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

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