Monday, December 5, 2011

Well you all seem to be doing great, I'm glad to hear it! Ah Cathan?
Yeah he's my buddy. Don't worry, it doesn't feel too much like
Christmas here either. No snow. But we have had TONS of rain lately! A
couple nights ago, I experienced the biggest storm of my life! The
thunder literally shook the house, and it was pretty much like the
lights were on because of how frequent the lightning was! And then not
even one second after the lightning would flash, the thunder would
boom and shake the house again! I can't imagine what it would be like
to experience that living in a tiny bamboo hut! At church the next
morning, there were 10 people there at 9 o'clock. That's what rain
does here. But lots of people showed up after sacrament meeting.. I
feel really bad cause I fell like all I tell you guys about are bad
things that happen. I don't mean to! There are lots of good things
too! But this week was one of the saddest on my whole mission. I think
I mentioned a few weeks ago that the stake president, President
Amarante, lives in our branch. Well his wife passed away this week.
She was only 39. They have five children, and the youngest is 1, the
next youngest just turned 3. My heart aches for them. Sister Rebecca,
"Bec Bec" was only in the hospital for 2 weeks before she died. At
first, it didn't seem like too big of a deal. A couple of weeks ago
she was having some back pains, and we gave her a blessing. A couple
days later she was admitted to the hospital because her x-rays showed
she had a lot of liquid in her lungs that wasn't supposed to be there.
They operated on her and sucked all the stuff in her lungs out, but
then they discovered a tumor growing on her lungs. They were going to
operate on that too, but she passed away before they could. They found
out from her biopsy that she actually had stage 4 pancreatic cancer
and that it had moved to the lungs as well. It's been really hard for
everyone in the branch. Also for me. We have grown pretty close to
their family since I've been here. We used to go over there once or
twice a week and help them with stuff because President Amarante works
in Bacolod and doesn't get back until about 7, and then on sundays he
doesn't get home until like 9:30. So we would get water from the well
and stuff for them so that when President got home he would have time
with his family. President and and Sister Amarante are some of the
kindest, and faithful people I have met in my life, and I always
enjoyed our conversations. Sister Bec Bec's passing had a big effect
on the youth especially because she was their seminary teacher. She
was also the chorister in sacrament meeting. There were many tear
filled eyes on sunday when she wasn't there to lead the music. It was
really hard for me, because a lot of the members didn't know about her
passing, and I had to be the bearer of bad news. It was like a punch
in the stomach every time I told someone else. I can't imagine what
her family must be feeling right now; what it would be like to lose a
wife or mother at such a young age. I'm so glad that even though I
don't know what it's like to experience that, there is always one who
knows our pains and sufferings, for He too, suffered them. "Surely he
hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him
stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted... But he was wounded for our
transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of
our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." This
experience, and others have made me so thankful for the plan of
salvation and all the blessings we will reap from it, if we can just
endure to the end of this mortal life. I, like Nephi, feel to rejoice
in the plan of our Heavenly Father: "O how great the goodness of our
God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful
monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of
the body, and also the death of the spirit." It brings such comfort to
know that there is more to this life that what we see everyday. That
there is a purpose to our being here, and that even though someone
leaves this world before us, we can see them in the next. I am so
thankful that Heavenly Father sent his son, Jesus Christ, to make it
possible for us to return to him. And I am thankful for this time of
year especially to remember him. For Christmas, Elder Groves and I are
going to do sort of a secret santa thing like we used to do back home,
and get the members some Christmas presents. The people here need such
simple things like rice, flip flops, paper, pencils, pens, just stuff
like that. I don't know how secret it will be though, cause all the
members know we are the only ones here who can afford things like
that, and also, it's not hard to see the two white guys running away
from your house, even if it is dark. I think our package to the
Amarante family will be packed with some other things as well. We're
going to go over there later and visit. Elder Teh (Philippines Area
General President) has already called and talked to him. The members
are also really supportive. So I suppose thats all for me this week.
Thank you for all your prayers and support I really need them. I love
you all! Love, Greg

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