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,
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