This letter is coming all the way from the middle of the Pacific! It’s been a crazy past week let me tell you! So we left the MTC on Saturday, August 23. We left the MTC and headed to the Salt Lake City airport. I got to see grandma and grandpa Hansen, so that was great! Got to give them one last goodbye for two. Then, in Los Angeles I got to give y’all a call. No lie, I cried when I had to say goodbye to Rachel. I really miss all of you! You are incredible examples to me! Being away from you guys has really helped me appreciate how incredible our family is. I’m so glad we get to spend all of eternity with each other.
So, after our time in LA we got on our Air New Zealand flight to Auckland. I really hope you all make the effort to get on one of those planes. The seats are super nice and comfortable! Even the cheap ones are easy to get some sleep in. So let’s go ahead and book one of those when I’m back…? So then we had 10 hours in the Auckland airport. I will say that I never left the airport premises. Ha ha. I did go out the door and breathe some pretty chilly Kiwi air. We got to meet Sonny Bill Williams [New Zealand Rugby Player] though! Go on YouTube and watch some highlights for me. That guy’s a beast! So there really wasn’t much that happened in the Auckland Airport besides me wanting to go back [to New Zealand]. I asked the guy working the customs desk what is one thing I should know about New Zealand? He told me that “it pays to spend more than one day”. Pretty good answer, huh? Oh, and in the airport they had those huge dwarf statues from the hobbit! I took some pictures so hopefully soon I can send you guys some.
So after Auckland we flew into Samoa. It was nighttime so there wasn’t much to look at. So we touched down in Apia and cleared customs and security with no issues. President and Sister Tolman were there to meet us along with the APs. We loaded into the vans and drove the 30 minute drive to Pesega where the mission home and Temple are. (Side note: In Apia there are still a lot of smaller villages, so just a heads up.) So there’s a compound – for lack of a better word – that contains the fale misiona (mission home), the malumalu (temple), and a Church school. At the mission home there’s the MRC (missionary recovery room) where there’s just a time of bunk beds. Our group crashed there that night. The next morning we got up and the Tolman’s made us French toast for breakfast and we had some free time for study and where President and Sister Tolman interviewed us and let us know where we were going to be serving and who are companions were and so on. They let us know and then we had time to nap before dinner and the temple. The Samoan temple is pretty dang cool! The endowment session was in English, thank goodness. But the first room you sit in has super tropical walls, like palm trees and fruit and birds, a waterfall, etc. Really neat! The seats are awesome too! They’re like stadium seats where the individual seat folds down and allows you some extra room if need be. So we did that and on the way out saw the baptismal font. That thing is awesome! I don’t know what it is about foreign baptismal fonts but the El Salvador and Samoan fonts are really cool! And we got to sleep early.
Ha ha, the Tolman’s let us sleep a lot so would be ready to go when we got to our areas. That next morning President and Sister Tolman made pancakes and eggs for breakfast. President Tolman takes his breakfast seriously and has been making it for their family almost since he and Sister Tolman got married. Pretty cool but I doubt that’ll happen for my family. [Editors Note: Doran is not a big breakfast eater, like never.] So, then we had time to condense our stuff to one bag because we take one and leave one at the mission home. Then we met our trainers and went to our areas.
Now for the good stuff. My trainer is Elder Vaai from Texas. He’s 20, and already has his associates degree from a junior college. He was born in Tutuila [American Samoa] and both his parents are from Savai’i. He just got done being trained! He’s been out for five months but he’s fluent and speaks Samoan really well. Our area is Moto’otua and is just outside the center of Apia. It’s where the hospital is in Apia. Our area is pretty big. We’ve got bikes, but it’s easier to walk most places. I guess when I was in the MTC, I forgot that I’m serving my mission in a Third World country. Ha ha if I didn’t have previous experience with mangy dogs and naked, dirty kids and such then I’d probably have a freak out. Ha ha, now our apartment was pretty gross. Well, it’s still gross. The Elders that were here before us did not feel the need to clean before moving out. Nor did they see any reason to fill out the area book. Ha ha so we’re starting from pretty much nothing. Having 1/2 of the companionship that doesn’t even speak the language makes it even harder. Oh well, I’m working on it. Every day gets better but I still don’t understand what most people say. It’s really, really hard. The line “smile and wave boys” has never had more meaning. Ha ha, all I really do is say hello, introduce myself, smile and nod, say goodbye and thank you. I really have to struggle to keep myself awake during some visits. Ha ha you just sit there and everything goes over your head and your brain just kind of shuts off. So we are staying with a family, the Josups(?). They’re super nice and hook us up with some stuff. Today they brought us a bag of bananas and then some bread, butter and canned spaghetti. That’s another thing. Samoans give the missionaries so much. We always get drinks and snacks and sometimes were walking down the road and people will stop and give us money. It’s incredible to see that people with so little (compared to people in the states) gives so much away to help others.
So we’ve mostly been visiting the members and getting to know the ward. We’ve got a couple of referrals for this next week so that’s good! The ward is really strong and we’ve got good people to work with! One of our biggest helps has been this guy, Sa Malifa. He served his mission in Brisbane Australia. He’s been home for about seven months. He’s told us where a lot of the ward members live. And every night at six we have a fafega (a feeding) where a family feeds us dinner. It’s weird how those work. Families pull out all the stops and present heaps of food for us and nobody else eats. They wait for us to finish and leave before eating. I really hate seeing the kids beg their mom for some food, but they have to wait for us to leave. The food is pretty strange too. It’s just a lot of flavors and such that I’m not used to. But I really don’t eat much at the fafegas. Hopefully less food and more sweating and walking will help me lose some weight. That’s another thing. I’m getting used to sweating buckets all the time. I only wore one shirt this week and it is pretty freaking gross. Ha ha you go from sweaty to kind of dry, to sweating, to dry and the cycle continues all day long. Sounds fun, ha ha? Ha ha, it really is awesome!
Here’s some things I’ve done since being in Samoa for a week.
- I ate sea cucumber. It is freaking gross. Unless you like the taste of seawater, I don’t suggest it.
- Had chickens walk through the house during a visit.
- Seen 10+ kids without clothing and in a need of a good bath. Ha ha I love these kids though. I always make sure to tell them hello and shake their hands and such. I can’t really talk to them, so I make sure to smile and give them some attention.
- I couldn’t even number the amount of bugs I seen here in the house. Ha ha there are so many, just all over.
- Taken only cold showers. I’m not going to get a hot shower for two years.
- Given a blessing! A lady called us at like 8 o’clock one morning and had us come over to the hospital to give a blessing before she had a C-section and gave birth.
I’ll keep you updated on all that goes on. They are working on getting us e-mail this month, so hopefully that happens sooner rather than later. I know some of the stuff sounds kind of negative but this really is great. There has been more than one occasion this past week where I questioned if I was doing the right thing, but I know that I am. Right now it’s so hard not being able to communicate and participating in conversations but eventually that’ll get better. I know that this church is God’s church on earth. If I didn’t know that, then there would be no way to make it through these long hot days. I don’t even want to think about two years! I know that God restored his church to the earth through Joseph Smith. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that if we read it and leave its teachings we can become more like the people heavenly father knows we can be. One thing missionaries do a lot is challenge people to keep commitments. So can I commit all of you to read the Book of Mormon? Try and finish it by the end of the year! I know that if you do you’ll see an increase of love for each other as well as for the rest of Heavenly Father’s children. One thing I really have come to realize here in Samoa, away from the world, is that it’s not stuff or objects that matter, it’s relationships and memories and knowledge. There are a bunch of scriptures to say the same thing. Luke 12:22 – 28 is a good clear one. Don’t worry so much about stuff, really treasure the time you’ve got with each other. Life is about telling better stories, and some of my best stories come from time with all of you. Ha ha, I can’t wait to get back and share some killer stories with all of you.
Love you so much!
Va goto le va’a: I’m full (direct translation = “the boat has sunk”)
Ou te fia faiasoa atu se man ma oe…: I want to share a scripture with you
Mataupu faauere ma fengaiga: Doctrine & Covenants