|Along the coast looking for seashells|
We were in a meeting this week where one of the sister missionaries we have grown close to bore her testimony just prior to returning home to New Zealand from her 18 month mission. It was definitely one of those special moments we all have from time to time. She is the sister missionary mentioned in one of our earlier posts that baked cookies with Lepeka and I taught a few chords to on the ukulele. You can read that blog by clicking here if you missed it.
Let me interject into the story here by giving a short explanation of Tongan culture as it relates to women (as I understand it). First, the elderly are very respected and children and grandchildren lower their voices when around them, never interrupt them, in fact, they will go outside to go around rather than cut in front of them. Second: the Tongan family is very much matriarchal in regards to family matters. The father's oldest sister is called the "Fahu" and pretty much runs the family (including the brothers and sisters families). Status and rank play a powerful role in personal relationships within families. It has been described to us as the man is the head but the woman is the neck. This is probably an incomplete description but in any case, the oldest female pretty much runs the family (including the extended family) and is shown the utmost respect by all.
Back to our sister missionary ... She has family here even though she is from New Zealand and received permission at the end of her mission to visit with her grandma and her extended family. She invited them to attend church with her on her last Sunday in Tonga in a ward near their home (they are not members of the church) and her grandmother consented to let them go with her (a bit unusual for her as she has never been very receptive to the Gospel). There was a family party planned for her visit so they could all see her and enjoy some time together.
One of the rules at her grandma's house is that religion (and politics) get checked at the door. When this missionary was given the opportunity to talk to the family, this brave young sister started by saying, "I know it is a rule here that our religion gets checked at the door but if I have to hang my religion outside, there is no reason for me to be here". She then went on to boldly share her testimony with her family especially as it relates to the eternal nature and purpose of families.
We may never know what the long term effects of this bold missionary are but what a great lesson this was for me and I think that sometimes I unintentionally "check my religion at the door". Not to act in a way contrary to what I believe but rather by keeping my opinions (my testimony really) to myself for fear of offending someone.
I have always loved my family and extended family but, I have grown to more fully understand the importance of families and their eternal nature and sincerely regret my serious shortcomings as a young father. There is no way to go back in time but I can go forward striving to live and teach the things I have learned in my life and now testify to be true.
I am so thankful for a loving Father-in-Heaven. I know he loves me and hears and answers my sincere prayers. I just need to be living in such a way that I am able to recognize the promptings of the Spirit and also realize that what I ask for is not always what I need. He has provided me everything that I need to be able to return to His presence if I strive to do my best and go forward with faith, and repentance.
My gratitude towards our older brother and Savior, Jesus Christ makes me weep. As I sing sacrament hymns prior to partaking of the Sacrament, I am deeply moved as I am reminded of Christ's selfless sacrifice for me. Sometimes I look back and wonder how he must hurt over some of my life choices. I am a humble repentant sinner striving to live up to His teachings and example. I want Him to know how much I love Him through my words, thoughts and deeds.
I try my best (and am getting better) at not judging others so please do not take this as "I think I am better than you". I have heard it described as, "don't judge me just because the way I sin is different that the way you sin". I do make judgements all the time but try to focus on acts and not individuals. I try not to do the things I judge to be wrong. I learned when I was out of the church during a part of my life, that I was the one who was actually judging people who were church goers harshly while at the same time proclaiming them to be the judgmental ones and hypocrites. I think we are all just trying to do our best but it takes more than just settling for what we are doing no matter where we are in our life's progression. We have to do more than stand still.
We must do as we have been counselled but the Prophets to read our scriptures and pray daily. We must study the life of our Savior and do our best to incorporate His teachings into our lives. We must be kinder and more loving to all of His children. We must help each other every day and always strive to be better than we were yesterday.
I pray that I may constantly improve through a sincere desire to be better, through repentance, and studying our Savior's life. May God bless each of you my family and friends. You are part of who I am and I feel blessed to have had your presence in my life. I went through the list of my friends and family that typically read this blog and I can honestly say that each of you has had a positive impact in my life, some very directly and some from afar as I hear of your trials and accomplishments. Some of you have had a tremendous positive impact on me throughout my life and for that I will be eternally grateful. I look forward to our continued association in the future (don't expect me to hang my religion at the door).
It's never to late to change. It's never the wrong time to do the right thing. You are loved! I love you! Our Savior loves you! Turn to Christ, He is the answer. That has never changed and never will.
I ask each of you to kneel down at night and pray for us. We need all the help we can get! You are in our prayers as well. Ofa lahi 'atu!
|Dusk from looking West from behind our apartment on Sunday evening|
4/30/2017. The crescent moon doesn't seem to show up very well from
the photo taken by this nice expensive iPhone but you can sense the
tranquility of this place..