Monday, February 24, 2014

Week Dalawang-p​u: The Breeze Always Comes

Hello everyone! Kumusta ka? I hope you all had a good week. It's really weird for me to imagine you all running around living normal lives, going to school, watching television, driving in cars, etc. I was talking to Sister Lang this week and I told her, "It's going to be so weird when we don't live in the Philippines", and we just sort of sat and talked about how much our lives have changed. I can't really imagine, realistically anyway, sitting down reading Harry Potter or going out to see a movie anymore. Normal things that I used to do aren't so normal anymore. Normality is waking up at 6:30, washing my laundry by hand, walking five miles or more a day, and so forth. Missionary work is my life now. Thinking about doing anything out of the routine is really weird for me. And I've only been out 4.5 months. I can't imagine how weird it is for the "older" missionaries.
It was a roller-coaster of a week. So much success, but at the same time, so much failure. I'm really starting to realize how difficult missionary work is. I mean, I've experienced difficulty on my mission, I've experienced rejection and everything in the like, but again this week, I came to one of those odd realizations that missionary work, although completely normal to me now, is super strange to others. We met a lot of people this week who asked us why we were out here, and I just said, "Masaya po kami magbahagi sa inyo!" (We're happy to share with you!) and they just tilt their heads in confusion. One pair of woman asked, "Do you get paid?" and when I explained that we actually pay for most of our mission ourselves, they were aghast. Agog and aghast, one might say. To a lot of people, even among my close friends and family, I'm beginning to understand how odd my decision to serve a mission might seem to them. I do it because alam ko po na ang mensahe namin ay totoo! I know it's true, how can I not share it?

Though that sometimes didn't distract from the difficulties of the week. On Tuesday, I had exchanges with Sister Lang, and again as I always do with exchanges, I had perfected a fool proof plan of lessons with many possible back-ups. And, as usual on such days, the plan perfectly fell through. From 10:30 to 5pm, our lessons totaled to wala. I was just a little upset, We started to tract then. In the midst of our disappointment, our exhaustion, and the down right criminal heat of the afternoon, I was having a hard time keeping chipper. We were talking about how we just wanted it to be a little cooler, for a little wind to cheer our spirits. I just wanted something to work out. I wanted to give up, because I was so tired and very hot, and my shoes were killing me since my usual ones have holes the size of dimes in the soles and my other shoes were making the tops of my foot literally bleed. I just wanted a little bit of comfort. Sister Lang grabbed my shoulders and shook me a little and said, "Sister Green. I love you, God loves you, so we have to keep going. The breeze always comes!" 

And there it was. The phrase that has quickly enveloped into my motto for my mission, the phrase that the sisters have quickly picked up in order to motivate me. Consider it to be my version of the kitten poster that says, "Hang in there". After that, we walked tall (though painfully, in my case). We picked a different area, we tracted, we found and taugh three people, one of which is potentially golden, and then we tracked down two of the original lessons planned. At the end of the day, we had five lessons, I had blisters, but the breeze came. 

We had a lot of really amazing lessons this week. Annie told us that she really liked our message and that she wanted to come to church because her current one "didn't teach her anything". Then another investigator, Rhea, told us she was going to come to church because she felt that she might like it. We've been looking for less actives (In the Philippines, more members are inactive than active) and we discovered the Tayco family, who invited us in without hesitation and promised to come to church. We learned later that that particular family was known to be "a lost cause" in the ward since they always slam the door in missionaries' faces, but with us, they had immediately let us in, and promised us a lesson every week. Tender mercies are all up in this area now! Things are changing! The caravan is moving on!

And then the sad. The people who promised us to come to church? Not one of them came. We were so shocked and very much discouraged. I was trying to keep a good spirit around me, but ooph, it was a tough morning. We were investigator-less at church, so that was a huge bummer.

We went to see Melinda yesterday afternoon to teach her about prophets. This is the lady who came to church with her children without us teaching a lesson to her. She listened with interest and told us that she thought about going to church with us, but she felt bad because she said that everyone at the church was wealthier than her, and that she felt like she was from a different world, with different clothes. I wanted to hug her till she passed out. She said that she had had such a wonderful experience last week, she really appreciated the values we taught, and that when she hadn't come to church that morning, she had regretted it shortly after. She said that everyone at the church was so kind to her, so she recommitted to come to church this next Sunday. Progressing! I am so excited for her. We've taught her once and she's already more astig than our investigators we've taught for months.

Funny thing. I was walking down the street, and a little boy that I didn't know passed me. He didn't smile at me, he didn't scream "Americana" at me, he didn't chase me like a lot of other kids, he didn't even hardly look at me! But as he passed me, he just calmly held his hand above his head, and I in turn held out mine, and we high-fived, saying absolutely nothing. He kept walking his way, and I continued down the road. But after a minute of walking, I had to laugh. Thank you for that genuinely encouraging high-five, little boy. You made my day better. 

I had a lot of frustration with Tagalog this week. At an investigator's house, her sister joined in on our lesson. Her sister speaks an odd mixture of Tagalog and Bicol, the specific dialect of the province that I don't know a single word of. Bicol and Tagalog to me are brownies and orange juice. I don't understand a word of it, and I was getting so frustrated because she kept asking me questions and I didn't - couldn't - understand. My inability to speak came off as very aloof to these young women as I found out. They were asking me very odd questions, if I washed my own clothes, if I did my own dishes, if I had a maid back home. We found out that two elder missionaries had visited their house once, and the mother was ready to receive them, but they wouldn't come into their home because it was too dirty for them. So these two sisters seemed to be very convinced that I was "picky" too, and while Sister Siola'a and I told them I wasn't, their questions and surprise about me doing my own chores showed me that they were under the impression that I was a stuck-up princess, and I just didn't like being viewed that way at all. The lesson itself went well - we actually are giving them a tour of the church on Tuesday, they're very excited. So am I. I really feel they could have potential to progress. That was the good in the experience.

I left the house, and turned back because Sister Siola'a wasn't following me. She was talking to the sisters. I found out when Sister Siola'a joined me that the sister of Arlene, the one I had just met, was asking if I was mad at her. They said that I was too quiet and I didn't smile, and they asked her if I was picky again. I was crushed, and very much felt like crying. I had tried so hard to talk with them, and I had explained my trouble with understanding the language, but I guess my looking to my companion in confusion for interpretation came off as haughty and snobbish. Sister Siola'a reassured me that she had defended me and told them that once someone got to know me, they would know that I am anything but, but oh, I was so sad! I had just wanted to give a good lesson, but my inadequacy with the language got in my way again. I hadn't meant to come off like I apparently did. I just want to be able to speak Tagalog. I just really, really, really want to be able to understand. When explaining this experience to Sister Pace and Sister Lang, they sympathized, having gone through similar experiences. Sister Lang's advice was, "Well, Sister Green. They think you're a perfect, pretty princess who thinks you're too good for them. Now on Tuesday, prove them wrong." Yes. I will. On Tuesday, I'll be the most smiley, happy, talkative sister missionary in the world. I will prove their predictions about me wrong. Next week for details on that.

I had severe stomach pain one day that made it impossible for me to keep working. We went home at 7pm, after me battling through three lessons in hunched-over agony. I recognized the pain, I had experienced it a lot at BYU during nights of studying when I thought I had ulcers. Perhaps stomach acid, but dang, it was painful. I woke up the next morning, perfectly fine, having caught up a little on my sleep. Tender mercy there, for sure, but I hope it doesn't happen any time soon! Yikes! 

Although before I fell asleep that night, I started reading Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society and holy wow, that's a really good book. Now, I'm a little ashamed about this, and I apologize personally to anyone who might be offended, but for a long time before my mission, I was always a little weary of participating in Relief Society, which, for those of you who don't know, is the women's organization of the Church. Our motto is "Charity Never Faileth" and while I was reading this book, I realized how much I had previously thought of Relief Society as that last hour before I could go home on Sundays, that class that I never felt applied to me because I'm not a mother yet and the discussions seemed geared toward something I didn't understand. But reading this book, I suddenly feel my appreciation toward Relief Society growing, and a desire to be 100% active in it when I come home. 

Something is developing in me, during my mission, and not just determination to stick around for that last hour of church. A desire to serve and just be all around better than who I was before. I'm just really excited to recognize my full potential through the service and programs that are available to me. I want to be more active than I've ever been. I want to continue in missionary work in my ward, I want to hold callings that will help me serve others, I want to participate in family history work, I want to be a part of every service activity. Things that I always disregarded seem so important now, and I find myself hardly being able to wait to participate in everything I can. I'm setting goals for myself that I never would have even thought of before. I feel that I know who I want to be now, and I'm finally understanding that through programs in the church (like Relief Society), I have a safe environment and many wonderful mentors to help me become a better person, ready to meet the challenges of the world, not only spiritually, but temporally as well. It feels really good to be so centered on doing right. I've stressed for years about figuring out the future, and even though I don't have everything figured out, it feels amazing to understand that no matter what, I have the resources to get myself on the right track.

Another good thing. We were having another really tough day. Only two lessons taught by 8pm, and they were regular lessons that we teach every week to regular less actives that are receptive, but not committing. So they're sort of like fishing in a bucket. You're gonna catch. Anyway, we were discouraged again, and we decided to call it a night and go home. We were walking home when I just grabbed Sister Siola'a's arm and said, "One more house. Let's just get one more house." Now, believe me, tracting on a Sunday night at 8:30pm? Not easy. We got rejected around three times. Sister Siola's suggested we try a small house, looking for a humble person. So, naturally, which house does Sister Green go for? That's right. The biggest on on the road. Sister Siola'a said, "There's no way they'll let us in." And I said, "'re right. But then again...TAO PO!!!" A few seconds later, a woman came out of the house on a cell phone. We waved at her, and she said into the phone. "I'll call you later. I have visitors. There are two foreigners at my gate." We put on our best "we're not creepy, we swear" smiles for her and talked to her. The lady's name is Diane, and she listened to our introduction and said, "Yeah. Come in." YES. Ugh, so good! We gave her a lesson, she liked it, she liked the sound of the programs in the church, and we have a return appointment with her next Saturday night! Again, such a testimony-builder to me, especially when this week has been so tough. After I've done all I can do, after I've tried my hardest, after I'm about to give up, if I just push a little bit more, if I just say "One more house", that's when the miracles happen.

The breeze always comes.

Love you!
-Sister Green

1) "I Believe I Can Fly"
2) "Tom's Diner" - Suzanne Vega
3) "O Holy Night"
4) "It's Not Over Yet" - AVPS
5) "Space Oddity" - David Bowie (again)
6) "Concerning Hobbits"
7) "Walk through the Fire" -BTVS/OMWF

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