Aww my family. This was the best week yet. Every day seems to go by so quickly and I'm really enjoying myself. I'm feeling the spirit more and more, feeling less and less homesick, and loving the work more and more. I have a lot of stuff to write about so I'll get into it and after we can chat for a little while!!
Whenever I find myself counting the days, I think of how my heavenly father must feel. I imagine he would say, "Connor. because of me you get to be with your family forever. You get billions and billions of years,
without end. Can't you serve me with all of your heart for just 2?" Gratitude is the easiest way to be happy. When we look outside ourselves, we find greater joy and peace in our lives. Everything seems like less of a big deal when you remember all that you have been given, and all that is in store for us. We get to live with our eternal families in a perfect world forever!! we have so much to look forward to. Our earthly lives are so short. They go so quickly. Heck, I'm barely an adult and I've probably
lived 1/5 of my life. Isn't that wild?? I've thought a lot about enduring to the end. Enduring to the end always seems to have a connotation of survival and drudgery. Satan tries to make it feel like a chore, or a long time. Its not!!! and whats more is that it can be happy! its not enduring to the end, its enjoying to the end!! because of our savior, we can have peace and unparalleled joy here on earth. We see the beginnings of eternal family, see our own growth, and learn to become like him! this life
is a time to become like him. And do you think there was ever a happier man, or a more loving man? I don't. so it is our job now to obtain his joy. To obtain his love. And to obtain his willingness to obey his father's will, even if it is hard. And whats more is that we don't have to do it in our own strength!! He is there constantly to swallow up our pains, mistakes, and shortcomings in the mercy of his divine atonement. I am truly grateful for my saviors love. That he loves us enough to let us experience trials. To give us experiences that teach us to parent or teach us to serve him. I'm grateful that he loves us enough to let us struggle. To let us come unto him and partake of his grace and his mercy. Oh what marvelous wisdom. His plan is perfect, but involves so many imperfect people. That's how it was always designed. Satan;s plan was the one of forced perfection. He tries to make us upset at our shortcomings. God isn't upset at them! He gave us them to help us be humble, and rely on the one who has power to save. His son Jesus Christ. Dad I loved your advice. I have definitely felt Satan's attack on my strengths. He uses my love of others to frustrate me, or my constant happy attitude to make me feel despair when I feel down. He tries to whisper, "you're not a good missionary" or "you are becoming a worse person because you've struggled. God cant use you as a leader." Oh how wrong is he! I am a son of God! I am imperfect. My mission will be so far from perfect, but through my saviors atonement, he
will accept it. I remember one day that I was really feeling down on myself for not loving my mission as I knew I would grow to. I felt so down and sad, that I could never live to be the man God wants me to be. In that moment, a scene from high school musical popped into my head (random right?) It was the scene where troy's dad is talking to him about the game. He said "forget the score! All i want is for my boy to go out there and enjoy playing the game that he and I both love. And if you do that for me, I'll go to bed with a smile on my face, regardless of the score" What a tender mercy from my father in heaven. I have a testimony! i love my savior, and desire to share his work. That's all I need. Even if I never became a fluent Tagalog speaker, or never baptized
a single person, that is enough. God is proud of me and that's all that matters. I'm having so much fun. What an amazing opportunity to serve him.
You'll be happy to know that I have been singing a lot. Music is such a great way to feel the saviors love and having a church song in my heart is such an important way for me to feel happy. My district is so great!!! I love them all so much! it's so much fun to get together on Tuesday for meetings and then lunch. I love being around other missionaries. Last Tuesday, after our meetings, we all went to a house to do service. It started to downpour like crazy! the area that we were in was super prone to flooding, so we ended up being stuck at that house, surrounded by floods, for a few hours. (in manila, the floods are super dangerous. They carry disease because of all the rats, so we are not allowed to walk in them) so we were all stuck in there with
a member family. I starting singing a hymn under my breath and all the sisters said, "YOU CAN SING!! sing for us!!" so we spent the next few hours singing hymns together. It was so funny. The 15 year old member kid went over and told his mom "mom, I think elder Dyches is one of the vocal point singers!" I told him I was not, but all of the missionaries said that I should try out for them after my mission. High praise from some very kind missionary pals. They are all so great!! I am going on splits with the district leader on Wednesday which will be fun! there are 10 of us in the district. 6 elders and 4 sisters. One pf the elders is training after only 6 weeks in the field!!! his name is Elder Erickson. He is such a great missionary. All of them are. I feel very blessed to be around such great missionaries. And it feels like a giant family. We all talk like we have known each other forever. There is no new guy treatment or awkwardness. Its just like a giant family. Love it so much!
My training is going really well! Today starts day one of me leading the area. I told elder Armadillo that I want him to train me as if I would have to train after 6 weeks. (not that I think I will, but to prepare me to be a better servant of the lord) He said that starting Monday (today) that I was training him and that I was to lead in everything. Appointments, lessons, directions, planning, everything! It is going to be so much fun!! I'm actually really excited for the opportunity. its going to be weird
leading the district leader on Wednesday but he said he was really excited for that too! what a great guy! my comp is so great. He pushes me every day to speak more Tagalog, to take bigger and bigger chunks in the lesson, and to have a say in everything.
Its not like I'm a junior and he is top dog. He genuinely wants to turn me into a missionary and I'm thankful for that. For example, last night we taught a lesson to sister chonalyn. She is an investigator that we just found who seems super interested! She asked the question, "why is there so many churches?" to which Elder armadillo looked at me to answer. I started diving into lesson one on the apostasy. After a little while I looked to my comp to pass the torch. He looked at me with an obvious look that said, "I'm not going to say anything, lets see what you can do" So then I continued and did the entire lesson! It was so great!! the spirit was so strong and she was smiling throughout it all, nodding whenever I made points that answered her question! oh it was so much fun!! I love that he has so much faith in me. It helps me have confidence in myself and in God. He always compliments my Tagalog to anyone we meet. If we are talking to a member, he will stop and say "this guy has only been here 3 weeks!! isn't he so good at Tagalog?!" man i love that guy. He is so happy all the time, which was helpful when i felt down. (even though days where i feel down aren't bad, they are just days where my smile doesn't quite reach my eyes haha!) Everyone here is like
that! everyone stops and says, "elder Dyches you are fluent already...why?" or " elder dyches you already have an accent when you speak!" man these people are awesome!! Its so encouraging to be able to hold conversation with them now! Im having so much fun!
Okay so I've only been here three weeks right? so we got a text on Wednesday asking us to do mtc exchanges on Saturday. I was shocked!! I just left the mtc and now they want me to take a mtc student on exchange for a few hours?? I was so pumped though.
I was really excited to see what I could do when forced to lead. So we get there and they give me my comp. His name is elder nelson. He is from Idaho and a huge celtics fan! like, not even a bandwagon. He talked about how he had watched through the emotional Isaiah roller coaster and now that we were finally contenders, he couldn't watch. I felt his pain haha!! What a great guy! also side note: if I am in manila during the NBA finals, pres Fermanis has all of the elders over to the mission home to watch them!!! Fingers crossed!! To be honest, I never want to leave this area. Okay sorry back to the exchanges. So they give me this guy, and the first thing he says is "I don't speak Tagalog. " to which I responded "its all good I don't either!" He then said, "no I really don't speak. I am learning Ilocano. They sent us on exchange to experience what a missionary day looks like, even though we are completely unable to understand the language here" HAHA!! what the heck??? I'm barely out and I was given an elder who doesn't speak any tagalog. I was so excited!! so then we spent the rest of the day proselyting and talking with people. Getting that opportunity helped me be more comfortable leading and talking to people. I used random things to start conversation. Like sports jerseys, jobs, or reading. Whenever we met a guy who liked reading, we would talk about his favorite books for a while. Then i would slyly say, "my favorite book is this. The book of Mormon. Can we share a verse out of it?" So much fun!! and I realized throughout the course of the day that my Tagalog conversational skills had improved so much!! oh my word I had so much fun! Afterward, we went back to the chapel and a bunch of my missionary friends came over and said, "wait elder Dyches why are you here???" They thought it was cool that I had been asked to come out and work with the mtc. I'm making so many friends out here! I love my zone leaders, my district, and all the missionaries I've met so far. My comp is great and I'm loving it here.
Alright now time for some culture, because I bet you are all dying to know about the PI people. First off, they love white people here. They LOVE white people. They tell me that to them, white people are super super attractive and that all the girls find me attractive. Its so weird to be popular because I'm white. What even. The kids go crazy because I'm white, and love it even more that I speak Tagalog with them! they all run to us and crowd us wherever we go. I hear tons of "hey Joe" or "wassup man!" to which I respond in Tagalog and the people's smiles widen even bigger! That and I've been hit on a ton. One time, elder Armadillo and I went to the doctor and there were a few college age Filipino girls working at the counter. They asked me if I was single.
I responded that I was (I wasn't really sure what to say) after they said. "oh that girl over there is single if you are interested!" the girl responded "hey stop it you guys" before turning to me and saying "but i am just to let you know" so funny!! after that, all the girls asked me if I would be their side car (that is the term they use for boyfriend here. since everyone rides tricycles, a single person is known as a motorcycle but if you are in a relationship, the other person is your side car) so so so
funny! i am so thoroughly amused by the side car thing. What an awesome way to refer to a relationship. Other instances include older ladies calling me handsome or telling me that I should come back to visit them because "they would miss me" so funny!! I wish everyone thought i was this hansom in the us!! maybe someday ;)
Basketball. Okay first off, steph curry is the most famous person by far in the PI. Everyone is absolutely in love with him. I have never seen so many steph curry fans in my entire life. They care way more about players than teams here. So you see a lot of La and a lot of golden state now. The way they play pickup bball is so different than how we play back home. They have 3 guys who move back and forth on the court and then 2 guys on either team that sit and cherry pick. So the game consists of a ton of chucking the ball down the court for layups, but very little defense and such. It is different that what I am used to but I am actually having some fun being a center. I sit there and rebound everything and then put it back up. They all jump to try and get it but i just hold my arms up and grab it ( I don't even jump here) I feel like the white Dwight here in the PI. they are all so fun to play with though and SO MANY non members show up to play. It is such a great opportunity to get to know them.
WE have a few friends from the barangay pure gold, who all show up to play. Its so fun to be genuine friends with them. When they see me on the street they run over and give me a hug/the whole handshake and snap routine (thats a classic) I feel like people wouldn't be like that in america. Here, even though they might not progress, they are receiving love for missionaries.
The kids!! I have a ton of pics and a video coming your way! the kids are the best part of the PI. So neighborhoods here are called barangays. so each barangay will have its own giant group of kids that all hangout together (kind of like my old neighborhood
crew) whenever they see us one of them will yell "brothers!!!!" to which they will all run over and talk to us. They are so smiley and cute and happy. And they genuinely love the missionaries. They even remember our names. That's the part that surprises me. its not, "oh here is the white guy" or "oh the missionaries". Instead its " elder Dyches, Elder dyches!!" I love it so so much! probably my favorite barangay to visit is the lalaki street group. We spend a ton of time teaching over there so we have gotten to know the kids really well. They are all so sweet and happy. I feel like one of the hardest days of my mission will be the day that I have to tell them that I am leaving. Oh I hope that day stays away for a while.
With the kids, I had a really cool experience. I had a bunch of pass along pictures of Jesus in my pocket when we went to visit them. One of them pulled the pictures out of my pocket and her eyes lit up. she was so happy to see a picture of her savior. you could see the recognition and joy that touched her heart. The handled the picture with such reverence. She knew, even in her young age, how special the savior was. She then took the cards and ran from friend to friend, giving out those precious pictures.
All of the kids started spreading them and running down the street. What wonderful little missionaries. They knew, in there hearts, how happy the savior made them and how they wanted to share that happiness with their friends. Oh that we could be like that! Think about it! WE are so blessed and so happy to have a knowledge of our savior. If we shared our love and testimony like those sweet little angels, we would be so much happier and bless so many lives. It was no accident that the savior commanded us to be like little children. To see their joy. To see their love for others and their love for their savior. If I could learn to be a little more like them on my mission, I would count it as a big success.
The area is so fun but we have a hard time helping people progress here! people are so busy and it feels like most days are filled with a ton of appointments that fall through. People don't attend church, miss lessons, don't read. All of it. Its been a lesson of patience. The gospel isn't about success. Faith takes time. Conversion takes time. How can we expect them to dive into a world that is completely foreign? The key is to love and pray for them. Don't try to be the fixer. Don't try to make your
own success. Your mission is not about success. Success is a gift of god, and dependent on the agency of others. Missions are about love and becoming like our savior. The villanueva baptism has been pushed back a little while. They haven't come to church the last two weeks. Satan is working really hard to make them busy. We are going to keep trying and praying, trusting that God's time is better than our own goals and desires. WE met a couple more people who seem very interested last night! Brother joseph, sister lanie, and their daughter sheng. WE taught them lesson one and gave them a book of Mormon. They said " We want to be a family forever, don't worry elders we are going to go to your church this Sunday!" what the heck?? who says that?? It was awesome!
We are taking them to see general conference next week. I truly believe that God puts people in our lives, without us knowing it. He guides our feet and our actions without us knowing it. He is doing the same to all of you back home. Pray to know who to lift and who to share with. Everyone is in our lives for a reason.
I finished the book of Mormon for the first time on my mission (I've read it before of course, but finished it from start to finish while on my mission). I wanted to share the testimony i wrote in it since i cant send it home. Here it is:
Elder Dyches missionary Book of Mormon #1
Wow that was my favorite read through of the book of Mormon. A lot happened in these last 2 months. I faced more sorrow than I ever have before. I faced homesickness, loneliness, fatigue, and a lot of other pain. Through it all, I found peace through my savior. Every day seemed to contain a verse that I needed. I felt a lot of upliftment through the scriptures. But most of all, I was uplifted by my savior. I have a testimony that this book is true. I know it is. I have felt my saviors love more by reading this book, than by anything else in this life. He has healed me from so much. He has held me in his arms when my heart ached. He has walked with me every step of the way. He suffered and died so that through him, we can be happy. Because of him,
pain and suffering are temporary. Because of him, we can live as families forever. Because the only begotten son of the father loved us enough to endure our pain. He bore mine before I did. I am so grateful for him. I love my savior. I love this gospel.
I love my family. Its been hard without them. They are the most important thing in my life. I would give anything to be with them forever. But Christ loves me enough to give them to me, as long as l follow him. Just like our savior, his plan is perfect. It is centered around the purest love and purest man to ever live. That through his suffering, we don't have to bear our pain alone. WE don't have to live in grief. He suffered for my sins so that I can be happy. So that I can live forever with my mom. So that my family and I will always have each other. I know this church is true. I know that the savior will soon come into this world, to deliver us from satan's grasp. He is my reason to sing, the song in my heart. I know that my redeemer lives.
I love him and will serve him forever. I am grateful that he loves me enough to hurt me. Enough to let me grow. Out here, I will give him my heart that one day I may here the words, "well done thou good and faithful servant" I love Jesus Christ. My best friend. My big brother. My light.
I love you so much my family! I miss you but we are both where we are supposed to be. Keep working hard to be lights where you stand. Keep praying for me, as I always pray for you. We will be together again soon. Read Doctrine and covenants 36. But know we aren't so far apart, since your in my heart every step of the way.