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Monday, January 30, 2012

Week 66: Cafe Rio chicken and a large British guy

Email conversation between AJ and his Dad through We started chatting about 8:30 p.m. Utah time (11:30 a.m. Monday for AJ).

AJ: Hey, whats up?
DAD: Believe it or not, we are still at Grandma's.
AJ: Kinda late isnt it?
DAD: We're on our way home now, it's been a fun night. We are taking Eldon to Bluff 
Street to drop them off at their car. What's up with you?

AJ and the gang in the mission home at Christmas.
AJ:Not too much. How's the fam? DAD: Everyone is good and getting over the sickness. Oh and mom and the boys had EFY Saturday. They really enjoyed it. They said there were some really good speakers, they were funny and spiritual.
AJ: Cool beans. We taught a giant, fat, rich British mechanical engineer this week on splits. He doesn't believe in Jesus Christ. He said he is a very faithless man. But he did give us good food. And he is gonna build an apartment for the mission to rent for senior couples. We taught him on Tuesday and supposedly he was going to meet with Pres. Carlos on Friday. He was a weird dude. I guess he lived in Saudia Arabia in like a rich person's palace ... I don't know. Like rich people just live there and everything is free and they have outrageously huge salaries and just work. Anyway, yeah, weird dude.
DAD: Was there any good reason to teach him? I guess there is hope for everyone, but seems like a waste of time.
AJ: Well I was on splits with Elder McGuffin from Nebraska. Anyway, he said he had never taught him before. So we thought we would give it a try. It was getting kinda late anyway and we didn't have any other appointments. The British dude was like "I am a lost cause but if you want to, you can teach to me." haha. I don't know, I guess he feeds them all the time. He loves the church and loves the missionaries. Might as well teach him, I guess, if he feeds them. He is super nice dude.
DAD: So are you happy and healthy otherwise?
AJ: I've had a nasty cold but it seems to be dying away. Things are good.
DAD: Well it seems we have had cold or flu (or both) go through everyone in the family, including the old folks. BTW, we are home now. Oh, and your mom thinks it's funny that Griffin and McGuffin went on splits. Especially with your old nickname, Muffin!
DAD: Haha – I forgot about that – haha.
AJ: Is there any way to make the Cafe Rio chicken with a gas stove, rice cooker, microwave or toaster oven?
DAD: Yeah, you can boil the chicken on a stove top. Do you have salsa and brown sugar? It's really pretty easy. I make it without a recipe.
AJ: I can make salsa and brown sugar is cheap. What do you do? Just boil chicken then what?
DAD: Just take raw chicken, add a cup of salsa, a cup of brown sugar and about a half cup of water and boil it until the sauce thickens and the chicken is done, then add rice and black beans and cheese, if you have them, on a tortilla. You want to boil the chicken long enough that it absorbs the flavors and gets tender.
AJ: Can you do it with pork too?
DAD: Pork would work, maybe need to boil a little longer.
AJ: Oh, alrighty. Well we are headed out. love you!!!
DAD:  Love you too son. Keep your chin up!

Elders Griffin and Rausa at the falls in Paddad.
Dear Family,

Happy February! So another fast good week has gone by. I was just thinking about my mission. By the way it's been incredibly unbelievably fast and awesome. I have absolutely loved my mission, even the hard parts and gross parts and yucky food parts –  I have seen that it has all been for a reason, sometimes just to develop patience, hehe. The mission is definitely the greatest 2 years ever. Dallas and Bryce get ready for it – it's gonna be great!

Just before he left Ramon, AJ had the local baker make
him a lemon meringue pie. Yummy!

So Elder Rausa shared this cool scripture the other day to a less active family. In 2 Nephi 9:40 on the last line it says, "To be spiritually minded is life eternal." So that's what it is really about. Everything starts in the thoughts and if we conquer the mind the rest will follow. Anyway food for thought.

This Sunday, President and Sister Carlos came to our Sacrament meeting. I am not really sure why, but they ended up speaking and it was pretty cool. Sister Carlos talked about the importance of reading scriptures as a family. She said it's great to read the Book of Mormon, but what is even better is to go through the scriptures by stories and help them come alive for the kids. President talked about the duty of every member to help in the rescue of souls.

So the cool family we started teaching last week, The Gabudlon family is doing great. We taught them about temples this week and they are super excited to someday have a chance to go there. We were only able to teach them once this last week but we should be able to teach some more this coming week.

This week we have taught a lot of less actives and stuff and we haven't had too much success. This week, none of our investigators came to church, but a member brought her husband to church and we taught them yesterday and a youth brought her cousin and we were able to teach her as well.

We are kind of in the planting process right now, but life is good. I don't really have any stories to tell right now... sorry. Next week I'll try to write longer. I kind of ran out time.

Love you a ton. And I know the Church is true and I am thankful for great parents and for blessings of the gospel and especially that we are an eternal family. We aren't perfect, but we are all trying and we all love each other and the Savior.

Have a safe, happy week!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Week 65: Settling in as ZL, loving DP

AJ: Sup?!!!!!
DAD: Hey man, just sending the “Singles Ward,” tunes for you!AJ: I just read about your week and all your sickness and everything. That sounds terribly miserably rotten.
DAD: Yeah, it was not cool. Still having a hard time talking ...AJ: Then it's a good thing we don't need to talk to type, eh? haha
DAD: Yes, good thing. But your mom keeps trying to make me talk. She is funny, says I shouldn't talk, but then keeps asking me all these questions ...AJ: Cool beans. What else is going on over there?
DAD: Ah, it's late, everyone's in bed now. Your Mom got the flu, but a mild version, Friday. Only lasted a few hours. I dunno why I was so lucky. Katie brought it here. She had it bad last Monday.
Stinkin' 49ers punt return guy fumbled twice, once in OT, to give Giants free ticket to Super Bowl.
AJ: Well, glad I ain't missin' nothin' on Super Bowl Sunday ... except the awesome food.
DAD: And don't forget the funny commercials. Next week is the Pro Bowl. Super Bowl is in two weeks. And no one watches the Pro Bowl. You liking ZL?
AJ: We had Zone Leader conference and training in Cauayan last Weds. It was pretty good. There was mexican food, too. Then we had splits on Tuesday. It was OK. And on Friday we had to watch 3 hour planning sessions in Gamu. That was boring.
DAD: So, kinda good, kinda bad? Are you having time to fire up your area at all?AJ: Well, this week was super hard as far as the area was going – things weren't going right, but then Saturday and Sunday were awesome. I'll tell you about it in the letter.
DAD: OK. Shaved my beard last night, now just down to the 'stache. Nobody said a word at church. I think cause I also got a major haircut. Your hair looks like it got whacked pretty good in that mexican food pic.AJ: Hehe -- Elder Valdez emailed me and asked me in like old english (shakespearean style) for some pictures off my camera. So I told him it was not allowed to email other elders (it isn't) but I said because your English was so awesome I'll do it this time, but next time "I'll have to kick thine royal hiney" if you do it again.
DAD: So he writes like a medieval video game, eh? You gonna tell him what a royal hiney is?AJ: He emailed back and said. Oh thanks. But I canst understand what “I'll kick thine royal hiney means. What is that? heheheh hahaha … funny eh? I told him to ask his American companion. He emailed back he got it haha. He said he'll just turn the other royal hiney to me – haha. What a great guy!

Valdez and Griffin (middle back).
DAD: Nice, just like Father Mulcahy ... when the jeep bumped him ... on M.A.S.H … remember?AJ: Yeah. To be honest, all the time I feel like I am walking through a M.A.S.H set with all the small people and poor people and sometimes things even look like war zones cause they are so broken down. Like all the time – haha
DAD: At least there's no mine fields and bombs going off. What about “Five o'clock Charlie?”AJ: Only the blackhawk helicopter in aritao is as close as I can come.
DAD: How long does it take to get to Cauayan from there?AJ: Like an hour by bus (or 1/2 hour on a jeepney).
DAD: How often do you have to go. Once a month?

AJ: ZL council is every month, transfers every 6 weeks and then we have random meeting sometimes like zone day next month. I guess we all go in to Cauyan and Sister Carlos does a special training and President does quarterly interviews. This Feb is the first one -- I don't know what it will be like.
DAD: Sounds like you have a good relationship with the Carloses. And they make their place very American-ized, eh?AJ: Yeah, it's pretty much Grandma's house.
DAD: Sweet, we haven't been up to Grandma's in a couple weeks cause of sicknesses. We miss it. AJ: Yeah, I miss Cauayan, too. There is a store there that has cherry Dr. Peppers. I miss them. I got Elder Valdez addicted to DP too last cycle.
DAD: I actually had a lot of DP in my system when I got really sick. It took me three days to get that old love back. But I did, of course.AJ: Yeah Dr, Pepper kicks butt over all other soft drinks anywhere. I don't know how it hasn't made it here. They have almost all the other soft drinks. They have 7-up, Mtn Dew and lots of Coke products and Pepsi, but no DP except the stuff from America.
DAD: Do you get ice for your drinks, or is that a no no?AJ: Nope. You could, but it's unfiltered water ice in a big block that would take forever to break.
If you go to MacDs or fast food you do. Even in your stinking floats. They are really cheap and try to gyp ya out of whatever they can, little bit of soda, not giving you enough ketchup, etc.
DAD: I dunno, I gotta have my DP on ice man. That would be hard to get used to, especially if it was warm soda.AJ: Yeah, it's always refrigerated though. It ticks me off – they have these floats (coke float, watermelon sprite float and stuff with ice cream) but they always put ice in there with the ice cream so it kind of ruins the point of a float. And then a bunch of times I asked if I could get it without ice and they're always like – oh sorry no, sorry you can't. Its irritating.
DAD: Like chunks of ice, like cubes or shaved?AJ: Ice cubes
DAD: Oh, not good. Ruins a float. You will love Dickeys when you come home. Free floats and lots of BBQ!AJ: Yeah I will. We are headed out love ya!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
DAD: K, Luv ya TONS!


Dear Family
So time is stinking fast. Life is good. Roxas is hot. hehe. So we had a good week. Last Monday we played some basketball. Tuesday I went on splits with Elder Legarde in Aurora (in between Cauayan and Roxas) and then Wednesday we went to Zone leader council and that was pretty good. The whole focus of the Philippines this year is the rescue of so many less active people. So we had some cool training about how to do that. What was even more delicious was the mexican food lunch. Oh how i miss mexican food! Its so awesome. I really miss Mom's sweet pork burritos. Oh man. You'll have to eat them in memory of me. Or maybe give me the recipe if it's not too hard.

So we have in our district the Shayners – a missionary couple from Nebraska! They are super nice and remind me a ton of grandpa and grandma and make me miss grandma and grandpa haha. So on Saturday they worked with us and of course that was awesome because it speeds up the work by like 4 times having a truck and they add a different dimension to the work that us young pups don't quite get. You know what I mean, right?

Don't have a pic of the Shayners, but here is AJ's missionary
grandparents a few years ago in New Jersey.

So we visited a ton of less active people and I've really noticed that most people that are less active have a testimony and want to come back. And I think they will come back with love and help. So that is really why home teaching is so important.

The coolest thing that happened to us was on Sunday afternoon. A few weeks ago we were with Elder Shayner and he was talking to the landlord of the sisters' new apartment and she is a member who hadn't been to church in a really, really long time. So Elder Shayner just told her to go to church and I guess it really hit her. We talked to her and set a return appointment – which was yesterday.

We didn't really think much about it and then Sunday we saw it on our planner and we went. They have been totally prepared by the Lord!!! The mother, Sister Arnie, thought about what Elder Shayner had said and decided to go to church. She didn't want to go alone without her family (she is the only member in her family), so she invited them and told them just try it and if it's something they like to continue, if not she wouldn't press the matter. So I guess clear back in the day her husband wasn't interested, but now for some reason, he is!

AJ and the mexican food at the mission home.
So they all went to church last week and yesterday. And what's even better is they all liked it and are all interested in being baptized. They also have a shop in Roxas that usually they open on Sunday, but they decided that they should shut the shop down on Sundays! That's so awesome! And we hadn't even taught them yet! When we did teach them, they were a complete family and are all interested and have loved the times they have already gone to church. They are so ready. We gave them the early invite and they all accepted it. We feel they will be baptized. I love teaching families.

Oh yeah, so I forgot to tell you about my last week with Elder Valdez in Paddad. We had 2 contacts in English! First time ever. One was this white dude from Sweden that we have seen a few times but he was always busy. We were walking on the street and he was just chillin in front of his house. So we talked to him and tried to share the gospel, but he wasn't interested at all. Then the second one, one of our investigators that we have been teaching for a few weeks, her mom and her new husband (big white dude from Poland) visited from Canada. So we went to the investigator's house. So we knew he was there and we asked her to invite him to the discussion. When she first told him he said he didn'twant to meet Mormons. Then I said, “Does he know an American is here??? She said, “Oh, I didn't tell him. She told them and they came right out – haha.

So we taught the Restoration lesson IN ENGLISH and gave him a Book of Mormon. He wasn't really interested, in fact at the end when we asked him to read and pray about the Book of Mormon he said “Well, sorry brothers, but I was born a Catholic, I am going to die a Catholic.” But Valdez was awesome in English and it was super hard and kind of awkward to teach in English. But it was still really cool. Before that day, I had never OYMed or taught a lesson to a real investigator in English. Valdez also said he was happy he got to do it because he felt what it's like to be teaching people in a language that's not your own. He got a brand new American companion the next day.

We also taught 2 new families on Sunday night that seemed pretty cool. So I know that Jesus is our Savior and that this gospel is true and that there is no other true church on the face of the earth. The Book of Mormon is the best storybook, testimony of Christ and best book on the earth. Read it over and over again!

Love ya a ton!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Week 64: New area to be a Zone Leader!

AJ: Kumusta?
Three generations of BYU fans at the Marriott Center. Wish AJ was here.
DAD: Hi AJ. This is Dad. I am really sick. That's why I haven't written you a long letter. We (Me, Grandpa, Dallas and Bryce) had a good road trip to BYU. Today I am really hammered. Did you get the pix of our trip to the BYU game?AJ: Yeah, got the pics – looks like you had fun. What was the score? I got transferred again.
DAD: BYU won big, 95-78. Davies is really playing well lately --- like an All-American. I was sick, but took meds and made it through. Today I am a mess. Can't breathe, eat, etc. Blah -- that's how I feel.
Tell me about transfers.
AJ: Oh man that's a bummer. So I got transferred to Roxas. My new comp is Elder Rausa from Cagayan de Oro. We are the Zone Leaders here in Roxas Zone. It's way hot here. And I got here and they had 3 baptisms. A cool couple and a 16-year old girl. I taught them once before they got baptized.
DAD: Wow! Congrats on the baptism and the zone leader and everything. Are you up by Tuguegarao now, or what? Sorry I didn't have a long letter for you today. I have been sleeping almost all day. Sports update: Playoffs are down to New England-Baltimore in the AFC and Giants-San Francisco in NFC. BYU is now 15-4 and 4-1 in the WCC with Gonzaga and St. Mare's coming up soon. Not too much else going on in sports. Jazz actually are playing OK, they are 8-4.AJ: I do miss elder Valdez though. Oh, and Elder Valdez is training a brand new American in Paddad.
DAD: Yeah, it's always sad to leave a good comp, plus the families you have worked with the past couple months. Lots of responsibility in being a ZL.AJ: Yeah, it's closer to Tuguegarao, but not really. It's just kinda in the middle of nowhere, to be honest. It doesn't really have nice grocery stores or restaurants though. I have seen real milk for the first time. I'll have to give it a try this week.
DAD: Real milk? That would be amazing, eh? They have cereal and Oreos there?AJ: Yeah, it's hard on the area to be zone leader. We have lots of stuff to do always. Yeah, I miss Valdez – haha. He is a funny dude. I don't know if they do (cereal and Oreos) or if the milk is any good either. I'll have to check it out though. What is your sickness? How did you get sick?
DAD: Just a flu/cold thing. Neal had it the other day, I guess he passed it on to me. I dunno. Just have this stuffed head. Can't hardly think straight. I don't have work tomorrow -- it is Martin Luther King day – So hopefully another day of rest will give me enough time to get better.AJ: That's good. I guess its still pretty cold over there in St. Geezy eh?
DAD: It's been 32 at night, 55 in the day. Not too bad. Provo wasn't bad either. We stopped in Fillmore for gas and it was windy and freezing, worse than anywhere else.AJ: I am gonna freeze in November when I am in Utah again. Wow, that's cold!
DAD: It's not so bad, especially during the day. Nice and sunny. What's ur new comp like?AJ: He seems pretty cool. He only has less than 3 months left in his mission and things are good.
DAD: You gonna have lots of meetings?AJ: Yeah, we go on splits on Tuesdays, Wed's we observe companionship study somewhere, Thursday we do our own weekly planning and Friday we observe weekly planning somewhere else. And Saturdays are for baptisms and baptismal interviews for the district leaders. Sunday we get the numbers into the AP's. We sometimes have other meeting too.
DAD: Oy, I hate meetings. That's a lot of meetings.AJ: This Wednesday we have zone leader council in Cauayan, so that will have lots of good food I am sure :) Yeah that is a lot of meetings. I would definitely rather be teaching investigators during the meeting.
DAD: Do you have a big area or is it smaller because of the meetings and stuff?AJ: It's still a pretty big area. This has been the area of some cool people. Elder Bayles, Elder Daquiuog and Elder Rondilla and others. It kinda seems like all the investigators are pretty much out. We just baptized the 3 on Saturday. We have a lot of work to do here.
DAD: Time to shake the tree branches and find some new talent. Better get to it!!!AJ: Alrighty, I'm outta here. Is there any way you could email me the Singles Ward songs? I'm going a little stir crazy with only Mo Tab for a whole year + now – haha
DAD: Want 'em now or for next week?AJ: Next week – I am signing out! Love ya!
DAD: K, love you!!!!

Dear Family!
So I have been transferred again and am now here in Roxas Zone. In Roxas there is 1 mall (closed, out of business) a market and a lot rice fields and that's about it – haha. My new companion is Elder Rausa from Cagayan de Oro and he has less than 2 cycles and counting in his mission. We are the zone leaders here. When I got here, they had some baptisms ready, so that was cool.

So we are getting settled in here in Roxas and we had a cool baptism on Saturday. The Manukdoc family and Sister Vargas were baptized. Life is good as always and on Saturday the Area Presidency had a special training devotional thingy. The main point is the Philippines is baptizing like crazy, but we are losing a lot of the converts – and they showed some pretty bad statistics that the Philippines is developing. Elder Teh (Philippines), Elder Neilson (Utah) and Elder Ardern (funny accent, Australia or something like that) is the area presidency and they are really great speakers. So the new plan for 2012 is to strengthen families, rescue the less active and overall get the wards stronger and stuff. They talked about how the Philippines is like a tree with weak roots and the branches are growing too fast (new members etc.). But the priesthood and stuff isn't strong enough to support it.

So the Carlos' told us last zone conference that the promise of the presidency is that if we work more with less active, we will actually find better and more teaching opportunities for investigators. I learned a lot personally and I do believe we will find tons of opportunities to teach investigators as we are working on getting the less active to come back. The numbers in the Philippines were pretty disappointing (Elder Aldern said we can get disappointed but not discouraged because he said discouragement is a tool of the devil) and things do need to change.

I had a cool experience with prayer on Friday night. So as it turned out, there is a lock on our apartment that we don't have a key to, and unknowingly I locked it earlier that day. When we got back, we were locked out. So we thought we could figure out a way to get in. We tried a mop, dust pan, even a machete. But there was no way to get it. So after about an hour, Elder Rausa remembers that the landlord's house is pretty close, so we go there and they start looking for the key. Then I realized our problem. We hadn't prayed yet. So I prayed and it wasn't long that they found the key, we got into our house and the problem was solved! So iyan – Prayer is true!

I know that Jesus Christ is really our Savior and that he really suffered for each one of us. Not just for the bad things that we have done, but the hard things in life, and the bad things that happen to us and for the bad hair days (that one's for Katie). So, in short, he has felt it all so we don't have to go through it alone now. I know that is true! I know this church is true and that the Book of Mormon is true.

So that's all!
Love Ya Lots!!!

Elder Griffin seems quite upset that he's being transferred. Elder Valdez ... not so much.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Week 63: Great success and dead mice

Elder AJ "Blake" Griffin
Elder Derrick Rose Valdez
Holy junk food!
Hoops at the Paddad ward party
Cooking up some stew (?) at the ward party.
The Elders at the mission home on New Year's.
Griffin and Valdez in the back of a rice truck.
AJ with the Parungao family.

Dear Family,
So life is good and time still doesn't slow down! I am glad to hear about Holly's baptism.  That is awesome!
So this week we had District conference (same as stake conference, but Alicia isn't a stake yet). It was really cool as we are teaching this family that we found tracting and the wife and her sister and law (Delacruz family) came to church for the very first time. The dad isn't quite there yet, but he always listens and has questions. He is working on quitting smoking.
So Elder Misalucha of the Seventy came and spoke as well as President and Sister Carlos. Elder Misalucha talked about being really converted and he also chastised everyone as he told a story about how Boyd K. Packer told people to come fill the seats of a chapel in the front before a meeting he was speaking in. He asked them to do it 3 times, but only a few people went up and when the meeting started Packer said, "If you can't follow the suggestion of a 70 of the Lord when he asks you three times to do something as simple as move to front, then you can't learn anything from me today," and then he ended the meeting. Then Elder Misalucha said he asked people to move to the front before the meeting but only a few did. (oops, but hey we were busy helping investigators). At least he had compassion on us and still spoke. Sister Carlos gave a cool talk about making our homes into mini MTC's and apparently there are 22,000 missionary age members in the church last year and only 2000 left on missions, so she talked about just opening your heart and forgetting your self and doing what the Lord wants you do to.
President Carlos talked about the healing power of the Atonement and particularly about forgiving others and getting rid of that burden. He told a story about how when he was an Elder in Hawaii, his companion just really hated him and the Zone leaders played a prank and told them Elder Carlos was being trasferred and he said his companion was just so happy and said "Yes, finally Carlos is transferred." Then they came right back like 10 mins later and said April Fools. He said his companion was just so angry because he had to be with Elder Carlos a few more weeks and he just made life miserable. Then he said almost 35 years later that companion called him and apologized and asked for forgiveness. President Carlos was happy to forgive him and was just sad that his companion carried that burden for 35 years before he let it go. He talked about we shouldn't wait a year or or a day or or even 1 hour to get rid of those kind of things so we can feel the spirit again fully.
All in all it was pretty cool conference. The only problem was the speaker system was really bad and it was super hard to understand. No one could really understand the first hour but the second hour was better. Maybe the spirit was just stronger since it was mission president, his wife and a 70.
So we have been really humbled with a less active family we are teaching. Their last name is the Visparse family. We heard they were members, at least part, so one day when we had time we visited them and the mom was really nice and they have just 2 kids that still live in the house. One of them is 9 and sincerely wants to be baptized so much. So we have been teaching them as a whole family and we found out that a few years ago their six year old daughter was raped and killed. It's heartbreaking. So we have been teaching the Atonement, about what Alma and Amuleck had to witness and everything, but it's so hard to even imagine what they must feel and what they went through. I can't even imagine what I would do if that happened to my sibling or my future child. We have been trying to teach them how much they are loved of God and how that their daughter is for sure going to the Celestial Kindgom.

It's tough to teach when we don't know how they feel, but we are just trying to teach them that there is one who does and that Christ can heal it. I just read earlier today in Jesus the Christ about the Atonement and about all that Christ experienced and that it was all done completely submissive and voluntary.
I had my first baptismal interview Saturday as the sisters had a 10-year old kid and 11-year old kid getting baptized. It was cool. There really wasn't any problem. I have 3 interviews next week and a baptism to go to and one of our investigators is getting interviewed by the zone leaders and we have a special meeting at 6 that night announcing the Philippines area plan for ward and missionary work and stuff. It's going to be a busy. Oh, and it might all change if we have transfers, which is on Thursday. We haven't heard anything either way if we will be transferred or not.
So we had a cool experience on Wednesday. I was here in Paddad on splits with Elder Ballentos(new missionary from Negros Occidental) and we were working in this brgy called Manois Core, and it's like a goverment donated place for people who lost their homes in the typhoon last year or something. So anyway, all the houses look the same and everything is close toegther. There are tons of members and we have lots of investigators there too. So we had an appointment at 530ish with the Delacruz family and we went there about 6 and the dad still wasn't home from work. So we decided to go try a few more people and then go back there. The other people we wanted to teach weren't there, so we didn't really know what to do. Then I thought we could try the very last part of the brgy that we hadn't tracted and we walked over there and all the houses were closed until the very last house and we tao po'ed (kind of like saying anyone home) and then there was a dad, a mom and 4 kids I think. The mom said come in before we even explained who we were (YES!). We talked to them and their dad is actually a member but they themselves don't really know about the church. We kept talking to them and they told us how their young daughter, maybe 3 years old, had died with leukemia. It was super sad, but really cool to be able to share the gospel with them about the Atonement and about how children are automatic to Celestial Kingdom. We just felt really guided that we were able to run into that family and it totally was exactly what Elder Holland says in Preach My Gospel about listening. He said if you listen they will ALWAYS say something that if we're sensitive we will be able to know how exactly to tie it to gospel truth and tesify about how this will help their lives. 
Later that night after our dinner appointment we had about 40 mins till curfew so we went tried to follow up on a few more people we had taught in the past. The first family we wanted to teach was there, but were busy or didn't want to be taught, so we figured we would try one more before calling it a day. When we got to the house I started to get a bad feeling and I ignored it for a sec and tao po'ed. Right after, it was even stronger and I knew we needed to go home. I asked Elder Ballentos if he felt it too and he said he did. As we were walking I felt like we should take a different way home. So we did and we got home just fine. It was wierd though. I don't know what would have happened, but we just followed the prompting. I think that's the first time I have gotten that kind of a prompting especially that strong. So yeah.
Wow, I wrote a lot this week. Hopefully I can write this much every week. Well. Love ya a ton!!!!!!!

Holly and Dad right before baptism.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Week 62: New Year's in the Mission Home

 AJ: How is it going?
DAD: Hey AJ! We are at grandma's still.
AJ: By the way, is that stupid “Teach Me How to Doggie,” song being played all over America or just here?
DAD: That's old – at least a year. There is a “Teach Me How to Jimmer,” one, too.
AJ: I am going insane with the stupid doggie song. For like a month now everyone and their dog listens to it – no pun intended, ha ha. Is “Teach Me How to Jimmer,” cool?
DAD: Yeah, just a white guy version set to Jimmer highlights. Have you had a good week? Transfers coming?
AJ: Man, you don't even update me anymore about sports. President Carlos is the only one who hooks me up with what's going on. I heard the Cougars came away with a close win in the bowl game?
DAD: Well, I figured we would talk about it tonight. Every week I give you updates – don't dog me. We will be home in 10 and I will give you some good updates.

AJ: Yeah, it's been a good week. We had New Years at the mission home! Transfers is on the 12th. We have no idea what's gonna happen. I forgot – what were you gonna send to President so that he would give it to me? Jimmer highlights?
DAD: Yeah, a highlight of last season. We haven't sent it yet. By the way, it's "Teach Me How to Dougie," and it's a silly dance they do. Oh, and we're home now.
AJ: Cool – we are leaving in about 10 minutes or less :(
DAD: Oh, already? OK, well BYU did win the bowl game 24-21. Riley Nelson played kinda crappy most of the game, but got it together late in the game. BYU scored with 11 seconds left on a fake-spike TD pass to Cody Hoffman. It was a sweet ending. Tulsa was a lot better than I thought they would be. They were tough. BYU hoops started play in the West Coast Conference. That's their new conferenc
e which has Gonzaga and St. Mary's and Pepperdine. Anyway, St. Mary's was really good and beat BYU in the opener in San Francisco (where they're from). But BYU turned around and whipped San Diego Saturday. Davies is finally starting to play like we expected him to.
Cowboys lost to the Giants tonight and missed the playoffs at 8-8. Frustrating year for them.
AJ: Ah man, they missed the playoffs. Whatta bummer. Well, we can't leave yet. Apparently the person that runs the computer shop is in the shower – hahaha.
DAD: That's funny. Well, lucky for us. You got a big day planned today? Seems like you're on early and leaving fast.
AJ: Yeah, we've got to deep clean the apartment :(. It's the second annual New Years cleaning day. But if we win the drawing, we get an all expense paid trip to Cauayan with whatever amazing food we can think of. So we are motivated. Other prizes are chips and dip and homemade cookies, so we have to win. I don't know what to teach for district meeting yet either.
DAD: Ooh, I like contests. By the way, Neal beat me in the fantasy football championship game. But I went 6-7 in the reg. season, so I was just happy to be there. Teach about positive attitude and making your outlook better. Studies show people with positive attitudes are twice as successful as those with negative outlooks.
AJ: OK, now we are leaving. Did the belt work for you? Did you find anything in there you liked?
DAD: The belt was a little small, but it gives me something to shoot for. The whole box was full of great stuff.
AJ: Gotta run, bye-bye, love you!
DAD: K, love you!!!

Dear Family!

Happy 2012! Wow, time flies. It felt like 2011 just started. So we had really good week here in Paddad. And on New Years Eve we had lock down at 6 o'clock. The best part – we got locked down in the mission home! So everyone that was close was invited to come celebrate the new year at the mission home – yea!! From 6 pm to 12 we played basketball forever under the lights (!) Ping-pong, talked sports with President, watched a movie and then watched all the crazy fireworks people set off. The food was unreal – A bunch of homemade pizza, Dr. Pepper, chips and dip, cookies, chocolate covered raisins, graham cake, ice cream. It was awesome. Then the capper – we slept in an air conditioned room and had a h
ot shower with pancakes and cereal and fried rice for breakfast. Oh man, it was good. The Carloses know how to put on a party!

This week we have been incredibly blessed with investigators and we really don't have enough time to visit all the people we need to. Last zone conference, the area presidency announced the theme for this year: The Rescue. They really want the missionaries to focus on completing part-member families and helping recent converts and less actives get active and get callings, friends, gospel nourishment, etc.

I guess in the last few years the newly baptized members is something like 15,000 a year, but the avg. Sacrament attendance is only up like 2,000 a year, so lots of people are being baptized, but not really ever getting established. So it not a good thing.

My whole mission until now, leaders always have been saying less active lessons and stuff are great and a good thing to do but it's your calling to baptize. It's not really changed, but I definitely noticed that they kinda have a different attitude now. So we have been kind of focusing more on the less active and part member families and have a had a lot of cool results.

Next to our church is a little bakery that has pizza and cookies and all kinds of cool stuff. That picture a few weeks ago of the pizza, that's the place. So the first time we went there back in the day we started talking to the Nanay and we found out she was a member that was baptized in Hong Kong almost 30 years ago. We asked her why she didnt go to church (especially since she lives right next to it) and she didn't really have a reason, just that she was shy. So we invited her and she came! She has been to church 3 times now and has made lots of new friends. That was exactly what Sister Carlos was telling us, too. A lot of people, just for one reason or another, missed or got in the habit of not going to church. But if they are visited, they will come back. That's why home teaching is such an important and inspired work. It helps give the three things Pres. Hinckley said every member needs: A friend, gospel nourishment and a calling.

Another family we have been visiting hadn't been to church at least since I've been here and when we taught them the first time, we didn't really think they would come to church because they wouldn't really commit and had lots of excuses. But then they did come as a whole family, including one of their older sons that has not wanted to be taught in the past. We have continued teaching them and now have a really great new investigator there. And yesterday they came to church again as an entire family!

We have a ton of cool investigators. This one young couple we found and have been teaching for a couple weeks is pretty cool. They haven't been to church yet, but they are praying for an answer and reading the Book of Mormon and already accepted the Word of Wisdom. The Mom didn't have any problems and the Dad uses cigarettes and said he has been trying to quit for a long time. It was cool to teach him about the Atonement and how Christ can help him to overcome his addiction. They are really cool and hopefully this week they will come to church.

Oh yeah, so ya know how you all were making fun of my accent. Well the Filipina sisters in our district were making fun of my American accent in Tagalog, so I guess I don't fit in anywhere anymore.

Glad you all liked the package. When I bought the necklaces, I had the girls in mind, but whatever -- hahaha.

It was super awesome to talk to you all and it was fantastic to see you all. I didn't really feel homesick at all. It just felt like kinda weird. Like, I felt like I was just hanging out at home, but like I wasn't. I don't know, I can't really explain it. It was super cool though.

Well I know this work is true and I love the time I've had here on my mission. It's been awesome! As the Filipino saints love to say, "The Church is true, The book is blue!"

Love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!