August 19, 2013
Arborlan, Palawan, Philippines
Arborlan, Palawan, Philippines
I'm pleased to report that I am not in the City of Manila as I was expecting, but in the coveted land of paradise: PALAWAN! Specifically, I'm in Aborlan.For some reason, Pres. Stucki wanted me and 5 other new missionaries to start out here, in a lightly populated and beautiful land. The air quality is fantastic (usually) and I have my space.
My apartment is pretty nice! It's not cramped. It's usually not hot, because we always have like 4 big fans blowing air everywhere. I'm sorry, I forgot to bring my USB cable to the internet cafe here so I can't show you any pictures of it. The only downside is that our house is right next to a slaughter house. Yep. Additionally, there are wild animals all around me. Seeing geckos, small snakes, snails, starving wild dogs, ants, and cows are a very common occurrence. Every night, I always hear dogs howling and fighting :/ But I'm usually too tired to notice.
I'm too tired because I'm experiencing so many new things every day. I forgot what my comfort zone feels like. Like, at the MTC, I had to give the baptismal interviews to my district's investigators. And for one of them, I gave him a blessing in tagalog! It was so crazy. It's even more daunting here in Aborlan. I can't understand anybody. Very few know any English at all. I'm very thankful for my companion, Elder Balonsong, who is my trainer (we call them "tatays") and helps me explain things. More on him later.
It was an adventure getting over here. The MTC people told us we didn't need to weigh our luggage because we were only going to Manila. But at the mission home in Manila, we found out we were going to Palawan, and each of us were only allowed to bring one of our pieces of luggage! So we [Elders Saclot (who is Filippino) Webb, Proudfit, Wilkinson, and Osguthorpe] had to rush to condense the necessary things into one of our pieces of luggage. We got to the airport on time and breathed in a sigh of relief. But it was short lived. Elder Osguthorpe, who is usually on top of things, brought the wrong piece of luggage! The one he brought was filled with books and none of the clothes he wanted! He's been getting by with minimum clothing and supplies! On top of that, we exceeded the weight limit, so we had to throw a lot of his books away. I haven't seen him since I've been here in Aborlan, but I hope he's OK.
I also hope my friends from the MTC are okay too! It was very hard to say goodbye to them, since I probably won't see them again. Letting go of Elder Langi was especially hard. I've learned a lot from him and have tremendous respect for him.
But now I'm thrown out into the middle of nowhere! Without my tatay, I'd be toast. From what I heard from people in the MTC place, Elder Balonsong stepped down from being a zone leader because he wanted to be a tatay again. He is Filippino, 5' 6", a wonderful cook, and--get this-- 26 years old! Additionally and incredibly, he's been in the church for three years on August 21st! We will be celebrating that for sure. He told me from the get-go that he's not very patient. I'm glad he isn’t-- I need that. He says he wants me to learn the language in one month. He has zero tolerance for not following the rules. But he is also a very loving and easy-going guy. I love joking around with him.
I s'pose I should mention a little bit about the Iglecian Ni Cristo church. For every LDS building in the Philippines, there's an Iglacian church nearby. They have a great knowledge of the bible, but I don't understand how they glean the doctrine that they believe from it. They have many similarities with our church--mainly, they claim to have the priesthood, and the same church schedule and church responsibilities and such. They even have the equivalent of MoTab. I have to pass by their church to get to investigator's houses. People are always there and look at us. Their ministers don't allow them to talk with us. We hear they gain membership only through the members. Basically, the minister forces them to ask 10 of their neighbors to join their church. If they don't, they pay the church. They pay the church if they don't go to church on Sunday, either. It seems like an incredibly repressive religion.
On a more positive note, my companion and I are having great success here! We are technically opening up an area, and are finding investigators everywhere. Everybody loves Elder Balonsong, including me. It's incredible how receptive the people are to the gospel. I just wish there were more hours in the day than there are. Even though it's often hot and disgusting (compared to US standards) in their houses, I barely care. Elder Balonsong often has me teach for most of the time during the lesson. But, he says more words than I do! Filippinos speak so fast. I understand what people are saying about 20% of the time. Maybe if they spoke slower could I understand them.
But they understand me! They often tell me they're impressed with how well I speak the language. They say they want to help me learn the language. I typically can't understand them, though, (hahaha) so I need my companion to translate for me.
I gave my first baptismal invitation to Mike Sibelia yesterday. He accepted! Yippee! I felt really nervous about it, but I'm so used to doing things I've never done before I just.... did it. It was great feeling afterwards.
I also gave some remarks in church. I wasn't nervous then either. I think the people were more nervous than I was, cuz they didn't want me to mess up. But it's no big deal! In the past, I've been very impatient with myself in learning the language. But I've come to grips with the fact that it takes time. I think I can learn it in a month though.
I really do feel like the luckiest missionary. I love the people, and I think they're enjoying seeing a 5' 11" blonde, white-as-sour-cream, white-shirt-clad, American roaming around their small town.
Sorry about not attaching descriptions of pictures. Next week expect a lot of them coming. But I can't promise many. The internet is pretty slow here. Oh... dad should know that most missionaries play chess. I'll be teaching my tatay it and piano later on :)
Mom, so could you ask some of my friends and see if they would be willing to write me a note about how their life is going? Maybe a picture too? I'm not too picky. I just want to know they're still alive. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org Don't use DearElder.com. Sorry, it just makes things more complicated than they need to be. I prefer just using regular emails. Also, I've found out that IF you want to send a Christmas present, you need to send it by the beginning of October. Don't ever use express mail for packages or letters.
I can't say that my stay here has been easy. There have been times where I really wonder what I'm doing here. But the rewards ALWAYS outweigh the trials. If anybody who's reading this blog is wondering if a mission is a good idea, it is, it is, IT IS! There is more of you inside of yourself than you think you have. Plus, if you are obedient, the Spirit will help you after you've done your part.
I love being a missionary,
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