Letter from Alyssa - June 7, 2015
I have very limited time on the computer so I will try to answer questions as best as I can and relate what has been going on through the week. But if anyone does want a more detailed and personalized letter, inside or outside of family, give them the mission address (23 Lake Road Irvine, CA 92604 - double check the accuracy of that address on the Irvine CA Mission facebook page or something) I have time set aside every night that I can write back. So emails I will try to do as much as I can, but know that that's also available.
I had to look back in my planner to remember things to send! These past 2 weeks have been slow. No new investigators. Hardly any lessons. TONS of meetings, for some reason everyone wants to take 2-3hrs for all the missionaries to get together and listen to people's opinions on the gospel. I've gotten a few ideas out of them, but looking back I wonder if we're meeting to talk about missionary work more than actually doing the work. We hardly have time to go contacting (they call it that now instead of tracting because tracting is one of the most unproductive things to do in this mission, so we go on the streets and the harbor and more popular areas outside). And I haven't given a single tour out of the now 16hrs we've sat in front of the temple, so I don't know what miracles the rest of the sisters talk about yet. However, I have pulled so much out of my studies. I've talked to so many people. We have dinner scheduled for us in members' homes every night for the next month and it looks like it will be that way for at least the 3 months I'm in San Clemente. I'm trying so hard to use new ideas and approaches to introduce the gospel to people, which seem to work quite well, but my companion is very much a visitor's center missionary. In other words, she loves sitting at the temple waving to cars passing by and hates talking to people. She does try, but she also has her way of doing missionary work so sometimes it is hard to be unified. We have had no contention though, especially in times that I could easily see other missionaries giving in to that kind of spirit in those situations. We're friends and it gets better everyday, I am helping her out of her comfort zone and she helps me get to know the way of missionary life. There is no comfort in the growth zone, and no growth in the comfort zone, which I am striving to learn better all the time.
One of my favorite things that happened last week was meeting with the mission president. I wish I had a good enough word to describe him! I think this defines his character and who he's become: about a week and a half ago (he told me this last week) there was a missionary who texted him and said "President, please pray for me" and that's it. He was in the middle of a meeting so he closed his eyes and silently offered a prayer in the Elder's behalf. After closing the prayer, he said that the Spirit told him it was insufficient. So he immediately excused himself from the meeting, went into his office and got down on his knees pleading to Heavenly Father to help this missionary with whatever it was he stood in need for, not knowing what that need was but expressing that he knew Heavenly Father knew. He doesn't know how long he was on his knees. After closing the prayer, he felt a sense of peace and returned to the meeting. No one questioned him. He then got a text a few minutes later saying "thank you" from that missionary.
Another experience he shared was Wednesday night, when all the new missionaries (23 of us!) were invited by tradition to have dinner in his home. He told us of an experience he had on his mission. He starts by saying he had never seen the ocean in person all his life even when he was called to serve in Tonga. He flew from Salt Lake and landed in California in the early evening out of view of the Pacific. Through the night he flew to Hawaii, and from there to Tonga. It wasn't until the plane started descending to Tonga that he say the ocean at dawn the next day, so much of it also that he didn't even see the land until the tired landed on the ground. Some of the Islands he served on were small enough that he could get up in the morning, run all the way around them, and be back before breakfast. In that time and at that mission, he was in the ocean at the beach every day. That's even how they showered, then using a little fresh water to rinse off the salt. It was a part of the culture. and they waded through water on reefs between islands. They also wore solid colored shirts and Levi's instead of suits and ties. One day he and his companion were on the beach, don't remember what they were doing but they were early. They saw a log that seemed cut just right to work like a pretty functional surfboard. So together they paddled on it out to the water, faced it towards the beach and waited for the waves, which were pretty good for surfing that day. After a few tries, his companion got bored and swam to shore despite Elder Orgill's calls to get him back. His companion sat on the beach, and Elder Orgill tried again and again, thinking maybe it would work now that there was only one person. It started to get later, so he thought he'd go back. Not knowing anything really about the ocean, he soon found himself stuck as he tried harder and harder to swim back to shore, much like I was when we were in Florida. The undercurrent had caught him and the more he struggle, the smaller the island became as he was pulled out further and further. The water began to darken as he traveled on the board over deep deep water. It got to the point where the water was almost jet black, and he realized (this much he did know) that he was over the Tongan Trench, which is the 2nd deepest part of the ocean in the world. Frustrated, he saw the board/log as useless and jumped into the water to swim back like his companion had. This was a mistake because he realized that way that Levi's get very heavy when they're wet. He turned to get back on the board but jumping off sent it about 30ft in the opposite direction he wanted to go. He swam desperately until he was near exhaustion and feared drowning. he began praying and asked Heavenly Father that his Branch President would be blessed with the words to use that would best comfort his mother with the news of his death. The Spirit came to him and said "wrong prayer." Confused, he prayed again, crying out much like Joseph Smith must have with his last desperate pleas saying, "I can't do it by myself, please help me to find a way for me to get back, help me know what I can do to get back to shore." Then the waves picked up and he was sure this was his last day. But then he decided to try to use the wave and ride it towards the island. It worked, timing his position and striving to pull together all the strength he had left to do so. After doing this once of twice, the water started to get slightly lighter in color and he found hope. The next wave he caught was perfect, and carried him far though he still had a long ways to go; however, this time as it curled and fell it slammed him into the reef. Bleeding from his chest, arms, and face, the Spirit told him "do it again." Not having any time to think of some other way, he obeyed, caught the next wave at its peak, and slammed again hard into the reef. This time, the Spirit to him to hold on. He gripped the reef as best he could under water, opening more wounds in the salt water of the ocean and he felt the current underneath pull back again for the next wave. Though he tried, he lost his grip and the wave ripped him off the reef, shredding his skin on his knees and the palms of his hands. But he knew he had to do it again, so a third time the wave lifted him and slammed all the momentum down on him back to the reef. This time he prayed for strength that he could hold on, being about 15ft under water. The current pulled back again, and he held on in the darkness, out of breath, and prayed one more time for the Spirit to let him know when the timing was perfect for him to catch the next wave without being dragged back out. Waiting for seemingly an eternity, The Holy Ghost finally 'gave the signal' and he pushed with every bit of energy left, surfacing at the exact point of the wave and crashing into the shallow parts of the reef where he rolled and was dragged to the shore. He turned to his companion as he lied in the now red sand, asking "where were you?!" Hi branch president was there and explained that this area was known as one of the most dangerous places anywhere to be swimming and many natives have died in those waters, many more losing their lives trying to save them. Elder Orgill offered a prayer in repentance of his thoughts towards his companion and thanked Heavenly Father for saving his life. Now President Orgill explained to us, after we had a discussion of the applications to us now, that he doesn't share this for the sake of the miracle of his life being saved. Rather, he shares it so we can see the importance of knowing Heavenly Father's voice through the Holy Ghost and relying on Jesus Christ, especially when we are "safe" on the beach.
I hope I'll have more to report next week as far as what's happening now in California, rather than what happened a long time ago in Tonga. It's been pretty uneventful and repetitive to the point when I don't even know what to report. But that's okay, I'm not depressed in the least, and remember the principle taught by Jesus Christ, because I've been promised that they will be foremost on my mind in times when I really need them if I do what I need to in order to make that possible.
One question: are we related to an Eric Shumway? Good friend of President Orgill, well known throughout Hawaii and Tonga because he served his mission in Tonga about 10yrs before President Orgill and served as President of BYU-Hawaii while President Orgill was President of the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii before being called here to Irvine in July of 2013.
I know this email is insufficient, I'm so sorry! Emails are the HARDEST part of serving a mission. Literally. They drain me emotionally, and I have to try to go super fast and make it last for the entire week. Given, it would be much worse if I couldn't email and I'm not complaining, I only wish I knew what to send for it to be at least satisfactory. I do look forward to hearing from you every week!
- Sister Shumway