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")
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!!!
Sister Emma Franks