Monday, March 10, 2014

Week Dalawampu-​Dalawa: Rising to the Standard

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope everyone's week was so incredibly amazing and fulfilling and wonderful - mine sure was. Allow me to tell you about my fantastic week. But hold on, I have to tell some incredibly loud, screaming boys who are playing League of Legends in this internet cafe to be quiet because I can barely hear myself think with their squealing falsettos.

Ahh. That's a little better. Salamat po. Anyway, my week. This week was rather special. Yesterday, Sunday, was my fifth month missionary anniversary. Can you believe I've already been on a mission for five months? Next month, I'll only have a year left. Sometimes I feel like time is going so slow, but then when I think about only having a year left? I can hardly comprehend how fast life is moving. 

This particular monthly mark of time was rather special, since it was the end of the most productive week of my mission. In fact, this week was so productive that Sister Siola'a and I reached the Standard of Excellence for the Philippines Legazpi Mission! Thirty-five lessons in one week! This is no easy feat. Only five companionships in the whole mission did it this week, and now, we're one of those five! We're practically beside ourselves with joy right now. This joy didn't come till this morning since last night, when I announced to the apartment that we had accomplished the Standard, all I could do was collapse on the floor and laugh so hard that I cried, because finally it was time to rest. We needed a P-Day today. We are exhausted.
Our standard week is the bar I want to meet every week. We met so many amazing and interesting people this week tracting. For instance, last Monday we taught Charrise, a contact from the week before. Our lesson with her was so great. She asked really great questions like "If we're all brothers and sisters, why is it so hard to trust and love people?" and "How can I feel the spirit all the time?" We have another appointment with her today, so we'll se how it goes.

On a really hot morning this week, Friday perhaps, we were tracting in a bit of our area we've never been to before and we were beyond hideous rejected more than ten times in a row. People more or less were slamming their doors in our faces. As soon as they heard "missionaries", they would wave us away, say they were busy, or tell us flat that they weren't interested. We were determined to get the standard though, so Sister Siola'a and I kept going. We finally were let in by a quiet nanay named Norma, a lady who quickly told us about her children and grandchildren and her life battling breast cancer. Her husband, Guy, was a shirtless dude smoking a cigarette, sitting at his sewing machine. He has Mormon friends in Manila and he told us that he had been told by his friends that if he listened to the Mormon Missionaries, "he would be greatly rewarded". We had a really good lesson and we have a return appointment.

After Norman and Guy, we were on our way home for lunch when I felt like we should try a particular house with a bunch of child flip-flops outside. The father, Ben, let us in and he and his wife Neren listened to our message about family as their little daughter, named funnily enough Benjemin ("with an e", they insisted) screamed and danced and made noise around us. She kept telling us that her socks were broken. It was a hoot.

For all of you John Green lovers out there, I met a Nerdfighter! I was scoping out a less-active's bookshelf, and I discovered an almost complete set of John Green books, along with big titles like Wuthering Heights and Life of Pi. The books belonged to a 24 year old in the house named Annie, and we immediately geeked and talked about how much we love books. The problem is, is that when I freak out, I immediately switch to English since I can't geek in Tagalog. But she's skilled in English, so it went okay. We're best friends now.

A miracle happened with one of our less-actives, Ron John. Ron John has a really good testimony, but he hadn't been attending church because he has the night shift at his work and it really drains him, so he sleeps all day. I went there with Sister Pace (we were on exchanges) and Ron John told us that he quit his job so he could go to church every week. He said he missed feeling the spirit and sharing that part of his life with his family. He said that he had known working on Sundays is wrong, and he knew that if he wanted to have a better life, he needed to make the sacrifice. Isn't that incredible? I was so happy I almost hugged him. He quit making an income so he could come back. We found the lost sheep. I was just so thankful for his faith and spirit. Ron John came to church and he wants to enroll in institute again and work with the missionaries!

Annie is progressing too. She knows the church is true and while we don't have a firm baptismal date (yet), she's reading the Book of Mormon and praying. Rhea, although she didn't come to church like she promised, told us the first lesson we had about the Book of Mormon that she totally accepted it as the word of God. She had a lot of questions about baptism that we easily answered with the Book of Mormon. She has a gift of understanding doctrine, and she and Annie both are very child-like in the Christlike sense, that is to accept His word immediately.

Speaking of progression, Melinda! She also told us that she believed the Book of Mormon is true, she's already read the introduction. When I asked her to commit to read the BOM, she just nodded with a smile and stroked her copy we had just given her. She answered in Tagalog, but the English translation was basically, "Yes, Sister. There are prophets in here I've never heard of. There are names that I've never seen. I want to know them. I want to know them all and I want to know their stories." Oh, I practically fainted. She's amazing. I love her so much.

Then there's Mhau. We met her in a dark alleyway on a night we were trying (and failing) to tract. She was hesitant to give us any personal information - I didn't blame her, I'd be a little weirded out by two foreigners approaching you in the dark too - but we talked to her and set up an appointment for Sunday. Mhau is 21 years old and an English teacher at Bicol College We met with her yesterday. We showed her around the church, answered her questions, and then had a lesson about the Godhead, Families, and Prophets. She really liked how we focused on family, since she said she had a rough relationship with hers. She was a little confused about prophets initially, but we answered all her questions. 

We then asked her to say the closing prayer. After teaching her how to pray correctly, we bowed our heads. As soon as she started talking, I felt the Spirit creep into my heart. I was surprised, but I prayed that Mhau was feeling that same sweet feeling from the Holy Ghost. Then she said "amen" and I looked up. Mhau got a weird look on her face and then she put a hand over her heart and she whispered, "Ano ba iyan?" ("What is that?") She told us that she felt like her heart was beating differently, exploding with a "masarap" feeling the spread through her during her prayer. She told us she had never prayed from her heart before, becuase her school always made them do recited prayers. A new light was in Mhau's eyes and a genuine smile on her face as she patted her chest and tried to explain how her heart felt in that moment. I was just trying not to cry the entire time as I thanked Heavenly Father for blessing her with his spirit. She'll progress.

I learned an important lesson yesterday too. We had been running around all day, since we had only five left till the Standard. All of our lessons were suddenly falling through, but we were too close to quit. At 8:30pm, we went to our last lesson, four members in tow, and when we got to Ian's house, it was dark. He wasn't home. With sinking realization I turned from the dark window and looked at the five others with shock evident on my face. We just needed one more. At 8:30pm on a Sunday, and with six people instead of two, tracting wasn't really an option. We went through our contacts. We had no one. We were completely out of options. I was standing there, feeling defeated and frustrated beyond belief. I just wanted to reach the Standard, was that so wrong? Sister Siola'a was trying to name people we could try, but I shot them all down, knowing they weren't options. I felt like a failure! Then, finally, we walked down the street. Sister Siola'a wanted to try a house that she had never been in and that I had only visited once. And you know what? They let us in. All six of us, and with that nay and tay, we had a lovely lesson. 

It hit me halfway through that I had just been taught a huge lesson. God hadn't wanted me to get the Standard of Excellence easily. I needed to work for it. And I needed to get over myself and trust in my companion and trust in Him that things would work out. If Ian had been home, I wouldn't have learned that lesson in humility - I cannot do this job alone. This is the Sister-Green-Show. I am a missionary. I am an unprofitable servant of the Lord. I had been so stressed and defeated that I had forgotten to ask for help. I hadn't been humble enough to ask for a miracle and I had swept aside any spiritual guidance that Sister Siola'a had been getting until the last option. I realized how selfish I had been, and I really realized how I'm on this mission to learn and grow, not to just easily get the Standard of Excellence with the drop of a hat.

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding."

Getting the Standard of Excellence this way has made it so much more wonderful and special for us. We learned a valuable lesson - especially me. I am beyond grateful that my Heavenly Father cares enough to teach me those important lessons so I can become more like he would have me be. I don't just want to rise to the Standard of Excellence, I want to rise to the standard of my Father in Heaven.

Have a great week everyone. I miss you!
Sister Green

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