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