Monday, September 29, 2014

So much has happened and I don't know where to start. The Manila MTC was awesome. We got to go the temple and the local missionaries from Manila took some of us to go teach downtown Manila. I can't express to you how intense that was. I've never seen so much people and poverty in my life. All the Filipino children kept running up at me and wanting to touch my white skin hahaha. I think that's when the culture shock hit me. We taught a few lessons, all in Tagalog, so naturally I had no idea what was going on, but I had so much fun. We were only in the Manila MTC for 5 days and then I left with the other 15 missionaries on the 6 hour bus ride to Baguio. Hey guess what? BAGUIO ISN'T COLD. Yeah I found that out the hard way. It's only cold if your assigned to Baguio City itself. But the mission hot/humid like no other. We met President Balledos and he's just awesome. In my interview he told me that he's going to need my leadership skills later and if I work hard everything will work out. President Balledos asked me if there was anything I wanted. I told him I wanted a Filipino companion. And now that takes us to Elder T...

Elder T. is my first companion/trainer. And he is a Filipino. What else can I say about him? With Elder Tating, there is a lot of "small talk." Sometimes in our lessons he can "short" with me. And I wouldn't consider him a, "larger then life" kinda guy. Okay I'm down. Elder T. is short. But so are all Filipinos. Hahaha I love him so much. He speaks really good English and is REALLY obedient. At the Transfer Meeting where we get assigned our trainer, when I was put with Elder T., all the other missionaries freaked out. Because apparently I was getting trained by a legend. Elder T. has only been out for 3 months but his trianer, Elder S., is now a legend in Baguio. Here's some background. Elder S. became district leader after 3 months, then was made Zone Leader and then worked in the office, where then became a Assistant to the President (AP) and he was an AP for over a year. Which is crazy. And all the missionaries here loved Elder S. Well when it came down to his last 3 months before he was going to go home. Elder S. asked if he could train before he left and President Balledos said yes. So he trained one elder. Elder T. And they killed it. Elder T. is already awesome but with Elder S. skills they had a lot success together. So I had no idea about this obviously. So when I was assigned to Elder T. to train me, even though he's only been out for 3 months that show's you how awesome he is, everyone was freaked out and said I was really lucky. And I am so lucky to have Elder T. He's been helping me with my Tagalog and adjusting with everything else. Elder T. is amazed by my work ethnic and the fact that I don't need much sleep and wake up early. Hahaha And he finds it really funny that I literally say hi to everyone, even though I have no idea how to speak Tagalog. And Elder Tating is smart. 

My first area and the area we're at right now is called, "Aringay." And lets just say there haven't been much Americans or white people in this area. So me walking around has been the talk of this small town. We walk by and I just start talking to people and they invite us in their home because they've never talked to an American before and then once we're in their home, Elder T. starts to teach hahaha. It's pretty effective. I get us in the home and Elder T. teaches them. Speaking of lessons, our lessons have been so awesome! Elder T. is such an awesome teacher. There are so many less-actives in our area and that's the majority of who we teach. A lot of the Filipino's have a basic understanding of English because, they watch English/American movies here in the Philippines. They can't speak it well but most of them can undertsand a little bit. Which has been really good for me. Tagalog is still a struggle but I'm learning more with Elder T. There's also another dialect that's really common in my area that I have to start learning. It's called, "Linnacano." Yeah that's the last thing I need is to learn another language. Oh and it's not that similar to Tagalog. The church is true.
One thing that is really funny with the Filipinos is that EVERYONE has a cellphone. And I mean everyone. We walk by these huts and ragged homes but there sitting outside talking to someone on there iPhone. I'm not joking. Most Filipinos are really worldly. They are content with there poverty and instead of saving money and trying to make a better life they buy cell phones and what not. The Philippines is the No. 1 texting country in the world. Look it up.
The lessons have been great and I've never felt the Spirit so strong. These people here have such faith. The members here are so awesome and have welcomed me with open arms. And who told me that I was going to lose weight here? Well they're liars. Every time we walk by people, members or not, invite us in there homes for a meal or snack. It's just how they do it here. Even though they don't believe in our religion they recognize us has representatives of Jesus Christ and they respect that. People go to the local markets and buy us soft drinks and snacks. Yeah there's no why I'm losing weight.They don't use toilet paper here in the Philippines. I won't go in depth. Let's just say that has been a major adjustment. 

Last night we were teaching this family of 6 daughters outside their home, the Plan of Salvation. Well it started to rain use we squeezed together on their tiny porch for cover. I took out my Plan of Salvation pieces and taught the Plan of Salvation on the floor. I tried to use the little Tagalog that I knew but the Spirit was so strong. This is what I pictured my mission being. Here I am under this hut with this Filipino family, while it's pouring outside, teaching the gospel. I swear I could this forever.

I wish I can say more but we got things to do. I love you all. More now then ever. I want you to know that God loves His children and we're not alone. The Atonetment is real. I believe in the power of prayer. The Book of Mormon can bring more peace into your life then anything in the whole world. Keep me in your prayers and I love you all.
Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 16, 2014

Dear Family,

I leave next Thursday. I swear I haven't learned anything. Just kidding...but really though. It really did go by so fast. So many things have happened that it's so hard to keep track. 

I'm loving it here at the MTC. I'm leaning so much EVERYDAY. And I've grown such a stronger relationship with my Heavenly Father. I love my disrtict and my zone. I have both zone leaders in my district (that's how awesome my district is) and with me being the district leader there has been so conflict hahaha. Because I'm the district leader and both zone leaders are in my disrtict I still have power over them therefore I have power over the whole zone. I have given myself the title, "District Leader of the Zone." I mostly by fear and intimidation. Hahaha it's so funny. Everyone finds it really funny and respects my authority. When I say I run this's true. I'm not perfect with the language yet but I've learned that the Lord doesn't want "perfect misisonaries" all He wants is "committed missionaries." And that is something I can do. 

And for me calling next week. We get at the Salt Lake airport at like 6:30am and our flight to Oregon doesn't leave until like 11am. (so probably like 1pm for y'all) and then we have like an hour layover in Oregon, then we fly to Japan. So I'll probably be calling around 8-10am around that time. I'm still really not sure how everything is going to work. And I can only call 3 times so I have to make them count. So I know the kids have school so I don't know how you're going to work that out but I'll let you know if I have any more info. I'll probably call Dad's phone because I know he'll actually answer. 

It's really hard leaving my family and friends. But here's a cool qoute that you can put on my blog if you want. ;)

                            "...a missionary leaves his family for a while so others can be with their families forever..." 

Something like that. I love you all and I can't wait to talk to you soon! 

Your Valiant Missionary,
Elder Strader

Saturday, September 6, 2014

September 6, 2014

This week has gone by so fast. I GOT MY TRAVEL PLANS. It's so real now, even more then before. I fly out to Portland, OR and then me and like 25 other missionaries fly out to Japan. From there we fly to the Manila MTC in the Philippines. I'll be there for about 5 days and then I'll take like a 7 hour bus ride to Baguio. I'm so pumped. And I found out that while I'm at the airport, I have permission to call home! I'm not sure for how long yet but I can whoever I want! 

Mom thank you so much for the horse head. I got it yesterday and I've had a lot of fun with it in our apartment. You know me so well. Oh and that Dear Elder wasn't even funny. At all. You're making it REALLY easy to not miss home.  

On Thursday, me and Elder H------ taught a Filipino member from the Philippines on Skype. It was so much fun and humbling.  She told me not to worry about my missing my family. She said that all the ladies there take care of the missionaries. She said, "We'll be your extended family and your second moms." That definitely gave me a lot of comfort. I'm just really excited to go and serve them.

The language is coming. We're not allowed to bring notes in our lessons that teach everyday now. We just bring scriptures and pray that the Spirit will tell us what to Tagalog. It sounds hard but I've already felt the Spirit so strong in our lessons and have said some things in broken Tagalog on my own that I thought I wouldn't ever be able to say in a million years. #giftoftongues #yoso

YOSO has spread throughout my branch and it is commonly used. But White Cheddar is famous in the MTC now. Hahaha. Thank you so much for the pictures! Gosh it makes me miss home. Love you guys so much. 

Not a lot to report. The days are so long and packed but the weeks fly by so fast. There have been a lot of funny moments and spiritual ones too. I'm loving it here. I miss sleep though....not gonna lie.

Please keep sending Dear Elders everyday if you can and keep me updated of what's going on. This the only time you're gonna have this opportunity before I go the Philippines.

Oh We got this new elder in our zone and his name is, Elder M-----, and he lived in California and I asked if he knew the Hinginos....AND HE DID! They're in his home ward. He said he was inactive and because of JeK--- and J----, he's serving a mission now. They set such a good example to him and brought him back in the gospel. It's crazy how that happens. I thought you'd liked to hear that one. I've ran into buddies from EFY and Sister C---------, Elder B---- and some others from our stake. 

I played a special music number in church last Sunday. I made a special arrangement of Be Still My Soul and two elders in my district sang it in Tagalog while I played. It was so awesome. 

I hope school and everything is going okay and y'all are in my prayers!

Your Valiant Missionary,
Elder Strader

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

August 30, 2014

Gosh the weeks are just flying. I get my flight plan next week and I just found out that I go straight to the Manila MTC and stay for 5 days once I get in the Philippines. I'm so pumped for that. I leave Sep. 18. Wow what has happened? It's hard to remember because all the days mesh together. I accomplished one of my goals, which was to memorize the First Vision in Tagalog and I recited it in one of our lessons. The Spirit was so strong and it had a real effect on our investigator. Last week we had 27 new elders added to our zone. Now we have 52 missionaries in our Branch going to the Philippines. Out of the 52, 5 of us are going to Baguio. Every Friday our building has, "Free Style Friday" and lets just say White Cheddar made a special appearance once or twice. I'm not joking, I'm a legend here at the MTC. A lot of random elders call me Elder Cheddar.  A huge crowd gathers on the 2nd floor and some elders rap against each other....and then me and my zone walk in. Everyone starts yelling, "get out of the way white cheddar is here." Good thing I made up some raps before coming to the MTC. I knew something like this was going to happen. Hahaha

B-------MEMORIZE YOUR SCRIPTURE MASTERY! I'm trying to memorize all these scriptures in Tagalog but I have to waste time memorizing it in English first. As much as I hate to say is right. We do need to have these memorized for our mission. Start now Brennan. Once you're on your mission,you'll learn time is precious, and you can't waste the Lord's time.

This last Wednesday my district and I hosted the new missionaries coming which blew my mind because I feel like I just got here. But I've almost been here a month so that makes me a veteran I guess.....everyday here feels like a eternity but in a good way. The language is coming and I can definitely tell a difference in our lessons that we teach. Elder H------ and I are a lot better at answering questions. One of our lessons we were trying to give a Book of Mormon to our investigator, A----, but she wouldn't take it. She said, "I don't have any money to give to you to but this book." For some reason we both had NO idea what she was saying. We thought she wasn't willing or didn't want to read it. And that wasn't going to stand right with me because we just gave a kick butt lesson on how that same book is going to bless her life. After about of 15 minutes of me lecturing and telling her to humble herself, we finally figured out what she was trying to tell us and we felt really bad. We told her the book was for her and it didn't cost anything but a open heart and a commitment that she would read it. Gosh I can't wait tell I can speak/understand this language.

Last week in TRC. TRC is where we teach return missionaries for like 20 minutes. We teach 2 lessons back to back, all in Tagalog. I honestly love it so much because it's not the same pressure of teaching an investigator. This week, Elder H------ and I taught this Filipino  lady, Sister K------, and she was full Filipino and honestly it was kinda intimidating because we're gonna teach people like her. But when we knocked on the door and introduced ourselves I decided to go a different door approached. I said, "Ako po si Elder Guapo. Jokelang. Ako po si Elder Strader." Which translates, "My name is Elder Good looking. Just kidding. It's Elder Strader." She could not stop laughing. Even after when we were trying to teach our lesson, she'd remember what I said earlier and start laughing. I made few other jokes in Tagalog that I made up and it gave me confidence that I could still be funny, even in Tagalog. Sister K-------- afterwards told my teacher that the people in the Philippines are going to love me. Well let's hope so. I'm loving it here.

I had an elder this week get really sick and asked for me to give him a blessing.It's probably the 4th blessing I given here. I put my church clothes on and said a prayer and did my best through the Spirit. He was completely better the next day. My testimony and faith grows stronger everyday day and I'm grateful for this opportunity to be here.

Emyrie-I love you so much and I pray every night that you'll be okay and that you won't forget about me. I love you so much and someday you'll understand why I'm gone.

 Love you all! 

Your Valiant Missionary,
Elder Strader

 P.S.  #YOSO
August 23, 2014 

Well a lot has happened. Last week I was called by my branch president to be called District Leader. And lets just say it makes co-chair of youth conference a walk in the park. As surprising as this sounds I have been so humbled by this opportunity and it has taught me so much. I love my district so much and it's been an honor to be their leader. As a district we strive for perfect obedience and I have seen it's blessings. But we have a lot fun along the way. The MTC is hard and really stressful but my sense of humor has never let me down. At first I felt like I couldn't be a good district leader because my whole district is full of awesome leaders so I asked for a blessing from my district. One of the most spiritual moments of my life having 9 missionaries in a circle giving me a blessing of counsel and comfort and feeling their priesthood power. 

Now for the language. hahaha....actually when does the gift of tongues kick in? Kidding. But really. I'm learning so much and we're at the point that we're teaching 2 investigators a day in Tagalog. All I'm saying is I would make a killer nursery leader in the Philippines because my lessons are about that same level. I love this language but it's frustrating that I can't teach and explain as well as I know I could in English. I want to answer their questions and testify to them that I know its true....but when I say it in Tagalog sometimes it sounds really choppy and like 2 year talking. I sorta envy the English speaking missionaries but I know more than ever that this language and mission call is for me. Everytime me and Elder H------ teach our simple lessons the Spirit is so strong. And I've learned through simplicity there is power. (you can quote me on that...I made it up #yoso) Next week we're gonna start skyping a member from the Philippines and teach them the lessons. So pumped for that. I've had a personal goal to memorize the First Vision in Tagalog and my district is amazed of my progress (I have like half of it memorized). I know the gift of tongues is real but on a whole new level. I don't just wake up and speak fluently but I can retain words and phrases with ease. I can see the words in my head as if they were a picture. It's crazy. (I wish I had that for spanish 3) Our district is way ahead of everyone else in our zone when it comes to the language. Some words like "opo" (yes) and "mabuti" (good) are like muscle memory now. I can feel the Spirit work through me and the feeling is addicting. I love the MTC but I want to go to the field so bad. 

Tell the family I love them. I miss you all so much but I try not to think about it a lot because it makes me sad and homesick. I hope everyone is getting ready for school. I'm just really sad that I'm going to miss a lot things that is going to happen in everyone's lives. I love you all and I feel your prayers and I need them so much. Gosh Emyrie.....please give her a hug and a kiss for me. Tell her I'm be back soon and I'm doing what Jesus wants me to do. 

 Keep me in your prayers and hearts and I love you all so much! 

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader