Monday, April 28, 2014

Week 29

First of all: I got the package! I got it on transfer day. One of the sisters in my apartment got it for me. And, I'm not transferred yet! Praise the heavens! WHEW. Also, my beloved companion is still with me! :) I love her. I LOVE SANTA CRUZ SO MUCH. I never want to leave. Members, companion, the people. LOVE IT ALL!

Lionila's baptism
Our baptism with Lionila, our 62-year-old investigator, was great! The talks about baptism and the Holy Ghost were great. I felt the spirit strong. Even though it was a crazy day trying to get it ready, it all came together and I felt the spirit. I guess it goes to show that it doesn't matter what happens as long as we have the right authority of God and get to be a part of His work. Then she was confirmed in Sacrament Meeting yesterday. She is the CUTEST EVER. Right after she was confirmed, she goes to sit down, and starts shaking the entire ward's hands on her way, starting with all the deacons and teachers who passed the sacrament, down to the oldies in the back. Brother Omadto, our first counselor in the ward, just stands and waits for her to sit down so he can welcome her into the ward. She ends up just standing there while we all welcome her. I just love her so much. I'll never forget how she looked when she bore her testimony. The gospel changed her life, a change that she had never had before. And the light of Christ was in her eyes. I can see her desire to follow Christ. It's really humbling to see. She works so hard in her rice field, and her house is so tiny. She's really poor, but she loves her Book of Mormon and keeps everything we give her in a little bag. It's so sweet. I love her.  And, thanks to her, here's my list of favorite experiences of the week: 1) When Lionila told me that she got electricity! YAY!  2) Seeing Lionila huddled under her tiny new light bulb strung in her tiny little bamboo house reading the Book of Mormon, and  3) Linonila and Lily making Pancit Canton for my birthday!! My fav of all Filipino food!

We're trying to prepare sister Lily for baptism sometime in May. I can't wait. She's so sweet. She learns a little bit slower so hopefully we can help her. Clariss is a little 12 year old girl who always comes with us and helps Lionila and Lily to read and everything. I love it--it's so cute to watch. :) She also came to church on her confirmation day wearing a skirt for the first time. :) she always wears jeans but she came in a skirt. It was so cute.

As a missionary you feel so inadequate of the work you do every day, but the thing I realize is it's not my work. It's the Lord's work, and we are just part of sharing it. So why do we need to be afraid? Of anything, really? So all I need to worry about is doing my best. There's no time to feel inadequate! There's so much work to be done. SO MUCH. Especially in the Philippines. The church is growing, but it's taking some overhaul effort.

 On Wednesday, we were in a barangay (neighborhood) called Pantalan. We were finding a referral from a non-member. We were in this tight little alley way, asking all these people if they knew the person we were trying to find, and then we have all these little boys about 10-12 years old come up to us and ask us what we're doing. We tell them who we're looking for, and then they tell us they know the person.
"So why are you looking for them?"
"We're missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaching the gospel."
Then sister Baguio looks at them and asks them, "Do you know Jesus Christ?"
And they start picking on this little girl who is with them that is apparently one of their play mates.. Asking her if she is Jesus Christ and making fun of us. Then they run off and Sister Baguio just shrugs and laughs. But then we hear this little voice that says, "Kilala ko si Cristo" (I know Christ). We smiled and told her a little about the gospel, then gave her a little pamphlet and she ran off all happy to her mom. CUTEST EVERRRR! It's experiences like that I won't forget. Children are so close to God. Their minds and spiritual abilities are so sensitive. Sometimes more than we tend to be as adults. I love seeing the little children playing with whatever they can find in the streets, at the lake, on the bridge. And I especially love seeing them at church singing "I am a Child of God" with their Filipino accents.

Oh boy, get ready for this:  WE HAVE A RAT IN OUR LAUNDRY AREA! Oh my, I almost had a heart attack! Mostly cause I'm just sitting there having personal study and sweating bullets, just the normal, and I see out of the corner of my eye this big black thing running around in our laundry area. I've gone 8 months in my mission without any rats or mice. After seeing this, I think I'm good for the remaining 10 months! It's back in the drain where it belongs. And I hope he moves on!  :)

We taught a less-active named Merly who has been less-active for probably about most of her life. She is offended by someone in the ward, and lots of missionaries have been visiting her. We went to her house to teach our investigator, Oliver, but he wasn't home. So we decided to share with Merly. I had a feeling to just share about charity in Moroni 7. And then things got pretty intense because the Spirit was super strong. I decided to get pretty bold. "Sister Merly, I know that we can be filled with this pure love of Christ if we will just let go whatever happened in the past. I know if you let go of whatever happened, you will be happier and feel the love of Christ." Well, she said a wonderful, heartfelt closing prayer and we left. I hope that this charity will enter her heart soon.

Just a typical, beautiful sunset
Speaking of Charity, I was reading about it in PMG. And 1 Cor 13, talks about charity. Without it we are nothing, and really, if we don't have it, it doesn't matter what good we do.  I know that being here in my mission is sometimes a test of my charity...How much charity I will have for my companion, my investigators, and even myself. Charity is pure and sanctifies our hearts to be pure.

So my birthday is this week... almost forgot until last week! Finally out of the teens, moving on into the adult years--BOOYAH!! I can't wait to spend my b-day in my favorite place, and I'm feeling especially blessed to spend it with my companion, Sister Baguio, in Santa Cruz.

This week's focus is: FINDING
We're really struggling to find new people to teach. Always. BUT we are going to take advantage of any slow time and look for the "address unknown" people and track down some of those members who've become lost or forgotten.

I'm really learning that the Lord is always trying to teach us something especially when we feel like we are growing stagnant in our lives.. which even happens on our missions. It's interesting how our trials differ and how they are given to us, and they change quite frequently throughout your mission--which ometimes is a giant curve ball you can never expect. It seems like feeling frustrated in my language and frustrated with my teaching ability is always going to be there. But then, you have the need to be humbled when you slack off on your language study because you get to the point where you can have a pretty substantial conversation instead of just the same-old, "How are you? Do you have a family? I'm a missionary." It's so important to know that we always need to turn to the Lord,  even if we are doing pretty alright in our mission--maybe especially when we're doing pretty alright! I'm thankful for Tagalog and being able to learn another language. I hope that I am becoming the person that God wants me to be. I know my testimony is growing and that my spirit is getting stronger in the gospel. I am really finding out who I am and what I'm made of.  :)  It's hard out here, but I know I will miss it when I'm finished, and I don't want to regret anything or waste any time.

Quote of the week (You have to know that Santa Cruz is one of the hottest areas in our mission. I am sweating from sun up to sun down, and even into sleeping hours. 24/7. It's awesome. So here's the quote of the week from Sister Baguio):
"Man... How long is summer in the Philippines?"- me
"Maybe until the June time. All I know is, my feet has fever."- Sister Baguio

I love her. And her English. And most of all I love teaching her English while she teaches me Tagalog. There's never a dull moment with Sister 'Stranded at Sea' with Sister 'Baguio'.  (p.s. 'Baguio' means 'storm' in Tagalog. Clever, eh?!)

Happy birthday to meeeee!!  :)   haha!
Until next week,
Sister Seastrand

Monday, April 21, 2014

Week 28

What a WEEK!!! We had zone interviews with President Peterson. He is leaving soon so that's sad. But I am excited for change. It was a really great interview with him. He told me "I trust you with anyone, anywhere. I see your progression. You feel the spirit and you get it, you really understand missionary work." That was really nice to hear as a missionary from my Mission President.

After my interview with Pres. Peterson, I got a blessing from my district leader because I have been feeling the need to have one lately—mostly because I really like listening to what Heavenly Father needs to tell me. And he told me a lot. It was stated three times that Heavenly Father knows and understands me better than anyone else, ever. I was told that Heavenly Father knows I love Him, and that He put me in this mission to strengthen me. And then I was told that if I continue to exhibit faith in Heavenly Father, He would give me tender mercies that are waiting for me. Then I was told that Sister Baguio is here to help me. Basically, this blessing was just full of counsel from my Heavenly Father, and it was nice to hear. I love the Priesthood. We are lucky to have it!

This week we taught a man named Marvin, who really didn't want to listen to our testimonies, I think because he is learning to be a pastor for another church...  He said, "Faith in Christ is enough to save me. I don't need anything else." And you know me-being-me said, "Brother Marvin, faith in Jesus Christ is important. But it is not enough to save you. Only through the gospel of Jesus Christ can we be saved." I wasn't afraid. I wasn't ashamed. I said the truth and felt the Spirit in the room. He got a little quiet. It was pretty intense because he kept asking ME questions and not Sister Baguio (which was weird because her Tagalog is better, being Filipino..), but I tried to explain to him simply the plan of salvation, and then he just started quoting the bible. GEEZ LOUISEHe was really going off! But you know me, just being bold and loving. :) I bore him my testimony and so did Sister Baguio. It was a nice experience. I came out really sweating (haha!) but feeling happy and proud of myself for standing up for the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

We have a baptism this week on Wednesday! YAY!  :)  Lionella. She is 62 years old and is so obedient. I can see her desire to follow Christ. Her husband is now passed away, and she lives in a tiny little shack house with no light, and no water except for the water well. It’s really sad to see some of the living conditions here sometimes. But she is humble and willing to follow Christ. She always hands out the hymn books in Relief Society! It is so cute. I love her. She always reads the Book of Mormon and underlines parts that she doesn't understand, and I love helping her. The cutest part is that 12-year-old Clarisse always comes to our lessons with both Lily and Lionella, and helps them read. She is truly like the Savior, helping and being kind to them. I am excited for Lionella!!!!  :) 

This week we have been given an assignment by the mission to find some "address unknown" people who were members but are now in the reefs just lost. I have to say my favorite part about being a missionary is rescuing people. I love to rescue and find. It's a great feeling for me... and I’m hoping that we can find and rescue some of these “address unknown’s” and help them come back. :)  Speaking of rescuing, one of my favorite hymns lately is Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy. I love the words to that, and it helps us understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I have never understood Christ more than I have here on my mission. The Savior and Heavenly Father love us so much. And we can really find that in this hymn. 

Lately I have felt the importance of the plan of salvation. This is the day for us to prepare... and there's not any other time. How important it is for us to spiritually prepare ourselves every day. I'm reading in 2 Nephi 9 about the plan, and I can really feel the urgency as a missionary to make this known to everyone I see. I know that it is true. I know that the plan of salvation is perfect and complete. This earth-life is just one short step in the plan. Sometimes I think we over-think things more than our Father in Heaven wants us to, instead of letting his tapestry unfold for us. He has one he is trying to create, and we need to let him do what He needs to do. Even though I am afraid of what is in my future, I know that God has a Tapestry for me. For Lionella, for Marvin, for all of us. The hard part is deciding to let him use His colors and not ours. When we submit our will to His, we become one with Him. In reality, nothing else in this life really matters other than learning to submit our will to His. 

So this week was "holy week" for all Catholics. There was a huge mass of people with big scary looking floats of Christ holding his cross and being crushed by it (a little weird)... But the situation was really funny because we were trying to make it back to the church for a workshop we were giving and we had to walk against this HUGE throng of people in the street. And of course, I’m causing a problem myself because of what felt like 1000 people looking at this American girl trying to walk against the flow... it was stressful! But cool to see their customs. 

Anyway, this week has been great. So far so good :) I am so glad to be here and grow. I know what I’m doing is hard but I’m growing and changing a lot. :)  I know Heavenly Father Lives and I KNOW He knows us and He loves us so much. I love to teach everyone about this. Being a missionary is always worth it!!  :) Love you all!

Sis. Seastrand

Monday, April 14, 2014

Week 27

So CONFERENCE was GREAT. We got to watch all four sessions in the stake center. I can't wait to get all the talks in the Liahona. I loved it. I didn't realize how much I needed to hear Conference again. I also didn't realize how much strength I received from it. Here are some of my thoughts on it:

To me, the main theme was Obedience. I heard Joseph Smith's name a lot, as well as Nephi's. There were so many comparison's to both of them... And I think it's because they are probably a couple of the greatest examples of obedience. For example, Nephi was tied up by his brothers on the ship going to the promised land. And yet he still praised God and thanked Him. He didn't ask to change his circumstances, but he remembered his faith and went back to it. Through his obedience, his faith was strengthened. I personally appreciated a quote by Elder L. Tom Perry who said something like this, "The difference between disobedience and obedience is like going back to our limited knowledge or receiving the unlimited knowledge of Heavenly Father." For me, that really helped me understand the concept of obedience and the natural results of being obedient. If we are obedient, then the blessing is knowledge. If we want knowledge, faith, hope, charity, etc., obedience is the springboard to all of those good things. And obedience starts in our heart first. If we choose to be obedient in our heart then our actions will follow. Sometimes I think that we think changing behavior does the trick. But it's changing the nature first that changes the behavior. In PMG it says, "Doctrine changes behavior." This is so true. If we want to change our nature, then we ought to be obedient to Jesus Christ.

I personally enjoyed the story of the horses and the "spiritual bits" that are given to us. Are we paying attention to those? Or biting so hard on them that we are past feeling? Or maybe we just need to stop fighting the bit and let it help us!

Also, I picked up on a lot of references to service. It really doesn't matter where you serve, it's really about how you serve. It doesn't matter how far away from home you serve or what quarter of the earth you are in because distance doesn't change nature! Just like little children sometimes will say, "I'm running away and never coming back!" because they want to change their circumstance, or because they aren't happy and they think that the further the way they are, the more happy they will be. It's often our nature we need to change.  The reason is within ourselves, in our hearts. Sometimes we think that the further we run away from God, or by trying to chase Him out of our lives, it will help us to think or change more or "find ourselves." But we really only find ourselves when we lose ourselves in Christ. (I really hope that you are all studying the Book of Mormon. :) It's truly for us! Read it!)

So this week... We have Lionella and Lily who are preparing for baptism on April 23. I am really stressed out about this because I'm not so sure that they are going to be ready. My companion and I struggle to understand each other's sides on the matter, but I am trying to just have faith that it will work out and that we will teach them and help them enough. That's the hardest thing! Knowing if you have done enough for them. But I also have to remember, it really comes down to their agency. :)

Zone P-day hike to Taytay Falls -- Beautiful!!
It's been a super hot week which has practically killed me!! I almost can't breathe. hahah It's just TOO hot and there's no wind anymore. BUT today for p-day we went as a zone to a place called Majayjay which has a waterfall. That was beautiful! It was a nice dat and cooler there but a long drive--about 1 hour by jeepneey. The trip was full of rice fields and beautiful scenery. The scenery really helps me feel close to Heavenly Father. Especially going into the mountain tops! I sort of feel closer to heaven the higher I climb the mountains of the Philippines. :) I love my mission.

My favorite experience this week was teaching Oliver about the restoration. We used the DVD about Joseph Smith, and I always love to share this with people. I'm really growing in my testimony of Joseph Smith and the Restoration. I love learning about it.

I will be able to see on Wednesday if I have received the package! Thanks so much again :) I already can't wait to hear from you next week! I hope you know how much I love you. I miss you guys a lot every day. But I have FAITH in Jesus Christ. I am determined to TRY! We can all determine to try, can't we? :) LOVE YOU SO MUCH! Don't worry about me :) I'm doing alright! I don't want to miss out on any blessings from the Lord. And especially, knowing the Plan, why should I? Why should anyone? :) Have a good week!!!

Sister Seastrand
On our way to the Zone P-day Hike
Taytay Falls

Monday, April 7, 2014

Week 26

We cross Omboy Wawa almost every day--I love this bridge!
So basically this week, I just really loved watching a life-changing program: The General Women's Meeting. Everything that was in that meeting helped me remember who we are as women and daughters of God. I especially loved talk given by Elder Henry B. Eyring and what he said about Heavenly Father's love. It's probably one of the most real things I have ever felt in my life. To me, the thing that's the greatest about being a woman is that Heavenly Father has placed within us that great ability we have which is Love. We have the ability to love and love like the Savior. As a Sister Missionary, I can see how important Love is every day. Your companion, your area, your calling, your investigators and less actives, and most importantly yourself. Missionaries really can be so hard on themselves. Come to think of it, Mothers can really be so hard on themselves, and women in general can be so hard on themselves. Why don't we count the blessings that we have like our talents, our potentials, our little success every day, and just our divine heritage that has been given to us? Change the way you look at it and you'll change your entire life. This is true.

I love these sweet children!
Sometimes, tho, I really forget to love some of the Lord's investigators that He's given me to teach. It really cuts to the core when: They don't read. Then they don't come to church. Then they forget where they are supposed to read. Then they forget who Joseph Smith is and mix him up with "Papa Jesus". And my personal favorite: sometimes they forget why we're even teaching them. After we ask them how their preparation is coming along for baptism, how they're feeling, etc. (usually it's about the 6th teaching appointment in). "Actually we're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. Mormons, remember?" OH YEAH. Those people that are trying to help me change my life. Guess I can say that's happened a few times.

However, we have an "Investigator of the week": Leonella M.
OK, even though she mixed up Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, I still have to just laugh and love her anyway.
"So Leonella, who is Joseph Smith again?"
"Jesus Christ."
Close.... yet so FAR...
But really, nothing is more frustrating to me than this answer. She then redeemed herself when watching the 'Joseph Smith Experience.' The look on her face of understanding just filled me up. This 60 year old woman is just really wanting to read the Book of Mormon and is probably one of the most obedient investigator's I've had so far. Every commitment, KEPT. Even obeying the law of the land AND law of the fast. She always keeps her Book of Mormon and pamphlets in a little bag she brings to every lesson. I just love watching her change and watching her learning and growth right before my eyes.

My comp!
Sometimes on your mission there are those days when you really just forget everything you know about Tagalog and no one understands this little American girl trying to speak their language. Which really seemed to happen especially in Gospel Principles class trying to teach about Faith. And in spite of all my frustrations and challenges, I recognize that Heavenly Father still blesses me. If someone were to ask me my greatest fear it would have to be missing out on all the blessings from the Lord. It's SCARY to think that I could miss out on those things. I have a lot of faith in the blessings and promises of the Lord. He has so many for each of us.

My heart is happy in the following this week: Willie (my favorite recent convert), even paying his tithing and fast offering--and he doesn't even have his membership record number yet. What a GUY! To top it off, here's his answer to a question from my (probably really bad) Gospel Principles lesson:
"Brother Willie, what is faith to you?"
He slowly stands up, answers ALL in English:
"Faith comes from your heart, might, mind, soul, strength, and head. It comes from everything."
Basically I just closed the entire lesson. Thank you for recent converts who really brighten up Gospel Principles classes with simple testimonies!

Faith does come from every part of us. Have some faith this week. I know I will try. Love you all!
Sister Seastrand

P.S. We're cooking for conference. Filipino style. I'll let you know how that goes.