June 8, 2015
Echague, Isabela, Philippines
Makasta nga Fugab!
(trans. "Good Afternoon!" in Yogud)
You're going to get a kick out of this one! You already know who my new companion is, 'cause we've already been companions before! Elder Bautista: Round 2! Last time we were companions was when I followed-up trained him in Santiago Ward 3, over a year ago. Now, we've been reunited as Zone Leaders in the Alicia Zone, the largest Zone in the mission (large in numbers of missionaries). They just couldn't get enough of the two of us, could they? Elder Petersen has gone down to Bagabag to replace me, this being the second time he's taken one of my old areas.
Our area is in Echague, otherwise known as the "Yogud City". Yogud, which is a tribe in southern Isabela, is the primary dialect here. It's closely related with Ybanag, Gaddang and Itawes, which means it has a lot of funny-sounding g's, b's and f's (as you can see in the example given above). There is still a dominant presence of Ilocano, however, which means most people here speak four languages minimum: English, Tagalog, Ilocano, and Yogud. We are in the 2nd Ward of Echague. The Alicia Stake was just recently formed this last December and is one of the strongest I've seen in the mission, which is saying something, considering this is a relatively low-populated part of Region II. How to describe the landscape? Rice. Rice fields as far as the eye can see, not exaggerated. And it is excruciatingly hot. I had a bit of a shock from the climate change of cool, mountainous Nueva Vizcaya to the hot, flat rice fields of Isabela. I think I'm finally getting tan! We do our P-day in Santiago, which is only about 15 minutes away by van.
Well, how to describe this week? It's been really fun here, especially since Elder Bautista and I are already used to each other's personalities and teaching methods. He's noted some changes in me as well that gave a boost of confidence. When we were together in Santiago, he was always correcting my Tagalog. Our first day here, he commented after our first street contact: "Wow... Your Tagalog is... Wow..." It's kind of nice to get perspective from a former companion on the improvements you've made in the mission. There are a lot of relatively new investigators in this area, and now I've gotten the opportunity to know all of them and to testify of eternal truths to them, in particular the Atonement, and the truthfulness of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. It's been a spiritually rejuvenating week. We had dinner at the Bishop's home on Thursdaynight and I feel close with the Ward here already. They are super awesome.
For the most part, everyone in this Zone is unfamiliar to me. Elder Sefita is here, and Elder Espanto, but everyone else is either new or I've never been assigned in the same Zone with them. It's been a great opportunity to start fresh. We had a really great District Meeting from Elder Capulac, one of the three District Leaders here. We talked about companionship unity and I felt the Spirit really strongly from him. He's Elder Sogari's trainee, and he really looks up to his Tatay as an example of hard work and a willing desire to change. The mission has changed so much; it's almost like I'm in my last area or something. ;)
Well, I anticipate to have a longer email next week, but I'd just like to end this email with my testimony of the latter-day work. I know that the God of Israel leads this mission, and is preparing the hearts of the people at this time to receive the message of the restoration, and make covenants with the true and living God in the days soon to come. Temples are being dedicated throughout the world. The Sapporo temple is getting close, and it's wonderful to think I had a brother in that land, planting gospel seeds which eventually led to a House of the Lord being erected. Hopefully, someday, a temple will rise here as well. I think the rice fields and growth cycles are very symbolic of missionary work, and the end of the world, as with other plants. I feel the harvest is close. To end this, I'll leave my favorite quote by Joseph Smith:
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Bautista and Elder Kocherhans served together in Santiago toward the first part of his mission.
I went through and found this photo of their first round as companions...
Now, together again, assigned to serve as Alicia Zone Leaders in Echague.