Monday, January 27, 2014

Week 16

The theme of the week: "Let go and grow."

We taught two really great lessons where the spirit was just in abundance and literally I wanted to cry the whole time. Lucky Pera, one of our investigators has really had some rough times keeping his commitments the past few lessons. We tried to talk to him about it to see what his concern was. And then he told us all these crazy things about God that he's learning about in theology class. But then I couldn't even listen to half of it because all I could think was, "Well there's your first mistake, Lucky! THEOLOGY IS RUINING YOU." He had some really great "questions of the soul" that we he just opened up to us right off the bat. Which never happens, by the way...sometimes our lessons with people turn into a game of not just 20 questions, but 100, trying to get to the root of their concerns. It almost feels like investigators do it just for fun because they like to give us a rough time. It'd be nice if they could just tell us their problems so we could help them, but then where would the fun be in that as a missionary? But Lucky definitely is not a typical investigator. He has probably no idea who God even is... but he knows who Christ is which is a good start.

We taught him the Restoration and committed him to pray about it. Did he keep the commitment? No. We went back and decided to teach more about prayer, again committing him to pray. Did he keep the commitment? No--and he didn't even want to. We went back and taught him the Plan of Salvation. Let's just say that during this lesson I felt the Spirit light up the little bamboo hut we were sitting in. I've never felt so strongly about the Plan of Salvation before, probably ever in my life. This plan is so perfect, and there's so much good that comes from knowing it.

Something crazy that happened this week: My anak (companion) got her camera stolen in the computer shop...but we got it back...although we had to pay 500 pesos to get it back from the hoodlum child that stole it. Good thing we had a member with us to help work it out cause Americans don't really speak that well in Tagalog when trying to negotiate for getting their personal belongings back. But all is well here in San Jose.

A chance to serve
The theme for this week: "Let go and grow." My companion shared this with me during  companion study and it pierced me to the very core. She actually said, "Sometimes we just have to let go so that we can grow." It must have been something I needed to hear because it brought a small flood of spiritual thoughts: Why is it that we sometimes set boundaries for ourselves when the Atonement of Christ is eternal? No matter what mistakes we have made or who we've been, why can't we just let go and grow? I think that letting go and growing requires us to remove those fences around ourselves and let Christ help us become more than we were. We can be anything we want with Christ in our lives. My next thought: "Why didn't I learn this concept sooner?" Missions really do so much for you. Even though this is the hardest thing in my life so far, it is definitely the best. I'm finding you're always happy when working in the vineyard of the Lord. Is it hard? YES. Does it always go the way you plan? NO. Is it the best experience of your life? YES. I would never trade anything for this time I have to let go and grow and become better. GO TEAM PHILIPPINES!

Sister Seastrand

Monday, January 20, 2014

Week 15

What a crazy, exhausting, wonderful week. I don't have time for everything but I'll just fill you in on the main highlights of the week, starting with the best first: Teaching Mergie's dad! Why this is so awesome for us: Mergie is 16 years old and is progressing super fast. She's doing the main three things for successful conversion: 1) reading the Book of Mormon every day,  2) coming to church, and 3) praying every day. Can't get much more golden than that. Here's some important information to know about her: This girl is the sweetest. She honestly makes my mission so far the greatest. She is almost graduated from high school and onto college. We have always taught her at her best friend's house. So we've never actually met her family before or taught them. But has actually added a bonus because her best friend is also super progressing. They both come to church together and live half a world away from the church. (And, Yes, I tend to get a little emotional when I see them walk into our little chapel every Sunday with their smiling faces after having walked so far to get there.)

PEROOO (pero = however), there's always a catch to every golden investigator: Sister Ricketts and I have had a rough time trying to talk to her family. Since she is under the age of 18, she wouldn't be able to be baptized without permission from her parents. Mergie's dad just happens to be devoted Catholic, which isn't surprising since half this country is catholic. We finally went to talk to him and, not surprisingly, he did not want to talk to us. He literally would not even come to the large gate. He just hid in his door and yelled to us in fast Tagalog while we tried in our slow, broken Tagalog to tell him who we are... hahaha. It really could not have gotten more awkward than that, but as a missionary you just get used to this aspect of mission life: not everyone wants to talk to you.(surprise!) It's been like that for several times now, and slowly he's been warming up to us. He even made the effort to come to the gate a few feet closer to talk to us. We have yet to even shake his hand and get a smile from him. (We just add that to our daily key indicators every night during planning.) We had invited them to church, but he never has come.

ANYWAYS, we were visiting a member in the same village as Mergie, and I just had a great little thought come to mind, "Hey we should go stop by and see if Mergie (and her family) wants to come to the baptism with us tonight."  I turn to Sister Ricketts and say, "Sister, we should stop by and see Mergie." Without delay we go to Mergie's to ask her if she wants to go to the baptism with us, and LO AND BEHOLD out comes Mr. Buscas to talk to us (with his typical scowl that tells us how he feels about us more than words do). We tell him about the baptism and he tells us he doesn't have any money to come to the baptism...But that he has time to hear our message. MIRACLES HAPPEN ONCE IN A WHILE! (Cue the Princess Diaries music.) We literally had not even planned for this but saw one of our members visiting Mergie and asked if she would be present in the lesson. He even left his property to come to Juliet's house to be taught. I felt extremely nervous since his Tagalog is really awesome and deep and mine is really not awesome with a small vocabulary. Overall, we had a great lesson about the plan of salvation. The Spirit was there and a bonus: my Tagalog was not even bad.

The Lord really does prepare hearts to receive His message. If we would not have kept going back to him to try and share with him, we probably would still be where we are today having no success with him. (Sometimes you need to be a persistent missionary!) Sometimes it's hard to tell when, but the Lord is always working in mysterious ways. The best part is that the Lord was able to lead us through our thoughts that came to mind and we had a great lesson that really helped this man soften his heart to the Mormons. SUCCESS!

On Sunday we dedicated the new San Jose Chapel which was just wonderful! Elder Brent Nelson, Area President of the Philippines Missions came to dedicate it. He is just awesome and our chapel is just awesome. How grateful I was to have a nice new chapel for our small branch to meet in. We sang "If You Could Hie to Kolob" (in which I was volunteered as tribute to play piano!). "Hey, We need a piano player who can come up with a song to play for one of the Lord's servants and be able to practice it in 2 days.... Sister Seastrand, you look like you could do that, would you be willing to help us out?" "Um...SURE!"  It's really funny that people think missionaries can just do EVERYTHING. None the less, it was a happy successful piece that really brought the spirit to the meeting. I just love our branch so much. It's one of the best in the mission.

This last P-day we went hiking to Mount Maculot (which is not just ANY hike). Nor is it a hike for the weak of heart or body because It was probably 8 miles or so and a 90 degree slope. Not to mention, it's one of the tallest mountains in the Philippines. Good thing I'm in such great shape and so I didn't really struggle the whole way...NOT! Good thing we have awesome elders that just help all the sisters when we do anything that requires physical exertion. Once we got to the top, I could not even believe I was even serving a mission because the view was just paradise. Sometimes I just feel like I'm on this awesome vacation since my mission is so gorgeous. God really created such a beautiful earth for us to enjoy and take care of. I really felt close to my Heavenly Father as we hiked to the top and really enjoyed the peace and quiet for awhile while we just looked at the awesome tree tops and volcanoes all around us in the water.

I'm so lucky to be a missionary. And I have one of the best missions ever. It's not easy, but we never get a time so sacred as this to learn about the gospel and grow close to our Heavenly Father. His work is not easy, and nor will it ever be, but how lucky I am to be a part of something so great.
I'm a blessed sister missionary.

Sister Seastrand

Monday, January 6, 2014

Week 13

Happy New Year, Fam! I think we all get busier during the Holidays...I know I've been busy as a missionary, just in a different way. And now It's 2014! I can't believe another year of my life is going by yet again, so fast. I hope everyone made new year's resolutions after they looked at last year's resolutions and recommitted themselves to make a new year's resolution. :)  Ok though, if we are being honest, no one really keeps those right? Or is it just me? Maybe I'm the only one that needs to learn how to make and keep goals.

This year New Year's Eve was just a little different. Filipino food, listening to horns for 2 hours, along with karaoke GALORE and fireworks. Yep, Filipinos really know how to put on a New Year's Eve party, probably better than Times Square. Even though I didn't get to watch the famous ball drop on TV, hit pots and pans with a giant spoon, and run around acting like a fool yelling "Happy New Year", I got to eat some really good Filipino dishes, and feel thankful for being a missionary, starting a new year over and giving my heart to Christ. I think that's what New Year's is all about anyway, being more committed to live the Gospel we all believe.

This week we had a baptism from the other Sisters here in San Jose! Perfect opportunity for:
A)  Progressing investigators
B)  Sister Missionaries singing a musical number they didn't know they were doing, and
C)  Your beloved mission president there to watch

Yep, we whipped out a pretty good version of "Come Thou Fount" in a matter of minutes. Success. Sister Missionaries at it again!

Something Spiritual that's been on my mind: Why do we sometimes stop ourselves from becoming something great? What makes us give up, or not even try in the first place? So far on my mission I have felt this thought come to my mind over and over again, "It's possible to become a great missionary. I can be obedient, diligent, an effective teacher of the gospel." All these things are righteous, so why should I stop myself? Sometimes in our life we make ourselves back out from doing great things. Maybe we should focus on what good things we want to do and what's stopping us from doing them, and then re-focus. In other words, we should let ourselves 'become'. Become obedient, become diligent, become effective teachers. That's a good new year's resolution isn't it? HAPPY 2014, from San Jose Philippines!
Mom: This week was good, I'm still feeling stressed everyday but it's good. I really feel like I have lost some weight too, which is good for me-haha. I really ballooned up when I first came so it's nice to feel more normal again. Happy New Year to you!!! :) It's so weird to think I'll be spending my next year in the Philippines! It's going to be a good year of my life. I want to make it the best, since my years haven't always been that great. I really hope you know how much I love you, Mom. I think of you every day. Every time I hand wash dishes, sit on a little stool hand washing my garments, trying to train my companion on life skills/social skills, I always think of how you trained me. You trained me how to live the gospel, how to repent, how to be a good woman. A woman of Christ. I'm sorry for the grief I've given you.

I always get teary eyed when I talk about you to my companion. I actually have thought a lot about this particular thing I want to tell you. Every day, I feel overwhelmed, stressed, tired. There's never a break. But I think the only thing that keeps me going is my desire to make three people happy: You, dad, and my Heavenly Father. I say to my companion, "Sister Ricketts, I have a wonderful mother. I just want to be a good woman like her." We actually had companionship inventory the other day. She told me how her relationship with her mom has never been good... and I thought about you. I know that our relationship has never been perfect, we've had really rough times. I told sister Ricketts this: "Perhaps the only thing that keeps me here on this mission is my desire to make my Mom and Dad proud of the person I want to become. I want to take this mission and change so I can be a light of peace to my family that I've never been before. I want that more than anything else in the world." I then started to cry like a baby. I hope you know how much I love you, Mom. I know I've never been that great, but I'd like to think that when I am it's because of my mother and the kind of person you are. You are strong, capable, and Christ-like. I want to be that. :) I just want to tell you this because I mean it. I really do :)

You definitely could serve anywhere! Not just Boise haha :) You could go anywhere. You and dad would be great. I really appreciate the older couple missionaries here, they make our life easy; getting us things like washing buckets, rides from church, apartment checks/repairs. They make the mission life a lot smoother. I'm really grateful to be here. Even though the homesickness is getting rough lately, I just feel like Heavenly Father wants me here. I can't wait to read that talk you shared!! It will be like lotion for my sweaty skin--haha :)

I'm sorry it's back to the normal schedule again. The breaks always seem so short don't they? Have a great week, Mom! I can't wait to hear about seminary stuff, home stuff, anything!!

G&G Haslem: Hello in Vernal! I hope the weather is treating you alright. I love you both so much! How is Smith's? haha I love that you always go there :) I miss you guys, but I hope you had a Happy New Year! I hope that you know how grateful I am for you both. Thank you for the money and the MoTab CD, and for always supporting me. I listen to the CD every day! You're like my rock out here in my mission! Training is hard, but I love what I am learning. I learn so much. :) I hope you stay safe and warm--especially safe cause you are very dear to me. I don't want anything to happen cause I wanna see you both when I come home! So don't do anything but go to Smith's :) haha. I love you! Have a good week!! Know that I think of you EVERYDAY and feel thankful for you both. I hope you know that I know this church is true. I am so grateful for it. We all need it!

xoxo, Sister Seastrand

P.S. I haven't gotten the package yet! Hopefully on Saturday when we have zone interviews. THANKS a million again. I LOVE YOU.