Monday, January 30, 2017

Week 48: "There's a Non-Member Sitting in the Chapel. He Wants to Meet You."

    Magandang umaga po sa ating lahat! (or hello to everybody for you English speakers)  This week went by really fast, but mostly because I slept through most of it. I caught some sort of stomach flu so I honestly was sleeping if I wasn’t teaching.  Not only that but this week our ward had an activity almost every night this week, mostly geared towards reactivating the less active or those who were beginning to go less active or visiting those who are less active due to health problems. We also had some investigator-based activities that had quite a turnout.  We honestly have only found three potential investigators these last 6 weeks and we have had to drop several of our investigators as well so our teaching pool has dropped to almost less than 10. That’s not good. So we have been doing some really inventive things to try and find people who are actually ready to hear the gospel and act in faith. But so far, the sickness has probably something to do with it, nothing. However this Sunday we had some members come up to us when we arrived at church who said: “There is a non member sitting in the chapel- he wants to meet with you.” Yeah, we were pretty dang excited. We all but ran up those stairs to the chapel to meet Ed. Ed was visited briefly a few years ago by some couple missionaries  and out of nowhere decided he wanted to learn more- now.
           Batac ward is trying to split into two, but to do that they need more male members that are worthy to hold the priesthood (the power and authority to act in God’s name- this power is usually used to give blessings by putting their hands on the other person’s head for the sick, give blessings of comfort, and to receive revelation on what to do in administrative things. There are other responsibilities of the priesthood but this isn’t an essay on trying to define ‘the Priesthood,’ it’s an email from a sister missionary. So if you have questions ask a priesthood holder, ie. An adult male member of the church in your area or ask the missionaries in your area.) in order to split. Not to mention since I got here in Batac the baptisms have mostly consisted of children whose parents are members, and young teens. So, that being said the ward just about flocked to Ed in excitement. He seemed really surprised by the warm welcome, but enjoying it all the same. He even wanted to meet with us after church to begin the lessons! So we will just have to see how this goes with lots of faith and prayers.
           Some of you have been asking about Nanay Salvation Espriritu. I can’t remember if I mentioned it but she is 94 years old. When I first got here in August she could recognize faces- if the lighting was good- and hold a flowing conversation about her past and genealogy. The day after I wrote down her pedigree chart her mental health began to fail. Now, she has gotten to the point that has been called (in Doctor Who anyways) as ‘ghosting.’ She isn’t mentally present anymore, just repeating random words, normally the name of her son, who takes care of her. I felt like I had stepped into Silence in the Library at some points as she was ghosting. Hopefully her mentality will strengthen but if not it may be a tender mercy for her. We are now currently focusing on her son Edgar, and his son JayR. JayR is 100% active in the church. He attends seminary and all three hours of church and has tons of friends in the church and I love listening to his testimony. His father however is still a work in progress. He has the testimony but work and some addictions are giving him a hard time. He has an incredibly humble spirit and lessons with him are powerful, even if he doesn’t have much to say.
           We are still working with Rosie and I hope she will continue to progress, but every person is different and they all come with different sets of interests, problems and testimonies. It’s learning to know what to say and when to say it, but if you just follow the Spirit and do what He says then you don’t have much to worry about. Honestly sometimes I wonder why life is so stressful. Really all we need to do is try our best to show gratitude for the Savior and His indescribable gift he has given to us. He didn’t pay it half way and expect us mere mortals to make up the rest, He paid in full.  (That is the literal translation of Pagbabayad-sala ni Jesucristo- the Tagalog version of atonement- the payment of our sins by Christ) Life shouldn’t be THAT hard, but if it was easy there wouldn’t be much meaning behind it. If I could become an Olympic ice skater in a day I wouldn’t find as much joy in it if I didn’t work at it and earn that achievement. Same with life. We have to work hard at it and sometimes we want to just give up (and it would be so much easier for us personally if we did) but we don’t. We don’t give up because of what waits for us at the end. So if you have a deadline, meet it; and if you have fears know you are loved. if you have a race run it, run it like Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston are waiting for you at the finish line. Because someone even better than that is there: Jesus. And man, He gives the best hugs. It's hard now or it may get hard later but the end result is better than ice cream. Don’t ever give up. You don’t have to do it alone “Because our Heavenly Father will be in the ring with me. And together we will win 5000 pesos and with it we will buy a big bus to take the orphans to parks and places like that. I’m serious!” (name that movie) But in all seriousness, you can do anything if you have Him on your side.

From the sister who is out finding investigators

Sister Eldredge

Monday, January 23, 2017

Week 47: Kalabaw & Mangoes


  Day number 357 of my imprisonment, the mangoes are once again ripe but it’s too early in the season for their plans of revolution. We have begun stockpiling umbrellas to ‘nip it in the bud’ so to say (name that movie/ musical/ book) though we are yet uncertain of our victory. Naw, just kidding, though today is the 357th day of my mission (thank you calculators) which is nuts.
         Things that happened this week: not lessons! Joke! We had some good lessons this week and we had some really bad lessons too, but that is just how it goes sometimes. Me and my companion are still trying to adjust to the new missionary schedule (study time is flexible so we actually can study at different times to better fit the needs of the investigators in our area) which is just in time as one of our progressing investigators is only available at 1pm, when we are usually just starting our studies.

         Ethan is pretty young, and a member of a part member family, but due to his mother’s partial activity he knows just about nothing of the church, and about the same for the bible. So it's interesting starting from the bottom with him and helping the family move into full activity. That being said it's also fun as Ethan’s family is from Manila so he doesn’t speak all that much Tagalog; so he’s mostly English speaking! So I'm having a blast with that and my companion is not. But she is really smart and depends upon the Spirit well so I know she will be fine. This may be an opportunity for her to realize how I feel in most lessons! Haha.
Despite having found only about 1 person who we feel will actually be willing to take the lessons in the last 4 weeks of finding the work is really progressing. We are shaving down on the Investigators that are not quite ready yet and focusing on those that are- this is limiting our teaching pool, but giving us more time to find those people who have been prepared. That’s the fun thing about The Work. This Gospel and this church are for everyone. Literally every single person on this earth now, in the past and those not yet born; this church is for them and they are made for this church. That is the result of it being the TRUE church of God. He wants to save everybody; you just need to stick to His rules. Kinda like how a parent would love to take their kids to Disneyland (I know my parents do haha) but if the kids are rowdy and are not ready for that… sad day! So we are out inviting people to ‘Spirit Disneyland’ and sometimes people are too busy to go which is sad because I know it's hecka fun, and way better than any fleeting happiness you find on earth. This is the stuff that is for eternities.  
           In other news I got charged at by Kalabaw. If Maleficent turned into a cow instead of a dragon that is what she would look like; its big, black, and got super cool horns. It does not look so cool when it charges at you. Luckily it was tied to a giant mango tree so it couldn’t charge for very long and got rewarded by a bunch of green mangoes falling  on its head so then it just ate the mangoes instead of us.  So hooray for short attention spans!
            This Thursday we had 4 members contact us asking if they could work with us- it was nuts! We had a great time on splits and I hope that we can continue to help the members in their desire to learn how to, and do missionary work.  Language wise I go from days where I feel just about fluent and others where I get politely reprimanded by other missionaries or by some well meaning members to focus more on my language study. I guess it's like drawing, I know I can but sometimes that talent just leaves- especially when I'm nervous.

The thing is, Filipino’s have almost no concept of accents. It's not really in their vocabulary. And I'm not kidding. Most of the time a member or an investigator or whoever will say: “Oh my! Slang!” What they mean is “By golly, my dear fellow I can’t understand your accent!” so that will be added to the list to do:
1) Learn the language
2) Lose the accent
           We had a baptism this week from  Batac B (my area is Batac A) and boy what a convert! She was introduced to the gospel through her member boyfriend who was very avid in expressing that while he introduced her he didn’t convince her to join. She bore her testimony beautifully after her baptism and the spirit was very strong. It was an incredible night, and I know it's one Allyna (the convert) will never forget.
           Well that’s all!

From the sister with an umbrella of steel and Kalabaw repelling mangos.
Sister Eldredge

Monday, January 16, 2017

Week 46: Keeping Optimistic!


This week has been absolutely nuts. And by nuts I mean nuts for me and pretty chill for everyone else. I have officially mastered the art of getting punted, which is not much to brag about. (Punted is when you go to an appointment and they are not there or are just leaving or whatever- the point is you go to teach a lesson but then cant.) Word has also spread that a ghost, or more commonly known a s a ‘white lady,’ has been sighted about town, who curses people on sight by proclaiming repentance. Or that is what seems to be the case. We’ve worked our tails off trying to find investigators but we either keep finding people who are visiting from far away areas, or it's ghost-town talaga. I think it's because it’s the beginning of the dry season so it's stupid hot again and mangoes are threatening to fall on your head in about another month or two. Eventually we will get back up to superseding our goals but for now we are experiencing a stretching moment, which funny enough is the meaning of Batac: Stretch.
            The highlight of this week is yet to come. We received a referral from the institute teacher. Apparently a non member has been joining her RC friend in attending the institute classes! (Institute is a class on the four standard works: 1. Old and 2.  New testament, 3. Doctrine and Covenants [modern revelations from living prophets from 1820-, mostly containing prophesies from Joseph Smith] And 4. The Book of Mormon. It's for those who have graduated from high school. High Schoolers have Seminary which is studying the same 4 works, but at an introductory level.) However we have yet to meet her so I really hope this upcoming week we will be able to do that!
            Something I’ve noticed as I have had the opportunity to work with so many different people from so many diverse interpretations of life I’ve begun to see a common thread. People are dead scared of change. Some may be willing or seemingly enthusiastic about a change (an approaching birth, new job, new relationship you name it) but there will always be that fear of ‘If.’ I don’t like the word ‘if.’ It can be a challenge “If thou be the son of God save thyself.” as Satan tempted the Christ, or it can be a doubt, those ‘what if’s that kill the brave and mock the daring. I have people who yearn for change but are too scared to take that first step. Don’t ever let a simple ‘If’ hold you back. At times it's necessary to evaluate your choices and their consequences- good or bad- but once you have weighed the pros and cons then make your move. I'm not saying be impulsive (that is what the ‘checking out consequences’ thing is for) I'm saying be you. You can be true to yourself and true to the Savior at the same time. If you have a desire (marriage, education, new religion, or job) then  don’t stand there wishing. Go and Do!
            Sorry this is such a short letter, but not much really happened this week besides teaching lessons to people who are confused as to what a testimony is. So it's fun to begin anew with them.
            Emotionally wise this week has been great, My mother has begun experimenting with Emotion Code (where they release emotions from a person and… idk how it works but it works.) She released a ton of ‘trapped emotions’ from me this week by proxy and since then I have had an incredibly happy week and have been feeling close to my old self again. Hopefully that will stay and the only thing that will change will be my acne- and that it will freaking go away.
From the ‘grotesquely optimistic’ (name that movie)

Sister Eldredge

Monday, January 2, 2017

Week 44: A New Companion, Sister Panugoa & The Power of Fasting

"Good morning everyone, This is your captain speaking. It is the 175th anniversary here on the Axium. New on the menu is the sep-tu-wa-sen-tenial cupcake in a cup! hey look at that." (Please tell me you can name this movie) But this week begins the 2017th anniversary- while incorrect date wise- of the birth of Jesus Christ and the beginning of a new year. Or as Daniel our investigator would say 'the day Jesus turns 2017 years old.'

This week was Goodbye to Sister Ganaden (Ga-na-den) and hello to Sister Panugao (pan-new-g-ow) and yes I did just have to look at her name badge to get the spelling right. Since Sister Ganaden left Batac at 8am and sister Panugao arrived 5pm I spent the day on the beach. joke. I worked with Cathy and tried our best to find- but we ended up finding a member's home.

This is the funny thing. I am working because 1) I am a missionary and this is what I'm called to do 2) this is prime finding time 3) if I don’t work I will melt into a puddle of emotions and I am tired of having a headache from crying. So despite really feeling physically and mentally awful we were out working. I felt that we should knock on one door and the grandpa who opened the door kept saying 'she is in the back.' and directed us to his wife, who is a member. She hadn't been to church for two weeks as she had only just gotten out of the hospital yesterday- Monday. Cathy- the member I was working with- did not know that a member lived there and neither did I. But the Lord did, and we got to bring her come comfort and love.

Then this Wednesday we were out in brgy Palongpong finishing re-teaching our RC's Mery-Jane and Jennifer. When Mery-Jane found out that we are back on the 3 hour church services (we only did one hour because last week was Christmas) she jumped up and down in her seat calling out with joy. I can't remember when I was 11 years old and being that excited about church! In fact I mostly remember playing sick on Sunday mornings and my mother dragging me out of bed!

Then we got to meet with a part-member family, the father is a member but he has been going to a different ward instead of Batac. At first the mother sent her youngest son to go get the father from a party he was attending but after 5 minutes we heard the son singing on the karaoke machine they were using at the party so we didn’t think he was coming back. It made everyone laugh pretty hard. During the lesson the mother opened up how much she wanted to go to church but how she was scared to go. She was scared because someone had been mean to her and she was scared that person was still mad.

Let me just say, everything we say has an effect on someone. Whether consciously or subconsciously. That is something I find absolutely fascinating with words. That a pattern of 26 characters and sounds (in the English alphabet at least) in almost random sequence can stream together to create… anything. Like this letter you are reading right now. My thoughts and emotions are portrayed to you through this pattern of characters, and through this pattern I can create worlds (creative writing) relay information, bring comfort and even harm someone and never even have to look at them in the eye. It was with The Word that God created the earth, seas and sky. He created everything simply by The Word. Words are powerful, use them carefully.

This week was also Daniel's baptismal interview. I've seen baptismal candidates take anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours in the interview and for Daniel it was a quick 20 minutes. Which is wicked fast, especially for a kid of 10 years. His member mother accompanied him and I know through her guidance he will always have the foundation of the scriptures and prayer in his home. Daniel is what we call a part-member investigator I 1st started working with my first day here in Batac back in August so it's amazing to see him finally prepared for baptism. We can only hope his cousin- who lives with him and his mother- will soon follow his example. His baptism will be this Saturday, Jan 7 2017, and hopefully next week we will have two more part member children enter the waters of baptism.

I thought New Years here would be about the same as in America but boy was I wrong. The Filipinos are NUTS about new years. It's impossible to sleep with all the 'Filipino pop guns' (which sound like shotguns) and an all around view of fireworks all around the building. We also had a few members stop by periodically throughout the night to give us food. (we returned to our apartment at sundown and were under expressed command to not leave the apartment again until 8am the following morning.) I did my best to sleep but in all honesty I didn’t fall asleep until about 2am due to the noise. But what absolute beautiful fireworks. We also had a few- I can only guess they were drunk- guys running up and down the streets shouting out 'whooo hoooo' as it approached midnight. Then the following morning- fast Sunday and the first day of the new year- there were, at the beginning of sacrament meeting, about 30 members. But by the time Sacrament ended the building was once again full of members.

During sacrament meeting the members were mostly speaking Ilocano, the village language and the craziest thing happened. I totally understood what they were talking about. Now, I cannot say what they said in Ilocano or translate word for word but, boy I could understand the gist. Now, to make it funnier, I had just been thinking about all the things I had ever fasted for and trying to remember if I had ever seen a result of my fasting- which is a no. But it struck me how I had never stopped fasting- even without the desired results. I knew the doctrine was true so I followed in faith, not knowing if I would receive the blessings I was searching for. It was as soon as that thought came to mind that I started to be able to understand. Due to time difference this was before my family had started their fast, as they said they would fast to help me understand Tagolag. The Lord has blessed me to understand not only Tagalog now (even if it's just the gist) but Ilocano as well. Blessings are all around us, you've just have to keep an open perspective about it.

from the sister keeping afloat
Sister Eldredge