Monday, September 30, 2013

September 30, 2013 Hello! Hello!

This is how they tell you not to wash your feet  in the bathroom sink :)



This week was pretty uneventful except for the fact that I ate Balut! Yes, I ate the dreaded Balut.  (For those of you that do not know, it is a fertilized, fermented duck egg. So yes, there is an embryo in there. And then it is boiled) It actually tasted pretty good; pretty much just like a hard boiled egg.  A little slimy in some parts.  But the worst part about it is you can see the feathers and the yolk looked exactly like the placentas in my anatomy lab.  I tried not to look at what I was eating but I was so curious.  The good thing is it was a really young embryo so there weren't any little cones or a beak and the feathers weren't that developed yet.  So yeah, it wasn't bad.  So I successfully ate Balut!  I've also eaten a couple meals with just my hands.  Very rude in America but just fine here.  And, I found out that I have been drinking iced tea.  One of our investigators always serves us apples juice...or so I thought.  Sister Salado took a sip and realized it was iced tea.  So I had to repent...although you can't really repent if you don't know what you're doing, right?  A lot of the snacks and juices here have tea or coffee in them so we have to be really careful.

Another cultural note is that here, they don't move out of their parents house until they are married, and even still, they may stay in their house.  So everyone is very intrigued that I moved out when I was 18 and was supporting myself.  They all want to know why I would do that! Such a different culture.  They all ask if I didn't love my family.  I was quick to assure them that I do love my family.  A lot.

This week we had a couple of the ward members work with us which was so nice!  The members are definitely needed in missionary work.  It really shouldn't be called missionary work, it should be called missionary help to the wards/branches.  Then maybe people would realize that it's not the job of the missionaries only to convert!

We are really excited about one of our investigators.  He is a referral (which is always WAY better than a street contact) and he really does want to know the truth.  The only problem is that we can only teach him on Sundays because he goes away to work during the week.  So we're trying to figure out how we can condense the lessons, but still make sure he understands them.  But he accepted the baptismal date we extended to him and he seemed happy about it too.  The really good thing is that he has several friends that are LDS and his boss is the branch president.  So he has a really big support system although his family isn't listening to the discussions.

We also made a lot of progress with another investigator of ours, Camille.  For the longest time I didn't think she was interested and was only listening to us because her dad was making her.  She never really paid attention to us and was very distracted the whole time we were teaching.  But this week, she paid attention, asked questions and gave answers that were longer than "Opo" (yes).  That was a testimony to me to not give up on people.  I was almost ready to give up on her and drop her as an investigator when we saw a lot of progress.  So although they don't seem interested at first, the prayers and the consistent efforts of members can definitely make a big change in that person.  And we need to have faith in the non-members too.  I definitely needed to repent of my lack of faith.

My companionship with Sister Salado is going really well.  She is really hardworking and very in tune with the spirit.  She is also very good at gaining the trust of the people that we are teaching.  That is a weakness of mine.  I'm not good at being super conversational...especially in Tagalog.  But she is a really good example for me and I know that the Lord assigns the people in our lives to us for a reason.  We can always learn something from every person we come in contact with.
sister Salado's birthday this week!  We bought her a cake and ice cream and pork chops.  It was all so delicious!

Well, the Lord is surely hastening His work here in the Philippines and I know He's hastening it everywhere.  This really is the final push and this work is the work of salvation for people.  Just like Alma and his brethren, we do not want anyone to lose their salvation.  I know that this work is so important and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a servant of the Lord at this exciting time!

I love you all!

Sister Sirrine

PS I am so excited for General Conference!  We don't get to watch it until the 13th, and only the Sunday session I think, but still so exciting!

Monday, September 23, 2013

September 23, 2013 Hello! Hello!

This is the four of us (from left to right) Sis Makihele (from alaska), Sis Fuentes, Sis Salado and me!

Pic of the Church.  Kind of cool.

This is our stove.  So it's pretty much like camping all the time
There are caribao everywhere.  They are just held there by a little tiny rope.

This is when we were in a trisome before I got my new companion.  One of our teaching appointments

This is me and my new comp! Isn't she so little???
Wow, can't believe that it's P-day again!  So fast!  This week went a lot better, I feel a lot more comfortable with Sister Salado and how she teaches and how she does things.  There definitely is an adjustment period when you get a new companion!  Especially if she is Filipino :)  I really really really like her a lot though.  She is super hard working and really cute.  And she helps me with my Tagalog a lot.  My Tagalog is pretty good in the lessons when I am talking but it is still really hard for me to understand what the people are saying.  Mostly because I haven't studied those words and so I don't know them.  And my Tagalog outside of lessons is still pretty rough, and I am pretty slow at speaking outside of the lessons, but I am getting faster! And my companion does speak really good English and she's really good at being able to translate for me.  Although she doesn't speak English quite as well as Sister Mafi.  I really try and just speak Tagalog to her but sometimes i really don't know how to say what I need to in Tagalog or it needs to be said quickly so I use English.  But the Tagalog is coming along!  Someday I'll be able to speak like a Filipino hopefully!

Our transitions in the lessons got a lot better this week and it made our teaching sooooo much better.  And Sister Salado is really good at just forcing me to talk and take over the lesson.  Which is really good for my teaching and my Tagalog.  One of our lessons was to someone who definitely was not interested in hearing our message.  He wanted to talk to a foreigner and debate.  He even told us that we are false prophets (I didn't understand that until Sis Salado told me later).  He also said that "people here just want a question and answer session.  They don't want to be preached to."  You really can't be easily offended if you want to be a missionary! So needless to say, we won't go back and teach him again.  But his friend that was with him we think is ready to hear the gospel so now the trick is trying to find his friend without running into him.  Hmmmm....

I also did my first street contact all by myself this week!  Sister Salado didn't say anything the whole time!  And I was able to keep up the conversation and it was more of a conversation too.  And he said we could come and teach him.  So that was exciting.  Oh and I understand what he was saying too, which is doubly exciting.  I feel like I am so close to being able to understand the people.  I understand most words but then there are always one or two that I don't know that makes it so I can't understand the whole conversation.  We were also called elders this week.  This area used to be an elders area and so I think that some people think that "Elders" means "Missionaries".  It was really funny.

Also two funny things for the week:  First, I am getting callouses on my knees from kneeling and praying so much.  My solution: kneel on my flip flops!  It just made me laugh that I have callouses on my knees.  There's no carpet in our house (or anywhere for that matter) so it's all tile and quite hard.  Second, last Monday when I did laundry I rubbed the skin off my thumbs because I was wringing out my clothes so hard.  Then we went to an appointment and Brother Ernesto told me that I didn't know how to wash clothes.  But the funny thing is that he had cuts on HIS hands from washing clothes.  I told him that I definitely know how to wash clothes by hand.

We had a really good spiritual experience this week.  We had all of our appointments text us and tell us that they weren't going to be there on Saturday after we'd already left the house.  So we only had two appointments for the whole day and then we had to figure out where to go.  We decided to go to a less actives house that we were planning on going to on Sunday.  When I've visited her before, she is always really quiet, doesn't really talk to us and seems like she doesn't want us to be there.  But on Saturday, she totally opened up and talked to us about her problems with her family (they don't want to go to church) and said she was so grateful that we came there. She was even smiling (which was the first time I've seen that) and she said that she was sorry because before, when we visited, she didn't really want to talk to us.  But she was grateful that we came that day.  It was a really huge testimony builder to me about how much the spirit can change someone!  After the lesson, Sis Salado said to me "You didn't tell me she was talkative!"  and I told her, "She's not!  She's never ever opened up like that, or smiled like that." So although all of our appointments fell through, I feel like we followed the spirit and went where we were needed.  And in the lesson, she really felt the spirit.  It was really awesome to see.

Oh! And also, we got news that Pres Querido is planning to split our branch into two branches!!!!!  All the leaders in the ward are so excited and we're going to get two new missionaries to this area on the next transfer!  So exciting!  We just have to get a few more priesthood holders to be active and then they'll build a new chapel (rent first) over in my area which is so good becasue it is really far away from the chapel right now in Gua Gua.

Well, that's all for this week!

Mahal kita!

Sister Sirrine

Monday, September 16, 2013

September 16, 2013 First week with my new comp.!

Hello family!

Well, I have a new companion and she is Filipino!  I was so excited, although I had a feeling that I would have a Filipino companion.  Her name is Sister Salado.  She is tiny.  5' 0" and wears size 5 shoes.  I feel gigantic next to her.  She's really nice and really hardworking, which is good.  Of course, this week was a little tough while we are going through the adjustment stage and getting used to how each other teaches and how each other does things.  But that is good to not get in a rut and to learn new ways of doing things.  It keeps your teaching new and interesting, which is so important.  Otherwise you start teaching lessons instead of teaching to the person's needs.  With the transfer, the other American in our apartment was transferred and so Sister Fuentes is now training a new missionary.  She is Tongan, but not really because she's lived her whole life in Alaska.  She is having a bit of a hard time with the heat :)  So now we have two new missionaries and two Filipinos in our apartment!

So I have been leading my area which has actually been okay.  I haven't gotten us lost yet...a miracle for sure!  We had several successes this week because we received several referrals and found several people to teach.  After several weeks of dwindling numbers, it's really nice to see some progress.  We had two people accept baptisimal commitments this week which was super exciting.  And one of them gave us 4 names that she wants us to visit this coming Sunday!  It was really exciting.

I've come to realize that the gift of tongues is very closely related to my faith.  Because I have a new companion, I have felt unsure of myself and my ability to speak Tagalog since she talks like a native and Sister Mafi spoke like a foreigner.  And I noticed, in the lessons that I couldn't speak very well.  I was really slow and choppy and it was almost like I literally could not talk.  I realized that it was because I was thinking to myself, "I can't do this.  I can't lead the lesson and teach and I don't know what Sister Salado is doing."  So in the middle of one of my lessons, I prayed to Heavenly Father to take away my uncertainty and fear and to give me the gift of tongues and that I have faith that I can teach if I have the companionship of the Holy Ghost.  And guess what happened....the last half of the lessons I spoke a lot more quickly and fluidly and the investigator didn't have a confused look on his face like he did during the first half of the lesson.  It's just like it says in the scriptures, the spirit of fear is not of God and it prohibits the Holy Ghost to be with you.  If we doubt that we can do something, of course we won't be able to do it.  But if we realize that we can't do it without the help of our Heavenly Father and then we ask for His help, we can do all things.  I know that all things are possible with Christ.  There is no way that I should be able to speak as much Tagalog as I do right now.  Often, I get people asking how long I have been here and they are always surprised when I say just 6 weeks.  I know that it is only through the help of the Lord that this is possible.  And it is only through the help of the Lord that missionary work is possible.

Funny things for the week:  A member told me that he's pretty sure that I am gaining weight.  Lovely.  But that's the Filipino culture...they just tell it exactly how it is.  If you have acne, they'll tell you.  If you are gaining weight, they'll tell you.  If you are sweaty, they'll tell you.  So anyone that gets offended easily should never come to the Philippines!  But, I did weigh myself two weeks ago and I haven't gained any I don't believe him.  I am going a little crazy because we don't really exercise, but oh well.  After my mission I'll get back into that!

I love you all and I know that the church is true!

Mahal ko kayo!

Sister Sirrine

PS pics. I forgot my cable!

We went to the market today and bought fish.  They were still alive.  Still flopping around on the table.  Thankfully they gutted them for us and so they were dead...but I've never bought live food before!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sept 9, 2013 Another Week

Last day of proselyting with Sis Mafi

Our last pic all together
This is the Castro family
Sleeping on the jeepney

Kumusta pamilya ko!

Ice cream!
This week was weird!  I can't even begin to say all that happened.  Right now I am in a trisome because my trainer has officially left to go back home to Tonga.  I have to admit, this last week has been really hard for me to not want to go home too because she was getting ready to leave all week and of course she talked about it a lot.  But don't worry, I'm staying out here!  She was supposed to leave this morning (Monday) at 7 am but yesterday we got a call from the AP's around 2:45 pm yesterday asking if she was packed.  She said not yet and they said that there was a problem with immigration so the flight got changed and someone was going to pick her up in Lubao (a 45 min drive away) at 4:30.  So then we went into scramble mode to try and get her all packed up and leave in about an hour.  And we had to call the other sisters in our apartment to get them to come back so I would have a companion.  The funny thing here in the Philippines is that when people have a special occasion, they buy pasta or spaghetti (it's suuuuuper expensive here!) so we bought her lasagna on Saturday and also some ice cream (which is also suuuuper expensive).  It was all super delicious!  So we hurried and packed all her stuff and then wolfed down the food and packed her suitcases on a tricycle (that was a trick!) and went to Lubao.  I felt bad because her last day here was so panicked and rushed.  Then we waited in Lubao for and 1.5 hours until they called again and said to send her on a bus by herself to Dinalupian where they would pick her up.  So yesterday we had one appointment by the time we got back to Gua Gua.

Packing everything on the tricycle
Earlier this week, we came home from working and found three pairs of shoes on our porch chewed up by dogs.  Two of them were mine.  And one of them was a pair of my proselyting shoes!  So now I am down to one pair of shoes and I was so angry for the rest of the day.  Stupid dogs.  The other sisters said that nothing like that has ever happened before but now we keep our shoes inside.  I can't afford to lose another pair of nice shoes.  I was really hoping that they would last at least half of my mission!

Sis Mafi's x-ray
Also this week, I tried Menudo!  One of the members made it for us and it was actually really really good.  I liked it a lot.  For all of you that served Spanish missions, I'm sure that this menudo was also had hot dogs in it.  The Philippines has a really weird Spanish, Filipino and American culture mix.  I can't quite figure it all out yet.  It's all very random.  We also had to go to the hospital because Sister Mafi needed an x-ray (it's required before you leave) and the hospitals here are so different!  It's exactly like those hospitals from the WWII movies with just curtains separating the beds.  But it had AC which was super nice!  (They call AC here Air Con.  And they call the fridge the ref.)  I had a lot of fun looking at her x-ray the next day and naming all the bones that I could see.  It made me miss my anatomy class that I taught!  The other sisters thought I was so weird but that's okay.

As far as proselyting this week, our numbers are dropping.  We have so many investigators that just didn't progress and so we ended up dropping them.  But unfortunately we didn't pick up any new ones in the last few weeks so now we don't have enough appointments to fill our time.  We did a lot of street contacting this week.  Sister Fuentes said that I have an asset and I need to use asset is my white skin.  So when people would smile at me, we would take advantage of it and go talk to them.  Mostly they didn't care about what we had to say, just interested in an American.  And they all thought I spoke better Tagalog than I do and they would start talking to me.  I mostly just nod my head and smile.  Good thing I had Sister Mafi to translate for me!

Earlier this morning we had a zone activity becasue we acheived the standard of excellence for our zone last month.  We got to go play basketball and volleyball as a zone and then we went to a restaurant that had pizza.  Real American pizza.  It was delicious!  This week was great! Pizza and ice cream! Masarap!  But very expensive.....

So as of right now, I am waiting until tomorrow night when a mass text goes out saying who will be transferred on Wednesday morning.  And then Wednesday we go to Olongapo and I'll pick up companion and then I have to lead my area.  Sometimes I feel like I'm ready to lead....and then sometimes I don't feel ready at all.  I feel like I don't know what's going on enough but I am still in training so I'll be fine.  My biggest spiritual lesson for the week was patience.  Although I am a little frustrated at the lack of progression with our proselyting, I need to not let that get me frustrated or angry.  Because then the spirit can't work with you.  The moments when I let frustration come in, I found that my Tagalog was a lot less sure and we just weren't as effective.  So I learned this week, that when things don't go the way you think they should, of course you should try to fix that but don't become frustrated about it.  I really learned a lot from the story of Ammon and the sons of Mosiah.  They had a lot of patience and endured a lot of trials.  And it is AFTER the trial of our patience that we experience success.

Alam ko po na pinakamahalaga ang pasensiya sa misionero gawain! At alam ko po na tunay ang mga biyaya sa misionero gawain.

Ingat kayo!

Sister Sirrine

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sept. 2, 20013 Hello from the heat of the Philippines!

A typical meal.  Lots of rice.
  And they eat everything with spoons.
The fork is just to push food onto the spoon
They drink sodas in bags because bottles and cans are super expensive

We are in the southern part of the mission close to Bataan so there are lots of Bataan death march memorials.  This one was really cool!
They also have markers every few kilometers

Our baptism!  Sis Mafi and I are standing beside Danilo (Our investigator)

Kumusta pamilya!!!

Well, this week was pretty normal....funny how living in the Philippines is becoming normal....and I can't believe that I only have one week left until the transfer and my trainer goes home!  Time really does go fast out here....and sometimes slow but we'll just focus on the fast part!  My trial for the week was the heat.  Holy cow.  I have never sweated so much in my entire life....even while working out.  Like seiously, you are never dry.  Ever.  And I am actually grateful that we only have cold water for our shower.  I have also never felt so grateful for fans in my life.  Since there is no AC here (except in the computer shops and a few other places), fans are my best friend.  It kind of makes it hard to sleep sometimes becasue it is so hot but hoppefully I'll get used to it becasue it's just going to get hotter!  I really am lucky that I got here during cool season.

This week we had a companion exchange with some other sisters.  My companion for the day was Sister Dela Torre (Philippino) and she came here at the same time as me.  So I was super nervous because we were both new and she came to my area.  So I had to lead.  But the good thing was the she speaks Tagalog so that helped a ton.  She was super good at teaching and it was fun to see a different way of doing missionary work.  I am so proud of myself that I didn't get lost (navigation here is soooooo hard because everything looks the same) and we had some really good appointments.  That gave me a little more confidence that I can lead my area when Sister Mafi goes home.

Some members in church wanted to see a picture of my family so I brought it to church yesterday.  They said "Where's your mom and dad?"  So I pointed you out and they were like "Oh!  They are so young!  I thought they were siblings!"  And they thought our family was so beautiful.  They were just enamored with the blond hair and white skin.  And our noses.  They like white people noses here.  Kind of funny.

Another funny thing of the week was that I discovered that Christmas here starts on Sept 1.  So as of yesterday, everyone is playing Christmas music and we sang Christmas songs in church.  And apparently it lasts until February.  They really love Christmas here!  It's kind of weird though because it's not getting cooler so to me, it does not seem like Christmas should be anytime soon.  (And really, it's not)

The highlight of the week was of course the baptism for our investigator, Danilo Valiente.  It was supposed to be at 5 pm, but everyone here runs on Filipino time, so we got there at 4:30 and only the baptizer and the other baptizee Bienvenido (yes, for all you Spanish speakers, that really is his first name) was there.  Danilo didn't show up until 5:20 and I was super afraid that he had forgotten.  And we didn't have any other priesthood holders to witness.  So we were trying to get priesthood holder to come witness and the other sisters went to a members house to get one.  The baptism didn't start until about 5:55 pm but I guess that's just Filipino culture.  And people were still showing up for it at 6:30.  Bienvenidos had to be baptized twice and it was a little rough....he was kind of thrown into the water.  Danilo and Bien are probably late 60s/early 70s and that baptizer was too.  I was afraid someone was going to get dropped or drown!  But it all worked out in the end.  And of course, the Spirit was there although everything was so disorganized.  It was also neat to see Danilo baptized because I guess we are his 3rd or 4th set of missionaries.  It took a long time but I guess it's finally the right time for him.  That's something that I've had to learn here, everyone needs our message, but we have to be patient if they aren't ready right away.

We also had an amazing experience in one of our lessons where the spriit was so strong.  Our investigator, Jun, really wants to know if it is true.  And he reads the book of mormon and has many questions each time we come.  The probably is he can't come to church because he can't walk very well and his knees hurt really bad.  We had a member with us in that lesson and mostly they talked together about praying and receiving answers.  At the end, I bore my tesimony that I didn't understand a lot of what they had said, but I could feel the spirit very strong.  And I felt prompted to tell him that he had felt the spirit too.  Then I asked him how he felt and he said "masaya (happy).  It's hard to describe." And then I told him that that was the spirit.  It was a super powerful lesson and it was one of the moments that I walked away from really really loving being a missionary.

Well, although I am sweaty and hot everyday and I miss the fam, I know that this is where I am supposed to be!  I know that the Lord protects and watches over his missionaries and gives his missionaries some really unique experiences.  It makes it worth every appointment that people aren't there, or don't keep their commitments, or don't come to church.  The only thing I would tell all of you back at home is that memeber missionaries are so powerful and helpful. Please be member missionaries!  Although it may be scary or hard sometimes, missionaries have the most success when the members are involved in the missionary work.

Mahal Kita!!

Sister Sirrine