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

Monday, June 16, 2014

Week Tatlumpu't-Anim: The Scientific Method

You know, I've taken way too many science classes in my life for someone who loves writing. And I've retained little from these classes over the years except little random facts; like "acro" means limb or if you get a certain sulfuric chemical on your hand it turns yellow and black. Despite the many science classes I've taken and the "in one ear and out the other" attitude of my left brain, one foundational lesson always strikes a chord of familiarity with me - it being the first lesson is any science class and the first chapter of any Biology book.

The Scientific Method.

Now, I'm not about to pretend I know a ton about this since like I said, I'm useless in science. But from what I understand and remember about the Scientific Method is that it's a series of steps you must follow to conduct a successful experiment. 

Sister Sanchez and I conducted such an experiment this week. Yesterday, in fact. This week was rather tough for us - we feel like we are working well together and that we are prepared, but our area isn't progressing as I'd like it to be. Rejections were high. We understand that we're being humbled, and it's not like we don't have work at all, but we want so much for the area to progress. To move forward and not just be parked on the corner of hard heads and closed hearts, adjacent to "Sorry Sisters, I'm busy" avenue. But no matter how hard we tried this week to do better than just good, we found ourselves stuck.

So after transfer announcements Saturday night, finding that we're still blissfully together, we wrote down our transfer goals. Among these include things like "exactly obedient", "teach by the spirit", and "be bold, but loving". We felt so good about our new goals that we decided to put them to the test. Our hypothesis was that if we were exactly obedient, we'd be able to achieve the Standard of Excellence the next day. We were ten lessons away, and that many on a Sunday? Close to impossible, given that the usual average is four of six. But we were determined. We had our past data that concluded that obedience (perhaps not always exact) brought blessings, but mediocre work and a stagnant area. Our independent variable was our obedience - following exactly. Our dependent variable was the guidance and help of the spirit. Our control was same area, same route, same branch missionaries. 

Our experiment on Sunday began perfectly. Up at 6:30am, no lounging. Stretch. A focused and very spiritual companionship study. An amazing District Conference in Tabaco where we got to hear a broadcast with speakers Elder Quentin L. Cook, Carol McConkie, Bishop Dean Davies, and Elder Michael Teh. Came home, lunch, then we left to work. At this point, my confidence wavered. Ten lessons seems big, and it was ultra hot outside. I had holes in my shoes and we weren't moving very fast. But we had faith, kept going, and continued.

We taught some amazing lessons. One of which, we were teaching the mother of a 16 year old progressing investigator of ours. Her parents don't want her to be baptized, so we were trying to soften her heart a little. I just started testifying about how thankful I was for the gospel in my family and how blessed I was because of my father's choice to convert to the gospel and my parents' decision to raise us up in the church. Sister Sanchez spoke of her family's conversion too, and I could actually for once feel the spirit talking through me. I wasn't worried about Tagalog, I just spoke, and it came. I told her the truth - that people change their hearts through the gospel and that her daughter was trying to take that step. I told her that I'm not here on a vacation, but to help her family have eternal life. We even invited the nanay to be baptized. No bite yet, but the spirit testified that she felt the influence of the Holy Ghost and she committed to pray about it.

Most of our lessons were like that. The spirit was with us all afternoon, and because of that, we made a lot more commitments and bold statements of love. No baptismal commitments yet but we're close with a few, and it never hurts to extend! We worked hard till after 8pm, ending on a superb, small lesson with an investigator that wasn't interested at first but who is now responding a little more to our concern and love for her.

And you know what we got? That's right. The Standard of Excellence. 10 lessons on a Sunday, equaling a lovely perfect 35. Ultimate punch of victory! We were walking on sunshine last night! 

Experiment Conclusion: We have proved our hypothesis to be correct. Obedience brings blessings, but exact obedience brings miracles. 

Hopefully this continues, our transfer goals will be achieved, and we are able to continue and see this beautiful area progress. Watch out! These missionaries are onto the secret now! This week was tough, but with the help of the Lord, we ended on a good note, as always. 

I possibly just had more success with the Scientific Method this week than I have in any of those science classes. Someone buy me a lab coat to celebrate. Loving life over here! So hard, but so rewarding. Just have to keep it up now! Hot hot hot, but nothing like missionary life to make a heart change and to realize the Lord's hand in your life. I feel better than I have in a long time. This gospel really does change people. I thought so before...but now I'm living proof. 

Love all of you! Happy Father's Day to all the poppas!

Sister Green

Monday, June 9, 2014

Week Tatlumpu't-Lima: Still Small Voice

I hope all of you are doing splendidly! You all seem a little silent lately, so I hope you're all alive and well and stuff. I miss you!

For those of you concerned by my health, stop your worrying! I'm on the road to a full recovery, which we saw by our increase in numbers this week. 37 lessons! Over the Standard of Excellence, which is a relief. I was feeling so responsible for our decrease in numbers, it feels good to be up there again. Legazpi Mission rising up!

I don't have much to say this week since unfortunately, not much happened. But we did have a crazy experience that I didn't even realize was significant until I thought about it more. 

So we usually go to this one area named Binitayan three times a week, usually on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. So we planned as usual, but since we had exchanges on Wednesday, we were a little confused about where we would take the Sister Training Leaders since our plan had us going to all of our areas on Tuesday. We just sort of ignored it, figuring we'd just tract a lot. But later in the day, we both thought we should change our plan. No big deal, we selected one of the four areas we were going to and pushed it to the next day, Wednesday. We didn't think about it anymore.

Exchanges went well and I effectively proved my efficiency in leading the area. But the next day, Friday, when Sister Sanchez and I returned to Binitayan, we found the area and jungle road that we usually walk down oddly quiet. We went to our first house to teach a less active, and the Nanay came out and whispered to us that her husband wasn't here, he was farther down our route with some other men. We were super confused - she was whispering and looking around a lot. So we asked what was up and she explained that on Thursday, a wedding had been held along our usual jungle route. The guests drank too much, and a man was murdered - stabbed to death -  right on our usual road. The man who killed him still was hiding in the jungle. So we turned right around and left since it wasn't safe. He was caught the next day though.

We were just shocked to realize that if we hadn't changed our Binitayan plan, we would have probably been along that road at the precise moment the wedding and the fight happened. What seemed at the time like an innocent choice to shift our schedule turned out to be a prompting from the Holy Ghost that kept us out of harms way. It was incredible to realize how blessed and protected we are as missionaries. We hadn't even "felt" the Holy Ghost, but we just last minute decided to change plans. It reminded me of a David A. Bednar talk where he mentions that sometimes we receive promptings that we don't know is the Holy Ghost until later, sometimes years! I am so thankful that we listened to the still, small voice!

Today is my 8 month missionary anniversary. WHAT? Can we just take a minute to freak out that time is literally growing wings? *furiously flies out the door to teach more people*

But in all seriousness, I've discovered that most days I and other missionaries don't feel like we've accomplished much here in the mission. And I know this is discouragement telling me that, and that I shouldn't be comparing baptisms as accomplishments. So I was thinking about accomplishments in my mission, and I just really came up with the fact that some people love me now that didn't love me before. Even if I don't have twenty baptisms, I have new friends. There are new people looking into the church, feeling the spirit that weren't before. And then if we look at my life? That's changed most of all.

I want so much more for my life than I did before. I want to be so much more. I want to accomplish so much more. But I want all of this in the right way, and I want my life to be so much more close to what Heavenly Father wants. I want to do things now that weren't top priority before: temple service, family history, relief society, service, ward missionary work. I want me and my family to study the scriptures every night together! That's such a simple thing, and I look back to before my mission when my parents wanted to do it and we just didn't think it was that important. That could have helped me so much in the past and I missed that opportunity. So now I know that they only way my family is going to make it is if we stick close to the gospel. 

I was touched yesterday by something President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said that I read in the April 2014 Priesthood Session of General Conference in his talk entitled "Are You Sleeping Through the Restoration?": 

"There is too much a stake for us as individuals, families, and as Christ's Church to give only a halfhearted effort to this sacred work."

I've got to give it my all here in the mission, baptisms or no baptisms. We have to give it our all every day to share and grow in the gospel. I understand this more than I ever have before. And I'm so excited that I'm finally in the process of becoming someone who can gladly say that I'm doing everything I can to follow God's plan for me and my family.

"The Church is true, the Book is blue, and Moroni is always on the ball!"

Are you?

I LOVE YOU! Be safe, be smart! 

Love love love,
Sister Green

Week Tatlumpu't-Lima: Photographs

Well strange appears...we are at an impasse!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Week Tatulumpu't-Apat: Photographs

Putting on the "full armor of God"

Your favorite Maputi out in her element

Where's Waldo?

Week Tatulumpu't-Apat: Some Like it Hot

But I don't. It was very hot this week. I feel like my rubber shoes are melting to the pavement. Hopefully the rain comes back soon. We're supposed to be nearing the end of the "very hot" season. So I'm a happy puti over here. The only bright side of the heat is now I know Arizona heat will never bother me again.

This week went by quickly for once. I feel like since the transfer and since I've been under the weather, time has been positively slowing. Thankfully, it now seems to be picking up again. It's easier to focus on work when time seems fluid.

The email might be a little scattered since it was a particularly hectic one, but as Sister Sanchez said as we sat on boulders in a jungle to catch our breath, "Ah, mission life." Totoo iyan. If I'm not stressed, hot, or tired, something is wrong!

We had Zone Conference this week, which was just super great. I got to see some of my friends from a neighboring zone and got to eat fake Italian food. I was personally reminded of my privilege to be a missionary, and I really loved President Guanzon's thoughts about the importance of watching out for our companions. He just kept saying, "We are protectors." I love that guy. He's incredible and so inspiring.

We also had Branch Family Home Evening, which was really fun, especially since the branch is so small. Our investigator, May-Anne, came to the church for the first time and she just kept saying how much fun she had. Sister Sanchez and I gave the lesson about loving one another, despite whether or not we're friends. We really focused on gossip and excluding others. We shared the "Bullying - Stop it" Mormon Message, which I love and can't help but cry every time I watch it. This message is so dear to me, I relate to it so much, and I can't express how important it is for everyone to watch it. For those of you who are non-members, this is not just for Mormons, and it is not pointed toward that at all. It's a beautiful message about how we need to stop adding to the heartache in the world through our own ignorant actions. Everybody take ten minutes and watch this. Here's the link:

As far as odd things this week, I had an interesting experience the other day. We were teaching an investigator in her little outside stand, sitting on bamboo benches and just teaching a short lesson while she had time. Squatting below us was an little woman, probably more than seventy years old. She was silent and possibly mentally challenged, given the way our investigator acted as if she was a mother to her. During the lesson, I took my foot partially out of my shoe to shake out some rocks. Immediately, the woman reached forward and poked my ankle. Now, this, I was rather used to; children run up and touch my skin all the time. But she didn't stop there. As Sister Sanchez testified, I watched this woman wrap both her hands around my ankle and rub them over my entire foot. Then she continued, her hands going up my leg, all the way to my knee. She did this several times, reaching over to do the same ritual to my other leg as I watched with confusion in silence. At some point, Sister Sanchez wondered why I wasn't saying anything, and she looked down as well. My companion just asked, "Uh...Nay?" But the woman didn't stop. She just looked up at me and then poked my arm a few times, then settled back into her squat. I don't know why I was so affected by this, but it was possibly one of the weirdest experiences of my life that somehow caused a lot of evaluation on how I look at the world and the people in it, and in turn how people see me. Like, what was the little old woman thinking as she did that? Just figured I should share. Maybe one of you has insights.

We had a really good experience this week with an investigator. This is the woman in the family that I mentioned last week that we met by chance. The lesson before our last one, we invited her to be baptized, and she declined because she's very family oriented and she said some of her children are against her changing her religion. This lesson, she brought up some of those same concerns, but we assured her that if her entire family listens to the message, they will all come to a knowledge of the truth. She said the closing prayer, and she started to sob. She thanked Heavenly Father for sending us to her and she said she accepted us with all her heart. After the prayer, she revealed to us that she knew our meeting wasn't by chance. We found her on a road when we met her. It was dark and we were just walking by. She was standing on the side of the road, she smiled, and so we talked to her. She invited us back to her house and that was all the story I knew - a really good chance meeting that God gave to us. But Bangai told us that she hadn't known why she was standing out there. Her house is far back away from the road, and she never takes that way to get to the road. But she was just standing there, and standing there for so long, and she said he hadn't known why. She said she had just felt like she was waiting for someone, but she hadn't known who it was. And then we came along. I am so grateful to Heavenly Father for prompting her to stand out there for so long, waiting for us. I know God has a plan for all His children to hear the gospel!

Have a good week everyone! I love you!

Sister Green