Well, HELLO PO FAMILY AND FRIENDS(:
First off, all is well...all is well(: Haha! But seriously, being here is such a joy and an awfully big adventure every single day. I love it! I'm also learning so much about the Gospel, it's INCREDIBLE!!>.< My Nanay is so knowledgeable and is teaching me so much. Day by day I'm learning something new.
This week I have been able to recognize the simple things in life that I took advantage of--like STREETLIGHTS! There are no streetlights here, it's so weird! So when it's about 6 PM, it's literally so dark we can't see anything...and it's terrifying. Luckily I bought a flashlight and my Nanay is always prepared as well. Oh, by the way, we call our Trainers Nanay and Tatay which is Mom and Dad here in the field--because they are kind of like our mom and dad here as we start this whole new missionary life. Another thing I've been able to realize I'm grateful for is Temples! Gosh I miss going to the Temple so much! So many times the Sisters or the Members express to me how difficult it is to go to the temple because it's so expensive. It's so far a way. Back at home, I had a temple 5 minutes away from my house and another one that was about 15 minutes away. My Nanay told me they would have to save up and plan before taking a trip to the temple. But she's only been once when she got endowed here in the mission since it was too far from where she lived before. She's from Bikol, which is close to Legaspi. I think Lawrence said he was learning some Bikol?? Can't remember. But that's where she's from. Even going to church is a finance hazard for people. The sacrifices these people have to make it just so incredible and I have been so inspired from their faith that all will be okay. They strive everyday to just make it.
This week we were focusing a lot on some of our Less Actives in trying to help them come back to church. I would like to introduce you to Tatay Concepcion. This man is AMAZING. His wife is the Relief Society Pres in their branch and is so funny and sweet. Tatay is so hard working and he used to be a strong member, pero his work started to interfere with him going to church. They started scheduling him to work the traffic in town on Sundays because he is an honest man and does his work to the best of his abilities. He also is the support for basically all of his children who are much older and have families of their own. Here in the Philippines, it is very difficult to have a job. My Nanay said you are unable to work after the age of 27--so if you have a job after that age, you are lucky. Times are hard here. Very hard. We visited him a ton this week and taught him a lot about the importance of attending church. Every time we've visited him he always was telling us how he is just unable to because his boss needs him at work. Every time we would bare testimony that if he asks Heavenly Father in faith to help him with this very difficult situation, He will provide a way for him. He just needed the courage and the faith to trust in him. When I was in his house. I felt like I wanted to say something, but I'm usually afraid to go off script because my Tagalog isn't that good. But this particular time I just spoke because my Nanay was not knowing what to say anymore. I told him that life is very difficult sometimes and we wonder why we are put in the predicaments we are put into. I then told him that I know the Lord doesn't give us trials he thinks we can't handle but some maybe more than we can handle to draw us nearer to God. I told him for me, learning this language seemed almost impossible to me. But I know that if I am faithful and I am obedient to the Lord's commandments, He will provide a way for me to be able to learn this language.They couldn't believe I had only been in the Philippines for a few days and can already understand and respond, but I told him it's through faith that we can overcome the impossible. My Nanay testified after me and we both sat there for a moment to pause and we saw Tatay tearing up. I felt like crying too. WE both could see the struggle he was going through in his mind. We knew he was touched by the spirit. We visited him one more time and invited him to pray again for courage and strength to know what to do about his work. Again we could see the struggle and I testified that this is the time to prepare to meet God. We left him with that thought and challenged him to come to church the next day. We prayed so hard that night they Tatay would pray and have the faith to accept our invitation.
We went to church and waited at the doors as we greeted people coming in. Many of our LA's (less active) came to church that day and we were feeling so excited to see all these people here at church. We searched for Tatay Concepcion and all of a sudden we see him coming in with his family. Even his LA daughter and her family came with as well. Sis Picar and I grabbed each other with joy and excitement to see that great man. It had been a while since he's been to church, but he made it. He made it. I felt so much happiness for him and when he walked in he shook our hands and walked in. They asked him to give the opening prayer and he gave a beautiful prayer. So glad that he had that much faith to sacrifice going to his job to come to church that day. It has been a struggle asking him day by day...but he finally made it. We're not done with him yet tho, we still will visit him and courage him. He has to come at least three more times to be activated. I have faith he will continue. What a blessing!!
This week I was also able to go on my first exchange. My Nanay was shocked because you usually don't do exchanges that early, but they Sister Training Leaders wanted too. I was so nervous because I know I'm still not good at the language. My Nanay says she thinks I will be training after my 12 weeks here is done! I can't believe it! I really hope that's not the case, but the STL was asking me all sorts of questions like, "If you were to train..." stuff like that! I do not feel ready to train tho! Especially someone who is new--I'm still new! I will be shotgunning this area tho, as in, I will have to lead the proselyting and know where everything is. Ughh, so scared. Hope things work out.
Anyways, that day, we were getting on a trike and the guy was asking me something but I didn't understand. The STL Sis responded and asked if I was Filipino (like they all do) and I responded "Hindi po" which is No. I told him I was from Utah, America! He started hollering to all the other trike drivers, "HEY, I GOT AN AMERICAN IN HERE!!" A bunch of them all ran over to us in the little trike and started asking me all these questions. I was so scared because my Nanay told me to be careful when I speak English because there are people that like to Kidnap Americans for ransom. I just responded in Tagalog tho. They asked me why I was here and I explained I was a Missionary...Mormon. All of them were like, "OHHH, Mormons! He will take care of you ma'am, no worries". We then started leaving and as we were on our way to the area the driver kept asking me more questions. He asked me, "So Mormon huh? You believe Joseph Smith was a prophet?" Both of us said, "Opo, Joseph Smith propeta ng Dios". He then asked, "What is the sign of Mosiah?" Both me and the STL looked at each other like, WHAT? I then said, "Hindi naintindihan ko" or "I don't understand". He was then like "You don't know?" The STL then asked if he's been taught by the missionaries and he said that he hasn't, but he looked us up on the Internet. He then said he was Muslim and started teaching us all these things about how he thinks Jesus Christ was a Prophet and not the Son of God. We just bore testimony that we know that he was a Prophet AND the Son of God. He then said, "Mormon is a good religion because you are good people". We were so grateful he wasn't a hater! Yes! But yeah, that was an interesting encounter and now I am very fearful of ever speaking English. So yup!
I love being a missionary though! People recognize us everywhere we go and it's so awesome! The people here are so kind and always willing to listen to our message. Even tho we are punted a lot some day and feel super discouraged--it's moments like Tatay Concepcion or when the Alajas family got baptized--stuff like that, that make up the difference. I love this gospel. I love this name tag I am able to wear each day. And I love these people. Wish I could write everything that is going on, but WALA ORAS! (No time). Til next time.