Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First Baptism

This week has definitely been a great week.  I'll begin with one of the most memorable and exciting experiences of a missionary.  My first baptism. Sister Gaira was baptized this week and i was the one that was able to baptize her. One of the most amazing experiences of my life.  Those are the days that make every hardship, every hour of study, and all the trials of a mission worth it.  I'll give you a quick account of the events of the day.  The baptism wasn't till 3 in the afternoon so we started the day with our normal morning schedule.  After studies we went out to lunch to celebrate both the baptism and the new missionary that has moved into our house. It was great.  Following lunch, elder Atoigue went to the bakery to buy refreshments.  (We had to coordinate everything, the ward isn't too supportive).  Then, we were off to Cabar.  We got to the church at around 1:45 or so.  We told all those that wanted to attend the baptism to be there at 2.  I don't think anyone in the philippines owns a watch.  No one showed up till 2:20 haha so we left around 2:30 and began our 30 minute walk, through the forest, to sister Gaira's house.  When we got there, we quickly changed into our white clothing and headed for the river.  Yes the river.  No one uses baptismal fonts anymore.  It was awesome because there was four of us in white clothing making our way through trees on a muddy path.  Totally worth it.  The sight of the baptism was beautiful.  We began the service which consisted of two talks followed by a musical number.  The music man strikes again.  I was asked to sing the musical number hahah so i sang Joseph Smiths First Prayer to the music of Come Thou Fount in Tagalog. (an arrangement we used to sing in my 9th grade seminary class).  It went well. Something about being on the side of the mountain next to a river makes everything better. After the musical number, it was time to perform the baptism. Elder Atoigue first baptized the young boy, then it was Sister Gaira's turn.  We both waded out into the middle of the river.  She grasped my wrist, i rose my right arm to the square and said the baptismal prayer in Tagalog.  I concluded the prayer and slowly immersed Sister Gaira into the water.  I then pulled her back out of the water. Everything went perfectly.  I could not have asked for a better experience.  I was filled with a joy unlike any other.  Sister Gaira has been investigating the church for over a year.  A lot of missionaries have taught and grown to love her.  I was lucky enough to represent all these missionaries and officially bring Sister Gaira into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  She's an amazing person and will be an amazing member of the Church.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Finding with Faith"

Elder Atoigue and I decided to expand our area this week.  We contacted a few referrals and began walking back toward our next scheduled appointment.  For some reason I began thinking about “finding with faith,” a principle in preach my gospel.  I began to ponder what I had to do in order to receive a prompting that would lead us to potential investigators and what it would feel like. As I was doing this a house appeared in the distance.  I’m not gonna say that I was overcome with the spirit and had an irrefutable desire to run to this house and teach, because that didn’t happen.  Instead, as I looked at the house, a calm, familiar feeling came over me.  I felt as if I had been to this house before.  The structure of the house, the flowers, and the location all seemed familiar. I had a very small feeling, barely distinguishable from my own thoughts, that we should visit this house.  I shared with Elder Atoigue my desire to visit this house. So we did.  We walked up to the house and called out Tao Po (we don’t knock on doors, we yell).  A smiling nanay (mother) came out, greeted us and invited us in.  We entered the house and began talking with her. We realized that there was no third male in the house, which meant we couldn’t teach her. Her husband was at work and she wasn’t sure when he would be back.  I became a little bit discouraged. I really thought this was gonna be a good house. Not even two minutes later, her husband pulled up.  He came into the house and we got to know him a little bit.  We then began to give the first lesson.  The spirit was so strong.  The tatay (father) was paying very close attention to everything we said.  He was actually responding to questions and would give us more than a yes or no answer (that doesn’t happen very often here in the Philippines).  It was amazing. The lesson went extremely well.  I’m so excited about this family.  We’re teaching them again later today about the plan of salvation.  Hopefully all will go well!! I can testify that the spirit works through his servants.  You never know how the spirit will prompt you, you just have to be ready.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

On Mother’s Day, we had the amazing opportunity to skype with Elder Obray for two hours.  It was so exciting to hear his voice and see his cute face.  He looks and sounds great!  It was a blast to be able to laugh together as a family again.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Elder Trevor Obray

Hey Everyone! 

Trevor's family has decided to start a blog to keep family and friends updated while he is serving his mission. 

Elder Obray was called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Philippines, Manila mission speaking Tagalog.  He reported to the MTC on Wednesday, February 27.

MTC Experience

March 5, 2013
"Tagalog is going great! I can honestly say that the gift of tongues is real.  I feel it everyday and there is no way I could be doing this without it.  Our vocabulary is growing very rapidly.  Our instructor wants us to learn 50 new words and 10 new phrases everyday."

March 12, 2013
"The biggest part of our lives as missionaries right now is the language.  We are constantly studying flash cards, grammar books, and dictionaries.  I'm so surprised how quickly the language is coming.  I've learned more Tagalog in the past two weeks than I learned Spanish in two years.  Want to hear something crazy?  We learned that Tagalog is actually the third most difficult language to learn at the MTC! Crazy huh!? More difficult than Chinese and Japanese!  I guess the CIA stated that the average person takes about 54 weeks to become fluent.  We do it in 6.  Rosetta Stone has nothing on the MTC."

March 19, 2013
"Fun Fact: I think something about missionary work has caused me to forget how to zip up my pants.  Every time I look down, my fly is down. (And so is my zipper).  It gets a little embarrassing sometimes."

March 26, 2013
"I had two great experiences this week with fasting.  I decided to fast on Sunday after our class was humbled in a Tagalog lesson and we realized we barely know anything.  Luckily I did because that Sunday was crazy (Called as zone leader, performed in sacrament, overwhelmed with the language).  I felt prompted to offer to our district that we do a district fast.  They accepted and we decided to fast on Monday.  Yep, two fasts in a row.  I lost 5 pounds.  But it went extremely well!  Everyone has a new motivation and enthusiasm.  Our lesson went extremely well and the spirit was extremely strong.  I love my district." 

On April 8, 2013, Elder Obray left the MTC in Provo, UT and departed for the Philippines.  After nearly 24 hours of traveling, Trevor FINALLY made it to his mission home in Manila.

"I was doing some exercises outside of my room and President Stucki came up to me and said he had to talk to me real quick.  I sat up and listened as he told me "You will be serving in Palawan.  You can only take 43 pounds.  Start packing."

"Palawan is beautiful!! We had a hour and a half plane ride over to this wonderful island.  It was rightfully called the Celestial Kingdom on earth in the MTC."

"My first area is Cabar.  It's pretty much straight out of "The Other Side of Heaven."  Most of the people live in small huts with grass roofs.  It's amazing.  There's animals running around everywhere and they actually just make their way into people's open doors.  It's hilarious.  We have one church with about 280 members or so but only about 80 are active.  A lot of our work is with the less actives.  Our house is beautiful.  We actually live in another area so we travel about 20 minutes back and forth each day.  We have one main room, a bedroom, two small offices and a bathroom.  Oh the bathroom.  We don't have a shower so we fill up a big bucket with water and use a small bucket to pour it over our bodies.  It'll definitely take some getting used to.  Luckily we have a toilet but no one sells or uses toilet paper so we're kind of out of luck.  Yes, I had to conform to the native culture.  I'm not proud but I'm a missionary so my pride has been lost by other means anyways.  The rumors are true, you do feel more clean when you use running water and your hand hahahaha."

April 22, 2013
"I had an interesting experience this week.  We don't have washing machines or anything of that sort so we wash our clothes out of a wash basin.  I felt kind of awkward because everyone was watching me.  I guess Philippinos have never seen a white American washing clothes against his own abs before.  Hahaha just playin with you all.  We do wash our clothes out of a wash basin but we have a washboard that was actually designated for the washing of clothes.  No abs necessary." 

"We had interviews with the mission president this week and to get there we have to take a 2 hour shuttle ride up to a town called Narra (not comfy, they fit about 20 people into their shuttle/vans and the roads are all dirt at rocks).  On our way back i was sitting next to a kid that was probably a few years older than me.  He leaned over and asked if i spoke Tagalog.  I told him that i spoke a little and was still learning.  He luckily spoke english so i was able to continue to talk to him.  He was a college student who was studying Engineering at the college in Puerto.  We talked for a while before he asked me if i was a missionary.  I told him that i was and that i represented the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints.  I asked him what religion he was and he told me Muslim.  (Quick side note.  Here in Cabar, 40% of the people in our area are Muslim.  We're actually not allowed to teach them because if a muslim converts to another religion, the rest of the Muslim faith can kill them.  Yes, kill them.  There's no law enforcement here either so no one can stop them).  However, he told me that he was searching for a new religion. (That phrase is like winning the lottery to a missionary) I inquired more about his activity in his church and the ties he had to it.  They were very small so i felt prompted to continue to talk with him.  I told him that i would be more than happy to tell him about our church and so i did.  I taught the entire first lesson right there on the shuttle.  He was involve and seemed quite interested.  So i gave him a Book of Mormon and a pamphlet with our number on it.  He was ecstatic.  He told me that he wanted to start reading right then.  (I can't tell you how good it felt to actually do missionary work.  It's so hard to be in a lesson and not really understand the majority of the lesson due to an underdeveloped ability of the language.)  As soon as i finished with the lesson, we reached his stop.  (coincidence? probably not)  He got out of the van and began to walk away.  Realizing i didn't get his name, i jumped out after him, shook his hand and got his contact information.  It was a great experience.  I think Heavenly Father wants me to convert all the English speakers in the country before i start on the Tagalog speakers."  
April 30, 2013
"First Church Service.  This was one of the weirdest days of my entire life. We arrived at church a little early, set up chairs and then i played the piano and practiced a few hymns.  (BTW We have the reverse block so sacrament is last).  So it's about 5 minutes till priesthood starts and Elder Atoigue and i are just chillin when the Branch President comes up to us and says "you guys need to speak in sacrament today." Yes, he asked us to speak in sacrament.  I was freaking out a little bit.  I took a few deep breathes, settled down and told myself that i would just think about it during priesthood and i'd be fine.  Priesthood starts.  First, they ask my to be chorister.  NBD i can do that.  However, no one sings.  So it was pretty much me standing up in the front of the priesthood body (which consisted of about 15 people or so) singing a solo.  It was just dandy.  Finally it ended.  I sat down and we said our opening prayer.  Directly after the prayer, our Branch President (who was giving the lesson) asks me to sing Families Can Be Together Forever.  Right Then.  Without music.  Just me and my voice.  hahaha it was quite hilarious.  So i agreed.  I went to the front of the chapel and sang both verses of Families Can Be Together Forever.  (I'm starting to regret being thankful for president Stevenson's blessing about music haha just playing, i still love it). So that was intense.  Not much time to think about my talk there.  So then during sunday school Elder Atoigue and i had to give the lesson.  (Don't worry i talked about pre earth life and agency.  Crushed it).  So again, no time to think about my talk.  We then go to the chapel to await sacrament meeting.  I thought, i'll hurry and gather some thoughts and try and translate them to Tagalog.  Nope.  I played prelude music.  So then sacrament started.  Announcements and the sacrament took about ten minutes.  Did i mention i was the first speaker.  Yep so i after sacrament i kind of just stood up, walked to the pulpit.  I decided i wanted to talk about faith.  So i did.  For five minutes.  In Tagalog.  It was awesome.  I have no idea if the congregation understood what i was saying but i felt so good after the talk was over.  I talked about faith and Ether 12:27.  Through faith, weak things become strong.  It was one of the greatest experiences i've had since i've been here.  I'm so glad i had this opportunity.  I realized that it was through experiences like this that makes our testimony grow the most.  It's times where we're forced to speak the language that we get the most out of it.  I finally feel like i'm making progress in the language.  Don't get me wrong, i still suck, but i'm finally understanding sentences and i can finally respond a little.  I know that it will be quite a while before i can be myself and truly teach the way i would in English. However, i know that day will come, and when it does, it'll be so sweet.  Experiencing the bad makes the sweet so much sweeter.  It's like alma says, "my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain." I've felt that pain and now it's time to experience the joy.  Every day gets a little bit better.  By the end of these two years, i might not want to come home.  And if i do, when i get there, i'll eat rice for every meal."

May 5, 2013
"Let's see. What to talk about first.  Elder Atoigue and i have started a new weekly service project.  Piano lessons.  Yep the music never ends here in Cabar (and when i say elder atoigue and i, i mean me).  We had our first lesson this week.  I taught 4 girls but they said they want to bring the entire young womens to learn so the next lesson might have quite a few more people.  It went really well though.  Music is such a huge part of the church and not one person in Cabar knows anything.  We really want to call a piano player that i can teach one on one so they can play music after i leave. Hopefully it works out!!"
"Part two of my music career.  So we had a short meeting after church yesterday and our branch president informed us that the Cabar branch would be singing in the next district conference! You'll never guess who was asked to lead the choir.  Yep, the music man himself, Elder Obray.  I'VE NEVER EVEN BEEN IN A CHOIR! hahaha how in the heck am i supposed to lead one. (keep in mind that these guys don't have any music background at all). And remember how i said that these people are extremely shy? Yeah it's duplicated ten fold when it comes to music.  This might be the smallest choir performance in the history of the world. The conference isn't till November and they want to start practice on sunday.  THIS SUNDAY! We're singing one song and the conference is about 7 months away.  hahaha this is gonna be quite the experience. Oh and it will be in Tagalog."