Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May 28, 2014 - Escalante City, Negros Occidental

Maayong gabii sa inyo-a!

So for the last few weeks there have been thunderstorms brewing all around us, and every night we can just watch as lightning flashes all around, over the North shore, out over Cebu, and over the mountains of Negros. But, a couple of days ago the storm moved in over the plain and all night we had, essentially, continuous lightning all around. There is something about it here, it just feels to add to the life that exists here. Not only do plant life and animal and human life flourish in this land, even the Earth itself has something to add here. Maybe it's because I'm just so focused on it, but you can just feel the power of God. So of course, I had to capture it with a tripod and long-shutter exposure.

This week has been good. We've been pretty busy lately, with lessons and talking to people and all. This week is Fiesta here in Escalante, and the town is in various stages of being painted red (not literally). But, for the last week banner flags have been going up over all the streets and the city hall plaza has been filling up with places selling all sorts of food and t-shirts. The festivities are supposed to really happen this weekend and, apparently, if there's a fiesta going on, there's no one home to teach, so we've been trying to do all we can now. But it's all very fun and exciting here for the time being.
I really ought to carry a tripod with me, because the camera-in-the-tree method doesn't seem to work too well. 
Last week was Zone activity. We played ultimate frisbee at a basketball-han in Bonifacio area. And people were leaving without taking pictures, so I took one. 
Also, it has been officially announced that Escalante District has been approved to become a stake, and our branch a ward, which is very exciting! I do not yet know when this change is to actually happen, but a branch presidency member spoke on Sunday that the people here really need to prepare for this change. But these people are really fit to become a stake, and I know that with this change, that they'll really be able to see a great growth in the work. 

Walking in the Habitat with Juvy, Elder Montano, and Leonardo.

I liked this old, rusted carabao plow.
Kind of in the same vein, and along with what I said last week, that we've been told to really focus more on families as a whole, particularly men. Because we've kind of seen just on its own this has started to happen. We have one family in the branch who has been less active since the mother died a few years ago, but we've really been able to see the children, youth and young adult age, come back to church. However the father sometimes goes to church, but is has not been living entirely solidly. One evening we went to their house and found the whole family there, but the father was impairedly drunk, which he told us quite soberly. However, they listened to us as we did little more than bear our testimonies, after which, Tatay told us "I have problems, and I know it. Since my wife died and I've stopped living this gospel, I've felt this change, this loss. I want to change and follow this again." Follow up visits and going to church have shown us that this was more than just the alcohol speaking, and last sunday, he was called from the pulpit to share his testimony (It was rather olden-times-of-the-church-like, as he said he did not expect it), which he did. It was simple and short, but he told us later that that was the first time he's stood in front of a congregation in a long time. I think it was a good experience for him. 

As we were walking back from Sister Aberredo's house, when we these two passed our way and we started talking. The kid was pure Tom Sawyer, speaking with the confidence and charisma of someone far older than he was. So to top it all off, we skipped some rocks across the pond. We talked to their Nanay, who told us that Sister missionaries used to come by and play with the kids and share lessons, but they had long since left. It was a good experience.
There's a lot of people here. There's a lot of work here. Thank you for your examples, and for all that I have been given to do this work. Now I too must give.


Elder Dunford

Friday, May 23, 2014

May 21, 2014 - Escalante City, Negros Occidental

How are you over there?
I'm really bad at taking pictures
It has been hot over here as well, except it the kind of way that every day it acts like it's going to rain, but then it doesn't, so it's just really humid. Also, the UV index here is crazy, if sunlight touches my watch it glows like San Onofre for half an hour. But I have yet to get really sunburned or tan. Only hot.

We came by a house that had a monkey on a chain
So one of the branch members here had his farewell on Sunday. Brother Jude, going to the Manila mission, into the big city. But because of this, we lost one of our most kugihan kuyogs (diligent member companion),  which is sad, but it's super exciting and good for him. He was baptized 3 years ago and only a few of his siblings are members, but he was always good to join us. He was also on of the few people that I preferred talking to in english, because he is full-on Illongo, in that he understands Cebuano and can speak it, but generally if he talks, I have a hard time understanding him because he just speaks Illongo usually. But his english was entirely good, although he had some kind of oddly lalum (deep) english words in his vocabulary that seemed like something that would only come out of a thesaurus definition. But he is a really strong member of the branch, and I know that he will do great work and see great blessings for him on this mission.

The sisters had a baptism of two of their investigators last week. 

A big part of our work that we're trying to work on, that the Area Presidency has actually stated we need to work on is to kind of complete the work that has been done in bringing complete families together in our teaching, and that we need to try to really teach men, seeing as women generally tend to be much better at accepting our message than men, we need to kind of even the field. But we've really been able to see this happen in our work. One of our investigators, sister Elsa, is incredibly bright and remembers all the things we teach, and has productive questions, and is really just generally bright. Her husband had generally not been interested in our message, as he generally just passes by or has places to go or things to do. However, at a lesson last week, we went to  teach Sister Elsa, and her husband was there, and though at first he went out to work on cooking or something, he came back in after a while and actually sat down to listen to us. This felt like something of a miracle, if maybe just planting the seeds for more understanding. 

 A sunset before rain. We were walking out from Lopa across the roads amidst the sugarcane when it got dark, then started raining, but luckily a couple of habal-habals came by and picked us up to take us into town.

I really just want to express my love for you. I know that you have done so much for me, and I truly love you, Mom, Dad, and Rachel, and all the other people in my family and friends who have had a great impact on my life. You know who you are.

Thank you always.

Elder Dunford

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May 14, 2014 - Escalante City, Negros Occidental

Self-timer picture
(On Mother's Day we were able to speak to Adam for 1/2 an hour on the phone.  Waaaaay to short, but it was awesome to hear his voice and know that he is happy. - trina)

It was so nice to be able to talk to you! It was really a great experience, and I really liked being able to really visualize the craziness of being around the house at a holiday dinner. 

(President Arch Haskins, former president of the Whittier California Stake passed away this week) 
It makes me sad to hear that President Haskins is gone. I really consider those Saturdays I spent at his house "A time for a young man to be tutored by one who has the wisdom of age and experience, something I'm concerned your father may lack," as he may have said. I hope to be able to carry a bit of that fire in my work here. I know that he was so full of love for every person he met, and showed his respect in great ways and I really had a lot to learn from him.

This week, I have been doing a bit more of leading kind of work. I've had to lead the planning, and a bit of the teaching and all of our walking since I am the senior in this area, and for at least this first week, I'm really having to lead as the one who knows the area. This hasn't been too hard, but just trying to think of what we "normally" do sometimes is a little hard. But it's good, I'm really starting to learn how to do this work (even if it is by trial and error sometimes.) 

 Walking to try to find a tricycle back to Balintawak (The barangay that is central Escalante.) If we're too late out at some of the outlying areas, the tricycles stop coming around and we have to walk and find one. 

The path to Sister Jessica's house. She's a recent convert and she's always really kind and wants to learn more about this gospel.
In our apartment, one of the books that we inherited is this big volume of all the Ensign magazines from the year 1989. It is really interesting to read through, to read through the conference editions, some of the news bits, and just as a whole see the themes repeated 25 years ago. Some of my favorites were that at that April conference, President Benson was awarded the highest honor of the International Scouting Board, and pretty much all of that Priesthood session was about scouting and its merits. There was a story about the Centennial celebration of the Paris, Idaho Tabernacle, which heralded the settlers of Bear Lake Valley as being "a hardy group of saints", out of whom came many influential members of the church, and in Conference one of the Twelve told about the work that had been done in the German Federal Republic, which had recently opened the Freiberg Temple and allowed in missionaries. It is really truly interesting and inspiring to me to see the stories and the inspiration of  all the modern prophets, some still living, and some passed away.

Sister Colleen had a camera mono-pod arm thing that was fun to play with

There are constantly trucks driving through town that are ridiculously large, the size of double stacked shipping containers. and stacked full of sugarcane. This one got stopped for being too tall, and by the measuring stick it looked like it was over 12 meters tall.
So in our work this week, we were walking around Mocabog, and area of Brgy. Washington, and found that there weren't really many people around, it seemed everyone was out and about. So as we were walking, I decided to go to the Magnot House. The Magnots are a Nanay and Tatay, who aren't able to go to church sometimes because of the cost of the fare to get into town, but they've had several children go out and return from missions and have families of their own now. The Magnot's house stands in the middle of a grassy knoll surrounded on two sides by still-young fields of sugar cane, and a stand of coconut palms on the other. Their actual house is now just a concrete platform and solid lumber frame, after it was destroyed by Yolanda. They now live in a house a few yards away from the old one, cobbled together of the materials left from the old house. So we walked out there and found only Sister Magnot to be home, but she gladly came out and started talking to us and greeted Elder Montano. So we sat down on the grass outside their house and started talking. When I asked how it's going (An inspired question, that is,) she replied that it's going good. She said she's got plenty to be happy for. That she has a husband, and they have a house and land. She said there's plenty to be worried about, that there are plenty of trials in her life, but she's had plenty of blessings. She had plenty to be happy about. As we sat there on her grass, with chickens running around, dogs coming home for the night, and the cow laid down to rest and as the sun set behind the eastern Clouds, I knew that was true. I knew she knew this peace. 

 I'm so happy I'm in a place with palm trees. 
I know that this gospel is true. I know there is peace to be found here. I know there is work to be done here. I know this work is not to be borne entirely on our shoulders. But I know that to take the yoke of the Savior, you need to find it.

Thank you always. I love you always.

Elder Dunford

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

May 7, 2014 - Escalante City, Negros Occidental

I thoroughly enjoy this sign on the road to Libo. 
This week is transfers again, and things are changing! Elder Cantago, who has one transfer left on the mission, is going back to Cebu City to be a Zone Leader! I have been entirely grateful for the time I have had to learn from him. He really is a good missionary. Last week, President Schmutz told me to look out for some changes this transfer, and I told him that I really wished I could have more time with Elder Cantago. He is very humble and kind, and has done wonders for the reputation of the missionaries here in Escalante, and I wish I had more time to learn from him. Presiudent Schmutz said that really helped him with his decision, and I'm glad and happy for him to have this opportunity to lead and teach a Zone before he goes home. But I am staying in Escalante, and Elder Montano is coming in as my new companion. So tomorrow is the actual transfer day, and we get all changed, so that is exciting. 

Service Day

I was actually thinking the other day how I kind of wished I'd had an Eagle [lapel] pin. I've really started to recognize how much of an impact Scouting has had on my life. Even if when I was younger I didn't get a whole lot of friends from Scouts, that just meant I really got to learn the principles it teaches (Though I did get plenty of great experiences from scouts). Of course I still remember to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. I even get people (like Filipinos) calling me boy scout every once in a while on the streets, which really kind of surprised me. I guess I really kind of inherited that whole person. It really is rather in line with being a missionary, and a responsible adult. I am striving to be the Scout I learned to be as I become the missionary I am.

Timered pictures

The other day we went to Sitio Putingbato, which means White Stone, far out in Brgy. Washington. We had some referrals out there, and it seemed to have been pretty untouched by missionaries. We had a whole party from the branch.
I have not traded anyone a silk tie for anything. I actually don't really wear the Brooks Brothers ties much, just on travel days, on Gen Conference, and last week, to Zone Interviews, were the only time this transfer I can remember wearing one. And of course, they are never going to be traded for anything. They mean too much to me. But here, there's okai-okai's, which are basically just shops that sell like savers-donated clothes for super cheap, and it's actually part of the Cebu mission deal to try to find nice ties at okai-okais. Some of the "nice ties" are horribly loud and just bad, but some of them are actually kind of cool. But like that tie I have, I just bought because it was rather funky. I actually found a pretty nice tie there that is a legitimately good tie. But yeah, I hope to be able to give someone that bad one for something better.

(poor guy seems pretty hot...-trina)

I just want to pasalamat (to cause to be thanked) all the examples I have been given in my life. I have been given many. I have been given much in my life, and I want to thank you for all that you have done for me to be able to be here.

I saw an opportunity that I had to take.