I'm not sure what my emails were like in my previous areas, but I can't help but rave about the Tongans each time I email you. I just want everyone to know how special they are and how great of humans they are. I know each race has their flaws, but they're so insignificant to me when it comes to the Polynesians. I really don't know what it is, I just love them!
This week flew by because of all the things we had to do, it was insane. I swear we never had time to catch a breath! I'm normally caught up on my journal at all times, but this week has not had enough time between 6:30-10:30 for me to catch up on all that has happened. Last Monday, we had a little activity with the missionaries in our zone, and when you've played volleyball with the Tongans, playing with Palangi's (Puh-long-ee's, White people), it's nowhere near as fun. They're so skilled at that sport, it's great. Our zone has been getting a little casual though, so we're trying to play less sports together. For some reason, as soon we put on normal clothes, our minds tend to ease off the rules, especially when we're around each other. It's hard not to get distracted around other missionaries since we encounter similar problems and frustrations on the mission. I've found out a cure for it though: Reading the Book of Mormon!
President Hobbs said that our mission would be happier and brighter if we were to pick up the Book of Mormon more often. I then made it a goal to read the B of M 20 minutes a day outside of our personal and companion studies. All day long I tell people "Read you scriptures to resolve your problems... turn to the scriptures, they'll help you!" But I don't think missionaries often take their own advice, so I'm experimenting with that and I believe it to be so true, I don't even need to hesitate to know that it will help so significantly in our lives. I love that book so much. Yesterday at church, a speaker got called to work in the Silverlakes ward and Brother Moa (Mo-uh) is the high councilman and asked us to speak in their ward with him. We had 20 minutes to prayer and I felt the need to share the Book of Mormon. I love that book in the way it helped me make Christ more of a reality in my life. I felt as though he was a stranger when I was 18, but then I noticed my relationship with him evolved and slowly I was able to recognize his power that was evident in my life in my study of the Book of Mormon. I know we need that book to confirm spiritual truth and to manifest the reality of living prophets on the earth today. What a monumental and inspired book for our dispensation!
The hola and the wake for Na started this week and I'm honestly not sure what the difference is in those two things, perhaps you can look them up and inform me. But we were there every day this week at 7:00 and then were there till 9:00 for our curfew. Our dinner was there everyday and that Tongan food really grows on you, that's for sure! They had some really good crab and sop suey as they call it. No rice, but they did have kumala (koo-ma-la, which is a sweet potato) which was great! In the picture I have attached, their is a big tent over the driveway where they laid down the blue straw carpet stuff and then the orange is where the garage starts. We all sat in a circle (indian style cause that's how their culture is) and here's how it works (I'll try to explain this as best I can). The Felila's have a spokesperson as well as someone from our ward. The ward brings in a bunch of quilts, blankets, and a ton of food for the family and places it in the middle. The Felila spokesman then denies all the gifts and then the ward takes it back and from then on I'm not sure where it goes. That happens at every Tongan funeral, but I haven't asked why. Nonetheless, it's still really cool to observe! See how giving the Tongans are? So great! Then the viewing came around and they do it much different and much longer. It lasted about 4 hours (but we only went to an hour) and there was a lot of music and a lot of speakers. The next day she was buried in Ontario where her father is, so no, I was not able to go. I wish I could've though. It was a neat experience and so different but fascinating to see how it works. I'd say the Polynesians (the LDS ones at least) are more focused on making it a celebration of her life, rather than a time to weep and mourn. They're so understanding of her position now in the spirit world. They did such a great job with everything this week and I am very happy I was able to experience it all. Na was always one to build people up and everytime she was at the house, she would be singing Let it go on her ukelele. That's my memory of Na. She was a very talented woman with a beautiful singing voice.
Thursday was our big zone conference and that was a very long meeting ha. Our training went really well though and apparently, we're the companionship that sends in the most referrals in the mission. We have a lot of time on our hands to tract and find people, so we're more than happy to do it!
On Friday, we helped a family named the Moala's move and for some reason, the person who built the house built the laundry room upstairs and the moving truck they had did not have a ramp ha! Vita (Vee-ta) was so mad. He kept saying "Elders, when you get a house, don't ever move!" I'm sure Koriann and Ben feel the same way. Moving does seem very stressful. Luckily all I have to lug around is 3 suitcases. However, I think I've collected a lot of stuff these past 7 months, so that'll be interesting trying to pack it all in when the time comes.
Hema is doing really really good! We taught him the Plan of Salvation and he isn't married so he was a little concerned about the kingdoms, but Brother Lousiale (Lu-see-all-eh) explained it very well. Hema has a son who is 17 named Sefo (which is Joseph in English) and he was saying how he's lazy and will only listen to his friends. Sefo is the most well-mannered kid in the youth, so I assured him that he's just a teenager and that he will grow out of that. Right then, Elder Bartlik and I at the exact same time thought about the scripture 1st Corinthians 13:11 and boy is that scripture accurate to my life. I feel as though I am in that process, but I love that I've matured past the point where my friends were everything to me, and I can look back on my life and feel minorly embarrassed that I became so negligent to the things that mattered most. The gospel and the mission especially has opened my eyes to the most precious things and the most valuable things that are worth holding on to. And that's another reason why I love the Tongans; Their life is revolved around the family and I love it. They are so loyal!
On Saturday, we were on an all day exchange with the AP's and I was with Elder Sudol, who once was my district leader in Upland. I missed that elder, it was good to be working with him again. We had a really good day and we had lunch with Agnes Liava'a. She is such a good cook, it's awesome! I'm so happy to see how we've built such a good relationship with her. I have a true testimony of fasting, because I saw how it opened the door to letting Siaosi and Latu get baptized. We continue to see them every Tuesday and they are doing great. Siaosi turns 12 in May and will be receiving his Aaronic priesthood (: Agnes really enjoys having us over. She gets excited when we have lunch appointments ha! This Saturday, we're going to Mimi's cafe, which is one of her personal favorites. She introduces us to all the good food places. It wasn't until this week that it was pointed out to me how much I talk about food ha, this ward has given me a much deeper appreciation for food! Yet, I haven't gained any weight! whoo! The rest of the day we tracted and met some cool people and then had dinner at the Fotu's and had a really good lesson there. Their family is awesome.
Sunday was pretty good. We had dinner at the Bishop's (which we normally do every Sunday) and his daughter Mele (Mel-eh) is so sweet, and a fantastic cook as well! We then heard that one of our members is in the hospital so we went to Apple Valley to give her a blessing. Her name is Nesi and we're trying to work with her husband, so we get to see her normally every week, she's awesome! We're praying for a speedy recovery for her! Then we got to see a lady named Pam in our ward who is Palangi but married to a Tongan. She's so funny.
I'd say that's a good summary of our week. 1 year ago today was my last day in Hesperia and then I went to Alta Loma. I didn't think I'd love a ward more than that one, but I was surprised to see that change so quickly (: It is very true that missionaries (especially in the Tongan wards) are so well taken care of, you really don't need to worry about us. Some days we are a little sensitive and homesick and frustrated, but it's a learning process. In Hesperia, I really felt as though I was just sticking it out, but it's amazing to be able to say that I LOVE serving a mission and that it's far better than what I had expected. My mission has been so surreal and so quick-paced, there's so much good that goes on and so many times the Spirit teaches me that this is the true and real church of Jesus Christ. I love being Elder Bennion with all my heart and am confident in the fact that the Lord has an individual plan for His children and though I'm sure He himself is very busy, He always makes time for us and is so willing to help us when we need Him. I love my Father and know our relationship will never falter as long as I'm obedient to my maker and faithful to my covenants. He has blessed me so richly and inspired me and empowered me through His Son, and that is how I'm able to do hard things. He is how we can find strength beyond our own. I love you all and am very happy to hear from you. Have a fantastic week!
- Elder Shawn Lyle Bennion
|Lunch with Agnes!|
|Last picture with Elder Thompson before he goes home!|
|Victorville A zone|
|The hola setup.|