[OLD E-MAILS ARCHIVED HERE: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/category/operationvalidation/]

(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

I was looking back through my sent e-mails, & I noticed that Mass-mail #69’s attachments didn’t all go through the way I thought they did. So, for anyone who didn’t think to hit View entire message, this is your chance to listen to ALL the music we performed in our Stake Conference. :  ) (‘Sides, who doesn’t want to start out with the dessert every now & then?)


Oh, & for anyone who didn’t/isn’t going to look at my attachments, let me elucidate you on my supposed disobedience: my pet dog is stuffed. He is a stuffed animal. He has a heart-shaped pawprint. I think his name should be Elder Schulz. Any other suggestions?

I’m happy to say that my silliness about carrying “Elder Schulz” down the street that day really did, in-fact, pay off. There was a little girl we were trying to meet named Dannika. We only saw her for a few seconds that day– she was just getting out of her car from dance practice. We didn’t even exchange any words! All we did was talk with her mom & set up a time to come back. But apparently, Dannika kept talking about me & my dog for quite a while after we moseyed on. She told her mom, “That’s funny, but cool! Do you think he’ll bring his dog to church?”

I only know Dannika said this because her mom told me. Dannika doesn’t do well around strangers, so the time we came back, most of what we heard from her was a repeated muffled groan, & the word “Tired.” The way to get to her was humour. When we asked her where she came from, she groaned a petulant, “MNGHHHRMMM,” to which her mom answered in her stead, “We’re all just from Utah.” Elder Skelton said, smiling, “Utah? What’s that?” (Note how much funnier it is that he said “what” instead of “where”.) Dannika let a smile loose & started to giggle. When she realized she wasn’t keeping to her oath of silence, she MNGHHHRMMMed again & hid her smile under a pillow. Surprisingly, even with Dannika not saying a word, we did have a meaningful visit with her. Dannika had apparently wanted to be baptized a while ago, but then got scared about the thought of going underwater. Perhaps it’s mainly because she doesn’t trust her dad not to leave under for a couple more seconds than she was prepared for. 😉

Warning: talking about religion!

This, in turn, makes me think of one of my favourite kids I’ve ever met. Her name’s Rachel– I probably would’ve mentioned her a lot sooner, had it not been for the fact that I was never actually HER missionary. I just taught her when we switched out. Anyway, Rachel’s pretty heavily autistic, & she’s one of the sweetest, silliest people. (For example, in a lesson once, she looked behind her, noticed a picture of Jesus on the wall, & said, “This is Jesus. I love him, because he has long hair & he’s a boy.”) She had lessons for years, & was still hung up on a single thing– the water. Over time, though, while her fears did not disappear, she felt like it was the right thing for her to do, to make that two-way promise with God. She told us once, “I’m THIS much excited & this much scared,” measuring exaggerated amounts with her hands. When it was time, Rachel had gotten special permission for both her father & mother to be in the water with her, so she’d feel safer. Rachel was sobbing due to how scared she was (Hey, she DID say she was this scared.), so her father just said, gently, “Just tell me when you’re ready.”

She stood there sniffling for probably a good five minutes, then said, still through frightened heaves, “Okay… okay, I’m ready.”

But when it was over & done, Rachel’s happiness completely exceeded this five-minute crying session. She was laughing & jumping & spinning & dancing around, & she couldn’t believe she finally did what she’d wanted so much to do, & that nothing had kept her back. The next Sunday, she dashed up to the podium to say how happy she was– but everyone could already tell. :  ) She’s got the funniest little smile. Well, big smile. Little big smile. Like, to the point where you’d think to yourself, in awe, “Have I ever been THAT happy in my life?” You always know she means it when she smiles.

Done, thank you for understanding!

There’s another girl that Dannika makes me think of– Wynter from Grantsville, who you might recall I had my brilliant friend Leena do an ASL message for. You might recall Wynter didn’t want us around at first & was barely even responsive. Like an angry cadaver, hahaha. She was just sinking deeper & deeper into her seat until I could barely recognize this limp lump as a human being. (The only words I heard out of Wynter then were “T… ired…” too, come to think of it.) But after we left, just about… thirty minutes after we’d left, I’d say… we got a message saying that Wynter had felt terrible about knowing that we’d only come because we love her & care about her, & wanted to apologize. Then, when I saw her the next time– whaddyaknow… she was alive. It’s a miracle!

So– similarly, as we left, about 30 minutes later, we got a text saying that Dannika was sorry, that she wanted us to come back, & that she had been thinking about the video we’d shown of a girl getting baptized, & rationalized, “It just looks like a backbend in water.” You gotta put it into dance terms, I guess. — Oh, hey, she’s probably already done her big dance competition. Betchya she won.

— OH, HEY, speaking of which, my sister’s senior class won their yearly Song Contest. 😉 I’d said a prayer out loud with Elder Skelton at around exactly the same time I figured she’d be performing & said, “Thank you that my sister is sweeping Song Contest right now,” followed by me trying to stifle my excitement. T’was meant to be.

Oh, dear, Elder Skelton. I haven’t mentioned that Elder Skelton’s leaving. At least the people in the WARD had a bit of a false warning so they could prepare for this. During General Conference, they saw that I was on exchanges & figured Elder Skelton had left, & so all the people in the ward started telling me how much they’d miss him. (Quite a few families who’d had us over started saying how their kids could not stop talking about when we’d stopped by.) So, hope they cherished him! ‘Cause he is a cherishable non-perishable. To illustrate just how well we got along, we randomly started singing the Strawberry Shortcake theme at the exact same time. This is also the only time where I’ve had so much in common with someone’s tastes in music (& vice-ee verse-ee) that we exchanged our entire collections. You know you’re on the same page when you can enjoy a 17-minute instrumental piece by Yes together. (Why, just the other day, we found out that there’s a gospel artist who sounds exactly like Sting. If you’re not interested, don’t stand so close to me.)

While on the subject of rock, my personal favourite senior missionaries have just finished their missions. The Craguns & I really bonded on music– the Beatles-themed ties that I own are from Elder Cragun– he even gave me HIS personal favourite, Yellow Submarine. (Yes, of course I let Elder Skelton pick whichever one he wanted. He chose Good Morning Good Morning.) & Sister Cragun & I share a love for my personal favourite band of all-time, The Carpenters. The topp-est attachment (Well, no, not ALL THE WAY BACK at the top of this mass-mail. Silly.) is what I put in their journal they’d left out for others to sign.

Every one of my companions, I’m utterly certain, I have been with for a specific reason. It was pretty obvious this time– I’d actually JUST been thinking about how most of my bestest friends are good with animals, & I, while an admirer of animals, have always done so from afar. I’ve never had any pets, & I am awkward & stilted around them in person. Then again, I am awkward & stilted with persons in person, sometimes, too. BUT. Elder Skelton has a way with animals. Right before I came into the area & became friends (Er– I meant to type companions. That works, too.) with Elder Skelton, he & his last companion noticed a stray cat following them home. This kitty continued to follow them for a good mile-&-a-half back home. Elder Skelton fed the cat, then had no clue what else to do about this predicament they were in. The next morning, the cat was still there on their doorstep, & she literally LEAPED up onto the elders, & gripped on with her claws. D’AWWWW–

So, uh, just the other day, I had my own story. We were walking towards the chapel, & noticed a dog. Elder Skelton came up, & the moment he did, this dog lay down on the macadam, belly-up, in loving adoration of him. I started filming around this time, & the rest of this story is documented in the attachments. This dog had had an operation recently, Elder Skelton could tell. & that meant she had owners– & so, for the rest of the night, we had to keep this all-too-trusting dog from wandering out into a busier area of town. Why, this dog was so curious (I’ve seen more dangerously curious dogs than cats, to be honest.), she almost walked into this slightly-open gate where this OTHER dog was busy rabidly charging around on its leash. We had to hold her back– & then she’d just go off on her merry way into someone ELSE’S open yard, or if anyone gave her a chance, someone else’s open FRONT DOOR. Oh, door. … — I mean, oh, dear.

We tried to keep her from wandering too far astray (Hahaha, anyone else thinking of a certain children’s hymn lyric? “Don’t go astray?” In this case, more like, “Don’t go, you stray.“), but she would only respond to us occasionally. Eventually, Elder Skelton asked me to look up a list of the 100 most popular female dog names. So you can just imagine us, power-walking to keep up with this pooch, all the while calling out random names, in alphabetical order. The only one she responded to with a little more frequency was Maggie. (I also started calling her “Sweetie”– she seemed to like that. But who doesn’t?) Sometimes, we’d stand on a corner for five minutes, watching her go from yard to yard to yard… only to have her bound all the way back to us. & then she’d want to play. She was playing US, in reality.

In the end, though, I found one thing that kept her on the right path. I found it out completely on accident– I started to hit my feet on the pavement in a rhythmic cadence, just to amuse myself, & then I noticed Maggie was ACTUALLY following me now. With that, I started pounding my feet down faster & faster & faster, & we were finally Homeward Bound. (GED’DIT?! GED’DIT?!!) The only problem was our landlords’ dog, Samson. For about two seconds of smelling Maggie, he was nice & quiet… then he went ballistic. Not good at 9 at night.

We sat outside with Maggie, sending out a message on the Facebook bulletin for people in the neighborhood, while I fed her a granola bar. Then she bounded up onto me & licked my face. (This is particularly hilarious if you take into account the things she ate on the way– but I won’t get into that. Even Elder Skelton didn’t let her lick him.)

Would you believe me if I told you that’s, at least to my recollection, the first time a dog has licked me in the face? I keep trying to think, & I believe that it’s the first. Looking back on the night, I realized that this had actually been some rather quality time with animals. I think that’s the reason all of that happened, & specifically with Elder Skelton. Thank you, Heavenly Father!

We left Maggie outside with a couple macadamia nuts… which means I can finally say the phrase “macadamias on the macadam”– AT LONG LAST! (She seemed rather non-plussed about them, but they were all gone in the morning.) Then we dashed inside before she could bound in. Had we shut the screen door two seconds sooner, she would’ve been in. Shyew.

In the end, someone DID respond about Maggie, gave us an address & a phone number– it was RIGHT next to our house!! We got out & did a few laps around the neighborhood, &… nothing. No Maggie. I even did the whole foot-stomp-y thing, albeit softer. We haven’t seen her since, but I think, since she was so close, her owners came out & found her, finally. We’ve heard they let Maggie wander a lot. (Without a leash?! Come on, now.) I think we’ll see each other again! Then we can howl about all the crazy times we had, way back when. (Well, at least in dog years…)

My last really big thing actually happened on the corner of Alpha Drive & Beta Drive, so that’s appropriately dog-themed! We finally met a girl we’ve been trying to contact for a while now. She’s in track, & currently training for Distance. (Also, her whole family is really into making racecars.) Then, after setting a visit up with her, I noticed a boy shooting free throws, by himself, in the rain. I turned around a couple times as we were walking, to look at him, then we decided to turn back & say hi.

I’ll say his name was… JL. (Which stands for Jose Luis. Just because.) JL was SO nice to us, if not a little confused. He said we could stop by the following day, for sure. When we stopped by then, (This time, it was snowing– Happy Spring.) JL invited us in. We stood in the living room & talked as his three sisters walked around us. Behind him was a case of assorted Disney (primarily Tinkerbell) dolls– most of them still mint in their box. His mom collects them. RAD. This is the first time I’ve had a lesson where I never sat. We just kind of stood there & talked– not a bad thing! Maybe it made it feel more active of a conversation, instead of some passive lecture. We asked him if he believed in God, & what that means to him. His answer was, “I definitely do. I just… I’ve never really even thought about it in detail, or deeply. It’s just kind of… a given for me. I dunno.” At the end, Elder Skelton invited him to pray, & JL seemed a little concerned about if he could do it well enough– but we assured him, “No pressure. It’s just about speaking from the heart.”

JL said, “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for our friends. Thank you for our family & loved ones. Thank you for all the people who we have ever met. We’re gathered here today to celebrate another day on this Earth you have given us. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

I said, “Wow. Thank you, JL. That was an awesome prayer. … You almost made me teary-eyed there.”

Although then I realized I was very obviously teary-eyed, & everyone in the room could see that.

That’s okay. I’m okay. That’s okay.

I feel like ending this with a quote that has meant an awful lot to me, from the book, The Little Prince. I suppose this all works into the animal theme here– the Little Prince does, after all, tame a fox. Then the fox makes him “a present of a secret”. The secret goes thusly: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

I was studying the scriptures a while ago, & I discovered a paralleling verse in 2 Corinthians 4:18: “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Eternal–essential– the concepts are the same. Don’t let anyone or anything deceive you– your heart is a gift to you, & if you listen, you’ll know what is essential, or eternal.

Other attachments include more missionary funnies from Brother/Elder (Broder?) English, a work-in-progress wreath I was helping a family make for service, Shamrock Shakes at Mickey D’s (They didn’t have them advertised at all, you had to ask for them all hush-hush like.), me eating a Chipotle Bean Burger smothered in cheese to the point where you cannot really even see it because of the heavenly light engulfing it (SO GOOD HYAHH~)… there’s even Aukuso & Leti’s new baby, Josiah! GREETINGS FROM ALASKA. (Where in Alaska? I don’t know. I should probably ask Leti. I’m Facebook friends. Yeah! I’ll-aska!) Also, don’t miss the final attachment– it’s us playing I Love to See the Temple in a lesson, with added lyrics by someone I’m related to named William Kessler. (Thank youuuu, Gramma True’le! Or, uh… Le’Truth, perhaps. Like… the truth. Except… in French.)

… & to give this its much-needed bookended structure, here’s a delightful attachment from last mass-mail. It is our next-door neighbor’s lawn.

thirdhandlionsB.JPG: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Zcd-Lsm4EYfkjt_B2ZlN7BHz5Ium5eit/view?usp=drivesdk

The lions used to be gold. & now they are silver.

… So this is me… trying to get you to see… the silver lioning. 😉 EHHHHH–

You are great, you are awesome,

sKye (eLder sOnomura)

craguncaricatures.jpg: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1rYYJZ5o0kBGGo50lJ2xeHGgim-ocqJiI/view?usp=drivesdk

utahisveryfashion.JPG: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VggLE_FXdV258CcSP-0juszOGextJKcE/view?usp=drivesdk

thesoothingsoundsofdaybreak.MOV: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EIxjjr9Ff6NaDVziw5RGnKGgc0JHhf_u/view?usp=drivesdk

yeayourhandbeginnethtobedelicioustome.MOV: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1chU5SfkIp13pHthfwfc5ejw-uuQUo8_k/view?usp=drivesdk

babyselfiesarereallyin.jpg: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FZkAwEq8K5gErZTiz7XhYJYr1xxKF7x_/view?usp=drivesdk

therewillberice.MOV: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fLSl3wBUQ0w9JeqRlu5u0pg1gDu_ptAe/view?usp=drivesdk

eldertunaC.JPG: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1b09cAdEmGeyhShLJ_vGU0C9trggIGISX/view?usp=drivesdk

half&halfA.jpeg: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1U8NC1IkjuEnPanXtj84YmerI_Eze9I-3/view?usp=drivesdk

half&halfB.jpeg: https://drive.google.com/file/d/17l4y92w6FEIURWq3rJru9eOCWEnwb95w/view?usp=drivesdk

thisisatastyburger.JPG: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Y7JUoJv66DfsyoRz23ape28FsfLhQrbf/view?usp=drivesdk

wecomebearingbears.MOV: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1rQOETSMNWfPyF3Xlg8I0Qx41zi0tZiP2/view?usp=drivesdk

secretshakes.jpg: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IlIcCHiJvk9_uj34iEGaTUKmJWeJKMBX/view?usp=drivesdk

leavingonatoyplaneA.JPG: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1a44ZHHAhxcB_3DKAkAZNzN3UGTA_Nxub/view?usp=drivesdk

leavingonatoyplaneB.JPG: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1a44ZHHAhxcB_3DKAkAZNzN3UGTA_Nxub/view?usp=drivesdk

leavingonatoyplaneC.JPG: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_5Qq8F_FtXl3CMvqHBcidH7waIBFWMWl/view?usp=drivesdk

eldertunaD.JPG: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LEcarshssAgR9uZtSA-FMeT_usqdxjkd/view?usp=drivesdk

whenyoureinneedimtherewithlightningspeed.MOV: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OvGDTCUDgCPSc39GfmYVkjkP9Dum3D2z/view?usp=drivesdk

maggiesadventuresA.MOV: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1e1HJjCZxmW4PK2RQAuN1K7CFEuNX4utm/view?usp=drivesdk

maggiesadventuresB.MOV: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fkC1zvaG0Fku58YWIyDtIdQEJHToWbEJ/view?usp=drivesdk

maggiesadventuresC.MOV: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LaKY5dLKFlXzK_qHon_M2h39YZEF7izY/view?usp=drivesdk

maggiesadventuresD.MOV: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1s6vpDxEcbe_BSY0KPZaDaIqfiWiS4tyc/view?usp=drivesdk

maggiesadventuresE.jpg: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mCtymzn5QzHC8vdMrH6eo0IeTY4pKwV3/view?usp=drivesdk

maggiesadventuresF.mp4: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XVCz8TXvwC0iO-V_em47M0u_x5tlD0l7/view?usp=drivesdk

eldertunaE.jpg: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kRWa8l-D5EORN7qzyKgkBK1sFilMGIk9/view?usp=drivesdk

ILovetoSeetheTempleExtended.mp4: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DNbkIA1JaSOHphKVnZAKRgrFNKvIiD_V/view?usp=drivesdk



OLD E-MAILS ARCHIVED HERE: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/category/operationvalidation/]

(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

Something about my last last e-mail (which I suppose was part of just one LARGE last e-mail) about drawing caused a lil’ artist synchronicity here, because I’m noticing this e-mail is chock-full of some stellar arts.

I suppose all of the art started during a service opportunity we had for the English family. Er, that’s their last name, it’s not their nationality. Well, I suppose they’re probably from the UK somewhere down the line, &, uh, they speak English, because… well, you get it. We’d stopped by their house to ask about someone they’d invited to take missionary discussions at one point. It was adorable seeing this lady in her 70s (who is a marathon runner, just to take note) light up when we talked about this teenage boy named Luis, & if she knew him. She immediately got out her cellphone & went to Luis’ Facebook page & said, “My friend Luis! Of course I know my friend Luis. We’ve been friends for a long time now.”

We stopped by his house shortly after the visit, & I can see why he’d get along with a 70-year-old– he’s very eloquent, & I bet he’s always been that way. (Seriously, when he started talking with us, I thought I was listening to a Speech major. He had the hand gestures & everything.) He’s currently in college & learning the culinary arts. So there’s already one type of art.

Going back to the Englishes, though– before we left, they requested we bring over our missionary squadron down to do some yardwork the next day. Ain’t nothing better than having someone ask YOU to help them. Boy, have I missed that! Even when it might involve doing things like sweeping up an exploded beanbag that is in every room of the house somehow, or literally shovelling dog… … stuff & making a big pile of it (there were beanbag bits in that, too, of course)… until you realize the shovel you’re using has a fiberglass handle, & you have pieces of fiberglass in your hand. But then, all your companion has to do is tenderly take strips of duct tape & rip it out of your hand! No harm done.

In the middle of service, as I stood precariously between two rose bushes, like some secret agent avoiding laser beams, Sister English asked about what I wanted to be when I “grow up.” (Grow up?!) So turns out Brother English shares my cartooning predilections. Sister English was quick to say, “PLEASE ask him about it, you HAVE to see his work.” Brother English drove off to get some heavy-duty trash bags, dropped them on the lawn, then went back into the house before I could. Sister English poked her head around the corner & asked, excitedly, “Did you ask him?” I said he’d disappeared too fast, & so she stomped inside & pulled him out, asking, “Honey, could you show this young man some of your cartoons?” He almost tried to get out of it, bashfully, saying they were all in storage, but she persisted, sweetly. “There’s gotta be a few you can pull out quick.”

Isn’t it the best when one is quick to bring up a spouse’s talents? I’ve noticed there are plenty of humble persons who keep all their talents on the downlow… which, frankly, isn’t fair, when talents bless others when they are shared. *hands on hips* So, thank you, to the encouraging spouses of the world, that make sure their husband or wife’s talents do not go overlooked or forgotten… even by the husband or wife, themselves! That happens too often, & it makes me sad. We all need someone to cheer us on, or say that what we do is worthwhile.

Four of the pictures down there are from him– & you might just happen to notice that one of those is Family History-related. *anticipatory drumroll* They serve a mission with my gramma! 8D & it sounds like since this visit, Brother English has made contact with her. (I repeat, we HAVE contact.) He said that she has a “great (pause) grandson”. … Well, she DOES also have a great-grandson. Er. I’m good at writing confusing things.

Brother English has drawn himself as a tuna since highschool due to a highschool class presidency stint he was a part of. His first name’s Charlie– the Sunkist tuna with the self-same name showed up, & his two best friends were known as Bread & Mayo, so he made a little campaign poster that read, “Bread, Mayo, & Tuna: they make a great team.” The big difference between then & now is his tuna avatar had long flowing locks of hair.

When he served his FIRST mission in Southern California, he started by doing what he was told to do– just going through the moments & not much else. He experienced meager success in those early months, & couldn’t figure out why. Then, he was paired with a companion who had a similar track record, & they jokingly told each other, “From the looks of things, I guess you’re a bad missionary,” & laughed about it. But the question lingered, “Is there something more we could be doing?” It was then that Brother (then Elder) English decided to put more of his heart into it, specifically through his talents. He said it made all the difference.

In the wards he’d be working in, he’d hang up a poster he drew of two dogs in missionary clothes, with a speech bubble over their heads reading, “Gosh, we’re just dog-gone happy to be here with all of you.” Then he put their contact information below. Sounds benign & simple enough, but him & his companion received many calls from this single gag poster. The calls would go something like, “We saw your poster, & thought you should stop by my friend! They’ve never clicked much with other missionaries, but I really feel like you’ll get along.” So he admonished everyone to “get creative,” & “be yourself”!

Brother English also has a rather acerbic wit, which I’m sure is a gift. One of his favourite areas had been closed due to an Elder Curl eloping with the bishop’s daughter, whose last name was Wolf. (She was deadset on marrying a missionary, but she didn’t understand the “after the mission” part. Wolf in sheep’s clothing?) He wrote a silly song about those transpiring events to the tune of “Little Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs. — When he got into the area, people were furious & had no intention of trusting missionaries. He was assigned to give a talk in church, & when he did, he was very blunt. He said, “Frankly, I have loads of girls waiting for me back home. I don’t need any of your daughters. Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautiful & all, but let’s all just be good friends.” It diffused the tension, & everyone had a good laugh about it, & the area was freed from a curse of enmity.

All of this– & all of life, really– is about making a connection. Connections are created BECAUSE OF & not IN SPITE OF uniqueness, whether they manifest in personality or proclivities… & I truly do believe that we all can make a difference in each other’s lives by being our selves, & in showing forth the best of our love & care & charity. I love getting that chance to meet new people every day. Even if I don’t get to see them again after they close that door… it’s strange, but it doesn’t bum me out. I’m just happy I got to meet someone & talk with them, even if it was for five seconds & under. I still feel like that is worthwhile, because I know God feels very strongly that all His children are worthwhile.

So, dontchya undermine how important You are, & how important being You can be to any number of others. 😉

3/14 or Pi Day this year was truly delightful. It started off with some light rain. & a rainbow. (Attached at the very top of the bottom.) Then it started a downpour like no other, accompanied with light timpani from thunder & lightning. We went back home for a moment, to prepare ourselves for what was to come. Which was a lost cause. Within a moment, the umbrella was deemed null due to the opposing gale, every layer of my clothing (of which there were many) was already soaked through, & Elder Skelton noted it felt like he was just walking in soggy socks & not much else. In forging on, though, the house we’d stopped at earlier on in the day to no success opened up for us this time, & we even got to set up a time to come back!

Then, we hurried right next door, to another house that hadn’t opened for us before. We’d been told by a kindly member to stop by & pick up some homemade jam from them. We weren’t even quite sure if we’d been knocking on the right house. (Wouldn’t THAT have been a gas? “Uh, hello… do you… have jam?”) Anyway, after a few solid knocks, & surveying the dim lights inside, I turned around, stuffed my knuckles into my sopping pockets, & said, “Well… … I guess that’s it.” Just as I said that, the door opened.

“Hello, what can I do for you gentlemen?” The man turned on the porchlights, & said excitedly, “Oh, it’s the missionaries!! Come right on in!”

The man who’d invited us, Brother Hardman, had art on practically every surface of his home. So turns out a great deal of it was his own. (All of that is in the second half of the attachments! I tried to take a picture of the frothy spraypaint waves he’d fashioned all the way around the kitchen counter, but the picture didn’t do it justice.) He showed us around, regaling some compelling stories about his past, & forgot about the jam, like, five times. The last time I asked, he stood there, smiling at me with this blank expression, & asked, “What? What, are we in a jam for time? Have I been talking too much?… OH, right, the JAM, that’s why we came down here.”

There’s a picture hanging on the stairway of the day his son baptized his best friend. They were inseparable from the first day they met each other, back in elementary school. One day, a few years ago, they were on a fishing trip together, their boat capsized, & they drowned. They’ve remained close friends with his son’s best friend’s family, who all live in Hawai’i. We sang Familes can Be Together Forever for them, & afterward, Sister Hardman said that it must be meant to be that we came today, because this coming Sunday, she was asked to substitute for a class with the 11-12 year olds, & she felt strongly that we should join. She said we’d be “sharing our testimonies” & “maybe sing a song or two”.

… Er, in reality, she made us teach the whole lesson on the spot, hahaha.

She brought green-coloured donuts for a late St. Patrick’s Day, & told the kids, “Remember, I told you all that my son’s birthday was yesterday, & he couldn’t be here to have these with me, because he’s in heaven.”

Warning: talking about religion!

Our lesson was on relying on God in our trials, & I asked the kids, “Just to ask, what’s the hardest thing that any of you have ever been through?” The only boy in the class, who’d obviously been thinking really hard about every question we asked, but seemed too shy to answer, raised his hand on this one. He said, “Putting my dog down.” As others answered, the boy started to cry. I asked him, “Hey, what was your dog’s name?” He looked up & answered, “Sophie.” I asked him a follow-up question, “You know you’ll get to see Sophie again some day, right?” He thought, nodded & gave a little sideways smile.

I said, “That’s what’s so amazing about what we get to teach people every day. Heavenly Father cares about ALL of us, & has already prepared a way for everyone here on the Earth to live again. I’m sure it was SO hard for Heavenly Father to send his Son to suffer & die for all of us, but He did it because he loves US, & knew it was the only way we could make it back. If it wasn’t for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, nothing would work. But because of it, everything works, death isn’t the end, & we will all be reunited someday.”

Done, thank you for your understanding!

The day prior, on Saint Patrick’s, we’d eaten with a family whose husband runs a food truck, & is currently in the process of buying his own restaurant. You can bet your sweet bippy he made us an Irish feast. I noticed on the wall that they’d hung up a whole bunch of artwork from the kids, & the drawing in the middle was… perfect. Throughout dinner, I secretively sketched away, trying to replicate its brilliance. (All the while, the youngest girl kept punching me in the stomach & headbutting me & asking if my parents gave me a toothbrush. I don’t know why.) When I presented it to the family, the mom said, “Now you have to let us take a picture of it with you! That’s what we do with our kids, so it’s only fair.”

It reminded me of earlier in the week, when, in cleaning a family’s garage, I’d found a whole bunch of beautiful notes left by children in the family. One of them said, addressed to one of the parents, “Are you okay? You look tired. Maybe you should get some sleep.” On the flipside, one of the parents had wrote, “I love you!” To which, the child had responded, “I love you morerostestostestostestostestostest.”

There were two other special dinner appointments: We visited an elderly woman who’s hosted a lot of foreign exchange students in the past. One of them, Maya from Sweden, has kept in contact ever since. After we ate some chicken with rosemary (It was a nice reminder of Scarborough Chicken from home, though no replacement by far.), we shared a message & played a hymn, & Maya seemed visibly moved. She said, “That was beautiful.” Her elderly friend said, facetiously, “Well, guess all of this must be true, then.” Maya jabbed her in the elbow playfully & retorted, “Guess I’ve just gotta go under the water, huh? Let’s go down there right now, why don’t we?” Maya admitted to us her faith has been growing, but whenever she’s back home, she feels worried about what her family will think.

She was at church behind us the other day, & she seemed very happy to be there.

Another dinner had us eating with a semi-vegetarian family! The main dish LOOKED like a big casserole dish of assorted sausages, but it was actually sweet potato & squash! Delightful. :  ) One of their daughters, Julie, is non-communicative, & they carefully fed her spoonful after spoonful. I shared a message about how all of us are important, & we can all be an inspiration to each other, not IN SPITE OF our differences, but because of them. Elder Skelton had given me a heads-up that when Elder Latey had played violin for Julie, she’d gotten VERY excited.

I dunno, I get prooty excited about music. It wouldn’t have freaked me out, either way. Julie went from unresponsive & passive to a full brightness in her face. She smiled & clapped & swayed & even hummed– I could tell she was singing the melody we were singing, from A Child’s Prayer. Even afterwards, she was giggling. She kept me smiling, too. That’s how it works!

Other things below are a beautiful swing I came across, me proving once & for all that I AM a hair model, our next-door neighbours’ lions (which recently underwent a cosmetic makeover from HeartGold to SoulSilver), & a watercolour painting a friend of the Englishes did.

Oh. &… I’d better leave you with one last art.

… uh…

We’re meeting with a man named Art.

I guess that counts, too!

Oof, got cut-off again, how rude! Where was I? –Oh, yes.

You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)

: ) There we go.

You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)

rainbowbeforethestormA.JPG: https://drive.google.com/file/d/14cjGM1QQSqyaRP8x4YeXEnNO5Np26Pj1/view?usp=drivesdk

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sneakymoosen.jpg: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1frCpAPWz-NhZwNWUPcQuJhNaOxhzYyya/view?usp=drivesdk

thirdhandlionsA.JPG: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1f9iqJ2z9XYEtzSl6z-a1CjquQ2IknHrt/view?usp=drivesdk

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everyoneknowsitswindyB.mp4: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1g7jqzTM_aSgdcFXllZ-FBclp1QAzRtaK/view?usp=drivesdk

everyoneknowsitswindyC.mp4: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pd67u51bJePS5p8vgQDtqB4bBb7X0o1P/view?usp=drivesdk

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OLD E-MAILS ARCHIVED HERE: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/category/operationvalidation/]

(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)


Here’s where I talk about my latest choir escapades! :  ) The four pieces we performed are scattered throughout the attachments below. I don’t know how we got through Jesus, My Saviour True. It was 7am, which was actually 6am, because it happened on the end of Daylight Savings. (Not a fan of Daylight Savings, gotta say.) But… no one’s voice made any embarrassing post-pubescent creaks & cracks! We don’t even sound like we’re doing any Monty Python falsetto! Whew. Tender musical mercy.

Even though this is the Audio side of the Mass-mail, I’ve got still got some visuals to share. For example, my first attachment down there is of a sign I randomly ran across. I did a double-take as I passed by it. The people in that house weren’t home at the time, but maybe some day, I’ll get to figure out what the context for the creation of said sign was. I won’t spoil what the sign says– but let’s just say it’s pretty relevant to me.

Some would say life is just full of coincidences. You might remember I called it “synchronicity” in Mass-mail #52. Which is a pretty good terminology when making musical metaphors. Not to get too technical, but if audio waveforms are not in sync with each other, frequencies jumble, get muddy, & can even cancel each other out. But get things in sync, & everything is clear, crisp– things make sense. Since the world is often so chaotic, I relish when I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time with the right people. The thing that has always inspired me to get out of my comfort zone, as a kid up until now, is telling myself, “Maybe I’ll be able to do something nice for someone!”

Whenever I meet anyone, I always try my best to do anything I can for them, because I really do think that everyone is brought into our life for a reason, & that makes all these “chance” encounters of the everyday worthwhile. A quote I love by Albert Einstein is, “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

It’s probably embarrassingly easy to tell which way I live.

Speaking of my sentimentality, Happy Very-Late March Forth! :  ) I most certainly celebrated it. When I went to the gym, since we were staying a little later than usual, I decided to just keep running indefinitely until I was summoned by the other missionaries. I was able to do over 6 miles! It was frustrating, because those treadmills stop you at 5 miles, no matter what, & try to make you “cool down”, decreasing your speed every 5 minutes– at which point I’d immediately spike it back up. No one told you to do that, treadmill, leave me be. At any rate, by my calculations, I ran a little over a 10K. I hope, somewhere, my PE teacher Miss Moa is pleased. Pleased enough to say some snarky, sarcastic comment about me.

& you might recall my reading challenge to myself last time– THIS time, I finished reading a 793-page book all about Jesus, the Christ! It is called Jesus the Christ, & I am very passionate about Him. & also the book, but that’s not the main point. If there’s any people here who like to learn interesting historical, geographical, cultural, & linguistic factoids that make clear confusing Christian concepts, or… I dunno, fancy themselves Da Vinci Code-breakers, I’d say go for it. (For example, did you know that the “needle’s eye” was also terminology for a small gate that travelers could pass through, but only after releasing the load from their camel? The More You Know~) On-top of that, I was concomitantly reading from the Bible & the Book of Mormon, coming out to around 1,400 pages.

But, remember. It’s not about the numbers. 😉 (Especially for a person who just happens to love reading, goodness.) It’s about the… marching forth-ing! Whatever it may be. I ran to march, in this case. …

Okay, now comes the music. To explain the “Side A/Side B” naming convention here, I just spent today hooking up a RadioShack cassette tape player to a computer to save some music. Music that my landlord’s wife wrote, in-fact. Her love of music only became more & more obvious in our tiny little encounters with each other– she’s rarely ever home. She talked to us about how, as a child, she was never taught how to write music, how to play instruments, & yet, it all just came to her– & a lot of this inspiration came after she was converted to the Gospel as a teenager. As she recounted things, she said, “Gosh, I just can’t sing like I used to, though.” One night this past week, she walked into the house just as I was about to leave on a 24-hour companionship exchange. Since I knew these moments were far & few between (she’s taking care of her mom all day long), I asked, “Do you think you could find some of your music? I really want to hear it.”

When I came back the next night, Elder Skelton said, “Hey, you missed it. She gave us a little concert. She picked up the guitar for the first time in a really long time, she said. She has a really nice voice, too.” As we went downstairs, I could hear little muffled echoes of her singing in her bedroom still. From what I’ve heard, I’d say she still has her voice, in full. :  ) I find it to be synchronicity that I happen to be living with a family with a singer-songwriter in it. & all the recordings are synth-heavy pop-ballads on cassette tape. Like, doesn’t that just SOUND like me?! Who else would care anywhere near as much as I do? Anyway, I’m over the moon. Gonna transfer all her tapes & give them to her on a CD as a gift.

Elder Skelton had a whole bunch of sheet music for hymns that I scanned in & added to my ever-growing collection of chording & tablature. I sent it out to Elder Wilcox (who also uses ‘ukulele in lessons– how’s that for synchronicity? Always on the same frequencies. Treble, mainly.) & to Elder Forsyth’s current companion, Elder Kapisi (who got really excited over trying out ‘ukulele in lessons).

… & then, of course, I shared it all with Elder Skelton. It’s really deeply satisfying to come back at night & just have a jam session with your companion. Like, he taught me a chord progression, & we just went to town on it. Or, like… he strung one of the Tongan North sisters’ ‘ukuleles! (Forgot to mention– Sister Burchfield came from Tongan South. She’d been the longest-running sister in that area before coming to North. I trust her whole-heartedly, because her… heart… is whole.) I can’t even stinkin’ do that! He’d never even really played an ‘ukulele before! He’s also a budding singer-songwriter. Oh, yeah, that’s where it’s at, y’cool cats. Makes me feel like I’m back home, listening to everyone practicing & just revelling in it all.

I’m ever so happy for the passersby we pass by in this area. One wintry day, a man in a huge truck drove by, & yelled out his window, “Hey, brothers! Godbless.” It had been a tough patch, since I hadn’t eaten anything yet, so that kept me slogging. I cheered out, “Have a great day!” In response, I heard… or at least THINK I heard, “You, too, brah.” Like… … there’s a big difference between bro & brah. … Maybe he saw my ‘ukulele.

Then, very shortly after this, we passed another man shovelling his (or someone else’s?) walk. This was right after I’d flopped my whole body onto a mailbox to keep myself from going unconscious while we stood in place, hahaha. This man came up to both of us & shook our hands vigorously & said, “You are doing good.” Just what I needed to hear to keep me going, again. We asked him if he needed any help with his shovelling, & he just smiled & shook his head, in a kind of amazement, & said, “No necesito. Thank you, my brothers.” Then he slapped us both on the back. Then I suddenly had enough energy to kee-ee-eep walking. (Nerdy scriptural reference: It totally made me think of Alma 31:36. RECHARGE THROUGH BRO-SLAP.)

We knocked on a completely random door one night, only to find out the man who lived in this house, Brother Moreno, was responsible for translating for Spanish speakers at Stake Conference. He couldn’t have been more excited to have us, talked to us about everyone on his entire block (even when he said he knew very little about them, it sounded like they were best friends), mentioned how he wished more elders could get more creative & different, constantly asked if there was anything more he could do for us. As I looked around at all his family photos– of his two daughters who’d only recently gotten married– I asked if we could play a song for him. We sang a rather poignant rendition of Families Can Be Together Forever, & the look on his face the whole time was one of real intent. After a thoughtful silence (in choir, Sister Hathaway always talked about how mad she gets when people don’t respect that beautiful pocket of silence after a performance), he said, “I have heard many testimonies by elders, but I have never heard them bare it through song.”

I was asked to give a sort of repeat (a reprise, perhaps?) of my Music lesson from Grantsville here. I was really confused about how anyone knew about it, but– at the very least, my lessons are “creative & different”… … oh, so different… & the morning before I was to share it, I was feeling crummy. I REALLY needed music to get me through. All the while as we walked, I played. & slowly but surely, I felt all of that dissolve. As I ended my lesson with the song by my dad, I felt the power of just how many times– DAILY– the miracle of music is there for me. Oh, & people asked for Dad’s song. Could’ve predicted that!

But those music shenanigans don’t end there– I walked into dinner that night, & the sister we were eating with said, “Hey, I saw you this morning! You were walking down the street the whole way with your ‘ukulele. I loved how INTO IT you were– you were seriously rocking, you were IN your element. I was, like, ‘Man, I wish I could hear what’s making him so happy!'” (Other random synchronicitous syrcumstance: Turns out she’s running a half-marathon in Honolulu pretty soon.) This really sweet sister also started dinner by saying, “I just want to point out that the moment you two entered, there was a difference to me. Like, I could feel it. There’s this aura of joy that radiates off of you. So, I just want you to know that there really is a power there that you two have, don’t forget it.” Her kids, Benjamin & Joy, performed a delightful Samoan slap-dance for us, attached below. (Benjamin had stolen my ‘ukulele, given it back to me, ran upstairs to cry, then came back down, & only five seconds later, was doing this dance like nothing had happened. Heehee.)

To end, here’s the other huggy: On exchanges, right before I took the picture that’s the first attachment, we’d gotten a referral at a dinner for the house right next to us. We walked straight over there, knocked on the front door, heard someone calling from the back door, went over & asked if there was a time we could stop by, & the lady was equal parts delighted & shocked. She said, “We were baptized only five years ago, & we’ve really felt a need to come back. You know, I wanna hug you two. We’ve actually been praying & hoping for elders to stop by, because we’ve missed the spirit they bring. We’ve had some really great elders in the past, & we’ve really needed to remember these things.” She hugged us both & let us go on our way. & I could’ve easily run a half-marathon after that!

Among the things already mentioned is another impeccable Skelton family cosplay. (Could anyone more perfectly capture Jon Heder, I ask you?!) Also, Elder Wilcox (the selfie master, not the ‘ukulele master… although BOTH Elder Wilcoxses has an ‘ukulele now!) & I did a funny little prank on Elder Fekete. When you see the video, just realize he made EYE CONTACT with our frozen floating heads on the lost-&-found shelf & didn’t bat an eye. Elder Fekete also unhinged a door for some service we did. NO BARRIER SHALL STAND IN HIS WAY.

There is also an exclusive of me & my brand-new dog. If you can believe it, this fella was left out to fend for himself out on the street! How could anyone do that?! Especially when he was obviously someone’s Valentine’s Day gift. Heartless, I tell ya’. I’m not even PARTWAY good with animals, & I couldn’t help by take this widdle goiuy in. He is currently sitting here sweetly on my desk. It was delightful walking down the street, ’cause all day long I heard, “I like your dog, man.” (See, this is why we should be allowed to have pets! I’m gonna just go ahead & veto the rule for myself…) Since Elder Skelton is basically an animal whisperer, I guess having mah’ dawg is a good stepping stone for me. I have no clue how to bond. We can… bay at the moon together or somethin’. In three-paw-rt harmony. OHW OW OW-OOOOH~ 

You are great, you are awesome,

sKye (eLder sOnomura)



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Just got updated to Part #67! My Mailbox has been filling up to the extreme, so I’ve been a lil’ unsure if everything’s made it out safely past my Outbox. –> OLD E-MAILS ARCHIVED HERE: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/category/operationvalidation/]

(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)


Another cherished friend in the Tongan North stake has gotten baptized! & I missed the whole stinkin’ thing. :  ( So all I have is the first attachment– a single picture– to imagine what the baptism sounded like. & when I say “sounded like”, I MEAN that. Did you think the quartet at Ario’s baptism was brilliant? So, the Fotu twins’ grandma was getting baptized. Uh-huh, if you’ve heard them, you don’t forget ‘um. From hearsay, the sisters in the area said there was a lot of song going on in that teeny room, that it was rather overwhelming, & also a little disorienting for them. Given the whole thing was in Tongan. I know that part of the area has been a real source of frustration for people, but… never for me. In-fact, it was something I looked forward to, which is probably perplexing. Perhaps I have such a tenuous grasp on language & more of a solid comprehension of the power of music that when people speak in other languages around me, especially if it’s in a spiritual setting, I feel of the power of words I do not know. Because I feel of their emotional impact– I can hear a kind of context in the music within the words. It’s like the difference between watching a foreign film with subtitles or watching a dub, y’know?

But yes, so. I missed it. I missed it good. Just relisten to the attachments in Mass-mail #60, & you’ll understand that nothing can quite replace that kind of music.

Kafo’atu Fotu is definitely one of my favourite people that I’ve ever taught. She was one of those funny situations where she was baptized as a young girl attending Liahona School in Tonga. (That school has been around for generations at this point– kind of a big deal.) But– in traditional Tongan culture, a wife needs to follow her husband’s religion. Bummer.

Delightful sidetrack ahead: This also happened to Elder ‘Ita’s grandmother, who had to follow her husband into the Catholic church. Her children were unaware for years about this. She raised all her kids with all the standards & values she held dear without ever actually saying where it came from. THEN, flashing forward to when Elder ‘Ita was 8– his parents were separated for a while, & during that time, his aunt was adamant that Elder ‘Ita get baptized in the Catholic church. So, teeny-weeny Elder ‘Ita stood in a line with a whole bunch of other kids, asking all the way, “What’s going on,” & then got sprinkled. He didn’t realize until a year later, when his parents worked out their issues & started inviting missionaries over, that he’d been baptized in another church then. Elder ‘Ita always likes to say, “So, technically, I’m a Catholic convert.”

Kafo’atu followed her husband as a Seventh-Day Adventist for decades, while her children all, one by one, sought out a change in their life, & found the joy they felt was missing from their life through the Gospel. & then, after her husband passed away, the family found out her records were missing. We actually did everything in our power to locate them, but… goodness, I guess that just happens a bit too often there. (Tongans are talented at many things. Being organized is not one of them. I can relate.)

She works a full-time job at Wendy’s– VERY dedicated worker, that’s clear. She actually knows English well, but like most bilingual people who do, she gets very self-conscious when she tries to speak about things, especially things that matter so much to her. She’d constantly start explaining something to us, only to say, “I don’t know the words. I know it, I just don’t know how to say it, I’m sorry.” Hey, this is the ONLY language I know, & I STILL find myself struggling to grasp at a proper word or two.

Our lessons were full of plenty of nods & smiles & laughs, but not too many words. But music was our real means of communication. After our first lesson, which was cordial & sweet enough, but perhaps not fully engaging, we sang to Sister Fotu, & the whole room lit up. After that point, she would anxiously await for the next hymn, & would adjust her seat & lean forward to listen fully. After, she’d stand & shake our hands warmly, smiling from ear to ear, & say, “Please keep singing. It is the best. You two can always come back & sing whenever you want. I love it so much.” She’d often remark about her family’s affinity for music & remark on how hearing her family sing was her favourite thing of all.

… it also happens to be one of my favourite things. *sniffle* Ah, well, it’s HER baptism, not mine. I’m certain it was downright perfect, as they all tend to be. I’ll just keep looking at the picture & imagining the music.

Oh, & you might notice that one of the sisters serving in Tongan North is Sister Burchfield, aka the girl in the perfect Velma outfit from Mass-mail #51. Speaking of which, Elder Skelton did a Scooby-Doo family group picture a couple Halloweens ago. I’m-a put that underneath attachment #1 for you. So you can get to know how rad Elder Skelton is, as I have the privilege of doing er’ry day.

Elder Skelton is a mad genius, by the way. It’s always the quiet ones, I tell ya’! He has this ongoing series of little comedy ideas revolving around this fictional manchild named H & his wife Sandy. I have to always have a writing implement on-hand, because at any time, he could start another completely unexpected spiel of brilliance. Similarly to me, he sees the most banal, ordinary things through an odd lens. (Even though he only wears glasses sometimes– mainly to see better at night.) & ah’ luhv’ ‘eht. Attached thirdly is a whole bunch of H-related things I drew. I drew the first sketches with a one-dollar stylus-pen-laser-flashlight combo Brother Keithley bought for all of us, after having taken us out for Mo’ Bettah’s. How’d he know?! The comic is really rushed (Well, as rushed as I can be. It’s actually the reason I didn’t get a mass-mail out in time last week. So I guess it wasn’t TRULY fast.), but I did it all with the stylus-pen-laser-flashlight, as well. Even though I think most of you know how deeply I dread drawing (or even WRITING) point-blank with a pen. I was inspired to keep forging on, tape corrector in hand, by my dear friend, Jack, who just finished drawing his first full graphic novel. If he can do that, I can scribble without fear! Or… less… fear… at least.

Another odd visual: so, in Grantsville, just about every house had some type of bear on their porch. Here in Magna, gnomes are all the rage. I guess they’re… Mag-nomes? So chic. I mean, it’s not that it’s unusual to have those things, but I DO think the amount of gnomes is odd. I mean, why do we even do that? Are they watching after our lawns? Do they keep people away? I have to admit, I DO think twice every time I knock on a house with gnomes in the front yard. “Who knows what could be lurking here…” Attaching lots of gnome-related stuff in both e-mails. It’ll feel like you walked with me a little, hahaha. Gnome after gnome in home after home…

We also had a baptism here in Magna– missionaries have been stopping by this one boy’s house for a while now, with mixed results. But, for whatever reason (I think life has just been really overwhelming for ‘um), the family has been very kind to us, & we were able to spend some fun time with their son, Brodie, who just got baptized, immediately followed by his one-year-old niece Nevaeh’s baby blessing. Brodie’s grandfather was participating in it all, & he’s quite the painter. When we walked into Brodie’s house, the wall leading up the staircase was covered in paintings of tropical beach scenes & dolphins– apparently, those are his daughter’s favourite things. I’ll have to snag a portrait or two for Mass-mail #70… (What, you didn’t take a picture of it right then & there?! Don’t you dare slack!)

Oh, & Brodie’s brother’s name is Ganon. I asked about the name, & Ganon was too shy to respond. Brodie’s mom said, cheerfully, “Tell the elder it’s from a video game!” I grinned– I knew it. “Ganon is a very nice name!” I noted. Then she turned to Brodie, who’d pulled his hoodie all the way down to his chin, trying to hide his blushing, & suggested, “Why don’t you tell him what YOU wanted to name him, if you had your way?” Brodie buried his head in his cushy gaming chair. Brodie’s mom turned to us & said in his stead, matter-of-factly, “Chicken Nugget.”

OOH— speaking of food, we spent today helping my beloved Brother Gomez get his shopping done, as well as running a few errands for an elderly lady, heading down aisles at Costco & having a grand time sampling bits & bobs of bite-sized grub. I am grateful that my mOm alerted me that chipotle black bean burgers were back in her last e-mail to me. That might sound like a trifle to you, but… not so for meeee & my famil-ee. But, the week prior, we ran into a young man at Wal-Mart handing out little cake bites to people. We waved hi, & he seemed particularly happy to see us. This was verified when he ran after us when we didn’t take the cake bites, with both types of cake bites in his fists. He grinned & offered them, saying, “Hey, elders, you’ve got to try this & tell me which one you think is better.” He ran back to his workstation, & I ran after him.

I don’t even like cake (unless it’s a cheesecake, which is not a cake, or an ice cream cake, which is really just ice cream), & the white fudge vanilla ones were divine. It was like eating a little donut that was frosted-animal-cracker-with-jimmies-on-it flavoured. Yum-yum-eat-um-up. (Stop inadvertently advertising things!) The man pointed out the discount, then gave me an extra discount on-top of it. As I left, he remarked, “They’re having me sell these with Seattle’s Best Coffee. I’ve never made a cup in my whole life. I had to ask one of the salesrep ladies to help me.”

Going back to Costco for a second, we met a highschooler named Cheytrell there. He followed us for the rest of the time, ate lunch with us, then shook my hand, shouted “PSYCHE,” then dashed off with my Caesar salad, but placed it in my shopping cart. Adorable. Or earlier on in the week, we were walking around an apartment complex at night, & this highschooler started bolting as fast as he could straight at me– I thought for sure he was gonna charge me. At the last moment, he turned in another direction, ran all the way around a building & then made a lap back to his friends. I think my heart stopped for a moment there.

I ALSO received two hugs this week! Guess I’ll put one hug in this one, & another in the other. (Technically, I put a hug in every word I write, anyway. But that’s beside the point. & beside me. When I hug you.) A girl who got baptized just about a month ago in this area has a little brother named Grayson who doesn’t really enjoy social interaction too much. He came out to get some video game controllers. One of the cords was caught underneath the toy chest it was in. Elder Skelton said, “If you hit the O button, the chest will float up.” I ran over as Grayson hit the O button & lifted the toy chest dramatically with a slide-whistle-y noise. Grayson’s mom had been trying to get him to say “hello” to us the whole time, asking on repeat, “Can you say hi to the elders?” As he was about to leave, she asked it one last time. He turned around, handed his video game controller to his sister, then buried himself in my chest with a soft hug. Then he repeated this action with Elder Skelton. Apparently, when Elder Skelton tries to high-five him, Grayson instead gives him a hug. I’d call that a really wonderful hello. Preferred, even! :  ) To quote William Shakespeare (as once President Monson did), “They do not love, that do not show their love.” Sssshhhho

You are great, you are awesome,

sKye (eLder sOnomura)

One last morsel before I start another mmmmmm… ail…

There was this one family that we’d been trying to visit with since we entered the area, to no avail. The mother was never home, or if she was, she was asleep, or in the shower, or making dinner, or… I dunno, saving the world, as all moms do. Anyway, we always have either the worst timing or the best timing. That’s just the way it goes, as we trod along this oft’ impromptu path. We stopped by– once again, not a soul home. We stood outside the house & stared up at the stars for a moment, just hoping the mom would randomly show up. She didn’t. We walked away, then felt like we should come back, anyway. As we did– & I mean JUST as we turned around– the mother’s car pulled into the driveway. After we talked with her, we walked past one of the families who’s friends with theirs, & their just so happened to pull into the driveway as we walked past the house. All that was missing was me snapping my fingers, gesticulating dramatically & uttering, “A la peanut butter sandwiches!

It might seem simple, & it might seem silly. But– I really am grateful for those tiny, funny, wonderful delights I could never have planned. They happen every day! Right place, right time, right life. What we need pulls up when we need it, even when we didn’t know we needed it.

You are great, you are awesome,

sKye (eLder sOnomura)

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(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

Let me start by addressing Gramma Sonomura’s question in her last e-mail to me: I am as warm & as safe as I possibly can be in this expectedly unexpected weather-shift. Thank you for your concern(s!) :  ) My army boots & thermal-suitcoat-sweater-windbreaker-raincoat layering still leaves something to be desired… unless the sun is out. That desert sun completely confuses my temperature. & it’s never facing me in a way that would warm up more than half my face at a time. So I feel the need to, like, turn around & trudge backwards to get an even winter-tan. I do not feel any more “acclimated” (whatever that means) this time around, so there. Anyone in my family remember when I was trying on a sweatshirt for this trip only to immediately want to take it off, for fear of passing out? Hi-larious. But you all keep me nice & toasty. :  ) So this season shall pass pleasantly, just as every other.
Plus, I DO enjoy wielding a shovel. We went on an expedition, starting from the doors at our nearest church all the way down both sides of the streets back to our house. There was a kid shoveling out the back of his truck, & we started digging in with him. EXCAVATION! We were trying to be anonymous & quick, considering most weren’t home. … However, one man showed up in the middle of our gruntwork, driving up through the pathway we’d provided him. He stepped out of his car, stood, looked around, & finally said, “Thanks!” We tried to act like we were finished, & started walking away. When we thought he’d gone inside & wasn’t coming back out, we started back to shovelling his walk, but he came back out again, & we sheepishly tried to waddle away like we were onto another house. We felt like those shoe-making elves. You aren’t supposed to see us, don’t spoil the magic!
It is very hard to look anywhere but down in this weather, at least for me. I’m practically a turtle, ducking deep into my neckwarmer. Normally, you can see me looking up at just about everything. Because I am secretly eight years old & everything about this life amazes me. But looking down, for once, happened to be a good thing. Because I noticed a phone in the snow! When I unlocked it, there was a blurry picture of a little kid’s fist as the background. If you could even call it a fist. It almost looked like the kid was trying to do the “I’ve got your nose” trick, but didn’t even really succeed at that, either. We called the numbers in the phone to no avail. (The phone itself appeared to have no service.)
We decided to wait until school would let out & try again. In calling the number under “Mom”, we were greeted by someone with a very thick accent who seemed to only have marginal comprehension, especially with the background noise of loud, garbled reggaeton. To the question, “We found a phone, is anyone in your family missing a phone?”, we got a “No.” Then, we asked about the name on the phone, & we just heard a lot of scuffling around & “hold on”s & “sorry”s for the next couple minutes. Then they hung up on us. We called the Dad only to have a similar experience. “Hold on, sorry, I’m still here, sorry. Okay. What?” While we’d been talking with the Dad, the Mom had tried to call us again. In redialing, we got the supposed phone owner (pho-wner?) on the line– Julio. Turns out, he’d given it to his younger brother this morning as a “toy” only for him to immediately lose it. We met outside a church building, & he & two other boys came with a twenty dollar bill ready to stuff in our hands. No way, I ain’t robbin’ the cradle. If you give me money, I might just have to give you what-for! *makes a ridiculously loose fist*
The kids left a long trail of thank-yous behind them as they rode away on their bikes.
Elder Skelton & I have complementary senses of humour (Our first night together, we spent an entire hour in bed pretending we were dogs floating in the air. Ba.), & we discussed the entire way back about how we were going to hold the phone ransom, but for that “good feeling” you get for being charitable. “I still don’t feel it… wait… wait… okay, there it is. Here’s your phone.” However, Elder Skelton pointed out, “But, we wouldn’t be doing it for the right reasons, so we’d never get that good feeling. So we’d almost be stealing that feeling from ourselves.” But… but what if you just really want that feeling, & you’ve never gotten it?… Give me it, it’s just not fair!! (You might try walking around with an ‘ukulele, for starters.)
Anyone know a good way to get dust to stop coating the inside of one’s trachea? We were doing some rather intensive painting. sanding & sweeping. (The house even had a planned movie room, which we painted a dramatic black. We also plopped down little stage risers & one of those fill lights that immediately starts burning everything when you turn it on. Invite us over!!) My fellow missionaries started turning the clean-up into a game of hockey with dust clods (because everything is a competition), & I’m still whh-oopin’. Gotta gargle all the live-long day.
Thankfully, this hasn’t affected my voice too much. Funnily enough, in church yesterday, I was trying to sight-read the tenor part (I credit my desire to get good at that from singing with my friend Angelica), & at the end of the meeting, a lady turned around & asked, “Alright, who’s the tenor? Because that was just divine.” To give credit where credit is due, Elder Skelton is really good at sight-reading, & I don’t think any parts sound good without harmony. So… it was really the two of us TOGETHER that sounded divine.
(Not to interrupt where I was going with this, but: Right after church, I noticed an old man hunched over uncomfortably, picking up tiny bits of this & that from the ground, muttering to himself. Probably saying some variant of “Those messy kids…” I stepped in & started grabbing what he couldn’t. He stepped out in the corridor, & as I finished up, he looked up for a moment & nodded, then looked down again. Good way to end church. No more of that church ch-rash.)
Later on that night, we were planning in a church room we figured no one was using. Then, people started setting up chairs around us. Choir practice, for the Magna South Stake conference. I think Elder Skelton could tell I wanted to stay, because he kept saying, “Should we go?… … you know, unless you want to stay?” I was going to just let it be. I turned around when one of the men said, disappointedly, “Elders, I thought you were staying to sing wiith us!” I laughed & said, with a little hint-hint, “Well, I’d love to! Do you need anybody?”
Right around this time, the choir director walked in… & who should it be but the “Who’s the tenor?” lady. She made eye contact with us, then jumped up & down, clapped her hands, then gave us both high-five. She clarified, not wanting to get her hopes up too high, “NOW, is this just for today, or do we get to keep you for the real thing?” I asked, demurely, “Uh, well, how many rehearsals are left?” Just one. I turned to Elder Skelton for confirmation, “Well, that sounds reasonable… ?” Elder Skelton said, “We could invite people we don’t normally ask to come to church! Maybe they’d be interested. To see us sing.” I love how non-threatening music is. T’ain’t a soul out there who’ll get uppity about an invitation to hear some sing-song.
Sister Hathaway, the choir director, reminds me so much of my home ward choir director, Sister Murray. Such infectious enthusiasm, a deep reverence for poetic context & subtext, round vowels & crisp consonants a must, & an exacting emphasis on dynamics. (Not to mention, she & her husband in the bass section have similarly adorable banter.) The arrangement of I Need Thee Ev’ry Hour we’re doing required staggered breathing (You know, when people pretend they don’t need air?), & she asked us to visualize the seemingly infinite flow of water, leaning from the very edge of Niagara Falls.
Oh, & she picks the kind of crazy-beautiful pieces that I wanna just swim deep into. (Hopefully not by falling off Niagara Falls…) There’s a men’s piece that requires tenor power. Elder Skelton pointed out, very correctly, that the Tenor 1 part is just as high as a soprano part. It is written in the treble clef, & goes about two steps above the staff. That is an actual Soprano part. We are Sopranos. Not only that, but we’ll have to be ready to sing it by 7am. Might have to dust off my vocal cords. Literally.
We ate breakfast for dinner yesterday at a family called the Hofheins… es… (Their last name is Hofheins, so I don’t know how to make that plural.) They have a good chunk of their extended family over every Sunday, & I’d heard little strands of their musicality throughout the night. (Two newlywed return-missionaries in the family apparently arrange & sing together a lot for church functions. The wife has two twin brothers, & one of them wants to be just like her husband. So even though he practically refused to participate in piano lessons, now he can’t keep away from the piano.) So, when it came time to send them off with a song, I said, “I’m pretty sure some of you are musical, so feel free to sing along.” As I started, I heard them chuckle amongst themselves & said, “SOME? More like all…”
& this proved to be true– spontaneous harmony abounded without anyone having to prompt anyone into it. (We sang Love is Spoken Here, for context.) Afterwards, Sister Hofheins said, “This is my favourite thing. Every time everyone’s over, I bug everyone & make them all sing their favourite hymns together. Everyone has to pick one, or it’s not over. There’s nothing I love more than hearing my family sing.” Ditto. Nothing comes close to that family sound. Sister Hofheins immediately asked, as I’m sure she has for years, “Who has a favourite hymn you’d like to sing?” As we started into the next one (I Am a Child of God), I heard someone sing an amazing descant over the melody. It’s in the sheet music, but I’d never actually heard it performed before. In a similar fashion to Sister Hathaway earlier, I ended by asking, “Alright, who was it that sang that descant?! That made my DAY. I was flipping out, you did the THING.”
Missionaries either have impeccable timing or terrible timing, no in-between. This week was full of perfect timings. We stoppped by a family who still had up their Halloween decorations (They do a full-on spook alley every year, apparently, & it’s more of a lifestyle. Sounds like the Mad Lab. See Mass-mail #18 for a refresher on that.), only minutes after they’d come back from their grandmother’s funeral. We were able to talk with them about how everyone felt, & the joy & peace that can be found in such hard times, & how this life isn’t the end. As we sang, the four boys all immediately had a pleasantly surprised smile on their faces, but the older three tried their best to hide their initial smile, as if they were unfazed. The youngest one couldn’t hold in singing with us. Hey, misters. Don’t let masculinity minimize musical mirth.
There’s one miracle that’s really stuck out, though. There was a family Elder Skelton had made contact with only days before I got into the area, & when he’d gone over & asked that classic question, “Is there anything we can do for you?” She practically grabbed her brother & said, “You should come for HIM!” He nervously chuckled & tried to minimize the awkwardness of this by explaining, “I’m here in her house right now because I’m going through a divorce. That’s… that’s why she’s saying that.”
When we met with him, Elder Skelton felt strongly that we should show a video called The Hope of God’s Light. It talks about a man who had decided to take his own life, but had some experiences that saved him from this. Everyone was very quiet after the video, & the man we’d come to talk with has kind of been in & out of the kitchen the entire time. (Fun little thing: the remote for the TV was lost, & every time he sat down on the couch, the TV would turn off & on, leading them to believe the remote was under him. Turns out he was just up against the power cord. But that’s why he was standing up.) As we ended our quiet discussion, the man’s sister asked, “Would it be all right if all of us got blessings?”
The sister urged him to get a blessing first, but he seemed nervous about it, & kept gesturing, “After you.” His sister & his sister’s husband got blessings. Then her husband turned to the man & said, “After you.” At this point, the man was shaking. He said, quietly, “Wow.” He nervously sat under our hands, & I could feel his unsteady breathing pushing tears out. We left, & Elder Skelton asked, “How do you think he felt?” I could only guess, but the “wow” seemed like a positive indication. People don’t tend to tell you exactly how they’re feeling.
We came back the following week.
Warning: talking about religion!
We read through a chapter in the scriptures that we’d picked together beforehand. As we started, there was a verse that stuck out to me the moment we read it, as if those words had never been there before. “… whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men…” The entire time we read, I could hear those words emboss themselves on my heart. I kept glancing at this man, wondering, “How does he feel? Are these words meaning something to him, personally?”
Once again, quiet, stilted conversation followed. Just as I was about to conclude, the man, who had said next to nothing, said, “Things have been really different this week. I’ve felt a change. Things are so much better. That video you played. I haven’t been able to get it out of my hand. For some reason, it just really… touched me. &… … my family only knows some of this. But… this divorce has been the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I was married in the temple. But it became clear we had issues. There was one night that was especially bad. We got into a vicious argument, lots of things were said, & that night… I’d never felt more alone. I walked out into the garage. & I took my handgun. &… I just kind of sat there for a while. I looked down at the gun, & then… I dropped it, & I got on my knees, & I said a prayer. & in it, I just asked, ‘If you could, could you please just give me enough strength to make it through this night?’ & then… I don’t remember much of the rest of that night. But I woke up the next morning, & I was still alive.”
“I kept praying, after that. &, I didn’t always get the answers I wanted. I came back to my wife, saying I’d be willing to do whatever it takes to make this work, because I KNOW I have some terrible habits I need to work on. But she turned to me & said, ‘I want a divorce.’ It… it wasn’t the answer I’d wanted. But I had… hope still, for some reason. Like, I felt as if the answer I’d been receiving, even though I didn’t want to hear it was that… like the blessing you elders gave me last night… you said, that it was… temporary. That this hardship was just for a moment, & that God wouldn’t put me through something for no reason, & that… something good could come of this. &, within that month of being divorce, I found a job that pays better than anything I’ve had before… I’m surrounded with good people… things are starting to look up.”
The verse that had been going through my heart this whole time repeated itself again, & so, I opened up my scriptures again. “You know, I can’t say I’ve ever been through anything close to what you’ve gone through. If I did, I’d be lying. But I have struggled with similar feelings. I’ve often felt like a complete nothing– worthless, & I’ve just wanted to be gone & done & over with. But I’ve found that, if I hadn’t felt that, in my past, I would not have been able to reach out to others. I know that Heavenly Father loves you. He believes in You. & I know you’re surrounded by people who love you. Hey, love you. That might sound crazy, but I really, really do love you. & I know that you’ve already made such a huge impact on those around you, & God can make any senseless tragedy into something beautiful. You’ll be able to reach out & make a difference. I mean, you’re an inspiration.”
Done, thank you for your understanding!
As we left, Elder Skelton shook the man’s hand. Then as he turned to me, I asked, “Hey, could I have a hug?” He accepted without hesitation, then Elder Skelton turned around immediately & said, “In that case, I’ll have one, too.”
As I headed back from Wal-Mart this morning, I was reminded of a Sudanese refugee we ran into in the parking lot called Rafael. He’s apparently having lessons from other missionaries right now. They must be some inspiring lessons, because the moment he saw us elders, he said, “Hello, brothers. Thank you for what you do. I appreciate the word of God. Do not give up.” I’m reminded of the Ingrid Michaelson song I quoted back in Mass-mail #11, “Be OK”. That was a goal I made– was to Be OK. The second line in that song says, “Feel Today,” which I feel is equally important. Look around, Pay Attention– Today can be important & meaningful, as long as you take a moment to appreciate it & acknowledge it. Today is as important as You are, because You are in it. Thank You for what You do, do not give up!
Late Christmas medley below (with temperature warping my second string), Elder Skelton practicing his version of I Believe in Christ, my district Skype call (yes, we were all in the same room), more art continuing from last e-mail (the hand makes me think so much of my mOm, & the little styrofoam ninja course is so Nova)… then we’ve got a meal from last Monday. Brother Keithley, who’d been one of our dinners, asked to take us out again on Monday. He’d never been to Mo’ Bettahs (the only good Hawaiian place I’ve found out here), & the moment he tried the teri sauce, he said, “I found my new favourite place.” Then he took a video to brag to his daughter (who just started her mission, & is sick) about spending time with the elders. Funny way to show love, if you ask me!
You are great, you are awesome,
Goodness gracionés, it didn’t even make it to the end of my sIgnature this time! Am I really writing longer e-mails than before, or is GMail just tired of me? How rude. Ahe-hem, where was I?
You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)


(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

Thanks for taking all those leftovers. Our fridge here is WAY too tiny. Plus, between me & a companion named Elder Skelton, it’s just kind of a waste. 😉
My first encounter was Elder Skelton was over my Facebook feed, which is primarily just other missionaries posting at me. One of Elder Forsyth’s old companions, Elder Latey, is a classically-trained violinist who had an opportunity to perform at Carnegie. He played a little piece with Elder Skelton on guitar. So, I was immediately excited over these delicious prospects. Plus, coming from such a musical area, I might go through music withdrawals! But Elder Skelton is practically a music historian. So my ears & my heart are not sad.
Speaking of my heart, Happy Valentine’s Week! How is your heart doing? I’d love to know.
The family that houses us, the Schaabs, put out half of a chocolate heart cake for Elder Skelton & I to share. Which I suppose is like them saying that we complete them? :  ) On my first dinner in the area, an elderly couple named the Nelsons put a Valentine next to our napkins in the table set-up. Mine was a Groot valentine. How did they know?… (… who Groot is… ?)
The Nelsons were the perfect family to be my first to meet here in the area. For one thing, they both pronounced my name correctly. Even before I entered the area, there were people coming up to Elder Skelton & inquiring, “So, Elder Sunnybahama’s going to be your companion?” & the Schaabs call me “Eldeh Sunshine”, which is just fine. I thought that Sister Schaab had a New Zealand accent, but it turned out it was New Joi’sey. Go fig’. BUT— proper pronunciation. Turns out Sister Nelson is half-Japanese & shows no signs of this (She spent her whole life worried she was the mailman’s daughter, but she did the blood test.), & Elder Nelson served a Mandarin-speaking mission in Hong Kong. (He had fun reciting perplexing sentences involving Chinese tonal inflection.) We talked about teeny-tiny terracotta statues, Tiananmen Square, my Chinese side with the Tyaus (which is apparently pronounced more like Tsau in the native tongue), Sister Nelson’s uncanny ability to tell when people are talking about her in different languages, player pianos from 1915, the difference between fiddles & violins, & microwave cakes. So, I was able to FEEL, as I already KNEW, that everything was going to be just fine, & I was where I was supposed to be.
Besides the food bank (which had started to involve keeping giant pouches of milk upright when they’re hefty enough to be two very fat twin toddlers), there was really no service readily available to make ourselves of use. So I was truly pleased to have such things arise again. We carried down a whole bunch of antique Japanese furniture down flights of stairs for a vivacious, eclectic old lady who lived in Okinawa a couple years. We did some drywalling, painting, & taping for a couple who’ve lived in the same house since 1985 & have never done any work on their house since. We also showed up early in the morning to say goodbye to a really sweet kid & his family. The kid, Brandon, mentioned, multiple times, excitedly, that he was moving right next door to a church, so he’d be able to walk there whenever he wanted to. Then he hugged everyone, like, ten times. Which was a very nice thing for me. :  )
It reminded me of Miss Hope Smith! (See mass-mail #38, & the comethoufountoffirstprayers number at her baptism!) She’s the only one in her family who was excited to see us. (I mean, it’s something really special for us to not only be invited, but be good friends.) She enjoyed coming to church so much that she would invite all her friends & walk across the street every morning all by herself. Come to find out, her family just moved out here into my area. Found that out the first day while walking through a barrage of kids leaving school, led by Hope. High-fives! (Oh, & the tentative Long-suffering Smith was actually named Hunter Smith, for the sake of his self-esteem.) When we arrived, we found that her family had made it harder for her to go to church, & she (& all of her sisters) were piling out the door to see us, no matter how many times their mother shoved them back in. (Not to mention, it was COLD outside!) Hope nudged her mother & jumped around frustratedly, hinting, “When can we start meeting with them again? Please!?”
Random aside: Hope’s mother mentioned that HER mother is going to Nigeria this next week to meet her Nigerian boyfriend named Kelvin. They’ve been talking for a year or so now. He is very nice, has three kids, & they plan to get married. Love is in the air.
One of the ladies we were teaching got baptized this past Saturday. Her name is Ario. She is Samoan, but she goes to a Tongan ward because the Samoans gossip about her. (I’ve heard this from multiple Samoans.) Bishop fought to have her there, due to how much he cares about her. Ario & Bishop’s wife became best friends. Ario gave up smoking. (Yes, she was THAT lady in the apartments.) She threw every single one of her family members for a loop– not a single one ever believed she’d change. BUT– she was the one who reached out to us, initially on Elder Fekete’s birthday, early in the morning at 6:30am. Bishop sent us a text saying, “I have a lady who wants to set her baptismal date.” … Happy birthday!
As it turned out, she was baptized on her nephew’s birthday. All her family came, from everywhere. & what a colourful group! One of the musical groups from the Tongan Christmas party was there, her rapper son (he goes by Hurtz, because his teef’ hurt.), her grandkids named Ninja & Legend were there… her eternal argument-partner of a sister was there, who I just ran into at Wal-Mart today! In my talk, I started off with a big, “Talofa, malo e lelei, & aloooha!” Then I just took a look around this diverse crowd & said, “All of you are here for this very special person, & I know that so many people are so happy that this promise is being made, here & on the other side of the veil.” From the first lesson, Ario had mentioned that one of her biggest goals was to, someday, be able to make it to the temple. Her daughter, Tanya, passed away years ago, & she wants to have her whole family sealed to her.
At the “end” of the program (really, only 25% through– Polynesians are not good at being on-time), Bishop tearfully made a few remarks, & expressed his love to Ario, then suggested that everyone in the family come up & say how they’re feeling, & tell Ario that they love her. She’s the only thing keeping all these disparate characters together as a family, & it seemed to me by her reactions that she’d probably never been told any of these things by any of these people. The look of complete shock, followed by a big, comical grin after her sister came up & said, “I’m proud of you, sis,” was worth it all. Ario also seemed to REALLY take some pride in throwing Kleenex™ to everyone.
Little clippets of remarks made: “I’ve got to come up here for Tanya, because I know she would’ve given anything to be here today.”
“Ario always tells me, whenever my kids act up, ‘Is that a Tongan thing?’ I’m happy to be here today, because grandma’s getting baptized in the Tongan Ward–is that a Tongan thing?”
“I’m already crying. I’m using my shirt. We’ll do laundry later.”
“When I look at her now, I see no flaws in her, & I want to be like her.”
“Ario’s parents were strong in their faith. They were with her this whole time, & now that she is oldER… … NOT old… I didn’t say old… now that she is older, it has all come back to her, & she’s found out what her parents knew for herself.”
“I’m not religious at all, but I do believe that there is that ONE thing for everyone that feels right. & Ario has found that, & I’m so inspired by that. I’m happy to be here to see her do something that obviously means so much to her… so… inthenameofJesusChristamen…”
“I’m the granddaughter of this amazing, beautiful woman you see behind you. I’m proud that she is my namesake, because it has given me someone to look up to. Remember this day, & keep being the strong, loving person that you always are.”
“I’m married into Ario’s family, but she’s my mom.”
“From the moment I saw her, I’ve felt she was my sister. I always ask, ‘Where is my sister?'”
“We all need help– thank you, all of you, for helping my grandma, & showing her the Light of Jesus Christ.”
“I will go with you when you go to the temple.”
“I don’t really do this much, but I was just reading the Bible back there, & read about… those who are wise & humble. When I think of those who is wise & humble among us, I take that, & I think of my mom.”
“I never thought this day would come, really. Never. I didn’t believe it, & I’m still kind of in shock. When she asked me to baptize her, I had to sit down. She’s my mom, we never see eye to eye, we have our arguments, she gets on my nerves, but… I love you, ma. I’m honoured to be here.”
When Ario came up, I was reminded of the many times I’d invited her to pray. She was terrified to, & didn’t feel like she could. Her parents were the type who were sticklers on religious expression, & felt like if you didn’t do it a certain way, you’d get the wooden spoon. (Makes me think of the grandma of To’a, Naisa & Salesi, who said, in her testimony, “I spank you because I love you.” That’s the sort of old-fashioned I am not in favour of.) She said she could still hear her parents judging her. We worked hard to tell her, much like in the last e-mail, that if it comes from the heart, then it is just right. A wonderful quote I found says, “Prayer is made up of heart throbs & the righteous yearnings of the soul.” Which is a big relief, because I never feel like I have words adequate enough to express my love & appreciation. But… God can hear it loud & clear, in all its inexpressibility! Whew.
Right before we left, Ario finally gave a prayer. & it was the best– & an amazing privilege to be there after perhaps fifty years of radio silence between her & her Father. As she stood up there, I thought of all her past worries. She’d say, “I’ll talk your ear off, but when I have to speak from the heart in-front of people, I keep thinking about what they might be thinking about me, & it keeps me from speaking.” She seemed afraid to trust, & yet… we have to trust, to do anything. There is no room for such doubts. So, there she was now, realizing now all the love she’d had all along from her crazy, crazy family. “I’m overwhelmed. You all just came up here… &… all of the things you have said… have made me feel… very special.” The Kleenex™ she’d dispensed became her own. That’s what you get for thinking you’re not going to cry. 😉
Recently, I saw Elder Gee! (Refer to da’ beginning of time.) Everyone was playing around, shooting around Nerf bullets, & someone shot him, & said I did it. He looked at me, smiled & put his hand on my shoulder. “No, Sonny would never do that. He’s a pacifist.” A small thing to say, & a small thing to remember, but it made me feel very special. I am very grateful to him, for our perfect first transfer together.
OH!– Oh, & as a final love note (as in, a note about love), the recently-returned Elder Blätter just got engaged. :  ) Maybe it’s time for sommmmeeee companionship prayer? 8D
Got Ario’s baptism down there, along with a sweet companionship Valentine on one of my last doors, the ever-expected muzak (including some Stake Conference goodies described in the prior mass-mail), some art I spotted out in The World, Elder Blätter’s proposal, a sandwich, in-depth pun analysis… & exactly two pictures of my companion, Elder Skelton! *flails excitedly like the skeleton I am* YAAAAY!–
Resending #65’s attachments underneath #66’s… (because I sent it in a perpl-uzzling way)…
The pictures of me & Elder Skelton came from a very nice dinner appointment with the Thorpe family. Their little boy & girl kept roaring & growling like “nions” (lions) & “snorts”, which is a reference to a beautiful little children’s book called Are You My Mother? Reading children’s books when you’re not a child anymore is a very me thing to do. Try it some time, if you haven’t in a while! Do yer’ heart good.
You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)


(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

Y’know what I love? Leftovers. Members in the Tongan North stake sure knew how to generate a plentitude of them… & I feel like every house I went to had enough combined aluminum foil & styrofoam to-go boxes to… I don’t know, make a giant makeshift crime-fighting robot or something. So it is that I must share the LEFTOVAHS of the area. I can’t eat it all by myself, you know. Take some home with you! Take ALL of it home with you!
Odd to think I only JUST moved into a brand-new apartment only to relinquish my ties with the area. Something pretty dramatic happened right before we left, though. On a Saturday night, we were just settling in for a long winter’s nap when there was a knock at the door. Elders are used to knocking, not so much to being on the other end of the door. I looked through the peephole to see a lady & her brother, neither of whom seemed particularly happy. I was honestly expecting a complaint or two. In our previous residence, the missionaries had been a hindrance to the silent senior community. Even walking down the stairs too fast was a sore point. I thought, “We haven’t been THAT bothersome, have we? We’ve helped out these people before… oh, well.” I opened up the door, anyway, ready for a chewin’.
The lady was surprised to see a missionary, which is odd, because we’d met before. Perhaps she’d forgotten which room we were in. She continued, anyway, still staring at my suit, “Are you parking space 106? Is that your car?” We answered, “Yes,” & the lady turned to the door & said, “Oh, no, now I feel bad. They’re towing it away.”
We dashed outside & waved down the tow-truck driver, assuring him we lived here. The man said, “I’m just doing my job, man. We sent out an e-mail last week, everyone has to have a parking permit.” I took a quick look around– barely any of the cars there had these parking permits of which he spoke of. We’d never received such an e-mail, & we’d never been alerted to this urgent need for one. He said in order for us to get our car back without it getting impounded overnight, we’d have to pay an exorbitant amount of money. Before he could finish, I dashed back in for some money, to prove we were serious. When I’d gotten back out, he’d finished the statement, “… pay an exorbitant amount of money… over the phone…” So I probably looked pretty foolish with a fistful of rumpled bills. It was all very silly.
But that was when the lady & her brother butted in & told this man off. “Excuse me, this two gentlemen JUST moved in. You just moved in right? Just about a week ago, right? YEAH, just about a week ago! They’d have no way of knowing about this permit thingy. & I KNOW that you play favourites, mister. You let some of these people go without permits. & see, these people, they WANT to pay you! Look at this kid, he’s got ‘um in his hands! If they knew about the permit, they would’ve gotten it. Just look at them, do these not look like honest men to you? I swear, they’ve been nothing but friendly to us. We see them, they wave, & ask, ‘Oh, how are you doing? Do you need any help carrying any of that?’ Don’t be a hypocrite, it’s not right, help a brother out, they’ll get the thing, just give them their car back.”
After that, the man had no words of rebuttal. He let the car go, & said, “Just get the permit when you can. I’m sorry, fellas, if I knew it was you, I sure wouldn’t have done that. I don’t work tomorrow, & sometimes, there’s another guy. Just put a paper on your dash that says, ‘Hank said we can stay,’ & you should be okay.”
As we thanked the lady & her brother, who we found out were named Brandy & Matthew, she said, “Well, it’s a good thing we were out, huh? We did some good today. Hey, so, we did something for you… could we have a blessing?” Uh… yeah… we do those for free, we’d’ve gladly done it for nothing!
We walked into the apartment hallway, & Brandy said, “We can do it here.” She said she’d been a member & just strayed away, but it must’ve been for a while, because… we just got into a circle & prayed. Which is also a blessing! Just not what I was thinking of. They were extremely grateful for the blessing-prayer, & Brandy said, “You have no clue what that means to us. It’s been a rough beginning of the year, & I don’t think this is coincidence. I’m not normally a person who believes in signs, but… here you are, right? Of all the doors for me to knock on, here’s two of God’s speakers! ‘Cause that’s who you are, right? & we did something good for you, right? This just feels like… good juju. I think we could really use some. Sometimes, I’m, like, ‘HEY, we’ve had ENOUGH bad juju! Is it time for the good stuff yet?!’ This feels like a change.”
I mentioned, “You know, you can pray & ask for blessings whenever. You don’t need us for that, although we love to help.”
She said, “Yeah, I know, I just… I get nervous. I don’t like doing it, it just doesn’t feel right for me to do it.”
I said, “Well, hey, God’s your father. You don’t have to worry, he’s there for you 24/7, just waiting, just for you. He WANTS to hear from you, I know he’s SO happy when you do & really misses you when you don’t.”
We tried to see if they’d like to meet with us more, but they weren’t into it. Brandy said, “That’s not the blessing we’re looking for right now. You’ve given us what we wanted, so thank you, really! Sorry if we ruined your night!” (… You know, part of me wonders if they’d turned us in to get towed & then second-guessed who they were turning in… they kept apologizing…) As we turned to leave, I said, “I was really expecting for you to be mad at us when I saw you at the door! Normally, people tend to be annoyed.” She said, “What?! How could anyone be mad to see you, in a suit like that?”
I suppose that’s a good a way to make an impression on your neighbours before you leave!
I think my favourite encounter of the last week had to do with tracking down a stubborn old curmudgeon. He was someone everyone knew, but no one knew where he lived. Moeaki was his name, & just about everyone in his family is a member. They brought up that his son was in the ward, & we figured he’d know where to find this elusive Moeaki. When we knocked on his door, Moeaki’s son shouted, seemingly from a great distance, “COME IN!!!” So… we did, only to see a rather large happy man in old-fashioned firetruck red onesie PJs with a safety pin secured to his heart. I’d describe his appearance as a mixture of the Giant Baby from Spirited Away &… Frank DeLima (he’s a Hawaiian stand-up). The moment he saw us, he practically jumped for joy (because, of course, he had no clue it was us, but was still inviting us in) & said, “Now THIS is a blessing! What luck! I’m comin’ up, elders, don’t you go nowhere, HAHAHA!!” He proceeded to crawl up the stairs, laughing the whole way. I haven’t mentioned that everyone who talked about him described him as “the man with the two crutches”. I dunno, I think he’s just “the happy man”.
He proceeded to talk about his family, his day, & every few sentences, he’d just stop & say, “But AH’M tellin’ you. AH’M lucky.” Or, “But AH’M tellin’ you. AH’M blessed.” Or, “But AH’M tellin’ you. AH’M pray.” I couldn’t help but grin as this man poured out his heart with such excitement about how he felt God in his life, despite his difficulties. He also passionately endoctrinated us on the need to not be a hypocrite. “THIS is the CHURCH, but the one you do, it not RIGHT. You got to SAY, & DO!! Or else what? Ezzactly. Do good.” We gave him a blessing of health, per his request. Then, when we asked him where Moeaki lived, he jumped up, got his crutches, & proceeded to take himself out the door. He bent all over the way over, as if to touch his toes, then waddled down each individual step, sideways. He made it all look very painless, but I suppose that’s what a cheerful disposition does to you. Also, he was barefoot on gravel. Island style.
He directed us on where to go, all the while TELLIN’ US all kine’ t’ings. When we arrived, Moeaki’s son opened the door straight-up (because, just like every other house here owned by a Tongan, the door is never locked), & Moeaki, bedridden, lying immovable on the couch, was not pleased. He said since we didn’t speak Tongan, we shouldn’t stop by. However, when we played him a song, there was this light in his eyes he couldn’t hide. But the funniest thing of all– on just about every surface in the tiny room he lived in, there were posters of temples & baptisms & prophets. I think there’s something going on that Moeaki doesn’t want to admit. We didn’t see him again… But AH’M tellin’ you. AH’M happy we met him.
There were people who were leaving the area at the same time I was leaving it… like this Tongan-Samoan couple from Alaska! The man’s name was Aukuso Aukuso, & his two-year-old son’s named was Junior. (In other words, also Aukuso Aukuso.) His girlfriend’s name was Leti. We love them dearly. Junior was one of those grabby children– he wouldn’t be satisfied until he’d gotten his hands & mouth on everything in the room, including my glasses. No matter where you put something, he wouldn’t give up. I suppose that sort of attitude can be to your advantage, growing up, because Aukuso & Leti are people determined to do anything for the sake of their family. Aukuso, for example, got a job while he was staying here, being a housing water-damage repairman. Which he had no experience in, or even any interest in. But he went for it, anyway. Being stubborn is a trait in my family– so I can relate, hahaha.
They wanted us around, & often. They said the things we taught them, & putting them into practice, made them feel “amazing”. One time, Aukuso was even worried he’d missed a lesson & that we’d gone on without him! He said he’d been sharing this with his Sudanese co-worker. “He’s going through a tough time, & I just told him what you told me. He said he’s praying, but… I know he’s not. When you do this stuff, & you mean, it can change stuff. Like, when you wanna quit, it’s like the Spirit grabs you, sometimes, & then you suddenly can keep going.” Hilariously enough, Leti, who’s a member (sorta-kinda, y’know), was completely convinced that only 8-year-olds were baptized. Exclusively. So when we asked if Aukuso wanted to be, Leti made a face & said, “I mean, he’s in his twenties. Isn’t he kind of old to be baptized?” I flailed my arms & said, “We’re baptizing an 80-year-old in March!” Leti’s jaw dropped. They asked us to come early in the morning a couple times, so they could “have a good start to the day”, & even when it was a late-night appointment, & Junior had obviously taken his toll on them, they were ever gracious.
We even had a chance to go to visit around the Salt Lake Temple together. Aukuso’s uncle pointed out the portrait of the most-recent president of the church, & said, “I’ve known this man a long time. He set me apart to my next calling after I’d served my mission. I saw him just a few months ago, & he still remembered me!” Aukuso & Leti were more interested in trying to touch all the paintings & sculptures, & even tried to break a leaf off a potted plant to see if it was fake or not. When parents become their children.
We showed them a little video there about the importance of families, & the idea that they can be eternal, through the power of God. Afterwards, I asked Aukuso how it’d felt to be around the temple. He said, “I can’t even describe it. It’s really different, & really good. I’m sad to leave it & go back to everything else, y’know? & that video… I mean, it’s the truth, sir. Family is what it’s all about.” He held up Junior & looked at him. “This is what it’s about. God sends children… God sent him so that we could all learn what love is. & I gotta do anything I can to have a good family, so that when our children get married & have families of their own, they’ll know what a good family is.” I asked if they would work towards getting married, so they could have the blessings that come with making that kind of promise with God… because goodness knows relationships are difficult as it is. We need as much help as we can get to keep them going strong…
Aukuso & Leti looked at each other & said, together, that they’d finally start planning.
As we left, I looked back at the rooms where the family video was playing & remembered the last time I’d seen it, I’d been with my whole family.
… *sniff*…
Anyway, in following this streak of strange blessings, on Junior’s second birthday, we gave him a “birthday blessing”. Which, once again, was… just a prayer, really. Hey, I’ve heard of people doing pet blessings. We do what we can, haha.
I wasn’t able to make it, but Kaya & Kayden Stokes were able to be baptized. (See the old attachment in Mass-mail #44 as a refresher.) Funnily enough, Elder ‘Ita & Elder Boccazzi were there! Elder ‘Ita said that, somehow, everyone in the family remembered his name, without looking at his tag, & remembered MY name, without me even BEING there. We both told each other that we were certain they’d forget us by now, but… as Elder ‘Ita put it to me, “That’s how you KNOW they really care.” He also mentioned that their dad was crying the whole time. That’s a real man.
In our last weekend, we attended our Stake Conference, & got called to stand up multiple times. The speaker said, “Look at those poor missionaries! Look at how skinny they are!” I felt like I was being called out by my Aunty Dorothy, hahaha, “TOO SKEENEE!!” If only they knew the limitless bounds of my appetite. We also got gussied up for the event! Ever since entering the area, I had a goal to wear a tupenu & a ta’ulava at least once. Just a few days before it all went down, we’d gone on a whim to see a lady in Magna. The address turned out to be wrong, so we just asked around for the nearest Poly, & everyone knew her. & you know why? Because POLYS ARE GOOD NEIGHBOURS, THAT’S why. & AH’M tellin’ you, AH’M grateful for that.
This door was another case of, “COME IN!!!” followed by excited screams & an immediate command to make ourselves comfortable. This lady, Sister ‘Epenisa, began to talk with us, &… somehow, I mentioned Tongan wear, & before I could finish talking, she said, “You want to wear tupenu?” I nodded, not realizing she would end up taking us out shopping the next day. I had forgotten where I was serving. The cashier at the Hawaiian Hut said, “You boys better wear whatever the widow’s buying for you.” I said, “Oh, yes, ma’am.” Also, tupenus are oh, so comfortable, & if you wear them with a suit, it kind of looks like you’re wearing a trenchcoat. Don’t need to force me into one. (Still trying to figure out when it’s appropriate to wear here in normal non-Tongan Magna… hm.)
At the conference, a big group of male leadership sang, with bass to soprano in there. No men would be brave enough to do that anywhere else in Utah. Watching them reminded me of my previous choir antics… on one of these arrangements, there was a steady crescendo up to a FOUR-FORTE VOLUME (ffff). Which I would think was impossible, but oh, no, not here. I shall keep my ears pealed for the prophesied five-forte sound. The speaker prefaced his talk by saying, “This must be the best-sounding high council in the church.” Another speaker, a music teacher, said, “This sound makes me think a bit of The Great Conductor– that’s how I like to think about God.” She raised her hands, lyrically, “He’s there, to lift & raise you… saying… little louder… give it some strength… soften your pride… leading us, together.”
I like the sound of that!
Below are some fashion pix, a drawing I did of Aukuso, Junior, & Leti, some musical numbers (The last number was sent over Facebook to try to set up a lesson with a man we could never seem to find. We finally introduced ourselves in the last week!), the Stokes’ baptism, & even a picture of our car’s redemption! There’s even a screenshot of our elderly Ward Mission Leader (father of the Moleni Brothers) accidentally video-calling us. I don’t know why that picture makes me so happy. But AH’M tellin’ you…
While finishing up my leftovers, one of the funniest stories about food here: I’ve learned that, no matter what, I have to feel at LEAST 25% hungry after every meal, so I can be ready for… whatever spontaneous feeding goes on throughout the day. You never know when unexpected food will spring out at you & catch you unawares. A lady cooked us what I would certainly call a three-course meal… & then, instead of bringing out the dessert I was preparing myself for, she pulled out… a PERFECTLY COOKED TURKEY. This was after dinner was over, mind you. In trying to dissect the Tongan psyche, they seem to be unable to say enough is enough. Only when you have made EVERYTHING that you can image can it be even close to enough. Hence the apologies & the last-minute fourth-courses. & hence the unabating string of buffets. Because buffets are just about as close to “everything” as you can get.
Also, this is why I write so much to you. This is my buffet of loving words. Yum-yum-eat-‘um-up.
You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)