Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 24, 2014 Spiders that eat cockroaches

 There are tons of these spiders in our house here. They do get rid of cockroaches though...
  Last Tuesday was a Fiesta (like a holiday) in Barangay Aguso, and we ate lunch at Sister Lori's house. The dishes you see there are fried chicken, caldereta (goat), minatamis na baboy (sweetened pork), lumpia shanghai, and a huge grilled tuna (SO GOOD). The little oranges are to put on the tuna with soy sauce, and I don't know what a few of the other dishes are called.  We ate a lot. 
Not the stuff you buy in a can...
 New's green. It was on sale and they had no other colours. 
 The Elders (Left to right - Elder Olsen, Me, Elder Leduna [my super cool companion], Elder Mosquera, Elder Christenson, Elder Antoni) 
Baptism! This was on the same day as Jameson's baptism. Michelle and Marilou are the two girls kind of in the middle (the short ones, but not the little kid with her mom). The APs had a baptism and so did the elders from ward 2 in our district so we just had a combined service. It was an incredible day.  I don't know all the people being baptised by name, but I've met them all and interviewed some of them. They all have amazing stories. 

Dear Family,
First off – congratulations to Jameson! It sounds like you had a wonderful baptism! I really wish I could have been there. BUT, we had a baptism too on the same day. Michelle and Marilou got baptized along with a mother and her young daughter from the AP’s area. Michelle and Marilou are Sister and Brother Ombac’s sisters. (Michelle is Bro. Ombac’s sister in law). Brother Ombac is a returned less active who is amazing (he was baptized when he was a little kid and then became less active when his family became inactive). Right after he returned, he helped his wife to get baptized, and now he is helping his siblings to be taught and baptized. He has the priesthood now and is preparing his family to enter the temple next year when his wife has been a member for a year. The work has seen enormous success in their area because of him.

I can’t believe how tall and lanky Jameson and Jarom are. AND JAMESON HAS A GECKO! We have lots of geckos in our house but they aren’t quite as cool as the one he has. I definitely approve of the gecko more than the dog, haha. 

This week has been really good. Our mission is trying to hit the standard of excellence for baptisms this month (245 baptisms) and it’s been really stressful to try and keep up with the goals that we’ve set as a zone. This week we had 11 baptisms in the zone. 6 of them were in our district and we had a combined service for all of them, which was wonderful. My favorite part of baptisms is when the new member gets up and bears their testimony; it is the best feeling to see how happy they are and all of the changes that they’ve made in order to take that step. The wards here have been great with welcoming these new converts and strengthening them.

We’ve really been focusing on finding this week because we want to build up our investigator pool. We were knocking on doors around our neighborhood the other morning and we found a cool new investigator. Her name is Sister Ricafort. We had walked onto a street and started with the first house we saw…the dad came out of the door, jumped like he saw a ghost when he saw us, yelled, “We’re busy!” in English and bolted inside. Not the best first try of the day. We decided to go right across the street to the next house, and a nice nanay answered the door and let us in. It turns out her mother is an active member in the ward – she lives a few houses away. She immediately invited us in. It turns out she is lonely because her husband works all over the Philippines as a medical worker. She just sits at home with her grandchildren and is very interested in anything to do with religion. We had a great first lesson and when we committed her to pray about Joseph Smith she said, “Of course! Why not?” We are hoping to get her mother involved in some of the lessons.

We have also had several experiences this week where we’ve been guided to people who are waiting for the gospel. It’s hard to explain how it works. You just kind of feel like you need to go to a certain house and then all of a sudden someone comes out wanting to listen, or you meet somebody that has been taught before, or find a new less active who is ready to listen again. We had the craziest experience the other day – we were proselyting  and we walked past this house with a bird cage on the front. As we passed by, the bird called out to us. (they have these crazy birds here that can speak…they mimic whatever you say as soon as your back is turned). Of course, you don’t just pass opportunities up to talk with cool birds, so we turned back and started talking with it. After about thirty seconds a woman (the owner of the bird) came out. I was afraid that she was going to say that they were Iglecia and not to talk to their bird, but as we introduced ourselves to her we found out that she is a member of the church who hasn’t been to church for three years. We met her daughter also who is seriously physically handicapped and needs a wheelchair. We were able to share a message with them and invite them to church. The ward will probably be able to help them get a wheelchair. After we left, we said thank you to the bird on the way out.

I am out of time again but I just want you to know that I love you all and I’m thinking of you. The gospel is true. We are so blessed to be a part of it.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March 17, 2014

Dear Family,                                                                                        

This week was an interesting one. First things first - I got the package! Thank you so much! I loved the little valentines and stuff. I gave Elder Leduna one of the fruit bars and he didn't like it, haha. He liked the pull n' peels and the almonds though. It was great to get some new drops and stuff. Do you think you guys could make me a program for this week?

Also, please thank Jared and Rachel for the is great stuff. I put it on every night and morning. 

I bought a new camera this morning you can expect some pictures next week :) Elder Leduna and I also got pizza after...the third time I've had pizza in my mission. There wasn't any rice. 

We started off our work on Tuesday with a lot of great lessons and one of the members came with us to her neighbors house and introduced us to them. We were able to teach the message of the Restoration and it was so great to have Sister Lori there. I doubt they would have let us inside without her there. After Tuesday though, the work seemed to go downhill in our area and we were really confused about it. We felt we were really trying our best, but things just weren't working out. We also had one whole day with no work because we went all over the zone doing interviews. On of the areas, Burgos, is a one-hour jeep ride one way. After that area, we took a bus the other way for another hour to do another interview in Capas, and then a trike for one more hour out to Dapdap, which is literally a village in the top of the mountains. Beautiful place. I thought we were going to die going up some of those hills in that trike though. I love doing was especially great to see one of them, a 20 year old man, share with us how he had been an atheist for many years growing up, and how he had come to know Jesus Christ and develop a testimony of him. It was one of the most spiritual interviews I've been in I knew without a doubt that this man had felt the blessings of the Atonement in his life. After the interviews, we took another trike back down the mountain and then rode a jeep for 2 hours back to Tarlac. Easily the most tiring day of my mission.

When Sunday came around, we were kind of down because we were nowhere near achieving our companionship goals and because a lot of baptisms in the zone fell through due to WOW problems and other stuff. We have a goal as a zone for 32 baptisms this month. It turned out though, that we were able to go on splits after church and we were able to hit a lot of our goals for the week. We were also able to extend three more baptismal dates for April. The members brought friends to church, and it turned out that almost all of the baptisms that fell through had back-ups that are starting to progress and will probably be baptized this month. Our two investigators who we weren't sure would be ready for next week both passed their interviews and are doing great all of a sudden. The Lord has blessed us so much this week. 

Elder Leduna and I were talking about faith last night in our comp. study and we were both just so blown away by what's happened this week. It was such a hard week but at the end it all turned out alright. It really strengthened my testimony that we really do receive blessings after the trial of our faith. We have to just keep going and always have hope and trust in him. 

I think it is so cool that you all got to listen to Elder Holland speak. He is one of my heroes big time. I can't believe Josh got to shake his hand. I would never wash that hand ever again, haha. I agree with him. We are so lucky to be members of the church in the area that we live in. The church is still growing a lot here, but it's been crazy to me to feel the contrast of coming from a place where the wards are solid to a place where it is hard to get 5 priesthood holders to come to church (the ward here has over 30 though :) ). We are so blessed to have the strength that we have there. The members and leaders here in Tarlac are amazing though. The church has really progressed here in this city. 

 I'm out of time. I'm sorry I couldn't reply to all of you today. I love you guys!


March 10, 2014

Dear Family, 

This has been a marvelous week. It's been an adventure working in Tarlac, and I can already tell that I'm going to get fat here because we take jeeps everywhere and the members like to feed us. We always buy lunch at a little eatery run by members and they give us probably 3x more food than we pay for, haha. We also had an awesome dinner appointment last night with Sister Joaquim...Hilagang Baboy (pork soup with cabbage and bananas) followed by coconut jackfruit ice cream. I was in heaven. 

I will hopefully have a camera again by next week so I can send you some pictures of my new area and companion. We had a great week finding. We've been focusing as a mission on teaching Doctrines of the Gospel, not 'Mormon Doctrines' as someone put it. Some of the examples given were watching TV on Sunday or saying that we aren't supposed to drink coke. They aren't doctrines. President also told us to avoid pontificating and to always engage in a two-way dialogue rather than a one-way monologue. He also explained how we are like fiber-optics...conduits that carry light, and how we must be clean and pure for that light to be transmitted. He also reminded us all that we are the CONDUIT, not the light. If we teach with our own light we are committing a form of priest-craft. Elder Leduna and I have really been trying to just teach the pure doctrine of the lessons as outlined in Preach my Gospel and to be friendly and sincere with what we say. We've had some great experiences this week from it. 

This is one of them that I wrote in my letter to President this week: 
There seems to be this culture here in the Philippines among many of the older people where they are 'solid Catholics' and they won't listen to us no matter what we tell them. It can be a very frustrating obstacle at times, especially when we are finding. I learned something very important this week about how to breach that. Elder Leduna and I were OYMing and we came across two older ladies. We greeted them with a smile and introduced ourselves and what we were doing. Of course, like so many other times, their first response was, "We are Catholic," and I kind of braced myself for another rejection and Philippines history lesson. Then one of them asked us a question, "Why are Mormons always so happy?" We immediately knew what to say and started to talk about the Plan of Salvation and the Restoration of the Gospel. They invited us to sit down and as we preached the doctrine of the Restoration and testified of the blessings it has brought into our lives, the spirit carried it to their hearts. One of them told us, "I have never been interested in listening to other religions, but I want you two to come back and visit me again." We had a similar experience with a baptist high-school teacher/youth minister. I know that the spirit was present because we were focused on the doctrine and their needs. The truths that they had gained from their religions were added onto and all were enlightened. I think this was one of the best weeks of my mission.

We met the baptist teacher when we dropped by Sister Riverra's house (Sister Riverra is a massage therapist and has been helping one of our investigators who had a stroke to be able to walk again and come to church). He had come by to give English lessons to her and her kids. We said hi to him and then Sister Riverra said, "Well, aren't you going to share a message with him?" So we did. I was a little hesitant at first when we learned that he was a youth minister back in the day but he said he'd be okay with listening to our message. He was a super nice guy. We started with the opening prayer and we were shocked when it was over to see this brother with tears in his eyes. He shared with us that he has been having some problems in his life and is trying to pay off a 1/2 million peso debt (a LOT of money here). He also told us that almost all of his family members belong to the Iglesia ni Cristo but that he doesn't want to join because he doesn't like what he sees there. We were able to teach a short version of the Restoration and read the Bible with him about how Christ helps us through our trials. I could tell the spirit was really working with him and that the truths he had found in his life were being added to. He asked Sister Riverra if we could meet with him again in her house (she gladly agreed) and we gave him a Book of Mormon. 

Those were the best two moments of this week. We had five investigators at church this week too which was good (for the city). A couple weeks ago we helped a girl out and she showed up to church with her friend who is less active. We are also teaching the siblings of Brother Ombac, who just got the Melchizadek Priesthood. His wife was baptized last month. They are a great family. 

I have been doing well. As a zone we are focusing on following the small and simple rules and studying the power of the atonement. The missionaries here in Tarlac are great. I am so glad to be working with all of them. 

I love you all. The Gospel is true. 



Monday, March 3, 2014

March 3, 2014 New Assignment

Hello Family!

It's been an exciting week of adventures. I have a new assignment now that involves a lot of paperwork, so I am really sorry if I don't reply to all of your emails. 

I got transferred this week to Tarlac City - I go to church in the stake center where the mission office is, so anything that gets sent to me will get here quickly, haha. Tarlac is huge, but not as big as Angeles. There seems to be more sketchy areas and squatter communities here though. The culture here is Kapampangan, which means I'll be eating some really good sisig while I'm here :) My new companion is Elder Leduna. He was in the same district as me in my first area and he was also my ZL in my second area. He's only got about three months left...I might even be his last companion, haha. I was super happy when I found out I'd be his companion. The last couple of days of work have been phenomenal. I feel like we're always on the same page when we teach.

I was kind of sad to leave my last area because the members there are amazing and there are five baptisms coming up this month. It was funny because the missionary that took my place there is actually the one who trained Elder Gernale (my companion in my last area). They get to be companions again. I am happy though overall with what happened this transfer. Just a little bit overwhelmed though. 

We also had MLC this week and the topic was becoming a master teacher and teaching doctrine. I learned so much. Sometimes as missionaries it's easy to get into things that aren't actually doctrine (like telling someone that it is not allowed to watch TV on Sundays). President taught us to stick with the doctrine of the scriptures and Preach my Gospel and teach it as simply as possible. One thing I really liked that he said was that if we freely give answers to people's questions, they will forget them, but if we give them something to study and tell them to find it, it will never leave them. I want to apply that more in the work. 

I haven't had much of a chance to work this week, (the MLC was a whole day) but so far I love it here. The members are amazing and there are over 200 people at church every week...with almost 50 ACTIVE PRIESTHOOD HOLDERS. It's like heaven, haha. 

I love you guys so much. I'll send some stories and stuff next week.