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Monday, February 27, 2012

Week 70: Football and the Gospel

The Roxas Zone just before transfers last week in the Cauayan church parking lot.
Email conversation between AJ and his Dad through We started chatting about 9 p.m. Utah time (noon Monday for AJ).

AJ: Hey pops.
DAD: You caught me writing your letter again. How ya been my boy?!
AJ: Good! Just played football and rugby in Ilagan and ate Macdos for the first time in 2 months!
DAD: Nice! Any of the native Elders play FB with you. They learning the rules?
AJ: Yeah, there are 2 that are pretty good, but most of them don't really get it. There were like 2 Samoans, 2 Tongans and a Fiji Elder there that played.
DAD: Don't see anyone playing football around here anymore. I miss our slam ball games at the Sandstone Elementary. That was pretty fun!
AJ: Yeah, I was thinking about dunkball too. I miss it. By the way, we had no changes – me and Elder Rausa are still here in Roxas.
DAD: You guys getting along OK? Hopefully so, otherwise that would be hard. Hey, does that mean you are killing off another one?
AJ: Yeah, it's alright. But yeah, I wll be killing him off.
DAD: Does that mean he won't get to go to the rice fields of Banaue? Well, ur job this cycle might be to motivate him to endure to the end … without ticking him off. ;-)
AJ: Yeah... President might let them go to Banaue anyway, but yeah, it's kinda hard. We were both kinda ready for transfers, but they didn't come. I am fine with it. He asked again after we found out there were no transfers, but President Carlos said no.
DAD: That can be kinda hard if you both were expecting it. That happened to me a couple of times, but I had a good attitude about it and they ended being two of the best months of my mission. You get my letter?
AJ: Yeah. I don't really remember Jeremy Evans. Didn't the Jazz draft him or something maybe? That's cool the local schools were in the 3A title game.
DAD: Evans and Hayward are in their second year. Hayward is becoming a good player. He is pale white, though. Kinda funny. Your baptisms coming up soon?
AJ: Mar 31st still. Happy Birthday, by the way. I wont be talking to you till your birthday is over now.
DAD: Yeah, just another day for this old man. I will turn 46. The years sure fly by. Seems like I just got home from my mission. That was 25 years ago this June.
AJ: Yeah times flies. Before you know it, I'll be an old man talking about them glory days, too. Sorry I don't have any presents for you. I'll work extra super hard for you though :)
DAD: Hey, the glory days were pretty good. A guy got up in church today and had one of those big marble track roller things (like the golf ball one you used to play with) where you put the ball at the top and it rolls one way, then drops to the next level and rolls the other way until it comes out the bottom. He said "This was what an X-box used to look like 50 years ago."
AJ: He brought that to sacrament meeting? I had to speak yesterday. I almost brought a football to show them because most people don't know what a football looks like. But anyway, I told them about Vince Lombardi and then I talked about how our families are like the teams and the parents are the coaches and that they need to master the basics of family prayer and family scriptures and family home evening so they can be successful, happy families.
DAD: Nice -- football and the Gospel totally go together! I got chastised by the Bishopric once when I was Sunday school pres. because I gave a lesson on teamwork and used our favorite off-tackle right play (from high school) as my main object lesson. I thought I did pretty good considering I was filling in at the last minute for a teacher who didn't show up.
AJ: I don't see anything wrong with that at all. It's kind of hard when you say football here – they think you mean soccer and only like the RM's and people that know Americans know what football is. How did you do a play in Sunday School?
DAD: I just diagrammed it on the chalkboard.
AJ: Why did they get upset about it??
DAD: Dunno, I guess because I wasn't teaching out of the book. People are funny. I wasn't upset, but I definitely have a different teaching style, more informal and class participation. Some teachers (especially in Elder's Quorum) just read the whole stinking lesson or make us read it out loud. That's not teaching, if you ask me. I actually really miss teaching Elder's Quorum and Sunday School.
AJ: Yeah, I definitely agree with you that class participation is really important and object lessons help people learn way way better. Alrighty, we're taking off!!! Going to Save More!!! The super good one too!! I haven't been to this Save More in over a year!!!
DAD: Nice! Love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
AJ: Happy birthday!!!

Hey Family!!!!

So we just got done eating Macdos and playing football and rugby here in Ilagan on P-day, so it was a pretty good p-day so far. So we didn't have any changes in our companionship and I will be killing off Elder Rausa. He has less than 6 weeks left.

This week we saw a member of the 70 and Area Presidency speak (Tuesday). Elder Ardern, as well as the Primary President of the world, Sister Wixom, spoke and this coming Friday we have a special training meeting thingy with Elder Nelson of the Quorum of the 70 and Area Presidency here in the Philippines, so pretty cool stuff.

Also, on Wednesday we went to the testimony meeting of all the missionaries that were going home. It was pretty inspirational/makes you want to go home. But it was really good.

So we enjoyed listening to Elder Ardern and Sister Wixom this week. Sister Wixom spoke about the tap root of a tree. I guess it's like the source of reason for our strengths/motivations. Elder Ardern talked about the scriptures being books of remembrance. He talked about how we came from the presence of God, but we can't remember and the scriptures bring remembrance of those things to us. He also said that all will be tempted, even several times an hour, but the measure of character is how we respond to those temptations. It was cool how he talked about when Jesus was being tempted he used the scriptures for strength. "For it is written..."

We have been teaching a cool family that had become a kind of less active family, the Permins. So the dad sells baluts and peanuts and stuff on buses and sometimes in places kind of far away and his wife had felt overwhelmed taking their 4 young children to church. But we kept coming by when we had time and finally we came by when the dad was home. They are really cool and nice and we got them to come back to church as a whole family and they have done so 2 times in a row and they have started doing family prayer and family scripture study. The new goals in the Philippines area and our focus with getting people back to church is that they have family prayer and Family Home Evening and family scripture study. It seems to really help the families be strong if they start doing those three things.

We had a cool experience reading the Book of Mormon with our investigators. So the Miguel family is a dad and mom and they have 3 kids. Their oldest son is already a member (and he is cool, always wants to work with us). The dad and mom haven't yet come to church. Anyway, we left them an assignment to read 1 Nephi 1. We hadjust taught them about the Book of Mormon and the restoration and stuff. They read the assignment and we just felt like we should help them with reading the next one, so we read 1 Nephi 2 with them. It was really cool. They all had great insights and things that they had learned from just reading that one chapter. The dad has usually been super quiet, but he was the first one to share the things he learned and he talked about how Laman and Lemuel were rebellious and they didn't get the blessings, but Nephi was obedient and the Lord talked to him and made him a teacher and a leader over his brothers.
We got asked late Saturday night to speak in Sacrament Meeting . I almost brought a football but thought that that might be not allowed (see above).

So we went to transfer meeting even though we weren't being transferred. We had a meeting afterward with the new people in our zone. Anyway, Sister Carlos shared a really cool thing about how you know if you have the spirit with you. Some of the things she said were: if we feel happy, clear minded, generous, nobody can offend us, you don't mind anyone seeing what your doing, glad to see others succeed, you wish you could keep all the commandments, that your in control of your temper, hunger everything … those are signs you have the spirit. Anyway, it was cool to think about those things.

I love being on a mission so much. I can't explain it. It's just awesome. I've always said I know these things are true, but even more now than ever, I really know it's true. If in the past I felt like it was true and had faith that the gospel is true, now I've seen the gospel tested and happen in my life. I love you all and hope Dad has a great birthday!!!

Love YOU!!!!!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Week 69: Tennis and Board Games

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

AJ: It's already Monday?
DAD: Hey, you're on early! (10:50 a.m. Philippines time). I was just sending your letter. Here it is (sent letter).
AJ: Cool. We just got done playing tennis.
DAD: Internet not working well at Grandma's so I an using my phone. Really? Tennis? Have you ever played?
AJ: Ha, not really. It was fun though.
DAD: I just have a hard time picturing you on the tennis court. Not really your thing.
AJ: You don't have to picture it, I did – haha. Also, this lady in our ward wants to know what the ingredients are in pizza dough. Those are the kids of Gabaldon family. The girl and boy are tennis champions, they said.
DAD: So were they really good at tennis? I played a girl on my mission that was supposed to be great and I whupped her 6-0, 6-1.
AJ: We didn't really play – just kinda hit the ball around. Elder Rausa quit after like 10 mins
DAD: You get some good hits in? I love tennis. It is very fun. I played a lot on my mission. There were a lot of courts in Philly.
AJ: Yeah, it was fun. I'll probably try it when I get back. It was good.
DAD: So how's your week been? You get over your stomach flu? We are all feeling good right now.
AJ: Pretty good. Yeah I think I'm over it, but you never know in the Philippines though. I did just have a Mister Donut and Coke float, so that was good.
DAD: Eating healthy, eh?
AJ: Yeah haha. That was after I ate the healthy stuff. Y'all got any pics?
DAD: Here's one of me and Bryce mugging for the camera.
AJ: Cool hehe. You seem to have a few more gray hairs than I remember, hehe.
DAD: Gray hair? Me? Nahhhhhhh. It's blonde hair, silly. If there is some gray, most of them came from you!
AJ: Man, even I have a few gray hairs now. You got any sledding or snowy pictures?
DAD: Well it's dark, but here's a snowy shot.
AJ: Grabi. Thats looks stinkin' cold. This week has actually been kinda cool. All the people were wearing coats and stuff and saying how cold it was. I am like “Lady, I am still sweating. This ain't cold.” haha
Holly in the New Harmony snow.
DAD: Yeah, it's pretty cold here in New Harmony. We are headed back south in a few minutes where it's a little warmer. Bryce took a bunch of snow shots, but it is too dark. But we may sled tomorrow.
AJ: Is there any snow in St. Geezy?
DAD: Na, we have not gotten any snow this year, not even flakes that didn't stick. Very little rain, too.
AJ: Yeah, people always ask me if it snows at our place and I always say .”Not really, but close to our place it snows a lot.” They are surprised when I tell them St. George is as hot as Tuguegarao in the summer and gets to freezing temps. in the winter.
DAD: Here's a pic at Grandma's.
AJ: Hmm, so that's what board games in America look like. Here in the Philippines we just play Jenga with matches stacked on a beer bottle, haha. When I get back we'll have to have a Philippine Family Home Evening or something. I ll have to cook some food and stuff.
DAD: We just played Mexican Train dominos and have been hanging out. Nice to not have to worry about work in the morning. Katie is good at Dominos. She finished second tonight.
AJ: Mexican Train dominos??? What is that? Our games here in the Philippines are cooler though, haha, just kidding, they are pretty ghetto. They can be pretty fun though.
DAD: Your mission pres and wife play it -- they have a pic on their website playing it at Christmas ... I guess after you left. Anyway, it is just a dominos game that is good for many players (up to about eight or nine people can play).
AJ: Oh yeah, I saw them playing it at Christmas, but I went and played basketball and ate food instead of playing haha.
DAD: Surprised you are on so early this week. Not even noon yet is it?
AJ: Just turned noon. To be honest, it just depends on what my comp wants to do as to when we email. By the way, it's already transfer day again this Thursday.
DAD: Wow, any rumors on transfers?
AJ: Not really, but Elder Rausa has one cycle left and hasn't been to Banaue. President will probably send him to Viscaya to die. He requested Viscaya in his interview last week and he has been here almost 5 months so I think he is gone – about 90% sure. I would be completely shocked if I got transferred again.
DAD: I sure know lots of people who went to the Philippines on their missions. I met someone this week who served in Roxas. He said back in the day they averaged about 20 baptisms a week. I guess it's your job to activate all those people they baptized.
AJ: That's cool. Yeah, the church kinda grew too fast and didn't really have the leadership and stuff to support the growth. There are really a lot of inactive people that just kinda stopped going to church for no reason. After a few visits, you can get them to come back. It is kind of frustrating too. You'll find someone and you ask if they are a member and most of the time they will say "Not anymore" or "I used to be." It makes my companion so mad when they say that.
DAD: Here in Washington, we had 60 percent attendance in Sacrament Meeting and 70 percent to RS and Priesthood.
AJ: Well, in the Philippines, 82% of members are inactive ... and the half of the 18% that do come show up 30 mins late to Sacrament Meeting. It's pretty bad. Yesterday we went on splits with members and with me was a RM, a dude that just got his mission call (he is a recent convert at least), and 12-year old recent convert. While we were working, they all decide to go and buy snacks at a little store (it's Sunday) and I am like “What you doing? You know we can't buy on Sunday, especially when you're wearing shirt and tie and working with the missionaries?” The two recent converts were like “Oh, that's not allowed? But then the RM just got all mad at me and was like “Why don't you go tell the store to close since it's Sunday. I said, “Dude, you're the one with covenants, not them. They aren't members.” Anyway, he was all mad at me. Elder Lim used to always buy on Sunday, too.
DAD: Well, I am proud of you for sticking to your principles there. I think we take for granted things we have been taught our whole lives, little nuances about being a member of the church that maybe they never learned or at least never understood. They really do need help understanding that kind of thing. I bet you taught the newer converts a valuable lesson that day.
AJ: Yeah, it's just irritating. The RM, out of all of them, should be the one that knows better. Oh well. Just stuff like that gives me gray hairs ...
DAD: You don't really have gray hair, do you?
AJ: Like 1 or 2 maybe, haha. I don't know. I think Elder Valdez said he saw 1 or 2 gray hairs. He dyed his hair last cycle because he didn't like the gray hairs, haha. Last night we were waiting for Elder Rausa at our dinner appointment and they had the Nets-Bulls game on. Anyway, I had to go and talk to the little kids to distract myself so I wouldn't watch it. A couple weeks ago at a little restaurant they had the Michigan-Mich. State game on. I had to turn my back so I wouldn't watch. I guess I should be grateful that only sometimes I am tempted. If I was in America, there would be football and stuff on the TVs all the time.
DAD: We got to go to the BYU-Temple game in Philadelphia. But it wasn't too tempting for me to watch sports cause everyone there loved the Eagles and the Phillies and the 76ers and that's all that was ever on.
AJ: President said that the Jimmer DVD you sent was awesome and that it is approved for me, but not for BSU fans or Utah fans, haha, I haven't gotten it back yet, though. Alrighty, well I am gonna get off here and just read the Book of Mormon till Elder Rausa is ready. Love Ya Pops!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Hey family,
Wow! February is almost history.
We had a good week. This week we had Zone Conference in Cauayan. Also this week, I went on splits with Elder Oliver from Fillmore and played tennis on p-day.

On Wednesday we rented a jeepney and went with our district to Cauayan and had Zone Conference. It was all about the doctrine of Christ and focusing on simply teaching it. It was good. I saw Elder Valdez and the Alicia District. Elder Valdez said two of our investigators got baptized and some of the families we had been teaching have become active again at church, so that was cool. I miss E. Valdez – he is funny.

So on Thursday we went and had comp study with Elders Oliver and Llorin as they are doing the new training program (by the way, there are tons of 12-week old missionaries that are training now, though Elder Oliver is close to a year out). So, after that we went on splits and it was good. Elder Oliver is from Fillmore and he is a super hard worker. We got to talk about Utah and the mission and stuff. We taught some really cool lessons and at the Gabaldon family they gave us mangoes – so at the end of the day we made smoothies with the mangoes. Sarap!

The Gabaldon family is so awesome. This week we taught them Word of Wisdom and they had already stopped drinking coffee when their mom told them to a few weeks ago and didn't have any problems with any of the others. It's always awesome when you teach WOW and they don't use any of them already. We also have been teaching about the doctrine of Christ, so the Zone Conference was right on track. The Gabaldons are getting super excited for their baptism. The dad is so cool. They have been the most golden family I have ever seen my whole mission. Seriously, they haven't had any problems at all. They also invited us to play tennis with them, so earlier today we played tennis with them. It was cool. They are so legit.

One of the things that I learned this week and have been trying to apply came from the Zone Conference. One of the scriptures we studied and discussed was 3 Nephi 9:20. It's about giving a sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit. So I was just kind of thinking about how the Lord just wants our heart and our desire, really our whole heart and all our desires, giving up those selfish desires and looking at others – not judgmentally -- but as the Savior would look at them. He wouldgive everyone the benefit of the doubt, seeing their potential, not just who they are at the time. Anyway it's incredibly difficult, but I am trying to live it.

Well, I know that the Savior lives and loves. I know that the Atonement really happened and that there is a living prophet on the earth. I am glad to be a part of it and I love you!!

Elder Griffin

The Large Lizard Incident

AJ's mission president has an interesting large lizard story.
Sis. Carlos was not happy.
But apparently it made for good eating.
read about it here:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Week 68: Teaching is so Rewarding!

Email conversation between AJ and his Dad through We started chatting about 11 p.m. Utah time (1 p.m. Monday for AJ).

AJ: Hey, you awake still?
DAD: Yessir, how ya doing?
AJ: Doing fantastic, til the I woke up this morning feeling a little sick. At least i saved my sickness till p-day. Upset stomach.
DAD: That sucks! Hope it's nothing serious.
AJ: Na, I feel way tired more than anything. I heard Whitney Houston died. Is that true? She is pretty young isn't she?
DAD: She passed away yesterday, was 48-years old. But she had a troubled past, into drugs. They are doing a toxicology on her, but probably overdosed. I was never a big fan of hers.
AJ: That's super young. Too bad. Last week we got the package from Wendy. Tell her the peanut butter M&Ms were awesome and also the calendar is awesome. Tell her Thanks! Also, I got your package with the shirts and Jimmer video and chocolate. So on Thursday I got the package and gave it to President Carlos. After he read your note, he asked me if I should watch it first or him? Haha, so I said “Oh, you better check it out and make sure it's missionary approved.” So I think he ll probably give it to us next week or so. Cool, eh?
DAD: Yeah, we figured he'd let you watch it. It is pretty harmless and it is from last year. Watch for the halfcourt shot against the Utes. Jimmer is as cool as a cucumber!
AJ: What you doing right now? It's getting late right?
DAD: Just hanging out, it is midnight.
AJ: Here are some pix from recent activities.
DAD: Cool. That's some fresh coconuts. And the shirts fity good, eh?
AJ: Yep, fit perfect. Hey pops, we are blowing this taco stand.
DAD: K, be good. Love you son.
AJ: Love ya!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Elders Griffin and Rausa with the "golden" Gabaldon family.
Dear Family,

So this has been a good week. Like all the other weeks, this one of course flew by. I am kind a feeling it – like I realize that someday the mission will end so I have been trying to focus and use time well and just do the best I can everyday. The mission is unbelievably fast. It's like you just get up try and do your best all day in studying, working in your area and stuff and before you know it, you're saying your bedtime prayers and your head hits the pillow exhausted, and you just feel good and tired and satisfied. Then you just say, well let's do it again tomorrow. And you just wake up and do it all over again. It's really pretty awesome.

So the Gabaldon family is really awesome. They remind me of the Balbuena family back in Tuguegarao, except the tatay (dad) is even cooler (I heard they still hadn't gotten that tatay in the water in Tug. Do you remember me talking about them very much?). So the mother has been a member since the 1980s, but just became inactive and the tatay is super nice and runs a welding business. I guess the missionaries tried to teach him back in the day, but he wasn't really interested. But now they are doing awesome. Their oldest daughter (Eliza) is like 15 and she is super-genius smart. They also said that her and her brother (Alizon, 14) are super talented tennis stars and are respective champions in girls and boys tennis of the whole Region 2 in their age groups. Region 2 is Cagayan, Isabela and Nueva Viscya (basically the whole Cauayan mission). Then their youngest is Andre, 5-years old. He is a handful and a half – hehe.

Our Family Home Evening with them was their first FHE ever and they all had fun. Then they took us to Jolleybee's (basically the lame McDonalds, but hey, it's all Roxas has) and bought us dinner. They're so super nice. On Saturday, we got them started on reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning and gave them a baptismal goal date of Mar 31! They are golden.

We have been visiting a ton of less actives and we have some people that have gone to church 2 and 3 times now. The Shaners had been working with the one tatay, Tatay Galingana, whose family is active and he has an RM son. He became less active, but the Shaners have been working with him and we have been going to their house on Sundays. He has now come to church 4X. There are a lot of families here that need to go to the temple and are close, but either are missing their tatay or something … or just aren't quite there.

Now that's some fresh cocnut milk!
This program working with less actives was definitely inspired of the Lord. The area presidency also promised to us missionaries that when we start working with the less actives, our teaching pool will increase with better converts that will be stronger and the baptisms in the Philippines will increase, not decrease. Pretty cool!

I gotta say, one of the most humbling things has been that people with not very much at all just wanting to give you everything they have and always taking care of the missionaries, and especially feeding them. Seriously, I feel bad sometimes being fed by people with so little, but at that point you have just be humble and grateful and just know that the Lord will take care of them. Also praying for them.

I gotta be honest though, I kinda miss tracting. Between the new focus of finding and teaching all the less actives and becoming zone leader, we have very little time to go tracting. Like for sure tracting is hard, and sometimes not very fun, but it is just so rewarding and feels so great when you've been working hard talking to tons people you don't know and then you run into way cool people! Yea, even the elect :).

So I think with these new area goals, one thing I really learned is how to teach with more love. Like in the past, I really wasn't fond of teaching less actives and sometimes I know that we didn't really show love as we were teaching them. But like President Carlos always says "They are all good people," and we need to see them as them Lord sees them and we need see that divine potential they have, not just the situation or who they are at the moment. So that's one thing we have been focusing on.

So the things I have heard before my mission about being the best 2 years are totally true! And also how some days are super hard and not very good. But there are days I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world. And it seems like the hard days make the good ones that much sweeter, not to mention how much you learn on those hard days.

I love this gospel and I love the Savior. I love our living Prophet, Thomas Monson, and I love the prophet Joseph Smith. I know that what the scriptures say are true and that Joseph Smith really saw our Father in Heaven and our Savior. I love my mission and I am so grateful for you, Mom and Dad, for living the gospel and helping me be here in Philippines today.

LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Happy valentines day too!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Excerpt from Shaners blog

I thought this was really cool and kind of touching (written by Sister Shaner on her website:"

"Our Zone Leaders had a great training lesson on Tuesday.  We have either Zone or District meetings on Tuesday morning and I am always amazed at the communication and teaching skills these young men have.  They are basically just kids and come here for two years to serve the Lord.  In that time, they gain so many wonderful life skills.  These two, Elders Griffin and Rausa [we lovingly call them 'Mutt and Jeff' because of their height difference] taught us as the Savior would.  We love these two young men and are so grateful they are our leaders."

Week 67: Teaching with the Shaners

Mutt and Jeff, as the Shaners call AJ and his comp

AJ: Whasupp?
DAD: Hey AJ! How's the warm tropicas?!
AJ: Oh hot as always haha. how was the lame bowl?
DAD: Close game, good commercials. Better food. So good it has given me heartburn!
AJ: Yummy. Grocery stores here in Roxas are pretty lame
DAD: So your quality of food has taken a big hit, eh? Got any good bakeries at least?
AJ: Between the loss of dinner appointments, increase of money spent riding all over to different areas all the time and lame stores, I think I am getting skinnier again haha. Oh well, lately I just figure when I am back in America I'll have good food again. It's all good. As for the bakeries, not sure. There is a Mister Donut, but I haven't gone there yet and sometimes I buy pandesal from a dude that rides a bike around our neighborhood. Hey, is that new airport pretty legit in St Geezy? What did they do with the old airport?
DAD: We actually haven't been out to the new airport, but I hear it is pretty legit. They fly 737s in and out of there. Right now the old airport is just sitting empty.
AJ: Do you think I'll be able to fly in to St. George from Cali or will I still have to go to SLC.
DAD: Not sure, let me check.
AJ: I'll probably stop by in LA or San Fran on the way back – not that I am thinking about that or anything.
DAD: There are two evening flights a day from LA that go straight to St. George.
AJ: That's good. How's the radio show going?
AT stands for alternate transportation.
DAD: Well, it's fairly easy this time of year with so much going on. I get discouraged sometimes because I get so little support from the radio station. But I think I have plenty of listeners.
AJ: By the way, I guess the couple in our district has a blog if you want to check it out. They said there are pictures of us on there. It is
Elder and Sister Shaner
DAD: Yeah, they have some cool pix and said a couple of nice things about you, although they think you are 6'8" for some reason.
AJ: Cool eh. haha. They are cool. They're signed up for the 23-month mission. Pretty cool, eh?
DAD: Yeah and I guess they've only been out about five or six months so far, eh?
AJ: Yeah, they are still fairly new. When I got here there was only 1 couple. Now there are three and three are coming pretty soon. Thought you might enjoy an excerpt from President Carlos's letter this week:
Beloved Missionaries:
I am deeply grateful for all the work that you do. I sense a real surge of energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to the work. This has been especially noticeable following the launch of the Area Presidency 2012 Goals. I read LTPs describing how much harder companionships are working. I hear many plans and ideas for various activities including mini-mission, firesides, special service projects, missionary blitz, etc. While this is a wonderful thing to hear and observe, I caution you to beware of being “burned out, and be like the Ningas Kugon. I suggest and remind all of you that we are in a marathon, not a sprint. Steady, consistent, and constant effort will produce better results than fast-paced, ill-planned, and over programmed efforts.
Let me be clear-, I am not asking for anyone to slow down or stop whatever they are doing. I am simply suggesting that we be more tactical, disciplined, and strategic in our efforts in rescuing the less actives, strengthening the families, saving the rising generation, build the church, and teach all to “feast upon the words of Christ”. We must work with the Branch and Ward Councils. We must share the load. We are not expected to carry the entire burden.
With love and appreciation,

DAD: Mom wants to go on a mission, but she wants a temple mission or something like that.
AJ: She doesn't want a proselyting mission?
DAD: I don't think so. I think she fears knocking on strangers' doors and all that. She is kinda shy, ya know.
AJ: Haha, didn't she see the Elder Holland talk? He said the couples don't go tracting. I think you and Mom would do great. They really take care of the couple missionaries and they mostly work with the ward and with less active families and stuff.
DAD: Yeah, it would be fun. Maybe she could be a little braver, too. Cool letter from the Pres. He really seems to be a sharp guy.
AJ: You guys would do great. Even here being a 3rd world country and stuff the mission makes sure the couples have decent housing and car and stuff. Wherever you get called, you would love it and it wouldn't be a problem at all.
DAD: Language could be a struggle. How are the Shaners doing with Tagalog?
AJ: Oh, all the couples and Sister Carlos don't know Tagalog. They just speak English. DAD: Even the men? I thought they would at least try …
AJ: Elder Shaner knows a tiny bit and says he studies it sometimes, but not really too much. But sometimes it seems like he catches bits and pieces.
DAD: That would be even more scary – in a foreign land and not speaking the language. I would wanna learn.
AJ: Yeah. Everyone here knows a bit of English, but I bet it's frustrating not really being to talk to people or not being able to get like answers that are deep instead of always simple broken English.
DAD: I felt some of that on my mission both with Cambodians and Puerto Ricans.
AJ: Sometimes people will start talking to me in English and then I'll reply in Tagalog and then they'll say (in Tagalog) "Oh man, I thought you didn't speak Tagalog. Man I was scared. I get a nosebleed when I try to speak English." The other day on the jeep going to Tabuk I had been talking to this guy for like 10 minutes all in Tagalog and then he asked me if I knew how to speak Tagalog. I'm like, yeah dude, how have I been talking to you for 10 mins?
There's AJ eying the buffet table at the mission home.
DAD: Ha, like the other day I had Dallas call Grandma's house cause we were going up to a game at Cedar and the first thing he says to her is "Hi Grandma, are you home right now?"
AJ: Yeah, pretty much like that, haha.
DAD: I said, Hey Dallas, here's your sign ...
AJ: Elder Valdez was making fun of Holly's letter a while back because she spelled something wrong. I was like “Oh, you're one to talk buddy.” ha
DAD: Dude, I gotta go to bed. I can't keep my eyes open. Love you and miss you tons! Let us know if you need anything! Love, Pops
AJ: We are peacing out, too. Love ya Pops!!!

Dear Family,

Alrighty, so this was a super busy good week. We had a lot of cool teaching experiences and this is how it went down.
Tuesday we went on splits and I worked in Burgos, a little town pretty close to Roxas, with Elder Laurente, and in the morning we had a service project. We went and dug up a bunch of nice soil, put it in bags and hauled the bags to a kaliglig and then made a garden for a member. Not too exciting, but anyway, yeah.

Wednesday we got back to Roxas and had some cool lessons. The Manukdok couple (that got baptized a few weeks ago) we have been trying to get their kids baptized as well. Their kids want to be baptized and have been to church a few times but they are like always gone and the Manukdok family is pretty far away, so we only can go there once or twice a week. Kind of a weird problem: They like never know where their kids are.

We have been teaching this family (Pillos is their name). The grandpa and grandma are members that the ward gave to us to reactivate and they are all right. Super old and kinda seems like they don't quite comprehend it all, but the have some grandchildren about 18 or 20 that we have been also teaching that are really interested. The Grandma came to church this week so that was pretty cool.

Thursday we had Zone Day. This is the first time ever to have zone day. So our whole zone went to Cauayan and while we had some games and made food, President did quarterly interviews with everyone. It was pretty fun and of course the food was good. My interview with President was fairly short and we just talked about the mission and helping people to focus on Christ and how the spirit is what converts people, not a person or a certain missionary. He also said he was proud of me :) “Thanks Dad,” I thought in my head, hehe. I love President Carlos. He also gave us Dr. Pepper that day. Yea!

So the Gabaldon Family is doing great. This is the family that the mom is a member and just returned and brought her family with her to church after Elder Shaner invited her back. They have 3 kids. So Tatay is really cool and on Saturday we taught them the restoration story and praying to know. After the lesson, the dad gave us a ride to our next appointment in his trycycle and I was talking to him and he told me that a while back they were driving their van behind a bus and his whole family was in the van. The bus all the sudden stopped and their van got totaled. He said the motor was pretty much in their lap, but nobody got hurt. He said he probably should've died, but he said to me on Saturday night that he figured that the Lord had a mission for him and that finding out about the true Church of Jesus Christ must have been the reason they didn't get hurt, even though it was terrible wreck. But wow! That's pretty amazing, and Tatay has been totally golden so far. They are a super cool family.

Also on Saturday, we went to Tabuk. Tabuk is like a 1 and half or 2 hour jeep ride from Roxas and is up in the mountains like Nueva Viscaya. Tabuk just got reopened about 3 months ago and we interviewed their baptismal candidate on Saturday. Tabuk is really pretty and is actually a pretty big city. It's bigger than Roxas, but smaller I think than Cauayan or Santiago or Tug. But anyway, that's what we ended doing on Saturday.

Friday we went to the Cattaban elders and watched their planning and then worked with them that day. It's literally in the middle of the rice fields. There really is like maybe 500 people scattered about in their area and a church in the middle with a maybe 30 or 40 houses near it. It was kinda of weird. Most of the areas are at least close to the highway or close to a little town but this one was just pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

On Sunday we had church then after we ate, we had a fireside that the Shaners were presenting. It was about Family Home Evening – how to do a FHE and stuff like that. At the beginning we simulated the Shaners family home evenings when they were new in the church. They had us be really naughty and not listening and fighting and stuff. Oh you know, like how we always acted in family home evening back in the day. Anyway it was fun and all the people really liked our acting and some of them said they thought it was real and we weren't listening to Elder Shaner's lesson on Isaiah. (yeah, they don't get sarcasm or anything like it). Anyway the Shaners did a great job and it was a very good fireside.

Then this morning we got to play ball with some of the people in the branch. By the way, we have a pretty nice little court right behind our house. Pretty sweet.

So I'd better get going, but I love you all and I am loving my mission. I love this gospel and I know it's true. I plan on doing my best to live it until I die! Keep up the good work and stay anxiously engaged in a good cause!