Sunday, April 22, 2012


Monday, April 16, 2012
Bugasong, Panay Island, Philippines

I’m writing a day early because we’re back in San Jose, where they have an internet connection.  I’m here for another appointment with the ear doctor, and have a long time before I'll get in, so this is a better use of time.  We have about three hours to wait, so I'll go ahead and send my email now.

Anyway, life is good.  I wasn't planning to again bring up this ear thing to Sister Pagaduan, but yesterday in church I could hardly hear, so I figured it was better to get it addressed.

This week was great.  It looks like we can still keep up the pace of work that Elder Montecer and I used to have.  I thought it was going to be difficult to do because we have four hours of study every day.  But, in regard to lessons with a member present, we had the highest of my mission.  We were a eight short of the highest number of lessons I've ever done, but we still had a great week.  We were just super stoked. 

Church yesterday was kind of wild.  It was a really, really hot day.  We got all five electric fans from our apartment and brought them to the church to help out a bit.  Even with all the fans, it was ridiculously hot!  I ended up teaching the gospel principles class.  I hadn't prepared, but neither had anyone else, so I taught it.  I taught about obedience.  It went all right, but not the best.  I could have used some preparation time.  The church is right beside the highway, and it has no windows.  It's not a great environment.  Trucks and stuff go by three feet away from us.  I tried to make it work, though.  I talked about how the people didn't listen to Noah and ended up dying.  I drew all the people laughing at Noah, then Noah's ark up on the hill.  I made a speech bubble for one of the laughing people.  It said "buwang tana" which means "he's crazy."  Then I drew the water about waist high on him, and changed the speech bubble to say "o gali" which means "Oh i guess he's right."  Then I drew the water over his head and made the speech bubble say "patay ron" which means "dead now."  That may have been the highlight of the lesson.

Elder Sefeti and I spoke in sacrament meeting.  He bore is testimony in part English, part Kinaray-a.  He did really well.  The members really love him here, and are just so enthusiastic about helping him out.  When he spoke, everyone was silent and paying attention.  I was impressed.  Often, to the untrained eye, Filipino Sacrament Meeting may seem like circuses.  I spoke about the Holy Ghost and what we need to do to qualify for its companionship.  I felt like that went well, too. 

We had a few investigators at church, but not the one with dates.  In fact almost all of our investigators have come to church now, but not consecutively.  For instance, they'll come one week then miss the next; then only the kids will come, and then only the mother the next week.  We are happy that people are coming to church, but it makes it impossible for them to be baptized!  It's a rule here that they have to come four times in a row.  Each time they miss, it starts over.  We would have already had baptisms here if we didn't have this rule. 

Last night we were on our way home, and it was a little early, and I had the impression to visit a family on the way.  It was still way far from our house, and pretty soon there wouldn't be any more rides, so I was reluctant.  We followed the impression and told the tric driver to stop.  Elder Montecer and I had only visited this family a handful of times because they aren’t anywhere near the areas we were focusing on, so I didn't know them that well.  They are pretty less=active by the way.  So we took the chance to get to them.  They just loved Elder Sefeti's mixed language. Right now he's using English sentence structure, but putting in any Kinaray-a word that he knows.  They thought it was super funny.  

We talked for a while, then asked if we could share a message with them.  We went into their roadside stand and sat down on the dirty bamboo floor with them.  One of the kids had just come home from college in Sibalom, and so the family was almost all present.  We talked about the Sacrament and how it relates to repentance, baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  We read the sacrament prayers, talked about their feelings when they were baptized, and how they would feel if they could take the sacrament.  It was an awesome visit.  Even Elder Sefeti did a great job sharing, though it was mostly English.  We said a prayer, and after the prayer I didn't yet feel like we should leave.  So, asked if we could sing for them.  We sang "Be Still My Soul."  It was good.  After that, they fed us some soda and spaghetti.  It was a great, uplifting visit, but we got finished late and there was hardly anything on the roads.  I wasn't feeling up to walking all the way home, but we didn't have a choice.  About a minute into our walk, we caught a ride with people in a random, beat-up pickup truck.  They took us straight to our apartment. 

We had some other just great lessons. We are teaching a recent convert’s daughter who is home for the summer from school.  She’s a great investigator, and this last week we talked about Alma 32.  We took it slow, but it was great.  My favorite part of the lesson happened super randomly. I wanted to demonstrate how taking the first step of faith is hard, but then afterwards it gets easier.  The thought came to me to show them an object lesson.  I asked Elder Sefeti to stand up, and took my tie off and wrapped it around my eyes.  Then I told them that I was going to fall backwards and Elder Sefeti was going to catch me.  After we did that, we sat back down and talked about how I didn't really know that Elder Sefeti was behind me, but I trusted him to be there.  Then I explained how if I did it again, it would be easier for me to because Elder Sefeti had already caught me once before.  

The lesson actually drifted a bit because of some of the recent convert’s input, but it drifted into a great direction.  We talked about how having temptation helps us build our faith, just like playing basketball against someone makes us a better basketball player. 

One other great lesson was with Sister J and her family.  We made sure we had a fellowshipper that matched up well for J before the lesson.  We asked a Relief Society leader to join in the lesson.  I was reluctant to ask because it was far for her to come, and it was only one lesson, but we asked her anyway and it was a great lesson.  The fellowshipper had great input.  We talked about the first part of the plan of salvation.  The spirit was super strong.  It was a completely free-form lesson.  None of it was prepared, but it ran so smooth.  We talked how our personalities are not just from our experiences on earth, but also from the time we spent with Heavenly Father before we were born.  The kids really liked that idea. 

She didn't come to church, though. Bummer. 

We had interviews with President on Friday.  It was a good experience.  My interview with president went well.  I was glad, because the only times I’ve really gotten to talk with him for the last couple months were when I was in trouble, i.e., out past curfew or having a messy apartment.  Also Sister Pagaduan and I talked a bit.  We mostly talked about culture shock, but then she out of the blue said "Elder Waggoner, do you remember when you told me you weren't sick.  It turns out you were right."  That made me feel like a billion pesos.  I said it was no problem, and that she was just following protocol.   That was about the extent of the conversation, though she did request I give back the remaining 5000 kilos of elephant pills they had prescribed me.  I told her that it was no problem (seeing as there are no elephants in Bugasong.)

Elder Sefeti and I have been singing to investigators.  He is also starting to teach a little.  He can pray in Kinaray-a format, but still does it part English.  Our language studies are going well.  I hope I get to train again after him, but it's not too likely. 

That's all the noteworthy things I remember from this week.  Life is good.  I love you all.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Bugasong, Panay Island, Philippines

Elders Sefeti and Waggoner
I've got some big news.  My big news weighs 95 kilos, and is my new companion from Fiji.  I like him.  His name is Elder Sefeti, and I picked him up on Friday.

He can sing super well.  We sang while we did laundry.  He already knows how to do laundry by hand, so all I need to teach him is how to speak the language.  He can actually understand where one word stops and where the next word begins.  He'll do a lot better at learning the language that I did.  You guys have actually been in the same room as him before.  He sang in the MTC choir.  (Our family attended the Saturday afternoon session of General Conference.)  If you watch the rest hymn, he’s on the right in the middle.  He's the big brown guy.  He and I are having a blast.  Within the first couple of minutes after transfer meeting, I had him buy some fruit.  I told him the vocab and a few phrases. We ran through it once or twice, and then he did it.  We've kept on doing stuff like that.  It's really helping him out. 

When I found out that I was getting a brand new missionary as a companion, Elder Montecer and I decided to wait on giving some folks baptismal dates.  So, on Elder Sefiti's first day, we gave out three baptismal dates.  One of them was super funny.  He didn't know how to say the whole sentence, so I said the first part "kon namaan mo gne ja ang mutuod" (if you come to know that this is true. . .) and then he said "gagawin mo magpabunyag sa may 5?"  (Will you be baptized on may 5?)  It took them a bit of effort to understand because what i had said was Kinaray-a, and what he said was in Tagalog. 

My mission has totally changed.  It's like when folks have real kids, you know?  They aren't too concerned about other stuff any longer, they don't care as much about personal development.  Now, everything is about getting Elder Sefeti up to speed, speaking the language and teaching well.  Elder Motecer and I were a super companionship.  We broke records and stuff, but now all that doesn't matter.  Now it's not about working super hard, it's about working at a pace where Elder Sefiti learns.  I'm having a lot of fun with it. 

General Conference was great.  Somebody made DVD's of it, so we got to watch it in Bugasong's hot, uncomfortable meeting house.  Still, I loved it.  Conference is so much better as a missionary.  You'll hear stuff said in the conference and think "that's what Sister So and So needs." 

On Saturday, we four missionaries were the only one's watching it.  On Sunday, though, we had a good turnout.  We had a ton of less-actives come, plus two investigators.  We could have done better with the investigators, but I was super surprised at how many less-actives came! 

The DVD gave up the ghost near the end of the Sunday morning session, so we ended up singing a hymn on our own and having a closing prayer. That's too bad because I really wanted to hear "Come Thou Fount".

On Saturday during President Packer’s talk, I wept like a baby.  I haven’t cried like that in a really, really long time.  It took me a few minutes to get myself back together. 

Elders Sefeti and Dalu
Elder Sefeti slept through most of conference.  Jet lag had him all out of whack, but it was okay because he'd already seen it before he left the MTC. 

It was holy week here, so the work didn't go as great as it usually does.  It hurt us a bit, but we did our best.  It was nice because a lot of people were at home, but there were no rides to go anywhere. 

Elder Montecer went DL  He was practicing teaching district meeting in the mirror.  He was stoked. 

We had our Branch President work with us this week.  It was good to get to know him.  I've only seen him at church on Sunday, and we hadn't talked much.  We took him around to some less-actives.  He's a great guy, but is really struggling to help the branch.  We were so thrilled to show him around.  We had some great lessons, and he talked to us about the branch and stuff.  We talked to him about how he might be able to help. 

Another local leader, though, is on my naughty list.  We went to his house for lunch on Thursday right before we left for Iloilo. We had a female branch missionary with us because she had worked with us in the morning.  She was also invited to eat.  While we were waiting for the other two elders to show up, the leader put in a CD with a ton of pictures on it.  It was a slide show of his trip he had taken, and it contained a lot of inappropriate images.  I just turned my head.  I couldn't call him out about it or he'd be offended for years to come, but come on!  He knows better!  I was especially embarrassed for the sister who was working with us.

My TB test came out negative - for the second time in my mission.  It was funny the doctor was like "You don't have TB."  I was like "Tell me about it".

It's fun introducing Elder Sefeti to all the good Filipino foods.  I’ve shown him halo-halo, dirty ice cream, and batchoy.  He really likes those.  He and I made a thank-you card for the lady who gave us the halo-halo.  He says most other Filipino dishes are the same as Fijian dishes, just with more sauce.

That's all I really have.  Life is great.  Elder Sefeti and I are singing to our investigators.  He's not shy about it.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

brown out, ear wax, bad water, snakes

Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Bugasong, Panay Island, Philippines

So this week was pretty crazy. We're meeting with the couple missionaries in a little bit. They called and asked to meet with us.  I'm not sure why.  If it's about medical stuff, I might kill myself.  Doctor offices are an earthly trial that I'll be glad to be rid of when I die.

A brown-out occurred while we were in church.  So, we had tropical temperatures and no electric fans.  I suppose we went to church and got a preview of hell?  So, that was rough.  We told all of our investigators to come to church at 9:00, so they did.  We forgot to mention to all the members to come on time.  It was actually embarrassing. We started priesthood with us four missionaries and one male investigator.  I taught from the George Albert Smith book.  I taught about the power of kindness. 

It was fast and testimony meeting.  I slaughtered the piano on the last hymn.  Filipinos do not sing the songs with any rhythm at all!  First off, I didn't know the chord changes quickly enough, and I couldn't get the rhythm.  Plus, I couldn't really hear them either - ill discuss that later.  The worst part of the meeting was that one of our local leaders, sitting up front on the stand, was a chatterbox.  No one was looking at the people giving their testimonies because he was laughing and smiling and whispering - but kind of loud.  He was like me when I was seven.  I wish I could have been his father, taken him out in hallway, dragging him by the wrist, and told him a thing or too.  After church I was pretty angry.  I just went into the apartment and calmed myself down for a few minutes. 

You’ve got to understand.  The whole time, I was trying to catch his eyes so I could help him be quiet.  He looked at me once.  He saw what I was trying to say, and then he wouldn't look at me again.  Then I tried praying in my heart that he'd quiet down.  By the end of the meeting I had worked myself up.  I brought up reverence in the correlation meeting; even though I didn't say his name, he got offended.  Oh boy. looks like I’ve got to go and school my feelings again.

Good news: we had four investigators at church!

This week I had to visit a few hospitals, only down in San Jose where we go on Tuesdays for district meeting and to send e-mail.  Why?  Well. . .

I couldn't hear well for most of the week.  My ear wouldn't pop.  I asked Elders Thayne and Gregerson for a blessing on Friday night, and I tried a ton of stuff, but it just wouldn't pop.  After church on Sunday it got to be too much to handle.  I could barely hold a conversation with someone.  So, I did what I hate to do - I called Sister Pagaduan.  She set an appointment for me the following day.  Since I was going anyway, she also set up an appointment for me to get a new skin test for TB.  I just did it despite the suckiness of it. 

The ear check-up went great, though I had to wait forever, but it was really ok.  Apparently I had a bunch of hardened ear wax in my ear.  They had me lean over into Elder Montecer's lap, and then they poured stuff in my ear. Then Elder Montecer tugged on my ear for 30 minutes until the stuff soaked in.  Then they drained the liquid and pulled the wax out with tweezers.  Laying my head in the lap of my companion was weird, but it's nice to hear again. 

The first doctor I went to for the skin test doesn’t actually do the test, so she wrote me a referral for another doctor in town.  This doctor was a pediatrician, and really nice.  She had me wait maybe five minutes, gave me the test, and told me where in Bugasong I can get the results checked.  The doctor visits took most of the day yesterday. 

We had a member make us four missionaries matching planner cases.  Mine has a picture from the Children’s Friend of a kid fishing. 

Sunday afternoon we went out to the bukid.  We have a bunch of less-active members in a far away area.  We decided to go ahead and break our fast before the hike back to the road.  It was a rather hot day, and we felt like it was better to do the hike with water in us.  I was thirsty and chugged a bunch of water.  I don't know what happened, but about halfway through the hike I got a really bad stomach ache.  Elder Montecer and I sat down on some farming equipment for a while.  I expected it to pass, but it didn't.  Then at a certain point I realized that I had to go.  I made for the woods like I was running from a bear.  I jumped down a wooded hill to a ravine for some privacy from anybody who would pass on the road, and then I did what bears do.  I barely made it.  I won't go into detail, but it was quite an experience. 

I went on splits with Elder Thayne on Friday.  We did an excellent day of work.  He was my pal back in the MTC, so it was great to catch up with him.  It's funny - we used to talk in the MTC about what kind of missionaries we'd be.  Now that we've got a year and a half under our belts, it's cool to see the missionaries that we came to be.  We actually didn't do much talking because we had a full day planned, but it was cool to see each other's teaching style.  Man, I wish we could be companions. 

On Monday, between hospital visits, we got lunch with Elder Thayne, his companion Elder Foshee, and Elder Perez, whose companion just finished his mission.  We got seafood, and the restaurant was showing the NCAA tournament.  It was Kansas vs. Ohio State.  That was fun to watch.  It was from that TV broadcast that I learned the terrible news: Louisville lost to Kentucky.  It was nice to relax and talk and watch basketball. 

It rained most of the week. Talk about mud. 

When it rains, the snakes come up from underground.  We had a ward missionary working with us.  We were walking on the rice paths and she came across a snake.  She freaked out!  We all laughed about it after the snake took off, and then about twenty feet later a frog jumped out at her and she freaked out again.  We all laughed again.

Elder Montecer playing for older lady
We have this extremely old lady in our area.  She is confined to a bed, and was baptized back in the 60's in Manila.  She's fun to visit, but isn't all there anymore.  Elder Montecer and I go visit her because we want to.  It may not be the most effective use of time, but we feel good for visiting her, and no one else does.  We took the guitar with us to visit her this week.  We sang her a bunch of hymns.  Elder Montecer even premiered his guitar skills for her.  After we finished, we asked her to say the prayer.  About halfway through the prayer, she started drifting off and she forgot she was praying.  She started telling us about her children.  Then she couldn't figure out why were we wanted her to say "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."  It was super funny.