Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - February 23, 2014

Maligayang Lunes sa inyong lahat!

This week has been a turning point in my mission! Not just me, actually, but all the sisters in my batch. :P I officially have fewer days ahead of me in the mission than behind. In some ways, it's encouraging, because the past 9 months have gone so fast, and if I've survived the 1st half of the mission so (relatively) painlessly, there's no reason I can't make it through the 2nd half. ;) But mostly it's just scary, like everyone says, because you realize how short our time here really is, and how much you really need to step it up and become the missionary you hope to be--the one the Lord needs you to be--ASAP, so you can accomplish all you are supposed to before your ministerial certificate expires and you get kicked out of the country. As one of my MTC Zone Leaders/District-mates, Elder Thurman, shared in his last email though, our growth and changes as missionaries and children of God really is the most important and lasting effect of our service. So if nothing else, I am glad to know that my time here has been extremely successful in that respect! I will definitely not come home the same as I was when I left. Hopefully in a good way. :)

This week has had a lot of highlights and interesting experiences! Firstly, on Tuesday, we were teaching one of my favorite investigators, Maybeline. She is 19 and lives with her sister and niece and nephew (she's their caretaker when the sister is at work). We met her my second week here in Morong (January 2) when we went tracting and she was running the "tindahan"/food stand of her next door neighbor. We OYMed them both and it turns out the neighbor is actually a long-time less-active. Though not much has happened with the LA (her husband isn't very open to us, so she only gets to sit in on lessons when he's gone, which is next to never), Maybeline and her sister, Jonah, and a few other of their family and friends have been more than eager to listen to us. We gave her a Book of Mormon last Saturday and she was almost overwhelmed with excitement to read it. When we came back on Tuesday, she had already finished the introduction and had a question for us! We had a great lesson with them about the Plan of Salvation, but really the greatest/most fun part for me was that another of her friends stopped by and joined us. His name is Robert, and he's also happens to be deaf (our 3rd deaf investigator). We did some quick introductions and then Sister Medina continued teaching the lesson in Tagalog, and I taught a super simplified version in broken sign language. It was one of the coolest experiences ever though, because he was so open to the message. I asked him if he prays, and he said no. I asked if he wanted to pray, and he said yes, so I wrote him a little message saying "God understands sign language. :) Or just your thoughts if you are praying alone"  with the steps for prayer. We didn't have any English pamphlets with us (they are better with English because ASL is what they learn in school), but I gave him a For The Strength of Youth pamphlet with our phone number. I'm so excited to see him again tomorrow!
We also got to see Kim (the deaf girl who was referred to us by the Elders) and her friend Kim (#2) on Friday. They were busy with a school project they needed to finish so we weren't able to teach again, but we met the husband of Kim (#2). His name is RJ and got to BRT with him a little bit. He can hear, but also knows sign language, so he ended up being a bigger help than the member we brought with us, who only knows about as much sign language as I do. The downside is that he works a lot, so isn't really ever available to be taught. But he's okay with us teaching his wife, so that's promising!
I'm starting to feel like this may be a reason that I am here at this time. Even though I can't say I know sign language (it's pretty rough honestly--I'm grateful they are so patient with us), I know enough to be able to communicate the basic principles of the Gospel and help them (hopefully) feel the Spirit. I think they feel something, too, because they are always happy to see us when we come. It is so cool to see how the Lord can work through even the smallest means to accomplish His work (Alma 37:6-7). I think this experience has also brought a new meaning to the promise that Christ can take our weaknesses (even the smallest piece of knowledge or talent that we have) and make it into a strength (us it to bless our lives and the lives of others).

We also had Zone Conference last week and I got to see Sister Cutia!!!!! For the first time since October when we were both newly called trainers. It was so fun, and I really didn't realize how much I love/missed her until I saw her again and we started talking! I just really hope we get to serve together sometime here in the field (even if it's just when she becomes a Sister Training Leader and comes on exchanges with us). I feel like we have so much more potential to do good now that we kind of know what's actually going on with missionary work. :) That's just a selfish desire though. I know there are a lot of other sisters who deserve to have her as a companion too, and learn from her.

Saturday was an interesting day for us. We were invited to a wedding in Teresa (the neighboring branch where our zone leaders and district leader are). 3 weddings, actually, and 6 baptisms (all 3 couples were baptized). Unfortunately, we weren't able to go, because we had 2 baptisms in our own branch at the same time. (I know it might sound like we take it lightly, but honestly, I do realize how difficult it is to help an investigator progress all the way to baptism, the work here in our zone really just is amazing). We got to bring one of our investigators to the baptism (the girlfriend of the member that we taught last week), and to teach her afterward about the Priesthood and the power and blessing of being a part of the true church of Jesus Christ, the very same church that Jesus Christ Himself established when He was here on the earth. Though nothing really profound, it was a good lesson, and I was inspired/taught at least, so I know the Spirit was there. We next went with a group of branch members to the viewing/memorial service for a member who had passed away. She was very old, and not able to come to church because she couldn't walk and basically had no strength, but she was a very faithful woman. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to meet or talk with her, but as I looked at her at the viewing, she just looked so peaceful and content. I know that she was blessed to have an understanding of the Plan of Salvation, and was prepared for all that the Lord had in store for her when she passed.
The service was an interesting one. It was held in the house of their next door neighbor (their house--just one room--is too small to fit both the coffin and more than 5 or 6 people). A couple of members from the branch, along with Sister Medina, and our new branch president, shared some thoughts about the Plan of Salvation and the life of Sister Tejada. After, one of her daughter's spoke (a long time less-active as well) and just cried and said thank you and sorry and the things she wished she could have said to her mother before she passed. It was an enlightening moment for me to realize what a blessing it is for us to know our Heavenly Father's Plan for us. To know why we are here on this earth, why hard things happen to us in our lives, why there is so much pain and suffering and even death, and where we will go after we die. We are so blessed to understand that this life is just one tiny step in our eternal journey to become like our Father in Heaven and our Savior, Jesus Christ. It was a sobering experience, but deeply spiritual and humbling for me, sitting there with all the knowledge I've taken for granted my whole life, surrounded by so many people whose hearts were aching because they didn't have the comfort of that eternal perspective.

I know that this Gospel is true. It is so amazing. I'm almost out of time, so the thought I promised last week about obedience and blessings will have to be postponed again. (Sorry!) I promise it's good though. ;)

Also--just a favor or two to ask, if you have time/interest.
1) Let me know what you hope for more from these emails (stories, pix, spiritual thoughts, cultural experiences) because I run out of time a lot, so it'd be good to know which to prioritize. Otherwise I'll just keep rotating them every so often.
2) I didn't bring any pictures with me when I left, so all I have are the ones that have been sent to me. It'd be nice to have some more pix of family and friends, though, so if you'd like to just pick out a favorite picture of us together and email it to me, that would be swell. :) Or if we don't have any pix together, just a favorite picture of yourself, so can have something to show people when I talk about you. ;) Just if you get a chance. Thanks!

Hope you all have a FABULOUS week!! I love and miss and pray for you every day!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

P.S. Mom and Dad and Zach and Jen-- I got your packages...I just keep forgetting to tell you. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!! You are the best!!!!

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