Monday, March 27, 2017

Week 56 in the Philippines Laoag Mission, but Still Clearly a Foreigner!

Saying Farewell in My Last Area to this Wonderful Family

Ever since I arrived in the Philippines I knew I was a foreigner. When kids come up to you and ask if you are sick because you are white and they thought that was something only real on tv, or when people tell you that you glow in the dark because you are so pale… you kinda get the hint. I knew from day one that I could never pull off the ‘oh, I’m from Manila’ besides in a joking manner. When I introduced myself to the branch this week in Vigan I joked about how my companion doesn’t have to worry about losing me because I'm about 5 or 6 inches taller than  most people, brown hair, white, and apparently I have ‘rainbow eyes.’ Despite all of that I was still rather surprised by how much people stare at me. Yes I'm a foreigner. No I know what I'm doing and no I know the tricy fare is not 100 pesos its 20. It's ok. It's still fun to startle people. When I first moved into the Vigan apartment a tryce driver came up to help lift the luggage off the bus and onto his tricy. I had already carried it down the steps and I'm just a little noodle arm so he thought ‘ha no big deal I can lift this’ (this is a big burly looking guy) and his eyes literally bug out of his head when he tried lifting it.
Me: “Yeah, sorry those are all my books.”
Tricy driver: “Are you sure they aren’t dumbbells?”
Another tricy driver walks up and thinks he is all that so he tries to lift it and he also gets a surprize! Haha They could lift it but they just didn’t expect it to be that heavy.
So as I said in my last email this area hasn’t had a convert baptism in a long time so I was a little apprehensive about it. A little worried about it all, but it turns out I was worried for no reason. We recently got a new Branch President and he is on fire! I honestly felt like I was back in Batac with the kind of organization he has going on. Because we are both new he took us for a tour around our areas and pointed out Investigators he knew and we stopped to chat with members. It was incredible, and then from that we were able to start working with members from week one. We work with new ones just about every day and we are now working to pair our Investigators to the members, and it's wonderful!  We are really starting from scratch though. Every time we ask if anyone had seen  or talked to the missionaries before they would say “Yeah, we see them walking down the street all the time. But they’ve never talked to us.” It’s a little strange to see that these incredibly receptive people are sitting there watching their salvation walk past and  the missionaries never stopped to talk to them.

Not much to say about this week besides finding 37 new investigators in one week which was exhausting , but none of them came to church!! We did find one girl, Ivy, who is actually a referral from Santo Domingo- we gave the referral several weeks ago but she was never contacted. We found her and she has been reading the book of Mormon a bit and will come to church next week- she was going home to visit family this Sunday. This town is a college town so there are no end to the fast food and BBQ and Indians everywhere. Not cowboy and Indians. Actual Indians. It's fun! My companion is a little scared of them but I hope to do some finding in a female dorm this week.
From the sister who is meeting a million people a week

Sister Eldredge

Monday, March 20, 2017

Week 55 in the Philippines Laoag Mission. Transfers and Harvests.

Well, it's from Santo Domingo to Vigan! I'm a little worried about the travel as it's so far! Last time I was transferred it was a 3 hour bus ride alone and now it’s a 10 minute bus ride with my companion who is going to the same area I am. Yup, we got pulled out! Actually we are swapping with a sister in Vigan; she will get our old area… which means she gets our baptism this Saturday! Hopefully we will be able to come back up to Santo Domingo for the baptism but that is all on President Andrada.
Nothing much happened this week besides me giving a talk at a funeral, doing a CSP, and getting pulled out.
In Filipino culture they do funerals kind of like how Americans do weddings; way big and over the top with lots of unnecessary pomp and frill. But that’s the culture. The viewing is about a month or two weeks long at their home, and outside they burn a giant log constantly, and play poker. Inside they sit and stare at the casket and talk with each other and eat food. Normally the service is given at the home but this funeral was at the church… but the power was out! From Vigan to Sinait no power! So it was a little hot and it didn’t help that I had a cough and had lost my voice. Luckily though we got a car battery hooked up to an amp so I could use the microphone. Filipinos are ingenious!  It was actually rather funny as I actually used more Tagalog than the Filipina who spoke before me. I started my talk out with a scripture from the Bible, which I read in English. The crowd looked a little bored like oh-boy-this-whole-talk-is-gonna-be-in-english-and-we-don’t-speak-english but then I started speaking in Tagalog about the Atonement of Christ and how we need to use our agency to be exalted. That is a novel thought for Catholics (they were 97% non-members) who believe you just have to be baptized as a baby to be saved. I had fun, and from their faces and how they talked to me afterwards I had an effect on them. We had a TON of return appointments and it was an incredible finding opportunity.  
We also talked to a semi-drunk school teacher who thought it would be marvelous to have us teach a Gospel Doctrines class in the school (it would be non-denominational, so no talk of Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon) which was awesome. We wanted to try and find families by teaching the 9-16 year old kids… but we got transferred so that will be up to Sister Tomepeao and sister Pangilinan… the new sisters here. It was rather funny as this school teacher, who is on the board, had been taught by some elders in Manila a few years ago and is almost done with the book of Alma! But he was rather drunk and asked if I had a boyfriend so we left after we got the school appointment. I mean, he is probably older than my dad, and is trying to woo me with mangos. “I’ll bring you 6 mangos, girl!” that was random, but we know he will be sober at the school. We will talk to the new sisters about making sure they speak to the principal of the school about the class and just avoid the Mr. mango guy.

Harvesting Corn
The CSP (Community Service Project) was great! We were about to meet basically all of the Gonda's neighbors as they worked in the field and we helped dry the corn.  So  what we ended up doing was taking the corn they picked and laying it out to dry. We thought we would also be helping around the house cooking and doing laundry with the girls but they were quite insistent that they could do it. I think we 'found' about the whole sito (a subdivision of the community group called a barangay.) We just forgot to count them in our weekly report! whoops! It was honestly so much fun and everyone was teasing me that i was going to get a tan (which i think would be fabulous) but no matter what I'm going to be white any way. Then we went out to our furthest area and worked hard the rest of the day! it was great! We were a little tired by the end of the day but it was a good tired, not the why-did-we-do-that-im-so-exhausted kind of tired.

It's such a bummer that we are leaving Santo Domingo as we were so sure we were going to have somewhere around 6 baptisms here! But it will be a blessing for the incoming sisters. At least I can say I left my area better than I found it! Now I just got to do that with my new area in Vigan!

From the sister who travels a lot,
Sister Eldredge

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Week 54: A Pen

So this last Monday (March 13th) was MLC (Missionary Leadership Council) and then this Tuesday was Zone Conference so I'm actually emailing on Wednesday… so lots of emails! Yay!! We’re doing our best to shorten our lessons (less chatting and more teaching) which is actually difficult as Ilicono’s in general are long winded. They’ll talk to the wind if they have to but they have to talk!! That being said we are also focusing on those that will be baptized this month (Zeus) and those who will hopefully be baptized (Channel, Jasmine, Denver, Angelo Gabriel, Iris and Nicole) next month. We are just waiting on church attendance and parent’s permission for some. We got to work with members this last week as we picked up some members from their house and took them to their neighbor's house to teach them. It was awesome as we were extending an invitation to be baptized she hesitated, and without having to ask the members jumped right in and talked about their own conversion and how it took a while and several ‘goal dates’ from the missionaries but that they understood that baptism was the end goal. Would they be baptized or not? So they took it seriously and that is why they read the Book of Mormon and went to church and prayed about it. It was so powerful, yet the investigator still felt nervous-which is natural. The culture is ‘born a catholic die a catholic’ even if you don’t go to church or live what you believe you gotta at least die a catholic.

We also had a great lesson with Anna Marie, who lives in Magsingal- a neighboring town.  We talked about the Gospel of Christ (faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end) and she just started crying, hugging her Book of Mormon to her chest and said; “It's true.” She all but whispered it, but it was so powerful. She reads from her Book of Mormon everyday, she hasn’t gotten far because she likes memorizing the scripture and quoting them to her children- three kids under the age of 7. If she can read every day- and get a spiritual experience from it- even with little kids, we can too.

We taught Denver, Jasmine and Chanell this last week too, or more like we went to their house (a good 1.5 hour walk) and only Jasmine was there. They have been investigating for several years now but their father has yet to give permission. But they can still go to church, I love meeting with these kids because their testimony is so strong! They can call down miracles and I know they will- that is why I'm so confident they will be able to be baptized this upcoming April. Not to mention us doing a ‘mock baptism interview’ with Jasmin was more her teaching us than me teaching her! It's almost like a flash back for when I would teach Gwyneth back in Batac!!

I also got to see Elunard get some ‘aha!’ moments when w e taught him this week. I have to say I am soooo grateful to have been able to meet with Elder David A Bednar (one of the 12 apostles) and to listen to him talk about agency. It's all about letting people know our purpose is to INVITE. I am not a police officer here to drag people to the baptismal font! (Not that I ever was.) I'm here basically handing out invitations to God’s Kingdom. Like I said a few months ago, I'm offering free tickets to something better than Disneyland and people think it's more fun to do facebook or work than prepare and accept that. Priorities. If you don’t have 5 minutes a day to read God’s word then you are more busy than He designed you to be. He made an entire day for rest!

This Friday-Saturday (12pm Friday – 12pm Saturday) we were on exchanges and I was with my ex-STL Sister Corpuz. We got to meet with all of our progressing Investigators and she pointed out that how I teach is by using parables that apply to everyday life.

we are all pens. and the spirit ink.
We’ve got to keep the ink filled up and get refills so that God can make art and poetry and inspire others. it's not us that does it. God writes and the spirit comes out, but we are necessary too- if the pen breaks that's a big mess! keep yourself together and worthy and clean (if you are gross He may not want to pick you up until you are clean) so God can pick you up.
It was a fun realization. And now the best part… I GOT TO GO BACK TO BATAC!!
It was only for a few hours but because the MLC was this Monday and then Zone conference on Tuesday that meant I would have to take a 3 hour bus drive up to Laopag, have the meeting, go back down to Vigan to sleep, the BACK up to Laoag for the conference… so we asked if we could just sleep in Batac and Prez said yes!! We got permission to use their phone number so we could find them and then spent about an hour trying to find them… The area boundaries changed since I left and they were in an area I had never been to! It was exhausting and somewhat embarrassing to realize I am not as smart (geographically speaking) as I thought. But we did run into a few members on our mad search for the Batac trysome. Which was awesome, and an additional bonus I did not expect.

The actual Zone Conference was beautiful and so inspiring. This whole cycle I've  been thinking about my duties as a leader and what is expected of me (we got no handbooks besides the one everyone has) and this conference was everything I needed to hear. We talked about obedience and what it means to be a real leader. We are all leaders and whether we have a calling or not is up to the Lord and doesn’t mean someone is better than someone else.
From the sister who writes too much
Sister Eldredge

Monday, March 6, 2017

Week 53: I'm Here To Teach and That's What I'm Going to Do!

Making Dudol from Sugar Cane and Crushed Rice

  Alright so this week was… fast!! As it is probably very well known I am very good at misplacing things. I hadn’t seen the expensive music speaker that I use for two days so I asked around (I asked my companion and our landlady) and none of them had seen it. I mentioned that the usb playing my music had all my pictures from my mission and then kept looking. After about 10 minutes I found it where I had been looking for the last two days (somehow it magically reappeared once I complained) and so I went to tell my companion and Sister Carms- the landlady and she had gone to the police to find it!!! I had to call her and tell her I was so sorry that she had gone through so much fuss- within the short time span she had gone to 4 different houses asking all the people who had been around the house lately if they had entered our apartment and taken anything! (Our apartment‘s front door broke so we have not been locking the doors because if we do we won’t be able to get back in) so it was a highly plausible thought that it had been stolen. To make up for the stress we went to the Vigan zoo today. I got to battle a raptor, sister Bustarde was flirted at by a peacock, and sister Carms went on a trip in the yellow submarine.  All in all it was an average day in Vigan. Also… idk why but all the foreigners I see are either missionaries or 60+. I have only seen 2 who did not have grey hair and i'm not so sure if that was natural or not… I don’t get it.
Anyways, work this week was nuts. Isn’t it always nuts? It's just a matter of trying to keep up with everyone. We got a referral from one of our members (how incredible is that?) and actually the person they referred to us has been going to church for several months and has only just lately expressed a desire to be baptized!! We both thought he was a member!! Wow man, and our lesson with him was a bit hekkledy-peggledy. It was Sunday night and we had gone to their house twice but they were not home so after working for several hours and texting them we went home. Then 5 minutes later they showed up at our door asking to be taught! Yeah, that’s crazy. But we walked with them to sister Carm’s house and taught them there. It's just fun to say here in Sto. Domingo the investigators find you!! Haha. We think that Zeus, the referral that came to our door, will be ready for baptism this month which is amazing!

Also I think have found out the foolproof steps to become less active in your faith!
1)      Stop reading your scriptures
2)      Don’t pray, and if you do just say the same thing over again… He should hear you better if you just repeat yourself right?
3)      Why bother going to church? All the people there are not perfect! Not even the missionaries! (GASP)
This list reminds me of the ‘101 ways to be completely miserable’ by John Bytheway that I read in jr high and my teachers pulled me aside and asked me if I was depressed. That was fun… anyways this is honestly the one quick ticket to lose faith and even question if you ever had a testimony in the first place!!  Honestly, I think if everyone- no matter what faith- would just read, pray (like the heart wrenching or at least reflective prayers) and regularly attend church the world would INSTANTLY become a better place. But… that little devil on your shoulder gets the best of you. Kick him off! You don’t need him weighing you down!! Geez.
Missionaries seem so scared to drop investigators. Idk why, because when we dropped one of our investigators this week (like a sit down you-haven't-been-reading-so-or-going-to-church-so-we-are-not-teaching-you-anymore lesson) and honestly she so understood. She promised to start reading and so we told her we would come back in four weeks, if she had not read and prayed to know what we had taught was true then we would not come back. It’s harsh but at least she knows just how important our time is. I’ve only got 6 more months and Im not going to spend it sitting chatting, I’m here to teach and that is what I’m going to do.

From the dino but kicking, and ice cream addicted missionary,
Sister Eldredge

(IDK= I don’t know) so if you don’t know what idk is idk either hahaha

Sister Carms gave us sticky rice.  It's cooked in a bamboo stick and then you whack it really hard to open it!