Sunday, October 27, 2013

Liver Should Not Be Used for Human Consumption

I just want to start by saying that I love missionary work.  Seriously, I love it.  Every day is filled with experiences that I wouldn't trade for anything.  This week has been especially great. Elder Villoso and I are doing work here in the Manila 2nd ward. We have found some of the most amazing investigators in this past week.  A lot of these investigators have been found among the less actives of our ward.  As I have explained before, the Philippines has an enormous less active problem.  The percentage of active members is somewhere between 30 and 40.  Therefore, a lot of our time is spent contacting and teaching less active members.  We seek to find a balance between teaching and baptizing investigators and reactivating less active members.  Some of the advice given to us is to find our investigators among the less active members.  That's exactly what we did this week.  We found 4 part member families that are now progressing toward reactivation and their new baptismal dates.

 I have to tell you a little story about one of these families. A couple days ago, one of our appointments fell through so we pulled out our CMIS and began looking through the list of members.  As we were looking through the list of names, one name stood out. We looked at the address and were happy to find out that we lived fairly close. We made our way through the narrow alleys that are so characteristic to Manila and finally stumbled upon their house.  We met Johana, a less active member.  She was baptized as a child and was active until she moved to Manila at the age of 15.  She was brand new to the area and did not know anyone. She made her way to church one Sunday.  She was alone and was not fellow-shipped by the ward. That was the last time that she went to church.  She is now 28 years old and has been inactive for 13 years (might want to check the math).  We set a return appointment where we could meet with her whole family. That appointment was set for this past Saturday. Upon arriving, she gladly welcomed us into her house and invited us to sit down. Johana then asked me "did you not get my text? I sent you a text informing you that I wasn't feeling to well and asked if we could reschedule." I informed her that I hadn't received her text and asked if it was ok if we stay and give a short lesson.  She agreed and called her husband to join us (who is a devoted catholic by the way).   We gave a short but powerful lesson about the families. The lesson was amazing.  The spirit was so strong. At the close of the lesson, we invited her to pray.  She accepted and gave the greatest prayer ever.  Before we left, she thanked us for coming and invited us to come back again the next day. Of course, we accepted her invitation.  Sunday was amazing.  We gave a lesson about prophets, the priesthood, and Jesus Christ. We began to emphasize the importance of prayer. We committed them both to pray later that night and to ask if our message was true.  Her husband, Carmelino, told us the following: "I will agree to pray, but as far as asking if the message is true... I already know that everything you are saying is true." Holy. Those were the sweetest words I had ever heard. He followed up his statement with the following question, "How will I feel when the spirit testifies to me that I should be baptized?"  Seriously, this guy is golden. It doesn't get much better than this. I love this family. I love the spirit. I love missionary work. He will be baptized on December 14th. And by the way, they told us that they will be going to church from now on.  He's changed his schedule in order to attend church every Sunday. 

A little note about the food her in Paco. Rice and Ulam.  It's delicious. The Philippino people know how to cook.  I've grow to love vegetables.  We eat vegetables like crazy here. A lot of the dishes are pure vegetables because they are so cheap.  Meat costs a lot more so a lot of people will eat mostly vegetables with a little bit of meat on occasion.  They haven't mastered the art of chicken roll ups though.  I think seven chicken roll ups could feed a large family here. Nothin too crazy about the cuisine here though.  They do put a lot of liver in their dishes though.  I'm not the biggest fan of liver.  It has the weirdest texture and frankly should just not be used as food. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

You Gotta Go Through the Trials to Experience the Miracles

What a wonderful week here in the Philippines.  It's torturous hearing about how the leaves are changing colors and fall is approaching. I sure love the fall season.  We are not lucky enough to experience that great time here. It's still hot, it still rains, the only thing that changes colors here is the sky... due to pollution.  The city of Manila isn't exactly a beautiful place. It's actually exactly the opposite, so pangit (ugly). There is a river running through the city though.  At first sight you would never guess it was a river. It's more of a landfill.  So much trash and for some reason it bubbles.  I have no clue why. If someone were to fall into it, they would not be coming back out. You actually know when you’re approaching the river because you can smell it for miles. However, even though this place makes your eyes hurt, your nose burn and your ears bleed, I love it more than any other place on earth (excluding Utah of course). This is the place that I'm supposed to be. 

Saturday was one of the best days of my mission.  We had the baptism of Donnalyn. She was one of the investigators that Elder Tofi and I taught before our area was split. She is the most amazing person ever.  Her husband is a member (less active but returning) and they have two kids. I love their family so much.  A couple days before the baptism, the sister missionaries that are currently teaching her informed me that she wanted me to baptize her. I was so dang excited. I was also asked to give a talk on the Holy Ghost. It went great.  Seriously, just thinking about the baptism makes me smile. We also performed a musical number.  6 of us missionaries sang "A Child's Prayer." We crushed it. The spirit was so strong during the service.  I honestly can't describe the feeling that was there. The best part is that in one year they will have the opportunity to be sealed together forever in the Manila temple. There is not doubt in my mind that they will do everything in their power to make that happen. I sure hope that I'm in a position that allows me to attend when they are finally sealed. Seriously, I love missionary work. I've learned a little principle about missionary work.  When you think that it can't get any worse, it does.  However, when you think it can't get any better, it does. You gotta go through the trials to experience the miracles. 

So I gotta tell you about this family that Elder Villoso found last week. It all started when one of our appointments fell through.  We started to head to another appointment when we noticed a woman outside her house washing her clothes. I felt prompted to approach her and start a little conversation. (This prompting was crazy too.  Elder Villoso and I were talking and out of nowhere I found myself walking away from Elder Villoso while he was still talking and toward her.  It was definitely the spirit.)  She was not interested in anything that we had to say. She called her husband to talk with us just so she wouldn't have to. We talked for a while but he did not show much interest at all.  We continued to talk about the gospel and about families. We asked if we could return and the husband reluctantly agreed. After our visit, they were completely different people. I couldn't believe the change that was wrought upon their hearts. The spirit was so strong. We've visited them a couple times since and they have begun reading the Book of Mormon and praying. They weren't able to come to church yesterday but have expressed to us their desire to attend.  They accepted a baptismal date for the 23rd of November. Have I mentioned that I love missionary work.  

Let's see, what else has been special about this week.  One of our toughest investigators, Debbie, has finally started reading the book of Mormon!! Seriously, there are few things that make missionaries happier than when people finally start reading the book of Mormon after weeks of declining the invitation.  

PS Don't worry, I am putting on mosquito repellent every night before I go to bed, so hopefully that will prevent getting Dengue again. And I'm saying my prayers, so that should help too. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Have I Mentioned That I Love Missionary Work?

It sure has been a great week.  These last two days have been jammed packed with some great moments.  It all started with conference.  All I have to say is that the general authorities did not disappoint.  It was an awesome conference.  Like I said last conference, something about being on a mission makes you more susceptible to gospel lessons. You get twice as much out of conference than any other time in your life.  I felt like I was being personally taught.  I can testify to the difference it makes when you go into conference actually prepared to receive answers.  One common theme that I noticed was the importance of trying everyday to become more like our savior. Everyday we should strive to do a little bit better than we did the day before.  Of course, we're not perfect. We mess up every now and then. Some days we end up moving a step backward instead of forward.  However, this does not give us the excuse to remain a step back. We should awake the next day ready to make up the lost ground and more. While I was pondering about this lesson and other lessons that were taught to us during general conference, a thought crossed my mind about growing personally. Rarely do we grow when we are within our comfort zone. This has kind of been one of the themes of my mission.  It seems like such a simple principle, but application of such a principle brings an outpouring of blessings.  If you want to grow in a specific area, push yourself.  The more you stretch, the more you grow. If you want to develop better social skills, talk to people, even when it makes you nervous.  If you want to be a better teacher, take opportunities to teach.  If you want to develop a talent, continue to work even when you're tired.  No matter what you may be trying to be developing, push yourself out of your comfort zone. 

Following general conference, one of the investigators that elder Tofi and I taught was interviewed for baptism. She will be getting baptized this Saturday.  I'm so excited for her. She has such a strong testimony.  Her name is Donnalyn.  Her husband is actually a member of the church but has been inactive for a while.  He has recently returned to church and is now helping his wife into the waters of baptism.  So awesome.  They have two kids and will be taking the first step to being together forever.  I have no doubt in my mind that they will remain active in the church and in one year be sealed for eternity in the temple. Seriously, missions are awesome. 

Yesterday was a pretty great day as well.  We had interviews with President Stucki.  He's such a great guy.  He has such a powerful testimony and seriously radiates light and the spirit. Just being in his presence makes you happy.  We also had district meeting yesterday.  I sure do love being a district leader.  I love my district so much.  Every single person is unique.  We have the widest range of personalities ever.  You really learn something from everybody in your district. 

After our interviews we went to a FHE at one of the less active members house near we live. Her name is Mirium and she is so close to reactivating.  She's awesome. It was just supposed to be us, her daughter and two of her daughter’s friends that are investigating the church.  However, I guess they invited all of their friends as well. We got there and found ourselves in the midst of like 15 girls from the age of 12-17 hahaha they all wanted to join in on our family home evening. I guess elder Villoso is just a ladies man.  The girls just flock to him. I think I found Chandler's wife though.  I'm gonna be setting him up with one of the girls that was there. She only speaks Tagalog but I think we can work past that.  They can use Google translator. You down Bing? She's a cutie.

Today has been an awesome day.  We had quite an interesting experience earlier today.  I was called yesterday by the APs and told that there was a member that just moved here from the states.  He doesn't speak any Tagalog and needed help buying a few things. So earlier today we met him at a mall nearby and helped him out. He was such a cool guy.  He works for the military and was called on a secret mission here in the Philippines.  He couldn't even tell me what he was doing here.  Crazy.  So we spent a couple hours with this bro buying stuff and talking about America.  I sure miss that country sometimes. Afterward, we invited him to McDonalds to eat with us and our district. When we got there he told us that he was going to pay for all of us! All 8.  Yeah this guy is the man.  I told him that he didn't have to do that and he responded by saying that he wants the blessings that come from helping out the missionaries.  Can't argue with that. I'll gladly eat free McDonalds so you can receive blessings.  

It sounds like life is great there in Layton.  Don't worry, in about 17 months, it'll get a heck of a lot better.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

This week has been full of ups, downs, frustration and miracles. Gotta love missionary work.  The Lord never runs out of ways to surprise us and teach us a little bit more. 

Elder Villoso and I are doing great.  Our companionship has really grown in the past week.  We actually have a great time.  We're still trying to settle into our area.  We've been trying to do a lot of finding and we've actually seen a lot of results.  After the area was split, we dropped to 3 investigators with baptismal dates, but have since worked our way back up to 8 with some really great new people and families. It's truly amazing how the lord places in your path those that are ready to hear his gospel. It has really been an answer to my prayers.  I was really stressed right after the transfer.  I followed the example of the sons of Mosiah and turned my self over to much prayer and fasting. Answers began to follow immediately.  This truly is the Lord’s work and he is with us every step of the way.  He's on our right hand and on our left.  I can honestly feel his angels round about me, bearing me up.  One thing that I've really come to appreciate is the small and simple things.  As a missionary, I often seek after the "ensign worthy" miracles and become blinded to the small miracles that I experience every single day. I've learned the importance of stepping back and observing the small works of our Heavenly Father.  His hand is in our every day life.  

We had a really great opportunity this week to go to the temple.  We had what is called a Temple Tour.  It's such a cool day because we get to take investigators and recent converts to the temple and teach them about the temple while on temple grounds. Unfortunately, none of our investigators were able to attend.  We honestly asked everybody that we were teaching.  We almost resorted to asking random people passing by on the street.  It was pretty depressing going to a temple tour without investigators, but it was an awesome experience regardless.  It was especially cool because all the missionaries were there from the mission so I was able to talk with everyone from my MTC district that came here to the Manila mission.  I also was able to talk with Elder Tofi and some other good friends I've made while I’ve been here. It was great. 

So I’ve made a couple trips to the hospital this week.  They officially tested me for Dengue, and yes, I have it.  Way awesome.  The great thing is that it's pretty much completely gone away.  I'm still pretty tired all the time, but I can deal with that. 

So I came into this email session determined to tell you about one of our really progressing investigators.  About 15 minutes ago, he walked in and sat down right next to me.  Gotta be divine intervention. Anyway, he's an awesome bro. We've been teaching him for about two weeks and he is just the man.  He came to church the first time we invited him (which is unheard of) and also came to church this last week.  That's phenomenal. The great thing is he tells us how much he loves church after he goes.  He's participates and has already made a ton of friends in the ward.  I'm gonna give y'all some advice. If you want to be best friends with the missionaries, really reach out to those that they bring to church (or you can just have them over for dinner). Introduce yourself and make them feel welcome.  The members are so vital when it comes to investigators at church.  Never walk by a new face without introducing yourself!! Anyway, he's a boss.

Way stoked for conference this week.  The Philippines is a little behind.  We don't get conference till the week after you guys. So, I'm way stoked.   They're going to show a midnight premiere at one of the chapels on Friday night.  Elder Villoso and I are taking our tents over later tonight to save our spot in line. So much better than Iron Man 3 or those other movies that I can't wait to watch. 

PS. There's Christmas lights and Christmas trees everywhere. These guys are crazy. It's October. 
Reunited with best friends from the MTC