Naimbag nga Bigat,
No worries about Typhoon Ruby, guys. What a loser. He thought he was a pretty big deal when he was all "signal 5" and "super typhoon" out in the Pacific, but as soon as he hit the Visayas he realized he wouldn't be impressing anybody with that joke of a performance. Especially up here in the north, all we had was a laughable lack of rain and some occasional breezes. Thus, life goes on in the well-protected Cagayan Valley.
We experienced a lot of discouragement at work this week, especially in Balzain East. Most of the new investigators we obtained in our first 3 weeks are now deciding the restored gospel is not for them. It's really frustrating when you're walking down the street and you see your first appointment run into the house and lock the door, especially in a country where doing such is a very uncommon occurrence. Most Filipino's don't know how to say "no" to guests, or how to be out-rightly rude. Now, however, I see some have it in them to do so. One of them even had no place to run inside and so decided to blatantly ignore our existence, rubbing her eyes in an attempt to justify that she didn't know we were there. She couldn't even face us and say "Sorry, not interested"! Goodness! I've never really seen behavior like this before this point in my mission. Very bizarre. Ironically, the only person who seems to welcome us still is brother Nards Bundok, the pastor we met from an independent faith. He welcomes us alright, but then once we try to start teaching it turns into a game of "everything I say is right and everything you say is wrong". This coming week, we are going to make a great focus on finding new places in our area to tract in and find more new investigators. Rejection is hard to face, but it's no reason to give up.
The real light in our area this week has been the DelaCruz family. It is so refreshing to have a lesson with them after a long day of rejection. They are so humble and willing in everything they do. You can truly feel the Spirit in their home. Their desire to be baptized and become members of the Church is inspirational. This last Sunday, their whole family attended church together, including their older sister who hasn't come yet! It was awesome to see them all their together! It was Fast Sunday as well, and the testimonies given were all so perfect for the investigators in attendance. Even Deo (The oldest boy in the DelaCruz family) bore his testimony, testifying that he truly felt that there was someone guiding him at every page when he read the Book of Mormon. Almost like someone crying from the dust, you might say. I'm starting to become really good friends with all of the ward members here. Not that we weren't friends before, but I've felt especially comfortable with them this last week. Attendance is higher than ever and the ward seems ready now more than ever to accept more into the fold.
On Wednesday we were in Cauayan for a trainers/trainees meeting with the AP's and President and Sister Rahlf. It was a really fun meeting. President related with us the remarkable faith and submissiveness of Mary, mother of Jesus. She knew, as one of the descendants of David, that the promised Messiah would be born to a young maiden such as she, and when it came to the time of Angel Gabriel (or Noah) relating to her the tidings that she was the mother of the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, she did not fear or question the Lord in His decision and marvelous plan, but merely submitted, saying, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." If only we could be just as faithful, just as obedient to the will of the Lord as Mary was. Truly a chosen vessel.
Later in the day I got to use musical skills in a multitude of ways. First of all, we had a bit of downtime in the mission home and we were allowed to use any of the instruments available to us there. Guess what Sister Rahlf has? A banjo. Yes. And guess what the first song I learned on it was? Rainbow Connection. To be honest, I was very proud of myself. I told Elder Peterson that I could die happy now, knowing I knew how to play Rainbow Connection on the banjo. All I need to do now is work on my Kermit voice, which seems to still be lacking in authenticity. Secondly, some of the Polynesian Elders and I did some Christmas a-capella jamming which was really fun. I am told it might be posted on the mission Facebook, but I don't know. Check it out if it's there. In my second area I learned a Tongan hymn called "Folofola mai a Sisu" which has become a great blessing to me, in jamming it out with pitch-perfect flawlessly-harmonizing Polynesians. I love life so much.
The power of the Atonement really is the driving force to true and lasting change (a.k.a. repentance). All of us have less-than-desirable habits that are often the cause of much sorrow, and can defeat us if we let them. However, we know that we all have an inner drive within us to do hard things, and finish them, even if at the beginning we thought it might be unattainable. In my past experience, I've gotten the feeling after having a really good work-out, or after finishing a well-anticipated heavily-practiced performance like a stage play. You keep pushing yourself and giving your best, and then your best gets better. You keep progressing, something driving you within to accomplish what you've set out to do. This illustrates really well the power of the Atonement in our lives. We need to make necessary changes in our lives to qualify for eternal life in the presence of Heavenly Father, and this requires us to give our all, nothing sparing. It means we have to go through a great deal of suffering to truly understand the love of God, and how we can obtain a greater capacity to love Him more. The paramount example of setting out to do something difficult, and then accomplishing it, is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Even Jesus Christ Himself questioned the possibility of another way. We can only imagine what He might have been thinking as He came to the time of the Atonement, knowing fully well what He would have to do. "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." The closest we can ever get to understanding the Atonement is in the moments where we suffer, and ask similar questions to ourselves concerning how capable we are, and then push forward regardless of any rationalizations we might be able to come up with, for the sake of finishing what we have set out to do. Perhaps there are easier ways. But they are not worth treading. We came to this earth that we may obtain eternal life in the kingdom of our Father. There is no other objective but that. Many will take easier paths, but why throw away the very goal you accepted to attain to in the pre-mortal existence? His arms are open still, and regardless of the sins that easily beset us in this life, they are paid for. He gave His all, and we owe it to Him to give it our all as well. Nothing sparing.
I know that Jesus Christ, the Savior and the Redeemer of the world, has restored the fullness of His gospel in the latter-days through a prophet, that if we might accept it and live it in our lives, we might gain the capacity to give our all, nothing sparing. Only He can save us. Thus, we must follow Him. He speaks to man today, and wise men still seek Him. In His sacred name, even Jesus Christ, amen.
P.S. I apologize for my grammar errors. You know how that whole "gift of tongues" thing can get annoying sometimes.