Quezon City Mission

Quezon City Mission

Monday, December 30, 2013

Letter Dec 30, 2013

This last week was really great! It was really awesome to skype you! But at the same time it was really weird haha. I had a really great week this week, and we ate a ton of food, the members here are just awesome! Not only because they give us food haha, but they are always willing to help us out and have so much faith it is incredible. 
So Christmas here is not as big as Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is a HUGE party, where as Christmas day they are just sleeping and recovering, and they eat a lot, but it's much more quiet. 

On Saturday we had the opportunity to go to a wedding for one of the member's son, and it was held at the church. The wife isn't a member, but the family really wants us to teach her, and it was even kind of awkward at the wedding. The husband's side is really strong in the church, the dad was the former branch president. The wedding was more like a baptism program to me, the bride walked in like we do, and then they sat down at a table in front of the pulpit. Then like 5 people gave talks, and then they got married, and then 2 more talks, then we ate. It was just different, and the awkward thing was that the speakers talked about how they were going to get sealed in a year... and we haven't even taught the bride yet, or even know if she is interested. Me and Elder Abel were laughing after, cause it doesn't seem like she has a choice, or we do either, we have to teach her- which we are happy about ha. 

Sunday was a great day, we visited a lot of Less Active members, and the hard thing is the only reason they are less active is because they don't have enough money to go to church because they live so far away! It's so sad! They know so much about the gospel and so kind, but they just can't get to church. It is really hard for me to tell them that they will be blessed for going, even though it would be a financial burden, and sometimes I just don't want to tell them. But I realized that is where faith really comes in. I believe if they made the sacrifice to go to church, they would be blessed, and so we talked about faith to them. 

One thing I have been thinking about this week is New Year's Resolutions, and how much I just absolutely hate them. I HATE New Year's Resolutions. I can't stand them. I have never understood why we need the beginning of a new year to decide that we are going to make changes in our lives. And the few people that actually make new year's resolutions don't end up following them through. Granted there are known to be few, but realistically in June no one remembers what they were going to try and change in their lives. We should want to change our lives every week, even every day, but by setting weekly goals, every day we strive to achieve that goal. I remember the talk from President Uchtdorf about the plane needing to make constant changes to fly on a straight path. If we only corrected our lives every year, and halfheartedly when we take the sacrament, we would miss out on so much! We miss out on blessings when we stray from the straight path, and a New Year's resolution which we end up not keeping wouldn't help us. 

I liked the an article in a Liahonna I was reading, and it talked about the great and spacious building. It asks the question what is so great about it? Well, it looks fun. "Who ever said that sin wasn't fun?" -Spencer W. Kimball.    I was shocked to read that, but then realized that sin does seem fun, but it is happiness. That is the difference. Sometimes the straight and narrow path doesn't seem very fun and we want to go on another more fun route, and that is where Satan wins. He isn't trying to get us to go down one specific path, but any other besides the one we are on. We need to constantly remember why we are here, and for me, it is a lot easier when we have a goal in mind every week. 

Don't make any goals seem like a restriction, but your own choice. If we want to follow the commandments, say "I won't" go shopping on sunday, instead of "I Can't" go shopping on sunday, then we feel empowered, and are more likely to appreciate the goals that we make. 

Well that's my spiritual rant for the week. I will leave with a funny story that happened on Saturday. We we're doing our personal study, and we heard someone at the front door (No one knocks, they just yell TAPO) So I went down and it was 3 girls, two older, mid 20's and one like 8. I couldn't figure out what they wanted so I got one of the other companions to figure out what they were saying. We went to the gate to talk to them and I saw a bunch of people in church clothes in the road in front of our house, and realized it was Jehovah witness missionaries haha. I didn't have my tag on the first time I had talked to them, but this time I did, and it got real awkward real fast for them haha. I went up stairs to get the other two elders and we were laughing so hard. They gave us a pamphlet, and we tried to give them ours, but they wouldn't take them. So we said if you don't take ours, we don't want yours, but they wouldn't take that one back either! They hurried and left haha. It was great. They were nice and we were polite to them, but it sure was funny for us.

I hope you all had a great Christmas! And hope you will have a great new year!!! 

-Elder Rock

Monday, December 23, 2013

Letter Dec 23, 2013

Hello Everyone! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

This last week has been really awesome but challenging! I got a new companion, Elder Abel! He is from New Zealand and Australia, and this big Rugby player. He has been out for 17 months, and is really good in Tagalog. I almost like it better that he isn't from the Philippines because he can explain things a lot better to me, and why things are said a certain way. There are things I miss about elder Masula, but this transfer is going to be really good. This week was mostly showing him our investigators and our area, which I found out is the second biggest in our mission. \

It was challenging because I am the one showing him around the area, which I don't know very well. But I was able to do it! It was awesome, I just remembered how to get places, and that was truly Heavenly Father helping me out. My Tagalog is improving, things make more sense, and words are starting to replace words. And Elder Abel is super funny and likes to have fun, but he is really great at teaching and helping me out, he's an awesome missionary. 

We had our Branch Christmas party, and a lot of investigators came to that, and the party is a lot different than at home haha. They play regular music and have big speakers blasting and everyone dances it's hilarious and a lot of fun! But the thing I noticed was how hard it is for investigators to come to these events. We had all of the ones we really have been focusing on there, but they were all nervous because they didn't know anyone, and here it is a big deal for them and they dress up and everything. But the church is really a different kind of culture, it's new for people, and we tried to get a bunch of people to talk to them, but it was hard. I really saw how important it is for the members to get involved, because the missionaries can't make them feel welcome in the ward or branch they are going to be going to. We leave and new ones come, but the members are there. So I encourage you to talk and make investigators or new people at anything really welcome. 

It is Christmas time here, but not very cold, it's a weird feeling for sure. The thing that really bothers me is people carol for money!!! Kids go around and just carol for money, it's sad! But a lot of the homes have a tiny humble Christmas tree it's sweet. One of the things I miss the most is all the Christmas goodies, they don't have a lot of sweets here, the desserts for them have very little sugar, but it's alright. 

This transfer is going to be really great, Elder Abel is one of the coolest missionaries ever, it's a lot of fun. But don't think we aren't working hard, cause we are! 

Just one spiritual thought that I heard, everyday we wake up and we search for happiness. No matter what you don't wake up and want to do things that are going to make you sad. The things that make us happy, truly happy, are through the commandments that Heavenly Father has given us, and they are unchangeable. They will always bring us happiness, but Satan's ways are always changing. There are always new things that go against the commandments because they seem fun for a time. 

This Christmas Season we should rededicate ourselves to follow the teachings of Christ, maybe I said that last week. But I hate New Year's resolutions, I HATE THEM. Rarely do people actually follow through on them, so every week, even every day we should wake up and commit to follow and keep the covenants we have made. 

Merry Christmas to all! 

Elder Rock

Monday, December 16, 2013

Letter Dec 16, 2013

This Week was just super Awesome!!!! I apologize if yesterday you were freaking out because I didn't email anyone, this week is the end of the transfer and they move our P-day to today! So I'm sorry about that!

We had our Christmas conference this last week which was such a blast! We got good food, and heard from our mission president and his wife, and we all performed skits, some were just hilarious, and then we got to watch a movie! That was weird. And then we played games and exchanged gifts. It was such a great day.

On Friday I woke up sick though, and that was no fun, but I got through it alright, and we were able to update our area book during weekly planning. Some Elders are really frustrating because there are so many awesome potential investigators and they just gave up on them! So we are going to visit them this next transfer! 

Saturday we had my first baptism for a girl named Jenny Rivera, who is 13 years old and a referral from an older couple that are neighbors with her. 2 of her friends got baptized before I got here, who were also referrals of the couple. So Missionaries work way better with referrals from the members!!!! I was able to be the one baptizing her, and have a feeling I will do that more because I'm American so they always pick us to do it. It was really cool, but her family didn't show up which was kind of sad! You can really tell she sees how happy the other YW are and she wants that in her life and has found it! 

On Sunday we weren't able to go to the Christmas devotional which was sad because Elder Masula got a really bad headache after church, but we got invited to a dinner appointment with a Less Active and her son who we have been teaching. There we found out that Elder Masula was going to be transferred the next day to work in the office, he was kind of bummed about that. So that means I am getting a new companion, and I just found out this morning that it is going to be Elder Abel, from New Zealand! I'm really excited, I met him at the Christmas Conference and he just seems so fun and hardworking, and he's this big rugby player so we are going to do some great work outs haha. So tomorrow me and my roomates will go pick him up!

Something neat I have noticed is throughout all the houses I visit I can feel the spirit in a Christ centered home. I have been in some really nice houses for America here, but I have felt more peaceful in a house with no floor and cardboard walls because they have the spirit. It is a weird feeling, but I learned that making Christ the center of your home is one of the most important things you can do, no matter what your situation is or how nice your house is.

There was this quote on the Program from the Christmas Conference I really liked, 

"There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ. It is the time to love the Lord our God with all our heart—and our neighbors as ourselves.

 It is well to remember that he who gives money gives much, he who gives time gives more, but he who gives of himself gives all. Let this be a description of our Christmas gifts."

I really love this quote and how we need to remember Christ during this season. How when we strive to be like him, our lives are blessed, and in order to strive to be like him, we need to study his teachings. I will leave with another quote I heard at my zone training yesterday, 

"All Satan has to do to win is get good men to do nothing"

I hope that none of us get to complacent and we can give ourselves this Christmas. To not look to do it to be recognized, but privately. Make it a big deal for the person being served, not for yourself, that is when I feel the greatest joy. I sometimes want to shout, "I was the one that did that!" but by helping someone and not taking credit is so much sweeter. 

I hope you have a great week! Choose to be happy, and Let the Lord bless you!

-Elder Rock

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Letter Dec 9, 2013

I'm glad to hear that you all had a great Thanksgiving!! This week was sure a good one!
On P-Day last week I got to play basketball with some of the youth and it was fun, but really frustrating because they just leave a player at the other end of the court and then throw the ball down to him, so they just cherry pick. And that's how they play. So, not really fun haha, but it's okay.
We had the opportunity to do a service project for two women in our ward, and what it consisted of was digging out trash and making a trench/gutter type of thing. It's really sad because people just throw their trash anywhere, and this had just built up and was nasty mud/gunk kind of stuff. We cleared it out with shovels and made it pretty nice, water can flow down pretty well now. I was reminded of all the times working for Bishop Scott and how much that helped me, two of the other Elders didn't really know what to do haha. After the service project they gave us this dessert called Biko, which is like a sticky rice dish, and it was soooooooo good! Pinika Masarap! It was warm and to me is the equivalent of German Chocolate cake frosting, but with rice instead of all the coconut, but there is still coconut. Anyway, I'm going to try and be an expert at cooking it by the time I return.
We have two investigators that are being baptized, one this saturday and the other next saturday. I am really excited, and their families are interested now too. One of the girls older sister lost her job and was really having a hard time and the other day I was talking to her (trying at least) and she was just so worried about life, and didn't really have any idea what to do. She is 21 and can't afford school so it's hard for her. I realized the love that Heavenly Father has for all of his children, for all of us, and how he just wants us to reach out to him and trust him and through that action we receive help, and comfort. We have taught her a couple times and she understands a lot and asks really good questions, so we are working on her.
We also met with a Less Active member who we ran into a couple of weeks ago, and met with them. The father is not a member, but his wife is, and is actually endowed. Their son went on a mission too! And right now he is working in the Cebu temple! The whole family are members except for the father, but sometimes he will go to church. To be honest I don't know the details of the situation because I had no idea what anyone was saying. But when we arrived at the house the father didn't want to come out on the porch and Elder Masula was really persistent and got him to come out! I would've just let him stay in there, but I think that is part of the culture, or not rude to be persistent, I don't know. But basically it got really spiritual and I was really bummed I couldn't understand anything, but the wife said to him, "Don't you want to be with your family together forever?" and then Elder Masula talked about his dad, and his conversion and how they ended up getting sealed as a family, and I thought of Dad and how he decided to be baptized and we were sealed. It was a really cool experience, and the Father was just so, prideful I guess you could say. He would never really answer questions right away, and just mutter something, but when Elder Masula told his experience and about his father, and then the wife asked if he wanted to be together he started crying and went inside to hide his tears and came back, and his heart was softening. He let us come back again and Elder Masula challenged him to be baptized and he agreed. The family was not really sure, they have the "I'll believe it when I see it attitude" but I was still really neat to see how much this man loved his family. He wanted to know why his son left for 2 years and has a very deep love for his wife, I can't wait to go back again and teach him, and see him progress.
YesterdaySunday, I had a very fun experience, I was asked to give the concluding talk because the speaker didn't show up. And I was asked 5 minutes before sacrament meeting started. Luckily I had brought the Ensign and was able to talk about two talks and give scriptures about them and things I learned from my personal study that week. I t was in english, so the Senior Missionary couple were really happy about that haha. I talked about trials and why they are given to us, and about President Monson's talk, I will not fail thee or forsake thee, and Elder Vinson's talk at the sunday afternoon session. Basically, The Lord can prevent anything, but he allows things to happen to test us and to allow us to grow. That is why he had the Brother of Jared think of the idea for getting light, and that is why he was going to send the waves and the storms to get them to the promised land. We need to always remember that the Lord is with us, and knows what we are going through. And I love what President Monson says how we need to take the trials we are given as an opportunity to refine ourselves and grow. That should be our purpose and goal. We may be tempted to ask, "Why Me" but we need to remember to have patience, and when we make the gospel of Jesus Christ the center of our lives, we will be able to endure all.
I love it when investigators come to church, and the Galang Family- The one with the really tall kid- came and are going to play basketball with him next sat. We taught their family on saturday, and they are so into it, it is awesome! We talked a lot about The Book of Mormon and read with them, and Patrick read and knew a little bit and he just seems to have such a strong desire it is so awesome, I can't even explain the feeling I get when I see his face and the look of intent he has to hear more!
Thank you for all of your support! I encourage you to always remember the Lord, and not only remember him in times of trouble. When we make our lives centered around him we begin to align our will with His. I had this great aha moment about aligning our will with His, and hope you can all think about that, and strive towards it. I go into different homes, some nicer than others, some a lot nicer than others, but no matter the circumstance, you can feel the spirit in the ones who go to church every week, you can tell which members are reading their scriptures, and who really have a love for the Savior and His gospel, and those are the homes I look forward to be in, even if I have to crouch in them:)
Have a Great Week!
Elder Rock

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Working Hard

Letter Dec 2, 2013

Hello Everyone! Happy Thanksgiving, I hoped you all had a great day eating lots of great food! Mine consisted of 5 peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches and rice and adobo. I think My body just knew it was Thanksgiving time cause I was eating like crazy this week haha. 
This week was really great, we walked a lot and got to see some really beautiful places of our area. We have been teaching the same people and not having much success getting return appointments, or we will get them and they aren't there or interested, but yesterday we taught 8 people and a few of them are bound to keep listening!
The coolest thing was teaching two investigators who have a baptismal date in 2 weeks, and their cousin, a boy, was home and we taught him too, about the plan of salvation. At the end, he said this is awesome, It makes so much sense, I didn't realize that there was a full plan for all of us. I really liked that and have been thinking about that a lot this week. We all have a plan, and I think sometimes of members knowing of where exactly we came from, why we are here, and where we will go after we die and how we get to the celestial kingdom, we take that for granted. We are going to continue teach him.
We also had an open house of the renovation for the new chapel here in the Branch, and a lot of members came, but hardly any investigators came. I just thought if they put a sign or something that said open house more would come, but oh well. We had 3 people come, who came because their teacher is the district president and would get extra credit, but they seemed interested. The actual dedication of the church was really cool, that happened yesterday, and Elder Ardurn of the quorum of the 70 spoke to us. He talked about how like this church is being rededicated, we need to rededicate our selves. He said we need to rededicate our hearts to the lord, and look in the mirror and see what we can change, where can we improve. And he said we need to search and learn about the lord's ministry more, and become more like him, and as we do that we will receive an increase in happiness.
President Revillo spoke there as well, and talked about the storm in Tacloban, and how we need to prepare not only physically for disasters, but spiritually as well, cause that is a lot more difficult than making a 72 hour kit, it takes more time. There are going to be spiritual storms coming our way and we need to make sure we are ready for them.

I have been enjoying my time here, and have eaten some really good food, Adobo is the so good! I love rice too haha, it goes with anything and everything. We had a couple of cockroaches in our apartment this week, they looked like the fake ones they sell at the 99 cent store, they were so big! The language is bugging me cause I can't speak how I would like but I am picking up new words everyday, and can understand people for the most part, unless it is about everyday life, I only know gospel terms really well. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and got to think about things you are grateful for. They don't have Thanksgiving here which I was bummed about, but I realized that everyday is a day to give thanks here, they are so humble and awesome!
Have a great week!
-Elder Rock

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Missionary group pix

McDonalds, Hiking and Family Home Evening

The Best McDonalds I ever had!!

View from our hike

Our combined FHE (Family Home Evening) 

We lost in the FHE games and got our faces painted...just something they do!!!

Letter 11-25-13

This week really flew by, but mostly cause we were never in our area! We just took jeepneys all week because we had so many meetings. 

I had my first ever zone meeting which was really interesting to say the least. It was really such a waste of time and was driving me crazy, so I definitely learned patience! Because President Revillo is new, he has implemented new rules, so there is a big confusion on the rules and on top of it, we have a new zone leader who is from Tacloban mission, and he wanted to include some of his rules and got them approved for our zone, one of them being wearing our socks during personal study hahaha. When president found out about that one he just laughed haha. But the new zone leader is really motivated for us to do our best so I am excited. It was just difficult with so many personalities saying what they think and I'm just over here with a former AP and he is going home in a month, and just whispering to me funny stuff about. Basically, we are missionaries and can use our best judgement, at least that is my opinion, but there really are missionaries who need exact rules, so I just need to do my best and follow them with a good attitude and be respectful and patient in meetings.

We got to teach a family this week that is a referral from a really awesome family in our branch. The branch that we are in is just awesome, and what is really cool is Elder Ardurn (Not sure on that spelling) from the seventy is coming on Sunday to dedicate our renovated church building! He is the area General Authority, so that is going to be just awesome. But anyway, the family we taught is really cool. We arrived and the husband wasn't there, who Elder Masula taught on exchanges last week, but luckily we had a member with us and could teach the rest of the family. The family is the mom, and 3 boys, ages 14, 12, 6, and a toddler. The 14 yr old is really tall, he's 5'10 haha. That's just huge here, and I guess it is pretty tall, especially for 14 yrs old, and he loves basketball. He came into the lesson late, and am so glad he did. We were just teaching the mom and the 12 yr old, the younger ones were playing, and they were really shy to answer questions and wasn't really going well. But then Patrick walks in, sits down and picks up the pamphlet and starts reading and then answers the questions and was just awesome! Then the other two started to participate, and Patrick was just sitting on the edge of his seat and was just super interested! We challenged them to be baptized and usually people say sure, after we repeat what we say, but Patrick just said, OPO! (Yes) right away, it was awesome. Then the mom and brother said yes too. This lesson was really great for me, not only did it remind me of how great it is to share the gospel with people, especially when they accept it and you can see their desire, but because I don't know how, but I was able to understand the general overview of what everyone was saying, and when Elder Masula would tell me in english sometimes, it was what I already thought, and all week I was able to understand. Speaking is a lot different haha. 

We attended a zone conference where 4 zones met and had some workshops and things like that, and president Revillo talked about converting ourselves, and in my personal study I read a lot about that in the conference talks. 
I just loved what Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said about conversion. Conversion is not an event, it is a process. That was taken from True To The Faith but she talks about how we need to live the principles in order to be converted. It is possible to have a testimony of them, but not live them, and we need to be converted. We cannot gain a testimony of commandments if we don't live them first, and a lot of the times that is what we think. We may not want to live the law of tithing until we know it is true, but praying to know if it is true without living it won't get us anywhere. "The Lord expects us to exercise our Faith" and after we have a trial of our faith, or exercise it, we gain a witness or testimony. 

Elder Maynes talk goes hand in hand with it, and that is to endure. We need to be converted if we want to endure, and the only way to endure is by getting in spiritual shape. Just like we cannot watch a basketball game on tv and become fit and in shape to play, we cannot just watch conference and be in shape. We need to apply the principles, and like basketball, it takes dedication, perseverance, and self discipline. When we live the principles, it helps us do those 3 things, become converted, and able to endure in righteousness, that is the key, IN RIGHTEOUSNESS. 

I love what he says too, that the quality of our eternal future is proportional to our ability to endure in righteousness.

And the ability to endure in righteousness will be in direct proportion to the strength of our testimony and the depth of our conversion.

Sister Oscarson goes on to say that when we are truly converted we will have no problem sharing the gospel naturally. 
The theme of the conference was definitely hastening the work, and Elder Ballard's talk is really great on that topic, I encourage you to all read it, as well as all of the talks.They have so much awesome stuff in them, and I look forward to each day so I can read them, Im going to be sad when I finish soon. 

Just some points from Elder Ballard's talk:
When we act in faith to fulfill his work, The Lord is going to help us do it, and we need to PRAY for opportunities and then LOOK for those opportunities he will give you. that is a promise, he will give them to you, 

And then too haha, Elder Packer talks about the key to spiritual protection, and part of that is through regular scripture reading, and he just says, "Test it for yourself" 
What benefit are the leaders of the church getting when we read our scriptures? None. So obviously this is for our benefit, and is going to help us.

Those are just a very small portion of the things I have learned and am just loving learning and teaching people and wish they would just read The Book of Mormon. Just test it. I just want to shake them haha, All we ask is to read it honestly and pray about it, and ask if it is true. That's it. If they want to know why there are so many churches and which one is true, they can pray, and they will find out. I just think it's funny how our only tool in helping people is to read and ask if it is true. We cannot do it for them, nor do we force, but we know how much it will bless their lives and when they start to keep the commandments and test them out. 

To end, a funny story:
On Sundays the members have choir after church, and bring food to eat right after church and then go to choir. It's rice and meat, and they give us missionaries some. They had this dessert looking thing later after choir, and looked like fruit salad haha, boy was I wrong. So I was all excited to eat this american dish, and get a good amount, and then a lady says elder have more, so I say, sure! and she piles it on, so I have this big bowl. Well, I take the first bite, and it wasn't yogurt or whipped cream haha it was mayonaisse. AND, it wan't only fruit, there were apples, cherries, and then macaroni noodles, very thin slices of ham, and some other mysteries ha, so I finished it, and it was a big bowl, and the other 3 missionaries were just laughing and the members just asked if I liked it and I said yeah it's just different than america and they smiled and kept eating haha. Good Times!

Hope you all have a great Week!!

-Elder Rock

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Place to Party

Nathan thought this was great!!

Letter Nov 18, 2013

This week has been great, but frustrating at the same time! I went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders and got to have a real shower, What a treat that was:) Even if it was cold. And talk to some american elders, they really motivated me to push through because of how much they loved what they were doing. 

The people here are so kind and loving, almost to the point of making me angry because they let you in and let you teach them and say they like what we are teaching, but don't let us follow up with them. But we were giving agency so as long as me and my companion are working hard, it is okay, even though it is sad.

This week in our district meeting I loved what someone said. "Christ came to this earth to serve, not be served" And that is what my mindset should be on a mission, but everyones too. The true character of Christ was serving others even when Im sure he wanted to have people serve him and do what he wanted. 

Me and Elder Masula get along really well, we both love ping pong and our chapel has a table, and I was beating him and he said "Tonight we need some companionship inventory" haha. He is a great teacher. I love working with him.

I have been focusing on listening to the spirit more, I just want to share the gospel and speak the language so I can teach them clearly. A talk in the MTC we heard was by Carlos Godoy and when He was being taught the missionaries told him that this was the same church as when Christ was on the earth, it was back. He was so excited and made so much sense he just ran home and told his parents and they blew him off and he literally shook them and yelled "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND, IT WAS GONE AND NOW IT IS BACK, THIS IS THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST, THE SAME ONE, ITS BACK!" That's the kind of enthusiasm I feel I have and am so disappointed when people don't understand the authority and need of organization. 

I've been reading a lot of conference talks and love what they say, and encourage you to read Elder Gifford Nielsons, he was funny to listen to. But he gives 3 steps to how members can be missionaries. And L. Tom Perry said in the mission conference "This is the most exciting era the church has ever seen. It is up there with the first vision and book of mormon" That is so awesome. In D&C 6:3 it says the field is white and ready to harvest. It wasn't gray, or dark, it was white and ready. It is really white and we all need to get to work! 

And remember that opposition is the indispensable element of mortality, and strengthens us and refines us. Christ's healing begins with faith. (See elder timothy j. dyches talk)

I love you all and hope you have a great week. All the Tacloban missionaries are safe, and 16 of them will be joining The quezon city mission!


Elder Rock

Desert News Photos from Typhoon

Even though Nathan's area wasn't affected, I wanted to post this story because of the blessings that came to all 204 missionaries serving there.

Deseret News Report on the Typhoon

MANILA, Philippines — The water was rising fast.
In the darkness of early morning, Amanda Smith moved away from the window to shield her face from the slashing rain. She had shut it just moments before to ward off the raging storm whipping through the palm trees outside.
But now the wind had ripped it open, and the wooden shutters were slamming violently against the wall again and again. Sister Smith, an LDS missionary from Elk Ridge, Utah, couldn’t see anything outside, but she could smell the sea, which seemed to be getting closer and closer. They had to get out of here.
She had heard about the storm three days before, from a driver of a pedicab. It was typhoon season, and tropical storms were common in the Philippines. Still, the last storm warning had produced nothing but blue skies. Some of the missionaries wondered if this time would be any different.
There were nine missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with her in the house, a two-story structure made of cement blocks. They were young women from Utah and Alaska and the Philippines, all about her own age, 19. They had done what they could to prepare, hastily assembling 72-hour kits, and had even bought candles and rope, just like their mission president had asked, even though no one in the house thought either would be necessary.
Now, as water roared down the streets toward them, Sister Smith realized no preparations were too small. The worst storm in generations had just hit landfall.
Bracing for the worst
More than 300 miles to the north, in an apartment in the capital of Manila, Elder Ian S. Ardern sat watching CNN. A former mission president with salt and pepper hair and an easy smile, he couldn’t help but feel a looming sense of dread about what was unfolding. On the screen, the typhoon churned, a monster on a path no one could stop. Winds would eventually reach 200 miles per hour.
As first counselor in the Philippine Area Presidency, Elder Ardern worried directly about the 675,000 LDS Church members living in the Philippines, particularly the thousands living in the eye of the storm in and around a city of 235,000 called Tacloban, as well as the entire population.
A native of New Zealand, he had seen his fair share of typhoons, and knew firsthand their destructive power. He hoped the members, and the young missionaries, had heeded the call to prepare.
Days before the storm hit, his office had been sending out warnings to the 21 mission presidents in the Philippines, with maps regularly updating and charting the course of the typhoon. Prepare emergency kits, they had advised. And get to a safe place, which for many members meant a chapel.
The area presidency had asked each of the mission presidents to call in when the storm subsided to report damages and the status of their missionaries. Elder Ardern watched the news as the sun began to rise over the Philippines and waited for the first phone call to come in. He braced for the worst.
Rising panic
Sister Smith had always wanted to be a missionary, ever since she was a little girl growing up in Minnesota, toting her scriptures to Primary, learning to play hymns like “I am a Child of God” on the piano. She’d put in her mission papers as soon as she turned 19.
She had been excited to go to the Philippines. But in some ways, she seemed too delicate for this place, with her long, willowy build and fine porcelain skin. The Philippines wasn’t exactly clean, and some things had taken getting used to — rice for every meal, the choking smell of exhaust on the clogged streets, cold showers from a bucket. But she had also fallen in love with the place — the sweet smell of mangos, the effervescence of the people, the way the language of Waray-Waray had started to roll off the tongue.
One day she sat down on a stool to teach a lesson in a dirt-floor shack and out of nowhere three fuzzy chicks materialized and walked around her legs, the way birds landed on Cinderella’s shoulder, and she thought: What is this magical place?
She had been out five months, her latest area called San Jose, where some of Tacloban’s richest and poorest residents live, some in nice apartments, others in shacks of bamboo and cardboard, a tarp stained by the smoke of cooking fires the only thing passing for a roof, roosters and stray dogs running at their feet.
San Jose sits right on the sea, and so a few days before the storm, just to be safe, the mission president’s assistants (two young men, elders who help the president) asked her and her companion to come farther inland, which is where she was now, with nine other sister missionaries, in a house quickly filling with a black, mucky water.
As the storm worsened, she could feel the house shaking, metal poles outside snapping, animals howling and squealing.
At first, the sisters had all gathered in one central room on the second floor, thinking it the safest place in the house. But the water was now rising to their knees. Metal bars covered every window, preventing an escape outside. With no other choice they would have to go to the first floor, where the water nearly reached the ceiling, and try to open the front door to get out.
They knew the current could pull them out into the ocean, but if they stayed where they were now, they would drown in what had essentially become a box of cement walls.
One by one the sisters slipped into the freezing water on the first floor. A few couldn’t swim; they held tight to their companions. Some of the women started to cry.
Sister Smith was scared too, but she was determined not to let it show. She wanted to stay calm for the others.
The front door was locked with a metal latch on the bottom and the top. One of the sisters dived under the water and unlocked the bottom latch; another reached the top and did the same. But when they tried to open the door it wouldn’t budge. The water pressing from the outside and inside had sealed it shut.
What had been ebbing as a low level panic reached hysteria for some of the sisters, who began weeping and sobbing. Sister Smith could feel the panic rising in her chest too, but she had to stay calm. With a few of the other sisters who had become leaders of the group, she started to sing hymns, their voices muted by the stinky water rising to their chins. They quoted scripture. They prayed. Sister Smith put on a brave face, not daring to say aloud what she was thinking:
“I never thought this is where my life would end.”
Finding survivors
As the storm subsided, the phone in Elder Ardern’s office started to ring. One by one, the presidents of the 21 missions in the Philippines called in, reporting that all their missionaries were safe and accounted for. Except for one. The president from the Tacloban mission never called.
As Elder Ardern waited, the phone rang. Parents from Idaho and Texas called in, frantic for news of their children. The wives of the area presidency took most of the calls, assuring parents that as soon as they had word they’d let them know the status of their missionary children.
More than 24 hours passed and the area presidency still hadn’t heard any word on the status of the 204 Tacloban missionaries. Elder Ardern was pacing when an email finally came in from the mission president. The 38 missionaries in the city of Tacloban were safe. He had negotiated with local government officials to send an email on the only functioning Internet portal in town. As soon as he found the rest of his missionaries he’d be in touch, he promised
Cell service was still impossible, and would be for days, if not weeks. Elder Ardern was relieved, but also worried about the rest of the mission.
The area presidency dispatched every church employee in Cebu and Manila — security and building maintenance and church welfare and others — to go to Tacloban to search for members. They would travel the six hours from Cebu to Tacloban to count survivors, return to Cebu to find a working phone or Internet connection to make a report to church headquarters in Manila, and then head back out in to the wreckage to find more survivors and help.
In one Mormon congregation alone, 95 percent of the members saw their homes destroyed. Scores had lost family members, many carried out to sea with the current, never to return.
Praying for a miracle
The sister missionaries worked together. Sister Schaap punched a hole through an opening in a flimsy wall, and the group of 10 swam through the murky water that would soon carry their journals and clothes and pots and pans out to sea. Those who couldn’t swim clung tightly to their companions.
The sisters used the rope to reach a nearby roof. Sister Smith stood on the rain gutter, the other nine sister missionaries shivering beside her, the rain still coming down in sheets. Hours had passed since the beginning of the storm, and yet the sky above Tacloban was still gray, shrouded by fog.
Sister Smith said thoughts of dying left her mind. But some of the sisters appeared pale and their bodies were shaking. The water was still rising and they feared it would engulf them.
One of the sisters suggested they pray. They huddled closely together, bowed their heads, and with the rain dripping down their chins, asked God to make the water stop. And then, in what Sister Smith could only describe as the greatest miracle of her life, the sea stopped rising.
By the time Elder Ardern arrived in Tacloban four days after the storm, the water had receded, leaving a putrid scene of destruction in its wake. Bloated bodies lay exposed on the sides of the road, some covered by a blanket, or rusty corrugated roofing, others by a moldy piece of cardboard. The stench was sickening.
At one point, the city had tried to conduct a mass burial for 200, but had turned its trucks around when they heard gunfire.
The city had descended into chaos and lawlessness. Survivors of the typhoon had broken into stores that hadn’t been flattened to steal televisions and toys, food, even light fixtures, despite the fact that there was no electricity.
Hours after the storm, the president’s two assistants had made the walk from the mission home to the house where the sisters had been staying. The house was destroyed but they had to kick through the door to get inside. When they found no one, they feared the worse, a sense that only heightened when a neighbor told them they’d seen four sisters leaving for a nearby elementary school.
“There were supposed to be 10,” one of the elders said.
They found all 10 at a nearby elementary school, and soon learned the story of the escape from the house and the hours spent on the roof, praying for someone to find them.
With the sisters now accounted for, the assistants and other missionaries assigned to the mission office fanned out through the city, trying to find the rest of their mission force. A dense cloud cover prevented even satellite phones from working, meaning the missionaries had no way to communicate with missionaries serving in outlying areas.
But these missionaries, they said guided by the spirit and survival instincts, made their way to the mission home. Some walked for four hours. Others hitched a ride on a motorcycle, relying on the kindness of strangers unsure how to feed their own children. One group of missionaries cobbled together more than a thousand dollars and made their way to Tacloban by boat. All 204 missionaries were now accounted for.
The two assistants to the president, one from Dallas and the other from Fiji, stayed with the 10 sisters and others at the mission home, supporting each other, especially at night when gunshots rang out.
With their own food running low, the assistants, under the direction of their mission president, decided they had to make their way to the airport. So before dawn, four days after the storm but again in pouring rain, they headed out with their flashlights pointing the way through the darkness.
“It was the hardest thing,” said one of the assistants. “People had gotten so hungry they had begun to attack each other. The worst part was the smell, the stench of death.”
Some sisters, their feet blistered, could barely walk. The looting had become more severe, and the missionaries had heard rumors that prisoners at the jail, which had lost its electricity and its guards, had simply walked out. The assistants stood at the front and back of the long line of missionaries — dozens and dozens — as they made the long march to the airport.
As they walked, Elder Ardern tried to arrange a flight out. He had booked flights in Manila, but thousands of other survivors had mobbed the Tacloban airport. The ticket agent told him if he wanted a flight out, he’d have to pay more to get his 204 missionaries to safety.
As Elder Ardern tried other options, the missionaries milled about what was left of the airport terminal, its walls blasted out by the gale force winds of the storm. And then, a final miracle.
An Army sergeant with a C-130 airplane, assigned by the U.S. government to fly Americans out of the disaster area, said he had a feeling he should walk through the terminal one more time. As he did, he saw out of the corner of his eye what looked like the nametag of a Mormon missionary. The sergeant, a Mormon himself, asked if the missionary was American. When he said he was, the sergeant told him he could arrange flights out for all the Americans and foreigners in his C-130.
Before the day had ended, many of the missionaries Elder Ardern had come for were flying out of Tacloban. By week’s end, all of the missionaries in the area would be evacuated to Manila, where they would await a new assignment in other missions in the Philippines.
The Road Ahead
It’s a Saturday afternoon in Manila, a week after the storm, the air hot and sticky. Sister Amanda Smith and the nine other survivors are sitting on a bench on the well-manicured grounds of the Philippine Missionary Training Center, talking to a television crew from New York. Their story of survival and resistance will inspire millions, they are told.
Still, it is hard for most of them to talk about their experience, and the things they saw. They said night terrors awake them. And so, just as they did during the storm, they sing hymns and say quiet prayers, hoping for peace, and an ability to leave behind the terror of what they witnessed.
And yet, there is a part of them that wishes they could go back, to help those members and non-members alike, who are still stuck. They are comforted to know that the church has never stopped searching for those that are lost, and that in the coming weeks church officials, from Salt Lake and throughout the Philippines, will continue to push food and medical supplies, blankets and tents, into the areas most affected by the typhoon, to provide relief to Filipinos, whether they are Mormons or not, part of a rescue operation that includes dozens of non-governmental organziations (NGO's), faith groups and governments from around the world.
When the interview with the TV crew is over, Sister Smith and the other sisters hurry to a parking lot, where the missionaries evacuated from Tacloban are boarding vans that will take them to their new area. They hug and cry, bonded by a tragedy they never saw coming, but one they were surprisingly prepared for.
For many, their missions are just beginning.
“It was such a terrible thing we witnessed,” Sister Smith said. “But I learned so much about how people will come together to help others, expecting nothing in return. I saw that from other missionaries, and I saw that from the Philippine people. It’s a lesson I hope I never forget.”

Monday, November 11, 2013

My first week in the Philippines

View from my Apt

Good times with my new Trainer

My trainer is great and super funny!  We really hit it off!

I love the people I am teaching

Another view... Everything is so green!

Eating lots of rice!