Elder Colby Ross Smith

Elder Colby Ross Smith

Importance of Family

Hey! Mauri!

First week in Betio complete. Weeks fly by so fast in mission time, seems like I was here two days ago typing up something. Lot’s of good progress last week, and much more still in action. It’s like driving a large ship; you can’t turn it all at once. It’s little by little. We’ve got big plans!

We get back every night at 9:30p and plan right up to 10:30p. Daily organization takes a little longer because I’m still new here and we really want to get our 20+ investigators on the path to progression. They all have so much potential. We pray for them in 10+ companionship prayers per day. And, we continually pray to find more prepared individuals. That is everything.
Something really stellar happened here- I found 4 of my old investigators from Kuria and 6 from Nonouti. Not a lot of progress in the gospel for a couple of them, but it’s so fun to meet with them again. I never actually taught lessons to most of them because they weren’t interested, but they are more receptive now- planned perfectly by Him. The even cooler part is that they moved here to live with family. This will lead to more possibilities... the family.

The longer I’m here and the more experience I have, the more convinced I am that the only path to true happiness and peace in this life is through the gospel of Jesus Christ; it being the plan for all to be perfected by Him. And the greatest way for us to cultivate faith in Jesus Christ and partake of all the blessings of the restored gospel, including peace and happiness, is in the family.

We have started to make every lesson a family event. That might be a normal thing in other missions, or at least a goal, but it’s easy to skip the process of inviting everyone in the family. It’s important to learn their whole background story and life, and invite them to attend every lesson (it is very difficult; many really don’t want to be there or really don’t like the church at first, but I feel like it’s everything). Some members of the family are ready before others.  But, in my experience, progression and real change is inspired when seen in the other members of the family, between parents and children, and even the mothers and fathers. Once they feel and see good changes in their family members, it becomes something they want more of because it’s so much lighter and happier and peaceful in the home. In a sense, our work ‘’does itself.’’
That’s my summary for last week. Mostly the same investigators, but this time getting to know all their family, spending more time than usual with them, and getting everyone involved. We have found many inactive and renewed investigators from this process. Previous investigators miraculously start to keep commitments and come to church. So much fun! Nothing makes me happier. This past week we taught a lot about God’s plan of happiness and the family’s place in it, including the temple.

We are also making some changes within the Ward. Our new Ward Mission Leader is a great guy and we now know that this calling is not just for our investigators, but for him. It was what he needed. Good reminder to all of us that callings are inspired and are for a purpose. This calling is going to change Betero’s life. Way excited to work with the guy.

We had another meeting with all our return missionaries yesterday- about 15 showed up… hahaha… none are married or have callings- so they have time! And we are going to work with them. Each will receive a few investigators and recent converts to fellowship and ensure the whole Ward knows and loves. Sundays can be quite hectic, so new members can get lost in the shuffle and remain unknown by the Ward… well… no more! Things are changing! We literally meet with 5 inactive members a day. They’re coming back, though slowly.

I’ll write more specifically about some of our people. Anyways, that’s all for now. I’ve got some ideas in mind for next week’s report. But till then, have a great Christmas-season-filled week!

Elder Smith

Transferred to Betio

Mauri Mauri!

I’m sitting next to my new companion, Elder Christensen, who arrived in Kiribati just 6 weeks ago. Last week I was transferred to Betio, another city in Tarawa. We’re in the Betio 1st Ward; there are three Wards here. So, yeah, that means my service with Elder Pulufana is over! I’ll miss that guy. Good man. It was fun finishing my last 5 weeks with him.

I found out about this transfer 5 weeks ago. President Weir told me I’ll be on a ‘’special assignment’’ and then further explained the details of this assignment. As Elder Jones put it in our emails this week, I’m basically James Bond right now…! Hahaha, nah, not close to that, but this assignment is a special one, though all are special in their own way.

Just as the East Stake (where I was until transferred last week) has set new goals to achieve before the next conference in January, the West Stake has set new goals too. And my, oh my, the West is further behind! It’s good that our next stake conference isn’t until March. The goal is that three Betio wards can be split to 5 and Bwairiki will be made into it’s own new Stake. So… we’re gonna get going. I won’t go into details but I made a list yesterday of all the things we need to discuss with our Bishop, little by little so we don’t overwhelm him. This Ward needs work- in leadership, callings, activity, unity... Truthfully, only about 8% of the members on record here in Betio 1st Ward actually come to Church- very low retention, though many of those have probably moved.

We have a lot of organizing and restructuring to do. I’m really excited. We just got a new Mission Ward Leader (the last one was inactive) and we’re going to call all the returned missionaries (there are many) as Ward Missionaries and ask them to help our Ward Mission Leader since he is brand new and has never held a calling or served a mission. They will help to fill our new investigator/recent convert class. I said I won’t go into our plan details, though, so I’ll stop there. But there’s a lot to do.

Luckily, I’m finally in an area where there are investigators when I arrived. There are several that can really become something- they just haven’t had the proper direction before.  But my job now is to push the work forward, clean up the records, etc., since I’m the new District Leader. Way exciting! It feels good to be back to a more regular schedule, to a more normal mission life.

Being a Zone Leader was great- it was a learning experience in many ways. It taught me other forms of patience, how to lead and correct, how to really plan and expect the unexpected, how to be more chill and not so high strung with the work schedule, since there’s less time for lessons. We did have a lot of success amidst all of our other duties. I’ll miss serving all the missionaries in the east and on outies. I actually really liked collecting statistics, shipping necessities, and doing all the random things that come up to make sure everything is running smoothly and working out according to plan.
I’ll especially miss the Ward members and our converts and soon to be converts. I love them so much. It was so sad saying goodbye the last couple weeks, even though I’m actually on the same island this time! It will be nice to see them every now and then. I did get to leave my new area last Saturday, the day after I left Eita. Why? To attend the Collin + Temantiro and Kanta + Tureere baptism!! Traveling was an ordeal, though. It took 2 hours of standing and sweating profusely, all over the person sitting in front of me, on a very crowded ‘’bus,’’ which is really just a regular van (Kiribati’s main source of transportation on Tarawa). But it was way worth it! I
love those guys!

Anyways, I love Kiribati! I love Eita 1st! And I now love Betio 1st! And hopefully one day I’ll get to go to one more “outie”… but for now Betio is the place to be and I’m excited to be a part of what the Lord is going to do next here.
I love you all! That’s all from me this week!

Elder Smith

People Can Change


All is well down in the Pacific. Zone’s doing well in the outies and in Tarawa. EITA is the best area in Kiribati and the world! I’m still working with Elder Pulufana- working like mad! Consistent with recent planning, our Bishop gave us 10+ names to work with- to help them prepare for the January Stake Conference. We’re almost through the list. It’ll be a really cool sight when that day comes and about 80 or so men are sustained to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. It’s been a lot of fun finding and teaching them. We didn’t get as many new investigators out of it as we hoped; we’re still trying to find a lot more.

Good news though: Collin and Temantiro (a couple) and Kanta and Turere (a couple) are set for baptism next Saturday, the 28th. The marriage papers just finished processing and are good to go; our plan is do a small bootaki at a member’s house this Thursday and have dinner together after. Kanta and Collin are brothers from Nikunau. Some of their family is still there, including their parents, and Elder Morley is working with them concurrently. It’s been a journey for these four: I remember the first time we stumbled into their house- there were eight of them at the time. I was on splits with a new missionary and I was the only one speaking, trying to be funny and get them to like us and to have some interest in our lessons. It was about 6pm and they had no light in their small house, so it was difficult to keep all their attention with all their young children crying and moving all around. We taught a short lesson about God and prayer, mixing in an introduction of who we are and why we’re here. (I know how Kiribati people are; most are kind and listen to our message, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to apply what they learn into their lives. I have personally met with well over 100 investigators who listen kindly, but are unwilling to test our words through reading and prayer.) Anyways, I asked each of the 4 initial couples if they truly had enough interest to learn and apply what we taught ach week. Collin and Kanta and their wives replied in the positive, while the others were so nice and honest and said, “no thanks, we’re too busy.” Since then, we’ve had a lot of great lessons and member support. There’s been some blocks in the road with temptation… won’t go into that haha. But they’ve really changed through it all and are just about ready for interviews. We fasted last week, so that they would have the strength to keep the Word of Wisdom. A lot of their friends are trying to make them fall. But our fast went well. I love that family!

Last week we also added Ruti’s mom. I remember when we first got to that house- Ruti and her girls didn’t like us, but the grandma, Kantarawa, hated us. We tried to talk with her as lessons progressed with her grandkids, but she refused in her own hysterical way. If you remember, all those are now baptized and doing well. And, during our post-baptism visits alongside our new investigator Aribo (who is doing great as well), Kantarawa inched closer and
closer to our lessons; listening in little parts here or there… And now, as of last week, we officially started teaching her! She’s still proud of her catholic ways, but she’s accepted the lessons as they come and you can see great changes in her and in her happiness. And she knows it, too. I love love love showing people that ANYONE can change. Ruti always told us to leave her alone, that she was an old, crazy lady and would never change. Well, she is an old and crazy lady- very sarcastic, very strange, sometimes outspoken and ill-mannered, but she has changed. I love this gospel. It produces and enables change- for anyone- for any habit or disposition.
I love the Savior. I love the atonement (: Ah, it’s just the best. It’s so real. It’s not some effect of the mind, something manmade to feel better or happier. It’s a power. It’s an enablement, wrought by the Son of God, himself. No one can tell me otherwise. Try to! I dare you hahahaha, nah, but really, I know for myself, for I’ve seen it in others and in myself. It’s a power most often called “grace.” We all have access at all times, and a fullness of blessings can be had by making sacred covenants, whereby He may endow us with more power and blessings.

Man… there’s so many more stories- crazy ones each week. But that’ll do for now. Anyways, love ya’ll back home. We’re all doing great here holding down the fort. The kingdom is rolling forth. Keep it real this week!

Elder Smith

Vision for Kiribati


A lot has changed in the last month or so. For instance, one of the major events that took place was Elder Pearson’s visit. He and his wife gave some very instructive, powerful, and inspiring trainings. It was a great experience to meet and be taught and interview with him. I only wish that all the Kiribati missionaries could have been here, instead of just the 25-30 on Tarawa. We relayed some of his training via radio to the outer island missionaries. His visit had good impact, including work with President Weir to create a short-term vision for Kiribati. This includes qualifying, then splitting our 2 Stakes into 4. There’s been a large shift lately in the hastening of the work. The standards of excellence are being raised, one of which being 4 baptisms per companionship, per month; I think I mentioned that in my last report.

The new goals and vision include cooperation with local Priesthood leaders. We held a meeting with all missionaries within the East Tarawa Stake and invited the local Bishops to join us. The Stake President asked all the Bishops to stand up, then asked if the missionaries all saw and knew their Bishops. We all nodded. Then he said “Bishops, after this meeting you are to give your missionaries at least 10 names of men who are to receive the priesthood.”  It was pretty cool. Kinda funny too. Just trying to make sure the Bishops, as great as they are, know they need to start working more with the missionaries. We’re getting down to business now! We have a stake conference scheduled for January, just before the intended Stake split, where all Melchizedek priesthood advancements will be announced and sustained. I forgot the number but it was something big. The goal is for every single LDS young man to have the proper priesthood and ordination. Cleaning things up! The West Stake is doing something similar. All members will be visited and invited to progress in their faith as well as lead us to friends who have not yet been taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the gist for now. A lot of exciting things happening soon.

An intake of 14 missionaries came in last week. All the outer islands are now set with missionaries (some were closed temporarily due to our small numbers). And the work is really starting to progress in all of them. By January, native Branch Presidents should be called on every island (or Atoll) that is currently without, such as Nonouti, Nikunau, Kuria, Maiana, Onotoa, Tabiteuea South, and several others. That way they can never be closed to missionaries again; missionary presence is required wherever there is a local Branch President. This will go a long way to avoid the bad patterns of the past 20-30 years, where members fell away from activity after missionaries were gone for a while. And it won’t matter if someone moves (Kiribati people move frequently), the church will be there wherever they go. Eventually the southern islands, central islands, and northern islands will all be their own districts.

Enough about that! Ya’ll are probably bored hahaha! If you’re still with me I’ll share a little about my current location, Eita. Things are working and progressing here, though there have been a few setbacks: being “dropped” by investigators, investigators moving (or becoming ministers in other churches…..I won’t go further into that), word of wisdom challenges, marriage and divorce issues… etc. But, we’ve got a strong number of investigators and we’re still searching for more. Bright side- all of the 15 recent converts are solid! They’re coming every week, contributing in the ward, coming to events and activities, etc. Iakobwa works the whole week driving a car, but got Sunday’s off for church. He’s so solid; he and his re-activated wife! He received the priesthood last week. We will work to help him prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood in a few months. I really wish they would receive callings though…. That would be so good for them.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming baptisms of two couples. Their children are all very young. We had 3 couples, but one moved after a big fight broke out after drinking. It wasn’t pretty. But it led to a sincere desire to change (on the man’s part). Gosh I love them! They all came to church yesterday and have come to other baptisms and General

Conference. The marriage we have planned is next week. The main goal right now is keeping the word of wisdom and getting the smoking and tobacco eliminated before the interview on the 21st! Prayer and fasting time! I’ve really seen the role and power of members. Never had that much before serving on Tarawa but now I know how members have so much power and influence for good- you probably don’t even realize it.

One more report-worthy couple is Monika and Beetua. I’ve worked on them since teaching one of the younger boys in the house, really Beetua’s brother but adopted as his son right now. We fasted for them with some of their friends after my many failed lesson invitations. Miraculously (because fasting ALWAYS works), they accepted after the fasting and we started. The lessons were slow- only one a week. They avoided them sometimes, but we always got one a week. Though skeptical at first, they began to change a little and actually looked forward to our visits, preparing drinks before we came and always ready on time. On one occasion when Beetua’s car broke down in another village (he’s a car mechanic), we were waiting with Monika. I really love Monika. I wanted to use the time to get to know her life and background and relationship with God. She told us everything- really opened up. She detailed how she just feels happier and more at peace lately, and how she and her husband don’t argue anymore and that she actually sees him caring about the lessons, whereas he didn’t even like us before. She couldn’t understand why all the changes. We had a mini lesson on happiness and the spirit. They just have to choose for themselves now. They’re still embarrassed to have lessons whenever their protestant friends see them. They know what they need to do: they know they need to come to church, they know that if they apply the gospel of Jesus Christ they’ll see more changes…. It’s up to them now.

Their circumstances aren’t rare or different. It’s the same with us all. It’s so plain and simple- God’s plan is so simple. Follow Christ, do as he does. He is light (John 12:46). He is the way (John14:6). Apply what he says and does. Obey. And blessings will come. Happiness will follow. Truth and clarity and direction will flow into your life and everything you do. Everything. Everything will fall into place. That’s a firm promise evidenced by endless scriptures and witnesses in the scriptures. I could take an hour to site the many examples and scriptures. If we will follow him, he’ll change our hearts, and thereby our lives. That is one of the universal powers of the atonement. That’s something I’ve seen endless times here. It’s something I still seek. A new heart brings new eyes and new ears. And that brings a new life, a better life.

‘’But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come…’’ (Hebrews 9:11) He is the only one that has walked perfectly the path that leads to these things and accomplished a process to know us and redeem us, that we may also receive all blessings our Father has in store for us. No price or payment on our part, but a broken heart and contrite spirit. Simply put, desire to change, truly change, and convert unto the Lord. And he will change our nature, weaknesses, fears, characteristics and make us into all we are meant to become. I love seeing it in myself and others. That’s the happiness of the restored gospel- the restored truth in fullness. That’s why the church has been restored and is directed by its Founder who lives today.

And the people of Kiribati are learning about it now.

Elder Smith

New Standards of Excellence


A lot to talk about this week, but I’ll keep things short due to time restrictions. We feel very well into the Zone Leader life and adjusted to Tarawa living. The members here are resilient, strong and faithful. I love them. And I love our investigators. We just had 8 baptisms. It was the first wave since we got here, but there are many more to come. Some are getting stronger and seem ready for interviews next week. There’s been a little confusion lately since, for a month now, Elder Afatasi and I have been on constant splits and exchanges. The last Elder from the recent intake left just yesterday. Yes… yes… they finally got to all there places. This has been the worst transfer (in the “drawn out” sense) of all time- so many broken planes and times of bad weather. But they’re finally all set now and, as of last night, it’s just the two of us in our house. Felt weird. Lately there have been 5 in our house, but it was good- we were able to use the extra help to teach more lessons and find new investigators. Over 30! 

Radio is used to contact "outies" weekly
Teitei Bird 
Now, we’re not quite sure how the two of us will manage all these new investigators while juggling ZL responsibilities, but it will be nice to be back to normal for a week before a new intake of 15 Elders and Sisters arrive. A few days after that, Elder Afatasi will transfer back to Christmas Island and I’ll stay as ZL for the East. We’re currently in the process of reopening the West Zone and two new ZLs will be called up. This is in preparation for the APs to move back to the Mission Home in the Marshall Islands. Additionally, a ‘’Mission Tour’’ will be held this week for Elder Pearson of the Area Presidency. We’re all really excited for that!

We’ve had lot of meetings and conferences lately. Just a couple weeks ago, before President returned to the Marshalls, we had a second island conference to discuss the new Mission Goals and standards of excellence. The work is being hastened! The new standard is one baptism per week, per companionship. All other standards were raised as well. Our mission goal is to prepare 2,500 islanders per year for the Second Coming through baptism and confirmation. There are not a great number of missionaries here, hence the standard of one per week, per companionship. Definitely possible though!

Our most recent meeting was General Conference. We received recordings a week after everyone else, since it took time to translate and transport. I was able to watch in English. I wish I had time to go over all my thoughts about conference and my favorite talks, but suffice it to say it was amazing! Never fails. I felt such a sense of renewal and light after- similar to what I feel after study and prayer, of course, but conference is a whole new level!

We recently starting teaching a family of 3 couples- each couple has several young kids. They all live in one small house that has no light, literally J. We started just a couple weeks ago, and they came to watch General Conference with us! Tenamoiti and her inactive mom also came, along with the other members of her house.
Our man, Katoi, also watched General Conference with us. His baptism date was coming up soon, but recently he got together with one of our recent converts and…. yeah, we’re trying to figure that one out since our recent convert is only 17 years old and can’t be legally married. I don’t know how everything is going to work out yet.

Takaio came though! The credit for that goes to his family members. He’s set to be baptized next week. He turns 26 (maximum age to leave on a mission) exactly a year from now and is hoping he can go as soon as he hits a year after his baptism.

There were many more that came to watch General Conference with us- pretty stellar! My main girl, Rutian, unfortunately, didn’t make it… her story is pretty cool. One day I was on splits, driving around Eita, and decided to drop in, unscheduled, on Kaiea, one of our male investigators. Kaiea wasn’t home. But we met Rutian, a friend of Kaiea’s member wife. Rutian is a 22 year girl and one of my favorite investigators ever. We started with the first lesson, but she wanted deeper explanation of everything right away. She didn’t stop asking questions, wanting to see the scriptures behind them; not to find fault, but to know more. This was my time! I have an arsenal of hundreds of scriptures and stories in my head at all times to call upon. She continued her line of questioning through the end of the restoration discussion. We asked her to be baptized. She explained to us that she was recently made a Deacon in the Protestant church and was about to be set apart on Abaiang atoll the following week. Nevertheless, she did accept our invitation to be baptized under the condition that she discovered for herself that what we taught her was true. That lesson was 2 hours long! The subsequent lesson about the Book of Mormon was similar in length and questions. We dove in deep on several subjects. The next lesson was about the Plan of Salvation. She was a bit skeptical on this subject, but received it well and committed to pray about it while continuing to read in the Book of Mormon. Since then… we hadn’t seen her for a week. We thought she had left to be set apart, as expected. But, then, just a few days ago, we met again and invited her to conference. She could not come because she had her own church responsibilities. But, we are having one final lesson tomorrow at 2. It’s now or never! I’m pumped for this one.

I could tell many more stories like this one about Rutian. Next week I’ll tell you about my favorite current project… Beetua and Monika. And they are a project! They will come around, though. I believe in them!

Anyways, things are good. Living the life of Zone Leader in the Kiribati islands! Lots of great members, investigators, and missionaries to serve. Being a missionary is the greatest and most rewarding work in the world. I’m excited for the new week ahead of me!  I’m continually in awe of the magnificence of this work. I can’t comprehend how a person as inept and inadequate and imperfect as I could be a tool to help change the life of any Kiribati or fellow missionary. As Elder Renlund quoted ‘’and by the weak things of the earth the Lord shall thresh the nations by the power of his Spirit.’’ (D&C 133: 59) It’s a testament to me of the reality and divinity of this work. It’s a true testimony that the Lord does His work through imperfect and prideful men- that He is at the helm. Do I deserve this success or these many blessings or peace and happiness? No! hahaha. I wish I could say yes, but I’m far from it. I’m just doing the small things that I can and He does the rest. He qualifies me. He makes me whole. He lifts me each day and allows me to say each thing I say or do each thing I do. It is by His spirit that others receive their witness, that others are changed, that others are baptized. It is by His priesthood they are baptized, confirmed, blessed, and strengthened. I’m so grateful that I can be a part of this work. I know it to be true; I know this to be the living Christ’s restored and guided church to preach His perfect plan and gospel. This is knowledge I know for myself and it is, as Elder Rasband said, ‘’wonderful to me.’’

Peace for now! Have a killer week everyone!
Elder Smith

‘’Stick to a task until it sticks to you; for beginners are many, but finishers are few.’’ –Thomas S. Monson

Kiribati Has a Bright Future


This last week’s been pretty solid, though hectic. Transfers are still in action. Right now only one of the small Kiribati planes is working and the person we use for charters is out of town. Some have missed their flights and some have come back due to sicknesses, like Elder Stone- that guy is a champ! He basically had half of his foot taken off surgically in a 3rd world country after a severe infection that started from a small cut, and he’s still smiling and happy. So, yeah, we’re still playing catchup with all the last minute changes.

Meanwhile, we’re preparing for Elder Pearson’s arrival in October (Area Presidency), which will be followed by an intake of 15 Elders and Sisters and a new, desperately needed senior couple! I feel like were on the battle front, highly anticipating the arrival of huge recruits and supplies! Maybe we’ll get lucky and more copies of the Book of Mormon and planners will come too. Like I said last week, it’s a really exciting time!

Our work of spreading the gospel is progressing well. Despite the administrative chaos at times, we’re getting in a lot of lessons since we’ve still got a few of the Elders from the most recent intake to go on splits with. I think we taught 39 lessons last week, which is the most since being on Tarawa.

We’re looking forward to this Saturday when 8 souls will be baptized- all having passed their interviews with flying colors! There are more to come, too. It’s always amazing to witness how much more difficult temptations become for those who are close to baptism. Many shy away just before entrance through the gate- like Lakobwa, last week. We talked to him the other day- it was a good lesson. We waited for him to admit to his drinking binge rather tell than him that we knew. I just kept the conversation simple and asked how his reading and praying were. He had slipped a little lately, which caused him to leave the ‘’iron rod’’ for a moment. ‘’Decisions determine destiny’’. It’s the little things. But he’s doing better now and we’re still working with some other family members.

An example of how small and simple things bring to pass great things was experienced with Ruti’s family this past week. After a lesson, they asked us why they felt so happy and peaceful, and why there was never any contention in their home while we were there; but, just a few hours after we leave, things always go back to normal. We had been prompted to change our lesson that night and teach about the importance of family, love, forgiveness, and ‘’speaking with the tongue of angels.’’ Some of my favorite topics! It felt good to open up the scriptures and continue teaching by spirit, like I learned to do in Kuria and Nonouti. It always feels good when those opportunities arise. Of course, on this topic, the most basic solutions for the home are family prayer and scripture study. I’m really excited to see them all get baptized this week!
Missions are still the greatest thing and young man or women could ever do in their young life. It’s the most fulfilling, joyful, peaceful, and miracle working work in the world. I love it with all my heart. Even with our many different responsibilities now, I have peace knowing that all things are working according to a master plan, because it is His work. Even the ‘’peace of God, which passeth all understanding’’ (Phillipians 4:7)

Difficult and frustrating things, too, happen weekly in missionary work. One of the most frustrating is when people use their agency poorly, hahaha, just because you love them with all your heart and want them to choose what they believe and feel to be right. Those setbacks can be first viewed as negative, but, really, all situations can work out if you see them in the right light.

There is purpose in all things when you’re obedient and living by the direction of the Spirit. Failure never has to be viewed as digression. I know that very well.  I’ve failed so many times at so many things. I love this knowledge that I have.  For those follow Christ and His gospel and His commandments, there are always good things to come, no matter the how dark the storm. Despite the challenges and failings of us missionaries here, this work will continue, and Kiribati has a bright future.

For my quote of the week, remember, ‘’There is no progress, no achievement, without sacrifice.’’ –James Allen

Love you all! Till next week,

Elder Smith

"Miracles are Everywhere..."

Mauri moa ngkami!

First off, I can’t believe another Monday is here-time is flying by faster and faster now, and especially as I helped with the new intake of missionaries this past week. It was a lot of fun going through the introductory ropes as they entered into the Kiribati experience for the first time. Memories flooded my mind from the first time I tried certain foods and drinks, learned new words and culture, teaching methods etc. Especially during orientation, since it was there the 9 of us (same as the number in this crew almost one year ago exactly) found out where we would be serving and who with. 

 There was such a strong spirit with them all as they bore their testimonies. At the end we sang “Called to Serve.” Man am I jealous of those Elders; they have 2 years left!! And my time is speedily ticking away. I almost can’t believe it was me in their shoes just the other day.

This is a very special time to be a Kiribati missionary. Everything is changing. Everything! The Lord’s work is hastening here in an unprecedented nature. Almost all islands are open and missionaries are being added. It was a game changer when we all came in, but now our President is moving things forward again with more Kiribati missionaries in his final year. (In case you didn’t know, President Weir is the President of the Marshall Islands Mission, which includes missionaries that are exclusively dedicated to Kiribati) There’s much to be seen in Kiribati’s future. I love being a witness of the kingdom rolling forth so boldly. 

Due to some cancelled flights, last second transfers and other stuff, things are running a little behind this week. But most of the new elders are out in their “birth places” now.

Meanwhile, in Eita, things are going really well, work wise. Our big plan was for a large, group baptism date on September 26th. But, due to a lot of drama and some challenges, many will not be ready for their interview this Saturday. It will have to be pushed back a few weeks. One amongst those preparing for baptism is Lakobwa. He was so solid. While teaching him, we got his wife back to church activity. We also teach his wife’s brother and sister, who have been difficult to meet with lately. 

Anyways, he was right on track and really ready till just yesterday, when he didn’t come to church. We were on splits when his niece came up and told me that we has drunk in the middle of the day by the side of the road with some friends. So, we’ll have to see about that. It’s not the first time something like this has happened right before interview/baptism time. Really, it’s more like the 30th … Satan works extra hard when they get close. After all, ‘’Satan don’t kick no dead dogs.’’ It’s cool though. Prayer and fasting, mixed in with some hard work, cure all. He’ll come back.

Arenti and her crew are doing great! We usually teach them in a large group. She and her member husband (well… they’re newly together and getting married soon), with Waioko and her husband and kids, and Matoonga (we’re still working on adding her husband to the group). 

Arenti has been blessed with the ability of faith in her life. She had an experience 20 years ago when she came back from Arorae. She stopped going to church (different religion) after promising the Lord she would never miss. Soon after, she got this terrible recurring sickness where she can’t walk and her legs are in such intense pain that she can’t sleep. The night before she first got it, she was told in a dream that she would have a sickness as a reminder to always keep the Sabbath holy and that she was never to use worldly things to cure her (such as old Kiribati methods (“devil work,” she says)) or she would never heal. 

Before telling us this story she asked for a blessing. She had been reading the Book of Mormon, paying particular attention to the healing power of the priesthood and knew we would have that priesthood authority to give her a blessing. So, I gave her a blessing. And, of course, the spirit told me exactly what to say, though we had not yet heard her story. I gave some comforting words that I knew where the Lord’s, applicable to her particular situation.  I told her that the time was not yet come to be healed, though each Sunday she would receive the strength necessary to come to church and eventually be baptized. The next Sunday she did come, painfully walking the whole way and she bore her testimony (along with several other of our investigators) about the power of the priesthood and importance of the Sabbath. She’s awesome! Due to marriage issues, she will have to wait a few more weeks to be baptized. But, it looks like there will still be over 10 baptisms this next Saturday!

We’ve recently met some amazing people with faith, like Arenti. (I love this area! I love that each area I serve in becomes my favorite as I go along.) One family we’re working on, all started around the time we first arrived here in Eita. A sister member came up to us and told us that she recently had a dream in which she was visited by a local boy who had died earlier this year. This boy told her, in the dream, to let the missionaries know that he wanted us to visit his family and teach them the plan of salvation. (the boy told this sister, in the dream, that he had just been taught the plan of salvation in the spirit world.) It turned out that the boy’s mom was once Mormon, but had since married a devout catholic and stopped coming to our Church. 

Once we heard this story, I felt we should ask this sister to go with us and relate the dream directly to this boy’s mom. She agreed. The mother, Bauraoi, cried as she heard about the dream. She knew that she needed to come back to church and has felt it for a long time. She fears, however, that her husband will be angry, so we all fasted for his heart to be softened in order to allow us to teach in his home. So, right now, we’re in the middle of that story and we will see what happens next!

Fasting and praying, I’m telling ya, it’s the key! Miracles are everywhere- expect them at all times and in all situations. For those who seek and follow Christ, there are always good things to come. I’ve seen this for myself week after week after week after week. Every day, even. At all times, no matter the magnitude or depth of the darkness, light prevails, blessings will come, and miracles will be witnessed. I have peace of mind and heart knowing these things. I know they will continue because I am a solemn witness that this work is no work of man, but of God. I see his hand daily. 

I testify of the truthfulness and divinity of this marvelous latter day work. You members are as fully a part of it as I am. The adversary ploys and plots but never can inhibit the rolling forth of God’s work. As it says in one of my favorite scriptures, D&C 123: 17,  ‘’Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.’’
Till next time,

Elder Smith