Sunday, December 29, 2013

December 30, 2013

First off. Telling me about awesome meals that everyone back home is eating is no big deal. You can't make me jealous talking about food. If you talk about dirt bikes, then you have roughly 100% chance of making me jealous, but as far as food goes the members have my back.

It was awesome to be able to skype the family. I was a little worried that it was a little boring for the family. It seemed like the time just disappeared, and we weren't even really able to talk about much. All good though. After we were done I walked out and had to just sit and remind myself that I'm in NZ, even though I had just been looking at my sister Jen's basement. So weird. Christmas Day was actually really awesome, even though I'm in a foreign country with no family around. It's awesome to see how willing the members always are to help us out and have us around. We ended up having breakfast, lunch, and two dinners with member families, with a perfect amount of time in between feeds to digest and regroup for another massive munch. Needless to say, that would have been enough, but then we ended up having a bunch of members come by the flat around 9 to drop off more food n goodies. With how awesome the members are here, it makes me hope that the ward back home is doing the same. They better not be slackin off. If they are, give em a quick slap for me. It's amazing how much of a difference the members make in the work. If the ward has a good positive attitude about missionary work, then the missionaries will have a good positive attitude. At least, that's what I've noticed for myself. 

The weather's been pretty good around here. Especially if you ride dirt bikes. It keeps raining in the morning, then goes super sunny in the afternoon. So every evening all I see is heaps of dirt bikes coming back from the track covered in mud. It's been killing me, to say the least. Every once in a while, when we're riding bikes, I secretly imagine that I'm riding my dirt bike; start clutching with my left hand, twisting my right foot like I'm tapping the brake, changing gears with my left... It's childish, I know, but we're told small and simple things make the biggest difference, right? I'm going to justify it with that, regardless. 

We weren't able to do a whole lot more than visit the members this past week, so there wasn't a whole lot happening as far as teaching goes, but we were able to finally have another lesson with Jaime on Saturday. It'd been something crazy like 4 weeks since our last actual lesson, and 2 weeks since the last time we'd seen her at a baptism she came to. I was a little worried going over, because who knows what could have happened to deter her since our last lesson, but she turned out to still be just as awesome as ever. Everything we talked about she agreed with, or said it was what she's always believed anyway. We're hoping to be able to invite her to be baptized this coming week, if we can see her. The only problem being that she hasn't been to church yet. She's gone to sacrament meetings before with friends and stuff, but she hasn't been to our ward yet because she works Sundays, and it's a requirement that investigators attend at least 3 Sundays prior to baptism. Hopefully a solution will present itself.

Love you all, and I hope you have a happy New Year.
 E. O'Neal

P.S. Launch some fireworks off for me.

Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16, 2013

Ahh this week.. Lets see.

We had a pretty good week that culminated in a very stressful Saturday morning. One of the sister companionships in the district had a baptism, and we had managed to invite Jaime, our awesome investigator (who we've been having trouble seeing because this time of the year is just too blasted busy). The baptism was at ten, and I wasn't sure whether Jaime would remember or not, or wake up late and not make it, etc. Needless to say, my faith was lacking, but after a few fervent prayers I felt pretty confident that everything would be alright. At around 9:30 she texted saying that she was just getting ready and would maybe be a little bit late, but that she was for sure going to make it. When the program started up, instead of sitting inside we figured we'd wait out in the hallway for Jaime. It got to be about 10:15 and I started to get nervous again, so to try and settle some of my  fears we walked to the front of the building to make sure the doors were unlocked, and then looked out down the street to see if we could see her, since she was going to be walking. We went back and sat, the baptism happened, awesome talks were given, and Jaime never showed up. Once it was over, I was pretty dejected. I was thinking maybe she had gone to the wrong chapel, because I couldn't picture her just ditching out like that. We walked into the room to mingle and congratulate Jess on being baptized, and the first person I see is Jaime. I've never been so relieved in my life. Turns out she had showed up right when we had gone to check the front doors. We'd missed her because of my lack of faith that everything would be alright, and I spent the whole time stressing out and worrying for no reason. I felt like a real idiot. 

The other cool thing that happened was actually last night. The Temple here does Christmas lights (like Temple Square, just way less impressive) and we got invited to go there and work as greeters coming into the gates. We started at 7, and basically just talked to a never ending flow of people until 10. There were a few drunk people and rude people, but for the most part everybody that came was willing to talk to us. It was so refreshing to be able to talk to people and have them respond, rather than the usual one we get where people just totally ignore us or go all stone faced and fast-walk by. It was really crazy being allowed to stay out after 9 too. Getting a ride home with the sister missionaries at fifteen past ten was a new experience. We're hoping that we'll get at least a couple of referrals out of the lights that we can go contact. I'd love to have some new people to talk to and teach.

Anyways, I'm getting pretty excited to be able to skype for Christmas. Hopefully I don't get transferred on Thursday, because heaps of members here have offered to have us over for a munch and skype.
 Love ya!
  E. O'Neal

This is my district. They're all looking in different directions because there were about a thousand different cameras. My companion is the one with glasses. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

December 9, 2013

Here's a couple of gift ideas if anyone is feeling like sneding a care package to a missionary. Mike n Ikes. New Zealand doesn't have em, and I've been craving them for the last two weeks. Ah! Everyone keeps telling me to just eat some jelly beans, but obviously that's not going to solve the problem. Jelly Bellys as well, these Kiwis just don't understand the difference.  

It was a really rainy week. Every morning I'd wake up to the sun coming in the window, but by the time we got ready to go out the rain would start back up hardout. I'm pretty surprised that I haven't gotten sick or anything yet, but then again, I've been pretty good ever since basic training. 

People have been getting a little bit more into the Christmas season, but it still doesn't seem like Christmas to me for lack of snow. Someone is selling cheap Christmas trees down the road and we were tempted to go pick one up, but it'd probably be a much bigger hassle than anything else, so we ended up not doing it.

We've been having a bit of difficulty with setting up appointments this past week with those that we're teaching because of it being the Christmas season and everybody is busy with family stuff. We kept trying and trying, but by the time we got to the end of the week we realized that we hadn't been able to teach any lessons because people kept cancelling on us, or we'd show up and their family would be there for an unexpected visit. Not cool. We ended up seeing lots of members, and talking about how they can help us out. Everyone is really on board to get us people to teach, and already we've had a couple of families go talk to their neighbors and set up appointments for us. We're hoping to be able to get a fair amount of first lessons this week from it. Even though it's hard at times finding new people to teach, I still love this area. What an awesome place. Close to the only Temple in New Zealand, and it's filled with some of the most awesome members. Hopefully when I go home and start getting all caught up in life, I can remember to take a little time and be an awesome member missionary. 

Before I close off I thought I'd better give a little shout out to those that have sent hand written letters. I kept meaning to send ones back, but I've never actually gotten around to it. My bad. I love having those though. It's cool to be able to look through the old letters when I'm sitting at the flat, instead of just reading emails on Monday. I think I have three just from Angela alone, so thanks Angela!
 That should rap it up for now.
  Love ya!
   Elder O'Neal

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December 2, 2013

It's super strange coming into the Christmas season and not having any snow. I keep thinking about Christmas and how cold it's going to be, then I remember that it's going to be even warmer than it is now. So pretty much it doesn't feel like Christmas at all, it just feels like summer. I generally don't pay that much attention to what month it is because it's surprisingly difficult wrapping my head around it being totally opposite.  What I'm really not excited about as well is that we'll have our transfers the week before Christmas. So basically, not only will I be nervous about transfers because we have some awesome investigators that I'll have to leave, but then I'll have to spend Christmas in a super strange place where I don't know anybody, and it'd make it that much worse. One plus about being in this mission though... We get to Skype on Christmas. So just let me know when it is that ya'll want to Skype and we'll suss it out. Christmas eve type of thing like what we did with Rusti last year? People around here don't seem like they get huge into Christmas, but it's all the same as stuff back home; they get big blow up snowmen and have Christmas trees. All the movies they watch are the same. They just don't go ham with the lights and decorations as much as back home. The temple here does lights too, just not nearly as much as Temple Square. Heaps of people go to it though, and we're hoping that we'll be able to get some new people to teach from it. 

I've found that I'm totally susceptible to getting really stressed out just like the rest of the family. This whole District Leader thing gets to me hard out sometimes. I have no idea why either. I've just been trying to focus on ways to help out all of the missionaries in the district; inspire and motivate. So far I haven't had to tell anybody off for anything, and I'm hoping to be able to avoid that situation at all costs. I also have to do things like exchanges with the other elders in the district, and companion study with the sister missionaries. It feels pretty weird that I'm still just learning every day, and I'm nowhere near perfect, but now it's my job to try and teach others how to be better missionaries. I usually just try to be totally honest with everyone and let them know that I'm totally lost in the sauce most of the time but doing my best to figure it all out. So far it's been going pretty good too.
Another thing that I've noticed is that I still hate role playing. All the return missionaries out there probably know what I'm talking about. It's awesome, but man I still do not like doing them.
That'll just about do it I think.

 Fa soifua,
  Elder O'Neal

Sunday, November 24, 2013

November 25, 2013

We had transfers this past week, and I now have a new companion. I got a picture with him to send, then forgot to bring the cord so that I could hook up the camera and send it. My bad. His name is Elder Lolo. He's Samoan from Samoa, though his mother is American. He grew up speaking English at home, and apparently at the church school that he went to you're only allowed to speak English, so his English is really good. Which I was pretty happy with. My last companion ended up going to a place called Gisborne as a Zone Leader.

Our next transfer meeting is in four weeks, and apparently we have 29 new missionaries coming in, so we'll see what happens. I'm hoping that I don't train though. The other thing that happened from transfers is that I'm now a District Leader. I'm not sure yet if I like it or not, so we'll see how it goes as the weeks progress. For myself I'm just hoping that I can be humble. I can see how being in a leadership position like this could lead to some problems with pride. Like how it's now my job to correct incorrect behavior. Not cool. I reckon that's got to be one of the worst parts, trying to correct other people. I don't know if I can do it eh. It's a little scary too being the one that others come to for answers. Getting calls about whether the missionaries can do this or if they can do that. Gives me the willies a little bit. 

Aside from that it's mostly the same. We were able to have another lesson with our new investigator that I talked about last week, and it was really awesome. Everything that we say, she understands and can see how it works. It's so much fun being able to teach somebody that wants to listen and wants to learn. I'm hoping that it can continue on like this. The Spirit that we feel when we go there to teach is incredible, so I'm not too worried. 

That should just about do it.
 Elder O'Neal

Sunday, November 17, 2013

November 18, 2013

This past week was so awesome. I love how the Lord works.

So, we've been having a pretty difficult time recently finding people to teach. Since we're double covering one ward (two sets of missionaries - a set of Sisters and a set of Elders), we've split the ward boundary into two areas, and we have the area with basically nobody; hardly any members, and only a few former investigators that have since moved out. It's been rough. We've tried to knock doors, and we talk with everyone we see on the street, but it's honestly not that effective. Even for the ones that we get a return appointment for, we show up and they're either not interested (they probably didn't expect us to show up) or it's an incorrect address and we just end up talking to a random dude, that usually isn't interested either. Even though I love this work, it's still hard to put up with. I think eight weeks of rejection would get to anybody. 

This past week, the Lord gave us some additional help. It was Friday, and we'd just finished seeing the one less-active that we've been working with. On the way out I got a referral at the office from the Sister missionaries. The house was actually just down the street, so we headed over, and on the way I could feel something different. For some reason I was really optimistic and hopeful. When we showed up to the house there was only a fifteen year old girl there, but she was really open to talking to us. We talked at the doorway for a bit, set up an appointment for the next day when her mom would be home, left a Restoration pamphlet and left. When we showed up the next day, the daughter wasn't there, but her mom was, and she was super excited to see us. I'm normally pretty skeptical about teaching Christians, because they usually seem to be pretty hard-hearted. This woman, however, had been prepared for years. She had read the entire pamphlet that morning, and was so excited about what it says. She talked about how lately its seemed like something is missing in her church; how it's always kind of disorganized and just doesn't feel right, and how she's always admired the LDS church and how organized and family focused it is. Apparently she grew up with a lot of members, and even had lessons about eight years ago, but it just never clicked. I don't want to make this story super long, but I'm still buzzed out about it. The Spirit was so strong, and you could feel how ready she was as she talked. We ended up extending the invitation to be baptized, and she said probably, dependent on if she receives the answer that this is true. I'm really hoping. Though, I have to admit that I'm super nervous. Who knows what the adversary will do to get to her before we have a chance to go back. I guess this is where the faith comes in. 

My storytelling isn't the best, and it probably came out kind of disjointed and confusing, but I hope it made sense. One of the things that I loved most, was that as we were teaching her, I could not only feel the Spirit testifying to her of the truthfulness of our message, but I could feel the Spirit testifying to me as well. I walked out of the lesson a little bit stronger in my testimony. Gotta love how the Spirit works. 

That ought to about do it for now, and hopefully I'll have some good news next week, so long as I don't get transferred on Thursday.
 Love ya!
 Elder O'Neal
 P.S. Kurt Caselli died? Really? That pretty much just destroyed my entire universe. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 11, 2013

It's been a pretty good week. 

The weather is getting better, and along with it my attitude has seemed to be getting better. Funny how a little bit of sunshine seems to make everything go a bit smoother. The picture is from a little short cut that we found in our area a few days back. The way they have all of the roads and blocks laid out here is really weird. For example, to get to one road in our area, if you were driving, you'd have to go way outside of our area and through a bit of the city until you get to the beginning of the road, then you can follow it down to the end where it turns into our piece of area again. So what you find all over the place are little short cuts so you don't have to walk ten miles just to get to the other side of block, and some of them are super cool. They seem to put a lot of time into making them feel like you're not in the city anymore. Seems to me like it'd be easier to just design your city on a grid system, but hey, I could be wrong. 

Transfers are coming up in about a week and a half, and I'm hoping to be able to stay in this area. We've been having trouble finding new people to teach, but it feels like there's so much potential here that we just haven't tapped yet. Our Elders Quorum is so awesome too. They've been trying to do an activity every fortnight, and everyone has been trying to bring a non-member or a less-active to the activity. I love it when the ward members are hard-out into doing missionary work. The Elders Quorum president has been really killing me though. We were talking the other day about things we're interested in, and of course I said I love dirt biking, so ever since then he keeps talking about how he's going to set up a ride for one of the activities, and I'll just have to come along and watch. Come on now. It's almost as bad as one of the LA members that we've been working with. Every time we go around, he uncovers his KX450F and tells me I should take it for a spin. Ah! No more temptation please. 

Brett (I think I've mentioned him before, he comes out with us all of the time for fellowship n' such) opened his mission call the other day, and he's going to the Marshall Islands. Apparently he has to go to Provo to learn the language, so I told him that I'd have my extensive whanau (family) take care of him while he's there, since he's been so awesome to us. So when March comes around, I'll have to give you his details so you can send him some cinnamon rolls or something.
 Love ya!
  Elder O'Neal

Monday, November 4, 2013

November 4, 2013

Sounds like things are going crazy back home, or at least, the folks are. Every week they're somewhere else hanging out with another part of the family. 

How was Halloween? Anything cool happen? I didn't even realize that it was Halloween until someone told me. Apparently Kiwis don't really care that much about Halloween, and from what I hear, Christmas either. Nobody really dressed up, though I did see a few people here and there walking around trick or treating, but most houses put papers on the door saying that they didn't have any candy, so nobody should knock on their door looking for any. Things were pretty much the same as the day before. So I was in the process of mentioning that when my companion told me that nobody goes all out for Christmas, I thought, "Come on. Lets get some decorations up. Lights and fake snowmen. Some reindeer and Santa.". Oh well. 

We had an awesome ward activity this past weekend, celebrating Guy Fawkes. I'm not really sure the story behind the day, but it's the one time of the year that you can buy fireworks in New Zealand. You're allowed to launch off fireworks whenever you want to in this country (which is pretty cool) but you're only allowed to sell them for the three days leading up to Guy Fawkes. Apparently there aren't any restrictions on them either. So one of the guys that we work with a lot went and bought about four hundred dollars worth, and we just went crazy with em. It was really fun having ones that shoot way up in the sky as opposed to the ones that we always had growing up. 

So our ward thing was at a big park right next to the lake in town. We had invited all of our investigators and less actives that we've been working with and everything seemed so promising. They all were pretty excited and were even bringing friends along to it. Just as I expected though, nobody showed up. Not a single one of the people that we invited actually showed up to the activity, though we did have one show up to church the next day, so I'm counting my blessings here. What did happen though was pretty good. Since the party was in an open public place, we had heaps of people join in that had just been out for a walk around the lake. The ward was really good about going and talking to people as they passed, and inviting them to join into the festivities. So, even though nobody that we had invited showed up, we ended up getting a few new families to teach, as well as heaps of names to pass on to the elders in their respective areas. Everything always seems to work out now doesn't it? 

Other than that, it was about an average week. We did however go talk to this old guy that was out washing his 1965 GT40. Dad. We need one. Somehow we need to get our hands on one of those and restore it. He also had an F430, GTR, and a 911, but those weren't near as impressive as the GT40. 

Love ya'll. Its awesome getting letters from everybody each week. Maybe everyone should ask me some questions so I have some ideas of what to talk about next week.
  Elder O'Neal

Monday, October 28, 2013

October 28, 2013

It's finally stopped raining so much, and instead has been warm and sunny most days. So awesome. Especially when I think about how all of that is almost over back home and you're all heading into the dark abyss of winter. It's light from about 6 AM to 8 PM here.. Love it!

I feel like I had so much to say, and I came so prepared, but now that I'm actually sitting here emailing I don't remember what the awesome story was that I wanted to share. I'm probably just so old and wise now that my brain is having difficulty deciding what wisdom to share. Let's just go with that. Of course, we email in an internet cafe, and there's a bunch of people in here playing LAN games and cussing their faces off, so that's kind of distracting.

Honestly, nothing even really happened different this week, but for some reason it was awesome. Since conference I've really been trying to get better at seeing the good-finding happiness and joy in everything that happens. It's interesting how much of a difference it makes. It's so amazing how much there is in my life to be thankful for and happy about. 

Take yesterday for example. We left the flat to walk to church and it was sunny as could be. Not a cloud in the sky. Our chapel is about a fifteen to twenty minute walk from our flat, but I wasn't worried about it, because being raised by Dad I love mornings, and going on a walk to church in the morning sun with the birds chirpin seemed like a pretty sweet deal. We had walked about 5 minutes and clouds rolled in. They didn't seem that dark or ominous, and we had just gotten to the bottom of a big hill, so we weren't about to go back to the flat to get rain coats or anything. We made it about half a block and it started to pour. My companion goes, "come on, send somebody," and not a second later, the second counselor in the bishopric rolled up and offered us a ride. A really simple thing to do, just offering us a ride. But to us, in that moment, it meant everything, and I was certainly thankful for it. 

It's awesome getting letters every week from so many people, and I love getting so many letters from Dad. The man has some awesome insight and thoughts to share. Keep it up, and I'll try to do a little better with my emails, I'm just not that interesting most of the time.
  Elder O'Neal

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21, 2013

Lets see...
Are you all working on making me homesick? Come on now. First Dad talking about peaches (which I'm going to be craving for a really long time now), then pictures of some awesome trip to Boston. No worries. I'm in New Zealand serving the Lord, try to beat that. haha. Looking at those picture, has anyone else noticed that Kacie looks all grown up? Man. Looks like when I get back and start training MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program) again I'll have to test out whatever new moves I learn on dudes trying to take her on a date. What up? 

Rusti, come to Hamilton, I have an investigator for you to teach. She's not Russian or anything, but she is so bubbly. The sister missionaries gave us her name as a referral a few days back and we were able to contact her on Saturday. As soon as she answered the door she got really happy and started talking about how she had talked to missionaries before, and began to recount everything that she remembered. Maybe a minute and a half later, she had gone through the Plan of Salvation, the Restoration, and how she was currently doing a fund raiser for a trip that they're doing in her church a few weeks from now. My companion and I were both just standing there smiling and trying our hardest to understand what she was saying. So, I need you to come here and teach her for us, because you speak bubbly. We're actually pretty excited about her. She seems really keen to learn, and even mentioned that if we ever have any activities going on that she would love to come along. Hopefully we'll be able to capitalize this week. 

We've been having trouble contacting the guy that texted us "I need help" last week, and we're worried that something might have happened to him. Considering that he was talking like bad things were about to happen, I'm hoping that he's still alive and not in prison. If he's neither of those two, then he probably just ran out of credit on his phone, which happens a lot here because they don't have cell plans like we do in the states. 

It was a fairly disappointing week for us, lots of people cancelled appointments, and a couple of the families that we were teaching started to dodge us. Not cool. If they're not interested in the gospel, I'd just prefer they tell us, not schedule an appointment then not answer the door when we show up, even though we can see them through a gap in the curtain. 

All in all though it's awesome here. My comp is the man, and President Rudd is an awesome guy. He's really been pushing for all of the missionaries to relax a bit and really find joy in doing the work. The attitude in the Auckland mission was really really strict, and I always felt like I had to tip toe everywhere just in case I would break a rule I didn't know about. President Rudd has just been emphasizing the White Handbook and governing ourselves. It's hard to explain how it's changed, but I've been finding so much more joy in the work now than I ever have before. Things are awesome. 

That should just about do it. Hope everyone is having a good time back home, even though I'm not there. It's hard partying when the life of the party is gone, but I'm sure you all can figure it out for the next while.
  Love ya!
   Elder O'Neal

Monday, October 14, 2013

October 14, 2013

Had a good weekend, wasn't able to do a whole lot of work, but it was awesome being able to watch General Conference. I kept thinking about how it wasn't live like I'm used to, and how everyone back home had already seen it a week earlier. I kept being torn about whether I should bow my head for the prayers or not, considering that they were a week old. I ended up treating them like live prayers, but it still made me curious about what protocol would be for that. 

I think the theme for me from this past conference was service. It seemed that everything that was talked about ended up coming around to service. It's interesting to see how important service really is. It's always been one of those things that I never paid much attention to, but as I've studied I've realized that it's far more important than I ever figured. So I've decided that for the next while I'm really going to work on giving service; to those we teach, to the members, to my companion. Doesn't matter. We'll see what happens. 

We had a bit of a miracle over the weekend. As much as I hate using that term, it was a pretty cool turn of events. We've been having a real struggle recently with finding people to teach. As much as we work, the area doesn't seem to be as fruitful as it should be. I'm not looking for a million baptisms a week, but a few keen people would be sweet, and we haven't even really been able to find that. Friday night we were just getting ready to go sleep when we got a text from a random number that said "I need help." We were both a bit skeptical, so we called the number to see if it was somebody was messing with us or something. Turned out to be a guy that is actually looking for help. He quickly told us about how he's divorced and his kids don't want anything to do with him. My companion had been talking to him up to this point, so I hopped in at the end. As soon as I spoke he recognized my voice and asked if I was the guy in the USMC back home, as soon as he mentioned that I remembered him. I had spoken to him a few weeks ago on the street with my Zone Leader, and we had talked about the Marines a little since he used to be in the New Zealand Army. He thanked us a bunch of times for talking to him, and we're hoping for an appointment this week. I don't know how it'll all work out in the end, but he said he wanted to learn, he wants to find out how what we teach can bless his life. I'm hoping for the best.
That'll about do it for now.
  Love Ya!
   E. O'Neal

Sunday, October 6, 2013

October 7, 2013

So many blessings, we didn't have room to receive them!

We just found out this morning that we're getting another companion. I don't remember what his name is, but he's been on the mission for about two weeks, I think, which means we're going to have to be training him. He's from Tahiti too, so we'll see how good his English is. It's going to be interesting, since we have one of the smallest flats in the mission, and now we're going to have to somehow fit another dude into it. Really not stoked about this one, but, I guess it's just how it goes. We don't make the decisions, we just have to roll with whatever is thrown our way. 

Our new ward is pretty sweet. We taught the lesson yesterday in Elders quorum, and of course we did it on missionary work. Then after church, as we were walking home, we watched one of the newly returned missionaries stop at a house and go talk to a guy that was in his front yard with his kids. How cool is that? So far everybody has been super motivated to help us out. As well as feed us, which is the most important part. Though, we had a pretty rough day yesterday because of that..  We had a Samoan family invite us for lunch, so we had a massive lunch with them from 2-3. Then we had some members scheduled to feed us for dinner from 5-6. When we got to the dinner we weren't even hungry yet, not even close, but we were there and they had prepared food for us so we ate as much as we could. Then we had another appointment with a Samoan family at 7. When we showed up, the wife had cooked massive amounts of the donut hole looking things, and of course we had to eat as much as we could, otherwise they might get offended. By the time we walked out of there, I was hunched over because my stomach was too full to stand up straight. Guess who we had as the last family that night.. Another Samoan family. They usually just give us Cocoa Samoa to drink though, and don't cook us a feed unless we show up around dinner time. Since we were getting there at around eight, we figured we'd be fine. Just our luck, when we got there, they had cooked us a dinner. And we had to eat it.. I've never hurt so bad in my life. It just made me think of the promise that the Lord will pour out blessings so that we won't have room enough to receive it. We were receiving blessings, and we definitely didn't have room enough to receive it. 

Other than that, it was a pretty good past week. We were able to find some new investigators, and we're hoping to be able to get people progressing this next week. I'll make sure to keep you updated when we start getting people set for baptism.
 Love ya!
  Elder O'Neal

Monday, September 30, 2013

September 30, 2013

So, we got transferred. I'm still with my companion, and we're even still in the same flat, we're just covering a different ward now, Dinsdale Ward. The ward is pretty big, so we're double covering it with another companionship. We totally got the short end of the stick though with it. When we showed up we had to split the area book because usually the ward only has one set of missionaries. Looking at the boundaries for the area, it looks like a bow tie, with a big round about right in the center for the knot. So my companion and I cover one side, and the other companionship covers the other. What stinks is that nearly every single investigator that the sister missionaries were working with lives on their side of the area. So when we went through the area book and took out everything that was for them and their side, all we were left with was one investigator family. Youch. So we've been having to do loads and loads of finding. Door knocking, street contacting, etc. One of the hard things with our side though is that, for the most part, it's extremely wealthy, which is probably why the sisters didn't have much going on here. It's about like if you go to those neighborhoods on the mountain side in Bountiful or something. Really, really big houses, really nice cars, lots and lots of money. There must be a reason why we are here though, so all we can do is work and hope that it all works out. 

That's about it for now. We usually go play touch rugby on Mondays, but it's raining hard outside right now, so we'll see what happens. A bunch of big storms have been coming through for the last couple of weeks. Apparently the south island keeps getting all torn up with high winds and flooding, but by the time the storms get here, they just dump a bunch of water and don't even give us any good lightning or thunder.
 Love ya's
   Elder O'Neal

Sunday, September 22, 2013

September 23, 2013

And the rain rain rain came down down down... I can't remember the rest, but you get the picture (on another note, the song Winnie the Pooh sings when he's getting the honey while pretending to be a little black rain cloud keeps getting stuck in my head)

I broke the key off inside the lock this morning in our front door. Not cool. I had unlocked the door and was walking inside when my jacket pocket snagged the key and snapped it off. What a way to start off a P-Day. I'm just hoping that the landlord will be able to get it fixed (he was working on it when we left) or we're going to have to pay for a locksmith.

It also looks like it's going to rain again, so we may not be playing touch rugby today like we usually do. I actually quite enjoy playing rugby, I've been thinking that I might pick it up when I get back home if I get good at it here.  

We've got transfers coming up this Thursday. It seems like just as soon as we get settled in and start getting things going, transfers come along. We haven't heard yet if either of us are getting transfered, and I don't really think that we will, but we'll see what happens. We're losing one of our zone leaders tomorrow, Elder Rawlinson, he's going back to Oooooklahoma (another song, of course), which isn't cool at all, since he's been my favorite zone leader. Apparently he's a really good football player, offensive line, so keep an eye out. We figure that the rest of our zone/district will pretty much get moved around too, since none of the companionships get along at all. We've just been waiting for one of the companionships to get in a fight. Hasn't happened yet, and hopefully it won't.

We found some pretty awesome new investigators this past week, amid all of the fake referalls and angry people, we managed to find a couple of super keen part member families. We haven't been able to have any lessons with them yet, but we've got appointments on Tuesday, so hopefully by next week I'll have some good news (unless I'm not here anymore, of course).

 Well, that'll do it for now.
  Love Ya!
   Elder O'Neal

Monday, September 16, 2013

September 16, 2013

This may be another one of those letters where I have a hard time figuring out what to write about. So just be warned.

The week started off pretty awesome. We were able to go to the temple on Tuesday. The second of two yearly trips that the mission takes. The next one will be in April I think. That is unless President Rudd decides to change things around for this mission, though I doubt it. I love being able to go to the temple, though I don't particularly love having to go with the mission. It seems as though there just isn't enough time. Everyone is always rushed, and it serves to just stress me out, rather than allowing me to properly relax like I really want to. It made me think about the few weeks that I had before coming out. Being able to go anytime that I wanted to, and being able to go alone, having the time to ponder and relax, disconnect a little bit from everything outside. I can't wait until I can do that again. It made me think a bit about how awesome my parents have always been about going to the temple. What an awesome example for all of us.

After the trip, the week pretty much just went back to normal, but I've been able to feel a greater spiritual strength since.

We learned an interesting thing over the weekend. Apparently Elder Ilai and I are the only companionship that gets along out of our zone. We've been having companion exchanges every single week, either with the Zone Leaders, or the District Leader, or both, and we were really curious as to why. So when we went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders on Saturday, we asked, and they told us they've been having to do it so that the companionships don't start killing each other.

So, it got me thinking as to why, and I've come up with the conclusion that it's because of the mission attitude. In the Auckland mission professionalism was always really emphasized. So much to the point that it almost seemed taboo to laugh and have jokes. Everyone is so caught up with trying to be super serious missionaries, that nobody allows for fun. Its been driving me nuts. I've always been under the impression that this is a happy gospel, a fun gospel. So, my companion and I have taken it upon ourselves to help everyone loosen up a little, have some fun. I'll let you know what happens.

I think that ought to about do it.
  Love ya!
   Elder O'Neal

Sunday, September 8, 2013

September 9, 2013

What an interesting week. It started off fairly good, but by the time we made it to the end, it had taken a slow turn in the wrong direction.
Our one investigator that we have set for baptism on the 21st isn't going very well. He seemed like he was doing really well when we first set him. After he saw his sister get baptised he kept saying how he wanted to follow and he wanted to do it, and he would do it the next weekend if he could. So we set him for baptism and we've been going over every day and teaching lessons and trying to help him be ready. The one thing that is holding him back is his smoking, so we made him a quit calender and he was determined to follow it and stop smoking so that he can be baptised. Then this week he started saying things like, "we'll just shoot for that day for now," and "we'll just plan on the 21st but.." At the beginning of the week it seemed like it would be alright and that we'd be able to work through it and help him stop smoking and progress. Then on Friday we had a lesson with him, and now we're looking at dropping him as a set and possibly as an investigator for the next bit. He didn't seem all that invested in the lesson, and I don't know what it was but the Spirit was having a really difficult time being present. His sister even sits in for all the lessons and helps us when we ask her, and she's been trying to help him stop smoking and read, since they live together. So we're going to see what happens this week, and then decide what's happening with him.
The other problem that we've been having is that he's pretty much our only investigator, and not for lack of trying. We've been knocking doors, and talking to around 120 people on the street every week, but we haven't been able to get a single investigator out of it. There've been missionaries in this country and in this area for so long that pretty much every one has heard it. We meet people a lot that even just got talked to by the sister missionaries in the area right next to ours. Not cool. It's been making us think that there has got to be a better way to go about it all. We've been trying to work with the members but they've actually proved to be fairly difficult. I think that this ward has just had missionaries for so long that they take it for granted, as opposed to Cambridge branch, where they haven't had missionaries in forever so they were more than happy to get involved. It makes it surprisingly difficult to do this when members treat you like some sort of alien. We have met some really awesome LA families (less active) that we're working with, however, and there're a couple of active families that have been extremely helpful, but I can count them all on one hand.
But, enough of my complain-athon. Even with everythig the way it is I still love being in this area, and my companion is pretty awesome. So far I don't think we've even had a single argument. Which is pretty awesome. Makes me nervous.. Like maybe I got a really awesome companion because my next one is going to be difficult to be with. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Love ya heaps!
   E. O'Neal

Monday, September 2, 2013

September 2, 2013

It's finally coming into spring here! The official first day of spring was yesterday. I think. It's pretty awesome knowing that you're all about to go into another cold, long, dark winter, whereas I'm just coming out of a rather mild, slightly wet though still relatively warm winter, and into a beautiful, pretty much never too hot New Zealand summer. I'll give you a second to digest that one.

We had another baptism and confirmation over the weekend. Pretty awesome. And we've got our next baptism set for the 21st of this month. It was pretty interesting when we told our ward mission leader about the date. He came back a few minutes later and told us that the chapel was booked on that Saturday, so we were either going to have to move the date, or move the baptism to another chapel. I'm still pretty upset about it. Where exactly are our priorities here? I told him the worth of a soul is greater than the worth of a party, so people are just going to have to deal with it. We still haven't gotten it resolved. How crazy is that though? We're having a shin dig so you can't have a baptism. Wow.

The week was pretty mild, we just had one moment of excitement. I was on exchanges with the Zone Leader, Elder Rawlinson. We were walking down the street and a guy pulled up next to us and waved us over. As soon as we got to his car he asked us what the firmament was, because this is our job, so we should know what it is, and how crucial it is to our existence, talking about D&C and stuff. Whenever I tried to answer his question though, he wouldn't let me talk, then he started to get really upset that we weren't answering him. So he started yelling at us and telling us we're ignorant and arrogant, and that we failed, etc. After a few minutes of it, we said, "see ya" and walked off. That didn't stop him though. He started following us along the road yelling at us, then cussed us out for a few minutes and finally drove off. That night when exchanges finished we told the story to our comps, and it turns out that the other Zone Leader has met him a few times before. Apparently the guy believes that the Firmament is a place where Heavenly Father has a giant god making factory. Right now though the factory is broken down, so that's why we're stuck here on earth. I guess some of us are the mechanics for it too, so that's why it hasn't gotten fixed yet. Crazy right? Sure threw me for a loop.

 Well, that about does it for this week.
  Love ya!
   Elder O'Neal

Monday, August 26, 2013

August 26, 2013

Mom asked about the sign that everyone does with their fingers around here and yeah, it's just the hang loose sign. Around here you have to be a bit more careful doing it in public because there's a really big gang called the Mongrel Mob, and that's their sign. Mom also asked about our actual address so it could be looked up on google maps and we live at 54 Dinsdale Rd.  Actually it isn't even in our ward boundaries, so its not in our area boundaries. It's in the Dinsdale ward. Funny thing is that the Dinsdale sisters live in a flat in our area, and we live in a flat in their area. Our area goes right to the edge of Hamilton, then there's about a mile of country road and you get into Temple View, which was a part of my old zone.

It's quite a bit different being here, for one thing there's a lot more members around here, so we're always getting honked and waved at. We had a baptism this past weekend, which was pretty awesome. The investigator that is set for next week came with her brother, and they really enjoyed it, so we went to see them last night just to kind of recap and talk about what they thought. The brother (Matthew) told the Sisters when they were here that he really wasn't ready, and probably wouldn't be for a few more years, but as we were talking to them we could tell that he was really thinking about baptism. He's pretty much sat in on every lesson that his sister has had, so he knows the most of it. We ended up linking baptism to the Plan of Salvation, hoping to help him understand that baptism is more than just washing away our sins, but its setting us on our first steps towards the Celestial kingdom. Turns out he hadn't remembered a whole lot of anything about the Plan of Salvation, so it really made him think about how baptism and being a member of this church is necessary. We left him with a commitment to read through the pamphlet again and to pray, so I really hope that when we go by again tonight he's done those things and has some good news for us!

It's been interesting to see how the ward takes to having Elders again instead of Sisters. I think they're all still pretty attached to sister missionaries, and it's been remarkably difficult fitting in with the ward. I always just assumed that everyone loves missionaries no matter who they are, but apparently not. Interesting how members will have a bad experience with one Elder and then decide that the whole lot is bad. I know that when it happens I really don't like it. It's almost like the members don't realize that we're real people and just young men that barely got out of high school.

That'll about do it for this week, I'll let you know how it all worked out next week,

  Love ya!
   E. O'Neal

Monday, August 19, 2013

August 19, 2013

It finally happened, I got transferred! I thought that I wasn't going to get transferred, because my companion got the call from President to say that he was being transferred up to south Auckland as a zone leader. Then I got the call later than night.

My new companion is another Samoan. His name is Elder Ilai (pronounced Eli). He's pretty awesome so far, and I'll post a picture of him next week. Unless I forget. I'm now in Tuhikaramea Ward in Hamilton, just on the edge of Hamilton, so kind of in the city. I hope that I get transfered back out to the country, it's much better. We're so close to the Temple that we can see it on the hill out of the window at our flat. It kind of stinks coming into the area because my and new comp and I got double shifted in. We replaced a sister companionship in the area. So basically we're trying to pick up where they left off but we're still starting from scratch. Our area is super tiny too, so we don't have a car. Our first two nights here it rained on us like crazy, and we don't really know anybody so there wasn't even any way to get into a house. The area is probably about the size of the 14th ward (Mom and Dad's ward). Maybe a little bigger but not by much. We're actually pretty worried about how we're going to fill our time, because the sisters that were here knocked every street. There's a couple of investigators that I'm hoping work out, but for the most part, the sisters only had women investigators, so we can't really teach them unless we're able to find male fellowship, so that we can go into the homes.

I think we have the absolute nicest flat in the entire mission. It's fully furnished, has AC, a washer AND a dryer, and even heat lamps instead of regular light bulbs in the bathroom. Pretty cool. Apparently it's the flat that everyone in the Hamilton area wants.

They don't really let us read a whole lot of extra material. I've now read Jesus the Christ three times, as well as Our Heritage, Our Search for Happiness, and I'm almost done with the Book of Mormon for the third time as well. We get Ensigns sometimes, so I read through those, but it does get kind of exhausting sometimes just reading through the same material over and over.

I think that'll about do it. I've got a load of pictures from my last area that I'll send.

Elder O'Neal   

The guy on the right is Te Uira. He was one of our awesome investigators. He'll be baptized once he's off of home arrest.
This is two of our LA (less-active) families. They threw us a huge party the night before we left.

This was our branch president's (President Tupaea) family.

Owen, one of our LA's (less actives)

Monday, August 12, 2013

August 12, 2013

Awesome, questions, that means I can just answer those and I don't have to think about what to talk about. It's kind of like when we're teaching, I always love it when people have loads of questions, because it gives us that good base to teach off of, instead of just going through the motions.

It's finally getting a little bit warmer down here, so life is getting a little bit easier. Not that it ever really got that cold, but it was enough to make it no fun on the rare occasions that we have to bike. I've decided that I really hate driving down here though, because they use those stinking speed cameras. They like to put them in vans, and then park the van in those transition spots where the speed is going from 50 to 70 or whatever it is. Then it just clicks away when you're going 70 in at the end of the 50.. So annoying! I've gotten two tickets now from it. Apparently the second one happened back in May, but I didn't hear about it until this morning. Counting my blessings though at least it doesn't go on my driving record or anything, I just have to pay it, and if I get five the mission won't let me drive anymore. Which wouldn't be too bad, so long as I have a comp that can drive still.

As far as food goes, it's all pretty much exactly what we eat back home, just with a whole lot more meat. There's probably only been a handful of times when we've eaten at a member's home and it wasn't steak or ribs or something else that has to do with meat. One of the families makes the best lamb. So good.

I think the mission is getting 90 new missionaries in the next couple of months, so odds are I'll be a trainer coming up here, we'll see, but for now I'm still in the same place with the same comp. We have four week transfers this week on Thursday, then I think some weird mid transfers maybe next week as well, then the end of the regular six weeks after that. I think the members of our branch are more nervous about us getting transferred than we are. So cool how much they actually care about us. I'm really worried that a couple of the less active families we've been working with will go back to being totally less active again once we're gone. Hopefully not. I've really been trying to help everyone get their own testimony about the Church, instead of just a testimony about the missionaries.

Cost of living here is pretty pricey. I think if we didn't get fed and taken care of by the members like we do, we'd both be starved. As it is, I'm still sitting around 165, which is the most I've ever weighed I think.

For the most part, it's all fine and dandy round these parts. We're moving forward slowly, but we're still moving forward. It's really cool that all of these missionaries are coming in, because now there are a lot of new areas being opened. Places that haven't ever had their own missionaries are now getting them, and some wards are even going to be double covered. I think NZ should start being afraid, what with how the work is accelerating, this must be the first place to be sunk into the depths of the sea. haha.

 Love you!
  E. O'Neal

Monday, August 5, 2013

August 5, 2013

So, with all of the new missionaries coming in this month, I have no idea when transfers are. At first, this was going to be a four week transfer cycle, then it got changed back to the regular six weeks, and now people are pretty much just getting transfered every week. Apparently our mission president just found out about fourteen new missionaries that're coming in this month too. Crazy. Hopefully everything will clear up by the end of this month, but we'll see.

As far as investigators go we still have the same ones, but they're doing awesome. We're hopefully looking at Steve being baptized this month with his son, but we'll see what happens. They're waiting on Steve's father-in-law to get his priesthood restored, since he was ex'd a few years back. Steve keeps trying to play it down to us, but apparently he told our Branch President that he wants to be baptized with his son, which is fine by me. When we had FHE with that family last week, Steve kind of told us his testimony. He talked about how he's noticed that when he does the things that we teach; when he reads, prays, goes to church, etc., that he realizes the difference in his life. He said that he always notices when he does those things that everything seems to go right at work and home. It was really cool to hear him talk about how he's noticed the blessings of the gospel in his life. It got me wondering how much the rest of us notice such things. If we notice how well things go because of this gospel. Maybe something to keep in mind.

We've also got three baptisms set for the end of next month. I don't think I'll still be here for that, but at least whoever is new will be able to start off on a good note. 

We're hoping to be able to get another two people to commit to baptism within the coming weeks.
One of them, Rany, which I think I've talked about before, has been investigating for three weeks as of today, and he's awesome. He reads, prays, and comes to church. He'll even text us asking for scriptures to read, which is pretty awesome. He told us that he believes this church is true, and that he wants to get baptized. He just wants to wait a bit longer and study a bit more so that he knows he's doing it for himself, rather than because of other people influencing him. I feel pretty good about him, so I'm not worried. No sense in rushing or pushing him, we'll just continue to teach and guide.

Another one that we want to be able to set is Charlotte. Her partner is a less active member, but he's come to church pretty much every Sunday for the last two months. We can't do a whole lot with her now until she comes to church. Their son takes his nap from ten to one which is precisely when church is. I figure all we can do is pray, and leave it in the hands of the Lord. I'm sure He's got it all figured out, now I just need to figure out how he wants me to be going about all of it.

Our Church attendance is still pretty good, and the less actives we've been working with are still awesome.
 That's all for now.
  Love you heaps!
   E. O'Neal

Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 29, 2013

You guys have peaches?? Nooooo! Our entire street has lemon trees planted down it (totally useless), and there's orange trees all over the place, along with grape fruits, feijoas, passion fruit, and of course apples.. But not a single person has a peach tree! For real? What kind of backwoods place is this? I was actually thinking about peaches the other day, and how much I want them for breakfast, and then I had to just come to terms with the fact that it may not happen until I'm back home. It was a hard realization to come to.

So, turns out that before this year is over, we'll have eighty new missionaries in the New Zealand Hamilton Mission alone. Apparently, the majority of them are sister missionaries as well. Which is.. Cool? Six Samoan Elders are coming in this week, then forty five in three weeks I think, then another thirty or so the transfer after. It was something like that.

We had our actual interviews with President Rudd this past week, and I really like him. He seems to be a little more understanding about how things work around here. One thing that I really appreciated was that he's taking a more lenient stand on one of the rules that has served as a real issue before. One of the rules that we had in the Auckland mission is that we were not allowed to eat after six p.m. with the members. I'm sure that it wouldn't be a huge deal back in Utah, or even a lot of other places as well, but being in NZ, there's a fairly large population of Pacific Islanders (Samoans, Tongans, etc..). For the most part, whenever you visit an islander's home, they cook. It doesn't seem to matter what time of the day it is, or if they just ate or whatever, it's just what they do, and if we were offered food after six, we had to say no. Surprising what saying "no" to a plate of food can do. They get really offended. Like, "don't come back," offended. So now, the rule is still there that we shouldn't eat after six, but if the people make us something (because they still do, even when we say no to an offer) we're now able to accept it. Such a weight off. It seems like a super stupid thing, but I was pretty excited about it.

Everything's been going pretty sweet, the weather is getting better, hopefully it means spring is coming (I can't wait to send pictures of the summer here while it's all winter back home). I love it here!

 E. O'Neal

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July 24, 2013

What up!
     I am still in the same place! Everybody must be getting sick of that sentence. Now I'm just trying to figure out if I'm still in Cambridge because our mission president just came in and he didn't want to change a whole lot, or if it's because I'm not quite finished working with someone in this area. I'm going to go with the second option. If I do get transferred next time, I will have spent six months in the same area; a quarter of my entire mission in this little town, with it's little (but rapidly growing) branch.
     It's been pretty stellar around here. The weather has been just about perfect, (instead of freezing cold and rainy) and our investigators are going very well.
I was pretty surprised with how excited all of the branch seemed to be that we were both staying. I think they may be getting a wee bit too attached to us, though I am keenly aware of how attached I've become to this branch. It's been so awesome to see it grow each and every week. I was hoping to be able to see it turn from a branch into a ward, but alas, I don't think I will be here for that. However, I'm sure I'll keep tabs, and I'm hoping that the work we are doing here will stick for future missionaries.
     It's always sad to see when a person's testimony was with the missionaries that taught them. That's another reason why member missionary work is so important. There's only so much we can do, and then it all turns to the members. Amazing how much member effort is required for there to be effective and lasting missionary work. I'm thinking it'd be pretty sweet to get back and be a ward mission leader somewhere. Be able to do stuff that makes the missionaries lives that much easier, and help keep new converts active.
 Thanks for the letters, and I'll talk with ya'll next week.
  E. O'Neal

Sunday, July 14, 2013

July 15, 2013

Transfers in two days, and still don't know what's going to happen. I think they're trying to shorten my life span, what with the stress and all. Pretty sure a couple of my hairs have gone grey already. Apparently we'll have 45 new missionaries coming in in August, so I'm probably looking at having to be a trainer when it happens, which I can't decide whether I like the idea of or not.
This past week was pretty awesome. Our first bit of good luck was when we went to visit one of our former investigators.  We had dropped her a couple of weeks ago because we had hit a wall with her for a while, and we weren't making any progress whatsoever. We hadn't planned to go see her, but after every house that we went and visiting, she kept popping into our heads, so we tossed our plans and made our way out there. Turns out her partner had left the day before, and we got a return appointment set for this Thursday. What's so awesome about it is that she told us she believes we're the church for her, and that she definitely felt the Spirit when she attended on her first Sunday. She's always been quite keen for learning and wants to be baptized, but it was just very hard for her with her partner around, because he didn't like any of it. Hopefully we'll be able to capitalize and make something happen this time around.
We also found two new investigators this past week. The first one actually found us. We were at the house of one of the less actives that we're working with, and this guy (Steve) came around. We were out back with Owen, but his wife Dana was out front. Apparently Steve was going by and just stopped to ask her about her church. We didn't get to see him then, but we went around Saturday night and were able to talk to him for a few minutes and invite him to church. Apparently he's been to loads of other churches all over the country, and none of them have felt right to him. On Sunday, he actually showed up, and stayed for all three hours. When he was leaving, I asked him what he thought, and he kind of paused for a second before saying that he liked it, it felt right, and he would for certainly be coming back next Sunday.
The other investigator that we got was yesterday. A member from down on the south island showed up with him. He lives in our town, and apparently she's said that if he wants to date her and have it go anywhere, he has to investigate. What was pretty cool about that is that she already has a little baby with him, but instead of just not going to church and going less active, she's turning her life back around, and wants to do everything the right way. I thought it was very cool to see. We've got a family home evening set up with the both of them tonight at one of the members houses, so hopefully all goes well there.
 Well. That oughta do for now.
 Love you all.
   E. O'Neal

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 8, 2013

I honestly can't think of a whole lot to say this week. I received a question from Mom about how the new integration of the internet into missionary tracting is going to work and I honestly have no idea how they are going to incorporate the new things that they talked about in the specialized training. We haven't heard anything new on it since they talked about it in that video, but I'm pretty excited to see what happens. As far as missionaries using the web for other things, that won't be a huge difference. After all, we're able to go get on computers every Monday for emails, and we're just at the library. If missionaries want to be disobedient and hop on the web, then they find ways to do it. It seems like you have the focused missionaries and the not so focused ones; either way, they'll be focused or not so focused seemingly no matter what the circumstances.

I'm going to try and get some pictures and things like that for next week, so that even if I don't really have anything to talk about, then at least I'll have some stuff to send anyway.

Love you!
  E. O'Neal

Monday, July 1, 2013

July 1, 2013

We're usually a week behind on stuff (Conference, for example) but last night we were able to watch a specialized training video from the Provo MTC that was absolutely awesome! It was broadcast down here for all missionaries, as well as ward leaders and such (so the ward council pretty much). A few of the things that really intrigued me is that they are planning on having missionaries in our ward buildings so that they can give guided tours to anybody that works up the courage to come by and check it out. The next was Facebook. Apparently, that is one of the tools that they are planning to get worked out within the year, being able to use Facebook as a missionary tool, as well as the other internet resources that are available. So exciting! As well as interesting. It's very cool to be able to be on a mission at the beginning of so many monumental changes. It seemed as though they focused mostly on member missionary work in the training.

It got me thinking about how I was before I came out. Aside from my time spent in basic training, I don't think I did missionary work at all. I was always too busy or too scared or whatever, who knows. I always just figured that there were the missionaries and that was good enough, since it's their job, right? haha. Oops. I've been thinking about it recently too since I heard one of my friends from high school just got baptized and I thought to myself, "I knew him throughout high school, why did I never talk to him about it? He could have found the truth so much earlier, and who knows, maybe he would have had the opportunity to go on a mission as well." I only realize now how difficult it is to do missionary work the way that everyone thinks that it's done, like knocking on doors, talking to random people on the street, just going and contacting referrals. We've talked to right around 130 random people per week since I've been here, and have only gotten about ten people out of it... and not a single one has led to baptism! It makes me think of when Wes talks about his mission, and how they worked solely through the members, and had so much success. That's what I wish we could have here! That's what I'm hoping to push for over the next few weeks that I'm here. Getting every member to help us out. Elder L.Tom Perry pretty much said we should no longer be using our time to knock doors and talk with street contacts, but that we should work with the members, so that's what I'm going to try to do. Hopefully we can spark something in this Branch that will get it to being a Ward.

Real quick on that note. When I first arrived, the average was 40-50 members at sacrament meeting.. Now it's sitting quite comfortably around the mid 70s! It's pretty exciting. 

Other than that, I'm praying for everybody back home, so hopefully it counts for something.
 That oughta do it for now.
   Love you all,
    E. O'Neal 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 24, 2013

Moving to the New Zealand Hamilton Mission! Yes indeed. We haven't met our new mission president yet, but his name is Charles A. Rudd. Some people are thinking that it's the same President Rudd that ran the temple here a few years back, but I have no idea if it's the same person or not. I think he'll be coming in this week sometime, and making the rounds of the mission. It'll be interesting to see if anything changes being in this new mission with a brand new mission president. All of the zone leaders seem to think that it means as missionaries we're all going to get lazy and start breaking the rules. What? Talk about no trust eh?
One of the new senior couples that is going to be serving in the office is living within the boundaries of our branch, so they attended church with us. Elder and Sister Goodman. They're from Arizona, which is pretty cool. The good news about them working in the office and being in my branch is they said if they ever see mail for us, they'll just bring it straight to us, instead of sending it through our zone leader and so forth. I haven't met the other couple that'll be working in the office, but it's Elder and Sister Olsen, from Utah. 
We had our last training with President and Sister Lekias this past week, and everyone seemed pretty sad about it. A few of the sisters were even crying. It felt kind of weird to know that I would never see them again, but at the same time, it's extremely exciting to know that I'll be helping to open a new mission. Even though there aren't really that many new places we'll be going in to, it's still a new mission, and it's still pretty cool.
Keep it real. Love ya'll heaps.
E. O'Neal
the Temple View Zone

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 17, 2013

Good morning,
Let's see... Been a boring week. Especially when it's put up against everything that seems to be going on at home. Traveling the world, family reunions, etc.. I did manage to go into Hamilton for a district meeting, so that was a great experience. I also got the package that Betsy sent! Pretty awesome. It's so much fun  something from home. I think maybe with emails it doesn't really seem as real? But when a fat package shows up, it's like yeah, my family loves me. :)

One of the interesting things that did happen was with the new Elder in Te Awamutu. We have trade offs every Wednesday so that my companion can go teach the Samoans in one of their areas, so I spent the day with Elder Hester. He's from Auckland, North Shore. At first I was kind of curious as to why he was sent on a mission so close to home, and then I remembered Wes. So I asked him if he was serving in this mission because of medical reasons, and he said yep, he had digestive issues, aka, Crohn's. We talked about that whole deal for a little while and he was pretty surprised that I knew what was going on. Turns out he had to have a large chunk of his intestines removed about a year ago, and had to spend a couple of months in the hospital. He's the same size as me, and apparently he only weighed about 90 lbs. Ouch. Good missionary though. It was really weird to think about how he was brand new, and it wasn't me anymore. It was a "no way have I really been out for three months" moment.

The past few weeks have been really hard. It seemed like it was going so well, then one day it all just decided to cool off big time. We've knocked on so many doors and talked to so many people, all to seemingly no avail. Obviously, all there is to do is to knock on a few more and continue to talk with everyone, but it is quite exhausting. The one shining light is Owen. Granted, he's not an investigator, but he's the man. We've been working with him pretty much since the beginning. He's been coming to church every Sunday, reading the scriptures, praying. It's awesome! It'd be nice to find some new people to teach, and bring to baptism, but it is amazing being able to see a Less Active member get totally on fire like this. He's one of the ones that I'll miss for sure. Especially since he's one of the few worldwide that doesn't have a Facebook. Come on man.

Well, that'll about do it,

And in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight.
   E. O'Neal

Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013

Transfers were this past week.... I passed! Still here in good ol C-bridge. I'm not going to lie, I was sitting on pins and needles the entire beginning of the week. This should mean that I'll now be a part of the New Zealand Hamilton mission. The mission doesn't split until next transfer meeting, but I seem to recall President Lekias saying that where we ended up after this transfer was where we were going to stay. That is fine by me. I'm hoping that this means I'll be spending more of my time in rural parts of the country rather than the city. Hamilton's a pretty big city though too, so we'll see what happens. I think after this transfer I'll be about ready to move on to the next place. As much as I'll miss all of the members here once I leave, I imagine it'll be nice to get somewhere new, see some new things and talk to new people, rather than just feeling like it's the same old some days. 

We got four new missionaries just in our zone this past week; one new elder, and three new sister missionaries that are serving around Temple View, and in the visitors center at the Temple. I don't know how they fill the time of three sister missionary companionships in that area; it's this little area surrounding the Temple that's pretty much 100% active LDS. Almosty like a little piece of Utah.

Other than transfers, there wasn't a whole lot that happened. One of the women in the branch that helps us out a lot (she has FHE's with investigators and non-members, and has been doing a lot of missionary work at her job) had a heart attack this past week, so that was kind of scary. She's doing good, but she's about ready to get out, since one of her sisters is about to pass away from cancer. If this family is what getting old looks like, I'm not sure that I ever want to be there.

Other than that though, everything is about the same. It's pretty chilly here most days, and it's been raining for the past week. Thank goodness we don't ever use the bikes. Hopefully I'll have some more for ya next week. But until then, that's all for now folks.
  E. O'Neal

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June 3, 2013

Good morning!
 It's finally sunny around here! Well, most of the time anyway. It's been going from cloudy to sunny, but at least there hasn't been rain for a few days. It seems like it's harder on people to have this mild chill and lots of rain, than it is to have it be freezing cold and all snowy. I know I've been feeling kind of sick for the last few days, and it seems like everybody that we talk to is sick too. You'd think that living here your whole life would make you at least a little bit resilient to the weather 'n such. Guess not. New Zealanders must just be really sissy :)

Not a load of things different this week, but we did get two new investigators. They were a bit of a surprise to me, because they're dairy farmers, and are extremely wealthy. For the most part, people on that side of town or out there in the country don't like to talk to us. They're all comfortable where they are and they don't want to change. It was really nice to be able to meet a couple that has everything they could want as far as material comforts go, but are still open to hearing the gospel. Another thing that really surprised me was that they're a little bit older. Mid 50s. For the most part, the older people get, the less inclined they are to talk with us. It seems the younger the person is, the higher the likelihood they'll be open to talking to us, and learning about our beliefs. I'm going to chalk this one up to a tender mercy of the Lord.

Other than that, not a whole bunch to report, but I do have pictures!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

May 27, 2013

This past week was pretty awesome! We now have six people set for baptism within the next month, with three more that want to be baptized, and we're just working out Word of Wisdom issues. It's really making me nervous with transfers getting close here. I sure hope that I don't get moved somewhere, and not be able to see all of these people that I've been working with be baptized. I know that wherever I go is where the Lord wants me, but I'd really love to be able to see everything we've done work out.

Last night (Sunday night) we had this super awesome fireside with a man named Herewini Jones. We brought one of the less active members we've been working with, and one of our investigators. It's hard to explain everything that he talks about, but basically he ties the Lamanites and Book of Mormon history in with the Maori Whakapapa. Or their lineage and family history. He does lots and lots of work with Pacific Islanders, Maoris, and Native Americans. It made me want to do loads of research into what he was talking about. Since the fireside was over in Te Awamutu, the missionaries over there got a new investigator from it. She actually went over to Elder Toolson and told him that she wanted to have the missionary discussions. Then she talked to Brother Jones, and he came to us and said, "That woman is going to get baptized." Man! We need him to come and do a fireside in Cambridge. It seemed to really get the two men we brought thinking, and so we're looking forward to following up with them tonight. Who knows, maybe we'll have a new baptism set and another less active become active.

The weather here this past week was pretty dismal; it pretty much just rained every single day, except for Friday. Thank goodness we have a car. One thing I do love about it raining though is that everything is so green! When you drive out into the country, everything is just rolling hills of green grass. It's like looking out on an expanse of perfectly green carpet. Pretty killer. Not to mention that it's calving season right now, so there's loads of newborn calves in all of the fields, as well as the regular herds of sheep that are everywhere. It all comes together to make everything quite picturesque.

It sounds like stuff is pretty crazy back home, and I'm sure everyone's having a hard time adjusting since I've been gone, but everyone just hang in there till I get back.

Well, that's all for now folks.
Love you all,
Elder O'Neal

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 20, 3013

Crazy to think that we were talking on the phone only last week. Time seems to go by so fast, but at the same time, it just crawls along at whatever pace it sees fit.

We got a new family this past week; Reggae and Charlotte, and they have a 1 yr old named Jade. Reggae has been a less active member for the past seventeen years. Last he was in, he was ordained a teacher, then just bounced I guess. Interesting how many people we run into that left while they were in their youth. Usually because they didn't feel welcomed or it wasn't as much fun as their last group in the last ward they were in. Makes me wonder how much impact I did or didn't have on others while I was in the youth program. Kinda scares me a little bit, in fact. I imagine I'll have to account for the one way or the other once I'm on the other side. Charlotte is a non-member, but was apparently raised with LDS values. Talk about the Lord preparing those that we teach. None of her family are members, but she just found out from her mother that when she was little, the missionaries used to come around, so the children were all raised according to what they learned from the missionaries. They're an awesome little family, and Reggae even came to church this past Sunday. What a stud. It got me a little worried in priesthood though; the lesson started out on temple marriages, and somehow ended up going to a whole lot of stuff that seemed pretty shaky. Lots of stuff where I would like to see the resource page, you know? Thankfully, Reggae didn't walk out of there thinking we were all a bunch of quacks. To sum it up, they're very receptive, are basically living the values already, and we're planning on setting Charlotte for baptism coming up here. How awesome it'd be to see them one day become an eternal family!

 Kind of along the topic of what I was saying about youth, there are loads of people that we meet that are less active all because they got offended at church. It always surprises me that people are so cavalier with their eternal salvation. They'll say that they know the church is true, but that they were just too offended, and so they won't come back. For one man that we talked to, all that happened was that he was visiting a ward one week, and nobody came over to where he was sitting and greeted him. So he got up once church started, walked across the street to a pub and had himself a drink. Hasn't been back since, and that was in 1982! How can people be so easily offended? Instances such as that make absolutely no sense to me.

Something else cool happened this past week too.. One of the less active members that we've been working with got his KX450F brought down from Auckland. So I told him for P-day I'd come help him bleed his brakes and replace his fork seals. I'm stoked! I can't ride em, but at least I can still work on em, right? Funny how every other missionary wants to go play BBall, and all I want to do is tear into a dirtbike. Apparently it's just been sitting in a shed up in Auckland for about a year now.. Maybe I'll be able to talk him into letting me clean the carb or something. There's a whole world of possibilities.

Well, that'll about do it.
  Love you all
   Elder O'Neal

Sunday, May 5, 2013

May 6, 2013

This past week was pretty interesting; at least the end of the week. One thing I've noticed is that it always seems like we're not doing enough. At the end of each night we go over the day as well as plan for tomorrow, and it never seems like we've taught enough, or contacted enough, or tried to find enough. We have the best numbers out of our entire zone, and everyone keeps telling us how good we're doing, but it still feels like there is so much more we could be doing. 
We had a baptism on Saturday, and it went really well. There were loads of people there, and the family had a huge feed afterward, which is always a plus. And then on Sunday, one of our new investigators came to church! We've only spoken to her twice, and both times not for very long. We invited her to come to church, and like all of our other investigators, didn't honestly think she would show, especially since we haven't even taught her one of the lessons yet. Right when sacrament started she came into the building with three of her kids, and I had to do a double take. It was really cool because not only was the confirmation for Brodie yesterday, but it was a Fast Sunday as well. All of the testimonies that were given were really good, and I just sat there praying the entire time that Dona would feel the Spirit like I knew I was. She had previously talked about how she was searching, and wanted the truth in her life, so all I did was pray that she would understand that she had found it. She stayed for all of the sacrament, then Gospel Principles, and even Relief Society! I was blown away. Not only did she show up, but she stayed there. It was a first. After church, all I could think about was how happy I was that she had shown up, and how thankful I am to have the help of the Holy Ghost. 
I've got a load of pictures this time.
One of the members in the ward is huge into restoring old cars, and building old timey memorabilia. All of the signs, gas pumps, airplanes and whatever else there is in the pictures, he made. He sells all of it too. If only he wasn't all the way over here, I'd buy some of it for Dad's shop.  Love, Kurt