Friday, March 18, 2016

(mom took a 5 month hiatus - Henry's time at the mission office was pretty boring.)

24 January 2016

Dear Family,

I've decided, because I can't send pictures over email, I'll just print some out and send them with a letter.  There's a place in our area that prints for about P3 a picture.  Our area is really pretty and I hope you can get an idea of how pretty it is with these pictures.
left to right from top to bottom:
1. me with a bunch of little kids .  they are all children of one of our investigators.  Whenever they see us walking down the street they run up to us and ask for piggy back rides.  They're really cute kids.
2. balancing on one foot in a rice paddy on our way to one of the less actives in our area.  HIs name is Alvin and we're hoping to re-activate him.  In the Morong District, we are only 23 full tithe paying active Melchizedek Priesthood holders away from becoming a stake, 22 if we can get Alvin back.
3.  selfie I took while on an exchange with Elder Lindsey.  He's from Anaheim.
4.  last picture I took before leaving the city.  I love sitting on the backs of tricycles.
5.  really pretty little road in one of the coolest parts of our area.  It's way hidden from the main road and beautiful at sunset.
6. nice road with shady trees that my trainee likes to rest at.
7.  There are always a lot of cows and horses in this part of our area and we always try to pet them or jump on them.  Elder Makalio trying to touch a horse but not getting very close.
8.  my comp took this picture of me after visiting with Alvin.  The sunset is really pretty here.
I hope you like the pictures.  I'll send some more in the future.
With much love,
Elder Henry Van Slooten


18 January 2016

Dear Family,

I know I just wrote you all a letter about 2 days ago but I can't help but share with you how much I am enjoying my new area.  It's about 3:00 pm right now on pday and my companion Elder Makalio is asleep on his bed in the room next to mine.  I'm not feeling too sleepy so I decided I might as well write another quick letter.

We actually live in a house in this area.  It's not an apartment like all of the other areas in the mission.  Unlike all my previous areas, in this house, we have no neighbors.  We're surrounded by palm trees and grass.  We have a yard! It's about half as big as our backyard in L.A but for me it's still such a change.  I'm used to being surrounded by cement & streets, but in this area, it's just open.  I'm sitting at my study desk on the second floor of our home.  It's my favorite room in the whole house.  When you open the windows the sun leaks in and really makes the bamboo walls a nice light brown color.  We're just about eye level with a couple of palm trees that are growing in our yard.  Sometimes while studying I get distracted and just stare at the tops of the palm trees blowing in the wind.  The palm trees grow coconuts and we eat fresh coconuts with lunch sometimes.  Elder Nawaia can break them open with his elbows.  We just gone done cleaning the house and it feels more spacious and big now that everything's arranged and put away.

Our area is comprised of 5 barangays.  Malaya (where we live), Niogan, Barak, Quisao, and Yakat (Yakat being the farthest away) It's about a 15 minute walk between each barangay.  There's no real market anywhere near here except for a tiny place called SSP, supermarket sa probinsya.  You can get almost everything you need there.  That is almost true I guess if potato chips and laundry soap are the only things you'll ever need.  We usually go to a bigger town called Tanay to get groceries and pull out support money (There's also no ATMs here) There is this one restaurant that sells "classic American food".  Elder makalio and I love it but we wouldn't call it "classic American food".  I would describe it as "fresh Lunchables for very hungry teenagers".  It's great though! We love going there because the two workers know us and love having American customers.  (We are also usually their only customers).  Most of the time our kabahays cook for lunch.  Elder Palayar (he entered the mission the same time I did and he always calls me "batch") & Elder Almuete (from Pangasinan) I love them for cooking for us but it gets pretty old and repetitive. Tinola, sinigang, pinakbet, chicken curry and chicken adobo are the only things they cook so it just goes through a rotation.  They don't speak English very well and it seems like the only English words they know are "Elders, lets it" They say this every time they're done cooking. haha! We eat a lot of rice (except for Chill Hauz - the "classic American food" restaurant).  Unfortunately there are no magical little restaurants in the area (Alfonso's down Baja continues to set the bar and standard of comparison) Although there are many limitations in this area - no ATMs, no running water, no markets - I don't look at them as inconveniences.  I feel like I have a great opportunity to live life like a native Filipino would and dive into this culture and lifestyle again. 

I hope you don't worry about me over here.  I want you to know that I am doing very well.  I'm so happy and excited to start this final year of my mission.  I pray for you all the time and I think about each one of you often.

                                  Love your son
                             Elder Henry Van Slooten

14 January 2016

Hey Family,

I'm not sure when or if this letter will get to you but I'm really hoping that it does.  I got transferred out of the office finally and I love my new area!  The day that I transferred was a pretty crazy day.  I had to go to a few different transfer points before actually getting to Malaya.  My route was Aurora chapel - Sumulong chapel - Antipolo chapel - Malaya.  Before I left the office I was given missionary planners to give out to missionaries at Antipolo chapel.  Elder Bechachino & I rode from Sumulong - Antipolo together & once we got out of the taxi @ Antipolo, I began to hand out the planners (missionaries attacked me asking for planners) while Elder Bechachino unloaded the taxi and paid the driver.  Once all the planners were distributed & the missionaries were done surrounding me, I turned around to gather my luggage and saw one luggage total with no taxi in sight.  I asked Elder Bechachino if he unloaded everything & he told me that he unloaded everything in the trunk, but...I still had luggage in the car.  I ran to the main highway hoping to find our taxi only to come across a sea of cars, no taxi in sight.  I had lost more than half of my things... my camera, all my sd cards with all the pictures from my mission thus far, my scriptures, the food from the package & my shoes were all gone in the blink of an eye.  Needless to say I was very, very sad about this.  What a dumb mistake! I should have immediately unloaded everything before entertaining the missionary planner business.  The hardest part was knowing that something that was within easy reach just a moment ago is now completely unattainable.  I tried to remain positive about it even though I had just lost some things that were very valuable to me.  A church vehicle came to pick up the remaining missionaries going to the Morong Zone.  I loaded my one remaining luggage and got in the car.  Just before we started the car, our trusty old taxi came swingin' in around the corner with all of my remaining luggage still in the back!  I was so happy and relieved to have my things back again!  I gave that taxi driver an extra P300 and a restoration pamphlet and thanked him for his honesty. 

We continued on our way dropping off each individual companionships.  We drove through deep green canyons and windy cliff sides.  It reminded me of  Baguio a lot.  My new companion and I were the last in the car and after dropping off the companionship before us, I thought "We're pretty far away, we must be close now". I asked my companion how close we were and he told me we still have about 2 hours to go.  We are very far away.  My area right now reminds me of Baja.  One main road, tiny towns bunched up every so often and very empty.  It's sooo beautiful and I'm so happy here.  We are surrounded by rivers and a lake and we live in a bamboo house so it's a bit of a different experience.  I'm also training a brand new missionary which is so great.  He's fresh from the Provo MTC .  His name is Elder Makalio from Utah and he's Tongan.  I love working with him and seeing how much he learns every day.  He reminds me of me when I was in training almost a year ago.

At first I thought that the reason I was so happy here is because this area is so remote and beautiful.  That is true but I think the main reason is that I am back in the field.  I loved the office but I love these people so much more.  They are so humble and ready for the gospel. I feel like I'm falling in love with the Philippines all over again.

I love you all so much and pray for you every night.


                                Elder Van Slooten