Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 24, 2013

 These two panoramas capture some of our area. We walk all the way past the highways on both sides. I took this picture up on the top of the mountain that is in our area

 Guyabano! It's like this big green spiky cactus thing. It tastes super good though...it's kind of tart and the texture is really different. Apparently it cures cancer too or something like that. 
 Mangoes! My favorite thing in the Phils! I eat about 2 kilos of them every week, haha. 
 Some of the jungle up in the mountain that we climbed. 
 Me! I lost weight! But I've gained it back now! haha. Also, I know I'm really sweaty in this picture and it is gross...but I'll have you know that that is nothing compared to how much I sweat in one day, haha. 

District 2! Yes, this is my whole district, haha. Elder Olsen and Elder Espinoza are the elders from Anao (where we just had our baptism).


Me and James...probably the coolest kid ever, haha. I have a video of him singing, but I don't know how to transfer it here. 
 
 Another good pic of the spiders...

 Check out these spiders...I guess they are super poisonous...but that didn't stop the Filipino elders from letting them crawl all over them, haha. 

 Also, some really cool birds. They are like herons but they fly in big flocks. Apparently they migrate over here from China
 Us in front of the church right before the baptism. Sister Anita is standing next to me, and the other sister is the investigator that the Anao elders baptized. The guy on the end is the Anao bishop. 

District 2! It was nice that Elder Olsen and Elder Espinoza could be there too and have a baptism too. (They've had about 10 together in Anao).


Dear Family,
This week has been really stressful. It’s also been pretty good. I am officially transferring next Thursday, and I will find out where I am going and all that on Wednesday. At the moment, I am super busy figuring out last minute remembrances (letters/pictures) for the members and investigators and packing and organizing all of my stuff. I’m a little bit sad because my airsoft gun will probably have to stay here L But I think it’s for the best, haha (it was only about $3 and it looks like a submachine gun). I’ll just say that all of the dogs in Cuyapo won’t come near me anymore, haha.

We had our first baptism on Saturday, and it went pretty well. I was really worried at first because when we got there (there is no baptismal font in Cuyapo so we went to Anao, the closest place that has one) the room wasn’t arranged and nobody else had showed up. Thankfully the Elders in Anao also had a baptism that day, so their bishop and his family came along with the person that they were baptising. We went ahead and started the meeting and then finally the branch president of Cuyapo showed up with five or so of the members…late and in casual clothes, which made me a little bit frustrated, but when it finally came down to the actual baptism things went smooth. As Sister Anita (our investigator) came up out of the water she had a huge smile on her face, and she bore a powerful testimony of prayer and of the church. It was so nice to be able to be there and be part of that change that she made in her life. She is truly a gospel convert…and she is diligently searching the scriptures and fasting and praying to gain more of a testimony. She was confirmed yesterday in church and is starting to mingle with the members a lot more. I am so happy for her. I am also grateful that, even though Cuyapo is a pretty difficult area and there are a lot of difficult less actives and investigators that just don’t progress, the Lord helped us find somebody who was truly being prepared to hear the gospel.

I am excited to leave Cuyapo, but I am also a little bit sad about it…I will miss a lot of the amazing people that I’ve met here…especially the Oliveros, Arguesa, and Agustin families. They are all so strong in the branch and it’s been wonderful to get to know them. I’ve learned so much from teaching brother Oliveros, and although he isn’t quite ready to accept the gospel right now, I know that the day will come that he will be baptised and Sister Oliveros’ prayers will be answered. The Arguesa family is also amazing…they have a daughter who is serving a mission in the southern Philippines right now, and sister Argueza feeds us dinner three times a week, despite our protestations, haha. Her and her husband are both super active in the church and will do whatever they can to help the branch. I’m so grateful for them. They are like my Cuyapo grandparents, haha. The Agustin family is incredible too…Brother Agustin used to be less active and have all sorts of problems with vices, but he returned to the church and is now the 2nd counsellor in the branch presidency and his family were all baptised last year. They have a temple goal date for this summer. Brother Agustin always comes out and works with us and he is just an amazing guy and an amazing fellow shipper to the less actives and investigators that we visit. I’m going to miss all of them, and everyone else that I’ve met here.

I learned how to cook monggo this week (it’s this type of bean that tastes like lentils, but better). We mixed them up with some pork and squash and it was really good. I’ve also been eating less rice and I hope it will make my love handles go away (I switched to street vended hamburgers instead). We also helped some farmers harvest corn last week as a service project, and it was super fun. What they do here is they go through the corn row by row with a little sharpened bamboo stick, and they grab the ear of corn, open it with the bamboo, throw it in a pile and then stomp down the plant. It was pretty difficult at first but once I got into a rhythm I didn’t want to stop. Me and a few other Elders in the zone kept going while everyone else left for lunch, haha. It was like a ‘corn harvesting high’ or something like that. It felt good to stab and stomp corn plants and release some stress I guess, haha.

Another cool thing that happened this week – we were walking through Tutuloy and it was really dark. We were in an area with no streetlights and no houses – just fields and a road – and as we were walking we passed two men, who were clearly drunk. As we passed them they bent down and picked up some rocks, which was unusual so were both started to walk faster. As we sped up, we could see two more guys waiting at the end of the road, and they also had rocks in their hands. One of them ran off into some trees as we got closer. We were just starting to feel a little bit alarmed, because we were standing in between what looked like four drunk guys with rocks in their hands, but out of nowhere a trike driver drove down the road…he happened to be the one trike driver here that we are good friends with. He saw us and stopped and we climbed onto his trike and got out of there. I don’t know if something would have happened if he hadn’t happened to drive by at that moment, but we were both grateful that the Lord protected us and got us out of what could have been a dangerous situation.

That’s all for the big email this week…I’m sure I will have a lot of good stories next week about my new area. I’ll send you guys some replies to your emails when they come.

I love you all,

The church is true.

Love,

Jared.

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18, 2013

 One of the coolest things I think I've ever seen...it was like this light shining out from behind the mountain. I have no idea what was causing it. 

What happens to the roads here after an hour or so of rain. 


Dear Family,

I am doing pretty good this week...I've got about two weeks left in Cuyapo before transfers, and part of me is excited to go to a new area. I have no clue where it will be, but I hope it's Baler (the area by the ocean), haha. Wherever it is, it will be where I'm supposed to be, and I am excited. 

We finally got some of the youth from the branch to work with us (It's amazing what a few free cheeseburgers can do for the work..just kidding) and it's been good to go on splits with them and listen to their testimonies. One of them is 19 and wants to serve a mission soon, and the other one is 16. Their names are Jonathan and Brian. It's a good time teaching with them and we hope that being part of the work here will help them get more active and involved in the branch. 

OUR FIRST BAPTISM IS NEXT WEEK!!! I'm really excited for Sister Anita - it's been amazing to teach her and be taught by her as well. She has been so prepared by the Lord to hear the gospel, and I am stunned every time we visit by all of the things she is changing in her life. She has such a strong testimony already, and she is very serious about the commitments she will make at baptism. I wish every investigator was like her, haha. She stopped drinking coffee the day we taught the Word of Wisdom and she insisted that she pay tithing right away, even though she hasn't been baptized yet. We invited her to eat lunch with some of the branch members the other day and she declined because she was fasting! I am so grateful to be teaching her...I feel like I've learned more from her than I've taught to her, haha. I wouldn't be surprised if she became the next Relief Society president. For the stake. haha.

Sister Anita aside, the work is still pretty tough in Cuyapo. We've been trying to find investigators in the bayan (the town) but we haven't had much success. Most of the people we've found in the town have found some excuse to stop listening after the first lesson. I think a lot of them feel intimidated because we always extend baptismal invitations in the first lesson (that's what we're supposed to do). I hope we can get through to some of them soon. The bukid (farm area) is a lot better for finding and teaching (the people are generally kinder and more accepting out there) and we've had some more successes out there with finding new people to teach. We walked probably 5 km the other day to a place called Piglisan (Pig-lee-sun), and we talked to so many people that we ended up staying there until the sun went down...which was bad news because there were no more tricycles there and Barangay Tutuloy (where the Argueza family lives - they feed us 3 times a week and are all around the best) was about 2 km away way out in the country. They had warned us not to go to Piglisan at night because it is know for hold-ups and stuff like that, so we were a little bit apprehensive as we walked out through the night. It was almost pitch black, and all we had for light was our cell phone. The path goes through a huge mango orchard which is super super creepy at night. There is one point where the road goes underneath a bridge (which is under construction), and as we got closer I saw a guy leaned up against the bridge...and he was holding a shotgun. I honestly thought we were going to die, but he called out to us and asked us what we were doing...we told him we were just missionaries and he let us through the bridge. I guess he was just a worker that the construction company was paying to protect all of their supplies. I still almost had a heart attack though, haha. 

My Tagalog is getting better, although it is still pretty pangit (ugly) to listen to. I can also say about 25 words in Illocano now, which is kind of fun sometimes. All of the original people in Cuyapo were Illocano-speaking, so it is sometimes pretty hard to understand what people are trying to say to you. It's fun though. 

Today for P-day we hiked one of the mountains in Cuyapo with the zone. It had a pretty cool view and we took a lot of pictures at the top. It was fun, but didn't really compare to what we have in Canada...hiking just isn't the same without mountain breeze and pine trees. 

It is almost officially summer here...and it is brutal. By the time night comes around I am soaked in sweat (it's gross) and the freezing cold shower feels amazing. I have the sweetest watch tan. I carry an umbrella around with me so I don't get cooked too bad, but I should probably try some sunscreen. My arms are almost as dark as my companions. It's funny, because here it is considered more attractive to be white, and at home everybody is trying to be tan. They sell whitening powders and soaps and stuff here...and it makes me think of all the tanning lotions and parlors and dyes that we have at home. baliktad talaga. Needless to say...I have not used chapstick, sunscreen, or mosquito repellent once, haha.

I think landscaping sounds like a wonderful idea - if you wait a couple of years I'll help you guys do it...It'll be nice to see grass again after my mission, haha. The 'lawns' here are just dirt and garbage, or concrete and potted plants if you are rich. There are a lot of mango and banana trees though. 

Mahal ko kayo lahat. 
Ingat kayo palagi sa multo (always be careful of ghosts)

Love, 
JAred.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 3, 2013

We went to Isdaan today...so all of these pictures are from there!

It’s basically this huge floating restaurant in the middle of all of these big statues and ponds full of fish.


 Giant monkeys and Buddhas!
 There's no way I would ever show this much affection to this guy in real life. (Also, my hair is weird...it is kind of short in the back and falls into my eyes in the front if I don't comb it over.

 BIG MONKEY!
 Handsome!
 Nice view of the place
 Comp Shot! Elder Dela Paz and I.
One of the ponds full of fish. 
 Huge frog that one of the elders found in the fish ponds.
 Giant buffalo head.
Angry birds! How cool is that?



Kumusta po sa akin pinagmamahal na pamilya!

We have a baptism!!!!!! Haha. I know missionary work isn’t just about baptism, but it is still exciting. Sister Anita has come to church twice now, and is reading the Book of Mormon every day (she’s about halfway through Mosiah now). One of the sisters in Sunday school asked her when her baptismal goal date was (she didn’t have an exact date at this point…she wanted to decide for herself after she read the Book of Mormon) and she said, “Next week.” She is really excited, but we have to move it two weeks forward so she can go to church one more time first. It has been a blessing to teach her...she has been prepared by the Lord and has such a strong desire to know the truth. She says that she hasn’t been able to sleep at night because she is thinking about the church so much, and she says that she knows she is ready. I just hope nothing happens to change that (our last ‘golden’ investigator is hiding from us now).

Oh, I didn’t transfer. I’m still in Cuyapo, haha. I’m happy about it though, because it means I will be here for Sister Anita’s baptism. I’m not ready to leave all of these amazing people that I’ve met. We had a really good talk with the branch president yesterday about home teachers and helped him organize the six active priesthood holders into home teaching companionships with some of the youth. We are hoping that this will help us have more success in the branch. There are so many less actives that need the help of the members. We visited a less active the other day for the first time…we ‘tao po-ed’ their house about 10 times but they didn’t answer, so I walked up the front of their tindahan (little store attached to their house) and shouted ‘pabili po!’ (I want to buy something) and they come outside right away. They were shocked to see us, and when we asked them why they stopped coming to church, they told us that it was because the missionaries that had baptized them had left. “Mabait naman sila! (They were just the nicest missionaries)” is what they told us. Hopefully we can help them gain an actual testimony and help them want to return to church.

That’s one thing that I’ve learned about the work here…it is important to focus on baptizing people but it is even more important to prepare them and help them gain a sure testimony. There are so many ‘missionary converts’ here and a lot of them are almost impossible to reach. A lot of them that lived out in the country would come in for church every Sunday and the missionaries would pay for their transportation. As soon as the missionaries left, these people became inactive. I’ve learned that there is a difference between teaching people and helping people become converted, and I’ve made it a goal to convert people and help them feel the spirit rather than just teaching them. Part of being converted is making sacrifices in order to do what the Lord would have us do, and we shouldn’t take that aspect of things away from people.

I will probably be here until the end of March, and then I’ll be headed off to area #2.
This last week has been pretty good. We’ve probably ‘Tao po-ed’ almost every house in Cuyapo, and we’ve been able to find of lot of new people to teach. A few of them are middle-class material, but one of them is a town official, so we’re excited about that. I’ve also decided that I like talking to Filipinos more than Caucasians, haha. I’m done trying to talk to white people here…most of them have been rude or just slammed their doors in our faces. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to talk to people in other parts of the world, haha.


Today we went to Isdaan, and my camera was working this time. I sent a bunch of pictures to you. It’s basically this huge floating restaurant in the middle of all of these big statues and ponds full of fish. We went there to take pictures as a zone this morning.

I also got the package that you sent! Thank you! The food is delicious and I loved all of the drawings that Jianna and Jameson and Jarom did. I forgot about St. Patricks day, haha. I don’t think that they celebrate it here. I have given away most of the candy, and I am rationing out the trail mix and jerky so it will last a couple of weeks. It’s nice to get a break from rice once in a while, haha. 
That’s all I really have for this week.

Love,

Jared.