Elder Colby Ross Smith

Elder Colby Ross 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