Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bigger and Better Things

All right, well this week has been another crazy week. I don't even know where to start. I guess I’ll start with last Tuesday. Last Tuesday was going home activities. The day before the departing missionaries end their mission, they spend the day with the Ostlers and cruise around the city and do some fun stuff. Because I am one of the only missionaries in the mission that has a license, I was the one cruising them around (Did I mention that I drive a 12 passenger van? Yeah, no one messes with me on the manila roads).  We went to the temple, the American war cemetery, then to the mission home for some food and words of wisdom from President Ostler and his wife. Fortunately, we don't have to be at the portion when President counsels the missionaries, because all they talk about is getting married and starting a family. That's the fastest way to make a missionary trunky. During that time, we were taking luggage to hotels and getting all the other things ready. It was a good experience though.  A lot of the missionaries were some of my good friends. Sister Grant, the sister in my district at the MTC, was also in attendance. You know you're old in the mission when the sisters you came into the field go home. That's crazy. It's amazing to see how much we grow over years. They had an amazing testimony meeting and the spirit was very strong. The lives of those missionaries has been forever changed. President made a very profound statement that I would like to share. It's quite applicable to everything going back at home. He shared with the missionaries,"Your missions are the greatest things you have done thus far in your life. However, it's not the greatest thing that you will ever do. There are bigger and better things in the future." Missions are the greatest foundations for those "bigger and better" things. It is a stepping stone that takes us farther in life then we could ever have gone without it. What will be happening this Friday is one of those "bigger and better" things. 

The next day was transfer day, the craziest day ever. We welcomed 28 new missionaries into the mission. Elder Limocon and I awoke at 4:45 am to get everything ready and were running till 10:30 pm. It was quite the day. It was great to experience that day with all of the new missionaries. It reminded of me when I was in that situation. That sure was a long time ago. The first real day of the best 2 years. I loved seeing the excitement and joy on their faces. They have no clue what they've got themselves into. They will experience the most difficult, rewarding, joy filled years of their entire lives, years that they wouldn't trade for anything. 

The rest of the week has been great. We had a baptism this week!! We began to teach a kid right when I got into the area and he was baptized last Saturday. His parents are members, but had been less active for quite some time (sound familiar #lessactivepartmemberfamilies); they had a "come to Jesus" moment and decided that they wanted to return to church. We were right there to help them do it? They are now active in the church and their son, Daejiro, is now a member of the church. It was great. I sure love missions. Nothing better than witnessing a family take major steps to being sealed in the temple. Actually, there is one thing better than witnessing a family take those steps. Being a part of that process is a lot better then just witnessing it.

Well that about wraps it up for this week. We have an awesome week coming up. Elder Ardern, the area president, will be visiting the mission this week and I’ll be spending quite a bit of time with him. I'm stoked. I just hope I don't make a fool of myself. This week also includes a trip out to Palawan! I'm headed back to the Celestial kingdom. Unfortunately, I won't be visiting my previous area, but it'll be great to be on Palawan soil

Monday, August 25, 2014

Expect Miracles

Well, I have so much to tell you this week. Missionary life has changed very drastically in the past week and I hope I’ll be able to write an email that can do this week justice. But before that, I need to tell you the story of Jamie and Shala. So here it goes. 

Elder Diamse, some ward missionaries and I were looking far and wide for a man we had met a few days earlier on the side of the road. We were not having any luck. We checked numerous houses and asked countless people. As we were checking a house, Jio (the ward missionary) decided to ask a man that was about to get on his motorcycle if he knew the man we were looking for. This was his response to Jio: "Are you a Mormon?" Jio responded, "yes". The man then replied, "me too, I have someone that I want you guys to teach." That was the first time we saw Jamie. He then took us down a little alley way and brought us into his house where he explained that he's been inactive for a couple years, but finally wants to come back. He then introduced us to his wife, who is not a member, and told us that he wants us to teach her. She then exclaimed that she really wanted to learn more about her husband’s belief and why he was so set on returning to his church that he had mentioned numerous times to her. The rest is history. They're going to be baptized. No doubt. 

I am officially a licensed driver in the Philippines! Holy crap, some of the scariest moments of my life have occurred in the past couple days driving on Manila roads. However, I’m finally getting used to it and getting comfortable with the whole "there's no traffic laws" thing. Just a glimpse into what it's like to drive in the Philippines: there are no stop signs or yield signs. The one that is bigger has the right-of-way. People don't really pay attention to the street lines. It's not uncommon to see five lines of cars on a three lane road.  It's also not uncommon to see people perform left turns or u-turns from the far right line (crossing three lanes of traffic). There are no cops on the road so everyone can do pretty much whatever they want. I believe that most people participate in the game "Who can cut more people off today?" The drivers don't really anticipate turns that they will be making down the road. When they find themselves in the wrong lane a couple yards from their desired destination, they are not afraid to make everyone wait as they maneuver their car perpendicular to oncoming traffic to make the turn. So pretty much, every time you get in a car, you're in for an adventure. Welcome to the Philippines.

So this upcoming week is transfer week so we have been crazy busy trying to get everything ready for all the changes that will be happening this Wednesday. We have one of the biggest batches of new missionaries we have ever had coming in this week (28 new missionaries). It's been crazy. There's been a few times where President Ostler has called us up and stated, "I need your assistance. Come to the mission home." So that's what we did. We don't have a lot of time to work in our area, but I sure have seen the miracles that the Lord provides if you work hard. I'll talk more about those miracles later. 

We have spent the last week in a threesome. I've been with Elder Stephens (he's going home tomorrow) and Elder Limocon (my new companion) and we have had a great time. We've been working hard and laughing hard. You have to enjoy the journey. A wise general authority once said, "If you're missing the joy, you're missing it all." That's the way to do missionary work. You work as hard as you possibly can and have a good time doing it. 

So here's some of those miracles I mentioned earlier. In this area we are over two wards. One of the wards is Makati 3rd, the most organized ward I have ever seen here. The other is the international ward. Yep, all of the services are in English and half of the people are American. It's pretty amazing. I feel like I’m back in the states. We attend 5 hours of church every week. It's great. A little more background before I mention the miracles. When I was talking with President Ostler, he told me to expect miracles and miracle baptisms. We don't have a ton of time to proselyte in our area, but somehow the work still moves forward. This last week, that phrase came to life. We entered the chapel to find a new family.  As we talked with this family we learned that the father was baptized 2 months ago in New York while visiting his brother. Now that they are back in the Philippines he wants his wife and 2 kids to be taught and baptized. So he brought the whole family to church. It was amazing. Everything is just falling in to place right now. These wards are just amazing. Everyone is so kind and they just love the missionaries. I'm so excited to work in these wards for the next couple months. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

That Changed Fast!!

Well... this week has been a crazy one. I have so much to tell you and so little time to do it in, so prepare yourselves. Probably been one of the craziest weeks of my whole life. I received the package! It was such a great surprise to see it here. I'm stoked to throw out the yellow shirts I’ve been wearing for the past little while. When I noticed the Reeses pieces... I almost started to weep. I miss those so much.

Elder Diamse and I had the most amazing lesson this past week with Jamie and Shala (a less active part member family).  I can't remember if I told you how we found them or not. Great story. If I haven't, let me know and I’ll tell you next week. Anyway, at the conclusion of our lesson, Sister Shala said one of the most amazing things ever.  She was telling us about her experience with the Book of Mormon. She explained that since she has started meeting with us and reading the Book of Mormon she has felt an increase of peace in her house and in her relationship with her husband. She then made the connection that such a blessing can only come from the Lord testifying to her of truth. It was such a special experience. 

My boy Elias.  He is the investigator I told you about last week that we found through the great example of our member. This past week we have shared with him a couple times and it turns out that he is prepared by the Lord. He is very familiar with the Bible. That knowledge sometimes makes it hard for him to accept anything else as scripture, but he's coming along. He is truly searching for the truth. He often tells Jio that he's so excited for our next lessons because we can answer all of his questions. Elias is such a fun guy to teach because he really makes me think. He asks questions that other investigators don't ask. He's the type of person that will lead the church when he's baptized. 

All right. Now for the crazy stuff. 

I received a text from President Ostler on Saturday night requesting an interview the following day. During the interview, he extended a new assignment to me. He then informed me that I would be starting the next day (Monday). What the. My mind was blown. I would have to leave my beloved ward and some of my great friends. The rest of the day was full of amazing experiences with some really great people. I made the announcement at the close of our coordination meeting and it was bitter sweet. In the meeting, Junjun (our recent convert) began to cry and it was quite emotional. 

We then began to go about our day and go to our set appointments. One of those was with Edmar and Jenna. I cannot tell you how much I love that family. I will miss them so much. I was expecting to have a couple more weeks with them before I would have to leave. However, the Lord has different plans. It was hard to say goodbye. 

Later that night, we gathered at a family home evening at the house of a member. It was super sweet. At the close of the family home evening, those in attendance took turns saying a couple words of thanks. It was super embarrassing, but super nice of them. We then had a wonderful meal. They bought a cake and had a message written on the top of the cake dedicated to my service in the ward. I truly was blessed to serve in one of the best wards ever with some of the best members ever. I will never forget them. I sure do love 'em. 

At the end of the night, I made a call to sister Pia to inform her that I was transferring. After I made the announcement, she began to cry. It was so sad. She stated through tears, "You can't transfer. You promised that you would be the one to baptize my family." It was one of the most heart wrenching conversations of my entire mission. We stopped by her house earlier today and the tears began to flow again. It was a tough goodbye. I know that family will be united through gospel ordinances before too long. I will really miss them. 

That takes us into today. There are so many more things I wish I could tell you about yesterday, but that will have to due for now. All I can say is that I love that ward and I always will. I'll never forget them. 

Not quite sure exactly everything that I’ll be doing in this calling but hears a glimpse into some of the things that will be happening in the upcoming weeks. 

Getting my Philippines drivers license and begin driving on Manila roads (probably the craziest roads in the world. Look 'em up).

Coordinating transfer days and other special conferences. 

Working close with Elder Ardern of the area presidency in the upcoming mission tour. 

Monitoring the work of the mission and working a lot with President Ostler (one of the most amazing guys I have ever met (besides my dad)).

It's going to be a crazy couple transfers. I'll let you know more about it next week when I actually have my head on straight. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Share the Gospel With A Smile

Well here we go. Remember how I was telling you about making changes in style and appearance to switch up the whole missionary schedule? Well this last week, I went to the extreme and got myself a new haircut. Decided to go with the buzz hahahaha you should see me. It's not too short (that's against mission rules), but it's definitely the shortest it's ever been in my entire life. It's pretty nice not having to use gel anymore, and it allows for a cool head. Not sure if I’ll be doing it again though. The wonderful thing about hair is that it grows back (in most cases). 

Had zone meeting again this last week. It went well. It was probably my last zone meeting here in Bonifacio. Who knows what will be happening next transfer, it could have been the last zone meeting of my mission. Speaking of the zone though, Bonifacio zone is killin' it right now. We only have 7 companionships, but we're lookin at 17 baptisms and 18 reactivations for the month of August.  Gotta love working with these great missionaries though. There are some great people here that I’m working with. It's so cool to get to know people from all over the world and learn about their background. It truly is a blessing.

I have a great story to tell you about the importance of members and the huge difference you can make just by being yourself. Here is a little background. We have a recent convert, Jio, and he's the man. I've really gotten to know him well since I’ve been here and he is a great example of a member missionary. He's very outgoing and just loves everyone. All right, so here's the story. Elder Diamse and I were walking down the street when a man caught our attention and waved us over to him. We walked toward him and he introduced himself. His name is Elias. He then began to tell us about his new coworker, Jio. Elias told us that he and Jio had met at work. He then began to explain how Jio was one of the happiest guys he had ever met and he wanted to know why. Jio had mentioned that he was a member of the church and Elias concluded that that was one of the main reasons Jio was so happy all the time. He then expressed the desire to learn more so he could find out how to find that same happiness. That is missionary work at it's best right there. Let's all share the gospel by being ourselves. Let's realize how blessed we are to be members and let it show on our faces. Let that happiness shape our lives and become who we are. Never underestimate the power of a smile and a happy attitude.  

Just a couple more highlights from this last week:

Went on exchanges

Witnessed a drunk man threatening another man with a butcher knife. 

Witnessed some more drunk men. 

I decided to count how many pregnant women I saw in one day. I made it to 12 and then stopped. Everyone and everything is pregnant here. 

And finally, we have a baptism this week!! Her name is Princess and we've been teaching her for a while now. She's 18 years old and just loves the gospel. She is pretty much already a member. She's taking part in institute, all the activities, she even paid tithing already. That's dedication.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

What Can I Do To Be More Like Nephi?

Well this week has been a pretty good week. It all started with a wonderful trip to the temple. I sure do love that place. You'll never guess who I saw. Do you remember the 3 ward missionaries from Cabar that always worked with us and we helped send off on missions? Yep, I saw one of them at the Temple the other day; Sister Lagan. It was so cool. She's been out on her mission for 9 months. She's serving in Tacloban with Elder Carlson (yep, they know each other). She got sick so she flew up to Manila for medical attention. Luckily, it was right at the same time that our zone was up at the temple. It was even more amazing because I could actually understand what she was saying to me. We could actually communicate. She gave me a great report about Cabar, everything is going great. The church is thriving (I use the term thriving very lightly). They have a new church building and everything. I sure miss that place. It was a great experience. 

A quick report on the work here in Bonifacio 4. It's amazing. This week, however, was kinda tough. The culture of the Philippines is quite interesting in the fact that a lot of people are extremely willing to make commitments, but more times than not, don't keep those commitments. For example, we were expecting upwards of 15 investigators at church this past week. They had all committed to come to church and were even excited to go to church. Sunday comes. Only 2 of the 15 actually made it. Elder Diamse and I were super stoked to have 2 investigators at church, but it gets kinda frustrating that the other 13 didn't come. Don't get me wrong, I love these people with all of my heart, but man, it's tough putting trust and faith in the agency of others. Just gotta remember that Agency is one of the key points of God's plan.

However, one of my favorite families in the world made it to church yesterday, Jenna and Edmar. Just thinkin about that family makes me smile. I sure love them a lot. They are the cutest family in the world. I wish I could send you pictures, I’m just worried that my memory cards are going to get a virus or something. Anyway, we taught them about the plan of salvation this past week and it was just great. I love testifying that through the wonderful plan our father in heaven has for us, our families can be united through the eternities in the Celestial Kingdom.  It truly is a plan of happiness. 

Had a great experience at MLC this last Thursday. It’s amazing how fast things change. It seems like just yesterday I was in my first MLC. Now, I’m one of the veterans. Crazy. We had a great meeting that was full of the spirit. President Ostler is an amazing man. The Lord truly does hand pick his Mission Presidents. It's another testimony to me of the importance of this work and always reminds me whose work it really is. 

Well that's about all for this week. Nothin too crazy happened. I would just like to end with a quick spiritual thought. Nephi is one of my favorite book of Mormon prophets for numerous reasons. His testimony is rock solid, he's full of charity, he has complete trust in the Lord and is an amazing teacher (Nephi and I have another special connection. From all of the pictures, it looks like we have about the same body structure). I often wonder what I can do to be more like Nephi. The answer is found in his last words written in the Book of Mormon. 2 Nephi 33: 

Thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey. Amen. 

If we desire to develop the testimony, faith, and teaching power of Nephi, we have to start with obedience. There's a reason that it is the first law of heaven and all blessings are received in accordance with obedience to a specific law. Be obedient. Nothing else will bring the same blessings.