This Blog is about Elder Hennessey's two year mission, in the Philippines Baguio Mission, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Monday, September 26, 2016

News from Agoo, 3rd Branch

Sooo for this week...
If I had to describe the Philippines in one sentence it would be like living in an apartment building: below you is a sauna for dogs that bark whenever you come or go and it’s always hot and humid, and above you is Giants that drive a hummer (Constant thunder and lightning.) Surprisingly it hasn't rained for 3 days, so it’s less humid, and feels less hot, but Sister Esplin predicts a Typhoon soon, and we are in the rainy season. Our apartment is going to have water running straight through it if there is a flood, and water up to my knees in the streets. Sister Esplin also said that they had to stay in their apartment for 5 days the last typhoon, and the water is so dirty you need big rubber boots or you'll get sick. One night we walked for probably a mile through steady rain, Elder Gamboa was shivering and said he was so cold. I had to laugh because that was the warmest rain I had ever felt, probably no less than 70 degrees, besides being soaked it felt nice. Turns out that is too cold for Filipinos because he had a fever the next morning.

I've been doing everything I can to stay healthy, being aware that my hands are as dirty as my shoes, drinking excessive amounts of water, and cleaning. Once while i was cleaning dishes I found that in our dishes cabinet (like a little plastic thing), there was Mosquito larvae in the stagnant water from drying dishes. GROSSSS! And 2 days after I was cleaning a serving spoon that we use almost every day, there was literally, no exaggeration, around 60 ants living in this serving spoon with like 20 eggs. So I'm going through and deep cleaning our house. I cringe to think how that even happens. Not to mention the mice that live upstairs. Haha that’s another thing, we sleep on our mattresses on the floor of our first floor because our upstairs is haunted. Elder Gamboa had a terrifying experience his first night, but once they fix our AC I'm gonna convince him its worth it. Haha so our house sounds awful, but its really not too bad. Elder Gamboa says its one of the nicest apartments in our zone, although I don’t believe that too firmly. 

There are many things I've come to love about the Philippines. The rivers, the trails, rain forests, and rice fields can be beautiful too. I want to wait until there is a really stunning opportunity, so you can see the full potential. We have a new investigator family at the top of this mountain, which is nice because she’s actually wanting to learn, but we have to hike up a mountain to teach her, and its a long ways for her to get to church on Sundays. There’s so much nature but its all completely different from the Northwest. We were walking up a road, and I was getting tired and discouraged, but then I saw Pine trees! Man just that little thing was a sight for sore eyes. Elder Beck saw a butterfly in his area as big as his face, and he’s a big guy. The bugs here are ridiculous! After walking through a rain forest and sitting down in a lesson I see little things crawling on Elder Gamboa's back, and try not to think of what’s probably on me too.

One major difference here is the ants. The ants make our ants at home look lazy. There’s big ones and tiny ones, orange brown and black, and they’re everywhere. If there is any food left anywhere there will be ants covering it within minutes. At the Baguio Mission home before we left all of our bags were against a wall outside. One of the bags was covered in hundreds of ants because there was a tiny package of M&Ms.  Speaking of M&Ms, I miss American candy and food in general. The rice is good here, like I was told by everyone, but tbh (to be honest) anything is good after a 13 hour day, even if there’s tiny rocks.

Last Saturday we had a Family Day. Once a year they have a week where all of the members in the area (probably 350) all meet for fun, games and food. Their version of Pinatas are clay pots that you hit with bamboo. There were two to be broken open, the first had just candy, the second had candy and baby powder so when it broke open and the kids rushed forward they got covered in white powder, such a sneaky prank! We also did Tug of War, the 5 American missionaries vs 5 Filipinos. We should have expected that once we started to win, a whole bunch more people jumped to their countries aid. In the final round they tied their end of the rope around a palm tree without us knowing, we pulled with all our might and got rope burns for naught. At the end of the activity we did a budol fight, where rice and different meats and toppings are laid out over palm leaves, and everyone "fights" to eat (people eat with their hands). I am so going to do this when I return, and even try cooking the local exotic foods, like chicken feet, chicken heads, balut, pigs blood, chicken intestines...Okay i wouldn’t even know where to get those things. But I have tried some and they aren’t too bad. The Zone Leaders want to feed me balut next Saturday for my birthday. I told myself before the mission that I would eat anything a Filipino would, so bring it on. (Balut is a fertilized egg, usually duck, that has been boiled or steamed. Mature enough to have partially developed bones but still soft enough to eat. Commonly sold as street food.)

 In my lessons everyone says I'm Magaling, or skilled/talented at Tagalog, even if I think I still stink. It’s rough but getting easier each day. I'm looking forward when I can confidently speak to anyone and understand them without too much trouble. We teach people that there is someone who knows their every struggle, and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can receive help and strength if we just ask, and seek diligently. Sometimes it’s hard to understand, and remember this, but through faith, an a solid testimony that there is a plan for us, we can make it through any struggle, and receive strength and guidance in any area of life: school, work, family issues, big life decisions, or just need to feel that there is someone who cares. Just humble yourself enough to get down and pray, and you will feel the comforting power of the Spirit. 

Love you all, keep on keepin on :)

In the background, what looks like a path is actually a stream. Look at what Tiegue’s holding Annee…the umbrella you got him…definitely using it!

In this picture you can see the incline of the path as they move up the hill side.

Family Day. The clay piƱata is hanging from the basketball hoop.

(Tiegue has not updated his address for sending letter mail. We will post when he does. If you’re interested in sending a package, Kelli knows of a Beaverton lady that does bulk boat shipments to the Philippines for $15 a package. Keep in mind that boat shipments take 30-60 to arrive.)

Monday, September 19, 2016

It’s been wonderful hearing from Tiegue now that he’s in his first area…to know for sure where your children are brings a bit of peace! Philippines is only 15 hours ahead, not 18 like I put in Sept 9ths blog. Haven't received any different address for letters, safest bet for letters is to email and he'll see it on his next pday. 

This missionary might be Tiegue's new companion Elder Gamboa, but I'm guessing.

So, I am officially in the mission field. The Philippines is so different from America in every way imaginable. The weather, the measurements, the houses, the culture, the people, and the food. But its interesting, and fun. I learn something new every day, and become better at the language too. I've found that in lesson I can contribute quite a lot. But in conversations before and after the lesson I am lost, because I don’t know the vocab, and can’t even understand the people because they speak so fast, mumbled, or soft that I can’t hear them well. But I'm trying. Sometimes I'm hard on myself because I can’t speak yet, or feel like I'm wasting my time here just being my companion's shadow, but then I remember I've only been here for 5 days.

A returned missionary here told me that reading the Tagalog Book of Mormon side by side with the English copy is very helpful; because you learn sentence structure, vocabulary and can understand better. I've started, and surprised myself with how much I can understand, even if I read for an Hour and only get through 10 verses... Tagalog is longer than English, because a lot of the words are long and there’s simply more of them. He also said that I would learn how to speak the old, or "deep," language, kind of how people in American don’t speak like they do in the Bible.

My Area is awesome, its pretty small but there are so many houses and people crammed everywhere. The people here are really so nice. I'm happy to be able to meet so many people and learn about their lives, its good I like it because I have 22 more months of it. We are lucky to have a lot of dinner appointments. Usually we will walk into a house, share a scriptural thought, say a closing prayer. I'm not always sure what we are doing because of the whole language thing, but then the next thing I know they are bringing out a table and we start eating. Every meal consists of rice. Every meal. Rice. Every. Meal. But its ok, they have a lot of good food here, most everything.  They like to ask about my home, what we eat, the weather, and how it is different. 

One thing I was not expecting was so many cats and dogs literally everywhere. They're not technically pets, how we think in America, but they will sometimes have a couple that they allow to live in the house. We visited a family with a new puppy. They named it Elder Walsh after Elder Gamboas last companion. He was from England and, white. Its a simple place here, they tell it how it is.

Elder Gamboa is aight (probably means all right). It's hard to know someone well after 5 days, but he is a nice guy. He's been out 3 months, which means he just finished his own training before he was assigned to train. He was also assigned to be the district leader for our area. He says its way too much responsibility for a newbie like him but he gets by. He speaks pretty good English. He helps me in Tagalog and I help him in English.

Most of the people here speak some English. I was surprised when our church meeting was all in English, besides half of the talks given by 15ish year olds. Sister Dennis and I were asked to bear our testimonies, shocker, it went well though. The church building is so hot, sitting for 5= hours in various meetings before and after is rough. I made a new game called find the gecko. Usually in the evenings all the walls have geckos on them. So in sacrament I was nonchalantly looking around and sure enough there was one in the corner. Its the small things that keep missionaries entertained.

The work is not easy, and we don’t always want to go out, or study for 4 hours each morning. But I know that there are families that need to hear about the gospel. About the blessing of Eternal Families. Whenever I testify in a lesson about eternal families I know that they are feeling the spirit and want what we have. Thanks to all my friends in Portland who supported me in my mission. I love you all!

TO FAM I miss you guys all day every day. I love you soo much, really, 22 months is a long time and it feels like I will be doing this until I die. But I love you and can’t wait to see you again :) <3

Notice the division between the standing missionaries (two groups, one light and one brown).

Now they're starting to mingle!

Elder Gamboa (maybe), Elder Hennessey, Sister Dennis, Sister ?

Tiegue mentioned this  bus in Sept 9ths blog. Notice the chandelier overhead!

Friday, September 9, 2016

We got another surprise email from Tiegue early this morning at 3 am our time (the Philippines is 18 hours ahead). My thought is he is at the Baguio MTC (Mission Training Center). I spoke with a previous Philippine mission president in July and was told new missionaries will stay there for 5 days before heading off to their first assignment where they will live and serve and teach.

Manila (photo from TFE Times)

WWWOOWOWOW so today has been crazy to say the least. Flying from LA to Hong Kong was soo long, but I was able to talk to the flight attendant and got another referral to give to my mission president. I probably slept 9 out of the 14 hour flight; our body-clocks are so off right now from all the flying and time change. Hong Kong airport was cool, very empty since we got there around 6am I think.  It is always so amazing to me the different landscapes there are when you go flying. Unfortunately it was still dark when we landed, but taking off from HK was so cool! There are mountains right next to the airport, and beaches like you wouldn’t believe. I only get 30 minutes right now to email so no pics yet (also I forgot the cord in my room), but I will definitely send a ton of pictures next time I get to email, which will be in the field, not again here at the MTC. 

Flying from HK to Philippines was ok, 1.5 hours, not bad. When we landed though it sunk in that I really am on the other side of the world. And HOLY MOLY the HUMIDITY HERE!!! Everyone said “Oh yeah, you're going to sweat a lot." But I had no idea, every time I step outside it feels like I'm walking into a sauna, no lie. Oh and when I got to the Airport and we're all looking for our bags on the baggage carousel, mine just weren’t showing up... Finally I got my bag with all my clothes in it, but my second one was still awol. Everyone is ready to leave, and I'm still bagless, then something comes out on the belt. It’s my bag! But all wrapped in a big plastic bag.... the zipper had split and half the contents spilled. Luckily I haven’t noticed that I'm missing anything, but I have to write a report and get back to them to replace my bag. (Could you look up what a bag like that one would have cost? A hard plastic shell kind that is the max size to be a carry on? I just need a ballpark, I just need a bag tbh (to be honest). I'm sure it’ll work out though. :) )

Finally we get out of the airport and woooow, Manila is incredible! The city is soooo big, huge skyscrapers and condo buildings, massive roads and highways, and it goes on forever. We drove probably 20 minutes and still in the distance you can see more skyscrapers going up. Lots and lots of construction, on anything and everything. So as soon as we step outside (I have a picture, but you'll have to wait sorry), the view is grand. But there are guards/police with shotguns, assault rifles and everything, very different from America.

We got on the bus, taking hecka pictures, and laughing and just excited to see everything that is completely new. The bus was nice, AC'd but that hardly put a dent in the muggy heat. I laughed at the chandelier in the bus and that there were ants crawling on the windowsill and floor, not many (and a different kind than Portland), but still ants living on the bus nonetheless. We drove out and everything was awesome!

The traffic is just as crazy as they say, seemingly no laws, there are lines, but no one follows them. It's a car cut-off car world out here. And the relaxed safety is insane! Just in my first ten minutes, I saw people walking right through traffic, scooters/motorbikes going in between cars and every way imaginable, people sitting on top of box trucks moving down the road, people selling food just standing in between lanes (granted the traffic never gets too quick), and a guy in the back of a flatbed with the tailgate down, sitting in a rolling computer chair. So wild! 

Anyways, I'm here and safe and gonna get some good sleep tonight. I'll have a ton of pictures next week and so many teaching/procelyting stories since I'll be going out for 5 hours a day starting tomorrow.

Love you all! mahal ko kayo! :) You're still sleeping but whatever, sweet dreams! Love ya all.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

We got this surprise email from Tiegue on Wednesday since he would be traveling on Thursday, his regular pday. Nice! Even got to talk on phone with him in airports. Double Nice!!

My last day in the MTC has been a strange one, both super busy and way relaxed; oddly enough last night was best of both worlds, too. We originally were told to be done packing and out of the residence by 11 am, because new missionaries would be moving in at 12 noon, but at 8 o’clock last night we were told we had to be out by 7:30 am because sisters were moving onto our floor, due to bats in their residence. How bats get into the buildings, I don't know, but there was one in the gym while we played volleyball on Monday. So last night was a late one; it started out so crazy, loud, and everyone was in the way. Elder Unice's stuff was spread on every inch of the floor, making it impossible to move around. His Dad is a doctor, and packed enough medical supplies to support a small brigade. In our packing list we were told to allow for 12 pounds of language supplies, which turned out to be more like 20. Some of the lighter packers finished around 10:30 pm, while the ones who couldn’t let go of unneeded possessions stayed up laaate into the night. Elder Haycock's struggle was the funniest to me. He was up until 2 am, packing, unpacking, weighing, and starting again. Around 1:00, I tried convincing him to shed some unneeded weight, like the 3 large tubes of toothpaste and an abwheel. My struggle, like others was more of what candy I should put into my bag, and what I should leave for the newer group of missionaries at the MTC. 

When I woke up, it really hit me. I'm about to leave for the Philippines, a third-world country, where no one speaks English. After saying a prayer to be able to handle the day we set to cleaning our room, which was awful. Somehow we made it out by 7:30. The rest of the day has been nice, since we don’t have teachers anymore, we've just lounged, hanging out before we're split up, collecting all the's we can, in order to stay in touch from different mission areas. Emailing and an impromptu trip to the temple was a nice way to spend our last day. At 3:00 today we will meet at the travel office and begin traveling to our new homes for 2 years. The last group to have left told us their travel time was 33 hours, and after a brief stay in the Manila MTC I will have an 8 hour bus ride to my area :). The MTC experience seems to have flown by, but when I look back at everything I've learned, I mean, we can speak Tagalog! Not fluently, but we can stumble through mostly anything we need to, and within 6 months, we should be basically fluent; although there is never an end to mastering a language. 

There's a notice board (television) that has names of elders who need to visit the front desk for any issues. My name just appeared on the board at 1:30, we're supposed to board the bus at 3:00. I went to the front and they gave me my ID card, that had fallen off from my pocket. Before I had walked up to the front I said to my companion "dang if my visa didn't go through, I'm gonna be sooo mad." When Elder Unice and I were walking back, I remembered Elder Puefua, who actually hadn't been able to leave for a week because his visa didn't get done in time. I told Elder Unice that I wanted to play a trick on the rest of my district and tell them I wasn't able to fly out with the rest of them. I stayed around the corner of a hallway and sat down, while he went to them and told them. Our District Leader Elder Birges came over and kneeled down next to me. He asked me if I had prayed, and other things, and I barely let out a whisper in response. I even surprised myself by having my eyes water up and let a tear fall. I felt kinda bad because he was being so sincere and trying to help me feel okay, and I just burst out laughing. He's like "What!??! You were Joking??" and pushes me out of my chair and the sofa/chair tipped over. I was cracking up but didn't want it to go any farther. It was REALLY funny though, well worth the effort. Having to stay would have been bad, but not the end of the world. Glad my Mom put my paperwork in for me on-time :)

Thanks to everyone at home and anywhere else who takes the time out of their week to read this, I try to keep it interesting. And thanks for your prayers. Don't think for a second that missionaries are too busy to miss their family and friends. We love you all! Philippines here we come! 

These are some elders that Elder Unice and I met. They are from the same town in Canada, and were best friends before being companions in the MTC. They’re going to France, French speaking. We can never remember their names so whenever we see them we just say "Hey! Laundry boys!!" then we'll all laugh as we pass by; we've seen them so many times we had to get a picture on our last temple walk. 

This is the only time I've seen our ironing board being used. Elder McMullin is waiting patiently for his Companion to get dressed to go outside and study. One of the perks of being a Philippines missionary, we don't have suits and aren't expected to iron our shirts, just as long as they are still white.

The contents of a package Elder Beck got for his birthday, along with a wall banner and party hats and little blow horns. His birthday is the day we arrive in the Philippines. 

Brother Cobb is an awesome caricature drawer. He drew these of our class on the last day. We took a picture of us all kneeling underneath our faces. I will try to get it sent to me by someone in my district. It is on his facebook though, Newel Cobb; I told him to accept any friend requests from "Hennesseys"

Brother Hill and I. He showed us pictures of his mission during his last time teaching us, and to be able o see the change that he went through was amazing. We joked around saying "Ako po sa Pilipinas" (I am in the Philippines) to "Nito ang Pilipinas KO" (the Philippines ??) His first picture was him on a beach, big smile, arms down, looking green. His last was him on a mountain, overlooking the same beach, looking confident and able to take on the world, saying "these are MY Pilipinas.". It’s neat that the pictures were actually taken in his first and last areas.

Random Pics

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Six days until I fly out to the Philippines. It's becoming more real to me that I won’t be seeing Portland again for a long while, but at the same time it’s not too long. These past 5 weeks, while the day to day has been slow, the weeks seem to have flown by.  The only representation I have of everyday is a page or page and a half in my journal. It's a weird way to conceptualize days, by journal entries, just little sheets of paper. It’s good though. I'll be glad once I'm back and have a ton of stories written down that I normally would have forgotten. Most of them are probably insignificant, but every now and then you find a diamond in the rough. 

Probably my favorite activity this week was the start-up of our acapella group, Mga-Elder-Pella, attaching mga to a noun turns it plural (one of the many rules to Tagalog.)  We've only sung one song, Lean On Me, but we're open to suggestions! Whenever we have a little bit of down time between classes, we'll either play games or Elder Schwab starts singing and everyone adds something to the mix. The first time, man we were bad, haha, but we told the tone deaf elders to clap instead of sing and now we sound alright.

Last Thursday, night we had our first Skype sessions. Not with our families, but with members in the Philippines who only speak Tagalog. We had 30 minutes to get to know and teach a lesson. Our guy, Allen, was really nice. I think he understood most of what we were trying to get across, since he didn’t give us too many weird looks. He spoke more siguano, another dialect that I'll probably end up learning. A return missionary came to our class who learned Tagalog in the MTC and 3 other languages during his time in the Philippines. Anyways, he couldn’t really remember Tagalog numbers, so when he shared his favorite scripture with us, he meant to say Ether 12:6, but said 9:6 instead. I'd invite all of you reading this blog to look those two up. One is very inspiring and can help us carry on; the other is very confusing as to why it'd be your favorite. After looking it up in our lesson, I looked at Elder Unice, he looked at me, and just asked Allen to expound on why he liked it (since we had no idea what scripture he had actually shared). I can imagine this happening in the field, me not understanding anything the investigator is saying, but just smile and wave, smile and wave. We have another Skype tonight, wish me luck!

More funny lessons happened, mostly with Brother Cobb. On Monday we knocked on the classroom door representing Domingo's (aka Brother Cobb) house. He opens it and quickly ushers us in saying basa which we found out means "wet." He had the classroom T.V. on to a picture of a jungle and a soundtrack playing with rain and thunder The sound was up sooo loud we had to lean in and talk loud to be heard. Apparently it was monsoon season and wouldn’t stop raining for a whole week. It was so random I had to laugh and made him break character a little bit too. How we do lessons at the MTC is our teachers take on the persona, or story, of one of the investigators they encountered in the field. They take on their problems and we need to identify how we can help them through coming closer to Christ. It's pretty effective practice, and they force us to use Tagalog in our lesson, although they let us slip in a couple English words if we get stuck. Our lesson with Domingo yesterday was AWFUL. He told us he worked extra hours in a rice field and was very tired. He was uninterested, distracted, and even falling asleep! (his eyes were drooping) When we finished teaching, Bro. Cobb told us he was sorry for falling asleep, and that he had helped his Mom move that morning and so he was very tired. This means he was actually falling asleep, not pretending.... So we need to work on being more lively and loud to keep him awake. 

A problem I've encountered at the MTC is stateside missionaries... I know we're supposed to love everyone but its hard sometimes when they run through the halls late at night screaming and chasing each other with plungers. It’s annoying because they just have to go and learn how to give a lesson in English that they basically already know. While we need the Spirit in order to have the Gift of Tongues, basically the only reason we've been able to learn Tagalog so quickly. We talked to them and they've been less obnoxious lately, but man it is hard sometimes to get along. Hahaha, two nights ago some of them were yelling past "lights out", 10:30, so Elder Unice got out of bed, stormed over to them and yelled BE OBEDIENT!!! It was hilarious, but I talked to him later about keeping a level head. We've since been calling him Green Goblin since apparently he has a bit of a temper. 

Usually we go play volleyball during exercise time, but yesterday we played kickball out at the field. It was pretty fun, although hard since the grass was still wet from the morning dew, so catching balls in the outfield was hard, but sliding into bases was easy-peasy. Elder Unice was our pitcher and in the last inning he got hit 4x by the ball after it was kicked; he failed to catch a one. He's more into hiking (granola-ing as Elder Schwab calls it), he said he played “lax”, but I don’t know how I feel about that. 

Me and Elder Perry (from Vernonia, Elder Perry is Bro and Sis Gibson’s grandson)

Missionaries from District H  with Krispy Creme donut hats, one hat comes in 1 box, so ya know we've been eating a lot of sugar. 

My flight itinerary. I really don’t know why they have me going back to Hong Kong in October…maybe if there’s a problem with my Visa??? Idk…Otherwise I’m on my way to Baguio!