Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - March 16, 2014

Hello again!

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all! This is, hands down, the strangest St. Patrick's Day I have ever experienced. I don't even have anything green to least not proselyting clothes. You'd think for having so many alcoholics here, the Philippines would have caught on to this holiday, but so far--nothing.

This week has been so crazy, but so good. Having foreigner companions is actually FANTASTIC. It is so much fun. The only hard part is being in a threesome. Just think of how hard it is to unify yourself with ONE person who has had different experiences and has different thoughts and attitudes and teaching styles, and then triple it (because there are three of of those interplays going on, and then an additional of all 3 working together. I am actually really grateful for this companionship, though, because I know that it is inspired and it is exactly what our area needs right now. We all have different strengths, and I can already see how each of them are making a positive impact on those around us.
Back in the MTC, I knew Sister Strebel somewhat, but we were never super close because she was in our sister district. In just the past 5 days though, I have already come to love her so much!! She is so much cooler and easier to relate to than I remembered (or maybe we're just getting better at connecting to people). Right from day 0 (before transfers) I knew we were going to be a good team, and it has been confirmed and reconfirmed each day. Sister McCarthy is just one transfer behind us, and she hasn't quite adjusted to Sister Strebel and I, but I can see that she is a great missionary and all her desires and expectations (though somewhat lofty) really help to motivate us and help us become the missionaries and companionship we really need to be. She is so cute, though, because she has such a soft voice and perfect Australian accent, and every time she talks she just sounds so refined, and her body language matches it. It is precious. I just feel like she's a princess here with us barbaric Americans, and feel a little bad for her. :P She is really sweet and young though (just a touch naive, but in a good way), and I can see a lot of myself in her.

I think this week has been another turning point for me. If our mission (18 months) is a lifespan, I think I'm finally overcoming my midlife crisis and starting to feel like an adult. There has been a lot of stress/crises happening with the Andres family that Sister Medina used to be in charge of, which have now fallen to me. It's not really a stress I was looking for, but I guess most things we go through aren't, and we can't just run away from the hardships in life. Having a pretty stable understanding of how the Church is supposed to run, though, and what is and isn't our responsibility as missionaries, the only thing I could really think to do was turn to our branch leadership for help. At first, it didn't seem like that was going to work out, and I had a brief period of desperately considering every possible means by which we could theoretically help them. Ultimately though, the branch president and one of his counselors were able to go visit last night and offer some help and support. When I found out this morning, I literally had no words to describe my gratitude to these faithful leaders, to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and for the beautiful organization that exists within this Church. I'm so glad that I was able to function within my given role as a missionary and help things come about in the proper way that they should.

From the Teachings of President Joseph Fielding Smith (I mean it, he is pretty much my favorite prophet now; something about the way he teaches just seems to connect with me and lead to even more revelation):
On Repentance--
"There is no place in Zion for the willful sinner...we should not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, any more than the Lord can do so."
"If we really understood and could feel, even to a small degree, the love and gracious willingness on the part of Jesus Christ to suffer for our sins we would be willing to repent of all our transgressions and serve him."
"God is not going to save every man and woman in the celestial kingdom. If you want to get there, and you have failings, if you are committing sins, IF YOU ARE BREAKING COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD AND YOU KNOW IT, IT IS A GOOD TIME RIGHT NOW TO REPENT AND REFORM, and not get the idea that is it such a little thing that the Lord will forgive you, just a few stripes, just a little punishment and we will be forgiven; for you may find yourself cast out, if you insist and persist in such a course. Procratination, as it may be applied to gospel principles, is the thief of eternal life" (emphasis added because I feel like this is the description of what the first quote calls a "willful sinner"-- when we know we should or shouldn't be doing something, but we don't want to change).
"The Lord intends that men shall be happy--that is his purpose--but men refuse to be happy and make themselves miserable, because they think their ways are better than God's ways."
"Repentance is a gift of God....It is not so easy for some people to repent, but the gift of repentance of faith will be given to every man who will seek for it. I've learned from my own experience that when you want to change, really want to change, you can do it."

These thoughts have really stuck with me over the past couple of weeks. I have never been really good at repentance. I'm one of those who has had the attitude that repentance is a sort of "punishment" for our wrongdoing. More and more I am realizing, though, that it isn't that at all. It truly is a HEALING. It is a means by which we become stronger, more refined, more pure and holy, more like our Savior. Though we all have shortcomings (as Paul says, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God"), we have been blessed with the gift of repentance, the opportunity to make right all our wrongs. We are able to learn from them and try harder the next time to be better, rather than be sentenced to eternal woe. Personally, I am realizing that I need repentance so much more than I ever thought. If we want to live with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, we need to become like them. And we all know that is a long process, so we had better start now. Little by little, as we constantly strive to follow the perfect example we have been given, as we seek to eliminate all our little weaknesses and "favorite sins", we will see the power of the Atonement really start to work in our lives and change our natures, so that obedience is no longer a struggle, but a habit and a joy.
I know that this really is the purpose of the Atonement, and how we apply it in our personal lives. The more we come to understand and love our Savior, the more we realize what a beautiful thing repentance truly is.

I really love this Gospel so much. I honestly cannot tell you how grateful and blessed I feel to be serving my Lord as one of His missionaries. I have come to love my Savior SO much in the short 10 months since I was set apart. I know that this work is real, and miracles surround us every day. :)

I love you all! I hope you have a great week!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

P.S. We are getting a new apartment!! Well, we actually have it already, but we aren't moving until tomorrow (so I need to pack!). I am so excited. I will send you pictures next week, so you can see that it really is quite an upgrade!

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