Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Sister Franks in the MTC - May 25, 2013

Hey all!

Today is my first P-day in the MTC and as an official missionary. :) The last three days have been so wonderful and crazy! I'll try to include as much as I can, but there's so much going on everyday I'm sure I'll leave something out.

After Corey dropped me off on Wednesday, I got checked in, got my name badge and was escorted to my room (by a wonderful sister who is going to Hong Kong who met me at the curb and was my temporary companion until I got settled in). We dropped my stuff off and then we went to find my classroom. Once there, she left me in the care of those in my district that had already arrived. We hit the ground running, learning greetings and how to ask questions like "where are you from? where are you going to serve your mission? what is your name?" etc. My teacher (Brother Mansfield) is fantastic! He didn't speak any English to us at all the first two days, and when he finally did it was because we needed an orientation and there weren't any other teachers who could do it (teachers are supposed to speak the mission language all the time, so they usually trade classes to do orientations so their class only hears them speaking the language). He's so cool though; he's from Lehi, UT, but he served in Manilla and his goal on his mission was to learn the language so well and develop a Filipino accent so that no one would know he was American without looking at him. He succeeded, too; apparently his accent is spot on. It's pretty cool. It's actually kind of weird to hear him speak English because we're so used to Tagalog. He has 13 (10 still living) siblings in his family, too. There's a 25 year spread, but they are all super tight he says, so that's really cool.

There are 11 of us in my district. 4 elders and 7 sisters. We have 1 trio companionship (Sisters Ellis, Harris, and Richards). Sister Sanders (who I had met on Facebook before coming here) and Sister Ika (from Tonga) are companions and they are in the same room as my companion (Kasama) and I. My companion is Sister Cutia. Her parents are both from the Philippines and speak Tagalog (and Ilikano), but she was born and raised in San Jose, CA, so she hadn't learned any of it prior to coming here. I already love her so much!! We have a lot in common, actually, as far as hobbies and things go. She was in band and played flute and percussion. She loves Basketball. She loves music and is super spunky, but also one of the most spiritual and dedicated people I've met here. She's already an incredible missionary and a great example to me. She is so loving and humble though. She's also super funny, we have a lot of fun together.

It's amazing how much Tagalog we've learned already. The second day (Thursday), we learned how to pray and how to testify, with an assignment to testify to 15 people that day and say all our prayers in Tagalog (or as much as we can). Testifying wasn't bad, we used our cheat sheets for the first several of them, and it got pretty decent. Obviously, we only know how to say simple things, but it's amazing how powerful it is. My kasama and I have started saying our companionship and personal prayers in Tagalog also. It takes A LOT more focus, but it's been a blessing. I start them all in Tagalog at least and start the thanks (nagpapasalamat po ako para...) and requests for blessings (paki-basbasan po ninyo ako...) and close. Anything in the middle that I can't remember or that we haven't learned, I say in English. It's a process.

Really, we have learned A TON in the past 2 days. Yesterday morning (Friday, the beginning of our 2nd full day, less than 48 hour into the MTC), we taught our first investigator, in Tagalog. He's from the Philippines, his name is Danilo. His wife is Mormon but he is Catholic. We've only met with him once, and we're still not very good at the language, but I already love him. It is incredibly humbling, because I am so aware of all my weaknesses in teaching and in the language, and part of my wishes the Lord had entrusted him to someone else, because I don't want to mess it up, but it has also strengthened my faith and dependence on the Lord so much, because he HAS been entrusted to us, so all we can do is seek the Lord's help and try to be worthy of His assistance. The teaching we do is never really us, anyway, we're only able to help them through the Spirit. We have been studying so much though, to try to learn enough to be able to understand and talk to Danilo and be able to help him with his needs. We taught him yesterday about the blessings of the Spirit and how we can feel that through prayer. We invited him to pray, and he kind of caught us off-guard when he said no, and asked us how to pray "like a Mormon." We stumbled through an explanation (having only learned the day before ourselves, and not knowing any grammar to try to form sentences). He agreed to say the prayer at the end of our lesson, and it was amazing. Definitely humbling, and very eye-opening to our capacity to love others. I just want so badly to be able to communicate with him, and to help him.

As far as the spiritual learning, I don't think I have enough time to express everything that we've learned here. One of the coolest classes we had was on our purpose as missionaries. At the end of the lesson, we talked about faith, and how the Bible Dictionary talks about how hearing testimony kindles our faith. We talked about fire building and how we put kindling and tinder before logs, just as we have to learn things little by little (faith, scripture study, prayer) before we are ready for bigger commitments (baptism, confirmation, enduring to the end). If we try to overwhelm ourselves or those we are teaching, we may end up stifling the faith that they do have. That is why it's so important to have the Spirit with us when we teach, to know their specific needs.

The MTC schedule has surprisingly not been that bad for me so far (getting up at 6:30, breakfast at 7:30 and not getting back until 9:30 for bed at 10:30). I know that is only through the power of the Lord as well. You all know how much I love my sleep, and how dead I am when I don't get it. The Lord is truly with us in everything we do here. I've never prayed so much or so sincerely and fervently. I know with all my heart that, even though things aren't easy here, He is with me and He is the reason my head is still above water. :)

Just as I was warned, I am learning to love Preach My Gospel. Not as much as I am falling deeper in love with the scriptures, though. Especially the Book of Mormon. There are a lot of things I miss about being "in the world" (family, friends, music, books), but I knew what I was getting into when I made the decision to serve, and this is exactly what I was looking for in my life. I haven't even gotten anywhere and I already have a testimony that missionary work is HARD. But I also know that it is worth it. Sister Cutia and I were talking this morning after our personal study about what an incredible blessing it is to have the Lord with us and how much He honors and appreciates our sacrifice. It is SO motivating to me to know that. "This isn't your time. This is the Lord's time; don't waste it."

We met our branch presidency on Thursday. They are wonderful and they love us so much. It's amazing. I met with the first counselor (Brother Howard, I think is his name), and he said to tell Mom and Dad not to worry at all. He's spent six years in the Philippines and he still considers it home. He said of all the missions in the world, they have the fewest that go home early.

I want you all to know that miracles are real. That is my message today. There is no way that I should understand or remember even a fraction of the language that we have been learning the past few days. But somehow, I do. The Lord is watching over this work. I know that.

Alam ko po na tatoo po ang Simbahan ni Jesucristo ng mga Banal sa mga Huling Araw at Aklat ni Mormon. Alam ko po na mahal po tayo ng Diyos.

I love you all. Can't wait to hear from you!! (Also, if you don't want to write letters, you can write email-type letters through while I am here in the MTC and they are delivered to us every day. Those are preferrable because we can read them anytime.)

Thanks so much Ray, for your email, and Kristen, for your letter!! I loved them!!

Talk to you next week!

Love always,
Sister Franks

P.S. Quote of the Week: "If you get stressed: get straws and suck it up." (from our Zone Leaders. They are great!)

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