Monday, August 18, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - August 17, 2014

Hello again!

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 

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

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