Friday, December 27, 2013

December 23rd--It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

My Beloved Family and Friends,
Well this is Christmas week right? So I guess I should tell everyone MAAYONG PASKO! That's Merry Christmas! So I hope that everyone is going to have a great Christmas. This will be my second Christmas as a missionary and in the Philippines. It's super weird actually, I feel like the past year has like not really even happened, if that makes sense. I mean on the one hand it seems like I've been here an eternity, but then when I look back at last Christmas, I can't believe that was a year ago. I don't know, it's hard to understand for me I guess. I guess time is just different for a missionary, just as time is different for God. 

I thought I share some Filipino Christmas Traditions: Filipino culture is usually too poor to really celebrate a big Christmas with Santa and all that stuff. They usually spend all their money on food it looks like to me. People will save for a long time just to eat a big meal on Christmas. Yes there are still gifts and things, but like it's not like you wake up Christmas morning and Santa came and all that stuff. So yeah, just a little different. Another thing they do is they go from house to house singing songs about Jesus and just like regular Christmas songs, but the funny thing is, it's like caroling right? We do that in America. But here in the Philippines they all ask you money! haha. Even like 6 year olds and their friends do it, then they want money! Then you get like a family who comes and does it, asks money again. The funny thing is like, they won't leave until you either come outside and give them money or... no. That's it. They don't leave. Unless it's been like an hour. They'll just stand outside and say Merry Christmas for an hour until you give them money. It's so funny. We actually go out and sing back to them, then pray, then give them a lesson! I've given out 10 referrals to the Branch 1 Sisters because of it, so I hope they get some success from our little funny things that we do while home praying and teaching from our own gate. Sort of funny that they come to us! Anyway, also on Christmas of course all the Catholics go to church! It's the only time of year that they go, except on Holy Week! So it's good for them and harder for us to convert them because all their friends and family attend mass on Christmas so they are all like, this Mormon things not true, because I've got mass with my family. Pretty funny, also weird because they have no clue what they do at their own church, nor can they explain any doctrine, but they know it's true is what they tell us. Super funny, but it's all good! 
Exchanges with the APs

This week I did exchanges in Bacolod with the AP's. I worked with one of the new AP's, Elder Sablan. He's the batch after me, so I've actually been here in the mission longer than he has. He's a Filipino, but from Seattle, Washington. His dad works there and they all live there now. But he was born here in the Philippines. He's a good missionary. His first are was Mabini, I was the one who changed him out. He didn't baptize anyone there in that area, but he planted 1 seed, Karen, which we baptized. Other than that, I mean, the area is super rough so I understand. Anyway, he's baptized a ton of people so that's why he's AP. It was good to work with him, my Illango is like, not there anymore. I can still understand it though, my speaking is a bit off, people had a hard time understanding me. So that's why I was having a rough time on our exchange. I think they should come to our area and speak Cebuano, but I'm not the AP's. I think we're like the same lever of teaching skills if I were to be honest, I guess he just has a way with people that I don't. haha. I don't know. He's companions with Elder Doane right now though. We worked in Bacolod 3rd Ward, probably one of the most established wards in the mission. It's been the AP area for over 2 years now, so they've just had many blessings and very good missionaries the whole time. We visited the bishop and his house is nice, his kids are RM's, his wife feeds us a snack, then they all gather and waited for us to share a message. Super great. Almost... too great of a ward. That's why they get shocked when they hear other things that happen in other missions. Like, "What! That doesn't happen!" It's super funny. That's why I like Elder Wilstead as an AP because he's been assigned in some pretty interesting places like Canlaon, which is still very young. 
Canlaon Area

We had our Zone Conference on Friday, it was good. Elder Barangay and I had to set up everything for it that morning so we were at the church pretty early. It was successful though and yes I conducted the meeting. It was weird, I've never conducted a real meeting before, but it was alright! No problems. We learned a really good way to teach tithing. Usually we teach it 1000-10%=900, but President told us we need to teach it 1000-10%=1000+. So that's something that we're going to have to change. Something interesting that I've never thought of before. We also watched the First Pres. Christmas Devotional, it was good. Some good talks. Although, I wish the 1st Presidency spoke... but I guess it's okay. It was still good. 

This week, I also worked in a place called Cabagtasan. It's a group up the in mountains under branch 1 here in San Carlos. Right now Elder Leng and Elder Bragas are assigned there and Elder Bragas is our District leader. They needed a baptismal interview and it's so far away that we decided to just do exchanges on Saturday and I'd interview their investiagtor there on Sunday and then Canla-on needed an interview as well. From Cabagtasan, there's a motorcyle that will take you over the mountain to Canla-on City, it's a like an hour ride by motor. Totally crazy! Unexplainable! So amazing the view from up on the top of Mount Canla-on... which is a Volcano. haha. It's super cold there, the coldest are in the mission. Their house's water is about 45 degrees. I swear I was going to raft the snake river when I took a shower up there, just so cold! Usually I complain about being hot, but not this time. I slept way good though, it was way cold while sleeping. Very nice! This place is literally on the side of a mountain. I went to church in Cabagtasan, and they don't have a church yet. They just meet in the missionary apartment downstairs, I took a picture of our sacrament meeting. I spoke at Sacrament, then we taught the class, then we listened to gospel doctrine. It was like way cool actually. Super fun and they still had 8 investigators at church and they'll have a baptism this week. There was a total of 28 at church! Not too bad! 
In San Carlos we had 5 investigators at church. Edward, Elma, and Patrick all passed their interviews and we will be having a white Christmas here in San Carlos City at the baptismal font! It's going to be great. The 25th @ 7pm, you need to be there! haha. But We'll take some great pictures, so don't worry, it'll be awesome. We're way excited!

San Carlos Branch Party

I hope that everyone is having a great week and that you're having a great Christmas! Sorry I didn't do much in San Carlos this week, I was gone in other places on the island and doing my Zone Leader duties, I guess you could say. haha. It's been a good and successful week. We've found some good new investigators and we're really trying to work more closely with the members and gain even a better relationship, since I think since they split the area with us and the Sisters, it seems that it's gone down a bit. Merry Christmas! I hope that you are all great and MERRY CHRISTMAS! I hope you take pictures of your Christmas and send them to me! I'd love some pictures of my family, you don't send me pictures that often... so, you should probably do that more! Of the family! haha. Love you guys! Have a great week and a Merry Christmas!
Elder Tomas has Dengue Fever

Elder Ellis

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