Monday, November 22, 2010

Transfer! ...Sipocot Philippines
Hey mama papa, & fam.

Madre, you asked me to update ya on the status on my investigators. The man that attended church, he has a baptismal date, although it may take a little longer than expected because he is trying to overcome smoking. Although I am 100% sure he will get baptized, he is trying hard to overcome his addiction. The young man that was baptized has an incredible testimony. He bore his testimony to me before I left Daet, and I will always keep his words close to my heart. Now he wants to now serve a mission. He even worked with us, and bore his testimony to some of our other investigators. The sister who I helped do laundry- I sent a separate email a few weeks back about her situation. I hope you received that. Oh and you asked about my ear, its fine, no biggie. I got some good ear tonic, and I think the problems solved.

Anyway, I've been transferred. This past week I packed up my bags, said goodbye to Daet and now I! Say bye bye to Tagalog land, because I’ve entered the Bicol region. I'm still in the North, I'm about an hour out of Naga. Although i'm grateful i'm still here in the northern region, because it'll be easier to learn Bicol here. They mix the Bicol and Tagalog, so they speak 50% Tagalog 50% Bicol. Although I am impressed with how much God is helping me learn Bicol. Its truly a miracle. Like i'm even getting teary eyed thinking about how incredible it is. I was quickly able to recognize the sentence structure, main conjugations, and personal pronouns, then I intently listen to people and my companion, and when my companion uses Bicol words, I know exactly what they mean in Tagalog. I can get away with speaking Tagalog here, but I need to learn Bicol to understand the people. Its their native language, and the one they use more frequently. Children and Old people speak pure Bicol, the middle aged people usually are the only ones who speak some Tagalog, because its taught in schools, and they use it to communicate to other Filipinos not from the Bicol Region. I'm incredibly grateful for the language challenge, because its a good way to teach me patience, long suffering, and humility. God is so wise in blessing me with certain challenges so I can learn from them.

So I'll tell ya a little about my area. I actually have 2 areas, Sipocot and Lubigan. They are 2 tiny branches. This is a small town, and I mean really small, like I thought Daet was province. shaa. If we need any supplies we have to wait until the one trip zone conference in Naga...this town really has nothing. We buy rice and vegetables from investigators and members who farm them. The way the Filipinos describe the town is mountain and mountain and mountain and mountain. Well they're right. I have yet to find level ground. People have built tiny bamboo homes up the side of a mountain. One of the first things my new companion Sister Soto asked me was " you like hiking?" She wasn't kidding. I'm either restraining myself from falling down a rocky muddy hill, or using a tree to pull my entire body up the hill. My body has never been so sore. I even gotta laugh at the trycie rides, because the hills as so steep, that on the way up we have to get out and hike up, (the trycie can barely take the driver up) and then on the way down, they will turn off the gas and we'll soar down the mountain. I feel like its a ride at an amusement park. We catch some serious speed sometimes, and we're near some neat cliffs, I even get that butterfly rollercoaster feeling.

I'm sorry I wish I had more time to write, but I don't. Take care and love ya all.

-Sis. Rach. Han.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I think above all weeks I have ever lived in my life, this past one is the one I am eternally grateful for. I had so many growing experiences, my life has altered. I don't even feel like the same person. I would like to share one of the most profound lessons I’ve learned and with of lack of time, I hope I do it justice. I cannot include all that has happened, although I will share one thing I’ve learned. Hopefully I will have more time next week to catch you up on the other neat lessons I’ve learned.
The more I learn about the plan of salvation, the more I understand my purpose here on Earth. I know that I am here on Earth to progress. (I included a little portion on E.Bednars talk Things as They Really Are. Hopefully it will help you all remember our divine destiny, like it once helped me.) I’m here on Earth to refine my weaknesses and become more like my brother, Jesus Christ. I’ve been studying Christ-like attributes, and striving to adapt them. I would now like to share with you what I’ve learned about Humility. I don’t think I ever fully understood the definition of Pride. Sorry to include a lot of bits from talks, but I was searching for more information on pride, and ran across a talk Ezra Taft Benson gave, that seriously struck me in the heart. I would like to include it, so we can understand a prophetic definition of pride.

Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance. (See Mosiah 3:11; 3 Ne. 6:18.) In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride—it is always considered a sin. Therefore, no matter how the world uses the term, we must understand how God uses the term so we can understand the language of holy writ and profit thereby. (See 2 Ne. 4:15; Mosiah 1:3–7; Alma 5:61.)Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing. The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.
Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of “my will and not thine be done.” As Paul said, they “seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” (Philip. 2:21.)Our will in competition to God’s will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled. (See Alma 38:12; 3 Ne. 12:30.)The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. (See Hel. 12:6.) They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works.Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s.
Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen. We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. (See Hel. 6:17; D&C 58:41.)The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10.)

After I read this, I soon realized the big green pride monster inside myself. . That line that Ezra Taft Benson said made a deep impression on me. “It’s the comparing that makes you proud” Coming from a progressing country, and being in the Philippines, it is extremely easy to start comparing the culture differences. To compare ‘opinions and intellects’ is a sign of enmity.
Let me first explain what got me comparing opinions and intellects. Ever week I listen to odd things, I’ll share some that has happened recently. I often have to answer questions like ‘Will Jesus will save all the elves, gnomes, dwarfs, witches, sorcerers in the world?’ Or if I start coughing people tell me I have Pasma, (superstitious disease) that happens when you get wet when you’re tired or when you eat hot and cold food. Or when people ask me if I’m scared of the abominable Snow Man, because he lives in America, and heard about him, and are scared for me. Oh or other day my investigators found a baby fetus in their yard. My first thoughts were abortion. Their first thoughts, there must be a ghost in town. (sorry for the morbid example, but it shows the differences in our thinking patterns.)
I absolutely love their outlook on life, and it definitely keeps me entertained. Although when I hear things daily like that, I started to yearn for logical facts. I slowly saw enmity taking place in myself. Little by little I began separating myself from the Filipinos. I started thinking things like ‘I’ll trust the American Doctors advice, rather than the Filipino Doctor.’ I was putting our resources above theirs. All I was doing is diminishing their intelligence. Comparing makes one better than the other. I have sinned in ignorance countless times. I realize now that if I become humble, I’ll be more understanding. In any situation things are just okay. I don’t have to have the right thinking process, and I don’t need to be right. Even if I really think that fetus came from a human being, I don’t have to prove anything. (I actually can start liking their thinking process better. Who wants to believe a mother would do that anyway?) Humility is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of spiritual strength. My pride has been more of an internal thought process, but I’m determined to remove it so that I can just love unconditionally. I cannot express my gratitude enough for my calling here in the Philippines. I am yet again learning another lesson just by getting to know the Filipino Culture, and I’m determined to perfect my pride.

In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles declare that as spirit sons and daughters of God, we “accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize [our] divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.”1 Please note the primary importance of obtaining a physical body in the process of progressing toward our divine destiny.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught with clarity the importance of our physical bodies:
“We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body, and herein is his punishment. He is pleased when he can obtain the tabernacle of man, and when cast out by the Savior he asked to go into the herd of swine, showing that he would prefer a swine’s body to having none. All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. …
“The devil has no power over us only as we permit him; the moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power.”

2 Our physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth, and an intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal estate. President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has taught, “Our spirit and our body are combined in such a way that our body becomes an instrument of our mind and the foundation of our character.”3 Thus, our relationships with other people, our capacity to recognize and act in accordance with truth, and our ability to obey the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are amplified through our physical bodies. In the classroom of mortality, we experience tenderness, love, kindness, happiness, sorrow, disappointment, pain, and even the challenges of physical limitations in ways that prepare us for eternity. Simply stated, there are lessons we must learn and experiences we must have, as the scriptures describe, “according to the flesh” (1 Nephi 19:6; Alma 7:12–13).

Apostles and prophets consistently have taught the mortal and eternal importance of our bodies. Paul declared:

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17).

And in this dispensation the Lord revealed that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15). A truth that really is and always will be is that the body and the spirit constitute our reality and identity. When body and spirit are inseparably connected, we can receive a fullness of joy; when they are separated, we cannot receive a fullness of joy (see D&C 93:33–34).
The Father’s plan is designed to provide direction for His children, to help them become happy, and to bring them safely home to Him with resurrected, exalted bodies. Lucifer labors to make the sons and daughters of God confused and unhappy and to hinder their eternal progression. The overarching intent of the father of lies is that all of us become “miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27), and he works to distort the elements of the Father’s plan he hates the most.
Satan does not have a body, and his eternal progress has been halted. Just as water flowing in a riverbed is stopped by a dam, so the adversary’s eternal progress is thwarted because he does not have a physical body. Because of his rebellion, Lucifer has denied himself all of the mortal blessings and experiences made possible through a tabernacle of flesh and bones. He cannot learn the lessons that only an embodied spirit can learn. He cannot marry or enjoy the blessings of procreation and family life. He cannot abide the reality of a literal and universal resurrection of all mankind. One of the potent scriptural meanings of the word damned is illustrated in his inability to continue developing and becoming like our Heavenly Father.

Because a physical body is so central to the Father’s plan of happiness and our spiritual development, we should not be surprised that Lucifer seeks to frustrate our progression by tempting us to use our bodies improperly. One of the ultimate ironies of eternity is that the adversary, who is miserable precisely because he has no physical body, invites and entices us to share in his misery through the improper use of our bodies. The very tool he does not have and cannot use is thus the primary target of his attempts to lure us to physical and spiritual destruction.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mabuhay! From da phili!! What a week. WHAT a week. Well, I’ll update you about my Doctor experience. Hahah. uhm… good news is I survived. (obviously, since I’m writing you now.) So I was referred to go to Doc. Ponayo. We showed up at…nope not the hospital, but the shack behind the hospital. I felt like I was doing one of those back door type deals, and I was going to wake up in a tub missing a kidney. The doctor inspected my ear quickly, a little too suspiciously quick, and insisted my problem was “internal”. Then he asked me random questions like “have you been coughing lately” “Do you have a cold, sore throat..ect” I assured him I was healthy as a horse, besides some radical ear wax that needs to be removed. Then he asked me three times if I had diabetes, or if my mother has diabetes. I confirmed my random history of health, then he scribbled something on a paper, and sent me to “The Laboratory”. Haa.. Yeah you’d gulp too if you heard the way he said it. So I give the scribbled paper to the nurse and then she pulls out this needle the size of King Kong. I was like “whoa sister, where’d you get THAT and why” . Then without hesitation she sticks it in my arm and assures me it’s needed for tests. Well 2 screams and a pint of blood later, my brain starts catching up with the actions. I’m suddenly wondering what the ..why’d they take my blood, when my problems ear wax? Was that a used needle? Was that chick even a nurse? Then to be honest, I went to the bathroom, light-headedly, and then had one of those “what am I doing in this 3rd world country “ type moments. I then soon returned to the Doc. and without a mention of the blood, he prescribes me an Antibiotic. Yea. Just that. Ha. Then he sent me on my way. Still confused why I gave blood, I bet they just figured, “oh hey here’s this random healthy American, while she’s in here, let’s take some of her blood. We’re short some for the next transfusion.” Haha. So we’ll see if my heinous ear wax clears up or not. I have a checkup on the13th but I don’t really feel like donating anything else outta my body for now.

So we had a lovely baptism this past Saturday. A couple weeks ago he was this young 18 yr old kid, who showed up randomly at church one Sunday. Seeing a new face, went and talked to him. His Grandfather is a member, and he respects him, so he decided to go to church to see what Mormonism is all about. We then went to his house later that day, to share the good word, and from that moment until now, I witnessed the gospel get rooted into a willing soul. Such incredible timing as well. There were some serious life changing sinful pathways and decisions that were coming to the forefront of his life. Seeking guidance in certain matters, he turned to religion. He was so thirsty for learning, he willingly took our advice, and progressed rapidly. His conversion took place because of his soft heart, and the guidance of the spirit to us in each visit. After visiting him for the 2nd time, we addressed some of his soul searching concerns about facing certain temptations. The spirit was so strong in that visit, that he ended up asking if he could get baptized. I’m glad I got to witness him accept the gospel and be baptized. I hope I always remember the look on his face after he came out of the water. He looked over at Sister Rifareal and I, and gave us this great big smile. He then came over to us after and said he felt great.

Dad you asked me some questions about the progress of investigators. I got to say it’s not as easy as the conversion story above. His story of progression is because of his heart (obviously he referred himself) Philippinos are a very kind people, and they will let you in right away. And they’ve got all the time in the world, so they’ll listen to you, yet that desire is missing. We do find prepared and desire filled people, yet its surprising how many obstacles appear to try and stop them from progressing. Honestly Missionary work is incredibly hard, in trying to help these people overcome the obstacles. Yet those are the times when we just rely on the spirit to use our mouths to help them be uplifted to make a change in their life, or try a little harder to see the truth. A lot of people are blind folded, it’s just wrestling to take the blind fold off.

Love you all,

Sis. Han.

Monday, November 1, 2010

One of Rachelle's Favorite Things
writen by Lori Baltazar

Every afternoon, I hear the familiar call, which starts on a high note and ends low: “Tahoooooohhhhh! Tahoooooohhhhh!” This is a familiar call that comes from the person we’ve dubbed as the “taho man,” or simply, Manong.
Manong carries two aluminum containers, one that is long and narrow, the other one short and squat, The containers contain a traditional and treasured Filipino snack. The two tubs are balanced on a bamboo pole and carried by Manong, who is lean and strong from hours of walking carrying his precious wares, and sunburned from time spent under the sun.
The long and narrow container that Manong holds is for the taho (ta-HOH), unpressed soybean curd mixed with a coagulant. The resulting texture is that of quivery crème brulee. The short and squat container on the other hand, holds two compartments; one for the sago (sa-GOH), or tapioca balls; the other is for the brown syrup called arnibal, it’s similar to molasses.
First the taho is scooped out into the plastic cups that Manong carries with him, or else we give him one of our own cups. Once the taho has almost filled the cup, Manong then lifts the lid of the other container. Using a narrow aluminum spoon which looks like a long, slim ladle, he carefully spoons out some syrup and drizzles it on top of the taho. Once there is enough syrup, Manong then scoops out little piles of sago, using it to top the taho.
The first mouthful is like liquid coursing down my throat. It’s warm, from the syrup and the heat. It’s sweet, with the undertones of brown sugar. It tastes like the comfort of a thousand happy memories
Halloween in the Philippines...
The family sleeps overnight in the Cemetery with their ancestors.
So all I gotta say for this week is KARMA. I totally dis the Philippino hospital last week, and now I have to go in...(at this point of the letter, mom's heart takes a lurch) . I recently karma-ratically developed a fungus in my ear. gross huh? yeah. I cant hear, and its damp and blocked inside. I've been putting off going in because I’m scared to death what the doctor is going to do. My companion said the doctor will scrape it out with a small spoon. Oh well, whatever happens, at least God gave me 2 ears. haha. (Mom is now on the internet checking "ear fungas"...) If one goes, at least I still have the other.

So mother dear. You sent me curry!!! I miss my Indian food. Your package actually got me exploring in the back streets of the Philippines and I’m finding real neat spices and different products. I can actually pull off some American foods too. But I prefer to learn new dishes, then repeat my own cultures for now. I sent a pic of my final curry product. It has sitaw, carrots, squash, chicken in it. I should have been an Indian. We have Hindu Indian neighbors who don't speak a lick of Tagalog, and I bet their mouths were watering over my curry smelling delicious tastiness.

So this letter will be the highlight edition. I'm going to include things that I’ll MISS from the Philippines. Things that you can only experience in the Phili. I'll miss riding a trycie. Buying hot street peanuts for only 5 pesos. Drinking Taho each morning from a walking vendor, who brings it to my home each morning. I'll miss all the random parades that are thrown weekly. Whether its the Dead person parade, the gay dancer parade, the random 'lets walk behind a lit up cross' parade, or some little kid parade who made floats (pulled by callibou or trycies) and wave in the streets. Any excuse a Philippino can find to celebrate. I miss walking into houses and seeing random ribbons and trophies that each family member has won from cities, schools, or any organization. Philippinos love being rewarded, and you'll see random rewards like "most special person" award. And they love talking about them too. I'll miss getting away with singing Christmas songs in October. Yes, It is Christmas season. They start it early here, because they love to celebrate. I'll miss being able to do anything illegal in America, its okay here. No law enforcement. People peeing on no peeing signs. Or being able to ride on the top of a jeepnee, because there was no more room inside the bus. I'll miss random English signs like "stop dumping hugs here". I will definitely miss the clothing here. People are a walking D.I. and I LOVE it. Mostly peoples clothing come from a place called ukay ukay. It is used Japanese and Chinese clothing. I see a lot of really neat creative outfits. I wish I could take ukay home with me. I'll miss creative house decorations made out of anything people find. I saw in one house, they cut up little pieces of chip bags, and fold them together to make curtains. I wont miss ugly stray dogs though. They're everywhere!  One even pee'd on me while I was tracting too. I'll miss crazy old ladies like Nany Ligaya, who offers another prayer after the opening prayer, introduces her granddaughter to God, and asks Him to make her Mormon because they've got air conditioning at church. Well I could go on and on. But I'll end that rant for now.

So last night we had to end work at 6pm because of Halloween. I guess its too dangerous late at night, and there is no work today as well. Strictly stay at our houses in the evening. Captn's orders. The Philippinos celebrate Halloween a completely different way than us. Its a catholic holiday for 2 days. They go to the cemetery, pray over the dead, get drunk, then everyone sleeps at the cemetery! I had to ask a couple times just to make sure I heard right. Yes, they actually sleep at the cemetery on Halloween night. Creepy! Anyway, Take care. Until next week! Ba baye.

Sister Han.