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Monday, July 25, 2011

Bonus post: Banaue Rice Terraces

Elder Griffin hiking down to the Banaue Rice Terraces.

Flooded rice fields in the Philippines.

Week 39: Elder Balaich's dying days

DAD: Hi! Just realized you were on...been working on your letter! How are you?
AJ: Life is good! Work is good! Transfers is on Thursday. Your letter was hilarious, by the way. I can just imagine your Park City experiences and the family reunion seems pretty funny, too. I wish I could been there for the 3-on-3 tourney.
MOM: By the way, Dad has a headache so I'm typing all the correspondence today. DAD says: It would have been fun to have you there at the reunion. We only had time for 2 games in the 3 on 3. We won the first 10-1 and then we played all these young guys that were really good players, but they were no match for Jonny's 3 pointers and my post game. We beat them 11-5. The problem is, me and Jonny are going to keep getting older and slower and these 15-year olds are going to get stronger and faster, so I better enjoy it while I can. Plus, I don't know if you'll be any good when you get back since you only play with short brown people … ha ha.
AJ: Hah! Ya, so Tuesday and Wednesday I will go on splits and then on Thursday get a new companion and head back to Aritao. We had interviews with President Carlos last week and he will tell you who your new companion will be a lot of the times. But I couldn't get anything out of him. At least the work is really good and Aritao is an awesome and beautiful area.

MOM/DAD: How come you go on splits right before you lose your comp? That seems weird. Especially if you are close. It seems like you would want to spend the last couple of days together. And your area sounds really beautiful. I forgot how pretty it is up in Northern Utah. We live in the rugged desert and I had forgotten how pretty the mountains are. I miss it sometimes.
AJ: Ya, I love it here. It's like 100 million times better than my last area.
Well, what happens is, on Tuesday we go to Bambang and split for half the day. It's hard to get rides at night, so we just start the split a little earlier, plus we don't know their area, so we just work two companionships in the area on Tuesday. Then Elder Balaich and Pincock (who are both going home) will go to Cauayan on Wednesday. They leave at 4 a.m. In Cauayan, they have a career workshop and Testimony Meeting, plus dinner and their final interview with the president. I will stay with Pincock's companion and work all day Wednesday, then on Thursday morning we will head up to Cauayan and get new companions.
MOM/DAD: You look very serious in your pix. You look skinny too. Are you losing weight? Looks like a nice bunch of kids you are hanging with. You enjoying all the other missionaries? So are you sad to be sending him Elder Balaich off? Seems like you two have gotten along pretty well.Also, is Pincock the name of the very first blogger stuff we found before you went on your mission? The name sounds familiar.
AJ: Ya, I am pretty sure. He is pretty cool. He is my zone leader. Yeah, Balaich is pretty awesome. I figure it can only go downhill from here. Maybe I need to be more optimistic, but it was a good cycle.
DAD: Do new missionaries come in every transfer or just sometimes?
AJ: There have been new missionaries every transfer that I have seen. One transfer it was only Filippinos though. But yeah, pretty much every time.
MOM/DAD: Well, then, maybe you'll be training a newbie.
AJ: Definitely a possibility ... Who knows? It's all speculation at this point.
MOM: (10:30 p.m. Utah time) Dad must not be feeling well … he's asleep! Poor thing. I guess I wore him out this week!
AJ: Wow good one! I gotta run. Love ya lots. If you can think of anything you want for Christmas, let me know.
MOM: Love you too!!!! XOXOX

Hey family,

Life is good! We had a great week of work and saw some cool progression from some of our investigators.

The coolest thing that happened was the faith this one lady showed. A few weeks ago we were buying stuff in the Palengke (outdoor market) and this lady named Emma (about 50-years old) came up to us and asked what we were doing. And then she just gave us her address and stuff. We have been over there a couple times but have only been able to teach her once because we didn't have another female there (as per mission policy). She said she really wanted to go to church, but she works in the Palengke and Sunday is market day (basically the market has way more people and stuff there). Her boss said there is no way he would let hertake the day off. But she told us to come by before church and she would see if she could go. So we did and we brought recent convert Sister Betty to help fellowship. They became instant best friends.

Anyway, we got there and her boss was adamant that she could not have the day off on market day. So she said to wait outside and she would be right there. Then, as we were walking away, she just said she needed to go to church and that they can deal with it and she grabbed her stuff and ran off and came to church (wow!). Then she had an awesome time at church and later that day we went to see her. She said her boss wasn't mad at all! I don't know if that's true or not, but that's what she said. And then she told us how she just seemed to be lost in life and at church that day she felt she had found her life again. Pretty cool story and quite a show of faith! She really seems to have been prepared by the Lord. So we will see what happens. I wish our other investigator that got a job at the Palengke last week would at least ask for a day off so she could go to church, too.

Another fairly new investigator is Sister Jemah. She's a young mother that we found tracting about a month ago. She has now come to church two times in a row and has loved it and been praying and asking great questions. She is doing really good. She is really nice and we feel she will be baptized. She said a while back that she had a dream about 2 white people teaching her the gospel. So she was really surprised when we found her and she asked us how we had found her house. She has a great desire to learn the gospel. It's an awesome feeling to be a part of the Lord's work.

We also found a sweet hanging bridge (see pictures) in the fields this week. It was totally epic Indiana Jones style.

I love my mission and I love being a part of sharing the gospel with others. I know the Church is true, that Joesph Smith really saw God the Father and the Son and that because of it we have the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that our Redeemer lives!

Love Ya all!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Bonus post: AJ and the monkey

AJ and some monkey business in the Philippines! (click photos to enlarge)

Week 38: OYM (Open Your Mouth) Elders

Hello family!

Another great week here for us in the Philippines!

A lot of great things happened this week and we have met some really awesome people, but also some people just aren't quite as ready as we were hoping. We were hoping to have 2 baptisms this Saturday (It will be Elder Balaich's last Saturday in the mission field), but as seemingly always happens when people are close to baptism, here comes trials.

But as far as everything else goes, we had an awesome week finding and teaching and it was really spiritually rewarding.

So first, the problems with the baptisms: Marybeth (18, older sister of recent convert Karen) seemed like everything was looking really solid until Friday when she had like 700 questions about why we don't do all the things Catholics do. We were able to answer them pretty easily, but also she got a new job at the market that requires her to work on Sundays. It also kind of seems like she has been talking to a priest or something. So she told us she wouldn't be able to go to church. We just told her it was important and that if she wanted she could pray about what she needed to do. Sadly she didn't come to church. I think it will come with time, but that's a really big problem if she has to work every Sunday now. She really has a testimony and is a really smart girl and seems like she understands the doctrine, but I guess we are all trying to progress and hopefully her testimony and understanding will come.

Her family is also really cool and nice and they always listen but we can't get them to come to church (except for Karen). I really want them to find happiness. They are close, but not quite there.

Erickson (10) is doing great, but his parents have been kind of sketchy (sending him to church by himself and disappearing and stuff). But I hope they were just having a weird week or something. We haven't been able to teach him everything and we want to focus on getting the parents active before he gets baptized, so we felt it would be best to wait a little bit.

We are having some really great finding and have lots of new investigators. I am really grateful to be in the Philippines and finding/tracting is really pretty easy. We met this really nice (hopefully interested) lady that pretty much OYM'ed us. We were just buying stuff in the palengke the other day and she was like, “What are you doing here, Americans?” We taught her once and the spirit was really strong and she seemed to really like the message.

Also, this young mother we tracted into the other day is doing awesome. We have taught her a couple times and she came to church and really has great questions that are inspired from someone that really wants to know the truth.

I love being a missionary and I learn so much about the gospel and being a priesthood holder and who I need to become every day. I know with all my heart and mind that the gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth today and that we are really, really lucky to know about it and to be able to read the fulness of the gospel in our scriptures whenever we desire.

I also know that the power of the Atonement is real and I have seen it change lives, including my own. I wouldn't want to be any other place in the world right now. I love sharing it with our brothers and sister here in the Philippines.

Also, we went to Banaue earlier. It was pretty cool and really pretty. We bought lots of awesome stuff for really cheap (wood carvings and stuff). One thing that was kind of weird is that we noticed that the people in Banaue aren't very good at Tagalog. They pretty much speak Ifugao (another dialect) and are really not very good English and not that great at Tagalog either. It is kind of funny and weird that you can go 2 or 3 hours in a different direction and everyone speaks a different language.

Alright, love you family! Have a great week! Glad the pioneer trek was great and that you have NCAA 12.



Monday, July 11, 2011

Week 37: Matchstick stacking and birthday damnation

Elder Griffin and friends during Zone Conference training.
Hello Family....

Another great week here in the Philippines. The work is great and life is good.

We didn't go to Banaue this week, but we did play football for a couple hours and we got McDonalds and went to Save More earlier. Today was also Elder Balaich's 21st birthday. So it was a good day. I still have the cake mix so I will probably make it this week, if I get time.

The week went really, really fast. We did a lot of finding and met some really cool people. Tracting is really pretty easy here in the Philippines. It's getting them to progress and go to church that seems to be the hardest part. Although this Sunday was pretty cool. We had most of the people that have been progressing well go to church and then 3 different members brought friends to church. That's definitely the best place to find to investigators is in the church itself.

We also had a cool Family Home Evening last Monday with the Mejia family. The 10-year old kid is not baptized and the parents recently returned to church. Anyway, we played a sweet game that Elder Weaver showed me back in the day and I call it ghetto Jenga. Basically, you get an empty bottle (glass or plastic) and then everyone takes like 15 matches and you have to stack them on top of the bottle. If you knock any off the top, you have to take them. And the goal is get rid of all your matches. The stack gets pretty high and precarious. I got some pics, but i left my camera at the house. So I'll have to give them to you next week.

Also, another highlight of this week is that we taught a less active family and then we got to play with their monkey. He is pretty crazy. He just jumps on you and goes through your hair looking for bugs or something. I got some sweet pictures as well.

Oh, also here in the Philippines, birthdays are really lame. Basically, if it's someone's birthday, they are supposed to prepare a party or treats or something for everyone else. So I was telling a few people that it was Elder Balaich's birthday (I wasn't sure what happens really if it's someone's birthday) and every one of them asked straight up, “Oh, what did you prepare for us?”

Also it was funny, I told our branch president that it was Elder Balaich's birthday and he said, “Ha-ha, you are ipinamahamak and casama mo.” I'm not sure what the real translation is for that, but in the Bible they use mapahamak for like damnation. So basically he said I was damning my companion by telling people it's his birthday.

Teaching is great and I love being on the mission and watching people's lives change. I know the gospel is true and that it is the formula to really becoming happy no matter what the circumstances are.
Some Q & A:1. Do they grow anything besides rice?
They grow corn (which I found out this week is all just from American seed someone brought to the Philippines) and they have tons of awesome fruit.

2. Do you have a favorite scripture?
Too many to name – hindi ko alam.

3. How soon are transfers?
July 28. I murder Balaich on the 27
th – Muhahahah!

4. We are loving the Shasta raspberry cream soda lately. Is there a local flavor that you love?
No, I am really sick of soda pop. They do have Dad's root beer here, but only at nice grocery stores. That's my favorite coming from the Philippines, but I guess it's still an American recipe.

5. Update us on the work ...

On the 23rd of July we should have 2 baptisms. One is the older sister of Karen (baptized last month) and the other one is the kid I talked about earlier (Erickson -- his parents newly returned to church). Other than that, we have a ton of investigators and some are serious. But mostly the hardest part is that it's really, really, really hard to get people to go to church.

Love ya


Monday, July 4, 2011

Week 36: Waterfalls and birthday donuts

This is AJ's area, a roughly 40 X 50 mile area in
central Philippines. Aritao is the red arrow in the middle.

This is the town of Aritao. AJ says the Mister Donut and the awesome ice cream
store is in south Aritao across from the Municipal Hall.
Elders Balaich and Griffin live across from (and behind) the elementary school.
Notice the basketball court across the street from the Elders.  

AJ: Hey, ya still up? We just came back from some sweet waterfalls
DAD: Sleepy-eyed, but still up. Got any pix?

AJ: Ya, I got a bunch. Just a sec. We also just bought a dozen donuts in celebration of how awesome America is!
DAD: Nice. Mmmmmm. Donuts. It's 1:10 in the a.m. and the screen is a little blurry. These early morning meetings are killing me.

AJ: Man I'm sorry. Oh and next week we are probably going to Banaue, so don't bother staying up for me. Also I was thinking ... Do you want me to send you all a package for Christmas? If so, I'll probably grab some stuff in Banauae, because that's where all the cool cheap stuff is ... and I don't know if I'll go back to Banaue again after next week.
DAD: A package would be nice. We have one ready to go for you, but I wanted to get my latest magazine in (it comes out Wednesday). Anyway, you don't have to send us anything, but it would be fun. Just use some of your money from your bank account.
AJ: Okay. I can probably buy lots of cool stuff for 30 or 40 dollars and then 30-50 dollars to send it home. So I'll grab some stuff next week. I might hold on to the stuff for a bit and get some cool stuff from the Palengke too. I just figured that might be kind of cool for Christmas for you all.
DAD: Yeah, it would be awesome. So do you live in Aritao? I am looking at it on Google maps. Looks pretty cool. Where are you at exactly -- what are you next to?
AJ: Ya Aritao. Pretty close to the market. In Barangay Poblacion. In front of our house is a big dirt lot and it has a basketball court. By the way, the falls were pretty awesome. Best falls I have ever seen in person – 30-feet plus. And next week the ones in Banaue are supposed to be even more incredible.
DAD: I see Aritao city hall, Aritao elementary and high schools, Aritao cemetary, Aritao public market ...
am i close?
AJ: Oh and across from the city hall is the awesome ice cream place and the Mister Donut.
Behind the elementary school. Like if you go from the one end of the elementary school straight then to the dirt lot then right across the street is our house.
DAD: So do you walk everywhere, or take tryke's or what?
AJ: We walk most of the time. If it's far away but on the highway we can take a jeepney. Maybe only once a week do we take tryces. And I hate tryces. The tryces here in Nueva Viscya are way way smaller than in Tuguegarao also.
DAD: How big is your area. Several towns? What towns?
AJ: We have the municipality of Aritao and Santa Fe, but we never have worked in St. Fe yet. We have the Barungays from Kirang to the west, Daripudiup in the north, Bone South in the south and Tubueng in the west. Our area is HUGE!
DAD: Whoa, I think I found the basketball hoop. You are right across the street? Where's the church?
AJ: We take a short cut though the jungle, sort of around a mountain about a half mile to get to church. But yeah, like right across from the basketball hoop. Our house is by a grove of trees and in our yard is like a small water tower thingy. Get the pics?
DAD: Cool pix. Love the baptism one and the donuts. Is there wildlife out in those trees you were hiking thru?
AJ: There are like 7 million frogs and they are so loud at night. There are tons of dogs and mosquitoes and lizards, but that's about it. I haven't seen a live snake in the Philippines yet – only a few smashed on the road. Knock on wood....
DAD: Sounds like you are having a good time with Balaich. How are your feet? Doing OK?
AJ: Aside from running around waterfalls and riverbeds barefoot all day, they're just fine. I got the one pair of shoes fitted with airplane tires a few weeks ago. They are doing all right.
DAD: We got some sweet Hush Puppy shoes comin' at ya in a few weeks! Found a lot of those places on the Satellite photo. Santa Fe just seems like a bunch of jungle area. You don't go up to Bambang?
AJ: We go to Bambang every Tuesday for district meeting. It's not much bigger than Aritao. Solono is where it's at, though. It has Save More and Macdos. We only are able to go maybe once a month. It's 2 hours away by jeep or 1:15 by bus each way. But sometimes buses are hard to get.
DAD: It's very cool that I can see all these places on the sat photo. You really are kinda out in the sticks! They even have the LDS church labeled in Solano's sat photo. Hey, I found the Save More too
AJ: That's awesome. But even Save More doesn't have real milk – how lame is that? Gotta take off. Love you!
DAD: Love you son, Be good!

Happy Birthday America!

So we just downed a dozen donuts from Mister Donut in celebration of America! We also took the district and visited Imogen Falls in Ste Fe (about 30 mins south of Aritao). It is the most southern city in the mission. It was pretty awesome and didn't take too long, either.

Good week! Elder Balaich is awesome and I love it. We just work hard and are really good friends, too. It's been a pretty good week, although it's been hard getting people to go to church. We have a couple people that will be baptized most likely this month.

First, Sister Marybeth, older sister of Karen (she got baptized last cycle) and she is really smart and close to baptism. She actually passed the baptism interview on Saturday, but then she didn't go to church on Sunday!!! Ahhh! So we are going to their family later and we'll see what happened. The family is really cool though. Karen is awesome. Marybeth is really good, too. The older brother we finally got to start listening a few weeks ago, but he has yet to go to church. The parents always listen and are really nice, but they haven't come to church either.

A few weeks ago this inactive family came back to church on their own and they want their child to be baptized. They were converts in 2008 or 2009. They are really nice and don't seem to have any problems with Word of Wisdom or tithing or anything, so I am not really sure why they went inactive in the past, but they are ready to return now. The ward is being really helpful and we are focusing on the parents and Erickson, their 10-year old son. Hopefully they can go to the temple in the future. They are really nice and really poor ... its pretty humbling.
Some Answers:
1- Do the people over there even know/care what the 4th of July is or care about America's independence?
Nope, not a soul. But the Philippines Independence Day used to be on July 4 back in the day. Then they got conquered again. After we, the US, kicked out the Japanese they got a new Independence Day.

2- Do they have big holidays there that have fireworks and stuff like that?
New years is huge. My first weekend in the Philippines was pretty epic. I don't know how much i told you about it, but it was crazy. I was actually at Balaich's apartment in Tugeuegarao and we watched fireworks from the rooftop. Everyone had dangerous fireworks. They were going off all round our heads.

3 - Does anyone there BBQ and cook out like us?
Well.... Yes and Not really...... They love to BBQ but they love to BBQ Chicken intestines, dinguan cubes (basically blood cubes), chicken heads, chicken feet, pig fat ... hungry yet? Needless to say, I stay far away from Pinoy barbeques.

4 - Is there anything that you and your comp are going to do before he goes home? Remember to keep the rules, Elder.
Well, we are pretty tempted to go to Baguio City. It's only 2 hours away (the mission home in Cauayan is 5 hours) and Baguio has Wal-mart, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Wendy's and everything else awesome the states has. Very Bawal (naughty, as it is out of the mission) though. We are going to do cool things though, like go to Banaue (the extra beautiful part I haven't been to yet), make tons of smoothies and good food and get trunky. Maybe... Joke-lang.

Love ya all