Wow what a week. So much has happened. Some good things, some bad things. I had a wonderful New Years, full of Filipino food and homesickness. My district leader was sent home because of disobedience and I was made district leader, while I'm still training. It's kinda hard because most of the missionaries in my district have been out longer then me and actually know the language haha. But I'm honestly grateful for the opportunity. It was really sad to see that elder go home but it was a big wake up call for me. It wasn't like I was disobedient before but, it showed me that being a missionary is a sacred privilege and I'm not here because of me. I'm here for the Lord and his people. This experience testified that, "many are called but, few are chosen." And even the greatest missionaries can fall if they neglect the smalls things and are disobedient.
But, other then that, things have been great. Elder R is awesome. He doesn't talk much but, I'm still working on that part. He's very serious and doesn't get my jokes half the time (which makes it more funny for me). But Elder R has some personal experiences and he knows why he's out here, and his testimony in those lessons are one of the most powerful I've ever heard. Sometimes I feel like Elder R is training me hahaha.
My birthday was a typical missionary birthday. The Mang... family got baptized and I was honored when they asked me to do it. This was my first family baptism and it is a feeling I will never forget. Brother Ber... (the husband) hugged me after I baptized him and told me in his best English, "I feel happy Elder Strader." Brother Ber... used to smoke 20+ cigarettes a day when we met him but, he stopped. This is why I'm here to see people change their lives and come closer to Christ. It was the best birthday present I could ask for. Actually the best is yet to come. When the Man... family will get sealed in the temple, January 4, 2016, next year. Later, has we went to go teach, we went to find Sister Edna, one of our investigators and she's actually getting baptized in a couple of weeks. But she didn't go to church and that really worried Elder R and I. So we came to her house and we found sister Edna in her kitchen. I said (in Tagalog), "Sister Edna,what's today?" She replied January 4. I then said, "Exactly, it's my birthday and it's Sunday, so why didn't you go to church?" Turns out that Sister Edna woke up early in the morning to prepare me a meal for my birthday. She cooked all day and made this whole meal for me. Teary eyed she said, "Maramit salamat po si Elder Strader para sa lahat. Happy Birthday." Which translates, "Elder Strader thank you so much for everything. Happy Birthday." Well I couldn't be mad anymore. These people are some of the most kindest people I've ever met. I learn more from them everyday. Don't worry I'll make sure she goes to church next week. ;)
A couple of days ago we were walking and we decided to stop by and talk to some of our investigators, Sister J and C. They are both young moms and have young babies and we love them teaching them. We'll when we showed up there was a big Filipino birthday party. And what happened next was one of the saddest moments of my mission. We found Sister C completely drunk. As a missionary, this isn't the first time we run into our investigators breaking commandments but, this was different. This was my sweet Sister C who cries every time she gives the closing prayer. We taught the Word of Wisdom before and she only had a problem with coffee. So here we are, at this party and Sister C is completely wasted and is talking to us. Sister J is trying to apologize to us and we told her it was okay and that we'll come back to tomorrow to teach instead. I didn't know what to think, this wasn't like Sister C. Well we came by the next day to teach. Elder R suggested we teach the Word of Wisdom again for obvious reasons but, I wasn't sure. I'm remember Dad telling me when people are committing sin or doing something contrary to God's commandments, instead of saying, "You have a problem, fix it." Instead we ask ourselves, "What doctrine don't they understand?" Some times we just see the tip of the iceberg but we don't know what the real problem actually is. So we decided to teach the Book of Mormon again. What we found out later was the day before the party, Sister C's mother-in-law took her baby away and because she didn't think she taking care of the baby. Sister C was heartbroken and she felt like someone pulled her heart out. She didn't have her baby so that's why she drank so much the next day...to numb the pain. So we taught the Book of Mormon and I've never felt the Spirit so strong in my life. We didn't do the typical Book of Mormon lesson using like for example Moroni 10:3-5. But we focused on how the Book of Mormon can bring peace in our lives. We showed her the scripture in Jacob 6:2 when it talks about how the "pleasing word of God" (Book of Mormon, Bible ect) can heal the "wounded heart." She started to cry and admit that she hadn't been reading the Book of Mormon. I told her that is where she will find the true source of peace is through that book. It was a wonderful lesson. This is why I'm a missionary.
I love you all. Thank you for prayers, emails, and support. I want y'all to know that I know this church is true. I know for a fact that families can be together forever. I know God loves His children. I know Joesph Smith was a true prophet. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. And whoever wants to find out for themselves if this Church is true they can read it. Read it and pray and ask their Heavenly Father, in the of Jesus Christ, if it is true. I promise you, from the depths of my soul, that He will answer your prayer because He answered mine.
Till We Meet Again.
Your Valiant Missionary,
P.S. Thank you for all the packages! I loved the letters, pictures, DVDs thank you so much. Uncle Brian that book you sent is freaking awesome. It rocked my world thank you. Here are some pics of the baptism and other things. Sorry some of the pictures are really blurry...