Maupay nga aga everyone!!
First full week in the field was packed with first times, spiritual experiences, and blank stares. I already love the people here and I love the privilege I have to look into their eyes as they tell about their struggles and their triumphs. The opportunity I have to see people hear about this amazing gospel for the first time and the impact that the spirit has on our lessons and more importantly on their hearts. I pray more in one day than I used to pray in a week and I love it.
Okay I’ll start this letter with letting you all know that I am famous here so I’ll consider coming back to the U.S. after I am finished here. If I had a penny for every time someone stared at me or commented on my eyes and nose, I could already pay for you all to retire. As we walk down the streets every bata (kid) yells “AMERIKANA, AMERIKANA!” and follow us until their parents tell them to stop. So I have started responding with “Diri, Filipina ak!” meaning No I am Filipina. Haha, the kids just smile and ask how I know Waray… If only I could trick everyone to thinking I know Waray that easily. I will send a picture of these fans of mine next week 🙂
LANGUAGE: But seriously, the language is still a struggle. We will get out of a lesson and Sister Cerdenia has to tell me what language they were speaking, whether it is Waray, Cebuano, or all of the above. I am starting to contribute more to the lessons though, I have realized I need to be less worried about the language and more worried about saying the things that the Spirit prompts me to say and it has helped with the language part as well! Our Catarman 1st Ward has SO many YSA’s who are sobrang (super) helpful while they come with us to our lessons and even in their free time. At church yesterday, a few of the brothers gave me sheets of paper that they had written (without me even asking) that has English to Waray translations! I am telling you these people are saints. Speaking of church, I gave my first talk in the Philippines yesterday. I was so nervous and tried saying as much Waray as I knew but it was mostly English, it was on charity because the people here are the epitome of charity. It is the most humbling thing to witness these people who have so little, give so much to me and my companion. Whether it be rides, directions, translations, food, etc, they are ever so willing and a huge example to me.
BUCKET SHOWER AND FLOOD: Our water/electricity turns off quite frequently so the other morning it turned off and we had to pump water out of the ground, sort of like in that old CN show with the creepy dog and old people, and then take a bucket shower! It wasn’t that bad to be honest. Just cold and difficult to get all the soap out of my hair. The worst part was that when my companion went to test the faucet in the morning, she didn’t turn it back the other way. We came home that night to 2 inches of water covering the floor of our apartment. We spent an hour literally sweeping water into dust pans and throwing it down the drain. I think it was Heavenly Father’s way of preparing us for a typhoon so I am grateful for that opportunity… haha.
FOOD: We went to this restaurant that had American items on the menu twice this week and I learned my lesson: Eat Filipino food in the Philippines. I ordered pizza (of course) the first time and they put everything they could find in the kitchen on it; then I ordered mac and cheese and it was honestly the grossest thing I’ve had. Another American Sister that we ate with ordered a burger and chips and we examined her chips very closely. They, no joke, had to be Styrofoam. Please believe me cause I am not joking. I died watching her try them and then saying, “Yup they just gave me a side of Styrofoam” soo yeah I am going to stick to ordering the food they know how to make. I have tried lots of new stuff already, like shrimp, liver, and I could not tell you what the other things were except that they were new to my taste buds. Also everyone said they are trying to make me fat so they make me eat and eat and eat and I do so I am not rude. I have learned to eat slowly. If I come back 100 pounds heavier, you will know why.
MUSIC: Filipinos love to sing. They especially love karaoke; people do karaoke at all hours of the day here so good thing I had a lot of practice in my youth ;). Even though I have gone to church almost every Sunday for the past 21 years, we sing a hymn that I have literally never heard of almost everyday and I didn’t even know that was possible. I have also learned how powerful music can be in bringing the spirit. We start each lesson singing a hymn and the most popular hymn we sing is Families Can Be Together Forever. In addition to music, Filpinos have such a tight, strong relationship with their families, even if they are not members. Starting off with singing that song is SOOO POWERFUL. They want to know what plan and how after we sing it and they then we talk about His love for us and how He blesses us with families; it is incredible to give people that hope and good news.
FAMILIES: We did an OST on Saturday to a 20 year old and his 19 year old not-yet-wife and their son. Brother Jake, had no experience with religion before and he let us sit down and share the message of the Restoration. In the past 3 weeks I memorized the First Vision in English, Cebuano and now I am trying to in Waray. Sister Cerdenia paused in the middle of the lesson, indicating it was my turn to talk and she left me with the part of the first vision and Joseph Smith. I recited what I knew but then had to read the rest from the pamphlet. Craziest feeling and experience ever. As I struggled to read the first vision in Tagalog, I could not understand myself but as I got to the end, tears filled my eyes and I looked up and Brother Jake had tears in his eyes. The First Vision is so powerful, no matter what language, no matter from recitation or reading. The Spirit filled the room as fast as those tears filled our eyes and my testimony of Joseph Smith and what happened in the Sacred Grove was stregnthened. I encourage you to read that again and really think about what happened and the impact that that one prayer, had on the world.
SACRIFICE: I love all the old people here. They can’t understand me and I can’t understand them but I feel like they are all my grannys. We call them Nanay. Nanay Mila came to church again with her cute cute cute grandson David( I will get a picture so you know I am not lying)! She hopes to be married by Dec 10 and that would put her baptism date at Dec 19!! I pray for her everyday because she is so ready, she told us the other day she already bought a white dress for her baptism. Broke my heart because money is the only thing holding them back. Nanay Ursula is a LA who hasn’t been to church in awhile and she also came to church on Sunday!! When we teach her we can tell she wants to continue living the gospel so much. Nanay Esmeralda has been baptized for a month and her family has disowned her because she was baptized. She is like 70 and when she told us that, my heart broke. What a strong testimony she must have. She also offered to translate words for me and do language study with me because she is so bright!! She has a giant garden and we are going to help her with it 🙂
My time is up for now but know that you are all in my prayers and I miss you all so much. I have one last quote for you that I have been reminding myself of and is applicable to all of you by President Gordon B. Hinckley:
Do you want to be happy? Forget yourself and get lost in this great cause…stand higher, lift those with feeble knees, hold up the arms of those that hang down. Live the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Serve and love and you will be so happy. I am so grateful that “this great cause” is my job and calling right now.
Love your favorite famous Amerikana,
I promised I would share pictures last week of the Manila temple, MTC and my last few pics with Sister Davis. Here you go!