Monday, November 23, 2015

E-mail Nov. 23, 2015, "I'm coming home..."

Hah! Gotcha.

As I clicked on the contacts for my email this week I wondered how many of you actually read my emails when they pop up in your inbox, so I decided to include a title that would make you check.

Email me if it worked, and then actually read this. ;)

I also included this title because it's also the title of a song I heard this week. One of the Elders in our kabahay showed us a popular song he had that had been re-written with missionary lyrics. Among a clever parody of words about preaching the gospel and crying repentance set to a rap were the words of the chorus- "I'm coming home".

The rhythm and tempo of the song set a perfect mood for a missionary going home after a faithful 2 years, and I couldn't help but wonder what it will be like when I'm looking out the window of an airplane bound for Salt Lake in another 8 months. As the plane floats gently over the ocean and on to the rocky mountains will my mind be filled with joy and satisfaction or will there be a tinge of sadness and regret that always accompanies the realization- "I could have done more"? It made me think back over the last 16 months and how I've served so far. Do I wish I'd done more? Of course, but at the same time as I see how far I've come as a missionary and as a disciple of Christ it fills me with peace knowing that if I continue to strive for obedience and diligence I'll return home with the sweet satisfaction that I've served well. It drives me to do my best every day and rely on the Lord to make up for my weaknesses.

As my time slowly winds down here I can't help but think that missionary life has a parallel to our entire mortal life. The closer I get to the end the more I push myself to work harder and not waste any time. The closer I get to the end the more I realize how short this time really is, and I imagine that down the road when I'm bent and gray I'll feel the same way about life. It helps me to see that time really is precious, and as I've learned to not waste a single minute out here I plan on perpetuating that attitude when I get home. Remember everyone, once time is spent you can't get it back, so make every moment count. :)

Ingat Po! 
-Elder Cloward

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

E-mail Nov. 16, 2015: "Back to good ol' mother nature.‏"

Aaaaahhh, I can breathe again. This morning some of the missionaries from our zone decided to wake up early to go for a hike. I was less than enthusiastic at first knowing how early we'd have to get up and how much time would be sacrificed on one of our precious P-days, but once the journey started I was glad I decided to go. After spending the last 15 months in 4 different extremely crowded cities and never seeing more of mother nature than a bunch of weeds and an occasional palm tree growing out of the sidewalk it was pure bliss to be able to walk through the mountains and enjoy the beauty of god's creations. The funny part is that the mountains here in San Jose look almost identical to some of the mountains in Utah, and after hiking through them and ending up at a waterfall with an uncanny resemblance to the one up Adam's Canyon in Davis county let's just say I was got a little trunky today. ;)

The work people here in San Jose are awesome, and I'm growing to love them more and more. It's funny how love has a strange ability to change your attitude about something, or maybe it's that your attitude can change how much you love something, or maybe it's both; but I noticed this week that I'm learning to laugh at many of the things that used to bother or irritate me. For example, I used to hate it when we'd be teaching a lesson and the investigator's young child would be running around the house half or completely nude (which happens surprisingly often here), but I found myself laughing last night as our investigator's wild and pants-less toddler ended up putting on a show while his parents tried to get him to sit still. It's crazy what a little bit of love for your fellow man can do to help you to enjoy life instead of getting stressed out about the little things, and I challenge each of you take an opportunity this week to love, laugh, and live a little more. :)

Mahal ko kayo! :)

My Pogi Kasama
(translation: my handsome companion)

(I think his companion's name is Elder Thacker, Elder Cloward hasn't told us yet.)

Beautiful Philippines

Forest Selfie

The waterfall above the waterfall

this would make an awesome water slide

Dinner! Yum.

Monday, November 9, 2015

E-mail Nov. 8, 2015: "Oh, your name's Elder Coward! Ha. Ha. Ha."‏

Wow, I wasn't expecting much of what happened this week. I got transferred to the San Jose zone and my new companion is Elder Thacker from good ol' Utah. Transfers here are very different than India. In India they call you to inform you of your transfer on Monday and usually and it's about a week later before you're on the plane. Here we meet together as a zone on Wednesday to hear the transfer announcements and then we're on a bus to our new areas at 7:00 the Thursday morning. Needless to say I wasn't expecting to have to leave the ward and the people that I've come to love so much so soon, but I know that there's work to do and plenty of new people to meet here in San Jose.

Yesterday as I met all the members of this ward for the first time at church they received me very warmly but just couldn't manage to get my name right.
"Elder Flower?"
"Elder Cloud, diba?"
"Elder Coward, hahaha your name is so funny."
I heard that last one over, and over, and over, and over yesterday. This week as we teach the gospel we'll also take some time to teach a few people how to pronounce their L's. ;)

I've been praying my whole mission to get sent to an area in the country, and it seems that my plea has finally been answered. Most of our area here in San Jose is what's known as 'bukid' or farmland. It's amazing to finally be walking down dirt roads, passing newly harvested rice fields, and seeing stars instead of neon lights at night. On top of it all thew people here that I've met so far are very humble, friendly, and they love the missionaries. I'm enjoying my new area very much. :)

Anyways sorry for no pictures this week, I'll send some next time though. :) 
Until then-
-Elder CLoward

Note from Jen (mom): We got an email from the office of the mission president last week telling us that with this transfer he's also a Zone leader.  

San Jose is in the northern most part of the mission.  He has been in the Angeles zone in the far SW part of the mission.  So it's a big change of scenery for him.  

Monday, November 2, 2015

E-mail: Nov. 2, 2015 "Ups and Downs, Again"

Gaaah, just when you think that the work is picking up in your area and you'll finally have some more baptisms things go wrong. The policy over here says that any investigator must attend church 4 consecutive weeks before they can be baptized so we can tell if they're really dedicated to the gospel. My companion and I have many new investigators who are progressing through the lessons and reading the Book of Mormon but haven't been to church yet. After pleading, urging, inspiring, and doing almost everything short of bribing and threatening (most of the time), we finally got our hand full of new investigators to commit to church with they're whole hearts. We even left our apartment early on Sunday morning to visit each of them and remind them to attend, to which they all responded that they would "definitely come". Later in the day the time for church came, but none of those investigators did. Among the things we heard when we followed up later were:

"My sister's brother-in-law's child was sick so I couldn't come."

"I sent my daughter to church by herself. What do you mean she never showed up?"

"My husband had some friends over and they all got drunk before church. Sorry."

Excuses excuses excuses. Several others were all gone visiting cemeteries to celebrate all saints day yesterday as well, so that means that none of our investigators can get baptized in November because they won't have been to church enough times. Basically, we need a miracle, and that's exactly what we're praying for.

Anyways, on a different note I realized this week how much I've come to love the people here in the Philippines. To be honest when I first got here I didn't know if I'd ever be able to love the people here as much as I came to love the people of India. The culture, language, and people were so different from what I'd grown accustomed to, but as I've tried hard to serve them my love for them has grown tremendously. I used to always be anxious to go back to India, now I'll be sad to leave. Something I've learned is that when we start to take seriously the commandment to love all people, whether those people be our friends, family members, co-workers, or people who live in a different country half way across the world, the Lord not only helps us but begins to change our very nature into a being more capable of spreading His love to all within their circle of influence. I pray that we will all begin to reach out in love a little bit more to one another.

Until next week everyone-
-Elder Cloward

E-mail: Oct. 25, 2015 "You underestimate me, Elder..."

This morning the four elders in our apartment went over the the church to begin our P-day. The Elders from the other ward played basketball and my companion and I took some time to practice the piano. The other elders finished first and lefty before we did and when we got back to the apartment we were pleasantly surprised to see that they had cleaned most of the apartment for us. As I commented on how nice the apartment looked one of the elders half-jokingly said "enjoy it for the next two days before it's a mess again." to which I quickly retorted, "you think it'll take me two days? You underestimate me elder." and proceeded to toss my clothes on the floor.

His silence seemed to indicate that he didn't think it was funny.

Okay okay, so Elder Cloward isn't the cleanest missionary in the mission, but I'm working on it. I'm hoping that by the time I finish my mission I'll have become a much more organized and cleanly person, but then again after I come home I'll probably just have messy roommates in college, so is there really a point?...

In other news this week I've been able to see the hand of the Lord working in my extensively in my life. I've been praying for strength to overcome trials and to be liberated from the seemingly endless mountain of stress that's always on my shoulders, and it's finally beginning to let up. As I started wondering what exactly helped me to feel so relieved this past week I've had to step back and take an honest look at myself these last two months. Although I've had a great desire to serve and to do my best here in the Philippines despite the unique challenges of being culture shocked again and not knowing the language I have to admit that there were a few things that I had a less then great attitude about. I've experienced countless new challenges since being here that have tested my patience to the max, and although I've been doing my best to be obedient and overcome my weaknesses I realize now that attitude really means everything. I've learned these past few months that although we can't always control our situations we can always control our attitude. It took a lot of prayers and searching for me to understand that, but thanks to a very patient Heavenly Teacher that knowledge, and the divine strength I've received to apply it, has made everything easier. Our attitude is manifested by the way we approach any situation. Am I looking at this opportunity with humility, faith, and optimism? or am I complaining, murmuring, and unwilling to give it my best effort? "Choose you this day whom ye will serve" can be coupled with "and choose your attitude for how you'll do it". I testify that if we change our attitude we can change our life.

Mahal Kita everyone. :)
-Elder Cloward