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
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,