Monday, December 30, 2013

December 30, 2013 Christmas Trees and Baby Owls

 Poor piggie. I didn't take any pictures after this. Let's just say that it was messy. Real messy. President Mabalot is the one in white with the machete. 

 Our Christmas Dinner...grilled cheese sandwiches (with the cheddar cheese that Elder and Sister Moser gave us), Korean Style fried chicken, and Spaghetti. On Christmas Eve we ate a lot of pig. 
 Mango Float. Best Dessert ever. I'll make it for you all someday. I ran out of cream though for the top so it doesn't look very nice. 
 Pindangan Branch Christmas Party! I wish our attendance would look like this every sunday! (It will, though). 
 Some of the YM's. From left to right - Aldrin, forgot the guy in blue's name, Rodolfo (he's probably going on a mission soon), Bernie, and I don't know the kid in red. 

 Jovell and MJ with some of the members. (MJ is the taller girl that was baptized). The girl in the plaid is MJ's sister, who was baptized last June. 
 Baptism! Jovell Agustin and Mary-Jane Castro were just baptized on Saturday. Brother Maverick Mabalot was the baptized...he's getting ready to leave for his mission to Naga next month. 
In the Jungle...the Mighty Jungle...

 Baby Owl! Some of our investigators found him in their backyard :)
Elder Tavau and I earlier. We took a quick run to the market. (just kidding).

Dear Family,
It was so great to skype with you all the other day. You all look so different! You all look great though. It sounds like Christmas was a fun one for you all this year. 
Our Christmas was great…I woke up on December 24th to the sound of a pig squealing really loud and walked outside to see the branch president with a machete in his hand a pig tied up on the ground. Coincidentally, that pig became Adobo, Dinuguan (blood and intestines - which I didn’t eat), Sisig (made of pig face, snout and ears), Chicharon (deep fried fat and skin), Giniling (ground pork with potatoes and carrots and peas), Bicol Express (pork cooked in coconut milk and hot peppers), BBQ, Crispy Pata (deep fried pig legs), Kilawin (Pork cooked in vinegar and onions), and many more to come. There was also lots of ‘salad’. Salad here is made of canned fruit salad mixed with macaroni and fresh coconut with a lot of condensed milk and cream. And cheese. Lots of cheese. We will get round two of pig on New Years Eve, haha.
On Christmas Day, we went out and worked and had one of the best days in my mission. We had 9 lessons and found two new investigators. I think it was because everybody was inside their houses recovering from the Christmas Eve festivities. One of our new investigators is Iglesia ni Cristo, which makes me happy because they are usually really opposed to meeting with us. His name is Ramon…we found him outside of his house cleaning some mushrooms he picked from the field. He’s probably about 70 years old but seems pretty interested. He was especially excited when we told him about the bible and how we can ALL read it (they aren’t allowed to read the bible…only the pastors have bibles). He asked us for a bible so we’re going to try and get one for him by next time. One thing I’ve noticed (I say this respectfully) with a lot of other religions here is that their members are forbidden to listen to or accept literature from other religions. I love that our church doesn’t try to restrict us but encourages us to read and study and find out for ourselves. That’s what the Lord wants us to do – to exercise some faith and gain a witness of the truth for ourselves. There is no coercion  involved – just faith and a desire to know God’s will.  
We’ve also been teaching Sister Eva Ibarra and her three kids (Sister Eva is a member, but became inactive after her divorce…then she moved to Pindangan and we found her). Her three kids, Robalyn, Catrina and Juris (17, 14, 12 – Juris is a boy) have been taking the discussions and well as Robalyn’s boyfriend MJ. We invited them all to the Branch Christmas Party and they came! The kids have been progressing slowly but surely – they were way shy to pray and stuff when we started teaching them, but now they are opening up. The youth have been really great too in the branch for fellowshipping and helping them feel welcome. The youth here are way cool.
Our other investigators are doing alright…we have three scheduled to be baptized in January (Sister Eva’s kids) and hopefully will be able to help Sister Christine be baptized. She comes to church every week but has ben hesitant to accept commitments because of her husband (he works in Manila and is an Iglesia ni Christo). We are hoping and praying for good news though.
The best news though, is that our mission hit our goal for this year – 1350 baptisms. I think we even passed it…almost 1400. I was also so grateful to be able to hit my personal goal of twelve for the year. The Lord really helped me out with that one…I knew when I fasted and prayed about it that I’d be able to achieve it, and it was a testimony builder for me to be able to have the strength to achieve it.
I’ve been having a lot of ups and downs this week as far as my health goes. When we skyped I felt really great, and on Christmas day too. I really have faith that I can do it and finish my mission here in Angeles, and a lot of days I feel like that is what I have to do, but I have other days where I can hardly think or focus. I am still praying about it and working my hardest to know what the Lord would have me do…I am focused on staying, but I am ready to do what He wants. I’ve been reading the letters from last week and staying focused on the scriptures. I get up extra early to read and study and pray. I think things are improving overall, but it’s slow. I think this is the Lord’s way of teaching me how revelation works. Either way, I’ve learned a lot in the last couple months.
I love you guys – have a happy New Year!
Love Jared.

December 23, 2013

Thank you to all who participated in the fast we had for Elder Hubbard last week. We could feel your prayers on all of our behalf. Here is a little excerpt of what he wrote to me:
"I am doing a little bit better this week. I don't really know what to say other than that I am so grateful for all of the prayer and fasting that everyone has been doing for me. It makes me tear up to know how many people are praying for me. Thank you so much, and please thank them for me if you can. "

 Me and Elder Magno, (my trainee) at Christmas Conference (I gave him that shirt). He is training this transfer, which means I have an apo (grandson).
Elder Gernale and I (new comp) We got caught in the rain the other day.
 We made the most of it.
 More puddle-jumping action. 

Christmas Cheese! Elder Tavau from my district gave me the bear.  

 Dear Family, 

Thank you so much for all of the emails and for the prayers and fasting. I am so humbled and grateful for all that is being done for me by the family and by the ward and by friends and even people who probably don't know me. I feel stronger and confident just because of the knowledge that the power of fasting and prayer is on my side. 

I don't have a lot of time to email today because I opened my email and it was flooded with emails. I don't think I'll ever be able to reply to them all. I'm going to print off all of your emails and put them on my desk. 

This week has been pretty good. I have felt small breathing is starting to get a little bit better...pain has gone done is some places, and gone up in others, but I feel like it is part of the healing process. I have been able to keep working and teaching. I will continue to have faith and be healed. 

We had a pretty good week finding, and 7 investigators came to church! Sister Eva Ibarra and her three kids who we are teaching (Eva is a member) were supposed to come, but they were shy at the last minute and didn't show. We brought a bunch of the YSA and youth with us to their house and invited them to the Christmas party and they said they'd come, so we're excited for that. The three kids have baptismal goal dates and we are teaching the eldest daughter's boyfriend MJ too. We will try and give him a goal date too on our next visit. We were also able to find some more youth this week who have been taught in the past and were almost baptized but stopped because they were shy of the members. I don't know why everyone is shy here, because the members are great and the youth are especially strong here. Anyways, we are teaching them again and they are coming to church this week. 

It's hard here sometimes because a lot of our investigators are in the 14-18 yr old range. That isn't a bad thing, but at the same time I'd like to find some families and especially priesthood to help build up the branch. That has been one of our goals for a while...and yesterday we were able to have a small miracle. We were out finding and just going house to house (there are only about 200 houses in Pindangan (spread out over an 8 km area)) and we met this really nice guy and his wife. Brother Bong. I forgot his wife's name. I guess their 7-year old kid was really good friends with one of the members kids back in the day and the missionaries used to visit them. We were going to leave and come back another day because they were really busy, but he invited to sit down and went and picked a couple of mangoes from his tree. I was excited about that because fresh green mangoes are the best, but then he pulled out the Bagoong and I remembered that Illocanos never eat mangoes without fish paste, haha. It smells like death, but tastes pretty good. Anyways, we were able to teach him the 1st lesson and it turns out he has been searching for the truth for quite a while. He committed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon and come to church. 

It really is Christmas. My dream is that we'll be able to help the branch grow by adding another potential Priesthood holder to the ranks. 

We also had our Christmas conference this week and it was great. We watched all of the nativity videos from the Life of Jesus Christ and in between each zone sang a Christmas hymn. We sang Hark the Herald Angels Sing. President also read us a Christmas story and we had some yummy food.

This morning we went to Elder and Sister Moser's house for breakfast. They are the couples missionary in the Camiling zone. from Idaho. We had our zone Christmas activity with them. They made us breakfast burritos and even had muffins there for us. It was so nice of them and SO DELICIOUS, haha. They also surprised us with a gift...a block of cheddar cheese for each companionship that their kids brought down with them a few days ago. I haven't tasted real cheese in 15 months, and am way excited to taste it again. I'm totally shelling out for bread and making a grilled cheese sandwich. 

Our plan for Christmas this year is to probably eat dinner with some of the members and work! I'm also going to read about the nativity in my personal study.

I can't wait. 

Also I'm excited to skype with you all. 

Thank you all so much again for all the fasting and prayers. I feel ready to face this and beat it, whatever it is. I have faith that everything will be okay. 

Love you guys. I'll talk to you tomorrow!


Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16, 2013

Daryn and I decided we would invite everyone to join in a fast for Elder Hubbard this coming Wednesday, December 18, 2013. He is still experiencing serious health issues and he could use our love, prayers, and a combined fast to help him right now. Thank you so much...I know that if God wants to heal him a miracle can happen when we combine our faith and prayers.

 Illocano Food! With some of the members. The noodles are called pansit, the salady--type stuff is made of fish paste, tomatoes, unripe mango, and sprout-type things. The stuff at the back is made of coconut milk, okra, eggplant, and a little bit of pork and squash. Way good.  
 The river that flows along our area. Our whole area is basically just the stretch of road along this river. 

This sketchy bridge we have to cross every day...its basically just sheet metal nailed together. There's another one that's a hanging bridge made of planks...way scary.

Hey Mom/Family,

My new area is called Pindangan, it's in the Camiling Zone...probably the most wildernessey place in the mission, haha. That's okay though...there's mangoes here. LOTS of mangoes, haha. 

As for the bank probably got de-activated when you got the new one. That's okay though. I lasted a whole 14 months without having to get a new debit card. The bank workers at home would be so proud of me, haha. 

Its been a pretty okay week...we're still getting used to the area (the elder I replaced here just got called as a ZL, so my companion has only been there about a week) but the work is picking up. We have five investigators that are progressing and two of those 12 year old girls are going to be baptized this week. The third opted out...her parents are less active and told her to stop investigating because they want her to focus on school (I probably wouldn't have started teaching her in the first place because she is so young and her parents are unsupportive). The other two should be okay though because both of their older sisters are active. They are excited to be baptized. I'm also excited...baptisms are always a huge blessing. I will also be able to achieve the goal I set for 2013...12 baptisms. I'm really happy about that...when I made the goal, I felt like 12 was the right number and that I would be able to accomplish it. Our mission is also really close to achieving it's goal of 1350 baptisms, which is a huge miracle. It is amazing what can be accomplished with the Lord's help.

It's been a bit of a tough week for me...I have really been looking for answers and for what the Lord would really have me do. There have been a lot of good things happen this week that have given me comfort. I was reading in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 101 about how we must be tried as Abraham in order to be sanctified. We have to be able to endure trials with faith and endure chastening in order for the Lord to be able to work with us and mold us. I also read in 103:12 where it says "after much tribulation comes the blessing.' I know that there are so many blessings waiting for us if we can endure our trials. 

We also had the chance to attend District Conference this week (Camiling is made up of two districts...there isn't a stake yet) and it was really good. President Martino talked about revelation, and how to know that our personal revelation is coming from God and not our own minds. He said the we have to compare the answer we've received to what it says in the scriptures, and to what the modern prophets have said. He also shared what he does personally to make sure that revelation is coming from God...he prays about it 3 times, and if he gets the same answer all three times, he is absolutely sure that it is coming from God. Elder Villanueva of the Area Seventy also spoke about the importance of missionary work at one of the sessions, and I got to be a part of a role play/demonstration on how to teach the gospel to active members and ask for referrals. It was a little bit nerve-racking to teach in front of so many people but the spirit was strong and one of the members that we taught said that as we taught her, a name came into her mind of someone she could refer to the missionaries. They are really pushing here (and all over the world I'm sure) for the members to be more involved with missionary work. I've been learning more that as missionaries it's important to not just ask for referrals, but to teach short powerful lessons that will help the members to feel the spirit and receive inspiration for who to share the gospel with. 

The best part of the conference was when the youth stood up and sang As Sisters in Zion/Armies of Helaman. As they sang the spirit bore witness to me of the power and truth of missionary work and I've decided, no matter what happens, that I always want to do my best to be a missionary. D&C 88:73 is one of my favorite verses. It is so true and we are so blessed to be a part of this time and this work right now. 

I love you all. I'll let you know about how skype is going to work this year. It will be next week sometime most likely. It's crazy how fast it comes around...I feel like we just skyped last month, haha. 

Have a great week! I love you guys, 


P.S: JAROM! Happy birthday dude! I can't believe that you are actually 6! You're probably huge now! I hope your birthday is so fun and that you find a big pachicephalosaurus or something like that. Also, tell mom to make sure that your machine gun should be a M-16...because that's what all of the police carry around here, haha. Love you buddy!

December 9, 2013

Hiking pictures. There are 15 scenes set up along the bottom of the trail from the life of Jesus Christ.

Dear Family,

I have indeed been transferred! I am now in Pindangan (peen-dahng-ahn), which is basically just a 4 or 5 km stretch of road through the jungle with a bunch of huts and farmers. I love it, haha. There is a branch here with a gorgeous chapel and about 80 weekly attendance. The members here are strong, but there are also a lot of less actives...about 300 or so. My new companion is Elder Gernale, from the Bicol area (the missionary I trained in my second area is from Bicol too). He is really tall and quiet, but we have a lot in common so it's been good. He's a programmer/software designer. Pretty smart guy. 

Our house is right across the street from the chapel, and the branch president is our next door neighbor. Pretty great setup. 

I am also still a District Leader, but my district is only 4 elders now so it isn't too much to handle. I like small districts the best. 

I am really happy to be back in the bukid, although I miss our great investigators from the city. They are doing well though, according to my last companion. The people here in Pindangan all speak Illocano, just like the people in my first area, so I'm excited to learn more of that language. I'm not sure if I'm exciting about leaving behind the Pampangan food (Angeles is the culinary center of the Philippines...) but the Illocanos eat a lot of fresh food and veggies (and bagoong [fermented fish paste]) which will probably help out my health situation a lot. They also love soup...everything they make has sauce or broth or something watery. It's good stuff. Yesterday the members cooked this dish with eggplant, string beans, okra, and coconut milk. So good. I'm also developing a fondness for Illocano 'salad'...sour green mango, tomatoes, shrimp paste, and weird stringy sprout things. Delicious. 

Aside from the tasty food, there is a lot of potential here. The hard part is that there aren't a lot of people in this area, (kind of like a Magrath situation, but where everyone else is Catholic) so we've made plans to find part-member families and less actives so we can see some more success. We have three baptisms coming up this month though...three twelve year old girls. I guess their parents are less active but a couple of them have older sisters who are active. I was a little bit worried about the fact that they come from inactive families and wondering about whether we should still baptize them, so yesterday we told them that we would be moving their baptisms to the end of the month just to make sure they would be ready. I was so shocked when they started crying! One of them even got angry with me and said that she's been wanting to be baptized for so long and is tired of waiting. We weren't quite sure how to react at first, but we both felt that they would still be able to be baptized and that we didn't need to extend. It was a good lesson to me that faith really isn't measured by how old you are or how well you know the baptismal interview questions. It's measured by desire. I'm sure it will be a great baptism. 

We had another cool experience finding this week. We had some time before an appointment so we decided to go and tract. We felt inspired to walk down this dirt road that led to the forest. We walked a little ways and didn't really see anything, but as we were about to turn back we saw a house off in the distance. We tao po-ed it and a woman came out. After talking to her for a minute, she told us that she is a member, and had moved from the city after separating with her husband. Her name is Eva and she's been having a lot of trials in her life lately, especially with her three kids, two of whom are teenagers. We shared a quick message with her and faith and trials and then she asked to come back and teach her three kids, who haven't been baptized yet. We have a return appointment with them on Tuesday. It was simple, but I really felt that we had been guided there to help this sister, and to also find some potential investigators. 

That's about all for this week. I'm sure there will be a lot of new adventures this week...probably some dog stories, haha. There are tons of dogs here.   

Love Jared.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December 2, 2013

 Pics from our hike camera was out of batteries so Elder Mosquera took a couple for me. I'll send more next week. 

A photo after we performed for the stake presidents in the mission home. I'm in the back can't really see my face. 

Dear Family, 

I'm sorry if this email is so short...we went and hiked mount Arayat today and it took a little bit longer than we expected. It was actually a really hard hike...almost straight up through thick rocks and jungle. I came about three inches within dying...I was coming back down from the top with another elder and I guess I came a few inches a away from stepping on a snake. The elder behind me saw it come out from under the leaves close to where I'd just stepped. I saw it was a little black one with white stripes and a red tail...way poisonous. At least it wasn't a cobra though, or I probably would've been bitten for sure. 

I've had a pretty good week. One of Brother Jensen's colleagues brought the package by so I've been taking vitamins and stuff now. The guava tea has been helping a little bit but there's still a lot of weird stuff going on, so I'm hoping that the drops will add some more strength to the mix. Please tell Brother Jensen thank you so much for me. That package probably wasn't easy to bring down and I appreciate it so much. 

I was also roped into a performance this week...President and Sister Martino held a dinner for all of the stake and district presidents and a few missionaries were chosen to perform musical numbers. I played the piano part in a vocal/piano/violin arrangement of Saviour, Redeemer of my Soul. We also sang some Christmas songs and then afterwards went Christmas caroling to some of President's neighbors by the mission home. They were all way of them is actually the aunt of the current president of the Philippines. It was a great experience to be there. 

I have been having some awesome experiences this week.  Two of the less actives  that we've helped return were just called as high counselors in the Stake, and we were able to extend some baptismal goal dates to several investigators for January. I bore my testimony too on Sunday and said goodbye to the members. I'm really going to miss this ward and all of the great people here. It has been a huge blessing to be assigned here. 

I fasted on Sunday that I would be able to receive inspiration for the trials that I am facing right now. My goal is to become more sanctified, and I know that this can happen as we overcome trials and do what we can to improve ourselves. That same day we also went to visit a Sister. She has been doing so good...she has tons of friends in the relief society and is coming to church and loving it. She has been struggling though with smoking. She wants to be baptized in December, but needs to be able to go without smoking for a whole month before that happens. She had been making good progress before, but it was coming too slowly to make her baptism in December possible. We had set goals and plans and felt good about the 28th of December for her baptism, and President Martino also encouraged us to help her be baptized in December, so we weren't too sure what to teach about yesterday. When we got to the appointment though, we felt like sharing about faith and miracles with her. We shared the story of Alma and Amulek and the trials they went through, and then the miracle that the Lord provided for them afterwards. After we had read it and talked about it, I felt inspired to ask her if she had the faith to overcome her challenges with smoking, and she said yes. We also felt to give her a blessing, and after the blessing was over she looked at all of us and said, "That's it. I'm not smoking anymore." 

I don't think I've ever felt the spirit so strong in a lesson. It was like I knew exactly what he wanted me to say and it all worked out. It was a miracle for us.

That was the best part of my week. I love being a missionary and I know without a doubt that God loves me and is watching out for me, even through my trials. I can feel more and more the strength that he is giving me. 

I love you guys and I'm so glad that things are going so well at home. I wish I had more time to email now but we're rushing a lot. Tell Josh to get better for me.