Malipayon Pasko Everyone!
Since it has only been a few days since I emailed last and since that email was a novel, I will keep this one short.
I hope everyone had a good finals week and is now relaxing with family and getting ready for Christmas (Pasko) on FRIDAY! So crazy that Christmas is already here. It feels like I entered the MTC yesterday and it has already been 3 months!
Update from the typhoon: It looks like they will not be transferring us which is an answer to my prayers 🙂 We get to stay and continue to serve the people here even if it means no running water or electricity for a month. BUT they are turning the electricity back on for Christmas and New Years 🙂 Since Thursday, we have been cleaning up destroyed homes and helping to rebuild them as well as doing a TON of laundry, so my hands are pretty much prunes now. Good news is I am almost pro at washing clothes in a bucket, so I guess I can add that to my skills on LinkedIn. The people are all so willing to help even if their houses are still ruined and it is so humbling to see.
On Friday we went directly to the lady’s( Gina) house that I mentioned last week. We helped clean up her house because her husband is in Manila. Since we saw her last on Tuesday, a lot of her house was cleaned up in piles and she had made a little fort that she was staying in with her four kids. We asked who had done all of it and she broke down in tears as she said “Kami la” or “Just us”. We immediately got the stake president and bishop and everyone we could to help her tear down the rest of her house and they are in the process now of rebuilding her home with scraps from the one that fell and with new materials that the stake president is buying. As we were about to leave, I noticed that she was kind of shivering and her clothes and hair were soaking from the rain. I asked if she had any dry clothes and she said none but she was freezing. I told Sister Cerdenia that we needed to go back to the house to bring her and her kids dry clothes, so we went back and found clothes that old missionaries had left over and brought them to her right away. Gina is an investigator and two of her children are members, now her oldest daughter is an investigator as well. On Sunday, they all came to church for the first time since I have been here and Gina is now one of my favorite people here. She is so funny and sweet and optimistic. Our attendance at church on Sunday was about 50 people higher than it has ever been…Although tragedies like Typhoon Nona are heartbreaking, they are also heart softening.
Life without running water or electricity really isn’t that bad. We have to return home at 5 PM because it is dangerous to be out without streetlights and then we have a candlelight dinner and all pile in my room with 3 candles lit and talk about our lives. We pump water from what they call here a “bumba” and use it to take bucket showers, wash dishes, and wash our clothes.
I thought Christmas would be so hard away from my family for the first time and it is, but it is turning out to be one of the most rewarding Christmases and I know it will be one of the most memorable. Instead of focusing on Christmas lights, presents, parties, and Santa, I am being forced to focus on charity and families and the gospel and most importantly Jesus Christ because without Him, the heartaches and sorrow of these people in Catarman could not be taken away. I love my Savior and Redeemer with my entire heart.
Have such a Merry Christmas everyone! I love you all so much and miss you all dearly.
Love love love,