Wednesday, January 8, 2014

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!

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