Monday, October 28, 2013

Out of the Brown Sea

This week was probably the worst so far on my mission.  Not only did it begin with my lingering cold (obviously caused by showering while tired), President called on Tuesday morning.  After only a few hours of packing and tears, I was driven to my new area in Laoag.  I left eight investigators and a double wedding that will all occur in the soon future.  I left Sister Mafi with an area and people she does not know.  I was devastated.
The first days in Laoag were extremely difficult.  Our area is big and sister missionaries have been serving here since the Fall of Adam.  Being in a new area is always hard; I did not know a soul or the geography.  Proselyting was hard and I was lonely.  On the first day, Sister Hansen and I looked over the riverside.  I felt as though I could almost touch San Nic.  But later, the Lord sent me a tender mercy as Macmac and Bryan Agustin rode by.  Sister Hansen and I joked that in less than 24 hours, the people in San Nic located me and hunted me down.  

This week did begin to get better from there and my new companion is awesome.  Sister Hansen is the bomb actually and I am currently living in the nicest apartment in the mission.  No more brown water and all of the sisters in the apartment are American.  Thus, I am out of the brown sea.  We are super obedient and super hardworking.  We have set ridiculously high goals and we already found 11 new investigators in 6 days!We even committed the "banana stand" family to baptism during the first lesson, a great referral from Elder and Sister Eddington, the senior couple that serves in Laoag.  The Lord always blesses those who are willing to labor diligently.  And Sister Dumalao said I sound like a native...even though she was lying because in the lesson before I said ""tatlong talong" over and over (three eggplant) instead of "tatlong tanong" (three questions).  Yeah, our investigators laughed a lot. 
We will now take a break for a short message entitled, "The Benefits of an American Companion:"
1. You feel tiny because she is almost 5'11".  She actually thought I was somewhere around 5'8" all week.  It shows you how living in a land of tiny people messes up your height perception severely.
2.  She can teach Tagalog.
3. You do not eat rive 73 times a day.  I think I may lose some of the weight I gained in my work with Sister Mafi.  This is good.
4.  She understands how it feels to see a non-missionary white person here.  When we see a white person here we want to yell out, "Who do you think you are?  You do not belong here!"
This week started out terribly for me.  I am grateful to have seen Sister Grace and her kids yesterday.  I have been reminded many times that the people of San Nicolas will always be part of my life.  They have touched my heart in indescribable ways.  I have learned this week that a mission is a collection of defining and refining moments.  I am here to change lives wherever the Lord needs me.  I am thankful to be in Laoag.  Even though this area is known as one of the hardest in the mission and the last baptism was in July, it does not have to be that way.  As we recommit ourselves to the Lord each day, he will bless us in ways we would never guess.  This week began as the worst yet in my mission, but it ended as the best so far.  I feel like there are many best weeks to come, too.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tao Po!

First of all, congrats to the one and only Kellee Cunningham for her awesome mission call to Peru!  Those people speak my language (aunque creo que no estoy hispanohablante pero tagaloghablante este dia....jajaja)!  I am so grateful to be serving as a missionary now with friends also serving on each continent.  These are the days  and we must labor to hasten the work, His work, of salvation.

Speaking of the work of salvation,  things are good here in San Nicolas.  This week Nanay Tessie and Melessa Tagama were baptized.  They used to be in my area before our boundaries changed.  Sister Abuel and I were the first missionaries to teach them and now they are the newest members in San Nicolas 2 Ward.  Although the work here is the slowest it has been,  Sister Mafi and I are focusing on using the help of the members to find those who need the gospel.  

Here are some of the awesome things that have happened this week.

-I saw my BISHOP from NASHVILLE here in SAN NICOLAS.  Shout out to Kim Facer for bringing me a package and hug across the world for me!  It was amazing to see you and I am so thankful that we were able to see each other.  It is always sweet to see a little piece of home here in the Pilipinas.

-My bishop brought me an awesome package from home complete with clothes and American chocolate.  It was great, but I have one complaint for my beloved mother.  You send me a package from across the world and I am asking simply for saome maple syrup.  I thought I would get some Aunt Jemimas or some of that that some in the cute log-shaped container, but I instead receive Kroger brand.  Really?  You send store brand syrup to me?  

-Ben Raymond wrote me a letter.  It was amazing to hear from him about his work in Hungary.  Even though the work is slow in our area now, people are open in the Philippines.  People talk to us.  In Hungary,  Ben is lucky to have a conversation with someone on the street. 

-This is not amazing, but I have a bad cough.  Sometimes I can't breath.  It is a problem during lessons.  I hope that it goes away.  The members are really concerned and they are telling me that it is because I shower when I am tired.  I love the people here but they are a little crazy sometimes.  There is not medical relationship between showering when you are tired and having a cough.  And I am always tired because I am a missionary.  Am I just not supposed to shower anymore?

-We painted a fence in Paoay at an elementary school this morning with other missionaries from our zone.  It was fun and I am thankful for the experience I had to serve.  And painting is hard...I am glad that I was called as a missionary and not a painter.....joke lang.

I love this work!  It is so hard, though!  On Saturday we taught Omar and his family.  Sister Abuel and I taught him way long ago and had never returned.  I got brave this week with Sister Mafi and we stopped by.  He taught us that the Bible says women cannot wear earrings or makeup and that we cannot cut our hair.  We told him that the Law of Moses was a preparatory law and that now Jesus is the way.  I am thankful that I understand the true, restored, and complete gospel of Jesus Christ.  I never have to be confused with useless doctrines or meaningless rules.  Each part of the gospel has purpose and helps me.  I love the Lord.  He lives.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Leah Forgot to Title This

So many things have happened this week, I do not even know where to start!  Let's try.

1.  Last Monday I destroyed my hair.  I got it relaxed, following the advice of some members and fellow missionaries.  I miss my old hair.  Just because you are in the Philippines and stuff is cheap does not mean that you should do it.  At least my curls will grow back eventually.

2.  I had a sipon this week.  That is a cold for those of you who do not live in Tagaloglogloglogland.  I slept for approximately 24 hours and then was ready to go.  It is weird to have a cold when you are in the tropics.  

3. We located madaming less actives sa aming area.  Some of them do not want to talk to us.  Sometimes I say to myself, "It is not everyday you get to talk to a beautiful missionary like me!"  That is okay though because many of them like to talk to us.   Halimbawa, we taught Annalyn who is 41 but was baptized when she was 13.  I know she will not return to Church tomorrow, but in time her heart will again be softened to the truthfulness of this restored gospel.  Each soul has infinite value in the eyes of God.  I pray that I may be able to play a minor role in bringing some of these select souls back to Him.  

4. General Conference, baby!  We once again traveled to the Stake Center in Paoay by the graciousness of the Agustin family and their truck.  Only in the Philippines does the entire ward ride in the back of a truck to hear the Prophet.  The talks were really great and uplifting.  I was really inspired by each message and they all seemed to center on a great hope that we must share.  As we strive to build unity in our families and homes, we will aid the Lord in creating Zion in our communities.  As we create Zion around us, we will invite others to partake of the magnificent blessings that the Lord bestows on His followers.  I am thankful for a modern-day prophet of the Lord.  Naniniwala po ako na mapagamhal po ang Diyos.  Why would God not give us a prophet today?  Just as in times of old, we need the constant direction of the Lord so that we may not wander.  

Missionary work is so hard but I can easily see the ways in which the Lord is employing me as His servant.  I am trying more than ever to wear my name tag with honor.  I am making sure that I leave each area I serve with the mark of an obedient missionary.  I am grateful to have served in San Nicolas so far and I am grateful for the opportunities that lie ahead of me in many places here in the Laoag mission. 

As always, I want to hear from all of you!  Shoot me some snail mail!

Sister Copeland
Philippines Laoag Mission
Brgy. 50 Buttong, Airport Avenue
Junction Tangid Road, Laoag City 2900
Ilocos Norte, Philippines

Mahal na mahal ko kayo.  Alam ko po na you are finding maraming paraan na serve the Lord kung saan po kayo.  Sa pamamagitan ng hard work at pananampalataya sa Kanya, ang lahat ay posible.  Now, get to work. We can do it.  The Lord knows we can.    

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Searching for the Lost Sheep

Hello everyone.  I wish that I could express my feelings about this past week.  Despite walking in circles for days,  Sister Mafi and I have since begun to receive an outpouring of blessings  from the Lord.  Because our area is smaller than it was when I was serving with Sister Abuel, we started last week with very few people to teach.  When you are a missionary with no one to teach about the gospel, you walk around until you find someone to teach.  And we found people!  Jayjay and Jobel have committed to become married and then get baptized.  Their friends, another young couple with a baby also, are attending the lessons too.  We are praying for a double wedding in November.  Yesterday, we taught Aubrey.  Her husband is already a member and she is open to hearing the gospel.  I am so thankful that the Lord has put these individuals in our path.
Now that I am senior companion, I am trying to do everything that I can to make our area successful.  Since our area has been made smaller, we lost all of the inactives that we previously taught to other sister missionaries.  Our ward directory has about 700 people on it.  Only about 100 people come to church each Sunday, but Sister Mafi and I are going to change that.  This week,  I spent about 5 hours pouring over this directory, pulling out the names in our area.  There are about 150 or so individuals that I discovered, people that no one in our ward knows.  Since pulling out all of the names,  Sister Mafi and I have begun the painstaking search for these people, people who are lost who will be found.  And we found many!  My Tagalog and Ilocano have improved greatly as we talk to people on the street, tricycle drivers, and baranggay captains as we look for these people.  And we found a lot of them.  And we are going to teach them and welcome them back into the fold.  But the best part of my week was yesterday.  Sister Mafi and I assigned Macmac and Bryan to help us look for these people.  And last night, while Sister Mafi and I were walking towards a member’s home, we not only see Macmac and Bryan, but the Ward Mission Leader and the Ward Missionaries working together in this search for lost souls.  I am grateful to each of them.  They are busy and normally they are unable to help us, but they are dedicated to the salvation of souls. 
On a lighter note, some funny things happened this week!  For example, our bathroom flooded and the talented plumber that I am fixed it.  I also fixed our toilet, but you do not need the details on that one.  In the process of these apartment nightmares, we made friends with a worker at the hardware store.   Like many Filipinos here, he is openly gay, yet we have begun to build our friendship with him and show him that Mormons are open and loving.  We have plans to teach him this week! 
Do you want to learn some culture, now?  In the Philippines, (when you are Tagalog, more so than Ilocano) you respect the food.  Translation: if you go to someone’s home and they are eating, you cannot wait for them to finish and they will not leave their food.  You have to return later when they are not eating.  Food here is like a special guest in need of its own attention. It is not acceptable to stop eating and return later.  Interesting, di ba?
And I want to make a shout-out to the seminary class of Sister Thompson!  I have heard through the grapevine that you share missionary experiences in class and then dedicate a star to a missionary serving from the ward.  And rumor has it that I have like way more stars than any other missionary.  I love you all and am so proud of you!  Many of you will soon serve missions just like me, not only helping others come unto Christ, but also putting yourself into the refiner’s fire.
I am grateful for the great work that Sister Mafi and I are putting forth together.  Sister Mafi has been so strong as she has left her family to come here and serve the Lord.  I am grateful to make some minor sacrifices in my life now to later reap great eternal blessings from the Savior.  Ito po ang trabaho ng Diyos at sa pamamatigan ng pananampalataya ko, tatanggapin ko po yung mga biyaya sa Diyos.  Ang hirap po dito talaga pero mapagmahal po ang Diyos.  In the words of Elder Holland, “Salvation is not a cheap experience.”  
Mahal na mahal kita!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Training, Eating Bizarre Foods, and LOTS of Pictures!!!

Hello po sa lahat!

It will be hard for me to explain how busy this week has been.  Sister Abuel and I spent the last days together in training for trainers in Laoag and then we met the new missionaries later in the week.  I am sad that Sister Abuel is far away in Claveria, but I know that her and Sister Elder (yes, that is the name of her new companion, I am not lying.) are doing important work there.  

Sister Mafi is my new companion.  She is from Tonga and arrived to the field only a few days ago from the Manila MTC.  I love her and we are already working hard together here.  I feel the Spirit really strongly when we teach together and in our first lesson, we committed Jobel to baptism.  That means 5 baptisms for us in November!

Also, you will all be pleased to hear that Sister Mafi and I ate balut last night.  Sister Mafi almost vomited, but I was okay.  Members bought it for us and they just kept say, "Don't look at it!  Just eat it!"  In my opinion, if looking at a particular food makes you want to barf, I do not think you should eat the food.  But I did and I can proudly say that I will never eat balut again.  (and enjoy the hideous balut-eating pictures that are attached)

This weeks cultural section will be about Tonga.  As you have already learned, I learned to love Tongans at the MTC in Provo, but I love them even more now that I live with one.  Here are the benefits to having a Tongan companion:

1. You are not the giant one anymore.  I have to say that fitting in a trike is much harder now.  And people think that Sister Mafi is Filipina...I do not get it either...she is tall and Filipinas are tiny.
2. My companion sings and because the country of the Philippines is tone-deaf, it is refreshing to hear some good alto.
3. What's mine is yours.  She is so loving and willing to share!  She has already given me a dress and a lava-lava!
4.  Speaking of lava-lavas...I wear one around the apartment now.  2 legit 2 quit.

I am sending lots of pictures this week!  I hope you enjoy!  As always, thank you for the great support you give all the missionaries serving across the world.  I find great strength in knowing that many others are praying for me in all corners of the world.  Us missionaries are praying for you, too!

Salamat!  Ay ayaten ka!