Monday, July 25, 2016

7-24-16 I'm slowwwly learning more and more Ilokano.

Kumusta pamilyak! Naimbag a malem!

 I'm slowwwly learning more and more Ilokano. Something great about this area is that almost every single person I know is naturally Ilokano! Luckily they're just as fluent in Tagalog so I'm able to communicate, but it's awesome that if I have any questions about Ilokano I can turn to anyone! Do Uncle BJ them & the Escalantes speak Ilokano too or just Tagalog? I'll push myself harder to learn Ilokano if I have close people to speak with when I get home. 

 Anyway, this week was way too quick again. It's hard to believe it's been a whole 7 days since I wrote last. Although it was such a quick one we actually accomplished a bunch of things! On Tuesday we had our first zone meeting of the cycle, which means this was my first one as a zone leader. Since we were super busy the week before and went to Banaue last Monday, it was hard finding time to really sit down and plan out our lesson. We prepared as much as we could Monday night and trusted in the Lord that our lesson would be successful the next day. And it was! It was one of those tender mercies again, that even though we could've done better at preparing, the Lord helped us have a great lesson overall. The Assistants attended our zone meeting as well and shared great thoughts & ideas, which I'm grateful for. 

 We had splits 3 times this past week. On Wednesday we worked with a companionship in our zone who have kind of a struggling area. Elder Labrador worked in their area (Dupax Del Sur) with Elder Briones while Elder Doctolero & I worked here in Bambang. Elder Doctolero is pretty new in the field but he's a great missionary! He knows the scriptures well and is great at teaching them simply, which is a huge skill as a missionary. On Friday we had the opportunity to work with the Assistants! We all worked in Cauayan then Elder & I returned to Bambang the next day. I got to work with Elder Antenorcruz. For one thing it was super awesome working with a car haha, but it was way cool working with someone who obviously does his part as a missionary. Elder Antenorcruz is a hastener for sure! Unfortunately they had an unexpected meeting with President Hiatt later on that night so we didn't get to work the full day, but it was still awesome. I tried my best to absorb everything from Elder Antenorcruz and think of ways I can improve myself in order to become a great missionary like him. On Sunday we got to work with members again. The single adults in our branch are great! Thanks to them it was easy breaking the ice with those we taught for the first time. They're also all Ilokano so I learned a lot of things in between lessons haha.  

In between those busy days and splits, I enjoy when it's back to just me and Elder Labrador. He continues to be a great missionary and companion. I can't believe this cycle will end next week! I doubt he'll transfer since he's only been here one cycle longer than me, but there's always the chance. Hopefully he doesn't! We'll know by my next email. 

 Thank you mom and dad for your emails and great examples. Thank you so much dad for following that prompting to call grandma. Now tell her not to get sick again! I only have one year left! Oh and Happy birthday Lehia! Wednesday right? I just realized I'll be home before your first Sunday blessing the sacrament! Crazy. I love you guys & hope you have a great week!

Mahal ko po kayo,
Elder Ishibashi

Zone pic. after zone meeting ft. Assistants

Monday, July 18, 2016

7/17/16 Kumusta po family!

Kumusta po family!

 Sheesh I feel like I just emailed you guys a few days ago haha. This past week flew by so quickly, but it was another great & busy one! So many more great things happened. The first big thing was MLC (Missionary Council Meeting). For MLC all the zone leaders and sister training leaders in the mission meet in Cauayan and discuss their zones, the work, how we can improve the mission, etc. And along with that we hear great messages from our mission President & wife and our job is to share everything we learned the following week with our zone in Zone meeting. This was my first MLC so it was really cool for me. It was awesome hearing about the other zones and being able to participate in trying to help others and improve the mission as a whole. I really enjoyed what President & Sister shared. They focused their messages on the first 2 principles of the gospel, faith and repentance. I received personal revelation and my testimony & desire to bring others unto Christ was strengthened. Here's a story President Hiatt shared with us when connecting repentance to the atonement. 

Elder James E. Foust said that: 

Our salvation depends on believing in and accepting the atonement. Such acceptance requires a continual effort to understand it more fully. He retold a story originally told by President Gordon B. Hinckley: 

“Years ago there was a little one-room schoolhouse in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough that no teacher had been able to handle them.

“A young, inexperienced teacher applied, and the old director scanned him and asked: ‘Young fellow, do you know that you are asking for an awful beating? Every teacher that we have had here for years has had to take one.’

“‘I will risk it,’ he replied.

“The first day of school came, and the teacher appeared for duty. One big fellow named Tom whispered: ‘I won’t need any help with this one. I can lick him myself.’

“The teacher said, ‘Good morning, boys, we have come to conduct school.’ They yelled and made fun at the top of their voices. ‘Now, I want a good school, but I confess that I do not know how unless you help me. Suppose we have a few rules. You tell me, and I will write them on the blackboard.’

“One fellow yelled, ‘No stealing!’ Another yelled, ‘On time.’ Finally, ten rules appeared on the blackboard.

“‘Now,’ said the teacher, ‘a law is not good unless there is a penalty attached. What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’

“‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response from the class.

“‘That is pretty severe, boys. Are you sure that you are ready to stand by it?’ Another yelled, ‘I second the motion,’ and the teacher said, ‘All right, we will live by them! Class, come to order!’

“In a day or so, ‘Big Tom’ found that his lunch had been stolen. The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old. ‘We have found the thief and he must be punished according to your rule—ten stripes across the back. Jim, come up here!’ the teacher said.

“The little fellow, trembling, came up slowly with a big coat fastened up to his neck and pleaded, ‘Teacher, you can lick me as hard as you like, but please, don’t take my coat off!’

“‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’

“‘Oh, teacher, don’t make me!’ He began to unbutton, and what did the teacher see? The boy had no shirt on, and revealed a bony little crippled body.

“‘How can I whip this child?’ he thought. ‘But I must, I must do something if I am to keep this school.’ Everything was quiet as death.

“‘How come you aren’t wearing a shirt, Jim?’

“He replied, ‘My father died and my mother is very poor. I have only one shirt and she is washing it today, and I wore my brother’s big coat to keep me warm.’

“The teacher, with rod in hand, hesitated. Just then ‘Big Tom’ jumped to his feet and said, ‘Teacher, if you don’t object, I will take Jim’s licking for him.’

“‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’

“Off came Tom’s coat, and after five strokes the rod broke! The teacher bowed his head in his hands and thought, ‘How can I finish this awful task?’ Then he heard the class sobbing, and what did he see? Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. ‘Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!’”

To lift a phrase from this simple story, Jesus, my Redeemer, has taken “my licking for me” and yours for you. Declared the prophet Isaiah:

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: …

“… He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:4–5)

 This story was really powerful to me. Isn't it amazing that even when we willfully rebel or do things against God's will, Jesus Christ still pays the debt for us? I like what you mentioned in your email dad, that we should never feel content. I don't think we could ever pay Christ back for his suffering for us, so we should always strive to do better.

 The work overall this week was a little on the low side, but the lessons we did have were great. I had the opportunity to work with some different people, including The Hiatts! It was suuuper cool working with President & Sister Hiatt yesterday. President came over to Bambang to do some interviews so they said they'd be able to work with us after church for just a quick time before heading to Solano for more interviews. We only had 2 lessons with them present, but it was such a cool experience. The Hiatts are spiritual giants for sure. It's easy to see that they love the people, and especially our Father in Heaven. Something President says a lot is that above all reasons to live and share the gospel, he does it because he loves Heavenly Father. Although they don't speak much Tagalog at all, the Spirit was so strong as they shared their parts in each lesson and bore testimony. It was one of those things where even though the listeners may not have understood every thing they said, they must've known that it was true because of the Spirit

 Our first lesson with the Hiatts was also our first lesson with a new investigator, Sister Jennalyn. This is actually super cool too. You guys remember April? The one who was baptized the other week? She has a friend, Germalyn, who is also progressing and has a strong testimony of the gospel. The only reason she isn't baptized yet is because she isn't married. She wants to be baptized though, so she's trying to work everything out so that she and her boyfriend can be married. Although Germalyn isn't a member yet, she's already doing missionary work. Last week she brought a friend to church and this week that same friend returned and they had 2 more friends with them! Sister Jennalyn was one of them. We got to visit them with the Hiatts and teach her for the first time, and she already accepted the invitation to be baptized! Just pray for her that everything will follow through please. 

 Another great thing that happened was another baptism! Sorry I forgot to mention it last week, but the other day Kelly Pragata was baptized. His mom and older brother are members so I'm not sure why he wasn't baptized at 8, but that's not too important. He's only 11 now, but is so mature! He has so many great questions about the gospel, how to withstand & avoid temptations, how deep the baptismal font water will be, haha. Sometimes he asks random questions. But it's a skill to ask questions and we enjoy answering them.

Alright that's pretty much it for last week I think! Today we went to Banaue for our zone activity! It was pretty awesome returning there and seeing it's beauty again. It was also really cool passing through Lamut on the way, miss that place. We wanted to get there in time for the sunrise so we left the apartment around 2 am. We got there and realized the mountains are so high there's really not much to see when the sun comes up haha. It was still nice though. The hike was still killer, but still worth it. We got home after lunch and took a long nap, so that's why this email is so late today. But anyway, I love you guys! Thank you guys for the emails and for continuing to be strong in the faith. It's a testimony builder for me and allows me to teach the gospel with power.

Mahal ko po kayo!
Elder Ishibashi

First time seeing this. A pig face. Needless to say I didn't eat from it haha

Elder Bice and the assistants, Elder Antenorcruz & Elder Navarro

President & Sister Hiatt! They're great!

Baptism of brother Kelly Pragata :) also in the picture is our Branch Mission Leader, bro. Igna and Kelly's cousin MJ

Back to Banaue!

Elder Labrador continues to be a crazy cool companion. This past week was a pretty stressful one for him but he never let that interfere with the work or his overall positive attitude. Awesome example of how a servant of the Lord should be!

Monday, July 11, 2016

7-10-16 We had another crazy experience

Kumusta po!

 Just earlier Elder Labrador was like, "Wow, we're in our 3rd week now" and I was like, "holy smokes, for real!", but a little different because it was in Tagalog haha. It's crazy that I've been in Bambang for almost a full 3 weeks already! Time. It's too quick. You guys already know this but.....I hit my one year mark on Friday! It's a really sweet feeling, but also super bitter haha. I don't like the thought that I'll be gone from the Philippines in less than a year. Many RMs and missionaries told me "It all goes downhill from here" but in my head I'm like "It's been going downhill from the start" haha. Time-wise. The learning and growth only continues to go up haha. But anyway!

 The baptisms were a success! Thank you guys for the prayers! I was privileged to baptize April and Elder Labrador baptized Rona. The Spirit was strong as they entered the waters of baptism and bore their testimonies afterwards. They are so great! Apparently our Branch President, Pres. Butay, also brought up the thought of serving a mission to Rona, and she's interested! Things may get a little hard since they're making an unexpected trip to Cavite and will be gone until around Christmas time. I'm not worried about Rona staying strong in the church; I know she'll do her part. We'll just miss her and seeing her progress in the church. As for April, it was pretty interesting that she mentioned while bearing her testimony that she still has some tiny doubts even though she's gone this far. That's what faith means though, right? It's not having a perfect knowledge of things, but believing enough to act upon it. She has acted upon her faith in Christ in so many ways, and only continues to do so by following His commandments and doing what she feels is right. She and Rona are such great examples! I'll send some pictures so you can see them!

On Thursday we went to Santiago for a quick zone conference in order to meet President & Sister Hiatt. They are super awesome! They actually finished serving as couple missionaries in the Philippines, Manila Mission not even a full year before being called to serve as Mission President & wife for this mission. Right off the bat they threw out the Tagalog they know and cracked a lot of jokes. They then shared great, powerful messages on missionary work and doing the Lord's will. Something President Hiatt said was, "When you fear, you fall", and that is so true. Too many times do I pass opportunities to do missionary work because of my fear of man. Sometimes fear is inevitable, but it's totally up to us whether we'll face it or shrink. Like Aunty Jo's song goes, "Courage is doing what's right in the presence of fear....courage is my way of saying 'I will follow Thee when the world walks out on me'". It's a big goal for me to become more courageous, physically and spiritually.

 We had another crazy experience happen on Saturday. Elder Kane them had a CSP in their area so we and the rest of our district attended. The work was fun and it was great watching Elder Warren not know how to use a handsaw, but that wasn't the crazy experience haha. It happened on our way home from the CSP. Eventually a van came through and we got in. There was a white guy inside! That's not super common here haha, especially in an area like Elder Kane's. His name is Jaren (pronounced Jah-rone) and he's actually from the Netherlands. He fell in love with a Filipina and now lives with her and her family. His father-in-law is the owner of the van. But anyway, so we talked with him for a bit and eventually the topic of religion came up. Man, there I saw the Lord's hand again. He is so prepared to hear the Gospel! He already knows a lot about Joseph Smith and asked us about the Book of Mormon, it's connection to the Bible, the tribes of Israel, stuff like that! He said he really wants to learn more about our religion to have a better understanding of it, and even said himself that, "Who knows, maybe I'll become a member some day". How crazy is that! He lives in an area that Elder Kane them don't work in because it's so far, so any other chances of him coming in contact with missionaries are very slim. He gave us his email and we gave him ours. He's going back to the Netherlands soon for a couple months so we're praying he'll get the chance to meet with missionaries there. 

 Alright I'll end here since we're a little over time now. I love you guys! I love this work. Thank you guys for the great emails and pictures! I'm so grateful for the leaders of our church and the opportunities to receive personal revelation through them. And that's crazy that 'Ohu will be serving in Colorado for a little while! Definitely a bittersweet experience, but in the long run I'm sure he'll be more grateful for it than anything. Alright love you guys! Have a great week!

Ingat po,
Elder Ishibashi
Thought about burning a polo in celebration of my one year mark, but an RM told me he gave away a polo instead of burning one. So I decided to be nice and burn an old shirt instead, and I'll give a polo to someone who needs one later. Elder Labrador threw in some puka-socks in celebration of his "5 months left" mark on Thursday.

Still can't get over the view from our apartment.

Elder Antenorcruz & Elder Higgins. Legends of PCM!

Sister April Dangilan on the left and Rona Bitagan on the right :)

Group picture

Monday, July 4, 2016

7-3-16 I know that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us

Kumusta po dad! 

 This past week flew by crazy quick. I'm loving it so much here in Bambang! Elder Labrador and I got sick a couple times throughout the week so the work was a little on the downside, but the work we did have was great. Elder Labrador is the type of missionary to work literally until he just has to rest, and even then just for quick moment and then he'll get up again and we'll get back to work. He's a great example of what a missionary should be! 

 This coming Saturday we'll have 2 investigators enter the waters of baptism! They are both super great. The first is Rona Bitagan. We teach her and her sister and they are always so sunk into each lesson. I think the only reason her sister, Sheila, won't be baptized yet is because she's waiting for her husband (member) to come home first; he's working abroad. When I first arrived to Bambang Elder Labrador told me something that happened to Rona. Long story short, she was terrified of a certain thing happening to her, to the point of not being able to eat or sleep. Elder Labrador & his last companion advised her to pray fast. And she did it! It really was a miracle. She said that she's back to normal & now has a testimony on fasting. And she hasn't even been baptized yet! 

 The other is April Dangilan. She is so ready to be baptized as well. Her family lives pretty far from the church and they are very watchful in how they spend their money, yet she finds ways to go to church. April is the kind of person who just smiles all the time, even when in a rough situation. That makes it really easy to feel the Spirit around her. When we visited her on Saturday we noticed something was wrong. She still smiled but we knew there was something on her mind. She said that out of nowhere she's been having second thoughts about continuing with the baptism this Saturday. There I saw that Satan really does try as hard as he can to stop the Lord's work. We tried to comfort her and promised blessings if she would be able to endure and keep commitments. I was so relieved to see her in Church yesterday, back to her bright attitude. Something crazy happened as well in our Gospel Principles class. April brings her 3 children, who are all very young, with her to church. In class her youngest fell from her chair, head-first, onto the tiled ground. What amazed me was that her head hit the ground first before her back following, but she was completely okay, didn't even cry! I thought, "How would April have been affected if her baby's fall was fatal? How would that have affected her spiritually?" My testimony has been strengthened that God's promises are always fulfilled. I believe April's baby was saved because of April's faithfulness and diligence in following Christ. It's interesting that although Satan is working 24/7 to bring us down, the Lord is also working 24/7 to keep us up.

 Another fun thing I was able to do last week was return to Cauayan for our New Leaders Meeting. You guys remember Elder Kane? I forgot to mention that he's in Bambang too, and he's now my District Leader! The other District Leader in our zone also came from Alicia, Elder Oredson. Since they're both new District Leaders the three of us went to Cauayan and our companions were in a tri-some for the day. The Meeting was super great - great lessons, messages, and awesome seeing many batch mates and Elder Rebojo again. It was also pretty special since this was the last full day of President & Sister Rahlf as Philippines Cauayan Mission President & Wife. The thought is a little sad but I'm also excited to learn from other spiritual giants, President & Sister Hiatt. Besides, I'll see President Rahlf on TV soon, because he'll probably become an apostle haha. He also said we'll have reunions in the future which I'm stoked for. 

 Alright, that's enough for now. We still have some things to do before work in a couple hours. I realized I haven't born my testimony in a while so I'll just bear a quick one now. I know that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us. I think everything I know & love about the Gospel sprouts from that knowledge. Because He loves us he provided a plan, a way for us to become like Him and receive a fulness of joy. I know that the center of that plan is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Because of Their love, He suffered for us and paid for our sins, pains, sorrows, regrets. The suffering is done. It's up to us now whether we are willing to accept the gift or not. I know that if we accept the gift and use it throughout our lives by repenting and walking the right path, we will receive the greatest of blessings, even eternal life. I know that this church is true, that it was restored by Joseph Smith, and that Thomas S. Monson is now the chosen seer & Prophet for this time. If we follow his counsel and endure to the end, we will be able to return to the presence of our Father. 

 Love you guys! It's great to hear of so many people preparing to serve missions! Let me know if there's anything I can do from here to help them in their preparation. Hope you guys have a great week!

Elder Ishibashi  

Elder Perkins & Elder Bice

Oh yeah I saw a snake for the second time! It was alive before I took the picture haha. I watched a tricey driver kill it with a stick

Wishing I was this kalabaw