Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Week 12 - Merry Christmas

This week was Christmas and that means...Christmas Zone Conference! It definitely was the best zone conference yet. Awkward/missionary appropriate games and skits followed by some spiritual enlightenment and Filipino catering. (The elders always love the food part.)

San Jose Sisters
This week I got to pick up my NEW companion, Sister Ricketts from Dayton, Nevada. Straight from the MTC! It's always the first few moments of awkwardness when you get a new companion, but we got over that quickly. My first week as a trainer is definitely the most exhausting. I have a feeling I will just be tired pretty much every day for the next 12 weeks. Not that I haven't already been exhausted every day. Every day as a missionary you constantly evaluate yourself and ask what you could do better. (Usually that list is longer than the list of good things you did that day.) Becoming a trainer, especially when I still feel like a new missionary, I've found that I multiply that list of things I need to do better by 10, and then you factor in no sleep, no eating, just STRESS. Constant stress. Because you realize you don't know what the heck you're doing every day and every hour of the day. I've really realized how real the Atonement is for us. The only way we can get through these trials is if we rely on the Savior's atonement.  I think sometimes in life we just want to run away from hard things because we don't believe in ourselves. But Christ reminds us of who He thinks we are what we can become. Even though it takes some refinement and hard experiences, The Lord knows that these will make us better. The road to discipleship is never easy and never will be but it's worth it. And I only have 12 weeks to help this sister feel of Heavenly Father's love for her.

Branch Christmas Party!
At zone conference we watched The Nativity and it made me think about how Christ really was the epitome of humility, even when he was born. He was born in humble circumstances, to a humble mother, and lived a humble selfless life. Everything about his life was humble and meek. This Christmas, President Peterson reminded us that the only thing we have to really give to Christ is our hearts. I was reminded of the song Consider the Lily's that says, "He will heal those who trust him, and make their hearts as gold." The process by which our hearts become gold is not easy. In fact, it's sometimes even painful. Refining our lives to become more like him is painful. But after all that, Christ promises us to make our hearts as gold. And who wouldn't want a heart of gold, crafted by our Savior? I think that's the most precious kind of gold there is.

CHRISTMAS EVE ROCKED. We ate mac and cheese and some other Filipino dishes that I don't remember the name of or the ingredients in. (I think I've finally gotten over that and just decided not to ask since most of their dishes have either pork or chicken.) Christmas day we skyped our families which was hectic. Actually, everything was just hectic. Cleaning, laundry, etc.---All the normal activities of Preparation Day. But then add running around to all the internet shops trying to find enough cameras to skype. Everyone and their dog is out and about on this day, all trying to go to the same place, LIPA! After we finally were able to skype our families, we went and ate a BOMB dinner with the senior couple missionaries, the one and only Elder and Sister Smith. Potatoes, ham, and veggies! LOVE AMERICAN FOOD. With three American sisters now living together in one house with one Filipina, we were pretty excited to see some of our country's good food.

Even though my Christmas was spent differently this year, I'm more grateful than ever to be
here. I know that through these trials I will be able to become more like Christ, even though it's hard and painful at times I hope that my heart can be crafted into Gold by the Master who knows all things. He knows how to change us if we let him. But we have to let him do what He needs to so we can change. This year I'm giving my heart to Christ and becoming the person He needs me to be in this ever changing world.

Maligayang Pasko Y'ALL and a Happy New Year!

Sister Seastrand

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Week 11

This week has definitely been a very tiring week to say the least. Who am I kidding though. EVERY WEEK is tiring.

This week on Thursday we went to good old San Pablo to meet with all the new trainers. Traveling ALL DAY is definitely not the most fun thing to do. As soon as I left that meeting I felt an extreme amount of weight/mantle on my shoulders to be perfect. Becoming a trainer isn't easy one bit... and my trainee isn't even here. I JUST finished the 12 week training program and now I have to train? WHY. President told all the new trainers in the meeting how this church is a church of callings that we don't always ask for. But we take them and magnify them as much as possible, and do our best never looking back but looking forward at all the things we can do. He also told us how much he prayed and fasted for revelation to who would train. That made me feel a little better to know that it wasn't just any calling, but something that truly was thought out. And then he told us how trainers set the course for the trainee's entire mission. And then I felt that mantle get just a little bit heavier. Sometimes when President talks I just slump in my chair because I know he is always right, and I quickly change the way I think because I know I am always wrong. Most of the time.

Too many times on this mission do I always ask, "Why?"

"Why do I have to do this?"
"Why is this so hard?"
"Why am I getting a new companion at Christmas?"


Christ never asked why. He just did. He did ALL that the Father asked with a willing and loving heart. His sacrifice was the supreme expression of love. And so maybe I should tweak this question a leeeetle bit and stop asking "Why?" and instead ask "What?"

"What can I learn from this?"
"What can I do to help my new companion feel happy even though she just said goodbye to her country and everything she knew?"
"What can I do to become more like my Savior?"

How about we always ask the "What" instead of the "Why." Just change the one worded question that we always ask when we receive something hard. I promise it will change your entire outlook on your trials, hardships, challenges, good times, etc., and just on life in general.

It does not even FEEL like Christmas to me, maybe because it doesn't even look like Christmas when you're living on some islands with palm trees. And you can't disregard the fact that I just sweat. Everywhere, everyday, ALL THE TIME. I'm pretty sure Christmas is supposed to be WHITE. And cold. I would definitely have to say that is a tender mercy from the Lord--mostly cause I think if I saw snow, I would just die and want to go home. Heavenly Father knows us WELL. Especially the details.
We went and watched the Christmas devotional at Lipa on Sunday. It was awesome. Honestly the talks were sublime.

Nothing can ever top the Christmas Devotional with the Prophet. I especially liked Elder Nelson's talk about Christ.

Christmas really is different here on a mission. Not for the obvious reasons, but for the reasons that most people like Christmas for: Stuff. I think it's because on your misson, you have no stuff. You just have your companion, and the people around you to make you happy. I realized how much we emphasize stuff at Christmas, but what happens when Christmas is over, and the anticipation has died down? What do we have left? These people have nothing all year round, and yet they have shown me what true happiness is and it surely does not come from stuff. Happiness comes from the Savior. Our true and lasting peace will ALWAYS come from Him and His gospel. So instead of being a Grinch this Christmas about being away from home, becoming a new trainer who doesn't know anything, and having a brand new companion that I'm not used to, (because there are many things I could say that are hard right now at this point in my mission), what if I listed all the things I was grateful for? What if I gave the gift of compassion and most importantly, the Gospel? What if I helped someone give their heart to Christ this Christmas? These things are the REAL meaning of Christmas. Not letting another year go to waste, on stuff. (Although I do miss some of my stuff.)

But stuff will ALWAYS be there. Our relationship with our Savior might not always be there.

I'm so grateful for this Christmas season that we have to strengthen our testimonies of Christ and give our hearts more fully to Him to heal us, just like He wants to if we will let Him. Here's to a new companion this Thursday and Christmas with palm trees and hot sunny days.

xoxo, Sister Seastrand

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Week 10

This week has been a very interesting one, yet really good. First, our tracting is starting to pay off, and now we have a nice big teaching pool full of investigators who want to hear the gospel, which is PERFECT!

Minda, one of the investigators we have debated dropping for awhile has come out of nowhere this week.

She is never home every time we go to teach her, and she has been really cold to us lately.... we decided we would give her a break for awhile and see if she still is interested in our message. She has been telling us that she wants to be baptized, and yet she hasn't kept the one commitment we have extended to her at least a dozen times: Will you come to church? We decided to go to her one more time and give her our expectations and let her know we really need her to come to church if she has a desire to be baptized. We know she has a testimony and knows that it is true, but every Sunday we hope and pray she will come....but nope. Not to be seen. This week we taught her. She opened up to us and told us how hard her trials have been, and just cried and cried. We told her how much we cared about her and how much we wanted to help her and how the gospel could help her. We then extended the commitment:   Will you come to church this Sunday?
Waiting for a bus in Lipa
We get to the chapel and are standing in the doorway of our tiny little meeting house. Just waiting. Looking at the gate to see if she will turn the corner into our chapel. Feeling really, REALLY doubtful, looking at the rain come down, Then there she was! Walking with her little baby and an umbrella. Minda came to church this week! And she even shared in Relief Society her story. And the best part is, she loved it. And wants to come again. Sometimes the best things happen when we want to give up most. The Lord is always so patient with us.. Why should we not be patient with our fellow men?

This mission has taught me a lot about patience. Patience in learning the language, patience in your investigators, and patience in the Lord. All of those things are really hard, and yet as we are patient we learn more about God. I think this life isn't just about overcoming sin. It's about learning how God lives, everyday. And as we overcome our sins and weaknesses, we learn more about how our Heavenly Father lives, and what he wants us to live like, too.
Local Cemetary...no "6 feet under" here!

It's great, this mission life. Really. It's perfect. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Transfers are coming up soon......not so sure how I feel about being with a new companion again, but I gotta have that faith that the Lord knows me and what I need in this mission. It will be DEC 18. One week before Christmas! I REFUSE TO BE TRANSFERRED! YOU CANT MAKE ME GO PRESIDENT! (If only I could really say that.)

The best part about missions is you learn all your faults and strengths all at the same time. And you grow with each investigator, as you extend them commitments you can also keep yourself. This gospel is TRUE. It's perfect and everything we need. Anything and everything else we get is just extra stuff. I'm grateful to be here. The Philippines are a blessed country and they are so ready for the gospel, I can't even handle it.

Merry Christmas!

Here's to another week in my new home,
xoxo, Sister Seastrand

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Week 9

What a week.

Actually, I say that every week. But this week has been great. Well, hard and great at the same time. I don't know how that works out here, but it does.

We had Mission Tour on our regular P-day, which was awesome. Elder Brent Nielson and his wife are a golden couple. They are amazing. And it was cool to meet someone that is with the prophet and the quorum of the twelve on a regular basis. I literally got to talk to him face to face, eat some lunch with him, and snap a cool picture with him. Successss!

With Sister Nielson
We all gathered in the wonderful Lipa chapel, and all the sisters first met together with Sister Nielson (who is ABSOLUTELY amazing). I can't even tell you. You had to be there, I guess. Her spirit is so incredibly strong, and you just feel it when she speaks. She talked to us about how our missions prepare us for motherhood and recognizing the holiness of what we do every day in each choice. She told us a story about when she was a young mother with 6 little ones running around the house, she came in one day and just looked at all the mess. Toys and crumbs everywhere. She was so frustrated she grabbed a rake from the garage and just started to rake everything into the middle of the room.... (Haha--funniest thing watching her describe this.) She said that after she had everything in a giant pile she just stepped back and looked at it all and had a thought. She thought about how much she loved those children. She talked about how all those toys she bought were for the learning of these spirits and that all the crumbs meant that they were fed and watched out for. She talked about the holiness in everyday life and how each of the things we do each day help us learn about God's life and how he lives. In holiness and order. (Doesn't the temple say, "Holiness to the Lord?") Even the simple and small things I do as a missionary are holy and orderly. I realized how much holiness goes into one day as a missionary and consecrating your decisions to the Lord.

This week I have been thinking a lot about why the heck I'm here. Every morning I wake up and I'm like, "I'm STILL here?" But the Lord has shared with me a little insight: Maybe I'm here because I can really relate to these people's lives. The Filipino people love the Lord, but they don't always obey. They don't like to show it all the time. Mostly, they just accept Christ in their heart and call it good. But, as I've looked over my life and past 19 years here in this world, I realized something that could most definitely change my entire existence. I've always accepted Christ in my heart but never really actually tried to live His gospel. I've always had a belief in Him and His gospel, but I've never really lived it how I should... till now. And maybe that's one reason I'm in this country. To relate with these people and let them know there's a way to accept Christ not just in our hearts but in our lives.

Being a missionary, you get to enjoy really spiritual times. Sometimes your most intense soul-moments happen while you're washing your clothes in a bucket. and then using that same bucket to shower. What a life, I tell you. THE BEST!

This week I learned how the Lord works in mysterious ways. We went to visit a woman named Miraquel that lives near us in Calansayan. She seemed interested at first, but I knew that after she heard my Tagalog is was all over. She literally runs away from us. (Sometimes I can't tell if people like me cause I'm American or hate me cause I'm a Mormon American missionary. It's one concept I can't seem to figure out.) I decided one night that we should just try one more time, even though we had no hope in getting a lesson or even a short message with her, since she's been MIA for the last while. We went and there she was, doing her washing and looking so devastated to see us (hahaha).Let's just say the whole feeling was a little awkward and tense. Her husband has been hanging around whenever we've shared a message with her, but he's always acting kinda crazy from the alcohol. He saw us while Sister Tafiti and I are just enjoying some awkward conversation with Miraquel. (The kind missionaries have when you and your investigator both know they've been running away from you.) He pulled up two chairs and said something I'd never thought I'd hear: "Hey, come sit down, I really want to listen to you guys." IS THIS REAL LIFE? Cause really we never hear that EVER! Alex started telling us about his life. Literally giving us an autobiography. He told us how he has been saved from death so many times and he has had a Book of Mormon sitting in his house for quite some time now.. And he knows that we were sent to share the message with him because he needs to accept God in his life. He used to be Islamic, and then Catholic and then he got sick of paying so much money and now he's just a wanderer. Coolest lesson probably EVER thus far on my mission.

The Lord is so funny sometimes. And how grateful I am to be here to witness His plan come forth in this country. Missionaries and members are the most vital part of His great work, and I know that He is counting on us in these last days to help gather his sheep. YAY for a great week, with more to come. And, I'm proud to say that I haven't even eaten anything too weird or crazy yet, hopefully that will keep up! But since my luck is about as good as my Tagalog, its probably most DEFINITELY won't.

Sister Seastrand

Monday, November 18, 2013

Week 8

One word that would sum up this whole week and probably my life for the next 15 months: Determination.

We had the craziest week! So much has happened and so much to tell. Let's start with a little tender mercy from Heavenly Father that I really needed:

A few weeks ago on the jeepney on our way to the San Jose hospital we were coming back from Lipa. I was just enjoying the bumpy ride back to our home town until 10 minutes had passed and I just had the feeling like someone was just watching me. Good thing these moments can tend to be extremely awkward and maybe turn bad.

I had been sitting by this cute little woman wearing a cute little white cap, and a big carry on full of stuff to sell who had been STARING me down. Not just checking out my badge or pondering on how to ask if I happened to be American, but seriously staring... not that I'm not used to that or anything...this woman was determined to talk to me.

I finally turn awkwardly and look at her stuff and asked her where she was going and she told me about how she sells little trinkets on the road, and we start talking like we are old friends or something. Conversation is going GREAT. Perfect timing for me to slide my missionary purpose right on in there with my broken Tagalog. She started asking me questions about our church and I basically just gave her the entire Lesson one overview of Joseph smith and such. I couldn't believe my ears when she told me that she did not have a set religion and that she was just experimenting many to see which one was true....

Can you say, "Golden Investigator".

I asked her if we could share more about the gospel of Jesus Christ with her and she said, "yes" and I said, "um, GREAT!" I could not contain how I was feeling inside!

Missionary Tip 101: Don't forget to get the potential investigator's number.

We get off the jeep and I realized I didn't even have her name or number...FAIL.

I'm telling the sisters about my ever so successful OYM (remember? this means "Open Your Mouth) and then Sister Tafiti asks, "Great! So did you get her number?"

YEP. Trust me, still having it rough and feeling dumb over here. It's been a rough couple of weeks thinking of how we could find her. I thought about her every day since I saw her.

But here's the best part: We were walking to Zone Meeting at the Chapel on Thursday and see our wonderful District Leader buying his daily dunkin' donuts... and lo and BEHOLD...She is standing right there. Talking to the elders. I could NOT believe my eyes. She was being OYM'ed by the elders. We hugged and started talking... Anyway, long story short, got her name and number and a day and time to teach her. Coincidence, I think NOT.

Diligence is KEY and sometimes even though we mess up, the Lord helps us and gives us a second chance. I know seeing her again was not by chance. Being in the right place at the right time can work wonders as a missionary.
Speaking of being at the right place at the right time, we also gained another golden investigator. Her name is Belen. Here we are just deciding to tract in a random village by the cemetery in Don Louise. We're OYMing this guy and as soon as we get his info, this lady come up to us and asked us, "Who are you?" Perfect question. We told her who we were and shared our purpose, and the next thing we knew, we were in her house teaching her Lesson One. She told us about her husband dying from sickness. The next part just brings a little tear to my eye. She told us how she would always walk by our chapel on Don Louise

Road, and tell her daughter that she wanted to go inside, but her daughter said, "That's only for Mormons. You can't go inside."

This sister is so ready and prepared for the gospel. She was so excited to see us and felt like she really needed to talk to us. AMAZING PEOPLE here in this mission.

Despite all of the sadness from the typhoon, the Lord is really blessing Sister Tafiti and I. We had a very successful week, and many new investigators are ready to hear us. It's all about being in the right place at the right time.
Since the devastation in Tacloban from the typhoon, we will be getting a whole BUNCH of new missionaries from that mission. There won't be any more missionaries in that mission anymore since Tacloban is completely wiped out. So incredibly sad. We're excited to help them and welcome these amazing missionaries into San Pablo. Their stories will be so humbling to hear.
Something President Peterson told us at zone training this week has been ringing in my ears. He said, "Stop looking back and consecrate your life to serving the lord." When we give our lives to the Lord, he makes us so much more than we could be. Full- time missionary or not, we can all consecrate our lives to serve God. We should be, always! We already made the decision to do so when we were baptized. How grateful I am and humbled to be wearing such a great badge everyday that is a beacon to the world of who we are and what we believe. I know it's true. There's no way it's not.
Sister Seastrand

Monday, November 11, 2013

Week 7 - Typhoon!

Well this week has been BIZARRE to say the least. Really though, it's been insaaaane! There's always those people that try and determine when the world will end..."The world will be ending December 13, 2013". And usually they are just silly people that no one really believes anyway, especially members of the church.

Until this week.

I was literally waiting to hear someone announce on a big megaphone saying, "The end of the world has come." And then say, "Told ya so, Sister Seastrand!"

First of all, every single one of our investigators ran away from us. haha but really...No one likes us anymore.

Second, we had the largest typhoon ever in the history of... ever. Clearly I didn't watch the news, but we got texts from fellow missionaries in our areas telling us about the devastation in Tacloban. So much loss of life and so much destruction. Seriously, the saddest thing ever.

Over here in San Pablo? Oh, we had just a little bit of wind and rain. When I say little, I mean A LOT. I'm pretty positive the ocean just decided to give us a nice big bath or something. I was about ready to find a modern day Noah, and ask him to just build me a nice big boat and take us safely to the mission home. I'm pretty sure we had enough rain that I wasn't sure if we were in Noah's day or ours. Along with the rain, we had wind that was uprooting and taking everything into the ocean with it, including our laundry and shoes, haha. We were instructed to stay in our apartments for two days because this typhoon was coming our way, and would be here to stay for awhile.

Our ZL's gave us a call to make sure we had enough candles, water, and food for our 72 hour kits... OK let me just say that "food storage" in America is A LOT less stressful than it is here in the Philippines, mostly because we can work on building up our food storage and it's good for the next 5-20 years. Yeah, NOT HERE. The food here doesn't have any kind of 'shelf life', not to mention the items here are so much different than America... We really are the promised land. We've got it all. My heart starts to palpitate a little faster every time we talk about these 72 hour kits cause I'm tellin you, the typhoons here are insane. (Not to mention scary.)

We got all of our buckets filled with water and candles lit, and just sat and listened to the intense wind, making guesses that if we dared walk outside what country we'd land in..... or the ocean. We just sat there, thinking of our families and homes, but mostly everyone being affected by this terrible storm. There were a few highlights/journal moments for me and since we were confined to our house for the next who knew how long, we just studied and wrote letters. (Oh, and read the Book of Mormon AND Bible three times, cover to cover. NOT. If that had happened, I would probably be the scriptorian everyone assumes me to be.)

What really happened: I actually read a talk about the Atonement by Elder David A. Bednar. What a guy. He gave me some really great insights that I think everyone should consider. He talked about how most of us think about the Atonement in terms of "cleansing and healing the sinners."

Here's a fun fact: The Atonement does so much MORE than that. It enables us and gives us POWER. Man, I don't know about you, but I never even thought about that part. Elder Bednar was saying that both the enabling and cleansing powers work together to fully cleanse us and make us into better and better (and finally, the best) people. This life isn't just about becoming good to better, or even bad to good. It's about becoming our absolute best for the Lord. We do that through both the enabling and cleansing power of the atonement. What an amazing thing to think of and thank our Heavenly Father for!

After I read every single Liahona issue from 2010-2012, we all got our mattress pads in the living room and slept on the floor, together 'as sisters in Zion'. This whole experience was so interesting and different and hard, but had some great moments I will never forget. We woke up on Sunday and looked outside (after enduring the last two days of straight wind and rain) to behold the earth around us. Everything was not where it used to be. Not even some trees, or houses. It's a good thing we're even alive and safe. I've never been more grateful for the house we have, that protected us and kept us safe even in the midst of what seemed like the end of the world. We were so protected and watched over by the God that created us all.
District Meeting (before the typhoon)
In spite of everything that has happened with the typhoon, no sleep for a straight 48 hours, and all our investigators running away from us, I learned more about my Savior and Joseph Smith than I have my whole mission so far.

How grateful I am for that wonderful prophet of God who restored this gospel knowledge. And how even more grateful I am for a loving Savior who shows me infinite love and mercy every day of my life.

Missions are really hard. But I would not trade this experience for anything. If you're thinking about serving a mission and wondering if you really should, then call your bishop and tell him you want to set up an appointment to start your papers. The badge you will wear and the badge I wear everyday is the best piece of plastic ever made.

In spite of everything here, I hope everyone is continuing in patience and hope in the gospel. I know I am! Come what may and love it!

Sister Seastrand

Monday, November 4, 2013

Week 6

Transfer Week. Booya!

This week we officially have a new investigator. It's about time right?! Right.

Sister Miraquel and family. She is so ready to hear this gospel, I can't even tell you. We taught her lesson one overview and gave her a good ole Restoration pamphlet. And the best thing is, she wants us to come back! When we found her tracting, we walked up to their house and it's like they're partying like it's 1995. Her husband and friends are getting pretty drunk.... Anyways, we walk up and say, "Hey we're missionaries for the church of Jesus Christ. Could we share with you a message?"  (Mostly, that's all I can say in Tagalog anyway) Everyone is pointing and staring at me but hey, that's just a daily occurrence. In spite of everyone and their loudness, Sister Miraquel pulls two chairs up for us and we teach her. The spirit was so strong there, and It was AMAZING how attentive she was. It was still pretty crazy and I definitely can see why they tell you to teach people in member's homes or the chapel, cause it was getting CRAZY haha... Yeah, won't do that again. SO.... yeah. other than that, This week has been pretty slow moving, but some good things are happening here in San Jose!!

This week is TRANSFERS. I'm freaking out because my nanay has been here for like 4 months and I'm pretty sure she's taking her stuff and hitting the road.... I'm stressing over here. Hopefully we can stay together just a little bit longer cause we really do love each other so much. She's really grown and we've really helped each other become better missionaries.

This week was Halloween. OK-- Halloween in the Philippines is quite different from America's Halloween..... actually it's ALOT different. No costumes, no trick or treating, not even candy...

Everyone goes to the cemetery ALL DAY, and just sits by the graves of their loved ones. It was really interesting because all the streets had a million flowers (and people trying to sell flowers) for the graves. It was gorgeous to see flowers rather than trash and pigs running around. But it was really rough since everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) was at the cemetery so Sister Tafiti and I got punted.... the whole DAY. We looked at each other after our 3rd hour of tracting and said, "Soooo.... now what?" We literally just walked the streets of Galamay-Amo and just enjoyed the flower-scented polluted air of San Jose and talked about gospel things, and our mission. Here's some spiritual stuff I have been thinking:

Here's what I thought about missions: You come out thinking you know it all, once you've been thru the MTC. You come out thinking your testimony is PRIME TIME and that you are already the person you want to be, and that your prepared for any and every hardship that comes your way. (Does anyone else EVER feel like this, or is it just me? Cause if you have, you are NOT ALONE. And if you haven't, then it would have been cool to know how I could have avoided this dilemma.)

Here's the reality about missions: You come out here, experience the PITS. Heavenly Father gives you tough trials. Moldy apartments, bad food, mosquito bites everywhere, sweating all the day long, and people that simply just don't care what you have to say.
BUT-- in spite of all that and more, He gives you, YOU. He gives you all of that so you can see who you are, and who you were meant to be. I firmly believe that we all were bound to be stellar, awesome, amazing, and every other good quality that Christ has, before we came to earth. ALL OF US.

Point: We ALL have the greatest potential to become something GREAT, but so often we don't realize it.

Being a missionary so far, I've learned a lot. But the thing about missionary work is that you're not trying to teach people about something foreign, you're teaching them something they have heard before- something that they have known and believed in before they came here to earth: and that is the plan- THE PLAN of Salvation! You are simply there to bring to their remembrance what they chose by coming to this life, and you are there to remind them of their relationship with Heavenly Father. The word "lost" doesn't always mean unknown. I think that the word "lost" for missionary work means "losing remembrance" or "forgetting". What an AMAZING and really hard thing, missionary work is. Every day I get that chance to remind people of who they are, why they are here, and what they can become.

God knows all of us. The Philippines is pretty big, and there's millions of people, and yet God knows each and every one of them PERSONALLY.  Don't ever think for one second that He doesn't remember you, that He has forgotten you, that he doesn't care about you. Because guess what? He hasn't. And He can't. It's simply impossible for Him NOT to love you!

I think more than anything I have realized how much God leads and guides us in our lives, and yet we sometimes don't see it or even acknowledge it. But I want anyone and everyone to know that if you feel forgotten, lost, or even just a little bit like God has been unfair to you, think of this: You have more potential and can become more with God than without Him.

The one thing I've learned since coming on my mission is that as we learn more about God, we learn more about ourselves and our potential. If you want to know who you really are, then take the time to learn about the gospel and you will find yourself. The gospel is without a doubt the best message anyone will ever hear. Share it! With everyone! Your mom, your friend, your boss. EVERYONE NEEDS TO HEAR THIS. Whether or not you wear a badge on the outside, you wear the badge on your heart when you were baptized! You have the responsibility to share this message. Forget yourself, forget your doubts, and fears and most importantly forget about what faith you don't have and SHARE IT.

I can't wait for this next week and what is up ahead, whatever it may be. Come what may and LOVE IT.

Sister Seastrand


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Week 5

Hello!!!! Week 5 already DONE! I honestly cannot believe I've been out here for one whole month! Time just never slows down does it? This week has been soo great and stressful all at the same time. So many things happened I just can't even tell all of them!

This week was Sister Tafiti's birthday! Woo-hoo! The big 22! We went to district meeting and then to Mang Inasal which is the BEST rice and chicken/pork on a stick. They give you unlimited rice and a HUGE piece of chicken for around 100 pesos (that's about $2.30). It was great. No wonder the elders love it so much (haha--they're always hungry). I can literally say I am a Filipina now since I ate with my hands! It was so fun! I'm surprised because that was the one thing I didn't want to do here, and I told myself I would take the culture in and become a part of it...except eating with my hands... Well, it wasn't that bad! It seriously takes some technique though, haha. Surprisingly, the Filipino elders in my district said I'm pretty good at it. :-)

Thursday we had our zone follow up training meeting. It was quite the long day for us since we had to travel to san pablo. We woke up at 5 and had to leave the house by 6 to get to the meeting by 10 am. It was so long! We took a jeepney, trike, jeepney, trike, and then a BUS to San Pablo. A tiny bus, might I add. The funny thing about the Philippines is everything is so SMALL! I feel like I am such a giant person every time we go anywhere. Probably cause I practically am... these cute Filipinos are just soo small. I love it. So we got to the bus stop and packed all four of us in the back of the bus with about 12 other people in the two front seats. It took us what seemed like forever to get to San Pablo City, but I tried not to focus on the fact that my body was all crumpled in a hot, tiny bus, and just take in the scenery. I just LOVE THIS PLACE. Seriously, I am SO lucky to be serving here. It's just beautiful everywhere we go. I'm so grateful to be in a province (aka, the booneys)---as opposed to a city---so that we can enjoy the wide open spaces of the palm trees and hear all the crazy animals in the morning. It's unreal, and I just feel like I'm on a vacation sometimes. I'm so lucky.

Friday we had exchanges, so I went to Lipa City and worked with one of the Sister Training Leaders, Sister Narciso. She is Filipina, and LITERALLY--I kid you not--barely 5 feet tall!!! She is the cutest. I was excited to be working with her and hear her cute little Ilocano accent all day. Lipa is HUGE. Seriously, it's so stressful. There's just people everywhere at all hours of the day, and so many cars. We taught four lessons, and then slept at their house. It was cool to be out of San Jose for a little bit in the city life. But I have to admit, it made me 10 times more grateful for my area. I learned so much from her. She's been out for 16 months so she had a lot of advice to give me. The thing that stuck out to me the most was not what she said, but her attitude all day. She was so happy and so positive about everything. She was OYM-ing so many people (open your mouth), and she wasn't afraid to talk to anyone and everyone, even if they rejected us! It really helped my confidence and I realized that people really look at our outward appearances more than what we say. As missionaries, especially as an Americana serving here, people stare at either us or our name tags all day. We are carrying the gospel of Jesus Christ with us 24/7! We should always be happy and smiling, especially when we are out and about, and showing people how the gospel makes us feel, truly feel, inside. Even as members, we should be doing that. There were so many kids just running after us, wanting to walk with us especially "The Barbie" (me. hehe) I just love the kids here. They are so loving, and serve each other so freely--especially the poor children. They work together and help each other out. It made me so grateful to have the family and siblings I have who just give so freely, and it made me realize how we should ALL give freely. Nothing we have is ours. Everything is God's, except our will. And as we give our will to God, he makes us the person we were always meant to become, before we even came to earth.

We have TWO new investigators!! The first is named Brother Jonathan who is a preacher for a Born-again Christian Church. We found him tracting our road in Calansayan (mostly cause his house looks like Jay Gatsby's mansion), and we thought, "Hey, we like a challenge." So we opened his wrought iron gate and walked up to the door and said, "tao po" (which means "people"). They don't have door bells and people don't knock, it's so fun! He came to the door and we told him who we were and he let us in and ALL of his family was just sitting in his living room. He has 5 sons who are all over the age of 16.  They immediately just started asking us a million questions about what we believe in the Bible. He was throwing out all of these references and the whole time I'm just thinking to myself, "Oh, good thing I know the bible like the back of my hand. NOT!" Needless to say, Sister Tafiti and I just left, wide-eyed and sweating. (haha) We decided that we wouldn't let it get the best of us and just really try and study for his lessons! He wants us to come back another day when he's not "busy". "Busy" in the Philippines means, "I ain't interested and I'm too lazy to listen to you right now." We won't give up! We will share the gospel with everyone, even if we are the only Mormons in our area and all of our neighbors are born-again Christian, like he said :) Haha. Everyone knows where we live in Calansayan. It's so funny and awkward when we start tracting new houses because we'll go up to people and they're like, "Oh yeah! We know who you are, you're the Mormons in the big pink house." And we say, "Uh, yes... And when did we meet you again?" So funny! Provinces are just the funnest thing. Everyone knows you, even before you meet anyone! Haha!

Ahh, how grateful and BLESSED I am as a missionary. I can feel my testimony just growing as I share this gospel message with these people. I know that the Lord is counting on us to share his plan of happiness. I'm so excited to continue this mission, despite my trials already here. I know that the Lord knows me. He knows all of us individually, and whenever I see the kids run up I just can't stop smiling! I love them. They're adorable! (I'm asking president if I can take one home. :)  Jokelang.

Well, that's all for this week! I'm excited for the lessons and investigators we have this week, and hopefully we will be able to help them come unto Christ more fully! keep reading, keep praying, and most importantly, REMEMBER. Here's a quote for the week said by our wonderful President Peterson at training meeting: "We need to learn to bend and bow in our relationships. That is a humble position."

I LOVE THAT! It's so true. When I heard that, this thought came to mind: Christ knelt when he suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane. Joseph Smith knelt in sincere prayer to find the truth. We always kneel in prayer in our companionships. It's so humble and submissive and it really does show respect for our Heavenly Father and a willingness to accept His will whatever it may be. Applying it to our companionships--and all our relationships--we can all learn to kneel and bend a little more in our relationships as we learn to work together. Think about it. Apply it. Thanks, President Peterson!

Sister Seastrand
"The Barbie" :)

Week 4

Week 4!

WOW! I cannot even believe that it's been 4 weeks already! Time is just flying right by. There's always so much to say, as usual, but this week has definitely been an interesting one.
Sooooo...Basically all of our investigators have either dropped us, not kept their commitments, or have not come to church. Actually, all three of those things have happened with pretty much everyone. It's been a really discouraging week to say the least. Sister Banzali (another sister in our house) got really sick and had to go to the Lipa Hospital. She ended up staying there the whole week, as Sister Tafiti and I tried to clean the entire house ourselves amongst doing our work of salvation.. We spent SO MUCH money on jeepney and tricycle fares to Lipa putting together bags of garments and clothes and other necessities... It made me think about my dad getting surgery on his hip... I'm not sure how ya did it mom, but I understand how you felt now!

Elder and Sister Smith (the senior couple in charge of checking all the apartments in our area) came by to take a look at our wonderfully spacious new house, bringing the extra washing buckets for laundry and showering. They ended up staying later, and we had an appointment and had to leave so they just told us they would lock the back door and leave the screen door open, and lock the front door and screen door. We weren't worried since we have a big yard with barbed wire fence around and pretty much no neighbors... We literally live in the forest. The walk home is always so lonely and depressing (haha), we always think of our first apartment in Poblacion 2 in San Jose and get so sad since it was next to everything... and civilization. But then we remember the mold and the lizards.. :)

Anyways. We get home after a long, unsuccessful day of tracting and canceled appointments, ready to plan and drop into bed. Lo and behold, we LITERALLY cannot get into our house because the back door is BROKEN! Bless his sweet little heart, Elder Smith didn't shut the door right and the door got stuck in an awkward position and it was jammed in there pretty good. Both of us tried to get it open, but it just would not budge. After deciding we only weighed 110 pounds each, there was no way in the world we would be getting into our apartment tonight. We just looked at each other and started laughing and crying at the same time. We thought about going back to Lipa and staying in the hospital with Sister Banzali until the morning, but we didn't have enough money to do that. After talking about it for 15 minutes, calling the STL's and our sisters, I said, "Ok kasama. We ARE getting into our house tonight. I refuse to sleep outside with these lizards and spiders." I don't know how I did this, but I did. Prepare to be amazed:

So, our windows are EXTREMELY high. We have two little ones right by our front door that also lead into the dining room. They're probably like... oh..... 10 feet high. They're also very tiny square windows. I thought of a genius idea to pry open the window and just crawl inside.

Literally, if I did this in America:
            a)  the alarm would go off and/or people would think I'm a robber and stuff; and
            b)  there's no way to open the window from outside

sooo I wouldn't be able to do it.

But, here in the Philippines:
            a) no house alarms
            b) apparently this is normal, and
            c) The windows don't have locks on them and they slide.


I had my kasama give me a boost (actually like 5 boosts) and I made it up onto the window sill. My kasama is just laughing her little head off the whole time and saying "What are you doing?! You're going to die! You're going to fall!" I Just sat and chilled there for a second feeling extremely proud of my ninja abilities and then realized how HIGH it actually was, and how I had no idea how in the heck I was going to get down...

I look at my kasama and say, "Soooo.... Now what?" We just bust up laughing, I'm sweating and wanting to cry and all we can say is "Elder Smith!!!!! WHYYY!!" hahaha "Never again!"

We had three plastic chairs outside, and I had the idea then to take one of those chairs and put it through the window and just carefully drop it and hope it lands on all fours so that I can slide down inside without breaking a limb or something. I tried the first two chairs and both of them fell over.

Well, looks like I'll be sleeping perched up on this window sill with all the lizards and ants. And birds.

I only had one chair left and so I just took a deep breath and tossed it and IT LANDED!! I slid down carefully without scrapping my arms, and just used my awesome arm strength to slide down slowly and carefully... Anyways, I landed, opened the door and my comp and I just fell on the couch laughing and thanking the heavens that we made it safe into our house. We just looked at each other and said, "Never AGAIN." It went in my journal, for sure. I never thought I would do half the things I've done on this mission... Each day brings something new and you just have to be creative and work with what you get. Usually those are the best moments, anyways.

Don't worry mom, I'm fine.

On another note about tricycle and jeepnee's..

OK seriously, the tricycle drivers all know me since I'm the only American sister in my area for the next 100 miles. I was riding on the back of one of the tricycles and as we drive by one of the trike stops, he honks his little horn and yells "Americana!! I have Americana!" They all cheer and hoot and holler. It's like a game or something, to see whose trike or jeepnee I will ride on! It was really awkward to say the least, I'm starting to just accept that people stare and point and take random pictures of me but all I really can do is just smile my little face off and say kamusta. Haha! It's just fun.

In spite of all the bad and weird things that happened to us, I'm excited for this week and the new adventures ahead. This work is really marvelous and is something we all have a duty to share. All of us! Badge or not, we can all think of someone we can talk to about our church. We can all think of someone that we can serve and do something for that is not of our faith. It's incredibly important to just SHARE the gospel. God is counting on US to share it. He needs us! I'm so grateful for this gospel, and I know that God knows me. I know that we can (and should) turn to him for every thing. I hope and pray that I can continue on this hard and grueling journey, and that you'll all know that I know this church is true. It's not easy to live the gospel sometimes. It's not easy to be a good example all the time. But I know that ONE example, ONE testimony, and ONE person's faith can really change so many other's lives. Keep praying, keep reading, and most importantly keep sharing!! Hopefully this week we can find some more souls that are ready to hear our AMAZING message.


xoxo, Sister Seastrand

Monday, October 14, 2013

Week 3

Magandang Hapon Po!!!
3 weeks here already on the mission! I can't even believe it! There's so much that happens every day! I wish I could just record every moment, especially when so much happens in one week!

This week has been really full of ups and downs. Early on, every single lesson we had canceled on us, and it really started the week off bad. My kasama and I just really prayed harder and tried to be more obedient and still nothing happened. It's very difficult to maintain a positive attitude about everything when people don't listen to you or your message of SALVATION. Sheesh. But finally on Wednesday, ALL of our investigators committed to baptism!!! The spirit was strong, and we felt God's love in each lesson. It was so so liberating and refreshing to have our investigators finally listen to us.

Our first investigator, (new to me, but taught previously by my companion), Hener, is a hair stylist with four cute little kids. He lives in Lapo-Lapo 2, which is the furthest street in our area. (Seriously it takes FOREVER to get there.) He has been reading the Book of Mormon and really loves it. He seriously is just so intrigued by the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and he keeps his commitments every time. We are so blessed to be teaching him. He's been really busy lately so it's been a few weeks since he's been taught by the missionaries, and since my companion has taught him before with her last comp, I had never taught him. Prior to our visit with him that day, I was feeling kind of annoyed especially with being homesick and frustrated about our investigators, and we happened to tell the trike driver to take us to Lapo-Lapo 1. I think it was just a misunderstanding, mostly because neither of us speak Tagalog haha... rough. Anyways, we walked up hills, over bridges, and up more hills to get back to Lapo Lapo 2. I was so bugged!! I was sweating terribly, and of course at that moment the weather just decides to rain, and when it rains, it RAINS. Americans have no idea what rain is until you live in the Philippines. We got pretty wet, but we finally made it to his house. We decided to teach him Lesson 2 (which is the Plan of Salvation). We focused on the Atonement, and I was pretty stressed because this was my first time teaching him and I wasn't quite sure what his needs were. He also lives in the booney's in a tall bamboo tree house which was so COOL! (I just love their houses here!) Anyways, we get to the lesson and immediately after the prayer, I just felt like I should ask him about his life, and his sins. I was nervous, but I was bold and just said, "Brother Hener, have you ever felt bound to your personal sins?" When I asked him that, my companion just looked at me like uh... this could be awkward... but he opened up to us and told us how he has always felt so weighed down and guilty his whole life of past sins. In that moment, I just felt this overwhelming love for him in my heart, and I got a little choked up and said, "Hener, I know that we all make mistakes, but Jesus Christ atoned for every single mistake in any form and I promise you that you can be free from this guilt you feel." He just soaked it UP and the spirit was super strong. It was a really great experience for me and him, and I knew that the love I felt for him was the same kind of love God feels for us. Despite the fact that I was sweaty, muddy, and wet, all of that was worth it to teach him. We invited him to be baptized, and he accepted. Hener is definitely a golden investigator.

So we had a TYPHOON this week! My first typhoon ever! It was way intense! Pres. Peterson told us to get our 72 hour kits out and ready, which I DIDN'T have yet... preparedness is key, people! I learned my lesson! It's so funny because everyone just is so terrified of rain here, and even when it starts sprinkling they put on their hats and get their umbrellas out -- it's hilarious. And then there's me just like walking in the sprinkling rain, and everyone thinks I'm crazy. So the typhoon hit over Bagio, but swept over San Pablo. Literally everyone was home by 4:00. It was super cloudy and windy. We were teaching a lesson until 5:00, when it really started to pick up. The wind was going crazy and we didn't know if we would even get a trike back to Poblacion 2... yeah, dumb decision on our part! Luckily, one last trike for the night was driving by and we made it home. That night it POURED. I seriously felt like our apartment was in the Ocean. The rain was so incredibly loud and the wind was blowing super hard. I didn't even sleep cause it was so loud. We had a brown out, and so we had to get ready for bed by candlelight -- it was awesome. Let me just say, the next morning when we woke up and looked outside, everything was in a completely different place, including other people's laundry in our yard!  What an experience!

We finally have MOVED out of our nasty, moldy, lizard and ant infested apartment!! We are now officially in a brand new HOUSE in Calansayan! It's kind of sad, because we've had some really good times there as 'Sisters in Zion' in that little run-down place. And we were super close to everyone and everything. Now, we're in the booney's and have to take a Jeepney everyday to everywhere. It's gonna be rough, but worth it. I'm so grateful for our house. It's so much bigger and livable. I really don't know how we survived, haha. It's got two huge bedrooms, a dining room, living room, full kitchen with TWO working hot plates, and TWO bathrooms!! It's perfect. I never want to be transferred haha. Moving is definitely not fun. It took us 4 hours to get everything to our house with the bishop, office elders, and zone leaders. We had a lot of stuff--I mean there are 4 of us girls living together.

We got to watch General Conference this weekend and it was wonderful, as always. I think the main theme of this one was to remember who you are, and most importantly remember God. I especially loved Elder Uchtdorf's talk about our church. I loved when he told us that if our intentions were to find perfect people with nothing wrong, then we would never find it. But if our intentions were to find loving, Christ-like people who serve Heavenly Father, then this is the church for them. It's so TRUE! We are not perfect people, but this church is perfect. And it all depends on our intentions. If we intend to find love and Christ, then we will find both of them here. This is Jesus Christ's church and it is His gospel. It's perfect, and we don't need to change it. It's not ours to change anyway. Why don't we just partake of it the way it is, and learn and grow from each other instead of trying to change something that's a lot bigger and better than us!

I also felt during this conference an overwhelming gratitude for our roles as men and women in the church, and especially love for the men of this church and worthy, priesthood holding men. How great it is for us women of the church to have the Priesthood. I myself have been blessed to have it in my home, and it made me want to help all the men in my life realize their divine nature as sons of Heavenly Father with the ability to use His Priesthood. We can ALL help support them more fully in our lives, and even if we don't have priesthood holding men in our homes personally, we can sustain and help the men of our wards. Help everyone around you realize their divine nature! No matter if you know them personally or not, we are ALL God's children. As a missionary, I have had the opportunity to feel of god's love for us as his children. He loves us, each of us individually and personally. He knows us! He created us! I know that this church is true and I'm so grateful to be teaching these people of that love of God. I feel inadequate and weak, but I know God wants me here for a reason, and I'm going to find that out.

Until next week, keep reading, keep praying, and most importantly, Remember. Remember who you are and where you came from. I really am so grateful for this experience. These people have nothing. NOTHING. and we have it all. They are lucky to eat dinner most nights. And sometimes we teach in the dark with one little light. It's incredibly humbling for me, and I need this. I'm a very blessed girl who needs to step outside herself for 16 months.

Sister Seastrand