Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas in the Philippines

Dear Family and Friends,

     I'm officially finished with my first Christmas in the mission field.  It was an odd mixture of being homesick, tired, and really excited at the same time.  We had our Christmas Zone Conference and it was a blast.  President Mangum delivered an amazing message on the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  He has redone the whole training plan of the mission.  The whole thing is now centered around discovering and teaching the Atonement.  He kept saying, "Elders and Sisters, the ATONEMENT IS NOT A DOWNER DOCTRINE."  He told us to practice teaching the Atonement with a smile on our face.  It's a lot harder than it sounds.

     It's helped me realize that we really are helpless without the Atonement.  I always say in lessons, "Kung walang Pagbabayad-sala, walang pag-aasa sa atin." (Without the Atonement, there is no hope for us)  The Atonement is the true gift of Christmas and it really is the good news of the Gospel.  

     As far as our work, we have been having a really hard time finding new investigators lately.  Since referrals are extremely rare, we are left to tracting.  This is probably the hardest part of missionary work for me, but there truly are blessings that come from it.  We are going to be doing a lot of walking over the next few weeks.  We have been asking the office for bikes, because we walk for about 45 minutes to an hour between some appointments on gravel roads through rice fields.  Let's just say that bikes would be a truly appreciated Christmas gift here.  It would also give me a tiny taste of the mountain biking I've been craving.  That's all for now!  Thanks for all of your support and Christmas letters!
Maligayang Bagong Taon! (Happy New Year!)
- Elder English

Monday, December 22, 2014

White Christmas

Pamilya at mga Kaibigan,

     I've definitely been dreaming of a white Christmas.  I guess I got it in a different way than I was expecting.  We had to postpone the baptisms of Joseph and Jessica because of the typhoon so we got a baptism the week of Christmas!  Every missionary's greatest wish.  It was a great experience and very spiritual.  I know that both of them will be future leaders in the church. 
Baptisms of Joseph (23 years old) and Jessica (19 years old)

     We also had some other great news this week.  The president of the Oriental Mindoro district attended the Socorro group this week and he said that we are about 95 percent of the way to becoming a branch and that the whole district presidency has been very surprised at the progress in the Socorro area the past month.  He said it's been stagnant here for about the last 25 years and things have really turned around (in Tagalog of course).  I guess my companion and I hit it at just the right time.  We've also been focusing on being exactly obedient lately, and we have felt more power in our work and our teaching.

     We also have Christmas zone conference this week.  We will be traveling to Lipa and staying in a hotel.  With a shower head, hot water, and a flushing toilet!!  That's what everyone is the most excited for.  We really live in our own little world here on Mindoro.  That's all I really have for this week.  I'm definitely feeling the Christmas spirit here in the Philippines and it's great.  I think that I have heard more carolers in the past week than my whole life in Utah.  It is really popular here, especially for the little kids since the people in the house usually give them a few pesos.  Thanks for all of your support!  Maligayang Pasko! 

- Elder English 

 This is in Calapan. (Where the port for the island is.)  We were there for a Zone Training Meeting and they had a huge display at the capitol with all these cartoon characters.  It was really random.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Post Typhoon

Pamilya at mga Kaibigan,

     This week we had the opportunity to see quite a few miracles in our area (this might be a long email).  We got back to our area on Thursday afternoon and we decided that unpacking could wait.  We threw our packs on the ground, had a quick companionship study, and headed out.  We visited all of our members and investigators.  We  were very surprised to find that none of their houses had been damaged by the typhoon even though we got hit by the weakest part of it.  Most of the houses where we work are designed to be able to be rebuilt quickly after a storm instead of withstanding the storm.  Most of the people we teach just don't have the means to buy building materials.  Surprisingly, we heard from almost all of our investigators and members that they would be able to attend church and all of our investigators had been reading the Book of Mormon.  I guess no electricity for 5 days was a blessing in disguise.  

     My companion and I had a pretty intense experience where we both had to become really bold.  We are teaching an elderly couple who have been taught by three sets of missionaries now.  We taught two lessons to them and it felt like we were getting nowhere.  We taught them again and the same thing was starting to happen.  They were saying that they believed the Book of Mormon was true, but nothing was happening.  I was getting really tired of just teaching in circles with them.  I finally just asked, "Tatay, bakit hindi pa kayong mabinyagan?" (Brother, why haven't you been baptized?)  I'm pretty sure that the grammar is incorrect and my companion looked at me like I had just said something horrible.  Then he proceeded to say that he was born "a certain religion" and he was going to die "in that same religion", and that he didn't think it was necessary to join another church because God knew his desires.  My companion and I proceeded to tell him that faith isn't actually faith until we act.  We left feeling like we had just insulted him and his wife.  Then we saw his wife walking down the street the  next day pushing her husband in his wheelchair on their way to our sacrament meeting.  It was pouring rain and they didn't have an umbrella, and it's about a two mile walk from their house to the chapel.  My companion and I just stared at each other for a while and then ran out into the rain to help them.  

     This experience has helped me see that sometimes we need to be bold.  One of the biggest things in the missionary training is to be bold, but loving.  It can be a hard balance to find, but it really shows that we care about what we are teaching and who we are teaching it to. 

     Well, that's my miracle for the week and my companion and I are starting to see our hard work pay off as the district presidency is starting to talk to us about getting a new meeting house for Socorro and for the Socorro group to become a branch as we have really been focusing on the priesthood holders.  The Group has really come a long way in the past few weeks and all the leaders in the area have been surprised at the progression.  The Lord really is blessing the members here in Socorro.

     Thank you for all of your support and emails.  I really don't have much time to respond, but please know that I really do appreciate it.  The work is moving forward here in the Philippines!

- Elder English

Some fun at the beach on our zone p-day. The picture actually happened on accident.  There's a soccer ball, you just can't see it.

10 elders in one apartment waiting for the typhoon.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Typhoon Hagupit

We didn't receive our regularly scheduled letter from Bradyn, but he sent me a very brief one on Thursday evening (US time) warning us of potential issues he may be facing due to the anticipated super typhoon to hit the Philippines.  Below is his quick e-mail and one from the mission president.

Hey Mom,
     Just wanted to tell you a few things.  President is letting us send a little heads up home to our families even though it's Friday.  There is currently a category 4 super typhoon off the coast of the Philippines that is projected to hit us.  Don't worry, our apartment is in a very safe place and they are really making sure that we are prepared so it won't be a problem.  We might not be able to email on monday, but the mission home will send you an email as soon as they can to notify families.  They asked that we please don't call the mission home.  They're taking care of everything.  We have lots of food and water and towels so we should be fine.  Love you!


Friday, 5 December 2014

Dear Philippines San Pablo Mission Family,

You are probably already aware of Typhoon Hagupit, locally referred to as Ruby, which is off of the coast of the Philippines and headed our way. We have been tracking the storm for the past few days and have been working to prepare our missionaries for its arrival. The latest projections show it is tracking directly toward our mission and it will arrive sometime this weekend or early next week. The speed of the storm has been decreasing so it is difficult to estimate when it will reach us.

All of our missionaries have been alerted to prepare for the storm and have been given very specific instructions about how to prepare. We are working to relocate missionaries from coastal lines and areas that might be prone to flooding, mudslides, etc. We are being overly cautious and conservative in the approach we are taking to protect your missionaries.

Given the timing of the storm, you may not receive an email on Monday, which is your normal day to hear from your missionary. Don’t panic if you don’t hear from them. In July we lost internet service for a period of time following the storm and I assume we will have the same experience with this storm. I will allow your missionary to email home as soon as services have been restored. As soon as possible following the storm, I will send an email confirming that everyone is well and accounted for and give you a brief update.

Please continue to keep our missionaries and the Philippines in your prayers. Our hope and prayers are that the storm will weaken as it reaches us and all of our preparations will have been unnecessary. We are preparing for the worst while praying and hoping for the best.

Thanks for the amazing sons and daughters you have consecrated to the Lord’s service. It is Sister Mangum and I’s great privilege to serve them and serve with them!

President Mangum

Monday, December 1, 2014

Working Hard

Dear Family and Friends,

     It's been another great week of hard work in Socorro.  We have two investigators (brother and sister) who are really close to baptism.  They're both doing really well with their reading and we're so excited for them.  They are both very tall and we don't know if the miniature baptismal font in Pinamalayan will be big enough for them.  So I might be having my first baptism here sa dagat. (in the ocean)  That's an experience that I'm definitely excited for.  

     Other than that, things are going well.  My companion and I are getting to know each other better and I'm slowly getting to know the members.  There is a lot of work to be done here.  We have a separate area book for less-actives and let's just say it's a lot bigger than our area book for investigators.  We are focusing on one barangay (a subdivision of a city; village) at a time and then moving on to the next one when we feel that we have a good support system there.  Our group leader's name is Brother Ramon.  He is 21 years old and a recent convert.  He's awesome.  I've really come to respect how strong the members here are.

     So things are going great and it feels like it's just me and my companion against the world. (but we know that we can do it)  We are very isolated and it's good that we are both willing to work hard.  You could get away with a lot out here if you didn't want to be obedient.  (He mentioned that the Cranstons from California, a senior couple, visit them every other week.) The only place where we can buy food that we don't have to cook is an Angel's Burger.  You can get two cheese burgers for 36 pesos. (90 cents)  It's a good thing that my companion is a good cook or I would be really unhealthy.  That's all I have for now.  Thanks for all of your letters and support!
- Elder English

With my companion, Elder Santos.

What all of the fields look like right now.

 The miniature baptismal font in Pinamalayan.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Transfers and The Island Life

Family and Friends,

     I've been transferred!  My new area is Socorro, Mindoro.  It is about as far away as you can get from the mission home and my companion and I are pretty isolated out here.  The other missionaries affectionately refer to our area as "outer darkness".  The Socorro branch isn't actually a branch.  It is a group.  There is a really interesting story that goes with Socorro.  A few years ago, they pulled the missionaries out of Socorro, because of some things that were going on in the branch.  After that, the whole Socorro branch dissolved and just went away.  We are the second group of missionaries to come into Socorro after it was reopened.  Now it is just a group of about 15 active members and two active priesthood holders.  Let's just say that I was a little overwhelmed by the whole situation at first.  There is a lot of work that needs to be done here, and my companion and I are really excited.  

     My new companion is Elder Santos.  He's 19 years old and only speaks a little bit of English.  I'm really excited to improve my Tagalog a lot here.  On Mindoro, they speak the deepest form of Tagalog you can find in the Philippines and I'm in a very provincial area.  We spend almost all of our time here visiting inactive families.  It has amazed me to see them pull out their old Books of Mormon and dust them off, and then commit to come back to church.  

     I had to travel all by myself from Calamba to the Batangas port (about three hours).  Then it was a three hour boat ride to Mindoro.  Then it was another 2 hour drive to our area.  We only have district meetings once a month because of the travel time and expenses.  

     That's all the information I have about my area right now.  I'm getting pretty talented at walking on muddy trails in the jungle without getting my pants dirty.  Other than that, I'm really excited to get to know the area and my companion better.  There is an unbelievable amount of work to do here, but we can't wait to get to work.
- Elder English

Our current meeting house.

 What we see outside of our apartment.

My last week with Elder Torio.  We had this service project while it was pouring rain.  My first service project with machetes and bamboo.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Transfer Week

Pamilya at mga Kaibigan,

     This week was an awesome last week for me and my trainer.  Our mission president emailed us personally and told us that we need to increase our oym's.  An oym (open your mouth) is when you are able to share a gospel truth with someone and extend an invitation to them.  My trainer took the liberty of telling the mission president that we would get 50 this week.  I was a little apprehensive, but we decided we were going to do it for our last week together.  We talked to everyone on jeepneys, tricycles, people sitting outside their houses, and anyone else who would listen.  It's probably the scariest thing that I've ever done.  My Tagalog has definitely improved a lot this week.  So after a crazy week, we counted up the names in the back of our planners and found that we had 101 oym's.  We were freaking out.  It really is the most fulfilling feeling to conquer something that you never would have even thought of doing before.

     We still haven't found out what is happening with transfers.  Only people on the islands are notified on Monday, and the rest of us tomorrow.  My trainer goes home on December 29, and we're almost positive that one of us will be transferred.  He says It's good so that I can get away from him before he gets trunky.  I went on exchanges with our district leader the other day, and I've realized how much I've learned and also how much I still need to learn.

     I've really come to love the area and the members here in Calamba.  Our ward had Its primary program this week and it was a great success.  The theme was "Families are Forever".  We had a lot of investigators their and we know it was a really powerful message for them.  Our investigators are doing well.  It is very difficult for some people here in the Philippines to get to church every week, so we're trying to help them any way that we can.  We really are blessed to know what we need to do in order to have eternal families.  I've always known the Plan of Salvation growing up, so I never though that we would be teaching people who believe that they won't know their family after they die.  Teaching lessons is turning from stressful to fun a little bit more every day, and everything is going great! 

     Thank you also to all the ward members, family members, and friends that are writing me.  I might not be able to respond, but just know that I really do appreciate it.
- Elder English

Monday, November 10, 2014

Missing Autumn in Utah

Family and Friends,

     It has been another great week here in Calamba with lots of successes, failures, and interesting experiences.  We have been a little frustrated with a few things.  We have two investigators who are both ready to be baptized.  The only problem is that they are in less-active families.  We have a very strict rule that we cannot baptize them until we reactivate the parents.  We have been working really hard at it but they just don't seem interested in coming back to church.  It has been really hard for the investigators, but we know that everything will work out.  

     Other than that, things have been great.  We have been finding little ways to get around the traffic problems.  Even if it means leaving an hour of travel time in between some appointments even though they're only about 5 miles away.  Let's just say we've put some wear on our shoes this week.  

     Transfers are next week.  I don't know if I will be transferred or not.  My companion said that the mission president likes the missionaries who have just finished their training to lead the area.  So he thinks that I will stay where I am for right now.  My companion and I have just gotten to the point where we feel like we can teach fluently together, but I know that's how a mission works.  We're going to make our last week together the best one yet.  

     My language is getting better and my trainer is having me lead all the lessons.  It can be really hard when it feels like the lesson is stalling out.  I'm learning to just listen to the Spirit and not to hesitate when I get a prompting.  We really are so blessed to have the Holy Ghost as a guide in our lives and to always know that our Heavenly Father is watching us.  Even though I am really missing the Utah Fall weather.  That's all I have for this week.  I know I will have a lot to write next week for transfers.  Thank you all for all of your support!  
- Elder English

Playing baseball in the rice fields with pieces of bamboo and a volleyball.

This little boy (Gerald) always comes up and talks to us.  I've learned a lot of Tagalog from trying to talk with him.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Great Week!


Pamilya at mga Kaibigan,

     My companion and I had a great week.  We had the opportunity to be taught personally by Elder Lynn G. Robbins.  He started out by having us make a list on the board of different excuses and ways that we rationalize.  He referred to this as 'the list' for the rest of the time.  He said, "The second that you make an excuse, the very second that you rationalize or go to 'the list', you lose control of your life.  Having 100 percent agency means that you have 100 percent responsibility."  He basically told us to accept the results of our work and make sure we will be proud of those results.  It was a really inspiring message.

     My companion and I had a really great week.  We have six investigators with a baptismal goal date, and every single one of them came to church!  We were ecstatic.  We also had two less active families that we have been teaching come to church yesterday.  We could really tell that they felt the Spirit during the testimony meeting.  We also got to teach two referrals after church that the members had prepared for us.  They both accepted baptismal goal dates.  I'm always nervous about extending a date in the first lesson and I always think that everyone will just say no.  But I've come to realize that if we are bold when we teach, they are more likely to feel the Spirit.

     Everything else is going well.  I've become addicted to this chocolate drink here called Chuckie.  It's the closest thing they have to chocolate milk that I can afford.  My family knows how much I love chocolate milk.  Any dairy products here are crazy expensive.  Other than being hot all of the time (even though everyone is wearing big coats when it gets dark) everything is going great and we're just excited to get out and teach every day.

- Elder English

The view out of the back of the San Pablo chapel
(city where the mission home is located)...... 

......and a view of part of my area (Calamba).

The first car that I've been in for 3 months..... 

....and a turtle that I saw on the street that I thought Brock and Dad would like.

Monday, October 27, 2014

First Baptism

Pamilya at mga Kaibigan,

     My companion and I had a kind of rough week.  We didn't really accomplish any of our goals.  We weren't even close on a lot of them.  It's very hard to teach people in this area.  You would think that it would be easier to get around in more of a city area, but it's actually a lot harder.  Everyone wants to be taught on the weekends when they have time, but the traffic through Calamba Friday through Saturday is bumper to bumper the whole day.  We are trying to figure out a way to get around it so that we can teach the people that we need to.

     The highlight of the week was definitely Brother Harry's baptism.  We had the baptism on Thursday because he always has reservations at the resort on the weekends.  It was a great experience for everyone.  We were all scared because just a few minutes before the baptism there was no one there.  My companion walked into the room and said, "Ay, walang tao!"  (I think this means, no one or nobody?)  Then in true Filipino fashion, everyone, including the ward mission leader, the bishop, and the speakers, showed up at the absolute last minute.  We were very relieved.  I had the opportunity to perform the ordinance for Brother Harry and it was an awesome experience.  He was confirmed yesterday in church and he is slowly starting to introduce his family into the church.  He is very careful not to force them.  He wants it to be their decision.

Bro. Harry's baptism

     We keep reminding him that this is only the first step of membership in the church and he still has so much more to accomplish.  He actually went up to the bishop and said, "So when can I get the priesthood so I can use it for my family?"  (in Tagalog of course)  The Bishop was pleasantly surprised and pulled him right into his office for the interview.  It's been amazing to see how the gospel can change someone's life and how many people they can affect.  My companion and I are very excited because we realized that we have quite a few baptisms to follow. 

With Bro. Harry after his confirmation.

     On another note, we haven't had the opportunity to visit the Exporna family again, but we did hear something about a branch president last time we talked with them. So I'm pretty sure it's the same person that everyone is talking about.  It's really cool to find connections that spread so far.  

     Thanks again for all of your support!  We also found out that Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the seventy will be teaching us tomorrow in San Pablo City.  He gave the talk in conference about "Which way do you face?"  We are super excited to hear him.  Even though it means an early morning, two hour jeepney ride.
- Elder English

View outside the church.

 Riding in a trike.  We were going really fast and it was raining.

Monday, October 20, 2014

New Discovery


Pamilya at mga Kaibigan,
     My companion and I had a great week.  We didn't get as much teaching done as we wanted to, but we were able to find a lot of people to teach.  We decided to go to a different area in our neighborhood that we had never been to before.  We were walking through all of the houses and my companion and I realized that we didn't understand anything the people were saying.  We started talking to people and apparently the whole area is Ilocano. (Another group and dialect of the Philippines.)  They were really friendly and we found a lot of new people to teach.  I've discovered that tracting here is probably not the same as it is in the US. (They met someone from Pasuquin, Brgy. 1 with the name of Exporna. Sound familiar to anyone?)

"The trail to the new area."

     We have our first baptism this week and I'm super excited.  Brother Harry is getting baptized and he had his interview last night at his house.  It's been a really cool experience seeing him progress in the Gospel.  I think he knows more about the doctrine and history of the church than most members do.

     The members in our area are great.  We always have young men who are willing to go out and work with us, and members are always preparing referrals for us.  I feel like I got really lucky with my first area.  The weather is starting to cool down, or less hot, and it's cloudy and rainy a lot.  I have been very thankful for that.  I still haven't adjusted to the weather here.   

     "We forgot our umbrellas."

     My favorite experience this week was when we got to teach a little 9-year-old boy.  His whole family are members, but are currently inactive.  We used the Gospel Art Book and taught as simply as we could.  It has been amazing to see his family rally around him and help him to read the Book of Mormon.  Through teaching him, we have been able to strengthen the testimonies of the rest of the families.  It has helped me realize that the Gospel really is for everyone and anyone can gain a testimony that it is true.  

"The path to and view from one of our investigator's houses."

     I'm slowly adjusting, my language is getting better, and it is getting a little easier to get out of bed every morning.  I am missing the fall weather though.  Thanks for all of your support.  Things are going great!

- Elder English

"We made a little Christmas scene in our freezer.  We don't use it because any food that we buy, we cook and eat that day."

Monday, October 13, 2014

General Conference

Family and Friends,

     I finally got to watch Conference after hearing everyone talk about it all week.  I really don't know if I can pick a favorite speaker, but I always love listening to President Eyring speak.  He is so genuine and you can tell that he really cares about what he is saying.  This is a skill that I have been trying to develop in teaching.  I also loved President Uchtdorf's talk on the perspective that the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers.  It is amazing to see the realization in people's eyes when we teach the Plan of Salvation.  When they realize what they can become and what their purpose is on earth, their whole life changes.  I also really liked how speakers gave their talks in their native languages.  After we got back to the apartment, my companion said the prayer for our lunch in his native language of Pangasinan (one of the many dialects of the Philippines).  I was really confused because I wasn't understanding anything and I started to get really scared.  He said he did it because of general conference.  He thought it was pretty funny.

     The work is going great and Brother Harry is getting baptized next week.  I'm so excited for my first baptism.  I'm excited for him of course.  He is so prepared and now he is starting to share the Restoration with his family and his neighbors.  He even referred his boss to us and offered to come teach her with us.  I thought that was amazingly brave of him.  He said now he just wants to share the Gospel with everyone.

     I had the opportunity to eat KFC at the SM this last week.  It was weird to be eating a drumstick of Kentucky Fried Chicken with rice and gravy.  It was nice to eat some mashed potatoes again though.  Everything is going great and I feel like General Conference gave me a little boost to go out and work really hard this week.  Thanks for all of your support. 

Ingat kayo!
Elder English

Monday, October 6, 2014

At Full Strength


Family and Friends,

     This week has been great.  My companion and I are both at full strength, finally.  It was really nice to start getting in full days of work again.  We got two more investigators with baptismal goal dates and 7 new investigators.  My favorite experience was last night (Sunday).  A few weeks ago we met a man on the street while we were looking for a referral.  He was very interested and we set a return appointment, but a lot of things happened in the last week, so we weren't able to go.  We dropped by last night and he was just home from work and his whole family was there.  They didn't have enough chairs for all of us so we all sat on the dirt/concrete floor and we taught them the Restoration.  The spirit was really strong and they all committed to be baptized if they come to know that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith is a true prophet. 
     My companion and I have really been trying to get our lessons to take less time.  Especially the first lesson.  We have been practice teaching and we only say a few sentences for each principle.  We have noticed that our teaching is much more powerful when we just teach simple, powerful truths.  Our goal is for all of our lessons to only take about thirty minutes.  We can also get a lot more work done this way.
     We actually don't get to watch Conference until next Sunday, so I haven't seen any of it yet.  I have heard a couple of quotes and I'm getting so excited.  I have never been more excited for a general conference in my life.  I have finally realized how amazing it is that we have a living prophet today.  We are so blessed to have someone that can simply tell us what God wants us to do right now in our lives.  We are going to the stake center in Cabuyao to watch it.

     The more we travel around our area, the more I realize how different and beautiful it is.  I am missing the chilly evenings back in Utah though.  If I feel myself thinking about home, all I do is focus on the work, and I completely forget about it.  The Christmas celebration is in full swing in the Philippines.  That part is still really weird for me.

"Just a picture of the mountains and the trail we take to get to some of our investigators."
     Our work is going great and we are finally working full days again.  I have realized that when you forget about yourself, the Lord really helps you with whatever you are trying to do.  Even if it is waking up in the mornings.  Thanks for all of your support!  Things are going great.  We are on schedule to have four baptisms this month and we are so excited.

-Elder English

"My companion and I take pictures of each other if we fall asleep."
 (Strategy for staying awake while studying??)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Recovery Week

Dear Pamilya at mga Kaibigan (family and friends),
     I have been slowly recovering from my fever, and we are slowly getting back to work.  It was really frustrating to sit in the apartment and not be able to learn any new Tagalog, but things are almost back to normal now.  I feel fine, except sometimes, I just get really tired and I have to sit down for a little.  

This is our apartment.

     Right now, we have three investigators set to be baptized this month.  They are all amazing.  My best friend right now is Brother Harry.  He was already being taught when we came to the area, and we just picked up where the other elders left off.  He is a care taker at a resort, so we teach him in this bamboo hut next to the swimming pool at the resort where he works.  He is 44 years old, and the first time I saw him, he walked out in a tank-top and shorts, without shoes on.  Then he sat down and started asking questions about the pioneers and Oliver Cowdery.  I was blown away.  We found out that he had read the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, and Our Heritage, which is about the history of the church.  He committed to baptism in the first lesson we taught him, but his work makes it very hard for him to attend church.  He said he is praying for a new job so he can go to church and he wants to teach his kids and neighbors about Joseph Smith.  His faith is so strong.  Teaching him has helped me realize that the Lord really has prepared people to receive the gospel.  All we have to do is open our mouths.  
     This week, I also got to eat at Burger King.  Our area has a Mcdonald's, Burger King, and an SM.  An SM is just like a really big mall.  Surprisingly, it was really expensive.  A Whopper Jr. cost me 120 pesos or about three dollars.  If we ate there every day, we would run out of money.  It was a fun experience though, and it took me back home for a little.  Everything is going great, I just can't wait to get back to full health so I can work as hard as possible.  Thanks for all of your support!
- Elder English

Where we do most of our work.......tracting and teaching.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dengue Fever


We received a bit of unnerving news late last night with Bradyn's letter regarding dengue fever that he had been battling with all week.  I spoke with the mission president's wife and she assured me that she is continuing to monitor his recovery, along with the area medical advisor.  She felt like they received a birthday miracle when his blood work finally came back normal on Sunday (it was his birthday).  She promised to keep me posted with his progress.  

This has been kind of a crazy week.  I had my first and hopefully last experience with Dengue Fever.  It's just a really bad strain of the fever that you can get from mosquitoes.  So I was in bed most of the week.  I lost a lot of weight, so all of my clothes look huge on me now. We also didn't get very much work done.  I got blood drawn about 5 times so they could keep monitoring me, and then I just laid in bed and tried to study.  
We were just trying to keep in contact with our investigators.  It seems like if you don't visit them at least once a week, they fall off the face of the earth.  We did have three investigators at church yesterday, so we were really excited about that.  We are also going to have to move all of our baptismal dates back a week.  
Other than that little set-back,things are going great.  Our investigators are progressing and the ward members are very willing to work with us, which is the most helpful thing.  Our missionary work is ten times easier when the members do their missionary work.  That's all I really have to report this week.  Hopefully we will be able to get more done next week!
- Elder English

Monday, September 15, 2014

I am now Wearing Glasses


We didn't get an 'official' letter from Bradyn this week due to time constraints and other tasks on the computer, but I did receive answers to a few specific questions I asked him regarding their investigators, the ward, favorite experiences, how he's progressing with the language and how much he's liking being a missionary.  Oh.....he also informed me that he is now wearing glasses.  Just read on......

I'm doing great.  I actually have something really random to tell you.  I was getting really bad headaches whenever I would study, so my companion forced me to get my eyes checked.  They said that I'm near - sighted and I have glasses now.  I bought the cheapest ones that they had.  They're brown with a New York Yankees logo on the side.  I didn't want to get a nice pair and break them.  Maybe I will get another pair later.  This all happened this week, but I'm not getting headaches anymore.  Just wanted to let you know.  I don't think I'll have time to write a big email this week.  We have some other things that we need to do on the computers.  I hope that's ok......

Our investigators are doing great.  They were all progressing, but then none of them came to church this week so we were kind of confused.  We are busy all of the time and being a missionary is awesome!   Our ward is great.  We are having problems getting ward council together every month, but the members are really willing to help us.  I can lead a lesson now, but I still can't have a flowing conversation with someone quite yet.  Also, little kids are impossible to understand right now.

We have so many amazing experiences every day.  If an appointment falls through, we literally walk next door and they are willing to listen to us every time.  The main area where we do most of our work is this area of miles and miles of railroad tracks where there are just bamboo huts and cardboard houses lining the sides.  I'll send you a picture as soon as I can.  That's my favorite place to go.

"The American is Elder Hunter - he is companions with Elder Pulido (the Filipino with his mouth open in the picture). They are the other companionship that we live with.  The first one is me with my companion, Elder Torio."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ang Plano ng Kaligtasan

Dear Family and Friends,
     I've been in the Philippines for a week now and things are going well.  It definitely does not get easier, you just learn to adjust.  Some of us were talking and we've decided that you just get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  We had a mission tour this last week where Elder Bowen from the area seventy came and talked to us.  He was very straightforward and blunt.  He said that there were things going on in our mission that needed to stop immediately.  He talked about the Priesthood and the Abrahamic Covenant.  He said that once we realize who we are and what we have been promised, everything we do in life will follow that realization.  He said, "Right now, you have the exact same priesthood power that the Lord used to create worlds without number."  Let's just say that we all left feeling very humbled.    

     Everything is still going well with our investigators.  We still have seven investigators with baptismal goal dates, and everything that we do is centered around them.  This week, we decided to get at least two OYMs (open your mouth) on the way to each appointment.  This means that you introduce yourself to someone, share a simple truth about our message, and then extend an invitation for them to learn more.  It doesn't matter if they say yes or no, it still counts.  We have a mission-wide goal to get 50 OYMs a week.  We are starting to realize how easy it is to relate the restoration to everyone.  We've also realized that everyone here has a family, so we just tell them that through the restoration of the Gospel, they can live with their families forever in the presence of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  That almost always gets them interested.  I'm realizing how blessed we are to have a knowledge of the Plan of Salvation.  In Tagalog, it is Ang Plano ng Kaligtasan or the Plan of Safety.  This really helped me realize that God's plan really is just like a giant safety net for all of us.  He has provided a way for all of us to return to Him.  This has become one of my favorite lessons to teach.  

     I just got my first haircut in the Philippines, and I've realized that haircuts are a rip-off in the States.  I got the best haircut that I've ever had, in this really fancy place for about $2.50.  We also buy all the groceries we need for the week for about 1000 pesos or 20 dollars.  My companion is an amazing cook, so we get home cooked Filipino food for every meal.  I'm in the mall right now and there is Christmas music blasting everywhere outside.  I thought they were joking when they told me that they start celebrating Christmas in September.  It is definitely taking a little while to get used to that.  

     Anyway, everything is going great.  It's definitely not easy by a long shot, but my companion and I are always happy!  I don't have very much time and I wish I could write more, but we only have one hour on the computers and I need to email my mission president and send in our numbers and a few other things.  Thank you for your continued support!
- Elder English

"Jeepney ride in San Pablo.  This was forwarded by one of the other elders.  Just some of the people in our district."