Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - November 10, 2014 ("Don't scare an 'old' missionary. They might die!")

They say that you have to "lock your heart" on your mission, because it is bawal to develop feelings or have romantic relationships while serving as a full-time representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Confession: I tried to lock my heart. But honestly, I have fallen in love over and over again with the people of the Philippines. They are some of the kindest, sweetest, most humble, most loving, most genuine, most hardworking, most faithful, most loyal, most talented, most energetic, most fun-loving, most loveable people in the whole world. For sure the most amazing people that I have met. They say that you love those you serve, and I can testify that is true. I love these people, both the members, non-members, and my fellow missionaries. 

This will be a short email, because 1) we are short on time, since we had a zone activity earlier and got back late to San Jose and 2) I fly home next week, so I can provide even more stories (with lots of unnecessary details, as you may recall if you are familiar with my poor story-telling skills) when I see you in person, or at least have more free time for writing. 

Highlights from this week: the power of Key Indicators (KI). 
As a missionary, there are certain "key indicators," or certain numbers that we report to our leaders every week, such as how many people were baptized, how many lessons of a given type were taught, how many referrals we received or were able to contact, etc. These KIs help measure the progress of those we are teaching and how effective we are as missionaries in fulfulling our purpose to help others come unto Christ. Occasionally, mission leaders will create KIs in addition to those required by church headquarters, to help us create an even more specific focus in our work. Last week, our zone leaders instituted a new KI (an idea of the wonderful Elder Hart, who was here last transfer), which they called RNAF, or "Referrals Not Asked For," since we are encouraged as missionaries to ask EVERYONE whom they know who could benefit from hearing the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For each lesson, therefore, in which we don't give others the chance to suggest friends or family who need to hear the Gospel, we must report one RNAF. As a numbers person (not overly competitive or anything, just conditioned as a missionary to focus on KIs), this helped me tremendously in seeking to overcome my biggest weakness as a missionary (asking referrals). Suddenly, I found myself remembering to ask in every lesson! We started implementing it on Tuesday (we got zero RNAF the whole day!), and were surprised at how willingly one of our investigators invited us to visit her daughter-in-law. The next day, we were able to contact her (Cheryl), had a great lesson, and she accepted the invitation to be baptized if she gets an answer that it is true! She also gave us 2 more referrals!! 
It was amazing to me to see how easy it is to ask people who they know that might want to receive the same blessing they are receiving by having the Gospel of Jesus Christ shared with them. In a way, it is almost easier to get investigators to invite friends than members, because for some reason we as members are so scared that our invitation might not be accepted. To investigators, all they know is that they enjoy what they feel when they are taught, and there is no harm in seeing if their friends or neighbors are interested as well. To them, if their friend or neighbor says no, no big deal. Their loss. :) I feel like that is an attitude I want to develop. All that really matters is that I know how much the Gospel of Jesus Christ has blessed my life. Because of it, I have found peace and joy and direction in my life. I have come to know my Savior Jesus Christ more personally, and understand more about myself as a daughter of God. I am happy because I have been blessed to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The teachings of this Church and the guidance of living prophets and apostles have helped me to make good decisions (though of course I am not perfect either) and saved me from a lot of problems and heartache that I know would have been inevitable if I had lived life only according to my own desires, instinct, and/or knowledge. Because I have been blessed by having this Gospel and knowledge in my life, I want to share it with those that I love (and even those I don't know well yet), so they can experience that joy and peace as well. Of course, I respect their decision and won't be upset if they choose not to accept it (like offering someone a bite of delicious red velvet cheesecake), I will only be sad that they won't have the experience I am having. 
But that is the beauty of our Heavenly Father's plan for us!! We have each been given the opportunity to choose and act for ourselves. "To act...and not to be acted upon" (2 Nephi 2:26). Even the Lord, who knows what is best for us, will not force His will upon us. We get to choose it.
Haha sometimes that principle of agency is really intimidating to me though. As Elder Holland (I think?) once stated, we shouldn't just consider which choices we want. We should consider and choose from the consequences of each choice. 

I also got to go back to the mainland on Friday and Saturday, to be fingerprinted and x-rayed so I can leave the Philippines with a clean slate (approved visa and papers saying I can come home). Consequently, I got to work in Cubao on Saturday (in the city) with Sister Quiban and my old companion, Sister McCarthy. It was a fun day, and I was reminded once again how much fun missionary work is, and how much joy it brings, no matter where you work or are assigned. The Lord is preparing people EVERYWHERE to hear the message of His Gospel. :) 
Speaking of which, I found a cool scripture in my reading last week:
 D&C 35:12 "And there are none that doeth good except those who are ready to receive the fulness of my gospel, which I have sent forth unto this generation." Basically, there are people all over the place who are ready to hear this Gospel, we just need to go find them!! :D 

So let's go find! Invite everyone to partake of this deliciousness. To feel of this peace. To rejoice in this truth. :) We are SO BLESSED. Never, ever forget that. 

That is all for now. Sorry this wasn't a more exciting last email. Let's just say I don't feel like I am done yet. I'll have plenty more to share next week, just give me a few extra days to get it all together. ;) 

I hope you have a great week!! I love and miss you and pray for you!! Don't get too trunky. ;) Finish strong!! 

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sister Franks in the Philippines - November 2, 2014


I have so many things to share this week and so little time!! So I will just jump right in! :) 

Last Tuesday I learned a lesson/was reminded about how thoughtful and sweet our loving Heavenly Father truly is. We were out proselyting in the morning before lunch and the people we had planned to see weren't home. So on the way to another potential investigator, a thought came to me that we could stop on the way and try to see a less active that we had met the week before and then were unable to make our follow-up appointment with her. So we decided to stop by and see if she was home/available. We got there and she was home! She invited us in and we started talking and we found out that it was her birthday!! They have no money so she wasn't able to prepare any food or anything, so she hadn't advertised that it was her birthday. We explained that none of that was important to us; we were just happy to be with her. We also testified that Heavenly Father knows and loves her so much that, even though we didn't know it was her birthday before coming, He did, and He sent us there. It was such a small act of kindness by the Supreme and Almighty God, and I can't help but smile every time I realize how important each one of us are to Him, individually. :) He really is so sweet!

The Sister Training Leaders were here for zone conference last week, so we got to go on exchanges with them on Wednesday. I got to work with Sister Tehei again and it was SO MUCH FUN!! We really just worked, the whole day, but it was so great. I really just love her and we felt the spirit in every lesson we taught. We even got to meet a former investigator, Marilou, who had been given a Book of Mormon by a set of elders who taught them before. They had gotten really busy and were unable to meet with the elders anymore, until such time that the elders transferred or they were dropped as investigators, but she told us that she still reads the Book of Mormon whenever she gets time because it has helped her so much through the trials she had to go through. She also said that she cannot yet say when, but she knows the time will come when she will join the Church. She just has to work some things out first. It really was SO COOL to see how much of an impact those two elders had upon her, through their simple act of teaching and sharing the Book of Mormon, and though they may never know it (she doesn't remember their names now and has no contact with them), they have changed this woman's life and eternity. #smallandsimplethings

Thursday brought a new learning experience. We had planned to go visit a family that lives in one of our farthest areas. We forgot to text first though and make sure they were home (they've always been around when we went), and of course this day there was no answer when we got there. So we started walking the long road back (mind you, we already walked a half mile or more just to get to their house from the highway) to the rest of our area. I had a prompting to go down a road we hadn't been down before, which I thought was the shortcut one of the members had mentioned before. We asked a woman who lives there and she said we could get to our other area that way, so we started down the road. It was still early and the sun was out so I wasn't worried about getting lost--we could always turn back and go the "long way" on the highway if we had to. As we walked though, the houses got fewer and fewer and the people even more scarce. We even had to sit down a few times because Sister Panugaling hadn't yet fully recovered from their several-mile trek the night before. After about an hour, we sat on the edge of a hill and looked around at a beautiful view of rice fields...in every direction...and I started to repent. I didn't know why I had the feeling to go down that road, and what I was supposed to learn. I didn't feel unsafe, but I remembered what we had been counseled the night before by our STLs to be wise and careful about our surroundings. I remembered the promised protection of my patriarchal blessing and opted to exercise my faith (instead of permitting fear) since I hadn't done anything disobedient to get us there. I said a prayer for guidance and mustered all the faith within me and we pressed on. Mercifully, just a few hundred feet beyond, we saw the highway and we found our way. Tired and exhausted, but grateful for deliverance, I reflected on what the Lord had been trying to teach me. I thought about how kind Heavenly Father was to use that opportunity to teach me about being safe, in a time and place where we were never actually in danger. I promised to myself never to allow us to get into a situation like that again. I also thought about Lehi's experience in 1 Nephi 8. I have always asked myself in verse 8 why it took him so long wandering before he thought to pray. Yet I had experienced nearly the same thing, trusting in my own wisdom ("if we just follow the road, we will get there eventually. we are still going in the right direction!") rather than humbling myself and seeking His. It was a very interesting experience, indeed. 
(**don't worry, Mom and Dad, I promise we were never actually in danger. we are protected, but even if not, the people in Magsaysay are all super nice and helpful. There are more than just angels looking out for us :) **)

Another of the cutest experiences of my mission/life took place on Friday, and was a huge blessing in disguise. The rest of our mission (the zones on the mainland) all got to go to the mission office/aurora chapel on Friday for a mission tour/conference with Elder Oaks. We in Mindoro were the only ones who didn't get the chance to hear from or meet him. But it was 100% worth it, because we had some of the most wonderful lessons on Friday instead. We taught an 18 year old girl who is pregnant with her first child, and was taught by the elders before but was never able to be made a focus. We had a great lesson about the Restoration of the Gospel and she accepted the invitation to read the Book of Mormon, pray about it, and be baptized if she comes to know for herself that it is true. That has been the focus of our mission, and especially our companionship, this transfer and this week--teaching about the Restoration and inviting people to find out for themselves and be baptized when they come to know of the truthfulness of our message. We also taught a woman who has been so incredibly prepared. She was never before baptized in any church because, as she said, she has just been searching and never really found anything. She wanted to be taught before, when her "cousin-in-law" (not really a relative, but the great-great-nephew of her husband's grandmother or something...basta some distant relation that she is close friends with), our 14-year-old recent convert, was taught by the elders. She was shy, though, to have the elders teach her, so when we met her last week she was more than receptive to being taught! We talked to her about the apostasy and the Restoration of truth and authority and invited her to be baptized by someone holding true Priesthood authority of God, and she said "of course." Our recent convert, who was there for the lesson (we taught at his house), couldn't contain his excitement. We were all surprised when, upon hearing her response, he clapped and exclaimed, "YAY!!!! :) We actually all started laughing. It was a cute ice breaker, but more than anything, for me, a precious display of the true joy of sharing the Gospel, especially with those we love. For brother Von, having this close friend of his be able to experience the happiness that he experienced when he joined the church was the most exciting thing! I couldn't stop smiling the whole night, I was so filled with joy. Even now, just thinking about it, I can't help but smile. Sharing the Gospel truly is wonderful! 

This week we have actually seen a ton of miracles in our work and our area. Magsaysay really is the most amazing area I have ever worked in, including exchanges. The area truly is SO PREPARED and I can see how the Lord has been working with people and opening and preparing their hearts to hear our message. I am so grateful, also, to the Elders who were in our area before who did so much as well to help our whitewash go so smoothly. The branch is so excited, and we are already seeing the Lord's hand in the work here. Our attendance at church yesterday was nearly double the week before, with both investigators and less-active members in attendance. I can tell that we missionaries are not the only ones excited about helping Magsaysay become a ward when Mindoro becomes a stake. There really is more going on here than I can even express. :) I just feel SO blessed to be a part of it!!

There is even more that I could say and share, but I am not feeling prompted at this time to include it, so I will just move on to my spiritual thought for the week. :) 
The missionary handbook tells us to "bathe daily, if possible" and I have gained a testimony of that counsel because I swear some of the best revelation comes when you are left alone to ponder (and for a missionary, that is pretty much only during shower time). Anyway, I was thinking the other day about how to help our less-active members, and even investigators, understand the importance of coming to church every week, and especially the importance of the Sacrament.
The Lord brought to my mind the story from the Book of Mormon when Christ visits the Nephites (ancient inhabitants of the Americas). He first introduces himself as "Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world" and then testifies of his completed Atonement and unending obedience saying, "I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning." What happens next is my favorite, though:
"And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:
"Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.
"And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.
"And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:
"Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him." (3 Nephi 11:13-17)
Now, I have read this story many, many times. I love it because it is so personal--Christ invited and allowed every single soul (which we later come to know was about 2,500 people) to touch the prints of the nails in his hands and feet, as a testimony and reminder that he was he was crucified and atoned for them INDIVIDUALLY. Never before, until I was struck by revelation the other day, did I connect this sacred experience with OUR sacred experience and opportunity to partake of the sacrament every week. I thought about Christ's invitation to us, to come unto Him, to come to Church and worship Him. I thought about the prints of the nails in His hands and feet, and the sacraments emblems of bread and water, all symbols of the great and infinite sacrifice offered on our behalf. I thought of how each man, woman, and child had the opportunity to experience and worship, one by one, and how the Sacrament is passed to each of us, one by one. I thought of how I would feel if I had been in that crowd that day, how full my heart would be of love and joy and reverence and gratitude and humility and repentance. I then thought: are those the things I feel every Sunday as I partake of the Sacrament? That is my opportunity and privilege, every single week, to feel a close, personal connection with MY Savior, as I ponder on what He has done for ME. I believe that those Nephites were very blessed to have the experience they had, but I believe that I am just as blessed, because every 7 days, I get to have a similar experience, and all I have to do is walk or drive to the nearest Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where Christ's own Priesthood authority resides and is exercised. 
Holy cow. Do we realize how blessed we are? Do we realize how much we have? Millions of people for thousands of years have lived and died without ever having to opportunity to experience the great joys and tender mercies we often take for granted. 
I am so humbled and grateful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am grateful for the knowledge I have of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and for the relationship I have been able to develop with Him through my study of the Book of Mormon and the Bible and application of the teachings within. I am so grateful for true Priesthood authority which has been restored to the earth through a living prophet, and for continuing revelation which leads and guides us still today. I KNOW that we have a loving Heavenly Father who knows us and cares for us each individually. I KNOW that He is preparing the treasures of heaven for all those who will come unto Him and follow Him, and there is NOTHING, not a single thing that is worth giving up those blessings. Endure na lang tayo. Whole-hearted obedience, 100%, is the only way to true happiness. :)

That is all I have time for today. I just want to say again how much I love you all and am so grateful for your love and prayers and support!! Hope you have a great week!!!! :) 

Love always,
Sister Emma Franks