Tongan Flag

Tongan Flag

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

September 2017

Our Sunday, September 17, 2017 / His Monday, September 18, 2017

Soooo, am I going to have to go to a different ward now back home? We don't even get to keep the name. But oh well. Everyone will just love me wherever I go. It's a curse.

My companion’s name is Elder Lao which means law in Tongan. We were teaching this investigator and he is preparing for baptism. But last week he got sick and went to the hospital. We hope he is doing better but once he gets out of the hospital we will continue the lessons. 

Vava'u is very different from Tongatapu. The people are different, the land is different, and everything is different. I’m still adjusting to some of the things like the heat but for the most part everything is going well. I'm still getting to know the people in my area but this area is not much bigger than my last area. But the work is a little harder here than it was in my last place and there are not a bunch of members here. 20 people showed up to church yesterday even though like everyone in the town is baptized only 20 people showed up. It's because a lot of people get mad at small things and then go back to a different church. There is a lot of less active work to do here so wish us luck with that.

I just finished reading the Book of Mormon this week. Our mission president has just committed all the missionaries to read the Book of Mormon in 90 days and he wants us to highlight every time it mentions Jesus Christ. I'm not sure why he gave us this assignment but I believe that this will help us better recognize the Lord's work in our lives. It is an interesting challenge but I am excited to try it.

I don't eat ice cream anymore in this area, so that's sad. I’m about to go to town today and buy a bunch for our pday today.

I hope all is well with the new ward changes. Who is the bishop in Olney 1st ward? Good luck with everything.

Love you all lots.


Elder Bethke

"A pic of my church from my house. I live really close to it and it is on a nice little hill."

"Me standing in the mop bucket doing my laundry...back to doing it the hard way."

"Me reading the Bible."

Our Sunday, September 10, 2017 / His Monday, September 11, 2017

Hey Mom,

I’m am safe in Vava'u and I will tell you that Vava'u is very pretty. It has many mountains and that is completely different from Tongatapu. Tongatapu is flat. I have a whole bunch of hills in my area and I can see other islands from my area. It's pretty cool. My area has the highest mountain in Vava'u and from it you can see whales.

The internet is really bad so I can’t spend super long on the internet. But my area is pretty cool. There are not a ton of members but basically all of my area is baptized so my job will be doing a lot of reactivation. We ended up teaching someone last Sunday and they said yes to our baptismal invitation. So we are very excited to start off like that in a new area. The people up here in Vava'u are different than the people are in Tongatapu. So I'm still trying to get used to everything up here. Vava'u is a lot hotter as well so now I'll actually be getting a nice tan.

I flew a plane from Tongatapu to Vava'u, it was about a 50 minute plane ride. I ended up riding the plane with a member of the Area 70. He went up to a stake conference in Vava'u. So I got to talk to him a bit. But I’m excited to work in this new area even though I do miss my old area some. My companion is also cool. He is from Tonga so it should be very fun working with him. I only just got to Vava'u last Saturday, I'm sure I will have more to report next week. Hope all is well. Love you all lots.

Elder Bethke

Our Sunday, September 3, 2017 / His Monday, September 4, 2017

Hey Mom, 

I’m transferring!!! I’m going to a new Vava'u. I’m going to work in an area called Longomapu. I heard it is a really beautiful area but my camera is still broken!!! But don't worry I’m trying really hard to get a new camera. I can bring about 30 pounds, so I’ll be leaving some stuff at the mission office. I’m only going to bring my scriptures and a couple shirts and garments. After working in Vaotu’u for a long time, there are a lot of things I’m going to miss about it. I’m really going to miss the people and the awesome feedings that they give us. It is honestly a little hard to move but I have good hope for this next area. I’m also training again. Which means a lot of work. Overall I’m doing alright. I don't have a ton of time to email today because of transfers but just letting you know that I love you lots. Sorry I can’t send pics.

Elder Bethke


I get to go to a new island. I’m training. I’m whitewashing. Oiaue...... fele e ngaue ke fai. I’m excited to go to a new place but I’m going to really miss the people in Vaotu’u. You all should come to Tonga at the end of my mission so we can go exploring and go swimming. I can show you all my second house in Vaotu’u. Sorry for the short email but I’m getting transferred today. Love you lots.

Elder Bethke

Monday, August 7, 2017

August 2017

Our Sunday, August 27, 2017 / His Monday, August 28, 2017

Hey Mom, 

How are you? I’m doing better than usual and I can actually thank dad for this one. He gave some good advice that is helping to make even more of my mission experience. I’ve started to set a whole bunch of goals. I feel that these goals have given me more purpose and it is also fun to just check a goal off. One of my main goals for the mission is to be able to do 100 consecutive pushups without stopping. I figured if I do that then I’ll have the chest of Dwayne the Rock Johnson. So why not haha. I have also figured out one purpose that I have to really become good at on my mission. That purpose is to become really good at listening and acting by the Holy Ghost. I’ve had a prompting from my patriarchal blessing that it's pretty important and I got to get pretty good at it. So I’m trying to refine my listening skills and refine my acting skills.

This past week was pretty good for work. For one thing, we had a baptism!!! We baptized a little girl named Nesi and she’s really funny. When we asked her mom if it was ok to baptize her, her mom was a little on the edge, but my companion came on the clutch and just spoke by the Holy Ghost and the mom let her daughter get baptized. I was pretty impressed with my companion after that and that also emphasized to me the importance of living by the Spirit. So overall I had a good week.

It was nice to hear that cool experience about me helping you through that hard time. It made me feel good about myself haha. But it was cool to hear it. I’m also glad to hear that I’m gaining some respect among Brother Bearman. It only took me 19 years but I did it haha.

I love you lots.

Elder Bethke


Your advice from last week helped about setting goals. I’ve started to set a lot of goals. One of them is drinking a full litre water bottle every day. That's what the mission doctor keeps telling us but you know, it's like you have to go out of your way to get water so I’ve been trying to listen to the mission doctors commitments for the mission. One goal is to be able to do 100 consecutive pushups without stopping. Another one is to make my bed every day. Impressive haha. Thanks for all advice you give. It helps sometimes. I honestly didn’t do anything for my one year mark. The day after my one year mark I planted a tava tree. I don’t know what tava is in English but it's a good fruit tree. I planted one and it’s already dying so I’m a little sad for that. The work is going well. We baptized a little girl last week. It was fun teaching her even though sometimes she wouldn’t pay attention or understand something. The hard part with her was getting her parents’ permission but we eventually got it and the mother got to see her baptism. So that was cool. We only work with the people in this village or anyone that just happens to walk through it. But the people that come to church in our ward are only from this village. But yeah, all is well. Love ya lots.

Work out so you can be buff like me.

Elder Bethke

Hey Miss,

No pics haha. My camera is broken. For some reason the lens is jammed on mine and it won’t open up. Don't worry I’m in the process of getting a new one. I might get a new one next week.

This week has been a good week. I feel that everything is getting a little better. I’ve started setting goals and now I have more purpose in my life. It's pretty cool. One of my goals is to be a cleaner person. So to fulfill that I’m going to do all the cleaning, Fold and hang up my clothes, make my bed. I don’t know if you know this but I wasn’t the best about that before the mission haha. But I’m going to be a pro when I get back. I hope all is well,


Elder Bethke

Our Sunday, August 20, 2017 / His Monday, August 21, 2017

Hey Mom,

Now is not the time to slow down!! You’re telling this to someone who is in Tonga and is spending 8 months in a town smaller than our neighborhood!!! You’re are right though, it is important to keep working hard and gaining the trust of the Lord in all that I do. One of the most important things in the mission is doing all of the small things. It is from small things that big things come to pass. I've been feeling that I’ve been becoming a little bit more lazy in this area and I know that I need to try harder haha so I’m going to try and do my best. I think setting goals is very important in not becoming lazy. And I just have to become creative in my goals. I think that is the key. I could set better goals or more fun ones. We are teaching a couple of investigators right now, we have one set up to be baptized this week. But from what I’ve learned it is that whenever the Lord works hard to try and save someone, Satan works just as hard to try and stop their salvation. But the Lord will always come through if you have faith in him. We had our zone conference last week and it was good. I learned a lot.

Today for p-day we are going to do a service project at one of the noble’s houses. It’s starting to get hotter out here. Hope all is well. I hit my year mark this week!

Love you lots,
Elder Bethke

Hihifo Zone Conference

Our Sunday, August 13, 2017 / His Monday, August 14, 2017

Hi mom,

All is well here in Tonga. This week was a pretty quiet week for the most part. I'm trying to think of the major events that happened this week but honestly nothing was really really cool. We did have a musical fireside in our ward this past Sunday and it was nice because for once, us missionaries didn’t have to do anything. We didn’t have to make the program or sing in it. So it was nice to just enjoy the program for once. The topic was about missionary work, and they had a bunch of converts talk about their conversion story. And afterward there was cake and ice cream so it was a good Sunday. 

It is pretty crazy not having a single kid at the house anymore. I don't know if I told you but one morning me and my companion borrowed some members’ bicycles and went biking around our zone. It was really nice to bike instead of walk. Plus biking was really peaceful and beautiful. However afterward my butt was sore. But it was a sacrifice worth taking. So I think that will be a great idea going biking at work. 

And you are learning how to use the TV?? Wow, the world is completely different than a year ago. Dad emailed me and told me how everyone my age in church is now basically out of the house. It's pretty crazy ay. WOW Daniel and his family are sealed a day before he enters the MTC! That is something special. Everyone looks older except for Daniel haha. He is probably my best friend. I can't believe that Daniel and his family got sealed in the temple right before he went out on his mission. That's way cool. I'm really happy for him and his family. In the picture, Kenneth and Selenne look way bigger. Do you have Daniel's email? Can u send it to me?

We might have a baptism this week. We are teaching this little girl and she's really cool. She’s like 9 but she’s pretty funny. We taught this one kid who is going to be baptized we are just waiting for his dad to come home so he can see the baptism.

Thanks mom hope all is well.

Elder Bethke

"This is a pic that I took in the office while emailing home because I realized that I didn't take any pics this last week. Hope you enjoy it!!!!"

Our Sunday, August 6, 2017 / His Monday, August 7, 2017

Hey Mom, 

How is everything? Now that Missy and Jimmy are gone I’d think that you’d actually be busier around the house. Well you will always have Danny and Dalia visit every once and a while. Man I can't believe that everyone is leaving...I’m not going to know anyone when I get back except Josh Bearman. Which will be interesting. I enjoyed hearing about your thoughts about fasting. I actually had a pretty cool experience with fasting back when I worked in Ha’ataieho. Me and my companion fasted and it came to the end of our fast and we were starving. We ended our fast and had plans to get food but for some reason the stores were closed and we couldn’t get food from anyone, which was very unusual for the area that I was in. But we just kept walking around. But while we were walking along one of the streets, one car zoomed by us but once they saw us they slammed on the brakes to talk to us. As we were walking towards the car, all they did was stick a sack of apples out the window. We said thanks and we then we parted and went our own ways. Those were some of the best apples I’ve had too. It made me think of the time when the Savior talks to the people and he is saying how that our Heavenly Father always makes sure that the crows and wild birds are fed. Then he goes on to state that aren’t we much more important than the wild animals. So it was just a little testimony that Heavenly Father watches over his children in their hardships. 

Something really cool and also really sad happened last Saturday. One. We had a baptism!! We baptized an investigator of our ward mission leader's wife. It was actually pretty hard to teach her some things like repentance. We really had to put it in the most simplest terms possible for it to be understood. So we were able to baptize her last Saturday. Then later that evening, me and my companion decided to celebrate by playing some good old American two hand touch football with our neighbors. But as we are playing, the twins get home from town and they are telling how a 12 year-old kid died. The kid was fishing with his family at the beach. They are more on like a coral reef than on an actual beach. But what happened is like there is some water up on the reef. And there is also blow holes on the reef. So what happened is the kid got sucked into a blowhole and no one knows what happened since. It has been two days and no one has found the body yet. It is really sad. The kid that died was a member and his family was a little less active. It was all sad and it all happened so fast. It's weird because I used to see him all the time. It's crazy that something like that happened, but knowing the plan of salvation makes me not see death as such a horrible thing because I know that there is a plan and more for us after death. Death is just another step in the plan. But yeah these were the main things that happened this week. I hope all is well. I love you all

Elder Bethke

Hey Dad,

It sounds like you are pretty busy ay. Well we had a baptism this past week as well!! That makes two weeks in a row, pretty cool ay. But it was funny, I actually did the baptism wrong, the first time haha. I accidentally baptized them while raising my left hand up...whoops. Oh well it happens. I’m super excited for Daniel and wish him the best of luck. I can seriously see how excited Minen and the rest of Daniel’s family are for Daniel and him going on a mission. I’m excited for Daniel too, he was definitely one of my best friends growing up. So I’m proud of him. Now that we baptized this last investigator, we have to search for more people to work with. That should be fun. We do have other investigators but is hard to do work this week because someone in our village died so everyone will be focused on that for a week. How is the ward doing? Are there any new families or members back at home? Has anyone moved since I’ve been gone?

Today our plans are to finish up p-day and then also go to give some gifts to the family that lost their son. We are going to go with the family of our ward mission leader. The new ward mission definitely helps a lot. Another thing that really is building up the missionary work this month is the fact that ward conference is this month. Ward conference is way different here than it is in America. Here, they have a whole bunch of programs and stuff building up to the ward conference. Like for these next two weeks there is almost a ward program every day. It’s pretty cool. Plus our goal is to have every family baptize someone before the end of conference. So it is pretty serious out here right now. Hope all is well.

Elder Bethke

"This is the pic at our baptism last week. We baptized the girl next to the missionary that is next to me."

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July 2017

Our Sunday, July 30, 2017 / His Monday, July 31, 2017


How is everything? Tonga is cool. Danny told me now that you bought a grill, all you do now is grill!!! We baptized someone last week! I talked a lot about it in mom’s email. But it was a lot of fun teaching her. Her name is Lile and she is 16 years old. The coolest thing about her was her desire to be baptized in the church. She really wanted to be baptized. 

Man I started lifting weights. Our next door neighbor got a bench press. I've started to lift. Man I'm out of shape to say the least. I'm up to doing 30 kgs on each side. I can only lift it 4 times though haha. Out of shape. But by the end of the transfer, watch and see how big I get. Do you still go to the gym every day? Do you know things that I can do for my legs by just using a bar and no throwing weights? I can only think of dead lifts and hang cleans. But yeah I’ve started lifting again. So we will see if that changes anything. 

I’m doing well out here in Tonga. I’ve started talking with this deportee from America. His name is Vo and he is a gangster from California. He now lives in Tonga but he is way cool. He is less active and I’m trying hard to get him to come back to church and all of that. But Vo is way cool and is super nice. You wouldn’t think so from a gangster in California but he is the best. But yup hope all is well.

Elder Bethke


This last week was an adventure. Remember that investigator that we had so much trouble with??? She got baptized last Saturday!!!! We were sitting at someone’s house just talking to some of the members and then I get a text from my bishop’s wife saying that Lile is getting baptized. I was so surprised that I called her right away. I called her and then she confirmed that Lile was being baptized, then she told me that she was not getting baptized in Vaotu’u. Then I shouted what!?!?! Apparently she was going to get baptized in a different ward and the sisters that worked in that ward were going to baptize her. Then I told bishop’s wife "what the heck". I was a little upset that someone took our investigator after we did all the work, but then I remember that us missionaries are all on the same team so it doesn’t really matter if she was baptized here or anywhere else. So in the end I was fine with it. I still got to go to her baptism and see her be baptized so that was cool. It was cool because she had such a great desire to be baptized. So I feel that I was blessed to be able to work with her. So that was the huge highlight for the week. I’m having fun!! Hope all is well. If you have any questions let me know.

Elder Bethke

Dear Brother and Sister Bethke,

It is with great blessing to inform you about the work that your son Elder Charles Maximilian Bethke is doing in our Mission. Sister Tui'one and I are very happy to work with him and he has bless the Mission, missionaries and the people of Tonga and we want to thank you for not only preparing him but also allowing him to come and serve the Lord with us here in the Nuku'alofa Tonga Mission.

Elder Charles Maximilian Bethke has been called as a District Leader/Trainer and we know how much he will do to help teach the doctrines and invite missionaries to follow Jesus Christ and we're confident that he will lead by example and love those whom the Lord entrusted him and his companion with.

We love Elder Charles Maximilian Bethke and know of his abilities and potentials to become what the Lord expected of him. He is AWESOME. Please continue to encourage him.

Kind Regards,

President and Sister Tui'one

"This is me and Elder Lasike climbing up into the attic at the stake center. It wasn't actually as cool as we'd thought it'd be."

"This is a pic of some members cooking us a pig. It was delicious and the skin tastes like chips."

"This is at the baptism of Lile."

"This is our temple out here in Tonga. Me and Elder Hafoka went to the office after our baptism and so we took pics of the temple because it is right next to the temple."

"Flower boy."
"Temple boy."

"These are two studs at the temple just walking around and thinking that they are cool."

Our Sunday, July 23, 2017 / His Monday, July 24, 2017


Wow a musical sacrament meeting. That actually sounds very cool. If I had to choose a song I would probably choose hymn number 227 “There Is Sunshine In My Soul Today.” I like that one just because it has a very positive message. That we should be happy and positive always. But it also has a line in the chorus I think it says something about seeing Jesus' smiling face, there is sunshine in my soul today. Just thinking about seeing our Redeemer’s face smiling at us should bring us the greatest joy in this life. I read Bruce R. McConkie's talk about the atoning sacrifice in Gethsemane and it gives a pretty good description of all the pain and suffering that the Savior experienced just so that we could all have the opportunity to repent. It is truly a great talk. I think that it was actually the last talk he gave before passing away. It helps us learn more about the Savior. So I recommend it to all. Unfortunately we were unable to baptize our investigator last week. It is really sad because Lile, she really wants to be baptized and I believe that she has a true testimony in our church. The only reason that she wasn’t baptized was because her mom doesn’t want her to be baptized. Which is hard. The thing is Lile's mom has already been to the temple but she has fallen away from the church. So it is a very unfortunate thing. But we are not giving up on her, I still believe in her. But other than that, this last week was good. I miss you and love you all very much. I hope all is well.

Elder Bethke

Hey there pops,

I’m doing well. I get to stay another lovely transfer in Vaotu’u. That will make it 5 transfers. The Book of Mormon really is a special book. Like Joseph said, there is no other book more perfect than that one. I often find that as soon as you open the Book of Mormon and read, that you immediately feel the Spirit. It just proves that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and is true scripture to help guide us in these latter days. Ever since President Monson gave his talk in General Conference about the Book of Mormon. I've made sure I read that book every day even if I’m studying something else. So just because you are reading the D&C doesn’t mean you stop reading the Book of Mormon every day. I've just started studying the life of David from the Bible and David was truly a righteous lad when he was young. He had such great confidence in the Lord that he knew the Lord would protect his people from the Philistine armies. And because he had such great confidence in the Lord, he was willing to take on Goliath. That is a great story that everyone can learn from. We each have our own Goliaths in our lives whether it be school, work, family or whatever but as long as you have confidence and faith in the Lord, you should have nothing to fear. That is my spiritual thought for you today. I hope it helps in some way. Remember to hire me when I get back haha.

Elder Bethke

Missy!!!! Yay for getting a job! I’m so proud of you! Does this mean you are moving to Utah? Does this mean you won’t be home when I get back? Elder Enos was happy to receive his can opener he thanks you very much. He thinks that you are the coolest person ever because he sees the postcards and stuff you sent. And he's right, you are the coolest sister in the world. There is nothing in particular I need in my box. I do ask though for the flaming hot cheetos. But you can choose everything else. Transfers just happened and you’ll never believe where I’m going... I’m staying again haha. That is 5 transfers in Vaotu’u. I’ll be in Vaotu’u for 8 months of my mission. Impressive aye. During this transfer I hit my year mark!!! August 24!!! I’m excited. Time has already flown so fast and people tell me that the second year even goes faster. Love you lots, good luck on your new job.

Elder Bethke 

"Us working on the primary program. We spent like half a day working on it. We were making activities and stuff for the primary kids so that they can learn the 13th article of faith. It was fun and after the program we ate a special treat...cinnamon rolls! it was really fun."

"Us being goofy at the beach."

"I got someone to carve my hymn book and put Tongan designs and stuff on it to make it look cool."

Our Sunday, July 16. 2017 / His Monday, July 17, 2017


Happy p-day mom! Let me recount some things that have happened this past week. Let's start with last Thursday. Last Thursday I saw some miracles. Last Thursday we did a zone fast. We fasted for our investigators and to help us achieve our goal of getting 15 baptisms in these last two weeks. We started our fast around noonish. And I started to see some miracles just that night. One, we met up with an old investigator and were able to teach her again. Two we were able to find three new investigators just that night. And it has been wonderful teaching those people. I’ve learned a lot and I can surely testify that fasting works and there is a special power when one does fast properly.

The work out here is starting to progress. We were able to get 5 new investigators last week. What we've started to do with the ward mission leader is set up a teaching every day with a family. We walk around with him and go to houses and commit them to a day that we will be able to teach someone. It's been pretty effective because we have new investigators. So I’m glad to say that the work is improving. Everything is great out here on the island.

There aren’t any mountains on this island but on Eua and Vavau there are big hills.

It is great to hear about the wedding and that some people remember me out there. I can't believe that they picked Danny and Sean to DJ... must’ve been something special. I’m glad to hear that Bern and Carlos are doing well, and that they are going to go honeymoon in OC. There's no place like it. And Spencer is deciding to get married. hmmmm so that makes Alfredo, Danny, Bernadette, and soon to be Spencer, all married while I'm in Tonga. Alrighty then.

I hope everyone is doing well out there in Maryland.

Love you,
Elder Bethke


I got the package, it was wonderful. This week was pretty interesting, we had to sing in the stake fireside this past Sunday. Let me say the fireside was great, but maybe our song wasn’t that great haha. We sang "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and it was alright. I very much enjoyed eating the candy in the package. Also the sweats were like wearing a cloud. Thanks very much!! Oh I sent a package home! It doesn’t have any shirts in it but it does have some other cool stuff. It has stuff from Tonga and from Fiji in it. It might take a while to get home though. I gave it to the zones today so they might’ve already given it to the office to send. This past week has been good for work. We found a couple new investigators this past week. I'm trying to have a baptism with my son (Max's trainee, Elder Hafoka) before transfers. We have re-met up with the one of the girls we have been teaching and set up a baptismal date for this week! So I’m hoping everything works out well for that one. Be happy.


Elder Bethke

Our Sunday, July 9, 2017 / His Monday, July 10, 2017

Hello Mom,

How is everything at home? This past week was better than last week. This past week we had the ward mission leader come and go door to door with us. Since he knows everyone really well and lives there it made it way easier to work with the other people. We set up a lot of new goals with the ward. We set up that we are going to have 2 baptisms every week which is a high setting goal. We also set that every family will invite someone to be taught before ward conference which is in August. So I believe that the work here might shoot up these couple of weeks. We went door knocking and from what I’ve been able to see I haven’t seen any success. But who knows aye.

When I go to church, I usually go to Sunday School with the old people but then I go to the young men’s priesthood class. But sometimes I switch it up. But if an investigator comes I usually teach them during Sunday School. So it just depends.

I haven’t got my package yet, but I figured out that my cord still works but my comp used all the battery on my camera sending pics home, so I might be able to send pics later, but I will for sure send pics next week.

I hope everything is going well. Wow I can't believe Jacob and Daniel got their mission calls. I’m really excited for them. That means when I get back that Evan, Daniel, and Jacob won't be there. That's almost my entire family from deacons on up. At least I’ll have David still around, if he hasn’t gone to his mission yet.

I’m working hard and am happy. Obedience can be hard but I see the blessings of when one is truly obedient to the Lord’s will. I’m doing my best. I love the Lord and I’m trying to become like him one step at a time. I learned yesterday in church to not have a casual relationship with the Lord. Just like with our friends, we should be excited to talk to them and see them and hear from them. We must not have just a casual relationship with Heavenly Father. That means that we must pray every moment and have the desire to meet with Him someday. We will only have that desire if we obey his commandments and follow his rules. Read the scriptures often, you will find what the Lord wants you to do on that specific day and hour. I love you lots!!

"Here is my companion trying to be the saint in the pic."​ 
"We took pics at the Catholic church in our area. It was pretty cool."

"Here is the man who makes the cake I eat everyday​."

"Me and my companion just being silly on top of our member's fence​."

"​This kid is named Juni and he is from America.
I never realized that the kids in Tonga and America are so different. but they're both great."

"These are some bomb burgers that someone made foe us. It was super good and it tasted like freedom."

Our Monday, July 3, 2017 / His Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Hi Mom,

Happy 4th of July!!!

Next transfer I hit my year mark...and they say that the first year is the slow year. If that is the case this next year will fly by. I’m doing well.  I’m still trying to do my best. I know the people in this town very well. I’ve lived in this town for almost a half a year now so I should become a citizen here. I’ve asked the stake president to give me some land if I ever decide to live here. He said no. But that is ok. I’m sure that if I actually came back he would give me land. But everything is great.

It is still good to here because there always things to improve on. I always worry about the weather. If it rains that means my feet and slippers will get muddy and also my tupenu and that is something that I’m not a fan of.

Let me explain why I was unable to email you yesterday. Yesterday I was at a zone conference for 7 hours so President Tuione told us that our p-day is today for this week!! Yay. The zone conference was very good. I would say that I learned a lot from it and got several reminders to remember and be obedient. So that is what happened yesterday.

I had a pretty sad experience last week that made me pretty angry. Fortunately my anger doesn’t last more than an hour. So let me recount the story. We have been teaching this investigator named Liliana and it has been going really well. We have taught her 3 full lessons and we invited her to be baptized and she said yes. We also invited her to come to church and she came last week. The thing that made me angry, when we went to go talk the one of the members that was helping to fellowship, she told us that our investigator had a bad experience at church. She told us that when she went to young women’s class, some of the young women were making fun of her and the way she dressed. She also got yelled at by the teacher to sit down. She was pretty sad after she went to church. When the member told me that, I was pretty mad at the ward. It made me not want to work as hard because if I was going to work to help bring others to Christ and then others destroy the work that we do, then there is not much of a point to it. So at zone conference I talked to President about it and he told me that what I was going through was a tough situation. He told me not to get mad at the ward and to remember that everyone isn't perfect. As a missionary you really come to learn that everyone isn’t perfect including myself. Then President told me how important love is. And how much more important it is to love others that don't love you back. Basically President reignited my will to work hard and not be angry anymore, so I’m grateful for that. I still haven’t seen Liliana since then but I’m working on a plan to be able to meet with her again.

I still eat cake every day. It is really good. Oh, I started a new challenge. It is the challenge that Russel M. Nelson gave during last general conference. It is to read every single verse in the topical guide under the topic Jesus Christ, and all of the subtitles of Jesus Christ. Russel M. Nelson said that it changed his life and he became a different man. I've only just started the challenge and haven’t even finished the first title and I can see that the way I think is already starting to change. I'm becoming a better person by reading and pondering the life of Christ. I think that would be a great challenge for everyone to do. I’m doing well in Tonga. It is cool here but not cold. Thanks for all that you do for me.

'ofa atu,
Elder Bethke

Zone Conference

Monday, June 5, 2017

June 2017

Our Sunday, June 25, 2017 / His Monday, June 26, 2017

Hello Mother,

I cannot believe that our family has a grill. Do you know how long that that has been debated and shot down?? For at least as long I’ve been alive. This week was actually a very productive week at work. We got two new investigators and we set baptismal dates for both. So that is super exciting. It’s rough in this area because from 10-4 everyone is gone to town or work or gone farming so it is hard to do much in this small area during that time. I’d say that this area is a great studying area during that time. This week I had to do my first baptismal interview for someone, then I also did their baptism because it was the sisters’ investigator.

I didn't do anything crazy this week like eat bat or anything but I have eaten cake every day for the past 10 days. It has been a lovely week because of that. Chocolate cake with some coconut on top and it is delightful. It is one of the best cakes I have eaten.

I’ve decided I’m going to try and exercise seriously, maybe. I might get to eat burger king this Saturday because one of the members is going to New Zealand and they said that they would bring me back some!!! So I’m excited.

The dogs at our house had babies. So now I get to play with two new puppies. The weather here is cold. It maybe gets to like 65 degrees at night. Man that is so cold. I don't even know why because in Maryland it gets to 20's and such. But I think it is because we always have to wear slippers so my feet are always cold.

Being a district leader is fine it just means I have to do more things. And my philosophy for training is this... I'm not going to make my son do anything. I'm just going to set a good example for him by doing what is right. And I’ll help him become a fully prepped missionary. Sounds easier than it is, but it's not that hard.

Thanks for telling me about the Book of Mormon challenge. Sounds interesting and something that we might try out here!

'ofa atu,
Elder Bethke

"A crab."

"Pics of the new pups."

"My companion, Elder Hafoka, at the ocean."

"My companion pretending to be helpful while building a shower."

Our Sunday, June 18, 2017 / His Monday, June 19, 2017

Hey Mom,

Missionary is so much more work now.  My companion is Elder Hafoka and he is from Hunga, Vava'u. He looks Tongan because he grew up in Tonga and is Tongan. So he already knows Tongan. He has six brothers and sisters and he is also the youngest in his family like me. I know that his older sister served in Misiona Tonga but I’m not sure about the rest of his family. His dad is an engineer. He plays rugby and his dream is to play for the Tongan team. Training is a lot of work though. It is a little different being a leader but not too much. I'd say the main difference now being a leader is that I serve other missionaries besides my companion like before. District Leader isn’t that bad. It's pretty easy but training is way important. My area, you would think it consists of all of those other towns but nope. I just cover the town of Vaotu'u. It is super small. I heard it is actually the smallest area in the mission so that's cool. I feel that the work is going to progress a lot in Vaoutu’u because the old Stake President became our new ward mission leader. It will be way fun to work with him. What he told me today is that we are going to have every family in the ward invite someone to be taught by us, the missionaries. He wants every family to be part of a baptism before this transfer ends. So this will be exciting.

We had Elder Groberg, Kolipoki, come to Tonga and talk to the missionaries. It was pretty cool, he told us about some of the cool experiences he had on his mission. The things he expressed to us were mainly to love everybody, be obedient, serve everyone, and be happy. So that is what I’ll do.

I love you lots and hope everything is going well in America.

'ofa atu,
Elder Bethke

Max's new trainee, Elder Hafoka.

Max meeting his new companion and trainee, Elder Hafoka.

"This is me throwing a knife at a tree, but the handle got stuck in the tree instead."

"This is me holding a dead bat. It smells really bad."

"This is them cooking the bat...the end result is me eating the bat. but it tastes a lot like steak."

"This is my companion Elder Hafoka, really excited because he's going to eat a lot of food."

Our Sunday, June 11, 2017 / His Monday, June 12, 2017

Hello Mom,

I have some pretty exciting news. Kolipoki, or Elder Groberg, is coming to Tonga to talk to the missionaries. Elder Groberg, the one who the movie The Other Side of Heaven is about, he's coming to talk to all the missionaries and it's pretty cool. He has already come to Tonga and I helped our next door neighbor make food to cater to him.

To let you know for transfers, I’m staying again in Vaotu'u. But only this time I will be training and I’ll be the district leader. I will say I’m excited to train but I’m not as excited to be district leader. I'll have to do a lot more work because I’m training someone new and the work isn’t the most lively in our area so it will be a lot of fun trying to restart everything in Vaotu'u. Because this is now my 4th transfer in Vaotu'u, I will have at least spent a quarter of my mission in this one area. Which is interesting.

As of right now I’m waiting for my companion to come to Tonga, I’ll meet with him either Thursday or Friday. So right now I’m staying with the zone leaders. So that is fun. I’m not quite sure what else to share right now but I’ll let you know that I’m doing my best out here!

Here is a true fact about Tongan animals, mainly about chickens and eagles (even though there are no eagles in Tonga). So back in the day eagles and chickens were best friends and they couldn’t fly. The eagles got a magic needle from the gods and they used it to sew their wings so they can fly. When the chickens saw the eagles soaring around, they were really jealous. They asked the eagles for the magic needle so they could fly too. The eagles didn't want to give it because they feared the chickens would lose it. But after lots of begging, the eagles finally gave in. But they said to the chickens if they lose the needle, the eagles will hate them forever. So the chickens got the needle and almost instantly lost it. Since then the eagles hate and hunt chickens and the chickens are now in constant search, scratching the ground and pecking around to find the magic needle. True story.

I hope everything is going well in America!

'ofa atu
Elder Bethke

Our Sunday, June 4, 2017 / His Monday, June 5, 2017

Hi Mom,

Well it seems that another member of the family has decided to have a wedding while I’m gone... hmmmm I’m picking up a little trend.

Today is the last p-day of two sisters in our district so we are planning to celebrate that today, by eating dogs, pigs, and having a water balloon fight. So I’m looking forward to this upcoming day.

This week is the last week of transfers. I think I’m smelling a little bit of the outer islands this transfer. At the end of this transfer I will have spent 4 and a half months in the Vao. If I do move I will miss eating all the food at the next door neighbor’s house. Oh snap I forgot, we also had stake conference yesterday and our Stake Pres got released so now it is weird not calling him President. Because he was released we had to members of the 70 come and release him. One of them was Elder Tukuafu who is actually from Tonga, and the other one was Elder Cardone. After stake conference, the missionaries in our stake got invited to a special little gathering and had a feast with all the bishops, new stake presidency, and the old stake presidency and also the two members of the 70. It was really a special experience. The love of Christ and Heavenly Father was very present at the feast. It felt as if it was sacred ground. It was very beautiful. One thing Elder Cardone talked about at stake conference was actually a very interesting topic. He said it was the first time he has talked about that at a stake conference. He talked about patriarchal blessings. He emphasized how the blessing would strengthen us spiritually and will also give us certain blessings as long as we are obedient and keep the commandments. He also emphasized that it is very important to know your Abrahamic tribe. It was a very fun experience.

I want to share a common theme that has often randomly been popping into my head as I have been studying this week. It has come up multiple times this week and it is also something the President Thomas S. Monson has talked about last conference in priesthood session. He talked about charity, the pure love of Christ. For some reason I decided to read the story of Ammon yesterday and I was trying to figure out how he was able to teach Lamoni. And we all know the story very well. Ammon decides to serve Lamoni, he protects his flocks, he is very admirable in his service, the king starts to question who is this amazing man and why is he here and all that, and once Lamoni asks those questions then Ammon begins his lesson. But there is something before all of that that Ammon does to convert Lamoni. First, he loves the Lord, and then he loves his neighbor. It is because of those things he was able to accomplish everything else. Before Ammon left on his mission, he delighted in the scriptures and feasted upon them. He loved the stories of his ancestors and how the Lord’s mercy is bestowed upon them. He spent much of his time loving the Lord before he helped other people. And because he loved the Lord, he decided to help Him in his work. He loved the Lamanites, sure he was afraid at the beginning, but he was willing to risk his life to help them. The first way he showed his love to them was by serving them in whatever they needed done, whether it is protecting the flocks or feeding the horses. Ammon gave up his entire life to go and serve the Lamanites. And because he loved the Lord, and he loved the people around him, he had great success. I believe those two steps are the most important, and once you follow those, the rest of the commandments sort of follow those two important commandments. Jesus said it himself. The greatest commandment is love the Lord thy God. The second is like unto it. Love thy neighbor as ye love thyself. And if we do not follow these things "[we] will be nothing" - Thomas S. Monson, the book of 2nd Nephi, and in Moroni. I know that if we follow those in whatever circumstances we are in, we will be successful and be happy

'ofa lahi atu,
Elder Bethke

Hey Miss,

You will be excited for the news I have. I found a box. So what I’m going to do now is give some money to the Stake Pres's wife to go to town and but me a whole bunch of Tongan stuff so I can send it home and give stuff to you all. It'll be some pretty cool stuff. I’m hoping to send it this week.

The Vao is still the Vao. I'm still in the bush. There is a dog named Ricky and I taught him to sit down. Did you know the Strawberry poison dart frog from South America is poisonous??? So one skin of this frog is able to supply 50 poison darts, you know the ones that kill ya. There is my animal fact for the week.

Good luck in the job search! Is there anything you want to know about Tonga or anything because I basically know it all.

'ofa atu,
Elder Bethke

"This is at the feast with Elder Cardone and I am about to inhale the puaka (pig)." 

"This was me getting my foot looked at by the doctor. My foot is now almost completely recovered!!"

"These are some super cool cookies I ate, it's been a long time since I've had any. It was like a rainbow in the mouth."

"This is me as of 15 seconds ago." 

"This is an underground cave and apparently there is fresh water which you can drink inside."

"Some elders in the district mucking around."

"This is me from the side because I wanted to see what I looked like."