Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year in Ligao

The Ligao Sister Missionaries
How are my favorite people in SLC!? Happy New Year to all! Time goes so quickly; it feels like only a few weeks ago that Meg and I went to the institute party for the 2012 New Years’ celebration. I was thinking about my 2013 resolutions earlier and realized I will be in the Philippines for all of 2013. I have to admit that most of my goals include me learning and speaking and dreaming in Tagalog, Tagalog, Tagalog (and maybe some Bikol in the months to come). Do you have any fun New Years plans?

We had a wonderful Christmas! It was a day that I will never forget. We woke up at 6:30 a.m. as usual. I studied in The Book of Mormon about the Savior for an hour and we had companionship study and then went out to work. I have quite a collection of pass along cards so we picked out all the ones that have a picture of Christ and wrote a Christmas message on the back and our names. We handed them out to our investigators and members as we walked around. I had such a feeling of peace and joy because I knew I was exactly where my Heavenly Father wanted me, doing the work he would want me to do. I loved being able to spend the morning visiting and talking about the Savior – it was the true meaning of Christmas for me. That afternoon we went to our Branch Christmas party which was complete with games, bigger pans of rice than I have ever seen or probably ever will see again, karaoke and of course Opo Gangnam style dance contests by all the branch members; Sister Dumo and I were the judges. We had a curfew of 6pm and so we finished the night with an FHE with the sisters in the neighboring apartment. It was a Christmas to remember!
Ligao Branch President
Well we had a taste of Utah here when a Bagio (or typhoon) hit on Wednesday and it was freezing. We walked out of our apartment and were soaked within a few short seconds. The skies were dark black, the rain was horizontal, and the wind took us prisoner; two young sister missionaries in squeaking rubber shoes. We were the only people to be seen braving the flooded streets. My umbrella broke last week and we haven’t had time to buy a new one and so I was quite the sight as I fought off the storm with half my umbrella flapping in the wind. We walked around to different member’s homes to make sure they had not been flooded.

Quite often we have people come up to us with dirt smudges on their cheeks, tattered clothing, asking for money. We are not allowed to give them money but if we have food on us or are near a store we will try to give them food. I will admit there are times that I am tempted to ignore them and just keep walking. But each time this happens I have noticed they have a similar look in their eyes, almost like they know they have are desperate for food. They realize they are dependent on us. I was reading in Mosiah last week and read through King Benjamin’s address. King Benjamin expresses many wonderful thoughts but one of the most striking passages to me is when he says, “Are we not all beggars?” I was thinking of these individuals who beg for us to assist them with physical means and I thought we truly all will have that same look in our eyes one day as we stand before our Father. We will know and realize that we are begging and depending on him. I feel grateful to know that if I do my best here on earth that one day, although I will feel lowly and unimportant before The Great Creator, He will give me all that I need. He will not turn me away.
A 30 something man that has gone through quite the process to be baptized will be baptized this week!! After many, many, many, months he finally is going to take this step and we are soo excited!  His wife was first contacted about 2 years ago and initially she was the investigator. Slowly it switched to him being the investigator and she grew disinterested. Hopefully that will change with time. She came to church on Sunday! We are pleading with the branch to reach out to him. We extended a baptismal goal date to him in my first month in Ligao and he has had to come to church every week since then. On Sunday we had 136 people in sacrament meeting which was BEYOND amazing!!! I was smiling the whole day!

My Friends - The Dattoon Family
 I have been in Ligao long enough that it is going to be hard to say good-bye to my friends here when I leave. I have grown close to a lot of the families including the Dattoon's in this picture. Also, a favorite woman in the branch is moving to be with her hubby in Manila and we are going to say goodbye to her on Tuesday - I am not looking forward to that.

In 2013 I hope to become more like my Savior, Jesus Christ. I hope that I can help someone come to know that their Father loves them. I love this work – the ups and the downs are the stitches that make up a mission. I hope you all have a wonderful New Years. I can’t wait to see what miracles this year has to hold.

All my prayers

Love from the Pines,

Sister Meish

p.s. Kristin sent me a very cute Cardi.  She is such a sweet heart.  Say hi to everyone!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!!


Hello every Who down in Whoville, the small and the Tall (I am the tall and every Filipino here is the small). Merry Christmas family! It was so wonderful being able to talk to you earlier today and see your faces. I loved it and wish I could do it again but that will hold me over until May!!! Thank goodness for technology and being able to actually see each other so many miles away. That was a pretty great Christmas present. I miss you dearly but am grateful for this opportunity to be a missionary. 

We had our Christmas Conference this last week and it was wonderful. It is easy to create a memory when you combine excessive amounts of missionaries, food, games and a Christmas movie about Oranges. President and Sister Bliesner and the AP’s spoke to us in the morning and we sang hymns and Christmas primary songs. In the afternoon we ate a masarap (delicious) lunch and then watched a movie called Christmas Oranges, played games and took just under 12 million pictures. A memorable and festive Christmas on the mission is so great. I spent the day walking around in a Santa hat… I think I embarrassed Sister Dumo but hey… old habits die hard.

This is a picture of the A.P.'s. One of the AP's is always American and one is Filipino.... the Pinoy’s usually don’t know how to drive so one of the APs has to know how to drive.

A few weeks ago I wrote about a woman who sold her ring for money so that their family could have food. Each week we write an email to President talking about our week and I shared this same story with him. At Christmas Conference he came up to me and gave me a significant amount of money and explained that he and Sister Bliesner wanted to give Christmas to that family. I was so over come with gratitude. On Saturday Sister Dumo and I went to the one grocery story in Ligao and loaded our baskets with fruit, bread, noodles, cakes, chocolates and candies for the kids. We then crossed the street to the small odds and ends store and bought play dough, flashlight key chains, crayons, pencils and notebooks. As we packaged the food and small gifts my heart was full of happiness and joy. We went with the couple missionaries to deliver the goodies and the faces on the kids as they opened everything reminded me of the joy in giving. I am grateful for the chance we had to be the elves that delivered Christmas to this deserving family. There is a Mormon message that ends by saying: What will you give for Christmas? What will you give for Christ? I have been thinking of what gifts can I give to my Savior… This should be something I spend as much time on as choosing presents for family and friends.

I have discovered that here in the Philippines when you go caroling it is for the purpose of receiving money. We frequently have clusters of children chanting Christmas songs at us as they clang their homemade instruments together.

Elder Holland said about his mission: “I found myself understanding Christmas rather than just enjoying it. I think for the first time in any truly significant way, I was getting the message of Christ’s birth and life – His message and his mission and his sacrifice for others.”

This is how I feel about my mission. I am grateful for this small time I have to give a little back to the Lord for all he has given to me. I know that this church is true. I love the gospel and I love my Savior. I cannot fully comprehend the magnitude of the Savior’s perfection and his humility, but how very grateful I am to Him. I know that as the Prophets have said, Christ’s work and glory did not begin in Bethlehem nor did it end on Calvary. I know that Jesus is the Christ and this work is so important. I am grateful to wear His name on my badge each day. One of my favorite hymns says the following words that touch my heart:

“Savior redeemer of my soul, whose mighty hand hath made me whole, whose wondrous pow’r hath raised me up and filled with sweet my bitter cup. What tongue my gratitude can tell, O gracious God of Israel.

Never can I repay thee, Lord, but I can love thee. Thy pure word, hath it not been my one delight, my joy by day, my dream by night? Then let my lips proclaim it still, and all my life reflect thy will.”

I love you all and am grateful for you each day! Give my grandparents a hug for me.

Love from the Pines,

Sister Meish

Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Reindeer Socks

Kumustamos! Well it has been a winter wonderland here in Ligao. Okay that is absolutely not true - but it has been really cold (probably a chilly 70 degrees). I had to wear a jacket on three different days - which is unusual. It was a nice break from the heat and did help put me into the Christmas spirit. One night was especially rainy and I wore my new reindeer socks to bed; partly because it was chilly but mostly because I was in a Christmas mood. We have Christmas Conference this coming week and I am really excited. The conferences are split into the north part of the mission and the south part of the mission. I am in the South and we have conference on Thursday. It will be fun to have a day of Christmas activities. Christmas on the mission is so different in a wonderful way. We get to focus totally on the Savior and other people. I can’t think of a better way to feel the ‘spirit of the season.’

There is a new face in Ligao; my third companion, Sister Dumo. She is a spunky Filipino from a part of the Pines that is north of us. She is helping with Tagalog a lot and I have forced her into the game of quizzing me on vocabulary words as we walk for miles. I feel a tinge bad for my comps because I double check everything I say with them so it is a constant classroom. They are patient with me though. I do miss Sister Dabon but am grateful we were able to be companions.

There is a line in the movie War Horse, “there are big days and there are small days. Today is a big day.” On the mission things are measured more in moments than they are in days. Within one single day you have big moments and then small moments. There are difficult moments and wonderful moments all wrapped into one 24 hour time capsule.

We have been working with a young boy named Patrick for 2 months. His mother is a member but is very inactive. She has only been to church one time in my 4 ½ months here in Ligao. The one time she came was because we went and picked her up. She wanted her son to be baptized though and has a strong testimony and as a family they read scriptures and pray daily. She doesn’t come to church because it is expensive and she has many small children. I understand that but church attendance is so vital. It is a commandment and I have realized how little the Lord asks of us in return for all the blessings he gives us. We need to be willing to give God a little bit of our time and serve him and devote 3 short hours to worship. Aside from all that, before we are allowed to baptize children they have to have a parent or guardian active at church. This requirement has been implemented in an attempt to solve the inactivity problem here in the Pines. So last week we talked to Patrick’s mother and explained the importance of church attendance. She is always receptive of our message and agrees to commitments but has a harder time following through with them. When we got to church Patrick and his mother and his tiny siblings were the first ones in the chapel sitting quietly on a wooden bench. It was a big moment.
We are working with a family that is investigating the church right now. They were a referral from a less active member. It has been fun to see the less active member so excited about missionary work and of course having an entire family investigate the church is more exciting than free food to a missionary. The Marcos family is humble and kind. They live in a small bamboo home with dirt floors. The dad drives a padyak, which is a bicycle with a cart to carry people. And the mother is a cook 7 days a week at a small cantina. In our last lesson we talked to them about the family being central to the gospel. At the end of the lesson we gave them a picture of the Manila temple and a picture of the Salt Lake temple. When the father saw the picture his eyes lit up. He kept saying over and over, “how beautiful.” As I sat on a small bench in this dirt floor home I felt so grateful for the opportunity to bear my witness of the holiness of the sealing power available in the temple. I know that the temple is the House of the Lord. If we try our best each day to follow the perfect path of Jesus Christ we not only are happy but we are blessed. I know with all of my heart that this church is true. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that He lives. I know that because of his matchless life. As a result we can be together with those we love forever. This life is not the end. The children that go to bed hungry, the families that are left homeless after typhoons, the single mothers who walk the miles to church with their children, all will find the rest of the lord one day because of the atoning sacrifice of our loving Redeemer. Having this family get some recognition of the beauty this idea was a big moment.

Elder Nielson of the Philippines area presidency said, “It is interesting that the pioneers who sacrificed so much to establish the church expressed that they “became acquainted with God in their extremities.” When we observe suffering; when we experience heartache; when we feel sorrow for pain we may have caused; we begin to understand the priceless gift the Father gave when he offered up His Only Begotten Son. As I have had the chance to love the people in the Philippines, I have gained a testimony of the blessings available after the trial of our faith. In Mosiah it says “the will of the son was swallowed up in the will of the father.” As we allow our will to be swallowed up by the will of the Father the blessings of the temple become ours. When we face trials, if we lean on the Father and the Son they become real to us. This is a gift of my mission. I have come to know my Savior and my Father – I know they live and listen. I am grateful for this Christmas season to focus on giving a little more of my self to the work of the lord.

Speen you are the best for making a video of the Thanksgiving Cali trip!!!! I loved, loved, loved, loved it! Thank you!!!! Dad, I can’t believe you ate a doughnut hole just for me. You must really love me haha.

Thank you for all your love and support! I miss you but am so happy to have the chance to wear the name of my Savior each and every day!

Merry (week before) Christmas! I can’t wait to Skype you and see your faces in one week!

Love from the Pines,

Sister Meish

P.S. Steve Boss sent me the kindest letter! Will you please tell him thank you so much. That was so sweet of him! I am always so amazed by the support people give. I am very lucky and the support means the world to me and keeps me going on the difficult weeks.



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Magic in the Moments

The great fam bamily.

Hello po! Another transfer has come and gone in the blink of an eye. My 6 month mark has also come and gone as time rapidly plows forward. That is exciting news about Eliza going to Boston. Yeaaa for sister missionaries! I know you were concerned about the typhoon. We were not hit by the typhoon; just rain and that is normal for us. It actually is soo so hot and it doesn’t feel like a winter wonderland here; quite the opposite.

Sister D. went home this morning. It was rough to say good-by to her. I know she is so excited to see her fam, so I am happy for her but I can feel the void already. This time with her was wonderful. I was able to learn a lot and Sister Dabon was so darling. It is hard to say good bye to people when you don’t know when you will see them again. I suppose you have to hold onto the memories you were able to create and the time you had. One of the best parts of a mission is the chance to meet people that I would never meet otherwise and intertwine the threads of our lives. Without being called to serve in Naga I would not have met the 5 foot 1 Cebuana from Negros that has been my 5th appendage for the past 6 weeks.

I keep remembering our inside jokes and then realize she is not with me. She was so cute this morning and got up early and left little sticky notes everywhere with our inside jokes. I feel so so grateful we had such a great companionship even though it was short.

Sister Dabon's transfer Home - so they say "I Killed Her"
I have two temporary companions for the next 24 hours and one is from New Zealand. We were in the MTC together so that has been way fun to see her and the other one is pinoy. They will stay at my apartment tonight because both of their comps went home too and transfers are tomorrow morning. So I will find out who my new appendage is in the morning. Transfers are always scary because you don’t know who your new comp will be.

President is opening the islands for sisters in March because there are going to be so many new missionaries coming in and they will also double up missionaries in some of the bigger areas. So there will be 2 sets of sisters in the branch I am in right now.

I am glad to be in Ligao for Christmas. I am not sure yet what they day will bring; probably spaghetti, sticky rice and fried chicken... these seem to be the celebration foods. The first of those actually tastes good haha.

I participated in my first Filipino funeral this past week. Since my first week here we have consistently visited Sister Michele Flor, a 33 year old girl who has fought diabetes for the past 10 years. Her family doesn’t have enough money to pay for the medication that she needs. For the past four months our visits have consisted of sitting with her, talking with her about the pain she is feeling and trying to share an inspiring scripture to lift her spirits. She mostly spoke in Bikol, I would smile and listen, even though I didn’t know the words she was saying. Her body had become swollen with infection to the point that walking was no longer possible. Two weeks ago she had her 33rdbirthday and invited us to spend lunch with her. She is on a very limited diet due to her illness so she could only eat some of the food but I know she was happy to have lived until her birthday and to feel special and loved. We asked her what her birthday wish was and she said to get better so she could go to church. We bought her a journal and told her to write one good thing that happened each day.

Last week we were focusing on investigators and didn’t have time to go see her. Before she passed away she scribbled in her journal: “Tell the sisters thank you.” The pangs of regret stung my heart and I wished we would have made time to see Sister Michelle last week. I realize that we cannot do it all and sacrifices have to be made. We could not have known that last week would be her last, but I still wish we could have been with her. I am grateful that we made time to see her once a week over several months. Those hours came to mean a lot for me and hopefully for her in the end. It is easy to get busy focusing or worrying on one specific thing and miss the beauty of the whole picture. It was a blessing to slow down and be grateful for the plan God has given to us. We are so lucky to understand that this life is not the end. I know my dear friend Michele is happy now and is free from the body that brought difficulty to her life here on earth.

Filipino funerals are very different than American funerals…. For starters it involves a lot of karaoke. I am not sure if this is a characteristic only in Bikol, but I was dying. Also, Filipinos do not hold back when it comes to their karaoke; they go all out. This is like singing the national anthem at the World Series; belt it out with all their hearts karaoke. It was kind of neat that the funeral had a feeling of happiness because in fact we were celebrating her life. So it was appropriate that it was a party.

In the Book of Mormon the first steps of King Lamoni’s conversion was his ability to believe in Christ. The word ‘believe’ is one of the symbolic meanings tied to Christmas. This magic feeling of believing is woven through our work every single day. The true magic of Christmas is the belief in Christ. I believe that it matters for people to know about the gospel because it is true but also because it will bless their life.

Ron and Yog love their Candy Rings
There is a woman in our branch who is the mother of 5 small children. To say they are ‘very poor’,or ‘super duper poor’ or ‘extremely poor’ is too abstract for the way this translates into life everyday. They are not strangers to nights where the go to bed with hungry tummies. Poverty is not something I can say I fully understand. I don’t know the feelings of listening to the hungry pleas of my 5 year old. I am not a mother but I can imagine the words “please mommy can we have some food,” are quite heart breaking when there, once again, is no food in the cupboards. This woman has told me story after story of the hardship they have faced, not because she was looking for sympathy, not because she wants me to know that they are poor, but because each story ends with a beautiful witness of the grace and mercy of God. She sold a ring to buy 100 pesos ($1.50) of rice. She rides her bike the miles to church each week, rotating which child is her companion, because going to church is a commandment. She prays with a sure knowledge that there is someone listening to her. I don’t know the details of the physical and emotional challenges that face my sweet friend on a day to day basis but I do know that the gospel and her knowledge about Jesus Christ makes a difference in her daily battle. The gospel matters because our ability to believe in Jesus Christ brings magic and miracles into our lives every day of the year.

Fun fact of the Pines: 1. We don’t knock on doors when we want to go into people’s homes but we stand outside and yell “tao po!” until someone comes to let us in. Tao po is translated into “person!” I do this everyday and I still think it is funny. 2. One of our members - Mani Packiao had a fight yesterday. Our church attendance was the lowest it has been since I arrived in the Philippines. Pakiao lost. Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven…. Enough said.

We were lucky and the super typhoon decided to direct its path around Bikol and not through it. We have been hearing about the destruction from members though and I just pray for those people. Thank you for your prayers and concern.

The rice fields are all being flooded in preparation to replant. It is a new season and time for a new crop of rice – new growth. I get a new companion tomorrow. It is time for a new season in my life as well; new growth and new experiences. I am grateful for my Savior. I am grateful to bear testimony each day that He lives, he loves us and he is the light in a sometimes dark world.

Padaba ko ika,

Love from the pines, sister meish

p.s. I want everyone to think of a question they want to ask when we skype and write it down... Also what I really want for Christmas is for everyone to send me their favorite scripture and why it is meaningful and then to tell me their favorite family memory. Thanks!! xoxo

p.s.s. Speen – I hear you lost 20 lbs with your tonsils. Skinny guy! Is that normal for tonsil recovery?

Mom, I received your Christmas package! You are so cute. I gave the other stocking to Sister Dabon because you know me I can’t wait to open presents so I opened the package as soon as we got home on Friday haha. You guys are so sweet!!! The rubber shoe key chain may be the cutest thing I have every seen.

Playing with my Christmas Toys

Monday, December 3, 2012

Eight New Investigators & a Typhoon

Sorrrrryyyy – I don’t have much time to write this week because we had a District hiking adventure up in the mountains and our tour guides got lost and what was supposed to be a 2 hour activity turned into an 8 hour activity. We normally only have three hours on p-day to use the computers and the time goes fast because we email and then also send our weekly report to president and print pictures.
The hike was really beautiful but really, really hot, long and steep so we enjoyed it for the most part - as we looked back on the experience haha. It is so very lush here. There is the relatively small city and then the rest of my area is jungle town. It is beautiful though. Every sunset I feel the love of God for us because the earth is such a beautiful place! How are you guys doing? Is it snowy and cold there? It doesn’t even feel like Christmas really here because it is sooo so hot.


Life is so great right now!!! I am loving life but I am sad because this is the last week of the transfer and Sister Dabon goes home a week from today. I am excited for her but I am sad we won’t be comps anymore. I have loved being her companion! Also it is always kind of scary wondering who your next comp will be.  I know I will stay in touch with her - we will email but she doesn’t have internet at her house and she has to travel pretty far to get on email. But, hopefully we will be able to stay in touch throughout life. I told her I want to come visit her because she lives by the Cebu temple and of course she wants to come visit too.... It is hard for them to think of actually coming over because it is so expensive!

I got this email from president today..... here we go. I am praying it doesn’t hit us too bad. The members are calling this a super typhoon which is really bad for the pines. They are used to typhoons, so when there are nervous it is bad news. I am not worried about us because our apartment is nice but I am worried about all the people that live in tiny bamboo houses that don’t stand a chance.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ronald D. Bliesner <>
Date: Sun, Dec 2, 2012 at 3:19 PM
Subject: Typhoon and other items

There is a large typhoon forecast to make landfall in the Philippines on Tuesday (see forecast track below). It is forecast to go south of us, but it may change direction. Even if it goes south the large diameter of outer rainbands will probably affect our weather and storm signals will probably be raised, especially for Masbate and Sorsogon. It is passing very close to Masbate. Winds in most of the mission can exceed 55 kph and in areas in the south it could exceed 100 kph. Heavy rains are expected in most areas of our mission.
Please review your emergency plans, make sure you have a 72 hour kit stocked and you have a supply of drinking water in your apartment. If storm signals are raised in your area you need to take extra precautions. Stay away from coastal areas as there is a very large storm surge with this storm. With Signal 2 or above you need to be in your apartment unless an evacuation order is given and then you will gather to the evacuation center. We will keep you updated by text of any storm signal.

Remember, Be Wise so you will be safe.

We do have a 72 hour kit stocked of nice canned food, aka spam type stuff. We are going to go buy actual food later this evening just in case the stores close down we will be okay. We also have a second 72 hour kit of fiber one bars that Kristin sent. What a sweet heart.


The last week was so great! We found EIGHT new investigators!! We have been trying to be brave and open our mouth and talk to people everywhere we go and it paid off this week. Also the ward gave some great referrals! So great! Hopefully they will continue to progress! Two of them are the parents of 4 kids - our hopes are high.
One of the families that I am closest to is the branch president and his sister is in the RS Presidency and her husband is in the district presidency. They are amazing. We are really close and their Sister married an American from her mission and they are from Alaska. We went there for dinner last night and I had salad!!! I haven’t had salad since the MTC. It tasted so yummy! Apparently the hubby is picky so they brought a ton of food from America and they go into the bigger cities here to buy groceries. So all-in-all a great week.

The ZL\s texted me and said they have a giant box they are bringing back for me from Naga... i.e., your Christmas box. They said they are charging me shipping rates because it was so big. I told them I would pay them with what ever was inside. Thanks in advance for the goodies you shipped across the world.

I am glad Eddy the elf is visiting Owen! I should do eddy the elf for the little boy that lives in our complex. His parents own our apartment. They are not members but I am pretty close with the wife. She is a sweet heart and she wants to do everything Americans do.
Well, bye for now. I love you and thanks for your support and love! It is always so wonderful to hear from you! I will let you know about skype plans for Christmas as soon as I hear anything. Give my siblings a hug for me huh? xoxox have a good week!





Monday, November 26, 2012

A Taste of Gratitude and Spooky Spiders

Family Dear!

Well happy belated Thanksgiving! Our Thanksgiving here was just great….. we worked and taught, I struggled through Tagalog and we had another day as missionaries. During my personal study I took dads challenge and wrote out 100 things I am grateful for. It was a neat experience to focus on the abundance of blessings in my life. As I looked over my list I realized that my old cell phone, car or clothes other than my 6 skirts did not make the cut. Of course I am grateful for those things and they are wonderful but what I am most grateful for are the people who bring my life joy. Living in a different country is a unique experience and one aspect is the connections I have made and the people that are woven into my life. It is interesting creating such tight bonds with individuals that I do not know when or if I will see again. After my short 18 months, my relationships with these wonderful people could be only via internet connection. It is because of this time constraint that I have realized the beauty of the time we are allotted. Whether it is concerning my family members to whom I am sealed for eternity or a young 10 year old that I had the opportunity to teach for a few months – the time and effort I put into these relationships is important and valuable. Thank you for the time and love you have given to me; it means more than you know. As a side note, I am also grateful for Thanksgiving because I had to speak in church yesterday and used gratitude as my topic. My prayer is always the same, that some of my Tagalog made sense.

There are many things I am grateful for in this wonderful city that is filled with banana trees and little brown faces. This letter is a few things I am grateful for this week.

I am grateful for the fireflies that fill the coconut trees at night. Our area is very large and frequently there is not transportation available; so we spend a lot of time walking. As we walk through dark paths lit only by the moon and the glittering fire flies above our heads, I feel the sweetness of the spirit.

I am grateful for the innocence and goodness of children. We focus a great deal on reactivating less active members which results in completing families. Many of the baptisms I have been able to be a part in have been those of 9, 10, and 11 year olds. This week we met with a young 16 year old girl. She doesn’t know about the gospel but she believes that there is something of a higher power. Her father passed away a few years ago and she feels that he is being taken care of somewhere.

I am grateful for the contagious energy of hard work. The leaders of the church here amaze me. In our branch the leaders have a zeal for the gospel that is hard to ignore. They believe in their members and they believe in their God. The young women’s president is a single returned missionary. She volunteers her Saturdays to teach institute and seminary. She prepares activities for the young women and is devoted to building up a generation of active youth in the Philippines.

I am grateful for prayer and the peace that comes through quietly kneeling before my father each day.

I am grateful for the counsel that comes from the Book of Mormon. How lucky we are to have the restored church on earth once more. We have the power of a Father’s priesthood blessing available to us at any moment. We know of Christ and the person he was, the traits he possessed through the text of the Book of Mormon.

And ultimately I am grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ. We are going into the Christmas season with all its glitter and excitement. I love Christmas time; even miles away from home in the land of no winter wonderland, I still feel the magic of the season. This weekend in the town centro fireworks were sent off and a giant plastic tree was lit with Christmas lights. There are twinkle lights hanging from the trees and sister Dabon is teaching me Christmas songs in Tagalog. It is an incredible time of year to think of Christ and focus on his life. I do know that my Redeemer lives and for that knowledge I am so very grateful.

Well I hope you all had a wonderful week and enjoyed some turkey dinner… we didn’t eat any turkey but as we were walking through the jungle on Saturday a group of wild Turkeys puffed up their chests and ran at us. Luckily human legs are faster than turkey legs - but it was a frightening experience.

It looks like you guys had a ton of fun at Newport! It feels like we were there a few days ago. Owen is sooo darn tall, I can hardly stand it. Please stop growing O. How was the weather? How was turkey day? How did Cate’s Soccer Tournament go?

My comp goes home in less than 3 weeks! It is crazy. Luckily she is still focusing on the work; which is a blessing. She jokes about being "trunky" or wanting to go home but she is joking only. We have so much fun! I am not ready to train. The big news is that WE HAVE SIX AMERICAN SISTERS COMING IN AT ONE TIME IN APRIL!!!!! ahhhh yay!! I was talking to pres at zone con and he said he wants me to do a little orientation for them about the transition into the Pines. It was helpful talking to the elders who had learned the language and adjusted but it would have been so so nice to have had a girl to talk to. So I hope I can be that for them!

 The culture has never really been a big problem for me. I don’t think I had culture shock really. Of course it is always a change but it wasn’t ever bad. You miss things from home but then I just try to remind myself it will be there when i get back. The language was and still is the hardest thing. It is coming bit by bit. Sister Dabon is awesome - she always quizzes me as we are walking for miles and miles and I have a goal to read through the Book of Mormon in a 3.5 month span which is hard but it helps with vocab more than i thought it would. After I spoke yesterday one of the ladies told me "magaling ka," which means talented. That is always a boost. Overall, I have a long way to go but it comes a little more every day. I take English scriptures to the lessons because I can’t understand it all in Tag yet; but my goal is to take only Tag by the end of my mission. We actually sing English hymns in our branch. Sister D said in her last area it was all tagalog so it depends on the area. Some areas it is all Bikkol.  I pray I stay away from those for a little while - haha. We always sing tagalog hymns for comp study and sister dab taught me a bunch of Christmas tag songs so we are constantly singing those.

Mom asked if I am near the beach.  I am not and we aren’t allowed to cross areas so I haven’t seen the beach yet. I have heard that it is really pretty. There is a sisters’ area on the beach up north so my fingers are crossed for that one day.

Story of the week: Last night I walked up the stairs to our apartment bedroom and found the largest spider I have ever seen waiting on our wall. Sister Dabon and I then ran around our room with magazines on our head so it wouldn’t jump on us. Yes, giant Filipino spiders could play for the NBA they can jump so high. We eventually threw things at it until it jumped on the ground where we proceeded to drown the creature in bug killer. The makers of Harry Potter must have studied large spiders because the eight legs on our wall last night sounded exactly like the spider in Harry Potter. We felt bad for killing it but I am pretty sure it was either him or us and we already paid the water bill for the month, so we won.

Well I love you all and of course on my list on 100 things I am most grateful for are you! Thank you for your love and prayers. Have a wonderful week. Padaba ko ika! (I love you in Bikol)

Love from the Pines,

Sister Meish
this is how most of my days end up... with a trail of little guys following us shouting whats your name?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why Do People Eat This Stuff?

Family ko!

How blessed I feel to always be able to start my emails with missionary congratulations! Adelide is going to Sweden!!! Ah. How neat. What an incredible thing that our family blood line has served the lord in Sweden generation after generation. It reminds me that God really does watch over us and our bloodlines, he is aware of us as families and as individuals. Congrats Addie, I am thrilled for you!

My breaking news is that I ate balut. Yes, balut is the infamous Filipino half grown chicken embryo. No, I have no idea why I was talked into eating it. It was alright…. Essentially it I half a hard boiled egg and half a baby chick: beak, head, feet, feather – the whole shebang. I didn’t throw up which as a miracle, it wasn’t bad tasting just mostly bad feeling. The conversation leading up to my eating the said chicken embryo went like this:

v     Me: Which part do i eat

v     Sis D: The Whole thing, put a little vinegar and salt

v     (the vinegar came out too fast and to me balut tastes like vinegar)

v     Me: what is that string

v     Sis D: the feathers, don’t look at it just eat it

v     Me: chew, chew, chew, swallow. Why do people eat this?

It has been conquered, never to be attempted again. In a way this was my right of passage as a Filipina, it just had to be done.

In all honestly there are moments that I feel I might just die from stress. I am focusing this week on just rolling with the punches and accepting that I cannot control everything and everyone. Free agency is a wonderful thing but it also breaks your heart. We have been trying to stretch out of our already stretched comfort zones and find new individuals to teach (which includes new investigators as well as new less and inactive members.) This goal resulted in a lot of walking, a lot of hiding people and two very distraught missionaries. I must say I am so grateful that my mission is not full on tracting all the time. It is rough on your heart. Props to…. Well pretty much all the other missionaries in the world. One morning we were focusing specifically on finding inactive members and person after person ran away or hid behind closed doors. Sister Dabon and I looked at each other forced a smiled and said, well it’s a good thing the church is still true. I think the reason it is so difficult is that we know what they are throwing away. You want more than anything for people to feel and know what you know because of the gospel. I am learning that we are not always the harvesters, maybe sometimes we have to plant the seeds and hope that they grow, regardless of how slowly.

I gave these kids CTR Rings
About a month and a half ago one of the women we had been teaching had to move away. She had been flourishing in the gospel and was sucking up all the information we would give her. She could see the light. She is a young mother of two and her husband is inactive. When she had to move I was devastated. The area she lives in is far away from the missionaries and I knew a great deal of effort would have to be put in on her part in order to continue lessons. When I got news that she had to go I sat on my bed and cried. Today I got word that this wonderful young mother has a baptismal date set for December 8. I once again sat on my bed and cried. The light of the gospel is beautiful and pure. I am realizing that the gospel is true whether or not people are willing to see with spiritual eyes. There are days that my tears come from frustration, confusion, sadness and anger. But there are rich moments that my tears come from the tenderness of seeing a father kneel in prayer with his two sons, an entire family fill a row at church, and a women fight to find the light of the gospel no matter where she lives in the world. There are bad days, yes. But President Bliesner reminds us to just enjoy doing the lords work regardless of outcomes. There is goodness and joy to be found everywhere.

One of the barangays (neighborhoods) we visit is on the other side of a large river. We travel to this barangay via a small bamboo boat or a bridge. The bridge is currently under construction and the make shift bridge consists of three long coconut tree trunk roped together. Watching tough Nanays and grandmothers master the bridge was quite the sight. As we were waiting for our turn to cross I was watching 15 small Filipino men tie a rope to the old bridge, join together and heave back and forth. With the jungle back drop and these 15 tiny men tugging in perfect synchronized motion I felt as if I was on a ride at Disneyland and laughed to myself thinking; “I love living in the Philippines.”

Life is a struggle but it is a lot better with the gospel. That is what I have learned the most on my mission. I have also recognized the magnitude of the part of our baptismal covenant that says we are to "bear one another’s burdens." Sometime other's burdens feel so very heavy. But people are what gives life flavor.

I can’t believe it is already middle of November.  My 6 month mark is in 2 weeks and I get to Skype your pretty faces a month from Sunday! I remember when I first got to the field, when the home sickness was bad and December felt so far away. But now it is right around the corner.

Well, I love you all I hope that all is well back in SLC. I hope you all start feeling better and stay healthy, especially you two heading to the MTC soon – you will need your immune systems as strong as possible for that place. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I told sister Dabon I would cook her Turkey dinner on Thursday, it may turn into a Denny’s grand slam breakfast due to our limited cooking supplies.

Thanks for your love and support I pray for you every day! Salamat po para sa lahat. Yung mga panalangin ninyo ay sobrang naramdaman ko. Mahal ko kayo talaga.

Love from the Pines,

Sister Meish



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

These Hands

Hola! That seems like a more appropriate greeting at the moment due to mags is going to the DR!!!!!!! sooo excited for you Mags girl. The mission has high highs and low lows and everything and anything in between. You will be incredible and will love every minute I know it.

We had another great week. Time is going so quickly. I can hardly believe it is already the second week of November. It continues to be stressful leading the area and feeling the pressure of needing to know where to go and what to teach but I am grateful for it. I am learning a lot and at a rapid pace. Also, a highlight of the week was while I was in the girls bathroom at the only fast food restaurant in Ligao, Jollibee. I was asking a little girl her name and how old she was, in Tagalog. Another Sister walked out of the stall and said, “Sister Christensen, was that you talking? I thought it was a Filipina!” I was overjoyed and elated. That being said I still feel very out of the loop when it comes to speaking. I am pro at pretending like I know what it going on.

Also, in the Philippines there is a large processional that takes place when some one passes away. All the family and friends ride triceys and walk behind the hurst on the way to the cemetery. We were walking out of our apartment earlier this week and a quite large processional was heading our way. As we passed by hundreds of little brown eyes were on the two sister missionaries. One little boy yelled out “hello.” I turned, smiled at him and returned the greeting. Now, seeing that this was a funeral procession one would think that this group would be somber and quiet. My returned greeting proved the opposite. The crowd suddenly broke into a loud round of cheers and waving hands. I turned bright red and was laughing hysterically. Unfortunately due to the size of the crowd this went on for a good few minutes. I had been thinking about taking up a profession in Hollywood, I think however I will just stick to Public Relations. Less attention.

Our branch had our primary program yesterday and no matter where you are in the world the primary program is the best sacrament meeting of the year. Because we never know who is going to make it to church and a practice is nearly impossible seeing as people can hardly afford to come to church once a week - the primary president had printed off all the parts and was handing them out to the kids on the stand as they came up to speak. It was still really cute!

I have been thinking a lot about the power of our hands. The mechanics of our hands is magnificent. There is beauty in the hands of the elderly, the wrinkles and cracks of time and experience show of a life well lived. The perfect softness of the hands of a new baby signify new life and purity. The hands of my friends here bare the signs of cooking over a hot fire stove, holding a sickle for hours in the rice fields, and calluses from washing clothes in the rive. I have been thinking about what my hands might represent if one were to look at them. Right now I have a few short months when I can try to work as the hands of the Lord. I hope that if someone were to see my hands they would show signs of his work. At times I overwhelming realize how little I can do because of my lack of knowledge with the language and the customs. I feel that I cannot deliver powerful sermons with my mouth or convince people of truths with convincing words. I can however serve them, I have two hands that I am willing to devote to this work. I know that the lord qualifies us for that which He needs us to do. An old English writer once said, “If I cannot give bountifully yet I will give freely and what I lack in my hand I will supply in my heart.” I cannot give something WITH my hands but I surly can give of my hands.

The transfer is flying by and going so well. Sister Dabon is fantastic and we are best friends. She is an amazing cook and we eat delicious vegetables all the time, with rice of course. She is teaching me to cook some things. She has also made an entire bucket list of foods I have to eat before the transfer is over. I am a little nervous about the condition of my stomach but when in Ligao….

I hope you are all doing well, I love the pictures. I cant believe how much snow is in Salt Lake City. It feels like a different world because it is so hot here. I guess in a way it is a different world. Congrats again on the mission call! It is a great time to be on the Lords side, he needs his army. Good luck with the snow.

Love from the pines,

Sister Meish


Monday, November 5, 2012

Sister Dabon


First off Speen como esta! So excited for your mission call to fight in the drug war! Wow on Mexico! That is so neat!!!! feb 20? I had to wait 4 months too.... its rough having to wait but hang in there because it goes fast and the mission goes even faster! What was your first reaction when you read Mexico? I knew you would go foreign and the little kids are going to love you so much because you are great with kids. Isn’t that the craziest feeling holding the call letter in your hands before you open it and knowing your whole life will be affected by what that line says?

That is cool you are in the same mission as Carson! I am sure you guys will see each other. That would be neat if you were comps at one point. But in all honesty - pray for a native. It helps with the language, especially the accent, even though it is challenging. I am so stoked for you! The mission is the best! I hope you and Meg are in the MTC together!  We will be able to converse in espanol because Tagalog is really similar! Okay, actually only some of the numbers (that are only used for telling time) and the days of the week are similar. But, still we can count together! It will be great. So proud of you and can’t wait for Meg to get her call this week! Such exciting news all around.

Also I have a new companion! Her name is Sister Dabon and she is from Negros, down south close to Cebu. This is her last transfer, I am at the beginning and she is at the end. I will be in Ligao for Christmas. I love her so much she is already my best friend!!!  She goes home December 13  and I will stay in this area for one more transfer at least. I am glad to spend Christmas surrounded by people I love and already know instead of being in a whole new place with all new faces.

She is great though and we get a long really well. She reminds me a lot of Bug (Cate); really calm and down to earth but silly and loves to laugh and is a hard worker. Because I have been the missionary longest in the area, I have to decide who we teach and where we go, because I know the people. It is exhausting! But my Tagalog is really going to improve this transfer, I can already tell: 1- because Sister Dabon really only speaks to me in Tagalog and 2-because I am starting all the lessons. I suddenly have a soft spot in my heart for bishops and how they must worry over their wards. I was sitting in sacrament meeting yesterday thinking of all the people that were not there and worrying about them and why they were not in church.

We laugh and laugh all the time. I have pretty much kissed English good bye though. I am going to learn sooooo much this transfer - it is already pushing me a ton. I am very happy to be working with her!

Sister Cabanag was great and she taught me a lot about being a missionary. Because I am now the senior in the area, I have to lead every lesson and plan where we are going and what we are teaching and so on..... it is so stressful but it makes me want to learn the language a lot faster. Sister Dabon understands English and actually speaks pretty well but she just talks to me in Tagalog which is good..... we have only been together since Tuesday and I have learned a ton! It is exhausting though haha! Speen buckle up my man.

This week we were walking through this jungle area on our way to do a FHE and a group of little girls lined up waiting for us. When we got to them they gave me a bundle of flowers. I will send the pic. It is so funny. I forget that I am so different!

Well hope everyone had an exciting Halloween, loved the pics. Owen you made a tough looking firefighter. Speen, mom sent me the superman picture from Halloween. I can’t believe you fit into that thing! Where did you go in that?

We had to be in by six pm on Wednesday and Thursday this week because of All Souls Day and All Saints Day. There were hordes of people heading to the cemetery with flowers and candles and of course snacks galore! The curfew was a bummer because it cut so much time out of our teaching but we used it for studying instead which is always needed. I have taken it upon myself to read the Book of Mormon is Tagalog. It is going to possibly take me until the end of my mission because about every three verses I have to look up the words in my dictionary or my English scriptures. But these night time hours were great time to work on my new goal. A member invited us to dinner this week and she served sticky rice. Rice, good – add the sticky and you have a Fear Factor worthy snack. It is in fact very sticky and she had such an abundant amount of stickyness that I had to drink a lot of Tang to help with the swallowing.

We had a baptism on Saturday for a young 11 year old boy. The baptism was scheduled to start at one pm and was combined with the neighboring branch, who was in charge of filling up the font. Sister Dabon and I arrived at the chapel a little after 12:30 and to my horror there was 1 foot of water in the font. There had been a complication and without anyone knowing the font had stopped filing and was not working. We frantically tried to fix the font over the next hour and a half to no avail. Finally we decided to ask our Branch President if we could have the baptism in a near by river. At first he was hesitant but then he agreed and we all piled in his tricey and went to the river. I had been praying and so stressed for the past hour and a half but we found a calm beautiful spot of land in the middle of the rice fields. It turned out better than at the church in the font. I learned a valuable lesson about trusting in the Lord with all my heart. He provides a way.

Saturday was a day of miracles. I wanted to prance through the streets singing “wonder of wonder, miracles miracles.” I don’t know if fiddler on the roof ever came to the Philippines though so I refrained.

The language is still a struggle. It so frustrating not knowing what people are saying to me. There are glimpses of time, however, that I know exactly what to say and I know that these tender mercies are from on high. We came out of a lesson on Saturday with a part member family and I thought about how I had known what to say during the lesson. But as soon as the lesson was over, the words became difficult again. Like I said, glimpses of time, moments of mercy that I am reminded just whose errand I am on and I feel so lucky to do His work. There are miracles each and every day.

You asked if I am eating the meat. I eat a little meat here and there, but try to just stick to veggies. They fry EVERYTHING here. So, Kentucky Fried Chicken would make a killing. I am not the biggest fan of KFC, so hence the veggie kick. We are discouraged from eating dog because the dogs are really really mangy here with fleas and nasty looking bodies. A delicacy here is pigs blood which sister D is determined to make me eat before the transfer ends. We will see how that goes.
Has the storm that hit the east coast affected the elections at all? Do they have power/running water in NYC? A lot of the members have been asking me if my family is okay.  They don’t realize that the U.S. is quite large and my fam is not close to NYC.

Well good luck this week Meg! I can’t wait for you to hold that mysterious envelope in your hands. STOKED for Speen! MWAH!!!! keep on keepin on and tell owey and the bug hi.  I love you all. As always thank you for the love and support. You are in my prayers.

Enjoy the snow, I am trying not to get heat stroke and sweat to death.

Love from the Pines,

Sister Meish