No time to email this week, so I am literally emailing specific parts of an email I sent to my mission president, President Hughes. Hope you enjoy!!
Anyway... this past week. This week has been incredible. One fear that Elder Nelson and I have had in our ward is accidentally forgetting about a member that’s still living in the area. But time and time again, Heavenly Father finds a way to bring us to His children, and using their agency comes back to Him. Let’s start with the Briones family from Santa Maria ward. The great thing about Santa Maria is that the members know basically every other member. Which is exactly what we needed to find them. However, there are some members that no one knows (maybe they just moved in, or their records were dumped in this ward). But even for those names, sometimes they find you. We just finished our trip to Norzagaray, feeling successful that we found the all the remnants of the long-gone Norzagaray branch. We felt so happy that we used my speaker and started listening to some hymns (in this case hymn#2 The Spirit of God). But suddenly the aux cord broke. No music was playing and we thought it might’ve broke. Luckily though, there was a car accessory shop right ahead, so I asked Elder Nelson if we could stop tracting real quick, so I can buy a new aux cord. We stopped and I walked over to the cashier. And this is what she said to me in English,
“Elders! It’s been so long since I've seen Mormons, I missed seeing Elders.” -Sis. Briones
“Wow we’ve missed you too, but I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Elder Villanueva and that’s my companion Elder Nelson. Wait a second, which ward are you from?” -Elder Villanueva
“I’m Joana Briones, and I go to the Santa Maria ward, but it’s been a few years since I went to church because I live in Norzagaray.” -Sis. Briones
The Briones family are next door neighbours to the Vergara family (who are very active in the church). But the Briones family has been inactive for so long that even the Vergara’s didn’t know that they were Mormon. But somehow in a random car shop, they found the courage to introduce themselves and show us that they’re still here. They’re still here.
I love the work that we’re doing because even though there are times that we may feel lost, we never really are. That if we do what’s right, and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we don’t get lost; but instead find His children.
Another quick story! This time of a guy named Aldus. We were walking, next to a palayan (rice paddy) when all of the sudden Bro. Daz (our worker) felt prompted to walk through a palayan.
“Bro. Daz.. you want us to walk through a rice paddy?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure there’s a member here. I remember a missionary a while back that really wanted to have an adventure and baptized a guy in a palayan”
“Whelp... I can’t argue with that.”
So we walked through it. Our shoes and soon parts of our legs and knees had mud. Or maybe carabao poop. We kept walking.
“I can feel it, it’s just through this dark mango forest, then the pig and cow ranch” -Bro. Daz
“Cool” -Elder Villanueva
“That’s a huge mango tree” -Elder Nelson
We walked through the huge mango trees that were roughly 50ft tall, through massive cows that we gently avoided, and through some boars with massive teeth. And after all of that. We found him. In a small dank kubo next to a lake, we found a kind and humble soul named Aldus. He was baptized a few years ago but no one has ever fellowshipped or been to his house because of the trials in the way. But to be honest, if the Holy Ghost did not prompt our worker to go through a palayan, a dark mango forest, and a ranch, there is no way that Elder Nelson and I would have ever found him.
In our everyday lives and all around us, I know that there are people willing and ready to come back to the church or at the very least curious enough to learn those small and simple truths that we often take advantage of. But I promise all of you that if we take the time to at least appreciate what we know is true.... That we do have a loving Father in heaven, that His son died for us so that we may all overcome the sting of death, that our families can live happily together forever, that the heavens are still open and that are miracles and revelations today, that we have a living prophet who loves us and his name is President Russell M. Nelson. If we take the time to appreciate and remember these small yet important things, then I know that we can in turn be filled with happiness and peace and love. Also like my friend Joana Briones, if you have the courage to speak and ask, I know that you can be found and you can know what is true for yourself.
Urdaneta Philippines Mission
Quezon City North Philippines Mission