This week was absolute pure concentrated awesomeness-like as in holy vienna sausage awesome. I don’t even know where to start, so I will take the easy way out and start with Monday…
Last Monday may have been one of the absolutely coolest days in my entire life. I got to go to enchanted kingdom. WOOOOOOOOOOOTTTTTT!!! Ok ok, it is an amusement park smaller than lagoon and aimed at 7 year old Filipino girls but that most definitely does NOT mean I cant have an amazing time pulling a NASCAR experience on the bumper cars (which were NOT meant to hold an American…I looked like a stinking pretzel:/). So, that is a funny experience. It all started when we got up nice and early to be at enchanted right before it opens. Why? Because the employees do this cool (and yet unsurprisingly corny) dance jig thing that is basically a direct invitation for your endorphins to come out and greet the sun:D So, we jeep-ney and trike our way through the metropolis known as cabuyao to get to the area that has enchanted. While we were on our last trike going there I saw the Ferris wheel and about fell off the back (I need to ride on the back cause I don’t fit in the stupid little 1950s British motorcycle sidecar thing) I was so excited. So, we got off our trike and walked the remaining 400 meters or so to the park parking lot entrance where we asked the guard to verify if it was gonna open at 10. He looked at us with a weird look in his eye (but I guess we shouldn’t have expected anything different-8 American males over 6 feet trying to get into a kid amusement park…its like watching a 25 year old man get in the mechanical race car rides at the mall that move back and forth when you put in a quarter) and said that they didn’t open up until 2. So, bummed we walked back to walter mart and decided to spend the next 4 hours in there 1)because it has air conditioning and 2)because we weren’t about to drive the hour and a half back just to leave again in an hour. That is where I emailed you mom and we had our little chat of awesomeness. So, at this time our group started slowly diminishing. The sisters bailed, a companionship bailed, and we were still waiting for people to come. Every missionary in our ward invited the single adults to come with us so we were waiting on them and we told them 10 so by 1:30 we were kind of bummed that they still hadn’t come. Finally, at like 1:35 the other elders and TONS of single adults showed up which brightened everyone’s spirits. We took off and ran back to the entrance, bought our tickets, and waited in line for the cool dance to start. We waited a good 20 minutes for that dance and…it was pure weak sauce. It was almost a mix between Richard Simmons and an unchoreographed tae-bo video…but I cant really complain I suppose. So, we entered the park, I got a picture with the cool wizard guy and his princess (that wizard had to have been sweating off a good 5 kilos of body mass an hour holy COW was it hot). We had no clue what to do with ourselves because we hadn’t been inside an amusement park in almost, for me, 9 months and so I was like a kid in a toy store. Yea, I was taller than most of the support beams for the rides, and probably weighed more too, but it was still fun. We headed to the only roller coaster (in the Philippines) first…but it was closed until 2:30. We were way bummed until we saw one of the most amazing sights an American missionary serving in the Philippines can see-a dairy queen. My mouth could not have dropped faster. So, I ran over with elder Davis and rocked Dairy Queen’s socks and it was absolute deliciousness. When the rides started working we went on them and had an absolute blast. Everything from getting soaked on the rapids to screaming like a 4 year old on the pirate ship (not because it was exciting, but because I will only get to ride a pirate ship while I am assigned in this zone), to riding bumper boats and throwing my crocs at people (they float-who knew:D), to riding the ferris wheel and spinning the gondola so fast elder Lopez almost threw up:/ I also got to do this thing called space balls…oooooooooooo…(mysterious I know…). They put you inside this ball and fill it up with air and seal it up so it is a perfect airtight sphere, and throw you on top of this lake. It is SO much fun, but it is really loud inside cause it is airtight and your breaths deafen you…plus you absolutely BAKE inside, but it was really fun. Unfortunately, as is to be expected with teenage guys and girls between the ages of 18-27, something happened at the park that started the world drama championships so that kind of ruined a good hour and a half of our day, but we eventually got over it and moved on. I also saw this guy from new York who is going to play for the PBA (Philippine basketball association-its kind of like the NBA). He was a legit thug and I was afraid that he was gonna stab me but he turned out to be a REALLY nice guy who graduated from Syracuse. At the end of the day we went paintballing which was absolutely horrible. It was Americans verses Pilipinos which was the worst mistake of our life. Every single one of us stuck out over the over the obstacles because we are gigantum and we could never shoot the flippin Filipinos cause they hid all the time. I swear they hid under the blades of grass or something because when I thought I had stealth and sprinted across the field (while singing the mission impossible theme song ill have you know) I got DESTROYED. Like what in the world, I just exposed myself to you all for 3.2 seconds and I know have purple shorts, hands, and neck. Cool. We got obliterated. It didn’t help much that they got the corner of the field with no lights, all the obstacles, and they were in all black. Haha nothing like a good game of target practice:/ but we had a BLAST and it was a LOT of fun.
That is actually the most interesting story for the week. De Leon and I have been having so much fun working in our area. Ate Andrea and ate Catriona (the daughters of Ate Diwata) are finally confirmed (they didn’t come to church last Sunday…) and are already going stronger than I have ever seen them before. Diwata is the mother of andrea and catriona, but the sister of lovely but the four of them are like one big family. I so desperately hope that I am NOT transferred this coming up transfer day (July 16) because saying goodbye to them is gonna be one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It is so weird to say, but I love them all so so much and I honestly just want to shove them in my suitcase and take them with me everywhere. Ate Diwata is absolutely hilarious and has friends on every stinking country on the earth from America to Britain to…Belgium (I don’t know if that is a country or a city…but who cares-I am in the Philippines far far away and couldn’t care any less about them or their stupid waffles). She is absolutely amazing. Ate Lovely, Catriona, Andrea, and I are like a group of siblings. They are so so fun to be around and make your cares melt away.
Something really really sad happened this week…my STUPID INGROWN TOENAIL REVIVED ITSELF AND CAME BACK. So, in my first area, it surfaced and I got it fixed. Then, it waited and waited for me to make the wrong move…which I did and it came back again. I went to the hospital again and the guy cut off half of my toenail. Well, my toe got really mad because he was defeated so he decided to double his forces and come back, but he is too smart to come back on the western front so he infiltrated my defenses on the eastern side and is now causing large scale fatalities. I realize that 1)my toe doesn’t have the personality of Napoleon Boneparte, and 2)it was probably my own fault that it came back, but honestly? Im sure I can find someone around here with an itak (machete) that can take care of my toe for good. This is getting really really annoying. I don’t want to ask president because it is like 30 bucks everytime I get it done, and it costs the church money. Feet are just dumb. If I could, I would trade them out for goodyears…then there would be no more ingrown toenails, no more stank feet, and I would only have to change my socks every 50,000 miles. ARRRRGGGGH. Oh well, I guess third time is a charm to learn the “proper way” to cut toenails.
I also have an interesting story to tell. You know, it is not often in life that the circumstances are perfect for the Lord to teach you something through a type and a shadow. This past Sunday, I felt one of the most amazing things I have ever felt in my life.
If you all recall, Kuya Rexan Jay was baptized on may 1st. Duco and I found him one day playing on his computer-asked him if he was a member because his whole family is and he said no, so we started teaching him. Slowly, piece by piece, we got to know his family; his mother, his father, and one of his brothers-Reynold. Reynold immediately put off a STRONG impression because he offered immediate resistance to our teachings. Every time we tried to invite him into the lessons, he would laugh and walk away; everytime I would offer a testimony he would come up with some excuse for why its not right, why the church isn’t true, or why its not for him…but slowly we got to know him. Him and I listen to the same music, him and De Leon both play guitar, we like the same things in life, have the same interests, and want the same things. We eventually got it to the point that we could teach without him interrupting and driving the spirit away. One day a long time ago, as we were teaching Rexan Jay, I got this strong impression to invite Reynold to church. I offered the invitation and he turned to me, looked me straight in the eye and, in not so nice terms, told me that he was NOT coming back to church, and proceeded to tell me the reasons why. It was hard im not gonna lie because here is one of my friends who most desperately needs the gospel, and yet he wont accept it. I accepted his rebuttal and continued the teaching of rexan jay. The next time we went back I had the impression to ask him again and I thought to myself what in the world, he totally told me off last time, why in the world...but I invited him again…and he forcefully rejected again but this time something was different. It is really hard to explain, but I saw something in him...something different. Even though there is this person in front of me with hair drooping over his face, brands covering 30% of his body, and tattoos covering another 40%, a person who does NOT look too friendly…there was something there. For some reason, I wanted to see their scriptures. I told Rexan Jay to get them…and almost exactly to what I had thought, the inside looked like a comic book-with markings up the side, in the footnotes, the verses, the chapter headings, and detailed explanations as to why everything was highlighted. The inside covers were more post-it noted than the hallways of a highschool after the senior prank. I held this book open in front of me just astonished. I asked who marked the scriptures and Reynold, without looking up from his guitar, said “me.”
I was blown away. I had no clue that this kid was once strong in the church. What happened? What made him go inactive? Why did he become so anti-LDS? All these questions popped up and I asked them as they popped up and Reynold gave me no answers. He wasn’t gonna come back to church-and that was final. You gotta understand-Reynold was a really depressed kid. He has had problems with immorality and drug usage in the past so that only fueled the fire-degrading his self esteem and making him feel more and more alone. He said something to me that I will never forget. Reynold is really good at English, and one day he turned to me and said “elder, why don’t you just give up on me? Cant you see that I have no intention of returning to church?” I looked back at him and said because kuya Christ is waiting for you and im not gonna leave you here to stumble around in the dark not knowing where to go. He rolled his eyes and left. After this point, things stood still for awhile. I made sure he was in every single lesson that we taught, had him say the prayers (although at first he said he was “unworthy” to say the prayer)even, and made sure he knew that the atonement, like a tool, is only good if we use it. If we let it sit and don’t utilize it, it does us no good. Reynold stopped progressing. I don’t know what happened, but there was always this voice in the back of my mind saying keep going-you may not see why now, but you will in time. So, I never stopped. He attended the baptism of his younger brother which was amazing to see and I think it was one of the factors that led to this past Sunday.
Obviously, this past sunday was fast and testimony sunday. When Elder De Leon and myself came out of the room that is used to teach gospel principles, who in the world do you think we saw? Exactly. Reynold, but it wasnt. He was clean. He had on nice pants and a nice shirt. He didnt have any of the bracelets on his arm. I saw him and my jaw just dropped. I ran up to him and about broke his hand I was so excited to see him. He didnt give a reason as to why he was there, he just was. We went into the sacrament hall to start the testimony meeting. After sacrament the normal people got up and gave their testimony and as I was listening to one of the testimonies, I got this "LOOK AT REYNOLD" thing come into my head and so I glanced over at him and he was staring right at me. I looked at him for like 2 seconds and right when I was about to turn away I heard an "amen" from the congregation...and guess who got up to bear their testimony? Exactly. Reynold. He walked up to the stand and started with the tough guy attitude of "well there may be more to this church thing than I originally thought..." but ended up breaking down and offering a testimony that brought me to tears. The feeling that I had is undescribible. He said in his testimony, as he was saying what he was thankful for, "and I am grateful for the elders because they never gave up on me...even though I told them to. The process is gonna be long-I have a lot of sins I need to get cleaned up, but the pathway is set and I am ready to take it" It gave me that "now arent you glad you trusted the Lord" feeling, and brought back memories of from back when I was up at USU and I wanted nothing to do with the church or its members. It made me so much more grateful for those people (my family, my priesthood leaders, and one very special person) who, despite me telling them that I wanted nothing to do with the church (plus a few vulgar profanities), they kept me under their wings. I tried to walk out in the storm, but they shut the door and wouldnt let me out alone. In the short span of 3 months Reynold changed from a person 100% against the church to 100% for it. I am so very honored to bear the name of the Church on my chest every single day. I cant even tell how it felt to see him, and to see the change that took place in him-and to feel the love that the Lord has for him. After sacrament meeting I approached him and he gave me the biggest smile I have ever seen in my life and asked me a question that almost made me ask if he was joking... "hey elder, where are you guys working on tuesday? Maybe...maybe I could come with you guys?" I am so very grateful for the opportunity that I had to be able to help him along the way to righteousness. I just hope he will do the same for some other person:D
That is life actually. This week has been amazing. We randomly fell in on this woman and she was like "hey elders, uh, I was taught by elders before but they stopped coming. I know the church is true, I just need to be taught so I can be baptized" plus a bagillion more things. The Reynold story is REALLY long and I would have to explain it over a voice chat thing to get the whole story, and all the other stories are really long too so I am gonna cut them off for now, but that is how it goes. I am really really excited because we are trying as hard as we can to get the quinco family (ate snooky and her family) ready for a sealing in the temple. Haha that is funny about how you asked about Brother and Sister Hunt. They were only the coolest most awesome senior couple in my mission. They are flipping amazing. Elder Hunt is one of the must humble guys you will ever meet in your life and sister Hunt is really really nice too. How do you know them? They just got back last month or so too…interesting…
Aka Elder Muller