Monday, June 9, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - June 8, 2014 (For unto her of whom much is required, much is given. (baliktad nang konte))

Good morning/noon/evening!

So, I think it's been a while since I mentioned it, but just know I am still amazed at how blessed I am and how lucky I am to be serving here in the Philippines Quezon City mission. :) This week has been so full! I must say, being an STL is completely changing the way I view missionary work. I think there is something about being back in Antipolo, too. It kind of feels like a replay of my first transfer, though of course I know so much more this time around. Though it has only been a few days, I already love the area here, both our investigators and the members. I can see that there really is so much potential here. I love my new companion, too. Sister Rimano is so masipag (diligent/hard-working) and I am already learning so much from her! We are both so excited to work hard and do all we can to help this area. Though of course we are different, she really is the most wonderful companion I could have asked for! We are working the hardest I have ever worked and come home every night purely exhausted, but it is the best feeling in the world. :) I don't think I have ever felt so fulfilled in my whole life. I'm pretty sure this is what being a missionary is all about. :)

One of the families that we are most excited about in our area here is a young couple (Anna and Ruel) with two young children (a 3-year-old and an infant). They had FHE at a members house last week, and we taught them about the Restoration last night with one of the sisters from the member family. It was such a powerful lesson! Brother Ruel had a lot of really good questions, and most of all, we could tell they are truly sincere. Every time I spoke, Brother Ruel would look directly into my eyes and I could see in his that he was truly absorbing every word (this is a rare occurrence--honestly, most of the time it is so hard to get people to even look in your eyes while teaching, let alone get them to maintain eye contact like that). Sister Anna was just as genuinely interested as well--we could see at the end of the lesson that she was near tears. The Spirit was so strong. I felt prompted to share my experience of how I came to know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and as we each bore testimony (us missionaries and the member with us), I could see in their eyes the desire that they have to know for themselves of the truth. Brother's job hasn't given him a day off (he is new) for the past two months, so he has been unable to come to church, and Sister has only come once without him, but he has a day off tomorrow, and we are praying he will be able to arrange to have Sundays off so they can come to church together as a family. Sister Rimano and I are so excited to see their progress!! 

Another family that we are really excited about is one that we just found on Wednesday. We were OYMing a sweet nanay when her neighbor across the street came out and struck up conversation with us. He had a lot of questions about the church. After getting to know him a little more and meeting his 12-year-old son, we asked if we could come back and teach his family. He agreed, and invited us into his house to meet his wife. At first we were just going to say hi (we had another appointment we were supposed to be heading to) but as we started talking to his wife, Sister Jasmine, both Sister Rimano and I felt we should take the time to share with this family. We asked if we could share a short message and they both eagerly agreed. They had seen missionaries pass by their house before, daw, but never got to talk to them aside from just greetings. We started with a general introduction to who we are as missionaries and what our purpose is, and I felt impressed to ask how their relationship is with Heavenly Father. Brother Alex expressed that he is very religious, and believes in God and knows the Bible, but he still doesn't feel like he is "100%" in doing all that he could do. I asked/clarified that he felt like there was something missing in his relationship with the Lord and he said yes. We testified that this Gospel is what he is looking for, that it is the fullness and that it will fill the gap that he is feeling. We also testified that it was not an accident that we had come in contact with each other. I honestly know that is true. We know that God has a plan for each and every one of us. Each one of us knew and accepted the Plan of Salvation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ before we came to this earth, and we were planning on learning it again here in mortality. I truly believe that every person we are led to meet is someone who is being prepared by our Heavenly Father to be given that chance to hear and accept once again what they knew and lived in our pre-mortal life. As for Sister Jasmine, she said that she believes in God, but doesn't really know that much (not like Brother, who was very active in a lot of churches growing up). She has never really read the Bible and they only sometimes go to church. But she really wants to learn more, daw, and is eager to come to church and to be taught. Sister Rimano and I were so excited to see how prepared they both are. We introduced the message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and they committed to read the pamphlet we left and pray about it, and to come to church on Sunday. Unfortunately, they weren't able to come to church (they texted to inform us that Sister wasn't feeling well), but I am so excited to meet with them again and see how they are progressing. 

The members here in Antipolo are really great--especially the leadership! I have only been here one Sunday, so I am still trying to learn everyone's names, but my goal this transfer is to really get to know the ward here (my weakness). I am excited already for how involved the members are in our work, and I know that as we become more united, we will all be more successful and witness miracles in this area.

Fun little tidbit about my mission family life: both my "Mother" and "Father" returned to their first area a year into their mission. Like, the exact same area. I've not entirely followed in their footsteps, since I am in a different ward, just the same stake in the same city. I have discovered though, in the 4 days I have been here, that I am actually working in my Tatay's old area. Back when I was in San Isidro, our ward had Elders, and that is where our district leader and zone leaders were assigned. My current area is the area where my Tatay was born (his first area) and where he came back to when I was born last year. It's been kind of a fun/odd experience to hear about him from the members and recent converts here who knew him. 

We actually met a less-active member who was found by Elder Argyle, taught and baptized by other missionaries, then taught by him again as a recent convert when he was reassigned here. I imagine that was a really strange experience for him. :P She is still struggling to stay active, and has a really hard life now. It was actually heartbreaking to hear her story as we talked to her (we just met her on Saturday) and realize how stable and blessed her life used to be, and how it all fell apart just due to a few poor decisions and bad habits. I just wish that everyone, everywhere had this Gospel and situations like hers could be avoided. It is so amazing to me to witness how the simple counsel we are given by church leaders (like not drinking or not gambling or prioritizing our family relationships) can have such a profound effect on our livelihood and well-being. 

We met another less-active last week, too, that I really hope I never forget. She has been less-active for a while (over a year), because she was offended. She has just recently started coming back to church (two weeks now. Not yesterday, but the two weeks before I got here). We met with her and asked how it was going to church. She said that it was so good, that she learned so much that she had forgotten, and that she really missed church during the time that she has been away. We shared about how the word of God is like a good seed, and when it starts to grow (when we foster our faith through obedience), we feel joy and peace and happiness and we want more (it becomes "delicious" to us). She agreed, and she said that she recognized how weak she had become since she stopped coming to church. She had broken some of her covenants and was no longer temple worthy. She started to cry as she told us how bad she felt that she had neglected to pay Tithing for a whole year, because she hadn't been coming to church, and asked how she could possibly make up for that. We explained that the past isn't what matters to the Lord. What matters is our future, and what we choose to do going forward. As I looked into her eyes and testified very simply that this was the power of the Atonement in her life--that all her guilt, all that she felt she needed to do to make up for her disobedience, all that weight and debt has already been compensated for by our Savior Jesus Christ--I myself even started to tear up. I don't think I have ever witnessed so directly the power of the Atonement, working in the life is a precious daughter of God who needs it so badly. Moments like that leave me in awe. It amazes me how I could have lived my whole life never having experiences like this if I had chosen not to serve this mission. And I would never know what I was missing. There simply aren't words to describe how grateful I am for this opportunity to be serving my Heavenly Father and my Savior. 

Just one last spiritual thought before I close. This was shared in church yesterday. It is the story of two buckets. One bucket was complaining to the other about their role in life. He said, "It's just so sad. It's so cold and dark down there (in the well) and no matter how many times I come up full, I just know I always have to go back down empty. It's awful!" The other bucket responded, "I see it differently. Life is good, my friend. Because no matter how many times I have to go down there empty, I always come back up full!" The speaker who shared the story talked about how attitude and perspective really is everything. Life is hard. But LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL!! We just have to choose which way we want to see it. :) 

Sorry this is so long. On the plus side, this is probably the longest email you will get from me for a while, because we are starting our exchanges with the other sisters this week, and I will have to start reporting to both President and Sister Revillo, so I might not have a lot of time for emails. Also, we have temple day next week, so I won't be emailing until Wednesday. I hope you all have a great week!! Happy early Father's Day!! :) Remember to send your love and gratitude to both our earthly fathers and our Heavenly Father! Love you!!

Love always,
Sister Franks

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