Barangay Curuan is a farming community on the east coast of Zamboanga City, located 50 kilometers from the city proper. This progressive barangay is steadily improving with modern facilities like a commercial center, a hospital, a bank, schools, and churches.
Another type of progress happening in Curuan is the hastening of the work of the Restoration as missionaries and members of the Church link arms and help each other build up the kingdom and invite others to come unto Christ. During the first three quarters of 2019, the average attendance of the Curuan Branch was 36. When President Adduru of the Philippines Davao Mission assigned Elders Ortega and Rambuyan to Curuan, the elders immediately went to work. By December, attendance in the branch was 79.
How did they do it? “We started by talking to the branch leaders. We told them that our purpose was to help the branch grow, and we presented plans on how we can help the Curuan branch in its progression,” shares Elder Ortega. “We built relationships of trust and established friendships with them,” he adds.
It wasn’t difficult to reach out to the leaders and members because they were excited to finally have full-time missionaries in their branch again. “Because the work was slow and there were no baptisms, the missionaries were pulled out from our area,” admits Branch President Nathaniel Abayon, adding that the Curuan saints used to be too busy with work to help the missionaries. He further declares, “Now that they are back, we committed to support them by giving referrals and helping them identify part-member families.”
President Pahulaya of Zamboanga Philippines Stake is grateful for the recent success in missionary work being enjoyed in Curuan. He cited the conversion of the members and leaders in Curuan as the key to their desire to help the missionaries. He declared that “the conversion of the saints in Curuan was a result of the collaborative efforts of the leaders and members of all the auxiliaries in the branch and the stake. Stake leaders were in full force in supporting the Curuan saints by initiating Family Home Evening, ministering activities, and by fostering the spirit of fellowshipping among members and investigators as well.”
The hard work of Elder Ortega and Elder Rambuyan in September and October of 2019 bore fruit as referrals started pouring in by November. They brought 16 souls into the waters of baptism in December 2019: members of the Eusebio, Layos, and Ignacio families. These new converts were excited to share their newfound faith and their referrals resulted to 13 more baptisms in February, including nine members of the Delos Reyes family.
The baptism of the Delos Reyes family was held in one of the mangroves in Curuan and was attended by both branch and stake leaders. After the ceremony, a short program was held near the shore and Brother Delos Reyes shared a heartwarming testimony. He mentioned that the Book of Mormon helped his family prepare spiritually for their baptism. He firmly testified that the Book of Mormon is true and it helped them change their lives.
The Delos Reyes family remain active in Church and are looking forward to serving in callings when Church meetings resume in the future. They now practice gospel habits including family prayer, Family Home Evening, individual and family scripture study using Come, Follow Me, and preparing to be sealed in the temple as a family for time and all eternity. Brother and Sister Delos Reyes are also actively engaged in missionary work, boldly sharing their testimonies to friends and family.
“What we love about the Curuan saints is the way they prepare their referrals before they introduce them to us,” says Elder Ortega. “They fellowship and teach them so well that when we meet them for the first time, they already want to be baptized,” he adds.
Elder Rambuyan excitedly shared how members helped them find people to teach over the phone during the lockdown. “We already have 12 baptisms lined up for June!” he exclaims.
The elders acknowledged that “linking arms” with the members and leaders of Curuan is the key to success in missionary work. “We strengthened their trust in the Lord by showing them our love and care,” shares Elder Ortega. “They responded with the same love as they supported us even in other ways. Last April when we couldn’t go to the chapel to watch General Conference, they downloaded the video onto a laptop and brought it to our apartment so we could watch and be blessed by the words of the prophet and other leaders of the Church.”
“We appreciate the efforts of the leaders and their dedication to the Lord’s work,” gushes Elder Rambuyan. “Whenever we had a baptism, we coordinated with the local leaders and they attended to the families who will be baptized. The new converts feel their importance and the warm fellowship in the Church. With members like the Curuan saints, it is easy for missionaries like us to be happy to match the joyful message that we bring,” he testified. ◼︎