Sunday, April 22, 2012

Patience, hope, and faith.

Dear Mom,
It's been a really fast week, and the hottest that I have for sure ever experienced on my mission and probably in my whole life. I've spent each day looking like an idiot under my umbrella wiping sweat out of my face with my bandanna and then squeezing it out every few minutes. The cold sting of Provo never sounded so good. Showering in ice doesn't even cure this heat.

Sorry for the lack of pictures this week. I've kind of avoided taking pictures a bit because I look like a monster right now because I haven't gotten my haircut since I was in Mapayapa. I was able to get a couple pictures of the area though to kind of give you an idea of what it looks like. Green, green, green. The most green I think I've lived in my whole life. If there's anything I've learned though, it's that allergies are the only reward that the green gives you here in the province versus the cement jungle of the city.
Funny aside real quick. My companion thought it would be funny to scare a dog yesterday and then ended up paying for it by getting chased and almost being bitten. I've never seen such a big, muscular guy scream so high or loud. It was definitely one for the books. I have no idea what's with missionaries and dogs.

How we wash dishes in the Philippines.
Brother DeJesus just watering his plants - not need for grocery shopping here.

We've literally been fighting everything here in the work and I feel like a lot of it has to do with the way people get stirred in the heat. We were able to have zone interviews last Wednesday which was really nice, especially seeing the office faces from not being there on a regular basis anymore. President Sperry came and talked to each of us about a Christ-like attribute that we were working on. According to Sperry Statistics, patience was voted number one.

President challenged me to study it out, especially in it's relation to faith. Of course, a challenge from your mission president is like a triple-dog-dare from you childhood best friend, you can't turn it down. So my search began. 

I started in Preach My Gospel and noticed that it added just one more element to the mix - hope. From there I searched the missionary library and the scriptures for days. This is what I've come up with - remember this is the Gospel according to Elder Corpuz.

For understanding purposes, I've compared it all to a cross country race since I do have that written down in my past and is something that I understand pretty well. From my research, we can put patience, hope, and faith into other terms to better understand - endurance, trust, and confidence respectively. In relating this to a race this is how it can be done. 

When a runner enters a race they prepare first. They practice everyday to increase their capacity to endure through the physical struggles they will encounter on the race - whether it be hills, terrain, or even just plain old breathing. They try their selves daily to increase their capacity to endure. Similarly, in our race of life, we have trials that we must endure through. Each of us has a capacity to endure - some reach the breaking point faster than others, but the beauty of it is that we can increase that capacity if we choose to through our daily trials. Being patient is being able to endure without question or complaint.

The runner gains strength to endure and lengthen his patience from trusting that the race will end and that as long as he finishes and does his best, his coach will reward him at the finish because a real coach knows that his athlete can only do his or her best. This is where hope comes into the picture. Hope means that we trust in God's promises for us that he will give us if we endure well to the end. It sustains us as we are patient. We endure because we can trust that someday we will rest from our afflictions.

And now finally, this is where the race of this life differs from a cross country race. Now, we're going to make the race just a little easier for the runner, and we're going to take this runner's big brother, who happens to be the number one cross country in the world, and we're going to let his brother run with him. This runner's brother has actually ran the same race before so he knows the ups and downs and ins and outs. Big brothers also know their little brother's ability and this particular big brother is confident that his little brother can make it through. He is confident that his little brother can make it through and assures him of that, and of course, his little brother trusts him. This confidence acts as faith does in our lives. Confidence in this older brother works just as faith in Jesus Christ. It's knowing that whatever hill you take, your big brother has been there and he's going to run right beside you and help you to not give up. He knows how much it hurts and how much you have to push, but he will never leave your side. He helps you to be patient and reminds you to be hopeful. He is the only sure thing that will keep you through the race.

Patience, hope, and faith are all things that take a lifetime to exercise and perfect. These are attributes that we can't just put on a list and check off when we've acquired them, they come as gifts if we work towards trying to actually have them. Patience is definitely the theme of missionary work - whether it be with people you teach, your companion, or yourself. I'd say I'm still really far from being able to say that I am patient and don't know if I'll ever be able to say that, but I'm going to keep trying. Happy races.

Elder Corpuz
 P.S. Attached some pictures from our Stake Conference with Elder Nielson who is in the Area Presidency of the Philippines. I made sure my afro-thunder wasn't included in these pictures.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Titled and bound by mistakes.

Dear Mom,
I'm still in shock to hear of Grandpa Severo's death, especially right after his 90th birthday. When I Ieft he was still so strong. It's really sad to hear of people being lost. I believe that life itself is the greatest blessing we have and is something that we all take for granted. The people you love won't always be here with you, and it's hard because we often take for granted that they will be there tomorrow. We let fights, differences, assumptions, and misunderstandings get in the way of people to love. We forget to tell them we love them, until it's too late. We can be so hard-headed as humans. I know it will be hard few days for all of us and you will all be in my prayers, especially grandma. I know that it's not permanent though - just as everything else in this temporal life. And that even the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.

Trials. Testing, trying, striving, suffering. Change. Pain. Tears. Fights with others. Fights with yourself. Loss of hope. Loss of love. Endless mistakes. Giving up.

Nostalgic. Regret. Those two words can pretty much some up my week.

Dinner with our neighbors from Florida.
This week went by fast at some points, but terribly slow at others. I can't remember the last time I struggled this much on my mission, especially when I'm doing the best to be my best. Everything from the heat, to health, to the language, to relationships with others. Things just have been going wrong when I feel like all I'm trying to do is my best. I've become a bit regretful this past week in thinking about my mission. I thought about who I was before, and who I am now, and am not sure if I've seen a change. I've thought about mistakes I have made - big and small. I thought about who I wanted to become, and realized that I didn't have enough time left to become whoever that person is.

I felt at many points this week that I had wasted my mission away, not becoming who I wanted to become and turning down millions of chances and opportunities. I wanted to just throw in the towel and give up.

Last Friday, I was awoken by my companion pacing the room, holding his hand in held back tears. He apparently was sleeping and his hand somehow fell into  his electric fan. The blades of metal against his skin obviously didn't turn out to be pleasant. So I did my best to try to help him, even though I wasn't really able to. I opened my first-aid kid that you gave me mom, only to find that all my medical tape, athletic tape, and gauze had all melted after two years of not being used. So we just bandaged it up and wrapped it tightly in a cloth.

That night I couldn't sleep. Everything that I had been thinking about the whole week just came back into my had. I thought about how it seems like everyone else comes back perfect on their missions, and here I am with a little over two months left, with nothing to show for. Tears couldn't even describe the pain, and my prayers seemed to be invalid that night.

The next day was temple tour. 

It took us awhile to get to Manila from Bulacan. When we finally got there I raced into the bathroom because... I had to go. When I walked out, I had the most unexpected surprise. 

Nearly all of my very closest families and people I taught from Mapayapa were standing right there waiting for me. Apparently they had seen me race in, and all gathered outside to greet me. They had all come to the temple that day just to see me. It was one handshake after another, one hug after another in nothing but tears. Good tears. The best was seeing Kuya Marcie's smiling face come out of nowhere and a big hug that I needed. We were able to spend the whole tour together and it was exactly what I needed. The comfort was indescribable. I realized that even if I did fail my whole mission, I did at at least one thing right in Mapayapa. 

Later on that day we had a great baptism. The day was needed. The day was complete. I learned something that day that my companion shared with me earlier that week. 

I was so focused that past week on specific mistakes. Things I have done wrong, things that have gone wrong, that seemed to all have my name written on them in permanent marker. Elder Anderson shared with me last week a scripture in the Book of Mormon that he read in Alma 9:28 that talked about how we will be judged one day for who we have been, not just on what we have done. I've thought about that the past few days and how I just felt like my mistakes and sins were just so numerous that there was no way that God could look away from them and see me. But I had forgotten the Elder Corpuz that I was in Mapayapa. The very few lives I was able to help, and the great person, despite mistakes that I had been.

It's so easy to judge yourself and see the things you want to change and fix, but what I've realized even more is since you live with yourself everyday, it's also hard to see progress and change. Even though things are far from being perfect, and the conveniences and comforting friendships of Mapayapa are very far from the rice fields of Plaridel, I know that somehow things will be okay. Sorrow will never make things right and will never correct mistakes, and mistakes will continue to be made as long as we live. But it's up to us to define what those mistakes will do to us. Title us and bind us, or motivate us to act and let God set us free. Our lives will never be summed up by list of events or meaningless rewards and statuses, but by the great people, the traits, and the Christlike-attributes that we become.

Elder Corpuz

P.S. Big news here about seeing Elder Archuleta aka David Archuleta as a missionary in the choir at General Conference. It's great to see people have their priorities set.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Out of place.

Dear Mom,
After nearly 21 months in the mission, I feel like I just landed in the real Philippines.

I am now in Plaridel, Bulacan Province! The birthplace of Tagalog. Let me take you on a short update.

The Companion:
My companion's name is Elder Anderson from Canada - oh yeah. He's about 6'3" and is a typical jock. Eats, sleeps, talks, acts, dresses, everything just like your typical basketball or football player. He's pretty new in the mission, I will be follow up training him again just like I have been the last 203948573094857 transfers. He's a good kid though. We are completely opposite, but it's a good adjustment. Regardless of his stereotypical attitude, surprisingly, he has told me that he loves me more than any other companion I've ever had - except maybe Elder Tengelsen.

Funny aside really quick (first of a few I have), Elder Anderson had no idea that I was from Vegas at first - he thought I was just straight up Filipino. He panicked for awhile because he thought he'd have to speak 100% Tagalog. I pulled his leg for a little and then eventually spoke a little of English to where he found out that I am actually American haha.

The Area:
Is HOT. But also very, very green. The streets are straight and it's very quiet. It's like nothing I've ever experienced my whole mission. Even Montalban was basically city because it was so close to Quezon City, but Plaridel is straight up Filipino countryside. Our area is covered in rice fields and farms and the people we have taught, for the most part, have had houses with farms - in fact I taught on one last night (and as a funny detail, tripped and gashed my leg on the way out). It's been really hot here though, and it's much more humid here than in the city. And for goodness sake, the water is hot too. In Fairview, the water was freezing, and here I feel like we have a water heater. In Fairview, I warmed up water to take a shower, here I freeze ice and put it into the water when I shower haha. My first night, I laid for hours in sweat with the fan blowing hot air not being able to sleep because it is so hot. It's just another experience though - I actually feel like I'm in the Philippines now!

Another crazy aside. Friday we had a lunch appointment and we ate on... leaves with our hands. I could not believe myself. You should have seen me, I looked like an idiot haha.

The Zone:
I have a few zone-mates that I've been with in other areas before so it's not too bad. A funny thing is that since I'm close to ending my mission, I've been released from my previous leadership position and am just a regular missionary now. My leaders now are actually people that I've been a leader too, like Elder Naraja. It is a really great thing to see - new missionaries taking over the reigns of the mission.

Other than that, that's pretty much it.

It's been pretty hard though. I've felt extremely out of place here not knowing many of the missionaries (let's not even mention the actual environment) because they are all new - not to mention being new to the ward. When we went to watch General Conference this weekend, I feel like I couldn't even concentrate because I felt like no one really cared to sit by me or make me feel welcome. I missed Mapayapa so much because I felt so welcomed and loved there. But longing to go back won't bring me back.

Marcie wrote me a letter before I left and he told me that this was going to be a time to get ready to step out of my comfort zone. Stepping out of my comfort zone was sure right, but one thing that has brought me a lot of comfort is seeing small tidbits of God's love everyday that He sends me to bring me up. I've seen a lot of crazy coincidences since I've been here. Many of my best friends have been assigned here and it's great to hear about them. Also, I've met lots of people who know really close people to me. Today we had lunch the Javier Family in Balagtas, who happened to be a family that Marcie told me all about when I was in Mapayapa because he served with their son who is just like me, a Filipino raised in the states. And then, I found out that Sister Nunez, a brand new missionary from Manila, knew Jansen Tesoro from BYUH! Just crazy things like that that are simple but powerful enough to make you smile and remind you that even though you may feel out of place, you're not out of place alone.

I guess for now we'll see what happens. Transfers are hard, but to make things better, I just remember past transfers and how things always turned out more than okay. I'm excited to see what new adventures I'll have here. Welcome to the Philippines Elder Corpuz.

Elder Corpuz

P.S. Sorry for signing "Eric" last week unintentionally haha.
P.P.S. I attached some pictures of my last night in Mapayapa. It was really special - the senior missionaries made it out to come have a Family Home Evening with us and the Sales family. Attached is pictures of the people I loved most from the ward. The girl with braces is Carla, and you know the others. It was a great way to spend my last night in Mapayapa.