Sunday, November 2, 2014

Week # 75 My very last letter! ( Nov. 2, 2014)

My brain is in a fuzz looking back at the last 18 months of my life. The unexpected, the unanticipated, the uncontrollable, the unforgettable. Wow.
My last day of proselyting was last night. We stayed out as late as we could, then spent an hour packing up all my things. After getting into bed on time, I couldn't fall asleep for over 3 hours. So many things running through my mind. I'm not excited to go home, I'm not sad to leave, I'm not stressed about the work... I'm just in a blur. I think my whole being is in denial. I can't really explain. I'm just going through the motions now of the day getting the things done that I need to. Sister Nielsen (my companion from the MTC) and I are companions for this week. Today we have interviews with president and time to pick up last minute things. Tomorrow we have a carreer workshop all day and a devotional/dinner at night. Wednsday we fly to Manila, go to the Temple, and wait for our flight home which is Thursday Morning. I'll get home Friday for my body, but Thursday for you because of the time change. Even as I am saying this, I don't really believe it. It's really here? I'm really going to be an RM? That title is for old, mature people.
Saturday was on of the biggest holidays in the Philippines. It's bigger than Christmas. Its called Fieste Minatay. It's the Filipino Halloween. It's the day to celebrate and remember all the loved ones who past away. What is that in america... Mamorial day? But litterally everyone celebrates and goes to the cemetary. Because of lack of space, each lot is stacked 6 tombs high with little ledges to light the candles on each grave. Because no one is in there homes, each year, the missionaries go and proselyte at the grave yard and talk and teach. We taught a lot of lessons and met a lot of prepared people. But since Paglaum doesn't have a cemetary, we were proselyting in Murcia for the day. So we ended up giving the Elders a lot of referrals. Oh, well. I hope they stay busy contacting all of them. It is tradition that after the days festivities, all the kids and teenagers spend the night in the Cemetary partying. Hence, there were no people in Church on Sunday. But that's okay, we did our best.
I did have a sweet tender mercy on my last Sunday yesterday. Remember Joshua? He was the little boy who kept talking to me while I was emailing you a few months ago. We found his house back then and found out he is an 8 year old of a really less-active family. He has been begging us to get baptized, but we didn't want to baptize him without his family returning, otherwise he might go less-active as well. But he has been coming to church on his own for the last 6 weeks. Finally we found the mom who works full time in another town. We told her that Joshua really wants to be baptized, but she needs to come with him to church to talk to Bishop about his baptism. She re-arranged her schedule and her first Sunday back was yesterday. We went up to Bishop after Sacrament meeting and told him the story. He looked at me and said, "Do you want to baptize him today on your last Sunday?" I told him to talk to the family first. After a long interview with the family, they decided to baptize him that day. We threw the baptism together and baptized little Joshua. The mom bore her testimony and said that she changed her schedule permanently so that they can keep coming to church with Joshua. I'm so impressed and amazed with Joshua. His sweet spirit, sweet desire, and honest pleading to be baptized. Miracles do happen.
I love you all more than you know!  Thank you all for all your love, prayers and support for the last 18 months! 
Lots of love, Palangga ko kamo! Kitanay kita sa Huwebes! 
Love, Sister Smoot  You can catch up a little on her letters so you can talk to her about it! haha

Monday, October 27, 2014

Week # 74 ( Oct. 26 2014)

Dear Family, 

I don't know how many letters I have written home, but they are feeling really redundant. (# 74!) There are so many good things that happen each week mixed with the stress and challenges that a mission brings. I'm not always sure what you want to know, hear, or learn about. This area has been my most challenging as far as progression of investigators. I feel like sometimes I am just chipping away at a cement wall that is 500 feet thick. Each day we see miracles that can blow out another 5 feet, they are miraculous and appreciated, but the chipping continues. I think I am learning the most about Christlike attributes, and constantly feel my patience, charity, and humility being tested. Isn't cool that even when you feel burned out, torn apart, drained emotionally and physically, you can still experience more cleansing and purifying? What a blessing. 

This week I had a tender blessing and got to go on exchanges with Sister Nielsen. (My companion from the MTC). We have been in this zone together for the whole 4 months, but last time I went on exchanges with her companion, so this was the first time to go with her. We have gotten so close here in the zone, and I am so grateful for her. We were together too when we went to Manila for fingerprinting. We are going through some of the same things, so it was great to work together for a day in her old area and find some new investigators, some old investigators, and just work together. Our teaching skills and language skills have improved a lot since our first lesson in the MTC back in May 2013. It was mostly cool to share our experiences from the mission and learn from each other. There is always still so much to learn. 

Don't worry about telling me to work hard dad- I am. I'm doing everything I can and trusting that this is the Lord's plan. I still feel like I have another month, and I forget a lot that I only have 1 more week, especially while planning. But I know that the Lord will take care of his Vineyard. He is in control. I love you!
Love, Sister Smoot

Note from Kendra: 

I was able to contact Ashley's companion Sister Russon who is from LEHI! We have been sending each other the weekly letters the last few times so we can get more information and its been so great to see both missionaries perspectives! Here is part of what sister Russon had to say about the week! i am assuming this was with sister Smoot.

This week we saw some cool miracles.  First of all on Friday we were getting ready to head home for the night when we got a phone call from Sister Ejusa, one of the members in the ward.  She called telling us that she had a referral for us!  She set up a time for Saturday for us to come teach.  It was amazing.  We went and taught her and I felt like I was in one of the Preach My Gospel videos.  The member is well off so we were sitting on couches instead of plastic chairs or bamboo benches which what we usually do.  It was really cool. 
Then Saturday night we were teaching a newer investigator named Rony.  He has a cool story of how we found him.  He's related to some members and we were looking at the CMIS for some less-active families.  The address for the member family was wrong so we ended up at Rony's house instead of the members.  But every opportunity to teach right?  We started teaching him and he seemed really interested but we weren't sure if he was drunk or not.  Then we came back to follow up and after several times were able to teach him all of lesson 1 and most of lesson 2.  He is so receptive.  He also reads everything we give him and remembers and understands it!  He had so many great questions and just picks up on things so quickly.  If you review he lets you know that you already taught it and so you just have to keep moving.  He didn't make it to church because he feels guilty.  He feels like he can't go (even though he goes to the catholic church every Sunday).  Definitely Satan working on him to keep him out.  He is so special and I know that it wasn't an accident that we found him!  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Week # 73 (Oct. 19, 2014)

Jeftie, Jeanbie and Cyber
BAPTISM! Jeanbie, Jeftie (found out this is actually how you spell it), and Cyber. It was such a cool baptism. They wanted it early in the morning so that they could feel good the whole day. :) We had their baptism at 8 am on Saturday morning. Jeanbie showed up in the skirt that Sister Madronio left her, and the other two were wearing their nicest jeans and shirts. Their excitement was tangible in the air. When they got the white jumpers on, Sister Jeanbie was almost jumping up and down, she was so excited. Bishops family is so amazing, and they all came to support the baptism. The service was really neat as well, and at the end they all bore their testimonies. Jeftie has been practicing his testimony for the last month. He said he kept bearing his testimony to all his friends and praying for his class to practice so that he wouldn't be scared on his baptism day! :) He went first and did a good job. I always feel like a mom who freaks out over every new step their baby makes. Each step they make feels like Christmas. Their testimonies are so pure and innocent and I can't even remember their bratty-ness when I first met them. They are so pure, humble, determined, and powerufl. They all spoke about serving missions in the next few years when they reach the right age. Can you just see it? All three of them serving throughout the world? Changing the world? It gives me goosebumps to think about. The most inspiring part of the day, was the testimony of Cyber. He is 18, never been to highschool, orphaned, finds his food each day by doing chores for people. For example, he will fetch thier water, and run their errands, chop their wood, cook, etc. so that he can eat with their family and sleep there for the night. He moves around families every couple weeks, but always in Paglaum. He has always been quieter in the lessons since he is not used to such a class-like setting, and is always more shy to pray or answer questions. But over the last couple of weeks, we have seen the wheels turning, and logic clicking, and the spirit filling in all the missing pieces. One lesson, he interrupts the lesson (which was about family history), looks up, and just says, "I always need to go to church don't I. Until I'm really really old." I just chuckled and said, "yes, we all do." He smiled and right there promised he would go for the rest of his life. He had committed before, and he had been to church 6 times, but for the first time, the spirit taught him something that internalized in his soul. The power of his statement still rings in my ears. So yesterday, he was last to bear his testimony. He had been so scared and told us previously that he didn't want to do it. But after his baptism, he just stood up with so much confidence and talked about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, he thanked me and all my companions who have taught them, talked about the holy ghost, and even closed in the name of Jesus Christ. He was the only one who remembered that at the end. I couldn't help but cry at his progression. It's so beautiful. This gospel is beautiful. It was the best "last baptism" I could ask for. 

I love you all and want you to know how thankful I am for all for all of you! Allyson, you are amazing, keep up the dedication, motivation, and hard work. It's the hardest when the results don't come as fast as we wish, but just as it says in PMG chapter 1, a successful missionary will know they have done their best, when they feel the spirit testify through them. They will know they have done their best. 

I love you! Palangga ko kamo!
Sister Smoot

Monday, October 13, 2014

Week # 72 (October 13, 2014)

Hello Family!
First of all, Jeanbie, Cyber, and Jeftie have not been baptized yet, but they are scheduled to be baptized this Saturday! We are excited for them, and they all came to General Conference on Saturday. Sister Jeanbie even came on Saturday too. It is harder for them because it is in all English, but it was really neat to see what the spirit taught them and listen to them explain all the things they learned from the Prophet. Their sweet sincerity and desire for more knowledge is inspiring. 

General Conference for missionaries is better than Christmas. Each session goes way too fast, and after it's all done, I feel ready for  round 2! But It's important as well that we apply the things the spirit testified to us. It has been cool to use the prophets council and teachings in each appointment and we learned from each of the talks. We are spreading their simple, but profound messages as the spirit directs in each appointment. It is really amazing how it just comes to you. If we are continually studying the word of God, what we need to teach will be given to us at the right time. This promise is fulfilled each day in the life of a missionary. I don't want that feeling to stop. The feeling of receiving revelation and then immediately acting on it. It is the best rush of joy and excitement! 

We had our missionary leadership council meeting again. And I am now addicted to Family History Work. We received council to teach Family History to every LA, active member, RC, and Investigators about to be baptized and submit their pedigree chart to the office. When we send in a new member's baptismal record, their pedigree chart has to be completed and attatched. The Spirit of Elijah just exploded in me. It is a different and fun spirit to feel. It is a very motivating spirit. We received a referral from a member to visit a Less-active and her non-member grandchildren. The children were not super excited to talk to us, but as we were talking to sister, we realized she was really obsessed with her handhed tablet. Each time she would tell us something, she would show us an example with her electronic device. By the time we could actually start the lesson, we helped her upload the app "gospel library" because it's free and showed her how to read or listen to the scriptures each day. Then we gave her the assignment about family history. She is on fire now and loves using her device for family history work. Even though she wasn't excited to listen to us in the beginning. Now she is excited for us to keep teaching her new things on her tablet. It was a first time for me to use an electronic device in a lesson, but it was cool. I love being apart of some of the changes in missionary work. And I love Family HIstory. It is a focus in this mission because we are the highest baptizing mission in the world. That means we have the most recent converts in the world. So we will be able to help each recent convert start their family history. It's just exciting... How many more times can I say the word exciting?? :) I am excited.

We had a huge tender mercy yesterday (SUNDAY). Over the last few weeks, our ward has stopped really working with us and they keep canceling all the appointments we are setting. We used to have a lot working with us, but five just left on missions. This week we had someone set up each day of the week, but they all canceled the morning of. We just kept smiling and working even though there was a huge storm that came in for 3 days and there were no people outside and everyone was sleeping so no one was answering the doors. We weren't able to proselyte one of the days because of our leadership meeting, and another day we had the zone training that we gave. Then we had general conference. Finally on Sunday, the sun came out and we were ready to go on member exchanges with two relief society members... but they both canceled five minutes before. I started crying on our way to our first appointment, but only a couple tears. These are my last weeks as a missionary, and I've been feeling everything spinning out of control. Then I realized, it is out of my control. But it is in the control of our Savior, our Master, and the leader of All missionary work. I said a silent prayer to pull myself together, and with my companion, we re-set our goals for the day. We only had 6 hours to make up for our losses that week, and visit all our investigators that have been gone, and find new investigators. Our goals were unrealistically high, but we prayed for them and ran like Abish from house to house. For our third appointment, we were in the middle of a sugar cane field with a split in the path. We were supposed to just head into the village, but I just remembered one of our investigators who hadn't been home for two weeks. I didn't really want to go to his house because it is far and we were in a hurry. But I just stopped and asked Sister Russon what we should do because the thought had popped in my head. She thought for a moment, and we went to this investigator. Five steps later around the corner, we met a HUGE family all talking and relaxing on the front of their house. We passed that house so many times but it was always empty. This time I talked to them and was joking with the little 2 year old who was blocking our path. The family was joking with him and telling him to move, and we ended up talking to the family. I asked if we could give their family a prayer... and ended up teaching a 10 minute lesson, setting a return appointment, and continued on to the investigator who was not home again. I am so grateful for the spirit and also for the spiritual sensitivity of my companion.  Within our first hour, we met and taught two families and gained 9 new investigators. We gained three more new investigators later that evening. In multiple lessons throughout the day, random less-active members kept joining us, and in one situation we found out after the lesson that one of the "investigators" was a member. We were getting member-present lessons, without a member working with us. Not only were we able to meet our goals for the day, but we exceeded them. I love my companion, Sister Russon. And I love our companion, the Holy Ghost. This is God's work. He has a plan. And anything is Possible. I love you all and for the amazing things I learned from you my whole life! Lots of love,
Sister Smoot

A cute exchange between Ashley and her dad.

On Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 11:04 AM, Steve Smoot  wrote:


Do you want any more chocolate, cookies, etc. from the store in Manila?  It is really not a big deal for me to send to you and I try to send extra so you can share.  I just don't know what you really like or how well that works.  I can order on a Sunday and it will get to you that week.  Ally got stuff while in the Mexico MTC with the same kind of service but MTC specific.  Kind of like Dear Elder but for Mexico.

I really want to do for you but wasn't sure if you liked it or not.  Please let me know and let me know what kind of things you like.


Haha, thanks dad. I appreaciate the love. I actually am okay. We can wait until I get home so I can eat the food that actually tastes good. Even though they are the same brands, they taste weird... so I will take your wonderful offer as the gift itself. You don't need to send me packages. Thank you so much for your constant letters and support. I don't know how I got so lucky to have you as my daddy! Thanks! 
Love, Sister Smoot

 After Ashley read dad's letter this week:
Thanks for you letter dad! It's kind of related to my experiences this week. Thanks for your example and for all you are teaching me through example and words! I love you so much!
Love, Ashley

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Week # 71 (Oct. 5, 2014) A trip to Manilla and the temple!

This week was amazing and hard as well. The first of the week I got to go to MANILLA for fingerprinting for my visa so that I will be able to leave the country. That took up two days, so by the time I got back to our area, the numbers were low for the week, then we were punted.... all day! We go through these times where everyone we know doesn't like us anymore. We try and take advantage of each situation. For example, if someone sends us away, we try and talk to all their neighbors and anyone in the street at that moment to try and stay productive and help their surroundings... but even those people seem to hate us. We realized they are very strongly aligned with other religions. It is still possible to help them, but slightly more tricky. Our areas are either hiking through sugarcane fields, or they are walking through huge neighborhoods with rich houses and high fences. The people who live in the sugarcane are too poor to pay for the transportation to go to church, and the people with high fences and cars in the driveway, are too "busy" to talk to us. It has been a humble experience to learn how other missions around the world function, even though it is only a glimpse. I don't know how to do that kind of missionary work. So I am re-learning and re-experimenting. It has been a fun challenge here at this time in the mission, but it is also causing quite some stress as I watch our key-indicators decreasing. We have set some new goals again for this week to hopefully be more faith-filled in our finding and proselyting! 

The Manilla trip was full of miracles and blessings and rejuvenation. It was with us five sisters from the MTC, and some other Elders who will be going home with us.  It reminded me so much of the MTC, but also made me realize how grown up we are as well. It is always exciting to see the changes. We met people from all over with lots of miracles all over, and got to spread the gospel, even though it was in a different language. In Manilla, they speak Tagalog, and we only speak Ilonggo. But since I've had a lot of Tagalog investigators, i was able to at least understand the people. When we spoke, we just mixed Ilonggo and English. We met a cute mom from California, who was going to visit her family who lived in Sister Nielsen's area. I met the lady in the bathroom at the Airport, and ran to get sister Nielsen so they could schedule an appointment. While sitting on the airplane, Sister Van Slooten was seated next to a random man who she found out lived in her area, on the other side of him was a member from another ward. So she taught a member present lesson, got a new investigator, and he committed to come to church right there. We met an RM at the restaurant in the airport and she asked to sit with us as she told us all about her mission and all about adjusting to life at home and the ways she is still doing missionary work in her regular life. WE ALSO GOT TO GO TO THE TEMPLE. I have never been so hungry for the spirit and so hungry for the temple! After waiting so long, going through again was a huge gulp of fresh air and fresh water (and it even smells like the temples in utah!) I felt like I was back at home. In our session, there was an older couple who were from indonesia. The brother had been a member for a long time, but his wife was going through for the first time so that they could be sealed that day! We were all responding and speaking in English, but there's was all in Ta-hessian. Talk about a cool experience. We saw the sister again in the dressing room getting ready to be sealed to her husband, and even though we couldn't communicate, you could feel the joy and spirit around her.  The five of us sisters took pictures in front of the Manilla Temple and they were the same as the pictures we took in front of the Provo Temple. It was neat to see and feel our sisterhood that we have built here through all of our experiences. It was also bitter-sweet because we realized our time left is way too short. I thought the trip would make me more trunky, but it just turned up the motivation to kick it up even farther... lets just pray that I don't die. I am very grateful for sister Russon and all that she is teaching me. I hope we can continue to help this area become more productive. I am so grateful for this experience and wouldn't trade it for anything! Love you ALL!
Love, Sister Smoot