Sunday, October 27, 2013

"Well, it's been another week in the Philippines"

Well it's been another week in the Philippines and it's almost been a whole transfer.  This week has been...well, different.  We were really short on lessons because of what I like to call "an adventure in San Juan."  San Juan is currently part of the Cabugao area and we go into it every so often but never into the sentro.  President has asked us to find an apartment in there so we have spent a good two and a half days just searching out there and not being able to teach.  I'm not gonna lie, it's been a little frustrating. Walking around looking for apartments is nowhere near as fun as being able to teach.  It's disappointing to go out and come back without having taught a single lesson.
But here's a quick little awesome story.  I decided to fast the third day that we went out to San Juan and as you might imagine, I got exhausted from walking around all day with no food.  We were getting ready to head back to Cabugao and decided to talk to a less active member one last time to see if we could teach him or find out about a vacant apartment.  We passed a large group of kids and Elder Lynn did a magic trick for them.  We turned the corner to go to our less active friend's house and he was busy so we turned back again.  We turned the corner going back to the main road when suddenly the same group of kids and some more of their friends came charging towards us with big smiles and screaming for us to give them "uphir" (high-five).  If there's anything that will lift your spirits it's love, and as I've already mentioned, kids are the best at showing Christlike characteristics, love being one of the strongest.  That was a masayang masayang moment!
Investigators...We have a really awesome kid named Vladimir that is getting baptized on Nov. 30 and we just taught him the WoW.  He said he used to smoke and drink but he already gave that up before we taught him and all he has to do is give up cafe.  He just said "ok Elders."  Simple as that.  We haven't had a baptism yet.  The two girls that I was hoping would be baptized soon have to come to church a lot more.  They didn't come yesterday which doesn't help me or them.  There were some 16 year-old adin that sit outside on a bench really close to our apartment and they asked us if we could "interview" them some time.  We said ok, how about tomorrow?  We totally thought they were joking, but the next night we came by and they brought out some chairs.  It ended up being a really good lesson and I feel like at least 3 of the 5 kids there really had an interest in what we were saying. Now all we have to do is find out where they live.  Kind of an odd story now: we contacted a referral from a recent convert and we had just started talking with him a bit and were about to get into the lesson when his niece came in and said "namatay ang lola ni (some name I didn't catch)." Translation:  Someone's grandma died.  He was a little startled by that and we kind of figured it was a bad time to start teaching so we left abruptly and he did too.  I think it was his aunt...yata.  Hopefully we can teach him and he'll find out about the Plan of Salvation.
So I ate at McDonalds during a little trip up to Laoag...It's not the same.  We have a 7-11 in Cabugao now though so we can get slurpees!!!  We had a little leak in our faucet and got a part to fix it, but somehow the whole top popped off and started spewing water out sort of like a mini-geyser.  We had someone help fix that though so ayos na!
Last story is about what happened yesterday.  Elder Lynn brought ties for all the priesthood holders who don't have any.  The District Presidency came for the branch's primary program and one of the counselors was wearing a barong-Tagalog.  It's a white shirt with some little designs on the sides and it's made from pineapple fiber.  In the Filipino culture, wearing a tie with that is not pwede.  Well Elder Lynn asked him to wear a tie anyway and he got really embarrassed.  After sacrament, the first counselor came and told Elder Lynn that he shouldn't do that, but the other missionaries and Elder Lynn said that as holders of the priesthood we should wear ties to our church meetings.  I couldn't get more than two words of Tagalog in basically saying "ok" or "ayos na", but this guy was furious.  It wasn't the most pleasant experience and I'm pretty sure Jesus would have handled the whole thing a lot differently.  But we had an excellent proselyting day.  We hit every single goal we had set perfectly.  So in a way, it was a perfect other ways, not so much.
Ok to answer some questions now.  Filipino watermelon is orange, but they have red ones too they're just smaller.  I don't feel like I've eaten anything weird yet.  The rainy season is over so I really only got two days worth of it, now it's just hot.   The practice ACT I thought was harder than the real one, but it's not stupid...just hard and long.   (In response to Emma telling Christopher about the practice ACT she just took) Oh yeah, I did get those letters.  I was actually planning on writing a real letter today maybe...we'll see how time works out.
Well that's it for this week.  Mahal ko kayo lahat!
-Elder Egan

Fingerprinting trip to Laoag and reunion with his MTC district

Elder Egan and his companion

Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Spider Toys and Fire ballls"

Hello everyone back in America!  So the earthquake had absolutely zero affect on us up North. So the only request I can think of is maybe a little air pump that I can use for the soccer ball I just got today. Man, I have an aunt and uncle Funk now!  Magandang maganda iyan!  Actually I didn't get anything about soccer from dad which is really kind of surprising.  You might want to check and make sure he's feeling alright.  My companion is doing awesome now, it was really just a migraine and a cough that he had for that one day.  Thanks Mia!  Is there any other times you get teary besides when seeing my friends?  It is kind weird, but in a good and really touching way.  Keep telling me how you are, I love to hear about you all as well.

So the first thing to mention this week is I had a Filipino haircut.  They absolutely do not understand what it means to keep it longer in the front and especially in the back, whether you say it in English or Tagalog!  So that explains why my hair is so short in the pictures.  Here's a story for Kolsen.  We were teaching a less active member and a bunch of kids were sitting around listening to us and this giant spider (that's how Kolsen would describe it) crawls over towards one of the kids.  She picks it up like it's toy and starts pulling the silk thread out and wrapping it around her finger while the spider starts crawling up her arm.  No big deal.

So this week has been a little up and down for us.  We started out really good for teaching lessons and just these last two days, we've only been able to get one lesson per day.  One thing that's been a big blessing is the amount of referrals we're getting.  It's amazing how all you need to do is ask someone if they know somebody who's having a hard time with life right now and there's always someone.  We hope that these new referrals will turn into some really solid investigators.  

So  we had a combined zone conference in Vigan this last Thursday and heard from the Psychiatrist that works with the entire Philippines Mission and is going to go around the world working with missionaries.  She has an amazing story.  I can't tell it as good as her, but basically she went her entire life with a severe case of dyslexia and nobody ever knew.  She was valedictorian of her graduating class from Chicago Illinois University and she can't read.  She literally memorized textbooks word for word and takes about three times as long to read a sentence as it would normally take.  She told us that we all have our different trials and struggles, but it's up to us to figure out how to deal with that and to see if we can use those trials to learn and grow and improve our talents and abilities.  That was some good stuff to hear.  It makes me feel a lot more confident in my ability to speak Tagalog knowing that I can actually read a dictionary if I don't know a word.

Funny story for this week is brought to you by one of the greatest missionaries in our apartment, Elder Knowles.  One thing that is really common in the Philippines is matches.  Everybody uses them and you basically get them for the price of dirt.  So the Zone Leaders in our apartment took a box of matches and broke off the ends of them so there was only the little end that you strike the match with.  You can strike the match and then throw it at the same time to see a cool little ball of flame fly across the room.  It's all fun and games until somebody gets burned, and then it's hilarious!  I didn't know how to do that so I asked Elder Knowles to show me.  He didn't throw it very far though and it ended up landing on my companions foot.  He made some pretty funny sounds and tried to shake it off, but it ended up just burning a  nice 1 inch round hole in his foot (no it isn't literally a hole just a little charring).  It was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life, except for we felt really bad for Elder Lynn.  He has a second or third degree burn (yata) but he's a really good sport about it. 

Well time's up already.  Mahal ko kayo lahat!
-Elder Egan

Elder Egan sporting his new Filipino haircut

Pday Beach Activity

"I love teaching to kids here. They are so intrigued by the Americans and they're really easy to talk with"

When I opened my email late Sunday night to write Christopher, guess what I found? Christopher was online posting pictures so we got to chat back and forth for a little while.  I asked him what he had for breakfast that morning and to describe for me how he does his laundry. He said he had pancakes and graham crackers and milk. He also said he had a little washing machine to do laundry in so I told him it sounded like he was a little spoiled....:)

Well that was fun being able to chat with you for a while.  Now I'll start my weekly letter.  Our place has the little (somewhat pitiful) machine though so we save time and money with it.  Hey, this was the first time we've had pancakes and the milk isn't real!

So our apartment actually had a nice little discussion last night about America and all the problems it's having and how weird it'll be to go back and see how it's changed.  But we all basically agree that having useless pieces of the government is a waste.  Well good luck to Stef and tell her I'm sad I had to miss it (his aunt's wedding) but super excited for her!

How is High school soccer over already?  I'm just going to guess that Layton didn't make it into the playoffs.  I liked my club team better too.  Well how was Kolsen's birthday?  I hope he had a good time.  Man, it's awesome that Olivia is going out and Avery is almost gone too.  Okay, so one of those pictures was of my companion and Melvin.  Melvin is a priest that's pretty much the most awesome kid in the Philippines.  He always works with the missionaries and it's really helpful because he knows Tagalog, Ilokano, and English (well he's pretty good at it for the most part).  

So this week has been pretty crazy because we had a Zone Training Meeting which took an hour to get to by bus.  And then there was conference for a couple days in the same place.  It is really nice to see those men giving us direction all the way out here in the Pines.  Between all those trips and the day when my companion was sick and had to sleep for 4 hours, we didn't have a whole lot of time to go out and proselyte.  So as a natural result, we didn't teach very many lessons.  But of the lessons we did teach, there was some great spiritual experiences.

I love teaching to kids here.  They are so intrigued by the Americans and they're really easy to talk with.  Children are so innocent and pure, it's no wonder that they're so Christlike.  We had been teaching a girl named Angel and then her friends started to listen to us.  They are by far the best at actually reading the Book of Mormon out of all the investigators we have.  It's a little sad that when we asked them to be baptized they said no.  We're pretty sure this has a lot to do with their parents not wanting them to be baptized and the whole baptized as a Catholic issue.  We might try and teach all their parents too now.  

So there's another 15 year old we've been teaching named Vladimar and he is pretty much pure awesomeness.  He reads everyday and he went to church with us last week.  We went by his house Saturday to ask him about conference, but he wasn't there.  So the next day we go out to the bus that was taking everyone to Vigan for Conference and guess who got there before us?  Yep, it was Vlad.  The other Elders in our apartment asked us when his baptismal date was and we were like "We haven't even taught him a real lesson yet so we haven't committed him either."  He's sick(in a good way).

The two girls we're planning to baptize on Nov. 1 have been super awesome as well.  It's sometimes hard to get them to church since they don't have parents that are members, but hopefully they can get there next week and keep coming.  Investigators have to come to 4 meetings out of 5 before they can be interviewed for baptism.

So now for something funny.  We were headed to our favorite tindahan since our last lesson fell through and there was a drunk guy trying to speak English.  I kid you not, he couldn't form a complete sentence.  He would say the first half of his thought and then repeat it a couple times before giving up.  He kept trying to come give us a hug and then he would dig his cigarette butt into his hand and look at it.  That right there should be reason enough for anyone not to drink, but people use their agency in weird ways.

Well it's time to go.  Make sure grandma and grandpa can get my weekly letters too.  

Oh and as far as a Christmas list goes, I really just want some more pictures and some American candy that isn't chocolate.

Mahal ko kayo lahat!
-Elder Egan


"I think that I've found the Spirit works better through you when you are humble"

kumusta kayo?  We were passing by somebody's house this last week and overheard something from Obama saying he was trying to get congress to open up the government again.  I don't know if that's something that really happened or not, but hopefully it isn't something really bad.  

Well no letters yet, and unfortunately we don't get to see conference until next week.  HOWEVER, my companion is cheating the system and downloading all the talks to his ipod so we get to hear it early!  That's great news!  There's another cute baby cousin to add to the list.  So I think something I failed to explain very well is that the main mode of transportation is bikes.  Motorcycles are very commonly converted into triceys (just nail a side car to the side of a motorcycle and its a trike) which is how we usually get around.  I had my first jeepney ride last week though, man was that fun!  

Food is actually really good here.  Walang mustard at walang mayo!  (That means none!)  They don't really have American food here so a lot of things taste different and all the Elders in the apartment don't like the knock off brand of mayonnaise.  Soda isn't nearly as acidic and it's made with real sugar instead of syrups.  meat here is usually pretty fatty and the bones aren't really ever taken out before being cooked.  It's your job to take those out when you eat.  My favorite is probably pansit.  It's a noodle dish that you can pretty much thrown anything into and they even have it Ramen noodle style!

I will definitely miss the snow.  It gets pretty hot here and you're bound to sweat, but I'm adjusting pretty well to that.  It only rained a little bit last week which is really weird.  A couple weeks ago there was a typhoon named Baguio that came through and forced everyone to stay in for a week because of all the water.  I'm sure we'll get some more water soon.  

My companion is from Grantsville, UT.  He's a pretty awesome guy and he played soccer!  That's like one person of all the people I've met going to or in the Philippines that likes soccer besides Sister Wood.  My companion is a really funny guy and he's probably the best trainer out there.  He has a lot of experience and he can speak Tagalog exceptionally well.  Our work here is long and good.  The most disappointing things that happen are when you travel all the way out to a far area and then find out that nobody is home because they're all out working.  It stinks when you have all that time planned out and it gets wasted.  We have trouble with people going to church because there's one building in all of Cabugao which could cost someone 40 pesos (that's the equivalent of $1 in the U.S.) to get to and from the church and people just don't think that it's a worthwhile expenditure.  We did commit two little girls to baptism on Nov. 1 and one of them was at church!  That was a happy experience.

So there are a couple siblings asking about bugs.  It isn't too bad because usually you don't see them.  I know they exist and once or twice a week we see one in the apartment that's bigger than the normal size ant.  Kolsen would probably find every single spider though and have a heart attack.  I honestly didn't even realize there were some spiders chilling in our bathroom until a few days after I got here. The spiders aren't poisonous according to the people here, they just keep the bugs down so I hope we get some more soon.

So Halloween is pretty much the equivalent of a lesser holiday in America.  They start getting into Christmas in September.  So now I get to wake up to songs about maligayang pasko (merry Christmas).  The architecture is pretty simple.  Either you live in a hut made from bamboo or a house made from plastered cinder blocks and a tin roof.  It's poor.
Well thanks for letting me know how you all are.  I hope things stay good.

As far as spiritual matters,

I think that I've found the Spirit works better through you when you are humble.  I had a little experience that I won't go into detail about, but God wants me to learn a few lessons.  Pride is something even people in the Philippines have.  There is so much we like to boast about.  I'm not saying I've been really stuck up and feel like I'm better than anyone, but there's always room for improvement.  I have a lot more appreciation for some of the things that we take for granted and have learned to remember who gives us those blessings.  This last week there was a particular day where a lot of lessons fell through, and even during the few that we had, I struggled a lot with teaching.  I had a really good experience with this last fast we had and I am ready now to let the Spirit put words in my mouth.
Well just know that I'm doing very well.  Healthy, happy, strong, etc.  I'm learning a lot out here.  I love you and miss you all!

-Elder Egan

Living quarters

Christopher's apartment

Christopher's First Week in the Field - "This first week has been a get-used-to-the-mission week"

Hello pamilya!
How is life back in the US of A?  I gotta say it's pretty nice to get to email again on P-day.  Yep so it's Monday that I get P-day in the Philippines.  Well this won't be as good of an e-mail since I've only been in my proselyting area for a few days now.  Ayos lang!  So on Tuesday when I finally got into the Philippines after a long flight from Portland to Japan and then Manila, we packed up and drove in a van to a hotel.  Philippines has by far the scariest driving on the face of the earth.  Manila has to be the craziest traffic in the universe.  So let me sort of explain: signaling to get into another lane is really only if you want to.  Everyone drives as fast as they feel like.  You have to be constantly aware of your surroundings because someone might just merge into your lane even if you're right there.  To pass someone, just lean over into the other lane, and if you see it's an open lane then you actually merge over.  So yeah, I'm not dead yet though.  The hotel we stayed in was so freaking nice, like nicer than any hotel I've stayed at in my life.  We got about 12 hours to rest and pack all up and off to the airport we went.  Manila is the craziest mix of growing city and dirt poor slums.  There is a lot of poverty...I can't even begin to explain.  I'm glad I get to be in Laoag and not have to see some of the poorest people living next to a giant hotel.  The flight to Laoag was less than an hour and the airport is the smallest "international" airport I've ever seen.  (I'll send a picture...maybe).  Laoag is actually a fairly nice city and the mission home was really nice.  It's too bad the Elders ended up staying at a rickety hotel for two nights though.  We had a little orientation and then stayed the night at this hotel and the next day we practiced going and talking to people and trying to give out copies of the Book of Mormon.  Finally I got to meet my trainer and find out where I was going.  I'm companions with Elder L. and my first area is Cabugao.
It's in the Vigan zone which is the west part and I'm pretty far south in the mission.  Cabugao isn't as nice as Laoag, but the missionary apartment is dang nice especially when compared to the rest of the people here.  Well it's definitely hot and humid, but I wasn't sure if it was really rainy season since it hadn't rained for three whole days.  I was wrong.  It is definitely rainy season and we got some downpours the last couple days.  The mornings usually start nice and sunny and in the afternoon we get slammed with malakas na tubig (strong water).  Ok, now to the good stuff.  This first week has been a get-used-to-the-mission week, but they had me working the day I got here.  The first person I ever taught was sister Lonnie.  She is less-active and has three little girls and a son that is investigating.  Her husband is a drunk that makes life really hard on her.  The little kids played with the watches we had and took the shoelaces off my shoes.  There's a lot of cute kids in the Philippines.  So quick miracle here.  Her baby was sick and we gave it a blessing.  On Saturday we went to a little branch party they had and we saw her and the baby.  Baby is all better now, isn't that good.  There are some people here that speak Ilokano and sometimes only Ilokano.  That doesn't really make it easier for me to understand.  It's a good thing we have people like Melvin, he's a 17 year old member that goes with us on lessons a lot, who can translate some Ilokano into Tagalog.  Now if only I could understand that.  There's a sister Sandra here that does dinner appointments with us and another family every week.  The family of Jimmy and Lilibeth.  I think they have a real interest in the gospel even if brother Jimmy doesn't want to show that he does.  Saturday was my first full day of work and even then it wasn't a full day.  We went into a far out Barangay (little neighborhoods...ish) and tried to teach a few families.  Only one person was there that we got to teach and I could hardly understand a word he said.  We did get to teach a recent convert named Jomar who's 18.  He can go to the temple in a year and turn in mission papers, so to get him excited about that, we talked about missionary work and how he can help the rest of his family hear the gospel.  Then it started raining really hard.  So we took a bus back to our apartment and didn't get to teach our last couple appointments.  On Sunday I got to bear a testimony in church.  Straight up Tag-lish for 3 minutes.  That's solid.  The members are all very kind and complimentary though.  We got another couple of people to teach even though it was flooding from the rain that day.  The worst thing about non-members is smoking.  It not only kills them, but everyone around them.  That second-hand stuff is everywhere and it's nasty.  So the only solution is to make sure everyone follows the word of wisdom when they're converted and bam!  No more smoking pollution and no more hole in the ozone layer and global warming crap.  Now to P-day, a.k.a. today.  It's a lot different because we have to clean an apartment and do dishes along with the usual laundry and such.  Shopping.  I like it a lot better when it's just the stuff that you need to eat and survive for the week.  Whoever owns some of these supermarkets must be filthy stinking rich because of how nice they are.  Well I'll try to send some pictures, but it's just a little computer shop I'm at so I don't know if it works.   Here's the mission home address to send letters, packages, pictures, money, etc. to missionaries.
P.S. It costs 50 Pesos to get a package that's taken out of my support money.  I don't think I'll get a ton, but don't go sending like a dozen packages.
Mahal ko kayo!
-Elder Egan