Monday, June 27, 2016

Week 17 in the Philippines Loaog Mission

June 27, 2016


So this week has been incredible. The first few days Sister Hermosa and I stayed in Laoag for the Training and to prepare the cake for President Andrada's birthday. Have I discussed this before? It took me about a month to plan alongside with Sister Andrada, and we had to travel to cook in 'the Mansion' as that missionary apartment actually has an oven. and a microwave. and a shower. and screens on their window. I'm not jealous. nope, not at all... But the oven cooked the cake uneven so there was a lot of stress and cutting off burnt pieces and hoping that there would be a cake left over after I finished cutting all the burnt pieces off!! But in the end the cake turned out great the the AP's gave us a ride to the meeting in their truck so I wouldn't have to try to not ruin the cake on a trycee ride!! 

I also got the opportunity to work in Laoag with Sister Owen, the STL's companion.

(For those of you that don't know the mission is set up like this. The mission president is called of God to serve for three years in a specific area. He then calls Office Elders and AP's -or Assistants to the President- to help in the general running of the mission. There are zones that are governed by ZL or Zone Leaders who report to the AP's how the missionaries in their areas are doing, within every zone there are several districts and the DL or District Leader reports how the missionaries in their portion of the area are doing to the zone leader (which is how he gets his information to send to the AP's) Along with the ZL's there are STL's who take care of all the sisters in the Zone -STL standing for Sister Training Leader- The whole reason why sisters get a separate leader to report to is because of exchanges and just emotional differences between male and female. Exchanges are where two companionships - 4 missionaries- swap companions for 24 hours. This is to evaluate the individual missionary on how they are teaching and to make sure true doctrines are being taught as well as making sure that they are following the rules and such.)

 So that in and of itself was a trip. It was the afternoon after our Quarterly training from President Andrada so we were all pumped. We just went right out and started finding. Find Find Find!! and wow was the spirit strong! We got home rather late so we just ate, updated our records, prayed and passed out. The next morning we realized we had not planned for the day!! We talked about each person we were going to meet and discussed where they were at and how to best help them grow closer to God. That is the end goal, in all honesty. Exchanges was awesome as I finally got to work in a area besides Sarrat! I love Sarrat, but it was nice to just get out of my usual routine and realize what I can do better. You tend to act different around people you know and people you don't know so I was able to evaluate myself and see what I needed to improve on. 

The training was absolutely amazing. We talked about John 21 a lot, and we talked about how as Jesus was on the shore waiting for his apostles to come back so he could tell them off for going fishing again he cooked them breakfast. In all honesty that stood out to me the most. He could have been exasperated with his apostles, after telling them over and over again that they had been called to take care of His fold, not to fish, but he helps them fish, cooks for them, and reminds them of their love for Him. He does not yell and tell them what to do. He simply reminds them that they are so much more than just fishermen. That is the moment that Peter goes from the 'cutting off people's ears' Peter, to the the Peter that people lay in the street just so his shadow can pass over them to be healed. It's not about telling people what do do and them doing it. Its about reminding them of what they can be and letting them. 

That leads onto the next big event: Lorenzo's baptism. People kept coming up to Sister Hermosa and I congratulating us, but I did nothing. I simply talked to him and he converted himself. (kudos to anyone who can catch the quote "I don't want to ____ you, i'm going to talk to you, and you are going to ____ yourself.") Lorenzo is the shyest person I have ever met, but his understanding of the restored gospel is astounding.  Its like 1+1=2. It's a simple fact, everyone knows it. But now relate it to the gospel. Gospel is truth, and truth is unchanging- like facts. Lorenzo sees the gospel as facts. He simply knows. He put in the effort to pray and think about what we taught, applying our teachings to his life, and he knows. Pure and simple. I did not convert him, God extended His hand to His son though us and we were able to teach him despite rain, work, heat, language barriers, and distance. I wish I could truly describe the simple and overwhelming joy last week when he quit smoking, and when he passed his Baptismal Interview. This joy simply fills you up and you feel like dancing (but dancing is bawal- or forbidden) so you simply hum and explode from happiness. Lorenzo was baptized on June 25th 2016, as - I guess- a sort of birthday present for Sawyer! haha! Happy birthday! 

Did I ever stress how important visiting and home teaching is? What you are doing when you do your home/ visiting teaching is making a child of God feel welcome in the social aspect of the church. The Gospel is true, and I have a few investigators who truly know and believe, but cannot get over the social aspect of going to church.

Next we have Tatay Roman, the miracle. Sister Hermosa and I were on splits with some youth from our branch when I got to teach Tatay Roman again. He isn't hiding from us anymore so that is super duper. Sadly though we had to move his baptismal goal date as he needed to meet with us more to finish all the lessons and he has to come to church four Sundays in a row. (I'm not the one who sets up the requirements for baptism, if you have questions ask your local missionaries or simply pray about it.) He was super sad that he had to have his goal date moved but is super amazing and we will be able to meet with him more now!! Can I just say how amazing his wife is? She has been a loyal and active member of the church basically her whole life, she visits with our Recent Convert Nanay Myrna often, and simply radiates love for her family and for her husband. She truly is amazing.

Well that is this week in a nut shell. I'm slowly loosing my English, which is both a good and bad thing. It's good because that means I am finally learning Tagalog, but it sucks as English is kind of a big part of my identity. I'm a writer, it's what I want to do as a career, and If I can't do it well I can't really do it for a living now can I? I'm glad I have the opportunity to write these letters to practice my grammar, check spelling and just keep the language in my head. I'm almost done with my 12 weeks, I'll finish in two weeks! I'm excited to finish my training but I don't feel like much will change besides more proceliting time and less time stuck indoors studying. 

     Well goodbye from the Sister who may or may not forget her native language..
Sister Eldredge.


Did I mention that I am a Disney Princess? I MADE A COMIC ABOUT THIS BUT I FORGOT TO ADD IT, MOMMA COULD YOU JUST ADD IT LATER? SORRY A baby bird flew into the apartment and was quite confused on where the sky went and I just walked up to it and it got scared of me so I simply chirped at it and it chirped back and we had a connection. I picked him up and was able to get him back outside. It was quite fun. 

During the training I also got to meet up with my old MTC companions! They are doing great and Sister Rosser is actually serving in the Area where Brother Franklee and Sister Rica just moved to so we were able to help them find them and they will be able to get back in touch with the missionaries!! I'm so excited for them! It was so nice to be able to meet up with my old companions, and I hope that we will be able to be companions again in the field!

DESCRIBING THE BIG OPEN FIELD AND THE PICTURE OF MY HOUSE So the range of housing in Saratt can go from dirt floor and no electricity to three story monster houses with AC. Sister Hermosa and I live in a two story house basically in the center of Sarratt, which is really nice for walking. I love our house, I just wish we had screens to keep the wild critters out. (not that I'm complaining about Baby Cakes, Grumpy Gills and Scardy Pants (the three cats that like to come into our house and make a mess and eat rats) it's more a bug problem. Not to mention the treasure trove of forgotten luggage in the attic. Love that. It's really crazy here in the Philippines, with a shack living next to a three story building.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Week 16 in the Phililppines Loaog Mission

At Our Desks


     This week has been absolutely nuts...We have literally been run off our feet to meet with everyone, but the good thing is we have officially mapped out the area so we can go and visit people according to area. So one day we will meet with all the people in Brgy 1 and 2 instead of going 1, and walking all the way to 4, then back to 3. Though my leg is doing that weird bumpy muscle thing that runners get from all the walking we do! So that's nice. We have so many investigators who are ready and willing to learn, it's just up to us to try our best to meet with everyone when they are available! Scheduling has become hectic as we try to arrange with their availability, areas, and times. Coming from someone who hates setting up exact schedules and times to be places, this has been a blessing to learn as we become more effective in our teaching. Though a few more missionaries in the area would always help... I'm literally dreaming about it, it's quite funny, though of course the new missionaries that we got in my dream had the ability to fly and only met with our newer investigators as i'm selfish and don't want to share my investigators... so we will see. In the meantime I am loving all the exercising i'm getting, but I wish we had more missionaries, especially if they lived in the further brgys! 

     My areas basically are the central town and then this one brgy that is closer to the next town than to Sarrat! Many of the people there are poor and do not have the money to come to church every week, in fact most of the people there are less actives or past investigators! There are so many amazing people up there that need and want the gospel, but simply don't have the means to get to town. Sister Gladys, a less active, recently lost her brother, who was in his late 20s. He worked as a police officer and was killed on duty, its been really hard for her and her family, and we have tried our best to visit often and she wants to come to church but her father will not allow her unless she has someone to go with. We have been meeting with other Less Actives and previous investigators to try and set up a carpool to help them, so we will see how that goes. If we had missionaries who lived up there they would he better qualified to help and visit with these people, as it's hard to meet with them more than once a week!

     We officially have a baptism coming up! Two, in fact! Sister Judette, who has been taught by the Elders, and Lorenzo!! Lorenzo is our 18 year old investigator who reminds me of Gabe. He has officially been able to overcome his addiction to cigarettes in an amazing amount of time. A few weeks ago we suggested he wean himself off them by lessening the amount every week (ex: 3 the first week two the next, then one and then the next week he would never smoke again.) We suggested he start at 4 a week and then he would be ready by July 2 but he insisted he would be ready by the 25th, and he is!! I wish I could describe the joy I felt when he told us he had refused the opportunity to smoke twice and only smoked once after we gave him the challenge and that he hasn't smoked since. He is truly amazing and the look on his face when he told us was simply amazing. 

     Our other progressing investigator is Tatay Roman. (He is the brother who experienced the miracle- where he was hospitalized due to excessive drinking and has fully recovered and quit drinking cold turkey) He has ben struggling these last few weeks as he has had to work and missed church last week. It hurt him to miss and I know he was feeling bad, but we will keep working with him and help him to know that he is so close and what a miracle he is. His family (all members) are truly supportive and they have begun to have family prayer! It will be too bad that he cannot be baptized this Saturday- especially since Sister Bagalay will be returning this week on vacation- but he will be ready soon so long as we can fix our schedules.

     Sadly Franklee and Rica are still MIA. Theyve spent the last three weeks in Pasuquin taking care of brother Franklee's sick mother, and we have not been able to get in contact with them. We may have to transfer their information to the Pasuquin missionaries, and as much as that pains me its more about helping them progress than what I want. It doesn't matter who marries them or who baptizes Brother Fraklee, just so long as they are truly converted and get the blessing of the Holy Ghost through baptism and confirmation.  That is all that matters. *cries*

     This week we got to go on splits with members! Last week we did mostly contacting and finding but this week we did actual sit-down lessons! We are reteaching a less active sister, Sister Marielle who is a senior in high school. (In the Philippines that means she is 16, as they have less school years but they just changed it to be K-12 so there are a lot of people who are having to adjust to that.) She was a referral from the sister we went tracting with last week and she is amazing! I honestly don't feel like we are teaching much, she has such a strong testimony and she knows and remembers all the doctrines. It's a great joy to be able to 'teach' her. 

     I think that the main reason most of the less actives in our area are less active is due to the 0% visiting and home teaching. (visiting and home teaching is a calling you recieve in the church. You dont get paid, but your 'job' is to go at least once a month to the people you have been assigned and share a gospel message. But really its a call to freidship. Two sisters from the ward/ branch do Visiting Teaching to individual sisters in their ward or baranch, and Home Teaching is done by two brothers who meet and teach familes as a whole.)  If you are truly doing your home teaching and visiting teaching you create a relationship with those you have been called to serve. If you are truly serving and getting to know them you can't help but love them.

    I am litteraly looking for excuses to buy ice cream here, and while there may be no bluebell there is still ice cream. This week my excuse has been a bet. While Sister Hermosa and I were walking back from one of our further brgys we saw the moon. It was about half full so you couldn't tell if it would get bigger or smaller. I told Sister Hermosa that if the moon got smaller within the next few days then she would have to buy me ice cream. She said the same, but if it got bigger. Needless to say I lost the bet as I think it was Sunday night it was a full moon. But who cares, because now we get ice cream! It's fun. 

     Speaking of fun... Lorenzo lives in this cool house back behind a pasture and as we were walking back to the road we saw a group of his friends who were heading to his house. We waived and said hello, and as we did so I stepped right in the middle of a cow pie. Just let that sink in... and it was not a solid step in step out, it was a step and slip. I'm honestly lucky I didn't fall flat on my back! I was wearing these shoes I bought specifically for the rainy season so they are basically just a woven string of plastic with plenty of holes to make a way for the water to drain out... but that also leaves plenty of room to let poop in... needless to say I was disgusted. The rest of the walk home I did my best to step in every single puddle I could to try and rinse it off before we got to the apartment. Fun stuff, cool story. I should tell it at parties. hahaha!

Love you all!!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Week 15 in the Phillipines Loaog Mission

So! IT'S BEEN A LONG DAY OF EMOTIONAL TURMOIL AND DINOSAUR FIGHTS!   I'm kidding! That's just a quote (to the best of my memory) from Meet the Robinsons. So first things first, we did not get as much work done this week due to two things: 
     1) bad timing
     2) Illness (ours and our investigators)

     So let's cover #2 first. Yes, I'm fine. No I don't need anyone to come get me. I just have low RBC (red blood cell count) so I just have to eat a lot of green leafy foods ("yay... salad" I say sarcastically) and drink my body weight in water. so that is always fun..... but the worst part is that our progressing Investigator, Brother Franklee hasn't been able to come to church the last three weeks because he has been in Pasuquin taking care of his sick mother! Sister Hermosa and I have sent them the address to the church house in Pasuquin so that they can attend but we are unsure if they have attended or not since neither of them have load. (A "load" here in the Philippines is what they call if their phone is registered. You register  or reload, your phone once a month.) So we can text them, since you pay for outgoing texts, but they cannot respond or receive calls. So lots of prayers there.

     So every time we go to meet with our investigator JayR we wither had just missed him, he had been gone for a while, or he was in the process of leaving. His work schedule is super missed up but we hope to be able to fix it this upcoming week. He thought he would be free in the mornings but his schedule got all mixed up and he isn't even sure when he is free! Eventually his schedule will be fixed and the Lord will bless us to be able to meet with him! Sunday his sister remarked that we had the worst timing and I couldn't help but agree! This also extends to other investigators. Here in the Philippines you don't ask if you can come by a specific time, you just ask if morning or afternoon works better and just try your best to be there when they are. So we will keep trying and praying for better timing!

     Last week I had the opportunity to have lunch with President/ Elder Tan from Manila who is the Branch President in Bangui. According to him the apartment we are living in used to be haunted!!!! You can imagine my excitement! So of course as soon as we found some free time we went upstairs (where we never go because it is soooo hot) and into the attic. There we found old trunks and suitcases full of super old blankets, clothes and coins. (Don't worry we put everything back where we found it, folded just as it was.) The coins dated from 1942-1973 and had both the American and Filipino emblems on them! I was doing a happy dance when Sister Hermosa opened the first trunk. This is because it took me a good 20 minutes trying all the keys on the key ring we found in all the locks. Turns out they were unlocked. So after I literally sweated over trying to open them Sister Hermosa just leaned over and opened them. Pretty crazy. 

     There have been some storms here but luckily no flooding. Its been strange. I honestly have only seen the sun twice this week due to cloud coverage and rain but as soon as the sun came back I was excited to see it go. Its incredible, without the sun the weather here is actually rather cold- especially at night- but its much more pleasant to walk around in than in the sweltering heat! Also, fun fact, Sisters are allowed to wear PANTS during the rainy season. Did I emphasize that enough? PANTS, ladies and gentlemen. I nearly cried for joy. Obviously they will be suit slacks and all that, but any pants are better than no pants, right? If you don't know I am not the 'girlie' type. I much prefer pants over skirts (as you can see by my excitement) and honestly the biggest trial when I was preparing to come on my mission was the thought that I would have to say goodbye to my precious pants. So pants are back! *Excitement galore*

     This morning we had the opportunity to go with the Zone Leaders to the Dragon Fruit farm to scout it out for the upcoming Zone activity. They have a bunch of fiberglass creatures and animals throughout the farm as well as a few pools that since we are missionaries are bawal, or forbidden. Ever time I say bawal I think of the scene in Naco Libre where the priest says "It is forbidden!" When they find out Nacho is a wrestler. Anyways we also went to the oldest building in Sarrat, which just happens to also be the Catholic church. This building is crazy old and is simply full of history. We didn't go when they were giving tours but our branch president, President Zabala gave us a quick tour around the grounds. I would love to come back to these ruins later to take fancy-smancie pictures later! 

     I've been growing a lot in the language and I'm beginning to believe my trainer when she says that I'll be fluent by the end of this cycle, which is a comfort to me. Its always fun to see the expression on some peoples faces when they realize I speak Tagalog. 

Love, Sister Eldredge

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Week 14 in the Phillilpines Laoag Mission

ATTACHED VIDEO IS ME EATING BALUT, A BOILED FERTILIZED DUCK EGG. (Didn't attach the video in the blog, but still thought I'd let you know what we do for fun here.)

Hello po! Kamusta po kayo? (Hello, how are you?)
     This week has been interesting to say the least. I had to say goodbye to my first trainer, Sister Bagalay, and hello to my followup trainer Sister Hermosa. The work was been hard this week, as we adjust to working with each other and discovering how well we know the area. Luckily we have not gotten lost yet but there have been some meandering paths. 

     Sister Hermosa is an English Teacher for Koreans. She decided on that career to help her overcome her fear of speaking, and I truly admire her for her courage. She has a sweet soul and a caring heart, we get along quite well. We have similar interests, ranging from drawing, similar movie tastes and general outlook on life. Sister Hermosa likes to say that I will be fluent by next cycle (By the end of this 6 weeks) so we will just have to see how well I keep speaking my language. I'm honestly surprised by how much I know, since Sister Hermosa is soft spoken I have been talking more in the lessons and just in life in general. I have been improving, but I feel like it's more me trusting in the Lord and less me actually knowing the language! The Lord truly can do wonders once we show our trust in Him!

     Fun language fact, in Illocono (the village language here) Apo Diyos |(meaning 'our God') is pronounced 'ah-po d-yo-s' or "apple juice." That's basically the only work I know in Illocono so it'll sound like gibberish with the word apple juice mixed in every now and then. At first it really threw me off hearing apple juice over and over.

     This week, while we were meeting with our Investigator Lorenzo we realized that we had written the scripture wrong! The scripture we had written down didn't exist! Luckily we had prepared and were able to find a different scripture that fit his needs.  It was quiet funny as we just sat there in shock that we had both written the scripture wrong!

     It's fun teaching lessons, and I'm learning new ways to teach, as well as teaching Sister Hermosa the acronyms I've learned like SAKIT. (tagalog for sickness) 
S-sigarilio (ciggarets) sig-are-rill-lee-oh
A-alak (alcohol) a-lack
K- kape (coffee) ka- pay
I- Illigal na druga (illigal drugs) illigal, na droh-ga
T- tsaa (tea) cha-ah

     Patience is going through trials with a cheerful attitude and trust in God. Patience has been my biggest trial this week, mostly with myself. Apparently I have a low red blood cell count and that coupled with not eating enough green leafy veggies (I have been eating veggies just not green leafy ones because I'm not good friends with salad) has led to me being quite sick this week. Luckily we have some amazing Elders in our area and I was able to receive a blessing of healing. In the blessing I was told that I would be healed. The next day I felt better, I wasn't sick, but i still felt weak. By the afternoon I got sick of being sick and decided that if I was going to get better I needed to go and do the Lord's work. Trusting in the Lord and in the blessing I received made it so I would teach, go to church, and now- Monday- I feel one hundred percent better. I'm truly blessed to be apart of this gospel and to have the true power of God (the priesthood authority by which I was blessed) to bless and guide me in my life.

     This Sunday we had 71 members present, which is more than any other Sunday last year! Its exciting to see the ward strengthening and progressing. We are blessed to see many less active members  become fully active again and to see some investigators progressing in their faith. An example of this growing faith is Tatay Leonardo. (tatay meaning a respectful name for an older male) The first time we met with him he was struggling in his faith and in keeping the commitments he had made at his baptism back in the 90's. This week when Sister Hermosa and I visited him we saw him in the window of his house and he was reading the Book of Mormon! It made me so happy to see that he was reading on his own, despite how hard it is for him to see. 

     This upcoming Thursday- our Zone conference- is our Zone leader's birthday so we are trying to sneakily set up a quick party for him. The STL's, Sister Hermosa, and I are splitting the fare for a cake and our district leader (our district is us, the DL, his companion and the two  ZLs)

     All and all it was a hard week, for me personally, but I have grown so much and will continue to grow, as will this area.