Sunday, December 29, 2013
Maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat!!
Where to even start...these have been two of my very favorite weeks of my mission. Christmas as a missionary is one of my very favorite things! There is nothing like it and it will always be a December I will never forget.
First of all, on Saturday we got the greatest Christmas gift of all when we saw Ninoy Sulla baptized. It was an amazing day, one he has been waiting for for so long and he was beaming the whole time. His twin brother Toni who is a recent convert and the one who referred us to him was his baptizer and got to exercise his priesthood for the first time. Everything was just so special. We asked Ninoy on Sunday how he felt and all he could say was, "Masaya!" or "Happy!" and he just said it over and over again. We are so excited for him and all he will add to the ward and the difference this will make in his life.
For the past 12 weeks Sister Sia and I have been praying to find a family to teach and it just hasn't seemed to happen but this week we found them...the Dionisho family. They are former investigators that we have taught on and off but they have just never been able to make any changes or really progress. Then this past week Sister Sia and I both felt that it was time to visit them again so we did and this time was different... they are ready! We invited them again to church, texted them Saturday night and they came!! There is nothing like seeing the people you have been waiting, hoping and praying for walk through the chapel doors. We are so excited for them and all the progress they are now making towards baptism. On a funny note, their little kids always run around yelling, "Mormons!" when we come and they happened to see us in the chapel and began doing that during the Sacrament. If that doesn't make everyone aware that they are investigators I don't know what else would :)
Yesterday for Christmas Eve us four kabahay or roommates had a whole celebration. Our Bishop gave us take-out with a Christmas ham and everything...have I told you yet how amazing he is? So we set up our whole feast and then after that played some Christmas games (including the cereal one Mom-they loved it!) and then opened presents that different members had given us. We read the first Christmas story from Luke, had a sleep over in the other sister's room and fell asleep to Sister Jenkins telling us stories. Then I woke up early on Christmas morning (today) and put the little things you had sent Mom in some socks we had taped up then went back up to bed. We woke up said our prayers and they came down and saw their stockings (ankle socks) and were so excited. We opened those and then had our Secret Santa gift exchange with each other. We relaxed and just enjoyed Christmas. It was perfect! Seriously. I love being a missionary at Christmas.
This past week we had Christmas Conference and it was honestly amazing. I loved every minute of it. By far my favorite part was when they surprised us and said we would be watching a movie and guess what it was...Ephriam's Rescue. I freaked out. For those of you who don't know it is about my great great great grandpa and so as his ancestors my family got to be involved in some of the filming. I totally saw you Dad like 4 times and Grandpa your hands and beard DEFINITELY made an appearance. I loved every minute of it and have pondered quite about about it since. There is so much I loved from it but I think my very favorite thing was when Ephriam was asked to participate in the rescue and he replied, "I am ready now." That phrase had a special impact on me because being ready always to the Lord's call has been something I have been trying to focus on in my mission. 1 Peter 3:15 which reads, "...be ready always..." has become I guess a motto for me. When I feel overwhelmed by approaching the person in the jeepney or apprehensive about a lesson I think about that and am always filled with the courage to act. I am so grateful for the reason for this season. The knowledge that we have our Savior who lived and died for each of us, who set the perfect example of submitting to the Father's will in all things and ready in every way to run his Father's errands. I hope to serve my Father in such a way that he can trust me to "be ready always" as the calls comes.
I love you all so much!! Merry Christmas!!
Filipino Fun Fact:
Here in the Philippines, December 24th is actually the big day, when all the celebrating happens. They prepare mounds and mounds of food. All the families come together drink haha, sing karaoke and just plain celebrate. Then at midnight they open all their gifts. People do sort of believe in Santa here but not a whole lot especially because there really isn't a lot of money for gifts to be given. Yesterday the one lesson we were able to teach because so many were busy was in a dark little shack with no electricity. We taught a less-active sister named, Delilah. She told us that she had told her children how lucky they were that they just had time to relax on Christmas and think about the reason for the holiday instead of being busy with all the cooking and presents because they don't have enough money. She is such a humble women! I really do love Christmas in the Philippines!
Monday, December 23, 2013
Kumusta na kayong lahat?
What a week. Sister Sia and I loved this week. With training we have been working on having the courage to extend baptismal dates to our investigators in the first lesson. Kind of scary but ALWAYS worth it. So that was our goal this week, only problem is you need investigators first. So we have been praying like crazy to know how to help this ward and area progress and also to find new investigators. Do you remember Sister Alonde that I told you about last week who introduced us to all of her friends? Well she is amazing and I will NEVER forget her example of member missionary work. We were able to go back and teach more of her friends and neighbors and gave ALL of them baptism dates which they accepted and were also able to contact and extend baptismal dates to some former investigators and referrals we contacted. The first appointment we went to knowing we were going to try and extend a baptismal date I told Sister Sia she was going to do it. Haha she was so mad and really didn't want to but I told I wouldn't be helping her in anyway if I just did it for her. We did a lot of practice teaching so she was totally prepared and headed to the lesson--- she was silent the whole way there :) But when we got to the lesson it went perfecting and she extending the baptimal date which they accepted and she walked away with a huge smile on her face haha I love that sister. We'll see how the investigators progress we still have only taught them one or two lessons but we are excited to see progress in the area.
Brother Ninoy is doing so great and is so excited for his baptism in two weeks. I can't wait for him!! Speaking of answered prayers. Bishop got up and just started announced newly called ward missionaries, about 9 of them. We are so excited to work with them! They are so many who either have calls or are now working on the paper work. Malanday Ward will exploding with youth and young single adults ready to serve. I am so excited for them!
This past week I have been thinking quite a bit about agency and obedience. As I said before it is one of my very favorite things to study and teach. I read a talk by Elder Christofferson where he said, "It is exciting to realize that we can expound our freedom by perfecting our obedience." It's so true! I have seen it so many times in the people we teach. When they are prepared and willing to exercise the great gift that our Father has given us of agency correctly miracles occur and we are set free. I am so grateful for a mission that is teaching me and allowing me to experience the joy of self-mastery through obedience in all things. I am so grateful for the Savior whose perfect example and sacrifice set us all free.
I love you all so much. Mahal na mahal ko kayong lahat at ingat kayo palagi!
Filipino Fun Fact:
Contrary to popular belief this country does not make you loss weight- SO MUCH RICE...I got of the first scale I've seen since coming to the Philippines at Bishop's house this week...I've gained 20 pounds...this is not a joke. Good thing I've still got 9 months before I come home...good news is I've been told I wear it well hahahaha.
Here is the actually cultural fact connected to this. Sister Sia will not eat unless I am eating so even if she is super duper hungry so will not eat so I eat ALL the time so that she will eat her food. This isn't the way all Filipinos are but I've talked to other Filipinos for Bacalod (where she is from) and they said they are the same way. She also thinks it is hilarious to the tell members that I am losing weight here so they pile more and more and more food on my plate...just so you know there is no one on earth that can say no when a Filipino nanay or mom tells you to eat. Good thing the food is almost always delicious!
I hope you are all having amazing holidays! I miss you all :)
We also had a less-active sister return to activity this week. She hasn't been less-active for very long she just kind of lost sight of things for awhile. I've told you about her before. Her name is Sister Laude and I love her so much! I will never forget theI saw her walk into sacrament meeting and see has been there religiously ever since even though she has to walk and then ride a tricycle and jeepney all while hauling her two young and totally wild grandkids. Last week we were sitting in our district meeting and I saw her out the window. I went outside to see if she was okay and she said she was here to renew her temple recommend. I just broke in the biggest smile and sqeezed her. We had never talked to her about her temple recommend but it was amazing to me that as she started obeying on commandment everything just followed. This past week she was able to go to the temple again. Something she hadn't done for a year. We are so excited for her. The one downer is she wasn't at church ...
I love this work, especially at Christmas time. It has been so weird. It really doesn't feel like Christmas for me, its just so different. Different country, no family, etc. But I have been able to come closer to the Savior. I have tried to focus all of my study on the Savior and do all I can to make it special since I will only have one Christmas as a missionary. I decided to try and think about what I can give Him as a gift this Christmas. I have been thinking of so many different things I could do and work on for Him but last night, at the Christmas Devotional rebroadcast, I was stuck by what President Monson said. He asked the very question I had been pondering, "What can we give Him?" He answered by saying our hearts, giving Him a tender and loving heart. I want to do all I can to better seal my heart for His courts on high this Christmas as His missionary. I know that He lives and we can find no greater source real and lasting joy.
I love you all!!
Filipino Fun Fact:
First of all I would like to say these fun facts are now Filipina approved. I don't know how because I haven't told anyone my first name but some of the girls from our English Class searched me online and found the blog Brenna posts these on. One of them came up to me after class and said that she agreed with all my facts haha. [Salamat sa approval nyo, Joyce at Analyn, kung binabasa nyo ito.]
I think I might have already shared this but people no matter what mode of transportation someone has the make use of every free space. In the jeepneys no matter how full they are the drivers will yell out, "Isa pa!" or "One more!" Someone else will get in and when they see about and inch between you and the person next to you they will just turn around and start backing into the seat so you have to choice but to try and make room haha they basically end up sitting on your lap. Same rule applies to motorcycles, tricycles and anything with wheels. Last night I saw a family drive past me on their motorcycle including-- Mom, Dad, Big Brother, Toddler and Baby (in Mom's arms). I also see people go past on their bicycles with someone sitting on the handlebars (like we used to do on Randi's bike as kids) or on the cross bar but the kicker is the it is usually done with two men...haha so weird but I love it.
Wow I really can't believe how fast the time keeps flying. Sister Sia and I have already been together for 6 weeks, one transfer down. It scares me how fast the time is going. I feel like I'm just going to blink and find myself on an airplane headed to the States.
This week we had a super high and super low moment with those we are teaching.
For the low, we don't know if Brother Pernia will be able to be baptized. There are just some underlying problems that we found out this week that are completely in his hands to fix and we don't know how or when that will be. We are going to keep praying for him and supporting him. He has made so much progress, especially with the Word of Wisdom so hopefully he will able to make the other necessary difficult changes and choices. One exciting moment this week with their family though was that Shina, their 15-year-old extremely sassy teenage, came to church early on her own and stayed after to participate with the young women. I really have seen changes in her. Also, their youngest son Abraham is 6-years-old but has just learned to walk and hasn't yet learned how to speak. I love that little boy so much and he honestly is such a light. We have been working so hard to teach him how to shake hands with us each time we come and he is starting to get it :)
For the high, Brother Ninoy came to church!!! Ah I can't even say how happy I was when I saw him walk in and basically ran straight to him. But man has he faced some struggles in the last week. He and his twin brother had to move and look for new work and then on top of all that stress he faced a far more difficult challenge. Ninoy is from Leyte, an area that was severely effected by typhoon Yolanda. He called his parents and younger brother the night before the storm and has since had no contact with them because there is still no cell phone signal there. He has no idea if they are alive or not or what their circumstances are. As we talked he began struggling not to cry and I could only image how difficult and scary waiting for ANY news would be. We were going to teach him after church so Sister Sia and I went to a room to pray for help in knowing what he needed and how to possibly comfort him. Before our lesson we had Ward Council and I suddenly found myself explaining his situation to Bishop Dela Cruz not sure why or how he could help. I love that man who then took Brother Ninoy aside in the best display of fellowshipping I have ever seen and brought him into his office where he got all the information he could from Ninoy. Bishop Dela Cruz said that we have a chapel in the exact town that Ninoy's family lives and the bishop and ward members will now be looking for Ninoy's family. I am so amazed by the way prayers are answered everyday. This storm really has had such an effect on people here. Twice now Sister Sia and I have talked to individuals on the jeepney who have began crying because of either coming from Taclooban witnessing the devastation or still having family and friends unaccounted for there. Keep praying for the people there and those with loved ones effected. Our mission this week had 18 missionaries from Taclooban mission reassigned here, which means that those missionaries supposed to go home in December (like Sister Yagemai) are going home immediately in order to accommodate the changes. So much change! Earlier this week we all had an opportunity as missionaries to go through our clothes and things and gather what we didn't need or were willing to give in order to help the missionaries coming from Taclooban because they came here with only the clothes on their backs.
I have just been reminded again and again how grateful I am for the hope and peace that comes through a knowledge of God and his plan for us. I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to share that message of peace with the people here in the Philippines who already have a deep love for God.
I love you all so much. You are always in my prayers.
Filipino Fun Fact:
Filipinos are very trusting people in so many ways but one of those ways is in their willingness to just give out their addresses. It makes life very easy as a missionary when street contacting because it is not weird or awkward in the least to just ask, "So what is your number and exact address?" Often times it is just a part of everyday normal conversation to just ask where someone lives to a complete stranger which freaked me out a bit at first but I love it!
First of all, we are all safe and sound here in the Quezon City North Mission. The severe typhoon didn't hit us. We were told to get enough food and water for three days as a precaution, heard about the storm constantly from everyone we talked to and got some crazy clouds and strong winds but that was about all we felt from it. I just can't believe the southern Philippines-- Visayas--- got hit with it after experiencing an earthquake a couple weeks ago! Sister Sia's family got hit by the storm but they are fine.
This week Ninoy did not come to church again and he isn't answering our texts. We are praying for him and worried that he was offended at the YSA activity. Hopefully we will be able to contact him this week. He is so ready for baptism and knows this church is true.
Brother and Sister Pernia did come to church which we were so excited about AND they came early which is like a HUGE deal here because no one comes early. That was something they decided to do on their own and promised they would be there early because they felt it was important :) We are trying so hard to help him with the word of wisdom and reading the Book of Mormon but it is still a struggle. Sometimes people's free agency is frustrating for me on the mission haha now I know how Heavenly Father must feel with us all the time. I know that this message will change his life, help him find peace, joy and happiness and we know he knows it too, he just hasn't acted on it yet...its frustrating haha but Sister Sia and I want so badly to be the last set of missionaries to go through this cycle with him and feel like we are supposed to keep working with him. So for now we are going to keep praying like crazy and giving him everything we've got.
Yesterday we coordinated with the Relief Society to do a One-Day-Mission. We split everyone into companionships (like a massive one day visiting teaching activity) and then went and taught the less-actives sisters and their families. Sister Sia and I went on splits so that we could teach more people and I got the chance to work with two sister from the ward-- Sister Baquiran and Sister Nagrit. It was such a neat experience and inspiring to see how excited the sisters were as they all left in their companionships to go to teach their sisters in various areas of the ward. As I was walking with Sister Nagrit and Sister Baquiran I was just filled with such a love for the work here. Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating/discouraging working here because there are so many less-actives and at times things are pretty disorganized but my love for the people, the ward and the church in the Philippines as I walked with these two sisters for hours going from house to house helping to "rescue" those who had lost their way and was inspired by the joy Sister Nagrit and Sister Baquiran found in it.
I am so grateful for this work and the role we ALL have in it. This week and over the past few weeks, as I mentioned last week, I've been doing a lot of self-reflection. Last transfer I was told by someone that I didn't have any faith or that I didn't expect and see miracles. I thought I had just brushed the comment off but these past few weeks I've realized how much I had actually let it effect me. It had me questioning my effectiveness as a missionary, if my lack of faith was preventing those I was teaching from progressing, etc. I've been praying for my heart to be opened and to be worthy of witnessing miracles and acting on faith. Today as I prayed and studied I was filled with peace and realized that I had simply done as Preach My Gospel warns against. I had let my discouragement damage my faith but I am so grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who hears and answers all our prayers and for a Savior who knows all of our fears and disappointments. I am grateful for the opportunity I, and all of us, have each day to exercise faith and witness miracles as witnesses of Jesus Christ.
I love you all and never stop praying for you.
Filipino Fun Fact:
Filipinos are AWESOME at recycling and reusing anything and everything. I am always amazed at the uses that they come up with for things in order to get everything they can out of it. One example is posters. You will see old posters, especially from political campaigns, reused a canopy on all the tindahans (little stores on the streets), as seat covers in the jeepneys (which is always funny when you sit down on an past candidates face), and about a million other uses.
Well as always it was another great week. As far as work went this week was a little rough because we spent most of our time in meetings but they were amazing as always so we aren't complaining.
On Thursday we had Zone Conference all day about 2 hours away in Camarin and the next day we were supposed to come back for Follow-Up Training Meeting so to make things easier we just spent the night there...which means I got to go back to Rainbow House and Deparo, my first area! It was so weird being back in the apartment and walking the same streets (not to be super dramatic). I just kept thinking about how much has already changed and how much I have changed in not that much time. One things for sure is missions are full of change on so many different levels.
Lately I have been feeling a bit discouraged about my work as a missionary and what my role is in the Malanday 2 area. I have gotten comfortable now with the language, the lessons and just being a missionary so it is easy to kind of feel settled and I started worried that I wasn't progressing as I should and helping this area to do the same. As we went to church on Sunday those were my thoughts and then no one that promised they would come to church came, including Ninoy who ALWAYS comes and is supposed to be getting baptized in 2 weeks. I just started giving all thoughts and feeling to my Heavenly Father and seeking help, comfort and guidance. It was the primary program (which the Philippines takes to a whole other level haha) and it was all centered on "I Am A Child of God". I loved it but was still feeling pretty discouraged. I just started trying to have the best attitude I could and recognize all the good that was happening. I remembered the people who were already there I hadn't expected like the Corpin, Dugo and Franscisco family. I started to feel and peace and then as we were standing to sing the rest hymn I turned around to see old Sister Laude walking in the door. This is a stubborn older less-active women who I NEVER expected to see attend church. I was completely overwhelmed. I don't think I have ever smiled that big and tears were definitely shed. As soon as sacrament was over I booked it over to her and just hugged her and she cried as well. She just said to me looking around that she has missed this church. God is so good! And then he showed us another miracle. During Relief Society I looked over to see Sister Pernia walk into the room a less-active women who has been returning to church but who's husband is not a member but has a baptismal date and who's children are all very less-active. We have been doing everything we can to get them to church and nothing was working and so many promises to come. I looked over to her and she just smiled with tears and said, "Nandito kami lahat" meaning "We are all hear". Sister Sia and I booked it outside and sure enough their ENTIRE family was there. That is a miracle I will never forget.
Our Heavenly Father truly is so aware of us, each and EVERY one of us. His plan is so perfect and I am continually overwhelmed by that fact. I am continually being taught to trust in His plan before my own because His is ALWAYS far better than I could ever imagine. I am so grateful for the time He has given me as His missionary.
I love you all so much. Thank you for your love support and examples. We have been using the Work of Salvation videos a lot in our work lately and I absolutely love them. I would encourage everyone to go watch them with their families. The Lord truly is hastening His work and it is so exciting to be a part of it, all of us are!
Mahal na mahal ko kayong lahat.
Filipino Fun Fact:
Copyright does not exist in the Philippines...or if it does EVERYONE ignores it. You can buy (not that I do) Nike, North Face, Channel and anything you could possibly want off the streets. That is just an example. Everything you see is probably illegally copied including pictures from the LDS picture library blown-up and used on other churches. Haha its great.
Sorry I know this is awful quality but this is the Pernia family at church all together for the first time in I don't know how long. Samson (7-years-old) is missing from this picture because he would dive out of the picture every time we tried to take it.