Monday, December 7, 2015

Weapons of Rebellion

Mom,
Thank you for the email that sent I really enjoyed the stories!
I hope everything is doing well over there and the family is doing good. I'm excited to Skype y'all again on Christmas.
I'm not sick because my body is tough like an ox. The language is not a problem and I love the people here.

Things here are good! I'm really trying my best and having fun. I'm the oldest zone leader in the mission but I still have the fire of a new missionary. I love the missionaries that are in my zone. I do my best to serve them and and help them in anyway that I can. Our zone is still continuing our legacy and the Bangued Warriors are the best zone in our mission. What a blessing.
Something happened last week that really changed my life. Here's the story:

I learned that there was a certain elder in my zone that was being disobedient and had a secret cellphone. He had some members buy it for him and he was using it to keep in touch with his family and of course, his girlfriend back home. When I found this out, I was deeply saddened because this is a good elder. He is really good in the language and is a good teacher. This isn't my first encounter with disobedience before in the mission but I've gotten wiser the longer I've been out in the mission. A different leader's first instinct would probably be to chastise the missionary and most likely call President. But I've learned better approaches that I feel have a more lasting effect. So, when I confirmed of what the elder was doing I conducted exchanges with him. I didn't say anything I just acted like it was a normal exchange.We worked hard and had a good day. I tried to get know him more and I asked a lot about his family and he opened up about how certain members in his family have died while being out in the mission. I learned other things of what he's gone through that brought more light to me. 
We went home and I cooked him dinner and washed his clothes. The elder didn't really know how to respond to that but he was grateful. When we went to bed, as we laid in our beds. I was direct and asked the elder why he had a phone. It seemed almost out of nowhere. I didn't yell or get loud, I just went strait to the point. The elder's face went red and he had tears in his eyes. He stuttered and tried to give me some excuses. I listened. He expressed how he's been wanting to get rid of it but never got around to it. When he was finished talking, I paused a long time. Then I expressed my love for him and how grateful I was that he was in my zone. I then expressed how I felt disappointed and knew that he was better then that. I told him that he needed to repent so he can feel the Spirit more in his life. He said he wanted that. 
So I gave him two options. We either tell President or we get rid of it. He agreed to get rid of it but when I told him that I meant in that very moment, he was a little shocked. He asked if he could send it home or give it to a member, because it was a really nice phone. I explained that he couldn't chose the consequences, he has no right. (sounds familiar? I sounded like dad haha) So when he asked what we were going to do, I went to the scriptures. We read from Alma and read about the people of Ammon. We read about the change and the covenant that they made with the Lord. And when we read the part that they buried their "weapons of rebellion," the elder stopped and realized what I was hinting at. I looked at him and asked, "Are you willing to bury your weapon of rebellion?" The Spirit entered the room and with tears in his eyes the elder said yes. And that's what we did. 
Went outside and dug a big hole, the missionary gave me the SIM card and I destroyed it and I watched as this missionary literally buried his weapons of rebellion. We filled the hole again and placed a big stone on the top. As we both stared at the ground I asked if he would be willing to say a prayer. I've never felt the Spirit so strong in my life. It was one of the most sincere prayers that I've ever heard that really came from a broken heart. He asked for forgiveness and strength to overcome the temptation in his life. He asked a special blessing for his broken family back home. He thanked Heavenly Father for me, as his zone leader, for standing up for what's right. After his prayer we embraced and both cried together. It will be a moment that I will never forget.
Sometimes we judge people because of their sins or past actions or things they've done. What I've learned is that's not how God see's us. Remember Alma the Younger? He was destroying the church and was a very wicked man, but what did God do? He sent a angel from the heavens. How ironic. A wicked man gets a visit from a heavenly messenger. Maybe that's all we need is an angel to come and wake us up. I was the angel for this missionary and now he is truly converted and is doing well. I've seen many angels in my life, most of time through my parents. Maybe there are weapons of rebellion that we need to bury in our lives. I know that I have plenty. We are all sinners. We all need to repent. We all need His love and saving grace.
Mom, please tell the family that I love them so much. More then ever. Thank you for the prayers and know that you're in my mine. I'm grateful to be a missionary. I love the Philippines. I love this gospel. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I'll see you all soon.
Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Power of the Priesthood

Family and Friends,
What a crazy week! The days just fly by so fast but I'm having the time of my life here.
Nothing too crazy has happened but I'm really loving it here in Bangued. Elder D and I are really working hard. Now that I feel more comfortable with the language and I'm trying to focus on my teaching. We're bold in our lessons. I feel the Spirit and we've been guided in lessons. Yesterday, me and Elder D taught the head engineer of Abra. He's every smart, studied in Europe and has a big house and is VERY wealthy. We always try to teach him and but he always says he's busy. He's so wealthy and is a potential leader, the struggling branches need someone like him. Even though we get a sense that he doesn't like us coming all the time...I fear no man. Well his name is Danny and we went to his house for the millionth time. We went to the gate and rang the door bell (first house that I've ever seen with a doorbell here in the Philippines) and D came out and the conversation went a little like this:
*Translated into English
Us: Hello brother Danny! How are you?
Danny: I'm busy. Next time.
Us: Danny I like your hair today! Did you get a hair cut? (you can see we're desperate)
Danny: I'm sorry. I'm just too busy. Come back next time.
Me: Brother Danny we're busy too. We teach a lot of people but we still make time to come here. We have a message that will change your life and bless your family and all we're asking is for 5 minutes.
Danny: 5 minutes?
Me: 5 minutes.
Danny: You have 5 minutes. Come in.
We taught Priesthood in the first lesson. We focused on the family and how his family needs Priesthood. We told him that, without the Priesthood, his family can't be together forever. We read scriptures. The Spirit was strong. Danny asked us," Can a normal dad like me hold that kind of power?" With tears in my eyes, I said "Yes Brother Danny, if you're worthy, humble and have a desire follow Jesus Christ and you can hold the Priesthood. You can bless you're own family." Brother Danny asked how could he hold the Priesthood and we told him our 5 minutes were up. I told him I was a man of my word. We ended in a kneeling prayer and Brother Danny prayed for the first time in his life. I can't explain to you what it's like to hear someone pray to their Heavenly Father for the first time. What a tender mercy that I can witness that first divine connection. Danny said we could come back and teach his family more about the Priesthood.
I just want to bear my testimony of the power in the Priesthood. I've seen and felt its power my whole life. I'm grateful that I always had a worthy Priesthood holder in my home. I'm grateful that I had a mother who always helped my dad honor his Priesthood. I know it is the power of God. I know that it was restored through Joseph Smith. I know families can be together forever because of the Priesthood. I love my Savior. I love the Filipino people. I love you all and I'll see you soon!
Your Valiant Missionary,
Elder Strader


Here are some pictures! Me and Elder D explore this cave in our area on P-day! 




Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dirt Floors and Family Pictures

Mom,


Sorry for the crappy emails lately. Things have been busy and I'm really not good at this email thing, but don't worry I've been keeping a journal and I'll tell all my stories when I come home. I'm a way better story teller anyway.

Things here in Bangued have been doing really well. I've been going to the gym everyday in the mornings and I feel strong. My body has changed so much on the mission. I don't know if you'll be able to recognize me when I come back haha. Elder D is my companion and I knew him in the MTC. I'm learning a lot from him and we're having a lot of success here. The zone is doing well and I'm not trying to brag or be prideful but I'm pretty well known here in my mission. I feel this pressure to perform well. Whenever I walk into zone trainings or surprise check apartments, missionaries stand up and give me respect. It's almost like a fear, which is something I don't want. But mostly I think it's because they respect me. I work hard and try to love every one. I fear no man, only God. I'm bold but not overbearing. When it comes to my missionaries I serve them and give my best and expect the same from them. Looking back I was a good leader on the wrestling team or youth conference but I've learned a little here of how to be a Christ-like leader.And if you lead like Christ, then you'll see success. I strive to be exactly obedient but there are some things that I don't follow. Don't freak out mom. I think one of reasons why my zones have seen success is because I try to be different and follow the Spirit. Our zone training's have set schedules of what we're supposed to do but I don't always follow it...sometimes the training's here is like this," missionaries take like 1 hour bus rides to the chapel and everyone sits down and the zone leaders give a 3 hour training/workshops. There's no fire. No application. Just a lot of talking. It's the same thing every week, same everywhere in the mission. So I try to mix it up a little bit. I do rotations, I invite members from the local branches to come to our trainings and act as investigators, I always bring food, sometimes we do team building games. But it's different every week. I try my best to adjust to the needs of the zone and the Lord has blessed us with success."

Don't worry I've talked with my Mission President and he approves of what I've been doing. This calling really has pushed me and I'm truly grateful. I have no regrets.  I love it here so much.

Other then that I'm doing good. I speak the language well and I feel like I can finally connect with people. I dream in Tagalog. I love the people here. 

So for your simplify question. Yes, I have seen a lot of poverty here. People living in houses that, I'm not joking, are as big as my closet back home. People washing their clothes in the river and little kids selling candy on the streets. Sometimes it's hard for me to look. I've given half of my white shirts to members and I only have one belt and one pair of shoes. The more I give away the more I feel that I'm putting off the natural man. I wash my clothes by hand and before I say my night prayers, I have to dust off the rat poop that's on my bed. We go in homes and people always try to feed us even if they have nothing. Moments when I'm sitting on a dirt floor and a family of 5 gives me a bowl of rice and when I look inside the bowl and there are ants and maggots, but when I look at there faces and they say that they're sorry because it's not enough. I just smile and with tears in my eyes eat it humbly. Things like that change your life. One thing you'll see in everyone's house is pictures of their families. Dirt floors and family pictures. Another thing you'll always see in most people's homes is a picture of Jesus Christ. Isn't that powerful? So if that's not simplifying your life, I don't know what else is. All you need is your family and the Savior of the world, and "all these things shall be added unto to you." 

I hope that helps, I'm really sorry I'm bad at this email thing. Mom I just want to thank you for your emails and prayers. Please don't worry about me. I'm working hard and I'm trying to lose myself in the work. I know if I work harder I will get a hot wife and my family will receive more blessings. Are you feeling those blessings? If not, I got to get off this computer and go work haha. I love you mom. I'm really trying to make you proud. You can't see all that I'm doing here but when I hug you in the airport you'll feel that I really did my very best for the Lord. I will always be your stripling warrior and I will not fear or doubt because my mother knew it. Mahal ko kayo!

Anak mo,
Elder Strader



Message para kay Sydnie,

SYDNIE,

Hey you got baptized! I wish I was there. You look so big in your pictures. Sydnie I love how you're inviting your friends to your baptism! You're a missionary too, like me! Sid, I want you to know that I love you so much. Do you know that? And your Heavenly Father loves you even MORE. We don't even understand His love for us. And we are both so "masaya" (happy) that you decided to be abptized and follow His Son Jesus Christ. Now baptism is the only the first step, you've got a long ways ahead but don't worry, you're not alone. You're never alone. Keep being a good example and always love everyone. I miss you and love you. I'll be home soon. 

Love,
kuya

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dear family,

How are you guys? Thanks for all the emails and prayers, I can reassure you that I feel those prayers. Some days I feel an extra strength or energy, pushing me that day, and I'm not sure where it came from. I testify of the power that comes from sincere prayer. Keep them coming. 

Things are going really good! I love my area, my companion, and the people we're teaching! I'm sorry for another short email but I love this gospel and you guys!

Love,
Elder Strader


P.S Who keeps saying that I'm getting fat on the mission??? Haha





Sunday, October 18, 2015

Family and Friends,

What a awesome week! Elder D is the man and we're having a lot of fun together! The zone is still continuing it's legacy and we can't help but feel blessed. 

Sorry for the short email but here are some pictures! I love this gospel and all of you! The church is true!

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader








Monday, October 12, 2015

Family and Friends,

I'm sorry for the lazy emails lately, it's just a lot of things are going on. 

So, I'm loving it here in Bangued. It's beautiful up here and we don't get that many death threats like people say. I love the zone and we've been seeing a lot of success. Let me give you a little background of what has going up here the past 2 months. 

When I showed up here, Bangued was the one the worst zones in our mission. When I say worst I mean lowest in baptisms and in other statistic things. As I looked back on the past stats of the zone and as I went in exchanges with missionaries in their area's, I noticed some red flags. 

1) Our zone has baptisms but they're a lot of individuals.  A lot of missionaries were teaching young children and youth. There hasn't been a family baptism in a long time. 
2) I found in some area's where a lot of women and gay's were being taught.
3) All the branches here in Bangued are small and weak and really don't have any potential leaders. We don't have that much Priesthood holders They heavily rely on the missionaries for everything. For example, I taught Relief Society last week...you picking up what I'm putting down? 

So as I noticed these things in our zone and knowing we have hard working missionaries but yet this zone isn't seeing a success. After prayer and fasting I felt like what our zone was really lacking was a goal. Not just a goal to get high stats or lessons but we really didn't have a goal to push for. Remember in the Book of Mormon with Captain Moroni and the Title liberty? There were problems with the government and separation within the people and then Moroni came and presented the famous Title of Liberty, which stated what they were willing to fight for, what their priories were and they made a covenant with God. As I reflected on our zone I asked myself, "What are we fighting for as a zone?" What really is our goal? What do we want to accomplish? So with some inspiration and a lot of praying and fasting, we made the goal for our zone BUILD the KINDGOM. 

What the build the kingdom means is we change our focus to people that can really help these struggling branches up here in the mountains of abra. Building the Kingdom isn't really focused on "stats" but on finding families and future leaders. Instead trying to baptize 10 year olds we go find engineers. When we see a big wealthy house, we don't get scared but walk right up the door. We also pushed for weekly baptisms in our zone. What that means our zone will have a baptism every week. The baptisms will be future leaders and families. We push for the middle class. We know the gospel is for everyone but we need to focus on people that help the church and help themselves.  And we will the build the Lord's kingdom here in Bangued. 

The zone responded well to this goal and went to work. We changed our focus and applied more of the concept "smart work and along with hard work." Being united with a goal that isn't just focused on numbers really motivated the zone. And miracles have happened the last 2 months. We teach more families and future leaders. Me and my companion are teaching a professor and lawyer and their families. We have missionaries that are teaching the mayor of Bangued city and the police captain of the city. We have no fear. For the last 7 weeks Bangued Zone has baptized weekly. We're now the top baptizing zone in the mission and we have many more weeks a head. 

Now, I say all of these not to brag or bring attention to me. What this zone needed was a goal or a "title of liberty" you might say. What I've witnessed here in Bangued Zone is a miracle. Because we relied on the Lord and we knew what we were fighting for. We had a goal has a zone. We put our focus to the most important things. As I reflect on these things I feel it can apply to all of us. Sometimes we feel our life has no direction. We're good people, doing good things but we feel there is a lack of something. When we're asked, "What are you fighting for?" We don't know. Maybe our focus is on, other, not as important things

I invite you all to find a goal for yourself or your family. What is your title of Liberty? What are you fighting for? a temple sealing? To be successful? To be a good father or to make money? Don't go through the motions. I want to testify, as disciple of Christ, that I know what and whom I'm fighting for. I know where I want to end up. I have no fear. I can't be stopped. I know the Book of Mormon is true because I read it. I know my Heavenly Father loves because I've felt it. And as a missionary I know that I'm here in the Philippines to build His kingdom. Till we meet again. Love you all!

Your Valiant Missionary,
Elder Strader 



P.S. Here's my new companion Elder D! We were friends in the MTC and I'm so excited to work with him. He's from Las Vegas. 


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Family and Friends,
I'm sorry for my crappy emails lately. The internet connection here in Abra is really SLOW. So us missionaries up here can't email as long. Please bear with me.
So a little update with my area. Remember in Lehi's Dream of the Tree of Life? Of course you do. With the Tree and Iron Rod and stuff? Being out here in Abra, I feel like I'm living that in real life, except I feel like there is a missing part 2 in Lehi's vision. I feel like I got to the tree and partook of the fruit but there is a twist. I have a backpack and I fill the it with extra fruit and then I jump over the river of misery and travel through the mists of darkness, where I then make my way to the Great Spacious building, after climbing the walls I then proselyte and try to take my fellow men back to the tree. Hahaha that is the life of a missionary. But really it's like Babylon here. Prostitutes outside our apartment and "Disco Bars" across the street of the Chapel. Sometimes it's hopeless to track at night because a lot of people are drunk and it's not safe for two white Americans walking around after 8pm. But I'm not afraid. I have some wrestling experience under my belt and my companion is a college football player, but the real reason of why I'm not scared is because I know who is watching out for me. Why should I fear? I'm dong my Father's will and nothing can stop this work. I'm in good hands.
I want all of you to know that I know my Savior lives. I know through the Book of Mormon we can find answers to our problems and trials. I love being a missionary. All of you are in my prayers and I hope I'm in yours. I'll see you soon.
Your Valiant Missionary,
Elder Strader



Here are some pictures of me in our area and a picture of me and Elder Baker when we went frog hunting with some fiipino kids




Monday, August 31, 2015

Loved ones,

A lot of things have happened and I'm going to do my very best to explain:

TRANSFERS: I was transfered from Baguio City to Bangued, ABRA (now my third area). I'm still a zone leader and I'm with my 6th companion, Elder B. He's my first American companion and one of my best friends in the mission and I can't believe my mission president put us together. The church is true.

Bangued, ABRA has a history and I seriously can't believe that I'm here. Bangued is a Ilocano provdence. What that means is that their dialect is pure Ilocano. They can't understand or speak Tagalog that well and of course you'll never hear anyone speak English here. I've learned a little Ilocano in my past area's put I can't teach in that language and I can't understand when they speak. Ilocano is more of a harsh and sharp sound. Tagalog flows more like Spanish. But, honestly the language thing doesn't discourage me, if anything it pushes me to learn more and be better. In our mission we have 9 zones and Bangued Zone is called, "Outer Darkness" in our mission. Because it is the farthest zone away from our mission office (over 6 hours) and it is not the safest place. Before last year, American missionaries and sister missionaries were not allowed to be assigned in Abra, only Filipino elders. Everyone in the mission would always hear crazy rumors that happened in Bangued, like people get shot everyday, no electricity, no clean water, there are a lot of NPA (New People's Army- Filipino rebels that fight against the government and they hide deep in the mountains). So president doesn't send the weak hearted missionaries there, especially white people. Until last year, one American elder was sent in Bangued and he's kinda of a legend in our mission. No one tried or kill or kidnap him so we think it's safe to send foreigners. Now I'm here with Elder B (college football player from Utah) and we're the only white people in our zone and in this whole area hahaha. President called me and told me that he needed me in Abra and I had mixed emotions. Okay that let me get one thing strait, I'm not scared. If anything, I WANT to be kidnapped and convert my captors or have NPA try to shoot at me and the bullets bounce off me because of my priesthood. Bring it on. So of course I accepted and I'm so excited to be here.

When I got here I cleared away a lot of rumors. First off, this place is BEAUTIFUL. I'll take a lot of pictures and send them to y'all next week. Rice fields and mountains here are breathtaking. People don't get killed everyday it's more like every OTHER day haha. But seriously we found this couple, taught one lesson and had a return appt. and when we came back yesterday, we found out that  the husband was stabbed and killed the night before. So I guess that rumor is kinda true.

 The people here are so KIND. They LOVE us here. Of course, two white guys walking around, talking about Jesus they love us here. I haven't ran into any NPA yet because they hide in the mountains so that kinda sucks. We've killed over 6 rats in our apartment already and I'm loving life. Our little branch here is small and struggling but I've never felt more love and unity in a chapel my whole life. The church is so true it's ridicules. 

MY FIRST KISS-Elder B introduced me to Nanay (means "mom" in Tagalog) S. She is the only convert in her family and she lives alone. Nanay S is 87 years old and walks to church every Sunday (which is about 3 miles away from her house) and shes LOVES the missionaries. When I first walked in her small humble home, I put my hand out to shake her hand and she pulled me in for a hug. Now, as missionaries, we're not allowed to give hugs but I was ambushed and she's pretty strong for a 87 year old lady. But I'm not going to lie the hug was great. It was warm and reminded of grandma Evans, I would say her height is probably 5'1. I tried to back out of the hug the best I could and then Nanay S grabbed my face and gave me a big, wet kiss on my cheek. It was AWESOME. My face went red and I had butterflies in my stomach haha. Probably the best moment of my mission so far.  

Anyway, I'll send a lot of pictures next week. I want all of you that I love you all and that I love this gospel. I work my hardest everyday and I love every second. I'll see you all soon!

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader

Monday, August 17, 2015

One Week Left in Baguio

Family and Friends,

Life is awesome. I have about one more week here in Baguio City and I'm just trying to make the most of it. Everything is going good. My Tagalog is getting better everyday and I feel like I can really testify what I want to say or feel. I'm going to miss this area and the people here. I have a lot of extended family here. Lately I've been focusing on my prayers and trying to make them more powerful and personal. I love and miss ya'll so much! Keep those prayers coming!


I'm sorry that I haven't sent pictures in a while. Here are some pictures with some families that we've been teaching and I've gotten really close with! :) 

Your Valiant Missionary,
Elder Strader





Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"I'm Halfway Baby"

Family and Friends,

I have a special announcement: I'M HALFWAY BABY. 1 year-2 areas, I couldn't be more happy. I have no regrets of the past year. I've worked the hardest of my life and I loved every moment. I have mixed emotions that I only have one more year left but I'm focused and I'm about to hit these next 12 months hard. I love being a missionary.

Elder B and I are having a great time. We work well together and I feel the Spirit when he teaches. We're having success in our area and I feel blessed. He's helped me a lot with my Tagalog. 

I'm sorry nothing too crazy happened this week. A lot of prayers have been answered, nothing too special, but there special to me. 

I'll try to send pictures next week.

Sorry for the short email but I love you all! The church is true!

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

False Limitations

My peeps,

I have a announcement to make...MY ONE YEAR MARK IS THIS WEEK. Don't worry I'm still focused on the work. Where does the time go?

FUN FACT: I'm the only American elder in my zone. Out of 24 missionaries here in Baguio City only 2 of us are American (the other is sister P, she's from Idaho). So that means English is rarely used hahaha but it's helping improve in the language. 

Well we had a another good week. Elder B and I got 40 lessons again. I'm not saying that to brag or talk about stats but it's really interesting how I thought this area was struggling and until we challenged ourselves and went for the 40 lessons, we broke that false limitation that was in our way. Now ever since we hit the 40, it seems easier to get lessons and we're a lot more positive with our area. Maybe we have false limitations in our life. Things that people say or what we think, that we can't accomplish. The world might say, "you can't do that, it's never been done before." So what? Sometimes, we put excuses in our way and we get acted upon. We're afraid to push ourselves. But the moment we decided that good is not good enough. The moment we decided that no matter what others say, that we're going to make our goals or dreams happen. That's when we learn how strong we really are. I had a wise coach once say, "what doesn't challenge you, won't change you." ( shout out to Coach Shipmen) Wise words. 

Earlier this week we had a great first lesson with Myra. She's 20 years old and has no family, she's been homeless until a member family brought her in their home. Needless to say she's had a hard life. We did a simple first lesson, mainly focused on Jesus Christ and His Atonement, and at the end we asked if Myra could say the closing prayer. She was a little hesitant and nervous, which is normal, but with some encouragement we taught her how to pray and she prayed. It was a simple, sweet prayer. A prayer that you can tell that it came from the heart. When she ended her short, but intimate prayer, we looked up to see Myra shaking and crying. We were a little confused and knowing that I'm really not good in situations when girls cry, we asked her if she was okay (smooth right?). Myra looked up at us and said that was the first time she has ever prayed in her whole life. We then asked her what she was feeling. All she could say in between the tears was, "happy."

I can relate with Myra that when I pray I feel "happy" too. I know that our Heavenly Father feels happy too when we take the time and really pray to Him. I hope you all are doing good. I want you ya'll to know that I love being a missionary. I work hard and I'm obedient everyday. I have fun and there never goes a day that I don't eat rice or laugh. I love my family. I know this church is true. I'll see ya'll soon!

Your Valiant Missionary,
Elder Strader


P.S. Here's a picture of my district!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hello Everyone,

I'm sorry I've been lazy with the pictures, because I'M TOO BUSY SERVING THE LORD. Hahaha here are some pictures of some missionaries, old and new companions and me jamming out with old Filipino. The weather is getting better and my foot is pretty much healed. 

I love you guys! The church is true!


Elder Strader





Monday, July 20, 2015

Mga Tao ko (my people),

What a crazy week and I'm sorry I can't give a long email again haha. But I have a funny story to share that happen this week.

So we just had transfers and I got a new companion! His name is Elder B! He's my 5th Filipino companion! He's a new zone leader but he's taught me a lot. We're having a blast.

Anyway, the first day I picked up Elder B we went to go to work in our area. There's this one part in our area that we have to cross a river. It's not a big river, maybe about 2 feet deep, if that. The river is pretty wide and there are some big rocks that we jump on to cross the river. STOP THERE BACKGROUND FIRST- Right now in the Philippines it's the "rainy season." And it's TERRIBLE. It literally rains 24/7 I'm not joking. Our apartment doesn't have power and other missionaries apartments are getting flooded. It was cool the first 2 days because the sky was really dark and it's really cold but it really hinders the work. OKAY I'LL CONTINUE- It's raining harder then usual and we approach the river that we're supposed to cross to go to our appointments. Well it was a river on steroids now. The water was so DEEP(almost 5ft) and the current was so strong. The rocks that we usually jump on were completely under the water. Elder B and I just met so we really don't know each other. And to be honest I really didn't have a desire to try to cross this river that most likely is full of poop and diseases. But this is how the conversation went:

(We both stare at the rushing water, both not saying anything)
Elder B: Is there any other way?
Me: Wala (which means no or none)
Elder B: Are you sure? 
Me: (I don't say anything and just continue to stare at the giant river)
Elder B: The current is really strong...probably dangerous...let's go back
Me: I think I can do it.
Elder B: Elder, where would we cross? There's no bridge or rocks...
Me: (no response)
Elder B: Elder Anong nasaisip mo? (What are you thinking?)
Me: Elder B do you have faith?
Elder B: Elder! The river is too strong, we can't see any path to walk...
Me: (Rain is pouring down on my face and I dramatically look at Elder B and in a deep voice, say:) Welcome to Baguio Zone (okay I probably could of had said something cooler)

And then I crossed the river. 


The water was cold and I couldn't stop thinking about all the bacteria that is probably infecting my foot. I can hear Elder B yelling in the back ground. I couldn't help but laugh when I saw my new Filipino companion (whom's height is 4"11) cross the river like a champion. I gained a lot of respect for Elder B that day. 

As I reflect on that experience, I feel there's a lesson to be learned. Sometimes in life we feel that there are river's in our way. Maybe the river represents trials or hardships. Or maybe new laws that are passed by the government or social problems or pressures. Whatever it is we can't turn back. As followers of Jesus Christ we keep moving forward. No matter how strong the current is or how deep the water is. We stick to what we know. We hold on to that little faith that we have and press forward, hoping things are better on the other side. We might get wet. We might get cold but we have a Savior who is waiting for us with a warm embrace. We can't stop believing in Him. We won't stop believing in Him. We won't turn back. 

I want to bear my testimony that I know that God is the Father and He loves us. He loves us so much that He sent His son Jesus Christ. I know His church is here today through the prophet Joseph Smith. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God and can change lives because it changed mine. I know we have a living prophet today, Thomas S. Monson. I love my family. I know I can be with them forever. I love you all and I thank you for your prayers, emails and love. I'll be home soon but I have some rivers to cross first.

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader

Monday, July 13, 2015

Short Email

Family,

Sorry for the short email again, but transfers are this week. I won't find out the details untill later tonight but I know that I'm staying here in Baguio for another transfer (6 weeks). So that means I'll be here in Baguio for 6 months in the same area again hahaha. It's okay with me because I love it here and I love the people. 

Other then that my foot is healing really fast and the doctors are surprised, especially the fact that I'm still working everyday and I have been walking on it. CAN'T STOP, WON'T STOP. My Tagalog is getting better and I can pretty much understand everything. I feel so blessed to be here. Miracles are our daily bread and I've seen the Lord's hand in this work. I can't express the joy that I feel being out here. Sometimes I feel like 2 years isn't long enough. Okay I'll stop the cheesy missionary stuff. Love ya'll!

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader

Monday, July 6, 2015

Too Busy Serving the Lord

Dear Family,

Sorry I've been slacking on the pictures. Too busy serving the Lord. 

First one- There is a member in our ward that owns a hotel in Baguio and invites all the missionaries over every Sunday AND THEY HAVE A PIANO. So I play the piano and Elder Tupou (my district leader) sings. 


Second/third-District Baptisms! Elder Y and I got a baptism! It was the first baptism in our area in over two years and we feel so blessed! Her name is Sister A and she had to get married in order to get baptized and she did it! Her determination to follow God's commandments is a huge example to me. We've really enjoyed teaching her! 

Your Valiant Missionary,
Elder Strader




Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Keep Your Shoes On

Tao ko,

Well to start off this spiritual email I would like relate the following experience of how I learned, the hard way, that I need to fear God more than man. 

Last week we had our zone activity with the missionaries. As zone leaders we're in charge of planning the zone activity and there's a lot more at stake then you might think. Missionaries will judge and rate how effective of a zone leader you are by how fun your zone activity is. Knowing this I wanted to have a awesome zone activity that would be remembered. Be careful what you wish for. 

There's a place here in Baguio City called Camp John Hay, it's a old US army base from the 60's and now it's for public use. Well they have this field that is isolated and is surrounded by hills and trees, but there's a huge flat plain in the middle. So if anyone had a real childhood they would instinctively know that this particular venue is perfect for Capture the Flag. Filipinos are not familiar with this amazing game that revels true character and skill. I decided to take the risk of having that as our zone activity. So we met as a zone at Camp John Hay early Monday morning (our P-day). The skies were a little cloudy and a GIANT cloud of fog came across the field and it was AWESOME. I explained the rules and we split up into teams. Elder Y picked all the fast Filipinos and Americans on his team and I had all the Samoans and Tongans on my team. You can obviously see that I'm more experienced in this game. After my team and I did a Tongan warrior dance of intimidation we started the game. Well, as the game went on all the Tongans and Samoans took off their shoes because they could run faster and it's kinda part of their culture. Knowing of the untamed field and the visible sharp rocks and sticks on the ground I decided against it. But my Polynesian team told me to take off my shoes. I know it's really not a big deal but I wanted to be accepted and part of this Island Brotherhood. So, it didn't take long for me to succumb to the peer pressure to take my shoes off.

This was probably the most intense capture the flag game I've ever played my whole life. With the natural elements like the fog and rain and the fact that the losing team will pay for lunch, we played like champions (Tongans will do anything for free food). As the game went on it came down to me and one Tongan elder on my team, Elder T, we were the only ones not in jail. With our fellow brothers in jail I told Elder T to stay and guard the flag and I charged out to the other teams flag. Okay I know we all are aware of my athletic ability but for some reason I ran faster. I was untouchable. I dodged through trees and ran past everyone and grabbed the flag and headed strait back to our side. As I was running back, I felt my foot step on something but maybe it was the adrenaline or maybe the Tongan cheers I heard, I didn't feel anything in the moment. As I dived to our side my team ran over and picked up to celebrate the victory and that's when we noticed my foot was completely covered in blood. (Mom stop reading here)

I sat down and then the pain hit me when I saw the side of my foot. I'm going to spare the details but when I saw the flesh and fat hanging out I wanted to throw up. But of course I'm trying to look tough in front of the sister missionaries and not look like a sissy in front of my Polynesian teammates I didn't scream or cry when they dumped cleaning alcohol on the wound. I went to the emergency room and remind me next time to tell you what hospitals are like in the Philippines. They stitched me up and I was good to go. 

(Mom you can read now)

So now I probably should tie this into some spiritual insight but only one scripture can come to my mind. It's in the Book of Mormon when the prophet Jacob said simply,

"Oh be wise, what can I say more?" (Jacob 6:12)

Obedience brings blessings, that's true. But it also brings protection. When we go to church as a family, when we pray consistently and study the scriptures, we're blessed with more spiritual knowledge and guidance but we're given protection too. Angels will guard us. The Spirit will be there to warn us. Sometimes amidst the busy things of life we feel comfortable not saying our nightly prayers or reading the scriptures everyday. We don't feel that guilty if we miss church or don't do service this, "one time." We get comfortable and fall into the peer pressure of the world and the temptations of Satan....we take our shoes off, so to speak. And we find ourselves walking on dangerous ground. Things that seem innocent at first could cut or hurt us the most in the long run. Samuel Johnson once said, "hell is paved with good intentions." 

I want to bear my testimony that when we do the simple things; pray, read the scriptures, worship at church, and serve our fellow man...we are putting on our spiritual shoes. I love this gospel. I love being a missionary. I know through Jesus Christ anything is possible. I'm humbled that the Lord is trusting me in a small part of the vineyard here in the Philippines. I feel focused and I've never felt this much joy in my life. I love my family and they are in my prayers constantly and I hope they always have their "shoes" on. Keep those prayers coming and I'll see ya'll soon.

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader 



Monday, June 15, 2015

Dog Does Not Taste Like Chicken

Peeps,

Well the weeks are just flying by so fast. My Tagalog is getting better and I'm trying to learn Cebuano (another dialect here, Elder Y's native language) so I can communicate better with my companion. Well rainy season has officially started and it was really fun the first 2 days...but now I'm sick of it, no I'm literally sick because of the rain. It rains so hard everyday that it puts Texas rainstorms to shame. 

Earlier this week I went on exchanges with a Elder that has been struggling with getting lessons. His name is Elder Flutey-Paramore. I'm not joking that's his real name. No it gets better, his first name is Apollos. Mom why did you give me a boring name like Jaren? Well, Flutey is Samoan and he's HUGE, but he has a even bigger heart. When we opened our exchanges and I had Elder Flutey-Paramore read the definition of what the definition of a lesson is in Preach My Gospel. What is it that you need to have a opening and closing prayer, teach 1 or 2 principles and extend a commitment. It doesn't say we have to teach people in house or teach a long 45 minute lesson. So we decided to focus on teaching short and powerful lessons. Lessons that are simple, clear and they feel the Spirit and then we leave so the investigators feel the difference when we're there and when we left.  So we did that and we had a killer day! We taught people at bus stops, outside their houses (because they didn't want us in their homes), we almost taught a guy in a public restroom. It was a wonderful day and we both learned a lot.

I love you guys. Thank you so much for the emails and prayers. I know this church is true. I know why I'm out here. I know Jesus is the Christ. He is my Savoir. I love ya'll and I'll be home soon. 

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader




Monday, June 8, 2015

June 8, 2015

My People,

I'm sorry that I couldn't email last week! We had no connection because of a tropical storm...but the good news is that I'm not getting married with a random Filipino woman. See mom, I told you I would take of care of it. 

Well I just had one of the best, most emotionally and physically draining, intense weeks of my life. But it not only changed my mission, but my life. Let me explain why;

After our Mission Tour, President Balledos gathered all the zone leaders in the whole mission for a meeting. President wanted to change the mission. With that in mind, he decided to change our Standards of Excellence, which means our goal of number lessons that we should achieve each week. It's broken up in different categories but its intention is to push the missionaries and make sure we're working effectively and we have a goal in mind. So for our mission the goal was 25 lessons each week. And one of the burden of being a zone leader is you get a crappy area, because President expects that the leaders in the mission should be able to have success in those hard areas. So President told us that he wanted us to get 40 lessons in one week. Now let me back up for a second. Elder Y and I average about 20 lessons a week. When I was in Aringay, I was getting 35+ a week no problem. So, when I heard the challenge and knowing the stats of our struggling area, I'm scared to admit that I kinda doubted that it was possible for our area at that time. And then President told me something that I will never forget. He said,

"Elder Strader I'm not talking about numbers...I'm talking about faith..."

That hit me hard. Feeling a little ashamed of my lack of faith I prayed asking my Heavenly Father to help me to achieve the 40 lessons to help change the mission and my area. I asked him to give me strength and help me with my unbelief. I promised that I would be exactly obedient and I would put my 100% and in return He would bless my efforts and make it possible. So...we went to work.

Elder Y and I worked the hardest, I think the hardest we've ever worked in our lives. We fasted everyday the whole week, we prayed hard, we planned more effectively and we talked to everyone. Every time it got hard I kept saying out loud, "can't stop, won't stop." Once I explained it to Elder Y in Tagalog that became our companionship motto for the week. People were prepared for us and the lessons just kept coming. When we got our 40th lesson late Sunday night, I wanted to cry and shout praises to the Lord because I knew for a fact that we had witnessed a miracle. All the glory goes to Him because through Him...anything is possible. 

I want to tell my family that I love them. I miss you all so much. I miss mom's cooking and our inside jokes. I miss the random wrestling matches in the kitchen to the deep gospel discussions with dad. I miss Brennan and us watching Netflix till 3am. I'm still not sure if I miss Maddie or not. I'm kidding I miss Maddie and her personality. I miss Donovan and his happy and obedient attitude. I miss playing on piano with Sydnie and Emyrie dancing. There's a lot of people and things I miss but...if I didn't come out here I would be missing out on a lot more. I love being a missionary. I love the Philippines and the people here. I love my Savior and I know He loves me. But I know He expects a lot from me and because of that...I can't stop and I won't stop sharing this restored gospel that has brought so much joy to me. 

I'll see ya'll soon.

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May 25th, 2015

Family and friends, 

First off, don't ever ask old Filipino ladies if they have any single granddaughters as a joke, because there may or may not be a Filipino woman flying from Hong Kong excited to meet her arranged American husband from Spring, Texas. I'm sure everything will work out...Mom don't worry.  

Well after our mission tour with Elder Bowen, from the Seventy, he challenged us, as Baguio Mission, to get 30 testifying contacts (TC for short) each day. What that means is we need to talk to random people and testify about our unique message (Restoration, Joseph Smith, and Priesthood). For a lot of missionaries that's out of their comfort zone, especially for the foreigners because of Tagalog/all the other dialects we have to learn. But for Elder Strader talking has never been a big problem, ask all my teachers from grade school. The problem I have found myself in, is that I can easily go up and talk to people and make them feel comfortable with the Strader charm and smile, but I usually testify about Jesus Christ and about how our message can bless families. I do this because it's usually a nice, non-threatening transition to a return appointment and then we share the "unique message" when we go and have have that first lesson. That's not a bad approach. But here in the Philippines 95% of the population are Christian and a family based country. For example when you go to college and get married you still stay with your parents for the rest of your life because that's just the culture here unlike in America where on your 18th birthday you're kicked out of the house if you like it or not hahaha. So what Elder Bowen said was that my approach lacked faith...ouch. But he's right, I am a missionary and representative of Jesus Christ, I bear His name on my chest. I hold His power and in His name anything is possible. So I repented and decided to do it the right way, even though it might be a little more scary or awkward. I just told myself that I'm not going to play it safe and just go to random people and bear my testimony of the Restoration and if they make fun of or deny me....I'll probably cry. Just kidding, and I'll just do what my idol Rocky Balboa said in RockyVI;

"It's not how hard you get hit, it's how hard you get hit and keep moving forward, that's how winning is done!" 

And that's what I've done this last week. When I say I literally talked to everyone in my path, I literally talked to everyone. Beside drunk people, most of the people haven't responded well to our unique message. I kid you not when I say that I've been spat on, cursed at, hit with a broom (now that's a funny story) told to never come back to their house ever again. Now, you would think I would probably get discouraged or something. Absolutely not! I loved every second. When we're on a jeepney full of over 20 people and I just awkwardly start shouting my testimony that we have a living prophet today and everyone just stares at me. It's the best. I tired to explain to my Filipino companion what, "haters" meant but he doesn't understand haha. I told Elder Y when there's persecution you know you're doing something right. It wasn't easy for the prophets of old. It wasn't easy for Jesus Christ and I'm grateful and honored that it's not easy for me. 

I want to bear my testimony and special witness that Jesus is the Christ. I love being a missionary. I know that we have a living prophet today that can lead and guide our families. Speaking of families, I love mine and I know I can be with them forever. I testify that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and can bring more peace in your life. I've seen it fix broken families. I've seen it heal broken souls. I love ya'll and don't worry I'll be home before you know it. 

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mom,

Please don't ever say swag ever again. Thanks for your emails and it was so great to see all of you! The rash is about the same but I'm strong. Things are going good. We had Elder Bowen, from the Seventy, visit our mission and it was kick butt. He literally just chastised all of us and it was awesome. He changed my mindset of the mission and I'm on an attack mode more then ever.  One thing he said really stood out to me, "be the missionary that your mother thinks you are." Meaning if our moms saw our apartments or saw if we really were obedient or not. That had a big impact on me. Because I want to make the Lord proud but I want serve honorably to respect my family's name. I want to make you and dad proud. And maybe you wouldn't approve how I kill rats with nerf guns or flirt with old ladies in relief society to get dinner appointments, but I can't be perfect, right? I would love it if you were here with me. I have no regrets so far and I work as hard as I can everyday. I want you here to feel the Spirit in the lessons that we teach. I want you to meet the amazing people I get to meet. I relate to Nephi, that I too have been, "born of goodly parents." Thank you for everything. Thanks for not medicating me when I thought I was a dog. Thank you for your patience and confidence in me. Most importantly, thank you for teaching me and living the gospel. I love you and dad so much. Send my love to the family and keep me in your prayers. I'll see ya'll soon. The Church is true! 

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader

Monday, May 4, 2015

Family, 

Happy Birthday Mom! I guess technically your birthday is tomorrow but it's May 4th here. I will say mushy stuff about you when I skype on the family on Mother's Day. 

So short email. Things are going great. My Tagalog is improving at a fast rate and I think I forgot how to speak English. Our area is slowly progressing too. We've found some awesome families. I love teaching families. Also I shaved my head. Haha me and the other American elders in our zone did it to have unity or something. I'll send some pics. 

Well I love this gospel and I love you all! I'll see you next week when I skype! The church is true!

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader

Monday, April 27, 2015

Family and loved ones,


This last week was one of my favorite weeks of the mission. Let me explain why;

We had our Zone Interviews. That's when President Balledos comes down and interviews all the missionaries and checks apartments, ect. So our zone met at the stake center where we did a series of workshops while president interviewed all the missionaries. The workshops were awesome and the Spirit was strong. President interviewed me last once everyone else left. Elder Y and I had to stay last to lock up the church and clean up. So I go in one of the classrooms with my mission president. Even though I love President Balledos I still sometimes get a little nervous when I'm around him. I don't know why. Anyway, so I sat down and President Balledos and he expressed his love and gratitude for me. That I never turned down any assignment he has given me and that I was always ready to serve and not afraid to have fun. Probably the nicest things someone has ever said to me because I really have tried to work hard and do my very best. Then he said," So you want to open Mountain Provence?" Stop there and let me explain some background. Mountain Provence is a area in our mission that NO missionaries have EVER been, let alone American missionaries. It gets its name because it's high in the mountains and the people aren't that civilized yet. They speak their own dialect and in some area's its really dangerous, especially for foreigners. So, of course when I heard about this place I wanted to go there. To be one of the first LDS missionaries in a area, deep in the mountains, this is a chance of a lifetime! I was made for this. Just the name "Mountain Provence" sounds cool. So back to the interview, President Balledos read in my weekly emails that I wanted to open Mountain Provence, whenever president received the revelation to open it. So when president brought it up I started to laugh because I honestly didn't think president was going to open it for a while. But then he said, "Elder Strader I have full confidence in you. And maybe if the time comes, I will inquire of the Lord." That was good enough for me. Still not sure if that means I'm opening Mountain Provence but I'll be patient. 

I love you all! I love being a missionary. I know that families can be together forever. I know that Jesus Christ lives and He is my Savior. He's always been there for me and because of His eternal Sacrifice I have a chance to live with Him again. Keep those prayers coming and I'll be home before you know it!

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader

Monday, April 20, 2015

Family and Friends,

Sorry but it's gonna be a short email this week. Things are going good. Time is just flying. I'm not kidding we're in a lesson and we tell our investigator that we'll come back next week and after I open my eyes after the closing prayer, it's already been next week. It's crazy. But is pushes me to work hard and not waste the Lord's time. 

Nothing really happened this week except I almost died of dehydration. In my apartment it's 3 Americans, including me, and Elder Y is the only Filipino. Elder J and Elder H are both from Idaho and are companions. It's fun to have Americans in the apartment who actually can communicate with me in English. Anyway, here in Baguio it's really hard to budget our money. Everything is really expensive and we pay a lot of money for transportation because our area is far away. Here in the Philippines we have to buy clean water. We have these big 5 gallon containers and we walk a mile to the water station and pay for clean water. So this is a weekly thing and we usually take turns on who has to buy the water. Well this last week was pretty rough when it comes to making smart financial decisions. Needless to say we all ran out of money, at least all the Americans did. So when we ran out of water we were all scared to ask Elder Y to go buy water because he warned us that if we didn't budget right we would run out of money and therefore water. I didn't think it was a big deal because I knew he was going to get thirsty eventually and have to go buy water anyway. So we decided to wait it out. 4 DAYS LATER STILL NO WATER. I swear my companion is like a camel or a robot. He just bought small bottles of water for himself. I seriously thought we were gonna die. I would boil some water and then put it in the freezer so it would be cold. Elder Jones finally lost is patience and just drank from the tap. When he started to poop blood, that's when Elder Y finally bought water. 

So moral of the story is to budget smart and to never drink water from the tap in the Philippines. 

I love ya'll and I know this church is true! I can't wait to call ya'll on Mother's Day! 

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader


Monday, April 13, 2015

My Peeps,

Thank you for your emails and prayers! Mom thank you for keeping up with my blog, adding it to the many things you already have to do. Love you guys. 

What an awesome week! Gosh that was a kick butt General Conference! I'm so grateful we have a living Prophet and Apostles that have the keys and revelation to lead our church today. I was waiting for President Thomas S. Monson to say something awesome like to gather Zion in the Philippines, but I guess it's not the right time yet. The gospel is true.

Well we had another busy week. Elder Y and I have been going on a lot of exchanges with district leaders in our Zone and they're awesome! I'm learning so much from them. I really love the missionaries in our Zone. Especially one sister in our zone her name is Sister L and she's from Tonga. Don't worry we don't have anything romantic haha, but she makes me food all the time haha. She's really like a mom to me.  She's like 29 (oldest in our mission) and tells me when my shirt isn't completely ironed. And when I say no to something she yells at me in Tongan and I love it. Hahaha I call her "Nanay" which is mom is Tagalog. Hopefully me and my future wife get called to Tonga for our couple mission when we're old.

So I wanted to updated ya'll about Lucifer. Just for a review, he's a man in this small village where we teach and he claims to be possessed by Satan and has taken up the name of Lucifer. He lives by himself and owns like at least 10 black cats. The people in the community have asked us to go teach him. But he's never there when we go. 

But we found him last night. This is what happened:

We knocked on his door, not really expecting him to be there, but then he answered the door. He's a large man, with long jet black, black beard and black mustache. Up to this point I wasn't really scared and I was actually pumped thinking we're gonna cast spirits out or something. But when he invited us inside his home, I'm not gonna lie my hands were shaking a little bit. There was a really werid feeling in the house. The spirit wasn't there, that's for sure. The lights were dimmed and there were candles everywhere. He sat us down and he spoke perfect English. Not only English but proper, old English like if he was reading the Bible out loud. And his voice had a high tone to it and that almost drew you in. He told us that he was expecting us and that's when I looked at Elder Y who looked as scared as I was. He then asked why were we there and what was our hopeless mission has missionaries. There was a long silence because I was expecting Elder Y to say something but he didn't. After a long pause, trying to stay composed I said, "Brother we're representatives of our Savior Jesus Christ and we're here to cry repentance to all and we believe that the more we teach and baptize, we are lessening Satan's power here on the earth." I don't know where the words came from and they came with such power. He was speechless and didn't reply. The mood changed in the room and I felt this electrifying feeling shot through my body. I knew Elder Y and I held the Priesthood and we nothing to fear.  We then asked if we could open with a prayer and we taught a short lesson and then left. He thanked us for coming by and was afraid to shake our hands when we left. After we left, Elder Y quoted the scripture in Alma 48:17 when it's describing Captain Moroni,

"...If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men..."

I guess that was my Captain Moroni moment and I couldn't have done it on my own. 

To my all my loved ones I want to bear testimony of Jesus Christ and that He lives. His holy priesthood is restored today through the prophet Joseph Smith. I've seen miracles. I've seen people miraculously healed and apostates come back to the fold and me learning Tagalog. I've seen a change in me. My points of view and desires of life have changed. My prayers have become more powerful...more personal. I'm grateful to be a missionary. I'm grateful to serve my Master. In Him I find strength beyond my own. To Him I give all the glory. I love ya'll. Don't give up. Keep those prayers coming. Don't worry I'll be home before you know it. Till we meet again,

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My Peeps,

How was Conference and Easter? Here in the Philippines we watch Conference a week later so I'll see it this weekend. I am so pumped! I miss ya'll so much. Wow! What a crazy week. Elder Y and I got a call from our mission president and he wanted to work with us in our area. Probably the most intimidating things ever when your mission president comes and works with you, but it was a great learning experience. President Balledos is an awesome teacher. We found this one less active member that we've never taught before and she hasn't gone to church in over 10 years. Well she spoke a different dialect and it happens to be one of the 5 languages that President Balledos knows, so he took over. We're not sure what he said to her but all we know is that she showed up to church on Sunday. The church is true. 

We had a big leadership meeting with all the zone leaders in the mission and I got to see Elder T! I'll send the picture. Gosh I miss him so much. 

Well I had an awesome spiritual experience this week. It strengthening my testimony how God knows EXACTLY what we need and when we need it. 

The last couple of weeks have been pretty stressful. It's a combination of a lot of things and it felt like my positive nature and sense of humor wasn't carrying me like it use to. So I went on my knee's asking my Heavenly Father to give me just a little extra love. I know that He loves me but I was feeling really low and I needed something to get my fire back. I thanked Him for helping me so far and for the undeserved blessings that I've felt. I prayed for other things and tried to pay attention to the Spirit as I poured my soul to my Heavenly Father. After my prayer I put a smile on my face and went to work. Knowing that the Lord heard my prayer and I just had to wait and see how He was going to answer it. So Elder Y and I started to working in our area, when we ran into an older man. He was very kind, with deep blue eyes that just pierced your soul. We talked to him and answered some of his questions. He seemed very impressed of what we do as missionaries, of how we leave our families and don't get payed and so on. Up to this point we were speaking in Tagalog and then all of a sudden the man looked at me with those eyes and said slowly in his broken English,"Jesus loves you for doing this." 

My heart burned and the Spirit testified the trustfulness of that simple statement. That Jesus Christ cares about me and that He loves me for what I'm doing. As I wiped the tear from my eye I thanked the old man and we went on our way. As we walked away my heart flew to the heavens, thanking the Lord for answering my prayer. For reminding me that He's always there for me. For giving me that extra spiritual boost. Another tender mercy. A confirmation that I'm doing what my Savior wants me to do. 

I want to bear my testimony and special of Jesus Christ. He lives. I've never seen Him in person, but I've seen His hand in my life and others. I've felt His love and mercy. I'm so grateful to be a missionary. The life and the heavenly lessons I've learned are priceless. It's not easy but in those moments of discouragement or when I want to give up, I hear the words of the old man...

Jesus loves you for doing this.

Till we meet again.

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader



Monday, March 30, 2015

My fellow family and associates,

I really suck at this emailing thing. I wish I could just tell stories and explain what is happening to me. Anyway it's been a crazy week. We've been doing a lot of zone leader business. Moving apartments, fixing apartments, training's, checking apartments and other random assignments. It's fun sometimes, but I wish we could have more time to focus on our area. Speaking of our area, its progressing...slowly. Elder Y and I are finding machines because we have to. We average around 15+ new investigators per week. Our goal is find families and I'm working the hardest I've ever worked in my life. 

Update on my toe: It's not green anymore, but I did get bite by some weird bug and my ankle was swollen and HUGE for a couple of days. But I'm good now. 

I wish I had some cool story to tell of what happened this last week, but I honestly can't think of any. There's one guy in our area that he claims to be possessed by the devil. He calls himself Lucifer and has a double personality. The local people in the community asked us to go teach him. I was pumped because I thought we were going to cast out spirits or something but when we got the house...I was so scared. He lives in this tower like house. It's all painted black and it has the 10 commandments written on the front door. Gives me chills talking about it. And to top it off his yard is infested with cats. I had a weird feeling and I tried to hold Elder Y's hand but he wouldn't let me. Turns out, he wasn't there. We plan on going back with our local bishop just in case things get...weird. I'll keep ya'll updated.

Well, the mission is the best thing that's ever happened to me. I've learned more about myself and what kind of man, future father and husband I want to be and most importantly, what the Lord want's me to be. I know this church is true. I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know because I've been on my knee's asking the only person that can truly confirm it to me. I know we have a loving Heavenly Father, who is well aware of our trials and hardships. He's taught me so much and I'm eternally indebted to Him. I know why I'm here. I'm not perfect, but I'm willing to try. I want to end with a scripture from the Book of Mormon that is simple but has changed me.

2Nephi 33:15 "...for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey..."

The Lord has commanded me here in the Philippines to spread this wonderful gospel. And I must obey.

Your Valiant Missionary,

Elder Strader