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