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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Week 87: Magic ice and Crocs

Dear Family,

Wow time does fly on the wings of lightning. We had another great week and we had a lot great successes. We had quite a few opportunities to share the gospel with some new families and, like Dad always says, it is a truly incredible feeling to teach the gospel and see someone's testimony being born in front of you and to see the people understand the message and believe.

This coming week is transfers and I have no idea what is going to happen. I have been here awhile ...

Oh, some funny things that I've noticed the past couple weeks: Every day, because it's super hot, I freeze a bottle of water overnight and throughout the day drink the water (by about 5 or so it's usually all gone). But so many people are just stymied (how about that for some deep English) when they see it and I've been asked several time how I got such a big piece of ice into such a little bottle -- hehe. I guess it comes from the fact that most people don;t have their own refrigerators and just always buy ice or cold drinks from little stores in people's houses. People sell stuff out of windows of their house. There are usually several stores on every street.

The other funny thing I wanted to tell you: Thanks to Elder Lundy, I was given some black Crocs that I use to work in sometimes (his mom sent him some and the shoes were too big). Anyway, people all the time are like "Woh! Are those original Crocs??!?!?" and I'm like, "Well, they are from America, so probably." "Wow! Sick!" (that's the basic translation). Apparently Crocs are super cool here and if you have original, that's like something amazing. So yeah. By the way, sometimes people say my shoes are like boats as well, just like Mom loves to say. haha

On splits this week I made french toast. It was awesome. I also made pina colada smoothie, which was was awesome as well.

So this week we went to one of our further areas and it's planting season for the rice fields in this particular area and almost all our investigator and members we were hoping to visit were in the fields, so we didn't really have anything else to do other than just start tracting. While tracting, we found this cool compound(group of homes and all the people are pretty much related) and we were able to share our testimonies and give them things to read (we couldn't teach all the men, they were busy planting), but they were really excited for us to come back, so later today we will go and visit them and later all their family members should be home). That same day we also were tracting and ran into a young sister that had been baptized in Manila a few years ago. We were able to teach her and the other people in their house. It just made me think that every person/every soul is really important to God. If our appointments didn't fall through we wouldn't have been able to visit that house or teach to that family. It really for us is super hard when all the appointments fall through but I've seen over and over again that when that happens the Lord has someone else he needs us to visit. It's super humbling to see the Lord direct us to those people and it's super great to know that we can be used by the Lord to visit his children that he loves so much.

So I wanted to say how much I've come to love the Filipino people. They are so awesome. They are kind and loving and receptive to the gospel. They are so humble and even though they live in such hard circumstances they don't complain and are such happy people.They are so generous and will give you the shirt off their backs. I am so grateful to have been called to serve in the Philippines -- they are truly amazing people here.

I love you so much and I am so grateful for the gospel. I know that Jesus Christ lives and that he really did pay for everything. I know that the atonement does fix everything that's unfair about life. I know that if we do what he says, we will find peace and true happiness in this life.

LOVE each and every one you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Week 86: The Letter Every Parent Hopes to Get Someday

Father and son, 2003.
Editor's note: Being a parent is full of little rewards, like a kiss or hug, or maybe the occasional "Thanks." But sometimes you wish you could get a little more, that maybe your kids could put into words what you hope they have learned from you. I don't know if other parents get that reward. I hope they do. We got that reward yesterday from our son A.J. He probably has no idea how much this week's letter really means to us. Thanks Elder. -- Dad

Dear Family,

Happy Fathers Day! I am so thankful to be born of goodly parents and I am so thankful to be such close friends with my parents. Especially here in the Philippines I've seen how blessed I have been and what a fantastic blessing the gospel of Jesus Christ is! We are really lucky -- a lot of people are not born with the gospel and sometimes with parents that don't care about them too well or aren't the nicest. A few weeks ago in district meeting our district leader, Elder Rocaberte, had us write down 5 things we learned from our parents. Being especially appropriate now as it is Father's Day, I will share what I wrote down.
1.It is easier to be 100% obedient than 98% obedient.I remember sitting next to Dad in preisthood meeting back in the day and Pres. Monson told the story about the basketball player not playing on Sunday and I remember Dad writing down in my notebook that line and here on my mission I have really reflected about how much Mom ALWAYS was a quiet humble example of being obedient every time. So thanks to both of you. I love you

2. Hard work is very important, and we need to be honest w/ our employer about our work. I remember working with Dad in the orchard and at basketball games and in all kinds of different things and one thing I've learned that I always try to apply is that in order to be honest, that really includes giving an honest day's effort to our employers -- and its doubly important, I've found, out here on the mission as the Savior is the employer and the cause is the greatest of all mankind. Mom is also one of the hardest working people I know.

3. Don't hold back in being kind and generousThis has taken a long time for me to learn while out on my mission and I still have a long ways to go. It's really hard to be generous and willing to give your food, time and other things to others generously and freely without expecting anything in return. Dad is one of the most generous people I know and I believe would give anything even his life for his family. I have observed and watched Mom for years come from long, hard days at work and serve others at home, in callings and constantly being about doing good.

4. Forgive and forget and look for good in othersI've done some pretty knuckle-headed things in the past and I've noticed that conflicts arise, even in great families, but the key that Mom and Dad have taught me is to forgive and forget and move on with life. Here in the mission, it is incredibly important to get over any hurt feelings immediately so that you can be worthy of the spirit. As with a family, it is really important (and sometimes hard) to look for good and avoid thinking about and forgiving negative traits. If we look for bad in another, Satan will help us find something really quick, but the key is to look for good in others.

5. Honesty, doing what you say you will do From a young age I liked to sneak little snacks from the treat bucket at home and cover them with with little white lies. Fortunately, I am a terrible liar, which helped Mom and Dad teach me the importance of being honest. I have also seen Mom and Dad do things that were really hard or out of the way to fulfill a promise. When I asked them about it, I have come to learn that even in hard circumstances if we said we are going to do something, we need to do it.  I have come to know as well that honesty is one of the most important attributes. I am thankful to have honest parents.

6. (Oops somehow my list of 5 become 6 ... I could go on for a while, Mom and Dad, you are really awesome) but #6 is The importance of the gospel.
I have seen for years how Mom and Dad have paid tithing faithfully through good times and bad, served in church callings, always gone to church, studied the scriptures, held family home evening (even when moody teenagers like me tirelessly opposed, at times) and have always shared their testimony through words and actions about how important the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. I have definitely gained my own testimony, especially on my mission, about this principle that you have so tirelessly taught. I know that when we do what is right, keep the commandments and do our best, things will work out -- always! I love this gospel and I know its so true! Thank your for living it your whole lives and showing us that.

So I am running out of time, but things are going great. I am so thankful for our family and for you, Mom and Dad. I hope you know how much I love you and am thankful for you!

I hope Dad has a great Fathers Day and I am so thankful for your letters and prayers.

LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Week 85: Heating Up in Roxas

Roxas Zone on a p-day field trip
AJ and his Dad chatted through on AJ's p-day.
AJ: Hey pops, waz up?
Dad: Hey man, how are you this fine day?!
AJ: Pretty good. I just read your letter and Mom's and I realized I've been gone a long time – everything is changing!
Dad: Yes, life is a lot different from when you left. But it's a lot the same, too. We haven't moved and may not do it at all. I think the biggest change will be the growth of your siblings. They all got ginormous!
AJ: And before you know it, they'll all be on missions too. Katie and Holly look way different! Hey, when do you start your new job?
Dad: I start tomorrow, 8:30 a.m.
AJ: What kind of radio gigs are you doing for them? Like a sports minute kind of a thing or what?
Dad: Yeah, sports updates and contests and stuff and then games in the Fall.
AJ: Your job on the website ( is gonna keep ya pretty busy right? Are you still in charge of updating utahpreps?
Dad: Well, Utahpreps will cease to exist and I will be updating and doing all those stats on their site now.
AJ: Well, that's kinda sad your baby died though.
Dad: Well, it's been on life support since the recession hit, but u r right. I look at it as I am still doing it, but actually getting a regular paycheck for it.
AJ: Will you still be able to write for the Desnews occasionally or not anymore?
Dad: I never asked about that, but I think I still can. I will just have to make it different stories probably. I wrote pretty much every week in football season for DesNews last year.
AJ: Any way you could end up getting a radio show again?
Dad: Not in the morning. They do political talk in the morning. They offered me an afternoon show, but I didn't want it. It would have been at 5 p.m. Yuck!
AJ: Too bad you couldn't get like 12 or early afternoon.
Dad: It'll be good still. There are still lots of opportunities to be heard in many different ways with my new company. Hey, I gotta get some sleep, big day tomorrow. I look forward to reading your letter in the morning. I love you son. Thanks for being a great son and an example!
AJ: Love ya Pops!! I am taking off pretty quick too!!!

Hey family,

How is it going? So I hear it's getting real hot over there. It's super hot here as well. So this week has been packed. We had Zone Conference in Illagan on Tuesday. The whole focus was about being worthy of and obtaining the spirit. It was really good and I learned some great stuff.

Wednesday we went to Cauayan and had ZLC. It was also great and we had some chili and homemade bread and stuff. It was great. We learned a lot of great stuff as well. I wrote down a lot of things I really liked, but left it at home and I can't remember off the top of my head what to share other than it was really refreshing and motivated and made you want to do better and work harder and stuff. Also President Carlos had a sweet book of Vince Lomba
rdi quotes. I wrote down one of them I really liked.

He said, "Any man's finest hour, his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear -- is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle, victorious. Leave no regrets on the field!"

It goes along with what Pres. Carlos always says about "No regrets" (maybe that's where he got it from). Anyway, I am so thankful for the things that have happened and the things I've learned on my mission. It's been the hardest thing ever but the best. It's been amazing. I've seen so many miracles. So with the time left I want to leave it all on the field, so hopefully when I see you again I will be totally and completely exhausted in every aspect :)

This week this couple we have been teaching since January finally got married (see the pix). It's a big step and we were really glad to see it happen. Brother Mobydick is pretty cool and still has a drinking problem but he is really trying to change. The wedding was pretty cool. I think it's the second wedding I've been to on my mission. It was held in the church. It was really good. Mobydick's family put some Catholic stuff on them during the ceremony and it was kind of weird. The branch president was really surprised and wasn't sure what to do. He just basically said at our church we don't believe in that stuff but whatever if you want to put it on them that's fine. Elder Shaner gave a really great talk and then the Shaners played a song duet with their piano and violin. There was a ton of food as well, so that is always a good thing.

One of our investigators, I am pretty sure I told you about her, is a mother maybe Mom's age. After we taught her the first time (her husband was the first one we taught, she had been in Manila back in the day) she came to church and brought her kids. The really amazing part is that their house is super far away. It's like a 15 min van ride, then you get out and walk for 20 mins in the rice fields. Well she just came yesterday for the third time I think and was earlier than most members (her house is further than all of their's too). Their family has a baptismal date and we have been teaching them as a family every time, The dad is a really nice guy, but he hasn't been able to come to church yet.

On Sunday afternoon (usually our most busy teaching time), we could find no one to teach. We went though the plans and then the back up plans and then the back up plans to the back up plans and then finally tracting and we couldn't find anyone that wanted to listen to us. After almost 3 hours of working and not teaching a single lesson we decided to go visit the Elder's quorum president (who hadn't been at church earlier that day). We went there and talked to them for a minute and then Elder Velez asked them if they had a referral. Brother couldn't think of anyone but then his wife came in and we asked her and she said she did! One of their employees that also lives with them was her referral and he let us teach him. He's really awesome and had great questions for us, is interested and is letting us come back to teach him again. It was great. I gotta say one of the most faith testing things is just having all your plans fall through and trying to do everything you can to make something happen. There have been a ton of times on my mission like that but it's such a great feeling after you find out where the Lord had been trying to lead you and it's so great to see stuff like that happen.

Well, I gotta run, but I know the church is true. I know the Savior loves us and is with us through all we are doing. He truly labors by our side. I testify of that. I love you and have a great week!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Week 84: A Black Lion and a Narrow Path

This black lion has nothing to do with AJ. I just thought it was really cool.
Dear Family,

So we are just barely emailing right now as we had an activity in Tabuk yesterday that took longer than we anticipated so we got up early today to write a little but but I am not gonna be too long as we gotta catch a bus in a few minutes to go to zone conference.

So a few quick things that happened this week. By the way its planting season again here in the roxas area. Its my favorite time as the fields are beautiful. In all the rice fields their are these little paths of pretty much grass about 6 inches to a foot wide that are usually slippery, With muddy rice fields on either side about 3 feet deep.  Anyway the other we met a LA member we had been looking for for a couple weeks now. Anyway we asked if we could come to his house and share a message to him and his family. He was reluctant and kept saying to path was too hard to get to his house. We assured him we could make it and eventually we left and followed him though the fields to his house. We had to go about half a mile though the rice fields on those tiny slippery paths. Back in my second area we had a similar situation and I splipped back in the day in the mud haha. Fortunately I did better this time and we made it too his house mud free. There were a couple close calls but we made it. It was kind of fun to be honest. haha

Also that same day taught one more lesson in that area and because of the field detour we were late to our appointment with a new family we had only taught once so far. We were about a 25 min walk away and there are usually not any rides that time of night. We ll I guess we really needed to teach that family because a tryce came by and we were able to get a ride and just as we were arriving the family was locking up their gate because they thought we weren't coming. They let us in and the whole family was there and ready to listen. We shared the Restoration Story challenged them to pray and gave them a Book of Mormon. The spirit was strong.

Also one of our investigators is a Dad with 5 kids I think, and his wife and kids are all active members. His name is Brother Laggui. Anyway he has been taught by the missionaries for something like 4 or 5 years and could never get rid of his drinking problem. Even we have been teaching him since I was transferred to roxas, same story. These past few weeks have been very cool though. He has not drank in a couple weeks and even told that one day he was feeling really week and just wanted to go drinking but he didnt have any money, so he went to a couple of his friends house to see if they had any alcohol but they didnt. He thought about searching for some at some other friends house but decided not to anymore, but to just go home and be with his family! Anyway we really think that now might be his time and I really hope so because he and his family are so great! We have been praying really hard for him and this week he came to church for the first time since I have been in roxas!

So one of our investiators(his wife is a member) is getting married this week(they were living together but werent married yet) so that really great and I got a million of other things to tell you but we gotta take off.

I really know this gospel is true. The philippines and this mission has changed me forever. I will never be the same person and I never know how much Heavenly Father loves his children. I love you tons!!!!!!!!!!!!

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