Monday, January 25, 2016

Week 80 (Jan. 25, 2016 Gabaldon, Philippines)

Hey Mom!!
First off, could you add luke.hager and caleb.smith to my emailing list if they're not already there? Just to make sure. Thanks!

So, this week was pretty awesome, as most of them are. We were able to teach the Galvez family again, and the father is still really interested. Their oldest son, Lawrence, also sits in regularly on the lessons but is shy, so he's always sort of behind the sins, listening from the shadows like a ninja... He's a good kid though, haha. They've been having a problem lately with receiving a testimony, and so in our most recent lesson with them we, we really stressed the importance of praying for confirmation of the Spirit, as well as reading the Book of Mormon. That's one of the hard things about teaching people with a really solid Christian background, even if they're not really religious. Prayer, scripture study, and sabbath day worship aren't foreign concepts to any of them, and so it's nothing that really catches their eye. We have to really stress those kinds of things in order to explain to them how powerful those things actually are. The family all gave a solid commitment to read and pray, so we'll be following up with them later in the afternoon. They really could help the branch out a lot if we can help them get that testimony. Cool stuff :)

During our weekly district weekly this last week, The APs called and asked me to give an impromptu workshop on finding efforts. It's a struggle we're having across the Philippines area, and so they're really stressing the basics right now. Talk to EVERYONE! I still struggle with it sometimes, but I have seen how the Lord blesses us when we obey. There have been a lot of times when I see someone I need to talk to, but I just continue walking away, until I finally give in to the Spirit and turn around and contact them. More often than not, it's somebody who is either a lost member, needing help to return, or another son or daughter of God spiritually prepared to accept and live His plan for them. As was the Galvez family! We were on our way to another section of our area, walking through a part where we don't typically find, when we passed a simple little alley type thing. I felt really strongly to go inside, but we were already late for our appointment, and still had a long way to go. So we kept walking, but then (again) I finally decided to listen to the Spirit, and told my companion we had to go back. So we did, and met the Galvez family! Right now, they are still our main goal for baptism in February, and I really think we could make it happen.

Yesterday, we had our District Conference in Bongabon with President and Sister Clark. President Clark gave an awesome talk about repentance and about what it's NOT. He said that, too often, we mistake repentance with suffering, guilt, punishment, confession, apologies, correction, and so forth. But that's, making it all too complicated. Those are all things that will lead to repentance, but it falls short of what it truly is. Repentance is simply change, but more specifically, a change of the heart. That's what the Japanese word for repentance literally translates to. Change of heart. Pretty cool, huh? :)
Even better? There's a less active member that wasn't able to attend church yesterday, and so we shared with her President Clark's Message, and it was exactly what she needed!! President Clark also put a big focus on Forgiveness as a part of repentance, and the member shared with us about something in her life that she was having a really hard time forgiving. The coolest part though? When we all put together at nearly the exact same time that being able to forgive is, in and of itself, a form of repentance! It's when we change our heart and allow ourselves to once more love and accept anyone who has hurt us, despite their weaknesses and shortcomings, especially when that person is ourselves. The Gospel is so awesome!!! Gaahh, I get so hyped up about this kind of stuff!!! Hahaha!! Hooray for Salvation!!

Anyhoo, I just wanted to share one thing from my Personal study this week. It's from 1 Nephi 5.

14 And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine.

I added the boldings and the underlines to emphasize the points that I just noticed this last time reading through. Joseph was sold into Egypt, according to the Lord's plan and will for him! Should he have stayed with his family through all those years, the coming famine wouldn't have been prophesied of, the food wouldn't have been put into storage and thousands of people would have died from starvation, including Jacob and his family. The Lord may see fit to allow us to fall into trial and tribulation, but we just need to keep having faith that it's according to His plan for our eternal progression, and stay true to His commandments.

Love you!!
Elder Syphus
Mountain view
Elder Dala and I

Ward Missionary and Recent Convert, Noel

At Mom's request

Preparing for the baptism this upcoming Saturday!

All one tree

Monday, January 18, 2016

Week 79 (Jan. 18, 2016 Gabaldon, Philippines)

Dear Mom,
That's crazy that you got that impression! I was sort of freaking out last Monday, thinking that I was about to ruin your plans. That's awesome how well it all worked out though!! Did you contact the office to make sure?

Earlier this week, we went on exchanges with the Dingalan Elders, and I got to spend the day with Elder Dumanjug. He's super nice and friendly, and he's an INCREDIBLE missionary when it comes to the actual appointment, but he's coming close to the end of his mission and he's feeling a little "trunky." I learned a lot from him on our exchange, though, and he seems like he's been doing a bit better, so things are okay now :)

The day I got home from their area, we had the Zone Leaders come to conduct an interview for one of our investigators. Tatay Siriaco is really old, and has trouble remembering everything we teach him, especially the names of the commandments, so we weren't sure how it was all going to turn out. However, he passed with flying colors and is now on schedule for the 30th :) We'll be having two more interviews this week, but it'll probably have to be planned more carefully. The Zone Leaders weren't able to make it back home, and so they had to spend the night at our house :P It was actually really fun :)

We found a new family! The Galvez family is full of potential Priesthood holders, so we're super stoked to teach them and help bring them into the gospel. June Fransisco is in his 40s, Larence is 16, John Paul is 14, and Jomar is 12. The Mom hasn't decided to listen yet, so it's just the men for now. They're super receptive, and we've made plans to bring them to church this upcoming week. Should be good :)

Earlier today, we went an activity as a district to Dingalan to visit a Light house in their area. Sadly, just as we made it to the top, the painting crew was locking the gate. They had just barely finished cleaning up all the vandalism from ages past, and the paint was still wet :( We still had a good time though, and got to go on a nice hike, walk along the beach, and drink coconut juice, right out of the shell :) Here's the pics.

Elder Dala is teaching me his fancy photography secrets. What a cutie, right?

I look so dang young!! Grr... It's weird. Filipinos take it as like, the biggest compliment if you say they look young, but I want the opposite, haha :P
Oh ya, the coconut. I got to chop the top off with a machete, and you drink out of the hole :)

Kind of hard, and it spills sometimes, but it's super delicious and thirst quenching :)

Chop it in half, and use the shell as a spoon, then dig out the meat inside. Food and drink for the price of free.... as long as you know how to climb a buko tree, which Elder Dumanjug does :)

Picture of the light house, not yet knowing it was locked :(

The other side of the mountain.

View from the top. We walked along that shore :D

Elder Dala taught me well :)

Light house from the beach (on the left)

Wading through the waters.

That's all for today. Next week ulit! Love you!!

Elder Syphus

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Week 78 (Jan. 10, 2016 Gabaldon, Philippines)

Gabaldon is a really beautiful area surrounded by Mountains and forests and such, and has a few really neat rivers that we get to baptize people in :P
(I asked Joel if he was able to attend the baptism of his MP's granddaughter who had come with her family to visit in the Philippines....she was baptized near a waterfall)
We knew about Sister Clark's Granddaughter, but weren't able to attend the baptism, because it was during the middle of our church meeting. That's where all 18 of them were supposed to attend church, but traffic held them up, and they got there about 30 minutes late, right as I was going up to introduce myself to the Branch and bear my testimony. I got super nervous that there were a bunch of white people watching me speak Tagalog (ya, I don't know why either), but President Clark says I sound like a native speaker, so that's cool I guess. I don't know how much he actually understood though, so.... :P
President Clark was, however, able to share a thought with the branch before leaving after Sacrament Meeting, and it's something that I Really, Really liked a lot. He took it from Lehi's Dream in 1 Nephi 8:
5 And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me.
6 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him.
7 And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste.
8 And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies.
9 And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field.
So, we read in those verses that Lehi was lost in a "dark and dreary waste." What's interesting, however, is what he did to end up in such a place. A man in a white robe (whom President Clark refers to as Christ (and the footnote leading to David suggests so as well)), called for Lehi to follow Him, which he did. It is there that Lehi was caught up in such a rough and uncertain part of his journey. President Clark taught us that, yes, part of following Christ will sometimes be trails and tribulations in our lives. The world in general and the Devil specifically will do everything they can to bring us away from the path of righteousness, and the Lord allows these temptations and trails as ways to prove ourselves, but more importantly, to overcome and grow from. In His infinite wisdom, our Father in Heaven has literally cast down Satan and his forces as the ultimate refiner's fire of our lives, all in preparation of our eternal exaltation and glory. Pretty cool, right? :)

So yeah, all of that was yesterday. We also had an Area broadcast discusses goals for the next year, which was really cool and exciting, but we weren't able to put in any proselyting efforts for the Day so that was a bummer, but I still feel like it was a good Sabbath day.

I had had a pretty hectic morning a few days back, and so by the time we went out to work at 10 AM, I realized I still hadn't touched my Book of Mormon. The whole morning was findings, just talking to people and inviting them to listen, so we didn't teach any lessons. The whole time, though, I was just in a really dead mood, sort of lost from the work, and it was driving me crazy. Lunch and language study were sort of the same, like I had left a part of myself behind somewhere. On the way to an appointment after lunch however, I cracked open my Tagalog Book of Mormon and started reading. I immediately started to feel better, more calm and at peace after such an empty first half of the day. When we got to the lesson though, I closed my Book of Mormon, and the emptiness sort of returned. I used it however to share some scriptures during our lesson, and the Spirit was there again, all of a sudden. That seemed to happen throughout the day- me feeling empty without the book, but then complete again with its words in my hands. I just want to testify of the power of the Book of Mormon, and the peace it can bring to our lives as we seriously ponder upon its teachings.

The work here is good. We've got a few people progressing for baptism this January. Tatay Siriaco Anolacion is for the 23rd of January, but he's really old and has trouble remembering the stuff we teach him. Jonalyn and Alyssa Alfonso are both for the 30th, and they're moving a long, but weren't able to attend church yesterday, so we'll see need to do to help them attend every week. We also just recently found a family of three, and they live pretty close to the church and our already close friends with some of the members, so we've got high hopes for them. It's the Ferry family, and we're teaching the parents and one of their daughters. Gabaldon is fun :)

Some pictures I took coming into the area.

Investigators back yard. This area is covered in green.

The watch for Greg


Turkey's are nasty. Ya. Yucks.

We had a Zone Activity earlier today and went high up on this look out point/ zoo kind of place. It's got a neat view.

Croc cage.

I don't know what this thing is, but it kept attacking us. It was actually kind of funny. He's a grumpy bird.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaiiiit for iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.......

Boo yah :) Guy was heavy, and he kept trying to slither away from me. This picture cost me 50 cents.

This is our entire zone. All Elders, no sisters.

Letter is a little short, but hopefully my Journal will be updated by next week and I can send something longer :) Love you Mom and all!!!

Elder Syphus

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Week 77 (Jan. 3, 2016 Gabaldon, Philippines)

Hi Mom!

I DID get transferred, which I didn't think would hit me as hard as it did. Ugh. I actually do really like it in my new area though. I'm in Gabaldon, here in Bongabon Zone, and it's BEAUTIFUL. We're surrounded by mountains and jungles, we baptize people in rivers, and the one other companionship in our District is on the beachside, so you best Believe, we gonna be doin some exchanges up in here. Word, G-Man. (That's how Elder Chand taught me how to talk :) ) But ya, it's weird as well, because I'm used to being in the city surrounded by people, and then going home to Kabahays and everything, but it's like nobody lives out in Gabaldon, plus it's just us two. It's weird trying to adjust to after 6 months in Talavera, but it'll be good. As soon as this crazy Cold Virus is gone, that is. I swear. I board the bus going to my new area, and BOOM, I'm cursed. Sneezing, coughing, dripping, you name it. Yucks. Mornings and evening are the worst, but I make it through the day alright. My new companion is Elder Dala, and I'm his follow up trainer. Elder Murdock was his trainer, so things are fun :)

I just want to share with you a touching experience I had yesterday. The church is about as strong here as it has been in any of my other areas, but for now, these faithful saints are limited to worship in a rented flat on the second floor of a business center. They have to climb a flight of stairs to get up, which isn't a big deal, but one of the Relief Society is a cripple who lost a leg in a boating accident about 10 years ago. My companion and I showed up at just about the same time as her, and I was curious as to what would happen as she approached the steps. Would she hop up the steps with her 1 remaining foot? Her age didn't allow it. Would she be carried up by some more than willing Elders? She wouldn't have it. Instead, she handed over her crutches, turned around and sat on the bottom step. And then, holding on to the railing for balance, she, with difficulty, lifted herself on to the second step. She stopped, took a few breaths, and then did the same up to the 3rd. Then to the 4th. And the 5th, etc. For the 20 some steps, she repeated this, until finally making it to the top. She didn't stop there though. During Sacrament meeting, she left her chair and climbed up those 3 extra steps onto the pulpit in order to bear her wonderful testimony to the branch.

Sometimes, I feel like we can get frustrated, as we see others practically glide up the steps of life, taking no notice of trial or affliction along their path. Sometimes, we may feel our steps are bigger, higher, or more uneven in comparison. And sometimes, that may be true. But the strength that we get from moving past those trials and tests can very well be one of the biggest blessings that we can hope to receive in this life. Imagine our satisfaction, and the approval of our Father in Heaven, after arriving in His Mansions above as we look back and see the progress we've made, the new person we've become.

Elder Syphus