Thursday, September 15, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Irene Javier was baptized on September 10, 2011, a Saturday evening at the Malaya Branch building. On Wednesday, Joel and Irene traveled to a neighboring city and were married. She could not be baptized until she was legally married to the man she was living with (a rather complicated thing here in the Philippines!). The reason this marriage was possible, since the Catholic Church doesn’t allow divorces, or if one is granted you must pay a very large amount of money, was that there was no record whatsoever of her previous marriage. An interesting note is that upon searching for her previous certificate, she finally located the Priest who performed the ceremony. Now aging, he confessed that following the ceremony, he felt like the man she was marrying was not good for her, so he destroyed the marriage certificate and never recorded the marriage. Thus, there was no record that she was ever married to someone else..... A definite tender mercy for Irene and Joel. Anyway, Saturday we took off for Malaya and ran into heavy traffic and road construction. Elder Bird was a nervous wreck (perhaps a little road rage!!) upon arrival at the branch building, because I was speaking at the baptism and it looked like we would never make it in time several times along the way. We did make it just on time, only to find that the baptismal font was up to about 3 inches of water after running for an hour! Elder Bird asked what the problem was and the full-time missionaries said most of the water was turned off for the day but usually there was more water pressure. That happens here sometimes on Sundays and then the restrooms don't work. Not a good thing!!! Anyway, after another hour, it was decided to start a bucket brigade to an outside faucet at the edge of the Church property. After an hour and a half delay, there was enough water in the font to baptize someone if they laid down on their back to be totally immersed!.....whatever works is okay!! The sweetest thing we were privileged to witness was when Elder Kinikini brought the white baptismal clothing to Irene. She tenderly held it up to her cheek and hugged it.....then she said, "I never want to forget this moment". When she took ahold of the clothing and let it drop to full length, she had the most surprised look on her face as she examined it and looked at the two ties hanging at the side. Then she exclaimed, "This is what I was wearing in a dream I had 2 years ago. I was dressed all in white and walking up this path. There was darkness and scary things at the side, but I just kept walking straight up the path and was very happy. I always thought it had something to do with getting married some time, but this is the very outfit I was wearing....it was panted and had these two ties at the side." Then she just sat there holding it close for a few moments. It was very touching for us to watch. We always assumed that Elder Kinikini was planning to baptize her when he suddenly asked Elder Bird if he would like to perform the baptism....yup, no dry underclothing or towel with us, but of course he was very happy for the privilege. Now, there was barely enough water to immerse her (water was less than clean), but after two tries she was baptized. A knee sneaked up on the first try. On Sunday she was confirmed and given the right to the Gift of the Holy Ghost. She and Joel partook of the sacrament for the first time together. She has truly been blessed with some sacred experiences........and so have we. We are grateful.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Our trip to Cauayan began on a Monday morning instead of Saturday because Monday and Tuesday were national holidays here so the Jubilee Exhibit was moved to begin on Tuesday and set up was on Monday. We boarded our plane 11/2 hours late due to engine problems, taxied to the runway only to turn around and go back to the terminal due to mechanical problems. We sat for another 1 1/2 hours hoping to get another plane, but were called and again boarded the same plane. I was a little nervous but then had a feeling of peace that all would be well and the flight went fine. Cauayan is located in the northeastern part of the Philippines in a province called Isabela. This is still on the island of Luzon and is very beautiful. Lots of rice fields dot the area and it was so green and plush and looked like the richest, cleanest area until you are almost on the ground and that is when we noticed that the homes are still tin roofs atop little "shanty's". President Marco (District President) and President Arsinas (2nd Counselor) met us at the airport. They were very nice and friendly. Pres. Marco seemed to feel the most comfortable speaking in English, so he did most of the talking, with Pres. Arsinas adding little bits and laughing....he was the more outgoing personality. Pres. Marco said," Pres. Arsinas will have to tell you about his conversion while you are here." We were all for that. After checking into our hotel, we headed to the town of Alicia, where the Jubilee Exhibit was being hosted. Things were pretty much ready, so we gave them a couple of suggestions for the opening and then headed back to the hotel. The governor was to be the keynote speaker the next morning at the opening, but after waiting for awhile, Pres. Marco started and it went so well. They had several other community leaders, barangay captains, and policemen there besides many members with investigators and friends. It was a good, busy day. On Tues. evening we had dinner at a restaurant with Pres. Marco, his wife, and 3yr old daughter along with Pres. Arsinas and his 20 yr. old daughter (his wife was teaching an institute class). Pres. Arsinas shared a story about Pres. Marco. I will share it: This was the mission Elder Marco was called to as a young missionary...the Cauayan Mission. He is from a southern area. He knocked on the Arsinas' door and was invited in. It was quite a process with the Arsinas family (to be shared later) but they joined the church and brother Arsinas developed such a great love for Elder Marco. He loaned Elder Marco p25,000 (about $700. 00 U.S.) to begin a business after his mission. Elder Marco went home and started the business and in 2 years it went bankrupt and he lost all of the money. Meanwhile Brother Arsinas was called to be a new Branch President and felt very inadequate. He called Brother Marco and asked him to move back to Alicia and be his counselor so he could teach him how to run the branch. Brother Marco felt so very embarrassed to face him after owing him so much money....plus he had no job. Brother Arsinas told him he would give him 2 hectors of ground and teach him how to raise rice (Bro. Marco had never worked in the rice fields). He followed directions and planted the rice. Next he was to fertilize...but he had no money. The other farmers kept saying, "what are you going to do? You must fertilize or you won't get a crop". Brother Marco said, "I will pray"....and he did. Next came time to use the insecticide or the slugs eat all of the plants off. He had no money. Everyone told him he must use insecticide or he would lose the whole crop. He said he would pray. (He also went out and picked the slugs by hand off of his plants!) Next came an infestation of rats.....they went into all of the fields around and never entered Bro. Marco's field. Everyone around came to see his field...it was the finest crop of rice in the whole area and he had a huge yield of rice. He was able to pay all of the money back to Bro. Arsinas and himself start college. He is a very humble young man (about 30 yrs.) and just smiled and said it was true.....he was so blessed and he needed to move back to the area because soon after this, he met his wife.
After hearing this story, Elder Bird received a phone call telling us our flight was cancelled for Wed. morning and we would have to find a ride to Tuguearao.....4 hours away....to get back to Manila. Pres. Arsinas said ," I would feel it a privilege to serve you and will take you there". We pulled out at 6:00 am the next morning and had a great drive through such beautiful country. It really only took us 3 hours to get there, and the best thing was that we got to hear Pres. Arsinas' story. It follows: He grew up in this area, married, had children, lived the dark life of high society in the Philippines. He was best friends with all of the top government leaders. He owned lots of land, raised rice, bought and shipped others rice, and had lots of people that worked for him. He had no place for God in his life and literally lived the "eat, drink, and be merry" life. Earlier in his life in the 80's he worked in Saudi Arabia for two years during the Desert Storm era driving a semi-truck loaded with bags of cement to the Iraqi border. He smuggled cigarettes to Iraq and wine back into Saudi Arabia. If caught, each bottle of wine/package of cigarettes was 1 year in prison.....he would spend many years in prison. He was caught on the Saudi side traveling into Iraq. He pleaded and cried to the officer about his family in the Philippines depending on the money and the officer let him go....that was a major miracle. He was very well paid in Saudi Arabia and went home with lots of money and began buying land and raising rice and also loaning money to people at 40% interest. Lots of his friends and others borrowed varied amounts from him and he made more money. That's how he had his wealth to party with! The partying led to drug addiction which led to a year in rehab in a facility in Manila. That's when he started reading the Bible and coming to know God. He went home and very soon after that the missionaries came knocking! He had joined up with a group of Born Again Christians that met every Sunday and many in the neighboring villages wanted to come and study with them but had no way to pay for the rides back and forth....so brother Arsinas had lined up buses that he paid for and picked everyone up each Sunday. Well, when the missionaries started teaching him, he wanted to attend church but had a very close relationship with his born again friends. He told his friends that he was investigating the Mormon church and so the next Sunday they had prayer and all decided to attend the Mormons this time. Now this little branch had about 50 members and suddenly two buses with 200 + people showed up. Elder Marco was one of the missionaries there and was so happy to see brother Arsinas attending, but shocked with the large group. They had to hold all of the classes on the buses because the building they rented was too small. There were so many people interested that Brother Arsinas had brought with him that they had to send in more missionaries just to teach their families. All 200+ joined the church and most are still active today......that was 7 years ago. He is the most valiant, strong, dedicated man ever. He completely turned from everything he was doing wrong.....truly an Alma the Younger story. He stopped having anyone work on Sunday. He has given so much land away to help the poor and then teaches them how to be self-sufficient. He is still great friends with the political leaders and they can't believe what has happened to him. His daughter said they used to all be afraid of him because he could have such a bad temper, but that he is truly the kindest and most gentle, attentive father ever now. He told us he absolutely loves to go home teaching, and especially he wants to go to all of those that are less-active. He was a miserable man and through the atonement he is so happy in his life now. He is 63 years old. He said he is not as rich in money as he used to be, but much richer in happiness and blessings. We came home feeling like we had had one of the greatest experiences of our lives to know these men. They are in the truest sense, disciples of Jesus Christ.