Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bagong Bahay!

Kumusta friends and family :)
    This week was quite delightful and I want to get right into it! Let's begin with a miracle moment! So since this is my third week in my new area, I have really been feeling pressure to be familiar with the area and the people and just be surrounded by the work rather than being an outside party observing the work being done. Haha as I write this it's kind of like "duh, you're the missionary of course you need to get started working as soon as you get to your area." But this has honestly been quite the struggle for me. One of the hardest things has been that the former companion of my companion seemed to only scratch the surface when it came to visiting the people in our area and building strong relationships with the members in our area so it almost feels like Sis Quiban and I are opening an area. We both are confused when we look at our area book and we both only know about half of the memebers/recent converts/less actives/investigators who live in our area haha. I am definitely learning that in a situation like this, you have the option to get upset and frustrated, or you can just laugh about it and get to work. I think I was choosing the first option in my first week or so here. But thankfully I have now chosen the latter. Better late than never right? :) and my goodness have we started to see improvements!
     The main experience that I really want to share is with a less active family. They were baptized in 2003 and I think they went less active in either 2004 or 2005. So it's been a while haha. Their father was dead when the whole family (5 children and the mother) was baptized but they even went to the temple and the oldest son did baptisms for the dead for their father. The reason they went less active, has remained a mystery. So fast forward to today, 2014, and all that Sis Quiban and I know is that the three oldest children live away from home and they have all left the church, the youngest two are twins and their names are Peter and Paul. They are now 22 years old. Peter is already a college teacher and is getting his Masters and Paul is a nurse. They are very smart and very good at english. Sis Quiban and her former companion have visited them multiple times. They tried focusing on the priesthood and teaching whatever they thought these young men needed to hear. But every time we have tried to visit since I have been here, they turned us away because they had something else that they needed to be doing. And the mother is now a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo church (which by the way was started by a man who was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he wanted to become an apostle so he wrote a letter to church headquarters and when they told him that it doesn't really work that way, he got offended and started this church. It is quite similar to the mormon church and they are specifically told not to interact with mormons or let mormon missionaries visit them or do anything having to do with mormons hah. I wonder why?) 
     Anyway so from these bits and pieces that I have learned about this family, all I really knew was that these people did not want us visiting them. And to be honest, I was okay with the idea of just letting them be. But we decided to visit them one more time because it was Paul's day off and we had a good chance of catching them. After much praying over the lesson we decided to teach them from the beginning about the restoration. We got to their home and success, they let us in! It was Peter, Paul, and their older brother who was home from Manila for the weekend. The mom stayed far away from us in the back rooms of the house. They are pretty sassy men and they were really good at making it known that they didn't want us in their home. But we knew that we needed to share this lesson. I was reminded of a scripture that I read in Alma of an epistle that Moroni was sending to Pahoran the Chief Judge of the land. Moroni was very bold in this epistle letting Pahoran know the needs of him and his armies and how upset he was that they hadn't recieved these things earlier. He lets Pahoran know at the end of his epistle that the reason for him being so bold was because he was not afraid of the position that Pahoran held in their land. Who he feared was God, and he knew that fulfilling God's purposes came first above anything else.
       It was clear that with this chance we had been given, to finally sit down and share with them, we could not be afraid to teach these young men no matter how well educated they were or how much they didn't want us there. I sat down on the couch, got comfy, and just started going off asking questions. I did all I could to get to know these guys. We opened the lesson with a prayer and I just kept asking questions. What they thought about church, the Book of Mormon, prophets, and slowly with each question, they started to open up. The miracle began to take place. By the end of the lesson, Peter had told us the reason they left the church when they were 13 was because their titas (aunts) were threatening them saying they wouldn't consider them family anymore unless they joined their Church of Christ that they had started in the community. Then eventually they left that church and just went to their own denominations. Ken, the older brother admitted that he never really understood the idea of a living prophet and now wants to know if we have one. And Paul let us know that it had been so long since they were baptized, that they really didn't know the doctrines of our church and that he has a genuine interest to know what exactly we believe. Peter even asked for us to come back at a specific time to ensure that he would be home for our next visit!
       I learned quite the lesson from that visit. If we choose to fear God more than we fear man, miracles will come forth. Our Heavenly Father needs to see our commitment to Him before he will bless us. The thing that Heavenly Father blessed us with this time was the spirit to be with us during that lesson. The spirit is what brought these 3 young men from uninterested to excited for the next visit. After this lesson I was so overwhelmed with gratitude to my Heavenly Father and gratitude for the opportunity to be so actively involved in the spiritual progression of His children here in Baguio.
      Wow well it looks like this is all I am going to have time to share :( sorry that was way long but that was seriously one of the greatest things that has happened to me! I literally felt like an instrument in God's hands and now all I want is for everyone else to feel the same. So this week I hope you all look for an opportunity to choose to fear God more than Man. When you do so, you will see miracles happen.
      I love you all! Hope you had a great week and hope there is a great week to come! Take care! Bye!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

May Sakit

Hello everyone!
     As my heading to this email says, may sakit ang kasama ko :( Which means that my companion is sick. I was lucky that she felt okay enough to come here so that we can quickly email but I really don't have much time so I will just send some pictures from saying goodbye in my last area and some pictures to introduce my new area!
    Oh wait! Before that! I am so sorry I am realizing just how much information I get from you guys and then I don't ever respond to it! So here it goes:
    Welcome to America/Hawaii/the Sawada home Terry! I am so so sooo happy to hear that you made it safely and that you now get to be with Jac, Mikel, and the rest of the family there. I have to admit I'm jealous that they are all getting to know you better but even more than that I am just glad you're there and can't wait until I get the chance to meet you!
     Rise and shout the cougars are out! Haha yayyy brother! BYU Provo! I must admit I am happy with the decision you have made to go to school for a bit before going on your mission. But I recommend that you still act as if you were going on your mission tomorrow and really begin preparing yourself for two years of service to the Lord. I may have given a big smile of approval when I read that you are working at Subway, hoping to work at Le Jardin, and planning to work at the money room! I learned a lot from each of those jobs and they all prepared me in a way to be here on a mission! So remember to look for learning/preparation opportunities in everything you do. I'll send you an email going into more depth but for now I just wanted to say congrats and I am so happy that we will get to see each other before you go serve :)
     Whoa new ward boundaries? That's way exciting! Especially hearing that some of our good friends are now in the same ward as us. So fun! Daddy, I have heard from mommy how faithfully you are serving in your new calling. Thank you so much for doing that. I am grateful to you because I know that by faithfully fulfilling a calling, you are promising blessings for yourself and your family..aka me! :) So thank you so much. 
     I want to be able to send some pictures so that's it for now but I will continue to send little bits of replies to things you have been sending me. Thank you so much for keeping we updated so well. There are numbers of missionaries whose families don't keep in touch with them and I just feel so blessed to have you guys. I love you! Until next week, enjoy these picturrrres :)
Sister Sawada

Pictures 4/20

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Whole New World

Hello sa inyong lahat!
    Before I start! I am so so sooo sorry this has taken me so long but Happy Birthday Obaachan! Happy Birthday Ayo! I hope you know that I totally recognized both of your birthdays here. My journal entries on March 15 and April 2 are all about you and how amazing you are! But I realized the other night before I was going to sleep that I never communicated it to you! So please know that I love you both so much. You have both played a huge role in my life and in the reason that I can be here now preaching of the joy the gospel brings to familes because the memories I have with you are some of the happiest I have had or will ever have. Also, thank you so much mommy and family for the package! Getting those pictures was so great and made me sooo happy. But don't feel like you need to send any more packages! Emails are totally great and they are free! :) Also, I have figured out how to print out pictures that you send to me through email yayyy. And they announced that if packages are sent to us through fed-ex there's going to be a large amount of money charged to us that we will have to pay with our personal money. So thank you for them but emails are more than great :)
    Sige! Well transfers were this weak and drum roll....I am now in Baguio! Goodness gracious what a different world I am in now. Baguio is in the mountains, as in high mountains, as in it doesn't get warmer than about 70 up here. I was so swerte (lucky) to be assigned in the low lands during christmas time because up here it was around 40s! And now that it's scorching hot in the low lands, I am up here where it's in the 60s and 70s. How did I get so lucky? Although saying goodbye to San Juan was really tough, I am working my hardest to adjust quickly to this very new very different area in order to not waste any of the time the Lord has given me to serve here. 
    Sorry this is going to be a short email because to be honest I have been using my email time to try to email the people from my first area to see how everything is going down there haha. It's really hard to spend 6 months gaining relationships with people and everything and then just leaving them! But I hope to have updates for you next week about this new area! As I come to know it better.
     Before I go I want to share some thoughts from Conference! So we got to watch conference this weekend! We watch it a weekend late but it was a really nice way to start my time in this new area. I sensed a overall theme this Conference of TRUE Christlike discipleship, or in other words, becoming like Jesus Christ in this life, right now. The speakers this conference also seemed to hint at the key to becoming like Christ is love. I could not agree more with this. As President Monson said, the essence of the gospel is love, and Christ is our exemplar. I can apply this to my life right at this moment because although my companion is different, and the people I am visiting are different, although my leaders are now different, the gospel is the same. And if the essence of this gospel is love. All I need to do is love them as Christ loves them. And I can be successful. I truly believe this to be true and I hope that I can write to you all next week with the good news that I am successfully adjusting to my assignment here in Baguio and loving others as Christ loves them. I hope that you all can be applying the things that you learned this conference as well.
     I love you all so much! I am excited to share more about Baguio next week! For now just know that I know that God has a plan for every one of us and in each part of His plan, there is something we must learn. Let's search for these things and learn them so that we can progress and improve and become the people our Heavenly Father would have us be. Until next week!
Sister Sawada

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mga Litrato

 This weeks email will just be pictures and their descriptions! Hope you all enjoy :)
     So this week is almost for sure my last week here in San Juan :( everyone has been saying that I am most likely transferring since I have been here for 6 months and Sister Galera and I are about to finish her 12 weeks training. Which kind of means that she is meant to stay and lead the area and I get booted off into some unknown territory hah. I am very anxious about this. At first I really didn't want it, but now I really am feeling that it is my time to experience something different. I have learned more than I ever could have hoped to learn just in this first area, but I know there are many more lessons for me to learn and that can only happen as I continue to have new experiences. So these pictures are from what I am supposing to be my last Sunday in San Juan 2nd. Unfortunately they don't tell us if we are transferring until tomorrow and then transfers are on Thursday. So if I wanted to say goodbye to ward members, I needed to tell them I was transferring at church yesterday. The thing is, if I'm wrong, then I just told everyone I am transferring when really I might be right back at Montemar Chapel once again next week haha. Anyway! 
     Picture 1: This is our gospel principles class! It consists of all of our investigators and recent converts. Since Brother Joei, the former teacher of this class, went abroad for work, we missionaries have been teaching the class. It's way fun. One of my favorite parts of Sundays. Ther's Elder Agustin, Jeff (he came to church!), Quirino, Brother Noto, Charlene, Sis Lacdo-o, Kathleen, Nardz, Louise, Jared, Sister Paduga and Galera and I, and Mark. Such a great group of people.
     Picture 2: Here are us 6 missionaries of San Juan 2nd ward. Unfortunately I haven't been able to share much about this. But I guess I will share now. The San Juan 2nd ward has in a way been named the weakest ward in the San Fernando Stake. There was a point where the stake presidency was going to have us combine with ward 1. But just like the servant of the Lord of the vineyard in Jacob 5, one of the members of the Presidency asked our Stake President to spare us a little longer. To see what we could do to change San Juan 2nd. Even though there are plenty of names on our ward member list, about 400, our average sacrament attendance was about 60. To be honest, I didn't realize the significance of this low percentage of members attending church until Sister Paduga was assigned to our ward. Sister Paduga has seriously been the best blessing that could come to our ward. Before, I just went to church and was happy to see anyone at church, even if the bishop was just in a yellow polo shirt instead of a white shirt and tie. Even if we started classes and meetings about 30-45 minutes later than we should. Even if Brother Mariano our first counselor had to speak just about every Sunday because there weren't enough candidates for sacrament meeting speakers.
     When Sister Paduga came to San Juan she awakened an urgency in us missionaries and in our bishop and our auxiliary leaders. She helped us to see that there is a lot of room for improvement and that improvement will start with us. Since last transfer, we have been working our very hardest to not only continue to work with our investigators, but to work even harder on strengthening this ward. Now our bishop not only comes to church on time, but he comes in a sparkling white shirt and tie :) Our priesthood, relief society and youth programs all begin on time and have at least double the attendance than they had before (even if that only means going from 4 RS to 8, 2 priesthood to 4 and 1 youth to 2 :)) And we have sacrament meeting organized so that there are speakers other than Brother Mariano and the sacrament attendance is now averaging 80+ These are not huge miraculous imrovements. They are small, yet they give us so much hope. They have helped us all to see that work is worth it.

Picture 3: Of course I had to take a picture with Kathleen :) she had been facing quite the number of trials this past week but her prayers have been heard and were answered. Prayer works I promise!
Picture 4: Our missionary prep class! We began this class a couple of weeks ago and this week they almost all came in proper missionary attire. It is a combined class with the youth and single adults in ward 1 and 2. This picture is mostly ward 1 but it's a great class. We know that being a missionary isn't going to get any easier as times go on. So we are doing our best to prepare them for missionary life by teaching necessary missionary lessons, and then at the end we even teach them how to make a quick and easy food dish haha.
     The last thing I want to share is about the Women's General Broadcast. We were lucky enough to get to listen to it (at first becaus the picture wasn't working) then watch it this Saturday and it was just sooo good. Sadly we were late so I only got to hear the end of the talk before President Eyring, and then listen to AND see President Eyring's talk. If I am correct, it seemed that there was a theme of becoming a disciple of Christ for this broadcast. What a beautiful and important topic. There were words shared that really struck me and have inspired me to work on things about myself this coming week and the weeks to come. But what probably hit me the most was the musical number medley of Lord I Would Follow Thee and Love One Another. Lord I Would Follow Thee has not only been one of my favorite Hymns, but it has also been an inspiration, something I have been striving to follow on my mission. But as I really listened to the words I realized how far I was from living the message of that song. I have been too selfish, impatient, and non humble (can't think of the correct word hah) to really be able to say that I have been following Christ. I couldn't help but start crying and I just had to hug Sister Galera and tell her "I'm so sorry" haha. Thoughts of my imperfections were overwhelming and I realized there were SO many things I need to improve on.
     But if I'm correct, in Love one Another the choir sang "this NEW commandment, love one another". I never realized that until now. Why is love one another a new commandment? Hasn't it been one of the greatest of all the commandments since Jesus walked the earth? I was glad for that word "new" though. It helped me to see that I still have time. I still have this "new" commandment that I can apply to my life right now. I am not sure if this makes any sense. But I hope that we can all realize our imperfections and take the chance that we have right now to change. I know that I will be doing the same! I love you all with all my heart! Keep being great :) 
Sister Sawada