"Pressing through Trials and Hardships with Faith"
I miss you so much! I hope you and the rest of the family are doing well! Please send my love to the family!!!
I feel like I am learning and progressing from the experiences I have each week. The work continues to go well here in my area. The man that was hospitalized last week as a result of heart failure is named Atiera. He was baptized this past Saturday along with his two sons Niiteru and Tuuaai. Atiera has a burning testimony of the gospel and has served as an example to me of pressing through trials and hardships with faith.
This past week my companion Elder Hunter and I had the opportunity to witness a friend of ours named Bwaraii receive the Aaronic Priesthood and be ordained to the office of a Priest. Elder Hunter and I have had lots of opportunities to give priesthood blessings this week.
One such opportunity came when we were walking along the road and heard a horrible and unforgettable squeal from a little boy behind us. When we ran to him we found that he had been sitting on the beam of a bike that someone older was pedaling and had gotten his leg caught and twisted between the tire of the bike and a bar running parellel to the tire. We had to take the bike apart as the boy was screaming to get his leg out. We did everything we could to try to help him feel relaxed while finding his parents to help him with his broken leg. I think the boy would actually want to go through the entire experience again just to get a second canned soda, the first of which given really cheered him up.
One of the people we teach is named Enteria. He was baptized as a teenager but decided to work as a Seventh-Day Adventists missionary a couple of years later until now. He is extremely educated in the Bible and a strong member of his church, and is worthy of the upmost respect and admiration. After keeping his commitment to pray about the restoration lesson he told Elder Hunter and I that he had a vision of us teaching the same lesson in Heaven.
I'm glad to know that we'll have more lessons to teach together because Elder Hunter and I have been assigned new companions. My time with Elder Hunter was short but I feel like I learned a lot from him and have really appreciated his Christ-like example. My new companion is Elder Otto. We had a blast learning to speak Kiribati together in the MTC and are determined to work hard and remain obedient. There will now be six Elders living in our house: Me, Elder Otto, Hunter, Osborne(Otto's previous companion), Lenga and Yosefa. Elder Otto and I are going octopus hunting later today, which should be a fun way to start our companionship.
I love you so much Mom! I pray for you and the family all the time and hope you guys have a great week!
I love seeing these pictures thanks you so much!!! What happened to Shane's hand that made him need 17 stitches??? That sounds crazy. He's always been such a hard worker that I can't imagine he'll actually slow down much at all. He's in my prayers! Tarheels won? Of course they did. Blessing from serving a mission come in many more forms than one!
I am still in the process of getting used to my new area, so many things continue to feel different, fun and exciting. I am enjoying stronger relationships with members and investigators and am giving my best effort in doing my own little part in building the Lord's kingdom.
The work is going well. This week we have done lots of tracting, had a Zone Meeting, witnessed the marriage of one of our investigators, helped ordain a father and his son to the Aaronic Priesthood, had two investigators baptized, watched General Conference, helped a Sister get her Patriarchal blessing, etc.
A lot of the focus of this past week has been centered on preparing our two investigators for their baptisms. Their names are Nei Eema and Nei Kaikai. Eema is a fifteen-year-old girl who lives with a strong member family. She loves to read in the Book of Mormon and I often find myself trying to keep up with how fast she reads. Last time we checked she was cruising through the Book of Mosiah while I was learning the vocabulary in Jacob 5 to talk to a Kiribati botanist should such a crucial need ever present itself to me. Kaikai is in her mid-20's and has been very busy. This past week we helped her get divorced from her previous spouse, witnessed her marriage to her current spouse and saw her baptized the day thereafter. Eema and Kaikai were baptized by Ten Toromon, a recent RM from the PHilippines who has been really instrumental in helping us Elders in our missionary work. I am super blessed to have been a witness of their special baptisms and resultant radiating happiness.
For our Preparation activity today we are going to walk out on the coral at low tide and use small nets to try and catch some octopus and/or small fish to cook and eat for dinner. I'll be excited to let you know how that goes next week.
My mission has been such a great experience in so many ways. Thank you so much Mom for leading me and guiding me to this point in my life.
I love you so much and hope you have a great week!
week 1 in Eita
Iokwe! Ejet am Mour?!?
Hi Mom! I love this letter so much! I'm so happy to hear all that the family is doing and to know that you guys are all doing great! All do my very best to answer all of your questions in this letter. Thanks for the General Conference preview, it makes me excited to get to see it myself! Please sent my warmest love to the family!!!
My experiences thus far working in Eita have been great! It seems to me that there is "an unusual excitement on the subject of religion" among many families and their friends here in my area. The LDS church is the fastest growing church in Kiribati, especially in Tarawa. AS a result, I am blessed to stay busy with productive missionary work throughout the entirety of the day. I feel like I am developing a more close and intimate relationship with my Heavenly Father and progressing to become more like the kind of person and missionary he wants me to be.
Living conditions here are a lot different than what I have been used to in Nikunau. I now have easy access in our house to utilities such as a toilet, cold shower, sink, propane stove, toaster and fridge along with my own bed and access to all the contents of my suitcases. Along with that I have had more opportunities to stay clean and healthy than any other time I've been in Kiribati. Infected cuts that I've struggled with for months now are already starting to heal. After core exercises and/or running each morning breakfast consists of scrambled eggs dipped in crunchy peanut butter with powdered milk-no questions asked. Lunch might be something like a banana or coconut. Dinners are with members and therefore vary, but it seems like I can usually count on eating salad, a fruit, and whatever meat available- usually some kind of tasty fish, shark or turtle.
I am really blessed to have been teamed up with my new companion Elder Hunter. He is a super awesome yet humble guy whose actions speak much louder than his words. This week in Preach My Gospel we read that "goals reflect the desires of our hearts and vision of what we can accomplish. Through goals and plans, our hopes are transformed into action." We have therefore set several goals we hope to accomplish before Elder Hunter finishes his time in July as a missionary. We want to tract each house in our area and document names of each family and their degree of interest in the gospel. We want to focus on families and find and baptize two of them. I want to eat only the most healthy of foods and be productive with my allotted time to exercise each morning. I am trying to stay diligent in developing my ability to speak Kiribati. I am also getting up early to try to learn to speak a little Marshallese, mostly just for fun. More important than all of these things however is my desire to lose my life for Christ's sake and the Gospel's to honor our family and my Heavenly Father!
Ij Iokwe eok!
P.S. I was told that a package for me left the states on March 30th and that I should expect to receive it either later today or on Thursday.
P.S.S. Also, you asked me last week about what needs I may have. I hate to ask for it because I'm afraid it might be expensive, but what I really need is a new camera. Mine is almost completely broken and probably won't last more than two more weeks or so. A good brand missionaries use here is called Canon I think. I could also use 2-3 Adult Medium white church shirts but I don't need those as desperately.
P.S.S.S. I had letters waiting here in Tarawa from you and Aunt Michelle, Uncle David and Wesley. Thank you so so much!
P.S.S.S.S. I love you!
when I asked him about the other two Elders, he said:
There names are Elder Otto and Osborne. Both are way funny so we have a ton of fun in our house. Elder Otto was in my MTC intake and sat next to me during our class study time, meetings, etc. He's from Idaho. Elder Osborne is from Washington and has been out for about 19 1/2 months.
Goodbye Nikunau. You will always be in my song.
Thanks so much for the letter! I miss and love you guys.
Right now I am in Tarawa. This past week has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Leaving the people of NIkunau was really hard, but I've been blessed with a special feeling of peace in knowing that through living the principles of the gospel I can meet with them again.
My new area is just about the complete opposite of what I have been used to for about the past six months. I'm working in Eita, Tarawa. I just had a dentist appointment in a building with a fridge! I'm excited because it is largely coveted for being the most productive area in the entire mission. Moroni High School, the undoubtedly best school in the country, is in my area. Missionaries from all over Tarawa come to Eita every P-day to Moroni for different activities. My new companion is Elder Hunter, who has just finished being AP for the past 8 months and is now District Leader. He is the grandson of President Hunter. My house is really nice and I Elder Hunter and I live with two other super awesome hard working missionaries.
Anywho, I want to spend my time uploading pictures from Beru and Nikunau. Next week I should have a lot more time to tell you about all my experiences.
Send my love to the family!
I am sitting at a computer at Hiram Bingham High School, Aoniman, a
northern village in the outer island Beru. My companion Elder Baker
and I flew to Beru this past Wednesday. The primary purposes of us
Elders coming to Beru has been to perform an audit and strengthen a
largely fragmented and decentralized Branch. Along the way have
already or look forward to experiencing fun things like scouting out a
place to live/sleep, having a baptismal service, getting yelled at by
an angry minister, and eating oysters, turtle, bokaboka(mud), and lots
of tasty coconuts. The opportunity to bear special witness of Jesus
Christ among Heavenly Father's children in Beru has been a huge
blessing and aid to my own personal testimony of
enduring through trials with hope.
This upcoming Wednesday I will fly back to Nikunau to finish my time
there, and on the following Monday(March 27th) I will fly to Tarawa to
receive my new area assignment. I expect to be able to send my next
email then and hopefully send lots of pictures.
I love hearing about how the family is doing each week. I pray for you
and everyone at home!
Elder Joseph H.Morphonios
Maria here...I flipped a little when I saw he was eating mud. Luckily a sweet RM named David Morley has come to my rescue more than once..this time to clarify the mud situation a little.
Beru (the island that he went) is famous for its mud. Many years ago there was a famine in Beru. No one had anything to eat and everyone was starting to starve to death. Then this old woman had a dream. She dreamt that if she and others ate the fungus that grows on top of the mud they would be saved. Somehow it had the right vitamins that the island survived the famine. As a result, Beru is now famous for eating mud (they don't have a word for strange red fungus that grows on mud). So it's sorta mud. They usually boil it then bake it with flour and sugar. It tastes alright and has a pinkish color.
Preparing to say goodbye to my Nikunau Family
Yep you called it! I just got the news that I am being transferred in
two weeks. I am really sad right now. I don't want to leave, but what
is more important than my selfish desires is following the will of
God, who I guess now has plans for me somewhere else. In a couple of
weeks I am going to fly into Tarawa, receive my new area and
fly/boat/drive there depending on where it is.
I've developed so much love for the people of Nikunau. They have come
to mean everything to me. I imagine the five and-a-half months or so I
have spent with the people of Nikunau will leave me forever changed.
The people here and my experiences with them have strengthened my
resolve and testimony of the sacred divinity of families, of
sacrifice, service, of pure Christ-like love and of Heavenly Father's
intended purposes in sending us to be tested and tried here in His
Earth. Words will never be enough to describe what joy I have felt at
serving here in Nikunau.
Mom, I have a real, sincere desire to obey the commandments and be the
best missionary and disciple of Christ I can be. I appreciate and look
forward to each of your love-packed emails every week. I know that
Heavenly Father gave you to me as my Mom for more reasons than I can
even begin to comprehend. I love you so much Mom. I miss and think
about you and the rest of the family a lot. Please send my love to
them and let them know you all are in my most happy and sincere
Ngai I nanokawaki teutana ngkai bwa e tibwa bana au tai ikai inanon te
aba aio. E bon au kantaninga bwa aomata aika a mena ikai na karekea te
ataibwai bwa te Atua bon Tamara are I-Karawa, ao rinanon ara Tia
Kamaiu ti kona rairanano ao koroi bwai ni kabane ngkana ti bubuti
ibukin ana buobouki te Tamnei ae Raoroi. I kakoaua bwa e weteai ikai
ni abau te Atua bwa I kona reirei ma aia akoi aomata ikai ao riki bwa
Atuara. E nung uarereki au tai ikai, ma I ataia bwa n na uringa au
namakin ni kabane ikai n aki toki.
Taioka n uringa bwa I tatangiringkami ao I bon mitiningami, ma e nung
baiti au mwakuri ao e bon iaonikawaina n reke ara kaitibo!
I also forgot to mention that Elder Baker and I have been assigned by
leadership in Tarawa to take the boat in this picture over to Beru. I
think we are leaving right after we teach seminary and are taking a
plane back here to Nikunau on Wedensday.
I’m excited to tell you about this past week or so. The work here in
Nikunau where I am has been going really great. I think that Heavenly
Father is truly smiling down upon his pioneer children here in this
choice part of His vineyard.
This past week Bwauro was baptized. He is thirteen years old and the
son of recent converts Rewii and Kateia. It has beena huge blessing to
me to watch him progress and find greater meaning and happiness in
learning and applying the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He
is very much like a little brother to me and I know he has a bright
future ahead of him.
The Assistants to the President came to Nikunau on Monday(Which is why
my P-day was switched to today) and stayed until Wednesday. Their main
purpose in coming was to help our members prepare for the branch that
is going to be established in April, news of which created a lot of
excitement. We had a botaki both nights the Assistants were here with
lots of good food, Kiribati dance performances and everyone from the
The church effort has gained a lot of momentum recently. This past
week there were more people at church than any other church service in
the island’s two year history. Also, a cargo ship came yesterday,
bearing noodles, sugar, some canned meats but more importantly former
branch President Tanaua and his family along with Kateinang and
Taakie. Kateinang is the father of recent converts Teemeri, Tien and
Tauai and Taakie is their sister. Taakie already has a baptismal date
for April 1st. We gained 18 new investigators this week and our goal
is to have 5 investigators at church with 75 people total on Sunday.
My companion and I are working on making arrangements to fly to Beru
this upcoming Wednesday. It is another outer island close to Nikunau.
Elder Baker spent the first six months of his mission there. Beru
already has a branch but Elders were taken off the island just because
the branch was kind of fragmented and the work was really slow. We
have been assigned to go there so we can do an audit and determine
whether the island is prepared to have Elders return and work there.
It should be a fun adventure.
I love the people here so much. I think that God called me to these
awesome people so that I could have the opportunity to learn from
their Christ-like characters. I’ve found so much happiness in living
and learning along my Kiribati family.
I love you so so much Mom! Please send my love to the family!
I miss you! Thanks for the update. Sounds like all is going pretty
well at home.
Not much happened this week so I'll just describe some of the people I
am working with. My companion and I have been working really hard at
trying to build the church in the southern part of the island,
especially in a village called Nikumenu. A common problem we are
facing is that most people are too scared to lesson with us because of
a former Mormon missionary but now KUC minister, who's name is Pastor
Tio. Pastor Tio goes in peoples houses and tells our investigators
that we are lying to them right after we leave the house, which has
been frustrating. Nevertheless we have been super blessed by the faith
of some strong members.
Ruoi is the rock of Nikumenu. He has a really nice family who always
love coming to Church. Ngaan is also a really solid member. She is the
nurse stationed in Nikumenu. She has a little three year old daughter
named Cecilia that I have a lot of fun playing with. Every Tuesday we
have a combined FHE with Ngaan, Cecilia, and Ruoi's family. We also
visit a fifteen year old girl named Ioana. We help her with her
homework a lot of times and are teaching her little sister Mereka.
This past week we also had a family of seven move to Nikunau from
another outer island called Abamaemae, which is going to provide a
huge boost to our church's morale.
In Mwanriki, a small village north of Nikumenu, we are teaching a shy
but really nice and welcoming guy named Nikotemo. We set a baptismal
date for him this and he seems to be progressing well. We heard about
and found him through his son, who comes to our seminary lessons in
Rungata each week.
Rungata north of Mwanriki and the biggest of all the villages. We have
a decent amount of both less actives and investigators here. We teach
a separate seminary class to elementary school and middle school aged
kids in J.S.S., the most popular school on the island. We set a
baptismal date with Temain, son of Teraerae, who lives here in Rungata
Tabatoa is a small village north of Rungata. About 95% of the village
is KUC I think. We have one teenage girl named Rice that lives in this
Muribenua is the Mormon stronghold of the entire island. There are a
bunch of Mormons here. Everyone in the village comes to the stick
shelter next to our house each week on Sunday to have church and on
Monday to have FHE. Bwauro, the son of recent converts Rewii and
Kateia, lives here and is on track to be baptized in the very near
future. We teach seminary here too to elementary aged kids.
This week was pretty average for me I guess. We are mostly just trying
to work really hard to prepare our area to have enough work for four
Elders when the Assistants to the President arrive. Unfortunately, the
first counselor in the mission presidency won't be able to come this
upcoming week due to schedule conflicts, which means that Nikunau will
still be a Unit at the end of this week. But, the APs say that if they
find the island is ready for a branch they will tell President Tune
and he should be able to come here and establish a branch within the
next couple of months. It will be nice for a lot of reasons, including
shifting the weight of responsibility to members instead of Elders.
This week I paid $25 dollars to have a car to pick everyone up for
church, planned and conducted the church service, conducted music,
gave a talk, taught Sunday School and taught Primary. That is usually
how it goes for Elders now, but we are trying to gradually give
members more responsibility.
This week my companion spent a lot of time koro ba(cutting sticks) to
build houses. We usually go out to the woods to cut the leaves off of
coconut leaves, leaving just the stick to use as flooring and walling
for houses. We replaced the walls on our own house and helped Titenibo
build his house too. We also helped Biri make a cement floor for his
house, which he is super happy about. I always like going out to
buokonikai(the woods) because we almost always drink and eat lots of
coconuts when we are done working.
Well I think that's all I've got for this week. I look forward to
hearing from you and the family next week too! Tell Maddy, Rebekah,
Sarah and Shane I love them so much!
Sounds like things are pretty crazy at home as usual. I miss you guys a lot! Tell Shane I said Happy Birthday! Tell the family I said Happy Valentines Day as well! I didn't realize that was this past week.
Not much news on the whole Branch thing yet. My understanding is that the Assistants to the President in our mission along with the first counselor in the mission presidency are coming to the island from March 1st-March 6th to see how the work is going and determine if the island is ready for a branch, which would have a ton of benefits for people here. They will probably ordain some of our Aaronic Priesthood holders to the Melchizekek Priesthood, scout out land for a nicer church building, stuff like that.
I don't have much out of the ordinary to report on from this past week. My companion Elder Baker and I have mostly been trying to hasten the work by reactivating less actives and teaching new investigators. We started teaching a Catholic Unimwaane and his family. We also started teaching a shy but friendly and welcoming Bahai family. Teraerae's on started sitting in on our lessons with her, and we re-scheduled Teraerae's baptismal date for March 18th due to the time we need to get her divorced from her previous spouse and married to her current spouse. We re-scheduled Bwauro's baptismal date for March 4th.
One evening while we were walking north from our house to teach a lesson a drunk guy stopped us on the road demanding that we bow down to him and admit we were lying to the people of his church. When we didn't bow he tried getting pretty physical with both Elder Baker and I, but just ended up embarrassing himself and damaging his reputation because a lot of people were watching. Even though the patriarch of our household banned him from coming back to our house he sent someone to apologize to us on his behalf when he was sober again, so that was nice I guess. Simple moral of the story though-keep the commandments and these kinds of things don't happen.
In one of our services Elder Baker and I helped Tementio and her husband Taaboi clean out their well because they found a dead rat in it. We basically just formed an assembly line and scooped out buckets of water until all the water was gone. There were a bunch of crabs in the well which would have been fun to catch, cook and eat if they were just a little bit bigger. For another service everyone from the church came up to help burn away brush and plant banana tress right next to the maneaba where we have church each week. We all hung out during a small dinner afterwards.
We've found out this week that pretty much everyone blew the last of their food reserves on the botaki I wrote about some last week. Luckily Biri and his fishing partner have been catching a decent amount of fish this week. They definitely don't have enough to make everyone happy, though. People now a lot of times just run out into the ocean as the boat is coming in, grab the fish they want, run back to pay for it and leave before anyone else can get angry that they took more than their fair share. Biri thinks its pretty funny. He said he made like $700 this week plus a bonus of his own free food, which is a nicer salary than KPC minister Pastor Teeto or KUC minister Pastor Tio probably made this week. Elder Baker and I have a bucket of stale crackers that we can still use for sacrament instead of bin or something like that. Not having much cargo has been ironically nice for us Elders, because everyone loves to feed us but have nothing besides fish and coconuts, whereas before they would want to feed us unhealthy stuff like rice or sugar water. I've had Ingimaa(yellow fin tuna) everyday this week and it has been awesome. At this point I enjoy eating octopus as well because my stomach has gotten pretty used to it.
I guess that's about everything for this week. I love you so much Mom! I think about and pray for the family every day. I really appreciate all your love, care and support.
Maria here...I included part of my letter, so that joeys response would make sense...the super cool thing is that he sends his pictures first..and sometimes his letter is an hour later arriving , so I have a chance to ask about the pictures, and then he can usually answer.
Every week you blow my mind. These
pictures are outrageously cool and creeepy!! Can't wait to hear the
stories!! Just unbelievable!!!
We love and miss you so much! We know you're doing great things, and truly
being a wonderful representative of or Savior . I know he sustains and
So I have a dozen questions about the fishing ....
number one who's in charge
of the boat? Does a member ever go with you?
Two. How far away from the
shore do you get?
Number three how deep is the water? Number four where the
heck is your life jacket?
Five. how tall is that coconut tree that you
Seven somebody told me that jellyfish are still poisonous after their
dead ? Is that true?
I know you don't have time to answer all those but you know sometimes a
mother has too much time to think and I'll start wondered about things that
I probably shouldn't.
I love you so much too! I miss you guys!
1. A experienced fisherman named Biri. He's a member.
2. Not super far.
3. Don't ask.
4. Thunder and Lightning
5. Not exactly sure. Maybe like 30 feet I guess.
6. Their legs are poisonous. We just ate the heads.
I'll try telling you some about my week now. The work has been a
little bit slow due to a few various detrimental factors, but is still
going well overall. We've had a especially good amount of success in
reviving less actives in the southern village Nikumanu. My companion
Elder Baker and I strive to always strive to remember our missionary
purpose, which is to invite others to come unto Christ. We just found
out that the Assistants to the President and the first counselor and
the mission presidency are coming to establish a branch here in
Nikunau and I'm so crazy excited!!!
Cargo still hasn't arrived, and at this point I doubt that it will
ever come during my time here. The people here don't really mind,
however. In fact, they seem to enjoy being forced to find creative
ways to get and make food. On one such opportunity Elder Baker and I
went with Teeaba and Biri to retrieve a vegetable called bwabwai. We
traveled to some swampy man dug trenchers in the northern part of the
islnad to dig out these giant plants. We cut off the roots to eat and
replanted each branch.
A boat filled with Chinese seamen came to buy everyone's bin here,
which has been really piling up. The boat was the subject of a lot of
excitement during the first half of the week. The Kiribati men were
particularly impressed at how fast the Chinese could cut open the
muimotos they were offered. The Kiribati men accredited their speed to
their extra sharp machetes.
School started up for the Elementary and middle school aged kids. That
has opened opportunities for Elder Baker and I to start teaching a
couple of seminary lessons each week and tutor kids who need help with
their homework, particularly in English and Math. We are finding that
in general the kids here have a hard time understanding their
assignments because they are not taught fundamentals properly. For
example, a girl named Emili I tried to help out had to distinguish
between nouns and pronouns but didn't know the English alphabet. A
girl named Ioana had to plot slopes on a graph but struggled with the
most basic of addition problems. Seminary and tutoring has been a fun
way for us to show kids we love them.
This week a guy named Tiote who lives in our house arrived with his
new wife from Tarawa. To celebrate Kaaro's(Tiote's wife) arrival,
there was a week long botaki held in honor of her at our house. It
built up day after day until there were about 100-150 people in our
house. Culture basically dictated everyone on the island who
considered themselves important to come.
I got to help kill a pig for the botaki. The men burned off all its
hair and took out its insides and gave it to the women to prepare.
Biri and his fishing buddies caught some decent sized sharks that
ended up being pretty tasty. I ate swordfish for the first time this
week. They are a little bit harder to catch because they will cut
through your line if you don't use wire. It tasted like salty
ocean-flavored bacon. I got to take some pictures with a dead eel that
washed up on shore, but didn't get a chance to eat it. From what I
hear from Elder Baker though, is that if a 10 is yellow fin tuna and a
1 is what too much octopus does to my stomach, eel rates at a bout a
1.5. I'd say jellyfish is about a 5 and right now shark and swordfish
are tied for me at about a 7.5. I put some thought into sampling a
small scorpion crawling in my house, but eventually considered action
in such a manner to be less than wise...
I have lots more to say but no time to write it. What is your mailing
address??? I want to work on sending the family some letters.
I love you Mom! Have a great week!
I'm Elder Joseph Morphonios, and I've chosen to serve a 2 year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Join me as I share my adventures about serving the good people of the Marshall Islands, and sharing the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ with them.