Monday, April 16, 2018

WEEK 87 - April 16, 2018 (Santa Ana, Cagayan Valley, Philippines)

Hey everybody!

Wow, time is flying fast, my time's running short. I've got less than 4 months left here in the Philippines. I'm for sure enjoying my time here right now. Some days however, are harder to enjoy than others because of the brutal heat. This week was the hottest I have experienced here in Santa Ana. It's officially summer here. 

Despite the heat, we have been having full, hard working days out on the dusty dirt roads and the hot pavement. Usually what a full day of work consists of is, taking a van out to our furthest area, about 25 minutes away, and working with all the Less Actives out there. We go hour after hour of teaching these members and trying to help them get back to church. After this we head back to the main road and wait for a tricy or a van so we can head to the next area. Sometimes while waiting, we will go to a tindahan (family owned market) and buy a nice cool Coke, or find somebody selling some halo-halo and try to cool off a bit. If there is no vehicle for a bit, we end up just putting our heads down and hitting the road, walking for a few kilometers until we get to the next area. We will get to the next appointment and by that time we are pretty tired, covered in sweat. The member or investigator will let us into their house, and we feel relieved to take a seat, just to find out that their electric fan isn't working haha. We will do this, walking from area to area teaching until we get back to centro at about 6, and go teach all our progressing investigators until the end of the day. The heat makes the day a bit longer, but the sleep at night seems twice as nice. Full days of work are the best.

So on Saturday we had the Baptism of Jay Ar and Rachel. Was a really good service and they had good support from the members. We got to do it in the ocean again, and my desire to come back after my mission and go swimming here keeps going up haha. The testimony of these two is real strong. Jay Ar has been an investigator for a while now and was so happy to finally be baptized. 

So right now we have a really good family progressing. They came to church for the first time on Sunday. When they got there, we sat them down in our combined 2nd hour class. I was running in and out at the time because of other things I had to do, but I was hoping it would be a good lesson for them. Well apparently the discussion some how turned into a big lesson about money, and how we should be making more money than we are. Wasn't too happy about that, especially with this being the first time our investigator came to church. So we went to their house later that night to teach them, and followed up how church went. We asked them if they learned anything. The mom said, in kind of a chuckling voice, "Well I learned how I should budget my money."....  "nooooooooo", we were thinking... "Great, now she thinks the church is all about money and getting rich." But then we asked her how the Sacrament Meeting went, and she said that she enjoyed it, and felt The Spirit. That relieved us a little bit, the family is progressing real well. 

Had a really great moment in Sacrament Meeting yesterday. I was conducting, so I got up to start the meeting, and right when I look up, I see a less active family walk in. It is a family that we have been working so hard with. They have been sealed in the temple and were so active about 10 years ago, then they fell away. But part of the family, not all of them, made it to church yesterday and made a big step in getting back on the right path. After the meeting, I called the dad of the family in and had a 1 on 1 talk with him for 15 minutes. He expressed to me how bad he wants him and his family to return to church. My heart broke for him as he described how he feels it's his fault that his family doesn't want to come back to church and doesn't care. But he has a strong desire to change and come back. 

Had another great, spiritual moment while teaching one of our investigators. Her name is Lea, 31 years old. She works at a police station and is busy from Monday to Friday, so we are only able to teach her on Saturdays. We haven't been able to teach her for a while, so when we went to go and teach her on Saturday we were expecting to just teach her and invite her to come to church. We asked how she was, and to our surprise, she started sharing about how she has been reading the Book of Mormon. And how even though she hasn't read much of the Book, every time she reads it she feels peace and joy, and she feels like great truths are being brought to her remembrance. It was perfect! We shared a couple scriptures in the Bible that described exactly what she was feeling, and she, not us, recognized it as the Holy Ghost. She said she wants to feel this more often and then asked us, "Do I need to read this whole book before I get baptized?" We told her "Of course not" and she decided she wants to be baptized on the first week of May. This really goes to show the effect that The Spirit can have on somebody. And also how powerful the Book of Mormon is our conversion. That it really does have a "more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them" (see Alma 31:5). Even though we hadn't been able to teach her multiple times a week or meet with her very often, she had kept the book with her and experimented on it (see Alma 32:27). And she will be blessed for it.

Love you all, have a great week!

-Elder Jenkins

Getting to Baptism Beach

Monday, April 9, 2018

WEEK 86 - April 9, 2018 (Santa Ana, Cagayan Valley, Philippines)

Hello Everybody!
Wow this was a busy week. First I'll talk about my new companion a little. You'll see a picture and think that my trainer, Costales, is back with me. His name is Elder Abarabar, from Manila. Really smart guy, a graduated engineer. He is a bit older than me...26 years old haha. He's been in the mission for about a year and is just a really nice guy. A joy to be around. 

Was a great start to the week when we were walking through one of our areas, on the way to an appointment, when I heard a familiar "Elder Jenkins!" I recognized the voice and turned around to see President Arreola, the Branch President for Aparri, waving at us and invited us to come in. Was great to see that family again and eat and talk to them. He had some great news for me and told me that Chris Del Rosario was ordained an Elder and given the Melchizedek Priesthood. Said that he and his family are super active in their callings. Brought joy to my soul. 

The Del Rosario family on their baptism day (July 22, 2017)

We've been working real closely with a few less active families lately. One of them just had a new baby born in the family. We were over at their house, talking with them one evening. I was sitting next to the person holding the 4 day old baby, when all the sudden the baby made an interesting noise. The result of that noise was a minor explosion and poop splattering over my hand haha. Gave everybody a good laugh, but being close to babies just hasn't been the best luck for me lately. 

The family that I wrote about last week is great. We are still teaching them and they are progressing well. The kids are excited and have a desire to be baptized. We will be working hard on getting all them to church this week. We also have 2 baptisms on Saturday. One of them, Jay Ar, a 21 year old man, and Rachel, a 20 year old who we found and taught just last month. They are both ready and we are excited.

This week I decided to try and improve and do a better job at seeking the poor and the needy. Our EQ president came up to me the other day and said that he had visited one of the members, and had found out that her husband was very very sick. He gave him a blessing, and bought him some fruit, and told me that we should go visit him. We did go visit him and right when we saw him, our hearts just broke. This was the skinniest man I have ever seen. When I say "skin and bones" I really mean just skin and bones. His name is Franklin, 62 years old. It was very saddening to see him in such bad shape. He was in dire need of medical care. There concern however, was that they didn't have any money. We made sure to get him to the hospital the next day and have visited him everyday since. Yesterday, a few sisters from the RS and one of their husbands came with us to visit Franklin and his wife in the hospital. We walked in and just saw this poor, brittle man laying on the bed just staring at the ceiling. I sat down next to him and wanted to cheer him up a little. Get a smile on his face. I started talking to him in Ilokano, and started up a conversation with him. He seemed to like it that I could speak his language, and he cracked a smile. I felt such love for this man that I had only met a few days before. Unfortunately, his kidneys are failing him and he will need further treatment. We are praying for a miracle for Franklin.

Had a really good experience at General Conference. Actually the first session for us was the Priesthood session and started at 8am. So we had to wake up early and get to Gonzaga before the start. For some reason that morning I was just feeling so tired and worn out. I sat down in the chapel and struggled to keep my eyes fully open. After not too long, I found myself in a snooze. But after about 10 minutes, for some reason I awoke abruptly. I felt a small, easy prompting that I needed to listen to this part. It was President Nelson, speaking about the Priesthood and its power. Speaking about how much the Priesthood can bless your family and others around you. His talk, and what I felt during his talk, stuck with me pretty good. I firmly believe The Spirit simply woke me up in order to hear what was being said*. What was being said is something that I think I needed to hear in order to prepare myself for a lifelong duty of Priesthood service.  

Love you all, have a nice week!

-Elder Jenkins

* President Nelson's words:
I am very grateful for each man who bears the holy priesthood. You are the hope of our Redeemer, who desires “that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.” He wants all of His ordained sons to represent Him, to speak for Him, to act for Him, and to bless the lives of God’s children throughout the world, to the end “that faith also might increase in [all] the earth.”

Monday, April 2, 2018

WEEK 85 - April 2, 2018 (Santa Ana, Cagayan Valley, Philippines)

Hello Everybody!

This week seemed to fly by with exchanges, Zone Conference, and interviews. Yesterday the APs sent out the transfer texts, and turns out that Elder Young is transferring. So I will be getting a new companion tomorrow and the Branch will be getting a new Branch Clerk haha. 

Zone Conference

Santa Ana missionaries

So this last week here was Holy Week. I don't know if you remember Holy week, but it is pretty much just a week long celebration of Easter. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday there were just tons of people here in Santa Ana. Santa Ana is a huge vacation spot for all the people that live within like 4 hours from here, so the town was just packed. On Friday and Saturday, tons of people went to the beach, set up little tents and just hung out there all day and all night. The hotels and resorts were just packed with tons of people. It is a great little vacation spot, so beautiful. Proselyting on Saturday was a little difficult because almost everybody seemed to be at the beach. However, it is a great time of the year to testify about the Savior. Actually while proselyting on Saturday, we noticed tons of people gathered at one certain road. We went over there and turns out there was a huge motorcycle race going on. We stopped by and watched for a few minutes and I couldn't help noticing their motorcycles and the way they are built. It was really interesting, just a skinny little bike frame, with a motor stuck on it and an aluminum water bottle as the gas tank. And they went sooo fast. Really fun to watch.  

So the Branch seems to be progressing every week. Even though we were missing a few people at church because they headed somewhere else for vacation, we had a smooth 90 attend church. Was so happy to see some of the families that we committed to be on time, actually be on time. Only 5 of our investigators were able to make it, but 4 of them will be baptized in the near future. It was just all around a good church service. Also had the chance to perform a naming and blessing of a child for the first time. While we were holding the baby and giving him a blessing, I happened to be holding him on his rear when all of the sudden I felt a warm bit of movement coming from under the diaper haha. The stink made it a little hard to concentrate, but everything went well. 

The Branch has been doing great with committing to do their visiting and home teaching 100%. After church yesterday, we got as many members as possible gathered together and went out and did visits. Although everybody was hungry, they did it with a smile, and then when they got back, some of them who did visits for the first time said, " Ai, masaya pala yun!" (Wow, that was actually really great!). Later that day I was having a meeting with the Relief Society President and her Counselor. They were going over a list of all the RS in the Branch, then they noticed a name. They stopped everything they were doing and said, "We need to go visit her right now." So we all hopped in her husband's tricycle and drove to this woman's home, which is pretty far away. We got there and were able to visit and talk with her. She expressed to us that she feels so busy and overwhelmed all the time. We expressed that we want to help her and take some of the load off of her shoulders. When we said this, she slowly started tearing up and began to cry. She realized what's missing in her life and that she needs to come back to church. It was a great visit, definitely guided by the Spirit. 

We had another good experience this week that was guided by the Spirit. We were out doing some finding, looking for somebody new to teach. We took a wrong turn and thought we were going the right way, but soon realized we weren't. But we decided to keep going anyway. We saw somebody and went up to talk to them, when all the sudden, a woman pushing her handicapped son in a wheelchair walked right in front of us and stopped. We started talking to her and talked about who we were and what we are doing and she said, "Well, maybe you could teach my stubborn teenage daughter who never listens to anything I say." Haha. We told her we absolutely could, and were able to actually teach their whole family. It was just what we were looking for, a new family that we could teach. A family who needs the help of the Lord. The Spirit guided us directly to that family. What a blessing it is to have these experiences over and over in my mission where the Spirit has lead and guided us. Strengthens my testimony and helps me more understand the love that our Heavenly Father as for all of his children.

Very excited for this weekend to hear the words of the Prophet and The Lord's chosen servants. Love you all, have a nice week :)

-Elder Jenkins

Monday, March 26, 2018

WEEK 84 - March 26, 2018 (Santa Ana, Cagayan Valley, Philippines)

Hello Everybody,

Another week down, and this one was a successful one:) On Saturday we had the baptism of Nanay Clarita. It was in the ocean again and Elder Young did the baptism. Weather was just perfect, a little overcast, just a little breeze, and the water was pretty calm. After Nanay was dunked in the water, she started to take a swim she was so happy. 

Funny and kinda weird story about Nanay's husband. Every time we used to go to their house, he would get mad at us and complain because we didn't bring any alcohol for him or a snack. So we decided to get him a nice little snack one day and went to his house. When we showed up and presented him our nice little offering, he was chapped! We were expecting him to light up and welcome us into his home, but not so. He got angry and said "That's it? That's all you bring me. What is this? I'd rather feed this to my cat than eat this." hahaha I just lost it and started busting up laughing. We thought he would be so satisfied - oh well. 

On Wednesday, we went on exchanges with the other elders here in Santa Ana. I was looking through a list of less actives and saw one that lived soooo far away, but back then he was a really active member. I felt like we should go visit him, even though it very far, and invite him back to church. So we traveled all the way out there, was about a 30 minute ride in a tricy up and over a few mountains, and we made it to his house. We talked to him for a bit and he said the missionaries haven't been out to his house in a year or so, so he was a bit surprised when we showed up. We had a nice little lesson, but he kinda made it clear that he's not so sure he would be able to make it back to church, because of his new wife who is a fully devoted Born Again. So we left the house a little disappointed. At this point we were a little worried we weren't gonna be able to get a ride back and would have to walk 15 kilometers through the mountains and rice fields. It was only 2:30pm but everybody was saying there are no more vehicles. But we decided to visit one more house. When somebody came out and greeted us and as we talked to her, we found out that she was an inactive member. We taught her and she committed to come back to church. And yesterday, she and her kids were there at church! So that made our long journey out to the boonies 100% worth it. And, in case you were wondering, we did find a tricy to take us back. 

Church yesterday was great. Our Sacrament attendance went up once again. We had 92 people attend church, so we are improving. The Branch is starting to get excited again and are becoming more committed to help the branch grow. I have really felt the guidance of the Spirit while making decisions in the Branch and calling people to different callings. I am so thankful for the effect The Spirit can have on a person. Our Elders Quorum President came up to me the other day and said, "Elder, the talk you gave the other day about exercising your faith woke me up and I realized I need to be doing more missionary work. So every Saturday, I'll pick you guys up in my van and we will go work." No doubt, the influence of The Spirit moved this man, and helped him become better. I love the work and the Spirit I feel every day. What I am doing right now and the mission I am serving is for sure the work of The Lord.

Love you all, Happy Birthday, Little Kenny!
-Elder Jenkins

Monday, March 19, 2018

WEEK 83 - March 19, 2018 (Santa Ana, Cagayan Valley, Philippines)

Hello Everybody,

So this week was an exciting one for the people here in Santa Ana. On Wednesday, while we were out proselyting, we noticed a ton of police, military, and just tons of people going down the street. We started asking people what was happening here in Santa Ana, and turns out, President Duterte was coming here!  It's actually an interesting story about why he came. So I told you about Port Irene, right? It's a little port in Santa Ana... those pics I sent by the boats where it was rainy. Well turns out, they found 800+ smuggled luxury cars hidden at Port Irene. So Duterte came on Wednesday to start the destruction of all the cars. We weren't able to go in and see for ourselves, but somebody showed us a video of him destroying 15 of the cars. There was just a big tractor stomping on these nice, luxury cars. Pretty sad to watch actually knowing how poor the people here are and how much some money like that could help them. But yeah, that had the town pretty excited. (editor: This is meant to be a sign that, "we, in government service, put our highest value in integrity over greed, in honesty over fraud, and in faithfulness to our duty over deception." - click here to see article)

So remember about the dog I was telling you about last week that was killed in front of our house? Well we came back to the apartment Monday night and there were like 4 or 5 guys out front, drinking and eating the dog. I don't know if I've ever told you, but my whole mission, I don't think that I've eaten dog yet. I say "I don't think" because sometimes there will be some food put in front of you and you don't ask any questions, you just eat it haha. But before I go home, I wanted to just taste dog. So we start talking to these guys and I ask "What kind of meat is that, by the way?" and this big drunk guy says, "uhmmmm dowg!" and he starts offering us some. Well, I jumped on this opportunity and had a taste. Wasn't too bad. Had a weird aftertaste and a weird feeling in my stomach, but was pretty good. Some of the other elders were getting on me saying, "I can't believe you would eat him, he was our friend!". But I had to have the experience :)

So on Friday, we had Abby's baptism! We had about 10 people attend, then after the simple program, we all piled into one of the members tricy, and we headed over to the beach. The water felt soooo good. It reminded me of swimming in the ocean in Hawaii, but the water here was warmer. I think Mom would have even gotten in. Abby was a little scared, because she's not a huge fan of the ocean, but it all worked out great. We have another baptism this Saturday in the ocean. It's an old nanay, so hopefully everything will work out good there.

Yesterday, church was great. Even though most these people are pretty centered on filipino time, a lot of them showed up on time. That was a big step forward this Sunday as I was able to call a lot of people to different callings.The best part was seeing some of them real excited as I talked to them privately and extended them a calling. The Branch is starting to become real organized. Next week, I will have my counselors called, and it will be all progression from there. Sacrament meeting was a really good, spiritual one. We had 82 attendance, so it is increasing. Was a little weird presiding, conducting, and being a speaker in the meeting, but it was a very good, happy service. Also, we were able to get 11 investigators to church. Things are starting to look real good here in the Santa Ana Branch. 

I had a really good experience the other day when we were out visiting a less active family. We walked into their home and they were cooking dinner. All they were cooking though was rice and some veggies. This is a big family of 9, so there was no way they would be very satisfied with this meal. So we told nanay, "Nay, we haven't eaten yet, so can we go get the ulam (meat) and then all eat here?" She happily agreed, and Elder Young and I went out and bought 2 full chickens. We came back and they were surprised and so happy. The kids walked out and were surprised when they saw a big feast on the table. They were so happy and said that this made their day. It's little acts of service like this that can really bring The Spirit in your life. 

Love you all, have a nice week! :)
-Elder Jenkins

Monday, March 12, 2018

WEEK 82 - March 12, 2018 (Santa Ana, Cagayan Valley, Philippines)

Hello Everybody!
Well, this morning we had another "Only in the Philippines" experience. We were walking back from buying food for this week, and we hear a loud squealing noise coming from the back. And there it was... a squealing dog tied up, pinned to the ground. Not sure who's going to be eating our dinner left-overs now. 

Last week was pretty toasty, and this week it cooled off again. Lots of rain for the past few days. That's really how it is here in Santa Ana as for the weather. Big spurts of brutal hot humid weather, then a week straight of cold, rainy, windy. Some nights I don't even need to use my electric fan because it gets pretty cold, other nights I have the electric fan on full blast, no blanket. Very weird weather.

Well this week we spent lots of time going around and visiting a lot of less active and inactive families. We printed out a Branch directory so we could try to track these people down, teach them and figure out why they stopped going to church, and get them coming again. Our work really paid off this week as we saw a big amount of less actives come to church. One of them is a man who used to be in the Branch Presidency who has been inactive for years. We visited him and dug deep, trying to understand why he really stopped coming to church. Anyways, after a few visits, he came to church on Sunday for the first time in ages! The members were real surprised and came up to him and welcomed him back. They all seemed so happy. It was great!! We also were able to get 8 investigators at church this week. Two families that we have been working everyday with. They both came to church and enjoyed it very much. Our investigator, Abby will be baptized this Friday, in the ocean!! That will be a cool experience, very excited.

birthday of an investigator

I can't get over how kind the people are here. There is one old couple who have been members for years now. We went to their little house to visit them, and they just have nothing. Nanay was explaining to me that they have plenty of rice because they have a rice field in the back, but that they have no money to buy their ulam. (Cooked rice (kanin) is the basis of almost every Filipino meal. The main dish that goes with the rice is ulam. This can be a meat dish, fried fish, or a vegetable stew.) Then right after she said that, she said "It's pretty cold and you boys seem to have been working all day. Let's have some hot chocolate and a snack." Then she immediately got up and went to buy some snacks. We tried to tell her not to, but she was determined. Sooo sweet. Then while she was out buying it, ol' tatay took a seat and just started telling us story after story of his life. Speaking pure, deep Ilokano. Didn't catch all of it, but just loved meeting with these old pioneers of the Church. Such sweet people. 

I feel like if the Lord is trying to teach me anything through this calling that I have right now, it is Patience. Haha - sometimes it seems like I have sooo many things that need to be done all at once, so many people to go visit and teach, just so many things to do. But with patience and trust in the Lord, everything seems to work out great. I thought I was a pretty patient guy before I headed out to Santa Ana, but I've still got a lot of potential to improve in that Christlike attribute. You think of the Lord, how He watches over us and see us struggle to follow all His commandments. He sees us stumble and struggle on the path that He has set for us. Struggle and sometimes fall because of sin. But He is sooo patient with us. So understanding and will never give up on us. That's true patience. We can all strive to be more like Him and follow His example. 

Love you all, have a great week! :)

-Elder Jenkins

 I asked about their church building. 
He said it is a rented space, but that it is really big.

I also asked for pics of where they live...

Monday, March 5, 2018

WEEK 81 - March 5, 2018 (Santa Ana, Cagayan Valley, Philippines)

Tuesday morning at Port Irene. 
After this little storm, nothing but heat.

Hello Everybody,

This week seemed to take all my energy away. Not only was it the hottest week here in a long time, but we were just really busy. Last week it rained almost every single day, so I guess I wasn't ready for a full week of blazing hot, humid weather. But it was a really good, productive work week.

We spent a good amount of time at the church this week, just trying to clean everything up and get stuff organized. Was cleaning out and organizing everything in my office when I realized that there wasn't a single picture on the wall. Everything was so blank. We found a storage room where a bunch of old stuff was and found a nice picture of Jesus. Now the room feels a little more bright and spiritual when I walk in.

So I never really told you about the apartment. It is really close to the meeting house (thank goodness) and is tucked in the back of a little group of small houses. Our house isn't much, but it fits the 4 of us in there pretty comfortably. There's no A/C like my last apartment, but we have a fair amount of electric fans, which get the job done. Our bathroom is kind of like the one, if you remember, in Aparri. Just a little toilet sticking out of the floor, and a big barrel of water. I'll try to send pictures next week. One of my favorite things about the place is the hammock on the front porch. Whenever I'm feeling a little overwhelmed or stressed, I can just go rock back 'n forth in the hammock for a few minutes and take a chill.

So this week we had our District Conference in Gonzaga. We were excited because even though Gonzaga is about an hour away from Santa Ana, we had 5 investigators come to church! I really enjoyed the conference, learned a lot from Elder Pangan (Area Seventy). He is just a little man, but fired up with energy and excitement. Very funny guy. During the Priesthood Session, he was going through each branch one by one to see if the Branch Presidency and the Clerks showed up. When it came to "Santa Ana Branch", Elder Young and I were the only ones to stand up, and Elder Pangan laughed and said, "Wow, two imports!" haha. (editor: Elder Young is serving as the Branch Clerk.)

This week we have seen a few miracles. Even though we have been so busy with Branch business, we have been praying that the Lord would help us in our proselyting time. We have seen Him provide us with 2 families who are very receptive to us, very willing to listen and to be baptized. The spirit is so strong in our lessons with them, and has helped them feel the truthfulness of our message. I have really seen over and over in my mission how prayer, faith, obedience, and diligence bring miracles. It is an ongoing pattern that the Lord has shown me that has helped me in every aspect of my mission. I am so thankful that He loves me and cares for me so much. Even though we are such small things in this world, He uses us as precious instruments in His hands.

Love you so much, have a nice week!

-Elder Jenkins

The beach at Port Irene