Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30, 2015: Australia Week 12, More Photos

1. God smiling on us
2. I was reading the Ensign one day and came across a picture of a baby I now want to adopt.
3. The Gee family

4. It is what it is

November 30, 2015: Australia Week 12

Soooo quick email this week. I miss Thanksgiving in America because it's not a thing in Australia, but one of the members made us crocodile sausages and kangaroo steak on Thanksgiving day, so it turned out to be a good experience. Transfers are companion has been here since I opened my call and he is.....staying! Haha he's happy to stay because he loves Pirie but he's pretty bummed because he doesn't know what else God wants him to do here. By the end of next transfer he'll have spent nearly half his entire mission in the little town of Port Pirie. And I'mmm....leaving! (after being here 3 months) I don't know where I'm going yet or who my new companion is. We're going down to Adelaide today and I'll be shifted into my new place by Wednesday (Australians don't "move" to a new place, they "shift"). My companion said all his goodbyes to everyone last night, so we were both in a lot of shock when we found out he's staying. At this point he's probably here to find his wife more than anything else.
I did have the opportunity to give an impromptu talk on my last Sunday here because one of the speakers was sick, so it was nice to speak to everyone for the last time. 
I truly am going to miss the people here. All of the members have been amazing and one of a kind in their own way. The saddest thing about getting transferred is realising that I will probably never set foot in Port Pirie again in my entire life. So I really will miss the people here.  
-Elder Koch

1. One of the cooler sunsets I've seen.
2. This is the hallmark of Australia...for some reason people put heaps of chairs on their front porch and just let them sit for ages.
3. The Pirie chapel, where I was born.
4. My companion doing a marvelous job of washing our car.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

November 23, 2015: Australia Week 11

This week was one of the best. We had a super spiritual stake conference and members said it was the best one they had ever seen. We had a couple of seventies come down to give talks, and they told some inspiring stories. I believe that is the key to speaking--if you ever have the opportunity to give a talk in the future, tell stories. They multiply everyone's life experience and are the most memorable way to communicate your ideas. 
One of the coolest things I have seen while I have been in Port Pirie is the Gee family (pronounced "jee"). Brother Gee was an atheist and a professional wine taster at the beginning of this year. Today he is the second counselor in the branch presidency and his wife is the relief society president. They are one of the strongest families in our branch and they take care of us missionaries as if we were their kids. That is one of the best things about the the members in our branch: they take care of each other. Brother Gee fixes our bikes all the time, one sister sews up our pants, another sister crocheted us blankets, and the members (force) feed us all the time. 
Another realisation I have come to in the past few weeks is how grateful I am for my family. I have witnessed dozens of broken families in the past 3 months where the father has left the family, where the parents are young and unmarried, where the parents left the kids when they were young; where the husband never comes to church but the wife comes anyway, where the kids have gone inactive and the parents can't get them back, where the grown up kids don't even know where their siblings live or who they are anymore. I realised that I come from an ideal family that I have taken for granted all this time and the struggles I have faced are nowhere near as daunting as those I have witnessed out here. 
In the past few months I've become used to the Aussie culture and all the little differences that you don't know about. So I've decided to include little tidbits of cultural differences from now on in my emails.
Aussie Culture: Driving
1. The most popular brand of car I have seen here is Holden, which I've been told is similar to Chevy in America, but they have a different design. 
2. The speed limits are slow and are enforced to a Nazi extreme: cops rarely pull people over because they just have speed trap cameras everywhere. If you go so much as 8 kph (5 miles per hour) over the speed limit, you get a ticket for $500. So everybody drives the same speed and almost nobody passes each other. 
3. They aren't called "gas stations", they're called "petrol stations". The word "gas" is never used here. Petrol is bright red. 
4. There are signs all over the highways that say, "DROWSY DRIVERS DIE" and "DRIVE TO SURVIVE" 

Missionary Hobbies:
We go to Op-shops (opportunity shops--basically the same thing as DI) all the time for ties, which are a dollar or two at most. Occasionally you'll score and find a mean tie, so it's a mad rush to the tie section to get there before other missionaries take the best ones. 

Spiritual thought for yous before I go: This goes hand in hand with my farewell talk--the other day in my personal study I came across the sentence, "Christ performed the Atonement so we could become Gods." That statement really woke me up--that is the purpose of our existence here. There is a bigger picture of such magnitude that all things we see as being so important and so stressful in our lives are nothing. I thought that sentence was the coolest thing, because that is what we're headed for if we choose to obey God. That is what he has in store for us.

-Elder Koch

1. Our house. As you can see, it's up for grabs.
2. Our street
3. One of the main streets in Pirie
4. This is Lance, one of our members. He's the sweetest guy ever. He's too ill to come to church every week, so we go by the hospice twice a week to read the Book of Mormon with him. He has a hard time speaking, so you really have to listen when he talks. He always says in his prayers (while struggling to speak) "Thank you for the missionary boys. I love them and I love you, Heavenly Father. Thank you for the Book of Mormons. The Book of Mormons is true, and I will always read it." He always gives us chocolate every time we visit. 
5. Who knew they played baseball down here?

November 16, 2015: Australia Week 10

This week was solid--we've been busy every day working miracles. Haha but honestly, we give blessings nearly every single day and we've seen some progress with the people we're working with. One investigator we have is Nathan who is practically homeless. We rounded up some help from the members and donated stacks of food to him and his two kids after church last week. He just shifted into a new home and is struggling to support his family, so it was awesome to see how supportive the members are. 
Another investigator we have is Dylan, a 19 year-old kid who is now on date for baptism; he has some kind of learning disability, so we're taking the lessons really slow with him, but he's begging us to read the Book of Mormon with him every day haha. 
On a normal day we wake up, work out, get ready, do our studies for a couple hours, then get started. Our day usually consists of doing service (we get smashed with service in Pirie--we do yard work nearly every day), going on a walkabout in the blazing heat to try and talk to people, visiting members and recent converts/less actives (we have heaps of less actives here--we do more work with them than with anyone else), knocking doors, going to tea appointments with members, and then planning when we get back to the house. I'll have to get some photos of the houses and streets here so you can get a better idea of where we live. 
We ride our bikes almost every day; if you want to know what it feels like, it goes like this: get on your bike and start pedaling to the other side of town in 40 degree heat (I'm learning my Celsius), making sure to dodge cars when crossing busy intersections and going through roundabouts, park your bike on a member's porch 20 minutes later, unflatten your hair since there's that beautiful thing called helmet hair, walk in dripping in sweat, greet the member and sit down as they offer you a pepsi max (people drink more soda than water here) and then have a nice conversation with the member and share a spiritual thought. Then repeat the process. Expect most people to not be home. Then go get a frozen coke at Hungry Jacks to celebrate at the end of the day. 
Whenever we go up to Port Augusta for P-day or meetings, we usually get smashed in the morning by a personal trainer. For some reason this guy named Michael (whose Mom is a less active) recently started training the Port Augusta missionaries for free. So we wake up around 5am and go to the beach to get smashed; we do tons of running, stairs, push ups, burpees, army crawls on the sand, time trial sprints, etc. Michael always tells us he's not stopping till one of us throws up. Which occasionally happens. 
Transfers are in 2 weeks. My companion might go, but he and I want to stay for Christmas since the members know us well. When I first came here I honestly did not like Port Pirie at all--it's completely the opposite of what I'm used to: it's a small town, the church isn't that strong, and hardly anybody works because they just don't care. I've come to the point though where I'm honestly going to miss the people, especially the members. I reckon I'll stay one more transfer and I hope I do. 
Spiritual thought for yous before I go: "The spirit doesn't stay with you--you stay with the Spirit." Ain't that the truth.

-Elder Koch

 For some reason we're allowed to wear these hats in the summer while we proselyte. I think we look like Amish rednecks. 

 My companion falls asleep when he's supposed to be training me. 

 Service at its finest.

They have these workout playground things everywhere around here. They're more fun to play on than to work out on. 

 I caught me-self one of them crabby things. Haha just kidding--a fisherman let me hold him. 

Port Broughton

 I was head chef at our branch's barbecue at Port Broughton. I cook 'em real good. 

O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain. Australia! Australia! God shed His grace on thee!

November 9, 2015: Australia Week 9

This week was pretty eventful. We got asked to perform an exorcism and were told "You will stay through transfers so you can perform an exorcism on my daughter." Man, great times. 
My Aussie accent is really struggling right now since my companion is a straight up Yank (what Aussies call Americans) and is from Utah. But I can do a much better redneck accent now thanks to him. My companion's 6 transfers to sexy has been a continuous struggle because the members force feed us. I've gained 17 pounds since coming on a mission and I blame most of it on the members haha. 
Oh yeah, the elderly lady whose foot hurt was spot-on. We had a massive flood for several days since she was in the hospital. 
Doug and Tina (the investigators who are our age) had their baby the other day, so they're officially parents. 

-Elder Koch

One of our aboriginal members had this kangaroo/wallaby that she carries around in her backpack. I'm not sure how it hasn't suffocated yet...

They have these gorgeous purple trees here--when you walk past the petals on the ground, they're so bright they almost hurt your eyes. It's awesome.

6 transfers to sexy has been such a success

One of our investigators has a cockatiel (?) and it landed on my companion's head so I had to give it a try

We found these sick high-vis uniforms the other day when we cleaned up our house.

"And the Holy Ghost descended in the form of a dove..."
We threw bread all over our car so we could get attacked by birds.

Monday, November 2, 2015

November 2, 2015: Australia Week 8

Thanks for all of your emails and the analogies--sorry if I don't get to you within a few weeks, I'll do my best. 

This week was pretty sweet. We have a new district leader, Elder Johnson, who's totally improved the mood of the district. We went up to Whyalla for p-day and I finally got to see some real Australian ocean. My companion and Elder Johnson are trying to get fit because they only have 6 transfers (9 months) left on their missions, so they've resolved to actually eat healthy which is nearly impossible here haha. They're doing "6 transfers of sexy", so my companion gives all the extra chocolate to me which is great because I still have 10 transfers of fat. 

The one lady whose foot was hurting last week went to the hospital because her foot hurt so bad, so we're expecting a Noah's Ark sized flood pretty soon.

People in America are so amazed by kangaroos and think it's awesome to see one in a zoo or whatever, but over here they're just roadkill. They're the equivalent of squirrels because they're so ubiquitous. 

I was in Port Augusta (a small town north of Pirie) for trade offs and these Aboriginal kids were like, "Look, we caught a sleeping lizard!" So I went over and they showed me how to pick it up without getting my fingers bitten off. These things are massive--they're like one big muscle. We'll be seeing some snakes soon. 

-Elder Koch

1. The sleeping lizard (blue tongued lizard)
2. The beach of Whyalla
3. Can't leave without a selfie by the beach
4. Our new district (Elder Johnson is the one in front and Elder Mueco is the Philipino one)
5. Water I wish I could swim in
6. For those of you who think I'm in Australia, I actually never left Vegas.