Search This Blog

Monday, May 30, 2011

Week 31: Baptism and a Super-Typhoon (sort of)

DAD: Hey AJ!!!!! How's it going over there?
AJ: Doing all right. Baptism was really cool. Sister Betty's testimony is awesome. Nothing really happened with the typhoon. Literally nothing. It rained the day before the typhoon was supposed to come and the day after but nothing happened on the day of the typhoon.
DAD: I guess that's good that the weather didn't get crazy. So glad you had a good baptism. Kinda makes it all worth it huh?
AJ: Ya, it was pretty awesome. We should have some coming in the next few weeks too. I had a Dr. Pepper this week too. We went to Santiago on Thurs to Mission Possible... went to the store that supposedly had Dr. Pepper... none. Later saw Elder Weaver. He had been there earlier and bought all of them (5 or 6) ... I begged him to sell me one.. and he sold me one of them.
DAD: He should have given them all to you -- he's going home to the land of Dr. Pepper and tall women!! Some Tatay he his (nickname for trainer), huh?
AJ: Ya, I told him in 3 weeks he could buy unlimited Dr.Pepper, but he wasn't giving them up.
DAD: Got your pix, looks like a pretty area. So that's the infamous Elder Lim, eh?
The weather looks decent there. Not too hot?
AJ: No not bad at all. Kinda hot in the afternoon but nowhere near like in Tuguegarao (which was almost identical to St. George summer). At night I only use the electric fan on setting 1. Sometimes I wake up and turn it off because it gets too cold even. In Tug, we both had a fan on setting 3 (max) and we would sweat all night anyway. Not much a fan does if it just blows hot air around, eh?
DAD: Jonny is in Malaysia and he was saying he can't sleep because no matter which way he turns, sweat drips off of him and down his back and stuff. BTW, he is coming back to USA in about two and a half weeks with his new wife, an Ebon native.
AJ: Yeah, Jonny should be in America were when it is hot you can just go inside the house with air conditioner. Does she speak English?
DAD: Demas is her name and supposedly she speaks English really well. They're having a wedding reception when they get here. Oh, and Marcus graduated from Westminster last Friday. I was doing games or I would have gone.
AJ: Oh that's pretty cool. What is Marcus gonna do with his degree?
DAD: Marcus said he is gonna keep working his job for now. His degree is in Aviation management, so maybe he can get on at Sky West or something, I dunno. Dallas got hired part time at the city. He is also trying for a night job for the summer, maybe at Brick Oven or Outback --- remember going to Outback with Worthington and Stubbs. That was pretty cool.
AJ: I would pay big bucks for Outback right now!
DAD: Do you get chased by Philippine girls there. You gotta watch out for those missionary chasers.
AJ: Ya, I get asked by ward members if I am going to marry a Philippina. I usually say no way! When they ask why I just tell them my Dad forbade me. Also, a funny situation: We were walking to an investigator and then these 3 teenage girls came out of a store and started talking to us and they ended up going on the same road we were going. Anyway, they were like what's your name, do you have a girlfriend and all this garbage. So I was like, “Oh yeah, I do have a girlfriend in the States.” When they asked what her name was, I said “Shelly!” And then one of them said "Oh, I'm Shelly." I was like nope! They were defeated and sad, haha. We gave them a pamphlet though.
DAD: Funny story. It's getting pretty warm here. Do you have the same seasons as us as far as time of year r is it opposite? Some newspaper article I was reading from the Philippine Inquirer online said the rainy season was there now, but I don't know. It was some weather guy saying the typhoon was bringing the rainy season early, but it's been dry mostly huh? That's good for you, right?
AJ: It's been the same season since March (hot!!!). There are only 2 seasons, too -- Hot and rainy. Supposedly here in Aritao it actually gets kind of cold during rainy season. I guess crops are ready to harvest every 3 months here, too.
DAD: Ah well, is rain better than hot? I guess they both have their goods and bads to them. Are you always sweaty when it is not raining. How do you keep from stinking? Do they sell good deodorant?
AJ: No, deodorant sucks here. I'll have to send a pic but they mostly only sell these lame mini deodorants. At least here the rain cools everything down, but we end up walking though mud most of the day as a result.
DAD: Geez, I dunno how you get and keep your clothes clean. Plus, you must run into some pretty smelly people with no good deodorant.
AJ: Ya, my clothes got pretty dirty/muddy this week. Doing laundry is gonna suck. White shirts are sooo hard to wash.
DAD: They need to let you guys use members again. All the guys that went Philippines here are shocked that you have to do your own (Melvin and Ben Brown especially).
AJ: Ya it totally blows. Takes me 2 hours on Monday morning and Thursday morning of doing laundry. Then it has to hang up for a day or two still.
DAD: Seems like you should be able to work out a deal with the taxes or whatever. Your time teaching the gospel is more important than doing laundry, right? Oh well, I guess there's a lesson to be learned in there somewhere.
AJ: So what else is going on over there? Man I am a long way from home. President is way cool. We always talk about BYU and Jazz and stuff when I see him. He loved my Jimmer Fredette shirt on Thursday. I brought the football, he started throwing to people during the meeting. It was awesome. He was surprised I had a real legit football.
DAD: Things going better with your companion?
AJ: Man I've learned a lot of new patience. I've been stretched to my breaking point several times by this dude. He is really quite the hoser. But I guess if that's all I come out with, I really appreciate my old comps a ton more and even when I think about how we got in fights every once in a while they were silly and now I think I am a lot more patient person.
DAD: Anyway, you are becoming a better man because of your experience there. Just remember that you can handle anything for a short time and soon you will both move on and life will be better/easier. Someday you will have a wife that does something to drive you crazy and you will be patient because of the lessons you learned from being with Elder Lim.
AJ: Yeah that's what I always think about. I guess changing and becoming a better person is just as important as helping other people. I guess the work here must be doing better than in the past, too, because he said his old companion was disobedient (I was thinking “You're one to talk, buddy.”), but ya life goes on. Two weeks left 'til transfer meeting. We've got splits tomorrow too. This is the first time I look forward to going on splits. Usually I don't like splits.
DAD: You forgetting English?
AJ: Ya well I speak Philippine English now, haha, which is terrible terrible English. I think you might cry if you heard some of the English I've heard people speak here, haha.
DAD: Worse than Washington City English eh? You might be a Philippino if your English is as bad as Larry the cable guy …
AJ: Ya, worse than Larry the cable guy-English. So your new phone seems pretty nice. You love it, huh?
DAD: Dallas wants one so bad he can taste it, but I told him he needed to match any phone money with mission fund money and he has cooled down.
AJ: Did you give him my old one or is he phone-less now?
DAD: Dallas has a new phone, we had to get new ones when AT & T bought out Alltel. His is similar to your old one.
AJ: Oh man he has all the stuff I had at 18 and he is only 16 haha. He better start saving money, he can't afford that stuff haha
DAD: That's why he's trying to get 2 jobs, ha, he is a sweet kid though. He really took care of Mom while I was in SLC all week. Cooking and driving and babysitting, etc.
AJ: I'm gonna be a lot nicer to you all when I get back. I had it good, haha. I'm learning good things here in the mission. Well I'm headed out love ya dad!
DAD: Luv ya, be good son!

Dear Family,

Another week down. So this week we had zone meeting on Tuesday in Solono(hour and a half each way) and Mission Possible in Santiago (3 plus hours each way). It was cool, way too much time sitting on the bus though. We were actually supposed to be in Banau right now but every one bailed so we are just here in Aritao still.
Highlights of the week:
Monday: Had a FHE with this family and played a game and at one point this litte girl had to guess Elder Lims name, but she forgot, so she said ungoi! (no clue on spelling but that's how it's said) which is Tagalog for monkey! And then every one was like Tama! Tama! (You're right ! Your right!) That was pretty funny.
Tuesday: Went to Solono, after we went to Mang Inasal, this chicken with unlimited rice place, which is usually really good. But for some reason they were ridiculously slow and and not very good. We were all waiting for our food for over an hour.
Wednesday:Rain, Rain and Rain (fortunately I got a new umbrella Tuesday).
Thursday: Mission Possible -- So we had a training meeting competition thingy about health, exercising, cooking and money and if we did good we got a clue and then at the end we had to figure out a phrase from the scripture. Luckily for us we had Elder Moffat on our team and he had it figured out like half way through. Then we won the competition and each won baguio bags...I think Sister Carlos took a picture of us – you can probably check it out.
Friday: Level 5 Typhoon!!!!!!! Oh wait nothing happened. Not a single drop. It was supposed to hit at 2 in the afternoon and we were waiting for something to happen but nothing ever did.
Saturday: Awesome Baptism, Betty was so excited and gave an awesome testimony after... She is awesome. Later it rained all day and we had to go to this one place in rice fields. For those of you that haven't seen rice fields, they just flood them and its basically a big muddy mess except for a little (and I mean tiny) strips of earth that you're supposed to walk on to get to the houses. For me, it was like one foot at a time could fit. Also very slippery. Bad, bad combination when you have a really tall, not that coordinated foreigner with terrible shoes. 3 times I slipped... (No I did not fall on my butt mom) but my foot slipped into the mud 3 times. Pants got really muddy and shirt was really muddy too... But at least it was fun!
Sunday: Splits...Work was good, not much else to say there... We didn't go to Banau... Maybe next week . At least next week I get new shoes!
Love ya! Gotta go!
Love A.J.

Here are the questions1. Tell us all about your typhoon experience ...
Nothing happened. Not even a drop on Friday. Pretty decent rain before Friday and after but really nothing the day of.

2. Airplane shoes coming soon?
June 6...My new ones and ones I am getting repaired will be done. This week my remaining pair took a turn for the worse, they are absolutely terrible. I can't wait to get the new shoes.

3. How's the work? Did your baptism happen like you thought?
Work is really good. Lots of investigators come to church, 7 again this week. We keep teaching families and referrals but half the investigators that progress are 14-16 year old girls...

4. Do you tract at all in this new area or is it mostly just greet and meet?
Not too much tracting if we don't have appointments we just talk to whoever is out. We rarely do a door approach.

5. How long until transfers?
June 16 is transfer day

6. Miami or Dallas for the NBA title?
Go Dallas, I don't want the evil empire to win – Boooo Miami.

7. Any message for all the B-day people (Laura today, G-pa tomorrow, Diane last week)?
Happy birthday! What else? Love you!!!!

8. Fave thing about the Philippines? Least fave?
Favorites – The people are really really really nice. Zagy is awesome (it's like a smoothie thing, I don't know, I can't explain it, but it's awesome. Supposedly they have some in Calif.). It's absolutely beautiful ..I guess more than anything is the people. They will do anything for even a stranger, and even if they aren't interested they are still really nice (exception: the Iglesio ni Cristo (or Church of Christ) are pretty mean).
Least favorites – Tryces, no milk, no washing machine, the terrible highway systems (only a 2 lane highway all the way through Luzon). Takes forever to get places. AND RICE!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Week 30: It's typhoon season!!!

AJ and his Dad had a fun conversation through emails back and forth that lasted about an hour Sunday night (it was Monday morning in Nueva Viscaya). Here are some of the highlights:

Dad: Hey AJ! How's life in the Philippines?

AJ: Its all right. Found a sweet place in Solono that is making me shoes right now. There is an awesome place in town that has 10 peso ice cream cones that I am addicted to. I got a new SD card for my camera. My comp is still a bit of a jerk, but he is progressing and -- finally – the last couple of days he is showing a little effort to be more obedient and hard-working. All is well i guess. Progression at least. This week some monster storm is supposed to hit the mission. This is what the mission president sent us:
Dear Missionaries:
I have just spoken to the Area Office and would like to pass on important information to you:
* They are expecting a powerful storm to come this week.
* It appears, if it stays its present course, it will hit our mission hard.
* Preparations are under way to set-up communications to make sure we can account for everyone.
(1). Make sure your cell phones are charged.
Typhoon Chedeng is about 100 miles from Manila in this radar shot
 from Monday morning. The mission is making preps for the big storm.
(2) Make sure you have the official mission issued SIMS card on your cell phone. I know some of you have others that you used. THIS WEEK, YOU MUST USE ONLY THE APPROVED ONES so that I CAN reach you at any moment.
(3) Be prepared for quick evacuation if necessary.  If needed, we will mobilize and move missionaries from low laying areas to safer grounds in advance of the storm.
(4) Have in hand sufficient water that is clean, and drinkable.
(4b) Have emergency food
(5) Have some cash on hand.  You will need for transportation, food, etc.
(7) MISSION POSSIBLE, and other meetings may be moved if it becomes necessary.

AJ: So what do you know about this storm?

Dad: Just looking at the weather map -- there is a big typhoon (hurricane) off to the east of the Philippines. It looks like it is headed straight north and you will only get the edge, which means lots of rain rain rain but it seems to be the brunt of the storm will miss the Philippines completely.

AJ: Oh cool. Ya, yesterday I think I experienced my first real Philippine rainstorm. In Tuguegarao it never really rained very hard, but yesterday it poured buckets for hours and hours and hours. I was soaked.

Dad: Just watching the storm on the satellite -- it's a monster -- hope it misses you. I guess you are on high ground though, huh?

AJ: Ya, we are on the side of the mountain, but there are still tons of rivers around us, so who knows what will happen. When it gets close they might send us to Bambang or Solono to stay with other elders. Who knows?

Dad: I guess typhoons are pretty common there, eh?

AJ and his Tatay (trainer/Dad), Elder Weaver
AJ: Ya, I've noticed all the elders that have been in the mission a while have crazy stories about typhoons and stuff. Like Elder Weaver's apartment's roof completely flew away. Another elder couldn't get back to the apartment because the river had completely engulfed the bridge they use to get home. I am just waiting for when i get some crazy stories.

Dad: Your Mom sure is happy to hear you are getting some shoes. Are they expensive?

AJ: Yeah they are making the shoes with airplane tire too! They said they can resole shoes with that too so I am gonna get my other shoes remodeled too! The shoes cost 2200 pesos or about 40-50 dollars, I think. They will be done on June 6, they said. Totally custom too. They measured my foot in all dimensions.

Dad: What else is going on for you?

AJ: We go to Solono for zone meeting (1 and half hours away) on Tuesday and then Thursday we have "Mission Possible," in Santiago (2 and half hours away). It's supposed to be in place of zone conference. Apparently it is some game thingy. I'm not really sure, but they said to wear p-day clothes, so that's cool. And we will have a baptism on Saturday! And 10 peso ice cream cones are the bomb. They use the waffle cone too!

Dad: Wow. It really sounds like things are better this week. That makes me so happy for you. Love that cheap ice cream, although we just went to Dickie's the other day, with BBQ and free ice cream. Yummy.

AJ: Oh man, free ice cream is better than 10 peso ice cream and no BBQ here unless i make it myself. I did get to Save More this week. It was awesome. I got lunch meat and real cheese. My companion thinks that everything that doesn't have rice with it is a merienda (or snack). He kept trying to tell me the lunch meat was raw. I was like, “Dude, I used to eat this like 5 times a week at home. It ain't raw. I also had to show him how to use the can opener (they usually just use a knife). No, not an electric can opener. A hand can opener. I was like, “You're kiddin, right?!”

Dad: We were thinking about sending you a big box of powdered cheese so you can have mac and cheese more often. Does that sound good to you?

AJ: I definitely wouldn't say no to that! I used the mac and cheese mix you gave me and the noodles are easy to find. Then I used fake margarine, fake milk and real cheese to supplement it! My comp didn't like it. He is crazy. He doesn't like anything that doesn't have rice. Talked to Elder Weaver. He is pretty amped to go home. And on Thursday in Santiago supposedly there is a store that sells Dr. Pepper, so I am for sure going to track that down.

Dad: Niiice -- DP! I am trying to cut back, but it tastes so dang good! If you get some, it will be like you went home -- for just a moment :-P

AJ: Ya, I got to go home a lot this week too – real sandwiches, Mcdonald's, ice cream, chili, potatoes and mac & cheese! Oh and tell Mom I disapprove of her sugar-free diet. That is ridiculous! :) Sugar is everything happy in life!

Dad: She said she bombed that diet anyway -- yeah sugar rules the world. Love ya sugar!

AJ: Well I am about to head out. By the way, I think this is the nicest computer I have ever seen in the Philippines. We totally got lucky. It has a big monitor and Windows 7 and fast internet.

Dad: OK, we will watch the storm. OBEY the President to the letter and you will be fine! Love you AJ!!!

AJ: Agalwad kayo!!! Thats Ilakano for take care! Mahal na mahal Kita – That means I really love you!
Now on to his weekly letter:
Busy good week here in the Philippines. Tuesday we went to Solono and finally found a place that can make me some shoes. We also got some Mcdonalds!!! And then we got to go to Save More! I got real cheese and lunch meat!
This week has been pretty good and 7 investigators came to church. One of our investigators, Betty, will be baptized this Saturday and she is really awesome. She has been all over and has such a strong testimony. She said Elder Lim and I are the 23rd and 24th missionaries that have taught her (Wow!).
I guess back in the day she lived with a guy (they weren't married) and it took a long time for her to change her heart and gain a testimony. But she said one day she just finally got it and told they guy they need to get married and baptized or she was gone. He didn't like that too much so she left. It's cool. She totally understands that the gospel is more important than anything.
I guess she just moved here to Aritao the week before I got here and they met her at church. She was totally golden for us (though she said she has gone through and was stubborn with lots of the other missionaries). But she is totally ready now. She already has read the Book of Mormon 3 times (!!!), the whole Bible once and the New Testament twice. Sometimes it felt like she should be teaching us. The first time I taught to her, I thought she was a member. She is pretty amazing.
Now some Q & A:

1. Shoes situation?
In a couple weeks it should be all good. A pair is getting made, and I will drop off my other shoes on Tuesday in Solono to get fitted with airplane tires!

2. (Bryce wants to know) Any nasty foods lately?
We have almost no dinner appointments so we eat at the Canderia or at the house and I can be selective there. My comp keeps trying to make me eat balut though. He did buy some nasty squid the other day and subsequently got diarrhea all the next day. [NOTE: I was going to include a picture of balut, but just looking at the pix made me slightly nauseous. If you really want to know more, go here]

3. Are you cooking in your apt. yet?
Yeah, this week we bought some gas and I was able to cook and stuff. I need to get a little pan so I can make cake and brownies though.

4. What are some positives and negatives of your area (besides what you've already told us)?
Positives: Central is close and small, where there is a grocery store and stuff like that. It's still hot during the day, but it cools off at night. There are absolutely beautiful mountains everywhere. Also, lots of investigators come to church and the work is good.
Negatives: No dinner appointments. We are far away from the big cities. Oh, and my comp is a pain in the butt.
5. Did you get a lot of enjoyment from your box from home? Yeah, it was awesome. I am totally wearing the Jimmer shirt to Mission Possible, and hopefully this week I'll make some cake and brownies and stuff. The magazine was awesome too. Jimmer is super famous!

Mt. Pinatubo is an active volcano about 150 miles away from where AJ is.

7. Grandpa wants to know if you're close to Mount Pinatubo ...
I don't know any of the names of mountains here. There are big lush green mountains all around me as far as the eye can see, though.

8. Getting to play any hoops or anything?
Yeah, we play with ward members on Monday afternoons. They are all short and not very good though.

9. Dallas leads OKC 2-1 in west finals, Miami leads Chicago 2-1. Any reaction?
I would have to say go OKC. One thing's for sure – I dont want the dynasty Miami or the Boozer/former team of Michael Jordan to win. We have been walking around town and everyone is watching the game right now. It was 1-1 and Miami was about to win the game, so I guess it was all tape-delayed.

Things are good here. Should be good week. Hopefully the storm doesn't wipe us out.

Love ya

A.J. Griffin

Monday, May 16, 2011

Week 29: Getting to know Nueva Viscaya

Hey Everyone,
I'm alive and things are going OK with my new companion, Elder Lim. He can be very aggravating, but I am learning a LOT of patience and praying for a lot charity. This has definitely been the longest week of my mission though. But we will make it!
I miss the Tuguegarao grocery stores and really miss elder Daquiuq. I was reunited with my Tatay (dad), Elder Weaver, though. We are in districts that have bordering areas. Both areas are really big so we definitely don't see each other much.
Weaver's about done. This is his last cycle so he has 5 weeks left. He is pretty trunky, his companion said. He is hilarious still. I miss him. He said he is going to buy an entire pig his last week and we are gonna have a party.

Aritao has a population of abt 34,000 people
As far as pictures go, I think my SD card has a virus or something. I have a bunch of pics, but when I plug it in the computer they aren't there.-- Just empty folders. I checked in the camera again, they are there on the card. I don't know what to do ...

Well it's a lot cooler and beautiful here in Aritao, Nueva Viscaya. We have some really cool investigators and we saw the local jubilee – the 50-yr anniversary celebration of the church in the Philippines.

Here is a rundown of what has happened this week in my new area:
  • Investigators – There is a really cool lady named Betty we are teaching. She is totally ready. I guess she has been an investigator for kind of a long time but she lived far from church. But on her own she quit drinking coffee and lived the gospel and found a way to move closer to a church, which happens to be here in Aritao. She has really strong faith. I thought she was a member the first time I taught her. We have some other cool investigators, too. I am going to talk about them next week as I am already kind of running out of time
  • Pre-mission AJ after working all day at the city.
    The ward is awesome. They are really nice and there are 2 missionaries out from the ward (one in Taiwan and one in Guam). Cool, eh? It's kind of rare to get called out of the Philippinesto another country. There are also tons of youth that are kind of close to going out on missions and are willing to work. The Branch President is awesome and he is really into everything. He has this big mission prep class and activities and all kinds of stuff he is heading and really wants to help us, too. That's definitely a breath fresh air.
  • We watched the church jubilee celebration (mostly a bunch of singing and dancing and stuff) and I got to hang out with Weaver for a couple hours so that was awesome.

    We had a cool CSP service project in which we moved a ton of rocks with the whole district. I was drenched in sweat and it actually felt really good. Kinda reminded me of the days working at the city parks department.

    Tell Dallas and Bryce to learn the piano. Our branch has no piano players. I wish I had learned how to play. They were all asking me my first few days if I knew how to play. It would have been another way to serve while on the mission. Too bad ...

    Well I have a lot more to say, but I am out of time and have got to go. My comp has been done for 20 minutes and I am nearing the 1 hour mark, so I'd better run.

    Love you

    Q & A
Shoes? What about your shoes?
I've heard rumors they might have some people that can make them in Solono and Santiago, and I should be going to those cities in the next few weeks so i will search hard for some.

2. Did you get to Baunau Rice Terraces?Baunau is actually 3 hours away, but I think we will go the last week of the cycle or so and check it out. It's supposed to be really awesome.

3. Have you found good places to shop/eat in your new area?There is a little Mister Donut stand, and then they have these little hot dog stands everywhere that are pretty decent. We haven't had any gas in the apartment, so we are gonna get some so we can cook.

4. Tell us about your apartment and neighborhood.We are on the road that is supposed to go to Baguio City (109 kilometers). It's on the start of a hill. There are tons of rivers and hills and it's really just beautiful here.

5. What does Nueva Viscaya mean? I don't know. I'll look it up in the dictionary. I never thought about it, to be honest.

6. How many people come to your branch? Do you have a nice big building?
Ya, the building is 2 story and pretty nice. About 90-100 people come to church.

8. Was transfer day really hard? Ya, I was on a bus for 8 hours. Should have been 6, but on the way to Cauayan a parade stopped all traffic for an hour and a half. We also waited forever out in the sun to get a bus home to Viscaya

9. Were you happy with our Skype conversation? It was sure great to see and hear you.
Ya, it was pretty awesome to talk to and hear you. It was really weird too. And difficult to speak English, too – haha.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Week 28: Skype-ing for 60 minutes!

Well this week's post will be a little different as we do not have a letter from AJ to post. But that's a good thing as our son was able to video chat with us for a full hour on Mother's Day (courtesy of

My first feelings about AJ (this is his Dad) is that he seemed thinner, a little tentative with the English language, and happy to be in his new area, Nueva Viscya. He is struggling a little with a new companion who likes to sleep more than an Elder is supposed to and there are not as many cool stores and stuff as there was in Tuguegarao.

But Nueva Viscya is one of the more exciting areas in the Cauayan Mission. Let me quote from a letter two weeks ago: "Nueva Viscya -- The coolest place in the mission (in temperature, in sightseeing and in the work). By far the most coveted area in the mission. Home to the Seventh Wonder of the World, The Baunau Rice Terraces.  Supposedly even cold during the winter months and bearable during the hot months. Work is supposed to be pretty good here and also home to Solono, a pretty big city with cool stores."

AJ was in an unfamiliar town and in a computer store he had never been in before, so he looked kind of uncomfortable and was glancing around a lot, but he smiled often and seemed genuinely happy to be serving the Lord.

He is still having struggles with his shoes and has been unable to find anyone who can make a size 13 shoe for him. We told him to spend whatever it takes to get some good shoes. If we mail some to him (which we may do anyway), it will probably cost upwards of $120 or so. Gotta have good shoes if you're on your feet all day! He has admitted that he is a major cheapskate and doesn't want to spend that kind of money. He is like his mother as far as that topic is concerned. We have enlisted the help of his mission mom, Sister Carlos.

He was tickled to see and hear his brothers and sisters and was surprised at how big they are getting to be. He also enjoyed some non-tearful moments with his Mom and Dad.

AJ said his new area is almost the exact opposite of his former area. In Tug., he had a contentious ward, but a lot of dinner appointments. The area was small and flat and hot and the investigators were few and far-between. But in Nueva Viscya, they have a small branch that is very loving and helpful. His area is very mountainous and he says they do a lot of climbing and going up and down hills.

They also had seven investigators come to church on Sunday and have a lot of ground to cover in an area that has seen some success lately. Ironically, they have few, if any, dinner appointments. In Tug., they had D.A.s six nights a week.

The box we sent him finally arrived and he got it just in time to open it and give Elder Daqs a Jimmer Fredette t-shirt before they parted ways. Also, AJ said the Balbuena family is set to be baptized this coming Friday, eight days after he was transferred away. He was pretty heartbroken about missing out on their baptism, but hopes to have some soon in his new area.

A.J. said he is excited to go to one of the "World Wonders," the Banau Rice Terraces, maybe as soon as next week, if they can swing it. He promises to take lots of pictures.

He no longer has a shower or even a bath tub. To clean off, they basically have to stand by a drain with a bucket and a brush and scrub and rinse. It sounds not fun at all from this end. Let us all pause a moment to give thanks for real showers and real washing machines (yep, he is still hand-scrubbing his laundry).

The hour with AJ went by like lightning, as you can imagine. All his siblings got to chat with him for a moment, but I think he was a little uncomfortable as there were people milling around him the whole time.

He said he still sticks out like a sore thumb there. He is 6-foot-5 and pale white, while most men there are about 5-5 and brown-skinned. He said he saw one Filipino who was about 6-1 or 6-2 and he kinda stuck out as well.

Little sis Holly was so excited to see her brother!
He was very hesitant to criticize his new companion (Elder Lim), but AJ did say the Elder sleeps until about 10 and then, after they tract for about two hours, goes home and takes a nap at lunchtime. But they are working on some of their missionary philosophical differences and hopefully they can manage for the next five weeks. AJ was told by the mission president that he may be training a new Elder next cycle if things go well.

We are so proud of AJ. We know he is an incredibly hard worker, a trait he learned from his Mom (and a little from his Dad). His challenge this time will be how to get along and still succeed as a missionary with someone who does not feel the same way about the work. But we know the Lord will help him and that this experience will make him a better missionary and a better man.

He looked healthy and he said he can feel the prayers of support from his family and loved ones and wanted us to thank all of you who pray for him and support him. He loves you all!

The next time we are allowed to Skype with AJ will be at Christmas and at that point he will be more than halfway through his mission. We are so lucky to have a son like AJ and we are so proud of how hard he is working and how much growing he has already done, both spiritually and emotionally.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Week 27: Dancing Cops and Seaweed Pringles

AJ (in the far back center) at a recent Tuguegarao Zone meeting. 
Hey hey,

Well this week was hard but I would still say good things have happened. With the exception of the awesome Bulbuana family, this week has been lots of tracting with little success, hot weather and lots of crazy and/or drunk people. It seems the hotter it gets, the less people want to hear about the gospel.

For one thing, in the afternoon, basically the whole country is asleep I think or hiding from the sun and missionaries. People aren’t very happy when they wake up to missionaries, ha. So let's see, some notes on the week:

1. We saw a crazy drunk guy with a machete arguing and threatening a crazy drunk lady.  Then some other people came and wrestled the machete away from him.. Then the lady beat him with a big stick. The whole time they were yelling at each other in Itwes...pretty cool eh?
That's not a knife ...

2. Thurs after getting roasted all day, it rained buckets for about an hour, and we were both drenched head to toe. At least we didn’t have to shower right? Also in other tracting experiences, we seem to find drunk people all the time, regardless of the time of day. Tracting is also pretty difficult here because Missionaries have been here in the area (a very small area too) so everybody is either a less active member or they know about the church and missionaries and don’t want to talk to you. It is pretty tough. Elders Weaver, Andreason, Daquioug have all said this is/was the hardest area of their whole mission. But there is still work to be done and we are having success with the Bulbuana family
AJ's no fan of most fruit, but he loves Philippine mangoes!

3. Mangos are amazing. Do we have mangos in Utah or the states? They are pretty awesome. On the other hand I saw at the store "seaweed Pringles" and "Queso Ice Cream, With bits of real cheese!" Delicious? Maybe?

4. Ugh so Friday, middle of the night got upset stomach, sparing the details but needless to say I was pretty miserable until about Saturday afternoon. I mustered enough strength to work for a couple hours and then go to the 50th anniversary of the church in the Philippines celebration broadcast. I picked up a cold and headache somewhere along the way this weekend too. My stomach isn’t really settled now and my nose is going nuts but I am doing ok. I was at least able to work all day yesterday, although I felt terrible and I am sure I didn’t teach very well....

5. So like I said earlier, this weekend was the 50th anniversary of the church in the Philippines. Saturday night they had a 2-hour dance choir celebration thingy that we watched and then Sunday all wards were at the stake center. Elder Teh of the 70 spoke from Manila and then Sis Beck of YW, Elder Cook and Elder Packer of the 12 spoke to the Philippines from SLC, (I don’t know why they didn’t come) They were pretty good. They talked about the history and cool things that happened that has made the Philippines one of the fastest growing countries in the gospel of the whole world.

AJ says: "Oh man those traffic director guys are ridiculous. They dance and direct traffic to really bad disco music. They are in Illagan. Supposedly they have better job satsifcation if they get to dance?

6.So the Balbuena family ( Mom is a member then their two daughters (15- Mercy-Joy, 12- Jasmine) and Jr.(9) are doing great at church, the ward has done awesome giving them a warm welcome to church. They are set and pretty much ready for their baptism date of May 14. I'll probably be transferred before they are baptized :(...The dad is also an interesting case. He doesn’t join the family for lessons but he is really nice to us and has listened in the past. We think he listens in the other room but maybe he is shy or not sure or something. They also have one 13 year old brother who listens sometimes but has yet to come to church. I feel in the future and with time they can all be baptized. They are pretty awesome and I want them to be able to be a forever family!
How come they don't have these in the USA? Mmmm, Spam ...

7. Despite all our tracting efforts we still haven’t had any progressing investigators except a referral our next door neighbor(member) gave us. His niece, I think or something like that. She is Emily, a mother with 3 kids finishing up her studying here in tug.  We taught her twice now and she has awesome questions basically all the questions the first 2 lessons answer (why are there many churches, how do we know which is true, Where do go when we die, why are here?) and she also came to church as well. Which is awesome, and she lives with a member. The only problem might be that when summer school ends she goes back to her home, somewhere in the mountains she said. And we don’t know if there are missionaries anywhere near.

Well, things are pretty good and I’ll probably have transfers on Thursday so who know where all be next week. But next week I get to Skype you! Yeah!!!!

Love you, Miss you

[Note: AJ was really excited about being able to video chat with us next week on Skype, but he cautioned us and included this excerpt from President Carlos' letter:
Really? I mean, seriously?!
(2)  Mother's Day:  You are allowed to call home on Mother's Day.  If you have it available, you can SKYPE.  Remember my counsel, just like at Christmas-- : "DO NOT LEAVE THE MISSION".  rather, BRING THEM TO YOUR MISSION......  If you ask and talk about the good old days with your buddies and girlfriends and boyfriends, you will be homesick and you will not bless your family.  On the other hand, if you share some of your most spiritual experiences on your mission, tell them about your investigators, your own personal growth and progress, you will be bringing them to your mission.  What a great blessing that would be for you and your family.....
I have never given you a fixed time limit for calls to home on Christmas and Mother's Day...However, I do not think you should be on the phone or Skype longer than 45-60 minutes.  Most missions have guidelines of 20 minutes. 

Yep, seaweed, shrimp and crab Pringles

Some questions from home:
1. Get the package? What'd you think?
Nope, no package.

2. Tell us all about transfers ... Probably I'll be transferred -- Tuesday after district meeting we will find out who is going and who is staying then We have transfer meeting Thursday at 10 a.m. in Cauayan.

3. How's your shoes situation? Kinda hard, I got them fixed, kind of, but no one really has the tools to put a brand new sole on them. The biggest I have seen at any store in Tug. (and I have looked at a ton) is size 11 only.

4. Do you eat cereal for breakfast. I guess not so much since you have no milk, huh? (We hardly ever run out of milk since you left ... we even had some go bad). Oh man, that pains my heart to hear that you let milk go bad... They have it, it's really expensive and not as good, so I have only had cereal in my first cycle.

5.  Do you have a shower. You never said, did you? Here we have a shower. But maybe not in my next apartments. less than half the missionary apartments I have seen have shower. If not its good ole bucket showers.

6. Any message for ward members. Kevin Lewis asks about you a lot. And Kenny Gordon. And Ben Brown. What mission did Ben brown serve in? Does he know Tagalog or what did he learn? Definitely it will be awesome sharing experiences with them, especially other Philippines missionaries.