Monday, July 28, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - July 27, 2014 (Shout out from the Rock!)

Oh hey!
Guess who made it to Mindoro?! That's right, WE DID!! Haha I didn't say anything on Thursday because I didn't want to jinx us. :P But we got here on Friday morning with really no problem at all. Flying in was super fun (also, sidenote: I forgot how much I LOVE air travel! Being above--and within-- the clouds is one of my favorite feelings ever, and such a great way to put things in perspective), and landing in San Jose was kind of like flying to the Soo--just one runway with a little tiny one-room airport. But the surrounding here is gorgeous. So green! And so many palm trees! I saw the ocean for the first time in years (we are going to be beach later today) and basically just love it. I think I am glad that I was never assigned here, because the mission culture is a lot different, but I am so happy for this experience to be here and to get to work with the sisters all this week (we are here until Friday, which was unexpected, but delightful). 
Life in the real province is definitely different than life in the mainland province (Morong). There is legit nothing here in terms of the kind of civilization we are used to. But they do have a Jollibee! Haha and apparently some kind of Mexican restaurant we are hopefully going to for lunch ("Cantina"). Basically, we are in the "capital" of this half of Mindoro, and it is like the smallest southern town you could imagine. Everyone is just chill and doing their thing and so nice. :) Oh, and we got free fish from some of the sisters' investigators! (#win)

This weekend has been so fun and so full. When we got here on Friday we went to the sisters' apartment, and then straight to zone interviews, followed by zone conference (same day, because we missed interviews last transfer). It was so inspiring! I absolutely love being a missionary, and missionary work. Sister Cutia and I got to give a workshop for interviews that we called "OYM", but instead of "Open Your Mouth" like we are used to here, we talked about "Open Your Mind!" and how we need to open our spiritual eyes and see the work the way the Lord sees it, if we are to accomplish all that He needs us to accomplish. It was a fun workshop, but honestly, I think I got so much more out of preparing for it than we were able to share in the 25 minutes we had. Basta. It was good. :)

We also got to attend their branch FHE ("family home evening") on Friday night, do service on Saturday morning, and attend District Conference on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Conference was SO GOOD!! I don't think I have been that well-fed spiritually in a long time! I forgot my study journal, so I was taking notes in my planner and nearly ran out of room both days (and my writing was tiny). It was a cool experience too, because I was able to receive revelation throughout the conference both for my work here in Quezon City Mission, and what the Lord expects of me when I get home. I know that my work as a missionary will not end when I get back to the states, but actually, the Lord is just preparing me to be the kind of MEMBER that He needs to establish the church in the U.S. as well. The goal here is for Mindoro District to become a stake, and everything they were talking about, I just kept thinking about how to apply that to Traverse City District. Even though I never really lived there, I'm starting to feel more connected to it, and thinking about all the work that needs to be done and how I can help the missionaries when I get back. 

One thing that really stuck out to me in the conference, though, was the huge focus on LOVE. How love is the essence of the Gospel (like Pres. Monson shared last conference) and should be the center of all we do. This morning, I was studying Pres. Monson's talk and pondering a thought that had come up yesterday: Christ says that the Second Commandment (loving our neighbor as ourselves) is "LIKE UNTO" the First (loving God with all our heart, mind, and strength). I was thinking, how are those two related, and how do they connect with who we are personally? One thing that occurred to me earlier is that loving ourselves is instinct--that is the Natural Man within each of us, to look out for ourselves first. It is the purpose of the Gospel to help us put the Lord first, above all, and then to put our fellowman second, next to ourselves. We shouldn't have to force ourselves to love others. Christ teaches that, like loving ourselves, it should be a natural part of who we are. That is the power of the Gospel and the Atonement. Through Christ, we can get to that point, of having true charity for all our brothers and sisters. 
Another quote I loved from conference was shared by a sister who just received her mission call: "God has no phone, but I talk to Him. He has no Facebook, but He is my friend. He has no Twitter, but I follow Him." :) 
Finally, there were several speakers in the conference who made comments about how they served in the "best mission" in the world. Elder Arduro (sp?), the area seventy who was presiding, explained that we can claim our mission as the best mission only if that is the mission in which we have GIVEN OUR BEST. He then said that we should all feel that the mission in which we CURRENTLY LIVE is the best mission in the whole world. To me, that highlighted how we, as members, should be invested in the work that the missionaries are doing in our home wards and branches. After all, we are the heart and soul of the Church, missionaries are just appendages sent to help hasten the Lord's work. We have to remember, too, that WE don't share the Gospel, the LORD shares the Gospel THROUGH us. :)

We got to attend the district meeting here this morning with the other missionaries, and I had another really inspiring revelation. The question that was posed to us was,"why do we work so hard now, when we could just wait until the millennium or baptisms for the dead?" We were put into pairs and had to discuss it, and at first a few missionaries even said, "well, duh!" but then as we had to find an answer, I started to think more deeply. Why is it that it is so important to know the Gospel while we are alive? Why is it not enough just to get the ordinances done at some point before Judgement Day? There are a lot of pieces and a lot of answers to that question, but the one that was most powerful to me is one I found in Alma 34:34, based on what my partner, Elder Tan, said about how the Gospel blesses our lives and we need to have a knowledge of it and live it now. Actually, I don't remember what he even said, but somehow the Spirit used it to remind me of that scripture, which says,"Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis [final judgement], that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that SAME SPIRIT which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that SAME SPIRIT will have power to possess your body in that eternal world." When I read this scripture before, I thought it was saying that whoever would accept the Gospel here on earth will accept it in the Spirit World (the next life, before the final judgement), so in a way, it doesn't really matter WHEN we hear the Gospel. Only today did I really grasp the fullness of what this verse teaches. Yes, it means that good people who want to follow Christ and who will do all they can to live according to their knowledge will not be denied the blessings of exaltation, but that doesn't mean everyone will automatically be saved. The reason they say it is easier to repent in this life than in the next is because, during this life, WE STILL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE OUR NATURE. Through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can literally decide and change WHAT KIND OF SPIRIT possesses our bodies at the time we leave this life. We can literally ensure, through our application of the principles and ordinances of the Gospel, through learning to submit our will to the Lord's and becoming like are Savior Jesus Christ, that the spirit which possesses our bodies in "that eternal world" is one which is worthy of Celestial Glory. Like Amulek taught,"this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God" (Alma 34:32). NOW is the time to work to accomplish that goal! And it is only possible, for us and for everyone, through a knowledge and correct understanding of the Gospel and Atonement of Jesus Christ. That is why we MUST share the Gospel. That is why we must warn our neighbors and rescue the lost and wounded and starving souls of the world. We are the only ones capable of offering true and lasting and complete peace and a fullness of joy in this life--and the next. We are the ones who can fill the hole in the hearts and souls of our brothers and sisters that they may not even realize is there (see PMG pg. 156).

Basically, I am just so excited to be a member of the true and restored Church of Jesus Christ, and to have the chance to invite everyone I meet to experience the same joys and blessings that I receive every single day from it. :) I know without any shadow of doubt that this Gospel is true--it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know it because I have seen how it has changed my life, and continues to change and refine me every single day. Sometimes I am intimidated when I catch a glimpse of the kind of person the Lord wants me to become, and who He is shaping me to be, but I know that as I put my trust in Him and give everything to Him, He will make of me something so much greater than I could ever imagine, and He will lead me on a path that may not be easy, but ultimately will lead to the greatest joys and eternal life that my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are preparing for all those who are obedient, faithful, and diligent. 

Another blessing of being here in Mindoro is getting to spend time with the sisters. Sister Garcia, my anak and one of the best companions ever, is here and I got to work with her yesterday. It is such a blessing to see her again (first time since I left San Isidro in December) and to realize how strong our connection still is and how much we still love and respect and trust each other. I am so happy and grateful to see how much she has grown and what an incredible missionary and leader (even just by example) that she is. I pretty much just feel so spoiled right now. I honestly don't know why Heavenly Father is so good to me, but I am so very grateful for all the blessings and little miracles that He treats me to each day. 

Working with Sister Cutia is still great, and our members in Antipolo are AWESOME! Even through we aren't going to be in our area for over a week because of this trip, they are really working to help out our investigators and less-actives and help them feel loved and welcome. 

Life is good! God is great! There really is nothing like the joy of serving the Lord by serving our fellowman (see Mosiah 2:17). :)
I love you all! I hope you have a great week!!! I miss you, and you are in my prayers! 

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

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