I’ve been serving in the Waipahu 1st ward. A Samoan ward. Meaning I don’t know what anyone is saying for three hours straight every Sunday. EXCEPT for God gave my comp Sister Smith and me a nice little miracle by letting us teach primary for the last hour. It was a much needed break. It’s a beautiful language, but I needed to sing some songs and speak some English to relieve my insanity. Samoan singing, by the way? Angelic. I’ve never heard any primary or congregation quite like it!
Careful what you ask for, folks, because sooner or later God’s going to give it to you. It’s great, but sometimes we don’t always consider what else might come along with it.
I am thrilled to have the opportunity to try to learn Samoan, but the area is not going to be easy. I’m not pointing fingers or anything, but the area book (missionary dictionary of people) is a mess, so that makes for a slow transfer. It’s also made more complicated by the fact that we’re supposed to be working with Samoan speaking peoples. So we’re working entirely off of member referrals and luck (known to some as the Spirit).
The past few days we’ve just been walking around Aniani Place, Pupupuhi St, Pupuhohe St, Pupukahi St, Pupumami St, . . . you get the picture, and visiting members to get to know the area and build relationships with them. It’s been long and exhausting, but I think it’s beginning to pick up. I Hope!
Our pad is behind the home of Bishop Fuimaono and his family. It’s pretty roomy actually! But there are no screens on the windows, and also no air conditioning. Which is pretty unfortunate since Hawaii’s standard of 60-90 degrees year round seems to be entirely false! I hear we’re on the hottest part of O’ahu, but still. . . triple digits and NO RAIN.
Bishop Fuimaono is a past bishop and he’s awesome. We have bananas in the backyard and, wait for it. . . . two dogs! Kayla and Toby. When I feel abandoned by God, the dogs help me remember that He knows me.
The spirit is still a struggle. I think it will always be, but I decided in my studies this morning that I needed to pray to know in the way I’ll be asking my investigators to pray to know, so I knelt down and prayed a whole lot. No comfort came, but I did think to open my scriptures. Randomly. And I landed in 1 Nephi 1:3 which says something like “and I know that which I write is true.”
I hate it. I hate that that is the only way I can understand God speaking to me, but I am grateful nonetheless. And it’s also kind of proof that he understands my brain (my messed up brain). Because even if he did give me some feeling or thought or whatever, I probably wouldn’t believe it. I’ve always needed the tangible things. I hate that about myself, but it’s the unfortunate truth, so I’m going to have to learn to accept it.
Although I’m not 100% sure what I was expecting. . . . . . Hawaii is different than I expected in lots of ways. Where I’m at, it’s very brown–like browner than Idaho at the end of the summer–way browner. And there aren’t fruit trees everywhere like I thought (dang the mangoes), so that’s a bummer. In fact, when we went to the store last week the mangoes were $6.99 per POUND. I don’t even understand. Really $11 mangoes. . . . come on Hawaii, I’m sure they grow like weeds somewhere around here!
Other things about my pad: it’s been an elder’s pad for years. It’s had bed bugs in the past year (maybe send me some info on those little things. . .). There are just as many bugs inside the place as there are outside of it.
I’ve gotten pretty cool with squishing ants on the table using my finger, and cockroaches really aren’t as scary as I’d imagined. I’d even say the geckos/lizards are cute. What I’m most freaked out by are the skinny tarantulas. Okay, I don’t know what kind of spider it was, but it was giant. Probably a 2.75 inch leg span. Not even exaggerating. I’ll spare you the details, but after about 15 minutes of planning, and several failed attempts, we killed it. I was so close to sleeping in the car. . . you have no idea. All I could think about was that statistic that says everyone eats 7 spiders in their lifetime (or per year… I don’t remember). Ick.
Sister Smith also gave me a slight bruise the other night when she assaulted me with her planner to kill the bee that had landed on my shoulder. She’s such a good bug squisher. A few days ago I heard her throw something at the wall and I asked her what she’d done. She answered and said, “I made it explode.” “It” meaning the cockroach. She got guts all over my training books, but who knows? Maybe it’s a sign.
The other bothersome thing is the mosquitos. My legs have been eaten despite my twice daily applications of OFF. At what point does DEET become toxic?
On the upside, no sunburns! Who would have thought? 🙂 I guess my Mexican ancestors are watching out for me after all!
I was talking to Sister Smith about the area and our pad and the entire situation earlier and I couldn’t help but feel God is really testing me. All of the sketch stuff–all at once. I’ve done some serious wavering out here. I miss Idaho; I miss my house, the cool dry air. It’s so beautiful back there. I don’t know why, but for some reason I wasn’t able to notice it until I knew I wasn’t going to have it for a while. Honestly, that’s the only reason I semi enjoyed running the last few weeks before I left. I miss the 4th of July. We saw the fireworks from far away, but they couldn’t hold a candle to our show.
The adjustment has been hard. Much more rough than even I had anticipated. The anxiety makes my mind over think everything, and I’m often just a step away from convincing myself I shouldn’t be here—that I’m not strong enough, that I don’t have a testimony, that I don’t deserve to be here. Honestly, there was a split second when I didn’t know if I wanted to believe. Thankfully, my over analyzing came in handy here, and I realized that the reason I felt those things could all be tied to how great my family and friends are back home. You are all so wise and so perfect and you’re the reason I got out here in the first place. I’m here because I love you. It sucks because I love you. . . . gah. Why am I such a constant mess?!!
Similar to the MTC, every day is a roller coaster, but it has also been the greatest testimony building experience ever. I know it’s crazy cliche to say that, but it’s true. I don’t know if I have ever been weaker or lower than I have at times in the past few weeks, but just when I feel like I can’t go lower without finding myself in a place that is called by a name a missionary shouldn’t write without good reason, little miracles bring me back up. Just high enough to make it over the little (big) bump.
Most of these miracles have been people. Yes, this area is, logistically, rough. And while that’s hard to look past at times, and it kind of feels like I’m being punished or something, I know that’s why I’m here. The people are so kind and humble and hopeful. I couldn’t ask for a better fit.
Although we’re all very aware that I was slightly thrown off by the fact that I was going to Hawaii of all places, I definitely felt early on, that the reason I was going (there) here was because I needed people who would love me like their own. I can’t replace you all, but I’m needy. Okay, not needy. Well maybe. I don’t know exactly how to describe it. At the root of it though is this: God knew that I would need happy loving people to take care of me if I was to survive the transition.
He was of course, right. The people I’ve met are so beautiful. Their faith is infinite and they love like no other people I’ve ever known. I know that I came out here to serve, but in all reality, they’re the ones keeping me afloat.
Brother Roberts, the ward mission leader is the first person we met. He is so determined to get the area back on track! He has so much faith in us that it practically forces us to work our butts off. Forces in the best way ;). He took us out to dinner the first night we were here. We were supposed to meet him at Kenny’s. At least, that’s what we thought he said. Then after about 25 minutes and a road trip later, we met him back at the church and followed him to Chili’s. That was an adventure. I’m sure he was so annoyed! I’ve always thought I was pretty good at understanding accents. . . . . . probably good that I be humbled!
He’s in Samoa now for a funeral, though, and won’t be back until the end of August, so that’s unfortunate. He was going to be my Samoan Dad! Hopefully we can get things on track by the time he returns. I’ve got to make my pops proud! Both of them.
We also met the cutest member family ever! They are in Puputown. The kid’s names are Tui, Tasi, Talo, and To’o. They sang and danced for us and gave us the biggest slices of cake ever. Thankfully, our dinner appt decided to take us out to lunch instead, so we miraculously had room to finish it. It was delicious, but I’m glad I ate slowly, because as soon as Sister Smith finished hers, they offered her another!
So far, most of the people we’ve gotten to know have been accidents. Like the Amituana’is and Tiulis (Tui, Tasi, Talo, To’o) and also Sister Griffin. While it’s super frustrating that so many of the addresses we have are wrong, I’m really glad we met her!
Through this whole adjustment, there have been times when I’ve felt pretty neglected, abandoned by God. Sister Griffin was very forthcoming and honest about her life to us. We shared a scripture with her Moroni 6:4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith. And she told us more! It was wonderous. The things she said though, really helped me. It wasn’t anything new–just a much needed reminder that while we often feel most alone during our times of difficulty, it is in hindsight that we are better able to recognize just how much God was and is involved.
Truthfully, I don’t always like to admit it, but I think it’s better if we do.
Now Sister Tufele! They’ve been planning a funeral for her mother so we thought we’d have our 4th of July dinner at the pad. NOPE. They still had us over, and it was SO delicious. Beef, pork, rice, cornbread, mac salad, and possibly the best dessert thingy I’ve ever had. I didn’t have mac salad, for all those who may be worried about the fit of my wardrobe. And I didn’t eat too much rice either. Plus I saved the dessert for home so I could have it with milk later. See Dad? You taught me well 😉
Sister Tufele is a journalist. Cool, right? We had some good talks about her experience. She’s even run her own newsroom. She was bored with hard news though, like me, so she’s since moved on to other things.
Also, sorry for the lengthiness. I’m kind of just journaling to you, instead of . . . .no one. It’s more motivating when there’s someone to actually read it. Interesting or not.
. . . . Today was glorious! Firstly, I woke up to rain! Best thing ever. I was definitely feeling EXTRA homesick though. I think it’s partly because I have a giant hole in my tooth from eating a frozen caramel, and I really just want my normal dentist to be the one to fix it. And also, I want you (mom). So this morning in personal study I said a few extra prayers because I’ve really been needing some real-life distractions to get me out of my head, and dang did He provide! We were chatting people up right and left today. It was crazy! I love this area. On the outside it’s super scary looking (did you google earth some of the streets? If not, do it at your own risk. . .), but in reality it’s the most open friendly place ever. Probably pretty safe too, for us at least, because there are so many Mormons out and about that no one would dare hurt us for fear of being mobbed by Polynesians. People “Hi Sisters” us so often that I think I’m beginning to understand what it must be like to be famous! If everyday this week goes as well as the few hours we spent out and about after finishing our studies and district meeting, we’re going to knock our weekly goals out of the park.
Now I’ll just wait for the humbling to begin once again. . . .
We also had dinner with Heather Tiuli who is one of the first members we met here. It was such a sweet evening. I can’t hardly contain myself! I’m going to have to run extra hard tomorrow.
It’s taken a while, but Hawaii was beautiful to me today. The rain was so nice. It seemed like there was a lot, but it was (is) so quiet. It’s like a super thick mist that’s too wet to hang in the air any longer. I couldn’t be happier. Unless, of course, you all were here with me :).
Alofa o’u ia oi (I love you in Samoan), Aubrey