Monday, April 27, 2009

Letters Make the Happiest Days

It is amazing how happy a letter can make two people! So, you can imagine how happy we were when we got not one, but two letters on Saturday! We are still not sure how the mail works since they were mailed a week apart. The following is a combination of the two letters.

Dear Mom and Dad,
I have been spoiled by chances to e-mail lately but I probably will not get a chance to e-mail again for awhile.
Things in Chuuk are going well. I have some exciting news! We had a baptism on Saturday. The guy's name is Atong. Guess who did the baptism? I did. It was awesome! I did it in Chuukese. We did it in the ocean. The water is really warm here and we all just waded out a little ways. I wanted a picture of it, but it was raining really hard so we couldn't get one. I did get one at the church afterwards. It would have been nice for you to see what it looked like in the ocean. Hopefully I will get a chance to baptize someone else in the ocean. It was a really good experience.
Thank you so much for the new socks. They will come in handy. When you send the crocs, send some that are easy to slip on and off. When you go into someone's house here it is bad culture to not take your shoes off even though the floors are just plywood with a lot of dirt on them.
You will be happy to hear we have water now. The dry season is over for now. Our tanks are overflowing. I did not think it would be possible to fill them, but then I saw what true rain is. In about 24 hours, with the rain coming and going for a total of about 4 hours of rain, the two tanks that hold about 100 gallons of water each were filled and the excess flowed over. It is nice to not have to worry so much about water and to not have to survive off of coconut milk.
Both of my companions were transferred and I have a new companion named Elder Wood. He is a good guy. He is from Oceanside, California and has a fairly large family. He is still learning the language too and so we are putting in a lot of extra language study at night. My brain is pretty much fried. I am praying for extra help.
We have a new missionary in our zone. I have not gotten the chance to meet him yet. His name is Elder Vanculman. I am not sure of the spelling. He is from from either Guam or Saipan. I will get to meet him in a few weeks when we have zone conference.
I got to go to my first Chuukese party a couple of days ago. The branch president's daughter was married a couple months ago and so they decided to have a celebration. It was pretty fun. It is customary here to give a dollar to the bride and groom and then you get as much food as you can eat. We were given a huge platter with a lot of different Chuukese foods. There was a lot of fish. Some was raw and some was cooked. There was also chicken, hot dogs, rice, pig, tapioca, and taro. It was all pretty good. I tried most of everything though none of it was anything to write home about. (haha, lame joke)
I am working hard to know the needs of the people here even though I do not understand them real well or know them real well.
Thank you so much for the packages. It has been amazing to have variety in my diet and the candy makes a good little snack. I also got a package full of food from grandpa Bob and grandma Helen. Tell Grandpa Duane, grandma Jenny, and Uncle Shaun that I got their peanut butter and honey and it will come in very useful here.
So I have a few questions. How is Grandpa Duane? And have you sold my car?
Tell everyone hi for me! I hope to hear from you soon!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Terrifying Boat Trip to Weno

Dear Mom and Dad,
Hi! Everything is going great here. I am glad to hear that things are well with you. That sound like a fun trip that you will take to Half Moon Bay. I definitely miss golfing right now. It will be fun to golf with dad again in two years.

So I am on Weno right now for transfers. We all come in to do shopping and other stuff. I lost both of my companions and I get Elder Wood. He is a good guy and we will get along well. I don't know much about him but I will soon. It is going to be really strange only having one companion on Tonoas with me. I'll get used to it soon.

So don't worry about the Easter package. I have gotten four packages from you that have been amazing. Thank you so much for all the stuff you sent me. I also got grandma and grandpa's package. I sent them a letter earlier this week. I sent a letter out today to you that has some of the stuff that has been going on here lately.

So Easter didn't feel at all like Easter. They celebrate it here but not like we do. They don't have candy and have no idea what a rabbit even is so don't worry about sending eggs next year. They only celebrate it as a Catholic holiday (even the LDS members. Weird huh?).

I have some exciting news. I had my first baptism the other day. It was an awesome experience. I did it in Chuukese and in the ocean. I elaborated more in the letter so you will hear more about it then.

About me staying on Chuuk... I think I will be spending most of my time on Chuuk for my mission. It sounds like I will go to an English speaking zone around my year mark and then will return. That's how President Dowdle does it at least. He won't be my President the whole time like I thought. They only serve for two years here. It is too stressful with the traveling and extra responsibilities with District Presidents and stuff. I guess I will find out how it goes when the time comes.

We had an experience while coming to Weno that made my testimony stronger. We were literally in the hardest rain I have ever seen in my life in raging water. The waves were big and we could not travel fast. It was extremely cold because of the rain and we were all soaked. There was not a dry inch on any of us. To make it worse, it was raining so hard that it blanketed our sight beyond about 50 yards. We did not have any landmarks to gauge our position on. It was scary. The five elders in the boat got on our knees and joined together in prayer. The rain seemed to lighten and we soon found ourselves within sight of the shores of Weno. We were grateful to arrive safely.

So how is all the family doing? I haven't heard from Tori in a long time. Is Kolby better now? I would have more to tell you about but I put it in the letter. You will get it soon. Take care.
Elder Kevin South

Monday, April 13, 2009

An E-mail from Kevin

Dear Mom and Dad,
Thank you very much for the email. It is good to hear that everything is well back home. I am also excited to hear that Grandpa is recovering well.Things have been well here. We have been working hard. Nothing new or exciting has happened since my last letter. I am fortunate that I get to email you again this week. We had to come to Weno again for Elder Matuauto's ears. Nothing big, just a follow up appointment. We may be coming in next week as well. Next week we will be having transfers. I think that both of my companions will be leaving and I will be getting a new companion. I'm sure whoever that will be is going to be a great missionary. I would be happy to have any of the other Elders in my zone come to Tonoas with me.
In regards to the families we are teaching... Things are well. Unfortunately we have still been pushing for them to come to church but they will not take that step yet. We have dropped a few of their baptismal dates and may end up dropping them as investigators for the time. We have tried everything to get them to come. We have even offered to walk with them but the culture here is much different than what we are used to so they do not want us to walk with them. All we can do with them is pray and continue to encourage them.

Do not worry about me not making friends with my investigators. I do what I can to be kind to them but there is not much I can do as of now. I say hello to people when I pass and smile. There isn't much more I can do now but the time will come when I can do more.The language is continuing to improve. I have been able to have simple conversations with people but nothing beyond that. I know as I continue to be diligent in studying it the Lord will bless me.

So as for mom's questions:There are about 5 cars on Tonoas. They are barely ever going around and there is no gas station there so they have to go to Weno to get gas in the cans.
There are stores on Weno but none on Tonoas.
The people here do eat a lot of seafood. They fish all the time and come back with a lot of fish. I haven't tried any of it yet but hopefully I will soon.
We do have a small refrigerator in our house. Nothing fancy but it has enough space for bottles of water.
Well I hope that everything is still going well back home. I am excited to hear from you again. I love you so much.
Elder Kevin South

p.s. I have not received your packages yet but they will probably be here shortly. The mail is reliable here so you do not have to worry about it at all.

Note from DeRonda

I had asked Kevin about cars on Weno and had received his e-mail when I happened to look at his mission president's blog and noticed they had also discussed gas on their blog. I have taken these two pictures off of their blog.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

This is Home!

Here are several videos that Kevin sent home on his camera chip.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Snail mail with a camera chip

Kevin reports that life on Tonoas is hard They are still without water. They have continued with the dirty-water-from-the-well bucket showers as described several blogs ago and ocean bathing. They are still drinking coconut milk. As their coconut supply was running out, Kevin and his companions contemplated on how to get more coconuts. Kevin paid a boy $1 to climb a tree and get some coconuts down for them. The good news is that the church was planning on bringing them some water which I am sure they have received by now.
Despite hard living conditions, Kevin writes that he loves Tonoas. He likes to go out at night and look up at the stars and it is amazing. Every star is visible. It's even better than scout camp. The island is like a paradise and he is really loving the people. They are very humble and full of love. Of course, he can't understand much of what they are saying! Kevin comments that when he returns home he will really appreciate all that he has.
Kevin and his two companions get along well. They are working hard and baptised one girl last week. The goal for Tonoas is 20 baptisms this year and they believe they will exceed that goal.
As for learning the Chuukese language, Kevin is making progress. For those of you who are wondering why Kevin did not learn his language in the mission training center as most missionaries do, there are several reasons. Micronesia has many languages spoken between the various islands and there are only a small number of missionaries in the islands so the languages are learned once they get there as there would not be enough missionaries to have a class in the training center. According to Kevin, Chuukese is a funny language to learn. It is very redundant and repeats things often. Kevin says it is a lot of fun to work with. He was able to give an introduction of himself in church last week and his testimony. He said everyone at church was very excited about how quickly he is learning.
The Chuukese culture is interesting to learn about. A couple is leagally married if they live together. There is no ceremony or a certificate. Affection is never shown in public. Not even hand holding.
Kevin says to tell everyone he misses them and that he is doing well.

E-mail from Kevin

We received the following e-mail from Kevin this week.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I apologize that I will only be able to write one email to you both today but I do not have the amount of time that I would normally have. We are on Weno today because Elder Matuauto is having problems with his hearing. It is nothing serious or contagious at all so do not worry. It is great to hear from you both again though. All is well here. Things have not changed much since the last time I wrote you.

Unfortunately our work is not going as well as it was before. We had two investigators who were supposed to get baptised this Saturday but we had to move their baptisms to a later date. The problem is that we cannot get them to church. They both live on the mountain about a mile away from the church and it is a significant hike for them to take. We have been trying to find a way to help them more. We proposed to President that we take a small boat to a dock near their houses and take them to church that way but we were told it is not possible. It is sad to have to look around for investigators at sacrament meeting and to not see the two who are so close to baptism. Hopefully they will get the initiative to go to church. For now, all we can do is continue to meet with them and pray that they will make the sacrifices necessary.

To answer some of your questions:
Some of our laundry is done by the branch president's wife. She lives next door to us. We give her food for everything she does for us. She is a very nice lady and helps us out a lot. We do some of the laundry ourselves. We wash it in a bucket and hang it to dry outside our house. I must say, I miss mom doing all my laundry for me and I miss having a washing machine.
I do not sleep on the floor anymore. Elder Matuauto was kind enough to switch me positions. Actually, he wanted to floor because it is closer to the fan. I didn't like the floor either because of the insects. I can't say that waking up to cockroaches running all over me is a pleasant experience. Don't worry about the insects though. It is nothing bad. They are unavoidable here.
We do all our cooking on a small propane stove. We don't have a microwave or oven. There wouldn't be enough electricity to run those. We get all our electricity from solar energy. There is a panel outside our house. On cloudy days we don't get enough energy and sometimes have to go without a fan during the night.

Well, I hope that everything is going well back home. I miss you both greatly. Thank you for all the love and support. I love you so much!