Thursday, December 24, 2009

SOS! Stranded!

The 23rd was a good day at the South house. We received an e-mail and a snail mail! I cut and pasted the two letters together.

Dear Mom and Dad,
It has been a long time since I have been able to email you...sorry. Last time we came in we didn't have time to do it. That was the first of the transfer but I did get to call you and talk to you for a few minutes. That was really good and I am looking forward to being able to talk to you in a couple days.
You sent quite a few emails so I hope I can remember all the questions you asked and answer them all.

First off, Elder Ako is fine and he doesn't have any problems. His foot problems were because of a blister that became really badly infected. He went to Guam for a week and everything was fine. It was more of a vacation he said than anything. He had hot showers, e-mail, air conditioning and fast food! All of that seems unreal to me. While Elder Ako was in Guam, Elder Ulmer came out to Romonnum and joined me for a while. That was fun but it was not the same as having Elder Ako with me. Three transfers with the same companion on Romonnum is a long time so getting a new one was weird. While Elder Ulmer was here we went to Paata and met a lot of cool folks. Elder Ako came back from Guam and was there for about a week then he got transferred back to Guam. Now Elder Cherrington is with me and that is fun, but I really miss Elder Ako.

The island of Tonoas was closed down because the septic tank is still broken. There are only 10 missionaries in Chuuk now. That is a big difference from when I got here. There used to be 15. Not too much happened this last transfer. Most people stayed the same. This next transfer will probably be big.

Elder Cherrington has been in Chuuk for three transfers so I now have the language role. That will be good for me.

While talking about news on Elders in the zone... We got some bad news last night. Elder Kuss was going to give blood to Siramino's wife who is in the hospital because of complications from her pregnancy. The hospital tested Elder Kuss' blood and it isn't 100% sure but he may have some health issues. The news was a shock and some more tests are going to be run. The sad part about it all is that he didn't have it before his mission and if it is true it will end his mission most likely. Please keep him in your prayers. It has been troubling him a lot and he is really worried.

I am excited to hear about all the exciting BYU news. That makes me even happier that they beat UNR in basketball. It sounds like it was a good game. I can only imagine the agony Grandma Jenny and Grandpa Duane had. Who did BYU play in the bowl game this year? How did TCU end their season?

I sent you a camera chip the day after I talked to you on the phone so I hope that comes soon. There are some of the pictures and videos you wanted on that like the Paata house and other stuff.

You asked a little about the stuff that happens on Romonum too. The people clean their clothes in wells around the island. They are dug by the people and are just little pools. They shower there as well. The average Chuukese person showers about 4 or 5 times a day so that is why they look so clean. There are no showers or bathrooms in any of the houses. Back to laundry though... they don't scrub their clothes or soak them but they get some dead coconut leaf things and beat their clothes. They use laundry soap and just beat the dirt out of everything. It is the only island I know of that beats clothes instead of scrubs them with a brush. It works really well though.

About Christmas now. There is no Santa Claus and gifts are exchanged within the branch but that is all I have heard of. It is a secret Santa type thing. We won't be with the Romonnum branch this year though so I won't know what it is like. I will be there for New Years though and I will have some cool stories about that. New Years is a lot bigger than Christmas here. They say it lasts for something like two weeks. I hope you are having a happy holiday season. It is strange being away for Christmas. Write and tell me about your holiday plans.

The ugly ankle you saw in one of my pictures was Elder Brown's. He came for our AP exchange with a bummed ankle. I just thought it was picture worthy.

My toiletries are alright. I could use some face scrub and an occasional shower gel would be nice. They are hard to get here and are really expensive when we do find them.

I can't believe Kristen is engaged!!!! I found out when I listened to the tape you sent out. It was hard to hear Ryan talking but after a couple times of listening to it for clarification I picked out he said he was her fiance. WOW! Tell her I said congratulations and wish I could be there for the ceremony. Tell me more about Ryan. Is he a stud or a U of U bum? haha I already know he goes there but tell me about him.

I think that is all of the questions you asked. Everything else is going great here.
While Elder Ako was gone for a week I worked with Elder Ulmar. He was a lot of fun to work with. We got along really well. We worked hard as we are pushing to get two more baptisms before the end of the year. One would be on Romonnum and one on Paata. The one on Romonnum is a lady named Margery. She is from a part member family and could never get baptized because her mother wouldn't let her. She is married and has 3 children and is over 30 years old, but it is part of the culture here to get parent approval. We talked to her mother and her mother has let up. She was actually really nice about it. Margery is pretty excited about it all. The other is a 9 year old on Paata named Peterson. He is a really cool kid and is the branch president's son. He only needs to hear all the lessons and then he will be ready for baptism. He has asked me to be the one that baptizes him and we will go to a smaller outer island to do it. One of Peterson's good friends would like to get bapized too. He comes to church every week. But his parents are both on Guam right now and he is not sure when they will be back. It will be a spur of the moment thing when they come back.

I have decided that Paata is my favorite place in terms of cool people to talk to and have fun with. But, my trips to Paata have not been all smooth. On one of the trips Elder Ulmer and I left on Wed. and were going to return on Thursday. We worked Thursday morning and went and packed up our stuff. We had brought food with us but only enough for our planned amount of time. At lunch we finished all our food and then we waited for the boat to come and get us. And we waited.. and waited... and it never came. We were abandoned on the island! We had not brought our phone so we had no way to call for help or anything. Luckily Sam, the branch president, helped us out with food. We had dinner with him that night and it was really good. That night we slept, but we had no idea about what we were going to do or what would happen. We started the next day with our normal schedule and the boat showed up! The next trip I made to Paata was the week that Elder Ako came back from Guam. We went to Paata Sunday night and worked with Peterson and then planned to leave on Monday. The boat was going to come at 11 to meet us. But we waited.. and waited...and waited, but the boat never came. It was frustrating. Once again, no clothes or food. But we did have the phone this time. We decided to call the Zone leaders to see if they could help us. It was pitch black and we had to venture up a pretty tall mountain on a skinny path with rough terrain to get our phone to work. We had flashlights but the batteries were dying and so they were pretty dim. That is the only place on the whole island where a phone will work. We were looked after though and all went well. Once again I went to bed with no idea of what would happen because the Zone leaders were not sure where the boat driver was. But the next day the boat showed up at 7AM. I have learned to laugh things off. We all had a good laugh together.

We are pushing to hit our baptismal goal in Chuuk. Originally it was 72 but got pushed up to 82. We are at 76 now and have 5 more potentials. We can make the goal though! It's possible!

We got to have the AP's come to Romonnum recently. Them coming to Romonnum is difficult. It is such a small island and there is not enough work for 4 missionaries. We made due though. The AP's are Elder Brown and Elder Sandvik. Both are golfers and go to BYU! We had a lot to talk about. We had a lot of fun and they loved being on Romonnum. They stayed only one night. I am not a failure as a missionary because they did not find anything we are doing wrong! :)

Mom, I have to confess that Elder Ako and I opened up the stocking boxes you sent us just before he left. Sorry... but he was leaving and.. thank you so much! We both love everything so much! We had a ton of fun with all the stuff. We LOVE the ties too. I took pictures of both of us. Thank you again!

So I am loving life and I am looking forward to our phone call!
I hope you are both doing great and having a great Christmas. I love you both so much. Take care.
Love Always,
Elder Kevin South

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Missionary Snail Mail Updates

Dec. 2, 2009
Dear Mom and Dad,
How are you both doing? I hope you are both doing well. I just had a chance to e-mail you a couple of days ago about my crazy stay with Elder Ako in the hospital here. I stayed again the night I e-mailed you and the next morning he got discharged. He got to go back to the zone leader's house and shower. It was the first time he got to shower or shave in 4 days so he was pretty nasty. As soon as we were both done showering we went to the zone conference which had already started. We got there towards the end of the zone leaders' training. We were sad we missed it. We did get to see all of President Dowdle's training which was great. He did a big thing on the Book of Mormon and about the prophets who saw Christ. We only covered a few of the early ones but what he showed us that the prophets wrote was amazing. President has such a deep knowledge of the scriptures and I love hearing him explain things.
We got another Book of Mormon challenge to complete in the next few months.This time we will read through and highlight 1) the life, mission, and power of Jesus Christ 2)Doctrine of the Atonement 3)Doctrine of the Plan of Salvation 4)doctrine of the gathering of Israel. I am looking forward to doing this challenge and finding out more about these doctrines. I know this challenge is going to get me pumped up to get out and work and give me a stronger testimony.
So in other news, I am back out on Romonnum again. Elder Ako will leave tomorrow for Guam for medical issues and will be there about a week. Elder Ulmer is coming to stay with me. He is a good guy and we get along well. He is assigned to Tonoas but there are problems there and so the missionaries will not be able to live in the Tonoas house for awhile. I may or may not have told you, but right as I left Tonoas the septic tank started leaking and when it rains the "contents" come up to the surface. It has now gotten really bad and a new tank needs to be put in. It is going to be a while before it is fixed. But it has worked out well as Elder Ulmer can come and stay with me and I can be back on Romonnum. Elder Ako should be back in a week or two at the most and things can return to normal.
I got two packages from grandpa Bob and Grandma Helen before we headed back out to our islands. One was a food package which I always love and the other was full of Christmas TREATS! I can't believe it is almost Christmas already. It feels like summer here. I miss the snow and all the fun leading up to it.
I still haven't gotten the package that Tori sent out a few weeks back. It must have gotten caught up in customs or something. Hopefully it comes soon. I miss hearing from them. It has been 4 months now. I know they are trying though.
I received a couple of letters from you this week and I'll respond to those a little. First I'll address dad's. My study has been doing great and it is probably my favorite part of the day. I have read the book of Mormon twice through and I am up to section 93 in the Doctrine and Covenants. I have not spent too much time just reading because I always find a topic to study and then I do that for a while. I have been fascinated right now about our lives before we came here to earth.
I am excited about all the sports news. I heard about an OVERTIME WIN OVER THE UTES! WOOHOO! I don't know all the details but that is so exciting. It must have been intense. Tell me all about it and also tell me about the interview with Max Hall.
I got some letters from mom too. I will just have to let my driver's license go because there is not a eye doctor anywhere around here to test my eyes for the extension form. I got the camera chip you sent me and the pictures were nice that you left on there for me to look at. I can't believe Jaxson and Kolby now! They are so big! You should talk to me on the chip and say Hi. I would love that. Oh, and the picture you had on there of the Christmas ornament you bought me! I love it! I don't care if my wife will hate it someday. It will always be on my tree right in the front where everyone can see it. I love that it is wooden too. It fits the culture here really well. (note from mom.. . we bought Kevin his traditional annual ornament but did not send it to him. We just took a picture of it. It is a wooden sea turtle. We thought it was fitting to represent this past year)
So nothing new is going on here. I am excited to get to work again tomorrow. It has been a full week since I have done missionary work and I miss it a lot. I am excited to work with Elder Ulmer as well. He has been here a few transfers longer than me so I'll be able to learn some good stuff from him.
I hope you are both doing great and having a good holiday season. I will talk to you on the phone soon! I am grateful for everything you do for me. You are both amazing! Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pounding Breadfruit Video

Happy Missionary with an Official Chuukese Name Tag and a Huge Box of Cereal


Dear Mom and Dad,
We got relief this last week after Thor and Arinda got baptized. I can't remember if I told you that because of Chuukese pronunciation I used to spell their names wrong. This week was crazy getting ready for baptism. The kids had a lot to be taught and it was hard to track them down to meet consistently. We got desperate a few times and had to run around the island looking for one or the other. It was stressful, but everything got taken care of and it ended up great. The baptism went well and I couldn't believe how many people showed up. There were about 50 people there which is about 5 times more than any other baptismal service that I have been to in Chuuk. Most showed up to see Elder Kuss but they attended the service at least. It was Elder Kuss' first time back to Romonnum, his home, in over a year. He was happy to see a lot of the people but also regretted coming because everyone was clinging to him the entire time he was there. I think he may have felt slightly homesick as well. The baptisms happened in the ocean right outside the church and it wasn't the greatest weather. It rained off and on. We were going to go have the baptisms on a nearby small island but Thor and Arinda's mother has a three month old baby and it couldn't go on a boat. We also had a member's child get baptized. She is one of my favorite kids here on the island. Her name is Bensi. Elder Wells baptized her. (that was why Elder Kuss was at the service as well) Now we are really working to help Thor and Arinda's parents. We will be holding a wedding for them on December 12. Hopefully they will get baptized the following week. They want to get baptized but have a lot to do first. Today was a big step for them because we got them to move out until they are married. That will be a big help to get them prepared. They have been to church once already so need at least two more times coming as well. Our other investigators are doing well but none quite prepared for baptism. We just need to keep pushing and they will be ready soon.
We got some really cool stuff this week. Elder Wells brought us back a huge box of cereal from Guam! We were stoked to get that! He also brought my language mastery certificate. It is laminated and everything. That wasn't all though! He brought back official Chuukese name badges! It finally got approved for Chuukese and we got them now! They will also be getting copies of Preach My Gospel in Chuukese. It is already translated and they only need to format it and then it will be ready to be printed! I am curious to see that. Preach My Gospel would have been hard to translate as it is not first grade English! It must have been hard to translate. I want to see how it turned out. Soon the first Presidency might approve a full translation of the Book of Mormon. The only thing that makes me sad about that is that, if approved, it won't be printed until after me mission. I'll still buy one though!
I got a letter from dad this week and was excited to hear that BYU basketball should do well this year. I'm hoping it won't be another one and done team. I hope football finishes strong this year too. From here the only things I really want to see is beating Utah and winning a decent bowl game. By the time you get this the Utah game will probably be done. Know that my heart still bleeds blue and my soul abhors red!
To answer some of your questions, no our water pump hasn't been fixed. It probably won't be for a long time. I will probably be off Romonnum by that time. We don't shower outside any more. There is a lower water spout in the shower and we use that to fill up a large bucket. We use a cup and then pure water over ourselves.
You asked what the people do here with such a calm lifestyle. Some fish and some do gardening, but not a ton of other stuff.
This week we will go to Weno for Thanksgiving. I am excited. we will eat with the Duncans. They found a full turkey here which is hard to believe!
Elder Ako and I realized the other day that in a months time we will get to call home! I am looking forward to talking to you again. I'll even be able to speak Chuukese to you. I can't believe how long it has been since I have seen you or talked to you. The Lord has really helped me to not get too homesick. I think of you both frequently and keep you in my prayers. Thank you for all that you do for me. Take care and stay safe.

PS Dad, what's up with Cummard going to Germany? No NBA team wanted him?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Romonnum Church Building Dedication

This is a video taken during the celebration and dedication for the Romonnum church building.