Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 23, 2014 - Escalante City, Negros Occidental

Early morning basketball
This week has been extremely fast! 

So this last week was Semana Santos, or Holy week! So really starting on Thursday, places started closing up shop in celebration. There were no live crucifixions in Escalante, but everyone was just inside watching the TV broadcasts of masses and stuff.  But really, though, Easter Sunday was very nice, we had a couple of meals with members, but it wasn't really super special. When you live every day with your purpose being testifying of Him, it's not all that different, I guess. 
On Friday, we planned to go to Lopa. But it being Good Friday, the city of Escalante was dead. An absolute Ghost town. So the normal sakay (ride, meaning tricyle) to Lopa was not running, but we found a guy who said he was going out there. So we got on and started riding out till we passed the street to go out there, with no sign of stopping. We asked the driver what way he was going, we're going to Lopa, and he said Lopa? No, we're going to 5 Star! None of us had any idea where that was, and since we were already well out of town, we decided we would just start walking the way to Lopa, having faith that a motor would pass. Some did, but they did not give us a ride. So we ended up walking to Gaway-Gaway, which isn't quite as far, but is still quite a ways out, and taught these less-active sisters, Grace and May Ann, who were very happy to see us, and ended up coming to church on Sunday. So while we did put our faith in an unfounded hope, it was a fruitful labor and a beautiful walk though the country side. 

 This entire area is littered with these cool, porous volcanic rocks. This place is so cool.
There was one point where we were on the top of this ridge looking over the entire place. I'm sorry, I know I need to take more pictures of people and all, but this place is truly glorious.

The schoolhouse at Gaway-Gaway.
So on Monday, we moved apartments! We no longer live at the Habitat, we now live at this house in Escalante Proper! (Most everyone in our zones needed new houses because of such issues as no running water or serious infestations, but our house was pretty much fine in that way, it was actually pretty nice.  Oh well.) We live now with Elders Jamil and Laguindino from Old Escalante, so I'm the only American! I will now learn Visaya very quickly, or at least I'd better.

Church building in Escalante - notice electric pole

Sitio (neighborhood) Green Field, across the street from the church.
We've been trying to work more with FTEing, so talking to people more. Elder Cantago is a bit more reserved, at least in that he's not Elder Gama, who would just walk up to Americans to start talking to them. So that makes two of us who aren't really talking to people much, at least not as much as we need to be. And since I'm the one who needs to be learning how to do this, I'm trying to talk to people more. Well, at least I'm thinking about talking to people more. But it truly is good to testify of our Lord, Jesus Christ and that he has a way for you. We've taught Plan of Salvation several times lately. I know that God does have a plan for us, and that we can follow this plan if we follow him, and that this will be best for us.

Leonardo and Elder Cantago at the Sabordo's house. Sister Sabordo is a less active member, though she has been coming to church. She has two little boys, but her husband isn't around anymore, but she's really nice. Her boys are always kind of saba (loud) and distracting, but they usually calm down. We've taught her a lot about being a good example for her kids and teaching them well in their youth. The other day I really testified of this, that they may be loud and not listening and all now, but I know that they will remember the things you teach them. They may not remember every little instance, but they will remember the spirit that is taught. The love that is felt. And this will be good for them.

 I think it's harvest season for the sugar cane, so every night there's fields being burned. It's slash-and-burn agrigulture, and the allegory of the Olive tree all in one!
Another sunset from Washington
 I am praying for you always. 

I love you. 

Elder Adam Dunford

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 15, 2014 - Escalante City, Negros Occidental

So this week, it rained.

It didn't rain, rain, rain without stopping, but it certainly did come down, down, down. I feel like I've finally really gotten a taste of just why this place is tropical. And I actually got to use my rain jacket thing! That may well be useful here if I get caught in a real storm and do not feel like being soaking wet.

When we came around the bend, this goat called out "Elde-e-er," so I got a picture of us.
We walked out to Sister Aberido's house far from the road in Washington, only to find she wasn't there, but that was okay because it was a really cool walk across the rolling hills and crossing streams and all.So this week has gone pretty well. The rain has kind of cooled things down a bit, insomuch that while it's still hot in the day, it's not blazing hot, and it even gets a little cool at night! but according to the weather I've seen it's supposed to really get hot after this washes out, so I am appreciating the rain while I can. 

On Saturday and Sunday, they played all the sessions of Conference at the Escalante chapel, so I was able to watch Saturday morning, Priesthood, and both Sunday sessions. This was a great thing for me. I think this may have been one of the first times I really entirely enjoyed watching all the sessions of conference, and I was really able to learn a lot from it. I think really just being so focused in this work and being able to appreciate all the things that were taught, really seeing how I can use this for my life, especially since I'm teaching people how this can be used for their lives. But I think it was in Priesthood session, when President Monson started recounting the teachings and stories of prophets of old and the apostles, and I just felt something, there was something in his eye that testified that he speaks these words with the same authority with which they were originally taught. 

But I also have a question: Heinrich Eyring, of whom President Eyring talked, first came in contact with the Church with a coworker in St. Louis, do we know, is there any relation there to the Isaac Dunford group? I just noticed that and figured that someone would know.

I've come to start to doubt that the garden of Eden was in Missouri, because this would be a suitable substitute.

Elder Cantago with a ludicrously large citrus fruit. It's called a pomelo, and is freaky to eat, because it's totally citrusy in anatomy, except it's completely dry. So even when I thought I found something to remind me of home, it was a no. 
So our work is still a lot of work with the recent converts and members in the branch, though we've also done a bit of finding a teaching pool of our own. Last week, we met in Alimango Sister and Brother Lunod. They are an older couple, and Brother Lunod likes to talk a lot, and he has a lot of questions. (Sometimes, he's so excited about these questions, he interrupts our answer to the last question with a completely new idea! Including where does Joseph rank, above or below Christ, and if Joseph Smith was embalmed and preserved. Talking to him is a nice taste of home.) But He and Sister Lunod had talked to missionaries long ago, and they are kind and listen to our message. Last week, in our first meeting with them, Elder Cantago had kind of been struggling through a consistent lesson what with constantly changing questions, and I had been fairly quiet, unable to really butt into a conversation. But after one question, of "Where is the proof that this can be true? Where is something I can hold, that's real?" the lesson had started winding down and coming to a "Well, it's nice anyways that you do this mission, you sacrifice for what you believe in (italics added by me, not by them)." I just felt that this would not do. (Before the mission, I have been content just with showing people that Mormons are good and normal, and that was enough, I will say that.) But I'm a missionary now. What we have can help these people, I know it, and I know that they can accept this, they can know this to be true. I am not satisfied with a patronizing "Good for you!" So I told them that The Book of Mormon really is that physical thing. That you really can read this book and you really can know that there's more there than just the words on the page. That it really teaches truths, plain truths, which stabilize and nurture the Christian faith into one Lord, one Faith. And you can read it, and you can ask the source of truth if this is real, and that you will receive an answer. This kind of "missionary answer" did not really satisfy me before the mission, but I know that this is true now, and I shared this with them. It was the most powerfully I've really felt in bearing this testimony. So I gave Sister Lunod a Basahon ni Mormon, and she said she had read a bit at our next meeting yesterday. I think the Lunods together are still pretty far from baptism, but I think that there is a real potential of faith there. This is something I've really gained a testimony of on my mission, is the necessity of a Restoration. Because there is so much confusion, so many questions, conflictions, which the restored gospel of Christ truly answers.

The meetinghouse in Old Escalante sits alone on this rise above the fields of sugarcane, overlooking the sea. 

After having rained all Saturday and Sunday morning (We were watching conference at the church in Escalante for most of that time, so that was nice to be inside), the clouds parted to let in the last streaks of sunset as we walked to the Belahajia family's house, over rice paddies and all.

President Schmutz recommends in the first few transfers, to study Book of Mormon and Preach my Gospel lang. But I have been reading in the Gospels and a little Old Testament in spare time, as well. I have really gained an appreciation for the different testimonies of Christ each standard work gives, from the Great Jehovah of Israel, to the Lamb of God of Nazareth, (then kind of reprising his role as Great Jehovah in Doctrine and Covenants.) But I am just getting into the Isaiah chapters of 2 Nephi, really trying to get all I can out of them. I really like the Old Testament, it's fun.

Me at a family home evening. When you lose in a game, you don't get out, you get your face marked ridiculously. It's nice. 
And last week I had my first balut! It was a 15-day-old, which is pretty small in the development of the fetus, and I just swallowed the whole chicken without actually eating it, so it was kind of boring. It was basically just a hardboiled egg that was really difficult to eat.

But that's about it. Things are going well. I am supported in this work. We are never alone if we seek help from its source, our Lord Jesus Christ.


Elder Dunford

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 9, 2014 - Escalante City, Negros Occidental

(Dear Friends, only a few pictures from Elder Dunford this week due to poor quality computer availability.  Hopefully, we will be able to hear more from him next week. - Trina)

Some rolling hills from the Habitat, the complex/neighborhood kind of place where we live. (and is one of the few places whose name sounds as Soviet-ly communist as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)

Last Friday we had a whole crew (branch missionaries) go out to Lopa, the neighborhood way out in the definition of nowhere. But Sister Dolly, the shorter one, was making sure there was plenty of photos taken.

Another view, looking out to the back of the Habitat. I don't know if the picture got it, but you can see Cebu out past those hills.
One thing that we do in our mission is FTE, Or Finding the Elect, based on D&C 29:7. It's our way of street contacting, since there's often not really doors to knock on. But the key points of an FTE is good eye contact, testifying of a gospel truth, and setting a return appointment. This is me FTE-ing a carabao.
D&C 29:7 And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April 1, 2014 - Escalante City, Negros Occidental

New life in Negros!
Escalante. It's fun to say.

Our route from Cebu to San Carlos, a lot of people thought, was going to be to drive to the end of Cebu, take the ferry to Dumaguete, the drive back to the other end of Negros, which would be about a 12 hour drive total. Luckily, there's a ferry from Toledo to San Carlos, so our travel wasn't too long.  Driving through the interior of Cebu was amazing, this was one of the few good pictures I could get.
The booming metropolitan port of San Carlos
The center of Escalante City

This last week has flown by so fast, and yet Lawa-an seems so long ago. So I'll start with last Wednesday:

After we emailed, we met up at the Zone Leader's house and Elder Diamante, who is in Bonifacio, the only area further from Cebu than Escalante, and I got in my last taxi to Lahug probably for a long time, where we met up with the other 38 Elders and Sisters bound for Negros Occidental. I was able to suroy-suroy, chicka-chicka (Hang out, talk about, kind of a phrase) with some Cebu missionaries I hadn't met before, when finally, after being one of the only ones left without their companion, arrived Elder Cantago! Taga Cagayan de Oro siya (From Cagayan de Oro he), on the north shore of Mindanao, and as such, is full-on Visayan speaking, which I was a little bit nervous about, because he doesn't really speak English much. But It's been good, we are able to talk, and he's really a great guy. And he's also likely going to die here in Escalante with me. (He has just 3 months, two transfers left in the mission, before he goes home.)

Negros is super green
 Outside of Barangay Jonob Jonob, which is actually in our sister's area, unfortunately.

Walking out of Lopa, where there are a few members in this village by a river out on the outskirts of our area, a 20 minute tricycle ride across emerald waves of cane.

Again, it's actually in the sister's area, but I hope I'll be able to return there. It was truly just nice there. Also, Elder Cantago in the foreground!

So that night in Lahug, President Schmutz gave us all a mission briefing, in which he basically said: We are not entirely sure what the state of things is there, but we have complete faith in you. So the next morning we got on the bus across the Visayas!

I'm pretty sure Mt. Olympus is hiding over in Bacolod mission, but I'm not sure because it's always enshrouded in cloud.

We arrived in Escalante on Thursday afternoon, where we dropped our things off at our house in the Habitat (a kind of subdivision compound on the outskirts of town) and went on splits with the Bacolod Missionaries, who were still there to show us around to investigators and recent converts and members and such. I went with Elder V. (his name is long and hard to remember) and Brother Leonardo, a very helpful and nice branch missionary. But we just went around to some members houses and such in Escalante Proper. The members here are great, and apparently Escalante District is very near to becoming a stake!

 Barangay Washington "But it's not Washington D.C, Elder!" (cue laughter and repetition of joke every time Washington is mentioned.)

But just a little more word about Escalante! It's basically a Philippine version of Logan, just a little agricultural town center in the middle of rolling fields of sugar cane. But it is burning here! Apparently Negros down in Dumaguete is supposted to be much colder than Cebu, but not here!

There's a cafe in town that has pancakes and other delicious fare.
My first ridiculously-large-spider-in-the-bathroom of the mission!  none of the big spiders really bite and nothing here's too poisonous, is what I've been told. But this was a significant life force, I can tell you that. 

There were going to be other people in this picture, but they ran away.
Thank you for your support always, and I love you.

Elder Adam Dunford