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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.

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