Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - January 20, 2014

Hey everyone!!

So I have to apologize, but this is going to be quite a letdown as far as missionary emails go. Sister Medina (my companion) had a doctors appointment in the city earlier, so we were gone most of the day and now I only have about ten minutes to send this email before we need to go print pictures and then go work.

I just want to let you know, though, that I am safe and there's nothing to worry about. We're just short on time today. There are so many things I was going to tell you (okay, that might be a stretch, but I was going to send pictures at least) but it'll have to wait (again). Here's just one cute story/spiritual thought before I leave:

We are teaching the husband of a recent convert who is now less-active (how heart-breaking is that?). They are both in their 70s/80s I think, and the husband has a hard time hearing us so lessons are pretty interesting...we pretty much just shout so probably all their neighbors should count as investigators right now too. :P Anyhow, one of my favorite things about teaching them is hearing the wife pray. She is so sweet, and every time she prays in the lesson, she starts out by saying (in Tagalog, of course): "Heavenly Father, Good Morning po." I don't know why but it just always makes me smile. It's so genuine and from the heart, and I just feel like she really is having a conversation with her Father, telling him about her life and thanking Him for the good things, and asking for help with whatever she needs. I want to develop that kind of sincerity. :)

I know that Heavenly Father really is our Father. We are His children and He loves us so so much. He wants to hear from us, through prayer. But of course, He wants a heartfelt prayer (like how getting a personal email is better than getting chain mail--it actually has real meaning). I know that He listens to our prayers too, especially when we are in need of His help. Even if His answers don't come in the way we want or expect, they do come. I know this from my personal experiences, every single day here. I know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real and that it is there not just to help us overcome and be forgiven of our sins, but also to comfort and strengthen us when we feel like we can't handle things on our own (because really, we can't. we need Christ. every one of us, every day).

I love you all so much! I hope you are doing well!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

P.S. From the Area Presidency Broadcast we had here on Saturday:
"As we turn to Him in faith and prayer, Christ will empower us to be where we are meant to be."
"Don't rob yourself of the precious opportunity to do your duty."
"Rid yourself of fears and fill the void with faith in Christ."
"Feast upon the scriptures, and you will find the spiritual capacity to rise above your challenges."

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - January 12, 2014

Happy Monday ulit!

So this is coming to you from another new location! We are in Taytay! Just for the morning though. We are going to the mall after this, and we didn't know how traffic would be so we just left from the house this morning and are emailing from a little computer shop by the chapel here.

There is a lot of exciting news this week, hopefully I have time to share it all. Firstly, this is pretty recent, but we have a new kabahay! Sister Sikotilani (from Samoa) got Emergency Transferred here on Saturday night, coming from Mindoro. So now Sister Tingey and Sister Dudas are a threesome. It's a bit of an adjustment, for all of us (because our house/apartment really is not designed for 5 people--4 people was almost a stretch) but mostly for their companionship because they've been together 3 transfers now (about 4 months) so getting used to a new companion/teaching style/everything will take some time I think. But I really like Sister Sikotilani. I think she is a really good, and much needed, addition to our house and branch. Hopefully we can help her feel welcome and loved though, because I am sure it is awful for her having to leave behind her whole district and branch there that she's grown to love in the past 6 months, especially with just a couple of days notice.

The other news is that we got a new branch presidency in Morong! So, because we are in a district and not a stake, the mission president (President Revillo) came to visit our branch on Sunday. Which was super exciting, and actually really great, but also kind of nerve-wracking for me because I had been asked last Sunday to give a talk (not knowing President would be there). Fortunately, since I got to go first, and there was a lot on the program (testimonies from those who were released, and talks by the district president and then President Revillo), I got to just give a short message/testimony about Repentance and then turn the time over to the others. I think it might have blown my cover with President, though. I don't think he's going to believe me anymore when I complain about not knowing Tagalog (I actually am pretty good at it compared to most other foreigners, but since I'm a perfectionist I never think so). :P Having him with us though and speaking in our branch was such a testimony building for me of the truthfulness of his authority as a leader in this area. His remarks were so perfect and so powerful--like a general authority, but also like someone who lives in our branch boundaries. It was like he knew exactly what we needed to hear--like the Lord himself was speaking. It was super cool. :)

Also, there is a college/university in our area in Morong. Last week we were able to go talk to some people in the administration to find out about what we need to do to be able to go teach there. The people were all very nice, especially the professor we were able to meet with who runs the little chapel/gazebo they have on campus. We decided to teach just from "For The Strength of Youth", which is of course for everyone, whether members of the church or not. We also left a pamphlet about the Restoration for him personally. He said he was really excited to read it, because he's never encountered Mormons before. We have to submit a request letter to their "department of campus ministry" (the fact that such a department even exists should be evidence to the number of missionaries from different religions that proselyte here), which we wrote on Saturday and will deliver tomorrow. It was weird, actually, trying to write a letter in English. Haha I think I'm going to have the hardest time when I get home trying to get over my habit of using Taglish all the time. It's hard enough just writing emails, let alone professional-sounding documents. :P But at any rate, we met with President Revillo yesterday and he is super supportive and excited about our efforts, which is nice. Hopefully a lot of good will come from this new opportunity. :)

Today's spiritual thought comes from the 2nd half of Alma 39:1. "...For behold, have ye not observed the steadiness of thy brother, his faithfulness, and his diligence in keeping the commandments of God? Behold, has he not set a good example for thee?" We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father. This means that our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is our brother. We observe His steadiness, faithfulness, and diligent obedience every time we read the scriptures or the words of the prophets. He has set the example for us. The perfect example. We just need to make the effort to learn from and follow it. :) I know that as we do so, as we learn more about our Savior Jesus Christ and the path to Eternal Happiness and Peace that He has set before us, we will be blessed with so much more than we can even imagine.

I love you all! I hope you have a great week this week!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - January 5, 2014

Hello again!!

It's the first Monday of 2014, and I don't know what it's like for all of you in America, but it is a beautiful day here in Morong, Rizal, Philippines! 2014, though it's just begun, is already fantastic and living up to my expectations (exceeding them, even). I'm sure there are a lot of reasons why I am here in Morong, but I have discovered at least a handful that I want to share with you today.

Firstly, the highlight of my week was on Saturday when the Andres family was baptized. The mother and father and 3 of their 5 children were all baptized and it was the most incredible experience ever. We had a lot of complications leading up to their baptism (misunderstandings in the baptismal interviews, then Sister Andres' brother passing away last Sunday and them being out of town all week), but I'm pretty positive that is just because Satan is so scared of all the good that their family is going to do as members of the true Church of Jesus Christ.
Sister Medina and Sister Kahui found the family last transfer when they went to teach their next door neighbors. They OYMed Sister and were able to come back to teach the family. Brother apparently had a lot of issues (drinking, swearing, anger management, etc) and their family life wasn't the best. They hasn't gone to church in 10 years, since their 2nd child was born. I don't know the whole story, since I wasn't here for it, but the transformation in their family was amazing. The missionaries started teaching them, and they just absorbed everything! They started reading the Book of Mormon and praying every night as a family, the missionaries explained that we don't drink alcohol, smoke,or  drink coffee or tea, so they quit (even before the Word of Wisdom lesson was taught). The first Sunday they came to church, Brother lost his job because he didn't show up to work. Instead of getting angry or frustrated and giving up, they just put their faith in the Lord. They kept reading, praying, coming to Church, and trusted that they would be taken care of. The members here have been amazing in helping them get food for their family, and find work so they could get back on their feet. They are one of the most beautiful families I have ever met, and they are so loving! They are so engaged when we teach them, and they love us so much. They tell us every day how grateful they are that we brought the Gospel into their lives, and how they feel so blessed that the Lord sent missionaries to their house even though they weren't religious or righteous people before.
Last week, Sister Andres' older brother passed away, and they went to be with her family. The family hadn't yet figured out arrangements for the burial, but Brother and Sister Andres just told them simply: we have to go back to Morong on Friday night, whether he has been buried or not, because we have something we need to do on Saturday morning (their baptism) that's more important.
Brother's story is probably the most picturesque though. His is the life that was most transformed by the Gospel. Not only did he quit all his vices, but he has become such a faithful and loving husband and father. Hearing/watching him bear his testimony after their baptism on Saturday was so amazing. It really was like an Alma the Younger experience for him, I think. He's an entirely different person now, and I am so excited to see the Priesthood leader he will become. Sister Andres, and all 3 of the kids that were baptized also said in their testimonies on Saturday that they are so grateful to see the change in Brother (as a father and as a husband).
I know this is like the most haphazard and disorganized email ever, but I just have all these thoughts and feelings floating around and don't know where to start or how to express them. Pretty much I just feel blessed beyond measure to have had the chance to teach their family, and witness their baptism (even though I'm not the one that found them or started teaching to initiate the change). I feel like seeing their conversion has just made me fall in love with missionary work all over again. The kind of love I felt before my mission just working with the missionaries. The kind of excitement I felt in the MTC when our investigators finally started progressing. The kind of passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ that made me want to serve in the first place.
I know there are a lot of reasons I am here in Morong, both for my own personal growth and to help the members and non-members here in this area, but if the only reason I was assigned here was to help me love being a missionary again, it worked. :)

That's all for now, because I'm out of time. I just want to say I love you all so much, and I love this Gospel! I'll send pix of the baptism next week, hopefully. Have a great week!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Sister Franks in the Philippines - December 29, 2013

Hello again!!

Are you as excited for New Years as I am?! The anticipation has been building up all weekend, as we've been sharing messages about making changes and setting goals, but I feel like it's reaching the brim and about to overflow inside me. :) I don't think I've ever been as excited about a fresh start (or restart) as I am this year. I CAN'T WAIT!!

I think it would be an understatement to say that this week has been one of the most difficult and most incredible of my life. I have never felt so hopeless and frustrated, but consequently, having survived it, I can also say that it has taught me so much and though I'm not sure how, I can even see within myself how much I have grown. I still love Morong! Last week was really frustrating for me, for a lot of reasons I won't get into (they aren't important), but mostly just because I knew the Lord was expecting more of me than what I was giving.
I had kind of a breakthrough on Saturday morning though. I was thinking through everything that I'd been feeling, and trying to figure out what would even be the solution. I will admit, emergency transfers kept going through my mind, but then I knew it would be selfish and impractical to transfer Sister Medina and let me stay (I really do love it here--I hate the thought of ever being transferred). I was almost accepting the thought of being transferred though, if it meant I could escape how I was feeling, when I started thinking about who could replace me that would be able to actually help the branch. As I was trying to figure out what kind of missionary the branch needs, it occurred to me that I AM that missionary. There is a reason that the Lord placed me here at this time, and there is a reason that Sister Medina and I are together. I realized that I just needed to figure out what kind of missionary the Lord wants ME to be, to help the Morong Branch reach it's potential. And I realized that all my experience in the San Isidro branch is probably vital to helping these members here as well. My revelation/insight was confirmed Saturday night when I was able to get a Priesthood blessing from our District Leader. I was reminded that the Lord gives us trials to help us grow, and that I have the strength to handle this. :)
In Sacrament meeting yesterday, for some reason I was thinking about what Batman says in the Dark Night, and decided that I may not be the missionary that the Morong Branch deserves, but maybe (hopefully) I can be the one that it needs right now. ;) 
With that attitude adjustment, my weekend since then has been so fulfilling. We are working on preparing an incredible family (the Andres family) for their baptisms on Saturday, and I was able to share a very personal experience yesterday talking to the mother to help her with something she was struggling with. It's something I have never shared before with anyone here, and when the Spirit prompted me to share it with her, I just felt that maybe that is one reason why I was sent here at this time, and why I am the one who is privileged to help teach their family.
Sister Tingey, one of my kabahays who I absolutely love (she really has been a lifesaver for me since I got here) also expressed to me that she is glad that I came here with the attitude that I did (wanting to work hard and be exactly obedient) because it has helped her become more motivated as well. So now I've just become more determined to do all I can to be an example of exact obedience. All 4 of us, I think, are catching the spirit of New Years and wanting to improve. Though I know there will still be trials and hardships ahead, I am excited for the coming weeks (and I really am starting to love Sister Medina--we are learning to work together and understanding each other more I think). :)

BUT on to more exciting things! My Tatay (Elder Argyle) is now one of our Zone Leaders here in Morong, and he finally got here from Mindoro (there was some kind of problem with the airlines and they couldn't get flights for transfers) on Christmas. I still haven't seen him, but I got to talk to him for a bit on Thursday and I'm super excited that he's in my district again! :)

Also, a story about cockroaches: I'm usually okay with cohabiting with them (i.e. I ignore them and let them live as long as they stay a decent distance away from me), but mostly just because I don't like getting close enough to kill them (they're too quick and I don't trust them). But I went to go to bed last night and one scurried out of my blanket onto the wall (I'm on the top bunk) and then started flying around and finally disappeared behind our dresser. It was pretty traumatic for me, actually. I've been so nice to them--like the one that I let chill on my desk every night my 2nd transfer since I wasn't using it--but my bed is another thing! That's just low. But it was a good reminder, because I've been neglecting to pray at night not to be attacked by anything. I used to (and will again) pray every night for divine anti-critter protection, and that alone is a testimony that Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers, since thus far I've been safe. :)

One last thing because I'm almost out of time! Our branch president gave a talk yesterday and he talked about the tower of babel, and how it was being designed to reach the heavens. He talked about the pyramid-type building structure back then, and how the base would have had to be giant for it to actually be that tall. I don't remember what the point of his talk actually was, because I got distracted by his point of what an engineering marvel that would have been. I remember him saying, though, how the base, the foundation, has to be the biggest and the strongest part of the structure, and how it takes many many people working together to build it. He then related it to our spiritual progression and how if we want to reach heaven, we need a strong foundation. I was thinking, then, about converts to the church (which really includes all of us), and how they are working to build their foundation. I loved President Ika's comment, too, about how it takes many many people to build a foundation. It occurred to me that really, that is why fellowshippers, home and visiting teachers, and member support are so important. If they have to build this giant foundation all by themselves, they will undoubtedly get tired, frustrated, and maybe even give up. We need to help them press on, we need to help BUILD THEIR FOUNDATION, we need to help them keep the vision of the end result--that one day they will reap the results of all their hard work, and make it to Heaven, to Eternal Life with our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I just want you all to know how much I love being a missionary. The greatest feeling ever was last week when I realized that as much as my gut instinct was to get away, I had no desire to go home. Everything in me still loves being a missionary and wants to work as well as I can while I am here. Our district leader shared a cool experience with us in our district meeting last week: I can't remember if it was an investigator or just someone they OYMed, but they were asked, "why do we see you walking everywhere? Is it because Jesus walked everywhere?" We all laughed about it, because we know the real reason is just that we're cheap and can't pay for transportation all the time, but at the same time it was beautiful to see the parallel. As Elder Anderson (our District Leader) said, "Sure. We're trying to be like Jesus. We bear the same message that he bore." It's amazing, but true.

It's so humbling to realize that we really are here as representatives of Christ. Humility is probably the #1 thing I am learning here in Morong, especially since there seems to be such a lack of it (myself included). A super cool quote from a confirmation that was given yesterday in our branch though: "Humility is a virtue that Heavenly Father wants [us all] to enjoy." And as Sister Garcia used to say, "there's no harm in being humble." I'm trying to make that my motto this transfer (one of them). So I'll let you know how it goes. :)

Alright, I'm actually over time now, so I have to go. I love you all so so much, though!! I hope you had a great Christmas and I hope you have a SPECTACULAR New Years!!!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Sister Franks in the Philippines - Pictures 3

Opening Christmas presents with my kabahays after Christmas Conference (hence our matching t-shirts :D). It was a super long day and we were exhausted, which is why we don't look great. :P

The Diaz family at their re-baptism. I love them all so much!! Their house is craziness, as you might imagine with 8 kids. :)

Nope, not a fake background, this is actually our area (San Isidro still). And my beautiful anak. :)

My new companion, Sister Medina!  We look pretty good for a transfer day (running on very little sleep). :)

This is just one of the beautiful views in our area in Morong (those are rice fields, and then the lake). This is right outside the house of a part-member family. The daughter (Tere) is being baptized on Saturday. Every day we come here I'm just astounded by how beautiful it is. It looks even better in person.

I don't have much time left and I still have a write a normal email, so that's it for now. :)

Sister Franks in the Philippines - December 22, 2013

Hello po everyone!!

So--surprise! P-day is actually today after all, not on Thursday. Exciting, no? There is so much to say about my life this past week, I'm not really sure where to start.
I guess I can start with Tuesday, after I found out I was transferring. Sister Garcia and I went shopping so she could have food for her new companion coming in. As we were walking about Shopwise though, I just kept seeing things and saying "maybe I should get this...just in case they don't have [whatever it was] in Morong." Haha it felt like I was preparing for a mission all over again--making sure you have everything you need before you head off into the wilderness with potentially no civilization around to provide you with things like shampoo or good-tasting milk. :P But actually, Morong is great. It's small, much smaller than Antipolo, but there is a grocery store and mini mall area so it turns out I didn't need to worry. They even have the good milk here. ;)
Coming to Morong has made me realize how luxurious my apartment in San Isidro was, though. The fact that we had two bathrooms is luxury in itself, let alone the fact that they both had showers! But I'm getting the hang of "bucket showers" now. As Sister Cutia said when she first got here: "it's actually kind of fun throwing buckets of water over yourself." :P And I got used to showering in cold water before, so that doesn't bother me anymore. The hardest part, I think, is that our neighbors are super loud and love to play music/sing karaoke at night, and the dogs that live next door/in front of our house like to fight, so I had a hard time sleeping the first couple of nights.
My companion is Sister Medina. We're still adjusting to each other. She has a strong personality and strong ideas of how things should be, so it's been a struggle for me to try to find my place. I feel like I should be offering more to try to help our area, but my suggestions don't really go anywhere, so we'll see. I'm definitely looking forward to everything I'm going to be learning this transfer---my prayer is that this is the Lord's way of finally helping me to really learn charity, humility, and patience. They are what I have been exercising every day. :) She is a good missionary though, and a good teacher, so we are actually fine mostly in our teaching, which I am grateful for. I've just been trying to focus on keeping the Spirit, because I know that is the most important thing and everything else can be worked out in the end.
For all that shocked me when I got here that might have made me homesick and want to go back to San Isidro, there is no way I could ever hope to be assigned anywhere else. I LOVE MORONG. WE HAVE THE GREATEST AREA EVER. For real, though. The people here are so incredible!!! The people we are teaching are some of the most prepared people I have ever met. Like, I honestly have a hard time believing they aren't members yet. They are so ready, so open, so faithful. And I've only met a handful of the families that they were teaching before I got here. The branch we are in has a lot of work to be done, but there is SO much potential, and I just really hope I can help in some way while I am here! I can't even express how much I love the people here...and I've only been here for 5 days!
I'll tell you more about the Andres family (and maybe others) next week, but this week I just want to share a great analogy that one of our investigators told us last night (translated to English, for your convenience :P).
There was a box of matches, and they were all sitting inside the match box. A man came and took one of the matches out and used it to clean his ears (like a Q-tip--don't worry too much about the weird uses they have for matches here in the Philippines). The match was so excited to be outside the match box. He said "wow! it's so light here!" and was happy with his use. The man came back later and took another match out to use as a toothpick. The match was happy: "there's so much light!" he said. He was glad to be outside the match box. Another match had fallen out of the match box onto the ground. "This is so much better than being in the box! There's so much light out here!" He too was happy with his new life. The man later came back and notice the match that had fallen on the ground. He picked it up, along with the match box. The match was worried--he didn't want to go back into the box where it was dark! But then the man struck the match on the side of the box and it caught fire. The match was astounded. He had been so content just sitting outside the box enjoying the light that was around him, never realizing that he himself had the potential to BECOME light the whole time.
We had been sharing about Christlike attributes, and in particular faith, hope, and charity (from the end of Moroni 7). Our investigator related this to the parable of the match. Each of us has the potential to become something great. We all have the potential to become like Christ--to become Light. When we live without the Gospel, without the truth, it's like living in darkness. When someone comes along and introduces truth into our lives, we start to see light in our lives and we are so grateful. Yet until we realize our own potential to become that light, we are still missing out. We have to embrace the truth for ourselves if we want to have the fullness of joy that is available to us.
She told the story better than I can, but I just really wanted to share it because I was so inspired. Hopefully the Spirit will help enlighten your minds so you can gain some insight from it as well. I know that this Gospel is true. I know that every thing we experience in our lives is specifically designed to help us learn and grow. Sometimes (most of the time) it comes through trials, but those trials are really a blessing and if we embrace them and approach them with an attitude of humility and a chance to become more like our Savior, they will refine us into something so much more than we imagined we were capable of becoming.

I am so grateful for this chance to be serving as a missionary and representative for Jesus Christ, especially now, during the Christmas season. I know that the message that we share as missionaries really is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, the one and only way to eternal joy and salvation.

I love you all so much! I hope you have a fantastic Christmas!! :) You'll be in my thoughts and prayers!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Sister Franks in the Philippines - December 16, 2013


Firstly, I have exciting news: I'm finally transferring!! Of course, there is a story to go along with this as well. I've been thinking for the past couple of weeks that, as much as I hate being hot, I think I would be okay with transferring to the city. Even though its like 15-20 degrees hotter there (or at least it feels like it), people speak English. And you aren't the only white person they see, which means you don't have to deal with the awkwardness of having complete strangers tell you they love you or yelling semi-correct English phrases at you ("where will you go?" "where do you come from?") or marveling at the fact that you understand and speak Tagalog. I've been here in Antipolo/San Isidro for 4 transfers now, and I've loved it, honestly. I love the people (members and nonmembers alike), but I'm ready for something new.
It's hard to really describe the excitement I felt last night when our zone leader called and told me I am transferring to Morong!! Morong is the area Sister Cutia was "born" in (where she trained when we got here). Far from being the city, it's actually the most provincial you can get without going to Mindoro. :P But everyone says it is beautiful. Actually, I've only heard great things about it! I'm going to be serving in the area Sister Pope was in before she came here, and my companion is the nanay (trainer) of Sister Doucette (my twin). Pretty much I just feel super super blessed. :) The only downside is that Morong is so far away they don't get to go to the temple, or to the mission office for zone conferences. But I'm excited, because according to Sister Pope, the sisters' apartment in Morong is the only one that has a microwave! And even though they don't have a shower (bucket showers lang), they do have a washing machine, so I won't have to handwash anymore. There's just a lot to look forward to. Mostly I'm just looking forward to something new, and all that I am going to learn. :)

Before that, though, I have to share some of what I have been learning here. Firstly, watching the Preach My Gospel DVDs, I've realized/decided that pretty much every missionary experiences joys and disappointments in their mission, no matter where they serve. I'm sure every missionary can relate to the frustration of an investigator or less active who promises over and over that they are going to come to church and then doesn't. And every missionary should be able to relate to a well-planned lesson, that never gets shared, or goes completely differently than planned. Yet (hopefully) every missionary should also experience the joy of an OYM that turns into a progressing investigator, a member that offers to work with you, an investigator that asks questions, that wants to know the truth, that reads the Book of Mormon and gains a testimony of it. We are called to serve as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That is our calling. We are ASSIGNED to labor in specific areas of the world. We may face different circumstances and environments, but we are all missionaries at heart. We all face discouragement and Satan's attempts to bring us down, but we all serve the same Lord, and we all rely upon the same Atoning Power to lift us up and give us the strength to accomplish what the Lord expects of us. I remembered this week a quote that has struck me in a new way: "It's not about where you serve. It's about how you serve." I know that is true. Whether halfway around the world, or at home in your own ward or branch, we are all laboring to serve our Heavenly Father's children and help them to come unto Christ.
We had a great experience the past few weeks that has taught me about the importance of each and every soul to the Lord. When I got here, there was a "less-active" family that was attending church in a different ward. They had lived in the ward before, but after they moved to a new house (in our branch boundaries), they opted to just keep attending in their old ward. They weren't super active, but they went to church at least. I didn't really think all that much of it, but they mentioned to the other sisters about no one coming to visit them (missionaries or home/visiting teachers, because they live outside the ward boundaries). So we started to go see them. Sister Campbell and I only had the chance to see them a couple of times, but Sister Garcia and I started visiting them back in October and after General Conference (really not due to anything that we did), the mother realized that they needed to start coming to the branch, because that's what the Lord wanted for them (she was struck during conference by the emphasis on obedience, daw, and subsequently had a dream about being in the branch and said that she felt a happiness there that she had never felt in the ward). They've been attending the branch ever since, and the branch president started working to get their records transferred. We discovered mid-November that 5 of the 8 children had no baptismal records. Of the 3 that had them, 1 (the oldest) is less active, the youngest is only 7, and the other is the 8 year old that was baptized shortly after they became active again in the branch. After a lot of conversations between the branch president, the mission president, our zone and district leaders, and the stake president, it was determined that we were supposed to teach and re-baptize them so that they could have accurate records and could proceed with receiving other ordinances (such as the priesthood for the 2 young men, and preparing for a mission for the 19 year old girl). So Sister Garcia and I did some super-planning and taught all 4 lessons in one week, so they could be ready to have a baptismal interview the next Sunday and be baptized the following week (the 14th). Last week was a bit of a frenzy, though, because the Stake wanted to make sure that the records were just lost in a different ward or a different file somewhere, so we kept postponing the interview until we were sure that re-baptism was necessary. Thankfully, since they've grown up in the church, they know the gospel pretty well, so we weren't worried about the interviews. Ultimately, we found out on Thursday night that a record was found for the younger boy, who was baptized at the same time as his younger sister. Since they have a picture from their baptism to affirm it, the leadership can just recreate her record. So only the 3 older kids (14, 17, and 19) needed to be baptized again. Their baptism was on Saturday, and while it was a little strange for everyone involved, I was so deeply touched, as I witnessed the baptisms and listened to them share their testimonies, by how beautiful the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ are. There is no doubt in my mind that Heavenly Father inspired us to visit their family, and inspired them to come to the branch, not necessarily because the place (or time, in this case) that they were attending church was of vital importance, but rather because if they had never made the switch, it would never have been discovered that the records were lost, until it came time for something larger (like serving a mission or wanting to get married in the temple). But Heavenly Father, knowing more than we do, arranged a way to compensate for the mistakes of mortality. I know without a doubt that these "new members" are so so precious to Him, and I feel so blessed to have been able to witness this miracle. 

We still aren't really sure what all is going down with Christmas calls, but apparently P-day next week isn't until Thursday. So in the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!!! Sing lots of carols, eat cookies, cuddle up with a blanket and a good book, reread the Christmas story, and remember how blessed we all are. :)

I love you all! You will be in my prayers and my thoughts (on Christmas Day mostly--because I'm focused on the work! :P). Merry Christmas po!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Sister Franks in the Philippines - December 8, 2013

Hello again!! :)

My time is a little short today (again), because our old zone leader (Elder Tipene, who is now in a neighboring zone) was here in Antipolo, and stopped to say hi to I sacrificed a portion of my computer time to catch up with him. Also, as you'll notice, there's an attachment (hopefully) to this email. That's the other reason--it turns out I'm not as quick at typing as I used to be. At any rate, the attachment is a sort of "Christmas newsletter" for the ward and branch, if there's somewhere to post it. I'm aspiring to write real letters soon, but for now this will have to suffice. I thought I would include it for everyone to read, if you're interested.

Our week this week was good, and short (since P-day was just on Wednesday). One experience I wanted to share is from a lesson we had with Regine last week. She is the only member of the church in her family, and while they don't oppose her being a member, she doesn't really have support from them spiritually. When we met with her on Friday, she said that she was confused before about how anyone could become less active in the Church, but now she is starting to understand. Even though her testimony is still strong, she knows that the Church and the Gospel are true, she said that she understands now how hard it is to stay active when you have no family support. That really struck me, since she is the first investigator I was able to teach and see baptized. I know her faith is strong (she amazes me every time we meet with her--I'm humbled to realize how weak my own faith is). Yet she is having a hard time staying active, because of the influences around her. I'm not really sure what the moral of the story is, but I just wanted to share that thought, since it's changed the way that I think about less active members of the church. They may not have stopped coming to church because of anything specific that happened, but just because they don't have the support they need to withstand Satan's continual attacks and opposition. Maybe that's a good place to start to help them rekindle their desire to be active--start by being their friend and letting them know we care and we want to support them. :)

That's all I have time for today. I love you all so much! I hope you have a great week!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Sister Franks in the Philippines - December 4, 2013

Hello again!

So, this will be a short email, because I've used most of my time already. Sorry about that. One thing I want to share, first of all, though, is this video I just watched about the members in Tacloban:
If you haven't watched it yet (or recently), I invite you to watch it. It's so incredible what these faithful people are doing to rescue those who have been impacted by the typhoon. It's crazy, too, to see the destruction. I wish you could see what life is like for us here in Antipolo. It's so modern, so built up, much like you would expect from a city in the US. Seeing buildings left as just half-standing walls and trees leveled by the winds and the floods--that's not a normal thing. The more I'm seeing of the destruction in the south, the more I'm realizing how tragic it really is, and how incredible the service is that is being rendered by members and non-members alike.

Also, I just want to say thank you to everyone who emailed me this week! Even if I didn't get the chance to say thank you personally, I want you to know that your support and encouragement means a lot to me. Especially this week, which has been hard on me emotionally, for some reason. I really appreciate all your thoughts and prayers, though. Thank you so much!!

As you all know (or should), last week was THANKSGIVING!! An odd day for an American missionary serving in a foreign country. It was pretty much just a regular work day for us. But then when we got home (at 9), we had a mini Thanksgiving party with our fellow sisters (10 of us total: our neighboring sisters and our STLs). We had a baked chicken (a small one that we divided between the 10 of us, not exactly a feast, but yummy!!), and mashed potatoes. And rice (for irony's sake, and also for real because there wasn't a ton of the other food). It was pretty fun actually, but didn't feel like Thanksgiving really. But yeah. That was our holiday. :) The Filipinos apparently don't really eat turkey very much. I think they think it tastes weird. But our Filipino companions really like that Thanksgiving means FOOD (which they love!). Sister Garcia says she hopes she has an American companion next Thanksgiving too, just so she can celebrate again. :) She's so funny. I'm really amazed at how positive she is all the time, despite the fact that I know she's worried about her family and friends and misses them a lot.

Pretty much, I'm super blessed. I know it. I'm so humbled to see so many people with bigger problems than I have, or probably will ever have, and yet they are so positive. Our mission president's wife, in our zone conference last week, said the reason that there's so much destruction and natural disasters in the Philippines (even just this year!), is because they are an example to and warning for the world that the Second Coming is near, so we need to make sure we are ready (spiritually, more than physically), and because the Lord knows that the Filipinos can handle it. That even though life may be hard, and they may lose everything, they are still able to smile. They are still able to appreciate the little things in life. They are still able to keep the faith.

I know that is true. I have seen so much incredible faith here. I feel like I didn't really know what faith was until I got here and saw it in action. Faith really is more than just believing; it's believing so purely and sincerely that all your actions are based on your confidence in the Lord's love and promises.
I know that God loves us. I know that He knows us personally, and He cares about every single one of us, and every single detail of our lives. Though sometimes I'm frustrated to not be able to get a hug from Him when I really want one, I know that His love and His Atonement is exactly what we need to help us with whatever we are going through in our lives (good or bad).

I love you all so much!! I hope you have a great week!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Sister Franks in the Philippines - November 25, 2013

Happy Monday, again!

Announcement before I forget: next week is our temple day, so p-day will be on Wednesday again.

Also, this email will be pretty short, because we only have about 15-20 minutes left to email (our time is short today because we had a zone activity, which always takes longer than I feel like it should...but it's okay, because it's teaching me humility and submitting my will to the Lord's).

This week has been kind of an emotional roller coaster for me. Like a real Cedar Point roller coaster, not the wimpy kind. Satan has been working really hard on me this week, and on top of that I was sick (just the regular congestion/sinus infection whatnot that I seem to be getting once a transfer, at least there was no fever this time). Anyhow, we weren't able to work last Tuesday, and both Sister Garcia and I have been battling sickness since then (though thankfully we've been able to go out and work anyway). I really love her so much and am so grateful that we are able to support and motivate each other. Even when it gets tough, we somehow are able to stay positive and keep working hard. I'm really amazed, too, at how much it is showing in the results of our work.
I really can't say that we are good missionaries, because honestly I'm not sure how so many miracles come to us every single week. I will say, though, I am truly learning the power of Faith. I told Sister Garcia during our companion study the other day, actually, how I feel like we're superheroes--how at the beginning they have this power but they don't know how to control or use it and things go crazy, but then once they develop the discipline, they can do awesome things. We're still learning how to control it, but I feel like that's how the power of Faith is becoming for us. We're doing everything we can to be obedient, and to expect the Lord to help us reach our goals and help our investigators, and He really has never let us down!!

Also, someone please tell Sam (DeBaltzo) thank you for me. He was in one of my dreams last week when I was feeling pretty low, and was really encouraging to me. Haha so even though I know it's really my subconscious, I feel like I owe him.

I have to close now, but just so you don't worry about me, I want to let you know that even though being a missionary is tough, I know that it is the biggest and most important thing I will ever be a part of. We are changing lives, of course, but even more than that, we are helping people work out their Eternal Salvation. It's a huge blessing to be entrusted as a representative of our Savior Jesus Christ, and I know that the only reason Satan is working so hard to discourage me is because he knows what a threat we are as instruments and servants of our Heavenly Father. He wouldn't be trying to bring us down if we weren't doing something good. So if ever you have discouraging thoughts or feel like life is just HARD, remember that: it's just because Satan feels threatened. If you choose the Lord's side instead of giving in to discouragement, you will be capable of so much more, and will receive so many blessings for your service.

I love you all so much! I hope you have a great Thanksgiving week!!! Talk to you in December! ;)

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Sister Franks in the Philippines - November 17, 2013

Hello again!

I know, you're probably thinking: "it's Monday again already?" Because that's how I feel every week. This week especially. Though it was a really long week while it was happening, I'm once again marveling that it went so quickly.

First off, I should let you all know that Sister Garcia's family are all okay. I also have to say, we had no idea how bad the storm was when we sent our emails last week!! We don't get to watch the news, of course, so we only knew what people were telling us. We knew it was bad, but not nearly as bad as we discovered throughout the week. Typhoons are a pretty annual occurrence for them, so Sister Garcia didn't think much of it at first, but as we realized the extent of all that happened, even she was blown away. As for me, it wasn't until I read all your emails that I started to realize it was kind of a big deal (I didn't realize it was big enough to make it onto the international radar). Over the next couple of days, we started to learn the full extent of the calamity, and see the miracles of the Lord in action.
Last Sunday, Sister Revillo asked all the missionaries from the Tacloban Mission area to send her the contact info for their families if they were worried. On Tuesday, she called us during our district meeting and told Sister Garcia that she was the only missionary that they hadn't been able to make initial contact with her family (her hometown was the center of the storm), and she had permission to call anyone she knew to try to contact or find out about them. Unfortunately, at their setting apart before they left, she and the other missionaries from her ward had been told not to bring or try to memorize the numbers of family or friends so they wouldn't be tempted to try to contact them. Being an obedient missionary (my motherly pride may be showing here), she did as she was told, so she only had the number of her parents and sister. Miraculously, she had also brought the number of her uncle, who lives in a different area that wasn't so harshly affected by the storm, so she was able to get in touch with him, even though there is no cell service now where the rest of her family is. He had been able to contact them on Friday evening (after the worst of the storm for them), before the signal was lost. It was still frustrating not being able to contact anyone from her home ward or stake (we were able to get numbers for some of the leaders from the church website directory, but none of the calls would go through).
On Wednesday morning, Sister Pope got a call for Sister Garcia (we aren't allowed to talk to our family on our own phones)--it was her dad! He had been able to catch a helicopter to Cebu to charge his phone/make calls to church leaders (he's the branch president in Guiuan)/get some food to take to the branch members. It was amazing to hear how the Lord has taken such good care of Sister Garcia's family. Even though the storm wiped out giant houses, the resort Sister Garcia used to work for, historic cathedrals, flattened trees, etc., their little tiny house was fine, aside from the glass in the windows being broken. Also, even though the cars in their little neighborhood were all pretty much destroyed or damaged, their family trike (motorcycle with sidecar) didn't even have a scratch. Sister Garcia had been so strong and positive and faithful all week, but she said that when she heard her tatay crying as he told her about all the miracles their family had experienced, she couldn't help crying too. We both know that it is the Lord's way of saying "thank you" for her faithful attempts to be obedient, as well as the faithful obedience and service of her parents. All of her immediate and extended family are safe. The biggest problem for everyone there now is the fact that there's not food, and it's super dangerous for them because people who do have food are getting killed by those who don't. It really is scary. Please keep them all in your prayers, and thank Heavenly Father for the miracles that He is performing already!!

Another of the best experiences of our week came as a result of the typhoon as well. All of the missionaries in the Tacloban mission were evacuated (miraculously, they are all safe and accounted for. Our mission president, in the email he sent this week, compared it to the story of the Stripling Warriors in Alma 57--that though all were injured/affected in some way, not one was lost). They were in Manilla/QC last week, but have now been distributed to the other Philippines missions. We received a text last week informing us of their arrival, and inviting us to donate any extra beds and/or clothing we might have, since most of them weren't able to bring any luggage with them. It was a beautiful and humbling experience for us missionaries, who already feel like we don't have very much clothing (especially since you wear the same 6-8 outfits every week), to have the chance to sacrifice and give to those who literally have nothing. It probably was one of the most spiritual occasions of my mission so far, as the 4 of us went through our clothes on Wednesday evening to find things to give. At first, I was thinking, "we'll just give the extra clothes that have been left here by previous missionaries, because we don't really have any extras...we keep saying how we need to go shopping because we need more for ourselves." But then, as I listened to Sister Pope and Sister Faka'osi saying how they were sad that they didn't have nicer or newer clothes to give away, and saw how they were giving away their nice clothes, my heart just melted and I realized that that is exactly what being Christlike is all about. They saw, better than I had, how much these missionaries needed our love and support and welcome, not just our clothes. Ultimately, we were able to fill a whole big trash bag with clothes to donate.
I thought of the scripture in Mosiah 4:24, about those who give not because they have not, but who say "I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give" and how I have been SO BLESSED in my life, I really don't even know what it's like to "have not." Even in our humble circumstance as missionaries, we still have the opportunity to sacrifice and give for the benefit of others and the building of the Kingdom of God.
I love this Gospel. I love this work. :)

As far as the news of my life, I have an announcement: This week is the momentous moment of my mission where I hit my six month mark (Friday), and my "year left" mark (Tuesday). Actually, 1 year from today, I will be on a plane flying home. It's a scary thought. When I first got here, I heard other sisters talking about how hitting your 6 month is when time starts to fly by. I can't imagine that being true, since the past 6 months have already gone so fast. It's also scary because I feel like more and more I am coming to realize all my weaknesses as a missionary, and how much I need to learn and improve! I know I have come a long way since I got here, though, so I just need to trust that the Lord will continue to help me as I just humble myself and seek His assistance. :) I still your prayers just as much (if not more) than ever, and I thank you for all your thoughts and prayers that have been given in my behalf. I can testify that the Lord really has heard and answered them.

I still love our branch. They are really so wonderful! We had the first day of our mini Member MTC last Wednesday, and it was a huge success! We were amazed at how many members actually came out to participate. As an introduction to the "course" (none of us have ever done this before--actually, we're not sure how often, if ever, it's even been done--but our hope is to have several weeks, with a different focus each week, to learn the necessary skills to be a confident member missionary), we talked about our purpose as missionaries and member missionaries, how our purpose is the same (to bring others to Christ by helping them receive the Restored Gospel through Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End), but how we carry it out in different ways. We also talked about what it means to be a full-time fellowshipper, why it's important, and how we can go about doing it in the right way. The spirit was so strong and the members are really excited! Our goal as missionaries is to help them become "Preach My Gospel Member Missionaries", because we are trying to be Preach My Gospel Missionaries, and we love it so much. Preach My Gospel is the basis of our teaching, and it's been so great for me to prepare to teach them, because I'm realizing how wonderful of a resource PMG is for members as well. This week we are going to talk about Finding--how to OYM, how to bring up the Gospel in our every day life, how to befriend strangers--alongside the message of the Restoration. I'm really excited! I think it will help us as missionaries just as much, too, because we always need help improving our skills for sharing the Gospel and talking about it confidently.

One last miracle before I run out of time: every week we set goals. We talk about them and try to "predict" how our week will go and what we will be able to accomplish (based a little on our success from the previous week and a lot on hope for the future), and then we inflate them a bit so that they will stretch us. Our week last week was amazing, so I was actually pretty nervous about our week this week--I thought we were going to get punted a lot or just have a lot of trials or disappointments. Nevertheless, Sister Garcia and I try to approach everything with an attitude of faith, and especially in our work try to follow the Spirit. I'm not sure how, but somehow, we must have been in tune with the Spirit this week, because even though our plans got changed a lot (almost every day), we ended up with a "weekly actual" report that was nearly identical to our "weekly goals." When I get a chance, I'll take a picture to send you so you can see that it's not an exaggeration at's just the miracle of the Lord. :)

I love you ALL, SO MUCH!! Thank you so much for your continued support and prayers! I hope you have a great week!! :)

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Sister Franks in the Philippines - November 10, 2013

Happy Monday!!!

Welcome to another fantastic week in the life of Sister Franks! :)
First things first, don't worry about me at all. Yes, there was a "super typhoon" here in the Philippines last week, but it was far enough away from us that we hardly experienced anything. Friday night, around 6, we were called by our zone leaders telling us President Revillo wanted all the missionaries to return to their apartments, and stay there until we received permission to go out and work again. We were in Antipolo Hills (the farthest of our areas that we really work in), so usually it takes about 20-30 minutes to get home, but because it was still early we had to wait a long time for the jeepney to fill up, so we didn't end up getting home until about 7. It was good that we came home though; not because our area has any problems with flooding (it doesn't, and it wasn't even storming much yet by that time, just windy), but because we lost power about 30 minutes after getting home. So that was fun! We dug out some candles, made and ate dinner by candlelight, and just sat around until our evening Book of Mormon reading at 10. We were completely safe, and really the only problem was that no electricity meant no fans when we slept. Thankfully it was cool enough outside, so I wasn't that hot, I just missed the sound of the fan covering up the noise of the neighborhood. We got power back at the end of our morning studies, and a text saying we could go work, so all in all, we really weren't that affected by the storm at all. The hardest part is that the center of the storm was the area that Sister Garcia is from. She says she not that worried, because she knows her family will be protected, but I know it is hard on her having investigators and members ask her all the time if they are okay--we really don't know. As missionaries, we really don't know anything except what members or investigators tell us, so I think that has been the hardest thing. The mission asked all the missionaries from that area to send the phone numbers of their family to Sister Revillo so she could try to call and check on them. Hopefully, they've found somewhere to charge their phones (apparently whenever there is a storm it takes almost a month to get power back. There are usually stores that have generators where you can charge phones, but we don't know if those survived the bagyo). At any rate, if you remember, it would be nice if you could pray for them, at least until we hear something.

Last week was truly incredibly. I'm not even sure I can explain or express what happened or how stunned and inspired and motivated we are by our experiences. More and more, I am so falling in love with missionary work, and with the incredible people we get to work with here. I'm praying that I don't get transferred next month, because I feel like these people are the only ones who can make up for the fact that I have to be away from you all for Christmas.

First of all, we now have two investigators with baptismal dates!! I am so so excited. I've never been more concerned for, or more excited about another person's spiritual well-being, progression, and salvation. The first invitation we extended was to our favorite investigator (if that's okay to say :P) Brother Ian. He is such an interesting investigator, and probably the one that has taught me the most about how the Lord is preparing His Children to hear this Gospel, how we can never judge someone's heart by their appearance or even their actions, and how powerful the Gospel is in changing lives.
Ian was actually found by Sister Campbell before I even got here. His dog had been hit by a jeepney back in June, and a few weeks before she transferred, we saw Ian on the street and Sister Campbell stopped to ask how he was, and if his dog was healed (I think just his leg had been hurt). He asked what we were teaching and said he wanted to listen. He was a little drunk, so we wisely opted to just give him a pamphlet and set up a return appointment. He said that he wanted something that would help him change, and we testified that our message was exactly the thing, that it could help him overcome his vices and have a better life.
Then Sister Campbell got transferred.
Our return appointment was the next Sunday, but I was honestly a little hesitant about it. He had given us his phone number and said to text when we were coming, to confirm, but I either forgot or chose not to, because I wasn't sure we would make it there in time and we had another appointment afterward. At any rate, when we got there, he was busy with the homeowners association election and asked if we could reschedule. So we did. I honestly don't really remember our first real lesson with him, but we met with him the next week, I think, and introduced the Restoration. We gave him the pamphlet about it (again, he lost the other one), and he committed to read it. I was so surprised when we came back a few days later and he had actually read it!! And he had questions!! (Questions are our favorite thing as missionaries, because it means they are actually absorbing what we teach, and are really seeking the truth). Our lessons were kind of off and on after that for a couple of weeks. Sometimes we would arrange to meet with him, but then he would be drinking so we'd have to reschedule again. Sometimes we would meet with him and have great lessons, because he's so interested and receptive. Sister Garcia says he reminds her of her uncle, so it's so easy for her to be bold and honest with him. Also, he's friends with so many people in Antipolo Hills, especially the ones by the market/jeepney station, so we never worry about being there at night, because we have him to protect us. :) Anyhow, two weeks ago, we started sending him verses to read from the Book of Mormon, because we aren't able to go see him every day, but he really needs the influence of the Spirit to help him stay strong and resist temptation. He read the verses we sent, and even started reading on his own! He loves the index at the back of the Book of Mormon that lets you "study by topic."
We were praying last week, trying to determine who we could invite for baptism, and we both felt like Ian is so ready. We were a little scared (he's the first person we've really invited since we became companions), but we planned a powerful lesson about humility and faith (Ether 12:27), and had an awesome member with us when we taught, and the spirit was so strong!! We explained that we don't need to be perfect before we are baptized, and that baptism is actually what helps us to be stronger and better. He accepted our invitation to be baptized, but was hesitant about committing to a specific date. He kept saying "just when I'm ready." So then we talked about exercising our faith and how we are here to help him, and we prayed about the date we were offering, and testified that we know Christ can help him to be ready by that time (December 21), and even though he was still a little scared/doubtful, he agreed to work on preparing himself. We met with him again on Friday and talked more about the scriptures and committed him again to come to church (he's been saying he'll come for the past few weeks but never has). AND HE CAME TO CHURCH YESTERDAY!!!! Sister Garcia and I were in the chapel with our other investigator (more on that in a sec) when some of the YSAs said we had an investigator there, so we almost literally ran downstairs to meet him. To say we were excited is an understatement. :P
I'm not going to give you a physical description of Brother Ian, because I really just want to send you a picture (probably in two weeks). I know I'm still new, but I really think he's going to end up being the investigator I talk most about when I get home. Keep him in your prayers that he holds strong and continues in his commitment. Even if I don't get to see it (his date is the Saturday after transfers), I just really pray he gets baptized, because I know he's going to be an incredible priesthood holder and leader one day. :)

Our other investigator with a baptismal date is Sister Aina. She is the wife of a member (Ceasar) who has been less active for a long time (since he was a teenager, I think, and they are now in their early 30s or so). His brother was active a lot longer, and even served a mission. In fact, Ceasar's brother is actually the "husband" of one of our recent converts (they aren't actually married yet, because he was married before and the Philippines doesn't really do divorces, so they can't get married officially yet). Anyhow, missionaries have been teaching them for a long time, but never really got anywhere, I think because Ceasar wasn't really interested in coming back to church (he had developed a lot of bad habits during his years of inactivity). But then last month, Ceasar went to the hospital and had to have his appendix out. We were able to meet with them the next week (completely through the workings of the Lord and the Spirit) and he told us of his experience and how being in the hospital made him realize what really mattered in life, and how he wanted to come back to church as soon as he was recovered, and wanted his family to have the Gospel too. We've been teaching them for a couple of weeks now, and Aina was very nice and very positive, but not keeping any commitments. Finally, last Saturday, we went to see them and took a member couple with us that had just recently been sealed (I think I might have told you this, but I'm not sure). We watched a video from the Together Forever DVD and talked about how families can be together forever, but only through the ordinances of the temple. We talked about ordinances, physical acts that show our desire to follow God, and covenants (two-way promises) that we make with him. The members bore testimony, answered questions, shared personal experience--it was pretty much the perfect lesson. It was so powerful. Sister Aina said everything was finally sinking in to her--why our message is so important--but also expressed her concern to us, why she and Ceasar were hesitant to come to Church. We talked about it for a bit, though we didn't have the answer either, and promised that the Lord would help them achieve their righteous desires (just as Satan would try to discourage them).
When we met with them on Wednesday (after just teaching Ian and giving him a baptismal date), we watched the Restoration video. We talked about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and committed her to read it and pray to know if it's true. We asked Sister Aina how she felt about Joseph Smith and she said that she believes he is a true prophet, that he was the one chosen by God. I felt very strongly that we needed to invite her to be baptized, almost like she was just waiting for us to say it. So we did, and she accepted even before the invitation was over. She said she really wants an eternal marriage, and to be sealed as a family, and she wants to do whatever it takes to have that. We told her that we want that same thing! We aren't just here to help prepare people to be baptized--our goal is something much much higher than that. We want everyone to receive the blessings of this Gospel, AS A FAMILY.
We weren't able to do much for them as far as resolving their concern, other than praying every single day for it to work out, but they did come to church on Sunday! Another reason I am so so so grateful for member fellowshippers. I really don't know if they would have had the courage to come if it weren't for the support from the couple that has been fellowshipping them. But it was so beautiful to see them all sitting together, as a family, and especially for Brother Ceasar, to see him back at church after so many years, and so changed (all of his bad habits have disappeared since his revelation that he needed to come back to church). It's beyond my ability to express in words, but my heart was (and still is) so full of joy for them.

I love these people so much. I love being a missionary. I love this Gospel--the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know with all my heart that it is the only path to true and lasting happiness. I know that prayer is real, and faith is powerful. It's almost scary, actually, how many miracles the Lord can perform when we exercise just a little bit of faith, even faith we didn't know we had. I know that we are all instruments in the Lord's hands, and that as we work to further His work and follow His will, He will magnify our efforts and amplify the effects. I love, miss, and pray for you all, but there is nowhere else that I would rather be than where I am right now.
Thank you so much for all your prayers and support!! I hope you have a fantastic week!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

P.S. "Today is the ____ day of the BEST TRANSFER EVER." That's what I was saying every day last week, and I still really believe it. Maybe it's the power of positive thinking, but this week really has been the greatest, and I'm so excited for another one!

Sister Franks in the Philippines - November 5, 2013

Hello all!!!

***edited intro*** I was writing this earlier (at a normalish time), but there was a brown out (power outage) so all the computers shut down. Actually, our whole area lost power, stores and everything. Fortunately, since we had planned to proselyte during the afternoon already, we just went to work a little earlier and adjusted our schedule accordingly. *return to original email*

I am starting with this email, because I have a lot to say and don't want to run out of time (our email time is about 15 minutes shorter today because we have a teaching appointment to go to right afterward). If you're wondering why this is on a Tuesday (maybe you aren't and you're just used to our schedule getting switched all the time) it's because TRANSFERS ARE TOMORROW! It's the day we've all been waiting for, some with hope and excitement, some with disappointment. Before I tell you what's happening with me, though, I have to tell you a couple of stories first.

We were scheduled to have our interviews with the mission president two weeks ago at our Zone Interviews meeting, but we were combined with another zone and ran out of time (not sure if I told you this already), so they had to be rescheduled. We ended up not being able to have them until yesterday afternoon, we got to go to the mission office with the other sisters from our district and meet with President Revillo there.
I was in a really good mood yesterday, for a couple of reasons, but mostly because of what happened on Sunday night. We and the other sisters in our branch held a fireside for the branch missionaries and auxiliary leaders. Only a handful of leaders came, but there was a great turnout of ward missionaries (all YSAs). We were really excited for it! When we were talking about it and planning, we decided our purpose for the fireside was to help members want to be involved in missionary work, and the way were going to go about it was to deepen or rekindle their own personal testimony/conversion, because that is where the desire to share the Gospel really comes from. We were planning to show the Restoration video, and then show clips from the new Hastening the Work website, about members and missionaries working together. A lot of what we had planned fell through, because of the holiday last weekend (more on that later), and then the video format of the videos we downloaded wouldn't open on the DVD player, so we had to do a quick readjustment. It turned out to be fantastic, though.
We had chosen Alma 29:9 as our scriptural theme for the fireside, so I started out by reading it and explaining how it really is a blessing to be an instrument in the Lord's hands, but that we don't have give up 18 or 24 months of our lives and become full-time missionaries to receive that joy in our lives. As members of the Church, as those who have been given a knowledge of the truth, we are commanded to share it, but it really is more of a privilege than a burden. That honestly is what I am realizing the longer I am out here. All that missionary work is is just inviting those you love to experience the same joy and peace and sense of purpose that comes from an understanding our Heavenly Father's plan for us and the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. I then explained that our hope for the fireside was to help them strengthen their own testimony, because that is the start of all missionary work. Sister Pope then introduced the Restoration video, and invited them to reflect on their own personal testimony of Joseph Smith and the Restoration, and their experience when they were first taught it by the missionaries (almost every single adult and teenage member in the branch is a convert). After the movie, Sister Faka'osi bore a beautiful testimony about how love (for others, for herself, and the Lord) is what motivated her to serve a mission, and how we need to share the Gospel with those we love if we want to have them with us for eternity. Sister Garcia concluded, inviting them to act on their faith and share their testimonies. We were going to close then, but the primary president asked if instead we could have a question-and-answer session about how to share the Gospel. We were so surprised by how excited the members are to be involved in this work! They genuinely want to help, but like most of us I think, they just don't know how or where to start. So Sister Garcia had the brilliant idea to start a "mini-MTC" to better equip our member missionaries! The first session will be held next Wednesday, to help them learn how to use Preach My Gospel (I LOVE LOVE LOVE PMG, btw!!!), and how and what to teach.
Anyhow, the spirit was so strong at the fireside, and we were so overwhelmed by how well it was received by the members and how eager they are to work. The energy and excitement of missionary work here is so contagious. When President asked me yesterday how our work was going, all of us just told him how excited we are for the response of our branch and how involved they are becoming (I feel like the branch has changed so much since I got here 4 months ago! It is so amazing and humbling to see testimonies growing and lives changing. This Gospel is so incredible!).
It was an interesting experience, actually, having interviews with President the day before transfer announcements. Theoretically, the assignments had already been made and emailed, but this transfer has been really interesting, because the assignments have gone out later than usual (i.e. trainers usually find out they are training on Sunday, but Sister Acostan didn't get her call until Monday afternoon). When I was in the interview with President, at the end, he said "don't ask me if you're transferring!" (which I wasn't going to...I know we have to wait until Tuesday morning to find out) "because I don't know. Well I do, but it's on the computer. But I don't think you are." Haha so that's what I had to go on. I was about 90% sure I was safe, but there's always that chance that I've been confused with Sister Doucette again (seriously, people ALWAYS get us mixed up! Especially Filipinos. It's pretty fun, and not actually annoying because we're super great friends).
Then last night, we got a text from our Zone Leaders saying that there were changes in the transfer assignments so the calls would be delayed because they had to wait until morning to get the new announcements. I probably shouldn't forward speculation, but we suspect that our interviews had something to do with that, because after each interview President made a phone call. :P Anyhow, it's hard to describe my feelings right now. Last week, I had this sinking feeling that I would be transferred. Actually, other missionaries were saying it too, that Sister Pope and I would be transferred, and it was actually really sad. Last transfer, I was so ready to leave, but I've so fallen in love with the people here, with our investigators, with our work, and this branch. I really didn't want to leave when I feel like the work is finally starting to progress! But fortunately, we got our calls this morning, and none of the sisters in our district are leaving! The 7 of us are staying, and Sister Acostan is training so we will have one more (to replace Sister Houser, who was emergency transferred about 3 weeks ago--can't remember if I wrote about that). I am so excited for this next transfer! I love Sister Garcia, and I am so grateful to have the chance to keep working with her, and to get to really do all we can to help our investigators progress in this Gospel. I really feel so blessed. :) Today is a good day. And I love that I feel that way pretty much every single day. I honestly don't know why I am so blessed.

So more about my week last week! They don't have the same kind of Halloween here that we have, but they do celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day (Nov 1 & 2, I'm not sure which day is which though). It's really the coolest cultural event I've seen. Because it's a national holiday, pretty much no one has work, but they all just go to the cemetery and chill there all day and night (there are tons of candles on the graves so it doesn't really get that dark) with their families and friends and neighbors. Since everyone goes to the cemetery, we received instruction from the APs not to proselyte on Friday and Saturday, but to spend as much time as possible in the cemetery trying to OYM people ("open your mouth"--meaning just talking to people and introducing them to the Gospel message/asking if missionaries can visit them). We went on Friday night after our planning, and I learned so much. Mostly that I'm really bad at OYMing, and that being shy as a missionary is awful! But I also realized that we really can't be shy, because we know the truth, and if we don't share it, who will? We are here, in this place, at this time, and it is our responsibility to try to give everyone the opportunity to learn about our Father's plan for them. I'm glad I'll have another chance next November (hopefully I'll be more fluent by then, too) to be more bold about sharing what I am so blessed to know.

Also, if any of you know missionaries who are looking for new investigators, I would suggest that they start by looking for the less-actives in the area, especially part-members. We started looking for less-actives this week, in part to update our directory (knowing who still lives here and who has moved away without transferring their record), and in part because the less actives we've found this transfer have actually become our best referrers. Teaching part-member families is so powerful, because our message really is centered on families, and how families can be together forever (CAN, not WILL, because we have to do our part). Having one family member who has already taken that step of faith to be baptized by true priesthood authority really helps the investigators to realize the importance of their role in helping the whole family progress.
It has also really taught me the truth of the statement in D&C 18:10 that "the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." Every single soul is important to the Lord, and to the Church, because that one soul is connected to so many other souls, and our spirit family will never be complete if any soul is lost. That is why we do missionary work. That is why we find (talking to strangers, seeking referrals, contacting former investigators and less-actives, however awkward it may be), teach (they can't embrace or have faith in something they've never heard), and baptize (the first ordinance of the Gospel necessary for Eternal Life).

Mom, I just want to say how much respect I have for you for working to faithfully with the primary!! I was asked to play the piano for the primary presentation in the branch at the end of the month, so I've been at their practices the last two Sundays. Having a group of children in a giant room together and trying to get them to sit quietly and pay attention for and hour and a half is already difficult, but then add in the fact that there's no food (usually they have treats in primary here, except apparently when we are in the chapel, so we don't get any :P) and it really is a test of patience. After this past Sunday (fast sunday), I have a new found respect for the angelic women who work with the primary. I'm generally a pretty patient person, but when I haven't eaten for 20 hours, my tolerance level drops. I was so grateful that I only had to wait to be cued to start playing, and didn't have to actually try to get the kids to behave. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all that you do. I guarantee that Heavenly Father is SO aware of all that you do!!

This is pretty long, so I'm going to send another email with some pictures. :) I love you all! I hope you have a great week!!! Stay strong, read the scriptures, nourish your testimony and share it. :) It's the best gift you could ever give yourself.

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Sister Franks in the Philippines - Pictures 2

So this is a little old (from September), but this is at Kevin's baptism. Sister Faka'osi is the tall tongan sister, and Sister Pope is next to her with the pink shirt. I love them so much; I'm excited for another transfer together!!

I feel like I might have sent this before, but I can't remember. At any rate, this is the area we hardly ever go to because there's not really anyone we're teaching there and it's super far away. But it's beautiful!

These are mostly for Dad. My second transfer, Sister Houser was looking at my family pictures and she loves Dad's mustache!! We kept talking about how we were going to take mustache pictures together, but never did, and then she got emergency transferred! So somewhat last minute, we made paper mustaches, and took these the morning she left while we were waiting for the APs to come pick her up.

Sorry I don't have any pictures with Sister Garcia yet!! Hopefully next time!! :)

Sister Franks in the Philippines - October 27, 2013

Hello all!!

Today is a great day and I am excited to share some of my thoughts with you! (I tried to prepare a little bit so hopefully I can type it all in the short time that I have to email).

1) Our week this week was amazing. We set our goals last Friday during our weekly planning session, and prayed very sincerely for help in reaching them (both Sister Garcia and I are sincere believers in setting high goals and exercising faith in the Lord to help us reach them). As the week started, we had next to no lessons. It was pretty sad, actually. Through a series of events, all of our most promising investigators that we want to help progress toward baptism started falling through, and by Thursday evening we'd only actually taught 3 lessons to investigators. We had just slightly more success on Friday evening and Saturday, but Saturday evening as we looked at our plan for Sunday, we had no idea how we were going to reach our goals (we only had 4 of the desired 10 lessons with members present). Fortunately, we didn't have time to worry too much about it, because we had also been asked that morning to speak in Sacrament meeting on Sunday so we quickly tried to gather our thoughts for that so we could be prepared. At the end of church, two of the young women came up to me and said that there were 4 of them that wanted to work with us in the afternoon! As we went home for lunch and to prepare, I was just so blown away by this miracle that the Lord had provided for us. Long story short, Sister Garcia and I were able to go on splits (which I have grown to really dislike--it's so hard teaching when you're the only missionary and aren't actually fluent in the language and don't have anyone to translate or explain to you when you get lost), and we ended up being able to have 5 of the 6 member present lessons that we had hoped for! I'm still overwhelmed and so humbled by the Lord's abilities to work miracles in our lives if we just exercise a little bit of faith in him. And on top of that, our week this week was truly incredible! All of our other member-present lessons were with less active members who have been introducing us to their neighbors, and as a result, we have 15 new investigators this week, 5 of which are actively progressing and keeping commitments!

2) A thought that I had about covenants as I was studying last week about Baptism. We know that covenants are a two-way promise between us and the Lord. We promise to Him (to follow His commandments, to stand as witnesses for Him, etc) and He promises us (blessings of the Spirit and continual guidance and assistance in our lives). As I was reading about Baptism as a necessary ordinance (act), I started wondering why it is really such a big deal. When we invite people to be baptized here, a lot of them try to tell us that it's not necessary, because what matters is just our faith, our relationship to God, or the way we live our life. I had a bit of a (possibly economics-inspired) revelation, though.
I decided that covenants are like CDs (Certificates of Deposit in banking/investment). There are different ways to invest. We can put our money in a bank (i.e. savings account), where we are free to access it any time, and as long as we leave it there it will earn interest. Or we can put it in a CD account, where we promise to leave it for a long time, and it will earn more interest at a higher rate.
When we choose to follow the Savior and live righteously, we receive blessings (interest). However, if we are willing to show our commitment to follow Him for a long time (forever), we can make a covenant with Him (through baptism, for example) and receive many more blessings for the same righteous acts. Christ is not just concerned with our actions, but the state of our heart and our character. When we give our whole selves to Him, He not only is able to bless us more abundantly, but the change of heart we experience is, in itself, a profound blessing.

3) We had our zone conference/interviews last week, where the mission president comes and meets with each of the missionaries individually, and in the meantime there are workshops for all the other missionaries. One thing that was on my mind all day/week was being an instrument for the Lord and letting the Spirit work through me. Reflecting on my feelings, I realized that being an instrument in the Lord's hands is really kind of scary for me. It's scary to give up the control that I think I have and to let the Lord take over. It's like driving and hitting a patch of ice or stepping off the high dive--it's exhilarating, but super scary and I just want the security back.
So then I was thinking about how following the Spirit is like SLEDDING! (I'm becoming an analogy addict, if you haven't noticed, though my analogies never work very well for Filipinos) It's tempting to leave our feet outside the sled so we can try to steer or slow ourselves down if we go too fast. It's scary to pick up our feet and just go--giving up our control--but that's what being an instrument in the Lord's hands is all about. We just need to get out of His way and we will accomplish so much more than we ever imagined possible. :)

I'm so so grateful for the chance to be a missionary. We may not have Thanksgiving here, but I am definitely catching a spirit of gratitude as I reflect on all the blessings and miracles that the Lord gives us every day. I never could have imagined when I accepted this call how much serving a mission would teach me about myself, my relationship with the Savior, and His role in my every day life. I just want to help everyone I meet to feel the way I have come to feel about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and the gift of His Atonement.

I hope you all have a great week!! I love you!

Sister Emma Franks

Sister Franks in the Philippines - October 20, 2013

Happy Monday!!

I just want to let you all know that this week was really great. :) Though we didn't have a record-breaking number of lessons, for me this was probably one of the most productive and inspiring weeks I've had so far on my mission. I really feel like the Lord was working hard this week to teach me how to listen to the Spirit, and I've been trying really hard to learn. Consequently, I feel like my eyes have been opened to see the Lord's hand so much more clearly in our work. 
Every day, we pray that we will be led to those whom the Lord has prepared to hear our message. Sometimes, I'm unsure how that will be fulfilled, since our day is full of appointments and we don't know when we will have time to find new investigators. Of course, the Lord always sees things more clearly than we do, and always has a plan and a way to move forward His work. I've been trying to make a more conscious effort to OYM ("open your mouth"--just talk to random people you meet) this week, and most especially to listen to the subtle promptings of the Spirit to guide us in our work. There are a lot of examples that I could share from our work this week, but the biggest learning experience/testimony builder for me was our evening last Wednesday.
We had our temple day/P-day on Wednesday, so we didn't go out to work until 6. We went to meet with a recent convert, but she wasn't home from work yet, so we then went to try to meet with one of our investigators who had a baptismal date and was progressing really well, but has started drinking again and won't respond to our attempts to meet with him. As we were walking to his house (the second attempt to contact him again after he missed our appointment the day before), I had the feeling that we should go to a different part of our area to meet with the non-member sister of one of our branch missionaries. It was the strangest sensation for me. I knew even before we got to the neighborhood of our investigator that we weren't going to be able to meet with him, and that we needed to go to the other area. I was reluctant to say anything, though, because the other area was far away and I had no idea why I was receiving the prompting, since we already had plans to visit the referral the next day. I got up the courage to tell Sister Garcia about my feeling, and that if we couldn't meet with Rolly, we should go to Hinapao. She was confused, but went along with it. Ultimately, we ended up following the prompting (not without opposition, of course, but I knew if we didn't follow it, I would severely regret it) and went to visit the family in Hinapao. The ward missionary we had been hoping to have as a member present was at work, and his sister wasn't interested to join us, so we ended up with an semi-awkward lesson. Sister Garcia talked to the father (also a nonmember) and I talked to the younger brother (an active, newly ordained deacon) because I was too confused by the father's Tagalog. When we came home from the lesson, neither Sister Garcia nor I could figure out why I had received such a strong and clear prompting, but we just prayed that our effort was worthwhile.
All the rest of the week, I still had no idea why we had gone. It's an understatement to say we were surprised when we got to the Chapel on Sunday morning and saw the two active brothers standing outside with their father, all in their Sunday best. We stopped to greet them and discovered they were standing outside because they were waiting for their mother (nonmember), who was also coming! I was shocked, and so humbled. I had been thinking all week that our visit was unproductive, because the father didn't seem receptive at all to our message, and yet it was reaffirmed to me that we really have no idea who is being prepared to hear this Gospel.
Basically, this week has taught me so much about the workings of the Spirit and how the Lord is truly behind every aspect and every success of this work.
The 12-week training program that Sister Garcia and I are going through also taught me so much this week! We were studying the importance of members and how to work with them to forward this work. It was perfect, actually, because our branch council meeting was this Sunday so we were able to talk with the leaders about some of the things we learned. We talked a lot in our study about how we really need the members to be involved, both as home and visiting teachers for the less-actives, and as fellowshippers to our investigators to encourage them and support them, especially when we aren't there. We spent most of the time allotted to us in ward council discussing the less active members we met/worked with last week and asked for the help of the members. They were very receptive and even made some plans to visit some of the less-actives that afternoon. We were surprised and delighted when, just a few hours later, we were interrupted in our lesson with a part-member family by a group of members who had come to see the less active father. We continued teaching his family and the members focused on meeting with the brother, and it turned out to be a beautiful lesson. We were focused on How to Begin Teaching and introducing the Restoration, so we talked about God's love for each of us and how our goal in the Church is to help every single one of God's children return to Him and receive the help and care they need.
I think it's safe to say that being a missionary has, more than anything, made me so much more excited to be a member again! I am realizing just how important members are in the Lord's work. Missionaries are great, but:
1) we are not superheroes. We don't have any special powers or abilities like I used to think. In fact, sometimes I feel like all we really have are weaknesses, faith, and the Spirit. It's hard to say which is most prevalent.
2) we aren't "regular people." We're those crazy people who give up 18 or 24 months of their life to preach the gospel. Investigators need help and support to realize that it doesn't take a special class of people to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or to the live the Gospel. All it takes is a desire to be better, a willingness to make sacrifices, and hope to receive all the blessings that the Lord wants to give to us. You can be a Mormon and still have a normal life! (Okay, maybe slightly better than normal, because you get to see things from an Eternal perspective and understand why we have trials, why bad things happen, and how the Lord has given the tools we need to have joy in our lives despite the hardships we face.)
3) we want to be there for our investigators, to answer their questions, to let them know we believe in them and are praying for them, to invite the Spirit into their lives, but we really just don't have time. A lot of times, I think investigators who have a sincere desire to follow Christ falter in their pursuit because the influences of the devil are more prevalent than the influences of good in their life. Satan is working 24/7 to discourage them (and us). Even just 5 or 10 minutes a day from the side of the Spirit is so powerful. A phone call, an encouraging text, a Facebook message, or a friendly greeting from a neighbor to see how they are doing and what can be done to help them--that's how we perform miracles from the Lord. It doesn't take something enormous. It's the little things that matter most.

I actually have more to say, but it will have to wait till next week because I'm already almost out of time. I hope you are all doing well! I love you so much!! Have a great week!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

P.S. To everyone who sent me an email: thank you!! I love getting and reading your emails, even when I don't get a chance to respond to them all.