Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 20th - 1st Christmas is coming in Samoa

Manuia Kerisimasi!!
This week was really good. We have three baptisms set for this Saturday which will be Christmas back home. #whitechristmas!  We're also doing a wedding Christmas morning so two other people we are teaching can get baptized next week! Definitely a different Christmas than any other, but it'll probably be the best one so far.
We're gonna be on Samoan TV! On Christmas Eve here and the 23rd back home, were singing in front of the parliament building. I think we start at 6:30pm which is 10:30pm in America. Its called TV3. I have no idea how to find it but if you want to watch some native Samoans dance and listen to us sing, you should tune in. Were also painting a school which will be the first service project I've been able to do since I've been here.  Sometimes it's hard for people to let us help.  It should be a fun day. 
We had a lot of good visits this week. One that is gonna stick with me for a while was with So'o (So'o in Samoan is disciple). She is the elderly woman I mentioned last week.  She couldn't be more prepared for us to teach her. We visited her on Tuesday this week but her neighbors were blasting music, so we thought it would be best to set another date. But before we left her daughter, whose one-year-old son just passed away, she asked us such an awesome question. She asked if she'll have a chance to raise her son after this life. We were able to answer her question with a scripture in D&C Section 130 Verse 2.
2 And that same sociality‍ which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.
She will have that opportunity to raise her son in the next life only it'll be coupled with eternal glory. I love knowing that families are eternal.  I'm so grateful for this gospel and the answers it gives us. Being able to turn to the scriptures and find answers to our questions is so comforting.
We went back later this week and taught So'o about the plan of salvation and temple work. She understood it all and didn't even have any questions. She is so ready to learn. We have her baptism set for the 2nd of January.
I love it here.  It's the best! The Christmas season is celebrated a lot differently than in America but I only get two here, so I'm enjoying every minute. I've seen some fales with lights and it makes my day. I also love hearing all the Christmas music blasting throughout the village.
Time really does fly!
Elder Sterner
Can you believe I get to see this every day?!

A coconut plantation.

Sale'imoa December 13th - posted on the 20th

Talofa Lava!

This cold weather is really getting to me (ha, ha).  I love the Christmas music here. It's really fun. They just get songs from America and put rasta type beats behind it and it's pretty funny.  I love the holiday spirit!

On Tuesday all the zone leaders and district leaders had a meeting at the mission home so I went on an exchange (where we go out with other missionaries). I ended up going with my companion from the MTC (Missionary Training Center) and another elder who has only been out 6 weeks longer than me. We worked in their area. We visited with members and asked them to help fellowship those who are learning about the church. It was a really good day. I gained a lot of confidence and realized that if I had to teach, I could get the message across as long as I have the Spirit with me. I also realized how little of an impact we have with the conversion of others as they're learning about the gospel. Their conversion comes through their own actions and all we have to do is teach simply and invite - which I can kinda do.

On Thursday, we went over to Sale'imoa 1st ward. We visited with So'o. She is an elderly woman. She stopped us on the street. She said she has wanted to get baptized her whole life, but couldn't because of her husband. Her husband passed away a couple months before we met her and she said now she can finally get baptized. Our first lesson with her we invited her to be baptized and she accepted. The 1st ward church services start at 7:30 in the morning and she lives kind of far away and she still made it to church.

Sale'imoa is about a 30 minute bike ride from our house. We had just finished a visit around 8:30pm and it was pitch black outside. Luckily, I had a tiny flashlight in my bag that seemed to get the job done. I'm sorry for all those dog lovers out there but after being here for two months, I have come to hate dogs. On the way home that night I almost got bit like five times. They just sit by the main road and wait for us to ride by and run along side our bikes trying to bite our legs. I kicked one away - kind of on accident - but not really. It was my survival instinct.  We got home in 10 minutes mainly because we were going fast trying to get away from dogs and that just made my adrenaline pump like crazy.

Our bikes started to fall apart so the zone leaders took them in and we upgraded to really nice bikes. Apparently, when the zone leaders took the old bikes in to get fixed, the bike repair shop said to just to get rid of them because they were so bad.

Whenever lessons fall through at night, I've been doing practice lessons with members. I teach the whole lesson. It's hard and really frustrating but after I make it through, I'm really grateful I did it. The members give feed back on how I can improve and it really helps.

1 Nephi 8:12  

"And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous‍ that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable‍ above all other fruit."

We all should have that desire to share the gospel after we have received and accepted it. I know of the blessings that come from this gospel and I want everyone else to be able to receive those same blessings. I promise there is no greater joy available than helping someone come unto Christ and receive all of Heavenly Father's promised blessings.

Alofa atu,

Elder Sterner

 This is a large Presbyterian church in our neighborhood. 
The architecture is cool.

Our church buildings have these large outdoor "fales" where classes take place. 
Of course, I'm sitting criss-cross-applesauce!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Hey everyone!

This week was really good. I'm so grateful for all of the people we're teaching and seeing them come unto Christ and make the changes in their lives for the better is so satisfying. One thing I thought about before coming on my mission, and I don't know why, was that everyone in Samoa would have already talked with the missionaries. There aren't that many people here so I figured everyone would have already accepted or rejected the gospel. Man am I wrong. When we ask people on the street if they have met with the missionaries they more often say no then yes. I know that I am either planting the seed or helping it grow. Either way, I know I'm here for a specific reason to teach specific people.

On Wednesday, we went out with our ward mission leader to do some visits.  While we were out, he told my companion and me that he wants us to do an umu. That's when you put the pig in the ground to cook it and everything. He wants us to kill the pig, clean it, take all the intestines and stuff out, then put it in the ground and cook it. One, I don't want to kill a pig and second, I know for a fact I would throw up everywhere taking all the intestines out.  We'll see how this proceeds.

We got about 20 free mangos and 7 free pineapples from member families so we've been eating a lot of fruit. When we don't have fruit its ramen for breakfast and lunch and then hopefully a good fafaga.

I couldn't fall asleep one night because my mosquito bites were pretty itchy. I decided to count them and I have 71 total mosquito bites. The mosquitoes are savage. They bite through socks during visits. The ones on my feet are the worst because my shoe rubs against them and they itch all day. I have gotten really good at just grabbing them with my hand and killing them.

The scripture I want to leave you guys with this week is the scripture I use a lot for spiritual thoughts during lessons. It's 1 Nifae 7:12.

 12: Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things‍ according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith‍ in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.

Have faith and he'll make up the rest!!!

Love you all!

 A typical dinner.  Those are boiled bananas and taro with coconut cream on the left. 
The people are always so giving.

A picture with a member of our ward who is preparing to serve a mission.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hurricane in Samoa...week 6


This week all we got was rain. All day. Everyday. I haven't seen the sun all week. Apparently there was a hurricane that came through on Saturday. It was category three. The worst is six I think. But it was super windy and an umbrella is no help since the rain is coming at us completely sideways. Saturday afternoon we got a call from the zone leaders saying everyone needs to be in their houses. As we got the call, we were hiding under a tiny store 20 minutes from our house. So the walk back was wet and windy. Sometimes the wind was so strong we'd have to stop and get a good footing so it wouldn't blow us over.

We are teaching a lot of people who are interested in the gospel. One is Faleolo. He's 29, married and has two kids. We visited with him last week and invited him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about our message. When we followed up this week he said he did and he received an answer! I was so stoked and it was good to know that people who really do pray and read will receive an answer. He now wants to get baptized. All you have to do is read and pray!

Sina, one of our other investigators had her baby and is doing well. She still hasn't named him yet. We've been telling her Tana (which is how my last name is pronounced here) would be good. We set her baptism for the 12th. She's great.  She even joked about how it's going to be easier for me to do the baptism now that she had the baby.

Matthew is one of my favorite investigators. He's got the biggest smile I've ever seen and he's always smiling. He's 11 years old and loves the church. He comes every Sunday and he really wants to get baptized. He loves the lessons we do with him and he's completed the collection of lesson pamphlets. It was funny, during one of our lessons with him this week, his Dad was sleeping in the fale probably like 20 feet away and he was snoring so loud.  Some Samoans are really good at snoring.

The stores here are just little rooms in the front of houses that don't really sell much. One thing they usually don't have is water. Samoans think cold water is bad for you so whenever we ask for some water, they give us soda...

One thing that makes it hard for us to use our time wisely is that all Samoans are extremely respectful to missionaries. Even if they don't want to listen, they'll still let us in. It's wonderful to visit with them, but it can be frustrating because we could be somewhere else where the people actually want to listen.

We find a dead cockroach in our house everyday. It doesn't really bug me anymore which is kinda bad I guess. And like at home, if I saw a lizard in the house, I'd do everything to get it out. Here, there will be like 4 lizards crawling around and I don't even care.

I'll leave you with a scripture that I really like. It's a revelation Joseph Smith received when he was a prisoner in the Liberty, Missouri jail.  It's D&C Section 122 verse 7-9

 7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

 8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

 9 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.

When nothing seems to be going our way and we don't think we can overcome hard trials, it's so comforting to know that Jesus Christ knows exactly what you're feeling. Hold on thy way for God shall be with you forever and ever.

Love you all!

Elder Sterner

Downtown Apia with the Clock Tower in the center.

Here is a picture of the coast.  Just to the right of the tree you
can barely see part of the other main island of Samoa, Savai'i

5th week in Samoa...just posted a couple weeks late!

From Carol & Jeff...we've had major computer issues so we apologize that we are two weeks behind in posting Justin's blogs.  The upside is that there will be three in one weekend!

Hello everyone,

This week was pretty boring....

My companion is sick with bronchitis so we've been stuck at our house the past five days...

The first couple days of the week went well and we committed three people to be baptized in December! One of our investigators is an 18 year old who is really interested.

It was so cool. As we were walking to his house and we sat down, before we started he asked if we wanted a niu (a premature coconut that is filled to the brim of coconut water. Its so good.) and we said of course! So he ran over to this palm tree probably 40 feet high and climbs to the top like it was nothing. He has nothing keeping him from falling either. When he got to the top, you just see two big coconuts falling and make a loud thud. Then he husked them and cut the top off so we could drink them. It was so cool just to see him do that like it was nothing. He's probably been doing it since he could walk.

On Friday we went to the mission office in Apia so my companion could go to the doctor. We were there from 8am-4pm. Luckily there were other missionaries there so I had people to talk to. At the end of the day one of the senior missionaries took us to McDonalds downtown. I felt so gross after eating because I haven't really had unhealthy food for over a month. At the office I was able to weigh myself and I've already lost 15 pounds. The only reason missionaries gain weight in this mission is if they serve in American Samoa. Apparently there, when the members offer to feed the missionaries they usually take them to fast food places and the missionaries just get fat. At least I'm losing weight now just in case I get to serve over there.

Since we had to be inside for 5 days straight, I did a lot of reading but for the first time in my life I actually wanted to read instead of being forced to. Last week I finished the Book of Mormon again. I started when I got here. I read all of Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. I read countless talks and I'm currently reading Jesus the Christ and I'm more than half way done with it. I've gained such a better knowledge of the gospel and about Christ's life.  Now I just have to figure out how to say it in Samoan!!

One thing that really stuck out to me as I had hours upon hours to read and study was faith. Faith can do a lot of things for us. It all really depends on how much faith we have. The blessings and miracles that can happen in our lives depend on the amount of faith we have. As I was reading, one story that stuck out to me was of the woman who was sick and was healed just by touching Jesus's robe. The only reason she was healed just by touching his robe was because she had faith that it could happen. That's one thing that I can definitely work on. I need to have absolute faith that miracles can happen. One of those miracles is being able to speak the Samoan language. And faith alone won't work. Faith without works is dead. I can't just expect to understand the language without working at it. I have to study it constantly and do everything I can to improve day by day. I know that as I put those two things together that the language will come. Not in my time, but in the Lord's time.

I'm learning so much everyday mostly about myself. What my strengths are, what my weaknesses are and how I can work on improving. I love this work and have a testimony that it is 100% the Lord's work, not mine. I'm just the instrument. The Holy Ghost is the real teacher. As long as I have the Holy Ghost with me as I attempt to teach, I know my message will get across how it should.

I love you all and pray for you all daily!


Elder Sterner

Me and my little buddy playing in the street.