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

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

1/19/15 Ends Create Beginnings; also previous week

January 19, 2015

Dear Everybody (and my roommate Jacob),

Yet another chaotic week has passed upon me! Of all the things that have happened, I'm beginning to realize how great ends are. Don't worry--I'm not talking about the end of my mission, for those people who might think I'm trunky. The life of a missionary is so great I don't want to go home, no matter how much I miss you or love you. Rather, I'm saying with each end comes a new perspective and real change. 

Prime and first example: the end of our time in heaven before our births here. We came to a conclusion that our time at home in heaven wasn't the best for us, so we followed God's plan so we could learn for ourselves. 

Last Saturday, I was able to attend the funeral of a boy I met and loved. He was only four years old--a victim to dengue fever. I taught his whole family and grew to love him. I was stunned last Sunday to hear that he had passed on. In the funeral I saw many of the members I love, and saw the 4 y.o.'s parents and heard them speak. As the first to teach them the gospel, I felt both sad for their loss, but also happy at the same time, knowing that they would be led to not only believe, but to rely on Jesus Christ and his atonement. They had already seen the temple and even did family history. Now they need the temple and family history! We needed to get back home, and I couldn't stay and talk much to them, but I just simply said that I knew that what goes on in the temple is true.  

So, my time ended with them rather abruptly, and this end brought to me an added layer of love for Jesus Christ and the belief that families can indeed be together forever. I've gained a perspective that'll change my reaction to any devastating incident that could occur--I can find peace in knowing everything is covered! I've changed to live by faith rather than reaction.

Perhaps you know the song If You Could Hie to Kolob: 

There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love; 
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.

It's a shame nobody gets to that last verse! We can only truly rely on God's plan. That’s my purpose as a missionary and it's what I love to do. 

Elder Thurber

One Family

Dear Everybody,

Funny thing about being an assistant is, you end up doing email whenever you have time, which usually doesn't present itself. I've been on my email all yesterday (Monday) but only doing other tasks. I'm getting used to air conditioning with all this office work! We got to the apartment at like 9:20 getting groceries. It's rare that I have time to write in my journal

Highlights of the week:

Sheila's baptism
Because we didn't get a single lesson in before Friday, we went to her house that night and taught her half of the last set of lessons. On Saturday, two hours before baptism, we finished the lessons. The baptism was great and she said she'll teach us the lessons after baptism. She knows the doctrine so well that she could do exactly that. 

Dinner appointments: 
The members in the fourth ward have us for dinner and ask "what're you craving?" And boy do they deliver! I've had real authentic American food from these members working here a few times now. I've had mashed potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and homemade pie. They all live in condominiums and just love missionary work. 

Wilma, Lyn, and Samuel: 
They're our 3 recent converts from December. We taught them all the Plan of Salvation in English. It felt so weird. Wilma is Filipina and used to be an active member of another church, but is planning on marrying a member of our church from another country. They used to alternate where they'd go to church every week, but she likes the church so much she just decided to be baptized. Lyn is her housemate and is super awesome. Samuel is from Ghana and was a translator for a Baptist missionary, who told him "you'll be a Mormon someday." He then moved to Sri Lanka and met sister missionaries there, who referred him to us here in Manila.

In the month of January, President Ostler is interviewing every missionary in the whole mission. During his interviews, Elder Obray and I are teaching a class for native Tagalog speaking missionaries to get more motivated to speak English, as well as instructing zone leaders how to inspect the missionaries' planner and area book. It's pretty fun b/c I get to meet all the missionaries. The down side is that's all we do.

Missionary Leadership Council: 
We had so much to do to prepare for MLC! We were up gathering numbers and stuff on Wednesday night until 12:30 before heading back to the apartment. We had a portion where we taught about using time wisely…. Who was our audience? 32 of the best missionaries in the mission. It racked my nerves. 

Part of being an assistant is driving. I got my driver's license for this country on Thursday, and have been driving in this crazy city a few times every day. In the Philippines, lines on the road don't mean anything. People constantly cut others off. It's not rude; you just accept it and cut somebody else off. 

Other Fun Stuff:
This in our apartment! We'll be giving these to the new office elders that will be called this coming transfer. 

Elder Thurber

Friday, January 9, 2015

"Commiserations"; Called to be one of President Ostler's Assistants; The Lord Will Provide

Mon 1/5/2015


My "Posterity":  Elder Ronquilo, and Elder Mullins (elders I trained)  who are still on the mainland.

Dear Everybody,

If you don't know what “commiserations” means, don't feel bad. I didn't either until Sister Paine, a senior missionary, said it to me. In easy words, it means the opposite of congratulations.

I'm transferred. I'm in the office now serving along with Elder Obray as one of President Ostler's assistants. 

I only lasted 4 weeks in San Juan. I could go on with all the "difficult" things about the position, but instead I'll list some of the good things:

·         We're part of two wards. One is a regular Filipino ward with some missionaries. The other is the Makati 4th ward, which is English. Those who can attend are foreigners (or the spouses of foreigners) somewhere in the Philippines. So we thus have a very interesting bunch of members! We have all of the area presidency (Elder Echo Hawk, Bowen, and Ardern) in sacrament mtg, along with several celebrities and models. I'm not kidding. I'll try to get some pictures, but I'll be honest: I was so scared last Sunday with hearing English all over the place! 
·         I have a van! I'm going to be getting my Philippine driver's license this week and embark on the treacherous roads of Manila. 
·         I get to see all the missionaries I've grown to love here. This month President is going to be giving interviews, and we're going to be joining him and teaching all the leaders and their companions. We're also going to be doing exchanges 6 times a transfer.  
·         Life is completely unpredictable. I find it's a good thing. I'm learning something every other minute. You could see it as bad, but I'm honestly happy.
·         I get to know President Ostler personally. That is a privilege that'll bless my whole life.

Elder Obray talked with me about our area, giving me the rundown, seeing that he'll be going home the next transfer. The time we get to work is limited, but the phrase that comes up is "The Lord will provide." He has! We actually have a baptism this Saturday. Her name is Sheila, a young Filipina who goes to her member neighbor (who's the 1st counselor in the bishopric) for us to teach her. She's incredibly smart! The ward is great, so the Lord is giving to us, despite our lack of time on the road, opportunities to talk and teach.

Work in the international ward is dramatically different. We're teaching people members know during classes in church because they live outside of our mission. I actually know some people who have connections to Richmond, Virginia! Also, if a missionary meets somebody who doesn't know Tagalog, they give it to us, regardless of how far it is. 


Elder Thurber

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Time is Far Spent; Singing at Shaw Center Mall

Sun 12/28/2014 

The Time is Far Spent

Maligayang Pasko!  (Tagalog lesson:  Maligayang means “joyful, happy;”  Pasko means “Christmas.”)

I'll admit, I had an intense Christmas! On Monday, we went on a chase to get and then and watch "The Go-Getter" with the whole zone and then get to know the zone better. You should watch the video, too. On Tuesday, we got up early to practice the Nativity scene at Buendia Chapel before the Christmas party. When the party started, we played a bunch of games and then we got a special surprise appearance of President Ostler as Santa Claus. I'll admit I'm proud of him! How many mission presidents have the guts to be Santa Claus?

The Nativity was very spiritual. I was lucky to the pianist for all of the songs, and to be with some remarkable singers! It was just awesome. 
The shepherds
Angels getting ready to sing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"
I so wanted to be the "star" of the nativity, but I handed it over to Elder Amante, who handled it so well.

After that, we practiced with the Mandaluyong zone for their performance in Shaw Center Mall. We thought it would take a minute, but it turned into 3 hours, so we couldn't work. 

But it was alllll worth it! On Tuesday, we had two sets of songs between 11 and 1, and brought joy to people who came into the mall. They liked us so much in the first set they gave us free McDonalds! Then after the second set, we were told they wanted us there the whole day, blowing our plans for exchanges and such out of the water. We sang, and then invited people to have a free DVD (Joy to the World) delivered to their door. I'm sure we looked like salespeople to some. We ran out of songs for a while, so I had to improvise piano stuff hooked up to speakers even outside the mall.  

This picture is of two sisters in my past district and my white elephant gift which is Jerry from Tom and Jerry (I think).
All the Americans in my batch.  Sadly, the time is far spent for the sisters!  This is their last transfer.
The whole batch coming in.
Elder Diamse is also leaving.  I have tremendous respect for him.  He is one of my true leaders in the mission.

It was suppppper cold, so I bought and wore a jacket for the first time in my mission.
All-n-all, it was a fantastic week. I could write on, but I'm out of time. 

Elder Thurber

Monday, January 5, 2015

Serving the People as Often as Possible: Paglalaba!; Merry Christmas to you all!

Sun 12/21/2014 11:20 PM

Merry Christmas to you all!

This week has been fun with all of us focusing on the "He is the Gift" message the church is putting out this Christmas. People are really receiving the message! I have just a good feeling that many people are going to be listening to the missionaries in the coming months.

My new companion, Elder Amante.
When I came to San Juan, I told everybody that I really wanted to serve the people as often as possible. To my surprise, we had two and a half service projects this week. The "half" one was carrying some stuff in the church from a car, but the other two were "paglalaba" or washing clothes. We went to the house of our now recent converts (as of yesterday) and washed all of their clothes, Filipino style. In my mission, I usually go to a laundry place to get my regular clothes done, so I didn't have too much experience. Elder Amante was kind enough to teach me the proper way, which leaves clothes super fresh and stain free.

This is the second time we washed clothes.  I don't think you can notice it here, but I kinda got scabs on my hands from washing clothes so much!  They weren't too bad, though.  The Filipinos were polite enough not to comment. 
This picture is of the kids whose clothes we were washing.  They thought it was a little weird that we would wash their clothes, but thanked us for it.
This man wants to draw a portrait of me.
At the end of washing clothes
At the end of washing clothes, minus Elder Thurber
Elder Torida
On Friday, we visited an investigator who just got back from vacation, and struck up a conversation with a lady washing her clothes, and offered to help the next morning. She stared at us a little and said sarcastically "Suuuuree--why not? I'll have you wash clothes tomorrow." We continued talking with her and set up the schedule until she said "Serioso kayo?" She welcomed us the next morning, and then got to teach a ton of people after washing clothes.

This fire happened right outside of the apartment where I had gone on an exchange. 
 We had Angel and Althea get baptized on Saturday! As you notice in the pictures, they're super tiny. They also are extremely funny. Elder Amante baptized Althea, and I baptized Angel, the shorter one. I had to bend down quite a bit to be low enough for me to baptize her. Everybody in attendance had a good laugh due to the height difference. Angel's reasoning was that she "just wanted an American to baptize her.”

Our baptismal clothes were too small, not so for the girls.
At the end of the baptism, we went upstairs to join the whole Manila Mission on the mainland for practice for the choir that night. It was a very sweet opportunity but it was so tiring! We had some huge technical difficulties with the Ostler's speakers and piano suddenly stopping working, sending us to a mall to get some supplies and borrowing the ward's electric piano. 

We talked (while wearing Santa hats) all around the plaza from about 7-8:30 while a choir fest was going on. Lucky for me, it was in our area, so my email inbox right now is full of referrals for us to contact this week, due to other missionaries opening their mouths to those in the area who are interested in the message.

Elder Thurber and Elder Amante before the performance with our red ties
The actual performance went great--hopefully. Although I was at the piano, I could barely hear it due to the sound system. The whole group of roughly 200 people (including members) came. We feel it was a miracle that it stopped raining right before we started singing, bringing people to come close to the 120 missionaries singing "Joy to the World" "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and a Filipino song, "Pasko Na Naman" (it's Christmas again).  We got home at around 11,  exhausted but grateful so much good was done.

Have a great Christmas! I'll be sending you more singing reports next Monday!

Elder Thurber