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.)