Sunday, December 28, 2014

December 29, 2014

First off, I did notice how un-keen most of the family was in Skype on Christmas. Or rather, Christmas Eve, for you anyway. I could sense the "oh, he's gonna be home in like a month anyway" attitude. So, in lieu of that, and in keeping with the social attitude of my generation, let me just say that I am deeply offended. I have now logged the incident away within my mind, so that upon returning home I can let everyone know just how offended I am by posting an extremely lengthy-albeit completely unnecessary- rant on my Facebook page.

I have some good news! At least, I'm pretty stoked about it. My camera decided it wants to work again! Well, sort of. It now turns on, zooms in an out, takes pictures. Only problem is that I can't take any pictures during the day. For some reason the exposure decided to go off the charts, so if I take a picture when there is any significant amount of sunlight present, it looks like we're on the surface of the sun. Having said that, I'm just happy that I can take pictures again, even if it does have to be either in the late evening or at night. Next problem I noticed (and you also will notice when you see the pictures) is that the lens is all spotty now, and not on the outside where I can clean it. Which has led me to the conclusion that some sort of condensation must have gotten into the camera, which caused the malfunction in the first place. That's what I'm going with anyway.

So, with my camera finally working, I can send you some pictures of our garden. It's doing awesome! Though, last night we discovered a rather unfortunate turn of events. It looks like the neighbors threw a bucket of some kind of liquid over the fence into our garden. My companion's guess is that it was a bucket of hot water. Whatever it was, it pretty much destroyed about half of our Bok Choy and a couple Beetroot plants. We're hoping that they can bounce back from it, but we'll see. Other than that, our potatoes still haven't come up, though if you dig em up they are growing, just excruciatingly slowly. The Tomatoes are pumping, along with the beans. I can't picture myself having a garden back home, but I'm super stoked about having one here. It's cool being able to see the progress every week.
Didn't get much done over the past week. Christmas was good, and there have been heaps upon heaps of townies coming to Kawhia that we've been able to talk to. Though, honestly, nobody really wants us around during the holidays, which I totally understand. Everybody has their families around doing all sorts of stuff, so I'm not too fussed about them not wanting us intruding. Apparently President Rudd is thinking about taking away the Christmas call next year if this week is as unproductive as the week after Christmas was last year. His theory is that calling home gets everyone too home sick so nobody wants to work. I can see where he's coming from, but I don't think home sickness is the issue. Not that it matters to me though, since I won't be here! haha. Sad.
That ought just about ought to do it.

This took AGES to clean out. It's all that devil grass that I told you about. 
We had to till it up three or four times, but when we finished the dirt was B-E-A-utiful. 
Tiny plants
The Tomatoes are on the left with the bamboo. The beans are climbing the thing on the right.
Where we're standing there's still a lot of open space, so we plan on planting a couple rows of sweet potatoes there. Probably today in fact. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

December 15, 2014

It was another good week. Sorry, still no new pictures. I was really cursing the no camera thing this past week though, since a handful of Orcas came into the bay. We were just leaving our flat, and our neighbor told us that the school had gone down to the wharf to see the whales. So of course we went down too. When we showed up you couldn't even see em, since they were on the other side of the bay. After we'd been there for a few minutes, the school decided to go back, but they should've just waited. Not five minutes after that the Orcas came over right next to the docks, then followed the coast down until they went out of the bay. It was pretty awesome to see them up close like that, just chilling out. Apparently they follow the sting rays into the bay for a munch, but it doesn't happen that often, so we got pretty lucky in being able to see them.

We ended up having a cool experience yesterday at church too. A guy showed up that just moved in to town. He reckons he was baptized back in 1961, but stopped going to church shortly thereafter. He's been staying in Wellington and just moved in to Kawhia a few days back. He must have seen the building, because he came in without anybody inviting him. I love that eh. It's only happened a few times, but every time it does, I'm very grateful. It's gotta be one of the best things to work with somebody that made the first step themselves. So many of the people that we work with we have to coax and guide every small step of the way, but every now and again, the Lord has some mercy and give us somebody that is prepared. So, I'm pretty stoked about being able to add another member to the very small mix we have out here in Kawhia.

We've got a mission conference going on tomorrow in Temple View, so we're looking forward to that. Seems crazy that Christmas is almost here. Funny how, back home, Christmas always took ages to come around. Here though it seems to just come and go. It probably has something to do with the fact that there's no snow, and nobody really gets into the whole swing of it, so there's no build up. All good though. It'll be nice to spend it here basking in the beauty of Kawhia.
I think that should just about do it.

 Ka Kite!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 8, 2014

It's finally summer here! It was rainy rainy rainy, then the first day of summer came, and all of a sudden there was not a cloud in the sky. I'm pretty stoked about it. The good weather meant that we were finally able to get some service stuff out of the way that we'd been waiting to do for awhile. That translated into a very tiring week. That's good though. Nothing better than being able to fall asleep quickly at night, as opposed to laying awake for what seems like hours on end, which is what's been happening most frequently as of late. For some reason my body doesn't want very much sleep anymore; I can't sleep till late, and when half five hits in the morning I'm ready to get up. I'm actually hoping that this is a bit of a permanent thing. It's always been one of my minor wishes that I didn't need to sleep much. Seems like Matt is always bragging about how he doesn't need much sleep, and I've always been super jealous, so maybe this is the Matt sleep-is-for-sissies superpower wearing off on me.

The week ended up being about average again, but one of our investigators made it back into town! We were teaching him about six weeks ago, and then one weekend he just up and disappeared. I'd sent him a text or two over the past weeks, but never had a reply. Then Friday we finally got a response; he reckons he was in rehab for the last while, and he was letting us know he had arranged for a ride back to Kawhia. Choice! Last we saw him I had a really good feeling about teaching him, he was pretty set on finally changing his life around. He wanted to follow the example of his cousin that used to be on that same path, but went to church and changed his entire life. So here's to hoping that we can get him started on the straight and narrow.
And lastly, I'm not sure anyone really cares or not, but our garden is looking pretty choice! We were able to get bamboo staked up for the Tomato plants, and we made a fence type of thing next to the Tomatoes for some beans that we planted. Should look awesome once it all grows and weaves through the chain link. Only negative turn of events is that our Corn never grew. No good. I was under the impression that Corn was pretty much guaranteed to grow, but apparently not. No worries though, not like I'll be here to eat any of it anyway.

Well. That's all Folks

Sunday, November 30, 2014

December 1, 2014

This past week was pretty average I reckon. Though, there is certainly nothing wrong with that. In all of my past areas, it was always a little irritating when things didn't go the way that we were wanting them to go, but here, it's pretty much no worries. Which is awesome.

I can't believe it's December! Smokes, the time is going quickly. I'm really happy that I'm still around here. It'll be good to be able to spend Christmas with people that I already know, as opposed to being in a new area and have to be getting to know a whole new batch of people. I guess if there's anything you learn from a mission, it's how to get to know people quickly. I still don't particularly enjoy having to talk to everybody I see, but it's kind of just turned into a part of me now I guess. That's something I'm not sure I realized before coming out here; the fact that we talk with everybody. I'm not sure what I pictured missionary work as before, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't like this in my imagination. It makes me wonder if my people skills have gotten any better. I'm curious if, when I get home, everybody will mention how different I am, or if I'll get back and everybody will mention how I'm exactly the same. Hopefully it's the former.

That's one of the things that I've learned since being out here too, is that it's not just about all of the people that we talk to and how we can change their lives, but it's also about changing my life. Changing who I am. Really just putting me in a differet situation for two years that is designed to modify my behaviour, and really hone me into someone better. I reckon that's probably true for most every calling in the church; you're there to help others, but you're also there to help yourself. Here's to hoping that some of it has worked, eh.

The school here in town is holding a Kapa Haka exposition this week, and we were invited to go around and watch. I'm very happy with all of the things that we get invited to here. Somehow everyone is always really nice, and we actually end up being able to meet a whole heap of people. I can't stress enough how incredible it is to be somewhere where we're not just those weird, tie wearing Mormon boys. We've actually had quite a few people mention to us how impressed they are with what we're doing, even though they're not particularly interested. The Lord knows all, and he's certainly taking care of me.

Sorry there's not a whole lot of mega intersting stuff to talk about, but that's about all I've got.
Ka Kite! Kurt

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24, 2014

Had a good week. I'm not jealous at all of the weather you're enjoying.
It's still been raining most every day, but it's not really all that cold, and it's doing wonders for our garden, so I'm not fussed. I'm actually pretty stoked about our garden. The corn still hasn't come up, so that's slightly concerning, but the rest is doing really well. Got some potatoes planted this week, and the tomatoes have really taken off, as well as all of the silverbeet and bok choy. Too bad I'll probably be gone before any of it comes to fruition. Lucky buggers whoever comes into this flat next. Aside from the garden we've also got oranges, lemons, fiijoas, and peaches. Needless to say, I came in at the wrong time of the year.

Anyways, enough about that.

Being the small town that it is, we seem to get sucked into a lot of what the community is doing, and this past week was no different. The school hosted an athletics competition that included four other schools from the surrounding area and we were able to help out with it. It's been really cool helping with all of the stuff that goes on around here. It's really helped the community to see that we're not just a couple of stiff weird guys that walk around in formal clothes all of the time. I ended up helping with the high jump while my companion took care of the food for most of the day. The day finished off with an adult relay race that I actually ended up running in; in my full attire as well. A shirt and tie isn't the most comfortable thing to run in, but I did well enough, and apparently everybody was very impressed. Must have looked funny seeing the super white guy in church clothes burning it up the track.

Over the weekend we had Herewini Jones come through and it was really awesome, as usual. He held two different meetings at the chapel; one on Friday night and another one on Saturday morning. Friday he covered Whakapapa; he connected the Maori up through the islands and through the U.S., then over to the middle east. He spends a lot of time going through the islands and the states, so he used traditions, names, and all sorts of stuff to show the path that started with Lehi and ended in New Zealand. Then, since pretty much everyone here has some sort of European roots, he also connected the twelve tribes into Great Britain. He dissected the flags from that region and their meanings, then spent loads of time going through the Queen's crest. Turns out it's FULL of symbols coming from the twelve tribes. Never would have guessed. The stuff that really got me though was what he talked about on Saturday.

He taught us about the sacred stones that were placed in Waikato, Easter Island, and some place in Arkansas. Basically, when the Waka first landed, they placed stones on the land. They put a big stone in the middle, with four more stones placed slightly away from the middle stone and marking the four points of the compass, with the entrance to the circle of stones being exactly on the East side. Once they place the stones, they stood in a circle surrounding the middle stone and gave thanks, but also prayed to leave all that had happened in the past behind, and to make this new land one without bad feelings. In essence, they were required to have only good feelings as they stood in the circle, and to leave all bad feelings behind. Apparently there's a Native American tribe that does the same thing every year, but doesn't really understand what it's all about; they just do it because it's tradition. He also spoke about the Haka that the All Blacks do. He reckons it doesn't mean what everybody thinks it means though. He said a while back he was taken to speak with this old woman that wanted to pass on some of her knowledge. She told him that the Haka had been passed down through her ancestors as the original Karanga. A Karanga is a series of calls made when you go onto the Marae (The person calling you in is always a woman, as well). It's how they call you onto the holy ground and invite you into a meeting. She said that this Haka was the original Karanga called in the courts of heaven; the one that was called to begin the meeting that we all had before coming here. How cool is that? Makes me curious how much spiritual knowledge the Maori had. Think about how much you could learn without all of the distractions that we have to deal with today.

While I'm on the subject, I'll mention another interesting thing about their Maraes. The Marae is always built in a very specific way. There's always the main building (pretty sure it's called the Whare Nui) surrounded by an expanse of lawn, and then the outside fence. When you're called onto the Marae, you stand outside the fence, and walk in once the Karanga begins. I can't remember what it's called, but everything outside the fence is where the evil spirits can reside, but once you're inside the Whare Nui, there is only supposed to be good. So as you're called on, you think about your ancestors, but from what I understand you also let go of everything else.
Well. That should just about do it for today.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 17, 2014

So, its nearly summer and I'm a little torn when it comes into this season here. On one hand, it's really awesome to be able to gloat to everyone back home about how sunny and beautiful it is, and send awesome photos of the sun out. While on the other hand, it's really not that cool having Christmas be sunny. Not sure a white Christmas is worth the other months that are needlessly cold in Utah, but I think it gets pretty close to making it worth it.

It's getting close now. Just under three months left, from what I understand (not that I'm counting or anything). For the most part it isn't that much of a distraction in the day to day. Every now and again I'll have a moment of clarity where I realize how long I've been out and how long I have left. Usually though, we stay busy enough so there's not really the time to think about it. When it does get to me though is at night. Whenever I start going to sleep I always end up in this weird spot where my mind wanders free, and currently all it can think about is what's going to happen after the next three months. So annoying. By that point I'm asleep enough that I can't force my thoughts to shut up, but I'm not actually asleep. So I've started on some meditation techniques I learned in Sports Psychology in high school, and they've been working out well enough. Still though, so annoying.

I think I mentioned in my last letter, but transfers are this week. Usually the calls come through today and tomorrow, so I'm praying for no calls. Especially since we've got some awesome stuff coming up in the near future.

Heriwini Jones is coming here this Friday! I've mentioned him before in a few of my letters. He does really powerful talks on Maori Whakapapa, (Whakapapa is the recitation of genealogies or stories which create a base or foundation of meaning for people. As whakapapa can include genealogies or stories about the entire world, whakapapa are ways by which people come into relationship with the world, with people, and with life.) connecting them through the islands and to the Native Americans through the Book of Mormon. He'll be holding three separate meetings; one on Friday night, then one Saturday morning and one Saturday afternoon. We've been handing out flyers for it to our investigators, and the members have been trying to spread them around too, so I'm hoping that we get a good turn out. You never know if people will respond well, but Heriwini always speaks so boldly and the Spirit is always so strong that I'm hoping somebody will be touched by it. Aside from the good that these things always do, I'm really excited to learn some more. The history of this country is so amazing, it makes me wish I could just go around with Heriwini and learn what he learns. For example, I'll give you a bit of history on Kawhia.

Apparently Kawhia was settled by one of the original Waka (canoes) that made it to Aotearoa. The first waka settled on the East Coast of the island, but the second was led by a prophecy to continue to the west side. So they landed on the east and carried the waka across the north island to the west coast. Once there, they sailed down the coast of the island, eventually making it to the bottom of the island. Upon getting there, the leader of the waka knew they had gone too far and had them sail back up, searching all the while for the place that matched the description of a prophesy. When they reached this bay, they knew they were in the right place, so they settled Kawhia. The waka that they came in on is buried in a hillside on the Marae at the end of town. The stones that mark each end are still there, buried in this hill. How cool is that?  Almost on a daily basis I drive past those stones that mark the location of a boat that settled New Zealand. So awesome. The coolest part is that people still know that history. It's not lost or forgotten, but pretty well common knowledge. I find it extremely interesting.
 Anyway! Enough of my carrying on. I hope everybody has a good week.
 Arohanui! Elder O'Neal

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 10, 2014

Mom asked about the sizes of the wards don here and for the most part all of the actual wards I've been to have plenty of people go to them. They usually wait to split wards until they're way overfull, so they are usually able to avoid any problems with being under-attended.

Didn't have the greatest of weeks last week. It wasn't too bad, as far as most things go, but I ended up getting sick. It seems that karma finally caught up with me. In all of my past areas, there's always been at least one time where multiple missionaries have gotten deathly ill around me, and I somehow never caught it. It seems that ever since my really bad sickness in basic training, I have the Hulk of all immune systems. I always made sure to point out with copious amounts of gloating. Then, sometime early on last week, I managed to get a nasty cold that somehow nobody else acquired. Started in my throat, then went to my nose, then spread to my ears, which made it so I couldn't swallow, couldn't smell and or speak correctly, and also couldn't hear anything. I felt like someone stuffed my head with cotton balls. Now it's gone for the most part, all except for a raging headache that it has so lovingly left behind.

The other little tid bit that made it not all that fun happened on Tuesday....
Every Tuesday we have District Meeting at ten, but since we're so far away they don't want us driving in for it, so instead we have to call in. I've tried every single week to get out of it but to no avail. It's really pretty useless, if you ask me. We end up sitting around for an hour trying to decipher the garbled mess that manages to make its way through the speaker phone.

I'd rather just forgo the meeting and get on with the real work. Usually the District Leader calls at five to ten. Ten o'clock came, and we still hadn't had a call. Another five minutes passed, and I decided to seize the opportunity. We had some service planned that day to go help put up a fence on one of the member's farms. So we quickly got changed, and just as we were heading out the door to freedom at around quarter past, the District Leader finally called. Nuts. So close. We usually go across the street to the chapel for the call, since it keeps us from raiding the fridge. So we grabbed our study material and went over so we could have the call. We were sitting in the hall, about ten minutes into District Meeting, and some random guy showed up to check the chapel over. Not sure what his job is, but he wandered around outside for a little while, then came in and started checking through all of the rooms, and spent a load of time in the cleaning closet fiddling with all the chemicals. As he'd walk from room to room he'd give us a stink eye or two, but I didn't really care. Turns out I should have though. He ended up going back later that day and telling President Rudd that his missionaries in Kawhia were "lounging around at the chapel all morning in their P-Day clothes." NO mention whatsoever of us having been on a call. What a legend. We ended up leaving the phone in the car that night, so we missed the call from President. Next morning I go get the phone and have my heart jump into my throat a little seeing it; it is never, ever a good thing when you get a call from President halfway through a transfer. We called him back but he didn't answer, so we ended waiting for his call that finally came on Friday. I wasn't too worried, but my comp was stressing out the whole week thinking he was closing the area or something for some reason.

Anyways. Other than that, everything is good. I still love it here, it's still beautiful, and there's a lot of awesome stuff coming up on the schedule. So long as I stick around and don't get transferred next week. Pray for me..
Arohanui whanau!

Here's a picture of the super awesome sunburn that I got from the Hangi weekend. I've only just now stopped peeling. Needless to say, I have since purchased not only sunscreen, but Aloe Vera gel AND Lotion. I was quite pleased to find they sell Banana Boat products here, what a pleasant surprise.

Monday, November 3, 2014

November 3, 2014

Everything here is pretty much on the same track as before; The weather continues to get better, though still intermittently interrupted with cold, rainy days.

I'm not positive if I mentioned this last year; though I'm pretty sure I did; Halloween in this country is a joke. Not a single house had decorations up, for one thing. I reckon it gets really out of hand back home, but there's always that good middle ground of just enough into the holiday, but not too much. At home, people like to either skirt or totally defy the line between good and way too much, whereas here everyone quietly resides within the "I really don't care about this holiday" zone. There was one group of kids going trick or treating, and out of the eight kids within the group, only one was dressed up, and even then only dismally so. Apparently white pajamas and an afro pass as a costume around here.


Looking on the bright side, Guy Fawkes day is on the fifth, so that'll be cool. I'm not sure on all of the details, but it's a holiday that celebrates some dude trying to blow up parliament (ironically enough, since this is the only time of year when you're allowed to buy fireworks). If the weather holds out (and I pray it does) the town will be holding a (reportedly massive) fireworks display. I remember last year for Guy Fawkes, one of the members bought around $500 worth of fireworks, and we lit 'em all off with him. Then a wee while after that as we were reading through the Missionary Handbook, I noticed a sentence that I had previously somehow never internalized, which mentioned something about how we are not supposed to handle fireworks or explosives of any kind. Whoops. So with that in mind, I will not be handling any this year, but I will be quite pleased at the opportunity to watch a few.

On another note, we finally got most of our garden planted. We still need to put in the potatoes, watermelon, and taro. Which we should be doing this week, along with a few more of the member's gardens. Turns out my companion and I are on a committee with two of the members that are supposed to get everyone in the branch self-sustaining. Apparently I'm the mechanic. I'm totally fine with that, so long as this committee's mechanic is only required to work on single cylinder dirt bikes. Not sure how long that'll pan out for.

I was supposed to have some more pictures to send this week, but I didn't get my hands on them yet, so hopefully next week I'll have em.
 Until then,
 Ka Kite Ano

Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27, 2014

We had an awesome week, and it ended with an awesome weekend! As I mentioned previously, we were commissioned to help with the Gala that was held on Saturday, and the Hangi that was needed to properly feed that masses. I'm not sure if anyone is really all that interested, but I'm going to run through the process for the Hangi. I thought it was awesome!
 First step was making sure the hole was good. Since we were needing to feed at least 200 folks, we ended up with a hole about four and a half feet deep, by about four feet in width and five feet in length. Friday night we prepped all of the meat. Which consisted of Venison, Pork, Wild Pork, 12 full chickens, and Mutton. I honestly have no idea how much there was in weight. Suffice it to say, there was A LOT of meat. Not to mention all of the veggies n such.
 Second step; heat up the stones. Earlier in the week, we had constructed a pretty massive stack of wood, and collected a load of large river rocks. The morning of the Hangi, we had to go out and set the wood on fire, with all of the rocks on top. Turns out it's actually a bit dangerous; since we had lots of new rocks, they like to explode from time to time. For the most part, tiny little bits of the rocks shoot off, but every now and again a whole rock will break into a few different pieces with a bit of a boom.
 Step three. Once the fire burned down to coals, you have to move all of the rocks into the pit. Let me take this moment to clarify. Most times, you make the fire in the pit, but since you don't want all of the coals in there, and our hole was way too deep to dig them out, we made our fire right next to the pit. So, we had to move all of the rocks into the hole, which is quite a bit more difficult than it sounds since most of the are white hot. Standing as far away as I can and moving them in with a shovel it was still way too hot for my face.
 Step four. Once all of the stones were in, we were able to put in the baskets full of meat and so forth. Pretty simple. Only thing is you have to make sure not to scrape the side, otherwise your food is going to be loaded with dirt. Meat goes on the bottom (we did pork n such first, then the chickens, which were all individually wrapped in tin foil) then the veggies, and lastly the stuffing.
 Step five; you gotta cover. First thing they put on is a sheet soaked in water. Pretty much just lay it over the top of the metal baskets and wrap it around the sides. Then you cover that with heaps of burlap sacks that have been soaking in a bucket of water all morning making sure to make them all overlapping without kicking in any dirt. After that, we laid sheets of corrugated steel on the stop, and covered them with heaps of dirt. Last thing they did was dump some water down a corner of the hole and then quickly covered it back up.
 Then all there was to do was wait. You have to keep a keen eye and make sure no steam escapes; if it does, you pile dirt on wherever it's coming from. After about four hours, it was all cooked to perfection. When taking it out you pretty much just do the same steps in reverse, just making sure not to get ANY dirt down in on the food. Ends up making the tastiest feed ever.
 They had been planning on making enough for two hundred people, but made well over 300. So my companion and I ended up with a load of it afterward, not to mention another 50kg of raw meat that they didn't need. Our freezer is full, our fridge is full, and I'm happy.
 It ended up being a blast to help with, and we were able to spend some really good time with all of the locals. I think now they pretty much consider us as part of the Kawhia Whanau.
 Hopefully the pictures work. My camera decided to die on me, so they're all from brother Apiti's camera. Not sure if they'll be too big to send, but I'll try all the same.

This picture is of the wild pork they skinned the day before. 

So on top you have the bags of stuffing and veggies. Then under that the baskets with the chicken, and under that are the bottom baskets with the pork n whatnot. 
The fire with the stones

Monday, October 20, 2014

October 20, 2014

I feel like I've pretty much been on vacation for the last eight weeks and I'm LOVING it, this never needs to end. Man this place is awesome.
Seems to me like there's always stuff that happens throughout the week where I think, "oh! I need to write home about this!" So I take a mental note; which quickly gets lost in the stack of imaginary paperwork within my mind. Maybe I should start taking actual notes. Almost like how I should be keeping a consistent journal every night. Speaking of which, I think I have like thirty entries. Not good.
One of the focuses that we've had since I've been here is on service. Considering that there really aren't that many people, you've got to be creative in what you do. So we've been making sure to serve the community as much as we possibly can. Our focus within that parameter for the last week was on gardens. Because of the First Presidency message about preparation, the branch decided to either get every member a garden, or get their current one up to snuff. I've never done so much gardening in my life, and we haven't even really gotten to working on actually growing anything yet. Turns out that the house we're in has a 10 x 5 meter section in the back for a garden. Only problem being that it hasn't been used in a few years, so it was just a giant weed section (Almost like that spot in the back yard back home where the trailer is now). Worst part though is that it wasn't just regular weeds. It was infested with this incredibly tenacious, vine-like grass. It pretty much looks like crab grass, but the roots are super thick vine things that go surprisingly deep and criss cross in every way imaginable. The things are so evil that if you pull it all out and put it in a big pile, it'll simply root in again and the entire pile will continue to grow. I'm pretty sure I've found the plant of the devil. Basically the first weed that came after the fall. But, with all of that having been said, we're almost through with ours, and should be able to start planting soon enough. Out of all the gardens we've done, ours was the worst. Everyone else's is pretty good, and we're looking set to have some mean veggies in the coming months. Turns out it's warm enough to grow Taro here as well, so I'm pretty stoked about that.
This coming Saturday the town is holding a little fair. My companion and I, one of the members, and one of the local Kaumatua are putting down the Hangi (a cooking pit) so I'll make sure to update you on how that all works. I'm really hoping I can remember how to do it so we can put down a Hangi once I'm back home. Mmmmm. Talk about some tasty food.
Well. That should just about do it.
Ka Kite! Elder Kurt

Monday, October 13, 2014

October 13, 2014

We had transfers this past week, and my companion got moved to Papakura, South Auckland. My new companion is from Tonga! My first Tongan companion. His name is Elder Bourke, which is funny, since that's not Tongan at all. He's the man though. Really good guy, and heaps of fun to have around. I reckon this is the happiest that I've been on the mish, the second best time being when I was in Dinsdale with Elder Ilia about a year ago. Seems crazy to think that I've been out as long as I have. There were also a couple of more old Zone Leaders released at transfers, which shows a pattern that President has of putting his oldies out to pasture. Almost like a "you're about to die, so I'll let you do it quietly somewhere far away" type of thing (which I am totally alright with). I can think of no place I'd rather be than here in little ol Kawhia.

The weather had been getting progressively better, and along with it so have my spirits. The last few days were totally clear and beautiful. Right now is that time when the temps are right perfect, so I've been lapping it up as best I can. We ended up going out to a farm on Friday to put up a bit more fencing. Somehow putting in a few posts and trying to string up the wire ended up taking the entire afternoon, and I got totally fried. Apparently the sun is worse in NZ too, something about the ozone layer I think, so I'm pretty much doomed to either be a lobster for the next few months, or always dripping in sun screen. We'll see what happens. Last summer though was the same thing; my abnormally large forehead stood no chances. I reckon I might start a petition for us to be allowed to wear hats. Like from the super old pictures of missionaries here, when they had hats and fat beards. That'd be mean.

There's not a whole lot really going on, mostly the same old that's been happening for the last six weeks, but I am getting pretty excited for the 25th. We'll be putting down a massive Hangi for some event that the town is doing. Which hopefully means I'll be eating a lot of Hangi that day. Pray for me that it works out that way. That's one thing I want to learn how to do correctly; lay a good Hangi. It's kinda hard to explain, so you'll just have to look it up, but since it's cooked in the ground, it gets a really awesome flavour that I haven't tasted anywhere else. It all depends on if you do it right though. Some people do it in old fridges n stuff, and it doesn't turn out nearly the same. You gotta have the real thing.

Well, I'll see if I can get some pics of me and my new comp sent, but this chapel computer wants to move nothing faster than a snail's pace, so we'll see what happens.

This is out by a little town called Taharoa that's within branch boundaries. We went out there once and the country is beautiful! Not to mention the beach out there too. Hopefully we'll go out again, but it might be a while, since it's over an hour away. 

This was after a round of basketball. My comp is on the left. The one on the right is a non member that comes and plays, and the other two are members from the branch. Not a bad little crew.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

October 6, 2014

We had a smashing week, I reckon. Well, really it was about average, but we had a pretty awesome miracle. I've been here for pretty much six weeks now, and there's still a few people that we're trying to catch. Seems like it never works out though. Right as we're going to their house my companion will see them driving into town, or something along those lines. This past week though we were finally able to catch one of these individuals. We went out to his house on Friday, but upon arriving and seeing no cars, we assumed that he wasn't around. I started to turn around, but was told to stop since the member that was with us wanted to go talk to his sister that lives just next door. Only a moment after he left a guy came down to our car, and my companion got super excited. Turns out it was the guy that we'd initially come for. Apparently his partner (Oh I dislike that term, but that's what everyone says here. Makes me think of some really cheesy marriage vow or something, "and my partner in crime." Yuck. But it's been so long since I've heard anything else I honestly don't know what else it'd be called. All you need to know is that if it's a partner, you know they're not married) Anyway. His partner had left him a few weeks back, so his life had gone crazy. Somehow she managed to take all three cars and bounced to who knows where. We had a good chat with him, and were able to get into talking about the gospel. Turns out he's been praying every night, and has been seeing answers to his prayers. He ended up coming to church yesterday and loved it. Funny how everything turns out too, since we were on the lesson about the Atonement in Sunday School. He paid attention through the whole thing, and said he really enjoyed it. Afterward he mentioned how he felt a really good vibe, and that he'll for sure be back next week.
It seems like things always go pretty mediocre, then out of nowhere something really awesome will happen. It feels really good to be somewhere that's so small, and still be able to do just as much work as any of the big cities I've been in. For some reason Kawhia just has a really good spirit, and I reckon I've never been happier.  Elder Kurt

With my current companion in Kawhia

Monday, September 29, 2014

September 29, 2014

I had some good news this past week. When I left Rotorua we had a father and his boys set for baptism, and it went through! Just stinks that I wasn't able to be there for it. Seems like every time that I find someone that's really awesome, and they get set for baptism, I get transferred out shortly there after. No good. Also had some pretty bad news recently too. Turns out one of the guys from my first area didn't make it to baptism. He was the man too. When I was there we were teaching him three times a week, and within about four months he'd almost finished the Book of Mormon. After I left he just kept going strong, going to church every week, always participating in class, just really on to it. He had to wait to be baptized until August, since he was on probation. August came and went without him being baptized, and now he's got a girlfriend and doesn't attend anymore. It crushed me just a little bit to see someone that I spent so much time with, and saw get so far, end up not making it through. Who knows. There's always more time.

Well. Had a pretty decent week here in Kawhia. I keep getting reminded over and over again how much fun it is to no longer be in leadership. We were out for a run on the beach the other day and it hit me again how happy I am here. Nothing like a jog on a never ending and totally deserted beach to help me realize that I pretty much don't have a care in the world right now. So good. My dream is that I get one more super awesome companion, and finish up here.

We had a really good experience with a non member family a few days back as well. We went with one of the members to follow up with a girl that's in the family. She'd previously been set for baptism, but had gone to Aussie for ages so it fell through. I didn't know any of the family, so I was pretty much just following the lead of my comp and the member. We sat down and they started talking about if the girl could be baptized, etc.. The Mum had a few concerns, and as I sat listening I could see it all going dangerously close to becoming a sales session. She raises concerns about why she isn't totally alright with her daughter being baptized, then the other two respond with this and that in an attempt to quickly resolve the matter and get this girl set for baptism. That's not at all my style. I'm not at all cool with baptizing someone who has no family support. I've seen it done and it never seems to work out. So instead of focusing on her daughter, I changed up the convo and ended up teaching the mum. Turns out she doesn't understand a whole lot of anything about us. For starters she was under the impression that the Book of Mormon was our bible, and not an additional bit of scripture to go hand in hand with the Bible. I shared a bit from 2 Nephi 29 (not the "thou fool" part, but the part about a testimony of two nations). Once she understood a bit more about our scriptures, I focused on the part from 2 Nephi 29:9 about God being the same, and tied it into the restoration. It's hard to explain, but man was it awesome. By the time we left she asked us to leave a copy of the Book of Mormon, because she wants to read it, and her attitude was totally different. I don't have any idea if she's start to seriously investigate the gospel, but for that moment, she knew she'd felt something. It's always amazing to watch the Spirit work.

Well, I hope it all made sense. If not, say a prayer and maybe the Spirit will help you.
Ka Kite!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 22, 2014

It's done nothing but rain buckets everyday for the past week, which translates into this place being so indescribably green that it feels like I'm living on a giant green Crayola. Couple that with the beautiful blue ocean / bay area and my mind is sufficiently blown. Not sure how it's going to be returning to a desert n stuff. I may have to move to Cali. Or not, since Cali is yuck.
On another note. We had stake conference over the weekend, and it ended up being really awesome. The talks weren't extraordinary or anything, but within the Temple View stake is Cambridge. Which meant that I got to see some of my old peeps from C-town! I was pretty stoked. Even though I've been away from Cambridge for over a year now, it's still the place I feel most at home. It's the area that I've kept decent tabs on ever since I left. Everywhere else was awesome too, but that first six months there made it my home away from home. The only thing that stunk a bit about having conference was that it was held in Hamilton. The adult session on Saturday was in Temple View, and the Sunday session was at my old chapel in Dinsdale. In order to get to either of those places we have to take an hour long drive through super curvy, tight roads that go up through the "mountains" between here and there. Through the windies, this corolla's got me thinking "see what I mean about the shocks?" (I reckon Burke should catch that quote). Not to mention that on the way back on Saturday night it was an absolute deluge, which made it even more sketchy since the hills like to wash out onto the road. Had to dodge a couple of new dirt piles around a few corners.
Time seems to be flying by here. Seems like I just showed up, and now transfers are just around the corner again. Funny how fast time goes by once you click into pretty much the same routine everyday.
I hope everything's going sweet back home. Everybody better be good.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

September 15, 2014

You're having rain too? Good, that means you understand my misery. It's done nothing but rain every day since I got here, pretty sure. But it's all good. The rain just means that spring is right around the corner.

We spent most of the past week doing service for people. Well, what little we could get done before getting rained out each day. One of the days, we were able to clear a decent section of this guy's fence line. He'd chopped out a giant hedge, and there was loads of stuff left all over the ground, not to mention a bunch of new stuff growing in now that there was fresh dirt. Took us about four hours to get it all done, and afterward the guy was really happy about it. I have no idea who he is, but we've now got a friend just around the corner. Certainly doesn't hurt to have friends in a tiny little town such as this.

I've been able to work out heaps since coming here as well, which is exactly what I wanted. I don't think I've used morning exercise time since my first three weeks out. Then I started just getting up and getting ready, because I am far too un-motivated to be working out hundy as right after I wake up. BUT. This place is changing me. I was hoping to have an area for the last few months in which I would have the motivation to work out, and now I've got it. We've been exercising most every morning with some of the community, and as much as I'd rather just shower and chill out instead, it's been good. Not to mention it's a really handy way to get to know people. And since we've been doing that I've gotten quite a bit more motivated in general, and have been working out every other available time of the day that I can. Needless to say, I'm pretty stoked that I'll be getting back as fit, if not more fit, than when I left. As opposed to the much dreaded come back fat kind of guy. I think I put on about 20 lbs in the MTC, and have since lost it all and gotten back to where I was. Word of advice for those going out in the near future, the MTC cafeteria is a trap. Don't do it! Just go easy on it!

This coming week we're pretty much looking at the same as last; service, service, and more service. Which I am totally alright with. Should be sweet!

Monday, September 8, 2014

September 8, 2014

Had a pretty decent past week.

So far it hasn't been all that beautiful of weather here. It's mostly overcast with periodic rain fall. Though, it is spring here so what did I expect eh?

The way we go about stuff here is so much different from anywhere else I've served. Some of it is because it works better, and a bit is because there hasn't ever been missionaries stationed here before, so there's a bit of growing pains in helping the members understand how to go about things.
Had and interesting experience this past week with one of the members. We got a text saying that he was waiting for us at the school, so we cruised over, thinking that he must have some sort of teaching appointment set up. I followed my comp into the room that he was in and instantly regretted it. Turns out that it was some sort of financial literacy seminar that BNZ (Bank of New Zealand) was hosting. It was too late to turn back though, so we took a seat. I'm not really sure why, but man was I angry. We had to sit for an hour while this lady talked about a bunch of super simple stuff that I still remember from high school.  Not cool. Then after she finished and started cleaning up, our member speaks up about how good of a class it was, but while we're learning about the temporal, we need to learn about the spiritual as well. Then he turns to us and goes, "well, you got three minutes." What? That is not the way to try to share the gospel. Not to mention we're in a totally inappropriate setting, but I was still seeing a bit of red, and was in no condition to start teaching people that we have a loving heavenly father. Turns out the lady teaching is from a place called Te Kuiti, and is already talking to the missionaries there. Thank goodness. I don't know. Maybe I should always be prepared to preach in every single situation. But it seems to me like there's the right time, and not the right time, and that was one of those not the right time moments.

Aside from that, I'm working on getting people out of the pamphlet mentality. They seem to have this mindset where all they do is give out pamphlets, then never discuss them. We went to a guy's house yesterday, and instead of discussing the last pamphlet that we shared, they wanted to go straight to handing him another one and then leaving. Eh? It's been really eye opening to see the different levels of ability in missionary work. One thing about being a zone leader was that you're paired up with another zone leader, and for the most part, zone leaders are fairly well versed in how to teach. It's been interesting going from a situation in which my companion and I teach effectively together, to being back with an islander that's still struggling a bit with English, let alone explaining the doctrines of the kingdom effectively.

Anyway, I hope that all made sense. Just goes to show that's there's a whole lot more in this than it appears on the surface.

Other than that, we've done a heap of service. Even went out to a farm the other day and helped do some fencing. I think we're going back out this week too. Should be good.
Ka Kite! Elder O'Neal

Had an interesting discovery yesterday at church. A few months back I got a new set of pocket sized military scriptures. I've been using them for my church scriptures ever since, but somehow never had to use anything from 3 Nephi 6 - Mormon. Otherwise I would have previously discovered that my copy doesn't have anything between 3 Nephi 6 and Mormon. Not to mention the duplicate books...

Sunday, August 31, 2014

September 1, 2014

Life here in Kawhia, is AWESOME! It's so awesome I could die! (read in voice of little girl from Despicable Me)

This place reminds me of Alton, but flip flopped; Alton was mostly members, and Kawhia is mostly non-members. The branch here consists of about 15 people, including us. There's a surprising amount of work to do though. Their goal for baptisms this year is three. They've already had two, and there are two more that are preparing to be baptized.

My companion is another Samoan! Elder Sagato (pronounced Sangato). Feels good to be with a Samoan again. Though, unfortunately there are no Samoan families in the branch, so I can't utilize him for massive islander feeds all of the time. All good though, he's the man. Really good guy, and super bold in the work. It makes things a little more exciting when your companion isn't afraid to say it straight. For some odd reason people are never offended by him so go hard eh.

So far I've been able to see pretty much the whole town, though I don't have the streets down pat yet, but it shouldn't take too long. Work here is quite a bit different that everywhere else I reckon. Since everybody knows everybody, and the last thing that we want to do is offend one person and have the whole town hate us, we mostly work through our branch mission leader. He's the man too. Guy knows everyone in town and their story, and isn't afraid to share the gospel. With that in mind, he comes around with us and takes us to all sorts of houses and we have short visits. For the most part he does the talking, but we get introduced and usually an invite to come back. How awesome is that? Finally I'm somewhere where a member does the finding; so refreshing.

Apparently I'm partly here because of one of my past companions. Remember Elder Moore? I was with him two transfers ago, at which point he became one of the new Assistants to the President. While we were together I was talking about how I'd love to get moved into the middle of nowhere in a little branch with just me and my companion- just be somewhere where we can do the work and not have to worry about anybody else. Apparently President brought my name up when they were doing transfer planning and Elder Moore took the opportunity to let him know my dream. Turns out that one of the Elders who had been here just finished, so there was a vacancy. Easy as pie, and now here I am. Pretty sure Elder Moore is now my most favorite person. It feels good to not have to worry about a zone anymore. We don't know anything but what happens within our beautiful little bubble, which is fine by me.

Other than that, I've got a few pictures to send here shortly, so that you can all enjoy the Oasis in which I reside.
Arohanui! Elder O'Neal

A view from a lookout over the bay. Not sure if you can see Kawhia but it's on the right side of the bay pretty near the end.

According to local Maori legend, passed down through the local Kaumatua (Elders), Christ came and prayed below this tree upon his visit to the isles of the sea. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

August 25, 2014

We've got transfers this week, but we haven't gotten a call yet, so we'll see whether one of us gets moved or not. I'm not too fussed though. Whatever happens, happens. The weather's been getting better, and for the most part it's been sunny and clear. Though, one of the days last week it rained so hard in the morning that heaps of streets got completely flooded. Flooded to the point that the cops were blocking streets off and crews had to come in and try to clear everything up. There's a high school not too far from our flat, and the Rugby fields all looked like giant lakes. Picture those massive fields by the movie theater in Payson, with half a foot of water on 'em. Crazy stuff. Makes me wonder if that's why nobody has basements in this country. Heck, hardly anybody has second floors either. I reckon the houses in Utah are going to seem massive by the time I get back.

We managed to have an awesome week, as far as teaching lessons is concerned. It feels good to have so much to do that we never end up with dead time. Most of the leadership in our ward just got changed around. New bishopric, new elders quorum presidency, new relief society presidency, new young womens, and the high priests group is getting shifted around in the next week or two since the group leader is moving into the other ward. With all of that, the work has improved quite a bit. Funny how people seem to get re-motivated once new leadership comes in. It goes along the lines of why we're moved so much as missionaries, I reckon. If we stay in one area too long, we get a little stagnate, and the members get complacent. Keep stuff moving and people going here and there, then people seem more prone to keep working.

My companion and I had a weird thing happen this past week where we were both afflicted with really achy muscles. He had been complaining about his shoulder hurting all morning, but he's a bit of a sook sometimes, so I didn't give it much thought. Then that night, I did some pull ups, and afterwards my arms ached so much I couldn't hardly think straight. Not sure what happened, but my arms were sweet the next morning until I cranked some push ups. Then my shoulders ached all morning. So either I'm receiving divine retribution for not paying attention to my comp when he was in pain, or there's some weird sickness going around. Wouldn't be surprised if it was the latter. There's been a flu going around to everybody. All of the missionaries have gotten sick with it except for me. It seems as though ever since I almost died in Basic Training, my immune system now resembles that of Hercules. People get deadly sick all of the time, but all I ever have to deal with is a stuffy nose. Probably ought to knock on some wood, but I'll just leave it and see what happens.

Well, that should just about do it. We got heaps of missionaries coming in from the zone today, since a few are finishing and going to Hamilton, so I'm hoping with all the bodies we'll go play some rugby or something. Hopefully it ends up as that and not stinkin volley ball. Who knew, but islanders absolutely love volley ball. Weird eh.
 Arohanui toku whanau!

P.S. Just got the call! I'm getting transferred to Kawhia. It's a tiny little coastal town in the Temple View zone. Won't be a zone leader anymore, which should be good. I'm pretty pumped! Can't wait till Thursday when I can get there and start loving the ocean again!

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18, 2014

We had some really good things happen over the past week, one of which was that we have another guy set for baptism! It was pretty much out of left field, but I'm pretty stoked about it. He had been taught by missionaries previously, and had even been set for baptism, but wasn't quite prepared at the time. We went around for our first visit with him a few days back, and my companion ended up setting him to be baptized mid next month. What was really cool about it though was that he didn't hesitate with his response. He accepted, and then talked about how he hadn't been ready before, but is now. It makes me a little nervous setting someone for baptism that I don't really know much about, but if he reckons he's ready, then I'm not about to stop that. He seems pretty solid though. He committed himself to coming to church before we even asked him, so it's good to know that he understands the importance of it. We'll just have to wait and see if I stick around or not through transfers next week. I'm hoping I do. It's good to be able to stay in an area for a while. At least for me. Some missionaries love it when they move around heaps, but one of my favorite things is having friends in every area, and that takes time.

Today for our P-Day activity we went to a zoo on the outside of town. For the most part it was pretty lame. The coolest thing they had were wallabies. But other than that it was mostly just an over-sized petting zoo. At the end though, they have a giant lion pen. The cool part was that it isn't a pit, which is how it usually seems to work out; instead it's just a super tall fence with some electric lines on the inside. When we first showed up, the lions were all just chilling out, but after a bit a few of the females came over to the fence, and would run with us up and down the fence line. It was pretty cool running next to a massive lion. They seemed so tame. Makes me wonder how quickly they'd rip me up if I had somehow gotten into the pen. Definitely not something I ever want to test out.
Well, that should just about do it.

Arohanui toku whanau!

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014

We didn't have a super eventful past week. It was certainly did have a lot of ups and downs though. Makes me think of "for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction." Been pretty much living by that for the past week. We'll have something awesome happen, and then right afterwards something not so awesome will happen. I reckon the toughest part about the past week was that we lost one of the couples we were working with.

They're an awesome young couple. Heaps of fun to go around and teach em. They were always super interested in what we were talking about, and they were really started to change. You could see the happiness come into their lives and watch em change. Then bam, they started to dodge us. All of a sudden they never had time for us, but in a really suss way. Can't even describe how demoralizing it was eh. I think it's the first time that I've had an established relationship with someone, and then have them start avoiding us. Not fun at all.

On a brighter note though, the father and son we have set for baptism are doing awesome! We got a little bit nervous since we hadn't seen them throughout the week, and they didn't show up to church. So yesterday afternoon we went around to their home and were able to spend some time with em. Turns out they hadn't been able to attend because he'd been looking after one of his mates kids as well as his own. It was really good to see that they're still on track. I'm really hoping that I stick around long enough  to see them enter the waters of baptism, and change their lives around. Pretty much all I want is to see a family start on the straight and narrow, stick to it, and have their lives changed from doing so. I'm hoping this will be one of those families.

Other than that, we went out to see a couple of the lakes that are around here today. They're called the green and blue lakes. Pretty cool scenery, but I still miss Taranaki and the ocean. All good though. Every area has it's positives. This area's is it's copious number of lakes.

Monday, August 4, 2014

August 4, 2014

Oh what a mixture of ups and downs over the past week.

We had a good start on Monday, but then a huge gap during the week. Tuesday ended up being extremely busy. We traveled to Tokoroa in the morning and attended the District meeting there, then had to come back and go straight to a tire place for the car. Had about an hour for lunch, picked up the car, and spent the next hour at a podiatrist for my companion (an appointment in which they didn't find what was wrong and referred him to a GP). Oi. Then that night we attended a Book of Mormon class with some of our investigators and that was it. We somehow managed to finish a day without teaching a single lesson. Then since my companion was invited to the Polynesian conference, I spent Wednesday in two separate areas and ended up getting nothing done in our area. Thursday I spent the day in our area with another missionary. Our car was due for a Warrant of Fitness, so we brought it in and walked to a few homes that were relatively close by, thinking that it would only take about thirty minutes. An hour and zero teaching opportunities later, the place called to say that the car wasn't due for a service.. Apparently they had checked it in as a service on the car and not as a Warrant of Fitness inspection. So, we cleared that up and they got it in line for the inspection. We continued working and ended up back on the edge of town, when we decided that we'd just go have lunch at McD's, since it was close to the dealership, the car would get finished and we'd already be in that part of town. Turns out that McD's is thirty minutes past the dealership; but all good, since we'll be picking up the car afterwards and it'll all work out. Halfway through lunch they call to say that it needs one new tire, and they don't have it, so we can't get the car until tomorrow. The really stinky part is that we had already brought the car into the tire shop on Tuesday and they'd replaced two of the tires and said the rest were fine. Not cool. So, still car-less, we made the hour walk back to where we needed to be. We had just made it to the flat when the dealership called to say that the car was ready for pick-up. Really? You've got to be kidding me. We got lucky though, and a member gave us a ride over to get it back. All said and done though, we had spent most of the day walking and getting nothing done. That night ended up pretty useless too, since we had to drive to Taupo, which is an hour away, and exchange back companions. So two hours in the evening were spent doing that. So, by the time Friday came around we had been able to do almost nothing. Which meant that we spent the next few days scrambling to make up for lost time. All in all though, we were able to finish the week on a good note. We're still working with some awesome people, and this week is shaping up to be much better than the last.

Someone told me that it's spring here now too. Not sure how true it is, but it has been quite a bit warmer the last few days. I hope they're right, because I'm ready for some warm weather again.
 Kaumatua O'Neal

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28, 2014

What a good week we had! Last Sunday, a nonmember family walked into the chapel. We were able to get their details and started going around to teach them. We saw them a few times this past week and they're awesome. The oldest boy, who's twelve years old, was able to attend youth night and he loved it! So he'll be going again this week. From what I hear the fellowship that night was really good, and hopefully he walked out with a couple more friends. We were able to go around and see them on Friday. We weren't sure if we were going to be able to have a lesson or not with them, but it ended up working out really well. We taught them about the Plan of Salvation, and at the end were able to set them for baptism! So cool! It feels good to have a family that wants to hear the gospel and change their lives. It seems like so much of the time we're trying to inspire the desire, but this time around, the desire was already there, and we're just being the guides to a better life. I wish it happened like this all the time. They made it to church again yesterday, and they said they enjoyed it; which I was nervous about, since they had to leave after sacrament, and the best part of church for kids is the classes. At least, I remember how boring sacrament was to me growing up, but these kids liked it. They even like singing hymns. What's that all about? I reckon it's pretty awesome.

We've been enjoying good weather as well. For pretty much the entire last week it was sunny and clear every single day. It's usually about 15 degrees C. (or about 60 degrees F.), and as long as the wind isn't blowing it's perfect for walking around in. Only problem is at night when we're walking around, it's ends up way too cold. Makes me nervous too think about how I'm probably a huge wimp now with weather, since it's usually pretty awesome here so long as it's not raining. Then when it's time to go home next year it'll be mid Feb. None too excited about that.

For the coming week there's a cool conference going on.. if you're Polynesian. Talk about a racist conference. haha. Heriwini Jones is doing a mission conference for all of the Islanders in the mission. So on Wednesday, my companion will leave with a few other missionaries from the zone for Hamilton. I'll stick around with some of the other Elders here in Rotorua until they get back in the late afternoon. The first conference kind of like this was a super secretive Sisters one a while back. Where's my pakeha (white boys) conference? Or an Elders conference? Won't happen eh, look at how picked on I am.. Nah. All good. I just thought it was funny. The first reaction from all of the pakeha missionaries in the zone was, "well that's racist." I'm mostly just sad because I love learning about the history of the islands. Especially as it pertains to New Zealand. Folks seem to really respect when you know about their whakapapa, and when you can speak te reo Maori. Which is why I've been working on learning both.

Well, that should just about do it for this week.
 Ka Kite Ano!
  Kaumatua O'Neal

Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21, 2014

Transfers were this past week, and I got a new companion now. Elder Moore got called to be one of the new Assistants, so I'm now with Elder Sharma. Funny thing is that the three of us came out at the same time. It's interesting to be companions with people that I was with in the MTC. It keeps bringing back memories of the MTC, and making me realize how long I've actually been out. Crazy stuff. Elder Sharma is a Fijian Indian. Which basically means that his grandparents moved to Fiji from India, and he's really not Fijian at all. He's good though. Since he came in we've seen an explosion in the work. Not sure if it's because he's here and he has an exceedingly great amount of faith or what, but it's been pretty awesome.

Yesterday at church, right after we finished teaching the gospel principles class, one of our investigators came to talk to us. He's an older man, in his mid 60s I think, and he's been investigating the gospel for over 20 years now. Elder Moore and I had gone around once right when I first got into the area, but ever since then he's been really busy and hasn't been able to meet with us. Come to find out, he was working on something at his house and had a really powerful moment of clarity. He said he felt something really strongly, and knew that he had to be baptized. Then not too long after that, he was with a couple of his mokos (grandchildren) and had the same feeling and thought that he needed to be baptized. So he approached us after class, told us the story, and said that he's ready to be baptized. How awesome is that? He's been to Church almost every Sunday for many years, doesn't have any concerns with commandments, and finally received his answer. If I somehow manage to stuff this one up, I think I'll just turn my badge in and announce my resignation.  We'll be seeing him this Wednesday, and hopefully be having a baptism within the next few weeks. Time for some fervent prayer eh.

Aside from that, we were able to find a handful of new people to teach that pretty much just dropped out of the sky. We were given an assignment to give a blessing to a lady that lives in our area Saturday night. Turns out she's a non-member whose family are mostly members. We ended up teaching her and her husband about the restoration and bam, two new investigators. Then at Church we had bishop pull us out of class to introduce us to a man and his family that just walked into the building because he wants to learn about Jesus Christ and be baptized. Bam, four new investigators. Then after Church one of the missionaries for the other ward called us to see where a certain street was and if it was in his or our area. A man had attended their ward and said that he was thinking about baptism. He said he'd been taught before and gave the missionaries his address. Wanna guess where the street is? In our area, right around the corner from our flat in fact. Bam, another investigator. What a weekend it turned out to be.

I'm hoping to have another smashing week this week, and I'm praying the weather keeps holding out. Haven't had rain since Wednesday or something, and it's been awesome. Still cold, but at least it's not wet.
 Love ya!
  Ka Kite Ano!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 14, 2014

Just got the pictures from the family reunion. Oi. Talk about missing out. Nobody could wait to have fun with me. I see how it is. You should have taken a picture where everyone looked sad, holding a cardboard cut out of me, just crying since I couldn't be there. Then just left it at that. But no, turns out that, contrary to popular belief, people can have fun when I'm not around. Don't worry, next time will be way more awesome, and then everybody will realize how much fun they didn't have at this last one.

Also, so awesome to see my new nephew! I reckon by the time I get back I'm not even going to know half of the family. But it's always really cool to be able to tell people how big and awesome my family is. I do find a bit of pride in ya'll.

Had the rainiest week so far of the mission, and apparently it's only going to get worse as some massive storms works it's way down the island. I was on exchange Saturday, and we ended up walking two hours to the chapel as the rain came flooding down. Never been so drenched in my life. There's something weird with the rain here too. For some odd reason it puts yellow stains on our white shirts wherever it dries, so hopefully that comes out. Not sure if it's a New Zealand rain thing, or if it always happens that way and I've just never been in the rain in a white shirt before, either way, pray that it doesn't stay stained, because I'm about to be running out of white shirts really quickly otherwise.

We haven't had any baptisms yet in this area, but the rest of the zone has been picking up. We've had a baptism almost every weekend since I got here, and there were three for three different sets of missionaries on Saturday. Being the zone leaders we try to attend as many as we can to show our support, and to also see how the services are going; in order to take good things that happened and implement them in other services, or see where we can improve. Since we were on exchange my companion attended the first baptism that happened, I attended the second, and then we exchanged back and both went to the third. It was a really cool experience being able to be somewhere where the Spirit is so strong twice in one day. One thing that I noticed really helped was something that the Sisters did at their baptism. There's always that little period of time after the baptism when the people are getting changed, and most often it's just dead time, where people are standing around chatting. As a mission we've been trying to capitalize on that time period, and the Sisters did an excellent job. Instead of milling around, they got everyone quickly back into the chapel as another set of sister missionaries were singing a hymn. They then quickly taught the message of the Restoration, and showed a short Mormon Message on it as well. The difference in Spirit between that service, and the earlier one in which the missionaries hadn't done anything in that gap time, was absolutely noticeable. I couldn't believe it. It really got me to thinking about how my baptisms have been in the past, and if I have ever taken full advantage of that time. Probably not. But now I know to do better in the future, eh? When you think about it, a baptism may be the only time that a non member steps into the building or hears anything about the gospel. We may as well pounce on the opportunity and share a powerful message while there's the powerful Spirit that attends a baptism.

We'll hopefully be going to a Maori thermal village today to get to see some cool geysers 'n such. Should be sweet.
 Love ya!
 Ka Kite Ano!

Monday, July 7, 2014

July 7, 2014

God got a new volleyball.

We've been running a sports night every Friday night and it's been awesome. We usually have volleyball and table tennis set up inside, then there'll be a few folks outside playing basketball. We usually have a turnout of around 50 or 60 people, and it's proved really useful in getting the members to fellowship our investigators. The only problem we've been running into is that the member that usually brings the volleyball net and ball hasn't been coming, so we've been using a tennis net that was in the flat, and a really hard volleyball. I'm not sure how nice the ball is; supposedly it's a pretty nice ball, but it's so hard that it hurts to play with. So Friday we get a genius idea to go buy a new Volleyball. So the ten missionaries that're here in Rotorua chipped in five bucks apiece and we were able to go get a pretty nice $50 ball. Sports night ended up being pretty empty, but we still had enough people to play a good game, and two guys came in that live in our area, so we ended up with two new investigators (which I'm not about to complain about). Of course, nothing ever goes perfectly. The ceiling in the cultural hall where we play is probably about 30ft tall. Not too bad. It's not a regular ceiling though. Instead of the tiles like what we have back home, it has big rectangular foam tiles. Probably about 2x4 ft. Every now and again a ball will get smacked up into the ceiling and a tile will get popped out. So right now there's three rather large gaps in the ceiling where said tiles got knocked from. About an hour into our sports night, one of the more uncoordinated members served the ball a little too hard, and it went straight through one of those gaps never to return. We were so gutted! We buy a brand new ball and bam-goes up there never to return. The only way to get it back would be to get one of those lift machines or a REALLY tall ladder (which isn't about to happen). Can't even climb up into the rafters or anything because for some odd reason they put in the ceiling without using any. All I can come up with is that missionaries in the spirit world were having a sports night too, and unfortunately there's no Rebel Sports up there.

We really struggled being able to get teaching appointments over the past few days, but we've still been able to make progress. We got a new bishop in a few weeks back, and it seems to me like it's pushed the ward to do a little bit more. So we were able to have members come out with us four times over the past week. That was a step up from zero, so I was pretty stoked. The only problem is that it's all the same group of members that's stepping up to the plate. Seems as though there's always the ones that respond, and the rest just get worse. Not usually much middle ground with it, just both ends of the extreme.

My Maori has been getting better! We went to one of the flats in the zone, and they had a te reo Maori book in there from one of the past missionaries. Brand new too! It doesn't look like anyone ever even touched it. So I've been studying that in my off time, and been reading heaps more of Ki Te Pukapuka A Moromona. It's awesome! Nothing beats the feeling of having the Spirit working to help you learn. I'm pretty happy that I didn't have to learn a mission language though. I can only imagine how rough the first few months must be of not knowing what in the world is going on around you.

Still loving it here! Just a bit cold. Pretty sad I'm the one missing from the family photo, but all good.
 Love Ya!

Monday, June 30, 2014

photos from Taranaki

I can't remember if I've sent any of these pictures already, but here they are just in case. Pretty much all from Taranaki. Man I miss that place.
BTW. That's Derek Stubbings. One of the guys that I really miss from there. That's from when I told him I was leaving. He used to be in the Mongrel Mob for ages, and hadn't been to church in about 15 years. He thanked me heaps for "helping him to break out of his shell." Just kept thanking me again and again for helping him come back to church. He was awesome. Apparently he didn't like most of the missionaries that came through, but for some odd reason he really liked me and good ol Pete Johnson. 

This is Elder Glines. He's my "Shadow." He came out exactly a year behind me, and he also has an unhealthy obsession with dirt bikes. Pretty much the only missionary I've met that I can totally relate with.

June 30, 2014

I've been goin' crazy the last few days! One of the news rules that came out was with music. We're pretty much only allowed to listen to hymns, or things off the church website; which isn't too bad. The worst part is that we're no longer able to listen to anything at all in the car. We didn't usually listen to just music very much, but it'd always be playing in the background, and if a good song came on we'd turn it up and have a listen. Now it's either talking or dead silence. It's been rough. Well, not that rough, but still, you get attached to little things like that, and then it's gone and you're left with dead space. Not to mention MoTab starts to drive me nuts when it's all you have to listen to day in and day out.

We had a pretty decent past week. Not the best ever or anything, but certainly better than the week previous. I'm super pumped about the couples that we've been teaching. Usually we don't seem to come by a keen couple; more often than not one of them is interested, and the "partner" isn't, but somehow we managed to find two couples that are both really keen on learning about the gospel. So awesome! One of the couples, Steve and Lia, really brought to mind where we're told be be child-like. For everything that we've taught so far, they're always just blown away. We teach them that they have a loving Heavenly Father (or the one that I really enjoy, Atua Ora Tonu, which means Eternal Father) and that you can talk to him through prayer and they were both so amazed. As we were leaving Lia was talking about how she couldn't wait to pray and be able to get answers back. How awesome is that? Not only that but they always mention how when we come over they can feel the Wairua hard out. Last time they told us they were having a bad day and then we showed up and they just got happy and everything got warmer. So cool!

Had another cool experience this past week where I used a little bit of the Maori that I've sussed out. We went over to see one of our LA(less-active) members (Peter), and he ended being outside chilling with one of his mates. He's always really nice to us and down for a chat, but his mates don't usually hang around for long. We talked for awhile and the korero (conversation) lead in perfectly to the Gospel. I told em about te Atua Ora Tonu, na te Tama o te Atua, na te Wairua Tapu (which is the Eternal Father and the Son of God and Holy Spirit) and how the best way to know if what we're talking about is true is through the Wairua. Then once we receive our answer we must Whakarongo ki te Wairua Tapu, which means "hearken to the Holy Spirit," and they thought it was mean az that I knew some Te Reo (which they refer to it as, even though it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, since it just means the language. All good though.) Turns out they really respect pakehas that can or at least try to speak te reo, and they thought it was awesome that I'm trying to learn. Such a cool experience. Now the other guys that live at the house don't disrespect us as much, and they'll even talk to us if we see 'em on the street.
 Well, probably about time to go get something else done.

This is before the Luge. Those little black carts are what you ride down. I can't remember what the other guy's name is, but he's a member out of Hamilton.
This is from a few weeks back, right before we hopped on the zip line. The dude in red is Jordi, and the other one is my comp, Elder Moore
This is right after the zip line. You hook onto a deal up in the trees and jump off. It was pretty mean.

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 23, 2014

Veggies ruin everything.
My companion got some gumbo mix stuff from his parents a few weeks back, and the stuff is awesome. We made our first batch of it two weeks ago and it was delicious. One of those things where I was stoked to go eat back at the flat because I was about to be munching some gumbo. Then we made some this past Friday and put in some mixed veggies. Not heaps, just a little bit. Worst, idea, ever. There was probably about a handful of veggies in the mix and they took over the whole flavor. Not cool. At least we know now to never desecrate the gumbo with mixed veggies again.
This past week was a struggle, as far as lessons go. We were able to teach a few really awesome lessons, but we had to work hard to get that to happen. It seems as though most of the places we go to, nobody is home or they're too busy. This equates to us walking all over town and never feeling like we're getting anything done. Thankfully Saturday and Sunday ended up being pretty good, so they redeemed us from the dismal week. Hopefully we'll have some better luck in the coming weeks and be able to not only get more teaching in, but some more investigators as well, since right now we only have six investigators. However, there's two families that make up those six. This is the first time on the mission that I've been able to teach a family, let alone two.

To add to the struggle that it was to get into homes, we also got some more rules. When President Rudd first came in he was all about using the existing rules coupled with wisdom. Turns out he's now aware that most of the mission probably doesn't even know what wisdom is. So, in consequence, the mission is now getting more strict. It stinks to watch the change slowly happening. Especially since I'm leadership, so I've been there for the councils where they discussed new rules n such. All good though.

The coolest thing I reckon I've been up to though is I've been teaching myself Te Reo Maori. Which means the Maori language. Te is the, and Reo is language. It's probably not useful at all to know, but I think it's really cook. I started a couple weeks back of just reading the Book of Mormon in Maori, and it actually works. I don't do it exactly like the Other Side of Heaven, but it's close. I found if I read verses side by side, I get too hung up on trying to match up words and paying attention to what the English stuff is talking about. So instead I just read straight Maori, and when I see repetition, I look over into the English one and see what it could mean. I just finished chapter 12 in 1 Nephi this morning. Only that far in and I can already decipher a surprising amount of the stuff that I'm reading. So cool. I understand now when people say they can understand but can't speak a language. Turns out it's really hard to remember everything and try to formulate a sentence out of all of it.
Arohanui! Elder Kurt