Monday, September 22, 2014
Sister Franks in the Philippines - September 21, 2014
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!!!
Sister Emma Franks