Sunday, August 25, 2013

Who Said Swimming is Against Mission Rules?

Buckle up, this week was epic.  I hope I can type everything that happened fast enough!! 

So Tuesday was one of the craziest days of my entire mission in terms of culture. It all began Monday night when it began to rain extremely hard.  It continued to rain throughout the night and when we awoke... all the streets were flooded. I'm not talking a little water accumulated in the gutter.  No, I’m talking waist deep!! We received a call from the zone leaders telling us that a house of one our district members had flooded. So we walked to their house.  In waist deep water.  It was gross.  There were diapers floating by, half eaten corn, flip flops, everything.  We helped them get everything out of the water and then escorted them to the senior couples house (on the opposite side of our area) while their house dried out.  It was quite the morning.  We finally made it back home around 11 or so and received a call informing us that we had to stay indoors the rest of the night.  It was the most boring day of my entire life.  We have absolutely nothing entertaining to do at our house because we're never there, so we kind of just sat around, read preach my gospel, studied the scriptures and other really fun stuff. It was quite the day.
Luckily, the next day, most of the flooding had gone down and we were able to work. 

Saturday was a great day.  Two of our investigators were baptized.  Sister Michelle and Brother Mark Ng. The coolest people ever.  I'm so happy that I was able to meet and teach them.  Brother Mark is a really cool guy.  He's 20 years old, single and works as a physical therapist.  He's fairly soft spoken but has a strong testimony.  I had the great opportunity to confirm him a member of the church yesterday.  Even though I've only known him for about two weeks, my joy was full.  I cannot describe the feelings that overtook me as I watched him walk into the waters of baptism and as I placed my hands upon his head to confirm him a member of the church.  It was so amazing.  There are few things that can match the joys of being a missionary. 

I cannot express how much I love the people in this area.  The better I become at Tagalog, the better I get to know the people.  The better I get to know the people, the more I love serving them.  Everyday, I’m amazed at how perfect the gospel of Jesus Christ is.  It has answers to every question and helps us through every trial.  We had the opportunity to teach a less active member this week.  Her name was Maria.  She was an elderly lady and so nice.  We felt inspired to teach a lesson on faith.  The lesson went well.  At the end of the lesson, her eyes swelled up with tears and she began to sob. She began telling us about the many trials she was facing with her health and her family.  She proceeded to ask us why god was giving her so many trials. One of my favorite sections from the doctrine and covenants popped into my head; D&C 121.  I shared with here a couple verses that always help me through hard times.  I ended by reading verses 7 and 8.
7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; 
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shall triumph over all thy foes. 

I cannot describe the spirit that was present in that lesson.  I can testify that these verses are true.  As a missionary, you experience more hardships than ever before.  These words spoken to Joseph Smith can give us the drive to push through all adversity.  The lord is refining us to receive the greatest gift that he has to offer.  Trials may seem long and agonizing in the moment, but when we emerge on the other side, when we finally conquer the mountains that have been placed in our path, we will notice our progression, we will realize that we are far better than we were at the start and are that much closer to becoming even as Jesus Christ is.  I love life as a missionary.  There is nothing else that I'd rather be doing. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"I am in Another World"

This week has been one of the craziest, most exciting, frustrating, stressful weeks of my entire mission.  I'll take us back to last Monday right after finishing up emailing with you guys. 

So we arrived at home after email and began planning our meals for the upcoming week when we received a call from the big dog, President Stucki. Elder Clarito answered the phone while the rest of us sat there wondering why in the world we were receiving a call from President.  Then Elder Clarito handed the phone to me and told me that it was for me. I had no clue what to expect because the pres doesn't call just to tell you your next area. So I answered the phone, had some small talk, you know, all that fun introductory stuff and then President Stucki told me that he had an assignment for me. He continued to explain that the Lord has called me to be a District Leader in the Pasay Zone!! A district leader.  I don't even know how to be a junior companion yet! I was filled with an indescribable excitement that was coupled with a little bit of fear. With the calling of District Leader also comes the calling of Senior Companion so this next transfer will be a fun one full of new experiences! 

The next ground-breaking event came on Wednesday after arriving on the main land: meeting my new companion.  In my mind, I was pretty confident that my new companion would be a Filipino since I'm still kinda terrible at Tagalog. Nope. He's from California.  His name is Elder Tofi.  He's 6' 3", about 260 pounds and Samoan.  He's a way cool guy! He's been in the field for a little over 3 months. He played one semester of football at BYU before he came. He's a monster and a great missionary.  We're having a great time. We're quite a sight here in Manila. An American and a 6' 3" Samoan, who barely speak Tagalog, tearin' up the streets of Pako in white shirts and ties hahaha just thinking about it makes me laugh. 

I love the area. We are in a very poor part of town. Very dirty.  Garbage everywhere. The people here live in very small houses that usually only consist of one room. People live wherever they can find room.  Under bridges, on the side of the street, everywhere. It's crazy.  The living conditions here make those in Cabar look luxurious.  It's been raining non-stop here and the streets are completely flooded; knee deep in some places. A fun fact about flooding here in the Philippines.  The streets only flood when the sewers are filled to capacity, and that means everything in the sewers begins to flood the streets. Yep. Gross.  We walk knee deep in who-knows-what.  And it smells terrible.  But I love it here. I love the people.  I love the members. I love the fast pace of the city.  I love McDonalds (never thought I'd say that). I love always having electricity. It's a great area.  I know I'm gonna love it here. Another great thing: some of our investigators speak English and we actually get to teach in English!  I love it.  It's so great being able to express everything that you want to say!! I feel that I can be so much more effective because I can manipulate English and really apply what I'm saying to the needs of the people.  I can't wait to able to do that in Tagalog.  However, there are those that can't speak English.  That's where missionary work gets exciting for Elder Tofi and I.  Our lessons are very simple, but they are accompanied by the spirit. We have some seriously awkward moments.  It's hilarious.  But that definitely doesn't stop us.  We talk to as many people as we can and try our best. We're seeing some great results too! Elder Tofi's last companion was a previous AP and they really started this area off right. Elder Tofi and I are continuing the legacy.  Right now we have 17 investigators with baptismal dates.  You can't stop the two tallest people in the Philippines. 

Well that's all I have time for today! It's been a crazy week.  I wish I could tell you EVERYTHING that happened this week.  I think you could make a movie about the experiences Elder Tofi and I are having. I love missionary work.  I love the Lord. This is his church.  He lives. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

First Transfer

Well this week has been pretty eventful.  The biggest news came on Tuesday while up in Narra for Zone Conference; Elder Clarito will be training here in Cabar and I will be transferred! Yep, first area transfer of the Mission.  Crazy Stuff. Not sure where I’ll be transferred yet but I should find out in a couple of hours.  So I guess you'll have to go about this week wondering where exactly Elder Obray is.  My emotions are kinda all over the place. I'm way stoked to experience another part of the Philippines but I’m so sad that I have to leave the Cabar Branch.  I love the people here so much.  They're amazing. Over the past four months I’ve developed strong relationships with a lot of the people here and it's going to be hard to say goodbye. However, I know that what ever area I will be assigned to is the area I’m supposed to be in.  I'm not sure who's gonna maintain my choir. I haven't found a suitable successor yet, but I’m pretty confident that the in depth applications, and the rigorous music theory test later today should bring about some results. I will most likely be transferred back to the mainland, so I’m way excited to experience life in Manila.  I hear it's loud, dirty, and way cramped (sounds like my room back home. I'll fit right in).

We had an awesome experience yesterday.  We were just about to head home for the night yesterday when we walked by a group of people doing the Native Dance of Palawan.  Way epic! The branch missionaries we were working with insisted that we give it a try.  So we did! So much fun.  We got a good video of Elder Clarito and i trying (videoing is kind of bawal (against the rules) but i couldn't pass this up. I'll repent later).  I wish I could send it to you but the file is way too big so I guess you're just gonna have to wait another 18 months to see. You now have something to look forward to!

Went on exchanges this week with one of the Zone Leaders. I learned a ton.  One thing that I forgot to tell you is that the native language of Palawan is not Tagalog. So Tagalog is their second language, meaning everyone in Palawan speaks with a little bit of an accent. The people of Cabar are very native and have a lot thicker accent.  So when I went up to Narra, everyone spoke a more pure form of Tagalog. I was able to understand so much more! It was wonderful. It makes me excited to be back in Manila!!

Got quite a few compliments on my Tagalog this week. It was a great confidence booster.  One of the members of our branch served a mission and had a few American companions.  He told me that my Tagalog, at four months in the field, is about as good as one of his companions who had been in the field for 7 months. It made me way happy.

The work was pretty difficult this week. I swear everyone in Cabar went on a group vacation because no one was home.  It was quite frustrating. So sorry, not much to report here. Such is life as a missionary.

I'm going to end with a quote by Elder Bednar at a missionary fireside:

"We love the Lord.  We serve him.  We follow him.  We represent him."

Perfect quote describing missionary work.  If you live by this quote, you will go home after two years and be satisfied with the work and the service that those two years were filled with.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

You Ate What!?

What an epic week.  I'll start off with last P-day. Probably the best P-day I’ve had since being in the mission.  We went to Mainit Falls. The most beautiful hike I’ve ever been on.  It was about an hour hike to the top and there were waterfalls everywhere. It was amazing.  The hike was way cool because there wasn't really a path.  You kinda just weed wack your way along the river bank (so much better than designated paths). Almost as good as Adam's Canyon.

I had quite the experience this week. I tried the most extravagant food you could dream of... by accident. So we were at our branch President's home last Monday for a Family Home Evening and he was BBQing (a lot of people here have little grills outside their house that they cook different things to sell). He was cooking pork, pigskin, pig fat, and one other thing that we assumed to be pig liver.  So we decided to give pig liver a try. Neither of us had tried it and it was only three pesos (about 8 cents).  It wasn't too bad. Not the greatest taste but pretty good.  After we had finished we were talking with president and we found out that it was in fact not pig liver. Nope, it was pig blood.  PIG BLOOD. They add some sort of ingredient that causes it to solidify, BBQ it up and serve it all over the Philippines. If I had come across this in America, I probably would have thrown up.  Not here, we eat anything and everything. Fish eyeballs, heart, chicken stomach, ground fish with vinegar, if it doesn't kill you, we eat it. 

It's been a while since I’ve shared a spiritual thought so I’ll let 'er rip right now. 

These are a few scriptures that have really helped me through learning a language (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

When I first got here, I wondered why the Lord doesn't allow all his missionaries to speak immediately.  I wondered why it had to be so difficult.  These scriptures were the answers.  No "enticing words of man's wisdom" will ever be able to fully convert someone to the gospel.  Like Paul, my teaching is "not with excellency of speech or of wisdom", I’m weak, and not gonna lie, a little scared at times, but my testimony in the Lord is unshaken. I know that He lives.  And when I declare repentance unto the people here in the Philippines, I do my best to speak with power and boldness, in order to show those that we're teaching that their faith should not be in me nor in my flattering words, but in the power of God. It is by the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost alone, that we come to know eternal truths. By no other power can the mysteries of God be revealed.