Thursday, February 26, 2015

2/2/2015 A letter received 2/25/2015

Dear Mom and Dad,
         I want to talk about how I am blessed when I keep busy.

         On Saturdays we work in Tabuntebike and on this particular day there was a massive bootaki (party) that most o the people in the town went to.  Some  a y turned one, but we didn't know them.  Everybody just went for the food, and a party is more exciting than general life.  We were able to teach 2 people.  We went down every street of town but no one would listen to us.  So we decided to go back to Tuarabu, where we live, and see if we could teach our people there.  They were all gone.  We again went up and down the street and asked for refferals, but we taught no one.  Then a boy told us that he found a tube for our bike.  (Last week my companion ran over a fish bone and the person that tried to patch it ended up tearing a hole into the tire tube so we have been borrowing a bike for  a week.)

        The only problem with this tire, he said, is that we would need to patch it first.  We were happy so we took it and found that there were 6 impressive holes in this tube.  But having nothing better to do and really needing our bike back, we set to work to fix it.  A short way into our work we both looked at each other just amazed at how depressingly unsuccessful our day was and yet we both felt so good.  We were just so happy sitting and chatting with the family that we were borrowing the bicycle pump from.  So from this I strongly believe that when you try your best, even if you have not much to show for it, God blesses you with peace.  We were just so happily content which is one of the ways that I feel the Holy Ghost.  I love seeing God's hand in my life.

        This next story is about a very unique tender mercy and how the gospel perspective helps you see God's hand in everything.  A huge cultural thing here is that if you go to someone's house, even just to ask a question, you have to sit down and chat with them and have a drink.  Usually we break culture and speed it up as much as possible, but this day was a p-day so we had time.  Also the cups here are ginormas.  That circle (he drew a circle about 5 inches across) is the size of a standard cup.  (He also drew the height of the cup at about 5 inches and the level that it was filled to at about 4 inches high.)  So this morning we had a service project.  On the way we stopped and asked one family where it was, so we sat down and they made me drink 2 cups.  (It is very against culture to refuse a drink or leave a house with out finishing your drink.)

     Then we waited for one of them to come back so we could walk together.  While we were waiting, another man called us over to talk and we probably drank at least one cup there.  Then we did our service of cutting down the huge coconut leaf fronds for them to weave into a rough mat used like carpet so you don't sit in the dirt.  After the service, we really wanted to run off and do email, but they invited us in.  They gave us 2 cups of drink plus something called ABC.  (Already Been Chewed, somebody gave it this nickname and it stuck.  What it really is is rice in coconut milk and water.  It tastes like sweet oatmeal that you drink.)

    When we left there, I needed to empty my bladder so bad, but we were super late for email so we were biking super fast back to the house.  But as we were going by a family's house, they called us in for doughnuts (think scones) and a drink.  The drink wasn't ready yet so they gave us a 'in the meantime drink'.  They also gave us the doughnuts and some dried fish that wasn't done yet, and was still raw.  I looked at it and knew that it would make me sick, but I had to eat.  inally they gave us the drink and I wanted to cry.  It was one of the big cups full to the brim.

     I knew that as soon as I drank it we could go, but my bladder was so full.  I drank maybe 1/4 and felt like I was going to throw up.  I have been told that it is a huge insult to culture to eat something and then throw up right after (sorta common sense) so I was in turmoil  Literally trying with all my might to not throw up.  Willing my body to not do it.  Then I would take a sip and start praying with every ounce of my being to strengthen my body so that I could finish the 1/2 full cup, so that I could email my family and not throw up and insult this family that I just met.

     However, it was not to be.  All of a sudden my body rejected it's contents and in the space of 3 seconds I probably lost more than a quart (probably 2) of liquid.  I felt awful, but really my body is impressive.  It was like a fire hose out of nowhere.  Here is the miracle, the tender mercy just for me.  First, I immediately felt so much better,  2nd the family wasn't angry.  This island's culture is that if you throw up you must have been sick and now the sickness has left.  Also they suggested that we leave.  So we were able to quickly get out of there.  Plus that sketchy food was now out of my body.  By no means was it the solution that I would have chosen, but it did everything and more than I could have asked for..  The knowledge that God had helped just made me so happy, almost giddy.  Just so simply happy, that God helps me out.  This happiness lasted me through even after email didn't work.  So I didn't have to suffer through the usual 'after the false hope of email blues.'  God gives us such wonderful blessings unique to our situation if we will just look and be willing to see them.



Monday, February 23, 2015

02/22/2015 Kam na bane ni Mauri n te wiiki ae bou!

Hello everyone in this new week!
How's everybody doing? This has been a wonderful week, but after sending pictures I don't have much time. Please excuse the poor spelling that may result...

(See Pictures at the Bottom)

This week we had 3 baptisms. One was a lady who just moved here but was taught everything on Tarawa, so just needed a brief review and an interview. The other two were Beia (Bay yah) and Tiiwini (think Steevie...). Beia was mostly taught before I got here, but I'll tell you his story. He was one of those people that when you told people that you were teaching him, they would laugh at you. 
He was very famous for running in the forest being drunk for days. He was a big scary man. But he started taking lessons shortly after his son died. When they taught him the word of wisdom he immediately prayed for the strength to quit the things that weren't allowed. He then totally turned his life around and became one of those wonderful investigators that you just love, and they love you for helping them change to the better. 
 He, Tiiwini, and the couple on the left in that picture all fit into this category. We try to go to their house for a quick visit, but end up staying for around an hour or so because they want to give us food or chat and we just love them too much. Tiiwini is just a miracle man. He was very anti mormon until we taught him. He was also a super strong Protestant and well known in his congregation for it. This week he was confronted by the Minister of their church personally asking him to come back and said that he was trying to save Tiiwini. 
Tiiwini just told him that he had received a testimony and asked the man to leave. But this wasn't a problem to a man with such strong faith. This week Arenteiti, one of the ones that we love so much and will get baptized in a week, was having trouble with her faith. Her whole family is catholic and have been giving her a hard time. She was talking through her problems with the Branch President's wife, who didn't really respond or have anything helpful. But right then Tiiwini showed up and when he heard her concern, taught her the entire restoration from Christ down to the Book of Mormon. He explained to her the apostasy and our need for a restoration. He has only been taught this once, and this was before he was even confirmed, but his testimony brought her back. He is a miracle and is now one of the strongest members of the ward.
The work is amazing here and I learn everyday!
Elder Morley
These are the pictures of Tiiwini and Beia's Baptism. The first is me baptizing Tiiwini in the Ocean (Lagoon side). The next is of some of my favorite people on the island. The 2 on the left are Anetibwa (Anna see bah) and his wife Arenteiti (a run tace). He was just baptized and changed so much for the church that his catholic wife turned from anti mormon to our strongest investigator (other than Tiiwini). I don;t really know the next guy in the back, but in the front row is Tiiwini, Arenteiti's daughter, Beia, then me. In the back is The unit president and his wife.

Our house, our bikes, our rain tank, and my companion, Elder Miller.

My hair was cut by an over friendly kiribati man. I have gotten my hair cut 4 times on my mission and are usually the moments that I am most homesick for mom. With mom I know exactly what I am going to get and I know that I will be pleased. With other people, especially random kiriabti people I don't quite have that assurance. It has always turned out well though.

This is a picture of the planner cover that got sent to me in the mail. It is woven in the style that kiribati people make their mats for sitting and sleeping on. It did not come with a note, but I am very thankful for the beautiful thoughtful gift.

This is the sign right above the door of our house that makes us really scared in the big storms. Sometimes we'll wake up in the middle of the night in a crazy wind/rain storm and shout, 'This house isn't built to withstand Cyclones!'
On P-days we usually shower on the rain tank, but on this particular day it was raining, so I had my first 'American Shower' that I have had since I came to this island. American defined has 'with a shower head.' Plus I was just to lazy to climb the tank when this was exactly the same thing.

Do you have a safe area to go to during the cyclones?

There aren't cyclones.  David

1/22/15 a letter received 2/23/15

Dear Mom and Dad,

    Life is great.  Crazy, very different but Great!  I arrived in Abaiang on Dec. 31.  To my surprise, when I got off of the plane after a 12 minute flight, there was a crowd of people waiting for me.  Seating was random and I just happened to be the 2nd to last one off the plane.  They were afraid that I'd missed it again, so when I finally came out they started applauding, then they gave me one of those cool flower head tiara things.  Everyone, especially my new comp. was thrilled to see me.  It was a sweet welcome.

     The next day we started work, and I was introduced to one of our big problems, which is that my comp and I are both 18 year old UT boys and he has only been out one transfer longer than me, so we're still figuring out some culture things.  That day it was raining all day long.  We biked to Borotiam (Bro-sum).  It's about an hour ride and by the end we were soaked to the bone.  Water was streaming down our hair and faces.  However it is against culture to go into somebody's 'house' wet.  We were not able to teach at all that day.  We were trying to decide if we were doing the right thing that day.  But things like that show how much stronger the culture is here than on Tarawa. 

    The next day (Friday) I was introduced to our second biggest problem.  I was thrown a welcome party.  (It was so cool that they applauded when I got off the plane and then threw me a party.)  They love parties here and have one almost every week.  It was crazy.  One member here has 2 massive speakers and if it has been sunny there is enough power in the battery for it to last for hours. 

     They do a thing that they call the Swiss (probably spelled Tuiti).  Basically you go up to someone not dancing and signal that you want to dance with them, then you dance in the same relative region as them, but usually totally separate.  It's usually silly American dancing with the occassional relaxed Kiribati dancing.  I quickly stole my new companion's thunder for being a 'great' dancer.  They do other fun music games, but the Swiss is the most common.  The culture here is cool in that you can swiss someone of your own age or a baby or an old lady or a married lady, or a little boy or anyone else that happens to be in the room and it is totally chill.

     The dancing in itself is a problem, and then there is the fact that they never want it to end.  We started trying to leave at 10 and immediately got death stares from everyone in the room.  They ended it 'early' just for us at about 11:30.  For some reason it seems to be very against the culture here to obey any sort of rules.  They call previous missionaries that obey the rules 'buakaka' which means 'bad' or 'evil'.  It's kinda scary. 

     Now, we really want the ward to like us because then they will help us, give us food referrals and food.  They get so mad when we try to leave early or if we don't show up.  It's even worse that our house is in a compound with the church.  So we do our best to be good and leave at 11, but we just cry inside when they say that there is a game night.  Ah well, we struggle together.  There is a line that we try to find between culture and us doing what they want to make them happy.  I've been reading in Alma where they left their culture and the traditions of their fathers behind to join the truth.  Then afterwards they were fully converted and would rather be tortured to death than hold a sword.  They were perfectly honest in all things.  However, maybe my faith is weak, but I don't know if that will work here.  The members, even the strongest ones like the branch president, have shown no inclination to be prepared in that way.  (unlike Tiiwini and some others.)

   Anyhow, now to a happy note.  The starts here are literally the most incredible things I have ever seen.  The first night I truly saw them was when we were biking home after a successful day.  We went to the airport to see if we'd gotten any letters.  The airport is one of the few large cleared fields on the island so there were no trees to block the stars on this perfectly clear night.  I was speechless.  I was seeing ssoooo many stars that I've never seen before.  The milky way was like a glowing highway.  There were so many stars that I almost couldn't pick out Orion.  So someday when I'm rich and....... probably not famous, I'll make a nice vacation spot with my telescope out here.  It is clear almost every night so even with the trees, I get a great view.  Most everyone on the island have a small solar panel and battery and usually one single 4 led light square and that's all.  So light pollution isn't much of a problem.

     Baptisms are my favorite as they always are, but especially here.  First of, literally every time there is a baptism, I am surprised by how small it is.  Here, usually Elder Miller and I give 5 minute talks, then we go to the ocean and do the baptism, then we go back, change close in prayer and sing and it is done.  But also every time, I feel the spirit so strong.  Even with the wind blowing and waves crashing against me, I can still feel a tender spirit testifying to me that even though it is small and simple it is of eternal significance.

     Ok,  the ocean.  The island is on a shelf that goes 2-300 years out to sea, then it drops off.  At low tide you can walk all 300 yd and the water will only get up to your shins/knees.  (We did a service once in finding shell fish, that is how I know.)  You can imagine my surprise when for my 1st baptism I walked out 10 feet and the water was already to my waist/chest.  Since it is the ocean there is a constant stream of waves, but they aren't powerful.  Of all the 3 chapels, the farthest distance to walk is maybe 300 yards to the ocean.  Really, you never escape the ocean here.  The water is beautiful, clear, and warm.  It's very picturesque.  Plus, the font is never empty!

     In Betio I had 2 sets of parents.  One was just a 'mom', Nei Bungintei.  The other was a mom and dad, Tebora and Maraki.  They are both relatively well off, but the night before I left, Maraki tried to give me a bucket full of good food (spam and noodles and such.)  I told him that my suitcase was full to over flowing and I almost couldn't zip it.  So I expressed my thanks, but I didn't take it.  2 weeks later some high councilmen from the stake came over on a boat.  You can imagine my surprise when a guy gave me a bucket and said  "You have a gift from your family!"  Oh, it made me so happy.  I love them so  much.  So, I really am taken care of.  I have a companion that helps me, and family that supports me from both sides of the globe.

     Thank you so much for your prayers, letters and unending support.  I love you both so very much and more than you know. 
Elder Morley

Sunday, February 15, 2015

2/15/2015 Hello from the isles of the sea!

This has been another great week. I am loving my time here in Abaiang with Elder Miller. We work very hard and feel so fulfilled at the end of every day. 
This is our basic schedule. Wake up at 6:30, we've got three alarms so I usually get up pretty close to then. Then we have two jobs that we rotate randomly who does. One person walks 50yd to the well and draws a bucket of water for washing dishes (and flushing the toilet). The well is 6-9ft deep and we use a large corned beef can on a string to fill our bucket. The other job is to climb the rain tank for our shower and drinking water. It is about 6 feet tall, so we just jump and scramble up. It rains a bunch so it is easy to scoop out water with a small can. We usually finish the dishes shortly after 7 if we've cooked anything, and go out to get food if we forgot to the night before. Usually we eat weetbix (think shredded wheat but bigger and not frosted) with Milo (unsweetened hot chocolate without the hot) or peanut butter and jam on bread or crackers. 
Then I try to be showering by 7:30. I go into an american looking shower with a bucket of water and a cup and pour the water myself. It is sorta inconvenient, but at the same time really cool. You can control the area, speed, intensity, everything (and it is literally really cool, the water gets 'refrigerated' over night). It is really refreshing especially since I usually listen to a conference talk as I do it. Then at almost exactly 8 I am studying. I have just started a more intense study of the Kiribati Book of Mormon (Ana Boki Moomon). I understand all of the verses, but I have a notebook for all of the words that I don't know. This has replaced my english BoM study, but my language is progressing lots. I do that until almost exactly 8:30 then switch to studying concepts for the lessons, writing lessons, memorizing scriptures, or anything else that will help me in my day.
 At 9 we start Companion study where we read in the Missionary Handbook, run over our plan for each investigator, talk about our personal study, study the scriptures, role play, etc. Then is Language study where we read Ana Boki Moomon together, practice language things, run through lessons in Kiribati, or do what ever else which will help us the most. We try to be out of the house and working by 11. Then everyday is different after that. P-days (today) are all around different, and the only constant thing is the wash. We get well water, powdered soap, and bleach and scrub for a few hours. It's a great time...
Tiiwini is getting baptized this week! He is the most solid person I have ever seen. A lot of people just passively accept lessons and usually get baptized afterwards. But Tiiwini and a few other investigators that we have right now are actively coming to the truth. It is so wonderful to see and be involved with. He gave up most of the things that aren't allowed in the Word of Wisdom before we taught him about it. He struggled for a bit with tea and smoking. He said that once he knew it was against a commandment, tea was easy but smoking shouldn't be a problem because all of the bad stuff just gets breathed away (he was joking). The next week we asked him and asked if there was anything we could do to help (we were going to give him a calendar). He said that there was no problem and that he gave all of his things for smoking to 'that lady over there.' I thought it was funny how casually he made giving up this 40 year addiction sound. In the baptismal interview one of the questions asks if you feel that you are ready to make a covenant and be baptized. He said, "I am so ready" and my companion who was conducting the interview just had to agree. He is so excited to be baptized this Thursday.
This week we had one baptism, another girl, Maria, that was just so ready and is now converting the rest of her family. The only problem with this baptism is that it was on Kiribati time, which means an hour late. By that time everyone was ready,  the tide went out so she was dunked in knee deep water. She was very surprised, but every one laughed about it afterwards. The spirit was still very strong and the ward is a big fan of her so was very supportive. 
Basically the work is progressing and is a lot of fun. We try our best and even though we make more mistakes that we would prefer the Lord helps us and blesses us. Life is great and beautiful in the small forgotten isles of the sea!
Elder Morley

Sunday, February 8, 2015

2/8/2015 Merry Valentine's Day

Mauri Everybody!
Life still goes on in the islands! I have so much fun here. This week
I was blessed to eat mud, but first a story. Many years ago there was
a famine in Beru. No one had anything to eat and everyone was starting
to starve to death. Then this old woman had a dream. She dreamt that if
she and others ate the fungus that grows on top of the mud they would
be saved. Somehow it had the right vitamins that the island survived
the famine. As a result, Beru is now famous for eating mud (they don't
have a word for strange red fungus that grows on mud). So on Thursday
we were at Tiiwini's house (always our  favorite, he'll get baptized next week)
 and he asked us if we'd been to Beru and eaten the mud. We said that we hadn't yet, so he told us
he hadn't either, but a friend of his just went to Beru and he asked
him to bring some mud back. So we shared a lovely snack of mud. This
mud was prepared very well. Usually they just drink it, but it was
baked into a cake with sugar and flour and tasted really good. It was
a light pink and had a sweet flavor. However it felt like a rock in my
stomach and made eating not my favourite thing.

Cool thing about life in the islands though, they drink coconuts here.
Drinking coconuts are called moimoto. They are just young coconuts
that still have a lot of milk inside. You have to take off the husk,
then on the top of the coconut are three holes. Usually one is bigger
than the others, so you open it up (using a small knife or your thumb
nail) and drink. They are about the size of a softball or a little
bigger and have tons of liquid in them and taste amazing. The only
problem is that they contain a natural chemical that clears out the
system really well. Yesterday I was given 4 in less than a hour. Lets
just say that it cleared me out really fast and now I have no more mud

The people here say that my stomach is small because I have to pee all
the time, but I will literally drink quarts of liquid in a couple hour
period. It is rude culturally to not give someone a drink or a meal
(usually we can keep it to just a drink) if they visit you. It is even
worse to not finish the said drink, so sometimes we drink lots. they
don't have a word for bladder, so will just use thermos instead. So
when I ask to be excused, they say to go fast so my Thermos won't
explode. They don't really have lots of jokes, just overall witty

I don't really have any super huge spiritual story for this week, more
just a flow of my ponderings. I have been puzzling the prospect of
faith for a long time. At first it was for a fun way to teach it
(still looking for better ideas than trust falls). Then it moved to
what actually is it. So one day this week we were biking to Borotiam
in the rain. It is about an hour ride and within minutes we were
soaked. It is against culture to go into someone's house wet, but they
will often let you in, it's just weird. We know this so we were quite
concerned with the fact that we were biking in the rain. I said, 'I
have faith that the rain will stop.' but then I thought, is this faith
or just some random hope. So I decided that I hoped that the rain
would stop, but it turned to faith when I/we decided to bike into
it.  But  then we asked, ' is this faith in the rain or faith in Jesus
Christ, because only the 2nd one does any good'.' So after some
thought we decided that it was in the rain, but we could change it to
being in Christ. We know that God wants us to teach his children, and
he also knows if they will be offended by us coming in the rain. So we
decided to go to every house trusting that either the rain will stop
or he will soften their hearts to let us in and accept our message.
Basically that if we do what we said we would do he would make it all
work out. I discovered later that this was us turning the situation
over to the Lord. So we went through the day and had a good amount of
success. We taught 7 lessons, while not a record still a wonderful
day. He helped us change our order of people, so that by the most
important ones we were dry and all went well. So basically, faith is
trusting that God will make it all work out, even if it is
uncomfortable in the moment. I would love further advice here because
my understanding is still small and very hard to express like this.
I love teaching and spreading the word out here in Abaiang.
 I love you all.
Elder Morley

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Feb. 1, 2015 Happy Ground Hog's Day!

This has been a great week. I love that when you work hard you can see the blessings from it. Most of the funny experiences that I have here involve poop, pee, circumcision, or vomiting, so I think that I'll filter those out and tell you one of our few other stories.

School started this week, and the high school on this island isn't very good, so lots of kids go to other islands for school. So right before they left there were lots of parties and activities which they invited us to. One of which (they called it a Picnic which I thought was funny) they played lots of games. After the games they found this huge speaker and wanted to listen to some music. However they forgot to bring a flashdrive with music on it. But they know that elder Miller has a flash drive with music so they begged him to bring it out. We tried to tell them that it was boring, but they wouldn't listen. So it ended up being me and Elder Miller surrounded by Kiribati people listening to 'Akuna Matatta' and random other disney songs until they got mad and found their own music. It was pretty awkward, but at the same time so very very funny to us. I would just randomly burst into song and sing along. It was short lived, but a good memory.
Here we baptize in the ocean. It would be almost impossible to fill a font as there are no pumps and no place to do it. And the ocean is always close. The farthest we have to walk from a chapel to the ocean is probably 3-400yds. We try to schedule it at high tide, but we'll make it work with whatever. the water is super warm. We just walk out into the ocean until the water is up to our waist then do the baptism. Then we do the baptism. Baptisms are always amazing. The spirit always testifies to me its importance every time. but it is even cooler in the ocean. Something about the waves gently pushing against you and the wind blowing through the coconut trees just makes it seem so much more natural. Oh I love this island so much.
One of the people that we baptized recently totally changed his life for the church. As soon as he found out about the Word of Wisdom he did his best to stop drinking. He used to go to lots of parties, be sorta violent with his family, and disappear for days at a time in the woods drunk with friends. However he stopped completely. This got his wife who is catholic interested in the church. At first she hated the missionaries and would run away when they came by. But when she saw how much it has helped him and how happy the church makes him her heart was soften towards the Church. Now she is one of our most solid investigators and is always so happy to see us. Yesterday we taught him about the priesthood and usually people don't ask questions during lessons, but the first thing he said was, 'How can I get that.' He'll get it really soon. His name is Anetibwa (Anna see bah) and hers is Arenteiti (A ran tace (rhymes with lace)). 
We had a cool experience with prayer this week. We had to go and get one of our investigators for his baptism. He lives super far away so we usually ask people to pick him up on their motorcycle for church (there are 3 people in the branch with motor cycles). But they were busy so we were going to bike 20 min and have him ride with us. Unfortunately our bike had a flat tire that took an hour to fix. Plus the branch president just got called a month ago, so he was super worried about leading this baptism. So after we fixed the tire as best as we could we prayed to know if we should go through with the baptism or not. In the prayer I said that we had decided to not go through with it, and to give us confirmation of that decision so that we could know that we were following his will. Immediately after the prayer I felt peace, but after 2 seconds it was distracted by all of the worries that I had. The peace was so brief that we started taking action in the direction of the baptism. 
We almost let our heads and our man made logic get in the way. Some how we were able to get back to the right track because as soon as we follow the path that had been confirmed to us, however briefly, we felt so great. We were grinning as we said, 'We are about to tell a little boy that is so ready, that has already had his baptism delayed for almost a month. But I just feel so good about it.' That just simple happy feeling lasted the rest of the day and somehow everything fell exactly into place. The boy had got tired of waiting for us and left, but his mom was suddenly a lot more open to the church. We were able to teach a super solid lesson with a new investigator. The Branch President was relieved and somehow not angry. Then we closed in a really fun dinner with a member that is struggling. And the whole time I just had the calm assurance that this is what happens when we ask God then follow his answer. I now have a clear example in my mind of how God speaks to me, and a firm knowledge that he does speak. It is small, it is simple, but it is true and the impacts are amazing. 
I am having a great time on this island studying and working and teaching for the Lord. The Church is true and blesses me every day.