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