Monday, September 29, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - September 28, 2014


This was another super fast week! It was a challenge at first, because the plans that we made didn't work out, but of course, the Lord always provides, and it ended up being one of the most successful weeks of the transfer, at least in terms of reaching our goals. 

Wednesday, we were able to have exchanges with our kabahays. I was blessed to be able to work with Sister Verdeflor (which was especially fun because I was her replacement in Taytay, so we have lots of mutual friends there)! We worked in their area, while Sister Faka'osi and Sister Tipasa worked in our area. I was honestly having a really hard morning that day, not feeling like a missionary, not feeling close to the Spirit, but as usual I just pleaded for help from the Lord and pressed forward in faith and it ended up being a great day! :) It was exactly what I needed. Working with Sister Verdeflor helped me feel the Spirit so easily, and teaching in their area was so fun and inspiring! The greatest blessing was that, even though we had no ward missionaries working with us, we were able to have members present at every lesson, which I know made a big difference. I think I may have gotten more from exchanges than Sister Verdeflor did; she is so kind and sweet and a wonderful missionary. It was a comfort for me to open my eyes and see that I really am just one small part of the big picture and that even though this is THE MOST IMPORTANT WORK in the world, the success of it does not primarily rest on ME (haha who knew humility is actually a stress-reliever? :P). 

As for me, I am doing well. I feel like I am starting my mission over, with all the rollercoaster emotions I experienced while being trained. I guess that is what all the talk about "12 weeks" is about. I really don't feel trunky at all (though I guess I don't know what that feels like to be able to judge). I just feel like I have always felt as a missionary. I am just me, doing missionary work. :) It is a lot easier now, of course, and I can recognize the Spirit working through me and utilizing and amplifying my gifts and talents, but I still feel like myself. Just a new and improved version. :) Little things are starting to get to me though, and as much as I wish I could pause time, I am realizing that it keeps moving forward and my deadline as a full-time missionary is inevitable. They started announcing the Women's Broadcast and General Conference in church yesterday (it is delayed a week for us here, so thank you for no spoilers!), and I got super excited until I remembered that I used to talk about how General Conference would be the month before my release. I am honestly excited for continuing to do missionary work in our home branch, but it is just really intimidating that it is so soon, and every week goes faster and faster. :/ I feel like I still have so much to learn and do before I am ready to attempt all this without a name tag (all the cliches I have heard my whole mission are seeming way more rational to me now). More than anything, I am grateful that, through it all, I feel the calming presence of the Spirit wash over me ever time I start to stress and I am reminded that the Lord is in control. He has a plan, and He is in charge of this work. I am just one small part, and when I am gone (or if I am transferred next week) and don't get to see the harvest of the seeds we are planting and nurturing now, all that really matters is that in the time I was here I gave my all and did my best. :) Another wonderful sister, who has been called and set apart by the same authority I was, will be here to make sure the work keeps going. I just need to exercise my faith and trust in the Lord.

In other exciting news: I got to go to Immigration last week to be fingerprinted, because I guess there was a problem with the visa renewal. No worries though, there are like 50+ of us in the mission that had to go over a period of 3 or 4 days. It's all good now, and I WILL be allowed to leave the country to come home daw. ;) We saw a lot of interesting people at the Immigration place though, and I got to talk to a really cute Filipina who is moving to San Diego to live with her American husband. :) 

I am super short on time now (SORRY THIS WEEK ISN'T VERY IMFORMATIVE), so I just want to leave with one thought, from the chorus of "I am a child of god":
Last night, we were walking to a last appointment and of course there are no street lights so Sister Faka'osi was using the flashlight on our phone to light the path. I was walking in front, and quickly realized that it was actually making things worse because, with the light behind me, my shadow was making it even harder to see where I was walking. Suddenly, the chorus of hymn 301 came into my mind, "lead me, guide me, WALK BESIDE ME, help me find the way." I realized that that is exactly how it is with our mortal journey and our Heavenly Help. We must allow Him to lead us. If we try to go ahead ("run faster than [we have] strength") or do things our own way, His Light won't be there to guide us and we will end up having a harder time of things. But if we just put Him first, we can follow Him and be led safely to where we need to go. :) 

That is all for now. Sorry again for the lack of content. More next week, promise! I love you all and hope you have a great week!! You are in my prayers!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - September 21, 2014

Hello! :)

So it is official. I am officially old. It hit me this morning that I have been out 16 months already. Yesterday, we had a sister in our ward work with us who just returned from her mission and it was like jumping in a freezing lake to realize that she is just one batch ahead of me. But it's all good, because the work here is really picking up, and I am getting back into the swing of missionary life and recognizing the miracles again! :)

Since I last emailed, a lot has happened. Just regular, every day missionary things, but a lot of lessons learned for lil' miss Sister Franks. As you may have heard (not sure if it made the news over there) there was another bagyo here. Mario I think was the name here in the Philippines, but it's probably got a different American name (Yolanda had a different name last November, I noticed). Anyway, just want you all to know that Heavenly Father is still spoiling Sister Faka'osi and I because we have both spent the entirety of the rainy seasons of our missions here in Antipolo, the city of highest elevation in our mission. No floods here! Really, not that much damage at all--just heavy rain and a lot of wind. Fortunately, our area wasn't affected much at all. About half of one part of our area lost power, but that's it. 
Friday morning, we got a call from our District Leader as we were heading home from exchanges with our sisters in the neighboring ward checking on how we were weathering the storm. We really didn't realize how big of a storm it was (or course, no one tells us things until it is super intense) so we went ahead and headed home. Thankfully, we were able to catch a jeep, and made it home safely, though pretty thoroughly soaked. :P Shortly thereafter, we got a text saying we weren't allowed to go work. So we spent the morning and early afternoon doing our weekly planning, cleaned the house a bit, I did some exercising (I've been feeling pretty lazy lately and need to get myself more motivated), and about 5:30 the zone leaders texted and said our zone had gotten approval to go out and work (yeah, we are that special!). 
Our appointment for that night ended up falling through, but the replacement was pretty amazing. We ended up having a member visit/lesson with the Martinez family (the ones I talk about all the time--Gladys is the one who takes all the pictures and Daniel is the one who referred us to their cousins). We just shared about the Atonement, asking them what it means to them individually. Then we watched "the bridgemaster and his son" video (you can find it on YouTube---look it up! Watch it if you haven't seen it, or watch it again if you have, because it will make the rest of this make more sense) and asked how their perspective on the Atonement changed as they watched. 
At that point, it was my turn to share, and I talked about my experience when I first watched it back in our district meeting in Morong. I talked about how impressed I was with the maker of the video, that they incorporated all the different kinds of people, with all different kinds of problems and concerns and weaknesses, and how at the end of the video, the girl on the train looks out the window and sees the father crying and she just has this blank look on her face. I just thought to myself "She doesn't even know. She doesn't even know what he just did for her. What just happened." Though I didn't cry watching the movie (any of the times I've watched it), for some reason I actually got choked up as I was sharing this in our lesson and almost couldn't get through it. That's the first I can remember actually crying in a lesson, and I don't even know why. :P But then we read D&C 18:10-14 and talked about the sacrifice that Christ made for us and how the LEAST we can do is share what we know to others so they can know, so they change, so they can receive the blessing and power of the Atonement in their lives. That is the whole point of Missionary Work!! It is all about the Atonement, and helping others to repent so the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for them will not have been in vain. It turned into a solemn lesson (which we hadn't intended), but I think we were all really touched by it and gained a renewed respect and appreciation for the gift of grace that our Savior is giving us. 

Saturday was another interesting day, but the biggest thing I took away from it was actually not from any specific lessons at all. It was the fact that we were able to get a YSA to work with us who has never worked with missionaries before. She is really shy and even admitted herself in her talk in Sacrament meeting last Sunday that she lacks confidence in herself. On Saturday morning, I felt inspired to ask if she was available to work with us (her mom had told us we should bring her sometime), rather than trying to ask one of our other ward missionaries who would have been available most likely due to the storm/not having school or work. It was a great blessing to have her in our lessons and the things she shared were great and sincere, though simple. As the day went on though, I felt the confirming witness of the Spirit that my prompting to invite her was less for the impact it would have on our investigators as the impact it would have on HER as she experienced for herself that she is capable of more than she thought. Even now, it makes me smile to realize how the Lord uses us as instruments to the blessing of ALL His children, not just the ones outside of activity in the Church. :) 

Yesterday naman, we saw the blessing of having Almira work with us on Saturday--the referral her mom gave us (who she taught with us for the first time yesterday) finally came to Church!! It was a huge and visible blessing of having a member present in our lesson with her. We met her at the member's house originally, but when we started teaching her it was at her house and we didn't have any members with us. Honestly, no matter how the teaching goes, no matter how much or how little the member shares, it is their PRESENCE I believe that makes all the difference in cases like this. Our investigator, Blessie, really just needed to feel like she had a friend. She already had a desire to come to church, she was just shy to go alone. But when we walked in the gate for church yesterday (20 minutes early even), she was already there waiting for us! She stayed with us for a while until the members she knew got there, and then was with them the whole rest of the time. It was beautiful! Like how fellowshipping is supposed to go. :) 

I also experienced yesterday the heartbreak of seeing someone completely closed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It wasn't all that different of an experience I guess--we have definitely had our fair share of rejections in my time here--but for the first time, as I invited him to open his heart and consider the message that we bear and in return received only an assurance that "he already knows everything" about our message, that "he wouldn't understand" because we are foreigners, and "he is fine" with what he has, it actually broke my heart. I just stood there, seeing him as a beloved son of God, feeling how sincerely Christ wants him to know the truth, knowing that this Gospel is the ONLY way for him to receive the fullness of the blessings of the Plan of Salvation, and hearing him adamantly refuse to even listen. I don't even have words to describe what I felt in those moments, other than to say that might have been the first time I felt true charity for a fellow child of God, truly loving him and desiring his salvation, as if it were my own flesh and blood. 

Overall, it is true what people always say: missions are the best and the hardest times of your life. But as one of my fellow missionaries here said (sorry I can't remember who right now), that is how it has to be, because of the principle of "opposition in all things." As Tom Hanks says in A League of Their Own: "Of course it's hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great." :) 

That is all for this week. I just want to close with two spiritual thoughts for you all:
1) A verse I found about having faith and trusting in the Lord's work:
Mosiah 27:13-- "[Insert your name here] arise and stand forth, for why [doubtest] thou the Church of God? For the Lord hath said: this is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people." We just need to be obedient and trust the Lord to accomplish His work--we are merely instruments in His hands, and He can do His work. :)
2) From chapter 18 of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith (our lesson in Relief Society yesterday), found in D&C 98:11--
"And I give unto you a COMMANDMENT, that ye shall forsake ALL evil, and cleave unto ALL good, that ye shall live by EVERY word which proceedeth from out of the mouth of God" (emphasis added). We cannot pick and choose which commandments (or mission rules) to obey, based on what we think are most "important" or "biggest", and expect to be blessed. We must obey EVERY command in faithful obedience if we hope to receive the promised blessings. If we are not fully obedient, the Lord is unable to give us the full blessing. There is no "unimportant" commandment, because the principle of obedience is universal, and the state of our heart is what really matters to the Lord. :) 

LET US ALL PRESS ON IN THE WORK OF THE LORD! :D I love you and miss you all and pray for you always. Hope you have a wonderful week!!! 

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - September 14, 2014 ("Impossible is not a word, it's just a reason for someone not to try")

HELLO!!!! :D

I have to apologize again--I went a little overboard on my email to President so I am a little kulang on time for this email. But I will do my best for you. Hopefully, some of it can cross over. :)

This week was actually a bit of a struggle for me, so naturally, I learned A LOT. The adversary was trying really hard to bring me down. From the start (Monday) we were punted a lot, and couldn't seem to find what the Lord had in mind instead, the way we usually do. Our goals each day were set in faith, but definitely reasonable, yet we didn't reach them even once. In the great teaching method of the Spirit though, I was reminded of the PMG movies (The District, if you remember watching those) when the two elders are doing all that they can to have a baptism and trying so hard to get their investigators to progress and it just isn't happening. I thought about what we teach people all the time--how trials are given to us for a reason, and the sooner we figure out what we are supposed to be learning, the better off we are. So I pretty much just pleaded with the Lord every day to bless me with the Spirit and the desire to work hard, and went out and tried to exercise my faith. It was a hard week. But, as always, there were many highlights. :)
First of all, we got to have exchanges with the sisters in Morong (Sister Faka'osi's and my old area). I got to work with Sister Taufa, which was a huge blessing! She is a sister that I have really looked up to ever since I met her when we were both going to Taytay Zone. She is one of the nicest, most Christlike people I have met, and I was so impressed and grateful to see the progress that the sisters are making in Morong (a part of my heart is still there, as you know). Honestly, I feel like exchanges were just as much for me as the sisters we worked with. I had the chance to teach a recent convert who was baptized just a couple of weeks ago and who just received the priesthood (or was supposed to) yesterday. What made it so special is that he was an investigator that I was able to find and start teaching during my second transfer in Morong, and I witnessed many, many trials come into his life as soon as we started teaching him (you may remember me writing about Brother Lawrence a few times before). Through it all, though, his faith and his desire to find and accept the true Gospel stayed firm. Finally, nearly 6 months later, he is an official member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an Aaronic Priesthood holder! :D It was a beautiful blessing for me to be able to see how the seed I planted was nurtured by other sisters, and harvested by entirely different ones. It was a testimony all over again to me that we are all on the same team, and we all play a specific role in the Lord's grand and eternal plan for the Salvation of His children. :) I was very touched and humbled to be blessed with that experience of getting to see and teach him again and see how much he has progressed since I last saw him. 
I was also really touched by Sister Taufa's comments in our evaluations at the end of the night. She shared with me that she felt very humbled by the day that we had spent together, and that she felt very chastened by her experiences. She said that she felt, for the first time since she was a trainee, that someone else was leading. I felt really bad actually, because I was not aware at all that she was feeling that way and I had not intended that at all, but she assured me that it was exactly what she needed and that I had really been an instrument of the Spirit in helping her. Many of the things she shared really surprised me; I don't even have the words to share though. Mostly, she just talked about how impressed she was with my example of finding, teaching, etc., and the spirit and power in the things I shared. I don't really feel like I did anything special, honestly, but somehow the Spirit was able to teach her, I guess. One thing that she highlighted (which is something that every STL I have worked with has shared) is how impressed she is with my Tagalog. Every time I hear that, I try to attribute it to the fact that I had only had Filipina companions for the first half of my mission, I've been in Rizal (the "province") the whole time, etc., but I was surprised when she cut me off and said, "If there is anything I have learned, it is that the language is ONLY learned by the Spirit." She later pointed out something that I had never realized before: I am actually more comfortable speaking to people in Tagalog than English. Obviously, I am still fluent in my native language, but as far as having a conversation, it flows much more naturally for me in Tagalog. I was honestly amazed at all the things that she saw in me that I have never recognized in myself, and it reminded me of a line in my patriarchal blessing that talks about how my influence on others will radiate "beyond [my] imagination." I feel like I am learning the truth of that prophecy more and more as time goes on. I really don't understand why the Lord has blessed me with so much, but I just hope I can live up to his expectations. 
Another experience I got to have this weekend was with the Decrito family. We haven't been able to see them for a few weeks, because they are busy and have been out of town on Sundays, which is when we go see them. At the end of our last lesson, we discovered that Brother was struggling with his testimony of God as our Heavenly Father (versus Jesus Christ). We tried to explain about the Godhead and committed him to pray to Heavenly Father and ask if He is real. We were a little uncertain, going into the lesson, what we should teach. Especially since we had two members with us (our ward mission leader, and a counselor in the bishopric). But it soon turned out to be given to us, as we asked if they had any questions. At first Brother said no, but then after a few moments he said, "actually, is it okay if I ask something?" He asked why there are 3 kingdoms of Glory, and what happens to people who aren't members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first question is a great one, with a simple answer that our ward mission leader gave perfectly: imagine there are only two options--heaven for people who are righteous, and hell for people who are wicked. What happens to the man or woman who is a good person, but doesn't repent of all their sins? They can't go to heaven, because they are still stained by their sins. They don't fit there. But they don't belong in Hell, either, because they lived a good life. They don't fit there either. Thus, it follows that a 3rd option is necessary--a place for those in the middle, who haven't fully utilized Christ's atonement, but haven't rejected it either. The second question is a lot more complicated, and not one I want to endeavor to answer here because it is very delicate and MUST be taught by the Spirit. We had a good discussion in our lesson, though, explaining that the Celestial Kingdom (or Exaltation, where we get to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and our eternal families) is very specifically for those who have accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ and been cleansed from their sins. We explained that merely having faith, repenting, being baptized, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is not enough. We will still only make it to the Terrestrial Kingdom if we do not endure the end (as I heard once before, "No matter what religion you are, you won't be saved if you don't endure to the end"). But that said, the first 4 steps are vital as well, since we can't automatically skip to step 5 without the preparatory steps. I had to pause, as we taught though, because the Spirit was telling me that the question he was asking and the answer he needed was a different one. His real question was, "do I really need to accept THIS form of the Gospel to be able to live with my family for eternity?" I was really scared, but the impression I was receiving from the Spirit was undeniable, so I very carefully and slowly started to speak. I explained that steps 3, 4, and 5 are all about ordinances. Ordinances (or sacred acts which signify a covenant made with God) which must be performed by proper authority. If ordinances by true authority, traceable to Jesus Christ Himself, were not important, then we would not need to be here on a mission right now. If all we needed was faith in Christ, a desire to follow Him, and to feel guilt when we sin, I could be at home studying, working, starting a family, whatever I wanted. But I am here on a mission because I KNOW that ordinances matter, and authority matters. That is why we teach others the message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ--how true authority has been restored to the earth through a living prophet, and is traceable to Jesus Christ Himself. That is why we invited EVERYONE to pray about our message, so they can know for themselves and decide for themselves if they want to receive those ordinances. I don't think I have ever been so bold in a lesson before, but despite my own nervousness and apprehension, I am glad that I trusted the Spirit and followed His impressions, because I soon discovered that it was exactly what they needed to hear. 

I am out of time, but I just have to testify once again that being a missionary is the greatest! There are so many ups and downs, but all the challenges are just there to help us recognize the blessings and miracles that come as we endure. I love this work. I love everything about being a missionary, and I know without a doubt that this gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is true. :) 
I love you and miss you and pray for you always!! I hope you have a great week!!!

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - September 7, 2014

Hello again! 

I don't know why starting this is always the hardest part. Maybe because I still feel like I just emailed not that long ago (true). Time goes so fast, of course, but don't worry, lots has happened since I last wrote. 

Firstly, we had MLC (Mission Leadership Council) on Friday. It was a little different than usual, but because of STL tsismis ("gossip"), we knew why. Our mission goal for the year of 2014 was to have 100 baptisms a month (compared to the average of 50/month last year). Of course, we care about a lot more than just baptisms (we aren't here to convince people to join the Church or to just add to our numbers) but we know that baptism by proper priesthood authority is a sacred covenant and ordinance necessary for exaltation in the Celestian Kingdom of God, and is one indication of how successful we are in fulfilling our purpose to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive His restored gospel. The mission has been working on a lot of things this year to reach that goal: improving our individual obedience to be worthy of the Spirit, improving our teaching skills, developing and learning to exercise our Faith in Christ, and better understanding the power and authority of our calling as His representatives. During the first half of the year, we had an average of about 75-80 baptisms a month. The month of August was the first that we actually reached (exceeded) our goal--reaching 124 baptisms! 124 precious souls, our brothers and sisters, who have gained a personal testimony of the Savior and the restoration of His gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith, and made the covenant to honor and follow the Savior throughout their mortal and eternal life. :) To celebrate this groundbreaking occurrence, President and Sister Revillo decided to do something different for MLC. In the morning we did all the regular discussion things, the trainings and workshops, then we took a picture (on the mission Facebook probably, if any of you have found that), loaded up in some vans and went out to lunch at a fancy buffet, then to a park/zoo in Pasig to play games and explore. Though I was sad that it didn't feel like MLC (not quite as spiritually filling as I am used to), it was a lot of fun. Especially getting to bond with the other missionaries that I've never had the chance to serve in the same zone with. The best part, though, was bonding with President Revillo (he played all the games with us). It was so fun because he is usually very formal and professional (of course, as our leader), but he has a great personality and with the missionary leaders he readily opened up and showed his fun-loving, fatherly self. :) It struck me how much he really loves and trusts us; like we are his own kids and he just wanted to do something special for us to celebrate the happy occasion. 14 months after our initial meeting, I am finally learning to see President Revillo as a real person, a friend, and not an intimidating power figure. #progress

One thing I kept thinking about during MLC is something that came up in our Stake Conference a few weeks ago regarding Hastening the Work of Salvation (not sure if I shared this already. Sorry if it's a repeat). It occurred to me that "Hastening" doesn't just mean improving our own teaching skills as missionaries or working harder, or longer, or more efficiently, or with more energy. There have been thousands of incredible missionaries before us who have done all of that. We are here to CHANGE THE CULTURE of missionary work. We are here to renovate the whole process. We aren't here just to involve members in missionary work; we are here to make members INTO missionaries (so they can do the work on their own, alongside us). The Assistants kept saying during their workshop in MLC that "there are only two of us in an area...there are only two of us in an area..." Having the help of the members is the only way to change that. I'm still not 100% sure I know HOW to accomplish that, but I hope as I continue to study and apply the guidance from PMG and other mission resources, the Spirit will be able to tutor me in that area. :) I really need to master it to the best of my ability during the short time I have left though, because I will only have one "transfer" (6 weeks) in the branch in the Soo when I get back to apply everything before I leave for college. More and more, I really feel like a major reason I was supposed to come on this mission was so that I personally could learn how to be a missionary, and realize all that I need to do to help the Church grow at home. 

Another thing I was thinking about during my personal study on Saturday morning is the principle of our personal conversion. They say that the best way to know if you understand a concept is to try to teach it clearly to someone else. We used to talk about that a lot when I was a tutor at BYU--we need to understand the topic inside and out to be able to teach it in different ways according to the needs of the students we are helping. I realized that probably, that is a major reason (if not one of the main reasons) why the Lord sends us young people to serve missions. Honestly, we don't really know that much, and salvation is a big deal--it is a big thing to entrust to a group of "kids"--but the Lord sees more than we do and He knows that the way we learn the Gospel here on the mission, especially how we learn to live it (teach others the doctrine, inviting them to live it, promising blessings from obedience, and testifying of the truth of what we teach), helps us understand and internalize it in a way that casually living the Gospel as a member of the Church never would. Of course there are many members who never serve full-time missions who are able to become fully converted to the Gospel, but I believe that even those members are involved in missionary work in some form or another, whether within or outside the Church. There is just something transformative about giving of yourself in the service of others. I don't know what it is, but basically, I am just so grateful that the Lord arranged things in my life to get me to come on a mission. Only here have I come to realize the importance of all that we do. And as Elder Crowther (one of my zone leaders) mentioned in our conversation after MLC, the Lord expects a lot more from us members of the Church than we often realize. He expects us not just to live the commandments. He expects consecration of EVERYTHING, including our time, talents, and TESTIMONIES (i.e. sharing them!). 

The work in our area is still going great. Brother R.J. is still one of my favorite investigators and is rapidly progressing in his testimony and preparation for baptism. It is so fun to teach him every week and see how much he loves what he is learning, and how his understanding is enlightened through the power of the Holy Ghost. :) He truly is one of the Elect of God. I am so excited for his baptism and their eventual sealing next year! He has taught me so much about treasuring the many simple but profound Gospel truths that I have so often taken for granted. Yesterday, he taught us the Plan of Salvation (that is how our lessons usually go with him--we just ask a few questions and he shares what he learned in his study....he is so great!), and said that it blew his mind when he first learned that we didn't just come "from our mothers." We actually lived as spirits before we came to this world. We lived with our Heavenly Father, as His spirit children, alongside our brother and future Savior, Jesus Christ. We were all given agency, or freedom to choose, and were taught how to be righteous. A plan was presented in which we could come to earth, gain a body (to become like our Father), gain experience and be tested. We knew all that we would go through, that we would make mistakes and eventually die, but we also knew that our Father would provide a way--a Savior--for us to be able to overcome both Sin and Death. Every one of us used our agency to choose whether to follow this plan. Those who had Faith in Jesus Christ and chose to follow Him (ALL OF US HERE ON EARTH) were blessed to receive a chance here in mortality. For R.J., this was all new knowledge. He had never been told anything about a life before this life. Seeing things from an eternal perspective, getting a taste of this new and additional knowledge, was like a new favorite dessert. He just couldn't get over how wonderful it was. Hearing his explanation of the Plan of Salvation felt like listening to a kid describe his favorite movie or TV show---so excited about every plot twist, and the genius of it all! It was definitely a very humbling experience for me and a great reminder of how blessed I am to have the knowledge I have.

I am almost out of time so I will just close by saying that I have the greatest companion ever! Sister Faka'osi is so sweet and kind and humble and patient and loving---I woke up on Friday morning (at 4:30am, mind you) to get ready to go to MLC and found breakfast waiting for me on the table. She is just like that though. Always looking for opportunities to serve. She's such a great example, and I am determined to be a great companion in return. :)

That is all for now! I love you all and miss you and pray for you always! Hope you have a great week!! 

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - September 2, 2014 (A thought about hands)

So this week has been an interesting and introspective one for me.

Firstly, I just have to say I am still SO excited for this transfer!! I truly love Sister Faka'osi and am learning so much from her every day. At first I felt a little awkward because she's so quiet and I thought we might not get along or be unified or whatever (because we were kabahay for so long before) but the more I am with her the more I can see that she really is just the nicest and most loving and understanding companion. She is SO HUMBLE. And such a good missionary! She is teaching me how to be an even better Preach My Gospel missionary. And our work has been going SO well. We have found so many new investigators (about 12) since transfer day, and one even has a baptismal goal date already (he was taught by elders previously when in college but never baptized because he moved back here to Antipolo). 

I am excited for all the new missionaries in our district too. We had an AWESOME district meeting yesterday with our new district leader, based partly on Elder Holland's talk "Remember Lot's Wife" (one of my favorites) and partly on just having a positive attitude, the power and authority of our calling as missionaries, and how to really exercise our faith unto miracles. It was really fun. Elder Nelson's question for the day: "What am I going to do this transfer that I didn't do last transfer?" The answer that stuck out for me: I am going to work really hard to build up this area, not because it is MY area (the attitude I usually have) but because eventually it will be someone else's area, and I want them to be able to hit the ground running and keep going with all the progress that is taking place right now. I really am not trunky (I don't think), but I have been realizing/feeling more and more lately how little time I have left to do all I can for these people. I just want to know that, even though I will eventually have to leave, I can say that I have done all I can to equip my successors and help them to get the most out of their time here. 

We had a really good member lesson last Friday with a family that has been feeding the missionaries every week for ages but never really participating in member missionary work. We read from Preach My Gospel about How to Set Goals and talked about why we need goals/vision (1 Nephi 17:18) and they responded REALLY well! They committed themselves to pray as mother and daughter (the husband is a seaman) and set goals for their family. We had another good member lesson on Saturday with a family whose son is on a mission. We had the goal originally to commit them to send him spiritual thoughts from PMG in their weekly emails to him, but discovered that the mother is the only one who regularly emails (he's been out for about six weeks now), so that changed into a commitment just to email him! Even if he doesn't have time to respond (the complaint of one of the sisters). As we testified (as missionaries with a family at home) of the power of families supporting their missionaries, it really hit home for all of us there. The spirit was really strong, and overall, it just hit me once again how important it is to teach people, not lessons, and how important planning is, even for members who we see all the time. Having a lesson that we had planned specifically for their family and their situation was so much more powerful than just sharing a quick scriptural thought about missionary work before rushing home. (Sorry if this isn't the most relevant to all you non-missionaries, but I'm just kind of spouting things that stuck out to me this week, and that was one). 

In other exciting news, there are 3 kids who are cousins/neighbors of one of our really strong member families (the Martinez family). They were referred to us a couple of months ago and we have been teaching the kids, preparing them for baptism. On Friday, we texted our member to see if we could teach at their house and the response we got was "hindi po" ("no")----because the mother of the 3 kids had decided that she wants to be taught as well!! :D So we were able to go to their house for the first time and teach the mother. It was just another miracle to see how the Lord really is working in the lives of so many of His children and that there really is a right time for everyone. :)

You may be wondering by now what my subject line has to do with anything, since none of this seems to relate to it. Let's just return for a moment to the first line of this email....
I have been thinking a lot, as I said, about a lot of things. Mostly thinking back on all the experiences I have had on my mission that have really changed my life and taught me so much about what it means to be a true disciple and follower of Jesus Christ.
Last week, I accidentally stabbed by hand with the safety pin that I've been using to hold my bag together (the shoulder strap is getting a little sketch but I can't bring myself to spend the money on a new one for just two transfers). It happened to pierce, unfortunately, right at the base of my thumb on my right palm. At first it was like "Oh shoot. Bummer." But then as the week went on, I started to notice something I had never noticed before: HOW MUCH I USE MY HANDS FOR EVERYTHING. And how frequently I use alcohol (hand sanitizer). I noticed because it always brought a twinge of pain. As I was attempting to wash my hair yesterday (yes, lathering shampoo hurts too), I thought of what an interesting experiment/learning experience that was for me, and what a cool symbol in terms of our relationship with Christ. They say "we are the body of Christ" diba? We are His HANDS and feet here on earth. To me, that stuck out, because I realized how important we are as His instruments! It is awfully hard to wash your hair with one hand, let alone none. I have a testimony that every single one of us is important to the Lord's work! We missionaries (one "hand" if you will) might be able to survive without the help of the members (the other "hand"), but the result will definitely not be as pretty or as effective as it could have been if the two worked together. We really do need each other and the Lord needs every one of us on His team! 
In the symbol of hands, too, I thought of course about the Atonement of our Savior. How He allowed His perfect, loving hands to be pierced by the nails that held Him to the cross as He gave His life in our behalf. Those same hands that had brought light to the blind man, raised the "sleeping" daughter, wiped the tears of the sinner, and washed the disciples' feet. Those same hands that learned the carpenter's trade, taught the learned in the temple, and brought a faltering Peter to successfully cross the sea. In realizing how central hands are to the things we do each day, it somehow became even more powerful to me that Christ has chosen to retain in His the scars of His eternal sacrifice. I feel like, for Him, His hands were more than a tool for every day life, they are a living witness of His love for us and all mankind. He used them for good during His mortal life, and they are a symbol of His service throughout eternity. 
I feel like there should be a deeper or more powerful conclusion to this somehow, but I don't know what it is. Let's just leave it at the fact that I have been pondering a lot this week, and I invite you to do the same (maybe you can get out of this through the Spirit what I'm not able to put into words). 
All in all, as I stood in the temple this morning and reflected on all the time I have spent there since I came to the mission (essentially every other month, aside from my time in Morong), I realized how much I really have changed in the past 15 months. I still feel like a kid, in terms of the things of the world and having to go home and graduate and get a real job still scares me, but in terms of my spiritual progress, I feel like I've finally kind of "found myself." Ironically (as I should have already known), it really is true that the best way to find yourself, as Christ Himself taught, is to lose yourself in serving others. I believe that no matter what form our service takes, and no matter where we give it (as a missionary or not), what really matters is our attitude toward it, and whether Christ is really the reason and motivation for all that we do. 

I am almost out of time, so I will wrap this up now. I just want you all to know how much I truly do love and miss you, and how happy I am to be here serving the Lord in the Philippines Quezon City Mission as a missionary and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. :) I hope you all have a FANTASTIC week!!! "Good luck" and "have fun" to all those starting a new semester! 

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks