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