Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Last post February 10, 2015

Mom, Dad and Rusti flew to New Zealand last Saturday (arriving Monday, New Zealand time) to pick up Kurt from the mission home. They will spend the next two weeks traveling the north island, seeing the sights. Here are a few pictures they posted online from the pickup. Mom wrote: "The waiting is finally over. We picked him up at the mission president's house in Temple View around the corner from the New Zealand Temple at 3 pm. Next, we went to the Temple for a session. Then he had us get some amazing fish and chips. Then we all took a long walk before nightfall. Time for some shut-eye..."

This is the last post for Kurt's LDS mission to New Zealand. Ka kite!

Monday, February 2, 2015

February 2, 2015

Ah, onto my last week. Feels weird to be so close to the exquisite end (and just in case you're curious, yes, I do feel quite intelligent for using the word exquisite). We're hoping to have a really full week, though it seems that every time we load a week up, half of it falls through and we end up having a week about the same as any other.

Nothing has really changed around here, so I'm going to continue with my mission summary style of emails.

I ended last time talking about when I was in Hamilton serving as a district leader. I was in Hamilton until the end of January. I'm thinking that transfers were on the 31st of January. Because I remember being super bummed out that I was getting transferred to a new area only days before my birthday. I was transferred to New Plymouth, Taranaki, and I was also called to be a Zone Leader with Elder Johnson. I was a bit nervous about being called to be a Zone Leader. Mostly I was just nervous of what might be expected of me. Up to this point, all of my zone leaders had been pretty staunch fellows. All of them good guys, but very strict on everything, very serious, always diligent to the utmost. There's nothing wrong with that, but as I mentioned before, I tried that for my first six weeks and I hated it. I knew going in that if it was going to be expected of me to change who I am in order to be a zone leader, I was going to have a bad time.

Elder Johnson turned out to be a very good companion to train me up as a zone leader. The two transfers that I had in New Plymouth with the J-Dog have turned out to be two of my most favorite transfers. Those times, and the time I've spent here in Kawhia have been the most enjoyable for me. I didn't feel any pressure to serious up, and pretty much all of the missionaries in Taranaki zone were awesome, so there was hardly any stress serving as the leader down there. Not to mention we went to the beach almost every P-Day and had awesome times with the other Elders that were serving in the area.

Out of everything that I learned while with Elder Johnson, one thing stands out; for me to teach the people, I need to know the people. Elder J was a really good missionary. He was a standout example of how we need to talk with everybody that we see, and do our very best to share the gospel in every situation. He was very diligent in the work. The guidelines for teaching a lesson go about like this; open with a hymn and a prayer, teach for 30 - 45 mins, leave a "will you" commitment, end with a kneeling prayer. He was very good at this, and it helped me to really start to develop a love for teaching. There was only one problem though. We spent so much time teaching and teaching and teaching everybody, that after a few weeks, I realized I still didn't really know any of those that we were visiting. I realized that when we went out, I could testify as a missionary, but I couldn't testify as a friend.

In my previous areas my companions and I had probably weighed more on the friend side of things. We always made sure to teach those that we visited, but we did spend a lot of time talking about nonsense. I've found that when you slide too heavily to that side, you soon become too much of a friend, and you can't testify as strongly or be as bold as some occasions warrant.

With Elder J I could testify and commit and be bold, but it seemed to me that the response we were receiving wasn't as good as what it should have been. And honestly, I wasn't enjoying it as much as what I should have been. Eventually I decided that I was going to have to get to know these people.

One of the nights, we decided to visit a part member family for the ending visit of the evening. The family consisted of three young children and the parents, who were not married, one of which was a less active member and the other not a member. We showed up and started talking to them out front, following up on commitments that we had left previously, then listening to why they hadn't been kept. I could tell that my companion was getting ready to segue into a lesson, but as I stopped and thought about it, I really did not feel that it was what we needed to do, so I didn't follow his lead. He would start to change the topic to gospel things in the hopes of teaching a lesson, and I would gently bring it back to just having a chat. Eventually he got quiet, and I knew he was upset, but I didn't care. As we kept talking with the couple, I kept pondering about if a lesson was needed, but kept getting the feeling that I should just keep chatting. It made me wonder after if it was the spirit directing me to, or if it was just me wanting to, since my companion obviously did not feel the same way. After about 45 minutes, we wrapped up and went back to the car to head home. My companion was very silent. After we had been driving for a few moments I figured I'd just ask him straight up what he was upset about. He calmly responded that that had been the most useless 45 minutes of his entire mission.

For me, that 45 minutes hadn't been useless at all. I seem to remember talking about lollies and Twinkies, and a whole lot of other pointless things, but to me that didn't matter. It wasn't about the subject matter of the conversation, it was about actually becoming something to this couple than just the Elders. I have found that I cannot teach those that I don't care about. At least, not with any amount of conviction. Some missionaries can. Some missionaries have the attitude that you shouldn't get to know anyone in your areas, because eventually you're just going to get transferred and never see any of them again. That's not me. For some reason I have to love the people that I teach, and to love them I have to know them. I'm not sure that will make sense to anyone else aside from me, but it's been something that I've kept with me ever since.

Elder Johnson ending up loosening up a little bit after I explained that to him, and we ended up being sweet as. At least, I recon we had a pretty good time, though I cannot attest to what he thought of it all.

After Elder Johnson I had Elder Brann as my companion in New Plymouth. Elder Brann was good, and for the most part I enjoyed the time that I spent with him. The major thing that I pulled from our time together was the need to be happy. He reckons that he struggles a bit with bi-polar disorder. He was a good missionary and a good companion, but quite often he proved to be a bit of a downer. It made me think on a very regular basis about my own attitude. I recon that I sit fairly stable right in the middle as far as attitude goes; I'm not overly optimistic about everything, but at the same time I'm not exorbitantly pessimistic either. Being with Elder Brann helped me realize though how quickly I can sink. It wasn't that I developed a bad attitude, but I began to be less and less assured that good things could happen. Will this person accept our message? Probably not. Will this person show up to Church? Doubt it.

A few weeks into the transfer one of the sister missionaries came to me after a district meeting and warned me about my "grump face." She reckoned that I seemed to have been on a downward spiral of general unhappiness. Up to this point I somehow hadn't noticed it. Later that night as I sat and pondered about it, I realized how much of a grump I actually had become, and how easily it had occurred. It also made me think of all the times I'd been the same, unhappy person back home. I thought to myself, "Isn't a mission supposed to change me? How is it that I've been out for over a year now and I'm still a grump?" I came to the conclusion that I had never made the conscious decision to change. I had never made it a priority to be happy. I'd been through plenty of trainings about how we need to keep a smile on our faces and yadda yadda yadda, but that wasn't good enough. Plastering a smile on my face wasn't about to get rid of the aura of grump that I had floating around me. It was then that I made the conscious decision to change. Each day I would make myself see the good side of things. Sure, that person didn't accept our message, but at least we were able to stand in the shade while we talked to them. It's been something that I've tried to do every day since then; see the bright side of things. As cheesy and cliche as it may sound, it actually works. I'm still not the most outgoing and happy guy you'll ever meet, but I'm doing monumentally better, and that's what counts. Being able to be happy is a big deal, especially in the face of adversity. It seems to me as though more not-so-great things happen out here than the super-great things, so does that mean that I should be less happy? Should I really only allow myself to be happy when good things are happening? Nah. Whether the day turns out a lucky one or not, whether it ends up sunny or cloudy, I've found it always pays to keep a little sunshine in my soul.  haha.

I'm not sure I'll email next week, but we'll see.

Hope you enjoyed the email!
 Ka Kite!

Monday, January 26, 2015


Found a hedgehog outside of our flat the other day. We were sitting on the front steps and heard some rustling in the bushes, then this little fella went scurrying across the concrete in front of us. Had to get a picture.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

January 26, 2015

Alright, so, since I started the whole mission-in-review email last week, I shall continue it here. I'm hoping that you enjoyed reading the last one as much as I enjoyed writing it. It's pretty cool to sit and think about where I've been and what I've learned. 

When I finished the last email I was talking about my time in Cambridge. After six months and two companions in Cambridge, I was shifted into Hamilton and got my third companion, Elder Ilai. To this day, Elder Ilai is still one of my favorite companions. Elder Ilai was instrumental in helping strip some of my pride. All through Cambridge, my companion and I had bought groceries separately. Though this may seem like a small thing, it has actually turned out to be a bit of a big deal throughout my mission. With Elder Ilai, we bought groceries all in. There are two parts to this that helped me to humble myself a little more, and think about my companion's needs as well as my own. When you're buying in together you have to think about what you really need and what your companion may or may not like. I guess some guys don't care, and they still just get whatever, but I didn't want be throwing in stuff that ultimately my comp wouldn't like, and it would just be "mine." That seemed pretty selfish, so I tried my best to shop with both of our needs in mind. The next part that turns out to be an issue many times is how much you eat. With Elder Ilai I learned to mitigate how much I consume, just as I know he was doing the same; as much as I would like to have that full tub of ice cream, I know my companion wants some too. I struggled a lot with the next companion I had, and a part of it was because of this one simple thing; the groceries. I ended up being really hungry a lot of the time over the next two transfers because my companion would eat far too much. Between those two companions it really helped me learn what an impact the smallest things might make. 

While in Hamilton I was called to be a district leader. Elder Ilai had been the district leader, but when he left, I was called to take his place. I was pretty nervous going into it. Not overly so, but was not sure at all if I would turn out any good. Up to this point I hadn't much liked a lot of my leaders, and I didn't know if those in the district were going to think that way about me. That was the first thing that being a district leader taught me; my leaders are doing their best, even if sometimes they do things I don't particularly like, I still need to show them respect. The other thing that I learned is how fulfilling having a calling can be. I had heard from other missionaries that being a district leader was the worst. It was this and that and the other, and I wasn't going to like it. I went into it though with  the mindset that I was going to do my very best, so when I was no longer a district leader, I would know that I had left everything on the table. Those two transfers in Hamilton as a district leader hold some of the most fulfilling times of my mission. Some of it wasn't the greatest, and every now and again it would be a bit stressful, but overall, I loved it. I was able to get to know those in the district, and spend time helping them to have a good mission. Surprisingly enough, one of my favorite things was holding district meetings. From what I understand, those in the district really loved having me as their leader, and I have been very thankful for what I was able to learn as I served in that position. As with everything, it is what you make of it.
 Well, I'll leave it at that for now, though, probably nobody even really reads these anymore anyway.... 
Should be a good week.
 Ka Kite!

January 19, 2015

22 Days left.. Not that I'm counting. Considering that I still have another two email days left it may be a bit premature for a mission-in-review email, but it gives me something to email about, so I'm going to use that card up today. Though, there's probable a lot that I can find to talk about, so maybe I'll do it in segments. A bit this week, a bit next week, then finish up on the last week.

Here goes....

I came out on a mission because I wanted to. When I was in basic training the Lord blessed me with the opportunity to share the gospel with others in my platoon. I believe one week we even had 12 people come to church with us. I read the Book of Mormon at every available opportunity, and tried my very best to share it with anyone who would listen. About halfway through the three months I spent there, I remember thinking "if this is what a mission is like, then that's where I want to be."
So I went because I wanted to, and that knowledge was indispensable in keeping me going.

I spent two weeks in the Auckland MTC. While there I was a pretty serious guy; always did everything exactly on time, took everything very seriously, and did my best to learn as much as I possible could. By the time those two weeks were coming to a close, I couldn't wait to get out of that shoebox and start in on some actual teaching, get going on some actual missionary work.

I started in the New Zealand Auckland Mission, my mission president was President Lekias, and my Trainer was Elder Manua. That first transfer was the worst six weeks of my entire mission, as I'm sure it is for most missionaries. Since I had already spent a fair bit of time away from home I never really got homesick, but I sure did get what I referred to as mission sick. My companion was pretty fresh from Samoa, so I couldn't hardly tell what he was ever talking about. Our interests were nowhere near the same, and he was always coming down on me for this thing or that thing. Not to mention that the Auckland Mission was jam packed with never-ending nonsensical rules way past White Handbook standards. I was never good enough, no matter how hard I tried, and I spent the time thinking, "I don't miss home, but I don't want to be here."

I spent this first six weeks being very serious. Never making jokes, hardly ever having a laugh. I think it nearly killed me. Out of everything that came from that six weeks, I did learn a thing or two, even though it may not have been the things that my trainer was trying to teach me.

First blessing I found in it was that, since me and my trainer didn't talk much, I was able to study nearly around the clock. Within that first six weeks I read through the Approved Missionary Library, including reading Jesus the Christ nearly twice. I finished the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price; and I still managed to study Preach My Gospel nearly every day. The amount of knowledge that I accrued during that short time span has blessed me for my entire mission. The second thing that I learning from that first six weeks is that the Lord called me on a mission. He called Elder O'Neal on a mission, not someone that looks like me, but isn't me. He called me. He chose me. So I learned I had to be me. One of the reasons that first bit almost killed me was because I felt like I had to be somebody that I'm not in order to serve the Lord, but that isn't the truth. The Lord calls each one of us to places where he needs us. He needs us to reach the people that others can't reach, and you can't reach them if you're trying to be someone you're not.

After my first transfer, I stayed in Cambridge, and my companion got moved up to Auckland. I got my follow up trainer; Elder Fesuiai. I learned a lot of things from Elder Fesuiai, though again, they weren't really the things he was trying to teach me. Fesuiai had been out for a while, a year in fact, and as such, he was pretty confident that he knew everything. He had this whole missionary thing down pat. He taught me a lot about pride. I know I'm a prideful person, and I came out knowing that it was something that I would struggle with, something that I would really need to work on. Heck, something I still really need to work on. With Elder Fesuiai it was either his way or no way, because I was new, and he was the seasoned veteran who could do no wrong. He helped me to see who I would undoubtedly become if I wasn't careful. From his actions and character, I learned to continually watch myself. I also decided that I never wanted to become like that. I know that I haven't been perfect out here, far from it, in fact, but there have been many times where my memories of the time I spent in Cambridge surfaced, and I knew I needed to check myself.

Within this time period the mission changed from the NZAM to the NZHM, aka, the New Zealand Hamilton Mission. We got a new mission president, President Rudd, and I was able to finally see the difference between serving because of duty, and serving with a willing heart. President Lekias had always seemed much more concerned about the numbers to me. He was a banker by trade, after all, and I imagine a love for the numbers was simply ingrained within his heart. As such, I struggled to have a whole lot of respect for him, and most certainly struggled to find the love. President Rudd was different, or rather, he is different. He came in and, from the beginning, treated us with respect and love. Almost like we were all his long lost children and he was happy to have found us. I soon developed a deep respect for this man, and began to understand how fulfilling missionary work can be when done for the right reasons.  I began to work because of a love for the people, and not for fear of retribution for poor numbers. I began to work because I knew that my mission president loved me, just as the Lord loves me, and I wanted to disappoint neither.
This has been a powerful lesson for me. How would I feel if I knew that I had let down President Rudd, and by extension, the Lord? I would be devastated.

That ought to do for now. I just realized how long the letter is, so I'll finish off for today.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

January 12, 2015

Way I figure it, when I get back it's not so much about what the fun thing is to do, but more of what the logical thing is to do. Gotta get a job and save up for school. Besides, what's more fun than staying somewhere where there's a massive shop full of dirt bikes and tools out back? Student scene? Bleh. The shop scene is where I'm at.

Not a whole lot changed this past week, and there's not much super exciting stuff that happens around here, but overall it was a decent week. There's one of our investigators that I'm hoping to commit to baptism this coming week though. How cool would it be to be able to have a baptism right before I go, finish off with a bang. He's the man too. Mostly I'm really excited because he's making changes on his own. Each time we go over to see him he talks about the reading that he's been doing with his daughter, or how he's cleaned up another part of his life. It's really nice to finally have been able to help somebody that not only wants to be helped, but puts in his share of the work. My companion and I are both pretty stoked about the progress that he's making, so we're hoping for a big week.

I continue to be amazed by the way the community is accepting us. On Saturday the boating club held a lunch for all those that had participated in the season, and we were invited to it. We showed up and had a kai, then ended up hanging around and chatting with all of the people there. Nobody treated us poorly or looked at us like some crazy religious nuts, they all felt comfortable around us and talked to us like normal people. It feels really good to be able to talk with the locals and feel like a part of the community, and I'm hoping that somewhere down the road, the effort that we have put in to being sociable people will pay off. If anything, at least people will know that those Mormon boys are good boys.

I'm sure that most of my emails sound about the same, but really, when you're doing the same things day in and day out, it's not like there can be all that much different stuff to talk about. Looking back on all of the places I've been, I've been able to see and do some pretty awesome stuff. Makes me happy that I made the decision to come out. A lot of the time I feel like I haven't done all that much, ya know, haven't baptized the whole universe or anything, but I'm hoping that my efforts have helped somebody. I've tried to avoid getting caught up in the whole numbers game, and instead focus on loving the people that I'm blessed enough to serve around.

That ought to about do it. Until next week,
 Ka Kite Ano

Monday, January 5, 2015

January 5, 2015

Had transfers, and I got a new companion, as I briefly mentioned last week. I'm super happy to be sticking around Kawhia for the last leg.

I've finally got a cool story to share! Or at least, I think it's pretty awesome. So here in Kawhia they hold whaleboat races once a year. There are three clubs that participate. Kawhia boating club, Oparau boating club, and Waitere boating club. The boats they use are something like 150 years old, and the races date back just as far. There's three different sets of races, each held by one of the boating clubs. Since there's not a whole heap of stuff for us to do every single day, one of the things that we've been doing is supporting the Kawhia club. Mostly just showing up for practices and pulling the boats in and out of the shed, grabbing the oars, and so on. Simple stuff, but it's been really good for us to get to know a few more people that live out here. Sadly, we were only able to attend the Oparau race day, since Waitere is across the bay, and the Kawhia races were held on transfer day, so we were stuck in town. The awesome part of the story comes from yesterday. The manager for the Kawhia club happens to live on our street, as well as one of the ladies that rows for the veterans team. For the most part, they pretty much just keep to themselves. However, since we've started going down to the boat house, they've really opened up. So yesterday one of the ladies popped around to our house and invited us to a block party that they were hosting for dinner. We were a little bit nervous about whether it would turn out to be a good thing or not, but we ended up going, since we were invited and it'd be rude not to. When we showed up, some of the people looked at us like maybe we were lost, and I thought "oh boy, here we go, turns out we're not welcome." Then, those that we know from the rowing club came over, introduced us to everybody, and all of a sudden everybody was totally sweet with us. We ended up sticking around for a little over an hour; chatting with all of the people that were present, getting to know our neighbors a wee bit. Had some really good food, too. That's the first time that anything like that has ever happened to me. The first time that I've ever experienced being welcomed into the neighborhood.

It hasn't exactly been the most fruitful area that I've ever had, but it by far has been the most accepting and kind. Out of everything that's happened here, I just hope that when I go, I've been able to leave a good impression. In a little town like this, everything gets around, so hopefully the rumors that we contribute to the mill are ones of how we help out where we can, and how we're not crazy religious nuts but regular guys that want to be loved just as much as the next person.

I love all of the emails that I get from everybody back home. Sounds like people are doing pretty good, and that's what I like to hear.
Arohanui! Elder Kurt
That's Elder Tu'ipulotu. A view of Aotea
One of the many beaches around here.