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,
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.