Monday, July 29, 2013

July 28, 2013

 Arby (the kid with the paddle). He is four and has a brother named Osmond who is six and speaks fluent English (I have no idea how). They're parents are both really active members so we see them a lot. I tried to take a picture of both of them but Osmond kept running away. They remind me a lot of Jarom and Jameson. 
 Kids! This one little girl (the granddaughter of an investigator) who always has a gun in her hands. 
 I also cooked something real this week...it is like a pork stew with pineapple and tomato sauce...it was really really good. 
 Some landscape and a cool tree that I got a picture with. This was during splits in Cabanatuan
 Pineapple! I eat these every day! With salt!

July 28, 2013

Sa aking pinakamamahal na pamilya, (to my beloved family)

Kumusta kayo lahat?! (how are you all?)

Haha how's everyone doing? It was great to read your emails today. I'm glad that everyone had an enjoyable Magrath days. I'm sure that Josh enjoyed being in the parade ;) haha. I'm also glad that you guys didn't have an earthquake or Tsunami or something hit this week (we didn't either), and that Jameson and Jarom made it through the fireworks okay. That's also cool that the parade goes in front of our house now. I bet the property value shot up because of that, haha. That's also really good news that Isaac is found and okay...what a cool story. If I've learned anything on my mission, it's that prayer is effective. It actually works, haha. 

Mmm...potato salad...haha. I saw some at 7-11 the other day...it was maybe like a bite and a half and it cost like 50 pesos (too much). It most definitely didn't taste like mom's. 

It's been a pretty good week. It was actually most likely my last full week here in Talavera...transfers are coming up next Thrusday and I am 98% sure that I'll be transferred out. I've been here for over four months and it has been incredible. Incredibly fast and incredibly great. I remember when I first heard that I was opening an area, it really freaked me out. I didn't feel ready at all to take a responsibility like that. When I first got here, I had a lot of problems with my one companion, and it didn't feel like the work was going anywhere. All we had to work with were a few members in the group, most of whom were just baptized this year. I remember being stressed out of my mind and worried that we wouldn't be able to build a teaching pool. When I found out that I would be training here, it didn't help with the stress part of things, haha. 

What I realized though, as Elder Magno and I really just did our best and worked hard, is that the Lord has a reason for everything out here. A reason for the area, a reason for the companions and assignments that we have...everything. I noticed a big change in my attitude and in the quality of the work as we did the training program and built up the teaching pool here. The Lord helped us out as we worked our best, and somehow we were guided to people that were ready to hear the Gospel. We went from not knowing anything about the area to having a great teaching pool. We are currently teaching two families of five who will almost certainly be baptized in the next couple of months, as well as several other individuals who are preparing to e baptized as well. There will probably be twelve or thirteen people baptized in this area by October...which is also the month that the new meeting house will be finished in Bertese and the branch will be officially established. 

Part of me is really sad that I won't be around to be a part of the 'fruits' of our labor, but I feel good knowing that I played a part in helping them come closer to Christ. I can't wait to check my email in the next few months and see all of our investigators pictures on the mission slideshow from their baptisms. It will be almost as good as if I was there. 

We had a pretty good week...it was hectic because we had exchanges, but we got a lot done at the same time. We taught the Feje family yesterday and extended another baptismal invitation...which they didn't really accept. The oldest daughter is definitely ready, and I'm sure that the father is ready (he is really shy but he feels the spirit really strongly in the lessons). I think the Mom is just worried still about what her extended family will think. They also have some concerns about tithing. But oh well, they will be ready. I know it. We are going to visit them on Wednesday night and do a family home evening with them. It'll be my last visit here. 

I've learned so much in this area...I've learned how important it is to be humble, and to be able to identify the things in our attitudes that would prevent us from being a more effective missionary. I have a list of things that I want to stop doing (little things, like humming babylonian music or taking naps) and am currently doing a fast from all of those things. I've noticed a lot of little differences...I feel a lot calmer in the lessons and I seem to know just what to say at times. I feel more focused on the work, and more loving towards the people around me. We met this old man this week and tried to talk to him about the gospel...he turned us down and said that he didn't believe that God had a plan for him because his wife had died. He didn't want to listen to us. I felt disappointed, but even more than that, I really felt sorry for him. I told him not to worry and that God loves him so much. We talked a little bit about the Plan of Salvation and left. It was a good experience, even though we didn't get a lesson out of it. I'm really starting to realize that it's more about simple acts and service and love than anything...we have to treat everyone how the savior would.

I am healthy and doing well. I will hopefully have a lot of adventures for you all next week in my next area. I am excited to find out where I'll be. (I had a dream that I was transferred to Guimba, but I'll see if that happens, haha). 

I love you guys. 
Have a great week. 

Love, 
Jared. 


July 21, 2013

 Elder Magno and Mia (Sister Cherry's daughter)
 Coconut tree!

Pineapple. They cut them like that to get rid of all of the spiky parts.  
 Rambutan! They are these cool spiky fruit things that taste a lot like Lychee
 Elder Magno and I with our chicken.
 

 Fried Chicken! Yeah, I cooked that. :D
 A light rain storm. 
 Some fun I had with the sunset and my camera. 

Dear Family,
I'm terribly sorry about last week...word's cannot describe how peeved I was when the power went out. That's cool that you guys have a new missionary...they always seem to have a special spirit with them...it's more apparent how much the spirit really helps them because they often struggle a little bit. I've really noticed a big difference in the work as I've been training Elder Magno. Most of my previous companions were really funny and joked around a lot, but Elder Magno is super devoted and serious about the work. We've seen some amazing changes in this area as we've worked. He is on his 11th week of the 12 week program, so it's been his turn to lead the area by himself. He's doing a fantastic job. 

We’ve had some adventures this week and a miracle also…we’ve been praying for weeks and have fasted that our 13 investigators with baptismal dates will come to church, but until this week only one or two of them were showing up. Last week we really tried our best to work hard and invite everyone to come to church…and two families showed up! The Feje family and the family of Sister Lyn, another investigator! We were so surprised when Sister Lyn’s whole family came, because her husband never seems to want to sit down for the lessons with his wife (he is a super nice guy, but he always seems to have an excuse). It was such a pleasant shock to see him sit down with his family, and an even bigger shock when he told us that they will all be coming to church again next week! Both families had a good experience. We also had a lot of other investigators come, making 11 in total that showed up. We were pretty excited. It really shows how mch the Lord answers prayers as we do our best to make things happen.

The Feje family is doing amazing. Brother Feje is finally back from Cavite (Manila) so we’ve been able to sit down and teach them all again. They told us that they love having us over because they feel close as a family, and that when we leave there’s something ‘different’ about how they feel. We taught the Law of Chastity yesterday and it went great. The only problem is that they aren’t ready for a baptismal date yet. I’m sure that they will be though in the near future. They are such an amazing family and I love teaching them.

Sister Cherry Carrenio is also doing great…her sister (who is actually a member) visits her every weekend so now they will be going to church together. We challenged her (again) to be baptized on Aug 17, but she isn’t so sure about it. She really wants to be baptized but also says that she wants to be ready first. I’m glad that she is being honest, and we are just praying and teaching her the best that we can to help her be ready. She has been through a lot in her life and I know that the Church will be such a blessing in her life.

And Katrina, the girl that is Jianna’s age – this week we challenged her and her mom to be baptized and they accepted! Katrina has been coming to church and even going to seminary, but we really feel that we want her mom to be ready too so that they can both be baptized and stay active. It was funny, because this was the second time that we’d tried to extend the invitation…the first time, as we were sharing 3 Nephi 11 with her, one of her kids came in and started being a terror and we weren’t able to finish the invitation. THIS time, haha, as we were extending it, this other lady that had been listening just randomly broke out into this 29 minute (it was actually that long) monologue about how our church meetings are 6 hours long and how she was trapped in one of them because nobody is allowed to leave once they have signed the attendance book and entered the building (she was talking about the Iglesia Ni Cristo…yes…that is actually what happens in that church sometimes...I have all sorts of stories about them. She confused us with them). Anyways, after trying 11 times unsuccessfully to interupt this lady’s story, she finally ran out of words and we were somehow able to push through and extend the invitation, which was thankfully accepted. Missionary work is so hard. Haha.

I also experienced my first tropical storm. Elder Magno and I were walking down the highway…it was really sunny, but a few raindrops had just started to come down. We definitely weren’t expecting a storm. We had a few appointments which were about 25 minutes away that we were walking to, but as we walked we felt like we should visit the Feje family on the way. We had just got to their house and were sitting on the porch when this crazy wind just came out of no where and the rain picked up. The rain was like someone had taken a bucket and dumped it out in the sky. We ran inside…the roof of the house was shaking and branches were flying off of trees outside. Their whole yard became a lake within ten minutes. Elder Magno looked terrified (he has some bad memories from really bad storms as a child), and when I asked him how strong he thought the storm was, he told me that it was just a little one (Signal 1). When it reaches signal 3 or 4 people are literally lifted off the ground and houses are destroyed. It was insane. I was just grateful for the prompting we’d received to drop by the Feje’s house. The storm only lasted for ½ hour or so.

I also found something new and delicious this week…pineapple and salt. There are tons of fresh pineapples for sale in the markets right now and I buy at least one big one a week. If you sprinkle a little salt on it, it tastes like 80x better.

It sounds like you guys are doing great, although the weather sounds insane over there right now. That is cool about your dream Dad. I've been realizing more and more how important it is to be prepared, and I'm glad that we are prepared as a family and that the ward is also getting prepared. I’ve had a lot of weird dreams too in the mission. I woke up one night at 2 and wrote one down in my journal. When I woke up I couldn’t remember it. It was really odd…I was standing in the street surrounded by lots of people I know. They were all showing me microchips that they had received in their arms and telling me that I should get one. I didn’t get one. Weird. I wrote it all down.

I also had a dream this week that the mission president called me and told me that I am transferring to Guimba zone. I guess I’ll see next week, haha. I’m a little bit excited to be transferred but mostly I don’t want to leave. There has been so much progress in this area since I first got here and it would be wonderful to get to baptize some of these families that we’ve been teaching. I am happy though, even if I do get transferred, that I got to be a part of the seed planting in this area. I know that whoever takes my place will have a really good harvest. I fell like this area and the two companions that I’ve had here have taught me so much that I needed to know to be a better missionary. I feel ready for whichever area the Lord wants to send me to.

I love you all and I’m thinking of you often. I’m so grateful to be a missionary and to have a solid family at home supporting me.


Love Jared.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

June 30,, 2013

Happy Canada Day! I know it isn't Canada Day yet over there, but it is here! Mmmm...potluck. Can we have one of those next next September? haha. I think just having a homemade bun will taste like heaven. I've noticed that I've gotten used to a lot of things here food-wise...like eating fat. I can put away just straight fat if it is cooked right, haha. I never would have been able to do that before my mission. I'm hoping to be assigned to a zone that has couples missionaries in it next transfer (they always cook normal food and feed the missionaries, haha). I've probably got until the 1st of August before I'll transfer...hopefully enough time for two more baptisms here. 

It sounds like you guys are having fun and really enjoying the summer. I'm so glad that Jameson is just chill in the water now...I remember he'd just run away from me last year when I tried to get close to him, haha. 

I'm glad the flooding didn't hit you guys in Magrath, although it sounds like it hit Grandma and Grandpa. That must have crazy to clean up. But hey, the Lord has reasons for everything, and it sounds like you got a great analogy out of it. It's so true...no matter what our sin is, we can't repent of it alone. We have to always seek help from God and others in order to make the necessary changes in our lives. We need to call in the experts sometimes. 

Um, as far as adventures go...we received a referral from the Feje family to go and visit one of their cousins or something like that. This Sister's name is Lolita Morales, and she is really investigating a few religions because she is sick and has been getting surgery for the last little while. She is worried about finding the right church right now and wants to come closer to god. We were pumped to hear that she wanted to meet with us. Anyways, we go over there and yell 'tao po!' at her house (that's what you do here...nobody knocks) and they invited us in. What we didn't realize is that there were already missionaries there...from the Iglesia ng Diyos (a split off of the Iglesia ni Christo, which is a big Filipino religion). It was already too late to back out, so we just sat down and respectfully listened while they played a DVD from their pastor. After they were finished, we started to share a message with Sister Morales...the spirit was strong as we told her about how much God loves her and how he has a plan for her personally. It was honestly one of the best lessons I've been a part of...until we brought out the Book of Mormon. The two sisters from the "Holy Church of God for Christ Jesus (that's what the full name of their church is if translate it into English) had been listening carefully the whole time and flipping through their bibles, obviously trying to find something in our doctrine that contrasted. Their claim is that they are the church that Christ established on the earth back then; so I'm sure us reading from the bible about the characteristics that Christ's church used to have as well as testifying about a living prophet must have thrown them off a little bit. As soon as we pulled out the BOM, they knew that they had ammo, and they attacked it before we could even explain it. They used all sorts of verses from the Bible that said 'Not to add to the Bible,' and stuff, which I brushed off at first (I was trying to focus on Sister Morales)...but when they said that the Book of Mormon wasn't true, and didn't come from God because it wasn't the Bible...we got a little bit ticked, and started answering their questions. They asked us if we thought the Bible was complete, and we turned them to the last verse of the last chapter of John, as well as explaining the Lost Books of the Bible (which are mentioned in the Bible but aren't actually in the Bible), which proves the bible incomplete. They didn't like hearing that too much, and started just throwing more verses out at us. The spirit was definitely gone by then, and I was just so mad that I was shaking, but we kind of realized that we were heading into a debate so I finally just looked at these two sisters and asked, "Sister, I'd like to answer your questions with one question...do you believe that God, if he wanted to, could reveal another testament of Christ?" They didn't answer, and I asked them if they had read the Book of Mormon. They hadn't. We then both shared our testimonies and personal experiences of the Book of Mormon, and invited them to read it and know for themselves. They declined receiving the Book, but Sister Morales thankfully did. I apologized to her and set an appointment with her when the ministers from other faiths wouldn't be there, haha.

It was kind of a stressful situation, and we probably could have handled it a little bit better (we didn't once attack their religion though...which would have been easy to do. We just answered their questions), but it really just let me know how important this gospel is, and that even if I had never even opened the Bible I would still know that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith is a prophet. It made me realize how true the statement in 2 Nephi is: "A Bible, a bible...we have a bible, and we need no more bible." It kind of awakened a stronger desire in me to keep reading and studying the BOM and the bible, and to continue to add onto my testimony. I know that the gospel is true, and nothing on earth could convince or sway me otherwise. 

We had a pretty good week other than that. We found 8 new investigators, which is a huge blessing, and we also got permission from President Martino to look for a new house in Quezon, which is where the new meetinghouse is being renovated right now. We are just about ready to have an actual branch here, and it has been amazing how the Lord has blessed us in finding people to teach. I may not see people like the Feje family baptized while I am here, but I know that when the time is right for them, they will be baptized, and the work will continue to explode here. 

Yesterday we were waiting at the doors of the church for our investigators, and none of them showed up. We sat in sacrament meeting pretty discouraged because we had really done our best to invite everyone we could to come, and prayed that they would show up. Right at the end of sacrament meeting, we looked back in the chapel and saw Sister Cherry sitting there with her little kid. She told us that her jeepney had been a little bit late and that she'd came about halfway through the meeting. She stayed for classes after and when she left after church I had to smile. God really does answer our prayers and help us in the work. I am so excited to be teaching Sister Cherry. I know that we were impressed to walk down her street, even though it was just a couple houses with a dead end. We followed that prompting and it's all just gone so well. She has been so prepared to hear the gospel. We will hopefully be able to continue her baptism on the 20th of July. 

I love you all. You're all in my prayers and thoughts while I'm out here. I love this gospel so much and it's such a great privilege to serve. I don't want to leave this area because I love the people here. I love my companion and the ward. It's been great. 


Love Jared.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July 14, 2013

 Momma Lydia! She is a recent convert and so great. She fed us some lunch the other day. 
 Food! The one on the left is squash flowers, and the one on the right is dinuguan...which is basically pigs blood, intestines, and papaya mixed together. There were a few eggplants in it too. It wasn't too bad. 
 Some of the Berese kids and I. 
 Rice fields...they just finished planting
 Elder Magno and Reymark doing pushups (Reymark is this punk kid that one of our members takes care of)

Reymark eating his 'ulam'...which is just Tang and rice, haha. 


July 7, 2013

 My rat adobo that I ate!
 Amazing sunset. 
 Some more amazing sunset. 
Dear Family,

Still no package. Haha.

BUT it’s been a pretty good week. Actually, we’ve had some great experiences this week. We’ve really been opening up a town in our area called Santo Domingo and we’ve found quite a few new investigators there. One of them is a really nice lady named Lyn Tagle (tah-gleh)…we met her while we were going house-to-house and set a return appointment with her. At the first lesson, we gave her a Book of Mormon, and this last week was the third time we visited her. We had planned to invite her to be baptized, and in the lesson we were reading Alma 7 (about the atonement and baptism) with her. As we all read about the Savior, she all of a sudden just started crying. We sat there for a moment while she wiped her eyes and it was like the spirit flooded the room. Elder Magno and I were trying our best to keep back tears as she asked us, “Why is it that every time I read this book, I feel really happy and start crying? It’s like there is power in it!” We were able to teach her that what she was feeling was the spirit, and that He was testifying to her about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. She accepted our baptismal invitation but isn’t ready for a date. She says that she would like to come to church a few times first. It was such a powerful lesson for me…one of the most powerful I’ve ever been a part of. It really built my testimony of the power of the Book of Mormon…It is amazing to see what happens when somebody actually takes the time to read and ponder the BOM. The spirit will always testify to them that it is true…if they seek with real intent. Sister Lyn told us that she carries the Book of Mormon with her everywhere and reads it as much as possible because of the feeling that she gets when she reads.

We also taught Sister Cherry the Word of Wisdom, which went well but she seemed really sad about giving up coffee. She told us that she is willing to try though. She has been to church twice already and is really interested. The only thing is that she is a single mom with a baby and a two year old, so it is really hard for her to come to church if there is no one to watch her kids. We are excited though to be teaching her.

Jianna, do you remember Katrina? I told you about her last week. She is your age. We met her mom this week and taught them part of the first lesson. They seem like they are pretty interested and we are excited to teach them again. They also live right by some of our members so we’ve been going over with some of their friends that are members.

There are a lot of cool changes happening with the work. I love the new emphasis that the church is placing on the members and missionaries working together as a team. I think once the programs get going there will be a huge success. We’ve been trying to work more with the members here in getting referrals and working with Aaronic Priesthood who are getting ready to serve missions. We work with Alex Javier a lot…he was baptized last December and just recently became an Elder. He’s 19 and preparing to go on his mission. He is one of the strongest converts I’ve met…he used to be part of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, but as he gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon he was baptized. It is so great to have him work with us, especially when we are teaching other people from the INC. His testimony is so powerful and makes a huge difference in the lessons.

Gross story of the weak…well, two. First, I ate chicken head. We were at the Acosta’s house (some recent converts) and they had cooked adobo with chicken heads and feet. The feet aren’t too bad but are still pretty gross. They just taste like skin. The head, however, was probably the most difficult thing for me to eat out of everything I’ve ever tried here. What they do is they cut off the beak and then boil the rest until the feathers come off and the bones are kind of soft, then they fry them or whatever. To eat a chicken head, you can either start by biting into the back of the skull and pulling out the brain, or you can just pop the whole thing into your mouth and chew it, sucking out all of the soft parts and spitting out the crunchy bits. I went for option 2, haha. I was so close to throwing up…the brain is like this slimy blob of fat that has a chewy membrane around it and tastes like blood, and then the eyes and comb and everything else just make it worse. I could only eat one. The member got a pretty good kick out of it though, haha. Number 2: I stepped in puke and it got all up my pant-leg. Gross. 

I also learned to cook Tinola this week…it is like chicken soup with unripe papaya and fish sauce and ginger. It’s super good. I will make it for you guys some day. (If I can find some fish sauce and papaya)

We aren’t sure if we have any baptisms coming up this month (nobody is coming to church) but hopefully that will change. I’m probably going to be transferred by the first week of August, so I’m just trying my best to build up our investigator pool so that Elder Magno will hopefully have a good harvest when I’m gone. I’m surprised at how fast this area’s been growing…we went from 19-25 lessons a week to almost 40 a week now. It’s been a huge blessing. I kind of wish I wasn’t leaving next month, haha.

Sister Aiza is pretty close to being baptized though…we are just waiting for them to get married. They will hopefully start getting their papers together for that this week. Sister Aiza has been an investigator for over a year…so I’m really hoping that we’ll be able to help her be baptized this month.

I love you guys…we started kind of early today (we are heading to Cabanatuan) so I’ll have to read your emails next week. I love you and I think about you all often. I hope that everything is going great for you.

Love,

Jared.