A Busy and Amazing Week ...

We have finished our first Mission Leadership Council and the Zone Conferences on Upolu and Savai'i. What a joy it has been to meet with the missionaries. We are working hard to get to know each missionary and their stories. We were able to meet with each one individually in Savai'i yesterday. We head to Tutuila (American Samoa) later this week to complete two Zone Conferences there and meet with each missionary. There are ten zones in the mission and 204 missionaries.  We also met with the senior couples. Each missionary, whether young or older, brings something remarkable to this work. We have heard some incredible stories of sacrifice and consecration. As we have met with each missionary, we have asked him/her so share with us something important that has been learned while serving here in Samoa. Following are some of the responses--

"It is a blessing to learn how to offer the gospel to others. I have learned how to love and be humble."
"I have learned that obedience is the key to having the spirit and making the work easy."
"I have learned patience and honesty."
"The mission has taught me how to draw nearer to God."
"I have learned to love all kinds of different people."
"I was a tough guy before my mission; I have learned to be gentle."
"This mission experience has taught me where to find true happiness."
"I have seen many miracles on my mission. I know that if I work hard, the miracles will come."
"The trials of my mission have taught me how to solve problems and have strengthened my testimony."
"I have learned what it means to really pray."
"I have learned to not fear."

We have heard courageous stories of conversion. More than one of these missionaries was disowned by their family after joining the church. One missionary helped bring his entire family back to the church and bring his extended family into the church. Many are converts themselves. Many have witnessed the death of a family member, many have worked to cover the entire cost of their mission, some have given up college scholarships to be here; all have sacrificed something and have consecrated their lives to the Lord for two years.  How inspiring they are!

Following are pictures from the Mission Leadership Council and the eight Zone Conferences from this past week. I am sorry for the poor quality of one of the pictures and I am sorry for my crazy hair; there simply is no controlling it in this humidity. Each one of these missionaries is deeply loved by God. We have felt that witness over and over as we have looked into their faces.

I cannot end this post without expressing gratitude for our two amazing assistants, Elder Brunt from Australia and Elder Si'ilata from Hawaii. We would have been lost without them. They have worked tirelessly to develop our schedule and make arrangements for each of our meetings and interviews. They are incredibly gracious and respectful, full of the spirit, and willing to work to exhaustion. We see God working in our lives through the service of these two remarkable missionaries. We immediately liked them and within a day loved them. They both return home fairly soon; it will be devastating to see them go.

Elder Si'ilata and Elder Brunt
Mission Leadership Council

Following are the zones from Upolu.

Following are the zones from Savai'i.