The Longer Ones

Thursday, May 14, 2020


So headphones. A few years ago, Airpods came out and I thought they were stupid. I came home, my parents gave me one (because because) and I ended up loving them!!

To an extent.

So most people use headphones to like detract themselves from society and, you know, mind their own business listening to whatever their bops are. And I have nothing against bops or jams. But for me, I use headphones as a way to be invisible. 

Whenever you see someone with headphones on, unless you know them, you don't bother talking to them and often even ignore them because you assume they don't care. Fair assumption? So sometimes I use my Airpods/headphones to not just listen to music, but I turn off my music and just listen to whatever's going on around me. And because I have my headphones on, no one pays any attention to me, and if I do I take off one headphone and say 

"Sorry, what was that?"

Not too often, of course, cuz that's creepy... and sorta like eavesdropping. (It's exactly like eavesdropping). Sorry, not sorry? Almost always I'd rather listen to my music anyway. But there were times in my life when this came in handy. 

At the airport heading home. 

When I was at the airport I wanted to talk to someone but no one wanted to because usually, richer people are shyer and less likely to talk to me. I actually tried talking to someone and well it didn't pan out... So I put on my headphones and listened to EFY songs for a while. When I did this I kept looking into myself. I was dwelling on my fears and my worries. I decided to turn off the music. Look for silence and listen to what the spirit is telling me to do. And here's what I heard

Child 1: Mom, can we come back? I wanna see my friends again. Do you think I'll see them again?

Adult 1: Yeah my husband was furloughed because apparently, they didn't need him anymore

Adult 2: what do you mean borders are closed? what about my family?

Adult 3: Anak (Child) Shhh!! don't cough, they'll hear you

Child 2: is there any water? Dad, I need to pee! 

Adult 4: -Divorced a while back. But I didn't find anyone here either.

I turned my hymns back on. And suddenly, I don't feel like my problems are all that daunting. I mean I know my life isn't the best one, I know it's not put together in the right way sometimes, but I think at that time the spirit was telling me that I'm not the only one dealing with crap. Everyone around me is going through something, and though it's clear a lot of them don't want to talk about, that doesn't mean it's not there. I turned on my music and felt pain. Not for myself but for them. I don't even know them. But I hope all is well.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Calm After the Storm

The last days of the mission were a mess.

Initial plan:
-Go to the office on Tuesday
-Weigh bags, get interviewed, visit the American Cemetery, and eat sushi
-Sleep at a hotel with my friend Elder Parrenas
-Go Home.

And then everything changed when the fire nation Coronavirus attacked. Which started the longest 6 days of my life.

What actually happened:
-Friday Afternoon: we have an emergency meeting at the office to discuss having a written record in each area in case everyone is evacuated or trapped in their apartments.
-Friday Night: Nationwide lockdown measures were announced starting Sunday (including military involvement in some areas). All domestic flights are canceled. President announces to the leaders that transfers will occur early tomorrow.
-Saturday Morning: My last supper. I ate with my cousins and said my goodbyes while my companion handled one of the most disorganized transfers by himself. I get evacuated out of the province of Rizal before borders shut down.
-Saturday Afternoon: I became companions with the assistants (Elders Skye and Fowles). The Area Office announced all missionaries should proceed to do panic buying that should last us at least 3 months.
-Saturday Evening: Elder Parrenas, my old companion, dear friend, and only departing batch goes home early on the last flight back to his province of Bacolod.
-Sunday Morning: One of my companions Elder Skye gets sick with flu-like symptoms, and a heavy cough. We conduct sacrament at home.
-Sunday Afternoon: Last day of rest. We read our scriptures and are scared of what will happen next. Elder Skye and I have a long talk about perspectives and the future.
-Monday Morning: He's still sick and we are left alone to create a contingent plan in case every foreign missionary will be released early.
-Monday Afternoon: We create a scenario in which only Filipinos will be left behind, and we plan how everyone should be transferred. It's official, there will be a mass exodus of missionaries going home.
-Tuesday Morning: We meet new Filipino leadership who will assume our roles when we go home. We train them and brief them on the situation at hand
-Tuesday Afternoon: We meet with the Facilities Manager of our area and we plan how to transfer every foreign missionary as close to the airport as possible on conditions that (1) domestic missionaries constantly have a companion, (2) if at all possible one companionship is left at least apartment, (3) all additional food storage is brought to the mission home for distribution for those in need.
-Wednesday Morning: I gather all my stuff and bring them to the office. Transfer begins and plans to rent a Marriot hotel, along with chartering planes begin.
-Wednesday Afternoon: A chauffeur took me to the airport at 1pm and I came home the same way I arrived; alone.

Waiting on an airplane and in the airport gave me some time to think. The last few days have been hectic, crazy, and quite frankly normal. The past 2 years have been busy in all sorts of ways. Maybe it involved a pandemic, or a volcanic eruption, or some sort of madness. But as I sat there, I realized it's about to come to an end.

Walking around that mezzanine, I looked back on everything I experienced and realized most of the people passing me by probably don't know, and will never know the stories that come out of my mouth. But just because the world may devalue or forget what we've done, I know the Philippines won't. I know there are people out there whose lives have changed. Yeah, sure they might forget my name. They might forget my face, but they'll never regret opening that door to us. They'll never forget that black nametag that screams our Savior's name. And they'll never forget how we made them feel: happy.

After that long flight, I'm home.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Ch 132 - 133 #GOBIGthenGOHOME

I think this is my last email for y'all. I won't have another p-day... I'm going home next week. 
Ummm before I say goodbye might as well go through a quick review

38 months ago I decided to serve God because I felt there was something I needed to do
36 months ago I applied to go on a mission
32 months ago I left to go to the Philippines
30 months ago I was sent home and for once I felt like I was honest with myself
29 months ago I felt Heavenly Father's love for me and Jesus Christ's sacrifice on why they're there... on why it matters to care and love others.
28-24 months ago was hard. it was really hard, but the sacrifice and preparation necessary to serve him were necessary for me to really love Him.
23 months ago I met Elder Lutz and I worked my heart out like never before. This is where I learned diligence
21 months ago we were mapping and I realized there's more to being a missionary than just teaching. 
18 months ago I became a trainer and I had to care for Elder Lewis. It was a reflection of who I was when I started and it pushed me to change to who I needed to become. I waited for him and I let him grow and I'm proud of who he is and what he's done. This is where I learned patience.
15 months ago I was with Elder Bjornn and he showed me what it was like to have a friend. He was kind and he was reliable. He listened and he sat with me and I knew that our bond was good. This is where I learned charity.
12 months ago I was with Elder Hough and he showed that being obedient is a sign of love and humility. that standing up for someone to do what's right even when no one cares is a way we can love those in our stewardship. Even if they hate you for it, and especially when no one wants to. This is where I learned obedience.
9 months ago I was with Elder Fowles and he showed me that you can give maximum effort in every lesson and love them if you want to give that extra effort and study for each lesson. That our love for the Book of Mormon is past just reading it... that, if you want it to hit them then you read the Book of Mormon for those you teach. This is where I learned knowledge.
7 months ago I had an argument with Elder Holman about what's possible and our intentions behind our actions. And it grew my respect and love for him. Not because he stood up to me. But he because he stood with faith. To the ones I deemed were a lost cause, he showed me that we all have the potential to come back to Him. This is where I learned faith.
5 months ago, I was with Elder ParreƱas, and I saw him go through surgery. there were times I was worried about him and I didn't know how bad it might be but he pushed through with the hope of what will come next. This is where I learned to hope.
3 months ago, I became companions with Elder Hill and he showed me that we can be united no matter what happens. whether good or bad things happen to our zone, he proved to me that if we're in it together and sought after no pride, everything will work out. This is where I learned humility. 
Now let's look at this transfer
4 weeks ago, we convinced everyone in our zone to find 100 new people taught in 1 week. by Sunday we found 1339 new friends who've read the Book of Mormon, prayed and/or went to church
3 weeks ago, we had zone conference and showed everyone that having 20 investigators at church doesn't have to be impossible, but a norm if that's what we choose to believe.
2 weeks ago, we showed our zone that being a successful missionary isn't about what our results are or what we can get out of our missions, but what we choose to give.
1 week ago we gave everyone a zone hoodie that not only united us but looks pretty dope 
This week. The last zone activity ever has been done at Mt. Balagbag. it was amazing and I'm proud to have met these stellar missionaries. They truly are sons and daughters of God.
Next week. I'm going home. But don't think that means I'll stop. I won't forget what I've learned and what I can take from my experience. But I'm glad I gave my mission as much as I did because I know that I'll never regret it. The Philippines is amazing, and the mission taught me so much. With every companion that was given to me, I learned more about Jesus Christ. I know that each one of them was planned and they taught me an attribute of Christ that I know I would never have learned if I didn't meet them. I know with each area I've had, I never knew how much time I had, so I gave it my all. I know that Jesus Christ is always there for us to pick us up when we can't. And I know he will never give up on you or anyone else, because I know he never gave up on me. I love him, I love the work and I'll really miss it, but it's okay. Next week it's time for the next chapter.


-Elder Villanueva

Tayo Na Pilipinas! (Let's Go Philippines!)

Monday, February 17, 2020

Ch 130-131 #Find100

Phase 1 out of 5 has been completed. Elder Hill and I created a plan that we call "Go Big Then Go Home." A few transfers ago, or maybe it was last transfer President Welch mentioned something. He told us, "wouldn't it be great if everyone's covenant path looked like yours? or if it was completely full? imagine those missionaries! they would be motivated to go out there ... and at that point, the work would just perpetuate itself" (this is paraphrased). So we created a 5 step plan to achieve this. Elder Hill and I, multiple times in our missions have done that: completed the covenant path (this means having at least 5 investigators at all times with a baptism date within the next 2 weeks, keeping all the commandments and has gone to church at least 4 times, at least 8 additional investigators with a baptism date and gone to church at least twice, and 12 additional investigators going to church). It is exceedingly rare that 2 missionaries who've done that are together as companions, so we planned and created a way for an entire zone to do it. All at the same time. We didn't mention it before because we didn't know if it's possible yet, but so far so good.

Phase 1: find 100 NPT in each companionship to revive each area. We discovered after a few attempts of completing the covenant path, it can only be successful if a missionary companionship successfully finds 20-25 NPT every week for 5 weeks. if they don't hit at least 20, it is improbable for them to get there. We decided to do it all in 1 week. (I don't have a lot of time left, we had to kick it up a notch). This requires tremendous faith. And a lot of Follow-up and great leadership. And this is my last transfer. So we did it. As a zone, we found 1339 New Investigators. Averaging at 21 lessons each day per companionship for 7 days straight. Each day our zone taught about 200 new people.

Phase 2: Follow-up and commitments. 20 SMA for each companionship. I'll tell you next week how that goes. for now ingat!!

Oh, we also had 3 baptisms this past week. it was neat

-Elder Villanueva

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Ch 128-129 Snails

share ko lang there's a lot of snails and frogs in our area. yup that's about it. Oh and we baptized a few times. it was alright. 

-Elder Villanueva
Tayo Na Pilipinas! (Let's Go Philippines!)

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Ch 127 Thoughts at the Temple

I have a story about today. Today we had temple p-day and we had a fun time. at first, we were happy and excited but got a bit stressed because gathering missionaries is like trying to herd cats.  So we went to the distribution center and gathered our zone so they're ready for their sessions. And then we noticed 1 companionship not going to the temple. A few elders went back and said they weren't participating in the temple today with the saddest tone in their voice. And we told them, "Don't worry we don't want you to be alone, we're here for you." They seemed really out of it so we sat in the annex and talked about the importance of temples and why we're here as missionaries. it's weird because I feel like everything I said wasn't meant for them, it was meant for me, but regardless of who it was for, it is true and we needed to hear it. After our talk, we pondered while reading our scriptures and we knew us sitting out there had a purpose. It's true we might've missed our session but it was alright. I think at that moment we were needed elsewhere and it reminded all of us of the reasons we are here and the sacred nature of why we need to do our best all the time. we needed that. 

Being an intentional disciple of Jesus Christ can be hard because we're human we make mistakes and a lot of times we're not perfect we don't feel like we're good enough or worthy enough but the temple is "not a sanctuary for the perfect it is a hospital for the repentant sinners" and isn't that all of us? I love being in there but today though we weren't able to go inside we still learned a lot. even outside the House of the Lord, being in its presence grants us the revelation we need.

-Elder Villanueva
Tayo Na Pilipinas! (Let's Go Philippines!)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Ch 126 Dangers of Pride and Casualness

This week was a bad week for me. I lost control of who I am and should've been better. I was prideful in what I was capable of and I lost control and I ended up hurting my companion. In our first companionship inventory, he opened up and Elder Hill sometimes feels like he isn't good enough to be a zone leader. And all I've done is make him feel like this fear is real. Elder Hill is a great missionary and a great zone leader, I dragged him down when I should've built him up. Through our work ethic was incredible and we had public victories, I didn't help him prepare to have those small private victories to become more obedient or to have greater love towards others. I failed him as a companion. We have been wallowing in self-pity since Saturday. and I know it's because it's my fault.

I never intended to hurt him. I never intended for bad things to happen. But because I didn't intend to be exactly obedient. Because I intended to be casual, he got hurt, and we're still hurting. I messed up. and but we'll work through it. We stumbled upon a few verses in Alma 42:30-31 

30 O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.

31 And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this people. And now, my son, go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness, that thou mayest bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have a claim upon them. And may God grant unto you even according to my words. Amen.

We're working on it together and hopefully, we can get there. I love him so much, I love Jesus Christ for his infinite atonement for us, and I'm ready to change. 

-Elder Villanueva
Tayo Na Pilipinas! (Let's Go Philippines!)

P.S. We had a baptism and MTC exchanges at the same time so shoutout to Elder Myer and Elder Baldauf because they just had their first baptism!! We had so much fun with them, we know they'll do just fine
Also baptism from last week

Monday, January 6, 2020

Ch 124-125 Happy New Year's!

To celebrate New Years we decided to find 20 new investigators between Dec 30th - Jan 1st. To usher the new year with 20 new friends before the year even began. and it worked pretty dang well. everyone was super pumped and so far we're really excited about their progress. 

I think finding new friends can be a scary thing. Especially when nowadays everyone feels more comfortable being detached from the world and being wired to their phones. But that's all the more reason why they need Jesus Christ. We need that foundation, we need that strength, we need that light in our lives, and I know that if we intentionally try to seek Him out, we won't regret it. 

I know I've been sucking at email lately. I blame computers in Montalban because we don't have any... but my faith in Him hasn't changed and my love for you definitely hasn't. I know each of us is chosen at this time to do so much. He loves us, and knows us, and has so much in store for us. So let's make our time count. 2019 is done now, let's make 2020 an even better new year

-Elder Villanueva
Tayo Na Pilipinas! (Let's Go Philippines!)