And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
- D&C 18:15
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The amount of Tongans I knew in my last area: 0
The amount of Tongans I know in this area: 6
The amount of people that they mutually know: over 100,000
I guess when you come from a country who's major island is a 2x21 bump
in the ocean, the community is small. My companion, a Sister
Missionary in the zone, and four members of the Wards I cover are all
Tongan, and they are all related. By how far? I don't know, I can
hardly keep up, but whether the are first cousins or eighth cousins
twice removed, they know exactly.
Elder Vaitai and I have been having a great time in my old stomping
grounds. It is strange to be serving in an area that you have already
served in. Everything is like a really long span of deja vu. There are
a few things that changed since the 15 months ago that I served here.
It helps that most of the ward are in the military, which transfers
their members almost as much as the church transfers their
missionaries. It's been so much fun though. If anyone tries to tell
you different, let's get this straight now. Missionary work is fun.
Feeling the spirit is powerful, the work of salvation is serious, but
if you are cool, calm, and collected, it is fun.
This week Elder V and I were able to go on the bikes for two
days. Let me tell you- it has been a long time since I have been on a
bike, but you have so much fun when you understand your purpose.
Sure, it might be 85 at the end of October, your on a bike in the
humidity, but you can't complain. If you know who you are and if you
are and why you are here. We actually had our most successful days
when we were on the bikes. Personally, I think that our willingness
and our attitude made it more successful than whether we were in a car
This week we were also blessed with a few meetings with Elder Do Hoyos
of the seventy. It was a lot of fun to travel around to the different
areas. I went to the West side of San Antonio for the first time in
ages. Halloween is going to be spent having dinner with some recent
converts and a lesson with some less active members of the church.
I hope that you are all having an excellent and chilly November week.
I am beginning to miss the fall.
I am getting transferred. Wow. I honestly never thought it was going to happen, and I was going to be okay with that. I have grown to love this Ward and the people of Round Rock, Texas so much. It is kind of weird to think that I just got to this area before Christmas, and now it is almost Halloween. Who would have thought that this would be my home base, 2.0. 10 and a half a months in one area almost makes you feel at home.
So where am I going to? Cibolo, Texas. Sound familiar? It should! That is one of the three area that I was trained in. I was there for five weeks, and I loved it. Now I am hoping to enjoy it once again, with my new companion, Elder V. He is from Tonga and was on their national volleyball team there. It will be fun to work with him. He has been out for a very long time and he is known as one of the hardest working Elders in the field. There's many great things to look forward to in the upcoming weeks.
This week has been wonderful. We found a lot of new people to teach, and it's a nice way to send off the area to the new missionary coming in. We have also made a lot of progress with those who we are teaching. The highlight of the week though was the Old Settlers Ward primary program, which featured almost 100 children betweeen the ages of 3-11 singing about Jesus Christ and teaching us great truths about the restored gospel. It was very well done for consistently mainly of a group of kids who can hardly get a frame of tag going for twenty minutes yet alone be a part of a fifty minute program. It really was beautiful though. All of the songs sounded great and some of the older kids even wrote talks about Jesus Christ, Joseph, Smith, temples, and other things. You can truly feel the spirit come from these little children. It reminds me of one of my favorite scriptures
"And their little children need no repentance... But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons" - Moroni 8:11-12
Today I don't have much time to write. I've been spending much of it packing, since I'm going down to Cibolo tomorrow. Have a great week, enjoy the blessings of the atonement, and enjoy the weather wherever you are. It is still nice and hot down in Texas.
Last night the relief society president of the Old Settlers Ward asked us to come by for cake and ice cream and to discuss missionary work in the area. Her husband travels five days out of the week and most weeks of the year, so it was one of the few times we have ever been in her house. The cake was delicious, the ice cream was fine. The message we shared with the family was heartfelt, and the work we got done there was perfect. However, the moment I remember the most came from signing her guestbook. She asked us to put our names and contact information with our note, so her family could contact us after the mission, but I added one more piece of information. How many days I've been serving in the ward. After counting them all up in mind I signed off with "Elder Hall, day 296 of serving in the Old Settlers Ward." Yep. I've been officially been in this Ward longer than I went to my ward in college. Fun times! All of my missionary friends like to joke around about it. We had a zone conference a few weeks ago in South Austin, and it was so strange to see some people. Even in the tight knit community of missionaries, when you're in an area for a while, you lose track of some of your friends.
Not that I'm complaining. I love this area! It's been great. This week we had a great amount of success with working with the members. As a missionary, you may be susceptible to the notion that members of the church aren't allowed to participate in missionary work as we do. Not so! Every christian on earth has a commission to preach the gospel. As a missionary, I am in the interesting position of being their leader and servant. I lead them to people that we found that they can invite and teach alongside us, but I also serve them when they have friends and family that they want to share the gospel with. I've been able to teach families and families of latter day saints valuable missionary tools, such as practicing sharing the gospel with friends, teaching them how to pray for missionary work, inviting them to hand out Books of Mormon, and sharing the principle that no effort is wasted when you are serving the Lord.
One of my favorite stories starts with my first Sunday of my mission, and ended with my first week in Old Settlers Ward. The S Family invited us to dinner, and they asked us how they can be better missionaries. We practiced inviting a coworker to meet with missionaries, and bearing your testimony. For the rest of the weeks I was in the Cibolo Ward, they didn't give us a referral, or let us know if they did it or not. They did invite us back to dinner after their vacation to California, and bought me an A's jersey. I was transferred, and months passed, and I forgot about that dinner with the S. I was transferred again to Old Settlers Ward, where I was shocked to see the S family sitting in the chapel, an hour and a half away from Cibolo. I asked them what they were doing, and they said, "We're meeting an old friend. She is giving her first talk in sacrament meeting." On the stand was V, a 17 year old who was baptized only months before that sacrament meeting. After that dinner I had with the S, they prayed about how to ask to meet with missionaries, and remembered some family friends from long ago. They invited V's family to meet with the missionaries. The parents denied, but V said yes. With the parent's permission she was baptized not too long later, and today she has taken four trips to the San Antonio temple, filled out temple work for dozens of ancestors, and now is the Laurel Class President of over 13 young women. She plans on attending BYU next fall.
Who knew that the hour or so of time spent with the Ss would touch the lives of so many others? It is the miracle of faith. Having the faith to extend an invitation, having the faith to ask missionaries for help with your own missionary work, and having the faith that something good would come of it. Out of small and simple things shall great things come to pass. V and the Ss are just one of the many stories that I have been a part of. To me, I have felt like I've been writing my name in the guestbooks of many families, leaving behind my witness of the gospel to add upon the testimony that is there. Flipping through a guestbook is like dumping out a jar of memories. They come fast and there's a lot of them. I may be one of many, but I am proud, because that means that there are thousands- maybe even millions- of people who are able to share such sound testimonies and stories as mine. May God ever be with you.
Elder Richard Hall
1. A good day of soccer 2. Me and the other Elders with S, an awesome youth in our Ward that loves missionary work. 3. A set of missionaries with a man who was baptized on Saturday. After his baptism he testified of the church- specifically of the restoration- for almost 15 minutes.
It is always a good week when you have General Conference. General Conference is one of the great blessings of being a member of the church. You can listen to men and women of the lord speak words of truth and comfort to you, and you are able to feel God's love for you through them. If you remember from the April session of 2016, I created an awards ceremony for conference to help add remembrance to the special event. It was called the Tommy's. I'll take some time this week to offer my thoughts and comments through these enjoyable awards ceremony. Your condensed Tommy Awards Ceremony Begins!
Best Costume Design (Who wore the best tie in conference) The Tommy goes to.. Elder Enrique R. Falabella! He gave the opening prayer in the Sunday Afternoon Session. It was beautiful. Second place was Elder Rasband's, and Third goes to President Eyring Saturday's tie. Note: President Uchtdorf wore the same tie Saturday that he wore on Sunday tie in April 2016. That tie won the Tommy as well.
Best Picture (Best Visual Aide used in a talk) The Tommy goes to... The Savior in Gethsemane, used by Sister McConkie. It's a powerful moment to catch in a photo. Second place goes to 1991 Elder Andersen, and last place goes to the Compound Gears from Elder Cook. Sorry, never was into mechanical engineering.
Best Adapted Screenplay (Best Use of Scriptural References and Quotes) The Tommy Goes To... Elder David A. Bednar! A Doctrinal wizard, he beautifully intertwined scripture upon scripture. other nominees were Elder Ashton's lecture on the Doctrine of Christ and Elder Cook's excellent analysis of Paul's sermons.
Best Sleeper Pick (The one you probably Slept through) The Tommy Goes to... Elder Brian T. Ashton! The two spot in the Sunday Afternoon session paired with a monotone voice probably got your eyelids closing. If not him, then Elder Cook probably got you right afterwards. Sound doctrine, soothing voice.
Best Original Screenplay (The most memorable stories and one liners) The Tommy goes to... Elder Legrand R. Curtis Jr.! I loved his stories of finding a testimony of the Book of Mormon. Powerful, personal, lovable. A very close second and third are Elder Nattress and Elder Holland.
Best Soundtrack (Best Song in Conference) The Tommy goes to... Called to Serve! How could anything be as powerful as a choir of missionaries singing Called to Serve with millions of members throughout the world. Beautiful. A close second is "I'll follow him in faith", a heartstring plucker, and priesthood sesison's "Hope of Israel"
Best in Show (the best conference talk) The Tommy goes to... Two time winner of best in show, Elder David A. Bednar. You cannot write a more straightforward, empowering talk than he can. A great step by step instruction on how we can come to know our Savior Jesus Christ. Elder Quentin L. Cook is my second favorite, filled with great references and compelling thoughts on stumbling blocks and stepping stones. Elder M. Russell Ballard's powerful thoughts on "to whom shall we go to?" Takes my third place vote. I feeling I've had in the back of my head for a long time finally explained to me. Elder K. Brett Nattress almost made me cry with his great talk on children, parenting, and conversion. Beautiful talk. Elder Russell M. Nelson's talk on joy was wonderful, and it made me realize the importance of being happy. Other favorites were Elder Ronald A. Rasband, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, and Dallin H. Oaks.
Conference is always such a great time. The main takeaways I received from conference this October was to - Repent often. It's not a bad thing. It's the best thing. - Have a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They love us more than we can imagine - Do missionary work!
Conference is the best. I love it. Now, if you want to know what happened in missionary work this week here it is. On splits, my companion and his split knocked on the wrong door. The woman opened up and was excited to see them! She's been "studying Mormonism" as she puts it, and was glad to have us come in and teach her. We've had two lessons and great conversations over the phone. She is truly searching for the truth. We had a great lesson with a part member family this Wednesday. The nonmember is more excited about being active in the church than the member is. She wants to be baptized, but wants to wait until her husband is active the church again. The gospel is meant for families, it is best felt within them. We hope to have him active and her baptized this month. We had a member with us to every single lesson this week. It is great to see just how much these wards support missionary work. They do it with us, they do it on their own, they are an inspiration to me and my companion.
I'm going to wrap up this email before it gets too long. Have a great week. Study, re-study, and re-re-study General conference.
Elder Richard Hall
1. District Preparation Day. Fun times. 2. A great exchange with Elder C