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

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