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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Enjoy the Journey

Hey Everyone!

Having always been a planner and one who absolutely hates transition and waiting periods, I've already given A LOT of thought to what I want/need to do next in my life so that I can plan for what's coming next (as far as heading back out to the mission field goes, or moving on and returning to work and school). I have been very torn because I wanted to return to the mission field, but I also wanted to be at my sister's wedding in August, and after talking to my Stake President, waiting that long didn't seem like an option. My health is back--all we'd be waiting for is a final doctor's permission slip for me to go back out, which I'm sure would require only one doctor's appointment for. The only health issue I have now is that I'm probably lactose intolerant (hopefully only temporarily) because my intestines got so beat up and stopped producing enough lactase for me to digest milk products properly.

Anyways, so that's the health update.

When I met with my stake president, he reassured me that either path (school or mission) was right in the eyes of the Lord. It was now time for me to decide what was best for me. I hate it when either choice is right. It makes it so much more difficult to choose. He encouraged me to make a decision and then to go to the temple and seek confirmation there. I prayed for weeks, trying very hard to decide. I knew I wanted to be there for my sister's wedding in August. And there was a chance I could leave after the wedding, since reinstating a missionary could take some time. But I had a gut feeling that if I chose to go back to my mission, I'd be leaving again in June or July.

Still I prayed and prayed, and the idea to go back out was always met with a feeling of peace, but then the idea to go back to school was always met with a very good feeling as well. I was confused. I knew either way was right, but I was at least hoping for a nudge towards which path I should take.

Finally, I was having a phone conversation with a friend, and I told her that I may be returning to BYU in the Fall and asked her what my options were as far as housing goes. She said that our old apartment was probably still available, but that she had actually decided to move into a townhome south of campus, and was looking for a roommate. As she told me about the townhome, a very, very good feeling came over me. It was like a reassurance--it felt like it was being confirmed to me that this is what I should do. That I needed to look into living in this townhome.

I prayed about it, and it still felt good. I talked to my mom, and it still felt good. I called the phone number my friend gave me, and left a message for the owner. Then, I decided to go to the temple. My decision had been made. Now it was time for confirmation.

I went to the temple, and didn't get it. Instead I felt good about returning to BYU for half of the session, and then good about going back out on a mission for half the session. The answer I got at the very end was that there was no "right" answer.

I left feeling confused again. I called my stake president and we talked for awhile. He said I was right. There was no right or wrong answer. The Lord trusted me to make the right decision for myself. He would be pleased and satisfied either way. We talked about this for awhile. My stake president said that with elders, yes, he always told them that as soon as they had medical clearance they needed to get back out to the field. But he said he didn't feel the same way with me--that it could go either way. I told him about the wedding, which he already knew about, and he said, "A mission is something that should take priority over everything--including family affairs such as a wedding." And when he said that, I knew in my heart that the wedding took priority for me over my mission--now that I was back, and had the choice, my sister's wedding took priority.

But I wasn't sure if I could live with myself for not going back out. We talked about that too for a little bit. He said that if I chose not to go back out, I had to be committed to that, and to not look back. He said, "Kristen, you're the kind of girl where if things don't work out the way you want them to six months down the road, you're going to beat yourself up and tell yourself that you should have gone back. That you're being punished or something. And I have to tell you that that is not the case! You will be blessed either way according to the Lord's timing and you have to let yourself move on and not look back."

"You're right. So maybe now instead of praying to know which path I should take, I should pray for help to not beat myself up later about my decision."

"I think that's exactly what you need to start praying for."

I thought a few moments and then slowly said, "I think...I think I want to go back to school and be at my sister's wedding. That is what I want. I would love to go back out, but my sister's wedding takes priority, and I would love to go back to school as well."

"That sounds fine to me. I feel very good about that actually."

"Yes, so do I."

So there you have it. After much prayer, counseling with priesthood leaders, looking at all of my options, I've decided to stay. I'm not looking back. I'm moving forward. I will forever be grateful for my mission, however short it was, because of how much it taught me in that short amount of time. It was an amazing, eye-opening experience, not only because I was in a 3rd world country, but it was incredible to see how people came to accept (or reject) the gospel. I gained an incredible testimony of this work. So no regrets. Despite the health issues I went through, and the other various challenges a mission presents, I would do it again (I'd just be super, super careful about the water and food next time ;)).

Anyways, that is all. Because I was unable to "complete" my mission, my deferment at BYU is now void and I will have to reapply to gain addmission. That's just how it goes--it doesn't the matter you come home early, or even if it was an honorable release, you need to reapply. That's okay though. It won't be as rigorous a process as before--I hope. I called the admissions office this morning, and a counselor will call me this Friday at 2:00pm to let me know exactly what I need to do to reapply. I left in "Good Academic Standing" so it shouldn't be a problem. I asked if I could get in for Fall Semester, and they said it was a possibility, but I'm not going to hold my breath. It's probably more likely that I'll return Winter Semester.

So there you have it. For now I'm just going to enjoy my summer with friends and family, and co-workers. I LOVE MY JOB AT HIGHLANDS DAY SPA!!!!! I am SOOO happy to be back working there as a receptionist!! Love it!!! Anyways, so that's the plan for now, and I'll plan more as I can, but I've learned from my mission that while planning is important, you need to also give space for the unexpected. You never know what's going to happen.

I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for me. He does everything for a reason. We'll see what happens this year and how everything works out. I'm just going to put my trust in Him as always, and know that everything is going to work out in the end despite whatever troubles or challenges. It's all going to be okay. I look forward to finding ways to serve Him now, even if it isn't full-time. And of course I'll continue to study and look for ways to use my Tagalog.

Thank you for all of the prayers, support, love, letters, encouragement...everything you all did for me while I was on my mission, and once I got back. This process of coming home early has been much easier than I thought it would be thanks to everyone's understanding and support. I hope everyone understands now why I've decided not to go back out. I promise it was one of the hardest decisions I've had to make in my life--I truly was torn. But I feel like this is the path my life is supposed to take now. If another full-time mission is in my future, then great! But for now, I'm just going to "enjoy the journey."

Love you all!
Kristen

Monday, April 25, 2011

Health Update! :)

The test results came back! This is my third test for parasites in the last two weeks, and the results came back negative! So no more parasites. I'm feeling very healthy now too. It's interesting how I felt so terrible in the Philippines, but then within three days in the United States I was feeling pretty good, and then within five days I felt fully recovered--although my mom and I are discussing a couple extra doctors' visits just to make sure. I guess the Lord just has an interesting plan for me right now.

As far as whether or not I'm heading back out on a mission goes, it's still something on my mind, and it is something I'm leaning towards. The only thing that's holding me back right now is my sister's wedding in August. I'm thinking about leaving after her wedding in August, but that is a little bit of an awkward time to leave, since I'd get back from my mission in the middle of August and would be expected to return to BYU in just a matter of weeks. But if that's what's right, everything will work out.

I plan to talk to my priesthood leaders about all of this soon and see what they think. I'll keep you all updated. Thanks for your continued prayers and support on my behalf and my family.

Love you all!
Kristen

P.S. Just remembered! I talked with the editor I've been working with for my Ensign article, and they still want to publish it! :) I wrote a new conclusion for them, they liked it, and now all that's needed is my signature on a publishing contract--which they're going to send me this week!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Love, Kristen--Update

Hello Everyone,

First, I just want to thank all of you for the incredible amount of support that you have given me on my mission. Your letters, your prayers, and the comfort you gave my family while I was in the hospital has helped so much and I am so grateful for all of the wonderful friends that I have in my life.

I am currently home in the United States and decided that I'd like to update everyone on what exactly happened to cause me to decide that I needed to come home, my recovery process thus far, and what my future plans are. So here we go :). I'll try to keep it short, but absolutely no promises :).

The day after I was discharged from the hospital for the second time, I headed back to Kalibo and was blessed to be able to see Brother June's baptism and confirmation.

Monday (P-Day) was a good day too, and I had the opportunity to go bowling with my zone, which was so fun and just what I needed after a long two weeks of hospital stays.

I woke up Tuesday morning feeling great and Sister Sablan and I got to work. It was a "panted day" (no one was home) for the most part, but it still felt good to do the work. We did manage to teach Brother June about missionary work as a member of the church. He has desires to share the gospel of course, but is naturally afraid of rejection. His hesitation continued throughout the lesson until at the end I felt inspired to share with him D&C 18:10, 13-18. He read those verses in Tagalog, and afterwards nodded, a light of determination in his eyes. I could tell he was still nervous, but he knew that the Lord would help him. Anyways, that was just a neat experience I thought I would share. We also helped Tatay Joel (Brother June's friend) understand the importance of prayer, and why we pray from the heart to our Heavenly Father and end in the name of Jesus Christ. It was a great lesson. He understood us completely, and I hope Tatay Joel will continue to progress in the gospel.

The next day, Wednesday, I was a little tired, but we still went to work. We visited Nanay Sol and taught her again about prophets and encouraged her to come see General Conference. She wasn't sure she was going to be able to make it because of her arthritis, but at the end I left her with my testimony that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God on the earth today and that if she wanted to see for herself, and listen to him for herself, she could come to the church on Saturday and Sunday and listen to his words for herself. The spirit was strong as I bore my testimony and Tagalog flowed easily from my mouth. I always knew that I was saying what Heavenly Father would have me say if the language just came out easily. I was grateful for that experience and opportunity. Nanay Sol did go to Conference Sunday morning too, the session where the prophet spoke :). See http://lds.org/general-conference?lang=eng

Wednesday night around 6:00 pm, I became extremely tired and Sister Sablan and I decided to go home. Thursday, I made it through about 40 minutes of personal study before I needed to lie down and rest. We went to a doctor in Kalibo later that day for my check-up. The test for parasites came back negative, but I was not impressed at all with the doctor I met with. We talked to Sister Pagaduan later that day, and she and President decided that I should come down to Iloilo the next day to visit with Dr. Patrimonio.

Sister Sablan and I woke up early Friday morning and got on the bus to Iloilo and took the four hour bus ride to the city yet again. We arrived at St. Paul's Hospital at 10:00am. When Dr. Patrimonio arrived, she referred us to the Infectious Disease Doctor, Dr. Divinagracia, who I had met during my second hospital stay. We met with Dr. Divinagracia, who ordered some repeat tests to make sure the parasites were completely gone.

Completely exhausted from my journey, Sister Pagaduan decided that I needed to go to the mission home and rest and that we would do the tests the next day. So that's what we did. Sister Sablan and I ended up staying the night at the mission home as well. Saturday we did the repeat tests, and as we waited for the results, went to the chapel in Arevalo to watch the morning session of Conference. When we came back, the results had come back as normal with no parasites. Yet...why did I still feel so weak? The doctors' answers to this was that I was still recovering and that eventually I would regain my strength. Well, the results were normal and I had no parasites, so I couldn't really argue with them. And I didn't really feel like it anymore.

We went back to the mission home and watched the afternoon session of conference. I was feeling pretty good, and so when President Pagaduan interviewed me that night I told him I was very certain that I could overcome all of my illnesses. I just needed some time to recover, but with the Lord's help I knew I could do it and that I was sure I could quickly return to the work full-time. Although President and the area medical adviser had had a strong feeling before that I needed to go home, when President saw my desire to stay, and felt my desire to stay, he decided to not send me home right then and see what happened.

The next day, Sunday, I woke up not feeling so good. I was very nauseous and had some other bad side effects that I don't want to discuss because they were gross. I managed to watch an hour and a half of the morning session of Conference sitting up in a chair, but then needed to lie down, and stayed in bed until about 3:00pm. I listened to the afternoon session of conference from my room.

It was about this time when I finally had to really face the fact that I may need to go home. Ever since my first hospital stay I knew that it was a possibility, but had resisted the idea. But now, here I was, one week after being discharged, already in the mission home again, and feeling terrible. I began to wonder, with a heavy heart, if it wouldn't be better for me, and for the mission, if I just went home and recovered.

These thoughts made me so sad! While I love my family and friends back home, and of course all of the comforts living in America brings, I did not want to leave my mission! I wanted to finish the work that I'd been called to do, and figured that if I just had more faith and a better attitude, surely God would heal me and I'd be able to go back to the work! After all, I'd received a priesthood blessing two weeks ago telling me that "Through your faith and through your prayers, over time this sickness will be lifted from you, and you'll be able to return to the work." I'd been doing my very best, and yes, I'd been able to go back to the work for two days last week, but was that really it? Surely that couldn't be all! I needed to do better apparently.

I prayed harder and I did my best to smile more and think about the positive things around me, but despite this the sickness did not go away. It was hard, and thoughts and impressions to go home began entering my mind more frequently. When I prayed about going home, I had a calm feeling, but I resisted it, thinking it must be my own selfish desires to go home. President Pagaduan and I talked again and I told him some of the feelings that I'd been having, but that again I did NOT want to go home and that I was certain I'd be fine. He asked if I could go back to Kalibo, and I said no, that travel was not good for me right now. I asked if I could be emergency transferred to Iloilo so as to be closer to my doctors--not that I would be dependent on them, but at least I wouldn't have to travel for my appointments now, and the work wouldn't be put on hold so frequently. He agreed, and began making arrangements for me to be emergency transferred to the city.

Tuesday morning I met with a Pulmonologist, who told me that my lungs were fine, and that the nausea was being caused by the after effects of the amoebas, and that sometimes I would sigh involuntarily to balance out the nausea. Well, that made sense. She gave me some medicine for the nausea, and also an anti-inflammatory inhaler for my lungs to help control my allergies to whatever was in the air. It seemed like I was soon going to be perfectly fine to go back to work.

Later on though, I took the medication for nausea and it helped some, but not much. I also had a sinking feeling whenever I thought about going to work with the sisters in Iloilo. I thought it must just be fear, but it wouldn't go away even after I prayed. After reading through about three Liahona magazines, and studying my scriptures, and the sinking feeling still being there, I finally got on my knees and asked directly if I needed to go home. When I asked this, a had an overwhelming feeling of peace come over me. I knew it was the Holy Ghost confirming to me that I needed to go home, but just to make sure I then asked if I should go work in Iloilo City. Nothing came. It was "a stupor of thought." I didn't want to believe this feeling, and so when President came home I asked him if I could receive a priesthood blessing before I went back to the work, which he agreed. But the thoughts that I needed to go home stayed. Dinner that night was quiet. President seemed in deep thought as well. After dinner, he said that he had spoken to my mom earlier and that she had had a strong feeling that she needed to talk to me. He asked me to please email her, and so I did.

"Hi Mom, President said that you had a strong feeling that you needed to talk to me. I hope you're on right now. Send me a message back if you are. Kristen."

"Hi Kristen, I just need to hear from you that you are much better than you were this weekend or on Sunday. You did not mention the reason for your illness was side-effects from the medication. It seems like you only have a few days between feeling ill. Are you well? Mom."

"I'm still going back and forth. Today I was nauseaus. I thought it was from the car ride to see the Pulmonologist, but it stayed. I took some medicine for nausea, but it's still persisted. Honestly, I'm starting to have some doubts about whether or not I'm supposed to stay on my mission."

"Me too, Kristen. It is not a lack of faith or attitude if you need to come home. I was concerned you might think that after I read your email. No one here will think that at all. Your emails have uplifted many people and they know your faith and desire to serve. You may need to come home to get healthy. I do have a concern they may be missing the diagnosis possibly."

"I'm concerned about that too--that perhaps I need different medical care to get the complete accurate diagnosis. I've thought about needing to go home to get healthy too. Then, after I'm healthy, if I still have desires to serve, I can get back out into the mission field. I know there's even three missions in California that are Tagalog speaking that I could go to. I do have desires to serve the Lord, but I am scared right now to serve in the Philippines with all of the pollution and bad water. I thought I was just paranoid, but really I'm starting to think I'm being realistic. I've done my very best to exercise my faith and have a good attitude, but in the end, the answer still seems to be to go home."

"...The Lord knows your heart. If you are able to stay and be healthy, that will be wonderful. If not, you have served well. Brother June will always remember you. You will most likely have the option to serve in the States. That is not a decision to be made now. I know that whatever you choose, IF you are to come home to heal, will be with prayer and listening to the spirit. I know that because you have always lived your life that way. Your father in Heaven loves you, we love you, and are so proud of you..."

"Thank you. I just talked to Sister Pagaduan. I feel like this is what I need to do. It is hard, because I still have desires to serve and to complete my mission here, but after everything that's happened, all of the thoughts I've had about staying or going home, I finally feel at peace with going home. It's hard because I just think about everything else I could do, but perhaps this is all the Lord wanted me to do.
The decision of whether or not I will serve in the States won't be made right now as you said. It is one that will be made with prayer and listening to the spirit...

Thanks for your support Mom, and everyone else's. One of my biggest fears about coming home early, even for a medical reason, was that people would judge me unfairly. I also worried about my Ensign article--petty thing, but I did. I can talk to the editor I've been working with about it later....

I know that this is what the Lord wants and that He'll guide my way. I know I need to go home to get healthy though. It seems like it won't happen quickly here, and maybe not under the care I need.

Anyways, love you! I'll talk to President. I hate the idea of leaving early (although I will be happy to see all of you again! :)), but I think this is what the Lord wants....Kristen."

"Kristen,I am so glad we were able to 'talk.' No one will judge you as a failure. You have served as well as you possibly could serve. Illness is not failure. You have touched lives both there and here. I have many messages from people for you to read that will encourage you when you get home. A short mission is simply that, a short mission, not an incomplete mission. The Lord only needed you there for a short time. What a blessing you were able to go to Kalibo last weekend to share in Brother June's baptism."

My mom's words comforted me, and I felt that same peaceful feeling that I had felt earlier when I first asked directly if I should go home. I knew it was right. I did not know why, but I knew without a doubt now that I needed to go home, that the Lord had a different plan for me than I had for myself and that I needed to once again, just put my trust in him and that everything would be okay--better than I could make for myself.

Two days later I flew with President and his family to Manila, Philippines (he needed to go there for a mission president conference)and said good-bye to them at the airport. I was then taken in a taxi to the Manila Airport Hotel. I arrived in my room and read some letters that I'd received just before we left for the Iloilo airport. I cried as I read some of them. Although they were full of comfort, I just felt so sad about having to leave my mission and wanted nothing more than to go back. But as this thought entered my mind, to go back, a distinct "No," impression came to mind, followed by peace, and I knew again that I really was supposed to go home.

I wanted to go to the temple. Not to say that I'd been to the Philippines Manila Temple, but because I wanted to feel the peace and comfort that only the temple can bring. I wandered the halls looking for sister missionaries that I could go to the temple with (I couldn't go without a companion) since I knew that this was the hotel missionaries would stay at if their flights weren't until the next day. I found two, but they were getting ready to go to the airport in a few hours to fly home. I returned to my room and asked Heavenly Father to please provide a way for me to go to the temple, telling him I felt I just needed to feel that comfort that was there. To make a long story short (;D), within two hours there was a knock on my door. When I opened it, I saw a Filipina sister missionary with a suitcase and some bags. She started entering the room, and the hotel employee next to her said to me, "Here is your companion for the day!"

Joy filled my soul! Here was the answer to my prayer! And not only that, I had a companion!!! It's so weird to be alone as a missionary, and those few hours I had spent alone were not fun. I looked at my new companion, Sister Marfiga and energetically said:

"Hello!!! Kamusta ka?" (How are you?)

"Mabuti! Kamusta ka?" (Good! How are you?)

"Mabuti na! Meron akong isang tanong para sa iyo." (Good now! I have a question for you.)

"Okay."

"Gusto mo pumunta sa templo?" (Do you want to go to the temple?)

"Oo! Ikaw?" (Yes! You?)

"Oo!" (Yes!)

"Sige. Kailan?" (Okay. When?)

"Ummm...is ngayong too soon?" (...is now too soon?)

"Hindi!" (No!)

"Sige! Ngayong!" (Okay! Now!) I said with a huge smile on my face.

So she and grabbed our temple recommends and some money, called a taxi, and headed to the Manila Temple! What an incredible blessing it was to be there! The grounds are sooo beautiful. Absolutely breath-taking. We spent about an hour just taking pictures...well, I took pictures, and she patiently and happily walked around with me. She loved my enthusiasm.

We then did a session and I felt that peace and joy that I needed. We then went across the street to the Patron House (a place for people to stay who have made long journeys to come to the temple), the Philippines MTC, and the Distribution Center, where I bought tons of stuff for only about $10 American. The stuff probably would have cost me at least $200 had I bought it in the USA :). I met a man who was one of the ones in charge of missionaries and had been involved in the process to send me home early. He saw me at the distribution center, and then later in the MTC cafeteria. He walked up to the people in charge at the cafeteria and told them to let me have as much as I wanted and that the Philippines Iloilo Mission would pay for it. It was so nice of him! :)

After this experience, I was okay with going home. Of course I still wanted to complete my mission, but I no longer felt sadness whenever I thought about it because I had the peace that I needed to know I was making the right decision, and had already begun to experience the blessings that would follow for me making this decision. I began to look forward to just seeing my family again. And of course my friends :).

The next day I woke up and flew from Manila to Tokyo to Seattle to Spokane. I was greeted by my family and some friends, and it was a wonderful homecoming. Thank you to those who came and to those who were not able to, but showed support in other ways, I thank you as well.

Later that night I was honorably released. It was a little painful (emotionally) to take off my missionary tag, but it was okay because I knew that it was the right thing right now.

From this entire experience, I have gained a strong testimony of not only the truthfulness of the gospel, but also of the Lord's love for us. He knows each and every single one of us individually and personally. He knows our needs, our struggles, our challenges. He knows our strengths and He knows our weaknesses. He loves us so much and only desires our happiness. Sometimes to be happy, we need to progress and overcome our weaknesses and so He will let us go through trials. It pains him when we are in pain or sad or scared or feeling anything negative, and therefore he will always give us the help we need exactly when we need it. But He will let us go through it because He knows that in the end it is what is best for us and that our weakness will become our strength and that we will learn and grow. He will never give us more than we can bear though. He knows us, He loves us, and because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He knows exactly how to succor us.

The words of the hymn, "How Firm a Foundation," comforted me a lot during my last week in the Philippines, and towards the end of my time there, the words, "As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be," helped me the most. I know that Heavenly Father will always be there for me, that He knows and cares about me personally, and that He will never give me more than I can bear. I am grateful to Him for the chance I had to serve a mission in the Philippines and am grateful to Him for trusting me enough to give me this trial to begin with. And I am grateful to Him for continuing to lead and guide my path to help me know I needed to go home, and I know that He will continue to guide my path and let me know when the time comes what He needs me to do next.

As far as my health goes, I am getting better. I have still had symptoms of amebiasis since I got home, and was retested for parasites again today. The test results will come back in 1-3 days, and of course, I'll let everyone know the results when they come. There is a chance they're still there, and there is a chance that they're now gone. I had two parasites: Entaamoeba histolytica (histo= tissue; lytica= cutter) and Entaamoeba coli (coli= has to do with the shape of the amoeba or where it lives--the colon). Basically though, the amoeba's were living in me for 8+ weeks before they were finally detected and had moved into the adult stage. They were getting ready to move to other parts of the body besides my intestines when they were detected and killed with medicine. We're quadruple checking right now that they were ALL killed though. If so, then the pains I still feel in my abdomen every once in awhile could just be from the fact that my intestines have been beaten up ("tissue cutter" doesn't sound too good) and are trying to build themselves back up. I feel pain most after I eat, which makes sense since they're still having to perform their normal functions while trying to recover.

Anyways, I'll have answers soon, but am recovering much better at home than I was in the field. It was hard to recover in the field because as soon as I was having a "good day" or starting to feel better, I was expected to work, and in fact I wanted to work because I was BORED at home! However, that just destroyed whatever progress my body had made and I would go back to feeling very sick again.

As far as my plans to go back out to the field and complete the 12 months I still have left, it's definitely something that I am considering and would like to do. As far as when and where goes, I can't say yet. My first priority is to get healthy again, and then after I'm healthy I'll make the decision through prayer and listening to the spirit about whether or not I should go back out. My desires are still there and I hope I can go back out, but I will just wait and see for now. There's a lot to think about too with my sister's wedding being in August, and of course I would like to be here for that. So perhaps I'll leave again after the wedding. We will just have to see what the Lord wants. His timing is always best.

Thank you again for all of the prayers and support. I love you all and LOVED hearing from you when I was out in the field. Sorry I couldn't always reply, but know that your letters always put a smile on my face, and I could feel the support of your prayers. Thank you so much again.

Love,
Kristen

Monday, April 4, 2011

Kristen's hospital room March 22 2011





Brother June's baptism!



Love, Kristen - Week 23 (Hospitalization number 2 was week 22, no email that week)

Hello Everyone!

Well, I hope you all had a great week and enjoyed watching General Conference. I slept through it as it was about 12:00am here when it started, but thankfully there's a rebroadcast for the Philippines on the 9th and 10th :).

So as I'm sure all of you have heard by now because of my mom's proficiency on the computer, I just got out of the hospital for the second time. Here is the story real quick:

When I first got out of the hospital things were going pretty well, although I was still feeling nauseous and all of the medicine they had me on was having weird side effects, such as nausea and dizziness, and the inhaler started giving me small, but noticeable palpitations. Sunday I started really feeling sick again, and Monday morning I could hardly get out of bed for more than three minutes before I felt super sick and had to lie down again. The symptoms began to get worse and worse (short breaths, fever, nausea, dehydration, no appetite,...just did not feel good at all), and we tried to contact my doctor but she could not entertain a phone call. Sister Pagaduan told me to go to the emergency room. Sister Llagas quickly packed a bag for me and herself and we took a taxi to the emergency room.

In the emergency room, I gave them my information and told them what the problems were. I told them that the inhaler I'd been on had been giving me palpitations. They took me to the back and hooked me up to an ECG and all of the symptoms hit worst right then. I guess it's good I was hooked up to the ECG although I have no idea what the results were. They gave me an I.V. and hydrated me and gave me dextrose. They asked if I would like to be admitted and I said yes.

More lab tests followed over the next few days and to be short in writing they found that I had a parasite--an amoeba and also E.Coli. They gave me medicine and I am feeling better now. I hope to not be going back to the hospital any time soon. Thank you so much for all of your prayers! I have no doubt they helped me so much in recovering. I'm feeling stronger right now than I have in weeks. The medicine they gave me is working wonderfully and I'll be able to go back to the work tomorrow.

I've learned so much through this whole process; mainly that Heavenly Father is always there for us, always ready to comfort us. He lets us go through trials for our good and this trial has definitely been for my good. I've had a lot of time to think and evaluate myself as a missionary and I have seen the areas where I need to improve and have made a big commitment to do better. Through this trial I've developed a love for the people. I know it sounds strange, but being in Iloilo, in a new environment, and around new sisters has given me a much needed new perspective. Being so close to being sent home has given me a greater desire and appreciation for the ability to do this work. I'm not going to take it for granted anymore. I'm going to work harder (although, I promise to take it easy while I recover, but still...be more diligent and dedicated to this work), be nicer, and really give of myself. I've realized that I truly need to sacrifice of myself more. Before I sort of always expected people to adjust for me. It's hard to explain exactly what I mean, but basically I need to adjust for them now. I sort of expected a lot and was disappointed when I didn't get what I wanted. It's difficult to explain, but through this whole process I really have gained a greater love for the people.

I know that Heavenly Father gives us challenges to teach us and to test our faith and see if we can be proven faithful. I started becoming bitter in the hospital about how unhealthy I was and started wondering why I had to go through this! Why wasn't my health better? Why is there even filthy water in this country? Why can't the water in the missionary homes at least be pure? I started to complain a lot. Then I began reading Our Heritage and in 1 Nephi when Nephi and his family travel through the wilderness and suffer many afflictions to get to where the Lord wants them to go. The scriptures and Church History started to come alive to me. The Lord will always try his people to test their faith and prove their faithfulness to Him and to their leaders. Some will give up, but others will make it through and be refined. I learned so much from the example of Nephi and the early saints. It's easy to complain against the Lord and against our leaders when things go wrong, but if we let ourselves, we can experience the change of heart that Heavenly Father wants us to. I know he's changed mine. I've grown closer to Him through this trial. At no point during it did I ever feel forgotten or alone. I knew He was always with me and that He always understood. I knew my Savior knew what I was going through and that I could depend on Him even when I felt that there was no one else. Heavenly Father always sent me the right people at the right time and many, many times sent me the Holy Ghost to comfort me. Each time this happened I knew everything would be okay. I just needed to trust him. I've been able to see my shortcomings in the mission--how I've held back my heart from the people so many times. I've done the work, but I haven't yet really given of myself, and I've had the chance now to repent of that and tomorrow I'll get to start that sacrifice for them. I'm so much determined to do better and am so grateful for this second chance that I've been given. I'm happier now than I've been in a long time. My spirit has been fed and my body has been now strengthened. And only through the Savior could that happen.

I've seen the Lord's hand in my life as I've worked to become better spiritually and physically, as I've repented of my shortcomings and moved on. Friday I was nervous about heading back to Kalibo. What if another health problem happened and I needed to be in the hospital again? There is a hospital in Kalibo, but I've never been there and don't know if it's good or not (I'm sure it's fine, but it's only natural to worry). I prayed about it and had a very strong feeling that I needed to go back to Kalibo though and so I told President Pagaduan that I wanted to go back to Kalibo. We packed my things and I was able to drive up to the junction between Roxas and Kalibo with President and his family, which was a nice experience. Elder Ahquin and his companion came and got me. It was 8:00 at night and we thought that the last bus heading to Kalibo had left already and that President would have to drive us all the way to Kalibo (they were heading to Roxas for a meeting the next morning), but then we found out that a bus in Iloilo had been delayed and would be arriving at 8:15. Just another tender mercy of the Lord's and it strengthened my testimony that I"m really supposed to be back in Kalibo.

I was able to attend Tatay June's (Brother June now :D) baptism on Saturday which was such a blessing. I only taught him twice, but am looking forward to being a big part of his retention, although his faith is so strong, I don't think we're really going to have any problems with that. Brother June was so excited on Saturday! He is clean-cut now and when I saw him I said: "Tatay! Gwapo ka!" (You look great!). He replied, "Siyempre! Brand new start!" (Of course!) He kept saying that to me over and over again--a new beginning, brand-new start, born again. His baptism was so touching--the Spirit was so strong-- and afterwards when he bore his testimony he said how grateful he was to have found Jesus Christ’s church on the earth today. He told the story of when we first met him and it was interesting to hear it from his perspective. He was sitting with his friend, Tatay Joel, just getting ready to leave, when he saw Sister Sablan and I walking towards them.

"Oh look, there's an American coming this way," he had said, referring of course to me.

"Stay with me! Stay with me!" Tatay Joel had said, "They're coming to visit me!"

"What? No, they're your visitors!"

"No, no. Stay! They want to share a message about God."

And so Tatay June had stayed and as we taught him about the restoration of Christ's true church on the earth, and especially when we invited him to church on Sunday, he said that he'd been reminded of a promise he'd made to God when his mom was sick--that if God spared his mother's life, he would return to church. His mom healed, but Tatay June forgot his promise, until we came and taught him. And although he works every night from 10:30pm-6:30am as a cop at a slaughterhouse, he came to church the next morning at 8:30am and stayed all three hours because of his commitment to God. And as he learned he developed a testimony of the church's truthfulness and is so grateful to Heavenly Father for his second chance.

The next day Brother June was confirmed a member of the church and received the Holy Ghost. His blessing was amazing, and I am so happy for him. He'll be ordained a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood next week and be able to pass the sacrament. After he received the Holy Ghost and was sustained and welcomed into the church, he sat back down grinning from ear to ear, shaking people's hands as he went back to his seat, a new light in his eyes. It was such a blessing to be able to see that and be a part of it.

The Lord is so merciful. I was also able to attend Ward Council Meeting (I think that's what it's called in English) to help the ward develop a ward mission plan. The ward has improved so much since I left. Visiting teaching has started and home teaching has begun to be emphasized. The ward is more reverent and on time. It's great to see their progress!

All right, I'm out of time. Love you all! Thank you again for your prayers!

Sister Danner

NOTE FROM MOM: Kristen did send some photos and I will post those later today, if they aren't here when you are reading this.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Love, Kristen - Week 21 and a half - Discharged from the hospital!

Hello!

I was discharged from the hospital a few hours ago.

Diagnosis: Sinositis with Labyrinthitis, Allergic Renitis, Asthmatic Bronchitus

They did a second blood test on me last night. The only concerning things were my iron levels and potassium levels (Potassium--1st time 3.4. Second time 3.3 even after Potassium pills and bananas. Normal is 3.5--5.1. It's not severe, but it is concerning). I'll be given potassium supplements and iron supplements.

The doctor believes that my condition is mostly due to allergies--pollens and pollutants in the air. Dr. Patrimonio is working on getting it under control though so that I can go back to life and work as usual. She tells me though that it may take some time and that we need to be patient, especially since she believes that I've had this condition for a long time (possibly 15 years). I didn't notice as much before because although I would get a little sick at season changes, especially spring, I thought it was normal. The symptoms were not consistent until I came to the Philippines and was in a completely new climate, and with new vegetation. That's what she believes at any rate. The chest x-ray showed nothing significant, but she is not surprised by that, and is still giving me the clinical diagnosis of asthmatic bronchitus.

Note from Mom: Kristen gave us a list of several medications she is taking currently. Our Filipino doctor here in the USA did reach Kristen’s doctor in the Philippines last night. In short, he feels comfortable with all she has done and is doing for Kristen. They actually did some of their training at the same place in the Philippines and knew some of the same people.

Follow up Appointment:

April 1, 2011. Will call the day beforehand to schedule a time (scheduling with Dr. Patrimonio is a little different). Will do another blood test: CBC, Platlet count, K+

Current Plan:

Dr. Patrimonio wants me to stay in Iloilo for awhile. There are only 27 sisters in the mission currently, and only so many areas that sisters are allowed to go to (we are almost always in cities, in the safest part of the city), so that makes it a little difficult especially this week with transfers. President and Sister Pagaduan visited with me in the hospital this morning before I was discharged to discuss the options. President has not had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Patrimonio one on one and only has what Sister Pagaduan has told him, and the AP's, so he was really needing information to make the best possible decision. Right before I was discharged though, Dr. Patrimonio insisted that I stay in Iloilo just so that I am closer to her. She does not want me traveling a lot as she feels that it will only aggravate my condition for now. She wants to see me again on April 1st, and after that appointment she will determine how often she feels she needs to see me. If it is not too often (once every two weeks or longer between visits), President will send me back to Kalibo, and Sister Sablan and I will continue to travel to Iloilo when needed. That is all dependent on next week though. President recognizes that an emergency transfer may need to take place and is preparing for that, but for now everything is still temporary.

So the temporary plan is for me to stay in Iloilo with the "city sisters," and Sister Sablan will travel back to Kalibo on Friday with the missionaries who will be transferring up there. Dr. Patrimonio has given strict orders that I do not work for at least five days. I can go out and buy what I need for today, but other than that I am to stay home and rest and recuperate. There are four city sisters, one who I know from the MTC--Sister McDonald, and three others who I have met before. Two will be transferring this Friday, so whoever comes in will have to be informed of the situation, but that's a minor detail. Anyways, they are all very understanding and cooperative. They are happy to help out. I felt very bad about the situation because I realized that the time each companionship would spend in their areas would need to be cut in half because they'd have to be in a tri-some for at least 5 days, and take it slow the four days I may be able to work, unless perhaps they can get someone from the local ward to stay with me. Sister McDonald reassured me though that they do not mind and that she actually feels this will help them manage their time better. So that made me feel better. It'll all work out. This is what Heavenly Father wants after all.

The sisters back in Kalibo are packing a suitcase for me to have for this week. The zone leaders in Kalibo will bring it down tomorrow night. I'll just live out of that for a week, and then go back to Kalibo or have the rest of my things sent to me if an emergency transfer needs to take place.

Sister Sablan and I are still companions for now, but will be separated of course for at least this week. She'll be in a tri-some up in Kalibo with Sister Budge and Sister Villaester.

Hospital Stay:

I was nervous to stay in the hospital in the Philippines, just because I had no idea what to expect. I found it though to be a really good experience...or at least as good of an experience as a hospital stay can be. The staff was extremely friendly and patient. They took their time to explain things to me and never minded answering my questions. Sometimes they would get a little intimidated and feel that they needed to speak English to me and so they'd get flustered, but that was only a few nurses, and we would just tell them to relax and speak Ilonggo. I'm decent at understanding Ilonggo, although I can't speak it very well yet, so I was still able to communicate and understand. Sister Sablan is fluent, so she was able to help me understand whatever I couldn't on my own. About 90% of the time though the doctors and nurses just spoke English to me and it was excellent, especially Dr. Patrimonio's. She's actually Chinese/Filipino. Just thought I'd throw that in there.

Anyways, the hospital was very sanitary, and the room was very comfortable. Sister Sablan and I took pictures yesterday. I'd send them to you, but they're on her camera and she does not have her USB cord with her. So I'll have to get those to you at a later date. You'll see once I send them though what I nice set up it was. I had air-conditioning and a warm shower too :). The first time I showered it was with a bucket still though because I could control better where the water sprayed and not hit the I.V. It was great once I was able to take a regular shower though. 

Because we were paying with cash, our situation was a little different after about day 2. They had charged as much on the bill as they could for cash-only paying patients. After that Sister Sablan would have to go to different departments within the hospital to pay for medicine, I.V. fluid, lab tests, etc. because of the hospital's policy for those who do not have insurance--they basically want to make sure you can still pay. It was funny the first time because they woke her up at about 2 in the morning on the 2nd night to ask her to go to the pharmacy downstairs to pay for the antibiotic or something. Haha, poor girl. I didn't even know until the next morning. Just an interesting thing I thought I would add.

Ummm...what else. Everyone was very fascinated by us. We were in a Catholic Hospital, and probably the only patients in there who did not take communion each morning. Besides that, we also got several visitors, President and his family, the AP's, Office Elders (for money), and local ward Single Adults (Sunday for Sacrament). We wore our nametags, didn't watch T.V., studied, chatted, and were always happy and pleasant when the nurses or doctors came in. Every day we were asked questions about what we do and what we believe and it was fun for us to be able to answer those questions. We couldn't proselyte of course, but with at least a few of them we felt a strong spirit. Perhaps in a simple way, Heavenly Father used us to help prepare them to receive the gospel down the road. The nurses were always happy to hear that we don't party (smoke, drink, party hard) and told us that they don't either. The nurses were about 25-26, at least those who's ages we found out, and so they enjoyed being with us as our ages were close, especially the female nurses. The male nurses were friendly although seemed very business oriented, but they were nice, and so we still had a good time.

I loved my study time in the hospital. I read a couple Ensign articles, and focused my study on 1 Nephi 8-14. Oh I loved 1 Nephi 13! It's so fascinating...Nephi was shown so much. There's no way Joseph Smith could have written the Book of Mormon! It's just too...for lack of a better word right now...accurate...in detail, in emotion, in....I don't know...It just makes sense! It was also fun to find where the Book of Mormon starts in the Bible (2 Kings 24-25) and read what was going on in Jerusalem before, during, and after Lehi and his family left. So that was a real blessing. I also read some good quotes in the Ensign...or scriptures quoted in the Ensign rather. They gave me comfort and hope. They are Ether 12:27 and Proverbs 3:5-6.

Oh, while in the hospital I learned that Tatay June (man learning about the church in Kalibo) went to church on Sunday for the 4th time. He can be baptized :). He also went to a priesthood activity on his own :). We'll probably push his baptism date back a little, since we don't want to rush the finishing teachings with him, but it's great. I don't know if I'll get to see the baptism or finish the teachings with Sister Sablan, but I'm very happy with his commitment and desire to follow the Lord. I very much admire him.

I know that this is a strange situation. I never, ever expected this to happen to me in my young adult life, let alone my MISSION! Not at all. But, the Lord has a purpose for it. He has a plan, and I'm actually slowly beginning to see it unfold. There's so much I'm learning from all of this. To first, relax and know that He is God, to know that He is there. To know that He is watching over me and cares for me and will never leave me alone. During this whole ordeal, before, during, and now after hospital stay, I was never left comfortless. He always provided the help I needed, whether physical or emotional, at exactly the time I needed it. I don't know exactly why I was sent here to the Philippines, or why I was even meant to go on a mission. Missionary work can be so hard sometimes, and I recognized this morning that if I wanted to, I had the perfect excuse to go home--medical. However, I knew in my heart that that would be a lie. My condition is not so severe that I need to be sent home. It can be taken care of here. So I decided to reassess why I was really out here. What was giving me the drive to keep going. What was my motivation. And after some time of contemplation, it came down to this: "I'm here on a mission, because I know that there is so much that I can gain from it, and also so much that I can give." The more I gain, the more I can give – the more I give, the more I gain. For now, that is my motivation, on top of it being what the Lord wants.

I love you all. Trust in the Lord. Be happy :).

Sister Danner

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kristen's little friend who has stayed with her when she was sick, and some other Filipino friends.





Love, Kristen - Week 20

Hi Everyone!

Well it sounds like things have been crazy in the world what with the Tsunami in Japan and everything. I was told that it reached the coast of California too. Wow. I really only have what people tell me, so please send me information on what's going on. Here people have just been talking about it. I'm in no danger down here in the Visayas. Actually, my island, Panay, is probably the most protected island in the Philippines. So no one here is worried about it hitting. We have been getting a lot of rain though, and people here are just flabbergasted, because it should be smoking-hot summer right now and it keeps raining! They say it's very weird. I guess the weather is just doing strange things all over the world. Keep praying for the Japanese people though. I can't even imagine what they must be going through right now.

It's been a strange week in the mission. I haven't told you all this because I thought it was nothing, but about every week so far I've been sick at least one day. For awhile Sister Sablan and I thought I was just adjusting, but it's steadily gotten worse. It's very strange though--I get dizzy, and then I'm not dizzy. I get a fever, but it comes and goes. I get a stomach ache, then I'm fine. I'm super, super tired, and then I'm fine. We've been working with Sister Pagaduan, and she finally told me that I need to just go to the doctor.

Here's the thing though. She's been telling me that for weeks and I haven't listened because I've been scared of the doctors here. I had to stay in the MTC for three extra weeks because the doctor in the MTC told me that health care here was so bad that the church had to build a hospital in Manila. So they kept me. So, if there's no good health care why would I want to go to a doctor here? I'd rather just suck it up and try to get better on my own.

Finally though I had to. So Tuesday I decided to go to the doctor and see what it was like. I went in with a skeptical attitude. When I met the doctor (just sat in her office and told her what the problem was) I wasn't impressed. She told me it was poor nutrition and I told her that I eat all the time. She asked what I eat and I said bread, rice, fruits, and veggies. And I eat a lot of them. She basically told me to eat more rice and wanted to do a couple blood tests on me. I said no way and paid for the consultation and walked out. (Note from Mom: Kristen fainted during a blood draw last summer...she is terrified of them...seriously)

The next day Sister Sablan and I headed to Iloilo. Sister Pagaduan is a nurse back in Manila and she's gotten to know some of the doctors here, so I felt more comfortable with that, plus I've heard good things about the hospital in Manila. When we arrived though, instead of heading straight to the doctor's President Pagaduan wanted to interview Sister Sablan and then me. He was concerned about why I was not trusting the people in my own area. When he interviewed me, he told me that I might not have all the conveniences I like, but that the people here are still alive and so the doctor's must be okay. I told him that may be true, but then explained what the doctor in the MTC told me about the church building a hospital in Manila. President was shocked. I said, "Yeah, that's why they kept me there three extra weeks!" He took a few seconds and then gently said, "There is no truth to that at all."

"What?"

"No. I've worked in the church for many years now in engineering. The church does not build hospitals. Who told you that?"

So I told him the story. He thanked me for telling him and then said he would clear up that rumor as soon as possible and asked for the doctor's name. President then started talking about how there are so many misconceptions about the Philippines, and I have to say he is entirely correct. He dislikes the Missionary Mom site and says that many misconceptions that he hears about stems from that site. Toilet paper for one thing--- it is true, some businesses do not have toilet paper in their bathrooms. That is probably to save money. People buy their own toilet paper and carry it around. They have cars here in the Philippines, and nice houses too. Not everyone lives in nice houses--there are very poor people here. I don't have time to paint a complete picture, but President and I talked about the misconceptions, and I left the interview feeling much more confident about the doctor's appointment.

The next day I went to the hospital in Iloilo and was impressed with everything I saw. My doctor alone was extremely competent and confident. Sister Sablan thinks she's worked in places besides just the Philippines, but regardless, she knows her stuff. I walked in and she said, "I think you have Sinositis."

"You haven't even asked me a question yet!"

She asked me a series of questions, checked my breathing and my heart rate, looked up my nose, and said, "Yes, I'm certain you have sinositis." She then explained exactly what that is.

Apparently the maxillary sinus on my left side is clogged and she believes it has been for years. It has only gotten worse now because there is more pollution in the air, especially in the city part of Kalibo. She explained that since the fluid cannot properly drain from my sinus, it is using another route, and emptying into my ear, which causes sudden dizziness because my equilibrium is suddenly off, and sudden fatigue as well. She says people with this condition generally have dry eyes (yep) and a random, though consistent, cough (yep). She says people with this condition are often suddenly irritable (yep) and dislike hard foods (i.e. meat--I dislike the texture. Except chicken. I just hate the taste of chicken). She explained everything clearly and concisely and I was very impressed. She answered all of my questions. It all just makes sense. So she prescribed me with an anti-biotic, nasal spray, and something else. I don't even know what it does, but it must be working because I'm feeling much, much better. It's taken a few days for the medicine to kick in, but today I can breathe. I don't know how to describe it. It's just so much easier to take in breath. I didn't even know I've been breathing funny, but apparently I have been. So it's all good, no one worry. I'm going back to her this Thursday for a follow up check-up. She says she's going to cure me of everything. I said if she could cure my dry eyes alone I would love her, and she was like, "Okay, let's do this." By the way, her English was excellent. She had me do an x-ray (state of the art machine, totally fine, my wrist would have been FINE, but it's okay I was where Heavenly Father wanted me to be), and yep, it definitely looks like Sinositis, although she'll wait two days for the official lab results from the....what do you call it...x-ray doctor.

So like I said it took awhile for the medicine to kick in so after arriving back in Kalibo, I was still not feeling up to going out to work even though I really, really wanted to. But every time I tried, the dizziness and fatigue would hit again. So Sister Sablan got people to stay with me, one of which was Ate Herjane again. She is awesome. I wish I could have more time to tell you about her. She just loves everyone unconditionally though, and she has a great desire to help the missionaries. She wants to be one herself someday. She drew me a picture of the penguin when I was feeling a little sad and useless as a missionary, and made me feel so much better. After that, I said, "You like pasta?" and so we cooked some pasta together. She chopped up the veggies and I made the sauce. She thought our knife was too dull though so she quickly ran home across the street to get a hasaan (or rock to sharpen knives with). She was gone maybe two minutes and I watched her out the window. I was fascinated by this and took a picture. Later that night she drew a picture of all of us missionaries and I included that one too. She's so cute. I told her I have lots of cats so she drew, "Bahay ng pusa ni Sister Danner," (Sister Danner's cat's house). Sister Sablan has a dog so that's what the other house is of.

Another person who stayed with me was Nanay Edith. She stayed with me twice. She's so sweet. She made me salted green mangos to cure my fever and stomachache (it actually worked too!) and then the next day she brought me Sprite and Oreos. The first night, her daughter and some friends showed up. It was quite a party. I included a picture of everyone. Ate Herjane had just gotten back with Sister Villaester, so Sister Villaester took the picture and Ate Herjane sat next to me. I prefer the first picture (the brighter one) and dislike the contrast in the second one, and was about to delete it when I noticed that Ate Herjane was doing something distinctly Filipino to me. She was giving me the "gwuapo/guwapa" sign. It means "Handsome" for a boy and then "Beautiful" for a girl. Haha. She's so funny.

Sunday I was able to go to church and also work one appointment. Then we had to go home because I was going in and out of dizziness during the appointment. But I was feeling better. Tatay June was at church again. Third week in a row he's shown up on his own. He's so strong. He lives in a rough part of town, but he's determined to make this change for the better. One more week at church and he can be baptized. I have no doubt he'll do it. I hope I can have the health to go visit him this week because he is just awesome. Nanay Sol was not at church because she was feeling pains. She's 61 so it's a little rougher for her. She's still progressing wonderfully though and I know she'll be baptized someday.

So basically, it's been a crazy week, but I'm still learning lots and still seeing the tender mercies of the Lord. For one thing, he lead me to President who cleared up the misconceptions I've heard, and then he lead me to a doctor who can cure me, and then while waiting for that doctor I was actually feeling really bad about being sick and not working when I had a feeling of peace come that told me I was once again exactly where Heavenly Father wanted me to be. Right after that, a lady came up and read my name tag, asked about our church and I got to teach her!!!! Sister Sablan helped, but I was mainly the one teaching. Right there in the hospital. It was fantastic. She lives in Antique, but I gave her a pamphlet, answered her questions, Tagalog seemed to flow naturally from my lips, and it was just a miracle. The lady spoke pretty good English, but I just kept replying in Tagalog for some reason, and then she started speaking in Tagalog back because I was speaking well enough that she trusted me. I was so happy. Then, after the doctor I've been blessed to be able to be with people in my home who speak Tagalog/Aklanon and help me practice the language. I've gotten to know a couple ward members better, had more time to study, and really think about my purpose as a missionary.

President Pagaduan knows I'm facing a lot of trials right now with the work (we're opening an area) and with the language and with my sickness. But he told me in our interview, "Someday you'll look back and be grateful for all of these trials that you're going through right now, and you will understand why they were necessary. It may not be for many years from now. It may not even be until the next life. But someday, you will know, and you will be grateful."

It's true. We don't know why we have to go through certain things sometimes, but Heavenly Father does, and I'm telling you all, all we have to do is put our trust in Him and everything works out. I've never received help so quickly as when I just put my trust in Him and know that He is there to support me and that He wants me to be happy. He wants all of us to be happy because we are His children and He loves us!

So let's be happy. Even during the hard times. It's our choice. Yeah, it can be tough to be happy, it can be hard to find the joy (believe me, I know), but there's always hope. The unfailing source of our hope is Jesus Christ and what He did for us through His atonement. Let's look to Him and live (here in this life, and in the next).

Press forward with faith. And I'll do the same.

I love you all!
Sister Danner

Monday, March 7, 2011

More of Kristen's apartment...



Kristen's apartment!





Photos of things Kristen sees every day in the Philippines (described in email below....)





Love, Kristen - Week 19

Hi Everyone!

Real quick, here are some more pictures of the Philippines. Only one is of me, but the others are just some of the things I see during the day. Actually, they're all of things in Mobo. Bakhaw Norte is a little harder to take pictures in, although I have included pictures of that place in the past (walking through that giant puddle/boats/bamboo bridge). One of them is of the heart of a banana tree. I didn't even know they had hearts! So pretty cool. Apparently they chop it up and mix it into soup. I haven't had it yet, and neither has Sister Sablan, but we both think it's pretty cool when we see one. Another is of a dog of one of our investigators. It's super protective and barks like crazy when we go visit her. Growls too. We were pretty scared of it at first, even though it's pretty small. Now I just think it's funny. You can kind of see in it's eyes though what a protective dog it is. Another is one of my favorite flowers. Then just a cool looking duck and some goats. Pretty simple, but pretty. (Note from Mom: I am not sure all of these photos came through. I will post what did.)

All right so on to this week. This week was honestly hard. I won't go into details, but it was just one of those weeks where things go pretty well, but Satan still works on you really, really hard. I got very discouraged with the language this week and worried about my relationship with investigators. They like me fine I think, and I can teach them simple things, but I still depend a lot on Sister Sablan to convey the message to them completely. I've been getting down on myself about this for weeks and it's started to just steadily get worse each week. We were also a tri-some for three days with Sister Budge because Sister Villaester went to Iloilo for some leadership training. So that threw us too, and Sister Budge seemed so much more comfortable with the people than I did, and she's only been here three weeks, and so I started comparing myself to her. I'm very hard on myself already, so this extra bit really got to me and I stressed myself out pretty bad. So as a result, I got sick for two days :(. Just a rough situation. However, things will get better. I've talked to a lot of leaders and even got a priesthood blessing from one of my zone leaders this morning after Zone Meeting. I just felt like I needed one. I was blessed with a new determination and peace of mind and comfort, and was told that Heavenly Father is happy and pleased with my progression. So basically, I just need to RELAX and focus on what I AM doing right, and not so much on all the things I need to improve on. So yes, I'm feeling better, and ready to just start over in a sense, with my new determination.

So, you may be thinking, “What??! I thought she was fine!” Yes, I am. There are wonderful things that happen each week and so many blessings that come. The language is coming and I am sometimes very blessed to be able to communicate effectively what I want to convey, but really, most of the time, I do struggle to understand them still, and often stumble over words trying to find the right one to say. You see, never before in my life have I had trouble communicating what I feel--exactly what I feel, exactly what I want people to know. But a mission in the Philippines has completely humbled me in that respect. I still have my talent of speaking and writing, but now, I need to develop it in another language in the Lord's way and in His own timing for the Filipino people. And for me, that's really frustrating. I want to be able to communicate now, and so I rejoice when I can understand one meeting with one investigator! And it's good that I rejoice, because it means I'm progressing. But then I'll get upset when I can't understand the next one, and Satan will work on that "upset-ness". When I talked with the Zone leader this morning he listened carefully as I explained what I was feeling, and then reassured me that everything I was feeling was okay and normal and that in fact, I'm supposed to be feeling this way right now. It's all part of the process and experience. He's American too (been out 11 months), and so he understands what it's like in the beginning and how frustrated I am. But he also knows there's a purpose for it, and gave me the advice and encouragement I needed to keep pressing forward.

So basically, what I email you all is true, but I always try to keep my emails optimistic because I try to stay optimistic. Everything I write is what I really feel, and this week, it was just a more trying week. People always say that "A mission is hard," but I'm telling you, no one has any idea what that really means until they get out here and do it. It's not only physically exhausting, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. Never before have I realized my weaknesses so much. Sooo much. But then, on the other hand, never before have I been given so much strength to overcome them. The Lord doesn't give me that strength right away though. What would be the point? He needs me to learn and to learn how to overcome. But He always provides a way for me to receive the strength I need at the exact time that I need it--no sooner, no later. Sometimes I really, really want it sooner, but He has a perfect plan, and I'm developing trust right now in that plan and in Him, more so than I've had before than at any other time in my life. I'm being humbled, sooooooooooooo humbled, and it's hard, but I'm okay. I'm okay because I know that He knows that I can do this, and that He'll always give me the strength and support I need when I need it, in whatever form I need it.

All right, so that is that. Rough week, but I'm okay. This week will be better :).

Now for the good parts of this week :). Bishop is really starting to trust Sister Sablan and I a lot. He took us around his neighborhood the other day and introduced us to all of his friends who aren't LDS and then took us to people who even he didn't know. It was so funny. We walk up to this house and he says, "I don't even know these people!" but he knocks on their door anyway (which here in the Philippines is rude if you don't know them), and introduced us to his neighbors because he so badly wants us to teach people in his neighborhood. It was funny. We didn't have any success really with the people he didn't know, haha, but with his friends they were very friendly and said we could come back to teach them. We received 8 referrals total that day from Bishop, and went back later that night to teach one of them. That one owns a boarding house, and four of the boarders listened in on the lesson too. It went pretty well. We felt the spirit, and were invited back, so we'll go back this week. We're excited and so happy that Bishop trusts us so much! It's so important to have a relationship with the members, especially Bishop.

We have two more investigators with a baptismal date! One of which is Sister Sol (the woman with the chunget, and who's husband has a cow). We've spent about three weeks with her just discussing the Restoration. She's smart, but learns at a slower rate because she wants a full understanding and needs the details. She finally prayed though and receieved her answer that Joseph Smith is a true prophet. We committed her to baptism on Wednesday, and she came to church with us this Sunday. She's such a cute lady. She's one that I feel trusts me too, so much that she'll talk to me even though she must know I can't completely understand her. I asked her how Sacrament Meeting was before Sunday School started and she gave me a full description of how she felt. I understood some of it, but not completely, and she was about to explain something to me again when class started. But anyways, I'm glad that she's starting to really progress now. The other is Tatay Jun, a man we met two weeks ago, and taught lesson 1 to briefly. He came to church that week though, and then came again this week. Both times all on his own! He says he wants what we have, but he did express concerns that he may not be able to have it. He says he hasn't committed any big sins though, so we'll find out what he's so worried about and address it and help him overcome it. He's so great though. Super confident--he used to be a cop-- and has already made a friend in church.

THAT by the way is SOOO important!! Fellowshipping is so key to bringing people into the gospel. They are making so many changes in their lives and they need friends to help them do so. They need encouragement. Missionaries can do that, but missionaries leave eventually. Members though stay in the area, and so it is sooo important that we as members do all we can to make investigators, less-actives, and recent converts feel welcome. Ask the missionaries what you can do to support them and help them. I know it seems hard, and you may have to go out of your comfort zone, and even I wasn't the best at it before my mission, but that is completely going to change when I go back. We all have a responsibility to help people come unto Christ and help them into His true gospel.

Okay, anyways, also when I was sick, Sister Sablan got a member to stay with me so she could still go out with the other two. It was a 14 year old girl named Herjane. She's very, very mature though, and was pretty fun to talk to. However, although she's taken 8 years of English in school, she refused to speak to me in English because she knows that American missionaries are trying to learn the language. So for 4 hours we communicated in Tagalog and Aklanon. She--Aklanon. Me--Tagalog...and some English :). She taught me lots of Aklanon words though, and Tagalog too actually. People here are very, very good at Tagalog. They understand Ilonggo too, but really can't speak it. Some only speak Tagalog too because they moved here from Luzon. It's interesting. Anyways, that was really good for me though, and I really appreciated her doing that.

So anyways, basically, being a missionary is tough, but it can be lots of fun too. There are hardships, but there are blessings, and there are people all around you who are your friends and who are willing to help you at a moments notice. I'm grateful I have so many amazing people in my zone. I'd tell you about more, but I'm out of time, and this email is long enough :).

The church is true. No matter how tough this work gets, the church is still true. I know this for myself, and I cannot deny that fact. I love you all! Keep the faith! :)

Sister Danner

Monday, February 28, 2011

Love, Kristen - Week 18

Kamusta!

Well this week brought something different every single day, so I think I'll just go over the highlights with you. Monday night I tried a couple of new foods: Lumpia, which is like rice and pork all rolled up in this eggroll like thing, but it's not an eggroll. It's really good though. And then the other was Cheese Ice Cream. Yes, cheese ice cream. It was scrumptious! So good. There's bits of cheese in it, kind of like the oreos in Cookies n' Cream, and then the ice cream part is just delicious. Elder Light, another American, was there at FHE as well, and I looked at him and said, "Why don't we have this in America?! This is excellent!" He was like, "I know, right?" And the Filipinos who over heard us just laughed and told us all about the other good foods they have. I still need to try jackfruit, and they are insisting that I try Balut (fertalized, COOKED, duck egg). We shall see :).

Tuesday I lead our area which was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It was actually what we call a "panted" day (no one is home) for the most part, so I was discouraged. I tried to channel the spirit to know where to go, but was just so frustrated that I couldn't. I told Sister Sablan that I just needed to walk a little, so we did. After that, I was okay. We went back and found one new person to teach, and other investigators were at home. We had four teachings that day, which isn't bad. I have a lot more respect for Sister Sablan now though--she leads everything--the area, teaching, planning, etc. It's hard! So I was glad she gave me that opportunity to learn and be humbled. She's planning on having me lead again this week, and hopefully it goes smoother :).

Zone Conference was Wednesday! I played the piano!! Yes, some members in our zone wanted to sing "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and I volunteered to accompany them on the piano. It was either that or sing, haha. But I really enjoyed accompanying them. I usually get sooo nervous when I accompany people, but this time I didn't feel nervous at all. I was able to relax and just play, and it felt GREAT! So that was a lot of fun for me, to be able to use my talent that way. I was also asked to share my testimony on Preach My Gospel, which I was nervous about, but then I got up there and the words just started to flow. I mainly said how thankful I was for it, for all of the advice it gives in doing missionary work (really, it's a culmination of years and years of missionary work, and advice from prophets, apostles, and other RM's), and how I was so grateful that we weren't doing memorized lessons anymore. We can just share from the heart and as the spirit directs. How neat is that?! I shared that I knew that this is the way the Lord wants His work done now and that I was grateful to be part of it. I gained many more insights from Zone Conference too, such as how to receive blessings (must do the thing upon which that blessing is predicated) and how to replace "comfort bits" from home (hot water, grass, cats) with new comfort bits (hot air, ...still working on the other two). Sister Pagaduan spoke on that and it was really helpful. I'm doing sooo much better than I was my first few weeks, but there's still plenty of things to adjust too.

Which brings me to this! I meant to talk about it at the end, but now seems like a good time to talk about it. I've lived in the Philippines now for a month and a half! That's so long, and not very long at all at the same time. And I'm telling you, all of you back home, I'm living on the other side of the world in every meaning of that phrase! Things are sooo different here! What you see when you look out your window, how you wash your clothes, how you shower, how you get home, how they eat, how they think...everything! Even missionary work is different here. I'm not knocking doors, like I would be in America. That's rude here. If we want a new investigator, we have to hope that someone is standing outside their house so that we can talk to them, and hope that they're not busy too because sometimes they really hate it when we interrupt them. We really have to listen to the spirit. Or, when we have investigators who expect us, we stand outside their house and yell, "Tagbalay!" (People!--Aklanon) or "Tao po!" (People!--Tagalog). Then when we get in, we teach from pamphlets. It helps them to see a picture. I don't know why. They're super smart here, but to be engaged in the lesson, it really helps them to have something to look at. We usually leave a Book of Mormon after 2-3 lessons, not 1. It seems to go better that way. We usually just give them a pamphlet to read first, and then if they keep that commitment, then we give them a Book of Mormon. So even that's different from what I was expecting.

I'm really not sure how to describe the Philippines. It's just different. The roads, the driving, the transportation (metal carriage like things attached to a motorcycle, remember?) , the shopping, the policemen at every store. But you know, it's so fun!! And I'm different too. I'm starting to realize that I'm different. I'm beginning to adopt their culture. I'm thinking differently. "Sister Danner in America" is gone now. She lives in the Philippines. And she'll come back to America, but she'll be different, but for the better. There's some things here that are so hard to see, that I wish I could change, but I learn from them, and so do the people. Sometimes it's hard for me to change. I like the way I did things in America (opening cans with a can opener instead of a knife), or walking down the street with a smile always on my face, because the people here now know me. They see me every day. They know who I am. And I represent the church to them, and in some ways Jesus Christ, because our message is about Him. And if I don't look happy, why should they listen to us? Why should they accept Him and the gospel and the peace and "happiness" I promise it will bring them, if I don't look happy? So it's all about forgetting myself for Him, and how can I expect people to change their lives for Him if I can't? So that's what I learned this week. I had a good week, I promise, but that's definitely something that I learned.

Some more fun things: Bishop and I now have a good relationship with each other. He's apologized to me A LOT for that first Sunday and we've finally established that I've forgiven him. He knows how much I want to learn the language too, so he's speaking to me in Aklanon now. However, he still likes to practice his English, so sometimes he'll speak English and I'll speak Tagalog/Aklanon as much as I can. We were doing this the other day when he said, "Sister Danner, I just have to tell you, you are not as white as you were when you got here. Your cheeks are now this pinkish/whiteish color, which means that you are getting sun, and the rest of your face is darker. Sister Danner, you're getting tanner!" Hahahaha. It made me laugh pretty hard. Sister Danner you're getting tanner. That's pretty good. But I am darker. It is wonderful too. I've always been super white! It's nice to be getting a tan. Don't worry, I'm taking care of my skin, it's fine. It just sort of comes with working out in it all day.

Another fun fact: Yesterday it probably dropped to about 70 degrees and I was FREEZING!!! Seriously, so COLD! And I've only been here 6 weeks! Home is going to be rough when I return in about 14 months (?). I don't even know how I'm going to handle it. Today is pretty cold too (again, about 70 degrees probably). I might wear a sweater to FHE tonight. We always get invited to FHE's with members, but tonight it's a less-active and we're hoping it really goes well. This family really needs to be reunited together. Wish us luck! :)

All right, I am out of time. Just one last little message though: Look for the small miracles during the day. Don't get frustrated when the big ones don't happen. We're having a hard time with some of our investigators, and getting them to progress, and get to church. We had about 10 commit to come to church, and only one came. But you know, that one man we only taught one brief lesson to, and he's 50 years old, has no family, and is very independent. But he came, and he made a friend, and seemed to really enjoy what he was learning. We could have been frustrated that the other nine didn't come, but instead we chose to focus on the one that did, and the small miracle that that was. Another small miracle was that that little girl is still reading the Book of Mormon, and not only that, but she's now labeled it as hers and has tabs for 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, 3 Nephi, and 4 Nephi. She really likes Nephi. I don't think she realizes 3 and 4 are different people, but that's okay. So again, we could be upset that her mom still doesn't have time for us to teach her, but instead we choose to rejoice in the faith of this little girl. We're praying about what we can do for her too, to get her to baptism even though her parents aren't progressing. The mom likes us, but she's too busy, and we haven't even met the dad. We will see, and I'll keep you posted.

But yes, the little miracles. The little day to day miracles. Focus on those, be grateful for them, do your part, and let God do the rest.

Thank you for all your letters, love, prayers, and support! It really does mean the world to me!

Love you all!
Sister Danner

Monday, February 21, 2011