Sunday, December 28, 2014

.......and a Happy New Year!

Elder Avila is transferring! He has two transfers left and the Lord is going to have him train for those last two. Crazy. That means I’ll be staying here for the rest of my mission and will be getting my final companion. My new companion will be Elder Thurber. I'm super stoked to be companions with him. We were both in Bonifacio at the same time and he lived the floor above me so I know him pretty well. He'll be a great companion. I sure am gonna miss Elder Avila though. He's a great missionary and is fun to be around.

So you mentioned getting an x-ray in your email. Lindsay was exactly right. All the going home missionaries are required to get a chest x-ray before they head home to check for TB. It's actually quite funny that you mention that because I will actually be getting mine later today. Cross your fingers it'll come out clean. Just playin, I’ve never heard of a missionary actually getting TB so I think I’ll be ok. Another thing we'll be doing in the next couple weeks is fingerprinting. The word on the street is that you sometimes see missionaries from other missions so there's a chance I’ll be able to hook up with Elder Hale while I’m there. 

I had a great experience at church yesterday. In the international ward, Bishop Hill asked me to offer the closing prayer during sacrament. It was the first time in my life to give a prayer in Sacrament meeting. Wow. You bet that went into my journal. About an hour later, 5 minutes before the Makati 3rd sacrament started, Bishop Espi came up to me and asked me to speak about missionary work. I was happy to. I've spoken more in this area than I have in any other. I sure do love these wards though. It is a pleasure to be a part of this work and work with these wonderful members. 

This week's a pretty crazy one. In about 30 minutes we will be participating in going home activities with all of the missionaries that head home tomorrow. It's a sad day because all of my best buds head home. Elder Hawkins and Elder Diamse are included in those going home. It's going to be very sad when they head out. I'm spent a lot of time with those two and we have become great friends. They're both planning on going to BYU though so I’m sure I’ll see them again in no time. 

Well that's about all I’ve got time for today! We're just about to head out. Have a wonderful New Years! We'll be dodging all the drunken people and firecrackers! I sure love ya!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

God is Mindful of Every People

What a wonderful week. Isn't the Christmas season the greatest time of the year? I just love Christmas so much. It's an amazing time to be a missionary because you can share the wonderful story of Christ's birth with every living creature you see. It truly doesn't get much better than that. Well I have so much to tell you today so I’m gonna dive right into this email. 
First things first. Christmas came early for me this year. I received the most joyous news that I have ever received this last week. In church yesterday I received a text from the zone leaders in Pasay north. They informed me that the Caras family will be sealed in the temple on January 9th at 7 am. Just writing that brings tears to my eyes. This is truly what it's all about. I have been looking forward to this day for the past year and it's finally happening. I could not be more happy for that wonderful family. Families truly are eternal. 
I learned a valuable lesson this week. That lesson was that you don't really know how important something is until you no longer have it. Unfortunately, I had to learn it the hard way when someone stole both of the side mirrors off our car in the middle of the night. Yep, some random person stole the side mirrors off our van. Isn't that so sad? I don't understand some people. I was thus forced to drive around the streets of Manila without side mirrors. That was quite the experience. A very scary experience. Luckily as a missionary you always have a companion. He was therefore my side mirrors while driving. Unified in all things. 
Saturday was amazing. It was the baptisms of Samuel, Wilma and Lynn. Unfortunately, Noah wasn't baptized this last week, but he will definitely be getting baptized in the next couple months. It was such a great day. Out of all the baptismal services I have attended, this was one of the best. It was the very first baptismal service I’ve attended on my mission where everything was in English! It was kinda trippin me out. Lynn requested that I be the one to baptize her and I was more than happy to oblige. What was truly amazing though was Mike was able to baptize Wilma. They have the best story ever. It's quite amazing how far they have come and the steps they are making. Wilma informed me this last week that she and Mike will probably getting married (civilly) in June of UTAH!! I LIVE IN UTAH. You bet I’ll be there. She told me that I better be there because she won't know anyone else. Wouldn't miss that for the world. Anyway, the baptismal service was so spiritual. The entire ward came to support Samuel, Wilma and Lynn. It was a cool sight. One of my favorite lines of the day was stated by Samuel. Right after he was baptized he told me, "Man, I didn't want to come out of the water! It just felt so good!" Samuel, Wilma and Lynn all had the opportunity to bear their testimonies after and if I hadn't seen the baptismal service, I would have thought they'd been members for years. I was quite impressed. One of the statements I love hearing the most is, "I've read the book of Mormon and I know that it is true." There are few things that compare to that. 
So I’m going to go off on a little tangent here about Wilma. Wilma grew up in a very religious household. Here entire family was very dedicated to their religious beliefs. She explained in her testimony that she reached a point in her life where she realized that something was missing. She searched a lot looking for the church. One day she came across and felt something different. She began to research more and was struck by the story of Joseph Smith. She recalled that she felt exactly what Joseph Smith felt; confusion. Therefore, she did exactly what Joseph Smith did; she prayed. We all know what happens when true seekers of truth humble themselves before God and seek divine guidance through prayer. The rest is history. Now she's a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 
Now for Samuel. He told us about an experience he had while still living in Ghana where he met an American missionary of another faith. He volunteered to translate for this missionary while he was serving in their country. He spent a lot of time with him and got to know him very well. One day, this missionary told Samuel, "One day you are going to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." That statement made an impression on him considering it came from a missionary from another faith. He didn't think much about it though until he was walking the streets of Singapore and he saw two sister missionaries with nametags walking near a train station. He approached them, stuck out his hand and asked, "Hi, how can I be saved." The sisters calmly replied with a smile, "That's a great question. Why don't you come to our church on Sunday and we'll tell you." That Sunday, he did exactly that. Looking back now he stated, "I've never felt more welcome in my entire life. I knew then that I wanted to be a member of the church." That week he made his way to the Philippines, sought out the church and that's when we found him. He commented, "I now know that God has a plan for all of us and will help all of us return to him." 
Finally, Lynn. Lynn has gone through some very tough experiences in her lives. There were numerous occasions where she felt lost and unsure of the path that she should take in her life. She told us about one particular experience where these thoughts were the most intense with the stresses of finding a job on top of that. She fell down on her knees one day and asked the Lord to help her find out what she was supposed to do. A few days later, she found her answer. Those answers are named Mike and Wilma (yep, the same Mike and Wilma). She was hired by Wilma to help her around the house at the same time Wilma was starting to investigate the church. One day as Lynn was cleaning the house she spotted a book sitting on the table. She took a second and began to examine the book. She opened to the first few pages and began to look at the pages on the front. As she did so, an indescribable feeling embraced her. One thing led to the next and before we knew it, Elder Limocon and I were teaching her about the Restoration. Lynn made big steps very quickly. She was willing to do anything. "Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth." 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Calm Before the Storm

We are currently sitting in a computer shop during "The Calm Before the Storm." Typhoon Ruby (the Filipino name for the storm) has slowed down a bit and won't be arriving here until a little bit later this afternoon. Unfortunately, when storms slow down, it's not a good thing. It allows for a lot more rainfall and thus, a lot more flooding! Our area flooded pretty bad the last time a typhoon hit so we're expecting to be stuck in our apartment for quite a while. Don't worry, I’ll take pictures and send them to you next week. I'm glad to hear that everything is going well at home! I'm so glad to hear the Christmas season is finally upon you over there on the other side of the world. Christmas hit the Philippines about 3 months ago, but has drastically increased over the past couple weeks. I can't explain just how much I love the Christmas season. Hearing Christmas music, seeing Christmas lights and trees and, most of all, teaching about the birth of our savior are a few of my favorite things. Not gonna lie though, it doesn't really feel like Christmas without snow. 

Well this week has been very busy and very epic. We have been running around mad trying to get everything ready for this typhoon to hit. Not only that, but we also had MLC this last Thursday. MLC is always a big project. I'm letting Elder Avila take charge in most aspects of the work so he can get used to leading the area and getting all the fun office work done.  He hasn't really spent a lot of time with computers so it's been quite exciting teaching him how to use word, excel, powerpoint and also, how to type. Elder Avila and I had the great opportunity to teach again in MLC this past week. We had about 60 minutes to talk about Talking With Everyone. I sure do enjoy teaching. 

I have to tell you about the greatest experience ever that happened this week. It all started on Saturday afternoon when we visited Samuel. He expressed to us that he found a job!! After weeks of searching and hardship, he's found a job! I was so excited for him! He definitely deserves it. He's so humble and willing to do the will of the Lord. However, finding a job was only half the battle. He know has to somehow find a way to get a workers visa which is not cheap. Then, on Saturday night we received a text from our bishop in the morning that stated the following, "We just received a text from Noah's explaining that his mom has cleared him to be baptized on the 13th!" Gotta love those kinds of texts. Like I mentioned last week, his mom has been insisting that he wait for a while. This is evidence that prayer and fasting can truly soften hearts. Wait though, it gets better. The following day (Sunday) after church Wilma came up to us and said, "Elders, I’m going to get baptized this Saturday (Dec 13th)!" She then expressed that her boyfriend has been working with the bishop and is going to be the one to baptize her. That nearly brought tears to my eyes. It was a very special moment. That is one of the experience I’ll look back on in the future and my heart will just melt when I do. Right after that, Samuel ran up to us and excitedly exclaimed, "ELDERS! One of the members has agreed to sponsor me and help me buy the licenses I need in order to work! I'm going to be able to get the job!!" By this point, I was so happy and excited and everything. But wait, there's more. Our bishop then pulled Wilma, Lynx (Wilma’s friend we've also been teaching), Samuel and us into his office. He then gave each of them an opportunity to share their testimonies and how they were feeling. It was one of the most spiritual experiences ever. After that, through tears of joy, Lyn and Samuel both agreed to be baptized this Saturday. Words can't describe the feelings I had nor the feelings I have now. I love this work so much. Luckily, it was stake conference that day so all the missionaries were at the church including the one that would be conducting the interviews for these amazing people. We pulled him aside, explained the situation and before we knew it, Wilma, Lyn and Samuel passed their interviews. My mind captured the picture-like moment as those three future members walked down the hall with their white baptismal clothing in hand, smiling from ear to ear, a moment that I will never forget. This next week will be a fun one. We have a lot to prepare and a lot left to teach! Noah's interview will be here in one of the upcoming days. The church is so true. 

The Lord is truly blessing me. These past few months have been a few of the most difficult and rewarding times of my entire life. I am so happy to be serving in this wonderful country. I'm so grateful for the people I’ve met. Some people look at a 2-year mission as a sacrifice, but the Lord blesses us far more than we sacrifice. I would never say that I have sacrificed these two years. I have gained more out of this time than I have at any other time of my life. A member of our area presidency stated, "there is no such thing as sacrifice in the gospel sense. The Lord blesses us so richly." It's true.