Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April 21, 2013

 A quick snapshot of the terminal that I wait in every day, in Talavera
 BUKID! ( A rice field )
A cool baby (the neice of one of our members). 

 Some of the kids from Bertese, the little farm community where most of our investigators are. 

 Fish...these are little fish that the people here catch out of the canals and dry out. You eat them like a potato chip, head and everything. I had about five of them, haha. 
 Me eating one of the fishies. 
They were really crunchy, and you had to chew them well so the bones all got crushed up and the heads and eyes and stuff.)
 Some of the more jungle-ish areas that we walked through. 

The McDonalds I had for breakfast in Cabanatuan City this morning (We are part of the Cabanatuan Zone). It was the first McDonalds I've had in probably 10 months, haha. It tasted like heaven. 

Dear Family,

This week has been a lot better…we’ve found a lot of new investigators and we’ve been seeing more companionship unity in our lessons which has been really good.
We have been working a lot in Quezon, which is a smallish town in our area and where our new meetinghouse will be once the branch gets going. We have about 4 new investigators there from last week and about 10 potential ones for next week. It’s been really hard to pin down the fathers of families for discussions right now because it is harvest time in the rice fields, but we’ve been doing the best we can to find more potential priesthood holders to teach.

Last week, we were in a neighborhood of smaller huts and cement-brick houses that people put up beside an irrigation canal. We were excited to find it, because there are a lot of people there, and as we entered a lot of people came out to talk to us. We talked to a bunch of them and got a few return appointments. What we didn’t realize about that neighborhood is that it is comprised of two congregations – Born Again and Iglesia ni Cristo – and that both of the ministers of those congregations live there. As we were giving out pamphlets and getting appointments, the preacher of the Born Agains came out and started bombarding us with questions and Bible verses (I guess he wasn’t too happy about the fact that we were proselyting his congregation), and he was clearly trying to confuse us and get us to leave. We didn’t engage in a debate with him, but rather gave him a few simple answers and stated what we believed. Then we left.

As we left, I felt a little embarrassed that we hadn’t  ‘won’ or answered all of his questions or proved his doctrines wrong with the bible. I felt like all of the people in that neighborhood must have thought that we were pathetic or didn’t know our bibles. As we were walking through Quezon yesterday, one of the men from that community rode up to us on a bike and started talking to us. He told us that he was a part of the Born Again congregation there, and that he had been there when the preacher approached us. He said that he didn’t agree with what his preacher had done and that he admired us for not debating with him. He also asked us where our church was and ended up coming with us to the sacrament meeting in Bertese yesterday. We have a return appointment with him this Wednesday. I felt a lot better about the whole situation after that, and that what we did was right. As missionaries, we INVITE people to come unto Christ – not destroy their beliefs with the bible, even if it is tempting to just pull out a few verses and prove them wrong. I’ve learned that we need to rely on the spirit, and testifying especially, along with the scriptures, to teach and invite the spirit to be present in a lesson. We had an amazing lesson with a mother and her three teenage daughters yesterday…it was about The Restoration of the gospel, and it was just a really simple, powerful lesson. They understood it and had tons of questions, and we’re excited to go back and invite them to be baptized.

I’ve also really had the feeling this week that the Lord really does place people in our path. I was on a jeepney (picture half bus half jeep) going to one of our areas and I noticed a wealthier looking lady and her son. I didn’t talk to them or anything, but a few hours later, as we got on another jeepney to go home, I noticed that the same lady and her son were on it again. I felt like I really needed to talk to them, but I was scared because they were rich (the kid has a PSP in his hand…definitely rich). I pushed myself to do it, and they were really happy to hear about our message and to receive a Plan of Salvation pamphlet. They are from outside of our area, but we referred them to the missionaries in Cabanatuan and to Mormon.org. I felt really happy that I had followed the prompting to talk to them, and it really taught me that sometimes people are just put into our path. This type of incident happened a second time the other day, where I saw somebody twice (also rich) and ended up talking to them and getting a return appointment. They are three sisters from Quezon who are excited to be taught. They warned us though that their husbands will have a lot of questions about our doctrine, which makes us even more excited, haha. We love questions.

I also had a very humbling experience this week as I was on splits with Elder Monroe (the other American in my house – the marine). We taught an interesting family that had been taught for a long time. They were the poorest people I’ve ever seen here…there house is more like a few sticks with a tarp thrown over them and no roof or floor (the floor is dirt). They have five kids that sleep on a patch of linoleum that is sprawled out in the dirt floor, and the wife works every weekend, cleaning her sister’s house to earn a few pesos to feed her kids. Her oldest kid is probably 11, and he works every night with his mom picking up garbage on the streets. The father is probably 50 and isn’t able to work because of high blood pressure and arthritis. He told me a little bit about his past, which is very violent and difficult. He has been married twice, and he was reduced to robbing people at gunpoint as part of a gang to feed his family at one point. His is now separated and ‘remarried’  to his wife now. We taught them about the importance of the Sabbath Day and invited them to church, but they told us they were unable to come, and I was fighting back tears as the wife told me all of the problems that they have. It made me sick to see their kids, all hungry and crying because they have no food, and their house with the rain pouring in on every side and the bathroom just out in the dirt behind their house. I want to do something for them, but I don’t know what or how. We aren’t allowed to give them money, but I think I might try and secret Santa them even though it isn’t Christmas.
I’ve noticed that there are a lot more poor people like that in the cities…everyone out in the country lives in really simple circumstances, but they have food and shelter. It’s bit a really hard adjustment for me.

On a brighter note, I’ve had some pretty good adventures this week. We have this new member out in the country that we visit once a week, and she always feeds us interesting stuff. She is the nicest sister and we appreciate her so much, but sometimes the food there is a little odd for me. You probably saw the pictures of the fish. Those were interesting. They were really crunchy, and you had to chew them well so the bones all got crushed up and the heads and eyes and stuff. They didn’t taste too bad…really salty and bitter, haha.
I also had McDonalds this morning, which was a nice treat. I got an egg Mcmuffin, a chicken sandwhich, and a Lychee Float, which all tasted great. We also went to one of the huge malls in Cabanatuan today to get some socks for Elder Soberano. It’s just crazy to see these modernized, clean places here. The Mcdonalds here is one of the cleanest, fanciest places I’ve seen here, and only rich people can afford to eat there. Who would have thought? Elder Soberano didn’t believe me when I told him about what fast food restaurants are like in Canada, haha.

That’s about all as far as adventures go. I’m almost done the Book of Mormon for the second time on my mission and I’m working on the D&C and new testament. I love having personal study everyday and the opportunities I’ve had to study the standard works and use them in our lessons.
I love you guys – thank you all so much for your emails.
The church is true.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 14, 2013

 Baptisms! The first is Sister Lydia Fernando...her daughter was baptized a few months ago and she was baptized two weeks ago. 
 A bunch of kids at the Family Home Evening that we had last week. It was also a birthday party, so there were tons of people there. 
 The neighbor kids...they are hilarious and always make sure to say "Hi Sisters" to us in English every morning. Somehow, no matter how many times I explain it...they don't realize that we are actually elders and in fact, not sisters, haha. 

The couple is Brother and Sister Acosta. They are the last in their family to be baptized (all of their children are members - one is serving a mission) and they are both super strong in their testimonies. Elder Monroe and I were requested to baptize them because Elder's Corpuz and Soberano didn't think they were strong enough to immerse them, haha. It was a good experience to be a part of. 

Hey Dad! (And the Fam)

Conference was incredible. I loved all of the talks but especially Elder Holland’s talk about faith. It really hit me that even if you feel like we only have a little bit of faith, we can still use that faith to do miracles in our lives, if we choose to focus on it rather than on what we feel is missing in our lives. I love listening to Elder Holland...he’s hilarious and he explains the scriptures so well. I’ve read through the complete gospels once and studied them a couple of times out here, but I didn’t notice any of the stuff that he explained about the miracle that Christ performed on the man’s son. It gave so much more meaning to the story. I also really like Elder Uchtdorf’s talks (the one is priesthood and his talk in general session) and I really liked the General Primary President’s talk too. I’ve been thinking a lot about life out here on the mission, and something that’s occurred to me is how important families are. It’s occurred to me how much I want to become a Dad someday and how I need to prepare to be a good parent so that my kids will know what they need to do. The longer I’ve been out here, the more it’s become important to me. More than career or anything else.

I also noticed that the conference focused a lot on obedience and families and how both of those things can strengthen us as the world gets more wicked. As a missionary, obedience is very important, and I’ve noticed that if there are times that I am less obedient than I could be, the work suffers and I have troubles, but when we try to follow the schedule and what our mission president says I’ve noticed that things just go smoother.

Chariots of Fire is such a good show…I’ve noticed that too, how god gives us talents and blessing for a reason, to share them with others. A lot of people tell me that I’ve learned Tagalog really fast, but I know that it’s just because of the help that I’ve received from the Lord. I’ve noticed that when we are in a lesson and are focused on what the investigator says, all of the words come out smooth and I’m able to answer their questions, but if it’s a bad day or I’m angry or something, it doesn’t go as well.

Unity is also important. I’ve noticed that lessons have so much more power when my companion and I are getting along. I’ve had some trouble with my latest one. He doesn’t like to plan or get up on time and the work has really been suffering because we never have a plan or study as a companionship. I talked to him about it last night…we had an awful day yesterday because we had no clue where we were visiting or what we were going to teach…but I told him that if we want to do anything here, we need to have study and planning and be united in our lessons. He agreed and things are starting to look a little bit better.  I just hope we can work through all of that and do better next week.

On the flipside, we had a really good lesson a couple of days ago. I was on splits with Elder Monroe – who doesn’t speak Tagalog very much (he’s only been out a month) – and we went to teach a young less active boy who is only 13 years old. I met this kid and then asked him where his parents were – I found out that his mom had died two years ago, and that his dad is also a member, but inactive. I asked where he was and he pointed out the back of his house, where I found the dad smoking with a few of his friends. We shook his hand and invited him inside for the lesson, and with a little bit of persuasion he agreed to come inside. As we were about to start, I noticed an older woman in the kitchen and invited her to sit down also. I found out that she was the boy’s grandmother and that she was also a member. Their family had been inactive for years and years. We talked for a little bit and then shared a simple lesson in Mosiah 2:41 about the blessings that come from keeping the commandments. We asked them what blessings they had received when they became members of the church, and as the grandmother explained all of the wonderful things that had happened to them after their baptisms she started to tear up a bit. As we read the scriptures with them, it was like the lesson just unfolded and I found myself tearing up also as Elder Monroe and I shared our testimonies with this family. The father hadn’t sat in on a lesson for years, and it was so nice to hear him commit to pray. We both left that lesson feeling great, and the Grandmother asked us to return soon. I’m a little sad that that lesson wasn’t in my area, but it really just showed me how powerful the scriptures are and how we can use them to help others.

 I also went on splits with a member of the Stake Presidency and the Group leader in our area, which was a good experience. I found out that our group leader used to be less active, and he had problems with alcohol. I guess something happened to him one day, and he decided to pray. He told the Lord that if the missionaries showed up on his doorstep looking for him, he would go back to church and stop drinking. Sure enough, a day or two later, the Elders arrived at his and told him they were there looking for less active members to bring back, and from that point on he became super active in the church and has one of the deepest testimonies I’ve heard here. The visits went well and between the three of us we were able to help these less active members with some of their concerns and problems. I’m so grateful to be assigned to an area that has strong leaders who magnify their callings. The results from the work are ten times better.

As far as temporal things, I’m doing good. I had a wicked nasty cold the other week, but it went away pretty fast. I ate another balut last Friday, and I’ve decided that Lychee Juice from 7-11 is delicious.

I love you guys,

Love, Jared.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April 13, 2013

 The chapel in Talavera - it has two floors!
 Cool Lizard that i caught. 
 Balut! I forgot to take another picture before I ate it, haha. 

 Cool kid I took a picture with. His mom somehow ended up in the picture too. He reminded me a lot of Jarom. 
 The staircase in our place leading down to the kitchen and bathroom.
 Our balcony
 Our bedroom. I sleep on the top bunk
 Our kitchen was full of ants, and Elder Monroe went nuts with Permetherin...these are all of the dead ants that spilled out of our counters.

The moon a few nights ago. It looked pretty cool.

Dear Family,
It’s been a pretty crazy week. I’m still getting used to this new area and it’s been really hard to adjust. It’s just so different from my last area. The people are great here though – we actually had a baptism this last week, haha, although Elder Monroe and Elder Corpuz were the ones that did all of the teaching (it was before we got here) It’s just amazing to see how fast the new group out here has been progressing. There is one group of houses out there (probably 20 houses or so) where almost everyone has been baptized in the last year or so, and all of the members there have referrals. What usually happens is we’ll be teaching a lesson to one house, and the people from three or four other houses will just walk in to be a part of the lesson. It is great to see the enthusiasm there, but it can be difficult to teach sometimes above all of the discussion that goes on, haha. It’s been good though.

My new companion is pretty cool…he isn’t actually 25 – he’s twenty. (he was just joking around with me). He’s super serious and really quiet, and it’s been a bit tricky to work effectively because I tend to be a little bit shy and now I have to lead almost every lesson as well as finding. I’m sure it will be for the best…the Lord is probably preparing me to be a stronger missionary and teaching me to have more confidence in myself. It’s been stressful though.  We’ve really been focusing on finding and working with the members in Bertese to teach their families and friends. There are two parts to missionary work: Planting and harvesting, and we’ve just basically been harvesting the work of the other two missionaries that are here, which is kind of nice (we have 5 or 6 baptisms coming up). I’ve been trying to get more focused on doing some planting so that the work will continue to be strong, but it’s been tough to get a good start on things. Our area is HUGE…we have to take trikes or jeeps everywhere and it I sometimes 20 or more kilometers from one area to another. We’ve probably only visited 1/20 of our area so far.
I’ve been enjoying the area though…we have a supermarket and a 7-11 which has been great. I’ll probably grab a slurpee later or something, haha. I also had my first peanut butter since the MTC yesterday…I ate the whole jar with a spoon in about 3 days, haha.

We haven’t been able to watch conference yet (they broadcast it a week later here) but I am super excited for it. We get to watch every session. Conference in the MTC was amazing and I can’t wait to watch it in the field. It is always so great to hear the messages from the Prophet and the General Authorities. We will also hopefully have some investigators that will attend.

That’s about all I have to report…

I love you guys!

Love Jared. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Transferred... March 31, 2013

So Jared was in Cuyapo and now is in Talavera, a larger center.

Dear Family,

Well, I transferred. I am no longer in the country…I moved into an apartment with another companionship in a city called Talavera. My companion and I are assigned to open an area out in one of the towns that is close to there. The atmosphere is WAY different here – it feels like I’m in a different country now,  haha. We have a 7-11 and several supermarkets and there are rich people everywhere. Our area is about a 20 minute jeepney ride away from the city and is made up of about three towns that are all far away from each other. There are about 40 people out in those towns that come to church, which is held on the porch of one of the member’s houses there. There isn’t an official branch yet, but it has been approved as a group. We just need two more worthy melchizadek  priesthood holders that pay full tithes and it will become a branch. I am really excited to be assigned here – there are so many people that are interested in the gospel, and almost every single person that lives close to the ‘meeting house’ that we use right now has either been baptized already or is progressing. The bishop works hard at his calling and is super supportive to the missionaries here – we even have Ward Missionaries! It’s a really nice change, but I’ve been super stressed out – the area is huge and I still don’t really have too much of an idea of where to go (my companion is also new to the area). My new companion is named Elder Soberano; he’s 25 and really quiet, so I’ve been leading a lot of the lessons here. We’re living with the district leader, Elder Corpuz, who is 24 and also quiet, and his trainee who is named Elder Monroe. He is 19 and did a tour in Afganistan with the marines before he came out on his mission. (At least I don’t have to feel scared at night anymore, haha) They are all interesting people.

My new house is gorgeous though. There are two floors and it is CLEAN (probably more because of Elder Monroe than anything). I sleep on the top bunk and there are zero spiders, which is something to be grateful for. The one thing I don’t like about the house is that it is right next to a market…which means that I get to smell fish all day if the wind is right, haha. It also means that if I want a pineapple I just have to walk a few meters and buy one (I’ve been eating about three a week probably, haha. They cost about 75 cents and come skinned and everything) which is an upside I guess.

I’ve learned a lot about missionary work this last couple of days. It’s been a new experience to really lead an area and sort of be in charge rather than just going along with whatever my companion teaches. I’ve learned that listening is really one of the most important things in a lesson…it is through listening to investigators that we can help them talk about and solve their concerns. I was on splits with Elder Monroe and we were teaching a couple of less-active sisters. I had never met them before, so as we were teaching them about the Restoration, we asked them some questions about their situations and why they had stopped coming to church. One of the sisters replied and told us that she had stopped because of some family problems that she was having. We listened to what she was saying, and then were able to tell her that the Lord is able to help her with those problems, but she needs to turn to him and pray, read, and come to church. It was like everything in the lesson suddenly fit her situation perfectly, and she was in tears (the good kind, not the offended kind) by the end of the lesson. It just showed me that if we don’t listen to what the people are saying, or just teach out of the pamphlets, that we will miss their concerns and the lesson will do nothing for them.

Yesterday we went to two sacrament meetings and it was cool to meet some of the members both from the ward and from the group that we want to turn into a branch. Most of the members in the city are quite educated and very active in their callings. I cannot even describe how amazing it was to have an actual PEC meeting with the bishop and all the auxiliaries present. I can’t even describe how amazing it is to have auxiliaries, haha. It is great to see so many strong and active members (it will make returning the 400 less actives a lot easier, haha), and church was a good experience, but it was even more amazing for me to attend church out in Bertese (our area) and sit there on somebody’s porch with a lot of humble farmers and their families and take the sacrament with them. There were hymns and speakers and the spirit was strong there. Most of those people have only been baptized in the last year or two, and they are all absolutely incredible. They are always excited to work with us and introduce us to all of their friends and relatives. There are six people there waiting to be baptized in April – two of them have decided to hear the lessons because their son was baptized a year or two ago and is now serving a mission. It is just so wonderful to see how prepared the people there are to receive the gospel. I’m really excited for the next couple of months.

It is holy week right now here, so there are lots of interesting things to see. The other night there was a huge parade (easily a kilometer long) which consisted of different floats with statues that portrayed the different parts of the life of Christ. They were huge, and all of the statues were beautifully made and life sized (the doctrine was just a little too Mary focused). I am really, really kicking myself for not having a camera with me for that. Another thing I’ve been seeing a lot in some of the cities is lines of men walking down the streets whipping themselves. What they do, is they have somebody make several cuts in their back with a razor blade, and then they walk around with these big nine-tailed wooden whips and beat themselves until the blood pours down their backs. It’s kind of gross (like the guy from Da Vinci Code or something). Apparently there are also a lot of people who actually nail themselves to crosses at this time of year, but I haven’t seen one of those yet. It’s kind of sad actually to see how far people misinterpret the scriptures. I’m pretty sure that when Jesus said, “Do the things that thou see-est me do” he didn’t mean those aspects of his life.

I love you guys,