Monday, March 7, 2011

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