Monday, October 20, 2014
Sister Franks in the Philippines - October 19, 2014 (Ang galing talaga ng Panginoon)
Given that I am writing this from the province, it should probably be 100% Tagalog, like everything else here. But since I want you to actually get something from my experiences this week, I'll attempt to English you--just don't judge me if my grammar gets a little sloppy. ;)
Our first week in Magsaysay was definitely interesting, to say the least! After doing our shopping and whatever here in San Jose (the "city", if you can call it that). Elder and Sister Barlow drove us out to Magsaysay and we got to see our new home for the first time! Now, let me preface this by saying I have never whitewashed an elders area before, nor visited any elders apartments, so I was not quite prepared for the house when we got there. It actually is a nice house (it used to be the meetinghouse before they got a chapel in Magsaysay)--one story, 3 bedrooms, a fairly big kitchen and "living room" (which is where Sister Panugaling's and my study desks are). And we have a front and back porch area! There are windows everywhere so we hardly ever use lights during the day because it is super bright. The house itself is really not bad at all, and the elders who went before us were super sweet and (with the help of Sister Barlow and a couple of the San Jose sisters) cleaned up as much as they could for us. We still had to clean again before we felt comfortable unpacking or sleeping there, but I quickly realized how blessed we are to be assigned in Magsaysay. Especially because our cleaning was interrupted almost immediately by our district president dropping by to introduce himself and welcome us, followed a little later by 3 of the cutest and funniest Nanays stopping by to meet and chat with us as well. :) I am sure having Sisters instead of Elders is a hard adjustment for them as well, but they are all so nice and welcoming and helpful to us! We are SO LUCKY to be in Magsaysay!!
Tuesday, we got to venture out of the house to meet our new branch president (just two weeks into his new calling) and his first counselor. We were able to figure out a little bit what the boundaries of our area are supposed to be, and basically just digested how much we need to do. We spent the rest of the day with Nanay Baiza (the cutest and coolest old woman ever), visiting less actives in the other sisters area. It was a fun day, though a little scattered teaching in a 4-some with no plans, and cool to get to know the members a little better.
Wednesday, we finally got to work in our area! Our area is what is known as "Boundary" (as in, the boundary between Magsaysay and San Jose), or in other words, hardcore province/farmland. Like legit rice farms. It is BEAUTIFUL!! More on that later though (Friday). Wednesday, we walked to Boundary, using the impressively helpful hand-drawn map that the elders left us, met Nanay Roja, and toured the "neighborhood" there and got to meet some members and teach a solid YM recent convert. And we got a ride home from the branch president! :)
Thursday, we explored our area a little more, tried to find a map of magsaysay to figure out where our area actually is (turns out those don't really exist at all, even on the internet, hence there being no information), taught some investigators (finally!) and then Sister Panugaling got stolen by the Barlows to come to San Jose and be Sister Delasan's temporary companion (Sister Kahui had to go to Manila to get fingerprinted to renew her visa) and I was left in a threesome with Sister Alailima and Sister Panis.
Friday, our personal study was interrupted by Nanay Roja showing up at our house (mind you, she walked about 2 miles just to get to our house from hers) to take us to visit another part of our area we've never been to. After awkwardly consulting with the other sisters, we decided instead of making her sit outside for an hour, we would just go work first and do companion study later. Turns out, we really were not prepared for what the day had in store for us.
Firstly, we walked at least 5+ miles, in the midday heat, without any water or lunch. Our poor little city-accustomed bodies were dying by the time we got home at 3pm. But it was an experience of experiences. Our area out there is SO INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL. Like, I honestly don't even have words to describe it. Sister Alailima and I just kept marveling. If you asked me, all I can say is I couldn't get over the fact that there were sights that beautiful and perfect in existence. I just kept trying to soak it in, wishing I could take a picture of every single sight. Sister Alailima sang "For the beauty of [Mindoro]!" and I thought about how amazingly talented and perfect our Creator truly is to construct such breathtaking beauty that is often overlooked or taken for granted.
Despite sucking ALL my energy (I was so glad not to have to walk anymore by the end because I really didn't think I would make it), and being SUPER sunburnt when we got back, it was so worth it! I'm excited to go back and work there for real with Sister Panugaling. The less-active members there have so much potential. Especially the Priesthood holders, which is what we (Magsaysay) really needs right now.
Saturday, not much to say. I woke up with a fever and just slept most of the morning. We went to our branch activity in the evening, which was a success. Heavenly Father is truly amazing to give me the strength to be able to go and fulfill our part in the activity. I was made very aware how much I rely upon Him for strength though, when just as soon as the activity ended, my fever hit again and I didn't think I would be able to endure it. I went straight to bed when we got home and miraculously was able to sleep.
Sunday, I got my companion back!!!! We had just said our prayer before leaving to go to church when we hear the Barlows pull up and Sister Panugaling was back! :) Elder Barlow gave me a priesthood blessing (even though he didn't have any consecrated oil), and we headed off to church!
Church in Magsaysay was the most unique experience I have ever had. The fact that we lost power partway through the first hour (they have Sunday School first, then auxilaries, then sacrament last), was actually the least strange. The low attendance was also something I had been warned about. The thing that struck me the most was just how uncertain the members seemed to be--even the leaders. As I sat in Relief Society, trying to combat my own pride and "this is how things should be" feelings, I tried to see and listen to these sisters as the Savior would. It was amazing, and my heart was really touched as I realized how each of us has our own trials and struggles, and this branch is doing all it can with what it has. There may not be that many active members, and they may not have any role models to look to really, in terms of what it means to really be firmly rooted in the Gospel, but they have faith and a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, and they are doing their best to live the commandments and serve faithfully in the Church. My love for the members grew even deeper, and I realized how much trust has been placed in us sisters to be assigned here in this branch. As Sister Panugaling and I did our planning yesterday and set goals, that seemed to be the prevalent theme. We just really want to help this branch. It may take a LOT from us--super obedience, super faith, super diligence--but we will do whatever we possibly can to help them.
I've been thinking this week about how blessed I am that this is where the Lord has placed me right now. When we drove out there for the first time last week, Sister Panis, Sister Panugaling and I all said "I feel like I am home!" (we are all from province areas). Every day as we walk around the small town of Magsaysay (picture a small town in the middle of Wyoming, but green with lots of tropical plants, and that is pretty much Magsaysay), I just think about how happy I am, and how small town life is so simple and so appealing to me now. Haha I used to think I wanted to live in a city, but I think not any more. I would be so happy to just live in Magsaysay forever. :) But maybe an American version will have to suffice. At any rate, I think this is the Lord's way of reminding me of my roots and lessening the culture shock of coming home. I can't even explain it, but I just feel like I am seeing insights into His wisdom more and more every day. God is so good!!
Also, Gladys is wonderful and sent me pictures from R.J.'s baptism on Saturday.
I nearly cried when I say them. :) I seriously love this family so so much. First step down, next step: prepare to enter the temple and be sealed as a family for eternity. THE LORD'S PLAN IS SO PERFECT AND BEAUTIFUL!!!!
Other random notes about life in Magsaysay:
1) I have eaten more fish (that I actually enjoyed) and veggies in the last week than my whole mission, I think. They say missionaries get thin on Mindoro, but I am pretty sure that is a lie. Especially not living with two Filipinas who love to cook. :P
2) Whitewashing is definitely a test of your missionary skills. EVERYTHING is suddenly the most important thing: finding, teaching, planning, inviting to baptism, working with members, everything. More than anything I feel like it is a test of faith and our ability to discern revelation from the spirit in all that we do. Definitely a cool experience. :)
3) Sister Panugaling is a great companion! She is so cute and energetic and loves being here in the province. She is diligent and obedient and most of the time a better missionary than me, I think. Just another blessing I can count in my free time.
Wow, this is super long already. I guess I will close this now, since I can't think of anything else to share at the moment. I just have to say how grateful I am for this Gospel and all the blessings that it has brought into my life. I was pondering to myself earlier what exactly are the blessings that the Gospel has brought to my life that nothing else could have and it really made me appreciate what a beautiful blessing it is. We have access to so many gifts and so much power, real Priesthood power, the power of God, and through that, we are guided by continuing revelation. We have scripture both ancient and modern, as well as the gift of the Holy Ghost, to guide us in our daily decisions and give us the confidence necessary to obey and trust in the Lord's commandments and His plan for us. We have the opportunity to gain a personal witness for ourselves of the truthfulness of the Gospel as we live it and pray about it. That personal witness is the source from which we can draw strength to withstand the temptations of the world and hold fast to what we know to be right and true. The peace and happiness that this knowledge brings is unique, priceless, unlimited, and everlasting. We are so, so blessed. :)
I pray you all have a wonderful week, and take a moment to count to yourself the blessings that the Gospel has brought into YOUR life. I love and miss you and pray for you always! Stay safe, and good luck in your adventures this week!
Sister Emma Franks