Tuesday, August 26, 2014
I don't know about you, but it is hard for me to believe it has already been six weeks since I wrote to say how excited I was about getting to be companions with Sister Cutia again! And now, in less than 24 hours, I will be having to say goodbye to her again, and Sister Tehei as well. :/ On the bright side, though, Sister Tehei is now going to be an STL in Quirino, with my old companion, Sister Rimano! She is scared still, but she is going to be awesome!! She is a great missionary!!! We also found out last night that among the new STLs is my beloved daughter, Sister Garcia! She is going to be companions with Sister Doucette in Taytay Zone. :D AND, guess who is coming here to Antipolo with me? SISTER FAKA'OSI! Remember way back when (i.e. last year) when we were kabahay for basically my whole life in San Isidro? It's going to be like a reunion, but better, because we get to work together in the best area in the whole PQCM and we both know a lot more what we are doing. I'm pretty excited! I just feel like I am getting more and more blessed every transfer. Of course, I know these next 6 weeks will bring their own challenges, but I also know that the blessings will far outweigh the trials.
This week was really great, honestly! First of all, we only had one day of exchanges, and Tuesday was a holiday so Sister Cutia and I got to go on splits with our ward missionaries. It was such a fun and productive day! And we found two new less active families! One of which is a part-member who wants her two teenage sons to go on missions (we've got our work cut out for us there :P). Thursday was also a holiday, which included a baptism from our kabahay's area, and a birthday dinner at a member's home, where we got to hear one of the most amazing Filipina voices from the birthday girl. (Like, seriously, she was a performer/singer in Korea, but now just chills and sings karaoke at home. Dad, I wish you could hear her, you would have loved it. She's so tiny--like 5 feet tall and maybe 110lbs--but her voice is so powerful and mature. The greatest part was watching her sing with so much passion vocally, but her body was so relaxed--definitely a professional).
The experiences I most want to share come from the weekend, though. It was stake conference weekend, for one thing, which was so fun because I got to see members from San Isidro again! Haha the DelVal and Tarun family all said they thought I had gone home already. :P But Gel said instead of going home I could just come live with them if I want. No worries, though, as tempting as it is, I wouldn't do that to you. :)
After the Saturday session of conference, we had a REALLY rough lesson. Sister Cutia and I both came home spiritless and frustrated and just so worn out emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Knowing it was conference again in the morning, I decided to fast in order to get the spirit back so I could get out of the stake conference what I needed to. I just prayed that I would feel the love for missionary work that I used to feel. The Sunday session of conference was good, but nothing extraordinary to me. At lunch, I was hesitant to even break my fast, feeling I still hadn't gotten an answer/result. But I just went with it anyway, and kept praying. One of the members had come up to me after church and asked if we had be able to visit a certain less-active family. We haven't (I still don't know where they live), and he asked if he could take us there to meet them. So we went out to meet him first before our appointments, but ended up having a schedule too crowded so we asked if we could just stop by our investigators first on the way. He agreed, and we were able to teach Roell and Michelle and invite them to FHE at their fellowshippers house the next day. We were then late for our next appointment, so we apologized and asked if we could see the less-active member family later. He readily agreed and was like "let's go! where is the next appointment?" We were a little confused at first that he was just going to come with us even though he was just supposed to be there for the less-actives. I admit, I was actually kind of hesitant to let him come, since our lessons after were part-members so we didn't technically need an extra member to come. But we just explained the protocol of him having to walk separately from us during travel to the appointments, and it ended up being a huge blessing that he was there! He actually served here in our mission, before it split, and is definitely a great missionary. He is an even better member missionary, though, because he just quietly observes and listens while we teach and waits for us to invite him to share. I was so glad he came, ultimately, because everything he shared was so perfect for our investigators.
The highlight of the week was, of course, meeting with RJ. We had brought a simple object lesson to teach about prayer, scripture study, and the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day holy. It turned into a great discussion of how the Gospel strengthens our families. The moment that really hit Sister Cutia and I the most was when he stopped us in the middle of the lesson and was like, "I just have to say this. Do you remember the first time you came here? You asked me what it was that I expected from you and your teaching." Of course, we did remember that. He had said how he just wanted something to strengthen his marriage and his family (raising his 8 month old daughter). Then he smiled and said, "THIS is what I expected." I was blown away, once again, and just told him, "That is honestly the nicest thing you could ever say to a missionary." We are just here doing what we've been called to do. Our message really isn't ours--it is from our loving Father in Heaven and our Savior, which is why it works--but hearing/seeing someone realize the truth and blessings of the Gospel is basically what we live for! There is nothing at all like it!
We had another great lesson yesterday with a new investigator (she came to church last Sunday, but we weren't able to teach her until Saturday, then Sunday, then yesterday). In the 24 hours between our visits she read the entire Restoration pamphlet (Saturday to Sunday) and Introduction to the Book of Mormon and testimony of Joseph Smith (Sunday to Monday). And she prayed about it! Our lesson yesterday was so great. We just talked more about the Restoration and shared with her about having living prophets and apostles today. I showed her the pictures from the conference issue of the Ensign of all the general authorities, and when I put it in front of her, she just stared at it for like 90 seconds. We sat silently and let her read their names and look at their pictures (probably my coolest experience with the "power of the pause") and afterward as we were talking about how she was feeling about our message (from her reading and her prayers) she said, "I just can't get over that there are living prophets and apostles. I always thought that ended back in the time of the bible when they all died. I didn't know we had a living prophet today." We asked her how she felt, knowing that we do in fact have a living prophet to guide us today, what she would say to him or ask him if he were there in the room with us. She said, "I would ask him what message he has from the Lord. I want to hear his words and all the counsel he has for us." It was honestly one of the coolest experiences, seeing how much and how quickly she is progressing, just by doing the littlest things that we invited her do. Like really, it's not that hard to read 10 pages of a pamphlet, or say a prayer, but because she is sincerely thirsting for the truth, she has gotten so much more from those simple actions than many others who have taken the same steps, faithlessly, and missed all the blessings. I'm so excited for her baptism! (October 18 is the goal we invited her to, but I have a feeling she will be ready much sooner at this rate).
I've got to email President now, but just as a closing, I'll share this link that Gladys shared with us today. It's from our FHE last weekend with the Baluyot family--they asked us to do a special musical number like the elders used to, so we sang a very impromptu "Nearer, My God To Thee." Also, at the end, you can see their dog--the cutest golden retriever ever! :) Just don't mind my awkwardness. I promise I am not usually that awkward. :P
I love you so much!! I hope you have a great week (and Labor Day, since I won't be emailing until Wednesday next week--temple day!). You are in my prayers and thoughts and, of course, my heart always!!
Sister Emma Franks
Monday, August 18, 2014
This week has been truly an incredible learning experience for me. I wish I could share everything that I have been through and all it has taught me, but I suspect this email will only scratch the surface. Which is probably how it should be, honestly, as sacred things should be kept sacred. One thing I will say, though, is that this week taught me a lot about the mantle of leadership, and has given me a newfound respect for every branch president, bishop, stake president, mission president, and most of all the apostles and prophets who lead and guide this church.
Why exactly? Well, let's just say that Sister Cutia and I were given an assignment by President Revillo to meet with some of the sisters in our route and help them with an issue that had come up over the course of the transfer. I was not excited at all, but thankfully, the Lord compensated, as always. I am so glad that Sister Cutia was there too, because she knew how to handle things even though I definitely didn't. It was interesting though, knowing that we were there representing President Revillo, and really trying to listen to the Spirit to figure out what to say, and what he would say if he were the one sitting there. I tasted for the first time in my life what "the mantle" often referred to feels like. Though only for about 24 hours, I could tell a noticeable different in myself during that day. I realized also how beautiful the power of the atonement and process of repentance truly are. I learned even more deeply and profoundly how personal and individual the Gospel is. We met with each of the sisters individually, and I was amazed that even though the issue/the reason we were there was still the same, we ministered to each sister according to her needs. I don't think I have ever felt more like a genuine representative of our Savior Jesus Christ than I did that day, as we taught and testified of the power and role of the Atonement in our lives. I echo once again the anthem of my mission and my life: "I really don't know why Heavenly Father loves me so much. I really don't understand why I am SO blessed!" It's so humbling and awe-inspiring to realize how undeserving I am of all that the Lord sees fit to bless me with.
We had more exchanges this week, too, which was great and fun as always, but of course, meant I was especially excited to get to work in our area again (although I am getting better at putting the sisters first before our own work--probably the hardest part of being an STL for me). We were especially excited for our lesson with brother RJ. We were a little let down when we got a text from him on the way to his house saying that his wife had a migraine and could we just meet "next time" instead. We had brought a Book of Mormon and a copy of the DVD "The Restoration" to give him, so we decided to stop by anyhow just to drop it off. When we got there, he opened the door and apologized, explaining that Sister Leslie was sick. We said we understood and we were just dropping by. Just a few minutes into the conversation, Leslie's face appeared in her bedroom window (right by the door) and asked if we could pray for her. RJ eagerly asked us if we could come in and pray for Leslie. We agreed, and came in, though really we were thinking she needed a Priesthood blessing more than just our prayers. From then, everything just unfolded. We prayed, and then we were going to leave but they insisted that we stay and have cake (for their daughter's 8 month "birthday").
Let me just pause here to say that it was the most delicious cake I have ever had here in the Philippines: red velvet with cream cheese frosting, "straight from Makati" (Manila). It was SO GOOD.
At first I felt awkward, because I knew Leslie wasn't feeling well, and I know how awful migraines are when Mom gets them, so I was thinking we should just hurry up and get out of there so she could rest. But as we were eating, RJ was like "I have something to share! Is that okay?" We agreed, and he brought over his copy of the Restoration pamphlet and started telling us about his experience reading it. He said that he started reading it in the way to work (he commutes about 2 hours in a public-transport-type SUV). At first it was just because he said it would be embarrassing for us to come teach him if he hadn't done the assignment we left two weeks ago. So he read, and started looking for the answers to the questions we had left (just simple questions to help him focus on the main points of the lesson). He said that when he read, he remembered what we had said about praying, and so he tried it. He prayed, telling the Lord how he is looking for the truth and asking to know if what we are sharing it true. He said that the feeling he had was one he could not explain. Like chills, daw, that completely washed over him from head to toe. When he got to the office, he started reading the english pamphlet alongside the tagalog one (to better understand, because neither one is his first language). The more he read, the more he understood and the more he wanted to know. He was disappointed when he realized that the pamphlet is only like 8 pages of actual content. The rest is just pictures. :P
It was so fun to talk to him and hear him explain complex concepts (Christ's ministry, the Great Apostasy, the Restoration of the Gospel and the Priesthood) so simply and so accurately. We were astounded and told him how impressed we were. He humbly said, "no, it's all from the pamphlet!" but believe me, I have read those pamphlets many many times, and I know that the knowledge he gained was from the Holy Ghost, and not just from his reading. We explained to him that what he felt when he prayed and read was the Holy Ghost testifying to him of the truth.
I felt impressed to ask him if he believed, based on his experiences, that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. He immediately said, "that is a really interesting question!" And then, as an explanation, he gave the example of a child who is adopted as a baby and raised by a mother who is not his birth mother. He said that when your birth mother comes back into your life (say, when you are teenager) and tells you that they are your mother, it is a hard thing to deal with. You love the mother that raised you--she has taught you good things, loved you, etc. But you also know deep down that your birth mother is your real mother, and he said, of course you will eventually accept her as your mother. He said that is how he feels about the Church. He was raised as a Catholic. It is hard for him to let go of his Catholic roots, when he doesn't yet even really know much about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But he also said very absolutely that in time, he knows he will come to know and accept the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ as the truth. Sister Cutia and I were blown away by his explanation, and just overall the progress that he has made this week! It was pretty much all we could talk about for the rest of the night.
Experiences like that are the ones that make all the sacrifices of missionary work 100% worth it!! There really is no joy in life greater than helping one of our brothers or sisters to receive the joy of the Gospel, the knowledge of the truth and that spiritual connection with their Father and their Savior.
Also, our mission is really pushing working with the members right now. We've been challenged to visit every member of our ward before the transfer ends. Trying to be courteous, we asked in ward council for the leaders to sign up for a time that would be convenient for us to come share with them. So far, it is going well, but I have come to the conclusion I am going to gain a lot of weight this transfer! Filipinos already have this habit of feeding all their guests, but even more so apparently when they know our whole lives are based on service and they feel like feeding us is "the least they can do." Haha at least all the food is delicious though. :)
There is so much more that I could share, but I have a lot to report to President and Sister Revillo still. I just want to close with a great quote that I heard in church yesterday: "The Gospel takes different roots in those who share it frequently." So let's all do that. :) There are nothing but blessings in store as we do!
I love you all and I hope you are as excited for this week as I am! It's going to be a great one!! :D
Sister Emma Franks
Monday, August 11, 2014
Happy Week 4! :D
There is a lot that has happened this week--I'm not really sure where to start honestly.
This has been a great week for our work with the other sisters. Not as much for our own area, but consequently, I feel like I have grown a lot in terms of my perspective and feelings toward my calling as an STL. I had a hard time last transfer, because I had truly fallen in love with missionary work during my time in Taytay and learning to give my whole heart, mind, and strength to my area and my ward. When I got here to Antipolo, I fell in love with the area right away, and had a hard time adjusting to being away from our area so much on exchanges with the other sisters, especially when we have so many amazing, promising investigators. In trying to cope with it, I kept reminding myself of what both Sister Rimano and Sister Cutia told me: how as an STL, serving our sisters needs to come before our investigators and our area. I realized some more while we were on exchanges in Morong. I was talking with Sister Dickison (my batch going home) about how the longer we are in the mission, the more we see the bigger picture and realize what a tiny role we play in the Lord's plan. Especially in going back to previous areas, I have recognized more than anything that the work still goes on, even without us. We really are just instruments and tools that help get things done. The mission experience is more for us than anything else--because "losing our lives" in the service of others is the only way to truly "find" ourselves and become who we need to be. That is the miracle that I have seen taking place in myself. I can honestly say that I am a different person than I was when I came here. Not just my attitudes and actions have changed, but even my nature and instincts. I have finally become truly converted to this Gospel. In thinking about that, Luke 22:32 came to mind as we were on the way to church yesterday: "But I have prayed for thee," Christ says, "that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren [and sisters]." I thought about the transfer I had right before I was called as STL and how that was the transfer I truly learned to let go of myself and give everything to this work. In a sense, that is when I became converted to missionary work. Now, it is my chance to strengthen my sisters (and brothers) and try to help them have the same experience; to help them learn to love the work without holding anything back. The greatest joy I have ever felt has come from investing everything in the work and witnessing the miracles that happen as a result.
One miracle is that, even though we only had about 2 days in our area last week, we were able to have a baptism! (My first baptism in Antipolo; the first baptism in our area since it got whitewashed). Brother Joeferd (9), is a part-member whose mother is less-active. He has wanted to be baptized for quite a while but we had been struggling with finishing all the requirements for his preparation. Nearly a month after his initial goal date, he was finally able to be baptized on Saturday and confirmed yesterday morning. It was such a sweet experience--mostly just because I know how long he has wanted to be baptized. Even though his family weren't all able to attend (not enough money for them all to come to the church), they were all so excited for him, and it was just a happy day. :)
Our exchanges this week were a lot of fun. I got to work with Sister Tehei (my kabahay) and to go back to Morong(!) and work with Sister Faka'osi and Sister Delasan, and Sister Dickison. Morong was especially fun, because both Sister Cutia and I served there, and she hadn't been back since she left there after our second transfer. We had so much fun with the sisters there (Sister Taufa is there now--she is so sweet/fun too). We even got to have dinner with the Susa's again on Friday night before we left. :)
I was so happy to work with Sister Delasan this transfer. She is from Bacolod, and so cute. She looks like a Latina, actually. So pretty! For a new missionary, she is doing REALLY well! She is already great at following the spirit and trying to listen for the needs of her investigators. I was surprised when she said during evaluations that she struggles with lack of confidence in herself. I shared with her about how Satan tries to bring us down, especially before and after spiritual experiences and invited her to read Moses 1, about Moses' experience fending off Satan. We talked about having faith in the Lord and in the Spirit to direct us and not doubting the authority of our calling. It reminded me a lot of my time with Sister Garcia when I felt so inadequate and unqualified. I remember emailing President about it one week, and being so shocked and humbled the next week when I got on my email and read the first line of his response: "Sister Franks, there is no room for negative thinking in this mission." Haha I have told myself that over and over since then, whenever I am tempted to let Satan bring me down. I know he is working so hard, but I am determined not to let him win!
I also had a great spiritual experience while working with Sister Dickison. We were on the way to one investigator, when we ran into another one who asked where we were going. We told him and he asked when we were going to come visit him. We explained that we could come right then. So we went in, and taught him and his mother who is recovering from a stroke. Our lesson started out about prophets and priesthood, then went into Christ's earthly ministry. In a way I had never experienced before, we started out talking about the Atonement, and then I made a statement that Christ didn't just DIE for us, His whole LIFE was for us, too, to show us a perfect example. The Spirit, at that point, spoke directly to Sister Dickison and she (thankfully) listened and responded, showing the picture of Christ's baptism and explaining Christ's example of being baptized. We shared from 2 Nephi 31 and John 3:5 and had a really good discussion with them about the need for baptism by authority. We invited them to be baptized if they come to know our message is true and they both accepted! It was one of the coolest lessons I have ever had. We were both amazed, talking about it after, how much the Spirit really guided the discussion, because it was not one that either of us had been expecting.
We had Zone Conference last week, too, which was wonderful as always! I am running out of time though so I don't think I will share my insights this time around.
We have another busy week of exchanges this week, but I am looking forward to them, and placing my trust in the Lord that He will care for our investigators and help us do all we can in the days that we are here. I just truly love this work. I am the happiest I have ever been in my whole life. Every day is so fulfilling and I can see myself changing so much. I still have a long way to go and a lot of weaknesses to overcome (I have been working on Repentance this week, something that President talked about at Zone Conference), but I am just so grateful for this chance to serve and to love others more than I ever knew I could.
I love and miss you all so much!! Hope you have a great week!! You are in my prayers always!
Sister Emma Franks
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
I am coming to realize how missionaries feel that say they never want to go home. I feel like I am finally getting to a point of understanding what missionary work is all about and how to be successful and give everything to the Lord, and I only have a short time to accomplish all that I want to. The only comfort I can find is that at least I might be able to help some of the newer sisters to catch the vision I am catching, that they might be able to implement it sooner and accomplish even more. There was an elder who bore his testimony during MLC (he is going home at the end of this transfer) who is one of the elders that I respect the most of everyone I have met. His testimony was pure and powerful, and the biggest thing that struck me was how sincerely he loves this work, and how he really has given his all to it during his time here. He is the one who I could say more than anyone didn't just serve a mission, but BECAME a missionary. As in, he lives and breathes it. His companion was talking about how he can't even walk down the street to an appointment without stopping to OYM someone, because he just loves the people and he knows that this Gospel is what they need.
So the upside of Mindoro is....well, Mindoro! It is beautiful, it is so ready for the Gospel, it is a breath of fresh air (quite literally), just like I shared last week. The downside of Mindoro (or rather, having a lot of exchanges) is that my email time was spent a lot on reporting so I will have to be efficient today (short and sweet and to the point), so I apologize if this isn't as uplifting as it could be.
Firstly, exchanges in Mindoro were amazing! The sisters there are so incredible! Not just Sister Garcia, but Sister Judd, Sister Kahui, and Sister Suminguit as well. I had so much fun with every single one of them and learned so much from their examples! They are all amazing teachers and missionaries. It is so cool to see how Heavenly Father knows us each individually, and He knows all our strengths and weaknesses, and He chooses so carefully who gets paired together as companions and where they get put. Over and over this week, it has been confirmed to me that each sister is where she is for a specific reason, and I feel so blessed that the Lord lets me have little glimpses of why that is.
As for Sister Cutia and I, the same is true. It is an interesting but cool feeling to come home from exchanges and be back with my real companion, because it feels like coming home. Like you get back from a long day at work or something and you get home and feel that peace and safety and security like "this is right. this is where I am supposed to be." And even talking about our exchanges and the things we learned and such, I feel like we just keep becoming even more united and are becoming better missionaries every day.
We had MLC on Friday (we were late because our flight from Mindoro got delayed), which was so amazing. I swear, I get more and more personal revelation from it every time. Before it was all about the content of what was said that uplifted and inspired me, but now I feel like I get so much more from what ISN'T said, or at least not out loud, but rather the Spirit just pointing out little things to me to help with my own personal life or purpose. It's like Heavenly Father is trying to, little by little, take away my training wheels and help me learn to rely more on the Spirit as the true teacher (which we all know it is anyway).
After MLC, we finally managed to get home a little after 9pm. We were so excited to see Sister Tehei and Sister Tipasa again! Haha I missed them for real. But we are back with our real "family" now. :) So happy to be in Antipolo again!
Saturday morning, I was so excited to finally get to work in our area again. We had set some pretty high goals during our planning last week, even though we knew we would only have two days to work. It was perfect, though, because we worked SO HARD both Saturday and yesterday to accomplish them! We didn't quite reach them all, but we did reach a lot of them and I was amazed at all the miracles we witnessed along the way, that I know the Lord blessed us with purely as a result of our faith and hard work.
FOR EXAMPLE: our zone goal is to have 6 new investigators every week, or 6 new people to teach. For the simple reason that the more people you meet, the more people you teach, the more people you can help come to a knowledge of and gain a testimony of the restored gospel. If we just stay with the same 20 or so investigators, we will miss out on all the others that the Lord is preparing each day. We didn't make our goal last week before we left for Mindoro, but I promised the zone leaders that we would be working super hard to accomplish it this week. We weren't quite sure how, considering we were planning to and trying to teach all our investigators who are preparing for baptism as well, but we set the goal in faith and decided we would work toward it. Haha we even shared our goals with our district leader on Saturday morning after the interview for Joeferd (finally being baptized this Saturday!) and he asked how we were doing so far. We confidently explained that we hadn't started yet (i.e. zero), but we were going to accomplish it! When we set goals on Saturday night we still hadn't found any new investigators. A lot of our plans fell through on Saturday and yesterday, especially our finding ones, but we just kept working, teaching everyone we could, and as we walked home last night after our last appointment, we named all the new people we taught and saw that we had exactly 6! It was such a sweet tender mercy from the Lord. :)
Basically, this week has been one in which my trunkiness (if there was any left) died and instead I am battling the part of me that never wants to let go of this life and the work we are doing here. I love this Gospel; I love the people of the Philippines; I love being a missionary and serving my Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that this is the truth, and the one Gospel that provides us with the knowledge we need and the true and living ordinances that will enable us to one day stand before the judgement bar and say that our garments have been washed clean through the Blood of the Lamb. I just want this same joy and peace and purpose for every single one of my brothers and sisters, wherever in the world they may be.
That is all I have time for today, but I just want you to know that I love you and miss you and am praying for you always!! Hope you have a great week!!!
Love always,Sister Emma Franks
P.S. The mexican food in Mindoro is awesome! And the restaurant has free delivery! Yeah...we ordered it 3 times in 4 days....it was so worth it.
P.P.S. Filipino airlines say the darndest things: pretty sure they just take the Tagalog message and translate it into English, leading to the use of words like "disembarkingship" and "disembarkmentship", which I am pretty sure mean the same thing, though I don't think either one is actually a real word. ;)