Sunday, December 28, 2014

.......and a Happy New Year!

Elder Avila is transferring! He has two transfers left and the Lord is going to have him train for those last two. Crazy. That means I’ll be staying here for the rest of my mission and will be getting my final companion. My new companion will be Elder Thurber. I'm super stoked to be companions with him. We were both in Bonifacio at the same time and he lived the floor above me so I know him pretty well. He'll be a great companion. I sure am gonna miss Elder Avila though. He's a great missionary and is fun to be around.

So you mentioned getting an x-ray in your email. Lindsay was exactly right. All the going home missionaries are required to get a chest x-ray before they head home to check for TB. It's actually quite funny that you mention that because I will actually be getting mine later today. Cross your fingers it'll come out clean. Just playin, I’ve never heard of a missionary actually getting TB so I think I’ll be ok. Another thing we'll be doing in the next couple weeks is fingerprinting. The word on the street is that you sometimes see missionaries from other missions so there's a chance I’ll be able to hook up with Elder Hale while I’m there. 

I had a great experience at church yesterday. In the international ward, Bishop Hill asked me to offer the closing prayer during sacrament. It was the first time in my life to give a prayer in Sacrament meeting. Wow. You bet that went into my journal. About an hour later, 5 minutes before the Makati 3rd sacrament started, Bishop Espi came up to me and asked me to speak about missionary work. I was happy to. I've spoken more in this area than I have in any other. I sure do love these wards though. It is a pleasure to be a part of this work and work with these wonderful members. 

This week's a pretty crazy one. In about 30 minutes we will be participating in going home activities with all of the missionaries that head home tomorrow. It's a sad day because all of my best buds head home. Elder Hawkins and Elder Diamse are included in those going home. It's going to be very sad when they head out. I'm spent a lot of time with those two and we have become great friends. They're both planning on going to BYU though so I’m sure I’ll see them again in no time. 

Well that's about all I’ve got time for today! We're just about to head out. Have a wonderful New Years! We'll be dodging all the drunken people and firecrackers! I sure love ya!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

God is Mindful of Every People

What a wonderful week. Isn't the Christmas season the greatest time of the year? I just love Christmas so much. It's an amazing time to be a missionary because you can share the wonderful story of Christ's birth with every living creature you see. It truly doesn't get much better than that. Well I have so much to tell you today so I’m gonna dive right into this email. 
First things first. Christmas came early for me this year. I received the most joyous news that I have ever received this last week. In church yesterday I received a text from the zone leaders in Pasay north. They informed me that the Caras family will be sealed in the temple on January 9th at 7 am. Just writing that brings tears to my eyes. This is truly what it's all about. I have been looking forward to this day for the past year and it's finally happening. I could not be more happy for that wonderful family. Families truly are eternal. 
I learned a valuable lesson this week. That lesson was that you don't really know how important something is until you no longer have it. Unfortunately, I had to learn it the hard way when someone stole both of the side mirrors off our car in the middle of the night. Yep, some random person stole the side mirrors off our van. Isn't that so sad? I don't understand some people. I was thus forced to drive around the streets of Manila without side mirrors. That was quite the experience. A very scary experience. Luckily as a missionary you always have a companion. He was therefore my side mirrors while driving. Unified in all things. 
Saturday was amazing. It was the baptisms of Samuel, Wilma and Lynn. Unfortunately, Noah wasn't baptized this last week, but he will definitely be getting baptized in the next couple months. It was such a great day. Out of all the baptismal services I have attended, this was one of the best. It was the very first baptismal service I’ve attended on my mission where everything was in English! It was kinda trippin me out. Lynn requested that I be the one to baptize her and I was more than happy to oblige. What was truly amazing though was Mike was able to baptize Wilma. They have the best story ever. It's quite amazing how far they have come and the steps they are making. Wilma informed me this last week that she and Mike will probably getting married (civilly) in June of UTAH!! I LIVE IN UTAH. You bet I’ll be there. She told me that I better be there because she won't know anyone else. Wouldn't miss that for the world. Anyway, the baptismal service was so spiritual. The entire ward came to support Samuel, Wilma and Lynn. It was a cool sight. One of my favorite lines of the day was stated by Samuel. Right after he was baptized he told me, "Man, I didn't want to come out of the water! It just felt so good!" Samuel, Wilma and Lynn all had the opportunity to bear their testimonies after and if I hadn't seen the baptismal service, I would have thought they'd been members for years. I was quite impressed. One of the statements I love hearing the most is, "I've read the book of Mormon and I know that it is true." There are few things that compare to that. 
So I’m going to go off on a little tangent here about Wilma. Wilma grew up in a very religious household. Here entire family was very dedicated to their religious beliefs. She explained in her testimony that she reached a point in her life where she realized that something was missing. She searched a lot looking for the church. One day she came across and felt something different. She began to research more and was struck by the story of Joseph Smith. She recalled that she felt exactly what Joseph Smith felt; confusion. Therefore, she did exactly what Joseph Smith did; she prayed. We all know what happens when true seekers of truth humble themselves before God and seek divine guidance through prayer. The rest is history. Now she's a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
Now for Samuel. He told us about an experience he had while still living in Ghana where he met an American missionary of another faith. He volunteered to translate for this missionary while he was serving in their country. He spent a lot of time with him and got to know him very well. One day, this missionary told Samuel, "One day you are going to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." That statement made an impression on him considering it came from a missionary from another faith. He didn't think much about it though until he was walking the streets of Singapore and he saw two sister missionaries with nametags walking near a train station. He approached them, stuck out his hand and asked, "Hi, how can I be saved." The sisters calmly replied with a smile, "That's a great question. Why don't you come to our church on Sunday and we'll tell you." That Sunday, he did exactly that. Looking back now he stated, "I've never felt more welcome in my entire life. I knew then that I wanted to be a member of the church." That week he made his way to the Philippines, sought out the church and that's when we found him. He commented, "I now know that God has a plan for all of us and will help all of us return to him." 
Finally, Lynn. Lynn has gone through some very tough experiences in her lives. There were numerous occasions where she felt lost and unsure of the path that she should take in her life. She told us about one particular experience where these thoughts were the most intense with the stresses of finding a job on top of that. She fell down on her knees one day and asked the Lord to help her find out what she was supposed to do. A few days later, she found her answer. Those answers are named Mike and Wilma (yep, the same Mike and Wilma). She was hired by Wilma to help her around the house at the same time Wilma was starting to investigate the church. One day as Lynn was cleaning the house she spotted a book sitting on the table. She took a second and began to examine the book. She opened to the first few pages and began to look at the pages on the front. As she did so, an indescribable feeling embraced her. One thing led to the next and before we knew it, Elder Limocon and I were teaching her about the Restoration. Lynn made big steps very quickly. She was willing to do anything. "Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth." 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Calm Before the Storm

We are currently sitting in a computer shop during "The Calm Before the Storm." Typhoon Ruby (the Filipino name for the storm) has slowed down a bit and won't be arriving here until a little bit later this afternoon. Unfortunately, when storms slow down, it's not a good thing. It allows for a lot more rainfall and thus, a lot more flooding! Our area flooded pretty bad the last time a typhoon hit so we're expecting to be stuck in our apartment for quite a while. Don't worry, I’ll take pictures and send them to you next week. I'm glad to hear that everything is going well at home! I'm so glad to hear the Christmas season is finally upon you over there on the other side of the world. Christmas hit the Philippines about 3 months ago, but has drastically increased over the past couple weeks. I can't explain just how much I love the Christmas season. Hearing Christmas music, seeing Christmas lights and trees and, most of all, teaching about the birth of our savior are a few of my favorite things. Not gonna lie though, it doesn't really feel like Christmas without snow. 

Well this week has been very busy and very epic. We have been running around mad trying to get everything ready for this typhoon to hit. Not only that, but we also had MLC this last Thursday. MLC is always a big project. I'm letting Elder Avila take charge in most aspects of the work so he can get used to leading the area and getting all the fun office work done.  He hasn't really spent a lot of time with computers so it's been quite exciting teaching him how to use word, excel, powerpoint and also, how to type. Elder Avila and I had the great opportunity to teach again in MLC this past week. We had about 60 minutes to talk about Talking With Everyone. I sure do enjoy teaching. 

I have to tell you about the greatest experience ever that happened this week. It all started on Saturday afternoon when we visited Samuel. He expressed to us that he found a job!! After weeks of searching and hardship, he's found a job! I was so excited for him! He definitely deserves it. He's so humble and willing to do the will of the Lord. However, finding a job was only half the battle. He know has to somehow find a way to get a workers visa which is not cheap. Then, on Saturday night we received a text from our bishop in the morning that stated the following, "We just received a text from Noah's explaining that his mom has cleared him to be baptized on the 13th!" Gotta love those kinds of texts. Like I mentioned last week, his mom has been insisting that he wait for a while. This is evidence that prayer and fasting can truly soften hearts. Wait though, it gets better. The following day (Sunday) after church Wilma came up to us and said, "Elders, I’m going to get baptized this Saturday (Dec 13th)!" She then expressed that her boyfriend has been working with the bishop and is going to be the one to baptize her. That nearly brought tears to my eyes. It was a very special moment. That is one of the experience I’ll look back on in the future and my heart will just melt when I do. Right after that, Samuel ran up to us and excitedly exclaimed, "ELDERS! One of the members has agreed to sponsor me and help me buy the licenses I need in order to work! I'm going to be able to get the job!!" By this point, I was so happy and excited and everything. But wait, there's more. Our bishop then pulled Wilma, Lynx (Wilma’s friend we've also been teaching), Samuel and us into his office. He then gave each of them an opportunity to share their testimonies and how they were feeling. It was one of the most spiritual experiences ever. After that, through tears of joy, Lyn and Samuel both agreed to be baptized this Saturday. Words can't describe the feelings I had nor the feelings I have now. I love this work so much. Luckily, it was stake conference that day so all the missionaries were at the church including the one that would be conducting the interviews for these amazing people. We pulled him aside, explained the situation and before we knew it, Wilma, Lyn and Samuel passed their interviews. My mind captured the picture-like moment as those three future members walked down the hall with their white baptismal clothing in hand, smiling from ear to ear, a moment that I will never forget. This next week will be a fun one. We have a lot to prepare and a lot left to teach! Noah's interview will be here in one of the upcoming days. The church is so true. 

The Lord is truly blessing me. These past few months have been a few of the most difficult and rewarding times of my entire life. I am so happy to be serving in this wonderful country. I'm so grateful for the people I’ve met. Some people look at a 2-year mission as a sacrifice, but the Lord blesses us far more than we sacrifice. I would never say that I have sacrificed these two years. I have gained more out of this time than I have at any other time of my life. A member of our area presidency stated, "there is no such thing as sacrifice in the gospel sense. The Lord blesses us so richly." It's true. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Feast Without Rice!

I'm glad to report that Thanksgiving was great on this end. The Keys invited us over for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and it was amazing! It's been far too long since I’ve had thanksgiving. I've only missed it once, but once is far too many. They had numerous families from the ward over as well. It was a fun time. It was Elder Avila's first thanksgiving ever. He finally knows what it's like for all the Americans because the only language spoken was English and it was a houseful of Americans. I felt right at home. It was also amazing to have a feast that didn't include rice. My stomach was actually full, not just bloated. It was an amazing day. I sure love the Keys family as well. They are a great family. 

I'll take some time here to give you a quick update on some of the great people we are teaching that I’ve told you about over the past little while. 

Noah is the man. He texted me this last week just to tell me how excited he is for his baptisms. Every time I see him at church he lights up. He loves the gospel so much. I'm super excited for him. 

My boy Samuel is doing pretty well. He's going through a pretty hard time right now looking for work. He was hoping to pick up a job pretty quickly right when he got here, but unfortunately, it didn't quite work out like that. He's pushin along though. One thing I love about him though is he always puts church first. He lives a good hour away from the chapel, but he always makes sure that he has enough money and time to be there on time. I know the lord will bless him because of his efforts. We're hoping he can be baptized on the 13th. 

Wilma is doing great.  She has made some huge steps this last week.  Her baptism is also set for the 13th of December.  

Sheila is an investigator I haven't talked too much about. She's a 13-year-old girl that lives next to a member family. One day, this member family brought her to church, she loved it and now wants to be baptized. We've been teaching her for the past few weeks and she's just amazing. She's extremely smart. Our focus right now is teaching her mom and brothers. We finally taught them for the first time this last week and it was great. It was a quick lesson, but the spirit was definitely testifying to everyone there. There's no way its presence could not be felt. She'll be baptized on the 13th as well. 

Genesis is another one our great investigators. Her mom is a recent convert that was baptized in another ward, but when moved here, fell less active. We luckily found her, and brought her and her 2 daughters back to church. One of those daughters is already a member, but the other is not. Don't you just love completing families?

Patrick is still doing great. He's pretty much my best friend. He's so ready for baptism, but is just struggling with some family situations right now. His mom (who is so against the church) will be coming into town this month so he's going to use that opportunity to invite her to church and I have no doubt that everything will work out. It's funny because he always mentions how excited he is to get married in the temple. His girlfriend is a member and it makes me chuckle how excited he is. He's got his priorities in the right place. 

Those are our focuses right now. I sure am blessed to be serving in the ward that I am right now. I would love to finish my mission here. Who knows what will happen. I'm definitely going to enjoy it while I’m here though. I'm really grown to love the members and all of the people here. Life is good. 

One last story. Yesterday morning we received a text from our bishop. It said, "Hey Elders, can you both speak in sacrament later today?" So yep, we spoke during sacrament yesterday and it went quite well. Our topic was service and how to serve. I focused on the verse D&C 4:2 specifically the part that states "serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength." It was interesting because I had a simple plan before sacrament started, but as I sat on the stand pondering, I was prompted to take a different course with it. I spent the next 5 minutes reconfiguring my talk, then I gave it. I shared about different experiences in my life that have taught me how to serve with those 4 qualities. One of the experiences I shared about was being the home teacher of Sister Call. I shared about the change we saw in her as the years went by, a perfect example of what happens through dedicated service. We might not always see the impact we'll have or the importance of a particular act of service from the beginning. We sometimes don't realize the impact we had after the service is over. However, the impact is real. That act of service may be cherished by the receiver over a lifetime. Numerous members came up to me after and paid me some very nice compliments that really meant a lot to me. It was a great experience. Keep on serving. It may change someone’s life. 

Well that's about it for today. I sure do love you all. I remember at the beginning of my mission, mom mentioned that I would only be gone for 23 more fast Sundays. Our ward had fast Sunday this last week due to conference next week so that leaves 2 fast Sundays left. Where has the time gone? Luckily, there is plenty of work to be done, numerous lives to be saved and a whole lot of difference that needs to be made in that time. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Work of Salvation

I imagine that it's that time of year over there where the fireplace is on and the family is gathered around in the living room, fighting over the white Christmas blanket hiding from the winter chill. However, just in case you're wondering, it's 86 degrees right now in this Island Paradise. 

Well this week has been another great week. It's been ridiculously busy with transfers. We were running non-stop trying to get everything ready for the big day.  Just to give you an idea at what we have to deal with when it comes to transfers, I’ll tell you a quick experience we had the other night. It was Tuesday night and we had to drive the going home missionaries to their hotel room. We just concluded the testimony meeting and it was about 9:15 PM. We loaded everybody in the car and raced off through the dark streets of Manila. Unfortunately, the city never sleeps so there was still stop and go traffic at that hour. We ended up making it to the hotel around 10:30 or so, dropped everyone off and then embarked on a great journey to return two sisters to each of their areas which are on opposite sides of the mission. We finally arrived home at around 1 am and jumped into bed to get as much sleep as we could. It felt like minutes later our alarm was going off at 5 am informing us that it was the day of transfers and time to get ready to head to the MTC to pick up all of the new missionaries. We tackled the busiest day of the transfer on 4 hours of sleep. The enabling power of the atonement is real. 

So one might think that after a week of miracles like last week, there's no way that this week could ever compare. I, myself, thought that at the beginning of the week. However, the Lord proved me wrong. Thursday, the day after transfers, our bishop from the international ward sent us a text saying, "Noah, a young men in our ward boundaries, has requested to be baptized. He has been going to seminary and has numerous friends from the ward. The Bremner family has agreed to open their house to allow you to teach Noah there. The lord is answering our prayers. Act quickly." Oh my gosh. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Again, I had to restrain myself from shouting for joy and "dougie"ing on the nearest table. I've learned some very valuable lessons from the experiences I’ve had in the past couple weeks about how to hasten the work of salvation in a ward. I truly believe that the success is coming to our ward because our ward council is directing missionary work and they are utilizing the full time missionaries, not the other way around. I'd like to share an experience we had the other day in a ward council meeting and then point out some important principles about the work of salvation found in the text I received from our bishop. It all started at a ward council meeting led by our bishop about missionary work in our ward. He shared a spiritual thought and then set a goal for the number of baptisms by the end of the year. He then encouraged everyone in the ward council to continually pray for this goal and seek opportunities to reach it. The standard had been set. Action then soon followed. The combined prayers from the members and us were immediately answered. Things just started to fall into place with investigators that we're currently teaching. Concerns just started to melt away. Baptism, which once seemed like a long term goal, became feasible in December. Now for the text from our bishop. The first thing to point out is the invitation from a member to join seminary. The next point is the fellowshipping efforts made by the youth enrolled in seminary and the parents of those students. Third, a member volunteered their home as a place of teaching. (Not only that, but they lived their lives and directed their home in a way to make their it a place where the spirit could reside amplifying the teaching experience). Fourth, an invitation to act quickly and accountability. We were able to teach Noah on Saturday and it was one of the most uplifting experiences of my mission. The Bremner family (which includes their son, Noah's classmate in seminary) was present and were ready to share/teach anything they were asked to. As full time missionaries, we led the discussion, but as often as we could, gave this wonderful family the opportunity to share. Right after our lesson, Noah and Connet (the son) left to a ward activity. He came to church on Sunday, had an amazing experience and is excited to be baptized on the 13th of December. The Lord pours out blessings when members and missionaries come together. There is no greater work than this. 

I sure do love this great work. I could not be serving in a better place. The Philippines Manila Mission is exactly where I’m supposed to be. The Lord truly does know his sheep. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

This Could Be One Of The Best Weeks Of My Entire Mission!

Well this week has been one of the best weeks of my entire mission. When I look back over the last 21 months, there are certain events that stand out above the rest. This week contains one of those events. Don't worry though, I’ll wait till the end to address that! However, there were numerous other things that happened this week that were just tender mercies from the lord. I hope that I can do this email justice. 

All right, let's begin. 

Early this last week, we received a text from some missionaries on the other side of the mission that would make any missionary rejoice. They informed us that a guy from Ghana randomly showed up at their ward last Sunday who was taught by missionaries in Singapore and was "about to get baptized." Answer to our prayers. The next day we cruised cross-country. Upon arriving at the address given to us by the missionaries, we heard a voice yell "Elders!" We turn around to find two men from Ghana with ice cream cones in hand and huge smiles on their faces. That was the first time we saw Samuel and Eric. We started to chat and made our way to a nearby chapel to talk about the gospel. As we began to talk, it was evident that these two men were prepared by the Lord from an early age for this very moment. I have never met anyone so ready to receive the gospel. They had met the missionaries a week before flying to the Philippines. The missionaries taught them three times and they had already started reading the book of Mormon. Samuel began to share how he had already gained knowledge that the book of Mormon is true. A quick story about our 2nd meeting with Samuel will really show how prepared he really is. We decided to share with Samuel about the Word of Wisdom. Upon concluding the lesson we committed him to live the word of wisdom. He responded, "of course. When I get home, I'll throw out all the coffee we bought yesterday." Miracle. 

The next amazing event happened last Thursday. We had a super busy morning with numerous meetings and choir practice. Right after our final meeting concluded, I received a call. The Canadian man on the line excitedly greeted me and explained that he just arrived in the Philippines. He's a member of the church, but has been inactive for about a decade. He explained that he drove by one of the chapels earlier that day and decided that he wants to come back to church. Later that night, Elder Avila and I visited him and had a great discussion. We learned about his life and quickly discovered his new found drive to return to church. He came to church yesterday, sat down next to me and exclaimed,” I am so happy that I decided to come back to church." 

All right, you're probably thinking, "there couldn't possibly be anything else that happened last week as good as those last two experiences." Just like my boy Brad Paisley says, when you think it can't possibly get any better, it does. Last week, I receive a text (never in my mission have I received such amazing texts and calls) from the zone leaders in Bonifacio. They excitedly told me that Jenna, the wife of Edmar, my favorite family ever, is getting baptized. That news alone made me the happiest man alive. Luckily, there was more. Then continued to say, "Jenna has requested that you come back to the ward so you can be the one to baptize her." At this point I was on top of the world. I was so stinkin' excited. I immediately texted president Ostler and asked permission. He responded, "It would be wonderful if you could be the one to baptize her. Last Saturday, we made our way to Bonifacio. As we approached the chapel, memories came flooding back to my mind. When we walked in the chapel, I was greeted with smiles and pictures by some of the ward members. It was a joyful reunion. Jenna had not yet arrived so I went to change into my baptismal clothing and then waited for her arrival. A little while later, a crowd walked into the building. At the back of the crowd I see Jenna stand on her tippy toes with a huge smile on her face frantically waiving hi. In her other hand was the hand of MJ, her young daughter. It was one of the most tender moments of my entire mission. I cannot express how happy I was at that moment. Unfortunately, Edmar is working abroad right now so he wasn't able to make it.  I then began to realize that the crowd that she was with was her entire family, none of which were members.  It was amazing.
The baptism was one of the most memorable baptisms I have ever attended. The first speaker of the baptism was Princess, our last baptism before I transferred. She spoke with confidence and clarity about the importance of baptism. The actual ordinance was picture perfect. The look on Jenna's face as she came out of the water is unforgettable. I will never forget that beautiful day. That's a memory I will cherish throughout my life. How great is full time missionary service. 

I guess you can say that it was a pretty good week. It's one of those weeks that make every hardship and every trial worth it. I love being a missionary for the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints. I love you all so much. Have a wonderful week. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I Will Sure Miss Sister Call!

This is a pretty tough email to start out. As I read your emails, I couldn't hold the tears. As I write this email, memories flood my mind of tender moments I’ve shared with Sister Call. I can see myself as a young man sitting on her couch, shaking as I struggled to present my first home teaching message with her. I remember the realization that even though I was the one that shared the lesson that day, Sister Call was the one that taught me. I always left uplifted spiritually and emotionally. It feels like just yesterday, Dad and I, as a newly ordained Elder, visited Sister Call at her home and gave her a blessing, the first blessing I ever participated in. I'll cherish the words she spoke through streaming tears, "thank you so much." My soul is filled with joy as I relive the moment I peered out over the congregation while giving my farewell talk and spotted Sister Call sitting on the left side of the gym. Little did she know that she was the one I was most excited to see. I'll never forget the impact she has made on my life, the example she has set for me and her kind words of encouragement. I'll never be able to repay her for the things she has done in helping me become who I am today.  Sister Call will always have a special place in my heart. I'll always be her missionary. 

Went on two exchanges this week to some interesting parts of the Philippines. The first exchange was back to the Compton of Manila, Tondo. I didn't think it was possible to construct an entire neighborhood out of garbage and other random objects, but I was proven wrong. This place is known in the Philippines as being the most dangerous part of Metro Manila. It was super exciting. We began changing that town one person at a time. It was a fun exchange and I saw sights and smelled smells that I never thought existed. By the time is was time to head back to Makati, I didn't want to leave! 

We had another Choir practice this week. Dang, we are started to get good. A choir of 150 missionaries speaks in a way that nothing else can. It's pretty powerful. That being said, we have a lot of work to do! I'm so excited though. It's going to be a blast. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Life Is Good

Well this week has been exciting to say the least. Elder Avila and I have been crazy busy so this email should be pretty exciting. It all started last Tuesday when president asked us to go on emergency exchanges with some Elders in our mission. They've been struggling a little bit with obedience and other things so we went in like Seal team 6 to put an end to it. It was actually a really fun and successful exchange. The one I went on exchanges with was my apo (grandson) or in other words the trainee of Elder Villoso, my trainee. You always have a special bond with your "mission posterity." We worked in the ghetto of the ghetto. If you googled "Ghetto of the Philippines," you would probably find this exact place with us proselyting in the background. At the end of the exchange he was extremely thankful and told me, "I feel like I can go out and talk to anyone now!" We got a picture and then I left my apo to convert the world. It was a fun time. 

The next few days were a blur as we prepared for MLC and the arrival of numerous general authorities. MLC was great. President Ostler is giving us a lot of time to teach and I love it. Elder Avila and I taught for a total of 1 hour and 30 minutes about different missionary subjects. We have two major pushes going on in our mission right now and they are "Becoming Master Teachers" and "Talking with Everyone." This mission is really going to bloom under the direction of President Ostler. I'm amazed at his leadership ability and his sensitivity to the spirit. I am learning so much from him. It's a blessing to be serving with him. 

Friday was even crazier then Wednesday and Thursday. It was jam packed with different activities and meetings. The first meeting was a New Missionary and Trainer follow up meeting which is conducted 3 weeks after the new missionaries arrive in order to check on their progress and encourage them further. It was a great meeting. President asked me to teach about "being a new missionary." In preparation I looked back over my journal entries from my first area and got a good laugh. It's amazing to see how much you progress over the short period of two years. 

Right after that meeting we had our first choir practice!! All I can say is it ain't Christmas until the Philippines Manila Mission sings about it. We will be singing 5 songs, 3 of which we went over during the practice. We have a lot of work to do. Word on the street is that we also have a chance to sing on TV. One of the members might be able to hook us up. Have I ever mentioned how much I love singing? I could sing all day, e'ryday. Just to warn you, upon arriving home, I will be singing non-stop for at least a month.

THEN, we had our special missionary meeting with Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the presidency of the Seventy. Also in attendance was his wife, Sister Robbins, and my boy Elder Ardern and Sister Ardern. Elder Avila and I were sitting on the stand when they walked into the chapel. As Elder Ardern, the one who was supposed to conduct the meeting, takes his seat on the stage, he leans over to me and says, "I'm going to have you conduct this meeting so hurry and take a look at the program." hahahah Little did he know that all that was written on our program was, "instruction lead by Elder Robbins." So yep, I pretty much just had to play it by ear and go with it while two general authorities were in attendance and over 200 missionaries. NBD. In all honesty, I’m so thankful for the experiences I’ve had on my mission. It truly has been a blessing. Not everyone can say they've conducted a meeting that two general authorities were speaking in. President Eyring and President Uchtdorf need to be careful, I might be conducting at the next general conference. 

The meeting was amazing. Every time I hear a General Authority speak it amazes me more and more. Their ability to teach is unbelievable. We unfortunately were not able to meet Elder Oaks. However, we did watch a nation wide broadcast last night that he spoke at. It was interesting because the first speakers (Bishop Causse, Elder Ardern and Elder Robbins) all taught about the opportunity it was to be with Elder Oaks and how thankful they were for his example. They didn't want to take any time away from Elder Oaks. It seemed as if they were only preparing us to hear what Elder Oaks was going to teach us. One thing that I feel was a key part of the weekend and the things taught to this wonderful nation was the importance of exact obedience. We need to be 100 percent obedient to the commandments. We can't choose which commandments to follow, we must follow them all. Either we're on the Lord's side or we're not. There's no in between.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Santa Is Not The Only One Coming To Town!

One of the highlights of the week was one of our new investigators. Because we were so busy last month, we weren't really able to work in our area very much.  However, over the past few weeks we've built it up into something wonderful. We were introduced to a teenage girl named Sheila this last week who was brought to church by her neighbor. She's a genius. We went an taught her this last week and I felt like I was talking to someone my own age. Long story short, the lesson was great and she's going to be baptized. She came to church again yesterday and is loved by everyone. Sheila also became the new fellowshipper of one of our less actives that came to church for the first time yesterday. Sheila's not even a member yet and already understands a few principles of being an effective member missionary. 

Another cool experience from yesterday. In our international ward, there are people from all over the world. During sacrament meeting, a Chinese lady stands up to speak accompanied by her son. She explains at the beginning or her talk that she isn't too good at speaking English so she is going to give her talk in Chinese and have her son translate. Little did she know that that was an answer to our prayers. Sitting in the congregation was a Sister Montilla, our Chinese investigator. She was able to listen to a wonderful talk in her own language. It was quite amazing. Not only that, but it helped her see that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. The two talked after sacrament and are pretty much going to be best friends for life. 

Speaking of the Mantilla family, we had some amazing lessons with them this last week. Over the past few weeks we have watched both Finding Faith in Christ and The Restoration in Chinese. That is something I never thought I would ever do. Sister Montilla is really starting to understand. Her faith is truly beginning to grow. She is embracing the gospel. She loves going to church. I just love that family so much. 

So we have a recent convert who is from the Middle East. He's awesome. It's been so fun getting to know him and we have great experiences while teaching him. This last week we made our way down to his apartment to share a message with him. Upon arriving, we noticed that there was a new face in the room. It was his friend, who was also from the Middle East. So yes, Elder Avila and I taught two men from the Middle East this last week in English. It was quite interesting. 

You'll never guess who's coming to the Philippines this week?

Elder Oaks of the quorum of the 12! He will be accompanied by Elder Robbins of the presidency of the seventy and Bishop Causes of the presiding bishopric. Unfortunately, we don't get to hear from them all, but Elder Robbins will be conducting a special missionary meeting that all of the missionaries from the Manila Mission will be attending! He will be accompanied by my boy Elder Ardern. I guess you could say I’m pretty excited.

A few hours before the meeting all the missionaries here on the mainland will be taking part in a Christmas choir practice. Over the next few months, the Manila mission will be touring Metro Manila.  We'll be singing a repertoire of Christmas songs in some of the major malls here. We will be singing about our Savior and filling Manila with the joyous news that our savior was born. Isn't that just great? We'll also be handing out DVDs to those who are interested. Music can reach people in ways nothing else can. 


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Life Is Good!!

Life in the Philippines is great. The temperature took a drastic drop this week (about 2-3 degrees). A couple nights ago I was able to turn my fan to the lowest setting and actually had to use my sheet. The second coming must be near. Things like that just never happen in the Philippines. 

I would like to fill you in on some common "Filipino driving techniques" I see everyday and others that I’ve actually picked up while I’ve been here. First, hazard lights somehow make your car exempt from traffic laws. My favorite sight to see is when a car is parked in the far left lane with no one in the car. Usually that would be against the law. Not if you have your hazards on. I don't think the word "hazard" is understood correctly here. They take it to mean, "turn these lights on if you're about to make your car a hazard to all the other cars on the road." Second, using the car horn is a technique. Sometimes I feel like cars are trying to use some sort of morse code with their horns. One honk just makes your presence known to other drivers. You use two honks if someone slightly cuts you off and are kind of irritated. Short, repeated, sporadic honks means "I’m coming through, you better move." A prolonged honk can either be used when someone cuts you off really bad and your furious or when you want to tell the person in the lane next to you, "I’m coming over and I’m not stopping. Get out of the way." It's honestly a language of it's own. I've adjusted my sitting position in our car. I've moved my seat forward, which allows me have my hand at 12 o’clock on the wheel and to rest my forearm on the horn for a quick response to the dangerous driving of others. I love driving in the Philippines! 

Here are some fun facts about Makati city. It's one of the nicest cities in the Philippines. There are McDonalds on every corner. There's a corner we drive by pretty frequently that has a McDonald’s on each side of the road and then another about 50 yards down the street. It houses people from all walks of life. You'll find some of the richest people in the Philippines living on the 40th floor of a high rise and then a "squatter" home leaning against the side of that very building where a family of 6 lives day to day wondering if their going to be able to eat their next meal. You have people from Europe, America, Australia, the Middle East, and numerous other countries. It's kind of a "melting-pot." I pass a countless number of people everyday. As I’m walking, I often find myself thinking,” Every single person I see has a story of their own." It's quite a crazy city to be assigned in. I sure love it. 

Missionary work has been great this week. It was the first week where we spent most of the time in our area. We had some pretty amazing things happen and some pretty tough things that have happened. One of those experiences happened yesterday after church. Before church, my boy Patrick (our investigator whose 26 and has been coming to church forever) came up to us and told us that he needed to talk to us after church. There wasn't a lot of emotion on his face when he said that so I could not read from his expression if it was going to be a good talk or bad talk. He's been having a hard time recently with his parents. He comes from a family that is devoted catholic. He's brought the church up with his family before and his mom completely shut him down and expressed how much she did not want him to be baptized. After church we took him to a room in the mission office and he asked if we could start with a prayer. We obliged. He then said, "about my baptism. I know I’ve been putting it off for a long time. I now feel like it's finally the right time for me to be baptized!" That's what I’m talking about. I wanted to jump, scream and dance. I was so happy!! He then continued, "I'm talking to my mom tomorrow and I’m going to tell her that I’m going to be baptized. I'm going to show her the changes I’ve made in my life and I know it will soften her heart. I hope I can be interviewed by the end of this week." Holy crap. It was pretty much a scene out of a movie. I was so happy. Patrick and I have become really good friends over the weeks and I am just so happy for that guy. He's already expressed how much he wants to get married in the temple. It just doesn't get better than this. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I Could Watch Conference Every Single Day!

The beginning of the week was absolutely crazy. We spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday preparing for and executing transfers. It was epic. Nothin is quite as great as going to bed at 12 and waking up at 4:30. It was way fun though. I love spending time with the going home missionaries and missionaries coming in. One of the missionaries that went home was Elder Limocon. I miss that kid so much. The day before missionaries go home they have the opportunity to go to the temple and to a famous American war cemetery, receive counsel from President, have a testimony meeting and eat a lot of food. And we get to tag along. It's awesome. It's amazing to see the changes that Elders and Sisters undergo while they are on their mission. It's really put into perspective when we see the brand new missionaries come in the next day. It's amazing how much more the Lord can do with our two years than we can. 

While we were waiting for conference to start (which I will talk about later by the way), I received a call from John. He had been sick for the past couple days and wasn't expecting to be able to make it to conference. As I answered the phone, he said, "Is it ok if I still come to church?" Me: "Of course! Are you feeling better?" John: "Better, but still not good. But I really want to go to church." As I heard those words come out of his mouth, I was filled with a humble joy. It amazed me to see this man, who is not even a member, have such a strong desire to go to church regardless of being sick. Our actions during trying times truly do reflect the desires of our hearts and our faith we have in Jesus Christ. He was able to make it to the Sunday morning session and hear the prophet of the Lord speak. It was an amazing experience. I've thought a lot about his great act of faith and reflected upon experiences I’ve had in my life. One thing that President Ostler taught us the other day is this: "You learn in life that excuses don't get you very far." All they really do is rob us of blessing the Lord was willing to give us. John was a great example to me. 

Oh my goodness. Conference was great. General Conference is my new favorite TV show. When I get home, that's all I’m watching. I can't even begin to describe how much I loved so many talks from General Conference. One of my favorite talks was given by Elder Christofferson. I really look up to that man. When he speaks, you can feel the vast knowledge behind his words. He speaks with power and authority. I love the way he addresses not only spiritual principles, but also logical concepts. One example he used that I really liked was the following, "Resenting the law of gravity won't keep a person from falling if he steps off a cliff." The reason this stood out to me was because this describes the Philippines. The majority of people here can't comprehend the concept on eternal truths. Just believing in Christ and going to church will not save you at the last day. There's so much more to the gospel then that. The phrase I hear numerous times a day is this: "We all worship the same God. How you worship isn't really important as long as you just believe." One day, they will come to understand that there is more to the gospel than just belief. I've got a lot more work to do while I’m here. 

I also love hearing and learning about the connection between mercy and justice. The more I learn about those two concepts, the more I realize how perfect God's plan truly is. He is perfectly just and He is perfectly merciful. I just loved conference so much.