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

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

Journal 2.0, Typhoon, and my 20th Birthday

Monday, Nov. 11, 2013
Aborlan, Palawan

Dear People Across the World,

I have come to a point that I accept that nothing in my mission will ever be normal. It's beautiful chaos 24/7. It's 20 times more interesting than regular life. 

First off, I'm still in Aborlan with Elder Hart, with Elders Saclot and Balonsong. Everybody is still here except for Elder Stephens, who was shipped back to Manila, and is still a zone leader. This is a picture of me and Elder Stephens.  He's served here quite a while! We got a new ZL, Elder Henie, who I'll be meeting tomorrow. 

I reached a milestone on Tuesday night, the day before my birthday. I knew every word that was spoken in a lesson. :D But it's still tough sometimes though.

I also got a birthday cake on Tuesday from Sister Gwilliam.  It was the perfect time to have a birthday, because my other batchmates, Elder Webb and Proudfit came down to see us, too! They're both staying in Palawan, but their trainers are heading out. Elder Webb is training immediately. They got some cake. Plus I get to see them all tomorrow because of Zone mtg!

My birthday was mabuti! I'm going to write about it just so you know the people here are really taking great care of me. BTW It's pronounced "mah-booty", and means good!  For breakfast I had some Frosted Flakes, which tasted like heaven. Do not take for granted cereal my friends! You never know what you have until it's gone. 

Something I noticed on my birthday is that Filipinos are really good at birthdays! Every Filipino wished me a Happy Birthday that I knew! They don't need Facebook to remind them of birthdays.  Me and Elder Hart and Decila Corpuz, Jorald Josol, and Glen Favella got 2 chickens, spaghetti, 2 things of soda, rice, 2 cartons of ice cream, and some bananas. When we came home, the other elders were waiting to surprise me. They even turned off the power and had candles to light to sing Happy Birthday. Notice our Thurber family picture sitting on the table.  Filipinos go ALL out in birthdays! They bought a 3500 peso cake! That's like 40 bucks in American money. They basically spent a quarter of their support on this chocolate cake, and they also bought kasava cake and a bunch of other food, so we've sure been feasting for the past few days on the leftovers.

It just so happens that I finished my first journal the day before my birthday, so I started my bigger journal right on my birthday. It should last me throughout my mission, so it's the new and improved journal 2.0! :D

I taught Roger and Trixa on Thursday. It was wonderful because all of the kids were asleep, and they could both fully give their attention to us. It was mabuti! We taught about the Word of Wisdom, and it made sense to them, and they said they would follow it. I am really starting to admire Trixa, because all of her comments about what she read are as correct if not more so than most Mormons would give-- and she hasn't even gone to church! It seems to me that Roger thinks that he should go to church first and be baptized, and then the rest of his family will follow. 

He was able to go to church on Sunday, but we had the unfortunate opportunity of seeing him walk to church with a cigarette in his mouth. Not mabuti! I guess we need to focus on him just a little bit more than what we have been. 

Apart from his cigarette, church was wonderful because Brother and Sister Gwilliam spoke in English! They gave great talks, and I wish you all could have heard them. Their speech was simple and pure so that people could understand them, but the message was powerful. 

We didn't get to work on Friday, because of the Typhoon that was coming through. Honestly, there wasn't too much to report other than I learned a bunch of new card games and a card trick I can bring back to America. 

On Saturday we got a text saying that we needed to email, but the power was cut off. We tried to work and taught 3 lessons, but had to head back home because of the zone leaders. 

Like I said at the beginning, there isn't a dull moment here in my mission. The work is really picking up here. We've taught more lessons and met more of our key indicators than we ever have as a companionship. While we go in usually intending to teach something we've taught before, it never is close to the same because of the people we teach. Each person has their own individual needs. It's cool to see them react to the gospel and then to try to add on to what they have and bring them to Christ. I may just be naive, but it never gets old!

Elder Thurber

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Four Companions and the End of my Training

Nov. 13th Note from Matthew's Mom:  We received our regular email from Matthew Monday, Nov. 11th.  Matthew did not report that the Typhoon had any impact on him other than he and his fellow companions were confined to their apartment for the day, and did no missionary work.  I will post his Nov. 11th update tomorrow or Friday.

Nov. 4, Aborlan, Palawan

Greets and Salutations,

I had four companions this week. They were Elder Stephens, Merrill, Saclot, and obviously, Elder Hart. I can say I’ve had my fill of variety of missionary experiences this week. I stayed in my area the entire time, so I really had to stretch myself and figure out what was going to happen.

First, I got to go with Elder Stephens for Tuesday. He has been out for a year now, and is a zone leader. It was one of those days where everything we planned…. went according to plan! He was really by the book and every lesson was 1) sit down 2) chat and ask questions 3) start with a prayer 4) introduce and teach what we planned 5) relate the lesson to what we chatted about 6) bear testimony and close with a prayer 7) leave a scripture and ask for referrals 8)leave quickly. He was quite the superb missionary, and his Tagalog was pretty fantastic, and I had the special opportunity to understand him perfectly. I’m used to getting just 90% of what people are saying, but his voice was very clear. He used to work in my area, so he usually knew where to go just like I did.

On Wednesday, Elder Hart returned, and we pulled out our ward directory and headed off to the unknown land of Plaridel. We found Gudovito Mandaricio, who was baptized in 2000, and now has the Melchizedek priesthood. His entire family of 6 was baptized. When we came to his door, he was working outside, and a grin came to his face, and we knew we were at the right house! He explained that he didn’t have enough money to go to church, because costs about 80 pesos for him and his wife (who was the primary chorister) to go to church one way. He told how much he wants to go back to church, and told about the Book of Mormon, which he had let a friend borrow. Hopefully, he can head back soon enough! We’ll try him on Wednesday, but there’s a good chance Wednesday is when we’re going to be transferred.

We then taught Tatay Capinig. He was just one Sunday short of becoming a returned member. We always enjoy his company, and our member-present (Glen Favella, who is about to serve a mission) bought some of his balut, so I got to see that. Anyways, at the end of the lesson, he asked us if it would be okay to go to the Catholic church on Sundays. I was a little shocked, but tried to encourage him.

Honestly, the Assistants to the President or Pres Stucki should be calling us soon about transfers, and we’re all kind of giggly right now in the apartment. That’s basically all we’ve talked during dinner for the past few days. Obviously, I’ll letcha know next email what’s going to happen.

Thursday was a day solely unique to my mission experience, because I headed out with Elder Merrill (a new elder)  to Magsaysay. Elder Stephens went with Elder Hart there last week and got a bunch of return appointments, which I tried to handle and figure out, with Elder Merrill at my side. Thankfully, we had Jorald and Decila right next to us trying to guide us, but alas, we weren’t able to teach any of the lessons. I felt soooo beaten after it was over. My Tagalog failed me, it seemed, and while we handed out a Book of Mormon and got a few return dates, I couldn’t teach anybody I tried to reach. We were still able to teach some lessons that day, but left Magsaysay empty-handed.

We then came down to another return appointment, which went well, and then finally got to teach John Rex Unlao. He was Jorald’s friend in school, and accepted a baptismal invitation about 4 weeks ago. Thursday was our second lesson :/ It’s been tough. There in the lesson, Elder Merrill spilled out some Tagalog about prophets and the Book of Mormon. I couldn’t help but smile, as I could totally relate to what he was going through. And then I tried to relay what he said to those who were there. Truthfully, I’m SO glad I know more Tagalog now than I did as a new elder!

At the end of the Lesson, John-Rex beckoned over to Jorald to talk to him in private. When they came back, Jorald told me about the baptism that we had planned. That was definitely a highlight of my day! I said he had to have more lessons, attend church, and read the Book of Mormon, none of which he did. When I asked if was willing to come to church, he said resolutely “Opo!” Which means “Yes” in English. It was a good feeling to know that at least people who aren’t in the church want to try to live the gospel.
While he still wasn’t able to, Roger Dela Cruz, the man I’ve been talking about for the past long while, finally came to church! He said he had a great experience, and will be attending church next week in Pwuerto, Palawan, b/c that’s where he’ll be working.

This is on our way back from a members house from "All Souls Day", which is kind of like Halloween.

I just thought this picture was funny :) "100x paddle to the butt!" It's always funny when Filipinos use English. 

Right before fast Sunday, it was Sister Pambungas' birthday. I had some delicious pakwan for the first time in the Philipines. It's this great thing called watermelon. We enjoyed each other's company quite a bit. 

Sorry this is getting rather lengthy…. One last thing! Sunday I taught the Egcol family. They’re Less Active and have been going to the Baptist church because of their children. They say they’re “closer as a family now.” I honestly felt that I gained the Gift of Tongues when I taught them. They were actually the first people I met when I came on my mission, when Elder Balonsong bugged me into trying to talk to people. Anyways, I read Moroni 10: 26 or whatever the scripture is about Mormon being a voice “crying from the dust” and how we’re accountable to the Lord for the information we know about the church. It was probably the first time I’ve spoken passionately in Tagalog, and I hope it made a difference in getting them back to church!

But they have agency, and I respect that.  Frankly, what I’m doing as a missionary is allowing people to use their agency to their good. Example: Winston Alaska, who is our age. We tried to teach him for the longest while, but he was always away. We finally got to him on Friday, and extended a baptismal invitation, which he accepted. The teaching record says that he had been asked several times in the past, so I feel so blessed to be the missionary to have him accept this sacred opportunity! That’s the type of time I’m thankful for agency, because they want to do good! I liked it so much that we accepted to teach him during this morning, which usually doesn’t happen bc it’s P-day, but since he’s right next to our house, we taught him anyways.

In today’s world, I feel like people spend more time being busy rather than improving as individuals through careful introspection of their thoughts and desires. Have you ever thought about how many people are going about their lives trying to do well and improve? Most seem to just roll along (Filipinos especially) but I testify that the gospel puts our very being on the path of true happiness and lasting joy, which fits us to once again return to our Father in Heaven and achieve perfection! Everybody I meet on the street has that chance! But once again it boils down to agency. It always does.  

Friday, November 8, 2013



Typhoon Haiyan Update: Church Supplying Relief Supplies to Those in Need

Leaders Establishing Contact with Members, Missionaries

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expresses condolences to the millions affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and is providing shelter, food, water and other basic supplies to evacuees and displaced families.
An estimated 700,000 people are now displaced. In areas impacted by the storm, particularly in the eastern coastal regions, transportation, power and communication networks are down.
All Mormon missionaries serving in the Church’s 21 Filipino missions are accounted for, with the exception of some serving in the Philippines Tacloban Mission. Before the typhoon, missionaries had been moved to areas where they would be adequately sheltered, and the Church is working to establish contact with Tacloban mission leaders.
“A Church Welfare Department employee is traveling to the island of Leyte with communication equipment to establish contact with the Tacloban mission president,” said Stephen B. Allen, Missionary Department managing director. "We plan to be in communication with those in Leyte by Saturday in the Philippines.”
Efforts are also underway to make contact with Church members. More than 14,000 members and others have sought refuge in 200 Church meetinghouses.
As daylight comes, the Church anticipates that missionaries throughout the country will begin assisting those in need.
Local Church leaders will spend the weekend assessing further needs of both members and the community. 
Additional information will be posted on Mormon Newsroom as it becomes available.
STYLE GUIDE NOTE: When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online style guide.

Church Members, Missionaries in Philippines Prepared for Typhoon Haiyan



Church Members, Missionaries in Philippines Prepared for Typhoon Haiyan

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines has taken precautions in anticipation of Typhoon Haiyan. Church leaders have been evaluating resources and making specific preparations for the storm for the past week, and they will work with local authorities and relief agencies to provide assistance as the storm progresses.

The storm is forecast to hit the Visayas region of the Philippines, and it may impact nearly two-thirds of the country. Officials are warning that the storm has the potential to cause widespread damage.
Church buildings in areas near the storm’s anticipated path are already being used as shelters for those in need of safer housing, and more buildings will be used as needed.
The Church has 21 missions in the Philippines. Mission presidents have taken precautions to protect the safety and well-being of missionaries, moving them to alternate housing where necessary.
“If there is any concern about the safety of an area, we move our missionaries out of that area,” said Stephen B. Allen, Missionary Department managing director. “We’ve known about this storm for some time, and all mission presidents have moved missionaries to areas where they believe they can be adequately sheltered from the typhoon.”
The Church stands ready to assist affected communities during and after the storm. Emergency response resources have been secured, including food, water and other supplies (items such as blankets, hygiene supplies, tarps, chain saws and shovels).
As the storm progresses, local Church leaders and Welfare Department personnel will make assessments and coordinate with local authorities and response partners to determine needed assistance and future relief efforts.
STYLE GUIDE NOTE: When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online style guide.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Landmines, 3 Baptisms, Rain, and a Wedding

10-28-2013 Aborlan, Palawan

Dear Everybody,

I have a new reason why I like being on a mission: time flies by so quickly while on your mission. I definitely have found this to be true now that I realize my time being trained is coming to an abrupt close. I will find out next week if I'm going to be
1. Transferred (most likely back to Manila, which will be for the rest of my mission, most likely.)
2.  Stay here and have a new follow-up trainer.
3.  Same as 2, only having Elder Hart be my follow-up.
4.  Stay here and train a new missionary, most likely Filipino.
So yeah, I'm a little excited about all of this!

To keep this blog fresh, I'm going to look at my daily planner now, and then just jot down one of my days as I planned it, and report how it actually panned out, according to what I remember. As you will see, it has its bonuses and its minuses!

I choose.... Saturday!

The Plan
* 6:30 Wake up and exercise and shower and eat and get in missionary attire.
* 8:00 Do companionship study for an hour
* 9:00 Get ready to go to Mike Sevilla's wedding
* 10:00 arrive at the wedding, and eat there
* 2:00 return to teach Brother Biolena (Bee--oo-lane-uh), the recently returned less active who lives with one of our investigators. Unfortunately, they're not married. We go there to talk about families and what is required to go to the temple.
* 3:00 Finish off our last hour of companionship study.
* 5:00 Baptism of Mike Sevilla, and Anthony Jadloc
* 7:00 Teach the Somblaceno family. The dad's inactive, and very shy because they say he smokes and doesn't feel worthy to come to church. We were going to teach about how the gospel helps people overcome difficulties in their lives.
* 8:00 Teach Bro Capinig "Saints for all Seasons" by President Uchtdorf in one of the past Liahonas.
* 9:00 return home.
It's a pretty good plan, and in retrospect, I wouldn't change it at all.

Here's How It Actually Went:
* 6:30 Goes according to plan...
* 8:00 we start up companionship study, but totally forget about the wedding, and continue doing companionship study until 9:45.
* 10:30 Pick up a trike and head down to the wedding hoping we're not missing the wedding of our investigator. We get there and find out we're surprisingly early, as seen in the first picture.
  • So we actually spend a lot of time waiting, and talking with everybody. I didn't know too many people there, and so I tried to reach out.
  • I got to meet a Baptist minister who said in very broken English that I'm not good in Tagalog.
  • I met a newly returned missionary in our ward who served in the Philippines Angeles Mission.

  • I also congratulated  Brother Mike Sevilla, who looked stunning in his suit.*I had a good conversation with him where he said I was good in Tagalog. So as to whether not I am "marunog" (or intelligent) in Tagalog, is a mystery to me.
  • Then it started raining, and the tarp had a few holes in it, so we put a few buckets where the leaks came down. Then it REALLY started raining, and that's when the tarps started failing. Being the tallest person (by far) I got to be the one to try to fix all of the tarps, but alas, even the great Elder Thurber can get defeated. While trying to save the beautiful decorations made for the wedding, I was baptized by water several times. But it was okay because everybody put their umbrellas over the tables and hurriedly took the food into the house. 

        This picture is about our first attempts to save everything

But thankfully, the rain stopped just as Mike and Christine Sevilla came back from the Mayor’s house. 

The couple looked gorgeous, and a little nervous because of it all. (Don't judge my terrible photography skills. My weaknesses will be made strong. . . . eventually) (see Ether 12:27). 

  • We ate while listening to Brother Deo sing karaoke and saw the couple dance. The people stapled a bunch of 100 and 200 peso bills onto their clothes as they danced. Sorry I didn't take a picture.

But I did take a picture of me and Elder Hart having a serious conversation.

And of us missionaries with the happy couple. Good times!

* Unfortunately, we lost track of time, and there weren't any trikes heading down the road, so we all walked for about 30 minutes back to our house, feeling crummy.
* Since we realized we didn't have time, we headed directly off to Bro Biolena's house, still a little wet because of the wedding.
  • We taught a good lesson about families and they were all receiving it well.
  • Then I asked "Gusto nyo ba pasokin ang Templo sa Maynila?" Then it went downhill. Glorybe simply left saying she needed to cook, and things got really awkward really quickly. But then, Bro Biolena started talking about the guilt he felt, and that while he had a testimony of the gospel (despite the many friends he has who love to persuade him otherwise) he knows he’s making the wrong decision.
  • I cried a little, because I realized I came there teaching him the wrong lesson. I wanted to commit him to go to the temple, but I needed to simply encourage him and tell him that God loves him. I felt so bad that I had given him such guilt by reminding him of how he's not currently living worthily of entering the temple for eternity. I could see it in his eyes that he was sincere.
  • He then said that's his top priority, and I felt the spirit just rush over me. I thought: here is a man who has tried to do his best, despite his mistakes he’s made in the past! He actually has two kids on missions right now, and he is a great influence to everybody around him. Now, I feel, he's helping himself.
* 5:20  After the lesson, we realized we were late for the baptism scheduled at 5:00. So we jogged down to the Liska River for the baptism. We couldn't head home and change our clothes.
  • When we got there, Elder Balonsong was dressed in too-big baptismal clothes. But he just laughed. Turns out, he baptized actually 3 people that day, because there was an 8 year old who was getting baptized. I forgot his name,(but he had a really hard time getting into the water because it was so cold! hehe)
      Everybody that attended the baptism
  • I got to know the returned missionary a little better. His name is Joman Saldino. He gave a talk to the baptizees. He was quite good! I felt like we really hit it off together then. Turns out, just yesterday, he got called as our ward mission leader! I am so happy for that, because he is very able to go with us to the lessons, getting that ever-so-crucial member present. We used him yesterday because we have a ton of lessons to go to, and had to split. He went with Elder Hart and I with two others.  Turns out, just yesterday, he got called as our ward mission leader! I am so happy for that, because he is very able to go with us to the lessons, getting that ever-so-crucial member present. We used him yesterday because we have a ton of lessons to go to, and had to split. He went with Elder Hart and I with with someone else.  
*  Back to Saturday: The baptisms went surprisingly fast, and we were able to head over to Somblaceno family with Decila and Jorald. After we crossed several shaky bamboo bridges ("Hey Elder, do you have these in America?" "Uh... no."), we got to their house only to find that they were having a party.
    • Despite the party, they let us in, and everybody became silent, wanting to hear our message! I was quite... petrified; there were at least 15 people there looking at me. Eeek!
    • I tried to put the pressure off of me by asking if they would like to watch the Restoration video for our lesson, The dad was on the couch next to us. And yes, he was interested in our message. But I still didn't know what I was doing.
    • I said I had a verse for them, to fill up the silence, but not knowing what verse to give. Luckety luck I opened up to the scripture about giving knowledge "line upon line, precept upon precept" and after that thought, Elder Hart and I gave the lesson on the Restoration and how our message gives people additional knowledge of the scriptures.
    • I am so glad for the Spirit because I definitely didn't know what to do. Luckety-luck, they really enjoyed our message they said, and wanted to read the Book of Mormon, and gave us an address and a return date! Wahoo!
* Then, Bro Capinig wasn't home. But that was actually a good thing, because we didn't have time to do companionship study at three as we planned. So we headed home, exhausted by all the happenings of the day.
* Truth be told, I only told you half of the important things that happened that day. Imagine what it's like for me every day, and then you'll realize why life goes by so fast for a missionary. You don't even have time to think, but only to do. It's a pretty sweet life!

* Missionary life has its funny moments too. That may be partially because the Philippines is awesome. 
  • Take for example the word landmine. Because of the lack of toilets around here, people sometimes resort to prehistoric measures to hide their excrement by putting a little dirt over it and calling it good. I had the privilege of stepping on one of those structures that they call "landmines." It was quite gross.
  • Or another reason why things are fun here: currently there's a cat that is deciding to take a nap on my sidebag.
  • Or the lady in the next picture who kept on saying I was "guapo" during the wedding.
    FYI, guapo means handsome. She asked for a picture with me hahaha so here it is.
    Or of the Karaoke machine at the wedding that modifies voices to sound better and in tune. Yeah my mission's the best. 
The best part is the lessons though.

Another time I'll focus more on what I'm teaching in my lessons. I haven't done it that much yet cuz I often don't know what's going on, but now that's changing, so I can start telling you what actually happened cuz I understand it more.

Elder Thurber