Two pieces of excited news - Trevor is home from his mission! We had a good run of two Browns in the Philippines for three solid months! I'm so proud of him and am ever learning from his example. Next week I get to skype home, couldn't be more thrilled!
Anyways, I'm about to report on the best week I've ever had on my mission! So much great joy this week!
Last week I got transferred from Naga out to Baao (as in the "ba" in ball - the "ou" in ouch). It's like going from New York City to George Town before it was settled. Way, WAY more small town kinda stuff. We're pretty close to a big extinct volcano (they're everywhere here, and I'm not actually sure that it's extinct) and as you can see from the picture of the National Highway, it's all quite rural here out in Baao. We're surrounded by coconut trees and expansive rice fields. The beauty here is incredible. I wish my camera could capture the surreal feeling that it gives - almost like it's all just a fake set out of a movie. Because the population isn't very big, we're not assigned to a ward... we're not assigned to a branch... Instead, we're assigned to a "group" of about 30 active members. As a meeting place, we go to a member's small little house with an extended roof to fit some chairs that the "mother branch" (group is part of the Iriga Branch) gave to us. After the sacrament meeting, the adults stay seated, kids go inside, and the youth just get up and walk into the trees a ways until they find a good spot that they want to have class in - the missionaries are the teachers for that. No third hour. Since it's all so small, the missionaries have a lot more involvement. On Sunday, we went to the Branch sacrament meeting at 8:30 AM until 12:30 (extra hour for a meeting), ate a quick lunch, then went to go to church with the group from 2:00 - 4:00 PM. There were many opportunities to help out in terms of leadership - I gave a talk in both sacrament meetings, passed the sacrament, and in the Baao Group taught the youth class. Lots to do as missionaries here! It was so different going to church in a Group. Everyone is very close there though, and I already feel a great love for the members here.
Saturday we went with the district near the top of Mt. Iriga to the Agta Tribe (native Filipinos, imagine an undiscovered Native American village) for a service project. We taught their kids the story of Christ's birth using a picture book then played games with them/ handed out candy. It was so pretty up there. And their little village was amazing. We had to go up on Friday (my companion is the District Leader) to get permission from the Chieftain to make sure the "Americano" wouldn't get killed... (: I feel so blessed to have visited those kids and shared with them my love for Christ.
Although population is low, our area is huge. We walked for an hour and a half to get to our farthest appointment last week! I'm really looking forward to my stay here. There is so much potential for the area, and for me. I know it'll be hard, but my action plan is to become like Christ. That'll help. With skype, Christmas, and a baptism, next week is already shaping up to be just as good, or better than this one!
Thanks for everything, your love and prayers mean a lot to me. I'll send the service project pictures in another email to keep the email size down (:
Elder Shane Scully Brown
1. It's like this everywhere I look here!
2. My new district
3. New Companion, Elder Balanon
5. Sometimes we get to teach outside in places like this.
6. This is the "Interstate-15" where I live (the National Highway).