A lot of prayers were answered in unexpected ways this week. I believe the overall highlight of this week was just appreciating being alive and having so much fun. I'm confident when I look back on this time of my life and just remember the little things, I will miss them dearly, and be forever grateful that they are permanently a part of who I am.
First of all, since Elder Dulaca is the district leader, we got to have splits this week with the Elders in Maddela. Maddela is a "small" town in the center of Quirino Province. The reason I put "small" in quotations is because although the city center is small in itself, the town of Maddela and its appendages spread out all over central Quirino. The main crop of Maddela is corn, considering it is a pretty mountainous region, and there isn't a whole lot of good space for growing rice. It is the farthest area to get to, by far, in our district. Elder Sogari, from Fiji, went up to our area in Cabarroguis with Elder Dulaca, and I went down to Maddela with Elder Arorong, who is part of the missionaries in my batch that came from the Manila MTC.
Splits are suppose to be one day only. However, due to some complications involving district leader responsibilities in Cabarroguis and distance of travel, our splits were extended to four days. Ha. I wish I knew that before I packed only one pair of clothes. Luckily, the members in Maddela are way nice and wash your clothes for you. And they cook food for you every day, including Biko, a sticky rice cake native to this area. They fed us a lot, and if you don't eat everything they give you, they don't let you leave. So, in other words, I gained back my weight. Hooray! Since I was there for so long, I consider Maddela my unofficial second area. We had a ton of fun there.
One of the sisters there in Maddela is a returned missionary. She shared an experience with me I'd like to reiterate. On her first week in the Olongapo mission, her trainer was a really flat person. She was exactly obedient, and hard-working every day. However, she had no sense of humor, and condemned anything that would "waste time" in the slightest. Consequently, this sister felt serious contempt for her trainer. Eventually, these feelings led her to request to go home. Her mission president told her that he would give her one week to decide. The entirety of the week was as usual; boring, stressful, contentious. So many lessons, so little progression. The last day before her anticipated farewell, however, she met an unsuspecting man on the side of the street. They began to talk about life, laughing and enjoying each others company. Immediately after, the sister received an immediate urge to share the gospel with this man. After teaching their family, and many of their friends, that initial desire to go home shrunk and blew away, when put up against the light of sharing the gospel.
I think it is important to note that the reason she became immediately consumed with the desire to share the gospel is because she learned to share the gospel as herself. I remember Sean talking about this to me before I left, but I guess it just dawned on me in a way more applicable way this week. Those unexpected four days in Maddela were a true blessing for me. Not only because I got to meet new people and experience further beauty in the Philippines, but because when I returned to Cabarroguis, I was finally ready to change; not myself, but my paradigm, which had somehow become skewed along the way. For some reason, I had been inclined to reinvent myself here; because I was speaking a new language, because I was in a new country, and because I was a missionary. But now I see that this was a dangerous path to take, which led to vague self-confidence and a loss of personal security.
Whatever situations we may be in, don't forget who you are. Don't forget all that makes you yourself. I feel that this is one of the great challenges placed for us in this great test of life. It's what masks we endeavored to put on, and how we discovered to take them off. It adds new meaning to the scripture "those your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow." We came into this world white, and spotless. We've gotten ourselves pretty dirtied up now, and sometimes this renders us unrecognizable. But we have a surefire way to get rid of all this dirt, and it is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which if implemented in a genuine, personal way, not in a superficial show of righteousness, will indeed call upon the powers of the Infinite Atonement, and we'll be able to find ourselves again. Once we find our true selves, we will certainly be ready to return to our Father, and He will certainly be happy we didn't forget who we were.
Well, obviously, I still have a lot of learning to do, but I hope these insights have been helpful to you. I know all of your guidance and prayers in my behalf have been helpful to me, and have definitely been felt and heard. Off I go, on to the next challenge! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.