Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Banana Leaf Roofs

Maray na hapon po! How is everyone doing in SLC? We had another wonderful week here in the land of sun.  Literally, it is a very sunny land. I have never been so hot in my life but we are almost to the rainy season so we just have to endure a few more weeks. 

We were in Naga for a day this week because we are half way through our training and we had a workshop with President.  It was wonderful. We talked about the Doctrine of Christ (Faith, Repentance, Baptism) and the importance of inviting people to come unto Christ through Baptism.  Over the last several months I have gained an appreciation for baptism and the role it plays in our life.  It is that first step, that first jump of faith that shows God we trust him and are willing to follow up. It also opens the door that leads to the temple.  But it really is AFTER baptism that we become members through our endurance and consistent day by day actions.

Last night we sat under several coconut trees and taught a lesson about the Gospel of Christ to a family that we are working with.  When I first got to Goa the mother of this family was already being taught.  She and her husband had been taught previously but then for some reason the lessons stopped.  Over the last several months it has been miraculous to see this woman begin to understand the gospel. It has been a slower process with her children but they are beginning to understand as well. She and two of her sons have a baptismal goal date for June and for the first time her 18 year old son came to church yesterday.  Her oldest son seems very interested in missions and what is required to be able to serve a mission.  He sat by Crisanto during Sunday school. As it turns out they know each other from back in the day when Cris ran around with a different crowd. 

I have been thinking about the trials we need to go through and perhaps even required to go through to achieve the exaltation we read about in the scriptures.  One of our Investigators is trying to save money so she can get married and she can get baptized.  The other night it was raining very hard and their roof, of banana leaves has so many holes in it the kids woke up soaking wet.  She and her spouse want to get married but with the rainy season they also need to pay to get a new roof.  It is so difficult for me to know how to direct them. She wants to follow Gods plan but is inhibited by temporal things.  I have been praying and praying for understanding of what more could be done.  This sweet sister reads everything we give her; she was reciting the story of Nehor to us.  She knows this is the truth but yet she cannot take that step of faith or show her love for God, at least not in the way of baptism.  Not yet. Clear answers as to why this obstacle is in front of her did not come to me; not perfectly.  But as I kneeled on the cold cement floor in our upstairs bedroom of our apartment I finally found peace.  A calm reassurance came over me that this is what the Atonement does.  It heals and perfects. I know that my redeemer lives. I believe in his Atonement.  I understood a little more that Christ's atonement will help me in my imperfections, just as it will help this kind woman overcome anything unfair or unjust in this life. Mom wrote me once and said, “I believe and that propels me along.” Me too mom.  I believe.  I believe that this gospel is the thing that will bring comfort and peace to my dear friend in a way that no perfectly secured roofing job ever could. But they also need a roof. I believe that this is truly is the plan of happiness because we find happiness that exceeds the value of mansions and earthly success.  I

Have a great last week of school! I love you all! I love this work. I love the wonderful people here that I get to meet each day.  I love that it is a full moon this week and above all I love my Savior Jesus Christ!

Mahal na mahal ko kayo

Sister Meish

Ps – thanks aunt chari for the wonderful package!! The cliff bars are amazing!!! You are sweet to think of me. 


Monday, May 20, 2013

Last Zone Conference with Bleisner's

Hello po lovely family ko. It has been another full week in Goa. We were in Naga on Wednesday for our last Zone Conference with President and Sister Bliesner. We will have interviews with them again in June and then they will be off. It is going to be weird to see them go but I am so grateful for the sacrifices they have made for our mission they have touched all of our lives through their love and devotion to the Lord.

Last Monday we got a text telling us that one of our less active members, a 51 year old man, had passed away. He had been sick for a little under two weeks and they had visited the doctor but there was nothing obviously wrong with him. He has left his wife of 34 years, their 7 children and now 2 grandchildren to make do without a father and without a husband. On Monday night we stood with this young widow in the dark night and rainy air talking. She told us she is afraid; she is afraid of the loneliness that is going to come from not having a husband to talk to when life gets hard. She said she knows that the trials are only just beginning. Death feels so final. This family was sealed in the temple many years ago but one step lead to another and over time they became less active. She promised her husband she would get back to the temple. We spent some time at their home each day this week. The Filipino tradition around honoring the deceased is to place the body in a casket and then leave it at the home for about a week. People come and go and there is always food. I was worried about how this woman was going to be able to provide food each day for all these family members and friends that were coming to honor this family. A few members of the ward gathered for the funeral one night. As we were singing “I know that My Redeemer Lives” a table of less than sober men were smoking and gambling outside the door. I found it ironic that these men carried on in such a manner as their dear friend lay lifeless and breathless just steps away. Elder Holland once said, “Sometimes we act as if we are going to stay here but we aren’t, we can’t and we won’t.” Time does run out for all of us and at some point there will come a time that we will sit and have our interview with the Savior. One-on-one we will discuss how we used our time on earth.

I was thinking how I wish I could take snapshots of moments here that teach me what life means. These are moments during my day that remain in my memory but I wish I could capture them in my lens as well. One such moment was a night this week when we visited this young widow and were able to pull away from the smoking and gambling to sit in the starlight and talk and laugh with a neighbor and a member from the ward. I wish I could capture her smile as light came from wholesome conversation and hope that comes from the gospel. Another moment was of her young daughter who sat silently on the metal bench of a jeepney; eyes focused on the white car behind them that carried her now lifeless father. She is only about 10 or maybe even nine. She didn’t make any sound but one tear clung to the bottom of her chin while another tear sat just under her eye. I wondered what memories she recalled as we drove. This was a moment that defined the important things in life for me. Another was of Lucy Jane, the 4 year old daughter of Sister Karin, sitting on the back row in sacrament meeting. My companion spoke in church yesterday so we were on the stand. At each song Lucy Jane would stand up and look right at me and copy the actions of the chorister. Our life is made of memories, small moments, and small snapshots. I value these moments that teach me about life; particularly the reminders that life is about people. One of the many reasons I am so grateful for the mission is the opportunities I have to meet such diverse people; rich with experience, and all with a story of their own. I am grateful for the perspective the gospel gives us about life. During those specific snapshots that are difficult we can gain strength and understanding. The gospel gives us light when there would otherwise be none.

A Family we are Teaching
Zone Conference
Today it has been pouring but ironically we don’t have water. Then the power went out in the whole city. We were cracking up. We have started making a list of problems that depend on your point of view. For example – A problem in a developed country would be the rare times we have to take a cold shower. A 3rd world problem is that there are days we have no water to take a shower. Another developed world problem may be that my shirt shrank in the dryer. A 3rd world problem occurs when I have to wash my clothes by hand and then after putting them on the clothes line, they get soaked and the clothes line falls down into the mud.

We take for granted the fact that the gospel gives us perspective on what matters and what really doesn’t. I am grateful to live here. I love the people and this work and for the many miracles I see each day!

Fun Fact: There is this thing called rice coffee: this is the Filipino Mormon coffee. It is basically burnt rice with water and sugar added in. It is actually not too bad.

Well I love you dearly. thanks for the love and support! Hope you have a great week!

Love from the Pines,

Sister Christensen


Monday, May 13, 2013

Turkey Sandwiches

Happy Mother’s Day to my loving nanay! We sat in stake conference yesterday and listened to each of the speakers pay tribute to their mom or their wife.  I felt such gratitude in my heart for my own mommy Chris.  For the thousands of dinners that were hot and ready for me on the stove; for the dance recitals that you would attend; and even more practices you would shuttle back and forth to; I am grateful for the late night chats and for the hundreds of time you would rub my back and give me good advice.  And I am so grateful for your example and encouragement to go on a mission.  I am so grateful to live in my beloved Philippines as a representative of my Savior and I just want to thank you for who you are because that is how I know who I want to be. 

Being able to Skype my WHOLE family was the greatest blessing in the world.  Thank goodness for modern technology.  It is quite miraculous that people in the Philippines, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the USA can all see one another at the same moment.  That was the cherry on top of an already great weekend filled with a package of chocolate covered almonds and an endless supply of gum! Thanks for the package!

We had a busy week, which is normal in mission world.  The couple missionaries brought the items to stock our new house… there will be 6 sisters in our house starting in June. So on Saturday we spent the morning putting together bunk beds and study tables and bookshelves. 

We were teaching the Candelarias about the Plan of Salvation this week.  As we walk around each day we pass hundreds of people.  Men are standing on the side of the road with their shirts half way pulled up - just standing and watching the world go by.  Women are in the fish market gutting Tilapia.  Little children eat ice cream from the man that just passed by with his push cart.  I watch them and think ‘they need what we have.’ Do they know why they are here? As we were teaching at the Canderlaria’s we asked why we are here and why we were given free agency.  Cris replied and said that we have to choose if we are going to follow God.  I thought how profound this was coming from a boy who literally made a leap of faith to follow God and change his entire life.  He is converted to the gospel because of the truth and the light he feels in his life.  He said the opening prayer in stake conference and is literally counting down the days until he can go on his mission. 

I have been thinking a lot about prayer this week - how when we pray we are communicating with the God of all the earth and how even though I am so small he still listens.  Each night as we walk back home I have formed a habit of walking with my eyes towards the millions of twinkling lights billions of light years away.  I feel such a sense of peace as I think of the grandeur of God and yet the control he has and the power available to us through one small prayer.  I believe that prayer truly does make a difference in who we are and in the way we know our father. 

Fun facts of the Pines: there are giant wild turkeys that have decided to strut up and down our street at 5:30 am each morning.  I never knew how incredibly loud the gobble of a turkey was until now.  I am contemplating making turkey sandwhiches.  However, I fear that they might have large talons.  Also last Monday we made no bake cookies - they have to be no bake since we do not have an oven, just a small toaster oven. They were very tasty.  This week we went for homemade guacamole, another triumphant success.  We are 2 for 2 on making creative food! Well I love you all thanks for your love and support!

Kit! Your wedding looked beautiful, thanks for holding my picture at the temple! Glad I could make it.  I actually got your wedding invite on Friday morning and it was a fun reminder of my bestie on her special day.  All the pics looks super cute!

Mahal ko kayo!

Sister C.


Monday, May 6, 2013

The Goa Royal Wedding

I think time has begun to speed up. As we went to bed last night I realized that it was p-day once again. It is going so quick! But we had a wonderful week! This week I was given various witnesses that I am supposed to be here, at this time in this place. I have felt such peace of how aware God is of his children and how willing he is to direct our lives.

My darling companion let me run every single day this week! My body is so thrilled. We guestimated that about twenty times up and down the street makes one mile. I think the mile has grown longer while I have been in the Philippines… I don’t remember it being this long. One day while I was running I had a weird feeling to go put my name tag on. After coming back and running a few laps back and forth I was able to start talking to a man walking with his 2 little children. He kept mentioning how there were so many churches on earth and we were talking about why that is. We are hoping to go to his home this week and visit with his family. After he left I was so grateful I had my nametag on, without it I would have been just a sweaty tall white person. Time and time again I realize that God is in the details of our lives.

This morning as I was hanging my clothes out to dry I heard some shuffling next to our house. We throw our trash in a hole in the ground and the burn it. Well I walked over to the hole a found a small girl looking through our trash. We started talking and ten year old Gezel Lora told me that she was looking for bottles to then sell for money because her dad drives a padyak but her mom has cancer and they need more money for her medicine.

We extended a baptismal date for Sister Karin, who is our 23 year old investigator. The date is in July because she and her husband have to get married first. They need to save about 500 pesos to pay for all the documents and this is going to be a sacrifice for them. This week at our visit she explained to us that she knows that they are poor and they don’t have much and that’s okay but sometimes she just asks why it has to be so hard. She wants so badly to be baptized, she knows the church is true and knows that this is the path needed to get back. Before my mission I knew that conversion was a process and would take time but I never thought about the way life struggles can get in the way.

I have been struggling to understand why someone so willing to see the light of the savior has to struggle just to enter into the waters of baptism while hundreds of others could easily be baptized but choose not to pursue that path. I have gained peace knowing that no matter how difficult her trials are here on earth there is a mansion waiting for her family in heaven if they can endure here and now.

Sister Loma is our investigator who has 6 hyperactive busy, busy, boys. We were teaching about the Book of Mormon and Sister Farnes asked her if she had asked God if it was true. She got tears in her eyes and said she knows it is, she doesn’t even need to ask because there is something in her that she can’t explain; but she knows it is true. She began to explain that her husband doesn’t understand why she is going to the Mormon church and her family is asking her what food she is eating that she now is a Mormon. She said it is so hard because of the persecution and she really has no answers for them other than she knows it is true in her heart. She asked me where I wanted to get married and when I explained about the temple she said, “I will see you there, in that temple place.” I hope and pray that one day I will see her there. We were able to meet her husband this week and I am hoping to answer some of his questions about “those Mormons.” Sister Loma said that she feels strengthened when she has the gospel in her life.

Our little Goa royal wedding took place this week! Tatay Eddie and Nanay Amata are now man and wife! On Tuesday morning we went to one of the members houses that arranges flowers and we made a bouquet for Nanay. The ceremony was simple and the Stake President conducted the ceremony. Many of the members came out to support them. Nanay made her own dress and Tatay put on real shoes instead of flip flops - which means he was excited. His baptism was directly after the marriage ceremony and went so smoothly. Tatay bore his testimony and said he is so grateful that even though he is almost 80 he has found the truth.

Also, Joel and Julibet (Joel was just baptized a few weeks ago) blessed their twin boys yesterday in sacrament meeting yesterday.

In other news, we have cultivated a new obsession for Filipino peanut butter. The election is going on so there are signs everywhere and people drive around with huge stereos strapped to their roofs with campaign messages. I have now been out 11 months. Wow!

I am so grateful for the gospel. I know that the Book of Mormon is a witness that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world. I am learning about life and the hardships that come with it while in the Philippines. I am also learning that the gospel has an answer to every hardship we will face. Whether it’s the challenge of gathering bottles to pay for medicine, enduring criticisms from family, or trying to understand why life has to be so hard sometimes, I know our Savior provides our saving grace. I love this work and am so grateful to be here.

That is very neat about Michelle Lehnardt’s blog!!!! Thanks for forwarding that video. What a cute girl!  So, she found Michelle's blog and started communicating with her? That is incredible. http://browse.feedreader.com/c/Scenes_from_the_Wild/413291357   (Noemi)

So excited to see your smiling faces next week!

Mahal na mahal ko kayo!!!