5 August 2013
I am now in the Philippines and my eyes are being opened. Traveling went very smoothly but when we arrived in Manila we were told that we were going to be picked up and taken to a hotel… well that didn’t happen. We looked and waited for an hour and then we called some people trying to figure out what we needed to do and we finally got a hold of someone and they said that we are to just check in for our next flight to Iloilo. While we waited in the airport for our next flight we met some missionaries who were coming from the Philippines MTC who were traveling to Bacalod so I was hoping that I would again see my district who was also serving there.. so a couple of hours later they did show up so it was nice to be able to see my district from the MTC in the Philippines and say goodbye to them one last time. After they left we ran into more missionaries who are serving here in Iloilo. There are two more sisters and 7 or 8 elders. They are so funny they said that I looked like Cinderella and they thought that my other companion looked like Jennifer Lopez. It was fun to get to know them and they were really nice. They helped me with my luggage even though I didn’t need the help.. but that is just the kind of people they are, just always willing to serve. Some of them are really short.. like a lot shorter than me, but they still have a very strong heart and willingness to serve.
When we finally arrived in Iloilo we were taken to the chapel near the mission home where we had orientation. They also took us to the bank. Driving around in Iloilo is so fun. It is crazy to watch because there are no traffic lights and people are always passing each other and cutting people off. They honk their horns as they pass people so horns are going off every two seconds. That first night we crashed at a sisters’ apartment then went back to the chapel the next morning to do our studies and finish orientation. We then had the opportunity to go on splits with the same sisters that we were crashing with.
It was a great experience to go out in Iloilo because it is just so busy and crowded. My companion who I went out with that day was great, she was helping me learn the language and was having me talk to people and so on. I had my first Jeepney ride which is a really fun experience. I also walked through a cemetery (they don’t bury people in the ground), and I also was able to eat at some members’ houses twice. I tried the fish and surprisingly it is not fishy at all. The area that we were in in Iloilo hadn’t seen a white person in a very long time either so they were staring at me and kids would run up to me and want me to give them high fives. It was so cute and such a great experience. We visited a members house and the father there was a return missionary. He thinks that he served the same time as uncle Robert Jensen did. His name is Elder Llorico. If uncle Robert knows him I have some information to give him about Elder Llorico. so ask Robert if he knows him. While I was out I was actually surprised how much I understood the language and it just made me more excited to be assigned to my area teach the people in my area. After that day I felt like I was going to get the language down really fast and that I would soon be able to easily talk and communicate with the people. But then the next day happened and I was assigned to my area and trainer…
It turns out that my area speaks only Tagalog and Aklanon. And to top it off my companion doesn’t know fully know or understand the language either. She has only been out on her mission for 5 months speaking Ilonggo. But she is a great trainer and I am learning a lot from her. She was training someone before me but then the person she was training left to go home. So a lot of little things had to happen for her to me my companion. I know that we will get a lot of work done.. but just at the moment I am a little worried about the language. Her name is Sister Lewis and she is from Idaho falls. She has already taught me so much but I feel like I am not learning the language at all. She is able to communicate with the people a little bit but there are many times when neither of us know what the person is saying to us. I am going to try to learn Tagalog but the only resource I have is the Book of Mormon but I know that I have been assigned in this area and to this companion for a reason. One of the hardest things though is that Filipinos talks really quietly even when the children are screaming or the rain is pounding on the tin roof so it is very hard to hear them let alone understand them because they are speaking a different language but it is all a very great and challenging experience.
I have been assigned to Kalibo and that was a four hour bus ride from Iloilo so we were unable to do any work in our area on Friday because it was already so late in the day. It turned out that my luggage was put on a different bus so my luggage was lost for a while but in the long run I was able to get it thanks to some sisters who had to go and pick it up. We just went to visit the bishop and then went home. We end our day at 8 because that is what the mission president has asked the sister missionaries to do just for safety. It does get dark here around 6 at night.
The first day of work in our area was on Saturday and it still amazes me the way people live. We went to one house where the floor was mud and it was dark because they had no electricity and chickens were walking everywhere and not to mention ants and other bugs crawling everywhere as well. At this house we are teaching kids and it is hard to see the way they live. The next house we visited he had a giant pig. The biggest pig I have seen in my entire life and the pig had just given birth to 12 piglets. We shared a message with him about enduring to the end. While we were traveling to our next appointment we ran into people who are trying to tear down our religion. They told us how we don’t keep all ten of the commandments because we don’t keep the sabbath day holy. They would read all these scriptures from the Bible that wasn’t proving their point at all. We just ignored them and they finally left us alone. As we tried to visit some less active members we weren’t able to because they would be drinking so we couldn’t visit them. But at the end of the day we went to visit another less active. His name is Abraham and he knows english very well. For the past 20 years he has lived in California and he was baptized before he lived in America but while he lived there he didn’t go to church. So we are teaching him the lessons again and we taught him the first lesson principles 1-3. Visiting Abraham just was the highlight of the day. His testimony is growing and we are reading the Book of Mormon with him. We have only one investigator in our area so there is a LOT of work to be done here. I am excited to get to work.
My first Sunday was great. It was nice to see the members and shake their hands. It was also nice to hear the testimonies of the members here in the Philippines. I was a little surprised at how strong their testimonies are. Church is partly done in english… we sing the hymns in english and at times people speak english. So I was able to understand a little bit. I also shared my testimony just to introduce myself to the ward. I did it in part english and Ilonggo. The ward is small but the members that do come are very strong in the gospel. There are only ten active priesthood holders in the ward and they all mostly have stake callings so we don’t have a ward mission leader but the bishop is doing all that he can so that the ward can have one. I am so excited to work with the members in the ward. I am learning to accept the way people live and to not be so afraid to enter their houses.
The Philippines is a very beautiful and green place. I love it here and I am learning to love Kalibo. Kalibo is quite different from Iloilo city but it is still very beautiful and green. Here in Kalibo it is a lot less busy than it was in Iloilo city. There aren’t any jeepney’s here just the tricycles. Yesterday there was 9 of us all riding in one of the tricycle motor things. It was pretty exciting. Traveling is quite an adventure.
Today I will learn how to do laundry go to a grocery store for the first time. I am excited to go and buy a mango and eat it. Anyways there is a lot of work that needs to be done here in Kalibo and I am excited to get to work and strengthen the less actives and bring the gospel to people who need to here it. I am grateful to be here at this time. There is a lot for me to learn.
Thanks for all your love and support!