Monday, September 24, 2012

15 Little Faces and 10 Boxes of Fiber One

Hello! Thanks for all of the birthday wishes! I am 22, weird.  My birthday was one I will probably always remember not so much because anything of significance happened but because it was in the Philippines! I got the fiber one package on Thursday night so I got to have cereal for breakfast on my birthday! It was the best gift I could ask for! It felt like eating home cooked food….. only someone from our family would be so thrilled about Fiber One.  But to celebrate the big two-two we went to our district meeting.  My district was super sweet they made a sign for me and another sister who’s b-day was the day after.  Then we went to the only fast food restaurant around, Jollibee, and I had spaghetti and fake ice cream (it just tastes different over here).  Then we went and taught for the rest of the day. I actually forgot it was my birthday until we got home, which is funny for someone who is so fond of parties and birthday celebrations.  On the mission everything we do is for other people so a day devoted to ‘all about me’ doesn’t really fit in.  For dinner we ate eggs and rice and I had a chocolate fiber one bar for dessert. Don't worry I still made a birthday wish over my chocolately-fibery bar of goodness. On Saturday night the couple missionaries invited us over for cake and ice cream to celebrate because his birthday is today.  It was fun to have a little party-party amidst all of the work. 

As far as the language, I think it will come better by December / January. It just is hard to determine if I am giving my best in studying and learning. I want to work hard and give my all there is so much to learn. Sometimes I don’t know where to focus my efforts but I have faith that all things are possible. As far as understanding other people, it depends on the lesson. Sometimes I can follow really well and then other days I am so lost that sister Cabanag has to give me play by plays. It depends a lot on the accent of the person too. Little kids are a lot easier to follow. I am starting to understand what pronouns to use; when and where, so that is helpful. Little miracles one at a time haha. A lady in my branch told me I have really good pronunciation so that was super encouraging. It is just overwhelming at times to think about how much of this language I still need to know. But like elder Christofferson counsels us, I am just trying to take it one day at a time.
Quite a few members speak broken English. There are a few that speak very well. I try to speak Tagalog to them though because I need to learn it and the only way to do that is by speaking (even though I know 1/2 the stuff that comes out of my mouth is wrong).

Dad asked how far we walk every day. I am not sure how far we walk but it is a lot. I brought my pedometer so I will use that this week and track how far we go. My shoes are great. Even the elders buy rubber shoes but they have to wear socks. I wear those half socks a lot because we always take our shoes off to go into people's homes. Our chapel is about a mile away so not too far. Dad also asked about watching Conference. They will broadcast it to our ward so we don’t have to travel farther than normal. They will also broadcast it a week later than the live session. I am so excited for conference.

As for missionary work it is moving right along! We are averaging on 20 lessons a week now and we have 7 investigators that are progressing! Two weeks ago we were walking along a river bank in an attempt to find a short-cut through the rice fields.  There was a little girl standing outside her house and we stopped and asked her for directions.  Her mom came out and we started talking to her and told her we were missionaries and gave her a pass-along card.  We asked if there was a good time to come visit her and share a message with her about God. She was leaving for Manila to see her sister for a week but when she returned she would maybe have time.  She was really hesitant because she was embarrassed that her house was so small.  We assured her that it did not matter in any way.  Their home is a small one room house with a pink sheet hanging in the corner so they can have a place to change their clothing.    There are no chairs or furniture of any kind.  They sleep on a thin straw mat.  They have a small fire pit out front to cook over and they have about 4 plates, 2 cups and a small pitcher for water.  They don’t use silver ware just their hands to eat their meals.  This woman’s name is Lorna Bele and she has three children, two girls and one boy.  This week we were able to visit with her and her children twice.  On our first visit as we sat on the floor we talked about the miracles from God in our lives.  This woman is very humble and has strong faith in God and an understanding of the realness of Him in our lives.  She told us of a time that she knew she would not have enough money to buy food for the week but she prayed and prayed for a miracle and one of her friends showed up and was able to lend them money.  She explained that she knew it was God that placed this generous person into her life.  This is a woman that depends on God.  She could be numbered among the low and degraded of the world but because of her circumstance she relies on the tender mercies of the Lord to aid her in her life.  She seeks out His miracles and His grace. I have been thinking about why this kind of humility is difficult to achieve in times of prosperity? A constant theme throughout the scriptures is how soon people forget the Lord when they are not in a time of need.  It seems to be easy to assume we do not need the Lord when everything is going fine.  We decide we can do things on our own instead of actively seeking out the Lord’s miracles each day.  I feel that this is a gift I am gaining a greater understanding for on the mission.  Because of the level of difficulty emotionally, spiritually, physically and Tagalog-ly I need the Lord all the time.  I have found that I am most comfortable on my knees praying and am trying to follow the example of sister Lorna and seek out His mighty hand in my life.  (By the way this family has been prepared for the gospel and we have high hopes for them. They didn’t come to church this week because they were embarrassed they did not have church clothes so we are set on trying to round some up.)

It rains every day.  Salt Lake doesn’t know about rain. SLC has only experienced a light drizzle compared to what the Pines has to offer.  This week has been especially bad because a hurricane hit the Northern part of our mission, luckily it changed course and didn’t visit Ligao.  We were at one of our investigators homes this week and we asked how they faired through the rain.  They told us that their home flooded up to about mid calf. I wanted to ask how they slept or how they kept everything from getting ruined.  I am continuously shocked by the day to day things people deal with.  I guess I am surprised with the level of poverty people live in because they wear it so well.  Everyone is happy and clean and warm, they show few signs of the fact that they have dirt floors and cook over fires and often do not have luxury of eating three meals a day. 

Funny story of the week: This week while we were teaching a nine year old boy named John Paul about enduring to the end, children from his neighborhood began gathering around him as we taught.  All of a sudden a crowd of about 18 kids was standing there listening to us! I was cracking up at all of these tiny little faces starring at us enthusiastically.  After the lesson we told them all to run home and tell their parents they want to invite the missionaries over. Haha hopefully it works. 

Well it sounds like fall is in full swing for you all back home which means busy! Hope everyone is well! I love you all so much and you are in my prayers every night.  Thanks again for all the b-day wishes, the support and the prayers. 

Love from the Pines,

Sister Meish
p.s the pics are of a river we have to cross via a boat made out of bamboo and birthday celebrations with my district and me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Meisha Turns 22

Hello fam bam!

Okay first off thanks for all of the birthday wishes! I cannot even believe that it is already this far into September.  I am sure this birthday will be one to remember… full of our district meeting and teaching in stuttering Tagalog.  But it will be fun! Transfers are tomorrow! I can’t believe Sister Cabanag and I have already been together for one whole transfer.  Because of the new training program we will be together one more transfer, so until the end of October.  I am really happy that we still have 6 weeks together! I still have a lot to learn before I can lead this area.  President Bliesner seems to like to keep the American sisters in one place for a longer time because we have less time in the field aka less time to learn Tagalog.  There are so many different accents and versions of bicol throughout our mission so I think his hope is that by keeping us put for an extended amount of time we will pick up the language faster. 
Secondly.  GO UTES!!!! Thank you one million times over for sending me the updates of that game. That was the best birthday present ever, that and hearing/seeing that my darling little brother is now bleeding red. 

I am feeling so much better which is a huge blessing. I did lose quite a bit of weight, my skirts have to be cinched up a little tighter. We were able to work fulltime this week and we did not waste one minute! We were able to teach 22 lessons!! This is a huge increase from what we have been averaging up to this point, so we were very excited and also exhausted.  Also church attendance was great again on Sunday.  These kind of details equate to beautifully wrapped packages for a missionary.  We have a really nice church building and are lucky because the elders in our district only have meeting houses.  Our building is fairly new, on the main floor there is a chapel with about 15 rows of wooden benches.  Behind that there is a medium sized room with a small stage and lots of plastic lawn chairs, this is where they have relief society and Sunday school.  There are 4 classrooms and then an office for the district presidency and 1 office for each branch president (there are 2 branches that meet in our building).  Upstairs there are 4 classrooms and the class we teach (gospel principles) and the ym/yw meet there.  The chapel also has aircon which is amazing, when it works!  There is a really nice basketball court outside and the grounds are all fenced off.  It is a beautiful building. 

Right now we have 7 investigators with baptismal goal dates for next month! One of our challenges is that in the Pines you have to go to church 4 consecutive times before you can be baptized.  Each time they don’t come to church we have to move the date back.  Tough.  But Its okay this “rescue program’ as they call it, is an inspired program and we are really focusing on conversion and not just free for all baptisms.  We were able to extend a goal date to one of our favorite investigators on Sunday.  His name is Teodie (pronounced Cheody) and is our resident surf bum.  Actually he isn’t a surfer at all but I call him that cause he looks like a surfer.  He has this awesome bull-cut hair do and when he is working he pins his bangs back on top of his head.  He is always in flip-flops, because everyone here is always in flip-flops, and just has a “surfer vibe” about him.  He has been an investigator for a long time.  He comes to church every week and participates in all the lessons and he has a strong testimony of the gospel.  He cant be baptized yet though because he needs to go through the repentance process first.  He told us on Sunday that he started talking to his wife and being honest about a mistake he made 3 years ago.  He said he is nervous because he doesn’t want to ruin the relationship they have, which is valid, but he is trusting in the Lord to guide him through.  It was a wonderful moment! I know that there may be some difficulties that he has to face before it gets better but through the Atonement his burdens will be lifted and he will be healed.  He was so excited about the baptismal date, even though it isn’t until January.  He gave us each a Sprite to celebrate.  We sat drinking from glass Sprite bottles with purple straws and looking out over the miles of rice fields and I couldn’t stop smiling.  This man’s life is going to change more than he can even comprehend, he can now rid himself of the guilt and heartache and be able to be numbered as a disciple of Christ.
Nanay Mancine

There is a barangay, which I guess could be defined as a small neighborhood within the bigger town of ligao, anyway this particular barangay is called Tas Tas.  It is quite far from where we live but we have 2 investigators that live there so we travel to Tas Tas often.  The past few weeks the members have been telling us we should not be in Tas Tas after 5 pm because it is not safe due to the color of my skin.  There is this thing called The New People’s Army (NPA) and they don’t particularly like white people or really any form of government Filipino included  but seeing as I stand out just a little the members are worried we would be a target for money or ransom.  We haven’t ever felt threatened and it is really safe in the day because it is light and there are so many people around but kind of sketchy to think that is going on close to us. 

We have clothes lines hanging in front of our house and on this little balcony behind our house.  A clan of spiders decided they were going to create webs all through the back balcony.  This just so happens to be where I hang my clothes to dry.  I will most likely have spiders in my clothes when I get them tomorrow.  Oh mission. You are crazy!

We were at an appointment earlier this week and one of the daughters of the family is studying cooking in school.  She had a big exam earlier that day and had to cook various items for her grade.  She brought all of her baked goods home and after our lesson she wanted us to try them all.  It was really yummy she is a good cook but she was most excited to have me try ‘the soft dinner roll.’ She exclaimed “sister look I made soft dinner rolls! This is what you eat for dinner instead of rice right?!” And indeed it was a soft dinner roll.  I tried to explain the concept of rolls but everyone was confused.  Then I tried to explain the concept of a sandwich on a roll…. They didn’t believe me.  I think it is similar to how we think it is strange to eat rice and fish for breakfast.  Neither are good or bad - just style. 

Anyway I hope all is well. Eat café rio on Friday in my honor because that sounds so good haha! Thanks for all your love and support.  I miss you and pray for you always. 

Mahal ko kayo,

Sister meish
Sister C & me

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Good Week For Teaching - Bad Week for Stomach

Sept 10

Hello hello!

Well I reached my one month in the field and three month on the mission. Crazy! Time just keeps moving forward.  Time is something I wish I had more of mostdays because there is so much to get done. The last three days have been pretty rough because the inevitable happened and I got sick.  I kind of assumed it was only a matter of time so I guess better now than later and just get it over with.  But on Friday night we had a dinner apt at a member’s house and afterwards my stomach was feeling kind of off.  I woke up that night with a fever and have been fighting that and stomach issues since.  I think being sick on a mission is the worst because 1) when you are sick you just want your mom to take care of you and 2) it is super frustrating knowing how much you need and want to get done but cannot because you have to lie in  bed and throw up.  But I am still alive and kicking and hopefully my body will bounce back to normal in the next few days.  Onward ever onward right?

We had a great week this week though, before my body decided to swan dive into the ground.  We had a day full of miracles.  We gave one of our very progressing investigators a Book of Mormon and she was so excited.  Her whole face lit up and she told us that she has been borrowing one because she really wanted to start reading it and as thrilled to now have her own.  Golden! That is music to any missionary’s ears. Then we visited a less active family and discovered three of their siblings ages 13, 12 and 9 have not been baptized yet so we started teaching them lesson one.  Whilst we were teaching them a woman was hovering in the back ground and as we started to get up and leave she snatched the restoration pamphlet from one of the little boys and started reading it.  Sister Cabanag and I looked at each other and then ran over to her with big smiles on our faces.  Apparently she had started talking with the missionaries in Manila many years ago but contact stopped when she moved hereto Bicol.  So we told her we would come visit her this coming week and she is very excited.  And miracle number 4 was that we had 105 people attend sacrament meeting on Sunday! This is huge for us.  Since I have been here the highest it hasbeen is 84 so 105 was a spectacular increase. It is all because of the members willingness to get involved in missionary work.  We had a “half day mission” for our branch on Saturday.  It was from 1 to 5 and all the members split up into groups and went and visitedand taught less active families in our branch.  We were really excited about this and then I got sick and was confined to my bed all day so we couldn’t go.  I was so devastated and frustrated.  The members did great at organizing themselves and we were proud that so many showed up and they didn’t even need us – they told us they want to do it once a month from now on. 

We have been meeting with a less active family this week they are a young couple, both teachers and have two small children.  The father was baptized years ago, when he was a little boy but has been inactive for 10 years and 2 weeks ago came back to church for the first time.  The mom was baptized in 2009 and then due to his inactivity and persecution from her family fell away.  She is always so nice to us and loves when we come to visit her but she will not come back to church.  When we teach her you can just tell her heart is closed – she mostly focuses on her little boy and not our message.  We were talking about how the gospel blesses families and how in order to be able to live with our families forever we have to follow God’s commandments.  My heart sank into my stomach as we sat there talking with her and she would not have ‘earsto hear.’  She was holding her son on herlap and hugging him, we were telling her she could have him forever and heronly reply was “yeah, sisters but I just can’t give up coffee yet because it’s what I like and am used to. So I am just not ready.” I wanted to shake her or something.  It really has nothing to do with coffee – she doesn’t want to change her heart. We have been talking in our mission about the need we all have to change more than our behavior to become consecrated missionaries we have to change our nature.  I think this applies to everyone though notjust missionaries. In order to be following God’s path and not our own, turning away from the natural man, we must change more than just change our behavior we must change our hearts.  I don’t think it would be that big of a deal if this woman kept drinking coffee but started coming to church, coffee isn’t the point.  If she allowed for the spirit to touch her heart then it would begin to change her nature and she would lose the desire to drink coffee for want of aligning herself with God.  Her husband told us he asks her to pray with him every night and she just tells him she is too distracted to feel the spirit.   It kills me every time we visit them because she is so closed off to the greatest gift she could ever have, eternal life with her family.  Hopefully she will soften with time. 

No typhoons yet, just lots and lots of rain but I am starting to get used to the constant wet feeling whether from rain or sweat. The rice fields are all starting to turn yellow, meaning it’s almost harvest time. We had a district activity and traveled to a members house at the base of the Myon.  It was really lush with trees and there were clear streams everywhere.  I am sure I would have enjoyed it more if I were not sick but it was still fun to see a different area. 

I am glad you were finally notified that I made it here safe and sound.  That picture is so nasty! We had just gotten off the plane and were jet lagged and tired but I guess it is a pretty good representation of how I felt haha. Dad next time there is an earth quake I will get under something - I promise.  The MP3 player works great thanks so much! I work out to the talks every day and the music is perfect. I am excited to listen to all the Christmas music.  Mom that is fun you got to help Gary through LOTOJA and I loved your race of life analogy.  He is an inspiring person and one who defines what it means to push yourself physically andmentally. As far as the b-day stuff...chocolate is always welcome but I Know it is super expensive to send so no worries you just sent me fiber one which I can't wait to get - once I am able to eat again it will be delish. 

Well that’s it for now! Thanks as always for your love and support it means so much.  I love being here and love being able to talk about the gospel all day every day…. Just wish Icould articulate it a little better in Tagalog. But our gospel is founded on simple truths right? One day it will come. I miss you and love you and pray for you every day. 

Sister Meish 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Maray na hapon po! That may be the wrong spelling but that is good afternoon in Bicol! And it happens to be one of about 3 phrases I actually know in Bicol – the other two are good morning and good night.  I think I am going to stick to just learning Tagalog for now and see how that goes before I work on Bicol.  But I hit my one month mark in the field this coming Thursday! Crazy!!  I am writing this email to you from a small internet café with blue walls, lots of spiders, 15 computers and lots of loud tagalog being spoken.  The café is located in the town ‘center.’ Each town has a center area and this is named accordingly because it literally is the center.  This is where all of the tricey’s wait for customers and where most of the little shops are located and there is also this giant concrete stage type thing where at night (if they can get reception) they project  Filipino TV and everyone gathers to watch.  It is the same concept as a drive in movie except no cars.  No one really has computers here so everyone goes to do their homework or get on facebook or in my case get on ldsmail at the internet cafes.  Usually I have an audience of a few children that stare at me for a good 5 minutes before returning to their internet-ing. To answer your questions: I am emailing most of my friends instead of hand written letters because it is so much faster than snail mail, it is also more efficient in terms time spent writing on P-day.  I write a mixture of personalized with snippets from what I write to you. Copy and paste is a wonderful tool.  It is fun to hear from everyone though and in a way kind of nice to know all letter writing will be done on one day…. It helps with focusing the rest of the week instead of wondering about mail.  As far as sister cabanag unfortunately her family is not very good at writing to her… she does write previous companions so that is good.  I feel so bad about her fam not writing though.  I wish they would; I pray every night that they will.  Our P-days consist of companionship and personal study in the morning.  After that I usually work out and read through talks and clean up a little bit.  Laundry takes about an hour or more depending on how much I have.  My hands get torn to shreds every Monday from washing in a basin, hopefully they will toughen up and calluses will form at some point.  Haha, apparently I am too American. 

Well we have entered into what the locals call the “BER months” meaning SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER and DecemBER…. This also means we have entered the rainy season.   And the rain did not waste any time.  There has been at least one, if not more, torrential down pour every single day.   I have never seen rain like this before. We have been out working on most days when the rain hits and we have to huddle against a building with our umbrellas in an attempt to stay dry. Most of the time it is a failed attempt and our skirts get soaked.  I guess there is a low pressure typhoon forming somewhere meaning it is not a typhoon yet but there might be one this up coming week.  I also experienced my first earthquake this last week.  There I was standing at the sink in our house washing the dishes after dinner when sister cabanag very frantically said “sister! Don’t move.” I turned around expecting to see a cockroach and noticed the scissors hanging on our cabinet swaying back and forth.  Our front door was open and began picking up speed and swayed as well.  It was the strangest feeling.  It wasn’t too bad luckily, nothing broke and there was no damage in the city which is a blessing.  Here we go, the adventures of the Pines! Hah. 

Rona was baptized on Saturday!! It was so amazing! We had a combined baptism with some of the saints from a near by area.  The font is in our chapel and takes about 3 hours to fill because of the slow flow of water from the nozel.  The elders had gone over to fill the font earlier in the day and when we arrived about 45 minutes prior to when the baptism was supposed to start the font was filled with dark brown water! It was so dirty you could not even see the bottom of the font.  We frantically called the elders and I guess because of all the rain, dirt had gone into the tank that fills the font.  There was nothing we could do.  We apologized to Rona and she was a good sport about it – we made jokes about her body not being cleaned through baptism but her spirit would.  I am still adjusting to the Filipino time clock… meaning we start everything an hour late.  Haha.  I don’t think I am going to kick my bad habit of being late to everything on my mission; in fact it might even get worse.  So the missionaries in our district always do a musical number at baptisms.  I suggested we sing Joseph Smith’s First Vision to the tune of Come Thou Fount, they in turn volunteered me for a solo.  I fought it and bargained down to half and half but mom and dad, those voice lessons you paid for when I was in 9th grade finally came in handy as I stood in front of the congregation and sang a solo.  Horrifying. Once again, no comfort zones on the mission. 


We did a service project on Friday; we helped a woman clear a large area of land that had been overtaken by weeds and bushes.  I learned how to weed using a machete.  It was quite the experience I must say.  Also, I am also currently working on perfecting the Asian squat…. However, I think you must be tiny and Asian to successfully perform this squat.  But I did my best to practice as I hacked the weeds with my giant knife.  This woman has 10 children and after we finished all the kids ran and chopped down coconuts from a nearby tree for us.  They used the machetes to make a hole in the coconuts so we could drink the milk and then split them open and eat the meat.  Yum.  It was tasty.  As I recall it is quite difficult to cut open coconuts but these small kids were able to do it with one slice of the machete.  The fruit here is delicious.  My favorite are the mangos and the pineapple.  (Apples, grapes and oranges are expensive because they are shipped in, so we don’t buy those.) I have also had quite a few random crazy looking fruit one being: Guyabano.  It is giant and looks like dinosaur skin on the outside and then is super gooey inside, it tastes pretty good. 

As I may have mentioned before I stick out a little here in this far away land.  All of the kids always exclaim, ‘Cana!’ Which is short for Americana. Also they all recite “whash your name?” aka What is your Name.  They don’t really want an answer that is just the only thing they know how to say well in English.  I have been thinking about this phrase while I have been here though.  I don’t use my same name as I did when I was home, my first name is obsolete.  My name has changed, I am now sister Christensen.  That is my name.  But more importantly is why that is my name.  Every morning I fasten my black name tag onto my shirt.  Without this tag I am incomplete, I have no name.  The name of Jesus Christ is nearly as big as my own name on my badge.  It is because of the importance of this name that I now carry a different name.  I have become fascinated with this aspect of the doctrine of Christ, the name of Jesus Christ.   In the church we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ in every prayer, ordinance and covenant we make.

Elder Maxwell  says: “How proud we ought to be, in a quiet way, that we are members of the church of the most selfless being who ever lived.  How proud we ought to be  to belong to a church that makes specific demands of us and gives us specific things to do and marks the strait and narrow way, lest we fall off one side of the precipice or the other.  I am so grateful that God loves us enough to teach us specifically.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is specific because God cares specifically for us…”
In the times that are exceptionally challenging for me and on the days when the Tagalog is especially slow to come I think of how specific this experience is and how proud I am to wear that second name on my black badge everyday.  It is a crazy adventure every day.  Most of the time I have no idea what is going on but I just smile and try to love people with my eyes.  I am grateful to be here and hopeful everyday that I am fulfilling my purpose as a missionary even though I cant say very much. 

It is good to hear from you all and of course I love the pictures! What a darling family I have.  I take my picture book everywhere and everyone pours over it in amazement at all the white faces.  Hope all is well with the millcreek road gang!

I am trying to send a video us riding in a Tricy but i dont know if it will work.  The pictures are of Rona's baptism and me and sister Cabanag after church yesterday.  

All my love, 

Sister Meish