Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Isn't the Gospel Just Perfect?"

Well this week has been a fun one!! We've been running around like crazy coordinating zone conferences. We've completed three out of the four. The final zone conference will be held this upcoming Wednesday on Palawan. Yep, I’m heading back again!! It's been really fun participating in the zone conferences though. We're focusing on Becoming Master Teachers. President Ostler asked Elder Limocon and I to lead the whole thing so we had about an hour in each zone conference to teach and lead a practicing demonstration in front of 60 plus missionaries. I sure do love teaching. I've never had the opportunity to teach the same thing three times in a row, but it turned out pretty good. It's amazing how the spirit prompts you to focus on different things on different days. You really have to do everything in your power to prepare, but when the time comes when you actually start teaching, you have to be willing to put your plans aside and follow the spirit and let it direct the lesson. I sure am thankful for the opportunity I have now to learn these principle. They will be principles that I will use for the rest of my life! 

Elder Limocon and I had the great opportunity to go on exchanges this last week with the Elders from Pasay North! That zone is my baby. It was great to walk those same streets and visit the people that I loved so much. I found out while I was there that two more of the investigators that Elder Carlson and I found and began to teach have since been baptized and now are thriving in the church. We even had the opportunity to visit and teach them. Those are the "pay days" that really help you understand the difference your helping others make in their lives. There is no greater calling than this. I was able to visit Hector!! I don't know if you remember him, but he was the less active member that Elder Carlson and I got really close with. He's still going strong, coming to church, and he even gave a talk in sacrament the other week (I hear that his talk was amazing). Unfortunately, the Borejon family has moved away so we weren't able to visit them. It's amazing how much you grow to love the people that you serve as a missionary. 

We had an amazing lesson with Wilma this last week. For her whole life, she's been active in another church and this last week, all the questions and concerns came out. However, the spirit directed us and through the scriptures, we were able to help her overcome all of her concerns and answer all of her questions. By the end of the lesson she was stating, "It all makes sense now. I finally understand it." It was quite amazing. It's so great that in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints we don't have to take someone's word for it. We have the opportunity to find out for ourselves if something is true. That's exactly what we have been focusing on with Wilma and because she has real intent, faith in Jesus Christ and a sincere heart, she's receiving answers. Isn't the gospel just perfect? I just love it. 

Guess what?  Elder Limocon is going home in about a week. I'm so sad. I can't even explain how sad I am. I love that kid so much. We've had such a great time this past transfer. We've worked extremely hard, seen miracles and shared laughs. It'll be hard to say goodbye to him. I wish he could stay for a couple more transfers. He's the type of guy that makes everyone else around him happy. That's a very special gift. On the other hand, we still have a week and we're going to live it up!! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

It's Amazing What the Lord Can Do With Your Life!

Well, to start this letter off, I have some really exciting news. Don't you just love exciting news? The first part is about one of my investigators from my last area, Sister Ciara. I got word that she has passed her baptismal interview and will be baptized this upcoming week!! Yay!! Not only that, but her husband is now active in the church and will hopefully be the one to baptize his wife. Don't you love missionary work? I don't think there's anything better than this work. I feel like I’ve been a full time missionary my entire life and I don't feel like I’m ever going to be released. Enjoy it while it lasts. 

The second part of the great news is just as exciting. This one has a story as well. Earlier today, right after we had let all the missionaries out to eat lunch, we noticed a few girls sitting at the back of the room. One of them was our ward member who is preparing to go on a mission. She told us yesterday that she would be coming so we expected to see her, but we couldn't tell who she was with. As we drew closer, I quickly realized who she was with. She was with Angel!!!! One of the girls that I baptized while serving in Manila 2nd!! It's been about ten months since I saw her.  As I began to talk with her, she gave me even more exciting news!! (don't you just love good news?) She's getting ready to serve a mission!!!! She's getting ready to start her papers in the near future. I was overjoyed. Words honestly can't describe my excitement in that moment. I'm so excited and so thankful that I have had the opportunity to get to know her. Seriously, I’m so happy right now. 

Alright, so what else happened this week? I've got another amazing story about finding. I actually wasn't there for the initial experience because we were on exchanges, but I’m going to tell you anyway. While I was serving in another zone, Elder Limocon was working in our area with another missionary. They had just finished an appointment on one side of manila and had to make their way to the other side. They didn't have the car because I’m the only one with a license and it was rush hour. The taxis, jeepneys and all other forms of public transportation were loaded with people. So, they decided to walk. Little did they know that it was actually part of a divine plan executed by the Lord. As they walked along the busy cities of Manila, a random car pulls over and a man rolls down the window. He tells Elder Limocon that he's seen missionaries in the past and he wants to be taught. Uuuuhhhh that never happens. They set up an appointment for the next day. Luckily, I was back the next day and was able to take part in one of the greatest lessons ever (He's also fluent in English and even prefers it, so we taught him in English). He began by telling us about his life as a 26 year old man that owns his own car dealership and tells us why he called Elder Limocon over. He expressed that more and more responsibilities are falling on his shoulders and that he wants to put away the old life that he used to live, and start a new life that will help build a strong foundation for the rest of his life, for his future family, and other things. It sufficeth me to say that it was an amazing lesson with an amazing investigator that wants to change. When we are humble and willing to let the Lord change us, amazing things happen, we become new men and new women. He quickly began to show his real intent the next day by coming to church. He loved it. He's best friends with everyone in the ward (it helps when half of the members in our ward are SAs). Not only that, but he just ate up the doctrine. He wanted to know everything. He had so many questions and he was ready to receive the answers. He's going to be baptized. 

We were hit by a pretty epic storm this last week. It rained forever. We had flooding up to our knees outside of our apartment. We were told that we couldn't go out and work. It was a pretty long day spent in the walls of our apartment. We got a lot of washing and cleaning done. That's pretty much the extent of the storm. Nothin too exciting when you're stuck inside. It's funny to see all of the kids run out in the middle of the storms to play in the water. Well it's funny until you realize what they're swimming in. After that, it's not too funny anymore. 

That's pretty much all I got for this week. I just want you all to know that I love my mission. There is nothing I would change about where I am right now. It's really cool to see how the 19 years before my mission were spent preparing me for these two years. Now, these two years are preparing me for the rest of my life. It's amazing what the Lord can do with your life when you give him control. His hands can shape our lives a lot better than we can. We just have to be willing to let Him. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Yes, I Eat Shrimp!"

All right. About his week. We had a lot of really cool experiences with some of the members in our ward and some new investigators! I'll start with an amazing experience that we had yesterday! There is this young couple (not yet married) that have been attending our ward for a while (the international ward). The man, Mike, is a member, but his girlfriend, Wilma, is not. They have been coming to church for the past couple months, but because hey live outside of our mission boundaries, the elders here have never taught them. We talked with them last week and finally coordinated where we could meet in order to share with them. Yesterday after church, we were finally able to share with them for the first time. It was one of the most amazing lessons of my life. Wilma has been taking online lessons for quite a while and she's been taught the first three lessons, reads the book of Mormon consistently and has already gained a testimony of it's truthfulness. She told us a story about her experience with the Book of Mormon. She expressed to us that she went weeks without missing a day of reading. She loved it. However, she was afraid to ask if it was true because she felt like if she found out that it was true, she would be abandoning her belief and everything she grew up in. She stopped reading and was filled with guilt. She said a prayer and said, "If the Book of Mormon is true, please take away this guilt. If it's not true, leave the guilt." The next day, she attended church, read the Book of Mormon and the guilt went away. She had her answer that the Book of Mormon was true. That was only the beginning of the testimony that she now has the book of Mormon is true. She's an amazing person and really wants to know the truth. She'll be baptized on October 4th. 

In one our wards we have a part member family that is extremely wealthy. This last week they invited us out to dinner. Holy crap, it was one of the best dinners I have ever had. They took us to this Italian restaurant that was really nice. This member was a regular at this restaurant so we were taken very good care of. Before we knew it, we were getting served all different types of food. We ate shrimp (yes, I eat shrimp. It was the size of my fist and it was amazing), buttered corn, chicken wings, and other things. They were only the appetizers. Then came the pizza. It was baked in a brick oven and was just amazing. One of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. We ended the night with some amazing ice cream. It's was a great night. That's one of the really good things about the wards I’m serving in right now, they love feeding the missionaries. I sure love these wards. 

We had MLC this past week. It was great, like always. We spent 2-3 days prior to the meeting to prepare everything. We had to prepare slideshows, handouts, agendas, transportation, everything. It was epic. It turned out really good though. President and Sister Ostler have a love for music so we spent some time doing "music appreciation." They are allowing us to listen to a wider variety of music now, which is great. It's amazing the effect that music can have on us. President Ostler said, "Music is so powerful because it communicates directly to our emotions." That is so true. Music is a very powerful tool that can be utilized by the Lord, or a weapon wielded by the devil. The music we listen to can affect us in ways that we don't even realize. Hopefully, the music we listen too builds us up and doesn't break us down. “Mo Tab or die.”

Monday, September 8, 2014

Eternal Memories

So this week was the mission tour. I spent the last week with a general authority and it was pretty much amazing. I don't even know where to start right now. I'll just give you some of the highlights. It all started on Tuesday with a mini MLC. Elder and Sister Ardern addressed all the zone leaders and sister training leaders. He taught us some very valuable skills about leadership and how we can reach our potential as missionaries. The truly amazing part started after the meeting was over when President Ostler invited Elder Limocon and I to have lunch with them and the Arderns. Holy crap. That was quite the experience. Having lunch with a member of the quorum of the seventy, a mission president and their wives. I kinda felt out of place. It was a great, awkward experience. Then, Elder Ardern grabbed President Ostler and us, took us to the other room and began to give us instruction on how to fulfill our calling. We received 30 minutes of direct instruction from a general authority in person about how to magnify your calling. Wow!!

The next few days were spent addressing three large groups of missionaries. One conference per day. We were able to attend each one. The first stop: Palawan. Man, it was great to be back in the Celestial kingdom again. Unfortunately, the only sights we were able to see were the airport, the zone leader's apartment, and the chapel. However, just being in Palawan was amazing (we'll be heading back in less than a month for another conference. I'm stoked). 

The teaching that we received was quite inspiring. I attended three conferences and each one was different. Elder Ardern commented to us that he "teaches people, not lessons." The way in which he was able to teach was quite impressive. These are not short conferences either. He taught for about three hours in each conference and it was based 100% on the spirit. A few of the secrets to being a master teacher are to ponder continually the words of life, to prepare every needful things, and then be willing to let it go and follow the spirit when prompted. There was not a moment when Elder Ardern was not teaching. When we were eating, flying, driving, he was always teaching. What was truly inspiring was he didn't only teach through his words, he taught by example. Whenever he taught us something, he would demonstrate it. 

As you can see, my thoughts are kind of all over the place. There are so many things going through my mind and it's difficult to organize them. Here's a couple more random events that occured:

I drove a general authority through the city of Manila. I had two emotions and thoughts going through my head. 1st: This is terrifying, there's a general authority sitting in my van as we speak and I need to get him from point A to point B safely and I’ve only been driving in this city for a week. 2nd: I have nothing to worry about. The lord will never let anything bad happen to the car that his general authority is driving in. I'm happy to report that we made it safely. 

A recurring theme in the conference was finding a spouse. More specifically, what to look for in a spouse. hmmmm

I've never been so sleep deprived in my life. We woke up at 4:30 am  three times last week. The other days we were out of bed by six . Didn't go to sleep till 10:30. Exhausting. 

Well that about sums up mission tour. I wish you guys could just have been here to experience it with me. It was such a blessing witness the things I witnessed and learn the things I learned. I learned a lot of life lessons that will never be forgotten. 

I have one more experience that I would like to share with you today. I occurred yesterday as we taught the family I told you a couple weeks ago that randomly showed up to church. We finally had the opportunity to teach them for the first time yesterday and it was one of the most amazing lessons ever. Emma, the wife, is Chinese. She grew up in China and has no Christian background whatsoever. This is the very first time of my entire mission that I’ve taught an investigator without a belief in the God that we believe. Her family was Buddhist, but she's been looking for something else, something else that would be better for her own family (don't you love it when people are looking for that?). Well we spent the first lesson talking about God and his role in our life. We explained how we are all children of our Heavenly Father and that he loves us. She wasn't really buying it. She was completely open to our message, but years and years of Buddhism had taught her differently. She truly wanted to believe, she just couldn't. We then focused in on how we can ask our Heavenly Father directly if He's there and if we are his children. We taught her how to pray and asked her to offer a prayer. She agreed and we all knelt in humble prayer. The words that came out of her mouth amazed me. It sounded like she had been praying for years. Half way through the prayer she began to cry. The spirit filled the room and we were surrounded by the love of our Heavenly Father. As she closed her prayer, we all looked up with huge smiles on our faces. He husband (whose been a member for 2 months) exclaimed, "She's been touched by the spirit." We were all touched by the spirit in that moment. No one could deny the things that we felt. 

Sister Ostler invited them yesterday at church to come to a family home evening at the mission home. No one could have a family home evening with the Ostlers and not want to get baptized immediately. It's over.