Well, I have not thrown up yet, I have not had to eat dog yet and I am not sick of rice yet so all is well! But some days I really do feel like I am camping. haha.
Wow - thank you for all of the support and love! Everyone is so nice about emailing and supporting me. It is definitely felt even half way across the world! Mom, I got your letters this week talking about your trip to Peru! It was so fun to read about your experiences and it brought back many good memories from our trip. Parts of it definitely sound like Naga. The mission is a rollercoaster of ups and downs and so many different emotions. It is maybe the definition of hard meaning endurance is required, focus is required and all of your mental, emotional and spiritual strength is tested. It has been a good week though. Honestly, I am glad the first week is over, that may have been one of the most difficult weeks of the mission; mostly because it was so much to take in at a very fast pace. I am far from “the comfort zone” but it things are starting to look familiar.
We had zone conference this week and it was with 4 zones because the area president, Elder Teh was there to visit. He was a very good speaker and both he and his wife were inspiring. He talked about not getting into that “easy current;” the current of being a good missionary and not excelling to be a great missionary. When we first arrived to the chapel sister Cabanag had to go to the bathroom and so we walked in and it was the watering-hole for sister missionaries. There were around 20 tiny Filipino sisters crammed into this one bathroom all shouting in Tagalog. So there I was standing in the center of them all not having a clue what was going on or what anyone was saying when I caught my reflection in the mirror. I am not sure you will be able to pick out which one is me but try your best. I don’t realize how different I am else until I see us in a mirror.
We have been super busy this week and are so exhausted when we get home we don’t have the energy to make dinner so we have been living off of PB&J sandwiches. I guess it was a nice break from rice but mostly it was easy and filling. I told Sister C that this was the full American experience because this was my meal of choice in America. The food isn’t bad – I really haven’t had to eat anything too weird yet. Mostly noodles and rice and I guess the grossest thing is that all of the meat still has all of the bones so you have to chew slowly – I just try not to think about it too much. They have this sticky rice stuff that they wrap up in these cute leaf packages…. They are fun to eat but I like the taste of normal rice better. Also they have all these little bakery things everywhere and all of the bread tastes like angel food cake with different spices and toppings.
Well this is a hard task this mission. People would explain this to me before I left and you cannot fully understand it until you experience it yourself. The hardest part is the language – it is such a barrier. Not only am I literally one foot above conversations but I feel worlds away. It is a lonely place to be; on the outside of every conversation. There are times that all I want is a hug from dad or to talk to mom because those are my usual means of comfort, but all I have is the Lord. It is just me and Him in a city of strangers. I think this loneliness is actually the intention of our Father in Heaven as painful as it can sometimes be for the recipients. I think that it is through the loneliness that we learn to rely on the spirit. It is during the heartache that we turn to the great shepherd and ask for his hand. It is when I know I am going to have to speak in a lesson and my heart prays with all my might and faith that God will fill my mouth with words. It is very humbling as well to be a missionary speaking a foreign language. I feel like I am an okay teacher, in English. I feel like I can put together analogies and complete thoughts, in English. Every day I am faced with the frustration of mumbling and rambling on in incomplete sentences with incorrect pronouns and not being able to make much sense of anything because it is not in English. I think this may be the Lord prompting me to lean on him and not my own understanding. I am doing my best to keep my head up and have faith that it will come in time. I know that we are refined through trial and I think I may have needed more refining that I realized. I am doing my best to not zone out during lessons but to focus and try and follow what we are talking about. It is difficult and exhausting but it helps and I am getting better at following. I do better when we are in lessons because I know more words that are related to church stuff. I wish I could fast forward time and already speak Tagalog but I know that this is part of the process and this is part of the experience. So like we tell everyone we teach, I am trying to endure well with the promise of blessings around the corner.
I had to speak in church yesterday… that was mortifying! I wrote my talk in English and then wrote as much in Tagalog as I could but mostly sister Cabanag had to help me translate it. It went alright I guess… I survived haha! I talked about Faith – it is perfect that you have been thinking about that so much dad because guess what, me too! I talked about how faith in the scriptures is an action word and that we can believe in something but if we do not act then is it really faith or just a belief? I said that the members in Bicol have different trials of their Faith than where I am from. (If there was an inactive family in SLC that could not come because they had no means of transportation we would just hop in our surburban and go get them. But here, not having money for transportation is a real issue. And we are living on a tiny tiny budget and so we can't pay for their transportation unfortunately. I wish I had a car and I could go pick everyone up each Sunday. But this is their trial.) I also talked about why the Lord tries our faith, why believing isn’t enough. I think for me the trial of my Faith has been on my mind so much because of the difficulty of my reality right now. This is definitely a trial of my faith in many ways. Do I really have faith that God will comfort me when I am sad; that he will help me learn this language. Will he really fill my mouth in the exact hour that I need His help? Essentially, do I really believe in all that I am teaching everyday? These are all questions that I have thought about – they are important questions, because if the answer to them is yes, that I can endure well and I can be a good missionary. The faith required from all of us is faith that is strong enough to endure the trials we face, which is the whole point. Our faith must be tried for us to know how strong it really is. On Sunday I looked out into the congregation and saw at the 74 members that were able to come to our branch, including the 6 families that we worked with this week that are less active but that came to church, and our 4 investigators who are trusting complete strangers in coming to a church service. I looked out at these individuals and saw the faith in their hearts.
One of our investigators is a 16 year old girl named Rona. She is darling and quiet but she is strong. She is scheduled to be baptized on Sept.1st. Her mom and 3 little sisters are already members and their father passed away a few years ago. When we taught them this last week we finished teaching about the restoration of the gospel. It gets dark at 6:30 every night in the Philippines and we were visiting their home around that time. Their home is a small two room, cement home with a few shelves for all of their books and clothes. There is one bed and no furniture and no electricity. They have mats they lay on the floor each night to sleep. As we all sat huddled together on the cement floor around a well loved hymn book lit by a flashlight and sang The Spirit of God, I was filled by that spirit of our almighty God. As we left their home and walked back down the narrow path lit only by the stars I looked around at the fireflies dancing through the green plants that filled the wind with the smell of rice and I thought “this is why I wanted to come on a mission; because there are good people with strong faith that are waiting for the gospel.” The Philippines has different rules for people before they are able to be baptized. They must go to church 4 times in a row, do a community service project and must have followed the WofW and Law of Chastity for 1 month. This little Rona had an important band rehearsal on Sunday but yet she was still sitting on the hard chapel benches at 1pm when sacrament meeting began. We are all tried and tested but if we can have faith like Rona, faith like the saints that traveled to Salt Lake and like so many of the members of our church, God will pour out his spirit to us.
Well thank you all for your prayers and love and support. I love being here, especially when we are teaching. But of course there are hard days and lonely moments and discouraging glimpses of how much I still do not know. In these times I look at my picture of our family taped to my wall and think of the incredible support I have across the ocean. So thank you. I love you all very much and have gained a greater appreciation for our family and the way we were raised in the gospel during the last 2 weeks more than I have in my whole life. Cate, hope soccer is going well. Meg, I hope you are loving life living with your friends. Speen, I hope you have already bought your UofU sweatshirt in anticipation of the upcoming football season. Owen, I hope you are spending your last weeks of summer constantly in the pool and talking on your cellphone with Zack. Mom, hang in there at the airport - you and me are Italy bound in 16.5 months. Also I think about the YW program a lot. Thanks for all you do for your YW, it is an important program. Knowing that you served a mission gives me strength everyday. Dad, I miss our chats and your hugs but your letters and insight lift me higher on a day to day basis. I hope your last few months at Emdeon are going okay. December will be a good month for everyone – I am hoping I can actually speak a little bit by then.
Fun fact of the week…. I killed my first cockroach! Sick. They invaded our house and they are so nasty but on Friday I squished my first one. Go team.
Love you all,
p.s. thanks for the pics from the wedding! Weird I cant believe HH is married! It was fun to see everyone. xoxo