Sunday, October 25, 2015

Safe Arrival in Samoa after 29 hours of travel...

Taking a selfie and sweatin' like a champ!  (No, I'm not scared, just focused on the shot)
After a total of 29 long hours of traveling, I have made it to Samoa safe and sound!! If you think you've been in humid weather, come to Samoa. The second we walked off the plane and down the little staircase thing because they don't have terminals, I instantly started sweating. It's so humid but it's good because it cleans out my lungs and all my phlegm and junk.

We arrived around 9pm and the mission president and the AP's were there to pick us up. The Mission President and his wife are so nice. He's a big time surfer from Hawaii so we talked about surfing for a while. We went to the mission home where they talked to us for a bit and then we got to sleep. Where we slept the first couple days is called the MRC (missionary recovery center). It's just a big room of bunk-beds.

The next morning we just kinda went through a big orientation and made sure all our information is up to date. Then I met my companion, Elder Powelson. He's from Arizona and has been out for 14 months. His Samoan is crazy good. We're serving in Upolu which is the main island on the Northwest side. The ward we're in is Faleasi`u Tai. The Bishop and members are so nice. One family even does our laundry for us so I'm gonna have to wait a few months to do laundry out of a barrel. One great thing about serving on the same island where the temple is located is that we get to go once a month which I'm stoked about. That night, we drove to our areas and started being real missionaries. Our house is a little thing behind the chapel. It's tiny.

We went out with the ward missionary to get familiar with the area since we were both new to it. We met with a bunch of members and they gave us a bunch of referrals. I have no idea what's going on during lessons which is a bummer but I totally feel the spirit. I don't know if I'd be able to do it if I couldn't feel the spirit. During lessons, I write down words that I don't know and study them. It's starting to help. Throughout our lessons with investigators the past couple days, we have had three investigators commit to baptism which is awesome. I really hope I get the chance to baptize someone in the ocean!
One thing I love is when we're walking around, the little kids probably around 2 or 3 just sit out in their fales' and will yell "faifeau tala`i" (missionary) and then "fa" (bye) in the cutest little high-pitched voices.  I love that.

During lessons my companion has me bear a simple testimony and say the prayer sometimes. On Sunday I had to bear my testimony in sacrament meeting which was really scary but I did it. All the members had the biggest smiles on their faces because they knew I was brand new and I was speaking the language the best I could.

The fafaga's (dinners) are interesting to say the least. The main thing they eat is Taro which is a plant from the ground that has no taste and the worst texture. Apparently it's super good for you, so I choke it down. They also give us a lot of meats and BBQ which is really good but it's pretty bland. I like spicy stuff so it's gonna be an interesting adjustment. The drinks though are super good. There is this drink called koko Samoa that everyone always gives us and it's so good. I recommend everyone getting their hands on it however possible. They also do the coconut water straight from the coconut that is super refreshing. My favorite though is when they get fresh fruit and make it into juice and it's the best.
I still can't believe I'm here. It's so beautiful. I love you all so much and think and pray for you guys constantly!

 Alofa ia te latou!!

 Elder Sterner
Walking down the highway with the beautiful ocean to the side.

Our sweet pad.  It's right behind the chapel.

Samoan sunrise with the Apia Samoa Temple in the background

A typical Samoan home

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Headed to Samoa

Talofa lava tagata uma!
First of all, a huge thank you to both sets of grandparents, my parents, the Tujagues, and Dominique and family for the AWESOME care packages.  You took such a good care of me while I was in the MTC and I really appreciate it.  You guys are the best.  Everyone in my group enjoyed your treats too.  THANK YOU!!!

Tomorrow I head out for SAMOA!!!! The MTC went so fast and I'm so grateful for the learning opportunities and the great experiences I have had. I'm really gonna miss the MTC a lot. My first week here, we were all saying goodbye to the Fijians and I thought how I wish that was me, I wanna just get out of here already. The Branch President said something that night that I never thought I would understand. He said leaving the MTC is harder than leaving your family. At the time I was like no way. But now that it's my turn to leave and go out in the field, I agree with him. It hit me that I will probably never see 99% of the people I met here. I have become such great friends with so many missionaries it's gonna be really hard to say goodbye. It helps to know I will see my family again in two years.  

This week was a lot of "this is the last time in two years I'll do this." 
Monday we had to memorize these speeches for each time we enter someone's property and home. Before we give them, we put our bags on the ground, put our hands behind our back, and bend over a bit. In the first one we say, "Mr. _ ,we are so sorry for obnoxiously trampling your lawn but we would like to take this opportunity to chat and become familiar with you. If not, we have other visits we have to be at."  
Monday night we just gathered all kinds of American food for the Tongan elder who is coming to Samoa with us to try.  He was hilarious. He loved everything. We gave him pop rocks and the first thing he said was, "Why do you do this to me?!?!" Apparently he talks a lot and does all kinds of stuff in his sleep so traveling with him for three days is definitely gonna be interesting. 

Tuesday morning we were teaching our "investigator" Ane for the last time. During the lesson I realized I forgot something I needed and so I asked if I could run to the class to get and she said yes. So I got it and ran back but when I sat down, I realized I grab the wrong thing and I just put my head down and ran and got the paper I needed. My teacher was cracking up.

After that we had to go to the doctor because Elder Redd had a toenail issue. On the way to the doctor we drove past the BYU baseball field and the team was out there practicing. That made me super homesick but I know my time will come in a couple years.
That night we sang a little farewell thing for us with the whole zone. The spirit was SOO strong. We hardly know what we are singing when we sing in Samoan but we still are able to feel the spirit which is awesome.

Thursday we had in-field orientation. In-field orientation is just role playing basically the whole time from 8:00-5:30. It wasn't as bad as people had said it was but it was still pretty rough. That night we did Skype TRC. The people we taught were so nice and I understood a lot of what they were saying which was really cool. 

That night we said goodbye to our teacher, Uso Kinisone. He was such a good teacher and challenged me to be better. He pushed me just the right amount and I progressed so much because of him. He shared his mission stories and pictures with us that night and it got me so pumped. I am pretty scared though about the centipedes that are on the island. They're like the size of your hand and the bites are really painful. I'm gonna do everything I can to avoid them. I don't know how I'll react when I see one for the first time.

I'm so excited to get out to Samoa but a little nervous at the same time. I know I'll remember these experinces for the rest of my life and I can't wait to share them with you as I go!!
Alofa ia te latou!

 Elder Sterner

Just a note from mom and dad.  Justin arrived in Samoa after about 20 hours on a plane and about that long sitting in airports.  Here he is in Samoa with his Mission President and his wife.  Let the adventure begin!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

One month ago today I reported to the MTC...

Flight Plans.  What happened to October 18th?!

Malo soi fua!! 

First off, shout out to the bro for verbally committing to the Y!!!! So stoked we're gonna get to ball out together in college!

This week was exciting. Getting to watch conference at the MTC was a great experience. I think this was the first conference weekend in my life I watched every session and I loved it. One of the main things I took away from conference is what President Uchtdorf said in the very first talk of conference. He talked about preaching the gospel plainly. I feel like this applies to everyone, not just missionaries. A lot of people have a lot of questions about our church and if we just give them simple answers, it will help them understand what we believe.  I feel like this will be pretty easy for me in Samoa cause I can only say simple sentences and concepts. That's just one thing that stuck out to me and made me think about how I can make it easier for the people I teach to understand the gospel.

On Monday we got our flight plans!! So stoked! We leave Saturday the 17th. Fly to San Francisco then to New Zealand which is an 11 hour flight. During the flight we will have skipped October 18th completely. We have a 10 hour layover in New Zealand.... Then we have a 5 hour flight to Samoa!! I'm a little nervous but I'm so excited. I still can't speak the language but I'm so excited to get there! I've been exploring on google earth the past few days and it's so beautiful. I still can't believe I get to preach the gospel in such a beautiful place for two whole years.

In class the past few days we've been learning about the fa`asamoa (samoan culture). In the Samoan culture, missionaries are considered to be higher in the order of rank than High Chiefs who are in charge of a tribe usually containing 200 people. I think it's cool that we get that much respect but I'm scared if I do something dumb they won't respect me. Another thing about the culture I think is interesting is say my companion and I were riding our bikes to a visit, we can't just pull our water bottles out of our bags. We have to get off our bikes, squat and drink the water. Apparently it's super disrespectful to eat and drink standing. You always have to squat.

Thursday, we had to teach a lesson to a native Samoan over skype. It was really tough. I already struggle enough to understand what someone is telling me in person using hand gestures. The guy we taught was super cool about it though. He totally understood what we were going through. He said his family lives in Samoa and that we have to find them and teach them.

The temple this morning was awesome. I love that I get to feel the spirit there so strong. I know that it is the house of the Lord. The breakfast there is pretty great too. I've about had it with the cafeteria food here in the MTC.

I can't believe I'm out of here in 8 days! It's gone by so fast! 

Fa`afetai lava! Alofa ia te latou!!

Elder Sterner
(Below:  One of the missionaries brought this mini ping pong table set.  We play it every night and the tournaments get pretty competitive and heated.)

Monday, October 5, 2015

week 4

I can't believe it's already been almost a month! It's all gone really fast. I'm learning a lot and I'm starting to realize I know more Samoan than I give myself credit for. I'm starting to feel more and more confident as time goes on but no matter how much I study, I know nothing can prepare me for being in Samoa.

Last Friday we challenged the other Samoan district to a kickball game. Whoever lost had to take the other district's trays for meals in the cafeteria. Of course we won and the other district had to take our trays.

Saturday we had TRC. TRC is when native Samoans who speak Samoan come to the MTC and we teach them a lesson in Samoan. It was really fun because if we couldn't think of a word they would whisper it to us. We taught two lessons and after each one, the person we taught was really helpful. They both said I knew more Samoan than they did when they were in the MTC so that was a big confidence boost for me. They all said just keep working hard and it will come and I believe that to be true. Since this weekend is conference, we don't have TRC but the week after we teach someone over Skype from Samoa.

I'm excited for conference. I looked at the schedule for the next two days and didn't realize how many sessions there are.  It's going to be a nice break from class 24/7 and we'll get to listen to our inspired church leaders. 

Monday we  had a really great opportunity to watch Elder Richard G. Scott's funeral. It was so cool to me that it was more of a celebration than anything else. His wife had passed away 20 years earlier so they were finally reunited. The spirit was so strong listening to all the hymns sung and talks given recognizing his great life.

I had been needing a haircut but didn't want to get one at the barbershop because they just chop your hair off.  There is an Elder in our zone going to Fiji from Australia and he said he is good at cutting hair so I let him do it. He did a really good job and I still have most of my hair.

I wanna end my email with a scripture and my testimony in Samoan.

The scripture is Alma chapter 26 verse 16 and it says,

 "Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel."

I love this when there a rhetorical questions in the scriptures. I like how it says we can't glory too much in the Lord. We can't even begin to comprehend His all-knowing knowledge and the everlasting love He has for each of us individually.

My testimony...

O te fia tu`u atu lo`u molimau. Ou te iloa e moni le talalelei a Iesu Keriso. Ou te iloa `atoa `o ia, `aiga mafai e fa`atasi pea lava. Ou te iloa o Iesu Keriso o lo tatou Togiola. Ou te fa`afetai mo le alofa o lo tatou Tama Fa`alelagi mo Ana fa`amanuiaga ma mo le ata o le fa`aolataga. I le suafa o Iesu Keriso, `amene.

Alofa ia te latou (love towards you all)
Elder Sitana