Sunday, April 12, 2015

Week 79: General Conference, Transfers, and Transformation

Hey family :)

Hope you all had took the opportunity to listen to the words of the living Prophets and Apostles of Jesus Christ. Not only listening but restudying the topics. I am so grateful for their words and guidance. They are truly called of God.

This week we finish our zone interviews and embark on the next chapter. We are now focused on transfers. Can't believe how fast it has come. I will be very sad to see Elder Mabolot my current companion leave. He has taught me so much! Among the many things I admire about him, I have learned most about humility, diligence and listening. Listening to the Spirit and to people. Just looking back on my mission I don't what I have done but I have been so greatly blessed with amazing companions... I know he will be able to do a lot of good in his next assignment. I now also know who my next companion will be. I am very excited to begin serving him and with him this week :) Transfers are not till April 23 but we will bring him in this Thursday so we can begin training him. I am really excited. I actually was roommates with this Elder. To be honest it was a bit of a shock, but I felt at perfect peace. I know he is the right person and who the Lord needs.

I am still very positive and upbeat and just absolutely loving this work...If you can call it work. It just feels like life and fun. It has become a way of living and it is something that I can't explain Before y mission, I remember listening to a returned missionary talk about studying the Book of Mormon. He said, "Studying the Book of Mormon became the highlight of my day." I remember thing to myself - ya right, how is that possible? Well, I know that what he said is true. I never thought studying the Gospel could be such a fulfilling endeavor. I can say with integrity that I hunger and thirst for the words of Christ, and that hunger is insatiable and that thirst is unquenchable. I have never in my life gone to sleep looking forward to study the Book of Mormon the next day. That book has transformed and is transforming my heart. There have been many things that have drawn me close to my Father in Heaven such as fervent prayer, fasting, serving others church attendance But nothing like this Book. If you want to find God in your life, I mean really find God in your life, I testify that your own efforts in studying and living the priciples contained within the Book of Mormon will get you on the right path. Then the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ will carry you. Even if it is just a desire to believe cultivate that seed of faith and see where it takes you. As one of the weakest of the weak, I am doing it. I know you can to it too.

I love each of you dearly and am excited to Skype with you in 4 weeks? I think that's what Mom said at least haha (and we know she is right!!). Please forgive me for the lack of emails and recordings...I am just trying to focus as much as I can here. I will only be here in the Philippines as a representative of Jesus Christ for 13 more weeks. If we keep our covenants, I will be with you all for eternity.

Love you,
Elder Watkins

Monday, March 16, 2015

Week 75: Transfer Week aka Organized Chaos, Missionary Recovery Center, and Overcoming Addictions with the Atonement

Hey Family!

Sorry about last week and no family email! :(

Well, we survived. It was transfer week and it is actually quite amazing to see over 250 missionaries spread out through the Philippines receive instruction on Wednesday and then travel Thursday morning by bus, jeepey, or tryke and arrive in their new area and get to work! It's pretty crazy to think about. Of those 250, probably half are foreigners from 18-20 or so years old, and traveling around the Philippines to places they have never been  and no one gets lost! It's crazy but it happens. It is the Lord's work.

With this transfer over and the new one starting, we now shift our gaze to prepare for MLC again and uh oh, zone interviews...All 11 zones. So from March 31 - April 14 we will hit all 11 zones and have an MLC in the middle. It is going to be a super busy and exciting time! We have started to prepare for interviews. And we are all really excited for our training. We are trying to shift this transfer to focus on application. The past have been more on instructions and us teaching, but now we are really going to dig in and involve everyone. We are coming up with some cool ideas for our workshops of how to get everyone involved and make it a super interactive experience. Actually, I don't know if any of you care about this... I just realized this is probably boring to you, but it gets me excited haha

But last week my companion Elder Mabalot got sick and had to go to the emergency room. He had some serious stomach pain. Well, it was just a result of lack of sleep due to stress. The past few months he hasn't been able to sleep and his body has been suffering because of it... :/ So after that he got sent down to Manila to the MRC or Missionary Recovery Center for 2 days. He came back and is doing better. I am lucky to have him for 6 more weeks. He is such a work horse and the most humble person. I wish you could meet him. He may move to Idaho with his aunt. It's funny like it's not very common to go to America, but of my companions that I have had Elder Gomez, Elder Choresca, Elder Delante, and Elder Mabalot all have chances and hopes of moving to America!

While Elder Mabalot was in Manila I was able to work with the Office Elders in their area. We actually had a really cool teaching experience. We were reviewing the  plan for the day and on the list of people to teach was a lady named Gina. I asked about her story - she was a long time investigator, about 50 years old and has been coming to church for almost 6 months now. She wants really badly to get baptized. Her concern is that she is a big time smoker. They said she used to smoke about 20 sticks a day, but is now at around 8-10 a day, which is improvement but she can't seem to drop any lower. They asked what should we teach?! I asked if they had used Chapter 10 'Teaching Skills' in Preach My Gospel in helping people overcome addictions. They said no. We went there and read together the doctrine and principles and some application ideas. We together chose one that we felt could help Sister Gina. We went to the lesson and upon teaching we found out she had started smoking when she was 11 and became heavily addicted and has been ever since. She has NEVER gone without smoking - amazing. Anyways we asked how many she had smoked that day and she said 8. We talked to her about what smoking is causing her to miss now and what it will cause her to iss in the future. We talked about her desire to be baptized and why she wanted to be baptized. We then committed her to stop smoking. She then said Ok I will try "unti unti" or little by little. We said no, now, tomorrow you will not like a single cigarette She said she had never done it tomorrow but said she felt inspired to do so The next day, the Elder followed up and reported back to me (because we are roommates) that she smoked ZERO cigarettes!! The next day they reported again that she still had not smoked a single cigarette!! They said in her house where the usual packs of smokes were, are barren! All that remains are the pictures of Jesus Christ we put in those places where the packs were and where she feels tempted to smoke! We also put one in her wallet so that when she feels like she should buy some, there is one more reminder for her. It's awesome! Hopefully she can continue to keep it up and get baptized this April! :) It's so great to see the Gospel and the Atonement of Jesus Christ help people break free and obtain joy in their lives :) I love this church!

Well family I hope all is well with you...You mean so much to me.

Love you,
Elder Watkins

Friday, March 13, 2015

Week 74: Elder Bitters in Lake Tahoe, Hypnobirthing, and Sister Jones in The Batch

This week Elder Watkins did not have time to write a family email.  He did respond to a personal email from his mother :) Elder Watkins mentioned that his companion was having health problems :( and that he was a bit jealous that Elder Bitters was going to be spending time with us in Lake Tahoe at a lacrosse tournament in June...

I don't believe in coincidences...This week was super busy for me. Four nights in a row with no prospects of being on call. Plus I had a student in tow, which often means that I would have only one patient at a time. But on Thursday night, my fourth of four nights in a row, I had no such luck. I started the shift with two, yes two, 1:1 patients. I know that doesn't make any sense. I had one patient laboring unmedicated, and my other was not happy that she had to wait all day before coming in at 6 pm to be induced. My student isn't independent so I basically had to manage my two patients and my student. Not the best situation to start a shift, but I had decided to make the best of the situation.

My first patient who delivered that night was having her first baby. I really can't provide much detail but she was hypnobirthing, and did incredible. I think hers was the most amazing unmedicated delivery I have attended, especially for a first time mom. After baby was born, her mother who is Filipina, and other visitors were in the room. The mom tried speaking to me in Tagalog haha. I told her that I didn't speak the language. She pointed to my patient's friend and said that she was born and raised here too, but she speaks Tagalog fluently. She learned it while living in Angeles on a church mission...

I asked Sister Jones if she knew my Elder Watkins (there were two Elder Watkinses from Utah in the Angeles Mission at the same time). She said that they were in the same batch! They even flew to the Philippines on the same plane! We talked for a bit and took pics to send to Elder Watkins. Oh the sweet tender mercies of the Lord :)

Me (Elder Watkins' mom) and Sister Jones!!
(haha yes this is what I look like on the fourth night
of four night shifts in a row - a first for me!)
Meeting this sweet Sister Jones is a treat!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Week 73: Countless Blessings for the Faithful, Big Fish, and Missionary Leaders Council

Hey family love you all tons!

So this week was awesome. I was able to go on exchanges with the Zone Leaders here in Tarlac and we went to visit one of my recent converts, Sister Abigail Ong, along with her whole family. Of course, I get to see their family every Sunday at church, but it is different being able to sit with them and have a discussion about the Gospel and how it applies to their life. Anyways last time I was able to meet with them at their home was early January, only a few weeks following her baptism. She had expressed some deep concern to Elder Delante and I about how her life is getting so much more difficult after she got baptized and started paying tithing. She said she didn't doubt she had made the right choice in joining the church, she said God made known unto her the truth, but she was looking for those promised blessings desperately. And that was back in January. Now fast forward to this week. We went and visited the Ong family, I was with both Zone Leaders of Tarlac and I was just observing basically the lesson as they taught faith and repentance. When they looked at me indicating it was my turn to share, I didn't have much to add because they had spoken a lot and covered the material extensively. So I just asked Sister Ong if the things they were saying were true. "Has faith in Jesus Christ and sincere repentance brought the increased peace and joy you are looking for?" I was listening intently for her answer because last I had checked, she and her family had been struggling. She looked down at the floor and seemed to be pondering. I saw a tear flow and fall to the floor as she nodded her head in the affirmative, after another pause she explained how she and her family have been the recipients of countless blessings. She started crying again as she explained that God was blessing them so much that she didn't feel like they even deserved. She even went on to say how trials are actually getting more difficult and things are still not improving financially, but they feel at peace in putting their faith in God. Knowing he will provide if they stay faithful.

Moments like that just melt your heart as a missionary. I wouldn't trade that feeling of joy for anything. Not a touchdown, state championship, or money. Can't wait for those of you who are coming to meet the Ong family. Also this last Sunday Bother Jesus Tolentino was able to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood!! How amazing is that!! Baptisms that go through and receive the Melchizedek Priesthood are what we call "Big Fish." He has now arranged his working schedule so that he can attend all three meetings at church. Since October, he has not missed a single Sacrament meeting. His wife, Sister Tolentino, who has fully returned to activity, was called to the Relief Society 2nd Counselor and bore a powerful testimony yesterday about how the church is changing the direction of their entire family. I also saw ninay Lolita and Carlos at church again this week! They never miss!!! Ninay keeps telling me she she's getting smarter as she reads the Book of Mormon daily. Sister Teresa was also there, another recent convert who was baptized in December. She always attends but she was fellow shipping an investigator! We show up to church ad she was sitting next to an investigator who attended church for the time. She was talking to her about the hymns and sacrament and what we do for fast and testimony, it was way cool!!! It is way hard to get member to to fellowship even when you ask them, but Sister Teresa was all over it and she is just a brand new member!

This coming week will be the busiest of the entire transfer...Tuesday we have a 12 hour training session (MLC) at the Mission Home. We will be training all the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders. After which, Wednesday we interview all the Zone Leaders and discuss the work in each zone. Thursday we have 4 training sessions of 2 hours each training Trainers and Trainees, and also all the District Leaders. After which Friday we have exchanges up in Baler. I'll be going on exchanges with Elder Gordon so that will be cool. Then Wednesday the new arriving missionaries come, and that is a full day of training; then Thursday is the transfer day which is chaos at the office haha... So it is a loaded week filled with opportunities to serve, work, and learn. Super exciting.

Well, I love each of you and I love this work. I love being a missionary, and serving my Father in Heaven and my Master, Jesus Christ. They live and love us.

Elder Watkins

This was just a view I thought was beautiful. The picture didn't do the scene justice...

My companion Elder Mabalot and Me

This is me at the temple with the sisters who were in my district at the MTC!
They are going home now so I was able to take them to the temple for their last visit. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Week 70: Cruising with Missionaries, Consequences of Split Second Decisions, and Receiving Temple Endowments

Fun stories of crashing and jeepneys and angry old women

First I owe an apology that I did not write a family email last week! I thought I had 2 hours but we randomly got assigned to leave so I just had to leave! Hope you still love me because I still love you :) Thanks for the recording Dad! You're the best! :) For the record I did record this week :) So don't you worry chap :)

Well, first news is about the monthly Mission Leadership Council that transpired this last week. So we had all the Zone Leaders sleep at our house the night before and the following morning I was traveling to the Mission Home with a van full of missionaries... Well, I was following behind a jeepney, the most common public transportation system in the Philippines, and something dreadful happened. First, to understand - a jeepney is like a long truck with an opening in the back and 2 parallel benches that can seat anywhere from 10-20 people in the back. It just stops in the road whenever a passenger would like to ride... So I was just cruising in my white van, bumping some crazy Mormon Tabernacle Choir, when I notice a lady raise her hand to stop the jeepney. The jeepney immediately in front of me was about to pass the hopeful passenger and proceeded to SLAM on his brakes! I had 2 options: 1. Slam on the brakes and get smashed by the semi truck following me closely in the rear and fly into the jeepney in front of me... or 2. Swerve with the house cat reflexes into the left lane with a car speedily approaching but at my 8 o'clock position... I chose number 2.

And because we prayed before we know what happened?? :):) None of us died... but we hit the car in the left lane..bleh... So the lady comes flying out of her car with her husband yelling all manner of blasphemies at my window. I was in shock and about 5 seconds later I noticed they were yelling at me in Tagalog. I rolled down my window and said, "Are you hurt?" they said they were fine then continued gibbering in Tagalog, I then said, "Calm down, stop talking and listen to me." It was actually kind of funny, I meant to be nice but it came out really angry and rude...  I got out of the car and assessed the damage. My companion Elder Mabalot took the other missionaries to the mission home and left me with Elder Antoni, who like saved me. Anyways the husband in the car I hit said the damage would be around 5000 pesos. There quite literally was a dent the size of a quarter and some scuffed paint... I responded by saying I would give him 200 pesos... He didn't like that  hahaha. Anyways, there happened to be an auto body shop just up the street. We went as a group and got the estimate. They said 2000 pesos... I then just wanted it over and done with so I pulled out some stack of paper and handed them 2000 pesos. The angry couple saw the money and changed lol...The lady like grabbed my hand and started kissing it and apologizing and then started asking about the 'Mormons' lol... I just tell myself because of the accident, that family will get baptized so that hole in my pocket of 2000 pesos doesn't hurt so bad...

Elder Mabalot, Elder Watkins, President and Sister Clark, et al
I then had to proceed to our MLC and present the training after this dramatizing experience... and I was contemplating how to tell President Clark about the incident... It was a very stressful morning to say the least... By the way when I told President Clark what happened he just asked if anyone got hurt. I said no, and then he just laughed and said "Good, it's all over!" We told some jokes about the crash and that was the end of it! A much better ending to what I thought would result in severe chastisement and even reprimandment of my driving privileges :)

So I just got back from Manila. We left this morning at 5AM and just got back and it is 430PM now. And we are now just at the mission office waiting for another sister to arrive to take her to the other side of the mission and then come back. So we will probably leave at 5 and then get back at around 7PM. So it was quite the busy day of driving everywhere. Then this Wednesday, I will head back to Manila again! But this time for an exciting reason. Sister Nela Francisco from my first area is receiving her endowments along with her older brother and sister! I am way excited for them and also for the great blessing to be able to be present at their endowment :) That will definitely be the highlight of the week, if not one of the highlights of the mission.  Helping people progress to the covenant of baptism is amazing, but to know that they have continued their growth over one entire year and are now ready to enter the House of the Lord is amazing! And yes mom...I will take pictures haha :)

Well I love each of you so much!!! Have a fantabulous week! :)

Elder Watkins
Suited up and ready to play
Elder Monroe, Elder Watkins, and Elder Gomez

Monday, January 26, 2015

Week 68: A New Assignment and Companion; Faith, Prayer, and Revelation; Quoting Elder Bitters' Quote... :)

Hello my progenitors :) I want to express my love and appreciation for each of you :) You are all amazing.

So this week has been one of the craziest weeks of my mission...hence, no recordings. Since Wednesday I have been engaged almost all working hours of the day, but not in proselyting work. I have received a new assignment from the Lord through President Clark to serve as his Assistant. I accepted the assignment even though I feel inadequate. I will, however, exercise faith and trust in the Lord's promise, "Whom the Lord calls, He qualifies." I know that He will stretch me in this new assignment. I have only bee here since Wednesday and I do not recall being on my knees, fervently praying like this. I have always had a special testimony about prayer, but I can see how the Lord is humbling me through this. I now know that I cannot do this on my own. I desperately need his guiding hand, and I need my spiritual insight to recognize his influence in my life. Through just a few days, I can feel myself relying and drawing ever closer to my Father in Heaven As I move closer to Him, I recognize that I am also humbling myself. What a glorious relationship. As we humble ourselves and direct our hearts to the will of our Father's, we are lifted up. I know this is true.

I am also ecstatic to be working so closely with President Clark. He has been a great role model for me and I admire him greatly. I am now blessed to be able to serve him in a much more intimate way. I am able to witness him receiving revelation. What a blessing. I am also better understanding how the Lord reveals His will to us. He often gives little hints as to the direction we are to journey and expects us to continue in Faith. If we are obedient and humble, he will not let us stray. I know in my life, and in the lives of the people I teach and work with, often we expect revelation or guidance to come in a blaze of glory! Or expect that the revelation will have a step by step A-Z. Sometime this may happen, but because our Father loves us, he lets us figure it out so we can grow and progress. I am grateful for a loving God who allows me to choose but will also guide me along the way. Anyways I will be so happy to work with President Clark. I will also be able to serve the missionaries in our mission. That is a great blessing for me as I love the missionaries here. I earnestly desire their success. I just want to see them be happy and obedient. When I see growth in an investigator, when I see growth in a missionary, it is the same to me. I love them both so much and yearn to see their progression and conversion. One thing I am nervous about is driving. I will be acquiring my license tomorrow and we will see how driving in the Philippines goes...Upon my return to the States I may drive like a mad man...

My new companion is Elder Mabalot. He is Filipino from the northernmost part of the Philippines. It is said to be chilly there. As in 70 degrees. People sport sweaters and jackets there on the regular. He is from La Union! Where my previous companion Elder Ofiana is from! What a coincidence! And you know what else is a coincidence? Elder Ofiana and I share an apartment! We are roommates!! Haha unbelievable...Elder Ofiana is an Office Elder. His role is similar to that of a secretary He deals with a large volume of reports and other mission business bleh...haha. Back to Elder Mabalot, he is 22 and initially from the Philippines Tacloban Mission. However, he was re-assigned here after the horrid hurricane "Yolanda" of last year. Elder Mabalot was also assigned in Arayat, my previous area. As in terms of my "New" Area, I actually just relocated houses down the street. I will be attending Tarlac Ward 4! So I will still be with all the recent converts and members I have met while serving the past 4 months! That is awesome. However, President Clark mentioned I may be here for 3-4 transfers as of now. This means I may only have 3 areas in my entire mission! Good and a bad thing. Either way "Come what may and love it"  Whatever or wherever the Lord needs Elder Watkins, he will do the Lord's will.

I love each of you greatly. Have a fantastic week :)

Elder Watkins

Monday, December 22, 2014

Week 66: Elder Delante, Becoming Celestial, and Conversion and Faith

Best Friends,

I do mean best friends, I cherish the relationships I share with each of you and love you all so very dearly.

So much good is happening and it is all happening so fast.

I'll start by informing you about my new companion. His name is Elder Delante. He was born in Cebu, then moved to Dubai. He continued residence in Dubai for 5 years, age 2-7 years old. English became his first language and upon returning to the islands he had to learn Tagalog and Cebuano. His dad to this day continues his occupation of computer technician in Dubai. The whole Delante family are members and Elder Delante is the eldest of two children. His is 1 transfer ahead of me in the mission and I'd say his most striking Christlike attribute is Kindness. He also just received the call to be Zone Leader so I am fortunate to have him as a companion and to train him. I believe we will do grand things together. He is just such a lovable person :)

This Saturday, 3 of my spiritual brothers and sisters will become selestiyal (I forgot how to spell it in English) candidates. Ninay Lolita, Jesus Tolentino and Abigail Ong. Each of them have inspiring conversion stories, and motivate me to be better.

Ninay Lolita is a widow. She only completed 1 year of high school. She has a hard time remembering things due to her old delicate age. Upon meeting us, she confessed she did not know how to read We explained how God looks into her heart for faith. Well she attended church the next day after meeting the missionaries and showed her faith She attended the Gospel Principles class and was called upon to read a selected scripture fro the Book of Mormon. I glanced at her daughter and her husband to see nervous countenances...We wanted to spare Ninay Lolita the embarrassment. She grasped the holy text handed to her by the instructor and stared at the page for a few moments. With awe evident in our expressions and joy beaming from Ninay Lolita, she began slowly reading. She now can read, and due to her humble nature "boasts of her God's strength."

Abigail Ong has taught me about conversion and repentance through working with her these past few months. Earlier today, she completed her interview with President Clark. After the interview President called us into the room. After a moment of silence he said, "Elders, that is a very impressive woman. That will become an eternal family." I could go on and on about the Ong faily and even the Tolentinos, but I will refrain for now.

I am so excited to skype with you all this Wednesday :) I wish you all Merry Christmas and happy holidays :)

Elder Watkins

Abish My favorite baby in the Philippines.
Youngest child of the Ongs. She speaks English.

This is a picture of a family home evening hosted by the Ong family.
Elder Birth and Elder Daylosan tagged along as they were staying at our house that night. 
Sister Abigail Ong's baptism is the saturday :)