Monday, December 28, 2015

E-mail Dec. 27, 2015: "Loko Loko"

That pretty much describes our week this week.

Elder Thacker and I both knew that I'd be leaving for India very soon so he prepared himself to get a new companion and continue the work here in San Jose. At least that was the plan, but I'm learning that as a missionary things seldom go as planned.

There's an occasional event in the mission field that we call White Washing. 95% of the time during transfers one missionary leaves an area and a new one takes his place. That leaves the companion who stayed behind in charge of the area for a few weeks as he shows the new missionary where everything is and passes on key information. Once in a while however both the missionaries are taken out of an area and two new ones are put in to basically start the area again from scratch.

Guess what just happened to our area?

Elder Thacker got an unexpected "change of assignment" as he would have me call it. *cough cough, Assistant to the President, cough cough* Elder Thacker has been an extremely effective missionary and has given his all to this work so far, and we're excited for him to be able to serve the mission in his new assignment. That leaves our area in San Jose without any missionaries for a few days though, and we've been frantically trying to update our area book and leave enough notes so the new missionaries can pick up where we left off. Although I'm scared to death that some of the people I came to love in that area will get lost in the new hustle and bustle, I trust that with the Lord's help everything will go well.

I'm in Tarlac today, I'm heading to Manila tomorrow, and I'll  be on a plane to India by Wednesday. Sorry this is so short but these next few days are going to be pretty busy.

Pictures though!

Our returning member, Nanay Marson and her son Jefferson (right).
Also pictured: two neighborhood kids and two white guys.

One of our members raises pigs.

Whoa, hey now...


And this is what happens when they grow up. It's called Lechon.


The little boy in the middle is named Zelph, so technically this is a Zelphie. ;)

The one and only Tatay Vic.
I love this beautiful country.

Until next time everyone, Stay Strong and Rock On. :)
-Elder Cloward

Friday, December 25, 2015

E-mail Dec. 20, 2015: "Congratulations, you've lived through a Super Typhoon. ...Again."‏

Now granted this typhoon wasn't nearly as bad as the last one and it didn't hit San Jose super hard, but it did cause some major flooding all over our zone. I was hoping that I'd seen the last of leaky ceilings when I left my last apartment, but my hope was in vain. After waking up Wednesday and saying my morning prayers I routinely hopped off the side of the top bunk, but this time instead of hitting dry ground, my feet landed on wet tiles and I ate it. Later, after nursing my bruised body and injured pride I looked outside our apartment to survey the damage. In short the street in front of our house had become an enormous swimming pool. Almost all day San Jose looked more like Venice Italy, and I was tempted to see if any of our neighbors had a paddle boat so we could still get to our appointments. Luckily the flooding was gone by the next day,  and instead we were plagued with a brown-out across the whole city. A brown out is the same as a black out, and when I asked Elder Thacker why it's called a brown out he said, "because that's when all the browns come out."
Yeah he's a little racist, but at least he's got a sense of humor.

"Elder Cloward what do you want for Christmas?"

I've been asked this question many times over these last couple weeks. But every time, before I can answer, my companion replies with "His Visa." Whether that's because Elder Thacker knows I want to get back to cows and curry or whether he just wants to be rid of me is yet to be determined, but either way his Christmas wish came true.

I got my Visa.

I'll be returning to India shortly after Christmas to finish out the rest of my mission, but I've got very mixed emotions about that. I've truly come to love the people of this country just as much as the people in India and back home. It's bitter sweet knowing that I'll be leaving so many friends that I've made here, but at the same time I'm excited to go back to many old friends. Most of all I trust that the Lord needs me back in India now and I'm happy to be where He wants me to be.

And I apologize, I'll have to send pictures next week.

Anyways until next time everyone, Stay Strong and Rock On. :)
-Elder Rain Clouds

Monday, December 14, 2015

E-mail Dec. 14, 2015: "El Ninyo"

We're in the middle of December with two weeks left until Christmas. It's not that I'm expecting to get 6 inches of snow or anything, but is it too much to ask for a little bit cooler temperatures? I shouldn't complain too much though. A few weeks ago it was starting to cool down a little bit, but then we were hit with "El Ninyo". El Ninyo is a strange phenomenon in the Philippines where once every four years at the beginning of December the weather becomes inexplicably hot and humid. Right now we should be experiencing cool breezes and winter air, but these last several days the weather has hovered between 90-100 degrees all day every single day. On top of that our power went out one day and none of our fans were working. Although I hate to admit it, we got very little done that day. Oh well, on the bright side we have an easy way to start conversations with people on the street now.

"Hello brother! Wow, it's hot today isn't it?"
"Yes, it's so hot, I almost can't take it."
"Well brother if you don't repent and start following Jesus Christ, it's going to get a lot hotter than this."

...Elder Thacker doesn't really like that idea. We'll have to see how well it works though.

Yesterday at church we were expecting many less actives and many investigators to attend. We've been doing all we can for them by visiting as often as we can and even picking them up for church sometimes. As fate would have it though sacrament meeting started and we didn't have a single investigator there. Even our less actives who would have been counted as "returned" had they attended today didn't show up. We were both feeling pretty down during the meeting when low and behold, with 10 minutes of the meeting remaining, Tatay Vic came hobbling up the front walk. We rushed out to meet him and as we walked him inside the eyes of the whole congregation were on us. With triumph and satisfaction on our faces we sat down next to him and couldn't help but smile to ourselves that once again the Lord was working miracles through good ol' Tatay. I'll include a picture of him next week. :)

Anyways everyone until next time, Stay Strong and Rock On. :)
-Elder Clouds

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

E-mail Dec. 7, 2015: "...I've run out of titles"

Yup, when I tried to think of a title my brain went blank. I've got nothing.

I just realized that I've been in my new area for more than a month now and I haven't talked about my new companion yet. Oops. Here's a little but about my pogi kasama.

Elder Thacker is from Highland Utah and is a twin. He's an incredibly organized and hard working Elder who takes on all of his responsibilities with all his heart. He's mastered Tagalog and spends most of every day translating for me while we teach. He's a master photographer and has an unhealthy obsession with Oreos. He works hard to be a disciplined leader yet at the same time likes to goof off and have fun. He has laser sharp focus 99% of the time except for that 1% when he gets something random stuck in his head (for example, he ran around for 20 minutes one day in the middle of studies to find a document to see what blood type he is). He's an excellent teacher and truly understands his purpose as a missionary. We've had a great time so far and we've done some great work. Quote of the week: "Elder Cloward, I finally get your humor now."

Great, it only took a month. ;)

In other news this week my favorite investigator, Brother Vic Toralba, came to church again. A few weeks ago he was at the bottom of our teaching pool because he has a hard time listening to the lessons (he interrupts Elder Thacker all the time, it's funny) and he has a word of wisdom problem. To our surprise however when we invited him to church he actually came, on his own too. Bro. Vic is 67 but is alive and energetic as a man half his age. He has a very unique and fearless personality and he likes to crack jokes all the time. Every time we show up to teach he asks us "why didn't you bring any chicks?" or "Sure I'll come to church on Sunday, if I'm still alive by then." Last Sunday he even leaned over to me and quietly started singing "Pretty Woman" as the YSA girls walked into Gospel Essentials class. Basically, he's awesome. I hope I can be like him when I'm an old man one day. ;)



Just another day in paradise.

The one and only Elder Cox from Ogden Utah.

The one and only Elder Thacker (sorry ladies, he has a girlfriend already).

One of our recent convert's front yard.

This was a random sign on someone's door. So either I was named after a Filipino or a Filipino was named after me. #Awesome

The Sacred Grove is totally in our area. 
Anywas until next time everyone, stay strong and rock on. :)
-Elder Cloward

Friday, December 4, 2015

E-mail Nov. 29, 2015: "What do you mean he's coming now???"

"Hey Elder we're out of Book of Mormons, when can we get more?"
"Umm, let me see... Hey you're in luck, President Clark will be passing by your zone in a few hours. We'll ask him to drop them off at your house."
"*gulp* Our house? a few hours?"
"Yup, make sure your apartment's clean. Take care."

As I hung up the phone a wave of dread washed over me as I surveyed our less-than-tidy apartment. We'd had a busy couple of weeks and hadn't spent much time cleaning, and it was beginning to show. A combination of garbage, dirty dishes, dirty clothes, and miscellaneous clutter which none of us could account for equated to a scene similar to the aftermath of a super typhoon. As I rushed to tell the other Elders that our mission president would be stopping by in few hours I saw the same expressions of shock and utter panic as each of them also realized how disastrous our home was. In short we spent every minute of our lunch hour (and a most of our language study) cleaning, sweeping, washing, and tidying up until our living quarters were somewhat more presentable. We waited in great anticipation until the familiar white Toyota Foretuner pulled up, right on time, and our mission president and his wife stepped out. As we walked outside to greet them he wasted no time in unloading and handing off two boxes full of Book of Mormons and then without wasting a moment shook our hands and drove off again.

He. Didn't. Even. Walk. Through. The. Gate. Gaaahhh...

Oh well, I learned a valuable lesson through that experience. As we were cleaning Elder Guardiana mentioned how "this is what it will feel like for many people during the millennium," and boy was he right. During out experience with our apartment I thought to myself about how much easier it would have been if we had just been in the habit of keeping our home clean all the time. It reminded me how no one knows when the Savior will come again and how important it is for each of us to stay prepared every day. Unlike our fiasco a couple of days ago when the second coming occurs there won't be time for a frantic "tidy up." Those who are ready will be ready, and those who aren't won't. It made me think about my own life; "if the Savior came today, how would I feel?" I invite each of you to ask yourself that question and determine, as I've done, if there's anything you should improve on. As we live our lives by the gospel each day in preparation for the final judgement the blessings will flow, I testify of that. :)

Oh, and I apologize for the scare last week, I think it worked a little to well. ;)

Thanks again for your love everyone, I wouldn't be where I am today without the support I've received and continue to receive from each of you. I'm happy to call you all my friends and family. Mahal ko kayong lahat. :)

Anyways until next time everyone, rock on. :)
-Elder Cloward

Elder Cloward is on the 2nd row, 5th from the right, behind the sister in the teal shirt.