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Monday, October 31, 2011

Week 53: Moving the work forward ... and mailing a cow?

 AJ: Kamusta, como esta?
DAD: Namaste? So, what's shaking my boy? Your mom is actually still awake. Can you believe it?
AJ: What is it, like, 10:30 in Utah? Things are good. Time won't slow down.
DAD: Tell me about it, seems like yesterday we were bringing you home from the hospital. BTW, it is 10 o'clock. I wanted to tell you, everyone here absolutely LOVES your blog. I get people all the time telling me that it is so cool and they are enjoying many of your mission experiences by going online and reading and looking at the pix. People love it and relate to your life and what you are doing.
(sent AJ some pix of his brothers and sisters)
AJ: Gosh Katie is tall now. She is about to pass up mom. She is still 9, right?

AJ's sister, Katie.

DAD: She'll be 10 in December. I am not sure how tall she is. Probably right at 5 feet. Measured Bryce Saturday and he was 6-1-ish. Dallas is still shorter than him. He hates that. People always think he's the younger one lately, except for the cool mustache. Katie is taller than just about everyone in the school. She is in the 4th grade and one of the older kids at Washington Elementary now. Did we tell you about when she was in the talent competition and sang a solo up on stage? It was amazing. I would never have done that.
AJ: Not yet. What did she sing?
DAD: Some Carrie Underwood song (American Girl). She did really good, but she actually sang along with the actual singer so it didn't sound as good as if she had done karaoke style. We sure were proud of her up on stage all by herself. She is so funny, because we can't get her to do anything on command for a few people and then she'll go do a song and dance for the whole school.
AJ: Yeah, I would never do it either. Are you training her to be a star basketball player?
DAD: Well, here's the thing about her. I told her she could get a scholarship in basketball some day if she would practice at least 1 hour each day. I will go out and help her if she wants me to, but she has to show some initiative on her own by practicing. I really do think she will be tall and could play in high school if she wants to.
AJ: Ah, I see. How is Holly-dolly doing?
DAD: She is a very happy girl. Enjoying 2nd grade. She scored 97% on an assessment test and scored highest in her whole class. Her teacher adores her. She has a really bad sweet tooth though and she is picky about other foods. She won't eat meat on her sandwiches and she doesn't like potatoes. But she sure loves her mommy.
AJ: Every time she doesn't like food you give her, you should give her rice – haha – just kidding. How are my bros. doing?
Halloween outfits from the Griffin girls
DAD: Dallas is good. He is very proud of his mustache and said it is way better than Landry Jones's 'stache. Haha. He is a super guy with a big heart. Bryce really loves to hang out with his Dad and chauffeur his mom around. We will spare you the terror of those experience right now. He is an excellent student. He hasn't gotten below a B+ in years. And they both love to eat, eat, eat.
AJ: Do they play ball and watch football all the time like they should be? By the way, I think Katie would be taller than like 75 percent of girls here already. At least it seems like it.
DAD: Yeah, your brothers mostly watch BYU and the Cowboys. They don't very often turn on a game themselves – usually just what I am watching. I think they enjoy playing in the pep band way more than watching football and doing stats and stuff. I usually buy them dinner and stuff so they are usually pretty happy. I think Bryce really likes football more than he lets on because he almost always comes and watches where Dallas will play X-box or guitar or something. But if it is Cowboys or BYU, they will both watch.
AJ: That's cool.
DAD: Did you read what I wrote about Mike McGary? Pretty scary stuff. That's weird to think that an ambulance came and hauled him off from a football game.
AJ: Wow, from the game?! I thought he was just at his house and called in sick first. That's super scary. Is he doing all right now?
DAD: Still in the hospital. I talked to his wife today. She said he is improving and he may come home. He is still in Salt Lake.
AJ: Oh man, he was in Salt Lake, too. I guess I need to read better. What kind of infection? How did it happen? Just all of the sudden he just got sick at the game or did he feel lousy all day?
DAD: I guess he was O.K. on the drive up. Then he just started feeling really sick an hour before the game. He told Robert to be ready to do it by himself. A little while later he kind of collapsed, I guess. By the way, did we tell you about Adam Buatte? He met and fell in love with Sam Stevens' sister. Do you remember Sam, the big Samoan that moved in the Bennett's old house? They are getting married later this month. She has him back at church and everything. He's a heckuva nice kid.
AJ: That's awesome.
DAD: By the way, take care of your valuables. Sister Watkins and her companion were robbed, while they were at home sleeping, on her last night in her previous area. You will get that letter by in a couple of weeks. She was pretty freaked out and her and her comp got to stay at the mission home over night after it happened. They took stuff from the nightstand next to their bed while they slept. Did you ever get your magazines and chocolate?
AJ: Not yet. Elder Wooden and I haven't got squat the last two times the mail came. A whole month now, we haven't gotten anything – haha.
DAD: What do you want for Christmas?
AJ: I am good. I have everything I need, except milk, and you can't help me there.
DAD: I wonder if a cow would fit in a pre-paid box. I know, that's udderly ridiculous!
AJ: HAHAHAHA. That was so cheezy!
DAD: Good one AJ. What are you trying to do, butter me up? Probably ought to wrap it up. Another week is lurking … and I am falling asleep. Congrats on hitting the 1 year mark, you big stud.
AJ: Sige (OK), sleep tight. Don't let the bed-bugs bite! Love ya!
DAD: Love you, too, son. Have a good week!

Happy Halloween!

Things are great and Christmassy here in the Philippines. Another great week has gone by. It definitely doesn't feel like winter here, but the work is awesome. Every day we are meeting and teaching people that are ready and excited to hear what we say and are prepared by the Lord.

One of the interesting new investigators we have been teaching is an 18-year old kid named Mark Anthony, who we met in the side of the bukid (fields) and irrigation canal, just chillin. We talked to him for a minute and asked if we could share about the Restoration to him. He said yes and seemed really interested. We actually taught him standing up for about eight minutes or so and at the end we prayed and committed him to pray about Joseph Smith.

We came back a few days later and he had read the whole pamphlet and prayed about Joseph Smith. He said he wasn't sure if he got an answer, but he was feeling good about what he was reading and stuff. Then here is where it gets interesting. He is from Illocos (far away) and living with this family that is Iglesia ni Cristo. By the way, the Iglesia, for lack of better words, are the most unfriendly people I've encountered here in the Philippines. And that's putting it lightly. So anyway, we came up to his house and they were like, “Oh it's all right, we are Iglesia.” I said “Ok, lang – Thats OK).” And then we asked for the kid and he comes out and they're like, “He is already Iglesia and he is getting baptized next month. Its OK if you share, but we are really Iglesia.” The kid just kind of rolls his eyes.

So we teach the kid and then his uncle or something is like “What's bawal (not allowed at your church)?” So I tell him and he starts going off about how blood should be bawal because it's dirty and all this stuff (by the way, the blood dishes like dinuganan are really popular). And I am like “Well we don't eat it anyway.” The real answer as it says in “True to the Faith” is that blood was bawal in the Old Testament under the law of Moses, but when Christ came, he fufilled the Law of Moses. Basta (end of story).

The one dude when we came to teach Mark was like “Everyone gets to choose, right.” (like trying to tell us we cant teach him). And I am like “Exactly, and that's why we are giving him a Book of Mormon and asking him to ask God what he should do.”

So we gave the kid a Book of Mormon. BTW, the Iglesias aren't allowed to own a Bible, I think). We went back yesterday and this different lady was there and we asked for the kid again and she was said he wasn't there the first time we asked. But the second time we asked, she sent a little kid to get him. Then she is like, “He is already Iglesia. And I said very quietly (probably a good thing she didn't hear) “Not yet.”

And I just said “OK-lang,” like that' all right even if he is Iglesia. And then I said "Wala naman masama, di ba?" – basically like nothing bad about us sharing, right? Filipinos say that all the time. Often they say that when we ask if we can share and it's not usually an answer I like to hear that much because they usually aren't too interested when they say that. But I was able to use it for me – haha. And then she said, “Oo naman,” like “Ya, you're right!” And then we were able to teach Mark. He read the assignment and prayed again about the BOM and Joseph Smith and really was interested in the plan of salvation. At the end, he asked what time church was and gladly asked us to come back. They will be so mad if he comes to church with us. I think they make him go to church at the Iglesia.

Anyway, things are also going awesome with the Ania family. The dad still is staying away from alcohol and they came to church 2 weeks in a row and stayed the whole block. They are really excited about their missionary in Baguio mission. Their son left like 2 months ago on a mission. He writes them every week and he really is responsible for opening his father's heart to the gospel. Pretty cool to see. He is a super quiet guy, but he is super nice and is progressing toward baptism on the 26th.

Also Mac-Mac is doing really great. The young men are doing the sickest fellowshipping job I've ever seen. He is playing church ball with them and hangs out with them 24/7 and they are teaching him about the BOM and stuff too. They already gave him pants and a shirt and tie and he is loving it. They are doing awesome. He is progressing toward November 26th as well.
We have a couple more people that are doing way good, too. There is this young couple and the husband is doing really great. They are the Claudio family. The first week or two after we taught restoration and praying about it, he wasn't getting answers to his prayers, but he always read the BOM assignments and continued to pray. And then last Friday we went and he said he had a dream about Joseph Smith and the BOM and he said he knows they're true! We then gave the baptismal commitment and he took it, but his wife hasn't been doing as well.

He asked if he could be baptized if it was only him. We said he could, but it would be better if they both did. Then we told them both to pray and ask if they should be baptized on Dec 17. Brother Claudio is totally ready and sister said she would pray and ask. They are really cool. He really bad wanted to go to church this week but had to work and he said next time he would leave work and could go to church.

Then, in same Brgy, there is this old guy named Fortunato and we have been teaching him for a couple weeks. He has been reading up everything we have been giving him and he also said he received answer to his prayer that the BOM is true. We gave him a date on the 17th as well. He was a little confused about baptism and Holy Ghost, but it was super cool to be able to show him in the Book of Mormon what the baptism by fire actually is and that through Joseph Smith, we can get the Spirit. He is close to going to church, too. That seems to be the hardest thing here is getting people to go to church, but when they do they almost always love it and get baptized after that.

Well this has been a great week. I feel truly privileged to be a missionary in this great cause. I have had the greatest experiences of my life and have seen so miracles all the time! Its amazing. I know this work and church and gospel are absolutely and unequivocally TRUE! I am so happy to know about it and know without a doubt where the truth is. Here is a lot different from Utah, where sometimes I think I might have taken it for granted. But I am so grateful for all the things that I have experienced here in the Philippines and all the people I have met and am so glad I came.

I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and I am so happy to help him as his missionary. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that Thomas S. Monson is the Lord's prophet here on earth. It's so great. Sometimes I just feel like Ammon in Alma 26. Amazing things have happened and are still happening every day. I wouldn't trade this time here on a mission for anything.

I love you!!!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week 52: Christmas in the Philippines ;-)

Email conversation between AJ and his dad through Sunday night at about midnight (about 2 p.m. Monday in the Philippines)
AJ: Hey, sup pops? You awake still?
Hey yeah, just working on a feature for the mag on the Scott brothers, Kenny and Brian. How ya been?
h just fine and dandy. Who are the Scott brothers?
Kenny played for Hurricane in 2005 on that undefeated team that lost to Riley Nelson and Logan in the semis. Brian is his little bro who had 1,400 yards this year and 25 TDs as they are undefeated again.
Oh yeah, I remember him. Didn't he and the Long dude beat Lark and company when they were undefeated or something.
eah, that's the kid. Logan crushed them both, though. Kenny married Zach Sorensen's sister.
DAD: Ben Brown and I chatted for awhile today at church. You'll remember he went to the Philippines on his mission. He asked how you were doing. He said he was in Cebu City for a lot of his mission and it was dirty and hot. He said they had pineapple farms in his mission and a member friend of their's used to pick them some "new" ones. They weren't much bigger than a mango and he said they were incredibly good.
o did Ben Brown speak Cebuano or Tagalog on his mission? I heard in Cebu and stuff they know Tagalog, but they don't really like to speak it and kind of look down on people that don't speak Cebuano.
Not sure on Ben Brown and the language. Melvin went there, too, but I think he spoke mostly Taglish.
Where was Jason Asay assigned? The Philippines has a ton of missions.
I dunno about Asay. There are 16 missions now in the Philippines. Crazy, huh?
I think 17 now. Quezon City mission in Manila just got split a few months ago. Cebu and Illoilo got split right before I got in the Philippines, too. By they way, did I tell you that Tyler Haws is supposed to be AP in the Quezon City South Mission? I guess a couple months ago he called President Carlos on business and President was all stoked and he said he made him talk basketball for like 10 minutes.
Haws should be about done right? Or did he not leave until the summer. I can't remember. BYU hoops should be good again. They lost Jimmer and Emery, but Davies got reinstated and they signed this major stud freshman named Demarcus Harrison. Plus Abuou and Hartsock are back. Should be fu
n.AJ: Cool. Haws is like 6 months ahead of me. One of my buddies here in the mission met him in the MTC. I guess he isn't playing basketball at all for these two years. He said Haws wouldn't play in the MTC. He would just run the track and lift weights. He thinks the coach told him not to play or something. I bet it's hard.
Wow, how could you not touch the rock for two years? I'm guessing it will take a little time to get his shooting touch back. His little brother (a sophomore) and Jackson Emery's little bro (junior) both already verbally committed to BYU.
So Tyler will probably be like in his senior year at the Y when his bro joins the team? Maybe the Lord will preserve his touch and give it back to him when he gets back in the States. That's gotta be hard. His companions definitely must be trying to get him to play like all the time.
Did you get to play today? Maybe some hoops or football? You probably get tons of exercise walking everywhere.
Yeah, we played ball this morning. Our bishop is super cool. We have been getting up at 6 and playing ball from 6-7 with the Bishop and this one RM in the ward. I really missed it. We never played ball with Elder Fantony. Oh, hey, our rice cooker broke so now we only eat rice when people give it to us – haha. Go America!
You have an indoor court, or outdoor? I'm kinda fat right now, you would probably whip me.
I don't think they have invented the indoor court in the Philippines – Joke lang! But really I haven't seen one yet. All the churches, even stake centers, are out in the hot, hot sun.DAD: I guess if your weather is always mild, you don't need to be indoors.AJ: Oh, by the way, we went to Macdos the other day and threw down 2 quarter pounders with cheese. It was epically American awesome! Anyway, I am outta here!
inished my story and chatted with you. Now must go to bed. Love ya AJ!
Hey family,

Time flies! So another great week of teaching and finding and working.

Ramon is a pretty sweet area. We have tons of investigators now and this Sunday a lady came to church with her husband and said they just moved here. She said “Hey, teach my husband!” That is the best finding, inside the church itself.

So this week on Wednesday we had interviews with President Carlos. I like interviews with President. He shared with me in Helaman 10 that as we teach and preach with unweariness, we will be blessed forever. That'ss a super cool promise.

By the way, it's officially Christmas here in the Philippines.
We sang 3 Christmas songs in Sacrament Meeting yesterday and tons of members have trees out. I guess they don't have Halloween or Thanksgiving to celebrate, so they just go straight for Christmas maybe. As I write this, they are playing “White Christmas.” I am not sure if I am buying into it this early … Kind of ridiculous.

So this week we had some cool successes like Tatay Onia. His son left on a mission a couple of months ago and he decided to start investigating the church. He has come to church now the second week in a row, hasn't smoked or drank in 8 days and took the baptismal date for November 26th.

We also were visiting a less active family a few weeks ago and ran into their cousin, 15-year old Mac-mac, who just moved from Manila. He is doing pretty good and the best part is that the young men are doing an awesome job fellowshipping and making him feel welcome. They already got him playing on the church ball team (BTW, in Santiago is the only time I have seen legitimate church ball-teams) and they got dressed up in a shirt and tie for church. Cool eh?

We have a ton of new families and great people that we are teaching that are super nice and we are hoping and praying that they will feel the spirit and that we can teach them goodly enough so that they can keep the commitments and find out for themselves. It's amazing how the Lord guides us in our paths. All the time our plans might not work out or something and we end up trying something else and run into chances to serve or into people that have been prepared by the Lord. It's a really awesome feeling to be guided in our goings and doings. We have been more bold and not being shy and talking to more people than ever.

I just read the w
eekly letter from President Carlos and it was really awesome. He talked about the Savior and Peter and the Feeding the Sheep lesson. Even our simple every day decisions are a reflection of how much we love the Savior. Of course if we love Jesus, we need to keep his commandments. John 15:16. It's not enough to say we love the Savior, but go back to fishing or (whatever our fishing may be). But we need to teach and teach till we can't go anymore.

Yes, I have also realized I hit the one year point this week and it definitely doesn't feel like it has been that long. Bu
t then again, I can't really remember not being a missionary ... so yeah. But life is good.

Well I have always known the Church is true, but this past year my testimony has definitely grown and I know without a doubt that this is the only true church on the Earth, that Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet and that Joseph Smith was the prophet of the Restoration. I know that, in my mind and in my heart, and I feel it, too. The Book of Mormon is the greatest book on the Earth. Read it over and over again!

Well, as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans so …

Merry Christmas Ya All!!!
Love A.J.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Week 51: Kuligligs and lightning!

Email conversation between AJ and his dad through Sunday night at about midnight (about 2 p.m. Monday in the Philippines)

Elders Wooden and Griffin on a kuliglig
AJ: Wazzup yo?!

DAD: Hey there my boy. How ya been?

AJ: Hey. Good. This internet is terrible, though. I just got it working again after what seems like a half an hour.

DAD: Oh sorry, New store? How's life? You happy and healthy?
AJ: Ya. We played football earlier. Its stinkin' hot here. Santiago Stake got split. Two dudes from the Quorom of the Seventy came on Sunday to Stake Conference. One was from Idaho and the other one was from New Zealand – he had an awesome accent! I think the American missionaries were the ones that really understood them, but they were pretty good. I guess the New Zealand dude spoke in General Conference 2 weeks ago. Elder Ian S. Aldern is his name.
DAD: Don't really remember him. Was it a big meeting, lots of people everywhere?
AJ: Yea, there was quite a few. It seemed like the Tuguegarao Stake center had a lot more people when they had Stake Conference, though. It was really nice in the air conditioned stake center. Sister Carlos gave us treats after. She is awesome. She always brings awesome American treats every time we see her. We see them again Wednesday. We have interviews with Pres. Carlos, so that will be good.
DAD: Yeah, maybe you'll get your envelope of stuff too. Football, eh? Anyone there know how to play? Are the little Filipinos fast?
AJ: Haha – No Filipinos came. Eight Americans came and played. It's funny, our district is almost all Americans except for the sisters and we don't hang out with the sisters on p-day anyway. By the way, I haven't told you about kuligligs They also call them hand tractors. They are the most ridiculous looking things ever. It's like a motor strapped to 2 small wheels hooked to a trailer, then they load it up with people and bags or rice. Anyway, they are super cool. We get free rides from them all the time, which is awesome.
DAD: Free rides are good! I like those pix you sent. Working the rice fields. They get really yellow when dried out. I'm not too sure I dig your do-rag. Guess it's better than a sunburn.

AJ: Oh, when in the Philippines, do as the Filipinos do, right?

DAD: Right! Looks like your pants are too big! You need to eat more!
AJ: All there is to eat is rice. But I am getting way better food here in Ramon. Members feed us every night and I live with an American, so we eat a lot different now. Me and Fantony ate rice 2 times a day and nights we would usually just open cans of tuna and pour it on rice. Yuck, eh?
DAD: I guess they don't do potatoes or noodles there, huh? Actually, I ate a lot of tuna on my mission, and ramen noodles. But not much rice, except in little Puerto Rico, and then it was spicy beans and rice.
AJ: They have potatoes, but they are super small and I am always too tired to peel and cook them. They have lots of noodles, too. They just usually put the noodles on top of rice though -- haha. I got sick of noodles like a month ago though and haven't been doing much lately. Peanut butter is the best, though. I remember how you used to say if we were still hungry to go eat pb and J. Now, seriously, that is the best thing. It's expensive though. It's all imported from America, so it is very pricey but I am so addicted to peanut butter.
DAD: Yeah, good old peanut butter. Your brothers hardly ever eat it. They like meat sandwiches or cans of ravioli or something from the freezer. I BBQed yesterday during the BYU game. Had a double-cheeseburger. So good! Plus BYU is playing better, too. Now if the Dallas Cowboys would shape up!
AJ: Yeah, tell them peanut butter is the bomb. And the jelly, especially the blackberry jam, wow! I would kill for that stuff. In Santiago they have a jar of grape Smuckers, but it's like seven dollars American – Too expensive!

DAD: So YOU'RE THE ONE who used to steal my blackberry jelly! Actually, Holly does it now. Just like her big bro. It's starting to cool down and feel like Autumn now. The nights are a perfect mid-50s.
AJ: Yeah I will admit to that one. I thought you knew? haha. That sounds exciting! I don't think it ever gets cool in Isabella. A couple weeks ago Pres. Carlos was talking about how this is a working man's mission. It's supposed to be the only mission in the Philippines that doesn't have ocean, beach, nice restaurants or big malls. He just said bukids lang (just a bunch of rice fields), which is true. It's cool though. I am glad to be here. I heard there is a 7/11 in the next city on the other side of where Aritao was (out of the mission boundaries). But here it is the working man's mission! That's good!
DAD: Mmm, Slurpee and a Bahama Mama hot dog would be nice though! We don't even have those!
AJ: I wouldn't know what to do with a 7/11. I would spend a lot of money and then Mom would probably get mad at me.
DAD: She's mellowed out a lot about money. We just need stuff to quit breaking (both cars and the dishwasher and the sprinklers).
AJ: I am pretty close to sending the package to you. Its gonna be so sweet. I am looking for a few more little things. I have stuff that you guys will love

DAD: Cool, we'll have to resist opening it til Christmas. You are not gonna believe how big your sisters are. Oh, and Dallas's mustache is actually starting to look like a real one, too.
AJ: Dude, I could grow a mustache in like 3 days now. It grows so fast. Its very irritating shaving every day.
DAD: I only did it every other day on my mission. I hated sweating into the freshly opened pores. OUCH! I got yelled at once or twice by Pres. You shave every day?
AJ: Yea, usually. Sometimes not on p-day, though. I don't know if President would care. We had a lightning bolt come out of nowhere last week and strike kind of close to us. It was crazy.

DAD: Dude, I almost got struck by lightning about halfway through my mission, too. I was on my bike and it struck about 150 feet away. Scared the crap out of me and Elder Bell!

AJ: Yeah – Ain't no doubting the power of Mother Nature. It was like the most intense thing ever. It wasn't even storming or anything yet. It was literally before any other thunder or lighting or rain drops. It was wild. Well, I better get off here now. Love ya!
DAD: K, love ya, be good!

Hey family!

Another good week here in the Philippines! We had 2 investigators at church! A big improvement over the first two weeks! So we had a really good week finding and teaching.

On Tuesday, we talked more about not binding our own tongues and talking to everyone the Lord puts in our path and we had an awesome week. We talked to more people about the gospel than I have in a single week and it was really cool and really rewarding. Elder Ballard talked about how we should talk to 10 people different from tracting and stuff. It's super hard, but it is way fun and we are gonna keep it up.

On Wednesdays we have been going to the brgy (town) called San Sebestian. It's about 3 miles into the fields, but the people are super nice and we usually can hitch a kuliglig or jeepney or truck or something for free. And this brgy is awesome. Everyone listens to us and we already have a few progressing and reading and praying about the message. They are so nice.

We went back there on Saturday and 3 houses gave us merienda (snack time, pretty much). They are so awesome. Saturday night was interesting, though. We were in San Sebestian, about 730-ish and we were about to head back to the city and get one more appointment then go home and it was getting a little overcast. Then out of nowhere, the brightest light I have ever seen just hits and a lightning bolt hits a transformer like 2 blocks away. Then the entire brgy and the city totally lost power instantly. It was like the brightest, most intense thing ever and then immediately pitch-black dark. It was crazy. The thunder was like instant, too. Someone said it was like 200 meters away or so. The transformer started on fire, too. Crazy eh? I probably shouldn't have told you … you're probably gonna worry now. But don't, OK?

Sunday, the Santiago Stake got split, so that's super cool. Elders Nelson and Arden of the Quorum of the 70 came and spoke and were very good. They talked about how the family is under attack and how that, especially here in the Philippines, people really buy lots of locks and big fences and dogs to protect their houses, which is great, but the bigger threat is on the family.

He said that:
Family Prayer; 2. Family Home Evening; 3. Gospel learning and instruction, and 4. Wholesome family activities, will protect and help our families get to the temple, mission and stuff. Then he called out the fathers and said they haven't really been doing that great of jobs as leaders of the house. He also used a quote that was something like "If you think you are being nice enough to your wife, think again." and to the effect that we need to really respect and love our wife or (future wife) and never be satisfied about doing nice things for them.

Also, one interesting note: Here in the Philippines, a ton of families have 1 or 2 parents working abroad in the middle east or other countries to get money for the family. Both speakers said that that leaves the family very vulnerable. He said something to the effect that no amount money can raise your children. And they said it's a lot better to struggle for money than to be without a dad. That echoed the famous quote, "No success can compensate for failure in the home."

I know the church and this gospel are true. I know that the family is the most important thing. And I am thankful to you mom and dad for living this commandment and struggling to raise a family the right way. I am eternally indebted to you! I love you!

Well I gotta run. I love sharing this gospel to the people that don't have this blessing yet and although we don't always have success and people don't always believe our words, I know this: It is true and every day it is awesome to think that we get to be a part of God's work another day!

Love you!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Week 50: Hoops and Rice Fields

Email conversation between AJ and his dad through Sunday night at about midnight (about 2 p.m. Monday in the Philippines)

AJ: Hey, how's it going? We are on now.
DAD: Hey man! You got on in the nick of time. I am working on three hours of sleep and was about to sack out. I'm so glad you are on!!!
AJ: Ah man, you need to sleep. I feel bad for keeping ya up. Sleep is important!
DAD: Are you kidding? I love to chat with you. How's life? Do anything fun today?
AJ: Yeah, we harvested rice the other day. It kinda seems a lot like harvesting wheat. At least I imagine. General Conference was awesome too. President Monson has such awesome stories every time. Holland's was the best talk of the conference. He was amazing.
DAD: Yeah, Holland is good. Which team are you going to start for? Today I met a kid named Something (?) Cooper – can't remember his first name. He is leaving soon on a mission to Missouri. He said he knew you from choir. Kind of a cool story: He is a convert and all his extended family is in St. Louis and he is determined to go back and share the gospel with them.
AJ: Cool. Yeah definitely time to get inside the lines and suit up on the Lord's team.
I don't really remember the Cooper kid too much. Maybe if i saw his face or something. Played basketball this morning -- First time in like a month (Elder Fantony didn't like playing). It was super fun. I've missed it.
AJ: I haven't played for three weeks.
DAD: I am jealous! I am going to try to play Wednesday morning. At least I will shoot around a little. Mom has off tomorrow for Columbus Day, then the kids have deer hunt vacation Thursday and Friday. So the house is going to be busy this week. Our dishwasher broke. Gotta get it fixed or get a new one, dang it. It happened right after we paid to get my car fixed. Money just keeps flying out the door.
AJ: Dang, that's too bad. What did you all do this week?
DAD: You know, the usual. Busy, busy this time of year with sports and all. You making a dent in the work there (you know, the elephant)?
AJ: Yeah. We had 2 really good days where we just kept meeting and teaching all these cool people. We got return appointments to all of them. We do have a pretty awesome message to share!
DAD: Yeah, great message, as long as you young Elders don't screw it up -- HA HA!
As I was waiting in the stake president's office talking to these young Elders, it really brought back a lot of memories from my mission. I was telling the Cooper kid about my first baptism and how it was an African-American lady and how cool that was. You truly are making lifelong memories that you will always treasure!
AJ: Yeah, this has been the best year of my life! I do miss you terribly, though. But it has been an awesome year! Yeah, I don't know if I will ever get to baptize an African-American person ... and I won't get to baptize a white person till I have kids of my own, probably.
DAD: Or a tall person -- HA! We have been talking a lot to Dallas about what it means to find happiness. I told him that you were incredibly happy, even though you missed home. I hope he knows that.
AJ: This is a cool new area, but I do miss Aritao terribly, too. It is hot and polluted and dirty here. Aritao was absolutely beautiful.
AJ: I was reading Mom's letter earlier, I wasn't paying close attention when she told the story about the kid named Dallas in Katie's class who had a meltdown. I thought the story was about our Dallas. I did a double-take and had to read it again. Haha
DAD: No, Dallas would never freak out at school. You must be forgetting English!
AJ: Ha-ha, yeah, it didn't make sense, but yeah, I am probably forgetting English. Even with President Carlos or other Americans we always speak Taglish. Oh, last week at district meeting Sister Carlos came to our district meeting and I was asked to give the opening prayer. So I had to do it in English. It was one of the hardest things ever. No joke. Like, we talk quite a bit in English, but I never pray out loud anymore in English. It was really hard.
DAD: Wait till your homecoming talk and all the stuff they will have you do when you first get home. Right after my mission, me and Melvin and an RM sister missionary gave a fireside. They both had gone foreign and gave really short talks because they were uncomfortable speaking in English. So I had to fill like 45 minutes. I just started telling stories and went a whole hour. I even spoke a little Philly jive for them.
AJ: Yeah, it's gonna be hard. I would be terrified to contact people in English. In Tagalog, it's like it doesn't even seem real or something. I don't know. Like it would be super hard to teach the law of chastity in English, but it's super easy in Tagalog and super easy to talk to strangers in Tagalog. I don't know.
DAD: There is a certain anonymity at being in a different place, with a name tag on and in your case, speaking a different language. Makes you braver, that's for sure.
AJ: Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's a gift of the Spirit. Basta – it's coming from God. I don't know what the equivalent of basta is in English. It basically means like “end of story.” I don't know, just basta. It's a sweet word.
DAD: Almost sounds like an English swear word …
AJ: Yeah, basta is a sweet Tagalog word. There are tons of words like that, that I am gonna miss using in America. I gotta find some Filipinos. I don't want to forget Tagalog.
DAD: Grace next door is from the Philippines, but I don't know any others. Probably be better to find return missionaries who went to Philippines, eh?
AJ: Yeah, maybe an American girl RM that went to the Philippines – haha.
DAD: I know you gotta go. We miss you tons and are so proud of the fine man you have become! Gambater (That means “take it easy” in Japanese -- Eldon taught me that one).
I'm off to bed, almost midnight! Tell us more about your comp if you can. We would love to hear it. Good night and I love you! By the way, fantasy football results – Grandpa won, 2-3; Bryce lost, 1-4; Dallas won, 3-2, and I lost, 2-3. Pretty mediocre, just like BYU!
AJ: Ingat Tatay! Mahal na Mahal Kita. Nananalangin ko para sa iyo araw-araw! napakamessya ako. Huwag nyo magalaala sa amin. Nagbabantay ng panginoon sa amin. Totoo ang simbahan na ito at totoo and ebanghelyio ni JesuCristo. Sige! (NOTE: AJ did not translate this so we went to Google Translator and roughly speaking, AJ said “Careful Dad. I love you and pray for you every day. Don't worry about us. The Lord will keep us safe. The Church is true! Go!”)


Hey Family,

How is everything?! Life is good here in the Philippines. It's super hot here in Ramon and all the fields are yellow and ready to harvest! The rice fields are all being harvested. And the people are ready to be harvested, too!

Everyone is at the bukid (fields) nowadays, including us last Friday! One of our investigators told us that we didn't work hard because we just walk around and preach. So we told her we would show her we can work hard in the bukids and we did it. It was fun. It's actually super easy. Just lots of bending down. You just grab a bundle of rice plant cut off the rice piece parts. And then stack 'em up and throw them into a machine and then you have palay. I don't know what that is called in English. It just means rice with the shell still on it. It's way easier than pulling weeds like at my job at the city, by the way.
So work is really happy here in Ramon. The ward is super nice and we have dinner appointments almost every night. The food is pretty awesome, too. I missed dinner appointments. I didn't really appreciate them in my first area (probably because I was new and didn't like having to eat whatever they put in front of me). But I missed them in Aritao and I am really grateful to have them back. Tastes a lot better than tuna on rice! Haha.

We have been finding like crazy and I am also really grateful to be in the Philippines. People are so nice. And even if they aren't too interested, we can usually at least change their attitude by the end of the lesson. At least they understand more about the church and the seed is planted. Last night, though, we found some really cool people. We found this really nice young couple that we were able to teach the first lesson to.

And then we met these old ladies that were really cool as well. There was this old grandpa with them who didn't seem interested at all, but he just chilled there so we were able to teach them all. We taught the old ladies lesson 2 and talked about how we need to be baptized while we are here so we can be clean to enter into the presence of God. Third Nephi 27:19-20 has been super awesome lately and they always seem to understand it. Anyway, then we said “If you know our message is true, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized?” And the one lady said she already knows it's true! And for sure she wants to follow Jesus Christ. It was pretty awesome. We got a return appointment Tuesday to teach them with their husbands. It was super cool!

Conference was awesome. MVP definitely goes to President Monson. He still has awesome stories every time! And the facial expressions and stuff just makes it. He could give Bill Cosby a run for his money. I think Elder Holland gave the single greatest and most powerful talk of the conference with his call to act. I love the sports analogies. The best talk not given by an apostle was Matt Richardson and teaching by the Spirit with a close second to Elder Cornish on prayer -- both in the Sunday afternoon session.

Conference is so awesome. It was also cool: Saturday night we taught part of the first lesson to this guy we tracted into and he asked us if there is a living prophet what does he say to us. And we both had lots of stuff to share with him because we had just come from conference. What a privilege!

Alrighty! Thanks for everything! Things are great here and the mission is awesome. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the entire world. Like someone said, “All the money in the world won't buy a loaf of bread in heaven!

Love you!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Week 49: A new area and two typhoons

Email conversation between AJ and his dad through Sunday night at about midnight (about 2 p.m. Monday in the Philippines)

AJ: Hey, how's it going? We got hit by a couple of typhoons … and I have been transferred to a small farming town called Ramon outside of Santiago about 20 miles. How are you doing?
DAD: Hey AJ, good to see you are online and OK! Tell me about your new area and companion!

AJ: Well, My new comp is Elder Wooden. He is an American that has been out for 6 months or so. He has only been here in Ramon for 3 weeks and doesn't really know where anything is, so it kind of feels like opening a new area. The past missionaries haven't been very diligent (example: Elder Lim was just here 3 weeks ago). So we are pretty much starting from scratch as far as investigators. The ward seems really legitimate, though. And we have dinner appointments almost every night. We already have gotten a couple of referrals. Santiago is supposed to be the strongest, most developed stake in the mission, so I think we can get things going pretty quick. The typhoons have been pretty crazy this week. I have a couple of videos and I'll tell you the stories about them in the letter.
DAD: We heard Manila is still without power and they have pix online of some serious flooding and stuff. You were able to stay away from most of the trouble?
AJ: Yeah, in Aritao. Basically, the street in front and behind our house was a big river for a few hours, but it didn't get in the house. We got cut off from everybody for a few days though -- No cell phone coverage – and when we tried to go to Bambang, the river flooded over a bridge and was impassable for about a day. Then in my new area, a bunch of trees in our yard got knocked down. But we are fine. Nothing got us or damaged our houses. Oh yeah, Ramon is a former area of Elder Weaver. Could you ask him if he has anyone he wants us to visit or any past investigators we could look for?

DAD: I can have your mom write his mom. I'm not sure if he follows your blog or not.
AJ: Yeah, you can tell him we met one of his converts, a 20-something year old girl named Jennifer Ocna (not sure on the last name). She is cool and way active and she gave us a referral. So tell him good work, she is doing good and said lots of good things about Elder Weaver.
DAD: Where are you at in Ramon? I have it up on satellite map.
AJ: By the palengke (market). There aren't really any landmarks. It's just a ton of rice mills and stuff.
DAD: Looks like lots of rice farms everywhere. Are you north by the cemetery? There is an Iglesia ni Cristo on the map, but I'm not sure I see a palengke.
AJ: I am not sure. We are kind of close to the Iglesia ni Cristo, like 4 or 5 blocks. That's the general area though.
DAD: Holy SNAP! Just watched your movies. That is some serious water! Kinda freaky, huh?
AJ: Yeah, it was pretty intense. The one video with the street flooded, normally that is just rice fields and houses as far as the eye can see. We could even see the river before. And it just looked like ocean …
DAD: I guess now you know what real rain is like, not this wussy St. George stuff.
AJ: Oh yeah. Plus we don't have a car to get in when it rains. Just cheap crappy umbrellas. How's the hamstring? How did it go down when you hurt it?
DAD: Dude, the hammy injury was a freak thing. I blocked a bounce pass with my foot and the ball caught on my heel and rolled, making my left leg go out from under me. My right leg was planted, so I kinda did a twisting splits thing. I could feel it tear and the guy next to me said he could hear it tear. They carted me off the court and continued their game. I had to hop to my car and drive home left-footed.
AJ: Wow, that is freak accident. Where at? The church? Do you have to get surgery or anything?
DAD: It was at the SG rec center. If it doesn't start to heal on its own, I would have to get surgery. But I think it is starting to improve. It's been two weeks now.
AJ: What is the time table? Will it ever fully heal? What did they say -- 6 months?
DAD: No, no, four to six weeks.
AJ: Oh, that's it? I thought hammy was a season-ending injury. Oh wait, that's only if your name is Carlos Boozer.
DAD: Ha, funny. I wish someone would end Jake Heaps's season – kidding! Anyway, you be good. I am glad you are safe and somewhat dry. Hey, when do you guys get to see conference?

AJ: This Saturday and Sunday we will watch conference. I am super excited!DAD: As far as your new area is concerned, don't be discouraged. The field is white and ready to harvest. I'm sure you have a lot of work to do. Hey, you know how you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That's an old proverb that says you can accomplish anything if you work at it and don't get overwhelmed.
Sweet! Well, we are going to go have some elephant steak! Love ya! Bye!

DAD: Nice. Elephant steak it is!!!!!!!!

Wow, what a week! I have been transferred to Santiago Zone and my new comp is Elder Wooden. He has been out for 6 months or so and is from Highland, Utah. He has only been here in Ramon for 3 weeks and we both don't really know where anything is. The ward seems really great though. We already have gotten a couple of referrals. Santiago is supposed to be the strongest stake in the mission, so I think we can get things going pretty quick. The typhoons have been pretty crazy this week. Here is the rundown of the week:

Monday: So we went up in the hills of Aritao with Bro. Iglesia, one of the new RM's in Aritao, and we found a sweet waterfall and mini rice terraces and stuff.

Tuesday: About the time we were going to head to district meeting, the typhoon hit and it rained super hard for like 4 hours and behind and in front of our house turned into a river, pretty much. We lost cell phone coverage in Aritao til Thursday. After things settled down, we tried to go to Bambang just to tell them we were all right and make sure they were OK and stuff, but we got about halfway there (in Almaguer) and found out the bridge was flooded over and this neighborhood just turned into like an ocean. But we were able to get coverage there and call the APs and tell them what was going on. We went back to Aritao and we were able to work the rest of the day (We are pretty high so the water just went away).

Wednesday: We still hadn't heard about tranfers yet. Finally we got coverage for a little bit. We were in an area more wide open. And we heard that I had been transferred. So we worked and I packed as well and said goodbye to few people.

Thursday: We got up at 4 a.m. to make the run to Cauayan. Well, when we got back into cell coverage, we found out that transfer day had been postponed until Friday and we got up for nothing. So we went back and we were bummed and way tired. But it actually turned out to be one of the coolest days of my mission and I am really glad I got another day in Aritao. We saw some great potential from some of our newer investigators and we set a baptismal date for the young mother (Jemah) that me and Elder Balaich found. She is the one that dreamed/prophesied of my transfer. She turned about to be exactly right. She said Isabella. The weird thing is, she didn't know we had transfers coming or that we even get transferred from time to time. Crazy eh? It was a really good day of work. I was super happy at the end of the day and was glad I got another day in Aritao.
Then on Friday we did the Cauayan 4 a.m. run all over again. The buses were jerks though. No one one wanted to stop and pick us up. Finally we got one at about 6 and ended up being 15 minutes late to transfer meeting. We tried at least, I guess …

So then I got Elder Wooden (by the way, he said John Wooden is his 2nd uncle, but he never met him) and our area is Ramon, Isabella – Close to Santiago. We are actually in Santiago right now. We had Macdos earlier. So yeah, it's been kind of tough. We are pretty much starting from scratch as far as investigators go, and we are both brand new in the area, but it's got a ton of potential and the ward looks really awesome.

I was kind of feeling a little overwhelmed about how and what to do with this area, but yesterday I read Alma 37. And even though I've read verses 6-7 like a million times, it was just so powerful again. We don't need to do anything heroic or superhuman, but we just need to do our best, be obedient and work our hardest and the
From Alma 37
promise is for sure (vs. 17-18). Like Alma says, we might think it foolishness, but the Lord works through small and simple things to bring about great purposes and bring about the salvation of men!

I love the Book of Mormon! Time and time again before my mission, and especially on my mission, I have read it with a problem or sadness or sorrow, or even happiness, and every time, without fail, it answers or lifts me up or motivates me or give me advice somehow. Mom and Dad and brothers and sisters, read it every day! It is amazing and comes from God! I testify of that!

So this week we will watch conference on Friday and Saturday and I am super excited! On Wednesday we are going to Cauayan (now only like 45minutes or an hour away) to get finger-printed by the Philippines government. That should be fun, maybe. Also on Wednesday, another big typhoon is supposed to hit, so that might be fun as well.

Gotta run love you!