Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Lord is Truly Blessing Us

Another week down. Well this week has pretty much been an amazing week.  I've got a ton to tell you so "be ye therefore ready."

I'll start with the highlight of the week which was the baptism of Jess and Jojo on Saturday.  It was amazing. I cannot even express to you my love for those great men and their families. I'm so glad that you saw the picture of Jess and his family.  They are just the cutest family ever. They are so strong and are going to look great in white in one year from now when they get sealed in the temple. Jess bore such a great testimony after his baptism (did I mention that he asked me to be the baptizer? Yeah, that makes a great day even better). He expressed his love for his family and his excitement and gratitude that he has finally found the true church.  Jojo also bore a great testimony.  He expressed that he was feeling really nervous as he was about to walk through the door into the font, but he expressed that that fear left him when he saw me dressed in white waiting for him at the stairs. His fear was replaced with a "kaya ko" attitude. It was a great experience.  Elder Manares and I had the opportunity to sing a special musical number. After hours of contemplating which song would be best for this situation, we decided to sing, "I love to see the temple" instead of "Wrecking ball." The spirit was so strong. Nothing makes me happier than directing families to the temple. Don't you just love baptisms, missionary work and life?  The Lord is truly blessing us.

I have to tell you a wonderful experience that Jess shared with us before his baptism. As you know he has been looking for a job for quite some time. Despite his heartfelt prayers and faithfulness, he wasn't having any luck. He didn't get the job that I told you about a few weeks ago. so he was very discouraged.  He even expressed to us that he had almost lost hope.  A week before his baptism, we visited him with President Stucki and taught a very powerful lesson.  President Stucki then suggested that we give Jess a priesthood blessing to assist in his job search. Following the lesson, we gave him a great priesthood blessing and then left. The very next day, Jess got a call informing him of a job opening and was asked to come be interviewed.  He was interviewed 5 times.  After those 5 interviews, he was informed that he got the job! After years of searching, the job hunt was over. Not only did he find a job, but it was also a better job than any of the other jobs he had been interview for.  Isn't the power of prayer and priesthood blessings coupled with faith amazing? We can learn an amazing lesson from this story. It would have been really easy for Jess to give up on prayer and come to the conclusion that God doesn't answer prayers after the first failed attempt. However, because of his faithfulness, he was blessed with a greater job than any other he had come across. We sometimes expect God to answer every prayer in the way that we want him to answer.  We expect him to give us what we think is the best.  If we don't receive it, we often begin to doubt and get discouraged.  We rarely take into consideration that the Lord is preparing far greater things down the road. Never get discouraged if a prayer isn't answered right away.  The answer will come, and it will be far better than we initially expected.

I saw a decal the other day that describes the Philippines perfectly. It read, "Trust in God." Immediately following the statement there was a picture of the playboy bunny. Isn't that great? I think that would look good on Stevo. That's kind of how a lot of people think here.  Everyone believes in Christ, but that belief does not lead to a christlike life. They just need the Gospel!!

So earlier today we had an awesome experience.  We went Golfing!! Yes, Elder Obray has come out of retirement.  It was so great. I miss the game of golf.  It definitely wasn't nearly as fun though because I didn't have my dad and brother next to me. The sport itself is only half the fun. Who you're with is the other half. I'm happy to report that I still have a slice.  Some things just never change.  Don't worry though, I’ve still got it.  Pitching wedge=150. That's how we do. The golf course manager actually told me right there that they were ready to sign me if I was wiling. The contract looked pretty nice, but unfortunately, it's against mission rules to take part in sponsored sports activities. Maybe next year.

Went on exchanges this week. That was fun. 

Interviewed a cute little girl for baptism.

Looked at about 300 apartments.  Finally found a couple that actually meet missionary standards! One of which has a basketball court on the roof.  I know where I’ll be placing myself.

Teaching a great new less active part member family (my favorite)! They don't even know the happiness that is about to slap them in the face over the next few months.

Speaking of cute part member families that are going to be sealed in the temple, the Caras family emailed me! They found my blog online and somehow got my email.  They sent me the greatest email in the world.  Quick update for you all.  Carmelino was called to be the sports coordinator and coach of the church ball team (church ball is huge here).  They took the championship under his coaching! He was also called as the second counselor in the young mens.  He's the perfect man for the job.  Jhoanna was called to be a relief society teacher and a teacher in the primary.  I love that family so stinkin much.  Carmelino is going to be bishop before to long.  Their family is doing great! They expressed to me their gratitude for the amazing change that we brought to their family.  I love my mission.

Well that's about it for the week. It was a great week.  This week is also going to be great with MLC and Elder Christensen. The Lord is really blessing us here in the Bonifacio 4th Ward. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

It's All About Prioritizing

Well this week is probably going to shatter your brains.  It was super epic.  We all just had super epic weeks.  Where do I even begin?

Thursday is a good place to start.  Zone conference.  It was awesome.  I sure love zone conference.  It was President Stucki's last zone conference as mission president. I love that guy.  We talked about working with the members (one of those most important aspects of the work!) He took some time at the very end to talk about families.  It was kind of his last-time-i'll-speak-to-you talk. He was telling us to imagine our future families and stuff.  Yeah, hard to focus after that. He gave us some great counsel about families and keeping temple covenants. Great stuff.  At the end he announced that Elder Christensen of the Presidency of the 70 is coming on the 30th to speak to the missionaries and he'll be accompanied with Elder Echo Hawk of the first quorum of the 70 (and a member of our area presidency). I'm so stoked.  This type of opportunity doesn't come around too often. I'm getting all excited just thinking about it.

After the conference, President Stucki came and worked with us in our area!! Was that an experience or what. It was kinda funny because he can't understand anything so he is completely reliant on us to translate and help him through the lesson.  Everything he said though was always heart felt and according to our tinuturuan's needs. It was a good time.

Great news! Jojo and Jess both passed their interviews and will be baptized this Saturday! Aren't you just so excited? I hope you guys can make it to the service. I'll save you a seat. It starts at 2. We had an amazing experience after Jess' interview. We were talking to him about the service and we asked him if he had a specific hymn that he wanted to be a part of the program.  He thought for a while and then responded, "I always hear the children around here singing a song and I’ve really grown to like it.  I think it's called "I love to see the temple." Holy crap.  That's my boy.  That answer could not have been any better.  His family is going to be sealed in one year. That's a man that knows what's important in life.

Saturday was great.  Romeo was baptized!! It was such a great day.  It was quite comical though because everything that possibly could have gone wrong went wrong. The printer ran out of ink so no programs, our piano was taken before the program so no piano, our chorister was tone deaf so that amplified the problem, one of our speakers didn't show up, there was a party going on near by so we were jamming to Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. It was great.  It was still a beautiful service.  The spirit was strong and everyone felt it. I love baptisms.

We participated in a service project earlier today! We helped clean up an elementary school.  It was disgusting. This is one of the nicer schools around and I thought I was going to get some sort of bacterial disease. I don't think they've cleaned it since this time of year last year. It was fun though. Gotta love doing service.

Well I gotta bring this letter to a close. I would like to end with a quick thought that I mentioned earlier.  We learn from Alma that this life is a time to prepare to meet god. One very important aspect of that preparation is prioritizing what truly matters. Every day I see and talk with people that don't quite understand what truly matters in their lives.  The counsel of the Savior is clear, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." We should learn to internalize this statement and make it who we are.  Daily scripture study, prayer, church attendance and other commandments should never be optional. Never allow the question "Should I read the book of Mormon today?" cross your mind.  It shouldn't be an option.  We should just do it because we love the Lord and understand that the Lord’s commandments lead us to happiness. It's all about prioritizing. Never allow something of the world to interfere with those things that truly matter.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Give Him Your Heart, Might, Mind and Strength

Today is a wonderful day.  I truly am blessed to have the family and friends that I do.  I'm truly blessed to be a missionary in the Philippines Manila Mission at this time.  I am just blessed.  I have a ton to update you on.  This week has been great.  I took notes during the week so I wouldn't miss anything. 

So I have to start with MLC.  Such a great experience.  We had a special meeting this week where all the district leaders were invited as well.  It was pretty great to have all the leaders from the mission in one chapel.  The spirit was strong and the revelations were flowing.  Isn't it great to be a part of a church that believes in modern day revelation? What would we do without revelation? The bulk of our MLC was about raising our vision and increasing our faith.  A principle that is reinforced everyday on my mission is the importance of faith.  Faith truly is the starting point of everything. I love how Joseph Smith stated that faith is a principle of power. I bear testimony that that is true. With firm faith, we can command the elements, mountains, trees and they will obey us. (Jacob 4:6) We can all use a little more faith. 

Of course, I also have to mention how great it was to see all my buddies at MLC.  Elder Atougie, Elder Pistorious and I spent lunch reminiscing about the great times we had in Palawan.  That feels like another life.  Can't believe that I was there a year ago.  Memories that I will never forget.  Friends that I’ll stay in contact with forever. 

I think I’ve told you a little bit about my boy Jess, but I’m not quite sure.  My journal and emails all melt together in my mind. Anyway, this guy is the man.  He belongs to a less active part member family (my favorite). When we first met him, he wasn't really interested... at all. He had been visited by countless missionaries and nothing ever happened.  For some reason, this time was different.  We began by visiting him maybe once a week if we were lucky.  As the lessons progressed, so did he.  He began to finally see how important the gospel was to him and his family.  He began reading the Book of Mormon (He's already in 2nd Nephi), praying and coming to church with his family.  Since then, his heart has completely changed.  Yesterday, his wife reactivated and we're excitedly awaiting Jess' baptism on the 24.  He told us an amazing experience that he had the other day praying. He's been looking for a job for months with no luck.  He got a call that there was an opening and he was invited to come and apply.  Before he left for the interview, he felt like he needed to pray, even though he had never prayed before an interview before.  So that's what he did.  He prayed.  He then proceeded to explain the calm, confident feeling that came over him and remained with him the whole day. He wasn’t nervous like he used to be in such circumstances.  Actually, the exact opposite, he was extremely confident. He told us about the 3 exams that he had to take and how he said a prayer before each asking our Heavenly Father to open his mind and help him remember the things that he had studied. He passed the exams with flying colors. Before the first exam, his wife even texted him and told him to pray before going into the exam.  He passed all the interviews and is now just waiting to be interview by the big dog. Isn't prayer amazing.  Never underestimate the power of prayer.  Jess told us at the other day that we answered all the answers that his church has never been able to answer. He knows our church to be true.  What more can I say, the church is true. 

Zone meeting was great.  I love zone meeting so much.  I love training and teaching. Like I mentioned earlier, our zone meeting was all about increasing our faith and expanding our vision. I related my whole segment to high jumping.  I talked about the importance of goal setting, making a plan and then giving it your all (sounds super basic, but it was super awesome).  We can accomplish so much more when we allow the Lord to direct us. Give him your heart, might, mind and strength and he'll do a lot more with us than we can.  If only we could all comprehend the Lord's will for us. I wonder what he thinks when we do anything that's contrary to his plan. I had an experience this week with an investigator who just would not accept that his family needed a gospel centered home. I just wanted to make him understand that everything the Lord asks us to do is for our own good. Every commandment, every assignment, every awkward situation, every trial, every time we're forced from our comfort zone. It's all for our good and for our progression.  All we have to do is follow and embrace it.  I'm sure glad that we have this mortal life to grow and progress because if I was a God right now, I probably would have caused a small earthquake to hit that guy’s house. A soft one of course because I still love him. 

Fun Fact: Our house is full of hormonal mosquitoes. The only place I ever get mosquito bites is on my butt.  

Temple day!!! In about 3 hours I’ll be in the temple. Stoked. 

I love the scriptures. 

Elder Manares is the man. 

Tagalog. I love it. Most of the time. 

My area is still tiny. 

I love fish. 

I love you all.