Wednesday, January 8, 2014

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

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