Hello! I'm in the Philippines now. It's nice to be here. As you know yes it's hot, humid, rainy, all of the above. Besides that point it's really nice here. I'm in the northern part of the island; Cadiz Zone. My area is Victorias. I'm serving in the 2nd Ward. Our area is quite huge. There's sooooo many houses! I love it here. I live in a two story house, no AC, has a ref and stove, we sleep on the floor because it's too hot upstairs, so we bring our mattresses down to the first floor. It's sort of like our living room. Our house is very dirty, but I've been told it's one of the nicest houses in the mission. It's exclusively for missionaries. A member owns the house, so we see him often. Thursday was my first day here (in the mission home). President Lopez let us sleep in because we didn't start our training meeting until noon. However with the time change we still got up at 6am. So we got up and got dressed and things. The mission home apparently just got renovated, so it was very nice. Air-Con and all! For breakfast we ate fresh mangoes, bananas, banana bread, cinnamon roll, and MILO :) So good! Then I was handed a package from Courtney haha. Everyone's like, "you already have a package" SO FUNNY! So thanks Courtney for the package! Then we walked around the barangay (or neighborhood) and saw what it had to offer. It was hot haha. Then we went back to the mission home and ate Thanksgiving. Turkey, potatoes, pretty much standard Thanksgiving food. No stuffing, we had rice instead LOL! After Thanksgiving I got assigned my companion. His name is Elder Doverte. He's from Luzon, which is northern part of Manila area. He does speak English, so that's been a blessing honestly. My language is okay, I'm understanding more each day, but I can't really talk much. I can talk, but the only problem is I don't know what they say back to me, so it's a bit weird. Thursday he showed me around Victorias and I really liked it. Nice city. Okay, nice in terms of 3rd world. But still, I like it here. Elder Doverte is 26. A convert to the church at age 19, so he's a really great guy. Fluent in Illango and Tagolog. So it's nice to have him around. I'm a lot taller than most people here! Kinda cool, but I do stick out like a sore thumb. Friday was my first full day. Woke up did all the good missionary stuff, during the first 12 weeks you get an extra hour of companion study for language and practice teaching lessons so we left the house around 1. We went to a place called Ditching. SOOO Far away. My Tri-ci-cab it's about 15 min. And Dad, it's like Jamaica... no rules on the road. I usually ride on the side of the cab, not really inside. It's too small for my American legs. We taught some recent converts out in Ditching and then went to Cane Town. Yes, a lot of Sugar Cane! The whole island smells like fire! So, I think Dad can relate a lot to it. Friday night we talked with the ward mission leader, His name is Jon. He's 19 and leaves for a mission in 1 week to Luzon, up by Manila. His mom served a mission and speaks English. The people here are shy to speak to me in English because they think that they are going to speak bad or something. Honestly right now I don't care. I love people who speak English to me. Saturday was another good day. I was a witness at a baptism. It was really nice. The spirit was so strong. So that was fun. Then we went to the plaza because I had to buy some soap and shampoo. So that was fun. It was super hot, so I bought a sprite. Instead of giving me the bottle, they put it in a zip-loc "ish" bag and then gave me a straw to drink out of it so they could reuse the bottle. So that was interesting. After that we went and taught some more. Tracting isn't allowed here as you know, so we teach a lot of inactives and part-member families. That was fun. Sunday was Sunday. Our church starts at 8:30 (Priesthood) so that was fun. There was 7 people in Priesthood including Elder Doverte and I, so that was interesting. They sing so loud though, so the spirit is super strong there as well. Then we had Sunday School. They try to teach in English, but sometimes they can't really say what they're trying to say, so they just Speak Illango. I understand some of it. Then I spoke in Sacrament. In Illango. Just my testimony and introduced myself. So that was fun. The members here at SO NICE! True Latter-Day Saints. Not fake ones. They're so nice! SO nice! I've been fed like 4 times already. One of them was fish, and we know how I am with fish... so I just prayed that I wouldn't throw up. So that was a blessing I didn't. But I ate what was on my plate. Oh, the head was still on it and everything, so that was nice :) Last night we taught the Demandar family. They're planning on going to the temple in 2 weeks to Cebu. They don't have electricity in their house so we taught by candle light, so that was fun. Great experience. I was able to share a scripture with them in Mosiah 2:6 about the temple and how to be focused on the temple. So that was a great lesson.
So some things that I want to share. The first night I was hear I saw a woman "feed" her baby. I knew it was going to happen sometime I just didn't think on my first day. Tapos, I like the no TP thing :) 3rd, when I got here we have zero investigators and as of right now we have 3! So that's awesome :)
I really love it here! The people are great. The food actually isn't that bad, except that fish, but that's okay! I'll get used to it. Everything is good and dandy here in Victorias. It's supposed to be the nicest area... so I'd honestly hate to see what the other areas look like you know? For who ever is reading this Elder Garner is in my district! I'm sitting next to him writing this email. So that's pretty cool I've finally got to see him. Tomorrow is district meeting so I'll get to see him tomorrow too. He's the Zone Nurse LOL! NURSE! HAHAHAHA! So that's good. I'll try to send pictures but I'm not sure... we'll see what I can do.
Last Email from the Field:
Dear Friends and Family,
It's weird to think right now that the 2 years are up. On Saturday night I had a hard time sleeping and I could honestly replay all the memories of my mission in my head. I remember so well my first day at the MTC, my first day in the field, and now my last talk I gave in Sacrament meeting yesterday. I can't believe it's been 2 years. I know I've said things like ah, it's taking forever, or complained, but honestly, when I look now, I can't believe I've been gone for that long. With that being said, my last email right now will be short and to the point. We don't have much time today. I have to take my things to the mission office and I haven't finished packing because I did my laundry this morning at 5am outside and it wasn't that fun. But it's still drying, so I have some waiting time. Print pictures. Eat lunch. Finish packing. Go to the mission office and drop off my luggage and then we have a FHE tonight at our Investigators families house. Last night I said goodbye to a lot of people and the young women. You will not believe how many of the young cried that I'm leaving. I've kept it a secret that we're still going to be here, nobody from this ward knows but the Bishop and our Ward Mission Leader. We'll also be attending my last baptism on Saturday ;) I was surprised. I got tons of letters from the Young Men and Women saying goodbye and they'll miss me. It was really nice, I'll sure miss them too. This has been a really good ward for sure.
I was thinking on Saturday night while preparing for my Sunday talk what have I gained from coming on a mission? I think I've gained a lot better testimony of The Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know how Him and His gospel. I know He helps us in all our trails and supports in our hardships. I know I've had plenty of experiences with trails and things, most I don't really share with y'all because I just keep it all up beat and happy. Even everyone in the mission, missionaries, anyone, always says I'm just happy! All the time. Which is true. It really is. I don't know why, but despite the fact of things that happen or our unsuccessful work, I know that I've been doing the right things and serving the Lord and our Father in Heaven. So why should I be down at all? I shouldn't. I honestly hope that I can apply all the things I've learned here in my mission in my life. I think this has been an experience that I'll never regret for my entire life. Ever. I know I've worked hard. I know I'm a bit different than other missionaries and you don't have to look far to notice that because I'm just an upbeat and just loose person. In the long run though, I think it's honestly worked so much to my advantage. The way I've been raised, my work experience, my school experience, my social experiences, my church experience have all prepared me for this journey and now this is just one more thing to prepare me for the rest of my life. Yesterday I had the worst feeling ever. While I was talking in Sacrament meeting, I just had the feeling overcome me that I'll never be the same to these people. I'm a missionary now and they come and go. They're loved and lost. Obviously converts remember, but just the ordinary members. They just remember whether you were a good missionary or a bad one. It's hard leaving so many friends behind, I've mad soooo many new friends and people and I feel like a part of me really does belong here. I feel I've adopted the culture almost too much... haha. I'm a true Filipino! I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true and living church on the face of the earth. I know the Prophet, Joseph Smith was a Prophet called from God, who saw Him and the Son and they spoke to him. I know the Priesthood is a real living and breathing power. I know the Holy Ghost is given to all the believe on Christs name and are baptized and that have the power with them wheve ever they go for protection and guidance, if living correctly. I know all the things are true. I challenge anyone who hasn't been on a mission, doubting their testimony, or is struggling to read the Book of Mormon. There is a power in that Book. I've read it many time on my mission now and it's the only thing that got me through all the hardships. I know it's from God. I love the Book of Mormon.
I love you all and I honestly thank everyone for the prayers and support that y'all have given me the past 2 years. It's been up, down, and all around, but it's been the best! Love y'all so much! Have a great week! I'll see y'all super super soon ;)