Sunday, June 30, 2013

Missing Home

As much as the work is inspiring and the effort is worth every sacrifice, there are still times that you miss being away from home. You miss your family most of all:

Bryanna, Eric and Max

Max brings joy to our family
Eric wrote Bryanna: "Not going to lie, I am missing you and home lately. I keep remembering when we would stay up way late and watch scary movies. Or I would play a game and you being the super legit sister and friend would stay up with me and watch/help me play. I remember Oblivion ( a video game) - so many great memories." Eric was sad to miss Bryanna's graduation and Andrew's wedding. These are sacrifices you make when you go.

When you leave for a Mission, you leave behind not just family and friends, but your job and school.  When Eric put in his papers for his Mission, he was starting his Junior Year at Arizona State University, Ira A. Fulton Engineering School. He worried that being away for 2 years would impact his schooling and possibly affect his ability to get into the Master's Program.

College of Engineering at ASU

At the end of his Junior Year, Eric was delighted to learn that he had met the requirements  and was accepted into the Engineering Master's Program. ASU will hold his spot for him while he serves his Mission. He has never regretted his decision to serve. His homecoming will be wonderful as he is reunited with family and friends. He will pick up right where he left off at school. He knows he made the right choice, and his Mission has taught him lessons he couldn't learn in a classroom:
"Life here has been really busy. This mission is so very important to the Lord and to me. Just had baptisms 12, 13 and 14.  So much emotion and love for the people here, and they are accepting the gospel so strongly. I have met some life long friends here and have seen so many great people change their lives. My testimony has changed so dramatically. I have literally developed love and charity* for those without the gospel in their lives."

Although it may seem like an interruption of his life, it was an opportunity to personally grow. Eric will carry the lessons learned on Guam his whole life.

*charity is the pure love of Christ.

Rapon Family Baptisms

Eric has loved teaching the Rapon family. He was privileged to baptize Justy and do his confirmation. Eric was able to see Justy's sisters, Arlene and Jenalynn, be baptized as well.

Rapon Family
To date, Eric has had a hand in 14 souls coming to Christ. What an amazing experience for him, his companions, but more importantly, for those who accepted the gospel.

Influx of New Missionaries

Most Missionaries feel that their Mission was the best - regardless of where they served. The memories and experiences of those 18 months (young women) or 2 years (young men) last a lifetime.

Of course Eric believes with his whole heart this is the best mission EVER:

He will get the chance to share his beloved mission with many other missionaries, given this announcement:

For the next transfer, March 27, 2013, the Mission is getting 17 new missionaries and a lot are 18 year olds. Currently the Micronesia Guam Mission has 67 missionaries, so the Mission is going to really grow. Eric predicts he will stay on Guam to train as more missionaries. All the Missionaries come through Guam first, so he is excited to hopefully train again. There are 20 new areas open or reopened across the mission as a result of the recent surge in the missionary force. Four of those are in Chuuk. It's exciting to watch the work blossom. 

Easter 2013

Easter is a time to reflect on the death and resurrection of our Savior and the event's significance to all mankind.

 Easter is a celebration not only of the Resurrection of Christ but also of the universal resurrection. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected. Their bodies and spirits will be reunited, never to be separated again. [To learn more about LDS beliefs on Easter, click here.]

As my husband and I are both fighting life-threatening cancer, we are strengthened and comforted by the knowledge that we will see one another again after this life and that our family can be forever. I am so grateful for Eric's mission and the opportunity he has to share this important message with others.
The Missionaries Easter Dinner at the Mission Home

Trying to Learn Pohnpiean

Prior to his mission, Eric was not a great student of foreign languages. Despite graduating with honors in high school, it was Spanish that kept him from being awarded a scholarship. Give him a math problem (calculus, differential equations, linear algebra) and he gets the top one or two grades at ASU's Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering. Languages..... no. So a foreign mission was exciting but scary because learning a language is hard for Eric. It has been a real testimony builder to Eric and us that he has learned Chuukese and is able to teach teach whole lessons and carry on in depth conversations in the language.

Encouraged by his new-found ability, when the Missionaries encountered a family that only spoke Pohnpeian, Eric felt impressed to try to learn as much as he could to teach them the gospel.

As he has diligently studied the language, he has been able to speak a little to the family. As a result, this wonderful family of 7 have opened up to the Missionaries and are having discussions about the gospel. The whole District fasted and prayed for this family.

Eric relates a story about when he attended the baptism of a 19 year old Pohnpeian lady. Her father was asking questions in Pohnpeian and Eric was answering him in English. He understood the father and he said "it was super crazy, because I don't know Pohnpeian. But the Holy Ghost needed me at that moment to help, so I understood. We have since gone over and I had to have others translate. But that was an amazing day."

Opportunities for Service

Missionaries are not assigned to an area just to baptize. They are there to uplift and strengthen not only members and investigators of the Church, but the people in general. Missionaries strive to leave the area and the people better off than when they arrived. There are lots of opportunities to provide local service. Here's an example of a run down, inhabitable building that the Missionaries cleaned.

Building needs attention

Graffiti and holes- Elder Kata using a shirt as a mask

The dust and debris made breathing difficult while cleaning
Electrical outlets were exposed

Painting over inappropriate words and pictures

Helps to be almost 6'4" when painting

Paint helps so much

Service as a team
Many hands make light work

Happy to serve

Having Fun on Guam

While the work is hard (yet satisfying), the Missionaries take time to have some wholesome recreational fun too.

Eric doing a flip on the Albert's trampoline

The islanders love volleyball and they are good at it. The district holds some Friday night Home Evenings, and many people attend. They hold it once a month at the Church, and then once a month at the beach. 

Eric honing his volleyball skills with other Members
P-Day hike

Another Beautiful Baptism: Flora

Eric was honored to baptize sweet Flora Alfons and assist in the baptism of her brother Alson. Brother and Sister Norton are instrumental in teaching the children in their district, and it is such a wonderful day when a child enter the waters of baptism.

Baptizing Flora
Alson, Elder Luong, President Mecham, Eric and Sister Mecham

Baptism Party

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Elder Nelson Visits


In February, Elder Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles* visited Guam. He held a special missionary visit with the Micronesia Guam Mission. Elder Nelson then spoke in Stake Conference. Eric said it was an honor to be strengthened by such a great leader.

 He is pictured below with the Mission leadership. 

*The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is the second-highest governing body in the Church (the First Presidency being the highest). Apostles are special witnesses of Jesus Christ, called to teach and testify of Him throughout the world. They travel frequently, addressing and encouraging large congregations of members and interested nonmembers, as well as meeting with local leaders.
When they are not traveling, members of the Quorum of the Twelve counsel together and with other general Church leaders on matters affecting the worldwide Church, such as missionary work, temple building, spiritual and temporal welfare, and much more.

Baptising Leah

 In February 2013, Eric was honored to have a very sweet 9 year old girl ask him to baptize her: LeahRose Klong Piteg Towai.
 Eric says she is brilliant and has embraced the gospel so strongly. Some of her family fell away from the Church, but because of this little girl's faith, some of her family has started coming back to Church. This has been a good week.
The Towai family, Elders Luong and Hadder, Brother and Sister Norton
At the baptism ceremony

February Flu but the Work Goes On

Eric had some problems with his lungs adjusting when he first arrived on Guam. After he adjusted, he has been blessed with good health. But in early February he had a bout with the flu.

 "I am just kinda having a hard week. I was super sick on Tuesday. I didn't even leave the house. But get this. On Wednesday we made up for it. We went on splits for like 6 hours and between Elder Luong and I we collectively taught 13 lessons in that one day. I was crazy busy. The Chuukese is going good. But it is a difficult language. I am trying my best though. There is a potential of nine baptisms this month. I don't know why, but all of a sudden we have just been tearing it up here. Well, I do know why...THE LORD. Niwin ren asamonu (return with honor). Love you, Elder Hadder"

Love the People

There is a saying that you love those whom you serve. Eric has grown to love the local people. 

They have taught Eric, a relatively privileged young man from the United States, lessons about being happy. Although many he has taught have little and live in very modest homes, he has met many upbeat and positive people. Money makes things easier, but there are many unhappy rich people. Sister Norton put it so well: "We have learned so much since serving here and falling in love with the Micronesian people. They don't look at you to see what kind of shores or clothes you have, they just look into your eyes and see your heart. They 'smile with their eyes'."

  If we can understand that happiness isn't measured in material things, we will nurture our relationships with each other and find contentment that can't be taken from us.

Men are that they may have joy. Click here to find out more about the Plan of Salvation.

Tarzan Falls

Eric at Tarzan Falls
Guam is an absolutely beautiful island. There are a number of waterfalls there, but one is large and spectacular: Tarzan Falls. The Tarzan River in Tamuning cascades into 5 waterfalls. The last and main falls is a 40-feet plunge into a shallow picturesque pool. While the site and swim are themselves very inviting, what really draws tourists is the trek leading up to the falls. Caution, though: this hike is not for the faint of heart. Although it is well-worn path, making it easy to find the falls, the trek is mostly hilly, but near the falls itself is a downhill jaunt. The climb up takes about 20 to 30 minutes, while the downhill walk is about 10 minutes. It is very steep and sometimes muddy, which makes the walk back very challenging. It could take more than 35 minutes to hike back up. The whole area is within the Government of Guam Coastal Conservation Reserve, which means it is wild and un-manicured. Hikers should not expect any amenities along the way or at the falls, which is why they should come with enough drinking water and complete in equipments. The hike is definitely not for everyone, but once hikers get to plunge into the pool, the grueling walks become worth it. The pool is perfect for a relaxing swim.

Doesn't it sound beautiful:

A Fishing Trip

Eric was able to be part of a fishing trip with the Albert family, a local family with lots of experience in fishing on Guam.

Eric, the Albert family, Elder Luong
They were successful in catching lots of fish - a welcome addition to the family's food supply.