Monday, January 26, 2015

So grateful to be in His service for "a little time" here in the blessed nation of the Philippines

Well, here we are again! Last P-day was okay, but I just felt lazy in the morning and it affected my whole day. I've noticed that if you don't wake up as a missionary with a determination to get stuff done, often you don't! But Monday was still good. We taught Mia about prayer and then we had a dinner at Noli’s. We did that one lesson about the apostasy with the pyramid of plastic cups, which was fun. Tuesday was a way good day! We taught agency to Tatay José visited the Jamlig sisters again. We taught a man who was half- American named Albert Tucker ( you don't really come across names like that here), but he believes it is evil to change religions so I'm not sure if he's too open. We taught Sally about The Book of Mormon, which was good. And her girlfriend also listened in. Interesting! We talked to D and he seemed really ashamed. We talked about forgiveness, God's love, and obeying the commandments. We tried to show as much love as possible, and it turned out okay! We taught JR! He still hasn't had his surgery, but he got some sort of makeshift splint on there! We talked about baptism which was really good and we set a date for February. 

Wednesday was fun! For district meetings it used to be that the whole zone would get together and then we would split into districts at the church. Well now, we just meet as districts so the district leader runs the show more. We had an activity where we practiced sharing one minute lessons in finding situations, and then we had a workshop on the atonement. I think it went pretty well all in all! Then I went on exchanges with Elder Gementiza in his area! We found Ally Zone, a young man who really open up to us about his problems! We taught a woman who had really good soul-searching questions like “When people die young, is it because they sinned?”  We took a roller coaster- like tricycle ride to the mountain for their interview and their two baptismal candidates passed! All in all, a great day and really good exchanges!

Thursday was an amazing day, as Elder Palabrica and I had a great companionship study, then I had a District Leaders Council in Cabanatuan. Pres. and Sister Clark gave us excellent training. I have so much to do and to work on. We got out to work a little bit late so we didn't get as many lessons as we would have liked, but the lessons we did teach were powerful and spiritual. Friday we taught Nilo, a new investigator who really understands the restoration and accepted at goal date for baptism in February, so that was good! We visited Bien, who is still doing well, and his new house is way nice! So that's fun! We also had a really good lesson with Mia about the true church… It was very spirit filled. 

Saturday morning we went and played ball with Nathaniel, our next-door neighbor/branch missionary, and Renz, a less active we've been fellowshipping.
Early morning basketball
As for David his friends… I don’t know what happened there… We had some good teaching that day too! We taught Danny, our less active that is super humble, has good questions, and is almost always in Cabanatuan for work. We taught the first part of the plan of salvation and it was way good. We taught the Jamlig sisters again and invited them to come to church, but they are active members of a very strict church that requires that if they miss church that they provide a written explanation to their pastor. I told them there wasn't a better explanation than that they were trying to find out the truth for themselves, but at the same time that's a tough situation. After that we did some visits to commit some other people to coming to church on Sunday. Then we made our way to the church, because the branch had a farewell party for Elder Tufele, as he's finished his course and kept the faith. It was good fun and there was a lot of food! Lots of people were crying (even Elder Westover and he doesn't cry!), and it was a nice gesture and a good way to say goodbye.
Kabahays at branch farewell party for Elder Tufele
Afterwards we only had enough time to teach the Llamas family. We haven't been able to teach the parents in over a week, just the kids…

One last picture of the kabahays before Elder T goes home
Sunday was a bit tough again! We went to pick up Mia and she wasn't feeling well so she didn't come to church… And yet again we had so many people promising they would come to church, but again no investigators. Man! Before, we always had like one or two investigators at church, but no real progressing investigators. Now we have tons of good progressing investigators but they are just not coming to church! Oh well, we did have two less actives return though! José Abunan and Jeffrey Pascua!
Elder T and Elder C

After sacrament we went to Cabanatuan to drop off Elder Tufele. While we were there I just started to not feel so well. When we got back to the apartment I just crashed. And when I woke up to eat lunch I wasn't exactly feeling a ton better. My companion was pretty sad about Elder Tufele going home. I remember what that was like when my first zone leader Elder Owen went home. But we both bucked up and went out to work. We had solid lessons with Mariel and then Mia. Then we taught Jesse, our progressing investigator, Alloy’s brother-in-law. He's way solid! After teaching about Joseph Smith he asked the golden question: "How can I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet?” The Book of Mormon, my friend!  We then taught Alloy about the 3 degrees of glory.

Overall this week was a really good week. We've been studying about the atonement and repentance a lot this week. I'm so grateful for the atonement, which made my agency possible. Because of that I am a thing that acts, and I don't have to be a thing that is acted upon! I'm so grateful that I not only have access to the power to become cleansed from sin, but to be strengthened to resist temptation! Christ really is the only one, the only way, and I'm so grateful to be in His service for "a little time” here in the blessed nation of the Philippines.

-Elder Christensen


Elder Palabrica's new comp
Chapel at night

Night planning session

Elder P and his hot cocoa

Sunday, January 18, 2015

“There is an antidote for times such as these: learn to laugh."

And just like that, another week has flown by!  On Monday we had a fun zone activity at the church where we played games and ended in a water balloon fight!  In the evening we went to the Mendozas but apparently their little daughter AJ had a blockage in her intestine and they had taken her to the hospital.  She’s been operated on now and last I heard they’re on the up and up, but they’re still in the hospital.  We also saw JR Solis that night and his leg is not doing so well…I cringed when I saw it.  He needs surgery and hopefully soon.  Tuesday morning we had a service project with Jerwin’s grandma who was reluctant to accept our service of weeding her yard, but eventually teared up and said she’ll never forget what we did for her, so that was a sweet experience.  That afternoon we taught all new investigators: one really mature looking 18 year old guy who seems to have his head on straight, one elderly couple and they are SO talkative, but nice!  We taught Sally, Mia’s lesbian aunt who was taught before and she’s really receptive!  Then we taught Dave’s uncle Ramil and he accepted a baptismal goal date! 

Wednesday morning we taught Tatay Jose about reading the scriptures when he’s tempted.  We also heard the story of how they first met the missionaries.  His wife had told her kids to call back the three men walking down the street, but when they came back she was surprised that the tall, thin companion was no longer visible.  From that time until now they have a strong conviction that angels accompany missionaries.  I bear testimony of that!  Later we taught Cezar about the Book of Mormon then we had a good lesson with Mia where we shared about following the prophets and related it back to the Word of Wisdom and committed her again to cut the coffee!  We visited with Jeffrey, Dustin and the Llamas family as well, then we taught JR again and he has finally sworn off cigarettes forever!  He really has been humbled and he is more ready to change now. 

Thursday we had zone interviews!  The workshops by our zone leaders, the assistants and President & Sister Clark were all fantastic!  I also was asked to give a small talk on a conversion story from my mission, so I talked about the Habala family.  Most of all, my interview with President was AWESOME!  I love visiting with that man and I felt rejuvenated afterwards.  Jeffrey came and worked with us in the afternoon and we taught the two Hamlig sisters again!  They’ve read the Book of Mormon and are keeping commitments!  Pretty good stuff!  We then explained to Jerwin that we couldn’t actually teach him, but then we taught his sister Catherine and his cousin Rhona.  Catherine’s best friend, Ladylyn joined in and she was by far the most interested of the three so we’ll go back to her!  We taught Erwin, along lost less active member who is really nice and who is willing to change and come unto Christ.  Lastly we taught Dave, who is still so awesome!  Friday we taught Cezar, who has lots of deep questions, but he is still reading the Book of Mormon and said he’ll try to come to church this Sunday.  We taught the elderly couple again, the Camua family, and man, the tatay is tough!  He absolutely refuses to go to church or pray…ever.  In the evening we taught Mia and we got one sister in our ward, Marie, to come along and man, she is an AWESOME fellowshipper for Mia!  We had a super good lesson about the Sabbath and the 10 commandments.  We visited Dustin and the Llamas family again.  JR has apparently checked into the hospital again so hopefully his surgery goes well. 

Saturday, simply nothing went according to plan.  The whole day was a mess, but good things happened still! We tried to find Bien’s new house but we didn’t…but we did help Brother Llamas push start his car when we walked by!  Oh, and we were supposed to play ball with Dave in the morning, but there was some miscommunication there and it didn’t work out…but I dunked a volleyball so that gave me confidence that I haven’t gained too much weight here!  In the afternoon all of our plans fell through and we had no lessons until after dinner…but we met a lot of good people along the way that we weren’t able to share a message with, but maybe we can in the upcoming days!  We saw a big cobra in the grass, so that was scary/awesome, but we eventually got Jeffrey to come along with us so we could teach Sally!  That was an n awesome, spiritual lesson as we taught about the great apostasy and the restoration.  Super solid.  We taught Erwin and his friend, Emmerson about faith and repentance by using the story of Enos and that was super spiritual as well.  We were so rejected on Saturday, but when we did teach it was so awesome!  Elder Palibrica and I never felt discouraged that day and we were seriously blessed.

Sunday came and we had no investigators at church L. But it’s all good!  We’re just going to work extra hard this week to get them there!  Sunday afternoon was awesome as we taught 4 lessons all before dinner!  And Jeffrey worked with us again! 
Elder C and Jeffrey
After dinner…we got pretty punted.  We went to one of our progressing investigators and he was “forced” to drink by his uncle who visited so he was drunk when we got there.  That was hard for my companion and he was pretty silent on the walk back.  I was thinking about what I could do to help him, then all of the sudden a car comes around the bend of the highway, drives through a puddle, and nails me and only me with a wall of water.  I would like to quote one of my favorite talks here by Elder Wirthlin, “There is an antidote for times such as these: learn to laugh.”  So that’s exactly what we did and it lightened the situation.  I feel like we are going toe to toe with Satan in this area, but we’re not worried.  We can throw back our heads and laugh in times like this because we know truth, light and good will prevail.  We just have got to dig a little deeper and more fully help these people to withstand the adversary and draw close and stay close to Christ.

-Elder Christensen
Kabahays at home

Monday, January 12, 2015

Learning a lot and enjoying time in Palayan!

Wow, what a week it has been!  Monday we didn’t exactly have the greatest plan in the world so we only got one lesson in the evening.  Tuesday we went finding in Atate!  We were accepted by the nicest Iglesia ni Cristo family, which was a happy surprise!  We also met and taught Cezar, a 29 year old man who is struggling to find purpose in his life and wondering how much longer his trials are going to last.  His faith was a bit shaky, so I’m really hoping we can help him.  After dinner, we taught Alloy Mendoza the first part of the plan of salvation, as to where we come from, and he LOVED IT!  He had no idea where we came from before this life, and he was just enlightened, and he told us so!  At the end of the lesson, he taught us an overview of what we had taught!  It was awesome!  Then we taught Dave, who is just a fireball!  I don’t know that I’ve ever had an investigator as excited or energetic about this gospel!  We were teaching about the Book of Mormon and we had left the Introduction as a reading assignment and we used the Intro again when we taught.  The best part was when Dave was reading the second to the last paragraph and said, “…truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost.  See Moroni 10:3.”  He said, “I LOOKED THAT UP!  I READ THAT!  OH MAN, WHERE IS THAT?”  I was startled, to say the least, but I was pumped as well that he read that!  And we also committed him to keep the Word of Wisdom so that he can stay on track for baptism! 
Elder C and Dave

Wednesday morning we taught Mariel about prayer, then in the afternoon we went back to the Hamlig family (members of Iglesia ni Cristo) and we finished teaching the Restoration and we set goal dates for them for February!  Later we met and taught Nanay Dalania, a  grandma with a big heart!  After dinner we taught Mia and re-committed her to be baptized on the 31st, which she accepted!  And that is an absolute miracle because a week and a half ago it was a complete and total no!  We taught Dustin and the Llamas family and there we were able to teach the mom and dad again so they’re softening up now too!  Thursday we had zone training meeting.  It was really good as we learned a lot about the atonement, as that is what we will be studying as a mission over the next couple months.  But the really big news is that we’re cracking down on the not being allowed to teaching women without an adult male present.  Before, it was approved by President to teach them outside.  You just couldn’t teach them in closed areas where we would not be seen.  Now, it really has to be that another adult of the same gender has to be there in order to teach anyone of the opposite gender.  Not gonna lie, I was a bit stressed about that whole thing at first, but I just kind of took a minute to think about it and it was ok!  We taught Cezar about our purpose in life and he had lots of questions regarding repentance and forgiveness, so we left a passage from Mosiah 26 to read.  We also met and taught Cesar (with an s instead of a z), a retired soldier who has been to Elder Palibrica’s hometown.  We got a referral from Emmy Oblero, Jerwin, who turned out to be Nanay Dalania’s 12 year old grandson, so we taught them!  We taught Alloy Mendoza about our purpose in life, but they’re going out of town this Sunday, so they won’t be able to come to church.  And we taught Dave, who is still the man!

Friday…in the afternoon we went finding, but found no one to teach.  BUT we ran into Dave’s grandma and we ended up helping her cut firewood for a bit there.  After dinner we taught Mia, but she also couldn’t come to church this Sunday because she had to babysit her nephews, but she promised to come next Sunday.  We taught the WHOLE Llamas family again, which is a miracle that just doesn’t cease to amaze me.  Saturday morning we visited Bien and found out that they are moving, but just to a different part of our area, so we’ll still be able to visit him.  As for the rest of Saturday, the beginning was alright.  We taught a nice, tall (as tall as me) young man named Jerry, but he isn’t sure when he’ll be around to listen again.  We taught Cezar and he really understood the passage we left for him  to read.  We taught lesson 1 and he was so into it!  After we taught about Christ’s life and the primitive church.  He all of the sudden asked, “Is that church still around today?”  And we answered that question.  When we explained about Joseph Smith, Thomas Monson and the phenomena of modern prophets in general, he asserted that a living prophet should be well known, because he agreed that the world needs one. We were happy to explain that’s what we’re doing  as missionaries, telling everyone that God  calls and speaks to living prophets again.  He also accepted a goal date for February!  

After that…it was kind of a mess.  I won’t go into detail, but we ended up teaching Jerwin and scheduling a service project for Tuesday morning for his grandma.  Later, when I called President Clark to have the service project approved, I started to explain Jerwin’s situation.  President kindly informed us that we can’t actually teach him, because the Philippines area presidency has established that we can’t teach kids under 14 if their parents aren’t present at the lessons and Jerwin’s parents both work out of the country.  After I got off the phone, I didn’t know how to feel.  A part of me wanted to be mad, but I wasn’t.  Another part of me wanted to be sad, but I wasn’t.  Before I could decide how I felt, I just felt the calmest peace come over me, and like so many other times here in the Philippines, the Holy Spirit taught me a lesson.  Missionaries have been reciting that “the field is white, already to harvest” since the 1800s and not all that was to be harvested was white back then.  This means that people are always being planted, nourished and harvested.  Jerwin is golden; he’s been asking us for his own copy of the Book of Mormon and when he can be baptized.  He came to church this week and he’s told us that he’s going to be a missionary one day.  We’ve just happened to find a fruit that will be good, but under the current circumstances, just isn’t quite ready to be harvested.  Praise be to God.  He helped me understand and accept that.
Well, Sunday we had Jerwin and Dave come to church, but we’re counting on a lot more next week!  And Jose came again, and so did the whole Llamas family!  So they’re coming back now!  So awesome!  After church we did the special sacrament for the Meotic family, then we had a Philippines Area Broadcast about the 2015 goals.  Man, the area presidency works HARD.  After dinner, we visited the Planco family and I just love them!  I’ve been so blessed to get to know them.  Then we visited Jose and April Abunan and after that finished up teaching Dustin.  All in all a good week!  I learned a lot.

The hymn we sang in sacrament meeting kind of sums up what I learned this week.  Eliza R. Snow said, “By strict obedience Jesus won the prize with glory rife.”  I learned that true humility is obedience to wisdom greater than our own.  But that being said, Elder Palibrica and I are having a great time, laughing all the while and thoroughly enjoying our time in Palayan!

-Elder Christensen
Basketball with Dave and friends

With Tatay Jose at church
Playing ball

Elder Palibrica in a nutshell

Monday, January 5, 2015

Willl Never Such Happiness Know!

Hey Everyone!  Monday was good!  We visited JR in the hospital and he seems to be doing ok.  He looked up and said to me, “Elder!  I haven’t smoked in 2 days!”  He’s so funny.  We were going to give him a blessing, but he was in a really crowded and noisy room,so we just offered a bedside prayer instead.  Email was good; my family had the most picture perfect Christmas ever.  Not gonna lie, I got a tad bit homesick, but then I prayed about it on the jeepney ride home and I remembered how awesome my mission is and I got over it.  In the evening we went to Atate and met Alloy and Julie Mendoza, two of Tatay Bulacan’s referrals and we taught them a bit of Lesson 1.  They had a lot of questions, especially about the priesthood and how God can offer salvation to all of his children if His authority is only in this church.  We decided to go home, plan, and come back the next day, so that’s what we did!  On Tuesday when we came back, we taught about the apostasy, the restoration and as a part of that restoration the restored truth of baptisms for the dead, then we offered the Book of Mormon as the evidence that all this doctrine is true.  And they accepted  baptismal goal dates for February!  They have real intent and it is AWESOME!  We also taught two referrals of Sister Jorja, who were good but their husbands may have problems with us teaching them so we’ll see if that goes anywhere.  We gave Mia the do or die lesson and she chose DO!  She committed to come to church on Sunday.  It was awesome!  We taught Dustin and his scripture study crew, who are awesome as ever!  We taught the Llamas family about the Proclamation to the World, which was a nice lesson as well.  Tuesday was a really good day!

Wednesday was good!  We had district meeting in the morning, which was cool.  We had a workshop on faith where I really began to understand that if faith is just that and there’s no result or fruit, then it’s not faith.  Cool stuff!  I was a bit worried about Elder Palibrica for a while there, as he was really quiet and serious and he said he was “pondering”, but eventually he was back to his old self.  In the afternoon Tatay Bulacan showed us around Atate, where various members, less actives and former investigators live, which was really nice of him!  We then taught Dahlia, Bien’s mom, and she committed to come to church on Sunday!  From there we went home at 6:00 pm because we have a curfew on NEW YEAR’S EVE!  We had lots of fun eating lots of food, watching church videos, playing UNO, taking pictures…Good fun!  And now I have finished 2014, the year where I served the Lord all 365 days as a missionary!  Pretty cool!
Harry Potter in the Philippines on New Year's  #1

Spider-Man with an Aklat ni Mormon!

Hipster on New Year's

Then the next morning we had a service project at the Bulacans.  We started filling in an enormous 15 foot hole.  Tatay threw a small cobra he found at his family and then his family started lighting off fireworks at him, and I cut my hand on a barbed wire fence.  All in all, a regular CSP here in the Philippines.  In the afternoon we went out to contact some referrals, but none of them were around.  After dinner we finally got Cristel to our lesson with Mia, and it was a super good lesson.  BTW, Cristel is the one we’ve been trying to get as a fellowshipper for Mia.  It was awesome.  The spirit was rocking.  While we were teaching Dustin, my companion started to not do so good, but to his credit he said he could keep going.  We taught Jeffrey, our 17 year old returning less active, about serving a mission.  Then we taught the Llamas family about keeping the commandments before coming home at 9:00.  Elder Palibrica passed out on his bed in full proselyting clothes. 
Asleep in full proselyting clothes
But all in all, “nothing changes on New Year’s Day.”

So Friday we taught Mariel all about scripture study and she is doing awesome.  We’re just waiting on her papers for marriage!  We taught Bien and I felt bad because we were teaching his little friend, Jared, but we stopped because there’s a rule that you can’t teach kids under 14 without their parent there and his parents didn’t want to listen… It was sweet though in Bien’s prayer he asked that somehow Jared could be baptized.  I hope his prayer comes to pass.  We taught Tatay Jose about the Word of Wisdom and found out that, even though he’s been a member for some 10 years, he still smokes after every meal!  We’ll work on that!  After dinner, we taught Danny from Atate.  He is a humbled less active member.  He has two kids and his wife has passed away.  We taught that families can be together forever, and he asked if it was possible still because his wife wasn’t a member.  We assured him that it was, and taught about temples.  It was perfect timing too because he was working in Manila but he just got transferred to Cabanatuan, so he’ll be around at least every weekend if not more, and he wants his kids to get baptized, too!  We taught the Mendoza family as well, and Tatay Bulacan came along.  We weren’t exactly on the same page as far as teaching, so it was a bit hard, but we were able to get the point across that if the Book of Mormon is the word of God then this church is indeed the only one with the authority to administer the ordinances of the gospel, which is his big question. 
Saturday I learned an enormous lesson.  In the morning we couldn’t seem to find anyone to teach, but I remembered we had a new investigator with potential a couple of weeks ago, Raquel, but she had gone out of town.  So we went to go and check if she was back.  Well, when we got there she was there, but she was not the person we met two weeks ago.  She looked at us with such disdain and disgust and grumbled angrily, “I don’t want to.  I don’t want to listen to you.  You just go find some other people for your whatever you call it.”  And I don't know exactly why, but that really affected me. All during that lunch and into the early afternoon I could not get her angry face out of my head. I just kept thinking, what did I do? What went wrong here? Our lesson with her was way good, she was excited to learn about the gospel! Well I talked to Elder Westover about it, and he gave me some advice about how when we have things like that we just kind of have to say, "Well, they're not the elect," and move on. As we went out to work, I was feeling better, but not totally sure. Anyways, we went out to contact a referral, and I was blown away. His name is Dave, he's 17, has two good friends on missions, and was taught last year but got busy with work, and now is going to go back to school and he sought US out! And he is so prepared. He remembered every doctrine about the Restoration, and he already has a testimony! It was the biggest blessing. As we were teaching him, the spirit was rocking, and I had the distinct impression where I felt, "You would not have understood how prepared he was if that didn't happen to you this morning." And all of the sudden I could see a glimpse of God's plan, there was a reason for that grouchy woman to turn us away! And by the way, we'll do just what you said, lady! We WILL go and find some other ELECT people for the FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL. It was the greatest miracle. We taught the Planco family that day, and we committed them to endure to the end, which pretty much means come to church, but I didn't exactly have high hopes as Brother Planco hasn't come to church in years.

Well, the miracles kept coming on Sunday.  When we showed up to the church, Brother Planco, our long time offended less active, was waiting for us with his 4 active kids! Absolute miracle! Then Mia, our longtime investigator, came to church for the first time, and she said she had a really good experience and made a lot of friends! Dave, who we met the day before, came as well! While the Branch Presidency was getting started, the whole Llamas family, a less active family we've been working with since my first week here, came for the first time! And Tatay Jose, a less active we met our first day and have been working with since then, came with his less active son and his wife. And Brother Mendoza, our hardcore Methodist investigator, came in during the opening prayer and stayed the whole 3 hours! I could not believe it. My joy just turned to shock as miracle after miracle poured through the door! It was everything I've been hoping for here in Palayan and it happened this Sunday! And later that day, Brother Mendoza told us that he now feels  the Book of Mormon is true! And we visited with Tatay Jose and he seems to be doing better, and we ended the evening with teaching the Llamas family about miracles, as there were many this day. Oh, it was just too good. Amazing. I really, truly learned this week, "Those who reject this glad message, shall never such [unbelievable, incredible and miraculous] happiness know!" But I know it, and I get to share it with all who will listen, how great is my life?!?!

--Elder Christensen
New Year's Eve snacks!

New Year's Eve preparations!