Elder Jordan Royal

Elder Jordan Royal
Jordan hugs big sister Kelli

Monday, December 26, 2011

My First Mission Christmas


       We got to speak with Jordan yesterday for Christmas. That was really exciting. We had a nice visit. He is doing well. During the “set up call” on Friday, Brad got on the phone and began speaking Tagalog to Jordan, who just paused when Brad was done and said: “Sorry, I’m not getting any of that.” It was funny. I have no doubt that it is not easy conversing on the phone in a language you have only been working on for three months. They did have a few exchanges in Tagalog on Christmas Day, but Jordan did much better when we just asked him to speak to us in the language. He sounds great. The Royal Christmas Eve Jordan mentions in his letter relates to a big family dinner/variety show we have annually at Mom and Dad’s house with the extended family in Las Vegas. It is something the kids have really enjoyed every year. Jordan always performed something - usually on the guitar. So, he admits to having struggled a bit as he thought about what the family would be doing (by going backwards 15 or so hours from his time to compute PST). Anyway, we love our missionary - and send our best to all missionaries and families who got to speak to each other over the Christmas weekend. That is a great time for all. Hope all had a wonderful weekend, and that we continue to enjoy the time we have together through the duration of the holidays. I am enclosing a couple pictures from the wedding reception referenced by Jordan in his letter. (The Adonis family posted them on Facebook, which makes it easier to get photos when Jordan forgets his camera .)  Mike (Elder Royal's Dad/Blog Master)

       P.S.  We use "Elder Bear" as our family replacement for Jordan.  He helped us with the entertainment at the family Christmas Eve dinner, with puppets.  So, without knowing it, Jordan really did help out with the family show.  Below are a couple pictures from the family gathering, followed by Elder Royal's letter.

Elder Bear was all smiles as the family Christmas Eve dinner
Our Grandson Beckham borrowed Elder Bear's sunglasses Christmas Eve

       Well, this will be arriving VERY late for you guys over there. I'm sorry that you'll be asleep for this, but hey - we got to talk on the phone so it’s all good (which was awesome by the way). :) I'm happy that I was able to talk to all of you (except Jason, missed you bud, but Kelli says you're doing great :) ). I'm sure there was some stuff that I forgot to mention that you might want to know. I'm sorry, but I don't even remember it (haha). Perhaps some of it will come to me in the process of typing up this email. We’ll see.
Jordan with Elder and Sister Bowcutt from St. George at zone conference
       I had my first zone conference on Tuesday, which was fun. It was the annual Christmas Conference. It was really awesome. There were five other zones there with us. All of the zones prepared some sort of skit or something to present to everyone at the zone conference. Ours was really funny and we had a great time doing it. At the beginning of our skit, we were all serious and one of the Elders was acting as a "choir director" leading us in singing "Silent Night." We finish the first verse and then he tells us that was good. He tells us to keep practicing and leaves. Then one of the other Elders says: "Walang Syia! [He’s gone!] This is so boring! We're going to put the audience asleep with that! May idea ba kayo? [Anyone have any ideas?]" Then the other Elder goes: "Yeah I do, everyone bring it in." Then we break out in a kind of Glee version of "Don't Stop Believing" where everyone sang their own verse they came up with about the mission. It was really funny and it was fun to perform it. Everyone loved it. I was able to buy myself some much needed Christmas presents. There's a guy who sells all this cool stuff for the missionaries every zone conference. I bought two Carabau belts (spelled that wrong, I’m sure) and two sweat rags (handy). Carebau (I'm just trying different ways to spell it now, hoping I’ll get it right at least once) is the national animal here in the Philippines. They're these giant black water buffalos and the belts are made from their horns or bones. I got a black one (horns) and a white one (bone). I've wanted one of them since I saw all of the MTC teachers wearing them. They're pretty awesome, not gonna lie. I was going to share some pictures of them and other gifts I got here, but I forgot my camera. Oh well. Next time. We also had our branch Christmas party on Wednesday. It was nice to see our investigators and less active members there.
Jordan and Elder Declaro at the wedding reception

       Okay, funny story time. We went to a wedding reception of the Branch President's son on Friday. It was at a pretty nice place in Cabanatuan City. The waitors brought by a plate of cashew nuts for us to eat while we waited for the married couple to arrive. I started eating them, and they were actually pretty good, so I ate more. I then realized that, like Macadamia nuts, I'm allergic to them. My tongue started to burn and then the pain went from there to my stomach. I began to feel pretty nauseous - so much so that I couldn't eat the delicious food there. I felt better later that night, but it was still a bummer. They had a photo booth thing there. Elder Declaro and I stood infront of the camera while it counted down and took a picture. Unfortunately, I didn't know that I was too tall for the camera the first time. So my eyes up are cut off, but you can see my smile (haha). I had to bend down for the rest of pictures. We got copies of them on Sunday, and Elder Declaro gave me the copy that has my face cut off (haha). I'll keep that for awhile.

       We had Christmas Eve dinner at the Garcia's home (member), and the food was just awesome. I really missed the grand annual Christmas Eve dinner at Grandma and Grandpa Royal's house, but being at that house kind've reminded me of it. They had a guitar there, and I was able to play for the first time since as a missionary. It felt weird to play again, and it also hurt, since I seem to have lost the callouses built up on my fingers (haha). We went to the Adonis's house later that night, but I couldn't eat anything. I was WAY too full to eat. Christmas was probably the hardest day of my mission so far. All throughout the day I kept thinking of what our family was doing right then. I would think things like: "They're probably eating Christmas Eve dinner right now,” or “They're probably having the talent show,” or “They're probably opening presents right now." I tried to dismiss all that stuff, because it made me really sad. It is kind of rough being away from the family at Christmas. I'm in a country on the other side of the world where I can barely speak or understand the language and my family is not with me, nor am I with them. I mean, I knew it was going to be a challenging day, but did not think it would be as tough as it was. However, we then went to a member of the Branch Presidency's house to chat and I began playing guitar again. As I played, all the sad feelings just floated away and I felt the kind of joy I should have been feeling all along. It was pretty fun being able to play guitar two days in a row. I have definitely missed that. The rest of the day was good. We went to the Adonis's house again for another attempt at dinner. We hadn't eaten since lunch, so we were able to eat a lot more this time. Brother Adonis is a great cook. He works as a chef for a cruise line, so eating at their house is always a treat.
Jordan and Elder Declaro at the wedding reception
       As far as our investigators go, they're progressing. One of our most solid investigators, Erick Tan, is doing great and is very receptive. His only problem is the Word of Wisdom, but he's trying really hard to stop smoking and drinking. Eugine Loreno (18) is doing good as well and we'll hopefully have a baptismal goal date for him soon. Erick Padre has a baptismal goal date for the 7th of January, so we're pretty excited about that.

       I think that's it as far as I know. My friends Michael Neff and Tanner Johns should be entering the MTC very soon. Michael and Tanner: You'll have a kind of love/hate relationship with the MTC - mostly love. It is the most spiritual place I have ever been. I loved all of it, except for the anxiousness of having to wait eight weeks before leaving for my assigned mission in the Philippines. So, you’ll love being there, love what you are learning, how you are feeling, but will also struggle with wanting to leave badly so you can be a missionary. My advice is to learn and do all you can. Just keep on trucking. To those of you preparing to leave for missions soon, prepare now. Do not wait until you get into the MTC to prepare. You'll be much better off and far more prepared than those who unwisely choose to delay their preparation. I never regretted one day of pre-MTC mission preparation. Everything I ever learned I have used in some way or another. Those of you in seminary, it's probably the greatest pre-mission training you'll get. It has truly been a blessing to me in my mission. I have a scripture mastery card that I keep with me to share some spiritual thoughts or look up scriptures that our investigators need at that time. It's early in my mission, and I have already reaped the blessings of seminary in many ways. Just stay with it and learn all you can. Don't take seminary for granted! To my family, it was great talking with you all. You all sound so wonderful and I am very happy to be serving as a missionary in the Philippines at this time of my life. Brad, I will be able to talk with you better in Tagalog when the Mother’s Day call comes around, so make sure you are available for that. Things are great. I know I said I was a bit down on Christmas Day, but that was expected. Not a big deal. We are doing great. I love doing the Lord’s work, being on His errand.

       Well, I hope everyone had an enjoyable Christmas and will have a Happy New Year’s Eve next week. (I’m pretty sure we are going to have to get into our apartment early and stay put to steer clear of all the celebrating here, which includes all kinds of crazy things involving explosives.)

       Mahal Ko Kayo.

       Elder Jordan "Cashew Nuts Seriously Hate Me" Royal

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas is Coming!

            I’m sorry it took so long to write today.  We went to Elder and Sister Bowcutt's house for a zone Christmas party this morning which was awesome.  We arrived earlier than everyone else, so the two companionships that got there early were treated to a delicious scrambled eggs and toast breakfast.  It was awesome having an "American" breakfast.  We also had a special Christmas presentation and gift exchange.  Elder Crisanto gave me a some sort of metal puzzle thing.  It's pretty interesting looking, and I'm sure I can put it to good use after long and stressful days.  (Yep, that’s exactly what I needed: something else to give me headaches trying to master Tagalog.  Great.  haha.)  Then Sister Bowcutt wrapped up all of these little gifts for us to use as a white elephant exchange.  I ended up with a Chinese boomerang thing.  So that should take up some time, too (a little better stress release that will take less thought and put lives at risk - much better).  We then practiced our presentation for the Zone Christmas Conference tomorrow morning.  It's going to be really great.  I've tried to send videos before, but it doesn't work, so maybe Sister Martino or someone can videotape it and put it online.
Elders Royal and Declaro having dinner with the Ardonis family
            I would have been on here sooner, but I had to read all of the emails sent to me.  (just kidding - I love them.)  I just finished reading the family Christmas letter, and I can honestly say that I miss it.  When I read it, I thought of all of the times that we would all gather at the end of the year to discuss our family quotes that happened during the year.  (haha great, great times.)  [The Royal family Christmas letter is found at: http://royalfamilytimes.blogspot.com/2011/12/royal-empty-nest-christmas-december.html.]

            Well, this week definitely flew by.  It's interesting to see how fast time goes by when I am not so worried and stressed about the language and focus more on the needs of our investigators.  I started reading the Doctrine & Covenants this week for only the second time.  It's amazing to read all of the verses about missionary work and service to others as related directly by Jesus Christ.  I'm now in Section 77.  The language is okay.  I pick up a lot of words that are being said, but I just can't translate it fast enough or correctly, which just gets me confused.  We have great investigators and ward members, but the thing that impresses me the most are our recent converts. 
Jordan's Christmas tree sent by his Grandma Royal

            Nanay Rosa (baptized in July) is probably the best fellowshipper I've ever seen in my life.  Though she suffers great persecution from her friends and neighbors, she is always willing to share the gospel with everyone.  When we teach our investigators and challenge them to do something, they're usually really quiet, but Nanay Rosa will just be super bold (but with great love) and just tells them why they should read the Book of Mormon or do something else we suggest.  Elder Declaro and I are just laughing quietly behind her, just because it's just funny.  (We are not laughing at her, of course.  We just feel giddy about what she is able to accomplish with her loving way.)  She has the strongest testimony I've ever seen, and you would never know that she was just baptized.  She definitely helps a lot with our lessons and is always giving us referrals.  It's awesome having members like that.  Also, Tatay Servilliano (who we baptized on Dec. 10th), is a great missionary as well.  He always comes with us when we teach the Tan Family (Erick and Tes).  The Tan family is great.  We began teaching them on Sunday, and almost went over there everyday this week for a lesson.  We taught them about the Book of Mormon on Friday, and told him just to read the first chapter of First Nephi.  We came back the next day and Erick told us that he is now in Mosiah 3.  Which is like almost halfway.  Elder Declaro and I were incredibly happy and we are certain that they will be baptized by late January or early February.  We also have some great investigators like Erick Padre and Eugine Lorena.  We're really focused on both of them, because they are in part member families that we are eager to unite.  Erick's wife is a member and Eugine's mother is a member.  Eugine is 18 and could be a potential missionary if he gets baptized.  Eugine is really shy sometimes, but we've been able to gain his trust a little more this week and he now laughs with us and talks freely about his life.  (Well, he talks mostly to Elder Declaro, because I still don't know what's going on.  haha.)
Study desks in Jordan's missionary apartment

            So the weather was really awesome this week.  It didn't rain at all and it was just great.  It was mild with some wind, so it kind of felt like being in California.  Pero, it's pretty mainit ngayon, bale that's a bummer.  [We think this means something like: “But, it’s pretty hot.”]

            It's weird how close we are to Christmas.  Oh yeah, that reminds me, we need to organize the Christmas call.  I still need to figure out how to do it.  I'll be talking to the zone leaders again about it this week.  I'm going to be making the set up call with you on Saturday probably (Friday for you).  I will be using a member's phone.  I'll call just so that I have the number I can give you and we can set up the time.

            Elder Declaro and I have been doing great work these past two weeks.  We've taught a total of 43 lessons in two weeks with 75 OYMs (Open Your Mouth).  I was able to do a few of the OYMs myself this week, since it's usually Elder Declaro who does them.  I'm getting more comfortable talking with people, if I know what they're saying - which isn't a lot (haha).  At least I know what I'm saying. 
Elders Royal and Declaro enjoying a great family dinner
(So grateful for those who love and care for our missionaries!)
            It was great to hear from you all through emails and dearelders.  I'm grateful for all of those.  Yes Mom, I received the envelope also with all of the Christmas greetings.  David, I hope your arm gets better fast and please stop doing stupid things.  (Haha jk.  That's why I love you :).)  Kelli and Jason, I'm so excited for baby Royal to become another new addition to the family.  And also, congrats Jason on graduating from the police academy and wish you both the best.  Brad and Whitney, you sound great and so does Beckham.  Dad, thanks again for sending the Christmas letter.  I hope that many people will read and enjoy it :).  (I always enjoy it.)

            I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas holiday.  Like during our presentations this morning, let’s try to remember the true meaning of Christmas and what it is really all about.  Give the gift of Christlike love and service for everyone, for that is the greatest gift that we can give (Mosiah 2:17).  Mahal ko kayo.  Hanapin po ninyo ang totoong ibig sa behing ng Christmas.  I don't know if any of that was right, but it was worth the try haha.  Ingat po kayo!  (that I know is right haha). [Ugh, we think this means: “I love you.  Please try to find the true meaning of Christmas.”]

            Elder Jordan "Rice Lovin'" Royal

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Big Ending to a Slow Week in Kalikid

Elder Royal's 1st Baptism!
 From left: Bro. Faustino, Nanay Rosa, Elder Declar,  Jordan, Nanay Martin, Tatay Servillian,  Tatay Martin, Erick Tan
            Well, this week was definitely one of the longest of my life.  The days went by fast, but the week just dragged on.  I figure it will continue to be like this until the language gets better.   Usually, during our lessons I just sit there and try to figure out what's being said, or I just look at all the lizards on the walls.  We taught a lot of people this week.  Some are progressing more than others.  Sometimes after a lesson I'll ask Elder Declaro (from Antipolo, by the way) what the investigator’s feelings were after the lesson.  Sometimes he says that they're not interested, even though I may think they are.  I am getting better at reading people, and now can tell when people are interested or not in our message.  We ended on a really good note this week.  Our investigators, Nanay Martin and Tatay Servilliano got baptized on Saturday, and I was the one to baptize them.  Yeah, funny story about that.  Last Saturday, Elder Declaro told me that I was going to be baptizing them.  I told him that he shouldn't joke around with me like that, but he was serious.  I thought, "Why me?  I don't even know these people."  As the week passed on, I still did not know anything about them, except that they're spirit and testimonies are very strong.  They are truly the nicest people I've met here.  For example, most people here kind of dismiss me, even look down on me, because I don’t speak the language very well (yet).  However, Nanay Martin and Tatay Servilliano are different.  When I speak to them, they look right at me and listen to everything I say.  My love for these investigators grew a lot during the long week, and I'm so glad that I was able to baptize them.  I wanted the baptismal service to be very special for them, so I decided to learn the baptismal prayer in Tagalog, even though Elder Declaro told me that I could do it in English.  I told him it would probably be more meaningful to them if I did the prayer in a language that they understand.  So, Nanay Martin was up first.  I said the prayer and baptized her, but I had to do it again because I forgot to close in the name of Jesus Christ.  The second time was successful.  Then, I baptized Tatay Servilliano without any problems.  I was also able to help confirm both of them members of the Church yesterday during sacrament meeting.  We took pictures before and I'm trying to send them right now, but the computer isn't reading my HSB thing, so I'll try again later. 

Jordan's Christmas package (that he opened too soon)
            I still have a ton of pictures from the MTC that I need to send and a couple of videos.  Maybe I'll figure it out today, and if not, I'll do it next week.  One of Tatay's neighbors, Erick Tan, came to the baptisms yesterday.  He really enjoyed the service and is now excited to be baptized. Tatay Servilliano came with us to help teach him last night.  We taught Erick and his family last night the first lesson, and it went really well.  I feel that when we talk about Eternal Families and the Plan of Salvation that they will all want to be baptized.  I felt that during our lesson, so after I bore my testimony on the lesson we just gave, I also bore my testimony on how grateful I am for God's plan for eternal families.  They seemed really touched by that.  After our lesson, we asked them when we could come back.  They asked if we could come back “every day.”  My heart just jumped with excitement.  That was awesome to hear.  Hopefully, they will be able to come to church on Sunday.

Elder Declaro was pretty excited about the Christmas box
            I found a new fun thing to do while we're knocking on doors.  I got this really awesome umbrella that when you press the bottom, the entire thing shoots up and opens all at once.  So after we taught one of our investigators, I pushed the button to some chickens and roosters to scare them, because the roosters are really annoying.  It was pretty funny watching them scatter everywhere.  Then I thought I would do it to all of the dogs that we see.  Dogs are everywhere here, so I had plenty of opportunities.  So, a dog walked by us and I pushed the button.  The umbrella went shooting out and the dog took off running and yelping away from us.  Elder Declaro and I just busted out laughing.  I think our walks are going to be more fun now since I discovered that fun little trick.

Jordan loves the Royal soda in the Philippines
            Question/answer time.  Mom, yes, we do have a laundry lady.  Her name is Sister Estanoco and her dad is actually Tatay Servilliano.  Yes, I can only email you and Dad.  Also, yes, Mom, I have been writing down words in the little notebook to help with my vocabulary.  And yes, Dad, you can post my email address to my facebook and the blog you are keeping.  But, make sure you tell everyone that I can receive emails from anyone but can only write you all directly via email.  I like emails, but they can take up a lot of time to read.  Real letters are sweet, too (always worth the wait).  And yes, I do get emails from other people.  I was recently forwarded an email by Elder Bigg's parents about his first week.  That was fun to read.  I love that guy!  Oh, and yes, Dad, I got that huge pile of “Dear Elders” you sent ahead of my arrival to the Philippines.  To be honest, I haven’t had time to read them yet.

            Okay, now about our Christmas call.  We have two options that the mission president has given us:

Jordan covered in all the "Dear Elder" letters he received in the MTC
1.         Skype

            We are allowed to Skype and have access through a member here.  But, we only get twenty minutes and then I'm done.

2.         Phone

            If you call me, then we are allowed to talk much longer.  So, if you think you would rather talk longer as opposed to seeing me while talking, then the phone would be best.  President Martino has asked that you call me, so that money and minutes aren't wasted from our phones.  So, you will need to get a phone card.  I'll be making a set up call that will only be about FIVE MINUTES MAXIMUM a few days before Christmas.  I don't have a ton of information on this yet, but I will definitely send you more information next week.  Also, you'll probably call me on the 26th here, so that's probably like Christmas afternoon your time.  Just so you don't have to worry about waking up at 4:00 am to talk to me (haha).

            Well I think that's about it for me.  I hope all of you have a great week and hopefully this week will go by a little faster for me (haha).  I have a feeling that we're going to accomplish great things this week.

           Mahal ko kayo

           Elder Jordan Royal

Below are some additional photos we received from Jordan.

Jordan's MTC District a week before their departure
Jordan sporting Aunt Allison's tie!

Elders Royal Harrison and Kemmy

Jordan with (from left) Elders Palmer Biggs, Harrison at the Manila Airport

Volcano in Pampanga, Philippines

Jeepni in Manila

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Elder Royal's First Assignment: Bongabon, Nueva Ecija

     Where is Jordan's first assignment?  We received the following Facebook Message from Le Greta Mhayet “Pink” on December 3, 2011:

     TO the ROYAL HIGHNESS parents~ just an update...

     Just got back from church and the AP's (Assistants to the President) and Angeles Zone Leaders just approached me right before sacrament meeting and said Elder Royal sent regards for Sister Pink,,,that was awesome, though we haven't met yet..haha!  Well, I was told that he's assigned to Bongabon, Nueva Ecija (maybe about 3-4 hours travel from Angeles City, Pampanga) where the area is full of rice fields, no McDonald’s, no shopping mall,,,hehe..so it'll be a great first experience in the field for him...it's right near Aurora province near the Pacific Ocean ... so he can view some nice sea over there if he gets to Aurora, Baler area...he'll definitely enjoy the nature sight (",)  So this means it'll be quite long till we get to see him here in Angeles and hopefully he will be assigned in our ward before he finishes his entire mission ,,,till then! ~ --pink

     Thanks to Pink, we received a little heads up on where Jordan was assigned before we received his first email from the field.  (It is good to have so many Filipino friends!)  A day earlier, we received a video from Sister Martino, spouse to Pres. Martino, Jordan's mission president.  (The video with Jordan's explanation is below.  It appears to have taken place at a chapel in Cabanatuan City.)  Here are a few generic pictures from Jordan's first area.

It looks like Jordan is too far from the ocean for a visit.  We have been to San Jose (NW) and Cabanatuan City (West)

We suddenly feel like jogging in the Philippines! 

Awesome rice fields

This is a place we think Jordan will not get to visit (but we might someday)
     I know everyone's been incredibly anxious about my arrival and when I would write (aka Mom and Dad) (haha).  My P-Days are on Mondays, so you'll probably get this email sometime Sunday afternoon (maybe).  I begin by telling you about our plane ride and stuff. I have never flown in a plane for such a long period of time.  I fell asleep on our way to Korea, but it was only for about five or six hours.  That sounds pretty good, right?  But when I woke up, we were just halfway there.  There were plenty of things to kill the time. The Korean Airline was SO awesome!  They had those little TVs in front of us with a remote to control it.  They had a bunch of music on there, but I only listened to the Classical music and the "Relaxation Music" when I would go to sleep.  It was pretty relaxing (haha).  Anyway, we landed in Manila at about 11:30 am and got picked up by Brother Eduardo Valiente.  He says he knows Brad.  He is a really nice guy.  The Manila traffic is absolutely insane!  There were five lanes of traffic of a two-lane road.  It took forever to get out of Manila because of that.  We arrived at the mission home about two hours later.  President and Sister Martino are some of the nicest people I've ever met!  They're from Texas and both have southern accents.  After my interview with President Martino, he offered the prayer to end the meeting.  I did not expect him at all to say the entire prayer in Tagalog, but he did.  I didn't close my eyes for five seconds, because I just watched in amazement of how good his Tagalog was.  He served a mission in Italy and says that he still reads the Book of Mormon in Italian and says he's almost done reading it again.  I think that's really cool.

     The next morning, we met our Filipino batch of missionaries that were in the Manila MTC for only three weeks.  They are really cool missionaries, and we even spoke some Tagalog with them.  We had a few meetings with the President and his wife and then we met our trainers.  My companion is Elder Declaro and he's just an incredible trainer.  I'm in the Bongabon Zone and we're serving in the Kalikid area.  I guess there's another name for it?  I don't know.  It's about a fifteen or twenty minute drive from Cabanatuan.

     There's so much that has happened this week that I don't know where to start. When we got to our apartment that night and we went to the Adonis family for dinner. They're a great family, and Sister Adonis is really nice.  My first day of tracking and teaching was pretty interesting.  As you may have guessed, I have absolutely no idea what's going on (haha).  I just follow my companion around and talk with the random people that he talks to.  The only thing I can do really is introduce myself, say a quick greeting, bear my testimony, and pray.  That's pretty much it.  Whenever Elder Declaro is talking to someone I just sit there and try to listen and see if I can pick up any words.  That usually doesn't work very well.  I'm still confused no matter what (haha).  Almost everyone is poor here, but there are still like a different class of poor.  There's the middle class, poor, and very poor.  Some of these people just live in houses made of bamboo and have a tin roof over their heads to keep themselves dry from all the rain that comes.  They're poor, but what I've been hearing for years is how humble and happy these people are.  It's very true.  Some of the happiest people I've seen are the poorest.  It's very heart-warming.  We've taught a lot of people since I've been here and we have two investigators with baptismal dates.  One of our investigators, Nanay Martin, had to be interviewed by President Martino for baptism.  We went to a chapel in Cabanatuan for the interview.  Elder Declaro went into the interview to translate for President Martino, so that just left me with Sister Martino.  I told her how stressed I was about my investigators and the language.  There's a new program that the Church developed in July called the "First 12 Weeks in the Mission Field."  The trainer and trainee go through this program for 12 weeks and there are certain things that the new missionary (me) have to do each week.  This week, I had to invite our investigators to be baptized.  I had been practicing the baptismal commitment in Tagalog and I thought I had down pretty well.  I told Sister Martino that I was stressed about having to extend a baptismal invitation so early in the mission.  She told me to practice the invitation with her.  I did, but I struggled to say some of the words.  Sister Martino then said, "Now that you've spoken from the mind, try it again from the heart."  That kind of hit me hard, because I know that it wasn't from the heart and that no one will ever accept a baptismal invitation if the Spirit isn't there.  So I tried again, but took a different approach to it.  I bore my testimony of the importance of the commitment before I extended it.  She stopped me and said, "I have no idea what you're saying, but I feel the Spirit now when you talk."  That was a great confidence booster knowing that I can bear my testimony from the heart.  That's the most important thing to missionary work.  We have to be able to bear testimony to people and hope that the Spirit will touch the hearts of people to make them want to change.  So that's why Sister Martino made that video email.

     I think it was my second day in the area.  Since then, I've extended two baptismal invitations.  One on Saturday to a store owner named Nanay Deguzman and to a young couple yesterday.  They excepted both times, because the Spirit was in the room and my invitation was both bold and loving.  Even in the poorest conditions, we can feel the Spirit in every home that we walk in.  Even though I haven't been able to understand anything in any of the lessons, the Spirit is there.  Elder Declaro is such a great teacher and really knows how to touch the lives of the people here.  I don't know what I would do without him.

Elder Royal and his trainer, Elder Declaro - Called to Serve (and eat)
     So yesterday was pretty interesting. We went to sacrament meeting and they have a new branch presidency.  The people really love them.  The ward members are incredibly friendly and kind to me, even though I can't speak well in their language at all.  The Branch President called me up to bear my testimony during Testimony Meeting, and I bore my testimony to the best of my abilities.  We had a couple of investigators there, so I wanted to make sure that they felt the Spirit and that I gave a good testimony.  The Spirit was strong and I hope that our investigators felt that as well.  We taught some families the rest of the day, but the last investigator we went to was a couple.  Her brother walked in halfway through our visit drunk, even though I had no idea.  He would talk and then everyone would start laughing, and I had no idea why.  Once Elder Declaro finally told me that he was drunk, it was pretty funny after that.  Then I guess his wife came by looking for him and took him away.  It was pretty funny, but we still hadn't taught our lesson.  As soon as he left and we shared our Spiritual thought, the Spirit was back in the room.  We went to member's home for dinner that night.  They're dad isn't a member, but is getting baptized this week I think.  We had pork adobo and it was so good!  I've had rice, meat, noodles, and vegetables for every meal except breakfast.  They don't use knives here.  They eat with a spoon in their right hand and a fork in their left.  They scoop, cut, and eat with the spoon and just use the fork to help place the food in the spoon.  It was pretty hard at first, but I'm really good at it now  (haha).

     I've had some struggles lately, just because I want to know this language so bad!  I just want to be able to talk to and understand everyone that I talk to.  I know that it'll come through my patience and work, but sometimes it just bugs me.  I've had a lot of encouragement from my companion, the mission president and his wife, other missionaries, and most importantly my family.  Our District Leader, Elder Fearson, just finished the 12 week course and his Tagalog is great.  I'm working hard to become that good in the language after these 12 weeks.

     This week definitely went by slow, just because the work is hard and I can't understand anything.  I figure it's like the MTC, but I could be wrong.  In the MTC, the first four days are super long and torturous, but after the first Sunday, it just flew by so fast.  I hope it's like that here, but not too fast.  I want to be able to understand the language first.  I think I'll learn very quickly in these 12 weeks, though.

     Well, I guess that's it for me right now.  I hope that everyone is preparing well for the holidays.  Grandma Royal, you'll be happy to know that the Christmas Tree you sent me is prominently placed on our fridge. ;)  Definitely the hottest Christmas I'll ever experience!  (Oh, and everyone says this is the coldest time of the year. Great.)  I was dying from the heat the first couple days, but it's getting better.  I think I'm pretty much used to the humidity by now.  Hope everyone has a great week!  The gospel is true and I am grateful to be serving the Lord to share the message of Jesus Christ to the wonderful people here.

     Mahal ko kayo!
     Elder Jordan Royal

     P.S.  I received the Christmas package, Mom.  Thanks.  Sorry, but I didn't notice the "Don't Open Until Christmas" note until after I opened it.  Elder Declaro loves the tie and food you sent us.  He's going to wear the tie at our baptism this week (haha).

     (We told Jordan that is the ONLY Christmas box he will be getting so to . . . enjoy.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Safe and Sound in Angeles City, Philippines

We spoke with Jordan by phone during his layover at LAX Monday evening as he prepared for his long flight to the Philippines via Korea.  Jordan was upbeat, happy, excited, and quite talkative.  He knows there will be a brand new learning curve when it comes to picking up the language that will challenge him (they all go through it).  It was great to hear his voice and feel of his excitement to be serving as a missionary.

We received a call from Sister Deanie Martino, spouse of Pres. David Martino, Wednesday morning in which she announced Jordan's safe arrival.  She said all the missionaries arriving were both excited and tired.  They will be staying in the mission home for the night and then receiving assignments on Thursday.  Sister Martino was kind enough to send some pictures, which we LOVE and share below.  We are looking forward to Jordan's first letter from the mission field.  Until then, we will bask in the light of his smile from these wonderful pictures.

Jordan (far left) arrived with a headache and was given a Tylenol PM . . . so he looks pretty tired here.
The missionaries are all smiles as they prepare to EAT

This looks like a pretty good spread - missionaries always enjoy dinner
And . . . what would dinner be without dessert??!?
They all seem happier after dinner and dessert - go figure

Time to prepare for bed and get some MUCH needed sleep
Elder Biggs is all smiles as he prepares for "story time" before bed

Next up . . . Elder Royal's first assignment!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Goodbye MTC . . . Next Stop: Angeles City, Philippines

    We received Jordan’s last EVER letter as a missionary in the Provo MTC this morning.  He departs for the Philippines Monday evening.  (At least we think it’s Monday evening - based on a prior email.  He did not identify am/pm when he said what time he would be calling us from the airport on Monday.  Hopefully, it is in the evening.)  It is wonderful to feel Jordan’s enthusiasm and excitement.  His description of how he spent his first Thanksgiving Day away from home was pretty awesome and presents a great formula for us all: 1) Inspirational words of devotion; 2) service; 3) traditional meal; 4) more inspirational words of devotional.  Jordan has grown a great deal since entering the MTC.  We look forward to receiving his first email from the Philippines sometime next week (sooner the better).  We hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving Weekend.  We are going to see the lights at Temple Square this evening.  Mike
(From Elder Royal)

Jordan and members of his MTC district at the Provo Temple
    Hey everyone!  Sorry that I'm writing my email so early.  We had Infield Orientation all day yesterday, so that's why I didn't have P-Day.  We have to do all of our laundry for the last time ever in the MTC early the morning (sniff).  My last week of the MTC was pretty sweet.  For Tuesday Devotional we had the privilege of hearing from Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Twelve Apostles.  I was in the MTC choir with Elders Brown, Tauiliili, and Merril.  We sang "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."  We got to sing my favorite hymn and listen to an Apostle of Jesus Christ at my last MTC devotional.  Pretty amazing.  Elder Chistofferson gave an awesome talk about how we should yield our hearts to God and doing His will before our own.  I just love when Apostles walk in, because all of the missionaries stand up in quiet reverence and the Spirit just surges into the room.  I love and admire how humble Apostles are.  They always talk about their weaknesses and tell us what they need to improve on.  His entire talk was about what he wished he did better on his mission and what he would do differently.  It was just a super powerful talk.  I loved it!

    Wednesday was pretty sad.  We had our last lesson with one of our teachers, Sister Ball.  We took pictures with both of our teachers after class.  I learned a lot from Sister Ball.  She has a really strong testimony and was definitely inspirational to me.  We still have one more lesson for Brother Day before we leave on Monday.  That will be pretty sad, too.  Brother Day has been a great teacher as well.  We've had great experiences with both of them that I hope I will never forget. 

    Thanksgiving Day was a lot better than I thought it was going to be.  We had a Thanksgiving Devotional in the morning where we heard from Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Twelve Apostles.  We lined up two hours early and were the first ones at the door.  We had great seats.  I was probably about twenty feet away from him.  The Spirit was definitely strong (of course).  Sister Ycmat from our district was chosen out of the whole MTC to be the first speaker in the Devotional.  She talked about the “tender mercies” of the Lord and the importance of making sure we thank God for the daily blessings that we receive.  Elder Nelson also talked about giving praise to God and providing service to people.  It was awesome being able to hear from two Apostles in one week!  After the devotional, we had our last Thanksgiving meal for the next 22 months.  It was a lot better than I expected.  We had all of Thanksgiving essentials: turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, stuffing, rolls, and pumpkin pie.  It was pretty awesome.  Later that night, we did a service project in the lunch room.  They had to split the MTC in two sections, because they can't fit all of the missionaries in the same room doing the same thing.  We made a bunch of humanitarian first-aid kits.  (I think they're going to Somalia????  Maybe.  I forgot.  It was somewhere in Africa.)  Our zone was in charge of forming a giant assembly line and passing down all of the finished boxes to the other end.  They played like rocked out Primary songs over the speakers.  So that was my first experience with music with drums and guitar for a long time.  We were dancing and throwing the boxes to each other.  It was pretty awesome.  We then watched the movie, "17 Miracles."  It was the first time that I had seen that movie.  It was an amazing experience.  It follows the Willie Handcart Company from England to their trek across the plains in handcarts.  It was a pretty emotional movie.  I highly recommend it if you haven't seen it yet.  It was pretty much the greatest Thanksgiving that I've ever had away from my family (since this is the first one).  I heard an Apostle, ate a huge dinner, did service, and watched a great movie.

Jordan and his district at the Provo Temple, looking west toward the MTC (they're really in there somewhere)
    So tomorrow will be my last Sunday here in the MTC.  Oh yeah, Dad, you were wondering what we do on Sundays.  Well when we wake up, we go to our classroom for personal study, breakfast, personal study again, Priesthood meeting, District Meeting (Sunday School), lunch, Sacrament Meeting, Temple Walk, dinner, and fireside.  (They are still pretty busy.)  I'm really excited/nervous to leave for the Philippines in just two more days!  I will probably call home at about 9:00 from the LA Airport, so just a heads up.  I will send the rest of my pictures home today.  They're like a month old.  The camera Mom sent me works just fine, so thanks :). 

    Oh, and thank you Grandma Royal for the package! :)  I will be sure to use it in my apartment next week.  Well, I think that's about it.  I love all of you and pray for you always and appreciate your letters and love.  This is Elder Royal's last email until an unknown P-Day arrives in the Philippines.  Good luck.  I guess I can bare my testimony one last time in Tagalog for you all.  I'm sorry for any incorrect spelling.  I can't really spell in Tagalog yet.

   Nagpapasalamat po ako para sa aking pamilya.  Nagpapasalamat po ako para sa Ama sa Langit at Inyong Anak, na si Jesucirsto at para sa Pagbayad-Sala niya.  Nagpapasalamat po ako para sa Ebanghelyo ni Jesucristo.  Pinatotohannan ko na ang pag-ibig ng Ama sa Langit ay tunay.  Mahal ko Ang Aklat ni Mormon.  Sinasabi ko po ito, sa pangalan ni Jesucristo, Amen.

    [I'm grateful for my family. I'm grateful for my Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ and his atonement. I'm grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I testify that the love of Heavenly Father is real. I love the Book of Mormon and say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.]

    I know there's some possible errors with that.  You may not know it's wrong, but others who know the language (like Brad) certainly will.  (haha).  So, that's pretty much it.  The Church is true and is the greatest blessing that I have.

    Love, Elder Jordan Royal

Friday, November 18, 2011

10 More Days to the Philippines!

    Well, I am happy to announce that I only have 10 MORE DAYS LEFT IN THE MTC before departing with my district to the Philippines.  We received our travel plans yesterday, and I can't remember all the times of our departures, but I do know we leave Salt Lake City at about eight at night and land in LA at around 9:30 pm.  Then we fly all the way to South Korea, and then Manilla.  Wow.  What a crazy thought.  It has felt like I would be here forever, but time went by so much faster than I thought it would.  I'm just freaked out for when I land in the Philippines and I won't be able to communicate or understand anyone.  Great.  On the other hand, I'm super excited for it! 

    So, I guess I can tell you about my week.  Tyler left for the mission field on Monday.  I didn't see him, but I hope that he is doing well and that the Lord blesses him with success.  We had a devotional on Tuesday night by Elder Callister of the Seventy.  He spoke in General Conference last month about how the Bible and the Book of Mormon go hand in hand.  Anyway, he gave an awesome talk for our devotional.  He spoke on the Great Apostasy and how to teach it to our investigators, because if they don't believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ needed to be restored, then the First Vision of Joseph Smith was just a good story and that we're just another Christian church.  I learned a lot more about the Great Apostasy.  It's a hard subject to teach investigators about, because we think we might offend someone by leading them to the conclusion their church does not contain the fullness of the Savior’s gospel, with all His power and priesthood authority.  I think that I can comfortably talk about it now. 

    I was able to host the new missionaries that arrived on Wednesday.  All 700 of them.  Yeah that's pretty crazy.  It's probably because they're not having any missionaries come in during Thanksgiving, so they decided to cram all 700 in at once.  It was kind of a dream like moment for me.  I couldn't believe that I had reached this point of my mission, hosting new missionaries much like I was several weeks ago.  Some missionaries were scared or shy, but some of them were totally pumped and excited to arrive.  I thought back to the day when I came and was hosted by Daniel.  Was that really almost two months ago???  That's crazy!  I can see that Daniel is doing well from his emails and wish him the best.  Next week is our last full week here.  It's going to be crazy and sad leaving this wonderful place.  (By the way, I have P-Day on Saturday next week.)
Jordan depicted here on his arrival at the MTC on Sept. 28th, here helped by Elder King.  This week, he got to be a host!

Elder Harrison here illustrates what would happen if a gorilla meets a grizzly bear
    Okay funny story for you.  Elder Brown and I went to teach our progressing investigator on Tuesday.  She invited us into the room and there were two padded chairs for us to sit on.   These chairs are built very weird.  They're kind of like metal rocking chairs.  The metal on the bottom had been broken for awhile.  I went to sit and leaned back, at which point the chair just bent back all the way and I flew backwards and landed on the ground.  Everyone (including me) was just cracking up, because it was hilarious.  Our teacher told us to leave the room and come back when all of us stopped laughing.  We came back and gave a pretty good lesson.  That was pretty funny (haha).

    We had a really good spiritual experience yesterday.  Sister Sharp has had some problems with her leg for the past week.  After our discussion with our teacher, we were all pretty quiet, because the spirit was really strong in the room.  Then I had an impression for all of us to give Sister Sharp a blessing.  She was very grateful and asked me to give the blessing.  So, all eight of us formed the circle and I gave her a blessing.  I did not know that I was going to give the blessing and therefore had no idea what to say.  I just waited for the Spirit to take over and it did.  I can't write what I said, because I don't really remember anything of what I said.  All I know is that I wasn't the one talking.  It was the Spirit.  We sang a lot of hymns together and then we sat there and did Personal Study.  Brother Day just taught us that we need to spend some time doing some deep pondering.  So, I spent the next 20 minutes just thinking about what the Spirit just did through me.  Everyone else was crying before then, but then all of the sudden I began to cry a lot.  It was just an amazing experience for everyone in the room.  Earlier that day, Elder Holland's talk about the boy who was struck by lighting kept going through my head.  "Unexpectedly, lightning will strike (so to speak), and we must be worthy and ready to use our Priesthood."  (It's also a Mormon Message.  You should look it up.)  I had no idea why that message kept coming and coming into my mind all day.  I finally figured out why after I had given the blessing as I was pondering.  I'm so glad that I am worthy and ready to use this gift of the Priesthood that has been given me.

    Well, thank you for all who sent me letters this week.  Very much appreciated.  Thank you Mom for the packages.  And yes, I got everything.  Also a big thanks to Uncle Greg and Aunt Allison for the Family Tie.  When I wear it, I will always think of you all.  Oh, and a special shout out to Brennen Marshal for his mission call to the Baltic Mission speaking Russian.  That's seriously awesome!  I almost screamed when I read that (haha). 

    The next time I write I'll only have two days here.  That will go by incredibly fast.  I hope all is well with everyone here.  Mahal ko tayo!

    Elder Jordan Royal

    P.S.  I'm getting some pictures printed this week, so I should be sending them next week sometime.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Finally Feeling Older and Wiser

            Jordan is now less than three weeks away from the Philippines.  He will spend Thanksgiving in the MTC.  Since we’ll be in Provo, it’s like we get to spend Thanksgiving with him . . . in spirit.  Jordan seems to have been somewhat concerned with reaching the point of appearing older and wiser to new MTC arrivals.  He has apparently used that as a means of measuring his progress.  This got me singing from Sound of Music (with some revised words, of course, from the perspective of the newly arriving MTC missionaries):

            We need someone older and wiser,
            Telling us what to do.
            You are six weeks going on seven weeks,
            We all look up to you.
         We feel gratitude to our wonderful veterans this day, including our faithful fathers.  We also recognize veterans who have served in the Lord’s army of faith.  Have a great weekend (and . . . Go Cougs - beat the Aggies tonight (basketball) and the Vandals tomorrow (football)).


            This week seems to have gone by pretty fast.  Actually, I don't know, I'm still trying to decide if it went by fast or not (haha).  Anyway, we had a good devotional from Elder Eduardo Gavarret of the Seventy (I think that's his name).  He talked about the story of Christ instructing Peter and those with him where to put their nets when fishing in the Sea of Galilee and then, after doing as instructed by Christ, their nets were amazingly filled to the brim with fish.  (Awesome account in Luke 5.)  Elder Gavarret told us that we need to "Launch our nets into the deep."  I didn't really understand what that meant until later as we were bearing our testimonies as a District.  I came to understand it as being able to leave the shore and everything else behind to go out into the deep and dangerous waters to catch the fish and bring them back to shore to the Savior.  The Savior told Peter where to go and cast his net.  Peter did as the Savior commanded, and he was very successful.  So, that's what the Savior has done for me and all of the other missionaries in the world.  He tells us where to cast our nets, and then we launch our nets into the deep to bring in many fishes or souls.  I would not be a successful fisherman if choose to keep my boat at the dock and fish from the shore.  As missionaries, we are called upon to leave the comfort and safety of the shore.  The bigger fish are in the deeper waters, and there we must go to make the great catch.  So, that was my spiritual upliftment for the week.  (Just kidding - there's more.)
            Elder Brown and I taught our "investigator" this week, and we asked her to be baptized.   We just taught about the Atonement in the Plan of Salvation Lesson in Chapter 3.  I thought this would be a good time to ask her to be baptized.  I told her that she didn't have to decide right then, but I challenged her to pray about it right then and there (to ask Heavenly Father if the Book of Mormon is true and if all our other messages are true).  The next lesson we had with her, we asked her if she had a testimony of the Book of Mormon and everything else.  She claimed that she didn't know what a testimony was, so we committed her to read Alma 32 (the chapter on faith and testimony).  Anyway, we'll see how that goes.  I won’t say that getting dropped a week ago was a blessing, because it's never good to lose an investigator; however, since then, Elder Brown and I have been doing great with our lessons.  We're getting more and more serious with them and they usually turn out very well.  All of the missionaries started teaching each other last week as investigators.  Sometimes those turn out as well as the other lessons, but it is definitely good practice.  We are called upon to play the role of investigators also.  We were instructed to think of someone that we knew and pretend to be them.  It's been a pretty good experience so far.  
Jordan and Elder Harrison study the ways of the force

          I saw Tyler a couple of times this week.  It's usually after dinner that I see him.  We never have our cameras when we see each other, though.  (I'm sorry Aunt Kim!)  He's doing great though, and I can tell that he's changed a lot in these last couple of weeks.  He leaves on Monday, which I'm super jealous about.  Our roommates, four Spanish speaking missionaries called to serve in Pittsburgh and Texas, are leaving on Monday as well.  It is hard not to be a little jealous when I see other missionaries leaving.  : /.  Only 17 days left and counting!  I cannot wait for the 28th (my departure date).  Woo!  Well, I'm trying to think of what else has happened this week, but my mind is suddenly blank.  I love my District, and I'll be pretty sad when we leave each other in the Philippines.  Five of us will be serving in the Angeles Mission, so that's pretty cool.  We had 20 new missionaries come into our zone this week, so the classroom building is pretty crowded now.  There are at least 40 new missionaries that are going to the Philippines that arrived on Wednesday.  I just had to asked some of the new missionaries if we seemed much older and wiser than them (which was my immediate impression when I entered the MTC).  They all said that, yes, we do appear older and wiser.  So, that made us feel pretty good, old, and wiser, because we never thought we would reach that status.
Jordan - one week pre-MTC . . . wise, only . . . less wise
Jordan with Elder Brown 4 wks later: Definitely Wiser!

            The language is coming along a lot better than it did a few weeks ago.  I'm still not that great at it, but it'll come.  Happy 11/11/11!  Pretty awesome that I'm in the MTC for that day (haha).  Well I hope that everyone has a good day and week.  Pinatototohanan ko na totoo ebanghelyo ni Jesucristo.  Nagpapasalmat po ako para sa pamilya ko.  Miss you all!  Mahal ko tayo!

            Elder Jordan Royal

            P.S.  Dad:  Elder Harrison said that his Mom checked out my Facebook, blog, etc., and I was just wondering if you could check my Facebook and accept any friend requests, as some people have written and said they want to get my blog.  That would be great.  I love your letters and all of your updates.  And thank you Mom and Dad for the package (the one I haven’t received yet but you said is in the mail).  I’m excited to get it!  :) (Missionaries love letters and packages tons.)  Good luck with work and your callings as missionaries!  It’s awesome that we actually get to serve as missionaries together.