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

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

Monday, October 28, 2013

First Baptism!

October 21, Aborlan, Palawan

Hello, y'all!

Saturday was a monumental day for me; It was my first baptism! It's the day us missionaries sweat for! It was monumental not only because we could check it off that we had a baptism, but because after her baptism, Sister Decila Corpuz gave a very spiritual testimony which was so pure I couldn't believe it! 
Her testimony strengthened my resolve to try harder as a missionary, and helped me realize the awesome and epic power conversion has upon investigators in our religion! After the baptism, Decila asked us if she could work with us. !!! That's one way to have a member come to you in your lessons! We were able to go out with her on Sunday and it was possibly one of the best days I've had as a missionary.

This picture is of us missionaries and Decila Corpuz. 

This is a little quote I liked.
I feel like my journal entries either start with "Today was possibly one of the best days I've had as a missionary," or "Today was tough, not going to lie." But the latter is definitely fading from my pages, mainly because day by day the language is becoming less and less of an issue.  

Next Saturday will also be very eventful for us missionaries. Two people are being baptized: Michael Sevilla and Anthony Jadlock!  As I think I've mentioned earlier, Michael is getting married on Saturday morning! He's sent around a bunch of wedding invitations.  I got to teach him on Wednesday when I had the opportunity to go on an exchange with my old Tatay, Elder Balonsong. That, I'm pretty sure, was the best day I've had as a missionary going proselyting. We went from lesson to lesson, without fail. And the best part was I enjoyed it all. "We don't even have to try. It's always a good time." --Owl City.*
 That was definitely my feeling I had on the exchange. Tagalog flowed. We taught. People listened.

*This song plays all of the time, along with that P!nk and Fun. song, which I forgot the name of.

This is when I went on my exchange with Elder Balonsong. Guapo ba ako? Aborlan is blessed with a wonderful natural garden everywhere I go, most of the time. 

But I was glad to get back with Elder Hart, because we have a lot of people to teach, and not enough time to do it all. 

This is a monkey. I'm feeding him a Mentos. One RM in the ward who goes out with us owns him. He (the monkey) was scared out of his mind, because of the new faces, but warmed up after the Mentos, which took him like 20 minutes to eat cuz it was so sweet to him, it seemed.

One thing I've come to realize is that people's lives do not revolve around the missionaries. In fact, sometimes they avoid us. One day, we had a few people we were all visiting, but they were all busy. We didn't have anybody to teach, and we were in a pretty big dead zone. So, we said a prayer and saw a trike in the distance and waved it down. When we got in and the driver asked where we were going, we simply said "doon" or there, and pointed down the road. So we started down the road, not knowing what we were doing. Then we had a conversation that was as simple as it was original.

Us: "Where are you going?"
Him: "Magsaysay"
Us: "Oh, okay."
Him: "Where are you going, again?"
Us: "uhhh"
Us: "hmmm"
Us: "Magsaysay!"

And that was what we did. And it was magnificent. While we weren't able to teach anybody there, we were able to meet a ton of people and get return appointments that day. So if you want to pray for us, pray that we will be successful as we return to our new area, Magsaysay! I'm sure it'll be fun.

My internet time is running out here, but I have one more thing. I am extremely lucky to be emailing you all right now because the power has been out for about three days. It came on last night, but subsequently turned off again in the morning. We were going around shopping here, getting stuff (I got a sweet Lacoste watch for about 5 bucks! Woop woop!) and then we saw the power come on, so we hippity-hopped back to the internet cafe, since we were close. Because a university is right next to us (Western Philippines University) the students needed to come here to print papers. So right now there's a huge waiting line for me to finish here. So yeah, I feel very lucky today. But then again, I feel lucky any day. I couldn't say this earlier in my mission, but it's hard to believe that my life will be getting better than what it is right now. Maybe, just maybe, the Lord’s hand is being extended to the people in Aborlan.

In closing, I know that the church is true, and that missionary work is as fun as it is important.
kita kits mamaya! (see you later!)

Elder Thurber

Staying healthy and wild! I am so in love with coconuts after being here in the Philippines. 

All clothing here is super cheap! Like, all of these shoes are about 20 bucks.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bababa ba? Bababa.

October 14, 2013 Aborlan, Palawan

Hello lahat mga tao! (all people)

While it doesn't really make any sense, my title for this email could be an actual conversation in Tagalog. It could mean, 
     "Will you go down?"
     "Yes, I will go down."

Tagalog is getting more and more fun for me. It's nowhere near next to perfect, but what I am understanding is pretty fun. I actually made a joke yesterday! The other day, somebody commented that I had an accent, and I said "No, because of my hair." And they all laughed. And frankly, me and Elder Hart always switch between Tagalog and English in our conversations just because it's a lot of fun. Twice the flavor! When I went on an exchange with Elder Delorino, I was once again forced to use Tagalog in my every-day speech. It wasn't bad, because he obviously knows what I'm going through and wishes to help me. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go with Elder Balonsong this week, but I will next week.

 This is an area we travel through to get to some investigators. It's always fun walking around a bunch of cows.


This is where we watched conference. It was in English, but they had another TV going on on the other side of the church in Tagalog.

In case you were curious, yes, I'm going to say it: General Conference was the best! Gaah! I can't imagine how anybody would not want to go to all the sessions! You should see how many notes I took. I was surprised how much they talked about the role of women, and the healing power of the atonement. And 80,333 missionaries?! Phew, that's crazy! I'm glad I am a part of making that number as big as it is.

Going to General Conference is just the same as it is in America; All of the high priests fall asleep in the middle of the priesthood session. The high priests aren’t the only ones to fall asleep!

Bro. and Sis. Salazar with Elder Saclot.

I got to know them a little better over conference weekend, as they were able to attend all the sessions. They're nice and know basically everybody we try to meet, so they're an invaluable guide for us during ward council, which they are both a part of.

Elder Thurber and Elder Balonsong

This is Elder Merrill, from Bountiful. I'll be taking him on an exchange in our area at the end of this month!


Elder Hart and I went on an unofficial exchange this week with the zone leaders to give some baptismal interviews! I am pleased to announce that my first baptism for Sister Decila Corpuz will be this Saturday! She overcame her problems and is ready to be baptized. On top of that, her brother-in-law, is now becoming an active member in church! He attended two of the sessions in General Conference! I can see that they are coming closer as a family because of the gospel.

After our interviews and before zone conference, we got to have some well-needed down time with the Gwilliam couple! They had an enormous house (by Philippine standards) and fed us pancakes which were too delicious.


One night when we came home, there was an enormous bug infestation as soon as we turned on the lights, as poorly depicted in the first picture.

In the second picture is Elder Hart’s method to combat them, 

and in the third is the result: the bugs simply fly into the water! We had to do it three times, with just as many bugs flying into the bucket. It was hard to hold the bucket when the bugs would always fly in your face and arms.

These are some ants on our wall from a while back. I sprayed some bygone on them, and in five seconds most of them fell down to the garbage can below with a satisfying thump.

Good thing I went to wipe out my shoe before I put it on!

They say this guy is pretty dangerous. Apparently, his breed has stung a previous missionary.


This is how we take care of our garbage. We burn it.

Because of my sweet parents, we got some popcorn! But because we didn't have a microwave, we initially put it into a toaster oven, but we knew it wasn't a good idea as soon as I turned it on.

The inside of Rambutan. It's gooey, kinda like a grape.

This is the church piano. Despite its inconsistencies and faults, I have grown to love every moment with it.

Ok, this is a picture from the outside of the mission home. I may have sent it already, but if not, here it is. The capsule is an elevator! I thought it was pretty futuristic, so it was worth a picture.


I love writing here, because it sets my mind back on what I've accomplished this week, and think about some things that I could improve on in what I did. But is anybody actually reading this? I feel like I'm talking to a wall! Obviously, I'll continue to write in this for the rest of my mission, but if I could get some feedback, that'd be pretty wonderful. What do you or don't you like? What do you want more of? The more the merrier!

Oh yeah, and the church is true. I know it.

Elder Thurber

Monday, October 14, 2013

“I Wish I Had More Experience”

October 7, 2013, Aborlan, Palawan
Hello everybody, 
The subject of this blog post is a quote from Elder Hart today, while we were playing chess. We play every other day, and he is getting a lot better. I am always humbled by his humility and diligence, and I am learning a lot from him. It's nice to be able to teach in English! We love relating it back to the gospel. But frankly, that's what I've been thinking lately, too: I wish I had more experience! Yet I know I've come a long ways, not only with missionary work, but my work ethic and determination to get the job done, whatever the cost, rain or shine (literally).

Elder Hart is doing a great job as a district leader. This coming week is going to be a weird week for me personally. Right after email, we will be heading off to Narra for tomorrow's zone meeting and Mission President interviews. Then, I'll be staying in Narra for an exchange with Elder Delorino, who I have mentioned earlier I think. Thursday I'll be going with Elder Balonsong again on another exchange! It'll be a fun week to say the least!  The only real normal day I'll have will be on Friday, and that's weekly planning, which is three whopping hours. And obviously, on Saturday and Sunday, we'll be going to conference.  I have to say, in all probability, that I am the most excited person to see conference, especially since you guys have already seen it goshdarnit! So jealous.

This is the type deliciousness that Elder Balonsong often makes! I'm challenging myself to become a better cook before we part ways.

Elder Hart made a magnificent picture of the Manila Temple  for our investigators! Among others, he gave a copy to a recent convert, Tatay Ayade. (*sidenote* whenever somebody is about maybe 30+ years older than you, you usually call them tatay (dad) or nanay (mom) regardless of whether or not it is true. Also, when you shake their hand, you bring their hand to your forehead as a sign of respect, and you use "po" very often in your sentences, which doesn't really mean anything other than just giving respect.)

ANYWAYS Tatay is extremely poor. He's probably 70 years old. When we came there at eight o'clock, he said he was sick. When we asked if he had read his scriptures, he said he hadn't, because he's always tired, and always looks super depressed. In his defense, he should have retired already, but doesn't have the means to do so. His family has gone left and right, which is quite rare for Filipino families, which usually stick together.

We quickly shared the plan of salvation with them (Tatay and Nanay Ayade). And then we gave them the picture Elder Hart drew of the Manila Temple. It was an interesting situation, because there was currently a black out (which is very common) and we were teaching them by candle light. 

(*another sidenote*  There's a huge whole debate thing going on here as to whether or not they should build a power plant, which would be right next to the market, or "palenke." [pa-Lenk-ay  There! There's your Tagalog for the day.] The whole town is rather divided on the issue. While most people here don't know English, for some reason they have decided to make their posters in English, despite not really understanding the language.)

Right when we were showing him the picture of the temple, the power came back on! 'Twas awesome! Even better, he got excited! I could see it in his eyes! We committed him to prepare to enter the temple with his wife on July 23rd, 2014. Now, he has just a little bit more pep in his step. Mine too.

It rains all the time here. I use my umbrella more than my scriptures, it seems. Sometimes we walk for 45 minutes just to turn around and walk another 45 minutes back! These are all of our shoes. I need to clean them after everyday because they're always covered in mud, like my pants. I'm often walking through 2 inches of water, okay?

Case in point: This is a picture of  a river that we have to cross every once in a while. (I don't want to know what's in it, but I have a few ideas….)  Anyways, if it really rains, the river comes too high in the picture and then we can't jump cross it and get to our investigator, Jina Orkin.

Jina is distantly related to Tatay Ayade FYI. (I've found out that everybody is related to everybody here in Aborlan.) She’s living with a less-active member, Bini. He is R.I.P.P.E.D. Whenever we head down to their house, he always pulls down some coconuts for us to eat and drink, and guyabano which is another incredible fruit I have found out I love.  
Anyways, they came to church on Sunday, to our utter amazement! Yippee doo dah! Awwwww yeeeawww! I'm super happy for them in case you couldn't tell.  In the past, we've only been able to teach one full lesson to them because when we get there, they're often busy or gone or whatever. So, we usually just talk and encourage them to go to church. They actually said last Sunday that they would come if his mother (who lives close by) came as well. We kinda dismissed it, as we hear that every other hour from people. But miracles do happen!  And they happen to me. I'm lucky to be only in the beginning of them, and I know there's more to come.

Speaking of miracles... the language! I'm super glad that I bought the Beginning Tagalog book, because it teaches sentence patterns, which can vary quite dramatically in my opinion. I can usually communicate quite well in Tagalog now, regardless of the situation.

My confidence has definitely increased as I consider Elder Alex Merill’s (our new elder) stage in the language learning process. He's from Bountiful Utah, and knows my old roommate, Davis Hyer distantly. When he talked to me and found out I'm a new missionary too, he said very seriously "Do you know the language? Are you fluent?" in a hurried, anxious tone. I laughed, and said that it's a gradual process. He's obviously very unsure of the language, as would be expected. I know I shouldn't, but it made me feel a lot more confident knowing that I’ve already passed that beginning level of language understanding! Obviously, there's work for me to do still, but, seeing as I've been here for three months last Friday, I've done a lot already.

I definitely saw that in a lesson with a less active man. His name is Hiljan, but people call him "Astig" which is just a slang term kind of like "cool." Anyways, the member present said that what I said was really powerful! But I know it's only through the spirit that I've been able to learn the language as fast as I have. It hasn't been easy. If it was, it wouldn't be worth it. I remember Elder Bednar saying that the witness of the Spirit only comes in the middle and after the trial. I take that to mean that the Spirit I have been feeling now lately has been been because of all of the difficulties I've faced in the past. And the witness of the Spirit is magnificent, beautiful, sublime, and totally worth the difficulties that I have faced.

Elder Thurber

PS If you want to send me a Christmas package, now is the latest time you can do it and have it get here before Christmas.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Spirit is the Most Powerful Influence in Missionary Work!

September 30, 2013, Aborlan, Palawan
Dear Everybody,
First, I will give you a new Tagalog lesson! In order to make something plural, you use "mga" or munga. So if you want to say "How are your kids?" You would say "How are your mga kid?" So, Yeah--I'll try using that in this email.

My companion, Elder Hart, just became district leader for the first time since the MTC! So that means he's going to be spending a lot of time on the phone with other missionaries. I totally believe in him that he will totally fulfill his calling, mainly because we have great mga missionary in our district, and Elder Hart's a great missionary as well, obviously. We have Elder Stephens, too, who was a high school quarterback, and joined the church just a year before serving a mission. He's a zone leader along with Elder Limocon, who is a total goofball, but has a strong testimony. The previous district leader has now left, and his trainee, Elder Delorino, is now training. Elder Delorino is learning English, and they say his companion is apparently American

Because of mga exchange, I'm going to be seeing a bunch of different mga way of seeing how missionary work is being done by these people! I can't wait for what's in store for me.

This guy is Elder Belnap. He's my hero. His Tagalog is impeccable. I've only seen him at zone conference, where this picture was taken, but I was with him in practice teaching. The scenario was street contacting. He was absolutely ridiculous-- both literally and figuratively. He just said what he wanted to, and said to me that's what gets people's attention out in the field. 

We had a ward party/variety show on Saturda. It was a well-organized event, and lasted from 10 to 5. Our responsibility as missionaries was to provide ice cream for everybody, which turned out to be pretty expensive. We said we would bring it if they gave us mga investigator.

 We also sang a rendition of the song "Ere You Left Your Room This Morning." Most of the people got the message, but some were still pretty confused.

Here it is:

“Did You Think to Ask”

Verse 1
Ere, you left your friends last e-vning
Did you think to ask?
Have you met our missionaries?
Have you read the Book of Mormon,
And prayed to know it's true?

Oh, how referrals rest the weary
missionaries here for you!
So when you give us a referral
You will be blessed.

verse 2 
How was the ice cream?
Was it masarap?
Did you remember your commitment?
That you might refer another
who had crossed your way?

verse 3
We have gone to door to door
seeking precious souls
but there is a better way
to teach and to be baptized
every other day.

I also was asked to play piano, and so I played some good ol' Chopin (the Polonaise in A-flat Major). I am SO out of shape! But, I don't think they cared all that much, so oh well! It still felt good to play it again, even though it wasn't up to tempo.
This is what we sometimes get for breakfast when we're out of oatmeal or fruit or whatever. Minus the packaged stuff, each piece of bread there is only two pesos! Pretty cheap, right? Well, I try to avoid it as much as I can, because of how much hydrogenated junk they put in it. But sometimes it's unavoidable when you have the hectic schedule of a missionary. 

Interesting fact: Elder Gwilliams, the senior missionary serving here with his wife, served in Manila as a young elder many years ago, and got called to return to the same area. Turns out, it was an English speaking mission back then, because the Book of Mormon at that time had not yet been translated into Tagalog, AND because more people knew English at that time.  (This is because the Second World War resulted in close relations between the Americans and Filipinos.) The language now has reverted back to Tagalog, so the mission language has changed to Tagalog, too. So... like most 60+ people know English, but not the 50 year olds.
Our investigators are doing well, but it's so hard to get people to come to church, and people need to go to church four times in a row in order to be baptized. But Decila Corpuz, the woman I mentioned earlier, is quite on track with that! She will most likely be baptized on the 19 of October, if she continues to stay away from coffee. Her older sister is an investigator, also, and is actually married to a less active. But the BIG problem that we're facing with them is this: they need to be married first. It is a big deal here in the Philippines, because people are not legally allowed to be divorced. Weird, right? And divorce can be expensive. But I heard from Elder Balonsong, that there are ways to deal with it. Elder Hart and I will look into that. 

This is a picture of Jorald and Grandpa Pambungas, who is the father of our branch president.
Jorald has given us so many referrals, and loves to do missionary work. Thing is, he's not even a member! He wants to be baptized, but his dad won't sign the form-- yet. We'll see about that. We're planning on meeting with his dad this week to discuss things.

These are two of our future mga missionary!  I've worked with them once or twice each.

One of our other mga investigator is Jena Orkin. She lives out in the middle of nowhere, and it takes a good 45 minutes to walk to her house. We can't take a trike because there aren't any roads. This picture is an example of what it is like to get to her house. Her "husband" is a member, as well as his mga parent, but once again, they need to be married in order to be baptized. 
Just the other day, we met once again with Roger Dela Cruz. He was one of the first people I ever gave a lesson to. He has a family of five, and loves Mormons and the church, but with his health condition things are hard. The reason why I was able to visit him again was because our boundaries in Aborlan changed, so now he's in my area again. He knows a little bit of English, and tries to use it as much as he can, so that's nice. His wife is very supportive of his decision to be baptized despite his condition, which I'm not completely sure of. He's a great guy and if he just keeps to what he says he'll do, he will most certainly understand that joining the church is the right thing to do.

I love teaching him because he knows a lot of English, and I get to testify in English. And instead of focusing on the words, I can simply focus on him and the Spirit. And put quite simply, the Spirit is the most powerful influence in missionary work! Frankly, it's what keeps me going, when every part of my body says to stop walking, relax, and just go home for the evening. But once I sit down in a lesson and talk about prophets, the restoration, the atonement, the Spirit seeps in to me, and tells me it is true, once again. It fills me with purpose and with hope that I have never felt before in my life. I love doing work because of the Spirit. And the wonderful thing about it is the Spirit it always makes itself known to those who are willing to listen. I testify that it is real, and is the reason why the church is able to progress.