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."

Monday, September 1, 2014

First Week in the Field


     I'm finally in the Philippines!  It's so weird that I am actually in the field.  We had so much hype for it and then it kept getting delayed just a few more days. But now I am finally out.  I also realized that they taught me a language in the MTC, but it definitely wasn't Tagalog. Just like in English, every word and phrase is shortened and cut down as much as possible. It is taking a while to catch on. It is definitely the hardest thing that I've ever had to do.  It is a really good thing that everyone here is so nice and friendly.       
     My trainer's name is Elder Torio.  He is from Pangasinan, Philippines.  He speaks perfect Tagalog and some English.  He is very humble and honest with me.  He only has four months left in his mission and he is in his sixth area.  He is an amazing trainer and my Tagalog is improving quickly with him around.  My first area is Calamba 1A.  It is up in the mountains and it is beautiful!  We are reopening the area, so we have been really busy lately.  We had a baptism already lined up for my third day in the field.  Her name is Sister Sunshine, and she is awesome.  She is 22 years old and lives with a part-member family. Both of her parents are passed away.  Her baptism was amazing.  Right now we are just going through the area book, which was about four months behind when we got here, and contacting everyone that we can.  My companion is a pro at inviting an investigator to be baptized in the first lesson.  So we have 5 investigators with a baptismal goal date in our first week.  I still can't believe how receptive people here are to the Holy Ghost.  I know that Heavenly Father has been preparing them to receive the truth.  All we need to do is open our mouths.  
     The other day we just stopped at a house next to the railroad tracks, and taught the first lesson to an elderly couple who said they had seen missionaries walk by every day for years, but they had never stopped to talk to them.  The man who lived there said the closing prayer reluctantly, but started crying and kept apologizing.  We kept telling him it was ok and then he said, "I'm right here every day, just come teach me more when you have time."  It was an amazing experience.  
     So far, it has been difficult not being able to understand our investigators, but I am catching a few more words every day.  I still don't know what's going on most of the time, so I just follow my trainer.  Everyone keeps telling me how tall and big I am, and I tell them that I'm really not, respectfully of course. I also laugh along to all the jokes that they make about my name, that I don't understand at all.  They all say, "You look Filipino, but you're too big, and your nose is too tall."  I never know how to respond to that.  You will see why people say I'm so tall when you see a picture of me with my companion.  He is about the average size of the people in my area.
     I don't really have any more time, but I just wanted to say thank you for all of your support, and I hope that everyone is doing great!                                     

-Elder English    

Photos sent by his mission president 
from the San Pablo Mission office before heading out to his assigned area.
With Pres. and Sis. Mangum

This must be the new group of missionaries that Bradyn arrived with.