Monday, April 25, 2011

Dear Family,
Life is great as usual. I absolutely love Naga. Its filled with lots of rejection, and lots of blessings. Dad, I want to let you know that your prayers are being answered, and we are being lead to those people ready to accept the gospel. Sister Saua and I started from ground Zero here, and through the trust and mercy of God, we had a record breaking amount of investigators at Church yesterday. Some walking several miles in the scorching sun to attend. Grabe. This letters going to make me cry. I am just filled with gratitude to God for helping my companion and I find and teach powerfully.
Most of our investigators are real truth seekers. Asking really deep questions. Wanting to know our beliefs and stand point on a lot of religious topics. I am quite impressed with the desires of certain people. Others have really apostate questions. I have realized, that no matter how powerful my words are, no matter if I confound them in their speech, all it is to them is information, until they open their hearts and ask God. It takes a level of humility to be able to include God in such important decisions such as religion. Religion, is a spiritual thing. I cannot be learned by any other way, except through the spirit.
Jesus once told the Apostle Peter "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." People can compare churches all day long, but your not going to get anywhere, until you HUMBLY ask God.
I am sincerely thankful for each one of their questions, to help me study things out further, and become more durable or steadfast in our faith. Its like every thing I find, just adds to the truth. Its incredible. If there is anything that challenges our beliefs, if you actually study it out, all you'll find is evidence that supports our beliefs even more. I'm seeing a change in me. Things that I would say "I believe..." are now turning into "I know....".
We received our belief by guidance of the Holy Ghost. Then it becomes a knowledge when we actually study it out.
Mom, you asked about the little girl taking care of her baby twin brothers. I'm sorry to break your heart, but thats life for many children here. I'm no longer in that area, and I could share a mess of other situations in this current area. I think if you were here, you'd understand why I shared my feelings about me wanting to adopt here. I have this one investigator, who my heart has never been wrenched more in my life. Imagine 11 children, ranging 25-11 abandoned by their parents. Haven't seen their mother in over 2 years. Their father comes home rarely, completely drunk. They've never had a conversation with him when he hasn't been drunk. He'll pass out for one night, leave when he gains consciousness, then perhaps they'll see him 5 months later when he wonders his way back home. Ramond loves listening to us. He is 21 years old, and is one of the main providers for their family. Sad thing is, he doesn't have a job. He just finds random work when the opportunity comes. His heart is SO soft. Some people would probably look at his life, and see lack of love and help from God. Although when Raymond prays, his prayers are so tender. He finds countless ways to thank, love and worship God. Gods love is like a warm blanket whenever I enter their home, or when Raymond speaks.
Its so heart wrenching to see such a willing spirit, placed in such a challenging situation. Not only physically, but spiritually. The Eldest brother, contradicts the Church, and makes fun of Raymond for listening to us. He has several friends from other "rival" churches. The other Sunday, we went to his house to pick him up before church. Walking out of his house, I felt like I was walking a death march. There were neighbors, friends ect.. lined up in the street tantalizing and persecuting him for going to Church with us. He just bowed his head, and pushed through the comments. I held a smile and just whispered to him don't listen to them.
I had to fight thoughts of "Why Him?" why is this spirit placed in such constricting situations, when there are people in other situations like mine, where I was given the gospel at birth and raised with a loving family? I have taken tooo many things for granted in my life. He's probably just a stronger spirit than I. I know that God doesn't test us past our capacity. I'm just very impressed with the way Ramond is over coming and viewing his challenges, while accepting the gospel along the way.
Love you all,
Sister Rachelle Hancock

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Philippines news article

Easter'crucifixions' Catholics in the Philippines nailed to crosses for Good Friday

Catholic devotees in the Philippines have been nailed to crosses in Easter 'crucifixions' recreating the Passion of Christ for Good Friday.

A penitent is nailed to a wooden cross to mark the death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in the town of Pampanga , Philippines Photo: EPA
While the ritual is frowned on by church authorities, the voluntary crucifixions in villages north of the capital Manila are one of the most extreme displays of religious devotion in Asia's largest Roman Catholic state.
Other penitants whipped their backs and chanted prayers as dozens of them mixed faith with gory rituals to mark the church calendar's most sombre day at Easter.
Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, spokesman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said the church discourages such rituals because the penitents were expecting rewards for hurting themselves.
"We only encourage the faithfuls to fast, pray and confess their sins," he told the Reuters news agency. "We can't stop the practice. It is not necessary, but the church has no police power. These rituals challenge us to guide our flock on the true teachings of the Catholic church."
In the small village of Cutud, 50 miles north of Manila, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was re-enacted in a colourful street play with dozens of men carrying wooden crosses as heavy as 110 lbs and scores whipping their backs to a bloody pulp.
After walking barefoot for almost a mile around the village in scorching heat, the drama ended at a man-made hill where 11 men were nailed to crosses with three-inch nails driven into their hands and feet.
"I am not doing this for fame or money," said Ruben Inaje, 48, who has played the role of Jesus Christ at Cutud since 1986. "This is my own way of thanking the Lord. He has showered my family with so much blessings and has saved my life many times."
Inaje, a house painter, said he made a decision to have himself crucified after escaping death after a fall from a three-storey building.
"I believed God was using me as an instrument to show the world the Filipinos' devotion to God," he said, showing his bandaged bands at a medical station after the crucifixion.
"I will never get tired doing this every year. This is my personal devotion and I will continue this until the Lord allows my body to endure the pain."
In the neighbouring province of Bulacan, five people were nailed to wooden crosses, including an 18-year-old woman and an Australian, who said he was hoping his sacrifice would cure his cancer-striken mother.
The crowd cheered John Michael, 33, as the nails were driven to his hands and feet. Minutes, later he gave a broad smile of relief as the nails were pulled out.
About 20 crucifixions were held in four other parts of the country.
Thousands, many of them curious tourists from Australia, Europe and South Korea watched the spectacle in Cutud, which has grown from a village novelty started in 1955 to a media and tourist attraction copied in other parts of the country.
The atmosphere was festive, with hawkers selling bottled water, beer, ice-cream and souvenir whips. VIPs and even some nuns watched from a specially elevated "viewing platform".
More than 80 per cent of the Philippines' estimated 90 million population are Catholic.
Well, looks like God has turned up the burner, and now torching the Philippines. Have you ever felt like your skin is melting off your body? I have.
So, I have a short story, that my companion is STILL teasing me about. How would you feel if you were riding the local bus, and then an odd looking person screamed out PEOPLE! while you were casually sitting in your seat? Yeaa,,,well I confess I am that odd looking person in this story. Here in the Philippines, when you want to call out to people in their homes, you yell TAO PO (people!). Then if you are riding in a Jeepnee, and you want to stop, you yell PARA PO (stop!). Well, yesterday, in the Jeepnee, I yelled out TAO PO! My companion bursted out laughing, and we ended up going way past our destination point, because of the laughing confusion of why the white lady yelled out People! in the Jeepnee. Ahhh I love being a dyslexic foreigner.
A mission is wonderfully interesting. Sister Saua and I talked last night about how you are really tried in Faith, Patience, and Humility here. I've found a great way how to climb out of a trial or rebound from a hardship. Read about Jesus. It has a way of calming my spirit, even when I'm so imperfect, I can gain that motivation to keep trying.
So this week is Holy Week for the Catholics. They've all brought out their lit crosses, and engraven images. People walk around in the street carrying large crosses, chanting along the way. I informed you previously a little on how far the extent people go here in showing their respect for the atonement. Most have the belief that they need to chose people to make suffer, to know the pains Jesus went through for them. They whip them on the back, and some daw go the extent of nailing them to a cross. Then they all participate in Passion Reading, where they all pray to the saint images. This week we've run into a lot of cancelled appointments, due to their Holiday, although for those willing to listen, its a great opportunity to shed some Gospel light on the matter. They ask us what we do to remember Jesus' atonement, then we read and testify the way Jesus taught- through our weekly Sacrament, and constant repentance.
"And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not. "
- 3 NE 9: 19-20
Scriptures bring a powerful sense of truth to People. Its the instrument that takes off the blind fold. We used this scripture back in January, for an investigator who had a concern if she joined the Church, she would not be able to participate in her family passion holy week tradition. This scripture opened her eyes, and to make the story short, she was baptized. Sometimes people need to give up false traditions, weaknesses, ect.. for the truth. We will see what people love more. God, or the natural man.
Love ya all,
Sister Hancock 

PS My former companion just emailed me to inform me that the man, I grabbed and brought into church last november, got baptized last saturday. I just knew he'd get baptized. Removed his smoking habit, and now him and his wife are preparing to take a temple trip to be sealed for eternity.
Great week. Loving Naga. We saw a lot of success and wonderful inspired lessons this past week. Of coarse occasionally, we run into some roadblocks, trying to hinder the work, such as busy people, canceled appointments, ect..although I am shocked at the trust and blessings God is giving us. We have been lead to few, but very chosen and ready people for the gospel. Its really quite motivating for me. I constantly catch myself evaluating how I need to be a missionary for them. I feel like I need to prepare myself the best for them, so I'm not to blame, by not presenting the gospel in the most effective way. Determining on the spirit, and over coming peoples concerns, I am faithful these next few months we will see a lot of new members in the Naga 3rd Ward.
Today my companion and I decided to attend the opening of a family history center, here in Naga. I am very thrilled to have the Family History Center here. Elder Edwards of the area 70, said that there are only 2 Family Centers in the world, located in City Halls. Both are here in the Philippines. Obviously its not possible in America, due to church&state laws, although this blessing here in the Philippines will open up the church to anyone visiting the City Hall. So yea, earlier today was an awesome way to talk to people visiting and ask if we could share the gospel with them. I am planning on setting up a display sometime, with pamphlets, and a register. That way, if people are interested in knowing more about the Church, they can write their name, address, and availability down. The display will explain our belief in sealing families for eternity, and if they are interested in sealing their family, the missionaries will explain the gospel steps in order to receive that blessing from God. Then occasionally, Sister and I will stop in and check to see if anyone referred themselves to us.
Anyway, like I said previously, this week was incredible. Completely lead by the spirit. We were able to have people open up to us, and express their concerns. I feel like the spirit had been my right hand man. My Mission President blessed me at the beginning on my mission, that I would learn how be able to perfectly hear the spirits voice. I think about that a lot, and I see that blessings being fulfilled now. I can now say, I hear that voice, and wait for it.... before I speak, teach, tract, oym, and any other action through out the day. For example, Yesterday. I had a firm impression to go and visit an inactive member yesterday. We had visited her just the day before, and had no logical reason to visit her again that day. Although, I knew for some reason, we needed to go visit her. Well, not denying the spirit, we went. While sharing with her, I wondered what the spirit wanted from us during that visit. I soon followed the impression to ask her about one of her daughters. This inactive sister then shared that she actually just visited her daughter earlier that day. She was informed that her granddaughter, went to the mormon church that day. Neither her granddaughter nor her daughter are members. The missionaries taught them a few years back, although no one was baptized. I immediately asked this grandmother where her daughters home was. Later that evening , we met with this family. We asked the granddaughter, how and why she went to church. She said she woke up that morning, remembered the feeling when the missionaries taught her years back, and desired to feel that again. So she then found the nearest members home, and asked them to take her to their church. Well she happened to go to church, the Sunday we would view General Conference. What a perfect day, to be prompted by the spirit to go and hear the prophet speak. What a perfect day, to prompt a grandmother to go visit her grandchildren. What a perfect day to prompt the missionaries to contact an inactive grandmother to relay the story to them. God works in marvelous wonderful ways. He is willing to draw anyone nearer to him, if they are just willing and ready to listen to His spirit.
Love ya all,
Sister Hancock

Monday, April 4, 2011

Anyway, Naga is awesome. great ward, big area, and an upgraded apartment. Naga is pure Bicol, yet they can understand Tagalog. Although I have met some, who even if they understand tagalog, Bicol is the only language that comes out. So Its fun to try and understand the Bicol they speak back at me. I've been in the Bicol (naga dialect) region for almost 5 months. Its mostly all I’ve heard at church, and outside. I haven't been able to find a Bicol dictionary anywhere, they say they don't make one, because the Bicol dialect changes in other areas. So the best I can do, is make my own dictionary. I ask every one to tell me what Tagalog words are in Bicol. I can understand it, I pray in it, although I mostly speak Tagalog, because my companion doesn't want to get confused with another language. Which is understandable, she has to focus on tagalog and English, while having a Samoan tongue. Although last night, I went on splits with Sister Go, who has been studying Bicol, so the whole night we talked to others in Bicol. :) First time I "conversationally" replied in Bicol. I was incredibly happy about that.

We are pretty much opening this Area, so we have done LOADS of tracting. Last night was awesome though. Sister Go and I worked so hard. We tracted all evening, It felt like we had contacted the entire city. Everyone was pretty busy, and had no time for the gospel. Rejection, rejection, rejection. Although our spirits stayed high. We just kept in mind, just one more person willing to listen, that's all we want. Door after door, the evening grew darker. Dark enough, that most missionaries had probably retired for the night. Although, we just had a feeling there was one more person. We saw a lady outside holding a baby, so we decided to talk to her. She didn't seem too interested, although a women ran out of the house we were standing in front of, and immediately invited us in. She was so intrigued by our message about Jesus Christ. We invited her to pray and the close of our conversation. She thanked God for sending her 2 messengers to help her in her right then in her life, and she knew we were coming from Him. The spirit was so incredibly strong. I haven't seen someone that willing to listen to the gospel, in a long time. I've been praying a lot, to help God guide us to those who are prepared to receive the gospel. I'm so grateful God lead us to that women. In the midst of rejection and darkness, I'm so glad we didn't give up. That was the trial of my faith. To be able to hold on the entire evening, or entire week rather, to prove to God my faith in Him, before he answered my prayer.

"Faith is things hoped for and not seen; wherefore dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." Ether 12:6.

Its interesting I teach about Faith everyday, thinking if people had faith, they could make it to church, although I now see the reverse, in the missionaries faith. Many times I have recited James 2 to others, about faith without works is dead. Although I now see it so apparent in what I'm doing. God is willing to grant us our requests in our prayer, just sometimes we need to put forth the right amount of diligent effort to find the answer.

I had some incredible experiences at the start of lest week, although last night was fresh in my mind, and it looks like I only have time to share that. I hope next week I can update you on the other experiences I had.

Anyway, God is good. I testify that He personally knows each one of his children. I'm grateful that I get to witness how God reaches out every single one.

Lub ya,

Sis. Hancock