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!