Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A seven ami Sabbath (le 13 septembre 2010)

I was looking through my mission letters and realized that I was missing a week in September! After some searching on my mission email account I found it.
Voila:

Oh! Oh! Oh! We had an incredible week, and yesterday was the cherry on the top. We had seven of our investigators at Church yesterday. Seven. I know! Okay, so this would be dismal in Brazil, but for us here: a miracle. And, thankfully, everything went smoothly at Church. Even when you have one ami at church you seem to have this motherly fuss over them, and for seven it would be impossible. But, the members stepped in and took care of each of them. They made me proud. President Ulivaka said once that the missionaries try so hard to bring the investigators through the door only to be met by members that kick them out window. This week missionary and member alike kept them safe inside the fold.

We received some new missionary training from our leaders concerning the doctrine of Christ and how we need to extend the baptismal commitment at each lesson we teach and a date. We have already been doing our best to do this, but at our district meeting we did some effective role playing that helped us experience and see new ways of how we should present and ask the baptismal question. I was surprised at how well the role playing went. Sometimes it can be ridiculous. For example, you can have either bad investigator acting (too mean or too unrealistic) or missionaries (okay, me) who don't take it seriously enough. I remember attempting it a few times with Soeur Seiko in Paita but she would break out laughing and I can never be much of a realistic investigator. Well, this week the role playing was, like I previously stated, effective.

Anyway, all this new training is derived from Preach My Gospel, but it approaches the work in a more inspired, concise way. I can see how the work is going to develop and be enhanced in the process of this new training. My love for Preach My Gospel has grown over my mission and does not decrease; I see how inspired the prophet and his apostles are/were in creating  and honing our use of this volume to increase the efficiency of our work.

Since that training my companion and I have been diligent in teaching our lessons in a way that it evolves around the baptismal commitment, because really, shouldn't our investigators know exactly why we're there? And, shouldn't our end goal be commonly shared?

At our second lesson with Victoria and Roger (newer investigators) we were doing a recapitulation of the Restoration. We used Book of Mormon scriptures to describe the ministry of Jesus Christ and how it is necessary for us to follow His example. Roger asked us if we could baptize him right there on the spot because he said he hadn't been baptized. Roger is very zealous. (Funny side note: Roger also told us a few days ago how once Moses came into their garden with a bunch of forest animals to talk with him.) Victoria, who is level-headed and thoughtful, told us that she too wants to be re-baptized because she didn't remember even making the decision to be baptized (she was sprinkled as an infant - "infant baptism is a solemn mockery before God" - Moroni says it all for me). We talked about authority and the necessity to be baptized by someone who holds the Priesthood of God, restored to the Church through the prophet Joseph Smith. We asked them if they would like the be baptized on October 9th by someone who held the Priesthood of God and become members of the Lord's church on earth. They said yes. The Spirit was so strong and tears came to Victoria's eyes. She said that she had had a dream a few weeks ago (fyi: revelatory dreams are not only not uncommon here but also not looked upon as strange) and saw two young women coming towards first Roger and then towards her. She said we were a miracle for her.

There are a lot of odds and ends that need to be tied up and changed before Victoria and Roger can be baptised, but we will teach them what they need to know and pray that they'll have the courage to follow the nicely lighted straight and narrow. That's something I love about the Gospel: God doesn't hide anything from us; all that is necessary to our salvation is illumiated and simple. He shows us the EXACT way we need to go. We just have to search, listen, repent and obey.

Victoria and Roger were two of our seven amis that came to Church on Sunday. For them it was a first. Unfortunately, testimony meeting started with a testimony that was far far far from a testimony; a member got up to the microphone and when he began talking his phone rang. I was surprised ( thinking, "wow, that's conicidental") until he answered the phone and said "Oh, hello Heavenly Father." This is when surprise met shock. He then pretended to have a little conversation with God on the phone while still at the pulpit. I wonder what was going through his mind as he was pre-mediating the execution of this little "testimony." I had to quickly explain to Victoria and Roger, people who haven't gone to church in years and completely NEW to all of this, that that person did not have a special phone in connection to God. It was so uncomfortable for everyone listening, and I was nervous for our amis. However, I think everyone realized what was going on and all the other testimonies that came afterwards were powerful, truth-based and edifying. No more phone calls from "Heavenly Father." Phew.

During our Relief Society lesson we had a great discussion on "The Church of Jesus Christ Today" and the Restoration. It was perfect for Victoria. She drank everything up. She kept commenting to me, "This is true, this is true." She had all her scriptures with her in her backpack and informed me that she had read the entire brochure we had given her and had completed the scripture study found at the end. It was one of the best experiences to be next to her and Roger throughout all the meetings and see the knowledge and light of the Gospel entering into them.

Francois decided this week to "put the Lord to the test" and quit smoking for good. There is a marked difference in his countenance from when we first met with him. Now when we come to pick him up on Sunday morning (with a member) he is in his buttoned white shirt and his tie is around his neck by the time we arrive to church.

Soeur Paepaetaata and I are experiencing a lot of joy. We are seeing miracles in the work we do. We feel the closeness of the Spirit's presence and the love that Heavenly Father has for these good people.

I love you all.

Love,
Soeur Cummins

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

one month later

It has been one month since I stepped foot again on arrid American turf. Was my mission a dream? Sometimes it feels that way until I am sent merciful "reminders" such as these this week:

1) I received a lovely watercolored map of New Caledonia in the mail two days ago. When I noticed the OPT logo (which is the French postal service mark) on the large tube-like package my mind first jumped to estasy and then to "wait, who sent me this?" I was touched to receive the package (especially when I revealed its contents). I have been missing la Calédonie particularly these past fews days. I had to go out to the car and shed a few tears; I couldn't well do that in front of the postal lady. She probably already thinks I am beserk for walking into the office decked in my soccer wear, clackety cleats included.

2) I can still speak French. A certain madame from BYU called the other night (same evening that I recieved that cherished tube) to inform me with some important news and I didn't even have to think before responding and conversing freely. It was like riding a bike; a lovely bike that misses being set onto open sidewalk.

3) Frere Kilama made a transpacific telephone call to give me "les nouvelles" from la Calédonie.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

The gift the most dear (11 octobre 2010)

Hi.
First things first: Happy Birthday Heather Shea!
I am at the beginning of the very end now. It is a sobering thought. Soon I will leave this land, these peoples, and this life that I have grown accustomed to and so fond of and come back to the “other side”. These are the last moments.
We watched conference this past weekend, as the time changes are so different that to watch it when you do would be at three in the morning the day after. Apparently, this is not ideal. The messages were inspired and soul-renewing, different than those given six months ago both in topic and tone. I appreciated the clear focus on decision making and agency. What an incredible capacity and responsibility (which grows as knowledge increases and talents are bestowed) we have to choose.
I had a faith inspiring experience yesterday at conference that I feel prompted to share with you. I could have overlooked its simplicity, but the Lord works in various small, unassuming ways for His children, and I believe that as we become more aware of and thankful for His less evident workings in our lives, He is willing to continue in His outpouring. We have an amie named Fabianne. She wanted to come to conference on Saturday and waited until five in the afternoon for the ride that was supposedly to come pick her and her children up. No one came. We confirmed a ride for her on Sunday, but we noticed after the first session that that neither Fabianne or the member given the task to pick them up were there. At this point we had about twenty minutes until the commencement of the last session, and I was anxious - feeling and, thus, knowing that we had to find some way to get her. I whispered a small prayer of gratitude and help and then went to work trying to find a member willing to go to Ducos. Soeur Fitcher was out chatting with some other soeurs and I asked for her help. She was willing. We, three, drove to Ducos, picked up a very happy Fabianne and family (re-dressed for the third time), and arrived at conference just as President Uchtdorf gave the opening remarks. Later that night we had a soirée familial (FHE) at Fabianne’s and she expressed her gratitude to have been able to go to conference. She said that she felt great peace when she heard President Monson’s final remarks. It was her first time to see and hear the prophet. I appreciate the simple power of prayer and faith and the help that Father puts in our paths – to be able to ask Him for help in any circumstance, big or small, complex or uncomplicated.
This week I had my final district meeting with the other missionaries in my district, since tomorrow is zone conference. I am going to miss our quirky district and the Spirit we feel one and all each Tuesday between the times of 11 and 12:30 as we strive to become a more adequate servant in the Lord’s vineyard. It is a great blessing from the Lord that I have not yet felt the impact of my impending departure – I feel focused and energetic to work and labor to the very end. Oh, Father has blessed me more than I could ever wish to express.
On Wednesday I did a final exchange with Soeur Chugg (or, as I enjoy crooning, “Sista Shoe-guh”) and we visited one of our newer amis. This one lives in a squat down by an out-of-use lepers' colony. It is the most tranquil spot I have been to on the island – the terrain of the colony that is, not the squat. It is located on the ocean front, and we sat and waited for our ami to arrive amongst the intricately branched mango trees. What a perfect place to talk about the Gospel of peace. Plus, if I were a leper… no, I won’t even say that.
We had a wonderful experience with our amie, Annie Wema, this week. She was alone when we stopped by her apartment, and consequently she was able to unload a lot of personal problems and sadness that has been weighing on her mind. We listened with care and were able to respond to her concerns. She told us that she had begun reading the Book of Mormon. She said that as she read she would feel peace and calm, but that as quickly as this feeling would come to her it would leave. She asked if she was too weak to be able to keep it with her. We explained the nature of the Holy Ghost before our baptism and confirmation and its more limited role (limited by our lack of covenant – like someone knocking on our door; all he can do is knock and wait for us to “receive” him in, though he has the capability and potential to roam freely in our house) and how the Spirit, after confirmation, could be a continuous influence in her life. I loved the talk that Elder Bednar gave about the Holy Ghost, His nature and our relationship with him. I do not think that I really understood the whisperings of the Spirit and his nature before I came on my mission. Of course, I did follow those promptings to go on a mission, but I realize that there have been many a time that I felt his holy influence but was not aware that it came from him, and thus was not aware of a response to a question or a guiding light. I am grateful that I have a greater comprehension of and receptivity to his subtle but sure influence.
I have to run now. This is my last P-day, and there is much to do. You should take a glance at my planner for this week – bursting with activity; the best sort of week.
See you on the other side.
Love,
Soeur Cummins

One year six months and counting (4 octobre 2010)

Dearest Family,
You may be enjoying your sessions of General Conference, but we on the other hand have to wait a week to receive such drippings of heavenly light. I find that after the six month dry spell my spirit is in need of the inspired words of our leaders and the prophet.
This week we had a wonderful district meeting on the importance of using the Book of Mormon in our work and focusing on having our investigator's read it from the beginning and PRAYING to know if it is true. I remember coming into the area of Ducos and realizing that all of the present amis had been given reading assignments from all over in the Book of Mormon but it is difficult to have a relationship with a book if you cannot understand the story as a whole. So, we made a reading chart and started all of our amis at the beginning. It is incredible how the Book of Mormon changes lives - subtly but consistently. François, for example, began reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning and coming consistently to church meetings and his entire demeanor began to change. As he reads he understands the story and relates with the characters. Gilles, another example, is the soon-to-be husband of Fabienne, and he told us that as he reads the Book of Mormon his desire to do good increases. We shared Mosiah 5:2 with him, showing him that is the Spirit working within him as he reads the Book of Mormon, inspiring him to goodness.
We had some great lessons with Victoria this week. I feel as though I was meant to meet and teach her; she is my joy. We went and saw her on Tuesday without any warning and we found her sitting on her bed surrounded by Liahonas, her scriptures and a notebook full of notes. Is she for real?
On Wednesday we had such a good day and FULL day that we didn't even have time to eat lunch. I love days like that. We are teaching many wonderful amis and are finding more through our daily knocking activities. Oh, I would tell you more about all these experiences but I have to go buy souvenirs for all you before our lunch with Frère Kilama. Don't worry, my journal will be an open book for you when I come home.
Love,
Soeur Cummins
lunch!

tindu art contest

« I feel the presence of the Savior. » (27 septembre 2010)

happy birthday, soeur paepaetaata baptism
Dearest Family,
I am happy to be able to write you once again and do a little "rendre compte" of my week with you. This week the sisters of Paita (Chugg and Hurst) came down and spent the day with us in Ducos. A few weeks ago the missionary leaders received new training that comes directly from the prophet in order to make the work we do more efficient. The sisters came and did exchanges with us in order to teach us the new training and it is INCREDIBLE. There is nothing new, no new Preach My Gospel, but the Brethern were able to pin-point for the missionaries eight foundation principles that, if followed, will make us better missionaries and more effective tools in the Lord's hands. The principles we learned this week with the sisters begin with being clear at the get-go with our investigators why we are there. We also need to ask them why they think we are there so that we can find equal ground right at the beginning and work towards a mutual goal. Our lessons are then more focused on the commitment at the end and not the lesson plan. Because, it is by following commitments that our amis repent and change. So really, our lessons should be focused on the goal, the end-point. We also spoke about the importance of REALLY listening to our amis and asking inspired questions in order to discern needs and follow the Spirit. Sometimes we are so focused on trying to find the inspiration of the Spirit that we stop listening to our investigators, when in fact as we listen closely to our amis and between the lines the Spirit will inspire us.
At our first lesson together with our amie, Ruth, Soeur Hurst and I put into action these simple principles. We had a specific commitment in mind for her (to go to church and to pray morning and night), but as we listened to Ruth and discerned the problems she is facing we discovered that we needed to follow a different approach and teach another principle. As we did this, showing her how she could demonstrate her faith in Heavenly Father, we all felt the Holy Spirit testify. She was inspired. During the closing prayer she asked Heavenly Father to help her with her difficulties and to help her get to Church every Sunday (our first commitment in mind for her). It was a wonderful lesson and different from any other one we had had with her. I see that this new way to approach the work is the will of God. Though I be only a few short weeks away from coming home, I am learning more than ever. It goes to show that even an old dog can learn new tricks.
We had a miracle day on Wednesday. We had a wonderful lesson down in the squats of Numbo with Victoria. We talked about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and she expressed her desire to repent everyday and become like Christ. She showed us this board that she began making where she posted all the notes she takes as she listens to us and as she studies the scriptures. She had been sick for a week with stomach problems and is losing weight because of them (and she is already SO thin), and she said that lately she has been feeling the presence of Satan pulling at her. We called the elders to come and give her a blessing. After the blessing Elder Rock asked her what she felt in her heart. She said, "Je ressens la présence du Sauveur," or "I feel the presence of the Savior." We all did.
I don't have much time left to tell you of all the experiences we have seen this week, but all is well. We are knocking doors and contacting all that we see and are becoming better missionaries. I am a better missionary this week than I was last week, and for me that is an accomplishment.
I love you all and am trying not to think about you too much, knowing that I will be seeing your faces soon. The very thought of that brings joy to my heart, but leaving here will be quite bittersweet.
Happy birthday to Kari tomorrow!
Love,
Soeur Cummins

On vacation (20 septembre 2010)

dear mamie songDearest Family,
I shouldn’t have counted, but this is the fourth to last email I will send your way as a missionary; soon we will be able to have a conversation without the use of a modem. These are my final four weeks, and I am determined to make them the best. I plan to be exhausted when I arrive home, so have a bed ready. And, perhaps a doctor’s appointment. I am not sure what sort of effects these last eighteen months have tolled on my body, but they might need to be evaluated by a professional.
As for this week: The schools are on vacation (which is a common thing here - I am sure that they have the same amount of days in school as they do on vacation) and the members are free to go along with us. We had 14 member present lessons this week, which is another mission high for me. Cindy Ulivaka (the 18 year old daughter of our branch president) was able to go to work with us. She is a great missionary already and even went door-to-door knocking with us. We taught our ami Yannick who is not having much luck in life lately. He is not very loved at home by his wife and his relationship with his children is strained. He was attacked by a dog last week and his beloved canine was nearly killed in the attack. We attempted to comfort him with scriptures about Christ and His sufferings and how we can rely on Him in all our moments - those both joyous and painful. But, he was not in a state to be comforted.
After teaching with Cindy, we were able to study in Preach My Gospel together. As we talked, Cindy was able to be open with us about some difficulties she has been facing lately. There are not many active young adults in the Church here and she has seen many of her close friends from Church turn to the ways of the world. It's hard to stay strong in a culture that rejects Gospel principles so blatantly. I am glad that we can be Cindy's friends and strengthen her. But, in fact, it is her example that strengthens me.
We had great lessons with Fabienne and Gilles this week. As we taught about baptism Fabienne just squirmed in her seat; she wants to be baptized more than any other person I have ever met. When Gilles said that they would go to the town (la Mairie) hall and figure out when they could get married (you have to reserve a spot at la Mairie) she nearly passed out with joy.
We continue teaching Victoria and Roger. When we went there Monday evening, Victoria told us that she had stayed up until three in the morning reading the "Principles of the Gospel" book and looking up every scripture that it cites. Roger said that he enjoyed the Priesthood meeting with the brethern and then he said that he had the priesthood. We told him that he did not have it - after his baptism he would be able to receive it. Sometimes we have to be a little frank.
On Saturday night we had a FHE at the Ulivaka's with Fabianne and her little boy. Francois also came. It is good to see member integration among our amis.
I am glad to be a missionary.
Love,
Soeur Cummins

fhe at the ulivaka's
a dress shop en ville

One planner left (6 septembre 2010)

Bonjour tout le monde,
This is French first-words-at-the-pulpit classic. Getting up to the stand during sacrament meeting and not saying "bonjour" to everyone is going to be a difficult habit to break - or a new habit to install?
Well, today is officially the first day of my last planner. For those who are unfamiliar, missionary life is not lived so much hour-to-hour, day-to-day, or even month-to-month. It is a bubble of time divided into six week periods, dotted with weekly preparation days, district meetings, weekly planning sessions, and church meetings. I am in the last of these six week periods, and it is a time of reflection and goal setting. I plan to sprint to the end. This work is too great and too grand to be carried on by walkers. I love a citation by President Monson when he said, "do not pray to have a calling that meets your capacities, pray to be given the capacities that meet your calling." I am surer than ever of the fulfillment of this in my life. I see how Heavenly Father has refined my capacities and enlargened my abilities to meet the demands of my calling, yet I see that I have quite a distance to go. However, the more that I study the Gospel and the life of Christ the more sure I am that Christ's grace "sufficeth" me. What optimism this inspires! Of course, qualifying for His grace requires more than a cheap effort, but I am grateful to make those efforts so that I may one day "be like unto Him."
This week has seen all sorts of adventures. We have been finding new amis left and right. We had a lesson in the squats near Tindu. It was a hiking adventure to get there (and my companion doesn't have fond sentiments for the bush), but the lesson went great. The two people we taught there are Victoria and Roger. They are humble and seeking the truth. We also had a lesson with an amie that was invited to take the lessons by another one of our amis. Investigators finding new investigators. Wow.
I don't have much time left on the computer, but here is a run-down of the week:
· my companion got sick but all is well now (and I was able to use the time she spent sleeping to catch up in my journal)
· car wash with all the missionaries – and I was kissed on the cheeks by a drunk man that came up from behind! Aouh! The count is now at three.
· district conference with all the branches – our branch sang, and we sang well too.
· President Ostler's arrival
· Sisters’ night with all the sister missionaries – spaghetti dinner that involved Soeur Chugg eating butter straight from the butter plate.
I love you all.
Love,
Soeur Cummins

victoria and rogerat district conference with Fabianne and Irenemy companion asked me to iron her hair. this was a first for me. no head injuries ensued.

"Si quelqu'un d'entre vous manque de sagesse…" (30 août 2010)

Dearests,
The weeks are filing by before my eyes. Next week I begin my final missionary planner, ushering in the final six weeks of my mission in this blessed island land.
This morning Soeur Paepaetaata and I had very interesting personal studies which ended up becoming a confusing companionship study. I studied DandC 77, which gives an explanation of the revelations of John, and Soeur P. studied 2Néphi17, smack dab in the Isaiah chapters. As we attempted to understand the complexties of the signs of the second coming, Judaic history and the perspective of Isaiah in seeing the latter days, Soeur P. reminded us that "if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God...", so we said a prayer. This goes to say that the more that I progress in my study of the Gospel, the more that I see how much God wants to give me the knowledge and understanding of His mysteries. Yet it is essential for me to search them out with His Spirit, for the mysteries of God can only be understood by the spirit of revelation. I am convinced of God's fervent desire to give me understanding.
This past week we had a particular experience that was positive with two newer amis, Prisca and Jacques. We met Prisca during a knocking doors activity (with member Soeur Mana in tow), and we set up a second lesson for this past week. Not only was Prisca ready for our lesson when we came, but her copain Jacques was there and willing to listen as well. The lesson was on the Restoration and they committed to, once they prayed and were certain of the message's truthfulness, to join the Church. There was a warm spirit in their home, and after our lesson they said that they had prepared a meal for us. I am frequently astounded by the kindness of the people here. On Friday night we had a dinner planned with an inactive family, but we weren't able to confirm it with them until the day of. I thought that perhaps they had forgotten, but when we went by in the morning we found the mother preparing the dishes for that evening. During our meal together that night, they told us all about their experiences with the missionaries. After their immaculate dinner they found out that I would soon be finishing my mission and they gave me a present of two traditional dresses. :)
On Thursday we did another sister's exchange and I went up to Paita to work the day with Soeur Chugg. The last exchange that I did in Paita was not the most positive of experiences, but this time was different. Soeur Chugg and I had great morning studies and went out to do some "finding activities" with gusto. We didn't talk to many people, but at the end of the road we met a sweet Futunian woman, Suliata, and taught the Plan of Salvation. There has been a shortage of the Restoration brochures that we give out to people we contact (which is the brochure we give out the most often), so we have been “forced” to us the Plan of Salvation brochure. The past few weeks have convinced me that this is not by accident. The people we met have a desperate need to understand God's plan for them and their family. When we taught Suliata she expressed sorrow at the loss of her parents many years ago and how still missed them. We couldn't stay with her very long (she was the last house we were to knock), but we testified of the love of our Father and His wonderful plan for our lives and for our eternity. Even in this short lesson I felt the Spirit testify to me of how much God loved this woman. I feel so lucky to be, many times, an intermediary between God and these people to testify to them and let them know of God's love for them. We also had a great lesson later that afternoon with a man and his wife (Jess and Nadette) on prayer. I shared the story of the brother of Jared in Ether 2 where it explains how he didn't pray for four years as they dwelled by the seashore and how the Lord visited him and chastised him. Before we I read the Lord's chastizing of the brother of Jared (verse 15) it seemed harsh, but when you read it and realize that it comes from a loving Heavenly Father it takes on new light. It shows how desperately the Lord wants us to be with Him, but we cannot dwell with Him if we do not pray to Him or do the small and simple things.
All in all, my last exchange in Paita was positive, and it was also a VERY good day for my companion, Soeur Paepaetaata in Ducos with Soeur Leavitt. It gave her the opportunity to step up to the plate, show the area to Soeur Leavitt, and take on more responsibility. She gained greater confidence in herself and a desire to be a better missionary. I can see that the effects of that transfer already in her recent work. She is becoming more constant and dedicated, and this pleases me immensely.
So many good experiences this week: our amie Ruth who prayed at church, the Relief Society activity, a nice sunburn (wait, not a good experience), Soeur Seiko's working with us, good knocking activities, François stops smoking, etc...
I love you all. Good luck this week with school and seminary.
Love,
Soeur Cummins

Birthpains (23 août 2010)

Family,
It's Monday again. Time passes too quickly, but it is not empty. If you knew how much is done in one day in the life of a missionary, you would know that God is a God of miracles. The simple fact that eight hours provides quasi-enough sleep at night is proof of His mercy. It's incredible that eight weeks from today I will be flying to Fiji and then flying home to you all. There is much work to be done though and no time to think about what lies ahead. Though, I am sure to be shell-shocked with all the changes at home. So many babies! I had no idea either that Danielle was expecting!
I was thinking the other day what it would be like to start my mission over again and begin afresh, like Alex, but with all I know now. Alex has no idea what his mission will be to if he allows it to shape him. When I started I had no idea how to be a missionary. I don't think I know a whole lot now, but what I do know is the importance of the Spirit in this work. It is the key. Once you have to Spirit you will know all that you should do.
This week we had many good experiences. We have been working everyday with members and mostly the sisters in the ward. This is not only a benefit for our amis, who feel the strength of a testimony of a "real" person (since we are extra-terrestials or something to them - especially moi), but also for the fortification of our members. Bearing testimony is one of the most conducive ways to invite the Spirit into our lives, and with the Spirit we received added strength to persevere and acquire necessary Christlike virtues. In the teaching situation, all parties (ami, member, and missionary) can be of benefit.
I had many excellent studies this week in the Book of Mormon and the Bible. As I read the Bible, though it may not be in its perfect state, I understand clearly, in the light of the modern gospel, the principles taught. The power of the word of God is incredible. I have also been worried about the progress of my companion - she has been having some difficulties lately, and I was lead to many scriptures this week that were meant for her. I have been praying to be guided as the leader in our companionship, and as time progresses I feel that the Spirit is guiding me to discover what she needs to hear and how to correct her if reproof is necessary. I feel like a mother, and thankfully I have the best parenting guide: the Holy Scriptures.
On Thursday this week we had an interesting afternoon. We were with a member, Soeur Mana, for most of the day and all of our rendez-vous were falling through (which is distressing in general, but even more so when you have a member with you). As we searched for people to try and visit, I remembered a goal we had made in our weekly planning session to go and try to visit some old amis. I had the thought of visiting an ami named Benjamin at an address that I vaguely remember. Nonetheless, we went there and knocked on the doors of the apartment building in order to find him (and contact the people who opened their door: "Yes, we are looking for a Benjamin that lives in this building. Do you know him? He has met with the missionaries, like us, before. Have you ever spoken to the missionaries?" etc.) We ended up knocking on the door of a young mother, and she invited us in. We had a wonderful lesson on the Plan of Salvation with her, and the Spirit was strong. She told us that her father had passed away in May and she teared up. We shared the knowledge and hope we have in eternal families. I am thankful for the Spirit gentle guiding in our lives, especially in missionary work, leading us to those who desire and are searching. I know that Heavenly Father will give unto us the power and the capacities in order to fulfill the divine and great calling to serve His children if we but do all that we can. That scripture in 2 Nephi 25:23 is not just for final judgment or the reception of eternal life, but the grace of Jesus Christ is enough to fill our daily shortcomings if we will but do our very best. The question then is: are we doing our very best?
We had to push Francois' baptism date back to September. He has a desire for baptism though, and I believe Sunday was, the first time in his entire life that he wore a real tie. If this isn't progression then I do not know what is. The brother that came with us to pick him up had to tie it for it and show him how to put it on.
On Saturday night we went to the Seiko's home for a welcome home party for Soeur Seiko, now a returned missionary. She didn't have her badge and she looked melancholy; it was as if someone had stripped her of something dear and precious. The sight of her was foreshadowing for me. But let's not dwell on that. The soirée was great and included a rendition of "Joy to the World" (which is not just a Christmastime hymn) by Soeur Seiko (the mom) and her son Abel.
We have wonderful amis who are progressing, and this area gives me daily joy. Though sometimes I feel much like unto Paul when he describes his missionary work as a birthing process; there is joy, but heavens, there is pain and suffering. But, if we didn't suffer for something, would it really be of great worth to us? Christ suffered the greatest pain in order to give us the greatest blessing: eternal life. The Atonement was no cheap experience, and when we serve our Lord He desires to give us an experience that is of great value. Thus, our mission will be no cheap experience either.
I love you all.
Soeur Cummins
francois

fabianne and children (and cindy ulivaka)

And then there were three (16 août 2010)

Dear Family,
First of all, I am thrilled for Alex. What an opportunity it is to serve the Lord! Aouh! And, that he gets to speak a language that he has had 19 years to master is an even greater blessing. Once you enter into the Lord's vineyard you realize that no matter where you are called to serve that the work is the same and that the Lord's children, no matter where they are found, are in desperate need of you. Your tools are the same, the Spirit is the same, and the Master you serve is the same. What a blessing it is to serve Him wherever it is that He beckons us.
I am writing this email as the current most senior missionary (according to departure dates) on the island along with Soeur Leavitt and Elder Larkin. This morning Soeur Seiko and Elder Morrill left the island to have final interviews with President and attend the temple. One will fly back home here (Seiko) and one to a land foreign and forgotten. America, that is.
A few nights ago before the 10:30 bedtime call (which is a serene time of the day), I was reading an article about how the Lord expects and desires for miracles to happening among His children far more than what amount of desire we may have for them. Thus, especially as a missionary, we should expect and pray for them. The next day we saw many. We received two contacts from Sophie, an investigator, after we asked her if she knew anyone that would be interested in our message. Asking for referrals is such a simple act, but so many times I am so wrapped up in the lesson or wanting to get out of someone's apartment so they can relish the Spirit that I forget. This time I felt a distinct impression to ask. So we did, and we received. These contacts ended up being two women who are interested in the church and our message. One's name is Kora Waydriwadri (Maré), the other Juanita.
Each day we are trying to do an hour or more or finding activities (such as following-up on contacts and knocking doors), which is adding more amis into our teaching pool and giving us the sure knowledge that the Lord has prepared His children here for this message. The more I study the Gospel and the closer I come unto Christ in both study and application of His word the more optimistic I become about His work. I am sure of His plan and His love for us.
Yesterday I gave a talk in church about the Book of Mormon and how the three-fold declaration made in the sixth paragraph of the introduction is a way for us to strengthen our families.
I'm not sure what it is but I am feeling especially un-verbose today. P-days are not my most prefered day and I just want to get back to work.
All is well here and things progress onward in this corner of the vineyard. Thanks for your continued support.
I love you all.
Love,
Soeur Cummins

Finding activities (2 août 2010)

this is ducos
Dear Family,
We have had a truly incredible week here - our first full week in Ducos.
First of all, Tuesday was Soeur Leavitt's and my final zone conference since the next one will be in November. It was a bit of a surprise because we thought we would have two more, but they changed the missionary system (worldwide) so that zone conferences are now only held every three months. We were asked to do the translation for the conference, and we had such a good time with that. Soeur Leavitt and I translated for Soeur Mautz and Sister Ostler and since they were the only ones listening in English we were really able to have a spice it up, adding in some running commentary, songs, etc. Soeur Leavitt let me do most of the English to French translation, which I enjoyed. I find a lot of joy in doing translation work.
We bore our testimonies at the end of the conference, and it honestly was bizarre since we still have so much time left and so MUCH work to do. All the missionaries put on a little talent show full of skits about "missionary life" later that night It was hilarious. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy being around the other missionaries and sharing such unique and developing experiences together.
On Wednesday we had a great lesson with a progressing amie named Ruth, though Ruth has a bit of a problem with Pierre. Pierre is her boyfriend that lives with her and doesn't want to get married. Ruth told us about all her troubles with Pierre on our first visit. It wouldn't have been very awkward (since people take pleasure in sharing their problems with us) had Pierre not be in the room with us, sitting in silence in the corner.
Many of our amis and members live in a government subsidized housing system (thank you, socialism) called Tindu. I can't even explain how these buildings look or how they are laid out. It looks like a little piece of Holland, stretched-out into 5 floor buildings, lost out to sea. It will become a photographic memory to be shared with you in the near future.
Last week I might have told you how one night we were leaving Tindu (quickly, since it was night) and we saw a woman in the parking lot and talked to her. We found out that she was taking the missionary lessons about 5 years ago and her husband and her were about to get married and be baptized when they became discouraged and stopped. The elders had continued their attempts to contact her, but she wasn't ready. We met her and she set up an appointment with us. We taught them and they both said that they desired baptism. We went there the next night and watched the Restoration video with Sophie (the woman), though Maurice (her "husband") wasn't there. We have another soirée with them tonight. We pray that all will go well with their progression.
We set a date of baptism for François, who currently lives in a squat inside of a kava bar (another colorful living situation). He is attending church regularly and he has begun to read the Book of Mormon, from the beginning. We are now working on a white shirt and tie for him. He has some obstacles, but he is making progression. When we teach him there is more comprehension and clarity in his eyes. Eyes tell a lot.
We see another amie named Niumani a lot. Her only hindrance is her family and Catholicism. I shouldn't say "only," because those two inter-connected "onlys" are very big and very powerful stumbling stones. She tells us though that as she studies and learns with us that she comes to understand who God really is and feels enlightened by what she reads and by our presence. She is progressing consistently and has the desire to make enduring efforts. She says that she wants her life to change and that she simply wants true happiness.
This week, a quick experience, we were doing some "finding activities," namely, knocking doors. It was getting rainy and chilly (yes: it does get cold here, but I still refuse to wear a jacket) and Soeur Paepaetaata seemed a little tired and discouraged, but it was still light and we still had quite a few houses around so we kept going. We called at one door and a woman came out with a sad expression but the moment she saw our plaques her face lit up. She said that she was a member of the church with her recently deceased husband and that it had been years since she went to church (because of growing opposition against their membership from her husband's family). She talked to us for over an hour and at the end she decided that she was coming back to church. Her cousin, Soeur Ulivaka (the wife of the branch president), came with us the next day to give her a Book of Mormon and offered her a ride to church. She came to church and Soeur Ulivaka was at her side the entire time. We are doing an FHE with her family this week, and we are thrilled to be able to see her reactivation in the church. I know, without any doubt, that Heavenly Father led us to her. She said she had been sitting in her living room looking at a picture of her husband thinking about how happy they had been a few years back when they were active in going to Church. A little while later we came calling at her door. I am glad that we kept going, kept knocking. I feel distinctly that Heavenly Father is leading us around this area to the people that need us the most. The concentration of miracles we have seen this week, both large and small, has been greater than any other week I have had here in New Caledonia. I am sure of God's love for these people, and I am overjoyed that He has blessed us, two simple missionaries, the opportunity to be a conduit of His love for them.
Yesterday was fast Sunday and I was able to bear my testimony at the pulpit during Sacrament meeting. It was wonderful. I feel so blessed to be here. President told me, in our interview on Monday, that this last transfer is going to be a great end to a great mission. I know it will be. I feel greater zeal, greater consecration, greater positivity, and added guidance of the Spirit.
I love you all.
Love,
Soeur Cummins
the vagner family
president and his wife

Ducos whitewash and training wheels (28 juillet 2010)

Dearest Family,
Wow! There are a myriad of events to recount in this email. First of all, the big news from this week was transfers. I was so sure that I would be staying at Rivière Salée and maybe training one of the two new Tahitian sisters who came in on Wednesday. I was so confident, in fact, that I made it a point to reorganize both my desk and the apartment so I was well-situated and prepared. Then, at district meeting the elders said that they had the news of transfers. That is not a word that you can toss around lightly with missionaries: tranfers. It was announced that not only would I be training but that I was going to be in the sector of Ducos, which hasn't had sister missionaries for at least the last fifteen or so years. What an adventure! I was needless to say, slightly overwhelmed at the idea, and the night of the transfer as Soeur Paepaetaata (my new companion whose name I could not say correctly for at least two days - "pay-pay-tah-ah-tah" which means "55 people" in Tahitian) and I situated ourselves in our new apartment I felt a little baffled by President's decision to send me there. The next day (Thursday) however I felt a little better until the elders of Ducos (the previous set of elders who are taking the other half of the sector, since it will now be divided between us) took us around the area and pointed out the homes of all the amis and the members and the inactives and the potential amis and... You can imagine the overload; my hand could not keep up with all the information, but thankfully Heavenly Father has blessed me with a capacity to not only remember streets and maps but enlarged my memory skills. And, I can decipher my own shorthand.
The elders were kind enough to show us around and take us to the homes of memberes to be introduced. We met a shirtless ami named Yannick whose subject of choice, on our very first visit, was the Fall of Adam and Eve and his fervent desire to live in the Garden of Eden.
Another thing that ease the change was that the elders also kept a pretty good Area Book (well, for elders) which contains all the written information concerning the progression of amis, teaching records of old amis, inactive members, members, potential amis met by knocking doors or street contacting, a map, and all sorts of other necessary things that you take for granted until you are tossed into a similar situation, as we have been. I have been pouring myself over that Area Book.
The next few days we were very blessed! We had great lessons with the amis that are already there and we did some finding activities (don't be fooled by the excitement that the word "activity" connotes, finding activities = street contacting and knocking doors, which actually, for me, are exciting activities but might not seem the case to others). In our first nightly planning, Soeur Paepaetaata asked me when we were going to go knock doors. I said, "tomorrow." It is the best when you have a companion who wants to work and wants to go out and find, like you said Dad, those who are "on the Lord's side."
The people we have contacted, talked with and called have so far been extremely accepting of our message! It is incredible how the people are responding to us and what we share. I feel a new zeal and I know that I am going to love this area.
At church on Sunday, though we are in a smaller branch with not as many members, I felt a spirit of unity and compassion among the members. In Relief Society we were presented before all the woman and we bore our testimonies. I hope we will be a blessing to this branch.
Yesterday after church we had a lesson with a newer amie name Niumanie. We taught her about the Book of Mormon, and she said that she was sincerely seeking a change in her life. We explained that if she followed and lived what we taught her concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ that it would usher in a lasting change in her life and would give her great purpose in her life. We asked, at the end, if she desire to be baptized and she said yes. We plan to see her more frequently during the week and are bringing the branch president's wife (Soeur Ulivaka) with us.
I am so glad that Soeur Paepaetaata gets to start her mission here and see that there are people who want to embrace and live the Gospel. She is already a gifted teacher, and has a easy-going personality which falls well with me. Plus, she is a great cook and as I stress over the Area Book and make a mountain of calls, she makes us food. She speaks Tahitian and is family, so it seems, with almost all of Tahitian descent we have met here and who are members. I feel privileged to teach these people. Of course, I am still quite a bit overwhelmed with all the work that needs to be done, but at least I won't ever be unoccupied.
So much to do and so little time! I love you all very much.
Love,
Soeur Cummins
welcome to Ducos

merci les elders

Marriage, member missionaries and callings (19 juillet 2010)

Dearest Family,
I am writing this in the afternoon due to interesting activities that occurred this morning, c'est-à-dire, a marriage New Caledonian style (in specific, from the culture of Lifou). Let's just say that it included a lot of colorful dresses, dancing, loads of rice and sugar (given to the couple or the tribe - or both - so they have something to eat for the next millennium), money being stuck into trees and shirts, and a lot of talking (in tongues unknown to these ears). All I know is that all I want for wedding gifts, one day in the far far future, are bags of long-grained rice. :)
Many distances were covered in this past week, both literally and spiritually. The effect of the literal was the umpteenth super-gluing of the soles of these poor Tevas (they will hold out for three more months), and the effect of the spiritually dealt with souls rather than soles: Our amie, Anysse, progresses consistently as she gains a clearer understanding of gospel principles by study and by the Spirit. We watched the movie Legacy with her and Fr. Kilama Thursday night, and they were both just enlightened by the sufferings that the early saints experienced and learned more of Joseph Smith's story. On Saturday as we were walking to an appointment with a less-active member (Anne-Marie) she stepped onto our path with her daughter Ashely as we were walking by. She said she was bored and had wanted to walk around, and she then asked if she could go along with us wherever we were going. At that instant, we remembered that the was a Primary activity taking place at the chapel so we went with her and invited Anne-Marie to go as well. Anne-Marie was sick though and couldn't even met with us, so it worked out well that we came across Anysse. Anyway, at the church, the Primary children from all the branches came together to do a little talent show that ended with a bit of an interesting program by the Magenta branch. Their Primary children did a little Haitian dance, depicting what Haiti was like before the earthquake. Then, all of a sudden, the lights went out and they began showing pictures of the ruins and the pictures of the Haitians putting their lives back together. It culminated with a real show stopper - "We are the World" song sung by all sorts of famous singers and the entire audience was invited to stand up and wave their arms around. I think I decided to sit that one out, but all in all it was a fun little night and Anysse and little Ashely enjoyed it thoroughly (and, that's all that mattered).
Yesterday afternoon we had a great lesson with Michiline Wenisso (the best member missionary) and her non-member brother, Didier. We invited Michiline, after watching the Restoration film together last week, to invite someone she felt would be receptive to watch the movie with us and take the missionary lessons. She asked her brother and, volià, we had a great soirée and he is coming to FHE tonight at the Nauta's (where we go every Monday night).
On that note, can I just tell you how much I love working with members? Despite that love though, it is sometimes difficult to find members that will work with us. It is a lot like finding people who are ready to accept the Gospel. Those that are ready to accept the Gospel and those that Heavenly Father has prepared for such are humble, motivated, and willing to make the efforts (reading, praying, going to church without continual coaxing by the missionaries) because they see that the message is not only important but important to them. Members who work with the missionaries, I have found, are the same; they are humble, motivated and willing to make the effort to work with the missionaries as well as finding people who are ready by their own efforts (without constant missionary cajolings) because they know the message is important in general and important to them. These are the members we are seeking to work with, though we would like to work with every member just like we would like to have every person we meet be baptized and confirmed into the Church.
Wednesday this week was France's Independence day - in New Caledonian terms, this means another day off of work and another day to give one's free agency and liberty over to intoxicating drinks. Well, at least that's how some enjoy spending it. Others, though, do spend it with their families and have barbecues in the good ol' American way (more or less). All the branches had a big sports day in Auteuil and played SOCCER. I played on the elders' team and ended up with a nice patch of skin missing from my knee, but we won and "all's well that ends well."
Before I forget, Fr. Kilama told us a very funny story this week that might put some perspective on what it is like to be a recent convert in the church. So, Pako isn't used to the fact that everyone in the Church gets callings and that after a while people are released from their callings to get a new one or to have someone else take their place. He went to a priesthood fireside on Saturday night and one of his friends, Fr. Turi, was released from his calling during the fireside. However, Fr. Turi wasn't there at the fireside so Pako had the impression that the leaders were taking away Fr. Turi's calling without telling him. Pako was a little upset (and he is sometimes a bit dramatic) - "If they are going to take callings away from my friends, that's it!" Anyway, the next day at church he saw Fr. Turi and asked him if he knew that they had stolen his calling and given it to someone else. He said he was ready to go up to the leaders with him and defend him. Oh là là. Fr. Turi explained the process to him and how people are giving certain callings at certain times and how they are, at one point later, released from them. Anyway, the way he was telling us this story was so funny because, as members of the church, it is just a natural process and something that we don't even think to question.
All is progressing here in New Caledonia. We are getting transfer calls sometime tonight since there are two sisters arriving on Wednesday with President. Since we will have an extra team of sisters they are opening a sector that has never had sisters in it before (well, it’s been a while): Ducos. If you know New Caledonia then you might know why this is an interesting sector to open to soeurs. It has been four months since our tripanionship has been together and we have seen all the colors on the spectrum. I am thankful for the experiences this transfer has given me - troubleshooting and peacemaking skills as well as the capacity to endure and love others more like Christ loves them.
I love you all! Let me know about Alex's call and all the news from home.
Love,
Soeur Cummins

Faith and works (12 juillet 2010)

Dear Family,
I am feeling good today. This morning we had some interesting companionship studies which varied from the complexities of time and why we have time though God doesn't live within such bounds to the audacity of the men in ages passed who have taken the word of God and skewed it. Thus what a tender mercy it truly is of the Lord to have given us the Book of Mormon. Once any truth is taken from the scriptures (such as that from the Bible - which contained all of the Gospel of Christ in its fullness and plainness before it was debated apart by the creeds of men) indeed it still helps us grow closer to Christ, but there are gaps in which Satan can move in and blind us and cause us to stumble. We also discussed how God allows us to suffer, much of the time, in order to incite us to believe, trust in, and turn to Him. Much of our suffering is self-inflicted, but what mercy Christ has on us when we allow him to pull us out of the pits we have tossed ourselves into. It was a good study this morning. A perk of being in a tripanionship is that our studies are never boring; there is always much to be said and three perspectives shaping our insights. The threesome is to be ending soon though with the arrival of two new sisters from Tahiti, and Soeur Seiko (my beloved companion of past) is ending her mission in the next few weeks. So, it will be au revoir to our incredible companionship studies. Threesomes are very bittersweet experiences - very high highs and very low lows. All I know is that eternal marriage is for two people for a reason.
This week we saw the answer to prayers of missionaries and members alike in the fact that the work is moving forward in a potentially exciting way. We took time this week to see some members that we haven't had much contact with. We talked to them about their conversion stories (since most of them are first generation members of the church) and watched the Restoration film with them or shared a scripture. We then invited to think about how much light and goodness the Gospel has brought into their lives and what they might have been had the missionaries not come by or had their friend not shared the Gospel with them. Then we asked them to think about the people around them right now that are not blessed with this light. Already we have some members thinking about who they can invite. Micheline (who is the best member missionary) asked her brother Didier and he is willing to take the lessons. We talked to Soeur Bull's neighbor and now have a rendez-vous with him, and she is going to come. The Parau's are inviting their granddaughters over next Saturday to watch the film with us. Things are picking up.
We taught Anysse again this week. She just began reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning, and we talked about Nephi and his actions in the first four chapters of the Book of Mormon. It says in the first verse of the first chapter that he had a great knowledge, and we talked about how we gain a spiritual knowledge of something and what our responsibility is once we have that knowledge. It says in chapter 2 that Nephi had a desire to know so he prayed, and because of his faith he was granted the knowledge that if he kept the commandments of God that he would prosper. In chapter 3 it says that Lehi received a commandment for his sons to go back to Jerusalem and get the plates. Nephi had the knowledge that he needed to keep the commandments if he wished to be blessed by the Lord. He even said "I will go and I will do," but even saying that or being desirous to be obedient to our knowledge is not enough. We must act and accomplish the Lord's will - even if it is hard. In chapter four Nephi is constrained by the Spirit to kill Laban and it was something extremely difficult for him (he even said that it would be impossible), but he was obedient and he acquired the plates. This is applicable to us all. We all start with a desire and that leads, by prayer and study, to faith and that leads to knowledge. But, knowledge only serves to our condemnation if we are not obedient to its exigencies, even if we have a desire to be obedient. Faith and works is key, and with the knowledge that faith gives us we have two options: obedience or disobedience. For Anysse we showed her how she was just like Nephi - she had a desire to be taught by the missionaries, she prayed and searched with faith and now knows the Church is true and she has the desire to be baptized (thus putting acts behind her faith) but her desire is not enough. She has to accomplish the will of God and actually BE baptized, even though right now it might seem impossible, but Nephi did it and so can she. I think it gave her perspective on her situation and also she can now see how applicable the scriptures are to her.
We met this girl yesterday at Church (Gabrielle) who was taught in Paris by a recently returned missionary in our branch (Marie Huzu). She came to church since her parents live in Nouméa (but she lives in Paris, and is originally from Los Angeles; she is bilingual) and is staying heer during the summer. She was just baptized last month in France after having investigated the Gospel for a while. She wrote a book on the Fundamentalist LDS church and she wanted to know if the mother church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) was really a culte or not, so one Sunday she decided to go and see. She loved it and was convinced by the truth and the Spirit. It's amazing to see that there are people like her, intelligent and curious, who are truly seeking the truth. She is here for two months so she said she would like to go out and work with us. What a blessing!
The only sad point of the week was that one of Pako's dogs, Hoki, was hit by a car and killed the other night. He is very distraught. He has no children that live with him (or that care about him), so much of his overflowing love goes to those dogs. We are going to go see him today and sing some songs with him.
All in all we had a very good week with lots of walking and talking and sharing and finding. I love the Gospel, and I am amazed at all the things that I experience and the privilege it is to teach the people here and to be surrounded by excellent missionaries and members.
Hoping you have a good week!
Love,
Soeur Cummins


Translation: "To whoever stole my plant: Watch out!"

Eggplant, thieves and patience (5 juillet 2010)

Dearest Family,
First of all, I would like to show you an example of how out in the middle of nowhere we are and how rumors become doctrine. Oh là là. Yesterday we were at lunch at the Fitcher's and Soeur Fitcher announced, in no uncertain terms, that she had heard that the Church headquarters are moving to Rome, Italy. She said that Salt Lake City would be deconstructed and that it is all moving to Rome. Her daughter Nadia began to laugh and we couldn't resist either. The true church of Christ will soon be in cahoots with the great and abominable one. Soeur Fitcher said, "You'll see," and then the conversation moved to her new eggplant recipe she acquired in her recent trip to France.
This week has been crazy! On Monday we were at the beach of Magenta (just across from the chapel) on the sandbar taking pictures when our backpacks, which were left some distance from us were picked up by a “needy” Melanesian man and taken away. The Mautz's daughter (who came out to visit) and I saw the theft, and we booked it after the delinquent. We went all over Magenta trying to find them. Luckily I had been too lazy to carry my sack to the beach and had left it at the church, but three of the sisters' backpacks were taken. After a talk with the police, a trip to the station, dinner with the Mautz's, we arrived home at our apartment around 10pm. It was a crazy day. The next morning however the elders received a call that said that the backpacks had been dropped off at the church building. I think the thieves noticed the scriptures and realized with guilt that they had stolen from a religious organization. Well, that’s my theory. They took only the French money and a cell phone and, strangely, pens and mints. They could have done much more damage (keys to apartments, to the church, credit cards, etc), but Heavenly Father watched over what was necessary and we all learned a good lesson.
On Wednesday we had some good lessons with inactive members in the neighborhood, and the Spirit was there. One of the sisters, who came to Church on Sunday, said through tears that she regretted not coming back sooner.
On Thursday I had an incredible exchange with Soeur Mariterangi, a newer sister from Tahiti. The day started out with great personal and companionship studies, and then we got out onto the streets. We went to a lesson with a less-active woman and contacted a bunch of people on the way. It's an enjoyable adventure talking to people and sharing the message. You never know what is going to come out of their mouths and it keeps us on our toes - it's amazing how the Gospel can be tied to just about anything that anyone says. 

We found some potential amis on our way to Soeur Pauline's and had a great lesson with her from Gospel Principles on repentance. Repentance is a true gift. Afterwards we walked around in a search for inactive members in the area and we ended up contacting some teenage girls who were going to go play soccer. We asked if their parents would be interested in the message and they directed us to their house. We talked with their dad, who is currently experiencing familial problems, and shared the first lesson with him. It went well and his interest was visibly peaked. It was a privilege to be with Soeur M.. She is a talented teacher, and she is receptive of the Spirit. We had a quick lunch and then went and taught Isabelle (the recent convert turned less-active), and once again the Spirit was strong throughout the lesson. Then we had another lesson with our amie Anysse. We talked about the importance of the scriptures. She said that she had talked to Milo, her boyfriend, about the law of chastity and he said that it is "not normal" to live that law. We explained that when we do not know God's word and will that we can be blinded by the world and its philosophies (such as the thought that the Law of Chasity "isn't normal"), but that when we read the scriptures it teaches us the difference between error and truth. Our last lesson was on how to follow the prophet with Frère Kilama. That went well. It was an exceptional day, truly. It was a breath of fresh air in comparison to things they way they have been lately. We worked hard and didn't stop or even feign the need to stop. We walked and talked of Christ allowing us to feel the Spirit in our as we went to and from lessons. We were both united in our desire to follow the Spirit and go with his flow – not being too fenced in by our planning and willing to press forward.
The rest of the week was difficult. Soeur Swapp has been experiencing debilitating migraines that keep us in, and Soeur Hurst's neck is killing her. It has been difficult dealing with personal feelings of inefficiency when it comes to such confining situations, but I am learning patience for others and myself.
I have to go! By the way, Happy Fourth of July! I wore the appropriate colors to church yesterday. Too bad that the French and American flag colors are the same.
Love you all.
Love,
Soeur Cummins

“I blessed the rains down in Afr… uh hum, New Caledonia.” (28 juin 2010)

Dear Family,
Oh, it feels like a one-fingered typing day and I have twenty minutes on the clock, but here's the weekly run-down:
First of all, weather report. I feel like I have been diligent on keeping you all up-to-date on the current climatic situation and I shouldn't stop a tradition - unless it is evil of course. At any rate, it is cold here. I have no thermometer reading to give you, but all I know is that I am cold in the mornings and the wind has been blowing. I am stubborn though and I refuse to wear a sweater. It's a tropical island. Wearing a sweater seems contradictory to me. Though the natives (and my companions) have given into long sleeves, I am holding out. We had a very good week this week.
Don't worry it doesn't end there. We finally saw Brenda this week and she still has baptism aspirations, but it is clear that though she has the desire there will be many steps for her to complete before she arrives at the waters of baptism. This means lots of work for the both of us, but our shoulders are ready to push the wheel and we pray that the Lord will strengthen hers. We have a great member who is always willing to go and work with us during the week. Her name is Micheline, and she has the most incredible testimony. We are blessed to have her willing heart and firm convictions.
We also taught Célina. We watched the Restoration video together, and before our second lesson she watched it a second time. It's difficult to explain the process of Christ's church being established, apostasy's rampant destruction of that Church, and the restoration of it and expect our amis to fully understand it the first time, but the movie puts feelings and images behind the story and, of course, the Spirit quickens the mind of any ami who is willing to simply believe.
We taught Anysse. She told us that her boyfriend decided to move the marriage date to next year because he wants to really prepare financially and buy a house. I suppose those are legitimate reasons to him, but we taught the importance of the family in God's eyes to Anysse. We taught the law of chastity and she declared that she is determined to live it. If that be so (and we do pray for it), we can be sure of a very unhappy boyfriend and a marriage in the near future. Perfect.
We taught Pako KILAMA this week. We are trying to call him Frère Kilama and help others to call him that at church (and not just Pako), but when the president of the branch (President Kauvautupu - now that's a branch president name!) calls him Pako from the pulpit during Sacrament meeting you know it is going to be a hard habit to kill. It’s hard for us. Anyway, we taught Pako, Fr. Kilama!, and got caught in a very random rainstorm at his house. We couldn't leave because we didn’t have any umbrellas, so we stayed and sang Church hymns for a half an hour while the skies raged.
That is your glimpse of the week. Zion has her ups and downs in New Caledonia, but she is progressing ever onward, though some would say at “the pace of an escargot.” Still, onward ever onward.
Keep me updated on Alex's mission process!
Oui: I love you all. Have a good week!
Love,
Soeur Cummins
micheline, the best member missionary!

rainy day

anyesse

celina

The Spirit’s workings (21 juin 2010)


Dear Family,
This past week, though a bit dreary skyward, has seen great progression in our work in Rivière Salée personally, as our companionship (we are now past our three month mark as a tripanionship - that is accomplishment to celebrate in and of itself), and with our investigators. We have seen a trend as we are searching for new amis and watching the progression of others: we are teaching many young women/mothers and seeing that they are being prepared by Heavenly Father to accept this message. He is preparing His daughters to accept and raise their children within the protecting walls of the restored Gospel.
This week we, as a companionship, focused our studies together on the Spirit and how He works. In doing this we saw a drastic rise in the presence of the Spirit in our lessons. I have come to learn how essential it is to remain simple and use powerful phrases of truth in teaching and thus rely on the Spirit to testify to the heart of the people we teach. One particular lesson was with a young woman named Alice. She was a follow-up that we have had for quite a while, and since we found ourselves in her neighborhood we decided to try and see her again. She immediately invited us in. We taught the first lesson, and though her little boy was being a rascal she was so in tune with what we were saying (though I became distracted when I had to wrangle my poor Bible from the little one's hands - the cover of it is already near the point of complete disintegration, but thankfully the word remains intact - that puts some perspective on that statement of Joseph Smith, "no unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing") We found out that she is a cousin of Aurélie's (which is really not uncommon since it seems that everyone on this island is related one way or another), so she is going to be invited to come along with us for the next lesson.
We also had a breakthrough lesson with a young mother named Anysse. She has wanted to enter the waters of baptism since she met the missionaries last October, but her martial situation is holding her back; he lives with the father of her daughter and custom has it such that she cannot marry him in his tribe for quite a while. It is much too complicated to explain in an email, however, they can be married at la Marie (the town hall). He just hasn't wanted to take the dive. It has been nearly two months since we have been able to set up an appointment with her, but we finally succeeded. We taught the Plan of Salvation and Anysse was open, curious, and receptive. It became a big discussion, and at the end we told her that if she took a step of faith, prayed, and set a date of baptism with Milo (her boyfriend) that the Lord would make it so that her desires became true. We saw her two days later and she said that she went home and told Milo that he could either married her or take her, her things and her daughter back to her father's house (in another area). Milo conceded. They are going be married by the end of the year and Anysse will be baptized. We were thrilled, to say the least. The Lord wants nothing more than His children's salvation and happiness, but He does work according to our faith and diligence. I know that if our hearts are set on righteous desires and if we persevere in those yearnings that He will, according to his divine timetable, make it such that those desires are realized. I am sure of it.
On Sunday I gave a talk in church on temple work and personal worthiness to enter the temple (Isaiah 2 and Psalms 24), but since I am a missionary I made sure to put a nice missionary spin on it: How important it is for us to do the work for the dead but that we cannot let those whom are living go without knowing the Gospel as well. Why wait until they are on the other side when our probationary period is here and now? This is the time that we have to prepare to meet God and, might I add, help others to prepare to meet Him as well.
We met an old, fragile French man this week (Jacques) who is a bit of an American lover. Surprise of surprises is that this incredibly french French man is a Harley Davidson buff and was tossing around the word "Hog" like it was a part of his own vernacular. He gave us H.D. coins, showed us his impressive thimble set of every state of the union with its appropriate flag (Mom, you would have been awed), gave a cheers to "America and Mormons" when we drank our glasses of water, and then proceeded to tell us that he read the entire Book of Mormon back when he met the missionaries in France back in the 1950's. I will keep you all updated on Jacques' progression as I think he is simply delighted to have us in his home.
Oh, and we had Father's Day lunch at Pako's with a buffet meant for 20 and not 4. But, that's Frère Kilama for you
The Spirit is in this work and His guidance is leading us to those prepared to receive.
How I love ze mission field!
Love you,
Soeur Cummins

Baptisms and Zone Conference (14 juin 2010)


Dear Family,
What a week! First of all, this morning three missionaries left to go home. They finished their missions. They were all three exceptional elders that I greatly admire. It's funny in this mission because even with one missionary's parting there is a big difference, since we fluctuate in the lower 20’s on the missionary head count. But, life moves on and progression continues onward into eternity. I am thankful for the friends I have made, both missionaries and natives; I feel as though these people have become my dearest friends. They have been a large part of an experience that has crafted much of who I am and who I have become. With each unique experience we have we become bonded to people through the circumstances and by the circumstances themselves.
This week we were able to set a baptism date with that golden amie, Brenda. The 17th of July. She is just so enthusiastic about this decision even though we have only met with her twice. Can you believe that? This just goes to show that there are people who are ready. I have come to see more and more how small a part I play in the conversion process - Heavenly Father is the greatest alchemist, preparing people to accept the Gospel and then leading us to these amis that He has touched with his Midas hand.
Speaking of baptisms, we went to Aurélie's on Saturday at Magenta. It was the sweetest baptismal service I have ever attended. It was tender and pure. I feel honored to have been able to be with Aurélis at the beginning as she learned and accepted so quickly and with full-intent the restored Gospel. I will never forget when she prayed outloud for the first time with us, and how Soeur Chugg and I would float home after our lessons. How blessed Heavenly Father has made me bestowing me with precious, good fruit from His vineyard. Like I told Mom, words are frail substitutes for expressing profound feeling, and I felt Heavenly Father's inexplicable love at her baptism. Aurélie asked me to sing at her service so I did a translation of a Young Women's song that I brought along with me. The talks, one by Soeur Leavitt and another by Elder Manning were simply wonderful. I am so impressed by the teaching capacities that the missionaries here have.
Friday was our zone conference with Président, and there was a very good spirit there that has been lacking at ones in the past. It is so good to be taught and enlightened by our leaders here. We focused on chapter 4 in Preach My Gospel which speaks on how to better recognize and understand the Spirit. I am trying hard to improve my prayers and be more sensitive to the Spirit. I felt His guidance strongly as I study the scriptures. One of the elders made an astute comment about our personal study hour in the morning: Since we do not have a temple nearby that we can attend, our personal study hour is the closest that we get to going to the temple; it is the moment of the day where we can receive from Heavenly Father’s hand profound instruction, increased knowledge, understanding and personal revelation. All as we study the Holy Scriptures. In my President's interview President asked me to make a list of the things I am going to do these final four months to keep moving forward as a missionary, so that my motivation will keep pushing through. One of the things I want to do is come up with a better way of planning and setting goals for both my personal and language studies. I am excited, and already I can see the fruits of my efforts.
I know this work is true. The Gospel has brought me ineffable happiness and I see clearly and more fully the depth of Heavenly Father's love for me and for all His children. Christ suffered so much for each of them. This work is worth it, for Christ is the reason.
I hope you have a wonderful week. Hold to the rod, the very word of God. If you do, you will never perish. What a promise!
Love,
Soeur Cummins