Sunday, December 29, 2013

Week 16: Skype with Elder Watkins, Christmas Pictures!, and Sis Francisco's Baptism

This week's communication was mostly pictures and messaging back and forth. Since it takes a long time for Elder Watkins' pictures to upload and send, he spent most of his time doing that and messaging with us. We have had many miracles and tender mercies from Heaven. One of the first tender mercies was as Elder Watkins was leaving the Salt Lake Airport. He had gone through security and was gone from our site. On the long drive home, I received a text message from a sister in our ward - Sue Sherwin. It was a picture of Dustin and Sue! (you can see the pic on the Sept 11 post). She and her husband Bob were on the same flight to Detroit! 

We had sent Elder Watkins package before he left in September for the MTC and another a couple weeks later. He hadn't received them until after he left the MTC and was in his first area, about 11 weeks after he left the States. We were concerned that if we sent him packages for his birthday and Christmas, he would not receive them in time. The decision was made not to send any packages for his birthday or Christmas and that if he found something he liked or needed he could buy it and we would put money in his account. No Christmas package? What kind of mother does he have?!  Well, Bob and Sue Sherwin again provide a tender mercy and a Christmas miracle! The week before Thanksgiving they would be traveling to Manila! They offered to carry a package with them for Elder Watkins and mail it from Manila to him! I jumped at the chance, considering carefully what I could put in a package that would bring Christmas to Elder Watkins from home. I assumed the package the Sherwins offered to carry was about the size of a small shoe box. Mariah went to the Sherwin's home to pick up the bag they were going to carry Christmas was a ginormous duffle bag! My mind wend crazy! What should I send? hmmm, if I put nothing else in, I could probably fit me in there!!! I decided against that idea and went with regular Christmas gifts a missionary might want.  Thank you Bob and Sue!!! They are definitely angels to our family. 

Elder Watkins in his apartment with a Christmas tree from home :)
Best Christmas present ever! Skyping with Elder Watkins 

Elder Watkins at a Ward Christmas Party. He said that when Filipinos see a picture being taken, they want to join in! That's where photo bombing originated...

Elder Watkins stayed up until 2:30 to set up stockings. He was so excited to do this for his companion and roomies!

Elder Watkins under the Christmas tree

Elder Gomez

Elder Bausing

Elder Gordon

Elder Watkins

Elder Gomez, Sister Francisco, Elder Watkins December 29, 2013 Sister Noela Francisco's Baptism Day

Elder Watkins and Sister Noela Francisco on her Baptism Day December 29, 2014

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Week 14: Cold Weather, Purifying Ourselves, and Testimony of Prayer


How is it in the cold weather out there? As for me, it is winter as well in the Pino Islands, but it is a brisk mid 70s at night and a cool mid to high 80s during the day. Even the locals recognize how cold it is here and wear hoodies during this time of the year ;)

Anyways, this week was fun and trying...We went to a member's house a few weeks ago to pick her up so she could work with us. She wasn't home but we met her younger sister  Nela. She is 22 and very shy. We taught her cleansed from sin through Christ, and it was an amazing lesson. She was baptized when she was 8 but never went to Church or knew anything about the Church. From the lesson we taught she gained such a strong desire to come to Church. She has attended four straight weeks! Last week we gave her an assignment to read 1 Nephi 1; Nela read to 1 Nephi 13! She apologized and said, "I just like reading the Book of Mormon so much!" We looked up her record and for some reason she was baptized when she was 7. So we need to rebaptize her, which is no problem. Unfortunately, some members heard about it and were teasing her. She texted us crying about how she is really trying to do the right things, but why are people being rude to her for following Christ? It made me so sad. It also made me realize we must clean the inner vessel first; in this case, the ward. But on a personal level we must sanctify, or purify, ourselves to become better. We can't expect to be in the service of God without first being clean ourselves (and, yes, we are all His servants!).  I am really re-evaluating myself these coming months to look for way to improve my obedience and be a better and more proficient laborer in the Lord's vineyard. As I do so, I will be able to be more spiritually sensitive to opportunities to serve, and help others come to Christ. I pray we all can do the same that we will take this special time of year to evaluate ourselves and look for ways to better serve our family, neighbors, work associates, and even strangers. I know as we pray for way to improve the Lord will tell us what needs to be done and provide a means for it to be accomplished - 1 Nephi 3:7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way fro them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

 I also want to testify of the power of prayer. This week I got really sick. I finished the day of work but it was difficult and interrupted by frequent hurling and bathroom visits...without toilet paper... Anyways, I was in really bad pain all night and tried to go to sleep around 9:30. At around 4 am I still hadn't been able to fall asleep; and as you may know, I fall asleep like it's nothing. I was just rolling in bed because my stomach hurt so bad. I decided to pray. This time on aloud and on my knees. I first thanked him for the opportunity to be on a mission and serve. I explained my desire to serve and fulfill my purpose here in the Philippines. I then expressed my thought on how this sickness would prevent me from working and serving Him. I even stated that I am entitled to help as I am on His errand as promised in D&C. I ended the prayer and fell asleep with no pain in less than 5 minutes. It was amazing to go from severe pain to peace so fast. I know that our prayers are heard and that He cares for us.

I love you guys and hope you are able to listen to the Christmas devotional. It was awesome! But take to heart the Prophet's message "Remember and celebrate Him who gave us purpose to live" - Russell M. Nelson

Love you all and send my warmest Christmas wishes through this email!!!
Hopefully we'll all figure out Skype haha :)

-Elder Watkins

Monday, December 2, 2013

Week 12: First Baptism!, Exact Obedience and the Lord's Help

What's up everyone!

So, first I got 2 packages from you, and thanks so much! I was so excited! I didn't find much use for the Halloween decorations as it is nearly Christmas...but thanks Mom :) My favorite thing that was in the package was no doubt the picture album. I loved all the pictures and talking with the other Elders about my family. Ah, you all are the best!!

This week was quite exciting. We had our first baptism on Saturday! It's been the first baptism here in a very long time. Elder Gomez has been here now 4 months and that was his first also And before that, the only baptism was a 8 year old member family. So no convert baptisms in over 6 months! Miracles are happening ad it's awesome. We just try to be obedient to the best of our ability to qualify for the Lord's help. In the Pearl of Great Price, the Book of Moses:6, we learn about Enoch. He was called as a missionary but didn't believe he was qualified. He said the people hate me, I am but a lad, and am slow of speech. He followed the Lord's commandments with exactness, however, and became such a powerful servant of the Lord that i verse 34 the Lord says he will justify everything Enoch says. "The very mountains will flee before you, and the rivers will turn their course."  Even though Elder Gomez and I are lads, me barely 19 and him 19 as well, we can accomplish great things if we obey with exactness and exercise faith in the Lord.

Actually this week I had some proof of that. The Lord promises that we "will not be confounded before men." Well, I went on exchanges with the zone leader Elder Leduna this week, and asked if we could work in my area. I was excited to lead the area to kin of see where I was at  and learn a lot. Well, in one of the lessons we were teaching Brother Gaspar. He is 50 or 60, and was a Methodist Pastor. He has a much more extensive knowledge of the Bible than me of course, but not necessarily correct understanding. But he knows more verses and everything than me. We got into a sort of debate, mainly about being born again and if we were children of God or not. Interestingly enough, the day before I studied Baptism and learned about being born again and studied the verse he kept referring to in John 3...verse 6 I believe; but anyways I didn't quite fully understand it when I was studying, but it clicked while teaching. He would pose questions and I had answers. Not only answers, but answers that caused him to think and question himself. Elder Laduna had a scripture pop into his head that he though would really help explain that we are children of God. We both didn't know where in the Bible it exactly was, or even what book for that matter. So I just opened up my Bible to a random page and BOOM! Romans 8:16! haha I was shocked! "The Spirit beareth witness that...we are the children of God" I was amazed and knew the Lord helps his servants. After the lesson Elder Leduna said that was the best Tagalog I had spoken. The Lord qualifies us in our time of need. He calls the unlearned to teach the wise. Same with Joseph Smith. I have often wondered 'Wow! a 14 year old boy' But there is no better age! Innocent yet not too young. He wasn't well educated. Just had the basics. He was perfect for the job to restore the Church. I know that even though I'm young and look younger than I am, the Lord will help me and qualify the things I say.

Anyways, have a great week fam! Thanks again for all the support.
Mahal ko kayo!!
-Elder Watkins

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Week 11 Recording: Conspiracy Theory, Meeting Oliver, Pig Rats and Tapeworms

Elder Watkins was really busy this week so we only had one recording this week, but it was filled with lots of fun stories. The first was more information about the man he and one of his roommates met at the market. This American left the States 20 years ago and moved to the Philippines, believing that the whole world was owned and controlled by 13 people. There was no way to get any job that paid above minimum wage unless you have connections to one of the 13. He also claimed that he was the only one in the whole world that could prove there is a God using scientific facts. Elder Watkins thought this man, his conspiracy theories, and his Tagalog were entertaining.

My cousin Oliver was at a seminar in Manila for work and wanted to go to Cabanatuan to meet Dustin. Oliver's mother and my mom are sisters; we have never met any of our relatives on my mom's side of the family, and this would be the first contact between our two sides of the family. I couldn't give Oliver an address or phone number for Elder Watkins because I don't have one; actually he doesn't even have a street address. All I could tell Oliver was that Elder Watkins would be at the LDS Chapel in Talavera on Sunday between 9 and noon. Did I dare to hope? I told Dustin that Oliver was going try to visit him while he was in Manila. I guess he tucked that little tidbit of information away...

Elder Watkins was sitting in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday and one of the members came up to him and tried to tell him something; he had to repeat himself 4 times and Dustin still didn't understand! Finally, the man said "cousin mo" which means "your cousin" and Dustin thought he meant "my cousin" which is "cousin ko". It sounds like the man who was telling Dustin that Oliver was looking for him was so frustrated that he just walked away. A few minutes later, someone came in and shook Elder Watkins' hand; the light bulb went off - he finally figured out that the man was telling Dustin that HIS cousin was looking for him! and he remembered that I told him that Oliver might come to see him. Oh, I wish I could have been there! Oliver stayed for the rest of the block and then spent part of the afternoon with them. Elder Watkins said Oliver is AWESOME! He wanted to spend more time with Oliver...

Elder Watkins, Elder Gomez and Brother Gershon (member of the bishopric) ate dinner at a member's house. Elder Watkins said the meal was pretty good, but didn't know what kind of meat was being served. Afterwards, Brother Gershon asked Elder Watkins what he thought of the meat; he said it was different. At that point Bro Gershon shared that the meat was rat, going on to say that it wasn't rats that eat garbage; these were wild field rats (which the locals call 'pig rats') that eat rice and other organic things....well, that makes it all better then! NOT!!! Bro Gershon went on to say that the other meat was dog, so it might be a possibility that a tapeworm or two may have taken up residence in his digestive track. After noticing the green shade of Elder Watkins' face, Bro Gershon said he was just kidding about dog meat...but didn't say 'just kidding' about the pig rats. 

Elder Watkins is enjoying his mission and loves everything about it; the only thing he doesn't like is the mosquitoes.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Week 11: A Long Lost Relative, Teaching, and A Baptism!

My cousin Oliver was in Manila this past week for work and traveled to Talavera to see Dustin! The many miracles and tender mercies the Lord sends our way. We are truly blessed :) It is so neat that Oliver and Dustin were the ones to link our sides two sides of our families - they are both competitive athletes, and more importantly they both love the Lord!  Thank you Oliver for reaching out and connecting with us! 

I haven't listened to this week's recordings, so no report from those...

Hey Family! :)

This has been an exciting week for me. I have really seen a lot of improvement in my Tagalog and also in my teaching ability. Or maybe the latter is just confidence, but regardless I am feeling better about it. I literally just had a light bulb go off in my head about the grammar and have made significant improvements and my sentences make a lot more sense to them. Ha they made sense to me before but now I understand MUCH better haha. Still have countless things to work on but it felt great to be able to get a key grammar rule down this week.

We also had a much better week in terms of teaching people. Our previous week we taught poorly I believe and only had 1 investigator attend church :( So this week we really focused on teaching short, powerful lessons. Where we don't try to go into as much depth about the topic  but really testify and try to help them recognize the Spirit. We focused on commitments and following up. We are giving measurable commitments now and hopefully that yields some good results. However, the short, powerful lessons I believe worked as we had 5 investigators attend this week! So dramatic improvement :)

It is so great to watch people progress in the Gospel. We are having our first baptism this Saturday! His name is Anthony Acosta. He is 21 and has such strong faith. All he wants to do is follow Christ. He gave up coffee on the spot and drinks 'Milo' which is just a chocolate drink similar to Nesquick. Anyways, he is doing awesome and can't wait for him to join the Church. It is amazing to see people's willingness to change. Although some people have a really hard time, we can't give up on them. No matter what we need to always to try our best to see them as Christ does. He will never give up on us. He will always take us back with open arms. That is one thing I love about the Gospel. The knowledge that you have never gone too far. There is always a way back. We can all feel the weight of our burdens lifted. There is such a great power in the Atonement.

I met some crazy white guy here but I talk about it in the recordings so I won't go into much detail. But he believed that the world was owned by 13 people. He said that he moved from America to the Philippines 20 years ago just to avoid it! Crazy how mind washed people can get but he was 100% convinced. He was a nice guy though and it was really entertaining to listen to his theories of the world, and how the world began ad how it will end. Super fun :)

I am attaching some pics of my apartment. The front as I looked at it looks actually really nice!!! I was quite impressed because you can't really see the whole thing. But it looks like those hotels in Mexico! Then I took a picture from the back and it resembles a prison sort it's great stuff :)

Anyways love you all! Super excited about the work out here and I am loving the work, people, and EVERYTHING (pretty much ;) ) about the mission. Love you all and thanks so much for the support. You are the best!!

-Elder Watkins
My cousin Oliver with Elder Watkins!

Front of Elder Watkins' apartment building

Back of apartment building...

Elder Watkins' feeling on top of the world...or dangling perilously from a high perch 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Week 9: Teaching Lessons versus People, Information versus Why, and Hopes for a White Christmas

Greetings Elder Watkins' blog-goers! Thank you for your love, support and prayers during this anxious time for us! We have been buoyed up and comforted. Even though the missionaries in the Angeles Mission were instructed by the mission president to email home to let parents know they were safe, our email arrived two days after Typhoon Yolanda. I like to think that Elder Watkins was so involved in serving, he didn't think it was too important to email us. We did know that he was safe, but after hearing from him we were relieved. Yet there was still no news from my mother about her sisters and their families. I searched the internet and submitted inquiries on my aunties, I looked for lists of survivors, I searched Facebook for my cousins even send a message to a person who might have been my cousin. Nothing still, but I still had hope. Then on Tuesday, a great miracle! I tried Facebook again using the same searches I had used previously. I found and connected with my cousin Oliver who I had heard of, but have never met! Oh, the tender mercies of the Lord and the power of prayer! We have been sending messages back and forth, getting acquainted with each other. 

Last week's recordings included a description of the service project they did last week (there is a pic in last week's post of Elder Watkins and Elder Gomez with some serious tools) clearing debris from a house after a typhoon (before Yolanda). It took quite a few missionaries to clear the debris outside the house and also in and around the house. Elder Watkins is really not fond of spiders. Of course, there were a ton! But even though he worked long and hard, and encountered many of those many-legged creatures, Elder Watkins declared how great it was to serve others. It blesses their lives, as well as his. 

Hey Family!
It's great to be able to have some time to write to all of you. For those of you who listen to the recordings, I'm sorry but due to the typhoon we had a power outage and had to go to a different city to use computers. For some reason my recorder isn't compatible next week double recordings I guess! haha

I specifically apologize to Mariah because I had a really long one for her birthday but she'll have to wait to receive it...hope it was great Mariah :) watch out for them boys...

Oh and I'm alright from the typhoon. No serious damage. Just intense rain and wind which makes power go out. The rain and wind actually make the work even more fun. As we run around from place to place trying not to get soaked it is pretty sweet. It is also fun when power goes out at night because it goes pitch black for like 10 seconds while we run and you can't see anything. So we just wait till it comes back on. It is quite the adventure.

So this week we changed some things in our teaching. Elder Gomez was talking about the lack of success in this area. He has been here for almost 4 months now. There was one baptism in that time, and one month the goaled for a total of 10 investigators to attend Church! All four weeks! That is so low! But they didn't even reach it. We changed our approach from teaching lessons to teaching people, which is a really important fundamental in the mission field. Instead of trying to teach information of the restoration, or information about faith, we now teach why restoration, why faith. How do these things apply to your life? How do these things help you and why are they important? It really worked out well. We had 7 investigators with baptismal dates as well. We officially have 15...but 3 have had them for really we have 12...but we are really going to do our best to have as any as we can be baptized in December. We will have one on November 30, and then hopefully a lot on December 28th :). Right after Christmas! We are trying to get the members excited about missionary work because there is no enthusiasm for them to grow in the ward. We are trying to get across that baptismal clothes are white and we want a flood of people dressed in white for Christmas. What better gift can you give than the Gospel of Jesus Christ?! And Baptism! The way that leads to Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven.

I am really excited about the work and am getting over the homesickness. I have been praying so hard to lose myself in the work and forget about home. I want to become that missionary who doesn't want to come home. I miss you guys and all, but I want to give everything I have to the Lord and these people. I owe it to them and especially Christ. John 15:13. Bitters wrote me and said one way he is losing himself is making the work fun. He tried trading a Book of Mormon to a guy for his car!...Sounds like Austin! I am starting to look at every opportunity to talk as a fun thing. Instead of every single time I talk to someone they need to feel the need to be baptized and if they don't it is failure. I a also becoming more patient with myself so that has relieved a lot of stress. All in all I am doing great; much better than the first week. Thank you so much for your love and support. I doubt many Elders are as blessed as I am when it comes to families. I love you all so much. I miss you too! but I know the Lord will protect my family while I am gone.

Thank you for all the birthday recordings! Dad says I have to wait till my birthday to listen to them. I look so young though. Everyone is like, "What 18?! Almost 19?! Crazy!" I need to stop telling people my birthday because they always invite us for dinner haha. Anyways, have a great week family! I love you so much and because of the mission my love and appreciation for each of you increases every day!
Mahal ko kayo! Love you!

Elder Watkins

p.s. remember when Mariah and I called Dan 'Bobo'? Why is that? The word for older brother is 'kuya'. I asked a native what 'bobo' meant and they laughed and replied 'stupid'. So we were calling Dan stupid all those years?! What the heck?!

Lol When Dustin was little, I tried to teach him to called Dan kuya, Mindy ate (older sister), my mom and dad lola and lolo (grandmother and grandfather). It didn't go over very well and didn't stick. Dustin's pronunciation of brother was bobo. And, there you have it haha

Saturday, November 9, 2013

An Earthquake, a Typhoon, and Unshaken Faith

Although this blog is about Elder Watkins' work in the Philippines, many have asked how he is doing after the recent earthquake and typhoon; many prayers have been offered in his behalf. We have a deep appreciation for your love and faith. I felt it was appropriate to provide the following update on Elder Watkins and my feelings about his mission...

As you may have heard, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded typhoon Haiyan hit central Philippines last Thursday. This is just couple of weeks after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked the same area. We have had many inquiries about Elder Watkins, as well as prayers in his behalf. Our family is grateful for your concern and especially for your prayers. Elder Watkins is in Cabanatuan, which is about 600 miles north of where Haiyan hit the Philippines. President and Sister Martino (Elder Watkins' Mission President) posted that Angeles Mission would not be in Haiyan's path. We heard from Elder Watkins last night via email that he was doing well, except the bug bites. He continues to serve faithfully. 

Some of you who are not familiar with our faith or sending a young son or daughter on a mission might wonder, "Why would you choose to send your child away for two years when the only contact you have with them is a weekly email and a phone call on Mother's Day and Christmas? Why would you allow someone you don't know to choose the place your child will spend two years of his life? Why would you allow your child to stay in a place filled danger, poverty, and human suffering?" First of all, this was not my choice as a parent to send him on a mission; this was Elder Watkins' choice to serve a mission. My choice is to support him. "Why?" you may ask. My answer is simple - Faith. Faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith in Elder Watkins' testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his eagerness to share the glad message! His missionary scripture is Alma 29:1-2 "O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth." 

I also have faith in the 'someone' who chose where Elder Watkins would serve. Even I don't know him personally, I know he is a chosen servant of Jesus Christ, ordained with the priesthood of God. When I sustained him during General Conference, that means I support him in his calling as prophet, seer, and revelator. By supporting him in this calling, I support the mission call he extended to my son. I know the Lord had a reason to send my son to the Philippines. 

Oh, how I love my missionary! And I do miss him, and worry about him, and I cry a lot (especially lately). My tears are a mixture of joy, relief and the strengthening of my faith. Joy in the sanctifying work Elder Watkins is doing which strengthens me and our family. I would not want him to be any where else other than where he is right now. This is what keeps me going; this is what keeps me strong. I'm not saying this is not difficult, because it is. The refiner's fire always is. I try to look at the eternal perspective and know that the work Elder Watkins' is doing will help others, maybe some family members living and deceased, to embrace the Gospel. Just yesterday I emailed a friend who just sent out her first missionary, "...being a missionary mom comes with a great peace. I think Heavenly Father gives us this tender mercy because he knows what it is like to send a son on a mission. I especially rely on my faith and this tender mercy to be at peace when I hear about what is happening in the Philippines the past couple of weeks. I know that Dustin is in His hands, and He will not drop him."  

While Elder Watkins' is safe, I am still worried about my mom's family. They live in the area that was hit by the earthquake and the typhoon. My mom has not been able to contact them since the earthquake. We are hoping to hear something soon. Your prayers are as always welcome. Thank you for your love and concern. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Week 8: Pictures :) Service, Machete, and Fried Fish


Elder Watkins is still missing home (especially his mom), but doing better in the field. He did not have time to write a family letter because he was emailing his family; but he did send pictures! We received some recordings, however, at the time of this post I had not had the chance to listen to them yet. I will update this post, or make a new post after listening.

First day out of the MTC and in the field with the other "Greenies"
 Angeles, Lipa, Philippines from Sis Martino's Fb page

Elder Gomez and Elder Watkins wielding mighty tools to clear out trees that fell into a lady's house, well shack...Elder Gomez is very enthusiastic; Elder Watkins is just posing, but also very enthusiastic. He said it was fun. Good thing his mother taught him to use a machete! Normal things that a child learns in his youth, right? Oct 30, 2013

Elder Watkins with some of his buddies at the MTC.  Oct 20, 2013

Elder Watkins sends his love and flowers to his mother! so sweet :) oh, and to the rest of the family. Oct 30, 2013

They were invited to stay for lunch at an investigator's home. Oct 31, 2013
Elder Watkins posing with a carabou (not sure of the spelling. that is what my parents always called them)
or water buffalo in the distance. Nov 1, 2013

Elder Finau and Elder Watkins at the Manila Temple.
 Oct 17, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

First Area: Cabanatuan! Teaching, Gift of Tongues, and Flying Rodents

Elder Watkins is in the mission field and having many great experiences! He only had time to make three recordings since he was busy packing, moving, unpacking, and settling in. Some things he mentioned in his recordings were: He loves President and Sister Martino! and thinks they are amazing; is fed by everyone they teach, usually fudge bars or Filipino twinkies and soda; lots of teaching! 

One of the funniest things he talked about was when he got to the AP's apartment - a bat flew in and started flying toward people! As everyone was taking cover, the AP took a broom and swat the bat mid-air! Elder Watkins was the first to dive onto the bed and take cover! haha


Oh how I miss you all!!...not even kidding. Sorry about last week - not sending a family letter - we were so busy with leaving and packing I didn't have much time. But this week has been crazy. First week in the field and a lot of new experiences!

So my Zone is Cabanatuan and Area is Talavera. Here mainly the work is re-activating people. Tons of people are baptized but don't attend church. So a less-active return is basically just as important at a baptism here. A LAR is when they attend 4 consecutive weeks of church. We have 8 investigators with baptismal goal dates, but they also have to attend 4 consecutive weeks. We hope to be able to baptize this month, but one is questionable. The other 6 have a really hard time attending church. We only had 4 of the 8 investigators attend yesterday and of the 8, even though 7 said they would attend. The one who said he would not attend is Joey Gasbar He used to be a priest for the Catholic Church. He said he couldn't come but would try next Sunday. I appreciate his honesty. He believes Joseph Smith is a prophet, but he is having a hard time accepting that we are the only true church - which is kind of contradicting! but we will keep working with him :)

So the language is going well. Most people are surprised when I say that I've been here less than a week because I can speak a lot of Tagalog. The thing is they don't know that I have no clue what they are saying back to me. I just nod my head and say "opo" which means yes and laugh when they laugh! But I really need to work on conversational Tagalog cause that is a weak point as well right now. So the gift of tongues is awesome but I'm still waiting for the gift of interpretation :)

So this week I also learned that there is no toilet paper and no showers! So we have a bucket with a "tabo" that you wash yourself with. I never go to the bathroom in public places because there isn't even a tabo and you just use your hands! So that's exciting news. As far as our apartment goes, ours is considered really nice I guess. We have a water filter and fridge and a fan for each person which is amazingly nice. However, we don't have a lock on our apartment which is actually terrifying, but the Lord bed occasionally has bugs but for the most part it is nice :) My trainer is Elder Gomez from the Philippines. His is 19 and speaks perfect English. I initially thought he was American when he spoke but he said h learned how to speak from TV. He's been out 3 months which means he just finished being trained and is now training which isn't that common. So we are learning together. He's a cool guy and I like him. He's really smart and will e able to teach me a lot. Once I get things down I think we will be able to do some really good work together. We eat rice like every meal and a can to tuna or something with it and a banana. This week I plan on buying eggs to get some diversity. I thought I would be coming home skinny, but I might come back fat! Every lesson the people give you like chocolate or a version or twinkies and make you eat it! They occasionally give soda in a glass bottle that is rusted and you have to drink it! You can't refuse, of course, because it would be rude. So I'll be coming back fat! :(

My favorite lesson this week was last night. We taught sister Mari Corpus in her house. She has a house of sticks the size of our main floor bathroom with a dirt floor and small bed. We taught with a candle for light and it was so humbling. It was really great, and my first lesson I led. She was so humble and still happy. It just made me feel so happy, and made me realize how fortunate we are. I love being here even though I miss home like crazy. This was the hardest week for me by far because a lot of thing reminded me of home. thinking about you all was really hard, but I really need to stop. It makes me so sad, and while I was chatting with mom and dad earlier on email, I just broke down here in the small shop of computers...I really miss you all and love you all, but I know this is what is best for me and I need to help people like sister Mari Corpus. I LOVE being a missionary! and I love you!

Have a great week family!
-Elder Watkins

Elder Watkins with President and Sister Martino

Elder Gomez and Elder Watkins

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Week 5 MTC: Last MTC correspondence

Unfortunately, we did not get a family letter this week :( but fortunately we did get pictures! No, Dustin still has not received the packages we sent which included his camera cord; but he was able to figure out how to download some pics to send! So this week we received recordings and pics. I can't believe that he will be leaving the MTC already and truly be in the mission field! His P-Day will be on Mondays so we won't receive an email until October 28th.  We didn't receive any information on who is in the pictures, but I do have dates. He hasn't changed the date on his camera, but he is 14 hours ahead of us so the dates might seem off. 

He mentioned in the recordings that he was called "tall" twice this week!  

Sept 23:  Elder Watkins with Elders at the MTC 

Oct 17:  Elder Watkins on splits in Manila. 

 Sept 13:  Pet monkey or...?

Sept 13:  Elder Watkins first day at the Philippines MTC

Sept 13:  Elder Watkins doing great at the MTC! Always smiling :)

Sept 23:  Elder Finau, Elder Waktkins, Elder Latu - Roomies!

Sept 23:  Elder Howlett, Elder Watkins seated in front.

Sept 23:  

Oct 7:  Elder Howlett and Elder Watkins in front

Oct 18:  Elder Finau and Elder Watkins at the Manila Temple

Oct 18:  Elder Latu and Elder Watkins at the Manila Temple

Friday, October 11, 2013

MTC Week 4: Manila, Proselyting, Faith, and the Spirit

Almost daily Dustin records messages to the family and emails them to us on P-day (Preparation Day is the one day a week he has to take care of personal things. These include answering and writing emails, doing laundry, weekly shopping, attending the Temple, etc). His letters are getting a bit shorter, but his recordings are super fun to listen to! Hearing him laugh on the recordings is the best! He still has not received the two packages we sent; but we are still hopeful!

Hey Family!!
So hopefully everyone was able to listen to the recordings and listen to what's up and what's not. I'm listening to the recordings and Cambri!! "I'm doing bad in school?!" What?? haha I'm sure  you're doing great :) and Wow Coops! ten bucks and spelling cat - that's awesome Bud! Super smart! Following in your uncle's footsteps...and what - scored a goal! Wow Bud! And Cambri please don't cry, that made me sad :(

So let's see what happened this week...

Highlight was going to metro-Manila this week and proselyting for 4 hours. The experience was mind blowing...I can't believe it. The poverty shocked me. They have huge buildings, but then all the houses in between are in 3 feet wide streets and full of water and mud. The walls of some houses are just fences of metal and the roof is a metal sheet but it only covers like half the house. This one house I was in had a cement floor and all wet inside because it had no roof. They had a little boy and he asked me what my name was; it was the cutest thing ever. The kids were the only ones I could really talk to. Everyone else talked too fast and in long sentences.

So the last guy we taught was my favorite and best lesson. He said he could kind of understand English. I started speaking in English then changed to Tagalog because I could tell he didn't understand me. Then I started talking pretty smoothly and it was pretty good! I felt the Spirit and he understood what I was saying. It was good! But just cool how you need to show faith, just open your mouth, take an action, exercise that faith, jump and the Lord will catch you. It's amazing. I knew how fortunate I was to live in the home with the family I have. But now I wonder why I am so fortunate. I just want to share with everyone here. I can at least share with them the happiness of the restored Church. They can know that they have a loving Heavenly Father and  a Savior who know exactly what they are going through, exactly how they feel, and He loves them. He can comfort them and heal them. He loves us enough to call a prophet and direct His church. At least I can share that message with them.

Funny of the week: There are always funnies but I'm drawing a blank. The farting story!! Oh I may have talked about it in the recording...idk... So Elder Howlett and I were walking down the hall and there are two sisters behind us like 10 meters or so I'd say. Then I farted and it was so loud!! I turned immediately to Elder Howlett and was like, "Dude!! What? There are sisters here!!" and he just started they totally thought it was him, and every time we see them they just bust up laughing. He tries to blame me and I just laugh. The sisters are like "Come on, Elder Howlett, just admit it was you." So he's just burying himself deeper :)

Every day something hilarious happens and it really relieves the stress. It helps that I love my roommates and companion. They are all funny guys and we get along. But there are a lot of hardships too. A sister companionship in the district is still having major issues and I talked to one of the sisters for an hour and a half the other night, and finally got her to see the MTC President. But its hard to see them struggle so much with each other. She asked for a priesthood blessing because she has been so stressed and she vomits 3-4 times a day because of it. Elder Howlett gave her a blessing; it was his first time exercising the priesthood and he did a good job. I was so proud of him :) He thought it was a good experience and after said he was so nervous but glad he got to try it.

Anyways love you all so much! Thanks for the love and support. I leave the MTC in a week and a half :)

Elder Watkins

Saturday, October 5, 2013

MTC Week 3: Boxing, Blessings, and The Spirit

Elder Watkins has not been able to send us any pictures because his camera cord did not make it into his luggage :( We sent it off in a package today; hopefully he will receive it. He has not received a package that we mailed on September 6th, but we are still hopeful it will arrive :). We are fortunate to receive digital recordings via email. Hearing his voice each week is reassuring and lifts our spirits!

Hey Family!

So this week has actually, now that I'm looking back, gone by really fast! I feel like I was just here writing you guys! But during the week it feels a lot slower...Anyways, we got fed some more fish and rice; I'm not sick of the food, however, I feel bad for the sisters here. Well, at least the sisters from America!

Funny of the week: uhm I'm not sure which ones I said on the recordings, but Elder Finau and Elder Faamusili were air boxing. Elder Finau Actually hit Elder Faamusili square in the face and floored him! It was hilarious! I was in tears! Everyone in the room was laughing, except Elder Finau; he was holding Elder Faamusili and trying to get him to stand up. Elder Faamusili had a huge bump on his eye the next day :) sooo funny :)

Spiritual of the week:  We were in the middle of district meeting when a sister asked for a blessing. I asked what the issue was and she said that she gets really irritable and has a hard time feeling the Spirit cause she always wants to hit people... It was pretty awkward cause the district all heard and we are the ones she associates with so she probably is referring to us when she wants to hit someone. So I gave her a blessing and I only remember saying one thing about anger and controlling those feelings, and the rest I don't remember! but after she came up crying and said she was more worried about those other things I said but she didn't want to bring them up in front of the district. I just smiled and said it was the Spirit, cause in my head I'm like thinking, "Uh, what did I say?" but I know the Spirit was able to touch her heart and it's so powerful. I'm grateful for the priesthood and the power it has.

This week my companion Elder Howlett is improving. He can basically read anything and sounds a lot better now - not too white - but still having a hard time retaining the information. He knows the words but gets a little confused which word is which, but we're working on it :)  He bore his testimony for the first time in a visit which was awesome! So definitely progress there :)

So this week I talked a lot on the recording! So that's why the emails are shorter and I outlined how I'd like the emails to be sent. But its alright cause Mindy and Dan are the only ones from the family who wrote me! [Theirs are the only emails he received, not the only ones who wrote!]. It's ok, still love you all :) At the end of the recording I tried bearing my testimony in Tagalog so don't judge..

Love you all! :)  Talk to you next week!

Elder Watkins

Friday, September 27, 2013

MTC Week Two: Gift of Tongues, Apostolic Promise, and Rain

Hey family!

Bear with me with all the grammatical/spelling errors and what not, but I try to type fast so I can get more info in, so that's why it's like this. Don't worry, I'm not stupid :) [Besides, I know Mom will make any corrections before posting my letters on the blog haha].

So this week has been much better. I'm adjusting well and getting used to the demanding schedule. I was quite shocked to learn that many of our study times are actually not teacher led. It is also purpose centered. They'll teach a grammar set and then we have like 3 hours to study. But we don't study just to learn Tagalog. We study for our purpose which is to bring others unto Christ. Tagalog is merely a tool to achieve the purpose. So when I study, I don't study practical words that'll help me with speaking with everyone (at least not yet). How I choose to study is as follows - my companion and I evaluate the needs of our investigator. So for example, we will teach Lucilla Casalan tonight. She is super poor and doesn't think that God loves her and all that kind of stuff. So we prepare something faith related and then study words and phrases focused on that need or concern. So if someone came to talk to me about everyday life in Tagalog I would have a hard time. But the Gift of Tongues is so real. I can now nearly do a whole lesson in Tagalog without a script or notes. But it's crazy cause going in I'm nervous about the words I'm going to say and grammar, but when I go in the words come. And although it is very poor semantics they can at least understand what's going on and at least I think they understand mostly what message I am trying to convey.

My companion is a stud. He is working hard and getting better. he is still struggling but the district is very helpful and encouraging to him, so he gets help all the time. I quiz him on words as we walk around the building and he is doing better. He can now say a prayer with just notes, which is a long way from last week...This week's goal is to get his pronunciation down. Every morning and night this week I'm going to have him recite the entire alphabet through the vowels. So AEIOU, he'll say BA BE BI BO BU then DA DE etc and I'm hoping that extra coaching will help him get the pronunciation down. Also with the language lesson we saw a video of Elder Holland promising that if we read the Book of Mormon alongside our language we will have enhanced learning. And so a promise from an apostle is something that I will definitely be following up on.

Funny of the week - I was making some announcements to our district. One of the announcements was that we had dinner clean up this week. The 2 New Zealanders at the same time said, "Dayummm" and all the sisters started like crying. I was doing my best not to laugh and try to make it seem serious, but it was hilarious. It is a common word apparently in New Zealand, but I'm not sure. I thought it was funny at least.

Food is good. We get rice every day. We had cereal once and pizza once, but besides that it is rice every meal. One day we got handed a straight fish! Head, fins, scales, eyes and all! It actually was super good! The weather is crazy. I've seen the sun I think twice? Maybe? It is raining all day and if it's not raining, clouds are every where. So it's not too hot but it's super humid; just walking around is moist.

 I'm getting better at gym time to be less competitive. We aren't allowed to keep score haha. So now I just shoot around with the sisters ;) jk...I'm focused on purpose :) although it was kinda funny, the RTM missionaries (the natives) left this Wednesday and like a bunch asked for my email ;) gonna be mailing a bunch of Filipinas! ha jk jk don't worry fam, all is well :)

I'm loving it here and miss you guys but I'm not very homesick (I miss Mom more than anyone). It's just a good miss :)

Love you all! Mahal kita!

-Elder Watkins

Friday, September 20, 2013

Companions, Blessings, Fish, and Basketball

Hey Dad!

Pday is Friday in the MTC, so expect that. We aren't allowed to take pic in the MTC, only at specified times which is 3 times in the whole stay so you prolly [probably] won't get any pics for a while. However, I have been using the recorder, but I probably sound non-enthusiastic; it's just because I am tired. But I'll try to figure out how to work it and start sending those :)

So first...first day we had a meeting with the MTC president. That night I was made district leader...Wow! wasn't expecting that. I got a lot of extra things to do now because of that. It's kinda funny because everyone is older than me, but literally they ask me every 2 seconds where, what, and how and everything they're supposed to be doing! They think like I have extra information but thankfully I occasionally get specific promptings from the Spirit that help them that I know didn't come from me. Being the leader here is pretty sweet though; I'm liking controlling what's going on

My companion is Elder Howlett from Delta, Utah. He is 22 raised on a farm and is a cowboy. Super shy and really sincere and tries his best to learn stuff. It's actually hilarious to listen to him talk cause he talks like a western cowboy saying all the weird sounds - it's hilarious But he honestly reminds me of Grandpa Watkins. His is always forgetting and asking for permission and always saying he understands but then forgets. But he's so sincere and tries hard. I love him a lot and pray for him all the time, he's a great guy just trying to improve. He has really opened up to me. The other two roommates are Elder Finau and Elder Latu. They are from New Zealand and are awesome, huge, funny guys. But I guess "da**" isn't a swear word there and they both said it once in our district meeting and all the sisters started like crying...hahaha I was dying... anyways we have a good time with them.

The days are packed. Peoply who say the MTC goes by fast maybe the time does but the days are superrr long. Like I expect it to be 4 o'clock and it's just noon!! Every second you have places to be. It's kind interesting thought that a lot of time we learn by ourselves and with our companions. They teach us 1 principle of the gospel and grammar a day but the rest is you and your companion. We've been teaching our investigator and it's been hard cause I do the lesson and he says the prayer and maybe 1 thing the whole time. I asked our investigator to be baptized once and she said yes. I asked him what he thought and he didn't realize that I asked her to commit to baptism. Most of the study time I explain the doctrine we're teaching then translate it, then help him to write it out. It's ok though because it's just making me learn faster...also I love him because he is putting in a lot of work and I've already seen tons of improvement in one week.

Most spiritual part of the week was giving blessings. A few sisters have asked me to give them blessings and I have no clue what they need to hear, but when I start things come to mind and they are always like bawling after and they are things that are just weird. Like one was - you would be able to start eating the food and the next day we got a whole cooked fish on our plates, and she ate it! Yes, a whole fish - head, bones, and all! But being able to be a tool for the Lord to help His daughters is always a very spiritual experience and a highlight.

Speaking of the food, the whole time we have been here there have been only 2 meals without rice :) I love it! hahaha It's great.

Ya, we play basketball and I think I talk about it on the recording, but I've been owning. This tall kid plays at SUU and asked me to be on his team, instead of roommates' team. I said "Nah" and we wasted him hahaha. He's like 6'9" and take it super serious so it's nice to smash him a bit ;)

I love being here at the MTC, I love everything about it. We are doing tough things but it's just teaching me to rely on the Lord more and increasing my testimony. I love this opportunity to serve the Lord and bring people unto Him and share the happiness and knowledge I have for myself...what a blessing!

Elder Watkins

Thursday, September 12, 2013

First email from the MTC!

Philippines time is fourteen hours ahead of Utah time.
After a long day of flying, Elder Watkins arrived in Manila around midnight. He and his traveling companions - two other elders and a sister missionary - were taken to a nearby hotel to spend the night. Elder Watkins and his companions arrived at the Philipines MTC around 6:30 am Friday, September 13. Within a couple of hours of being in the MTC, Tom and I received the following email:

I just got to the MTC, got a haircut and now I get to email you guys. They say just to say that I got here safely so I don't have much time. It's funny - most teachers are Pilipino (Filipino) and first speak Tagalog to me, but after my vacant expression they go back to English haha. Not much to report on. We drove through Manila to get here and the the Manila temple. It is right across the street and looks amazing. Hopefully we get to go soon. My companion is Elder Howlette. He's from Delta, Utah and is a farm boy raised on a farm. Pretty quiet but I'm pretty open when we have met other people so it's ok. I met a few elders from New Zealand and they are all pretty smooth. One is huge and they are all way nice. One is like my size but weighs like 75 pounds more than me, says he wants to play for the Jazz when I told him I'm from Utah (he's kidding). So nothing much else happened in the first 2 hours being here but I love you guys and I know this is the place I'm supposed to be. Serving Christ because of all he has done for me. I can finally serve Him and pay a little bit of that debt I owe him. I'm feeling excited and ready to start learning some Tagalog! Love you guys. I still don't know which day is my pday yet but I'll be sure to let you know when I find out.
Tell Mariah I love her and all is well.

Elder Watkins :)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Day Before and Day Of Departure

At the Timpanogos Temple
Today was a difficult day. We finished last minute packing. In the afternoon, Tom, Dustin, Mariah, and I went to temple. Later that evening we had a family gathering and dinner; Dustin requested steak and mashed potatoes. At 8:00 PM, President Craig Miller came to our home to set Dustin apart as a Missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Elder Watkins received some amazing blessings and promises.

Elder Watkins is excited to serve!

This is our Before Mission Family Circle picture. When Elder Watkins returns, we will take an After Mission Family Circle picture. My niece Alex, who was visiting from Missouri, took the pic for us. Thanks, Alex!

We did the same thing when Daniel went on his mission.
Daniel, Tom, Elder Watkins, and Mariah at the airport

September 11
Saying goodbye to her big brother is so difficult
Elder Watkins loves and admires his big brother
Saying goodbye to Elder Watkins for 2 years is a hard thing to do, but we wouldn't want him to be anywhere else!

Mariah's Facebook post - Saying goodbye to my coach, mentor, best friend, and big brother... Love you Dustin, you will do great things on your mission! I'll miss you like crazy. Have fun in the land of our people ;) the people of the Philippines are so lucky :) See you in 2 :) @turkthegorilla
Elder Watkins smiling at his family before going through security. Before disappearing into the crowd, he turned to wave his last goodbye smiling and holding up two fingers - meaning "see you in two!"
 Our friend and neighbor Sue Sherwin was on the same flight to Detroit! She was sweetheart and took a pic with Elder Watkins and sent it to me; we were still driving home from the airport when I received it.  I am grateful for angels like her who are about the Lord's work delivering tender mercies! Thank you, Sue!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Elder Watkins' Farewell Address

Elder Watkins addresses the Lone Peak Ward

 The digital recorder was with us in the audience, along with the whole family. So needless to say, all the sounds and happenings around us are audible on the recording.

The first part of the recording is Ryan Stephan's (Elder Watkins' friend) beautiful rendition of  "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" on the piano. This is Elder Watkins' favorite song; it also happens to be his mother's favorite, too!

Elder Watkins's address begins around 6:02.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Missionary Photo Shoot by Chelsey Searle

Chelsey Searle took these amazing Missionary Photographs of Elder Watkins. Chelsey is Elder Austin Bitters' sister, so basically like a big sis to Elder Watkins. She is very creative and has a great eye. Check out her blog at

So fun to have a shoot with Elder Carson Beus! He will be serving in Paraguay Asuncion Mission, Spanish speaking and will report to the Argentina MTC on November 7.