Monday, January 26, 2015

Alma 34:33 :)

Hello Everyone! 

So this week wasn't too bad :) I love serving in the Philippines! Since missionary work is still pretty new here, and especially in Laoag, all of the members from every ward and every stake are SUPER engaged in missionary work. It makes this work SO much more enjoyable when you're able to work alongside the members. And as a missionary, it's ALWAYS amazing to hear their different testimonies of the truthfulness of the gospel. They all have very different backgrounds and very different stories, but in EVERY testimony it leads them to come to a sure testimony of the Restoration of the Lord's church. I LOVE IT :)

We were able to work really well with AC Ligot's father this week, Antero. I love their family!!! He took his tricycle and just said, "I'm not doing anything, want to go work?"  He sacrificed so much time with his family to be able to help hasten the work for his fellow brothers and sisters here in Laoag. What an amazing example of being a disciple of Jesus Christ! Plus it helps out A LOT because he's able to speak Ilocano and Elder Risenmay and I still have NO idea what that language even is, so the people who we teach are able to finally understand what's coming out of our mouths from our Tagapagsalin (translator) and it makes the lessons a lot more enjoyable and spiritual. This work is amazing! :)

As for John Neil and Allen, their baptismal dates are getting pushed back until after the transfer. Although I really don't think I'll be transferred yet, I'm still praying that I won't be because I really, really, really want to see them receive the joy of being baptized and becoming a member of Christ's church. But we've been able to teach a lot of other people as well. We met and taught an older farmer out in Barit this past week who is the coolest person you would meet. He makes fun of us because we can't speak Ilocano so he just says speak English! It's weird, the people who know Ilocano only know Ilocano and English. So it makes me question why we learned Tagalog in the first place haha. We're meeting a lot of amazing people though! A lot of them have been prepared through the examples of the members of the church and have helped them develop faith in the Lord JUST from their examples alone. How amazing is that??? :) 

We've been able to teach a lot of less-actives as well. Harvey Refada has continually been coming to church and you can see the difference from the first time he came back, when he was scared and timid and nervous, to this week where he couldn't stop smiling. It's the BEST to go to church on Sundays and see the people you teach being there and receiving the spirit :) And it's the best when you see people who were so distant from the gospel before and seeing the changes that they make in their lives through the atonement :)

The reason why I put Alma 34:33 as the heading this week is because I've reached a point where I no longer think about anything other than this work. Alma 34:33 says: And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

I've developed a lot of comfort while doing this work. But one of the advices that I'll never forget is from President Barrientos when we first arrived. He said "If you are in the comfort zone, then you are not letting the atonement work in your life." After reading this verse and remembering the advice from my mission president, I realized that the purpose of this missionary work (and life in general) is to CONSTANTLY improve, to get better, not to be idle and ALWAYS work. We're given this amazing opportunity to "prepare for eternity" through how we spend the time that we have been given on Earth. We're able to constantly improve and get better through Christ and His atonement and following the guidance of the prophets and the scriptures and through many, many, many other tools and blessings that Heavenly Father gave us to truly improve and get better so that we CAN prepare for eternity.
I love you all and I'll keep you all in my prayers as always :) I hope you enjoy this email!

Ay'etente ka! 
(I love you in Ilocano)

Elder Oslund

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hello from Laoag

Hello sa inyo lahat!

Just another week of being a missionary here in the Philippines :)

This week was pretty good! Nothing really too new to update on Allen Rae and the Cleto family. They're all doing great and have been progressing through reading and prayer. I'm so excited for them! The best part of being a missionary is when you see people change and come closer to the Lord through the Book of Mormon and prayer to our Heavenly Father. There's no greater feeling than to see the blessings that come to them because of their diligence in keeping the commandments :)

This week was a really really good one for Laoag 3! We reached the new area's high for the last 6-8 months or so by teaching 31 lessons. When I first came in they were only teaching 19-22 consistently now we're able to get up to the 30's consistently. Miracles have definitely been happening :) We seriously can't do it without the help of the ward here though! It's not only just the Elders and Sisters that are pushing missionary work but it's the ENTIRE ward that is pushing missionary work which is making our work a lot more fun when you get to ALWAYS work with the members. It's been teaching me just how key members are in this work and that we really do need the help from EVERYONE to reach the full potential that our Heavenly Father wants us to reach.

My favorite day this week was for sure on Friday night when we were able to go on splits with Bishop Sergucio and our second councelor AC Ligot. Our bishopric here are the best! I've learned so much from them on how to become a better missionary but not only that, how to develop a stronger relationship with our Father in Heaven. Anyways, I went with Bishop Sergucio to our far area in Barit and that was an adventure in itself. I wasn't able to communicate, at all, because the people that we taught ONLY knew how to speak Ilocano, which leads me to thinking that I need to not only learn Tagalog, but learn Ilocano at the same time. The two dialects are COMPLETELY different but it'll be fun to try and learn both. My mission call states that I'll be speaking Tagalog so that will of course be my main focus but there's a lot of other people who just don't know how to speak Tagalog so I'll be teaching myself Ilocano along with Tagalog :)

 There's soooooo many things that happened through out the week that I can't really put into words in an email but things that I'll never forget. The Philippines is something new EVERY day. I love it :)

There's a typhoon down by Manila that brought like 5 minutes of rain to Laoag this past week but there's a lot of missionaries in Laoag who have family down there so pray for them please :)

We just got done with a quad zone activity at Morcos Stadium today which was probably the most fun I've had in a long time. It wasn't much, it was playing rugby, football and basketball. But the best part was just being with all of the Elders and Sisters! They're the best! Learning Rugby from Australians and Eldrs from New Zealand and Fiji was pretty fun! We have a lot of different cultures in our mission. About 50% are from the Philippines, 25% are from the states and the other 25% are from Islands like New Zealand, Kirabati, Fiji and Austrialia. It's fun being able to be with all of them :)

The biggest learning that I had this week was to learn how to truly be thankful for the blessings which have already happened. Of course we all want more blessings and to progress, but when you take the time to really see the blessings that have ALREADY been given to you is when you REALLY start to see and UNDERSTAND how the Lord has helped you in your life. My evening prayer last night lasted me until about midnight because I was trying to give thanks for everything that I have been given in my life. For me, when I did that, it became so clear to me just how much our Heavenly Father loves us and how much he wants to help us in EVERYTHING that we do. And he will, if we ask for it :)

I love you all so much and hope you all have a great week!!! I'll talk to you all soon :)

Mahal Kita

Elder Oslund

Monday, January 12, 2015

Kamusta! (How are you?)

Hello again everyone!

This week was such a powerful and such a great growing experience! I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!
Let's start off with the people that we have been concentrating on...

So we've been teaching John Neil and Cornell through out the week and we're wayyy too excited for them! After one of our lessons while we were walking back from Barit (Our farthest point of the area) Elder Risenmay told me the first time he taught Cornell with his trainer was a bad day for Cornell. Come to find out Cornell hadn't just been inactive for a little bit but has been inactive for over 20 YEARS. The first lesson that they taught him he had a hangover and was completely out of it. They only went back once after that, and my first couple of days here was his 3rd lesson. But my first Sunday was his first Sunday back. Now, he's fully active and IS GOING TO BAPTIZE HIS CHILDREN. HOW AMAZING IS THAT?!! That is NOTHING short of a miracle!!! It's so evident how the atonement has played a role in his life for the last 8 weeks. I'm so excited for them!!

There's some things that happened to Allen Rae this week. His parents don't completely approve of him being baptized. They want him to make sure he knows EVERYTHING in the church before he is baptized. And his mom's advice is really good she said, "If he gets baptized I don't want him to fall away from the church right after but I want him to be a faithful member." That made us really happy but she said that he needs to wait until after 15 years old. That really really hurt me because you can see and feel that he is ready.He's done EVERYTHING he needs to do to be baptized and has already read 3/4 of the Book of Mormon. But when we started the lesson you could see how scared he was of making the covenants of baptism. The look of fear in his eyes reminded me a lot like myself when I was 14 years old talking to the missionaries about my own baptism. I was scared to death. I didn't know if I was ready. But when I shared with him my sacred and personal experience of baptism I truly feel like I felt "the pure love of Christ" for him. I felt as if I was the missionaries teaching myself when I was 14 years old. So often times when I study for Allen I ask "What did I need, and what did I need to feel for me to be baptized" I love that guy so much!!!! The spirit was the strongest I think i ever felt in that lesson and I don't think I EVER loved someone as much as I loved him at that point in time. I truly looked at him and saw him as a child of our Heavenly Father who NEEDED this to return to His presence again. And...HE WENT TO CHURCH :) he liked church so much that he went to the area broadcast after but left early because an investigator going to an area broadcast is probably very very confusing haha. I love that family so much!!!

When you learn to put aside all other thoughts and worries back home, and what's going to happen after this mission, and truly become a fully consecrated missionary is when you feel the purest joy and the most love for the people who you serve for and with. I don't think I have ever developed such amazing relationships with other people in my life and ESPECIALLY developing a relationship with the Savior.

I'm seriously too blessed to be here speaking this language and helping others be able to return to our Heavenly Father. THIS IS THE LORD'S WORK!!!

The love you're able to feel for other people is incomprehensible, you really really really want them to experience the fullest amount of joy in their lives...and take it from me...there's NOTHING that brings greater joy than the gospel :)

Miracles are happening in the Philippines and I'm SO excited and blessed to be apart of it! The work is just the beginning in the Philippines!!! :)

Well that's it for me here this week! I love you all and hope you all are finding joy in your lives as well!!!! :)

Mahal kita,

Elder Oslund

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ano ang Pinakadakilang Biyaya sa Inyong Buhay? (What is the greatest blessing in your life?)

Hello everyone! Happy 2015!

"What is the greatest blessing in your life?" 

If any of you are wondering we made it through New Years just fine! I was so surprised at how much they celebrated the New Years here. We had to go into our apartments at 5 PM and it's a good thing that we did. From 5 PM -3 AM there was nothing but fireworks coming at every direction you can imagine. Just imagine a 10 hour grand finale haha. It sounds cool until you try to go to bed at 10:30. But they sure do celebrate the New Years pretty well here! They flood the streets all day, and it was impossible trying to get any lessons on New Years Eve because everyone just wanted to feed us haha. It was amazing for sure!

This week was pretty amazing. Allen Rae is awesome. He shared his testimony about how when he was younger he read a lot of different Bibles and he said that they were all different, every single church had a different set of scriptures and when the missionaries came over and gave him a Book of Mormon he felt more of a direction in his life. He's been reading from The Book of Mormon and praying everyday and you can literally see the change in him from lesson to lesson. I love that kid! He's still having some trouble coming to church though which is very disappointing because once you have that testimony you NEED to act on it and show your faith by keeping the commandments. He's awesome though, I'm so grateful to be able to teach him!

The Cleto family is doing amazing as well. Cornelio is becoming such a strong example to his family's life about living the gospel and how the gospel blesses families. I've seen first hand how much difference there is in a family who is founded on the gospel and a family who isn't. It's like night and day for them! They just seem happier, closer, and have received so many blessings as far as work, school, and family matters. Our Heavenly Father loves His children here so much! It's amazing to see the changes in people's lives everyday.

We taught a lot of less-active members through out this past week to try and get them on a good start to 2015. We often asked "What is the greatest blessing in your life?" That question set the pace for the rest of the lesson. A lot of them said work (it's extremely hard to find jobs in the Philippines), school, family, friends, and some said church. 

Whatever the reason was I told them the greatest blessings in my own life. I had to think about it, but it wasn't that hard to come up with the answer to that question. There's no doubt that the greatest blessings in my life has been the love of the Savior for me, personally, and my family. I never realized just how much I loved my family until I came out on my mission. They're seriously the greatest!

It was so great to see most of the less-actives that we taught start off the new year strong and come to church on the first week.You can see how nervous they were to come back but you can see how they were able feel the Savior's love for them, personally as well.

On top of those blessings that I named I just want to share a few more. I am extremely grateful for The Book of Mormon, I never realized until about a month ago just how much power that book contains. I've been able to see it change my own life and I have been able to witness it's power in other people's lives as well.

I'm grateful for my decision to be baptized and later my decision to go on a mission. Both of those didn't come at an easy price. I promised to make commitments and to follow those commitments for the rest of my life, in turn, a lot of sacrifices and a lot of hardships and trials have happened. But all of them were eventually overcome by the Savior's atonement. I LOVE BEING ON MY MISSION. It's been by far the best decision I've made. But each day is a different trial and a different opportunity to grow and get better.

And I AM SO GRATEFUL TO BE HERE IN THE PHILIPPINES!!! I don't know where else I would rather serve. I love the people here so much, the members are the best and I've been able to learn and grow so much from them. I really can't tell you how much I love them. 

It's been weird being here though. Since I've been talking almost always in Tagalog whenever i speak English I say the English words with an accent. I hear a lot of Elders and Sisters from the states that have been here for 15 months+ and they all have accents. I never would have thought that I would develop that but looks like I already am! 

Well guys I love you all! I hope everyone has a great week this week and starts out the 2015 year strong! I'm so grateful to be doing this work here for this entire year!!! :)

Mahal kita!

Elder Oslund