Elder Jordan Royal

Elder Jordan Royal
Jordan hugs big sister Kelli

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Angeles City: A Final Goodbye (October 31, 2013)

Say Goodbye to Angeles

We came bearing gifts for our Angeles friends.  Other than some cards, candy and Jerky, our gifts were not new, but old, tattered tokens of our friendship that cannot be purchased in a store
Nilo and Edsel go pogi, but Pink just stays normal
        Nilo drove us to the SM Mall at Clark so we could do some shopping.  We were joined by Pink and Edsel, who helped us find some pogi Filipino shirts and other items.  We went to the food court, where there was free wifi and sat at a table where we hoped to be joined by Jojo.  However, Jojo got held up and we were unable to see him today (insert sad face here).  I was checking for information from my family online.  By this time, Mom had been in surgery for nearly 12 hours.  So, we were on pins and needles.  There was no news about Mom by the time we left the mall.  It was such a welcome respite to be with Pink and Edsel.  Pink said: “We couldn’t resist” coming to the mall to gather with us one last time.  We had some special gifts for them.  I gave Pink my favorite BYU hat, one that I have about worn out (I have had it since 2005), and my prize Jimmer Fredette BYU shirt.  
We are teaching Pink how to Jimmer, beginning with a Jimmer shirt from his glory days at BYU, as Nilo displays his incredibly valuable "Y" sticker
Edsel holds the shirt I wore when we first met in
September 2005
        I gave Edsel the shirt I wore the day we first met the Angeles YSA group during our visit in 2005, and Maralea gave him her other “Y” back pack.  They were so funny and excited.  They asked us to sign some of the items (including my old hat) and we naturally got a few more pictures.  (I took more than 500 pictures on my I-Phone alone in the past 10 days.)  
Nilo holds the valuable BYU shirt I wore to watch BYU
lost to Florida State in 2010 (ha).  Hopefully, BYU will
have better luck with Nilo wearing it.

        We gave Nilo a BYU shirt that I have worn (and loved) for years.  It is  too big for him, but it says BYU on the left front chest and that is all that matters.  We also passed out some BYU decals, and Nilo put it on display on the left rear corner of his vehicle before we even pulled out of the mall.  (Awesome!)  We said our last goodbyes to Pink and Edsel, at least for this trip, and headed out.  
We just added some serious value to the car Nilo used to drive us around the mission this week
        We had one last stop before leaving for Manila - we had to buy some fake Ray Bans (50 pesos each, which is just over $1.00), by special request of Kelli and Ashley.  (That’s all they wanted!  So easy to please.)  I walked into a little tech booth and asked if they had any iPhone 5 cords/chargers.  I was advised they were selling them for 200 pesos (which is about 80% cheaper than the Apple Store at the SM Mall).  So, I bought three.  ( I mean, the guy said they come with a “a warranty” so how could I NOT buy them?)  I got in the car to tell Maralea about my great purchase (replacing the charger cord left on the plane that took us from Palawan to Manila), and she inquired: “Did you negotiate?”  Wow, the price was so good (and with a warranty, mind you), it did not even occur to me that I might be able to negotiate a better deal.  Maralea said (laughing): “You’re an attorney.  You negotiate all the time.”  Well, I’m on vacation.  It was a good enough deal.  (They came with “a warranty,” remember?)  Let’s just count our blessings and move on so I do not have to face my shame (ha).
Jordan signs the "Y" backpack for Edsel

            The drive to our hotel in Manila was slow going in the city.  The traffic is just crazy, packed, never ending, and totally nuts.  (If you ever come to Manila, do not rent a car.  Rent a driver instead.)  We had a goal of getting to our hotel early so we could just relax.  We were thinking 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm would be a nice time to arrive.  That did not quite work out, but we will take 6:00 pm.  We all just needed to relax, reflect, and prepare for the long journey home tomorrow.

I said goodbye to my blue Ralph Lauren tie.  (Wear it well Jojo!)
This is what we refer to  in America as: "You get what you pay for."  (Ha).
(Good thing it came with a warranty.)  On the bright side, it still works.
A Personal Note
This is what I experienced on August 19, 1981, returning home from a two year mission to a loving family.  I am grateful that Jordan will get to experience that as well these 32 years later.
            It has been quite the journey since our arrival, reconnecting with Jordan, followed by visits to his various areas.  When I completed my service in the Florida Tallahassee Mission in 1981, I just went home and was back in school at BYU in five days.  The thought of having my parents visit the areas where I served never occurred to me.  (Plus, the mission at that time was huge, taking in the entire Florida Panhandle (down to Ocala, FL), Southern GA and AL, and I served at the northern, eastern and western extremes of the mission.)  However, I am glad it occurred to me as a parent.
Visiting with the Moquia family in San Isidro, Philippines, with Brad in September 2005
Brad's return home from serving as Elder Royal in the Philippines in September 2005

David, the next Elder Royal, here with his beloved branch in Chachapoyas, Peru
David returning home from his mission in July 2010
Jordan receiving his call to the Philippines Angeles Mission in May 2011

Jordan's missionary setting apart in September 2011
Taken at the BYU Wilkinson Ctr. on September 28, 2011, about 30 min. before Jordan entered the MTC
Jordan hugging his brother, David, goodbye for two years
They will embrace again very soon
        The words from Sister Taruc from yesterday ring true for me personally today: “I feel like I’m dreaming.”  It has been a great trip, filled with wonderful moments that are now etched in the memories of our hearts and minds.  I was reluctant to make this trip because my mother had been diagnosed with a brain tumor just a few weeks before we were to depart.  When I talked about canceling the trip, Mom would not hear of it, stating: “This is your son’s time.  You need to be there for him.  I will be fine.  Go make some memories with your son.”  
My beautiful parents, here attending David's baptism in May 1997.  They have been gospel stalwarts!
        I thought Mom would not undergo her surgery before our return.  She had nothing scheduled.  However, she and Dad made their way to the UCLA Medical Center earlier in the week and the next thing we heard was that she was having surgery the next day.  We felt so helpless, being unable to return in time to see Mom before her surgery.  We visited via Skype the night before her surgery.  The family united in fasting and prayer.  We have been sending words of love and encouragement to Mom and Dad.  So, all of that has been on our minds and weighed heavily on our hearts.  Mom is just the sweetest soul.  She is not just our mother, but our ministering angel of loving light.  I did not sleep last night.  I was up past 1:00 am trying to get news about Mom and was engaged in that effort all day today.  The one thing we can do is pray fervently for Mom and Dad.  (I know Dad must be a wreck.  As a physician, Dad was allowed to be present during the entire surgery, so we were not able to get in touch with him.)  Heavenly Father can hear and answer our prayers from the Philippines as well as Las Vegas, so we have prayed for our lovely, wonderful parents.  Within a couple hours after arriving at our hotel in Manila, we received word that Mom was out of surgery and in recovery.  My sisters are going to Southern California in the morning to see her (and Dad).  We look forward to getting home to be with everyone at this important time.
This was the last time Jordan saw his Grandpa Kelly in this life, as he passed away a year ago, when Jordan had been serving for about one year.  Grandpa Kelly loved to hear Jordan play a very spirited version of "Called to Serve" on the piano.
        This is also a tender day for Maralea and her family, as it marks the one year anniversary of her father’s passing.  She and I were in Atlanta, GA when her father passed last year.  (Actually, I was in Atlanta, riding the train back to our hotel after having rushed Maralea to catch a flight to Reno.  Her father, Ray Kelly, passed away while Maralea was flying home.) 
Maralea and I have been blessed to serve as Elder and Sister Royal in the Nevada Las Vegas Mission with my parents also serving as Elder and Sister Royal while Jordan was serving.  So, we had three generations of Elder Royal serving simultaneously.  Life could not get much better than that!
        Our parents have left a great legacy of faith in this world and are, without question, among the most successful people to have walked the earth.  They have not only given us the gospel of Jesus Christ, but have lived it with unwavering faith.  They have led their children to the temple, sent them to serve as full time missionaries, and have supported their grandchildren in every righteous effort.  Presently, our parents collectively have six grandchildren serving full time missions (including Jordan).  They have had a collective total of 17 grandchildren who have served or are presently serving as full time missionaries, with many more yet to come.  That is what life is all about - raising our children to follow Christ and serve Him, so that they will then raise up a righteous posterity to Him.  That’s what our parents have done.  There is nothing in this world that would or could possibly mean more to me than to see our children and grandchildren walking in the light of Christ.  It is strange that, knowing the key to happiness lays within our willingness to follow and serve the Savior.  That is the sole purpose of life (to assist Heavenly Father in “bring[ing] to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”  (Moses 1:39.)  Everything else is just a distraction (and it is so difficult in a world filled with loud noise and bright lights designed to lead us in another direction).

Jordan's cousin, Elder Jason Foote, returned home from his mission in El Salvador just as Jordan was entering the mission field in September 2011.  Jordan's cousin, Kimberly Foote (far right, in the awesome BYU Fully Invested shirt) is presently serving as Sister Foote in the Philippines Bacolod Mission
            This trip to the Philippines gave us an opportunity to reflect upon our blessings and the trials through which we walk are manageable when we remember the purpose of life and remain focused on the Savior.  The journey to Him is not easy.  It was never meant to be that way.  There are no guarantees for smooth sailing without powerful adverse winds, high waves and rain.  We are, however, guaranteed to achieve the ultimate prize of life by paying close attention to the chart that marks our course and the compass that directs us.  Jordan’s mission is not the end of his service to Christ.  To the contrary, it is just the beginning.  He is now armed with the tools to be a powerful instrument in the Lord’s hands, to be a worthy and faithful husband and father, who will teach his children to love and serve the Savior as he has been so taught.  No matter what adversity visits us in life, we can endure when we remember Christ, count our blessings, and maintain the kind of eternal perspective in life as He so exemplified during His earthly ministry.
Jordan's cousin Elder Cody Bringham returned home from the Iowa Des Moines Mission in March 2011
            I have enjoyed visiting with Jordan about things he has learned on his mission.  He has acquired so many funny little habits.  Jordan will sometimes catch himself saying or doing something, then stopping after noticing me observing him and saying: “It will probably take me a while to stop doing that.”  We look forward to Jordan being reunited with the rest of our family on our Friday arrival.  We have come full circle in the missionary experience, bringing our last son safely home.  Yes, it really is “like I am dreaming.”  Ingat po.

Soon, little Royal will be looking up to the real
Uncle Jordan, who will help lead him to grow up
and carry on the family legacy of serving  the Lord
Edsel's picture collage of our meeting at SM in Angeles today
Pink's picture collage of our Angeles meeting 
A random picture of Jordan at the beginning of his troop's 50 mile hike in August 2007.  A mission is like a long hike, where you just keep moving with faith in every footstep, with lessons learned along the way, in a trek filled with adventure, and an ending that leaves you feeling wonderful, excited to plan the next adventure

Cabanatuan: Our Last Area (October 30, 2013)

The Book of Mormon Jordan and Elder Dadizon delivered to the Taruc family in February 2013
slightly water damaged from Typhoon Santi
Dinera, Gracianah and Flor Taruc (left to right) were surprised
by our visit
We traveled to Jordan’s area of Cabanatuan, were he served as a zone leader for several months.  During our visits to Jordan’s areas, he was able to communicate with some members ahead of time via texting; however, he could not get in touch with others so we simply had to drop in.  We have missed a few people as a result.  However, we did not miss the Taruc family.  As Jordan walked to the front yard of the Taruc residence, the young women, Dinera and Gracianah, along with their mother, Flor, were very surprised to see us.  Sister Taruc welcomed us into their home and immediately served Jordan with chocolate treats, advising that there was “no limit” to the amount of scarfing he would be allowed to do (ha).
With the Taruc family as Nanay Taruc holds the scriptures delivered to her family by the missionaries
        Jordan advised that he and his companion, Elder Dadizon, found the Taruc family via the Rescue effort.  They contacted Sister Taruc, who was on the Church membership rolls, but who had been inactive for many years.  Through that contact, Jordan and Elder Dadizon began teaching Dinera and Gracianah, who were baptized in March 2013 and remain active in the Church.  Sister Taruc showed us a copy of the Book of Mormon that Jordan and Elder Dadizon had provided to the family in February 2013 (which they had signed and dated).  It was slightly damaged in the recent typhoon, but Sister Taruc held it to her heart as a keepsake.  I asked if we could also sign the inside portion of the book to add our testimonies.  Sister Taruc immediately handed us her scriptures, then instructed her daughters to retrieve their personal scriptures so we could write in them, too.  
Gracianah was happy to see the pages of her
scriptures again

        Gracianah said that she has a desire to serve a mission. Gracianah said that she loves reading the scriptures; however, she requires the help of her sister, Dinera, because she cannot see the pages clearly due to nearsightedness.  Immediately, Maralea and I reached into our things to find reading glasses, hoping to perhaps have a prescription that would help Gracianah see well enough to read.  Nilo offered his reading glasses to try first, followed by Maralea, then me.  It was a little like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Maralea’s were too strong, Nilo’s glasses were not helpful, but my 1.25 power reading glasses were just right.  When Gracianah put them on, she opened the Book of Mormon and read the introduction to First Nephi with a smile on her face and excitement.  She was thrilled at her ability to see the pages clearly. That was an amazing experience for us to help Gracianah in that way. 
We enjoyed meeting the Taruc family and look forward to reading about  Gracianah's mission
The Taruc family is a great example of how effective we can be
when reaching out to rescue our brothers and sisters
        Sister Taruc kept saying (in broken English): “I feel I am in a dream.”  It was an exciting moment for us all to be there with the Taruc family in their home, allowing Jordan to provide some gifts and say good bye.  In all such meetings, the most wonderful thing is to discover that those Jordan taught and helped lead into the Church are still active, as in the case of the Taruc family.
The Arahan young ladies, from left: Kim, Krisha & Devie
Our next stop was at the Arahan family to see Kim Arahan (who was baptized in March 2013) and her sisters (who are presently attending church and taking the missionary discussions).  We met initially with Brother Arahan, who led us through their front yard, which had some impressively organized stacks of wood, separated by sizes, which the family had cut and sorted when cleaning up after the typhoon.  (Kim later said that the family did a lot of cutting and chopping together to make those well organized wood piles.)  Kim is the Gospel Essentials instructor in the Cabanatuan Branch, which class is attended by her sisters, Devie and Krisha (who were present during our visit).  We briefly met Sister Arahan, who was just leaving to run an errand.  Jordan enjoyed interacting with Kim, who seems to have quite the sense of humor. 
Jordan prepares to feast on the great lunch
provided at the Arahan home

        There was a lot of Tagalog spoken followed by laughter.  Maralea and I mostly just sat there smiling, and Nilo would offer up translation occasionally.  (Jordan is not good at translation.  It’s not that he could not do it, but he was just too engaged to worry about all that.  Nilo was fantastic at quietly helping us follow conversations during these visits.)  The Arahan family provided lunch, which we were not expecting.  (We tried a little of everything.  I found the quail eggs to be kind of tasty.)  Jordan was very happy to see that Kim is doing so well, and that she is not only actively attending church with her sisters, but is also providing Sunday instruction.
This is what happens when right before a picture is taken someone says: "Wacky!"
Jordan said goodbye to Kim and Devie, wishing best of luck in their endeavors
(Kim wants to be an accountant, and Devie is preparing to attend law school)

The YSA group was anxious to visit the Jordan and
practice their English with Mommy and Daddy Roy-al
We next stopped at the church and Institute of Religion where the YSA group had just returned from a conference.  Jordan had worked with many members of the YSA members in the local missionary effort.  We met Raquel, who was baptized in February, and Abby, who was baptized in December 2012.  Again, Jordan was ecstatic to see that these people are still actively involved in the Church and doing well.  
YSA group from left (next to Jordan): Raquel, Riza, Jonathan, Abby and Arjay
        These YSA’s were quite the group - very excited about life.  Arjay said that he has been following Jordan’s mission blog faithfully and said he has drawn inspiration from it, as he prepares to serve a mission.  “We loved seeing our pictures, too,” he said with a laugh.  (We posted most of what Jordan sent to us each week with his very detailed emails.)  
The guys!  (From left): Jonathan, Jordan, Vincent, Joebert and Arjay
Abby was more than happy to promote
BYU by faithfully wearing this backpack
        Abby asked for Jordan’s BYU bag that he was using to deliver his American candy (which was always a big hit).  (It wasn’t really Jordan’s bag.  It was Maralea’s bag, which she uses mostly for attendance at BYU football games.  But, she was happy to have Jordan give it to Abby.)  Jordan gave his umbrella to Raquel, and temple pictures to others, with personal notes and signatures.  Maralea and I were asked to sign some of the cards and pictures, as well (and Maralea signed Abby’s BYU bag).  

Maralea even signed her bag, because
her handwriting is simply awesome
        These youth all seem very excited about life, were happy to be together (they laugh a lot) and enjoyed seeing Jordan again.  (Many commented to us that Jordan was a hard working, faithful missionary and that they learned a lot in their work with him.)  Again, it was fun for us to kind of step back and just watch Jordan interact with them.  (They all talk so fast in Tagalog.  However, some of them did pretty good at speaking English with us.)

I was trying to get some pictures of the group just conversing and acting normal (without acknowledging the camera), but that was simply NOT possible (ha)
The YSA ladies wanted a women only shot with Mommy Roy-al
Okay, fine, isa pa - one more picture of the entire group together (only because Arjay said they love seeing their pictures on the blog - ha), from Maralea left to right: Raquel, Abby, Riza,
Vincent, Arjay, Joebert & Jonathan
Our final stop in Cabanatuan was at the Manuel home.  This visit was one of those unexpected ones, because Jordan did not have a contact number.  As Nanay Manuel opened the door to see Jordan standing on the dark porch (it was in the evening), she expressed great surprise and immediately invited him in where we met her children Jon Paul, Lovely, Bless, and Thalia.  Jordan and Elder Dadizon had taught and baptized Jon Paul, Bless and Thalia in February 2013.  
The Manuel family (from left): Jon Paul, Lovely, Bless, Thalia and Nanay Manuel (between Jordan & Mar)
Jordan visits with Sister Manuel as Bless checks Facebook (ha)
        Many of our in home visits were rather casual in nature.  They did not really involve spiritual thoughts and prayers.  However, on this occasion, Jordan shared a message about the joyous reunion between Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah, reading Alma 17:2-3 (in Tagalog).  Jordan emphasized the joy that those very close friends had when they came together after 14 years of separation and that they were not only thrilled to see one another, but to discover that they were all still strong, faithful brothers in Christ.  Jordan related the joy that he has experienced during his visits when he sees that those he taught the gospel are still faithful, stating that while he would be very happy to see them again in 20 years (for example), his joy would be even greater if at that time he learns that they have all progressed in the gospel of Jesus Christ and are living gospel centered lives (the only way to true, lasting happiness).  Jordan ended with his testimony, and left the Manuel family with a heartfelt prayer in Tagalog.  We could not understand the words spoken; however, Maralea and I could feel the spirit of the message and testimony Jordan delivered.  He truly loved the people he served, and in turn, they have loved him.  Jordan has grown in ways we simply cannot express adequately in writing.  Mostly, his heart has grown and his ability to love has expanded exponentially.  He has truly had a wonderful missionary experience.  It has been a thrill to share these few moments with Jordan in his areas.  We will miss the Philippines and one day hope to return.  However, if we never return, we will not forget our experiences here.
Jordan with the Manuel family
(Sister Manuel said: "Elder Royal knows everything about us.  There are no secrets.")
Jordan’s only disappointment in our Cabanatuan visit was being unable to see his former companion, Elder Leduna.  The elders were going to try to stop by one of our meeting places; however, they were too busy (as they should be).  (I felt a little bad about having to leave a tad earlier than planned, but we learned that my mother was going through surgery to remove a brain tumor, something we thought would not occur until next month, and we were very anxious to get back to our hotel to make contact with our family.  We had started our day with a family prayer for my mother and feel the power of our prayers reaching her from the Philippines, just as we felt the power of our prayers back home blessing Jordan during his missionary service, with so many wonderful people coming into his life.  As of this posting, Mom is through surgery and is in recovery.)  The gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful and true regardless of where we go in the world, and we are all brothers and sister in Christ.  We have felt that with each memorable experience we have had on our wonderful journey these past few days.

 (Because the YSA's had us take so many and wanted solos with Jordan - also, we wanted to post more pictures for Arjay)
Jordan and Abby
Jordan and Arjay
Jordan and Jonathan
Jordan and Raquel (who inherited Jordan's umbrella, something he will not need in Las Vegas) 
Jordan and Riza 
Jordan and Vincent
YSA Wacky!
YSA Wacky II  
YSA group from left (next to Jordan): Joebert, Jonathan, Raquel, Abby and Riza, with Nilo back center
(Jordan and Joebert are doing Wacky when this one was supposed to be Normal)
How about a little panorama picture for the Fab Five?
Abby reenacts her excitement at receiving the BYU bag
Manuel family gets Wacky!
Jordan and Kim share a few thoughts with Krisha in the background