Monday, December 30, 2013

Some ends and some beginnings

It is 4 a.m.  The world is still sleeping, it is dark outside and there is white snow covering the earth, and trees.  I am sitting in our quiet, dark kitchen in a sweatshirt, sweat pants, hat, long socks and a blanket trying to fight off the bitter cold that has become so foreign to my body.  My fingers haven't gotten warm since I landed in the Salt Lake City airport three days ago.  Everything around me is still - but my thoughts wander to a small city off the coast of Bagasbas beach; a world away from where I am now that is wide awake. The people there are in the late part of the afternoon. I think of them and my heart swells a little bit with love.


The past few days have been a blur of smiling and hugging, feelings of joy and excitement from seeing family and friends; those individuals whom I have been so distant from for so long. But there are other feelings; there is the loss and the pain that I feel from losing others that I love so much.  I keep looking at the tall ceilings of our home or the three soft pillows on my bed wondering if it was all real.  Did I really live in the Philippines? Everything here is so different from the world I left behind: hot showers, the electricity doesn't randomly go out, I am not a giant, and doing the wash takes only moments.  It seems that nearly everything has changed.

Last Friday morning I placed all of my things in my Mission Presidents car and they drove me to the small one room airport.  They hugged me, shook my hand and wished me luck.  I boarded the small plane and took my seat feeling slightly alone heading for a city (Manila) which I knew nothing about but I felt a little grateful that at least this time I could speak the language.  We fastened our seat belts and listened to the flight attendant instruct us in Tagalog about the flying safety procedures.  It was as though only a few months ago I was on that same plane flying into Naga. Staring out the small oval window I looked down at the miles and miles of green rice fields and hills of coconut trees. I remember wondering about the people that lived in the midst of all that green, their lives and their stories.  I remember hoping they would be accepting of a tall blond Sister who spoke very little of their language but who was going to try to love them and to serve them.  As the airplane moved higher into the air I watched the fields and the trees and the people with their stories who now I did love very much grow smaller and smaller.  I put my face into my hands and let the tears run freely.

It has truly felt like Christmas seeing friends and loved ones again.  I don't seem to be able to hug my parents enough, and I also can seem to put enough layers of clothing on. It's freezing.  Everything seems the same in some ways, but in others, it is completely different.  Time is funny that way I guess.  As I lay in bed this morning I thought about this new world I am in now. I was running the same questions over and over in my mind of how to find balance; how to merge my two worlds.  How do I keep the memories and the feelings of Naga alive and real in my memory? How do I strive to feel the Gift of the Holy Ghost directing me every day now that the name tag and the perfectly planned schedules are gone? And where do I go from here?

In Bruce C. Hafen's book. "The Broken Heart" he quotes Anne Lindbergh in saying, "I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. if suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers.  To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable."

So I guess that would be the secret. That is the formula. I must continue to place myself in situations that are not comfortable, that push me, remaining open and vulnerable.  One point, this dear miss Lindbergh did not mention though is that in order for this formula to be truly successful and to answer my concerns I must be vulnerable as I submit to small bits of guidance from my Father in Heaven.  This makes perfect sense because that is what a mission is, a 24/7 experience miles away from the comfort zone.  And as we pray and study the scriptures and serve and love, we find fulfillment and joy; placing ourselves in the refining fire over and over again.  It is easy to write about doing this but much harder to do.  Even only being home for a few days I can see how easy it could be to just slip back into life, as if nothing had happened.  So now the challenge will be to continue to push myself out of that comfort zone; staying vulnerable and fighting the urge of ease... the urge to slip back into the world and go with the crowd. It will take discipline and determination to continue to seek out my Father in Heaven and do his will.  These are the ways I will always remember and how the memories will stay vivid.

My heart is truly full of gratitude this week as we celebrate the life of our Savior.  I am grateful for the gospel that leads us in the direction of becoming more like Him.  and I will forever be grateful for the 18 months of my life that I was able to learn of my Savior and to share his warmth and light.  Merry Christmas and Happy 2014!

              Its good to be home.

Monday, December 23, 2013

updates coming

my dear friends,

due to jet lag (haha).... I will post an update later today or tomorrow! thanks for all the support and love.  its great to be home.

Monday, December 16, 2013

She's Coming Home (Like it or Not)

Dearest family, 

So they have little BBQ stands everywhere here... and these BBQ stands sell every body part from the chicken. I have never bought meat from these stands because I have been worried about the implications. But, it was on the bucket list. This last week I ate BBQ chicken head and intestine. The head is surprisingly better than the intestine. Just so you know. . .  

The time has come the walrus said......

I can’t believe this is the last email I will send from the Pines as a full time missionary. This week has been sublime and a bit heart wrenching. We have been on the go all week trying to get everything done. Yesterday, the Daet Ward gave me a goodbye party. It was one of the true highlights of my mission. All of these people I love were there and we sat in a circle and one by one they said the nicest things and wished me well. I was a mess but I am so happy that I got to be part of their lives. It was very nice.

President Monson gave a talk called "Finishers Wanted." In this talk he poses this question: "shall I falter or shall I finish?" It is something I have been thinking a lot about these past few months, wanting to give my all.  Yesterday, I felt abundance come back to me again. None of us are perfect missionaries, but I am so grateful for the places I have been and the experiences I have had as I have tried to share this wonderful message. As these people change their lives, they have helped me see the person I want to be. I have felt God’s love and joy every day out here. Life, like missions, is not easy but with the gospel... things work out. There is a pathway made bright and we are able to rise above trial and fears.  


We had NINE investigators at church yesterday. NINE! I haven’t had nine at church ever, my entire mission. It was such a wonderful blessing. One woman we met has not had any of the lessons yet but she delivered a still-born baby on Friday and she decided to come in search of peace. I hope she felt God’s love for her. The members were fantastic and greeted her and sat with her. I know she didn’t feel alone – at least for just a little while.  

I have loved going on exchanges over the last 6 months. As we travel we end up sleeping on various surfaces. These are all "survivor moments." This week we had to borrow the elders extra mattress on an exchange.  The pictures tell the story. We survived. 

But, I always learn so much from these darling women who are my sisters here in the Philippines. It is hard now because I really do want to stay and continue working with these amazing ladies. This week I worked with two young American sisters. One has been in the field for about three weeks and is feeling the same way we all felt at that stage of our mission; overwhelmed, alone, confused, and trying to stay positive. I have been thinking about the similarities between how I felt as a new missionary and how I feel now: scared, excited, confused.... it’s all one big cycle.

I am feeling a deep sense of loss as I prepare to leave my friends here. In his talk about missionary work, one thing that Elder Holland said is that the Atonement will carry investigators and missionaries.  That is true.  The atonement pulls us through on the days that are difficult; the days’ people don’t want to listen; the days’ people do listen and we need to teach beyond our ability; and now the days I have to say good bye to these people. Elder Holland also said that this experience is supposed to require something of our souls.  I think all missionaries would agree that missions are not easy. There has not been one day out here that has been easy for me. But because it takes a piece of you or requires something of your soul - you become different; hopefully someone moving in the direction God wants us to move. We leave parts of ourselves behind but hopefully somewhere along the way we change and become better.  

In Ammon’s mission, Alma described his suffering, sorrow and incomprehensible joy.  I felt that joy several times this week.  We were giving it all we could, moving back and forth on exchanges and trying to work in our area between our travels. Yesterday morning when I stood to bare my testimony in front of those beautiful dark faces, I felt so full of joy and happiness.  I have realized though that we determine our own happiness.  We taught a family this week whose home has no door. The entrance is covered by pieces of ply wood patched together. The parents and two of the 7 children are members. As we talked about how the gospel blessing families over a small fire pit I felt that same joy. Then on Sunday we stopped by to invite them to church and all 7 kids, ages 14 to 5 were dressed and ready to walk the few miles to the chapel. Our happiness has everything to do with our perception of our situation and being grateful for what we have and looking for the good.  In the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" the main character tells his wife to "go get happy."  She was looking for it in the wrong places. To me, we need to look in the right places and then cultivate it from what we chose to prioritize in our lives.  I have come to understand that lasting happiness comes from applying the gospel to the most important things in life - the people we love and the things we do. When we find our 'treasures' within the gospel context, even when we have dirt floors, cook over outdoor fire pits and wash our clothes in the river, great happiness can still be there. I hope that I don’t lose sight of seeing the beauty in the world and see it looking for deeper meaning with eyes of gratitude.   

We have a baptism on Wednesday!! Three siblings! I am so excited. It is also the birthday of the youngest of the three. It is also the night before I leave to return home. Perfect timing right? The next morning we head to Naga for a Christmas party with the entire mission! I will get to see all my friends and I am so excited. Then we go to straight to the mission home and will have our closing devotional on Friday. I will then head to Manila. On Saturday I will return to Utah. I can’t believe it’s really here. But, I suppose the time has come. Please pray for me this week. It has been so hard to say good bye to these wonderful people and I can’t really imagine actually leaving the country. I am excited to see you though.  

Paul says it best in Romans:

And adeclared to be the bSon of God with cpower, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection dfrom the dead:
 By whom we have received agrace and apostleship, bforcobedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:
 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be asaints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that yourafaith is bspoken of throughout the whole world.
 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
 10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual agift, to the end ye may be established;
 12 That is, that I may be acomforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

Last night we were able to watch the First Presidency Christmas devotional. As the choir sang Away in a Manger, I had tears in my eyes.  All the new missionaries think I am crazy.

"Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with thee there."

Thank you for your letters and love and support over the last 18 months. I thank my Heavenly Father every single day for letting me come to this beautiful place and spread his gospel.  I know that the church is true. I know God is our father and he knows each of us. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. Above all, I know that our Savior Jesus Christ lives. I am so grateful to have been a representative for him and spread a little light here on this wonderful island. 

I will be seeing you soon.  Please bring me a coat to the airport.... all that white stuff in the pictures you sent looks mortifying. And bring Cafe Rio too :) ha

Love from the pines, for the last time, 

Sister Meish

Monday, December 9, 2013

18 Months

hi po fam ko and friends --

Well, I turned 18 mission-months old this week! Oh man, I don’t know where the time went. I feel like I was just an inexperienced young missionary only a few months ago and now I am the oldie that's about to "die." Unfortunately, everyone here keeps reminding me about this fact - haha. I have outlawed these hymns: "the time is far spent," and "God be with you till we meet again." My dad tells me that we use missionary jargon that may require some definition. There is a missionary word called "trunky" which means a missionary has her trunks packed and is ready to go home - emotionally. It is generally a negative term because it means you don’t focus on the work anymore. We are so busy I don’t have time to think about what is ahead of me .... I asked sister Pal when my trunky day was and she told me it was on the 20th when I am by myself in Manila waiting for the flight to Tokyo haha. But we have been very busy and the days and weeks seem to blur together but it has been wonderful.  

On Tuesday we were in Naga for Mission Leadership Conference and at the end of the meeting President had those of us going home share our testimonies. The missionaries that are going home with me are all Filipino and there are 5 of us. The 2 elders are zone leaders and there are 3 Sisters – all of which are Sister Training Leaders (Responsible to work with a regional group of female missionaries). We all stood and shared our testimonies.  President had me go last which was a horrible idea. It was tough listening to some of my closest friends share their simple words and faith and then for me to try to speak without waterworks... I was able to keep it under control luckily.  Then at zone training all the new and departing missionaries bore their testimonies.  I remember all those months ago struggling to piece together a scrambled-bad-tagalog testimony and now, somehow through the process of time and constant effort, the words came naturally. My mom is reminding me to talk slowly when I get home because Tagalog moves very quickly. It is beautiful to look back on the way the Lord has helped me every day for 18 months. I prayed this morning thanking my Father In Heaven for the 18 months he has given me here; for the hours and hours of studying and praying and the tears and the struggle to learn a new language; for the people I have met and the stories they now represent for me. I got a stack of Christmas cards from a family in Goa this week - the perfectly cut paper shapes and the scribbled writing of small children reminded me again of the joy I have found here in the work of the Lord.  

During one of our exchanges we spent the entire day knocking on doors. This can be incredibly exhausting but it is also enjoyable. People here open up to us easily. They tell us of their trials and of the ways they know God.  Each person on this earth has a story and I love hearing these stories and seeing how God is a part of all of our lives.  

I have been receiving a lot of really good advice about this time of transition. The most common advice is to remember everything and to take it in and enjoy the 'lasts.' I was thinking about one of the classic FM 100 Christmas Songs "do you see what I see?" Here is what I can now see and the things I want to remember: 

·         Being the whitest, tallest, blondest person everywhere I go.
·         Being called Joe,
·         The looks on tiny children’s faces as the giant white lady passes by
·         The small shops connected to houses that sell candies and chips
·         Fresh bananas, mangoes and pineapple
·         Buying groceries from the market,
·         The  rows of crates and barrels of vegetables and fruit
·         The miles and miles of rolling coconut trees
·         The woman on the side of the road holding the leash to her grazing caribou 
·         Men on the bus in worn shorts and flip flops with a well used machete around their belt.
·         The man with black hair to his shoulders that sells us quail eggs on the bus
·         Colorful canoes that row up and down the rivers.
·         Walking through the muddy rice fields
·         Always having a minimum of three insect bites on my skin
·         The shock of a freezing bucket shower in the early morning every morning
·         Always carrying an umbrella 
·         The humble smiles and laughs of my friends 
·         Teaching by candle light

….and so much more

I feel so grateful for the hard and wonderful last 18 months of my life and for the way I have come to know and understand my Savior and for the way I can step back and see how this has changed my life and the lives of people I love dearly. I am grateful for the Christmas season and I am grateful to be here, teaching about my Savior. I know that this gospel points us to happiness and joy. This week we were asked the question: “what will you give for Christ? This is my last full week in the Philippines. I hope I can reflect the light of the Savior to his children that need him dearly. Enjoy this wonderful time of the year!! 

I love you all, 

From the Pines, 

Sister Meish

ps. start looking for a place to hang the hammock up in the house... don’t worry Bug. I bought another one so we can both swing together 

Monday, December 2, 2013

It is Christmas Time!

Hello family! Happy Thanksgiving!!! And even happier December! It is now Christmas time. Okay, honestly it has been Christmas here since September but now it feels close. For our Thanksgiving dinner... we ate rice! 
We have been on the go this week. You know things have changed when you set your alarm clock for 6:30 a.m. and are excited because that counts as sleeping in. On Tuesday we were off to the area  farthest out in the region we cover for exchanges. Then on Wednesday we went straight to the next exchange. Our last exchange for the week was on a Saturday. Nearly all of the sisters we work with are training and opening areas so they need a lot of help with increasing their teaching pool. A lot of what we did this week was tracting and finding and O.Y.M.-ing (opening your mouth and talking to people). We do this every where we go. 

On Saturday I was working with a darling sister from Canada.  She had been in the Philippines for exactly 8 days and is still adjusting through that tough transition mode we all go through during the first month.  That is where everything seems like a blur and you don’t know where you are going or what anyone is saying. Those are good memories - mostly good because now they are memories and not my life every day today. The rain had been pouring that entire day with no signs of letting up.  We grabbed our umbrellas and out we went to try to find new investigators for them to teach. We were able to find a few people that let us in but for most of the day we walked through flooded streets talking to anyone that walked by us. Most of the responses we get when people don’t want to talk to us are: "I’m never home, I’m always busy. Sorry." "I already have my religion." "We all worship the same God anyway, it’s just different paths we do our worshiping." 

Neither of us really knew the area or where we were going so we just kept walking and talking. We walked past a man pulling a tarp over the store outside his home, he was looking at us, probably wondering why to white girls were walking back and forth in the pouring rain. We stopped and introduced ourselves. His daughter peeked out from under the tarp and then his wife as well. They invited us in and offered us coffee. We said "no thanks" so they brought us orange soda instead.  We taught about the Restoration of the gospel. The father had a lot of really good questions.  There are 2 types of investigator questions: debate questions and sincere questions. This man had sincere questions. It was one of those experiences that I could feel the Holy Ghost testify to me that what I was saying was true... it gave me the courage to not back down but bare my testimony boldly.  They were kind. They were really interested in discussing our beliefs about family. I was happy to reassure them how important families are. We closed and were getting ready to go when I realized I forgot to invite them to church (rookie move - I know); so we told them were it was and that everyone is invited. The sisters told us last night that this family of three came to church.

I know that this is God’s work and that he knows us all. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that God wants to use us to help others. It’s inspiring to know that somewhere in us is the power to do good things and to make a difference. 

I have come to realize that somewhere inside us we want there to be something greater than us - because if it’s just us and our lives here on earth - then there is only so far we can go. There is only so much that we can do.  But if there is something greater than us then the possibilities are endless.  Over the last eighteen months I have seen God's hand in my life and in the lives of those I have come to love.  I know that he can make our lives meaningful and give us purpose.

I turned a small 5 sentimo (or a filipino 5 cents) into my own widows mite so that
I will always remember to give all I have to the Lord so he can make me better. 

One way to spot new foreign missionaries is that all of their stuff is in plastic baggies. Haha - soon they will realize that Pinoy rain is stronger than ziplock and their stuff will get wet anyway. Then the plastic baggies go towards hiding food from ants.
I had to go get a lung X-ray today to make sure I don’t bring home any deadly diseases.  They told me I am disease free and will be allowed back into the U.S.

We are in Naga today and tomorrow and then back on the road for exchanges. Well, I love you all! Have a wonderful week.

Love from the pines,

Sister Meish

My Friends 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

After a week of rain – rain - rain the sun came back in full force today. I was reading Spencer’s email about wearing coats and gloves and then Meg's about a river of sweat running down her back... my life is definitely more like Meg's – a river of sweat. We are always wet.  If it is not sweat, it is rain. 

Well, transfers came and went. I can’t believe I am in the last month and last transfer of my mission! Where did the time go? My great friend and companion Sister B got transferred to the zone that is furthest south part in our mission and I am currently in the most northern zone. So we are far from one another and I miss her dearly. But my new companion is just as wonderful; Sister Pal from Tarlac, Philippines. I am grateful that I get to speak all Tagalog in my last transfer... I know that if I had an American companion I would be talking a lot more tag-lish.


We have 8 exchanges with the other sisters in our area to cram into a 3.5 week time span. Poor sister Pal also has to somehow learn our area in the few days that we will actually be here. She seems to be a fast learner. We have been walking everywhere so that she can memorize where to go.  

Happy thanksgiving! I was looking through my old journal and last year I wrote a list of 100 things that I am grateful for... I split it into 10 categories. 10 people I was grateful for; 10 foods; 10 places; 10 memories with my family; 10 things that have made me stronger; 10 friends; 10 places in nature; 10 scriptures; and 10 things that make me smile.  I am going to do that again this year. It was interesting to see the things and people that I was grateful for at that time in my mission. Something I have come to realize this week is that I am much more grateful when I take the time to write down my blessings. Even on the mission it seems to be easy to get into a routine that I forget to notice the miracles of each day.  

 This Beautiful Land

In my journal a year ago I wrote that a giant spider came into our apartment in Ligao and I became a spider catcher.  History has repeated itself and a giant spider once again wandered into our apartment...I am now a professional killer of spiders of unusual size.  

This last week we were visiting an investigator whose husband is a member but works on a boat and only comes home twice a year.  This woman grew up with a Book of Mormon in her home because her father is a pastor and enjoyed having conversations with the Mormon missionaries. This week we talked about the Plan of Salvation with this kind sister. Before we left she explained how she is an active catholic, but that she always lets us in because there is more she wants to know. She told us to keep coming. I know that this interest she has is because she can feel a difference. It’s that light that comes from the knowledge we gain from the gospel.  

Filipino Basketball Hoop

Moroni tells us something it is easy to take for granted: (7:16) 

For behold, the aSpirit of Christ is given to every bman, that he may cknow good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the alight of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a bchild of Christ.

I know that this light is what leads us along through the darkness. Every day as we walk people stare and point at me because I am white. The teenage boys and the old men all yell out things that are honestly annoying and often inappropriate.  But, every once in a while as we walk past people will whisper "Mormons." These people are my favorites.  I feel overwhelmingly proud to be a Mormon missionary and try to always turn around and talk to these people. When I hear the annoying and inappropriate comments, I try remembering that I am a representative of the Savior. The church is not well known here as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. People only know us as Mormons.  We try to introduce ourselves using the full name of the church so that they hear Christ’s name.  

Bug, congrats on all you have accomplished this year - for being the most amazing homecoming queen / gorgeous person inside and outside and for the State-wide soccer recognition! 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

P.S. Carli - You are the most beautiful bride! I am so happy for you and wish you both the best!!! 

Count your blessings. I am grateful for all of you! Have a wonderful week.  

Love from the pines,

Sister Meish

Typhoon Damage Here - Lucky Us

Monday, November 18, 2013

Be Good to the World

Hello my dear family

Thanks for the continuous support and concern about the typhoon. It still is the main focus in all of our lessons and the images of shattered homes and families flash across televisions as we walk by.  It is heart breaking but also so encouraging to see people from all across the world standing together to help and do what they can to help total strangers.  It is an absolute miracle about the missionaries in Tacloban all surviving.  Like Helaman’s armies, none were killed. But they have quite a story to tell.  On Tuesday night we were walking down the street when one of the young women in our ward stopped us and told us there was a list of the Tacloban missionaries that were being transferred to Cebu. She pulled out here phone to show us, we scanned and scanned to find Sister B's cousin's name and when finally we got to the second to the last name we started jumping up and down in the middle of main street.  It is amazing how through the gospel you can feel so connected to people you have never met.  


On Friday night we were invited to a small birthday celebration for an elderly woman in the ward. We are very close to this family and enjoyed spending a little time in celebration of this good woman’s life. As we were sitting around the table they had another friend stop by to offer birthday wishes.  They brought a giant birthday card and Nanay (which is what we call mothers here) was so happy.  She kept opening and closing the card with a giant smile on her face.  As I sat there watching this woman whom I care a great deal about  - I received a text message from the Assistant’s telling me that a girl from Goa, my last area had just passed away due to a motor cycle accident. My world stopped for a few moments.  This girl was only 22 and an elementary school teacher. During my seven months in Goa she was the only person in her family that was there every week, even though her entire family is in the church. 

I thought about the contrast that was before me. A woman who had lived a long, happy life, full of joy, while miles away from me another family I love suffers from the loss of their daughter.  


Mosiah 16: 8 - 9

But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.

He is the light and the life of the world; yea a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.


I know that the Savior really can heal this sting.  It is a sting that many are facing in the southern part of my island home. I know that through the Savior the light can shine through. There is a way to move forward.  It is our faith in Christ that can pull us through. In Jacob 2:8 we read that God can “heal the wounded heart.”  

In an article I recently read by a cancer doctor, the author talks about how her patients tend to realign their lives. She says, "in the process of healing our priorities change." I think that is how the gospel is too. As the gospel heals us our priorities change.  We hopefully become more focused on the Savior and his path which enables us to be more like Him.  If we are living the gospel of Jesus Christ our priorities become more focused on things that really do matter vs. things that really don’t.

We had to find a new apartment this week and we literally walked up and down every street in our area until we found something. I was quite sunburned by the end of the day. We ended up crashing on our tile living room floor while we waited for the assistant’s to come and check off the apartment. The landlord is kind and easy to work with which made the new place an easy choice. I think that if we try to be good to the world, the world tends to be good right back.

Green mangos are back in season and the little kids all climbed up and picked some for us after a lesson we taught. It is also the start of my last transfer tomorrow. Sister B is being transferred to a new adventure.  Well, I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week.

Love from the Pines,

Sister Meish

Monday, November 11, 2013


As dad put it: “The world turned to the Philippines this week” as bagyo (typhoon) Yolanda hit this country hard.”  We were in Naga on Tuesday for Mission Leadership Council and President informed us that there was a bagyo coming and it looked big. When we got back to our areas we went into emergency mode calling all of the sisters to make sure that emergency evacuation plans were set and 72 hour kits were ready to go.  I don’t know if I ever mentioned this but my darling companion was on a search and rescue team back in Manila - so she is pro at emergency preparedness.  We moved everything off of the floors in our apartment in case of flooding.  Then she had us all pack a back pack with an extra pair of clothes, food, candles, matches, and anything we would need if we had to evacuate. We charged all of our emergency lights and cell phones and felt that we were as ready as we could be.  On Friday the entire mission was in lock down. I am pretty sure every mission in the pines was in lock down.  We experienced heavy rains and wind.  The typhoon scale reader signals one through four... we were at a one and these were some of the strongest winds and rain I have seen. I can’t imagine what the signal four was like for the islands to the south of us.  But the pictures we have seen tell the story. 

On Thursday night around 3 a.m. I woke up to complete darkness.  The electricity was out and I couldn’t see anything.  I lay there in my bed waving my hand back and forth in front of my face trying to figure out if I was dreaming or awake.  That kind of darkness disorients you.   Luckily my rescue companion had us pack up our stuff so I knew right where my flash light was at the foot of my bed in the front pocket of my backpack.  As I clicked the little button, light filled the room and sister b and I both commented on the peace that came from a little bit of light.

We are just north of the Tacloban Mission. We were worried on Friday night because the storm was moving through Legaspi and we didn’t know if it was going to keep moving north and come right through us. Luckily it changed course.  

Sister B's cousin is in the Tacloban mission and they havent heard from him yet. Understandably, she is having a hard time. I want to go down and work on the volunteer groups. They need so much help.  The members’ are grateful for the gospel and the perspective it gives. The missionaries from Cebu and Tacloban are also struggling because their families just survived the earthquake and then had to go through this. It is actually amazing that so many people live here because it can be so dangerous – especially when they don't have much of a defense against the elements. 

This week has been one full of contemplation.  I have been thinking about the substance of my life, what gives my life meaning and purpose.  On the mission you really don’t have too many possessions.  Everything you own you can fit into 2 small suitcases and that is all.  As I filled my small backpack with the things I would want and need, the things I cared about most were my journals.  They were the only things I really wanted besides the essentials.  The journals hold my memory of what I have experienced over the last 17 months.  When it is all and said and done - those words may be all I have to hold on to of these people I love so much. This makes me once again realize that in this life the things that matter are people.  In life we have a kind of spiritual survival kit. What we put into this depends on what is important to us. It takes time to build up this supply but I think that like our physical survival kit we had this weekend, our spiritual reserves can sustain us in times of need. For me, I am making a goal to have a better supply of quiet prayer, of making memories of laughing instead of running from one appointment to the other, of taking pictures of the beauty of the earth, and serving other people, of singing and listening to uplifting music, and of consecrated time spent in the scriptures.  

I read in Alma this week and Alma tells his son Helaman how he has a testimony not of himself or of a carnal mind but of God.  I was thinking how that is the trick of life... to see things as godly. We know that we cannot carry the riches of the world but it is not enough to not place our hearts on the things of the world. We have to see the world through Godly eyes.  That means seeing the man who drives a padyak and picks up our trash can be Godly. The sweet woman with only a few teeth, a frail, thin body seemed to take on the godly traits of goodness this week as we sat on her cement floor and talked about the gospel. She sat with her knees to her chest and tears in her eyes. She has a difficult life trying  to make a small 5 peso candle work in a 72 hour kit because the 10 peso candle was too expensive. I know that God lives. I know that this is his work.  Typhoons and darkness come into our life but that is why we have the gospel.  It brings us peace, even if only a little and gives us the strength to carry on.  

Thank you all for your care and concern and love and especially your prayers. They are still needed for the Tacloban mission! If the church does a clothing drive, feel free to donate my closet. The sun is out today and I get to be a missionary again this week and try to do a little good in a world that is hurting and seems dark. I feel so grateful. I am much more blessed than I should be. I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week. 

Love from the Pines, 

Sister Christensen 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

3 White Shirts and a Bus Ride

hey fam!

I cannot believe it is November.  Where has the time gone? We had a wonderful week full of tricks and treats.... on Tuesday we were in Sipocot for exchanges.  We counted the exchanges as very successful because we found wonderful Witches Hats for 20 pesos.

While we were there we were able to teach one of their investigators who is getting married next week.  This is someone you may not picture passing the sacrament on Sunday in a white shirt and tie. But there hanging in their small one room home are 3 white shirts and ties - cleaned and ready for this coming Sunday.  This man has an incredible knowledge of the gospel and a strong testimony of the restoration.  I am so grateful the gospel that helps us to see new light, to find hope in darkness and become a little bit better each day. 

The bus ride from Sipocot to Daet is a three hour ride and buses here can pack 10 times as many people into a 10 times smaller spot. Sister B and I had to split up because there weren't two chairs next to one another.  I ended up squishing in the middle of two mothers. One mother had a three year old boy sitting on her lap and an 8 month girl in her arms. The other one had 3 children waiting for her at home. As we talked I found out that both of them had met missionaries before and knew a little bit about the church.  We got on to the topic of the temple and how families can be an eternal unit.  The woman with two children in her arms looked into my eyes and her face changed. It was the same change I have seen in other investigators... it is what the church leaders talk about when they say investigators will hear an echo of a testimony they once knew. We referred them to the elders and hopefully they will be able to recall that testimony they once had. 

We had a curfew nearly every day this week because of the election and then because of All Souls Day and All Saints Day. We had to be in the apartment by 6p.m. because by 6p.m. No matter what time of year it is here it gets dark by 6:00 p.m.  Because we were cooped up in our apartment for hours on end we bought a squash and carved it for Halloween.  The sisters had never seen that before and they loved it! Then we paraded around our apartment taking pictures. Somehow the Santa hats came out and were thrown into the mix and more pictures were taken.  It was a great Halloween. 
Will’s first email from Chile killed me. Hopefully he can figure out the translator thing.

Congratulations to Sara!! ahhhh. I love England. I may have to be the one that comes to pick you up. That is so fun. You are going to love it and be a wonderful missionary. Yeah for three- missionary families. 

Well in this month of gratitude, I am so grateful for this gospel and the purpose it brings to my life. I am grateful to be here and be a representative of my savior. I am grateful to know of a loving heavenly father and a loving son and their wonderful plan for us. I am grateful for you and your love and support. I hope you have a wonderful week. 

Love from the pines,

Sister Christensen