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. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

I've Already Noticed Those Feelings

This week has been absolutely crazy. As I look back now, it just feels like a blur. Here's a quick look into what we did this week. Monday-Prepared for MLC and zone conference. Tuesday-Had a meeting with all the senior couples about transfers then flew out to Palawan. Wednesday-zone conference in Palawan. Flew back to Manila. Arrived at around 11 pm. Thursday-woke up at 4:30 to head to the office and get the rest of MLC ready. Started MLC at 9. Afterward, took missionaries to the airport. Then, we returned and met with president to work on transfers. Friday-Began preparations for transfer week. Saturday-held a new trainers meeting in the morning. Finalized transfers in the afternoon. Sunday-attended our two wards, finished some special projects we've been working on to help the mission in the quest to become master teachers. There you have it. That's what our week looked like. It was awesome. I couldn't love life more. I'm learning so much and enjoying every second of it. 
Now for the good stuff. We met with our boy John this last week. He's the man. He's really starting to embrace the gospel. We watched the Restoration video with him and then talked with him about some other stuff. For some reason we felt impressed that we need to help him recognize the spirit. That's exactly what we did. We began to discuss what the spirit is and how it speaks to us. We encouraged him to really focus on how he feels when he's at church, when he's praying or reading the Book of Mormon. He stopped us and stated. "I’ve already noticed those feelings. I wonder if that's the reason I always want to meet with you guys and be at the church. Whenever I’m here I feel different. I feel warm and welcome." That was amazing. That's exactly what you're supposed to feel. John truly gets it. We also had the opportunity to share with him last night. We were at a member’s house and we shared a Mormon message about the Atonement. We then shared some other thoughts. Afterward, he came up to us and stated, "That was a really good speech!" hahah speech. He's the man. He's going to be baptized one of these days. 
Quote for the week: "The very essence of leadership is teaching." One of the things I like most about where I am right now is I have the opportunity to teach. I have the opportunity to teach those that aren't yet members about the gospel and I also have the opportunity to share with missionaries. This last week, we taught during zone conference, MLC and the new trainers meeting. It was great. We taught for an hour in zone conference, an hour in MLC and about 30 minutes in the new trainers meeting. It's amazing how the Lord teaches you new things as your teaching. Another quote that I like is this: You don't really own something till you can give it away. In other words, you don't really know something until you can teach it. It's not enough just to merely know something. We need to know it in and out. We need to know it so well that we can share it with anyone that wants to hear it. 
We had the wonderful opportunity last Sunday to sing in sacrament meeting! I forgot to mention it in my letter last week so I have to put it in this weeks. All the missionaries in our ward sang an arrangement of Joseph Smith's First Prayer. It was really nice. We had a member of our ward play the flute as well. Oh man, it was great. It directed everyone's attention away from our horrendous voices. Gotta love the flute.  
Well, that's about it for this week. I'm just going to video one of our days so you can really understand what goes on here. It's so hard to do it justice over text. I guess I’ll end with a little spiritual thought. We will never be able to earn exaltation, but because of our Savior, we can qualify for it. I'm so thankful for my savior and his perfect mercy. I know that he lives.