Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Last blog post from Samoa...it's going to be so hard to leave this wonderful place!

I'll be home in 2 days...well, actually three days for you!

I can't really believe I'm actually coming home.  These past two years have been the best of my life. Sharing the gospel every day and serving others 24/7 has blessed me more than I could have ever imagined.  It's crazy how it works that serving others blesses our lives so much, even more than the people we've served.  I'm truly grateful that Heavenly Father found me worthy enough to represent His Son and Church for the past two years.  Leaving this beautiful place and these incredible people is going to be very difficult.
This is Togilau and his baptism went really well.  On Sunday he even showed up to church in a suit and then bore his testimony.  He's a really humble guy and we've been able to get really close to him.
The other photo is from yesterday's fafaga.  It was the first time we were able to meet the family and they had just learned that I will be finishing my mission on Friday.  So after dinner, they gave me two ulas and a fan.  Just a perfect example of how loving the people here are, especially to plagai missionaries...ha! ha!  I am going to miss it more than words can express!

Note from mom:  We can't believe he's coming home either and are so excited!  For anyone that is interested, Justin will be giving his "homecoming talk" and report on his mission this Sunday, August 13 at 11:00am.

Our church building is located at 28291 Alicia Parkway, Laguna Niguel

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 18th & 25th - In & Out please!!!

July 18th

 A baptism

 Fafaga - Family dinner Samoan style

This meal was so good!  I haven't had pig like that since Savaii.

This week was good!  Our baptism went well and we have another one this Saturday. We also found a couple new investigators who we will be starting lessons with this week.  One of them is an older lady and she's so funny...a classic old Samoan woman and she's great!  Right now we are in a "trio"  because our other companion is waiting for his Visa and will be leaving for Africa on Monday.

JULY 25th

This is a cool guy in our ward.  Both my companions are gone now.  Elder Faaofo got his Visa and is in Africa and Elder Gomez got transferred to a different area.  Now I'm companions with Elder Alaga.

Chilling with the kids...they are AWESOME!!!

Matagi's baptism

We have a baptism set for the 5th which is my last Saturday so that will be pretty cool. 
Note from mom:  Justin has requested for his first meal back home to have In & Out..."of course" he said!

He flies in on August 11th and will be giving his "Homecoming talk" at church on Sunday, August 13th at 11:00 am.  All friends and family and anyone else who would like to come is welcome to attend. 
The address is:
28291 Alicia Parkway
Laguna Niguel

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

July 11th - One month from today Elder Sterner will be home!!! :)

One month to go so we didn't really get an email today but just a couple photos.  We are all getting very excited for Justin to be home!

He did buy a conch shell and is pretty excited about that.  He's trying to figure out some things he can bring home, but things he wants are pretty expensive.

Elder Brooks and Elder Wolz go home this  Friday

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy July 4th!!!! All wet again...

All wet again...

Back to Upolo means...no more car & no more being dry.  We do have bikes though so that should help a bit with getting my legs in a little better shape...

This week was pretty good. I really miss Savaii...a LOT!  But it is really nice being a regular missionary again and being able to focus on our area. We have a baptism set for next week. Spent a lot of time getting familiar with the area and visiting members to get referrals. We got a lot of referrals and have contacted some. We're hoping to have 4 baptisms this month. Things are going good!! 

 alofa atu

-elder sterner

Note from mom:  I mentioned to Justin that he might want to push back his "homecoming talk" date at church since he'll have such a long couple days traveling to get home.  He's been planning on August 13th and I said that he might be too tired.  His response was, "e manumalo le fiafia i le fiamoe".  When he finally translated what that means, "happiness will beat tiredness", I figured that pretty much says it all.  So it looks like his talk will be Sunday, August 13th at 11:00 am.  We can't wait!!! :)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

June 13th, 20th, 27th bits & pieces & RETURN DATE AUGUST 11th!!! :) :) :) :) :)

Late on Tuesday 6/27, we finally got Justin's travel plans for his return date!!!  YAY!!!  He leaves Apia, Samoa on Friday, August 11th (yes, 8/11) and flies into Honolulu after a five and a half hour flight August 10th.  After a 7 hour layover there, he flies into San Francisco, and then onto John Wayne on August 11th... We are so excited and can't wait to see him!!!
About coming home, this is what he emailed, "Pretty crazy.  I don't think it will register in my brain until I'm on the plane.  So many times I've thought, oh, after this then it will feel close but it doesn't.  Getting the flight plans makes it feel close.  I don't know, it's just hard to believe it's all coming to an end.  Really weird."

June 13th
Leaving for Apia today for a zone leader meeting and we also get to go through the temple which I'm hyped for.  I'm still a zl.  I haven't gotten my travel plans yet but I should have them by now...we have a baptism this Saturday and three scheduled for next Saturday.  It's still hot and rainy but the nights are really cold because it's the winter now over here.

As far as what we've been eating lately...Monday we had chicken and taro with coconut cream, yesterday we had a pig lu'au and taro, and then Sunday we had pisupo which is this beef stuff in a can which I really don't like.  I can't really remember the rest but I'll try to write it down this week so I can tell you next week.  We don't have time today though so I have to go! (the menu rundown is from a request from dad.  He wanted to know what the meals are like.)

June 20th
Hi, can't send photos today because I'm using the senior couple's mac and it's not working but we had a baptism this week that went well.

June 27th

So, I'm getting transferred which is kind of a bummer...I'm going to Solosolo, Upolu.  I'm sure going to miss Savaii!!!  This week was good.  We found a lot of new investigators that have potential to be getting baptized but it just stinks that I won't get to see them through their lessons.  I'm going back to regular missionary life.  Being a zone leader was really fun and I learned a lot in so many respects.  But now I'm excited to have more time to work with investigators and help them progress towards baptism.  It's been a very busy and rewarding time and I've grown so much in so many ways.

Crossing the river to get to the other side of the village in Sili.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

June 6th...about 2 more months to go!

From mom...a random person texted me this photo on May 23rd and I just now saw it on my phone as I was deleting texts!  I love getting photos of Justin and appreciate people sending them along!  If you ever have a chance to take a missionary's photo and send it to his mom or family, they will be very grateful just like me! :)

Samoan kids are the best!

Another Samoan sunset...they don't ever get old.

This last picture was after Stake Conference on Saturday in my last area, and right when it finished the "sa" started (that's the 30 minutes where everyone in the village has to do prayer time with their family that I emailed about before).  Just about everyone got stuck on the chapel grounds waiting for it to be over which was pretty funny.

This is Elder Bickmore, the Savaii king who is finally leaving for Tutuila.  Elder Bickmore was on Savaii his whole mission and his last transfer he got transfered to Tutuila.


This is where we did our zone meeting with president

So...I was kinda surprised about getting transferred.  They called Sunday afternoon and said I was gonna get transferred to the backside of  Upolu to be a zone leader.  So I was really excited for that. Then they called again around midnight and said I'm going to Sili, which is where I am now.  It's the zone right next to my old one.  We only have 4 companionships but we're having a lot of success with the work, which has been great.  Hopefully we can get at least one more companionship at the upcoming transfer to add to the numbers in the zone.  After this week, my last full transfer begins. Crazy.

I'd be shocked if I got transferred again and think I'll for sure finish here.  I'm not doing the Sunday
school anymore since I'm in a new area.  That was a really cool learning experience, though.  If I got one thing from it, I gained so much respect for Bishops and leaders of our church.  I was dealing with 50 people so I can't imagine having to deal with 500!

My new companion is a native and he's great.  I'm glad I get to finish with a native to make sure my Samoan is good.  It's pretty funny...Yesterday, we visited a recent convert and she was trying to set me me up with her husband's sister who lives in Apia.....hahaha.  Then at fafaga, the mom was kinda shocked at how good I was speaking Samoan and was like, "I know the reason you have good Samoan.  You have a Samoan girlfriend!  Now you need to find a new one since you switched areas!"  Obviously, that's not true, but everyone always asks the white missionaries if they have Samoan girlfriends.  I'm pretty used to it by now and I've come up with some pretty good come-back answers to give... ha ha.

We cover 5 wards and a branch so we're pretty stretched.  I feel like I'm always busy with zone leader stuff and teaching lessons, so it's good.  We should have at least 4 baptisms this month which is exciting.  We live in Sili and cover Satupaitea, Satufia, Papa, Gautaivai, Gataivai, and Sili.  I live in the area I was talking about before where if you don't go to a church on Sunday, you get fined.  But in Satufia, Papa, and Gautaivai, if you want to change churches, you get fined $300.  In Gataivai, our church is 100% not allowed and if we try to proselyte there, the chiefs in the village chase us out...
Very interesting.  Life is great in Samoa.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

May 21 - translation & some random answers, May 30th - not much

May 21 - Here is the translation we got from Justin which was about all we got!

papatisoga (baptism) i (in) le (the) sami (ocean)

Malo Soifua (hi). Faamalulu atu (sorry) ona (because) leva ona (its been a while) le (haven't) toe faia (done) se (a) imeli (email) umi (long)

Also, here is some random information that Jeff got to some questions he had...

 We live at the chapel grounds in a little house in the back.  If you look back at the picture I sent of the chapel you can see our house in the back.

We have a few investigators, but it's good. We met a new couple this week. The husband is a less-active member and his wife is not a member of the church. We did a lesson with her Monday and invited her to be baptized next month and she accepted.

Baby Justin and his family are doing well. His dad blesses the sacrament almost every Sunday and we are working on his family history so we can take a trip to the temple.

My comp watched me do the P90x and kinda made fun of me jokingly and then he did the yoga one with me and didn't even make all the way through so he knows now it's legit. I go with the schedule it says to do and I try to do the yoga one as often as I can when I have time at night. I really only care about trying to get as flexible as I can and I've improved somewhat.

I still haven't gotten my flight plans yet for August.  I feel like when I get them it's gonna really hit me that I come home soon.  Still doesn't feel like it'll really happen....

Love you


May 30th - I got transferred to be a zone leader in the zone right next to my old one.  That happened on Monday but we are doing other transfers in our zone today.  I don't really have time to email but just let people know I'm finishing strong and very busy!  I forgot my camera cord at our house, but hopefully next week I will have more time to email and send pictures.  Have to go...love you!

That's all we got today...:(

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!!! We finally hear from Elder Sterner!!! May 14, 2017

Note from mom...So we haven't heard much from Justin in almost 6 weeks, but I was trying to be patient knowing we would get to have our phone conversation for Mother's Day.  It was so wonderful to hear his voice and he sounds so happy and busy!  We all talked with him on the phone for about an hour and a half.  It was great to get an update of what he has been up to and also look ahead a bit to what needs to happen when he gets home.  As much as I miss hearing from him each week, when I heard how busy he's been with the work he's doing, I now totally understand.  I couldn't be prouder of him for how hard he's working and all that he's doing.  Then when I think about him only having 3 months left, I know he feels a sense of urgency to get all the work in until the very end.  He also mentioned that he doesn't have any time to sight-see and explore on his "P"day (personal day) since he has too many things to take care of.  I guess he gets to see  and appreciate all of the beauty around him each and every day.  He and his companion usually have to get up at 3am and drive to the harbor to pick up or drop off missionaries, take care of paperwork, do their laundry,  shop for food, and take care of other things.  He's using that as his excuse as to why we don't hear from him as regularly as we would like.  That just makes me think that we will definitely have to find a time to get back to Samoa with our family and explore it together!  Justin mentioned that he just got his 3rd companion in this area as a zone leader and the focus in this more remote area of Savaii continues to be the Sunday School class on the beach.  He was pretty happy that they had 51 people there last week and usually Justin and his companion are in charge of leading and speaking at these meetings each week.  He says it's pretty stressful, but when he sees how the numbers are growing, he knows they are making a difference.  He said he's taken lots and lots of photos and has been pretty good about keeping a journal.  He also said he's eating healthier which was nice to hear and often it's fish that fishermen pull in right off the shore.  He said it's orange season and there are oranges everywhere and that everyone is always giving them more oranges, so we know he is getting his vitamin C.   We hope he will be getting his travel arrangements for his return in August in the next week or two...so we will keep you posted!!!

And I've put in a request for him to translate the Samoan when he puts it in his blog posts, so hopefully he gets back to us on that!

A little dark for the baptism...

Malo Soifua. Faamalulu atu ona leva ona le toe faia se imeli umi...


Life is busy. We had a marriage for our investigator, then her baptism right after.  It all went really well.  The wedding went a little late so that's why it was dark for the baptism.


The Sunday School is going well.  My companion and I are still leading it.  I have a new companion too, Elder Tua from Utah.  Mother's Day at church was an interesting Sunday.  We invited 3 men to give talks about mothers...but let's just say it didn't go how I expected and was kind of interesting.  A story for another day.....  The Sunday School is close to becoming a branch and that's pretty exciting.   There were 51 people at church this Sunday so it's so awesome to see the numbers growing.  We are still working to help build our numbers....


Life is good and time is going too fast. 


alofa atu

-elder sterner


 Chillin on the boat

 Sweet kids.  I love the Michael Jackson overalls.


Island Paradise

Friday, April 28, 2017

April 25...3 weeks since last email...but great photos!

Well...we haven't heard from Justin in 3 weeks so we figured the internet connection has been bad or he has been really, really busy.  Today he emailed that he has no time once again and he is headed to Apia for a zone leader conference.  We sure loved getting these really awesome photos though!

 Baby Justin

The classic Samoa Apia Mission pic

  Papatisoga i le sami!!!!!! (whatever that means?)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 4th - Last weeks photos and new email from Tuesday, April 4th

(Mom is pretty proud of herself for figuring out the computer/photo issue.  I was about ready to call in the big guns for help...but with a little prayer and pleading...problem solved!!! :)  So these are the photos from the last few weeks...)

"An elder in my zone carved a Samoan design in my name tag.  Pretty cool!"

"One of the kids in our Sunday school on the sand"


"Samoan sunset"

Email from Tuesday, April 4th...
This week was good. Pretty busy.

Sunday at church went really great. Almost 50 people were there. The Stake Presidency was also there and the stake president challenged the Sunday School to have 6 worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holders and then they can become their own branch and stand by themselves. After church they made food and first came out with the ice cream followed by a massive fish head. Another elder has a picture of it so I need to get it. So big.

It's annoying when missionaries who don't want to work take away time from those who do. One thing I've learned being a zone leader is that the more responsibilities, the more time you'll be spending helping others. Also, as a regular missionary you spend almost all your time working with investigators and helping them, but as a zone leader you spend a lot of time working with missionaries which has been fun.

So we got a referral Thursday for a girl named P***we went to try and find P**** but we accidently got her name mixed up and were asking for the wrong person... Sunday after church we went to go visit a companionship in our zone to pick up baptismal papers and then I remembered there was a fireside happening in our area and for some reason I felt like we should really go but I didn't know why. We showed up and one of our recent converts was bearing her testimony and then P*****, the lady we've been looking for, bore her testimony and said that we'll probably be seeing her face more often cause she wants to come to our church. It was pretty sweet. After, we talked and set an appointment for this Friday. We're hoping to set her for the 15th to get baptized.

Oh and we get to watch general conference this week so I'm excited for that!

 The district before my companion got transferred


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

March 14, March 21, & March 28 - bits & pieces and technical difficulites with the photos...

Last week from Justin was brief except for wishing Morgan and Luke a happy birthday. 

Here is what we got on 3/14... I have no time to email today and had to get back to the wharf to catch the 4pm boat to go to Apia for a zone leader meeting.  The week was good, we had a baptism & marriages, but since we've been super busy, we haven't had any time to teach people.  One baptism is scheduled for this week and one next...but things are really good.  Oh and we started a Sunday school at the village of the photo I sent last week of the sand and the ocean.  That is where we have our Sunday school right on the beach!  It's less people than a branch but 31 people came.  The only thing we need is worthy priesthood and we're close.  I presided and my companion conducted...pretty cool!  But I have to go....

(We are having some technical issues with getting the photos posted on the blog for some reason, so hopefully we can get that fixed.)

So this week was good. 

We didn't have our baptism because someone he's related to passed away Saturday morning so we rescheduled it for this Saturday. When someone dies in Samoa it consumes everyone's time for a whole week.  In Samoan a funeral is called a Fa'alavelave which translates to a disturbance or interruption.

We have another investigator getting baptized this Saturday and our whole zone will have a total of 7 which is pretty good for our part of the mission.

The Sunday School we're doing is going well. There aren't a whole lot of people who come but it's a really awesome experience.  My companion and I spoke. I gave about a 15 minute talk on repentance in Samoan and I prepared it the night before and it went pretty well.  The people down there are super nice.  My companion conducted again and I presided. This Sunday I think it's my turn to conduct.  I think we can get it to a branch before my mission is done if I finish here which I would really like to do.

Sunday and Monday we did a split with the new AP's  - Elder Tai Lesa and Elder Reid.  We spent time visiting the missionaries in our zone and doing visits.  We found some new people that we hope to baptize in the next month.

Next week is General Conference but we probably won't get it until the week after...

Things are going great here backside Savaii.  Alofa atu ia te outou uma!!

3/28/17 - no email, only a couple photos but we can't figure out how to get them on the blog...still working on it!!!

(We are really hoping we get a little more information from his emails in April!)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

March 7th - an awesome week & a baby named Justin Sterner

Where we proselyted on Friday

This week was really awesome. We met a lot of new people who seem to be pretty interested in what we're teaching, so that's exciting. We called the bishop in a ward we haven't been able to meet with yet and he told us there are three people who want to take the lessons and learn about the gospel... so we'll be on the look out for them tomorrow.

Tonight we have a dinner/meeting with President Hannemann, his wife, the APs and the two stake presidents in our zone - so that should be really cool.

Our investigator "P" who is going to get baptized next weekend, well...his wife just gave birth to a baby boy.  His name??  Justin Sterner Pika. They wanted to name him after me because he sees this as a turning point in his life.  I've heard of people naming their kids after missionaries but I never thought it would happen to me - haha. I'll just have to make sure I live a life that makes him happy he shares my name.

Justin Sterner Pika......

We have three marriages this Saturday for people we are teaching.  It's really cool. 

We have high goals for the zone this month and we're all working hard to achieve them.  I'm having the best time. 

Have a great week. Alofa atu!


This is our chapel. It's probably one of the nicest in all of Samoa.  As you can see, it's beautiful

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Tuesday, February 28 - Q & A with Dad...

 The Zone Leaders of Savaii...heading to our meeting...

  This week Justin decided to take the easy way out and just respond to some random questions from his dad.....
·         How is the work going there?  The work is good in Savaii.  It's a little slower just cause of the culture.  In one village we cover, it is against the rules to proselytize and in other villages, we can't build a church so people have to walk pretty far. 

·         How do you cover 5 wards?   We're currently covering 6 wards out of 8 in the stake.  We use the car to get some places and then walk around mostly. 

·         Are the wards pretty good sized?  What are the ward buildings like?  The average attendance at church is under 100 and the chapels are sooo nice here.  I'll take a picture of ours and send it next week, but it's super nice. 

·         Are you spending a lot of time with administrative stuff as a ZL or do you still have a lot of time to teach?  We have a baptism this Saturday, one set for the 18th and we should be able to get a couple more this month if everything goes smoothly.   We do alright.  Today we had to get up at three am to get to the 6 o'clock boat to drop off baptismal papers...

·         Do they drive on the left-hand side of the road?  We have to drive on the other side of the road so I'm trying to learn to drive stick with the wrong hand.  In Tutuila, it's like America and I drove the car for one day and it was a struggle to drive stick. 

·         When you talk about a “village”, how big is that?  Is it more like a really big extended family, or is it like a small town?   It's a pretty small town but mostly everyone is related somehow...

The kids are great!!!

A baptism....

View from our house