Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - February 16, 2014

Hello again!

First things first, language is weird. Do you ever look at a word and just think, "that's a weird word" or "that looks that right?", "how can such a common word be so strange?" That happens to me pretty frequently. Before the mission, too, but even more so now that English is becoming foreign to me. Today, it was the word "good," which I fear is a sign that I'm going a little bit crazy. But anyhow.

It's hard to say what happened to me this week, but it has been one of the best and most enlightening weeks ever (probably not the first time I've said that...but it's true). I've had so many experiences this week that have helped me regain my passion for missionary work, for which I am grateful beyond words. I'm not entirely sure how the Spirit was still able to touch me, given how hard my heart had grown, but I am so glad the Lord's power has no limits!

One of the greatest blessings was having the Sister Training Leaders come work with us last week. I got to work with Sister Racaza, a Filipina from Mindanao. I was a little sad at first, because I had been hoping to work with Sister Houser (the other new STL over our area), but I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to work with Sister Racaza and learn from her example. She is a great missionary, and a great leader. I'm not sure what really ignited it, but I was thinking a lot on Friday about why I chose to serve a mission in the first place. I thought of the list/essay/letter-to-self I wrote the morning after I met with the bishop to start my papers. I knew that the mission was going to be hard, and I had been told that even before I reported Satan would try to bring me down, so I sat down that morning and wrote all the reasons and things that happened in my life to bring me to the point of serving a mission. Though I don't actually have the paper with me here, I still remember the points I wrote (my testimony of the truthfulness of this Gospel; my desire to help those like my non-member friends find the same joy I have in my life; the spiritual confirmation and answer to my prayers; statements from my patriarchal blessing that, though not specific, could be related to missionary work). As I was talking/reviewing our day with Sister Racaza on Friday night, she asked me what I felt my strengths and weaknesses are. Strengths were hard to come up with, but I realized that I really do know the Gospel well, and I love it with all my heart. My biggest weakness, I realized, is that I've been failing to show that love to those that we teach. I don't know if it's because of my fear/timidness, or just being so self-centered and focused on my own perceived problems that I've kind of been "going through the motions", without my heart really being in the work. I remembered what my district mates and I talked about in the MTC, how the Lord called US to serve this mission, and He wants US to serve, not to be someone else. We are here because we have something unique to offer. Sister Racaza helped me rediscover what it means to FORGET OURSELVES and give everything to this, the Lord's work.

Somehow, whatever happened on Friday within my own heart/head has changed everything about my life right now. I suddenly feel like myself again. I am happy. :) I wake up in the morning excited about being a missionary and grateful for another day to serve. I go to bed feeling content and peaceful. Obedience feels natural again, rather than a struggle. Mostly, though, I have seen a huge difference in our work. We taught a referral on Saturday at a member's house, and I felt impressed to share with her that one of the biggest reasons that inspired me to serve a mission was because I saw the difference in my life and the lives of my non-member friends--that there was a joy I felt that they seemed unable to find--and that is why we as members give referrals. So our friends can taste of the same joy we have. I bore my testimony of the truth of this Gospel, and how I know that the Lord loves her and that is why He placed the member family in her life. It was a simple testimony on my part, just speaking from the heart in broken Tagalog, but as I looked into her nearly-teary eyes I could see that the Spirit was teaching her so much more than what I was saying. :) It was an incredible and humbling experience to finally feel like an instrument in the Lord's hands again. It's what I've been missing since I got here to Morong, and I'm just so grateful it's back.

My Ether 12:27 project  (turning my Finding skills into a strength) is still a work in progress, but I've been trying to make a more concentrated effort to OYM people, especially on the jeepneys we ride every day. Though I can't say if it's made much of a difference (so far I've only been able to OYM people from other areas, mostly less-actives), it's at least been a blessing to me to build my confidence and help me realize/remember the joy of sharing this beautiful gospel. I'm starting to see people again for their potential, but am aware now more than ever that they can't reach that potential if I don't INVITE THEM to hear the Gospel. As Christ Himself said: "wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat; Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and FEW THERE BE THAT FIND IT" (see 3 Nephi 14:13-14 and Matt 7:13-14, emphasis added). The path to Eternal Life isn't one we stumble upon by accident. Thus, we as missionaries and members are so important in this work. If we don't "invite others to come unto Christ" (find the true Gospel), how are they going to accomplish it on their own?

I know this is long already, but I want to share an observation from my personal study this morning. It comes from John 13. I was reading scriptures from PMG and verses 34-35 were suggested, but I kept reading until the end of the chapter. In this section of scripture, Peter asks where Christ is going, hoping to go with Him, but is informed that he must follow in the footsteps of his Master only after Christ's mission is completed. Peter is disappointed and asks why he can't be included--he is not afraid of danger or even death. He is willing, he says, to give his life for his Master. Christ then answers, "wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, the cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice" (John 13:38). At first, a plain reading of this sounds accusatory and condemning--as though the Lord does not believe Peter's claim to loyalty and devotion, and offers prophetic evidence to support it. However, when reading the two verses together (37 and 38), in a more tender and heartfelt way (as I imagine in my head that Christ's voice would be), we can see a beautiful teaching moment here.
Peter is ready to give up everything (he has already left behind his job, home, and family) to follow Christ, even if it means suffering pains of the flesh and physical death. Though he did not know everything, Peter understood enough to know that this life is merely a prelude to the Eternal Glory we will receive if we prove faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Savior responded to this sincere demonstration of faith with a deeper and more difficult proposition: Peter was willing to die for the Lord, but was he willing to do something perhaps even more difficult--to do what was necessary for him to LIVE to lead the Church after Christ was gone, even if it meant denying his Lord and Savior? "Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake?" Christ asks. Or in other words, "will you give up everything, your whole self, including YOUR WILL and how YOU think things should be, in order to serve Me and fulfill the will of My Father?" If the answer be yes, Christ then explains what is necessary: "The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice." I am sure it was not an easy assignment to accept, but I (and the entire ancient Christian world, probably) am grateful that Peter had the faith to fulfill it.
There's a quote from West Wing that I only partly remember and don't know the true source. It's about heroes and martyrs and goes something like, "A martyr is someone who would rather suffer death than renounce his beliefs....A hero is willing to die for his [beliefs], but he would much rather live for it."
Peter truly was a hero, and an example to all of us of what obedience really is. It's not just doing what we feel is right or good, but it's about our willingness to do WHATEVER the Lord asks of us, in HIS way, even if we don't like or understand the request.

I feel like everything I am reading and learning this transfer is just teaching me and building my testimony of the importance of obedience. I really feel like that's the major point of this life--to learn to align our will with the Father's will. Next week will have another thought about obedience and blessings. That's all for now though. :)

I love you all SO MUCH and hope you are doing well! Thank you for the updates and emails, even though I don't get a chance to respond to them all, and most especially for your thoughts and prayers. Till next Monday! Take care!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

P.S. The quote from the subject is a FANTASTIC song by Hilary Weeks that you should look up if you get a chance. :)

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