Monday, January 31, 2011

Love, Kristen - Week 14


This week was better. Thank you for the letters. It looks like mail takes about a month to get here. I still haven't read them. It's been a crazy day. But I appreciate it. Mail here is extremely expensive so know that I will write you back, but how soon is going to be based on how much money I have at the end of each month. I'm sorry. But I do love mail, and it really helps me a lot, so please keep writing me. Especially the happy things. It helps me when people are happy. If you're miserable, I'm sorry. That's all I can do about that though. Pray and ask God for help.

I'm sorry if my tone is tense right now. I have had a good week. But I'm going through a bit of a trial right now with my companion that I'm hoping will get resolved soon. I'm just kind of angry at her right now to be honest. But moving on...I want to talk about the good parts of this week.

I love, love, love our investigators. I love tracting. I love going out and finding people. I am so happy when I get to go out and teach the gospel! My language skills are not perfect, but they are getting much better, and I am beginning to understand people already. Heavenly Father has really blessed me. Sometimes I understand more details of what they're saying, and sometimes only the general topic. And they're speaking Aklanon, not Tagalog. The gift of tongues is real. I'm working on making it even better though. I feel strongly like I need to keep learning Tagalog. Every time I pray that's the answer that I get. So I'm still studying Tagalog and speaking Tagalog. People understand me too. I'm not so fluent that I'm confident in teaching an entire lesson or anything, but Sister Sablan will put me on the spot to explain a scripture or to bear my testimony about something, and I usually do all right. But my very, very, very favorite thing in the world is teaching The Restoration!! I looooovvveeee telling the Joseph Smith story!! And Sister Sablan lets me do it every single time and I am so grateful to her for that. I do it in Tagalog, but the people still understand me. Actually, people up here are very, very smart. They understand Tagalog and all the other languages spoken on this island. But anyways, I tell the story in Tagalog, simply and understandably, and I loooovvvveee seeing the light that comes into their eyes at the end. Oh and especially when I recite the first vision!!! It's so amazing and wonderful! This gospel is so true! The Holy Ghost really does bear witness that Joseph Smith is a prophet called of God to restore Christ's true church to the earth again!! It touches that light of Christ already in them and it's so incredible to see. I love it.

A few of our investigators are sick right now so they weren't able to come to church yesterday, but two did, and they liked it. One wants to be baptized. We have three people committed for baptism right now. I'm happy about that, and we'll keep working with the others. So far everyone likes our message. We did have one retention this week, my very first, but that's just the way it goes sometimes I guess. She said that she knew everything that we had taught her was true, but that she's happy with her own religion. It seems strange, but people do have their agency.

I think I painted a weird picture of the Philippines in my last email. The people here ARE fascinated by my white skin, and there are some that are a little more confident in letting me know that they think I'm beautiful, but for the most part Filipinos are very respectful, and actually quite shy. But they do stare. The children like to wave at me and follow me around. Teenagers will say whatever they know in English ("Hello!" "Where are you going?" "You're so beautiful!!" "Good evening!") or just the whispered, "Kana, Kana, Kana," Haha. For awhile it was driving me crazy, but thanks to another white american elder here, Elder Workman, I've accepted the fact that they're going to treat me like a celebrity. It was so funny. His companion, Elder Ahquin, is our district leader. Elder Ahquin was helping another sister out, and Sister Sablan had me go to Elder Workman for language help. He said, "What is keeping you from talking to everyone?" And one of my replies was, "They treat me like a celebrity. And, I don't want to encourage the boys who like me just because of my white skin."

He wrote that down, then continued asking me what was stopping me. Then a little later we talked about each thing and in response to the one I mentioned above he said, "Sister, you don't want them to treat you like a celebrity. However, you need to accept the fact that to them, YOU ARE ONE. But, you need to remember that you are not a celebrity of the world."

"Of course," I replied.

"So, what do you do? You wave to them, smile, talk to them. You have so many opportunities to talk to people because you are white!"

"All right, all right. I'll accept the fact that they're going to stare and treat me different, but I'll turn them into teaching opportunities."

"Right. Now, you don't want to encourage the boys. Sister, there's something you should know about boys. We don't get discouraged."

I groaned. Then I looked him straight in the eye and said, "Why? Why don't you take no for an answer?!"

He smiled. "It's because of the 'What if?' We know it's never going to happen, but it's all about the fantasy. Maybe someday I'll meet Megan Fox right? No, it's not going to happen. However, sister, you are first of all, a sister. Not only are all sisters beautiful, but they have a sort of glow about them. On top of that, you're a different race. They can't help but notice you. And then on top of THAT, you can speak their language!!! Oh sister, they're going to fall in love with you!"

I groaned again.

"But, what do you do when this happens?"

"I do not know."

"You go talk to them!!"


"Yes! You go up to them. Say hello. Give them a pamphlet! Give them your phone number! [Sister Sablan told me later that we do not do that]. Let them know who you are, and that you're not going to be all buddy-buddy with them, but go talk to them. They need the gospel too! One of our investigators who's about to be baptized started being taught by us because she was attracted to my white skin. I've set the boundaries, and she knows that. But anything can be turned into a teaching experience. Don't be stupid of course. If they're drunk or just messing around, don't talk to them. But if they're just noticing you and trying to get your attention, go talk to them."

I laughed. "All right. I'll try it."

And well, no, I have not had to talk to any horomonal boys yet, I still sort of ignore them because it's weird, but I have embraced the fact that I'm white, and have been friendly to people all week. They do love the fact that I'm white, and love it even more when I wave to them and talk to them. So it's been good. The attention is always appropriate. Mostly it's really just staring. Sometimes they'll want to shake my hand. But it's all good.

The Philippines is gorgeous. We went on a hike today to a waterfall and it was amazing!! There's nothing like it at home. I took pictures and if I ever figure out how to upload them I will. I just don't know how to do it on these computers. The hike was kind of rough. We hiked through rivers and over small boulders, and through cobwebs, but we survived. In the end the waterfall was definitely worth it. 8 sisters, 2 elders. Yep, that's our district. Those patient, patient elders :). They had two rules: no whining, and no they were not going to carry our stuff for us. Haha. We did pretty good at following the rules. There was a little whining about going through cobwebs, but I think that's understandable.

Some areas we tract in are really beautiful too. My very favorite is Mobo. If I ever have to live in the Philippines, I'm living there. It is jungle like, but not so deep jungle like that you feel like you're isolated from civilization. It's just peaceful and relaxing and very beautiful. I have pictures too. Later, later.

One of the most fun things though is either taking a couple boats to cross the Aklan rivers to get to our investigators in Bachao Norte, or crossing over the rickety bamboo bridge to get there. It's always an adventure. The first boat we take is one that you have to stand up on. A raft is basically placed over this canoe like thing, and you just find your balance as they row you across it. The second one is a canoe with a motor. It's all an adventure and very beautiful. It's a little on the expensive side though, so ever since Sister Sablan and I discovered the bamboo bridge from Numancia to Bachao Norte we've been taking that. It is a little scary, but it is safe, and we're getting faster now as we cross it. The water below us is deep enough that it wouldn't hurt if we fell, but not so deep or has so strong a current that we'd drown. Not by any means. We'd just get laughed at like crazy. Sister Sablan is still scared though, but she takes comfort in the fact that I've lifeguarded for many years.

For awhile I didn't use my alarm clock, because roosters and caribou would wake me up each morning. But now I'm beginning to sleep through them. That was interesting though.

Basically, I'm beginning to love the Filipino way of life. They're a very creative, yet simple people. They're poor, but they're pretty happy. They're extremely smart, but they just don't have opportunity. As far as being an American goes, and having to get used to laundry by hand, limited running water, bucket showers, dirt, etc. it's been a huge adjustment. But I had my interview with President Pagaduan this week, and I didn't even bring up any of this as a concern. I actually didn't even know it was bothering me. But he is so inspired. Towards the end of my interview, he paused, and I could tell he was listening to the spirit. He then little by little said this to me, "I think it's important to remember too that the Savior was born in a manger. He grew up without many of the things that he perhaps would have liked or even deserved. He lived a very humble life. And he was a king! And yet, he never complained or wished for more. He simply lived the life that His father wanted him to live."

It was exactly what I needed to hear. And I didn't even know it. I really am so used to the comforts of life, and now that many of them had been taken away from me, I was unhappy. I didn't know it was bothering me though until President Pagaduan said that. I thanked him very much, and ever since that, cold bucket showers haven't been so bad :). Washing clothes by hand hasn't been so bad either. Nothing has been so bad anymore, because Christ didn't have any of the things that I'm used to. He lived a simple life. He preached the gospel to people every day. He went about doing good, and what Heavenly Father wanted him to. And now I have the chance to live the kind of life He did. Simple, yet wonderful. No, I will not be perfect like he was, or anything even remotely close. But I get the chance to experience a small part of what He experienced every day. And I'm so grateful for that opportunity.

I know that this church is true. I know that this gospel is "the way, the truth, and the light," because it is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that families can be together forever. I know so many wonderful things, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity that I have to go share with others. Crossing bridges, riding trikes, travelling by boat, learning a new language, getting used to a new culture...all to see the light come into others eyes when they hear the restored gospel for the first time...and then again every time we go back. It is hard, very, very hard, but it is sooo worth it.

I love you all! I'll write more next week!
Sister Danner