It has been such a wonderful opportunity, unto the nourishment of my Spirit, to share with you the passions which
have oft come to overwhelm me. I have loved this. And continue to do so. However... as I have thought on these passions...
and the people from and for whom these tender mercies have been made manifest unto me, there is such great desire,
to help you all see, in a new way, The Testimony here, in the Philippines.
It would be my greatest joy, to take a moment... to Introduce you, to those who have Touched My Life, for Good.
Brothers and Sisters... this is Our Family.
Brother and Sister Loreno... a young family, of perhaps their 30s or so. The mother, a somewhat inactive member of the Church. Her husband, not a member. And constantly busy
with work or other doings. They are living with two other somewhat inactive members... the parents of Sister, both tigulang (elderly), the father a former bishop. And, in old age... somehow became more or less inactive. They are among the first people whom I met when I arrived. The Loreno family consists of a young daughter, Sister Lalane Loreno, 9 years old... with perhaps one of the greatest testimonies I've known of a youth her age. She knew Him. But in such situations... it is hard... for a family, seemingly too busy, too much work, no time for the luxury of church or the gospel...
And with another daughter, but a few months old, now long in care at a hopsital far off, unsure of the situation... sometimes...
But the gospel can work wonders. It does work wonders. It Changes Lives...for Good. And Forever.
Just this past sunday, Their sick infant was blessed, and given a name. And the name... Celestial Joyce Loreno Ladoa. And the father, Brother Loreno... asked me, to pronounce the blessing and name upon His child. This family, now, I promise you, is closer and stronger and more eternal now, than ever before. Greater than anything of mere temporal worth. The Father has been baptized... the daughter as well... the Mother's passion rekindled... as well as the tigulang bishop and his wife. And soon... they all hope to be sealed together, for time and all eternity, as a family. All because... they could feel the tender mercies of the Lord, pierce their hearts. We welcome them, with open arms.
Jonah Caboverde...an 18 year old girl. Just beginning college. At first, a mere referral, the Sister of an Active member of the church... quite humorous and free-spirited the Brother, Marvin, and his entire family (His wife, and two children (Boy and Girl, about 10 and 8, Chester and Shane)). They have found great place in our hearts. And they have for the most part, been quite active. But truly... now, they are seeing that the Gospel, once again... is the True Plan of Happiness for His Children. For Jonah, who we have been seeing for the past month and a half, is ready. To be baptized. In the next few days...
we are excited. For we do believe she shall soon enter into the covenant with the Lord... to seek a new life, a life of everlasting Joy, with Jesus Christ. She has come to church... every sunday... for the past 5 or 6 sundays... even on her own. And that family... so humorous. so loving. She can see why this is a gospel, for Families. We welcome her, with open arms.
Sister Aguirre, whos eccentric nature is astounding! Such love and life, even though sometimes it may seem like she doesnt understand... I know she does. Her one large question... as it should be...
"what does it mean... to endure, to the end?" Rather hesitant, she asked this. And all her worries... could be answered... with the person in whom all doubt ought flee: Jesus Christ. Who is He? Who are We? If there is infinite hope and love in Him... what does this mean? We are here in this life... to improve. To discover our true desire... and that be our lifelong journey. And that almost all mankind may be saved. Because He loves His children. She was recently baptized... and is endeavoring that her children (disinterested seemingly... two young rambunctious boys) might be baptized. (Her husband, a somewhat less active member); she has, since her baptized, proven of great worth to her father in heaven... in sharing her love for the gospel, with all she meets. Eccentric, yes. A little crazy, of course. But of such pure intent of heart... I love this woman. We'd welcome her, but her arms were open first. =D!
The Lentoco Family...
the father, a member. His wife working abroad, who hasn't returned for the space of over a year, perhaps 2 if I remember correctly. However, the will of the father is so strong. And the love of His children... so evident. Sister Shane (9) (recently baptized in our time here) and his other daughter (8), filled with such love and gratitude for their father, who works all day as a tricycad driver (bicycle with a side car)... and yet somehow... he always finds time... so much time... even while working, to play with his Children. Despite seemingly that he ought have no time, for his low income and laborious travels. His smile is among the greatest I have ever seen. And I see this man daily. Daily. He knows... despite all else... that Happiness is Family. And, even if only this, it is Enough. He knows we are One Family. We embrace him, our Brother. And his wonderful Family.
The Jenneth family. A young family. All members... less active. Still in a struggle. Sister Jenneth, Brother Jenneth, and their two children 12 and 8? (Son and Daughter); despite their simple means... despite the inactivity of the Brother... they love one another, so dearly. The father, still a boy. And sometimes...the Mother, feeling so... alone. But she is not alone. And they have come to see this. The wife... depsite all obstacles... somehow determined... and her efforts do not go unnoticed. I am proud to say, the Gospel has once again found center in all their lives. And the priesthood responsibility and blessing... we hope soon to help Brother realize the magnitude of the calling: Father. How sacred. They have once again, found their way back to the fold. We shall continue, to nurture them.
She, in the past, was known to be a strong member of the church. Came and loved sundays. And somehow... someday... stopped coming. Her sister still comes all the time. But as for her and her daughter... they just stopped. Time passed away. Her daughter became involved with the Baptist schooling... and slowly... church became somewhat of a memory. And for missionaries and members and going to church... it seemed as though it was too embarrassing. Or she was too shy. Or things of like manner. But finally... one day... they were home... and they welcomed us into their Home. The result... after many subsequent visits, was thus: She could not deny, the Spirit. And the promise...to be welcomed back with loving arms, at church. From the first sunday, that she returned, she has not missed a sunday. And her countenance has completely changed. I am so happy for her... for truly, it seems as if she never left. And I have hope, and pray, that she shall never find herself too shy... to come see her Family. We love her.
Brother Jun Jun Jadulos... and his family. Wow...there are many, many of them. All of them members... except for the mother (all 8 of the kids are? some come to church regularly, the others dont... mostly the younger ones come) (the 18 and 20 year olds dont) However... after two FHEs, they are such exciting and fun loving people. The Brother, Jun Jun, a recent convert, though less active, so strong... and attempting to help his fiance become a member. And in the next few weeks... we may just see this come to be. The first steps. But all in all, Jun Jun (20?) and his brothers and sisters (5 to 22 years old) (8 of them or so), we are excited for the day they ALL come to church.
Sister Martos, an elderly woman, suffering from a sickness of tabacco (so now, she has a tube in her throat to help her speak), who had seemingly lost her testimony... entertaining visits from other religions, including the 7th day adventists... having now been long time inactive... we found her at a time, that I can give thanks for. For when we arrived to see her for our second time in my time here in this area, the 7th day adventists were over to share a small message. From the bible. And it was wonderful, for both parties, missionaries and them, were here with Sister Martos. And the other couple (50s, a man and woman (married)) shared their message (we had introduced and chatted a little bit before and found out the wife's father was a very strong endowed member of the LDS and her family as well... it was a very fruitful visit) (and they said we could share if we wanted... but instead, the spirit seemed to direct to allow them to share); it was on the bible, and the importance of scripture study. And it was all wonderful. So true! and after their message was over, we, the missionaries, took about 5 minutes to testify of the truthfulness and spirit of their message... and then... expounded... just a little more. Those simple truths, which can only be found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And sister began crying. And all were edified... for there was a Spirit of Harmony. And i do hope... i may see all parties present at that time, one day, at the church. We are waiting, to welcome them all.
Sister Conchita, a very elderly woman, who, in her time, never missed a temple trip to manila, despite being quite far and expensive to go. And, through sickness and old age, eventually found herself seemingly forgotten in the history of the church. It is hard... No one wants to be forgotten. And i could only help but think on Sister Mormon, and for those sweet opportunities i may not ever have truly realized, which father and I were able to share with Sister Mormon. I love her, and her Spirit shall live on, with me, for I do remember her. And sister Conchita as well, shall well be remembered. And is. And has found, as of the past few weeks... that this, her family, shall never forsake, nor forget her. Family is Forever, that shall never be forgotten.
I Shall continue perhaps in the next email, next week, with more on the people of Whom I Know.
but for now, let me close with thus, something I've come to find has brought all these people... to a remembrance of Our Eternal Family.
Truly...I am ever so grateful for this Church. And the opportunity we have, to see one another every Sunday, to remember Our Family, and its Divine Design. Jesus Christ doth visit us all, every Sunday, at Church. He doth come within the very midst. And always, His Presence doth reside in all our temples. "Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord." They have been called the beacons to the world, An ensign, The place of purity and peace, the closest place to heaven on earth. And Yes, this is all true. This is the closest place to heaven on earth. Within his holy temples. And attending Sacrament, every Sunday, to testify unto the Father, "that we do always remember Him," these are two of the closest places to Heaven on Earth. But there is One More. And Perhaps the Greatest. It is answered in a Primary song, as well.
Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you here and answer every child's prayer?
Some say that Heaven, is far away...
but I feel it closer round me as I pray.
The Sacred Gift and Power of Prayer...of a prayer offered in Faith, in Humbleness of Heart, in Love, to the Father... this is the closest one can come to Heaven on Earth...
For His Very essence doth shine all around us...
"And it came to pass that Jesus blessed them as they did pray unto him; and his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them, and behold they were as white
as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus; and behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof."
(3 Nephi 19: 25)
Now image... this is Us. Every time we pray, in pure, fervent passion. This is the closest, to heaven on Earth.
For all miracles, and all majesty, that has come to the Earth, even unto the Restoration of the Gospel and the vision unto Joseph Smith,
did come... from one pure prayer.
Prayer. And to add to this... consider the words of Thomas S. Monson
"there is nothing more beautiful in this world... than the sight of a family, on their knees, praying together."
We are meant, to be so close to Him. We are of Him.
We are a Family. Let us ever, continue... to have his countenace round about us.
For unto this reason, are we here.
--Elder Christopher A. Lewis