Sunday, July 27, 2014

I Sure Love Families

I have stated the following about missions: When you don't think it can get any more difficult, it does. When you don't think it can get any better, it does. This week I was blessed to experience both ends of the spectrum. I have truly witnessed the Lord's hand in this, His Work.

I'll begin with Elsi's baptisms this last Saturday. It was wonderful. Elsi is such a kindhearted person that wants nothing but to do what is right. She is very conscious of the needs of others and wants to serve them. It was amazing to witness a daughter of God make sacred covenants with her father in heaven. It was amazing to see the ward embrace her and help her feel apart of their "family". The gospel is amazing. Elsi asked me if I would baptize her and I gladly accepted. (We were hoping Polo (the one that referred her) would baptize her, but he insisted on us). It was a great experience, until I found out that she was terrified of water hahah. When she got in the water, her body got rigid and I felt like I was trying to baptize a tree. It took a couple tries, but we finally got her to bend her knees and the sacred ordinance was completed. It was great.

Elder Diamse and I have truly been blessed in this area. I have been often stated my love for Less Active Part Member families and I’m about to share two experiences with you that explain why.

Pia, Micheal and fam.  I love this family so much. We were able to teach them a couple times this last week and it was just amazing. Upon arriving, Michael (non-member) told us that he has been reading the book everyday and is now in chapter 9 of 1st Nephi (that never happens in the Philippines. people hate reading). We taught them about the importance of prayer and church. We then invited them to attend church. Sunday came and ... to be continued.

Edmar, Jenna and fam. Oh my gosh. I feel like I have known this young couple for my entire life. This is the family I told you about last week that we randomly found while looking for a potential investigator. Edmar has been a member for most of his life. He got in the wrong crowd and fell away from the church. His wife Jenna is amazing. Seriously, they are the cutest family ever. They have a 5-year-old girl, MJ, that is absolutely adorable, and a 7-month-old boy. From the very first lesson we could feel that this family was special. We began by teaching them about families and progressed into the restoration. The spirit was tangible. We also invited them to come to church after an amazing lesson. Sunday came and... to be continued.

Sunday Morning: Elder Diamse and I were walking around greeting the members when we saw the elevator open (yeah we have an elevator in our church. What up.) Out walks Edmar, Jenna and their family. Did I mention that they are the cutest family ever? We took our places next to them as sacrament started. However, still no Pia nor Micheal. Five minutes later, I look back towards the door to see Pia's smiling face staring back at me with her young daughter in hand waving at us. They walked in and were followed by Micheal and the rest of the family. Words can barely describe the excitement I felt. They sat right in front of us and ate up everything that the speakers said. By divine intervention, the topics were perfect. We listened to two amazing talks about becoming a worthy priesthood holder and the importance of womanhood. It was one of the most amazing sacrament services of my life.

Monday night: One last experience that fills my heart with unexplainable joy. We went to Edmar and Jenna's house yesterday and had the most amazing lesson ever. We felt inspired to focus in on the importance of the spirit and how it would bear testimony to them of the truthfulness of the church. As we concluded, Jenna spoke up and stated, "I’ve already felt that this church is true. I already know." Oh my gosh. The perfect moment.  Later we asked Jenna if she could offer the closing prayer. She hesitantly accepted after some encouragement by us and her husband. We knelt and listened to an amazing prayer. Half way through the prayer,  Jenna began to get choked up and tears began to flow. She closed her prayer and I opened my eyes to see Edmar with his arm wrapped around his wife in humble, kneeling prayer. It was an amazing sight. A sight that will continue through eternity. It won't be too long before those two are kneeling as husband and wife in the only place that compares to the home in glory: The temple. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways

Well this week has been, for the most part, extremely epic and exciting. I have a ton to talk to you about. We had something special happen pretty much every day so get ready. 

Tuesday: One of the greatest days of my mission. We were blessed with the opportunity to witness the sealing of Elder Atoigue and his family. It was truly amazing.  After the sealing we came home to a typhoon. It was quite epic. We were all told to be in our apartments by 6 pm and to wait for the storm to subside and the flooding to go down. The real storm actually didn't hit till the following morning. From about 5-10 in the morning, we experienced 60 mph winds and heavy rainfall. We were safe inside our house so it was actually pretty anticlimactic. At 1 we left our apartment to head up to the chapel to help with transfers. We drove by trees that had been uprooted and tree branches scattered across the streets. Lucky, nothing too serious happened. The storm wasn't too strong in our area so no one was injured nor were houses destroyed. Gotta love being a missionary in the Philippines. They say that there's more where that one came from. 

We had a pretty great finding experience this last week. As we were walking along the street, we came across a wallet that had been dropped. We picked it up determined to find the owner. Inside was a little bit of money, a watch and an ID. We examined the ID, the address thereon, and began our search. It was actually only a few streets over so we quickly found it and knocked on the door. An old man came to the door. We explained that we had found this wallet and believed it to belong to his wife (the picture on the ID was a women). He took the wallet, looked it over and discovered it belonged to his wife. He graciously thanked us and talked with us for a while. Turns out they were prepared by the Lord and we are now teaching them. The Lord sure works in mysterious ways. 

Another great finding experience. We were on the search for a taxi driver we had talked to a few days earlier. We knew his first name and the street, but not his house. We turned on to his street and began to walk. We came to a house that we felt inspired to try. We knocked and out came another old man. He wasn't very happy to see us. He told us that he didn't know that man and he left. However, out came a younger women.  She opened her gate and began to talk with us. She then expressed that her husband was a member of the church, but hasn't been in years. She then expounded how about 3 years ago she attended our church with her husband numerous times. However, they moved and then stopped going to church (Don't you just love those less active part member families?). Long story short, we will be teaching them this week and she will be baptized. 

We have a baptism this Saturday! Elsi will be making sacred covenants this Saturday and I am stoked!! I haven't said too much about Elsi. She's one of those investigators that just does everything she's supposed to. Nothing too crazy has happened while we've been teaching her, she is just one of the sweetest ladies ever and wants to know the truth. She was a referral from one of our members and that member has just been the best support for her. He brings her to church, answers questions and genuinely cares for Elsi. Members and missionaries coming together, there's no better way.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hiding from True Happiness

What’s up y’all? Another raining day here in the Philippines! They've actually reported that a storm is headed our way and could hit sometime in the near future. Nothin to be worried about though.  This country is hit by hundreds of typhoons every year and rarely are they note worthy. We might be wading through the water by later tonight though! It's those little things that make the missionary experience that much better.

Pia and her family are my absolute favorite people ever. We visited them again this last week and I have grow to love them so much. She paid us an amazing compliment.  She told us about her years of inactivity and how she often saw Elders walk by her house, but she never felt the desire to call out after them. She saw them as she drove on tricycles and jeepneys but never initiated a conversation. For some reason, the day we walked by her house was different. She was filled with a unique feeling that caused her to finally call out after us. She then looked at us and stated, "There's something different about you guys. I guess now is the time I’m supposed to come back to the church." The Lord definitely has a plan. The longer I know Pia, the more that plan is unfolded unto me. I begin to realize that we have something specific (character trait, knowledge on a specific subject, a personal experience, etc) that she needs. I have been placed in this specific area to help specific people. They need something that I have. Other missionaries will affect other missionaries that have been prepared to talk with them. Those people need something that they have. I'm just happy that I am worthy to heed the call. 

Fun Fact about the Philippines.  When some people don't want to talk with you, they hide.  Some people don't want to say no, so they just hide. We had one experience this week that cracked me up. I opened my mouth to this old man the other day that wasn't interested at all. A couple days later, we were walking down the same street and I saw this same old man in the distance sitting on a plastic bench. As we got closer he noticed us. As soon as he noticed us he jumped to his feet and ran inside. Then, he realized that he forgot his bench. He ran back out, grabbed his bench and again retreated inside. We walked by and continued on to our appointment that was just a few houses down from him. As we were talking with someone else, I looked back at where this man was and he was just inside his door peeking out at us. I made eye contact and he pulled his head inside. A few minutes later, I looked back his way, and there he was again peeking out his door. This happened multiple times. At this point I was laughing my head off. I then hid myself a little bit so he couldn't see me. I waited a second and then peeked around again. This man was half way out the door and then he saw me. He turned around and ran back in faster than I thought possible for a man of his age. It was hilarious. Every time we walk down that street, we go through that same routine. It's so funny. However, it's also sad that he's hiding from the two men that can help him find true happiness. Maybe one day he'll understand. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

"How Far Will Our Faith Take Us?"

I got some great news as well at MLC. Elder Atougie told me that a brother (one of the less actives that we reactivated in Manila 1st) just received his temple recommend and will be taking out his endowments in the upcoming week. Then in the following weeks, they will be sealed as a family for eternity. As a missionary, there is nothing more amazing to hear.  I sure love that family. 

So my boy, King. Have I mentioned how great this guy is? We taught him this last week and his progression continues to amaze me. Every answer he gives is perfect. He states things that members haven't grasped yet.  For example, you said the following to us in our last visit. "I hear about some people that don't go to church because of how much it costs to travel or how far the church is and I just don't get that. If I didn't have the means to pay for a tricycle (public transportation) I would wake up 3 hours early and walk if I had to." That's just one example of many. He taught me a great principle this week.  He began to share with us about the role of faith.  He said that we all have to ask ourselves "hanggang saan ang pananampalataya natin?" or the English translation, "how far will our faith take us?" Is your faith strong enough to get you up 3 hours early to go to church? Is your faith strong enough to sacrifice Monday nights for family home evening? Is your faith strong enough to get you out to home teach every month? Is your faith strong enough to get you out of a movie theater playing a bad movie or stand up for the kid being bullied? How strong is your faith and how far will it take you? 

Quick story. Can't remember if I told you this already or not. The other day we were on exchanges and we were heading toward an appointment when a woman called out to us. We went back and began talking to her. She told us that she was a member! But hadn't been to church in years. Her name is Pia and she's been wanting to come back to church, but has been too shy. Her husband isn't a member nor her 2 kids. Her husband had never taken interest in the missionaries or the gospel. We had a great conversation and built a great relationship. We set up a return appointment. The return appointment was amazing. We gathered with the whole family and taught a powerful lesson about families and the role the gospel plays in our families. The whole time we were wondering what the father would think. The next day (Sunday), Pia came to church! She brought her kids, but no husband. We began to talk to her and she said, "My husband wants you to teach him. He couldn't be here today but he'll come to church next week." YES! Don't you just love part member less active families? I sure do. She then expressed how excited she was for her husband and family. Needless to say, I’m just excited for her and her family. 

Don't you just love missionary work? Heavenly Father keeps the golden investigators, the ones that are truly prepared, until after you have done absolutely everything you can do to find them. Sometimes he leads you to them, other times, he leads them to you. The church is true. 

Some missionaries may feel bad that they are missing out on what everyone else is doing. I'm the exact opposite. I feel bad for everybody else because they are missing out on what I’m doing.