Monday, January 26, 2015

Hwag kayong mahiya

Magandang Buhay!
    Life is still crazy here in Bauang. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to my companion Sister Mortell. She is going home now! Yesterday was quite the emotional day but I am so glad that I got to be her companion. I learned so much from her and I got especially inspired to work my very hardest until the end of my time here. The title of my email is Hwag Kayong Mahiya! Which means don't be shy! Haha I can't remember if this is a thing in america, but it is a legitimate excuse here to "be shy". We ask someone to do something and they say they can't "they're shy". I understand that everyone has their own comfort zone and it can be hard to step outside of it, but I have seen too many people holding themselves back because they are "shy". This week I noticed quite a few blessings coming to people's lives because hindi sila nahiya they were not shy! So here are some highlights of the week.
    Sister Edna. Have I told you guys about Edna yet? Well her name is Edna Estigoy. She is a fairly new investigator. We met her actually trying to contact a man that we had met a couple of days earlier. But he was NOT interested haha we noticed him running away and hiding from us a couple of times, but we are sure we met him for a reason because it led us to Edna. Edna is 42 years old and has never yet been married. When we met her, she let us into her home right away and she was doing some dusting of her shelves and house cleaning things. We asked if she was cleaning for Christmas (we met her on December 23) and a little hesitantly she said "hindi naman" which means "not really". Right when she said that, I had a feeling she was Jehovah's witness since they don't celebrate Christmas. She had us sit down and I saw on one of her shelves a stack of what looked like Jehovah's Witnesses pamphlets. As in A STACK of them. Close to 100 maybe. Sister Mortell and I looked at each other and we were worried we were getting tricked into something haha. We usually have to try a lot harder to get into people's homes but this was all coming too easy. But we decided to have a seat and see what was in store. We got to know her better and came to know that she lives in Bauang taking care of her 2 pamankin (neices and nephews) and also runs their family sari sari store by their home. She worked in Manila for a really long time and while she was there she was met by Jehovah's Witness missionaries. Since then, she has been studying with them on and off until here and now in Bauang.
     I felt really blessed to have Sister Mortell there as my companion. Being more seasoned missionaries, we both knew that we needed to do some serious BRT or HTBT which is what we use as missionaries to build a good relationship with those we teach and to help them to realize our purpose. The better they understand our purpose as missionaries, the smoother the teaching goes and everyone involved is much more comfortable/at ease. We could feel that Sister Edna was so not at ease when we began teaching haha. It was awkward and we wondered why she let us in if she was pretty strongly devoted to the Jehovah's Witness religion. Which was why asking question after question helped us to understand her more and find out some of her concerns. We taught a simple lesson about the Godhead and were able to help her understand Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. We know the Jehovah's Witness belief is a little different, but when we asked how she understood, she said that what we taught felt right. At the end of the lesson we felt a big change in the room. The spirit was there. Sister Edna was no longer uncomfortable or shy to us. When we were about to close, I was curious as to what Sister Edna was feeling. So I asked her. She said she felt excited, like she was starting a new adventure of some sorts. These are new additions to her knowledge and she liked it. But she also said there is a part of her that feels guilty, like she is betraying all of the things she had been taught over such a long period of time. 
     So things aren't perfect yet but we see so much potential. The best thing about teaching Edna is she is really smart. She knows the bible really well and understands and believes that there was an apostasy. The idea of a restoration really makes sense to her. But she continues to have questions mostly about beliefs in the Jehovah's witness that don't go with some of the beliefs of this church. When we taught her the Book of Mormon, she asked why no other churches use this book or recognize Joseph Smith as a prophet. We explained that the Book of Mormon is the evidence that there is only one church that holds the fullness of the gospel. So if it were used in other churches, there wouldn't really be a way to know which church was the one with the fullness. When we asked her if she wanted to test the promise given in the Book of Mormon and pray to know of the truthfulness of the message of the restoration, she said, "sige, try natin" meaning "okay, let's try it" haha we smiled so big. Anyway I could go on for a long time describing lessons with Edna. And by long time I guess I mean even longer than I already have haha. Progression with her is still quite slow but we really see the potential. We are glad that she was not "shy" and she was so accepting to us the first time we met her. We know we met her for a reason and I hope to be giving more updates on Edna's progression in the coming weeks!
    Brother Rolly continues to come to church and progress so well in lessons! He continues to not be "shy" and makes more and more friends at church. The branch members comment on how he is very open in priesthood classes and shares his insights. They say it's like he's a member already! His smoking also continues to go down and so he is still on track for February 28. Yay!!! We didn't get to meet with Colas at all this week :( his best friends who are members, the Arizla family experienced a death in the family this week and they were really busy. So that was a bummer. He also didn't come to church. But we will for sure check up on him this week and see what's going on. We had a great lesson with MA where her dad joined and he showed his desire to come back to church! Yet, when Sunday came around, they were no where to be found :( we are way bummed and have a feeling MA may not be able to be baptized as soon as we were planning.
     But the last experience I want to share is about the Mendoza family! I feel like I have to have shared about them before but real quick just in case I haven't, Brother and Sister Mendoza both have had former spouses. Sister has actually had 2. They have had children with their former spouses and have had 1 child together. The kids living with them are Fermine, Micah, Maryrose (children of sister and her former spouses) and then Lyka, the child they had together. Despite what their situation may imply, they are some of the sweetest and wholesome people I have met on my mission. They love their family so much. They have been living together for 5 years this year and they really show desire to turn their lives around. Brother has been in prison, we don't know what for. Sister has admitted to a time in her life where she just completely turned away from Christ. But they both want to change and do what is best for their family.
      They have been investigators since a little before I got to the area. But just now are they really showing a desire to be baptized. This week the lesson we taught them was the word of wisdom and we were very nervous to teach it. We already knew brother smoked and assumed he drank from the alcohol bottles we saw in their home some times. But it was one of the easiest lessons I have taught. They didn't question a thing. Not even coffee or tea. Brother explained that he has already been trying to cut down on his addictions. He said that he used to drink every night. And smoke about a pack and a half a day. But now he smokes no more than 3 sticks a day and the thought of drinking isn't even pleasing to him most of the time. He had no doubt the word of wisdom is a commandment from God and sees that it will bless his family. So that was a pleasant surprise of a lesson. We walked out a little shocked but of course so happy haha. Then to top it all off, they came to church! The whole family! I think I have explained before but they are very poor. They collect trash for a living. Their biggest trial in coming to church is that Sunday is the best day for them. They make the most money on Sundays. But Sister finally decided not to be "shy" and told her husband that she thinks they should go to church instead. They came and they really seemed to enjoy it! We will be asking them how their experience was when we visit them this week.
    Wow this was so long! I hope it all made sense and I hope you guys enjoy reading it. I hope you can feel the happiness that comes from this work. Of course there are some major difficulties and trials but I am so blessed to be here. She may hate me for saying this haha but Sister Mortell cried quite a few times yesterday. Every time she cried, I felt her love for this work. I felt her love for the people here and for the calling that she had been blessed with for these past 18 months. I am doing my best to really just live in each moment and to continue to do what the Lord needs and expects of me. 
     Real quick before I have to log off, thank you sooo much for the birthday package! I was able to open it and enjoy every single bit of everything in it. Those apple chips were so tasty! But I have to say my favorite part was the calendar. Not only do I now know everyone's birthday, but the pictures on there make me sooo happy :) I was so happy to see some pictures that I haven't seen before ie mom, dad and mimi dancing at constances birthday party, brother and Baachan at his seminary grad, and of course the adorable neices and nephews. Also, Skinniness is next to Goddessness sounds so great! Can't wait to hear more about that! Okay well I think this is it. I have used all of my email time so sorry once again to those who have emailed me! I will be sure to make time in my next email time to write you all! Love you! Hope you have a great week!
Sister Sawada

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ang Lakas ng Pananampalataya

Magandang araw!
    This has been quite the pday. We had our zone activity this morning and then ate a delicious lunch and then got right to the hospital because I need to get a chest x-ray to turn in 6-8 weeks before I am scheduled to go home. It's just for the mission to make sure that I am all healthy before they send me back to my family haha. It should have been a real quick process but for some reason the guy at the counter forgot to give the envelope with my name on it to the main doctor so we ended up waiting for over an hour! Once we finally piped up and asked why I hadn't gotten xrayed yet, they realized they still had my paperwork with them. We were so bummed haha but now we are here emailing and all has worked out :) my mind is just a little scrambled.
    But this has been a really great week! My email will just be mostly an update on the area.
Nadine: We visited her multiple times this week and every lesson is so great as usual. We feel the spirit so strong and she never looks away from us as we are teaching. She really believes it so much and she wants her family to be sealed. On Friday, we went to visit her and her dad was home! Her parents both have work in Baguio so we haven't met them yet. But he was there! We were so excited and I told myself "we are gonna teach their family today!" But as soon as we sat down, I turned to ask him to join us and he was gone! I went outside and asked him to join but he made the typical excuse of "may pupuntahan ako" which literally means "I have somewhere to be" but actually means "I am not interested sisters" :( We were so sad! We were so convinced he was going to join us. But we won't give up so easily. We still taught Nadine and it was a wonderful lesson once again. But we also made a little mistake because when we invited Nadine to come to church that Sunday, she said to text her on Saturday night. But we forgot to! :( So she didn't come to church. But we hope to do more next week so that she can come.
     Rolly: We taught Rolly only once this week but it was a really good lesson where we helped him to see how faith means that we are willing to act, before we see the benefit from the action, or ultimately before we see the blessing from our obedience. Rolly continues to want to be baptized. He truly feels the difference from this gospel and all of the others. He has a great testimony of the restoration and although he isn't reading ever day, he continues to read from the Book of Mormon! In our lesson we helped him to realize that the main things holding him back from baptism are his cigarette addiction and the fact that he hasn't yet come to church. Even having 4 kids who are members of this church for over 30 years, Rolly has never yet attended a sacrament service. He told us his job is what was keeping him from coming to church but we helped him to see that it may take a leap of faith, but God will make it possible for him to come to church that Sunday
     You can imagine the look on our faces when his daughter MaryAnne came into our gospel principles class and said "Sisters nandito si tatay ko" or "Sisters, my father is here!" Brother Rolly came to church! We haven't gotten to really ask him yet how he liked it, we will ask when we visit him this week. But I saw his eyes tearing up multiple times during our classes. I think he was wondering why it took him so long to finally join his daughter in coming to church. He has so many friends already at church. When he walked into the sacrament hall, they were all waving him down to sit next to him he couldn't decide who to go to haha. I don't know if I mentioned this before but he is very well known in the area and almost every member who knows him has told us that we should just give up on him. He would never come to church. But he came!
     Colas: So this week we were close to handing Colas off to the Elders. Sounds kind of rude I guess when you phrase it that way haha. But sometimes when we feel that it would be more effective to have other missionaries within the branch or ward boundaries teach your investigator, we can "hand them off" so to speak. We were sad to hear that Colas had drunk again and last Sunday was the third Sunday in a row that he hadn't come to church. We were frustrated and sad. We thought that Elder Cinco and Elder Harris might be more effective teachers for Colas. But when we asked Colas if he would be okay with it, he really didn't want them to teach him. We thought at first he just wanted to have Sisters teaching him haha. But the more we talked to him about it the more that we felt and realized that we had spent over 2 months now building a relationship of trust with Colas and with each lesson, he gets more and more adjusted to the way that we teach, and throwing in new missionaries may not be the best for him. It is so different dealing with him than any other investigator. Even though he looks like almost an adult, his mind and actions are like a child.
    In our lesson with him, we told him and if he wants us to keep teaching him, he needs to realize the reason that we are there. We told him that there is a reason we ask him to live the word of wisdom and to come to church. And if he doesn't do the things that we commit him to do, then there is not much more we can do as missionaries, and we would have to stop teaching him. We also now use a notebook in our lessons with him. We write down the things that we teach, and even some of the answers and comments that he gives during the lesson. Then we tell him to study the things that we wrote and report on it next lesson. We have seen great improvement now in Colas. And this week he came to church!
     The title of my email is ang lakas ng pananampalataya or the strength of faith. When applied correctly, faith is more powerful than any words that we can share as missionaries. There is a reason it is the first principle of this gospel. I know that these great things would not be happening if it weren't for the faith of Nadine, Rolly, Colas and all of the other great people in this area. The faith that Sister Mortell and I have also plays a big role in the progress of their lives and we keep working on strengthening our faith. I wish I could share more but this is all I have time to share for now. I love you all! Jaclyn Happy Birthday on Tuesday! Love you so much! Thank you again for all of the wonderful birthday messages this week and for the family predictions can't wait to read them :) I love you guys so so much. Have a great week.
Sister Sawada


Monday, January 5, 2015

Bagong Taon!

Happy New Year!!!
    It is now a bagong taon (new year) and Sister Mortell and I are very happy! Although holidays have their own special spirit, we are more than happy to say goodbye to the busy schedules and inconsistent teaching that come with the weeks during Christmas and New Year. But Happy New Year everyone! It's now 2015 and no, I cannot believe I am 21 years old today haha. Thank you so much for all of the birthday messages! :) I haven't quite gotten to read them in depth but I have them saved in the word document to print them off later. With the new year, and my birthday, I have been doing quite a bit of reflecting. My companion and housemates and I have all been talking about this past year of 2014. Since 3 out of 4 of us were on our missions for all of 2014, these conversations have mostly consisted of all the crazy and fun and spiritual aspects of mission life here in the Philippines Baguio mission. We have all agreed that 2014 was the most trying yet rewarding year of our lives. We have never felt so strong in mind, spirit, and body. We have never felt more direction in our every day lives. And of course, we have never felt so loved by our Heavenly Father than in this past year.
     Although we were able to recognize how many changes have happened in us for the better, I could not help but also notice how much I am still lacking as a missionary and in general as a Child of our Heavenly Father. I think I assumed I would be a superstar disciple of Christ at this point, yet I feel very average. This week we had MLC and I learned sooo much! MLC this month felt a little different than usual. It may have been because the air condition was broken, but I think it was something more than just that haha. Past MLCs were focused a little more on what changes we can make in the mission to create the most success possible in each area of the mission. This MLC focused much more on what changes need to take place in the missionary leaders, in order to invoke the changes needed in each missionary in our mission. There have been some sad things happening here in the Baguio mission with missionaries going home early because of lack of ability to follow mission rules and some especially sad events took place days before Christmas.
     President mentioned these events with so much sadness. He presented new ways for us leaders to be more involved with the other missionaries through exchanges, district meetings, and zone trainings, to hopefully avoid such disobedience. I could see the pleading in his eyes. I felt maybe an ounce of the responsibility that he holds over us 200+ young missionaries and just that was overwhelming for me. To make a long story short, this MLC had sparked me with a new determination to do my part in this mission as a missionary and especially as a leader of the Bauang zone. 
     The work this week was rough. Sister Mortell and I had even less success than usual in o9ur teaching from monday to thursday because of New Year celebrations and gatherings. And then Friday I was gone all day at MLC. But when I met up again with Sister Mortell and got back into my area on Friday night, I was ready to jump right into the work. Unfortunately, it was pretty late and there were no people! haha they had all gone to the plaza to watch some pageant for children. But when we got home and were getting ready for bed and stuff, I shared what I had learned with Sister Mortell and we both decided that we could be doing more. We committed ourselves to push beyond what we were doing before. On Saturday and Sunday we were able to find 5 new investigators and taught just as many lessons as we had taught from monday to Thursday! It wasn't easy. It was really tiring, and could have been frustrating since we continued to get punted many times. But we were able to see improvement already, and the best feeling was knowing that we were really putting 110% into our work that day.
     There is a cycle in the Book of Mormon that has been taught as the pride cycle. I doubt I am the only one who has gotten frustrated at the pattern of the people turning to the Lord and living the gospel, then they are blessed and prosper, but then they start to get proud or complacent, and then fall into darkness and are punished/chastised. After each time I am frustrated with the people I read about, I haven't even noticed that the same is happening in my life! We are so blessed to have the Atonement in our lives that makes it possible for us to start again and have the chance again to turn to the Lord and be blessed by following his gospel and improving ourselves. I would hopefully share more but I am so out of time! :( I hope what I have shared makes sense and helps you all this week! I love you all sooo much! Happy New Year! That you again for all of the Happy Birthday wishes! I have a feeling 2015 will be a great year :) Can I get the family predictions again? That would be so great!
Sister Sawada