Aborlan, Palawan, Philippines, September 16, 2013
Hello, po lahat kayo! (hello, all of you!)
GREAT NEWS! Elder Balonsong returned the morning after he left! The feeling I felt when he came in with the senior couple, Bro and Sis Gwilliam, was one of the best feelings I have ever felt in my life. We have not only gotten back to the relationship we had before, but our missionary work has improved. He has had such a great influence on me, and I will surely miss him after these quick twelve weeks will be over. When I was in a threesome with Elder Hart and Saclot, things weren't the same. I wasn't myself, and I missed him a lot.
Things have definitely changed for the better since he’s been back, mainly because I realized that there were many things that were going wrong in the first place. Mainly, I only followed, and didn't try to participate unless asked. I thought that it was just fine, since I was a new missionary, but that most certainly is not the case. Regardless of what part of the mission you’re in and how much you know the language, you’re a missionary and representative of the church.
We have three solid investigators who will be baptized in October! They are Mike, Romeo, and Anthony. I apologize that I do not have any pictures of them for you. But I will do my best to explain what they’re like here. Mike Sevellia is living with a less-active member, Christina. He got introduced to the church by helping build the temporary meetinghouse which we currently use. He has received all of the lessons well, as well as my Tagalog! He’s patient with me. He is a good example of what it means to be humble, because he has had a lot of difficulties in life. October 5th, his baptismal date, will not only be the day of his baptism, but also of his marriage! He and Christina will be getting married the morning of the baptismal service. Elder Balonsong and I are planning on buying him a tie and shirt he can wear to church as a wedding gift. Because the baptismal font in the meetinghouse that is currently being constructed is not available, we will be baptizing him in a river. What a rare opportunity! There is only one other area in the entire Manila mission that has that opportunity.
I actually got to see Elder Saclot baptize somebody in the river that Mike will be baptized in—and it is magandang maganda! (very beautiful). It is breathtaking. I so wish I could go swimming there. But alas, the white handbook says not to.
On our way back, we got caught in a rainstorm, and stopped at a member’s house. They had a rambutan tree, and we had a ton of fun trying to get some rambutan down from the tree while we were getting soaked. It's so delicious it didn't really matter. The next picture is how to get it off of the trees. Basically there's a little hook at the end of that pole that you can snag them down. But it's also fun to just whack the entire tree to get some rambutan.
Our other investigator is Romeo. He's 24, and lives in a very small humble, house. We haven't taught him as much as we want to, because he often works in the mountains and isn't home. But his brother served a mission and lives with him. So he is a very good influence on him. He's had a hard life. He's divorced and hasn't found direction in life. We try our best to encourage him, and really he just needs to trust in the Lord. It's hard for us to talk to him about those things because he has to sacrifice so much just get to church, which would be the equivalent of 50 cents.
Lastly, we have Anthony. Because we didn't know he was a member at first, we have had only one lesson with him. He’s actually been attending church for the past five weeks with his member friend. We showed him the restoration DVD, and afterwards he said that he knew the church and the Book of Mormon are true, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. We promptly gave him a baptismal invitation for Oct 5th which he immediately accepted.
There! As you can see, the month of October will be very rewarding for us in Palawan. The work in the language and in the gospel is paying off more and more each day. I'm obviously not perfect in the language, but I can speak in the language pretty well, but it depends on the conversation.
My personal and companionship study have changed my view about how much I know about the gospel. Being one who was raised in the church, attended seminary and institute and BYU religion classes, and has read the scriptures regularly, I may know more about some things than others, but the more I learn about the gospel, the more I realize I don't know about the gospel. The best part about that realization is that it gets more and more exciting with every new thing that I learn. And I really mean that. The knowledge that I'm constantly gaining from everything about Haggai to Ezra Taft Benson's agricultural position and relationship to Dwight D Eisenhower is consistently solidifying my testimony that God loves all of us and has given his children many opportunities to learn about the gospel, in order for all of us to have that chance to receive eternal life in the presence of our loving Father in Heaven. The work continues that I've been studying. And I'm a part of it! How lucky am I?