Monday, June 10, 2013

End Week Strong, Genius, Miss Baao

Hello... Great news!

...I'M TRANSFERRED! ...TO LEGASPI MISSION!!!!!  Saturday we got the text that I would be transferred.  Usually we don't know where our area is or who our companion will be until we get there on transfer day (Tuesday), but our mission President decided to try something new and tell us!  Because of that, I now know that I'll be transferred to Pilar, Sorsogon (look it up) and my companion will be Elder Hatch!  The area is in the Legaspi Mission boundaries so when the Naga Mission splits on July 1st, a new mission call will be sent to me for that mission!  How exciting.  Well that bit was half of my request to my mission president.  The other hope was that my companion would be Filipino.  Elder Hatch (from Nevada I think), though, got here the same time as Elder Simmons so he'll have only just finished training as well.  I guess, to be honest, I was hoping to have a bit of a rest with a Filipino who is obviously fluent in Tagalog... but... I'm super excited pa rin to work with Elder Hatch!  Anyways, I don't know anything about him (other than Simmons was in the MTC with him), so hold questions until next week because I don't meet him until tomorrow.

Accordingly, this week has consisted of lots of preparation before I leave.  Also, remember "Hell Week" in high school sports?  Where they work out way more for the last week of training (right?)?  Well, the first four days of this week, we taught the least amount we ever have!  I was pretty sure it was just like Hell Week since we're also finishing training.  I was about to except that as well as an awful week of work, until I realized that Hell Week is good because of the great/numerous work outs.  After that thought, the next half of the week became the best work we've done!  Thus averaging out to a pretty darn good week (:  Found many new people.  I'll introduce you to one:  Alex.  Hah Alex... Alex is... a crazy genius.  I mean, in everything that saying entails, he is a crazy genius.  He somehow know more about church history (and any religious history) than most members do (as in, almost more than me), knowing dates of everything significant that has happened in this church and all the prophets, etc.  He can tell you anything you want about Philippines, American or any other kind of history.  He's a genius.  Hah and he claims he learned it all from "reading the Guinness Book of World Records."  Which brings me to my next point.  He also is... nuts.  Just crazy.  Awesome person to teach.  Both him, and the golden family we met, almost make me jealous of Elder Simmons to get to stay and teach them.  Oh, we also met another crazy...  His name was something extremely long/weird.  He also tried to convince us he served in World War II and is 126 years old.... (weeeh).

My last week really has been a treat here.  I'll really miss all the members... 6 months I've been here!  6 months of loving people with all your heart. with the purest love you can posses, really draws you close to people.  Tonight, we have a Group Family Home Evening, my last time at our "church". Hah, yesterday was the last time I'll ever go to church outside!  It'll be nice having at least a Branch (if not ward) and an actual church building in my next area! (:

It's raining here!  Every afternoon there will be a torrential downpour.  You know it's wet when you hear the "swuish swuish" noise of trudging through water.  You know it's even more wet when you get to dry ground and you still hear the "swuish" noise because your shoes are flooded.

Okey, more updates next week about companion and area.  Enjoy the pictures!

Love, Elder Brown

Pictures - 

1.  Alex, the crazy genius.

2-8.  Fun pictures.  The bridge was super cool!

9-10.  More members  

SPIDER! Last week in Baao

Hello Team!

Lots of great things happening in my potentially last week here in Baao!  From being mistaken as a Fil-Am tour guide for the other missionaries (Heyo!  Best compliment) to hundreds of baby geckos running around our house, I could go on and on about exciting adventures.  Here's one you'll enjoy:

Remember our bathroom (see picture)?  Remember how we use a ladle and barrel to shower?  Well the experience got 1000x more exotic a few nights ago... I was in the shower, rinsing with the ladle, when all of a sudden I catch a glimpse of something big in the drain ("Didn't notice that before...").  Looked to me like a dead cockroach - no big deal, nothing new.  I continued to rinse and try to better see if this really was a "dead cockroach."  I leaned in... "It looks a little different," I thought... All of a sudden, an a vibrant burst of energy, eight thick, hairy legs sprang open and the biggest spider I've ever seen comes slip-sliding towards me - fast!  In my panic, with a ladle and trash can full of water as my only defense, I just about lost it - "ELDER! ELDER! DER! DER! HEEEEEELPP!!!!!"  I dumped as much water as I could at it to impede the rampant march towards my feet.  In that process, I was able to hold back the monster as I one-handedly searched for my towel, wrapped it around my waist (some-what) and jumped out screaming (literally).  Simmons came to the rescue and after a long ending, we found the spider was significantly bigger than our fly-swatter (BIG).  Can you imagine that?  ...Not fun...

Had a cooler experience on Saturday:  We finally had some time set aside to go tracting so we got all prepared for it in the morning.  We decided to stop by the houses of two less-active members first though.  After the first family (close to our apartment), we were walking casually and diligently trying to find people to talk to as we went to the next members.  I saw a guy sitting by himself, playing guitar on the side of the street.  A pressure instantly appeared in my heart.  To put it into words, it said, "That's the one."  I quickly dismissed the thought arguing that we still had somewhere to go and lots of time to find later.  Instantly I felt the much stronger constraining burn again in my heart - "THAT'S THE ONE!"  "Okay," I said, "I give - this is the guy we need to find."  Talk to him.  Taught him.  We're going back tomorrow.  How cool is that?  Makes you realize how many opportunities we may have missed as we straight-face power walk down the street of our everyday lives.  As for me, I'll always be keeping an eye out, looking to do what I can, in the best way I can do it.

Seeing the work here progress is a thrill.  Imagine seeing the people you love (significantly more than yourself) learning to truly find for themselves everlasting joy and happiness.  The joy swells in me to the point where I can't contain it.  I'm as happy as running up and down stairs shouting joyfully, unable to express through a bright grin the emotion inside - and not even because of country music!  (Country music being the only other thing getting me on my feet, dancing around with giddy glee).  Does that make sense?  Do you get how much I love this?  I'm happy.  So so much more than I ever though.  Also, I'm eating lots of pineapple (25 cents for one!).  Yum!

Thanks for everything!  Love, Elder Shane Scully Brown

Pictures - 

1. The bathroom where I was sneak attacked by the spider.

2-9.  Morning at the lake.  Beautiful.

10.  Cleaning the chapel (went to an area that actually has one)

Happy Birthday Wet Season 5 6 13


Beginning to turn into more of a wet season here!  Yes, there were still nights of 96 degrees in the apartment, but also some fairly cool days as well.  The only not so fun part was when there was a brown out two nights in a row.  We basically wake up the instant our fans turn off, then it was a two hour waiting game from 1:30-3:30 AM for the power to come back.

Remember my miraculous healing a few weeks ago?  Well it turns out that faith-wise it was just preparing me for this week - gave three blessings to the sick, all were miraculously healed (and came to church on Sunday!).  Lots of other great experiences.  Tuesday we had a sad moment though.  We were teaching one of our super progressing investigators (Nelly, 64.  Had mentioned plans to move to Manila in a few months), and began to help her recognize the Holy Ghost, especially in knowing the Book of Mormon is true.  All of a sudden, she just bursts into tears saying God had answered her prayers, going on to describe the Holy Ghost much better than I ever have.  Continued to say that she always feels it when with us and everything a golden investigator could ever say.  And then the bad news... She all of a sudden had to move to Manila early.. in just a few days! :'(  I was crushed.  But the missionaries there will be given her new address, so either way, she will find the path.

With her time slot being open, the next time we were in that area, we were blessed to find someone new to teach.  Obviously God knew how sad I was about Nelly, so he just decided to lead us to another great person - Oscar, 45.  At the end of our second lesson, we had just talked about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon and asked is he wanted to know if what we shared is true. His reply?  "Actually, I believe that it's true."  Went on to talk about feel the Spirit when we're there.  Couldn't ask for more.  (in his closing prayer he prayed that we would find more ready people like himself!).

In the midst of our success, we did have an interesting conversation with a 63 year-old white guy we came across.  He was here during the war and three years ago decided he would come back to the Philippines for retirement.  Tried to mention what we do here and he politely (and quickly) cuts us off, "Yeah I used to be a Baptist and all that religion stuff years ago.  But you see, I've found science.  There are so many breakthroughs and we know almost everything... science..."  Took it one step further when he proudly declared that because of some drawings in caves, aliens are our creators.  Also, that Albert Einstein (and other super-geniuses) was born of an alien father... on and on about aliens... He ended his galactic sermon with the conclusion that there is no hell and invited to never, ever go visit his house.  Haha.  

Okay the big news.... Tomorrow is my birthday!  Usually, when we ask people how old they are here, they will reverse the numbers.  With that logic, I'll be going from age 91, to a mere 2 years old!  ...Turning 20!  Today is literally the last day I'll ever be able to say I'm a teenager.  It's almost weird to think about.  Because you're all dying (not literally) to know, here's the birthday plans:
-6:30 AM - Arise, pray, exercise, and prepare for the day.  Breakfast.
-8:00 AM - Study
-10:00 AM - Preach, teach, expound, exhort, invite.
-12:00 PM - Lunch
-1:00 PM - Study (more studies since Simmons is still a trainee)
-3:00 PM - Preach, teach, expound, exhort, invite.
-8:30 PM - Return to living quarters, plan, eat Kraft Mac n' Cheese (from a member with a sibling in Amerika), write in journal, prepare for bed, pray.
In relation to the normal schedule... that is exactly the same!  I'm excited though.  Aside, of course, from my turning 5 water balloon fight birthday party, I think this could be the best.  "...Behold, this is the joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness." (Alma 27:18)  There isno place I'd rather become an old person (a whopping 20 years old!) than here.  I wear a constant smile, and I'm happier that I ever imagined, and hah, a year from now... I'll still be here to birthday again in the Philippines! (:

That's it.  Love you!

Elder Shane Scully Brown

Pictures - 

1.  Eating at Shakey's (the only nice place here)!  It's basically like a Brick Oven kind of place.

2.  Eating

3.  Lots of Rain

Shane True Tagalog

Hello Family!

Great week of work, with tremendous results!  Included in that is a service project and almost catching a rat (see pictures).

Tuesday night, we walked in the apartment and saw something run into the bathroom - rat (granted, it was small still).  To make a long story short, we spent the next 45 minutes setting up traps, barricades and walls with the rat just barely slipping through our hands (not literally) each time.  It was especially exciting when he walked in the cage, then continued right on through the metal bars (see pictures).  Saturday was the National Day of Service (ended up being a half -day), so we all got to wear "Mormon Helping Hands" vests and go plant and things like that.

Sunday was the best.  Got to church (not even sweating!) and there were tons of people.  Last week we had 20 people (lowest I've seen is 9 or 10), this week.... 35 people at church!! (only two empty chairs!).  I guess all of our investigators and less-actives just decided to show up all on the same Sunday.  Super happy that.  (okay, now I'm reminded of wards in America with 400 active people each week... Still 35 is amazing here!).  It was actually the first sacrament I've had in Baao (5 months now) where I didn't have a part in the program (prayer, bless/pass, speak without warning...).  I did teach the youth (finally don't have to teach the adults now that our leaders are active), bit I'd rather do that than not.  After church, we had some interesting experiences.  We were trying to find some members who have been inactive for years and years (moved to another church)...  Here, it's not like people give you an address and you punch it into the GPS and drive right up to the house, rather, it's more along the lines of, "Oh, they live in that neighborhood over there (point in a vague direction), just ask people as you walk and you'll hopefully find them."  That kind of thing.  Well it was great when we asked the neighbors and the member was right there but not revealing her identity.  Hah I can't describe it, but imagine knowing you've found the person you're looking for but they deny it until giving in after 5 minutes of interrogation - in the middle of the street, with all the neighbors pointing in different directions to go look.  We ended up actually having a decent conversation after she confessed she was the one we were looking for. (these are not the driods you're looking for).  Then went in search of another person.

On our search, some kids pointed to a big house with a gate (mayaman).  We did the usual "Tao po!" (just shouting "people!" so they know you're outside - no knocking), and out walks a white guy! (What the?!)  Basically, he and his American wife have been in the Philippines for 29 years serving a mission for another church - not at all interested in our message, but he was nice and we talked for a bit.  I was reminded of two important things: 1.  The Gift of Tongues is real.  29 years of speaking Tagalog and the guy was still making small errors with a thick American accent.  On the other end, in my short time, I had been talking to a lady earlier that day who stopped me mid-sentence and said, "Sorry.  I'm just so amazed.  I leterally feel like I'm talking to a Filipino, but you're white.  Are you really a foreigner?" (confidence booster).  2.  Our church is true.  This man's religion's main doctrine -if my understanding is correct- is that if we have faith ("accept Christ"), then it's by grace alone that we are saved.  Literally doesn't matter what we do, wicked or good.. If we accept Christ = heaven, reject Christ = hell.  Well that doesn't make sense, does it?  I wanted to whip out 2 Nephi 25:23, "...for we know that is it by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (italics added).  Kept that to myself though.

Hah, it's been a fun week.  I'll close with a Gordon B. Hinckley quote I found, "Can any man who has walked beneath the stars at night, can anyone who has seen the touch of spring upon the land doubt the hand of divinity in creation?"  And I add my own words  - can anyone who has felt the redeeming joy forget it?  Can anyone who has felt the love of God not desire more?  I can't forget it, and I do desire more.  Therefore, I press on.

Next week I'll be emailing the day before my birthday... Don't forget! (:

Love, Elder Shane Scully Brown

Pictures - 

1.  The running out of the cage...

2.  Cage with hot dog bait

3.  One of several barricade attempts

4-13.  Service project!

14.  Church 

I Ate BUG 4 22


SaDI NA ak0...
maGDAlagan nA kam0!

Hey team, good news:  this week I ate bug.  Yes - bug.  Not at all good, BUT I did discover that just as bananas are cheap (25 cents for a whole group),  tomatos are as well (20 cents for a whole pound!).  So I've been buying lots of those two things...  Here's my report (about one thing) for the week:

Our golden investigators didn't make it to church yesterday, but I guess I can at least tell you about them.  We met the Badong family just two weeks ago.  Tatay (dad) is a tricycle driver and it just-so-happened that we got on his triccy coming home one night.  It was one of those situations where I was  tired.  As in, so tired.  Hungry, thirsty and just beat.  As we sat on our way home, I figured, why not talk to this man and share a little?  I did.  Talked about how families can be together forever and as he drops us off he looks at me and says, "So...what?  You guys come visit me ah."  Gave us his address (meaning the name of the neighborhood and some landmarks - no addresses here).  He's 35 with a wife and four kids, so we were hoping they would all be home for our first visit.  Turns out, it was just Tatay and his friend.  We talked just a little about the family, then he told us to come back the next day when his wife was home.  Go back, his wife is there - caught her up then discussed prophets + Christ.  Tatay had done his reading (we gave him a pamphlet) and after one question from us proceeded to teach us all about dispensations and why authority is important, saying a church needs it or there's no point (which is why we are LDS).  That was awesome (Simmons and I had huge smiles as he himself gave examples while teaching that we the missionaries use).  Come back the next time and Tatay's brother is there along with the rest.  Turns out, the brother was the "friend" at our first visit and he readily commands us to visit him too.  Then the brother's wife comes out, "Hello Elders!!!"  She was taught years ago as a teenager (but moved away) and couldn't stop talking about how much she missed it.  She too insisted that we visit them (tomorrow).  Hah after she exclaimed to the Badongs how peaceful and pretty our buildings are, it was a little weird explaining that we don't have an actual church building in Baao...

I didn't explain very well hoe prepared this family is...  But just know that we're finding people like crazy.  There actually was a night when we felt prompted to go visit the Badong family at a certain time - went there and they had something suddenly come up (couldn't teach).  Upon leaving, I thought to myself, "Why did we feel to come at this time if we couldn't even teach?"  Literally just as this thought entered my mind (knowing there was a purpose), we got called over to a group of teenagers.  What came of that?  New investigator. 

Lots of good things happening in Baao.  Our leaders are all active now, complete families are coming to church, and I'm happy (:

Love, Elder Shane Scully Brown

Conference 4 15


Good news!  We got up really early to go watch conference talks online (due to problems yesterday).  Got to Iriga (the big city) and there was a brown out.  They said it would be hours before power would come on, so we just did grocery shopping and came home.  Now we're at the only computer shop in town and besides watching an ant line run right past my fingers, the internet is slow, so I'll just send pictures home next week!

This was a chaotic week!  Meetings, cooking, drunk guys, brown outs, general conference, brown outs AND general conference, and learning new things.  Okay, the morning report (weekly report):

Two great things my mother would be proud of: 1. I made eggs for the first time in my life! (also got sick).  2. I learned how to open a can with a huge kitchen knife.  How wonderful.  Also, my faith proved strong when talking to a slightly (very) intoxicated man in the streets.  He first tried to tell me that the Lord should be drunk too.  But then there was no Lord because we can't see Him.  But wait, this drunk guy was actually the Lord and was going to take us to his house to teach us... "Uh sorry... We're busy.  Maybe next time." Flee the scene. -That's basically it.  Wednesday we had an all day thing for missionaries in training then of course conference so the work was a bit slower.

Conference:  As with last conference (which seems only weeks ago), I stocked up on some great snacks.  Turns out, "comfort food" was the better term for my high-end snacks because we had a bit of troubles (minor technical difficulties).  Arrive for Saturday morning showing of Priesthood Session: five minutes to go, all is good for us to patch into the satellite feed then wait - BROWN OUT!  We figure out how to get the generator going (thanks for teaching me, Dad) but we're sore pressed upon knowing the little guy won't be able to power the air con (air conditioning).  Two hours of Priesthood Session - hot.  Then midday comes around in time for the morning session to be watched - hotter.  Go to lunch then come back for the afternoon session... half way in - electricity is back - air con!  But guess what, the satellite over-heated and broke.  Now we have to stream the rest online.  Internet is fast though.  All good.  Saturday session is over, go home.  Study.  Brownout!  It's dark now.  Luckily we have an emergency light.  A minute later - low batt.  Go out to work.  Still no electricity.  Come home.  No fans, using a cell-phone light to survive.  9PM, the Amerikano finds a generator - power again!  Sunday morning we get to conference on time.  Satellite is not fixed.  Time to stream again - slow internet.  People speak for ten seconds - freeze.  Load.  A few more words.  Freeze again.  Load.  Repeat.  In over and hour and a half we have barely watched what should have only taken 40 minutes.  But good news - back up disc arrives.  Insert.  "Disc not supported."  Uh Oh.  Different cords.  Nothing.  Lap top.  More cords - works.  Perfect quality.  Enjoy the last half of morning session.  Lunch.  Come back.  Insert disc.  Still good.  Are we actually going to get one good session in?  Nope.  50 minutes in, disc stops.  Not all of conference was "successfully downloaded."  Now we don't have internet.  District President, "Okay everyone, we'll close with a hymn + prayer and watch this in our individual branches next week."  Um... we don't have a church building.  "We'll just watch it tomorrow for Pday."  "Good idea."  Say goodbyes - we have transfers next week.  Come home.  Study.  Rest eyes.  Take in the day.  Shower.  Sleep.  Conference weekend is done.

...Well that's it really.  But I suppose I can share a few things I liked about conference, which through it all, was just as beautiful as the last.  They mentioned 58 new mission being formed.  My mission is splitting to add one of those - "I'm just another statistic!"  Elder Holland's talk was powerful as always.  L. Tom Perry's accomplished what I've long wanted to do - slap the 10 commandments in peoples' face (mine too.  I'm not perfect yet either.)  I always like what the Young Women Leaders have to say.  Last October it was Sister Dibb sharing the proud statement, "I'm a Mormon.  I know it.  I live it.  I love it."  This year t was Sister Dalton (Sat. morning session) who discussed standing as a witness at all times, in all places.  She mentioned the phrase, "What e're thou art, do well thy part."  Basically, what I take from that is we all have some sort of calling(s) in life, and we might as well make the best of it.  Strive to improve.  Magnify.  I'm a missionary, a representative of Jesus Christ.  I best do my part well! (Ezekiel 33:1-6!).  I've got less than a year and a half , best continue to do well my part.  Anyways, I'll have to download the talks and re-watch next week (can'd download here).  Hope everyone was able to find their conference gem.  If not, go back.  Listen.  Listen right.  It's there.  Look.  Search.  Beg, plead, pray.  That's my assignment too (:

Other news:  I learned the "SMILE" acronym that apparently every one else knew before me:  S.M.I.L.E. (to be Spiritually Minded Is Life Eternal. -see 2 Nephi 9:39).  Also, kept up just fine in a four language lesson (Tagalog, Rinconada, Bicol, English) so that was exciting.

That's it.  Have a good week! (:

Love, Elder Shane Scully Brown! 

Super HOT!! 4-8


Super short this!  We went hiking because this morning so we don't have lots of time.  Went to a super pretty place called "kawa kawa" (see pictures).  Anyways, quick summary of the week:

It was still really hot.  I mean, just grueling.  So ridiculously hot.  It was especially awesome when it was 96 degrees in our room last night.  If I ever apostatize to idol worship, it'll definitely be my little red "Minami" fan.  Love that thing.  -I got the best compliment (in the form of a question) ever: "Are you Fil-Am (Filipino-American)?" "Nope.  I'm from America too."  "Oh wow, I thought maybe you are from Manila..."  Huge confidence booster that.  -I finished the New Testament!  As with the Old Testament, it was another life changing thing.  Too bad we're pressed for time or I'd go into more detail...

Anyways, life is still great.  Animals still running around everywhere.  Kids still don't wear clothes.  And I'm still a hot, sweaty Amerikano named "Joe".

Love ya!

Elder Shane Scully Brown

-Also, we are watching conference next week pa because of the time difference..  But here's a good quote from Talmage that I came across, "Knowledge is to wisdom what belief is to faith, one an abstract principle, the other a living application."  Okay, what does that mean?

Pictures - (I hope my captions are in the correct order)

1.  Our general conference invitation for April 13-14.  You're all invited.

2.  A building in construction

3.  Same building, same construction - slightly closer.

4.  Sitting on stairs

5.  Standing with a back ground in the back ground

6.  Me and Elder Simmons

7.  Climbing a buko tree.  Or... coconut tree.

8.  A staged picture of me walking

9.  Pointing

10.  First deer I've seen here

11.  Another standing

12.  The "dump".  Just a place where people throw trash in until there's so much that they burn it all.  Awesome.

13.  More standing

14.  More pointing

15.  View 1

16.  View 2

17.  Me viewing

18.  Tree plus sunset