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 likehe 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 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...
LOUISE WAS BAPTIZED!!!!
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