Monday, January 28, 2013

Goa City

Kumustamos mga kapatid, magulang and kailbigan!

I am sitting in a brand new computer shop that is bright yellow and in the middle of Goa City. There is a delicious smell coming in through the open door from the small cantina across the street. I have just finished my first week in my second area. I had become so familiar with the tricy drivers, the streets and the people of Ligao it has been strange to now be surrounded by unfamiliarity. It has been a good week though. Goa city which is in the north of my mission is pretty far from Ligao. I can no longer see the Myon Volcano.

My new companion’s name is Sister Abarabar. She is pinay (Filipina) and is from Isabella.... which is up in the top of the pines where Erika N served. She is 23 and is the youngest comp I have had yet. I don’t know if I have mentioned that all of my comps have been older than I am. It will be weird to have a younger sister haha... She just finished her training and knows so much more about missionary work than I did after training - so I am super impressed. I am what they call her "follow up companion" - very exciting to have a title huh? J

We are in an apartment with 2 other sisters and we have a little too much fun! I love it and we just have fun all the time. The funness is taking a toll on my journal writing - but that’s ok. Sister Abarabar does speak English.... most people here at least understand English and a lot of them can speak broken English... we speak Tag though... well at least try. One of the sisters is Filipina but has lived in Canada for the last 7 years so we may or may not have been catching up what has been going on in Vampire Diaries…. It is one noisy household with all of us which is great!

Speaking of households…. Our house is so nasty! I kind of love it because it meets every standard for missionary apartment horror stories that has ever been told. It is the most disgusting thing ever!!! We die every day laughing about how nasty it is! But President gave us the ok to find a new apartment so hopefully we will move this week... cause we might just die here from numerous causes of nasty if we stay.

Our sink refuses to drain. We have taken the plunger to it, sticks, warm water and chemicals, but it stubbornly remains clogged. We wash our dishes out on the side of the house because we can only use the sink so many times before there is water threatening to brim over the edge of our counter. On Friday our water stopped working and we didn’t have water in the bathroom or the kitchen or in our outside washing area. The faucet has to be perfectly in the middle of the knob to be shut off and the only way we know  when it is turned off is when the water stops running. Since there was no water we couldn’t be sure if it was turned off all the way. We did our best to guess where “off” was only to find out that our best guess was extremely off the mark. When I woke up Saturday morning to a swimming pool in our kitchen. Oops! I have gotten very used to having spiders, ants and yes, even cockroaches in our houses. However, it was a whole new experience when there was a mouse lying belly up next to our refrigerator. At least he was dead and we didn’t have to kill him, I would bet that he drank the water from our sink. To top this, the door handle to the front door broke and sister Abarabar and I held our weekly planning session on our front porch while we waited for the other Sisters to arrive home with the only key to our side entrance. The district leaders’ idea was for me to kick the door down. I asked him why he suggested that I do that and he replied “cause your legs are huge.” I told him he better be referring to length and not width. All in all - our house has character and we can endure - we are hoping to move in the next week or two!

Goa is wonderful so far, it is a small city with lots of people and even more rice fields. One day it would be fun to be assigned in Naga because it is a big city but for now I am super happy to be out in the country side. The ocean is in our district now so hopefully one P-day we will be able to go out and visit! We still walk a ton but the people live a lot closer together so we can get more lessons in during a day which is super nice. But I am still adjusting and learning the area.

We continue to work heavily on the reactivation effort. We have a young 18 year old boy that has a baptismal date for Feb 23. He has holes in his ears where there used to be earrings and a tattoo on his right bicep. One might think he should be hanging out in the ally with other 18 year olds and a few 25 cent cigarettes, but the conversion that has taken root in his heart is inspiring. He was nervous about attending church because he didn’t have anything to wear so the elders in our district gave him a white t-shirt and a pair of slacks. One of the single adults in the branch offered up a tie. Yesterday at church this young man glowed as he wore his new church clothes.

There is a ward here in Goa but the church attendance numbers are low. The members are so nice though and easy to love because they are so warm and loving. I will admit that I felt a little bit like I was arriving from the MTC yesterday at church. Some of this is to be expected because I don’t know the people yet or the area but mainly because the entire meeting was in BIKOL! Patay, ano ba iyan - the Tower of Babel definitely fell here! Luckily sister Abarabar didn’t understand either so I didn’t feel sooo foreign. My vocabulary list of Tagalog words in my planner is now along side a growing list of Bikol words. We teach in Tagalog and everyone here understands and speaks Tagalog but they are more comfortable in Bikol. I know that no matter where I am assigned the people will become like family. Each area will hold significance for me and represent a different phase of my mission life.

The goodbyes in Ligao went okay. I have received a few emails from a few of the members and two of the Datoon sisters - so it is fun that I can still keep in touch with them.

I hope you arrived home safe from PR? Thanks for the pictures.  Mom – you asked about my health. I am doing well. We eat tons of veggies on top of rice everyday so our food is healthy. We also eat tons of banana and mangos - their mangos are soooooo yummy! I could eat one for every meal. I eat rice everyday. I remember thinking rice for breakfast sounded so nasty before the mish but now it is normal. I actually love Filipino food! Of course sometimes there are things that are not good but for the most part it is great.

I am very excited for Kate Cowely to be coming to the Pines... we will be able to mag-tagalog when we both get home. How crazy that Meg and Matt and Kate and I are in the same places. Small world! She will love it and San Pablo is our neighboring mission. One of my friends from home is serving there and she is cute and tall and blonde. Maybe she'll be her trainer.

It is rainy and over cast. This is Filipino winter and I slept in pants every night this week – I don’t know if I will survive the Utah cold.

When is Cate’s Valentine dance? Wow, I can’t believe Feb is here already. I wanna see pics when she gets her dress.

Padaba ko ika!! Thanks for your love and letters. I am so grateful for you and for the plan Heavenly Father has given us to be together forever!


Sister meish!



Monday, January 21, 2013

Leaving Ligao

Happy birthday to Mags!!! Twenty years old. So great! Makes me actually feel kind off old but that’s okay. My birthday wish for you is that you become fluent in Spanish while you are in Puerto Rico – actually nah cause then you won’t have the great stories from the first few months of mission life. Hah I think about those first days that I had no clue what was going. My trainer would look at me indicating that it was my turn to talk and I would realize that I had been watching the spider in the corner instead of pretending to listen. Haha! Oh mission life, so great!

Thanks for the updates on the trip to Puerto Rico! I am glad you are staying on the beach and can hear the waves. We are not near the beach so I listen to the rain when I go to sleep. Mom, I bet it is so fun to be in the area? I was thinking today how I have to get back here. I am so glad you have made it back to your mish. I bet the smells and the streets bring it all back. I wish I was there with you just because I would be so excited with you because now I understand how much those streets and those smells and especially those people meant to you. It is such a big part of you..... I was thinking the other day about how I now understand why you wanted us to go on missions. It becomes a part of you that you could never fully explain! It is so great and I am so excited for Meg and Speen!!!

Well I have been singing the tag line to the pull-ups commercials all weekend, “I’m a big kid now.” I am in the midst of experiencing my first transfer. On Saturday morning we received a text message saying, “Transferred: Sister Christensen. Be at the Ligao chapel at 9 am Tuesday morning.” Sister Dumo says your first transfer makes you feel like a real missionary because you pack everything up and move to a new place (hence the pull ups tagline.) They don’t tell us where we are being transferred. We actually find out when we step out of the van and they introduce us to our new companion. I think they secretly enjoy watching all the missionaries guess where they are going and who their new best friend will be. My guess is that I will go north and be the follow up to a Sister that just finished training.. just a guess though

Although it is exciting going to a new place, it has been a difficult weekend. It is almost breaking my heart to say bye to these people that I love so much. Yesterday I spoke in church and it was a water show for sure. I have learned so much here in Ligao and it feels like I am leaving home again but it could be years before I make it back here, if I do have the chance to return. For nearly 6 months I have prayed for my friends here daily and worried about them and now I have to say good bye. I remember in my first few weeks in the field I spent a lot of time on my knees trying to understand why I was sent to a place that I could not speak the language and communicate with the people. Although I have known for a while, this weekend was a strong answer to that prayer. I know I needed to be here because of the way these people have strengthened ME and MY testimony. I know I am supposed to be the giver, the teacher, but I have gained so much more from these loving Ligao saints than I could ever give to them.

Elder Antoine R. Ivins said, “The great value, I believe, that the church has for us is the opportunity it gives us to serve, for, after all, the great benefits of life come from service. Generous, open-hearted, full service to our fellows.”

After church one of our members came up to me, we embraced and in a quiet whisper she said thank you. We both stood there in that quiet chapel and cried. One of the most beautiful blessings of the mission is being able to serve people and love them. They have served me as they have been patient with my Tagalog, listened in lessons, fed us in their homes and treated us as family. It is hard to say good bye; more difficult than I anticipated, but I am grateful for the relationships I have made. I have been reminded how short the time is here and of the importance of giving my best regardless of how crappy my Tagalog is or how well I know the area. I am going to try to keep that in mind as I travel off to a new landscape. I guess it is time to put on my pull-ups and grow through new experiences.

On another note this morning I woke up early wanting to be organized and avoid the stressful midnight packing panic, I also wanted to wash my laundry so that it would have plenty of time to dry. For clarification: washing my clothes includes a process where I squat on the bathroom floor (our stool is broken) with two basins at my side. One basin is for my soapy clothes the other basin has clean water. After I scrub the soapy clothing they must be rinsed three separate times to remove all the detergent. It is quite the process. I will never again take for granted a washing machine and on this day a dryer. I hung the clothes out early so I wouldn’t have to pack soggy skirts for the transfer. This morning was sunny and warm, prime clothing drying weather, when out of nowhere the rain came, as only Filipino rain does and soaked everything. So much for trying to be organized - hah.

When you said Spencer and Owen have been trying to climb the coconut trees, there are coconut trees everywhere you look here... The locals are professional at climbing the coconut trees even though sometimes they are 30 ft plus high.... they are nuts. There are also hundreds and hundreds of banana trees. There are around 10 different kinds of banana, who knew! And over the last six months I have learned many creative recipes that include bananas or Saging as we call them here. I was not a fan of bananas back in the SLC but I learned real quick to like them here. My favorite kind are small and fat and you boil them and eat them while they are super hot. This week we were visiting one of our investigators, an elderly woman of about 65. She wasn’t at home when we first got there but after a few moments she came walking down the hill behind their small bamboo home with a 2 foot stack of banana’s on her head that she had just cut down. I could hardly lift the pile up and yet Nanay had no problem hauling it on top of her noggin. I am never ceased to be amazed.

We are having a good bye FHE tonight at the Datoon’s even though we were there last night for dinner, haha. It will be fun - just hard to say good-bye. President Datoon is our Branch president, his sister is in the RS presidency, and her husband is the District President. They are incredible.

Well that’s all the news from this week. As always I love you and am grateful for you. Be safe and have a blast in PR!

One last time - love from Ligao. I will write you next week from some new place.

Sister C

Monday, January 14, 2013

Water Buffalo Riding

Hello family that I love so dearly! It has been a great week! We are heading into the last week of the transfer which blows my mind… I am pretty sure I will say that every 6 weeks. Time just goes so quickly. We have a baptism this coming Saturday for a little nine year old boy. His parents are members and it has been wonderful to see his mother become active again in preparation for his baptism. The beauty of the Area Presidency’s goals to work with less active members is that we get to help complete families and help those that are not yet members join their families.

We try to split our work with less active members and investigators half and half and it has been really interesting to work on cultivating testimonies for people that are already baptized. We started working with a less active family this week that has not been to church for years. They are kind and welcoming which is a relief because a lot of times people hide from us which makes the re-cultivating of testimonies a little tricky. But we were asking this family about their testimony about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. The mom said she doesn't know about Joseph Smith anymore and it is confusing for her but even though she hasn't come to church for a long time she hasn't forgotten God. I thought about how easy it is to forget and become confused when we are not trying to remember.

Earlier this week in my personal study I read about patience in Mosiah. Elder Maxwell said, “Patience is not indifference. Actually it is caring very much but being willing, nevertheless, to submit both to the Lord and to what the scriptures call ‘the process of time.’” I was thinking about this process of time and how everything we do in life is measured by this process. My Tagalog learning is taking place in a process of time – it is taking patience and a lot of time but slowly, slowly it is coming. Our conversion requires the process of time. It requires us to patiently build a relationship with our heavenly Father and like Elder Maxwell has said, it requires us to care very much. Rather quickly and easily our conversion and testimony can fade away. We may say we haven’t forgotten our Father, but through that process of time – we do forget. Luckily our Father in Heaven is the most patient of all and if we are willing he will build us back up and we can remember. Hopefully, this family like so many others will be willing to put in the time to remember and patiently rebuild their testimonies.

Sister Dumo and I have been focusing on building the branch missionary force in our branch. The new mission leader is a young 23 year old boy and he wants to go on a mission and has been great in working with us. He is organizing the other single adults to work with us and just wants to help in anyway he can. His excitement reminded me that when we are willing to give people responsibility they will often exceed expectations. People like feeling needed and this calling has been such a great thing for this young man.

One of the most difficult parts of missionary work is having people decide they do not want to listen anymore, whether less active or investigators. You worry so much and care dearly for people and one gift of missionary work is the love you feel for people. So when people turn away from the gospel it breaks your heart. We had one especially difficult day this week were one of our investigator families told us they didn’t want to listen any more; one family hid from us; and we are having a hard time tracking down the birth certificate and birth date of a baptismal candidate, and so on….all in all it was a tough day. As we were walking to our last lesson I looked up at the sky, the beautiful sky makes me always feel at peace and remember my Father in Heaven is ultimately in control. Well on this night, there were no stars because it was cloudy and also the moon was not out. I thought how that was a great way to describe our day… dark and bleak. No light. As I continued to watch the sky I saw one tiny firefly sparkling in a nearby banana tree. One of my favorite scriptures is in Mosiah 16:9, it says “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 was reminded by this one small firefly that even when there are no stars and no moon – we can still find light. We had a wonderful family home evening with our newest member and all of the leaders. Also this newly baptized member's wife, who is not a member came to church and sat in our lesson later that day. Even though people hide from us and people lose their way there is always light to be found. It was a great reminder for me that no matter how dark, we should always look for that firefly in the sky.

Our region keeps getting hit with bagio (typhoon) after bagio.... it is the climate of calamities.

If I am transferred next week, I would guess that I will be sent to either Naga or Daet... mostly because I will probably be in that area for awhile if I train there when the 15 new American Sister Missionaries get here. Daet is pure Tagalog because it is closest to Manila... Naga is a totally different from the bikol here sooo that will be exciting ha.

Mom, are you so excited to go back to your mission!!!! I am so excited for you to go back. I am sure there will still be people there but you may have to bring back your missionary skills of hunting people down. Being on a mission helps me understand how much this experience will mean to you!

I loved the picture of all the moms from the dinner party!

Well have a wonderful week in Puerto Rico! Meg and Speen the count down is on - yay!!! So excited for you! Well I love you all and am ever grateful for your love and support. Enjoy the white fluffy stuff outside and I will enjoy the white fluffy stuff in my mango shake in the sunshine.

Love from the Pines,

Sister Meish

Monday, January 7, 2013

A New Year

Happy 2013! 

Holy Moly. I’ll tell you what, these Filipinos sure do know how to ring in the New Year! We had a curfew on New Years Eve and New Years day of 6pm. So we were left out of the party but we sure did hear it! Their fireworks here just explode and make a huge noise. I was standing in our kitchen and closed my eyes and thought that I was perhaps in the midst of a giant war! It sounded like there were bombs in the fireworks and going all night.  There is a tradition to eat and eat and eat at midnight and since we were not allowed to go to the party, some members brought us food so we could still eat and eat and eat.  On New Years Day we went out to work and Ligao had turned into a ghost town. We were all alone on the streets.  We only taught 2 lessons the whole day for one of two reasons:  The people were either sleeping or when we got there they didn’t want us to teach; they just wanted us to eat the food left over from the night before.  We ended up having a breakfast appointment, a lunch appointment and a dinner appointment that day.  I think I entered into a food coma. But it was a good time and I will never forget my New Years’ in Ligao.

Thanks for the package of talks. I have started reading through them slowly. The Elder Holland talk is one of my favs.... he has such a way of inspiring through words!  If I am having a hard day I like to read his talks or listen to a talk by President Hinckley.  They inspire me and lift me to be better.  
And I now have a great picture of the Tetons sitting on my work desk!  I also received a package from Chari!!! She is so sweet!  It had my favorite mix of choco chips, almonds, and nuts.  My comp thinks I am weird that I like it so much. She mostly likes the choco chips.  It’s funny how cravings are different in different parts of the world. 

My interview with President went well on Friday. We mostly talked about when I will be training and what is going to happen with all of the foreign sisters coming in March and April.  I think he is bummed he is leaving in the summer because all the big changes are exciting and he wants to be a part of it. President asked if I was getting "trunky" to move out of the area (meaning sick of being here). I am not. I told him I was ready to do what ever he needed me to do, If that meant leave then I am ready (although it will break my heart) or I am happy to stay here another transfer.  He said it will depend on whether I train in March or April.  I would be happy to have one more transfer with a Pinay comp so that I can keep working on the language thing.  Come what may and love it.

On Saturday we had a baptism of a long time investigator! Of course, like all baptisms, the hour leading up to it was complete chaos.  We got to the church and once again the font was not filling up fast enough.  We grabbed a hose from the shed and coiled it from the outside faucet, through the church hallway and into the font.  We then began filling up two 5 gallon buckets with water from the bathroom or CR as we call them here (not sure why CR doesn't actually stand for something) and dumping them one at a time in the font.  Although the water was dirty we were able to roughly start on time and there were so many members there in attendance to give support. It was a dream come true! This baptism was a witness to me of the living power of our Savior.  When this 30 year old man went down into the water my eyes filled with tears and I felt so grateful for the cleansing power of baptism and the chance we have to be reborn in Jesus Christ.  For over 2 years he has been an investigator and finally he is now a confirmed member of the only true church on the face of the earth. He has a great chance to start this New Year with a new life.  

Sister Dumo and I were walking to one of our appointments earlier this week and I was studying through my flashcards.  As a missionary you get into a habit of saying hi to everyone you walk by.  There was a mother and her young son on the side of the road.  I looked up from my list of words to smile at them and noticed the little boy was saying “lolo, lolo.” I looked around to see where this grandpa (english for lolo) could be.  We were the only ones on the street.  I realized he was talking about me!!! My hair was pulled back in a bun and he thought it was white and that I was a grandpa! Such a blow to the ego… .not even grandma.  He thought I was a grandpa.  It goes on. . .   On Sunday at church one of our actual grandmas in the branch, was looking at my hair and told me I am too young to have white hair.  The only people that have white hair here are those that have a few more years under their belt.  Some of them have a hard time understanding that this is my hair color - naturally.

On New Years once again we were walking; we walk a lot.  Suddenly I heard a stampede of footsteps. I looked back to see the finest of Ligao’s army in training out for an afternoon jog.  Around a hundred men came jogging up beside us when their leader called out, in English, “hi maam!” which was followed by an incredibly loud in unison: “hi maam” and then “Good Afternoon” in the same manner.  Never a dull day here in mission life!

Things are going great with my companion. We are different but I love her and we have fun! We are working hard and the baptism went sooo well on Saturday; so that was a blessing and I am thrilled.

Thanks for the fun pictures of Meg from the temple!! I miss the temple. We have really been focusing on the temple because we are trying to help people get there. I have a picture of our family in my scriptures. I always show this picture and talk about how we are bound together forever.  It takes so much sacrifice for them though; time and money that are just not available (mostly the money). I am so happy for Megs.

Dad mentioned that the new Bourne movie was filmed in Manila.  I am sooo so glad I was assigned to Naga rather than an urban area. I would miss the fields and trees and Naga is just so perfect for me!

It sounds pretty chilly there! It is hot, hot, here.  We had another Bagio (typhoon) hit - but it was a little guy; just rain and rain. Luckily, today I finally bought a new umbrella - that hopefully will help.

Well I hope you all had a wonderful New Years and have a whole list of goals lined up for the next 2 months! I know I do. 

Thanks for all your support and love. It helps me to be a better missionary and a better person. You are always in my prayers!

Love from the Pines,

Sister Meish