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Archive for the ‘courage’ Category

By Elder Justin Charles Baluyot, Philippines Bacolod Mission, June 24, 2019

elder baluyot2

“I bet we’ll get at least 25 people at church today,” said my companion, Elder Wright, as he was making his tie. I had just put on my socks, when I answered back with a big smile: “Oh, I’d push for 30.” It was Sunday, the Sabbath Day. We were just about ready to go to the chapel. We were so excited for this Sunday especially. Elder Wright and I have been companions for 2 weeks now, and we’ve been working hard, as in hard gid, for the time we’ve been together. So hard, that I got sick for the whole of last week, still went to work everyday, but just stayed home for Pday, when my fever was at its highest. We’ve given over a hundred Books of Mormon, a plethora of pass along cards, and countless church invites to all the people in our area. The fruit of our labors, would surely reflect through the sacrament attendance today.

Every Sunday morning, our bishop has us send him the names of our investigators who might attend sacrament. He does this so that he can announce their names in front of the pulpit, and welcome them, as a sign of fellowship. We texted 20 names to him, that we were “sure” to come, as they gave their commitment they would, and left a note at the end that “Pero batyag namon basi mas madamo pa magkadto” Or: “But we feel that there are more that might come.” Bishop replied with: “Great job, Elders!” A short message, but to us it meant a lot. As we feel that we did. Do a great job, that is. There was an energy of excitement as we were on our way to church. It was as if everything seemed a little nicer. The sun was shining a little brighter; breakfast was just corned beef from a can, but it tasted a little better; when we saw ourselves in the mirror, it’s as if mas gwapo kami today; we dunno why, the world was on our side. Today was definitely going to be: Perfect.

We arrived at the chapel 8am, 1 hour before the service, just in case some of them decided to show up early. There we were, in front of our chapel, two big young men, chin up, chest out, with the biggest smiles you’ll ever see from a Filipino, and a Samoan. Just standing in anticipation to welcome all the people we invited, to shake their hands, look them in the eye, and just express our gratitude and love for them for accepting our invitation. 20 mins passed by, no one yet, but it was okay. Who comes to church 40 mins before sacrament anyway? There was plenty of time. Then another 20 mins passed by, and some people were starting to come in. But not our investigators. But it was okay, we told them service starts at 9am. Filipinos, they’ll probably come in 5mins before. Then, I remember, looking at my watch, the time said: 8:58am. The chapel was full of people already, but not a single one of the people we invited came. With our chins no longer high up, and our chests no longer out, we went inside the sacrament hall, where we were greeted by our bishop by the door. He asked, who among our investigators came to church, so that he can have their names announced. With a sigh of defeat, we answered: “Wa’ay.” Our bishop then patted us on the back, as if to give us a gesture of comfort in the little time he had, as our meeting was about to start, then he started to make his way to the pulpit.

We then took our seats, and the sacrament meeting started. With lowered heads, we just sat quietly, and started to contemplate on what a failure we were as missionaries. Usually, I’m always the optimistic one, when we have mishaps, I would be the positive Elder, and comfort my companion, until he got back to being the happy Samoan that he usually is. But not this time, my whole body language just exclaimed defeat.

“Not even one?” I kept thinking to myself.

“How?”

“What did I do wrong?”

“Why?”

As each minute went by, the more discouragement, and confusion just filled my whole being. I didn’t even hear what Bishop’s announcements were. Was there an activity next Saturday? Was there a meeting later? I didn’t know. Honestly, at this point, I didn’t even care. All my attention was on why all my efforts were going to waste. Why I wasn’t making a difference. Why I wasn’t the missionary I hoped I’d be.

The Sacrament Hymn started, and I was still indifferent. I was supposed to be preparing myself spiritually, as the most important hour of the week was happening, this is what we teach our investigators. But I had not the energy to sing any songs, not even the energy to open the hymn book. “What’s the point?” I started to think. I even started to boast to myself: “I work harder than any other missionary I know! Why would this happen to me? Of all people?” Then, just as I was about to begin another rant in my head, on how I was an exemplary missionary, and how I don’t deserve this,” I was interrupted, by a familiar face, my companion, Elder Wright, as if he could read my mind, put his hand on my knee, and said: “Stop.” “It’s not about us, we did it for Him”

For Him.

For Him.

Him.

I then remembered, why I was on the mission in the first place. It wasn’t to get baptisms, it wasn’t to get to say I was an RM. It wasn’t even to get people to come to church. I did it… For Him. And as I contemplated on that, my whole attitude changed. I started to focus on Him. His sacrifice. His Atonement. My love for Him, and His love for me. I then pondered on the words that we were singing:

‘I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!’

I was filled with gratitude, and love, and joy. I was filled with comfort. I was filled with His spirit. I truly, stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me. As the prayer was said, and the deacons started to pass His sacrament, I sat there, just smiling, awaiting my turn to renew my covenants with Him. As the tray was passed to me by the deacon, I felt this strong impression to look up, as if someone said it to me, just as I can hear you, and you, me. I then saw him, Anton. Anton was a young man, who’s been inactive for close to two years, the 1st task I had when I came to the ward, was to reactivate him, and his family. And here he was, an active deacon, passing the sacrament, a worthy priesthood holder. An immense feeling filled my whole being, it grew exponentially, I can’t even define it. “Joy” for me, would be an understatement, but that the closest word I know of, that can compare to what I felt. I felt a glimpse of the promise in Doctrine & Covenants: “And if it so be that you should labor.. and bring, save it be one soul unto Me, how great shall be your joy..” At that moment, I knew that I was making a difference. That my efforts were not going to waste. That my Heavenly Father was proud of me. That He, was proud of me.

Whatever you’re doing, no matter what the result, do not be discouraged, nor dismayed.

Just do it, for Him.

For Him.”

 

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bone cancer ribbon

I visited my college best friend who is suffering from stage 4 cancer in the hospital and was a bit surprised at the changes that happened to her in almost two weeks that I haven’t seen her. I was pre-occupied with a couple of wonderful things that happened at our home front that I didn’t get a chance to drop by.

Just a couple of weeks ago, she was saying that her hair was too long and that she wanted to get a haircut ‘coz her natural curls were showing. I told her to just leave it alone and I was glad that she listened, because then she was able to enjoy her hair for a couple more weeks before they all fell out after her chemotherapy. Her cheeks were puffed from steroids. Her amputated leg rested on the bed. Her platelet count dropped to 14—way below the normal standard count of 150. I could say that she had all the reasons to complain—but she didn’t.

She welcomed me with a warm smile and I knew that if she only could, she would leap out of that bed to give me a big, tight hug. I was humbled by the sight of her. Such a strong spirit who refuses to give in to the frailties of this mortal existence.

We talked for a couple of hours to catch up on things that happened for the past couple of weeks. Her illness has not changed her outlook in life. She spoke about her husband and children with a twinkle in her eye—proud of their achievements and a deep love for them that I could sense as she described their activities. We laughed about personal jokes and discussed things that we planned to do in the coming days. She is the same person that I’ve known for more than three decades now despite her missing leg and hair. I quietly admired her strength of character and faith in God’s eternal plan.

I came to visit her that day in the hope of cheering her up, but it was me who benefitted more from that experience as I left her room and felt gratitude for all the things I have been blessed with that matter most in life—health, family and friends.

May we continue to treasure the things that matter most in life. Let’s have the faith and courage to face our challenges with a hope that these things are but for a small moment, and that our eternal rewards go beyond what our human minds can truly comprehend.

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clover

There sometimes comes a point in our lives when we get discouraged and quit doing some of the noteworthy things we’re doing, thinking that they might just be a waste of time. And then sometimes, out of the blue, by some stroke of fate, a stranger comes up to us and encourages us to dust our shoes off, get back on our feet, and keep going.

The words of an ancient apostle ring true: “Be not weary in well doing.”

And so I will try to write again! 🙂 Wheeee!! 🙂

THANK YOU, Art, for knocking on my car window that day and encouraging me! My heart is filled with gratitude for you! 🙂

* – * – *

Life has been quite interesting for me lately. I got into a myriad of challenges that I thought were pretty intense, until I had the opportunity to sit down and listen to an old friend’s troubles and mine immediately shrunk and suddenly seemed so trivial. I guess it’s Father’s way of comforting me and making me feel more grateful for all the blessings that I have.

So, I got up and brushed it off, shrugged my shoulders and told myself to carry on. C’est la vie!! 🙂 We can choose to be happy! We can choose to appreciate the rainbow after the rain!! And to look forward to the sunrise after the dawn!!

Life is meant to be a test, yet we are designed to be happy while we are here on earth! (Yes, despite all the trials 🙂 ) Let us all strive to live up to our potential and be the best that we can be—no matter what our circumstances are.

As I always say—we just need to keep on keeping on! 🙂

Have a fabulous week everybody! It feels good to be back! 🙂

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In 2009, when typhoon Ondoy devastated cities and towns (including mine) with unprecedented number of deaths in Metro Manila, I thought I already saw the worst—and then came typhoon Yolanda.

Super typhoon Yolanda (International Name: Haiyan) was declared as an “Extremely Catastrophic Super Typhoon” by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) a few days before it made its landfall in Central Philippines on November 8, 2013. At its peak wind gusting up to 380kph (235mph), it registered as a Category 5 Hurricane in the Saffir-Simpson Scale and was declared the fourth most intense tropical storm ever recorded and the strongest to ever hit land.

As we watched from a distance here in Manila how the affected families rose above the situation—with an estimated death toll of 5,632 (as of this writing and climbing), damage to properties and agriculture amounting to PHP 30.8 billion, many missing members of families, children’s education standing at a halt, people sleeping on the streets after losing their homes with no food and water for many days—we cannot help but reach out to find ways on where we can extend assistance and provide support and comfort, even from afar.

I had the privilege of volunteering for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in their effort to donate 10,000 personal hygiene kits and 10,000 food kits from Manila to the survivors of the calamity a couple of days after the typhoon hit.  A total of 1,500 volunteers from different ages, races, and backgrounds came to the Aurora and Quirino meetinghouses to repack goods which were afterward picked up by Alagang Kapatid Foundation and the Philippine Navy for distribution to different parts of Leyte.

I also had the opportunity to assist in the interview of the first batch of missionary survivors who were evacuated from Tacloban to Manila and to listen in as they shared their individual stories that helped increase my faith in God and in the goodness of the human race.

Despite the bitter pain and trauma that most of the survivors experienced, they were extremely grateful that they survived the ordeal and that their lives were miraculously spared. Most of them lost all of their material possessions, but they were still very thankful that the most important of all their possessions were still with them—their families.

In this season of Thanksgiving, may we remember the things that matter most in our lives and have the heart to share some of ourselves—be it our time or material possessions—to those who are in need. Many lives have been lost and even more lives have been changed by this recent calamity. We are in a position to help lift heads that hang down and provide comfort to those who are in need of comfort. May we find time to reach out and offer a helping hand. As we do so, I know we will find joy in our hearts that no amount of money can buy and appropriately express our thanksgiving for all the blessings that we have.

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Two days ago, I was requested to participate in a series of corporate training called the “Fearless Leadership Program.” At first I thought it was a waste of my time. I was already being pulled in many different directions and I thought that one more training—with many succeeding sessions—was too much for me to bear. I thought I had more important things to do, but I was wrong.


I didn’t know what to expect from the training. The title itself sparked my curiosity. Fearless Leadership. Will they be providing a lecture on how to become fierce in implementing mandates from executive management? Or teach us how to be tougher or more strict towards our team members? I couldn’t wait to attend and find out.


All my qualms were quenched after the first session. To my surprise, it wasn’t at all what I thought it would be. The initial session focused on understanding our entire lives—from childhood to present—and analyzing situations that happened in the past that influence the kind of persons we are today. I was very uncomfortable at first. I didn’t want to reveal some things about the past—my childhood, my family, my experiences—that I’ve always kept hidden, even from myself. But as I saw how the other participants opened themselves up and shared their experiences freely, I allowed myself to open up and share my experiences as well. By doing so, I was able to understand myself a little bit more—why my priorities are such; what motivates me; why I react to certain situations the way I do. It was, I should say, a liberating experience.


As I listened to the stories that were shared that afternoon, I learned that people have common experiences—albeit different scenarios—that either make them or break them. In most instances, seemingly negative experiences that each participant overcame brought about success beyond what they expected or imagined. Those who thrived during the trying moments came out victorious as they looked at their previous challenges as stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks.


Some of us may be in a similar situation today. Some may be struggling to overcome certain challenges that may appear to be too negative at the moment. Let us keep in mind that these circumstances are temporary and if we gather the courage to overcome, we can look forward to that day when we could look back and stand, having a better perspective that these things will be for our own good.

Enjoy the rest of the week everybody! And remember, there’s always a rainbow after the rain! 🙂

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It was a very long weekend and I had a wonderful privilege of spending time with my family on a scuba diving trip for the very first time. The seemingly long journey to the isolated island became obviously worth it as soon as we stepped out of the van. Blue skies. Calm waves. Cool breeze. Friendly staff. Expert diving masters.  I thought it truly was a perfect day for amateur diving.


As soon as we settled down, we were given an overview of scuba diving basics, with particular emphasis on how to use the oxygen tank to breathe under water. When it was my turn to dive, I was reminded by my instructor on the basic stuff that we were taught earlier in the day. I introduced myself and asked for his name and told him this: “Jason, you do realize that I am trusting you and placing my life in your hands the moment we left the water surface.” He assured me, “Yes ma’am, your life is in good hands.”


Trust. Such a small word with a significantly great impact that affects each of us.


I once heard a talk on various corporate strategies in handling human resources. One manager said his style was to make the employees work hard and exert every effort to earn his trust until they finally deserve it. The other manager said he would rather empower his employees and give them his full trust right off the start until they do something that make them not deserve it.


In my many years of existence, I have taken the latter’s advice. Just as I’ve trusted my diving instructor that early morning with my life, many times I have put various aspects of my life in the hands of those that I’ve trusted. Some proved they were worth it, others caused me to doubt.


At the temple grounds this morning, I felt such an assurance that there is One whom we can all trust with all of our lives without having to fear that our trust will ever be betrayed. Even Him who summoned: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).


May we all find peace and reassurance as we learn to trust in Him, while we gather the strength and courage to put our lives in His hands.

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Happy New Year!!! This almost didn’t make the first month of the year, but I’m glad it did!!! I should renew my commitment to write more often. It’s something that I truly enjoy doing, so I need to manage my schedule a lot better and find more time for it.

As we welcome the New Year, it’s a wonderful time to reflect upon the things that we did well in the past year, and plan for what we could do better in the coming one.  In retrospect, we look back and savor the moments we spent with our loved ones, the successes we made in our individual lives, our moments of sadness and frustration, things we should’ve been doing but were not able to, the new additions in our families, our laughter, simple joys, and defining moments.

It is also a good time to evaluate significant decisions we made, important actions we need to take, changes we might have to implement, and to bring our focus back on things we might’ve neglected the entire year.

Each of us will have our own unique situation, but just the same it is good to be reminded that it is a great time for new beginnings. That we can start with a clean slate and direct our lives to the path where we want to be going. The first step is always the most difficult to make, but when we finally get the courage to lift ourselves up it will always be much easier.

I’d like to wish everyone all the best this coming year!! May we all be blessed with everything that we need—food on our tables, roof over our heads, and clothing on our backs. But above all, may we have abundance of those that are truly essential in our lives—love, peace, and harmony in our homes.

Have a wonderful year ahead!!!  🙂

 

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