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