Sunday, September 17, 2017

Small Miracles

Sige, sakbay tayo agrugi, kayat ko nga imbaga kanyayo, nga 13 nga bulan nak itoy mission tatta! 11 nga bulan laeng! Asidegen! 

Alright, for 13 months in the mission you would probably assume that I am fluent in the local language here which is Ilocano. Truth is I still know very little. I had to check if that statement in Ilocano was right with my companion. I really want to start working on improving my Ilocano, which is a lot of work since the mission language is the national language of the Philippines, Tagalog. Narigat ti Ilocano para kanyak, ngem nakasursuro nak! 

Now after the slightly different introduction, here goes my week! This Sunday, we had a small victory during church! Except it started as a slightly depressing moment. When church started, there was barely any in attendance. I mean as in there were about 8 people there. 

It was not a happy moment. I was slightly discouraged. However, by sacrament, we had 39 in attendance, a few less actives from our area and a family. Elder Bottema came to church again! Honestly for the Philippines, Vintar is a really small branch, but we are happy with the small miracles happening when we see people who haven't come in awhile finally return! 

Satan does all he can to discourage us and for a moment he did, but I am happy with the small improvement. We are going to keep working this branch. By the end of this cycle we are hoping to get the branch attendance back up to 50 or 60! 

We have a lot to work on though, such as our investigators (who didn't come, sniffle) and other less actives. Us 4 missionaries here in Vintar have been putting a lot more focus on getting less actives back to church and at the same time working on investigators and finding more people to teach. We have a lot of less actives that we can go teach. A lot of the time they're busy though, so it's a work in progress. 

Right now what we are doing is working on setting Family Home Evenings with them and finding other members to help out. As for the work such as teaching and finding, whether it be slow or not to be honest it hasn't really phased me as much so far this cycle, which is really good. 

The work is going fine, even though we have days where everything falls through, I'm still happy here! Even though there are times that are discouraging, it's okay, I can take them! I love the people here and I love talking to them and learning. Sometimes I mess with them by asking them questions that are pretty hard to answer in English such as what does this mean in English? (for those of you who do speak Tagalog I ask anong basta, o pala o maarte. Mahirap ipaliwanag haha sking them a bunch of works or phrases in Ilocano since I know very little. The people here in the Philippines are just great. 

That was mostly what happened this week, sort of a pretty normal week but good nonetheless. Life's still good, the mission’s still great, and the Book of Mormon is still true with so much information we can apply in our lives. Joseph Smith is a true Prophet of God and this is the true Church. Keep the Faith everyone! Ayayaten kayo amin! 

Elder Espiritu

**you can email Elder Espiritu at joseph.espiritu@myldsmail.net


I found my block of concrete here


Looking forward to the future


This is what happens while we are walking back late at night



We found a really "clean" shack and made spaghetti sauce (just kidding, I think it's really old cooking oil... or... diak ammu. Basta, kadiri siya.) 



Family Home Evening at the Ubaten family, they came to church that Sunday



Sunday, September 10, 2017

I am a Disciple of Jesus Christ

I am a disciple of Jesus Christ and I fear no man! If any of you have not yet heard about the Ricciardi letter, I recommend you read it. A previous missionary left it behind, and I am very glad. 

It is about a new missionary serving in England who gets a 25 year old Italian trainer who is quite connected with the Spirit and very bold. Long story short, I learned a lot from the letter, and one of my favorite things I read was how he always said "I fear no man" and whenever someone rejected him he would put a smile on his face. He wasn't afraid of anyone including his companion, and the reason he smiled when they told him they weren't interested or rude, is so he knew he was able to move on to the people who are "ready to be harvested". It really helped me with our work here in Vintar. 

As all of you know, the work here in Vintar is pretty slow. But to be honest, that fact didn't really bother me anymore (at least this week.) This week we actually had 2 new Elders added to Vintar, one from St. George Utah named Elder Bottema, and one from Pampanga Philippines named Elder Pacapac. That actually relieved us a lot since now we can focus on a couple of areas rather than worrying about all of Vintar. 

This week, we did a lot of finding, and going around finding a lot of less actives. We still had a couple of people that weren't interested, a couple who while we were walking over to their house would just shut the door or just wave us off, but it didn't phase me at all. I know they aren't personally rejecting me, and they just aren't ready, so we can move on to the ones that are ready. We found a lot of investigators with high potential. We also really worked on finding less actives too and getting them back to church.

Sadly the attendance at church last Sunday was only 31 again, which included the people from Laoag 3 and us 4 missionaries. It's discouraging sometimes, but I am not letting that phase me. I know we did our best this week in the work, and it's not our will, but the Lord's will. 

No matter how long it takes I just got to keep being patient. We actually did have an investigator come to church which was Kyle Brent Soriano, the 12 year old who has come before. Surprisingly he actually came earlier before than anyone, and we didn't even pick him up. He came before his sister who is a member. It really made me happy to see him and he's a great kid. Sadly he didn't stay the whole 3 hours but we are still working on him.

"Do your best, and the Lord will do the rest" was on of my favorite quotes that my first zone leader would always say and it's stuck with me up until now. This week I felt like we were really hard working, and even though there aren't any results yet, it doesn't phase me. I know that God has a plan, and people have their agency. I hope next week we can soften their hearts and get more to come, cause I'm not going to lie the attendance is really low. 

But we can do it. It’s also going to be a lot nicer with 4 Elders. I felt we did hard work, but there's always room for improvement. I pray for the best, and I pray for the people here. Let's just hope next week will be even better!

Elder Espiritu

**you can email Elder Espiritu at joseph.espiritu@myldsmail.net


The Laoag zone (plus some extra missionaries that are training)



Just me and the Ilocos Norte Capitol



Don't worry, I was never in any real danger





Don't be fooled, that picture only lasted about a 1/2 second



playing checkers with sticks and styrophoam (the kid without a shirt is our investigator Kyle Brent Soriano


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Another Cycle Down

Here goes to another cycle down in the Philippines Laoag Mission and to another week in Vintar (which I will be staying for at least another 6 weeks) which was filled with rain, nice and busy people and lots of walking (so pretty similar to most of the other weeks).

As for the news for this week, I got to give a district training again, which was pretty fun! Turns out only one of my district is transferring though! The rest of us will be together for another 6 weeks. Another good news: Our apartment will be becoming 4 Elders instead of only 2! I'm pretty glad about that! As for church, we sadly didn't have anyone come to church. We were expecting at least 2 to come for sure, but things happened. One of them had to go to his job on Sunday, and the others Grandma just recently died. We were pretty sad about that, because his grandma was really nice. She was on oxygen for awhile and it was hard for her to move, so I hope she's really happy in the other world and hope she accepts the gospel in her next life! 

The work this week was similar to the other weeks, lots of walking around and looking for people, people being too busy to listen or just not wanting to commit. We don't have too many progressing investigators yet. We do have people that we have been teaching that the lessons have gone really well and I felt the Spirit, but they just haven't come to church. It's a little disappointing to not see any progression, but I just have to keep being patient. 

I have grown to love the people here in Vintar, even though there's not too many that come to church, I am very impressed with the ones who continue to come to church despite the low attendance. They don't go to church for the social benefit. They do it because they know it's the true church. I love teaching and talking to the members here now (also it's great cause they feed us a lot). I love growing close to the members in each area and getting to know all of them. That's one of the blessings I am happy to be able to take part in. 

One of the blessings I got to be a part of though is that this last cycle we did have a baptism which was awesome, and I hope we can find some people that are ready for this next cycle. I know success isn't measured by baptisms so I know that if I am doing my best, then God is happy. 

I do feel times I fall short, but I know I'm not perfect. Though I know it won't be easy, I'm ready for another cycle here in Vintar. We aren't the only missionaries that have had slow progression, most of the past missionaries experienced that too, and I just know it's another opportunity for me to learn. Though I've adjusted to the area’s geography, I still have things I can learn. Vintar is one of the biggest areas in the mission (geographically speaking) so we can't go to everyone but that's okay. 

I know that Heavenly Father put me in this area for a reason, whether it's to strengthen my own self or the people around me (hopefully both) but I can do it. Elder Trinidad and I will just keep continuing to work and find! I know this work that I am doing in Vintar is true and the church is true. I have been reading from the teachings of Joseph Smith, and none of their lives were easy especially when the church was new. 

All the missionaries had a lot of trials which you would say are a lot more tough than mine, so I can deal with the ones here. I'm happy to work in the Lord's vineyard! Just do your best every day, and the Lord will do the rest! 

Elder Espiritu

**you can email Elder Espiritu at joseph.espiritu@myldsmail.net


Sometimes they wear my shoes


Chloe has become one of my favorites



Umbrellas are cool and quite useful




My district


3 districts of the Laoag zone


Got them dragon fruit blooming



Sunday, August 27, 2017

Scripture Power

I'm still confused how I managed let a bunch of ants crawl up and down my arm without noticing, and confused how we had a signal 2 tropical storm here, also I find it funny how spaghetti can be considered as a snack and a delicacy here, along with eating pancit canton with rice. 

As for the good news: we had a lot of good work done this week, and finally had some investigators come to church! All of those things happened throughout this week, I still can't figure out where the ants came from. We did have a tropical storm pass over our mission this last week, which was said to be a 1, then a 2. To our surprise the rain was more of a sprinkle, and overcast weather. I'm pretty grateful it wasn't bad. 

As for the food, I enjoyed. I find it funny that sometimes we end up eating pancit canton (basically ramen) and rice for a meal with coke. It's the king’s dish.

As for the work this week, it went a lot better than the previous weeks. We were excited to have 2 investigators come to church! 1 of them was a part member 12 year old, who we picked up named Kyle. He's a cool kid, basically a little brother to me. He's fun to mess around with. A little slow at learning, but he's 12 so I can't blame him. Plus his first language is Ilocano, and his scriptures and pamphlets are Tagalog, along with the language we speak to him. I was a little nervous he wouldn't like it (even though he's been to church before) but luckily there is another kid from his class, so he has someone to keep him company. 

The other investigator who came to church actually came a little more of a surprise. I asked Elder Trinidad if he was investigator (since I'd never seen him before) and he said he was a member. A little bit later we found out he was actually an investigator from an area we haven't had much time to go to. Though a surprise, we were happy he came, and plan to go teach him!

The work this week went well too, we taught a lot of people. Didn't find as many as last week, but we had appointments to go to which was nice, instead of walking around for hours looking for people to teach. 

I really enjoy teaching, especially when the lessons are powerful. We had lessons this week where I really felt the Spirit in the room, I just hope they did too. Just gotta keep working on all these people and hopefully more will come to church! Although it's only 27 coming to church (including us) we still enjoy it. You don't need a ton in order for it to be great. I'm thankful for the little branch that does come, even though sometimes it may be hard.

To end this letter I want to testify about the importance of personal study. Since Elder Trinidad and I are only in a 2 man apartment, I have been able to read a lot more. When I say a lot more, I mean a lot. I probably read more here in these several weeks than my entire senior year. But I have really come to enjoy it. I read the Liahona's all the time, and I've been reading the New testament again, the Book of Mormon (which I'm happy to say I'm on my 3rd round of reading it through the whole mission), D&C, and a book on the teachings of Joseph Smith. 

They are all great, and I have really gotten prone to the feeling I get every time I read. It really makes me feel happy, and I love adding my knowledge about the gospel. The scriptures may be the exact same as I read them before, but every time I feel as if I can get something new about it. I have really come to love reading them, especially the 4 gospels about the life of Christ and the Book of Mormon. They aren't just "boring" books to me anymore, they're actual stories. They all really happened and I love reading them. 

Although sometimes I admit I still get confused at some scriptures, all in all there's so many things to learn from them which isn't just for fun, but really strengthens me spiritually and in turn, I can help others become spiritually stronger. 

I'm still far from knowing it all, but I'm glad to be adding to my knowledge little by little. I testify that reading the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, can really help in life I really notice the difference when I read them. I hope you all can feel that amazing feeling when you read them too! Sometimes we may get busy in life, but God is the one who gave us all this time, so shouldn't we give some back to him? Love you all! The mission is still awesome! Not easy, but worth it! Till next week! 

Elder Espiritu

**you can email Elder Espiritu at joseph.espiritu@myldsmail.net












Sunday, August 20, 2017

One Year Down, One to Go!

It's official. I have been here in the mission for a year now! It's strange to look back and see how much time has passed, yet I have so much more to do! Lots of things I've learned here on the mission and lots of things I have yet to learn. 

Through it all, I've loved it all, the good and the bad! I've said this many times, but this mission has been helping me gain patience, and also helping me know that despite everything we do, people have agency, and what they want to do they'll do. 

I was a little sad on Sunday when only 27 people came to church, 7 of them were from a different ward and 2 being Elder Trinidad and I. Despite the number being really low, it doesn't matter. I'm still thankful for who did come, and I know that people have their agency. 

Sometimes it just takes a little longer for the seed of faith to grow. As for the work this week, to be honest it was pretty similar to last week: finding, more finding and such. Hopefully we'll find some people who really are interested, so we are just being patient. 

We extended 2 baptismal dates to 2 different people who are part members, one being 59 with a cigarette and drinking problem, and one just being only 12 but a good kid, just a short attention span. We are trying to make a plan for tatay Melchor (59) to get him to stop. We know it may take awhile, (he has been an investigator for awhile) but we hope he can do it. It might be little at a time, but he can do it. 

On Wednesday, I got to do an exchange with our District Leader Elder Lobaton, and to be honest the work that day was pretty similar to our work, we were almost completely punted (almost all of the appointments fell through) but we still got to teach. He's a cool guy, and I learned a couple of things from him.

As for a fun fact this week, I finished the Book of Mormon for the 2 1/2  time (I finished it at the MTC once) on the mission, and finished the new testament for the first time in my life! I knew the Book of Mormon is something we need to read every day, and I learned so much from the New Testament, especially about the life of Jesus. 

I testify that both of these books are true, and they bring such peaceful and happy feelings when you read them. I'm now working on the Doctrine and Covenants and reading the New testament and Book of Mormon again (we'll see about the Old Testament hahaha) 

I had a couple of off days this week, where I was a little discouraged or my language skills were just really struggling for some reason, but I know the importance of staying positive can really have an impact on my life, and it has. Even though we all have bad days, just focus on the good days! 

Now that I'm at a year, I just want to end this and testify about the importance of missionary work. I know that missionary work is such an important work, and 2 years is a short time, yet can have an eternal effect. 

I know this church is true, and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I am so proud to have been named after him. I know I'm not perfect, and I'm striving to do my best every day. 

I know the Book of Mormon has the power to bring peace into our lives. I say this all the time but it never changes, that I love my mission and all that has happened. I still got another year of great things to experience! Ulit, mahal ko po kayong lahat! 

Elder Espiritu

**you can email Elder Espiritu at joseph.espiritu@myldsmail.net


Birthday party for Karen Calivo (the one in blue)




 Exchanges with Elder Lobaton



Chillin with Nephie, Chloe and their tita Mahjoy



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Patience and Past

I would say patience is one of the most vital things especially as a missionary, and if you don't have it you definitely learn how to become more patient. Opening an area does take a big deal of patience, but I'm grateful for what it's teaching me! I still had some really fun experiences this week including zone conference, some more blast from the past experiences, and weird things people have said to us this week.

So as for Vintar, it's still a work in progress. Something we learned from our Zone Conference was how important finding is in missionary work and who we need to look for. Good thing we are opening an area, because finding is basically all our work has been for the past couple weeks. We still have yet to find some people who are really interested, which is sad, but we are still just being patient. 

At the moment we are looking for new ways to find so the work doesn't get too repetitive. So here's what we did a couple of times: we went up to a group of teenager girls and I just straight up spoke English to them. They struggled to answer. For those of you who don't know, for the most part Filipinos can understand English, but a lot of them can't speak it. One of the girls said she was "nose-bleeding" but she said her nose was menstruating. Afterwards I just speak Tagalog, which really relieves them. Our focus right now is really just finding people to teach, especially younger ones. Lots of walking around looking for people to teach. 

One thing we were able to do this week was get closer to the members. The branch president worked with us a couple of times along with some other members, which is always fun when you have other people with you. It's weird to think that our branch president is only 25, but it's alright. He's cool. At least we have some more dinners scheduled!

Here's another cool blast from the past experience I had: although we didn't have any investigators come to church, afterwards we were just talking to the members. Some members from Laoag 3 ward came to Vintar again and one of them talked to me. I may have said this before but she has met my Mom and Aunt. 

While we were talking she told me she had something to show me. I was a little surprised to see my Grandpa, Grandma, uncle and his wife in the picture! Turns out, she was the missionary that taught my Tita Merce when she served in the Manila mission! It made me happy to see that picture of them, and it made me grateful again to be serving here in the Philippines. 

This gospel is centered on families, and I love that I keep seeing the blessings it has had in my family personally! This place is still amazing and I know there are people out there ready for us to teach! Just gotta keep looking!

Elder Espiritu

**you can email Elder Espiritu at joseph.espiritu@myldsmail.net


My homie Sister Persia 



My batch mate and now AP, Elder Jenkins


Another shot of Elder Ossola and me


My studly cousin in law Elder Maroket


My nephew (jk he's my MTC companions trainee) Elder Santillan


Some of my Tongan friends Sister Faoa and Sister Latu


My district leader Elder Lobaton


My district mates last cycle Elder Arangali and Sister Agudo


Another Fellow batch mate now Zone leader Elder Nichols


Blast from the past, that picture is one a lady from Laoag city showed to me (from Laoag city) as a missionary in Manila. She's on the very right. The 2 in the center are my grandparents and the 2 Filipinos on the left are my Uncle and Aunt, when my Aunt was baptized