Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - March 10, 2014

Hello again!!

Happy Transfer-Week Tuesday!!! I have a story to tell you all before I share the exciting news of whether I am transferring or not....
Last Friday, we had our mission tour. Elder Echo Hawk of the Area Presidency here (yes, the same one that spoke in conference...pretty much a celebrity. :P Though really just super chill and kind and fun and real--we're so blessed!) came and spoke to us. It was an incredible zone conference (our second of the transfer which was great!), and I learned too much to take time to share it all. Afterward, though, I was talking to some of my friends/fellow missionaries/sisters from my batch, and I made a comment about whether I was ever going to be given a foreign companion (even Sister Campbell and Sister Cutia, who are from USA, are Filipina by birth). Well, Heavenly Father must have been listening because I am now getting TWO! Sister McCarthy (from Australia, just two transfers younger than us) and Sister Strebel (from my zone in the MTC) are going to be my new companions here in Morong! I really can't say how I excited I am! I have a feeling I'm going to need to be the "Senior Companion" (i.e. step up my leadership skills) now, since I'm the only one who has been in province areas her whole mission, so I'm the most experienced with Tagalog, but I really am just super happy and blessed that I already know both of them so I feel like we will be able to hit the ground running and really do a lot of good work this transfer! I never thought I would want to be in a threesome, but even that is something I am looking forward to. :) Pretty much I just feel like I'm super spoiled and, once again, don't know what I do to be so blessed (I really don't deserve it).
In other news, too, Sister Cutia is the new Sister Training Leader!!!! :D :D :D She's assigned in the city so I still won't get to see or work with her, but I am so pumped because she is seriously one of the greatest missionaries I know and she is going to be able to help so many sisters there (and maybe our areas will coincide eventually if she or I get transferred next transfer)! It's still winter for most of you so I can use this analogy, but you know how sometimes when you walk outside in the winter and the sun reflects off the snow and it halfway blinds you? That's what I feel like my life is like right now, only instead of light it's blessings and happiness that I am being overwhelmed with.

In stories and experiences: I have learned a lot this week about my role as a missionary and how beautiful and powerful this Gospel is, and how we so much just need to learn how to get out of the way of the Spirit and let it work through us to touch the hearts of those we meet. One of my most treasured investigators this week is a 32 year old man named Lorence. He was an adviser/teacher of one of our recent converts/branch missionaries a few years ago. It turns out they didn't get along very well back then, because the recent convert (Paul) was pretty rebellious and a handful to deal with. Paul was working with us last Sunday though, and spotted his adviser as we were walking between appointments. I was on splits with Jenny Polinar (who is actually my "lola" or grandmother here on the mission--she's Elder Argyle's "nanay"--but went home last January before I got here and is now living with her sister and brother-in-law in our branch) and we noticed that Paul semi-greeted a man across the street from us as we walked. We stopped and went back to talk to him, not knowing anything about their past. We were blessed to have the chance to invite him to hear our message and he agreed to let us come to his house and share a short message. We just did basic get-to-know-you and introduced our purpose as missionaries and why we are here and testified of the power of the Gospel to change his life just as it has changed Paul's life (who is now preparing to serve a mission). He shared about his history of looking into and studying other religions and his thoughts on why there are so many religions today. We were happy to leave with him a pamphlet about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and brief overview of what he would learn there (about Heavenly Father's pattern of calling prophets to reveal His Gospel because of His love for each of us and our families; how Christ Himself taught His Gospel and established His church here on the earth, including calling apostles to lead and giving them authority to baptize and receive revelation on behalf of the church after He was gone; how after Christ's death and the death of the apostles, precious truths and doctrines were lost and/or changed, and the Priesthood Authority necessary to perform sacred ordinances such as baptism were lost; and how, because of Heavenly Father's love for us and desire for us to know the true Gospel, He restored His Gospel and His true church through a young man named Joseph Smith who was called as a prophet, and how we have evidence given to us by which we can know if all of this is true--the Book of Mormon). He committed to read the pamphlet, and said he would try to come to church because he wants to know what our services are like.
On Sunday morning, we texted to remind and invite him again to come to church. He responded that he had been very sick for the past few days and wouldn't be able to come to church, though he wanted us to still come teach him if possible. We gladly agreed. On splits once again with a different branch missionary (Sundays are our busiest days so we always try to get members to do splits with us if possible to fit everyone in...or at least as many as possible), I was a little surprised, but delighted, when we got to his house and discovered that he really was sick. He'd been having awful headaches, and I could tell he was still in pain, but he pushed through it (he said he'd even forced himself to reread the pamphlet on Saturday night and Sunday morning, even though it hurt). He was still eager to have us teach, though, and sad that he had missed church. We started the lesson and quickly discovered that he had not only read the pamphlet, but knew everything by heart. He explained to us what he learned with surprising accuracy. We clarified a few details about the Restoration and shared about the Book of Mormon and invited him to read and pray and find out for himself if it is true. It's hard to really put into words, but I honestly feel like he is one of those "golden investigators" who the Lord places in our lives (if we just open our eyes to notice it) who has been so prepared and just waiting to be taught the truth. He understands and seems to believe our message intellectually, and agreed when he receives a spiritual confirmation to be baptized. I'm mostly just so grateful that Jenny was in tune with the Spirit enough to recognize his potential even before I did. I'm so excited to see his progress in the coming weeks.

In spiritual thoughts:
There are so many I want to share from what I learned this week, but I think I'm just going to share one or two thoughts about repentance, because that's what I have been learning the most.
There's a story that was told by our district president before I got here to Morong. It's about a man who died, and when he got to judgement, he was given two options. He could choose to go to heaven, or to go to hell. He was informed though, that he would have the chance to spend one day in each before deciding. He opted to spend the first day in hell (to get it over with). When he got there, he was surprised at what he found. It was filled with laughter and cheering and groups of his friends all hanging out together and partying and having a great time just playing games and drinking and dancing and whatnot. The day flew by and was over before he knew it! He thought to himself, "what in the world?" (in Tagalog: "ano ba yan?")--hell wasn't bad at all!
The next day, he went to heaven. Heaven was great too: beautiful and peaceful and serene. Everyone there was happy and smiling and enjoying life, but not in the same way as the day before. Heaven was quiet, but thoroughly pleasant, and the day there flew by just as quickly. It was over before he knew it.
At the end of day 2, the man was returned to judgement and asked to choose where he wanted to spend the rest of eternity. He thought over his experiences. He had loved both days, and didn't want to have to choose. Knowing he could only have one though, he finally opted for hell. His decision was granted and off he went.
He was shocked when the door opened and he stepped into hell. It was not the hell he remembered! Everything was loud, but not the laughter and cheering of before. The air was full of screams and crying and the man couldn't find his friends anywhere--just surrounded by tears and agony and heartache. Confused, he caught sight of Satan (the man in charge) and asked what had happened to the hell he remembered.
"Yesterday," he said, "there were games and laughter and everyone was happy and having a good time! What happened?"
"Yesterday," Satan replied," "we were recruiting you."
There is a powerful statement in Alma 41:10 that often gets taken too lightly: "wickedness," Alma warns his son, "never was happiness." Though sometimes to our natural and carnal eyes, it might seem like we can go against the Lord and still find happiness and peace and contentment in life, ultimately we will come to find that the happiness we tasted was only fleeting, and we are left with the bitter aftertaste that sin always leaves. Fortuntately, we are still here on earth. We haven't yet cast our final decision of where we want to spend eternity. There is still time for us to choose heaven, to choose to follow our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ and receive the eternal blessings of peace and comfort and eternal joy that will never be changed or relinquished.
I have been reading the teachings of President Joseph Fielding Smith (my new favorite prophet I think) but I don't have time to share everything I've learned from him, so it'll have to wait.
I just pray that each of us will take advantage of the opportunity that has been granted to us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repent. Follow Christ. Be blessed. :)

I love you all! Have a great week!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

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