Sunday, February 26, 2017

2-26-17 A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like that can be related to family history work...


Sorry, not a lot of time today because we're meeting early as a district to bus over to LDS college for combine-zone qito today. It's okay though because not too much happened this week. 

In reference to the title though, my companion impressed me this week (not unlike every minute we're together, but he spit some pretty hot vuku [wisdom] during a lesson with Shreya out the top of his head).

So we were in a lesson with Shreya on Friday. We taught her about the priesthood auxiliaries and ordinances, obedience, service, missionary work, etc. That's a pretty broad and tough lesson to cover with a 9 year old girl in about 10-20, but we managed. At one point, Shreya and her younger brother got distracted by one another and stopped listening entirely as I tried to boil family history work down in a way that she would understand it and its importance. I didn't know what to do to get their attention back, and I reckon Elder Datoon noticed my panic because he tagged in.

"Shreya, remember what happened in Frozen, when Elsa ran away into the mountains?"
They both about broke their necks turning their heads to Elder Datoon in enthusiastic nods.
Now these kids LOVE Frozen. Every time we come over, one or the other has their nose in a Frozen coloring book, making Anna's dress every color its not and absolutely refusing to keep Olaf white. Shreya is almost always wearing a Frozen themed dress or shirt. 
"How do you think Anna felt when Elsa went away? Bad? Sad?"
Slow nods yes.
"What did Anna do?"
"Anna went to go get Elsa!"
"Exactly! Because Anna loves Elsa, aye? Anna didn't want Elsa to get lost, she wanted Elsa to come back and be with her, so she went to find her!"
Elder Datoon went on to relate Anna's love for Elsa and her determination to find her sister to the importance of finding OUR loved ones who have 'gone astray'. 
I gave my companion snaps for that, it was pretty beautiful. 
We look forward to Shreya's baptism on Saturday!
We also met with Tabokai several times last week, he's just being a sponge and absorbing everything so well. He's scheduled to be baptized next week, on the 11th!

All in all, last week was a great week full of finding, meeting wonderful new people, teaching, and learning! We met a new family who seems interested in the church, a young woman named Diphali and her mother Saras. They are both very strong Christians (ABSOLUTE GOLD), and they seemed intrigued by the doctrine of baptisms for the dead. We look forward to visiting with them this week.

THIS COMING week has heaps in store. Zone conference will be held at the mission home on Tuesday, SOOO ready for the trainings and vuku President Layton has for us. I don't know if you're all aware, but the missions will be going through some pretty intense changes. For example, X-number of lessons per week will no longer be reported to the zone leaders. Also, companionship and language study (9-11am) can be held on the road rather than in the flat. This will allow for missionaries to leave the flat earlier thus starting their work earlier. The changes were designed to ease the stress of work and deadlines off missionaries, as well as to allow missionaries to exercise their agency more freely. I already know of several changes, and they have already been applied in several areas in this mission, but the changes are effective only after they are relied to the zone by the mission president during zone conference. One change I'm looking forward to is that P-day will begin at 8am and end at 6pm (now, it starts at 11am and ends at 5pm). This will allow missionaries more time to write their families and their mission presidents, as well as to do their shopping. Don't be shocked to receive an epistle next week!
Anyways, we also have interviews with the mission president on Thursday. On Saturday, of course, Shreya Chand will be baptized. 


I'm glad everything is going well back home! Know that Elder Datoon and I are still in great health and great spirits! Our members our incredible, super supportive and down for missionary work! They feed us really well too, unfortunately for my six-pack (It's there, I just have to burn down its little fortress. Just hiding). Elder Datoon continues to be a great teacher, companion and example to me and the rest of the district. I LOVE my area and I look forward to the next 2 1/2 transfers (four months) I'm probably staying here.

I love you all so much, have a blessed week ko'u ohana maika'i loa!! Manuia le vaisao, lou aiga! 

Ham aaplogke bahut pyaar karta hai hamaar bahut julum pariwaar! 
Kial rakna,
Elder Ishibashi-Fiji

PS I'm learning Samoan too courtesy of Sister Pea

-Lunch before qito last week, destroy da mouth

-Nasinu-Naitasiri border (?)

-Scenic crosscut

-Just now

-This morning

Fountain or Machine gun? 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

2-19-17 Just when I thought I was getting darker...


SORRY I have very little time today, but for a good reason. I haven't heard from Filipino Elder Ishibashi in a while now, though I try to check in on his blog every now and again. Anyway, he wrote me last week! I spent all my time responding to him, so my bad for the short letter BUT this last week was pretty uneventful anyway.

Today, I just wanna share two experiences I recorded in my journal over the last week. 

The first occurred on Monday.

"Tonight, I saw something that changed me. It wasn't HUGE or immaculate or anything, but it shook me a bit. In a good way.

I look at my companion every day in his white shirt and tie, name badge and backpack. A missionary. I wake up every morning and pick a tie for the day, clip on my name badge, slip on my sandals and leave the flat ready for another day of sharing the gospel. 
Tonight, we were privileged to join the Inoke family for dinner and FHE. As we sat in their beautiful home with them after dinner, I caught a glimpse of the television screen. It was off, but the image on the screen still shocked me. It simply reflected Elder Datoon and I sitting on their couch. 

What shocked me was that I'd seen that image all my life. Two young men in white shirts and ties, badges clipped just above their hearts, sitting in front of me. For an instant, I felt like I was back home; like we'd just finished a meal and we had all gathered in the living room, sitting, waiting for whatever spiritual meal the missionaries had prepared for us to top off the night. Except this time, it was different. I wasn't on my couch with my family waiting for the missionaries to share a message. I was sitting in front of another family, on their couch. This small family sat quietly and patiently before me, waiting for whatever spiritual meal Elder Datoon and I had prepared for them to top off the night. 

I loved and respected the elders all my life (maybe sometimes I wasn't stoked to have them over because I'd rather be on facebook or watching TV, but I did appreciate them) for the example they set for me. Now more than ever. It hit me good seeing that reflection and thinking "Woah. I'm one of them." I'm one of the young men I looked up to all my life, and I reckon it's time for me to BE that example that the missionaries were to me growing up."

The second occurred on Wednesday.

"This morning, something weird happened. I was awakened an hour before the alarm went off by a voice. I heard Lehia, clear as anything ever, whisper into my ear "Ohu..." Maybe it was one of the babies, because it sounded like Lehia when he was younger, but I heard it. JUST next to my ear. I could almost feel the breath on my cheek.
Disoriented, I responded. "Huh?"
No answer. What does he want??
As you can imagine, it was a little scary opening my eyes and seeing that I was in the flat, but it was mostly just odd.
Hm. Maybe they're thinking about me! That's a nice thought. Anyway, today's gonna be a good day!"

I thought it might have been Elder Datoon for a second, who could have whispered in my ear and jumped back over to his bed knowing I'd be too disoriented to notice. However, I told him about it later and asked "What's my name? What does my family call me back home?" (I've told him once)
He seems to have genuinely forgotten haha. 

ANYWAYS, I'll just share one last experience because I'm out of time already.
This is straight out of my letter to Elder Ishibashi-Cauayan:

"Elder Datoon and I ate lunch with a family last week Sunday and talked to one of the returned missionaries in the family. She returned from her 18 month service in the Philippines, Bacolod Mission last year. I looove listening to her mission stories. One reason is that they give me a bit insight as to what you're doing, the problems Filipino missionaries face and the incomparable love of the Filipino people. Another reason is that the Philippines missions sound wayyy sick and humbling as a whole. She told me a story about how she and her companion were teaching a lesson one day when it suddenly started pouring rain. In this village, when it pours, it floods. The garbage bins are low enough where the rain water will carry the trash out of the bins and through the village. Sister Meci's companion was allergic to dirty water, and they had an appointment in 10 minutes in a village ten minutes away. Sister Meci suggested that she call another pair of sisters nearby for exchanges, where one would stay with the companion (I'll call her Sister Chrissy) in the safety of the home and the other would tread through the infected water to the appointment with Sister Meci. Sister Chrissy faithfully turned down her suggestion, sure that the Lord would protect her for the sake of the waiting family ten minutes away. She shared with Sister Meci an experience that occurred during zone conference several transfers previous to Sister Meci's arrival. Sister Chrissy told the mission president about her condition and asked him what she should do in a situation such as the current one. The mission president simply said this:

"Sister, if the rain is stronger than your faith, then you can stay home."
As Sister Meci and Sister Chrissy walked through the village, their shins brushing up against dirty diapers and discarded, rotting food, Sister Meci talked and joked with her companion to keep her mind off the burning sensation Sister Chrissy must have been feeling under the water. When they finally arrived at the steps of the next home, both sisters examined Sister Chrissy's shins. Expecting to find them red and swollen, it was a pretty huge tesimony builder for Sister Meci to find her companion's legs completely unscathed. 

I've been able to gain a strong testimony of having faith in the toughest of circumstances. Some things may seem ridiculous or even useless, like knocking on the gate of a green house (which 90% of the time is a muslim house), but NOTHING is impossible with the Lord's assistance."

Sorry about the short letter, just know that this last week was, though uneventful, great!

Elder Datoon and I are in GREAT health and spirits! OH some exciting news: Tabokai, our Kiribati investigator, is set to enter the waters of baptism in two weeks! Way good kid, looking forward to his progression!

In response to the letters:

I'm glad ward conference was a success!! and I'm glad you all left spiritually well-fed. Interesting to see how the new chapel thing works out!

You KNOW I'm so looking forward to eating all the fish you catch in every way you can possibly prepare it. 

WOOOO Yasmine! Please give my aloha to the Tubbs and the Autrata families! What a blessing!

and WOOOOOOOOO HERBERT AND JAZAMINE! I'm stoked out of my mind right now thinking that I'll be welcomed home by two new niblings! Maybe three, I donno, 16 months is a pretty long time. But MAN I'm so glad our family is doing well is bringing all these spirit children down here. How blessed are we (and them for being born into our awesome family)!

I feel so fortunate to have the family that I've been blessed with so tenderly by a loving father in heaven, thank you all so much for your prayers and efforts! I love you all, have a great week!

Ham aaplogke bahut BAHUT pyaar karta hai, hamar julum pariwaar!!
Kial rakna!

Elder Ishibashi

PS "Just when I thought I was getting darker..."
We often visit a woman who'd recently received a calling after being inactive for a while. She humbly lives with her three children in a Hart community for single women. Every time we go over, I'm enthusiastically greeted by a young boy who lives in the community. 
Now in Fiji, it's completely normal for kids to scream "KAIVULAGI" (haole) when they see a white person. It's how they acknowledge them. Apparently, I'm kaivulagi here. Vinaka, taciqu, vinaka sara.
Also pretty funny because I asked this obviously-fijian kid "O iko kai cava?" (What's your kai/ethnicity?)
"Kai India..." without hesitation.
Welp. I guess if this kid is Indian, I am white.

Tryna be inconspicuous in the internet cafe. Sorry there will be a drop in quality selfies! Some kids took my camera for five minutes and when they returned it, the flip screen doesn't work anymore. When I lift it, the screen goes black. Anyways, SORRY ABOUT THE LACK OF MORE PICS I didn't take many this last week anyway. I LOVE YOUS!!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2-12-17 NO TRANSFER, same me and area and companion but NEW INVESTIGATORS!!

NAMASTE hamaar bahut julum pariwaar!!

This week has been a good one! As you can probably tell by the title, neither Elder Datoon or I were transferred from Nasinu. It was a bit tough for Elder Datoon, given that he had been serving in Nasinu for four and a half months and the Suva zone for a total of about 9 months. He really wanted to see a new area, but I see his dedication and readiness to fight through another transfer as always. Though it might seem like a bit of a 'welp, just the same thing again' kind of situation, I'm really looking forward to finding new people and teaching the people we've recently found!

One person we found recently (really he was a referral from Bishop Kumar but same thing) was Tabokai Metang. A few weeks ago, I saw two unfamiliar faces at church and I was never able to get around to greeting them before they disappeared. Two young boys, maybe 14-16, not Fijian or Indian. That week at dinner with bishop, he told us that he wanted us to visit a kiribati boy that lived near the chapel and attended church that previous Sunday. The boy came with his cousin, who's a member, and he has a desire to be baptized. He gave us the address and we visited and met Tabokai a few days later at his home. He's a wayy chill kid, always smiling and welcoming when we show up unannounced (which is kind of awkward when we show up and his living room is full of people, he sees us and shoo's the whole family into another room to let us in. They're all devout catholic). When we visited with Tabokai on Friday night, his cousin George just happened to be there (he lives in a different area)! What a blessing that was! We tried for a while to figure out how we could get George to sit in on a lesson with us so he could help us to translate, since Tabokai's English is pretty limited. We discovered, however, that George's English is significantly more limited despite having lighter skin BUT (I'm just kidding) we look forward to progressing with Tabokai! He committed to being baptized on March 11.

Yesterday, we held a missionary fireside at the chapel! It was honestly way good, a good handful of people turned up, way more than I expected! After some opening exercises, the members split up into two groups to attend the two workshops we had going on. One was run by the sisters in the culture hall, about the importance of members in fellowshipping new faces. The other, run by Elder Datoon and I, was about the importance of members sharing the gospel anywhere at any time and referring people to the missionaries. It was way nice just sharing with the members and getting them involved in the roleplay scenarios we prepared for them.

SHOOT I lost track of time writing people back, but that's okay because that was pretty much the whole week for me. LOTS of finding over the last week and the next week, excited to get to work! Please tell pinoy Elder Ishibashi that I love him!!

I'm glad everything is going well back home! I'm overwhelmed with joy as I curl up in my prayer ball in bed every night thinking about the great blessings the Lord is showering on my family in my temporary absence, as well as the countless blessings I receive every day as a result of your continued prayers and efforts back home. Thank you all so much for your prayers, and know that yous are in my prayers every morning and every night. I love you all so much, thank yous for everything!!
Ham aaplogke baHUT pyaar karta hai!
Aapke larkaan,
Elder Ishibashi

Monday, February 6, 2017

2-5-17 In the Lordʻs time and in the Lordʻs way

NAMASTE hamaar bahut julum pariwaar!!

Welp, it's transfer week! Elder Datoon and I are anticipating transfer calls tomorrow, though we're pretty likely to stay together another transfer. Who knows, we'll see!

This last week has been preeetty uneventful, unfortunately. MORE unfortunately is the reason that this week was uneventful: I lead. 
Elder Datoon gave me the opportunity to lead this week almost entirely, which means deciding who to see on what days, what we'll teach them, and leading those lessons. This week has definitely been another of trial and growth, as I experienced the stress of a senior companion. I'm grateful that Elder Datoon could tell when I was overwhelmed and incapable of effectively leading a lesson or planning session, so he took over. I wanted to be senior companion so badly last transfer because I thought leading an area/companion would be fun and a good learning experience. This last week of leadership seemed like the Lord's way of humbling me and showing me that there was so much more for me to learn before I even consider myself qualified to be a senior companion. (Ether 12:27) I know, ultimately, that all these stresses and annoyances will beat me into the shape I need to be to effectively lead an area. Like a diamond! I suppose I can't deem myself qualified for anything, it's all up to the Lord. When He calls, He qualifies. ANYWAYS, that's just a bit of a peak into my last week. 

On Wednesday, I went on exchanges with Elder Arrieta in my area (which is their area too, I guess, but we went to visit some of our investigators and members). That was quite an adventure. We OYM'd for three hours with no luck. Where are those nanis sitting on their porches when you need them?? I found out later that the area we OYM'd is a pretty tough area because everyone is dumb rich and always busy. Does that mean they don't need the gospel, not at all, BUT we just need to hit that area in the sweet spot and at the sweet time. We had some good appointments, met someone Elder Datoon and I look forward to visiting consistently, and had a niccce dinner at bishop Kumar's home with his family (Reuben's fam)! I also discovered how limited my Hindi is, how often I rely on Elder Datoon, and the importance of effective language study.

On Thursday, the entire Suva zone got together for a beach clean-up for service! I hadn't been that close to the beach in aaaages, so I was pretty ridiculously happy to see the waves again; feel the cool mist of the sea on my face, breath in the salt in the air and smell the fragrance of the island orchids. I probably shouldn't have dipped my toes in the ocean, even if it was for just a second, because the temptation was there to "slip", and it was strong. I resisted, however. Beautiful as the crystal blue waters were as they glistened under blazing hot sun and stretched out as far as the eye could see, the shore was super gross. Absolutely littered with ice cream containers and bottles, old toys and household appliances, fishing and boating equipment and everything else that one could carelessly chuck into the ocean. It was a bit lengthy, but the zone did a beautiful job at cleaning up as much trash as possible in the short time that we had. 

The rest of the week was mostly consistent of the same ol' same ol' missionary business. Yesterday, we were blessed to witness the confirmation of both Sister Brown and Sister Goundar!
This was actually pretty awesome because we had our doubts that Sister Goundar would attend church. The day previous, she told us that she would most likely be in Nausori on Sunday and Nadi the following Sunday, which would elongate her time without the Gift of the Holy Ghost two weeks (too long). SO, we were overjoyed to arrive at church to see Sister Goundar sitting near the baptismal font talking with the gospel doctrine teacher. 

Finally, yesterday we held a mission fast. This mission fast was unlike most fasts we hold within ourselves or our districts, which typically is for personal betterment or the well-being and progression of investigators.
Elder Amai, from New Zealand, was my first zone leader when I entered the field. On P-days when I sat on the side pondered the meaning of life (didn't play because everyone else was playing basketball and I couldn't), Elder Amai sat with me and talked to me about my mission goals. He asked me where I wanted to go, what kind of missionary I wanted to be, and what I wanted my legacy to be when I left. He confirmed to me that trials are given to us for our good and betterment, and that they should NEVER get in the way of progression. He told me that most missionaries hit their year marks and feel as if it's "all down hill from there", like as of that moment, they're only getting closer and closer to home. He expressed to me that he didn't want to be that kind of missionary, and the the mission should never go downhill. When he hit his year mark, he strived to continue upward and refused to slow down whatsoever. Two transfers before he finished, he left zone leadership to train a new missionary. Elder Amai served valiantly and finished his mission strong at the end of December (with Elder Mong Yen).

On Saturday, our mission was devastated with the news that Elder Timothy Amai was involved in a car accident that claimed his life the day before. Yesterday, our mission fasted for the comfort and strength of the Amai family as they deal with the loss of their recently returned missionary friend/brother/son. This really made me think about things, how you never know when someone's time is or could be. He hadn't been home for much longer than a month when this tragic accident occurred. However, as saddened as I was to hear about Elder Amai, it lead me to reflect on the Lord's grace. I didn't know him very long, but I have no doubt in my mind that he's been called to a work that he couldn't have accomplished here. What a blessing it is for us as Latter-day saints to know the Lord's great plan, that he's not lost, but simply continuing his work on the other side of the veil! What a sorrowful thing it is as well, to know that there are people all over Fiji and New Zealand and Hawaii who don't know this great truth and mourn over the 'eternal loss' of their loved ones. I testify that this truth changes lives, and I invite you my incredible family to share this plan with whomever you can. We are so wonderfully blessed to have the knowledge that we do, and we've also been blessed with our voices and social butterfly-ness so that we can share it with others in time of need. 

Know that I'm in great health and spirits, and that the work is still going strong!

In response to the letters:

Nah jokes, but how incredible are those miracles you were able to witness, dad? I'm soo glad you're safe, and that you were blessed with that wonderful opportunity to serve that young family! The events following that little rescue are undoubtedly nothing short of miracles. The spire appearing under you, Lehia hearing your voice AND him being able to easily swim back to shore as you used his board, how amazing are the Lord's tender mercies?
I'm glad everyone is healthy and not lacking blessings whatsoever! Kala'i, be more careful. You're an athlete, take better care of yourself. Love you boy. 
Lehia you hamale, what a blessing it is that you're a good enough surfer to have been near the rough waters that troubled dad AND that you could swim back to shore without your board like nothing. Never stop developing your talents, ay? Keep up your surfing, fishing, and studies (school and church)! HAHA how you like seminary??
Nina, you just keep being you, you beast. Write me more though, I wanna know how you're doing! You too, keep up with your schooling and continue to be the wonderful sister and daughter that you are to your siblings and mom and dad! 

I'm gonna close up now, I love you all so much!! Have an incredible week, take care! 

Ham aaplogke bahut bahut pyaar karta hai! Fir mileo!!

Elder Ishibashi