Elder Colby Ross Smith

Elder Colby Ross Smith

Hello Tarawa!

Goodbye, Home Sweet Home!

Church on the "outies"

Dear Imatangs!

Well, it’s about time I send a progress report! I haven’t typed one since Kiritimati (Christmas Island) near the beginning of my mission. I guess all the letters I wrote and sent haven’t made it for some reason… but oh well.

As a broad update, since many of you have no idea where I am or what I’m up to in the field, I’m currently in Tarawa. I got here just a month ago from the very long Nonouti Island (atoll), where I served as Branch President. It was a life changing island. The experiences there changed me and the paths my life will take forever more. I was there for 4 ½ months with two different companions. I could never explain the details of the challenges and overwhelming blessings, the failures and abundant success the Lord gave us in this short text. Neither could my words translate well enough to paper. Some experiences (especially the sacred ones) will be kept for future sharing and strengthening by conversation or something of the sort. Sufficeth to say, I love that island- the converts, the members, the difficulties and trials and experiences and miracles I witnessed- more than anything. I would never trade it for the world.  It was there that I began to really know Christ. It was there that I found myself in becoming more like Him. I wish I could detail it all…..but I can’t. If any of you have specific questions about the work in my “outies” (outer islands) of Nonouti or Kuria, the people, the state of the church, the work, the life, the food, the experiences or miracles, let me know and I’d be happy to share.

I left that island as a result of being called as Zone Leader here in Tarawa, with Elder Afatasi. We’re on the main island of Kiribati. My missionary work is different now (even though it is all for the same purpose, of course).  Life in Tarawa is quite an adjustment in and of itself. There are refrigerators, fans, some air conditioners,
showers (depends on the power working, though), and sometimes…like in our house…. flushable toilets AND toilet paper. As Zone Leaders, we have a car since we seem to be driving around most of the day to help other missionaries, transport them, take them to places all over the island or procure stuff that missionaries on outer islands need. That, itself, has been a major adjustment for me. I really love each place I serve, it becomes ‘’my favorite.’’ But I do miss being inside the culture. I miss living in the people’s homes, being on bikes, teaching all day and having no distractions, no extra things to do but simply love the people and serve them and teach them and lift them. It’s, of course, still the same here. I just… I just feel a little more distant from the people. I don’t feel as able as a teacher now, since I’m not teaching 10+ lessons a day.  It’s cool, though, that I just passed over 2,000 lessons in total, so far, on all my mission! The amount of lessons, of course, is not the most important thing- but it represents the time I was allowed to be with the people, and that’s the best. I miss that the most. But I do love the administrative part of work, as well- I love serving the missionaries and doing what I can to lift them in any way possible. My challenge/goal is to still maintain as many baptisms and lessons as before.  We always quote President Monson in saying, ‘’never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.’’

Colby's hands are looking a little... 

The President’s Assistants (APs) are currently serving as the Western Zone Leaders and my companion and I are the Eastern Zone Leaders. We have one district (will be back to 2 districts in September, when an intake of 10 missionaries comes in) as well as all the southern islands. This means managing and collecting statistics and needs and support and such. We communicate with our Zone missionaries by email if they have it, or by radio if they don’t have email, though a couple outer islands actual have cell phone connections….it’s crazy. Things in Kiribati are definitely changing…becoming more modern as the real/old culture begins to disappear. It does require a lot of adjustment after spending all my time thus far on the outer islands. I’m, honestly, still not comfortable with all the modern things. I appreciate much more the simple, peaceful, humble life…. and I’m still adjusting to sleeping on a bed and having a table and chairs to study on. I live in an actual house now, as all the missionaries on Tarawa do.

Despite the all the busy work, my proselyting work is going well. We currently teach 20 investigators, who have all have committed to baptism and have dates they’re working towards. They’re full families, or people in a family that have other family members who were baptized long, long ago but have become inactive and we’ve been able to bring them back to Church. I’ll talk more about some of them next week, which is the week of big transfers- lots of flights, boat rides, and driving in the car. Till next week- Elder Smith

Colby never writes about baptisms, so I wanted to add a few pics to show how the gospel of Jesus Christ is spreading in Kiribati.