Hello from Elder Thurber--who serves in the Philippines Manila Mission

Hello from Elder Thurber--who serves in the Philippines Manila Mission

Monday, August 12, 2013

8/9/2013 Philippines MTC: Dear Lahat Mga Tao (all people)

8/9/2013 Philippines MTC

Dear Lahat Mga Tao (all people),

My time here at the MTC is winding down. All we are really doing now in the language is just reviewing stuff. I'm leaving for Manila on Wednesday. If proselyting today is anything what it is actually like, I will have the time of my life out here. I'll talk more about proselyting later. I feel like a missionary because I'm always tired, and I'm always praying. I really honestly feel that the Lord has given me strength. Like, I haven't worked this hard in college or at any other time in my life!

Last week I promised I would give a report of the Philippines church statistics, so here it is:

My teacher called the Philippines the "Asian seat of Christianity."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines has:  
  • 83 stakes
  • 82 districts
  • 21 missions (4 of those have been recently added)
  • 680,859 total members
  • Only 10% of total members pay tithing. It used to be only 6%.
  • Since Jan 2012, there have been 12,589 baptisms
  • The church has been here for 52 years, but only 24% of the members are active. I know that sounds bad, but it has significantly improved. Five years ago, it was only like 10 percent. (BTW, it's a lot better than other countries where the church is still young.) 
There you have it. My teacher also stressed the importance of keeping people active, as well as explaining that the rich people of the Philippines need the gospel, too.

In fact, the second person I taught during Wednesday's proseylting activity, Santos, was actually very well off.  He had a normal sized house, and the luxuries Americans can afford. I taught him about tithing, which I thought was going to be really tough, cuz that's what other missionaries have said about it. My companion, Elder Ballad, was silent for practically the entire lesson. While I hardly ever knew what my investigator was talking about, he knew what I was saying, which was a relief. He promised to keep the law of tithing.

In all honesty, I think the Tagalog I'm learning and hearing here at the MTC isn't the real Tagalog that is being spoken outside. Also, Filipinos use a bunch of English words that I know the Tagalog equivalent too.

The first person I taught on Wednesday, however, was Santana. He was a sixteen year old, and he has next to nothing. He is as skinny as it comes. There were rats everywhere. He couldn't afford school. I could barely breathe in his house, which was more like a small room, and it didn’t smell very good.  Also, it was pouring, and at one point we all had to stand up and put our shoes back on because water was running through his house!  I taught him about temples, and he promised to go there. His house and the Lord's house are quite literally on the complete opposite ends of the spectrum of quality of houses!  But, I could just tell that he had an unwavering testimony of the church. I was really inspired by that visit.

After the two lessons, Elder Ballad and I went back to the church building. Some people didn't come back for another 30 minutes, so I got to know him and some other missionaries really well. I found out that missionaries, even when they've been out for a good long time, are still goofy and they have their weaknesses! But, I enjoyed being with them, and I can't wait to get out into the field.

I teach my lessons with 99% Tagalog now. However, my kasama and I always have to adjust our sentences to fit the words we know in Tagalog. Here's a funny story. My investigator asked if infant baptism was okay, and my companion was trying to ask her to read from the Book of Mormon in Moroni 8:12:

“12 But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!”

but instead asked her to read Moroni 8:14 which basically says that those who practice infant baptism will be cast down to hell:
“14 Behold I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell. 15 For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.”
Our investigator got pretty mad at us, and we had to abandon our lesson plan and apologize and explain what the verse meant.

We are also to the point where all of my district members are asking me to give the baptismal invitation to their investigators. (Interesting fact: the Tagalog equivalent for interview is "interbyu.")  When I asked one of their investigators if they had committed any serious sins, he got really nervous, as did I.  He said he had committed murder! I was pretty shocked. After the interview was over I said that he wasn't ready for baptism, and that he needed to talk to the bishop. I asked him who he killed and he said "a bird." sheeesh.

I think the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30) explains what goes on in the MTC quite well.

14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
 15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
 18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
 19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
 23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo,there thou hast that is thine.
 26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
 29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
 30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

God asks us to develop what we have, and that is good enough. Not only develop, but to double! Some people here have buried what they have (i.e. their testimony, faith, willingness to follow the rules, etc), and make it a hassle for everybody else. But there are others, who haven't learned discipline previously, that I can visually see progressing! Each person has a certain amount of "talents". 

My district is a perfect example of this.  I know they're all going to be great missionaries out in the field. The growth I see in so many missionaries is probably what I'm going to miss most about being here in the MTC.  (Picture is of everyone in my district.)

Tell Sister Whitehead and Brother Grey that now I understand what they wrote in Tagalog in my journal at the open house before I left Mechanicsville.

I'm excited to give y'all my next email when I'm out in the field! It'll be so exciting I'm sure.  I should also mention that I've been feeling really stressed lately, but I don't get any time to rest. So, thank you for your prayers, and I hope you continue to pray for me!

These are the nametags of some of my best friends here.

Ingat po kayo! (Matthew’s mom:  I think this means “Please take care of all of you.”)

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