Monday, April 28, 2014

Week Dalawampu-Siyam: Why? Why Not?

I'm warning you early, this will not be a lengthy email. I think I still have broken fingers from the last one. That and not much happened this week, I'm afraid. Nothing more than the usual: finding, teaching, standard of excellence-ing. This is the eighth week in a row we've gotten the Standard, so that's really cool. We've decided that the Standard is just the Normal now. If we get less than 35 lessons, it would be because of incredible laziness, and that's simply not an option. 

I don't think I'll ever get used to the way people stare at me. Like, I'm used to the cat calls and the serenades. Now they since "Hey Jude" to me instead of "Call me Maybe" so that's a nice change. But I just don't think that I'll ever accept how much I stand out despite how normal it is. Normality is the abnormal. I was walking with Sister Lang the other day, a girl just as white if not whiter than I am, and I acknowledged, "It's going to be weird when we're invisible again." And she just laughed and replied, "Oh, it'll be so wonderful." And then at that moment a man across the road screamed, "I LOVE YOU, PUTI" at us. Puti is short for Maputi, which means "white". Twice this week, family members of investigators took pictures of me without permission.

Sister Siola'a and I had an adventure this week. The trash needed to be taken out, but we couldn't take it to the truck stop until the morning, so I put it outside the door so the house wouldn't stink. When we got home, trash was all over the ground since the stray cats got in it. While I was lifting up the bag to put it in another bag, a mouse ran from it into the house. I roared a battle cry, and ran after it, waving my stick broom in the air. After looking all over, we couldn't find it, so we figured it had ran out the open back door. After resuming our daily planning, the mouse started crawling up the wall two feet away from me. I shrieked and scooted my chair backward three feet, running to get the broom. The mouse ran under my desk, and Sister Siola'a grabbed the other broom and we waited. Nothing. Finally, Sister Siola'a moved the desk and the mouse darted back and forth all along the wall, beneath bags and our desks and Sister Siola'a just chased it back and forth yelling while I screamed and hopped up and down and pointed and was effectively useless. Of course this was the perfect time for the other sisters to come home too. And they were just watching in the doorway of Sister Siola'a and I losing it. But then, like the crazy awesome Tongan she is, Sister Siola'a killed the mouse with the broom. We hugged afterward, both of us wigging out. We are wild women over here people. 

We had a crazy experience this week though. We were teaching an investigator outside, squatting on some buckets, and it just wasn't going well. She wasn't focused at all and it was just sort of frustrating since she wasn't absorbing a single word. So while she got up in the middle of the lesson to cook, another woman walked by. She stopped and asked who we were, so we told her. And she started asking questions. And we asked if we could share with her, and she told us her home was too messy, so we agreed that the church would be best. So at eight at night, we walked with her to the chapel. I told the bishopric we were there, and they invited us into the office. We shared with her, and when I told her she could change her life through our message, she just said, "Oh, thank you. Thank you." Her name is Jessica, and on that first lesson, we asked if when she knows these things are true, if she would be baptized. She just kind of stared at us and then said, "Bakit hindi?" or "Why not?" 

She came to church yesterday and enjoyed it immensely. We had another lesson with her and she asked how many Sundays she has to attend to qualify for baptism. She's really great. She has a lot of problems, but she's completely prepared to change her life, which is so incredible. We didn't find her, she found us. Tender mercies of the Lord are happening every day! 

Speaking of miracles, we had NINE investigators come to church. Progressing!

Have a good week, everyone! This might be my last week in Daraga! Ugh, this transfer was so quick!

Sister Green

Week Dalawampu-Siyam: Photographs

Mouse Killers!

Happy birthday, AyosLang!

Last McDonald's morning date before Transfers!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Week Dalawampu-​Walo Photos

Sister Lang left us Easter chocolates with notes with our nicknames on them.

Mayon beauty

My dear weird sisters--Easter picture!

Week Dalawampu-​Walo: I Stand All Amazed

Happy Easter, everyone! My Easter was yesterday, but Happy Easter for those who aren't living in the future. Though of course yesterday was a wonderful Easter Sunday full of church and chocolate, I'd be lying to you if I said this week was all peaches and cream.

It was a toughy for sure. Possibly one of the most trying weeks so far in my mission, but in the oddest way, which is perhaps why it was difficult to prescribe a solution for. Though we reached the Standard again this week and then some, we had a few experiences this week that tried our spirits. For example, on Wednesday we tracted a woman who lives and works the majority of the year in Canada, so she is sobrang magaling sa English. They let us in, and we start the lesson. When we were trying to answer questions about the Book of Mormon, she interrupted and said in a very good valley-girl accent that seemed to just be her normal tone of voice, "So like what you're saying is like that you're right, and everyone else on this whole planet is wrong." We tried explaining kindly that our purpose is to share the gospel and we allow all men the privilege of worshiping how they want, but she went off on her religious journey tale and told us she isn't part of a denomination because all of them are corrupt, and as long as she doesn't hurt anyone's feelings, she's squared away with God. She then zeroed in on me with the most condescending look and asked, "What do you think? Am I like on the right path?" Now, I was struggling not to run away at that point. Ironically, the thing that was hardest in the conversation was her speaking in English. I have experienced tough investigators before, but the fact that this woman was speaking English to me someone muddled my brain. She later told me, "I think it's so cute how you're trying to speak in Tagalog to me." Ouch! We walked out of that lesson more or less unscathed, but it was the first time I was truly grateful beyond imagination that I am not serving in an English speaking mission. I don't like English and we were both really shaken with how the woman hadn't even let us get a word in. Half of me wants to march back there and tell her, "You know what? No. Being nice isn't enough. There is a straight and narrow path that I want to tell you about. And I'm going to do it all in my cute Tagalog too."

Sister Siola'a and I were also yelled at by a less active this week too, who's husband made the mistake of finally letting us in. After teaching the husband for a few minutes, the wife came in and asked the husband why didn't he come when she called. He told her that we were just finishing up, and she said, "Fine, I'll talk to them." She told us, in affect, "Why do you keep coming back here? What's the point? We aren't ever going to come back, so why keep trying? You are making my family fight all the time and you're confusing my children. You are making things hard. Just stop trying to teach us! We're never going to come back." Now, that's just a sample a very long speech in rapid Tagalog that left me confused, left Sister Siola'a in tears, and the husband sitting there looking mortified. So I testified about the lesson, we prayed, we left. And Sister Siola'a was so made and sad and I was just trying to absorb it all.

The third experience is that Sister Siola'a and I seem to be having a turf war with another religion. Our astig golden investigator, Annie, didn't come to general conference, which means her baptismal date is pushed back. We went to her house on the appointed day to talk about it, and a representative from this other religion, which shall remain nameless, was there. We knew who she was from past experiences. We aborted and taught another lady, and upon our return, seeing she was still there, we just walked right in, since the lady knew it was our day to teach. The woman hurriedly gathered her things, apologizing because she just figured she would "stop by". I felt like a divorcee, silently sitting and waiting for the other spouse to leave to child that we shared at my house. We shook hands, and then she was gone. I was so worried that Annie was going to tell us that this other religion was started to change her mind, but on the contrary, Annie said that she is more comfortable with us and she wants to be baptized, but sh'es shy and doesn't know how to tell the other woman not to come by anymore. She revealed to us that the reason why she didn't come to the conference was because on the morning of, she was all set to go to church when a tricey (like a taxi) showed up outside, sent by the other religion to collect Annie. I was absolutely irritated with the fact that Annie could have had a gorgeous experience at conference and it was thwarted.

All in all, there were a lot of reasons to be discouraged this week, more than usual. And I didn't stay as positive as I wanted to be or as much as I should have been. And on Saturday night, I walked home with exhaustion in my heart, discouragement creeping into my soul making me ache all over. I heard that woman's words again in my ears, but coming from a much more dangerous source: "Why do you keep trying? What's the point? Things won't change. You're just making things hard for yourself. Just stop trying! They'll never listen to you." As the sons of Mosiah felt in Alma 26:27, my heart was depressed, and I was about to turn back. Turn back from optimism, turn into myself in pity instead of outward in charity. But after much moaning and groaning to poor Sister Lang, who sat quietyly waiting for me to figure out my own answer, the other half of that verse was fulfilled: "...behold, the Lord comforted [me] and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites (Filipinos), and bear with patience your afflictions, and I will give unto you success."

Of course, I came to my senses, realizing all the good things that happened this week. Wana, an old duck of a woman easily (almost too easily) committed to baptism and circled the date on her calendar with a devout pledge of "Okay, I'll be ready!" Another investigator read her assignment without being hounded to. Another is getting excited about family history. A tract in the first lesson started crying during her closing prayer. We randomly found who we thought when we tracted them were potential investigators, but then turned out to be what we thought were former investigators, who then we found out were actually in-actives from 1985 who love missionaries. 

Yet, "notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me His great and marvelous works", I felt my strength slackening (2Ne4). I felt, as Nephi did, encompassed about by the enemy of my soul.

In case you were wondering if I was going to tell you all this icky experiences and then leave you hanging, just hold on. I'm getting there. There is a purpose. Anyway, then, after much frustration, I remembered the lyrics of an old Girls' Camp song: "He promised me there would ever be anything that I could not overcome. His power is more than enough...Because in the strength of the Lord, I can do all things. He knows how to change the weakness in me. So I will let His love lift me up. He believes I can do hard things if I will trust Him and walk forward in the strength of the Lord." I felt strong again, and I almost wished Satan had a body just so I could punch him in the face.

I remember that this week is Holy Week, which is a big deal in the Phillies since 80% of the population is Catholic. This is the week Jesus Christ atoned for us with His love-filled sacrifice. I feel like people focus on the fact that Jesus took on the sins of the world, but don't forget He also took on the pain. The disappointments. The broken hearts, the hate, the loneliness. I know compared to most, my personal lot in life is nothing but a mosquito bite, but to me, I'm tempted to point to parts of my life and say yes, THAT was pain. I'm tempted to think the phrase, "No one understands what I went through". But there is One who did, One who took on my burden and tells me I don't have to carry it anymore. He took my sins, and yours, my pain and yours and makes it possible for us to be free again. Because of the Atonement, the discouragement I felt this week isn't mine alone to bear. The homesickness and the exhaustion is carried by someone stronger than I am. Isn't that wonderful? We are never alone! Even walking home the Saturday night, when I nostalgically looked at the stars and yearned for something, anything familiar, I still wasn't ever, not even for a second forsaken. 

I remembered this week the words of one of my favorite Hymns, "I Stand All Amazed". 

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.

I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.

Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!

When I was younger, I remember singing those last words from the chorus in sacrament meeting. I remember when once I leaned over and asked my mom, "Why do we say that? Why do we say that it's wonderful that he died?" Well, little me, I have the answer now. If He didn't die, we couldn't live. Without Him, we'd be lost. His sacrifice was nothing short of wonderful.

My marveling did not stop there. It continued yesterday, Easter Sunday, the day we acknowledge the Pagkabuhay na Muli, or Resurrection of Christ. Because He broke the chains of death, we all will live again. And our bodies will be perfect, even as His is. What a promise! Of course I had already been grateful for that, but God sent me a reminder in the form of a man named Tony. We walk by Tony's shop a lot, and he's always smiled so big and reached out to clasp our hands through the window bars. We later found out from his sister that Tony had a major stroke in January. We visited him yesterday. Because of his medical condition, Tony can't speak more than baby babble. He understands, but cannot reply unless you can understand his odd speech. The stroke hit half of his body. The muscles in his right leg, arm, and the ones in his chest have deteriorated, leaving those parts of his body looking like a child's' and leaving Tony nearly immobile. I watched as he had to pick up one hand and move it with his other to have them both placed reverently in his lap. And as we taught him the first lesson and watched his eyes light up and hear his excited babble, I felt overwhelmingly grateful that because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, we will too with perfect minds and bodies. Like it says in Alma 4):23, "The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame:. Looking at Tony, I felt filled with light, thinking of how wonderful it will be when Tony's body is restored and I meet him as a resurrected being. Because Jesus Christ rose from the grave, "where o death is now thy sting"?

Things aren't temporary. In this month's general conference, Dieter F. Uchtdorf said it beautifully: "In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings. Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless13 and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny. The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings."

Endings are not our destiny. I am so grateful for Easter. After the week I had, I'm grateful to my Heavenly Father for gently reminding me of His Son's sacrifice and triumph. I'm grateful for my trials, this week and it any other, that in some small way I can gain eternal perspective. I'm grateful that Jesus Christ loves us enough that He died for us, that "with his stripes we are healed" (Mosiah 14:5). I'm grateful for the Resurrection and the priceless gift of immortality that is given to all mankind. No matter how tough life is, that is something to rejoice over. No matter how bleak the situation is, like Tony taught me, there is always a reason to smile. I think Neal A. Maxwell said it best when he affirmed, "We say, humbly but firmly that it is the garden tomb - not life - that is empty."

I know my Redeemer lives. 

Happy Easter, everyone!

All my love,
Sister Green

Monday, April 14, 2014

Week Dalampu-Pi​to Photographs

Six months!

This is Sister Lang for you...

Us and K.C., a less active

Week Dalampu-Pi​to: Six Months

I was in the hospital this week...

Okay, that's a lie. Or at least a partial one. I spent a few hours of the day after my sixth month anniversary in a hospital room with a less active. She's super nice and she cried during our lesson and kissed my cheek. In other news, I don't want to ever have to go to a hospital here. 

I am six months, going on seven months, I know that I'm still green...
Filipinos I meet could tell me I'm sweet, but I'm still not sure what they're saying...
I need a companion older and wiser telling me what to do-o,
She is 13 months, going on 14, she'll translate for me!

Okay, I know. Not my best work. I've been trying to think of lyrics all week, and my creative juices are not tripping and falling over stones on its way through the hills with the sound of music. More like the opposite.

Six months, people. I've been on a mission for six months. That's half a year already. I am officially one third done with my mission. That was fast, though then again, it seems like I've been forever. Everyone is telling me that after six months, it'll fly. Which is just really weird to think about. 

Bear with me if this is a little scattered - I'm almost out of internet time and goodness gracious I'm typing fast.

I had exchanges with Sister Lang this week in her area, which were super fun. Made me happy to see a new area. We tried visiting this woman named Janet and then this man named Caesar, but both of them are gone, so now when we get frustrated we yell "JANET CAESAR" and it makes me laugh. 

Sister Siola'a and I went to Cena Una for my sixth month celebration, which was fun. We took pictures with the waitresses, since we're regulars there. 

Sister Siola'a and I came home one night. The other sisters weren't home yet and then night was breezy, so we kept the lights off, dragged two chairs outside and looked up at the moon. We just quietly talked about how awesome it is that God gave us a moon to look at. I hummed to myself one of my favorite lines from a favorite song, "The night is dark, and I am far from home - lead thou me on!"

General Conference was this week. Missionaries got to attend all four sessions at the Stake Center, which was awesome. I really loved spiritually recharging like that. My favorite talk was by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, about gratitude. He said we have to have "an attitude of gratitude" and "don't be grateful of your circumstances, be grateful in your circumstances," which spoke to me since sometimes it's hard on the mission and feeling grateful is tough. 

So here's me, trying to be grateful in my circumstances.

I really love how Filipino people endure. Like, Sister Lang told me a story about a family on Masbate, an island in my mission. This is a family of seven and they hadn't eaten for two meals. It was so hot outside and they literally didn't even have a cup of rice to eat. They took a nap because their energy was gone, but the dad had to go find work or food or they'd die. He went outside and found a single guava on the ground. He took that home and split it between his wife and five children, giving most to his two year old. I marveled, and continue to marvel at the strength of these people. They don't have much. Some are literally starving. But they continue, and not only do they continue, they smile. They still believe in God, though they don't even have food for their children. I am inspired every day by their strength, physically and emotionally.

I love how Filipino people are kind. Literally, when we passed by an investigators house, having only taught her once, we waved and said, "Kamusta?" and the first thing she said was, "KAIN!" waving to her table, or "EAT!" People I haven't even met drag me inside and feed me things. The people here are humble. So even though I'm rejected a lot, I know I'm accepted a lot more than missionaries in other countries are. So I'm grateful for that.

I'm grateful for today's rain.

Still doing well. Getting over my cold hopefully soon. Sorry that this email is literally the worst thing ever. I'll do better next week, I promise! 

Be grateful this week!

Sister Green

Monday, April 7, 2014

Week Dalampu-An​im: I'm Baking Like a Toasted-Ch​eeser

Hey everyone. Forgive me if this email is short. I haven't decided whether or not to write a big one. I'm mostly just trying to focus on staying awake because all I want to do for my preparation day is sleep. It's too hot to function right now.

I had a good week. It was a little hard because I somehow again contracted a cold, so I've been sniffling all week. Colds in the Phillies are the worst. I've also been having headaches because of the heat and I'm probably not drinking near enough water to sustain myself, so there's also that. But heck, I feel good on the inside. Don't any of you be worrying about me. I'm doing excellently. 

We ate too much this week. On Saturday, we had two dinner appointments, two hours apart. We thought we could easily do it, but the first appointment fed us spaghetti, rice, chicken, beef, lumpia, veggies, cake, and buko salad. I ate little bits of everything and tried to deny everyone's urges for me to eat more, but they sent us out the door with plastic cups of more buko salad and lumpia. We gave the extra food to some girls sitting on the side of the road and walked around teaching where we could for two hours. We felt so full and so sick, the grease from the fried food not agreeing with us, but then we had to go to another member's house for another appointment. I ended up telling the hostess that my stomach hurt, so I only ate more buko salad and pushed food around my plate. She kept urging us to eat more, but we just couldn't. I think she might have gotten a little offended, but we smoothed her over with a good lesson. Lesson learned, people. Never have more than one dinner appointment. Don't do it. Don't eat the buko. We were near death by the time we got home.

Sister Siola'a, in case you had forgotten, is from Tonga, and she is one heck of a dancer. She knows the Hula and a million other dances, but she and her sisters have been dancing since they were kids. She's amazing at what I call "Tongan dancing". Her hips can move at lightning speed, like hula-hoop champion over here. So naturally, I asked her to teach me, since I have as much dancing skill as a log. So she taught me a few basic moves. I'll be a Poly-dancing pro before I come home. Be ready for that.

I'm going to start teaching English today, since the class is too big now for just two teachers. I'm really excited, though really scared as well. Updates on that to come. 

Melinda and Annie are progressing insanely. Annie came to church for the first time and had a really great experience. We had fasted that day, so it was so nice to see the fruits of our labor really manifest. Melinda understands doctrine so easily it's ridiculous. She read Alma 40, which is not an easy chapter for investigators to just pick up, but she gave us an entire summary about it. Annie asked good questions during church and turns out she's related to a recent convert. We finally have a fellowshipper! 

We taught a woman, Maria Ines, about prophets and Joseph Smith. We weren't going to go that far because she didn't look interested, but then she was asking questions and she said, "I agree, there are so many churches here on the earth. And I know there has to be a restoration. So what did Joseph Smith do about it?" So we went for it, told her the story, invited her to pray to know if it's true, and then we asked her when she did if she would be baptized. And she said yes. Two lessons, and this super awesome lady who I didn't think was interested at all said yes to the baptismal challenge. CAN I GET AN AMEN?

I was very happy this week. Despite the sickness at the heat, I feel grand. Despite the rejections every day, we're finding hidden treasures. Ooh, that's awesome. Life is awesome. Oh, Standard for five weeks now too!

You all stay cool, folks. 

Sister Green

1) "What Does the Fox Say?" (A jeepney was blaring this and I thought of my friends and how ridiculous life is)