Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - September 18, 2013

Magandang hapon po! (Sa inyo, seguro magandang umaga)

This week has been great, but of course, really long because our P-day got switched again. Reason being, we have zone conference this week and Elder Ardon from the Area Presidency is here. So, for a reason I'm not actually sure of, our temple day/p-day got moved to today (Wednesday) instead of Tuesday. I'm so grateful, though, and I'll tell you more about why later on.

Last week, Sister Campbell and I had set out to follow up with all our investigators that we haven't been able to see for a while. Mostly to see if they are still/actually interested and if they could progress/what we need to do to help them progress. Basically, it was an awesome plan that hopefully put us in the right place that the Lord wanted us to be in. We actually only followed up with a handful of people, but we did find some investigators who seem genuinely interested. I know I say this every week, it feels like, but I have so much hope for this area!

One exciting fruit of our work here came about on Saturday. We had a baptism! Actually, our branch had two baptisms--one for us and one for the other sisters in the other half of the area. Our investigator is Hannah. She's the daughter of an LA who is working in New York. The mother/wife and older daughter (11) got baptized in June, but Hannah was only 8 then so the prior mission president wanted her to wait until she was 9 to be baptized (if she were to get baptized at 8 she would be considered a "child of record" in the Church, rather than a convert baptism, because her father is a member. Having her baptized at 9 made it okay for missionaries to teach and work with her rather than just the ward/parents). So anyhow, she turned 9 last Monday and was baptized on Saturday. It was so fun! Also, there is a 17-year-old boy that the missionaries have been teaching since about January. His name is Kevin and he's been super diligent in coming to church and loves to go out to work with the missionaries! He bears his testimony all the time in Church and has wanted to get baptized for a long time, but his parents wouldn't give permission, so he was having to wait until he was 18. Sister Pope and Sister Faka'osi (the new sisters in our branch) were able to talk to his parents and help them understand why it was significant/important for Kevin to get baptized now, instead of waiting a year to his birthday--because now, with the age change, he can serve a mission at 18 if he has been a member for a year. The parents finally gave permission two weeks ago, so he was baptized the same day as Hannah!
We decided that it would be cool if we missionaries sang a song at the baptism, because Kevin knows all of us (he is in our neighborhood all the time and we play basketball with him and some other neighborhood kids on Saturday mornings). I was thinking of baptism songs that would be fun to sing, and then the thought came to me that I could try to write a song for them and we could sing it. I didn't know how I felt about it though, because I really wanted it to be a special day for Hannah and Kevin and I didn't want it to somehow become about me, but I asked Sister Campbell what she thought about it, and she was super supportive. So I worked really hard and prayed really hard for inspiration, and through the miracle of the Lord's blessings, I was able to actually write the song exactly how I wanted it-- similar to the songs in the primary songbook where there are two verses with different melodies that are sung separately and then together, but with the first verse in English and the second in Tagalog. I still 100% believe it was a miracle, that even with only about an hour with a piano to verify notes and no real skill for composition, things worked out perfectly. We were able to sing it at the baptism, and everything went super smoothly. And Hannah loved it. :) I'm not sure about Kevin, because he didn't really say anything, but I gave both him and Hannah the lyrics in the cards I made them for their baptism, so hopefully he'll draw some inspiration from it in the future, if nothing else. Aside from that though, it was definitely a cool experience for me learning to rely on the Lord for help even with a "temporal" pursuit. I really believe that He wants us to succeed in all our endeavors, and that whenever we have a righteous desire, He will be there to help us accomplish it, even if it's not necessarily something we think He'll care about. He cares about us, so He cares about what we care about. That is one thing I have gained a testimony of this week.

The other thing I really want to share is from our temple trip this morning.** I learned so many new things, and was able to see the Fall of Adam and Eve in a whole new way. Of course, we know that God gave Adam and Eve two commandments: to multiply and replenish the Earth, and to abstain from partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan tempted Eve, and she chose to partake of the fruit (which Heavenly Father knew would happen and was a part of His Plan from the beginning) in order for her and Adam, and all men and women, to progress. However, though Adam and Eve had been given agency--freedom to choose--they were not free to escape the consequences of their choices, and so were cast out of the Garden of Eden and became mortal, as had been promised (the Lord told them if they ate of the fruit of the tree, they would "surely die"). The thing that struck me the most powerfully though, is how the Lord tells Adam, "cursed shall be the ground for thy sake." He then tells Adam about the thorns and thistles that will be brought about and the hardship of Adam's future life.
Sidenote: Sister Campbell and I ventured through a field on Monday through one of our areas, and I was hard core attacked by thistles, and I can testify that even the ones that don't cut or scrape you are still a curse and super obnoxious.
Sidenote complete.
So this morning, I was thinking about the Fall, and this result that came about because of it. How Adam and Eve went from having this peaceful and happy life in the Garden of Eden to having to work for their food and livelihood and having thorns and thistles to deal with, and of course, pain and hunger, and grumpy little kids who argued and fought (even when they grew up it seems). It probably wasn't an ideal situation for them. But then I thought about my experience here in the Philippines, and how awe-struck I am every time one of our investigators says a prayer to close our lesson and they thank Heavenly Father for their trials, because they know that trials make them stronger and bring them closer to God. I've heard it multiple times, from several investigators, and it still floors me every time. I tend to COMPLAIN about my problems, not be THANKFUL for them. But I guess that just goes to show, again, how much Sister Franks needs to work on developing humility. :P Because see, I realized today what a blessing our trials really are. In my head, I knew it already, because we are told a lot how trials make us stronger, and how they are what stimulate growth. But today, I saw them in a different way. I realized that trials--the hardships of life that we experience, either through our own mistakes (our fallen nature/fighting the "natural man"), through the decisions or actions of others, or just because of the fallen and imperfect world that we live in--trials are an evidence and reminder that the Fall is real. It really did happen, and we experience the consequences of it every day.
But just as the Fall is 100% real, so is the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which was set up as a parallel to the Fall in the Plan of Salvation. The Atonement of Jesus Christ compensates and overcomes every consequence that the Fall of Adam and Eve brought about. So really, every trial we go through, every "thorn" and "thistle" in our life, is really just a reminder that we have a Savior and Redeemer who loves us so much that He sacrificed His own life, and endured Eternal torment and suffering, just so that we could have the chance to live with Him and our Heavenly Father again.
I'm not sure if that is truly what the Lord meant when he said the ground would be "cursed...for [our] sake" but that's what I got out of it. And really, I don't think I have ever been more grateful for the Fall of Adam and Eve, the perspective that we gain from a knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, and the blessings of the temple and the Spirit and the scriptures.

So that's pretty much it. All I can really say is that I KNOW that this Gospel is true. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's true Church, restored upon the Earth, and that all of the truth, revelation, and Priesthood power that is contained within the organization of this Church, is directly from our Savior Jesus Christ. He is the head of this Church, the head of the work that we are doing here as missionaries, and can be the head of our individual lives, if we allow Him to be. I know that the Plan of Salvation is real. It is true. The more I learn about this Gospel, the more I come to realize that understanding the Plan of Salvation is central to living a Christlike and happy (because those are synonymous) life. This Gospel really is the answer to every question and concern that we will ever encounter. I testify that that is true.

I love you all so much. I hope you are doing well! I pray for you daily!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

P.S. One of these days, I'll send you a little something in Tagalog. I'm getting pretty decent at it. :)

**If any of you haven't been to the temple lately, YOU SHOULD GO!! Especially if you have a current temple recommend! Take advantage of the blessing of the temple as often as you can. There really is nothing like it--and coming from a missionary, that's saying something, because sharing the Gospel is pretty much the greatest thing ever. If you don't have a current recommend, Sister Franks whole-heartedly endorses doing whatever is necessary to obtain one, even if it's scary or may take some time. It is worth ALL the effort to be in the Lord's house and feel the peace that resides there. And if you're not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--well, I still whole-heartedly endorse pursuing the opportunity to go the temple and feel the presence of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in their holy house, and I know there are some awesome Elders and Sisters who would love to help you in that process. :)

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