Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - March 2, 2014

Hello again!!!

There are so many things I want to tell you all, and I only have a short amount of time so this may sound a bit rushed, but I'm going to try to fit it all in! :) This week has been so amazing, but pretty much everything has to do with the same cast of incredible people that I am falling in love with here in Morong.

Pictures will be in separate emails because I have too much to say to fit it all in one.

1) Service Project
So, starting the first Sunday they decided to come to church (as you may remember), Bro. Andres lost his job as a jeepney driver. He is still jobless over 3 months later, so they are being evicted from the house they were renting. Through a lot of miracles and the kindness of members both here and in Canada donating their time and money, we've been able to start a renovation on the "house" of Bro. Andres' parents to add a second floor. The house before was just a single room, so the first project was to dig out a hole for the CR (toilet). As you can see in the pictures, it turned out to be a rather large task, with everything from dirt to large rocks to wet, heavy clay being dug up. Fortunately, we had elders that were able to come help and they turned out to be a lot more efficient....
The project turned out to be a gateway to many more miracles. Just a few weeks ago, Bro. Andres' mother, who we met before but didn't want to listen to our message, starting asking questions, and most especially wanted to know when we would be having another temple tour. We were able to start teaching her, and her daughter (Bro. Andres' older sister). Through the service project, we have also been able to work with and get to know their older brother, who lives next-door/in the other half of the house. My testimony of service has grown so much. What started out as a project to help our recent converts (who we just love more than anything--they are so amazing), turned out to be the key to opening the way to share the Gospel with the rest of the family. It really is true: "people don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."

2) Temple Tour
We were able to get permission from President Revillo to have another temple tour on Friday (the day after our service project). We were blessed to be able to coordinate for a group of recent converts (including the Andres) to go do baptisms for the dead inside the temple at the same time as we gave our investigators a tour of the temple grounds.  We had one part member family that was able to come (a recent convert, her husband who is investigating, and their children) as well as Bro. Andres' mother. Sister Sikotilani had forgotten to bring her temple recommend, and mine was lost with my wallet, so we foreigners were left outside to do the tour while the two Filipinas went inside to help with the baptisms. I was a little sad because I knew it meant I was going to be the one leading the tour (Sister Sikotilani is great, but she's not quite as fluent in Tagalog, and she's not a very take-charge person, so the responsibility kind of fell to me). It turned out okay though.
When we were asking for permission, President Revillo asked if we thought it would really be a good use of our time. We explained about Nanay Andres being really interested in the temple, and how we thought it would be a big help to her in helping her want to progress. As we were on the tour, she was so attentive. At times, I felt like she was the only one actually listening, but I was actually completely okay with it. By the end, I halfway gave up on the tour-guide thing and just bore my testimony, talking to everyone but looking into her eyes. It occurred to me, though, that is probably the closest I've come to having genuine Christlike feelings. I thought to myself, "if Nanay is the only reason we had this temple tour, if she's the only one who got anything out of it, it would still be 100% worth it." Of course, I hope it was a good experience for all who went (and I think it was), but for me, Nanay was the highlight. Afterward, she told me she felt so happy being there at the temple, and she kept saying how it was just so beautiful. The spirit was so strong and I have come to feel for her (and their family) the most genuine love I have ever felt for anyone.

3) FHE with the Johnsons
The temple trip was even more impactful than we realized, I think, because the next day, we went to have an FHE in Antipolo with Elder and Sister Johnson (the senior missionary couple we get to work with). It was originally just for the Andres and Nanay and the sister (our investigators), but nearly everyone came! Nanay and Tatay and 3 of the 4 siblings came, with their kids. It was a full house, but SO MUCH FUN!!!! I have never laughed so much or so genuinely since I got here to the mission. It honestly felt like being at a Clark family reunion. Sister Johnson made a good mix of American food (spaghetti and garlic bread and brownies) and Filipino food for those who weren't adventurous enough to try the foreign dishes. We had a good lesson, with both spirit and laughter, and played some games. It was the perfect bonding experience for us all and we all came away full and happy and full of love.

I was warned (shout out to Bro. Mansfield) that being in the Philippines would teach me to love with my whole heart. I was reluctant to believe it...yet it's happening. I honestly didn't know I could love anyone this much. When I got here, I used to think it would be hard to love so completely when I am so different from the people here (different appearance, different culture, different world views), but the longer I am here to harder it is for me to see our differences. I forget that I'm a foreigner living a world away from everything I grew up with. I just love these people so much, and I know that the blessing I was given in my setting apart is true--I will be heartbroken when the time comes to leave these people I have grown to love so much.

I guess the moral of my story this week is just the miracle of love and service. I know that serving others is the BEST way to develop love for them. And all the little things we do to develop that love, and the little things we do as a result of that love, are more than just actions. They shape our character and help up become who we are meant to be. They help us become more like our Savior and our Father in Heaven.

We have to go to our zone activity now, so that's all I have time for today. I just want to let you know that I love this Gospel. I love my Savior, and I am SO SO grateful for this opportunity to serve Him, and try to become just a little more of who He wants me to be.

I love you all!! Sorry I don't have time to share the rest of my week. I hope you have a great week!!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

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