Sunday, August 10, 2014

"Everlasting Beginnings"

Dear Family,

Is this really it? I honestly can't wrap my mind around the idea that next Monday I won't be in a computer shop writing you another email while wiping sweat off my forehead. I always wondered how the last email would feel and what I would say. I think what I imagined was correct....the way I feel and things I'm thinking really aren't expressible and a simple email definitely isn't adequate but I'll do my best :)

This week was fabulous. Truly one filled with miracles. 

I went on my last exchanges as a sister training leader, a calling I will also be grateful for. We had the opportunity to go back to my first area. Of course it was an incredible experience working in my first area my last week in the field. While there I received the best ending to an already cherished mission. Maricel Pedral, the less-active women we found my first week in the Philippines, went through the temple! Visiting her and listening to her describe how she felt as she finally made it to the temple was a glimpse of heaven will be like. When we surprised her at her home she came barreling out the door and straight into my arms. After we hugged, I pulled her back and said, "I hear you have news for me!" She got the biggest grin, yelled, "YES!" and proudly rolled up her sleeve to show me her garments :) I love this sister so much. She lives in the poorest circumstances, but never ceased to keep a smile on. She explained that before going to the temple they went to the small distribution center (PBO) to buy garments. While in line a couple offered to buy her garments for her. This truly is a miracle as she likely didn't know how she was going to pay for it. She said, "The blessings started before we ever even got inside the temple!"   Saying goodbye to her was so hard. We hugged and cried, laughed and promised to be best friends in the next life if we don't meet again in this one. I was also told that the Pramoso family, another less-active family we worked with, will be sealed this September!

This week and the ending of my mission has only filled me with increased gratitude for God's goodness, His perfect plan and timing. There were many times on my mission that I knew I was doing all I could and the Lord was proud of me, but I still didn't feel successful as a missionary, however in the last few months He has shown me in so many ways the fruits of my labors and it has been humbling. I am so grateful for the knowledge I have that this is His work and we are merely His instruments. The thought of removing my nametag brings me to tears and the thought of saying goodbye to all those I love here only makes the tears continue to flow. Last conference President Uchtdorf gave a talk that perfectly describes my feelings...

"In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.

Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.
The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions-- temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.

How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings."

I am so grateful to know that the ending of my mission isn't really an ending at all, rather a time to move on to what the Lord has in store both for me and the people here. I know that because of the plan of salvation we will all live again and if we are worthy return to the God we love. I know that, be it now or in the next life, I will see these people again, but until then we all have a great a glorious work to continue. I know that this church is true from the very depths of my heart. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God called to bring this restored truth to the earth in our day. I know that we have a living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, who has all power and revelation from God and we will be protected and kept safe as we follow him. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and we can find peace as we search its pages. I know that God is our loving Heavenly Father and He knows us each individually And I know that Christ is our Savior, He lives and I love Him with all my heart. I will eternally be grateful for the time He has given me to represent Him in the Quezon City North Philippines mission.

Paalam sa aking minamahal na bansa, ang Philipinas. Salamat sa lahat na ibinigay nyo sa akin.

Love always,
Sister Porter

Filipino Fun Fact:

I love this crazy country and words are most definitely not adequate to explain it to you. Someday we'll just have to all come here together and you can witness it for yourself :)

Sister Maricel with her temple recommend. We couldn't be happier.

See you soon in the U.S.A :)

"I Need Thee Every Hour"

Hey Family!

As always we had a great week but we were absolutely all over the place this week so I am just give you a nice little list:

Monday: My last transfer announcements. Its been fun to wait anxiously every 6 weeks to see where you are going and how your life will change. Sister Benesch and I will just stay together until I'm finished and then my replacement will transfer here. I'm really happy about it :)

Tuesday: I had my exit day and final interview with the missionaries going home on transfer day [since Sister Loo and I are going home in the middle of the transfer]. It was the strangest experience. On the bus ride there I got super emotional and all dramatic looking out the window at the people and scenes that I love and pretty soon won't see for a long time, but after I got that out of my system it was just a fantastic spiritual high. We had a barbque for the first time in 18 months with REAL potatoe chips!! We had an incredible workshop with President Bertin and a really sacred testimony meeting. It was crazy seeing all the missionaries I've worked so close with and respect so much climb into the vans with their luggage and head out. Sister Loo and I just kept saying we were glad it wasn't us yet :) and we got dropped off by the APs back in our areas.

Wednesday: Sister Benesch and I had to help a new sister who was transfering travel across our mission to Malolos. We spent hours in buses, fx (like big taxis), jeepneys and just about anything else you can imagine. It was exciting to be back in Malolos for a bit even if it was only an hour. I loved being assigned in the province and miss it so much!

Thursday: We had a service project building a house for some members. It was a blast mixing cement Pilipino style and passing it up homemade ladders one missionary at a time. 

Friday: I had my last Mission Leadership Council meeting. It was weird to realize that I won't be there to see the fruits of a lot of what we were discussing. It was an incredible meeting though. My favorite part however was talking to a sister who had done exchanges in my old area in Malolos. She said that she had met Evelyn (the sister I mention a lot that was less-active and came to church after we smiled at her). Anyways she asked the missionary if she knew me and when she said yes she told her the whole story, with the help of her husband who was standing next to her. Evelyn said she saw Sister Ayub and I walking and when we said smiled at her she felt prompted to try and find the church again. After doing she we began meeting with her and she began to transform. Every week we tried to get her husband Dandilo to listen but he always avoided us. One day we unfortunately saw Dandilo abusing Evelyn while under the influence of drugs. After that Evelyn didn't come to church for many weeks and we tried to continue to love and support her. Although we were tempted to be angry with Dandilo and we were sorry she decided to stay with him we tried to still show love and respect towards him. Each week we continued to invite him to the lessons and each week he continued to refuse, however, he began coming closer and closer as we taught and trying to make himself look busy. After that I was transferred and didn't know what had happened. At this point, Dandilo told this missionary that although I didn't know he was listening to the lessons he always was and it was changing him. He opened his wallet and showed him a picture I had sent Evelyn and her and I. He said he began feeling the need to give up his addictive habits and attend church. I learned that he now comes to church with Evelyn every Sunday in a white shirt and tie as well as attends other ward functions throughout the week. Evelyn and him are working on their paper work for their marriage and his baptism. God truly is a God of miracles!

Sunday: Butch Pagunsan came to church and blessed the sacrament in his new white shirt and tie for the first time!!! To make the day even more special his son then passed the sacrament to us. Then Butch bore his testimony for the first time in sacrament meeting about his gratitude for all who had helped him on his journey and about the truthfulness of the restored gospel and his desire now to share it with others so they can experience this joy. I love that family so much and my heart breaks at the thought of saying goodbye to them!

Throughout my mission whenever I have had distracting thoughts, feel overwhelmed, scared or basically at anytime I have sung to myself the song, "I Need Thee Every Hour". It has constantly filled me with strength to keep going, to be more, to trust him and that Him always comes in our hour of need. I testify that that is true. I have experienced it daily and seen the effects of the Savior's hand in others lives. I love you all!

Love always,
Sister Porter

Filipino Fun Fact:
In order to use our phones we have to have something called load that I actually have no idea how to explain ha but basically its like a gun that when you use it you have to reload and buy more. It really random and not very efficient ha but now its all I know. 

Exit Day

Service project.

Mixing cement and building houses :)

Pagod na pero napakasaya parin

Hello all!

So this is going to be one of those emails where I just throw everything out there and hopefully you can decipher it because I am functioning on about half my brain at this point. Sister Loo and I woke up at 4:00 am this morning to travel to the immigration office for finger printing... we are leaving the country and the closer it gets the more scared I get and the more I just want to stay here. I like mission problems dealing with salvation a whole lot more than I like money, jobs, school, etc. :) But its all good. Straight from immigration I met up with Sister Benesch again and we taught a workshop in the "Meet the President" meeting which we will be doing again this Wednesday. It was a lot of fun and we got to teach on our favorite topic-- working with members. We also gave a workshop last week in zone training on gaining perspective which was really neat. Then we had exchanges with the sisters in Camarin, so basically we have just been all over the place. 

Now for the best news, BUTCH PAGUNSAN IS GETTING BAPTIZE!. I don't think I can adequately express how much this means to him, us, the ward, everyone. It has been such a trail of everyone's faith and such an incredible journey with so many miracles every step of the way. On Friday as we were doing our weekly planning when we got a call from President Bertin and the first thing he said was, "Your prayers have been answered." and then he went on to explain that he had received word that Brother Butch may be baptized as soon as possible. Such an incredible day. I know this probably doesn't make a lot of sense since I haven't told you a lot of his story but I will save that for in person because there is no way I can adequately do it through an email. When we got the news, we cried, screamed and jumped up and down and went as soon as possible to their home. They were so excited and we then went on to teach about temples and eternal families. Ah it was an incredible experience and they are already looking forward to being sealed July 2015. This Saturday Butch and his son Ace will be baptized which means their family will all be new members, except for their 3-year-old son, Elias. We joke that every Sunday the Pagunsan's life changes and its so true. This Sunday, Sally got a calling in Relief Society, Andrie got the priesthood, Christian said the prayer in primary and Ace was interviewed for baptism. Then Sunday evening we taught our other part-member family who is working toward baptism and marriage in the Pagunsan's home and it was incredbile to hear them testify of the truthfulness of the gospel and how they overcame different difficulties in searching for the truth. I don't know if this makes any sense but basically this past weekend was the happiest I've ever been, where answered prayers and miracles and the hand of the Lord were seen :)

On another side note, after finishing a service project cutting grass for a member with machettes looking horrible and covered in dirt we went as a district to McDonalds for lunch. As we walked in the doors we all just stopped and stood in shock for a moment. The room was full of white people our age nicely dressed and ordering food. It was the most shocking thing to see, like honest culture shock. We ended up talking with them and they were missionaries from a Christian denomination from America teaching about Christ from school to school. They are all here for 2-5 weeks and it was pretty funny when one of them asked how long we were here for and an elder about to go home answered, "Two years..." It was actually a really impactful experience to be on the other-side of talking to missionaries and wondering what they are doing here and what their motives are. It made me appreciate all the more my calling and every interaction I have with the people here. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to represent my Savior and only hope that I adequately do so. 

I love you all!! Mahal ko kayo. Ingat palagi.

Love always,
Sister Porter

 Service project Filipino style

Breaking the news to the Pagunsan family about the baptism!!

                     Ward garden project to grow and plant food for those in the ward who have very little

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Loving God

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Sister Porter :

Many years ago I was driving home from a meeting listening to a discussion on the radio. A man had written a book about how violent the God of the Old Testament was. He used a lot of scriptures to try to prove his point. A few people called in to the program trying to defend God, but the man would quote scriptures and refute their defense. As I rode along I tried to think of what I would say to that man. I came up with three scriptures, and I have since added one. I don’t think anything will persuade the man, but it helps me to refute his argument.

One thing he and the people calling in didn’t understand is that the God of the Old Testament is Jesus Christ—the same one who came in the meridian of time teaching love, mercy, kindness, and compassion. I think it is critical to understand that in any discussion we might have on this subject.

The first scripture I thought of was Moses 7: 28-29, where Enoch asked the Lord why he was seeping. It says:

And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

The Lord then explained to Enoch that the reason He was weeping was because of the wickedness of His children. He wanted them to choose Him as their father but they wouldn’t. God was going to destroy the wicked, but it wasn’t something He wanted to do—He wept because it was necessary. The God of Heaven wept. This scripture shows me the deep feelings of love and compassion that God has for His children. Even when He lets us suffer the consequences of our choices, He still loves us and has compassion on us. Enoch was also taught that God would send His Son to work out the Atonement. The Atonement was an act of love on the part of the Savior and our Father in Heaven. A vengeful, violent God wouldn’t sacrifice His life or the life of His Beloved Son for the welfare of wicked people.

The second scripture is 1 Nephi 19: 9. It teaches us why the Savior did what He did for us:

 And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.

The Savior allowed Himself to be scourged, spit upon and crucified because of His loving kindness towards the children of men. A God who delights in violence would never do that. In my scriptures I have underlined 20 times where it talks about God’s loving kindness. I believe that even when He has to chasten us it is because of His loving kindness. This brings us to the third scripture that is found in D&C 133: 52. The Savior describes how he has trodden the wine-press alone, and how he will destroy the wicked at the Second Coming. Then He tells us that in spite of all the terrible destruction, the thing that will be mentioned is His loving kindness. The verse says:

And now the year of my redeemed is come; and they shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord, and all that he has bestowed upon them according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever.

I know that the man who wrote the book about the violent God of the Old Testament would look at the angry and violent aspect of these verses, but it is plain to me that our God is one of deep tender feelings for us who has to chasten His children but does it out of love.

Now, let’s look at the scripture that I have since added to my list. It is in 2 Nephi 15: 25 and it says:

Therefore, is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them; and the hills did tremble, and their carcasses were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

In the footnote of Isaiah 9: 12 it tells us that the phrase “his hand is stretched out still” means that “in spite of all, the Lord is available if they will turn to him”. After all is said and done, we have a God who is always reaching out to us to forgive, bless, comfort, encourage, lift, strengthen and ultimately exalt.

I invite all of you to find your own scriptures on the Savior and our Father in Heaven that you would teach to the man who wrote the book, and share them with me.

Finally, since this is my last letter to you, I want to share my testimony of our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. I will share a scripture that is may be my favorite. It is D&C 138: 1-4, and it says:

 1 On the third of October, in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen, I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures;

 2 And reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world;

 3 And the great and wonderful love made manifest by the Father and the Son in the coming of the Redeemer into the world;

 4 That through his atonement, and by obedience to the principles of the gospel, mankind might be saved.

It took incredible love on the part of both the Father and the Son to complete the Atonement. Both gave something—The Father gave His Son (John 17: 3) and the Son gave His own life (D&C 34: 3). I wouldn’t want to give what either of them gave. I don’t comprehend the love that it took for both of them to give what they gave. Whatever I give in return to them is a pittance compared to what they have done for me. They are always there for us, reaching out, and showing us mercy, compassion, lovingkindness, and tender mercies.

Thank you for serving so valiantly. I invite you to continue to do your very best. Sister Sperry and I love you.

President Sperry

I have asked two companionships to write letters. Sister Porter and Sister Loo wrote about the work of salvation and Elder Bird and Elder Hansen wrote about teaching families. I know that many of you are already doing these things but I hope this will help each of you to do just a little better.

Here is the letter by Sister Porter and Sister Loo:

The past two transfers in Pangarap are difficult to put into words. We’ve had ups and downs  just as in any other area. But we’ve also seen change, progress, excitement, miracles and the hand of the Lord. The best is knowing that it’s only the tip of the iceberg and much more is still in store. We are far from perfect missionaries, with much more to learn, but we have done all we can to be exactly obedient, move forward with faith and catch the vision President Monson has described in Hastening the Work of Salvation.

 For us it really all began on our first day together in Pangarap. We were exited for the companionship and a fresh start. As we went throughout the day, plans were changed, even some appointments dropped, but each step felt guided. It was as if Heavenly Father was showing us what was possible in the days to come if we trusted Him.

 As that first day was coming to a close, we were walking past a member’s home and felt the clear impression to stop and teach. We were warmly welcomed in and asked if we could share a message. We opened the scriptures with them and began a discussion on the Work of Salvation near the end of the lesson the mother looked at us with tears in her eyes and said they hadn’t been able to trust the missionaries for some time. We promised her we would take care of her referrals and set-up a return appointment, which they accepted. We left their house that night with a determination to show their family that we could be trusted.

  The next day was weekly planning and we got to work in setting goals, we decided that first and foremost our priority would be to gain the trust of the ward. We decided to start with the family we taught the night before. They had mentioned several referrals who were lost in the past, so we started there. We opened the area book to find those referrals and made plans to visit each of them, that way when we returned the next week, we had something to report. As we did so, it was incredible to see the change in their entire demeanor around us. Because we went out of our way to involve them, they went out of their way to be involved. They began inviting us over, working with us, and getting to know our other investigators. We saw what a difference it made for this family and set out to do the same with other member of the ward.

 As we began working with one sister she began referring us to several of her friends, which eventually led to her introducing us to a family lost by previous missionaries. Members are the reason this family was now prepared to receive the gospel. As we prayerfully selected members, couples and families to take with us to those teaching appointments, we’ve seen individuals catch the vision of missionary work. This family is now surprised when members aren’t teaching beside us. They’ve felt welcomed, supported and loved along the way, all leading to their baptism this Saturday.

 By taking the time to seek out members according to the needs of our investigators, both the members and investigators have had sacred experiences and left wanting more. Members have shared with us how they’ve grown and changed alongside the investigators. More and more individuals are coming to church, yet we are the ones left alone in our pew, because members are the ones who greet, fellowship, sit beside and walk our investigators to class.

 We’ve tried finding among the members on Sunday, as you would any investigator. We look for individuals we don’t know, introduce ourselves, get to know them and ask if we would be able to visit and share a message with their family. One family we visited shared that they had been waiting for missionaries to come to their home for over a year. We’ve been able to meet and address member’s concerns just as with our investigators. We’ve fasted with them, prayed for them and loved them.

 Although working with members, at times, has been difficult to coordinate and taken sacrifices of our time, it has been worth every minute of it. Nearly all our work is now done through referrals. Members are now approaching us with a desire to be involved and the work in Pangarap Ward is hastening.

 Here is the letter by Elder Hansen and Elder Bird:

We have seen over the last two transfers a big change in the success in our area. We feel that the source of this success is a change of focus that we felt we needed to implement.  We really enjoyed President Sperry's Workshop on the importance of family at the last zone interviews. In preach my gospel it says, "Satan is attacking the family on many fronts and too many families are being destroyed by his efforts." In the interviews we discussed all of the different ways Satan attacks the family. As missionaries, even before we go home and start our own family, part of our purpose is to help others strengthen their own families through teaching the gospel.  When families are sealed together for eternity, the doors are opened to the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. As those parents embrace the gospel and keep their covenants, they teach their children and raise righteous seed up unto the Lord. Too many missionaries lose focus on helping investigators they teach to be sealed with their family in the temple.  In our tracting in our area we have been doing something we call, "Find the Tatay". When we find, we focus on finding fathers with a spouse and children that we can teach together as a family. Even if the father is available to be taught we strive to set appointments when their whole family can be there. We emphasize to them that this message is for families.  An example of how well this has worked in our area is the _________ family. We found the ___________ Family by speaking to the father, Brother ______________. Throughout their conversion process Brother___________ has pushed his family through. When it came time for their baptismal interview, we discovered that their fifteen year old son, _____________, hadn't been completely avoiding coffee, contrary to what he had originally been telling us. We took Brother _____________ aside and explained that his son could not be baptized until he had completely stopped drinking coffee. After we left, Brother ____________then gathered his family, found the Word of Wisdom pamphlet we had given them and retaught to his family a lesson on the Word of Wisdom and committed each of his children to live it. Headed by their father throughout the process, they have made the decision as a family to embrace the gospel.  The best part is that the _____________family can be sealed in the temple in a year if they are faithful. Too often, recent converts don't even have that possibility because they were baptized as an individual and not alongside their families. This is the reason it says in Preach My Gospel, "Strive to find and teach families - a father, mother, and children - who can support one another in living the gospel and eventually be sealed as a family unit by restored priesthood authority." We have seen the power of teaching fathers, mothers, and their children together. We have seen them support each other in making the difficult changes that are required in order to become a disciple of Christ. We hope to hear of temple sealings in a year and look forward to a bright eternal future for them.

Ito ang gawain ng ating Diyos

Transfers were great. The fact that this is my last transfer didn't feel real to me at first. It just seemed like any other until I sat down to study that first day and for whatever reason it hit me like a wall of water. I can't belive I will be taking off my nametag. Leavning these people. I won't be going into houses everyday teaching and testifying. But I will see my family. I will be going to school. And I will find a way to still serve, just with a new calling, and another country aka America. Its scray, sad, exciting... its the weirdest blend of emotions and feels like I am kind of in limbo. However, most of the time I just completly push it out of my mind and go about work as usual and its better than ever :)  

Of course it was hard to say goodbye to Sister Loo, but I have absolutely loved getting to know and work with Sister Benesch. She is from Farmington, Utah and so much fun. I'm excited for what she will bring to the area. Speaking of our area... its doing great :) Last night, like I always do with my companions, I asked Sister Benesch what her miracle was that day. She thought for a minute and said, "I think everything today. This area is a miracle area." AMEN! It has been so humbling to see the change and progress here over the past two transfers and now moving into the third. The entire feeling of the ward, the work and everything is different.

This week I have been struck more then ever with the fact that this work is hastening. It is so exciting to be a part of it at this time. How did I get so lucky? It seems that miracle after miracle unfolds and we are just simply His hands in finding those He is already preparing. People are just coming out of the woodwork through the members, our own efforts and other individuals literally coming to the church on their own, seeking to be taught. Something that Elder Christensen of the Seventy shared at mission tour hasn't left my mind. He said, "This work is hastening on both sides of the veil." Its so true! You can see it, and you can feel! There is just and an energy like I haven't ever felt before. It just gets me excited everytime I think about it.

The biggest example of this that we've seen lately is Brother Rodel Gabieta. I told you about him a few weeks ago. He is a single dad (his wife is working abroad) and he is desperately seeking the truth. Each time we visit this man I am just filled with awe. If there was ever a golden investigator it would be him. I told you last time that he had searched out the church on his own going from chapel to chapel until he found the right one for the area he lives in. He is reading the Book of Mormon daily, praying and attending church as often as he can. Him and his children have all accepted baptismal dates, and just want to do what they can to be prepared. He asked us, "How will I know if I am worthy?" It was so incredible to see his sincerity and desire as we answered his questions. He wants to know everything and is so worried he doesn't know enough. You could see relief and joy wash over him as we told him he doesn't have to know and understand every page of the Book of Mormon or the gospel now, but that the very purpose of this life is to learn and progress step by step. He is just so excited about the gospel! Everytime he shares an experience that has gotten him to this point it is blantly obvious that greater forces than us are at work, and we are not alone in teaching and serving him. He shared with us that so much has already changed for him as he attends church and reads the Book of Mormon. My favorite was when he started explaining that he has begun to quit smoking. Keep in mind that we have only taught him twice and we haven't even finished the Restoration yet. He has no idea what the Word of Wisdom is. He said that while he watched the members at church he noticed that no one was smoking and he just felt it was something he needed to do :) We will be finishing the Restoration and teaching the Word of Wisdom next time. We introduced it and he was so excited!

Over and over again I have been amazed by our Father's plan. Its perfect. I am also amazed by His love for us, it is tangible. He hears and answers all our concerns and even the simplest of prayers-- something I have witness so much lately. This is His work and I am so greatful for the opportunity to represent Him and my Savior in it. 

President and Sister Sperry leave this week. It is a bit heartbreaking to say goodbye to them. I have learned so much for all they do. But I will see them again in Utah! I am so excited to get to know President and Sister Burtin and see all they have to bring to the mission. It is all around an exciting time here in the Philippines :) I couldn't be happier!

I love you all and pray for you daily.

Love always,
Sister Porter

Filipino Fun Fact:

People eat with their hands here... a lot. Its so much easier when you've just got your ulam (anything you eat on rice) and your rice to just scoop it all up. There really is an art to it and they do it all neat and fancy so it isn't even messy :) If they aren't using their hands they use a spoon and fork together, ALWAYS. It is the greatest and I don't know if I can ever go back to just my spoon or a fork alone.

Last days with Sister Loo. We got new cool shoes.

Sister Ayub is in the Missionary Recovery Center working through some things and we got to go visit her :) I love her so much!

 I am now in a house of ALL Americans and one about culture shock. I have hardly spent anytime around Americans on my mission and now I'm surrounded. Its way weird but we have a blast!

Cutest video of the primary kids in our ward :)

"Patnubayan ka nawa ng Diyos"

Pamilya ko!

So much has happened this week and the only way to sum up all of my feelings is to say I'm feeling blessed. I am completely overwhelmed with gratitude to my Father in Heaven. He is so good and His plan is perfect. I just stand in awe each day at how it all unfolds. He knows us each so individually and intimately. That is my favorite truth to teach and testify of. I know it will ALL of my heart and I feel His love for the individuals we serve.

On Monday, we had a boodle fight with our zone. So fun! I love living on a tropical island.

On Wednesday, we had a fun service project cleaning up our neighborhood and sweeping the streets. Weekly tradition of service for our zone that I want to keep doing when I get home. Its a blast!

On Saturday, we had one of the best and long awaited days of my mission. So much of our time, prayers and efforts the past two transfers have been centered around the Pagunsan family and Saturday was ALL about them. We meet Butch and Sally that morning at the mission home for Butch's interview with President. We wants so badly to be baptized, take his role as patriarch of their home and be cleansed from past mistakes. Saturday morning took more courage and humility for him than I have ever seen in someone. President was very impressed with Butch, and it was so neat to sit and talk after with everyone while translating the conversation from Tagalog to English. We are now just playing a waiting game for when or if he can be baptized but he is moving forward with so much courage and faith. We then separated from the Pagunsan family for a few hours and met them again that afternoon at the church for Sally and the kid's baptism. It was incredible. Honestly the best I have ever attended during my mission. SO MANY PEOPLE WERE THERE, all in support of this family and their righteous desire. The talks were so thoughtful and meaningful. Bishop baptized them and then prepared a dinner for them with friends in celebration after. It was such a special day! 

Sister Lutiva, the active sister who's husband ran from us, also had a daughter, May Sunshine, baptized that day, which only made it more special. We were so hoping that Brother Cesar, their father, would be the one to baptize her as he prepared for baptism himself but he didn't even show to the baptism and he still runs from us. So frustrating! On the plus-side though, his daughters are 100% on our team and try locking him in the house when we come haha.

On Sunday, Sally and the kids were confirmed.... of course they came in late and about gave us a heartache! So many prayers were sent heavenward ha BUT they made it :) and couldn't be more excited. Sally has been waiting for so long! I have been so impressed with Butch's excitement for his family and courage in continuing to come to church since everyone asks why he hasn't been baptized with them. I know this isn't in the church handbook along with a lot of other things here haha but he was given an assignment with another investigator and member as home teachers and was asking all about what his responsibilities would be. They are my favorite people!

On Monday, we taught the greatest 18-year-old named Cindy. We taught her once before and she came to church with some friends on Sunday. She was just asking all the right questions and rubbing her arms as we taught because she said the hair on her arms was standing up. We all felt the Spirit and she has excepted a baptismal date this July. We ended the night at Elias Pagunsan's birthday party. As we cam around the corner to walk up the stairs to their apartment the boys saw us and all started yelling, "The sisters are here! Mom, the sisters are here!" They made so much delicious food, and Butch tried to cook "exotic" for us. I love them so much!

The down side to this week is that another transfer has already come and gone! I can't believe.... I am going into my last transfer. Sister Loo and I will be saying goodbye to each other. President paid us the kindest compliment. He said that he was separating us this transfer because he wanted us to spread all that we had done in this area with the rest of the mission. I will be getting Sister Benesch. I couldn't be more excited. She is the sweetest sister and we have a blast here in Pangarap. We are also getting more sisters in our apartment, including Sister Ayub. I am a little nervous about that, but I am so excited to see her again.

I feel like words really just can't describe how I am feeling, but above all its lots of love and overwhelming gratitude for all we have now, all that's in store for the future and all we have to look forward to in eternity. I love you all!!

Love always,
Sister Porter

Filipino Fun Fact:

The Filipino people are VERY religious. There are so many different denominations here and everyone has their own missionaries and ideas. It makes it all quite and adventure :)


Elias' Birthday. He turned 3!! He told us we are his special guest, as well as his girlfriends :) We are so in love with him.

Miracles have not ceased

Words really can't explain all the change and miracles we have seen this week. God is real. He loves us. He hears and answers all our prayers, often through our study of the scriptures. Its incredible and exciting that we can communicate with the Creator of the Universe. He knows us individually and always answers, almost always in the most unexpected ways. This week I learned in so much greater depth the power of prayer. Like I said last week, everything has just become so much more real and it just continues change for me... nearly all of this growth and change centers around the Pagunsan family. 

Sister Loo and I have spent the last few weeks fasting, studying and pouring our hearts out to the Lord for this family. We have been praying they would understand why their father, Brother Butch's, baptism would have to be postponed, and that they wouldn't let this prevent them from receiving all the happiness waiting for them. There were so many nights that we didn't know what to do or how to move forward, but one day I turned to the scriptures and found my answer in 3 Nephi 18:30-32. I read that we were to continue to love them, serve them and that the Lord knew when and how they would receive the gospel. Every time I started feeling anxious and doubting I just reminded myself of the answer the Lord had given me and its happened...Sister Sally (Butch's wife) as well as their two sons will be baptized this Saturday and Butch is beginning the process to allow him to enter the waters of baptism. I am so grateful for this family. They have truly changed my life. I am in awe of their humility and desire to follow the Savior. Sister Sally is reading the Book of Mormon everyday and LOVES it. This past week she shared with us that when she was 8 years old her dad got a copy of one somewhere so she read it. However, she never understood it because it was in English. So when the missionaries came back into her life as a mother and wife she recognized the book and wanted to know more. The Lord truly is preparing His children to accept this message. 

Speaking of individuals who are prepared, last night Sister Loo and I taught one of the most prepared individuals we have ever met. His name is Brother Rodel Gabieta. He was taught by a previous set of missionaries once or twice and we have been trying to get back to him for about a month. Although we haven't been able to teach him he has continued to attend church and last night we finally heard his story. Everything he said just made our jaws drop so I am going to just kind of throw all the facts at you. When he was a teenager he was introduced to the missionaries, but didn't really give them the time of day. Now as a husband and father of 3, a friend invited him to attend church and he did. He loved it and attended several times before the missionaries introduced themselves to him. It turns out he was attending at the wrong chapel so they took his information and promised to send missionaries to him. He waited 2 weeks and no one came so he went back to church and asked them to send missionaries again. He then tried to find another of our chapels on his own and still ended up at the wrong one until he came to us in Pangarap, finally the right chapel :) The missionaries who went to him in the past left him a Book of Mormon and he is in Mosiah now.... he takes it to work with him everyday and reads. He said that sometimes he gets thoughts that he shouldn't go to church, but he reads the Book of Mormon and those thoughts go away...He asked if we experienced that or know why... we couldn't wait to answer! Then we told him we would be happy to share more with him about the church and where the Book of Mormon came from and he just light up and said, "YES!" He said he knew it was another scripture sent from God, he just didn't know why or where it came from. Then to put the cherry on top of the whole lesson, the member we were working with mention the temple here in Manila and he said, "I know where that is! I used to drive my motorcycle there when I was stressed. I would just look at it and over the city and clear my thoughts because it was so peaceful there." Rodel and two of his children have accepted baptism dates and we are so excited for them. The work is being hastened. Its almost tangible. You can feel! People are being prepared. Each of us are simply called to find them... or like Brother Rodel they find us :)

I love you all!!

Love always,
Sister Porter

Filipino Fun Fact:

Filipinos' sense of danger is pretty much at a zero. This week we are driving down the highway in a jeepney full of people when I heard a women gasp and we came to a stop. They were doing construction and a huge telephone wire had fallen across the road, with traffic stopped in a line in both direction. Everyone just sat there not sure when to do when a man at the front of the line started inching forward and drove over the wire... nothing happened so the next motorcycle went and soon a car and then a truck. Suddenly our jeep started inching forward and Sister Loo and I just looked at each other like...OH NO! We watched as cars went across and suddenly heard a pop and flames shot out of the wire when one car drove across...but our jeepney was still moving towards it!! Needless to say we survived but Sister Loo and I closed our eyes and squeezed hands as we crossed then let out a sigh of relief when we made it.

 Sister Sally cleaning the church with us after she found out she passed her baptism interview :)

 Sister Sally cleaning the church with us after she found out she passed her baptism interview :)

Higit sa lahat, may tiwala sa Diyos

This week has been one of the most unexpected, heartbreaking, "throw you for a loop" weeks of my mission as well as one of the most changing and growth inspiring. Unfortunately, I can't tell you about most of what happened out of respect to the individuals involved, but I can try and tell you about what I've been learning, lessons that are changing my life and mission. 

The past few days the gospel of Jesus Christ, faith, repentance, the Plan of Salvation, the Atonement, the Restoration ALL of it became real for me. The message I carry, who I represent, everything became so much more than a happy message or an important task. This is salvation and its real. I saw an individual this week who wants this more than anything and he may not be able to receive it at this time due to mistakes of his past. I saw an individual open and humble, trying to do what's right for him and his family. I saw this individual hurt because of our words and what we weren't able to give him. I will never forget the moment he said, "You've had this your whole life, I didn't know." Have I really gone this long without realizing how much this means? Of course I haven't, I know how important this message is and how much people need it and want it, but I feel like my scope, the whole picture just got wider, brighter and clearer. I was reminded this week that each of us has a story-- trials and challenges we've faced, things we've give-up and things we've overcome. Our story is the sum of experiences that have gotten us to where we are today. That's true of me, my companion and every person we meet. Only one person knows each of our stories and that is Jesus Christ. As His called and chosen representative and as members of the Church, we may not know the story of the individuals we teach, serve, interact with and love but He does! We are the Savior's hands in ministering to the one. He knows their story.

This past week we had a mission tour with Elder Christensen and Elder Ardern of the Seventy, as well as heard from President Sperry for the last time before he goes home. [As a side-note, I love President and Sister Sperry so much. They are like my second parents. I know they were called of God for this mission at this time. I would do anything they asked with out a second thought. I am also excited for President and Sister Burtin because I know just like the Sperrys they have been called of God at this time, for this mission. One of the greatest blessings of a mission is learning from, trusting and obeying with exactness your mission president as a man, called by a prophet of God, to preside over you.] One of the things that Elder Ardern shared hasn't left my thoughts. He stated that we have 18 months to 2 years to labor with ALL our heart, might, mind and strength and the rest of our lives to think about how we labored. As I thought about that I thought about the promise President Sperry asked of us on the first day of our mission, that we would be exactly obedient and give our very best effort so as to finish our mission without regrets. I thought about how the same could be said of our lives. We have a short time on earth to give our very best effort, to labor with all of our heart, might, mind and strength and the rest of eternity to think about how we labored. It made all of the silly excuses, challenges and roadblocks of life seem very small. It made me want to give EVERYTHING I have and am to the Lord so that on the day I meet my Maker, I have no regrets. As President Sperry has taught us, on the day I stand at the judgement seat I don't want any rebellion in me. 

I know that Christ lives. I know that He suffered and died for us. I know that His Atonement is both collective and individual. I know that through Him we can be prepared to return to our Father's presence and I know that He stands at the head of His Church. If we trust His chosen servants we will never be lead astray.

Mahal na mahal ko kayong lahat.

Love always,
Sister Porter

Filipino Fun Fact:

This isn't really a fun fact about the Filipinos but I just wanted to throw it in down here... I got to see Sister Ayub who is still assigned in our last area. So has changed and grown so much. I am so proud of her. She is now a senior companion!! I also got to hear about our area and the growth that has continued to happened. Do you remember me telling you about Evelyn, the less-active women I smiled at and she attended church. Her husband was drinking, smoking, doing drugs and beating her. Everytime we went we did everything and anything to get him to listen and feel respected rather than intimidated or judged by us. My very last night there we FINALLY got him to sit in on parts of the lesson and have an actual conversation with him. Well since that night and the continued visits of the missionaries, he has began coming to church with Evelyn IN a white shirt and tie. Change is real! This message is true! Evelyn wrote me and said that all of her wishes and prayers for her family are coming true.

Hastening the Work

Okay lets be honest my concentration level on this email right now is about at a one because I just found out about Brenna's mission call. I can't believe she is headed to Paraguay...SO EXCITED!! The work is on fire right now and I can't wait for her to be a part of it. Paraguay isn't going to know what hit them. 

Sister Loo and I have been all over this week and when we say all over we really mean it...we visited every single one of the zones and sisters we are over. By the time we got home on Saturday we were wiped. We had an emergency exchange to help some sisters who were struggling which was exhausting and really neat experience. We worked a lot President to try and sort it all out, plus had zone interviews and he visited our ward on Sunday so it was great to see him and Sister Sperry so much. I can't belive they finish their mission in just a few week. I have learned so much from their examples and teachings. President was supposed to come with us to teach Brother Cesar that I've told you about in the past but it didn't end up going through because his wife didn't think he would be home but we are going to see if we can reschedule in the next few weeks. 

Our area is still doing so great with the little time we get to spend in it. We still can't get over our Sundays in Pangarap. The miracles never seem to cease. We have new people at church every week, so it is always an adventure to see who walks through the door. The whole ward is so excited about the Pagunsan family's baptism next week. We are having an activity to clean the church this Saturday as their service project with their different fellowshippers in the ward...which is most everyone. We were able to visit Rio, the less-active sister we found, again and it was such a special lesson. We felt like we just weren't teaching to her needs and something was missing in the lesson so we both started praying as we were teaching and all the sudden she just opened up. She started crying and shared with us how she felt coming back to church and seeing families all together and remembering when that was her family and now they all separated and unhappy and her mother recently passed away. It was so neat to see her be filled with hope of the idea for creating that happiness for her kids now. We taught a neat lesson with the Restauro family which was also really focused on his needs, which took the lesson in a totally different direction then we were expecting. We ended up teaching the father (the only non-member) about the priesthood. It was a really special lesson and his only son was able to share with his dad what it would mean for him if his dad could take his place as head of the home as a worthy priesthood holder. Brother Restauro was very touched and we are excited to see him prepare for baptism. 

My mission has given me such an appreciation for families as well as the  blessing of the priesthood within a home and family. I have both seen and felt the difference in homes we enter with a worthy priesthood holder at the head. I am so grateful for the difference different worthy priesthood holders have made in my life and will forever honor and respect the priesthood they hold and exercise. I am so grateful for my Savior in whose name they act and no that without Him we would not have access to that hope and power. I love you all!

Love always,
Sister Porter

Filipino Fun Fact:

Since it is so hot here and everyone want to be white mostly the women but also men always carry a bottle of baby powder with them that they apply regularly throughout the day. They rub it into their face, arms and neck and then pour it down their back. They also have a fear of sweating because they believe it makes you sick so they or constantly wiping their sweat with handkerchiefs and mothers stick towels down their kids backs and hang them through their shirts. Its way hard to explain but I will try and send you a picture some time :)

Headed out on exchanges...sanay na kami.

This little boy climbed out on his roof and put on a show for us with singing and dancing :)


I can definitely mark off another great week on my calendar. Sister Loo and I had our first exchanges of the transfer and I got to work with Sister Sia (my trainee) again for the first time in 4 months. It was so much fun!! I love that sister SO MUCH. I also got to work with Sister Hawkins (another incredible sister) and guess which member we brought along with us to teach some investigators...Sister Maricel Pedral, my favorite women in the Philippines. I told you about her a few weeks ago but she was the less-active we found and helped come back to church and this was her first time working with missionaries as an active member. It was so great and nothing beats hearing her testify so assuredly to other individuals who are trying to find their own way. After I was telling her how great she did and she just smiled, put her hand on her chest and said, "My heart was pounding so hard!"

The Pagunsan family is on fire! I am so obsessed with them. If there was ever a golden family it would be them. They are doing so good and couldn't be more excited or ready for baptism on June 7. We have been working so hard to get their 4 sons, all under age 12, more involved and we have finally won them over. They hadn't been doing their reading assignments so last time we talked for awhile with them about how important it is and then gave each of the boys their own Book of Mormon. It worked! Last Saturday when we went back the WHOLE family had read. When we asked who read all of the boys hands shot in the air so proud. Of course their mother, Sister Sally, did because she is a star, but we were most worried about Brother Butch because he is SO busy with work. We asked him last and he just sheepishly grin then said, "Sisters, of course I read!" He had woken up early before work to read and started to share with us what he had learned from Alma 32. He said he noticed how much it mentioned being humble and starting thinking about why we needed to humble ourselves. He talked about how we could be converted without humility and then shared an experience. He said that one of his neighbors and used 10,000 pesos from him and never given it back. He said that he was filled with so much anger and felt as though he would punch him every time he saw him. He said that as he reflected on his reading he realized that he could let those feeling go and with the Savior's help be humble. It was so incredible to see him learning and growing outside of what we are teaching him. The Pagunsan family has had a mighty change of heart we see it and feel it and so do they.

Last week a member introduced us to a very kind, younger less-active women with 4 kids named Rio. No one knew she was a member including her friend and she hasn't been for over 10 years...until this past Sunday and she brought all her kids. Who knew coming into a mission that sacrament meetings would be so stressful, constantly looking at the door, but NOTHING compares to seeing the people you are waiting for, or never expect to see, walk through the door.

My mission has taught me more than anything about the importance of enduring to the end. I have learned that lesson bit by bit as I have helped new investigators begin that journey or being by a less-actives side as they make their way back. My mission has filled me with a sense of urgency to do the Lord's will, to be willing and worthy to always run his errands, no matter what is asked. I am still learning in a big how to better do that but I do know that I always want to give all I have to him, be obedient and progress. Preach My Gospel page 59 under "Salvation" described faith in Jesus Christ as a "faith [that] is manifested in a life of obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel and service to Christ." That is my deepest desire to have lived a life and served a mission of devoted service and obedience, for that is where true happiness is found.

Love you all!! Magingat kayo palagi!

Love always,
Sister Porter

Filipino Fun Fact:

One of the things I will miss the most in the Philippines are the storms. They are truly awe-inspiring. There is no way I can adequately describe them to you but watching them just testifies to me that there is a God. They are beautiful in a sort of terrifying way. It will be BLAZING hot with nothing but sunshine and then dark clouds will suddenly come rolling in. You can feel it in the air, everything changes. It honestly feels like the heavens open and everything just gets dumped out. I have never seen so much water. Everyone will just run to the nearest building or tents (in the palenkes or tindahans) to wait out the storm. the roads instantly turn into streams of water, moving FAST. It is so incredible and I know I just sound like a crazy person rambling about the weather now but I just wish you could experience it for yourselves.

The oldest (Andrie) and youngest (Elias) Pagunsan boys.

We helped a member build his house this week!

Cutest kids!

 Working with Sister Maricel :)