Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August 25, 2013

Dear Family,

This week was pretty interesting. There were a couple of tropical storms that passed over the Phils this week, so it basically rained nonstop. A lot of areas got pretty flooded and a couple companionships even had to leave their areas and go work in other areas. We weren't able to work for one day because of floods and then another day because my companion was throwing up. The floods weren't too bad here though...in one of the Sister's areas they were trapped in their apartment for a couple of days because the flood water was up to the driveway of their house. We only had some really strong rain and really deep puddles. Our whole zone is on doxycyclin right now to counteract bacteria from the floods, but everyone is okay. 

I think the highlight of this week was yesterday at stake conference. Over 1000 people attended, and the whole thing was centered on missionary work and becoming united as a stake in the work. There were some great talks, and at the end the stake president committed every member there to find and give at least one referral to the missionaries every week. He wants our teaching pools to be filled up by the members, and asked every member who already had a name in mind to raise their hands. Almost every hand in the room went up. It was amazing. 

We are really excited to be able to work more closely with the members and visit these referrals. It is 18 billion times more effective to teach the friends of members and have the members in on the lesson than it is to just knock on doors and do it alone. We got our first referral a couple of days before the conference from the stake president...it is a family! They are not from the Philippines and speak English, so I am a little bit nervous to teach them. My English has gotten terrible, especially if I try to speak it formally. It will be fun though and I'm sure the words will come back to me. 

I've noticed that a couple of times this week...I'll be speaking Tagalog in one lesson and it is kind of jumbled or not very clear, but then we'll be in another lesson, and all of a sudden it just clicks and comes out perfect. I had a cool experience this week as I gave some baptismal interviews for the sisters (one pair of the sisters have 9 BAPTISMS next week, so we did all of the interviews after conference). My Tagalog came out straight, and I had questions come to my mind that I was able to use to help the investigators understand better. The spirit was especially strong as one of investigators shared her desire to be baptized and begin to follow the savior more closely in her life. Even though she hadn't been baptized yet, her testimony was already so strong. It was my first time ever giving interviews, and it was such a great experience. 

Finding and street contacting have been going a little bit better this week. I've been starting to get braver with it. I'll look at someone in a jeep or on the street and think, "Okay...I'm going to talk to them," And then I'll just jump right in and do it before I can second guess myself - no matter how scary the person looks, haha. We had a kind of funny (but largely unsuccessful) OYM this week. I'll just share it in dialogue form with you. It was an older guy with a beard and tattoos standing in his doorway.

(Us, after introductions and all that) "We have a message to share about Jesus Christ and how we can come closer to him and follow him more in our lives."
(Guy) "I'm INC (Iglecia ni Cristo)."
"That's okay! Our message is for everybody, and we know it can help you as you learn about the Lord's plan for us."
"Umm, he is the son of God, but he is also our Saviour who God sent to redeem us from -"
"BUT HE ISN'T A GOD, RIGHT? HE'S JUST A MAN," (The guys voice was raised...not quite to yelling, but still raised, haha)
(At this point, my companion had gotten a little bit annoyed) "If Christ is just a man, would you be able to do what he did?"
"(Silence...he didn't have an answer for that one)"
(Elder Bacalso): "We know that because of him, we can be forgiven of our sins, and be resurrected and live with God again."
(Us) "We believe, like it says in the Bible, that we were created in the image of God."
(Elder Bacalso) "Genesis 1:27."
(Me, trying to quench the flames) "We would be really happy to share this message with you right now..."

Long story short, not interested, haha. He doesn't have a bible, because the members aren't allowed to hold the Bible in that church. They also have very strict rules about not listening to any other religions or missionaries. It was just kind of funny, because he was trying to debate with us and was being rather rude about it, but he had absolutely no clue what he was talking about. It's so sad when people choose not to listen. 

It's been a good experience to bear testimony though, even if nobody's been terribly interested yet. It's almost more of an adrenaline rush this way, haha. It's really strengthened my testimony a lot though. 

I had my 11th balut this week. It was tasty as usual...the only difference was that this one got incubated a little bit too long and it's beak was nicely developed (I got a bit of a crunchy surprise). For dinner last night, Brother Kuway made T-bone steak and hot wings, which were heavenly. That was the first time I've ever eaten steak with rice, and I don't think I'll ever eat it without rice from now on. There was also fruit salad for dessert. So good. 

I also learned a little trick this week. There are tons of bats that live in our neighbors mango tree and fly around at night. I figured out that if I lick a couple of my fingers and make squeaking sounds with them on my mouth, the bats will understand it and come fly to you. I was sitting outside the house the other night, squeaking like a bat and sitting there, feeling a lot like batman or something with a whole bunch of bats swooped around my head. Then I got showered with bat poop. Batman-feelings were lost. 

We just had our district and zone goal setting today and it was good. I'm really excited for this next month to get out and make some things happen here. Especially with all of the referrals that will be coming in. 

I love you guys,
Have a great week.

Love Jared.   

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 18, 2013 Wrong Addresses and Aloha Burgers

Hello Family!

Things are going pretty good this week, I'm starting to get a lot braver with talking to people here, even though they don't want to listen a lot of the time. From reading Sister Lybbert's emails and from stories I've heard about other missions, I think I'm probably just getting a little taste about what contacting is like in most places in the world. Everyone is too busy, or belongs to the Iglesia ni Cristo, haha. There are still a lot of great people here though...it's just harder to talk to them and pin them down for an appointment. I decided earlier in the week that I would just be really crazy and try and talk to anyone that couldn't run away...and after a few rejections I finally got a good conversation going with a guy sitting on the curb in front of a house. I got his name, address, gave him a restoration pamphlet, bore my testimony, set an appointment to visit him, cheerfully said goodbye...and then as I expressed my excitement to my companion, he looked at me and said, "He gave us a false address." Good feeling gone, haha.

To be more optimistic though, we met a lot of great people this week that were willing to give real addresses and set appointments. A few of them have even been taught by missionaries before. I am hoping that we will be able to find some new investigators this next week. I've been praying and praying that we'll be able to find people that will listen!

We had a couple of baptisms on Saturday...a couple of part member kids - Sean and Justin. One is 11 and the other is twelve. It was a really nice baptism and it was so great to see how much the ward helped to make it a good experience for them. The primary assigned speakers, a few other kids to bear their testimonies, and they even prepared a special musical number. One thing I really love about this ward is how united they are and how supportive they are to the missionary work here. It's been cool to see the changes that have happened in the work here as we've implemented the mandate to become 'one' as a church in this great work. The power that is behind the ward members makes such a huge difference. We were invited to a lunch with one of the members (in the ZL's area) and all four of us got to be part of a lesson to some of this members friends that she had invited. It is so helpful to have a member present in the lesson, and even better to hold the lessons in the members homes. I invite ALL OF YOU within the reading distance of this email to open your homes to the missionaries and invite some friends over for dinner that will listen to their message. The missionaries will love you for it, and you will get to feel the joy that comes from inviting others to come unto Christ.

Aloha Burgers...the latest Jollibee special. So good. Two patties, with cheese, bacon and a pineapple ring. We also ate dinner at one of the member's houses last night...Brother Kuway (I think I spelled it right). He is an RM and has a wife and a few kids...he also cooks like one of the Iron Chefs. Everything he cooks is perfectly done up, and is even arranged and displayed to restaurant quality. He cooked us beef ribs with sweet and sour sauce last night with a side of grilled shrimp. I wish I had words to describe how delicious it was. The four of us elders probably finished two kilos of rice with it, haha. So many blessings here.

I think the biggest challenges here are finding people, and extending solid commitments. One of my goals in this area is to build up the investigator pool. We have one progressing investigator who is ready to be baptized this September  but after that, we don't really have anyone. Elder Bacalso and I are trying hard to change that, but not a lot has been happening. I think one thing I want to try is more street contacting in some of the really crowded public areas (there are some areas where there are probably 1000 people all around you within 100 feet). I feel like it might help. I've also been trying to OYM more on Jeepneys and Trikes, but that can be really nerve racking sometimes, haha.

I also took up cockroach hunting again. Our house here is even more disgusting than my first house (if you remember the pictures), and there are billions of roaches. They are everywhere...upstairs, downstairs, in our dishes, in our beds, the bathroom...and they lay eggs everywhere. I kill at least five or six a day. I've woken up several times with a cockroach crawling on me. It doesn't even phase me anymore, haha. We are looking for a new house at the moment...one without a roach colony and termite dust that falls from the ceiling.

I am so so excited that you guys got to hike the Chilkoot trail. It sounds like it was pretty tough but a lot of fun. I can't wait to hear more about it and see the pictures.

I love you guys and I hope that everything is going great. Summers almost over! and in ten days I'll hit my 1-year mark! It's way too fast...way too fast. 

Have a great week! I'll be sure to eat some KFC for you all.

Love, Jared.  

August 11, 2013

Kumusta ang pamilya ko?

I am feeling better this week! 1 ibuprofen, 1 paracetamol, 1.5 litres of orange gatorade, a lot of herbal tea, drops, vitamins, and a BK Whopper later...I am healed, haha. I only took two pills the whole time! That whopper was fantastic.

Haha This week was interesting...the city is super crazy. My first day here, we had rented a jeep to get to the house, and as we were driving one of the ZL's yelled at the driver to turn around. He didn't like that idea too much, but after a quick argument the driver turned around. I guess we had started driving down a red zone (a street of questionable morality that missionaries definitely aren't allowed on). I was pretty shocked. 

Other than the areas that we don't go to, Angeles City is pretty cool. There are people EVERYWHERE. I don't think I've ever seen so many people in one place in my whole life. There are also thousands of Americans here. They have their own area of the city and even their own mall that they go to. We went there the other day and I got Dairy Queen! I got a 16 ounce blizzard for about 2.50 (100 pesos). So good. It had brownies and peanuts in it. I've also eaten at Mcdonalds, Burger King and even an Italian Pizza place. I don't feel like I'm in the Philippines anymore, haha. 

The work is a lot different here...it's a lot more challenging in lots of ways. I try to smile and say good morning or good afternoon to everyone I see...maybe 1 out of 20 smile back or reply. Everyone has a place to go or something to do. The streets seem to empty as we walk down them, haha. We tried talking to people in the suburb where we live...it was going good, we had passed about 6 pamphlets and had met a lot of people, but then a guard pulled up on a bike and we got in trouble. :( I guess it had only taken about 20 minutes for someone to complain and call the security...even though we hadn't knocked on a single door, haha. We can't go house to house in any of the suburbs...and even in most of the other areas most people just hide from us or have an excuser. Most of the success we've had this week has come from street contacting...which is hard to do, but can be effective here. I'm going to have to really polish up my 30-second OYM's, haha. 

The members here make the hard work worthwhile though. They are all so solid. We get fed at least once a day (I've had three dinners in one day once here) and then people are always giving us snacks too. We were all invited to eat at the house of one of the former stake presidents here, and when his wife showed us into the kitchen Elder Blackham and I had one of the biggest shocks of our lives. On the table was a shepard's pie type thing with chicken and corn, a pan of baked macaroni casserole, a green salad and freshly baked brownies. There where also spring rolls with fish in them. We were so shocked to see Western food...let alone food without rice...that we just stood there in reverence for a second. When we'd finally filled our plates and started eating, I looked over at Elder Blackham and there were actually tears in his eyes! This sister has a gift for cooking...the food tasted like heaven. We had never thought that we'd taste food like that on our missions, haha. 

So don't fear...we are well fed here, haha. The members are super friendly and very supportive to the missionaries here. I hope you guys get to meet them some day. 

We went to a family home evening/dinner appointment last night that a sister in the ward put on for her birthday. This sister's name is "Sister Pink." (I don't know her real name yet). She lives in a cool house where EVERYTHING is pink and she is always throwing dinner appointments for the Elders and for the members. She is super fun...she told us to just feel at home at her house and to come over if we ever need anything. The first councilor in the Bishopric is really cool too...Brother Jojo. I feel like these people deserve a whole email for an explanation because they are just that great, haha. 

I'm starting to get more used to the area...we have two baptisms coming up next week for some part-members in our area - Justin and Sean, who are 11 and 12. Their grandma is really active and they've been coming to church for quite a while so we're excited for that. We've also got a few other investigators who are progressing pretty well. I really hope that this next week we'll be able to meet some new people to teach. That's the biggest challenge here. 

That's great that you guys get to do some camping this week...especially Dad, Janae, and Jianna up in the Yukon. If I wasn't on my mission right now I'd be really jealous, haha. Make sure you take lots of pictures and send them to me and tell me all about the adventures you had. Mom, can you email me the picture of you guys at the temple? I'd love to see it. 

I love you all, I'm so grateful to be here right now and to have an awesome family like you to support me. I am excited for what this next week will bring and I pray that I can learn to be effective here. 


Oh, my camera is being weird...it doesn't want to upload the pictures to the computer >:(

Oh, and don't worry mom, haha. This area's really safe. It's actually a lot safer than my last two areas. I'm right in the middle of a huge city. The only thing here is that there are red zones, which are basically just streets with strip bars and prostitutes and stuff like that which we avoid. We have it all mapped out and stuff though so we don't accidentally walk down one or anything. 

Yeah, they dinged the package on the vitamins and the watch. 

Love you mom :)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Week 1 in sin city August 4, 2013

So this week's had a few surprises. The biggest one is that I got transferred to Angeles City! The Las Vegas of the Phils, haha. My area is right in the middle of the city, and I live in a decrepit old house with the ZL's, haha. I also picked up a calling (DL) which I'm not too excited about but I'll do my best to magnify effectively. I have three companionships in my district who are all pretty cool.

Angeles is crazy...I thought I knew enough about how to talk to people about the gospel, but it's so different here. Most of the people are better off here, or students or business people, so they don't really have time to talk. Or they just ignore us, haha. There is also a lot of Americans here, because of the air base here...I don't think I'll be talking to too many of them. Most of them look like ex-cons, haha. They all come here to experience the huge night life scene or to find wives that are 60 years younger than them...they aren't usually the friendliest people either. There are tons and tons of huge malls and fast food restaurants here selling American stuff. I could go and get Burger King or DQ or buy ranch dressing if I wanted to, haha. So that is pretty sweet. 

I was pretty sad to leave my last area...we went around and got some pictures and said bye to all of our investigators the day before I left. I'll really miss the great people there and I can't wait to hear what happens to that area. I'll send all of the pictures next week. 

One of the other surprises this week was a fever that hit me right on transfer day. I woke up feeling like death inside...my stomach felt like it was full of bricks and my head was killing me. After an hour or so of that my temperature spiked up. I had my companion give me a blessing so that I would be able to make it to Angeles, and as he blessed me I felt peace that I would be able to make it, and the fire in my stomach mostly went away. I don't remember too much about the trip, only throwing up a few times (out the bus window) and crashing on a mattress when the four hour bus tip was over. I think I slept from 4 PM to 7 or 8 AM. The fever is gone now, but I still have some aches and my head feels like it's going to pop anytime. I have the nastiest head cold right now. 

My new area seems pretty cool...the work is a lot different though. Most of the people here live in big gated suburbs, and we aren't allowed to go house to house there (the people will call the guard at the gate). So basically all of our work has to come from referrals and street contacting. We don't really have any great investigators now, but I plan on changing that soon, haha. 

My new companion is Elder Bacalso...he's from Davao (southern Phils) and he's crazy (most southerners are). He's also really cool though. He's actually going home in 37 days or something like that, I'll be his last companion in the mission. 

Oh...I finally got the package! Thank you all so much. I guess it got held up at customs because there was a watch in it. The Office Missionaries (the couples) told me that if you are sending anything other than candy or food to just write 'missionary supplies' on the sheet. Then it won't get seized. I'm so happy that I have it now though. It was wonderful to read all of your letters.

I am pretty good for all of my vitamins as of now...I just need a couple more bottles of vitamin C and maybe some more oregano oil.
I love you guys. 
Sorry that this is so short. I'll write more next week.