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.