This last week in my mission was filled with a lot of eating food with members and saying goodbye to everybody. It's real tough saying goodbye to all the people I came to love here in Santa Ana and spent so much time with. Saying goodbye to all of them was definitely something that I haven't been looking forward. But I managed to keep myself together and not shed too many tears haha.
On Saturday we had a fun day. We had the baptisms of Wilma and Kimberly in the afternoon and then the big going away party in the evening. We had a good turnout and tons of food. Had a good program of people dancing, singing, playing games, and just enjoying each others presence. Tried to take pictures with as many people as possible, because I really will miss these people. What a blessing it has been to get to know them and become good friends.
Sunday morning I bore my last testimony to the Branch. After Sacrament Meeting, there were a lot of tears shed by many people (including myself) and we took some final pictures. I then hopped in a van and made my way to Laoag (5 hour trip), officially ending my time in Santa Ana as a full-time Missionary. Tuesday afternoon I will get on the plane and fly into Manila, stay the night there, and then get on another plane which will take me back to the Promised Land.
Back in Laoag with the members he knew when he was serving there. (Thank you Ruth)
The 3rd Ward in Laoag hosted dinner for the departing missionaries.
I will never forget the incredible time that I have spent on an island that 2 years ago I knew nothing about. A little country with little people that I have fallen in love with. This part of the earth will always have a special place in my heart. I love the Philippines. I love the Filipinos. And I'm so thankful the Lord sent me here.
Many things have been shared on this blog in the past 2 years. If you read every single one, you will realize that Ryan Jenkins isn't the same Ryan Jenkins he was two years ago. A full-time mission can change you and mold you into the better person that The Lord needs you to be. I encourage all young men in the church to serve a mission and promise you that it is worth it. I know The Lord loves us and that HE LIVES!
I put an ending to this blog and everything written, In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I'm coming home,
- Elder Jenkins
The Santa Ana District
The departing missionaries from Zone Conference
with President & Sister Peterson and Elder & Sister Nelson.
Welp, this it... 4th quarter, 9th inning, 18th hole, 12th round, 24th month. However you wanna put it, it's all about to come to an end. I have been thinking my whole mission, how does it feel to be close to coming home. Sad? Happy? Excited? Scared? All I can say is that you really don’t know how it feels until you actually get there haha. These last few weeks I have been trying to do a really good job at recognizing my feelings and writing them down. I'll try to do my best in sharing what I have experienced this last week.
Cake from my District
Santa Ana District
First of all, I am excited! Who wouldn’t be excited to go home and see your family and friends after 2 years of not seeing them? Or going home and doing all those things that you loved to do before the mission but weren't able to do in the past 2 years. It's an incredible butterfly-ish feeling thinking of that stuff. But then, of course, there is that sad feeling. After 2 years of falling in love with a country that you knew nothing about before getting here and just loving the people, language, food, culture, atmosphere, smell, all of it! haha. And then having to get on a plane and head back to the homeland, leaving it all behind. It is tough! It will become the past and I will no longer be "living the dream in the Philippines" anymore. But then again, it is that happy feeling. Happy that I have completed my mission here in the North on the Isles of the Sea. Happy that I will be returning with honor after learning so much that will help guide me for the rest of my life. And I am absolutely overwhelmed with joy that I have been able to help so many people draw nearer to The Lord and become happier because of the changes that they have made in their lives. I have never experienced such joy in my whole life! The last feeling that sometimes comes across me is scared. I've got to admit that it is a little scary thinking about coming back to the real world, especially in the wicked world we live in. Packing my bags and having to adjust back to regular life instead of just adjusting to a new area and companion is waaayyy scary. But honestly, whenever ever I have that kind of "scared feeling", or that feeling like "I wish I could just stay here for another 6 weeks and do missionary work", I feel comforted at the thought that I know The Lord has big and important things for me to do back home, not on my mission in the Philippines. Out of all these feelings that I have, the best way to explain it all in one is... "Bitter Sweet".
Alright, enough with the feelings. Let me tell you how the week went. The highlight of the week was yesterday, when the new Branch President here in Santa Ana was sustained and set apart. Way back, my first day in Santa Ana, the goal was: "When I go home, a member here will take my place as BP." I'm so happy that it all worked out and that the Santa Ana Branch has a good leader to help them grow. Also, the father of the family that we helped re-activate was interviewed and called as 1st counselor in the Branch Presidency. Such a big turn around in his life the last 3 months. We have been planning a lot for this upcoming Saturday. We will be having a baptism in the early afternoon, and then a big branch party at night. Tons of food, performances, games, and hopefully a lot of people. Gonna be a lot of fun :)
This week we had another great experience. So last month, one of the members here was 9 months pregnant with her soon to be first born. She went into labor one night, and sadly her baby did not survive. We had been trying to meet with her, comfort and help her as much as we could, but it seemed like every time we went to their house, she wasn't home. This last week, we felt impressed to go and try to meet with her again. She was there! She let us in and we just sparked up conversation with her and tried to cheer her up. She was smiling and laughing, and probably hasn't felt that happy or smiled so much ever since her baby died. We were able to share a good message with her and our visit seemed very succesful. Then all of the sudden, right before we were about to close, she started bawling. She cried and cried and struggled to stop. Once she stopped crying a little, she started telling us, "Elders, the past month has been sooo hard. The first 2 weeks after it happened, I was angry with God and prayed over and over asking why this has happened to me. I was so sad and angry and couldn't let it go. Then one night after crying myself to sleep, I had a dream. The dream was of you 3 coming to my house and helping me. And after that, feeling better, and not sad or angry anymore. I know The Lord loves me and I feel His love every time I pray. Thank you Elders for coming here today." One of many tender mercies I've experienced.
As my mission comes to a close, I know with certainty that our Heavenly Father loves us. He is our real Father and wants us all to be happy and return to His presence. I have seen over and over as we trust in Him and "lean not unto our own understanding", things always turn out better. I love Him and will never leave Him.
Love you all so much. I'll try to get one more short letter off before I head home. See you next week!
Mai Mai searching my hair for bugs (No she didn't find any)
This week a big Signal 1 Storm (see bottom of letter) came in and rained HARD on Santa Ana for a few days. We would be in somebody's house, but not able to hear what the were saying because the rain would pound so hard on their little tin roof. The other night we woke up from time to time because of the rain and the wind, then all the sudden we heard a big SNAP. We looked outside and the big mango tree right outside of our house had timbered and landed on our neighbor's house. Hopefully that will be the last big storm I will to experience here.
the "timbered" mango tree
The other day we got together with some members in the Branch and had the farewell party of Cleo, the member from our branch going on a mission. We ate a lot of food, played some games and had a good time with him. After that, he and I headed to his house out on the seashore. They wanted to feed us, and when they pulled out the dish, it was a food that I have never seen before. It was Blue Marlin eggs haha. I gave it a try, and it had a weird, crunchy texture. It felt like I was eating cartilage. I have really enjoyed trying all the exotic foods here, especially the seafoods. When I make it back here some day with the parents, I will make sure they try all of these foods haha. (editor: You are hilarious, Elder Jenkins.)
The work has been really good here lately. Even though my time is running short here, my prayers have been answered and my motivation has not gone away at all. We have been able to get a lot of investigators to church and are looking to have 2 or 4 baptisms more on August 4. It's been fun being in a trisome again. We have a lot of fun together and the days seem to just pass by as we go from appointment to appointment.
We had a good Sacrament Meeting yesterday. We are still suffering a bit from only having one companionship here as we have seen the attendance go down a little, but we still have a good amount of members, about 100, coming every Sunday. I was able to give my final talk in Sacrament Meeting. I decided to talk about "Seven things I have learned while serving in Santa Ana" (I've learned lots, but decided to just focus on 7). After church I had a good meeting with a lot of the members about our planned Branch FHE (going away party) next Saturday. The members are stoked because I told them there will be tons of food and soft drinks. Gonna be a party :)
The highlight of this week was Sunday after church. So for the past 6 months I've been trying hard to find and train a local member who will take my spot as Branch President when I go home. I have sought much help prayerfully and have worked eagerly to find the man. Well the past month, I have felt impressed over and over of who it should be, and under the direction of our Mission President, I was able to meet with him and his wife. I talked to them about it, but the wife was unsure about this calling for her husband. I told them to discuss it and think about, then I would talk with them again after two weeks. After many days of fasting and pleading with The Lord to bless this sister to know in her heart, the District President and I went and talked with them yesterday. This time was much different than the last. Although still a little unsure, she agreed that her husband should be the new Branch President here in Santa Ana and that she would support him in his new calling. I have no doubt that The Spirit had a large influence on this sister changing her feelings. I'm so thankful for The Lord's willingness to help us everyday of our lives and the influence that The Spirit has had on my life.
Well the countdown continues. Wow. I'm gonna miss writing these weekly updates, but am way excited to see you all. Love you! (editor: I mentioned to Gary today that I might miss these letters more than I've missed Ryan! Maybe he'll keep writing weekly once he's home in a couple of weeks? Haha - my turn to be hilarious.)
- A tropical cyclone will affect the locality. - Winds of 30 - 60 kilometers per hour(kph) may be expected in at least 36 hours or intermittent rains may be expected within 36 hours. (20-40 mph)
Impact of the Winds
- Twigs and branches of small trees may be broken.- Some banana plants may be tilted or downed. - Some houses of very light materials (nipa and cogon) may be partially unroofed. - Unless this warning signal is upgraded during the entire existence of the tropical cyclone, only very light or no damage at all may be sustained by the exposed communities. - Rice crop, however, may suffer significant damage when it is in its flowering stage.
- When the tropical cyclone is strong or is intensifying and is moving closer, this signal may be upgraded to the next higher level.- The waves on coastal waters may gradually develop and become bigger and higher. - The people are advised to listen to the latest severe weather bulletin issued byPAGASA every six (6) hours. In the meantime, business may be carried out as usual except when floods occur. - Disaster preparedness is activated to alert status.
As I write this letter, it is pouring rain outside. A big storm came in this last week and dumped rain on us for about 4 days. Cools things down, but is not too great when you have a hole in your shoe.
Everybody here in the Philippines is pretty happy this morning. Pacquiao won his fight on a knock out, so everyone was stoked about that. Unfortunately, when there is a Pac fight, the whole country shuts down. Everybody hunkers down in their houses and watches the fight. Even if the fight doesn't start util 1pm, they are at their TV by 10am watching and waiting. This affected our Sacrament attendance big time. Sad to say that a lot of people pick Pacquiao over church :( But we still had a really good meeting. One of the soon to be missionaries here gave his farewell talk. He heads into the MTC this Friday. So it was a very spiritual, happy Sacrament Meeting.
Actually our mission president, President Peterson, came to Santa Ana on Saturday night to set apart Cleo as a full time missionary. However, he doesn't travel until Thursday, so he is staying with us at our apartment and will be working with us until Thursday. It will be nice having 2 companionships again and giving him a little head start to his training.
Speaking of President Peterson, all the missionaries in Cagayan gathered together in Aparri on Friday to go and meet President and Sister Peterson. They are such nice people. The Elders and Sisters love them and are so excited to have them here. Was a lot of fun just sitting down and talking with President, he being a big basketball fan and a huge golfer. Could sit down for hours just talking about those things haha. We were also able to get together and have dinner on Saturday night here in Santa Ana. Was a lot of fun meeting them and spending some time with them.
On Friday when we were in Aparri, we experienced a little miracle. The "Meet the Mission President" meeting was over, and we were just about to head home. We were walking to the road and about to get a vehicle heading back to Santa Ana when I decided we should stop by a member's house in Aparri on the way out and say hi. I wasn't very close with this member, but Elder Morehu was and would surely enjoy the visit. So we took a little detour and stopped by to say hi to this member. We were there for only about 15 minutes, and then said goodbye and started walking back to the main road. That's when I got a text from Cleo, the boy who is about to serve a mission, saying "Elders, where are you?" I quickly replied and he said, "Can you visit my mom, she is in the hospital there in Aparri." We were able to go visit her and when we got there she said she was kind of worried and stressed out because it sounds like she would need to get an operation done. We gave her a Book of Mormon to read and stayed there a while with her. Her and her husband were so thankful. Apparently when we got in the tricycle and started heading to the hospital earlier, her husband (not a church member), who was buying something in centro, saw us and said, "When I saw you 3 in that tricycle, i knew you were heading straight to the Hospital to help us."... I'm so thankful that Heavenly Father has used me as a tool many times to help others in their lives. It is such a blessing to know and recognize the promptings of The Spirit in my life. Something that hopefully I can and will recognize forever.
Wow, we are now down to the last month. Such a weird thing to think that I will be seeing you guys next month. Doesn't feel real. Still loving every moment here in the Philippines and trying to make every minute count.
This last week was a very, very good one. We have been working real hard everyday, trying to do our best to visit all the less actives and investigators. It's gotten a lot harder because now we are covering both areas, all of Santa Ana. If you were to take a van from one side of our area to the other, it is about a 45 minute ride, huge. Since there are three of us though, we have been going on splits a lot to try and double our work. The young man that is entering the MTC next week has been coming along with us, so we have had some good times working with him and training him.
The other day we were way tired and very hungry. We had been working all day and it was evening time, we were out finding. Then we got a text for one of the members that said "Elders, come on over for dinner, may karne aso kami! (we have dog meat) ". Morehu and I lit up haha, so excited. Abarabar on the other hand was not. He has never had dog meat and said he never would. When we got there however, Morehu and I started feasting, and Abarabar couldn't hold back. We got him to try it, and he admitted it was good. I know most of you will not believe me that it is good, cuz I'm also the one that says balut is good, but I'm not kidding, it is sooo good. But also depends on how it is cooked. But I will definitely miss having aso every once in a while. Speaking of other weird things eat... just to try to help you get a feel of how desperate we are sometimes. The other day we got home way late from work, and had nothing to eat. Ended up putting some cheese whiz on a frozen piece of bread and calling it good. haha good times.
So, Saturday was the well awaited baptism of the Maguddayao Family. The less active family that we had been working with for the past 5 months has fully returned and 3 of their kids were baptized. Was such a great moment to see the 3 kids in the water with their re-activated father dressed in white as the baptizer. On Sunday, the spirit was so strong as their father confirmed them members of the church. We have seen so much change in this family. The kids are so much happier, the parents get along so well, and they all just seem to be a happy family. The last two times we have gone to their house at night, they have been gathered around their stereo system, singing videoke together. Such a miracle.
A quick story... So in this mission, we use something called the 4 month calendar. A little calendar where we place our investigators on a date to be baptized, kind of like a big calendar of goals. Anyway, about 3 months ago, the Maguddayao family was not progressing at all - not coming to church, or really listening to us etc. But I decided to throw them on our 4 month calendar anyway. Wasn't sure where to put them at that time, but for some reason decided to put them on July 7. It's incredible to me that they progressed and ended up getting baptized on that exact date that we set as a goal 3 months ago.
I have a strong testimony of God hearing our prayers. I know for sure that we can communicate with Him through prayer and that He will talk back to us and answer our questions. I know His voice and know that He lives. I'm so thankful for the time He has given me here to learn and grow. I will not waste His time, not a single minute, it's too precious.
Well this week was another long hard working week. It has been pretty hot, but a storm came through and rained on us for about 12 hours. It put a nice fresh smell in the air and made it two times as humid. While walking on the road, it just felt like heat was steaming out of the ground. It did cool the weather down a bit though, especially at night, so we enjoyed it. The not so great thing though is when we are in our furthest area, and right as it starts to pour down we realized none of us brought an umbrella. That's when the filipinos, for the first time, see three different colored grown men running down the street. Every day is really an adventure.
Its good to have Elder Morehu back. It feels like he's been following me around to every area haha. We were together (roommates, not companions) in Aparri and then companions is Laoag, and now here in Sta Ana. He's such a hardworking guy, the branch absolutely loves him. We have started doing what we used to do in Laoag. Sometimes singing a hymn or something before we start to teach somebody. Makes the people very happy, and invites The Spirit. He's a big help to our companionship and to the Branch here in Santa Ana.
So the other night out of no where, the power went out. We thought it would probably come back on soon, because when they have power outages, they do it during the day and turn it back on at night. So we were hoping. But it didn't end up coming on until about 24 hours later. When the power is out, we don't have any water, so we ended up having to shower outside in our neighbor's backyard. He has a manual pump. Ended up sleeping right next to the door, hoping to get a nice cool breeze every here and there (editor: so tempting to correct his English...but this one's too good to mess with!). Ended up being a long, hot night.
We have an exciting thing that we are going to be doing this week. On Tuesday, we have an appointment with the Principal of the High School here in Santa Ana. We are going to be meeting with her to discuss if we might be able to teach a religion class to the 11th and 12th graders at the school. There are about 500 of them, so this would be an awesome activity for us. I'll update ya next week if it ends up working out.
Yesterday was another good Sabbath day here in Santa Ana. The attendance went down a bit, but we still stayed in the 100's. Testimony meetings are really good here. Unlike other wards and branches that I have experienced here in the phils, these people in Santa Ana love getting up and bearing their testimony. We are still trying to fix one problem here though. When the closing prayer in Sacrament Meeting is said, and he says amen, it turns into a stampede heading for the exit haha. If 120 attend Sacrament Meeting, only like 70 attend 2nd and 3rd hour classes. Just a little problem that can be fixed little by little.
The big LA family that we were working with is now officially re-activated. They are coming to church every week now, and 3 of their kids will be baptized on Saturday. We are so excited for them. When I first got here, I prayed and made a goal that before I go home this family will be back at church and the kids will be baptized. I know that God hears our prayers and will help us reach our goals if we do all that we can. The other day, our RC (recent convert), Rodolfo came back from the rice fields and said that he had experienced a miracle. The day before, he had sprayed his crops so the bugs wouldn't eat them. Later that day it poured down rain, and the anti-bug poison washed away. He returned the next day to see bugs eating his rice. He told us that he started to pray over and over that the bugs would leave his crops alone, and after he did that, he looked down at his crops. He noticed that the bugs started to walk away as if they were not even hungry. He started to pray again and thank The Lord. He explained this to us as a miracle. He was sooo happy. I have a testimony that God is a God of miracles.
Happy B-day Grandpa Jenkins!! Even though you are gettin' old, you will still probably take me down on the golf course when I get back haha... Love ya!
So today is transfer day, my last transfer here in the mission. Feels weird that this is the last. Bad news is that we found out yesterday that there will only be one companionship left here in the Santa Ana Branch. Big time bummer. Good news is that another missionary will join Elder Abarabar and me and we will be a trisome. Found out this morning that ELDER MOREHU will be with us!! haha We were sad back in Laoag because we were only comps for 6 weeks. Way excited to have him here for my last six!
So this week started off great on Monday when a member from the branch opened up his mission call. He is assigned to serve in the Philippines, Quezon City North Mission! He reports on July 20, so we will get to send him off. Other good news...two more members are meeting with me and starting their mission papers. Very exciting. (See photo above.)
Right now here in Santa Ana it is pineapple season. You can go out and get 4 for 100 pesos ($1.87), it's the best. There's a member who has a pineapple stand, and when we go to visit her, she loads us up with 6 or 7 pineapples to take home. We take em home, put them in the fridge, and go back out to work. Then when we get back at night, we cut em up and enjoy the nice cold fresh sweet delight. Perfect way to finish off a long hot day.
Was a fun day on Saturday. We had a mutual activity at a member's house who lives right on the beach. They have a bunch of little kubo huts, videoke, and beach volleyball. All the young women and young men did some Personal Progress and Duty to God, then went swimming, played volleyball, sang, ate a ton, and had a good time.
After the activity, we all headed to the church and got ready for the baptism of Kyle and Josa. It was a well anticipated baptism, because both of these baptismal candidates have wanted to be baptized for a while. Was a very spiritual moment when they both got up and bore their testimonies. Baptismal services here never seem to disappoint. Besides the fact that we get to do them in the ocean, it is always a very spiritually uplifting time.
Sunday was another successful day for us. We had 119 attendance! We seem to be coming in now at a steady 110-120 every week, which is great. But we can do more. We told the branch that there will only be one set of elders now here in Santa Ana and that we will now really need their help through ministering. They all are on board and said that they will step it up. Also the FM guys were here last week and they said they are gonna start laying tiles in the meeting house. That will put a nice extra shine to the rooms. The goal is to qualify by next year for a chapel.
I remember before serving the mission, sitting in Sacrament Meeting while Davis gave his homecoming talk, and him telling a great story about when he fasted and witnessed a miracle. I remember back then setting a goal that by the end of my mission I would, like him, have a strong testimony of fasting and prayer. I do know 100% that God hears our prayers, and that the law of the fast is true. Through small and simple things, God will show us miracles. And fasting for two meals is a very small and simple thing. Through fasting and prayer, I have seen many miracles. I love The Lord and am so thankful for how much He loves me. I know that I am a child of God.
Happy Father's Day, pops! You're a great Dad and great example for us all :). By the way, I feel so bad because I totally forgot that it was Father's Day yesterday and didn't do anything special for the fathers in the branch. On Mother's Day I bought all the moms chocolate and candy bars, and yesterday nothing happened haha. oops. But I'm pretty sure none of the fathers knew that it was Father's Day either. Still feel bad though.
This week was a really fun one. On Wednesday, we had the final Zone Conference with President and Sister Andrada. We had the conference that afternoon, then had a going away dinner/party that night at Hotel Dian in Aparri. We were informed a couple weeks before that we should prepare some kind of presentation, and we had totally forgotten about it until like 2 days before. They wanted us four in Santa Ana to do a dance presentation, but we didn't know what do to. We ended up throwing together a little Irish jig dance. Gave everybody a real good laugh when we presented it haha. Because of lack of preparation, ended up looking like 4 drunk guys running around doing a little Irish jig. Was so much fun though. Definitely will miss the Andradas when they are gone. (They have finished their three year service as the mission president and will be heading back to Manila.)
With some of the office elders
With the President & Sister Andrada
& Elder Abarabar (Ryan's comp)
So believe it or not, this Sunday was even better than last Sunday. It wasn't looking too good at 8:55 when there were only like 60 people at church, but I learn more and more that these people just love their filipino time. At about 9:10, the room was absolutely full with some people sitting outside just watching through the window because it was so packed (and extremely hot). We ended up having 121 attendance!! I was sooo happy. And because one of the people assigned to speak didn't show up and the other 2 talks were kinda short, I got the opportunity to speak to all of them for 20 minutes. It was such a happy, spiritual meeting.
Other good news in the branch... the other day, President Andrada gave me the mission call of the member in our branch. He will be opening the call later tonight. There are a good number of members that are interested in serving missions here, so we started up a Missionary Preparation class last week. Every Sunday we hold the class and I get to teach it. I love teaching the class, gives me good memories of being in the MTC and also preparing to serve a mission. Brings back some good memories. Other good news is that our investigator, Kyle, will be baptized this Saturday. Her dad works in Manila, but he had a week vacation here in Santa Ana, so we had the opportunity to talk to him and ask him if he is okay with his daughter being baptized. He approved, and actually kinda wants his whole family to also, but only Kyle is ready at the time. We are way excited. Also, that family that I talked about last week all came to church again, and their 3 kids that haven't been baptized yet will be baptized on July 7. Everything is going weeeellll here in Santa Ana. Love it!
making ice cream at an Elder's Quorum activity
Another week down and I have definitely seen The Lord's hand in our work. He continues to guide us through The Spirit and revelation. His guidance has brought us much success and happiness. I testify once again that the way to success is through Obedience, Faith, and Diligence. He knows us, loves us, and will continue to guide us.
WooHoo!! This was a greeeat week. It has been smoking hot and raining off and on, but we are really really happy, and so are the people here. Right now is the Santa Ana Festival, so there are tons of events going on here in Centro. This is the only time of the year that there is a "night life" here in Santa Ana. People will go out at night and stay at the perya (fair) until midnight. They just eat, enjoy the rides, gamble, and go watch little events and performances in the gym. They love it so much. There were also rumors that Coco Martin (big celebrity here) would be coming. Not sure however if it's true or not haha. And then just this last week there was an international beach volleyball tournament. So there are lots of people here and a lot of fun happening.
So on Tuesday, we got a text from one of the members to stop by at her house for a minute and have a snack. When we got there however, to my surprise there was a huge feast set up and a bunch of people saying "Happy Birthday". It was so much fun, I was so happy. Also I didn't have to spend a bunch of money and buy a bunch of food for other people, so that was nice. (Here in the Phils, when it's your birthday, you buy everybody else food). Was a great Birthday surprise!
On Saturday evening, we had 3 baptisms. One of them was our investigator, Tatay Rodolfo. He has absolutely quit smoking and decided to be baptized. Lots of people attended, including Tatay's family. So we did the quick program at the church, then walked over to the beach to do the baptism. The weather was great. Overcast, not too windy and not too hot. However, when we reached the sand and got a look at the ocean, the waves were huge. So the baptism took a little more effort on our part to fight the waves and time it perfectly, but it worked out great. Also because of the volleyball tournament on the beach, we had a lot of extra spectators.
Sunday was an incredible day. Tatay was so excited to be confirmed that he was at the gate at 7:45am waiting for us to open up the church. Just before the meeting was about to start, people started piling into the meeting house. The place was getting so full, we almost had to open up the overflow. We had a total of 110 people at church! The members were so happy to see the place so full, and it was a really good spiritual service.
Wow, after all the success we've been having here, I look back and see how much The Lord has guided our work. The other day while thinking about a less active family and how we could help them come back, I felt prompted to draw out a picture on a little scratch paper. It was a kinda drawn out map or timeline of the steps that the family has made in their lives to draw closer to The Savior. And then the steps that they took that brought them down and further away from Him. Then, the other night as we were teaching them about the Atonement, I decided to pull it out and show it to them. I showed it first to the Father and explained it to him, and then the Mother said she wanted to see it. She looked at it, and decided right then that they will go to church on Sunday and begin their comeback to church. On Sunday morning, as I stood up to begin the meeting, all 8 of them walked in and sat down in Sacrament Meeting together for the first time in 5 years. I felt so happy, and felt the Spirit real strong. I know for a fact the the Lord communicates to His children through revelation and will use us, if we let him, as instruments to help others come unto Him.
First of all, congratulations to Mark Griffitts! Called to the best mission in the world. If you want to start you preparations, start taking cold showers and don't use toilet paper... but if I were you, I would cherish taking hot showers and using paper until the day you enter the field haha. (Mark is a member of our home ward who just got his call to Ryan's mission. They'll miss each other by one week!)
Well this week was a real eventful week. One of the members in our Branch is a fisherman, and lately he's been catching tons of lobster and crab. So we have been fed real well this week. Even though we live on the beach, seafood is sooo expensive here. They jack up the prices because of all the rich Chinese people (vacationers) here that buy seafood. So it is always a treat when we get fed a nice seafood meal.
So one of our investigators, Rodolfo, is progressing well towards baptism. He has been doing a good job at throwing out the coffee and cigarettes and has attended church for 5 weeks straight. Even though he is 64 years old, he still works almost every day in the rice field. We felt bad for him because he says he works alone out there and has nobody to talk to, so we told him we would hit the bukid (farm) with him on Wednesday morning. So Wednesday morning, we woke up at the break of dawn, grabbed our knives, and went to work with Tatay Rodolfo. He was soo happy to have somebody to work with him. But I'll be honest, I never want to have to work in the rice fields again haha. It is soooo hot and humid and just wore me out. But we were able to have a good time with Tatay. He will be baptized this Saturday.
Sunday was a really good day. We got to the church early, at about 7:30 to get everything set up and ready to go, and to my surprise, lots of people started showing up at around 8, and before the start at 9, we almost had a full room. Ended up being a really good service and had 98 attendance. We are working real hard to get that up to a consistent 100 before July. (Right now they meet in a rented building. If there is consistantly a large congregation attending weekly, a new building will be built for them in Santa Ana. This is a BIG deal!)
Saturday, however, was not such a good day. To start it off, I woke up with a bad fever and diarrhea. I got up in the morning and tried to work through it, but ended up just heading back home. I slept for about 4 hours then woke up and felt like we needed to go visit one of our investigators named Ronnie. So I mustered up the strength to get dressed and go out again to go visit this man. When we arrived at his house, to our surprise, we found him lying in a casket. He had died the day before from a sudden illness. He left behind his wife and 7 children, 3 of them still being pretty young. He had come to church 3 times now and was planning to be baptized this month. My already sick stomach and weak body just about gave out after that, so we headed back home. We were sooo sad, and I went back to sleep in sadness. When I woke up however, I all of the sudden felt happy. The knowledge I have about the Plan of Salvation shot through my mind and I knew that God's plan really is a plan of happiness. Oh how hard and scary death would be if we had no knowledge of the God's plan for us. I'm so happy for the testimony that I have.
Love you all, have a nice week!! Happy Birthday to me :)