Monday, June 24, 2013

June 23, 2013

 A couple pictures from Bro. Michael Bumanlag's baptism. The older sister is his mother-in-law, Sister Acosta (she was baptized a few months ago along with her husband) and the girl in the pink shirt is his wife, sister Mary-Lourdes Acosta. It was an exciting day because now they can start preparing for the temple!

We've been having relatively good weather hasn't been raining too much but there's been some good cloud cover. I'm sure once July hits I'll just be soaked all of the time. I've only experienced a couple really big rainstorms so far, and my comps tell me that they are nothing compared to what might come, haha. That said, even though it is a little bit cooler right now I am still sweating like a pig. The only times of day that I don't sweat are at night (with the electric fan on my face) and in the shower. As soon as the fan is off or I'm out of the shower I'll be drenched in about 20 minutes, haha. 

It's amazing how much the work is progressing. We have a mission goal of 1350 baptisms this year, and it is so cool to see the hordes of new missionaries pouring into the mission (we get about 20+ every transfer). We are currently at about 466 of those baptisms. I goaled 12 personally...half way there as of Saturday. It's been great to see how much the Lord prepares people and places to receive the gospel. 

Hmmm...big news this week. Brother Michael was baptized...I was the baptizer and everything went pretty smooth. I tend to get nervous when I'm baptizing, especially with all of the crazy long names here (Michael Joe Trista " " " Bumanlag or something like that). It was so great to hear him bear his testimony and express a desire to come closer to God and continue to learn more about the gospel. We are hoping that him and his wife (a member) will be able to be sealed in the temple in the coming year. 

Other big news, as you've seen in the pictures - I ate rat! (Note to readers, the pictures never came through, hopefully next week) It was delicious, all though I don't think I could eat a lot of it. Tastes almost exactly like chicken, haha. I
t was really good actually...they just fried it up in soy sauce and vinegar with some peppers and ginger and stuff. It tasted a lot like chicken, with a lot of little bones. 

Our group has also finally been approved to have a meetinghouse, and we just need to have a few more active, full-tithe paying priesthood holders to become an official branch. We're really excited about feels great to see an area progress, and we hope that Quezon (the little town where the new meetinghouse is) will become more open to the gospel after the meetinghouse is figured out there. We will probably also be finding an apartment there in the near future, which will reduce our traveling costs a lot. (I can start eating meat again, haha). We are a little bit worried about moving there because we haven't had much success in that area yet, but I'm sure the Lord will give us a way to open up the church there.

News on the Feje family, they are all reading the BOM and praying as a family, and have expressed desires to be baptized. The only problems are that they aren't ready for a firm date and that the father hasn't been around for a while (he went to
Manila to work). I honestly love that family, and I'm sure that they will become members one day - even if it's after I leave this area. 

Also, Elder Dela Paz just got transferred into this zone! He was my second companion and one of my favorites. It was great to hear news from him that the investigator we baptized (sister Anita Rioflorido) is super active and involved now in the branch, and that her family is starting to take the lessons. One of her nephews was recently baptized. Also, the attendance there has gone up a lot. Good stuff. I'm really pumped to be in the same zone as him again. 

I'm doing pretty good right now...the last week's been a little bit stressful but that's normal. I'm just super happy about all of the great investigators we have and the progress that they're making. I'm sitting at about 146 lbs which is alright. I probably dropped down to the 130's last month, haha. I've been learning a lot about budgeting and using money wisely...A skill that I definitely didn't have before my mission. I think the lord taught me a good lesson about that, haha. I've been eating well this month and staying pretty healthy. 
I still haven't got the package, but I'm sure it's almost here. 
The work is going pretty well...all the people we have baptized here are part members, but now we're out of part members so we'll have to focus on the investigators more, haha. We hopefully have a couple more in July. 

That is crazy news about Calgary...I didn't even think it could flood there! It's supposed to be flood season here right now but I haven't seen anything too major yet. My comp was telling me about a storm that he experienced when he was like 12...the wind was so strong that it lifted off all the roofs of the houses. Him and his family just sat in their car until it was over, and when they came out he said that there were dead people hanging out of the trees and just lying around the street. Pretty crazy stuff...hopefully I won't have to wade through one of those. 

Love You guys,

Love Jared

June 16, 2013

I've had a really cool week...Planting season just started right now, so all of the men are out in the fields all day everyday, which has been kind of a challenge, but other than that there have been a lot of really great things happen this week. We haven't been able to get a hold of a lot of our investigators because of the rice harvest, but we've had some good finding opportunities. We were walking through a larger town on Wednesday in our area called Santo Domingo, and we passed by a little section of road that had a dead end, we felt impressed to turn back and walk down it. There were maybe five or six houses on that patch of road, and only one person outside - a woman sitting on her porch. We started to talk to her and she excitedly invited us to sit down. As we got to know her, we found out that she has some family that are members (from another town) and has always been curious about the church. We shared the message of the Restoration with her and got a return appointment for Friday. When we returned we shared about the Book of Mormon and invited her to read it, pray about it and be baptized. To our surprise, she accepted a goal date for July 13th and even came to church yesterday! The members did an amazing job of fellow-shipping her and took her to all of the classes. We are really excited. The whole experience just really helped me realize how much the Lord prepares people to hear the Gospel, and that we always need to listen for the promptings. The feeling I felt wasn't a big powerful feeling or impression - it was almost just a thought to go back and turn right, but after we found that sister I realized that it was an impression from the spirit. 
I actually still haven't got the package...I was hoping it would be here on Thursday at Trainers and Trainees meeting but not yet. Sometimes it takes a while. It'll probably be here next week or so (either that or there are some really happy FIlipino customs agents enjoying some Canadian snacks right now, haha). 

It was super nice of Elder Monroe to get me a cake (he's my housemate though, not my companion). He bought it for about 350 pesos at Butterland, a little bakeshop next to the 7-11 here. It was delicious. 

We have another baptism coming up this weekend, so I'll be sure to smile a lot. All of the baptismal pictures that we have get put on a big board that President and Sister Martino are going to send to the Prophet, so I'll try to look really good for him, haha. 

That family we've been teaching (the Fege Family) is doing good...I'm not sure if they are more interested in the gospel or interested with hanging out with us, but we've really been focusing on them gaining a testimony and on Saturday we challenged them all to be baptized. To my absolute surprise, the Mom accepted right away (from the beginning she seemed totally against it), but she said that they needed time before they could pick a date. I think they are really worried about what their extended family (especially their Catholic aunt who pays for their kid's schooling) will think. The Dad seemed a little more unsure, but agreed with what his wife said. Before we left, Andylyn (the oldest daughter) told us that their whole family will be baptized if we can help the Dad gain a desire to be baptized. She also told us that she wants to become a missionary someday :)
They are such an amazing family and I know they are ready for the gospel - they are already so close as a family (unlike most FIlipino families, where the Dad is never around or spends time with his family) and they are the nicest people. The mom was excited when she told us that Brother Fege had stopped drinking and smoking...we haven't even taught him the Word of Wisdom yet, but he read the pamphlet that we gave to Andylyn and is now living it! The mom said that she has never seen him change like that and has started saying things like, "If we become Mormon..." or "If we join your church...". I know the Lord is really working with he family to soften her heart, and the lessons we have with them are always powerful and spiritual. I hope and pray more than anything that we can help them gain their own testimonies. 

Those were the best parts of my week. We had another interesting experience as we were finding people - a Born Again lady told us a story about something that happened to her while she was in the hospital having an operation. I guess she was in a coma or something for three days, and said while that happened she went to another place and met a woman (she thought the woman was "Momma Mary") who told her that she was in Paraiso (Paradise). She said that it was a wonderful place, and that she was told that she was allowed to see it so that she could tell people on earth to serve god. She saw some other people there, but wasn't allowed to talk with them, and when she asked about her family members that had passed away, she was told that they were in another place. She also said that everyone there was about 24 or twenty five years old, and that she was about that age too while she was there (she is actually about 55 or so here). It was a little odd, but interesting because a lot of the things she said (except the 'Momma Mary" thing actually matched our doctrine of Spirit Paradise). As a Born Again she understood the place to be heaven, but I thought it was interesting that the woman she saw described it as 'Paradise'. We have a return appoint to go teach her and I think we'll talk about the Plan of Salvation. 

Well, that's about all for this week. It was a good one though and I'm excited for the weeks to come. I love this area. 

Love Jared. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

June 9, 2013

 Some of the food that Nanay Acosta fed us last week...the stuff on the lower right is greens (kind of looks like pigweed) and squash flowers cooked into this soup type of thing. Pretty good. Definitely healthy. 

 "I will open the windows of heaven and give you a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."
 Hamerto and Sharon...they are married and recent converts. The guy in black is Alex...he used to be a member of the Iglasia ni Christo and the last missionaries had a hard time baptizing him. He is a really strong member though now and he wants to serve a mission soon. 

 Cool scenery. 
 Ron-Ron and Marky. Probably two of the funniest kids I've met. Ron-Ron is two and Marky is 3. They follow us around and say, "Den! Den! (Elder! Elder!)" We are teaching Marky's mom, Aiza, and are working on getting to Ron-Ron's parents,
 Footlong hot dog! They only cost like a dollar. I treat myself on occasion

 Me on my birthday with the cake that Elder Monroe gave me.

 Lizard with two tails. 
 We had a binyag! (baptism). Brother Marvin, me, Elder Magno, Brother Danilo (Bro. Marvin's dad) and Rosalyn (his sister).

We were glad that his dad could be at the baptism. 

Family reunion! I saw Elder Janolgue (my trainer) at zone conference...he is training again, which means I have a kapatid (sibling) in the mission. I am also training, which makes him a lolo (grandfather). We all took a picture together. 

June 9, 2013
Dear Family,
It’s been a good week…we had a zone conference on Tuesday and the topic was on testimony and conversion. I really learned a lot about conversion…it isn’t an event but a process where we experience trials and use our faith to overcome them. I listened to a really great talk yesterday in sacrament meeting where the speaker touched on how we as members of the church face a lot more trials than non members because we are held to a higher standard and have covenants and commandments to follow, but we are also blessed a lot more than anyone else when we face those trials and use our faith. It was one of the best talks I’ve ever heard (Brother Richard, one of the high council members, was the speaker in our little group). He talked about the spirit and called several members to repentance in the congregation…I was a little shocked when he mentioned names – he looked at one Brother and told him that he didn’t know what the problem was, but that the spirit was telling him that he needed to fix it. There were no hard feelings in the group though, and after the talk all of the members were in tears. It reminded me of the scripture in Alma 38, “Use boldness, but not overbearance.” We are to speak with boldness when directed by the spirit, but always reach out in love afterwards. Brother Richard was a great example of both.

My birthday went good! I didn’t get to eat rat (Marvin couldn’t find any) but I cooked up some adobong sitaw (green beans, vinegar, garlic, onions and soy sauce) with some oyster sauce for flavour, and then Elder Monroe surprised me with a cake, which was super nice of him. The day after, we went and visited the Fege family (some of our favorite investigators) to say happy birthday to their mom (her birthday is the 6th). We ended up staying for two hours and visiting (a little bit too long – but they had a lot of gospel questions) and sharing a message. They are slowly warming up to the gospel more and more, and it’s great to see, especially in the Mom. When I first met her, I thought, “There is no way the mom is ever going to listen,” but she is actually the nicest lady, and I’ve seen her heart softening in response to our prayers and fasting. All of them coming to church was the biggest miracle, and their three daughters keep talking about how they want to come back. We will hopefully be able to extend some  more solid commitments next week.

Another great part of the week was Marvin’s baptism. I remember when I first got to this area, he would just run away from us and hide, haha. He is from a massive family and is the youngest of 13 kids (five of those kids have families with like 4 kids each and 3 of his siblings have passed away). His parents are less active members that are returning, and a few of his siblings are also members. It’s been amazing to see the change that’s come over Marvin…he is about 14 years old, and maybe has a grade 2 or 3 education, but he tries his best to read the Book of Mormon every day. His baptism was one of the best I’ve been to…he forgot to plug his nose and bend his knees, so he got a good gulp of water, but when he came up he was smiling ear to ear, and it was touching as he bore a simple testimony of the living prophet and then expressed thanks to his family. I knew he was feeling the spirit. Yesterday he showed up for church in a white shirt and tie that we gave him. It was a great experience.

We’ve had some really good experiences tracting this week…we were able to teach another family – a husband and wife (the Sumang family). The wife’s 14 year old sister lives with them. We taught them about the Restoration and it was going super well until their grandpa showed up drunk with another guy and they started expressing their opinions…there was also this cow behind their house that wouldn’t be quiet. I just prayed and prayed that the Tatay would stop talking and that the cow would shut up, haha. As we started to close the lesson and we were bearing testimony, I noticed something cool. The Tatay quieted right down and listened. The cow stopped mooing. I could feel the truth of the message, and I know that they could also. As soon as the amen was out of my mouth, the noise started up again, but I was just greatful that the family was able to feel the spirit for that brief moment. We had to walk a little ways through the rice fields to get back to the road, and the 14 daughter came with us to show us the way. As we walked, she looked at us and asked us, “Do we have to forgive every body?” It was such a simple question, but there was meaning behind it and we could both sense it. We quickly explained that we need to forgive people in order to be forgiven, and then she asked, “What if this person was the person that wrecked your family?” I suddenly realized that this little girl was probably in the middle of some big family problems, which is why she lived with her sister and not at home. We talked with her a little bit more about forgiveness and she understood. It was just another really good experience for me.

The language is going pretty good...I've hit a little bit of a plateau where I can speak all of the simple, conversational Tagalog and understand it, but the deeper stuff still gives me some problems. I am usually good in a conversation just depends on who I'm talking to and if the spirit is there. There is a huge difference, I've noticed, in my Tagalog when the spirit is there in a lesson. It all just comes out straight and I seem to understand everything a lot better. When there isn't any spirit in the lesson I tend to stutter and struggle with the bigger faith - pananampalataya or through/by - sa pamamagitan, or humble - pagpapakumbaba, haha. I really need to find some more time to language study, but it's hard sometimes in our schedule. 
I'm grateful though that I'm just learning Tagalog. 

Forgiveness has been sticking out to me a lot this week. I really felt in sacrament meeting that I need to be more patient and forgiving of other people’s faults, and it occurred to me that God is merciful to me, despite the many faults that I have, and as a missionary I need to be more understanding. Sometimes I tend to get frustrated with leaders or members and I realized that I need to just be patient and try to encourage them, rather than getting angry inside.
That’s about all…we are really excited for the following weeks. I’ll probably be in this area until about August, so hopefully I will see some of these great families being baptized.

I love you guys.