Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Third time is a charm

One of the things we were very aware of this third time in Tonga is what a huge difference familiarity makes.  The first two times we had to rely on maps and directions to find our way from one church building to another.  We often had felt apprehensive, on the edge of being lost, any time we did not have our advisors with us as guides since there are very few named streets in Tonga and those that do have names seldom are marked with signs.   

This time, however, we pretty much knew where things were (at least for the main island).   There are many LDS churches in Tonga, as the map here shows.  Fortunately, on this third visit, we recognized most of the Stake Centers.  We also were aware of several landmarks to keep us oriented to direction.  We knew where the best shops, restaurants and markets were, so even when we were on our own, we had very little trouble navigating our way around..

In addition to us feeling more confident about where to go and what to do once we got there, the people we had meetings with also seemed much more comfortable around us.  People not only recognized us, but recounted stories we had told the last time we were there.  Some chuckled over funny experiences with us.   We had built enough trust on our previous visits  for them to be much more open with us this time.

In the past, when we had asked people if they needed us to use an interpreter, some would just smile and say they could understand.  This time, people seemed more willing to admit to us when they did not understand what we were saying, and to have a true desire to know what we were trying to teach.   So with the help of Sister 'Unga to convey our words in the Tongan language, our presentations were for the most part very well received.

The last point that made a huge difference was our schedule.  In the past we did a lot more driving back and forth as we scurried from one stake to another for our different meetings.  On our last visit we had done 22 trainings in 12 days, with lots of  early mornings, late nights, and some skipped meals as we traveled from one side of the island to another to get where ever we needed to be.  By the end of it I felt positively ragged, and by the time we returned to New Zealand I was completely worn out.   This time we focused on one stake each day.  First we would meet with the Stake leaders from 10:00 AM till noon.  Then we would take a lunch break before meeting with ward leaders in the afternoon.  Sometimes we would get caught up working with the leaders in the Family History Center (FHC) and our lunch would get cut short or have to be moved back.  But for the most part we tried to keep ourselves on that schedule, which felt much more manageable than in the past.

We stayed busy, to be sure.  We got a lot done.  But we were not run ragged this time.  We were able to get well rested each night and we ate a balanced diet throughout the trip.  Those factors kept us from wearing ourselves out and it made all the difference in how this trip felt.

While staying on the church campus on the main island we would often get up early to go for a walk before starting our day.  I've been wearing the fit-bit I got for Christmas and trying to stay as diligent as possible about getting at least 10,000 steps each day.  Since our work assignment is so often sitting in front of computers to do family history work, making sure we get sufficient exercise each day to stay healthy and focused is more important than I previously gave credit for.

Road where we took our morning walks

Elder Bennett saying good morning to the cows our walk

Getting my 10,000 Steps!

I am mindful of the council that the Lord gave to the prophet Joseph Smith in D&C 10:4:
Do not run faster or labor more than you have strengthand means provided to enable you to translate; but bediligent unto the end.

We are doing a better job of following that council ourselves - pacing ourselves according to the needs of our health and energy levels, while staying diligent to use our time as effectively as we can.

Also in Mosiah 4:27 it says:  And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run fasterthan he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order

So that is our goal at this point in our mission.  We are striving to be DILIGENT missionaries, obedient to whatever our assignment may require.  Yet we are also doing a better job of recognizing our needs for health care through getting enough rest, eating properly, having some exercise each day and making more time for quiet study, reflection and pondering.   All those things are helping us to be closer to the spirit and more open to the inspiration the Lord has in store for us to know how we can reach the people we are serving in the best way.

It feels good to be learning these key lessons.   I hope this sense of balance is something I can keep with me long after this mission is through.

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