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