I have been called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines Cauayan Mission. This blog is managed by my parents. If you would like to contact them, you can email at lindalarson1598@gmail.com

Monday, December 30, 2013

Dear 2013 - Deuces

Ward Christmas Party: Elder Claus with the Young Women

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season and had a great Christmas. We just spent ours with the members and it was kind of relieving to just relax a little. Also being able to see my family was really nice too! For New Year's Eve, we have a lockdown due to safety precautions and have to return to our apartments before 6 PM. However, another companionship is sleeping at our apartment and we will be watching the Narnia series because it has been approved by our President. So don't worry, we will still be able to party it up here. New Years Day we will probably just spend at the member homes again.
Good riddance, time really flies doesn't it? It is crazy for me to think that it was earlier this year that I was playing rec ball, getting turnt in the Vine and music video industry, got off the bus, kicked through a school window and became a super senior  unlike one the world has ever seen. And now here I am in the Philippines preparing for the year 2014.

Originally we had a baptism scheduled for this last week on the 27th for Dexter and Angelo but we had to postpone them because Dexter was having a hard time understanding and his testimony still needed to be strengthened. However, we have been trying to visit and teach them every day and now he seems ready. We set the date for Dexter, Angelo and also Jessica for January 11th.
Dexter, Jessica, and Grace (Jessica's sister)
I guess there is no better way to close out the year with...you guessed it. Another story with a drunk man. So the other night we are walking back to the apartment  because we have no more appointments for the day and I stop to buy bread (which by the way I go through like 2 or 3 loaves of bread in a week but anyways, that is beside the point) and as we are about to leave, a guy comes up to us that is so intoxicated he is having a hard time walking in a straight line. Anyways, he asks me some random questions and when I am done answering them, we start walking away. We had gotten about ten yards away from the bread shop when he yelled for us to wait. After he caught up to us, he proceeded to tell us about how many problems we had. So I did what we always do in these situations-I briefly shared our message and then gave him a pamphlet-He then says "Sir....Thank you." And then he hugged me for like ten seconds.
Moral of the story--Party this week to celebrate the new year, but don't party too hard or else you might find yourself embracing in your arms an Asian man that you don't know! Have a good week and I will talk to you all in a year or so! (And yes, this corny joke from junior high still goes strong here in the Philippines)
 Dinner with Manzano family
 FHE with Rueda family before Elder Ursua left

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cabarroguis Christmas Cards

We have our ward Christmas party that we will be attending this afternoon and I get to talk to my family this week, so since nothing too exciting happened this week, I will keep this e-mail relatively short.

We had our mission Christmas devotional earlier this week, and it brought out the theatrical side in me. Each zone was asked to prepare a skit so Elder Merza and I were the lead characters in the conversion of Brother Claus himself. Also, I and five other elders performed a musical number for 'Silent Night'. I would like to think that I have High School Musical to credit these achievements to.
I hope everybody has a wonderful Christmas and at some point during this season of joy and giving, are able to reflect on the true meaning of why we celebrate it and remember the birth, ministry, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. It will be a little difficult for me having to spend the holiday seasons away from home, but we have our ward family, our mission family and the glorious message and glad tidings of the message behind Christmas and this incredible gospel. 
You will all be in my hearts this Christmas season. My dear family, I look forward to being able to Skype call you, and to everyone else, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Drunks & Demons

Good afternoon friends. As of late, I have been one busy elf trying to write cards, build toys, and spread Christmas cheer. Hopefully all the letters arrive relatively soon! As I'm sure you have already concluded from the title, some pretty crazy things happened this week so without further ado...
To make a long story short, we were at a dinner appointment when we received a rather peculiar text from a sister in our ward. The four of us elders went to her house where the bishop and Relief Society president joined us. I won't go into all the details, but we straight up had to cast out an evil spirit. She would be sobbing miserably and then laugh hysterically, but then after we gave a blessing, said a prayer, and sung both I Am A Child Of God and The Spirit Of God, she just fell asleep and everything was fine the next day.  I don't really like this kind of stuff, but I am just glad that we as missionaries are worthy and able to exercise the power and authority of the priesthood in which we hold. The Lord was able to use us as an instrument in his hands.
As for the drunk man, I should mention that even when it is a birthday party for a little kid, it seems like the whole town finds out about it and a bunch of older men show up and get turnt. Well we were eating inside the Estoconing house because it was Hanesa's birthday and then a man enters who is completely hammered out of his mind. He kind of stood in the doorway for a minute looking at me and Elder Kocherhans (the new elder in the Cabarroguis ward. The Filipinos look at his nametag and then just call him Cocoa Crunch) and then he says "Elder, I'm sorry." And then slowly he starts to fall down until he is leaning on me. After apologizing several more times and me assuring him it is alright, he says, "I want to join your church." Which would be great except if we return, he will probably have no clue who we are, but I gave him a pamphlet nonetheless. Definitely a funny experience though. Gotta love the drunk people!

That's all I've got for now. Hope everyone has a good Christmas Break and holiday season!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Cycle in Review

Everyone says the first cycle (six weeks) is the slowest so if that is the case, I'll be returning home in no time because November went by in a breeze. There is a lot of things that need to be done on my mission and not a lot of time to do it. I suppose for this email, I will just give a little update on how some of the people here in Cabarroguis are doing:
First off, the baptism on Saturday went great! I got the opportunity to perform the ordinance and it was such an incredible feeling for me. I was just overwhelmed with joy for Lyka! It has been awesome to see how quickly she has progressed. However, the work doesn't end here. If someone gets baptized only to fall away, what have we accomplished? It is important that for converts, as well as the members, that they have continual progression in the gospel. The end goal is not baptism. It is enduring to the end and being sealed in the temple to their family so they can live with them and our Heavenly Father for time and all eternity. 
Lyka and Nanay Domingo
That is also the reason we work with the less actives. For Hanesa Estoconing, it is important that as we teach her, we make sure she has the support of a family where the gospel is central to their lives. I am not sure if Elder Merza and I will get to be the ones who baptize her, but even if not, we can know we are successful just in the progress we have made and later we will see that the fruits of our labors will be able to blossom into trees. Our next baptismal date is December 27th, for Dexter and Angelo. Also we will be working soon to set up a date for Jessica.
This last week, we visited Tatay Amado twice. I am hoping the Holy Ghost is slowly touching his heart because the lessons were different than the first three. We focused only on the importance of the Book of Mormon both times, and he seemed to ponder our message more, instead of quickly jump to an argument.
Those are just a few but also the ward here is seriously so awesome. I am so impressed with the youth, especially the young womens, and the testimonies they have. Many of them already are committed and preparing to serve missions. Also, I am so happy when I receive updates about where different people from home have been called to. (Excuse me if I'm wrong, but do we not have the best graduating class ever?) There is nothing I would rather be doing right now than serving a mission and I'm so glad when I see others sharing that same desire. Emily, you will do great in Germany. And also my boy CHUGG gettin' his call too! I'm happy for you Don! Charles, good job on cutting your toe as well....As always, best wishes to everyone from Elder Larson. Love and miss you all!
Cabarroguis ward elders

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tis the Season to be Jolly

Is it really December already? I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Put Up Christmas Lights Saturday. Here in the Philippines, we didn't really even do anything for Thanksgiving. But I celebrated it in my heart and we had a great week, with many significant events.

For starters, we have our first baptism this upcoming Saturday. Lyka Domingo is 10 years old and comes from a part member family that was not too active until a little before Elder Merza and I came to Cabarroguis. But since we've been here, she has been to church every week and the lessons we have taught her have gone great. She has been a golden investigator and Nanay Domingo has also been very helpful too. It's been awesome for me to see her make progression in the gospel so quickly and I'm excited for this Saturday!
Another family I want to talk about is the Estoconing family. They have been less active for a long time and even though we had taught their 11-year-old daughter Hanesa a lot of the investigator lessons in our first month here-as well as lessons to the family trying to emphasize the importance of coming to church-they still were not attending. Well yesterday, their whole family except the dad came to church and their 14-year-old daughter bore her testimony for the first time in her life. I was so happy to see them there and Nanay Estoconing said that their family is going to come every week now because she wants for Hanesa to eventually be baptized.
This last week, I gave my first blessing in the field. Our investigator Jessica was really sick and even had to go to the hospital the next day, but she is doing much better now. As I gave that blessing, it was not all Tagalog. I am not sure she understood every word that I said in English. But as it states in Preach My Gospel, the language of the Spirit is universal, and that is the most important language.
Lastly, on Saturday I finished the Book of Mormon for the 2nd time of my life. When me and Elder St. Gelais started back in the MTC, we decided we were going to highlight everything in the book that talks about the prophecies and gospel of Jesus Christ. As I'm sure you can probably guess, there is definitely a lot! It took me exactly 2 months and I've made a long-term goal over the course of my mission to complete the quad (BOM, Bible, D&C, PoGP) and the four-book set of Jesus The Christ, Our Search For Happiness, Our Heritage, and True To The Faith. On top of that, I want to read the Book of Mormon additionally at least two more times so I have a lot of studying haha. But I know that it is a true book and that Joseph Smith translated it by the power of God. It is so important in all our teachings because it is the keystone of our religion and as Joseph Smith personally testifies, "it is the most correct book on the face of the Earth and a man would come closer to God by reading and abiding by its precepts than by any other book". That is not the exact quote but I know the message to be true. I love the Book of Mormon so much and whatever trial we have in this life, we can turn to it as another testament of Christ. It is such a powerful testimony to everyone! And I feel like I should close this little testimony in His sacred name, even our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!

P.S: Wednesday marks my first cycle in the field so that's what the pictures are about.
Zone jerseys
 "4 Filizukanites"

 Our District

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving S/Os & The Forbidden Chocolate Milk

I have been here in the Philippines for a month now and each week goes by quicker than the last. The more time I spend here, the more I realize how many blessings I have had in my life that I sometimes take for granted. So with Thanksgiving coming up this week, there are a few people back at the Grove I wanted to give shoutouts to: First off, to Jeffrey, Emily and Zack, who have displayed devout friendship each week. P Day wouldn't be the same without them! Leo and zackBEtweetin are some of the biggest studs around for sure and Em is just my homegirl and I'm so excited for her because she put in her mission papers this week! Also, S/O to Hayden and Tessa, who recently made 'first contact' (look at me and these missionary terms). It is good to hear from y'all. Much love!  Next, out of all the horses on the farm, there are none who make me LOL harder than the Meat Grinder. Or, in terms that are actually understandable, Braden King is the funniest guy I know. Hopefully I'm not mistaken, but I think it's Jessica's birthday this week, so have a good one Jess!

I'm so thankful for all my friends on missions and the examples they gave to me. I know they are all killing it in various places all over the world. Also for the rest of the gang back at home as well. And finally, to my loving family and all they have done for me. Specifically my mother and all the hard work she has done!
I'm a little late, but congratulations to the PGHS volleyball team for taking state. I miss cheering at those games and I like to think I helped plant a seed of greatness in our fan section. Basketball should be about ready to start, so to Ry Guy, Charles, Matt, and the rest of the squad-go out and have a killer year. I love you guys!
As for this week in the field, I have my first good story with the language. We were teaching the Word of Wisdom to Angelo, Jessica, and Dexter (Jamil was absent) and I was telling them that we need to refrain from coffee because it is harmful for our bodies. Well when I thought I was talking about coffee, apparently I was referring to 'morning drinks'. So when I asked them if they had any problems with this and was committing them to live the Word of the Wisdom, they were confused because they thought they had to give up drinking chocolate milk for breakfast. My companion had to correct me but it was pretty funny.
Lastly, I want to talk about a tatay (what every elderly man is called) named Amado. We have visited him three times, and each time, a basic summary is that he tries to argue anything we try to teach. After each visit, I find myself thinking of Riley and 'crazy old Maurice'. Elder Merza says teaching tatay Amado makes him happy but I usually just get discouraged. However, there is something positive I take from these experiences. When I testify of something, whether he agrees or not, I receive a confirmation inside for myself that I know that what I am saying is true. It makes my testimony stronger and I am filled with joy that I know the truth. I don't know where I would be without the gospel in my life. The church is true. I don't have a doubt about it in my mind. 
The people here in the Philippines don't have a lot. But what they have, they cherish. And they are so happy. They are so loving. So as everyone is hammering down the turkey and watching football this Thursday, let us all remember how blessed we are, and let us give thanks every day and not only on this holiday. Thank you all for everything!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Chapter 1 Spark Notes

I have many random, different things to say for this week, but not anything that made me think of a good title. Last week, regarding the members, I forgot to mention a few things. One of my favorite things is the dinner appointments! It is awesome spending time with them and the food is usually really good. And my diet when we are at the apartment is limited basically to cereal, bread and peanut butter, noodles, tuna, and rice. Also, as Gordon B. Hinckley said, "It is essential for a new member to have three things. The first is a friend." Even when the missionaries aren't there, everyone can be a friend and an example.

My mom asked me to lay out a typical day and week. Each day we wake up at 6:30 and prepare for the day. At 8:00, we have an hour of personal study, followed by an hour of companion study, and finally an hour of language study (except on Fridays we plan for the week). Normally, we go out to proselyte at about 1:00. There are many less actives and investigators we have to visit, but usually a lot of them are not home or busy. We return from our teaching around 8-9 and eat dinner if we didn't have an appointment, have more personal time, etc; and we go to bed at 10:30. This was difficult for me to adjust to because I was used to going to bed at like 1 A.M at home haha. Tuesdays we have district meetings, Sundays we have church at 8:30 and Monday is our P Day. There are two little cities (called Barangays) in our area so we visit the people in one every other day.
I haven't asked anyone yet, but I'm fairly certain that everyone's favorite song here is 'Just Give Me A Reason'. Everyone is always singing that. And as overplayed as Blurred Lines was in America, I actually hadn't heard that for two months. But that came to an end this last week. Also, the Christmas music has come into affect here so we are starting to hear that. It is unlikely, but if I hear Christmas Shoes ever come on while I'm here, I will probably cry with joy.
Last Monday, we had to do a split because an elder (Paloma) had the chicken pox.
So while my companion and his comp (Heumann) went out, I stayed at the apartment. Because Paloma has the chicken pox, they received some mission approved movies so I was able to renew my Disney love and watch Monsters University. I thought it was a great movie so I was very happy.
Often times when I meet a Filipino for the first time and we have already distinguished the fact that I am half-American, they then try to guess what my other half is. Usually it is Korean, Chinese, Filipino in that order, but never Japanese haha. After that, they proceed to ask me a question about Naruto, because they assume I like it, but to be honest I don't know at all what they are referring to!
This last week, I taught a large multitude of kids the hand-clapping game of 'Double Double This This' and they really seemed to like it. They often also request for me to lift them up and hang them upside-down so whenever there's lots of small children around, it is usually a ruckus!
Also on Wednesday, we got to go to the mission home for a trainers meeting. It was great seeing everyone from our MTC batch and be able to relate on our experiences and observances thus far in the Philippines. It is nice knowing that I'm not the only one who doesn't really speak Tagalog haha. 
About once a week we get to 'eat out' at McDonalds or something, and that is basically treasure here. Oh what I would do for Taco Bell or Costa Vida right now! But as crazy and different as things are, I love it here so much and you couldn't pay me to leave (for 2 years anyways). I am so blessed to have this opportunity to share this wonderful gospel with the people of the Philippines and help bring them unto Christ. I love the people, and I can't express it enough, but I love all of you so much as well. Until next week!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Every Member a Missionary

I never really realized the importance of this statement until I was actually on a mission myself. I mentioned Angelo and Jessica last week, but two other investigators we have are Jamil (10 years old) and Dexter (9) who are brothers. All four of them live close together so we are able to teach them all together at Jamil and Dexter's home. The four of them have made very good progression and we are about ready to set baptismal dates with all of them. However, our success would be much more difficult without the help of the members. Jamil and Dexter's older brother Jordan has his mission call to Naga and he has helped us throughout this process so much.

The ward here is awesome and the church is strong in this nice little community. They treat us missionaries so well and that makes our job so much easier! Whether it be through fellowshipping, referrals, or whatever else, a lot of our success comes through the help of the members. We don't have to be on an actual mission to set an example for others and when everyone is involved, the hastening of the work improves rapidly.
Many have asked about the big typhoon that hit the Philippines. Our area was not affected too much by the storm because it hit pretty far away from us. All we got was some extra rainfall, but it is so comforting to know of the support and concern I have back at home. However, from what I have heard, there has been some significant damage at the places that it did hit so be praying for the welfare of those who felt the effect.
We had zone conference this week with the area seventy Elder Nielsen, and that went well! He and his wife gave great counsel to us. I don't have much else to say for this week, but the ability of the magnificent taxi van continues to impress me. The passenger capacity record is now at 24. I heard Bubble Butt as we were walking to church so that was pretty funny. What I am realizing when I hear American pop songs from a few years ago is of all the different memories I have associated with all these songs! Anyways, keep those affected by the typhoon in your prayers. I love you all!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Jafar's Counsel

"Patience, Iago, patience." If you know me well, you should know that I am an avid fan of Disney and although this quote was given by a villainous character, I think it's an aspect that Heavenly Father has wanted me to work on early in my mission-with the language, the culture, the work, my teachings, my companion-Everything. I wish that there was a magical way for me to be fluent in Tagalog but unfortunately that is not the case. As frustrated as I can sometimes get, I know that it is going to take a lot of diligence, patience, and time. I still can't really understand what people are saying, but on the bright side, as we are teaching, I am beginning to be able to introduce principles during our lessons, rather than just bear my testimony at the end of it.
We hadn't been having too much success in our work at the beginning. I just wish everyone could see the importance and beauty of our message that this gospel can share with them. However, like Kaseem when entering the Cave of Wonder, there will be some people that are not yet ready to accept what we have to offer. For those people, we must do what we can to plant the seed for them. And then as we press forward with faith and hard work, we will be able to find those Aladdins in our investigators. We will be able to find our diamonds in the rough. Angelo (13 years old) and Jessica (11) are two of the main investigators we have been working with and I have high hopes for them to be some of those diamonds. They are very bright and I think they are moving in the right direction towards becoming baptized. Both were able to attend church yesterday and we have taught multiple lessons to them.
Just a quick update in regards to last weeks email: American Songs of the Week-Shots (turn up?), Roar, and Wrecking Ball (I was kind of surprised because if I remember correctly these were only starting to get popular as I was leaving). The record for passengers in the taxi-van (which is probably a little smaller than the size of the one Sawyer drove) is now 22. That is going to be tough to beat.
Before I close, we have another segment on Stories With Drunk People. So the other day we were walking along the road and we pass by this big birthday party going on in someone's front yard. As we approach, they insist on having us join them and us sitting down to eat. They were going super hard on the karaoke machine and as it turns out, most of them were drinking beer, but the food was great and it was a good time haha.
I have only scripture referenced from Jafar thusfar so if you want a scripture about patience from the Book of Mormon, Alma 34:40-41 should do the trick. But going along with this week's theme of Disney--If you go look up the lyrics of 'Go The Distance' and think of it from the perspective of a missionary, it's really pretty incredible. Well that's it for this week! Ingit ka mga kaibigan ko!

Monday, October 28, 2013

That Filipino Swag Tho

Holy cow I can't believe I am finally in the Philippines now! I don't even know where to begin. I guess we can start with the travel. We woke up at like 4:30 A.M Monday morning then flew to Seattle then Japan then got to Manila late Tuesday night and stayed in one of the nicest hotels they have. It was so nice to be able to talk to a lot of friends and my family during my layovers. Glad to hear everyone is doing good. Also shout out to my homies that were able to visit me at the temple on Sunday!
Wednesday we flew from Manila up to Tuguegerao then took a bus back down to Cauayan for our meeting for the transfer meeting to find out our companions. As Elder Robley described it, it is kind of like the NBA draft. A name goes up on the screen and then the companion is announced.

My trainer's name is Elder Merza and he is from here in the Philippines. San Balas I think he said but I don't really know where that is. He has been out for 5 months. He is pretty good at English but I usually have to ask him to repeat himself. We are serving in the Cabarroguis area of the Santiago zone. He has been very helpful in assisting me to learn the language and the culture. He is great with the people as well. A few fun facts about Elder Merza: 1-He has a strong dislike for dogs. Often times when we see them while walking, he will throw rocks or swing his bag at them. It is pretty funny I must say. 2-He does not seem to believe me that I like rice. Despite my Japanese background and the fact that every time we eat rice, I assure him that I do in fact like it, he still is not convinced and asks me again the next time we eat it.
 Elder Merza and me

It's only us in our apartment and from what I have gathered, it is actually pretty nice. We have a bedroom, a room for study, both of pretty good size, as well as a large kitchen area. We have to use a bucket to shower and flush the toilet but that's not too bad.

The people here are incredible. While we are tracting, almost everyone is open to hearing our message. I can now say that I know exactly how Elder Calhoun feels in The Best Two Years. Basically when we talk to people, the only things I can say are, "Ako po si Elder Larson", "Taga Utah sa America" and "Bago (New) sa Pilipinas. Alam ko conti (I know little) Tagalog and I can bear my testimony on whatever subject we are teaching. I love the ward here. The church is bigger than I was expecting and the members are awesome and very strong. Friday we participated in their mutual night activity and we just played games. Sunday during sacrament was the Primary Program and then us elders who are new to the area were asked to get up and bear our testimonies. I'm so excited to serve in this ward.

One of the wonderful things about them is that even though I usually don't know what they're saying right now, they can understand me because almost everyone knows English. They sing all their hymns in English and they are also very fond of American pop songs, so as I walk down the street I hear a lot of that. Charles and Kevin will be happy to know that yesterday I heard 'Treasure'. I think the funniest time though was when I heard 'Teach Me How to Dougie'.
As for the food, that is great as well. A lot of the stuff is similar to American food and I haven't had anything crazy yet so that hasn't been a problem. Everything here is also very inexpensive. For example, for lunch today I had two doughnuts and a bottle of Sprite and the cost came out to be equivalent to about 50 cents.
Before I sign out, I think it is STORY TIME. Our main way of transportation besides walking are these 3-row vans that people pile into. There is normally about fifteen in there but the most I have seen is eighteen. Anyways, it was my first day in the area and the ride to get where we were going was about thirty minutes. So I board the van and sitting next to me is a very drunk man and he wanted nothing more than to talk to me. Basically he went off the whole time and kept asking me questions, but of course I have no idea what he is saying because I barely speak Tagalog so I am just sitting there smiling and nodding my head. The only thing I caught is that he thought I was guapo (and apparently most people think the same way just because I am a tall white man...). He asked for our phone number and we also gave him a pamphlet about the Restoration so maybe some good came out of it. It was pretty funny though. Maybe when he becomes sober, he will read it. Anyways, until next week my friends. Mahal ko kayo!

Another one of our main ways of transportation.
Usually fits 5 people, up to 8 or so when people sit on top

Saturday, October 19, 2013

See Ya Later 'Murrica

Another week down at the MTC and we are heading out of here early Monday Morning. I have developed such close bonds with so many people here so it will be tough when we all have to part our separate ways, but I seriously can not wait to get to the Philippines and finally join everyone out in the fields. My Tagalog is alright I think but there is no denying the fact that in my first week, I will probably be having some Elder Calhoun moments: "This is not the language that they taught me in the MTC." It will be incredible once all the homies have reunited and we watch The Best Two Years together!

On our last Tuesday night devotional, we finally got the opportunity for a member of the Quorum of the Twelve to speak to us here at the MTC. Dallin H. Oaks came and he gave a great talk. As soon as he walked in the door, the Spirit was overwhelming. Considering conference was just a week and a half earlier, I guess you could say we have been given a lot of good revelation and guidance lately!
If I remember correctly, PGHS is having Sadies today so I hope everyone has a good time at that. This last week, I added 'The Spongebob' to my dance move arsenal. It is too bad that it took me this long to realize that I had it up my sleeve. Everyone is also very impressed me with my Zoolander dance (the arm and hip thing that the drill team always does. Huge shoutout to them for teaching me because I have finally gotten very fast at it and now I'm teaching most of our branch haha).
The other day we are the creamery and the worker was updating us on all the sports news and it's crazy how far behind I felt and I have only been gone 6 weeks. After 2 years, I will probably come back to things I haven't even heard of! The Philippines is going to be a whole different experience than anythng I'm used to, but I could not be more pumped to share the amazing message that this gospel has to offer to the wonderful people in the area of Cauayan. I don't know if any of you guys have heard, but Cebu was recently hit with a really big earthquake and there is a rumor that we won't have electricity for the first little bit once we get there. If I skip a week of emails, that is the reason but I would still love to hear from everyone for when I am able to get on. Stuff is about to get real as I'm finna dippin' the U.S.A. Keep Utah under control as I chuck up my deuces. I love you all!
 Our hecka chill teacher Brother Ward

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Forgotten Guinea Pigs

Kumusta mga kaibigan ko! (Hello my friends) I hope everyone enjoyed Conference as much as I did! I don't know how to explain it but it is definitely true that is such a good experience to watch it while you are in the MTC. This gospel is such a marvelous work and you can tell that these men have been called of God. There were so many good messages shared and I think the Sunday Morning session may have been my favorite of all time! I also really enjoyed the talk in the priesthood session by Dieter F. Uchtdorf. When we have fallen, there will be times when we think we can't get up. However, always remember those encouraging words that 'we can do it' and the Lord will always be ready to help you. As a side note for those who went to the Priesthood Session, am I the only one who thought that choir sounded like they came straight from the cast of Newsies?
Anyways, we got our flight plans yesterday and that was kind of a big MTC milestone. Yesterday marked the month anniversary from our arrival and we will be heading out in a little over a week! I am so excited to get there, but at the same time, the reality and nervousness is starting to kick in because even though the Tagalog is still improving, once we get out there it's going to be a whole new story. Our flight plans land us in Seattle, Washington and Tokyo, Japan before we get to the Philippines, so that will be tight to see some of my 'native homies'.
G Squad at the world famous map. I'm going to Alaska btw, ha ha.
Remember how I introduced Dirty Nel and said there would be a lot of stories in the near future? Well, this week he shaved his legs in a striped formation and also has somehow pulled out large wads of lint from his belly button on consecutive days. He definitely solidified the meaning of his nickname as Dirty Nel. What would we do without the guy? On Wednesday, we also had our heavyweight title wrestling match. The picture displayed seems suitable to be the headline photo of WrestleMania, but Krutsch pinned him in like 35 seconds. It was pretty epic though. We have some good times at the apartment.
Captain Krutsch vs. Dirty Nel - Heavyweight Title
Also, as to the reason for the title, we found out that we are getting moved BACK to Main Campus this Tuesday. This means we will have to pack and unpack for the second time here at the MTC, before we head out the following Monday. I am not sure who is even charge of this department and although I don't mind the move because I liked Main Campus better, it's just a little frustrating that they just kind of ship us around. Although it is probably not their intent and more a matter of their convenience, the only option we have is to look at this as another learning experience. Hopefully everyone back home has not forgotten about me, although I sometimes feel that is the case haha. You all still certainly have a special place in my heart though and if I were to give any advice, especially for those seeking to serve a mission, I would say go to the temple as much as you can. It's really such an amazing place to be. Also study Preach My Gospel and the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon. I love you all so much. Thank you for your the prayers and support you give. Alam ko po na totoo ang simbahan ni Jesucristo. Mahal kita!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A week in the Life of a Wild DL

Ano ang mabuti mga tao? (What is good people) It's been a fun week and each one seems to go by quicker than the last. I have never gone without eating from 6:30 A.M-5:30 P.M so my first Fast Sunday was kind of interesting. I ended up putting down 4 plates of chicken cordon bleu. I must say that I was pretty proud of myself, although I'm sure Elder Lee and Elder Reber probably could pound a lot more than that.

Anyways, just when we were getting settled in at West Campus, the MTC decided to throw some more changes at us and our district got split up. As a result, I got called to be the new District Leader. We all thought that was kind of funny because I have been lit up by President Anderson a few times. One time when he visited our class and was telling us something and he asked me a question but I had already started to doze off. Another time I wore the wrong pants with my suit coat and he noticed. Then ten minutes before he announced that I would be the DL, I was actually wearing Elder Wright's name tag and I got called out on it. Lulz. I promise I am not always in trouble though haha. And President Anderson is such a cool guy too. But here I am as a new DL so even though we are now two separate districts, we are still one family because we have grown so close together. Dalawa mga districto-Isa pamilya. Two districts-One family.
I always look forward to General Conference so I'm pumped that we get to listen to the prophet and his apostles this weekend. I think it will be such an amazing experience to hear all the talks while we are here at the MTC! I would strongly recommend for everyone else to watch because there's not much better stuff you could be doing than listening to the word of God!
Another good story that happened yesterday is that I concocted a potion (like what we would do during lunch at the junior high) and it consisted of chocolate milk, raspberry lemonade, salt, pepper, zucchini and ham. We went around in a circle playing 'what are the odds' which is like a dare game, and Geezy ended up having to drink it. Well we made kind of a big scene and then the cafeteria president came over and started demanding some questions and then Elder Wright ended up having to take the blame but it was a pretty funny experience.

I started reading Jesus The Christ and that book blows my mind it is so good. Elder St. Gelais and I also restarted the Book of Mormon the other day. After our Sunday night devotional, we watched Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration. He is seriously the biggest stud!

The language is still getting better every day, but far from good. The lessons we teach to the 'investigators' are getting longer and tougher because they expect more (yesterday we taught the Plan of Salvation for like 30 minutes in straight Tagalog) but the Spirit is still strong as ever and the gift of tongues is always present. I love you all. Have a good conference weekend!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

West Side

Maganda umaga! This last week, all the Tagalog branches had to move to the West Campus (my mom should've posted the new address on FB I think but I guess people don't seem to write many letters these days...) and it is definitely a different experience. Everyone's initial reaction was that they didn't like it all. We are staying at the Raintree Complex and there are twelve elders in our apartment that has only two showers and one water heater. There is not much space for the four of us in our small room and our gym time is now outside. However, we are starting to get adjusted to it. And what I realized is that there will be times when we are comfortable in our mission and then things get switched up on us and we will have to accept it. We might as well start getting used to these living conditions, because once we are in the Philippines, we definitely won't be staying in any five-star hotel. On the bright side, the food is a little better and we also got to walk to Jamba Juice at Brigham's Landing the other day.

 The move has been kind of hard on everyone so some of the sisters needed to receive blessings on Wednesday. There were four so each elder had the opportunity to give one. It's amazing because when you are about to give a blessing, you don't really know what to say, but once you begin, the Holy Ghost will direct you what to say and the words and inspiration just come to you. The Spirit was definitely very strong for us that night and it also helped us bond together even more as a district.
There is this one elder in our zone who stays in our apartment named Elder Nielsen and I think he is one of the most interesting guys that I have ever come across. When we are at the apartment, he enjoys hiding behind corners and jumping out at people, giving hugs for no apparent reason, silently observing people as they sleep, and other stuff I can't even explain. I nicknamed him Dirty Nel (in honor of Mallory Moon a.k.a. Dirty Mal) and the name has caught on throughout the zone. I'm introducing him now because there will probably eventually be some crazy story involving him haha. As strange as he is, our zone would not be the same without him.

Elder Nielsen

And I will confess, I'm still the same nutty Asian boy I was before I left. Yesterday, I learned the chorus of A Thousand Miles in Tagalog. As long as you have a good companion/district like I do, the MTC is such a fun time. It is like the high school version of our mission and I can't wait until I'm actually able to teach the people in the Philippines.
Since we moved, Tuesday was the last time I got to see Elder McFarland. He departs to Korea in a few days and that will mean all the homies will be out in their respective mission. I have received updates from Elder Anderson and Robley about their first weeks in Japan and Russia and it is awesome to hear they are doing good. Also hopefully everything goes well with Elder Carr and his surgery! I seriously have been blessed with such an amazing friend group in my life. I miss all the crazy times that we had but they have been the best examples to me and knowing I have 14 brothers teaching the gospel in various parts of the world makes my mission that much easier. Same goes to my homies back in the Grove-Ry, Jeff, Charles, everyone else-I miss them and I hope everybody is doing good. I know that I was a hall of fame super senior but I heard that our football team is doing pretty good and that some other people have picked up where I left off with the school spirit. I love all you guys and I am glad to say that I made it through that tricky 3rd Friday.

 Elder Anderson

Elder McFarland

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The G Squad

My companion Elder St. Gelais
Kumusta everybody! Everybody says make it through your first Sunday (I on the other hand tell everybody to 'watch out for that 3rd Friday because it'll get you'...) and then time flies by and that seemed to be true because this week seemed to go pretty dang fast. I feel like I've been here forever though and my old life seems so long ago! It almost feels weird to be called Bryce now. I hope everybody is doing good back at home.
First and formemost, I need to introduce you to the self-proclaimed G Squad. I spend almost all my time with this crew and the MTC would probably stink if you weren't having fun, but we quickly developed a strong brotherhood and we just have a grand old time out here.
Hopefully my mom can load the pic okay so from left to right:
Geezy-My companion Elder St. Gelais but nobody can pronounce that right so St. Geezy it is. Such a cool and friendly dude and a volleyball champ. He has helped make my MTC experience a lot better. Frosty-Elder Wright has a white mark in his hair so Kruger calls him 'Skunk' but we all thought Frosty would be nicer. He understands my sense of humor better than most and we laugh about seriously the dumbest stuff all the time.
Div-Elder Divver is our district leader and I have come to the conclusion that he is Skyler Munson's long-lost fraternal twin. They act so similarly! He is always such a nut but he can also be spiritual so that's good.
Lady Slayer Lamb-The tall, quiet Elder Lamb who is a bank of knowledge. We all know for a fact that this guy knows his way around a woman's heart.
Muscles-I always dare Elder Musselman to do stuff and he is down for anything. He is in the other district with Elder Wright but the same zone so they're always with us.
So many funny things have happened already but it's hard to explain a lot without knowing the people or the inside jokes. Some entertainment tactics I use though are getting sisters from our district or other random missionaries in my camera selfies (like Charles would do to people at school), welcoming everybody to the MTC whether they are new or not, and looking up dumb stuff in the Tagalog dictionary. In honor of J-Rob who left this last week, I learned part of the chorus of 22. I saw Elder Anderson and Elder Madsen quite a bit but they finna dipped as well.
We teach these 'investigators' and even though they are just members volunteering to play the role, it's incredible how much you can still connect with the person and feel the Spirit while teaching. Our last few lessons we haven't used any English. We usually don't understand a lot of the stuff that they say back to us but we make progress each lesson.
The language gradually gets better every day but there are times that I get pretty frustrated. I think that it would sometimes be tough to get my point across in a lesson-let alone teach the whole message in Tagalog. But a scripture that has helped me this week is Proverbs 3:5-6 which basically states, "Put all the trust in God and he will direct thy paths." If it weren't for the Lord, there is no way I could do it. But basically as long as we are putting forth our effort, Heavenly Father will take care of the rest and the Holy Ghost will testify what is needed to the investigator. You might not always know the language and the doctrine completely, but the most important thing you can do is give your best effort, turn outward to God, and LOVE the people. If you can do that, you can become a great missionary.
Sige po. Mahal tayo! (Goodbye. I love you all.)
   Elder McFarland and me

Our District

Saturday, September 14, 2013

First email

Dear Family,
I don't know if you got my letter but I don't know where my important pouch is. I saw I got a package so hopefully it is in there.  Jake says he gets like three packages of food on Fridays so I have high expectations to be hooked up.  Mom can you check my email and send me all the missionary contacts
Anyways, I can't believe the time has finally arrived. It was awesome being hosted by Elder McFarland and Elder Anderson. I have really missed them. I have also seen Elder Robley, Elder Babb, Elder Kruger, Elder Loitz who is from PG and going to Cauayan and a few others at the MTC. I get to visit Elder McFarland a lot during the night.
At the MTC, they literally just throw you right into things. The first day, they barely spoke any English in class. Mostly Tagalog. (Tug-all-ig. Not tag-all-og.) It's frustrating at times but it's starting to come already, faster than I expected. I can carry on a short conversation while greeting and becoming acquainted with someone and I'm close to being able to say a prayer.
There are four elders and eight sisters in our district. I already love them. Sister McHenry is in it, so it has been really nice to already know someone. I joke around with her a lot. Our district knows that we knew each other before so some of them think that we are hiding a prior relationship that we had hahaha. My companion Elder St. Gelais (pronounced JUH-LAY) is a really easygoing and laid-back dude. He is a very cool guy and has been a great companion so far. Elder Divver got called to be district leader is so goofy and he talks even more than I do, but he also plays ball and I think if he lived in Pleasant Grove, he would probably hang out in our friend group a lot. From the stories he tells, he reminds me a ton of Skyler Munson because he also seems like a pretty sneaky snake. The last elder is Elder Lamb. He is tall and pretty quiet, but sometimes he says something that is just so funny. It's a little like when Jeffrey makes a joke, but Jeffrey is the best.
Speaking of that, all the homies need to email me. Getting mail is one of the best feelings! By the way, UPS stores SHIPS FREE ON FRIDAYS. Ladies, feel free to HMU with the packages! If you send a Dear Elder, it would probably help to include your address so I can send you a letter back. That delivers every day so it's pretty convenient. And my P-Day is Saturdays by the way.
Sometimes I get frustrated with the language but honestly so far I love it a lot here. You stay so busy all the time, you don't even have much time to think about what else is going on back home. The food hasn't been too bad either. I love you all. Start writing me!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

MTC drop off day

We said our goodbyes and then dropped off Bryce at the MTC.

There to greet Bryce were two of his best friends, Mike and Jake. 
 It made it alot easier to leave him in good hands.