Monday, July 4, 2011

God never blinks.

Dear Mom,
It's pretty difficult starting this email after hearing what a hard time Jason is having at BYU. I can remember feeling a bit homesick, and left out. I can actually remember not liking BYU at all my first few weeks. It really disappoints me to hear how the other members are treating Jason, not even having the sense to wave in the hall or wanting to eat next to him because he is not a member, and I really have trouble believing that they won't let him into the music program not being a member. I am pretty sure BYU is an equal opportunity school, and I was unaware that discrimination like that would even exist there. If there is any time I wish I could be at home, it's now. I wish I could be there to put some sense into those kids and protect Jason, or be there to give you a hug mom and let you know that our home will not be empty forever. It seems like we are all going through a hard time right now. My prayers are with you all.

I guess to begin, let's spell together the never-ending concept of this surely-ending life: change.

That seems to be the theme of our family story right now. Jason in his first hard weeks in college, myself in a brand new mission, and you and dad adjusting to a quieter home. If there is one thing I have learned in the mission though, it's that change to Heavenly Father means opportunity, that is, an opportunity to learn to trust.

This past week was a really emotionally and spiritually draining week for us, especially my companion. Yet as with anything else, sweat, pain, and discomfort always seem to reap its rewards. Let me tell you what I've learned.

Mom, you're probably wanting to know what I've learned this week as far as my mad-skillz go right? Well, let me tell you, your son is now a full blown... plumber! Yup, that's right! On Monday night, I was just at the sink brushing my teeth when I heard a noise. Another storm coming in? That's what it sounded like. Heavy rain coming from... well where else does rain from right. Anyway, I took a look out the window and was surprised to see clear skies, and no rain drops. Invisible rain? No, let's not be ridiculous. So I went outside to find our outdoor faucet had been blown out of its socket and was shooting out water like a fire-hydrant! Yikes! So my instincts told me to stop it... with my hand. Smart right? No. Then my logic told me to go turn off the water outside which worked a lot better. The next morning, I surveyed the scene like I was taught back in the days of lifeguarding, and noticed the faucet had been blown out of its socket. It had obviously had trouble before, as it was wrapped in worn out plumber's tape. But wait! There's no plumbers tape in the house! So what did I do? Wouldn't you want to know!
Well just in case you have forgotten, I was a clarinet player before the mission who took private lessons with Chris Davis. Whenever our corks became worn out, he used to wrap them in plumber's tape to make sure there were no air-leaks in the instrument. But when he didn't have plumbers tape, he always told me that waxed floss works just as great. Waxed-floss ready to use at the apartment? You betcha. And guess what? It worked!
For about 48 hours. And now it's just broken... so maybe I haven't learned how to be a plumber yet but it was a good story right? We're going to try superglue later.
For now, washing our laundry has been a task, almost like living as the natives. We have to lug the water in buckets outside to wash. At least we don't have to pump it like you guys did, and we have electricity. Learning more and more about how you used to live makes me wonder how much we don't appreciate in the States.

How to be a Star
I think I have the destiny of being a Filipino celebrity. So this past week, I went to a checkup for that funky virus I got, and while leaving the hospital, or rather trying, the lobby was packed with reporters and reporters for their reporters... possibly even the mothers of these reporters... and their husbands who are the fathers of the reporters' reporters. Seeing the reporters, Elder Tropia and I ducked for cover, because we are absolutely not supposed to be on the media for our safety. Guess who was in the lobby? Actually a really funny story. She walked straight past me and everyone started screaming. The lady was like 3'5"... alright maybe a little taller but she was only up to my shoulder with high heels on... mind you how tall I am. I forgot her name, but it was the previous President of the Philippines!

On Saturday, we were just going around to appointments and saw another caravan of "ABS-CBN" cars, which could classify as the "ABC" of the Philippines. Now what? They were shooting a movie with a bunch of Filipino Celebrities right in the heart of our area... 100 days or something like that. People were screaming left and right seeing the celebrities. I didn't recognize any of them so it wasn't a big deal to me. We just did our best to hide.

Shakespeare is Mormon
Or at least his grandson is. Found out last week that the bishop in Ampid Ward, Bishop Mallonga, served with Shakespeare's grandson: Elder Shakespeare. He has the family tree to prove it. Fun fact right?

People you help, help you more

It's official, Enrique is now our other little brother. I could talk about this kid all day, and I can honestly say that I don't know if I have ever felt this important to anyone in life aside of my own family. Enrique has set aside time everyday to make sure he works with us and at least sees us once. He took these pictures of the sunset right outside Lovely's house. I can't explain how much he has touched my life from just the simple things he does. I have seen him learn, grow, and change in just the few weeks I have been here. His teaching has improved so much as well as his testimony. I was able to meet his grandfather who graciously extends his thanks to you for his shoes. He told me about how his whole life, he had never been able to afford a pair of shoes, and how seeing Enrique have a pair of shoes makes it all complete. We've been having a great time together, and he's helped me so much, although he seems to think I'm the one helping him. Last Friday, Elder had a really rough time being a new missionary and feeling inadequate, as most new and old missionaries do. It was hard for me not knowing how to help him. Thank goodness Enrique and Mac Mac where around. When Elder asked for alone time, I came outside to sit with them and tried my best not to cry not knowing what to do. As soon as they felt something was wrong, they both sat on both sides of me and told me that they wanted to help. Enrique put his head on my shoulder and just said that he knew everything would be okay, and impressing me beyond belief, they asked if we could offer a prayer. Small and simple things just show such great faith. At 16 years old, when they could be out with others doing drugs and drinking, but they understand the importance and have faith in the power of prayer. Enrique says that he prays for me every night that I'll be able to be here for a long time, and I really do hope so. Whenever he works, I make sure he brings his school assignments and we try to get them finished over dinner. Yesterday I was really touched to see our phone number in his phonebook listed as "Kuya!" which literally translates to "big brother." Earlier today, he told me "Elder, magkuya tayo forever 'di ba?" which doesn't directly translate to, but would be said like this in English, "Elder, you're going to be my big brother forever right?"

After a hard day of work last Tuesday.

Enrique and I starting our day together at lunch. We had so may appointments that we were able to go on splits, and it was great to work together just the two of us to help him prepare for his mission.

The cutest baby on the planet - Jared. He has the HUGEST eyes ever! Sister Lourdes says, "Makikita niya ang buong mundo." or "He will be able to see the whole world."

Jared and Kuya Enrique

Enrique trying to stack his toothpick
Last Saturday we also had our Ward Home Evening. "Family Home Evening" or "FHE" is a program that the church has instituted that says that each family should get together each Monday, have a spiritual thought, lesson, and of course games for family bonding. Here in Ampid, they have a Ward FHE four times a year under the same concept. Bishop Mallonga gave a lesson about FHE and how it binds our families. His object lesson involved a bunch of sticks and trying to stack them on top of a water bottle. Some fell off, some stayed on. In conclusion he put a pile of sticks with a rubber band on top of another water bottle and explained how FHE is something that will bind our families together. The games were run by the youth who also put on an awesome dance presentation after. The youth are so talented here. I was way proud of them, knowing as youth we probably wouldn't have to pull it off... well come to think about it though, Elina and Marinne could've definitely pulled it off, and Crew and I were known for our dance skills during Mr. Panther so maybe it'd be possible. But anyway they did a great job, and I was way proud of Enrique, hip-hop dancing is probably his biggest hobby and he's way good. They did a couple hip-hop songs and then a couple 80s songs. It was great! We also had a few of the people we are teaching attend and even participate! It was a really fun night that ended with the finals of the stake basketball tournament, our ward, Ampid, against San Jose ward. We ended up losing, but it was still way fun and of course, there was great sportsmanship.

Bishop's son pointing our the rubber band.

The first game, a relay trying to pinch five plates and make it around the chairs and back... of course the boys won!

The youth's dance number.

This is Sister Beth, one of the people we are teaching. She is way funny, she reminds me of Grandma Angie, kind of ADD and really, really funny!

Gelo tried to participate in the primary game.

This game was the best! So what they primary did, was they lined up by age and then divided up into Kuya's team and Ate's team (the oldest boy and girl in primary). So what they had to do is run around the chair and each time pick up someone to form a train. Everytime someone let go, they had to start over. After three rounds, Ate won!

Ate's team making it to the finish!

Mac-Mac, Enrique, Gelo, me, and Ken-Ken

I look like a retard here.

Us with the Rosales family, some of the people we are teaching. Yan Yan and Janna, the furthest left and right, you can find for sure in that Ensign of conference.

The final basketball game!

Change is the only constant
The mission change also went through smoothly, yet difficult. But it just seems to highlight the ongoing theme of life. There is a quote that talks about how things we do in life do not become easier, it is that our capacity to endure them expands because we become stronger. So often I've noticed that we cause ourselves to struggle and be disappointed, because we just look in terms of yesterday and today, when what God sees is forever. All things in this life are temporary, so let's not base our happiness in temporary things. Change is inevitable, but is an opportunity to learn to trust God. All things will work out in the end. Whatever problem great or small, although they come in ending supply, all are promised to take just a short time. And if we endure it well, great will be our reward. The things that matter most, are the things that we will have forever.

God never blinks
Life can change in the blink of an eye, but God never blinks. I've learned so much, especially in feeling the love for the people here, about how much God loves us, and the fact that He loves us because of Who He is, not because of things we have done or things we didn't do. With that trust and knowing that heaven is on our side. I know that if we do what's right we have no need to fear.

We keep moving
Whether we like it or not. And that's where I'm going. I'll hit my year mark next week which is unbelievable, and time just seems to keep going. We cannot change the past, and although we mess up, it doesn't mean we give up or lose hope, it means we trust harder, pray harder, and work harder for a better future. I'm having the time of my life, and being the first missionaries in this mission, I can wait to see what miracles the Lord has in store.

These are the things I've learned, so let us begin.

Happy Independence Day!
Elder Corpuz

P.S. This is my new favorite scripture, Enrique shared it last week and I've made it my anthem:

Doctrine & Covenants 5:34 
Yea, for this cause I have said: Stop, and stand still until I command thee, and I will provide means whereby thou mayest accomplish the thing which I have commanded thee.