Sunday, November 29, 2009

What Thanksgiving means to Collin

Yesterday we went to church and found out that one of our families dropped us- I sort of said a little about them, the parents who want their daughters to sin and the daughters who would rather just be good and get baptized. Apparently the mom "took the truth to be hard" and said that she doesn't mind if we came over and ate with them, but they don't ever want us to teach them again. Then we found out that our lunch appointment for after church was canceled.... And I realized we had absolutely NOTHING to eat chez nous. I was really worried about that. Then the branch president brought out a buttload of cantaloupes and watermelons and we all ate until we were stuffed. I must have eaten 10 cantaloupe pieces and 3 huge watermelon pieces. Which was good since our lunch was canceled. We tried to go around and see some people and no one was around so we just went home to do studies.. I was all sad because of the Nothing to eat thing- we just ate this tuna stuff.. Then later for dinner.. We found out we didn't even have butter, so we couldn't make Macaroni and Cheese--- we were basically just out of luck. So the day wasn't going so good.. But then we found some Rice-a-roni! And life was saved. It called for BUTTER ... which we didn't have. But we tried it with vegetable oil and it worked fine! We mixed it with some canned peas we found lying around and it turned out to be the best meal I'd ever eaten. The day was saved and life was good again. I'd still love some In-n-out though--- I heard rumors that the owners said they would never open one in Utah-- but I guess the rumors were FALSE because there it goes. Apparently Lucky Buns was supposed to be an in-and-out copy but they went out of business. Hopefully in-and-out will do better.

Other than that our ami Yvan came to church, so that was good. He didn't feel like wearing a tie- but whatev, still good. :) Not a lotta happened this week besides that. I found out that President Callister is coming in 2 weeks- and that he wants to do an interview with every missionary. Kind of intimidating. He gave an awesome talk in General Conference- if you didn't get the chance to hear it, I recommend it.

That's about all that happened this week.. We're trying to plan something for Thanksgiving- no one knows it exists in this country, so it's just a normal Thursday. However I was thinking about how thankful I am for everything.. I've learned so much on my mission- I wouldn't trade the experiences I have daily for anything. I'm so thankful for all that I've learned and all the ways in which I've grown. I actually have a reason for all the crappy things that happen, because I have so many opportunities to grow. I remember the times I just responded negatively when bad things happened and I found myself even more miserable. But when I am just optimistic and happy things work out. I think about something I heard in a Zone Conference- I can't remember if it was from a conference talk or what, but there was a guy who lived in a German concentration camp for years and obviously suffered much. He figured, however, that the German soldiers could take away almost everything from them.. They could take away all of their freedoms, their clothes, their belongings, they could withhold food and water and try their best to make their lives miserable- but the only thing that they couldn't take away is one's attitude. They can't control it, and no one can. I am happy when I choose to be happy. Stuff sucks sometimes, that's life, but we always are able to choose the way in which we'll react.
I'm thankful for my family and for your letters and encouragement every week- I always look forward to it. Sorry my letter was super lame last week.. I felt like I was going to die. ( he was SO sick last week!)But I'm okay now. I hope you guys get something out of my letters each week.. Sorry they're not horribly interesting every time.. Sometimes nothing happens really in the whole week. But I'll try my best, eh? I'm so thankful for everything that you guys do for me and all your prayers.. Thanks for all the letters and packages and everything.
I'm thankful for the Gospel in my life- what would I do without it? I'm so happy for what I've learned on my mission.. I've learned how important the Church is and how less important some of the "really important" things are in life. I read in Alma 32 and 33 this morning and me and Elder Wilcox were discussing how Mormon left this section in, not because there are necessarily apostate churches all over the place in our day, but because we, as members of the church, sometimes risk becoming like the apostate Zoramites. How? Well, the Zoramites had the gospel, and decided to say the same prayers over and over, go to church once a week, and forget about God for the rest of the week. I'm happy for all that I've learned and all the good examples of the members here.. May we not forget how important God is in our lives-- all 7 days of the week.
I'm mostly thankful for everything, but those are just a couple things. Don't forget that Thanksgiving isn't just to eat, but to be thankful too. Remember how merciful God has been in our lives.. I'm trying to remember how unimportant I am- how little I am. In Mosiah 2 it talks about how even if we were to serve all our lives we would still be unprofitable servants.. God gives us EVERYTHING- right down to our breath. And all he asks us to do is keep his commandments.

20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the athanks and bpraise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and cpreserved you, and has caused that ye should drejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
21 I say unto you that if ye should aserve him who has created you from the beginning, and is bpreserving you from day to day, by lending you cbreath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own dwill, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your ewhole souls yet ye would be funprofitable servants.
22 And behold, all that he arequires of you is to bkeep his commandments; and he has cpromised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth dvaryfrom that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do ekeep his fcommandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

I love thanksgiving-- mostly cuz of the food. But I'm going to try to be as thankful as I can, and not forgetting from what source everything comes from. We don't prosper because we're just awesome and amazing and strong people, but we owe everything to God. Any blessings we have in our lives, we owe to Him and we should thank Him as much as possible.. especially during this thanksgiving time. Cool.

Thanks for everything, I don't have a whole lot else to say, but I hope you all have a wonderful week and a wonderful thanksgiving. Be good and be happy.

Elder Winget

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lots of news from Elder Winget!

I have been SO busy for the past month, but I finally had time to update Elder Winget's blog. He has some interesting stories to tell about people he has been teaching, and people he taught last year when he was a new missionary. He and Elder Wilcox are splitting their time between 2 apartments - one in Tontouta, and one in Boulouparis. But the branch they attend is the same one he and Elder Tekurio attended last year when they were in Paita. So he has the wonderful opportunity of seeing people he helped teach last year and find out how they have progressed in the gospel. I'll post several excerpts from emails from the past month - I hope I can put them together in some kind of order that will make sense to you ...

I have always heard the quote that a testimony is gained on your Feet not on your Knees and I never really understood-- I came to the realization that that is really true this week. I thought about everything that has gone into finding and teaching these people.. I'm just a 20 year old American punk who doesn't speak that good of french, and isn't that good of a speaker in English either way. I don't know a huge amount about anything. I'm immature and silly and I don't take things seriously enough. I know that if I was inviting people to join something of my own will and power, not one person would listen on this island. I KNOW that the experiences and countless others that I've shared and not shared with you are guided by the Spirit-- If it wasn't so, I know the results would be very different. My testimony has grown so much, not just on my knees, but in living and teaching the Gospel- or in other words, on my feet. I've grown so much- all these experiences have changed who I really am. I'm so thankful to be on a mission and to have the opportunity to help the Lord change these peoples' lives. I know that not much is happening of my own doing--- I'm just an instrument in the Lord's hands. I'm so excited about it too. I love my mission!

It's interesting getting to know my new sector. It's more of what I expected when I got my mission call to Fiji.. Missionaries in Noumea don't know what real life is. Even Paita seems like the big city and there's only like 10,000 people who live there. Boulouparis is a city that was originally built around a police station. The population is less than 2,000 and it has 1 gas station and 2 chinois stores- or convenience type stores. Tontouta is where the international airport is, and our chapel is. The whole town is pretty much just airport workers and "gendarmeries" - that's what the police is called. Elder Wilcox bought bikes for the sector, because our kilometers are severely limited for the size of the sector- so every Wednesday we bike to save kilometers. Malheureusement, my bike broke already and we're going to have to figure out somehow to fix it. We're working on it.
I don't know if I told you, but we have 2 apartments in this sector- one in Boulouparis and one in Tontouta- that way we don't have to keep going up to Boulou every single night.. That would waste lots of time and kilometers. So a little more than half of the week we stay in Tontouta and the rest we stay in Boulouparis. Boulouparis doesn't have much in it.. Just a couple people. Every door has been knocked and everyone in the whole town knows us- so missionary work doesn't move too quickly. So that's why we stay in Tontouta more often- there's lots more people and actually stuff to do. The bad part is.. The tontouta apartment is about the size of my room back home.. The Mautz's call it the "country house".. It's right in the middle of the country.. far from civilization. It's basically a little cabin. Whatev. We cleaned it this morning and rearranged it and I organized everything much better so it's a much better place to live these days. I guess that's just my thing- I hate cleaning but when I start doing it I HAVE to get it right or I'll go nuts. The good thing about both our apartments is that it's very quiet- a huge change from VDC. AND I can see STARS!!! Millions of them! it's really weird, one can see much different stars in the southern hemisphere. Last night I went outside and stared at them for like 30 minutes.. Then our neighbor's dogs scared me so I went back inside. Our neighbors have these evil dogs and we're sort of scared of them.

The sector in general- the branch is really difficult and verging on ridiculous- They're small and far from Noumea. But we're working hard with them and things have improved even since a year ago when I was here last. So things are inching along.

from Nov. 1:
As for our Amis in this sector, we're working with a guy named Yvon- an old Caldoche (white guy born in Caledonia) guy. Apparently originally all he was looking forward to was death- he doesn't take care of himself anymore and kind of gave up on life. He was smoking a huge box of 144 mini cigars per 2 days and spending all his retirement on cigars and cigarettes. Since the missionaries (Elder Wilcox and Aiho) found him, he read the BOM in 6 days, and has a better outlook on life. He's slowly but surely improving. He's down to about 15-20 cigarettes a day and reads a lot in the BOM. He's got a raging beard/mane and only has one eye-- (an accident with a shotgun and alcohol..) He doesn't change his clothes and doesn't shower. We're trying to get him to clean up a little bit. We kind of tricked him into coming to church for the first time yesterday. We lent him Elder Wilcox's hair clippers and he said he was going to get all clean and stuff for church the next day- but we showed up and he was still just dirty old Yvon. He said he wasn't pure enough to come to church- but we said well, how about we just go do a tour of the chapel before the members show up. And he's like well, alright. So we went and got him to sit down in the chapel and then we're like well look, it's Fast and Testimony meeting and you won't want to miss it- what do you say we just stay? And he stayed the whole time. He liked it and we'll be seeing him tonight, and hopefully we can engage him to continue going to church every week.
from Nov. 8:
our friend Yvon came to church again! He cut his hair and trimmed his beard and I gave him a shirt and tie to put on and he looked great! He loves church and as soon as we can get him to quit smoking and drinking, I think we can baptize him. Apparently I'm taking it all for granted since I just got here, but this is something elder Wilcox and Aiho were trying to get him to do for MONTHS. They even lent him the clippers and he never got around to clipping his hair. But this time it worked out. I'm really excited about it.

Also from Nov. 1:
The amazing news though--- Me and elder Wilcox were building a house/thing for this dude and I got a phone call from Elder Green- he said that Soane and Vaea have started their marriage papers!!!! They're definitely some of the best Amis I've ever had, and I had no doubt they'd get baptized someday.. They always talked about when they are baptized and how they want to so bad, but didn't always DO something about it. But they've gotten their papers started and have asked me to be a witness at their wedding! The Zone Leaders said no (it's their job), but President Ostler said yes! I don't know the date yet, but their kids are going to Tahiti on Dec 14th and they want them to be their for the Wedding- so it's going to be before that. I'm inexplicably ecstatic. Of all the people I've taught I feel like I have the strongest bond with them and their family, and I am so happy for them. I knew they could do it!! They're amazing people- they're at every church function and are applying gospel principles better than most members- they still do family scriptures and prayer every night and talk about temple marriage.. They just get it and I know they're going to be an amazing addition to the Church.

and a continuation, from Nov. 8:
We saw Soane and Vaea and the kids- they stopped in Tontouta to see me and so I could sign their marriage papers, since I'm going to be a witness. I'm so excited--- I honestly consider them my friends- people I would keep hanging out with even if I wasn't on a mission. And So I'm really really extatic about their marriage and baptism. Elder Green told me they won't stop talking about me and asking about me and he's like hey, I'm still here! Let's talk about me! Soane said well you're here and Winget isn't so let's talk about him. :P I guess the kids ask about me and my news and such. The kids have memorized up to 8 in the articles of faith, and they have speaking parts in the primary program- even though they're not members yet. I'm so so so so So happy about their progress-- it makes all the hard work worth it!! The Sékémé family is the last actual FAMILY to get baptized on this island for a LONG time.. It's really hard to get entire families to except the gospel.. ironically. But Soane and Vaea's little family is going to be the next one in. I'm so excited. I've seen the slow but steady progress in them.. They're genuinely so much happier.. I remember when we first went to their house months ago.. There was no spirit in their home and I thought they didn't even like each other.. They NEVER went ANYWHERE as a family-- it was work, school, fight, sleep. But now they actually love each other.. The gospel really does strengthen families.. Something I don't think I could have learned without going on a mission. I really took our family unity for granted-- but I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the reason why we're so close.

And here's some more interesting news:
I saw Atiu Atiu (my buddy that got baptized back in the Vallee du Tir days) this week and he's doing amazing!!! He's the life blood of the Ducos branch these days. They were really struggling before he came along- and he's doing wonders for them. He's 1st councilor in the Elders Q Presidency and he is pulling the whole branch along with him. He's doing absolutely amazing.

Since I'm back in the Tontouta branch, I'm in contact again with Soane and Valerie who I taught and who got baptized back when I was in Paita. They're both still active and very very strong. Soane is sort of like Atiu- he's put so much strength into this branch that wasn't there before. He's completely changed since I first met him. You wouldn't even think he's the same guy.. He's so great. Valerie is in the Young Womens presidency and is doing wonderfully. She's also like Soane in that she brings so much to the branch and won't back down.

In New Caledonia, activity rate is 30 something percent and about 80 percent of Recent Converts go inactive in their first year. We're working ridiculously hard with our recent converts to try and change that- but the fact still remains.. It's getting lots better, and this year is better than the last. But The 3 people that got baptized under my watch are still active--- and not only active, but REALLY REALLY active. It's absolutely amazing!!! I know Soane and Vaea are going to be the same for the Magenta branch-- and their kids will be an amazing addition to the Primary there. Did I tell you how Tiro stood up and said the 1st 4 articles of faith in front of the primary and no one else could do it? Amazing, eh? Well, that's awesome.

We taught this kid and his mom this week, Marcelline and Claude- they're both recent converts. Marcelline is doing really really well-- she is amazing. Claude is only 11 years old, and doesn't 100% get it that he has to come to church every week.. Sad, albeit understandable. He hadn't been in 3 months when I first got here. Me and Elder Wilcox were doing planning and we planned to teach them about the Plan of Salvation, focusing on Eternal Families. I thought almost it was too cheezy-- we talk about eternal families all the time and I always think that Okay, we all got it, we can be together forever.. Blah blah blah. But we taught it anyway. It seemed like just any other lesson, we taught it, they listened, we left. But that sunday, Claude went to church again.. And was happy to be there. We came over during the week and his mom said that he's been talking ALL week about how he needs to be GOOD and keep the COMMANDMENTS so he can have an Eternal Family!!!!! I was blown away--- 75% of the time I wonder if anyone even listens to our lessons-- he took it to the next level. He has commited himself to be at church EVERY sunday and he has started praying and reading his scriptures- and praying so that his dad will get baptized and they can be an eternal family. I was so so touched- I didn't realize it but we really followed the spirit, and not our own silly thoughts. Elder Wilcox said the same thing, that he didn't know if that was too cheesy to teach, but we did it. And it worked!

One more thing...(this is from Nov. 8th)
Well more about my week in general- Monday we went to the beach after I emailed y'all and we took some silly jumping pictures-- the only problem is that I didn't take my knee into account and so I completely killed my knee when I landed. It made a huge cracking sound and I was dead. Well, close. It hurt and I couldn't bend it or straighten it or put ANY weight on it. This has happened already way too many times on my mission so I sort of figured if I just toughed it out for a few days, it would get better. And a family gave me these crutches to use for the week. So I was fine, but we called the mission nurse anyway and she was all scared and said I had to go down to Noumea to get it X-rayed tout de suite! So we dropped everything and went to the hospital in Noumea and they X-Rayed it and there's nothing broken.. They just gave me anti-inflammatory pills and pain pills and said to take it easy. Which is what I knew they would say-- So I just wasted time and lots of the mission's money to have them say that. but whatever, I did what the nurse said. By now my knee is fine-- the medicine actually helps quite a bit! I can walk almost normal, although I have a very noticeable limp. I am still taking it easy- which is easy since we have a car.

I think that should get everybody up to speed who have asked about Collin lately... Later today we should be hearing from him again, and I'll update the blog again hopefully tomorrow.
Thanks to everyone who sent a birthday email - it's not too late if you missed his birthday... We are sending a Christmas package right after Thanksgiving, and if you email me (or bring me a card or something), I'll make sure it gets in the Christmas package.