Archive for the 'operationValidation' Category

10
Aug
17

elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_massemail.part038

(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!)

 
If your name is not Demitrius, pay this no mind. If your name is Demitrius: Demitrius! Remember when you played “Belle” by Jack Johnson for us? One of the elders, Elder Holladay, is a huge fan of him– he even told me today he wants “Constellations” to be his wedding song, which I find to be crazy-sentimental. & I am crazy-sentimental. We had In-Between Dreams playing as we hiked, & the first video attachment down at the bottom is us jammin’ to it while in the Mount.
The rest is aimed towards a more general audience of the mass-mail listing whose name is not Demitrius. If you’d like to continue to pretend that is your name, feel free– it IS one of the raddest names that has ever been conceived. Today, half our district chickened out about hiking Deseret Peak. But when I say I’m gonna do somethin’… anyone noticing a trend?… The majority of the attachments below are recorded remnants related to the past three hikes. A delightful trilogy of trials. (Please do not make it a quadrilogy. Only Toy Story can do that.) Quite the miracle that I survived this last time, since I’ve been a total sickie all the live-long week. I hope that builds character or something comparably grown-up.
I was asked by the sister missionary trio to accompany them on the ‘ukulele at a baptism. (Dat ees’ the third attachment listed!) I agreed, & we only had one practice together– with an emergency key-shift from the sheet music they gave me. Thirty-eight mails ago, doing such a thing on the fly would be unfeasible, but… hey, all the grief my ‘ukulele has given me at the least opportune times has really built some music muscles. — I mean, even one minute before we burst into the baptism, I was STILL trying to re-tune. (I think my sinuses have made my musicality a little confused.) Oh, & we were almost half-an-hour late. Only twenty seconds after we sheepishly sat in the back, the sisters called me up.
I hadn’t even had the time to look around. It crossed my mind that I hadn’t asked whose baptism it was. As I looked up in the middle of the second verse, I noticed a particular girl in the audience beaming back at me. Anyone happen to remember the three girls I taught in Tooele, with the fantastic names? From oldest to youngest, they were Hope, Faith, & Charity. (& Faith was hiding, ‘member?!) Since I’ve been away, Hope has been meeting with many a missionary– & even though her family has basically refused to go to church, Hope has faithfully (er– HOPEfully? Full of hope?) walking to church every week by herself. She’s even invited all her friends, bouncing around (she’s always hopping & bopping) & telling them, “It’s awesome!” One week, when people were all walking up to bare their testimony, she asked her missionaries who were sitting with her, “Is it scary to go up there?” The missionaries said, “Well, a little bit, but it also feels really great! Do you want us to go up with you?” She shook out her jitters & set her sights, & whispered excitedly, “Yeah, I’m ready, I want to do this.”
I guess it was that kind of resolve that led to that day. It blows my mind how one small person– I mean, we’re ALL small– can make such a big difference to so many people. The room was packed, & everyone in attendance had something in their eye. & it all filled me with hope, for Hope, & for families coming together. We may all be small, but we’re also ALL family. & we remember that & reach out, as we should, it can change every thing.
While we’re talkin’ about family– there’s this delightful family called the Deroses. & they’ve treated us like family. Both Elder Forsyth & I were invited to come back any time after our mission, & that we’d always have a place to stay. & that place would be… … really nice. If it helps you imagine how nice their house is, the entire lane belongs to them. (Technically, it’s not a LANE, it’s a LAYN. Because that’s Brother Deros’ first name. Must be the only layn in the entire World.) They also have a gorgeous room in the front hallway with the comfiest, stateliest chairs & a crystal chandelier overhead. Sister Deros calls it her “mini-Celestial room,” & has invited us to have any of our lessons in that room. When we had dinner there together, their son Andy asked us for a blessing to help him to pass his driver’s test. Andy’s a little older than me, is very bright, but has some difficulties with simple things. Hey– kept trying to get my license before I left, & it just was not happenin’, so Andy’s plight was rather poignant & personal for me.
Happy ending: After the blessing, Andy got his license, no trouble, & now he can sit back & focus on his culinary arts… (I love how he just walks casually around the house with an apron like he’s low-key Emerill.) his family history! We felt like stopping by a few days ago, & he asked if either of us knew anything about how to work family history on-line, & so I was his personal typist assistant as Elder ‘Ita got the grand tour ’round the premises. (He had no idea what he was in for.) I also ended up being Andy’s IT guy. Because… his computer was very not good at computing. (I organized all the gramma[r] wrong on purpose, Gramma Sonomura.) As each second passed by, more of his disk space was being eaten up by this virus that didn’t allow him to delete any of the space being filled up with the technological equivalent of empty calories. (This is actually the second time I’ve done troubleshooting on my mission. Hey, I’d better be using ALL my talents, ey?) So even though the Internet infection was fighting against us finishing Andy’s family work, we pushed onward valiantly, & Andy can go to the temple for the first time to be baptized on behalf of his ancestors. Our Determination was no match for this double-fake-virus-protection-update search-engine-changing leviathan!
This week has been all about people leaving– leaving isn’t a bad thing. Leaving is hard, because change is hard, but change is essential & important. I’ll talk about the rest of the departures when such events are… … not still underway, but let’s just talk a little bit about a very important missionary in Salt Lake City called Elder Curtis. I met him in my first area, & I immediately felt a deep love for him. He’s a service missionary, which means that he’s actually serving from home, doesn’t have a companion (he’s too effective by himself, anyone else would detract from him), & doesn’t do any of the ordinary missionary work… because he’s not an ordinary missionary. When I first met him, I felt like he wasn’t being included in anything, & that most people who heard him speak weren’t really putting in the effort to understand him. He spends most of his time reading & writing. His notes are very neat, but very dense– a tight tapestry of text. When Elder Curtis writes anything, there are never any empty spaces. Similarly, I think that’s what his mind looks like. When he speaks, there are fifteen different sentences fighting to exit first. All of them are VERY good thoughts, but one has to hold on tight to the rollercoaster ride that is an Elder Curtis testimony. Or else you will get left behind.
When I was little, my classmates would ask me why I was always talking to myself. I said because I needed someone to talk to who understood. Elder Curtis talks to himself a lot– I’ve even heard him argue with himself on occasion. He normally speaks with the light, demure voice of a socially withheld child prodigy, but whenever he is conflicted or confused inside, he has another voice that talks back– the voice of a frustrated adult. Once, he was bent over in his seat, telling himself mean things, & I felt the need to interrupt his quarrel. I told him, “Elder Curtis, hey, if you’re ever getting frustrated with yourself about complicated stuff, just remember the simple stuff. You’re really smart, & I know it’s easy to get mad at yourself, but you have to be patient with yourself, too. You don’t have to be perfect, or have all the answers, nobody does.” He nodded, & as I left, he stood up & said, “Well, thank you so very much for taking to ask me that!” If you can interpret that, congratulations, you can read Curtis! :  ) I think I was born to read Curtis.
 
Warning: talking about religion!
In the temple, you can write down names for people who need prayers on their behalf. Among a couple others, I asked my mOm to write Elder Curtis’ name down. Elder Curtis is one-of-a-kind, & even if no one else entirely gets the World he has to live in, I know that Heavenly Father does.
The last time I saw him is… probably going to be the last time I see him! He’s served a full 24-month mission, save it be this final week up ahead. I heard him cheerfully picking food for himself, telling himself, “I know you love these– but, don’t forget, only two. Pick only two. Very good!” When he raised his hand in that meeting, he spoke about the power of “integrity”– & our mission president’s wife, shortly afterwards, said she’d felt prompted to speak about integrity. She asked each of us, “Now who was just talking about integrity?” All around the room resounded, “Elder Curtis.” She said, “Elder Curtis listens SO strongly to the Spirit– & he follows it when he speaks. Elder Curtis, you are an Angel.” She paused to swallow back tears, & said, “He really is. & you are welcome here, any time, Elder Curtis.”
Elder Curtis bore his testimony to each of us– he said, “We are so thankful to do this now, because it’s the Salt Lake City West, & it is so important, always, testifying, for the having faith unto repentance, for the baptism of water & of the Spirit for the remission of all Sins, to fulfill all righteous & receiving of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, &… enduring to the end, together, &… we all love you so much, & to serving you.”
Done, thanks for understanding!
Elder ‘Ita & I fasted together last week, voluntarily. It was his decision to fast, but hey– companionship solidarity. Gotta stick together in all o’ this. This past Sunday, we fasted again, & we bore our testimonies in all three church meetings we attended. Once again, this was Elder ‘Ita’s idea, but– once again, companionship solidarity. I’d probably end up sharing SOMEthing in every meeting– that IS what it was like back home, when I made decisions by myself… but as missionary companions, I think it’s important that we make such choices together. I encourage my companions, but if they don’t want to, it’s probably just as well. The decision to get up in-front of strangers & talk about things that mean an awful lot to you should definitely come from within. This was our first Sunday together that we’d been given the chance to share testimonies in church, & I wasn’t sure how Elder ‘Ita would feel about it.
I was delighted when he was the second person to stand up, & I gladly followed him up the stage. The second time he bore his testimony, he cried as he ended. He started to walk off the stage, but I ran after him & gave him a big hug. On our way home from our three services, we ran into a group of Young Single Adults having a little Family Home Evening together. One of our senior-couple missionaries (should we call them elder Elders?) was heading the discussion, & asked us if we could share the things we shared in church. We ended up doing so, by sunset’s fading light, over building wind, while wrapping up playing chalk Pictionary with them in the parking lot. Four testimonies in a single Sun-day has to be some kind of record.
What I didn’t realize until later was that Elder ‘Ita had no desire to speak in-front of people that day. But he’d said in prayer at the beginning of church that if anyone mentioned that we were in church that day & “called us out” that he would delay no time to go up. In all three meetings, this happened. The first two times, it was right near the start that those presiding would gesture to us & state with fanfare, “We’d like to recognize the missionaries for being here today– they tried to sneak in there in the back, but… can’t get past us.” The third time, Elder ‘Ita almost thought he’d gotten a break, until a lady, through tears, thanked the missionaries for their diligence & for serving with the Love of God, every day. So… was telling Elder ‘Ita how relieved I was that he was the type who’d be willing to… when he was fighting against his own willingness the whole time– being “called out“. He started each testimony by first thanking his Heavenly Father for blessing him– straightway correcting his lack of outward gratitude.
& I can see why it was THAT important that Elder ‘Ita share his testimony that much. I told him, as we drove home that day, that I knew that, doubtless, he’d been given a powerful testimony for a reason. A few times, he’s felt compelled to override our original lesson plans to share his story for how he ended up out here. Every time he does, he apologizes for talking too much, but– for SERIOUS, don’t you dare apologize for sharing your Love, ever. Every person who hears him is hanging on his ev’ry word, & it has been clear how dearly they’ve needed to hear him, in all his honesty & humility. Nothing could compare or replace what he has (or You have) been given, & giving that freely in turn is, I think, rather mandatory.
We had a surprise testimony from someone we love— Dan– he’s Brother Christensen’s son. He’s the same age as me (but looks like Chris Evans), always had a strong testimony, but lost faith as a teenager. Only the week before, we’d had a little pick-me-up lesson with Brother Christensen concerning self-worth, & seeing yourself the way that God does. He told us, “All I’ve ever been good for is work. I’m a smoker, so that means I really am a second-rate person.” Elder ‘Ita & I adamantly denied this, saying, “There aren’t second-rate people. Our decisions do not decide our worth– people exist, but losers, jerks… & smokers do not exist.” Dan hovered over us as we struggled to reach his step-dad. I asked him, “Your dad isn’t just good for work, right?” Dan said, quietly, “Well, he never had to be my dad, but he chose to. & he’s been an amazing dad, & an amazing man that I look up to. So no, he’s not just good for work.” Brother Christensen came into Dan’s life only months before he was born, & has always called Dan HIS son, with such conviction. He always puts himself down, & raises up his kids, saying they “have infinite worth”. I know Bro Christensen didn’t get that from his own father, but… he has another Father who thinks he’s “of infinite worth”.
But– yes– surprise Dan “Chris Evans” Christensen Chris-timony. Dan was there in one of the meetings we were at, & the moment we sat back down after sharing, Dan stood up. Apparently, as a kid, he’d never pass up an opportunity, but hadn’t done so in over a decade now.
Dan said, “It’s been a long time since I’ve tried to do this. Anyone who’s known me throughout the years has known that I’ve always wanted to be an actor. But, really, what I’ve always wanted, more than anything… is to have a family. & I haven’t been doing much to deserve that, recently. But, I’m trying… because I know that two most important things that God blesses us with is Life, & our Family. & I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
I was a total tissueless mess– I had to hug him afterwards & tell him that all I’ve ever really wanted was a family of my own, too. He chuckled & said, “Hey, that’s what it’s all about, right? Family’s so important that it’s a COMMANDMENT.” To reiterate an older mail, “duh“.
To conclude, this is something I’ve wanted to share for months, & I feel like this week’s proliferation of fasting & testimonies means it’s time. Anyone remember that picture I shared of a boy holding a gorgeous plywood sword, in reference to a certain game I love? That boy’s part of a remarkable family in Hunter– the Farnworths. Once, we felt prompted to stop by near the end of the night, & they immediately welcomed us warmly & began to play piano & drums for us– & showing off their Rubick’s cube skills, their art skills, their… computer-hacking skilllsss… so many skills. Their eldest son is currently serving a mission, & the moment he left, his mother got sick. Like, really sick. All of the most terrifying illnesses you can think of– they ganged up on her, mercilessly. It’s been a serious trial on the entire family, & yet, together, they’ve made it through. It’s bizarre– you’d never know how sick Sister Farnworth was, if you were to see the way she carries herself. She’s a serious beacon of light. It’s been so hard for her to make it to church, sometimes, but we saw her once, & we asked her how she was doing, & she said, with real joy, “Yesterday, it felt like I had five knives stuck in my back. Today’s a good day! I only feel like I have three knives! I’m SO happy that I was healthy enough to finally come today– I really needed it.”
The night I learned I’d be plopped off at my current abode in Grantsville, our dinner fell through. The Farnworths had us over in a heartbeat. They’re one of those golden families that says, “Anytime, we will ALWAYS have you over,” & means it. Sister Farnworth was, sadly, in for a routine inspection & procedure. When we asked if we could share a little message, they did something I wasn’t expecting– they got Sister Farnworth on speaker phone, from in the hospital. I shared my message– & no matter what, I always end up gushing about my family– it’s just inevitable. & when I share it with families that give me a little taste of my own (*gestures madly at the Farnworths*), you better believe there’s a lot of love circulatin’. Elder Coco, Elder Blätter & I sang Families Can Be Together Forever, & the silence on the phone, followed by a “Thank you so much, elders,” stirred a strength & resolve in me I cannot deny.
Besides the things already mentioned, I’m sharing some photos from the Farnworth’s wedding. I think my mOm & dad will love them most of all– they’re very… them. My parents went out on dates in tuxes. Now you know where I get my style. :  ) … Happy belated anniversary to my pArents, by the way! 8D
You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)
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10
Aug
17

elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_massemail.part037

(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!)

Mmm, nothing quite like having three of your paragraphs delete themselves. The trademark™ Sonomura electricity strikes again.
During Elder Forsyth’s last week, it stormed an awful lot (I even got some rather impressive lightning bolts on camera) & then, on our last day, as we headed to our fish fry, our electricity went out for a moment, & we even noticed a pillar of smoke rising from the mountains. Thankfully, we were far from the first people to notice it, & the Volunteer Fire Department was on the way. However, we both thought it was rather strange that all this natural calamity would all occur around his departure. I couldn’t help but sing, “I’ve seen fire & I’ve seen rain…” under my breath as we cleaned the house. Elder Forsyth happens to know & appreciate that song! We didn’t agree on very much music, but that’s a great song to leave off on. I’m attaching the last photo/videographic evidence of him I’ve collected in the annals of my drive. This includes proof that we are very, very loosely related. If you ever want to instantaneously know how you & anyone around you are related, you should all sign up for free on FamilyTree & use the Relatives Around Me feature. It is a little too much fun. It also confirms the phrase, “Friends are family.”
Not quite family history here, but Brother Kluge is a lover of & dabbler in world languages (he DID serve a mission in South America, after all), & he likes to call me Elder Sono. In Italian, Sono actually means “I Am”. Rather profound, I think, that our last name proclaims of existing. Also, after we’d spent the morning helping out their kids with some neighborhood fencing, they happened to stop by with a truckbed full of flowers. We hopped straight from that service opportunity to the Kluge household to mix in richer soil & help plant a delightfully rich variety of foliage. Sister Kluge procured a profuse plethora of perrennials, & might I add, she is just at good at picking plants as she is picking colours! I even learned how to get plants out of their pots by gently pushing down on the sides & shaking, instead of pulling it by the stem or some other barbaric nonsense.
Also, even though Sister Kluge doesn’t want anyone in her ward to know (you won’t tell, right?), she actually replaced the dull, unflattering floral arrangement with her own captivating, vibrant flowers. She said that no one seemed to point it out, but bet that everybody felt a difference, even if they couldn’t specifically pinpoint what it is was making things feel so nice. I’m pretty sure this is far from unusual for the Kluges. Why, just the week prior, when we stopped by, there was a battered, tattered American flag on their kitchen table. When we asked the story behind it, Brother Kluge explained that they’d passed this particular scrap of cloth limping unceremoniously in the wind, & felt like it was disgraceful. Eventually, they built up the courage to approach the owner about having a proper burning for it. In a time where emblems of virtue stand for less & less, it really made me happy that someone cared.
Before we went into Gardening Mode, we finally played a hymn on the McNally™ Strumstick for the Kluges! (I DID promise, after all.) In the process, I tilted the Strumstick at just the right angle to see farther into the soundboard, & was able to confirm the manufacturing date to be July 20, 2000. So– not quite the 1980s, as we’d previously surmised, teehee. It’s the first two bits attached at the bottom, & you get to hear the poi’fect voice of Elder ‘Ita. (Who somehow kept in perfect sychronicity with me through each unexpected pause & tempo shift. The man is fast on the up-take. Expect musical marvels.) On the subject of muzaks, I bumped into a young man on his way to catch a plane, & he just so happened to have sent in his own mission papers a week prior. After we talked, I was asked to take his family photo, which I find to be truly poetic. I had no clue he was a missionary, at first– I just felt the need to compliment him on his gorgeous ‘ukulele & DSLR camera (Never leave home without either.), then the rest of the information followed as I shared my own musical & artsy-fartsy endeavours.
[– Side-note to people around me: I am terrified of engaging with anybody, even though I would love to say “Hi.” If you have something nifty on your person for me to point out as an opener, it makes things much less stressful for me. Please & thank you.
Sincerely,
Introvert-in-Transition]
The young missionary-to-be was named Seth Lawrence, & he was on his way to provide humanitarian aid (& certainly a song or two) in Samoa. What a dedicated way to use your wait. I was able to share how I was able to share love through my own talents & passions, & made sure to stress that he would be able to do the same, no matter what. There really are some things only YOU can do for some one. I believe that with all of my heart, about every person. & every person who’s reading this.
We might’ve low-key ruined someone’s day. Domino’s Pizza is free for missionaries, but I haven’t wanted to eat there, like, ever. For whatever reason, it doesn’t taste good to me here– I’d much rather have Little Caesar’s now-uh-days. Perhaps it’s because one of my best friends is currently driving for Little Caesar’s in California? Friends makes food taste good. Elder ‘Ita felt like some Domino’s, though, so we headed in for the first time. A sullen, somber-lookin’ dude was the lone employee in this miniscule establishment– well, every shop is small in Grantsville– & he was unaware of this discount. (Kind of a discount miscount, ey?) He looked around for any special procedures that might’ve been left behind, & before we could say, “We can come back later, if it’s too much trouble,” he slammed the register & cancelled our price. He raised both his arms flippantly & grunted, “Whatever, it doesn’t matter, I’m quitting in two days, anyway.” I tried to stutter out, “So sorry for the inconvenience,” but he wouldn’t let us talk with him no mores. :  ( I felt terrible, & I also wondered if this is why the pizza had been tasting so bad. Certainly no friendliness in the food– but I’ve heard everyone who works at this Domino’s is miserable. So the only thing I could think to do as a sort of apology was to draw a picture of him & Elder ‘Ita on the chalk wall. I hope, at the very least, it made it more pleasant for him to quit?
We had a quick chat with a family that was playing outside in the middle of a thunderstorm. (Das’ some serious dedication to fun.) The father had been raised with the same kind of faith as us, but had never felt it for himself to be true or at all important, until his wife had her own change of heart & helped him to see just how integral & necessary these simple things he’d taken for granted were. They practice another Christian religion (he said, “We do our own thing now.”), but the father quoted a hymn from our church to us: “I’ll never forget it & I’ll always be grateful that I know it. ‘Kindly, heaven smiles above, when there’s Love at Home.‘” We played it for him in the midst of this gristly storm in their backyard. The kids stopped to listen. The father hugged us.
Warning: talking about religion!
 
We’d been praying fervently that week to find this particular family from last paragraph. We’ve been praying a lot, in-fact. We do that a lot as missionaries, as a general statement, but the only thing I can really think to do, as a Senior Companion, is to stress prayer more. & more-er. & more-er-er. Every time we leave, we pray. Every time we come back, we pray. Every time we have no clue what it is we’re supposed to do, you better believe we pray. Prayer is everything for me, & has been from a very early age. I can’t do anything without it– it’s the most amazing blessing in the World to me, that because of Jesus Christ being the perfect middle-man linking imperfection tightly to perfection, every single person can talk with the One who made & loves us all… like, all the time, without exception? I can’t think of much bigger– & it’s my first step to Everything. The moment I pray & hand over all my concerns & fears to Him, it’s then that He makes miracles happen, through me. & through You. There is peace beyond all else in that unseverable connection– a 24/7 hotline to our ever-present, ever-mindful Heavenly Father. … So, yes. Prayer is the only way I’m makin’ it through, & I know it.
 
Done, thank you for your understanding!
There’s a family called the Joneses we’ve been trying to meet with since just about since I got into the area, just about every week. & without fail, every week, it’d fall through. I was getting so used to only seeing their front hallway that I started to second-guess whether the rest of the house actually existed. & yet, everyone who’s experienced this hasn’t felt prompted to stop coming over. We all had the feeling that, as soon as we got in the front door, amazing things would happen. Brother Jones (who was really all we ever saw) seemed totally sincere, however improbable the continued rescheduling might’ve seemed. On Friday, we were asked to reschedule for Saturday. The text read, “I promise you it will work this time, even if the rest of my family can’t be there, we’ve gotta do this. Unless it’s the Second Coming. I have no control over that.”
We fit them into Saturday, even though that meant having to find emergency companions to come with us so we could be in two places at once. It barely worked out– we’d asked Chad first (the one who went to the temple with us, remember?), & he was going through a very stressful day at work & dealing with general sick-ishness. So I asked two other people– the second agreed, then an hour before, he called to cancel. I’d already told Chad to rest easy, but I asked him again. He agreed, & got to our meetingplace a whole 10 minutes before he needed to.
Also an hour before, though, Brother Jones called us not to cancel, but to alert us to the fact that his fridge had sprung a leak, & his wife had a migraine. Only to let us know. Not necessarily to cancel. However inevitable that was becoming. But us Sonomuras are pret-ty stubborn. (Right?) So I stuck with it. We knocked on the door, Brother Jones answered enthusiastically, & I asked, “Can we… come in?” & suddenly, it was confirmed that there was, indeed, a living room. HALLELUJAH. Brother & Sister Jones are both heavily into music– Sister Jones is often asked to sing at weddings & funerals & is currently speedily recovering from a throat surgery, Brother Jones loves the guitar & the banjo– which might’ve kept us coming over, too. (Brother Jones said, “We’ve gotta get you in here with your uke!! Let’s jam!”) Their daughter Reese asked Brother Jones is he could baptize her, back when she was 8. He has a smoking problem, which has kept him from doing so. He told us, personally, afterwards, that he knows he should quit for himself, but right now, he knows he’s at least strong enough to quit for her. I know, for sure, that family is a strong driving force of change. Amazing! (Amazing!! [Amazing!!!])
We had another emergency Split this week, when I had promised to make it to our brother’s first time in the Addiction Recovery Program. (It’s like Alcoholics Anonymous, except for every kind of problem.) He had successfully gotten through the full week of refraining from chewing tobacco, & he had so many people praying on his behalf the whole time. (Not the least of which was us. Elder Forsyth, now in Kearns, was cheering over chat, saying, “This has been such an answer to my prayers!”) There was lots going on that night, so my scheduling skills were put on serious trial. But when I promise something, it happens. One of our Ward Mission Leaders told us that week that if there was any time we needed him to ask. So I immediately asked if he could go with me to the Recovery Program. He was slightly taken aback (so quick!), but he agreed. Then, to go with Elder ‘Ita, we had to call someone at the very hour he was supposed to make it to the lesson. He responded, “Sure, I’ll be there. Just let me put on my pants.”
There’s a disclaimer in the program not to disclose things, so I’ll just say that I cried when I bared my testimony, the Ward Mission Leader said how grateful he was to have been asked to tag along, & someone I met the first week of my mission (& whom I love dearly) made a surprise cameo. Love o’erflowed. & it was all part of one ginorigugantiant gift-wrapped miracle squeezed tight into the week.
Now, let’s get silly: I have now met an elder who knows what Tally Hall is. It was BARELY– just VERY BARELY enough to qualify he knew. I don’t know how, but somehow, this Elder Dalton character knew the lyrics to the Englishman rap section in the song Welcome to Tally Hall without even knowing that Tally Hall members all unintentionally dress up like missionaries. Isn’t that wild? As someone whose prospective careers revolve around the creative arts, this all means more to me than it would to the normal consumer of media. Art isn’t just a part of my life– it IS my life. So when I meet someone who’s even vaguely aware of the things that seem to so easily pass under the radar of the common consciousness, it’s like they kind of confirm– validate, might I add?– my own existence. I’d been telling myself this whole time, “If I find just ONE missionary who knows what Tally Hall is… well, for one thing, we can wear cool coloured ties together & no one else will see what it is we’re doing– but also, like, WHAT ARE THE ODDS? That’d just make me feel a completely rekindled sense of purpose.” & so it has.
It may seem silly, but I’ve kept these things close to my heart. Elder Wilcox knew the band VULFpeck (we belted out their nonsense lyrics quite often, “Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, F-rank Sinatra…”), Elder Holladay & Elder Lester knew the comedian Julian Smith (we’d all put on our best impression of his Jeffery voice), Marlee (one of our 14-year-old fellowshippers for Dakota) knew the game Undertale (she even drew me a fabulous picture of one of the characters), the children of one of our bishops knew the comedy group Harvard Sailing Team (& all took turns pretending to pass lotion around the room), Tristan from the Allen’s Family Home Evenings fully memorized the “It’s Just a Ride” piece by Bill Hicks, the children of one of our Ward Mission Leaders knew who Pajama Sam was (they spotted that I’d drawn him all eensy-weensy in the corner of a sketch sheet of mine)… I know, I know, you’re asking, “Elder Sonomura, what are these things, & why do they matter?” In short, they matter to me. The little things matter, & these are those blesséd little things. When your mind is a cornucopia of trivia, & you’ve been conditioned to know no one will “get it”, you take what you can get.
Speaking of taking what I can get, any moment in a day that reminds me keenly of my family is my medicine of choice. Really simple things: once, I was driving in a car with the family of that one boy named Riker– we were going to a “Mr. Tooele” pageant. It was a gas. But, the actual event of being in that car with Elder Gee, in the backseat, was pretty special, of itself. It felt naggingly familiar. I finally realized: we were driving around in practically the same model of car we have back home. I’m sitting where I’d normally be sitting on my many family excursions, & I’d normally be sitting next to Rey’, & instead, I’m sitting next to Elder Gee. BUT– Elder Gee is roughly the same age as Rey’ (no offense, Elder Gee, but you’re nowhere near as swaggy as Rey’), & Riker’s older sister is roughly the same age as Nova, & Riker’s oldest sister is roughly the same age as Sara. & for a few moments, I felt oddly comfortable.
Or, once, while on Splits with a Ward Mission Leader, I ended up in a very sweet Family Home Evening for a family that was so Hawaiian that I actually went to school with their cousin. The actual lesson reminded me of something my family would’ve done back home, since it was being presented by one of the kids. She’d cut out a whole bunch of little pictures of cartoon sheep, & talked about helping “lost sheep”– people who might feel out of place or like they don’t belong– & being kind to them & helping them to know they are loved. For the first & only time thus far, this family played ‘ukulele back AT ME, then proceeded to give me a glass of homemade kombucha (which was a great help, since I felt sick at the time), & some steak fajitas. The kombucha made me think of all the miraculous ways my mOm keeps me well back home, &… the way that Utahns prepare steak is SO different from the local Hawaiian way. I finally got something more akin to what my masterchef Dad whips up every night.
Not only that, but I get rather regular nightly visits from my family! My dreams have always tended to be the necessary respite I need from whatever is around me daily. It’s rather hilarious– despite the fact that I’m back in Hawai’i, the context is that I’m still a missionary– I just happen to have gotten some special permission to spend a day flying back home to prepare myself from the week ahead. (That’d be quite the Preparation Day, no?) I get to laugh & sing & talk with my fambly, then wake up refreshed for whatever else is in store. It’s like a mental mini-vacation. &– I hope this doesn’t embarrass Rey’ too much, but a few nights ago, I dreamt I woke up in my own bed back home. I felt someone’s arms wrap around me tight– & it just so happened to be Rey’. Then, slowly, I came back to Real Life™, but that feeling of that hug just stayed with me, anyway. That’s how close the love of my family is for me, daily. Thank goodness, ’cause I need ‘um, dearly.
You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)
10
Aug
17

elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_massemail.part036

(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 am pleased to say that everything should be back to Norman by next week. :  ) Gracias por su paciencia. … Well, except for the fact that my district wants to hike up to the top of the mountain, since everyone ELSE didn’t do that part.
 
But I think that’ll happen later.
 
I think. I hope.
 
There’s been quite a bit of maintenance going on around here– I got a little vial of magical Gorilla Glue (New formula! New foam! Dries clear! … I swear, my mass-mails are secretly being sponsored by at least five different products by this point…) & fixed up the binding of my scriptures (which Gramma Sonomura gave me fifteen years ago. Not a bad track record.), repaired a tie, & reinserted the sole into my left tennis shoe. It’s currently getting a re-reinsertion, pressed flat underneath my rice cooker. What? It works. Also, in a little bit here, I’m going to have to fix something else I broke. Uh, see, our house has a lot of other tenants… none of them human. & I was getting fed up with all the flies disturbing my morning serenity, & I armed myself with my mOm’s spray bottle & cornered each. I am pleased to say I was victorious, but… … I didn’t take into account that our blinds in that room are… made out of a material akin to paper towel? &… I kept spraying this one fly, then ever so lightly smacked the blinds with the nozzle. It ripped all the way down. Such was my casualty of war. Heavily ashamed.
 
A while ago, by one of Elder Forsyth’s favorite fishing spots, there just so happened to be a perfectly good tablet charging cable. If anyone’s wondering, the dorky sunglasses I was wearing while hiking were found out in the open, too. Blessings. & what do you do when you’re blessed? You share. So, Elder ‘Ita just so happened to need that kind of cable, so I was able to pull it outta nothin’– similarly, my mOm had packed me with an extra tablet protective case. Both work perfectly. Elder ‘Ita’s response was priceless as I walked up behind him & dropped them into his hands. “Wait, wuuut?!” Actually, due to funny circumstances, mOm’s provided TWO protective tempered glass screens for other missionaries in dire need! — Er, their names are Elder Hall & Elder Rebarchik, mOm. If you ever happen to run into them one day & need a favour. 😛 Us missionaries need all the help we can get keeping our stuff safe. Why, just this past week, our neighboring missionaries (not really, they live 30 minutes away) had their bikes stolen! But– Sister Holm just happened to have two bikes that she insisted be given away, posthaste. We hadn’t even told her about it, she just had a feeling she should. :  )
… then she gave us a whole trunk-load of soups.
 
What goes along with soups, though? Rice. A pretty hilarious miracle with me & rice: well, besides the fact that I have access TO rice, I somehow made 4 cups of rice in a 3-cup rice cooker. (I know, I know, first I explode water in the microwave, now this.) I’d rather not try to replicate it, but I realized after having already fully washed the rice that there seemed to be more than usual. So… instead of scooping out enough to fill the measurement cup again & throwing that away, I decided to guesstimate how much water ABOVE the usual line it would take it to cook. Now, the pot is already high up to the top with three cups, so I was worried that the lid would just pop off after the cooking process was over, or perhaps more depressingly, that the entire pot would just be crunchy. SOMEHOW, though, the entire pot had an even distribution of water. Hallelujah for not-hard rice!
One time, we had to have barely cooked rice for dinner. We were spittin’ the kernels out like we were machine guns. But– you can bet Sister Holm makes rice right. & yes, she did… … IN THE MICROWAVE. I just had to know how such a feat was accomplished. She had a huge glasswater container that she filled with about two cups for every one cup of rice (not an exact measurement), put it in for five minutes on high, fifteen minutes at half the power, & let it stand with the lid on for at least fifteen minutes afterward. I’m still skeptical of how this is possible, & maybe she just has perfect timing, but… the proof is in the [rice] pudding.
Going back to the blessings Elder ‘Ita has been provided– we went to do more service for the reckoning-ready Peggy, lifting the final few boxes in what used to be an entirely full garage. After a rather short period in time (keeping in mind it’d taken some seriously dedicated portions of time for three days prior), Peggy thanked us profusely. As we left the garage, Elder ‘Ita noticed a blender on her fridge. He said, “Oh, Ninja Bullets, those are the best.” Without blinking, Peggy said, “Do you want it?” Elder ‘Ita was completely shocked, but eventually was convinced to take it. She almost offered it to me halfway through this bargaining process– “You’ve done most of the work, you should have first pick!”– But I knew for a fact this was Elder ‘Ita’s treasure for the week. He’s almost lost a hundred pounds since he got here due to his diligence in trying to be a healthy missionary, & I’d even asked him earlier in the week if he had a blender. This was his, “Good job! You can do it!” from Heavenly Father for the week. He was given the whole set. Then I got, I think, an even better prize: a hug from Peggy. We sang for her one last time– one of my favorites, Because I Have Been Given Much– & headed on our way.
That day, we’d also procured an iron & ironing board from the Mallens, another one of our beloved senior couple missionaries. Along with fulfilling our basic need, Elder Mallen brought along a batch of freshly made chocolate chip cookies. Now, for the past month, I’ve been trying to bring cookies to a house. They’d never answered their door any of the other times, but they had a really funny sign that basically said, “Our souls don’t need saving, our vacuum’s fine, we know who we’re voting for, only knock if you’re selling cookies.” So… what’s better than just giving someone with that sign free cookies? I had a good feeling about this time.
& they did answer! But the man flat-out refused this delightful baggie of baked goods. I made sure to mention they were free. He said, “We’re not interested.” I said, “That’s okay– your sign’s really funny! You should take the cookies, anyway. They’re really good.” I must not have made them look or sound appetizing enough or something, because he adamantly denied these blessings. Publicly rejected. Why, it’s more than I can bear. (They were made by a sweet elderly couple! THE AUDACITY!) It was more just hilarious than anything else, but hey– everything I’m out here for– to try & make people’s days brighter & more hopeful… like, that’s delicious to me! Like cookies! & it’s all free. That’s really it. But maybe I just need to work on my advertisement skills? By the way, buy Gorilla Glue, it’s a real versatile adhesive. What was I talking about, again?
Right after we’d done our service for Peggy, Elder ‘Ita noticed her next-door neighbor unloading fence posts & eighty-pound bags of concrete mix. We ran over & started on it with him– his name is Cory, & he is a very nice neighbor to Peggy! :  ) (We know this because Peggy has said that her neighbors are nice. Neighbors can make a big difference, in my opinion!) Elder ‘Ita worked in his dad’s line of construction before heading out here, so he lifted those bags like nothing. I, on the other hand, had to put my entire body into it. (LEGS BENT ALL THE WAY DOWN.) I know, I know, after all those dinosaur-egg rocks, I should be just dandy… If only I knew that the upcoming service would use the exact same eighty-pound bags– except twice as many. We were lifting them & mixing them in a wheelbarrow with shovels, & pouring them into pits that were slightly drilled & primarily dug. Because– guess what? ALL THE SOIL IN GRANTSVILLE IS THOROUGHLY RIFE WITH DINOSAUR EGG ROCKS. Ah, well, at least this time, I had work gloves from my aunt. (Savin’ my hands from sure destruction every day, Aunty Eloise.)
Elder ‘Ita did this work like it was… well… his work. Brother Glaser & his tough-as-nails grown-up daughters did a great deal of the grunt work, too. Meanwhile, I struggled to keep the giant metal poles of the foundation for this barn level. To hold a level in one hand & hold a pole level with the other is a little too involved for me. I almost tripped backward into one of these concrete pits, & was called “the last bag of concrete”. Everyone also kept called me “the little guy”. “I wanna see the little guy try to do it!” Spoiler alert: I sure did try. But you know what? Just like how the blender was Elder ‘Ita’s blessing, I think this was HIS service project. & that is just peachy.
There was a city-wide parade that everyone in church participated in, since Pioneer Day just passed. Whatever that is. We arrived at what we thought was the starting time– but instead, we ended up being right on-time to chop a whole mess of cantaloupe & watermelon, wrap them up in aluminum foil, & pile them high for the post-parade breakfast. Elder ‘Ita chopped right alongside the Stake President, who he had no idea was the Stake President. (He asked Elder ‘Ita, “So, which is the best Stake, Grantsville or Grantsville West?” Elder ‘Ita maneuvered around that by mentioning he’d been around less than a week. Shyeww. [Also, he cut his finger a touch. That is some real sacrifice there.]) The parade co-ordinator walked in halfway through with her hands clasped together, & said, “You know, there’ve been so many times throughout this process that I’ve said, ‘Heavenly Father, you aren’t making this happen.’ But here all of you are.”
After the parade, the entertainment section was underway, emceed by our dear complimentary-haircut-giver, Barber Cook. We were approached immediately to fill in for a few acts that were MIA. So, in the middle of a country rendition of America the Beautiful, a jazz-violin duet of City of Stars, a group of people clogging to Can’t Stop the Feeling, a children’s chorus version of Can You Feel the Love Tonight, we walked up sheepishly to play a hymn called Come Come Ye Saints. It’s a song that a lot of early pioneers sang to lift their spirits in times of extreme, excruciating trial. It even ends with the line, “& should we die before our journey’s through, happy day! All is well. We then are free from toil & sorrow, too.” That is some crazy positivity– Jimmy Stewart levels, at least. I’m certainly still striving to find that.
So– finally, after all this time, I think we can finally say that ALL the people in Grantsville has an inkling of who we are. Elder Forsyth had been here for six months, & he was STILL being erroneously called “the new missionary” simply because no one had ever seen him. Whoodathunk that all it’d take was a little ‘ukulele that someone absolutely refused to leave home without, should the opportunity arise to serenade? Everyone has been stopping us when we walk just to remark about it. It also happened to be the favourite hymn of the family that we’d been sitting next to before performing. … & then, on Sunday, every single sacrament meeting started with Come Come Ye Saints. But this also happened in a completely different area. Maybe we sang so loud, they could hear us from there… ?
Oh, & Elder ‘Ita is another one of those elders that refuses to admit they have a magnificent voice. He’s also the first real tenor I’ve been companions with. He’s also also the first companion I’ve had to specifically say, “Oh, I like singing with you!” & he even wants very much to sing some of my family’s songs. Are you excited? You should be.
One of those families that has a girl named Nova (This past week was Nova’s birthday! AAAAHCONFUSIIIINGWHICHNOVAAA?!!)– we finally got to meet with them again. The oldest girl in the family, Solstice, has been trying really hard to get baptized, but as previously mentioned, her strange arrangement with custody has really frustrated this. Crazily enough, she first decided she wanted to be baptized because of a YouTube video she watched by a family who puts out little video logs about their daily life. When they talked about their daughter receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost (a gift that comes after baptism, of guidance & comfort & truth), she felt she really needed that for herself. The good news is this summer is that one moment we’re leaping on to make this possible for Solly. (Yeah, that’s her nickname– supa’ sweet, right?) As she prayed, her excitement was so infectious, as she told her Heavenly Father all about the great things that were going on in her life & her plans for the future. They made me wanna go… parading or something. WE SHALL FORGE AHEAD, FOR VICTORY IS NIGH. Also, as a tiny side-note, all the kids ended up sharing their snacks with us before the lesson was through. They just all handed us their dill pickle-flavored potato chips, chewy fruit snacks, & alphabet crackers. They already gave us such a happy day, they didn’t need to give us foods, too! Goodness, we’re spoiled.
Isaac was finally given the courage to come to church again after years & years. After working & toiling (& fishing) together, a foundation of friendship was there to leave a sturdy foothold for him, however nervous I’m sure he was. We drove by the house in the morning to say hi. At church time, we poked our head into his classroom to wave & say hi, then unwittingly interrupted the class his grandpa was teaching. Lots of that going on, but I suppose it’s inevitable. Plus, no one was mad– that family is always blessedly happy to have us around. (Whaddya do without those kinds of families?) Brother Tayon shook our hands vigorously (not all handshakes are created equal), & told us that this was a special day for him. … & so it was for us, as well!
A recent mother we’ve been visiting with since Mother’s Day has also finally been brave enough to come out to church. (As a social outcast, I know exactly how hard that can be. I even spent, like, HALF my farewell talk jabbering on about it…) Her name is Lola– L-O-L-A, Lola. &– she & her baby boy McCoy (who is also a mission-age baby for me– born thirteen days into my training.) are as special as can be. Over the past months, she’s gotten to meet a LOT of very different people, & I think that all of them have felt compelled to share very personal & precious things in their own life to her. Likewise, so have we. &… it’s all because of the way we feel around her. There’s just a glow about her & her son– a gentle kindness, & sincerity. The love we feel for them is undeniable. In-fact, I have to say it quite often, or else I’ll burst. Man, even Elder Forsyth would kneel down next to McCoy & gush, & he’s not a baby person at all. There’s nothing more important to her than being a good mother, & that has propelled her forward along this path. She really wants to be sealed to her family forever in the temple. She happened to covertly record McCoy’s reaction to Elder Forsyth & I playing a song about the temple, & shared it with us. Apparently, any time that McCoy gets cranky, she plays it for him, & he’s immediately happy again.
Elder ‘Ita & I, per his request, have started walking more & doing laps at the highschool track. It’s the best! It’s delightful to finally have a companion who I can run across the finish line with every morning. It’s nowhere near as laborious as, say, a pioneer trek, but it’s our own thing, & it’s still quite meaningful.
 
Attaching all manner of delightfulness, including a group photo of the family we have Family Home Evenings at ev’ry Monday. They are the Allens, & they’re the closest thing I’ve got to the Aloha spirit out here– since they’re half-Filipino. Not to mention, they’re all insanely talented & kind– they’ve been doing this sort of open-invite home evening thing for years now, & have really shown a lot of love to a lot of different people. NOT TO ALSO MENTION, their son is also on a mission currently & is an excellent ‘ukulele player. (Look up “How Can I Be Cover by Wes & Nate”.) I shared a message about Validation the other day, since Sister Allen was really a little frustrated about “being happy for other people’s success”– she’s a published author, Jewel Allen. I felt like sharing how actively searching out & uncovering good in other people has brought me the greatest joy, & how gratitude & service & looking outside of ourselves can truly heal us in difficult times. Their girl who’s Sara’s age, Sabrina, was running around the track with me this morning, & cheered me on the whole time. She kept passing me, ’cause she’s a beast (like Sara), & so I was like, “I’M doing a good job? YOU’RE doing a good job.” & when we cheer each other on, in turn, it strengthens everyone.
&…
You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)
10
Aug
17

elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_massemail.part035

(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!)

 
Oy, this tablet actually overheated. Like, it brought up an alert that said, “closing apps, the tablet is overheating.” That’s what I get for typing in direct sunlight. So, if I don’t get to replying to anybody else at all until next Monday, I apologize dearly. It’s killin’ me! Why do most missionaries think writing home is such a hassle?! I’m over here writing a stinkin’ novella… I wonder which one of us has the problem.
 
It’s rather refreshing & rather sh-pooky– I’m not the missionary knapsack being far-flung this transfer over… tomorrow, I will be the one to stay. You might think this couldn’t possibly affect me that dearly, but– see, this means I’m going to be Senior Companion. (Well… I tend to be, even when I’m not. There’s only one missionary in the entire mission who’s got me beat in the age department. He’s a Brazilian– Elder Kelvin Kozakevitch. He’s 26, since Brazil basically forces people to finish all schooling before leaving.) Being Junior Companion is delightful to me… plus, the acronym for Junior Companion is JC! Who doesn’t wanna be Jesus Christ, right? (Tell me, who’s in the hoouusee? J-C!) A Senior Companion has to fill the arriving missionary about all the ins & outs of the area, & know everyone well! … I wouldn’t even be able to do that back in my OWN city, let alone an area I’ve been in for four-&-a-half months!
 
I know, I know, this is one of those simple things that all grown-ups do all the time. Like giving people directions to the nearest gas station, or knowing prices for things, having a coherent discussion, or explaining where you’re from. To be honest, that’s been very hard to do with anyone who’s actually BEEN to Hawai’i. I’m more of a trivia monster & I rarely ever know anything of substance when it comes to local culture. People who’ve gone on vacation to Hawai’i know it better than I am, so I’m constantly afraid I’ll sound like I’m lying that I’ve lived there all my life. I just have different priorities & very different insight than most people. What makes Hawai’i special to me has nothing to do with what’s really ON the island. WHO’S on the island is all that’s really mattered to me. So, as simple as it may sound to take on such minimal responsibility– for example, I could’ve been a District Leader like Elder Forsyth & actually carried some real weight– I know that this is going to be something I will need to work on. I find it to be some serious “wisdom in God” that I’m taking it in this kind of increment, & I’m grateful for the baby step. So many of the missionaries around me are quick to boredom. As I’ve explained before, I never get bored– & not only that, but some of the most simple things can be remarkably difficult for me, so I find myself overwhelmed by the slightest addition to my day. I’m grateful that my family has been mindful of that throughout the years, & that this entire mission has reflected that in so many ways. No one out here really knows me all that well, except God, who knows me perfectly. & that’s a real relief.
 
Hey, speaking of District Leader, I’m going to be companions with the first District Leader I knew! His name is Elder ‘Ita (my family will have no trouble pronouncing it, but everyone else will– Eeh-tah, with a bit of an oompfh in the throat at the beginning.), & he was my District Leader in the MTC. He’s from Washington, not Hawai’i or Samoa or Tonga– so that really threw me off from the beginning, since he doesn’t have that strong a Polynesian background despite looking the part. He calls everyone “cousin”, which is very Hawaiian, but he does it like a Southerner would. He says, “cauuwwwzin’.” Fascinating! But he’s a deeply spiritual, deeply humble person who really took it upon himself to look after all of us when we were all at our most vulnerable. In-fact, there was a difficult day during the last week cooped up in our classroom where Elder West, our 26-year-old go-getter, told Elder ‘Ita that he needed to be more responsible as a leader. Elder ‘Ita tried to brush him off, but this beratement continued. Elder ‘Ita tried not to let it bother him, but when he got into the middle of one of our roleplay scenarios, one of the sister missionaries asked him what was wrong. Elder ‘Ita very quietly pointed to outside of the room, where Elder West was, & then began to cry. Elder ‘Ita is a smile-y sort of guy– one thing that has stuck from his heritage is being a gentle giant. However, the burdens of this tremendous change in our lives had a way of weighing down on our district, & Elder ‘Ita found it more & more difficult to ask others to cheer up, when you could tell that the smile on his face was getting just a touch phoney, too.
 
Our teacher (Brother Gulisane, the one I drew the Superman portrait of) called off the activity & had us all file back into our class. He said we needed to talk this out right now. Elder West reiterated his concerns about Elder ‘Ita’s ability to lead, in a very calm & professional manner. Then Brother Gulisane asked Elder ‘Ita how he was feeling. Elder ‘Ita didn’t say what he said calmly or professionally, but it came straight from the heart. He said, “Don’t get me wrong, Elder West, I love you, but you are very prideful. You weren’t here at the beginning of this with the rest of us. You arrived a whole week after us, & that may seem like a short time, but we were all really struggling. I’m really struggling. I’ve been trying my best to keep everyone from just going home because this is too hard, & I’m not a perfect leader, & it gets rowdy in here, but we’re all just trying our best. You’re the oldest one here, & for a lot of us, this is our first time away from home. You can insult me all you want, but don’t you ever, EVER say I’m not trying, because that is one-hundred-percent not true.”
 
Elder West opened up. That wall came down. He said, “You’re completely right, Elder ‘Ita. I have a serious pride issue, & I know it. But you just made me remember something I’d almost forgot– how it feels to be here for the first time. This isn’t my first time here. I’ve been here before, almost 8 years ago, & I was so scared that I went home & immediately lost all faith. I am so sorry for not being more mindful of you. I don’t expect you to forgive me, because I deserve what you’ve said, but I will try all I can to be better.” As you can see, I was extremely blessed to have Elder ‘Ita as my first District Leader, & he really coloured my early time out here more than anyone else. He was even the one I sat next to on the shuttle, as we watched over everyone’s luggage together! He quite literally accompanied me, side-by-side, into this unparalleled endeavour.
 
People keep asking if he can sing. I actually have no clue! The closest I’ve gotten to hearing him PERSONALLY sing was at the volleyball court. The district had made up a silly little cheer, with hand motions: “Bump it, set it, spike it! That’s the way we like it!” He also participated in a delightfully ethnic group during a devotional, but I couldn’t hear him. Once again, though, he was dancin’ up a storm. So, if anything, he can be my lead choreographer. Groovy.
We helped score a soccer game on the 3rd of July (Independence Eve, you might say?), & a man named Brother Holssop (I may be spelling it wrong, but it’s the best guess I have!) had stopped in to cheer on his cousin, who I believe was playing on the Unicorns team. (The Unicorns did end up winning the final game, over the Phantoms. Fun names to yell out over the field. My personal favorite name of the night was Aye Aye Sir.) Brother Holssop was a delightfully quirky storyteller– he even spoke lightly about his brain tumor operation– the pictures he showed us didn’t look like anything to laugh about, but he said, “The joke’s on the tumor, because I’ve gotten stronger every day!”
 
Warning: talking about religion!
 
He served a Korean speaking mission decades ago, & was completely immersed in all the common languages of his reigion. One time, he said hello to a man going by, & the man kept trying to throw him off by saying that he spoke a different language than the language Brother/Elder Holssop was currently speaking. However, Elder Holssop knew each language fluently. After about five unsuccessful attempts to stump him, the man said, “Okay, I give up, is there any Korean dialect you don’t know?” Elder Holssop patted him on the back & said, “If you makes you feel better, my mind can’t do math at all. I can barely add two plus two.”
Elder Holssop was given some opportunities to translate live talks at our semi-annual conference (where all the leaders of the church & the prophet give counsel), which really threw him for a spin because of the propensity for idioms & sayings that all speakers tend to have. However, he would bravely press forward & try to find the corresponding Korean saying to fit the occasion, which tended to blow away any native speakers around, who felt equally stumped. After proving his proficiency, he was in a little pow-wow with a couple leaders in the church. One of them just so happened to be our current prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. Elder Holssop kept fluctuating excitedly between calling him “President Monson” & “Brother Monson”. President/Brother Monson announced, “Elders & sisters, there’s a park just across the road from where we are. I can feel that there’s families out there yearning to hear of this joyful news. I’m excited, & I’m raring to go. Who wants to be my temporary missionary companion for the next few hours?”
Guess who– Brother/Elder Holssop went with President/Brother Monson to share God’s love out in the park. They both immediately spotted the same family clear across the park & approached post-haste. Brother Monson introduced himself & started into testifying. A couple moments went by, & he nudged Elder Holssop. A bit out of his element, Elder Holssop said, “What?” Brother Monson said, “Elder Holssop, translate for me!” Elder Holssop stuttered out, “But Brother Monson, the Spirit needs no translating!” Brother Monson burst out in laughter & said, “All right, you have a point.”
This family actually had a question right off the bat– they asked Elder Holssop why he & Brother Monson had a certain light about them. They said it was especially striking for Brother Monson. Elder Holssop explained casually, “Oh, we’re both servants of the Lord. But he’s part of the leadership, so that’s why it’s like that for him.” Because that’s something you just drop. This family actually immediately agreed to work towards baptism then. It was one of Elder Holssop’s personal convictions that he would invite people to be baptized during the first meeting, no matter what. When he expalined that to Brother Monson, he grinned a rather boyish grin & said, “Oh, I like that, I like that a lot. I don’t think that’s for everybody, but I definitely feel that for you, that’s a very good thing.”
After this brief encounter, Brother Monson urged Elder Holssop to keep him posted on this family’s progress. Later on, Elder Holssop wrote in to speak of how the Gospel had been able to change this entire family’s unity. The wife spoke in a church meeting about how she had lost faith in her marriage– but through the family coming together to God, they had all changed & found strength unimaginable. She said she knew now, without a doubt, that God loved her family.
 
Done, thank you for your understanding!
 
Hey, speaking of family, everybody knew my gramma! Everyone smiled when we said her name, & one lady ran in a frenzy to our closing elevator to tell us where she thought Gramma was. She said, “I’m her neighbor! Sister Sonomura’s an amazing woman. I love her so much.” & as Gramma introduced me to some of the people she’s grown to love, one of her companions pointed at me & said, with her limited English, “That is your grandson? Oh, you are a happy gramma!” & I am a happy grandson.
 
Shoot– how to explain this without being preachy… one person I’ve had a rather close friendship with here is a young man named Chad who’s just about my age. We have a great deal of the same interests, & the same inclination to sensitivity & deep thought… as well as a childlike sense of wonder, phbft. He’s working towards serving a mission, & he explained how the easiest things have become hard as he’s pushed towards that. He was the only one working at his last job, under a manager who was argumentative & contentious. Near the end, they realized they would have to pray together simply to get through the day without biting each other’s heads off. When he prayed about what he should do about his job– to quit or not to quit (that is the question)– the only answer he received, over & over again, was “Two.” He said he had no idea what that could indicate, but he knew that things would work out. Two weeks later, after having essentially forgotten about this, he resigned, & then immediately afterwards, received a calling to be a Ward Missionary. (It’s like being a missionary, without the uprooting of everything! Wow!)
 
As he continues to save up for a mission, things keep piling up to detrimental anxiety in his life. As I talked about my own years of struggle, Chad noted that everything I was saying was being mirrored in himself. I was able to tell him all the things that saved me in my moments of despair. Simple things like getting enough sleep & eating healthy & committing reasonable amounts of time for mental, emotional, & spiritual reflection were high up on the list! We made him a calendar with goals to help him focus & streamline all the chaos, & through this, we were overjoyed to hear that he made it to the temple on his birthday, to feel of the peace there & feel closer to God. He went without telling us, & without us, even though we’d planned to go together. Honestly, it was much better for him to go for himself– that’s how it should be. BUT, he agreed to go with us the second time over. I nervously helped baptize him, as he stood in the place of people who have passed away. I’ve never done that before. He’s taller than I am. He had to squat. I had to step on his feet. I did it four times rather clumsily (four’s the norm), then the officiator asked if we wanted to do it for four more people. I didn’t want to say anything, because Chad had been such a good sport, but he said cheerily, “I’m up for it!” Talk about patient & long-suffering. I smiled & laughed quietly, “Well, if he’s up for it, I’m definitely up for it.” Afterwards, I thanked him quietly as we got our belongings together. He said, with great kindness, “So, you’ve never done that before? You did really well!” I said, in short (because it’s impossible to express in full), “That was extremely special for me. I’m so glad I got to be here with you.”
We ate dinner with a Brother Anderson. He loves Hawai’i/strange foods/spices (my world) & loves fishing (Elder Forsyth’s world). With utmost giddiness, Brother Anderson would say, “You are talking about some of my favourite things, my friend!” By the end of dinner, we’d planned to fish with him the next day. He looked at me & said, “You have to promise me that you’ll fish, too!” I honestly much prefer being Elder Forsyth’s cheerleader in this field. Catching fish doesn’t do my heart much good. But hey, I had to promise. Elder Forsyth & Brother Anderson were definitely more excited that I was fishing than I was. But it was sweet! Brother Anderson brought me a rod & cast it out for me, & all I had to do was wait. I was more interested in recording the light coming through the blades of grass in slow-motion.
I also was promptly covered from head-to-toe in fire ants, as I waited. Grantsville? More like Antsville!
But I stood it out for these two chums. (GED’DIT?! CHUMS?! Apparently, it’s illegal to chum the water here.) Elder Forsyth shrieked, “Elder Sunny! Reel it in, you’ve got one! Now pull it tight, tighter! Don’t stop, keep it going, no, no, no!” … Etc., etc. Eventually, I caught three fish from Brother Anderson’s casting, & one from my own cast. In the end, Brother Anderson/Wise Catfish Guru had the last (& biggest) catch of the day on a whim. We’re actually on our way at this very moment to Brother Anderson’s for a fish-fry collected from these labours! With that, I think we can safely say that this fishin’ mission has come to a close. Or… well, I hope, at least. I’m more of a fisher of men, & a feeder of fish. My family can vouch for me on that; they know that feeding birds & fish is one of my simple pleasures.
Speaking of simple– five simple things:
1) In a lesson with Levi, I noticed the arm of his Lego figurine was off. Due to extensive time as… a professional kid… I was able to put it on like a pro. Yay, I’m a toy-fixer! That made me feel useful.
2) Kalissa (little sister of Kaitlin) went to church yesterday, by herself, when no one else wanted to. Almost right when we open the door, she always volunteers to pray. She says with great conviction, “Can I please pray?” It’s so amazing to hear something so sincere & so simple from someone, like a little prayer. (*sings* I’M GONNA TAKE YOU THERE!— … sorry, I had to.)
3) After a meeting at church, one of the moms, Sister Bird, turned to me & said, “I KNEW you were behind me! It’s a joy to have you here– you have such a joyful laugh.” Yow, talk about yer’ validation.
4) After the soccer game, every person on the team came up to me & shook my hand & told me thank you for taking the time to be there & to volunteer my time. These were mostly all 13-year-olds– a race of people that are known worldwide for apathy & unconcern for their fellow man… well, save it be my brother. 😉 I had to say thank you right back. & thus, I believe that the thanks do go on.
5) The 6-hour hike that Elder Forsyth & I (we took a vaguely shorter one today with the entire district, if you can believe it) took all the way up to the top of Deseret Peak wasn’t really my cup of tea. You can go for much shorter hikes in Hawai’i & see far cooler things. Not to mention that the trail was barely blazed, in my opinion. (The least you can do is have a path big enough for both of your feet!) But hey, once again, companionship solidarity.
… At the end, though, as we came back to the car, Elder Forsyth did something I wasn’t expecting. He took his standard peanut butter & jelly sammich/sandwich, which he’s eaten every day for his whole mission, & gave one triangle of it to me. Out of everything that Elder Forsyth has ever done for me, that sandwich triangle is the most meaningful. I’ve felt like most of my compliments & support has been barely effective, but the bond of bread… to the roof of my mouth… that is what I will treasure as my sign of success.
Also included below are some trinkets from going to a castle hidden right next to our hike. Hey, the man called it a castle when he invited us there, & he wasn’t lying! He made it all himself– including a plethora of bizarre plaster casts he fashioned into masks, & it even has a front entrance that’s basically The Shire from The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings. (It even has the little symbol that Gandalf writes on the door, but it’s covered in the video.) Both the husband & wife are rather Hobbit-sized. Their last name is Griffin, though, so there’s pictures of griffins everywhere, to compensate for their stature on the outside. Oh– & there’s human-sized dreamcatchers everywhere! Makes me think fondly of the dreamcatcher my best friend Lottie sent me. I was worried it’d get lost or damaged here, so I just imagine it watching over me as I sleep. It’s really who gave it to me that makes it work, anyway. Hey– that’s one anxiety-reducer I totally forgot to tell Chad: remember your family & your friends. You are far from alone in this.
You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)
11
Jul
17

elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_massemail.part034

(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!)

 
More fresh Elder Forsythisms for you: “Al-a-gee” instead of “Algae”, “Alpha-alpha” instead of “Alfalfa”, & “Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder where you are, you’re so high up, & you’re in the sky. You’re so bright… & pretty… you’re a star.” instead of … well, I’d hope you’d know.
Even with my Preparation Day Fricasée (PDF?) out of the way, a rather laborious 6-hour hike took up a vast majority of my dealings. But at the very least, I MUST share the attachments of the week, which include a very extremely special guest star! (Check out the last image at the bottom, if you’re dying to know who it is.)
I guess I should start off with the sudden departure in our area. Cheryl left for Tennessee with her daughter & her dog. She didn’t seem to bother packing much of anything at all, & none of us knew it was coming until less than 48 hours before it occurred. This was pretty devastating for all who came to love her in the few months she was here. She’s been around barely any longer than I’ve been writing these e-mail out. We’ve heard this is par for the course for her, due to an unbased worry about being able to keep her daughter. In our first lesson with Cheryl, I mentioned about how the Holy Ghost (a gift we receive after baptism) can help bring peace & light into our often frustrating, heavy daily lives. She almost leaped up out of her chair with excitement, to know now that such a thing that was possible. & then she began to cry, because of just how consistently she experienced such overwhelming heavy emotional baggage in her life, & how much she wanted to feel the peace she’d always feel with us… but all the time. In following lessons, she told us all excitedly how she was determined to be baptized– how she knew it was important, & crucial, & how she couldn’t get it out of her head– this strong need to build this personal relationship with her Heavenly Father.
This whole slope-up & slope-down (much like the hike I took today) was pretty difficult to witness firsthand. I had to see Cheryl get so excited about her progress in quitting smoking, & see her entire countenance change as she succeeded through her diligence… then see it all come crashing back down when she spent some time in an environment that caused her to relapse. We reassured her that all the work wasn’t for nothing, & that freedom was within reach, but… she felt this time, she had to do it all on her own. &… then she left. We asked if there was anything we could do for them– everyone was trying to be there for her, but she was already gone before she was. I told her we all loved her– she DID say it back, as she closed the doors. At any rate, I hope that statement makes it in more than skin-deep some day.
My last happy memory at a meeting with Cheryl was when, after our lesson, her daughter Abigail had been preparing a little show for us on a stage at the church building we were meeting at. She’d set up chairs for each of us. She’d written that it was “Abigail’s Show!” on the chalk board, & then proceeded to explain how this was her show, & how awesome the show would be. She closed the curtains, opened them back up again, then noodled around quietly on my ‘ukulele (playing it on her lap like a dulcimer). She closed the curtains & sang the lyrics to a song Elder Forsyth & I had just sang called Love One Another. Although she sang them to a completely different melody that made it sound slightly polka-ish. She then opened up the curtains, closed them again, opened them again, then asked if anyone could play the ‘ukulele in the audience. I volunteered & accompanied her impromptu dance number. Then she had Cheryl come up on-stage as special guest star (to a great deal of applause), left her standing on the stage by herself, turned off all the lights, then ran out of the room to sneak behind us. Then the show ended. I think!
Colby, that wonderful gentleman we tracked down on Memorial Day, texted us out of the blue during our dinner appointment & said he “needed some missionary time”. That made our day, all by itself. Colby has such a strong spirit about him, & has really walked the walk… even when he couldn’t actually walk for himself. A couple years ago, his foot was run over by a large machine where he worked, leaving practically nothing left. He was told there was nothing left to do but amputate. He prayed & fasted fervently every day for a week in the hospital that he would be able to keep his foot. The nurses & doctors eventually decided to try a new procedure to salvage what was barely there. Since then, Colby has been on Worker’s Comp & has been legally mandated not to work. This sounded like it was going to be the case for the rest of his life. Miraculously, his foot has completely healed, & in the past few months, he’s finally been able to go back to work.
This transition back has been loaded with opposition, though. In an earlier visit, we texted Colby to confirm his evening appointment right when we woke up in the morning. We didn’t get a confirmation about the appointment until about ten minutes before it was about to happen. This is because his house almost burned down. It was all because of an old short-circuited Glade plug-in, which is the one of the most banal reasons I can think for a house to burn down. Not only that, but he was invited to go fishing with his dad, at the same time our appointment was scheduled. He didn’t let either of those things keep him from missionary time. Now THAT is unheard of amounts of commitment. I think Elder Forsyth was especially touched about giving up fishing to meet with us. 😉
Colby hadn’t smoked in years, but in taking up a new & potentially unsubstantial job, the stress caused him to regress one night. His wife caught him on the porch, & asked him what he thought he was doing. He said he didn’t know– which was about as honest as I think anyone could be about smoking. She threw his cigarettes away, he got angry, & he went for a drive around the block. When he got back, his wife had left him a little note on his bedside table. It said, “Read your scriptures & pray.” These simple things, he said, have helped keep him afloat. He also mentioned that he knew that he was overjoyed to hear we’d stayed, even after all these months, & that he felt that it was specifically so he’d be able to progress & be the kind of strong father he wants to be for his kids. After hearing all of this, I couldn’t help but mention, “Colby, us missionaries… we’re replaceable. & you are not. We’re so humbled to be able to meet with you, & it means the World to us, & we can feel so strongly that your Heavenly Father loves you & is proud of you whenever we’re here with you. We know you will be able to make these changes you want to make, & we’re just blessed to be a part of it, for however long. But it really has nothing to do with us. You’re just very important.”
At the end of this last lesson, he mentioned that he’d found out that day that he didn’t have enough money to pay the rent. His first response was to go & find some cigarettes, but instead, he reached out to us, instead. He said he knew he could make it, if he just had the faith to call us.
Hey, even Nanay (our Filipino grandma!) has been sharing with us about her struggles after her husband passed. She said she couldn’t stop crying, & she felt like no connection in this life could ever compare– that something irreplaceable was gone. She resorted to drinking heavily, & felt a sense of hopelessness & a loss of purpose in anything. As she told us this, she held her granddaughter (who she calls her princess) tightly. She smiled her usual whole-face smile (she made fun of me for drawing her in the lesson with her eyes closed– “They’re not always closed!”), even after expressing such difficult things to us, & said firmly, “Now, when I cry, I only cry for joy. I know now, for my husband, it is not a goodbye but a… ’til we meet again’.”
 
We’ve been going through the 12-Step Addiction Recovery program with Brother Christensen (he can’t find time to attend any meetings due to his trucking career), & outside of our reading time, he has made no time at all for any of the personal reflection he needs to write down. When we met with him the time before last, he wore a Camel cigarettes t-shirt with a pack of Camels in the front pocket. As we ended the lesson, I felt strongly that, instead of shaking his hand, I needed to give him a hug. When I asked with a silly smile on my face if I could, he was more willing that I’d expected. As kind & friendly as he’s been to us, & as sincerely as I’ve been trying to express my testimony, I didn’t really feel like there’d been very much in the way of real contact. Yet, he held me close. I felt I’d finally reached him– pushed just a touch past that pack of cigarettes placed over his heart. We told him we believe in him & we know how close he is to finally feeling free & being as he knows he can be. Some day, he’ll no longer have to think about toting around & refilling his oxygen canister– first, he just has to have faith, & act on that faith.
We’ve spent a great deal of time with this one member who had us over for dinner early on in our time here. We invited him out to fish with us. I was watching some Addiction Recovery videos off on the side. He asked me exactly what it is we do for those we teach struggling with addictions. I pointed out the strongest thing we can do is have all our family & loved ones pray on our behalf– & then to pray ourselves, fervently. There is such power in this– & I feel like everything else is just extra help. He nodded & seemed rather deep in thought. As I continued to watch videos, I got to a video that reminded him about earlier, simpler times for him. We had fun talking about this for a while, & then he asked us both to set down our things so we could talk. He asked us, “Is there any particular reason you’ve been spending so much time with me?” I told him honestly that we just thought he was awesome. He said, “Every time I’m around you, I get the strong feeling that you can help me.” We had no clue, but for the past few years, he’s been hooked on chewing tobacco. He said that when we walked into his workshop to invite him to fish, he had a huge wad in his mouth, & felt deeply embarrassed. He said, “I don’t talk about this with anyone, but the hairs standing up on the back of my neck right now… they don’t lie. I just know you can help me.”
We’ll give it our all.
Attached is a picture of our entire district after having laid out over 4,000 dollars worth of sod. (It wasn’t just what you see– we also did all the front, too!) Next is an excerpt from a very special baptism that one of the senior missionaries had for a man named Charles Phelts. His entire family was musical (We even learned this rather complicated round called The Greatest Commands on the spot for the opening song… Charles said, “It’s all about TIMING, but you’ll see that it’s very beautiful.”)… & his wife was part of a string quartet that played throughout the whole program. Then, we found a treasure trove of chess sets I’d like to share with Nova in particular– adding to the Muppet chess set from earlier. Then, during a lesson, a little boy named Mitchell sang his stinkin’ heart out with us as we played his personal favorite hymn, Search Ponder & Pray. Then he went Biblical & fell flat on his face during prayer, to unforeseen depths of reverence. He was, like, searching, pondering… praying. So I joined him.
Then, after other assorted silliness, there’s two pictures from our unexpected excursion to Temple Square! (Sorry I didn’t make it out in-time for you, Sara! If only… Also, gonna respond to your e-mail ASAP.) Elder Forsyth got to meet a sister from his home ward serving around the temple grounds– she’s the one with the Grecian-style headpiece. She also read a poem about the quality of the food at the MTC. I snapped passionately in response. We proceeded to take an intentionally terrible group shot.
Then, with considerable difficulty, we tracked down the TRUE Special Guest™ of the night. She’s the only one training at the Family History Center currently. She’s bounces up & down this building so fast that no one can keep track of her. But it’s because she’s determined to get everything done that she needs to, & she won’t let a moment waste. Everybody loves & respects her. One missionary said she taught him everything he knows. She even pronounced Elder Forsyth’s name right, which was a total shocker for him! May I present… my gramma. :  )
You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)
07
Jul
17

elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_massemail.part033

(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 have… … a MCNALLY STRUMSTICK™.
No, I’d never heard of it, either! That’s what made me doubly jazzed. The Kluges, the family we did gardening & gophering for (I referred to it as Whack-a-Mole, but it was actually Whack-a-Gopher.), had us over for dinner again. Sister Kluge is a curator/collector of antiques (in a very legitimate way– NOT a packrat– her house is immaculate), as well as a creative craftswoman. Her entire house is painted a variety of colors, every wall complementing the other somehow & leading the eye in a pleasing & open way. We bonded quite a bit over discussing her technique; she based a lot of the scheme off a carpet she liked. Quite astute of her to notice that carpet designs often have a way of combining a large variety of colors without visually bombarding. Then, when I noticed all her beautiful clothes & furniture from the 1900s (which was used in her son’s wedding!), I thought to mention one of my personal favorite (& rather obscure) films, Somewhere in Time. Sister Kluge just happened to be a huge INSITE (International Somewhere in Time Enthusiast, for those out of the know), & has participated in the yearly fan gatherings at Mackinac Island. Ahh… see, this is why a lot of my favorite people at my home ward are the Relief Society sisters– they tend to get me more, phbft.
This time over, Sister Kluge had us begin dinnertime by carrying a gorgeous (and blessedly light) chest her mother owned out of the garage, & then she served us a first-time concoction of hers called “white salad”. She asked us to guess what was in it, & I was able to figure out the apples. The rest of the ingredients were cauliflower (which came pre-chopped, sold as “cauliflower rice”), a type of water chestnut, feta cheese, & Craisins™. I actually quite enjoyed it, but I had to admit that even for me, the feta cheese kind of overpowered. She asked me what I thought… I enthusiastically expressed how well all the unique elements came together, then sheepishly gave my two cents about cutting back just a bit on feta so every thing could be tasted, & she actually was remarkably pleased by my feed / food / fedback! Whew.
&… not only that, but right after my brave input over this brave food, Sister Kluge asked me what other instruments I happened to play. As I began to go through my odd, informal acquaintances with… all manner of music-maker… she snuck downstairs & pulled out a dulcimer, & something yet to be uncovered in a rather slender black case with an armstrap. Sister Kluge said she was most interested in seeing what I could do with whatever it was that was yet to be unearthed in this baggy. (The case is roughly the shape of a baton or even a clarinet– not something I would expect to contain a stringed instrument.) The McNally Strumstick™ looks like something in-between a shamisen (as it has three strings) & a banjo. &… it was Love at First Sight[reading]. The frets are positioned in such a way that absolutely any place you place a finger down sounds, to use a Rey’ term, floss. Both Brother & Sister Kluge seemed absolutely over-the-moon to be hearing this instrument played. As far as Sister Kluge can remember, she acquired it back in the ’80s or ’90s simply for the wood quality, & always yearned for someone to play it. She clapped her hands together & exclaimed, “See just how much you’ve been able to do with this, in just five minutes? Do you want it?” I couldn’t even look up; I just kept looking at the fretboard. I laughed nervously & said, “You can’t just ASK that question, Sister Kluge!”
She insisted, & I promised that I would never let this sonorous stick sit in silence, & use such powers only for good… for, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility.
Oof, the amount of blessings I’ve been getting have been kind of overwhelming, & the past few e-mails have honestly made me feel very tiny as I’ve tried my best to plainly explain what’s been happening to & for us, knowing full well that the blessings really pale in comparison to whatever we’ve been doing.
Warning: talking about religion!
Makes me think about one of my absolute favorite scriptures, which at once makes me feel very tiny & also enormously, tremendously loved: “& now, in the first place, He hath created you, & granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto Him. & secondly, He doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, He doth immediately bless you; & therefore he hath paid you. & ye are still indebted unto hint, & are, & will be, forever & ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?” I hope that when I’m counting these blessings, I’m not coming off as I’m boasting of myself— I’m really trying to put a spotlight on the magnificent amenities of these people I’m so humbled to meet– who truly reflect the pure love & light of Jesus Christ.
… I guess while I’m here in this bracket, I’ll gush a little bit about this Sunday! It was a Fast Sunday, which means that I didn’t have any food or water for two meals in a row, & dedicated that time to God to come closer to Him & rely on Him through prayer. It’s always helped me receive answers, feel comfort, & know that He is truly mindful of every one. It’s one of the ways I’ve found out for myself of the reality of a loving & personally invested Heavenly Father.
As a missionary, Sundays are a bit of a marathon, & the amount we’re asked to do is more or less impossible on an empty stomach… even moreso, the Summer Sun™ rules over Grantsville with a fiery fist of fury. & without a bit of moisture in the atmosphere (I kind of feel like the superhero Frozone trying to pull moisture out of the air during a heavy building fire.), it can be difficult to keep your stamina up-n’-at-’em. Near the very beginning of the day– we were attending an early morning Stake Meeting before church actually started– I got that tell-tale sign that I was in for a magilla of migraine headaches. I get a lil’ floating, pulsing light that just gets brighter & brighter until it obscures just about everything in my vision. :  ) It is very unpleasant.
But, completely miraculously, after the pulsing portent passed, I was able to pace my energy & get that added strength & power that I’ve always found in fasting… not an inkling of a migraine headache for the entire 6+ hours of church sessions we attended! Thank you, Heavenly Father! & then I downed, like, enough water to fill up that one Chinese Brother. You know, from that story book, The 12 Chinese Brothers? It’s a lot.
Done, thank you for your understanding!
A lot of Utahns take vacations to Hawai’i. Because why wouldn’t they? One of the people in church & his wife spoke stirringly about their experience the week prior at church in Hawai’i. In specific, they spoke of hearing the entire church congregation stand after closing to sing Aloha ‘Oe (which you might recall from last mass-mail!) to a departing missionary. As these two noticed me nodding as they spoke, they asked me if I knew what they were talking about. Some folks behind me interjected, “I think he wants to play it for us!” So I did, & almost cried. I think that was the overall concensus in the room.
One of the people jokingly warned me, saying, “Now, don’t you expect that when you leave Utah, Elder!” I grinned & said, “Hey, you never know– I have high hopes that my very last ward will sing it for me.” So I’m just speaking that out right now– somehow, however unheard of, my last day in Utah will include Aloha ‘Oe…
… being sung by a whole bunch of people who have no clue what they’re singing. It will be the best.
To relay a few more service opportunities, even today, right after our Zone Activity, we were asked by the coordinator if we could help lift two pianos out of a house & into a storage unit. I couldn’t stop saying “Lift where you stand,” (church reference) because I’m a dork. Also, I was the only one in a white shirt. For the previously stated reason. We helped a family re-sort through a heavy massacre of 72-hour-kits (emergency food storage) that the father said was ravaged by “rats”. So turns out, rats can be 10-year-old humans with a MIGHTY NEED for the hidden candy in these kits.
The family wanted to pray with us before we started, & the mother actually cried a bit in the prayer while thanking God for us, which I wasn’t expecting. The dad, on the other hand, was too busy being low-key (not so low-key) mad at his children for their ruining of months of preparation. He kept throwing out sarcastic jokes & mumbling to himself (“I wonder why the Lord punished you so you’d have to waste your time doing this…”), while we tried our best to redirect him to seeing how blessed WE felt to be able to help.
After clearing the garage & sweeping up the sugar-dust debris, we asked for a return appointment. The next time we showed up, the father actually apologized to us for the grumpy state he was in, & as we weeded the backyard with him, we had a nice long conversation with us about the blessings of his life. *fistPUMP* Once again, weeding yards & pruning lives at the same time. So many gardening metaphors in the scriptures– I’m starting to see why.
Yesterday, we finished up a three-day splurge with a lady named Peggy who has, I believe, a basement stocked for the apocalypse. (Hey, she made the joke, too.) We seriously spent three whole service days coming back & lifting boxes & buckets full to the brim with sugars, salts, coconut oil, honey, agave (I didn’t know what that was, either.), rice, grains, spices, cereals, oatmeal, legumes, lentils, pastas, wines, ramen, shake powders, soup bases, smelling salts, pressure cookers, rice cookers, essential oils, doggy treats, dehydrated fruit slices, dehydrated peanut butter, powdered butters (I wish I still didn’t know what that was.), cartons of cream & milk… Elder Forsyth & I know where we’re gonna go when the world sets on fire. She said she thinks it won’t be for a long time before she needs help again… this time may never come to get to the “second step”… especially considering we are literally wall-to-wall & floor-to-ceiling with these buckets & boxes. But this first step was a delightful accomplishment in & of itself. Also, it made me think a little bit of that short story, The Cask of Amontillado. Like… I was going to bury myself under buckets of agave nectar, & not even know it was happening. :  ) Not a bad way to go. At least I was prepared, right?
We also spent a considerable amount of time raking out pond scum from that gorgeous wonderland I documented (fawsonfantasy)… the man who owns the property served his mission in Hawai’i, & his wife attended middle-school there. I think he enjoys cheesing me about not being quite as physically adept as my companion, & often made rather pointed jokes at me, but when he saw the large pile I’d accumulated, he actually was quiet & impressed. He said, in that same joking tone, “Okay, okay, that’s enough! You’re gonna kill yourself!” But the difference from before was I’d at least shown him I was working, despite not being quite as impressive a servile specimen as Elder Forsyth. 😉 We shall continue to comb up this kelp like eensy-weensy barbers until it’s kempt! Or… until we’re verklempt! One or the other.
You might recall me talking a little bit about a 14-year-old girl named Dakota who was recently adopted by her grandparents. One thing I know for a fact is how much she loves her grandfather. I think he might be the one person in the world that gives her belief in Good– & belief in herself. She apparently acts out in school (so much so that the principal said she didn’t want her there), & so, believe it or not, her grandfather attended every class of summer school with her to make sure she did well. & she did. He’s been a powerful force & a sure foundation for her… & I know it wasn’t easy for them to decide to take Dakota in, but they will truly make all the difference. It’s been hard for us to reach her in anywhere near as meaningful a way, & she has a difficult time understanding how any of this applies to her… so I felt like I needed to draw out my thousand-word thesis about… what all of this gobbledygook amounts to– why it matters. So that’s the first picture attached.
Other attachments include a very quick slo-mo (oxymoron but true) video of a sign along the road to one of our fishing mainstays (what a fishin’ mission…)– we were heading there with Isaac, & I’d recently thought I’d seen a sign for a fleeting instant with Isaac’s grandpa’s last name on it. I queried Isaac about it, & he explained that one of his aunts passed away young, & the Tayon family had adopted the highway in her honour. … As you all hopefully know at this point, I am passionate about garbage clean-up. I even wrote a SONG about Adopt-a-Highway. One of our wards back home had adopted a highway… but I’d never thought of someone adopting a highway on behalf of a loved one. Something about it just strikes me as particularly meaningful, given my thoughts on “cleaning up”. Makes me think of that famous quote about a life lived as a window-washer…
I also ordered a sandwich/friend & made a cookie pie. :  ) Yum.
You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)
07
Jul
17

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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!)

 
Elder Forsythisms update: He does not say “Poor favor,” anymore. He says, “Poor fo’ favor.” He also now says, “Ollo” instead of “Hola”. He is also an expert at sincerely switching common sayings. He reminds me fondly of a character named Edric from a book called Once upon a Marigold. Examples: “Toodles to them” instead of “Kudos to them”, “The Calvary is coming” instead of “The cavalry is coming”, “conjugate” instead of “congregate”, “Cashmere cat” instead of “Cheshire cat”. That is all.
 
With that, be prepared for a serious service smorgasbord.
 
We’ve lifted gazebos & pulled down unsightly trees with the assistance of ropes & trucks at the Tayon’s house– which was a huge blessing, because it allowed us to spend some quality time with Brother Tayon’s grandson, Isaac, who lives in one half of the house. (He’s a dedicated worker, but it takes him a while to get revved up. He spent a good hour eating an apple before coming out to help.) Isaac has had a lot of good friends in the church, but he has a little social ineptitude that keeps him from feeling comfortable around people at first. He hasn’t come out to church in years, so we talked with him about the awesome activities & awesome things he could be doing. He’d already spent a couple days alongside us hauling wooden planks & miscellaneous scraps into a bin big enough to be someone’s house… This made it so the things we said were things he could tell were sincere & from the heart.
 
When we asked him if he’d like us to stop by & just review things with him, he was actually visibly excited, & agreed. Even his cousin, who’s never been particularly “into” the things us missionaries talk about, was at least intrigued enough to ask questions about why in the world we’d choose to do all of this stuff for free, 24/7… & what it is that makes us “so different”. I’m going to take that in a good way. I was in a lesson this week with a kid named McKenna who had never even heard the word “God”. I could visibly see the instant her brain burst. I asked her, “Are you okay?” She just nodded slowly, with her mouth slightly agape. I gave her a little concerned sideways smile & said, “We’re kind of weird, but we’re also nice.”
We’ve spent a few days now weeding, cardboarding, & mulching for a widow named Sister Holm. She served one of the very first Spanish missions, & had such a strong testimony & spirit about her that she changed the heart of her mission president, who had a bit of a vendetta against sister missionaries. He later told Sister Holm that the moment he saw her, he knew that sisters were supposed to serve. & she has quite the perseverant serving spirit. Even as we have tried to serve her, she keeps spending so much time serving us!…
… food!
Apparently, for a while, she worked for catering, & it shows. Her food is full of love, most of all. :  ) & y’know I’ve gotta document all that love-food. It’s attached below, as an eMeal! (That’s what my daddio calls sharing virtual food.) Also, yesterday was one of those unfortunate stomach-splosion days, & Sister Holm immediately threw a rather comprehensive questionnaire my way about my eating habits back home. When I mentioned my mOm’s fruit-veggie smoothies, Sister Holm drove straight to the store & back before I had any clue what was happening, & blended up papaya & mango & other such tropical standbys & virtually dumped it straight down my throat. In addition, she bought me medicine to try, & suggested a local doctor & offered to pay for the visit herself, if he didn’t do it for free.
… yeah, & all I’m doing is yard work. … I hardly consider this equal compensation.
One of the first families we visited with immediately fell off the radar, right after the first lesson. No amount of re-scheduling ever worked. But once we pulled out our Ace of Gardening Spades & our… er… Hearts?… (Ew. Immodest. Keep that in your ribcage, Elder.) … we were back in business. Absolutely everything was dead in the yard, & no one wanted to help out or get started, but then we bounded up & got into it. & things started happening, & not just in the garden! We were working outside, but we were getting INside.
We re-adjusted blisteringly hot roofing & threw an old attenna off the roof for a man named Brother Lot. & I do mean blisteringly hot in a physical sense. Poor Elder Forsyth slid & braced himself with his hands. One was bigger than the other for the whole day. Brother Lot also wanted Elder Forsyth to hit a live hornet’s nest off the drain pipe. We both declined this task, to Brother Lot’s disappointment. We think he might’ve actually been trying to beat us up a little, hahaha. But as I got up to disconnect the antenna, I prayed the entire time for safety. So everything was fine. Brother Lot looked us both up & down grumpily & muttered, “… Guess you’re all right, huh?” Yes. Yes, we are. So… Take that!
We carried, cleaned, & replaced the filtration system for Brother Lake’s pond (HAHAHAH)… everything had the smell & consistency of if I were back in Hawai’i… knee-deep in a kalo lo’i. (Ask for an explanation at your own peril.) We ended up providing Brother Lake with an unplanned service when we caught a whole mess (what’s the proper collective noun?) of bullfrogs for someone’s pond only to find out they were unneeded. We called up Brother Lake, & we could hear his voice get higher & higher as we described our find. He was very pleased. We tried our best to put the frogs in the pond, but… … the frogs put themselves in, in a record-breaking 2.1 seconds. Big Steve (another missionary named each of them) was the first to bust loose from the slammer/cooler.
There was a triathlon (running, biking, swimming, in that order) that requested our help in keeping time. In a completely unexpected turn of events, the man who came in first place hailed from Elder Forsyth’s church back home in the oft’ forgot blip-on-the-radar that is College Station, Texas. (It’s probably much bigger than Hawai’i… weird how that works.) I was especially intrigued by the family that came to support each other. This one boy named Ben ran alongside me, as I tried to catch a glimpse of the swimmer’s number, Sharpied onto their right shoulder. (There were a couple close calls with relaying the number. I swear, with arms flailing like that, & the water rippling like Godzilla’s near, there’s no way to tells the difference between a 3 & an 8.) Ben told me her mom’s number, who was fast approaching the finish line. Ben told me he came from Hawai’i, but had never been back since he was a baby. He said he didn’t know his birth mom, but his REAL mom was currently about to finish her race– more than 10 minutes faster than last year, too. Go, Ben’s mom, & go, Ben! The people to come in dead-last, by a long-shot, were two parents who were helping their son who may or may not have actually known how to swim. I saw him sort of swim a few times, but he spent at least half the time hopping weakly like a queasy astronaut. His father would drift beside him & usher him softly back on track. The son got about halfway through the pool & quit, but as he stepped out, his mother gave him a big grin & said, “I’m so proud of you.” They should win 1st in the Bestest Parents division, & that kid definitely got an important award from his parents, too.
Right afterwards, our planned service had cancelled, so we double-teamed with another set of missionaries in Tooele. They just happened to be doing service for a family I’d shared dinner with, the Higleys. From their silence as I waved my arms in the air, I could tell they did not recognize me. I said, “You made us roast!” They looked at the ground & said, “Haha… that’s what we tend to do every time…” After we’d finished moving rocks that were in the backyard to the front yard, & then moved the rocks that were in the front yard to the backyard (?!?), we had to split, so I said, “Bye! Thanks for driving us to church when it was snowing, that was very kind of you.” They just kind of looked around silently. … They were like that then, too. I think they might be a little pre-occupied. Just a little.
THEN the brand-new sister missionaries invited us out to their free car-wash/bike-wash. They’d apparently posted an estimated 300 fliers around town, which I heartily commend. The turn-out was impressive– almost no down-time for 3 straight hours! The level of filth on these cars was also equally impressive! (It almost seemed to me as if they’d gone the extra mile to get their money’s worth. … … which was zero dollars.) A whole bunch of little kids/smol chitlins (an Elder Wilcox coined that term) were eager to help, & all fought over who should hop up & clean the roof of the biggest truck. I tended to be the last man at every car, as they were turning the ignition, trying to get at the last fly in the grill. My thoroughness knows no bounds, & it is hereditary.
In passing, we’d seen a flyer for a Senior Center lunch. (We were givin’ talks & singin’ at the senior center’s church group!) It looked promising, & decided we’d stop in & ask if we could assist at a later time. About a week later, I was on Splits with an Elder Kent (yeah, he has a Superman insignia belt) & as we were driving around, I saw the Senior Center & the flyer flashed through my mind. I asked Elder Kent if we could stop in a moment, & as we parked, it was rather clear that the lunch was TODAY. The entire police squadron was there, along with the mayor of Grantsville. As we tried to find someone to talk to about a future opportunity to help out, a policeman tried to serve us food. We declined, which probably was the wrong thing to do. (Never refuse food from a cop. – Elder Sonomura, 2017) They eventually stopped being faux-upset, & one of the policemen pointed at my ‘ukulele & said, “I thought you were here to entertain us!” We were about to walk out to our next appointment, but… that got me thinking.
I asked if that was a legitimate request, & everyone actually seemed game on me crashing this lunch for a moment’s time. The co-ordinator asked me, “What’re you thinking about playing?” I said, “I was thinking I Feel My Savior’s Love?” He smiled nervously, & said, “Do you happen to have anything a little less religious? There’s all kinds out here, so we’re kind of legally obligated…” I laughed, thought, thought a little harder, made a face, thought my last thought, & said, “Uh, I don’t think that I actually know how to play any non-religious songs, off-hand.” Besides my rather esoteric original songs & arrangements, hymns are literally/lyrically all I know. But, in the end, I had a rather sneaky idea. I said, “Okay, what about I sing Aloha ‘Oe?” The co-ordinator snapped his fingers & declared, “Perfect.”
It WAS perfect. … In that it’s a hymn that we sing every time someone leaves a church ward. But it’s in Hawaiian. So no one knew what I was singing about. Yes. Perfect. *shows clear signs of that mad, rascally, maniacal laugh that Nova does when he’s playing a game*
Yesterday marked the start of the Aaronic Priesthood (also known as “Young Men’s”) Camp in Grantsville. The special guest of the night was to be our Mission President. (He loves Grantsville– he says if he were a missionary, he’d want to be here.) We drove out earlier in the day, & the way there was not particularly well-marked. A lot of trial-&-error was experienced along this long & lonesome road. </Jack Black> This, however, made us perfect guides for our President later that night. It felt rather strange & wonderful, knowing that President & Sister Palmer were, for once, depending on us not to lead them astray.
We ended the night with a camp sing-along (me accompanying) of Nephi’s Courage & Called to Serve. A lot of going, a lot of doing, a lot of serving… a lot of singing, & a lot of thing-ing!
Among the attachments are me doing archery (One of the kids we teach, Taylor, is staring at me in said picture! I carried his bike for him later on when he ran out of steam.)– I actually hit all 5 targets in a row (doing my archery whiz mOm proud), a beautiful drawing by a girl named Grace & my feeble attempt to recreate said drawing, & three photos of me hangin’ out with my twin. Her name is Emily, & she was born in Utah on November 11th, 2016. Which is JUST about when I was born into Utah. (For all I know, that could’ve been the very DAY. I arrived at the MTC on November the 16th, if memory served.) So… we are basically the same age. In related (literally, related to her) news, Her two older brothers, Axel & Carter, were recently asked by a relative what they would be, if they could be anything. They said they wanted to be missionaries. Carter said he wanted to be Elder Forsyth, & Axel said he wanted to be me.
:  )
… But I’m PRETTY sure, considering those time-tables, Emily is me.
& I am Emily.
Goo goo.
Ga ga.
You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)