Elder Jarom Travis Odom

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Philippines Cauayan Mission

Monday, December 24, 2012

Pambihira! (I don't know what that means)

Dear Family,
It's been almost two weeks in the field!  Once a week we walk out to an area called Rizal.  It's about three miles in the mountains.  We walk uuup aand dowwwn through corn, sugar, cane, and rice fields with banana and coconut trees everywhere.  On our way to Rizal, it started to rain really bad.  We were only a mile into our journey.  We hid under some tree that had huuge leaves and still were getting wet.  I ran up this hill and broke off some banana tree leaves and used them as umbrellas!!  It was as very cool experience...
I'll be training someone in less than three months so that means I'll be in this area for six months.  I'll be a third of the way done with my mission by that time!!!!  The time is flying!!  I've come to realize how this life is short.  It's very short.  We cannot pass on any blessing in this life and we cannot go against answers from the Holy Ghost.  We are in need of every blessing in this life because that one blessing can make a huge difference in our lives...
Like I've said before, this area is struggling. I fasted for twenty-four hours Sunday for strength, peace, comfort, success, help, the people here, my loved ones back home, and for anything that I need...by the end of the day, I had no thirst or hunger and I was speed walking everywhere.  My strength was not mine.  I could feel hands pushing my back to press forward.  Our last lesson of the day was with the Cacayuran family and we haven't had an opportunity to teach them yet even though we've had many appointments with them.  As we walked up to their house, it looked closed.  We then saw the nanay, mother - and the tatay, father - and they invited us in.  It was a simple thing but it was a miracle.  I have a strong testimony about the power of prayer combined with fasting.  It truly is powerful...
Two funny things really quick.  One lesson we had yesterday was with the Basa family.  One of them said I had a baby face and when we were at the Cacayuran's house, they said that I am very guapo!!  They said that my companion could sell me and be rich, that I looked like a Hollywood star, and that I was guapo.  That word was used a lot.  The attention I get here is crazy.  Everyone stares at me.  STARES AT ME WITHOUT BREAKING EYE CONTACT...constant attention and constant hand shaking from little kids and everyone else!

I just want to leave you my testimony that I love my Savior and I know that He lives.  He loves us and knows us individually.  He is the focus of our lives.  He should be everyday.  When we are in need of His help, we can call upon the atonement.  The atonement helps us with three things.  It helps us be freed from sins, it helps us through sickness, trials, challenges, hardships, and any pain whether it be emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual, and it helps us become greater than we ever could be without Him.  I love my Savior...I can't believe what He freely gives to me.  My reality is far better than my dreams.  I love you all...
Love, Elder Odom
Until next week...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ito Ay Sulit!!! (This Is Worth It!!!)

(Jeep-ni - a common mode of transportation in the Philippines)
Dear My Family,
I AM IN THE PHILIPPINES!!!  John said that when I might feel down to just say to myself that I'm in the Philippines but I can't do that because I'm always so happy!!  I always say to my companion that I can't believe that I'm here.  Let me tell you about my travels here.  Once I got off the phone with y'all, someone walked off of our plane and we all passed him and said hello.  It was Russell M. Nelson!!!!  That was crazy!  Then we got on our plane and I went through two packs of Mentos and a pack of mints because I was a little nervous.
Our flight to LA was two hours.  Our flight to Hong Kong was sixteen hours.  Then our flight to Manila was two hours.  Twenty hours of flying!!!  Sulit!  Sulit means worth it.  It is worth it!

(They arrived at the Manila MTC)...After a little nap, I got some supplies and then ate dinner which was this soup called Bangus.  It has a whole fish in it and you eat they eyes and brain.  I didn't know you ate all that stuff so I didn't try it, but the soup was good!  At 7:00pm we left on a bus to go to the Mission Home...and the bus ride was through rice fields and mountains.  It was a twelve hour bus ride.
Mission: Cauayan
Zone: Ilagan
Area: Benito
We have a little town and tons of rice fields are everywhere.  Mountains are seen from everywhere.  We walk out to Rizal, which is a four to five kilometer walk there and back from our apartment once a week to see a few people.  This is a struggling area  and I'm very happy it's my first.  We have pretty much no investigators because the member activity is low.  The church went from a ward to a branch.  There are over five hundred members in our area but only thirty-five to forty are active so the activity percentage is like eight percent.  We are building trust with the less-actives and reactivating them.  That's our job and since that's what the Lord needs here that's what I want.  I look back over the day every night and pray and tell Heavenly Father that I worked my hardest and I have no regrets about the day.  That's what I will have every day for these two years.  No regrets.  I want to stand before God and everyone say that I worked my hardest every day.  Don't worry about anything because I am making you all proud.  I am working my hardest every day.
Our apartment is very...it's a very humbling experience.  Very humbling.  This is the most beautiful place on earth and it is also the most humbling place you could ever be.  The sunset is amazing every night. 
 I have already killed a gigantic spider in our bathroom! 
( Jarom DOES NOT like spiders!!!)

The food here is amazing when we go to Ilagan, but when we stay in Benito I eat little bananas, bread, noodles, rice, and drink water every day.  The days go by fast and I never stop working. I never rest.  I am having so much fun and Tagalog comes so much easier here than in the MTC because you need it here...

Okay I have to go mail President now so I have to go! I love you all very much and I will email y'all next week!

Until next week...

First Companion in the Field

I have to confess - I "stole" this picture from Sister Carlos' (mission president's wife) blog!  Jarom's first companion in the field is Elder Pareja (the one in the middle).  He is from the Philippines.  Jarom says, "His English and Tagalog is very good. He's a bigger Filipino and we work hard, obey all of the rules with exactness, and workout every morning.  He is very cool!  Our companionship is a very strong one that's full of hard working and exact obedience."  

New Address

Send letters to the mission office (at least for now):
Elder Jarom Odom
Philippines Cauayan Mission
Burgos St
Dist 3 Cauayan City
3305 Isabela

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Last MTC Email


While in the MTC, Jarom's P-day was on Tuesdays, so each Tuesday evening we  could look forward to an email from him.  The last email received was a surprise - I found it Monday morning!  Each week his emails were becoming deeper and more spiritual, and you could feel the growth of his testimony and in his level of preparedness and excitement to serve the Lord.  This last email was so powerful I wanted to share parts of it...
Dear Family,
So this is the time!  I am rejoicing in the experience and this wonderful time like my blessing says...I am getting on a plane today and this is my last night in America!!!  This is so intense and AWESOME!!!!!!  Ever since being here...I now hold everything about the church sacred in its own individual way.  I can't wait to read out of my spiritual journal for y'all one day and give a talk when I return.  I jump for the opportunity to give a talk, bless the sacrament, and pray in front of people because I believe in what I'm saying and I want to share that with others.  I learned yesterday about conversion.  If you have a testimony, are you converted?  No, you are not converted.  Not truly.  Not an everlasting conversion that happens through the Lord.  A testimony is what you know to be true.  Real conversion is when you apply, live, and follow all of the truths you know to be true about the gospel in a way that you never fall away.  We never know when our last day will be so I plead with you that if you are not truly converted you need to get there because there is no time.  I also learned about being outward.  This is from a talk that Elder Bednar gave last Christmas I believe.  Turning outward when the natural man would turn inward.  Putting others before ourselves at all times, in all things, and in all places.  This is what Christ did, does, and will always do for all eternity.  When He suffered in The Garden he returned to see His apostles sleeping.  He was betrayed.  What did He do when He suffered the worst pain in the world for us?  He healed the soldier's ear.  We need to turn outward when the natural man would turn inward.  Being selfish is the sure way to being unhappy in life.  Turning outward leads to a lasting conversion through the Lord, puts off the natural man, and brings us joy.  When life's trials and tribulations come along and we are hopeless and need help, we can't think of ourselves and we need to serve others.  Every time.  This is what will help us most.  When we serve selflessly, we will receive what we need.  Never think about what you are receiving, think about who you are serving.  The natural man is an enemy to God and has been since the fall of Adam.  Put off the natural man and become a Saint of God through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yield to the ENTICINGS of the Holy Spirit.  Turning outward is just one character of Christ and I would encourage you, like Elder Bednar, to search more about the character of Christ.

  If there is a question you have about something dealing with the soul, The Book of Mormon answers questions of the soul.  Get a new regular paperback Book of Mormon and read all the way through with that one question in mind and highlight everything that you learned about that one thing.  Do that for each question you have...there is power in this book.  There is a spirit in the Book of Mormon that you cannot get anywhere else.  I have come to love Ang Aklat Ni Mormon.  It is my greatest resource for love, comfort, and for answers.  I pray that my questions may be answered, then I start reading.  Please never wait.  Being patient is good, but Heavenly Father wants to see that we want it. Faith is an action word.  Take action.  I just can't stress enough how short this life is.  How short our mission is.  We came here to return to Heavenly Father.  Our mission is to do so and build up His kingdom.  We need to realize this and do it.  We cannot be afraid.  I fear no man.  I fear God.  My strength is in no man. My strength is in God.  I will not boast of myself.  I will boast of my God who strengthens me.  That is my spiritual message for today.
I can't believe I leave today.  This is amazing.  Seeing that his time has gone by fast...I don't remember myself.  I am completely opposite from how I was just nine weeks ago.  I am so much better.  I can't wait to return.  I will Return With Honor.   I will.  I am very grateful for my Heavenly Father.  I am very grateful for The Atonement of Jesus Christ.  I am grateful for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost...we need to pray every morning to Heavenly Father...
I leave this email with you all in hope it has helped you in some way and Til We Meet Again. 
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

He Made It To The Philippines!

The phone rang Wednesday evening (12/12/12) but I didn't answer it because I didn't recognize the number - which was a totally unfamiliar number.  A message was left and when I listened to my voicemail, I found it was Jarom!  He had called to tell us he had arrived safely at the Philippines Cauayan mission home.  I was SO disappointed we didn't get to talk to him - more disappointed that he had arrived and called home, and that HE didn't get to talk to anybody.  After one frustration after another, I was able to call back and speak to Elder Lakey (whose name I recognized from Sister Carlos' blog).  I explained that I had missed Elder Odom's call and was wondering if I could speak to him.  He told me the missionaries had just left for a meeting where all the new missionaries were being introduced and would be meeting their new companions.  He said he would check with President Carolos and see if Jarom might be able to call back.  It wasn't guaranteed, so when the phone rang a couple of hours later with that same number...YAY!  I was able to talk to Jarom for a few minutes.  He was exhausted, but had hit the ground running!  His companion was with him - he's from the Philippines, so I  couldn't understand his name  He wasn't sure what area he would be in - I'm sure he was completely overwhelmed, and he said they were teaching a lesson that evening.  He said he had gotten on the bus in Manila the night before at 7:00 pm and had arrived in Cauayan at 7:00 am - a twelve hour bus ride through the mountains.  He said the bus driver was crazy - he really enjoyed it!  Thank you to Sister Lundy, whose son is also serving in the Cauayan mission, for this correction: the Philippines is actually fourteen hours ahead of Texas.  So right this minute (Friday, 12/14/12 @ 7:00pm) it is Saturday, 12/15/12 @ 9:00am - crazy, huh?!  Jarom left SLC Monday night and arrive at the mission home Wednesday night - quite a journey!  His P-day will be on Monday, so we look forward to his first email from the mission field!!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Journey Begins

Jarom is in the air!  We are tracking him on Flight Tracker - Delta 1211!  I realized I didn't get his entire itinerary - maybe I'll be able to figure it out.  He flies from SLC to LA - he'll arrive there one hour earlier than when he left!  He'll then fly to Hong Kong, then Manila.  When he gets to Manila he will get on a bus for eight to ten hours and travel to his area - Cauayan.  The Philippines is ten hours earlier than Texas, so he will have left Utah Monday night and arrive in the Philippines Monday morning or afternoon - crazy!
This has been a very emotional day for me.  It started with finding an email he sent early this morning.  You could feel his excitement!!!  His letter was full of the things he has learned over the last nine weeks at the MTC, and his burning testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ!  There is nothing as joyful as your child's testimony!
Then this evening he called us from the airport.  That was awesome!  I saw that 801 area code and screamed, "it's Elder Odom!"  The best part of the conversation was right before we hung up,  Jarom said a prayer in Tagalog.  Wow! 
He is ready to start teaching the gospel and serving the Lord!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jarom Odom or Ryan Gosling?!

A lot of people think Jarom looks like Ryan Gosling...he kind of does, huh?!  In today's email he tells this story: "I was doing service yesterday morning and this old lady came up to me who is like forty or fifty years old (haha...really, Jarom?  Old lady who is forty or fifty?!) for the second time and this time said, 'Hey Noah!'  Like off of The Notebook.  She said how I look just like him and that she wishes that my hair was longer and I didn't have to shave.  She ended our conversation with, 'you are cuter than a bug's nose!'  and then she went back to work."

Philippines...Here He Comes!

Got Jarom's weekly email this evening.  His nine weeks at the MTC is almost over.  He received his flight plans: He leaves Salt Lake City Monday, 10 Dec 2012 in the evening.  He'll fly to Los Angeles, CA, then to Hong Kong, China, then to Manila Philippines.  He'll then have a six to ten hour bus ride to his area.  Everything has an exclamation point after it - he sounds REALLY EXCITED!
He had the opportunity to be a host last Wednesday and will do the same thing tomorrow (12/5/12).  The host stands at the curb as new missionaries arrive, and takes them - one at a time - into the MTC.  He helps them with their luggage, takes them to their room, and helps them get started.  I'll never forget his host when we dropped him off: Elder Richardson from Dallas, Texas.  He was wonderful.  Jarom said he got to host five missionaries last week and is hoping to do the same tomorrow.
I am so thankful for Jarom's choice to serve the Lord in the Philippines these next two years.  Partly because I know of the great joy and blessings that will come into his life, and partly because I know of the great joy and blessings he will bring into the lives of those he teaches!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Our Missionary!

Elizabeth texted me this picture Monday (11/12/12)
He looks so happy!!!

October 30, 2012

This may be hard to read.  Jarom drew this at the end of a letter:
It says, "Here is something to give y'all strength!" Then then drew his name tag!
The actual name tag - I LOVE it!

The First Email!

Jarom's "P" day is on Tuesdays and we received the first email October 16th:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I will go ahead and say that the first day was extremely hard!  Going to sleep that night was tough and that's when it really hit me hard.  Right before I left, Elizabeth gave me a letter she wrote to me the day before I entered the MTC.  That letter made all of my fears go away and I felt peace...I have two companions...one is elder Slater from Utah and the other is Elder Clarke from New Zealand...
Elizabeth has a friend who works at the MTC and she took this picture of Jarom and his two companions, I don't which is which!  My favorite part of this picture is the missionary tag!


Jarom reported to the MTC 10 Oct 2012 at 1:00pm.  We arrived in the parking lot across the street about noon and visited until the moment arrived.
Skyler Cutler - our cousin - came by to see us while we waited for Jarom to report.  What a wonderful surprise!!!
Jarom and his cousin, Ashley.  They grew up together and have always been great friends!
Oh, they are so cool!
From left to right: Elizabeth, Jarom, Tanner, Ashley
Crazy kids!
Elizabeth and Jarom
It is very fitting that they are together at the MTC.  This young woman is every mother's blessing.  Every word and every action has been to encourage Jarom to serve a mission, and to push him to reach higher and to be everything that Heavenly Father has planned for him to be.

Looking at the entrance to the MTC from across the street.

I dreamed for nineteen years of this day: the day our son would arrive at the MTC.  It was wonderful and very traumatic at the same time!  For days I had asked Jarom if he was getting nervous; his reply was always the same, "No! I'm ready!"  The morning before he reported I asked him the same question and his answer was, "I don't know".  The moment he reported he looked like he was about to cry - the expression on his face broke my heart.  I kept asking him if he was okay, but he didn't answer - he looked like he was in shock!  His escort was Elder Richardson from Dallas, Texas. I'll never forget him. He kept telling me Jarom was going to be okay; that he was going to show him around and take care of him; not to worry.  And then, as I clung to my son sobbing, an older gentleman walked up and with such sweetness and tenderness and patience said to me, "I'm sorry mom, you have to go"!  That's Jarom walking away (in the gray suit).


Look what we found there...my sweet little Ashley!
Look what else we found...Elizabeth!!!  So many treasures found on the BYU campus!
The "Y" on the mountain overlooking Provo

Provo Temple

 The Missionary Mall is awesome!  We went in on Monday and got Jarom's suit, all his slacks and white shirts, and other misc stuff he needed.  They had all the pants and the suit tailored and ready for us to pick up on Tuesday.  The shoes he needed for the Philippines had to be ordered and when they came in, they delivered them to the MTC!  They also have a registry so friends and family can help get your missionary ready to go!

This is a big map inside The Missionary Mall
 Elder Tanner Arsenault: California Los Angles - Spanish speaking
Elder Jarom Odom: Philippines Cayauan
They will be serving on opposite ends of the earth!


Friday, November 9, 2012

Temple Square

 Temple Square!!!
The beautiful Salt Lake City Temple

Another view... 

And another view...
From left to right: Jarom, Elizabeth, Me, Sister Pilmer, Milton
Sister Pilmer was one of our missionaries who served in Woodville. 
It was awesome to spend time with her in Utah!
The grounds on Temple Square during General Conference
The beautiful conference center. There were I don't know how many tens of thousands of people in the Conference Center, but the moment President Monson walked in there was instant and complete silence and everybody stood.  It was an amazing experience.
 Jarom and Elizabeth in the Conference Center
 From left to right: Elder Boddie, Elder Odom, Elder Arsenault

 From left to right: Brother and Sister Boddie, Ian Boddie,
Tanner Arsenault, Jarom Odom, Betty and Milton Odom

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

America! America!

We took a route to Utah that took us through the Rocky Mountains.  They were spectacular - words cannot express and pictures do not do them justice...

Snow in Colorado

On 05 Oct 2012 at 5:07am we left for Utah to take Jarom to the MTC.  The first day we drove about sixteen hours and made it to Auroa, Colorado to spend the night at the Arsenault's house.  Thank you so much to Dennis and Becky for their generosity and hospitality.  We woke up the next morning to snow on the ground!
Tanner and Jarom

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Farewell Dinner

 It's a tradition in our branch to make these pillowcases and send them with our missionaries.
 Lots of good food!
Aunt Marilyn admiring Elder Odom's muscle!

 We had all the Philippino colors: red, yellow, blue, and white.  Everybody looks happy!
 The plates are never big enough!
My handsome sons!