Monday, March 31, 2014

Week 25

A week in the Life of a Sister Missionary (aka, Sister Seastrand) in Santa Cruz Philippines:
So much happened this week, as it does every week (and I really wish I could just have everyone here with me experiencing everything that happens). The days are so busy (and sometimes stressful), but always something to do and somewhere to be. (the definition of missionary work :-} )

Beautiful Santa Cruz
We started the week off with Zone Conference in San Pablo. We took a big van with our whole zone from Santa Cruz to the San Pablo chapel. It was wonderful—so much that I learned from it. Our Mission President truly speaks the words of the Lord. His focus for this zone conference was about the Sacrament and going to the "Guest Chamber" or the special place set apart for the people to take the Sacrament in Christ's time. President Peterson talked to us about how we should never miss an opportunity to go to the guest chamber and partake of the sacrament. He made an analogy of Christ washing of the feet of his disciples, holding up a pitcher of water and inviting all of us to wash our companions' feet.

"So, who wants to be first?"

Some missionaries raised their hands, some didn't. The first thought in my mind, "Well, that's different, but I’d do it." We didn’t actually end up washing feet, but he challenged us to think about our road to discipleship.  How are we really living as disciples of Christ? And a great ending to our conference was the drive home with the sunset and all the farmers in their fields of rice, closing their day of work.

Next, we had the baptism of Jude. On his 10th birthday :) Nothing could compare when I saw his face after his Baptismal interview and he looked so incredibly happy. The look on his face is the look I think he would have had if he’d had a personal interview with the Savior.

Sister Baguio and I cleaned the chapel, and got the font ready for him. And then the water turned yellow….. WHAT? Baptism starts at 7:00…Current time is 5:50!
"Hey Sister, I think we need to clean the font super quick." -me
"Oh, they already clean it earlier Sister Seastrand." -Sister Baguio

Hahaha. Oh, the moments I have with my beloved native companion. We really, really don't understand each other sometimes. And it's great. She tries SO HARD with English, and I try SO HARD with Tagalog. And teaching with her is like music to my ears because somehow, I speak the language with her and they understand me. Oh how I love her. 

We also had exchanges this week with our wonderful STL'S of Santa Cruz, so that was great. I always learn so much about how other sister's teach the gospel. And I always get stressed about the apartment being clean and leading the area I’ve only known for a week. But proud to say I didn't even get lost. Mission accomplished. :)

Basically, I love this new area. It's so beautiful. It's got nothing and everything, at the same time. If you saw Barangay Omboy Wawa, you'd think, "Wow, this is exactly what I expected the Philippines to look like if I was reading about it in National Geographic." Rice fields EVERYWHERE. And lakes, mountains, and all that foliage. It's perfect. It's the blessing I didn't know I needed from a loving Father in Heaven. Plus, I can finally go on some scenic runs in the morning. 

Anyway, on to more spiritual stuff:
This week in my personal study I studied about the testimony of Jesus Christ, both in the scriptures and in PMG, and how that is what qualifies us to be in the kingdom of the Father. So… what's the difference between A testimony and THE testimony of Jesus Christ? And then there's one word that came to my mind that separates the two: Valiance. Being valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ qualifies us for eternal Life. Alma went to preach to the people of Gideon. He was filled with the spirit and he testified of the testimony of Jesus Christ which was in Him. There's really no other testimony that we can have, except in Jesus Christ. It all goes back to him, everything we do, everything we say, everything we experience. He not only showed us how to be better people through his attributes, but he showed us how to have a REAL and ABIDING testimony…one that gets us into the kingdom of the Father. His love really is always there. We just have to be Valiant in Him.

Highlight of the week: Teaching 15-year-old Jipper about the Plan of Salvation. (He really reminds me of Mergie back in San Jose.) He asked the perfect question: "So.... where do we go after this life?" My heart grew 10 times its size BECAUSE I KNOW and I CAN TELL YOU.

My heart is happy in the following:

My area—sent from Heaven
My companion who I love so much
My growing testimony
My Mission President
The sunsets of the Philippines
The children that always ask for candy/photo shoots 
My mission in the Philippines

Talk to you again next week!
xoxo, Sister Seastrand

Monday, March 17, 2014

Week 23

This week.... has been CRAZY. Starting from the top:

Tuesday evening the AP called me and told me where I was going. THE WHOLE DAY I was in anxiety. Every lesson we taught, I could just not focus AT ALL. Anyways.... so..... DRUM ROLL PLEASE, my new area is:


Ok, so it's not the islands of Mindoro or Marinduque... yet. :)

Beautiful Santa Cruz
BUT Santa Cruz is BEAUTIFUL. I absolutely love it. It's a BIG, BIG city, one of the biggest next to San Pablo. Of course, it's bigger than my 1st zone in Lipa City. These few days, I've kind of been overwhelmed at times because San Jose is a province and so much smaller and poorer, and now to be in such a larger place...quite a contrast. There are some huge buildings here, and also my favorite... rice fields!! SO GORGEOUS. AHHH. There's some Spanish looking houses here, and people that speak English. We've got some big neighborhoods so that's another contrast to the only part of the Philippines I've experienced so far. There are some great names of places/streets like Wawa, Santo Angel, Majayjay and some other Spanish names. There's beautiful white bridges and big rivers and Filipinos riding boats with grass hats on... oh man. It rocks! I will send pictures shortly. And it doesn't stink! YES! and I don't live next to a pig slaughter house, YES!!

Here's the story of me getting to my new area:
{Call from Elder Malit (the AP), while I was standing in the San Jose Chapel at 7:45pm on Tuesday}
"Sister Seastrand, I think you know why I'm calling you."
"You've been transferred and your new area is Santa Cruz. Your new companion is Sister Baguio. So, you will meet Sister Reed somewhere to get to Santa Cruz. Just call her and figure it out. Thanks!"
"ummm, OK... thanks for the help, Elder."

Normally, the senior couples take you to your new area, or you go to the mission home and then on to your new area (especially if you're a sister)..... So apparently, I was supposed to plan to meet someone named Sister Reed in a city I had never been to. So, needless to say, I was kind of excited when I found out Sister Brown (another transferring sister missionary from our apartment) was having Elder and Sister Smith take her, and I called them and asked if I could hitch a ride, too. They said I could!

Wednesday was my last day/night in San Jose. Bitter sweet. I said goodbye to some of my favorite members and member families, and of course my trainee, Sister Ricketts and Sister Valdez, my sweet friend. That was rough. I spent 3 hours packing and crying and laying in my bed sleeping alone in my room, just feeling so anxious about it all, and not really knowing how to feel. Sad, excited, nervous.... I know I told you that I remember having an impression that the Lord was preparing other people for me to teach. And that prompting came again really strong to me. I felt like the Lord was there in my room telling me again to be at peace. I could feel Heavenly Father just sitting on my bed, listening to all my thoughts about leaving my first area. That was a rough, yet peaceful night for me.

Thursday morning finally comes, and Sister and Elder Smith arrive at our apartment. Then, a surprise visit by a boy in our San Jose Ward comes and gives me a 'love letter,' telling me to wait for him after my mission, among some other things... have to say, that was awkward and certainly unexpected. Anyways, it's about 8:00a.m., and time to put all my luggage in the vehicle. Sister Ricketts was crying her eyes out because her trainer was leaving her. The Smith's had worked out where they would take me...Long story short, the Smith's took me up the road and dropped me off at this tiny little waiting station where people wait for buses, made of a few pieces of scrap metal...and had a teary goodbye with them, too: 
"Well. hope you make it there. Thanks for being here in San Jose." -Elder Smith

hahaha  I just cried and told them thanks for driving me 50 feet, and then they left. And then there's me... alone. no idea where I am going. No companion. And I just sat on my three pieces of luggage. And a banana for breakfast. Feeling exhausted from the last two days of packing and saying goodbye. I waited and waited for a bus to come and get me... and, horray! after a while one came. I tried to share the gospel with some people around me as my last attempt to share the gospel in San Jose, but that didn't work. They didn't want to talk to only one missionary. No wonder the Lord has us share the Gospel in 2's.

I got on the bus and plopped down into a seat. I was the only one on this bus. I just looked out the window at my first area, as we drove through it, thinking about everything that had happened to me--the places I went, training, the trials I had had, and the people I had taught. Wondering if I had done enough. And then that's when the prompting came to me again, "There are other people that I want you to talk to. Be at peace." And I was at peace. I wasn't even sad as I said goodbye to San Jose. I knew I would miss it, but I needed to move on. I felt happy to see the road ahead of me out the window. I had thought I would cry, but I didn't. It was nice. And I felt the Lord with me. I was alone, but not really.

I finally met up with Sister Reed and (another) long story short, after 5 hours, we made it. Provincial, Laguna. One of the hottest areas in the Philippines. I'll have to get acclimatized, because San Jose is malimig/cold (or at least cold by the Philippines standard). It's extremely hot here, so that will be another change.

Our Apartment
And then I met my companion at the gorgeous Santa Cruz Chapel on a busy street with nice tricycles everywhere. (They look like Victorian carriages. Padded seats. Nice.) Her name is Sister Baguio. And she's a Filipina. MY FIRST NATIVE COMPANION! She's so small. And so sweet. Now I can finally stop teaching all the lessons in Tagalog by myself and finally have a conversation using the little Tagalog I know with someone who will help me and correct my mistakes. Maybe the ward members will finally like us because we can BOTH speak the language. I love her already. Our apartment is really great, too. Not much to say on that.

I've been feeling sick for awhile now. Body aches, headaches, and some bowel issues...(sorry). Losing some significant weight amounts and feeling exhausted, but I chalked it up to the stresses of the transfer. But I felt sick enough that I had the zone leaders come and give me a blessing before church. My first Sunday in my new ward...and it's HUGE. It's a big ward. My companion and I taught the Gospel Principles class, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. My body felt terrible! and guess what?!  I was assigned to speak in Sacrament Meeting! In straight Tagalog. I get to Sacrament Meeting (which was the last meeting of the day), and go up to speak, and for that short time I was able to stand and speak. But when I sat down and it hit me again so hard. I could not sit or stand or do anything really. I don't know how I survived Sacrament Meeting. I called and talked to Sister Peterson right after the meeting and she said I should wait till Monday to go to the doctor, but if I needed to, then Sunday I could go to the Laguna Holy Family hospital. 

We got home from Church and it was just unbearable. I decided to try to sleep but when I woke up I was worse. I had a high fever, and body aches even stronger than before sleeping. I felt like I was dying---cramping and everything, so I called Sister Peterson and President but neither of them answered. I decided to go outside to our little laundry area and sit on the little washing chair. It was so hot in our house, so I thought it might be a little cooler out there. My companion came out and asked me how I was doing. I (of course) started crying and telling her I'm not alright. And then she sat by me and put her little arm around me and starts crying (she speaks very poor English), "I'm sad because you sick and I don't have medicine. I don't know to help you. And I'm miss home." It was the sweetest thing of my mission so far. I just put my arm around her and said, "Sister don't be sad! It's not your fault. We'll figure out what to do. Don't worry. You're taking great care of me." I just talked to her and let her know she could talk to me anytime she felt sad. It broke my heart.

We sang hymns because she likes doing that when she is sad (and I'm sick and feeling like I'm dying). We sang for an hour in our little laundry area, and then I had no energy anymore so I called again to President. I asked him if I could just go to the hospital because I just wasn't making it. He told me to get the best room in the hospital. I crouched my body in a small trike with the three other sisters and rode a bumpy ride in a noisy city to the hospital feeling like I was going to pass out. But hooray! I made it to the desk. (Final) long story short, they took urine and blood samples (which freaked me out because these hospitals are not the greatest). And it was determined that I have a UTI, or possibly a parasite. Cool. I got some antibiotics and after laying in the hospital bed for an hour, I was released and went home.

SO. That's pretty much my week in its fullness. :) I feel so blessed. This is the break I have been waiting for. All the trials I went through in my first area just made me so much more grateful for the blessings of this new one. It's been a rough week, but I'm grateful for this new experience. It's a breath of fresh air. I feel the Spirit. I feel happy. The ward is organized. My companion speaks Tagalog. My house mates are so kind. I'm enjoying my mission! :) Love you all! Can't wait to write more next week.

Sister Seastrand

Monday, March 10, 2014

Week 22

Hellooooo!! This week has just flown by again. Have to admit, It's been a little bit of a downer. We didn't reach our goals for the week, and that was hard for me cause you know me...The Perfectionist. And I really wanted to reach the goals to end on...but it's alright. WHEW! I'm not really sure how to feel right now... sad, stressed, happy, excited, peaceful, frustrated, everything! Here's a few of my concerns:

1) The 'no baptism' thing has been really rough on me--not feeling like I have done enough or if I have helped enough. I can't see the fruits. Sister Ricketts always reminds me how hard we work. I guess I'll just have to have faith that it was enough.

2) Yesterday was my last Sunday (I think) in the now San Jose WARD! It is now officially moving up from a branch of 50 to a ward of 75! It's been great to see the changes. Also we got a new Bishop which was also bittersweet because our Branch President, President Escobido, has been there for 16 years. He's amazing! He gave his last testimony as Branch President, which was really sweet. I can't imagine the love I would feel being like a father for the branch I'm serving... I'm sure it'll be an adjustment for him not to sit on the stand anymore--both for him and for the ward.

3) The language thing is still annoying... I say the same sentences/word combinations EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It's really frustrating. I can hardly wait to have the language down better.  But I am grateful for how far I've come by being in this area first. I was told coming here that San Jose has the deepest Tagalog speakers. Every area has their own way of speaking, but here in the Batangas area, people speak REALLY FAST. For the most part, I can hold a conversation with people. It'll be weird going from training to now just being a normal missionary. I think I'll really miss having 4 hours of study every day!

4) I'm so scared to leave my investigators.... they are still planting these seeds of faith and I want to still help them. It's hard to leave them and just say bye... There's so much to think about and do these next few days... wash all my clothes little by little, my sheets, and say goodbye to some members and investigators like Lucky, Mergie, Juliet etc. (Oh ya, speaking of members, I gave one of my necklaces to one of the members. She really liked it and I'm pretty sure there's more back home so... I gave it to her. She loves it so much and it's cuter on her than on me.)

5) So you know something funny... I'm also really scared to leave this current's SO NICE... what if I get attacked by the roaches? Or lizards? Also, guess what? They have rats the size of full grown cats here in the Philippines...not good. What if I go somewhere that has those?

 So, I'm not sure if I really like transfers that much...

Anyways.. I'm nervous for tomorrow (that is the day that they will be calling me to tell me where I will be going, if I am transferred.) Sheesh...what if I'm not transferred? I sometimes secretly wish I would be training again because then I would know what's expected of me...I'm scared of what will happen since all I know is San Jose and either being trained or training someone! But it's good, too. I remember having this distinct impression come to me that the Lord is preparing other people for me to talk to and teach. So that's exciting and something I need to keep remembering! Wow...roller coaster emotions...up and down!

So this week, I'm really grateful for my companion Sister Ricketts. Sister Ricketts has shown me what a true friend is...what true love and charity are. She's helped me overcome some really tough stuff and she loves me even for my faults. Sorry this week that nothing really happened... but next week I'm sure I will have more to say about EVERYTHING! Anyways... I love you all so much. :) CAN'T WAIT to hear from you next week!!!

xoxo, Sister Seastrand