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Tongan Flag

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."