Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy New Year!

Hey guys!

Sorry for the day late email. We had transfers on Monday this week and P-Day on Tuesday so the departing missionaries could be at home before the New Years.

Anyway this week was pretty awesome but very difficult too! It was amazing to be able to skype home on Christmas Eve here and be able to talk with everyone! This Christmas was awesome too! Laoag 3rd Ward is the best and have the best members. We're pretty spoiled here! But aside from all of that this Christmas was a very special one for me. I was able to feel the Lord's love on such a sacred day more than ever before. Of course it was hard to be away from family but I just felt like this is where I needed to be on that day which was a very very special feeling. I felt His love in my life and in return I was able to share that Love with the people we were able to associate ourselves with that day! It was pretty great!

Some pretty amazing things have been happening to some of the people we've been teaching. Some of my favorite people that I've been able to meet have been these investigators/ less active members and it's been a blessing to be able to teach them!

So the first one his name is Allen. He's 14 years old and his missionary lessons remind me A LOT about what my missionary experience was when I was receiving the lessons as well. It's been hard for him to come to church because his dad is away on business in Manilla and he has two baby sisters so he tries to take care of them with his mom while trying to get everything in order for school. On Thursday night I was able to go on splits with our second counselor. When we taught him he had A BUNCH of questions about Old Testament doctrine which I'm familiar with but some things that I didn't really understand fully myself. And trying to communicate those stories in Tagalog made it even harder. I had to rely on the spirit to tell me what to say. After he said, "Elder Oslund, after this lesson tonight I feel like the church is true." After I had to tell him that he needs to pray and read because that's the only way he'll know it's true. So he's been praying and reading every night and is going to make some sacrifices to come to church! It's been amazing to see the transformation he's gone through since I've been here!

The next one is a 12 year old named John. When I first came out his Dad, Cornelio, was in active and hadn't been to church in a year or so. After we taught him on a Saturday morning on my first week here he's been to church every week since. At first he had forgotten pretty much everything what the missionaries had taught him before so we had to start from the start. After we taught the Restoration he wanted his son and daughter to take the lessons as well. Their Mom is very Catholic and has a hard time trying to understand the purpose behind missionary work and the church. But since then Cornelio has been able to understand and remember the lessons, he's teaching his family about the gospel, and his son will be baptized along with his daughter who is turning 8 at the end of the month! Elder Risenmay and I were so excited because this is a MAJOR first step in inviting the gospel into their family. I love it when we're able to see just how much the gospel of Jesus Christ has blessed families. Especially in the Philippines. I feel like the only thing that will save the Philippines are homes based off of gospel principles of Jesus Christ. It just goes to show how important this work is here and in EVERY part of the world!!! :)

We've been trying to stress how the ONLY way people can find out if this church is true and that the Book of  Mormon is true is by. 1. Reading it. 2. Praying about it. It's very hard for people to actually DO these things. The ONLY way for them to know if it's true are by those two things. There isn't one thing that any missionary can say to convince them that it's true but they need to find out for themselves by demonstrating faith and acting on that faith by reading and prayer. Heavenly Father doesn't require much. All He requires is for us to seek Him and to ask Him if it's true. "If you will ask of me you shall receive; if you knock it shall be opened unto you."

I'm learning more and more how amazing the Atonement is in our lives. In these past three months alone I've grown so much because I've been able to use the Atonement in just about everything that I do on day to day basis. I can't even begin to describe some of the spiritual experiences I've had with prayer and being strengthened because of Christ's Atonement. It especially helped when we had a hard day just walking and no one wanting to hear our message. I read from 1 Nephi 11:25 and realized that it happened to the best example of missionary work that ever lived, and it was way way way harder for Him as well. So I prayed to be strengthened and right after I no longer felt those burdens but was able to go on with the work and have a great day after.

I love this work! It's the hardest thing I've ever done but there's nothing that I'd rather be doing, nor is there another thing that I SHOULD be doing except for this work. I love you guys and I hope you can feel strengthened from my prayers as well :) Love you!! Talk to you next week!

Elder Oslund


Monday, December 22, 2014

MALIGAYANG PASKO (Merry Christmas!)

Hey guys!! Maligayang Pasko!!!

This week has been an amazing week. Everyone here is pretty busy with Christmas coming up and things are getting pretty crazy in Laoag haha. They like to celebrate Christmas here in a very loud manner. There's parades all night and day, then home made fireworks all day and night. They just really love Christmas here, even though it doesn't really feel like it (to me at least) haha. It gets so rowdy on Christmas Eve that we need to be in our apartments at 5 o'clock and stay there for the rest of the night because they just flood the streets with parades and fireworks. Right now, all the little kids are out caroling which is pretty awesome except here in the Philippines, when people carol they carol for money so it gets pretty annoying at times haha. But we end up giving them candy or a pamphlet which still makes them happy :)

The language is getting SOOO much better. We went on splits on Saturday with a member and the ENTIRE 4 hours I was with him I was able to converse and lead all the lessons in Tagalog. After that I kind of thought to myself, "Did I just really do that??" There's no way I could have been able to do that after only learning the language for 3 months without A LOT of praying and A LOT of patience, and A LOT of studying. Heavenly Father DOES answer your prayers!!! This entire mission has been evidence that he hears our prayers and WANTS to answer them! 

We had a mission wide Christmas Conference this week and we were able to see our friends in the MTC which was awesome. But the big news was that our mission's "Standard of Excellence" went up A LOT. This past year our goal was to baptize 1,000 people in our mission, which we accomplished. This year our goal is to now baptize and confirm 2 people per companionship, per week. With a goal of 50 lessons per week from each companionship. So needless to say we will be VERY VERY busy this upcoming year. The thing that helps me realize is that the goals that we receive are inspired by the Lord through the mission president and area authority. When the mission received the goal of 1,000 people they thought it was impossible too, but they accomplished it. Right now we have the tools to reach those goals but we're just prayerfully asking for guidance as to HOW to use the tools that we have so we can be able to accomplish it. So a lot of this week has been coordinating with the ward mission leader, the bishop and stake president with ideas to have the goal be accomplished.

The best part of Christmas Conference was that we had an "Amazing Race" styled competition between all the zones in our mission. It actually felt exactly like the amazing race too haha. We ran ALL over Laoag and we were able to see things in Laoag that was amazing. The Philippines and Ilocos Norte is pretty amazing!! :)

Laoag 3rd ward is the greatest! Seriously! We're trying our best to have members help us out in missionary work and they have really been helping out a lot. We're spoiled being missionaries in the Philippines and especially in Laoag! They're the greatest people and I'm so grateful to serve them! We have basketball tournaments every Monday morning now between members and the Elders in our ward and Laoag 2nd ward. I feel bad because they LOVE basketball here and it's hands down the most popular sport and they're really good at it too, but they're just so short that we're able to get all of the rebounds and get really easy points on them. Our team has three 6'3" Elders, one 6'0" and one 6'5". Their tallest player is 5'8" haha. So it's kind of funny at times. 

After the healing with Sister Rhea's little girl they've really started to grow in the gospel. They now see the importance of having a worthy Melchezidek Priesthood holder in their house and Raymond is now trying is hardest to receive the blessings of the priesthood again. Miracles are happening!! :)

I was able to baptize an 8 year old little girl named Faith this past week. It was awesome! She's the coolest little kid and her mom is so sweet and nice to us missionaries. Her Dad is working abroad right now and hasn't been back in a while. It was so awesome to be able to be apart of such an amazing ordinance :)

I have so many funny stories to share to my family this week when I get to call home. I'm seriously way too excited to share them! It seems like everyday is a new adventure here in the Philippines haha.

But before I end this weeks email I just want to wish everyone a MERRY CHRISTMAS again!!! My favorite quote to hear right now is from President Monson he says "To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable and it becomes the spirit of Christ." It's not the easiest thing being away from family on Christmas. It is very very difficult to do this work. But the thing that continues to influence me to KEEP going and keep pushing and keep trying harder is the love I have for our Savior. He loved us so much that he came, lived and died for us to be happy. He called me to labor in the Philippines for two years to be able to spread the message of His life and His Atonement so that OTHER families and OTHER sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven can be happy. I am so grateful for our Savior. I KNOW THAT HE LIVES. I see the miracles he extends to His Sons and Daughters EVERY SINGLE DAY. My invitation to you all is to remember Him and what He has done for you this season. I am eternally grateful for Him and for His life. I am so grateful to be able to keep working here for this next two years because of the love He has given me in my own life. 

I love you all and hope everyone has a very MALIGAYANG PASKO :)))

Mahal Kita!

Elder Oslund

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Great Week to be a Missionary in the Philippines!

Hey Everyone!

This week was very very tough but it was so worth it in the end.

First off, Filipinos know how to celebrate birthdays haha. On Tuesday every single lesson we had pretty much turned into a dinner appointment to celebrate my 20th. Then when the ward found out that it was my birthday they said they should have announced it in sacrament because they throw big parties for the missionaries on their birthdays. Oh well, seyoung (That's a shame). But it was still hands down one of the most memorable days I've had. The entire day was just amazing. We tried pig intestines, dragon fruit, the president and his wife dropped us off cake and pizza. Elder Risenmay and I were spoiled the entire day haha

In the evening we had FHE with the Guillermo family where we ate...more, and had a really really fun time with them. The Guillermo family was the first family I met on my mission so it was really fun to celebrate with them. 

But the most memorable gift that day was when Elder Risenmay and I received a call from a part member, less active family before the FHE started. They said they needed us over as soon as possible. So we rushed over there soon after we ended our last teaching appointment for the night and they invited us in. Their younger daughter had a really awful fever for the last 2 weeks and they couldn't afford to take her to the doctor. When we went inside her room she was crying and screaming and just miserable. I felt horrible for the parents and for her of course. They said they needed us to give a priesthood blessing to her. So I was asked to give the blessing. When I put my hands on her head I felt how hot her head was and I was almost in tears with her, I couldn't imagine what she must have felt like going through that for two weeks. I gave the blessing as the spirit directed me and told her "to be healed". When we left their house she wasn't crying, she wasn't sweating as much but she still had the fever.

The next day we walked by their house to go to an appointment in the morning. We saw her Dad outside in their bakery and asked how she was doing. And I'll never forget his reaction, he was so full of joy and said, "She's all right now Elders!" with the biggest grin on his face. That made my birthday the most special birthday just to witness the power of the priesthood on your mission for the benefit of someone else. It was the best feeling I ever felt because I was just overjoyed for her well being. It was incredible.

The rest of the week wasn't as spiritually uplifting as that, in fact, it was probably the hardest week of my life. Every single person that we had planned to teach dropped us and we had no where to go and no one to teach. But the moment when we stopped and prayed for someone to find to teach, we knew exactly which way to go and within the next 10 minutes we were in a lesson teaching someone about the gospel. 

We were able to watch the Christmas Devotional this week and it really got me into the spirit of Christmas finally. Here in the Philippines, there's no lights, no Christmas trees, hardly any decorations, but it is still the most celebrated holiday. They start celebrating Christmas in September so it's been Christmas here for a while now haha.

But in that Devotional I realized just how much Christ gave for US. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Christmas means so much more when you're in the service of others and helping others out. The message that we share as missionaries in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is about how families can be together forever, the importance of sharing, and serving one another. I'm so blessed to be apart of HIS work during this holiday season in the best country in the world :) 

I love you all and hope you all have a great week!!

Mahal kita!

Elder Oslund

Elder Oslund with his mission president and wife, Julius and Lourdes Barrientos
Elder Oslund with Elder Risenmay from Kentucky and President and Sister Barrientos outside the Mission Office in Laoag

Having fun with some members
Making new friends

Getting ready for Christmas
The Christmas spirit is  in the Philippines

A taste of home

At a meal with members

Some of the members in Laoag

More cow friends
Some rice fields in Laoag

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hello po!

Hey guys!!

Man these last few weeks have been a really hard struggle, but I can say that it's finally over, I'll tell you all about it later on :)

The Philippines is seriously the best place I have ever been to. Everyone here has the best personality, little kids come up to us when we're just walking down the street to give us high fives and make us feel like we're celebrities, seriously. Despite their living conditions they have the biggest smiles on their faces all the time and want others to feel at home here more than anything else. It's not too hard to find lessons here just because everyone is so welcoming, especially to foreigners speaking Tagalog.

So far the weirdest foods I ate have been balut (which is one of the best things I've ever ate) and a cooked fish head which wasn't too bad haha.

So, as most of you know I was assigned to my first area in Laoag 3B which is all in downtown Laoag and a little bit of bukids (rice fields) about 15 minutes away. Downtown is pretty insane. You can't really walk anywhere on a busy street without having the fear that you're gonna be ran over by a jeepney or a tricycle. But the church is right down the street from our apartment so we play basketball every morning and it's really convenient on P-days because we can just go to the market and the store just by hitching a ride on a tricycle.

The bukids are the best part of the area, we have to walk really far out of our way to get to them, and even though it's only 15 minutes away from downtown Laoag, on a clear night you can clearly see the outline of the Milkyway and countless stars. There's water buffaloes, goats, cows, pigs, rats, snakes, the works. It's one seriously pretty awesome here.

Man, I wouldn't know what I would do with out my trainer and mission president being patient with me these last 3 weeks. I'm seriously so grateful for them. 

My trainer is the best, I seriously wouldn't know what to do if he wasn't my trainer. We of course have our differences but we're helping each other out and we're becoming better missionaries because of those differences. 

As most of you know, I struggled for the last 3 weeks. But I grew so much because of those struggles. I realized just how much I am blessed in my own life back home, that I come from a loving family who supports me, and I come from a family who helped me out my entire life, and it was a hard adjustment to finally have to do EVERYTHING on your own. You realize just how much you take for granted when you leave your family and friends behind and come to a country like the Philippines. We got to Laoag and realized that the language we learned in the MTC is completely different from what they speak here, 50% speak Tagalog and 50% speak Ilocano. Trying to keep up with that stressed me out so much. Adjusting to a new climate, culture, food, water, and the people having different personalities added a lot more stress on me. Having bugs on you all day, everyday, as you sleep, and as you walk 7 miles a day in the Filipino winter (which is still 90 degrees) and having your shirt covered in dirt and drenched in sweat just added more stress. Studying for 5 hours a day in the middle of the day when your apartment doesn't have air conditioning was hard. Having to shower with cold water and pouring a bucket over you was a struggle. Washing your clothes by hand and a washing board is a struggle.  Each day I was mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually worn out.

 I was so worn out that I started to doubt myself. I asked myself these question for the last three weeks "Can I really do this for two years?" "Can I actually learn two languages instead of just one?" "How can I help these people if I can't even talk to them?" "WHY ARE MISSIONS SO HARD?"

This past Wednesday night I started to doubt myself a lot, but realized that because I have been so worn out that my prayers haven't been as meaningful. I had no other choice but to get down on my knees and pray. I prayed about all the trials and hardships that I've been having, every bit of doubt, fear, homesickness, everything. I prayed for two hours, just talking and trying to find a solution for my problems. And with all of my power I asked for charity and love for those that I'm around. Immediately when I got up from my prayer, I no longer thought of the miles we had to walk in the heat, I no longer thought about home, the water, the apartment, the trials of learning another language. That night was the best lesson we had all mission so far because I was able to rely on faith and the atonement to help me out instead of relying on myself to get through these hard times. 

I can go into so much more detail about the entire story but I might need to save that for my homecoming talk in a couple years :) 

I love you all and pray for you all the time! I hope everyone is doing great! Everything is perfect here in the Philippines :)

Mahal kita!

Elder Oslund