It is already Christmas in the Philippines and it will be until January!
I received my first area assignment at the very very top of the mission, the top of Leyte Island.
My new companions and trainers name is Sister Cerdenia and she is such a blessing. I love her so much and respect her so much already. The drive from the mission house in Tacloban to my first area was about 7 hours and windy, windy roads and what had to be the PRETTIEST DRIVE IN THE WHOLE WORLD.
I had no idea how breathtaking the Philippines was and I am so blessed to be able to call this my home for the next year and a half. I would have pictures of the house, scenery, and my companion but the cafe I am at doesn’t have capability to send pictures so I will send those next week.
This is a Waray Waray speaking area, which is a different language than the one I studied for 6 weeks in the MTC. This area is sobrang (super) Halo Halo, meaning in addition to speaking Waray, they mix in a lot of Tagalog and Cebuano. The Cebuano part is helpful but I don’t know if the new words I am hearing are Tagalog or Waray but Sister Cerdenia, whose firstish language is Tagalog, is helping me with that. The struggle is real though with the language and communicating. It is humbling to have this language barrier because I know I cannot communicate with these wonderful people or share the gospel without Heavenly Father and without being set apart and qualifying for the gift of tongues. In addition to that, I am learning that I need to rely on the Spirit to say what I cannot yet say in Waray Waray.
In addition to being super Halo Halo, and having the language barrier, Sister Cerdenia and I are white washing the area meaning we are both new to the area and it has been a few months since there were missionaries assigned here. Sister Cerdenia has been so calm and patient about it even though I know it is hard; today we are going to tract and find new investigators hopefully.
SO MUCH TO WRITE SO LITTLE TIME! Um the other sisters staying in our house are the STLs which is super helpful and one is Filipina, the other is Kirebati, named Sister Culangan and Sister Teirei. They are so funny. Our house is much nicer than I expected. New things include: no AC, no oven, the kitchen is pretty much outside, the water is cold and not safe to drink, we pour water down the toilet to make it flush, and we will wash our clothes with our hands in a tub outside. That is
all a breeze and I am not struggling adusting to that. Only the language barrier.
One advantage I have is that Filipinos love Americans and love talking to them, so a lot of people have voluntariy come up to us or asked how they can go to the church we go to. I truly do feel like a ghetto super star like the man said in the Provo MTC/ And the kids are ALL SO CUTE! Too cute for words and they know how to speak some English so they come up to me and say “Hello” and shake my hand. ADORABLE.
Our mode of transportation are things called petty cabs? and it is basically either a bike or motorcycle thing with a tin side car that is barely big enough for Sister Cerdenia and me to sit in.
Our ward is wonderful and so helpful. On Sunday they invited us to bear our testimonies and with two days exprience in Waray I attempted to convey my love for them and the gospel in what ended up being a mixture of Waray, Cebuano, and English. One of the sisters in the ward, went with us to our first appointment on Thursday to an investigator with a baptismal date. In the Phillipines it is a difficult and costly process to get married, so most people choose not to. In addition to that, because of the inactivity rate here, a person must go to church 4 sundays in a row to get baptized and a lot of people have a hard time doing that. This is the case with Sister Mila. The cutest 60 year old lady ever. She can speak and understand much
more English than any other older person I have met which was a blessing. We were reminding her about the importance of baptism and the commitment and she stopped me in the middle of my jumbled Waray/English almost jumping out of her seat with renewed excitement to be baptized and finish the marriage process. She said that we were sent to her at that time for a reason and she is so humbled and
repentant; it was an amazing first real field lesson experience. AND SHE CAME TO CHURCH ON SUNDAY:) I love Sister Mila and her desire to change and follow Jesus Christ’s example.
These past few days in the field have for sure been the hardest so far. I remind myself at least 5 times a day to doubt my doubts before I doubt my faith. The last devotional at the Provo MTC was Elder Neil L. Anderson from the Quorum of the 12 and it was the perfect devotional to hear before the field. Before he spoke, the choir
director told us a story about Han’s Mill and a soldier who had so many bullet holes and wounds in him but he kept running and he knew Heavenly Father would allow him to keep running as long as he didn’t STOP. Elder Anderson then touched on three points, 1. Sacrifice, 2. Opposition, 3. Deliverance. Here is what I recieved that will help me on this mission and hopefully you all in your lives and trials.
Sacrifice: In Luke 9:23, Christ reminds us that we must sacrifice or give something up to become something more. He reminded us that the blessing of bringing others into the gospel far outways any sacrifice I will make which has helped me as I have realized the job, school, friends, and family I left behind to be here in the Philippines.
Opposition: He showed us a video of a tree whose roots grew stronger because of the harsh wind that blew on it. If you can find it on lds.org I recommend it, by Neil L Anderson. He reminded us that to become stronger, we must face opposition and the roots of our testimony won’t grow unless we endure those trials.
Deliverance: He talked about the significance of Joseph Smith being delivered from the pain of the adversary and then asked a rhetorical question that really got me thinking. He said “what if Joseph Smith gave up in that time of pain in the Sacred Grove and what if he stopped praying?” Just this morning I had to reread this and think about people’s salvation I might be delaying if I stop or if I stop proselyting even an hour earlier than I should. Similarly, in our/your lives what if you stop living the principles of the gospel, or stop going to church or stop trying in school, etc. What might you be missing out on, who in your family tree in the future might have delayed salvation? What if you stop listening to he promptings of the Spirit and give up when things get tough or pain falls upon you? I don’t want to find out.
He then reminded us that Heavenly Father will not leave us comfortless in those times, but he will not take all of our pain. Please remember that. He is there to comfort us, to comfort me as I adjust to this life and as I strive to learn a different language but if he just gave me the gift of tongues and allowed me to understand everything in one day, my roots wouldn’t grow stronger.
I love you all so much. Please don’t give up when things get hard because Heavenly Father is there to comfort you. You are in my prayers always! Every day it seems like I have a random memory with one of you from school or church or work and I miss everyone so much!
Upod tanan sa akon gugma, (with all my love)