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.