Thursday, May 26, 2016

A turn toward fluency (Week 14)

Iokwe aolep!!

Things are going great.  I don't have as much time today, so I'm sticking to a concise report. I've had a breakthrough in my Marshallese listening comprehension, which has been a huge blessing.  I've had a lot of experience beginning to learn languages, but I've never studied to fluency before, nor have I had to hear native speakers, so this side of learning is more difficult for me.  However, I'm finally tuning in on what they are saying in church and the like, which has been a great relief.  It's been hard to try to meet the needs of those we talk to when I don't know them very well because I only understand my end of the conversation.

One night this week we got a referral from the Marshallese East Elders and went to go visit the house.  When saying "hi" in Marshallese, we usually ask "kwoj ta bajjek?" which basically means "what are you casually up to?"  There are two usual responses we get: "jijjet bejjek," which means "casually sitting" (or some variation of that involving doing nothing, lying down, standing up, talking, etc.) or some excuse about how they are really "poub" (busy) at the moment with (insert excuse here) because they don't want to see us.  When we knocked on this door, we asked the usual "kwoj ta bajjek?" (What are you casually/lazily up to?) to which this man responded "Najj poub bajjek," which basically translated to "Oh, I'm lazily/casually really busy right now."  I laughed so hard and he realized what he said made no sense and was super lame and started laughing too.  It got us a return appointment scheduled.  :)

A few weeks ago, Elder Nicholas and I were waiting for our ride to pick us up and bring us back to our apartment, since it was too late to bike all the way back.  A preacher from a local church walked up while we were waiting and started trying to attack our beliefs.  Nothing he said was educated or logical and he was mostly relying on an attack on our character, on the Book of Mormon, and on Joseph Smith, which is the usual; but towards the end he told us that we didn't believe in Jesus Christ and that we won't be saved because of it.  He then proceeded to degrade the fact that we claim to learn of spiritual truths by a spiritual witness through the Holy Spirit, as well as other arguments that aren't worth mentioning, but I bring this up because his accusation that we don't believe in Christ actually really bothered me.  I couldn't believe that he had the audacity to tell us that we didn't believe in Christ, someone so precious and necessary to us.

Since that time, I set a goal for myself to read through the Book of Mormon again in 3 weeks.  It was pretty difficult because most of my time isn't actually my time out here and I've been moving into a new apartment, which subtracted from even more of my time, so I ended up mostly reading during personal study and meals.  It was wonderful!  As I read, I began to understand what the scriptures describe as a "hunger and thirst after righteousness."  I felt such a powerful presence of the Spirit as I read--more than I've ever felt before.  It felt so good that the only things I wanted to do was read to I could invite that feeling back.  I began to truly ache when I couldn't read because I wanted it so bad.  I think if I had a say over my schedule, that I would have finished it in 3 or 4 days for all my desire to read.

In the final chapter of the Book of Mormon, Moroni, an ancient prophet and the final author of the Book of Mormon promises that those who read the Book of Mormon with sincerity of heart and pray and ask God, with faith and intent to act on the answer they receive, if the Book of Mormon is true, will receive an answer by the power of the Holy Ghost that it is true.  I'm actually grateful to that preacher because he sparked my interest in acting on this promise once again.  Because of him, I feel inspired to give my own personal witness:

I have read the Book of Mormon in its entirety, with the intent to know if it is true.  I have prayed and asked God if it is true, and He has affirmed to me through the power of His Spirit that it is indeed true.  As a representative of Jesus Christ, called by a modern prophet, I add my own testimony that it is true.  I also testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God--as God has done time and time again--to translate the Book of Mormon and restore the Church of Jesus Christ once again on the earth.  Most of all, the Book of Mormon testifies, Joseph Smith testified, and I add my own testimony that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.  I know he died for us, suffered for our sins, and was resurrected so that we can be forgiven and one day be resurrected and restored to our bodies as well, and live with God again.  I believe in Him, and I know that He is the only way that we can return to live with our Heavenly Father.

The best part about that is that I didn't always know these things.  I have gained this testimony for myself through consistent study and prayer.  And that brings me to my challenge for this week:  Find out for yourself.  God loves you.  He wants you to know truth--His truth.  He is willing to answer you, if you will only ask.  I challenge you to read the Book of Mormon, as I have done, with the intent to find out for yourself if it is true.  I know that if you read and pray sincerely, you will receive an answer.  The Book of Mormon promises, and I also promise that if you do all of these things that you will know through the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith was God's prophet and that Christ is the Savior of the world.  It will bless your life.  It has blessed mine.  I leave this challenge and testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Elder Josh Kilmer
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Mission, Marshallese speaking

Fudoshin:  immovable spirit

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Iokwe from OK!--God loves His children

This is Elder Kilmer's post for this last week.  We are now all caught up on his posts.

Iokwe ijene!

It's been a fantastic week.  Life as a missionary is just fantastic.  Even though every day has its challenges, each day becomes more and more rewarding.

It's been quite stormy here recently.  Thankfully, Enid is in a bit of a bowl (yes, not flat!) so the worst of any storm never hits us.  Other areas get quarter-sized hail and tornados and we just get a lot of rain.  That being said, the storms here are awe-inspiring.  There's so much lightening and the thunder shakes the walls every time.  The sky here is just amazing.  Even when it isn't stormy, the clouds are impressive looking.  I've never really thought much about the sky, but it is beautiful here.

We've had a few miracles this week.  While I was on exchanges with Elder Bledsoe, our Spanish-speaking District Leader,  we decided that rather than head back to the apartment that we would try to talk to two people during our last 15 minutes of the night and then book it back so we would be on time.  (It's pretty hard to share the good news with the gospel if you aren't able to talk with people, so sometimes we set goals of talking with a certain number of individuals and get creative about how we can meet people.)  So we biked to some one outside.  No doors opened.  We were bummed, but it was late, so we needed to get back.  Just as we were grabbing our bikes, someone called out to us from across the parking lot.  After we talked with him, we walked past a woman just getting back from work who we talked to about families.  We got back a few minutes late, but we were definitely blessed with the means to accomplish our goals.

Yesterday, Elder Nicholas and I decided to stop by someone we taught once and left with a Book of Mormon.  We hadn't been able to catch him at a good time before because some of the Marshallese men here work 13-hour days to support their families.  But we finally saw him for a couple of minutes and set up a good time to come by.  Then out of the blue he said, "I've been reading and...*nods his head*'s really good."  Turns out he has read farther than some of our investigators that we've been teaching for months.  We're excited to come back and teach him again.

My favorite experience this week comes from a lesson with a less-active member.  During our previous day's planning session, we decided to share with him 2 Nephi 25:33, which talks about how we need God's grace because our own efforts don't cover it, and invite him to listen to Brad Wilcox's talk "His Grace is Sufficient" (which is what I based my farewell talk on).   In our planning sessions, we pray specifically to be guided to plan for the needs of those we teach.  When we arrived at this member's home, we almost decided to change the lesson, but in the end we stuck to our plan.  During our lesson, we learned that he has recently been feeling weighed down by his inadequacies and felt like he was overcome by mistakes and just bad things in life in general.  Our lesson plan was exactly what he needed to hear, and his entire countenance changed to seem a lot brighter at the end.  It was a wonderful example that God loves His children and is keenly aware of their needs.

Which brings me to my challenge this week:  God doesn't send angels to perform every single miracle His children stand in need of.  He usually works through those around us who are faithful and willing to turn outward.  So my challenge to you this week is to look out for one person that you can help every day.  You don't have to pull an entire family from a burning building; it can be simple.   The more time I spend serving, the more I learn this.  Everyone always needs help.  Everyone always need love.  Everyone always needs to be uplifted.  If you assume someone is struggling with something, you're probably right.  Not that you should send everyone you know a sympathy card, but you shouldn't pass up on an opportunity to do good or to reach out to someone just because they don't seem weighed down.  One small kind act every day.  If you believe in prayer, pray for God to place you in the path of someone you can help.  If not, just look for simple things to do.  Take care of the dishes, help with groceries, give someone a ride.  It's easy.  It makes others happy.  It will make you happy.

You're all awesome; don't forget it!


Elder Josh Kilmer
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Mission, Marshallese speaking

Fudoshin:  immovable spirit

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Iowke! (Week 12) Sacrifice Contention for Unity

Hey everyone!  Since we were a couple of weeks behind, you get two posts from Elder Kilmer this week.  He has officially been gone 13 weeks now.  Next Friday (the 27th) is his 100 day mark; what a great milestone!  As always, he appreciates any message of encouragement, via email or letter.  Thanks for your support.


This week has flown by.  It seems like I was just writing my last general email yesterday.  The days felt super long individually though.  Probably because we had to take the van into the shop where it stayed from Monday to Friday, leaving us with bikes only.  I'm happy to bike, but it made time efficiency difficult because on the west side, we live far from those we teach and the area is fraught with busy streets, but somehow sidewalks got left out of the picture.  We had another couple 30 mile days this week.  By the time I get home, I won't need to climb up rocks, I'll just be able to jump right over them for all my leg strength.

HOWEVER, two days ago we discovered Enid Trails, which is a bike trail that runs horizontally across the city--complete with drinking fountains, bathrooms, and no cars. It was enough to make a grown missionary cry.  Welcome to the sad life of a missionary--shedding tears over bike trails.

In other news, we had a new addition to our ranks this week:  Elder Menlove.  He actually came out at the same time as Elder Nicholas, but had to go home after breaking one wrist and spraining the other (that's why you always wear bubble wrap armor while biking, kids).  He's finally healed up and ready to come back out.  I like him already. He's from Colorado and he is the most outgoing guy you will ever meet.  Yesterday, even though his Marshallese is rusty after being home for 6 months, he talked with every single member in sight.  It didn't matter if he could say everything he wanted to or understand them, he let them know just how much he missed them.  It was really impressive to me because I am in the same boat with the language, but I don't do any of that.  I definitely have work to do.  

One thing that has been way funny is that Marshallese people can't handle Elder Menlove's name.  He'll introduce himself and they will just lose it.  When they calm down a little, we get in broken English, "It's funny kajin Maje! (Marshallese)'s Men...Iokwe!"  And then they lose it all over again.  We've tried asking them what's so funny about that, but they just start laughing again.  It's hilarious to watch and it's a great ice breaker.

So remember how last week I talked about how I've been learning to work with people?  Well, this week is round 2.  Apparently I have a lot to work on in this area.  What I've been learning this week is how to let little things go.  This was something I thought I knew, but I've discovered that I really don't fully understand it because I don't actually do it.  Unity is essential in our lives.  For me as a missionary, it's important because if my companion and I aren't unified, we can't teach.  It's also essential in the workplace, in our friendships, and in our families. When there is contention, or disagreement, there is a lack of unity--they can't exist together.  That doesn't mean you can't believe something different than others, or have a unique perspective.  We aren't meant to be robots.  But I'm starting to recognize the difference between having a different perspective, and thinking your way is the right one and trying to make that THE WAY.  Okay, maybe we didn't take the most efficient route or we ended up 5 minutes late or my companion takes the lesson in a different direction than we had planned (I'm totally guilty of that one).  When I return back home, roommates will likely leave dirty dishes out.  Maybe some one in your family will want to take two trips instead of one.  And most importantly, maybe your way IS the right way.  It sometimes will be.  The hardest thing for me was to recognize that we are all on different levels.  The things I used to argue over have become pointless with that perspective.  If it's not important, I have never regretted sacrificing my will for unity and peace.  And sometimes, the other person has come back afterwards and asked for correction.  Sometimes not. But either way, my life has been better in the long run.

So, my challenge:  Let the little things go.  Sacrifice contention for unity.  Think win/win.  When everyone is happy, everyone is happy--even if not everything is perfect. I promise that as you do so, your lives, your families, and your relationships will improve.  You'll be happier, feel less stressed, and find more peace.


Elder Josh Kilmer
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Mission, Marshallese speaking

Fudoshin:  immovable spirit

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Iokwe! from Enid, OK (Week 11)

Sorry, but we have been a bit behind with Josh's posts.  This one is from two week ago.  We have another post from him that we will put up soon, but there is too much to enjoy in one day.


I'm in Enid!!   For those of you who don't know (likely everyone), Enid is located in the NorthWest part of Oklahoma--our area touches the pan handle--and has the highest population of Marshallese people in Oklahoma.  So I finally get to put my language skills to use!  Except I really only know vocabulary related to our church lessons at the moment, so I'm not a whole lot of use before or after the lesson.  Also, they speak very quickly, and those that don't slur their words are few and far between, so I'm not much use in the lesson either. Hmmm...actually, I'm not entirely sure why my companion keeps me around...Probably because I have a great smile :)

So, I'm currently working on my listening comprehension.  I can understand everything Elder Nicholas says, but that's because he has a vi-pelle (white person) accent.  But I have been contributing to the lessons about as much as he has been, so I'm pretty pleased with my progress in the language so far.

Other than their rapid speaking, the Marshallese are great.  In Ponca City, we could walk up to a ri-pelle and talk with them, but we would more often than not get rejected.  But if we knock on any Marshallese door, unless they are asleep or leaving, we will not only be welcomed in, but also fed raij im bau (rice and chicken) more often than not.  It's fantastic!  They are really just the nicest people and they will do anything for a stranger.  It reminds me of ancient Greek hospitality.

One thing that I did like about Ponca was that our area was reasonably small.  We could bike everywhere no problem.  Enid is big.  We share a van and a truck with the other four Elders here, but we hit the mission mile limit on Friday, so Saturday was a biking day.  We probably biked 30 miles, most of which included a strong headwind.  I am so glad that my dad and I did our 65 mile ride to San Diego because 30 miles seems comparatively easy now.  That being said, we were quite sweaty by the end of the day.  I'm surprised that we got into those last few houses because I could smell myself, which means it was bad.  Thankfully, we talked President into allowing us a few more miles so that will make the outer areas easier, but we will still be doing a lot of biking near our home.

In other news, allergies here are worse than any place I've ever been.  I got smashed by Oklahoma's excessive pollen + strong winds + nowhere-to-hide-because-there-are-no-mountains-combo on Saturday.  But it's okay because not only does honey never spoil, taste amazing, contain everything necessary to sustain life, and have medicinal properties, it ALSO helps with allergies!!!  So I've been chugging raw Oklahoman honey and it's been helping.  I'm a little obsessed, if you haven't noticed.  I'll probably end up writing my doctorate thesis on why honey is the best food ever.  The world needs to know.

Anyway, even though it's not as interesting as honey, I should probably move on to my challenge for the week.  One thing that I have been learning on my mission is how to work with people. I used to be able to avoid people I don't like or spend a small amount of my time with them, but now I don't have a whole lot of say in who I am around.  My companion is assigned to me, along with my area.  I talk to people all day long.  Needless to say, I spend time around people that don't always do things that I like.  It's honestly been tough.  Granted, sometimes I'm the idiot (sometimes puts it lightly), but often enough, I've found myself at cross purposes with someone in a situation where neither way is outright wrong.

The solution, I've realized, is located in Elder David A. Bednar's talk, "The Character of Christ" that I mentioned some time ago.  In that talk, he says that through his study of the scriptures, he has learned that the character of Christ is that He turns outward when we would turn inward.  What that means is that, in situations when the "natural man" in us says "me," Christ is turning toward someone else.

I'll refrain from going too in depth into his talk because he does a better job of explaining everything (you can and should watch it here or read it here but I will explain what I've learned that it means in my life which can be summed up pretty simply:  It's not about you.  It just literally isn't about you.  It doesn't matter that I'm tired and that people don't want to talk to us and we aren't doing it my way and we are staying in a 2 bedroom apartment with 4 people for the 3rd week in a row or that I don't want to eat here or talk to this person or have to concentrate so I know that people are saying.  When I focus on how much I don't want these things, then it makes the whole experience worse.  They're still going to happen.  More than that, no one is benefitted by my selfishness, not even myself.  As I caught myself mentally complaining about how one missionary talks way too much and jokes around in a way that bothers me, I realized that if I were to think about what his needs were, and respond accordingly, then he would be happy and I wouldn't be miserable from wallowing in my own self-pity.

Most of all, I've realized that I don't grow when I turn inward.  The periods of highest growth for me have been when I have been so focused on helping others that I forgot about my own problems.  The reason is that the more closely we follow the Savior, the more we will be saved by His grace.  As we seek to adopt His character, not for our own growth, but truly for others, we change to become more like Him.

My challenge this week:  Seek out the character of Christ.  Turn outward when you want most to turn inward.  If you believe in prayer and scripture study, pray for and study the character of Christ.  I am a living testimony that we don't change without divine help.  If you don't believe in that, seek to turn outward.  Think win/win in your interactions with others.  As you strive to turn outward, you will find peace and happiness inward.  I know that as we strive to develop joy, love, and all that is good into our lives, our families will be blessed, our friends will be blessed, and we will be blessed so long as we don't try to keep those blessings for ourselves, but use them to bless those around us.  It's hard at first--infinitely so--but we are here to learn and grow over time, only by falling less and less each time we try.

Thank you for all of your support!


Elder Josh Kilmer
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Mission, Marshallese speaking

Fudoshin:  immovable spirit

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Week 11: A short message and photos!

Tomorrow Josh will be out for 11 weeks.  It's hard to believe how quickly the time is flying.

This last week the only email Josh sent was to the family.  He didn’t get a chance to send a general message to everyone, but we did get some photos, and a couple of videos.  I wanted to share one excerpt from his family letter with everyone that shows the essence of why young men like him go on a mission:

“I really feel like I’m growing a lot.  I’m recognizing my weaknesses and my heart has been softened in places I didn’t realize were hard.  I wanted to improve and become better, but I was unwilling to change and it was all about me.  I’m starting to realize that humility is the next attribute after determination.  I am already so happy that I came out here.  Looking back, I realize that I really came out here to meet expectations.  But now, I wouldn’t trade being out here, even just my MTC experience, for anything.”

Josh’s current favorite joke:
“Ask me if I’m a tree.”
“Are you a tree?”
(It must sound better in Marshallese)

Looking forward to (hopefully) an email this week and a call on Sunday.  Josh gets to Skype with us twice per year: Christmas and Mother’s Day.  (Happy Mother’s Day everyone)

An MTC photo.  His companion, Elder Hirinuki is to his right.

Elder Kilmer with his first two companions in the field, Elder Nicholas and Elder Bills--that is quite a range in height (Josh is 6'1")