Monday, January 27, 2014

Week Labing-Ani​m: Mountains to Climb

Okay, background story on the title. It's actually the name of an LDS Youth song that I heard more than fifty times in the MTC and am continuing to hear here. Oh my goodness, I'm rather sick of it. This week we had our Area Broadcast, so we went to Legazpi and sat in their air-conditioned chapel and watched the recording of the area presidency talking about our achievements in 2013 and the goals for this year. The ending speaking was the area president, who gave a good talk about continuing in the face of suffering or trouble. He referenced the pioneers and referenced the talk, "The Caravan Moves On" by Bruce R. McConkie, in which there are the inspiring words:

"The Church is like a great caravan—organized, prepared, following an appointed course, with its captains of tens and captains of hundreds all in place.

What does it matter if a few barking dogs snap at the heels of the weary travelers? Or that predators claim those few who fall by the way? The caravan moves on.
Is there a ravine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep grade to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters wise. The caravan moves on.

Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the bridges, deserts to cross, and rivers to ford? Such is life in this fallen sphere. The caravan moves on.

Ahead is the celestial city, the eternal Zion of our God, where all who maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest. Thank God that the caravan moves on!"

Good stuff. Anyway, the area president quoted this in ending his talk, but before he did, he said that there would always be troubles. He said, "There are mountains to climb, and rivers to cross..." which I kid you not, are exact lyrics to this LDS youth song that I dislike. I'd like to say that I just sat there without saying anything, but in my shock, I opened my mouth without thinking and said in the darkened room, "Are you kidding me?" which earned a laughing "shhh" from my roommates. I mean, I understand that he didn't have to be quoting the song "Mountains to Climb" but the only other source I found with those exact words was "Wheeler, Maria Walker, My history", and it was four words in a very large trail excerpt. So which is more rational, I wonder?

I found it very funny since I had just said days before how little I liked the song. The Elders were teasing me all the way to Colonial Grill for dinner, and they continue to even now. They say things like, "Sister Green, this is just your mountain to climb!! YOUR RIVER TO CROSS!" So that's why my title is what it is. We've also taken to saying "The caravan moves on" whenever we leave a building.

Moving on.

I finished my journal this week. I wrote every single of my mission so far, filling a book with only a little over three months of material. I started the new one that Tiffany sent me with the goal of writing some major adventures in it. 

Another funny moment this week was when Sister Jaya and I and all the Elders were at a Family Home Evening activity at our Bishop's sister's house. We were gathered around the television to watch a mormon message, but when the screen came on, the DVD menu for "Breaking Dawn" came on. Immediately, all the elders were like, "Wow, wow, yes!" As the family frantically tried to change the screen, Elder Wilcox comically added, "Breaking Dawn, Breaking Rules!"

I watched a movie this week called, "The Mountain of the Lord", which is about the struggle of 40 years to build the Salt Lake Temple. It really reminded me how grateful I am to have the blessings of the temple and since I won't be able to go to the temple for another fifteen or so months, I've really been remembering how lucky I was to live only forty-five minutes from one back home. I love the temple. My testimony of them has grown so much and I can't wait to go again. I want to buy a map when I get home and track every temple I go through throughout the world. I want to see them all!

Our senior missionary couple was helping Sister Jayasekara with her college applications, so while Sister Nelson helped her, Elder Nelson gave me a run-down of basic finance, since I am a five year old who knows nothing about money. He explained interest and house-payments and credit cards to me, so hopefully when I get home from this Neverland of sorts, I'll be able to grow up a little.

We had another dinner appointment last night at the Bigtas' home. When we came up to the gate, their big black dog came barking, so Keisha, the 14-yr-old daughter, came out saying, "Sirius! Sirius be quiet!" and I just grinned so big and asked, "Your dog's name is Sirius?" and she just grinned back and later we talked about how awesome it is that her dog is named after Sirius Black. I love finding fangirls.

We had some interesting experiences this week. We taught Jon Maldo again, the argumentative tatay, and we brought with us four members to back us up. Even with the six of us testifying, Jon Maldo refused to just listen. He didn't mean to be antagonizing, if anything, I think he honestly enjoyed the conversation, but he challenged us on the Godhead again, saying, "It says in the Bible that Jesus and God are just one person." When I whipped out a bible scripture (I came prepared) that proved the existence of three separate beings, he blinked at me and then completely changed the subject, choosing then to question plural marriage, convinced that it was still a practice in the church. By the time we got out of there, all the members were breathing sighs of relief. We don't know if we can keep teaching him - he seems to only be interesting in contradicting us, not listening. Oh, Jon Maldo.

We finally taught Shampoo Lady (Mariline) again. After a month of being blown off, she finally talked to us. She hadn't read the Book of Mormon assignment, and she said that her church forbade it. Basically, she told us she was sorry. We bore our testimonies as much as we could. I just remember thinking, over and over, "We can't lose her." After reading some scriptures to no avail, Sister Jayasekara bore her testimony one last time. She started to cry, which to my surprise, made Mariline start to cry too. They sat together, holding hands, crying, while I sat not knowing what to do. Mariline, though, felt the spirit of our love testifying to her and she promised us that she would try to read the Book of Mormon, since she had committed to and she didn't want to break her promise. She just kept crying and saying, "Pasensya po, Sisters, talaga." It was incredible, in it's odd way. She prayed, she hugged us so hard, she gave us a snack, and then we walked away. I don't know if she'll progress. I don't know if anything will happen. But I do know that Mariline felt the spirit and she knows how much we love her. 

I met three interesting woman this week. We had planned a first lesson with a woman who's fruit stand we frequent, and we had planned to meet her at the church since she couldn't see us at her house. When this older woman walked up to the church, she had brought two friends! We were more than a little surprised, but we led these three nanays inside. We taught them, and they listened politely. I love them. Like, they could be a sitcom. They're all over sixty, and her friends unfortunately aren't in our area. Yolanda, our investigator, is bubbly and girly and happy. Then Cynthia is quiet but friendly. And then Miriam is a little stony, she sat in back and somewhat frowned at us during the lesson, though her frown softened as she immediately whipped out her reading glasses to read the Restoration pamphlet. I've decided to call them the Odd Sisters, though they remind me of Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit from "A Wrinkle in Time". They said they'd come to church next week to get the "full affect", as they said.

Before my mission, at ASU, my church calling was Ward Missionary. Not really knowing what that calling meant, whenever the missionaries texted me, I never went out with them. Now, when I go home, I will beg my bishop for that calling. Ward Missionaries are SO important. We can barely do any work without them. If you are a ward missionary, strive to magnify your calling! Your testimony can make the difference. If I'm ever called to be one again, I'd be the hardest working one in the land because I know how much it helps!
Sister Jaya and I were eating lunch today and I was so excited to email so I was bouncing, waiting for her to eat her chicken, and even though her chicken was only bones, she was still picking at it, getting every last possible bit. I said, "Sister Jaya, there's nothing left, just leave it!" When she looked up to see my impatient expression, she just smiled at me, shrugged, and said, "Never give up!", She's a sassy one, my companion.

I hope you all have a magical week, and that you climb your mountain and cross your rivers. Remember, THE CARAVAN MOVES ON.

Love love love,
Sister Green

"Smooth Criminal" - Michael Jackson (A house we tracted was blasting it and I was singing it under my breath all day. I love that song. I thought of Lindsey Hale.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Week Labing-Lima Photographs

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Sister Jaya wearing a beanie because of the "cold." Thug Life.

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Fried Bananas! Makes me think of my dad!


Week Labing-Lim​a: Ch-ch-ch-C​hanges!

Magandang hapon, po! Another week come and gone, can you believe it?  - "Time is making fools of us again."

I hope everyone had a good week. Mine was full of lovely weather - cloudy, windy, and cool. Sister Jaya doesn't like it, she and the locals are always exclaiming, "Malimig, malimig!" (cold). Yesterday, I found myself even a little chilly! A miracle, right? I love it. 

I find myself again without much to tell you all, though more than last week at least. So I'm sorry if my email seems, once again, a little less than super exciting, I'm sorry. I'll try and find a python to wrestle with so I have a riveting story to tell you next week. Exciting things that have happened this week...

I had the first hot shower I've had in eight weeks. Mind you, it was still a bucket shower, but while I was still majorly sniffling with my cold, the last thing I wanted to do was take a freezing shower. Sister Pace suggested I boil some water for my bucket, and though I was hesitant, I went for it. Mixing the boiling water with the freezing provided me with a delightfully warm shower. After the first scoop of water, I felt like a thousand knots in my body were immediately loosened. Since then, I've done the boil water routine every night. I love my warm showers. Everybody be jealous.

Funny moment: I was having fun with a towel around my shoulders and an umbrella in my hand, and Sister Jaya says, "You know, with your hair like that, you look like Diana." Knowing immediately that she meant Princess Di, I giggled for a long time, dancing around like a fool. So apparently, I'm Molly Ringwald, Marilyn Monroe, Barbie, and Princess Di. My portfolio of people that I-don't-actually-look-like-yet-I-apparently-do-here continues.

My mail continues to trickle in, and I've gotten a few Christmas cards now. Thank you to the Mumford's, the Travisano's, the Toronto's, the Petersen's, and Grandma Margaret. You're all awesome!

My reading of the Bible has slowed, putting me in the middle of Exodus. I've turned my attention to Jesus the Christ, which is an 800 page book that James E. Talmage wrote. Having picked it up earlier in my mission, I had read up to chapter six of it with difficulty. It's very beautifully written in rich english, but sometimes it can be hard to read, and most missionaries have told me that it's the "last resort" for reading. But for some odd reason, this week I started to devour it, and in the past week alone, I read to chapter 21, breezing through over two hundred pages like it was a bit of light reading. And I LOVE it. Wow, this book is incredible. So detailed in the chronological life and the works of Christ, and then on top of that, it really explains some difficult doctrines that I had been confused on before. Just this week, I feel like I've grown so much in the knowledge of our Savior's life and His teachings and miracles. So many things that I didn't know before were made clear to me. I seriously love this book. 

We visited Jon Maldo again, the older man we tracted, who quoted scripture to us. He graciously accepted us and we explained the Book of Mormon in more detail since he was a little confused why the prophets in the Book of Mormon didn't appear in the Bible. While we were explaining, he quoted a lot more bible verses at us, which although could seem annoying, I rather enjoyed. I found it extremely cool that this man knew so much scripture by heart, and in English to boot. I feel like I really about getting better about loving the people. We had a little hiccup with Jon Maldo about the Godhead. He told us they were just one, and even after we explained the separate beings of the Godhead with the aid of a scripture in Matthew, and after we all seemed to agree that the Godhead are only one in purpose, he still seemed a little tripped up on it. Sensing his argumentative nature, Sister Jaya expertly turned the discussion back to the Book of Mormon, which Jon Maldo promised to read. He's so intelligent, and he said that he enjoyed talking to us.

The next day was Sunday, and Sister Jaya and I were again discouraged as none of our investigators walked through the door. We sat in dejection for the first half of sacrament meeting, when Sister Jaya slapped my arm and motioned to the window. Flying out the door, we found none other than Jon Maldo walking hesitantly up to the church! YES YES YES. And there was much rejoicing! We brought him in and he listened quietly to the speakers. Toward the end of sacrament meeting, a member nudged me and pointed outside. Confused, I walked outside to see the Lotivio family, our investigators who had made no indication of a firm commitment to come! The mother and father stood nervously outside with their two small girls, and we practically dragged them inside, waving aside their apology for being late with big smiles. 

Jon Maldo only stayed for sunday school, and although I think he had a nice experience, he went off a little at the end when given a chance to speak about how the Godhead is one again. Elder Wilcox was looking pointedly at me while our investigator passionately quoted the bible to our instructor and he showed me a note that said, "Note to Sisters: Cover the Godhead" and we were just frantically nodding at him that we did. Jon Maldo is religious, that's for sure. I'm still hopeful for him. He came to church, didn't he? Progressing! The Lotivios stayed for the remainder of the block, the mother going to nursery with her kids and the father attending priesthood. I'm so happy about them, especially since they hadn't come the last three times they committed to. I hope they had a good experience and maybe this opens them up a little more to us. How cool is that though? After so much discouragement, God softened the hearts of our investigators! I feel a little more on track now.
Another odd miracle is that we ran into the Cantreras kids - two little girls that told us that they didn't want us to teach them anymore - and they attacked us with hugs and demands of why we never came to see them anymore. We were confused, but delighted. Now, we're teaching their inactive mother, them, and their old brother and sister. And last time we taught them, the kids all committed to a baptismal date of March 1st! Crazy miracles happening right and left!

Things are finally happening!

I received a lot of compliments on the musings of last week's email, so I thought it'd be okay for me to give another blurp at the close of my email. Hope you don't mind.

We taught a lot of less actives this week, which reminded me of a talk that I recently read from last year's October General Conference from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf called, "Come, Join with Us". If you're interested in reading, here's the link:

I was struck by the sincerity in Uchtdorf's words as he beautifully implored all less active members of the church to return and reminded them of how much they are loved and appreciated. He also talks about members in the church who are perhaps feeling less than appreciated or perhaps considering ending their dealings with the church and urging them to try and remember why they started to love the church in the first place. This talk isn't a demand, but an invitation, and he so perfectly reminds us that, "In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves."

I appreciated that reminder and second that wholeheartedly. There can be any number of reasons why someone becomes inactive in the church, some of which are outlined in Uchtdorf's talk, but that doesn't mean that they're condemned or forgotten! Of course not! As a missionary, part of my job is to help less actives remember the joy and love they felt while active, and as we say so often in conviction and pathos, "How great is my calling!" Since these emails are published to an online blog, I felt the need to make it clear that if you are inactive or perhaps struggling in your faith, you are not condemned, you are not weak. You are loved, and as Uchtdorf puts so eloquently, your talents are needed in the church, your viewpoint, your experiences.

This talk mentions one of my favorite scriptures in the Bible, and since then, the simple verse has been hitting me again and again, and was further clarified by me researching it in Jesus the Christ. When Christ was born on the earth, the common conception of the Messiah was a political figure that would strongly defeat the Romans and free God's chosen people (of Abrahamic lineage) from their tyranny. At one turning point, accounted in John chapter six, when Christ outright states his purpose in the world and debunks that theory, explaining that he is the bread of life and all men that accept him may have eternal life, it caused many people of his thousands of disciples and followers to turn away from him and seek him no more. Even His apostles were a little miffed with this new information! At that, Christ turns to them, after seeing probably hundreds leave, and he asks, "Will ye also go away?"

I literally can't read that sentence without emotion rushing through me. Christ is asking His apostles, his friends if they are also going to leave him, if they're also going to turn away. They aren't just bodies or servants to him. He cared if they left, because he loves them.

Will ye also go away?

And then Peter answers on behalf of them all saying, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." 
I love the way Elder Uchtdorf ends his talk: "There are times when we have to answer the same question. Will we also go away? Or will we, like Peter, hold fast to the words of eternal life?
If you seek truth, meaning, and a way to transform faith into action; if you are looking for a place of belonging: Come, join with us! If you have left the faith you once embraced: Come back again. Join with us! If you are tempted to give up: Stay yet a little longer. There is room for you here.I plead with all who hear or read these words: Come, join with us. Come heed the call of the gentle Christ. Take up your cross and follow Him. Come, join with us! For here you will find what is precious beyond price."

I would be lying if I said I have never doubted the faith I have. I would be lying if I said that there haven't been times of confusion, fear, or wretched feelings of if I'm in the right place. I would be lying if I said that I have never been backed into a corner. I would be lying if I said that I had never been offended by someone or had a question that made me ask questions. But after all of that, I know that if Christ stood before me and asked me those words, "Will ye also go away?", I could not answer in any other way than by holding firmly to the faith that I do have and replying:

"Lord, to whom shall I go?"

I'm on a mission because I know it's where I'm supposed to be. I have a testimony of this gospel, a dedication to this church that no one can take away from me. Despite the hardships, I know that there is no where I would go that could bring me more joy, more truth, than here. I'm here to do the Lord's work. Sometimes it's hard to keep that in my sights, but this is why I'm here: To invite others to come unto Christ. I again testify to Elder Uchtdorf's words and say that if you've left, there is always room here. If you've found yourself backed into a corner and are thinking about leaving, please don't. Remember how loved you are. You are not condemned, please don't think you can't come back.

Come, join with us. 

I hope all of you have a great week. I love and miss all of you, and I hope you don't mind my occasional rants. 

Sister Green

"Called to Serve"
"The Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends" - Oklahoma
"Radioactive" - Imagine Dragons


Monday, January 13, 2014

Week Labing-Apat: Pictures

"Does YOUR best friend send you an awesome limited addition Hobbit journal with illustrations from the first addition for xmas? No they don't. Because your best friend isn't Tiffany Maksimuk. Bilbo out!"

"I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led. And through the air. I am he that walks unseen." - The Hobbit

"A monkey!!! TIED TO A HOUSE????"

"Welcome to the jungle."

 "Over the rice fields and through the jungle, to an investigator's house we go!"

Week Labing-Apat: Filling the Cracks with Gold

Happy Monday! What a week, though to be honest, I don't have much to report. Sister Lang, an Sister Training Leader who stayed at my house the other night, said I looked like Molly Ringwald and that I need to wear pink more often, as Pretty in Pink is her favorite movie. And since we also decided that she is the ruler of my life, I guess I have to comply.

I forgot to tell you - we caught rats last week! We had set mouse glue traps all around the house, but our rat problem was still at large, until clever me left the lid off the big bucket of water storage. Sister Pace found two drowned rats there in the morning. Turns out, the reason why our traps weren't working was because the rats were bigger than my foot. R.O.U.S's for sure. I didn't see them, thank goodness, but yeah! It's more fun in the Phillies!

This week, I've been helping Sister Jaya apply for BYU - she's leaving so soon! I've been specifically helping her edit her application essays. Sort of made me miss college. After I expressed interest, the Nelsons, a senior missionary couple, said that after my first twelve weeks in the field, I can ask President if I can teach English at the CES building to Filipinos. I'm way excited for that, so I'll keep you updated!

I have a cold this week, sniffles and Kleenex galore! But I feel my health is on the horizon. I'd be more discouraged about it if I didn't have this beautiful weather. Rainy, but it is FINALLY cool and even a little breezy! Everyone around me is bundling up and complaining about the "cold", but I've been dancing in the rain and enjoying every bit of this spring-time-feeling weather. I'm loving it!

Ooph! We just had a brown out for thirty minutes. Elder Walker ran to get Jollibee sundaes, and now we're back! Thank you, autosave!

My title comes from a dear elder that my friend Margaret Young sent me on Christmas that I just received this week (thank you!). She told me that her present to her daughter this year was a broken cup mended with gold glitter glue, and she explained to me that "when the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful." She then included the musings of American writer Barbara Bloom: "Such a deep and profound metaphor for what the ever loving, ever-powerful Universe does with our grief, pain and suffering. We can offer up all the pain to the Source that can transmute and heal all. You have the power to transmute and heal the pain and fill all the cracks with gold."

This week, I was faced with not just one, but multiple people I love doubting their self worth. Their personal agony was so great, and I watched with a heavy heart as these wonderful people in my life felt worthless, with me standing by without an idea of how to help. In one situation, I simply had to embrace Alma's words in the Book of Mormon, "Yea, and [be] willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort" (Mosiah 18:9). I felt helpless in those moments, but perhaps the only good thing I could do was wait and be available. And as I thought of these people in my life that have altered mine so much for the better just by being in it, I was faced with my own pain as I desired so much for them to see themselves as I do, and by extension, see themselves as God does.

In those moments of aching, I remembered the words that Dean William Ralph Infe wrote, words that I had only read a few days prior: "'Do not forget,' said the Devil with a smile, 'that I have been evolving too.'" The first time I read that simple sentence, I shivered, understanding the truth of that sentence. No matter how strong I get, or how I strong I know other people are, the power of the adversary is ever growing too, finding ways to hurt us. How terrifying a thought! I know, however, that through constant faith and perseverance, we can stay ahead of the growing darkness.

I pondered in my personal study how in my own life and in the lives of others, how could we bounce back from times we felt vulnerable, scared, alone, or worthless. How could we stay ahead of the dark and stay in the light? Or perhaps, escape the dark when we've fallen into it? As I pondered this, I remembered Margaret's dear elder. With eager hands, I unfolded the paper and read those comforting words again. Despite being broken, in a collector's eyes, a broken bowl can be more beautiful with it's cracks filled with flecks of gold. Despite our brokenness, our longing, our despair, we can be mended! We can be healed! And like the Japanese pottery, if we live through our shattering moments and not agonize over our prior "cracks", but fill them with gold, perhaps it would be easier to see ourselves as God does - ever purposeful and beautiful.

Margaret also included a poem, written by Peter Mayer. In it, I enjoyed the meaning in the lines:

So now every old scar shows
From every time I broke
And anyone's eyes can see 
I'm not what I used to be
But in a collector's mind
All of these jagged lines
Make me more beautiful

and then later,

I have some cracks you can see
See how they shine of gold

In the grand collector's mind, our cracks, our experience, make us worth something. We were not made to be perfect, we were made to become perfect. Those people struggling in my life are better with their trials, showing how the bounced back! They did not stay broken! They carried on! This experience this week has made me determined to not hide my scars, nor be ashamed of them, but to do as Barbara Bloom suggests and utilize my "power to transmute and heal the pain and fill all the cracks with gold", becoming a fuller, and more experienced person who can hopefully in the future offer more comfort to those who stand in need of it. Hopefully, those people who are struggling can remember that they are loved, that they are worth so much more than what they sometimes are tempted to feel. Hopefully, they can overcome their darkness and fill their lives with light.

I had something else I wanted to touch on, but we have to book it across the city to Sister Jaya's English class. Next week then! I hope all of you have a smashing day. Even though teaching was slow this week, I'm so thankful to be a missionary and to be teaching and reminding God's children that He loves them, and that through the gospel, they can overcome anything. I've found that when I'm serving my hardest, I am my most happy. 

To quote my favorite hymn:

5. Stript, wounded, beaten nigh to death,
I found him by the highway side.
I roused his pulse, brought back his breath,
Revived his spirit, and supplied
Wine, oil, refreshment--he was healed.
I had myself a wound concealed,
But from that hour forgot the smart,
And peace bound up my broken heart.
(A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief)

I have a lot of cracks, but through the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and through my missionary service, I've found them slowly being filled with gold. And even if this year is the hardest year of my life, I know it will also make me of more worth in the end. 

"When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." - Mosiah 2:17

"You will want a might change in their hearts. Well, He will want a mighty change in YOUR heart." - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

All my love,

Sister Green

1) We've Only Just Begun - The Carpenters

2) Concerning Hobbits - The LOTR soundtrack

Monday, January 6, 2014

Week Labing-Tatlo: The Photos


The lechon!

And so it begins...

"Opening my mom's delayed Christmas gifts of bug spray and socks. HOORAY PRESENTS! MY MOM IS THE BEST DON'T EVEN DENY IT."

"An awesome notebook that I found. And then bought."

Week Labing-Tatlo: A New Year

Happy new year, everyone! Can you believe that 2013 is already gone? I seriously can't. Like literally. This can't be real.

Our New Year was a memorable one, though boring at the surface. We had a curfew at six, so I put on my jeans, having not worn them in six weeks, and the other sisters followed suit, so we spent the evening sweating in our jeans and dancing around. Three other sisters spent the night at our house, so we talked and had some spaghetti and our "lechon" (pig). In the Phillies, a roasted pig is tradition for holidays, but not having money for a real pig, we bought a loaf of bread shaped like one! We went to bed around eleven, only to be woken up by what sounded like bombs outside our apartment. We woke up and watched the fireworks that were being shot off from what seemed like everywhere, lights showering the sky and horns and noise makers filling the night with sound. It felt like the world had suddenly gone into World War 3, the sounds were so intense and booms from the fireworks were so close. After a while, we went back to bed, lulled to a restless sleep by screams ringing in the new year. 

Prescilla and Imelda, our new converts, had a funeral on the third, since their mother died. We went, and I expected to be offering comfort and broken Tagalog words of consolation and assurance of God's plan, but it wasn't needed. As we walked into the courtyard, we were greeted by a group of men drinking to Valeriana Llorendo's name, who pointed to the back. Imelda met us happily there, hugged us, and ushered us all in to see her mother. The casket was open, though a glass pane had been fitted over the body. The funeral was in a small house, with a lace curtain pinned to cover the television where children were sitting. Imelda and Prescilla gave us seats right outside, so we could still see into the room where their mother was, and then they fed us pancit, a noddle dish similar to lo mein, and chocolate snack cakes. They wouldn't stop feeding us - I was so full by the time we left. It was the oddest funeral I've ever been to - and it's still going on. Here, funerals can last weeks. But Prescilla and Imelda didn't need consolation, they were so bubbly and happy and as we reminded them of God's plan and hope for eternal families, they agreed with smiles and hugs. 

I'm getting better at cooking. I have a new system too. It's called throw-everything-we-have-in-a-pot-and-serve-it-over-rice. It's a hit with the sisters, especially when I found cream of chicken soup in the "shop around the world" section at LCC.

There was a "brown-out" on Thursday. No power, and no water from 5am to 7pm. What do you get when that happens? A very sweaty and very exhausted Sister Green. Ugh. Thanks to my mom's package with the hand-fan, I didn't die, but boy I was having a hard time! 

I got serenaded with "Call Me Maybe" again. 

I've started reading the Bible, as part of my new year's resolutions. It's really intimidating, and I practically live by my footnotes since I don't know what's going on half the time. But I'm really enjoying it. One of the biggest blessings of my mission is really building a love for reading the scriptures. I don't see it as a chore anymore, I see it as a blessing! The best part of my day! 

This week we saw the Lord's hand by really working hard on listening to the Spirit - Sister Jaya and I visited a less active named Katelyn. She has such incredible faith and understanding, she understands the doctrine so well - we just didn't understand why she wasn't coming to church. In companionship study, I had decided how we needed to be firmer in our commitments. So after that, I was just prompted to be blunt. I just asked her what was stopping her from church. Katelyn looked hesitant, but she admitted to us in a whisper that her father got angry whenever we visited her, and that he was keeping her from returning to church. We could see in her eyes that she wasn't lying, and that made it all the more painful as we realized that this beautiful daughter was being kept from keeping her covenants. We assured Katelyn that we loved her, and that'd we'd pray for her to make sure she would be able to return to church. It was a humbling and teaching experience for Sister Jaya and I, to really realize that in this situation, we had to just leave it up to God. We'll see how her situation progresses, but I just really hope that Katelyn will find a way to come to church. I shared 1 Ne 1:20 with her, which promises God's deliverance to those who he has chosen. 

Speaking of being firmer with commitments, I hammered on the less active that I mentioned last week, Brother Mirabona, until he promised to come to church. Did he come? No. Frustration! So he'll have an upset ginger busting down his door this week. 

We had a lesson with a man named Jon Maldo this week. It was his first lesson and it was incredible to see how the spirit worked on him. At the beginning, although he was super open and friendly, he was really just preaching to us, quoting scriptures every five seconds with a smile on his face. I don't think he understood our purpose. But as we talked more and more, he started to really listen. He asked clarifying questions. We committed him to read the Book of Mormon. I really really liked him. He was old and laid back and super easy to talk to. I felt more confident in my Tagalog with him, and I have high hopes for him. 

This year has been a whirlwind of activity and change. Just a recap of my last year: I officially transferred to ASU and although the plan had been to stay home and do online classes, at the last moment, I got the empty room next to my best friend, Tiffany Maksimuk. We spent the semester together, and this year, I really came to realize just how much I rely on her and how much she has always supported me. Throughout the semester, we had so many incredible, hilarious, and crazy adventures. In February, the day after Valentines day, I met two wonderful young women, Jasmine and Natalie. Although our meeting was complete chance, I now call them two of my closest and best friends, and I am so blessed to know them. In March, I met my Microsoft family: Randy, Vi, Jordyn, and Hannah. Through another complete chance, I somehow got involved in a project that would lead me to make incredible connections and make some wonderful new friends that I had many amazing opportunities to work with, and hopefully have many more in the future. My semester at ASU was the best consecutive five months of my life, in so many ways as I felt like I really fell into myself and began to realize my potential as I met so many new amazing people that continually believed in me. In January was the first time I wondered if I should serve a mission. It wasn't until February that I decided that it was something that I wanted to do. I submitted my papers in May, and received my mission call in June. A week after, I went through the Snowflake temple. That summer, I held two jobs as a hostess and a gardener while being a temple worker, and wrote up a storm, finishing the year with two major series of seventeen and twenty chapters long. In July, I traveled to Colorado for a crazy fun trip. By the end of that month, I knew that my dad had gotten a new job in Japan, and in August, my dad and brother left to live there. In September, I was a stress-case as I prepared for my mission, and as I said goodbye to so many people that I miss so much. In October, I entered the Missionary Training Center. In November, I flew to the Philippines. And I celebrated the new year here. And now, here I am, and here I'll stay for the next year and four months.
This past year has been the most insane year of my life. Ch-ch-ch-changes! Everything is different now - I'm different. I have a new sense of my purpose, not just as a missionary, but as a human being. Even after my mission, I know that the lessons I've learning now will affect the rest of my life. I'm excited for the future. Like my best girl Tiffany says, "When we're 87 and living together because our husbands have kicked it, we'll say, 'Bro. Remember 2014? That was a dang awesome year."

Yeah it will! I just feel like I started the most incredible year of my life. The most difficult and trying one for sure, but this is the year that I'll forever look back on. Time to make it awesome. My biggest resolution is to really get closer to my Savior and learn to see myself as He does. In the past, I haven't always done as I should have, and I haven't forgiven myself as much as I should. I want to make up for that this year. No looking back on mistakes anymore! Wouldn't want to turn into a pillar of salt, now would I? (budum-cheesh) Lot jokes? Anyone?

Everything is going to be better this year. And I'm going to work even harder to be the missionary I know I can be!

Sister Green

-"When you Believe" - Prince of Egypt song
-"Space Oddity" - David-always-stuck-in-my-head-Bowie
- "Everybody" - Backstreet Boys

- "There are Worse Things I Could Do" - Grease