Sunday, March 8, 2015

Hey everyone!
    Well I am going to do my very best not to be a downer in this email. But last night I received probably the hardest news I have received over my entire mission. But before we get to that, this past week was so great! Despite the cold and cough that seems to be hitting us all, we worked our butts off. Sister Aida (the woman we met thanks to the Justin Bieber poster) is progressing leaps and bounds. She went from not really understanding/caring much about what we had to share to reading before every lesson and actively participating. Yesterday she accepted to be baptized! We haven't decided the specific date, but she told us she is getting old so it's about time for her to accept the truth. And she will "allow" us to baptize her haha. She's so great. And her progression has a lot to do with the support from our active members who live nearby her. The members here in Bauang are the best!
     On Sunday the Mendoza's came to church! Almost all of them. Brother had to work :/ but we already knew he wouldn't be able to come. He is really looking for new work, but for now he is doing all he can to support his family in living this gospel and he will come around soon. I love church more and more every Sunday. The branch members are so loving and this is the most that I have felt "at home" in an area. They are so active in missionary work that they know the transfer days, when we are going home, everything about us missionaries haha. There have been farewells and a missionary fireside in preparation that are all happening this week just in time before I go home! But Heavenly Father seems to have a different plan for the last week of my mission.
     Last night our AP Elder Basco called me and told me I will be transferring tomorrow. Wasn't expecting that. I will be in Lingsat in the area of the STLs and I will have two companions, Sister Saguinsin & Sister Jackson. We are all new to the area so we are technically opening it although I will only be there for a number of days. So many things rushed through my head like how hard it is to gain companionship unity so I can't imagine trying to build tripanionship unity. I remembered going on exchanges in Lingsat and how hot it is in that area haha. But of course the hardest thing to accept was that I will be leaving Bauang. I have told literally everyone that I will be here for another week. Hopefully I had known yesterday morning so that I could say goodbye to everyone at church, but I only knew last night and have today and tonight to try to say goodbye to everyone before I transfer tomorrow morning. To say goodbye to these people that I have grown to care for and love for the past 5 months. Not only that but they have cared for and loved me. I have never been a part of a more supportive and loving branch. They remind me so much of our home ward in Kailua. Most Sundays when our branch President is welcoming us he will say "welcome to Bauang 1 branch, the best branch" haha. I thought about all of their preparation for my farewell and the effort we have been putting into the fireside next week, I will be missing it all now. I can count the number of times I have cried on my mission and they are only few. But all I could do last night was cry.
     But remember how Heavenly Father has a plan for us? Yes, I know it can be easy to forget sometimes, but I was kindly reminded as I laid in bed feeling sorry for myself. I was racking my mind trying to figure out how to visit everyone and say goodbye to them when I remembered sacrament meeting earlier that day. Sister Maricel Belmonte, our RS president spoke on the talk of Dieter F. Uchtdorf about being grateful in our circumstances. She did a really great job. She talked about how naturally the last thing we want to do when facing a trial, is be grateful. And as she shared, I thought to myself about the trials that I have faced in my life, mostly here on the mission. I thought about how I was rarely able to keep an "attitude of gratitude" during these trials. I committed myself during that sacrament meeting to be sure to be grateful for the next trial that would hit me. Little did I know it was coming later that night..haha. But I have been doing my best to remain grateful for this. I know there is so much that I am going to learn from this and the blessings will come if I face this with a better attitude. 
      Earlier in this emial, as I described the things going through my mind and heart, I may have been being a little dramatic. What I described may not even seem like it should be a trial for some people. But I want to really try to convey the way I was feeling and am feeling until now. Each person struggles with different things in their own unique way. You all know that goodbyes have never been my forte, and now to have things flipped around on me like this, I am just not handling it very well. But luckily, this gospel honestly has the answers to every problem and my answer came to me before this problem even hit me. I am so blessed that Heavenly Father was preparing me for the upcoming struggle and already encouraged me to be listen to Sister Belmonte's message and determined to push through my next trial. The theme of this email is quite similar to last week huh? Sorry if it's a downer. But I guess it's safe to say I am being tried but I know that it all has a purpose. I know that I am loved. No matter what. 
     I had enough evidence of that when I opened my email and was immediately cheered up to see that I will be having a new baby niece!!!! I am so happy! I have told everyone that I hope Jac and Terry have a girl next so I can see just how beautiful a girl would be coming from them hehe :) And I also saw how long your email is to me mommy. I cannot wait to read that later on. I have a feeling it will help me a ton. Also I am not sure if I will get time to email next week. I will try my best to send some thing off even if it's just a quick message. But if I don't get to it, sorry! Also I forgot my camera and stuff so I won't be able to send pictures, but I guess just next time if I get the time. I hope something was able to be learned from what I shared today. Please don't worry about me or anything. I can do hard things :) I love my Heavenly Father. I love His gospel. I love you my family and the family that I have developed here serving the Lord's mission. Sorry this email has no title. Couldn't think of anything. Thank you for letting me share with you. Love you all! Take care! Until next week! Or the week after that :)
- Sister Sawada

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pagsubok ng Pananampalataya

Hi hi!
     Before I can get started with my update this week...CONGRATULATIONS SOON TO BE ELDER SAWADA! Wow I can't believe how good that sounds. I am so used to Sister Sawada haha but I love the idea of an Elder representing our name :) oh man you don't know how torturous it was this whole week to know you were opening your mission call yet I didn't know where you were going! And then this morning we had a career workshop for the missionaries who will be going home soon and I couldn't email until now 5 pm! Torture I tell you. But the people of Oregon are gonna be so lucky to have you to bring the gospel to them brother.
     Okay so now this week. Oh man the title for the email this week is pagsubok ng pananampalataya which means trial of faith. This may have been the title of a couple of emails already because trials of faith seem to be a theme here on the mission especially when a baptism is coming up. But we will see time and time again that it is never the work of God that is frustrated, only the work of men.
    It all started on Monday. Sister Concepcion and I went up to Baguio right? We got back to Bauang just in time to start our proselyting and we were on our way to our last appointment which was our usual FHE with the Belmonte family. We received a text from brother Rolly asking us why we hadn't come to visit him yet. We were confused and a little worried because his wording in his text made it seem like he was angry. We explained to him that we are scheduled to visit him on Tuesday and not on Monday. For some reason he had the idea that we changed the schedule to Monday instead. He was frustrated because he had come home early from work just so that we could teach him. He said it was a waste of his sacrifice and wanted us to still visit him. But we had the FHE scheduled and we didn't have a woman fellowshipper working with us. In order to visit Rolly or any man by themself, we always need another female with us. I wish I could explain everything that happened and all of the texts that were sent back and forth but to sum it up, Rolly was very angry and no matter how we explained ourselves, it wasn't making him any happier. He said things that weren't vulgar in any way but were very hurtful and I had to do my best not to cry. I felt like all the of effort we had put in the past 4 months trying to build his trust in us was about to crumble into nothing.
     Then flashbacks of past baptisms came to my mind. Almost every baptism I have had here has been preceded by some sort of trial. Although I was devastated by what was going on and how angry Rolly seemed with us, I had faith and was comforted by the thought that this was his trial before he could enter into the sacred covenant of baptism. We encouraged him to pray and ask God for strength because we know he was being tried. That night I felt like I wanted to just go home and give up! No matter how many times I told myself the work of God will never be frustrated, I was still frustrated! I went to bed with a heavy heart and was hesitant to carry on with the exchanges that we had set with the sisters in Naguilian the next day.
     But on Tuesday we carried on with exchanges and I worked in Naguilian with Sister Neeley. She is from OC California and is actually my batchmate! We will be going home together. It was a good day and I did my best not to worry about Rolly and the others in Bauang while working in Naguilian. The next morning Sister Concepcion picked me up and gave me the greatest news ever. Brother Rolly felt terrible for what he had done the night before. He said we were completely correct and  that he felt something like he had never felt before. Like it was causing him to want to be contentious when he really didn't want to haha. We were able to testify to the reality of the adversary but we also saw the power of the Spirit of God was able to overcome it.
     The rest of the week was pretty great. We had no sicknesses or meetings and the work went so smooth! We were able to teach more people than usual but sadly the days just flew by. We continued to prepare for Rolly's baptism and before we knew it Saturday had arived! The service went great. Besides a couple of things here and there- the branch president and his family (who were doing a musical number) weren't able to come at the last second and the baptismal font looked like it wouldn't be filled in time and then actually ended up overflowing- it was a smooth and perfect day! Nothing can replace a genuine testimony of someone fresh out of the waters of baptism. But we can also see that there is lots more for him to learn. Example, at the end of his testimony instead of saying in the name of Jesus Christ amen, he exclaims "I love you Lord!" and then goes to sit down. Haha after he was seated his daughter whispers that he should have said in the name of Jesus Christ amen. He says, "well I didn't know that!"
     In preach my gospel there is a whole section on how to help recent converts progressing and growing in the church. Baptism is only a step in a long and difficult process. But I am confident that Rolly will take this road and be able to endure to the end. I am sure that this was his time to finally accept the invitation of his children, the missionaries, and our Savior, to follow Him and be born again. I know that this is a great lesson that I will carry with me forever. That the work of God is never frustrated. Only the work of men. And men can choose to be frustrated or choose to turn to God with their faith, and know that there is an end to each of our trials. I love this gospel. I know it is perfect. I want to do all that I can to live it to the best of my ability. I love you all! Hope you have a great week! Mommy I saw in your email as I glimpsed over it that you're sick :( I will be praying for you. Love you so much and pagaling (get better)!
Sister Sawada


Monday, February 23, 2015

Coming to you from Baguio!

Hey Mommy!
   I saw that your email that you sent to me is titled coming to you from downtown Honolulu. Well today this email is coming to you from Baguio! Yes, Sister Concepcion and I made the twisty and turny journey from Bauang to Baguio. Yes we both got motion sick haha. But I must say it was quite worth it! Why? I was able to see the Bamba family!!! Oh my goodness I cannot explain just how full I was with joy. Not even full, just completely over flowing.
    Quick update on their family: Brother Ben is young men 1st counselor which is perfect because Stephen their oldest son is in the teacher's quorum. He is also the president of teacher's quorum. Sister Jen is the primary president! And she is continuing meeting with the church to get her self reliance certificate in order to qualify for the perpetual education fund. They are so hard working it is ridiculous! Sadly Stephen and Benilda weren't there but we have made plans to have lunch when I go up to Baguio once more before I leave so that I can see them :) it's so nice that Bauang is relatively close to them. Anyway, I am just so happy to hear that they are working with the missionaries, referring their friends and family, and ultimately just doing everything a new member should be doing and more.
     Now back to Bauang! This was a great week. Monday was pday. Tuesday: we had exchanges with Bauang 2 sisters. They are our housemates so exchanges with them are the least hassle so it's really nice haha. We actually had a 2 day exchange. Something we are just trying out to see if maybe it will help to make exchanges more effective. It's funny even though I am not STL anymore, I get to do most things STL with Sister Concepcion as my companion. It was way fun. On Tuesday I got to work in Bauang 2 area with Sister Paguirigan, yeah try to pronounce that. She is from Antepolo which is near Manila. She is just 3 weeks into the mission so working with her was sooo much fun. Probably my favorite exchanges yet because she was so humble and willing to try new things. I also learned a ton from her she is already very experienced because she worked almost every day with the missionaries before coming on her mission.
    Wednesday was exchanges but this time I was with Sister Golightly and we worked in my area in Bauang 1. Which was also a very fun day because Sister Golightly is a good friend of mine in the mission. We had great lessons with Rolly, MA and some less actives in the area but maybe I will share about Aida. So first, you should know that Sister Golightly is a big Justin Beiber (Bieber?) fan. So as we were walking along the road, we saw a home that had a big Justin B. poster up. We stopped to enjoy it for a second and then an old woman came out to talk to us. She explained that the poster was crumpled up in the trash outside her house and she thought "sayang" or "what a waste". So she uncrumpled it and taped it up outside of her house. She said many of the young women walking by enjoy it hahaha. So we started talking with her and got to find out her name is Aida and her neighbors are actually some very active members in our branch. She is in her 70s and is probably the sweetest thing I have met here. Sister Concepcion and I have taught her one more time since then and she is very open to our message. We are still not sure how much potential she shows, but it's great that her neighbors are such active members and such good examples. She said she wants to come to our church if that is where her neighbors are going. She couldn't come this week because she went to Manila. But we will see next week!
    Thursday and Friday were good days but maybe I will skip to Saturday. Well to Friday night. We got fed to the brim on Friday night. I was so so full and actually didn't feel very good. That night I started to feel very nauseous. Long story short, I was up most of the night throwing up and woke up Saturday morning with a fever. So it was looking like we wouldn't be able to go out to work. But we had to get out by 5 for brother Rolly's baptismal interview. This was my first time to be this sick in my entire mission! So we called up Elder Manning our district leader and asked him to come give me a priesthood blessing. He came and blessed me and also brought some medicine to reduce my fever. I was finally able to sleep a solid sleep and it was about 4 pm that I woke up and had enough energy to take a shower and we were out of the house before 5 to get to brother Rolly's interview! What a blessing. To add to the blessing, Brother Rolly passed his interview! His baptism will officially be held on February 28! Woohoo! Sadly, he doesn't want it at the beach anymore haha. But we won't complain!
     Sunday MA came to church! Sadly her dad wasn't with her. She came with her aunt who is actually just about the same age as me. Her dad is the oldest of 9 children and they are almost all members. Sadly Clarissa, the one close in age to me, is the only one still active out of all of them. But Clarissa gives us such hope because although it is so sad that her family isn't enjoying the blessings of this gospel, she is so so happy! She is always smiling and comes to all church activities. She is the perfect example and MA really looks up to her. She came home recently from working in Manila and will now be able to help us with getting MA to church and hopefully to the point where she can really embrace this gospel to see if she will be able to get baptized even though she is still pretty young.
     Well as usual I feel like I have just rambled off a bunch of nothing that doesn't make sense haha but I hope you are able to see just how amazing it is to be a missionary. Everywhere I turn, there is a new friend to make or a new example to learn from. And from each experience I gain here, it is solidified more and more how true the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. It really has all of the answers that we are looking for. I encourage you to find someone who needs this! Sometimes when I introduce our message as missionaries, I feel like a salesman haha. I feel like I want to give this message not just a lifetime warranty but an eternal warranty. We will never ever be disappointed with making our decision to follow Christ and accept His Gospel. I know that He loves us so much and I love Him as best as I can. I try to love Him more with each day.
      I hope everyone has a great week and know that I love you all :)
- Sister Sawada

Monday, February 16, 2015

All my heart, might, mind, and strength

Happy Monday!
    Another week has flown by and I am sitting here in the internet shop with my feet covered in sand feeling so content because we had our zone activity earlier at the beach! We got to play so much sand soccer I was so happy haha. Last transfer we played soccer with this mini soccer ball I had but this time someone brought a real sized ball! It was so happy. Sorry about last week. We were really rushing to get to our work and I also really had to use the bathroom haha. I hope I can update you guys on everything from this week.
    Rolly: Keeps progressing and is no longer smoking!!! He would be baptized today if he could. But we are on track for February 28. He comes to church and is practically a member already. Thank you guys for your prayers for Rolly. The whole branch is pumped up for his baptism because they have been wanting him to join the church for a long time now. The fact that they didn't give up and now he is finally entering the waters of baptism shows what God can do if we continue forward with Faith and Hope in Him.
    The Mendoza Family: We have had some really great lessons with their family this week where they have really opened up with us. Every lesson leads back to what will be expected of them as members of this church. They are strongly considering what it means to be baptized and it's amazing to see how God has prepared them. They both shared a bit about what kind of pasts they come from. It turns out they actually met in prison haha. Crazy right? And now they both have come to realize that for themselves and their children, they never want to go back to where they were before. And they feel that this gospel is exactly what will help them to be on the right path. The only problem now is their work. I think I have explained before that their jobs are collecting bottles and metals and then selling it to junk shops. The best days of their work are saturday and sunday. We are trying our best to help them see if they put their faith first and make a sacrifice, then the blessings will come.
     President Balledos has given us permission to extend a date to them for baptism. Since divorce is illegal here, there is an exception in the requirements for baptism. Even if they have former spouses, if they have been living together for 5 or more years and show that they are really committed to each other, then they can be baptized. They will be living together for 5 years this August and President said that we should extend an invitation and commit them to be baptized in August. We think this will help them to see that they have the time to test the assurance that God gave us when we do what He says he will be bound to us. Please keep praying for the Mendozas that they may become willing to try and test this promise.
     It has gotten to the point here on the mission that somehow almost everyone knows that I will be going home soon. I don't even mention it yet it seems to be the hot topic everywhere haha. Especially here in Bauang branch, they work a lot with the missionaries and know everything about how the mission works and they know that this will be my last area. They are planning farewell parties and firesides and now I can't help but face the reality that I am going home. The days aren't slowing down and if I am going to be honest, I might be a little scared. I am scared I am not going to accomplish all that the Lord needs me to in the time that I have left here. The title of this email is all my heart, might, mind, and strength.
     I have been trying to come up with ways to push myself to serve with MORE heart and more might, more mind, and more strength. Something I tried doing this week was advice given to us by President Balledos. We had our Zone Conference this week where President gave us a lesson in the Bible. He said he wanted to share a love story in honor of Valentine's day haha so he shared a bit about the story between Isaac, Leah and Rachel. But ultimately he shared about the House of Israel. The House of Israel is the Lord's covenant people. Ultimately His covenant says that He will bless us and prosper us if we do what He says. This goes back to the idea that we are trying to get the Mendoza family to understand. It is such a simple doctrine yet it can be so hard to live by. We have a loving Heavenly Father who has given us life. In our life we have good times and bad but no matter what our circumstance, we are expected to follow Him. And if we do so, we will be blessed. We can see how He never went back on his word with the people of the Bible, Book of Mormon, and even with our own friends and family.
     President recommended that we keep this covenant in mind as we go about our work. We may receive punt after punt or rejection after rejection, but if I am doing what the Lord has commanded me to do, I have no reason to be sad or discouraged. I wish you guys could have just been there when President was giving his workshop because I know my summary does not do it justice. But it has helped to refuel my desire and keep serving Him with all of our heart, might, mind and strength. I hope everyone has a great week! I wasn't even able to read your emails from last week because we were so rushed so I can't wait to read 2 weeks worth of emails when I get home! Oh and also, we got to watch Meet the Mormons at our zone conference! It was sooo good and touching. And I only cried like one tear haha of course at the missionary mom part. But it was such a good movie and I can't wait til it comes out on DVD and things so that more people can see it! If you haven't already watched it, I recommend it. Hope everyone has a good week! Love you all!
- Sister Sawada

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Nagulat ba Kayo?

Hi hi everyone!
    Sorry if any of you were surprised/worried that I didn't email at the usual time yesterday. Nagulat ba kayo? or Were you surprise? Well there was a group of us that had to go down to Manila to get fingerprints done for some paperwork. A long drive just to dip my finger in some ink right? haha but it had to get done I guess. It was pretty fun going to Manila! Weird to be outside of the boundaries of the familiar Baguio Mission. Manila is actually very similar to the roads in Honolulu especially around Ala Moana area. There are also a lot more American things in Manila so we got to eat lunch at Taco Bell and got dessert at Krispy Kreme! Haha it was fun but it was tiring. We left on Sunday night and arrived Monday morning. The bus ride is about 6 -7 hours. I arrived back in Bauang Monday night just in time for our weekly FHE with the Belmonte family :) but I gotta admit I was pretty out of it and very happy to get home and get a full 8 hours of sleep once again in the comfort of a bed. Also I am just gonna have to send off a quick message today because we gotta get to our work.
    This was a pretty tough week concerning the work. We had MLC and district conference that interfered with our proselyting time but we still worked our hardest. Although the week wasn't as smooth as usual, this week I felt especially fed spiritually. We had our MLC where I actually technically don't belong because I am not STL anymore haha but President was nice enough to invite me to attend this one. I just love hearing the workshops/insights from our President and his assistants. They are focusing us on our teaching. The quality of our teaching and our ability to really find people concerns and use the doctrines of this gospel to help them to change. That is what this gospel is all about. When we tell people they need to change they may be offended. But we all can change for the better.
    President also gave a wonderful on Saturday night and then on Sunday in our Bauang District Conference. I wish I could share more about it but all I can say is that he is truly inspired of God and we can feel His love for us when President is speaking to us. I am sorry this is all I will share for this week. Just know that I am doing great and I am so grateful for all of your emails! Of course from you mommy and then thanks to Daniel and Mika for your advice and things and Ayo I am excited to read yours later on tonight. Okay love you all! Bye!!!
- Sister Sawada

Monday, February 2, 2015

Magpakabusog sa mga Salita ni Cristo

Happy February!
    Wow what a long title this week! Haha it means "feast upon the words of Christ". I am pretty sure it was last week that I sent such a lonnng email so this week I spent most of my time emailing some other smaller emails to other people so sorry this email may be a little shorter. But it was another great week in Bauang! You may be wondering who my new companion is. Her name is Sister Concepcion. She is from Pasay which is near Manila but she was born and raised in Cauayan Isabella which is in the Cauayan mission which is right by the Baguio mission. She speaks Ilokano fluently! Woohoo! She is my first companion to speak Ilokano fluently and it makes work soo much fun haha. As missionaries we are taught to "Teach for Understanding" meaning to do all that we can to be sure that those we are teaching, really understand what we are saying. In some cases, now that my companion is a native Ilokano, it means speaking Ilokano in the lessons! Of course I stick with mostly Tagalog but I love the way that people's faces light up when we speak their mother tongue (that may have sounded way cheesy but that is what they call Ilokano here, their "mother tongue" haha) 
    So an update on the work!
Rolly: Came to church! Continues to have such a strong desire to be baptized. And this week mentioned that it would be beautiful to have the baptism at the beach. And we agreed! So hopefully that will be able to be worked out! We are just not sure if he has been able to cut off his cigarette smoking completely. If he hasn't yet, we will have to plan his baptism for some time in March instead of the planned February 25.
Colas: We found out the reason Colas didn't come to church last week was because he has a crush and so he was hanging out at her house and didn't want to come to church...haha oh man Colas. But he also came this week! So that's an improvement. It is really such a struggle getting him to realize the seriousness of this gospel. But his desire to be baptized is there and his understanding really does improve with each week.
MA and the Mendozas: Didn't come to church :( with MA, we are contemplating not visiting her for a while. She is so great in the lessons but her family seems to be less and less friendly to us and we don't want to cause any family conflicts. The Mendozas just struggle with choosing between working or coming to church. We are way bummed they must have chosen work this week. But in the lessons they continue to grow in their faith and understanding of this gospel.
     The reason the title for this week is Feast Upon the Words of Christ is because yesterday we got to attend the Costales Family Compound FHE haha. Sounds so official right? There is a compound of homes near the church and almost all of the families living there are members. Including the branch president, President Baterina. President Baterina had some great advice in his closing remarks of our FHE. He mentioned that in our new Philippines Area Goals, the center is still scripture study. He shared about when Elder Bednar visited his mission in Cebu, he spoke to the missionaries and said something along the lines of, "When you missionaries go home, 90% of you will go less active, IF you do not continue to study the scriptures like you are doing now." Within each family, our scripture studies are so vital. This is where we receive our strength. This is where we can gain a truly solid testimony that will not be shaken no matter what trials and temptations hit us. If each family took the time and effort to study and understand the scriptures, then each branch and ward would have so much more strength. Which strength would go to each stake, mission, and reach to the worldwide church that we are members of. As President Baterina shared these ideas, I felt guilty for the times that I was too lazy, or complaining about our family scripture study time. I am so grateful that our family continued to study together no matter how much we complained because now I can testify to other families that I teach of the blessings that can come from truly feasting upon the words of Christ. And they truly will show unto us all the things that we should do.
   Okay I am all out of time :( I hope these thoughts will help you all throughout the week. I love you sooo much! Until next week :)
- Sister Sawada

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hwag kayong mahiya

Magandang Buhay!
    Life is still crazy here in Bauang. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to my companion Sister Mortell. She is going home now! Yesterday was quite the emotional day but I am so glad that I got to be her companion. I learned so much from her and I got especially inspired to work my very hardest until the end of my time here. The title of my email is Hwag Kayong Mahiya! Which means don't be shy! Haha I can't remember if this is a thing in america, but it is a legitimate excuse here to "be shy". We ask someone to do something and they say they can't "they're shy". I understand that everyone has their own comfort zone and it can be hard to step outside of it, but I have seen too many people holding themselves back because they are "shy". This week I noticed quite a few blessings coming to people's lives because hindi sila nahiya they were not shy! So here are some highlights of the week.
    Sister Edna. Have I told you guys about Edna yet? Well her name is Edna Estigoy. She is a fairly new investigator. We met her actually trying to contact a man that we had met a couple of days earlier. But he was NOT interested haha we noticed him running away and hiding from us a couple of times, but we are sure we met him for a reason because it led us to Edna. Edna is 42 years old and has never yet been married. When we met her, she let us into her home right away and she was doing some dusting of her shelves and house cleaning things. We asked if she was cleaning for Christmas (we met her on December 23) and a little hesitantly she said "hindi naman" which means "not really". Right when she said that, I had a feeling she was Jehovah's witness since they don't celebrate Christmas. She had us sit down and I saw on one of her shelves a stack of what looked like Jehovah's Witnesses pamphlets. As in A STACK of them. Close to 100 maybe. Sister Mortell and I looked at each other and we were worried we were getting tricked into something haha. We usually have to try a lot harder to get into people's homes but this was all coming too easy. But we decided to have a seat and see what was in store. We got to know her better and came to know that she lives in Bauang taking care of her 2 pamankin (neices and nephews) and also runs their family sari sari store by their home. She worked in Manila for a really long time and while she was there she was met by Jehovah's Witness missionaries. Since then, she has been studying with them on and off until here and now in Bauang.
     I felt really blessed to have Sister Mortell there as my companion. Being more seasoned missionaries, we both knew that we needed to do some serious BRT or HTBT which is what we use as missionaries to build a good relationship with those we teach and to help them to realize our purpose. The better they understand our purpose as missionaries, the smoother the teaching goes and everyone involved is much more comfortable/at ease. We could feel that Sister Edna was so not at ease when we began teaching haha. It was awkward and we wondered why she let us in if she was pretty strongly devoted to the Jehovah's Witness religion. Which was why asking question after question helped us to understand her more and find out some of her concerns. We taught a simple lesson about the Godhead and were able to help her understand Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. We know the Jehovah's Witness belief is a little different, but when we asked how she understood, she said that what we taught felt right. At the end of the lesson we felt a big change in the room. The spirit was there. Sister Edna was no longer uncomfortable or shy to us. When we were about to close, I was curious as to what Sister Edna was feeling. So I asked her. She said she felt excited, like she was starting a new adventure of some sorts. These are new additions to her knowledge and she liked it. But she also said there is a part of her that feels guilty, like she is betraying all of the things she had been taught over such a long period of time. 
     So things aren't perfect yet but we see so much potential. The best thing about teaching Edna is she is really smart. She knows the bible really well and understands and believes that there was an apostasy. The idea of a restoration really makes sense to her. But she continues to have questions mostly about beliefs in the Jehovah's witness that don't go with some of the beliefs of this church. When we taught her the Book of Mormon, she asked why no other churches use this book or recognize Joseph Smith as a prophet. We explained that the Book of Mormon is the evidence that there is only one church that holds the fullness of the gospel. So if it were used in other churches, there wouldn't really be a way to know which church was the one with the fullness. When we asked her if she wanted to test the promise given in the Book of Mormon and pray to know of the truthfulness of the message of the restoration, she said, "sige, try natin" meaning "okay, let's try it" haha we smiled so big. Anyway I could go on for a long time describing lessons with Edna. And by long time I guess I mean even longer than I already have haha. Progression with her is still quite slow but we really see the potential. We are glad that she was not "shy" and she was so accepting to us the first time we met her. We know we met her for a reason and I hope to be giving more updates on Edna's progression in the coming weeks!
    Brother Rolly continues to come to church and progress so well in lessons! He continues to not be "shy" and makes more and more friends at church. The branch members comment on how he is very open in priesthood classes and shares his insights. They say it's like he's a member already! His smoking also continues to go down and so he is still on track for February 28. Yay!!! We didn't get to meet with Colas at all this week :( his best friends who are members, the Arizla family experienced a death in the family this week and they were really busy. So that was a bummer. He also didn't come to church. But we will for sure check up on him this week and see what's going on. We had a great lesson with MA where her dad joined and he showed his desire to come back to church! Yet, when Sunday came around, they were no where to be found :( we are way bummed and have a feeling MA may not be able to be baptized as soon as we were planning.
     But the last experience I want to share is about the Mendoza family! I feel like I have to have shared about them before but real quick just in case I haven't, Brother and Sister Mendoza both have had former spouses. Sister has actually had 2. They have had children with their former spouses and have had 1 child together. The kids living with them are Fermine, Micah, Maryrose (children of sister and her former spouses) and then Lyka, the child they had together. Despite what their situation may imply, they are some of the sweetest and wholesome people I have met on my mission. They love their family so much. They have been living together for 5 years this year and they really show desire to turn their lives around. Brother has been in prison, we don't know what for. Sister has admitted to a time in her life where she just completely turned away from Christ. But they both want to change and do what is best for their family.
      They have been investigators since a little before I got to the area. But just now are they really showing a desire to be baptized. This week the lesson we taught them was the word of wisdom and we were very nervous to teach it. We already knew brother smoked and assumed he drank from the alcohol bottles we saw in their home some times. But it was one of the easiest lessons I have taught. They didn't question a thing. Not even coffee or tea. Brother explained that he has already been trying to cut down on his addictions. He said that he used to drink every night. And smoke about a pack and a half a day. But now he smokes no more than 3 sticks a day and the thought of drinking isn't even pleasing to him most of the time. He had no doubt the word of wisdom is a commandment from God and sees that it will bless his family. So that was a pleasant surprise of a lesson. We walked out a little shocked but of course so happy haha. Then to top it all off, they came to church! The whole family! I think I have explained before but they are very poor. They collect trash for a living. Their biggest trial in coming to church is that Sunday is the best day for them. They make the most money on Sundays. But Sister finally decided not to be "shy" and told her husband that she thinks they should go to church instead. They came and they really seemed to enjoy it! We will be asking them how their experience was when we visit them this week.
    Wow this was so long! I hope it all made sense and I hope you guys enjoy reading it. I hope you can feel the happiness that comes from this work. Of course there are some major difficulties and trials but I am so blessed to be here. She may hate me for saying this haha but Sister Mortell cried quite a few times yesterday. Every time she cried, I felt her love for this work. I felt her love for the people here and for the calling that she had been blessed with for these past 18 months. I am doing my best to really just live in each moment and to continue to do what the Lord needs and expects of me. 
     Real quick before I have to log off, thank you sooo much for the birthday package! I was able to open it and enjoy every single bit of everything in it. Those apple chips were so tasty! But I have to say my favorite part was the calendar. Not only do I now know everyone's birthday, but the pictures on there make me sooo happy :) I was so happy to see some pictures that I haven't seen before ie mom, dad and mimi dancing at constances birthday party, brother and Baachan at his seminary grad, and of course the adorable neices and nephews. Also, Skinniness is next to Goddessness sounds so great! Can't wait to hear more about that! Okay well I think this is it. I have used all of my email time so sorry once again to those who have emailed me! I will be sure to make time in my next email time to write you all! Love you! Hope you have a great week!
Sister Sawada