Monday, May 5, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - May 4, 2014

Hello po!

It's hard to believe, but I swear every week just keeps getting better and better. I know I just emailed you on Wednesday, so hardly any time has passed, but I still have so much to share from our week this week! I love Taytay! Missionary work is the greatest! :)

Wednesday night, after our P-day, we went out to work (as per always) and got to teach a great young mother named Anita ("Neng"). She has 3 kids (ages 7, 5, and 2, I think?). She was taught a couple of times before, but hadn't really shown much interest or progression so far. My first day here, though, we were able to go teach her and her husband (who hadn't been taught yet). We basically just talked about all the blessings from the Gospel and how it can help their family, and testified of the truthfulness of the message. She and the husband were both attentive and Sister Morrell and I both felt really good about the lesson. Last week, when we went back, the husband didn't join the lesson (he was resting, daw, because he had to work early the next morning), but we talked to Sister and found out that she had read part of the pamphlet that we left with her! We asked if she had any questions and she said, "Just one. Kind of a question, kind of a thank-you, but why are you so patient? Why are you so willing to come teach us always? Even though it's late, you still come see us." It was the sweetest question I think I have ever heard. We just explained that it is because we love her, and care about her and her family, and we know this message will help them. We testified of the love of our Savior and our Heavenly Father and explained that we are here because they love her and want her to come closer to them. We had a great lesson after that, talking about Heavenly Father's pattern of revealing His Gospel through prophets, and how, because we all have freedom to choose, sometimes people don't accept the prophets and they turn away from the truth and apostasy occurs. It was so perfect. She had read the section in the pamphlet about Christ's earthly ministry and how He established His church here on earth, so we talked about that and testified that this church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is THE SAME church that Christ established back then, and how it is built upon the same pillars that Heavenly Father's truth has always been built upon: living prophets and apostles, divine priesthood authority, and continuing revelation or communication from the Lord. After the lesson, Sister Morrell and I were both just on fire for the Gospel and missionary work! We were so unified in our teaching and the Spirit (the real teacher, we all know) was so strong! We both agreed, though, that the changes we saw in Anita had little to do with anything we said, and everything to do with what she felt. More than anything, in fact, we both felt that it was due largely just to the fact that she could feel that we truly love her and are here for her not because we have some kind of "quota" to fill of lessons taught, but because we know she is a beloved daughter of our Father in Heaven and we want to help her return to Him. And we know that this Gospel is THE ONLY WAY to do that. :)
I was reminded of what Elder Richard G. Scott shared in General Conference about the importance of loving those we wish to help:
"We must be sure to sincerely love those we want to help in righteousness so they can begin to develop confidence in God’s love. For so many in the world, the first challenge in accepting the gospel is to develop faith in a Father in Heaven, who loves them perfectly. It is easier to develop that faith when they have friends or family members who love them in a similar way.
"Giving them confidence in your love can help them develop faith in God’s love. Then through your loving, thoughtful communication, their lives will be blessed by your sharing lessons you have learned, experiences you have had, and principles you have followed to find solutions to your own struggles. Show your sincere interest in their well-being; then share your testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Following that, on Friday, we had another breathtaking teaching experience. We met Sister Edith on Monday. She was a referral from one of our ward members, and we had been unable to contact her on Sunday because our day was so hectic. We ran into the member on Monday who had referred her and he asked if we had visited her yet (involved members are awesome! If you give a referral, it is a great idea to follow up on it. Sometimes we missionaries have a hard time balancing and prioritizing everything on our plates...even though we should. :/ Just a sidenote). We apologized that we hadn't yet been to her, and immediately repented and told him we would go right then (fortunately, we weren't TOO far from her house). It ended up being a huge blessing, because the member and his friend (a newly called ward missionary) were able to come with us. We met Sister Edith and her 5 children (the oldest is 8, the youngest just 3 months) and had a great introductory lesson about the blessings of the Gospel and who our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ really are, and how much they love each of us. The members both bore testimony (the ward missionary is a returned missionary, and the one who referred her is a convert) about how their families have been blessed by knowing the Gospel, both temporally and spiritually. It was a solid first lesson, and we set up another appointment to come back on Thursday.
We ended up not being able to teach on Thursday because (once again) our schedule got thrown off. We stopped by to reschedule with her though and she told us that they had been waiting for us all day (the kids kept asking when we would be coming) and it broke my heart that we weren't able to teach! I felt so guilty and so sad (especially when I remembered it was one of the kids' birthday), but Sister Edith is so sweet, she kept saying it was fine. So we set up to come back on Friday. When we got there, we were happy to see that her husband was home too. I was a little nervous when we first got there, because he went outside right away after she invited us in, but he soon came back when we started the lesson and was actively involved the whole time. We had planned to teach the same kind of foundational lesson about prophets and priesthood that we taught to Sister Anita, but right away, they had a question for us about baptism, and what baptism is like in our church. So we got out the picture of Christ's baptism and explained that there are 3 really important things we learn from the way Christ was baptized that we follow in our church: 1) baptism by immersion--we want to be entirely made clean, not just a little bit 2) baptism by proper priesthood authority--Christ went to John the Baptist, even though he was far away, because John the Baptist was the only one who had the proper authority to baptize and 3) baptism after the age of accountability--Christ was not baptized as an infant; he was baptized as an adult, as one old enough to understand the importance of the decision and one capable (though he didn't need it) of repentance. They were so receptive and excited and we introduced our first lesson (the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ) as a story/explanation of how the correct priesthood authority that Christ taught us we need for baptism has been restored to the earth. We ended up sharing not just about prophets and dispensations and Christ's church, but also about the loss of authority after the death of Christ and the apostles when the people rejected the truth once again. We shared about Joseph Smith being called as a prophet and how he was used as an instrument of Jesus Christ to restore true priesthood authority here on the earth again. We invited them both to pray, and ask Heavenly Father if our message really is true, and if this really is His true church restored on the earth. They said they would. We asked then, if Heavenly Father answers that this is in fact true, if they will follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone who holds the proper priesthood authority of God. They kind of looked at each other for a minute and then said "yeah, why not? I mean if it's true, there's no reason we shouldn't be baptized." It was so beautiful and humbling to witness such pure intent; such a desire to find and accept the truth. We are going back to teach them again on Thursday and I am so excited! I am just in awe of how amazing our Heavenly Father is and how He works so well and so efficiently to prepare His children to hear the message we are blessed to share. This work is so real! And it is so much bigger than any of us realize, I think.

On a somewhat lighter/stranger note, I am realizing just how powerful the gift of tongues is playing in my life. For someone who had THE HARDEST TIME learning languages in school, Tagalog really has become so natural for me (thinking back to my time in the MTC and when I first got here, I don't think I even truly believed that would happen). Last week, we were teaching one of our 19-year-old recent converts about enduring to the end, and I said something about how we need to be masigasig (hard-working/dilligent), and he stopped me a few seconds later to ask "what does masigasig mean?" We and his mother managed to explain it to him (it's not like a super obscure word--I've heard lots of Filipinos use it so I know it's not super "deep Tagalog"--the younger generation here are just a lot better with English than some of the less common Tagalog), but we had some good laughs at the irony of the situation.
I was also asked last week if my mother is from Bicol (a province here), or if I was pure American. For anyone who looks at me, it should be obvious from my stark white skin that there is no Filipino blood in this girl at all. :/ But it was a compliment, and I didn't mind correcting her and admitting my true heritage.
One of my kabahays here is from Utah, Sister Welling. She is adorable, and SUCH A GREAT MISSIONARY (I got to go on splits with her yesterday because Sister Morrell has a really bad ear infection), but she has the hardest time with Tagalog. I feel like it is such a blessing to be here with her though, because I feel like I finally have a chance to help share the blessing that Heavenly Father has given to me. I may not have had the severe breakdown that other missionaries have, but I do remember the frustration of not understanding people and feeling so inadequate. So I am excited to be here and get to try to help her a little bit to gain confidence in herself (because she really knows a lot already, she just doesn't realize it). I feel like it's the least I can do to try to "pay it forward" in gratitude for the help the Lord gave me when I was struggling.

Well, that is all I have time for today. I just want you all to know that I love and miss you and think about you often, and I am so happy here. This work really is the greatest work to be involved in, whether full-time or just as a member-missionary, and this Gospel truly is the most incredible adventure ever. I KNOW that CHRIST LIVES. HE IS OUR SAVIOR and HE KNOWS AND LOVES US so immensely and personally! I hope you all have a fantastic week, and HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

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