Monday, December 31, 2012

PHILIPPINES WEEK 9: Happy New Year! WEEK 18

His family and I had an EXTRAORDINARY time talking to Elder Betancourt on Christmas evening. I even got much loved alone time to chat with Ryan and hear many incredible stories. He is an incredible missionary already. We are SO proud of him. 


Here is part of an e-mail I received from Elder Betancourt on 12/30/2012.
"Well hey there Devy!
  Another week has already come and passed! I must say it was quite a good week! I got to skype you and my family! If I said that wasn't the highlight of my week, I would be lying because it was AWESOME! But you already knew that! You were there! haha!
I must say, I had a pretty awesome Christmas present seeing you! It was like a two in one present! haha! I must say that I got the better present! :) haha. I am glad your Christmas was good with your family! I expected it to be! I am excited for next Christmas, it will be kind of a bummer that I wont get to skype you ("kind of" haha) BUT it will mean that you and I will be so much closer to seeing one another! I think that the mere thought of that will be a Christmas present in its own haha! I am so excited for you because you will make an amazing representative of Jesus Christ! I am still blown away that you are going to Russia. I never would have guessed, but I know you will do amazing there because the Lord has called you to work there! I am sorry you felt sick this week, but its good you are overcoming it! You are so awesome (random, but true :) ). 
For New Years, we are having a party at the Mission home! The singles ward party thing should be really fun! I always enjoyed hanging out with them! They are cool! But you are the coolest...just remember that! :) 
I will never forget the pain of those shots! Ouch!!! Well atleast its over with right? well for now...heh heh heh heh! :)
So this week we visited so many people! Christmas Day, I ate so much I thought I was going to die! It was actually very scary! haha. But also very very delicious!  I got to go on an exchange with Elder Bluth, one of my zone leaders! And wow, I learned so much! Its great to learn from another American! 
Well I love you so much! I am sorry this wasnt longer, but I lost track of time! I cannot wait till our next new years together! :) It will be here before you know it! :)
Forever your missionary
Elder Ryan A Betancourt"

                           Mutual Night! The Elder Betancourt and Elder Samar teach the lessons!
                 Every chance Elder Betancourt gets, he grabs a guitar! He loves playing for the youth.
                                        Elder Betancourt loves the youth in Naguilian!
Christmas Eve

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

PHILIPPINES WEEK 8: Christmas is HERE! WEEK 17

This week Elder Betancourt's family and I will be skyping Ryan at 9pm on Christmas Day! To say the least, we are EXCITED and THRILLED!

Elder Betancourt wrote me on 12/23/2013,

"Dear Devynn, Hey there kiddo!

What a week! We had soooo many activities and Christmas parties! It was so fun and so spiritual! We first had our missionary Christmas party! It was so much fun! We had a gift exchange! I won Smuckers Jelly and Jif peanut butter! It was so great!  I loved it so much! Every piece of American food I can eat or afford, I enjoy so much!! We also got to visit a hospital and sing Christmas carols! It brought me back to the time we visited the nursing home for church. The same smile came upon these peoples faces, as we sang songs that we all love no matter where we are in the world! I felt the same sweet spirit as we sang to them! The hospital was not nearly as nice as the nursing home, but yet the people were still able to feel the lovely spirit of Christmas. Just another reminder that sometimes we don't need to have the nicest things or homes in order to get what we need to out of this life! Then we had our Christmas Devotional on Friday. It was titled Christmas in Zarahemla. It was amazing to hear what Christmas was probably like to the Nephites in the Americas! After the beautiful program, I experienced the most powerful singing of a hymn ever. The missionaries were all sitting on the stand because we put on the program! Towards the end, one by one we all stood up singing "I believe in Christ". By the end of the song the whole congregation had stood up and was singing...wow, I was blown away! It was amazing, Devynn! After which President Carlos gave an amazing address about family and tradition...you'll read more in your letter, but Dev, I know he is called of God! He is such a powerful speaker and so in tuned with the Spirit! Then on Saturday, we had a marathon party at the Branch where they served two meals! It started at 9 am and went till about 430pm! haha! It was amazing and so much fun! As Christmas was approaching this week, we watched the Finding Faith in Christ movie the church has..I think its on youtube! As I watched it, I was overwhelmed by the Spirit. This is Christmas, remember Jesus Christ. Not just his birth, but his whole life. We celebrate the day that our Father gave His only Begotten to the world so that we can be saved. We also celebrate Jesus Christ's atonement. Two of the most selfless acts in the history of all that is history. Wow, Dev, watch the video if you can get the chance. It's so powerful!
I love you so much! Sorry, this blirp is still shorter than I wanted, but I have to write my weekly letter to the Mission president!
I love you so much and cant wait to Skype you and my family! :)
You are awesome!
Elder Ryan Anthony Betancourt"

                    Elder Betancourt said that sugar cane is masarap (delicious) and refreshing!
                                      Moshi and Elder Betancourt at a Branch Activity!
          They call this a "brown out". On random occasions all the power goes out for no reason.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

PHILIPPINES WEEK 7: Counting down the days until Christmas! WEEK 16

Christmas is QUICKLY approaching. I cannot tell you enough how thrilled I am to see his smiling face and hear his cheerful voice! It has been WAY too long.

This week I will post SOME of the letter that I received last week and PARTS of his email I received from him on 12/17/2012.


Elder Betancourt wrote in his letter sent on 11/21/2012,
"My Dearest Devynn,
I will tell you, it is amazing here! Naguilian is famous in our mission for being one of the most difficult, but through the Lord, it doesn't matter what its reputation is. His Will will be done. I just have to do my best to be his instrument here!
...Every day I strive to be a better Missionary then I was yesterday!  I have literally never worked so hard, walked so far, poured more of my heart into anything ever than this. Seeing/imagining these remarkable people in baptismal clothes and then temple clothes makes me want to give everything my soul possesses to help them or at least try to help them. I have never cared so much about others. I have never loved people I don't know so much. The mission is amazing. It is the best 2 years (or 1.5 years for you). Why? Because it is literally the hardest thing I have ever done! I cannot think of anything comparable, but when you see the look on a worried mothers face when she discovers she can spend eternity with her children, and her husband who has to live abroad in order to put food on the table. Devynn, it is worth it. This work is true. There is no doubt about that. Sometimes we have joyful experiences , most time we have sad experiences, but we continue with a smile. Finding joy in the work is mandatory. If you doubt,  you will suffer for the year and a half. Being happy is a choice!  Seek out the joy, Devy! Representing Jesus Christ is the greatest feeling ever! I hope I can be a witness/representative of him forever! Elder Reyes asked me the other day if I wanted to be an Apostle. I told him that I would be honored to witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ and that his true and living gospel is restored to the Earth. What an honor that would be.

...How are the investigators? Well, we have a few baptisms scheduled for January 5th! Rosemarie Ramirez, a newly wed and newly mother! (We are still working on her sister and husband). Also the Vergara Family! Brother Vergara is a less active priesthood holder. He is reactivating and will be baptizing his wife and three kids! It is amazing to see the change in these peoples hearts! We have a few more we are hoping to commit this week. Of course baptisms are not what this is about especially being in the difficult area, we are focusing primarily on bring all to activation. It is just as amazing to see an inactive come back to church! The measure of my happiness with my mission so far comes from neither of these. It comes from witnessing the Spirit edify me, my companion, and those we teach. It comes from seeing the fruits of my sacrifice. ...I have already seen how completely forgetting about myself has blessed their lives. I sure do love it, as will you, Devynn because you are so awesome!
..The thing is we face a lot of discouragement BUT we face the most incredible and touching experiences as well! When you can witness people progress, it just gives you so much joy. My trick  to a happy mission is finding joy in the journey! In PMG.. it talks about how to avoid homesickness..BE DILIGENT! So that is my advice for both of us. When you miss me, be diligent...study your scriptures, pray, and read PMG. It's challenging and often times, I think I can't go on, but then I remind myself--'you dont need to go through this alone. You have this pretty amazing guy named Jesus Christ, who really wants to help you!' I hope you will let him help you, Devynn, I am sure you do, I am just reminding :). Without him and the sweet though of our life/eternity together, I would be shriveled up on a Philipino road somewhere. I hand on to that sweet voice I heard on the phone. Whenever I see the moon, I smile because I know you looked at that very same moon not too long ago. You make me so happy!

......Well I want you to know that my life has changed completely all because of a Walmart parking lot kiss. And all because my sweetheart gave me a Book of Mormon. Little did she know this single bold move would unfold into the most incredible and life changing journey in both of our lives. All because of this action, I have the privilege to testify to the people of the Philippines that I know that the Book of Mormon is true. With full conviction of my heart, I can look them in the eye and tell them that Joseph Smith was called of God to restore the Church and that the only true way to receive the blessings of the atonement are through faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end; because I have had the privilege to experience each one, at least a bit. To look them in the eye and tell them their burdens can be lightened simply by turning to Jesus Christ and putting all our trust and faith in him. There is no doubt in my mind this church is true. 100%, all because the girl I am hopelessly in love with gave me a Book of Mormon, asked me to read and pray about it."


"Well hello my wonderful
So this week has been so wonderful! Elder Reyes went home! It was sad and scary because I learned how short these 2 years will last! Holy cow! BUT after spending like half the week in Cauayan and practically not working in Naguilian a lot, I finally returned to the "Celestial Kingdom" of the Philippines Cauayan mission with my new companion, Elder Samar! He is an AMAZING piano player! He is just a really cool guy and a great missionary! Wow! So when we returned, I got to show him the whole area! It was really fun to take him to see all the members! It really made me realize how much I love these people! They are so strong and they love the gospel so much! Even the less actives which makes it really confusing and hard to help them sometimes because you really have to discern by the Spirit what it is giving them trouble! It's difficult but so much fun! Ah Dev, you are going to love missionary work!
I am soooo glad to hear that you are home safe! I cannot explain how happy I am to hear that! The next time you will be in the west you will be going to the MTC! ...That is so crazy to think about! WOW! haha
  ...Oh and i can get really cool custom made camelback bags here for like 10 bucks...a lot of sisters like these waist bags they are better than a backpack for sisters because the weight is on your hips...ill take some pictures of them and send you some! I could pouch you one when you get to Russia! I'll throw on a picture of me wearing one of elder Reyes! They are cool! (I added these pictures at the end from Elder Betancourt because they are HILARIOUS.)
Well I miss you like Crazy!
I'm sorry this wasn't as long as I thought, but this week will be super eventful! Elder Samar and I are singing in the the Missionary Party!
I'm excited!
Well I love you baby!
Take care of yourself!
Forever yours!
Elder Ryan A Betancourt"


                                 Tatay Juancho and Nanay Luming Leal, sweetest people!
                                                              The Aliangan family
                                 Elder Betancourt and his new companion, Elder Samar.
                                                   Modeling the bookbag! hahaha
                               Goofy Ryan modeling the camelback bag. I had to share it!

Monday, December 10, 2012

PHILIPPINES WEEK 6: FIRST Transfers! WEEK 15

I cannot believe Elder Betancourt has already been in the Philippines for SIX weeks. This week Elder Betancourt's area has transfers. Transfers occur every 6 weeks. Transfers are weeks where new Elders and Sisters come to the field, and those who have served their full 2 years head home. Some companionships are split and Elders and Sisters move to a new area where they receive new companions. Elder Betancourt's companion, Elder Reyes completes his 2 year mission this week and will be heading home. Elder Betancourt will be receiving a new companion. He could potentially change areas or stay in Naguilian. 

Here is some of the things Elder B. wrote in his e-mail that I received on 12/10/12,
"Well hello Devynn!
My time is short! We have like no time today because its Elder Reyes last P-day so we have been all over creation!
This week has been so good, SOOO BUSY. It was kind of lame when we were sick, but we are all better now! The work was different this week! We found a few new people, but our lessons got so messed up with us being out which kind of messed up the whole week! But all is well! Always another week! We have transfers this week SO we will be teaching very little and in Cauayan city for most of the week! Elder Reyes will be going home so he has lots of meetings and stuff!
I am excited to get to experience a new companion.  I love Elder Reyes so much, he is amazing so it will be hard to experience someone else, but I am still super excited!
Well, keep being awesome! I promise there will be more next week!!
Stay happy stay strong!
Forever Yours! (and not one minute less!)
I love you!
Elder Ryan Anthony Betancourt"

I also received TWO  letters that were BEAUTIFULLY written from Elder Betancourt this week. These letters definitely made my week. Below I will add short stories and messages that Elder B. has shared with me in the FIRST letter I received and then I will share the other one next week.

"The work is hard many times a day, I find myself relying fully on the Lord! Our area is huge. It is often hot and humid, sometimes rainy, but I choose to find joy in the work. Instead of focusing on the heat, I focus on the light breeze I felt twenty minutes ago! ....As Elder Reyes tells me about his childhood, I begin to feel guilty for all I have had, all I had been given, and how I was not grateful for it. He told me he remembers when they got their first electric light (using only candles before). I thought, light.. really? It had always seemed like a bare minimal requirement for a home. As I thought about it more, I began to realize its not light, TV, nor believe it or not it's not even food, for I have seen families happier than most in America without all of these. It is love. Love is all that is required in the foundation of a home. If I have learned one thing about the people here is that they love so much.

...My tagalog has some how progressed to an acceptable level! I often still feel lost, but the progress I have made is no doubt because the work is true! This will happen to you too in Russia! I am certain of it. I have been giving it a lot of thought, and I know that you are going to do so well there!

....One of my favorite scriptures I have come across has been Alma 26:12. "Yea, I know that I am nothing as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea behold, many miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will ever praise his name forever."  I know that I am nothing, and cannot do this work on my own. Only through the Savior, Jesus Christ is this work possible, and he sure does make it possible! He loves everyone, and I can feel that here. I feel a fraction of that love for these people. It is amazing! I am so excited for you to feel this way about the people of Samara, Russia. I know you will because you are amazing and so incredibly loving."

I love hearing from him! He loves doing the Lord's work even when it is hard!
MORE TO COME NEXT WEEK

      Elder Reyes and Elder Betancourt at the Mission Home. He always manages to be silly!!
                                Elder Oyardo, Brother Cauiran, and Elder Betancourt

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

PHILIPPINES WEEK 5: Another Week Gone by Already?! WEEK 14

 I cannot believe another week has FLOWN by. It has been amazing to see the growth in Ryan. He is doing fabulous and loves his companion, Elder Reyes.

This is some of my e-mail that I received from Ryan on 12/02/2012. "...What a week we had here in the PH. I am excited to tell you just a little bit about it! More is to come in a letter that will be sent out today or tomorrow! So we were busy this week! SOOO busy! We taught a lot of lessons not as many as before but these were sooo affective it was incredible! We had exchanges this week! Wow, it was really cool to get to experience a different area and a different missionary. (How they work and how their area works.) It was really cool! I learned SO MUCH! ...On the exchange, we taught a Tatay (old dude) about the Book of Mormon...his heart was hard he had slipped back into old habits and told us he would not be attending church. I felt that some boldness was required for this lesson. I bore testimony of our NEED to read the BOM and some other stuff I cant remember but it was powerful! I have never been so bold EVER! Well, I later talked to Elder Oyardo, and he told me Tatay came to church on Sunday for the first time in 2 years...wow! He said "Magaling Ka" (you are the best.) I said "Hindi, Magaling ang Espiritu Santo" haha. (No the Spirit is the best!) It was amazing! Don't ever be afraid to be bold. Boldness AS DIRECTED by the Holy Ghost is out of love and is totally okay! One of my many experiences this week! Each week is so full of experiences! Its hard to keep track!
Another fun experience, we were planning on my BDAY (you plan each day on your mission...its awesome!) and then President and Sister Carlos pull up to our Apartment with the Assistants. We go outside and they are holding a BEAUTIFUL cake and a container full of Fettuccini Alfredo! It was amazing! and SO delicious! How did you celebrate my b-day? It's okay if you didn't do anything, just curious if you had a moment of silence in front of a wall of pictures of me, with candles lit and stuff...haha joklang!  You are going to love being a missionary. It is so fun! Today, we had our ZONE activity and it was sooo much fun! We had an Amazing Race. haha, It was very silly but very funny!  I got covered in flour, haha! I did receive a letter from you on Tuesday it was very precious! :) I am excited for the next! I am also excited for you to go home to VA so that you will be home safe and happy...and other reasons ;)
Well I miss you like crazy! I cannot wait to be back home to see you..!
Well we only have 21 months to go! Crazy right!?
....Well I Love you more than you know!  
Mahal Kita!
Your Missionary,
Elder Ryan Anthony Betancourt"

                    Ryan wrote, "Our Branch President and his wife! This man is so faithful!"
Elder Betancourt and his zone after the "Amazing Race" Elder Reyes and Elder Betancourt won!
 Same group, different pose!
Elder B. wrote, "Elder Reyes and I after finishing our Zone Activity "The Amazing Race" 
That is flour all over me! I had to blow flour off a plate to reveal a 5 peso coin and the next hint to the race haha!"