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

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I'm Training an American; and Merry Christmas!

Dec 23 2013
Hey ya'll!
Elder Thurber and Elder Healey
I got the call from the Zone Leaders telling me I'll be training Elder Chong, a Hawaiian missionary who has been out for 6 weeks, being previously trained by Elder Healey, the great missionary I admire (see picture 1). They were in a threesome previously, with Elder Zook, who is funnier than his name sounds!

Quite frankly, our companionship has really been the topic of elders here in Palawan, because it's so unusual for Americans to be training Americans, especially right after the American has just finished his training by another American, who got trained by an American!

It is makes it even worse when the American who is training an American isn't fluent in Tagalog at all, just like the American who is currently being trained by him! It's pretty... kwan. Oh yeah, that's the Tagalog lesson for the day. It's the best word in Tagalog. It means, quite literally "um." If you don't know what to say, you just say “kwan!”  It's perfectly appropriate to say “kwan” whenever you want.  Me and E Echano use it quite often, even when speaking in English. Like, if we're going to the lesson he'll ask, "What's the name of this man, again?" I'll just say "kwan!" And it's alright.

So.... this week has obviously started off a little slow, with the transfers and all, but it'll be just fine! The same thing happens in every area. Improvement will come as sure as Christmas will! Elder Chong is a wonderful, obedient, and relaxed missionary. I'm barely training him. He's always willing to come with me to do the extra mile. For example, we got home a little earlier than expected from the missionary party for all of the missionaries last Thursday (more on that later), and, when I suggested we work for an hour or so, he jumped at the opportunity! While we weren't able to teach any lessons, he didn't think of it as a waste of time, just like I didn't.

While we don't have too much in common, we love sharing with each other different aspects of our lives! He would go surfing every day before his mission, and went to a private school, and has taught me a little about Hawaii and the Hawaiian language, even though he knows very little about it. We always have something to talk about when we're walking from lesson to lesson.

His Tagalog is OK, but he has openly admitted to me it's not his favorite. But he spends the full hour doing language study and will teach anything he needs to.

We had quite the time at the Christmas party! We had a pretty fun gift exchange, and I ended up with a bunch of Spongebob craft supplies (?????) and he got an alarm clock, which he doesn't need either.
But I got to participate in his old district's presentation later on in the day! They said they had a hilarious Primary Program a few weeks ago, so we all imitated them.  I was the kid who doesn't really know what's going on, and had my shirt untucked and mumbled when I spoke. I said “kwan” a few times in it.

Elder Thurber and Elder Echano
Aborlan gained another new missionary this past transfer! His name is Elder Echano, and he's our new district leader! Get this: he's amazing at chess! While he hasn't beaten me yet, he got relatively close two games ago! I really have to think, whereas I'm basically teaching all of the other elders how to play when I play chess with them.  Elder Echano is only one transfer ahead of me, and is very optimistic and hardworking. He's one of the few missionaries that is humble enough to ask for help in English when he's not sure about things!  I'm excited to know him better, as our personalities are very much alike.

As for the work this week... we weren't able to teach too many lessons, and many investigators haven't been able to come to church, unfortunately clearing out any January prospects for baptism. But it will go on, kind of like what is says in D&C 123, last verse.
17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us acheerfully bdo all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the csalvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.
Sometimes as members of the church, we expect the Lord to suddenly come into our lives and then have something to bear our testimony about in fast and testimony meeting. With few exceptions, only the opposite is true. We need to do everything in our power to have the arm of God revealed to us. People are lost from conversion to the Lord because they think that because they were baptized and they did go to church, that they did enough as members of the church. But they failed to do "all things that lie in [their] power." What does that mean? It means to do everything our modern-day prophets have commanded of us! And the blessings far outweigh the time and effort needed to do gain them. That is the pattern of the Lord, and it takes daily, consistent effort to cultivate and mature.

One last insight: it says to do everything "cheerfully." Come to think of it, I've never regretted doing anything that has been commanded to me, even when it seemed really tedious or hard at first. I hope it's been the same for you!
Here's my example: on Wednesday night we had to go up to the District President's house (he's like a Stake President, but Narra hasn't become a stake yet) and we had a little time. It had been a long day and we wanted to relax and talk with them, as they fed us mounds of food. But we decided to proselyte in his Barangy, or neighborhood, in order to be exactly obedient. And almost immediately, we found this family at the side of the road who had been working for 5 straight hours trying to haul off this gravel to make their porch. It was so evident that they needed help, and we were there for them.   Now we have a appointment set up for tonight! I hope it goes well! Pray for us! And maybe the "Lord's hand will be revealed."

That's I guess all I have to share this week.
Have a Merry Christmas!

Elder Thurber

I'll Be a Trainer

Kumusta sa inyo lahat! (How are you all doing?!)
It’s official! I’m going to be a trainer! He’ll most likely be a Filipino. I’ll be here in the wonderful world of Palawan for one or two transfers and I’ll head over to the crazy world of Manila. I say one or two transfers because my trainee has already done six weeks of his training, so I may be out of here at the end of January (one more transfer) or continue to be his follow-up trainer for the last six weeks.  Either way, I’m happy!
I'll miss this guy so much!
Elders Balonsong and Hart are both pretty thrilled to be going back to Manila. They’ll both be training and Elder Hart will still be a district leader. Elder Saclot won’t be training, which, I assume, means that his companion will be the district leader. 
But… let’s talk about me. I’m training. Do I feel prepared? In short, no. I’m pretty freaking scared on how much authority will be laid on my shoulders. I still am very unsure of the language, and when I went on splits last night, my confidence plummeted, as I basically taught by myself all night, and had a rough time meeting people on the street with 5 branch missionaries following me around, asking me questions I didn’t understand.

Looking on the bright side, I’ll definitely be learning the language quicker now! I’ll have to leave my comfort zone once again to get any better in this language. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes, but at least I’ll be better because of it. My biggest priority is just to have fun this week.
I’ll miss Elder Hart immensely. I’ve learned so much from him in many unusual ways that are kind of hard to explain. Put it this way: he showed me how to be a missionary even when times are hard, and the importance of consistency in every situation that you’re being put through. Like it says in 3 Ne 5:13, we are called as disciples of Christ and regardless of what people say or do or think, we have a sacred duty to preach the gospel to all those who receive it.
Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.  (3 Nephi 5:13)
I went on three wonderful exchanges this week with Elders Saclot, Haynie, and Delorino. What I learned from Elder Saclot is to keep the lessons short and powerful, especially when you're teaching first lessons. Elder Haynie taught me that I need to ask more inspired questions, and to not say "ummm" when I don't know what to say. He's really becoming a close friend of mine, or "barcada." And I noticed when I went out with Elder Delorino that he is a wonderful example of how to gain the investigators trust. The exchanges really helped me prepare to be a trainer, as I was leading the area in two of them.
But the biggest thing I've learned this week is that missionaries can do very little without members. I've taught probably... 200 lessons now? Probably more. I'm sure that I helped people gain a testimony, but testimony without conversion is dead. And the members need to do their part to nudge those in inactivity or investigating the church to come back.

I hope that this next transfer will be a transforming one for me. One where I will not only work with a brand new missionary, but work with the ward. To coordinate and follow through.

Elder Thurber

PS  This little bugger was under Elder Saclot's dresser this morning!

Dec. 10th "If You Don't Go On a Mission, a Huge Chunk of Your Life Will Always Be Missing"

Tue 12/10/2013 1:16 AM

Family and friends,
This past week has been uplifting and quite unlike any other. I can't believe how much more my testimony has grown lately, and how much I want to just get out the door and teach.

So you know how we set a record this past week for 16 New Investigators? Well, we just passed that this week by 7. Yeah, we got 23 NI! We're on a role! In fact, the whole Narra District is on fire, not just us. January will be a very promising month for all of us.
Here's a cool story about getting referrals. It occurred last Thursday, and brought unprecedented success.

Our 1st appointment of the day fell through, but the guy really likes us (even though he thinks of it as bible study) and gave us two awesome referrals in a place called "housing" which is a little far away. All of our other appointments weren't there, so we decided to see what he was talking about. When we took a trike down there, we saw a few houses here and there and then--BAM! We were in a brand new town!  Everybody waved to us! As soon as we got off the trike, 7 people just randomly started talking to us, and were as interested in the gospel as they could be, and then we taught them. They weren't even our referrals. They all said they'd read. We then taught the referrals from our first appointment, which were just as interested. It was quite incredible, and a total confidence booster for us.

Just this past yesterday we got a special treat. All Narra Zone missionaries watched "The Grinch" after zone meeting. It's the one with Jim Carrey, and I can't believe we were allowed to watch it.
We had "District Conference" this past Saturday and Sunday. It's the same thing as Stake Conference, but our area isn't big enough to be a stake yet. (More on that later). It was a spiritual feast, and we saw and heard a bunch of wonderful talks and testimonies from recent converts, that I could understand. What I got out of it most of all is that the missionary work is moving forward.

One of the talks is actually where my blog title, "If you don't go on a mission, a huge chunk of your life will be always missing" came from.  It was from a guy in our ward who cried while saying it. And it's so darn true! If you're a guy thinking about serving a mission, please consider that you will be twice the man you were before. There isn't a substitute. By losing yourself, you realize that your Heavenly Father has more in store for you than you realize.

I'm running out of time, but I just want you to know that I know the Church is true, and that Heavenly Father did in actuality appear personally to Joseph Smith and that the Book of Mormon holds the truth. You probably know that. But comprehension of these things is a gradual, life-long process that can only come through living every aspect you learn. By going on a mission, these truths will sink deeper into your heart and mind, and you will want, like so many people before, to tell them to all other people on the earth. You'll find, at the point I am right now, that any doubts you had before your mission are, in comparison, extremely weak compared to the benefits.

I'm so happy to be where I am right now. I'm in the middle of The Narra Zone which is hopefully being transformed into a stake soon. We're really close. The solution, President Stucki has said, is to do Home Teaching. We're at 3 percent right now. So every Sunday, all the missionaries here are going to be going on splits and doing home teaching with home teachers to those Less Active members here. All we need is more Melchezidek priesthood holders and then we're a stake. The goal is that in July we will reach that criteria.

This is what we saw one day at a "Tindahan" which is a small store people have as part of their house. It's like a 7-11, but really tiny and cheap. I thought it was funny what the sign said. What they meant was halo-halo, which is this mixture of ice cream, shavings, and fruit, which I have yet to try. It seems they have yet to try the awesomeness of halo 1. 

The guy on the left is who I'll be working with later on today, who is a Zone Leader. Hes Elder Haynie from Alabama. He's great and only a few transfers ahead of me. 

It's interesting how being a missionary doesn't really change how you take a picture. These are all of the ties that I bought for us.  

So yeah! Life's great here. The missionary work is pushing forward at a great rate.  The language is great. The missionaries are great. Every part is great.

Elder Thurber 

Matthew's Mom's note:  Be sure to read the other posts I publish today. I think I will be able to get caught up later today.  Merry Christmas to all of Matthew's friends.

Dec 2. "Mission Tour"

Mon 12/2/2013 7:50 AM:  "Mission Tour"

Magandang hapon po! (Good Afternoon!)
Elder Thurber and Elder Echo Hawk
The mission tour last Tuesday has strengthened my testimony tenfold. It's changed my life, really. Elder Larry J Echo Hawk is inspiring as they come. He changed my outlook on life and how God is in the middle of our lives. It was one of the most spiritual meetings in my life.

He started out the meeting by taking the group picture, which is usually done after the meeting. The reason being was he wanted to speak to us before the meeting started, and asked us to not talk on the way over and give him a handshake and speak with our eyes, and not our mouths, so that we can be reverent. And it worked! The whole day was one big spiritual feast! I loved every moment of it.
 He talked for a full hour about all of the crazy stories he's been through. For example, he made a deal with the Lord (while he was taking the missionary discussions as a teenager) that if he read the Book of Mormon, he would be chosen to be the high school starting quarterback. He kept his promise, and so did the Lord. He later played for BYU, too. Later on, he taught at BYU as a law professor, and then presided over all of BYU athletics, until he got a call from Barack Obama to lead Americas affairs with Native Americans (he's half Native American, hence the name.) He actually gave a talk in October 2012 and he addressed Native Americans personally.   http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/10/come-unto-me-o-ye-house-of-israel?lang=eng&query=Echohawk

I could spend a lot of time talking about him, but my time here on the internet is short. It's 8:20 right now. I technically should be proselyting right now, but earlier today, for the third straight Monday, the power went out during email.

We gathered up the courage to ask President Stucki to give us more time to email, because the internet worked so slow I couldn't even open up my email until the power was shut off, and I lost a page and a half of my blog entry. :(  The reason for the power being shut off (so I heard) was the power company is doing a campaign to change the people’s minds about the coal power plant by intentionally turning off the power, helping the people understand that they need a coal power plant, as there are plenty of signs in jumbled or "Caribou" English that they want to keep Aborlan clean by not getting a power plant. I'm not sure I believe it, but if you want a reason for why I sporadically send emails, it's because of this local struggle about the power plant. 

Usually the power outages do missionary work harm. But this week, I'm pleased to announce that Elder Hart and I set a companionship record for New Investigators! (Definition: people who we taught for the first time.) We got 16! Our goal was 14, which was the Standard of Excellence given to us by the mission president. Looking back, it makes me just smile and realize that God is the one in control of everything, not me. I say that because, when doing weekly planning last Friday, Elder Hart offered that suggestion. I didn't really like the idea, because we had one less day to work because of the mission tour, and our previous finding efforts have been significantly lacking. Like, last week, we got only 3 new investigators. I hope that puts some perspective on the success we had this week.

I asked Elder Hart, "How do you think we're going to be able to reach this goal? We haven't been able to in the past, and now we have even less time to complete it? Do you really think you can do this or do you just want to set goals that fulfill the Standard of Excellence?" He promptly replied, "I think we can do it." I decided not to think on it further, and have this mumbly-grumbly compromising attitude about it all. Oh, how my attitude has changed! Elder Hart's faith made up for mine, and we taught many, many lessons this week. We had so many lessons we had to split on Sunday to cover them all.

On Saturday we had exchanges and I got to go with the great Elder Merrill once again. Two new foreign missionaries always make for a lot of fun! His area is probably the most beautiful place I've ever been. We were surrounded by mountains and gardens and resorts. I wish I could go back there once again. We had good lessons, too. One guy asked, "So what do I need to do to be saved?" I wish every investigator would ask that. He accepted the baptismal invitation and they say he went to church last Sunday.
So, unfortunately Jorald's dad didn't budge on his decision to not sign the signature, even though we brought an old branch president by to visit with him. *sigh* Oh, well! Jorald is as strong as they come, so I'm not worried. He'll be baptized when he turns 18. I'm just happy to be a part of his conversion and having him constantly work with us.

Marisa A. is progressing! Sunday I taught her the Plan of Salvation. She has the most desire to be baptized of anybody I've met, but she is so darn nervous. If you have an extra moment, pray for her to feel comfortable, especially around us.
This is my first time as a missionary eating Jollibee. We got to go to the mall after mission tour, where I got some ties for the four of us, some exercise equipment, belt and slacks, and a good Tagalog-English dictionary, along with some chicken seen here which is better than what you can buy at Martins. 

We have a banana tree in the backyard, which we decided to harvest. These bananas, while small, are a lot more delicious than the bananas we eat in America! They're much sweeter and smell really good for some reason.
The picture at the end of this blog entry is a great example of how life sometimes works out in the Philippines. "It's more fun in the Philippines." I apologize for not getting Elder Wilkinson's head in this picture, but this lady with special needs, while we were in the mission tour, opened up his package and ate all of the chocolate here! Ahhh! He was pretty bummed, but he says it'll become one of those things he'll laugh at later on in life.  
God be with you until we meet again, my friends.
Elder Thurber

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Life and Times of Jorald; and Marica

12/18/2013Note from Matthew's Mom:Because I was out of town due to Matthew's sister Amy having a baby boy, I have been unable to update Elder Thurber's blog until now.  Also, there have been power outages in Palawan on P-day, due to the power company shutting off the power trying to convince the people of the need for a coal-powered power platn, so it has been unpredictable when we would hear from Matthew.  I will try to get caught up, though, today and tomorrow, so check back for a few more posts.  :) 

We very much are looking forward to hearing from Matthew on Christmas Day. He has been encouraged to bring the mission home when he calls us.  

Merry Christmas to all of Matthew's friends, and family!

Mon 11/25/2013 
Aborlan, Palawan

Sorry I just now sent this email. The power went out last Monday when I was typing.

Before I get into the steak and potatoes of my blog, I should talk a little bit about the Typhoon and Tacloban mission.  Be sure to check out the mormonnewsroom and see the like 400 missionaries from Tacloban that are transferring to different missions here in the Philippines.  The Manila mission got about 15 missionaries from the Tacloban mission, and two new missionaries are going to be coming down here (still from our mission) because of these changes probably in this next week.  Also, let me just say that I reached a historic, manly milestone during the storm. I took a shower outside! The water in the tub was dirty, so I really didn't have another option. It was a sweet, freezing cold, thing-you-only-experience-on-your-mission-in-the-Philippines type of thing.

Random Picture:  Elder Thurber and Elder Balonsong:

Zone Meeting last Tuesday was quite interesting. We got to meet the new ZL, Elder Haynie, from Alabama. I think that says enough. He's the tallest missionary I've seen and is very strict and hardworking. We also got a bunch of new missionaries from the MTC. Two of them are being trained by the best missionary I know, Elder Healey. 

Tue 11/26/2013 7:33 AM:  

"The Life and Times of Jorald J. and Marica A."

Dear friends,
Sorry, once again, for the late entry. Turns out that the power company set up a timetable for blackouts, and I was right in the middle of sending this message when the power was cut off, just like last week. I'll resist the urge to talk about yesterday's "mission tour" and all of its awesomeness, as it is for next Monday's entry. It's really awesome.  I’m so glad I can finally email! I have a lot to say, I suppose. Maybe you think differently, but I think it’s all pretty interesting.  

Let me start off with the most interesting investigator yet: Jorald. I’ve talked about him previously, and how he loves to work with us, along with attending church regularly and reading the scriptures daily, without any family support. In fact, his dad won’t sign the signature for him to get baptized. I’ve gotten really close to him as we’ve talked quite frequently (well... more like me muttering out some Tagalog, him responding, and me asking Elder Hart to translate) and I’ve really come to love him! When he prays, you know who he’s talking to.

This is a picture of Jorald and Grandpa Pambungas, who is the father of our branch president, from my Oct. 7th blog post.

The big hurdle is the signature. 

His dad is a born-again Christian, and while nice and friendly, says he won’t sign the signature because he thinks he’ll become LDS, too, if he does. I’m not sure how true that is, because we still haven’t been able to sit down and talk about it. Jorald is thinking there’s little hope right now, but the first counsellor to the branch presidency, Bro. Montellia, is willing to come with us to try to talk with him, or, at least to help us do the best we can.  In his behalf, I would very much appreciate your prayers for Jorald this week. Nobody knows for sure what will happen, except God!

I got sick for the first time on Friday. I lost a day of work, which was more frustrating than I thought it could be. But thankfully it only lasted 24 hours,  and now I'm back and running and annoying my companion once again when I feel like it.  :)

So we have finally got a investigator who completes the definition of a progression investigator (is following all of the commitments we give her and is progressing towards baptism). That is Marica A. I mentioned her earlier, right? Well, we finally got to teach her. I used the simplest Tagalog I know, because she was literally born and raised in isolation in a mountain until 16, and married a Less Active relative of the Branch President, and know has a kid at 19 years old, and loves to smile and attend church but not really talk. She, as well as the wife of the branch president, only know the language spoken in the mountain she was raised in. I can't even pronounce it.

The baptismal date we set was January 11th. Considering her enthusiasm and already attending church, we would think about doing it earlier, but considering her educational level, and that church on Sunday is in Narra, we decided that was the best date for her. It's a very solid date, as she meets all of the prerequisites for baptism, namely motivation and and a support system always there for her. In fact, the wife of the branch president said she will read to her the reading assignments we leave for her in the Book of Mormon! Talking about members and missionaries working together, eh? 

Most of our other investigators didn't attend church this Sunday because Manny Pacquiao decided to set up a huge donation-charity event for the people in Tacloban at 9 AM in the morning on Sunday, right when church starts. We lost practically half of our sacrament attendance because of it. Obviously, I'm not condemning his good intentions, but don't all churches start in the morning in the Philippines? Wish the timing had been better.

I'd like to leave and bear testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. It brings everybody closer to God. The spirit is felt by those who understand its message and read with real intent. It is the cornerstone of our religion and without it, our religion would simply fall apart. It binds broken testimonies and heals shattered faith. It is truly the word of God. How can I, or anybody, speak differently? What is its intention? Anybody who reads it can know that it testifies of Christ as the Bible does, and with more clarity, as it is translated purely through the power of god to his worthy servant, Joseph Smith. I know that regardless of how many times you have read the Book of Mormon, you will still gain something out of every single reading, unless you do it grudgingly. It's surprisingly simple and totally true! It's the word of God! I hope you agree.

With love,

Elder Thurber