Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Final Epistle of Daniel the Missionary to the Filipinos - Chapters 10 & 11

In the 10th & 11th months, 2015 A.D.

Note: Daniel returns from his mission December 2, 2015, after being in the Philippines for two years. We're grateful he's had a chance to serve as a missionary, and are thrilled to welcome him home. 

I've been busy doing tons of missionary things and fixing all my past mistakes, but I love each passing day. Yes, there's sacrifice, there's always sacrifice, but I love serving the Lord.

Today we had the privilege of visiting the Manila Philippines Temple. It was great and very calming; just what I needed today. While in the temple I considered if I truly understood the law of consecration, and I read about it more after my session today. The Doctrine and Covenants discuss this principle in depth multiple times. In one of these instances it mentions that we are supposed to give back anything that is left over after we have satisfied our needs and our wants. I think often if I am being thrifty enough or if I should do better. Ironically, I want to only spend money on that which I need. I don't want to want, or to indulge my "wants". I don't think it's necessary, but the scriptures reminded me that I can want things. Things that I don't need are still important. Blessings that we receive from following commandments such as the law of consecration, are meant to please us. Our food is meant to please us. This life is meant to please us. God wants us to be happy. I'm not saying that thrift has no eternal value or that your personal happiness is more important than anything else, but I realized for myself earlier today that I need to be happy, and my righteous and even my natural desires are meant to be bridled and fed. In the Lord's time of course.

I've been very blessed, and for most of my life I have wanted for nothing, or very little, (Just ask my parents, I'm very hard to shop for.) but those who walk in obedience to the commandments of the Lord will always receive what they need, and sometimes the things they merely want.

Let us all remember that we are children of God, and we are here on earth to be tested, but through the infinite wisdom of our Lord it is intended to be pleasing.

* * * * * * * *

I'm going to be training a new missionary for my last 6 weeks. In fact, everyone in my district is going to be training or in training for the next 6 weeks. I have no idea what his name is. I don't know if he speaks any English or not, but I'm going to love him. He will be my only begotten son in the mission. I'm super excited, I think I'm hiding it pretty well, but nothing can upset me right now.

I remember 6 weeks ago I thought I was going to end my mission in Mandaluyong as a normal missionary, and now I've been called to one of the highest and most challenging, and most rewarding positions in the mission. At the same time I'll be a district leader. I'm going to be stressed. I know that, but I can't think of a greater way to end my mission. :)

 * * * * * * * *

I love being a missionary. I can be a very stressful job if you do it right. I've noticed that the missionaries who don't care are not stressed, but are not happy either. They see no blessings from the half-hearted work that they do, and soon forget why they even left home to serve a mission. There are 5 sister missionaries in my district that are stressed; some more than others. They understand that there are many sacrifices to be made in missionary service.

I've learned to love hard work, and see laziness as the sin it is. I love being active, and doing good things that require effort. I'm surprised by how easy it has become to focus on the work. I remember in my first area emailing was the one thing I looked forward to every week, and I wished the end was near. Now I can truly say that I have found joy in the journey. I look forward to being a missionary for 30 more days. I rarely think about going home. It's drawn quite close, but I know that everything is in order, and I don't have to worry about it or think about it.

Getting lost in the work has made it too inconvenient to be trunky. I love this work too much. I'll wait to get excited about going home until I start packing, probably 28 days from now. I know that there are still people here that need my time and attention, and I know that Elder Dadis has a lot more that he needs to learn from me.

Thank you for all of your letters of encouragement and love. If you haven't emailed me yet, or it's been a while, I would really appreciate even a small email from you, just one before I come home. I'm strong, but I still need encouragement in the last and final stretch.

* * * * * * * *

Something that I have noticed and applied in my life as a missionary is that a huge part of my life needs to be about giving to others. I realized early in my mission that I'm not here to serve myself or to be served. I'm here to give of myself. My rest, my time, my love, my effort and my heart.

In a physical sense, giving so much of yourself makes very little sense. Physics will tell you that the more you give the less you have. Physically speaking this is absolutely true. If you give your lunch to another person, no matter how much they need it, you will lose your lunch. However, for me, and for those who know of God and His matchless power, and mercy and love, giving of your own possessions or efforts or time will always be a rewarding experience.

400 hours from now my life as a full-time missionary will be over, and I will be released from my prophetic calling to serve in the Philippines. I'm trying my very best to not look forward to it yet. I'm more concerned about those people that still need me, and whom the Lord has called me to serve and bless for the next 400 hours.

I'm very grateful for all of the people who are working together in harmony to make my home coming a wonderful and organized series of events. If I had to worry about the plane tickets or the flight plans or the reservations or the meals or any of the transportation I would not be able to focus on my work for these final hours. So thank you for your quiet planning and preparations. It means a lot.

I'm very grateful for every minute that I've been given to serve the people of the Philippines. And when I'm done I will use every minute to serve Americans, starting with my wonderful American Family. :)

Also, I'll have the opportunity to see my first apostle in person tomorrow. I've heard rumors that it will be Elder Renlund. But I'm not sure.

* * * * * * * *

I've been doing a great job of not thinking about going home. Maybe it's because I can't wrap my mind around it yet. I feel like I'm in denial. :) But that's okay for now. I know that I'll be home and going through many major life changes in a week or so, but I'm not ready to think about that yet. I've made plans and organized my life in such a way that I don't stress about big changes, because I've prepared for them logistically and physically, and I'll adjust emotionally when the time comes. I thought the emotional trunky battle would be more of challenge.
The mission is still my life for a week, so in my mind there's no reason to start thinking about home.
I was very happy to teach two new families about the gospel this week. They are very kind and they love their families, and they all said they would come to church, but not a single one showed up. I was confused and a bit upset on Sunday (of course I didn't let it show) and I still don't know all of the reasons why they weren't at church, but I realized that the reason why it matters to me if they come to church or not is because I care about them and desire their happiness and their salvation, so as a missionary I can say I did my part and I was successful, because I love those that I teach. :)
Of course I would be very happy if they would come to church next week and continue to do so. Please pray for them. Abrerra Family and Gonzales Family.
Thank you for all of your prayers and words of comfort and counsel. Thank you also for all the missionaries serving in your wards that you help, and feed. There are many people who have in turn watched over and cared for and fed me since the day I arrived in the Philippines.

— Elder Southwick

* * * * * * * *

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Epistle of Daniel the Missionary to the Filipinos - Chapters 8 & 9

In the eighth and ninth months, 2015 A.D.

I'm really starting to feel the pull of the closeness of the end of my mission, but I'm still focusing on it. My mind is here, and my heart is here, but the impending close of my missionary life is becoming more of a reality as the days wind down. I knew it was coming, but it's inching its way into the forefront of my mind. I'm sure when I start extending baptismal dates in December the time will begin to fly on wings of lightning. I am reminded of my stay on Palawan, and how the last week flew by in an instant, and I was not able to get half of the things done that I planned to do. The same thing might happen again if I don't plan carefully. One thing I have learned from my mission is the importance of planning; the further in advance the better. Especially if it's something that is sure to happen. I know that I'll be going home in 4 months, so it's only natural for me to start thinking about how I ought to prepare for and plan for such a big event in my life. Some of my investigators are already making such plans.

I am very grateful for all of the emails that I have received and for the continuing love and support of each one of you. I will try to return the favor over the years after I come back home.

* * * * * * * *

I was blessed to be able to go on MTC exchanges this week and it was very successful. We spent the first hour doing the important, but hard part of missionary work; OYMing. Our first few appointments fell through, so we looked for people to teach, and then after putting Elder Kinikini (from Fiji) through that I took him and his teacher, who kind enough to accompany us, to the neighborhood of our progressing investigators. We taught 3 of them about the Restoration, one of them hearing it for the second time, but all of them insisting on being taught and eagerly anticipating our arrival. Elder Kinikini struggled to explain the first vision in Tagalog, and the investigators helped him and encouraged him to keep going. No criticism or mocking took place, and I feel as though each of us were edified and rejoiced together in the testimony of Fijian, and his Filipino teacher.

4 investigators and 4 kids came to church this week despite our lack of diligence and time management and obedience. They are all progressing towards baptism and I’m going to make sure that they understand the gospel in such a way that they will never go less active, and they will be a blessing to future missionaries.

1. Sister Cristina Dela Cruz - 24 yrs old - Say's we're the people she was looking for. Is trying to raise 2 kids mostly by herself. Always puts on a smile, even if it's a nervous smile.      
-Her 2 kids - 3 and 7 yrs old - Love it when we visit. Used to be shy, but now they're our friends.

2. Sister Elizabeth Dela Pena - 36 yrs old - Very intelligent yet easy to teach. She remembers everything. She knows my birthday, my going home date, my companion's birthday, other missionaries in the wards' birthdays, my first name, my middle name, how many siblings I have, my Facebook account (we're friends now), my height, and nearly all the mission rules.
-Her 2 kids - 7 and 13 yrs old

3. Sister Tracy Detros - 11 yrs old
-Her little sister, Collyn - 7 yrs old - I'll talk about these last few next week.

* * * * * * * *

At this point in my mission, you wonderful people are one of the only reasons I want to come back to America. I love my country, but I've never felt so attached to a nation, as I do right now to the Philippines. I won't miss the concrete roads, houses, bridges, and stairs, or the baklas but I'll miss every sweet Filipino that ever invited us into their home, or gave me bread, or soda, or rice to eat. The people of the Philippines that I have met are a concentrated group of family loving, Christ centered people that I didn't know existed. I will miss them, But to be with my family again I will leave them.

Maybe I'm being a little over dramatic. My return flight was scheduled well in advance, and I would be going back home in December no matter how much I want to stay or how much I want to stay. I feel however that it's interesting to note that in my mind and in my heart this has become a dilemma at all.

20 months ago I could not have imagined that the thought of not returning home for any reason would even enter my mind, but 20 months ago I didn't have any idea what I was getting into. My heart is truly engaged in the work, and I have left behind all personal affairs. In fact, in my day to day life I rarely think about home. I know the months are going by and the time is fast approaching when I will be reunited with my family, but I'm too busy to think about that.

But I invite each one of you to stay with me for these last few months, and don't forget about me. One of the few times in the day that I think about you is when I kneel at night to pray. You have an important place in my prayers, and my life, and in a few short months that importance will be realized.

* * * * * * * *

I've been a missionary for a while now, and though I would not wish for it to end, I know that it shall come to pass that I shall return to the land of my fathers an hundred days after the time that ye shall receive this email.

But despite all of that, I'm still very engaged in the work. We're having a baptism on Saturday, and we're still teaching and working and doing missionary things, and I still enjoy it. You might even say I love it. I'll talk a lot about that baptism next week.

Keep up your hard work and don't worry too much about me. :) I'm in a great place.

* * * * * * * *

Two days from now is transfer day and I was pretty sure my companion would be transferred, and I was right. I'll get my new companion in two days. But I will also be transferring, and for the first time in forever I will be a district leader and I will have a stewardship. The ward I will be assigned in is either Sampoloc or Manila YSA Ward.

I don't know the name of my companion yet, but I know that he will also be part of my stewardship.

I've been a missionary for about 20 months and I had not yet been assigned a leadership position other than senior companion. I thought I would 'die' as a normal missionary doing normal missionary things. But now I have a stewardship, and I already love and care about them. I can't wait to teach them and guide them and work with them. I'm super excited actually. I also thought this area would be my last, but I look forward to learning a new area again and meeting hundreds of new people.

The Baptism of Sister Dela Pena and her son Darryl was the first and only baptism I had in this area, but Cristina Dela Cruz (the 24-year-old on the left) has accepted a baptismal date in January after she gets married to her boyfriend.

The baptism itself was a great success, not mentioning the fact that the piano was out of order for the whole service, or that the service itself started an hour late. It was stressful but it was wonderful. I'm going to miss these people.

* * * * * * * *

Due to the burdens of being a District Leader I've seem to run out of email time again. I've included for your viewing pleasure, my letter to President Ostler this week. Hopefully this will give some insight into my week.

I'm in charge of the missionary work in 2 wards. Sampaloc and MYSA (or Manila Young Single Adult Ward) Also, the other 4 missionaries in my district, other than my companion, Elder Coloma, are sister missionaries. These are their names:

Sister Cantos - Philipina, speaks a lot of English, and has 1 transfer left in her mission.
Sister Tabayoyong - Philipina, speaks some English
Sister Langkilde - Samoan, speaks Samoan, English and Tagalog almost fluently, and has 1 and ahalf transfers left in her mission.
Sister Jumaran - Philipina, brand new missionary being trained by Sister Langkilde, speaks little English, and is quickly learning Tagalog, her native language is Cebuano.

Next week we have a district meeting, so next next week I'll send a picture of all of us.
Neither me or my companion have a camera.

Dear President,

I've been very blessed to have such wonderful missionaries in my District. I'm very excited for these coming months.

Sister Tabayoyong was sick for 3 days this week so they were unable to work as much as they wanted to. We brought food and water and gatorade to them on Wednesday, because their kabahays weren't available yet, so now I know where their apartment is.

Our entire district was low on OYMs this week. I was lacking also. With very few OYMs on Monday and Tuesday, and Wednesday due to transfers, and my own laziness and neglectfulness , we were left with 4 days to get all the necessary OYMs. We got 18 as a companionship. Sunday was a very hard day for missionary work. We studied for 30 minutes in the morning then went to our first sacrament meeting. Between meetings we had lunch and Coordination with MYSA. Then after the second sacrament meeting we had a Ward Council meeting we were invited to attend. After that we went to our area, got rejected 2 times, OYMed 2 people and had to return home to finish our studies, and follow-up and report, and plan and eat and sleep..

This is one of the reasons why we need our apartment to be closer to the church. I want to be able to proselyte for more that 30 minutes on Sunday. It's a great day to teach and find students and families because it's usually one of their days off.

Another reason why we need to move is so that we can be closer to the sisters in my stewardship. In case of emergency it takes at least 20 minutes to get there, and there are no other missionaries nearby. On top of that, we would really like to be closer to the church so that we can teach there. Many of our lessons happen at the church, and it takes time and money to get there every time..

I don't want to burden you with this, and the 'only girls' thing in our current apartment doesn't seem like it's going to be a problem, but we would still like for you to consider letting us move for the reasons listed above. But we won't look for a house until we have your approval.

Thank you again for allowing me the privilege of being a leader. I know I have been called, and I'm constantly endevouring to be chosen.

-Elder Southwick

* * * * * * * *

So little time. I have been writing in my journal very diligently, and I promise that the stories of my mission are not going to be lost, but please wait just a little bit longer to know them in full. 

We have 2 baptisms this coming Saturday, and to you that probably sounds like great news, and it is great news, but there were supposed to be 3.. Sister Zaira, a 19-year-old college student, was ready to be baptized, and she passed her interview last Saturday, but she was unable to come to church yesterday, and that was the second time in a row, so according to our mission rules, which I try very hard to follow, I had to tell her through a text that we would have to delay her baptism. I really want her to be baptized, and her member friend insists that she's ready, and she had legitimate excuses for both absences; that's what made it the hardest. 

Now she doesn't want to talk to us or come to church anymore.. 

I'm not depressed, and I don't want any of you to be, but I realized last night and today that people are fragile and the testimony of an investigator is easily damaged, or destroyed. In this case, it was unpreventable, and I feel that I made the right decision, but I remember times when it was preventable, and it was my decision. 

Let us all be kind, and tender to those whom we profess to love and care about. In terms of our hearts, fragile and precious are perfect synonyms. Let us not forget the things that are precious to us and how fragile they are.

* * * * * * * *

I've never made more mistakes in any of my areas than I have in this one. I'm sure that I'm a better missionary than I used to be, and I'm constantly getting better at Tagalog, but the mistakes are deeper than that. Some of them are. 

As a leader I'm asked to make big decisions on a regular basis, and I've never really been in a position like that before. I'm the one in charge, (righteous dominion of course) and because of all the responsibilities I feel somewhat pressured, and I make mistakes.

The biggest mistake was actually the subject of my last email. Zaira was very ready to be baptized and before I got here she'd been coming to church for at least 2 months, and with that in mind I had no reason to delay her baptism, she had already come to church 4 times, she missed church 2 times, but only because of things that she had very little control over. Zaira was very upset when I told she could not be baptized on the date we had planned. On Monday night, after reviewing the Standards for Baptism, given to us by our Area President, I texted her and told her that I was wrong, and that she could be baptized. 

For a while I was worried if she would still want to be baptized, but I soon found out that she was indeed ready, and she forgave me and quickly became excited again for her baptism. (She also shared this experience in her testimony after her baptism; I was embarrassed by my mistake)  

Also, an interesting phenomenon occurred with the baptismal plans. Kelly, who ought to have been baptized, informed us that she was not ready to be baptized yet because of a concern that we had no idea about. So my email last week was not completely wrong. 2 of the 3 candidates were baptized.

I'm confident that Kelly can prepare herself and be baptized in October. 

The baptism was a success though. I was in tears for a part of it. I didn't perform the baptisms myself, so I was able to just watch, and it's amazing how such a short, simple, easy to administer ordinance can be so powerful. I thought I felt a change in the atmosphere as soon as they stepped in the water, and each 15 second ordinance filled my soul.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Epistle of Daniel the Missionary to the Filipinos - Chapters 6 & 7

In the sixth and seventh months, 2015 A.D.

In each apartment I've lived in the rent has been paid for by the mission and the bills have been divided among those in the apartment. Having us pay the electric and water bills help us learn to manage our use of these utilities, and helps us to be conservative. Water bills range from 200-300 pesos (or 5-7 dollars) for 4 missionaries for a whole month, and electricity is about 1,000-1,500 pesos (or 22-34 dollars) for 4 missionaries for a month. In my current apartment however there is a bill that must be paid on or before the 15th of every month. It's called "association dues".  It costs exactly 2,550 pesos (or 57 dollars) every month. It pays for the building security, the elevators, the pool, the basketball court, and the other things associated with living where we live. However, no one in my apartment wants to pay it, so I end up paying it every month. Although it is a reimbursable expense unlike the other bills. The mission understands that such a bill would place an undue burden on missionaries.

As a missionary, I learn and experience many great and wonderful things for myself, but I'm also blessed to learn from association many great and important things that I never had to struggle and endure myself. I've learned many lessons about leadership, even though I myself have seldom been a leader. I've learned how to rise above challenges that I've not yet encountered, and I've been blessed to learn from association, and rarely from experience, that wickedness never was happiness. So to my many associations I am greatly indebted. I am grateful that there are no bills for such associations, but if there were I would pay them rather than suffer myself to learn of all the pain.

I'm sure Satan is disappointed when we learn to do what is right by association. He intends for each of us to experience all of the pain and suffering that our neighbors experience. He truly desires that all men might be miserable, like unto himself. When we see our friend struggling because of a bad decision and we say in our hearts and commit to ourselves that we will never make the mistake they made we remove entirely that weapon from the devil's arsenal.

Here's a sports example. A curve ball is a powerful weapon of an astute pitcher, but only if the batter is not expecting it or has not seen it before. Either curving into or out of the strike zone at the last millisecond, this pitch can and has fooled nearly everyone who has seen it, at one time or another. If however, upon watching his teammate at the plate, a player notices a variance in the pitcher's delivery of his curve, as compared to his other pitches he has indeed "removed this weapon from his arsenal". Even if this player has not yet taken a pitch from this particular pitcher he knows how to predict, and thus how to avoid, the pitfalls of this pitch. This knowledge alone will not save him, but if he acts on this knowledge and is watchful and mindful he will not be deceived.

How many times does a mistake have to be repeated before we resolve and commit to avoid it. The answer is way less than 1. If we are truly watchful God will give us many chances to watch the 'pitcher' before our plate appearance, as well as after. Our Father in Heaven intends for us to learn some things from experience. A batter will not be worth his weight in rice unless he's had many personal experiences in the batters' box. But let us all be grateful for the things that we are blessed to learn from association, and not seek to experience every pain of soul, and every sin, in our ignorance forgoing the blessing of eyes that see and ears that hear.

 * * * * * * * *

This week we had a really cool activity called Flight 2015. It wasn't a real flight, but it was a simulated flight that ended with a simulated crash after which all of those involved were taken to a room and taught about the plan of salvation, and where we go after we die.
Four of our investigators came to the activity. There were about 100 people that attended, some members, but many non-members. It was really well planned out, and it was all in Tagalog which was awesome because sometimes they speak too much English at our church meetings and some of the investigators don't understand any of it. I used to fall asleep when they spoke Tagalog in church, but now I can understand most of what they say, and I stay awake easily in church.
Anyway, after the plane crash and the classes about where we go when we die, and the rest of the plan of salvation, there was a Q&A portion, and the investigators asked questions which we as missionaries took turns answering. I only had to answer one question and there weren't many questions asked, but the whole atmosphere at the activity was celestial. It even made me ponder about the next life, and our purpose here.
When one of our investigators asked questions about baptism and joining the church I was surprised and happy. I didn't know that those were even on her mind. We have only taught this investigator 3 times, and we haven't given her a baptismal date yet.
I know that the Lord is preparing people and that the gospel is true, maybe the time will come when I won't be surprised by the miracles of missionary work, but maybe not.

* * * * * * * *

I have to admit, there were more long emails than I had time to read today, so I apologize if there was something you requested or asked me about because I haven't yet read them. I've saved them to this computer and I will print them out, but if you have an urgent concern or question send it separately in a small email. But don't stop sending those long emails. I love reading those, and I read all of them.
I remember a few weeks ago I was worried that I was being forgotten. I was worried that I'd been away from my family and friends for so long that I was pushed further and further into the back of your mind, and further down on your list of priorities.
But now I've begun praying about everything and worrying about nothing.
Try it. It works.
And I'll tell you more about my experiences next week. The time is far spent.

* * * * * * * *
I'm very grateful for all of the things that have been happening and I feel like I should share some of those things with you.
1. Investigators at church - A few weeks ago we were struggling with getting anyone to come to church. We tried over and over again inviting people to church, and even offering to pick them up. Even showing up to pick them up. Occasionally that resulted in them coming to church once, but then they wouldn't come the next week. The people we were trying to get to church were mostly primary age investigators, and we seemed to be hitting a brick wall. However, just more than a month ago we met Elizabeth Dela Pena, and she's been to church 4 times in a row now. To our surprise she has brought a new investigator to church each time. The first week it was just her, but then it was her and her son, then her and her son and her aunt, then she brought her older son to a baptism last Saturday, and yesterday she brought both of her sons and her husband to church, and they stayed for all 3 hours. Sister Elizabeth was someone we just met while we were proselyting. I know that very little of her progression in the church is due to the things that we've done. The Lord prepared her to hear the word.
2. Overwhelmed with food - Every week we have 2 set dinner appointments. One on Sunday nights, and one on Wednesday nights, and on top of that we usually get fed some sort of snack every day. Sometimes a whole meal, and sometimes more than one. If you've been praying for me to be well fed then you're prayers have been answered.
3. Stress investigators - Some of our investigators just seem to add stress to my life and don't really progress. They progress just enough that I feel like we need to help them, but they don't do the hard things like come to church on their own, or pray with real intent. There were about 7 or 8 of these kind of investigators in my area last week, but I found out last Sunday that 4 or 5 of these investigators don't actually live in my area. We thought they did, and we taught them as if they did. They actually live in the Zone Leaders' area. They gladly accepted them as new investigators, and maybe they can help them turn their lives around. So far, I still haven't seen them at church, but now the stress is off my shoulders. :)

Wish I could say more, but this is the substantialness I can muster right now. :)
* * * * * * * *

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Epistle of Daniel the Missionary to the Filipinos - Chapter 5

In the fifth month, 2015 A.D.

Thanks for all the emails, and for those of you that didn't send me one, thanks for your prayers on my behalf, and for those of you that didn't pray for me, thanks for at least reading my emails, and for those of you that don't read my emails, I'd like to say "You're the kind of people Moroni was talking about in Alma 60:14", but I would never say that.

It's been a great week, and I've really enjoyed this new area in Pasay 3rd Ward. The members here are incredible, and they love working with us. And in my first 5 days in this area there were 3 family home evenings that we were invited to. 

But sadly, I'm going to be transferred again on Wednesday. This will be my shortest time ever served in an area by far, as you can see in this chart and illustration:

Area:    Days:
1          126   ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]
2          168   ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]
3          158   ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]
4          10     ]]

]  =  5 Days

I have a lot to do now that I'm transferring. I have to pack my bags again and say goodbye to all the members I just met. I wish I could stay longer, but I actually had a feeling that I would transfer. I'm excited for a new area and companion. It's weird to imagine, but the area I transfer to could be my last area..

I'm trying to remember the things that I've done this week, but I can't stop thinking about transferring.

Elder Reupta and I haven't taught many lessons in this area, but we've spent a lot of time with the members. I adore the members here. The Pestanas family is one of my favorites, they feel like my brothers and sisters already. The Driz family is similar, and the De Dios family is very much the same.

The reason that I love these families so much is because I was their missionary, for however short a time. Being a missionary would be pointless without the people that we teach. So think to yourself who's missionary you are. If you share the gospel with anyone you could become or may already be their missionary. 

I had an experience in my second area regarding my first area. I was in Roxas and far away from my first area in Bonifacio (part of Manila) and one P-day I received an email from an investigator in my first area. Her name is Gizelle Salas. No one in her family was a member of the church, and we had visited her a few times and she seemed excited to listen, but her family was generally absent during these lessons, and she was only able to come to church 2 times, about a month apart. I was hoping she would be baptized but it seemed like something that would not happen at any time in the near future. 

The email I received informed me that Gizelle was baptized. The day she was baptized was 4 weeks after I left the area. I still don't know what changed or why she was baptized so soon after I left because she was not coming to church when I left, I was so happy about the whole thing that I didn't care to ask. I was her missionary, and I scarcely knew it. I didn't know that her heart was listening as we taught her. 

It's difficult to know who is truly listening and who will be changed based on the things you share with them. I was blessed to find out about the baptism of Gizelle, and with all of the people that I've taught and talked with about the gospel it is naive to think that Gizelle is the only one who has since accepted the gospel and been baptized. She is merely the first one that I found out about. 

So if you've had a chance to share even a piece of the gospel with a friend or invited a co-worker to be taught by the missionaries or given a Book of Mormon to anyone, thank the Lord that you've had such an opportunity. You might not hear the sweet story of the conversion of the few that were listening in this life, but those people we greet you in the next life with open arms and will forever be grateful that you were their missionary.

-Elder Southwick

* * * * * * * *

I really have no idea where I am. I know it's called Mandaluyong, but I haven't seen a map since I got here. I don't know where our area is in relation to the Church, I don't know where our apartment is in relation to either, and I don't know where we are right now. I just know it's called star mall. 

My new companion is Elder Claro, and he is Philipino. I've been following him around for a the past few days. He knows where everything is somehow. I think he has a map in his head. I could have him explain it to me, but he would probably just confuse me.

I'll have more to talk about next week. The Detros and Milan family will likely be brought up. They're some investigators we're teaching, and they're quickly becoming my close friends. I don't really miss my old areas, I'm happy to be serving here in Mandaluyong, and I was also very happy to be able skype with my parents and adorable siblings. They're all so big now. 

* * * * * * * *

This week was awesome, and it was mostly because of the new investigators that we had. We had 13 new people listen to our message this week. Admittedly, none of them came to church, but some of them wanted to and were just unable to do so. I was hopeful that they would come to church anyway, but I understand the setbacks that they're facing. Some of them have no one to go with them and are too young to go by themselves, and some of them are single mothers that are almost literally too busy to come to church on Sunday, but we'll work on building their faith. 

I want all of them to come to church because I care about them so much. I wish I could just rent a van and drive them all to church each Sunday, but that would be cheating, and they would likely stop coming to church the moment it required a sacrifice from them. This was also a problem I faced in Palawan. Many many people want to come to church, and many of them say that they would if it was closer. "I'll go to church again when they build one that's closer. No one likes a long walk to church, and no one wants to pay 15 pesos for themselves and each one of their kids to take a jeepney or trike or bus to church. But such sacrifices are those that make strong leaders, and strong testimonies.

I remember one lesson on Tuesday earlier this week, our first lesson after the Zone Leaders told us to sing at each appointment. It was a roomful of soon to be new investigators that had never been taught before by missionaries. After we sang Families Can Be Together Forever, I was blessed to give the opening prayer. I prayed for these people that I barely knew and I prayed that their family would be blessed, and when I finished the prayer I lifted up my head and I felt a warm peace. It was as though we were not alone, abut among all of us there was someone else. At that moment their home was a holy place, and remained so as we taught them about the importance of families and the gospel. It was the first time in months that I saw an investigator cry. As they each shared about why their family is important to them a mother, whose own parents had separated, expressed her deep desire that her family would always be together.

Experiences like this really make it easy to love being a missionary. I care so much about Cherry and her family. It hurt my heart to hear about her ‘broken family’ and I felt the truthfulness of the words in Preach my Gospel “Satan is attacking the family on many fronts, and TOO MANY families are being destroyed by his efforts.”

Now, raising a family is not easy. It wasn't meant to be. A journey of a thousand miles is generally not fun, but if you press forward and lean not on thy own strength, and never give up then you will be infinitely stronger and more blessed than those who were to afraid to start the journey, or wimped out in the midst of it. 

Be faithful. Endure. Don't compromise years of sacrifice by giving up now. God is at the helm. He will overrule for your good. He has promised us angels on our right and on our left to bear us up, and he always keeps his promises.

I know these things are true. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

* * * * * * * *

I've received many emails from some of you about how you are dealing with life's challenges. I hope you know that I'm learning things from your experiences, and your examples of enduring to the end. Some of you feel alone in this effort. Some of you are surrounded by those that love you, but may still feel overwhelmed by the things that life throws at us. I can say us because I'm not ignorant to the presence of challenges in my life. In fact, that couldn't be much further from the truth. But the belief that we are alone in our trials or that there is no relief from such also could not be further from the truth.

If you have ever read John 3:16, and understood it, then you know that a gift was given, a sacrifice was made, and a price was paid, all that we might not perish. Our loving father does not intend for us to perish to any degree. He weeps when we suffer, and offers relief to those who may be wandering in darkness and pain. The trials that he gives are calculated to bring enough sadness to humble us, enough experience to teach us, and enough difficulty to strengthen us. None of these trials are meant to destroy us or cause us to perish. He in His infinite wisdom and through His grace we will always be able to bear them.

As he did with the people of Alma when they turned to Him, as recorded in the Book of Mosiah, He will "ease the burdens...that even ye cannot feel them upon your backs"

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Epistle of Daniel the Missionary to the Filipinos - Chapter 3

In the third and fourth months, 2015 A.D.

Recently my mission President asked each of us to be clean. This seems like a simple request, and it ought to be, but I have been well acquainted with much of the filth that exists in the world, as many of us have. As fun as playing in the mud may seem at the time, it makes you dirty, and it doesn't come out with a light rinse. I've been on the earth for many days, and I've not avoided all the pitfalls, but I can trace back a long line of good things that I've done.

Many days indeed have passed since, as a young man, I applied for college, and as a newly ordained elder, gave my first priesthood blessing, and as a newly called missionary, taught my first lesson, and as a full-time missionary baptized my first family. Indeed, many days have past since I learned to be patient. But I'm not done doing good or making any changes I should to my life and character.

With the landfall of March, I hope to be a new person. As children of Our Heavenly Father we are all intended to progress. If a day passes and we have not grown or learned or changed, even by small degrees, we are not fulfilling the measure of our creation.

God will, over the course of our lives, give us many chances to learn, grow and change ourselves when needed. We call them trials. Although, God would never inflict harm on us, he knows that all the love in the universe would never foster the "mighty change of heart" or the "broken heart and contrite spirit" that is required to return to live with Him, so he allows Satan to test and try us. 

Satan is real. Bad things can and do happen to wonderful, amazing people because there is opposition. He would love for us to believe otherwise. His work and his 'glory' is to destroy us.
Read and re-read 2 Nephi 4:16-35, and ponder on Nephi's words. Satan hates every one of us, more than we can understand, don't give place for him in your mind or in your heart.

And even all this by itself is not enough to come off the conqueror. In addition to all of this we must cling to our Savior with all diligence. Learn of Him, embrace Him and follow Him. He who is said to be the "Light of the World" is indeed the only source from which darkness flees. 

Let us not sit in darkness, hoping, by and by that the darkness will flee. But let us labor in seeking for the Light, that we may be ready.

Time flies on wings of lightning, we cannot call it back. Work while the sun is radiant. Work for the night draws nigh. As Jesus Himself said "I must do the works of Him that sent me while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work."

* * * * * * * *

Before my mission I did everything possible to avoid being labeled as childish, and rightly so, but we use the word 'childish' in such a way that it seems we have forgotten the Savior's words about the attributes of children. 

I happen to be very fond of children and seem to understand them on a level that is not very common. I enjoy talking to them, even when they cannot yet speak their mind the way they would want to I listen with all my heart, and look for ways to communicate. I then help them solve their little problems which seem huge to them. It brings me great joy when I can see in their eyes that they realized I helped them. 

I've had many such experiences on my mission which was not something that was mentioned in my call letter, at least not specifically. However, they are treasured moments that help me remember that we are all part of God's family and he blesses us when we serve each other. This service can take many forms and has no age limit.

One of these experiences was last Saturday at a church activity. It was the annual Relief Society activity, and there were hundreds of faithful sisters and their husbands in attendance. There was dancing and singing and food from every corner of the Philippines. I would have tried all of it, but most of it was gone when I went back for seconds. Anyway, there were many people there that I had never seen before. Members from other wards and other stakes, and many of them brought their kids with them. 

About half way through the activity I found myself just outside the doors of the cultural hall where the activity was being held. I was glad to be outside because of the hosts of people crowding the hall. As I was standing there I saw a little girl. She couldn't have been older than 2. When I looked at her, her eyes met mine and she had a distressed look on her face. I thought it was because she was not accustomed to seeing tall Americans, but as I continued to look at her with a questioning look on my face she locked her eyes on me and began to walk towards me. I was confused. I thought she was scared of me. In fact, I thought that was the very reason for the look on her face, but she approached me.

As she drew near she reached out her hand and I took it in mine. I was astounded as she then led me by the hand into the cultural hall, still distressed and upset, but now hopeful that I would help her. By this point I was very confused. I tried asking her questions to no avail. She didn't say a word. But as we entered the activity another member recognized her and noticing her distress picked her up. 

This member then explained that he would take her to her mother. Then he thanked me. I realized then that she was alone and looking for her family, and no one had taken notice of her, until I saw her, and somehow she saw something in my eyes that led her to think that I would help her. She walked to me, a stranger, and without words I helped her. I don't feel as though I really did anything. She led me, she walked to me, and she discerned my goodness and I was glad to be there for her long before I understood her problem. I was there to help.

I don't know her name. I don't know her family, I couldn't even guess what ward she's from, and I will likely never see her again, but sweet opportunities to help the Lord's little children are precious to me, and I will remember her. I will remember her FAITH when she saw me and believed I would help. I will remember her TRUST when she grabbed my hand with her tiny one and did not doubt that I was good, and her HOPE when she pulled me along not knowing where to go or how to her problem would be solved.

If you spend enough time with children you will begin to admire their childish attributes of trust, love-unfeigned, humility and faith. (just to name a few) It is one of my goals to become as a child in all such ways. When I grow up to be a man I want to be submissive, meek, patient and full of love. Even as a Child.

I know that I am a Child of God, and I pray that my age and status and pursuits never interfere with that knowledge, and same to you. :)

Mahal kita kapatid
-Elder Southwick

* * * * * * * *

2 weeks ago I had been in Pasay 4th Ward for 5 months, and I had taught hundreds of lessons, and talked to hundreds more people, but had no real success. I didn't view my efforts as wasted, knowing that I had been doing what I could, but I had come to the realization that a baptism was something that would have to wait until my next area. 

Then the sister missionaries told us that there was a family they were teaching that might actually live in our area, so we tried to contact that family. We then found out that one of their daughters had a scheduled baptismal date for April 18, and it was going to be our baptism. The diligent sister missionaries have taught Juliz 34 lessons in the last 4 months trying to prepare her for baptism. She was baptized on April 17th and by her choice I baptized her. She was confirmed on April 19th and I confirmed her. It was awesome, and now this 9 year old girl that I met less than a month ago is like a sister to me. She is so sweet and I hope I can remain in contact with her forever. 

I can truly testify that God's timing is not the same as our timing, but now I see that not as a reason for patience, but also a reason for hope. Even when I thought all hope was lost, and I thought there was not any time left, the Lord stepped in and showed me that He can do anything with any amount of time.

I'm grateful for the sisters that taught Sister Juliz Naigan, and for the chance to be such a big part of her life. I'm often surprised at the love Jesus offers me; confused by His timing, but humbly accepting of it.

I love you guys,
-Elder Southwick

* * * * * * * *

I'm happy to report that my companion and I are still together and still getting along great, and last Friday, 2 weeks before transfer day my companion got a call from the Zone Leaders and they informed him that we were being emergency transferred to a new ward the next day. We're still in the same apartment, and we're still companions, but Elder Reupta and I are no longer assigned in Pasay 4th Ward, but have moved to Pasay 3rd Ward.

It's such a close transfer that our house is still ideally positioned to work there every day. One major difference is that Pasay 3rd meets in a different chapel.

However, as a stake they're having a volleyball tournament, and there was a game the day we were transferred. So on Saturday when we went to the chapel to participate in a Ward Family Home Evening, we saw the teams that were playing: Pasay 4th Ward, against Pasay 3rd Ward. My companion and I really didn't know who to cheer for. We sat with Pasay 4th, but we didn't cheer very much, aside from the occasional "Go Pasay". I didn't know what else to say.

So, after 3.7 transfers in Pasay I was preparing for the inevitable transfer to a new area and a new apartment, and to be assigned a new companion, I thought I knew what the future had in store. I thought I would be transferred on transfer day, but I guess that would be too predictable.

In other news, I finished the Book of Mormon again yesterday. It seems to get shorter and shorter. Alma is always exciting, and Moroni is a bit depressing. I'm haunted by chapter 9, but thank goodness for chapter 10. It makes me feel less alone when I think of what Mormon and Moroni went through. They witnessed the destruction of their own people, and were forbidden to preach unto the people because of the hardness of their hearts. They had distanced themselves from God so much as to obscure their view of good and evil. They exemplified the doctrine that the Spirit does not always strive with men. The wonderful gift of the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil, but even this sweet gift can be driven away by pride, and contention, and war.

I'm going to do all that I can to ensure that the Spirit does not cease to strive with me. I will stand in holy places and be not moved, and I will let charity fill my heart and mind, and I will follow the example that Jesus set when he said: "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart, neither shall my covenant of peace be removed."

I'm trying to be like Jesus, I'm following in His ways.

-Elder Southwick

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Epistle of Daniel the Missionary to the Filipinos - Chapter 2

In the second month, 2015 A.D.

Your many emails are a pleasure to read and ponder. You are all very dear to me no matter where you are at this time. I haven't seen many of you for more than a year, and you might be happy to know that I'm not the same person I was.

I've changed in many ways, but you probably notice them more than I do. Especially because I'm too busy to really pay any attention to myself. I'm really enjoying missionary service, and I'm looking forward to interviews with the mission president this Wednesday. I'm super excited to see my very first recent convert family go through the temple to be sealed. That will likely happen in the middle of March, which is getting closer all the time.

I have not always been as obedient as a missionary ought to be, or as a child of God ought to be, but I've tried to cultivate in myself an attitude of exact obedience. In last First Presidency Message Thomas S. Monson said "the greatest single lesson we can learn in mortality is that when God speaks and His children obey, they will always be right." I've tried to convince myself of that truth so that I will have the strength and the tenacity to be exactly obedient no matter what. All of the excuses become meaningless as I realize that the Lord cannot be wrong, and his guidance through prophets and inspired leaders is always given with our best interest in mind, even when we don't understand His ways, they are still right.

Now, on to the story of this week.

I've been rejected many times before. Knocking on doors rarely brings success even if it's a familiar door. If someone does answer the door, they usually have an excuse ready. Some common ones are "they are sleeping"; "they just got home"; "I just woke up"; "I'm busy"; "I'm Catholic"; "I was just leaving" and many others. Some are more understandable than others, but even the lame excuses can keep us from teaching people. So I was not harshly disappointed when, upon visiting his house on Sunday, an investigator of ours answered the door and said he was about to leave and take his family somewhere for dinner. My companion and I were, understandably, understanding of his situation, especially considering that we had neglected to call of text him or in any other way inform him of our coming. So we left with the promise that next time we would at least text him first to see if he's available.

Not even five minutes later, having walked a good distance from his house, he called us on the phone and told us to come back. He said he changed his mind. When we got back there he said that the word of God is more important than his plans to go out with his family. He invited us in and openly apologized for turning us away. It was probably the most appreciated apology that I've received on my mission. He probably didn't know that there have been hundreds of instances in my mission when I have been rejected, dismissed and sent away from others with much less valid excuses, but Bernie, out of the goodness of his heart told us to return and apologized.

After that we prayed with him and taught him about prophets. Throughout the lesson he agreed with the doctrines we taught him, and towards the end declared "I believe the things you've told me" I'm am hopeful that he will come to church this week and become truly converted to the truth that he so deserves. I won't forget this man, and neither will God forget those who call to Him, no matter how oft or how crudely you have rejected Him.

* * * * * * * * * *

First off, I will have a new companion on Wednesday. I think his name is Elder Harera. I'm excited. I love Elder Seculles, but I'm excited to have some changes. Also, one of my kabahay is my dating kasama sa MTC. I'll let you know how that goes.

But this last week we talked to a lot of people trying and trying to find someone to teach, and mostly we were unsuccessful. One day this week a member worked with us, but he's leaving to serve a mission later this week, so he probably won't work with us again. We did however, find some other members that are willing to work with us later this week, and I'm excited for that. My companion and I tried to share the gospel with many people, but only 11 kids came to church this Sunday, and 9 of them for the second time. I don't mean to be pessimistic, I would just be much more excited if their parents would come too, or if some of the other people who said they would come actually came. I do love those kids though, ​and they do enjoy coming to church.

It makes me feel like I'm doing something right every time I see them and realize they wouldn't know anything about the church if we hadn't introduced it to them.

If you don't mind, keep them in your prayers. Many of them want to get baptized. Pray for their parents to accept the gospel that they might see all of the blessings of the gospel as families. In this picture there are 5 different families, and there are more that want to come, but aren't allowed to. Pray for their parents to open their hearts and their homes. I'll do all I can to show them through their children that the gospel blesses families.

I know you weren't expecting for me to ask you to do something, but prayer is easy and it brings miracles.

I also learned in Gospel Principles class that if you don't feel like praying, you should pray until you do. I've had to do that before. It's humbling.

* * * * * * * * * *

I've had many interesting experiences this week, but I think I'll start with the most recent one. While reading through my emails I was surprised to see an email from a member in my first area. What surprised me even more was what the message contained. I found out that the mother of the family that we baptized in my first area, has abandoned her kids, and thus they will not be sealed in the temple next month.

It's hard to receive news like that. It makes me doubt my past effort in teaching them, and my current effort in praying for them. Did I not pray for them often enough or earnestly enough? Did I not do my part to help them stay active? I promised them that I would come to their family sealing and now I can't keep that promise. I love them. Did I not show that? What have done? What have I not done? 

I'm reminded of a scripture in D&C 18. Verse 16 reads: "..if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me in the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!"

To me, it could also be said: "..if your pain will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me that fell short of the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your pain if you should bring many souls unto me and they still fall short!" 

There were 8 hopeful souls, anxious, and preparing to be sealed as one. They were on their way... I'm not too upset about it, but I am hurt by what happened.

Anyway, in other news, yesterday we were visiting and picking up people to go to church. Our first 3 planned visits didn't happen. They were either gone or busy, but then I got the idea that we should pick up Sister Marinel, and when we got there she was waiting for us. 

We took her and went to pick up the kids that have always been willing and excited to come to church, however, upon our arrival none of them were ready yet, and some said they didn't want to come. 45 minutes later only 3 of them were ready to go, and after an hour 5 of them were completely ready to go. So we left with just the 6 of them, and I was happy, I know that it's not easy to go to church every week and sacrifice that time, and I was proud of the kids that had decided to join us. We all got on a jeepney and went to church. We dropped them off in their classrooms and went to our class. 

However, after 30 minutes a member told us to come out and see something. We got up and went out the door, and saw 4 of the kids that we left in our area standing in front of us. The children then explained to us that they had walked to church on their own. This surprised me and confused me, but it made me really happy at the same time. I hope their parents knew that they did that. 

After the classes, for the first time ever, they all sat in their seats and were generally reverent for all of sacrament meeting, even though I was not able to sit with them for most of the meeting because I had the surprise assignment of playing the piano for the whole meeting. It was surely memorable. 

So despite all of the ups and downs of missionary work, the ups are always the most memorable, and the successes are the easiest to see. My mission has had disappointments, but for the most part I don't remember them. I remember the moments when everything went right.

* * * * * * * * * *

It's been 8 days since I last emailed any of you, and for many of you it's been even longer. I could send a mass email to everyone I know, but I really consider each and every one of you before I add you to the send list. If it's been a while since you've received an email maybe this email has something in it that's just for you.

It's been 4 months since I've had a baptism, which may seem like a small drought, but in this mission we're expected to have about 1 baptism each month and the standard is actually 2 each month per companionship. I don't feel like a failure, I've baptized before in my mission, I'm just wondering if maybe there's something that I'm doing wrong.

I know that there are times when each of us must feel that way. If we don't it might be because we didn't read or understand or have yet to apply the principles taught in Elder Uchdorf's conference talk entitled "Lord, Is It I?" 

I have gone to the Lord in prayer and often confessed "Lord, it's me." and then asked "How can I change?" 

I've seen a lot change since I left home. I've had old friends get baptized, close friends leave on mission, good friends get married, and family members grow and progress in numerous ways. With all these changes I would hate to arrive home not a changed man. And with all the many changes that have and will continue to occur I need the Lord's guidance to know how to change myself in order to be successful in an ever changing world. 

Also, with all the many changes I would be living in fear of an uncertain future. Luckily, through trusting God, I'm not the least bit worried about what might happen after my mission. I know the Lord will prepare a way. I've seen Him do it before in my mission, and thank goodness, He doesn't change.

I would honestly love to share all of my experiences with you, but now I have no time for such an endeavor. I'll try my best to write about all of my experiences, if not in emails, in my journal or in letters. I'm really learning a lot from my mission, but at the end of the day, that's not even the main reason I'm here. So I have a lot to do.

See you soon,

-Elder Southwick 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Epistle of Daniel the Missionary to the Filipinos - Chapter 1

In the first month, 2015 A.D.

Dear Everyone,

I'm really glad to be serving a mission here in the Philippines especially at this time. There are so many nice people who are willing to listen to missionaries. I only wish I had more time to teach them. Recently we've had a hard time getting members to work with us, and it's resulted in some untaught lessons and unproductive days. 

No matter what ward you're in or how many missionaries are in your ward or branch you need to work with the missionaries. If you don't know the missionaries serving in your area you should introduce yourself. Regardless of your age or gender or activity in the church, the missionaries need your help. Don't wait for them to ask you, ask them. The missionaries have a lot on their plates and they will be pleased to receive help from anyone, but especially from a member of the church who knows the doctrines and principles of salvation. No matter how small your testimony may seem to you it may mean a world of difference to someone. In addition, every time you share your testimony it will grow.

If you are planning on serving your own mission you need the experiences that can only come from working with real missionaries in real situations. Pray for the strength to approach your ward or branch missionaries and ask them what you can do to help them. If the missionaries themselves don't seem excited about missionary work, a member who is excited about it might be just what they need to awake their own desire to serve the Lord. Don't wait for your situation to change, change it.

I've spent way too much time waiting for my ward to help us with the work, but I've started asking them specifically. I'm trying to make the best of my situation, and that's all we can ever do.

* * * * * * * *

I've been greatly blessed over the course of my mission. I've rarely been sick; I'm yet to experience a hurricane; There was an earthquake a few days ago, but I slept through it; I've baptized more people than I ever thought I would, and my life has never been more full or joyous. 

At the same time, my apartment is 20 minutes away from my area; my camera got stolen last week; two of my pants have ripped in various places; I'm slightly behind on my laundry again; only one person came to church this Sunday; none of our investigators are progressing; I don't know where half of our members or investigators live; I hurt my back a few days ago; I still don't speak the language fluently; and my shoes are on their last leg. (Pun intended)

So why am I so happy? It's a fair question. My life isn't easy, and I rarely get to do any of the fun things that I used to do. What's so awesome about missionary work that makes it enjoyable even in the worst of times?

It's the smiles on the faces of the people you teach. It's the kids who call me Mr. Bean. It's the less actives that come to church. It's the members who sacrifice their time to work with us. It's the stories that I hear of people I've impacted without even knowing it. It's the scriptures and the strength that comes daily reading. It's prayer and all the blessings of strengthening my relationship with my Father. All these things make it all worth it. No trial can take away the joy and no pain can take away the peace. It's inexplicable.

If you think a mission is awesome you're right. If you think it's easy you're insane.

In conclusion, I miss all of you dearly. Even if I don't know you as well as I'd like to. Keep doing the hard things that bring joy, and the sacrifices that bring forth the blessings of heaven.

* * * * * * * *

It's so hard to type emails when you have a time limit. It's stressful and it makes me feel very rushed. I'll do my best though. I usually do alright.

This week was very exciting. On Monday we went bowling, and I single-handedly lost the game for us. There were 6 of us, and it was senior companions against junior companions. We were losing at first and then we pulled ahead in the middle, but when we got to the 10th frame we were tied. I had been doing well. I'd gotten a few spares, but on the last two rolls I hit less than 1 pin. and my companion, playing for the senior companions, got a spare and then a strike. His first of the game. It was pitiful. But afterwards we played billiards and Elder Seculles and I won.

I've been trying extra hard to be obedient this week, motivated by a group of children that we've been teaching. If they're ever going to truly progress in the gospel we need to penetrate their homes, and convert their parents, and we're doing very well so far. With their parents permission we took many of them to church last week. There were 17 of us total. The hardest part was finding transportation to the church. We waited with them on the side of the road for a jeepney that was going to the right place and had enough room for all of us. We waited for about 20 minutes and then an old SUV stopped. It was empty other than the driver. I was excited by the fact that we finally had a ride, but then I realized that there were far too many of us. This vehicle had 8 or 9 seats, and only because of the 4 makeshift seats in the back. But we did it. 18 people rode in that car about 2 km or so. 1 driver, 2 elders, 1 member and 14 kids. The lack of seatbelts only made it easier to pile in.

They had a great time at church they didn't all stay in the sacrament hall for all of the meeting, but they enjoyed it, and even more, I enjoyed sharing one of the most sacred parts of my week sitting next to the kids that I've grown so close to.

They enjoyed the classes as well. I believe they made friends, and their relationship with one another seemed strengthened. I can't wait to follow up with them and ask them about the things they learned. 

Sadly, not all of them obtained permission from their parents, mostly because of their age. I know at least one girl spent some of her Saturday night crying because she was not allowed to come to church with us.

But they're awesome, and they remind me of my crazy little brothers. They hang off my arms like I'm their playset, but I never complain. I have so very little to complain about.

Wow, time moves on wings of lightning. I need to get back to work and teach some more people. I'm sorry if you were expecting more this week. I'll try to send more next week and I'll be better about sending pictures too.

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