Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!
I can’t believe Christmas is already over and that 2016 starts this week. Time goes so fast and it is making me realize I need to make the most of every day here on the mission because 18 months will be over before I know it. I hope you all had an amazing Christmas and that Santa brought you what you wanted.
This has honestly been one of the best Christmases ever. And even though it was so hard to not be with my family for the first for Christmas in 21 years, my Filipino family made it so memorable.
So Christmas Eve, we woke up and went to the church at about 8 am to do service and we cut and folded giant tarps from 8 am until 5 pm. We are putting together relief packages for the people here and one of the things that needs to go in them is a giant tarp that is Denver Bronco colored and we did that all day. My folding partner most of the day was Brother Nimrod, one of the recent converts and ward missionaries in our ward and he is hilarious; he gave all the missionaries presents and he is about to turn in his mission papers. I told him he will be assigned in Gilbert AZ and my stepdad will be his ward mission leader. He is excited about the dinner appointments every night 😉 Brother Nimrod (and yes that is his real name but I haven’t told him what that means in America) is the one in the UnderArmour shirt.
Anyway, it was such a rewarding Christmas Eve to be able to do service like that all day.
That night, we got home and I bought the Sisters in my apartment pajamas to open Christmas Eve night since that has been a tradition in my family since I was born. So we opened those and I addressed the pajamas from ‘The Night Before Christmas Elf’ because that is how my mom always addresses them. The sisters were so happy and we have been wearing our Christmas pajamas ever since. Then, I told the girls about the tradition in our family to read the story of Jesus being born from the Bible (Luke 2) so we started off reading that story by singing ‘O Holy Night’ and finished by singing ‘Silent Night’; two of my favorite Christmas songs. The spirit was so strong and I couldn’t help but to be so grateful that this Christmas I got to spend it with the amazing people of Catarman Philippines as a missionary. I felt so blessed and at peace even though I was not with my family this year.
Christmas morning we got up and sat around the tree and opened our presents. My mom sent me a package with a stocking and stocking stuffers like LifeSavers and chocolate orange (my fave) and so I got to open that first like always 🙂 Then I read the handwritten letters that my family sent me and cried like a baby next to the tree; I had to assure the other girls that they were happy tears. Sister Rex (the other American and one of my best friends now in the district) and I made French toast and scrambled eggs for the sisters and it was the best French toast ever since it has been so long since I’ve had it. Around lunch we went to Sister Sol’s house and played scrabble with the ward missionaries/YSA’s and it was so much fun. I was helping a few of them and the rest had Webster’s Dictionary on their phone. The few I was helping said they have Prudencio’s dictionary so they don’t need anything else haha. 🙂
THEN the best Christmas present of all; I got to skype my family:) That’s Sister Rex in the background.
It was so much more satisfying than I thought it would be and I couldn’t stop crying at first but then Meghan (to get me to stop crying) said “Emily threw up last night” and it worked and we all laughed. There was a cute 6 yr old boy watching me Skype, so my family watched me talk to him about school and friends and Christmas. Meghan told me that as soon as I started talking on skype, Zoey(our dog) started running all over the house trying to find me haha. I miss them all so much and will cherish the Christmases we get to spend together even more after I go home.
Alright one more story about Sister Gina. She is the one who lost her house and was trying to clean it with just her kids, but she is my favorite. Gina’s husband is still in Manila and will be for awhile. She is raising 4 children on her own and working every day to support them. She has no house and she has to find a way to rebuild it herself. With all of that being said, she is one of the happiest people I have ever met. Her optimism is an inspiration to me. She came to church yesterday and then we finally got to teach her with her daughter who is now an investigator and her three sons who were baptized at the beginning of the year. Since her current house is just a frame still and they are living in something smaller than my room in Provo, we taught them outside right next to the frame of their not yet house. I offered the prayer to start and as I said amen and opened my eyes, there were 20 kids that weren’t there before surrounding us and echoing my ‘amen’. Most of them stayed to listed to our lesson about families and the restoration. In the middle of our lesson it started to pour so the 7 of us crammed inside the bedroom sized home that they are all sleeping in on wood planks and my heart broke as I realized the conditions they were in still. To close the lesson, I bore my testimony, choking back tears, that we knew how hard this trial is for them and how right now it might seem hard to see why they had to go through this, later even if it is after this life they would see and know. I told them that through Jesus Christ, both His Atonement and having faith in Him, trials like Typhoon Nona are made easier and we can know that the pain and sorrow and hardships we go through like this one, Jesus Christ knows how it feels and Him and Heavenly Father want to hear our prayers. We focused a lot on the family and how they can strengthen each other. The Spirit was so strong and it built my testimony so much.
I hope you can all get something from Gina’s example and be so grateful for the things you have. But more than that realize the gospel and knowledge of Jesus Christ and His Atonement make trials, even as big as the one that Gina is going through, not seem so bad.
Happy New Years!