Monday, June 25, 2012

finishing up in Bugasong

Monday, June 25, 2012
Bugasong, Panay Island, Philippines

(Most names in this blog have been changed to protect privacy.  The editor’s comments are in italicized, purple text.)

Elder Sefeti and Alajandro Rabe
We didn't do work at rabbit speed this week.  It seemed wise to slow it down because I think I'm stressing Elder Sefeti out.  It was interesting, though, that we taught just as many lessons as we usually do.  In fact, we taught more lessons than average.  I think maybe the current carried us, or maybe we just didn't get punted too hard.  I was surprised how well it went going at a slower pace - we didn't rush from one place to the next.

Last week Elder Sefeti was supposed to teach district meeting.  I was there when Elder Quinantoto asked him.  I had forgotten about it until Monday night when Elder Quinantoto made sure that he was ready.  I thought to myself, "Oh yeah, that's right."  I wasn't there for the end of the conversation that took place, but I figured they had worked something out.  The next morning in district meeting, Elder Quinantoto says "You all ready to go?"  Elder Sefeti laughed.  Elder Quinantoto asked again.  Elder Sefeti laughed again.  We explained that Elder Quinantoto isn't joking, and reality set in.  No one was prepared to teach.  Just then, the senior couple walked into our district.  Oh crap.  So, I gave a lesson off the top of my head on "revelation through church attendance."  It wasn't the best but it did the trick. 

The Rabe boys and Elder Waggoner
We taught a less active this week that hasn't been to church in three years.  She had one of those slave-like jobs that doesn't let you keep the Sabbath day.  She had recently quit so she could have her first baby.  She's the daughter of a very active member.  I usually don't like visiting members during the day, but I felt the urge to go see her.  We found this girl.  We talked about how a testimony either goes up or down, but it doesn't really stay the same.  During the closing prayer, she bawled.  It was a pretty cool experience.  She couldn't go to church this week because she was feeling pretty sick.  I guess pregnant people feel that way sometimes.

Some local members and Elder Waggoner
 We found a less-active while tracting a while ago.  She is one of a couple found that way.  The first time we went into her house, she had porn up on her walls.  She hadn't put it up herself, but she had tolerated it.  We asked her to remove it, and she did.  We talked about the temple a few lessons later, and gave her a magazine about temples.  When we went to her house on Wednesday, pictures from the temple magazine was all over her walls.  It made the place such a nice environment.  It was such a cool change.

On the other hand, we happened upon her smoking the other night.  She had her "front door" open, and she was laying there on a bamboo bench, listening to music, just relaxing and smoking.  She took a deep draw just before we said hello.  She was so embarrassed.  We tried to invite her to church real quick (she hasn't come yet) and then run off to our next appointment.  We only had just five minutes.  It wasn't an effective visit at all.  She was so embarrassed about being caught that she was hardly listening to us.  She said "I was just testing it."  We will continue to work with her on that.

Another investigator read sixteen chapters in the Book of Mormon, understood it, and felt the spirit.  She said she hated it when evening came because she couldn't see anymore.  When I asked her what stood out to her, she said Chapter 8 about Lehi's dream.  She said she wanted the fruit they had.  She couldn't go to church this week because she watched her disabled younger sister, and her mom wasn't going to be there this weekend.

Sunday evening rainbow
Church this week was especially hot.  I was fasting, too.  I just about died.  I don't know if I've told you about the muggy meetinghouse we have here.  It's hot, and right down by the highway.  It's hard to hear, and we sweat a lot.  I ended up teaching Sunday School again.  I did it on "the power of kindness" and it was kind of low key; I was pretty exhausted, but we did one thing that was pretty fun.  We talked about using kindness in correcting others.  We had a youth spin around and close her eyes and try and walk to the back of the room.  We had a ton of people shout and correct her.  She just got confused.  We then had one person lead her by the hand. 

The Holts spoke in sacrament meeting.  They spoke English, and used some deep words.  Some people actually fell asleep. 

Elder Galloway is the new A.P.  He is one of my favorite missionaries in the mission.  We have plans together for after our missions.  He's a pretty quiet but smart guy.  Most A.P's have been rather outspoken, this guy isn't.  I think it's a great choice, but then again it is from God.

I did a lot of laundry this morning, and on Saturday.  I will probably be packing soon.  It's better to pack clean clothes.

I suspect my time in Bugasong is about to end, and that I'll be transferred next week.  I have the feeling that I'm going to the city.  If that happens, I will miss the bukid and the rice fields, but it'll be fun.  In the city, we can do things such as street contacting.  It's a different way of work, and in fact, I think it's more my style.  I will miss Bugasong, but not the same way I miss San Joaquin.  I had a great time here, but never felt as at home as I did in San Joaquin.  There are some awesome people here, and we've worked so hard, but some things here were uncomfortable.  We’ve met a lot of people with problems!  I don't mind problems, and in fact, they are nice if people will apply the gospel.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"I feel like working."

Monday, June 18, 2012
Bugasong, Pany Island, Philippines

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

This will be short this week.  Elder Quinantoto and I went out to teach some lessons real quick, and they ran kind of long.  Earlier, we were playing basketball and we got tired, and I turned to him and said "I feel like working."  He said he agreed, and then somebody texted him asking us to come over.  We left Elder Sefeti and Perez playing with the young men.  So sorry   This isn't going to be a great email, but it's for a good cause. 

I went on splits with Elder Quinantoto this last Friday.  I love him.  He's one of my favorite elders in the mission.  We are very similar actually. We had a great day, and did a lot of work in his area.  After the splits, I just had fire in me.  On the following Saturday and Sunday, we split with members and taught 18 lessons.  I am having so much fun with the work here. 

Sunday our branch president and first counselor didn't show up.  Our 2nd counselor is maybe the shyest guy I have ever met.  So, I was “Branch President” Waggoner again.  I wasn't conducting or anything, but I asked people to teach classes, and asked people to speak in Sacrament Meeting when someone didn’t show up.  I also, once again, broke into the branch presidents "office" so we could have the sacrament.  I used a piece of bamboo through the window and unlocked the door.  If I hadn't done that, we would not have had sacrament. 

Also, we had no Sunday School teacher.  We had a good amount of investigators, and I didn't want to abandon them.  I was asked to teach the Sunday School by brother "shy," so I just combined them.  I had a blast!  I taught maybe 60 people about the atonement.  I used pictures in my picture book, used scriptures, and asked question.  I did it like dad used to.  I was up on my feet and all over the chapel during my lesson.  God really helped me out because I wasn't that prepared. 

Bugasong Branch
After church, I asked everyone to stick around for a few minutes.  I took a picture of all of them, then had them sign a card for some less actives.  I wanted them to say stuff like "we miss you" and "you're always welcome here," but they didn't understand.  They thought I was transferring, and some of them wrote messages about that.  I'll have to cut out what people wrote that understood what it was for.  I don't know how that happened - I explained it clearly.  I guess some people weren't really listening.  On the other hand it's nice to see how people care about me.

We received referrals for people way far away, and they are coming to church.  I like people coming to church, but it's hard to focus so far away.  I feel like we ought to because those people are so excited about the gospel, and both families have asked about baptism.  We aren't going to rush things, but that's way sweet to hear.  We will be now working in Valderrama and Tibiao again.  That will slow down work because it takes so long to travel out there, but it will be an adventure, and I believe it's worth it.

Elder Sefeti is doing well.  He enjoyed our hike today.  We went with some other elders to the southern point of Panay Island. 

View from southern tip of Panay Island
Hiking in Dao
A funny story – these kinds of trips aren’t usually allowed. We aren't supposed to intermix districts for outings, but we had gotten the zone leaders’ approval.  While we were out, President called me to ask me about some things I had mentioned to him about the branch, and he asked me where I was.  I told him I was on my way to Dao to hike.  He asked me "Is this a zone activity?" (Those are not allowed anymore.)  I told him no, because it was only six of us not the whole zone.  Also, I let him know we had permission from the ZL's.  So, they may have gotten the heat for it.  He seemed cool with an exception, though.  He told me that he was impressed with our work in Bugasong, and to have fun.  I wonder if he let it slide because the work is going well? 

We dropped Sister Lota's family.  They had been progressing in the past, but they just wanted the experience of it, yet not any of the commitments.  They hadn't been reading and stuff, and hadn't gone to church for a while.  I didn't know what to do with them.  I love them, but they were killing me.  I straight up asked them "If you know this is true, why don't you get baptized?"  I had to ask it twice before they gave any sort of real answer.  We will just put them in the area book.  It's a bummer, but it's what we have to do. 

Elder Sefeti is picking up my guitar picks where ever I leave them, and putting them in one spot for me.  I always have guitar picks.

I had another experience with pooping kids this week. It rivaled last week’s experience.

I love you guys. I'm doing great. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

baptism week

Monday, June 11, 2012
Bugasong, Panay Island, Philippines

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

Some weeks are legendary. This was one of them.

The baptism was great.  We were super excited for it, and could hardly study on Saturday.  Well, maybe Elder Sefeti could, but I couldn’t.  We ended up singing hymns for the better part of an hour because the Bible just wasn’t holding my attention.

Every Saturday, the Holts (a retired couple from the US, serving a mission in the Philippines) come up to Bugasong, where she offers piano lessons.  We invited them to have lunch with us.  We didn’t have much to eat, but the company was nice.  They told us about their kids’ missions back in the day.  We talked about how crazy Sister Pagaduan is about apartment checks, and talked about the branch.  The Holts are down to earth and listen to concerns.  I made some lemonade from some not-quite oranges that our investigators gave us.  Would you call that orange juice?  That makes sense, but I’m not sure you add water and sugar to orange juice.  Anyway, it was nice and the Holts complimented us on it.

Then we went out to work for three hours or so.  The Holts went with our Branch’s first counselor to make much needed visits to some less-active members.  Our work went well, and we were able to focus.  We got to Sister Rabe’s house about 4pm.  Her house is a prime location right on the beach.  The Holts had brought some chairs and hymn books, and had already set things up.

on the beach for the baptism
Elder Sefeti and I changed into our white clothes and waited for some people to arrive.  The Balgos family wasn’t there yet.  That was a little bad, seeing as they were the ones getting baptized.  They showed up about 30 minutes later and also changed their clothes.  We have an army of young woman and single adult females in the branch.  A few of them came, and were super helpful getting the Balgos family changed.  The program went great.  The speakers were prepared.  Elder Sefeti and I sang “Lead, Kindly Light.”

Sister Holt brought an electric keyboard and kept the hymns on key.  The actual baptisms were sick.  The afternoon sun was super strong, making the white suits really shine.  The water had cleared a bit after the recent heavy rain had muddied the water.  We took some pictures, so the water proof camera came in handy.  We also had three investigators at the baptism.

Elder Sefeti baptized the mom and the oldest daughter, and I baptized the two youngest.  On the first baptism, I twice messed up the prayer.  Both times, I added an extra phrase from another ordinance.  With the youngest, I got it right the first time.

After the baptisms, the branch members sang hymns while the Balgos family and we changed back into our regular clothes.  Then the Balgos family bore their testimonies.  We sang another hymn, said the prayer, and ate.  Sister Rabe had prepared the food and overspent a bit, so the food was great.  The branch members were wonderful in fellowshipping both the new family and our investigators.

Most of the week, we were concerned about the weather for the baptism because it looked like it wouldn’t stop raining.  Friday the rain let up, and the ocean calmed down and cleared up.  God came through.  He always seems to.  By the way, before the rain stopped, I had quite a pile of muddy socks outside the front door.  

This week Elder Sefeti and I spoke only Kinaray-a.  The past couple of weeks, I noticed when he taught that his Kinaray-a was regressing.  He had been forgetting some rules of the language that we’d had covered, so we made the switch.  He’s doing well now, and it was time to make the switch anyway.

We taught the grandma of Alajandro Rabe this week. The lesson went ok, but it wasn’t a great environment.  Just as we were getting to the closing prayer, Grandma Rabe’s grandchild who she was holding pooped on her really badly.  Any spirit we felt was forgotten immediately.  I got a little grossed out, but not too bad.  She cleaned up and then came back, and we said the closing prayer.

I struck up a conversation with a guy in the town and told him we’d go out to see him later in the week.  He said that it was fine.  We visited him and his whole family was there.  I was happy for that.  We stared getting to know their religious background.  That’s when we find out his wife is a “healer” for a miracle crusade faction of the Catholic Church.  So we didn’t get very far.  We did introduce the restoration, and we’ll try again sometime this week.

The branch has gotten comfortable with us, so they are giving us referrals. The work is going well because of it.  I’m probably out of here in two weeks so that’s a bummer.  I hope the elder who replaces me knows what he’s doing because this area has a lot going on.

Earlier in the week we received a referral from the missionary couple in Guimaras.  A family from near here had gone there on vacation and met the couple there.  They live in our area, but way out in the boonies out in Valderama.  We literally don’t have the time to go out there.  Our time is super booked.  I told the office that I was sorry, but given the instructions we’ve received to work in a center of strength, it’s too far away.  They understood, and I figured that was that.  Elder Sefeti kept on bringing it up.  He thought we should go visit them.

Well, Sunday morning they came to church.  They found it on their own, and it had taken them a lot of time and money to get there.  It was a mom and three kids.  We talked with them for about 20 minutes after church.  We then grabbed a member and taught them outside our apartment in the shade.  We agreed to do that every week.  They are going to come every week.

It turns out that they don’t want us to go out to Valderama anyway, because the lady’s mom is a diehard Catholic and wouldn’t approve. 

We had a speaker from the stake in church.  He was over the top.  He talked about the law of chastity, and was too bold.  It’s good to be bold but he was too much.  He threw in some unnecessary American slang.  He literally said this “if you have sex before you are married you are easy. I am sorry to say this but it is true, you are easy.”  I groaned within myself.  He was pretty good at English and I wish he hadn’t been.  I like listening to the Twelve and the Prophet because they keep the sin and the sinner separated.  This guy did not do that.  I’ve been thinking about it since.  I have to just laugh about it.  It’s the Philippines. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

rain, Elder Neilson, rain, work, rain

Monday, June 4, 2012
Bugasong, Panay Island, Philippines

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

This has been an awfully rainy week.  I've been soaked and muddy.  It's been a good time, though.

Last Monday was a blast.  I'm pretty bad at volleyball, but it was fun to do some sports.  We also played some basketball.  I was winded after twenty minutes.  For a long time, my only exercise has been walking and hiking.  I could really feel my heart rate going up.  We also rode a ferris wheel that night.  It was fair in Sibalom, and they had a rather sketchy one there.  I convinced Elder Sefeti to ride it with me.  He's afraid of heights, not to mention its questionable structural integrity, but I told him that I'd pay.  He got on, and he even enjoyed the second half of the ride. 

On Tuesday we had district meeting out there in Sibalom, and all of the ward missionaries from Sibalom attended.  The lesson was about coordinating lessons with members.  I learned quite a bit, and it was worthwhile.  That afternoon I worked with Elder Quinantoto.  He wanted to go tracting with me, so we did that.  We had a bit of success with that.  We also taught one of their progressing investigators.  Then it was time to go to Iloilo. 

Elder Quinantoto getting fresh air
That was quite the ride.  I love it.  We took a van.  Elder Lowry, the ZL here, thought that it would be a good idea.  It's faster, and it has air conditioning.  I was of the same opinion.  Well, in between Hamtic and my old area of San Joaquin, we changed our minds.  Both of us having grown up in hilly areas, we were fine with sharp turns going fast in the rain, but some other folks where not.  Some of our other zone mates had a hard time keeping their food down.  You would have thought we were at Chucky Cheeze’s with the way things were going in that van.  Some people got super car sick. Elder Quinantoto had his head out the window, and the cold air and rain kept him from throwing up.  

The next day, we heard Elder Neilson (of the Seventy) speak.  He is the man!  He is touring the missions in our area.  I really liked him because we could relax around him.  With many previous speakers here, I've been kind of bothered with the way talk to us about missionary work.  It seems like they were pushing the way missionary work goes where the church is highly developed, and that way doesn't work here.  I've even felt like President Pagaduan has been doing that.  Elder Neilson didn't. He related everything to the way work goes in the Philippines.  He showed us a lot of numbers of the rescue effort in the Philippines.  I've already been convinced that this is what we need to focus on, but after he showed us the numbers, man, he's got vision.

For a long time, I have been concerned how people just talk about going to church when they teach the Sabbath day, and skip things like not working and shopping.  I've made a point to teach that, and when I do, the members seem to be hearing it for the first time.  Well, Elder Neilson talked about the Philippines’ problem with the Sabbath day, and how it needs to stop.  He showed us how to treat less-actives who have been less active forever, and how to work with lazy branch presidents.  It was awesome.  It was so dead on.

Elder Sefeti, early on Friday -
before accumulating a day's worth of mud

On Thursday I worked in Sibalom, and Elder Quinantoto went to my area to do baptismal interviews.  I was a happy man to get back to Bugasong Friday morning.  I had really missed Elder Sefeti.  While I was gone, they didn't teach many lessons, but they did what they needed to do.  The entire Balgos family passed their interviews.  I hear that took about four hours to finish, and that it was a super spiritual experience for all of them.  They are going to be baptized in the ocean this Saturday.

Sunday was almost a bust.  It had been raining for most of the week, and some parts of our area are pretty flooded.  At 9 am, it was Elder Sefeti, me, and one other member.  I thought I was going to have to conduct, but slowly some people started showing up.  By 10:00 we had enough people to start, and by 11:00 we had a packed house.  It was scary for a while, but it worked out.  I think the rain hurt us a bit.  Some of our investigators didn’t come, but the Balgos family did. 

That afternoon it rained especially hard, and we had promised people that we would visit them.  We had expected that we would be able to go on splits, but that fell through.  We decided we need to go see all of the people we had promised anyways.  It was a lot of running around.  We got pretty darn muddy, but we got to them all.  In fact, the wind was so strong that my umbrella folded up on itself. 

That was our week.  I can't complain.  We had lunch with the ZL's at a seafood place today, it was tasty.  We'll see if I get food poisoning from it. (just kidding.)  We have a lot of things coming up this week.

I love you all.   

Antique Zone Conference, Elder and Sister Neilson in the middle