Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Maligayang Pasko at Isang Maligayang Bagong Taon!

  Oh man I hope know one who knows Tagalog reads the title to this email because I am pretty sure that is some broken Philippino haha. But it's supposed to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And it truly has been a Merry Christmas here in San Juan!
     As Sister Tanner and I did our weekly planning for last week we were thinking that it wouldn't be a very successful week. We thought that we wouldn't be able to teach anyone because of the holiday. Although these were realistic thoughts, we decided to try are hardest to change those thoughts! To instead just be determined to teach as many people as we could! We decided that we would just talk to everyone we passed because we needed people to teach! We truly saw blessings from this change of attitude. We have had a rough couple of weeks haha. But I know that the Lord saw our change of attitude and blessed us for it. He blessed us for having the faith in Him to prepare those who we were passing so that when we opened our mouths to talk to them, He really did fill them with what we should say. Here are some great experiences from this week!
     Toward the end of the week after really just trying to work our hardest and talk to everyone we saw, Sister Tanner and I were leaving our apartment to go to an appointment, and we ran into Gabi. He is the nephew of one of the members in our ward but he is not a member. The only other interaction I had with him was when he slowly rode his bike passed us late one night completely drunk and smelling like he hadn't showered in a couple of days. But this time when we saw him he practically came right up to us and just started talking about how he wants to change. We were kind of speechless and just told him how we know that God wants him to change too and we can help him with it! haha. He hesitated though because he says he doesn't feel clean enough yet to read the Book of Mormon or to meet with us sisters. He doesn't quite understand the way that repentance work does he? :) We must first "Come unto Christ" then we can be "perfected in Him". We don't need to/can't come to Him already perfected. So that's Gabi! We are planning to visit him this coming week and help him with this change he desires!
     Another blessing was Sunday morning, we had a text from Jeff an investigator who I have only met once. He is really busy with work and yeah. So he texted saying he was in San Juan for Sunday and he wanted to come to church! He has never come to church before! But of course we were stoked out of our minds and quickly got ready and walked by his place to pick him up and bring him to church! He stayed for all three hours and really seemed to enjoy it all! After he said that he would like to come next week! There are so many exclamation points in this paragraph but this doesn't usually just happen! At least not to me yet haha. It just strengthens my testimony so much on how essential church attendance is in our lives. There is a huge difference between the investigators who come to church and who do not. So let's all go to church people!
     Dang I have quite a bit more I want to share but I will try to save it for next week! I need to take the time now write an email to the best mom in this world :) I will send it in a seperate email but I just want everyone to know how lucky I am to have the mom that I have. I owe her so much and she has been an amazing example to me in so much but especially in my growth in this gospel. She is truly a disciple of Christ and I could not be more grateful for her in my life. Happy Birthday Mama!!!!
      Love you all tons! Miss you all! Take care and until next week!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Week 8?!

 I don't even know anymore! Time is just an intangible object of which we don't have enough here on the mission. Haha pero okay lang! It's part of the challenge of being a missionary. A challenge in life in general!
     So this week I have some more experiences to share and hopefully some pictures! I will start with Sister Kathleen. She is the Swiss German Philippino lady who is so so so ready to be baptized she just needs to overcome her addiction to cigarettes. Sister Kathleen is seriously one of the strongest members of the ward and she's not even a member haha. She texts us to remind us of relief society activities and mingles with the members like she is one of them. When we were first giving her goals of when to be done with smoking, she was really hesistant. She was like "Sisters, I have been smoking since I can remember, I don't think you realize how difficult this is." We would agree with her and tell her there is no way we can know what she is feeling, the only person who can is Christ. But when we would say this, they seemed like some empty words to be honest. They just went in one ear and out the other. But this week something honestly miraculous happened. Sister Kathleen is a beach bum. She and her son go to the beach in Urbiztando almost every day. She used to not want to bring her Book of Mormon to the beach so that she wouldn't ruin it. But she realized that she doesn't smoke when she is reading. So she brought her Book of Mormon to the beach. She read and read. In one day she read from Helaman 7 to 3 Nephi.
     We decided that we would visit her every evening and ask her how her smoking was going for that day to keep her accountable. Every time we would visit her, she was further and further along in the Book of Mormon. At the beginning of the week Kathleen was in Helaman and smoking 5 cigarettes a day. She has been at 5 for about 2 weeks now. At the end of this week, Kathleen is in Moroni 9 and is smoking 2 cigarettes a day. Those empty words that we were feeding her about the Atonement and about how only Christ knows what she is going through were suddenly filled with so much meaning once she began reading the Book Of Mormon. Being grateful for the atonement is wonderful. Praying is great. But the power of the Book of Mormon is undeniable. I know that it is a true book. Written specifically for us on Earth to guide us through this crazy life. The more we read and liken the scriptures unto us, the more meaning we can find in the other teachings of this Gospel. I hope you are all reading as often as possible! Araw-araw! (everyday)
     Another little miracle moment this week was with a recent convert, Brother Noto. I may have shared about Brother Noto before. He reminds me so much of Obaachan. He is the sweetest old man and he built a little hut just for the missionaries to teach him in. I will hopefully take a picture of that soon. So last week when we visited Brother he said that he understands English but really doesn't speak well. We told him that was just fine! But this week we came into the little hut where he was waiting for us and he just starts going off in English! We were like uhhh brother, what's going on? He shoves the English Bible in our faces. He used to read only in Tagalog, but he was reading the Bible in English! He told us that he prayed so hard with Heavenly Father the night before. He had this strong desire to learn English and he said that he felt that if he started studying the scriptures in English, then he would be able to learn it. And talaga, he was learning it! We were so amazed! He was the happiest he had ever been and Sister Tanner and couldn't help but get all excited and giddy too! We sang "There is Sunshine in my Soul Today" as our hymn because we were all just so happy! Haha.
     Last miracle moment! Brother Ruben came to church!!!!!!!! Oh my goodness brother Ruben came to church. So you remember Renie and Ruben the very poor, very unresponsive father and son who are less active? So we had that awesome lesson with them last week. And things just kept improving from there. In our last lesson with them this week, we asked if they could come to church, unforunately Renie had a prior committment, pero we looked at Ruben and he looked off as if he was thinking. I was like "oh great here comes another excuse as to why he can't come." and he says, "Oo, walang appointments sa linggo." meaning yes, we don't have any appointments on sunday. What?! Not only did he not make an excuse but he pretty much made it impossible for an excuse to come up later! And sure enough, he was at church! We composed ourselves really well in front of him, but as soon as we left his sight, Sister Tanner and I did a victory dance for a good 5 minutes haha. This was the first time she had ever seen Ruben at church in the 5 months that she has been here. Man, missionary work is so crazy. There are some major highs and major lows. But I like focusing on the highs :) life is better that way. 
    Sige that is all for this week family! I will try to send some pictures now! Love you all! Ingat kayong lahat! Mahal na mahal kita!
-Sister Sawada

Photos :)

This is the bishop's daughter just chillen with a palaka (frog). She found one while we were cutting weeds in a service project and wrapped a string around it's neck and was carrying it around like a yoyo or something haha. It was still alive too! The toys in the Philippines, a little different.
 This is Brother Leonel our sort of ward mission leader/ym president/waiting for his mission call guy. This was the Stake RS and Priesthood social. We were turning him into a Christmas tree. Such a fun party!

Did I send this? So last time I sent pictures, I was carrying a chicken. The very next day, I was eating a chicken's foot :( We went to a sari sari (mini store thing) to get some home made halo halo yummm and they offered us bbq for 4 peso lang! Thats like a dime! So we were like okay show us the money. And they sure did. Chicken foot is no meat, straight cartalidge and bone haha I don't understand the appeal. But at least now I can say I ate chicken foot...sort of. I fed most of it to the stray dog that was running by haha.
 This is an area that we walk through. Isn't it gorgeous? It is actually totally through a ton of people's property but the nice thing about the Philippines is you can really just walk through whoevers property to get where you want to go. Great for missionaries!

 This is kasama ko and I hahaha. When someone is baptized, the missionaries like to give a little collage of pictures including their baptism pictures and pictures of their missionaries. So we just so happened to buy mathching leggings and decided to take jumping pictures on the beach. Pretty great right? I also realized that I have not said like anything about kasama ko. So kasama ko si Sister Tanner. Taga Kaysville Utah. She is pretty much the taller, whiter version of me. No joke. Since we are so similar, we really get along most of the time. Pero sometimes since we are so similar we butt heads. But I could not dream of a better trainer. She is so patient with me. We are so often on the same thinking track and it's really nice that I don't have to really complete any of my sentances. She already knows what I'm thinking! I don't know why I've been so lucky with compaions so far but I am scared for when I don't get so lucky haha.

This is Kathleen! Finally took a picture with her and Josh her son! She looks a little funny in this picture. She is so gorgeous and her hair was blonde when I first met her, then she changed it to blue, and now back to blonde again! She is so fun. We can't wait for her to meet a good mormon man to marry :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Week 7

Hello all!
    Sorry this week is going to be quite short. Today has been an interesting day. I was fasting from last night to this afternoon. And we had zone studies this morning until 11 and then went right into rehearsing for our quad zone christmas party presentation and got a quick lunch break and I wasn't thinking so I drank one cup of water and then rushed back to the rehearsal and now I am here because it is already getting late and we still have to get our shopping done before pday ends. And I haven't gotten a chance to buy a water bottle yet. Haha I know sounds ridiculous but I will get some soon. And also our zone leader sort of put me in charge of directing our performance for the christmas party which is an honor and it's way fun but it's also kind of stressful and takes a lot of thinking so my brain is already dead.
     But I have a couple experiences I want to share with you all! Unfortunately last week brother Manuel dropped us :/ He told us that it was too difficult for him to go to church. He said that it feels like he is always having to go against his wife's wishes because she doesn't like him meeting with us and she makes him feel guilty for using the little money that they have on transportation to get to church. We told him we would get a member to pick him up but the only members who are willing to take him go to church late and he refuses to go to church late. Haha. Oh man such complications right? But we haven't given up on him! We go to him only once a week now and just share a short thought with him. They aren't technically lessons but we are just going to keep visiting him until he let's us begin to teach him again. We know that he knows that meeting with us is the right thing. We are just waiting for his wife's heart to be softened.
      And although it is kind of a sayang (dang it) moment with Manuel, we have a couple of success stories this week! The first is with Sister Diane! Sister Diane is a catholic but the father of her children is a less active member of the LDS church. Diane is really the sweetest woman ever. She is only 27 and she has 3 kids. She has such a desire to do good especially for her children. Lessons with her are great and I feel the spirit so strong. The only complication with her is that the father of her children has a wife and another family...haha. This is actually very common in the Philippines. People get married very often yet divorce is either illegal or very expensive and so people get caught up in I guess a form of polygamy. It is so common here that the only requirement for her to get baptized is that they have lived together for over 5 years. And they have lived together for 8 so we are good there! She has accepted to be baptized but there's a small catch. She realizes that the fact that the father of her children, Tino, already having a wife, means that she has committed sin. She wants to be able to resolve these guilty feelings before she can get baptized. Well that's where Sister Tanner and I come in! When she told us that we made sure she knew that we want that exact same thing for her as well. So we are working on teaching her repentance and trying to figure out if she and Tino can get married.
      Okay one more! Ruben and Renie. I am not sure if I have shared about them before so I will just give a short overview. They are less actives. Ruben was baptized 3 years ago and his son Renie was baptized not long after. Renie's older sister and the mom were also baptized. But the mom passed away about a year ago and now the sister lives in another city. I'm not sure why. But they have practically no income. The only way they have a place to live is because their work, purified water distributing, allows them to live at the business. Since the mom has died, Ruben has begun smoking and drinking and Renie just seems so lost. He is now 17 years old. We have taught them a number of times and Renie never speaks to us and Ruben just tells us he knows it's all true. But he makes no actions to back up his words. I have told Sister Tanner a number of times that I felt like we should just take a break from teaching them because visiting them only made me sad. But when I would suggest that, it was not a prompting of the spirit. It was my fear. And where fear exists, faith cannot. 
     I was not practicing any kind of love or charity. The verses in 1 Corinthians 13 are so true where it says that without Charity, we are nothing. That can apply so literally to missionary work. I did not have that love for Ruben and Renie and I honestly dreaded teaching them. But one night, before we went to teach them, I imagined them as my own family. I tried to feel that love for them. That night, in that lesson, as I prayed for Christ's help to give me His love for his sons Ruben and Renie, we taught an amaaaazing lesson. Renie talked so much! He had been reading the Book of Mormon and showed us what he was reading! We asked about the day they were baptized and they brought out their baptism certificates and Ruben shared why he decided to join the church and leave the Catholic church! It really was a miracle lesson and it was all because of my change of heart. I know that love is essential in this work and in life. 
     Okay this is all I have time to share. I hope these stories made sense! I love you all! Until next week!
Love, Sister Sawada

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Week 6

I really say this every week now but time is going by so so fast. It's kind of scary!
     I used to count down the days until pday but now I don't need to! Seriously before I know it pday is back and another week has gone. I am finishing my first transfer this week! I heard that the first transfers are always the longest so I can't even imagine how fast time is going to fly from here on out.
     This email will probably be a little shorter than usual because I finally got to chat with the family! It is so so nice. Now that December has commenced and Christmas music/decorations are all over the place I am really thinking about my family a lot. It is always nice to hear from them. I love all the pictures especially!
     So this week was a great learning week for me. I am still figuring out how to not get discouraged when things in the day do not go as planned. I am also learning a lot about my companion. And lastly, I am learning how to have the spirit with me.
      This week there were many missionary activities and things that kept Sister Tanner and I from working as much as we wanted to. We had a district meeting on Tuesday that went late and then an additional zone meeting for another hour or so. They were great meetings. We actually learned about our progress on our zone goals and we are improving so greatly. It was really exciting to hear. Our zone is really unified and so much fun. I love them and my district a lot. So I love when I get to see everyone. But it is hard to see so much time go by and we don't get to work until 2 or so hours later than we hoped. But once again, I am learning to be patient with this and to realize that getting stressed about it won't do anything. In the MTC Elder Loitz would always say sarcastically, "I heard crying about it helps" when any of us would complain haha. And it is so true, complaining/stressing doesn't do anything good.
      Sister Tanner and I have gotten to know each other better and better with each day! She is teaching me a ton and I still have a long way to go with humbling myself and brushing off the small things. But some great things about her are that she has a great sense of humor. She loves youtube and is sooo good at mimicking so I just ask her to quote any video and I can imagine it perfectly because she sounds just like it hahaha. We laugh all the time. She wants to work hard just like I do. We have real hope for our work here. Unfortunately time just seems to be slipping out of our hands like water and we don't know where to find more of it! But we are doing our best.
       My oh my I don't think I can even begin to express my feelings about the spirit this week. There aren't the words that can express enough how important the spirit is in this work that I am doing, that we are all doing as missionaries. We need it with us always. It is sooo necessary. And this week for some reason I was really struggling to feel the spirit's influence in my life. So I was lucky enough to have some extra time after lunch one day and just read my scriptures for as long of a time as I could. And that day was a major improvement. Satan is doing everything he can to keep us from the gifts that God has given us. But through prayer and scripture study we can gain those gifts back and that is when we are the happiest. I know that to be true.
       Happy Thanksgiving by the way! And happy December! In the Philippines Christmas is celebrated during all the "ber" months so there have been Christmas decorations and lights up since I have been here. But now that December has begun things are becoming even more Christmas and I love it! Unfortunately Christmas is a huge party time here in the Philippines which means food food and more food. Not so great for a missionary trying to keep her figure or whatever of it remains haha. But that's okay. Let us all press on haha. Well I think this is all for this week! Not too many specific experiences pasensiya. But hopefully next week I can share some! Love you all! Take care! Keep praying and finding ways that you can grow closer to Christ and progress every day. 
Love love love,
Sister Sawada

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pictures :)

These are some of the kids who run after us every time we walk the baywalk (boarwalk) in Taboc. They yell whatever English they know at us like "Whatchur name!" Or "I lahb you!" haha this is actually outside of their homes though. We had a little scripture session just with the kids. So much fun. Still working on trying to teach their parents ;)

 I get to enjoy the beaches of Taboc and that rice fields of Urbiztando all in one area! I am seriously so lucky.

 Here is a beautiful shot of the view that I get as I walk to Taboc.

Here's the group from Sister Louise's baptism! These are her family, ward members, and a lot of us missionaries haha.

I. Held. A. Chicken. I really wasn't gonna do it but then decided to really last second because I was feeling risky and luckily Sister Tanner got a shot of it haha. It felt so weird!!!

Week five

Oh my gosh it is already week 5! Next week is transfers! Luckily I most likely don't have to worry about that because I will probably be with Sister Tanner for my whole first 12 weeks for my training. But seriously time here is just flying by! This week was interesting because we literally had every day planned full with like barely enough time to breathe, yet when we got to the end of the day, we add up how many lessons we taught and its like 2 or 3. This can get pretty frustrating after a day where you feel like you just walked like 10 miles, you have about an inch of dirt all over your body, and your body and mind are both exhausted. And then you come home to look at your planner and feel like you almost failed for the day. But when I get frustrated about this, I know that I am focusing too much on the numbers.
      This week I learned a ton about the relationship between my schedule, and reality. As I shared before, it is very common for someone to say they will be home at a certain time, available to teach, and then when we go to their home at the time that they said, they are no longer available. We hardly ever have "scheduled" appointments. We just try to remember the most successful time that we were able to teach this specific person and go to them at that time, hoping for the best. Some people are really great at being there always like Manuel. He can't really walk so he can't really go anywhere haha. But we usually go to him at 4 and if we come at like 4:30 he will say, "Why are you so late?" haha we just laugh because no one can be taken seriously when they try to be specific about time. Time here doesn't really mean anything. The term "Philippino Time" is as real as real can be. We are supposed to start church at 8:30 but are lucky if we start before 9. But anyway, it is really a great feeling when someone takes the time that we set seriously. Like Brother Manuel. Sister Kathleen, the woman from Switzerland is the same way. She likes to be out with her friends in the evening but she tells them that she has to leave at 6 so that she can be back at her place ready for us at 7. This is a big deal and makes us feel really special haha.
      Anyway back to the relationship between our schedule, and reality. This week we had exchanges and I was leading the area. Which meant that Sister Tanner was leaving to Lingsat and I was to show Sister Bagacina, one of the Sister Training Leaders around the San Juan 2B area. I was very nervous about this. I am comfortable with the area when I am with Sister Tanner but when I thought about having to lead the area, I got pretty nervous. I was happy to see though that our schedule for that day was very full. I thought to myself "good, it will look like we are very busy and hard working missionaries with this full schedule." So we began our exchanges and from the beginning I was saying how we were going to need to be short and powerful in order to fit everything in for the day. And things started out fine to me. We were walking swiftly to our lessons and getting things done. But before we got into every lesson I would say something like "we need this to be a quick one" or "let's just share a short spiritual thought." We did this from 2-5 and I was feeling really good at how much we were accomplishing. When 5 came around we had a lesson planned at the chapel. I was very excited about this lesson because it was with an investigator who is hard to get time with because he works so much. 
       But when we got to the church, he texted us asking if he could reschedule. I was really let down that we wouldn't get a lesson taught in that hour. I kept imagining the area in my daily planner where we fill out the numbers of lessons that we taught in the day and I wanted that number to be so big. So I told Sister Bagacina that we would go try to teach someone else. But at the chapel there was a baptism going on. And there was a less active woman there with her daughter, I thought that was nice, but didn't think much more about it. But sister Bagacina said "are you sure that's what you want to do?" For the first time that day I just stopped imagining that area of my daily planner. I looked at Sister Cecil a return missionary who has gone inactive because her husband is catholic. She was with her daughter who is almost 8 and whom Cecil hopes will be baptized. I realized that this was where we needed to be. So we sat with them in the baptism. Sister Cecil was crying through the congregational hymns after Audrey, an 8 year old girl in our ward was baptized. I felt so guilty after that. I thought back on the lessons that we taught that day and how I really just taught them to get the number written down in my planner.
       I never thought I would be that type of missionary! But I am really glad to have had this experience so that now I can know this: those days where we teach 2-3 lessons are not a waste. Sometimes so few lessons are taught because people aren't home. But most of the time it is because we have stayed and taught the people who needed to be taught longer. As long as we are able to discern the needs of those we are teaching, it is okay to teach a lesson for an hour to an hour and a half. This is very common actually. With the combination of the language barrier and some of the complex concepts that we are teaching, are lessons are usually at least an hour long. Sister Tapusoa went on exchanges to Candon and those missionaries are teaching 8-10 lessons a day. She was excited at first but realized that they aren't so much teaching the people, they are more just teaching lessons.
       After my experience with Sister Bagacina, I know that I never want to be that kind of missionary. So what I am working on at the moment is balancing, the need to be as effective and hard working as possible, but also knowing when to just relax and let the Spirit guide, even if it means missing an appointment. You can never go wrong when you are following the Spirit.
       And now for the highlight of the week...drum roll please...
        Yayyyy!!! Oh my goodness it was such a beautiful baptism too. Of course since it was scheduled for 3, we started at 4. And there was actually a baptism scheduled for ward 1 as well so we had a surprise combined baptism haha. But it worked out fine. The spirit was so strong the entire meeting. After Louise was baptized, she just looked so calm and happy. She bore her testimony afterward which she said she was very nervous to do. But when she got up there she did so amazing. She said that the night before, she had been reading her emails that she and her husband wrote back and forth while he was on his mission. She read one of them where Jared, her husband, asked her "So when are you going to get taught by the missionaries?" This was in 2008. This year, November 2013 was the first time Louise ever met with missionaries. She then bore testimony about how she knows that all things are done in God's time. And that they are done in that time for a reason. When she said that my heart was so full. She knew that she needed to be taught at this time for a reason. I also know that she needed to be taught at this time for a reason. For me. She has been the one to give me such hope in this work. Her lessons are always the highlight of the day and teaching her really gives me the boost that I need to keep going when things seem too hard.
       As much as we would like to think we know, we ultimately know nothing. We try our best to do our best. That is great. We should keep doing that. But ultimately, not matter what we do, we are all a part of a greater plan. A plan that we know so little about. In order to make it through this plan we need things. We need faith, courage, love, sad times to recognize the happy times, and happy times to be able to endure the sad times, and so much more. I needed Louise and the Lord knew that. This is why she didn't decide to be taught until 2013, 5 years after her boyfriend asked her to be taught.
      It is great to set goals, to make plans and have something to aim for. But in the end, the Lord will lead us and guide us to do what he needs us to do. It can be hard to let ourselves follow his plan instead. But in the end we will realize that it was the best for us. I know this to be true. I hope that although I am learning this lesson over here in the Philippines as a full time missionary it can still apply to your lives. I always think about you my family and friends. I wish that I could film every day here and let you all watch so that you could be learning all the things that I am. But these emails will have to do haha. I love you all. Keep praying. Keep asking for opportunities to practice your faith and trust in the Lord and His plan and you will be blessed.
     That is all for this week! Love you guys! Take care!
- Sister Sawada

Monday, November 18, 2013

Week four

I feel like I keep saying this and it must be because it is true. But every single day here just gets better and better! I don't know how it happens! I feel like I have reached my full capacity of joy and then it gets topped somehow!
   Hello Friends and Family! It is safe to say that this week has been a great one! But before I get into it I just wanted to let everyone know that I am safe! Haha wait did I say that already? I'm not sure. But seriously we got a couple drops of rain over here in Baguio. I think you all knew that already but I just wanted to clear up any confusion. We are very lucky to be over here. It is really such a devastating thing that happened in Tacloban and my prayers along with the prayers of all people here in the Philippines go out to them. We hear crazier and crazier stories about what happened and is happening over there and all I can think is how much God is aware of them right now and hope that they can realize that too.
    Also I wanted you all to know that if you are emailing me, yes I am reading your emails! I print them off on my pday because there is no time to read them when I am at the computer. And then I attempt to write you all a letter in reply. Unfortunately those take about 2-3 weeks to get to you all but it is the best way I can think of communicating at this point. Just know that I am so grateful for all who write and the time when I get to go home and read all my printed out emails is one of the best times of the week! So thank you all and I love you all.
    Sige! Let's get into this week! Once again I cannot send pictures :( I look forward to the day when I can! For now, y'all can just use your imagination :) So this week was really great! Sister Tanner and I always have full planners! Unfortunately though often times, our appointments will fall through. People here are always going to different cities to go visit family in Manila, or Urdeneta or I don't even know. Family is super important here. So if a family member is ever sick or needs something, their family will leave whatever they are doing and get on a bus to get over there. One of our less actives just up and moved one day and so we are like...hmmm maybe we will take her out of the area book...haha. But the work is still moving along!
    Sister Louise, the investigator who's husband is an RM is doing so so amazingly. She is getting baptized this Saturday! Not only will it be my first baptism but she is also the first investigator where I have been with her since the beginning of her lessons! I am so happy. She had her baptismal interview on Saturday and the district leader, the one who conducted the interview, told us that he is amazed at how prepared she is. He says that he felt the spirit so strongly with her. She was in tears before the opening prayer was over he said. We are so so happy for her and her family. We are actually hoping to have lunch with them today haha. We can't even go pday without seeing them! They are really the greatest. They live with her in laws who are also members. Their family name is Gaerlan. It's a very well known name in our area. They are a well off family and they have been very influencial in the church. Like Brother and Sister Gaerlan would have missionaries over for zone conferences all the time. They would feed the missionaries breakfast on pdays and Brother Gaerlan was the first branch president in Luna, an area here in the mission. But one day they just decided that they had done enough for the church. They now refuse to hold any calligns! Haha what? But yeah, they come to sacrament meeting only, and don't hold any callings. They are a very interesting family. But they know the church is true and are very excited for Louise's baptism so that's good! I realllly hope I can send you guys pictures next week because I will have pictures of her baptism!
    Another thing that happened this week was with a less active family. Well they are father and son, Ruben and Renie. The mother passed away a while ago and since then they stopped going to church, the husband Ruben drinks and smokes, and the son Renie seems kind of lost and sad most of the time. They work for a water purifying company and distribute jugs of purified water on their trykes. As far as we know they don't receive any additional income besides being able to live at the home owned by the company. Sister Tanner and I are not sure if they even get a full meal once a day. Renie is only 17 and the past couple of times we have visited them he has been in bed sick. We decided to invite the other Sisters in our ward Sister Gaddy and Gerhards and our ward mission leader (kind of) Brother Leonel to come with us to their house and we would have a family home evening. Renie was still sick and so I asked Leonel to offer a priesthood blessing but for some reason that didn't happen. But I am hoping we can give him one sometime this week if he is still sick. But we were able to bring a huge pan of pancit (a delicious noodle dish) and pandesal (rolls) and some stuff to drink. And we had an activity about the commandments and ate and just had a fun night. When we first came Ruben seemed especially down and as if he didn't want us there. But by the end of the night we was chatting with all of us and I really think he was able to open up more than before. Gaining trust with people is so important. I hope to continue to be able to gain the people's trust here. Sister Tanner tells me a quote that's somthing along the lines of, People won't care to know you, until they know how much you care. It is so true. As I learn the language more and become more comfortable here I feel that I am gaining people's trust and it makes me so happy. It makes me look forward to the next day where I can progress even more.
     Okay so funny moment of this week. We were walking to Taboc, the brangay (community) north of our apartments. We walk there almost every day and along the walk, well I guess I need to explain this a little more. So our area is 5 brangays. Going north to south it is Taboc, Ili Norte, Ili Sur, Pagacinan, and Urbiztando. It is divided by the National Highway. Literally a highway that goes through all of these areas. It is pretty much the road that takes you everywhere at least in our area. And our proselyting area is between the national highway and the west coast. So everything west of the highway in those 5 Brangays is our area. To walk to taboc, we walk along the highway. And for some reason there are huge manholes along this high way. When walking at night, these huge holes just look like puddles but I have been lucky enough to avoid them every time. And I thought I had the route down so I would always avoid them. But we were meeting up with the other sisters for another FHE and I was waving at them and suddenly my face was flat on the ground hahah. I had fallen into the man hole! Before I could even look up and realize that I was 4 feet under the ground I just thought "Aww man not the man hole!" hahaha. And it just so happened to be across a tryke station (an area where a bunch of tryke drivers hang out for people who need transportation. Oh and a tryke is a motorcycle with a little side car for people to ride in.) So they were all yelling "Sister! There is a hole!" Haha I was like yeah thanks a lot guys. So I got a picture of the hole and I will send that some other time. I was really lucky though I just have some scrapes and bruises. Really lucky. And then later that night on our way home, I was walking and stepped on a nail! It went right through my shoes and into my flesh haha. It was super rusty too! It was a tiny little puncture that it made but it bled so we had to call sister Balledos. But seriously the puncture is so tiny I just said I would put neosporin and it would be fine. And it is! So it's all good. But I just laughed that in one day I fell into a man hole and stepped on a rusty nail. So great. I also have a picture of the nail. Look forward to it!
    So I think that is all for this week! Kind of a lot of nothing but when it's happening all day every day it becomes something! Every thing that is happening to me here is for my benefit and learning! I love this work I really do. We are currently fasting right now for a ton of things. But mostly for the people that we interact with here. Our investigators especially. We love them so much and just want them to continue to progress in this gospel. I have never wanted something for someone else so bad. I didn't think I would be like this already. But I am so grateful that I am and I know it is because of the Lord. He has given me His love and I feel if for everyone around me. Well that is all people! I love you a ton! Keep being awesome!
    Scripture for the week! Alma 26:12!
Mahal na Mahal Kita!
Sister Sawada

Monday, November 11, 2013

week 3

My goodness gracious! Whoever said missions are like a roller coaster was not kidding! Okay so I have officially been in the Philippines for 3 weeks! And I can honestly say that I do not want to be anywhere else! This email was going to be mostly pictures because I have so many to send! But the internet cafe that we are in only had 2 computers left and my kasama took the one with the camera connector. I was expecting her to say "we can switch off half way" but nothing yet. We will see I have 5 more minutes until half way done! Fingers crossed! haha but if not it's alright, no love for the junior companion whatevs haha.
     Sige, we will get into the week now! This week has been sooo sooo great! The greatness really started on Tuesday. We had a zone "finding activity". As missionaries we try to find fun new ways to find potential investigators. Usually you apply these new ideas just as companionships. But our zone leaders decided that they would try to do one as a zone. So we went down to the plaza in san fernando and performed! There was a stage, speakers, the whole thing! My companion, the other sisters in our apartment, and I were chosen to be a part of the performance. We sang some hymns, a young woman who is a member in the Lingsat ward sang some primary and other church songs. And Elder Ete sang I am a child of God in English, Tagalog, and Samoan. As we were all performing, the other missionairs of the zone were preaching by the way. When we weren't performing, we also had the opportunity to be preaching by the way. This made it so much more exciting to preach because there was the attraction of the performers and so we could explain what they were doing or what they were singing about, and then turn it into a lesson, or even just a "would you like to learn more?" We ended up getting tons of people's names and even though they weren't much from our area because we were in San Fernando rather than San Juan, I didn't care. 
     Preaching by the way is something that I have been most scared to do. It's pretty much making small talk with people and then bringing up our message of the gospel and then asking if we can meet with them sometime to teach them more. I used to wonder, "how am I supposed to you know, talk to people when I can't you know, speak the language..." haha but this activity made me so much more confident in my ability to talk to people! For a little while I imagined trying to do this activity in like Russia, or europe, or even Japan. I would have been soo much more scared. But the people here are seriously so friendly. As soon as they hear us try to speak their language they are so friendly and so impressed with our desire to learn and with what we have learned so far. These Philippinos are def morale boosters! :)
     The rest of the week was pretty normal. Oh we got a new fridge! Seriously we were so excited for it. And even now, when Sister Gerhards (the only pilippina in our house) goes into the kitchen, she just freezes and is like "oh, it's so beautiful!" in her philippino accent hahaha. It has lifted the spirits of the kitchen tremendously. We are so happy about it. Another exciting thing from this week was new missionary training! All the missionaries from my batch got together at a chapel and got some training. The training focused on health, the "12 week Program" the program that we new missionaries go through, and then President Balledos spoke for most of it about how we can do this. How missionary work is possible. It was really interesting and sooo much fun to be able to see missionaries from my batch! We got to see Sister Bangerter! Of course I was happy to see Sister Tapusoa too but I get to see her very often since our areas and houses are so close to each other. I'm seriously so lucky to have her. But we got to see Sister Bangerter! It was so nice and we got to share our stories of the mission so far. Our struggles mostly haha but we also shared so positive stories too! That was definitely a highlight of the week.
     On Saturday we had a baptism for Brother Jojo Flores. He is in the San Juan 2 ward but Sister Gerhards and Gaddy are his missionaries. He has been taught by 5 or more sets of missionaries already. His wife is a member and when he was first getting taught, he would always tell the missionaries "Sisters, I am catholic. You cannot change me. I am catholic." But we witnessed his baptism yesterday! This gospel is for everyone. The rich, the poor, the born again, the catholic. God will not give up on His children so neither can we.
      In Jacob chapter 5 there is the allegory of the Olive Tree. In verse I believe it's verse 47, the Lord sees that even after all of his work, his trees have brought forth bad fruit. The Lord asks "What more could I have done for my vineyard?" And He is about to give up, and then the servant asks Him if they can please try just and work one more time. That is what I need to do as a missionary. It is what we all need to do as people in general. Giving up is not an option, especially when it comes to preaching His gospel. Everyone deserves the chance to hear the truth but it requires my diligence. My determination to never give up. And so that is what I will do. Never give up.
     I love you guys so so much. But I don't want to be home right now! Haha as I was sitting in the baptism on Saturday, I thought about home for a second and usually when I do that, I get homesick and think "if only I could be home right now." But that thought never entered! Instead I thought "there is no other place that I would rather be than here. I don't want to be anywhere else." It's a miracle! I am finally realizing why I am here. I believe so strongly in prayer. Everything that I have been able to do here so far is because of prayer. Because of asking God to please help me through all that I do each day. Remember to pray. Remember to remember the Lord and the importance of His companionship. Once again I love you all so so much. Keep on keeping on! Until next week!
Sister Sawada

Monday, November 4, 2013

Another pday already? I'm not complaining, but holy smokes that flew by! God really hears us all and really answers our prayers! That is something that I am gaining a solid testimony of while out here. I was running out of time so I didn't get to share, but after hearing "Cottonwood Lane" I put my head down and automatically started feeling bad for myself. I started thinking about how sad this situation is for me. I literally thought to myself "I cannot do this." And that was when the spirit decided to interject, "well duh you can't do this, that is why I am here." I am weak. I am inexperienced. I came to the Philippines thinking that all a mission would be is having no worries but preaching His gospel. I didn't think about the foreign customs, the long hours of walking in the sun, or learning a whole new language. In that moment as I was feeling sorry for myself, I gave God probably one of the most desperate prayers I have ever given. I told Him that I need Him to be with me every single moment in order for the work to be possible. And the day completely turned around. He answered me so instantly! I felt His love for me and I couldn't have asked for anything more.
     Now every morning and night I promise to work my hardest and be the best missionary that I can be if that meant that I could have His strength with me for the next 18 months. One huge difference that I have noticed is that through Him, I have turned my focus away from me and to the people. The people here are amazing. They all have close to nothing. Most of them walk around with a hardened look on their faces which can be intimidating. But as soon as I smile at them, they will give me the biggest, best smile I have ever seen! The funniest thing to me about the people is how independent they are. It gets dark here really early. The sun is set by 6 and since there is not much electricity, the street lights are either dim or non existent (which creates adventures of its own) and so the streets are often very dark. It is something that I am still getting used to but obviously it don't phase the people here. Just last night we were walking at like 8 pm and there was a little girl who couldn't have been older than 6 walking around singing a little song all by herself! The street was dark and isolated! There are constantly groups of little 12 year old looking kids walking around at night and it is still taking a while to get used to haha.
     The people at church are great. Like I said before, the ward is very very small. But each member is so loving and kind and I am really enjoying getting to know them better. The bishop is hilarious. He rolls up to church on his motorcycle with 3 or 4 of his kids hanging off the front, back, wherever. He has 6 children and his wife is such a sweetheart. They mostly speak Ilikano though so it's challenging to communicate with him sometimes. But hey miscommunication is pretty much the story of my life at the moment. Another especially great people in the ward are Brother Leonel, the 22 year old YM president/Assistant Ward Mission Leader (because our ward mission leader is inactive)/the only member who will go to lessons with us. He is also turning in his mission papers because he is a recent convert to the church so we will be losing him soon. Makes us want to cry. But he's going to be such an awesome missionary. There is also Brother Joei who he and his wife are both RMs. They are great, really enthusiastic, but they are technically in ward 1. So we get them every other Sunday which is so sweet of them because they recognize that our ward needs some help.
      But of course, my favorite people probably have to be the people that we teach. We have about 6 investigators currently and we teach a lot of less actives and recent converts. I will talk about a few of them in detail. First brother Manuel. He was a referral from a sister in the ward and he is really awesome. He has such a strong desire to understand the truth of what we teach him. But his lack of education kind of keeps him from being able to do so the way that he would like to. For example, he wants to know that the Aklat ni Mormon is true but won't read it because it is too confusing. He has a baptismal date set for the 30 of November but we can't go through with it if he hasn't shown that he will commit more to understanding the doctrine. His faith is great, but he depends too much on others and not enough on the spirit. He told us that to prepare for baptism he reads this pamphlet over and over. He held the pamphlet up and we saw that it was the Chastity pamphlet. Luckily Brother Leonel was with us for that lesson so he could explain in better Tagalog than Sister Tanner or I could. Hahaha he has the best intentions, but we are still working with him. 
      Then there is Sister Kathleen. She is from Switzerland actually so we get to have our lessons with her in English. She was a referral from another set of missionaries. She has a 2 year old son named Josh who I am officially in love with. He reminds me a ton of zeke and ah, just makes me happy to be with children. But anyway, Kathleen is amazing. She has had a ton of trials in her life including a bad relationship with her father, she has been paralyzed twice, and she is now a single mother. Her biggest trial right now is the word of wisdom. She had no problem giving up alcohol, tea, coffee. But she has been smoking tobacco since she was 14. She is now in her 30s. She literally cannot remember what life was like before she was smoking. But she has already gone from 10+ cigarettes a day to 2-5. So we see improvement and know that she can do it! She has already seen great blessings in her life since the missionaries have met with her and that is great. She has a baptismal date set for Dec 21 which will be great if she can overcome her addiction to tobacco.
     Last but definitely not least is Sister Louis! She is the first investigator who I have been here from the beginning of her teaching! She is married to an RM and just had a baby boy. Since she just gave birth, she is on leave from work so she has time to take the lessons. She accepted a baptismal date for November 23! She is sooo sooo prepared already to accept the gospel it's pretty much just a matter of getting to her house 3-4 times a week in order to teach her everything before she gets baptized haha. She is only 29 and reminds me of my sisters. Shes so fun to just talk to and we feel the spirit so strongly with her. 
     So it's safe to say things are definitely looking up here in the Philippines. Things are not easy, but why should they be? It's not called missionary "work" for nothing! I wish I could share about every person I have met here but I cannot :( and once again I cannot send pictures! Hopefully we will go to the internet cafe where we can do that next week. But for now, I love you all! Take care! Keep praying! Keep reading scriptures! I miss you guys but I know that this is where I am supposed to be.
Mahal na mahal kita,
Sister Sawada

p.s. Nbd but apparently our house is haunted. Literally, we have had some things happen that made us wonder and we asked the zone leaders for a blessing. They straight us said that it is true, the 1/3 exists! What the heck? Does that really happen? So the house is haunted, but they couldn't come into the house to bless it because it is sister's housing. So we just said a prayer that night and have been living in fear since. Haha jk we aren't really afraid anymore because we know that the Lord's power is greater than anything else.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Missionary Work

Hey guys,
If you are wondering what Chisa is doing out there for eighteen months here is a video on what missionaries do on a daily basis. They are in the UK but I think most of the stuff is pretty universal :)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_Kp6K1aFyU


Holy moly hello po everyone!
     Well I am finally here! Finally at a computer! Finally finally! Haha I have so much to say. Here comes the list. Let's hope I can remember everything!
1. Flying here
2. First thoughts of the Philippines
3. Getting to Baguio
4. We are Baguio Missionaaaaries
5. Transfer Meeting
6. Day 1
7. Day 2
8. Day 3

     Okay so I can't go into as much detail as I would like and there is definitely no time for error correction so I apologize in advance, I already know there will be mistakes. So on the morning of I forget which day, the Sisters (Bangerter, Tapusoa, Anien, Lowham) and I were to be at the travel office at 3:30 am giving us about 1-2 hours of sleep after we finished packing and cleaning up the room and stuff. So we got on the shuttle and headed to the airport. We got safely on our flight after Sister Bangerter and I split a much needed pork salad from the airport cafe rio lol. It was a 4 hour flight from SLC to Detroit. Then a 12 hour flight from Detroit to Nagoya. Then a 3 hour flight from Nagoya to the Pines. A grand total of about 20 hours! Luckily I slept for probably 18 of those 20 hours haha. The Lord was really helping me out with that. I did not hide my talent for sleeping and He blessed me for it haha. Is that sac religious? Sorry. Anyway, then we landed! 
     We were in the Philippines! Our feet were like elephants thanks to sitting for sooo long. But it's alright! Because we had made it! As soon as we got off the plane Sister Lowham turned to me and said "It's soo humid." I agreed but it felt good to me! And then after we got our luggage and got outside, that's when the real humidity hit us. I just turned to Sister Lowham and laughed. This was the actual humidity of the Philippines. And we were all taking a while to adjust to it. I asked Elder Jarvis how he was doing and all he could say was "I be sweatin'. Nokay lang." Hahaha to say "it's okay" in tagalog, you say "okay lang" So he decided to switch that to nokay lang. But besides the humidity, my other thoughts were quite scattered. Outside of the airport, where you get picked up at the curb, there were cars EVERYWHERE. And although there were only 3 lanes, there were 5-6 cars beside each other honking and trying to get through. An Elder next to me had about 5 heart attacks in the 20 minutes that we waited there. But we didn't have to wait for long before a shuttle came for us. But we had one shuttle for about 15 Sisters. I have a picture of that but I'm not sending any pics this week :/ I have too much to say and not enough time. Hopefully I will have less to say next week and will have time for pictures!
     So the shuttle got us and we crammed in there to get to our hotel. It was about 10:30 pm when we landed in Manila but as we got to the airport hotel there were still tons of people out and about. Eating, partying, just doing whatever. We went into the hotel lobby. Walang (none) aircondition of course. And we just wanted to get to our rooms and sleep. But somehow our shuttle with all of our luggage got way off course within the 5 minute drive from the airport to the airport hotel. So we ended up not getting to our room until about 2 in the morning. But seeing the mattresses on the ground made us so happy we wanted to cry haha. The idea of getting sleep while in a laying down position was so amazing. So we got right to bed and woke up at 4 to get to the shuttles that would take us to our missions by 4:45 ish. Although we were excited to get to Baguio, it was sad because that morning we had to say goodbye to Sister Anien who was going to Olon Gapo. We were almost angry that the MTC would put us together and then make us say goodbye. But it had to be done. And I know she is going to be a kick butt missionary out in Olon Gapo. So our shuttle left by about 5:30 and we were ready to get to Baguio! But first we stopped at the Manila MTC to pick up the missionaries from there that were also going to Baguio. I saw Jaron Chong there! I thought he was gone already but he was there! It was so nice to see him! The Manila MTC is right by the temple too so we got to see the steeple haha. I have a picture of that too. We were at the Manila MTC for way long though. We were back on the road at like 8 ish. It was supposed to be about a 7 hour bus ride to Baguio. We were to take stops every couple of hours to use the bathroom and eat and what not. The bus ride was actually really fun! We got to know a lot of the Manila MTC missionaries who were mostly natives. They were all sooo nice! They knew most of our names by the end of the bus ride! They are so accepting of everyone and yeah. Could not think any better of them. Awesome people. Then after about 3 hours, our bus broke down! We were broken down for about 3 more hours. Then got back on the road and 4 hours after that made it to the Baguio mission office! We were dead from all the travelling but still had interviews with President Balledos who is such an awesome and sweet man, and activities to get to know each other and stuff.
      But we got to sleep eventually. We sisters stayed in the Sister training leaders house which was nice and big. I fell asleep in my church clothes and everything. But then I woke up at like 5:30 and decided to shower. I had no idea that it was a bucket shower! I was sitting in the bathroom for a good 5 minutes just staring at the bucket in the corner. Trying to decipher what to do exactly. Was the water clean? Do I just dump it on me? Or do I dunk myself into it? All of the sisters were still asleep and I didn't stay awake to hear how anyone showered the night before. But I finally got the courage up and dunked my hands in the bucket and got to business. Greatest thing ever! I ended up feeling so much more clean that I would in a normal shower! It was like washing dishes except I was the dish! Great stuff. Ahh I'm running out of time! I need to hurry. Okay then the next day we had our first proselyting activity, and amazing race activity (which my team won of course!) and we went to the mission home for the first time! It was beautiful right on the beach! I will send a pic of that too next week. Then we had an orientation and a budong fight! Where you eat with your hands! Sooo masarap! And then we went to bed. I found out when I got home that night that the bucket shower was unnecessary. The shower worked just fine. I don't know what I was thinking haha.
     The next morning was transfer meeting. Tears. Maraming (many) tears. I had to say goodbye to my best friends of the last month and a half. I am now in the San Juan area of the San Fernando zone. My ward is San Juan 2 which my companion and I share with another set of Sisters. I met my new companion! Sister Tanner from Kaysville Utah! She is really sweet. After the meeting we ate some lunch and then got right to work! I met Brother Noto, a recent convert. Brother Manuel an investigator. Brother Johnny a recent convert. Bishop Javier. And Brother Lorenzo a creepy old man who I am pretty sure just converted because he loves missionaries. He isn't even in our area but he insists that we visit him because he loves Sister Tanner and he gives us Chubbys (chocolate candy) so we go to him when we are hungry. I will go more into detail about them next time! But the first three brothers that I talked about are sooooo soooo amazing. They all inspire me so much. By the end of that night I was so tired I was almost crying. Sister Tanner was sensitive and knew that she was that tired on her first night so she let me go to bed early.
     The next morning came way too soon. I woke up and forgot that I was in the Philippines. We did our first 4 hours of studies and had a delicious lunch. And after that we would normally go out proselyting or to a lesson. But Sisters Gaddy and Gerhards, the other sisters who are in San Juan ward 2 and who live with us had a baptism! So we went to that and had a service project after. Then we went out proselyting for a long time because apparently all of our lessons for that day were out of town. Then we had FHE, once again for investigators in Sister Gaddy and Gerhard's area but we decided to join because they end up being in the same ward as us. It was at a house where the wife is a member and the husband is investigating. At the FHE he accepted a baptismal date! We were all really excited because he had gone through 5 sets of missionaries before Sister Gaddy and Sister Gerhards started teaching him. We went home that night and I was really struggling. I felt pretty sad. When we are in lessons, teaching people, I am fine. Super happy actually. But then we get out in the streets and I start thinking about home and I get pretty down.
     Sunday was even more difficult. Our ward struggles with activity so in the primary room there is a little girl probably about 6 years old setting up the chairs. We missionaries set up the rest of the rooms. In relief society there were 5 sisters besides the missionaries. Gospel principles was good. Pretty full actually. About 10 people in there. And then about 30-35 in sacrament. I don't understand much still but I want to contribute. They had me bare my testimony in sacrament which was a surprise because Sister Tanner said I wouldn't be doing that for another couple of weeks. But it went fine. And that was probably my favorite part of the day. The rest was a real struggle. I wanted to just be able to speak Tagalog perfectly already. I wanted to understand the culture. When someone looks at me a certain way I want to know if it is a good thing or a bad thing. I want to know if what I am inclined to do would be okay or if it would be impolite. There are so many things different about this place and I am taking some time to adjust. I got to plug in one of my cds yesterday and cottonwood lane came on. I heard Jacob's little 14 year old voice singing the line that he sang in the musical fireside and had a breakdown. I miss you all a ton. I miss the comfort of living that I used to have. I come outside and see someone ride by on their bike and realize that this is the home of so many people. And I feel better for a second. And then I get sad again. Some good advice I got today was not to compare here to home. So I am going to work on that. I am also focusing on patience with the language and getting accustomed here. And faith that with the Lord, I can do this. Scirptures that have really helped me have been 2 Nephi 4. Pretty much the whole chapter but especially the end. And D&C 121: 7 and 122: 7&8. 
     I know that this is where I am supposed to be. But that doesn't make this work any easier. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I miss so many things. But I know that it is going to get better. When I wish I were back home, I know that I am not showing the faith that the Lord needs me to show. This experience is going to make me so much stronger. Please pray for me. I pray for you all. I love you all. And I will talk to you next week.
Love, Sister Sawada

Monday, October 21, 2013

Last email from the MTC

Kumusta lahat mga tao!
     This morning as I struggled to wake up, (which was most mornings this last week) I realized that I am waking up in that bed only two more times! Ano bayan??? (what in the world??) It is such a crazy feeling. Although I feel like I have been here at the MTC forever, I just never thought the day would come that I would actually be going to the Philippines! I think I was convinced my mission would be here at the MTC haha. But luckily, reality is starting to hit me now and I could not be more excited! We actually got an email from Sister Reategui, a sister who left just before us, and reading it got us sooo pumped! Here is just a quick bit of her email that got us so excited. 
     "Well, I absolutely love it here. The people are so humble and they have already taught me so much. I have learned more than I ever thought and it hasn't even been a full week here! I laugh at the things I used to think were hard at home or in the MTC. It is totally a different world here! I have like 30+ bug bites all over me and I'm sweaty ALL the time and I have no idea what anyone is ever saying and I take bucket showers and wash my clothes by hand but every single hard thing is so so so SO WORTH IT for these incredible people here. Ah missionary work is the greatest ever."
     Isn't that just awesome?? Oh man after that we were like, okay and we are supposed to focus on classes now? Just get us to the Pines! Hahaha. So this week I want to share a small spiritual thought and then I mostly want to talk about my district. I have no idea what I have said about which Elder or Sister here but I absolutely love them all and they deserve to be acknowledged individually! So that will be most of this email :)
     So we are back at main campus! I could not be happier! Our first day back, we moved into our rooms which are so much bigger and smell so much better than at west campus! Then we got into our classroom and since it was an actual classroom, not just a bedroom of an apartment, we wanted to jump right into language study! We were able to conduct the best language study session we have ever had! It was just the best. The whole district was together and learning and ah man, being back at main has been awesome for us. I think throughout the moving back and forth, it has brought us even closer together as missionaries because we have had to be frustrated, flexible, and patient with each other and with the situation. But yes, so being back at main was great just from the first hour we were there, and then at dinner that night, Elder Waldron whispered to us that there was going to be a special speaker at the devotional that night. Our relationship with Elder Waldron is probably 30% serious, and 70% sarcastic/teasing and so of course he wouldn't tell us who it was! He wanted us to follow him around like little puppy dogs and he also wanted us to wait in line with him super early to ensure good seating. So we fulfilled his wishes and got in line really early. And I am so glad we did because the speaker turned out to be Elder Dallin H. Oaks!
     I was sooo excited when I saw that it was him because his talk from this conference was one of my favorites! And boy, he did not disappoint. He started off by sharing the three things that new missionaries struggle with. Changing, achieving, and becoming. We usually have to change our schedule, the music we listen to, and the things that we choose to spend our time on once we are missionaries. Then the things we want to achieve change quite a bit. We are setting goals for ourselves that we never thought we would set, like memorizing 50 vocab a day, or the entire first vision in Tagalog, etc. And the last thing we must do is become. Elder Oaks said there is a significant difference between being a missionary and becoming a missionary. In order to become a missionary, a change of heart must take place. I honestly believe that this change is occurring in me. I sure hope it is at least! 
     Then he shared the three reasons why we claim that we are the "only true church" on the earth. (I am not sure if this is too much to share on the blog but I wanted the family to know this. If you want to post it great, if not that's fine too) The reasons are that 1. God has given us the fullness of His gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith. 2. The power of the Priesthood. 3. We have a unique testimony of Jesus Christ. (1) The fullness of His gospel includes the restoration, plan of salvation, and mainly the idea that enduring all experiences in life is made possible through the Atonement of Christ.(2) The priesthood is a necessity. We have a living prophet who holds this power and that is why we are the only true and living church. (3) And lastly, we believe that the godhead is made up of three separate beings. They are united in purpose, but not in identity. I wish so badly to just scan my notes and send it to you because he went into so much detail. But at the end he testified that the message that he shared with us, about the reason that this is the only true church on the earth, is the most important message for our day. So it's important y'all! He closed with his fervent testimony that the things he shared were true. He said something along the lines of, "to me, the miracle of Jesus Christ is incomprehensible. But the spirit has been a witness to me so many times. Enough times that I know this to be true."
     That testimony is a great comfort to me. I don't have to have a perfect knowledge of things to believe in them. Or even to know if they are true. Because then where would my faith be? And if I weren't exercising faith, would I be enduring to the end? Enduring to the end is literally a spiral staircase of faith, repentance, baptism (sacrament), and the Holy Ghost. So once I have stopped needing faith, I am no longer enduring to the end. I know this to be true. I know that through faith, even if it be a tiny spark of faith, we can come to know of the truth of all things.
     Okay time for pictures/sharing about my district! I will do those in separate emails. Ingat!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week Lima

Kumusters pamiliya at kaibigan ko!
     To say that this week was full of CRAAAAZINESS would be an understatement. I decided last night that I would make a list of things that I wanted to share with you all so that when it came to writing the email today, I could just get right into things. First thing though, mama sorry if I confused you the last two weeks by writing to you on Friday, but my pday is actually Saturday. It's just that I had the RS Broadcast last last Saturday and General Conference this last Saturday and so I wrote to you on the Fridays of those weeks. But now I finally get a normal pday again! It is quite glorious. Sister Bangerter and I woke up and went for a run at 5:40. I know, crazy right? But that amount of crazy doesn't even begin to describe this week haha. I apologize that it's not going to have as much of a spiritual theme to it. I had some great experiences spiritually this week. But these things just cannot not be shared.
     Just so you guys know what to look forward to, here is the list of things I hope to share:
1. moving to main campus
2. general conference/devotional
3. being the oldest district/sister training leader/new missionaries
5. Funny stories galoreeee (epi pen, nagpapatotoo, 6 plungers, knife story, "I only ate 5", and we will see if I have time to share anymore)
     Okayyy let's get started! Yes mom, you guessed correctly. Well almost. So Sister Char's zone moved to main campus this past Wednesday because that was the day that their zone received FORTY-NINE new missionaries! Can you believe it?? They are mostly going to Cebu I think. And they are also mostly international! From New Zealand, Tonga, Marshall Islands, Kirabati, and who knows where else. So exciting for them! On that same Wednesday, my zone received 2 districts, 12 new missionaries. So our zone is made up of my district and the other district that also came in on September 11. Then the 3 new districts that came two and a half weeks ago on the 25 and now these 2 new districts. The things is that the 2 newest districts moved right into main campus just like I did when I got here. But we 5 older districts are still at west campus! So Sister Bangerter and I and the zone leaders went to main campus on Wednesday to welcome them to the MTC and then left pretty much leaving them to fend for themselves for the next week! I felt pretty awful about it but we aren't getting moved until Tuesday. Strange huh? I would feel kind of lost if none of the older districts of the zone were around to help me out with things. But hopefully they are doing alright! So yes, I am moving BACK to main campus on Tuesday. In the main building of the MTC there is a picture on the wall of the group of missionaries that were the first to move to West Campus. I think I may write President Nally and suggest that there be a picture taken of us Philippinos and put up on the wall as the first group of missionaries to move into main, move to west, and then move BACK to main. Haha. It was frustrating because they didn't tell us that we were moving for sure until last night. But overall I'm happy because I liked main campus better. But moving to main means new address again! So it's
Sister Joni Chisa Sawada
OCT-23 (or 21 it really doesn't matter) PHI-BAG
2011 N 900 E Unit 226
Provo UT, 84602
     Okay that was a long one. I'm gonna have to hurry if I want to fit everything in! General Conference. Oh man general conference was soooo good! I'm sure everyone was like me and was nodding in agreement when President Monson claimed these sessions to be some of the most inspired sessions ever. Every talk had something I could apply to my life. Some of my favorites were Eyring, Scott, Oaks, Monson, Adrian Ochoa, and my number one favorite right now is Timothy J. Dyches. He spoke about when Jesus asked "Wilt thou be made whole?" I've heard that question before but never thought about it. As Jesus was healing the sick, He asked them if they will be made whole. Because whether they would be made whole or not did not depend on whether Jesus could heal them or not. He was prepared, and able to heal all of the people. But it was dependent on whether the people would allow it or not. This is the case too often in our lives. Christ is always there, always ready and able to make us whole. But whether we turn to Him and make ourselves willing to be made whole is up to us. There were so many more amazing things that I learned though! I would love to hear everyone else's thoughts and favorites! So all of the missionaries in the MTC were able to watch conference together on main campus. So we were there all day Saturday where we watched the morning, afternoon, and RS or Priesthood sessions. And all day Sunday where we watched the morning and afternoon sessions and then had our Sunday night devotional. This one was a very special one! Vocal Point performed for us! They didn't do their popular covers of songs that are on the radio and such but they all shared their favorite hymn and they sang the first verses in their amazing harmonies and then had us join along for the rest of the song. It was awesome. There are about 10 members of their group and almost all of them shared their experiences from their missions which were full of great advice and insight on missionary work, homesickness, getting along with a companion and more stuff like that. My favorite song they sang though was a medley one of the members put together. It is Come Come Ye Saints and Noyana (idk if that spelling is correct) The song Noyana is an African Song which means "Are you going?" So the mixture between the two messages of the songs and their awesome voices singing made me very happy haha. Look up the song if you can! I'm sure it's on youtube.
     Okay I pretty much covered this topic in the first paragraph so onto the next!
     Flight plans came in yesterdayyyyy!!! I am officially going to the Philippines everyone! We leave Monday October 21 at around 4 am...haha. So we got the flight plans and we were all stoked because we heard that other districts are having layovers in Tokyo and Hong Kong and I was like what if I get to go to Japan? I haven't been there in forever! But then we looked at our plans and we have a layover in Detroit Michigan. I mean I'm still pretty excited about that because I have never been there. But I'm not gonna lie, I was pretty bummed! Even the Elders in our district are laying over in Tokyo! It's like literally just my travel group. Haha what are the odds? Always against me that's what they are! Jk haha but Sister Bangerter, Sister Tapusoa and I like to joke around saying that our district, especially the sisters just get the short end of the stick araw-araw (every day or all the time) haha we joke about it but we almost feel like it is true. But we blame it on ourselves because we each individually have really bad luck and so the sisters in our district are pretty much doomed. Sister Bangerter is our Travel Leader and she says she will be really surprised if every goes as planned with our flying haha. So yeah from Detroit we go right to Manila! 20 hour flight baby! Honestly though we could have a layover in every state in the U.S. and I would be fine. I just can't believe I am actually going!
     Alright now here come the stories!! Are you excited?
     Okay real quick. This story is about Elder Loitz, the hilarious Elder in my district whose favorite thing to do is translate star wars quotes into Tagalog. So we were learning how to conjugate verbs into abbilitative/object focus or something like that. And we learned the word nagpapatotoo. When you put the accents on it, it sounds like a pretty sick rap. And we just hear Elder Loitz start to say nag-pa-pa-to-to-o ay nag-pa-pa-to-to-o and Sister Bangerter and I just start dying laughing because we realized that he was saying it to the beat/tune of "Don't Drop that dun-da-dun" or however you spell it hahaha. He was the last person we thought would know that song let alone put our Tagalog words to the tune of it!
     This isn't so much a story as just a gross occurrence. So I went into the Sister's bathroom the other day which only has one toilet, and when I lifted up the top, you cannot even imagine what I saw. But it was safe to say that thing was clogged yo. So I quickly dropped the top and ran back into class. And our classrooms are just bedrooms of apartments right? So like you walk in and there's the kitchen and the living room which is a classroom. Then three bedrooms which are also all classrooms. And there are two bathrooms which one is used for elders and the other for sisters. So when someone takes a long bathroom trip, you can smell it pretty clearly from the classrooms. This little treat in the girls bathroom stunk up the apartment so much it was pretty bad. The next day we see cleaners go into the bathroom. They leave pretty quickly and come back with goggles on, and SIX PLUNGERS! 6 plungers!! Can you believe it?? We were all dying.
     I don't have time for the knife story which I really wanted to tell but it's alright. I must go now. I had to share these things with you. I'm sorry it's not a typical missionary letter from me. But just know that the spiritual side of things is great too. Miss you all! Love you all!
Mahal Kita,
Sister Sawada

Monday, October 7, 2013

Week Apat!

    Where to begin oh where to begin. This week was even better than last week! To be honest I was kind of down last week. It may have been a little homesickness, I couldn't put my finger on it exactly. But I wasn't feeling like myself and it really affected the way that I was learning, teaching lessons, and interacting with my mga kasama. Then, on Sunday night, it came to me! I realized what the problem was! Every Sunday night we have a district meeting. That means that the 5 sisters and 4 elders in district 15 A sit down and we reflect on our week. We review the goals that we set the Sunday before and see how we did on fulfilling those goals. When our district leader Elder Waldron opened up his planner and read off the goals. We realized that we hadn't fulfilled ANY of the goals! We were stunned and embarrassed and I realized then why my week was so poopy. Because after we saw that we hadn't fulfilled any of them. We got rid of them all. We made all new goals and we fulfilled them every single day this week!
     My district is so much more than just my district. They are my foundation. They are my brothers and sisters. But at the same time they are my teachers and my students. I spend alllll day errrr day with them and if they are not striving to progress on their missions that I am a lot less likely to strive for that either. Of course I have personal goals that I am setting for myself on the side. But it is a lot easier to work on those goals with myself when others are working on other goals with me.
     For example one of our goals was to have an English fast yesterday. English fast, or as some of the teachers like to call it, a Tagalog Feast. It sure didn't feel like I was feasting! It was by far the most difficult thing I have done here at the MTC! My fellow sisters and I already do our best to SYL (speak your language) but at times like meal time and gym time, we like to give our brains a break and just speak mostly English. But we couldn't do that at all yesterday. It was like an ongoing joke all day yesterday that one of us would start talking and be like "Puwede po ba kami gagaling...wala" haha and "wala" means "nothing". Hahaha so we would start asking something and then realize we didn't know enough and just say "wala" hahaha. We also joked that it was the most quiet we had all been. Which is true! Especially with Sister Tapusoa who has something to say about everything haha.
     But there were still things that we learned yesterday besides the fact that we don't know the language very well yet. We learned how important it is to try to SYL alll the time! Just from yesterday, today I am speaking so much more tagalog in my conversations with everyone. It comes a lot more naturally now! It's pretty cool.
     Thank you so sooo much to everyone who is writing me! I am sorry if I haven't written back to you yet! I don't have enough email time to email everyone a response :/ but I'm trying to write letters to you all. I am almost done with my letters to you family on oahu peeps. And then I will move on to the next group of mga tao! But things here are always moving faster than I can keep up with sometimes so please forgive me!
      Now of course we will end with a little spiritual thought I would like to share. At our Sunday devotional last week we listened to probably the best talk I have ever heard in my life. I was bummed at first to see that I didn't recognize the name of the speaker and when he started talking I thought for sure I would be zoning out because it wasn't a very attention catching voice. But once I started listening to the things that he said, I couldn't turn my focus anywhere else. His name is Robert H. Daines. He and his wife are the the Provo Temple President and Matron. He talked a bit about women in the church. He mentioned that a group of sisters in the church are planning to get in line at the priesthood session at temple square in an effort to protest their feelings toward priesthood in the church. My jaw dropped when I heard about this. Brother Daines tried to explain how God's love for his daughters is so explicit and all we have to do is open our ears to it. But he didn't go on for too long about this topic. I think we was just using it as an example of a trial that we might go through as members of the church. It lead to my favorite quote ever! Which you all have probably heard, but it's, "the only way out of a problem, is through it." Can I get an amen??? Haha but seriously. 
      Unfortunately, that quote isn't fully true. There is another way out of the problem and that is to go back out the way you came in. This leads to my second story. So last week Wednesday our zone got 3 new districts. One is an all sisters district! I'm not sure how many of those exist but I'm sure they will become more common very soon. But in one of the districts a sister was having a really rough time. I guess from day one she was having separation anxiety. Unfortunately I didn't know about this until she was here for almost a week. As soon as I found out I tried to get her to the temple with her companion but President Smith said that he wanted to meet with her that night. But before night came, she went home. Right away I started asking myself what I could have done to keep her here. But I realized that in the end, it would have been her decision. She had to be the one to decide whether she was going to go through the problem, or go back out the way she came in. I will never forget this sister. I pray for her still now. I hope she can come back and face her fears. The Lord will qualify whom He calls. I know this to be true. Everyone here has a story. I am so lucky to be Sister Training Leader because I have an excuse to get to know the Sisters on a more personal level. It's important to get to know people before making a judgement about them.
     That's all I have this week. I don't even have any pictures! Ala! (Oh no!) But there will probs be some next week. Until next time! Love you all! Be safe! Say your prayers! Write me! lol joke lang mediyo (just kidding kind of)
- Sister Sawada