Tuesday, September 27, 2016


I will start with a caveat: "maybe it's just me but..."

I have a thing about music. I am enchanted by it, infatuated almost. I fall hard and fast for intricate lyrics and complex melodies or a simple but powerful combination of the two. I will go through a phase of listening to the same playlist or album every day for months, blissfully content and fulfilled by it. Then something happens, and one day, it's just over. Yet still, in months and years to come, when I hear one of those songs, I can immediately identify the set of memories and experiences it lovingly accompanied.

So that's me and my connection to the mystical sounds that support a billion-dollar industry. Another "fun fact" about me is that I also tend to get overly attached to people with whom I bond over a love for music--and a specific type of music, even. But like all other relationships, those eventually turn sour at some point, and the music we once treasured ends up stained and abandoned. At least until my heart heals enough to listen without longing and the happy fog of nostalgia sets in. :)

Anyhow. I went to a concert last night by one of the IU Jazz bands, and it was fantastic. And it got me thinking about "aftertastes" of the friendships in my life. Most of them, as I said, didn't turn out so well. When the connection died, I was left with a sad or hurt or bitter taste that I didn't know how to process. I realized last night, though, that it's not universal. Jazz seems to be an exception: although the person I most frequently associate with the genre (though not the first to love or introduce me to it) is no longer a part of my life, letting the music wash over me was a thoroughly pleasant experience, and remembering that friendship actually brings me a smile.

I'm not sure what it is, and I'm not sure why that friendship is so different. I could be that I have just become so different that its effects on me are dulled. Either way, I am not about to complain! I intend to continue savoring it for as long as the aftertaste endures.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Live Your Life For You

I was reading through old Notes on my phone the other night, and I stumbled across this introspection from last summer. Reading these words was startling, especially realizing how poignant and true they still are to me. I feel like I have made a lot of progress since moving to Bloomington, but old habits and attitudes still try to creep in at times. I'm putting this out to the world--unedited--in case there are other women (or even men) who have experienced something similar to my feelings and can perhaps draw strength here if/when needed.

I can't say when it started. I don't think anyone can pinpoint a single moment, but at some point I was persuaded that I would be seen as more feminine if my hair was longer. I would be more desirable to men if I wore my hair down. I would be more attractive if I had wider hips, bigger breasts, a flatter stomach.Maybe it was overhearing a freshman boy call me a dyke as I walked to my car outside his classroom. Maybe it was the times my mother told me every haircut we daughters got broke my father's heart a little. Maybe it was just unconscious observation that the girls and women who surrounded me and who society and my peers seemed to regard most highly all had long, flowing locks.It is impossible for me to isolate the moment I started to live for others.I've always been good at rationalizing, don't get me wrong. I would never admit to submitting my will to society's suggestion. And yet it happened. I never saw myself as designed to break the mold. I was one who would conform to fill it.I learned the guitar, the saxophone, the drum set, because I liked the way I thought others would see me. I learned to beatbox, I listened to rap. But it never really felt like me.I told myself others would like me better if I were smarter, if I had nicer clothes, if I kept up with the popular shows and listened to the radio. I told myself I'd get more dates if I wore flats instead of tennis shoes, or if I bothered to apply some makeup.I explained in my head that I didn't fit the current fashion. In fact, with my proportions, I didn't fit much of anything. No matter how high my grades came in, I could always do better. I wondered if that was another thing I should be fixing in some way.I wouldn't say it started with a haircut, I think that was more the straw on the camel's back. But after a heavy month of searching and longing for a love I won't ever earn, I decided (once again) that I need to try to let it go. I need to live life for ME. So I am. Or beginning at least.I paid for a haircut, and I let it be cut. Really cut, not just trimmed. Nothing crazy, but shorter than I've allowed it for a few years.And you know what?It feels great! I took out my contacts and stared at myself in the mirror for a few moments and it struck me.I never knew all that I had given up when I ascribed to those cultural views, but as I stood and looked at myself, running my fingers through my now-short hair, I realized I finally felt like....me.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Great Divide

I'm supposed to be on my way to the airport right now to pick up a friend. Unfortunately, winter weather patterns have decided to make such a trek not only inconvenient, but laced with high levels of danger and risk. Thus, I am sitting at home, feeling helpless and worried and inadequate and imperfect. Though I know it's not my fault that the roads are bad, I still feel like I'm letting my friend down and failing to follow through on a sincere and heartfelt promise that I made. I feel like I'm falling short, and having a hard time dealing with that. Hence, this post. 
In pondering these strange feelings that have come over me in the last hour or two, I had a thought come to mind: never has a distance so short (just 40-something miles) felt so immense. Especially since I started driving and have grown accustomed to being able to find a way to anywhere I need to be for anyone I love. Then another thought struck me and the spiritual symbolism inspired and comforted me somewhat.
I had a bishop once who read to us from the epistle of James in teaching about the Atonement of Jesus Christ: "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10).
Our subsequent discussion highlighted the fact that God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, and thus any transgression, no matter how seemingly insignificant, creates an infinite chasm between us and the Lord. It is impossible for us to bridge that gap on our own. However, we don't need to. Christ has already set the way for us to overcome sin and close that infinite divide. It is the process of repentance, made possible by Christ's atoning sacrifice. 
I thought of my feelings, being so close and yet so far from my friend in Indianapolis. That distance feels so intimidating and scary to me. It has reminded me that I don't want to face a similar feeling when it comes to my spiritual divides. I want to eliminate those gaps as quickly and completely as possible. I want to be whole and pure and worthy of fellowship with my Heavenly Father. I will do all things within my power to make sure that is possible. 


Monday, January 4, 2016

Be The Change

After a month of holidays and weekends-away, I'm finally settling back into my apartment and my isolationist lifestyle (though I know it will be short-lived since the IU students will be back in town soon). Consequently, I found myself with time to think while cooking dinner tonight. One of my friends recently moved to Idaho to start college at BYU-I, and asked me if there is anything I wished I'd known before getting to BYU. I reflected on all my experiences and the things I learned in my 3 years in Provo, from academic, professional, spiritual, and personal standpoints. One revelation that hit me during this exercise fell into the "personal" category, and that is this:
I have discovered that the best friendships come from trying to be a good friend, rather than find one. 
I have seen this verified on more than one occasion, and am certainly seeing it in my life right now. The people whom I've come to trust the most are the people that I have chosen to invest in, the ones to whom I listen when they're excited or struggling, the ones for whom I pray, the ones with whom I try to be the most Christlike version of myself. And I can see, in each instance, that these individuals have reciprocated by giving to me a piece of their own soul, choosing to care for and listen to me as well. 
Now, I will be the first to tell you that I don't know much about love. And I feel like I know only a bit more about friendship. But in my little sheltered, somewhat naive experience, this is a significant revelation. All relationships are give-and-take, but learning to give more than you take is a gift that will bless every relationship, and build a bond of mutual respect, concern and love deeper than anything else I've experienced. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Living Out Loud

It's late, and I should be sleeping. I have been far too neglectful when it comes to recording the miracles in my life, though, and I couldn't let one more escape without acknowledgement. 
Since moving to Bloomington, I've been blessed with great friends in the YSA branch here. I have also gotten to know my coworkers better, and unsurprisingly, the latter occasionally hear about the former. This is especially true since the YSAs are the most prominent aspect of my social and outside-of-work life. 
Today, my co-trainee and I were meeting to work on a project together. Our conversation turned casual and I asked about his plans for the rest of the day. He returned the question and I mentioned that I was going to a class-- a bible study class. I had mentioned the church to him a bit before and I guess he was curious, because he took that opportunity to ask me some questions about being Mormon. My answers were probably far short of what they should have been. Too casual maybe, not as precise as possible, and not nearly organized. I was amazed, though, at how easy it was to explain things simply, though incompletely. I hope the things I left out don't negatively affect his curiosity or understanding. It's a small step, but I hope he will continue to express interest and allow me to befriend him outside of just work. 
At institute, we talked about how Jesus Christ restored the Gospel and is the head of the church (through prophets and apostles) today. I was overwhelmed with gratitude in that lesson, as I reflected on my experience at work, and how blessed I am to have a knowledge of the FULLNESS of this Gospel!! I know that the Priesthood authority is real, and contained only in this church. It's amazing, and I feel so humbled and grateful. I know that God knows me and is continually watching over and guiding me in all my experiences. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Father's True Love

You know how you sometimes stumble across those friends who care about you so much they will actually be interested (genuinely, not just for show) in the things you care about? I don't mean sharing common interests--I'm talking about the times when you really just need to vent about your experience at the grocery store, for example, and rather than listening out of pity, your friend is just as emotionally invested as you are. Those relationships are rare, aren't they? But they are beautiful and rewarding.
It has been manifested to me many times, but was reconfirmed today, that this is the kind of love our Heavenly Father feels for us, and the kind of relationship we can have with Him. Because He loves us, He cares about what we care about. The things that matter to us, matter to Him. Not because they are necessarily all that important to Him, in His perfection, but because they are important to us. 
I wrote a song today, as a birthday gift for a friend who lives far away. This friend means a lot to me, and I wanted the song to be special, and of course, high quality. Thinking it over for the past few days, I wasn't getting anywhere. Soon, almost unconsciously, it became a matter of prayer. Just seeking general inspiration and help with this project I had undertaken. As always, I was heard. After real efforts on my part, I was given several gentle nudges which led me in the right way and resulted in a song I genuinely love. 
I don't say this as any kind of brag status. I say this to give credit where credit is due: I know, 100%, that the song did not actually come from me. I listen to it now, and I am amazed that it was produced through my body and coordination. I am humbled to realize that the Lord would take the time and make the effort to expend even a tiny portion of His infinite power, on my behalf. I feel, ever more strongly, how blessed I am to have a Heavenly Father who loves me so deeply, and who is so aware of my life that He would choose to take part in this seemingly insignificant aspect. 
"Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!"

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Eyes of the World

Every day, I come to appreciate my coworkers more and more. I truly feel very blessed to be working at Hanapin, and I believe I am surrounded by some of the most wonderful, creative, passionate, and hard-working people in the world. It's amazing to me that so many people complain about their jobs and work, and here I find myself not only enjoying my time there, but choosing to spend more time with my coworkers when the day ends. 
I was invited to come to "happy hour" after work, and even though I don't drink, I felt it would be a fun experience and a good opportunity to bond with the team a little more and get to know them better. It ended up being my co-trainee and I, with the two people who just finished training, and the VP of the company. Our HR rep joined late, followed by her husband. It was a pleasant evening overall, and no one made a big deal of the fact that I don't drink. The VP did buy a round of shots for everyone, though, and checked with me to confirm I wasn't drinking. Joe had discovered earlier in the week that I don't drink coffee either, and has been amazed by it. He injected this information into the conversation after shots were ordered, and the girl next to me (who just finished her training) made the comment that I must be so healthy on the inside!! She seemed genuinely impressed with what they must perceive as self-control. I didn't respond, because I didn't know what to say besides "Yes, I am. Thanks, Heavenly Father." In truth, although I've had friends who drink, I've never been out with them when that's the activity. I actually had a good time talking and listening to everyone, but through it all, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the Lord for His wisdom and His mercy in revealing to us the Word of Wisdom. It has protected me from so many things, and I have felt the power of the blessing promised-- a clear and alert mind. As we walked back to our cars a few hours later, I was relieved not to have to worry about anything clouding my judgement or perception. I still felt a sense of connection and camaraderie, but without any of the weight of conscience attached to it. 
I have never thought about how others must see me, or see members of the church who choose to follow the Word of Wisdom. I always assumed they would look down on me, or think I was sheltered or something. It's amazing how letting myself be in that position--a light in the darkness in a way-- completely changed my perspective. I am forever grateful for this Gospel, and grateful I am choosing to follow it. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Filipino Way

It's been a while since I posted on here. Following the end of my mission (nearly a year ago), I didn't think I would have more to share that fit into this realm. I mean, no longer a missionary, I was no longer writing weekly emails to share my spiritual experiences and the things I was learning and the growth taking place in my life as I continued to strive toward Christlike attributes and figure out my Heavenly Father's plan for me and the steps He wants me to take. Regrettably, this means that nearly all of what I have been through in the past ten months or so has gone undocumented. I hope to, in some way, remedy this going forward. 
On October 9th, I officially moved to Bloomington, Indiana. I had interviewed for and accepted a position with Hanapin Marketing, a firm which specializes in PPC advertising. For the first time, I found myself alone in a two-bedroom, unfurnished apartment, feeling the most adult (both accomplished and terrified at the same time) I have ever felt in my life.
Over the past week, I've been able to make progress in furnishing my apartment and adjusting to my new life. I will hopefully get a chance to tell you about my Portland trip another time. Tonight, I just want to share a few of the things that have made me feel incredibly and overwhelmingly grateful for my new job. 
First, start with the welcome. 
Everyone that I met or talked to during my first day (yesterday) was so kind and positive! Their friendly and genuine outreach made me feel like I was truly joining a team, and they didn't care at all how new I was. I am one of them and that is all that matters. After a day full of meetings and jam-packed with information, I was almost sad to have to go home when 5:00 hit, and was already excited to come back. 
Today was just the same kind of feeling, although my schedule a little less hectic. In one meeting, the woman we were meeting with commented on my necklace (the outline of the Philippine islands) and my co-trainee, Joe, pointed to a place on it saying "I lived there." Intrigued, of course, I had to follow up on this, and soon discovered that he had lived in Davao, Mindanao from birth to the age of about 10. I asked if he spoke Filipino, and he affirmed. He was delighted (and shocked) to find out that I also speak it, and stunned even more that I'm actually more polished than he. But we were able to communicate in a lovely mixed Taglish throughout the rest of the day, and I definitely feel like we have a much more solid connection now than before. Maybe it's just my own perception that has changed, but I was forced to marvel as we discussed with our trainer the fact that Hanapin has (to his knowledge) never had Filipino speakers before (despite being a Tagalog word), and suddenly has two being trained at the same time. I feel like this is just another tender mercy from my loving Heavenly Father, and in a strange way, another confirmation that this is the right place for me and I am exactly where He wants me to be. 
I saw a post the other day with a list of the best things about being Filipino-American. I think I have decided, the best thing is that it really is not so much about your heritage, it is all about your heart. 
I never imagined that I would be living somewhere, so far from family and my closest friends, and yet be so happy and feel so secure. I never knew I could love a job so quickly and so fully, and find more gratitude for it every day. I am infinitely grateful for the blessings the Lord is showering upon me, and I hope that this blog will become the place for me to share those everyday miracles-- all the "little things" that make life so beautiful. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - November 10, 2014 ("Don't scare an 'old' missionary. They might die!")

They say that you have to "lock your heart" on your mission, because it is bawal to develop feelings or have romantic relationships while serving as a full-time representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Confession: I tried to lock my heart. But honestly, I have fallen in love over and over again with the people of the Philippines. They are some of the kindest, sweetest, most humble, most loving, most genuine, most hardworking, most faithful, most loyal, most talented, most energetic, most fun-loving, most loveable people in the whole world. For sure the most amazing people that I have met. They say that you love those you serve, and I can testify that is true. I love these people, both the members, non-members, and my fellow missionaries. 

This will be a short email, because 1) we are short on time, since we had a zone activity earlier and got back late to San Jose and 2) I fly home next week, so I can provide even more stories (with lots of unnecessary details, as you may recall if you are familiar with my poor story-telling skills) when I see you in person, or at least have more free time for writing. 

Highlights from this week: the power of Key Indicators (KI). 
As a missionary, there are certain "key indicators," or certain numbers that we report to our leaders every week, such as how many people were baptized, how many lessons of a given type were taught, how many referrals we received or were able to contact, etc. These KIs help measure the progress of those we are teaching and how effective we are as missionaries in fulfulling our purpose to help others come unto Christ. Occasionally, mission leaders will create KIs in addition to those required by church headquarters, to help us create an even more specific focus in our work. Last week, our zone leaders instituted a new KI (an idea of the wonderful Elder Hart, who was here last transfer), which they called RNAF, or "Referrals Not Asked For," since we are encouraged as missionaries to ask EVERYONE whom they know who could benefit from hearing the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For each lesson, therefore, in which we don't give others the chance to suggest friends or family who need to hear the Gospel, we must report one RNAF. As a numbers person (not overly competitive or anything, just conditioned as a missionary to focus on KIs), this helped me tremendously in seeking to overcome my biggest weakness as a missionary (asking referrals). Suddenly, I found myself remembering to ask in every lesson! We started implementing it on Tuesday (we got zero RNAF the whole day!), and were surprised at how willingly one of our investigators invited us to visit her daughter-in-law. The next day, we were able to contact her (Cheryl), had a great lesson, and she accepted the invitation to be baptized if she gets an answer that it is true! She also gave us 2 more referrals!! 
It was amazing to me to see how easy it is to ask people who they know that might want to receive the same blessing they are receiving by having the Gospel of Jesus Christ shared with them. In a way, it is almost easier to get investigators to invite friends than members, because for some reason we as members are so scared that our invitation might not be accepted. To investigators, all they know is that they enjoy what they feel when they are taught, and there is no harm in seeing if their friends or neighbors are interested as well. To them, if their friend or neighbor says no, no big deal. Their loss. :) I feel like that is an attitude I want to develop. All that really matters is that I know how much the Gospel of Jesus Christ has blessed my life. Because of it, I have found peace and joy and direction in my life. I have come to know my Savior Jesus Christ more personally, and understand more about myself as a daughter of God. I am happy because I have been blessed to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The teachings of this Church and the guidance of living prophets and apostles have helped me to make good decisions (though of course I am not perfect either) and saved me from a lot of problems and heartache that I know would have been inevitable if I had lived life only according to my own desires, instinct, and/or knowledge. Because I have been blessed by having this Gospel and knowledge in my life, I want to share it with those that I love (and even those I don't know well yet), so they can experience that joy and peace as well. Of course, I respect their decision and won't be upset if they choose not to accept it (like offering someone a bite of delicious red velvet cheesecake), I will only be sad that they won't have the experience I am having. 
But that is the beauty of our Heavenly Father's plan for us!! We have each been given the opportunity to choose and act for ourselves. "To act...and not to be acted upon" (2 Nephi 2:26). Even the Lord, who knows what is best for us, will not force His will upon us. We get to choose it.
Haha sometimes that principle of agency is really intimidating to me though. As Elder Holland (I think?) once stated, we shouldn't just consider which choices we want. We should consider and choose from the consequences of each choice. 

I also got to go back to the mainland on Friday and Saturday, to be fingerprinted and x-rayed so I can leave the Philippines with a clean slate (approved visa and papers saying I can come home). Consequently, I got to work in Cubao on Saturday (in the city) with Sister Quiban and my old companion, Sister McCarthy. It was a fun day, and I was reminded once again how much fun missionary work is, and how much joy it brings, no matter where you work or are assigned. The Lord is preparing people EVERYWHERE to hear the message of His Gospel. :) 
Speaking of which, I found a cool scripture in my reading last week:
 D&C 35:12 "And there are none that doeth good except those who are ready to receive the fulness of my gospel, which I have sent forth unto this generation." Basically, there are people all over the place who are ready to hear this Gospel, we just need to go find them!! :D 

So let's go find! Invite everyone to partake of this deliciousness. To feel of this peace. To rejoice in this truth. :) We are SO BLESSED. Never, ever forget that. 

That is all for now. Sorry this wasn't a more exciting last email. Let's just say I don't feel like I am done yet. I'll have plenty more to share next week, just give me a few extra days to get it all together. ;) 

I hope you have a great week!! I love and miss you and pray for you!! Don't get too trunky. ;) Finish strong!! 

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - November 2, 2014


I have so many things to share this week and so little time!! So I will just jump right in! :) 

Last Tuesday I learned a lesson/was reminded about how thoughtful and sweet our loving Heavenly Father truly is. We were out proselyting in the morning before lunch and the people we had planned to see weren't home. So on the way to another potential investigator, a thought came to me that we could stop on the way and try to see a less active that we had met the week before and then were unable to make our follow-up appointment with her. So we decided to stop by and see if she was home/available. We got there and she was home! She invited us in and we started talking and we found out that it was her birthday!! They have no money so she wasn't able to prepare any food or anything, so she hadn't advertised that it was her birthday. We explained that none of that was important to us; we were just happy to be with her. We also testified that Heavenly Father knows and loves her so much that, even though we didn't know it was her birthday before coming, He did, and He sent us there. It was such a small act of kindness by the Supreme and Almighty God, and I can't help but smile every time I realize how important each one of us are to Him, individually. :) He really is so sweet!

The Sister Training Leaders were here for zone conference last week, so we got to go on exchanges with them on Wednesday. I got to work with Sister Tehei again and it was SO MUCH FUN!! We really just worked, the whole day, but it was so great. I really just love her and we felt the spirit in every lesson we taught. We even got to meet a former investigator, Marilou, who had been given a Book of Mormon by a set of elders who taught them before. They had gotten really busy and were unable to meet with the elders anymore, until such time that the elders transferred or they were dropped as investigators, but she told us that she still reads the Book of Mormon whenever she gets time because it has helped her so much through the trials she had to go through. She also said that she cannot yet say when, but she knows the time will come when she will join the Church. She just has to work some things out first. It really was SO COOL to see how much of an impact those two elders had upon her, through their simple act of teaching and sharing the Book of Mormon, and though they may never know it (she doesn't remember their names now and has no contact with them), they have changed this woman's life and eternity. #smallandsimplethings

Thursday brought a new learning experience. We had planned to go visit a family that lives in one of our farthest areas. We forgot to text first though and make sure they were home (they've always been around when we went), and of course this day there was no answer when we got there. So we started walking the long road back (mind you, we already walked a half mile or more just to get to their house from the highway) to the rest of our area. I had a prompting to go down a road we hadn't been down before, which I thought was the shortcut one of the members had mentioned before. We asked a woman who lives there and she said we could get to our other area that way, so we started down the road. It was still early and the sun was out so I wasn't worried about getting lost--we could always turn back and go the "long way" on the highway if we had to. As we walked though, the houses got fewer and fewer and the people even more scarce. We even had to sit down a few times because Sister Panugaling hadn't yet fully recovered from their several-mile trek the night before. After about an hour, we sat on the edge of a hill and looked around at a beautiful view of rice fields...in every direction...and I started to repent. I didn't know why I had the feeling to go down that road, and what I was supposed to learn. I didn't feel unsafe, but I remembered what we had been counseled the night before by our STLs to be wise and careful about our surroundings. I remembered the promised protection of my patriarchal blessing and opted to exercise my faith (instead of permitting fear) since I hadn't done anything disobedient to get us there. I said a prayer for guidance and mustered all the faith within me and we pressed on. Mercifully, just a few hundred feet beyond, we saw the highway and we found our way. Tired and exhausted, but grateful for deliverance, I reflected on what the Lord had been trying to teach me. I thought about how kind Heavenly Father was to use that opportunity to teach me about being safe, in a time and place where we were never actually in danger. I promised to myself never to allow us to get into a situation like that again. I also thought about Lehi's experience in 1 Nephi 8. I have always asked myself in verse 8 why it took him so long wandering before he thought to pray. Yet I had experienced nearly the same thing, trusting in my own wisdom ("if we just follow the road, we will get there eventually. we are still going in the right direction!") rather than humbling myself and seeking His. It was a very interesting experience, indeed. 
(**don't worry, Mom and Dad, I promise we were never actually in danger. we are protected, but even if not, the people in Magsaysay are all super nice and helpful. There are more than just angels looking out for us :) **)

Another of the cutest experiences of my mission/life took place on Friday, and was a huge blessing in disguise. The rest of our mission (the zones on the mainland) all got to go to the mission office/aurora chapel on Friday for a mission tour/conference with Elder Oaks. We in Mindoro were the only ones who didn't get the chance to hear from or meet him. But it was 100% worth it, because we had some of the most wonderful lessons on Friday instead. We taught an 18 year old girl who is pregnant with her first child, and was taught by the elders before but was never able to be made a focus. We had a great lesson about the Restoration of the Gospel and she accepted the invitation to read the Book of Mormon, pray about it, and be baptized if she comes to know for herself that it is true. That has been the focus of our mission, and especially our companionship, this transfer and this week--teaching about the Restoration and inviting people to find out for themselves and be baptized when they come to know of the truthfulness of our message. We also taught a woman who has been so incredibly prepared. She was never before baptized in any church because, as she said, she has just been searching and never really found anything. She wanted to be taught before, when her "cousin-in-law" (not really a relative, but the great-great-nephew of her husband's grandmother or something...basta some distant relation that she is close friends with), our 14-year-old recent convert, was taught by the elders. She was shy, though, to have the elders teach her, so when we met her last week she was more than receptive to being taught! We talked to her about the apostasy and the Restoration of truth and authority and invited her to be baptized by someone holding true Priesthood authority of God, and she said "of course." Our recent convert, who was there for the lesson (we taught at his house), couldn't contain his excitement. We were all surprised when, upon hearing her response, he clapped and exclaimed, "YAY!!!! :) We actually all started laughing. It was a cute ice breaker, but more than anything, for me, a precious display of the true joy of sharing the Gospel, especially with those we love. For brother Von, having this close friend of his be able to experience the happiness that he experienced when he joined the church was the most exciting thing! I couldn't stop smiling the whole night, I was so filled with joy. Even now, just thinking about it, I can't help but smile. Sharing the Gospel truly is wonderful! 

This week we have actually seen a ton of miracles in our work and our area. Magsaysay really is the most amazing area I have ever worked in, including exchanges. The area truly is SO PREPARED and I can see how the Lord has been working with people and opening and preparing their hearts to hear our message. I am so grateful, also, to the Elders who were in our area before who did so much as well to help our whitewash go so smoothly. The branch is so excited, and we are already seeing the Lord's hand in the work here. Our attendance at church yesterday was nearly double the week before, with both investigators and less-active members in attendance. I can tell that we missionaries are not the only ones excited about helping Magsaysay become a ward when Mindoro becomes a stake. There really is more going on here than I can even express. :) I just feel SO blessed to be a part of it!!

There is even more that I could say and share, but I am not feeling prompted at this time to include it, so I will just move on to my spiritual thought for the week. :) 
The missionary handbook tells us to "bathe daily, if possible" and I have gained a testimony of that counsel because I swear some of the best revelation comes when you are left alone to ponder (and for a missionary, that is pretty much only during shower time). Anyway, I was thinking the other day about how to help our less-active members, and even investigators, understand the importance of coming to church every week, and especially the importance of the Sacrament.
The Lord brought to my mind the story from the Book of Mormon when Christ visits the Nephites (ancient inhabitants of the Americas). He first introduces himself as "Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world" and then testifies of his completed Atonement and unending obedience saying, "I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning." What happens next is my favorite, though:
"And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:
"Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.
"And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.
"And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:
"Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him." (3 Nephi 11:13-17)
Now, I have read this story many, many times. I love it because it is so personal--Christ invited and allowed every single soul (which we later come to know was about 2,500 people) to touch the prints of the nails in his hands and feet, as a testimony and reminder that he was he was crucified and atoned for them INDIVIDUALLY. Never before, until I was struck by revelation the other day, did I connect this sacred experience with OUR sacred experience and opportunity to partake of the sacrament every week. I thought about Christ's invitation to us, to come unto Him, to come to Church and worship Him. I thought about the prints of the nails in His hands and feet, and the sacraments emblems of bread and water, all symbols of the great and infinite sacrifice offered on our behalf. I thought of how each man, woman, and child had the opportunity to experience and worship, one by one, and how the Sacrament is passed to each of us, one by one. I thought of how I would feel if I had been in that crowd that day, how full my heart would be of love and joy and reverence and gratitude and humility and repentance. I then thought: are those the things I feel every Sunday as I partake of the Sacrament? That is my opportunity and privilege, every single week, to feel a close, personal connection with MY Savior, as I ponder on what He has done for ME. I believe that those Nephites were very blessed to have the experience they had, but I believe that I am just as blessed, because every 7 days, I get to have a similar experience, and all I have to do is walk or drive to the nearest Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where Christ's own Priesthood authority resides and is exercised. 
Holy cow. Do we realize how blessed we are? Do we realize how much we have? Millions of people for thousands of years have lived and died without ever having to opportunity to experience the great joys and tender mercies we often take for granted. 
I am so humbled and grateful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am grateful for the knowledge I have of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and for the relationship I have been able to develop with Him through my study of the Book of Mormon and the Bible and application of the teachings within. I am so grateful for true Priesthood authority which has been restored to the earth through a living prophet, and for continuing revelation which leads and guides us still today. I KNOW that we have a loving Heavenly Father who knows us and cares for us each individually. I KNOW that He is preparing the treasures of heaven for all those who will come unto Him and follow Him, and there is NOTHING, not a single thing that is worth giving up those blessings. Endure na lang tayo. Whole-hearted obedience, 100%, is the only way to true happiness. :)

That is all I have time for today. I just want to say again how much I love you all and am so grateful for your love and prayers and support!! Hope you have a great week!!!! :) 

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - October 26, 2014 (Tinawag ng Diyos)

Happy Pre-Halloween week to you all! :) (Haha I actually remembered this year!) I'm not sure how I feel about Halloween anymore after being here in the Philippines where Day of the Dead is such a widely celebrated and strange event. But anyhow, at least by this weekend there will be lots of sales on Halloween candy! Treat yourself to some chocolate! :) American chocolate is way better than you think!
This week has been an interesting one, and I have been really inspired. Last week, after our Preparation Day, Sister Panugaling and I were a little lost about what to do for our two hours of proselyting. Our schedule has changed so that we come home at 7PM every night, to avoid being out of the apartment at night where danger may come across our path. Our appointment that we had planned in the afternoon got cancelled though, so when 7PM hit and it was time to go teach, we were unsure where in our area we could work that would be safe. We said a prayer for inspiration, then decided just to go walk around a part of our area we hadn't explored much, and see if we could find any random people to talk to. We went to the Plaza ("downtown" Magsaysay) and were surprised to see it was completely abandoned, though at least well-lit. I thought that would be a prime hang-out spot for socializing, but it turns out the night life in Magsaysay is pretty non-existent. So we kept walking.
We walked until the end of the street lights. Along the way, we smiled and greeted people. One man, with a freshly lit cigarette, said "Good evening" as we passed, and the spirit told me, "talk to him!" Still not the best or most courageous when it comes to acting on promptings like that, I just promised myself I would talk to him on the way back. The end of the lights wasn't far, so we turned back when we got there and I told Sister Panugaling as we walked back, "Let's talk to that guy. I really want to OYM him." He happened to have a stand and was selling fried chicken, so we went over and greeted him and asked him if he knew where the road went to (the part beyond the street lights) and explained that we are new to the area so we are trying to figure out where things are. He was super nice and invited us to sit on the little bench in his tent/stand. So we sat, while he cooked some chicken for us (conveniently, we also love to eat). We were able to get to know him and shortly afterward met his wife and oldest son who were running the stand as well. We talked to them for a little while and explained who we are as missionaries and they agreed we could visit them sometime. It was a huge testimony-builder to me that the Lord really does have a plan, even when OUR plan completely falls through. Also, I can see how the Lord really does answer our prayers, since we have been looking for potential priesthood holders to help establish the branch in Magsaysay.
That is another thing I have been realizing this week serving in Magsaysay: how important the Priesthood really is, and how there really is nothing that we can do without Priesthood holders in our lives. Especially us sisters (women). We do not have authority, nor will be able to receive it, to administer the Sacrament, baptize, confer the Gift of the Holy Ghost, or administer any of the necessary saving ordinances.  I thought to myself: what would I do if there was no one to bless and administer the Sacrament? Even just missing one week for General Conference, I missed partaking of the Sacrament. It's like there is a very tangible spiritual lack or hunger that nothing else can mend--not even prayer or scripture reading. My soul yearns for repentance to be made complete and covenants to be renewed through the Sacrament. I can't imagine ever choosing not to go to church and receive that blessing. I just hope every man who holds the Priesthood realizes how important they are in the Lord's plan, and how much other of the Lord's children rely on them to magnify that calling which they hold. We had just 5 priesthood holders from our branch come to church on Sunday. Our branch president presided, his two counselors blessed the Sacrament, and the branch clerk and the elder's quorum president passed it. It was a beautiful and heartbreaking thing for me to witness. Beautiful, because even way out here in the middle of farmland where most families are just struggling to feed their families and get their kids an education (if possible), they are still able to receive the blessings and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Heartbreaking, though, because of the hundreds or thousands of people within the boundaries of Magsaysay branch, only about 60 of them were able to partake of those blessings of the Atonement.
This morning in our district meeting we talked about having the vision to baptize. Elder Gonzaga (a sweet young missionary from Iloilo and a new district leader this transfer) shared a message from Lawrence E. Corbridge about why we baptize. We baptize not to add people to the Church, we don't even baptize just to get people the "pre-reqs" to allow them to enter the Celestial Kingdom. We baptize in order to help people experience what Christ Himself referred to as being "born of water and of the Spirit", receiving a remission of their sins through baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is only possible through proper Priesthood authority, and is the only way that we (or our friends, family, and acquaintances) can receive relief from the feelings of shame, guilt, sorrow, and remorse that comes into our lives from sin. Having faith in Jesus Christ is not enough. Feeling bad, and praying for forgiveness is not enough. Even confessing to another is not enough. For the Atonement to be applied fully in our lives, we must follow the Savior's command and invitation to be baptized by immersion for the remission of sins, by one who holds the authority to act in Christ's name and perform such a sacred ordinance. Furthermore, even baptism is not enough without the blessing of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which leads and guides us in all that we do and is the source of all feelings of peace and joy and happiness and purpose in our lives. It is the single greatest gift available to us in this life.
We talked about how those who choose not to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ don't reject it because they are self-hating and want to be sad and miss out on these blessings. Those who turn down the opportunity to partake of these blessings turn it down because they do not understand what they are missing out on. They don't understand the blessings of the Gospel, the infinitely greater reward that comes from a small sacrifice. They don't understand (according to Elder Corbridge) because we don't teach them. That is why missionary work is important, and that is why we must learn to teach the Gospel the way Christ would/did. It is not a list of DOs and DON'Ts, but rather an invitation to "come unto [Christ]", to "return unto [him], and repent of [our] sins, and be converted, that [He] may heal [us]" (see 3 Nephi 9:13-14). :)

This week has reignited my passion for missionary work and my drive to help everyone be baptized. I am so excited for everyone in this zone and this mission who still has a long time ahead of them in the mission. I feel like a new missionary, in that I am so eager to go out and work hard and apply everything I am learning and realizing, yet I keep being reminded that my time left is very short. It's awful, actually. I still feel like I have so much to do and become as a missionary before I can go home, and I am scared that I might not be able to accomplish it all. I know that negative thinking is not allowed, though :) so I just keep pushing out those thoughts every time they come and remind myself that the planting of seeds is just as important as anything else. Especially when we think about the parable of the sower and what happened to the 4 groups of seeds (the same kind of seed) and what happened to them based on their experience being planted.

So yeah. That is basically it for this week. Only twice this week have I been mistaken for a Filipina, and only once had a man try to convince me that I am actually Fil-Am. Haha it is kind of a comfort to realize there really are people so not racist that my whiteness and blond hair mean nothing to them. ;) Much better than being in the mainland where everywhere you go people shout English phrases at you. #ilovemindoro
I'm out of time for now. I hope you all have a wonderful week! You are in my prayers! Stay safe and have fun and share the Gospel (with words, if necessary). :D
Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - October 19, 2014 (Ang galing talaga ng Panginoon)

Kumusta kayo?!

Given that I am writing this from the province, it should probably be 100% Tagalog, like everything else here. But since I want you to actually get something from my experiences this week, I'll attempt to English you--just don't judge me if my grammar gets a little sloppy. ;) 

Our first week in Magsaysay was definitely interesting, to say the least! After doing our shopping and whatever here in San Jose (the "city", if you can call it that). Elder and Sister Barlow drove us out to Magsaysay and we got to see our new home for the first time! Now, let me preface this by saying I have never whitewashed an elders area before, nor visited any elders apartments, so I was not quite prepared for the house when we got there. It actually is a nice house (it used to be the meetinghouse before they got a chapel in Magsaysay)--one story, 3 bedrooms, a fairly big kitchen and "living room" (which is where Sister Panugaling's and my study desks are). And we have a front and back porch area! There are windows everywhere so we hardly ever use lights during the day because it is super bright. The house itself is really not bad at all, and the elders who went before us were super sweet and (with the help of Sister Barlow and a couple of the San Jose sisters) cleaned up as much as they could for us. We still had to clean again before we felt comfortable unpacking or sleeping there, but I quickly realized how blessed we are to be assigned in Magsaysay. Especially because our cleaning was interrupted almost immediately by our district president dropping by to introduce himself and welcome us, followed a little later by 3 of the cutest and funniest Nanays stopping by to meet and chat with us as well. :) I am sure having Sisters instead of Elders is a hard adjustment for them as well, but they are all so nice and welcoming and helpful to us! We are SO LUCKY to be in Magsaysay!! 

Tuesday, we got to venture out of the house to meet our new branch president (just two weeks into his new calling) and his first counselor. We were able to figure out a little bit what the boundaries of our area are supposed to be, and basically just digested how much we need to do. We spent the rest of the day with Nanay Baiza (the cutest and coolest old woman ever), visiting less actives in the other sisters area. It was a fun day, though a little scattered teaching in a 4-some with no plans, and cool to get to know the members a little better.

Wednesday, we finally got to work in our area! Our area is what is known as "Boundary" (as in, the boundary between Magsaysay and San Jose), or in other words, hardcore province/farmland. Like legit rice farms. It is BEAUTIFUL!! More on that later though (Friday). Wednesday, we walked to Boundary, using the impressively helpful hand-drawn map that the elders left us, met Nanay Roja, and toured the "neighborhood" there and got to meet some members and teach a solid YM recent convert. And we got a ride home from the branch president! :) 

Thursday, we explored our area a little more, tried to find a map of magsaysay to figure out where our area actually is (turns out those don't really exist at all, even on the internet, hence there being no information), taught some investigators (finally!) and then Sister Panugaling got stolen by the Barlows to come to San Jose and be Sister Delasan's temporary companion (Sister Kahui had to go to Manila to get fingerprinted to renew her visa) and I was left in a threesome with Sister Alailima and Sister Panis. 

Friday, our personal study was interrupted by Nanay Roja showing up at our house (mind you, she walked about 2 miles just to get to our house from hers) to take us to visit another part of our area we've never been to. After awkwardly consulting with the other sisters, we decided instead of making her sit outside for an hour, we would just go work first and do companion study later. Turns out, we really were not prepared for what the day had in store for us. 
Firstly, we walked at least 5+ miles, in the midday heat, without any water or lunch. Our poor little city-accustomed bodies were dying by the time we got home at 3pm. But it was an experience of experiences. Our area out there is SO INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL. Like, I honestly don't even have words to describe it. Sister Alailima and I just kept marveling. If you asked me, all I can say is I couldn't get over the fact that there were sights that beautiful and perfect in existence. I just kept trying to soak it in, wishing I could take a picture of every single sight. Sister Alailima sang "For the beauty of [Mindoro]!" and I thought about how amazingly talented and perfect our Creator truly is to construct such breathtaking beauty that is often overlooked or taken for granted. 
Despite sucking ALL my energy (I was so glad not to have to walk anymore by the end because I really didn't think I would make it), and being SUPER sunburnt when we got back, it was so worth it! I'm excited to go back and work there for real with Sister Panugaling. The less-active members there have so much potential. Especially the Priesthood holders, which is what we (Magsaysay) really needs right now. 

Saturday, not much to say. I woke up with a fever and just slept most of the morning. We went to our branch activity in the evening, which was a success. Heavenly Father is truly amazing to give me the strength to be able to go and fulfill our part in the activity. I was made very aware how much I rely upon Him for strength though, when just as soon as the activity ended, my fever hit again and I didn't think I would be able to endure it. I went straight to bed when we got home and miraculously was able to sleep.

Sunday, I got my companion back!!!! We had just said our prayer before leaving to go to church when we hear the Barlows pull up and Sister Panugaling was back! :) Elder Barlow gave me a priesthood blessing (even though he didn't have any consecrated oil), and we headed off to church! 
Church in Magsaysay was the most unique experience I have ever had. The fact that we lost power partway through the first hour (they have Sunday School first, then auxilaries, then sacrament last), was actually the least strange. The low attendance was also something I had been warned about. The thing that struck me the most was just how uncertain the members seemed to be--even the leaders. As I sat in Relief Society, trying to combat my own pride and "this is how things should be" feelings, I tried to see and listen to these sisters as the Savior would. It was amazing, and my heart was really touched as I realized how each of us has our own trials and struggles, and this branch is doing all it can with what it has. There may not be that many active members, and they may not have any role models to look to really, in terms of what it means to really be firmly rooted in the Gospel, but they have faith and a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, and they are doing their best to live the commandments and serve faithfully in the Church. My love for the members grew even deeper, and I realized how much trust has been placed in us sisters to be assigned here in this branch. As Sister Panugaling and I did our planning yesterday and set goals, that seemed to be the prevalent theme. We just really want to help this branch. It may take a LOT from us--super obedience, super faith, super diligence--but we will do whatever we possibly can to help them. 

I've been thinking this week about how blessed I am that this is where the Lord has placed me right now. When we drove out there for the first time last week, Sister Panis, Sister Panugaling and I all said "I feel like I am home!" (we are all from province areas). Every day as we walk around the small town of Magsaysay (picture a small town in the middle of Wyoming, but green with lots of tropical plants, and that is pretty much Magsaysay), I just think about how happy I am, and how small town life is so simple and so appealing to me now. Haha I used to think I wanted to live in a city, but I think not any more. I would be so happy to just live in Magsaysay forever. :) But maybe an American version will have to suffice. At any rate, I think this is the Lord's way of reminding me of my roots and lessening the culture shock of coming home. I can't even explain it, but I just feel like I am seeing insights into His wisdom more and more every day. God is so good!!

Also, Gladys is wonderful and sent me pictures from R.J.'s baptism on Saturday.
I nearly cried when I say them. :) I seriously love this family so so much. First step down, next step: prepare to enter the temple and be sealed as a family for eternity. THE LORD'S PLAN IS SO PERFECT AND BEAUTIFUL!!!! 
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Other random notes about life in Magsaysay:
1) I have eaten more fish (that I actually enjoyed) and veggies in the last week than my whole mission, I think. They say missionaries get thin on Mindoro, but I am pretty sure that is a lie. Especially not living with two Filipinas who love to cook. :P
2) Whitewashing is definitely a test of your missionary skills. EVERYTHING is suddenly the most important thing: finding, teaching, planning, inviting to baptism, working with members, everything. More than anything I feel like it is a test of faith and our ability to discern revelation from the spirit in all that we do. Definitely a cool experience. :) 
3) Sister Panugaling is a great companion! She is so cute and energetic and loves being here in the province. She is diligent and obedient and most of the time a better missionary than me, I think. Just another blessing I can count in my free time. 

Wow, this is super long already. I guess I will close this now, since I can't think of anything else to share at the moment. I just have to say how grateful I am for this Gospel and all the blessings that it has brought into my life. I was pondering to myself earlier what exactly are the blessings that the Gospel has brought to my life that nothing else could have and it really made me appreciate what a beautiful blessing it is. We have access to so many gifts and so much power, real Priesthood power, the power of God, and through that, we are guided by continuing revelation. We have scripture both ancient and modern, as well as the gift of the Holy Ghost, to guide us in our daily decisions and give us the confidence necessary to obey and trust in the Lord's commandments and His plan for us. We have the opportunity to gain a personal witness for ourselves of the truthfulness of the Gospel as we live it and pray about it. That personal witness is the source from which we can draw strength to withstand the temptations of the world and hold fast to what we know to be right and true. The peace and happiness that this knowledge brings is unique, priceless, unlimited, and everlasting. We are so, so blessed. :) 

I pray you all have a wonderful week, and take a moment to count to yourself the blessings that the Gospel has brought into YOUR life. I love and miss you and pray for you always! Stay safe, and good luck in your adventures this week!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - October 12, 2014

Today is the first day of the first week of the best transfer ever!! :)

We just got to Mindoro this morning (there were no flights on Friday for some reason, which I will get back to later), and still haven't gotten to our new home yet. We woke up at 2:30AM, got to the airport at 4AM for our 6AM flight (had to wait on the elders a little bit but it's all good!) and then went straight to our district meeting (after a quick bi-district breakfast at Jollibee--the one food chain restaurant here on "the rock"). It has already been the best day though! :) I got to meet a woman on the plane who is from here in San Jose (didn't get to talk to her as much as I had hoped because she was sleeping, or at least had her eyes closed, most of the flight...but at least I got to give her a pass-along Mormon.org card), and we had an awesome district meeting. Elder Horsley, one of the senior couple missionaries, shared a thought/lesson about the power of testimonies and witnesses, and President Barlow (a counselor in the mission presidency/senior couple missionary here in San Jose) talked about our vision for helping Mindoro become a stake and what needs to happen to accomplish it. We definitely have our work cut out for us, but I am so excited!! More and more, I am realizing the immensity of the task and trust that has been given to us sisters in Magsaysay.
I don't have any experience to report yet, so I will just share what I've been told: 
-Magsaysay has never had sisters before.
-Magsaysay is the second largest branch in the mission (membership-wise), with the lowest sacrament attendance. 
-In the past, the elders are the ones who have blessed the sacrament every week, because their priesthood holder attendance is so low. 
-Magsaysay is SO EXCITED to have sisters! They are the ones who requested it, and they have already started making maps and things to help us get to work right away. :) 
Sister Panugaling, Sister Alailima, Sister Panis, and I are SO PUMPED to get to work here and take part in the miracles the Lord is preparing for this wonderful branch and district!! :D 
It is not only a groundbreaking occurrence that we get to be the first sisters in Magsaysay, but President Revillo made it very clear to Sister Alailima and I while we were waiting in the mission office last night that his main concern here is helping to build the priesthood foundation in the branch here, and that is to be our focus. We are to build and sustain and support the new branch president, nurture the less-active families, and bring back those who were once strong but have faltered a bit. It's been made clear that as we focus on building up the members, the investigators will come with it. 
It is beyond my power of expression to tell you how grateful I am that the Lord has blessed me with such an inspiring task for my last transfer. We haven't even seen our new house, but I can already tell you I am going to hate the day I have to leave Mindoro. Heavenly Father is SO SO good!!! 

Now, to rewind a little bit and review my last week in Antipolo. I got to be in a threesome with Sister Faka'osi and her new companion, Sister Lopez, for the week. It was fun, and I already love Sister Lopez! But it was also an interesting challenge. Firstly, because I am no longer an STL, but I was in a companionship with 2 of them. It was a hard adjustment, because even though in my head I knew I was released, I still felt the same. So when Thursday came around and we knew I wouldn't be leaving on Friday, we had to figure out what I would do while my companions were in MLC. We asked if I could come with them (just to listen in! haha I can just sit quietly, promise!), but was informed I would need to stay with our kabahays. Thursday night was pretty tough, honestly. That is when it really hit me that, whether I was ready or not, my time as an STL was over. I just felt super in limbo, because I wanted so badly to be here in Mindoro, and I just felt like an awkward 3rd-wheel, like I didn't belong there, but that's where I was trapped. Thankfully though, Heavenly Father is wonderful, and our day on Friday (I got to work with Sister Verdeflor and her anak/trainee) was exactly what I needed. It was so fun and productive and a blessing to all of us, I think. I won't share the specifics, but I will just let it suffice to say that the spirit confirmed to me that there was a reason I was supposed to stay home and work with them that day instead of tagging along to MLC and spending the day hanging out at the mission home. :)
Saturday and Sunday were General Conference, which of course was wonderful!!! My favorite talks were from 1) Jorg Klebingat (best talk on celestial living I have heard my whole life! I am so inspired! Haha I am listening to it again right now :P) 2) Lynn G. Robbins (again, living what we believe!) 3) David A. Bednar (I wrote a note to myself: "this is exactly why I am on a mission!" he said it so well!) 4) D. Todd Christofferson (tie in with #1 and #2, agency and integrity). It was interesting to see the themes that emerged this conference, but more than anything, I was so grateful to hear our leaders speaking so boldly the truth and how we can and MUST defend it, in a Christlike way! :) I hope you are all as excited as I am to review and apply the counsel we received from our Savior through his appointed servants. 
Sunday morning, Brother R.J. had his baptismal interview! He will be baptized on Saturday, and even though I am sad I will not be there with them (they were pretty heartbroken to find out I was transferred), I feel truly blessed that I was able to be with them through the entire preparation process and there when he passed his interview. I was reminded once again, as Sister Leslie (R.J.'s wife) teared up that he was finally being baptized and how grateful she was for us teaching him, of the warning/prophecy shared with us in the MTC: "You will be somebody's missionary." They both confirmed what we were told, that they will never forget me. I believe it too, because I know that I will never forget them. I feel like they are family, my love for them is so strong. Once again, it is true what they say: Filipinos teach you to love with your whole heart. In ways I don't even understand, I love these people so much! I have no idea what the future holds or what I am going to do with my life, but I just know I will not be content if they do not remain a part of it. Being a missionary, an instrument in the Lord's hands to the blessing of the lives of others, truly is the most incredible blessing I could ever imagine!!! Like really. It amazes me every single day. 

Another cool experience, from my day with Sister Verdeflor and Sister Tapa. During companionship study, they did a short role-play/practice teaching. I took the role of their investigator. My responses felt awkward and I was sure it was a terrible role play for them, but I just said whatever came to mind. I was amazed though, when less than a half hour later, we went to our lesson and they started teaching and the responses of their investigator were almost exactly word-for-word of the response I had given in our role play. It was crazy!! I think that is the first I have really seen how inspired role-playing can be and how the Spirit really can give us insights into the thoughts, feelings, and lives of those we teach. 

Also, how many of you have heard of "Meet the Mormons"? Is it in a theater near you? If you haven't heard or read about it yet, check out www.meetthemormons.com 
or you can watch the trailer here:
It looks so good! I am so excited to watch it when I get back! Definitely going to be my first movie when I am released. Which is impressive that it will beat out Frozen. That is how excited I am!! :) Someone please watch it and/or tell me how it was!! 

Amazingly, I am not out of time today, but I am out of things to say. Really everything just comes back to me being really, really excited to be here in Mindoro. I already love it, and am so happy. :) I am excited to be able to send you more specifics next week. 

I love you all!! I hope you have a great week and remember to pray for opportunities to share with others the great joy that we have access to and experience as members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!! We have tasted of the most delicious and desirable fruit, and we cannot keep it to ourselves. This gospel is designed for the whole world to be blessed! I know with my whole heart and soul that it is true. :) The Lord has a work and a plan for each and every single one of us. Kaya natin 'to! ("We can do this!") :D

Have fun! Work hard! Enjoy our week and try not to get trunky. ;) I love you and miss you and pray for you daily. 

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - October 6, 2014 (In my father's footsteps/RM.T.C.)

Happy Tuesday!!

We have wonderful Zone Leaders here in Antipolo, and were blessed to be called last night and informed of the transfer announcements (instead of this morning). My beautiful companion, Sister Faka'osi, will be training a new STL here in Antipolo, and our precious ("most adorable Asian") kabahay, Sister Verdeflor, will be training a new missionary! Sister Tipasa is going to Pateros, and I will be whitewashing an elders area....in MINDORO!! 
Haha remember how I said how happy I was that I got to visit Mindoro as an STL instead of being assigned there? That one week was enough for me? Well, let's just say that I am so glad that the Lord is in charge of this work, and not us humans. I never expected, and never would have asked, to be assigned in Mindoro, let alone as my last area, my last transfer. Honestly, I kind of freaked out last night when Elder Crowther told me ("WHY???" "I don't want to die in Mindoro!!"), but then I kept realizing more and more reasons why it is perfect for me, and I felt the Spirit confirm that this is the right place for me right now. Actually, every area I have served in my whole mission, and the time I served there, was perfect for me. I truly feel so blessed. And I know that this will be no different. Of course, it probably won't be easy (I've never white washed before, let alone in an elders area), but the Spirit has confirmed that it is exactly the preparation I need before I finish this mission. And there are a whole lot of blessings that come along with it. For example, I get to be companions with Sister Panugaling (Sister Doucette's anak)! I have been missing having a Filipina companion, and I am excited to get to work with her. I know we will be able to get a lot done and have a great and productive 6 weeks in Magsaysay (another of my Tatay's old areas, I'm pretty sure)! :) 
But rather than previewing all the greatness of Mindoro, I'll save that for next week. Because there are so many great things that have happened THIS WEEK here in Antipolo! 

1) We had a super fun district meeting last week about Christlike attributes. We were each assigned one attribute and given about 10 minutes to prepare a talk/presentation on why our attribute was the best or most important. Then, of course, we each got to present ours. It was super fun! And I definitely learned/realized a lot about my assigned attribute, Faith in Jesus Christ, and why it is the greatest. ;) But on thing that came to me after the meeting as I was reflecting on what all my fellow missionaries had shared about their attributes, I thought about what Mormon claims in Moroni 7:46, that we must "cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all." I had just studied all about why faith is the basis of everything, the first principle of the Gospel, and necessary for and a springboard for all the other attributes listed in PMG. It struck me after, as I was pondering this, that faith is an attribute of redemption. We CANNOT be saved without it. It is necessary for repentance and baptism. Faith is what allows us to escape what Alma calls the "bands of death, and the chains of hell." Charity, however, is an attribute of perfection. We cannot be EXALTED in our Heavenly Father's kingdom, if we have not been cleansed through the blood of the Lamb and received His pure love into our hearts. As President Joseph Fielding Smith taught, "The man who does only those things in the Church which concern himself alone will never reach exaltation." We must develop charity if we are to become like our Savior and live worthy of the promises of the Celestial Glory we hope to attain. 

2) I got to have exchanges with 2 sisters from my batch this week: Sister Hivapea'ulu and Sister Sanders. SO FUN!!! :D I can't really say anything else, just that it was such a blessing to work with them, and especially to have Sister Sanders (a former STL) be my last exchange as an STL. Just reminded me all over again how much I love being a missionary and serving and teaching others. :) 

3) Just a quick overview of the progress of an AWESOME member referral: Rene and Edna, husband and wife with 4 young daughters. We've only taught them 4 times so far. The first was really just an intro to Sister Edna. The second, Sister Faka'osi and Sister Tipasa taught both of them and introduced the message of the Restoration and the role of prophets and revelation. Next, we followed up if they had read the pamphlet (Rene read a little, Edna not at all), and taught about Christ's earthly ministry, using both the bible and the Book of Mormon. It was a lesson unlike any I had ever taught, but scriptures just kept being brought to mind (so I used them) and at the end, Brother Rene was very curious about the Book of Mormon. When he found out he could learn more about it in the pamphlet we had left before, he committed to read it. We came back and discovered he had read the whole thing! And even tried to answer the questions at the back, but was confused, daw, by the verses he read in the bible. We shared about the apostasy (loss of truth and authority) that occurred after the death of Christ and His apostles, the Restoration through the prophet Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon as evidence of this incredible occurrence. :) We left with them a Book of Mormon (which he was shy to accept at first, but excited to read) and when we stopped by the next day to invited Edna to come to the General Women's Broadcast with us, we found him already reading it! This week, I want to testify to the power of the scriptures and using them in teaching. Especially using the Bible and the Book of Mormon together. They truly do support and expound upon one another. We have been blessed with many sources for reading the words of our Lord, we should take advantage of ALL of them! :)

4) Sister Faka'osi and I got to give the workshop in our district meeting yesterday. For our whole zone, actually, because Elder Phelps got Emergency Transferred on Friday so the elders were a 3-some and couldn't split for district meeting. It was really fun. It was cool to see how everything came together, too. I went from having NO idea on Friday night what to talk about, to having a complete workshop flow together (as if organizing itself) by my personal study on Saturday morning. It truly is incredible to see how the Lord sends revelation through the Holy Ghost so simply and perfectly, according to the needs of His children. 

I am out of time now (at least next transfer I won't have any reports to send to I'll have more time to email again :P). I just want to close by testifying once again of the truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and most especially, the blessings of peace, joy, purpose, and security that obedience to its principles brings into our lives. I KNOW that this is the FULLNESS of the gospel of Jesus Christ and no other worldly substitute can compare to the joy it brings into our lives. :) I hope you all have a great week!!! I love you so much!! I pray for you always! Stay strong, keep the faith, share the Gospel! <3

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - September 28, 2014


This was another super fast week! It was a challenge at first, because the plans that we made didn't work out, but of course, the Lord always provides, and it ended up being one of the most successful weeks of the transfer, at least in terms of reaching our goals. 

Wednesday, we were able to have exchanges with our kabahays. I was blessed to be able to work with Sister Verdeflor (which was especially fun because I was her replacement in Taytay, so we have lots of mutual friends there)! We worked in their area, while Sister Faka'osi and Sister Tipasa worked in our area. I was honestly having a really hard morning that day, not feeling like a missionary, not feeling close to the Spirit, but as usual I just pleaded for help from the Lord and pressed forward in faith and it ended up being a great day! :) It was exactly what I needed. Working with Sister Verdeflor helped me feel the Spirit so easily, and teaching in their area was so fun and inspiring! The greatest blessing was that, even though we had no ward missionaries working with us, we were able to have members present at every lesson, which I know made a big difference. I think I may have gotten more from exchanges than Sister Verdeflor did; she is so kind and sweet and a wonderful missionary. It was a comfort for me to open my eyes and see that I really am just one small part of the big picture and that even though this is THE MOST IMPORTANT WORK in the world, the success of it does not primarily rest on ME (haha who knew humility is actually a stress-reliever? :P). 

As for me, I am doing well. I feel like I am starting my mission over, with all the rollercoaster emotions I experienced while being trained. I guess that is what all the talk about "12 weeks" is about. I really don't feel trunky at all (though I guess I don't know what that feels like to be able to judge). I just feel like I have always felt as a missionary. I am just me, doing missionary work. :) It is a lot easier now, of course, and I can recognize the Spirit working through me and utilizing and amplifying my gifts and talents, but I still feel like myself. Just a new and improved version. :) Little things are starting to get to me though, and as much as I wish I could pause time, I am realizing that it keeps moving forward and my deadline as a full-time missionary is inevitable. They started announcing the Women's Broadcast and General Conference in church yesterday (it is delayed a week for us here, so thank you for no spoilers!), and I got super excited until I remembered that I used to talk about how General Conference would be the month before my release. I am honestly excited for continuing to do missionary work in our home branch, but it is just really intimidating that it is so soon, and every week goes faster and faster. :/ I feel like I still have so much to learn and do before I am ready to attempt all this without a name tag (all the cliches I have heard my whole mission are seeming way more rational to me now). More than anything, I am grateful that, through it all, I feel the calming presence of the Spirit wash over me ever time I start to stress and I am reminded that the Lord is in control. He has a plan, and He is in charge of this work. I am just one small part, and when I am gone (or if I am transferred next week) and don't get to see the harvest of the seeds we are planting and nurturing now, all that really matters is that in the time I was here I gave my all and did my best. :) Another wonderful sister, who has been called and set apart by the same authority I was, will be here to make sure the work keeps going. I just need to exercise my faith and trust in the Lord.

In other exciting news: I got to go to Immigration last week to be fingerprinted, because I guess there was a problem with the visa renewal. No worries though, there are like 50+ of us in the mission that had to go over a period of 3 or 4 days. It's all good now, and I WILL be allowed to leave the country to come home daw. ;) We saw a lot of interesting people at the Immigration place though, and I got to talk to a really cute Filipina who is moving to San Diego to live with her American husband. :) 

I am super short on time now (SORRY THIS WEEK ISN'T VERY IMFORMATIVE), so I just want to leave with one thought, from the chorus of "I am a child of god":
Last night, we were walking to a last appointment and of course there are no street lights so Sister Faka'osi was using the flashlight on our phone to light the path. I was walking in front, and quickly realized that it was actually making things worse because, with the light behind me, my shadow was making it even harder to see where I was walking. Suddenly, the chorus of hymn 301 came into my mind, "lead me, guide me, WALK BESIDE ME, help me find the way." I realized that that is exactly how it is with our mortal journey and our Heavenly Help. We must allow Him to lead us. If we try to go ahead ("run faster than [we have] strength") or do things our own way, His Light won't be there to guide us and we will end up having a harder time of things. But if we just put Him first, we can follow Him and be led safely to where we need to go. :) 

That is all for now. Sorry again for the lack of content. More next week, promise! I love you all and hope you have a great week!! You are in my prayers!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - September 21, 2014

Hello! :)

So it is official. I am officially old. It hit me this morning that I have been out 16 months already. Yesterday, we had a sister in our ward work with us who just returned from her mission and it was like jumping in a freezing lake to realize that she is just one batch ahead of me. But it's all good, because the work here is really picking up, and I am getting back into the swing of missionary life and recognizing the miracles again! :)

Since I last emailed, a lot has happened. Just regular, every day missionary things, but a lot of lessons learned for lil' miss Sister Franks. As you may have heard (not sure if it made the news over there) there was another bagyo here. Mario I think was the name here in the Philippines, but it's probably got a different American name (Yolanda had a different name last November, I noticed). Anyway, just want you all to know that Heavenly Father is still spoiling Sister Faka'osi and I because we have both spent the entirety of the rainy seasons of our missions here in Antipolo, the city of highest elevation in our mission. No floods here! Really, not that much damage at all--just heavy rain and a lot of wind. Fortunately, our area wasn't affected much at all. About half of one part of our area lost power, but that's it. 
Friday morning, we got a call from our District Leader as we were heading home from exchanges with our sisters in the neighboring ward checking on how we were weathering the storm. We really didn't realize how big of a storm it was (or course, no one tells us things until it is super intense) so we went ahead and headed home. Thankfully, we were able to catch a jeep, and made it home safely, though pretty thoroughly soaked. :P Shortly thereafter, we got a text saying we weren't allowed to go work. So we spent the morning and early afternoon doing our weekly planning, cleaned the house a bit, I did some exercising (I've been feeling pretty lazy lately and need to get myself more motivated), and about 5:30 the zone leaders texted and said our zone had gotten approval to go out and work (yeah, we are that special!). 
Our appointment for that night ended up falling through, but the replacement was pretty amazing. We ended up having a member visit/lesson with the Martinez family (the ones I talk about all the time--Gladys is the one who takes all the pictures and Daniel is the one who referred us to their cousins). We just shared about the Atonement, asking them what it means to them individually. Then we watched "the bridgemaster and his son" video (you can find it on YouTube---look it up! Watch it if you haven't seen it, or watch it again if you have, because it will make the rest of this make more sense) and asked how their perspective on the Atonement changed as they watched. 
At that point, it was my turn to share, and I talked about my experience when I first watched it back in our district meeting in Morong. I talked about how impressed I was with the maker of the video, that they incorporated all the different kinds of people, with all different kinds of problems and concerns and weaknesses, and how at the end of the video, the girl on the train looks out the window and sees the father crying and she just has this blank look on her face. I just thought to myself "She doesn't even know. She doesn't even know what he just did for her. What just happened." Though I didn't cry watching the movie (any of the times I've watched it), for some reason I actually got choked up as I was sharing this in our lesson and almost couldn't get through it. That's the first I can remember actually crying in a lesson, and I don't even know why. :P But then we read D&C 18:10-14 and talked about the sacrifice that Christ made for us and how the LEAST we can do is share what we know to others so they can know, so they change, so they can receive the blessing and power of the Atonement in their lives. That is the whole point of Missionary Work!! It is all about the Atonement, and helping others to repent so the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for them will not have been in vain. It turned into a solemn lesson (which we hadn't intended), but I think we were all really touched by it and gained a renewed respect and appreciation for the gift of grace that our Savior is giving us. 

Saturday was another interesting day, but the biggest thing I took away from it was actually not from any specific lessons at all. It was the fact that we were able to get a YSA to work with us who has never worked with missionaries before. She is really shy and even admitted herself in her talk in Sacrament meeting last Sunday that she lacks confidence in herself. On Saturday morning, I felt inspired to ask if she was available to work with us (her mom had told us we should bring her sometime), rather than trying to ask one of our other ward missionaries who would have been available most likely due to the storm/not having school or work. It was a great blessing to have her in our lessons and the things she shared were great and sincere, though simple. As the day went on though, I felt the confirming witness of the Spirit that my prompting to invite her was less for the impact it would have on our investigators as the impact it would have on HER as she experienced for herself that she is capable of more than she thought. Even now, it makes me smile to realize how the Lord uses us as instruments to the blessing of ALL His children, not just the ones outside of activity in the Church. :) 

Yesterday naman, we saw the blessing of having Almira work with us on Saturday--the referral her mom gave us (who she taught with us for the first time yesterday) finally came to Church!! It was a huge and visible blessing of having a member present in our lesson with her. We met her at the member's house originally, but when we started teaching her it was at her house and we didn't have any members with us. Honestly, no matter how the teaching goes, no matter how much or how little the member shares, it is their PRESENCE I believe that makes all the difference in cases like this. Our investigator, Blessie, really just needed to feel like she had a friend. She already had a desire to come to church, she was just shy to go alone. But when we walked in the gate for church yesterday (20 minutes early even), she was already there waiting for us! She stayed with us for a while until the members she knew got there, and then was with them the whole rest of the time. It was beautiful! Like how fellowshipping is supposed to go. :) 

I also experienced yesterday the heartbreak of seeing someone completely closed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It wasn't all that different of an experience I guess--we have definitely had our fair share of rejections in my time here--but for the first time, as I invited him to open his heart and consider the message that we bear and in return received only an assurance that "he already knows everything" about our message, that "he wouldn't understand" because we are foreigners, and "he is fine" with what he has, it actually broke my heart. I just stood there, seeing him as a beloved son of God, feeling how sincerely Christ wants him to know the truth, knowing that this Gospel is the ONLY way for him to receive the fullness of the blessings of the Plan of Salvation, and hearing him adamantly refuse to even listen. I don't even have words to describe what I felt in those moments, other than to say that might have been the first time I felt true charity for a fellow child of God, truly loving him and desiring his salvation, as if it were my own flesh and blood. 

Overall, it is true what people always say: missions are the best and the hardest times of your life. But as one of my fellow missionaries here said (sorry I can't remember who right now), that is how it has to be, because of the principle of "opposition in all things." As Tom Hanks says in A League of Their Own: "Of course it's hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great." :) 

That is all for this week. I just want to close with two spiritual thoughts for you all:
1) A verse I found about having faith and trusting in the Lord's work:
Mosiah 27:13-- "[Insert your name here] arise and stand forth, for why [doubtest] thou the Church of God? For the Lord hath said: this is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people." We just need to be obedient and trust the Lord to accomplish His work--we are merely instruments in His hands, and He can do His work. :)
2) From chapter 18 of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith (our lesson in Relief Society yesterday), found in D&C 98:11--
"And I give unto you a COMMANDMENT, that ye shall forsake ALL evil, and cleave unto ALL good, that ye shall live by EVERY word which proceedeth from out of the mouth of God" (emphasis added). We cannot pick and choose which commandments (or mission rules) to obey, based on what we think are most "important" or "biggest", and expect to be blessed. We must obey EVERY command in faithful obedience if we hope to receive the promised blessings. If we are not fully obedient, the Lord is unable to give us the full blessing. There is no "unimportant" commandment, because the principle of obedience is universal, and the state of our heart is what really matters to the Lord. :) 

LET US ALL PRESS ON IN THE WORK OF THE LORD! :D I love you and miss you all and pray for you always. Hope you have a wonderful week!!! 

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - September 14, 2014 ("Impossible is not a word, it's just a reason for someone not to try")

HELLO!!!! :D

I have to apologize again--I went a little overboard on my email to President so I am a little kulang on time for this email. But I will do my best for you. Hopefully, some of it can cross over. :)

This week was actually a bit of a struggle for me, so naturally, I learned A LOT. The adversary was trying really hard to bring me down. From the start (Monday) we were punted a lot, and couldn't seem to find what the Lord had in mind instead, the way we usually do. Our goals each day were set in faith, but definitely reasonable, yet we didn't reach them even once. In the great teaching method of the Spirit though, I was reminded of the PMG movies (The District, if you remember watching those) when the two elders are doing all that they can to have a baptism and trying so hard to get their investigators to progress and it just isn't happening. I thought about what we teach people all the time--how trials are given to us for a reason, and the sooner we figure out what we are supposed to be learning, the better off we are. So I pretty much just pleaded with the Lord every day to bless me with the Spirit and the desire to work hard, and went out and tried to exercise my faith. It was a hard week. But, as always, there were many highlights. :)
First of all, we got to have exchanges with the sisters in Morong (Sister Faka'osi's and my old area). I got to work with Sister Taufa, which was a huge blessing! She is a sister that I have really looked up to ever since I met her when we were both going to Taytay Zone. She is one of the nicest, most Christlike people I have met, and I was so impressed and grateful to see the progress that the sisters are making in Morong (a part of my heart is still there, as you know). Honestly, I feel like exchanges were just as much for me as the sisters we worked with. I had the chance to teach a recent convert who was baptized just a couple of weeks ago and who just received the priesthood (or was supposed to) yesterday. What made it so special is that he was an investigator that I was able to find and start teaching during my second transfer in Morong, and I witnessed many, many trials come into his life as soon as we started teaching him (you may remember me writing about Brother Lawrence a few times before). Through it all, though, his faith and his desire to find and accept the true Gospel stayed firm. Finally, nearly 6 months later, he is an official member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an Aaronic Priesthood holder! :D It was a beautiful blessing for me to be able to see how the seed I planted was nurtured by other sisters, and harvested by entirely different ones. It was a testimony all over again to me that we are all on the same team, and we all play a specific role in the Lord's grand and eternal plan for the Salvation of His children. :) I was very touched and humbled to be blessed with that experience of getting to see and teach him again and see how much he has progressed since I last saw him. 
I was also really touched by Sister Taufa's comments in our evaluations at the end of the night. She shared with me that she felt very humbled by the day that we had spent together, and that she felt very chastened by her experiences. She said that she felt, for the first time since she was a trainee, that someone else was leading. I felt really bad actually, because I was not aware at all that she was feeling that way and I had not intended that at all, but she assured me that it was exactly what she needed and that I had really been an instrument of the Spirit in helping her. Many of the things she shared really surprised me; I don't even have the words to share though. Mostly, she just talked about how impressed she was with my example of finding, teaching, etc., and the spirit and power in the things I shared. I don't really feel like I did anything special, honestly, but somehow the Spirit was able to teach her, I guess. One thing that she highlighted (which is something that every STL I have worked with has shared) is how impressed she is with my Tagalog. Every time I hear that, I try to attribute it to the fact that I had only had Filipina companions for the first half of my mission, I've been in Rizal (the "province") the whole time, etc., but I was surprised when she cut me off and said, "If there is anything I have learned, it is that the language is ONLY learned by the Spirit." She later pointed out something that I had never realized before: I am actually more comfortable speaking to people in Tagalog than English. Obviously, I am still fluent in my native language, but as far as having a conversation, it flows much more naturally for me in Tagalog. I was honestly amazed at all the things that she saw in me that I have never recognized in myself, and it reminded me of a line in my patriarchal blessing that talks about how my influence on others will radiate "beyond [my] imagination." I feel like I am learning the truth of that prophecy more and more as time goes on. I really don't understand why the Lord has blessed me with so much, but I just hope I can live up to his expectations. 
Another experience I got to have this weekend was with the Decrito family. We haven't been able to see them for a few weeks, because they are busy and have been out of town on Sundays, which is when we go see them. At the end of our last lesson, we discovered that Brother was struggling with his testimony of God as our Heavenly Father (versus Jesus Christ). We tried to explain about the Godhead and committed him to pray to Heavenly Father and ask if He is real. We were a little uncertain, going into the lesson, what we should teach. Especially since we had two members with us (our ward mission leader, and a counselor in the bishopric). But it soon turned out to be given to us, as we asked if they had any questions. At first Brother said no, but then after a few moments he said, "actually, is it okay if I ask something?" He asked why there are 3 kingdoms of Glory, and what happens to people who aren't members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first question is a great one, with a simple answer that our ward mission leader gave perfectly: imagine there are only two options--heaven for people who are righteous, and hell for people who are wicked. What happens to the man or woman who is a good person, but doesn't repent of all their sins? They can't go to heaven, because they are still stained by their sins. They don't fit there. But they don't belong in Hell, either, because they lived a good life. They don't fit there either. Thus, it follows that a 3rd option is necessary--a place for those in the middle, who haven't fully utilized Christ's atonement, but haven't rejected it either. The second question is a lot more complicated, and not one I want to endeavor to answer here because it is very delicate and MUST be taught by the Spirit. We had a good discussion in our lesson, though, explaining that the Celestial Kingdom (or Exaltation, where we get to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and our eternal families) is very specifically for those who have accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ and been cleansed from their sins. We explained that merely having faith, repenting, being baptized, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is not enough. We will still only make it to the Terrestrial Kingdom if we do not endure the end (as I heard once before, "No matter what religion you are, you won't be saved if you don't endure to the end"). But that said, the first 4 steps are vital as well, since we can't automatically skip to step 5 without the preparatory steps. I had to pause, as we taught though, because the Spirit was telling me that the question he was asking and the answer he needed was a different one. His real question was, "do I really need to accept THIS form of the Gospel to be able to live with my family for eternity?" I was really scared, but the impression I was receiving from the Spirit was undeniable, so I very carefully and slowly started to speak. I explained that steps 3, 4, and 5 are all about ordinances. Ordinances (or sacred acts which signify a covenant made with God) which must be performed by proper authority. If ordinances by true authority, traceable to Jesus Christ Himself, were not important, then we would not need to be here on a mission right now. If all we needed was faith in Christ, a desire to follow Him, and to feel guilt when we sin, I could be at home studying, working, starting a family, whatever I wanted. But I am here on a mission because I KNOW that ordinances matter, and authority matters. That is why we teach others the message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ--how true authority has been restored to the earth through a living prophet, and is traceable to Jesus Christ Himself. That is why we invited EVERYONE to pray about our message, so they can know for themselves and decide for themselves if they want to receive those ordinances. I don't think I have ever been so bold in a lesson before, but despite my own nervousness and apprehension, I am glad that I trusted the Spirit and followed His impressions, because I soon discovered that it was exactly what they needed to hear. 

I am out of time, but I just have to testify once again that being a missionary is the greatest! There are so many ups and downs, but all the challenges are just there to help us recognize the blessings and miracles that come as we endure. I love this work. I love everything about being a missionary, and I know without a doubt that this gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is true. :) 
I love you and miss you and pray for you always!! I hope you have a great week!!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks