Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 24, 2013

 The lizard that lives in the ceiling above my bed.
 This other picture may not seem that cool, but if you notice all of the things in the air, you will see that they are all dragonflies. There was probably a thousand of them just flying around in this corn field. It was really cool. 

Some funny little kids that I met. They wanted me to do some magic for them. I don't know any magic they had to settle with a picture

Dear Family,

You’ll never guess what I ate this week…it is even nastier than anything you can think of. It is called pinapaitan…and consists of liver, spleen, intestines, kidneys, (basically any internal organ) and bile all cooked up into a soup with little chewy organ pieces floating around in it. That isn’t even the worst part though. The word ‘pait’ in Tagalog means ‘bitter’…and aside from the bile, there is one special ingredient that gives it the bitter flavor. Ready? Are you sure?

The special ingredient comes from inside of the intestines of the goat (or, cow, in this case). If you think about what intestines usually contain, then you have found the answer. How gross is that? I basically ate cow pie soup, haha. I guess it is taken from the small intestine while the grass is only half-digested. One of our investigators filled a good sized bowl with some and gave it to us. I almost threw up when I smelled it, but I choked down the whole bowl to be polite. The investigator (Brother Tony) got quite a kick out of explaining the ingredients to me. I wasn’t going to give in though – I finished it all, haha. My companion doesn’t even like it – that’s how gross it is.
Anyways, I thought you would all love to know that, yes, I ate that. Brother Tony says he is going to find a big king cobra and make adobo out of it for me. That sounds a little bit more appetizing.

My week has been alright. We are really working hard to add on to our investigator pool. This might actually be my last week in Cuyapo, depending on the coming transfer announcements on Wednesday. If I am going to be transferring this month, I’ll be leaving this Thursday. If not, I’ll probably have four or five more weeks here. I’m a little bit sad that I’ll be leaving – Cuyapo has been a good area, and I’ve learned a lot and met some really great people that I’ll miss a lot – but part of me is excited for a new area. Cuyapo is a really hard area and I’m hoping that I’ll be sent somewhere with a bit of a stronger branch/ward (or at least a ward with a branch missionaries or hometeachers). It has been a big struggle to try and get the priesthood leaders involved in the work here.

We’ve continued to try the rich people here, and we’ve only been able to reach a few of them. I’ve actually spoken in English to three different people now…two that worked abroad in Kuwait and one that actually just got back from 19 years in Canada (Toronto). It was good to talk to him – we probably talked for about 40 minutes, haha. He said that Islam is his religion of choice, but he was open to a bit of a discussion and accepted a pamphlet. We’re hoping to be able to return and teach some of these people, but I guess we’ll see. The thing about rich people here, is they are either gone all of the time, part of the Iglesia ni Cristo (they will just close the door in your face), from England or America (and rude), or they will just send out their housekeeper to tell you that they aren’t home. We’ve probably tried fifty or sixty different houses and only got into contact with the actual owners five or six times. We do have a lot of return appointments with the housekeepers though J haha.
We have some really great investigators now…one of them is almost certainly going to be baptized. Sister Anita used to be a high rank in the Catholic church, but there are a lot of teachings there that she isn’t sure about. She was really excited when we told her that she could find out for herself that our message is true through prayer. She is set to be baptized on March 8, but she wants to finish the Book of Mormon before she is baptized, so we will probably extend it. That’s okay though…we want her to really have a testimony before she commits so that she will stay active. I probably won’t be here for the baptism thoughL

Our other investigators are great too – we have two others with baptismal goal dates, but they will probably be longer term investigators because of some of the challenges they are facing. It’s still really great to be working with them and to see them change as they learn more about the gospel. One of them is Tatay Tony (the guy who fed me Pinapaitan). He is super nice and we are good friends with him. His struggle is with the Word of Wisdom, but he has a desire to someday change and really wants to be sealed with his wife who has passed away.

Brother Oliveros came to church again yesterday! He had told Sister Oliveros that he was done listening to us and that he didn’t want to be baptized, but then we went over there to their house as a zone and did a service project (we helped them burn out some of their land so that they could plant vegetables – it was really fun). It was great – Brother Oliveros seemed to lighten up a lot as he met all of the other missionaries and as we all helped them clear off their land. He told Sister Oliveros that he believes what we are teaching, and is just having a hard time because he was offended by one of the members a long time ago. We aren’t sure if he is ready for us to start teaching him again, but we are having a family home evening at their house again tonight which should be good.
I am over my cold now…everyone else seems to be sick though. I’m really grateful for all of the vitamins and stuff that I have. I haven’t had any problems with sickness since my second week here.

I’ve also been eating about four kilos of mangoes a week. I can’t get enough of them, haha.

Well, that’s my week. I may be in a different area next week when I email you.

Thank you guys for everything. You are all so great and I’m thankful to have such an incredible family.

Love, Jared.

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 17, 2013

 Pusit! (Squid). We cooked it up adobo style but it didn't taste that great. 

 The finished squid adobo.

 Corn! They just harvested it. It's used for animal feeds. 

 Crabs! Fresh from the market!

 Ready to eat :)

The leftovers

Dear Family,
Hello and kumusta,

My week has been interesting as we’ve been proselyting in wealthier areas of Cuyapo. I think I have a feeling of what it must be like to serve in every other mission out there – hard. Haha. We had a lot of rejection and I even got yelled at when I tried to talk in English to this old British guy that I saw sitting on the porch of his CASTLE (such a ridiculously huge house for such a grumpy old guy). We first saw his wife, who was probably only thirty (he was probably eighty) and started talking to her in Tagalog, but then I noticed that there was an old white guy and I got excited, because there are only like five white people in Cuyapo. I tried to politely introduce myself and he got so mad. He stood up and started yelling at us and waving his newspaper around his head and cursing while raving about how disinterested he was in ‘Bloody Mormons’. Not a very polite fellow. We walked away before he could pull a cane on us. It was kind of a sobering experience for me. I am used to communicating with Filipinos, who are almost ALWAYS polite, even if they want nothing to do with you. They are always laughing and joking and it’s easy to get along with them.  I like them way better, haha.
But…despite challenges, we were able to get into some of the middle class houses (the ones that have cars and no holes in the roof) and get some return appointments for next week. Should be promising.
We also had two investigators come to church this week, which was so great. Sister Anita and Brother Tony. They are both older people (about 50) that live on their own. Brother Tony’s wife died about a month ago, which was really sad. We went to her funeral and he asked us to pray for her so that she could go to heaven. It was amazing to see his face light up the following week as we shared about the Plan of Salvation and told him about where his wife is now and how he can be with her again. He is progressing well, and he thought that church was okay. He has a lot of WOW problems that he is struggling with, but he is working on them and we are trying our best to help him. He is very lonely and we usually spend 40 minutes or so just hanging out and visiting with him before we start the lessons. He has a strong desire to change and especially to be with his wife again, and we are praying that he will be able to overcome his drinking and smoking issues and continue to progress.
Sister Anita is amazing. She lives alone with about 5 dogs in a little bamboo house, and she is so nice. She is searching for truth in her life and she told us that she will do whatever she needs to do to be saved. She is always asking questions, which is a good thing. She is studying and praying about the Book of Mormon right now, and is scheduled to be baptized on March 8. I hope I am still here for that, haha. She had a good experience in church, and went to all of the meetings – she even participated in Sunday School class and Relief Society. It is so great to be able to teach her. I just hope that nothing happens to stop her progress. We had another investigator before that really wanted to baptized, but she just stopped coming to church one day and we haven’t been able to find her since.
It’s been so good to find these people and get to know them…not just to teach them but to become their friends and spend time with them. It is such a blessing to serve here, where everybody is friendly and will share anything with you. We will be proselyting and people will just give us mangoes, or baked camote (kind of like potato..people are always giving them to us) or some of whatever they are eating. Everyone is so nice and you can meet someone and be good friends with them instantly.
As far as food goes this week…we bought some crabs this morning and cooked them up. It was an adventure, because neither of us really knows how to cook crab. They turned out pretty good though. They eat every part of the crab here except the gills and the shell, which took some getting used to for me but I got the hang of it – just scoop out all of the mush and try not to think about which body part it is, haha. We bought about 10 crabs for $5. They are much cheaper here than at home. I am going to try and do up some shrimp next week.
I’ve really enjoyed having Elder Dela Paz as a companion – I found out last week that he is a break dancer and used to dance on big dance teams in front of huge audiences. He’s super good at stunting…he can just throw a backflip right there in the middle of the street and do all of the crazy stuff that you see on Youtube. His birthday is also coming up soon – it is on February 29, haha. We are still going to celebrate anyways.
Yes, they do celebrate Valentine’s Day here, but it isn’t as commercialized here as North America. To celebrate, we went out and worked, haha. We also went on a ‘Valentine’s Date’ with Elder Olsen and Elder Espinosa (we were finishing up exchanges) and got some food. I think the high school here put on a dance or something and the rich people probably had parties for all of their friends, but I didn’t see too much celebration happening.
I am doing pretty good – a little stressed out about the coming transfers – there are two happening soon…one in two weeks and one at the end of March and I’ll get transferred during one of them. I hope I go at the end of March. It would be nice to see some of our investigators get baptized.
I love you all.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 11, 2013

Dear Family,                                                                                      February 11, 2013

This has been a really busy week. We had a member of the Area Presidency come to our stake in Paniqui as part of a tour of the mission. We had a whole day of training there with him and President Martino. The topic was the Atonement. Remember that amazing talk by Elder Bednar that you sent me? We read it as a mission last week before the mission tour started, and Elder Neilson (from the are presidency) used it for his training seminar. It was an amazing day and I learned so much about the Atonement and how it can help us and our members and investigators. Elder Neilson also talked to us about some things that we need to accomplish here in the Philippines in order to establish the church.There are 700,000 members in the Philippines and only 100,000 of them are active. The strongest stakes of the church here are found in areas where the leadership is made up of educated, independently wealthy members. They are able to support the other members and help the church reach out to them. Elder Neilson promised us that if we focused on the rich neighborhoods, we would have success with the people there and we would be able to help establish and strengthen the church. We’ve been trying to contact the wealthier homes here in Cuyapo, and we’ve had a little bit of success – we have two return appointments to a couple of large homes. We also have some return appointments with housekeepers, because a lot of the rich people here will just send them out to say that they aren’t home, haha. It’s been interesting to work in richer neighborhoods. It gives me a little bit of an idea of what missionary work must be like in first world countries – difficult, haha. It’s been good though.

The work has been a little bit discouraging this week. Our investigator that we thought was progressing didn’t come to church for the third week in a row and we haven’t been able to get an appointment with her lately. It almost seems like she isn’t interested all of a sudden, which makes me sad because she seemed so sure that it was all true and that she had found the right church. We are going to try and visit her again next week and find out what her concern is. We have a couple of other progressing investigators but they aren’t progressing as well as Sister Marlyn was. We had an interesting lesson the other night with two sisters from the Jehovah’s Witness Faith. They are great investigators and have lots of questions for us…we have challenged them to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. Last night we were teaching them and the inevitable question finally came up: “Why do you worship Jesus Christ instead of God?” We tried to explain that we in fact worship both of them, but our gospel in central to Jesus Christ, but I don’t think they fully understood. We are going to teach them about the Plan of Salvation next time to explain better. We have another investigator whose wife passed away last month. We have been teaching him about the Plan of Salvation and how he can be with his wife in the next life. I love teaching about the Plan of Salvation, because it gives hope to people who are unsure about where their dead loved ones are and if they will ever see them again. We talked to an older man (probably about 70) the other day on the street, and we found out that he was living alone and that his wife had passed away quite a while ago. We asked him if he thought he would ever see her again, and he told us no and that death was the end. We sat down with him and briefly told him about the plan of salvation, and his eyes lit up with excitement as we told him that he could be with his wife again. I am so grateful for the Plan of Salvation and the knowledge that we have that family can be eternal. It is such a powerful source of hope and comfort to people here.

I feel like my Tagalog is really starting to click – I don’t stumble over my words as much and I can teach most of the lessons decently well (although not great). I went on splits yesterday with one of the young men in the ward and we went out to find people and get return appointments. We were stopped by a man in the street and he asked me if I was Mormon. I told him that I was, and he immediately got angry and started telling me, “Hindi ninyo alam ano ang diyos! Hindi ninyo alam!” (You don’t know what god is! You don’t know!). He asked me if I had studied the Bible and started throwing scriptures at me. (He was definitely drunk, but I didn’t realize that until halfway through the conversation). I was getting pretty mad myself, but I kept it under control, haha. I listened to him for about 5 minutes and then I finally said, “Tay! Makinig mo na!” (Listen!) and I bore my testimony and we left. It wasn’t really a nice experience, but it was comforting to me to know that my Tagalog is getting to the point that I can dodge out of debates, haha.

I learned something new this week – how to clean out a squid. Elder Dela Paz wanted to make squid for lunch, so we went to the market and bought some. To clean them out, you just pull the head off and squeeze all of the goop out of the body. It’s kind of cool, because sometimes there are whole fish inside of them that haven’t been digested yet. They only have one bone, and you just pull it out too. After all of that, we rinsed them all out and fried them up in soy sauce and vinegar (squid adobo). It wasn’t that good, haha. It was fun to cook though. I’ve been cooking a lot lately and I really enjoy it. I am going to try and learn how to do crab sometime soon – I love seafood, haha.

Also – we fit eight elders into one trike the other day – four white elders and four Filipinos. We had four in the sidecar, two on the seat with the driver, and one on the back luggage holder. I sat on the roof of the sidecar. It was great, although the shocks of the bike bottomed out every time we hit a bump. We got a lot of weird looks from people as we passed – a bunch of white guys and Filipinos in dress clothes crammed into a trike. It was fun though, and the driver got a really big kick out of it. People are so funny here – they are always joking and doing crazy things. I love it.

Oh! I saw my first cobra the other day – two actually! We were walking through the rice fields and I saw it draped across the path. It was probably about four feet long and about as wide as my wrist. We turned around and went the other way, haha. It’s pretty bad news if you get bitten. You have to make a really deep cut right above the bite mark to let the venom drain out while you run to the hospital. Apparently you only have about twenty minutes to live if you don’t do anything. The other cobra I saw was dead in the road…I didn’t have my camera either time. L

I am grateful to be here – even when things are tough. It is such a wonderful experience to meet all of these people and to have the opportunity to share the gospel with them. I know that this church is true, and I’m grateful to have that knowledge in my life.
I love you all, Thank you so much for all of the letters and support.

 Anyways, Love you J
-          Jared

Monday, February 4, 2013

Week 15

 BABY CHICKEN :D   (One of the little kids caught it and let me hold it)

 Our lunch the other day...I learned to kamay (eat with my hands) properly. The fish here is super companion eats the head and everything. I chickened out this time around with the heads, but I promised to do it next time, haha. 
 Elder Dela Paz. Pogi siya talaga. 

It was like someone set the sky on fire. So cool. 

Cemetery again

Dear Family,

Thank you so much for the package! I loved all of the chocolate and especially the Christmas cards. I about died when I read Jarom’s. “Dear Jared, I wish bunnies could fly.” – Jarom. Probably the best Christmas card ever. Thank you all for the stuff you put in there and for the letters. I gave most of the candy to the Buhay family. They are a really great family that we teach…the mother isn’t a member, but all of her sons are. Armand, her 17 year old son, works with us every Sunday. They don’t have a lot of money, because sister Buhay’s husband passed away a couple of years ago, so all of her little kids were really happy to get some imported candy. She told me that she has relatives in Calgary that work in a care center – so maybe Grandpa Al has met some of them.

This week has been pretty good. We’ve stopped teaching a lot of our investigators because they weren’t progressing or always hiding/running away, so we’ve been a little bit short on investigators as of late. We are going to focus on finding less active members this week (there are probably 150 that don’t ever come to church) while finding new investigators in the bayan (town). Almost all of our investigators are from the bukid (farms) and we have to walk quite a ways to get to them. We extended another baptismal date to a single sister named Anita – she has two or three kids that are moved out, and she lives in a little house with four or five dogs. She is super nice and really wants to know for sure if the message is true or not. We are trying to help her receive an answer to her prayers. Her baptismal date is Feb 23.

Our other investigator didn’t come to church this week, so we will have to move her baptismal goal date back a week. I really hope things go well for her – I think I mentioned her last week. She says that she knows the church is true and wants to be baptized. She just needs to keep listening to the lessons and come to church first! She really seems like she has a strong testimony…I’m hoping things go well this week for her.

I did something new last night – I dedicated a home. We went to visit one of the less actives last night – he is an older single guy named Paul who lives all by himself. He told us that he has a ghost in his house, and told us a bunch of crazy stuff that has happened to him there. I’m not sure if I believe him or not, but he asked us to bless his house. We taught him a great lesson about the atonement, invited him to come to church again, and then knelt in a circle and dedicated his home. It was a little bit odd, but it was still a really good experience. I could really feel the spirit as we knelt and prayed for this brother and his house.

We’ve been able to meet with the Branch President the last couple of Sundays and discuss some goals for the membership of the branch. He’s been really supportive lately and we’ve been able to make some plans to reach out to less active members through activities and the active members. We’ve also been working with a couple of the less active young men…they have been working with us every weekend and coming to church. We are hoping to help them have a desire to go out and serve missions (and finish high school). It’s been fun working with them.

I talked with a guy named William the other day – he’s from Singapore and he only speaks English. He lives in Cuyapo and always stops to talk to us. I want to try and schedule an appointment to teach him, but every time we see him he is drunk. I am getting really used to speaking in Tagalog – it was almost impossible for me to carry out a good conversation in English with him yesterday – I kept slipping back into Tagalog and mixing up the order of my words, haha. I’m starting to understand a lot better and teaching is starting to come easier.

Oh! I don’t know if I mentioned this already, but I got a Christmas card from the Farah’s the other week. It was so great to read about Brother Farah’s conversion story. Please tell them thank you for me.

I didn’t eat anything weird this week…to be honest, I’ve tried most of the weird stuff already. We had this soup last week made out of pigs intestines…it smelled like pig farm. Some of the members gave it to us, so I tried to eat it. It was probably the worst thing I’ve tried so far, haha. The only things I haven’t tried are dog and dinuguan (blood pudding with intestines and kidneys). It is actually illegal here to eat dog, but a lot of people still do anyway. I think I’d probably try it, but that’s all. (Sometimes, they make dinuguan out of dog…how gross is that?).
That’s my life this week. I’m starting to really get used to the culture here and appreciate the way that people do things here in the Philippines. Everything is simple, and almost everybody is happy – even if they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Everyone is friendly to us, even if they aren’t interested in what we have to say. Everyone is so chill and laid back.

Love Jared.