Monday, December 17, 2012

Week 7 Philippines

 Rat! Haha my first rat. It was lying dead outside our back door. I'm just glad we don't have them in the house. 

 (I think this in the Oliveros family)
 What paradise looks like. :)
 Some Scenery. Banana trees (the small ones on the path) and some huge palmy looking trees. 

 Chicken blood (the dark squares) The meat is just chicken meat, and the liquidy stuff is spicy vinegar (so good).

Some cute little kids...they were Christmas carolling  Right now, kids are walking all over the place banging on tin cans and singing really loud so that people will give them money. They are so funny, haha.  

Dear Family,
This week has been really hard in lots of ways and really incredible in a lot of other ways. I have to tell about an experience that was shared with us a few days ago.
We have a brother in our ward who we visit named Brother Ray Garcia. He used to be less-active, but he has been coming to church weekly for the last two months. He works long shifts as a tailor, so it is a big sacrifice for him to come to church. He lives in a very small bamboo house with his wife (she isn’t a member) and six kids (all of them are younger than 8, I would guess…and boys, haha - Just picture 5 Jaroms running around the house and then a newborn baby to top it all off). We have been visiting Brother Ray twice a week and, in the usual style of missionary lessons, we always teach a principle, commit them to it and then promise blessings if they follow the principle. He has been so diligent in attending church, and we really love visiting with him. Anyways, we visited him a few days ago, and we noticed that his motorcycle (everybody drives them here…but they are a lot less powerful than the ones back home) was gone. He invited us into to his house and shared an amazing experience with us:

He was driving his motorcycle to the hospital last Monday to see his wife (she was having their baby) in the Hospital in Guimba (another city about 20 minutes away by trike), and another motorcycle collided with him. It was quite an accident – both bikes were destroyed, and he told us that he had tumbled off of his bike onto the road. Both of the riders on the other motorcycle had serious injuries to their heads (nobody wears helmets here) and bodies and were taken to the hospital, but Brother Ray stood up without a single scratch. Around the same time as his accident, his wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy with no problems or complications. A couple other mothers lost their babies in childbirth, but she had no problems at all. It was a miracle. Brother Ray was so excited, he kept showing us his arms and legs and there wasn’t a single bruise or scratch on them. He kept saying, “I know it was the Holy Ghost. I know it was the Holy Ghost. This is really the true church.” His wife was also touched by what had happened, and we are hoping to be able to start teaching her again and eventually help them to have a temple goal date. It was truly a miracle, and I’m so grateful to know about it. I know that the Lord protected Brother Ray and his wife, and that he really does bless us and the people we teach as we follow his commandments.

We also had a great lesson with the Oliveros family. They are such a great family, and I look forward to Saturdays when we visit them. We talked about the Word of Wisdom with Brother Oliveros and helped him and his wife make a plan for him to quit smoking. We invited him to pray at the end of the lesson and he gave a wonderful prayer. I can tell that he has a really strong desire to keep the Word of Wisdom and go to the temple with his family. They are a really strong family here in the branch, and I pray every day for them. Sister Oliveros told me that if I want to move to the Philippines after my mission, I can build a house on their land, haha. It’s pretty tempting, but I think I love snow too much to accept the offer. They are so nice, and we love being in their home and teaching and learning with them.

As far as temporal things go this week…I ate chickens blood. It didn’t taste too bad, but the texture was kind of nasty and pasty. They boil it for a while and then barbecue it, haha.

I also had a funny experience this week…Elder Janolgue and I were talking with a family on the street, and I started talking with the younger sister who was probably about 12. She was holding a little baby who was about 1 years old. When I got close to them and started to talk, the baby started crying and yelling, “Multo! Multo! Multo!” Multo means ‘ghost’ in Tagalog. It was so funny…I guess the poor kid had never seen a white person before. I didn’t think I looked that scary. Anyways, I tried to convince him that I wasn’t a ghost, and I got him to give me a high five. He was still pretty scared though, and he wouldn’t let his sister put him down. So funny.
I also found out this week that we have mice in our house. Whoo. I hate mice. We are buying traps today, which will hopefully solve the problem. I’m just thankful there aren’t rats in our house, because some of the apartments in other areas have them and apparently they are a nightmare. I was talking with Elder Olsen, one of the American missionaries that can out a few weeks before me, and he told me that one morning he put his retainer in his mouth and it was full of mouse poop. He said that he almost threw up, and that he dumped hand sanitizer into his mouth and spent the next two days with hand sanitizer taste in his mouth. Pretty funny, but so so gross, haha.

Also, my cockroach kill count is getting bigger and bigger every day. I crushed a pretty big one with a broom the other day, and it was still alive (of course) so I poured hand sanitizer on it and then lit it on fire. It smelled so bad…but I’m pretty sure that I killed it, haha. I’ve seen about four more of those spiders in our house since last week…and they unnerve me a lot. I think I will buy an airsoft gun with the Christmas money that you sent (thank you so much by the way…still no package yet, but I am excited for that too) and use it to kill them.

Anyways, that is all I have time for today. (we had a lot to do today…like buying mouse traps and practicing for the Christmas conference on Wednesday – our zone is doing a skit). 
love you guys,

Thank you for all of your letters and support.
I’ll talk to you all next week J

Monday, December 10, 2012

Week 6 Philippines

One of the big spiders...use the shower head to compare size.

 Mga Bata! (kids). We see a lot of these kids every day as we walk...they are hilarious. 

 More pictures with the kids! (picture-picture tayo na! - Tagalog for: Let's take a picture!)
 Guwapo! (Pogi is a more common word - it means handsome) 
 Scenery...some parts of our area are just picturesque (I'm practicing my English so I wont forget it)

 Some scenery out in the bukid. 
 Some of the lovely scenery. 
 Some delicious Litson Manok (roasted chicken) from Inasal! It is a super good restaurant with all you can eat rice

 One of the little frogs that likes to come into our house for a snack. They are somewhat difficult to get out, because if you pick them up, they will swell up like balloons. We usually sweep them out with a broom. 

 Balut! Buying the Balut, and drinking the 'soup'.

 Adding some vinegar, and peeling it open.
 The finished unpeeled Balut. The blackish parts are the chick. I couldn't see the head on this one (this is from camera had no batteries on Sunday)
 Right before I bit into it. 
 Yep. I have a mouthful of Balut. Masarap!

 This is our front entryway. If you look over in the far right (beside the curtains, near the corner) of the picture, you will see a huge spider. Yes, that is actually how big it is.

 A close up of the same spider (in attack stance). 
 Some pictures that we took of a cool bridge that we found. 

 Elder Janolgue sharing the Plan of Salvation.
 A Karabao (car-a-b-ow). They are HUGE. Some of the missionaries try to sit on them and get a picture taken, but I am way too scared.

                                                                                                                       December 10, 2012
Dear Family,         
It has been yet another exciting week in the Phils. It’s funny…the days here seem so long, but the weeks go by so fast. Everybody here is busy getting ready for Christmas, and there are Christmas lights on a lot of the houses (and decorations made of drinking straws and chip bags on most of them…Christmas lights are expensive here). It still doesn’t feel like Christmas time to me - my brain just isn’t ready to associate the hot, sweaty environment with Christmastime yet. I am kind of sad…I have been losing my ability to thrive in the cold. This morning, when we were on the trike to Paniqui, the wind was blowing through the sidecar  and I was actually feeling cold. Sometimes at night, I have to pull the sheet up to my shoulders (I usually do anyways because I am afraid of spiders, and the less exposed surface area I have when I am sleeping, the better). I’m going to freeze to death when I come home in two years!
Anyways, there have been lots of adventures this week. I think I talked about the dogs here in one of my earlier letters…but in one of the barangays here (neighborhoods) there are a lot of crazy dogs that will try and attack you at night sometimes. It can be scary sometimes, because there are no streetlights there and it is literally pitch black at night here unless there’s a full moon. We were walking through there the other night to visit some investigators, and I found a big bamboo stick in the middle of the road and carved a spear out of it while we were waiting for one of our investigators to come home. We ended up taking a trike back to our flat, and Elder Janolgue sat in the sidecar with the spear and tried to skewer every dog that came close to the trike (picture a medieval knight in a jousting tournament…in a motorcycle sidecar). In case there are animal activists reading this…don’t worry, the spear wasn’t sharp enough to do any real damage.
I really don’t like dogs. (here especially)
The other big adventure this week…Balut. Yes Josh,  I ate Balut – twice actually, haha. It actually tastes okay (kind of like egg), if you don’t look at it too much or smell it. You asked me for graphic details…so I will personally tell you how to eat Balut:
Step  1: Buy a nice big one from a street vendor and make a hole in the top of the shell.
Step 2: Peel back the brown membrane, and dump in some spicy vinegar and some salt.
Step 3: Swish it around a little bit, and then drink the liquid inside from the top of the egg. The liquid is actually amniotic fluid, which the baby duck fetus eats. It tastes kind of like chicken soup.
Step 4: Peel off the rest of the shell, adding vinegar and slurping up the excess liquid periodically.
Step 5: Pop the whole thing in your mouth, or eat it in two or three bites. I chose to eat it in one bite so I wouldn’t have to see all of the intestines and half-developed bones and stuff.
Step 6: While you are chewing the balut, add pinches of salt and squirts of vinegar into your mouth (I don’t know if that’s legit or not, but that’s how the Filipinos eat it)
It wasn’t too bad. The egg part is really chewy and the fetus part is really soft. I had 18 day old Balut, so it had feathers and some small, soft bones. It is usually pretty soft, and you can just chew up the bones. The one I had last night (I had one last night and one on Friday) had a few crunchy surprises though…I think it might have had a beak. But, all in all, a good experience. The Filipinos say that if you eat Balut, you will grow tall and strong, and have a good night’s sleep, so I will try and eat it once or twice a month from now on, haha. (Elder Janolgue eats balut almost every night…two or three of them sometimes)
As far as the work goes, it has been pretty slow this week, and our numbers haven’t been great. We had a trainer/trainees meeting this week in Tarlac and President Martino and Sister Martino came and trained all of us trainers and new missionaries in the west side of the mission. It was a great meeting, and I got to see Elder Williams and Elder Clark (Elder Morgan is way over on the East side of the mission, on the beach). They are both doing awesome, and it was good to see that I’m not the only one that is struggling with the language. The message that President Martino gave us was amazing. He read from Moses 6, where the Lord calls Enoch on a mission, and Enoch asks, “Why me lord? I am just a lad, and the people hate me because I am slow of speech.” And then the Lord goes on and promises him strength and blessings as he opens his mouth and serves. It was a great training session, and President promised us success and blessings, and that miracles would happen in our areas if we took the courage to open our mouths and testify. The spirit was strong, and it really helped me focus on my purpose as a missionary and become braver for the rest of the week.
As for the Oliveros family…we haven’t been able to teach them since our first visit, because Brother Oliveros hasn’t been home the last couple of Saturdays (We only have time to go out there on Saturdays because they live way out in the mountains and it takes a few hours to walk there). We are hoping to have a lesson with them this week, and have set up an appointment with them.  We’ve been planning hard for Brother O, and have a plan to help him quit smoking. We are going to give him a baptismal goal date on Saturday too. We’re hoping it goes well.
The high points of the work this week…we extended three BGDs (bap. Goal dates) to new investigators, and they all accepted!  The first is Rinalyn…she is a cousin of one of our recent converts and is Jianna’s age. We are trying to help her gain a testimony of Joseph Smith and the BOM right now. She is really interested in our message, and tries hard to follow all of the commitments we give her. The second investigator is named Marlin. Do you remember the family I talked about last time that let us into their house when we went to that new area? (We met their kids first, and gave them pamphlets, and then visited the families in their neighborhood after). Marlin is the mother of that first family that let us in. She is excited to prepare for baptism, and we are helping her with some Word of Wisdom things. We are trying hard to get an appointment to teach her husband. I don’t think he is totally sure if he wants to listen or not, but he said he would be there for our next lesson.
The third BGD is Sister Nancy Temporal. A few weeks ago, I talked about the previous 2nd counselor in the branch that we visited. He was drunk when we saw him, and told us that he would return to church if his family became members. Sister Nancy is his daughter in law, and we have been able to have some awesome lessons with her.  We committed her to be baptized on the second lesson, and invited her to pray about our message. We visited her a few days later and she told us that she had received an answer! We were really excited about that. The real trick now will be to help her come to church, and to teach her husband. We are really excited to teach their family, and hopefully open some doors for them so they can all be in the church like Brother Temporal wanted. We hope to be able to help him with his addiction to alcohol and cigarettes as we teach sister Nancy.
They are all set to be baptized in January. It is amazing to see how the Lord prepares people to receive the gospel, and we are praying and hoping that all will go well with these investigators. They are all so wonderful, and it is great to see the spirit working in them as they make the decisions to move forward in the gospel.
I am so grateful to be here, and to be able to assist in the work in the Philippines. It is such a wonderful country, and I know the Lord has special plans for the saints here. We are set to receive 27 or 28 foreigner (non Filipino) missionaries here in the Angeles Mission in March, which means that there will probably be 50-60 new native missionaries by that time. The work is accelerating so much here, and so many people will be able to hear the gospel as these new missionaries come in.
I am excited for this coming Christmas. I haven’t got your package yet, but I’m sure it will get here eventually. We have a Christmas devotional on the 19th with all of the West Side missionaries, which I hear is super fun and super amazing. I think Elder Janolgue and I will just be in the house on Christmas Day, but we plan on making a lot of food and desserts, and maybe buying some fireworks and taking them to one of the members houses (we aren’t allowed to set off fireworks ourselves, but it’s okay if the members do it). We also want to secret Santa some people, which will be really fun.
I am having an awesome time here. It gets better every day as I learn more and more. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I feel really stressed out or even depressed some days, but I know that the Lord is looking out for me, and that everything will be okay. I love being a missionary, and I pray every day to have more opportunities to feel the spirit, and to help someone out in their life. That is the best thing about being a missionary…helping somebody change their life for the better.
I love you all, and I look forward to Skyping you on the 27th.
Love Jared.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Week 5 in the Philippines

 Frogs (uncooked)
 Adobo na Palaka (Frog Adobo)
Frogs. They gather under the street lights at night.

 Sketchy Bridge that we have to cross about four times a week. I've almost fallen in like 3 times

 Halo-halo. A really tasty dessert here

 Mario (12 years old), Jonjon (10), and Raphael (10 also). (from left to right). Three kids that I talked to the other week. They are super cool, and we are going to visit them and their families soon. They are collecting plastic and cardboard...I think it is their job (I couldn't really understand a lot). Raphael is making the 'Guwapo' sign on his chin, haha. (it means 'I am guwapo' [handsome]).
 Food! The first picture is lunch...we bought 7 or 8 of these little fish from the market for about 55 pesos (1.40 or so) and fried them up. We also bought half of a squash, some tomatoes, green beans, ginger, and cabbage (all freshly harvested, probably from someones backyard) for about 40 pesos (1.00). We made soup with some of the veggies and ate it with the fish over rice. It was delicious. 

 This picture is a dessert we made. The only ingredients are graham crackers, condensed milk, condensed cream, and a can of fruit cocktail. You layer the grahams with a mixture of cream and condensed milk, and then put the fruit cocktail on top and leave it in the fridge for a day or so. The grahams get really soft, almost like cake, and it is one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten. 

 Me and Elder Janolgue in one of the Fast Food Restaurants on my first week.

 Elder Janolgue looking out over a rice field
 Christian! He is one of the kids of the Argueza Family, who are so awesome and feed us twice a week. 

 Some pictures of the scenery. One of the mountains in our area (we are planning on hiking it one of these P-days
 C.R. (Comfort Room, or washroom in Canadian) (when I first came into the's a lot cleaner now)
 One of the many lizards inside our house

 Blurry picture at night...we are on our way back from a less active member's house. The man behind me is Brother Agustin. He is the second counselor in the branch and is a huge help to us. He works very long days in the fields, but still takes 6 hours most Sundays to come out and visit investigators and less actives. We are so grateful for his help.  

Some pictures of the scenery. One of the mountains in our area (we are planning on hiking it one of these P-days). 
The road in the picture is part of Barangay Latap (a neighborhood). The houses are made of bamboo and grass. We have quite a few investigators here. 

Dear Family,
I finally got some actual Dear Elders! It was so great to finally get them. The ZL’s apologized for the long wait and said that in the future we will probably get mail every two weeks or so.

This week has been a little bit tough. I have been getting a little bit frustrated with things in the branch. Yesterday, one of the less active families that we have been teaching and trying to get out to church for forever finally came to church. We were super excited to see them, but then we found out that one of the members (who happens to be the former branch president) had agreed to pay him money to come to church (we found this out from the member’s son). I was so mad when I heard that – I almost punched a wall. I wish the members here would set a better example. Almost nobody stays for class after sacrament meeting, half of the congregation is more than 15 minutes late, their kids run around like little punkbusters and torment and offend everybody during sacrament, and people leave the building at random to run down the road and buy soft drinks and snacks from the Tindihans (little stores in front of people’s houses). Testimony meeting is a mixture of long-winded stories and people standing up and complaining about different things or chastising other people in the congregation. In Sunday School yesterday, we spent an hour and ten minutes discussing (and arguing about) the food that different members would bring to the Christmas party in a few weeks. Yesterday, a street vendor selling bananas even came into the parking and started advertising (yelling). Thankfully she left pretty quickly before the members had a chance to go out and buy anything. It can be tough sometimes to feel the spirit. I’m so grateful for the strong members that we have in the ward that try their best to set a good example and reach out to our new investigators. I don’t know what we would do without them, haha.
That said, church can also be a spiritual experience here, and I’m grateful for those times. I just wish the members would set better examples.

As far as the work goes this week, we’ve had some good successes. We were on our way to an appointment, and we ran into a group of four kids (elementary aged, 9-10 yrs old) walking home from school . They were headed in the same direction as us, so we walked with them for a while and shared some of our Mani (fresh garlic roasted peanuts, and the closest thing to manna that exists on earth today) with them. They were really funny, and we ended up giving them some pamphlets. We decided one day to visit their neighborhood, which is a very long walk from our house (3-4 km) and way out in the country. None of the kids were home yet from school, but all of their moms were home, and we were invited into the home of the very first person we saw. We were the first missionaries that they had ever seen in that neighborhood, and they were very receptive and open to our message. We were able to teach three different families and pass a lot of pamphlets. The kids came home from school and saw us in their neighborhood and were super excited that we were actually at their houses to visit with them and their families. Their parents told us that the kids would come from school all excited and talking about their “New Mormon friends” and that they were expecting us to visit. They were happy to talk to us, and I know the Lord softened their hearts and prepared them through their children to hear our message. We now have one progressing investigator family (there are four of them in the family) in this area, and five or six potential investigators and families that we plan to visit soon. It was a huge blessing for us and our work here in Cuyapo.

I went on splits with two elders, Elder Ontoria and Elder Servancia, this week in Ramos (Elder Janolgue is a district leader, he was doing interviews), and they watched out for me the whole time. It is almost hilarious, because we’ll just be walking, and all of a sudden they’ll nonchalantly pull you to the side as a trike speeds by, or bodycheck you out of the way of the huge mountain of karabao poop that you almost stepped in. All of the Filipino elders are all super used to things here, and they make sure to watch out for everyone. I’m in good hands, haha. It was fun going to Ramos…there is a lot of sugarcane growing there, and while we were walking Elder Ontoria went and picked some out of one of the fields and we chopped it up and ate it. It is super good…it’s kind of woody, and you chew on it until all the juice is gone and then you spit it out. We also ate lunch at a member’s house there. We brought him some pork from the market and he cooked a big pan of adobo for us, which was super good. After lunch, he pulled a big bamboo table out under his mango tree, and the four of us just laid down on the table, ate some unripe mango (they take super unripe fruit here and eat it with salt and spicy vinegar…I’m still getting used to it), talked about life, and then had a nap. (Normally, we’d use that time for language study, but we were on splits, and there aren’t any appointments after lunch until about 3:30…we weren’t just being lazy, haha). It was great to just relax and be chill for a couple of hours. Filipinos believe (I’m not sure if it is true or not) that if you don’t relax for at least 20 minutes after eating a big meal, your appendix will explode, so after mealtime everybody just sits/lies down and relaxes. It’s a good way to wind down.

Do you remember that spider I told you about? Well, I walked into the CR to shower the other day and it was out of its hole and on our wall. It freaked me right out…it was probably about the size of the palm of my hand. I told Elder Janolgue that we had a huge spider in our bathroom, and when he saw it he just laughed and said, “Aiyos…maliit lang. (It’s alright, it’s just little).” Apparently they get WAY bigger than that. He wanted to just leave it in there to eat the cockroaches, but I told him I’d kill it if he did, so he herded it outside for me, haha. He still makes fun of me for that…I’ll be in the shower and he’ll yell through the door, “Elder Hubbard…may gagamba diyan.” (“There’s a spider there”), or I’ll be climbing into bed and he’ll tell me to check my sheets for spiders. He’s a pretty funny guy.  I don’t think he understands that in Canada, the biggest spider is maybe an inch across, haha.
That’s so awesome about Ben’s mission call. That will be such a cool mission. I think the members in Guam use the Manila temple…I’m not sure though. What a great opportunity for him to serve. I can tell him right now that it is the best experience he can possibly have. 
I’m excited to hear where everyone else is going in our ward. Has Nick got his call yet?

So before I end this, I should probably tell you the new mission home address:

Philippines Angeles Mission
F. Tanedo Street
Tarlac, Tarlac 2300

There. They just moved the mission home to Tarlac, I’m excited to see it, and apparently it is huge. I'll get back to you about the Christmas phone call (we use skype here) details.

I love you all. Thank you so much for all of the letters and support.
I’m so grateful to be a missionary here.
Love Jared.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Week 4 in the Philippines

Week 4
Jared's missionary apartment.
 Makes me queasy! 

Kumusta pamilya ko!

Haha it was good to get your emails. I am laughing right now because of what you wrote about customs here (in regards to the package). They do business a little bit differently here, so hopefully the package will actually get to me, haha. If not, well, I'm sure the postal workers will enjoy the exotic Canadian treats, haha. 

So, I found out this morning that cockroaches can fly. Interesting fact. I was walking in to the CR for a shower, and there was a huge one on the back of the door. I went and grabbed our electric fly swatter (best thing I've bought here yet), and pinned the cockroach to the door with the voltage cranked all the way up. It didn't really do anything (those things are invincible) except probably tickle it a little bit, and when I pulled it back, the cockroach jumped off of the door, and flew across the room and landed on me. I very calmly brushed it off and pulverized it with a broom. (I am lying about the very calmly part). Haha, those things are so crazy. They make our day pretty entertaining though. 

We had a lot of people approach us in the last two weeks and ask us to visit them. I was very excited when this happened for the first time, and I couldn't understand why Elder Janolgue kept laughing (subtly) while I wrote down the guys name and address. I found out after that the guy was drunk, and would have no clue who we were when we visited him the next day. We had another guy come up to us, take one of my hands in both of his, and say (in tagalog of course), "Brothers. I want to join the church. Please visit me tomorrow, and I will give myself to Jesus." After which, we gave him a Word of Wisdom pamphlet, and set an appointment. We visited him soon after, (he was drunk again), and he hadn't read the pamphlet. We'll see how he is later, haha. Another guy grabbed my hand in the supermarket (definitely drunk) and said, " are very handsome." He then asked me in Tagalog if I would kiss him on the cheek. I vehemently (but politely) declined, and did not set an appointment with him, haha. 
One of the saddest things I saw this week was yesterday. We went to visit one of the Inactive members way out in the bukid. He had once been the Elders Quorum President and the 2nd Counselor in the Branch - super active. When we finally got to his house, we called for him and he staggered out, dressed in filthy clothes, most of his teeth missing.He was so drunk that he could barely talk, and I thought he was going to throw up the whole time we were there. He managed to slur out, "Elders, I am already drinking. My family never came to church with me, so I left." (That is the jist of it, Elder Janolgue explained the situation to me afterwards). Because this man's family had never been active in the church with him, he stopped going, and eventually found his way into drinking and smoking. He told us, that if we could get his family to go to church with him, he would quit smoking and drinking and come back to church. We made an appointment to teach his daughter in law, so I really hope it goes well. It is just so sad to see somebody that used to be so faithful become so addicted and lost.

It is really difficult for me here sometimes. Everyone here thinks that if you are white, you are rich (and we are, compared to what it is like here. There is NO SUCH THING as poverty in North America. The people living on the streets in America have more than many of the people here). And many people will ask me for money. It is usually easy to say no, because it is against the mission rules to hand out money, and usually the people asking are only asking so that they can buy alcohol or drugs. But sometimes, it is just heartbreaking. I had a older man approach me the other day and ask if I could help him. He obviously had some addiction problems, and there was a cigarette in his hand. Through his tears, he said, "I have no job, and I can't afford to buy rice. I live in a bamboo house. Will you come visit me?" We explained that we could not help him financially, but that we could visit him and teach him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.That wasn't what he wanted though, and he left. I wanted to tell him, "If you would just quit smoking and drinking, you could buy rice. You could fix your house, you could feed your family. You would have a job." But it would be no use. Cigarettes are very cheap here. It is about the equivalent of 25 cents Canadian for a pack of 10, and a single stick only costs 1 peso. Alcohol is also cheap, about 50 cents Canadian for a beer and 1.00 or 1.50 for rum and other hard-liquor. Almost everyone here smokes and drinks, and it is a huge challenge for our investigators and even in the branch.  

Anyway, on the flip-side we visited a part member family this week (the wife is a very strong member, she has two less active teenage sons, the husband is not a member) and it was an amazing lesson. The wife, Sister Oliveros, asked us to try and teach her husband. She wants to be sealed in the temple with her family more than anything, and she really wants her husband to join the church. Brother Oliveros had been taugh before by the missionaries, but stopped coming to church because he was offended, and embarrassed because he wasn't able to take the sacrament (he has a problem with smoking). Their house is very far away (our area is huge), so we picked an afternoon to travel there and teach them and went to their house. They live in a really cool bamboo/coconut wood house. It is pretty big. They farm rice and grow papayas, and Bro. Oliveros is a tricycle driver. Anyways, when we got in, it took Sister Oliveros a few minutes to get Bro. Oliveros to come sit down (he was excited for our visit and busy preparing a plate of fresh papaya for us). We got to know him, and talked about his family and job. He is such a humble, nice guy, and his family is awesome. After we got to know him, we shared a lesson about families. It was the most amazing lesson I've had yet. We talked about how god loves us, and how he wants families to be eternal, so that we can be happy. Elder Janolgue and I pulled out pictures of our families, and talked about how important you are to us. We were able to bear our testimonies on the importance of families, and being sealed in the temple. The spirit was very strong, and we were both fighting back tears the whole time. We asked him what was stopping him from being baptized and sealed to his family, and he talked about his addiction to smoking. He shared his desire to quit with us, and we promised him that we would help him, and that he would be blessed and helped by God for his desire. We ended by asking him if he would come back to church, and begin to prepare for baptism. He said yes, and he came to church yesterday for ALL THREE MEETINGS (that is significant, because most of the active members don't even stay for all of the meetings) with his wife and kids. He really wants to be with his family forever, and we are so excited to help him overcome his addiction and help him be sealed to his family. It was such a good lesson. Sister Oliveros told us after that she thinks it went well, and she shared with us another one of the problems that Brother Oliveros had. He had been driving his trike back to the warehouse, and he saw the Branch President (who is also a trike driver) smoking in the warehouse. That is kind of alarming to us, because that is the second time we've heard from somebody that the branch President had been smoking. We aren't quite sure what to do about it, or if it is even true. We wrote a letter to our mission president about it though. 

Anyway, that is the highlight of our week. One of our biggest goals right now is to work through the members to find success, and it has been a challenge because the Branch Presidency haven't really been supporting that (President and First Counselor - the second counselor is great). They are always too busy to help us visit less actives (with stupid things like basketball games and dinners, not actual good excuses to be busy) and it is nearly impossible to get them to organize activities and coordinate them with us. There are two amazing families in the ward that we have been working with and they help us by having FHE for our investigators or coming out with us to visit. Brother Agustin (the second counselor) is especially great. He usually will come out with us to our lessons all Sunday afternoon and evening. He is a convert and great help to us. 

Anyways, business at home. That is really too bad about Josh's arm. I hope it heals quickly. I think about Josh a lot here...he would love the Philippines. EVERYONE plays basketball here. The different towns all have a gym and a league team, and different teams will travel all over the country and play in different gyms. They are very popular and intense (we watched about five minutes of one after our lessons one night), and to be on one of those league teams is the dream of most little kids here. But yeah, hopefully Josh's arm will get better soon.

That's so exciting that Christmas is coming up. I believe it that the Philippines is the happiest place in the world for Christmas...everyone has decorations up and our neighbors blast Christmas songs every morning nice and loud. I will hopefully be able to send some handwritten stuff to you all. I think I will use most of the money to buy 'secret santa' stuff for members of the branch, haha. 

I love you all.