Tuesday, January 26, 2016

January 20, 2016 - Kamputhaw, Cebu

Yes, I have been doing a lot of thinking, the dangerous pastime it is. And I feel the best thing for me to share now is my testimony. Usually the departing missionaries have the opportunity to bear testimony in front of a zone conference, where a lot of missionaries will hear them. I did not, and I'll take this opportunity instead.  

I know my Father lives. He is God. We are His children, and he loves us. I know he has a plan for me, and that a lot of that plan has come to pass in the last two years. His plan is focused on His Son, Jesus Christ, and as I've tried to focus myself on the Savior, I have seen the plan of God move forward. I have seen miracles happen. I know the Holy Spirit can stay with us if we invite him to be with us through prayer and action. If we do that, we will be able to focus on the Savior, and we will have the power of God in our lives.

I know our life is a time of action. God's got a great plan of progression, and we're best off doing something to progress ourselves. I can either spend my time doing nothing or something, and I've already spent enough time doing nothing. The Gospel of Jesus Christ tells me what is the best thing for me to do, so that I don't waste time doing nothing. 

I know that we have the priesthood of God today. Because of that, we can receive revelation from God. God will teach his prophets and apostles His plan, and we can follow the commandments we receive. I know that we can be given the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the priesthood, and by the power of the Holy Ghost God can teach us His plan. So if I am confused or nervous or unsure of what to do in my life, I can counsel with the Lord, and He can guide me. 

I know that God's end goal for me is that I enter His kingdom after this life healthy wealthy and wise. However, our status while we're living on earth is that everything is kind of piling up against us, trying to bring us further from our Father. Because of that, He sent His Son here on the earth. Jesus Christ was born on the earth, lived a life just like us, with all the same trials as we have, and descended below all the trials we face, even that he died. But Jesus was given the ability to rise above all these trials. He was given the power to rise from the dead, to rise from temptations and sorrows and everything he faced, and he entered our Father's presence perfect. He performed his Atonement, in which he shed his blood for us. He didn't just enter the Father's kingdom for his own sake. We can follow him if we follow the path that he gave us. This path is to gain faith in Christ, to repent of our sins and improve our weaknesses, to be baptised as a promise that we will follow Christ, and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will guide us always, to partake of the sacrament, in which we partake of his Atonement, and to receive the ordinances of the Temple, where we become prepared to enter the kingdom of God. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I know the Gospel has been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Lord's kingdom once again established on the earth. I know the Book of Mormon is true, and it is the reason I know all of these things. If we read and learn from it, and ask of God if it is true, He will answer us by the power of the Holy Ghost. 

So what this all means to me is that I have an idea now about what to do in my life. I'm not just drifting along going to school and working just because my parents told me to, or just to fill in my time. I have a purpose, and that purpose is to prepare the earth for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Whatever I do in my life, if I always have the Savior as my focus, I know that I will go right. So what I will do now is make goals for things I want to accomplish. I will make my dreams come true, because I know that whatever I want to do, I can do it. Whatever my Father wants me to do, I want to do it, because I know it's for the best. I will seek counsel from my Father in Heaven and strive to do what I feel is right.

I am thankful for my parents. I am thankful for you, Mom and Dad. I feel like I've learned a lot about you on my mission, and I'm glad I have the both of you. I think of you as being successful. I want to seek your counsel and help as well, because I know that you can help me in the life ahead of me. 

I am thankful for my Sister. Mom always said that we need to love and appreciate each other, because we're the only ones we've got. I love and appreciate you, and I will always look up to my older little sister. I'm excited to be with you and talk to you. I will not say the same about the rats. That's a joke. But I'm most excited to see you again, Rachel. 

I'm grateful to my grandmothers, and for their incredible examples of faith to me. I'm grateful for all the family that is mine. I'm grateful for the members of Granada Ward, especially my old Young Men leaders. I'm grateful for other members who have done so much to get me to be where I am. 

I am very grateful for my friends, both from High School and College. They are some of my best examples to me of Christ-like living.

And I'm grateful for the mission. I will never forget the people who have served me. They will be so near to my heart.

I love you. I hope this letter finds you well. I hope I don't come off as arrogant. I hope that I'm not arrogant. But I know that all of this is true, and I want to leave it with you. I love you, and I love this mission. I'll see at you at LAX.

Elder Dunford

Sunday, January 17, 2016

January 12, 2016 - Kamputhaw, Cebu

So I'll start by letting you know my favorite thing that happened this week. On Sunday, at Church, I was told thrice, by foreigners and filipinos alike, "Elder, you know, you look like Sheldon Cooper!" So that hasn't changed. Then a group of YSA told me very excitedly that I look like Benedict Cumberbatch. That was a new one. They took a picture with me. So I suppose that will continue.

This week we had exchanges in Busay! I worked with Elder Duncan. Busay is the area that goes up on to the backside of the mountain. Just Last week, the Elders got bikes in Busay. So I got to go up there and ride a bike for the first time in over two years. It's true, you don't forget how to ride a bike, but your legs can get weak. It was super hard, riding bikes straight up a mountain. Imagine riding up Rim of the World on bikes from Target. So here I am, dying, and I stop to rest for a second. I look ahead of me, and my companion, Elder Duncan, is talking to a nice husband and wife at their shop on the side of the road. He doesn't have a problem in the world! I was amazed by Elder Duncan. No matter if there are some difficulties to their area, Elder Duncan is one of the most incredibly positive missionaries I have known. He is a real example to me. We were riding on our bikes that night out under the combined light of the stars and trees full of fireflies, going out to the Lopez family, that investigator family I told you about that grows flowers. They all were baptised this last Saturday. I love this work.

About 3 months ago I told you about a man I met in Toledo named Bruce. I had a nice little conversation with him in the grocery store. Well yesterday, we were in our area standing on a busy street waiting to cross, when I see out of the corner of my eye a foreigner walking up to us. I didn't pay much attention to him, until he stood right and front of us and started saying, "I'll have you know, that SCIENCE has PROVED that..." I recognized him immediately and shouted back at him "Bruce!" We caught up a little bit, he asked me how in the world did the kangaroos get to Australia after the Flood, I answered I don't know, and we went on our happy way. I like Bruce because he always has kind of a smirkish grin after we talk. I consider him a friend of mine. 

My verses for you today. I read in Isaiah, 

Sing, O heavens; and be joyful O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. 

I have felt in the Mission that I see this happening every day. Every day I witness this joy in the whole earth. I know that that isn't something that happens only in the Philippines. I know that the Light of Christ fills the whole earth, and if we invite the Spirit into our lives, we can feel its power. We can feel this excitement, and all of creation will truly testify to us that God lives.

I love you.

Elder Dunford

January 5, 2016 - Kamputhaw, Cebu

Happy New Year! I'm happy to say I completed the years of 2014 and 2015 as a missionary in the service of the Lord. 

Some updates: We have a Cebu Mission Challenge to complete the Book of Mormon in 90 days. It has helped me a lot so far. 

This was a big week! New years' week. New years eve was fun. We had permission to watch movies with the zone. We ended up watching Big Hero 6 and The Good Dinosaur. They were very nice films, and we had a good time together. Then we got home and had all the elders sleep at our house. We got some christmas lights and a nice christmas star, found some sparking apple juice for everyone, and at 12 midnight, we watched all the fireworks here. It is seriously a sight to see, to see the entire city light up with fireworks, something once in a lifetime to see.

On Saturday, we had another baptism in the zone, a man being baptised in Busay ward and an old lady in Busay Branch, way up on the mountain.

Then this week was Missionary Leadership Council. This last transfer, we had a lot of leaders go home, and they were all replaced. There were 13 out of 24 new zone leaders, and several new Sister Training Leaders too. So it was fun to see the changes that would be happening in the mission in Year 2016. We;ve been told that the Missionary Department and the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency are putting on a Worldwide Missionary Conference at the end of the month, which, President McCurdy informed us, is the first he's heard ever happening. There are serious changes coming to the way we do missionary work, and I'm glad I'm going to be able to see that conference right before I leave. At MLC Sister McCurdy taught about Receiving the Holy Ghost as something we must truly understand and do. 

Afterwards, My batch had our last temple session. That usually happens at the departing week, but the Temple will be closed then. So we had a session together. Me and Elder Ioane are the only elders going home this January. I'm going to miss him so much, and I'm super glad that the two of us are here in the mission together. As we entered the temple, I was thinking of how I'd heard of other elders having questions to answer when they have this last session, and I was trying to think of what my question I wanted answered was. I wanted to know "What is it that I need to carry home? What do I need to take home from the Mission? from the Philippines? What does LA need that I have now?" I asked this in prayer, and found my answer in the very first words of the temple session: "JOY." I have learned what Joy is, how to find it, how to keep it. I need to keep that with me always, and help others to feel the joy I have.

This connected too with something I had been pondering. I read the other day in Helaman 5 how Lehi and Nephi, sons of Helaman, were given their names that they may remember their forefathers, their righteousness, and all. When I heard this "joy", it became clear to me that that is what I needed, and this interested me too. Adam is connected in the scriptures to joy (2 Nephi 2:25.) A lot of things confirmed to me that I need to remember joy.

I want to talk about Elder Wayne too. I like him. He's a real positive kind of guy. He is a good friend to me. He is concerned about other people, and he supports my decisions. He works hard. He pushes our limits. I couldn't ask for a better companion. He is helping me to be the best missionary I can be.

I want to serve until the end. I want to lose myself. I want to overcome my fear of talking to people. 

One last thing I've been learning about: I am not going to come home from my mission perfect. I am not going to come home saved, and I'm not going to be a different person. However I have learned the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even if I'm not perfect, I know how to get there. I know the way, so I am excited to continue in this way. I want to continue to serve after my mission. I want to continue in following the Gospel of Jesus Christ after my mission, so that I can continue to progress. I may not continue to talk in Cebuano, I may not continue to only listen to General Conference music, and I may not wear a tie every day (maybe, I'm not quite decided on that one), but I will continue to follow the Gospel. That's what I desire. 

I love you family. 

Elder Dunford

December 29,2015 - Kamputhaw, Cebu

This was a week.

Some of Elder Wayne's friends sent reports on what they did for Christmas, so I'll do the same. Early in the Morning, We were invited to breakfast at the McCurdy household with the zone. That was wonderful, they had pancakes and egg stuff. There, I got my package, as well. Quickly we ran home, took a picture of me opening the package, and then went to the Deiparine house, counselor in our bishopric, where we skyped. And then we worked. That was my favorite. We didn't have a ton of appointments, we just tracted, visited a few members and found new people to teach. We showed the video of "A Savior is Born" to our Recent converts, the Villanocha family, and their investigator son. We taught a little family who live on the side of the road and invited them to come to church. They said they would go. We visited a family who lives in this "disputed territory" between our ward and the next one over, and saw the sister missionaries there. That was fun. At 6 pm we had a baptism in our ward of a very happy little couple, Brother Tata and Sister Rowena. They were found and have been taught by the sisters, came to church for the last month or so, and were ready to be baptised this Christmas day. That was very exciting, especially because of our mission goal of having a "white Christmas," or having baptisms this Christmas season. It was cool to see that come to pass. President and Sister McCurdy attended. It was a really good service and a cool way to end our Christmas.

On the evening of December 26, there was a fire in Barangay Lahug, in the Kamputhaw sisters' area. Around 100 houses burnt down. There were no deaths. We were working at the time, and saw the burning smoke plume from a hill in our area. It was scary. Still my favorite thing about this was the next day. We drove past the burn site. The fire had reached up to the homes on the side of the highway, and one of the buildings affected was a little bakery. The back wall of this bakery was burned out, the buildings on its sides starting to be demolished. Yet they were still selling bread. 

We ended up working with the Barangay (local government) to provide some kind of relief for the victims. Most of the people there were renters, and in the time that they were looking for a new place to live, they were staying in the local school, which was right across the street from the burn site. The McCurdys got some foodstuffs to give out, and they asked us to do the same. So we ended up going as a zone to the school and put on a little program for the children. We sang "I am a Child of God," and led some games, and handed out snacks for the kids. It was really cool to see these happy little kids. Afterwards, we had a ton of bananas left, so we passed them out to the people staying in the school. It was a neat experience.

This mission is changing me every day. I feel like I'm growing, and I hope I am. I know that every day, we can rely on our Savior. I know that we need to. We can become clean. We can become greater. That is all just so that we can glorify our Father in heaven. It is all so that we can help someone else gain faith in the goodness of God.

Love you

Elder Dunford

December 22, 2015 - Kamputhaw, Cebu

This week we met a new man. His name is Rene. He has been a member since he was young. He was been inactive for a few years now, but he joined the ward Christmas party on Thursday, where he walked up to Elder Wayne and said, "Elder, I'm going to work with you." Since Saturday, every day he's worked with us, came to Church for the first time in a while, and has been super diligent. He talks to people, teaches them, and loves doing missionary work. We've talked to him a few times about serving a mission, because he's 23 now. He said when he was 20, he applied, but was turned down because of his health condition, and around that time as well was when he stopped going to church. Now he's planning on going active. Last night he was working with us, and we were visiting an active family, when brother had a seizure. We found out that that is is health condition. It made me think about Grandpa, how debilitating it is to be epileptic. Even though you're fine pretty much all the time, you are unable to do the things you want to, like serve a mission, in Rene's case. I talked to him about that a little bit last night as we were walking home, and he was glad to hear too that Grandpa lived to a nice, old age. I am glad to have the opportunity to help Rene to serve in any way possible.

Yesterday, we were in an area we go to often. We have a progressing investigator there. Our investigator has told us that a lot of her neighbors don't like us, and have been trying to get her to stop listening to the Mormons. So yesterday we were there, and I stopped along the way and was helping a man hammer together a gate that he was building at his house. A middle aged woman and a little boy walked by us, and the boy acted like he was going to high five us or something, when the woman grabbed him and said under her breath "No get away, they're bad." As they walked away, I got up and introduced ourselves real kindly. She answered real kindly, too, and started to explain herself, "I was just telling the kid that he shouldn't play with the boys outside, because they fight a lot." We continued on our way, and I realised what just happened there. We are breaking down barriers. Right after we gave a Pentecostal guy a Book of Mormon. I like being a missionary.

I have been learning a lot of my weaknesses, and looking for ways to overcome them. Elder Wayne is good. He is a good friend to me.

Love you. See you on Friday.

Elder Dunford

December 16, 2015 - Kamputhaw, Cebu

So I'd like to report what's happened this week. CSP, Baptisms, Work, and Testimony.

We had 5 baptisms in our zone this last Saturday. It was a wonderful day.

Yesterday, I was given the opportunity to attend and be a part of my Batch's farewell testimony meeting. They had all come in to the city on Sunday night,and on Tuesday afternoon was held this testimony meeting in the President's home. I had the chance to go out and work with my housemates, Elder Toani and Elder Rice before, and so I came running up to Presidents' house about 10 minutes late and entered to find the batch of 26 waiting for me. That was nice of them. 

As the meeting started, I had in my mind a lot, that I wanted to be able to take something away from that meeting that would guide my next six weeks of life. It also dawned on me that I'd likely be given the chance to bear my testimony, so I prayed that I would say what I need to say, and that I would learn what I need to learn. Just before me spoke Sister Iongi, a poly from Sacramento area. She spoke a very powerful testimony, and as part, she said that President was a powerful leader of our mission, the one who carried the power of God to lead our mission. After her testimony I bore witness of this as well. I said that one of the lessons I have learned from my mission is sustaining. I know that President McCurdy is the man who can receive revelation for our mission, and that if we as Cebu missionaries do what he asks of us, then our mission will prosper. And I know that Cebu mission has been prepared and will continue to grow. That's what I said.

During the meeting yesterday, I had an impression of something that I should do. In the Missionary Handbook, on the first page, it says to "Learn and live the higher law as taught by Jesus Christ. (see Matthew 5, 3 Nephi 12)" I realised that's not a study suggestion, it's a commandment. And so I've decided that that is what I will do. In these last few weeks of my mission, I will focus my studies on the Sermon on the mount.

I started today. I got to Matt 5:1-4. 

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for their is the kingdom of heaven, and blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

I learned that the poor are blessed if they are pure in heart and their spirits are contrite, for they shall be delivered (D&C 56:18). This is because they will have the Gift of the Holy Ghost. (2 Ne 31:13) I learned that those who mourn mourn because that's what happens in life. The earth is defiled and cursed, and all people will mourn because of this curse (Isaiah 24:1-6) However, the day will come that we shall "sing for the majesty of the Lord, and glorify His name." This is because it's all part of the Lord's plan. The heavens will vanish away like smoke, and the earth will wax old and die. But His salvation will be for ever. He will redeem us. Just as He dried the Red Sea so that ransomed Israel could be delivered, the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come singing into Zion with everlasting joy upon our heads, and our sorrows and mourning shall be no more. What that means is, although we mourn today, although our life is hard today, that's okay. That's the way it's supposed to be. What we need to make sure we do is hearken unto the Lord. Have His law in our hearts. Fear no man, but trust in the Lord's salvation. I know that if we do this then we will not have fear. We will not have to worry. We do not have to be hopeless. Though we mourn, we will be comforted. I know that this is true. I read it in the scriptures, and I felt it in my life first.

Our mission president is a different kind of president. He doesn't spoon feed us. He tell us what we should do, and lets us do it. I have said often that President wants to teach us doctrine, it's just up to us if we would seek and learn. He makes us as missionaries be accountable to learn for ourselves what we would learn.

I liked what you said about your programs, mom. I remember back in the day, how it was cool that you had a Hebrews song in your program. I know that it is essential that you keep those kids singing Christmas songs. You make a big difference, and you make Lowell Joint School District brighter. I want to share what my favorite Christmas hymn is. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. I love the last verse. 

"For lo! the days are hastening on, by prophets seen of old, when with the ever-circling years will come the time foretold, when the new heaven and earth shall own the Prince of Peace their King, and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing."

I read this a while back and the thought came into my mind; as a missionary, my purpose is to teach the world to sing. 

I will miss Elder Garcia so much. He is full of love and good ideas, and I'll miss him.

It's a new transfer. Elder Wayne the Lamanite is my new companion. I have zero white companions on my mission. I am so happy. Elder Fuimaono and Elder Pascua are District Leaders. Elder Espiritu is training. It's a really exciting transfer. I love this mission, and I love you. I'll be calling you.

Elder Dunford

December 9, Kamputhaw, Cebu

This was a big week! We had Zone Training Meeting, fast Sunday, our good friend, Elder Sanchez went home, and we had our Cebu Island Christmas Conference. I want to share some stuff that happened. 

Fast Sunday was a really interesting day. I felt like the world was waiting. for something big.

At the Christmas conference, we held a sort of variety show. There were presentations from all the zones, and some individual performances. I sang a solo. I prefaced it by telling that it was a song originally written for people who would not be home for Christmas, who would be far from home. I rewrote it, and even though it's not very good, it's heartfelt. 

I'll be home for Christmas,
you can count on me.
There'll be no snow,
or mistletoe,
and presents by LBC
I'll be home for Christmas,
you just wait and see,
I'll be home for Christmas
in Cebu Philippines.

I'll be home for Christmas,
I already am, you see.
Meeting friends 
and teaching them 
to serve Him faithfully
I'll be home for Christmas,
I don't want to leave,
I'll be home for Christmas
in Cebu Philippines.

This song is from my heart. It is how I feel. I miss you always family, but I know that I am where I am supposed to be. I know it because I feel it. I really am at home here. For example, just earlier, we rode a jeep coming to the email. the lady sitting across to me had the look like she wanted to talk to me. So we talked. She was from Tayasan, a town where I worked when I was in Ayungon. She knew Mojillos, who are a really strong member family there. Then here in Cebu, she's come to church before with her friend. She wants to learn more about the gospel. Things like this is a daily occurence, I simply feel at home here doing this work.

I just read earlier "Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest." It is true! And I know it's not just here in Cebu. The world is waiting, the world is preparing for something great to happen, and as a missionary, I get to prepare that work daily. And I know that all of us can put our hands to work, to helping someone else today. We can all help someone else to feel the love of God through our actions and words, and if we do that, then "he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal, and both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together." We can all rejoice in the goodness of Christ today. 

I also know that In January I will come home. I am not sad for that day, I am very excited. Because I know that on January 27, 2016, I will no longer belong here. I will belong in California. I hope to carry the joy that I've gained from Cebu along with me, and continue to grow. Go forward, not backward, that's the way to go.

I love you. I'm excited for you, and I'm praying for you.

Elder Dunford