What a Year Has Taught Me
Saturday I performed my first
baptism personally! Mark Castillon said he felt like I would be best because
I'm like the only person taller than him. It was such a sweet experience. I was
so nervous! I gave him a big hug right afterwards. And just yesterday he worked with us and bore such a heartfelt testimony to investigators of learning of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon just like he, himself, was doing only 2 weeks ago.
I can't believe this Saturday is my one year mark since I left American soil to teach the gospel. I wish I could just share with you what I've learned over the years, in three main points.
1st: God lives and loves you more than you know.
That may sound a little
stereotypical, but goes a little deeper when you understand what kind of love
He gives to you. He trusts you enough to give you trials. He has pointed us to
the map to return back to him. You don't need to guess. It's the scriptures.
For me, I've learned that to realize how applicable scriptures are, you just
need be willing to believe. That belief turns you to Him, and to start loving
Him. You find yourself praying because you realize how close He actually is to
you and you understand He will guide you.
How could I learn this from
serving a mission? It's because I get to see people who are going through these
things just as much as I am. I've also noticed the people who understand that
God is loving are the happiest. That love they feel then turns into action and
repentance. We invite our investigators to pray the very first lesson. Often
times they're muddled and awkward, just as I was when I first started speaking
2nd: Families need the gospel and the priesthood to stay intact.
Above you see several pictures I took of
the Lovendino couple, who just got married this Saturday! It was a small
wedding, but it was sweet and joyful. They're getting their lives
I interviewed a man for baptism for the second time, right after the baptism. I felt he
wasn't ready for baptism, even though there weren't completely clear markers
for why he shouldn't be baptized. The sisters were a little puzzled and maybe
angry at me, because they were planning on getting him married then baptized
right afterwards. I slowed down the process. But when I called them on Monday
night to follow-up a little bit, they said that me failing him was the best thing I could've done for him, for
several reasons. The rest of his family has slowly all been getting baptized,
except for him. He, who should set the example, was the last one. He got very
discouraged about everything, but he started taking the lessons more seriously
and prayed for spiritual confirmation. And he got it! It didn't take me long to
pass him in the follow-up interview, because the spirit was so strong. He's going to be
the priesthood holder who can bless his family!
3rd: God will strengthen you as you try your best
It's made possible through the
enabling power of Jesus Christ. He took upon us our trials in the Garden of
Gethsemane. This power is available to everybody, at any time. This past week,
we set a goal for 30 new investigators, and tried talking to everybody, and
just using every moment wisely. We fell short, only getting 14. But, I felt
like I tried my hardest, and we taught many people. One, in particular, stood
out to me. We had to wait for Mark, (the one who got baptized on Saturday) and
we could've just waited for a few minutes for him to finish up showering, but I
said "Hey, Elder Vaivai, have you walked down that area before? Let's go
see what's down there." And then we met a very nice taxi-driver who
doesn't have any religion who wants to get closer to God. If I had set a lower
goal, would have I had the motivation to do such thing? If you don't try your
best, do you think you would find such miracles in your life?
I've just been experiencing these
types of things in the past year, and I know that they're true. It makes my
vision more clear and more focused as a missionary. I just can't wait to get moving,
because I know God will strengthen me, because He loves me. And He loves each
person I talk to as much as He loves me.
P.S. Virginia hotdogs? C'mon! What a disgrace! :)
(Link following is for an article in the Liahona about the
If you've read the April 2014 Liahona issue which featured the
Philippines, you would know that means "Hello, friend!" Obviously,
nobody says that in the US, but there's your Tagalog for the day. For me, I am
discovering, in this area more than others, that I am quite the sensation: Whoa.... Americano..... He has
blond hair and he's super white. I
get to hear such things as that all day long going to and from appointments,
and have good full share of high fives from kids playing outside, and the
classic "Hey, Joe!" from construction workers here.
On the other hand, people are usually very surprised to realize
that Elder Vaivai (it sounds like bye-bye) is Samoan, and usually start talking
to him, asking if I'm good in English. My companion's the man! I found out the
other day that his dad is the stake patriarch, and they share almost everything
in the Samoa. I like it. In fact, we're wearing each other's tie, and we just
split the cost for groceries! Why can't we adopt that?
At the Temple
Elder Thurber and Elder Vaivai at the temple
(Link following is for an article in the Liahona about the Philppines)
|At the Temple|
|Elder Thurber and Elder Vaivai at the temple|
Some of the pictures I've included are of Market-Market, the mega-store here in the Philippines. After we went to the temple, we went there to pick up groceries only go to outside and see a line to get in a jeepney that was literally a quarter of a mile. The worst part it wasn't even moving. We eventually, out of pure frustration, decided to walk home. I'll admit, I was frustrated that such a thing would happen.
And then I read in PMG about
patience, which says:
"Patience is the capacity to endure delay, trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious."
I'd be kidding myself to say I had scored a perfect score on that. I'm sure most of us have had situations in our lives where we think "Oh, what? This is not my fault, and now I have to do this?" When we started walking home, it started raining, all the while we were carrying our groceries home.
Then on Thursday, I went to the "Specialized Leadership Training," with Elder Merrill. Afterwards, we took a taxi and then all got dropped off at Elder Merrill's area, which is right next to Market Market. Once again we got stuck in the line at Market Market. I was just about to blow up! We had scheduled important appointments to go to, that would all flop. And then I decided to ask my companion what to do, and he just said we should wait in line. I grudgingly did so, and realized it was the best decision. It is usually the best decision to wait with a smile, and then you never know what good may come out of it. Turns out, we met a man in the line at Market Market that we got to teach a few days ago. It turned my day around.
All I'm really trying to say, is that patience brings many, many blessings to those who do it right by being happy!
What a week!
I got to attend Mark-Joseph's baptism on Thursday, which is
Independence Day in the Philippines. I forgot my camera, but I'm asking for a
picture from some members. He said at the end that he's decided to serve
a mission! Woop! What faith!
On top of that, our investigator, Mark Castillon, said, after the
baptism, that he isn't far away! He actually said "Malapit na" which,
translated, is something like "It's close now. And just yesterday I
was speechless when he said that his baptism will be on the 28th! There will
actually be 5 people baptized that day.
|We splurged and went all American at Sbarro!|
|What.... is.... this??? Market-Market has everything|
|This is Brother Tagpuno and Kacey, who lives on a pole. They're both friendly, and Kacey loves to eat dead skin off of Brother Tagpuno's hair.|
|This is our "euro-style" apartment. We're on the third floor, and right above is a small basketball court we exercise at every morning.|
|The usual urban streets here.|
I don't think I've mentioned before how many types of rice you can buy in the Philippines! Some are more expensive just because they have a certain aroma. I'm not even sure they truly is anything different about any of them, I think people just love having their own brand.
That means no time in Tagalog!
My companion's awesome! He's from Samoa, and cracks me up.
We go to church in a "meetinghouse" which is three stories high, and is right above a clothing store.
The best part is that there's an enormous catholic church across the street which you can see outside of Sunday School. But it's okay, because all these members are awesome!
There are only 6 people in my District. Sisters Jones, Romero, Burce, and Dissanayaka (from the United Arab Emirates). I know them all.