A Favorite Scripture Verse of Elder Butler

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me: for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." ~ Ether 12:27 (A favorite verse of scripture from Elder Butler.)

Monday, November 3, 2014

This is It

I don't really know how to start this email. I'm still waiting for the reality of me going home to set in, but it still hasn't yet. To me it just feels like another transfer, another area, another assignment. I keep trying to tell myself that I'm done but my heart still keeps telling me I'm not.

I suppose that for me I don't think I'll ever be "done" doing the things that I have done as a missionary, touching lives, feeling God's love for myself and for others, following divine guidance, and stretching and growing myself as I keep exercising faith in Jesus Christ.

I may not be able to be an official representative of Jesus Christ, but I will always be His disciple.

Saying goodbye to Colonia was hard, and to add to it president decided to pull a fast one on us and transferred Elder Celebrado this last Thursday giving me three and a half days to orient the new Elder, Elder Eyo, to the area as he prepares to train a new missionary this transfer.

President has said that he likes to send his missionaries home exhausted, and he sure lives up to his word.
I took a lot of pictures with the people and then I turned the area over to Elder Eyo. He is a good missionary and I know that the people will be in good hands.

How do I write my last email? I want to tell you all about the people that have been baptized and all of the miracles that I am seeing, but I know I'll be able to tell you it all when I get home.

I think that all that I can say is that this has been the experience of a lifetime. There is NOTHING that I could have done with my life that would have helped me more to achieve my potential like serving a full time mission has. I don't regret a single moment that I have spent in this field, and I will be forever changed because of the faith I have been able to gain through and in Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten of the Father, my Savior, and my Friend.

I love these people so much, and I will always have a piece of my heart that will belong to Negros. I have been able to teach these people the gospel, but they have taught me how to be happy, and I will forever be indebted to this island for that.

The Elder Butler that entered the MTC October 31st 2012 a boy went to the Philippines and got lost somewhere among the sugar cane fields of Negros and the Elder Butler that came out is different now. He's used to cold bucket showers, no running water, and rice three meals a day. But he loves the Lord, he loves to work, and he knows where he's going.

I want you all to know how much I love you, and I am so excited to see you again and be with our wonderful family.

I have been blessed beyond measure in my life, and I know that my service does not stop here. I may not know the future, but I know the Lord has a plan for me and that's the plan I'm going to follow.

This is Elder Butler signing off for the last time.

Hasta makita'ay ta liwat, halong kamo pirme!

Palangga ta kamo,


~Elder Butler

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Future is as Bright as Your Faith!

Well done thou good and faithful servants...

Sunset

Reflections

God does wonderful things in the skies of Colonia.

Before we teach a lesson...

...and after the lesson




Oct. 27, 2014
Hello Family!

This email may not be super long this time again since I ended up talking to/teaching the cafe owner and his wife again. You're never off duty as a missionary. :)

All I can say is wow. It’s almost hard to comprehend how close I am to being home right now. I don't really know how to handle it to be honest. I feel like it's just proselyting as usual, just another P day, another week of missionary work, but really this is my last week I have as a missionary to proselyte full time. And I plan on making the most of it.

This week was a great week with having I think the best attendance at church of both investigators and general church attendance that I've had yet in Colonia. We had 120 people attend sacrament meeting in Colonia Divina, and that without having the Alimatok and Siwahon groups attending (including them our total attendance for Colonia Divina branch was 184), out of which 35 of those attending Colonia were investigators (all non member ages 8 and above, not counting all of the kids of the investigator families younger than 8 that attended).

To say that church was crowded would be an understatement. I spent most of sacrament meeting out on the porch trying to keep all of the little kids under control and not too loud while the meeting was going on inside.

Most of the reason for the great turn out was that investigators from the three further areas that we've recently starting visiting more, since we haven't been going to Siwahon, all decided to come to church for the first time yesterday! And they are almost all on the path of being baptized within the next month or so. Needless to say Elder Celebrado and his new companion are going to have plenty of work to keep them busy for a while.

I am just so excited for the future of this branch! I know that it will still see it's challenges, but I know that the Lord has a special plan for these mountains and there are many more people prepared to receive His gospel here. The future is as bright as your faith! And I see a bright future for the wonderful people here in Colonia Divina because of their faith that they show.

Also there was the baptism of Sister A. this week! And to me it's a big step for the progress of this branch since her family is one of the more affluent families here in Colonia and part of the founders here. All lot of our investigators have received a lot more courage to come to church after they heard that she was being baptized since her family has a high reputation here.

Of course Sister A. has been receiving a lot of opposition from other people in the town for joining the church, but she knows what is right and she thinks for herself and she has been a shining example of standing for what is true no matter what the popular beliefs may be. Her baptism I think will be a big step in opening the door for many more people to gain the courage to join the church, including her husband, mother, sister, and those that she employs. And Christian is already making his plans about serving a mission, as well as his cousin B.J. who is being baptized this week.

There are just so many good things to say about what is happening in my area that I can't even begin to list them all.

This is all the time I have for today, and my next email is going to be my last before I go home.

I love this work, and my heart is resisting the idea of not being a full time missionary anymore. But change is the name of the game in this life, and this week I plan on giving every last drop I have to give to the Lord and this work.

I love you all so much and look forward to our happy reunion! 
We'll see how the next email turns out.

Halong kamo!

~Elder Butler





Tuesday, October 21, 2014

There is Still a Work To Do


Oct. 20, 2014
 

Hello Family!

Today I actually get a regular P day! So that means this email and the last email are only going to be a few days apart, so this may be brief since I may not have as much to report today as I usually do.

But the happy news is that the baptism of Sister Mary Joy and her daughter and two other young women went through and all had a great experience! [Picture above]

Other great news is that this morning one of what we call "our most active investigators" came to our house and announced while leaping into the air "MY DAD IS LETTING ME GET BAPTIZED!!!" (English translation).


Jeylou, the person mentioned above, is nine years old and has been coming to church ever since I have been here and even before I've arrived here, which makes about 9 months, and is the nephew of our branch president. His sister was baptized a little over a year ago, and for the last six months he's been wanting to be baptized as well, but his parents did not. His parents are wonderful people and have great family values but their father's family, like our branch president, came from the person who started this "Divine Colony" and church so they felt pretty obligated to stay with it, especially the father who was the main one who didn't want Jeylou to be baptized.


The other week we came by and brought it up with his parents about how he has been asking us if we could baptize him and if they would be OK with it and eventually they said that they wanted to wait until he was older and more accountable before he makes that kind of commitment, like his sister who they allowed to be baptized, because they don't believe in forcing their kids in what they believe. So the verdict came that he needed to be 15 before he was baptized, and of course we respect the parents and didn't feel prompted at the time that we should push so we left it at that. 


Jeylou afterwards talked to me and asked me to convince his dad to let him be baptized, to which I told him that if he really wanted to be baptized he needed to show his parents his desire and commitment to it even in his young age (while he is young he acts much older than he actually is).


So the next Sunday after church he had another talk with his parents and even cried when he told them how much he wanted to be baptized, and his father finally said yes. 


This baptism has been a long time coming, and I know for certain that this child is going to be a future missionary and a future leader of the Church here in Colonia Divina. Just more blessings that I am being privileged to see.

Also Sister Andong was interviewed this Sunday for her baptism and is really going full steam ahead with her conversion, asking us questions about the temple and such and really wants her husband to be taught. Heads up to mom for a facebook request from Sister Andong :)

And in closing, the reason why this is kind of rushed is because I was able to talk to the owners of this computer cafe and restaurant for a few hours about the church and the Book of Mormon. The husband is from Holland and the wife is from here and they've known the missionaries for 10 years. In fact the reason their restaurant started was because of missionaries seeing her husband eating a hamburger he made himself and asked him to make them one too, since good hamburgers are hard to find here, and thus a business was born.


But after having a long talk with the wife on Saturday when we were down for conference I found out in the ten years they've known the missionaries they've never tried going to church, so I invited them to try out church in Sagay the following Sunday and they did!


Today I just followed up with them and talked about things from eternal families, to obedience, to prophets, to the Book of Mormon and so on. They said they are willing to keep trying going to church so we'll see where that goes.

Anyways, I love you all! And sorry this email was kind of straight rambling, but I hope you get something good from it. :)

Next week I'll be emailing on Tuesday night for me here instead of Monday since we have zone conference here next week on Tuesday.

Take care!

~Elder Butler

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Members Work Miracles

Hello Family!

My emailing schedule is getting so mixed up now that I have a hard time remembering what I have written to you all and what has happened since the last time I emailed.

For some reason typing in English feels weird for me today. Perhaps that's a sign that I've been using too much Ilonggo and not enough English this last week with Elder Celebrado (I try to speak to him as much as I can in English so he can practice understanding and speaking fluently).


I'll tell you one thing though, I am going to miss speaking Ilonggo a lot. It has really become a sacred language to me now, and I've felt the spirit teach me so many things during lessons while I've taught in Ilonggo, and it can be such a friendly and care free language which sometimes almost feels like you're singing it part of the time and the other part is just soft and easy going.

I’m so excited for this upcoming Sunday which will be the combined baptisms of Christian's mother and Dalia, along with Sister Mary Joy and her daughter and her nephew George (the eldest son of the Riblora family that wasn't baptized with them because of illness)! All of these people and their families have such bright futures and I wish I could stay to see it all, but I know they are in the Lord's hands and He will take care of them.

We had a fun experience yesterday with teaching half of our lessons on the porch of our apartment.

A youth and her friend who is being baptized the week after next like to come by sometimes during their lunch break during school and be taught or just read with us from the Book of Mormon, but yesterday they came back four times! Each time bringing a different batch of their friends to be taught by us, until the final batch where our entire porch was full of teenage girls being taught about the restoration. What a great example of members doing the finding and missionaries doing the teaching! We literally just sat on our porch and the members brought the investigators to us to be taught.

We also had two of the members work with us two days in a row going with us on both days to our farthest areas in Balabag and a new progressing area that we found called Pinamungahan (say that 10x fast), both of which take more or less an hour to get to and require walking over hills and across rivers and streams, and we didn't hear one complaint from them. They are both preparing to serve missions and they are really helping out with fellowshipping our investigators and making them feel more comfortable coming to church. Another great example of members working with the missionaries to get things hastening!

In all, I am just thankful for the support we've been receiving from the members in the time I've been serving in Colonia Divina. They show with their works where their hearts are and it makes all the difference in the growth of the church and the spreading of the good news here in the mountains. I know a lot of it comes with their great trust in the missionaries and I hope and pray that it will continue to be such for many more missionaries that have the privilege to come and serve here.

No pictures today, but I'll hopefully have some more baptism photos for you all next week. :)

I love you all so much!

Halong kamo perme!

~Elder Butler

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Final Stretch

The Riblora family baptism photo.
The Manila Temple
[This photo from Pres. Lopez facebook posting. Brooks and his companion on the left, President Lopez on the right. ~K]
[The original group of elder's Brooks started out with at the Provo, MTC in front of the temple. ~K]

This was an adventure in Balabag. We took another way to get home and crossed a fun hanging bridge. One of the sisters working with us decided she would rather ford the river than chance the bridge. :)

Looking back.

This is what you call "baby on board". As you can see Katie, I get to see a lot of carabaos... it's the main mode of transportation in my area.

[It's so different to see a missionary in the water, but this is a regular occurrence in the Philippine mountains, with the need to ford rivers! ~K]

[Notice the boy climbing up the coconut tree! ~K]
[These are "young coconuts"! We sometimes buy them here at Asian markets or health food stores but all the green is cut off and they are just white. So fun to see! ~K]



 

Oct 08, 2014

Hello Family!

Well here we are. My fellow batch mate (arrived at the same time in the MTC) Elder Cannon reminded me the other day when we went to Manila how we only have 4 more emails home to family before the big D day comes.


That made things a little more real for me for some reason. I think mainly because of how fast email time seems to come around every week.


So I guess I just have to make the most out of these last few emails that I have left to send you while I'm a full time missionary in the field! I'll give it my best shot.

The work in our area is still progressing as ever. I've been spending some time reflecting on my mission lately and I figured out that I will have baptized more in this last area of mine in Colonia Divina than I have in all of my other areas in my mission combined, which fills me with so much gratitude to the Lord for allowing me to have this kind of experience here, and especially letting it be the note that I will leave my mission on. The Lord is truly mindful of His servants and I know He's been more than kind and merciful in sending me here to this very special place.

On the other hand I've been considering how much of a change it's going to be for me to have to come down off the mountain and then step right into first world America again, with running water, cars, super markets etc., and how out of place that all seems to me now.

I got a little taste of that on my little excursion to Manila this last week with the rest of my foreign departing batch. It all just seemed BIG to me. Big roads, big buildings, big cars and so on. Granted we only went two places in Manila, first to the immigration center to get some finger printing thing done, then straight to the temple. I think I may or may not have been inside PJ's mission [Brooks' cousin who is serving now also].

I absolutely LOVED going to the temple again after so long. I feel like I just got a huge spiritual boost that I really needed. As soon as the doors to the temple opened and I walked inside the spirit of the temple just hit me like a wall and it built so much to my testimony that the temple is truly the house of the Lord. I didn't however get to see the new video though since there was an Indonesian in the session and they don't have that translated in the new, but the temple was still the temple nonetheless. I received so much comfort and revelation while inside that I think I came out walking on air once we came out onto the temple grounds again. Looking over the white planes I felt like just starting my mission all over again and taking another two years right then and there in Manila, or quite honestly basically anywhere as long as I could just keep serving the Lord.

But of course we had to get back in the van and be rushed back to the airport to make our flight back to Bacolod. It was nice to be back in a place where I spoke the language of the people again. Then coming back to Colonia felt like I was coming home again. Can you tell that I'm getting a little too adjusted to the mountains?

Oh! And I have some wonderful news about Christian's mom! [The Field is White letter tells about Christian.] She started coming to church the week before last and brought her youngest son Yohan and her house helper who is a high school student that she is sponsoring, and she really enjoyed it! She had been slow in progressing, especially in seeing why our church is different than others, so we had just been reading with her and Christian in the Book of Mormon and helping them apply it to their lives, and after this last Sunday when she came to church again we visited their home and Christian's mother just "go it". She came out with a whole slew of questions of things we had taught her before but never really sank in until then. And after we reviewed the restoration and baptism with her she accepted and is now preparing to be baptized at the end of the month!

It was so fulfilling to see the change in her countenance, and showing all of the signs of the true seeds of conversion, such as asking Christian to pray that we will be able to teach her husband so he can be baptized too, and then giving us referrals, completely unprompted, of three families in Colonia that she knows that she said need the gospel. Also telling Christian half jokingly, on the topic of when I go home, "You better not be going to church just because you think Elder Butler is gwapo (handsome/good looking)! I better not find you missing church because there are different Elders! You go to church so you can worship the Lord!"
Just more tender mercies of the Lord. Sister Andong (Christian's mom) also invited her house help, the high school student who she is sponsoring, to listen in on the lessons as well and she is also planning on being baptized with Sister Andong.
Patient and loving persistence pays off! :)

I attached the baptismal pictures of the Riblora family. We held their baptism at the river that runs around their farm (which we have to cross every time we go to them) and it was a great experience. Our branch president and several other members walked with us to get to Balabag, where the Riblora family lives, from Colonia which is an hour walk which takes you up and down several big hills and across streams and rivers, and the whole Riblora family makes that walk every Sunday to come to church!

That's all I'm going to write today. I feel like I kind of just went for it today and this is what came out.

I love you all! What wonderful news about the Carney family! I actually still remember quite clearly that first visit that I had with them. I am truly happy and excited for them.

Take care always,

(Halong kamo pirme)

Elder Butler

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Another Miracle

Hello Family!

Well to start off I'll explain why I haven't emailed until now. This Thursday I'm going to Manila with the rest of the foreign missionaries going home with me to do some visa things for my departure in November. Since getting down off the mountain is not the most convenient thing when it comes to time and money and key indicators we just planned our preparation day to be Wednesday down here in Bacolod since I have to stay the night here to make the morning flight to Manila.

I'm actually pretty excited to see the "big city" for a day tomorrow, although I'm going to have an interesting time trying to communicate in Tagalog since I'm not totally fluent to say the least. At least the flight to Manila will bring a little more realization of the fact that I am going home soon, since I still am having a hard time really picturing it. But ready or not, here it comes.

This last week another set of Elders arrived in Colonia Divina to start working solely in Siwahon! I'm so excited for the progress and growth that will be happening in the future for the members in Siwahon, but also experiencing a little of the bitter with the sweet in having to say goodbye to the people that I've been teaching and having baptized there and turning them over to the care of the new missionaries. There were a few teary eyes in those last lessons that I had with Sister Jamera and Sister Lapid and the Alay family, but I know that the goodbyes we have here in the gospel and Church of Jesus Christ are never permanent, and I gave them all the promise that if and when they come into our Father's Kingdom that they'll find me there, and we'll have all of eternity to rejoice and be happy together then.

But along with saying goodbye to Siwahon, we get to say hello to being able to spend all of our time and efforts now in Colonia which has also been progressing at a very hastened pace. We still have plenty of souls to still save and more people being prepared to hear the message of the restoration.

One story in particular that I want to share is the miracle that happened this week with sister Mary Joy. Sister Mary Joy is the half sister of Sister Riblora, who was just baptized and confirmed this last Sunday, and she actually came to church on her own two weeks ago. At first I thought that Sister Riblora had invited her to come but then later realized that she had just come on her own out of the blue. We talked to her after church and found out where she lived which was La-on, a place we didn't go very much because there were no members there yet, and we got her permission to visit her and her family later that week.

Due to lack of time between Siwahon and Colonia and also not being to able to find her house on our first try out in the area, thinking it was a lot farther than it was, we were unable to visit her that week. But to our surprise this Sunday she and her children came to church AGAIN, completely on their own, so we talked with her again to get a better idea on where she lived and set a day when we would visit her, much more determined to get there since we no longer needed to work in Siwahon.

The next day, Monday, we went out again in search of where she lived, and this time we apparently walked past where she lived but we came to a house that Elder Peralta and I had shared a quick message to months ago. It turned out to be Mary Joy's parent’s home, and Mary Joy was there with them and she was looking very sick and exhausted.

The first times we saw her at church she looked generally tired, but this time she looked very pale and like she hadn't rested in days, to which we found out from her mother that she hadn't been able to sleep for more than a few hours a night for over a month now, and that she had lost a lot of weight as a result. They weren't sure as to why and were planning on taking her to be consulted, granted they didn't have the money for that, and somehow the mother knew that we gave blessings for healing so she told her daughter that she should ask us for a blessing. So we taught a brief lesson about the priesthood authority of God, and why we could give blessings in the name of Christ because of the restoration of the priesthood and how the blessings were conditional on faith in Christ and His will, then gave her a blessing.

I also gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon and told her that if she had a hard time resting her mind to just keep reading it until she felt at peace again.

We came back to visit her the following day (yesterday) and were very happy to find that all of the color had come back to her face and the bags under her eyes had all but disappeared. She said that she had been able to sleep the whole night and that when she read the Book of Mormon that it helped her feel at rest and fall asleep. We then were able to actually teach her the full message of the restoration and she accepted and understood it so well, having actually read the pamphlet we gave her several times already, and she had even tried asking God if it was true, again completely uninvited by us but just followed the instructions on the pamphlet. She told us that she just felt a good feeling and that it was true, and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon was true. Needless to say I was filled so much with joy to be the missionary to have the privilege to teach this incredibly prepared person, and I know for certain that it was her faith in Jesus Christ that made her whole.

We then committed her and her child, 9 years old, to be baptized this October 19th and she accepted whole heartedly. We now are trying to teach her husband who we haven't met yet, he works on their farm most of the day and is shy to go to church, but I have high hopes for this family and I know that they will open the door for the gospel to be spread in La-on.

Wow, this has been a long email...I wanted to write about the baptism of the Riblora family as well, but maybe I'll write that next week. I'll also send the pictures next week since the computer shop I'm at right now is having trouble uploading photos.

Don't worry Katie! I've been taking lots of pictures of carabaos and other animals for you!

I love you all!

~Elder Butler  

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Field is White







Me with the group (I couldn't find my tie.) If you thought Filipinos are small, the kids are smaller (obviously). [These very beautiful children are all in the same primary class at church. I believe they are all around 10 years old since Brooks said the boy, Christian, is that age in his letter below.~K]   
Beautiful water. As I walk across this river Ub in the shallow parts I have to resist the temptation to want to just jump in. The water is really warm too.

In the ravine of a river we cross to get to our investigators in Balabag.
Something else fun I ate

I'll just let this picture speak for itself.

From the top looking over the river I just crossed.
I climb down, across, and up again to this valley and then back about twice a week now. [If you look carefully you can see the river down there that they cross through. It looks so small a faraway, yet is very wide! He has got to be in some serious good shape! We need to know the best mountain trails to take him hiking on around here for when he gets back! Sounds fun!~K]
  
Hello Family,

"Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work; For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul..."

I just wanted to start out with Doctrine & Covenants section 4 because that’s what has been on my mind lately, all be it a very highly used section, and I think it has been getting more and more on my mind the closer I get to D day (departure day).

I read Alma 29 recently as well and felt like shouting with him: "O that I were an angel... that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!"

If only I could help every person that I know understand that the only way to true happiness and lasting peace is repentance! What a wonderful word repentance is! To me it means life and light, joy and servitude, it means Jesus Christ and His power to set us free through His infinite sacrifice. My heart yearns to declare it from the top of the tin roof on our apartment and then bring every last inhabitant of Colonia Divina and surrounding areas with me to meet our Father is His Kingdom through His Son!

And yet at the same time that I feel the Spirit swelling with in my breast, I feel so small in the great eternal perspective of things, and humbled to the dust by the thought that I am in actuality less than the dust.

If you can't tell yet, I'm in a pretty interesting state of my realizing that this makes the beginning of my last transfer in the field.

This week was another wonderful week of successes and trials, but I like to talk about the successes so I think that is where I'll start.

We had another four baptisms this week plus a child of record, which I thought were special since they all happened to be in the same primary class together. Those baptized were Christian, Chezee (Lovelyn's niece), Carol Jane and Charity (Jestoni's younger siblings), and Jane Mae (child of record).

Christian (10) has been someone we've taught for a while now, and has been going to church on his own for a while as well, but we hadn't baptized him yet or really invited him to be baptized since we were trying to help his mother to progress as well, who although incredibly nice and receptive, hasn't gotten enough courage/conversion/understanding yet to go to church, but after one Sunday where Christian observed another one of our baptisms he asked us, "Elders, when am I going to be baptized? I want to be baptized too." We told him that his parents needed to both give their permission before he could be baptized, and that he needed to be ready to promise to Jesus that he would keep all of His commandments. He seemed pretty resolved that he was going to be baptized after that and sure enough a few days later when we came to his house to teach him and his mother he said excitedly, "Nanay (mom) says I can be baptized!"

Even though we had never extended an invitation to him specifically, this child knew what was the right thing to do and he showed his mother a wonderful example of faith and took the initiative to be baptized. His mother commented that she could see a difference in Christian since he started going to church and being taught by us, and she recognized that it was a good thing that he wanted so she gave her consent, after talking with her husband who works away from home much of the time.

On a similar topic, we have now been receiving a few referrals from parents for us to teach their children. Even though they aren't completely interested in it for themselves yet, but because they have seen the children and families that we do teach now and the noticeable change in those kids (some who had been notorious for being "wild"). It's just another tender mercy of the Lord and I have a strong testimony of how the children can soften the hearts of their parents. Also I am convinced that the primary children that I see every Sunday are going to be the future leaders of the church and need just as much attention as those older.

I wish I could write more about the other children who were baptized, because to me they all have stories that are worth hearing, but I don't think the time will allow. But hopefully the pictures I attach will make up for the difference.

I love you all so much and I hope you are all happy and healthy!

Take care!

~Elder Butler