Sunday, February 26, 2012

Small and simple things.

Dear Mom,
It's crazy how much can happen in a matter of days. For you non-Tagalog speakers, (ehem Jason & Farah) "pa" means yet or still. So the subject of my last email literally means "Peaceful still." I thought it was a cool little jingle - mapayapa pa.

Elder Taulelei's last day was simple and a little sad. I was going to miss my big, friendly giant companion who couldn't hurt a fly. We were treated to bowling that day, and I didn't do so well haha. Marcie nearly creamed me, who has only bowled for the second time in his life. It was a nice way to end the transfer. 

Transfers came out really surprising, especially for the elders in my district. I felt like all my elders grew up that day. All my juniors became trainers and all my seniors became leaders. Elder Taulelei literally moved right across the street and is now training as a leader, still here in Fairview zone. My new companion's name is Elder Azuela from Bicol. He's a cartoonist and a really humble elder. He's always willing to help. The past few days have been really stressful, and I wear my emotions right on my sleeve. He'll ask me, "Elder, what's on your mind? What are you thinking about?" and of course my response is just to smile and say nothing, even though there obviously is something. Elder Azuela always jokingly responds back though, "Just think of your thoughts as a pizza. Let's half it. Tell me what your thinking about it and we can half it so I can think about it too and you don't have to think about all of it." I love that kid.

It was nice to see some familiar faces at transfer meeting. When I walked in the cultural hall after the meeting, Elder Posadas screamed my name and tracked me down. He had just gotten a small package from his family who sent a really cool shirt, same size as Elder Posadas, for me, from the "Sinulog" festival in Cebu, which apparently is a really big deal. Thank you couldn't describe my gratitude.

I also saw Sister Ajiz who is a bit of a miracle story. Sister Ajiz was in my zone at Valenzuela and is from Pakistan. Unlike the other foreigners, foreigners from Asia don't get the opportunity to learn Tagalog here in the Manila MTC, they are just expected to learn it all by themselves. Many of these missionaries give up quickly and go home. When I saw Sister Ajiz that day, I automatically assumed that I had to speak English to her, but she replied in straight Tagalog. And not even just a little, incorrect Tagalog, it was fluent, well-versed Tagalog. The last time I saw her about two months ago, she couldn't so much as speak let alone understand. I was nearly in tears seeing the progress she had made and the determination she has to learn the language to be able to help the people. She's an inspiration.

Saturday was an amazing day. It was Kuya Marcie's birthday and it was full of lots of activities, not just your ordinary church activities though.

I'm really impressed by this ward. The Philippines' area focus right now is saving the members who have left the church which right now, is over 500,000, mostly from lack of visiting from the members. Marcie and I talked about for awhile last week, and in response, he acted. He gathered the SA (single adults) on his birthday, and instead of having a normal party-like activity, he called the SA together to act, trained them, and sent them out to teach and find those families that had gone astray. We were able to attend and then took some of the SA with us to our lessons. It was a great help. Afterwards, we had some food at Marcie's house to celebrate his birthday. Elder Azuela and I also put together a very small, funny present for Marcie. I'm pretty sure he loved it.


Right after the activity, the sisters in the ward held an activity that night too. Another visiting activity as well. In efforts as well to strengthen less-active families, the sisters have decided that their activities as well will be devoted to strengthening families by holding a "family home evening" once every month at a different family's home. This evening was dedicated to the Failma Family.

Sister Ortiz in the green gave the lesson about families, she is also an Ilocana like nearly the rest of the ward.

One small piece of paper rips easily.
But a book, as a binded family, is very, very hard to rip.
This was our game - teamwork. Trying to stack matches on an RC bottle.

We lost haha.

One of the hardest weeks of my mission, yet bearable because of those around me. I've realized in the mission how much I value the "small and simple things" just as the scriptures tell us.

This week, I've received a lot of these small and simple things - straight from the heart. These things, are more important to me than gold, because of the love and thought behind them. To me, there is nothing that says I love you more, than an act that shows that someone took time out of their day to do something for you and just think of you, for even just a split second. Whether it be a shirt from a loving family, kind treats from my kuya's girlfriend, Rebisco crackers from kuya when I was hungry, a lollipop from my twin, when I was hurt. Notes from friends that come in greatest times of need. Hugs that comfort in times of despair. Simple things that make you feel special. Simple things that make you know that you aren't forgotten. Simple things that say I love you.

A small key chain Elder Posadas made of our favorite sayings.

 In Elder Posadas' father's last letter, he shared something that really touched me. He writes:

"Every person that we meet, does not come to us by accident. Every situation we meet along the way, will surely be moments of learning. And everyday, should not go to waste without us learning from whatever mistakes we make or good that we do."

I know that that's true. All these small and simple things - people, moments, mistakes, and good - all bring to pass great things in our lives if we let them. They show us that others love us. They show us that God loves us. They are the things that matter most - the thoughts and love that money can't buy. 

Elder Corpuz

Happy 24th Birthday to Kuya Marcie.

And without forgetting, a Happy 21st Birthday to my sister Farah.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mapayapa pa.

Dear Mom,
I'm glad to hear that you liked my last email. This email will be comparatively short. The news about Jason getting to go to Australia on virtually nothing is amazing! His talents are taking him so many places and I'm so happy for him. He's been to so many foreign countries since I've left and I'm really jealous, Europe last year and now Australia now? I guess in all fairness, I've been living in a foreign country for almost two years now so I can't really complain haha.

This week has been very challenging. I've found out that the only real enemy I have in life sometimes is myself most times. Our schedule for the most part this past week has been fairly normal as far as appointments are concerned, but frustrating at most of the outcomes. 

It's been fun though, because I've spent a lot of time learning from Marcie since he's found a lot of time to work with us this week. This week I really learned from him how to love everyone, unconditionally. He does and sacrifices everything and is willing to step out of his comfortability zone, just to help others. I still get extremely nevous teaching with him. Most times I just freeze up in lessons and forget what I'm saying when he's there, even though that usually never happens to me. He's taught me so much and I'm grateful for that. Here is a picture of us getting a quick "dinner" of something called "lugaw" which is basically rice boiled in water. Marcie took the time treat me, which although not being an extremely expensive meal, meant a lot to me, because he knew I was hungry and hadn't had dinner. It was a cultural experience haha. Notice in the picture how much darker his is than mine. That would be because the pepper shaker head apparently wasn't screwed on all the way and when he went to add some pepper, the whole cap fell off along with the whole bottle of pepper haha. There were lots of good times, and lots of bad times this week. I felt like it was another one of those weeks where we worked really hard and just watched things not go our way. 

I think the most frustrating part of missionary work is seeing people lead themselves away from the Gospel and away from Christ. Seeing them stumble, fall, and make wrong decisions. It's frustrating and disappointing, and sometimes you just want to shake them, scream in their faces, and ask them what are thinking. To see people with the potential to soar, but see them limit themselves to poverty because they refuse to act and raise themselves up. To see parents allow their children to stray. To see people give up on themselves. To see people give up on Christ.

It's made me wonder a lot about how Father must feel sometimes when we choose to do wrong.

I read an email from one of my best friends and partners in crime at BYU who is in Mexico right now. Spencer and I were both band geeks and I really appreciated his message this week. Spencer comments,

"Confidence leads to success. As a percussionist, my instructors would always tell us: If you make a mistake, make it loud. A huge cymbal crash two beats early... is better than none at all, or playing with an tentative dynamic. I can apply the same concept to missionary work. Fear is the opposite of faith. As soon as I allow fear to enter into the equation, the Spirit jumps out. I'm striving to better reflect the light of Christ and be a more faithful and confident representative of Him."

Missionary work can be frustrating when you feel like you are doing nothing right. Life can be frustrating when you feel like you are doing nothing right - especially when you feel like you are trying your best. I love what Spencer says here though - it's all about confidence. Confidence that we can receive knowing that we have a Father in Heaven who disregards what outcomes may be, as long as we are giving and trying our best and learning how to trust in Him.

I've struggled a lot this week, but in turn I've learned a lot. At some points I've felt like heaven closed itself on me, but then, I've always had great reassurances that heaven hasn't closed on me. It seems like the hardest days are the days that God sends for me the most. I've felt his love through the members here, especially all the great things I've learned from Marcie, and seeing him in the background of my life. Learning to have confidence, trust, and faith I believe are eternal goals, and although we may not know how to get there or understand how to get there, one thing we can know and be sure of is that it's possible.

As for transfer annoucements, I will be staying and my companion, again, will be leaving and training a new missionary. Mapayapa pa.

Elder Corpuz

Monday, February 13, 2012

Understand to Battle the Unfair.

Dear Mom,
Get ready, this could possibly be the longest email I've ever written in my life. I wrote it out this morning and it took a good two hours, there's just so much I want to say, and I really hope you enjoy it.
Time has taken off yet again and we're now in the last week of the transfer again. Somehow, someway, I have no idea how on earth it's happened! This week wasn't too full of events. Just a nice, normal week for the most part. But not really.
This week was a really hard week. Lots of let downs, lots of turn downs, lots of disappointments, lots of stress.
Wednesday was a doozer. As in a horrible day. We walked for about five hours in the heat and got absolutely no where. That's not an exaggeration. I couldn't tell you how many times we got lost and well, I'm getting frustrated again just thinking of it.
Thursday I had exchanges with Elder Naraja which actually didn't go bad at all. I've been with Elder Naraja for a really long time, so things seemed to just go pretty smoothly.
Friday I felt like I was in high school all over again. Saturday was temple tour and I wanted to make sure that everyone made preparations early and that everything was squared away. Did that happen? Absolutely not. Everyone waited until the last minute and then all the problems came straight to me.
Funny story actually. When we were scheduling the jeep, I confirmed with the elders whether they had done that or not and they responded that the driver had texted and said, "Elder Corpuz has scheduled the jeep" when I clearly wouldn't be asking if I had. Come to find out the other Elder Corpuz, who is Elder Posadas' companion scheduled our jeep making things just that much harder for us.
In the Philippines we don't have yellow pages, if you want something, you just need to know people. So we spent the rest of Friday night walking up and down our area, because people refused to reply to text messages, and got everything set, single-handedly. I was not a happy camper.
By Saturday, nearly half of the people cancelled and our jeep wasn't even half-way full. At that point, I just had to let go and laugh though. We were in good company by then. I was with good people, and there was nothing left to do.
We enjoyed temple tour and actually, as a surprise, we celebrated your birthday mom! Some of the closest sisters I know made a big poster for me to send home to you. I wanted to make it a surprise, but I couldn't wait because it doesn't sound like you exactly had the birthday of a queen. They had me sing again, which is always something I'm game for and I saw a lot of people I hadn't seen in a long time. Marcie and Oriel were able to come to help one of the people we are teaching feel comfortable and it was great to have them there.

My follow-up trainee and I were reunited with Ampid!
Some of the members I ran into from my third area, Ampid, Montalban.

And that was pretty much our week.
Trials. Trials. Trials. Life is bitter to everyone at some point.
Yesterday I was reading, being overcome by the mess of so many things. I felt like I didn't know who I was. The previous night I was told that I wasn't doing anything in the area and not doing any good. I got pretty down on myself, but I knew I could find the right thing I needed to hear if I just studied things out.
So I started from the beginning of a manual we use called Preach My Gospel that was put together to guide missionary work. The first chapter talks about our purpose as missionaries, and one sentence particularly stuck out to me. It reads, "As your understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ grows, your desire to share the gospel will increase." After more than a year and a half in my mission, I realized that I had no idea what that meant, and I needed to know. This is what I learned.
Life is all about understanding. In any sense of pain, pain knows no defense on true understanding. When we truly understand life, and it's problems, we can see that even the worst things have a purpose in this grand design. If there's anything anyone needs to understand in life, it's undoubtedly the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Let me give you a little mini-lesson here to give you a little background.
In order to understand the Atonement, you have to understand the Fall of Adam first. We all know the story of Adam and Eve. Eve ate the fruit and they were cast out of the Garden of Eden and into the real world. At that time, they were subjected to the effects of mortality - death, disease, and suffering. Yet on the contrary, we see that this fall was needed and part of God's plan for us as His children. Now, Adam and Eve had the opportunity to know good from evil, sickness and health, and basically learn to appreciate life. They were given the chance to progress. They were given the chance to grow. They were given the chance to be happy.
What the Atonement does is cover the gruesome effects of the fall. It paid for sin and physical death; we know now that we can be saved by the healing power of Jesus Christ's grace. The Atonement is comprised of these main parts - the suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, the suffering on the cross, the ressurection, and is finally characterized by his triumph over physical death. Although a painful fate, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, Jesus Christ submitted to the Father's will because of his love for Him, and his love for us, and did so, so that he could become our ultimate teacher and friend. The scriptures tell us that he experienced all pain, temptions, and afflictions of every kind, so that he could know how to help and comfort us in times of trouble. Just as a teacher, a teacher must study a lesson out first, before they can teach their students and help their students in times when they are needed. Because of the Atonement, we can be sure that we are never alone.
This morning, when I asked Elder Shumway how you can understand something, he responded with what Spongebob would have to say on that matter - when Spongebob was trying to make a sculpture, he said that we had to "be" the sculpture.  You have to be it, lick it, smell it, rub it, wash it, dry it, flaunt it, freeze it... alright those other things may be unpertainable, but the first is. It's inspired, it's genius.
In order to receive the effects of the Atonement in our lives, we have to "be" the Atonment. We are forgiven for our sins as we accept the Gospel in our lives. We accept the Gospel by living it's principles and through continual repentance. If we do so, God promises us that He will forgive us. He will wipe away the guilt of sin, and we will ultimately be able to someday, return to Him. The LDS version of the scriptures Bible Dictionary says that, "The Atonement... touches everyone to the degree that he has faith in Jesus Christ..." And at the same time, we must remember that we have to do our part as well, because although it is unconditionally given to us, it is conditional on how we choose to use it.
Now if you've just been skimming the email, this is the part you want to actually read.
An understanding of the Atonement is the greatest shield against sadness and comfort in times of trial. Here are the two main conclusions I've found as an answer to my initial question.
When we better understand the Atonement, we are more able to help ourselves. One of the most beautiful quotes I read in Preach My Gospel was something I found on page 52 that reads, "As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ." The Atonement gives us assurance and hope for the future as we are able to understand that although life can be cruel, it can be made right and we can make it right because of the infinite sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

And even more importantly to me, when we better understand the Atonement, we are more able to help others. Just as BYU's motto reads, we enter to learn, and go forth to serve. When we apply the Atonement in our relationships we desire to better understand others so that we can help them better. We take our time to understand differences instead of arguing and console people as the Savior would, through pure love and understanding. These things would not be possible if we didn't first understand the role and purpose of the Atonement for ourselves, because we cannot help others beyond our own understanding.
This week, I've been paticularly touched by two people who have a very good knowledge of the Atonement, my new big brother and big sister: Marcie and Sister Lubrido. (Who coincidentally have a mutual friend that happens to be Marcie's girlfriend we found out last temple tour. What a small world!)
On temple tour on Saturday, I said bye to Sister Lubrido and Sister Mila for the final time since they will be going home next week. You know me, bad at goodbyes and full of tears. Sister Lubrido is the best big sister figure I could have ever asked for, or "Ate" as we call them here in the Philippines. In the Atonement, she particularly understands the principle of love. She shows her knowledge and testimony of the Atonement through her kindness and love for others. She always considers others first and just always wants others to be happy. She is happy, if others are happy. It's rare especially in a world today that is so focused on "me". It was so hard to say goodbye to her and I'll miss her a lot. No sister has touched my life more than she has. I know you'll love her message for you on your poster mom.
The remembrance page Ate made for me.

My and Ate's last picture.
Kuya & Ate.
An even harder principle of the Atonement to live, is the principle of change. Being able to grasp the Atonement's power and realize that it can help people change is really difficult. Change is hard. But one thing I've seen in Marcie, my new "kuya," is that he understands that it's possible. He has been willing to change and adapt to whatever needs I've had and wants to understand me so he can better help me - all motivated by pure love. He recognizes his faults and realizes that because of the Atonement, he can change. As my big brother, he pushes me to learn, grow, and be exactly obedient. He helps me to better understand the Atonement. I've learned more from him about being a good missionary and good person than any other person my whole mission. I will be eternally grateful that he understands how to use the Atonement in his life.
After studying all these things out I realized that the quote in Preach My Gospel is true.

When we better understand Jesus Christ's sacrifice there is a chain effect.
The more we understand, the more we grow. The more we grow, the more we can help, The more we can help, the more we can love.
I know that's true because of you mom. Above all, you understand the Atonement better than anyone I've ever met, because you understand it's principle of sacrificing for those you love. I couldn't count the nights of endless sleep you've sacrificed for me because of work or because of my own immaturity. And to me mom, you are the closest thing to the Savior. Regardless of whatever mistakes I've made, you've always been right by my side and will always be right by my side. From the nights when I was little, when you would come into our rooms after a long night of work, thinking we were asleep, and kissing us each on the forehead before you would go to bed, to the nights where I was as much as five hours late to curfew, your love never changed to me. And I am who I am today, because of you. You are the best mom. You know how to have faith. You know how to endure. You know how to love.
Happy late birthday again mommy. Sending you love from across the globe.
Elder Corpuz