Wednesday, September 3, 2014

August 27, 2014 - September 3, 2014 Ayungon, Negros Oriental

First of all, in 4 days I'm going to be 8 months in the mission. wow. I didn't even remember my 7 months, because it was all on top of transfers.

So last week, we went to Cebu. We took a ferry from Dumaguete, which is just abut 20 minutes across to Cebu, then took a Ceres bus all the way up the eastern shore of Cebu. Grabe (wow), that is some incredible piece of earth in southern Cebu. The water is the clearest, bluest thing I've ever seen, and I got a picture of the island of Siquijor where it looks like the Second Coming is happening right over it, the clouds and light were so clear. But that's the place to go resorting it seems. I also got to meet up with my batch (my MTC-mates) Elder Job and Sisters Poteki and Mataipule, and I saw Elder Crandall in Cebu. It was super cool to be able to meet up with them again. This was the first time I've been able to talk to my Elders-batch since I got here in the mission, and it was so cool to hear about all they've got going on. We've got a really solid group of missionaries, that's one thing that I've really seen.
Me and Elder Crandall at the Temple

Sister Poteki, Sister Mataipule, and Elder Job and I on the barge to Cebu.

But as for my day to day work, I've really been loving it. Elder Castro is by far the most fun companion I've had. He's fun to talk to, and he's fun to work with.  I've learned so much from him, just about how to help people and to show our love. But I know we have the help of the Lord. That we can seek his help. That when Jezebel sends her messengers that she'll have your head, that the Lord will tell us exactly what to do. How to gain His strength, no matter what the world would have.

I have seen great blessings in our work this week. We've had a few people we've visited who as we talk to them and as we share of the restored gospel, we can just see the light of it in their eyes. We can just see the truth of it, the spirit testifying that it's true, just in how they receive it. The other day, we taught a little on-the-spot lesson to a guy who is the neighbor of someone we were looking for, and at the end of just a short message, we were saying "we'd be glad to return" When he asked for something to read, so that he could have questions and answers of his own to our teaching. I gave him a Book of Mormon, and I have no doubt that he's reading it.

That causeway, looking toward Anibong. The Romano's house can be seen to the left, that shiny tin roof on the water.
On the road to Canluto. Along this road we have a little place with some families we've visited a few times. They are just great examples of people who have a desire to receive the gospel and truly do understand the word. 
We have a couple who we've recently returned to. The missionaries taught Tatay and Nanay Pastor back in the day, and they've been coming to church pretty solidly ever since, but for some reason the missionaries stopped visiting them, and they were never we went over to their house, and oh, the welcome we received. They have a child in Amlan who's a member, sealed in the temple, and a grandkid on a mission in Angeles (near Manila), and they are super receptive, they're just that "they might as well be members" kind of deal. The only reason I could see troubles is that Tatay has had problems giving up smoking, but they say they're clean and all ready to go. But whenever we go and teach them, Nanay Pastor is really excited just to talk with us, especially that "nagpasalamat jud mi sa Ginoo, nga naa mo diri, kay kami, wala mi nakaskuela, wala mi kaalam kabahin ani, etc." She always says that, "We thank the Lord you're here, because we are poor, we aren't learned about the gospel, but you always come here and teach us about this, even in Visaya, which we thank you for, because we don't know english..." She always goes on and on about how thankful she is we're here and how thankful she is for the gospel, for this truth. Her husband always tells her "Don't interrupt, they're trying to teach," and Elder Castro always tell her "Nay, if you want to learn, you have to listen to us now, ah?" But I feel like she really is just that thankful. I feel like that's one of my strengths, is being patient while someone's talking a ton, and being able to base a gospel truth off of what they said. Because there always is truth behind the beliefs of people, that's something I've really seen, and it helps them if they can express that, too. I don't want a teaching visit to be just me talking, anyways. 

But just last night, we went to their house and set a date for their baptism. Nanay had always been asking about when they could be baptised since the beginning, and we had members asking all about them, too, so we set them for the 27th to be baptised. But last night, as we asked them how they felt, after we taught about the pakigsaad (which is literally the definition of a covenant, a two-way promise. I like visayan words.) We asked them if they felt ready to make this promise with God. They answered with a resounding yes. That this is what they wanted, because this is what is true. They were so happy to here there was no bayad, that the baptism was free. I think just as I've been able to really listen and understand where a person comes from, that I have no problem being patient and just trying to hear their questions and trying to help them. That these people have been searching all their life for the truth, and they know now they've found it. I know that even though Nay and Tay Pastor are just couple little old folks down the road who make their living by gathering fruits and coconuts in the hills and cleaning the streets in the city, that they know that this is the truth. And they deserve to receive it.
 When the branch gets together to help someone move their house, it has a bit of a different meaning here. 

We had a CSP last saturday in Amlan, the Elder Gama's area. All we knew beforehand was that we were moving a house, so we had no idea where we were going to be trucking this thing. But it turned out they juts needed to move it about 20 feet, because where it was before was not the person's land. It took all in all about 5 minutes with all the help we had (and all the tanduay rum that being passed around the various workers), but it was a good activity and we had some good time to chase kids and get to know people.

I had a kind of fun conversation the other day with my house mates about history, because Magellan is a big part of history here because 1. he started the colonization here, and 2. he was killed in battle by Lapu Lapu in Cebu, and Lapu Lapu is kind of a legend around here. But I was telling them how in our schools we learn all about how Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the earth, and started all this trade, and oh yeah, he died in the Philippines. It's just funny how history works sometimes. 

So Elder Bowen's (Philippines Area Presidency) teaching to us was really good.  For the first hour, he kind of yelled at us lovingly (not really) he taught about obedience to specific rules, and how we need to not forget these things. It was a good portion, even if it was a bit chastise-y. But then he switched gears and started teaching about the covenant people of the Lord, his real topic. But he said something that I really liked.  He said that he felt that we had gotten to the point that he doesn't just have to teach and focus on exact obedience, that we are solid enough on that that he can really teach more precious points of the Gospel. Because that's true, if we can't follow that which our God specifically gives us to do, we cannot expect to be able to learn about the finer points of His teachings. But before Elder Bowen got to the chapel, we were sitting and studying, and I had an impression to read Alma 13, which I've recently come across as being a really strong testament on why we have the priesthood. But I focused on verses 3-5, which in his workshop, Elder Bowen also focused on. This is a really interesting piece of scripture. Alma teaches that the great elect of God, prophets and whatnot, were called to that calling before this life, and they were able to achieve it through obedience to his word in this life. But Alma says that all of the children of God were called and were ordained to be able to achieve greatness in the gospel in this life. That each and every one of us, if we follow the will of God for us, can become the very elect of God. I love this and this is something that I've both felt so strongly to be true, and that I need so badly to work on. I have seen so clearly here that we truly are childern of God. We all have his light of goodness inside. It is up to us to learn and follow his Word.  If we grow in this goodness, and sometimes we can draw away from this, but if we do what is right, we have a great blessing in store. I say I need to work on this because I have seen lately that I really need to work on talking to people, talking to everyone, and sharing this glad message with all. We are the hands of God here, and We are the ones to share His word to His children.

Pictures of Siquijor from Cebu. Siquijor is legendary among the Visayas for the witchcraft and oddities that happen there, and legendary for missionaries because of the lack thereof (and there's only been missionaries there for a bit more than a year now. But Elder Crandall, my batch, is there now.

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