Josh with his companions, Elder Miller and Elder McFall.
Elder Kilmer and Elder Tatia, the brother of Josh's former roomate Moni. Small world!
I think Josh is telling us that he's running out of honey.
Sister Tutu'ila on the left and Sister Heni next to her. From California and Papa New Guinea, respectively. Both Kiribati. Josh's companions Elders Miller and McFall.
This week has been great. We've had some changes in our zone this week. The ASL and Fiji districts left, which meant that we got to wake up atand then in the morning for two days in a row, respectively. I'm surprised that I managed to magically keep myself awake during the devotionals. Which was good, because they made me one of the zone leaders, so I'm kind of supposed to set a good example (which makes me question why they chose me; I wore my shirt backwards for half of the day today).
Some basic responsibilities of a zone leader: literally everything. We plan the majority of our meetings, includingmeetings, interview the district leaders, make sure everyone does what they are supposed to do, pick up new elders and sisters, and anything else they ask us to do. So we got to pick up the new 18 elders and sisters that came to replace Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa . About 13 of them are from Kiribati, which made the Kiribati class pretty happy: more language practice opportunities. They all speak great English, though they were amazed by elevators and washing machines.
Language is going well. I'm probably more fluent in Marshallese than in Spanish and Japanese combined. I can teach entire lessons for an hour at this point (though that's including the awkward silences......). I've had some opportunities to use what little Spanish and Japanese I can remember at this point too. Though it's getting way hard to remember anything but Marshallese! I know that I know certain words, but all that comes to mind is the Marshallese word for it. It's super frustrating. But, I can study those two again after the mission. I also met some Cambodian elders and sisters! It was fun to tell them "jom reap sur" and be reminded of my two week stay with my friends over in Cambodia.
I don't have quite as much time today as usual, but to make up for it, I included some pictures. What I didn't include is my new companion. Since so many missionaries left, we combined our classes into one district with Tonga, Marshall Islands, and Kiribati in the same district, with Elder Miller as the District Leader. My companion, Elder Hirinuki, is also a zone leader. He's from New Zealand and he's just about the most loving guy you'll ever meet. He's always asking how people are and talks to everyone. Since he's in the Tongan class, he tells everyone "Ofa'atu" (hope I spelled that right), which means "I love you". Great guy and I'm learning a lot from him.
Which brings me to my lesson/topic/monologue that most of you skip for this week: it's on the importance of love. I am not a very loving person. Actually, I've spent most of my life not liking people. I much preferred to be alone. I probably still prefer being alone to being around people, but what I am learning is that I've been really hard-hearted when it comes to those around me. I've been praying for the gift of love in my life and, although I am not perfect at it yet, I am beginning to feel more love for those around me. Being a Zone Leader means that you give up a lot of your own will to help other people. I missed exercise time because an elder arrived the day after everyone else. I had to spend this morning teaching the Kiribati elders how to do their laundry. I'm constantly looking out for everyone else and trying to make sure that they are doing okay. I don't think I've really been able to spend much time studying Marshallese at all this past week. But, what I've noticed is that it doesn't matter.
I may have spent more time on others than myself. But I've begun to really care about how they feel, how happy they are. When they smile, I smile. I genuinely care for their well-being. And I don't miss the time that I could have spent on myself. I think some of that is due to blessings of being a missionary, but I also truly believe that when we care about other people's problems or their lives, we'll stop caring about our own. We'll find that when we are helping them, our own lives fade to the background and become less important. I'll probably talk a whole lot more about that during my last week here (I'm halfway through by the way), but since it is such a recurring theme, I thought I would include it here as well (Also, I've learned nothing else in class this week. Stay awake in school, kids).
So, here's my challenge: seek for the gift of love in your life. It is a gift; it's not something that we can give ourselves and it's not something we can develop on our own. But it's also a gift because we receive something in return. Allow the gift of love to be a central part of your life. I don't know where you need to improve. But I challenge you to sit down and think about where you are being too stubborn to let yourself love someone else. Do what you need to do to make it happen, and I promise that you will find that your life will take on new meaning and you will discover a joy and a sense of peace and satisfaction in your life that you never realized was missing, because Christ will be in your life.
That's all I've got. You're all great. March on.
Elder Josh Kilmer
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Mission
Fudoshin (note from Josh's mom: For those of you not fluent in Japanese, the translation for Fudoshin is literally and metaphorically, "immovable mind", "immovable heart" or "unmoving heart". It is a philosophical or mental dimension to Japanese martial arts which contributes to the effectiveness of the advanced practitioner. To say that Josh was obsessed with the Japanese culture and language before his mission is very much an understatement and from it he has found his personal mission motto. He asked me to send him the kanji (Japanese writing) for it. P.S. Special shout out to the Jonson family who among other things sent him 3 "straight up avocados." He said it cracked him up. Grandma Corine: he's almost out of honey if you have any more local stuff straight from the beekeeper, it would be SWEEET of you to send more! )