I don't even know where to start with this week. It was a rollercoaster. And truthfully, a week that I will remember for the rest of my life. I hope that I'll be able to make this all make sense chronilogically. I've been trying to figure out how to convey my thoughts into this email in a way that will adequately express all I want to say. This week was a week where I learned a lot about God's plan. I learned a lot about being led, and being an instrument in His hands.
Wednesday: We took some time and just wondered through the city and tried to see what San Carlos has to offer. It's kind of fun to just walk throughout the city without any real purpose. It's not often that we get to do that. We went grocery shopping and "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey was BLASTING. Welcome to Christmas in the Philippines. That night we had the first set of sisters over for Splits. It's kind of fun having sisters always coming in and out of the house.
Thursday: We went out to Guadalupe. My favorite part of the area. Churchilla had a birthday party for her little girl who turned three. We ate lunch with them at the party and then taught Edgardo. Man oh man was this man ready. He was so ready for baptism. We went to the Andersons that night for dinner. They love to spoil us with American food and watch us just die over simple American dishes. For example, chicken fajitas, with guacamole and brownies and ice cream. And then for an added boost, they had carmel for us to dip apples and bananas into. They are getting a lot of blessings for taking care of us missionaries. I just know it.
Friday: It was my six month mark in the field. Meaning, I stepped off the plane here six months ago. I've been livin this crazy jungle island life for six whole months now! Time flies by so fast, especially because there are no seasons here. It's the same every day. Really hot and really humid. Occasionally it is really really rainy. I get really confused when I realize that at home it's cooling off. It just still feels like June here. Time is a strange strange concept on a mission. I needed to get something out of my suitcase, and stumbled upon my old journal. My oh my how things have changed. I flipped through it and I'm not even the same girl. I just had to laugh as I was reading about the things I was so worried about, the things that were so hard for me. Like eating rice all the time, or how hot it was, or feeling like it was so long. I was so homesick haha. But I'm so different now. It's hard to see changes in yourself sometimes, but I was definitely able to recognize some as I flipped through my old journal. Thank heavens that Heavenly Father was patient with me. We went out to a part of our area called San Jose. We don't have a lot going on out there, so we just tracted and taught as many lessons as we could to people that would let us in. It's always a really cool experience to find a complete stranger and ask them if you can share with them the gospel. Sister Bateman and I stopped by a tindahan and we found for ten whole pesos that you can buy a spaghetti sandwich. Sweet filipino spaghetti in between two slices of bread. Served cold. Was it delicious? yes. Do I regret anything? No.
Saturday. Saturday was such a special day. We booked it out to Guadalupe to get everyone ready for Edgardo's baptism. We walked up to Guadalupe as we always do and there was our boy. We walked up to his house, and he was dressed up to the nines. He was holding his Book of Mormon just tattered and worn from him reading it and all the pamphlets we gave him. He had on a pair of slacks that he had saved up money to buy. He worked extra hard and fished extra hours to save up money to buy some slacks from an ukay ukay for his baptism. They were about three inches too short. He had on a worn blue polo as well. He was looking mighty sharp. He saw us and just grinned. I said last week I wanted to share the whole Edgardo story, and my heavens how special it is. Sister Bateman and her last companion found Edgardo. They actually started teaching his mom. Edgardo would listen from time to time, but he was always drunk. This man was the town drunk. He is a really simple man. He would wake up at five and go fishing on the ocean. He would come home, sell his fish and drink until he went to bed. Every day for 20 years. He is in his late forties. His family left him, and he lives with his mom. He was known as "Edgardo, the Master Drunk". Well his mom told the sisters that she didn't really want to listen anymore, that she just wanted to stay Catholic. But he told the sisters he would still listen. They were about to move on from him because he wasn't really progressing, and he was just kind of unclear, when he showed up to church. So they decided to keep teaching him. This is where I come in. We taught this man two or three times a week for two months. He had no concept of religion or spirituality. This man had no idea that he had a soul. The concept was unreal. He had never fathomed that there is a God. He couldn't fathom the idea of life after death. We just kept teaching him for some reason. We gave him a book of mormon and promised him that if he would just read it, he would start to understand. We just told him to start from the begininning. And we kept teaching him. He came to church every week. Usually in jeans and a overly large bright orange polo shirt buttoned straight to the top. And his sunglasses. He never took his sunglasses off at church. We decided to teach him at a less active members house in Guadalupe. This is where the Benemerito's come in. We taught him every single time at their house. We had our little band of Guadalupe Boys who just all came together and started to help each other. Edgardo was kind of the moving force for them. If he could start to change, then what were they doing? We had Edgardo as our investigator, and all these less active boys, and they all just started making huge progress. We started to walk up to Edgardo's house, and he would be reading the book of mormon. He was always reading the book of mormon. And slowly but surely he started drinking less. He read all of first nephi, he barely understood a word, but he kept going. He started to get so much light to his face. One day we were walking to the Benemerito's house, and we asked him how he was doing with the book of mormon. He told us that he was in 2 nephi, we asked him what he understood. He told us "there were fish that dried up in the ocean and they died because of thirst" we just stared at him and thought this drunk fisherman of ours was crazy. Where in the world could he have gotten this? Surely this is not in the book of mormon. We sat down and sure enough, the isaiah chapters. He quoted the verse perfectly. The first verse this man understood was an isaiah chapter. He started to change so rapidly. We started helping him to stop drinking. I took the pictures out of pamphlets and had him tape them up in his house so he wouldn't be tempted to drink. He got down to one glass of tuba (a kind of alcohol) a day. Well, Sister Bateman and I were planning last week, and we just really felt like we needed to move Edgardo's baptism up one week. We had no idea why. But we followed the spirit and went with it. We went and visited him and asked him about it, and he said he hadn't drank for two whole days. And that he wasn't planning on drinking again. So we moved his baptism up. Now, take this back to Saturday. We see this man, the used to be town drunk, dressed up holding his book of mormon grinning from ear to ear. This man never used to smile. We taught him one last lesson. We taught it on the priesthood as an overview, he already knew all the answers. The man had read all the way to Mosiah. We asked one of the boys in Guadalupe to baptize him. His name is Ritchie, he is 19, a recent convert, but he was struggling coming to church. Because of Edgardo, he is there almost every week. We taught them how to baptize, and then we loaded up our little band of misfit boys onto a trike and went into the city for Edgardo's baptism. The baptism was beautiful. It went off without a hitch. Ritchie baptized Edgardo, and he came out shining. He bore a simple but sweet testimony. And just like that, the town drunk was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Sister Bateman and I walked out of the baptism just in shock. It all felt so led. Raybie pulled us aside and thanked us for what he had done. He told us that the whole town of Guadalupe is in shock. Edgardo, the master drinker, doesn't drink anymore and is just always reading his Basahon ni Mormon. He told us he couldn't believe the change he had seen in Edgardo. And he thanked us for letting him be apart of it. I cannot tell you how amazing that felt.
Sunday: We went to church and there was Edgardo, early as ever. Wearing his slacks, his oversized orange shirt and his sunglasses. Grinning from ear to ear. Relief Society ran really smoothly, and in fact, we didn't even have to do anything! The branch is growing so much. We sang Christmas Hyms in sacrament. Sister Bateman and I ended up splitting up during sacrament, and I sat next to Edgardo. He got up to be confirmed and recieve the Holy Ghost, and he took of his glasses without me telling him to. Which is actually huge progress. He was confirmed and recieved one of the sweetest most powerful blessings I have ever heard. So many amazing blessings and promises in his blessing. He came down and sat next to me and just looked at me so genuinely, and said so sincerely in english "thank. you." I got teary eyed right then. Those two words meant so much to me. After sacrament, he stood up, shook my hand, grinned, and said that he would see me on Tuesday.
Monday: We had District Meeting and found out that we were headed to Dumaguette this week for Zone Conference. It is the opposite end of the Island. It's a five hour bus drive. But it should be really fun. It'll be good to hear from President McCurdy. AND I get to see Sister Littell.
Tuesday: I was able to finish reading Jesus the Christ yesterday morning. It was beautiful. It's quite the read, if any of you have time to plunk your way through it, I would really recomend it. I cried my way through it a time or two, and it has made me look at my Savior so very different. We went out to work and it was pouring rain. We got on a trike to Guadalupe and the trike driver said that something had happened to Edgardo. We didn't think too much of it. Sister Bateman and I had some members working with us,so I went to one lesson with a member and she went to another. We said we were going to meet back in an hour at the Benemerito's to teach Edgardo. We taught a good lesson, and I got back to the Benemerito's to find everyone just sitting there, and no Edgardo to be seen. They told me that he had passed away really suddenly Monday afternoon. I just sat down then and there and cried. We all just hugged each other and cried. He had been kind of sick all weekend, but he thought it was just that he was nervous. On Monday it got really bad, they took him to the hospital and within a half an hour they pronounced him dead. Less than 24 hours after being confirmed, this man had passed away. We all sat and cried for a while. And then, we took our little band of misfit boys to go say goodbye to our friend. We took twenty minute walk, through the sugar cane field and the mud in the pouring rain. We walked up to his house, and there we say him laying in his casket with his orange polo, buttoned all the way to the top. Raybie is putting his tattered book of mormon in there with him. We all just cried. I had no idea that this man would have such an affect on my life. This man was the most changed person I have ever seen on my mission. He was the most converted man I had ever seen. And he was clean, and he was ready to meet our Heavenly Father. He wasn't scared when he went to the hospital, because he knew he was clean. He knew it was true. One week ago we were planning this mans baptism, and now we are planning his funeral. Life hits you fast. I don't know why we knew we needed to move up his baptism. I don't know how any of this happened. All I know is that I didn't do any of this. I was merely an instrument in God's hands this last week. Edgardo Alota has changed my life so much. I have such a strong testimony that if you will just read the Book of Mormon, things will work out. The biggest change I have ever seen came because this man just read the Book of Mormon. I cannot tell you the tears I have shed the last two days. But, I feel very small and very honored to be able to say that I was able to teach this man that he has a soul. I was able to be a part of teaching this man of the plan of salvation. And that I helped this man prepare to meet our Savior Jesus Christ, and our Heavenly Father. I had no idea how much I would come to love Edgardo when I first met him. But that man has left quite the imprint on me. I feel very blessed to have a knowledge of this gospel, and to know that this life surely isn't the end. I cannot wait for the day I get to greet Edgardo again, and shake his hand, and talk to that man again. The town drunk is up there waiting for me to get to Heaven, so am I going to make sure I live my life right in order to be able to see my recent convert again? I keep replaying him saying to me after his confirmation "thank you.". Two words have never meant so much. And this is why we do this. This is what makes it all worth it. I will never forget Edgardo Pikdot Alota.
Like I said, it was an absolutely crazy week. It's been a hard week. And I cried myself through this whole email. In three hours we are getting on a bus to head to Dumaguette. It's a five hour drive, so it'll be nice to think and sleep a little. Tomorrow I'll get to hear from President McCurdy. Which is exactly what I need. I love you all so much. Read the Book of Mormon, and watch how you'll change. I know that book is true. I love that book with all of my heart. I love you all so much. Stay Strong.
Love, Sister Carlee Beyer