Monday, September 26, 2016

Sacrament Talk

Magandang umaga po friends and fam,

Well things are still pretty good over here. It was a hot week and I could barely walk by the end of each day haha. Going around for 8ish hours with no AC is still something I'm trying to figure out! Might take the next two years for sure. We had a productive week here and worked really hard. Roosters continue to wake me up at 5:30, not sure how a little animal like that can be soo loud. It just blows my mind, especially early in the morning. 

Alright I'll try to update you on a few investigators. Danni Santos is our "golden investigator" right now and continues to progress. He loves reading the Book of Mormon and was actually reading when we looked inside his house! What a good sight. He has lots of questions and great insights about everything. He's really prepared. The main problem is he hasn't been to church yet. He always has something on Sunday but he said he will be able to go more starting next week. Katherine is another we've been teaching since I've been here. She always has super deep questions but we've normally been able to answer our best. Her faith has grown a lot and continues to progress for her baptism. She lives with Nanay Fransisco and is currently going to college. All of the others are progressing pretty well, we had to drop quite a few this week but we are still really busy with lessons.

I think the highlight of the week was finding the Monaco family. The dad let us in and they have four kids. The first lessons was on Wednesday and it was just the parents. The father immediately told us he wanted to change his life and help his family be happier. Right there within 5 minutes of being in their house he promised us he was never going to drink again. It was awesome. Sure enough on Saturday we returned and he hadn't had one drink, and this time they had two of their little kids with them to listen. The six of us could barely squeeze into their house, the dad is a tricycle driver and I'm pretty sure he sleeps in his bike cart at night because there's no way there's room for the six of them to sleep. Their house is also a store to try to make any extra money they can. We gave them two Book of Mormons and it was so cool to see how happy they were to hear the message. When we gave the two books, the 10 year old kid reached into their huge pile of stuff and pulled out a little New Testament. And I was like hey that's awesome, nice job! As we left, the kid tried to give it to me. He was like "For you, for you!" Obviously I wouldn't take it, but I just couldn't believe how nice he was. Hopefully this family will continue to listen and apply what we teach. I know this gospel will change their life. I'm soo grateful for what it has done for my awesome fam.

We have a few awesome members that have been really helping a lot with the work lately. First off, bishop went with us two nights last week so we could teach lessons with a third male. If there's not another male over 18 in the room we can't teach, which is a problem at times. But Bishop Altre has come to the rescue twice and is awesome. Brother Alfred is a recent convert and is 21. He is currently preparing for his mission and usually comes around with us most of the days. He's been a huge help and I can't believe he is willing to work so much with us. There's no way I'd do that before my mission all day long, he's been such a stud. Joshua is 15 and a recent convert as well. He's the only member in his family and has come a few times to help teach after school. He has a very strong testimony and always testifies in our lessons. Nanay Elizabeth is a super funny grandma who has been coming with us for a few appointments too! She is really awesome and helps the investigators feel more welcome. This past week I've learned how important a ward can be in helping missionary work. 

Well the day finally came, I gave a 12 minute talk in sacrament. Mostly Tagalog but of course just a little English here and there haha. It was definitely hard but the gift of tongues was clutch. I prayed quite a bit that I'd be able to speak alright, and my companion said he understood basically everything. I talked about missionary work and music. For missionary work I focused on Alma 13:24 which talks about how the Lord along with angels is preparing people here on earth for the message. It's been super crazy to see how the Lord works in just the short time I've been here. There are tons of small miracles every day, and I probably don't even realize most of them. I'm so thankful for the Holy Ghost, without it we wouldn't have an investigator right now haha. For the music part of my talk I just talked about how music invites the spirit. I talked about how we can learn so much from the hymn book, something I've never really noticed before my mission. I was always playing the piano haha so I didn't focus on the words too much. But here in the mission we actually start each lesson by singing a hymn so my singing skills are improving quickly. Or not really but oh well, anyways I read the words for How Firm a Foundation, one of my favorites, in verse 3. I challenge you all to start paying attention to the words in hymns!

Well that's about all. Elder Lambert and I have started a tradition of eating spaghetti once a week. Super good idea of his. I'll probably keep it goin the rest of my mission if I can find the resources. He's been awesome to have in the bahay, I'm hoping he stays in the area another transfer haha. I got a pretty bad sore throat this week which was kinda a pain. It was hard to talk especially Friday. I think it's from the crazy pollution here but it's getting a little better as of today. Have a good week everyone!

Mahal ko po kayo

Elder Reber

Parker claims he really is a chef now. This looks like one of the weekly spaghetti nights.

Apparently another chef moment

Elder Reber and Elder Cibuco

Elder Reber and Elder Lambert

Elder Pnugau and Elder Reber

At the church. Park mentioned that this is the biggest piece of grass he has seen. He told us to go walk through the grass barefoot for him! Love the reminder of the little things we take for granted.

I love that Park always sends sunset pics. He really is enjoying the simple things in life!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Makin Progress

Wow this week flew by!

Well the work here in Tondo continues. We got quite a bit done this week and we are seeing some investigatiors starting to act in faith more. This week we focused on how we as missionaries are just their guides, it's truly up to them to decide to accept the gospel or not. They have to do their part to find out for themselves. So more investigators kept their commitments this week and we now know who is truly interested. One of them is named Bernadith, a single mom with four kids. Their house is literally 8 ft by 6 ft, and I can't stand up straight in it. We haven't seen her for about two weeks but we finally found her Saturday. She has already read through Mormon and is about to start Mosiah! Racquel is another single mom who has a big family, and also lives in a house about that same size. They must literally be shoulder to shoulder on the ground when they sleep at night. Super crazy. But her family came to church yesterday and are progressing towards being baptized! We had 10 investigators show up to church yesterday which was really exciting. Elder Cibuco and I were super happy the Lord gave them a desire to go to church and we're thankful He put them in our path.

My Tagalog is getting slightly better haha. There are days where I feel like I've gotten worse since the mtc, but I'm sure it's progressing more than I realize. I'm truly learning to be humble and patient here for the first few months especially. My companion is super awesome though and helps me any way he can. I continue to start the conversations with everyone we meet and I'm talking quite a bit in the lessons now. We are still getting along great. One thing we both like is walking really fast. You can get so much more done if you keep up a quick pace haha! So that's kinda our thing, we just haul around the streets of Tondo preaching the gospel. He's been such a solid example of a hard worker. He's from a little providence in the Philippines and lived a super different life than I did. He had no electricity in his house and only went to three years of school because he had to work in construction to help his family. And he hasn't even had Mcdonalds before! Or pizza! Crazy haha. I'm really thankful I have him as my "Tatay" and I'm sure he will be one of my favorite comps on my mission.

So there are tons of basketball hoops randomly scattered on the streets and there are always guys or kids playing on them. Haha every time we pass by one they all stop and tell me to take a shot. Most of the time we are in a hurry so I tell them next time, but 6 times I've had time to take a shot. And guess what, I'm 6/6 now!! Ha i'm not even good at basketball but the spirit just puts them in for me I guess! It's been super funny to me and hopefully I can keep this hot streak alive, but I'm sure I'll be humbled with an airball before I know it. But it's just hilarious because tons of people are always watching and freak out when it goes in.

The funeral for Tatay Fransisco went well. I had to play the piano on a little keyboard that was on a rocky table. Also, there was nowhere to put the hymn book so that was like on my lap. It was super tough but I got through the songs. All the talks at the funeral were focused on the Plan of Salvation. The members here truly rely a ton in God's plan, because it's almost all they have. Super good examples.
Well one scripture I liked this week is a pretty simple one, D&C 108:7 "Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings." I just think too often we look for the negatives in life or the negatives in those around us. I've been trying to keep my thoughts on the positive things and to really look for the good in people. We talk to everyone here, no matter what they look like or their situation, because we realize that they all have so much potential. We met one of our current investigators, Prodin, on the street as he was smoking. He's got tons of tattoos but honestly he's one of our nicest investigators and one of our most interested right now! God loves all of His children the same. I just challenge you all to strengthen those around you, don't tear them down! It will make a big difference in your day and also in the days of those around you.

Well hope you have a good week. I think I'm going to go get my haircut which costs equivanant to about $.70 cents in America now. Take care!

Love Elder Reber 
The Elders at the Church

Thumbs up- apparently a favorite pose for Park

This is an Ice Candy- Closest thing he can find to ice cream. Great 12 peso investment.
Love seeing this guy in action!

Cutest kids at the church

Parkers rubber shoes. He says you can feel every pebble as you walk but some day are just too wet for regular shoes.

Parker loves a good sunset. He really missed seeing them during his time at the MTC. So glad he has them to enjoy once again.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Zone Conference and Nanay Fransisco

Kamusta fam and friends,

So last P day we got to play basketball at the church. We paid a guy to take us over there on his little motorcycle with a side car attached to the side. After we got there he left but suddenly returned with like 10 of his friends all with tons of tattoos to play us missionaries in a game! Haha it was so funny because they just came haulin into the church parkinglot blasting classic Filipino rap music. But we played them and got wrecked pretty bad (half court game of course haha) I played center and felt like Yao Ming which was pretty solid haha.

So this week I had my first Zone Conference! We woke up at 5:30 and took the train over to Makati. The train experience was easily one of the craziest things I've ever seen! Literally I have never seen so many people pile into one place before. Every time the train stopped, people would just be fighting to get into the train and literally people were helping push each other so they could fit. It was sooo uncomfortable and I couldn't even move because people were pushed up against me like I can't explain. I was by the wall so every bump we hit on the track hundreds of pounds of force would push up against me as everyone swayed towards me. Haha it was seriously the funniest thing ever. Looking into the window from outside you just see peoples faces pushed up against the windows like the movies.

But Zone Conference was super awesome. It was focused around Alma 5 which I would really recommend reading. There are soo many good scriptures in that chapter. One verse I like is in verse 27, it talks about if you were to die today, would you be ready to meet God? It's so important to live the gospel at all times and constantly do our best to improve. Many of us talk about the gospel and the commandments but we don't really act. Without God we are less than the dust of the earth, so we need to do our best to always serve Him, commit to His will, and forget ourselves. I know that the Lord's hand is stretched out for all of us, but we need to do our part to reach for him as well. I know he will accept all of us and we can all return to Him through applying the Atonement every day in our lives. I love verse 16 which says: "I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?" I can't imagine the feeling of meeting God and knowing that we did our absolute best here on Earth. I hope that I can improve every day and forget myself more and more as the mission continues.

We continue to help prepare our investigators for baptism and full activity in the church. Many of them are scheduled for the last week of October. I'm hoping that they can keep a strong desire to move forward. Sometimes they forget how important our message really is no matter how well we can teach. Yesterday at church a lot of people didn't show so it was kinda disappointing. But anyways one of my favorites is Renee. He has two kids and a wife but his wife refuses to listen as of now. They live in a super tiny room because he was having a hard time finding a job. But we taught him about prayer and he prayed for his family and actually got an awesome new job a few days later! He now works at a breakfast place over in Quezon and absolutely loves it! He is so proud of it and tries to show us pics of the food over there haha. He is just so thankful for his "many, many blessings" and is so nice. Another family is the Sabado family. It's a young couple with two kids who have been having problems in their relationship lately. But the gospel is really helping them soften their hearts and become happier each time we see them. And one more is Danni Santos and his wife. They're super Catholic but have been really interested in our church. They read over the pamphlets like crazy and we gave them a Book of Mormon last time. I like them because they have lots of good questions and know a lot about religion. Hopefully all of these people and our others will continue to progress!

So Saturday morning Elder Cibuco and I were in language study when we suddenly got a call from bishop saying to run over to the Fansisco house to give a blessing. The Nanay and Tatay of this family are members but their kids don't really like church. But the blessing was for Tatay Fransisco, who is 74 and has been at bedrest for about a year now. He is literally skin and bones and can no longer eat or drink- so we were giving him a blessing as he was getting ready to pass on. It was probably one of the strongest moments of feeling the spirit so far in my mish, the bishop gave a great blessing and it justs makes me super thankful for the Plan of Salvation. We had been visiting that family a ton to teach their kids so I have gotten closer to that family.

Nanay Fransisco is always embarrassed because her kids don't really want to accept the message and always just sit silently as we ask them questions and teach them. So earlier this week she said we could go over there for dinner Saturday because she wants to show her thanks for us. When her husband was about to pass away that morning I assumed we wouldn't go there for dinner, but sure enough she texted us that afternoon and reminded us dinner was on her. We showed up and she and to our surprise she grabbed her little purse and took us to one of the fanciest Filipino restaurants in Tondo. She ordered the food for us to make sure we got alot. We had tons of rice, chicken, octopus, soda, etc and it was soo good. It was so hard for me to eat in front of her because she refused to eat anything and just wanted to show us her thankfulness for us! But the whole time I was just in shock! Here she is taking the missionaries out to dinner while her husband was home about to pass away. How awesome is that?? I'll never forget her great example of love and service. Super Christlike. Her husband died Sunday morning but they're sure he's having tons of fun up in heaven haha.

Well I'm lovin the mish. Ever since zone conference I've loved it even more. It really inspired me to love the people and forget myself. Solid spiritual recharge. Hope all is good in the states! I made some world famous pancakes the other morning and they were super pro. We didn't have syrup but I'm quite the chef and can work with any ingredients. Right mom? Hope you all have a good week!

Love Elder Reber

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hey Joe!

Happy Monday!

Another good week down here in the Philippines. I'm getting more adjusted to the different lifestyle here and continue to learn more everyday. I've been called "Joe" about a million times which is what Filipinos call white guys. It's funny to see people just stare at me as I walk down the street. Especially the kids, I'm pretty sure lots of them haven't seen an American here in Tondo before. They all attack me everywhere I go and want high fives. It's funny and keeps my spirits high :) Also, I'm pretty sure my back, neck, and shoulders will be messed up by the end of my mission.  I have to constantly duck and squeeze through the smallest of places here. Every single day I hit my head on something and the Filipinos around me start laughing. It is pretty funny even though I have a huge bruise on my head from one time. Literally though it's so hard to fit in Jeepneys and squeeze into these small homes!

So last week I got to introduce myself to the ward and bear my testimony which went pretty well. I don't know if they really understood what I was saying but I got through it in straight Tagalog. The bishop and the missionaries are about the only people who are willing to serve. The bishop is soo awesome. He works so hard to support his family and works really hard in his calling. Everyone kinda just goes to church for a social event here and talks throughout lessons. Tons of kids are running around screaming and aren't the most reverent haha. It's a little different but the spirit is still there. I'm the only one in the ward who can play the piano so I'm really glad I can help with that a little. Bishop wanted me to teach some of the youth. It's hard for them because the piano in the church is probably the only piano in Tondo. But I'll let you know how that goes!

We taught a lesson about making investigators feeling welcome to the ward. We are trying to regain their trust and give them a stronger desire to serve! 

So we have a lot of investigators here. Nobody was really progressing when I first got here and we have been working hard to find those who are ready to hear the word! We have tons of lessons every day but it's really hard to find them for their next lessons. Many of them always forget our appointment and say their busy. But we have quite a few who are really starting to progress which is exciting.

We had a few interesting lessons this week. We went to a members house and walked in literally five minutes after she had found out her husband had been cheating on her. It was super intense and really unexpected because he was an RM. But it was cool to see her put down her phone and just forget the turmoil for a few minutes. I felt the spirit really strong as we talked to her and taught her. It was cool because she wasn't scheduled to go visit but we just decided to go as we passed near her house. The spirit really does guide us even in the smallest ways and it's been cool to see a few experiences like this already. On Friday we went to visit Lester, a 16 year old who we had committed to baptism. When we walked in his dad was there also, and apparently he's some priest for one of the churches here. We totally got bashed the whole time which is pretty rare here. We are told not to argue with people so we just gave simple scriptures and bore testimony with smiles on our faces. Honestly he seemed to be questioning himself a little by the end and we didn't even have to do much. I'm just glad that I know this is the true church, everything about it makes perfect sense and there's nothing to doubt!

I went on exchanges with Elder Lambert on Thursday which was super fun. I learned a ton from him and enjoyed talking to him. He's from Herriman and we have lots in common especially since we both grew up in Salt Lake. We had literally 40 people gathered around us at one point because we are Americanos. We handed out tons of pamphlets and he got lots of return appointments. A few of them were even halfway through the reading by the time we left! The people here are super funny. Lots of them are pretty depressed here in Tondo but there are also lots who are always happy. They're obsessed with the NBA and you just see tons of them wearing basketball jerseys pulled up over their beer bellies. I'm definitely going with their style in college.

My comp and I were able to give 5 blessings this week. It's cool to see the people's faith that the blessing will really help. And I know that they do help! I'm thankful for the priesthood and for my mission call. I know God has a plan for everyone and knows all things. I'm thankful for Jesus Christ and His atonement. He has experienced everything we will go through and because of Him we can be happy for all eternity. We can't even comprehend how short this life is and how great the blessings are in the next life. There are times here in the mission where it can be pretty hard, but I know that great things come through hard times. I'm excited to continue to share this awesome word! Have a good week everyone:)

Love Elder Reber

Parkers favorite shoes! We knew he was called to the right spot when Crocs were actually on the list of things to bring!
Elder Reber and Elder Cibuco
Inside their apartment