Wednesday, January 8, 2014

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

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