Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bagong year, bagong buhay.

Christmas was super fun and I will attach some pictures to prove it.  It was not like the holidays in America- very few Christmas trees, no cookies, and few new toys.  I have to shout out to some of my awesome aunts for sending some awesome packages all the way out here!  Sister Incognito had a great time giving small gifts and celebrating with all of the people here in Sanchez.  We also ate a ridiculous amount of buko salad.  The days leading up to Christmas were really interesting actually because the jungle people seemingly descended out of the mountains of Apayao (the mountainous region visible from our apartment unopened to missionary work because of the NFA).  One women chased me down asking me for money.  These people are actually really interesting. They have very dark skin and curly hair (we are kindred spirits) and they have absolutely nothing.  It is sad to see them walk around without shoes.
For the first time in my life, I was only focused on others this Christmas.  We gave out small gifts to those we teach to help lift the spirits of those who could not afford the material Christmas.  I also gave away my personal Tagalog Bible on Christmas.  I was reading it in the morning and Sister Incognito suggested I give it to the Fillomena family.  "They need a better Bible," she said.  At first I was a little frustrated and did not want to give it away, but after reasoning with myself, I realized it was of more worth to them than to me.  Gifts that take thought and sacrifice are the most valuable.  

Also, Irene passed her baptismal interview a few days ago!  The day before she bore her testimony to us for the first time; it was powerful as she recounted her previous feelings and ideas of the missionaries.  She used to be scared of us and she used to hide.  She only had a baby a few weeks ago and she has given up so many things in her life to now become worthy for baptism.  I am excited to see her as she continues her journey in the gospel.

The new year is upon us!  Although I have never been huge on new year's resolutions, I do think it is valuable to take a personal assessment of the past year and find ways in which we can improve ourselves.  As a missionary, I am always focused on ways I can improve myself so that I can share the gospel with more people.  I even hope that through my blog, I can teach more people about what Mormon missionaries really do and the kinds of experiences we really have.
I hope that as this new year begins, you find new ways of sharing the gospel to those around you.  One unique way of sharing the gospel is through family history.  Is it not great that our ancestors who did not have the opportunity to learn the gospel on earth, have a second chance to do so ( )? The Church has established so many ways in which we can reach beyond the veil to rescue those that have already passed.  Indexing and familysearch are only a few ways.  I am thankful for my mother who has taken the initiative to find our ancestors and help others find their own through indexing.  I like to joke that while I am saving souls that are living, she is saving the ones that have died. Here are some cool stories my mom has had since she has begun to work on our family history:

Recently, I have had several amazing experiences related to family history.  I have felt the hand of the Lord bless me and my family members as I have delved further and further into geneology.  My efforts have been magnified by the Lord without question.

I was contacted by a second cousin not long ago who was doing some of her own research.  We started sharing information and I was able to add lots of new information about my dad`s side of the family in Germany.  She even shared a picture I had never seen before of a great-great grandmother.  A lot of valuable new information was obtained, but the best part is that I have a new friend! We were fortunate this Christmas to visit for an evening with my parents present also.  It was a wonderful evening and I know we will be touch for years to come.

Another distant relative from Germany contacted me and was so kind to share with me many pages of a book kept by the Catholic church in the town of Bodenheim, where my father`s family originates.  It contains names, dates, even occupations of some of our ancestors.  It was a treasure trove of previously unknown information.

I`ve had amazing experiences with my dealings with clerks at some of the cemeteries I have visited.  At Thanksgiving I was in New York City at one of the cemeteries attempting to resolve some family mysteries.  The gentleman at the desk was not in the mood to be helpful at first, but I could see his attitude change as we talked and by the end of the visit, we were chitchatting like old friends.  I know that the prayer I said before walking into that office was answered.  We were able to find the information we sought and some long-held uncertainties were clarified.

I have no doubt that Heavenly Father hears our prayers and rewards our efforts to find our ancestors and do the work necessary for them to live in the presence of God someday.  I feel blessed to have opportunities at this time in my life to do this work.  The experiences I have related are some of the highlights for me, but so many other things have happened when I am alone on my computer doing research that have been amazing to me.  I truly feel that God has blessed and directed my work in order to bless my life and the lives of my family.

In other news, our district visited the beach this morning.  I have a wicked sunburn now, but it was really awesome to walk on the sand for the first time of my mission.  We always pass the sea when we travel but we never go to it.  I cannot wait until the post-mission era of my life when I can actually jump in.  I also chased a duck down the street with my umbrella this week.  

I hope you are doing well.  It is good to hear from so many of you each week. Happy New Year!  Let's use this time to make minor adjustments that will help us come closer to Christ.  And please do not party too hard without me.  

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