they're supposed to, I guess. Give her my love! 

Know I'm happy and healthy here in Labasa! I love you guys so much, have a great and blessed week! 
Khyaal rakna,

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I wrote this first but I didn't want my letter to start on a bad note haha.

I got the biggest scare of my entire life. 
I got three emails notifying me right off the bat that Hawaii had received a missile warning. 
I am aware of the nuclear threats that have been made recently between the American and Korean leaders, and I have low key been fearing active execution.
I was praying before I even opened the emails, but all confirmed that the warning was a false alarm. 
I can't imagine the hysteria and the fear stricken into everybody's hearts in that moment of panic. I also can't help but be a little upset at the carelessness of the Civil Defense for allowing something like this to happen, but it must have been a blessing in disguise. Proper preparation is SO important. This is something beyond a hurricane or a tsunami. Please be prepared. I love you guys so much.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

1-7-18 Always follow God

Kaise hei, hamaar baut julum parivaar?


To be honest, this has been a hard week. A lot happened that got me down in the dumps, but I have an unbreakable testimony of Ether 12:27. What I found a little funny, referring to that particular scripture, is that I went to the Lord in prayer more than I have in a long time over the last week, and that happened to be precisely when the Lord began to hit me where it hurt. I again relate the analogy of calluses. Learning to play the guitar, you'll get blisters and sores on your fingertips. Playing will hurt, but as you persevere and play through the pain, those blisters will toughen into calluses. I lost several people I care deeply about in more ways than one. 

Recap of the week:
I went on exchanges with the zone leaders on Tuesday so that Elder Eberspacher could conduct Halamehi's baptismal interview that night. Before the interview, we met with several part-member families and discussed our teaching their non-lds family members. Sister Pillai, one of the longtime members of the Nadi ward (she's 82) has been asking us to teach and baptize her granddaughter Abigail for the while. Abigail is 11, and there's just one problem. Missionaries have been trying to baptize Abigail ever since she turned 9, but her mother (a less-active member) for some reason is adamantly against Abigail being baptized. We've been trying to meet with her for months but she's never available. We talked to Sister Pillai on Tuesday about Abigail's legal guardianship. Seeing that she's staying with her grandmother, if Sister Pillai was her legal guardian and financial support, it would be her decision whether or not Abigail is allowed to be baptized. However, we learned that Abigail is still legally under her mother, and Sister Pillai's financial support is coming from her daughters. We're trying again to meet with Abigails mother on Wednesday, so hopefully we can let her understand how important it is that Abigail is baptized as soon as possible. We also met with Nasau, who asked us to start teaching her husband. He's always been way supportive of their conversion to the restored gospel, but is just way shy to meet with us. Apparently he isn't that involved in his Hindu religion at all either, so I'm excited to start teaching him. Halamehi breezed through her interview, she's so ready and I'm so excited! 

We switched back on Wednesday and had a pretty normal day of finding and visits.
I received a call from the zone leaders first thing Thursday morningthat our dear prophet, Thomas S. Monson, had passed away Wednesday night. Studies over the last few days have been about the late prophet and the incredible legacy he left behind. I learned a LOT of remarkable things about President Monson that I never knew before. If you haven't already seen Remembering a Prophet of The Lord: President Thomas S. Monson on lds.org, watch it now. It's a wonderful tribute to him. 
It's been a great opportunity to strengthen the ward and reiterate the significance of a living prophet on the Earth today. 

When we visited Halamehi on Friday, she shared how her family couldn't figure out why she was so heartbroken over the passing of someone she didn't even know. She shared with them that she knew who president Monson was and what he did, and that the world just lost a very influential man. It was another great opportunity to teach Halamehi how the church works and how the new prophet is called to lead it. She has a great testimony of the restored gospel and modern-day revelation. 
The plan for Halamehi's baptism was as such: She'll be moving back to Nausori on Friday, but she really wanted to be baptized around people she knew and was comfortable with, so we set it up for her to be baptized here in Nadi then confirmed in Naulu ward in Nausori. However, I received another call from the zone leaders on Friday that baptismal candidates need to be baptized and confirmed in the same ward (which makes sense, I just hoped they'd let it slide for the sake of being able to witness her baptism). After talking it over, she decided to be baptized in Nausori on Saturday and sealed the next day. Though I would have loved to see her get baptized, and maybe even help her into the water myself, to know that she'll be baptized brings me comfort in itself. 

Elder Tui'one's bible character of the week is: Job. He has an unbreakable testimony of the gospel, has very real intent, and is completely covered in boils. His boils got so bad that on Saturday, we were recommended by the mission nurse to go to the medical center in our area. They patched him up, prescribed all the medication he'd need and we were out. He's on the meds now, and all the boils are already looking significantly better.

Yesterday was a great first sabbath of the year, OI LEI HAPPY NEW YEAR! Many great blessings to come your way in the coming year (including me, yeet). Anyways, Sunday was a good and busy day. It was supposed to be busy, anyway. A few of our new investigators came to church and told us to come by after church. After our appointment with Nasau's husband fell through, as well as several others, we asked if we could visit them earlier. They said they'd be busy the whole day, and since it had just started pouring ridiculously hard, we decided to have a study/planning sabbath instead. This coming week is transfer week, so we find out tomorrow what happens to the Nadi district next transfer (who I'm training).

The news I received this morning, however, hurt the most. I still don't really know how to react, it's just kind of hard to believe he's left. Please give all my aloha to the Stephens family, I can't begin to imagine what they're going through. It brings me a lot of comfort to know that the kids are strong at this time, comes to show what a great testimony they have of the plan of salvation and the restored gospel. Memories of our camp trips and his awesome Sunday school lessons flood my heart. I personally am gonna miss him heaps, and though it's sad that I won't be able to see him at my homecoming, I'm glad to know I'll be able to see him at my heavenly homecoming.

It's also a bit sad hearing about the return missionary’s pride in being disobedient in the mission. Kala'i, please lovingly let the other youth know that that is not a good example to follow. No matter where you serve or the culture of that particular mission, be obedient. Always follow God and not man, for blessings come not from man but God alone. 

This coming week is gonna be a very interesting one, I could stay here in Nadi and I could go. At this point, the odds are equal. 

Thanks for the letters, I'm glad to know all is well at home. We're off to give a blessing soon, but you all have a blessed and incredible week! I love you guys! 

Ham aaplogke baut pyaar karta hei. Hamaar ban kare se pahile, ham khali mangta raha apaan gawahii share kare hamlogke zindagi ke bara me. Ham janta hei ki mar apaan zindagi ki aunt nahin hei, khali apaan agle zindagi ke suru hei. Ham janta apaan purha dil se ki ham apaan pariwaar fir milega iis zindagi ke baad. Ham janta hei ki khali Ishi Masih aur apaan balidaan ke dwara iis saab chiij hoi sake. Uu aur apaan pita, hamlogke Pita Parmeshwaar, hamlogke baut pyaar kare. Ham iis susumachaar baut pyaar kare, himaat karo.

Khyaal rakna hamaar julum pariwaar, baut pyaar! 

Elder Ishibashi 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

12-17-17 This last week was incredible

Cola vinaqwa, na noqu matavuvale wananavu sara! 

Tamaqu, au sa set tu sara. Au sa marau sara na cakacaka oqo, sa taleitaka tiko na noqu veiqaravi kei na vanua oqo. Sa vakila tiko na veivuke ni Yalo Tabu kaukawa cake mai na noqu kaulotu taucoko. Kila ga au sa marau, au sa cakacaka kei masulaka vakakaukawa tiko ga. (Herb, kerekere correctaka mada na veikakece ca oqori!)

This last week was incredible, one of the more memorable weeks of my mission. I was finally able to see Elder Green for the first time in nearly 18 months, and the reunion was beautiful. He's grown so much as a man and as a missionary, it was SO nice being able to hang out with him and Elder Hunkin over Monday and Tuesday! I noticed that not many intake missionaries are very close to one another for one reason or another; maybe the intake was too big and thus the members weren't as unified, or the intake missionaries were just too different from another. I LOVE my intake elders, and I still consider every one of them brothers. I'm so grateful that the Lord had me wait for the time that I did to serve a mission. I know without a single doubt that I came to Fiji at exactly the time I was supposed to with exactly the people I was supposed to come with. I firmly believe that my mission would not have been nearly similar to what it has been if I were brought in any earlier or later, and though it hasn't been easy to the least bit, it's been exactly what I've needed. I love this work so much. I've been able to partake of the fruits of my labors and witness that fruit spring from home as well for my family to partake of. Surely you do reap what you sow, and the sowing thus far has proven worth every drop of sweat.

Zone conference on Tuesday was awesome. I left my notes home again so I don't remember exactly what the trainings were about, but it gave me a greater perspective on Christmas. Growing up, and for most kids I feel like, the highlights of Christmas include the decorations, the festive foods, the company, and especially, the presents. As I've grown to more fully know and appreciate the true meaning of Christmas, I've come to know that the greatest gift that anyone could ever receive has already been given to us, a long time ago. This gift isn't one that we can overuse or wear out; it isn't something that can be stolen or broken. This gift is eternal; this gift is Christ. Christmas is the time that we celebrate the greatest gift the world has ever received, wrapped in swaddling clothing rather than wrapping paper and humbly placed in a manger rather than a box, given to each and every single one of God's children rather than a few. As yous get together with the family and enjoy eachothers' company, remember the savior. 

We spent Tuesday night in Sigatoka and head out into Nasivikoso, where I'd be conducting my first baptismal interviews, first thing Wednesday morning. Along the way, we picked up Atu Sigadrodro, who would translate the interview for me. Surely enough, not only did the first young man whisper everything he said in a dialect I couldn't begin to decipher, he did not speak any English. Fortunately, the second young woman spoke a little bit of English and I was able to conduct most of the interview in very simple English. It was a nerve wracking experience, but a really spiritual one. Somehow, eventually, I was able to grasp a good majority of what was shared between Atu and the interviewees. Though I often got lost, the spirit was always there to put me back on track, and he ultimately told me that those two were indeed willing and ready to make the baptismal covenants with our father in heaven. It was incredible, and I really look forward to the opportunity where I get to do one of these interviews in English or even Hindi! Living in the islands, you get to experience what we call "island time", which is basically It'll happen when it happens. I was always under the impression that Fijian time and Hawaiian time were basically the same thing. However, when you're in an interior koro, you get to experience true Fiji, and thus TRUE island time. After taking us on a hike through the valley, Atu sat us down in front of some food a member prepared for us while we were away and said "Kana, vakacequ mada vakalailai, sa qai cakava na interview (Eat, rest a little bit, then we'll do the interviews)." So we ate, and Atu decided to take a three hour nap. We ended up finishing our business in Nasivikoso a lot later than we initially anticipated, and Elder Tui'one and I were able to get back into Sigatoka just in time to catch the last back heading back into Nadi. 

On a side note, Nasivikoso is one of the most beautiful places I've been to in Fiji. It's a nice little koro in the middle of Fiji, a little over an hour drive into the interior, and seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Such a humble group of people, too. 

Sorry if the email is all over the place already, it's hard to focus with this weird island Christmas techno blasting through the café.

We had our ward Christmas party on Friday night, where they asked the missionaries to perform our sasa from zone conference and then perform a separate number as companionships. We did the sasa as a district, the district elders did tika tonu, the STLs did a taualuga and a lakalaka and the other sisters sang a Maori song. It was way fun and we were able to talk to heaps of nonmember friends and family members of our members. 

Saturday was nice and busy, cleaned the chapel in the morning then was able to find a good amount of people before our lesson with Halamehi.

Halamehi is a cousin of one of our members and is staying with them for the holidays while her mom is working in Vanuatu. She said that while in Suva, she heard about the church and it interested her. She saw a great opportunity to learn more when she found out she'd be spending the holidays with her family that happened to be members. She came to church last week with them, we were introduced and asked to come over and teach Halamehi. It was such a beautiful lesson, and Halamehi is probably the most prepared person I've ever met. Her only issue is that her grandmother is a staunch catholic and she's unsure that her grandmother (who practically raised her) would accept her changing her denomination. We testified that this is what God wanted/needed her to do, and that He will prepare a way for her to be baptized on January 9th, 2018. She's SO ready already, and I'm SO excited for her baptism.

We had the Christmas cantata last night, which went really, really well! I honestly think that my solo went better than it has in any practices, which I saw as a tender mercy. I think the fact that I didn't know anybody in the crowd helped with my confidence, but tonight, the cantata will be in Nadi for the Nadi ward. Hope all goes well, haha.

Okay we have to head out now, but I'll keep in touch to finalize skype details! I love you all so much, 

CAN'T WAIT TO SEE EVERYONE! 

Loloma sara yani, au lomani kemudou saraga. Kalougata tiko! 
Ham aaplogke bahut pyaar karta hei, khyaal rakna! 

Elder Ishibashi 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

12-3-2017 District Leadership

Kaise hei parivaar!!

Maika'i no, makuakane! Pehea 'oukou? 

Man, I'm so happy that Makana's finally out there! Too bad it'll be a solid 2 and a half years before I see him again, but I'm glad that he's granting my final request to him (don't be at my homecoming, be on a mission). Makana is gonna be a KILLER missionary in the DR, can't wait to hear his Spanish when he gets home. Glad yous returned home in safety! And thank you so much for the pictures, it's super nice to see everyone's faces! I love that picture of all the siblings together, it looks like such a sweet and humble reunion. I just realized it's winter there, maqe it must have been cold there aye?
Anyways, awesome to know yous had a great week!

SO yeah! Last week was transfer week and a very humbling one. 
So the Nadroga disctrict, of which I've been a part of for the last four and a half months, consists of five companionships (ten missionaries), making it the largest district in the mission.
All but one companionship in our district remained the same. I'm still here in Nadi with Elder Tui'one, which was a huge shock to both of us because trainers seldom follow-up their trainee. I've never been in an area for more than three transfers, so this will be my first six month area! 

So the Nadroga district was called so because the district leader, Elder Jackson, was stationed in Sigatoka in the Nadroga province. The area the district leader serves in determines the name of the district. Elder Jackson was transferred to Suva, and the Nadroga district became the Nadi district when the leadership position was passed on to me. 

I've held this position for about five days now, and man, it's tough haha. There's a lot more responsibility involved than I'm accustomed to; a lot more phone calls, setting time apart for exchanges with my district elders, and a lot of receiving and passing on instructions. I'm really grateful for the opportunity because it certainly does allow me to be more involved with my district members and help them on a broader scale. I actually really love my district members. I often catch myself doubting my ability to lead such an incredible group of missionaries, and my district members seem to catch the same vibe. They've only been super supportive and seem excited to be under my leadership, so I'm excited to lead and help them in any aspect of the work that I can. Tomorrow, I'll be conducting my first district meeting and going over all that district business I've only ever had to report in. I'm a little nervous but so excited at the same time, we're looking at a good transfer!

Looking at the upcoming weeks, Elder Tui'one and I have a really busy transfer ahead of us, too! 

This week, the Miss Pacific Islands Pageant will come to Fiji and there will be a huge festival held in Nadi. When I first got to Nadi, there was a huge fair going on and Elder Kioa arranged with a member for us to be able to have a booth set up. We had stacks on stacks of Book of Mormons and pamphlets for people to take freely and we were able to find a lot of people interested in the gospel. We'll be doing the same thing at the pageant festival, so I'm stoked for that. We also have a Missionary Christmas Cantata coming up for the stake, which I have a part in. Sister Harper (who's in charge of arranging the cantata) asked me to do a solo when she heard me sing for a musical number at a ward baptism. I couldn't promise anything until transfers were set and we knew I'd be staying. We were both about 90% sure I'd be leaving, so she gave the part to an elder that just came into the zone who she was about 90% sure would stay. He left. I stayed, and I have to sing With Wondering Awe in a key that's sliiightly too high for me, but I can hit the notes if I belt them. She's more willing for my voice to crack in front of the stake than to transpose the song to a lower key. We practice before qito today, we'll see how that goes haha. We have musical numbers and cultural items we need to practice as a district for our Christmas zone conference in a few weeks. 

OH also, I may be coming home speaking better Fijian than I initially anticipated! I found out that as a district leader, I don't NEED to pick up Fijian fluently, but it helps significantly when conducting baptismal interviews with people that don't have super good English and when a translator isn't available. Next week, I'm heading up into a village called Nasivikoso in the Sigatoka area to conduct a baptismal interview with someone that doesn't speak a single word of English (or Hindi, obviously). Not only that, but apparently a vast majority of the people in Nasivikoso don't even speak or understand vosa vakabau (the universal dialect). They have and speak only their village dialect, vosa vakanasivikoso. Elder Dempsey assures me that I'll have a translator there to assist me, but it'll definitely be interesting!

Anyways, that's what's coming up, and there's a lot more! Heaps of finding opportunities, I'm juiced. The last week was good, a lot of visiting families I told we would come by to say where I was being transferred and to say goodbye, only to tell them I'd see them on Sunday. We were able to see and meet with a lot of people. We're seeing a lot of referrals coming in from the members, which is awesome! WAY useful, if yous have friends that need/ that you reckon might accept the restored gospel, refer them to the missionaries!!

I woke up early this morning to be able to see Sister Otea and Sister Nawaiya off at the airport. I can't believe they're finished, I remember the first day we all met in the classroom in the MTC. Their English was wayyy limited and I could rarely understand what they were trying to say. It was pretty sweet being able to converse with them in perfect English before they boarded their plane back home to Kiribati. They've grown so much and come so far, I'm way proud of them.

President Higgins, to show the Hindi program that he cares about us and acknowledges our efforts, has arranged for every Hindi area to be able to hold a conference skype call every Wednesday. We hook up with the Nausori stake president, President Goundar, who trains us on the language and teaching methods for one hour. Last week's conference call was really cool, I'm excited for the next one! 

This next week is looking promising, we're about to find HEAPS of people. 

Herb, I met some of your friends in church yesterday! They said they were going back home to graduate before they came back to Fiji, so if I needed anything that I'd be able to ask you and you could send it back with them. Mom and dad, if you haven't already sent the package, I think you can send it with them. If yous have though and if it's possible, Herb, could you just send some more size 15 white shirts? Sorry I forgot to say that last week, mom, but I think that's all I really need. Vinaka sara vakalevu na tuakaqu wananavu, kemuni sa raica oti na yaloyalo o koya na nomu itokani a sendtaki vei kemuni? Vosoti au, au se bera ni matai na vosa vakaviti, sa vuli tiko ia! Kua ni leqa, kedaru na veitalanoa sara ena gauna ni noqu lesu tale mai. Au lomani kemuni vakalevu, loloma sara yani vei na matavuvale!

We're heading out now, have another incredible and blessed week! 
Ham aaplogke bahut pyaar karta hei, yaad karo: iis susumachaar sachei, himaat karo khali. Jab hamlog Ishu Masih ke vishwaas karo tab tagat milega taki hamlog sakta khoichiij kare. Bahut mushkil hei iila kam, aur dhir taklif hei, lekin ham iis saab chiij bahut julum lage. Dhanyavaad aaplogke saabchiij ke wastin, firse ham aaplogke bahut pyaar kare, khyaal rakna!

Elder Ishibashi 


The is the only picture I could manage for now. Sister Patane said that her family is really close to the Snows in Utah! I'm also not the only Hawaiian in the mission anymore!