Monday, August 27, 2012

the Bronx of Iloilo

Monday, August 27, 2012
Molo, Iloilo City, Philippines

Many names in this blog are changed to protect privacy, and the editor's comments appear in italicized purple text.  

You may not be aware of this, but Molo is like the Bronx of Iloilo city.  It's crowded and loud, but we make it work.

Last week in district meeting, I taught about resolving concerns with prayer.  I don't know how it is in Argentina and Holland (Mom’s and Dad’s missions), but people here have a difficult time learning to pray.  Some people will pray like they aren't even talking to god.  They will use the word naton instead of namon.  Naton includes the person you are talking to, but namon doesn't.  So, when somebody says “amay naton sa langit" it means our father in heaven.  The our includes the person you're talking to.  They don't even understand that prayer is really communication with God.  Also, they pray to Mary, and think they can only pray in church, and they use a rosary or the recite memorized prayers.  It’s an uphill battle for prayer in the Philippines.

In district meeting, we practiced resolving concerns about prayer.  I had three more experienced missionaries role play like they were investigators, each with a different challenge with prayer.  We had everyone rotate stations, and afterward we evaluated how we had done.  Some people really got into their characters. I had Elder Galloway act like someone who was super fancy, but not sincere in his prayers.  He got way into it.  He might have bordered on sacrilegious, but we run into all these things a lot so it was appropriate

There are once again a ton of people in my district.  The replacements for the office are already here.  The district had 11 people last week, but this week it may have 15.  Elder Bednar is coming tomorrow, and I teach district meeting at the same chapel as the mission office.  So yeah, if that happens I'll tell you how that goes.  Pray for me.

On Tuesday, I went to Mandurriao and did some baptismal interviews.  Elders Light and Christianson are baptizing a family of eight.  The DL of Mandurriao interviewed four, and I interviewed the other four.  I was so cool.  This family was super prepared.  It was quite a spiritual experience interviewing these people.  I interviewed the father.  He gave up alcohol and some other things in order to be baptized.  It made me think “How can it be that I'm the one who interviews people for baptism?”  Anyways, they all passed.

We got our apartment checked Wednesday morning.  Having had some unpleasant experiences in the past, I was a little uneasy about getting checked.  I was ready to fight to the death to keep my UNO cards.  I didn't need to.  The Dyers, a senior couple from Guimaras, were super nice.  The only problem was our fridge.  We joked around a bit with them, too.  They asked us what kind of clean up stuff we used.  I told them muriatic acid.  They said that muriatic acid is a little too strong for most clean up jobs.  I told them we let it get so dirty that muriatic acid is the only thing that can do the job. 

On Wednesday night we got punted, so we went to visit one of our favorite members, Holy Grace.  We talked to her about the joys of serving a mission.  She said she wants to.  We went over Section 4 in D&C with her.  Elder Manwill had a good time.

After the lesson about missionary work with Holy Grace, we had something funny happen.  We were walking home and found a poor baby kitten in the middle of a busy road.  I hate cats, but we did what we needed to save it.  When Elder Manwill put it down, it cried.  Then it walked over to him.  It obviously had no momma.  We debated about what to do with it.  I said it was ok to bring it home until we can find a home for it.  Elder Manwill didn't want to break the rules in the least bit, so we decided to run back to Holy Grace's and ask her to take it.  She thought we were weird.  She didn't want to take it.  We had her hold it real quick and then we ran.  We laughed all the way home. 

She put the cat in an abandoned house by her place.  I guess there are a bunch of other cats there too.  She named the cat Wagwill. 

Our investigator Danielle is doing super well.  We reviewed the Ten Commandments with her.  We talked to her about not praying to statues and stuff.   She asked us "but what about Catholics?  I was raised Catholic."  I was about to explain how we have to change in order to follow God’s commandments, but she cut me off "I'm just kidding.  I'm going to be LDs on the 8th."  Man, she's funny. 

On Friday I went on splits with Elder Light for the last time on my mission.  He's going home in October, and transferring this week. I enjoyed being with Elder Light, but it was one of the hardest days of my mission.  Man, we got so punted.  I had texted everyone the night before, so I had a pretty solid schedule.  If the day would have gone as planned it would have been excellent, but it didn't.  In fact, only one of our lessons actually pulled through!  It was insane.  We had to resort to tracting!  And we didn't just have the lesson fall through.  We had investigators drop us!  We had some sweet investigators, and they straight up dropped us!  I was bummed.  Three in total!  Man.  I was devastated that day – just so out of it.

At one point in the day I hopped on the wrong jeep!  My mind was in some other place.  We had one appointment at 6:00 that I was so stoked for!  It was another one with Danielle.  We had set it up to teach her at the church.  She asked to be taught at 7:00, so we changed it to then. Then the fellowshipper bailed on us.  We tried to find someone else, but all the people her age were at institute.  Then we get to the church and they were locking up because seminary ended early.  The only people there were from the other ward, so I couldn't borrow a key.  We texted her and cancelled with her.  At that point my mood turned sour.  We just walked off in the direction of backup plan #123.  

On the way we ran into Danielle.  She said it's ok to teach her wherever, so we decided to take her to Holy Grace’s.  (I had texted Holy Grace, but she hadn’t texted back).  We just showed up, and Holy Grace was cool with it.  Also, Maria was there.  She’s a super awesome investigator that recently got a job and has become difficult to get a hold of, so that was sweet.  We taught them all the law of chastity.  There were some local male young adult riff raffs that joined in too.  They caused some problems with their laughing and taunting questions about condoms and stuff like that.  Elder Light and I didn't get aggravated, but Holy Grace got a little embarrassed.  Danielle met every taunt of theirs with a quick witted reply.  Man, it was cool to watch.  Usually distractions like that suck, but this time it was good.  It was cool to see Maria and Danielle stand up for what we had taught them.

We ate at the Indian food place on Saturday.  We talked about Elder Manwill going senior, and me training again.  The food was good, and the conversation was great. 

Right now my district consist of Elders Manwill, Foshee, Vennard, Lado, Advencula, Nunez, Galloway, Loe, Domincel, Johnson, and me. 

Church was lame.  We kind of expected it because of how bad the week had gone.  I felt like I was serving a mission in Germany or something.  Danielle came, so that was sweet, but no one else did.  We had four less-active members that we thought were going to come!  If they had come, they would have now been counted as active.  Because they didn't come, we have to restart the count again. 

I'm fine.  I'm happy, but we did have a sucky week.  I'm sad to have a new missionary come right now when the area is like this.  I'm going to try get it back up and running as quickly as possible, though. 

Yesterday was nice though.  We had some appointments pull through, and got fed at the Katipunan's house.  I talked with the father about raising kids.  He taught his many kids how to use the potty.  I've taught my first kid how to speak Kinaray-a, and when my next one arrives, I'll teach him Ilonggo. 

We had departing missionaries come sleep at our house last night.  They are scared to go home.  They mostly just talked about working hard now because it ends real soon.

We went with a bunch of them to a member’s house here in Molo.  They fed us to within an inch of our lives.  I ate a lot because I could. 

A little bird told me (naghutik ang isa ka pispis sa akon) that I'm training another Polynesian.  It could be Elder Sefeti's cousin!  Really. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dako means big

Monday, August 20, 2012
Molo, Iloilo City, Philippines

Last week's P-day was nice.  We went to the Iloilo City museum.  I learned a lot.  There was some real cool stuff there.  I don't think I would have appreciated the place as much if I had recently arrived in the mission.  Now, being a seasoned, well-traveled guy, the stuff had more meaning for me.  I've been to most of the places it talks about.  There was one section about the island of Panay in WWII, another section on how the Ati lived before the Apanish took over, a part about Spanish Imperialism, and then a part about Chinese business.  It was pretty cool.  I like history and museums, and haven't been able to learn history or go to museums in years now.

Last week’s district meeting was on the role of the Holy Ghost in conversion.  I had thoroughly prepared.  The lesson went well, but not as well as I had hoped.  I sometimes feel like doing district meeting for the office elders is more of a hassle for them than a blessing.  They've got a billion things to do.  Plus, their weekly meeting with President, where they report on their jobs, is directly after district meeting so I'm doubt they are excited for it.  I try and make it interesting.  I brought candles and we passed the Holy Ghost to each other.  (Yes Dad, I got that from your Christmas story.)  We held candles during the closing song, which I was hoping was going to be reverent.  Some people just raised the candles and acted like they were at a concert.  I was a little frustrated.  It was still a good lesson, and I can't complain.  How many dozens of school teachers, Sunday School teachers, and seminary teachers have put in a ton of effort to teach me, and I just acted like it was game. Yeah, I've got no right to complain.

This week we had a relatively of recent convert work with us.  Most of my mission, we've just had a young man work with us for five hours, and whichever lessons he was there for were our lessons with a member present.  In the city, we can do it differently.  We have members meet us for one appointment at a specific time.  This week we had a lesson with an investigator named Danielle at the church at 6:30 pm.  Her peers were all at institute over in Jaro, so we were up the creek.  Elder Manwill suggested we ask Holy Grace to come.  She was thrilled to be invited.  She works a lot, takes care of her dad, and isn't heavily involved in church, but she has a great testimony and loves the church.  We ran over the lesson with her before Danielle came.  We taught the atonement, and gave Holy Grace the part about the garden of Gethsemane and spiritual death.  We practiced it a few times, and then during the lesson she nailed it.  The lesson was great, but I think the best part was having Holy Grace teach with us.  She says she wants to serve a mission.  She's 19. 

On Wednesday we met the San Padro barangay captain.  We volunteered to do a service project with his barangay.  Next week we are going to clean up trash from the bank of the river. 

Our landlord is Brother Dako.  "Dako" in ilonggo literally means big, and Bro Dako lives up to the name.  He enjoys the missionaries, and he'll always talk to us while we to laundry and stuff.  Whenever he sees us, he tries to have an hour long conversation with us.  He's a funny guy, but sometimes we've don't have the time to talk to him.  He really wants us to play majong with him, and even put a majong table in our house so we'd play with him.  We told him "if we had time."  So on Tuesday, Elder Manwill and I played "speed" together right after lunch.  He killed me, but I acted like I was killing him.  I was pretty loud, and the next thing I know, Brother Dako is calling us.  "Hey, are you playing cards right now?!  I'll be right over.”  Elder Manwill and I looked at each other.  We said "O.K., but only for a little bit."  So, there we are playing majong with our landlord when we are supposed to be doing personal study.  After about an hour, I told him that we have to stop now, and that we have stuff we have to do.  I had told him that we were going to have to end about 30 minutes earlier, but he just kept on pushing the game.  Majong is cool, but I'll wait until I'm home to get good at it. 

We joined choir this week.  Truly, we got drafted.  Usually I'd rather just work than do ward activities, but we felt like it was good way to build relationships with the ward.  Also, we sang "Come Thou Fount" which is one of my favorites.  We rehearsed Tuesday and Saturday night.  We needed the practice because we didn't have much talent.  On Sunday at Ward Conference it went well though. 

I went on splits with Elder Vennard this week.  We did some good work, and in the evening he taught me some music theory about passing chords.  I went on splits with Elder Vennard back when I was in San Juaquin and it was interesting to compare and see how far we’ve come since then.

Saturday I went on splits with Elder Galloway.  He'll be pretty busy soon because transfers are coming up, so I went ahead and got it out of the way.  While working with him, he had to take a few calls from President, and we had to run to the office twice.  We still did good work.  We got punted pretty hard, though.  Most of the big appointments fell through, so we only got to do our back up plans.  Also, we got a surprise call from the Mindoriao elders.  They couldn't do their baptism in their area because they had no water, so I helped then get it all set up for doing it in Molo.  The hardest part was running around trying to find a key in the heat of the day.  It took us an hour and half to locate a key and pick it up.  By the time we got to the church to open it up, we were sweating from head to toe.  The Ward mission leader of Mindoriao wasn't there yet, so we started cleaning out the baptismal font for them.  It was disgusting.  To repay us for our sacrifice, Elder Light brought us burgers.

Sunday after church we got punted like I've never been punted in my life.  We got punted 16 times!  We went to everyone in our area.  All of the members went to the 85th birthday celebration broadcast of President Monson, and all our investigators were at the new boardwalk that just opened up here in Iloilo.  We had nobody to teach.  Usually, if we get punted, we go and buy a soda.  Since it was Sunday, we couldn't even do that!  We eventually got a lesson at 7:30 with our recent convert Faye.  She is now enrolled in seminary!  So that's pretty sweet. 

Church was nice.  It was reverent.  The stake president is boss.  He gives some of the best talks ever.  He actually talked about reverence for his talk.  That's the same subject I talked about 6 weeks earlier.

We played soccer this morning.

Yesterday after church we got invited to a birthday party.  Maria, of one of our investigators, has a baby brother that turned one.  We were happy to go because we had not yet met her family.  We tried our best to make a good impression.  It was difficult, though, because there was a lot of drinking.  They fed us to within a inch of our lives.  People don't really know what to say to two white guys, so they just say "here, eat more."  We'd rather talk, but we didn't have a choice in the matter.  We left full. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

. . .died of dysentery

Monday, August 13, 2012
Molo, Iloilo City, Philippines

I have been suffering from a very upset stomach.  I would not be surprised to learn that I have something, but the jury is still out.  It's been killing me for a few days now.  If it lasts another day, I'll tell Sister Pagagduan, but I don't want to be diagnosed with liver failure, so I'm not going to tell Sister about it yet.  I think she'd do this:

1. Tell me to drink water
2. Tell me to take Pepto Bismol
3. Get me a doctor’s appointment
4. Tell me not to work for x amount of days

Then the #3 of that would say

1. Drink water
2. Take these 50 drugs for 5,000 pesos
3. Come back in three days

Then, three days later the doctor would say
1. You've got liver failure
2. Buy these drugs for 6,000 pesos

So instead of all that, I'll just drink water and take Pepto Bismol.

We had a good Family Home Evening last Monday.  We were super stoked about it.  It was with a really strong member family, and we had invited a ton of investigators and less-actives from their area.  When it came time to do it, we went to round up everyone, but no one was to be found.  Only one investigator attended, and she felt out of place.  That was a bummer.  We tried to make it as fun as possible so the lady would forget that she felt out of place.  We succeeded, I think.  We had a lot of fun.  Afterwards, when we ate the snacks and were just talking, the parents of the family were talking to only us and not to our investigator.  They were asking us about how we like Filipino girls and stuff like that.  It wasn't too fun. 

That investigator avoided us the last two times we went to their house. We don't know what is up.  

Zone meeting is now three hours long.  As a DL, I stand and give a report on how my district is doing.  I stood up front and said a few things, and then said "And now to show you the love I have for the district, I will now song a song . . ."  I was about to go sing "district I love you . . . district I do . . . father in heaven has sent me to you . . ." but Elder Light grabbed the mike from me and said “O.K., we'll stop you there.”  Afterwards he said he didn't want me to sing because President Pagaduan was there.  It was funny either way though. 

We went over the Sermon on the Mount with one of our investigators, Maria.  She has gotten through all the missionary lessons, so now we are teaching additional lessons.  We’ve expanded on things like forgiveness and charity.  Most people here know Jesus died on the cross, but that's about it.  They have no idea what Jesus' teachings really are.  They know he's "our savior" the same way I know George Washington is a founding father, but don't really know much about him.  I am really happy to do stuff like read Jesus' teaching with investigators.  I don't feel like we get to do that enough as missionaries. 

We gave out two more baptismal dates this week, one of which was to a gay kid.  He's not quite making some promised changes, but he is at least reading the scriptures and stuff.  He didn't show up for church yesterday. 

We also gave one to our investigator Noel.  He's doing really well.  He's reading and understands why he needs to get baptized and stuff.  In the last lesson we had with him, he gave a great closing prayer.  He asked for help to make his goal of October 6.  We set a ways off cause he'll have some Word of Wisdom stuff to take care of.

I fasted yesterday.  I don't know if that's a great thing to do when you're dealing with diarrhea, but I got through it okay.  Between fasting and diarrhea, I was pretty dead during church.  After church and lunch in Arevalo, I got super sick.  We only did one lesson yesterday because I was feeling so sick.  I'm doing better now, but this morning was pretty bad. 

In fact, during that one lesson we did yesterday, I felt super bad.  We decided to go out and get that lesson because it's not far from our house.  It's good that's all we tried because after the lesson we had to run back to the house.

I totally understand how people died from this stuff back in the day.  Dysentery.  We are being real upbeat about it though. 

We actually had a great week for work.  We have been doing great working with the ward and have their trust.  This is the most any ward has been involved in the work. We are asking a wide range of people to help us out. We are surprised a lot of older people are willing to join us for an appointment or two.

In Bugasong, we used to have a few people work with us and they'd usually work for 5 or 6 hours.  Here we have two or three people work with us for an hour and a half each. It takes a lot of planning, and it is really using up the load on our cell phone, but it seems to be more effective. We are also taking our investigators to members’ houses that live close by and teaching them there.  That way we're playing a home game opposed to an away game. 

Well that's about it. Go ahead and laugh about the dysentery. We are. The whole mission office has it too.  They just got theirs yesterday.  It's not from me because I didn't see anybody from the office until yesterday midday. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Raining and Working

Monday, August 6, 2012
Molo, Iloilo City, Philippines

Have I ever mentioned that the key boards in these internet places are often horrible?

Last Monday, after a Ward Baptism service, we taught a lesson that went awesome.  We had about six ward missionaries with us, plus four elders.  We taught a referral named Danielle.  It was the third time teaching her.  I didn't teach too much, but conducted the lesson.  We covered the restoration, Book of Mormon, praying to know, and then went on to baptism.  It went kind of long, but the spirit was there strongest at the end, so it was O.K.  I actually tried to close it up after “praying to know,” but Elder Galloway stopped me and took it a different direction.  That direction led to a good baptismal commitment, so I was glad he stopped me.  It was one of the best lessons of my mission.

Before the baptism, I had a misunderstanding with a ward missionary.  The baptism was at 5:00 p.m. at the chapel, and we were there to be supportive.  While talking to Elder Galloway before the baptism, I motioned for a ward missionary to come and talk to me.  I put my arm around him and asked him if he could stay after the baptism to teach an investigator who would arrive at the church at 7:00.  He said he'd try and then walked away.  I called after him. "What do you mean try? It would take more effort to not be here."  I did not say this in a harsh way.  He stormed back to me and got in my face.  He was being so dramatic that I thought he was joking.  He said "What do want from me?  Who do you think you are?!  You need to respect me."  So I joked back, and told him he was cut when he was angry.  After I said that, he gave me the look of death and stormed off to the bathroom.  I then asked Elder Galloway "He's messing around, right?"  He said “I don't know, man."  I then realized he wasn't joking, and I went to him and apologized.  He went off on me and it was pretty tense.  I did manage to apologize, though.  I sat by him during the baptism, and then he stayed for the lesson.  I figured we were good and all was forgiven. 

Then the next day while at mang inasal, he walked by us and didn't say anything.  He flat out avoided us.  There was no way he didn't see us.  So, the following day we brought him and his family cookies. 

Tuesday was district meeting, and I taught about repentance.  I taught how to teach it to someone instead of just covering the points of the lesson.  I've noticed my entire mission that missionaries are afraid to really teach people in that lesson and to ask specific questions.  Instead they are vague.  It turned out to be a pretty good lesson. 

it's been raining. . .
It's been raining non-stop for about three weeks now.  I’ve grown tired of it.  I don't mind the rain because if it’s raining, it’s not as hot.  However, it floods, and we have standing water on the streets and stuff.  In the bukid, we couldn't cross rivers if it rained, but at least we could walk to appointments.  One night here, it was raining so hard that we literally could not walk down the street.  We hid under the roof of a nearby "chungie."  We stood there for maybe twenty minutes, and then the owners of the "chungie" invited us in.  Little did we know, but there was a birthday party going on inside.  We got fed dinner and cake!  We met a lot of people that maybe could be investigators.  The birthday was by candle light because the power was out.  It's been out a lot cause of the rain and wind. 

Wednesday I went on splits with Elder Nunez, the mission recorder.  He's a terrific missionary.  We got rained on super hard, but still worked super hard.  At one point his umbrella caught the wind wrong and got killed.  It turned inside out and snapped.  It stormed the worst I'd ever seen.  At one point we hid out behind a building.  We got invited in.  The building was some kind of water selling business but it closed.  We talked with the worker and taught her lesson 1.  It actually went really well. 

We have this sweet investigator named Mikel. He stopped Elder Manwill and Elder Christensen last week when he was on splits in my area.  He asked them for a Book of Mormon.  We went through lesson one with him and he really liked it.  We left him Alma 32 for the third lesson with him.  He read it, in English, and understood it all.  It was sweet.  We discussed with him, he guessed the point we were making, and then made it for us.  It was sweet.  He's also real good at English, so Elder Manwill loves him.  He came to church this week and got fellowshipped like a champ.  He even participated in Sunday School.  He had his eyes closed most of the time he was at church, but he was listening.  I guess he was trying to internalize everything or something.  Elder Manwill thought he was sleeping. 

We had an appointment set up for Wednesday night with Danielle, but it didn't happen because she came down with dengue.  On Friday night she texted us, saying she was well enough to be taught.  We met at a member’s house, quite a ways from her house, to have the lesson.  She looked pretty bad, and every five minutes had to get up to go to the bathroom for some reason.  She seemed pretty sick, but still insisted on being taught.  We were amazed at her determination.  I have not found so great determination in all of the Philippines.  Anyways, she's cool and we talked about the baptismal commitment.  We have another lesson with her later this evening. 

We are also teaching a group of teenage boys who are gay.  They need the gospel, and as long as they listen, we're going to teach them.  Another teenage boy who is a member and lives near them had told them the church’s stance on homosexuality.  That ended up being a good thing because it got that subject out in the open.  It would have been super awkward if we had to bring it up.  We ended up teaching the six of them about the law of chastity.  Some of them were super immature about it, but the main one of them was pretty mature about it.  The next lesson we had with them, we brought that same teenage member with us.  It was another good lesson, but still super uncomfortable.  While some of the teenagers are really listening, some other ones try and hit on us, which grosses me out. 

We had zone conference on Friday.  Elder Galloway gave a great training on the less active situation.  We've heard a lot of stuff about what to do in the rescue effort, but it's all been from a ton of different sources.  He gathered that all together and made it super clear.  He even had a ton of numbers and averages and ratios from the Iloilo mission to support what he was saying.  It was still dry, but it was very insightful. 

Also I played the guitar and sang "I'll go where you want me to go" with Elder Vennard.  I sang first verse alone, and he came in on the chorus in harmony.  We did the opposite for the second verse.  On the 3rd verse, I sang lead and he sang harmony.  The sisters were swooning.

I helped an old lady Friday night.  She was walking very slowly along the highway.  She was using a bamboo stick to help her walk, and she was walking baby turtle speed.  We took maybe 30 minutes to walk a football field or so.  She also had me help her cross the street about three times.  I was starting to get the feeling that she didn't know where she was going.  Finally somebody walked by who recognized her.  He grabbed the old lady from me, walked with her four times the speed I was, and led her maybe 60 yards back the way we had come.  I provided kind service, but it was not effective.

Correlation meeting was cancelled, but that was fine because that meant we got to teach Maria, who had come home late that night.  Elder Galloway and I did that while Elder Manwill stayed with Elder Loe and practiced Illongo with a member.  Elder Loe is very good though.  We had a great lesson with Maria about tithing.

Elder Manwill lost the keys to the apartment.  Our tag-iya, Brother Dako, wants to replace the lock to front door now.  That's going to be expensive.  It’s kind of frustrating because now if we want inside our house we have to ask him for the keys.  Last night, when it was raining really hard, he handed us the key on the end of a long fishing pole - so he wouldn't get wet.  It was pretty funny.  He then brought us over some warm Filipino soup called arroz caldo.  It was very nice of him.

Our Ward
Church was great. We had three investigators at church.  We've had more, but it was nice this time because our investigators got super fellowshipped.  We were so happy.  Besides one whacky lady, testimony meeting was great. 

Every Sunday after church we come to Arevalo and do Sunday lunch with the office elders.  It's way relaxing and the food is good too.  It reminds me of Sunday lunch back home.