Thursday, July 24, 2014

Capitol of the Philippines 6-30-14


T-5hrs.  Time minus five hours.  In five hours... I'm flying to Manila!  The Philippines has this new thing where a month before you leave, you have to appear in person to the visa office place.  SO, this is good for two great things: 1) I get to go to Manila! 2) Even better, I get to see all of my friends from the MTC there!  Remember how my mission split in July last year?  Well, my MTC companion and everyone else I new ended up in Naga mission so I haven't seen them since then.  Also, Tyler Kesler was on the list of people going as well!  I'm pretty sure that we're all sleeping at the same hotel tonight (we go back tomorrow) so I'll try and find everyone.  Should be fun!  More updates next week.

Next, new companion.  Well, kinda.  President decided that we need to have another elder come in for training before I leave.  Guess who it is.... Elder Hatch!  Don't you remember (probably not) that we were already companions! We were together for my one transfer in Pilar, I was his "follow up trainer" (AKA 2nd companion in the field) and now here we are, companions again, but in a whole new world.  So fun!  We're really excited.  

We worked really hard this week. couldn't really see the "fruits" of our efforts at church on Sunday.  Sunday was one of those Sundays when you just expect the entire world (investigators, less actives) to be there.... then, almost no one comes.  On one hand, it's sad because you love them and know what they're missing out on, but on the other, you have to be happy knowing that you did you best because we felt the Spirit so strongly in every lesson we taught this week.  Lots of journal entries.

Hope my email is short enough that you'll be able to read it all without skimming too much.  Love you!

Elder Shane Brown

Pictures - 

1.  Crazy, right?

2.  Elders Yu, Hatch and I.

3.  A missionary got sick and had to go to the hospital, then he learned that he would have to go straight to Manila then go home so he gave us a big list and we had to drive way out to his 
apartment to pack his stuff for him.

4-10.  Some random pictures.  

Not hot, but I feel on fire 6-23-14


Biggest news of this week..... It's really, truly... RAINY SEASON!  Woohoo!  Can I tell you how good it feels to not feel incredibly hot while going to sleep? It's... Amazing.  Absolutely, amazing.  Yes.  

Right.  So this week was transfer week.  Old guys leave, new ones come in, we eat a bunch of good food, spend some time at the mission home, see everyone at the transfer points, etc.  Lots of people reminded me that for some of them, it was the last time that I would see them.  Others, I'll still see at some random things.

The feeling on fire part.  Right.  The couple who oversees family history work in the whole Philippines came to visit to do two cluster conventions.  We picked them up on Friday and drove them around a little bit from Friday, Saturday and took them back to the airport on Sunday.  We went to the convention here in Legazpi combined with a few other districts (smaller version of a stake) and they talked about family history work.  Basically, there's the whole push for "Hastening the Work" on this side, but what about the work in the Spirit World?  It's really progressing there.  And it's up to us to help them. So!  We've had a missionary sick staying with us, so we've been switching off with the office elders on having some one stay with him so the others can go work in there area, I was the one to stay with him after the convention so I got online and did some family history work!  It's more important and uplifting than I'm describing it.  In short, I've finally starting to catch the Spirit of Elijah.

Love you!

Elder Shane Brown

Max and Shane

 8.  The Couple Missionaries we were with (the two older ones next to us)
 Madesn at airport.. see you in 6 weeks

Half a Year! 6-16-14

Family, first things first..

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my sister, Shelby!  And HAPPY FATHERS' DAY to my dad!  They are my greatest sister and dad.  No doubt.  By default.  And by being the best.

This week Elder Madsen goes home! ...Wow!  We've been companions for 6 months now.  Do you realize how long that is?  ...Half a year!  That like, never happens.  Usually three months is the max.  We doubled it.  And it was so great.  Just imagine, every great experience I've written about since last December has been with Elder Madsen.  So yes, it'll be weird to drop him off at the airport on Wednesday.  And as soon as he walks into the airport terminal, the new arriving missionaries walk out - life presses on.  

Highlights of the week... 1) We had a special stake conference where it was normal Saturday sessions but then on Sunday the stake president was the first to speak, and after him we tuned into a broadcast for about half the Philippines.  Vern was there so this was great because it was general authorities including Elder Cook (apostle) speaking in English.  Elder Teh (Filipino, used to be Area President here) talked about the conversion of a homeless guy so that was good with Vern.  He said to a member of the stake presidency after the conference "I'm on my way to your baptism!"  Just not sure when that'll be... 2)  At stake conference, I got to see a bunch of members from Pilar!  I was there last year from June-July (seems like yesterday).  They are in Legazpi stake as well.  3)  I'm giving my all and loving it all the way.  I'm really, really happy.

Love you!

Elder Shane Brown

Pictures - 

Yes, the guys on the motorcycle are carrying a pig.  Happens all the time.

A spectacular week 6-9-14


What a happy week!  Went to Catanduanes (one of the islands) had exchanges with Elder Moncur, taught Ed finally and more progress with Vern!  It’s a little longer this week but each one of those points has a good story – read it!  It’s a wonderful life.  Also, we went to a really cool cave for zone activity this morning (see pictures) then this afternoon we went to the apartment to change/shower and when we got out we were all ready and excited to email, but much to our chagrin, we had a flat tire!  Luckily it was in the same place where we had to fix one a few months ago so we were able to do it super quick.

So, Catanduanes.  Remember (I assume not, so here I am, explaining it) how when I first got to Tabaco in July (wow!  That was almost a year ago) that I got to go to Catanduanes once a transfer for exchanges and things until it became its own zone so we didn’t go anymore?  Well now, since I’ve been here I’ve been able to go back a few times, but just to the city mostly.  This week though, we got to go on exchanges in one of the areas I haven’t been to since September maybe.  It’s just this super super small little community.  We went with President because he was giving a workshop and we went on exchanges with the Elders there.  It’s a really small branch, and the Elders are the Branch President and Branch Clerk so it was good to visit them.  After the workshop, we all drove out in President’s van to a faraway community even further away from the city (small).  In missionary work here, we really try to stay close to centers of strength, but President felt to go visit this place that has probably never seen a missionary before.  As we drove through the little town, we could feel a peaceful Spirit.  All the doors were open and it was as if the people were just begging to have missionaries.  After looking around, we began to drive back to the city, but just as we got to the outskirts of the area, President stopped the car and asked Elder Madsen to offer a prayer and ask for a blessing on the missionary work in this area (Manambrag).  We all had a Spirit of peace come over us.  It was an amazing experience.  Probably a tiny taste of what apostles felt before when they would go out and dedicate a land for missionary work.  And the last thing I’ll say about this is I was again reminded why I’m happy that I get to visit the islands, but secretly glad that I was never assigned on them – the whole time we were there, the Elders’ apartment had no water, and we only had electricity for a few hours of the two days that we were there.

Exchanges with Elder Moncur on Saturday.  Another great day.  I worked with Elder Moncur in the morning, then after lunch and studies, we switched companions so it was me, Elder Yu (my comp) and Elder Quinto (Elder Moncur’s comp) in the afternoon (remember, we're a trisome so Elder Madsen was with Elder Moncur in the afternoon).  Elder Moncur and I went out to this super beautiful far out place.  Incredibly pretty (see pictures).  And of course, it’s always fun to talk about things from home since of course he’s from our old stake.  We had a great time together (:  My favorite part though of the exchanges was a lesson we taught in the afternoon.  We taught this 22 year old who’s mom is active, but he is married and is not a member.  We were actually the first ones to teach him and as we taught, we felt impressed to teach him about the Gospel of Christ and really emphasize baptism and how it will bless his family.  We invited him to be baptized and he, of course, said yes.  We talked a bit more then invited him to be baptized on the 26th of July.  Maybe a bit taken aback that we gave him a specific date, he sat there pondering.  For maybe 30 seconds (a long time in a lesson!) we were silent and I was praying he would feel the Spirit prompting him to say yes.  All of a sudden I felt confirmed that he was feeling the Spirit and he just blurted out, “Okay.  I will do everything for my family.”  We were overwhelmed with joy for the whole evening after that.

Other points worth mentioning are.. we finally taught Ed!  I’ve never said anything about him because well… we’ve never taught him until last night but basically he’s this guy we tracted forever ago and he’s really cool but for one reason or another we were never able to teach until last night when we sat down with his family and taught them.  He was good work friends with a previous Bishop in the Legazpi Ward and he is also the owner of the Elders’ apartment in the city we live in so hah we called them and said they better be the best ever so it goes well with teaching Ed.  Also, Vern came to church so that’s going well.

I’m really happy right now.  I’m making the most of my remaining time.  I just want everyone to know how much I love this work and how much it’s changed me.  And when people say things like this in their big emails to everyone, it’s really easy to just start skimming over it and not take in what’s being said, but I want everyone to know how much this work has changed me.  I really am a different person.  Not just in the sense that I’ve been away for two years and will come back slightly awkward no doubt, but I’ve really, truly been changed.  And will continue to be.  I love God so much, and that’s not something I prioritized too much before in life.  But I do now. 

Thanks for everything!  You’re all the best!
Love, Elder Shane Brown

Pictures - 

1.  May or may have not done this before...

2-4.  Exchanges with Elder Moncur - his area is so pretty!

5-7.  Pretty Catanduanes

8-12.  The Caves     

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dora the Explora 6-2-14

Family, good morning!

What a week!  …wow!  We survived.  It reminds me of when Elder Madsen and I finished our first  training together and we threw our hands in the air and ecstatically yelled, “We did it!”  After which, President leaned over and mentioned, “Said Dora.”  Remember when Dora the Explora reaches the big blue mountain or wherever she’s trying to get to and says, “We did it!”?  Last week we had conferences from Tuesday-Friday and we had to get into the office super early on Saturday.  So much random stuff came up.  I’ll have lots of stories for you to tell one day.  It was the busiest, most trying week I’ve had on my mission.  And at the end, we were left saying… We did it!

Do you remember my third companion, Elder Simmons?  He was my companion just before I got transferred to the Legazpi Mission boundaries.  Meaning, he got left in the Naga mission when our mission split last July and I haven’t seen him since then.  He became an office elder (finance, same thing Trevor did) though, so I get to talk to him on the phone sometimes which is always super fun.  Anyways, on Thursday, a group of Naga missionaries had to come down to the regional department of foreign affairs in Legazpi.  Guess who was driving them… Elder Simmons!  I was so excited to see him.  Only problem was… We were doing one of those conferences in a different city so I didn’t get to see him! ;( That would have been a great reunitement.  Ever since Elder Madsen and I have been companions (almost 6 months now!) we’ve been trying to find an excuse to drive to Naga so we could stop by our old areas along the way (the areas in Naga Mission that we can’t go back to).  The other night, we were with a group of missionaries and only a few of us were assigned in Naga Mission, we started PROUDLY singing the Naga Mission Theme song.  Loved that.  It’s crazy how much progress there has been.  It’s a great feeling to find success in your previous efforts.  Baao, the group I was assigned in at the beginning of last year, went from averaging 20-30 people at church to now being its own branch with 100 people attending!  Comun, the group that was my last area, has grown so much as well and is getting a meeting house built for them.  And I’ve been told so many times that people I used to teach, or even just tracted are getting baptized.  What a good feeling!  It’s something that you don’t expect, because when you leave you didn’t know what would happen, but in the end, your effort really wasn’t wasted (even if it takes a year to happen – which it has so many times).  How great.

In other news, there was a brown out every day this week in Daraga (where we live, in Legazpi they were supposed to not have power for two weeks in certain parts because something broke and it had to come from Japan).  Luckily they were shorter ones.  We made a “fan train” in our apartment to get better ventilation in the “kiln” (our room) from the other elders’ room with a door and window to let the breeze come in that side of the house.  We just set up four fans in a line to push the air through.  See pictures.

I sure love you!  It’s been a great week.

Love, Elder Shane Brown

Pictures - 

1.  Elders locked the key in the car...  Had to call some random tatay to rescue them.

5-9.  "Give us ventilation" 

10.   The waterfall is much prettier in the daytime...


On Fire! 5-27-14


What a week.  Busy, busy, busy.  HOT, HOT, HOT!

...BROWN OUT(s).  Remember brown outs?  (power outage?).  This week we were pleagued by them.  Usually during the day and not too bad.  However... One night, we were all ready to go to sleep.  Just about to climb into bed.  Then… brown out.  No lights.  No ref.  Worse so…. NO ELECTRIC FANS!  It’s hot enough sleeping in the kiln with them… I didn’t even try to get into bed without.  The thought of lying in bed without one was so utterly repulsive, yet I was SO tired, that I ended going out to the balcony and sleeping on a hammock.  I survived there for an hour until I woke up from sleeping in such a contorted position and pulled a mattress out downstairs where it was a little cooler.  Still desperately tired, I tried to sleep through the thick humidity.  I did.  20 minutes later, I woke up from a “BOOM!”  Not a fireworks or baby boom, but a boom from every light and electric fan in the house turning back on.  It felt so, so good to climb into bed with a frisky hot-air breeze blowing down on me (after turning all the lights off…).  Oh, another affect of summer is that we have no water from 7:30am until night time.  That makes for some fun experiences.

Well there’s my exciting story for the week.  In other news, we taught 14 lessons in the first day and a half of the week.  It was all set up to be our week to hit the standards.  Theeeeen we had to drive everywhere back and forth, people decided to get sick or accidented and go to hospitals, or we got to pick from a whole host of other things to do.  Standards week was, yet again, shot.  It’s pretty crazy that Elder Madsen goes home in three weeks.  Since it’s been so long, I’ll remind you that I was with two companions before they went home.  But then, it wasn’t so weird because I still had so long out.  Now though, it’s like, once Elder Madsen leaves, I’m next.  I feel like italicizing that expresses the shudders going down my spine every time I think about that (not unhealthily too often).  But rest assured, nothing is motivating me more to give it all than the ever-ticking clock.  Time is merciless.  No matter what we do, time marches on.  And I’m making the most of it!  Joshua was baptized yesterday! - Another step towards completing their family.  He has an aunt who just came to live with them and was able to go to the baptisim, we’re being blessed by our diligence! 

Love you!
Elder Shane Brown

​Pictures - 

1-8.  A nice photo shoot.  This would have been a lot prettier if Mayon (the big volcano) wasn't covered in clouds, but still, you get the essence of it.

9.  ​Ended up driving up north and brought all the missionaries' packages.  Got to stop by Elder Moncur's apartment on the way home - in n out hats!

10.  Joshua's baptisim!

11.  LOOK AT THE SUN!  (as we stared in awe at this, we felt like the little green aliens in toy story saying, "The claaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwww")

Another Week! 5-19-14


Skype was so great last week!  The best call of them all.  But that being said of course, I think it's taken me this long to finally get out of the bubble and realize that I'm still in the Philippines.  It's been a great week though!  Well, two weeks worth of updates here since I no email last week.

My birthday was great!  Now that I'm 21, I can do so much more. Thanks for all the birthday wishes!  We had quite a few adventures in the last two weeks.  My companion realized that he's going home in four weeks so we went on a picture taking spree on all of our drives plus last pday.  
Last week, a BYU student and three Filipina nurses came to our mission to do some screening for malnurished children.  We got to drive them around a little bit, that was fun.  I told the BYU kid, "See you in the Fall."  Wow.  Also, we went to the mall and there were a bunch of US troops doing an event promoting the army being here and helping to build schools/ train the Philippines army.  We talked to them for a few minutes.  They had a really cool art gallery for it (see pictures).  

Everything is going great with Vern!  He came to church yesterday which is his fourth time!  We hope he's getting close to baptism.  Yesterday he was telling us about a house for sale that he saw which he'll probably never be able to buy and he said if he doesn't get that house then he'll have to become a Mormon, so he's improving!  Remember how he had no money before?  Well now he's making 150 pesos a day or also $4 which is great for him.  On his way home from church yesterday, he said that he knew the jeepney driver so he got a free ride home.  Doesn't he see how much he's being blessed when visiting with us and coming to church?!  Hopefully it's starting to click.  Oh, we are in a trisome now.  Since Elder Madsen goes home next transfer, we got to have his replacement come in early so he's here for two transfers before I leave.  We've had lots of fun and hard work!  We are so busy these days.  It's just tuloy-tuloy this transfer

Okay that's it for my thrilling updates this week. Hope the pictures are a bit less rote ;)  Love you!

Elder Shane Brown

Pictures - 

1. What I wake up to everyday 

2-3.  Birthday Stuff (all those packages weren't actually for me...)

4-5.  Some of the US troops stuff

21 5-7-14


"May the Fourth (force) be with you", Cinco de Mayo, and Mothers' Day are all great holidays.  But the more exciting bit for me this week is the 7th... I'm turning 21!  Happy Birthday Elder Brown!

So, I'm not 21 yet, but it's close!  How do I feel?  As with every birthday ever, I feel the same.  And I'll be doing the normal thing for my birthday.  Actually, we're going to celebrate later today because Wednesday is when we send home the old missionaries, get the new ones from the airport and train 'em all day.  In the Philippines, birthday tradition is that you free everyone lunch of cake or whatever, quite the opposite of America!  But that's how it goes.  I like it better (:  So anyways, I feel the same, yet at the same time, I know I really have come along way.  Remember two years ago when I had just finished freshman year at college and was only dreaming of being in the Philippines?  Then for the entire 21st year of my life, I was here!  This year will be a little different since only a few months of my 22nd year will be spent in the place I love so much.  All is well though, the best is yet to come.

I'm doing super great!  Vern didn't come to church, but it sure made me think a lot about what would have been different were he there/ what I've learned since being with him.  One of the things I really had to change was the way I sang hymns.  I always have sung hymns with "gusto", but being with Vern really makes you pay attention to what you're singing because you're wondering what he'll have to say about certain lines coming up in the hymn, etc.  And I like that, the paying more attention to what we're actually singing.  It makes it a lot more powerful.  

We have transfers this week.  Will be a big game changer.  Tune in next week for more updates.  Love you!

Elder Shane Brown

Pictures - 

1.  Volleyball - we've got HOPS!

2.  An Elder went to Manila... brought us back Krispy Kremes!

3.  Us walking through the city.  On the left you see how much the rich defend their homes with barbed wire, high fences, etc.

4.  Love this tire cover.  Reminds me of my tea kwon do teacher from when I was a kid - "YOUUUUU CAAAAAN DOOOO IIIIIIIIT!!!!"

Yet Again! 5-1-14


So much to tell you this week!  (I’m trying to think of some not-so cliché ways to start off these emails.  I feel like I wasn't too successful with that one).  President was gone the entire week for Mission Presidents’ Seminar in Manila, so SUPPOSED to be, this was our week to conquer the world (teach a lot) since we would have nothing to do in the office but that didn't exactly happen.  Apparently, when President is out of town, that’s when Satan likes to strike.  SOOOOOOOO much happened.  Every day was a new adventure…  Every day.

Still, I have some good stories for you!  A little more than a month ago, we were closing up at the office on a pouring rain night.  All of a sudden, this lady shows up, knocking at the door.  This was slightly creepy since it was 9pm and the city dies here around 8pm, not to mention the down pour.  To slash the long story – she was crippled (from birth I think, hand a deformed right arm) and got kicked out of her Aunt’s house in the northern part of the Philippines.  She planned on going to stay with her kid (long story) in the southern islands but had no money and thought that even though she had been inactive for years, she would try and come ask for help since she saw the church after the truck she was hitching a ride on dropped her off near it.  We called the bishop and he came over and verified her story, making sure she wasn’t scamming us and took her to a hostel (cheap place to stay for a night) and gave her money to get to where she was going.  And after that, we never heard anything about it…  Bishop updated us on the situation last week and said that the lady contacted him from her kid’s place saying how grateful she was and that she’s now active in the church down there.  She is so grateful that we were instruments in the Lord’s hands to help her.  So what started as a some-what weird experience for us, turned out to be another spiritual witness that God really does love all his children.

Yet again, Vern came to church!  Woohoo!  And it was even better than last week!  He walks in and says that while he was reading the Book of Mormon that morning, he has this distinct thought come to him that he needs to make sure this is the true church, and that when he decides to join, he has to join with all his heart and not go back.  He always says it’s “going to be difficult to change religions”.  Also, he always shares things about the Catholic beliefs with us to compare and so we can answer his questions.  At church, he said that he doesn’t share those things to convert us, but to show us how hard it’s going to be for him to leave these things.  …is it not so obvious that he will one day be baptized?!  It’s such a miracle.  And not only his progression in the church, but we are not at all surprised that his temporal situation is improving as well!  Tomorrow he starts teaching English, he’ll be making 100 pesos a day ($2.50, can you believe, that’s a lot for him!).  I love Vern so much.  I feel so blessed to be here at this time.  I feel so incompetent and undeserving, nonetheless, I’m so, so happy to be able to participate at a time like this (:

By the way, it's hot again.  It feels like I sleep in a kiln every night.  An electric fan only goes so far.

Love you!
Elder Shane Brown

Pictures - 

1.  Had a new elder come in this week (transfers are still next week pa)

2.  Went on exchanges with this elder this week.  Great guy.