Monday, October 27, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - October 26, 2014 (Tinawag ng Diyos)

Happy Pre-Halloween week to you all! :) (Haha I actually remembered this year!) I'm not sure how I feel about Halloween anymore after being here in the Philippines where Day of the Dead is such a widely celebrated and strange event. But anyhow, at least by this weekend there will be lots of sales on Halloween candy! Treat yourself to some chocolate! :) American chocolate is way better than you think!
This week has been an interesting one, and I have been really inspired. Last week, after our Preparation Day, Sister Panugaling and I were a little lost about what to do for our two hours of proselyting. Our schedule has changed so that we come home at 7PM every night, to avoid being out of the apartment at night where danger may come across our path. Our appointment that we had planned in the afternoon got cancelled though, so when 7PM hit and it was time to go teach, we were unsure where in our area we could work that would be safe. We said a prayer for inspiration, then decided just to go walk around a part of our area we hadn't explored much, and see if we could find any random people to talk to. We went to the Plaza ("downtown" Magsaysay) and were surprised to see it was completely abandoned, though at least well-lit. I thought that would be a prime hang-out spot for socializing, but it turns out the night life in Magsaysay is pretty non-existent. So we kept walking.
We walked until the end of the street lights. Along the way, we smiled and greeted people. One man, with a freshly lit cigarette, said "Good evening" as we passed, and the spirit told me, "talk to him!" Still not the best or most courageous when it comes to acting on promptings like that, I just promised myself I would talk to him on the way back. The end of the lights wasn't far, so we turned back when we got there and I told Sister Panugaling as we walked back, "Let's talk to that guy. I really want to OYM him." He happened to have a stand and was selling fried chicken, so we went over and greeted him and asked him if he knew where the road went to (the part beyond the street lights) and explained that we are new to the area so we are trying to figure out where things are. He was super nice and invited us to sit on the little bench in his tent/stand. So we sat, while he cooked some chicken for us (conveniently, we also love to eat). We were able to get to know him and shortly afterward met his wife and oldest son who were running the stand as well. We talked to them for a little while and explained who we are as missionaries and they agreed we could visit them sometime. It was a huge testimony-builder to me that the Lord really does have a plan, even when OUR plan completely falls through. Also, I can see how the Lord really does answer our prayers, since we have been looking for potential priesthood holders to help establish the branch in Magsaysay.
That is another thing I have been realizing this week serving in Magsaysay: how important the Priesthood really is, and how there really is nothing that we can do without Priesthood holders in our lives. Especially us sisters (women). We do not have authority, nor will be able to receive it, to administer the Sacrament, baptize, confer the Gift of the Holy Ghost, or administer any of the necessary saving ordinances.  I thought to myself: what would I do if there was no one to bless and administer the Sacrament? Even just missing one week for General Conference, I missed partaking of the Sacrament. It's like there is a very tangible spiritual lack or hunger that nothing else can mend--not even prayer or scripture reading. My soul yearns for repentance to be made complete and covenants to be renewed through the Sacrament. I can't imagine ever choosing not to go to church and receive that blessing. I just hope every man who holds the Priesthood realizes how important they are in the Lord's plan, and how much other of the Lord's children rely on them to magnify that calling which they hold. We had just 5 priesthood holders from our branch come to church on Sunday. Our branch president presided, his two counselors blessed the Sacrament, and the branch clerk and the elder's quorum president passed it. It was a beautiful and heartbreaking thing for me to witness. Beautiful, because even way out here in the middle of farmland where most families are just struggling to feed their families and get their kids an education (if possible), they are still able to receive the blessings and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Heartbreaking, though, because of the hundreds or thousands of people within the boundaries of Magsaysay branch, only about 60 of them were able to partake of those blessings of the Atonement.
This morning in our district meeting we talked about having the vision to baptize. Elder Gonzaga (a sweet young missionary from Iloilo and a new district leader this transfer) shared a message from Lawrence E. Corbridge about why we baptize. We baptize not to add people to the Church, we don't even baptize just to get people the "pre-reqs" to allow them to enter the Celestial Kingdom. We baptize in order to help people experience what Christ Himself referred to as being "born of water and of the Spirit", receiving a remission of their sins through baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is only possible through proper Priesthood authority, and is the only way that we (or our friends, family, and acquaintances) can receive relief from the feelings of shame, guilt, sorrow, and remorse that comes into our lives from sin. Having faith in Jesus Christ is not enough. Feeling bad, and praying for forgiveness is not enough. Even confessing to another is not enough. For the Atonement to be applied fully in our lives, we must follow the Savior's command and invitation to be baptized by immersion for the remission of sins, by one who holds the authority to act in Christ's name and perform such a sacred ordinance. Furthermore, even baptism is not enough without the blessing of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which leads and guides us in all that we do and is the source of all feelings of peace and joy and happiness and purpose in our lives. It is the single greatest gift available to us in this life.
We talked about how those who choose not to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ don't reject it because they are self-hating and want to be sad and miss out on these blessings. Those who turn down the opportunity to partake of these blessings turn it down because they do not understand what they are missing out on. They don't understand the blessings of the Gospel, the infinitely greater reward that comes from a small sacrifice. They don't understand (according to Elder Corbridge) because we don't teach them. That is why missionary work is important, and that is why we must learn to teach the Gospel the way Christ would/did. It is not a list of DOs and DON'Ts, but rather an invitation to "come unto [Christ]", to "return unto [him], and repent of [our] sins, and be converted, that [He] may heal [us]" (see 3 Nephi 9:13-14). :)

This week has reignited my passion for missionary work and my drive to help everyone be baptized. I am so excited for everyone in this zone and this mission who still has a long time ahead of them in the mission. I feel like a new missionary, in that I am so eager to go out and work hard and apply everything I am learning and realizing, yet I keep being reminded that my time left is very short. It's awful, actually. I still feel like I have so much to do and become as a missionary before I can go home, and I am scared that I might not be able to accomplish it all. I know that negative thinking is not allowed, though :) so I just keep pushing out those thoughts every time they come and remind myself that the planting of seeds is just as important as anything else. Especially when we think about the parable of the sower and what happened to the 4 groups of seeds (the same kind of seed) and what happened to them based on their experience being planted.

So yeah. That is basically it for this week. Only twice this week have I been mistaken for a Filipina, and only once had a man try to convince me that I am actually Fil-Am. Haha it is kind of a comfort to realize there really are people so not racist that my whiteness and blond hair mean nothing to them. ;) Much better than being in the mainland where everywhere you go people shout English phrases at you. #ilovemindoro
I'm out of time for now. I hope you all have a wonderful week! You are in my prayers! Stay safe and have fun and share the Gospel (with words, if necessary). :D
Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

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