This has been another good week in the Philippines. We worked hard this week and made it good. One thing I've learned in the time I've been here is the importance of Temple Marriage. If we get married in the Temple our lives will be much better. Almost every Less Active in our branch was not married in the Temple. More specifically they usually married non-members. If the goal is to get married in the Temple, we wouldn't marry non-members. It is so much harder to keep covenants without support, which is why there are very few here that do. It is not without hope though, we have one very active lady whose husband has always adamantly refused the missionaries, but then again, one out of hundreds is not a great statistic. The Temple is the only way to go.
Last Saturday we had a good experience. We had a half day mission for our branch. We asked for leaders and active members to volunteer to help us, and a lot showed up (even a few inactive members, funny actually). What we did is we made small groups and had them go out and contact less actives in our branch. We had them update the individual ordinance summary for the people they found and also to share a spiritual thought and invite them to church. It is useful to have the branch do this because they know the area better than we ever will. We found out that some of the less actives have not been visited in a long time. We found out that one had died back in 1999. 13 years without any church visit. (That means you should probably do your Home Teaching... Every Month) We are cleaning up the files in the branch, something we shouldn't need to do, but the fact that we are will ultimately help the work here.
We taught some interesting people this last week, interesting can mean good, bad, or just sad. We met one less active that speaks very poor Tagalog. Luckily for us we had invited a few branch members to come with us, because we don't speak Ilocano. In all reality she probably spoke better Tagalog than I do, but she really didn't want to speak it. It was alright though, we had to ask her to speak Tagalog instead, and when she didn't or couldn't our members told us what she had said. We actually often have investigators that speak Tagalog, but don't feel comfortable praying in Tagalog. I have learned enough Ilocano to recognize key words in prayers. Words such as "Thank you" or 'Ask for". Some missionaries spend all their time in Ilocano areas, while some spend all their time in areas with other dialects, and some have many different throughout their mission. While on exchanges we taught a less active who studied at MIT in America. So he is a smart guy, and good at English, although he still spoke Tagalog he could speak good English as well. Another person in our area that we found is a returned missionary. We learned that this returned missionary went less active after being stabbed and almost killed. They couldn't go to church for a while because they couldn't get around very well. We further learned that after being stabbed she has amnesia as well. She remembers her mission, she generally knows the Gospel, but she has been home less than a year and can't remember many Book of Mormon stories and mission experiences. She has forgotten a lot, it is really sad. But I think she still knows what she should be doing, and that the church is true, so we hope she will come back. Her family is good as well, so we are pretty confident she will return to church.
This last week was Zone interviews as well. I got to speak with President Jensen. I talked with him about our area and asked him some questions. President Jensen is a very wise and loving man. I am so very glad to have him as my mission president. Sister Jensen is great too, she brought the missionaries cookies, something that we don't have the capacity to make seeing as we have no oven. That having been said we were very grateful. I am very grateful for both President and Sister Jensen.
Good luck to you all and have a wonderful week,
Elder Nathaniel J. Merrill