Editor’s Note: We knew from Sister Tolman that Doran had arrived safely in Samoa, but it had been two very long weeks of trudging out to the mail box to see if we’d received our very own letter from our very own missionary. “Maybe tomorrow…”, we said each day. And then, as we were celebrating the awarding of Eagle Scout awards to two friends – one a very old friend of Doran – and their families, the following came through on my phone.
Well, President Tolman reinstated email privileges so hit me up if you’re on. I’ll send a long email in a sec. -Elder Erickson
We were, needless to say, surprised, happy, maybe stunned…? After mentally coming to grips with a 2+ week letter-writing rhythm, getting an email was a bit of a shock. Becky didn’t have her phone, mine died after 2 short replies, but thankfully Rachel kept communications open until Doran had to go. Below is our exchange plus Doran’s Weekly Report. Reports from Weeks 1 and 2 will post when received via USPS.
Rachel: “HEY DORAN!!! Oh my goodness how is it? We’re at Chandler Hall’s Eagle Court of Honor! Isn’t that crazy? I miss you a ton 🙂 cant wait to hear how it is!”
Doran: Give him a hug and congrats from me! He’s worked hard! What is the time difference to GA from Upolu? I’ve written y’all a letter but just FYI I’m in Moto’otua which is where the hospital is in Apia. Just so you can tell people.
Rachel: Dad’s phone just died so everyone’s fighting me for mine hahahah. The time difference is 17 hours, it’s 8:40 pm here Sunday night. Mom asked if you were in the hospital… I think she was about to have a heart attack when she heard from you (jk but ya know)
Doran: Haha well here it’s 1:43 Monday afternoon. Pretty cool that I’m a day ahead. I am not in the hospital but it is in our area so if i need to go it’s pretty close. Anything else y’all wanna hear that may not be in the weekly update(s)?
Rachel: Mom says DETAILS and Bennett says give us the deets. Mom wants to know if you got our package. Also we’ve written you a couple times, have you gotten any letters? And how’s it going to work for email when you’re in a remote village? Mom wants to know how your Samoan is coming along and how much (like percentage) of each day do you speak it? Where’s your companion from? How old? How long has he been out? Rate him 1-10?
Doran: I’ve sent y’all letters for week 1 & 2 so look for those. I did get your package today with a ton of letters! thanks for the love! Email should work wherever because we’ll get access to church computers from bishops or clerks or whatever. So pray I get sent to a remote village because that’d be sick. My Samoan is getting better everyday. I’m beginning to understand stuff and can respond in kind. I’d say that 80+% of the day is with Samoan. But here closer to town there are a lot of people that speak pretty solid English. Especially the RM’s that served in the States or Australia/New Zealand. Comp is from Texas (Fort Worth), he’s 20, been out for 5 months, and is fluent. He’s full Samoan.
Rachel: That’s awesome! Okay, we’ll keep looking in the mail for your letters. Mom wants to know if you’re happy and if you’re homesick yet. Are you writing us a weekly email today? Bennett wants to know how the food is. Mom and dad say that they are kinda speechless right now and they are thinking of what to say. They’re not used to email speed; they’re in snail mail mode hahah
Doran: Haha sounds good. I am writing my weekly one today and working on it now. I’ll try and send a bunch of pics too but the computer is slowwwwwwww. Tell Bennett that he better pray he gets called to Samoa. People give you so much freaking food. Every night we have a fafaga (feeding) at a member’s house and they put out so much food. Samoans would Love Bennett because they want you to eat a lot. I’m relying on my skin color and inability to speak Samoan to refuse food so I don’t get huge. Grossest thing I’ve eaten: Sea Cucumber. I just wanted to try a bit b/c yolo [You Only Live Once] but it’s like a rock you chew on until it spits out some sea water in your mouth. Disgusting. Best thing: Fresh bananas and coconut. Unreal delicious.
Rachel: Dad’s cracking up at your sea cucumber description. Bennett says he wants to try it now! Matthew wants you to know that he turfed it on his skateboard and he’s got road rash all over his leg. We can’t wait to see some pictures! Hopefully they’ll send haha. How long do you get to email us?
Doran: We have rugby scheduled at 5 and I’m adding “Samoan loading time” to my hour. haha I’ll finish my weekly one and upload some pics.
From: Doran Erickson <email@example.com>
Date: Sun, Sep 14, 2014 at 9:30 PM
Subject: Week 3 in Samoa
Erickson Family! We have email all the way here in Samoa now so forget about weekly letters. Those take too long to get to ya. I’ve sent two letters about my first two weeks so hopefully they’ll arrive soon and all of this will make sense. I’m just going to fill you in on week three in the “Pearl of the Pacific”.
So week three started out with an 8″ gecko on the wall above my bed Sunday night. It’s ok though because I’d rather have him than the bugs that come in. Haha so Monday we had a Zone P-day and we all met up at one of the chapels that has an indoor chapel and we played volleyball. It’s good seeing Elders Leiataua, Cassinat, and Harn from my MTC group at the zone functions. It’s good to hear that I’m not the only white kid having to adjust and struggle.
Tuesday we set out to contact a ton of people. In the ward we cover there’s a list of 43 people that are “unbaptized members”. So I think that means they were born in the Church but then never got baptized? Anyways, we went out with Sa (recent RM that served in Brisbane) to try and find out where these people live because addresses do not exist here. If there is something in the address part it’s something like “Go to this village, walk down the road next to the school, pass three houses, turn left, and go down the hill until you see a house that’s got a blue roof.” Haha it’s hard to find people based off paperwork. So Tuesday we went and asked members if they knew where people lived or if they’d moved and so on. There are a lot of people that have moved out of the area so we’re relaying that information on to our ward clerk to transfer records where they need to go. Wednesday was more of the same because tracking down 43 people that don’t have accurate phone numbers or addresses is hard work.
Thursday we had a Zone Conference in Pesega in a chapel across from the temple. It was really great and President and Sister Tolman taught us a lot. One thing that’s hard in the Samoa Apia Mission is people following rules. Haha I’ll just say there’s a lot of sleeping in, listening to music, watching TV, and even worse stuff so one thing they’re trying to reign in is that just because we’re in Samoa doesn’t mean it’s any different from serving in Finland, Atlanta, or Mexico and we need to act as such. It’s hard because one thing I’ve heard a lot and one thing that a lot of people believe is that “Trunky missionaries get the most baptisms”. It’s hard for me because I really want to be obedient but don’t want to be the wierd new kid that quotes the handbook. Haha I’m trying to use gentle persusaion and suggestion at the moment. I’m doing what I can though to be 100% obedient and getting better every day.
So we do finally have an investigator and should be meeting with him to teach the 1st lesson tomorrow! It’s a kid that works at the shop of one of the members in our area! I can’t wait to actually teach a legit scheduled lesson!
Haha this week honestly blew by but here’s some other things that happened but I can’t remember exactly when…. We had a mouse in our house. just adding to the list of creatures that have shared our home. My companion cut my hair and one of the YM in our ward cut his. It looks good! I got your package and have never known a need for a “Toilet Bowl Deodorizer” until now. [Note: Since Doran is a “Green” Missionary, Becky sent a package with everything “Green” – candy, toothpaste, etc. plus the aforementioned “Toilet Bowl Deodorizer”] The other snacks and toiletries are really really appreciated. Haha keep them coming. I got all of your mail as well and that also helps me feel the love coming my way.
Oh and we had a crazy morning too! At like 3:00 AM my companion heard footsteps outside and the dogs started barking so he got up to see what was up. (we also had a recent RM sleeping over just cause and he heard it too) There have been some break-ins recently in the area so we were on hightened alert. I couldn’t go back to sleep because of the dogs so I got up too and looked outside and there were people with flashlights and a police truck and they were looking for someone. So eventually it died down and they kept searching for the guy and we went back to sleep.
Then when we got up later we were knocking down some coconuts to drink/eat (ahh life in Samoa) and some Jehovah’s Witness missionaries walked up and wanted to talk to us about “God’s kingdom” it was a guy from Samoa and a lady from New Zealand so I talked to her but I really didn’t understand what she was trying to share. I did have my badge on so I don’t think she went as hard as she normally would. She invited me to some conference next week and all that. Then she said she’d been preaching since she was 16 and asked after our two years were up what we were going to do to continue sharing the gospel. I shared the slogan “every member a missionary” but I don’t think she liked my answer too much. Haha I tried to give her a Restoration pamphlet, but she declined and they went on their way.
Well, love you lots, the Church is true, and God really does direct it. If he didn’t then there’d be no way that 18 year old young men could share the gospel with the effectiveness they do. Keep on trying to choose the right and talk to y’all next week. (I’ll work on pics too).