Monday, May 28, 2012

FHE and District Conference

Monday, May 28, 2012
Bugasong, Panay Island, Philippines

(Most names in this blog have been changed to protect privacy.  Italicized, purple text are comments from the editor.)

Things are going well. We had an awesome week. Most of the good stuff happened later in the week.

We had a cool FHE on Thursday.  Most of the members live in Elder Dalu’s old area, and we are having a fun time meeting them.  We had our FHE over at the Aquino’s house, and they invited a ton of folks.  It was also their oldest daughters 12th birthday.  It felt more like a birthday party than a FHE, but she insisted that we did it FHE style.

When we first arrived, we kind of had low expectations.  The first thing we saw when we arrived was the father, who was drunk as a skunk.  We had been working with him on keeping the Word of Wisdom.  Yeah, that’s not going so well.  Sister Aquino pretty much just ignored him throughout the evening, and went on doing her stuff.  I had been asked to bring my guitar because the father plays the guitar and sister thought it would be a good way to fellowship.  Playing with him wasn’t going to happen – in his state, he didn’t know the difference between a D chord and a coconut tree. 

FHE at the Aquino's

Still, we put the guitar to good use.  While Sister prepared the food for the upcoming visitors, we played a bunch of church songs with the kids.  Our investigators were there, too.  We sang songs like Silent Night and The Spirit of God while people slowly started to arrive.  Like I said, there was a ton of people. We got to meet a few people, and I talked gospel with one or two.  Then in the actual FHE, we had opening songs with guitar, prayers, a lesson, another song, a closing song and a prayer, and then it was cake and games time.

I gave the lesson.  I taught a kind of universal lessons about faith.  We used Alma 32.  We had some teenage girls fall backwards into the arms of some teenage boys to demonstrate faith being unsure at first.  It was funny, but it worked.  I got to teach it standing alone, not sitting down or behind a podium.  That’s the style I like.  Maybe next time I’ll get me a soap box.

We played some games and tried to get out of Dodge, but the food kept coming.  We ended up missing our last appointment for the night, but we texted her and let them know we couldn’t make it.

Allen, the white guy from Mississippi in our area who goes to church in San Jose, got the Melchizedek Priesthood this week.  He was stoked about that.  His wife also came to church with him for the first time.  On Wednesday night, when we visited him, he fed us some sausage he had made.  He had used that mesquite seasoning.  It was so good.

Elder Waggoner
The Balgos Family is a family of four that is getting baptized on the June 9.  It’s the first full family I will get to baptize.  We taught them tithing on Thursday.  Usually that’s a hard one to explain to poor people, but it wasn’t his time.  They accepted it and basically already knew it.  It was great.  We also went over the baptismal interview questions again, and they’re fine.  Their interview is coming up this Thursday.  We’re getting it out of the way so that we can announce it to the branch early.

We visited Sister Batao once this week.  The first time we went she wasn’t there, but we got to talk to her on Friday.  The lesson went well, although she speaks deep Tagalog which I struggle with.  She had talked to her Baptist preacher, for whom she washes clothes, and he had a few things to say.  She brought up a few things, but we didn’t really address them - although the natural man in me wanted to real bad.  We focused on reading the Book of Mormon.  It was good.  I see a lot of potential there.

This week we’ve been teaching a ton of charity, forgiveness, and other lessons.  These less-actives have only ever been taught the first 4 missionary lessons, and they’ve heard them over and over again.  We decided we needed to switch it up, and we also used the Bible a lot more this week.  People here know who Jesus is, and that he died on the cross, but they haven’t “listened to the words that Jesus said, about the road to happiness through love and charity.”  (That’s a direct quote from Man in Black, by Johnny Cash.)  So we taught that this week.  It was a blast.  We’ve only had two less-actives make the complete return to church (4 Sundays in a row) but we have some less-actives coming every other week, so attendance is doing better (except for last Sunday.)

Hiking fell through today.  I badly wanted to go, but the guides bailed on us.  I suggested that we don’t need any guides, but nobody else wanted to risk it.  We are going to play volleyball later.

Thursday I brought the guitar with me all day.  We sang a hymn in every lesson.  It was fun hiking across rice fields with a guitar.  The people we taught seem to appreciate the guitar.

Jeep to San Jose
Sunday was the best day.  The Branch rented a jeep.  Basically, I coordinated the pick-up of people.  I texted to them where and when they should wait, and the jeep picked them up.  Sunday morning we got everyone on!  It was a full jeep, but that’s nothing new in the Philippines.  All the priesthood sat on top, the women folk inside, and the missionaries on the back.  We started in Bugasong, and then picked up a few more people in Ilaures before heading to San Jose.  We had seven investigators on that jeep.  If it had crashed, there would be no work in Bugasong, and Bugasong would go back to being a group.

All four of the Balgos family came; one of J Dolap’s daughters, who is 19;  Hillary May, who we found tracting and is in a part-member family, has a baptismal date for the June 23; and sister Rabe’s mom all came.  Sister Rabe’s mom is a diehard Catholic who has avoided the church ever since her family joined, but all of the sudden decided she wanted to start coming to church and listening to the missionaries.

The District Conference itself was fun.  It was a combination of Tagalog (President Pagaduan), English (Elder and Sister Nielson) and Kinaray-a (everyone else.)  The meeting was nice, and the Spirit was there.  It was well run.  Elders Sefeti, Lowry Quinantoto and I sang in the choir.  We had been practicing after district meetings on Tuesday.

Elders Waggoner and Sefeti, members and investigator
I was concerned that our investigators felt out of place.  The members wanted to talk to other members from other branches and wards, and that left our investigators sitting alone.  Elder Sefeti and I can only do so much at once.  We kept on sending members over to talk to them, but they’d only say a few things then go away.  It was kind of frustrating.

Things were a little awkward after the meeting as well.  I knew everyone was hungry, but some people had meetings.  I somehow was in charge of the jeep because our Branch Presidency wasn’t around, and we had some tension.  Some people wanted to leave, some people went to get something to eat, some people had a meeting, and the owners of the jeep wanted to leave.  Some of the people in meetings had young kids outside, and the investigators were yet again not comfortable - although that had improved a bit.

After about an hour of waiting, we got together and sang hymns around the piano.  I played the piano.  This at least kept us busy, but ten minutes later I was informed that we had to go.  The jeep driver was demanding it.  So, I had to poke my head in the meetings to explain our situation.  When I did that to the Relief Society meeting, I was shrilly barked at. I did not deserve the wrath of an RS lady.  (I hope I’m never a bishop)

The ride home was fun.  It rained.  The priesthood got soaked on top of the jeep.  I sat inside to help fellowship the investigators.  They actually had a good time.

That afternoon we went on splits.  I worked out in the bukid, and Elder Sefeti worked near town.  We got a lot of work done.  We needed to because we won’t be back in our area until Thursday.  We leave for Iloilo tomorrow (we have a mission tour) and today is our p-day.  We will just sleep in Sibalom.

Well, that’s that.  Love you guys.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

travelling, training, teaching

Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Bugasong, Panay Island, Philippines

Last week, I went to leadership training.  The trip itself was wild.  We left Bugasong about noon thirty, and got to San Jose a little past two p.m.  Man, it was so difficult to get a ride, but we eventually did on a rickety ceres bus.  Once in San Jose, I got off, and Elder Sefeti and I went to get Elder Quinantoto.  We picked him, I handed Elder Sefeti off to Elder Dalu (who had just come from Iloilo because Elder Gregerson is sick) and then we got on the road.  We hitched a ride with the same rickety bus that I rode from Bugasong.  I got a window seat next to a lady with kids – who were all sick and throwing up.  I helped her out.  She had one of her kids lean over onto some boxes in the isle because the kid was so sick.  The driver kept on getting ticked at the lady because every time he made a turn the kid scooted closer to him.  He was afraid she would mess with the stick shift.  I told the driver that I'd take care of it.  I did for about an hour.  The lady was really thankful for the help.  She couldn't manage alone.  After that hour, we were near the Antique-Iloilo border, and the bus started having trouble.  Something went wrong with the brakes.  Just after New Gumawan, the driver decided to abandon ship.  I agreed because the next thirty minutes of that road are all downhill and curvy mountain roads.  Not a good thing to do without breaks. 

We walked back towards antique about a half mile so that when the next bus came by we could hop on it.  About twenty minutes later we were back on our way to Iloilo.  It was so cool to go through San Joaquin again.  Man, I miss that place. 

Once in Iloilo, Elder Quinantoto and I headed for SM Mall.  I had to find marbles for the training I was going to give.  We ran around until we found them.  We finally did in a book store.  I also bought a new tie.  It's brown, just like the rest of the ties I usually wear.  It was so weird to be in a mall.  SM feels like the U.S.  It's weird, after being in the bukid for so long, I barely knew how to walk around naturally.  Also, I'm such a sissy now - I freeze in air conditioning. 

In the evening, we crashed in the Molo apartment.  That place was loaded with some of my best pals in the mission.  We talked until really late.  I got to catch up with Elders Galloway and Thayne, and Elder Lowry was there, too.  There were some others that I really enjoy, like Elder Chandler and Gunnel.  I played “Gospel Train."  We even got Elder Chandler playing some harmonica on it.  Elder Galloway and I made some after-mission plans.  He's a wild man – he’s won wilderness survival competitions, and is a folk music genius.  

I feel like I went on my mission at the right time.  I've gotten to meet some way cool people - some folks I feel I'm going to be life friends with.

The next day at training, I was the first to go.  I was glad to get it over with.  It went well.  A lot of folks said they enjoyed it, and that it was fun.  I had made a fake "check you progress" chart on a regular piece of paper, and had hand written it.  Then I drew the church emblem down at the bottom, in terrible handwriting.  It was funny. the "check your progress" was about the 12 week program.  We talked about how the 12 week program sets out the missionary skills and stuff in a "line upon line" way.  I included an object lesson.  I had a cup full of marbles and an empty cup.  The full cup represented a mature, experienced, knowledgeable missionary, and the empty cup represented the trainee.  The marble were knowledge.  Then I had a funnel, and when I dumped all the marbles in the funnel, it got clogged.  We talked about that method of training.  Then we tried putting in the marbles one by one, and talked about that method of training. I made a few jokes, but was mostly serious.  (Since President doesn’t speak Illongo, most of the jokes went over his head - they were mostly jokes about making mistakes in that language.)

After my training, we took a ten minute break.  President came and put his arm around me, and told me that if I wanted to work at the MTC in Provo that he'd recommend me.  That was pretty cool. 

Later that afternoon, I worked with the Elder Anderson, one of the AP’s.  We worked in a crowded part of the city.  It was nuts - just thin alleyway after thin alleyway.  I was so lost.  We taught four lessons, and it was fun.  The work in the city is so fast paced.  It's not like in the bukid, where you walk twenty minutes to your next appointment.  And in the city, if your investigator isn't there, you can just come back in an hour!  I actually wouldn't mind being called to the city. 

I lost my voice later that night.  God was punishing me for staying up too late.  It's still gone. 

Sister Pagaduan gave a fun training session about health.  It was almost like she was teaching kids.  She taught us about blowing our noses, washing our hands, taking showers, etc.  She even included some voodoo Filipino health things, such as “if you are hot, don't drink cold water or you will get a sore throat.”  And “if you are sweating, don't go shower immediately or you will get a cold.”  She gave us candy for participating, so we all did.  I got some gummies. 

Elder Montecer was also at the training.  They called on the two of us to demonstrate a teaching skill together.  We did well.  (Another Elder accused us of cheating because we had been companions before.)  Man, I miss that guy.  He seems to be doing well. 

Church was a struggle.  The branch president and first counselor didn’t come, so our shy second counselor had to do it.  I helped him out where I could.  We didn't have a key to the branch president's office, and the sacrament trays and cups were in there, so I used a bamboo stick through the window to unlock to door.  That way we could at least have sacrament.  It was a hot day, and things were disorganized.  Good thing it was fast Sunday or we wouldn't have had speakers! 

I taught the gospel principles class about baptism.  We had a lot of fun with it.  My voice is shot, so I had every one scoot in.  We had a great discussion, and I came up with a few object lessons on the spot. For instance, we were talking about our sins being lost at baptism.  I had Elder Dalu stand up.  I handed him one hymn book after another until his arms were full.  It was pretty heavy for him.  We asked him how he felt.  We took our time about it.  The whole time, he was struggling to hold the hymn books up.  Then we took the hymn books away, and asked him how he felt.  There were some other things we did, too.  Nine investigators attended, six from our area, and three from other elders’.  Unfortunately, two of ours slipped out before Sacrament Meeting!  Lame!  I didn't see em' slip out.

On Saturday night, we taught Sister J and family.  We had been teaching lesson two about resurrection, but I decided we needed to stop that and switch gears.  I realized we hadn't talked about eternal families before, even though Sister J’s husband had passed away.  We talked about it, and the spirit was there.  It was such a cool experience.  We talked about how 80 years isn't near enough time to be with our loved ones.  It went well. 

We went back to a former investigator this week.  We taught her back when Elder Montecer and I were just tracting all day.  Anyway, during the time since we had last seen her, she got an infection in her hand and had it cut off.  She's pretty angry at God about it.  I don't blame her, really.  We had an interesting lesson with her.  We didn't teach too much, but mostly just let her talk to us.  I don't know what to teach the upcoming visit.  I'll probably figure that out in my personal study tomorrow.

Yesterday we went by the radio station here in Bugasong.  We got the go ahead from President at training to sing and introduce ourselves to Bugasong on the radio.  We’re in the process of setting it up.  Right now, it's in the AP's hands, but it's likely that it will happen.  We’re just trying to get them to do it as a public service instead of paying for air time. 

Life is good.  No worries.  I go on splits with Elder Lowry tomorrow.  I'm excited about that.  We're working hard.  Success is so close that we’re bound to have some, but it's still just flirting with us at this point.  We've had a ton of folks come to church lately, but not on consecutive weeks!  That makes it impossible to have a baptism.