Elder Colby Ross Smith

Elder Colby Ross Smith

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

Mauri Kain Amerika!

Still getting used to this whole typing letters thing each week. I keep a lot of records, books and journals, but writing letter-form reports is difficult for some reason. I will start to share more about the work here and my mission experiences from island to island. Things are going really well here in Tarawa. I still miss the “outies” (outer islands) more than anything, but that’s not unique to me. Almost every missionary prefers the outies. I hope I will be able to go back out after working on Tarawa.

I miss living with the people in a basic stick house, sleeping in my net, and the well water showers of the morning. I miss washing clothes in the ocean, biking down long roads, leading church and giving a talk or two every week. I even miss the plain food. 

The food change is bitter sweet, though, because here in Tarawa, where the church is big, I feel like I enter into a 5-star restaurant nightly! There’s just so much and it’s so different from just fish, rice and coconut!  We pass our dinner schedule at the beginning of the month and it’s full within 10 minutes. Great meals every day. People fight over the days and love having us over so much, hahaha. The only downside is that dinner with members takes time away from dinners with investigators, which is mostly what we did on Nonouti and Kuria, and it really helped us to become closer with them!

Things are great though! I love Kiribati no matter where I am and no matter what duties I have. Fulfilling Zone Leader duties prevents us from getting 60+ lessons per week, like in Kuria, or 40+, like in Kiritimati or Nonouti. But we are still managing 30+ lessons per week. I’m pretty happy with it since there’s always something necessary to do for other Elders or Sisters.

This week will be a little hectic since we have 12 missionaries coming in from the MTC. They’ll arrive Thursday and the half who are going out to outer islands or Kiritimati will be staying and teaching with us until their flights are ready to take them out to their trainers. It’s quite a process to plan for this! The APS did practically everything this time, though. I’m not complaining because that meant more time for lessons!! I love lessons, more than anything. They’re my joy and happiness. It means Kiribati people and the truths of the restored gospel taught by the Spirit. How could things be any better?!

Sooo, a little update about our investigators…
Things are going really well. We have 20+ investigators with baptismal dates and they are getting close to their interviews! They’re progressing, save a few that only come to church about half the time. We are trying to make that 100%. We found almost all them in the past 4-5 weeks by “whitewashing” the area- just going around asking for inactive members that we could visit. After spending a lesson or two with each of them we began to get referrals to other family or friends. Many of the inactive members we visited have also begun to come back to Church!

I’ve found that inactive member work is one of my favorite things to do. It doesn’t take a lot of time, because it’s just about knowing them and teaching to what their situation is (really just having a gospel-related conversation, nothing too formal), and the spirit reminds them of the past and rekindles their testimony- and they come back! It’s not that simple all the time, but we’ve already helped 7 long-time inactive members come back to church here, while getting new investigators at the same time. And they’re all so happy!

We had a lot of success with new convert baptisms in Nonouti, but one thing Elder Morley and I talked about a lot, was the inactive work we did. We brought back a good 15 or so members to church. That felt just as good as baptisms. Meanwhile, we invited their non-member family members into the mix so they can be complete the family membership and begin to prepare for the temple. I think the inactive member work has become one of my favorite facets of missionary work because the changes in them are so easily and readily recognized, and, as soon as that spark inside them is re-ignited, they want their nonmember family members to join them. It ALWAYS leads to teaching and new family converts, and, there you go, full families preparing for the temple and callings and missions! I feel like that was the major highlight of the work in Nonouti and it’s been great here too. We are looking to increase by a great deal of new investigators this next week by the same method.

Alright, well, we gotta go! A lot of stuff to do today. Next week I’ll start sharing a few stories of investigators and their progression to testimony and baptism. The gospel does provide miracles and spiritual experiences on daily basis if you’re really seeking. After all, the beauty of the journey of this life is not necessarily in new landscapes to explore, but in having new eyes. Miracles are all around those who see them. I attest to that. I have seen them daily. It’s a true testimony of the authenticity of this directed work. I love this country and its people. I love this gospel and the church that teaches it. I love this latter day work that is directed by God. It has changed me and the paths my life will take forevermore.

Till next time,

Elder Smith