1. Conference! So good. We're a week behind with conference. But there was dang good advice for everyone in those 10 hours of conference.
They say that if you really want to understand someone, you need to walk a day in their shoes. Wait. Back. There's a family, Tonga, that has been inactive since before Elder Harris got in the area. They are married in the temple, used to be strong members. Why weren't they coming to church? We could never get an answer. Tatay Tonga was always quick and short and a tad sassy with his answers to us. So we asked if we could do service for them, with whatever they needed. Turned out they wanted help on they're palayan (rice field). Back to the shoes. So, I, wanting to understand Tatay Tonga, took off my shoes and put on his last Friday (actually just took of mine, he works barefoot.) Elder Harris and I woke up early, put on our PJ bottoms and long sleeve shirts, make some makeshift ninja headgear, and walked to their palayan. I'm going to sum up the harvesting of rice in.. 10 words. If you want to get buff, work in the palayan. It is hard work! Sister Tonga worked with us. She kept asking if we wanted to quit, if our hands were getting cut up, if we were tired. Our answers were 'no' to all, but secretly I was so tired and my hands definitely have gnarly blisters and sometimes I even wanted to just lay down in the harvested rice and take a nap! After the half day of service, Sister fed us some food and we had a good chat with her. Last night, we stopped by their house again, and this time Brother Tonga was much happier to talk to us. He didn't see us work on Friday, but Sister must have told him. We rescheduled to help them again this morning, because they were behind on the harvest and the owner was getting impatient. Tatay was there this morning, and I was able to really see the power of service in building relationships of trust. They fed us lunch again, and we talked again. Turns out, they were offended by a misunderstanding a little over 6 months ago. They were done with the members in our branch, and didn't want to talk to the missionaries. But after our service Friday, they came back to church for the first time. Sister said she couldn't explain why, and that she thought maybe we had hypnotizing power (Filipinos are very superstitious people). Point is, something changed for them. Though I can't take credit, I am thankful for the opportunity to work with them, and help them come back to Church. That's what we do out here, help people. Invite them to come unto Christ.
3. I wrote this in my head while working:
It was Me, Harris, Tatay Tonga vs. Palay (rice), Sun. It was hot, the palay was rough and cut our hands. We labored through the morning, through lunch. The palay seemed to have no end. I smashed groups of palay on the wood block, knocking out thousands of grains of rice at a time. Tatay cut it down and tied it in bundles. Harris brought it to the smashing block. We worked tirelessly (though we were tired). The mud, the sun, the rice. The end was near. 4 teenage kids brought out, "The Blower". The final knockout punch to the palayan. It would blow away all the bad rice, grass leaf, etc. They realized we were white and looked in awe. I held my group of palay like a baseball bat, glared at the wood block, and a bead of sweat fell from my brow (ok, more like a waterfall.) But you get the point. It was intense. I fought hard. And earned that ice cream cone at the end.
Life is good in the Philippines. I'm comfortable. I love y'alls.