Monday, September 30, 2013

Letter to the family:

This has been a pretty difficult week for Elder Manicdo and I too get lessons.  Everyone seems to be gone or busy when we arrive.  But on the bright spot of teaching, yesterday we were teaching a 10 year old boy named JC (John Carter).  Honestly he reminds me a lot of Timothy.  From the very first lesson that I taught him he has refused to pray, and today he said the closing prayer.  It was one of those small miracles that I didn't take for granted. I just wanted to kindle that spark that had been started so eventually he will be praying all of the time and reading the Book of Mormon.  This week has consisted of a lot of street contacting because tracting here is almost nearly impossible.  A majority of the houses are close to the road so it's hard to hear when someone is at the door.  Instead of knocking on doors you stand outside the gate (if they have one) and yell (Tao Po).  Just a little funny side note, I have started to eat rice by the cups now.  When we eat out at restaurants I get the main dish and then I get unlimited rice that goes with it.  I even eat more rice then Elder Lam Cheum (he's from Samoa) sometimes. 
Our area is one of the biggest in the mission so after this transfer ends (Oct.7) our area is being split into a Sister area so we lose over half of our investigators.  It sucks because we lose 2 people that have Baptismal Goal Dates.  And now we have to take a 30 minute Jeep me ride Araw Araw (everyday) just to get to our area.  I guess that just means that there's a lot of work to be done in Pacol and Carolina.  But today for our district activity we went to Mt. Isarog and went to the falls.  Might I say that it is was gorgeous!!!  It felt like I was in a Jurassic Park movie.  Having the jungle just surround me with banana trees and all sorts of exotic animals made me speechless.  Being on a volcano was pretty astig (awesome).  The language is starting to come pretty well at this point in time, one day I just woke up and Tagalog made sense.  The people are starting to understand me a lot more so that makes me feel really good.  It's not perfect Tagalog but I'm sure working on it.  We don't watch General Conference till the 2nd Saturday and Sunday so we've still got another week until we get to watch it.  I can't wait to watch it for my very first time as a missionary.  I think I'll be able to listen a lot easier now, especially when the talks about Missionary Work comes up.   Well I love you guys and I'm grateful for all that you've done for me, it's nice knowing of how much support I have coming from the home front.
The weather here is just as hot as ever and it rains nearly everyday!!  I didn't believe that it rained that often... boy was I wrong.  And when it rains here, it rains with a vengeance.  This week has been rough for Elder Manicdo and I to get lessons, either the people are gone or they're busy.  It's been frustrating but oh well.  This week has consisted of a lot of street contacting because our backup plans fall through most of the time as well.  My Tagalog is getting a lot better and I'm really starting to be able to communicate with the people.  I just woke up one day and Tagalog seemed to make sense.  It was pretty funny because it was just like you on your mission.  My vocabulary is still pretty small but oh well, it'll grow over time.  Transfer day is Oct.7 so it's pretty close.  It's crazy close honestly; it's weird to think that I'm almost halfway through with my training.  But just for clarification Dad, Pena Frenca is a Catholic festival where they move a statue of "Lady Pena Frenca" through the streets and there's all of the kids in Priests and Nun school that follow behind.  This festival lasts for about two weeks and it is crazy!!!  But yes thankfully it is over now.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This week has been pretty rough for Elder Manicdo and I, we still managed to teach 12 lessons but there were two days that we couldn't do anything because of the Pena Frenca Festival; we couldn't even get to our area. There were over a million extra people in Naga City for the festival!!!  I couldn't believe how crazy it was. There were drunk people all over the place and I can't tell you of how many times I was called "Joe".  On Sunday we went to one of the Sisters lunch appointments and this drunk guy kept trying to invite me to have shots with them.  Well on a different note, I'm still struggling with Tagalog, it's not a very easy language like everyone said it was.  It's a very situational language and that just messes me up all the time.  But I know it'll come in time with continued hard work and dedication.  I had a pretty amazing experience the other night though that I thought was pretty awesome.  Elder Manicdo and I had just been punted from our last appointment and it wasn't time to head back to the apartment yet so we decided to OYM (Open Your Mouth) while we walked home since it was a good while's away.  Elder Manicdo started talking to this old man but he didn't seem very interested so we just gave him a pamphlet and left.  When we OYM  we switch off of who initiates the conversation so it was my turn to start.  We walked for a while and Elder Manicdo was pretty mad that I hadn't stopped for a few "perfect opportunities".  I don't know, they could have been but I don't regret my decision to keep moving because what happened later made waiting pay off.  We were walking past an old auto repair shop and this guy in his 20's said "Hey, what's up Joe".  I don't know what compelled me to do this; but I just turned around and walked straight up to him and started greeting him in Tagalog.  He was quite impressed that I spoke Tagalog (even if was just a little bit).  I talked to him for a minute and got to know him a little bit better and told him about why we were here. He seemed pretty interested in our message so we gave him a pamphlet and got his number.  He doesn't live in our area but hey, I don't care.  I was able to face one of my biggest fears; speaking in Tagalog.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Well this has been a week of adventures in the Philippines.  This week Elder Manicdo and I struggled to get lessons due to the Pena Frenca Festival.  This festival lasts for about a week and there is a lot of alcohol involved!!  On Friday we couldn't even work because we couldn't get to our area. But  I had a very unique experience on Saturday night though.  Elder Manicdo and I were going to go teach Brother Daniel Roman, he's a 50 year old retired military soldier and was an investigator of the church 20 years ago.  When we arrived to home, we saw him through his gate and it was obvious that he was drunk, he couldn't walk straight and his eyes were bright red.  But he saw us and insisted that we come in and teach him; so we went in thinking we were going to share a quick scripture and leave.  But as we sat down he started to ramble about stories from when he was in the military.  It got to the point to where he just started to cry non-stop. During his service he said that he had killed three men and of the pain that he feels for it all this time later.  He doesn't feel like he can repent of this because "They were innocent men" is what he said.  Brother Roman was almost reliving that experience as we were talking to him; he would make sound effects and kept  acting like he was holding a rifle.  This poor man said that he feels that he's done more wrong than Satan himself.  Even through his drunken eyes, I could see the pain and the anguish that these experiences have caused for him.  These eyes yearned for peace and forgiveness.  But at the end of this lesson he asked us if we would give him a blessing; that blessing was probably one of the single most spiritual moments I have had while on my mission.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Things here in the Philippines have had their ups and downs this week.  On my first time asking an investigator to commit to baptism (Sister Burnadette), she accepted but her husband wouldn't allow her to be baptized.  It was pretty disheartening to see someone so willing to enter into the waters of baptism have their chance taken away by their spouse.  Elder Manicdo and I have 4 investigators with baptismal goal dates but none of them are attending church so we keep having to push back their dates.  Here in the Philippines; an investigator has to attend church for 4 consecutive weeks in order to qualify to be baptized.  We also have quite a few lessons, a lot of them just get dropped, it's pretty frustrating wasting time walking to an appointment only to walk away not even a minute later.  Missionary life definitely isn't easy, but it sure is rewarding.  One night Elder Manicdo and I were walking home after our last appointment and Brother San Ramon (1st conselor in the Bishopric) saw us and pulled over to the side of the road.  He took us into a pretty nice restaurant, paid for our meals and left.  I can't express the amount of love I have for these people; they give all that they have when they hardly have anything themselves.  Their selflessness is exactly what I imagine Christ being like.  They are such an example to me, and I am trying to learn all I can from these wonderful people.

Friday, September 6, 2013

We finally heard that Elder Cole arrived safely to the Philippines yesterday. Better late than never I guess. A picture was taken of Elder Cole with Mission President Reeder and his wife, and I'm sure the big smile included the fact that he is taller than them both.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Elder Cole's first mission field letter to home.

It's still weird to think that I am 10,000 miles away from home.  When I wake up every morning and hear Tagalog I feel like I'm in a dream.  Sometimes I feel like I'm still at the MTC and I'm going to wake up to my district. I miss those guys greatly but I know that we'll see each again.  Well maybe not Sister Mwea unfortunately.  Well Dad, I was assigned to work in the Naga 1B area first.  We cover a great portion of the city (It's a pretty big city) and a few small towns out in the middle of nowhere.  Mt. Isarog is in our area and boy is it gorgeous.  I felt like I was in a Jurassic Park movie when I first saw it.  My trainer is Elder Manicdo (Maneekdo), he's a Filipino and this guy has only been out for 3 months.  He is one strong worker and doesn't give up easily.  The great part is that he speaks English very well so he is constantly helping me with my Tagalog.  My language skills are starting to come but I'll give it at least 4 months before I'm really good with the language.  I have been extremely humbled being here in the Philippines; just seeing all of the poverty makes so grateful for the things which I have.  We are very blessed that we have a shower head in our apartment, there's only cold water but I don't care.  During my first ever lesson, Elder Manicdo and I were teaching a recent convert Beverly (16) in the center (or Centro) of town and two little boys that didn't have any shoes on (neither one looked over three), came up to me and asked me for money.  My heart literally broke in pieces at the moment.  I would have probably given them a few pesos in heart beat if it weren't against mission rules.  Brother Evangalista (one of the members in the Naga 1st ward) is probably one of the most humble men that I have ever seen in my entire life.  He and his family live in an alley way where no light can get through the windows.  He has a daughter who is severely handicapped but yet he counts every blessing that the Lord has given him.  He told me with his broken English that his house is always open to the servants of the Lord, so they fed us with what little food they had.  He didn't even eat because he said we needed the nourishment more than he did.  These Filipino people sure are very special.