Monday, July 21, 2014

Week Apatnapu-isa: Unexpected

Hello everyone? What's happening over there in the US of A? Because obviously...I'm still not there. Yep, I'm still in the Missionary Recovery Center. Due to the crazy typhoon that ripped through Manila the other day, our visas were delayed due to the Immigration Office being powerless for a good four days.
But, finally, our Infield Representative walked in this afternoon with a big smile on his face and passports in his hand. My flight is on Wednesday, so looks like I'll be home before you know it. Of course, I'm still a little in shock about this. I feel like I've said all that needs to be said, and now I'm just rambling if I give a big speech again. My flight gets in almost midnight on Wednesday evening in Phoenix, so it looks like the RM welcome wagon won't be as typical as the movies, but that's all good. Typical has never been my style anyway, haha. 

I'm okay, honestly. This week has been dizzying, tiring, dragging, relaxing, and every other "ing" word you can think of, plus some major spiritual moments that have opened my eyes to how much my Heavenly Father loves me. I've just been trying to come to grips with how quickly my life has once again spun me around and pushed me in another direction. I feel a little bit like a rag doll, or a child with a leash around my waist, just going with it. I'm a little confused about what the future holds for me, but where's the fun in knowing everything anyway? It'll all work out in the end. It always does.

I'm going on an adventure once again...just a rather different one. But then again, isn't "unexpected" part of the journey the whole point?

Love you all! See you soon!

-Sister Green

Monday, July 14, 2014

Week Apatnapu: At the Crossroads

Sometimes, God has a plan for you that you didn't have for yourself. Just a little more than a year ago, going on a mission was the impossible future, It was the path I never planned to take, or even wanted to. Then, in a miraculous change of heart, my soul was turned to the work. That alone I called a miracle, a decision that will shape my life forever. I was, am, and ever will be convinced that my mission was the best choice I ever made, though it wasn't mine alone. I firmly believe that I was guided toward this mission, with the help of many others who showed me that was the right way. 

Then during my mission, I never imagined I wouldn't be able to finish my eighteen months. And yet, here I am, at the crossroads again, decisions expanding out in front of me. During my mission, I never imagined I'd be spending my fortieth week in the Missionary Recovery Center. And on my mission, though it was something I feared, it was never part of my plan for me to be sitting in front of the Area Medical Assistant with him telling me that returning home to receive proper medical care is the best and safest possible option. But here I am. 

I am officially coming home, everyone. The pain in my back makes it hard for me to walk, stand, or even sit for long periods of time. I understand the decision to release me - I know I cannot help the work if I'm constantly having to stay home because of pain. It isn't fair to my companion or my area. And like I said in my last email, I'm okay. I'd be lying to say that I'm not disappointed or tempted to be discouraged. After all, leaving my mission will be one of the hardest things I've ever done. I'm terrified to leave, to come back to the world, especially when it feels so premature. In my lowest point last week, I said in slight bitterness that going home wasn't part of the plan. I was meant to serve a mission, I reasoned, so in my process of thought it was failure to return early - an unwanted detour to my life. Then my companion looked at me and told me, "Sister Green, going home early wasn't your plan. But it's His plan."

I've thought about that many times this week in the MRC. It wasn't my plan to serve a mission in the first place either, but I did. So though it isn't my plan to return home early, maybe it's a higher plan. A better plan. I recently read a story about thinking of life as a tandem bike ride, and how at first you were steering, but eventually, you and God switch places. And the Lord is just taking a million detours, and He's climbing mountains, and taking this bike through rivers and valleys, and you're just in back thinking "What the heck are you doing? Where are you taking me?" Because you just wanted to get to point A to point B the fastest you can and now, suddenly you're flying through the underbrush and just climbing steep cliffs. But you also pass by gorgeous scenes and you just learn that the hard stuff is worth it to see the beauty. And sooner or later, you start to enjoy this bike ride a lot more when God is the one steering, and He's always right there with you, just reminding you to keep pedaling.

This story was timely as I really reflected that though I might have had a set "plan" for my life, it isn't going to work out if I'm just really stubborn and unwilling to change based on what God has in store for me. My life without the mission would be a lesser life than the life and experience I have now. Perhaps I've learned the lessons I was meant to out here, and now my life needs to continue again at home. Maybe my lesson is there now. Maybe my lesson is to take the things I know and put them to use in the real world. It'll be the hardest change I've ever done, but I know that it's supposed to happen. So I'm okay. I'll be fine. Better than fine. I'll be following this crazy path in front of me with faith.

The MRC is lovely. Sort of like a stress-free environment for broken missionaries. We're just a small little family of ten missionaries that take care of each other and are taken care of by Elder and Sister Kasteler, also known as the "K's". Sister K is a sweetie who just has become the mother of this little group. We have a glorious darling of a cook named Divine, who lives up to her name. Even though all of us are in pain, we feel so comfortable here, being together with friends as we all try to make sense of what's happening to us. Some of us go home, some go back to the field. 

I had just been told, or shortly after I was told about my soon, sure departure, when I was talking to Sister Carly, a senior missionary who was very sweet to me. Though I was still trying to sort through the proper emotions to have in this situation, she comforted me and told me that I don't need to freak out. On the contrary, she said, God has a plan for each of us. He sends His missionaries out to the field to fulfill their purpose, but also to learn a few lessons. She reminded me that the Area Presidency would not send me home if they felt I still had work to do. She reminded me that I was part of the 2% of youth in the world that actually go on missions in the first place. She told me that even though I wasn't doing the whole eighteen months, that just meant that I learned the lessons I was meant to, and that God has a new mission for me back home. Though I may be returning early, she said that the Lord was proud of me for being part of that small percentage who have a desire to serve. 

This reminded me of the Robert Frost poem, "Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood". Of course, you know the punch line of that one. I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. Nothing could be more accurate for me. Though in my life before my mission, my options were like crossroads, endless choices expanding and resulting in different destinations. Crossroads mind you. Unlike Frost, I feel like my options are a little more than just two roads. So anyway, back to my crossroads. I chose the one less traveled by, and I will be grateful for that decision for the rest of my life, because truly it has made all the difference. And because of that one decision, I've changed for the better. And now I'm just at the crossroads again, just with very different options and very different results. I'm apprehensive of course, but I just have to keep pedaling.

I know everything will work out. My testimony is only getting stronger through this. I know the gospel is true, I know The Book of Mormon is the word of God, I know Thomas S. Monson is the true and living prophet on the earth today. And I know that absolutely nothing in my life will bring me more lasting joy than serving in this church with all my heart, might, mind, and strength in any way that I can, even if it isn't here in the Philippines as a full-time missionary. I'm not stopping my work just because the plan changed. I am yet strong! Give me one more mountain!

I'll see you in a week or so, everyone. Can't wait for your smiles, hugs, and of course some yummy treats and heating pads for my back wouldn't go amiss either...haha jokelang!

Mahal ko kayo!

-Sister Green

Bored at the Missionary Recovery Center

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Week Tatlumpu't-Siyam: Photographs

Just chillin' with my friends!

Week Tatlumpu't-Siyam: Livin' on a Prayer


This week, I will hit my nine months mark. That is beyond insane. I'm halfway done with my mission. And, like, the wise Bon Jovi song, I am definitely living on a prayer. I was hesitant to let you all know this, but if I don't, I don't really have an excuse for the sad amount of work that was accomplished this week.

So, I told you last week that I was more or less healthy. That wasn't exactly true to the fullest extent. Now, I'm telling you all this in confidence that you won't freak out or bombard my parents with emails. Remain calm.

On a wise whim, my mission mom ordered me to have a back x-ray two weeks ago, which I found to be very silly at the time, but last Monday I found out that apparently I have scoliosis and something called lumbosacral instability. There is an acute curve in my lower spine, which they say is causing a lot of my back pain, my odd ballerina stance (if any of you have ever noticed), and all that jazz. The instability is the major problem though, which I still don't know the extent of. Though super concerned, I told my mission mom, Sister Guanzon, that I can walk, run, bend, and work, because if my back hurts at all, it's mild pain that I shove to the back of my head. For those of you who know me, back pain has always been on my list of things to deal with, so I wasn't that worried.

Unfortunately, after that Monday, my pain steadily got worse, until it peaked yesterday and we weren't able to work because sitting, standing, and even laying down does not bring this tired Sister a whole lot of comfort. Unfortunately, I'm a little out for the count, which is very frustrating sometimes. Sister Guanzon tells me that we're flying to Manila this week to have a full check up on my spine.

But you know what? It's all good. I've decided that it's going to be okay. I don't know what'll happen this week. But I'm okay. This puti is still fighting. I had a bad day on Friday with the prospect of going home early. Like, I sort of broke down, feeling a little like a failure. But through that pain, a phrase from a scripture came to my mind.

"Be still, and know that I am God." (D&C 101:16)

That was a big comfort to me. So I've decided that whatever happens happens and that even if my mission comes to a premature close, I don't have to leave the "field". Temple work, family history, visiting teaching, relief society, and being exactly obedient, will be my missionary work if I can no longer serve here. I've just decided that I just need to trust God on this one. 

So if my mission lasts for nine more months or nine more days, consider me 100% okay. Nothing is going to stop me from serving, whether it be here in the Philippines or wherever. I'll go where God wants me to go.

But in the mean time, I'll keep living on your prayers. I love you!


Sister Green

Monday, June 30, 2014

Week Tatlumpu't-Walo:Photographs

The Malilipot District

So super funny story. We used to teach an investigator here, at her completely built home. But then we came back two days later and her house was like this in shambles and nothing was there. All that was left was her roof. So we just stood their for a little and we were like, "Uhm. So I guess we'll drop her?"

Week Tatlumpu't-Walo: Embracing My Inner John Taylor

Good Monday to you all! Or Sunday night for most if not all of you.

We had interviews with President this week, which as usual had me electrified with enthusiasm for missionary work. Before the interviews, President spoke to our district about our area - something we were definitely discouraged about. He asked what we saw in the area. Six missionaries were suddenly very quiet. But I opened my mouth and suggested slowly, "Potential." President nodded and asked us to consider a temple district. What are they made of? Stakes. What are stakes made of? Wards. What comes before a ward? President waved a hand at us. A branch, he said. He asked us if we could imagine a temple in Malilipot, right over the rice fields. He asked us to remember that our work adds to the sum total - every little drop counts as we slowly help build the church here. What an awesome responsibility! 

It was an incredible reminder, especially since this was another hectic week. We were in Legazpi on Monday and Tuesday, with doctors appointments, tests, and xrays. Don't freak out, now. Turns out, my kidney stones have miraculously disappeared with just the aid of my medication. My mission mom says it's a little bit of a miracle that the stone is just *poof* gone. I am (more or less) healthy! Just as well, the expeditions to Legazpi severely damaged our work time, and we were feeling pretty exhausted, and not in a good fulfilling way. So President's inspired reminder was like injecting fire into my veins. I was ready to work again, keeping this temple vision in mind.

And we do have work to do. President had us resplit our areas, so now Sister Sanchez and I have a very large chunk of Malilipot Central, which is very new and exciting since all of our areas have previously been very far from the church. Now I'm very excited about this area, though everyone made it clear to us that we were inheriting a difficult area. No investigators in the whole area, almost like we're opening it for the first time. And members, missionaries, and basically everyone we talked to said that it's going to be tough. Facing this new challenge, I was reminded of chapter 26 in the book of Alma, in the Book of Mormon. Ammon and his brothers have spent fourteen years being missionaries and Ammon recalls:

"Now do ye remember, my brethren, that we said unto our brethren in the land of Zarahemla, we go up to the land of Nephi, to preach unto our brethren, the Lamanites, and they laughed us to scorn?

For they said unto us: Do ye suppose that ye can bring the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth? Do ye suppose that ye can convince the Lamanites of the incorrectness of the traditions of their fathers, as stiffnecked a people as they are; whose hearts delight in the shedding of blood; whose days have been spent in the grossest iniquity; whose ways have been the ways of a transgressor from the beginning? Now my brethren, ye remember that this was their language." (verses 23-24)

Now, I could relate to this for sure. New area, with no investigators, and a whole bunch of testimonies of how unperceptive the people are? Just call me Ammon! But Sister Sanchez and I, inspired by President's love for the work, refused to give up. We kept that temple image in mind. We kept focused on and prayed for those people we were about to meet and love. 

"But behold, my beloved brethren, we came into the wilderness not with the intent to destroy our brethren, but with the intent that perhaps we might save some few of their souls." (verse 25)

First day of tracting the new area was a bunch of blow offs. Being a fairly tiring week to begin with, we were less than excited to be rejected a million times. After the first few hours of no luck and more than a few uncomfortable cat calls by the local menfolk to me, we were tempted to become discouraged, tempted to believe that it maybe, just maybe, those testimonies about the hardness of the area could be true. But then I read Alma 26 again and thought like Ammon.

"Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success." (verse 27)

Take about a pep talk! So we squared our shoulders and tracted again the next day, determined to let these people know that we weren't going anywhere. Again, we had cause to be discouraged. Twice, while walking down and back up the same stretch of road, a woman shrieked horrific profanity at us. Sadly, she was proficient in English in this area, and I was so shocked that she was screaming at us - two sister missionaries minding their own business and just walking. But although this was cause to be discouraged, cause to "turn back", I felt a familiar sense of stubbornness take over me. They don't want me here? Well, I'm here to stay. They don't want to listen to me? Fine, I'll try the next house, and the one after that, and after that until I find that soul ready to receive the truth. This message is worth it - worth all the pain, sorrow, and rejection this area has to offer me.

"And we have entered into their houses and taught them, and we have taught them in their streets; yea, and we have taught them upon their hills; and we have also entered into their temples and their synagogues and taught them; and we have been cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon our cheeks; and we have been stoned, and taken and bound with strong cords, and cast into prison; and through the power and wisdom of God we have been delivered again.

And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some." (verses 29-30)

And you know what? We may not have been like Ammon and converted the city, but we're starting. We're determined to work. We found some people who may not be leaping for joy yet, but they're willing to listen. As we were walking out of a less actives home, I saw an old man reading the Bible in a chair outside. Though I didn't want to be involved in any Bible Bashing party, I felt like I should talk to him, and I've learned on the mission tonever discount that feeling. So, swallowing my fear and hesitancy and grabbing Sister Sanchez by the arm, I walked up to him and said hello. He invited us to sit down, introduced himself, and we began to talk. He's had missionary friends before from Ohio, years ago, and he said back then he wasn't exactly open to other religions. But now, he said, in his old age, he's studied a lot of different religions. He told us that he was searching for truth, and he doesn't feel like he's found it yet. Well, I smiled so big and asked him if we could come back to share with him, and he just nodded and told me we definitely could. What a blessing!

President told me during my interview with him that in order to be exactly obedient, sometimes you have to take the offensive. For example, if you're someone who hates waking up early (hemhem), and you're supposed to wake up at 6:30, you set your alarm for 6am. Same with our work, as I've noticed. If we just work to work, we'll get results. But if we go out every single day with the determination and faith that we'll find those waiting people, we'll get miracles. We'll get true conversion. President also told me it all comes down to choice. I have the choice to be happy. I have the choice to work hard. I have the choice to not get discouraged. I have the choice to fight for what I know to be true. I have the choice to look sorrow and misery in the face and turn the other way. 

I'm inspired by a story of John Taylor, the third prophet of this dispensation. I read it the other day and it just made me feel like climbing a mountain. Here it is: 

In 1838, soon after his call to the Quorum of the Twelve, John Taylor traveled toward Far West, Missouri, to join the Saints. Along the way, he was scheduled to speak to a group near Columbus, Ohio. A little before the appointed time, some brethren brought news that a number of men had gathered at the meeting place and were plotting to tar and feather Elder Taylor. The brethren advised him to cancel the meeting because they were outnumbered and would not be able to protect him. However, Elder Taylor insisted he would go and preach as planned and would do so even if he had to go by himself.

When he reached the large crowd assembled to hear him, he proceeded to speak first about his having recently come from countries ruled by monarchs. He told them about the honor he felt of standing on free soil. In reference to how that freedom was achieved, he said: “Gentlemen, I now stand among men whose fathers fought for and obtained one of the greatest blessings ever conferred upon the human family—the right to think, to speak, to write; the right to say who shall govern them, and the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences—all of them sacred, human rights, and now guaranteed by the American Constitution. I see around me the sons of those noble sires, who, rather than bow to the behests of a tyrant, pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honors to burst those fetters, enjoy freedom themselves, bequeath it to their posterity, or die in the attempt.”

Elder Taylor then continued: “But, by the by, I have been informed that you purpose to tar and feather me, for my religious opinions. Is this the boon you have inherited from your fathers? Is this the blessing they purchased with their dearest hearts’ blood—this your liberty? If so, you now have a victim, and we will have an offering to the goddess of liberty.”

Having said that, he tore open his vest and exclaimed: “Gentlemen come on with your tar and feathers, your victim is ready; and ye shades of the venerable patriots, gaze upon the deeds of your degenerate sons! Come on, gentlemen! Come on, I say, I am ready!” Elder Taylor paused for a few minutes, but no one would move or speak. He then continued his remarks and preached to the crowd with boldness and power for three hours.

*slow clap* 

How can you not love that dedication? John Taylor is my newest personal hero. So when I'm tempted to feel discouraged, when I'm tempted to feel never good enough, when pain, health issues, rejection, home-sickness, or any other ailment comes my way? I'm with John Taylor on this one: "Come on, I say, I am ready!" 

And then, when I've done this, my very best, when I've tracted every house in Malilipot with vigor and love and dedication to this message, then I can be like Ammon and say:

"Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many; yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us." (verse 31)

So that's my missionary rant for this week. I hope all of you are safe, healthy, and that you know you are loved by so many people, particularly one tired, but bright-eyed sister missionary in the Philippines. You are all so amazing, and I miss you a lot. Embrace your inner John Taylor! You're awesome.



Sister Green

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tatlumpu't-Pito: When You Can't Run...

Hello friends!

Possibly one of the most horrible sounds in my world is pig screaming. No, you read that right. Pig screaming. So my house is right next to the highway, and across the road is a business where they raise pigs. So then every morning, they tie these pigs up, put them on tricycles, and drive them away to slaughter. So these pigs, while they are being hauled out of their barn and being tied and loaded, they scream, squeal, and shriek for about five minutes. It's a horrific sound that makes me plug my ears and never want to eat bacon again. And every time I hear it, I just say out loud, "Tell me, Clarice...have the pigs stopped screaming?" Sister Sanchez says it now too. Props to those who get it, and if you don't, just know that I hate, loathe, abhor that sound. But it sure wakes me up in the morning. Sorry, that was so random, but I literally have little to nothing to tell you in this email. Nothing that exciting to tell!

This week was an up and down week. 

Up because one of our favorite investigators came to church, which was beautiful and such a boost for us, especially since we had been convinced for the first hour no one was coming. No baptismal date yet, but we have faith that Heavenly Father is watching out for us. 

Also, funny thing happened. So we're teaching this 14 year old investigator, and we're ending his lesson. He's starting to progress, which is glorious. Before when we asked him if he wanted to serve a mission once he gets baptized, and he was initially saying no way, but when we asked him the other day, he started asking questions about the blessings we receive and the way we help people when we serve! Awh, hooray! He's still young, so we're really trying to help him get his life in order. But during our last lesson, he did not want to pray. This happens sometimes, so we just suggested things he could pray for. We did this a few times until he was like "Okay, okay." So Sister Sanchez and I bowed our heads...and he RAN. He bolted out of his chair, literally jumped over me and booked it out of there! Sister Sanchez and I just yelled after him, but he just waved a hand at us. So, unable to leave without closing the lesson, we just sat there dying of laughter until he finally came back. He's such a cute kid. A ridiculous one sometimes, but it's nice to see him enjoying our lessons a little more. 

This week was down because I once again am struggling with my perfectionism issues. I just have those little moments of "darn, I'm just not cutting it" and I feel pretty sad sometimes. Like even though I feel better than I have in a long time and I feel really squared away with God, I just sometimes feel that I'm just not fulfilling my potential. I know it's all just temptation and perspective, I know I'm a working progress, but I had a few bad moments this week. It's just hard not to compare yourself to others sometimes. But this is also a good opportunity for me to be humble and figure out how to truly trust in the Lord. I just want to let you know how much I appreciate your emails, prayers, and love. You really all keep me going. You hold me up! 

"When you can't run, you crawl. And when you can't do that anymore, you find someone to carry you." 

So thank you for carrying me and helping me remember my worth. You're the best group of people a missionary could ever ask for. I miss you all so much. Don't worry about me. Just keep up the prayers and I'll keep on running. I'm still chugging along. Next week will be better. It always is.

Mahal ko kayo,

Sister Green