Sunday, December 21, 2014

December 17, 2014 - Ayungon, Negros Oriental

I got my Christmas package!

This week, we had plenty of Christmas preparations! On Sunday night we watched the Christmas devotional in Tanjay. That was glorious. I absolutely loved the whole thing. But one thing that really stuck out to me was Sister Oscarson's talk, for one that the greatest forces in the world are babies, but her story of discovering a goodly deed of her great grandfather. Her talk along with the first one about the character of Jesus' earthly family really stuck out to me, his description of Joseph as a man humility and complete integrity. These things reminded me of the stories I've heard of my grandfathers, especially of Grandpa Bruce. I know that we can become men of God, of complete integrity to God and family through this gospel of Jesus Christ.

Across the street from our house is Noreco, the electric company center for northern Negros oriental. It's a big house-like building that doesn't need to pay their electric bills, so they have a ton of lights outside.

On Monday, we were in Dumaguete for the Christmas Conference. All of Cebu Mission Negros Island was there, including all my batch Elders. It was a very fun day. It started with some short messages from President and Sister McCurdy, including a nice reading of Luke 2, of course. But from there we went to the celebration part. All of the zones had little skits prepared, and Tanjay Zone (us) did a well-thrown together version of Christmas Carol. I was chosen as (guess) narrator. Why have I always been narrator for things? But a lot of talents were shown, a lot of beatboxing and haka- like things. 

My very ocean-y meal yesterday of fried fish and seaweed.

This week was an incredible week. I learned a lot. In no great or worldly way did I gain a lot of knowledge, but I've learned a lot. I just had a bit better sunk in the truth that the commandments are given to us as guidelines for happy living. If you do it, you follow a perfect plan. If not, you don't (mosiah 3 21-24)

But I love being a missionary. Like linus I tell tired souls the true meaning of christmas, and I know that this is true. I love you.

 Elder dunford

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December 9, 2014 - Ayungon, Negros Oriental

Posing on the causeway

Rock garden

Elder Pascua's told me about how in Manila, if there's just a little rain, the drains clog up and they get floods, and if there's a typhoon, that chaos is just the common occurrence. But absolutely none of that befell us here in Bindoy. This whole story of Bagyong Ruby (Typhoon Hagupin?) Starts two weeks ago...

Like I told you last week, we actually had a tropical storm (Baguio Queenie) come directly through Negros last week, which is what caused floods, broken banana plants, and the washed-out bridge (which I still haven't gotten a picture of yet.), and after it came through, people started looking ahead at this new storm brewing out there. We started hearing about this storm that was coming in, it's bigger and faster that Yolanda was, and it's headed straight for Samar/Leyte again. And so for about a week, there was all this news about preparations, all over the place just preparing. We got it here, people driving around in vans pahibalo-ing (causing to know) about the bagyo, where to go to evacuation centers. 

But last p-day (wednesday), we were advised to get our 72 hour kits into order, which we did, because at that time especially, the storm looked like it was going to sit right over the Central Visayas. Then on Friday, we were told we needed to get back home by 5pm, so that we could be safe. All day, we were teaching everyone about the words of our modern-day prophet, about emergency preparedness. We ran into a few people that would say "Oh, we're not going to evacuate, we're just praying and trusting in the Lord." "Sister, your house is literally on bamboo stilts on top of the sea, you need to get out of here if they tell you to." "Well, yeah, we'll go to the school if there's an evacuation call." But for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, we did this, on Friday, we got home at 5, Saturday at 12 noon, and then on Sunday, we were not allowed to leave the house. We didn't go to church, we juts had a little special sacrament the four of us in the house. We had an Investigator, Sister Sheila, come to church to find we weren't there. But we were advised not to leave our houses, because the storm was moving so slow, and we weren't sure where it was headed. But we never got more than a few sprinkles of rain and a few gusts of wind here. We truly were blessed in this that we were protected from the storm. And we got to watch an old school 1970's Joseph Smith First Vision video. It was a good time. 

 I talked to some people, and they said there was none of this for Yolanda last year, no prep was done at all. It reminded me a lot of Katrina, how there was no preparation and response, and people were outraged, and then the next year, there was another storm building up in the Gulf of Mexico, about to hit New Orleans again, and there was a ton of Natl Guard, and everyone preparing, and then the storm just died away. That's what it feels like happened here. 

So all in all, I am fine. Negros is Fine. Today is a very hot and a rather dry day, I had the feeling this morning riding a pedicab here that I haven't had for almost a year: the need for chapstick. In the beginning of this new transfer here in Ayungon and in our companionship, I've seen a little more clearly the hand of the Lord. His Help and his love. I know that this work is a flood of righteousness which will bring the Earth to rest. (Moses 7:62) It is a work of peace, from the Prince of Peace.

I love you all. Thank you for the concern, and for the prayers. We've needed it.

Elder Dunford

Thursday, December 4, 2014

November 25 - December 2, 2014 - Ayungon, Negros Oriental

 Me, RJ, Ram Ram, and Elder Pascua, eating a fruit called "Eba." It was very sour. Ram is an investigator of ours, who is the son of a member who was baptised years before she was married, but never continued to church. Ram's uncle is a bishop in Dumaguete, though, and so he's grown up knowing about the church and going every once in a while. But we found their family my first transfer here, and since then, we gave Ram a Book of Mormon and found he loves reading, coming to church, and learning, and simply knows that this is true. He's gotten a hold of a ton of old church materials of his uncle which he's been reading (including a blue handbook [?]) and he is juts super bright. I love this kid. We've tried a lot to teach his mom and Dad, but they are very busy, but last night, we got his dad to say he'll join when his project finishes in a few months (He's building a birthing house [what do you call this in english] somewhere in the mountains)  Ram is just so clearly a door into his family, and he is so good.

The bridge in Ayungon is out! Last wednesday night, we had a storm come in
and hit Negros Oriental! All night, we had strong winds, rain, and coconuts
falling very loudly on our tin roof, and got up in the morning to find
everything blown about a bit. The corn and sugarcane outside our house was
fallen, coconut fronds and unripe mangos everywhere, and everything was
covered with little, shredded leaves and wet. There were many places that
were na ba-ha' (flooded, with accent mark for pronunciation), and most
every banana plant has been snapped in half, but there was only a few
houses I know of that were hit by trees or washed out.

However the big scene of destruction was at the bridge in Ayungon, across
the main river. The concrete bridge was destroyed a couple of years ago in an
earthquake, and they've been working on it, rebuilding the concrete span
since. There was only a rickety coconut-wood one-way detour as the path for
the highway, which in the flood last week, was washed out! I haven't
gotten a picture of it yet, but it is quite a scene.  Luckily, in just the last month, the new
concrete span was completed, and by yesterday, they jerry-rigged together a
way for cars and buses to get across, because this bridge is the only way
for the highway to get across the river, so Negros Oriental was cut in half
for about a week there.

So my Thanksgiving Thursday was actually filled with grey skies and a
passing baguio (storm) and splits with the Zone Leaders. I worked with
Elder Snyder, from Thousand Oaks, Ca. He was super cool and taught me
a lot. But for our thanksgiving dinner, we were invited to the Romano
house. There the four of us, (Elder Pascua, Elder Gama, Elder Snyder,
and myself) ate with our Recent convert family. They cooked one of
their chickens for us and mais (corn grits, cooked like rice, which I
found nice I was able to have corn for thanksgiving too.), and we had
a good time. I loved the fact that I was able to eat with this family
for my Thanksgiving dinner, because they truly are always so grateful
to have us and to have this gospel.

We had an experience beginning last week that I want to report on.
Last Tuesday, we were tracting around in Tampocon 1, one of our areas
that we've been trying to build a teaching pool, and we ayo'd at a
house with a very nice yard and garden. We were welcomed in by a
teenage girl cleaning the house, who said that elders had visited her
mother a few times earlier this year. We went in and came to find that
she was the care taker for her father, Rafael, who was bedridden, and
had a obviously very ill body. She said that he had a multitude of
sicknesses, and had been deteriorating for the last year. He could
hear and could speak a few words, and was aware and listening. We
taught a short message about the Gospel of Jesus Christ to him and his
daughter, and Elder Pascua said that he felt very prompted to give
this man a blessing. He was caused to sit up and we taught a little
about priesthood blessings to Rafael and his daughter. When we stood
and came around him, we told Brother Rafael we would give him this
blessing, to which he answered clearly, "Salamat." Elder Pascua gave
him a simple blessing, saying that through his faith in Jesus Christ,
he would be healed. We closed and left. Elder Pascua and I discussed
as we were walking out that he just truly felt that they needed to
feel the power of the priesthood. We were unable to go back to this
house until yesterday, where we found at the front tables, chairs, and
easy-up tents, indicative here of a funeral, and the teenage daughter
sitting outside. She told us that the day after we visited, Rafael had
passed away. We talked a little, but did not teach, because there was
still visitors of the funeral party. I know that in our visit, this
family was able to feel the power of God. I know they received a
blessing through the direct power of the priesthood, and we now have
the great responsibility to show them the way that they all can be
healed through their faith in Jesus Christ.

Also this week is transfer week, and not much changed! All four of us
here in Bindoy Branch are staying, which I very am thankful for. I
have seen so much growth in myself here, and I know that the Lord
still has work for me here. I love you, and I am so glad I am here in
Ayungon for this Christmas season.

Elder Dunford 

 Us at a pizza shop after District meeting. I promised I wasn't going to have pizza much here, because I'd be better off just to wait till I get home, though this shop was cleaner than many pizza shops back home.

November 11-19, 2014 - Ayungon, Negros Oriental

Sunset above Anibong

The Pastors with the family of their Daughter (lives in Amlan, in Tanjay District as well.) The Pastor's grandson is on a mission in Angeles now, and they were able to come to Tanjay District Conference with their daughter's family. Their Daughter is in all ways exactly like her parents. It was a really sweet experience, too. I love the Pastors so much.
So I really want to tell my story that I now have of Pentecostals on my mission.

On Monday, we got out of the house at about 8 o clock as usual to get to District meeting in Bais. As we were waiting up on the highway at the tindahan ("a place to sell", a common little house-shop) by our house for a ceres bus to pass, a big cargo-type truck full of people standing in the back came up the road, so we flagged it down and hopped in the back.

So the four of us were standing in the back of this truck along with about 30 other people, and Elder Pascua started talking to the group in the corner by us, just getting to know them. One of them, a man who was certainly an elder of the others, being about 60 years old, started asking and answering our questions in a very confident, though not entirely fluent English, a common sign around these of someone who is (considers themselves) well-educated. Elder Pascua asked them where he was going, and this man answered "We are pentecostal, we are going to a retreat activity in Mabinay." Elder Pascua answered excitedly, "Mao ba? (really?) Well we're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints!" So this older man started, very excitedly as well, asking Elder Pascua what our message was, what the "good news" is, and such. Elder Pascua answered his questions and told this whole group of people of the restoration, of Joseph Smith, of continuing revelation, while this man kept asking simple questions, just questioning everything Elder Pascua was saying.

So at this point, Elder Pascua had gotten just about as much as he was going to get through to him, so I started to take a try, testifying of the restoration. This man asked us "Why do you need a prophet, God gives to man his Spirit to guide man." At this point I also noticed just how much all the other people on the truck were watching, and very much in tune to what we were discussing. I answered "He gives prophets to give his law, so that we can be worthy to have his spirit to guide us." To which he questioned again, "Well, how do you know Joseph eSmith is a prophet? What exact scripture can you read that will tell me Joseph Smith is a prophet?" I answered that "He came after the Bible, you can't read his name there, but if you pray and ask your Father in Heaven if it's true, he will answer you!" This brought about my favorite part of this experience, because our friend answered this by saying "Why would you ask the Father? He's not the one who deals with you, the Father sent Christ, and Christ sent the Spirit to man, so the spirit is the only one who works with man!" (These are all in exclamation points at this point now, because remember, we're standing in the back of an open-air cargo truck riding down the highway at a good clip, which made this whole experience a bit more spirited.) But this was my favorite part because I got to testify this, that "You can pray to your Father, because that's what he is! He's your literal Father in Heaven, and he loves you, and he wants to help you and guide you, because you are his child. He gives his Spirit to guide you and to answer you, but you can pray and ask your Father personally, and He will listen to you, and answer you!"
At this point, we had gotten to the point where we had to get off the truck, so we wrapped up our discussions very good-naturedly and started saying goodbye to the people around us, and asked again what the name was of this man, and he introduced himself as the pastor of their congregation. As we hopped off the back of this truck, I just felt so greatly and happily the joy of having been able to bear this testimony, that our Father in Heaven does care for us personally, and that our God isn't just some Spirit in the Sky, where you're gonna go when you die. But he's our Father, For we are also his offspring (Acts 17:28) God isn't some thing we can't understand. Rather he's someone we already know.
I love you all. I love this missionary work stuff. I love this area, and these people. I just want to help them all (alma 29), but I know the Lord will help us where he needs us. He will give us success in his own measure, and I have seen that a lot here. This is true.

Elder Dunford

This picture is awful because we had just come from a very cold church to a very tropical Dumaguete. But these are my ward-mates from my first area, Lawa-an Ward. Elder Gama, Sister Loquias, ako (me), and Elder Marzan.(Missing are Elder Haws and Sister Tune)
I am not in this picture. We had Zone Conf. in Dumaguete, all of Neg Oriental was there.