Monday, December 23, 2013

Getting Settled in the New Area - Pagudpud

Naimbag nga aldaw!  That's good day in Ilokano.  Now it has been a very interesting week getting settled into the new area.

So my new area is right on the beach and it's got a lot of tourist resorts.  We don't really go near the resorts in my area, but we walk on the beach pretty much every day.  My companion is a ginger from Australia. He's an awesome guy.  I love to work with him because he just loves what he's doing and he's just fun to work with and really funny.  This area is really small in terms of members, we only have a meeting house right now.  t's sort of hard because there's not a whole lot of investigators we can teach and it gets really hard to get a lesson in if the person we plan to teach ends up working or going somewhere else.  The members and investigators we have are awesome though.  

We are going to do some serious work to get the area into shape.  I've been way more tired at night from all the work we do and it's a lot more go, go, go here than it was in Cabugao.  We have a baptismal interview for a girl named Jenny Anne on Christmas day and then she'll be baptized Jan. 4th.  Her family, the Ramirez family, is really great and a lot of them came to church, it's kind of complicated as to why the whole family isn't being baptized at the same time, but we'll have the tatay, nanay, the little lalaki baptized in another 3 or 4 weeks. There's a couple that lives next to the Ramirez named John Paul and Menchy.  They need to get married, which is happening on the 30th, and then they can be baptized in about a month as well along with their 8 year old son. Another couple is getting married hopefully soon (that's a little complicated too) otherwise they'd be baptized already.  A lot of really good potential regardless of how small the pool of investigators is.

So we had a branch Christmas party and it was a really fun way to get to know a lot of the members.  I'm pretty sure the Christmas party was better than the one's back home from our ward.  Christmas in the Philippines is maganda (beautiful).  It's a lot more green and I'll miss the snow, but it's really exciting for everyone here.  Tons of people have lights even though the people here are really poor.  The kids go out caroling every night to try and make some money, some of them are pretty good too.  The 24th is when everyone is going to light off fireworks and get drunk so we all have to be in the apartment by 5 p.m.  

Yeah I did get to play soccer with Sister Wood, and it's pretty true, small world.  It was a lot of fun.  I guess Grandma and Grandpa Snow have 3 grandkids serving missions once again, that's awesome for the first Sister Snow.  I didn't get your second one yet, but the office says I have one.  They do have jell-o here and crystal light ;) No offense intended at all, I just think it's funny.  Thanks for the package though, talaga (really), I was really happy to get it and I still haven't opened the little "Christmas presents" yet (except the soccer pump, yes!).  

It's been weird not being with family for Christmas time, but in a way it's really nice because I really get to focus on the true Spirit of Christmas, the Spirit of Christ.  Dedicating all my time to him has really helped me get into a spirit of serving and loving others while sharing to them about Christ and his gospel.  I feel like this Christmas has really been about having more Christ in my life.  Being able to serve him is in itself a better Christmas present than I could ask for.  

Mahal ko kayo, Maligayang pasko, naraksak nga pascua, Merry Christmas!
-Elder Egan

P.S. My companion and I decided to do it 10:30 a.m. on the 25th (Philippines time).  I actually don't think skype will work in this computer shop though, it wasn't while I was testing it out today.  So be prepared for a phone or skype call because I'm not actually sure what will work.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Good Week and a Transfer

Everything is going really good right now.  This last week has been the best week so far as far as being able to teach lessons.  It's even more amazing with the fact that we had Christmas conference in Laoag and that took a full day of proselyting time out of our week. We now have a potential of 18 investigators with baptismal dates, 5 new ones this last week.  That's part of the reason this week was really good as far as being able to teach.  Unfortunately, only 3 of those made it to Church.  Jimmy and Lili with their son Jim Paul (they're daughter Jelina was sick this week).  So now their family is being interviewed on Saturday and as long as Jimmy and Jelina make it to church (of course we want the whole family to come, but Lili and Jim Paul have already met the church attendance requirement) they'll be baptized on Dec. 28.  I really have enjoyed being able to help their family out and to teach them about the gospel.  

Another reason this week has been great is because of all the events that have taken place. Christmas conference on Wednesday was great. I got to see all of my MTC District there and we had a very nice devotional with the whole mission.  220ish missionaries right now all nice and snug in a stake center chapel. (It's really small compared to chapels in America and we couldn't use the overflow). Then we had sports with the Zones from Laoag and down.  I played soccer again for the first time in forever, that was fun.  We had a bunch of Filipino dances and some skits on Wednesday night for a cultural type night.  That was way fun and I think President said he was sending videos to the parents of missionaries.

The day after that was Elder Lynn's year mark.  So he made a shirt and had everyone sign it and write down memories...then he soaked it in alcohol and burned it. Some weird tradition that is. But we all had balut!  I finally had balut, and it's not even bad at all. Oh and quick P.S. before I forget, I got one of the packages, thanks (some of that stuff is a little random though)! 

Then it was Friday the 13th.  Our landlady/nanay had a goat that she killed for us. It's pretty hard to study when a goat is screaming outside the apartment. We ate like kings though! 

Saturday I finished with my 12-wk training program so I can officially say I'm a missionary now!  That was fun. And now for some big news: I'm being transferred. I'm going to Pagudpud B with Elder Ramses. Elder Visaya's old area is Pagudpud and he says it's really nice, a tourist attraction. It's way up North, it's the furthest North in Ilocos Norte. Elder Ramses is a ginger from Australia, I'm excited to start working with him tomorrow. I'll miss Cabugao though. I'll miss my trainer, Elder Lynn, and the washing machine (joke ;) ), but I'll especially miss Jimmy and Lili's baptism. I hope everything goes well with that.

So here's some funny things that happened. We tried teaching, but a drunk came and sat down and we asked him if he was drunk, "I drank a lot" he says, "but it's all in my stomach, not in my head." Facepalm! So we asked him to leave and he did...along with the other male sitting in on the lesson, so we had to end it there. During Sacrament meeting, a little girl that has a mental disability decided she was going to lead the music with the chorister. That was really funny in a cute, innocent way.

Well that's all I have to say for now. We ended the transfer on a really good week and I'm glad I've had this chance to work with Elder Lynn in Cabugao and I look forward to more good work in Pagudpud.

Mahal ko kayo lahat!
-Elder Egan

"A Slow and Flat Out Hard Week"

Another week has already flown by, I still can't figure out where all the time goes.  Well I hope everything is going good for you back at home.  Snow would be incredible right now, but I'll stick with the warm weather for a little while I guess.  Well this week has been a little slow and flat out hard.  It's been the least productive as far as how many lessons we've been able to teach and we had a grand total of 0 investigators at church.  That was a pretty big bummer.  It's probably the hardest thing to watch people not act on their faith.  Some people decide that there just isn't enough time in the day read the scriptures and not enough time to go to church on Sunday or maybe it's more worth it to buy alcohol and cigarettes instead of going to church.  Whatever the case, they're missing out on so much more.  

Well you can't change someone's agency, but you can invite the Spirit into a lesson.  That's the only way that people will ever do anything in this work.  Without the Spirit, nobody would have a testimony of this gospel.  So that's how dependent we are on the Spirit, if we don't have that we have nothing.  So that's what I'm trying to work on this week: having the Spirit with us when we teach a lesson.  I know that people will act if they have that undeniable feeling that comes from the Spirit.

So I'll talk a little about the week we had.  We went to an investigators house in Namruangan during their son's birthday.  He has cerebral palsy and he basically can't do anything but roll on his back.  So here's an example of how nice the people of the Philippines are: this family has two working parents to try and support their family while taking care of their son and on his birthday they cook a bunch of party food and invite everyone over and gave the missionaries a nice big helping of pancit, some gram cracker crusted fruit salad, a chicken dish, and sticky rice.  We couldn't finish that even if we wanted to.  Now they probably won't be eating very good for a while and tatay might have to give up some cigarettes this week, but I can't say for sure.  

So I got a haircut and I would say it's better than the last one I got, but my right ear line got messed up.  I might not send a picture of me for a week or so.  So some good news is that 7-11 got soft serve machines and a giant cone is only 15 pesos.  That's less than 50 cents.  So one of the Elders in our apartment got a package and we've had some nice snack food for the past couple weeks.  

So as far as packages go I don't have any yet.  Also for future reference, things are a lot cheaper here so instead of buying a shirt and sending it, you might as well send money here or put it in my bank account.  I don't know about the phone call yet.  There is Skype but I don't know when and how we'll end up doing that.  

So that's about all I've got to say for now.
Mahal ko kayo lahat (I love you all)
-Elder Egan

Monday, December 2, 2013

"...we'll have their baptism on Dec. 28. The perfect thing for Christmas!"

Hello everybody back in America!  So I think I'll get questions out of the way again.  We wear long sleeves on Sunday meetings and District/Zone meetings.  Basically any time we have an official meeting.  My shirts are all fine, they just get dirty after a day or two of use and then they need to be washed.  Go figure!

The people that heard our caroling said it was early too, but it's pwede na! (You can do it now).  We have plenty of bugs but they don't really bother us too much because we have insecticide.  I got some mosquito bites a few weeks after I get here on my ankles (probably while I was sleeping) but if you keep a fan on you at night (which is when they come out) you might get an occasional bite every couple of weeks, but no real problems. 

The one [cute little boy in lots of his pictures] that stole my camera is part of a very active family. We started teaching the only less active person in their family that works every Sunday.  I would take a lot of the Filipino kids home if I could, but I don't think that one would get through security.  I guess the only difference in weather is that it's always hot here and it's getting colder over there.  I hope it starts snowing here too, but I don't think that's going to happen.
So for Thanksgiving we had Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches and some candy that Elder Knowles got in a birthday/thanksgiving package.  And we gave thanks, so yeah that sums up how much Thanksgiving is celebrated here.  Christmas, now that's a completely different story.  No matter how poor you are, some kind of Christmas decoration had better be up.  The mayaman (rich) put tons of lights up and nice Christmas decorations.  I'll take some pictures of what some look like.  The municipal hall gets all decked out as well.  The one in San Juan is my favorite.  They put couple poles from a stand into a tree and put some reindeer on it attached to Santa's sleigh so it looks like they're flying.  Santa even moves his arm up and down.  It's pretty sweet.  The only problem here is that Christmas sometimes seems a lot more about Santa than Christ, so it's basically been commercialized just like in America.

So to give a little update on Jimmy and Lili's family, Jimmy and Lili both came to our District Conference in Vigan this last Sunday (their two kids couldn't though).  They're an awesome family! We just need to finish teaching the lessons to them and see them a couple more times at church and we'll have their baptism on Dec. 28.  The perfect thing for Christmas!
So I mentioned before about Sis. Sandra and said she deserved a whole email to herself, well I'll just spend a good paragraph talking about her.  Her conversion story is pretty sweet and has a little bit to do about how much she loves the missionaries.  For the sake of time I won't give it, but just know she LOVES the missionaries.  She used to feed us once a week, but she started fellowshipping with us in Namruangan when we teach Jimmy and Lili twice a week and decided to feed us those nights as well.  So on a week where we don't have any kind of conflicts, we only have to cook dinner three times.  She also became a branch missionary and has since gotten us 6 referrals in Namruangan, 3 in other barangays (it's how the cities are broken up, sort of like neighborhoods) in our area, and four in the other missionaries' areas.  Elder Sablan made the remark that all you need to fix anything is a flat head, a philipps, and a hammer and she's a hammer.
So one thing I want to talk about that was really awesome is a family we contacted.  It happened to be when I was on exchanges with Elder Sablan (good things always seem to happen on exchanges).  We taught the family about how God calls prophets (as he always has).  The nanay is really smart when it comes to the Bible (well compared to the average person here) and so she knew what a prophet was and they agreed that we should have a prophet on the earth today.  So we told them that we do and his name is Thomas S. Monson.  They were all happy about this good news and they said even though they don't necessarily believe in our religion (yet) they believe that he is a prophet.  And they also want to know why there are so many churches right now.  Perfect set-up to teach the Restoration next time.  They told us we were always welcome so I'm very excited to keep teaching them.
So I guess I'll go into some funny things now.  We teach a really old couple that is being taken care of by a member.  The tatay is a devout catholic, the old I was born a Catholic and I'll die one just like my dad and his dad and yada yada yada.  He pulled out some evidence of how devout his dad was.  It was a collection of tithing slips for that Catholic church (they were kind of creepy looking and it's just not worth explaining over email) that he had compiled into a book.  The book was thicker than the Bible.  That's a lot of faith, now if only he was more set on following Jesus Christ than on being Catholic.  The funniest thing that happened though was the story about the rat.  So we had a rat that was eating our bananas at night and we decided we were going to go downstairs if we ever heard anything in the middle of the night to try and catch it.  Well the Zone leaders were on exchanges with some Vigan Elders and the one that stayed at our apartment was a new Elder, Elder Marsh.  He had to wake up early to get back to Vigan the next day and he ended up falling down the stairs after he was half way down.  So we all hear this big crash and my companion sits straight up in his bed and says, "hey everyone, I think it's the rat!"  He throws his covers off and runs over to the stairs and looks down.  He sits there in silence (I can only imagine him seeing an Elder layed out at the bottom of the stairs) and then he says: "That's a big rat."  The funniest part is that I thought he was joking the whole time (he is a jokester) but come to find out, he actually thought it was the rat that made the giant crashing noise.  We still get a pretty good kick out of it.
Well that's all for this week, I'm glad everything's going well with you down there and I can't wait to get the letters!  I feel like I have less and less time on P-day so hopefully I can finish some hand written letters (my handwriting hasn't gotten any better).

Mahal Mahal ko kayo!
-Elder Egan