As you know, Sundays in the MTC are very unique, but I'm definitely going to miss the fun feel they had. The Sunday Evening Devotional was given by Lloyd Newell. Some of you probably know who he is, but I had no idea. They announced him as the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (coincidentally, Mormon Tabernacle Choir abbreviated is MTC, so he was very fun to hear from) but I still didn't know. Then he went: "This is the 183rd Semi-Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints. Music from this session is provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir..." Then it clicked. The dude is practically the voice of General Conference! He was sooo cool! Because Brother Newell loves music, the devotional was centered upon it. He led the choir in a few songs, to which they closed singing "Amen" just like the real MTC does in Conference. He shared a video of Praise to The Man by the Choir that I highly recommend you go and watch. It was pretty legendary. He based his message on the hymn "How Firm a Foundation", explaining to us that we should fear not because the Lord knows us and He knows that we can do His will. I knew that he gave a great talk, but I didn't know how inspirational it would be until now. More on that later as well.
Monday was travel day. We got to call our families in Salt Lake City, and in San Francisco which felt so good. And then all of a sudden, we weren't in America anymore. It flew by so quickly. I gave the title "Back to The Future" because we went back in time to San Fran, and then shot into the future with a 13 hour flight to New Zealand. Gosh dang that was brutal. We traveled for about a full day, but because of the time difference, we arrived in Australia on Wednesday. The time difference really messes with you!
On Day 1, we were met at the airport by President and Sister Checkets, who are very nice and they took all the new missionaries to the city in Sydney, where we met at the Hyde Park chapel (which is in a high rise building) for some briefing. Then we went to a street corner, met up with another zone to sing some hymns and go soap boxing. That was a very unique experience, because you typically don;t stand on a milk crate and preach in America.
It's been an interesting few days. At times, I felt like I was, still in America. And then I'd look around me and realize that nope, I was definitely in a foreign country. Some parts of the freeway reminded me of the drive into Chavez Ravine by Dodger Stadium. Some of the plants here are the same as in Hawai'i, but the cities here are in no way comparable to Honolulu and Waikiki back home. I haven't eaten dinner at members' houses yet, but I think, at least in my area right now, I should be eating pretty normal food.
My companion, Elder Lamipeti is from Tonga and we live in an apartment in Dee Why. The chapel is a decent 30 minute walk from the apartment, a little bit shorter if we're lucky and catch the bus a few blocks. Because he's only 12 weeks out, and I'm a fresh few days out, guess what we get to do? Walk, walk, walk! We definitely get good exercise every day. The only problem with this is that our area is gigantic. Looking on the map and from what I know, we have members in Dee Why, Manly, Brookvale, Mona Vale, and Collaroy. Those are all cities fairly close by, but we can go all the way to Avalon. I haven't been that far north yet, so I'll try not to exaggerate, but I think our area takes up a good chunk of Hawai'i. I'd say the drive from Mililani to La'ie is a little over half of our area. So that's definitely interesting.
We serve in the Harbour (that's another weird thing here: they spell stuff like that: harbour, flavour, etc.) North zone, Greenwhich District and Harbord Ward. The ward is a good 90% Tongan, no joke. The other 10% is Maori with a few "palangi's" as they say. Sooo in a way, I kinda feel at home. but at the same time, a little out of place. Elder Lamipeti can communicate with most of the members in Tongan, while I, the palangi, stand there and wait for them to speak in English again. It really makes me thankful that I didn't have to learn another language though.
Now, I'm gonna be honest, my first couple days here were kinda rough. I struggled with the transition to being in a foreign country and I missed everything: my family, my friends, even silly things like American money, signs, and license plates. It was a weird feeling because just a few days before, I was in Provo, with American companions, and I was loving life in the MTC. I got pretty emotional every time I thought about it. I told myself that like the MTC, I just needed to get to Sunday. I made it to Sunday, and I really felt things change yesterday. My attitude got a little better, and I began to feel a little more comfortable being in a foreign country. I felt comfortable teaching the lessons, the only problem was I need to find people to teach. But yesterday, I felt a shift. I felt a little better talking to people on the streets and I know that it will continue to get better as I practice doing so.
Which brings me back to my previous points. I needed the Lord's help. I needed to pray for help, peace, and comfort. So that's exactly what I did. But He knew me. My attitude wasn't in the right place to receive that comfort at the time. But yesterday, I did feel at peace. I am very grateful that we can look to our Heavenly Father at any time and feel that comfort or get the guidance we need. I know that if I am humble and continue to do the right thing, He will help me forget myself and go to work. And that;s exactly what I need to do.
I miss you all very much. but I know the next two years will be life changing for me, as well as the people I meet here in Australia.
Love you heaps!
Word of the Week: "Boot" - The trunk of a car is called a boot here
Phrase of the Week: "How you going mate" - This is a very common thing to say, basically meaning how is your day
Sentence of the Week: "You twos just give me a ring and let me know when you need a lift" - Give me a call if you need a ride
My companion, Elder Lamipeti, and I