Well it sounds like everyone has had an exciting week all across the world! We don’t watch conference until this coming weekend but even the Philippines is a buzz with the exciting news about the lowered missionary age. What a wonderful time to be a part of missionary work! I think this change is so inspired and shows how anxious the Lord is to have as many soldiers out on the battle field as possible. Missionary work is hard. It is really hard actually. But this experience is nothing less than incredible. A mission has been said to be “the best university,” and that it is. On a mission we pray about every ten minutes, I am constantly bearing my testimony and I cannot count the number of times I open my scriptures, but the number is quite high. If I wasn’t a missionary, of course I could still read my scriptures frequently, I could pray this often and I could bare my testimony multiple times a day. I could do all of these things, but I probably wouldn’t. Reaching these totals without being on a mission would take a very long time. So my advice to anyone who is thinking about going on a mission --- GO! This new revelation is a great opportunity. The mission will still be hard but the good out-weighs the bad ten- fold. Okay, I will now step down from my soap box.
Rice Fields at Harvest Time
It is harvest time in Ligao. Most of the rice fields have turned to a beautiful golden brown and small coned shaped hats can be seen scattered through the rows of gold as workers thrust in their sickle. When rice is harvested it is brown and after being separated from the stem is laid out on tarps to be dried. It is not however, placed in some factory or in a rice-drying building but right in the middle of the road. Of course I was shocked to see a passersby walk over this freshly harvested rice and tricies and motorcycles drive right through it. Apparently this is fine and doesn’t faze anyone except the 5’9” blonde, American girl.
Another story of the week is that I am a threat to the community. There we were walking from our apartment to the centro to catch a tricy and ride to our morning appointment. I was waving to some of the children in the nearby school when all of a sudden sister Cabanag gasped and I looked as a Padyak (pronounced padjak - a bike with a cart to carry people in) ran into a parked car! Apparently he was looking at us and trying to get our attention instead of paying attention to where he was driving. I am causing car accidents. I knew that I would stand out in the Philippines but I never imagined that it would be dangerous. If this continues, the president is going to make me the first ever office sister.
The missionary work is going well. Each week I feel so blessed to witness the light of Christ bringing change and joy into the lives of the Ligao 1st Branch Saints. The De Asis couple are an elderly couple in our branch. They are the first ones at church and sit in the exact same spot on the second row of our chapel every week. I learned this week that they are pioneers. They have been members for over 30 years; all of their 5 children are returned missionaries and have been married in the temple. Before they became members, the father, whose name is Sixto was in and out of every prison within 40 miles. Their family had a solid Catholic background and had no desire to worship otherwise. Tatay Sixto invited the missionaries to their home one night. His wife pulled him aside and the following conversation transpired:
“Sixto, why did you invite those Mormon girls over here? You are crazy. Don’t you know that Mormons have a bunch of rules and things that are forbidden? You are a drunkard. They will tell you that you have to stop drinking.” Her husband replied, “I am just curious. I don’t know why. Let’s just listen to them for a while.”
This family took the missionary discussions for one whole year. They had a lot of questions and a lot of bad habits that needed to be taken care of before they were willing to enter the waters of baptism. These two individuals define the phrase ‘example of the believers.’ Tatay Sixto shared with us that the Book of Mormon changed his life. It is the reason for his conversion. He also shared that he most definitely plans on enduring to the end. He made a promise to God – he plans on finishing this thing he started. I admire his sense of purpose and determination to never deviate from the path towards God. Something I have been thinking about a lot this week is why as human beings we do things that are bad for us? The Book of Mormon, the prophet and apostles, Jesus Christ himself, laid out a perfect and simple plan for us. We have been given specific and simple guidelines to follow to receive never ending happiness. And yet we slip up and we forget the path we choose to walk. We begin looking for the short cuts, or the path of least resistance. Why do I do this sometimes, even as a missionary who is supposed to be firmly planted on following the Savior? I suppose this is the battle of defeating the natural man, and perhaps it is meant to be a life-long endeavor. How patient our Father in Heaven is with us though. One of the best parts of missionary work is meeting individuals who were pioneers in this area and took a leap of faith under the scorning looks of all their neighbors. These individuals inspire me with their ability to continue forward on the path toward Heaven.
Fun Facts of the Philippines: 1) There are things called brown outs, aka the power goes out throughout large areas. We had many brown outs this week! Almost every day. This consistent flow of no power resulted in showers by flashlight, companionship study huddled next to the window, and no electric fans - meaning two very sweaty missionaries. 2) Filipinos dip their rolls into warm milk – I was informed that this sanitizes it? Not sure. Also, milk is for the most part all powdered milk. 3) Divorce is illegal, and you cannot have more than one living, married spouse. 4) Christmas celebrations have already begun; Christmas music, fully decorated trees the whole shebang. It’s great.
Well that is all for me! Thanks for all of the exciting updates from home. Sounds like the Christensen family could go to 2 kids at home pretty quick. Go missionary work! It is quite the incredible experience. I guess the way I look at it is that I could either be at home doing the day to day things or be here having life changing moments all the time. (soap box again I realize).
This weekend is conference weekend and instead of golden brown leaves I have golden rice, instead of bran muffins, I have delicious Tinola soup and instead of watching it on TV in our family room in my sweats, I plan on sitting in a congregation with few other white faces. The church is true no matter where you are in the world.
As Always Love from the Pines,
My New Reggae Backpack