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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

100 Days!

Well, I hit 100 days in the mission yesterday, but whose counting! As I reflect upon this time spent in the hottest, dirtiest, poorest, and most polluted climate in the world, I have come to the conclusion that every day has been a blast so far. It has certainly been a time of trial and tribulation, the language in particular has not been particularly entertaining to deal with. However, I have come to the early conclusion that while I would not wish to ever relive the last 100 days of my life, I would never trade the experience and wisdom I have gained from them for anything else in the world. 
Looking forward to the next 100 days of my mission to be even brighter than the last. My goal is to become completely fluent in the language by Mother's Day so hopefully the Gift of Tongues will continue to work its magic. Right now I am having a really hard time rolling my Rs, its that white man syndrome I just can't get over it. 

Up til this point in my mission I have mostly taken the back seat in teaching discussions and lessons but because of the frequency of appointments I have slowly been able to participate more and more. I am pretty excited for the days ahead when I am comfortable enough in the language to give a 1-2 punch in teaching with wisdom and the spirit. 

This week specifically has been a great week in terms of really getting to know the needs of our investigators and less actives. Elder Jensen and I really made it a goal to focus on their true underlying issues with the gospel and get them resolved. We found that the biggest problem has been the lack of familiarity with the culture of the Church. Having grown up all my life in the Church I have never been able to understand what it must be like for a new investigator. The scriptures and doctrine alone are like a whole new language, which at 20 years I myself am barely beginning to comprehend effectively. Then there is the aspect of customs and practices observed by members in the Church. I must admit that if I had not been born in the Church I don't think there is any way I could maintain focus for 3 hours of church every Sunday and countless hours of other studies and spiritual experiences. I have come to the conclusion that missionary work is absolutely 100% ineffective without the support of ward members. Just like the family, there are different duties and responsibilities for all who are involved in the work of salvation. While we are all on the same team and share an equal responsibility to share the gospel, it is the primary duty of missionaries to teach, whereas it is the primary duty of members to retain and welcome. In our ward we have 205 active members. Unfortunately we have 524 less active members living in our ward boundaries. 524 people who have received the saving ordinance of baptism and yet are no better off then when they started. In fact, most likely worse off because they have received remission and now cannot sin in ignorance. 

We had the opportunity to see an area broadcast from the Philippines Area Presidency this week and President Nielsen talked about the pioneers. He said the reason we always talk about the early pioneers is because they set the bar so high that none of us living on the Earth right now has ever been asked to nor given as much as they did. In reality the Lord has not asked us to forsake all or live the law of consecration. He has not asked us to lay down our lives, or travel thousands of miles pulling handcarts. All he is asking of us is that we would be willing to do so if Thomas S. Monson gave the command. Certainly in comparison to the pioneers and the Savior himself whose blood was literally shed so that we might live again...we are asked to do nothing.
It is comforting to me in times of trial that I have many examples to look to letting me know that my struggles are very little. And all the more blessed will I be if I give a little more instead of giving a little less whenever challenges come. The Lord is hastening His work, now is the time to decides whose team we are on and what type of player we will be. When the game ends will we be able to say with a clear conscious that although we may not have played a perfect game, we gave everything we had in us. At the end of the day, that's all the Lord cares about. 2 Nephi 25:23, "it is by grace that we are saved, AFTER all we can do".
God Bless and Go Hawks!
Elder Krueger T
 Elder Jensen on the hood of a Tryc
 Lion and the Lamb Picture from the Airwizard, super cheap only 800 pisos! He does incredible work. I might get another photo done, let me know if you want anything.  This is done with spray paint and a brush.
Tryc ride hanging off the edge, before calm and ready, and then during

Week 14 - Papa John's Pizza, Sweet is the work

This week rolled by pretty quickly even though our success in the field was limited. We worked hard but it just seemed like everything was against us this week and we got punted continuously from set appointments. However we did have some great highs and lows in terms of the progression of the San Jose Ward. 

On Wednesday we had the opportunity to take an online grammar assessment for our language study and I did surprisingly well. I scored a 73% which is not half bad considering how poorly I speak and understand Tagalog. I often dream of the day when I'll be able to speak in Tagalog without having to translate what I want to say over from English in my head. I've been in the Philippines for just over 3 months now already so hopefully by the time I've been here for 6 months, the language will start to click.

Thursday was my second and last follow-up training. Which was way fun because I got to see everyone from my batch one last time. We had two workshops from President Sperry, one from Sister Sperry, and one from the APs. Every time President gives a workshop not only do you learn a lot but you really feel re-energized and motivated to get back to the Lord's Work. Of course the best part about the day was the Poppa Johns Pizza they fed us for lunch. First pizza I've had in the Philippines and it was so delicious I could barely swallow it, I was so afraid if I did I would never get that taste back again. Anyways it was sad to leave knowing I probably won't see some of the guys in my batch for the next 20 months, just because our batch is so big and they rarely allow missionaries to get together. Elder Krueger P and I keep planting the seed for President to put the two of us together before he leaves in August so we'll see what happens, fingers crossed. 

Friday was the coolest day of the week. We wandered all day about the city but to no avail as opportunity after opportunity to teach seemed just out of reach. After laboring with little success Elder Jensen felt we should try the Aguilar family. At the time it seemed extremely unlikely that they would even give us the time of day, but we thought why not give em a shot. It quickly became apparent we were on the Lord's errand. This family had accepted the gospel but when persecution or callings became too burdensome, rather than turning to the Lord, they turned to another Church. While in the prayer Elder Jensen and I both felt prompted to share the Book of Mormon. As we read through the introduction we came upon the last paragraph. Before reading I was compelled to ask in pathetic Tagalog if Sister A. believed in the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. She could not deny that she had received a witness of its validity. Then she read the last paragraph and with all the courage I could muster I spoke boldly with the Spirit, exhorting her to come back to the one and only true Church of Christ. Then sharing Mosiah 18:21 and expounding the knowledge of 1 faith and 1 baptism and 1 church unto her, she was cornered with both reason and the Spirit, and could not fight it. Elder Jensen then told her how the Church needs her family, but even more so her family needs the Church. As we knelt and Sister offered the closing prayer an undeniable testimony came upon me that the Savior knows His sheep personally. He knows each and every one of them because He has numbered them, and any sheep given to Him by the Father shall not be lost in Him. It was a powerful experience and not one I will soon forget, nor can forget. He knows every one of us personally, and He is the good Shepherd willing and able to suffer the 99 in search for the lost 1. 

The Lord uses us to bring to pass His purposes not because He cannot do so without us, but rather because He delights in blessing us with growth. Every opportunity to serve is a blessing directly from Heaven to grow in the Kingdom. So when we share the Gospel we are not merely building the Kingdom of Heaven from a numbers standpoint, but rather we are strengthening and building upon our own testimonies and knowledge and therefore building our kingdom and His kingdom. For our kingdom and His kingdom and the Father's kingdom are all one and the same. We are all players on the same team just on different levels. This therefore means that every action we pursue has a direct consequence, either we build the Kingdom of Heaven or we build the Kingdom of the Devil. There is no in between and there can be no spectator. I heard in a talk someone say, "Satan does not have to get us to do bad, all he has to do is get us to not do good". To simply do nothing is as condemnable as doing bad. In all times and places it is our duty to stand and build the Kingdom.

Nang taos-puso,
Elder Krueger T

 Brigham Young pose.

 Teaching the children

Our best investigators and the only ones who come to church
Wedding of Crystal Samonte

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Week 13 - Sunday let down

It was a quick week with Pday being back to normal and on Monday once again. Nothing too crazy happened this week other than the return to the missionary routine. We had a lot of success in getting lessons in this week, twice we taught 8 lessons in a day! We also extended the invitation for 5 baptisms, and hope to have 8 bapt dates set for this transfer. 

However, the low point of this week was hands down Sunday morning. We woke up all excited and left extra early to visit an investigator to make sure she was planning on going to church. After PEC though we were deeply grieved to find not only that investigator missing from the congregation but all of our investigators but one missing. It was probably the most devastating feeling yet on the mission. Just working and working so hard and feeling like these people we love are progressing and then having all of them abandon their faith when it came down to 9 o'clock on Sunday morning.

I can't even begin to fathom how Heavenly Father must feel looking down upon His children and watching them wander away in wickedness. For a small moment I could feel a portion of His anguish. To love these people so much and to know exactly what is best for them, but through agency, sit back and watch them make choices contrary to what they know is right. 

The most saddening part was sitting there all sacrament meeting wondering what we could have done better to get our investigators to progress. It seems like we can get them to commit and admit what is right but when it comes down to making decisions, faith tends to waver. Faith is all talk and therefore absolutely nothing, until you have put those words into actions. I want to say Melvin J. Ballard said, "Every man meets the wall of faith at some point and there he must make his stand". It is so true that all of us have that "breaking point" or fork in the road. Most of our lives boil down to those kinds of moments. Regardless of our knowledge, talents, or strength we all meet our own Gethsemane. 

When the 'Savior spoke out in absolute agony, "If it be possible let this cup pass from me". It was His final test. Would he press forward or would he choose the other path? I believe our lives are in a sense very similar, everything always comes down to the final choice. When questions arise, when our faith wavers, when persecution or pain is unbearable there are but two choices. We can either quit and give in to the power of the Adversary, or we can follow Christ's example and say, "Nevertheless not my will but thine, be done". Whether we know the purpose or the answer to our question or what is waiting for us on the other side is irrelevant. All the commandments of God are given for the purpose of seeing whether or not we will submit to the will of the Father. 

That is one thing I have quickly learned in the Philippines. Is that whenever doubt arises in my mind, my faith wavers, or things are physically demanding and I wonder why I am doing this. The answer to all the above is the same, because it is His will. If we humble ourselves enough to recognize His wisdom is infinitely greater than ours, it won't matter what the reason for a commandment is. It won't matter if everything makes sense right now. That is the true purpose and test of our Earthly life. Not to simply to gain a body, but to see who can overcome that body and humbly submit to the will of One far greater than ourselves. 

Hope all is great at home and next week when I log on I can hear all about another Seahawks victory! I remember last time I was at a Seahawks-Saints game there was an earthquake so I trust the 12th fan will be as rowdy as ever!

Stay Classy,
Elder Krueger T

 Fresh Prince and Kenney Chesney look alikes
 Philippine Birthday Party
 O' Christmas Tree
 The usual sweat on the pants (perhaps dark pants are best!)
 Despicable Me!
 Ward Christmas Party
 First Transfer Day
 Thee Elder Redder, First Zone Leader

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Week 12 - Happy New Year!

First and foremost I'm very grateful that technology has progressed to the point were we can do skype now instead of phone calls. It would not have been nearly as cool if I didn't get to see everybody on Christmas! Mom's gonna have to make a photobook of me or something for Makayla, we cannot allow her to slip in the darkness of not remembering who I am. I guess I'm pretty excited to have another nephew, it will be great to finish my mission and feel right at home in the Philippines seeing a little brown child again. Hopefully he doesn't become as makulit or rowdy as the kids here though! I swear I got so many poorly made fireworks thrown at me its a miracle I can even hear myself think now! 

I guess I have to start off the email with an explanation of the craziest night in the Philippines. New Years Eve here is unlike any holiday in America. Every single stand at the palanke sells thousands of fireworks, all of which would be illegal in America, for dirt cheap. Starting at able 6pm to 6am the following day it is a never ending explosion of hundreds of fireworks going off at once all across the city. Seriously the next day the streets are just lined with burned and used fireworks everywhere you go. These fireworks, combined with an enormous amount of alcohol consumption is just a recipe for insanity. Kids throwing fireworks at each other, drunken tricycle drivers swerving all over the place, and the impossibility of falling asleep in your bed by 10:30. 

As for us we took the early release from work (7 o'clock) to toss the pigskin around and OYM some of the neighbors down the road. It was pretty cool we were giving them the restoration pamphlet and they want us to come back and everything. The only problem is we are pretty sure they were drunk and if not it was very clear they were panning on being so right after our conversations were finished. But that's ok we'll teach em the word of wisdom later. Basically the most wild night I've ever seen and there's no way to describe New Years Eve in the Philippines without being here I guess.

On another note yesterday was transfer day and we found out Elder W and Elder C are transferring sadly along with our Zone Leader Elder R whose the man. Way sad to see those guys leave and so we are getting two new kabahay's in replacement. Haven't met em yet all I know is they are both Pinoys so it should be a good experience to force me to speak Tagalog at the house. 

One of the other strange events of the week was the ward Christmas party. Let me start off by explaining that the chapel is also sometimes used as a make shift cultural hall. The Christmas party was extremely rowdy, way funny, and unlike anything you would see in the States. basically it was a 3 hour program of talents, skits, and games. We thought it was a serious thing so as missionaries we just sang a couple of Christmas songs for our part in it. Next the primary girls came upfront to perform. Never in my life did I imagine I would see little girls (some before the age of accountability) dirty dance to the song "Gimme Gimme" in the chapel on Christmas. So thats kind of good picture of how the whole program went, it was way funny and everybody had a good time. We also had a great showing of investigators at the activity and Church the following Sunday which was awesome.

The work is going fantastic, and the miracles are being poured out in rich abundance! As can be seen with the recent success of the Seahawks! No complaints out here I was able to finish Jesus the Christ yesterday and thus finish off all the missionary library. I plan on starting the Book of Mormon today and trying to finish it by the end of the transfer. From all the studies and time I've been given to not only study the gospel, but also exercise the power of priesthood, there is one thing most of all I know. That Jesus Christ lives! 

With this simple testimony hangs all the law, knowledge, and understanding in the universe. To know that He has conquered death is to know that through Him we too can overcome and return to the Father. With this knowledge comes not only power and enlightenment but also a responsibility to ACT. If you know its true you will act on that knowledge and bring to pass much righteousness. I have learned quickly that words mean nothing but condemnation, without the actions behind them. For to profess a testimony in Christ and act otherwise is to abandon all ignorant sin. I take comfort in knowing we are not required to be perfect today, but we are required to be perfect someday. Thus it should be a day to day progress from this day to the day of our salvation. I know that through small and seemingly simply actions and changes, are what overtime brings to pass great transformations and developments. 

Stay Classy,
Elder Krueger T