Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Answering LOTS of Questions

A Scene From Chuuk

March 30, 2010
Dear Mom and Dad,
I have been writing a hand letter today to go along with my email so I won't cover my whole week in this email. I'll try to send out hand letters when I can as well just because those seem nicer than emails. I will put a camera chip with my letter so you should get that soon. Sorry it has been so long. The new chip has AWESOME stuff on it. You will love it.
Right now we are in Telecom and it is 7:00pm. I was really happy to hear from you both. Today we had an Easter dinner with the Holloways (the senior couple here). They are awesome and the dinner was good. All the missionaries were there and we watched some clips from the seminary movies about Jesus Christ and hung out. I really like getting together with the zone. Elder Standage and Elder Keel from my MTC group are here so we get along well and have a lot to talk about.
I have lost weight. Somehow I lost 12 pounds in 10 days? Don't worry though
Ok, so this week has been good. I am liking Pohnpei and getting used to it more. I do still miss Chuuk though. I get to speak Chuukese occasionally to some Chuukese people here but it is rare and they have lived here so long they don't understand it all anymore. That is sad. Their accents are ridiculous too. It is amazing how different the tones of the languages are and the influxtions are way off. It interferes with me speaking Pohnpeian a bit but I will get over it soon.
So I'll probably just respond to all the questions you asked:
I would love to get emails and hand letters from you both. I love hearing from you and hearing how everything is back home. Don't worry about sending one of each every week. Just write when it is convenient and you have time. As for email, tell everyone that time is short for email and I will most likely write them hand letters. Time is a lot shorter here on P-days and I struggle to get the letters out I want.I get mail once a week and get a chance to send it once a week. The zone leaders pick it up and hold it until we come in for P-day.
Please contact Elder Mitton's family. Tell him to write me and where I am. Tell him I miss his guts and he is in my prayers every night. I love that guy so much and was so sad when I found out he went home. Tell him the whole mission is praying for him to be able to come back.
The mission didn't give me much in terms of extra study materials for learning Pohnpeian. I just have a small language packet that I borrowed from one of the elders here. The packet is sufficient to give me a foundation and then I will just listen to the people and ask them questions. That's how I did it in Chuuk and I got the language pretty well so I will do it here as well.
There are outer islands of Pohnpei but we don't have missionaries there yet, only here on the main island. Maybe in the future there will be but the church will have to get a lot stronger here on the main island before that.
There are some foods available here, but not a lot. I miss some of the things you sent me while I was in Chuuk. I miss tortillas, canned chicken and mashed potatoes. The Idahoan powdered potatoes are awesome. Candy is always awesome too! haha. I can get ingredients like milk and eggs on Pohnpei. Milk is all ultra pasteurized so it isn't as good as the stuff back home but it works. We do have a microwave and oven too. I miss some of the Chuukese food too. I really want some breadfruit, but you can't get me that!
The school system on Pohnpei is way better than in Chuuk. There are quite a few kids who know good english and they are pretty intelligent.
I attend the Kitti branch here. The meeting house is half of a house here. We have a small branch and attendance is small. The members are nice and similar to Chuukese people. They seem to be a little bit more of a serious people though and a lot less joking and laughing goes on. A lot of the fun language stuff in Chuukese doesn't exist in Pohnpeian so that is the main reason for it. All in all the members are the same. We have a few studs and a lot of less-actives. We'll try to help the members the best we can and work to make the branch stronger.
We do have a Pohnpeian Book of Mormon but it is not complete and the translation is bad. Soon there may be a full translation approved which would be great.
Kolonia is the capital of Pohnpei and is by far the most developed part of Micronesia. Quite a few people know English in the city and there are a lot more tourists here which help to bring in money. Chuuk is about 15 years behind this place. It isn't a problem though. Chuuk is humble living and it is good. The Savior talks about simple life a bit in the New Testament when he says the fowl don't put any thought into tomorrow. Heavenly Father loves the people all the same and they have put there faith in Him to watch after them and help them live day to day. Pohnpei is more developed but is still far from the level of the states. It is still a pretty simple life here. Especially when you get out of the city. There are still shacks here and people who live entirely off the land and what they can catch from the ocean.
That made me laugh when so many people thought I was in Greece or Italy. Nope, I am on a tiny island in the Pacific. I am prejudiced, but I think it is better than Italy or Greece!
Your laundry comment made me laugh. I hope I didn't say that in a negative light last week. I actually like doing my own laundry with the machines. It is fine and I don't mind the time it takes. The machines get them pretty clean too so that is good.
The work right now is a lot of finding. We have some investigators but no studs yet. Last week we got 15 new investigators and this week we got 14. That hints a little how fast we drop people. Most people aren't willing to keep commitments we leave so we don't want to waste our time. The elect are out there and we need to find them. The people we drop though can have a change of heart later that will prepare them to accept the gospel. I pray that they will be able to accept it soon and reap the blessings of the Restored Gospel. I don't do any teaching here yet. It is all Elder Parker. I don't do much but pray and bear simple testimony. The languages have similarities but a lot of differences as well that are hard to get my thinking pattern adjusted to. I tend to throw in some Chuukese when I try to speak to people here. With time that will stop though.
We haven't done any service projects here yet unfortunately. The people here respect us and don't want us doing work for them. It is annoying but we can't do anything about it. We offer it and look for opportunities but it is rare.
We don't baptize in the ocean here. Where we have actual church buildings there are baptismal fonts. I will miss the ocean baptisms. The location doesn't matter though. It is just good to help people receive that ordinance.
Elder Parker and I are the only ones who stay in the Kitti house. Every Monday night the Elders from Mand (the d makes a t sound) come over and stay the night because it is easier for them to get stuff done for p-day. It is fun when they come over. For p-days we try to play football when we have time and then go take care of everything else. We do shopping, laundry, emailing, etc. Today we got an oil change for our truck and renewed our registration. Next week I will try to get a driver's license.
For zone p-day we try to look at historical sites or cool cultural stuff. I'll tell you about that stuff when it happens. We haven't had a zone p-day yet so I can't tell you anything yet.
Ok, so that was all your questions. There was a cultural thing I wanted to tell you. It is a big problem here. For some reason the people here pound the roots of a plant called Sakau. After pounding it on a big flat stone they wring it out and it makes a thick milky substance that looks like it is mixed with dirt. They drink that and it gives them a drunk like feeling. It is against the word of wisdom now and it is really hard for people to give up. Not because it is addicting but because it is so big in the culture. Another gross thing like that is the betelnut. Chuuk has it but there are only a few people who chew it. Here it is a big problem and is so gross. They chew this little nut and it makes their mouth numb. I don't understand the big thrill of it but almost everyone does it here.
Alright that is it for the questions. Ask me the ones I missed again and I'll get to them next week. I'll send a letter out next week with stuff from this week and the upcoming week. I'll still write you hand letters because those are always good.
All is well here in Pohnpei now and I am liking it. I will get a much better love of the people soon and I look forward to it. For now I am going to just work hard with the language so I can start teaching. The Lord will help me with it a lot.
I hope you are doing great. I love you. Thank you for everything you do. Take care.

Love Always,
Elder Kevin South

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Adjusting to Pohnpei But Missing Chuuk

Friends on Paata

Chuuk Gang in November

Dear Mom and Dad,
I bet you will be happy now. I will be able to have a steady email stream coming to you now. It may make it harder for hand letters though. I will try to write to you when I have time. The rules are that I can only email family now so I have to respond to other stuff by hand. The p-days here on Pohnpei are different than what I have dealt with before. We don't give our laundry to a local here. And there is a laudromat! We also do shopping once a week so that takes up time.
Pohnpei is a really nice island. It is huge and there are a ton of people on it. The people are all pretty friendly and they live a simple life here. The culture is a pretty respectful one and they have their cool things they do. It is sooo much bigger than Chuuk. The area I stay in is enormous. It takes like 30-45 minutes to get from one side to the other in a truck. I live in a home that isn't by the church. The house is really nice. It has 3 bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, and a study area. I feel spoiled. We have an oven, microwave, fridge, freezer and all the good stuff. It is a big step up on living conditions. It is still way lower than what I had before my mission though. I miss my little house on Romonnum right now. That was such a simple life. I can't even begin to tell you how much I miss Chuuk. Nobody comes and asks us if they can have stuff. I miss it...weird, I know. Right now I am definitely having a hard time adjusting. My heart has a big hole in it now that I am not on Chuuk. I love those people there so much and I loved how amazing their language was. Even their annoying traits are missed right now. The hard part about this all is that I probably will never get a chance to go back and see those people and I will lose a lot of my Chuukese abilities as I learn Pohnpeian. I have faith this is where the Lord wants me though so I'm going to push on and do my best here.
The hardest part here is having to learn a new language though. The languages are similar in aspects but different in a lot. The structures are close and I am picking up on it quickly but it is still going to be hard. I sort of wish I had just had the chance to go to Guam then go back to Chuuk. The people here are different than the Chuukese so it is an adjustment. They don't joke around a lot and they aren't as frank in their language. I loved how bold Chuukese people were. I'll make the adjustment though. There are quite a few people here that speak Chuukese. They moved here from the islands that are out of the lagoon so they actually speak another dialect but I can understand them well enough to speak with them. Their accents are outrageous though. They sound nothing like a Chuukese. I am so afraid of that happening to me. I'm sure it will in about another month. I should learn the language fairly quickly. I have been working pretty hard at it and have learned quite a bit already. I can understand a lot more than I can speak now though. I can only give a simple broken testimony at the end of lessons but as Elder Parker and the people speak I can follow most of it as long as it is gospel related. This is going to be a frustrating bout at learning Pohnpeian which isn't something I thought I would ever really have to do.
The Elders have a much different perspective of Chuuk than what it really is. It is unfortunate. The Pohnpeian people hate Chuuk too. They think it is some horrible place and when they hear that I came from Chuuk they always ask if the people treated me well. In their minds it is some super primitive place and all the people are barbaric. They will never know what it is like unless they actually get the chance to live there.
My companion is Elder Parker. He is a good guy. We get along well. He is good with the language so he will help me a lot.
I don't have to much to really tell you about Pohnpei yet since I have only been here for three days now. Ask me questions if you have any and I'll do my best to respond to them all.
About me getting the chance to serve in Guam... I probably never will get the chance unless I go for my last two transfers or something. I would feel robbed if that happened honestly though. That would only put me here for 6 transfers which wouldn't give me enough time to learn the language really well.
The work has been good here. We have a ton of investigators right now and some are making some small steps of progression but nothing huge yet. I honestly can't tell you too much about any of them because I have only seen them like once or twice and have no idea what they are saying. Maybe in a couple weeks I'll be able to tell you more.
As a zone, Pohnpei is doing really well. We have around 27 baptisms for the year I think. That is really, really, high. There are 10 elders here and 4 sisters so there is a lot of good work going on. The other Elders are all good guys. It is so much different than the Chuuk zone though. We had a brotherhood back there and here it isn't as close knit. We all get along well and everything though. I feel somewhat like an outsider but that will go away with time. The elders here are all really far into their missions. There are only 2 here that have been out for less time than me. About half the zone goes home in about 4 1/2 months. I think that means I will have to work extra hard with the language.
I was happy to hear that BYU wasn't a one and done team again. That must have been a really scary first round game if it went into double overtime. Too bad they lost the second round. I haven't heard anything about the MWC tournament but I am assuming that because we were given a 7 seed we didn't do very well in it. How are the other teams from the MWC holding out? Is New Mexico giving it to the other teams good?
Your cruise idea sounds like a lot of fun. You should change the plans though. You should all come to the Micronesian islands. Jk. That wouldn't be very good. Maybe at a later time though.
I am happy to hear that Grandpa Duane is still getting better and is back to his old self now. I still keep him in my prayers so the Lord can help him. Give him and grandma my love.
Well, that about covers my week. I hope that you are all doing well back home. Thanks a bunch for all you do for me. I love you so much. Take care.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Time of Change

I found the above picture on the mission president's blog. This is a picture of the landing strip in Pohnpei.

March 16, 2010
Dear Mom and Dad,
Long time no hear huh? I am at the Duncan's house right now and get the chance to send off a quick email. I don't think I can cover all that has happened in the last little while. I have written a few letters that should get to you soon that will explain things better. To sum it up though, I have been staying on Weno for the last little while. It has been about a week and a half now. There have been four of us there. We were with Elder Cherrington there. That's not the big news though. My address will be changing. We got a call last night for transfers and I got put in a place I never saw myself going. I'll be flying out to Pohnpei on Friday morning. I can't even begin to tell you the confusion and the questions that are going through my head. I imagined I would just go to Guam and then come back to Chuuk at a later point. I think my fate is sealed though and I will spend my last 8 transfers in Pohnpei. It is a hard thing for me to deal with. I don't have enough time to say goodbye to the people I have grown to love here. I don't have enough time to do anything I want. I was starting to get good at Chuukese too and I was learning a lot more but now I will have to go switch over and learn Pohnpeian. It won't be bad though. I think I will pick it up alright since Chuukese and Pohnpeian are similar. My new companion is Elder Parker. He originally was on Pohnpei then went to Guam and served as a zone leader there. He he has been back on Pohnpei for one transfer now. He has about 4 transfers left in his mission. My area is called Kitti (pronounced Kichi). I don't know much about it. All I can tell you about Pohnpei now is that living conditions will be way different and life will be much different. I think I will actually have a house that I will stay in. The area is really big. There are a lot of Chuukese people on Pohnpei but there are none in my area. I am so sad that I will lose my Chuukese language. There isn't much I can do at this point though.
So that is the big news for the week. My address changed to:
P.O. Box 2203
Kolonia, Pohnpei, 96941
I hope there isn't any mail coming for me on the way that I will miss but the zone leaders will be able to forward anything to me. All in all life is good and I'm putting my trust that the Lord wants me in Pohnpei now. I wasn't expecting it and I don't know if I have heard of any elders making that sort of switch before but who am I to question the Lord? I'll probably be able to email you once a week from now on so that will be nice. I'll try to let you know more details as soon as I can.
Thank you so much for everything that you do for me. Take care.
Love Always,
Elder Kevin South

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Chuukese Legend; The Prideful Woman

Kevin is on a boat trip between the islands of Paata and Romonnum in this video. During the trip he tells a Chuukese Legend about two mountains that he passes. The video screen is showing blank, but if you hit the play button it does work.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's Been a Good Week and a Bad Week

The picture above shows a friend of Kevin's on the island of Tonoas. Behind him you can see blue water tanks. Chuuk is experiencing a drought and the tanks on the islands are now empty.

Surrounded by water, but none in the water tanks

Dear Mom and Dad,
Another week has gone by, but this week there were problems abounding. Today we were suppose to go to Weno and have zone conference, but for some reason it was postponed. We got all ready to got this morning and waited and waited and waited, but the boat never showed up. I can't say I am not getting used to that yet! We don't have a phone here either so we had to go find someone who did have one. We called and found out that we won't be going until next Thursday so our whole day was messed up. It's a p-day though so that isn't too bad. It does throw off the rest of the week though too.
Through all the bad news there is some good news. Our investigator, George, is doing way good and is going to get baptized this week. We have to figure out how everything will happen without any problems because we will now leave on Thursday for zone conference and we won't be back until Saturday which is the day of the baptism. I am sure everything will happen just fine. I am excited for George and he is pretty stoked. During my first transfer here we worked with him and then he lost interest, we tried again and now he is getting baptized! It was a fun adventure with George. He is a clown.
So other than George's baptism the news from this week kind of stinks. We are in a drought right now and our tanks have only about twenty gallons left in them. Our water pump broke again so we now bathe in the ocean and then fill a bucket of water from the tank and use that to get the salt off. For drinking water we have a filter that Elder Schuler's family sent him while he was on Uman. We bring water from the only couple of tanks that have water any more. They are for the church bathrooms, but it is still just rain water. The tanks are super filthy but the filter cleans the water so it doesn't matter. I don't know how long the tanks are going to last until they are empty. Probably not long. All the tanks that the church provides for the community are completely empty now. The wells on the island are dry too. We received news from the Guam weather station that it may be a few more months until it rains again. They said maybe even 4 to 6 months. I know they can't predict that accurately and they did not take into account the power of prayer and fasting. Life without water is not the most enjoyable thing, but life continues and the work is good so that is what matters.
Right now the work is strong and we have good things going on. We have the potential of 4 or 5 baptisms in the next couple of months. Most of them depend on helping people overcome family issues. It is possible though and the Lord will prepare the way. So the news is not all bad this week. Conditions are poor right now but the work is good and to me that is all that matters.
I tried a new food this week. Shark! We paid one of the kids to catch one for us and he ended up with two. They were each about two feet long. I took some cool pictures of them while they were still fresh. We fried them up and they were pretty good. It was like white meat almost. It is not like the typical fish meal (which I also love!) I am hoping to get some more soon. We told the kid if he caught us a 4 foot one we would get him a basketball. A 4 foot one can't do much to a kid so don't worry about that at all.
Since we haven't gone in to Weno yet I haven't heard from you again. I don't have anything to respond to. Hopefully next week. I hope you are both doing good and all is well. Thanks for everything you do!
Love Always,
Elder Kevin South

Margery is Baptized!

The picture above shows the food that was served at a church conference dinner on Weno this fall.

February 16, 2009
Dear Mom and Dad,
Hi! I hope all is well back at home for you both. I have some fun stuff to tell you about this week.
First of all, life on Rommanum as a threesome is going well. We are all having a lot of fun and getting along well. We are having a really hard time believing that it is already week 3. Time has been flying by. We are hoping that when President Dowdle comes for zone conference next week that he will let us stay out here together until the end of the transfer. Keep your fingers crossed for us.
This week had its crazy days like always too. On Friday morning we were sitting down to our weekly planning session and the zone leaders showed up unannounced. They said we were going to be having an exchange. I ended up going to Weno with Elder Kuss. I had such a blast with him. We spoke in Chuukese the whole time and had some really good lessons. The Mwan area is doing so well right now and is going to be having so many baptisms. The new church building is drawing a lot of attention and interest in Mwan. There should be an open house around in May. I really hope I will still be in Chuuk for that. I'll be sad if I am in Guam. While on the exchange in Weno I was also put in charge of getting stuff for the baptism. We needed the baptism clothes, food and gas. The missionaries are relied on really heavily here to make things run smoothly.
On Saturday we went back out to Rommanum about 12 and got started on work for the baptisms. Margery was interviewed by Elder Kuss and I worked on finding a fill in speaker as our speaker cancelled. I found one who agreed to speak if I wrote the talk. I worked on the program, gathered materials and worked on the food. Everyone was very excited that we were having candy, drinks and hot dogs. I felt very happy as we loaded into boats and left to go to a small nearby island. We had a really good attendance which is super awesome! The service was held just above the beach and the baptism was in the ocean. Elder Kuss performed the baptism and I got to go out in the water as a witness. It was so beautiful on the island and it was so awesome to see Margery baptised and start her new life. On Sunday she asked me to confirm her and give her the gift of the Holy Ghost. That went really good as well. we are excited to get Margery and her husband, Atti, preparing to go to the temple when the time comes so they can be sealed together. They have the potential to be really strong members of the branch who do everything they can to magnify their callings. I am super excited for them.
Apart from the baptism last week we have a lot of other good stuff going on. We have another guy scheduled to get baptized on the 27th. He is a guy who we were teaching when I first got here but then he decided to stop taking lessons. He wants to be taught again and baptized on the 27th. It may take one more week after that. We also picked up some other new investigators who are showing promising signs. It may take overcoming some family struggles to help them though. For now we will just try really hard.
I have some other exciting news about our recent convert, Fais. He is the older guy who was baptized the second week I came to Rommanum. We have been meeting with him occasionally and he is a super stud. He has read almost the entire Book of Mormon in a month and has signed up to go to the temple next year! We are helping him to receive the Melchizedek priesthood and he will have it really really really soon. I am so excited for him and the things he is preparing for. He has also been a huge help to our work here. He goes out of his way to fellowship our investigators and make them feel welcome. What a stud! I wish all members here could be as willing to work as him.
I got a letter from dad this week while I was in Weno for the exchange. It's good to hear everything is going well. All of the stuff on BYU basketball was awesome too. They sound like such a good team right now. There are so many studs and it sounds like they all work together really well. I hope they finish out the season as strong as they started. I would hate to see another one and done year.
Dad asked a couple of questions so I will answer those now. No, Chuukese music is not anything like you would hear in the states. I am probably willing to put money on it that both of you would hate the music too. I have learned to like it and I really like their religious songs.
As for the baptisms in 2009, our original goal was 72. We pushed it further though and tried for 82. The final number for the year was 78. We tied with the Pohnpei zone overall, but they have more missionaries than us so haha! We won! I know it isn't a competition, but it is hilarious because Pohnpei elders really thought they were going to beat us. We showed them.
This week I also got to celebrate Valentine's Day. I got the present with the ties which was awesome. I love getting new ties. I am now known as the elder with the huge tie collection. Thank you so much for those. I still have not seen the other box you mentioned with the Valentine treats. Hopefully they show up soon.
Well that covers my week here. I'm sure I will have some exciting stuff to report on next week. The work is starting to practically explode here. Take Care!
Love Always,
Elder Kevin South

Monday, March 1, 2010

Three's Company

February 9, 2010
Dear Mom and Dad,
This last week was a really ridiculous one. I'm not even sure where to begin. We went to Weno for transfers which was a lot of fun. I am really enjoying being companions with Elder Shuler. But it doesn't stop there. We had a new Elder come in from Guam named Elder Krause. He is assigned to work on Tonoas with Elder Mitton, but Elder Mitton is really sick and on Guam so Elder Krause didn't have a home. Elder Shuler and I figured we have the smallest and least suited house in the mission for a threesome so why not invite him to come with us! Hahaha! Our house is ridiculously overcrowded with stuff and people! It is fun though! Elder Krause is an awesome guy and is just really chill about everything. He is 6 feet 5 inches and weighs about 160 (came out at 145) so people are always shocked to see us all. It is somewhat intimidating for the people to see three missionaries walking around preaching the gospel. We'll just scare people into coming to church now!
I brought up Elder Mitton being really sick and I am pretty sure I told you about him going to Guam before. We have gotten more news on him lately. He is going to Salt Lake. All of the missionaries are very worried about him. It is not clear when he will leave and how long he will be gone. Please keep Elder Mitton in your prayers so he will have a quick recovery and come back with us soon. He is really scared right now and he also doesn't want to leave.
In other news here, we had a meeting yesterday on Weno for health. One of the senior sister missionaries is a former nurse and she came to talk to all of us. She also took water samples from all the islands to be tested on Guam. I'm not sure what they are checking for, but they will be absolutely shocked at how dirty our water is. We filter our drinking water so I am not very concerned. We stayed the night on Weno and then came back out today to get our water samples. We got back and the facilities management workers were here and they FIXED OUR WATER PUMP! I am so happy that we have a working pump!! We can take normal showers again and wash our dishes with more water pressure than a few drops! I have not had that for over 7 months!
The work here is going well. Margery didn't get baptized this last week but she will this week. Elder Kuss will be able to come. I am going to be happy when she gets baptized. It is going to be a really good one! Besides Margery, we won't have any baptisms for a while. A lot of people are procrastinating the day of their repentance. We try so hard to help them see how wrong that is. They have their agency to choose though.
I got a box from you while I was on Weno. All of the food rocks! Thank you so much for that.
It sounds as if stuff back home is going well. I couldn't believe your letter when you wrote that Kristen was getting married and then realized that was a few days ago. Kristen is married?! It doesn't seem real! Give her my congratulations and wishes for the best.
Well sorry I don't have too much more to tell you this week. All is well and the work is good. I hope the same for you! Love Always!