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

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Reaching Greater Heights; New Mission President

Reaching Greater Heights
Mon 7/14/2014

Dear Everybody Over There,
I'm certain these past six weeks have gone by faster for me than for you. My time is over with Elder Vaivai; I'm going to be training again! I don't know anything about him. President Ostler called me late Friday night around 10:10, telling me to be at Buendia Chapel to the trainers meeting. And just on Thursday he interviewed me in the beautiful mission home. It was very different from President Stucki's interviews. We just had a simple conversion, and he mentioned something he called a "spiritual pedigree." I mentioned my goal long ago for how many baptisms I wanted for my mission.  He told me of a missionary who baptized 35 people on his mission, and goes back there every year to do "home teaching." Each one is still active, 20 years later. Also, he mentioned that the Osmonds created a small fan base here in the Philippines, and because of their association with the church, they have baptized 125 people, and keep in correspondence with each of them!
Along with the certainty of me training is the certainty that Elder Vaivai is leaving. In almost every lesson, we hear the joke, "Bye-bye, Vaivai!" He always shakes his head. He doesn't want to leave, because things are flowing here in our area. We're gonna have a lot of baptisms in August. We're reaching greater heights in all of our numbers. People say the Lord is preparing the way for a new anak (child) to come into the mission.
Take a good look at this picture. This is Abe and Mila, as well as the newly named Mark-Kirby Manuelez. They've grown, in a short period of time, to just love the church. The whole ward knows them now, even though it's only been two Sundays that they've come to church.  (Read the post below to learn more.)   What I see is a happy family just waiting to be sealed in the temple, and I'm so happy to just be a part of their "spiritual pedigree."
Also, I have two huge miracles that I have to tell you all. First, is Johnathan. His sister, Jessica, is still on our records as a recent convert, but she actually has moved abroad since her baptism.  Her daughter, however, still lives here with her 18 year old brother Johnathan.  Last Wednesday all of our appointments were falling through, and we decided to stop by, only to hear a loud "BAKIT??" from the inside of the house. Bakit means “Why?” We weren't feeling too confident asking if we could share a message, but once we went in, he really started warming up. We try to keep lessons short, so we didn't extend a baptismal invitation as part of the lesson. We were picking up our things when he asked if he could ask a question. He said something along the lines of "In the past, missionaries have talked to me about me being baptized. My friends aren't so interested, but I believe it can be true. Would that still be possible if I got baptized, even though I've been taught by the missionaries and stopped?" Of all the questions I've been asked, apparently that seemed to have been the hardest, since nothing was coming out of my mouth, but I did have  a big smile. On top of that, Jessica's daughter was playing outside, and when we said for her to come to church, she said, "I don't have anybody to go with." After we mentioned Johnathan would, she gave a little jump and said "Magsisimba ako! Magsisimba ako!"
And then, the second miracle is about Abi Allabun, who lives with a previous Bishop's family. She's been coming to church now, but won't commit to a baptismal date. But, when we visited Wednesday, we heard some crazy news. After I had challenged her to read the Book of Mormon from the beginning, when she doesn't have anything to do, has been reading it! As of yesterday, she's in 3 Nephi chapter 15. 'Nuff said. She says her testimony is growing. No kiddin'!
There are plenty of other good things that've happened, but I feel like i should talk about Thomas Monson's talk last GC. He quoted somebody who says "if you're ever in a situation that you ought not to be in, get out." Those words have struck with me as a missionary, and how true it is. The pull of proximity can be difficult to resist. So that's my advice to you. Don't flirt with temptation! Always think in advance.
Love you all!
Elder Thurber

New Mission President
Sun 7/6/2014

Hello, Everybody!
I got to go to "Meet the President" on Wednesday! President Ostler is a soft and loving guy from Arizona. Literally half of the time he just talked about how much both him and Heavenly Father love us. His wife was also very excited about everything and talked about how we do everything out of love. And then their son, Caleb, spoke just a little bit. When they got their call, Elder Bednar asked if they would like to include their son in the mission.  They enthusiastically said yes, but then he mentioned that he'd better ask Caleb personally before going through with it. So the next day Caleb called in saying he was willing to go! He'll also be studying Tagalog.
President Ostler's "Closing Remarks" were quite touching. He stated, "I know what you're all thinking-- 'Is President Ostler just as strict as President Stucki?'" I love his response. He said that we're doing missionary work and all of these things out of love. If you're disobedient, you have to ask yourself the question “Do you love Heavenly Father?” If you say yes, he'll ask "Do you think your actions have shown that you love Him?" Ouch! President Stucki never took such an approach, but it is definitely true. Why would we ever want to do something bad to somebody we love? I hope maybe those who read this blog may think when tempted "Why would I want to disobey my Father? Does this show that I love Him?"
The person I baptized last Saturday knows this well. The baptism went great! It was an encouraging landmark for me, since last Saturday was my one year mark. In his testimony, he consistently said that he knows this is the true church and that he was thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who has given him this chance to get his life straight again.

On a lighter note, we had another "Baha,or flood on Thursday! We arrived at home at around 10, way past curfew, because we couldn't get through the water. What amazed me most was how little panic was going around. People going on dates casually waded through knee-deep water, and trikes were driving around. People seemed happier than usual.
Oh, yeah, on Monday we got to watch "How to Train Your Dragon 2"! Hahaha I don't think you guys realize how much stuff missionaries miss! I enjoyed it immensely.
We're finding a lot of success in our area! Most importantly, members are giving us good solid referrals, two of which I'll make mention. First, Sister Cruz. We were re-teaching Brother Mark when Sister Manantan came in with her, saying she wanted to be taught. Turns out, she's been reading the Book of Mormon regularly for a few years now. She's done missions in her church and has a collection of bibles, but spends most of her time now in the Book of Mormon. Get this: she's related to the stake president,
who'll be working with us later today! She's come to church twice now, and just is in love with everything.
And then we met the Manuelez couple through Sister Jabbat, who was baptized just 4 years ago. Turns out, they were taught by missionaries before Sister Jabbat and her family became members. They weren't too interested. And then voila! They saw the changes that went on in the Jabbat’s lives, and one of the first things they said was they wanted to become members of the church. They enjoyed everything that went on in church last Sunday, as well.
For my spiritual insight today, I'd like to note the odd connection between faith and miracles. If you've read in the bible dictionary entry about faith, you understand that miracles do not produce faith, but provide confirmation of you faith. I've met quite a few people here in the Philippines that have seen miracles happen in the lives of others but  refuse to believe, to have hope, and to change their lives. Mormon 9 says:
18 And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty miracles? And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles.
19 And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.
20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.
21 Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.
So God will do miracles because.... He's God! What restricts God from doing miracles in our lives? Quite simply, it's our faith, or lack thereof. Don't let yourselves believe otherwise! Don't be the kind to depart from the faith, because you're cutting out those miracles that I see all of the time, working with people who do have that faith, and who are so very, very happy! Maybe you're thinking "I'm not the religious type" or "I can't obviously say I've seen any miracles in my life since I've been a member." First off, we're all religious, we're just on different levels, and God loves each one of us. Second, don't seek miracles. It's like telling a cat to sit and roll over. It just doesn't work. And lastly, read Preach My Gospel chapter 6, and learn to become like Jesus Christ, because it truly is possible. He is just that loving.

I love you all! Have a great week as I will!

Elder Thurber