Monday, May 13, 2013

"For all this there is a reward in heaven." - Week 107. Serving in Sarrat

We just got back from the beach after a zone activity and now we are rushing to get back to our apartments on time. We have a mission curfew today because of elections which apparently get crazy here.

The beach was great. It was raining this morning and we thought we might have to cancel but it stopped and cleared up. We played soccer. It was weird, that this was the last time I would see a few of the missionaries. I already said goodbye to Elder K who came out to the mission field with me from the MTC. He is way up in Cagayan - don't know when I will see him again.

I read Doctrine and Covenants section 127 verse 4 yesterday ("And again, verily thus saith the Lord: Let the work of my temple, and all the works which I have appointed unto you, be continued on and not cease; and let your diligence, and your perseverance, and patience, and your works be redoubled, and you shall in nowise lose your reward, saith the Lord of Hosts. And if they persecute you, so persecuted they the prophets and righteous men that were before you. For all this there is a reward in heaven.") and I am going to do my best to end my mission with a bang. This week will be awesome. I feel like it is slowly starting to hit me now that I am actually leaving. It's weird.

Church was pretty good for us yesterday. We had two of our less active families attend and one of our other members brought her 17 year old non-member sister. We taught a good lesson on faith and M, our recent new member, gave his first talk. It was a good one too.

We are in our apartment a lot over the next two days due to the elections so I am going to do a lot of planning for when I get home and also a lot of language study. As for when I get home, I think just keeping it simple will be nice. I doubt I am ready to watch a movie right away, but if a playoff game is on, I might watch a little.

Anyways, I gotta go. Sorry for the lame email but hey, I will see you soon! Have a great week guys.
Elder Du

Monday, May 6, 2013

Got Milk? Don't Make Me Cry! - Week 106. Serving in Sarrat

This week was a little rough but it had some good highlights. We had a lot of good appointments set up but we got punted like mad. Worst time of the year to get punted because it's so ridiculously hot out and our water supply is still pretty low. Fasting was tough yesterday as 24 hours without water is not easy - makes you really appreciate it more at the end of the day though and you get to end your fast. We talked about how good we have it back home and how, when we get home, we will probably fall down in front of the fridge and cry. Seeing milk again will really be a tear jerker.

I went on my last exchange in Vintar this week. It's too bad that D wasn't there as she went with the youth to youth conference. It was still so good to be there. We found some pretty cool investigators and also got to teach the U's. I don't know if you remember that family. Way back at the beginning of my mission I went and taught them. It was my first time away from my trainer, Elder S. The church members of our ward in Laoag had a missionary work day in Vintar and I went with a bunch of them. It was an awful experience where no one helped me teach and I couldn't speak the language yet. Well, we taught them and they are so cool. Tatay, whom I met once before but ran away from us, is now in the new branch presidency. He was at work when I went there but Nanay and all three kids saw us and came out with their copies of the Book of Mormon and sat down. They are way fun too. They get the missionaries to kneel down and pray with them at the end of each lesson, even though it's just a dirt floor. You can feel the spirit so strong with that family.

We taught a Muslim man in Vintar. He is from
Iran. He met and married a Filipina when he was working in Dubai, He had a business there but it tanked with the rest of the economy in Dubai so they moved to Vintar and started a store, which was where we taught them. He was way nice to us. He doesn't speak Tagalog or Ilocano at all. We taught about how God sends the Holy Ghost to guide all his children, no matter where they are from. We taught from Galatians 5 and he loved it. We gave him a Book of Mormon and he was way excited. Ayways, they are going to continue to teach him which is pretty cool.

We are still teaching S and we finished lesson 3 with him. He loved it but then he got back onto,  "Why is there a need for the Book of Mormon - is the Bible not enough and the complete word of God?" We had already previously  explained all that but he has a hard time with it. So we explained it again. He responded, "Are you telling me the Bible is not complete?"
"Yes", we said. Then he started putting words in our mouths and said,  "So you are saying that anyone who does not have the Book of Mormon has no relationship with God?" We assured him that we are not saying that at all. We tried to explain again but he was deciding to be offended and then told us he wanted to tell us his story. He said that he was a bad person before with anger problems and addictions but then he started reading the Bible and it changed him. "But you are still telling me I don't have a relationship with God!" he said. We calmed him down and tried to explain it yet again. We went back to him yesterday though and he wasn't as friendly to us. So we hope he is not done with listening. We have a good lesson planned to help next time though.

We met the coolest family!!!!!! They are so fun to talk with and they joke a ton but they really want to listen. After the lesson their daughter asked us at what age a girl could go on a mission and seemed really interested in it. The mother is really cool too and really wants her family to listen to us and set up the appointment for us and said, "I will make sure they are here." The tatay had a stroke over a year ago and still can't talk and isn't able to move his one arm. Nanay said he is usually really shy but he came out and shook our hands which really showed her that he is really good with us being there. We will teach them again later.

Yesterday all the youth (they were all at church too!) got up and bore their testimonies! They loved youth conference. It had a missionary theme and they all got temporary name tags and went out and actually taught people two by two. They LOVED it. They all got up and said how much they want to serve a mission. Our potential missionary pool (which was 1 when we got here) has now increased to about 7. We are planning to do a monthly missionary fireside for the youth to keep the fire alive. M, our recent convert, went to youth conference and loved it too. It was his first time using a shower as he has bathed in the river for all 15 years of his life. He also stayed in an air conditioned room for the first time as well as his first time in a swimming pool.

Things are going well here. Thanks for the emails. Even though I have only three weeks left, it is still way nice to hear from you guys.
Love you guys!
Elder Dustan

I'm Gonna Wolverine You Elder! - Week 105. Serving in Sarrat

Hey guys. This week was pretty solid. We continued teaching that guy who wanted to return the Book of Mormon we gave him the first time. It's going pretty well. Our first lesson this week was about the Restoration. We taught it like this: there are three basic things needed in the true church of Christ: organization (which includes prophets and continuing revelation), pure doctrine rather than the philosophies of men, and authority from God to act in his name.” Then we went over each one,  quoting from Joseph Smith's history and the testimony of Joseph Smith found in the front of the Book of Mormon. Then we just testified of it and were very calm and loving and then asked if there was anything else he would like to ask about and he sat back and said “no”. His questions were still very pointed at derailing our teachings. But then when we went back two days later, he had read all of 2 Nephi 31.

 We taught about baptism and focused on the gift of the Holy Ghost and then he said, “"Elders, I have a question.”" It kind of put us on the edge of our seats and we prepared ourselves to calmly answer his question. Then he asked, "How am I to know if the Holy Ghost is with you and if what you are saying is right?"” The spirit was really strong in that lesson. The past lessons as well, but they were more intellectually stimulating with a bit of spirituality. This lesson was so powerful. He really has changed. We then invited him to be baptised once he knows for sure, and of course, to pray for an answer.  We also invited him to come to church. He said he can’t go to church because he teaches Sunday school in Piddig at his church and he needs to fulfil his calling as others depend on him. I was way impressed but also wasn't sure what to do about that. He will be a great member of the church.

We are still teaching E and M and they are doing well. M is pretty close now to being baptised.  Anyway, we are teaching baptism tonight and are going to invite them both to set a date. Teaching M is way fun. We taught about the priesthood and then asked if he had any questions and he paused and looked way deep in thought and said, “"Elders, is it true that Wolverine had a brother?” He’s so random. Then he kept talking about how he was going to wolverine us and made wolverine a verb in Tagalog “(iwolverine kita”). Funny guy.

We have been praying to be lead to people to teach and the other day we walked by this huge house and talked to the mother. She said her husband was working, driving a trike. When we were getting her name and giving her something to read, her husband pulled up. The typical Filipino man would have kept driving and pretended it wasn't actually his house or at least say he’s busy. But he pulled up and invited us in”. We taught them and they are so cool. They have three kids and are about 35ish I think.

That’s pretty much our week. Thanks for your emails - they were awesome. So good to hear from everyone. Have a great week guys. I love you lots!
Elder Dustan

Elders, ...Just Relax and Feel the Spirit - Week 104. Serving in Sarrat

Hey guys, got lots to tell you about this week - mostly about the baptism yesterday! We spent most of the week preparing for it. President told us that we had better make sure every baptism is very well attended and also well planned. We made invitations and handed them out to over 40 people - most of which were families. We made sure that the branch mission leader chose speakers and set up the program. We made sure that the room was all set up. Then on the day of the baptism we went there in the morning to clean with our branch president. He's really hard working and a good guy. We made sure there was a picture of Christ, flowers and a nice table cloth.

Then there was the font. In Sarrat, it's a little concrete font behind the meeting house. There are two big trees that hang over it and continuously drop leaves into it so we had to go get our bed sheets and put them over the font to keep it clean. Sarrat is in the middle of a huge drought so now that it's the dry season, there is often no water at all. So we spent all day Saturday filling up the font and got no work in! But the point is, we got it filled.

5:30pm, people started showing up. We planned it so that the members would come a bit earlier than those being baptized so that when they get there, they are already welcomed by the presence of dozens of members. So we told the members that it would be at 5:30pm when we knew L would only get there at 6 or 6:30pm as he was coming from work (which he got from the church's Employment Resource Centre!) So most of the members showed up at 6. We also had two investigators there - E, a young man and M, a young woman. They had never met before but are the same age and at the same place in the lessons. We are hoping they will be the next baptisms in Sarrat. They hit it off and it turns out that they shared things they learned from our lessons with each other and talked about whether or not they are ready to be baptized, which is way cool.

Then we found out L went to get paid that night and would be later than we already expected. He showed up a little after
7pm! Just before he showed up, the other person getting baptized had just left to go look for him!

We figured we would take pictures once all those involved were dressed in their whites. It was like herding blind sheep. We said, "Okay everyone, we are going to take some pictures here." Then someone disagreed and they started arguing about where would be a better place to take pictures. Trying to get everyone outside to get pictures done was so hard. We would get some people out and then go to get others and then the ones that were out would go back in. To add to all the chaos, there was some random dog in the church just roaming around and it was one of those mangy ones that has some sort of skin disease. After a while, we finally got everyone out and did the pictures but as soon as one was taken they would scatter and start to head back inside before we had taken all the pictures.

It was late when the service started. The microphone wasn't working so it was hard to hear the speakers. The hymns chosen were way obscure and no one really sang. The kids were running around wildly, yelling and splashing each other at the font. We were really frustrated and felt like giving up as we had done so much to make the service as perfect as possible and it was tanking. Then President B texted us and said, "Elders relax. Just be happy they are being baptized. Just feel the spirit". So we sat back and tried to feel the spirit.

The baptism itself went perfectly. The investigators were really interested. That's when it all came together and we really felt the spirit. It really hit me how amazing it was. We had only just met M four weeks ago and now she was really getting baptized and among the most prepared people I have ever seen. Then the microphone started working just in time for President B to welcome the new members - it was perfect.

As soon as the service ended, one of the sweet relief society women who feeds us often, got up right away and walked to the front row and, with a huge smile on her face, shook the hand of each new member and congratulated them. All the other members followed after that. We were so proud and it made all the problems from before melt away - even the random dog.

Our investigators had a great time too and one asked, "When can we have our next lesson?" Great experience. We taught L the day after and he said that he has never felt happier than he is now and never expected he would ever feel this happy.

We went back and taught that guy who wanted to give us the Book of Mormon back. We taught the most flawless lesson on the apostasy of all time and there was just no room for doubt when we were done. We let the scriptures do the talking. At one point he said, "If God still speaks today, then you are telling me the Bible is not complete." We just said "yes". He got it. Then he said, "Okay, I would like to read the Book of Mormon." He was way cool after that.

Anyway, that was my week. It was sweet. Thanks for your emails guys. I love hearing from you - can't believe I will see you so soon. I love you all. Have a great week!
Elder Dustan

"By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them" - Week 103. Serving in Sarrat

Hey guys! So this week flew by - for real! We spent a lot of time teaching our deaf investigator and making sure she was ready for her baptismal interview. She keeps cracking jokes that we don't fully understand and then before we even get what she said, she is busting up laughing. Then we just start laughing because she is laughing so hard - which in turn, makes her laugh uncontrollably. It's pretty awesome. It's a really rewarding experience to teach her though. She is so smart and has very strong faith. She really lives by "By their fruits ye shall know them". She got interested in the church because she saw the change in her son and then she tried it out herself and said she felt good and those were the fruits of the gospel. From then on she never looked back. Anything we share, she follows because she knows that it's the same gospel that brought forth good fruits in her life. When we taught her about the Sabbath Day she just accepted it and followed it. She got all that she needed ready before Sunday so she wouldn't have to buy anything on the Sabbath. She's way cool.

I don't think a whole lot happened on transfer day but afterwards, we went and taught L and he said that he went to the ERC (The church's employment resource centre) to look for work. They didn't have anything for him but they referred him to the bishop of a ward in Laoag. Then on Tuesday the bishop went to his house and gave him a job. He was so impressed that the church works like that. He now has a job north of Laoag but doesn't come home all week. We are going to get the sisters in that area to keep teaching him.

We met with the branch elders quorum president (Pres. B has told us to get more involved in helping to strengthen branch leadership). We taught a lesson about following the handbook. A high councilor was just assigned here to help with the missionary efforts so we are really excited about the progress.

We taught our 18 year old less active guy. He wants to go on a mission. The odds are stacked against him as his temple-sealed family is now broken up and there are multiple gambling rings beside his house. He is doing a lot to come back though and he came out and worked with us. We taught M, our deaf investigator with him so he had to write his testimony down which I think was a great first lesson for him. His testimony was awesome.

We met a guy this week who argued that organized religion is not necessary but that it was good enough to just believe in Christ. We explained why organization was important with the help of the passage in Ephesians 4. Once we were on the same page, we introduced the Book of Mormon but he would not take it. He said he loves Christ and will only read the bible because it's about him yet we introduce a book entirely about the one he loves and he treated it like poison. Tradition can be a real stumbling block. Eventually he accepted it and we are going back on Tuesday.

General Conference was amazing! I have never received more specific revelation at one time than this past conference - specially the priesthood session. I have a lot of things to think about and plan for before I go home.

We had our baptismal interviews and they all passed. So they are being baptized this Saturday. Weird too, I was saying bye to people as it would be the last time I see a lot of them! Can't believe it.

Anyways, things are going well here. We have a full week of work this week and we now have water in the apartment and the fans are fixed and we have food! Good 'ol Sarrat. Elder R, my new companion, is cool too. He is way easy going and we both have a pretty similar sense of humour. I loved being with elder O too. We did some great work.

Have a great week!!!
Elder Dustan

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Last Transfer and a New Companion - Week 102. Serving in Sarrat

This week seemed to fly by. We continue to teach our deaf investigator. She is doing so well. She grasps everything we teach her so quickly. We are almost done all the lessons and this will be the quickest transition from new investigator to baptized convert that I have ever seen - exactly 4 weeks. She was seen by one of the members drinking a bit of alcohol and they told her that members of the church don't drink. The next lesson, she asked about it and we taught her the Word of Wisdom. She accepted it fully once she knew about it.

 One thing we are trying to do is help people understand the importance of accepting callings. There is a reluctance among some members to do so. We taught one member family, explaining the worth of a soul, then talking about how many Asians God made and that it shows that He must really love them, then how many Chinese there are that haven't received the gospel yet. Then we discussed how the Philippines is the bridge to the rest of Asia, so it's really important that this country gets prepared so that when China opens to the gospel, the Filipinos are ready to lead the way in. They are also really great at learning new languages so they will definitely play a part (all of this came from Pres. B's meetings with general authorities). Then we explained how the only thing that can help the church get stronger here is for each member to shoulder a load. It was such a great lesson and so powerful.

Elder O was transferred, so I am now with Elder R for the last 6 weeks of my mission. He is from
Arizona, 6 foot 5 and a really nice guy. I am looking forward to the work taking off here and am excited for our baptisms on the 20th.

I went on exchange with two elders who were having a hard time in the work and with each other lately. They are both very new. The trainer feels like he doesn't know enough because he is so new. He is also very timid and his trainee, very confident and outgoing. We got punted and no work was happening. I would stop and talk to someone here and there and try and get us an opportunity to teach a lesson but the two elders weren't speaking up and no one was letting us in. Then after we got punted again, I suggested we make a game of it. As we walked to our next appointment we were to each pick one person on the street to initiate a conversation with, and whoever didn't do it, got a slap (playful slap, of course). Then right off the bat, one elder says, "That guys' mine!". It was an older man walking down the street. We walked across the road and started talking to him. Turns out his wife died and he was worried about whether there was life after death. He was also good friends with a bishop who served in the area. He was a really nice guy and they got an appointment set up. Then we talked to a few others and got on a role. I could see the elders' demeanor change. Where they had been fearful to talk to people, now they were excited about the work and to talk to everyone. It's so cool how that works. They just needed a first step and because it's something good, it brings a good feeling that drives you to continue.

Later we went and passed a group of young men all being obnoxious. The timid elder went over and asked if he could sit down and struck up a conversation with them. Even though it was in broken and simple Tagalog (that they made fun of at first), he pushed through and kept going. Then he told them all to gather 'round and he was going to tell them about the Book of Mormon. They ignored him so he raised his voice saying, " Hey, this is important. Come here!". They all came over and listened as he stood in the street and bore his testimony to them. He set up a return appointment with some of them and found out one of them is a member of missionary age. I was so proud of that elder. It takes some nerve to do that.

Anyways, that's my week so far. It was great. We had a great correlation with the stake president. He was happy because the work is getting better - so much so that the zone became two zones in Laoag. We are Laoag zone 1 (east side!).

Thanks for the emails guys. Can't wait for General Conference. I love you all tons! Have a great week.
Elder Dustan

Monday, April 8, 2013

Those Crazy Spaniards! - Week 101. Serving in Sarrat

This week went so fast. We went on exchange twice. Tuesday I went to Vintar again, this time with Elder C. It feels like yesterday I was in Santa Maria telling him about Vintar and now he's the one showing me around.

When we were there, we went to teach the dean of the biggest university in Laoag. Our fellowshippers were D and N (the two women we baptized when Elder S and I were in Laoag. N was the random nanay we gave a Book of Mormon to and then she read the whole thing and got baptized. Now she teaches Institute). It was sooooooo awesome to sit there with a very intellectual man and his equally smart wife and just discuss gospel doctrine. He had so many questions. Then to start the lesson, he said he wanted to hear the conversion stories of D and N. It was amazing! Less than two years ago I was just meeting those two and now I'm able to sit with them and have them bear testimony about the church. N even quoted from Preach My Gospel! The dean is the same religion as they were before, Aglipayan. I can tell he will be baptized. Vintar is doing very well. They are, one by one, baptizing all the family members of their new members and the church is already having the same attendance as we have here in Sarrat which has been here for 25 years.

 The next day we jumped right into another exchange. The elder I was with was very shy and quiet. He is training and having a bit of a hard time with that. Everyone we taught loved him though. He can barely speak Tagalog but when he teaches no one mocks him for it. They all hang on his every word. The people we teach here in Sarrat are so kind. I learned that Sarrat, in Tagalog, means ugly nose. In Ilocano is means horn. It came when the Spaniards asked, "What do you call this place" and the natives thought they were pointing at the carabao horn so they said, "Sara't nuang" or carabao horn. Those crazy spaniards!

 On Friday we went by to just see if a past investigator was at home and as we walked up to the door, his sister came over and without even hesitating, invited us to come in. We taught her and she was amazing. We set up a return appointment for the next day. She was there waiting and had read all the stuff we left with her. She understands things so quickly. Then we invited her to church. We dropped by Sunday morning to pick her up but our male fellowshipper punted us. She was waiting all dressed up in a perfectly modest skirt ready to go right on time. We asked her to wait while we then went to get a fellowshipper. When we got back to her house, she had left. She got to church on her own and she was sitting there -
9am on the dot, first person at church other than the branch president. She is so cool. She loved the classes and learned so much. We are planning on inviting her to set a baptismal date on Tuesday (she already committed to be baptized when she receives a witness that what we are teaching her is true but we never set a sure date).

We have been having trouble with our original baptismal dates but as one falls away, we are led to someone else even more prepared, like that girl.

We are teaching an awesome guy. His mum is deaf but she somehow manages to speak pretty well. Some members said she can't be taught because she's deaf. We have been teaching her and she will be baptized with her son on April 20th. She is so smart. We just do a lot of reading and she eats it up. We write out what we want to say to her. She also reads lips some of the time, and she and her son have their own kind of sign language so he helps her. She is so sweet. One day she just told us that she wanted to go to our church but has community meetings on Sundays so she wrote a letter to them saying she can't go to the community meetings anymore unless they change the meeting day - and they did! She wanted to go to church with us because she saw the change in her son.

The last lesson we had with them turned into a testimony meeting all of a sudden. Her son bore testimony to us out of nowhere, and then our fellowshipper told us that he used to be depressed all the time but now he is changed and he is happy. He worked with us for one lesson and was so happy he couldn't stop talking about it.

We have Zone Leader Conference later today and then will be getting ready for zone training meeting. Time moves so fast. I am reviewing the talks from last General Conference to get ready for this conference. I loved Pres. Monson's talk about considering the blessings. He encouraged us all to take an inventory of our lives and look for the blessings and those experiences that we may not have noticed at the time, but which really were powerful spiritual experiences. I noticed a few I had never thought of since they happened.

Thanks for your emails, guys. I love you all so much and can't believe I will be calling you soon and then shortly after that I will be seeing you! Thanks for all your support. Even among the foreign missionaries here, I am by far the most supported by my family. Good thing you can't overdose on blessings! Have a great week!
Elder Dustan