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

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

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Secret to Happiness is Gratitude; Zone Conference; Learn to Rely on Him; Peace in the Midst of Chaos


Gratitude and Looking Back

Hello everybody!

I'm filled with gratitude as the week draws to a close on Sunday night. 

Here are some odd highlights:

  • Right after we dropped off the Palawan missionaries at the airport, I accidentally hit a rock and blew out the tire (see picture). We had so much to do still, so we were scared. I managed to get the spare tire out of the van, but no jack. After about 5 minutes, a Filipino man came over the barrier and asked if we needed help. He then quickly got out his jack and switched the tire for us, and wouldn't accept any money for his service. The relief and gratitude I felt was almost so overwhelming that I could barely drive. As we talked to him, we found out he was initially from Aborlan Palawan, where I used to work. We're going to refer his parents to the missionaries!
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Eric Tai (born August 23, 1984) is a Tongan actor from New Zealand, model, TV host, comedian and rugby union player who played for the Alabang Eagles and represented thePhilippines national rugby union team in 15s and 7s. He is also one of the hosts of It's Showtime, where he goes by the screen name, Eruption.  Eric first came to the Philippines as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter day Saints (Mormons) where he was able to serve a 2 year mission in Naga Mission, Philippines. He was able to return years later playing Rugby which is his childhood sport in Tonga and New Zealand. Eric was launched himself as a part of Philippine Volcanoes around 2010 or 2011. Eruption began hosting on It's Showtime in 2012.)

Eric Tai and Rona Samson had their wedding in a stake center, and 95% were nonmembers. Many were big name celebrities. They said the wedding was on social media. At one point, President Ardern, the area president, spoke to all of them about the importance of families, and everybody was given a copy of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. I'm so glad The Church is growing!

You can see my picture with Brother Tai a little later in this blog post.

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be starting an Initiative called "Because He Lives." It is to help everybody know of Jesus Christ better. I'm sure soon you'll know about it, too--but you heard it from me first! Remember the date: March 28th. There will be a site created just for it. On April 5th, the church will be the sole advertiser on YouTube. 
  • On Saturday, foreign missionaries going home in the next year went to get fingerprinting done at the area office. Since that included other missionaries, I got to see everybody from the MTC! I saw Elder Langi, my old companion, who looks great still. Elder Lang-siu, another batchmate, showed me a picture of a woman who I used to teach. I had referred her, and then I saw a picture of her:  at her baptism!
This photo at Buendia Meetinghouse is of all the missionaries I had driven back from fingerprinting, which is a required by the Philippines government for all the missionaries who will be leaving the Philippines after serving missions.
During the fingerprinting, Sister Ostler asked that we deliver flowers to Sister Hiatt, the wife of the 1st counselor in the mission presidency. I'll tell you her story which we heard in MLC: 

She got appendicitis and had surgery in Puerto, but complications arose after, and she needed to go to St. Luke’s Hospital immediately for surgery. Incredibly, they got a flight soon for her surgery. When she got off the plane, despite the pain, she was smiling. While she was in the hospital, she was always smiling when she talked. She shared the gospel and invited many people to listen to the missionaries. President Ostler gave her a blessing that the operation would go well. It did! Throughout the whole experience, and even now as she remains in the hospital recovering, she constantly expresses gratitude for every blessing, large and small.

Well, her condition worsened. As we came into her room at St. Luke’s, we saw her all hooked up and in a weak state. She said she couldn't pray with her eyes closed, because she would fall asleep. Despite this, we saw her smile. She talked about how grateful she was. She gave us a business card of a doctor who lives in our mission which we referred to other missionaries. 

I hope you see how I grateful I am to be a missionary! I find great gratitude being around other people who want to serve and who have the light of Christ.

In the second photo, I'm taking all of the missionaries back to Buendia Chapel after fingerprinting. I get to hear about all the hard work they do, and it makes me grateful. 

"The Secret to Happiness is Gratitude."

Elder Thurber

Mon 3/2/2015

Zone Conference

Dear Everybody, 

At Russel Chapel, where we did exchanges with some zone leaders. It's built like an dorm, but it's a church. 
WOOO! Today... I can relax a little. We finished preparing this past week’s zone conference, which took a lot of work and brain power. There was one on Thursday and Friday. Two weeks from now we'll have two more. One will be in Palawan and I'll get to work over there :D. 

Zone Conference was powerful. It held was from 9 AM to 4 PM. The central message President Ostler taught was becoming pure vessels. He listed off some very good reasons for being obedient. One powerful reason for being exactly obedient was that you can only live with your family in the next life if you are obedient. 

Sister Ostler spoke about how during a particularly difficult pregnancy she could only find relief through thinking about those she loved, particularly her kids. As people focus on others, difficult things become possible. She had Elder Osguthorpe sing "I Cannot Watch Him" (from The Lamb of God) while I accompanied him. 

Elder Francisco talked about accidental and deliberate change. The accidental change comes about when we follow the flow and let the world decide who we are. But it doesn't compare to the full potential that deliberate change gives to us when we choose the best of the best in life. 

I talked about surrender, which means "to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc because you know you cannot win." When we're missionaries, we must surrender the natural man to God because we know we cannot win. One bad example of surrender is Zerahemnah when Moroni demanded surrender. In Alma 44:8 he barely surrenders, which is what missionaries can do when they "temporarily" give themselves to the Lord. 

This week, we have to prepare for Mission Leadership Council. This is my third, but I feel like I've only been in the office for a week. 

Oh, how time flies!

Elder Thurber


Learn to Rely on Him

Dear Everyone,

I feel like I should write what I feel and need to hear, even if I'm the one saying it. 

When irregular because the norm, or when the seldom increases in popularity, or if the world flips upside down, you discover some things about yourself. Here's what I've discovered this week. 

1. You have a breaking point. The Lord doesn't. 

This week we've been planning and preparing and replanning and editing and analyzing and rethinking everything for this week's two zone conferences. You really want to do everything right when you're going to be teaching the whole mission.  Because things are always popping up that I need to do, I realize how very little I can actually do. What would you do when there's nothing of yourself left to give? 

You must give yourself to the Lord. Unconditional surrender. I know that the Lord can make a perfect zone conference, yet He still decides to use people like me, and has given me a connecting link: revelation. I have the Lord's promise that if I repent and remain worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost, I can receive revelation to magnify my office. And it is magnificent! I've felt it this week! I feel sad for the people who have never seen the need to rely on the Lord's wisdom. 

2. When you're in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God. 

I would often lightly say to members working with us that "either the church is true or we're crazy." Today, I feel like I can't serve as much as I need to! Sometimes I don't have the poise or stamina to help the people around me in whatever situation they're in, because of other things pressing on my mind. I believe that as I'm helping them, I'm serving Him who is actually strengthening me to even do it!

It's evident to me and maybe to you that all of what is happening is to glorify God. It's all His. He created us like a shuffled up Rubik’s cube and he knows we don't know how to solve "ourselves." We must seek Him through prayer and scriptures to gain knowledge about who we are and what our potential is. 

I guess I have a few more minutes, so I'll write the following: 

We had four investigators are church last Sunday, even though we had one lesson the entire week.

  • One was Noah, who's now planning on getting baptized on April 19th. Woo!
  • Another was Vitor, who came in stylin' in a white shirt, tie and slacks with Laurro Vianna. He knows essentially nothing about the church, but he says he likes the church's fashion. 
  • Sheila's younger brother, Jerome, got up the courage to get up early enough to come to church! He's going to be baptized in March if he continues on. 
  • Then, a man from Israel came in who had met missionaries in Taiwan who told him the time of our church. He said he came to find peace, because he's made some mistakes (and got robbed of almost everything a week ago.) He met with Bishop Hill, and we hope to meet with him soon. 
    Although he didn't attend sacrament, there was a guy named Trung from Japan who came for an ecclesiastical endorsement to attend BYU Provo, even though he's never even met the missionaries. His friends said BYU was a "safe" school and everybody was happy, and that the business program was good. I feel like he's a blessing that just fell into our hands!

Take care! Please pray that Zone Conference will go well!

Elder Thurber


Peace in the Midst of Chaos

Hello Po!

This week has been particularly chaotic. Monday was preparation for transfers, Tuesday was going home activities, Wednesday was new missionary orientation, Thursday was new leadership training planning with President Ostler and P-day activities, Friday was work in our area, Saturday was bringing missionaries to and from the airport all day, and Sunday was introducing the new sisters to the Makati 4th ward and a missionary fireside.

In the midst of chaos, I've found peace in knowing I'm doing my part, however small or poorly put together it may be.

Tuesday was particularly chaotic; I became an assistant during transfer day, so I never got to be with Elder Obray for the going home activities. Elder Francisco, Rydalch, McQuarrie and I all had a crazy time getting luggage to the suite (we'd never been to) missionaries would be staying in. The bonus of the hectic day? We went to the temple, had a fantastic dinner, and listened to all the missionaries who left before taking them home. 

Wednesday, we got up early to get the 4 new missionaries from the MTC, brought them to the mission home, then taught a bunch of stuff to them. During those activities, transfers were taking place at the mission office. The difficulty of the day was that the mission could only book flights for Saturday, so missionaries had to figure out threesomes. At the end of the day, we realized the next day we had leadership training. We thought we could relax. We thought wrong. 

Thursday, we found out we had lost the power cord to the projector, a key part of any training meeting in the mission. Because we had office elders, they got it to us, and we started the meeting on time. Afterwards, President met with us and reviewed with us what had happened and what could've been done better. Then, with the office elders, we figured out how Saturday's transfers would go. 

Friday was unusually normal. We contacted a sweet referral who will be coming to church soon. 

Saturday, we tackled the enormous task of getting missionaries to Palawan and driving home those coming back.  Everything went OK, except that we got lost a million times in dangerous parts of Manila at night. We eventually got home at 2:06, exhausted. I fell asleep in my slacks. 

Elder Thurber, Elder Francisco, Eric Tai, Sister Lockwood, and Sister Dewan

Sunday, I had fun introducing Elder Francisco to church. Also, we have two new sisters in our ward! They're Sister Dewan and Sister Lockwood. Sister Lockwood came from Palawan, so she was rather culture shocked. We had leave to give a blessing at 12, and then attended the three hours of 4th ward. After we got a picture with Eric Tai, a member who's a host on a TV show called Showtime. 

There's a little part of my week! It's times like this where I pray for guidance for a few seconds before something else happens. It's times like this where I feel the help of the Lord come to me
It's times like this where I am so happy that I get to be a servant of the Lord.

Elder Thurber

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