Sunday, February 26, 2017

2-26-17 Magandang tanghali po!

Magandang tanghali po!

 Thanks for the updates dad! Keep me updated on Kala'i & Lehia and their sports. I already know Kala'i's gonna kill it at pole vaulting.Tell Pretty Girl I love and miss her. And tell Makana I said congratulations and I love him for being worthy to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood! I wish I understood how real and powerful this priesthood is before I received it. It's actually a huge responsibility to stay worthy of it and such a testimony builder when given the opportunity to use it, like the time I was asked to bless one of my best mission friends who almost went home because of his sickness. Tell Siaosi and Anjo I'm proud of and love them as well! 

 This past week was definitely an unforgettable one. It was filled with so many blessings I'm not sure I'll be able to share it all before we head out, but I'll go over as much as I can. On Tuesday we had a zone conference in Ilagan and received great counsel from President & Sister Hiatt. They taught us about effective scripture study and frequent self-evaluations as teachers. I learned from them and through experience that frequent evaluation (ex. ask yourself after each lesson: how did I do? what worked? how did they react to my teaching? what can I do better? etc.) leads to quicker improvement and growth.

 On Wednesday we worked in Simimbaan, where the Imasa family lives. We had great lessons with everyone we shared with, although we encountered a problem. Almost each house we visited had their tv on. Usually I'll do my best to not watch and focus on other things, but this day we were too weak to overcome the temptation. I felt the difference. Not too much during each lesson, but at the end of the day. Knowing that I broke a rule that should be so easy to follow, I felt horrible that night and repented for it. The blessing that came from this experience was that we made it a companionship goal to never watch tv again as missionaries and will help each other to keep that promise. 

 I had a cool opportunity on Thursday to work with a brother from Las Vegas, brother Stephenson, who served here when it was still the Ilagan Mission. He worked with me and Elder Caviness on Thursday and was a huge blessing. He helped Elder Caviness big time with Tagalog (E. Caviness is still fairly new) and taught powerfully in our lessons. What's crazy is he's the one who taught & baptized the Esquivel family (Roxas 1 Branch President) and also played a role in bringing brother Tan back to church (who became District President later on). And something crazier, Mikael came to church!! I think I've already told you guys about him. He hasn't entered any church in years because of some past things. We have been inviting him for weeks and weeks and nothing happened, although he continued to read and pray about the things we shared. We were shocked and so excited when we got to church yesterday and a member said that he was inside! I can't help but feel that bro. Stephenson had something to do with it. Obviously we're nothing without the Spirit and the Lord, but I believe that we're all blessed with certain gifts. Maybe getting people to take the next step is one of his spiritual gifts. I also thought it was interesting that our last lesson with Mika before Sunday was a pretty bold one. His usual reason for not attending church is that he takes his young, "special" niece to a rehab center each Sunday. I remember telling him that knowing the truthfulness of our message through going to church is more important than anything, even his family. Once we know that this gospel is God's true gospel, we learn how to truly help our families, in a way that lasts forever. 

 On Friday we were visited by Elder David A. Bednar. Unfortunately we didn't get to shake his hand, but it was the coolest thing to be in his presence and learn from him. Our meeting was interesting. Instead of talking the whole time, he shared a few things and then we spent the rest of the time asking him questions and he would answer them. It was not what I expected at all would happen (I thought he'd chastise us for days and maybe send a couple elders home), but it was better and so edifying even though I didn't ask any questions myself. 
On Saturday we returned to Simimbaan. The Imasa family is unreal. Not only do they totally soak in everything we teach them, but they themselves are doing missionary work! Their son, "JR", took us to his older sister's house and even bore a small testimony on the things he feels as he reads the scriptures and listens to us! It was such a cool thing to see, especially since he's not even baptized yet. 

 Man, there are more things that happened but we're heading out now. Of all though, the greatest blessing that I received was getting a letter sent from the Solano District President (lives in Lamut, my first area) and his family, the Dulnuans. This letter is called "The Ricciardi Letter". It's the coolest thing I ever read so far and took immediate effect on me as a missionary. Please read it. I suggest that you don't read it before being a full-time missionary, but get it and read it on the mission when you're somewhat accustomed to being a missionary or when you're having a rough time. It's nothing short of amazing. If you haven't read it yet dad, read it. 

 Mahal ko po kayong lahat! Maraming salamat ulit sa lahat!
Elder Ishibashi

Elder Flores, my first companion in Alicia. The tie I'm wearing, our zone necktie for this cycle, was also made by the member who made our last ones. Sick right? His brother even made skirts for the sisters with the same design

Brother Stephenson & Elder Caviness


Just a cool spider we saw the other day

Monday, February 20, 2017

2-19-17 This past week was a great one!

Kumusta po family!
 This letter you sent got me so hyped! So many great, great things happening back at home! What a blessing on my part, since that truly is one of the greatest gifts I can receive as a missionary: knowing that my family is safe and blessed. I'm stoked to hear how much our ward is progressing. Not gonna lie I'm pretty excited to return to a ward where it seems everyone knows the importance of their calling and is anxiously engaged in fulfilling it. 

 You already know I'm down for fish every day haha, especially poke. I had a dream a few days ago of Lehia and Kahili surfing, and they were ripping it! It felt crazy good to see waves and the ocean again haha. Still one of those things I'm excited to return to. 

 Congratulations Ketter & Yasmine on the new baby! And to Herbert & Jazamine for the one on its way!! You guys can't see how stoked I am for them and to meet U'i thems' baby girl, but I am so stoked. The more I see babies here the more I look forward to seeing all of my nephews and nieces. It's a weird feeling. I'm not excited to leave the Philippines and not at all to be released as a full-time missionary, but at the same time I'm also really excited to be a part of the great things going on at home, and then to go off into college and get hit with more experiences and opportunities to grow. In 2 weeks I'll only have 4 months left. But anyway!

 This past week was a great one! I love our new key indicators. They have changed my view of missionary work and have given me a new desire to not just "sustain the church", but to "grow the church". Before the new key indicators we kind of just went out and hit as many lessons we could hit, not really keeping in mind how the church would be affected by us. But because of these inspired indicators we have put a greater focus on helping investigators become converted and then enter the waters of baptism. Speaking of being "converted", I learned some great things about becoming truly converted this past week. We were given many David A. Bednar talks to read in preparation for his visit here this coming Friday, and each talk so far has truly been life-changing. In this one he addresses the difference between having a testimony, and experiencing conversion. It's not hard to gain a testimony that this church is true. I have a powerful testimony that this is the only true church on the face of the earth, and that no matter what I do in life or where I end up, I could never bring myself to deny the truthfulness of this church. I have had too many experiences and received too many blessings to say that this isn't Christ's church and kingdom on the earth. But that doesn't mean I'm "converted". Just like faith without works is dead, so it is with having a testimony. Being converted means that we live what we know. It's a growing process that accompanies enduring to the end. We can say that we're experiencing conversion when our actions reflect how we feel about Christ and his church. 

 One family that I see experiencing conversion right now is the Imasa family. I can't get over how amazing and prepared they are. I walked out of our last lesson almost not believing that we could have been blessed to meet people with such a strong desire to change and please the Lord. I'll just post my report on them to my letter to President Hiatt for the week since I'm out of time:
The Imasa family attended church again yesterday, looking better than ever! They were in their nicest polos and dress that they have. I'm super happy for them too since we taught a lesson that had the potential of offending them. One night last week I had the feeling that we needed to teach them about the Word of Wisdom, but then forgot about it after a while. While planning for our day on Saturday Elder Doctolero suggested that we teach them the Word of Wisdom as well, so I felt that it was really the right thing to teach them at that time. And they took it in so well! They all do at least one or two things that the Word of Wisdom mentions is bawal(not allowed), but they said that they'll overcome these things because they believe it'll help them come closer to God . Something sister said that was really cool was, "These things aren't rooted in us. If you really have the desire, you can quit doing these things".

Please pray for them that they'll continue to progress and be able to enter the waters of baptism by the set date! Besides them we also have a handful of other great investigators who are progressing as well. But this family stands out. They so easily out God first. I was even more humbled yesterday since it was raining really hard all day on Saturday and then in the morning on Sunday. They live in our furthest area and only have 2 single motors as way of transportation. They could have easily used the familiar "Ai sorry elders, it rained" excuse for not coming to church. But they came. Such examples of putting the Lord first. It's inspiring for me who has so many blessings and yet has a hard time giving back to the Lord sometimes. 

 I love you guys! Thanks for the emails and continuing to stay close to the Lord! Patuloy lang po!
 Elder Ishibashi

District Activity earlier in celebration of Elder Doctolero's birthday

Monday, February 13, 2017

2-12-17 We had a super great week

Kumusta po Family!

 Alright! I did my other emails real quick before this one so I could focus better. We had a super great week last week! Sooo many blessings. One of the greatest things that happened was our splits with President Hiatt! He and Sister Hiatt go on 24-hour splits with a random set of zone leaders and sister training leaders once a cycle, and this time we were chosen. President worked with us on Wednesday and returned to Cauayan on Thursday morning. We were blessed with great work on Wednesday! We worked in Simimbaan, one of the furthest, but the most progressing areas. We got a few new investigators and every lesson we had went super well. Something I noticed about President Hiatt is that he's a master at correcting with love. One of our investigators, Carlos, has a baptismal date but it keeps getting pushed back because of his smoking & drinking problem. He keeps doing well and then falling again. President taught him super clearly that if he loves his family and wants to be with them forever, he'll stop those things. He taught it so boldly, but in a way where Carlos wasn't offended, but was strengthened and more motivated to avoid those things and become clean and worthy to be baptized. And President Hiatt taught with that same Spirit in every one of our lessons, really focusing on the fact that through this gospel we can be united with our families forever, through the eternities. 

 Something else I learned about President is his inward love and dedication to the Lord. Only at the end of the day (around 8:30) he mentioned that he didn't get to eat lunch. We were walking all over and speaking with so many people throughout the day, though he didn't seem weak or fatigued at all. I remembered what Christ said about fasting, how we should never make it obvious when we are. It was cool that President lives that even when he's not fasting. He also told us about one of his personal rules he made since being called as a bishop. It was so cool to see his strong desire to be seen as a servant & disciple of Christ at all times. We also saw the sacrifices that President Hiatt makes as a Mission President, one being retiring to bed extra late and arising extra early to be able to fulfill his responsibilities. And so many missionaries feel like the sleep we get is not enough. 

 Did I tell you guys about the Imasa family? They're a referral given to us, actually by a less-active member. They're golden though. They accepted our message so well since the first lesson and are keeping the commitments we give them. They even came to church yesterday!! Mario, Mary Grace, and Mario Jr. have accepted the invitation to be baptized on March 18. Pray for them please! There are still many things we need to teach and a few things they may need to work on before being baptized. We were so stoked to see them yesterday though, in the most presentable clothes they have. We'll get to see them this coming Wednesday and follow-up on their church attendance. 

 We also have another new investigator named Rodrigo. His brother is an active member in our branch. Our first time meeting Rodrigo was on Wednesday with President Hiatt. What's interesting is we were actually looking for his mother who some other missionaries met in their area and sent her information. Only when we got there did we find out that he's Ronny's brother. This is what's cool though. Rodrigo doesn't really "radiate" happiness haha. I was wondering if he cared at all to listen to us. We had a great lesson with him again though on Saturday, and I noticed a change in him. He gave the closing prayer and did a great job. He really thought hard about what to say and you could feel that he knew he was speaking with Heavenly Father Himself. I asked him how he felt after the prayer and he said he felt happier and "lighter". His face even seemed brighter. It was a cool experience and I saw how quickly and real the effect the gospel has on people. 

 Many other great things happened but I need to stop here since I've gone overtime again. I love you guys! Thank you for the emails and for being great examples, especially as members of the church. Patuloy lang! 

 Mahal na mahal ko po kayo,
Elder Ishibashi

We literally ate cucumbers and rice one day haha. #struggles

Splits with President Hiatt


Companionship bonding - watching "The Testaments"

Monday, February 6, 2017

2-5-17 He will help us

Magandang tanghali po family!

 Man, I always enjoy reading yours & Elder Ishibashi's (Fiji) emails each week. Thank you so much for the experience, dad. That's easily one of the coolest things I've heard happen to someone, and then the fact that it was to my own father makes it ridiculous haha. I'm going to print it out and probably share it sometime in a lesson or something. I love that God is, and never will cease to be, a God of miracles. The truth is I wish things like that happened to me more often, but I know that God doesn't always give us what we want, but will always give us what we need. And you never know, maybe things like that do happen to me but I'm not aware or grateful enough to realize it. Maybe this happens with all of us sometimes. It reminds me again of that experience Nephi had on the ship. He had every right to complain, yet only thanked God for the blessings that he did have. I've noticed over the past couple weeks that I still have sooo many weaknesses that need to be overcome, and I'm trying my best to be patient with them and trust that these struggles are part of God's plan for me. 

 But anyway, so the past couple weeks were great! A lot of ups and downs for sure. Probably the biggest thing that happened recently is the worldwide changes that have been made to missionary work and schedules. The Brethren have made some changes to our schedules and key indicators so that we can be more focused on establishing the church in our specific missions and areas. It's actually a pretty big change, but it's really exciting. We gathered as 3 zones to watch the broadcast. President & Sister Jones (senior couple, counselor to President Hiatt) were there and gave me this thing called 'the trunky letter'. It was like a nightmare come true haha. This is the letter that we get when we're on our way home, talking about how we can finish strong and "keep that torch lit". I'll read it sometime this week. 

 Alright we're kind of on our way out now, sorry for the short email. I want to share about one of the less-active members we have here real quick, Sister Ailyn. We actually met her for the first time about 2 months ago. We were having a meryenda at one of the small tindahans in San Antonio when we first saw Ailyn and decided to speak with her. We found out she was a member but hasn't been to church in a really long time. From there we went straight to her house and got to share a message with her and her 2 kids. Since then we've been trying to visit her at least once a week (her house is a pretty far walk from the highway) and helping her to get to church. She's shown the desire to attend church but things have kept her from doing so. Until she finally made it last Sunday! And was even there before we arrived. We visited her again later on in the week and asked how her experience was, and her response was the coolest thing. She said that she was so excited to go to church that her trials in doing so were like nothing. She had to walk a distance with 2 kids, one in her arms, in the dirt & drizzle, but did it happily because her thoughts were focused on church. And she was so edified and happy afterwards that the way back was also a breeze and seemed so quick. 

 If we truly have the desire to do the right thing and especially follow Jesus Christ, we can do it. It's really that simple. Troubles come and won't ever stop coming, but there's no excuse for not following the Lord. He says it pretty well in 2 Nephi that it's not Him who sells us, but we sell ourselves, or remove ourselves from His presence, because of our own iniquities. I have a strong testimony that if we will put our trust in Him and show our desire to follow Him by work & action, He will help us. He repeats that over and over again throughout the Book of Mormon. We will take on our struggles and trials with more ease and a brighter attitude when we focus on our ultimate goal, which is to be with Heavenly Father again. 

 I love you guys! Thanks again for the updates and experiences! Sa uulitin,
 Elder Ishibashi

How I feel sometimes

Basically every LDS parking lot in the Philippines