Sunday, April 22, 2012

Update on Elder Pettit's New Area

Last Tuesday I worked in Elder Gunnell's area (my district leader) where we hiked into the mountains, crossed a river 3 or 4 times, and passed by a plant called huya-huya ("shy-shy" because it curls up to hide from you when you touch it) just to get to a member's house. The member walks that distance and more each Sunday to attend church and other days to attend other meetings, and there are other members close by, and investigators there being taught! Pretty crazy. All in all my area is not quite as adventurous. We have pavement/cement roads nearly everywhere we go. But nonetheless it is still an adventure. At least I can say that, while the Tangalan Elders (Elder Gunnell and his comp) go home to a luxurious beach-house (right on the beach, wind and a beautiful view), we are currently having the adventure by walking home (around 30 minute walk from the main part of town) to a somewhat dungeon of a home--unpainted cement walls and rough cement floor, with ceiling only in the bedroom, bathroom, and study room, (the rest being open to the trusses that hold up the tin roof) and the bathroom/kitchen counter not even tiled... (But don't worry, the owner of the house stopped by this morning to let us know he is putting the tiles in the bathroom/kitchen like he promised he would last September :)) But we will not complain!!! Because it is just part of the work. And we enjoy ourselves all the same. We ARE however looking for a new house to move into. But not much luck because lots of people are looking for houses here currently people say. The language is coming along. I can speak Tagalog quite well, my only downfall is the limited vocabulary that I know. But I gave a talk yesterday in church about the Book of Mormon, all in tagalog, and it went pretty well! So I can get my words around, its mostly just understanding because of my small vocab. The crazy language of Aklanon is also coming a little bit. The hardest things are still the strange throat noises, but I can kinda do a few of them :) I'm excited to give you an example when I call in a few weeks. The people are very willing to help with the language so things are working out ok. They say I have a pretty good filipino accent now! I was able to meet most of the members in our group yesterday, which was a great experience. Our group leader is a great man. He has a strong concern for the wellfare of each of the members, and a great desire to help the unit to progress. We have a few other wonderful strong families, and some slightly newer members that are making their way to becoming very firm in their testimonies as well. The entire group is looking forward to becoming a branch in the near future, and I am happy to be able to be a part of that progression. We have some very strong SA/Youth that are thrilled to be able to help in the finding and teaching of investigators and less actives as well and I can see the current members are going to be a great part in the church progressing rapidly here. I really feel like we have been guided by the Lord in all of our efforts the few days we have been able to work. It seems wherever we go, or whoever we teach, we are able to run into new people and open new doors to getting new investigators etc. I feel like our companionship and the members here are really qualifying for the companionship of the Spirit and that is what is going to be the best help in strengthening the members and seeking out new people that are ready to hear the gospel. I am loving these days. Being able to focus all of my time and efforts on the members and investigators is a great feeling, and I am looking forward to these last weeks I will be spending in the mission field. I'd prefer it no other way!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter and a Transfer!

Sam has finished his assignment as the AP and is now in the furthest mission area from the mission home!  Here is an excerpt from his email at Easter:

Elder McClellan (my new companion, actually trained by Elder Burton) and I have great plans for the area to help it progress. I haven't quite yet experienced a full day of proselyting here yet because of transfers and then conference, but in the next few days I sure will. And I'm excited for it!

We had another wonderful departure meeting on Tuesday. They have been possibly the most spiritual experience I have had on my mission so far, and this last one was no exception. Seeing the seasoned missionaries say their goodbyes and bear their testimonies is a very powerful experience that I am very much grateful for. It is hard to see them go, but I am sure that they will continue to live excellent lives as they apply the things that they have learned on their missions to their every day. The rest of the week was as busy as ever. Picking up the 6 missionaries from the US was fun. 2 Elders and 4 Sisters. The Sisters were fireballs! They were chatting and laughing the whole day. Their excitement was very much felt, until the exhaustion caught up with them and they all passed out on the couches in the lobby of the office. Haha. Then Thursday we picked up the one local missionary, an Elder, and had lunch and then the orientation meeting. Friday was as hectic as ever with transfers, not to mention it was good Friday, which meant that we found out on Thursday afternoon that the transportation would not be having a regular day of work, and so we had to change the time of transfer meeting on the spot to be an hour early, and we were scrambling to get everybody off to their terminals immediately after the meeting was over. But at last we made it, and the jeep I was in made its way out of the parking lot of Arevalo chapel, the last time I'll probably see it until I am there for my departure! It was hard leaving the area, just like it always is, being so close to the members and investigators and missionaries I have been able to work with. But I'm ready for another adventure! And I am definitely in for one!

I'm now writing from Ibajay, Aklan. I don't know if I mentioned it was where I was going, but here I am! I went from President's ward to being the farthest area from him! We arrived Friday afternoon (arriving about two hours earlier than expected due to no traffic because of holy week) and visited a few members in the area. Ibajay is a group attached to the Tangalan branch, which is just on the other side of the mountain. We are the closes area to Boracay, but sadly it is prohibited, and President even told me once when I joked with him, "I wouldn't hesitate to send someone home if I found out they went to Boracay." So we won't do that. Haha. But lots of people here work there, and at least it can be seen from the beach! The language here is Aklanon. I think I described it once before, but it is pretty much a mix of the other two languages on the island, ilongo and karay-a, plus some of their own crazy twists, like not using the letter 'L' but replacing it with a strange noise made at the back of the throat that is a beast to learn! A lot of them speak Tagalog, but in our area they don't seem to speak it very well. I have been having a debate with myself if I will just stick with Tagalog or try to learn their language, or both. I feel inclined to just go for their language, because I feel like I could be a lot closer with them if I could speak their native language, but I'll let you know how that's going over the next few weeks. They don't really understand Ilongo, but they are very willing to help me learn their language. Saturday we went to Kalibo City for general conference, which was great! I really enjoyed the theme of fulfilling priesthood responsibilities in the priesthood session, and then the family theme in the rest of the conference. Sunday we headed back to Kalibo for the last 2 sessions, and were able to do some tracting in the afternoon when we got home, making a few good contacts and finding some potential investigators. I am very excited to be a part in strengthening the Church in the area, hopefully helping them make their way to becoming a branch soon, and finding more people that are ready for the gospel. We're ready to work hard this week!

Holy week was about as crazy as expected. Friday, after visiting a few members, we got trapped by the procession that was circling the catholic church, and had to find ways around their crowds to get back home. It is incredible how many people join the procession. They carry candles and
walk around, pulling around their "revolto," or statues of Jesus and Mary etc, on carts. Some were even pulling small generators behind them to have electricity to light up their statues! It was pretty crazy. People get really into their traditions during times like this and seem to be a little more closed to our message, but the work goes on all the same.

I continue to love every day of the mission. I look forward to being able to focus all of my thoughts and efforts on the area I am assigned it. It will be a great few months.