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.

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