Wednesday, November 19, 2014
I cannot really explain what it feels like to be going home after this 18 month journey. It really started about two years ago when a prophet of God made changes to missionary age requirements, giving me the option to drop my books, my job, and leave my friends and family for a year in a half in pursuit of a more spiritual cause.
Announcement by Prophet Thomas S. Monson:
At sa wakas, para sa mga brothers at sisters ko sa Ilocos at Cagayan. Mahal ko kayo at mamismiss ko kayo. Di ko pa alam kung kailan ako makakabalik, pero hindi ko makakakalimut ang mission. Di nyo alam kung gaano kagrabe ang epekto nyo sa akin buhay. Magtiis kayo, ah? Narigat ti biyag ngem Ti Simbaan ket pudpudno. Walang iba. Kita kits sa Celestial.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
We were very blessed in Manila. We were able to get our fingerprinting done in a short time and we had remaining time to attend the Manila temple. It was great to go to the temple after not being able to go for almost 16 months.
What is all this stuff about temples?
Sister Wood and I had a very funny experience in Manila. We were eating at KFC. There were no seats left but a nice man offered us two seats next to him. We had a nice conversation, he was very professional and only spoke in English. Of course we spoke in Tagalog because we cannot really speak English very comfortably any more. Then he asked us where we were from and I responded, "Tennessee." Then he said, "Yeah, Al Gore is from there, right? Too bad he did not win the 2000 election." So this very nice man turned out to be a Filipino Al Gore fanatic and went on and on and on about him. I wanted to say, "You know that election was 14 years ago?" but I couldn't get a single word in. You never know who you will meet in Manila.
Considering that I spent some time in Manila this week, we lost a lot of time to serve the Lord. The days we did have left to spread the gospel in Laoag were busy as could be. I know this week will be a busy one too. I am going to do my best to serve Him as a full-time missionary now because my time to serve Him full-time expires next week.
Sister Shrack, my companion, is always making fun of me and my umbrella. So this week I would like to take the opportunity to not only explain the importance of the Holy Spirit, but also the importance of my umbrella. My umbrella is what most Filipinos consider to be an "old lady" umbrella. It is big and isn't very compact, but it does keep me safe. It doubles as my weapon against ravenous dogs and creepy old drunk men. Everyone needs an old lady umbrella.
I am glad the work of the Lord is not about the numbers. It is not about how many souls we baptize or how many lessons we really teach. Do we track those things? Of course. Only so that we can become more effective representatives of the Lord, but this work is based on love. When you are a missionary and you look only at the numbers, all odds are against you. When you are a missionary concerned about love, you see the tender mercies of the Lord and the many ways in which he touches the lives of those around you. I am a missionary and I serve out of love.
Saturday, November 15, 2014
This week was a busy one. Going to the Bureau of Immigration in Manila was quite an adventure. It is basically a big building of foreigners getting fingerprinted and getting their pictures taken. I kept looking around and asking to myself, "Why are you here? This is the hottest place in the world and looking at how tall you are and the color of your skin, you clearly do not belong here." Then I remembered that they were all looking at me thinking the same thing...
After I got back from Manila, Sister Shrack and I got right back to work. We saw some small miracles this week.
-Beelee, an investigator, accepted a goal date for her baptism. Beelee is old, lacks confidence in her ability to read and write, is caring for her paralyzed child, and extremely poor. But overall, she knows that she has to follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized.
-The Allora family wants to become a forever family. As we discussed with Sister Allora what she must do to help her family prepare for the temple, she was surprised that a temple sealing was still an option. She thought that it was too late and because some of her family members had strayed, it would be impossible for them to enter the holy walls of the temple to become sealed for all time and eternity. We told her that of course there is still hope if they are willing to work.
The gospel is full of blessings. All types of blessings. There is one for everyone. We have to follow our Lord, Jesus Christ, and then the blessings will fall down from above and enter our lives when we need them the most. I have seen just a few in the past 17 months and 1 week of my mission. I will be home in only a few weeks and I am excited to continue to dedicate my time and efforts in building His kingdom.
I had a chest xray this week. But don't worry, I do not have any diseases, so I may depart the Philippines in one month without any issues. This coming week is full of preparations to go home. In a little while, I will be leaving for Manila for a day to do fingerprinting for my visa.
This week was another hard one in my area. I have realized how blessed I have been with other successes on my mission, so now it is my time to accept a greater challenge. And that is fine with me. Challenges are growing opportunities we receive from God. And patience is a virtue that must be earned.
Watch this psychological experiment and learn the importance of patience:
Missionaries walk and walk and walk in the hot sun. When we think we have walked enough, we walk more and more. We sometimes joke that we do it because we are dieting, but the truth is that we are walking as servants of the Lord. It takes time and effort to find those He has prepared to accept His gospel.
As missionaries, we also spend a lot of time rescuing the once found but now lost. These people, members of the Church who have strayed, are just as valuable as those who do not yet know the truth. I am thankful for our opportunity to help these precious souls return to Him. One of these souls is Cathy. Cathy has been a member of the Church since she was a child but found the wrong friends and lost her way. She can quote scriptures like the back of her hand and she knows every doctrine of the gospel. She also misses the Church. Cathy may have forgotten the Lord, but the Lord has not forgotten her. She will come back as we outstretch our arms to her and welcome her back to His fold.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
This week has been busy but good. Sister Shrack arrived on Tuesday and we got right to work. I have know Sister Shrack for a long time, so it is fun to get to serve together. My companion has gone through a lot. Only a few months ago, her mother unexpectedly passed away. She did not go home. She went to work because that is what missionaries do. We leave personal matters behind, however important or devastating they are, because we know our responsibility of serving the Lord for eighteen months, outweighs all else. I am inspired by Sister Shrack.This weekend we got to attend General Conference. Because of time change and distance, the Filipinos of the Church have to wait a week to listen to the Prophet's voice. But it was great to hear what the apostles and prophet had to share with us.
Hear the Prophet's voice:
Sunday, October 19, 2014
While Sister Pututau and I were talking this week, she said, "Man, we have put blood, sweat, and tears, into this area." I responded, "Yeah, that is true." So today I will tell you how this week alone, we put our blood, sweat, and tears into this area.
I stubbed my toe in the apartment. It hurt so bad.
It is hot and we were on a service mission this week. A member had a project for school and needed a specific size box for it. He had one day to collect the boxes and he needed 6 more. Without telling them, we went from store to store to store hunting down this very specific sized box. 30 minutes later the mission was accomplished and many calories were burned.
Missionaries cry a lot. This work is hard and even though we always try our best, we do not always reap the rewards of our labor. Sometimes we do see the rewards, as small they may seem. We had an amazing experience with one of our investigators this week, Gemma. Gemma knows what we are teaching is true because she has had many unanswered questions for many years. She told us how has she has been praying that she will know her children in the next life and not forget who they are. We asked her many questions like, "God gave us families as a gift for us on earth; do you think he would take it away in the next life? Why would we have a family here on earth if we were not able to continue living with them in the future?" Of course, she agreed that God loves us and knows us and wants us to be with our families forever. Her prayer was answered.
I will miss Sister Pututau. She is headed off to a new area and I will continue the work here in Laoag with another good friend, Sister Shrack. We will continue in helping others become forever families and follow Jesus Christ. Stay tuned for our next adventures.