Let me begin by talking about the plane ride over to my new mission. We left for San Francisco at about 4:52 Monday afternoon, and arrived at 6. We waited for 2 hours and left on our journey to New Zealand at 8:20 and arrived in Auckland NZ at 6am on Wednesday. The 13 hour plane ride was a bit hard to handle at first, but all the missionaries were together and we managed! I was companions with a Sister named Sister Newitt from my district in the MTC. It was really strange being with a sister for an entire day but I felt my responsibility was to keep her safe and in the right place.
I tried calling you Mom when I was in San Fran but you never picked up! The phone was actually broken so that's probably why. However, I got in touch with Gabester and she was happy as (really happy) to talk to me. Let me just say that the culture here is amazing. The people are really nice and friendly, but when it comes to the Gospel they are hard-hearted. Most people are atheist here, which is a big change, but the members are strong as could be. It's been less than a day here and I am already excited. I have heaps of pictures to show and they will be coming. My companion is named Elder Hosman from Arkansas and he is a humble, laid back guy. We get along well.
I was the only American missionary to arrive on Wednesday and that was interesting. I can already tell that this mission is going to be heaps different than Salt Lake City for many reasons. Anyway, we found out who our companions were, after eating lunch, and I was called up front. Our Mission President told me that my companion was not here... because he was in Tasmania!!! I DREAMED of going to Tasmania as my first area or at all, and Heavenly Father blessed me with that. I actually, truly, feel that I was meant to go here first. I was on the plane talking to the sisters about the fact that we no longer were in the US and I was struck with this thought that I was going to go to Tasmania. I know there is someone here that I am meant to find, teach, and baptize. I'm trying my best to not let the culture shock take away from my focus as a missionary, but at first it was difficult. I was struggling to think of myself as a missionary until my companion and I went on splits with the Elder's Quorum President (who I went with named Timothy) and another man who was Chinese. I totally missed his name, but it was so refreshing to go out and do missionary work. Before dinner, we spent a lot of time with a part-member family doing service in the bush*
*Bush- basically, it's anywhere away from the city that has a lot of trees, grass, or things of that sort. Let me tell you... we were in the bush for sure.
The lady we helped was from Tonga, and her name was Lina. She was way nice as most Aussie's are (at least the members.) She fed us lunch which was chicken, lamb chops, potato-salad, bread, and this Tongan thing called cavas. They are basically long, banana shaped potatoes.
Anyway, the mission here is extremely different from Salt Lake City. I love being able to become more familiar with the people and the culture everyday. The people here, especially in Tassie, are hard-hearted and want nothing to do with the church. We track heaps of houses every day trying to get new contacts. I reckon that it'll be a while before any baptisms come but I'm going to keep praying for miracles. The things I have noticed about Tasmania is that it is a very green, forested, bush covered landscape. The area is absolutely beautiful and the people are willing to talk for hours. However, the moment religion is even mentioned they just tell you to leave. Despite that, I am not going to get discouraged. There is no point! The work here may be hard but Heavenly Father put me here for a reason. Either we need to plant more seeds into the hearts of the Tassie peoples, or there is a family or more waiting for us to share our unique and important message.
My companion, Elder Hosman, is a pretty decent companion. He has had a bit of a past in that he went home for a year to repent of some things he had before the mission. He is an awesome and laid back guy, but I want to ingrain a sense of urgency in him if I can. I get the feeling, that since we are so secluded from the mainland, that missionaries are more reserved but that could just be because that is how the people here accept the gospel. The atmosphere is just different. If I lived here as a person I reckon that it would be a marvelous place to be. Everyone is willing to help each other out, for the most part, and they will talk your ear off but missionary work is a struggle. The missionaries before Elder Hosman and I basically did no work. We just barely gained the trust of the members again and we plan on working hard as to get more contacts and investigators.
However, despite the seemingly hard hearts there are always those that are prepared to hear the good news of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a family from Africa, and the father's name is Akot which means coconut in english I guess. He is such a nice man who would give the shirt of his back if a person needed it. That's just their culture I suppose. Anyway, we stopped by his house and the biggest thing that we do as missionaries is to build trust with them. Sometimes it takes a couple visits or more to really befriend them, but they eventually listen to you. The atmosphere is everything is a bit slow paced here from the Mainland of Melbourne, and HEAPS slower than SLC South. It's an adjustment but I love it.
So, here are some cool things for you to know! First, my apartment is haunted. No lie, the missionaries told us some crazy stories and my companion and the West area's companion told me about what happened to them before we came. Basically there are a lot of foot steps, lots of doors opening, and you wake up feeling like someone is watching you. No joke, it's crazy.
Also, an area we track is kind of dodgy. There was a double murder last week in an apartment complex right next to an investigator we talk to. He lives in an area called Ravenwood, or "Ravo" for short. It's basically the ghetto of Launceston. Night time gets a bit dodgy just for that reason. For example, my companion and I, along with the Launceston West Elders, did splits and had a competition to see how many Mormon.org cards we could pass out. Talking to people here is one of my specialties and I know Heavenly Father helped me out considering the veteran missionaries went off together and I got the fresh "Golden," (as they call them instead of Greenie Missionaries), named Elder Whitehead. He wasn't sure really how to approach people on the street but all was well. We passed out about three cards and met a really nice lady who invited us to some visit her sometime. Her name was Kristine and her nephew Alex has down syndrome. He is an awesome kid and he actually talked to us first when we were walking down the street. I have a new appreciation for the mentally and physically handicapped. They truly are put here for our purpose, to learn from them, and to grow. There is no doubt in my mind that they are for OUR benefit so learn from them as much as you can. Anyway, while Elder Whitehead and I were walking down the street, we noticed that no one else was really around. I looked over my shoulder to see a man in a plaid shirt and jeans walking quick as towards us. I had the feeling to immediately cross the street and get to a gas station. Turns out there was a group of people walking outside and we talked to them for a little bit. I looked back and saw the guy look at us, turn around, and walk into a dark alley when he saw we were around a group of people. I can't say he was going to jump us, but I get the feeling he wasn't interested in the copies of the Book of Mormon that were in our bags.
The cool thing about being here is that you have to fellowship a lot. Every Friday we have "Sports," which is where we invited the YSA and all younger investigators to play footy, touch (rugby), or basketball. It's a great idea in my opinion because you really befriend people which is the whole idea of teaching people and not just lessons. You HAVE to learn to love the people here and I do every day. For example, Sunday was fun because I had the opportunity to meet the members of my ward. They are mainly older people but there are a few families as well. The culture is previlient (spelling) in the church services but the doctrine is always the same, which is comforting to a "yank" who barely knows anything. I have picked up on a lot of the lingo used most frequently which makes it easier to understand people and what they mean. However, there are always a few that say things where I just think "what the... what did you say?"
Here is a list of things I have noticed.
Saying any adj with "as" at the ends means "really" ex. Good as = really good. Tired as = really tired etc.
"Tea" = Dinner
Toilet = bathroom
bathroom= room with a bathtub/shower ONLY
saying "reckon" = I think. ex. I reckon it'll rain tomorrow.
"Avo" = afternoon
"Servo"= Gas station
"Good on ya" = good for you or way to go.
"True?" = really? ex. "I woke up 3 times last night." "True? That stinks mate"
"Mate" = buddy or friend
"How ya goin" = How are you? What's up?
saying "eh" at the end of sentences adds a questioning emphasis. Like if I was to say these shoes are cool, eh? That's like asking if my shoes are cool. That sort of thing.
"Heaps" = a lot or plenty of, etc.
Anyway, there are heaps of other things I will try to adjust to. I noticed that when you use the words, the accent just kind of comes with it. Believe you me I still am as "yank" as it comes, but it's always fun to be apart of the culture.
I will be sending a ton of pictures so BE PREPARED! They are pretty as pictures and it's just awesome.
I love the work, and I love the mission despite its difficulty. There is no way it would be easy to find, teach, and baptize. It should not be that way nor will it ever. Today I was reading in Alma 8 when Alma goes to the city of Amonihah. He is rejected and gets discouraged and leaves. When he does this an Angel of the Lord comes to him and basically tells him "da heck are you doing? Get back at it mate and give it another go. Bear pure testimony and prayer mightily and the Lord will always provide a way."
That hit me hard this morning because I was so used to heaps of people being willing to talk about the gospel from Salt Lake City. I wasn't discouraged just a bit culture-shocked and this chapter answered my concerns. I love the scriptures because Heavenly Father really does use them to answer our prayers, our desires, our questions pretaining to things spiritually and sometimes temporally or physically. Every day my testimony grows that much more as I dive deeper into the scriptures and learn heaps of things.
No worries, 'salgood. The work will progress and seeds will be planted here in Tassie. My goal is to get at least 1 baptism before I get transferred out, whenever that will be which probably won't happen for a while. All in all, I love Australia. I love the culture, the people, the weather, the work. Nothing can and will tear me down. If Alma, a Prophet of God almost got discouraged from his work, that means that mine is miniscule compared to his diligence.
I love you all, and I think about you often. It's weird to think I am about as far away from home as humanly possible (where people actually live). We are secluded on this massive island where the weather is quite similar to New Hampshire (minus the snow.) Stay true to the Faith and when trials and tribulations come, cry mightily to the Lord and he will comfort you when you stand in need of comfort.
Well, if you want to send letters and packages directly to me, send them to:
4 Bond Street
Kings Meadows, TAS 7249
The 76 Cathies Lane one is good too but only for letters. They then are shipped here, but I think direct mail is always more fun ;)
Until next time,