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

Monday, February 26, 2018

WEEK 80 - February 26, 2018 (Santa Ana, Cagayan Valley, Philippines)

Hello Everybody!

Wow, a lot of change has happened in the past week, so I'll try to update you the best I can. First of all, the new area here in Santa Ana is beautiful! Right up next to the mountains, right along the beach. It rains almost every day here & gets a little chilly at night, but when it's not raining it is scorching hot. Unfortunately, coming from Laoag, adjusting to this place is a little tough. It is just way out in the boonies. And even the schedule is just so different. People wake up at about 4 or 5 am and go to bed at 7 or 8. Once the clock hits 7, almost everybody is back into their homes, getting ready for bed. It's crazy, we can't even get a tricycle after 6:30. So we have had to change our working schedule around. We work in the morning until night, then at night we go in and do our studies. It's a whole different lifestyle here in Santa Ana. 

Heading out to work at sunrise....
or heading home at sunset??

My comp, Elder Young, is a really good guy. Willing to work hard and very kind. Our apartment is pretty good, but the showers are absolutely freezing again. Brutal. 

As for the area, we have a few areas that are pretty far away. We have to take a van to get there. One of our areas is right next to a naval base. We have tried to get in a few times because there are some less active members who live there, but we haven't been able to get in yet. Apparently Duterte will be coming there for some reason. Not sure if that's true or not. Some of the walks we make from one area to another are really beautiful though, I will send some pictures. One other thing about Santa Ana, is that there are a lot of Casinos. Like nice casinos that a lot of Chinese, Taiwanese, sometimes Ukrainian, and other foreigners come to. It's kinda weird to me that in this little town in the jungle, there are these big casinos. So there are a lot of people coming from random countries that we have met. Also something that we have noticed is that pretty much every young adult woman that we meet almost for sure works at the casino.

As for the language, my Ilokano has improved like none other this past week. The people here love speaking Ilokano, and sometimes we will meet people that only speak Ilokano, no Tagalog (mostly old people). It's fun seeing the reaction of some people when we speak Tagalog to them, and they are a little shocked. Then we start speaking Ilokano and they can't believe it. It makes finding people to teach really easy. 

So the big news for this letter is that I have a calling here in Santa Ana. I had a meeting with President Andrada the day before I traveled out here, and he told me that they needed me to serve as the Branch President* here in the Santa Ana Branch. I willingly accepted and now, well I am a very busy guy haha. Yesterday we had our Branch Conference and I was called and sustained as the BP. The members were all a little surprised, but they are so kind and loving. I love the people here in Santa Ana. I'm very excited to help strengthen this Branch and do all I can to help the people here in Santa Ana before I head home. There is a lot to do, but I am very excited. By the end of this time I have here in Santa Ana, my knees will probably have changed color because of how much I will be on them asking the Lord for guidance. I have been so blessed in my mission with being kicked out of my comfort zone and been given opportunities to change and grow so often. 

Santa Ana Branch boundaries 
I asked if he'd be going the island. He said he didn't think so.

Love you all, have a nice week :)

-Elder Jenkins

* Branch President is the leader of a local congregation of Church members. Ryan said that his congregation consists of about 70 active members right now.

Monday, February 19, 2018

WEEK 79 - February 19, 2018 (Laoag, Philippines)

Hello Everybody!

Well I found out on Sunday morning that I will be transferring! I'll be going all the way up to the top of the Philippines to Santa Ana. It feels weird to think that I'm leaving Laoag. I've been here for 7 and a half months now so it will be a big change going back into the depths of Cagayan, but I am very excited. My companion over there is a pretty new missionary from Idaho named Elder Young. A really nice guy, I remember picking them up from the airport and training his batch of missionaries.  Santa Ana is a really beautiful place, but sooo far away haha, about 9 hour bus ride... This will be my first time going there. I'm so excited to be heading to me 4th and last (?) area. Only 5 and a half months to go!

So this last week was a very quick, but good week. We had the baptisms of Lili and Lola Felicitas on Saturday. Lola, 88 years old, struggled a little at first to bend her knees and get under the water, but it all turned out great. Right when she arrived at the church on Saturday afternoon, she yelled, "I'm happy to receive Jesus!" She was an excited old woman. Another great thing about the baptism is that we got 4 investigators to attend. The work is looking good for the future. 

So the Baptism was the good news for the week. The bad news was on Saturday night, I got a baaaad fever. The weather was soooo hot outside. So I was sweating real bad, then going in and out of a fully air conditioned chapel. I think that's what messed me up a bit. That night I when the sickness started kicking in, I was shivering, and burning up at the same time. I couldn't tell if I was freezing cold or on fire. Feeling my head though, that had to be the highest my temp has ever been. I took some of the medicine Dad sent me with and tried to sleep, but had no success. It was a very very long night, but now I'm feeling a lot better. Now that I look back on it, I haven't really gotten a bad fever ever since I was in my first area. So I have been very fortunate. 

So just a quick story that has to do with the spiritual experience I had in Sacrament Meeting last week. One of the people that was on my mind was a recent convert whose family are not members. In fact, her mom has always not liked us and has been angry with us ever since her daughter got baptized. She always avoided us, didn't want to talk to us or have anything to do with us. But because of the spiritual impression, we decided to go and try to visit with this family. When we got there, to our surprise, we were let into the house. As we talked to her, got her to laugh a little bit and just got to know her more, she became real open to us and we were able to share a message to her and her family. Now I think she is willing to listen to us and maybe even try coming to church in the near future. Very exciting for such a great experience.

Well these last 7 and a half months have been some of the best of my life. I've never learned so much, grown so much, and had so much fun at the same time. I've made some friends and some memories here in Laoag that will stick with me forever. It was such a great opportunity to serve as an assistant. It kicked me out of the comfort zone at times and pushed me to grow and become a better servant of the Lord. What a blessing my mission has been so far, I couldn't thank the Lord enough. Now, I'm excited to put my head down and go to work for these last few months in a new area. 

Love you all :)

-Elder Jenkins

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

WEEK 78 - February 14, 2018 (Laoag, Philippines)

balut is back

Hello Everybody and Happy Valentines Day!

Hopefully this will be my last Valentines Day without a date :) haha. Well this week flew by real quick, but it was another great, uplifting spiritual week.

So last Thursday we finished off the last Zone Conference of the cycle with the Laoag and Bangui zone conf. Everything went real well and a video that we made for Sister Andrada's training seemed to put a smile on everybody's faces. After the conference, President invited us three and also all the office elders out to eat at Java. From what I remembered from last time I ate there, the food was incredible and the Mango smoothie is a favorite. So I was waaaayy looking forward to this dinner again. But this time, that wasn't the highlight of the night. When we were almost done eating 3 guys (2 with guitars, and 1 with a huge cello like thing) came out and performed for us. Sort of like a Mariachi Band. They were so fun to listen to, and they took requests. So we got them to play Hotel California for us, and it was soo entertaining and fun. I got a video of that, I'll try to send it. Was a very fun, unforgettable night. President and Sister Andrada are so kind and generous to us. 

On Monday, we brought all the District Leaders of the whole mission into Laoag for a special District Leaders Conference. We haven't had one of these for a while, so it was time again to get all these Elders together and give them a good training. There were 23 of them brought in, and we were able to have a really good, helpful meeting where we were able to council together and better strengthen the leaders of the mission.

So the work has been going really well lately. On Sunday we had 10 investigators come to church and about 8 of those are being prepared for baptism. This Saturday, we will have the Baptism of Lili and Lola (88yrs old). I'm wondering if it is some kind of record for baptizing somebody that old. I haven't even met very many filipinos that live to that age, and when they are that old, they usually have Roman Catholic glued to their hearts. But Lola has been to church many times now, and even though she can't hear everything that is being said, she said she feels and knows it's true. We had another really good lesson with the 3 college students that we are teaching. They have been to church 4 times now and are seriously investigating the church. They are the kind of investigators that I will never get tired of teaching. So receptive to our teaching and willing to experiment on the word. Yesterday, they all explained how they have all received answers to their prayers that the Book of Mormon is true. Each of the ways they came to know was a different, unique, spiritual way that was fit perfect for them. But the thing that was in common is that they all felt the promptings of the spirit. They now all want to be baptized :)

This last week I have had my prayers answered and have felt myself grow spiritually. I had another great experience while I was sitting in Sacrament Meeting the other day. For the past month, I have really been trying to make Sacrament Meeting a more spiritual, meaningful time for me where my thoughts are directed to the Savior. After partaking of the bread and water, I said a silent prayer that the Lord would guide us in the work this week and help us know where we need to go. A few minutes after this silent prayers, a name popped into my mind, and then another one, and then one more. I started to think of this and ponder in my mind why these names just all of the sudden popped into my head. Without a doubt, I knew that that was the Lord's way  of guiding me to where we needed to go. I wrote these names down, and the next day while planning, wrote them down as people we would go visit. One of the names, at first, we were a little hesitant to go to because of the big time rejection we had experienced in the past with this family. But we went to this individual's family anyway, and to our surprise we were let into the house. This member rejoiced as we were finally able to teach her family, who was never open to us before this time, and were able to plant a seed in their hearts. I know that God is a God of Miracles. I've seen so many in my mission, how could I ever deny that. I love the Savior and the mercy he has on me every day. He loves and wants to guide us all to happiness.

Love you all, have a nice week!

-Elder Jenkins

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

WEEK 77 - February 7, 2018 (Laoag, Philippines)

Mission Leadership Meeting 
(Thank you Sister Andrada ... no pics from Ryan this week. Ugh!
UPDATE: pics wouldn't download yesterday, but they're here now. Yay!)

Hello Everybody!

First of all, Congrats to Becca Hammond!! Another cousin heading on the mission, so excited for ya! Good luck with the Portuguese haha. (editor: Brazil Porto Alegre South Mission)

Well, 2 Super Bowls down, and it feels good to think that I will be back for the next one. Now just gotta get through March Madness, The Masters and 1 more NBA Finals :) But still enjoying every moment I have out here. I've got a lot to write about since it has been over a week since I last wrote. Lots has happened. 

So last week, we headed out to Aparri for the Cagayan Zone Conference. This is always a well anticipated trip. Always love going back to Aparri.


This time, we arrived pretty early, so we decided to head over to the Church and see if there was anybody there. Luckily, some of the youth were there getting ready for seminary. I got to see some people that I haven't seen in 6 months, including some of my RCs (recent converts). Was so much fun. Then we were asked to teach Seminary haha.

The Zone Conference the next day went real well, but we decided to just travel back to Laoag the next day instead of that same night. We wanted to stay at one of the Elders' apartment about 30 minutes away, because we heard that they just got a new apartment and that it was nice. So we get there, and when we get in and see this apartment, it was incredible! These 2 elders were living at the top floor of an absolute mansion haha. It was like a 5 room, 4 bathroom apartment with an incredible view from the top balcony. We were pretty shocked. So we were able to get a nice night of sleep before driving back the next day.

Aparri Empanada
(editor: the empanadas that made him so happy in his first area when he was struggling to enjoy the food)

The work is still going really well and is progressing. On Sunday we had 9 investigators at church who are progressing really well. Sister Lili and her 88 year old mother will be baptized on the 17th. While we are having all this progression we are still having success in finding. The other day we were at the institute building teaching our investigators, and after the lesson we were planning on going to another appointment with our fellowshipper. So while we were waiting for our fellowshipper to pick us up in his tric, we decided to go out and talk to all the guys playing basketball. There were probably 15 of them out there just sitting, resting, all nonmembers. So we started taking to them, just getting to know them, talking to them about who we are, what we do, and why we decided to serve a mission, all that stuff. And while talking to them I was just dribbling the ball, chucking up some shots. While we were talking, another guy walked from the street onto the court, all decked out in his nice bball gear, and wanted to play me 1v1. I told him I'd play a short game with him. All the guys were on the sidelines laughing because it just looked funny. Me in my full proselyting attire, going up against a full baller. But what made them laugh even harder was when I schooled the guy and beat him 7-2 haha. It turned out being a really good finding opportunity. Got to know a lot of those guys and invite them to go inside the institute building and attend class and also to come to church. 

Well tomorrow is February 8th, which marks 6 months to go in the mission. Now entering the 4th quarter where it counts most. Some missionaries I've seen with 6 months left just slow down and "run out of gas". But for me this is the most important part of my whole mission. I want nothing more that to go all out this last quarter of my mission and head home worn out, knowing I went all in. The mission is such a blessing the Lord has given to me and I would hate to waste a minute of it. I am so blessed with how merciful the Lord has been to me. All the opportunities I have been given to grow and become better. I am so thankful. I know that our Father is a God of Miracles and that He loves all of His children so much. I am so thankful to be an actual representative of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Love you all, talk to ya next week!

-Elder Jenkins

The Office Elders, APs, and Andradas