Happy Fathers Day!
Let me respond to some of the things happening over there first.
Tell Dad I love him and am so grateful for his example to me. He really taught me how to work hard, and more importantly, to do it well. I learned from him that whether it was mowing lawns or playing the guitar, the job ought to be done right. He also taught me to not look sideways in life, at what others are doing, but rather to look ahead. Thank you so much Dad!
I hope Grandma is doing alright. It makes me sad to picture her in such a fragile condition right now. Let her know I love her and am grateful for her. I think of her every time I put on those two ties she sent me. They are legitimately my favorite ties, no joking there.
Tanner's going to Hong Kong!? That's just, like, next door to Luzon! That's so awesome, he will do great! I remember him talking about how his teacher said he was so good at Chinese simply because he would make fun of the accent accurately. He's definitely going to be supplying a lot of laughs for the multi-cultural metropolis of Hong Kong. What an adventure.
There have been so many truly tangible blessings here this week. It has made me appreciate more what it really means to be blessed, and what a "blessing" really is. Perhaps I'll count them off for you; name them one by one.
One: Delicious Food and Amazing Friends
After long days at work this week, it wasn't an uncommon occurrence to get a text from Brother Henry saying that we'd meet at Rusell's house and cook up some Filipino food. Brother Henry has informed me that in high school, he was infamous among his friends for his "magic"; that is, he could make something delicious from any random array of ingredients in the fridge. So, I got to partake of some of Henry's "magic" this week, which was absolutely delicious. Henry, Jethro, and Rusell have become some of my dearest friends in the world at this point. Whenever we're together, whether at work or at dinner, we always have an amazing time. We've had conversations that leave us laughing in tears and others that build faith in each of our testimonies of this work. It seems crazy I've only been in this area for 8 weeks, and that I have a minimum of 10 more to go. Needless to say, it is amazing to eat amazing Filipino food, among amazing Filipino friends, speaking a language I'd never heard of before receiving my mission call, in a place in the world that has come from obscurity to now such a deeply ingrained place in my heart.
Two: People Prepared for the Gospel
This week we've acquired a multitude of new investigators in our teaching pool, as referred by formerly less-active families. The Alialy Family is one of them. They were baptized a few years ago by my Great-Grandfather in the mission, Elder Landeen(He trained Elder Garcia, who trained Elder Manabo, who trained me). After a year of going strong in the church, and even being sealed as a family, the father became heavily involved with work on Sundays, and they fell into inactivity. For some reason, after Elder Espanto arrived here, everything seems to have fallen in place for them. Our first lesson with them as a companionship, the father's exact words to us were "kahit nauulan, bumabagyo, magsisimba kami", or, "even if it's raining, storming, we will come to church." And they indeed came. After which, they introduced us to their neighbors, who are actually their in-laws, and we've begun teaching two of their daughters who have baptismal dates now in July. It's incredible how the Lord prepares people like this. It really isn't our work. It's His, and we're here to invite His Spirit, and to witness the change it brings in peoples hearts.
Three: Never Giving Up
We got to work with President Mesde yesterday, doing some tracting in a part of our area, St James. He's one of the Presidents here in the stake. We visited a lot of former investigators he knew, and he introduced us to many people that, for some reason or another, the missionaries before had dropped. His drive to share the gospel, not fearing what his friends might think of him, or what criticisms may arise, was truly inspirational. Earlier that day, he had mentioned only being able to work til 5 PM, considering he had a meeting at that time. I noticed, however, the time for the meeting came and past, and he continued to work with us. He mentioned it later to us that evening, over dinner. He said it was far more important for him to be working with the missionaries that day than to attend an important meeting. He then told us that for seven years after he had been baptized, he was completely inactive. He would hide when missionaries came to his door. He didn't want anything to do with them or the church. But he expressed it was important that they never gave up on him. Because they never gave up on him, he eventually became active again, and now has served as Branch President, Bishop, and Stake President. That would have never happened if the missionaries had thought, "Oh, it's no use. He's just another inactive member that won't amount to much." And that is why we will never give up on these people as well. Neither should you give up on yourself. Never.
To quote Kara's favorite song, which is also Rusell's favorite song and artist: "I won't give up on us, even if the skies are rough, I'm giving you all my love, I'm still looking up."
Four: Miracles Happen Sometimes
I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but for some reason or another, Jethro's parents have always had a bit of a quarrel with the church. They are not members, and know very little about the church their son attends so regularly and actively. It's also near impossible to find a time to teach them anything, considering his father is almost always drunk, and his mother is very busy with two younger siblings. With the enormous amounts of missionaries that have come through this area, not a single one of them has been able to teach Jethro's whole family, considering all of these conflicts. Except for yesterday. Along with President Mesde and another member from across the street, things fell into place that we were able to share with them a very simple, yet well overdue lesson about God being our loving Heavenly Father, and how the Gospel of Jesus Christ can bless families. They were both very receptive, and I hope this is the beginning of something truly great for their family. Jethro's dad is super smart and talented, but it is always hidden behind his alcoholism. He is definitely in need of something to bring him in line with his full potential, as a son of God, and an effective father for his family. I was able to express to him that their son's testimony of the Savior is beautifully strong, and that he didn't obtain it from a well-paid preacher, or a book, but from the power of the Holy Ghost, and that these things do not come from man.
Thus, the work moves on. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.