This week has definitely been something to reckon with. I have stories out the yin-yang, but I am gonna cut them short because I don’t want to spend 43 hours in the internet café (though it is air conditioned which is kind of nice…and it has a strange fruity aroma…). I think my journeys start with the realization that I learned something valuable this week. I have 2 stories that I am gonna tell, and they all seem to relate to one another. So…off to the DeLorean where we are gonna travel back in time to that which is known as wednesdayyyyyy….
So, as I have said in my previous emails, every Wednesday is our district meeting. We hop a jeep-ney and take a nice ride to the area of the zone leaders, where we have district meeting, eat lunch, and then return a couple hours later (we leave at 9 an get back around 1). Well, once again as I have stated before, we have two sisters leaving tomorrow-one for Mindanao(an island down south) and one for saint george. We decided to have a family home evening (well, more like a family home afternoon) as kind of a going away thing for them so we left district meeting and headed back to the zone leaders apartment. Everywhere in the Philippines, there are stations called terminals. They hold the mass majority of the cities public transportation (busses, jeepneys, and trikes) in one convenient, highly accessible spot. We, as a zone, walked to the terminal and searched for a form of transport that could accommodate us all. We decided to go on trikes because they are 10000 times more convenient (even though they are more expensive). So, we split up and took the trikes. While we were waiting in line (the trikes line up kind of like people at an amusement park waiting for a ride-except they wait for the next person to come along) I happened to look over and saw something ill never forget. You know, people in America make fun of people who are homeless. I did it all the time-when a friend smells bad-“fool you smell bad, what-did you get in a fight with a hobo or something?” or you see someone sitting on the side of the road living, literally, in a box and you think “hey, that’s kind of nice…they don’t have to pay property tax…” but being homeless, or “pulubi” as its called here, is not only a difficulty, it is a way of life. As I was sitting in the terminal, I happened to see a pulubi walking up to the terminal where we were sitting-waiting to leave. He was filthy from head to toe, was wearing tattered clothing which was also dirty, had items ranging from insects to dirt to soda in his hair, and seemed to have, like 98 % of all the other homeless people, a mental disorder. He was carrying a stick with him, with which was being used to combat someone who, according to him, was talking to him. People in the Philippines are the most kind, caring, amazing people on the face of the planet…if you are normal. People with mental disorders are looked down upon and almost condemned, and being classified as a homeless person doesn’t help the persecution. The second he walked up people started yelling, and saying less than respectable things to him. He walked up to the trashcan, found some plastics (soda here is poured into small plastic bags so the glass bottles can be sent back to coke and refilled) that still had some drink in them, and emptied them into his mouth. After a little bit of digging, he decided that he wasn’t gonna find anything else and went on his way. The people continued to make fun of him even after he was out of their sight and I sat there and thought to myself-if only people understood. If only people understood that it doesn’t matter how crumpled, awkward, misshapen, pathetic, broken, or useless our earthly tabernacle is-the soul kept within is invaluable to the Lord. As I was sitting there thinking about how, despite his maladies, his defects, and his rather appalling appearance, the Lord still loves him and wants him to be able to return to live with him. Almost instinctly the stereotypical missionary scripture started playing over and over in my head:
“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10)
That experience burned an image in my mind that I will never forget. Why do we mock, scorn, and ridicule others when we ourselves are no better than they to begin with? I don’t know…such is life but that is what I am trying to fix. Yet another solution the gospel offers. I think it’s safe to say that, besides locking your keys in your house (doors don’t care if you rebuke them or not…they stay shut good and tight), and getting food poisoning from a moldy hot dog, the gospel can, and will, fix every problem in due time.
The second experience happened in a place called Ti-Bag. It is one of our areas hidden away from the city. You have to walk through zig-zagging, up, down, left, right, forwards, backwards ally-ways in order to reach this community situated next to a river. Last Tuesday or so we had rain noah and the flood style here and it (meaning Ti-Bag) flooded out. We went there for some appointments the day after it rained and people still had a good 12 inches of rain inside their houses (the actual ground level of the house is a few feet down into the ground) which they were desperately trying to get out. Well, Elder Duco and I went to Ti-Bag to our first appointment-punted. So, heads held high, we went to our next appointment-hung over. Vodka is really cheap here so people buy bottle after bottle,get smashed, pass out, then do it again (im pretty sure that is the Webster’s definition of “success”…). Anyways, we decided to go tracting until our next appointment. As we were walking some old dude (who was probably drunk) started screaming hey joe at me so I entertained him for a little bit before continuing onwards…only to find that I had no companion. I was like what in the world where did that kid go? I went down the next closest allyway to find him sitting next to a well staring in a hut (I say hut cause that is the only way to describe it-it was pretty much a few cinderblocks for walls, and some siding for its roof. It couldn’t have been bigger than 8’ x 5’. I was like wow, way to leave me with the drunk guy who almost beat me with his vodka bottle but Elder Duco didn’t respond. It was then that I literally had my heart shattered to a million pieces. Sitting in front of me on a few sheets of awkwardly placed simulation tile flooring was a small child-no older then the age of 5. I immediately could tell that something wasn’t right with him because 1)of the way he was sitting, and 2)because of his frame. He, like every other Filipino child, was skin and bones…except for his stomach. The only way to describe it was he looked like a pregnant little kid. His arms, and legs were pencil width, but his stomach was the size of a basketball. One of his eyes was, if you will, flesh-welded shut, and the other was barely open. His diaper, judging from the way his excrements had sifted their way through the interior lining and, in so doing so, had soiled the outside layer completely, needed to be changed a few days ago. His skin was filthy-demonstrating the fact that he, along with his diaper, needed to be cleaned a few days ago. I slowly approached him-analyzing the situation and searching for ways that I could offer any forms or help to this small helpless being-and he started to cry. The second he started to cry I knew something was more than wrong. It wasn’t the sad cry, the hungry cry, or the needing a parental figure cry, but a extremely painful, agonizing cry implying that he needed something fixed. Out of the small corner came this little girl, no taller than a car tire, and no heavier than 40 pounds to comfort the child who was crying. It was evident that the child was scared of us because she hadn’t come out before when I said something to Elder Duco. She was dressed in rags from head to toe, and, like her younger brother, was absolutely cruddy. She comforted the child and picked him up…and my jaw dropped. I think the correct medical term is cystic fibrosis (of course I haven’t had any medical education since senior year of high school…)-the situation that arises when a child, still growing inside the mother, develops a bubble on its spinal column. It seemed, from what I witnessed, that this small child had something similar to that condition. When the small girl picked him up, he was turned around-his back to me, and I saw that he had a wound about 5” wide, and a good 14” high, running from his neck to where his coccyx is. In the middle of his back there was a bubble of flesh a good 5” high and about an inch and a half wide. It was a weird color and was protruding out from his back. There were long black hairs growing out from the wounds on his back that most definitely shouldn’t have been there-they were…almost unnatural. His spinal cord curved in a weird shape and at spots was protruding out a good inch or so. He had some form of a disease that had eaten away his skin to what looked like the bone in a (once again estimated) 4” x 4” patch on the top of his head. I stood there in complete awe not knowing what to think. I approached the small girl, kneeled down so we were eye to eye, and asked her how old she was. She replied in a half scared, half weaked voice-eight. I asked her how old her brother was and she told me that he was four. I asked her where her parents were and she told me that they weren’t there. Her mother had left, and her father was somewhere else. I asked her if what was wrong with her brother and she told me that she didn’t know, but the way that she said it made it sound like she was holding back tears. I asked her if she had any food in her house, she told me no. I asked her if they had diapers, she told me she didn’t know. I asked her if they were hungry…she lowered her head (barely looking at me through her bangs with her enormous eyes) and merely nodded. At this point I was practically in tears. How could this have happened? Where were the parents? I told her to stay there and that I would return in 10 minutes. Elder Duco and I set off to the nearest store to buy them some provisions. After I left the hospital when I had my toe taken care of, I forgot to take my spending money out of my wallet (conveniently…) so I amazingly had tons of money sitting there at my disposal. I bought them rice, topping, water, diapers, and snacks, and returned in a hurry. I kneeled down again to be at her height and laid down the food, water, and diapers in front of her. I told her that the rice and chicken was for her to eat now. If she was still hungry, to eat the chips, and other things that I bought. I told her that I bought the diapers so the little boy would have something clean to change into when, or if, the parents returned. The second I put the stuff down, two more kids appeared out of nowhere-her two other siblings who had been hiding. They were no older than 6. They immediately began feasting as if they had never tasted anything so delicious. I have never seen people eat that fast in my life. I bought enough food and water for 3 people, not for four. Elder Duco and I left and I bought some more food to accommodate the fourth child, and we returned. What I saw once again made me fight tears. That sweet, amazing little girl-the one who took the responsibility over the others-was sitting there holding her four year old younger brother in her arms, and feeding him the food that I had bought them. They had split the food up into 3-one for the afflicted child, and one for each of the two that had appeared after I set the food down…leaving no for the small, fragile girl. This little girl of only eight years of age, who hadn’t eaten in who knows how long had sacrificed her meal-possibly the first hot meal she had eaten in a while (they didn’t have a gas stove)- to make sure her hungry younger brother could have something to eat, and the little boy couldn’t have been eating out her hands faster. Four small children fighting for their own in a world that is more than unforgiving to those that need help. As Elder Duco and I were sitting there kneeling next to them watching them eat this food, their mother returned…carrying an infant no older than a couple months in her arms. I stood up and introduced myself and told her not to worry-we just thought that they had no one living there with them. I asked her if she had a job and she told me she didn’t. I asked her where her husband was and she told me that he was in another part of the Philippines working as a trike driver. I asked her what was wrong with her child and she took him to the hospital, but that she couldn’t get anything fixed because it costs money…something she doesn’t have. I told her that there were fresh diapers there waiting for her to use, and that we would be on our way. I learned something that day-something about the true meaning of sacrifice. Who would of thought that a small 8 year old girl performing such a simple act could have opened up doors for me that I never knew existed. How grateful I am for the opportunities that I am given all day everyday to help those “…out in the desert [wandering], hungry and helpless and cold…” (only from one of the most amazing hymns ever-“Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd”). Life is awesome!
That is how life goes here in Calamba. Ha the other day I saw some kids bridge jumping off of a bridge that is a good 40-50 feet high into 7 feet of water haha. I don’t remember what I have been saying about Ate Snookie, but let me clarify if I have confused you all. The missionaries first started teaching her on May 5, 2009. Every time that they offered her a baptismal goal date, she rejected it saying she wants to know “everything” before she accepts. After close to a year of teaching, we extended her a baptismal goal date yesterday and she finally accepted. I also ran into a gate the other day. My arm still hurts. Don’t ask why I did it, I swear it came out of nowhere…stupid gate. We are teaching this lady who is determined to listen to us. Her husband is a member of Iglesia Ni Cristo and if the members find out that his wife is taking our lessons he will get ex-communicated so that is kind of cool. We literally have to be stealth masters in order to teach her haha. I made a BIG tagalog mistake this week. One that, if I had thought about what I was going to say before I said it, wouldn’t have happened (me speaking before I think?…poppycock). I was sitting down last p-day playing chess (exciting right?) with another elder when this girl wearing a “I’m sweet” shirt came and sat down next to us and started talking to us. She was 15 so I decided to joke around with her. I asked her in Tagalog if she was sweet…but I mistranslated in my head sweet as in personality for sweet tasting. After I said it everyone turned to me and started staring. I was like what in the world, why are all these random people staring at me…do I have a zit or something…after we left all the elders came up to me and asked me what I said. I told them and they just laughed. I was like why are you fools laughing? They told me that I basically asked if she was a prostitute and showed interest in her. Wow. Probably one of the biggest mistake I have made in my life. The sad part about it is that I didn’t even know what I said until people came and told me. Such is the life of an American in the Philippines:/ One of life lessons I had to learn I guess…
So, onto the dirty details about the package of mystery that I received. Maraming salamat po sa inyo lola para say yun kabaitan po ninyo na ipinakita ni’yo sa ‘kin. Grandma was the one who sent it. It was an easter package. I am writing her and grandpa Muller another letter here in which I will respond to what she sent me. In addition to what I will send, please tell her that I am extremely grateful for her kindness and love. The contents were received with open arms (and an open mouth ah ha!). Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!:D :D :D
Wow, I cant believe that our call is getting so close. 3 weeks if my counter isnt off. I am gonna call you all on my p-day early in the morning so it will be evening there. Yes, I am gonna use skype, and I haven’t decided if I am gonna use the telephone feature and call the house, or just web cam it up in dis piece!! Web camming would be a gillion times cooler cause I would be able to see you all. Please get a better web cam, or figure out my xbox cam. The one you used last time was absolute garbage-like I cam draw pictures clearer than what I was seeing. Please get that taken care of. I am way excited for such a thing. I cant believe that I get to see you all haha exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!
Transfers are quickly approaching. Transfer day is a day of happiness, and a day of broken hearts. Elder Duco and I have SO much fun rocking Calamba 2 with our skills. Ha I love that guy like he was my own brother. He is being transferred though. I have a hunch that something is gonna happen at transfer day so we will see. I am not gonna say anything though cause there is no wood in this internet café to knock on. We will see what happens. But, who God calls he qualifies right? Only time will tell.
Where are Aunt Laura and her fiancé getting married? Did you find a chapel? Man, awesome times. It’s a shame im not out there to see it happen, but hope they understand (especially seeing as mike is a stinkin’ rm. Speaking of which, what mission did he serve in?) I expect a wedding invitation haha. Man, that is awesome that Aunt Laura found someone to rock life with!!!
Man, that is awesome that you are in Williamsburg. Head over to Busch Gardens haha!! Please tell Grandma and Grandpa Muller hi from the Philippines for me. I am anxious to hear how they are doing. Haha green is definitely a word to describe the east coast…but I will have to admit-the Philippines shows the east coast up in greenness haha. Palm trees, rice fields, coconut trees, and mountains covered in even more trees every square inch. I hope your east coast encounters are bomb dig!!! I also cant believe that I have almost been out for 8 months. Holy cow. Time flies. Sister Clayton hops on a plane tomorrow and heads for utah. I was talking with her and she told me that she will be in Utah at 10 pm on your Tuesday. DANG. Hearing thing like that makes me a wee bit trunky im not gonna lie, but no worries!!
Sige, so time to go rock life. I love you all and hope you all are doing amazing. This was kind of a me telling you everything and not responding email-sorry. Ill bail on experiences this week so I have time to respond haha!! Love you all tons!!!!!
Ps-tell Chelsea congrats from me about the internship. Diligence in the flesh:D!! (Dont ask any questions...)