Sunday, December 29, 2013

Letter # 31 (Dec. 29, 2013)

Hello Family!!

Thank you for your wonderful smiles on Christmas Day!! You are all so beautiful, I don't know where I came from.  Seriously, you are going to have to make me pretty like you when I get home. Sister Natarte was watching the screen while we were talking and she said you are the prettiest family she has even seen. It was good to talk to you and see your excitement for Christmas.
According to Sister Natarte, the Philippines is normally really good at celebrating Christmas, but aparrently here in Pulupandan, nothing really happens. It was really hard for Sister Natarte, but it was kind of like we just skipped Christmas. We still had the spirit and taught about his birth and felt of his love, but since none of the people around us were celebrating, I just feel that Christmas never really happened.... but we had some fun before we went to bed on Christmas Eve. Sister Natarte's family always celebrates Christmas eve, that's the day they all open presents and eat a lot of food and spend time with family. So That is what we did. She absolutely LOVED all the presents you gave her and I also gave her the Crystal-light because the presents you gave her was the only thing she got this month. Also, her journal just filled up and she loves the one mom wrapped for her. Seriously, it made us both tear up a little bit to see all of your kindness for my companion. She really is my sister our here, so thank you for adopting her too! 

Brother Manuel got Baptized!!! He is so amazing. Brother Manuel is the brother who found us and we have felt angels guiding us in every aspect of his conversion and in all of our lessons. His wife passed away a year ago and has been guiding his whole conversion.  At the end of his baptism, he was able to bear is testimony and that is always my favorite moment. It's like seeing the product of all of our hard work, prayers, trust, faith.. and seeing this new testimony of someone who has dedicated the rest of their lives to God. He has already received the Aaronic priesthood and next week will be his first week to bless the sacrament. He also is preparing to go on the next ward temple trip to Cebu to do baptisms for the dead in May. Then he ultimately wants to go next year and be sealed to his wife. Brother Manuel reminds me so much of Grandpa Smoot. They kind of look the same (the same face structure), but they are both so humble and always want to do their best for God. Not to mention I love them both so much. Feeling the pure love of God in behalf of someone else, is better than feeling the love for myself.  When I know how much God loves Brother Manuel (because I can feel it) I can only imagine what it feels like in the Celestial Kingdom with unlimited love. I'm so happy that Brother Manuel can feel the friendship and peace that he has found in this ward.  He fits right in and I can't wait for his first calling!

Also, Brother Borj is getting baptized on Thursday! He is 26 and used to be kind of a punk. We only used to see him when we visited the members that he lives with. But he finally agreed to be taught and our first lesson with him we discovered his search for happiness. Ever since then, he has changed his whole life around. He has been through a lot, but he has helped us become better people and better missionaries as we have grown together. This brother, is the brother that motivated me to stop biting my fingernails. With that motivation and the help from Sister Natarte, I am free from my addiction! I know that sounds so silly, but even the small things are huge victories. We are excited for his baptism on Thursday!

So many things happen each day, that they seem really long. But time is going by way too fast. I can't believe I am approaching my half-way point because I still feel like I am a new missionary that doesn't have everything figured out. But I'm learning each day that life is the same way. Life is so fast, and we always feel like we have to have everything figured out, or we assume older people have everything figured out. But in reality we are all progressing and making mistakes and having small successes and large successes, and sad times and good times and learning. That's it. We are all learning. Learning how to be missionaries, learning how to be students in school, learning how to be parents, or teachers, or leaders... but as long as we learn, and act on what we learn, we are progressing to God. I love this plan of Salvation. This plan from God to help us keep going and help us keep improving. I can't believe I'm lucky enough to share this hope with all these people(whether they want to listen to me or not) :) I love you so much and I am so lucky to have you. I know I say that a lot, but really. You are the best family ever!! 
Madamo nga pagpalangga sa inyo! (Lots of love to you all)
Sister Smoot

p.s. I really was going to send pictures this week, but I lost my card reader. I will find it and send them next week. I'm so so so sorry mom! 

Week # 30 (Dec. 22, 2013)

Hey! I have the best family in the whole world! Thank you for your wonderful package!! Sister Natarte said to tell you "I love you and thank you so much!" We are having a good time here. There are so many experiences, I can't even write them all down, but I did want to share one that was very powerful for both Sister Natarte and for myself.  
Our area is incredibly small. Here in Pulupandan there are two wards so since there are two companionships in each ward, there are 8 missionaries here. However, the size of Pulupandan is similar to Superior, Montana... remember? Haha, obviously its more populated, but our ward is split really weird and the elders have all the area. So almost everyone knows us and our names in our area, so it's just a matter of getting them interested in listening to us.
We found this new area with about 9 families out behind a huge sugar cane field, but we soon found that it was just a group of people very strongly rooted in their own religion and basically casted us out of their village. But one day, we went back again, just to make sure... and I just felt like we needed to leave.  Sometimes I don't know if it is satan trying to discourage me, or the spirit telling me to leave, so I love having  companion, and she supported the decision to leave.  So very defeated, we were walking towards another part of our area, and Sister Natarte reminded us of an old investigator that stopped investigating the church a month ago. We decided since we had paid the fare to get out there, we needed to teach at least one person out there.  But on our way to their house, I just had a sick feeling in my stomach. I really didn't want to go to this sisters house. But I thought it was Satan, just trying to keep us from going so we kept walking. But the feeling wouldn't leave. So i just stopped and looked around me and saw these three little boys drawing pictures in the dirt on the ground.  For some reason (and Sister Natarte probably thought I was crazy) I just turned down the little alley to where the little boys were playing. We started talking to them and we took some pictures of their drawings and asked them where they lived and if their parents were home.  Then we saw at the end of the alley way, there was a lady who had come out of her house. She saw us, lingered for a moment, and then went inside. The little boys told us that she was their mother, so we went to go talk to her. We called for her and asked if we could share her a message from God. She was really excited to let us into her house (but most people are just excited to talk to an American).  Once we got inside,  she told us that she had seen us walk passed their alley way for the past few months, and she always hoped we would come talk to her and come to their house. She said she really wanted to learn about our religion because she had heard a lot about it... we were elated.  We soon found out that the Lord had been preparing her for a long time, and their family is so cute. The father is in Manila doing some trainings for the military, but he is coming back for Christmas, and the sister said that she was excited for him to meet us! They have a special spirit in their home and we are so lucky to be able to be a part of their conversion. Their relationship to God is very close, so we are just here to show them where the missing piece of their puzzle is. They have three boys, and she is pregnant with their forth.  Their little kids are the most well-behaved boys I have ever met in the Philippines. They are very polite and they actually listen. I will send pictures next week because we have a family home evening later tonight! I
 know that the Lord is so aware of all of us and we can all learn to follow the promptings of the spirit. My whole goal on my mission is just to be sensitive enough to the spirit so that He can tell me when I am not doing the right thing. So many times we need to use our own agency and the marvelous knowledge that he has given us to make the correct decisions. But if we ever choose wrong, he is there to correct our path through promptings. Sometimes it is hard to make decisions about school, serving a mission, which area to go to, what lessons to teach, what words to say... even the simple things like which brand of beans to buy. :) We learn in Preach My Gospel that we cannot expect the spirit to tell us answers to everything, because the Lord has given us brains and the gift of discernment... But we never need to worry, because if we choose wrong (like deciding to go to that weird village again) he will help nudge us in the right direction (like telling us to move on and telling me to go talk to the little boys). 
I am so grateful for the Holy Ghost and for this opportunity to serve a mission. Not only do I get to help other people learn how to follow the spirit and how to find eternal happiness with our Savior, but to figure out my own personal relationship with the Holy Ghost, our Savior, and our Father in Heaven. I will never be able to have such a magnified experience like this so learn so much about myself and my future. I am so grateful for your support and encouragement for this opportunity. I love you more than you know!!!
Love, Sister Smoot
Palangga ko Kamo!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Week #29 (Dec 15, 2013)

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! From, Pulupandan City Plaza.

Wow, time is going fast!

This week, I witnessed miracles. I know that sounds dramatic, but it was a relieving breath of pure oxygen after being drowned ten feet below the surface of the water. This week we had some trainings from our zone leaders that mostly make me feel inadequate, stressed, and depressed. However, this week was the most motivational, encouraging, and useful zone meeting that I have ever been to. I am so grateful for our zone leaders and the love the spirit helped me to feel in that meeting. The meeting was  a lot of different ideas and techniques to use in the mission, and there were a lot of answers to a lot of things that I have been praying for. Mostly on the mission, I have just been trying to figure out what is going on, and then figure out how to actually help people. I have felt very inadequate and very disappointed that I didn't get a followup trainer and that I have had to figure out a lot of things on my own. But day by day I've been learning how to receive a lot of personal revelation for the area, our companionship, and also for each investigator. I've learned so much from this personal revelation for others, but I'm still working on receiving personal revelation for myself. This training wasn't a particularly spectacular, but the spirit was present, and I was able to really receive some help with my "personal issues." Haha. I don't think that I am a crazy person, but the spirit helped me to realize that even if I become perfect, I will only be a perfect Sister Smoot. not a perfect Elder or Sister so-and-so.  Our potentials are so amazing, but comparing is incredibly destructive and foolish. I have obviously learned this so many times in young womens, from my patriarchal blessing, from you all as my family... but I have been comparing myself so subconsciously, that I didn't realize it until that meeting. Sorry, that was a really long explanation that probably doesn't make sense, but just know that I am doing well and feeling positive and excited to keep going.

We have a lot of new investigators with a lot of Potential. One investigator who had to decide whether to get married or to move out of his house was in tears at the end of our "Law of Chastity" lesson. We had been a little nervous for that lesson, but we had practiced and prayed and prepared. At the end of the lesson, he just said thank you at the end of the lesson. He said he knew that something was wrong, but he didn't know that it was a sin to live with a woman before he was married. He thanked us for helping him know how to live a better life. He then committed himself to follow the Law, because he now knew that it was something God wanted for him. There have been so many powerful experiences like that this week, and so many faithful people dedicating themselves to God. The past few weeks I have let myself get a little bit negative about different people and their dedication to following God, but I have repented of those negative feelings, and have since seen and felt so much faith from each individual. Sometimes faith is expressed in so many different ways, but true faith causes action. And I am so grateful for all of the action and dedication of a few of our investigators. 

Last night after our last appointment, one of the little girls in the family looked at me really seriously as we were walking out and said, (translation) " do you have a mom at your house?" Sister natarte and I just smiled at each other and said, "no, just us." Then she asked us, "what about a dad?" We just chuckled and I told her that we all have a heavenly father that is always with us, even when we are alone. But just so you know mom, a little girl is looking out for me and is very concerned that you are not here with me! 

Also, I gave my third talk in Sacrament meeting yesterday. They have all been in Ilonggo, but they get a little better each time as my fluency gets a little smoother. But I spoke about the conference talk about having a game plan for missionary work and gave them the three new commandments we received in conference. 1. To pray to bring a specific person to Christ each day. 2. to pray for the missionaries in your area and for their investigators each day. 3. to invite someone to an activity at church or in your home.  Elder Johnson, the other american missionary also spoke on missionary work and the ward's involvement. But, after I helped our ward, I just kind of wondered how our family is doing with the new commandments. Or the new commandment that Elder Johnson shared from Elder Ballards talk to invite one person into the gospel by Christmas. How is that going for all of you in Utah? Let me know, because I don't know a lot about missionary work there. 

Anyway, just know that I love you all so much and I'm excited to talk to you at Christmas! i still pray for you all every day and want all of you to feel my love, but more importantly, the Saviors love. I hope you all remember the really important things, even though you are all so busy! Lots and lots of love,
Sister Smoot

Sister Trisha's Baptism. We wore the headbands that she gave us on our first visit with them.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Letter #28 Dec. 8, 2013

Hello Family!
I love you all so much. This week was pretty incredible.This week has been a lot better and we've seen a lot of miracles in our Area. We know that ups and downs are just a part of the mission, but sometimes it’s easy to forget to endure well our stresses and trials.  But the higher the ups are, the lower the downs are, but they all fluctuate incredible fast, so I’m just hanging on tight. 
We have one investigator who is very special. Brother Manuel. We met him while trying to find a really old referral from some extremely not-progressing investigators. I don’t even know why we were trying to find him again. He wasn’t even interested. But Sister Natarte felt we needed to try again. While we were outside his gate, Brother Manuel walked passed and went inside the gate to find the other man for us. He found him and he just invited himself into our lesson with the other man. The other man was still not interested, but we set up a return appointment with Brother Manuel.  During our second appointment, he told us that his wife passed away last year and when he spoke about her, he was extremely humble and saddened. We immediately felt the presence of his wife and pulled out our little booklet about Temple Preparation. We only had it with us because we were going to show it to another ward member.  We showed him a picture of the baptismal font in the temple and told him that his wife was waiting for him to help her be baptized into Jesus Christ’s Church. He started weeping and committed to be baptized and start preparing to enter the Temple.  He is very poor and 60 years old, but he has come to church two weeks in a row. He wants to learn every day and reads more from the Book of Mormon and the pamphlets every day than we do. He literally reads every line and every scripture and soaks up everything he can. He will be baptized on December 28, 2013 and we are so grateful for his example to the ward members around him who sometimes need a push. One day he asked us why the ward members were talking and texting and taking phone calls in the middle of the sacrament. He was almost in tears as he bore is testimony of how sacred the sacrament should be (like teaching us). We explained that not everyone is perfect but we are all working to be better at showing the Lord our dedication and service. He has two sons who are not ready to listen to us, but we are hoping they at least come to his baptism. They are both young single adults and still like to just hang out and drink. Brother Manuel has already changed immensely, and we want to help his family and his wife as much as we can. We can feel her presence around us as we plan for him and teach him. One morning we were doing a “practice teaching” during companion study for our lesson with him, and I just started weeping as I felt prompted to promise him something from his wife. Sister Natarte, who was pretending to be Manuel, started crying too and that lesson was one of the most powerful lessons I’ve ever had on my mission. We are so blessed to not only be helped by the Lord, but also to be helped by the family members and ancestors who have passed on. They are guiding us to their family members who need the truth and we are never alone in the search for those that are ready. I know that this church is true and that this work is so important to the Lord. Thank you for your birthday letters and words of encouragement. I love you all so much!
Love, Sister Smoot

Sunday, December 1, 2013

#27 12-1-2013

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Birthday to me-

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Thanksgiving was fun. I have pictures but I can't send them until next week. I tried my best to make it special for me and sister Peterson. Out of the six sisters we are the only americans. I made Tuna Caserol (stove top only), homemade gravy with a chicken bullion cube, flour, and water and salt (we didn't have any pepper), and mashed potatoes (powdered milk and salt with potatoes all mashed up-again no pepper :)) It was pretty good. And our companions even helped and made their version of pie, Mango Float (mangos, cream, grahm crackers. it's really good.  
For my birthday, sister Natarte made me lunch and it was Pancit. She said that is what everyone eats on their birthday so I had a real Philippines birthday! 

Our investigators are so amazing and we are finding so many people who have amazing testimonies and amazing faith. I always feel the spirit as I'm working and teaching and listening. They are such good examples to me. One of them is Brother Borj Penafil.  He is a miracle in our work. He want's to know everything and he is incredible smart. He wants to know a lot of details, but he's willing to search for his own answers. He's only 26 but he doesn't have a job so he has a lot of time to read the Book of Mormon. We only met him on monday but he came to church yesterday and committed to be baptized on Christmas. He as a few things to work out first, but we know that he will do it because he is really close the spirit and keep receiving "revelation from God" during his nightly prayers. It's so incredible to be able to talk to these people. I just can't even believe how lucky I am so spend time with them. 

Trisha didn't get baptized because of some random ward drama, but it will be moved to middle of December. I just need to keep moving on and doing my best. It's just hard when I don't feel my best is enough.  I really am grateful for everything you have given me and for your letters this week! 

I love you, 

Sister Smoot

Friday, November 29, 2013

Pictures of Sister Smoot!

We needed coconut in one of our recipes... so our housemate Sister Ang went out to our backyard and grabbed a coconut that had recently fallen, opened it, scraped out the inside, and made coconut milk out of the scrapings.... yes, I will be wonderwoman when I return!

My first package! Thanks mom and dad! I'm still praying we will get the one sent 4 months ago.

2 Americans in the middle of a Typhoon who desperately need chocolate...(yes it was that time) Sister Peterson and I can make anything! These are our infamous PAN COOKIES made with no oven. 

The elders had a baptism too. But this is my Beloved Juan Karlo!

One of our Investigators, Sister Isabel (the one who used to run away from us) has a banana tree. This year, only one bushel of bananas grew and then after they grow you have to let them ripe for weeks. She generously gave us each two of their precious banana's. ("Sagging" in Ilonggo) 

We were really stressed this day and no one was letting us teach them. So on our way through this shortcut we found, we realized it was one of the most beautiful parts of this whole town. We took a picture to relieve our stress and enjoy the beauty around us. Yes, I'm learning to take appropriate breaks to manage my stress! This is the gorgeous Sister Natarte.

#26 11-24-2013

This week has been really stressful. I'm not sure why, but it's been really hard.  President told us the times around the holidays are always hard for missionaries, but I'm also hitting my six-month mid mission crises. All sister missionaries apparently have a hard time after six months in the mission. The weird thing, is that I hit seven months in a week and a half.  Don't worry, I'm fine,   just a little extra emotional for some reason. But as we focus on our investigators, everything else just seems so insignificant.

Sister Bushman, Our Sister training Leader for our zone, has been living with us for the last two transfers and has helped me so much. I can't really explain. She's a little older, but she has really developed all of the Christlike attributes, while still keeping a fun personality. She has answered a lot of my questions just over meals and has helped me as a new missionary, as a sister missionary, and just as a human being. She is like my "older sister" that I've always wanted! Haha. This day is a little hard because she left last night to go to the city since she is going home this week. It's always weird to have missionaries you know so well go home. It's a little sad, but it also makes you painfully aware that our time here is so short and motivates us to keep working hard.  All of our investigators are slowly stopping to progress, but we are really just trying to find new investigators... like all the time. But that is just missionary work, right? We really need the members, but it's making me want to move to some other state just to help the missionaries. I wish I could double myself sometimes and live here in the area so I could get to know everyone and help them feel welcome in the ward. This is a huge work in progress over here! Haha.

This week a little girl, Aleah (age 10), came up to us as we were crossing the street and asked us if we could come visit her family. We scheduled a time with her, but weren't too excited because a lot of kids like to talk to me because I'm so different. But when we got there, her mother was excited and willing to listen and her first question was, "so what's the book of mormon?" We were so excited. Sister Aleah even came to church and wore her nicest clothes and a cute little headband. I am excited to see the progress of her family. Hopefully they all share the excitement of the Spirit that little Aleah has alread caught on to. She even read the entire lesson 1 pamplet, even though it is in Tagalog. There are miracles everywhere, sometimes I just forget to see them.
I love you all and am so grateful for you!
Love, Sister Smoot

Letter # 25 11-17-2013

This week was the Baptism of Juan Karlo. He is my favorite little 11-year-old on the planet and if I could adopt him, I would. :) His story is one that has a lot of heart-ache attached to it. Brother Juan Karlo is taking care of his family.  His mother is intoxicated from drugs 24 hours of the day and his father is intoxicated from alcohol 24 hours a day. He is the best friend of one of the active deacons (His name is Nephi) in the ward and we met Juan Karlo while visiting his family. Juan Karlo's family owns a Tyunggy (a little store) but it is up to him to stock the store, sell the goods, and keep inventory of the goods and money. And he's 11 years old. He starts in the morning selling fish at the Market, then goes to elementary school at 7:00, then after school he sells breads and foods around the neigborhood going door-to-door, then he goes to the market to buy new goods for their Tyunggy near their home, then he spends the evening in the Tyunggy selling the goods. Even though he has no time to do anything and his parents are just lounging around in their house, gambling, Brother Juan Karlo has found time to go to every activity with Brother Nephi and he goes to church every week. He is the cutest little kid but he has such a big heart. He used to be addicted to coffee every morning to help him get through the day. But he has now been clean for 2 months and said he never wants to drink it again for the rest of his life. In every lesson he is so close to the spirit and is the most mature 11-year-old I have ever met. He asks so many questions and wants to know everything and takes each assignment so seriously. Saturday was one of the happiest days on the mission when he was baptized and Sister Natarte and I couldn't help but cry because our little Juan Karlo just took his first steps towards eternal happiness.  Just wait, when we are watching general conference in our rocking chairs, he will be called as a general authority! Okay, I know I am being a little dramatic, but I can't really express how much this little kid means to me and how much I appreciate all the sacrifices he is making.

Also, we have been teaching a less-active family who has an 8 year old daughter who hasn't been baptized yet. They thought we get baptized when we are 9. So we are teaching the whole family all of the lessons because I think it has been a long time since they've heard most of it.  It's been a really good experience with their family because they actually do want to follow God, they just didn't know a lot of the commandments. They didn't know it was a commandment to go to church EVERY Sunday. We are really excited to teach people who actually want to know the message we share. Anyway, the little girl's name is Trisha and she reminds me so much of McKenna, even her looks. (We seriously have the same characteristics as Filipino's. I'm convinced our family has some in our heritage because I have been called Asian my whole life and I see people who remind me of our family all the time.) She even made me a little headband out of friendship bracelet rope and it reminded me a lot of something McKenna would make me. She decided she wanted to get baptized on December 1, so it will be a pretty special birthday this year.  We were teaching her about baptism and we told her that our sins our rinsed in the water before we are completely cleaned by the gift of the holy ghost. She got really serious and asked us if our sins stay in the water after she gets out, and she was concerned that someone might get dirty from her sins. We couldn't help but chuckle a little at her sincere worry and concern for others. She is so smart and asks questions I have never heard before, but It's so amazing how quickly we are falling in love with all of the people here. 

Negros is a little different from a lot of the other Philippine Islands up north. Sister Natarte is from Baguio Mission (Sevilla ward if Brittany ever gets assigned there) and it was really hard for her to adjust to the living conditions here and how new the church is here. Over in Baguio is a lot farther developed as far as the development of the church and as far as the development of the living conditions. But, she is doing amazing. Sometimes we can get a little bit impatient with the lack of leadership, but we know that no one is perfect and over time everything will work out. Our goal is just to leave the ward stronger than when we got here. We are doing really well and always finding new people and new less-active members. There are always new adventures and new experiences (including meeting a 12 year old little girl who is 5 months pregnant). My heart breaks when I see such pain and anguish, but it's a good motivator to keep helping and sharing. I know that the  church is true and I get to see so many miracles every day from it's peace and joy. I love you all!

Love, Sister Smoot

Monday, November 11, 2013

# 24 November 11, 2013 SUPER TYPHOON

Well, this week was sure different! I have seen many miracles here on the mission, but many more this week. Our mission president doesn't tell us a lot of the facts because he doesn't want to scare us, but we hear a lot more from the ward members.  We first found out about the storm in our zone meeting on Wednesday. Our zone leaders told us that we had strict instructions to pick up food and water after the meeting and make sure we have enough things to last us at least three days. We were to proselyte on Wednesday but finish early around 7:00 and text in that night that we were home safely, then we were not allowed to leave our house after that.  Because we have the largest house, 6 sisters, we were probably the safest. Some of the other missionaries had to leave and go to other apartments, but we were really safe because our house has a concrete foundation instead of just bamboo.  Thursday, the storm wasn't that bad, just raining all day and I really just wanted to go out and proselyte or go help all of our investigators find safety since their houses are just bamboo and leaves on the roof or sometimes if they are lucky, they have tin sheets for their roof. But I knew that there was more going on than they were telling us because President kept texting us things like, "the storm is growing, don't let the calmness deceive you..." And many more cryptic texts throughout the day. We didn't have power from wednesday until late saturday night, but we often have brownouts, so we didn't think anything of it. Then we got a text that told us the whole truth, that this was the largest Super Typhoon to ever hit the Philippines, and the eye of the storm would come over our island. Even then, we all had a calm feeling. We never got scared our felt nervous, only for our investigators. We knew the Lord would keep us safe. During the storm, we were mostly bored. After we studied so much our eyes hurt from just the candle light (it was really dark, the sunlight didn't really come through to us) we cleaned our entire house, we did all our laundry, we organized all our stuff, and we kept trying to find things to do, and we pretty much cooked more food and ate more food than I ever have in my life. (Hello early Thanksgiving).  Every hour almost, someone would get bored and cook up something amazing and full of unhealthy deliciousness.  Haha.  Even though we had no power, we had a gas stove. Also, we had to cook everything that would go bad without a refrigerator, because we had no power.  Finally, Sister Peterson and I (the only Americans) thought we better contribute something to the food fest, so we figured out how to make cookies.  They were definately not the best tasting, but I'm pretty sure we could perfect it before we leave.  Since I didn't have a recipe, I just tried to remember the estimated amounts and found a lot of substitutes. We finally finished the dough so that it didn't taste too bad, but then we had to figure out how to cook them.  We created an oven with a pot tipped over on top of a frying pan and tried it that way, but the best way was just to smush down the dough and make it like a pancake. Pictures are to come, but they are called: "Pan-cookies" They are delectible and a great end to a family FHE with the six of us sisters.

In all seriousness, even though we were staying positive and finding ways to keep feeling the spirit and keep learning, we were scared a worried for our investigators. On Saturday morning, we went out to work right away, and found minimal destruction. All our investigators had evacuated to the church or to the School, and a lot of our members as well, but their houses all remained in tact. Just a few repairs necessary.  The mountains here on the island broke up the Storm and saved our little town here in Pulupandan and a lot of other towns as well her on Negros Occidental.  Right now, our whole community is Saddened by the tragedies over in Cebu, so we have been teaching a lot of Lessons on the Atonement, prayers, fasting, and comfort. It has been amazing to see the strength and resillience of these people, and we have even found some investigators out of it. We were helping the Catholic Church clean up the front of their building, and we ended up talking to one of the leaders. He invited us to come over and talk about the gospel because he was kind of confused why we would spend so much time helping another religion. Then we were just walking to an appointent yesterday, when a women stopped us and told us that Father Ed had told the entire congregation at the Catholic Church that the Mormon Sister Missionaries had fixed their building.  She thanked us and almost started crying in gratitude. I know that people are always watching us, and I am so grateful we were able to be given such an amazing opportunity to show them that we are friends, and that we are all about Love. :)  (there are been a lot of rumors that we are trying to steal members from other religions and it kind of gave us a bad light) But I know the Lord is always providing us a way to do our work and to help our communities and to help His children prepare to live with Him. 
I am so grateful for my safety and for the safety of Pulupandan. Continue to pray for the souls who passed away in the surrounding areas and pray for gratitude that we were saved. I love you lots!

Love, Sister Smoot 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Ashley sent some pictures last week! She looks so happy-

Sister Natarte 

Letter #23 (Oct .28 2013)

Dear Family,
I’m sorry I forgot to write about the earthquake. It was a really big
deal for some of the other islands. Especially in Cebu, there was
massive destruction. For us, it was more just scary than harmful. It
started during personal study and I thought sister natarte was pushing
against our desks, but then Sis. Ang (another sister in the house)
told us to all get outside. It lasted a long time for an earthquake…
at least a couple of minutes. It felt like we were on a boat, but more
jerky. Haha, it was my first time in an earthquake so I was more
confused than anything else. Sister Natarte was really freaked out
because there was a really bad earthquake when she was little. But
this one wasn’t too bad and there weren’t any problems  here in
Pulupandan at least. But we did hear about some other problems in
other islands.
Last night we had a brown out.  (Black out) We were in a dangerous
part of our area with a lot of drunks, but we have such amazing
investigators in that area and Bishop’s house is close if we have any
problems so we are extremely careful (don’t freak out mom.) But if
there is no electricity anywhere, then it becomes a little more tricky
to remain safe. It was around 7:20 when we were walking to an
appointment and everything went completely black.  It was a cloudy
night so there wasn’t even the moonlight.  I immediately grabbed
Sister Natarte and we locked arms and I just said, “we need to leave
NOW” We were walking as fast as we could with our linked arms and she
was feeling along the wall to know which direction to walk and I was
frantically digging through my bag trying to find my mini flashlight
keychain (thanks dad, it’s a life saver) and also looking for the cell
phone. We got the flashlight and ran directly to Bishop’s house and
stayed there for around 20 minutes but there still wasn’t any light,
but the other sisters called us and told us to come home now and that
they were there. We went home and got out all the candles and we got
to study and plan all by candlelight and then cook and eat dinner by
candle light (how romantic… haha). This was actually the 3rd or 4th
time that we have had a brown out but this one was definitely the
longest. I always feel like a real pioneer missionary when we get to
study at our big wooden desks by candlelight. It really is a neat
experience. It’s just a little hard when you need to use the CR
Also this week we had a long time investigator who really hasn’t been
progressing, but she came to church on Sunday!!!! It was just two
weeks ago that she was running away from us… litterally.  We came to
her house and when she saw us she ran to the back gate, but there was
a lock on it and she couldn’t get it undone fast enough and she was
trying to get away so fast and she seemed so stressed out, so we just
said, “can we help you sister?” She just got more mad and finally got
the door open and ran away.  We were actually really depressed about
it and were about to give up, but she finally started reading her
libro ni mormon and she told us she wanted to come to church and then
she came and told us afterwards that she wants to come every week and
she now has a baptism date for Nov. 30. Her name is Sister Isabell and
just last night she defended us against some neighbors who were
mocking us and cat-calling. She will really be a force to be reckoned
with when she’s a member.  She is going to be such a great help to
this ward.
Also, there is an election going on, so there have been a lot of
campaigning parades through town.During one of them, I waved to a
couple of the kids who know me from around the neighborhood (it really
is a small town), but then the whole parade of kids started following
me instead of the candidate.  He started getting a little angry but I
really couldn’t do anything about it. We tried walking faster, but
they just kept running after us. I went up to the candidate and shook
his hand and apologized, but he was still pretty angry. I hope he
wins, just so he doesn’t blame me for anything. Haha!
Anyway, I love you all so much and I really do appreciate all of you.
Thank you for your support and stories. I really do have a testimony
that I’m supposed to be here, even though some days can still be hard.
I know that this is where the Lord wants me and I’m grateful that you
were able to help me get here! Love you lots!
Sister Smoot

Letter # 22

Dear Family,
This week was so long, because it was so packed full. It was full of sickness, travel, and one of the most spiritual experiences I've ever had on my mission.  First of all, on Tuesday we traveled the 1 1/2 hour trip to Bacolod for mission tour on Wednesday! On Tuesday night we stayed with the Sisters in Magsungay which is where I lived for the first two transfers in my mission. It was a little strange to be back, but to not actually live there. We didn't bring pillows or sheets because the instructions told us they would be provided by the hosting missionaries... but they didn't give us any. So we just slept on the floor on an extra foam mattress that was 1 inch thick on top of the tile. Sister Natarte had a horrible cough, so without any elevation while she was sleeping, she pretty much didn't sleep at all and I was trying to give her my bag or anything I could find to help her sleep better, but nothing really helped. I was just glad I had bought her some cough drops the day before. The mattress was a little questionable and I was contemplating just sleeping on the tile, but I spread out my black skirt from the day before and that's where I rested my head.  I'm really not trying to complain, I just wish we could have slept a little better the day before meeting a general authority. But the night wasn't totally horrible. We got to proselyte in Magsungay on Tuesday night since I know the area. It was really fun to know all of the people again and visit my old ward. It made me miss the area a lot, but mainly just the people. When you serve people so much you just fall in love with them.  I know every area will be like that and it is just a part of missionary work, but it was fun to see a lot of the less active families again since that was what the new missionaries there asked us to do. It was fun to be able to fully understand the Ilonggo too, since I'm still picking up the new dialect over here in Pulupandan.  Overall it was really fun, especially with Sister Natarte who is just amazing as always.  Also this week, we found out her family has been trying to contact her but they had an invalid email address for her and the one Sister Natarte had was invalid as well.  President Texted us and told us the real address of her family and he had given her family her real email address.... so now she is emailing her family today. It really has been like waiting for Christmas all week, it's the first contact from her family since she went to the MTC in the beginning of September!

Also this week we were able to listen to Elder Nielson and his wife. He is the Philippines Area President and it was so refreshing and uplifting.  The spirit that they have is just so tangible and I just loved soaking it all up.  Even though we were listening to them from7:00 AM until 3:30 PM I was so sad when it ended. I really received a re-boost in my batteries and could have listened to them for days and days. They loved all of us so much we could feel it individually. That sounds so weird, but I really did feel his love and support and appreciation.  It's been a while since someone has just told us that we are doing a good job. I love hearing how to be better and how to achieve greater things and how to be more obedient... but he also did it in a way that wasn't depressing, but was really motivating and he acknowledged all of the work that we are doing.  It really helped me to re-boost at a time I think I was wearing down. The Lord really knows what we need, exactly when we need it. Also, Sister Nielson's wife is one of the coolest ladies I have ever met.  She is such an eloquent speaker, but also very relateable and entertaining, funny, and the spirit is always there. She talked a lot about her family which made me a little homesick, but not too bad.  It's hard not to miss you all, you are just so amazing. But I know leaving the Philippines will be 100 times harder, so don't worry, I'm soaking up and enjoying every minute here.  

Then on thursday I started feeling a little tired and I kept tripping. Sister Natarte was worried about me and told me I was talking really slow. We decided to get some Gatorade and go home where I slept for the rest of the evening.  Please don't freak out, the nurse just told me that I was over-exhausted. She told me to slow down, take some rest, and stop stressing out.  So on Friday we stayed in all day while I slept and rested. Then on Saturday during our first Lesson, Sister Natarte started having sharp pains in her chest and she couldn't breathe. We told the mission nurse and she told us we needed to come to Bacolod to go to the mission doctor.  When we got there they said she had a viral infection in her lungs from her caugh, so we were to take another day resting at home on Sunday. I had the doctor check me out too just in case something was wrong with me and she told us we had both been working too hard.  In my mind, I was like, "Of course we are working hard... we are missionaries." But I talked to my district leader about it and my Sister Training Leaders and they told me that missionary work doesn't need to be so rushed and we needed to relax a little more. I don't totally agree with them yet, but I'm worried about the Health of Sister Natarte. I don't want to kill off my companion. :) She aggrees with me that this is the Lord's time and we don't want to waste it, so we are working to focus on balancing our dedication and diligence with our health. Don't worry or freak out, I am completely fine. I just thought it was funny.  No one can every accuse me of being a lazy missionary! :) 
Anyway, I love you all so much. 
Love, Sister Smoot

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Letter #21 (Oct 14, 2013)

Dear Family, 

This week was another great week. We totaled up all of our numbers for the week and this week we taught 44 investigator lessons. We are consistently being obedient and consistently searching for more and more people to teach and we are working on having short and powerful lessons to leave the investigators with a strong spirit in their homes.  Even with all of our dedication and hard work, I know this is only possible through the Lord.  Even if we were perfect missionaries, it is only through the Lord that these people are converted.  We had to do a lot of clean up in the area because of people attached to the last missionaries. The investigators stopped coming to church because they wanted the old missionaries back. Now we are working on gaining back their trust while making sure their conversion is to the Lord and not to us. It's a hard balance to balance our friendship and trust with each other, while making sure they are relying on the Lord, and not relying on us. I don't know if this is making any sense, but I'll just say that we are really busy, and I know I'm really lucky.

I'm still adjusting to training a Filipina, but I'm learning a lot of Tagalog.  Sister Natarte is so dedicated and really wants to learn and speak Ilonggo, but since she didn't learn it in the MTC (natives of the Philippines just have a week and a half in the Philippines MTC with no language training, so they just show up with nothing and learn they need to learn a new language) she teaches in half Tagalog and half Ilonggo. The grammar structure is almost the same, it's just about learning new vocab, but she's picking it up really fast.  Sometimes it gets hard when they hear her speaking Tagalog so they start speaking Tagalog to match her... then I'm just completely lost, but I'm learning to pick more up and she's learning to speak more Ilonggo.  Either way, the spirit needs to be really strong between us so that we are able to understand what is happening in the lesson, and even when we don't understand everything in the lesson, the spirit works really strongly to help us know what to say.  I'm so grateful for all of my past experiences with the language to give me the strength and confidence to continue doing missionary work with all of my might, mind, and strength. 

Since we are both new, most of our investigators and brand new, so still in the beginning processes of learning the gospel. It's fun to have a lot of the same lessons throughout the day, and we are really learning how to refine our lessons and teaching skills as we teach over and over again. I just can't believe how incredibly blessed we are. It's also a great help for Sister Natarte to get used to the lessons and she is so great about adding her own insights and I love learning from her. I just feel so guilty sometimes because I get to learn so much. I just want to keep learning at this pace for the rest of my life! Oh no, there's my inner nerd coming out again. One quick story about an investigator. Brother Joel is a minister in another religion, but he is very kind and let the missionaries teach him. We found him in the area book so we found his house after asking around and it turns out he has read a lot of the book of mormon and prayed and he knows it is true! He is just worried about leaving his commitments at his church, but he wants to get baptized! We will continue to visit him and support him in following the Lord, but I know I'm so lucky to be able to meet someone with such incredible faith and dedication to the Lord and be a small part in his progression towards God. This work is truly amazing and the daily spirit we feel is so filling. I just feel full all of the time. Full with investigators and full with happiness and full with the spirit and full with the Love of God. I know life isn't always supposed to be this wonderful, and just like we learned in conference, there is also a lot of suffering and enduring,  but it's just so wonderful that we have such hope and comfort and times that are amazing too. Even the days that are hard and we have minimal teaching appointments, we just find a few things to laugh about, and everything turns out okay. When we are diligent, obedient, and choose to smile: that's when I feel the spirit of love and happiness the most.  I love you all and am so grateful for all of you! 
Palangga Ko kamo!
Sister Smoot

Monday, October 7, 2013

Letter #20 (Oct. 7, 2013)

Dear Family,

This week was great! We had a baptism for an investigator who has been an investigator for four years. Obviously Sister Natarte and I can't take credit for his conversion, but it was a pretty special moment. I just wish there was some way I could contact the hundreds of missionaries that taught him and contributed to that day. We asked him for some of their names, but he didn't remember a lot of their names. I guess it will just be a sweet reunion in the celestial kingdom. He's a young adult and really excited about missionary work, so we are excited for all of his friends that he will help bring into the gospel and give us more appointments. Actually, we teach a lot of lessons in this area and a lot of "member present lessons." Which means a lot of our lessons to investigators are being taught with members there. It is really helpful, but since we have so few members, I feel we are always asking the same ones for help. There are only about four families who are active members in our ward and it reminds me a lot of our branch in Montana. We don't have any young women, only a few primary kids, a couple young men, and five relief society members... so basically like our Superior, Montana branch... :) But it has been a great motivation for us as sisters to get more young women for our ward. We are teaching a few right now and we really want friends for them at church, but our mindset is just, "If we can get them baptized, thenthey can be the friends for later investigators. Missionary work is so different then I thought it would be, especially in working on helping the wards become more developed. I remember it used to make me homesick every Sunday because you just kind of remember how great our ward is at home. Yesterday, I noticed SIster Natarte was having a little bit of a hard time, so I finally got her to tell me that she was homesick for her ward too. It really makes me grateful for the little things over there in Highland. We even laughed for a while about how we just miss the carpet. It really adds reverence to the meeting. But every meeting house is dedicated to the Lord and has the same spirit, it's just the small things that remind us how far away we are from home. :)

These last two weeks Sister Natarte has been teasing me about my hair, because we all know that it looks like a stiff, old, tried out broom. So today she was so excited to take an hour bus ride into town to get my hair cut. We made a day out of it and even splurged at the mall and bought some cake. But we went to get my haircut and I just held my breath as I now look hilariously ridiculous. At least I just put my hair up every day so it doesn't really matter, but just like every other missionary said, they cut off more than I asked for. Oh well, it will grow back. At the beginning of my mission it probably would have really bothered me, but now it doesn't really bother me. We had a fun time laughing and preparing for the week, and I know I am so lucky to have a companion who I get along so well with. I know not all of my companions will be like this (even just from past experience) so I am trying to just enjoy every minute of our working together in unity, the emotional support and the friend. I am so lucky and grateful to be a missionary here in this area with Sister Natarte. I feel bad, she always gets sad when we email because her family still hasn't contacted her, but we will keep having positive attutudes and helping our area become strong. I love you all and will give you some better details next week of our investigators and our teaching appointments. This little town is so cute, but we have basically already contacted everyone in our area :) Time for round two! Love you all!

Sister Smoot

(note from mom: Superior Montana was not quite as small- We had about 30 total in sacrament meeting. But I can see why Ashley thought that- We doubled the primary when moving there with our three little girls and by the time we moved 2 years later there were 12 primary kids! haha)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Week # 19 (Sept 30, 2013)

Best week so far! Transferred and training in a new area

Dear Family!
This week has been a little different but definitely one of the greatest on the mission so far. We had an emergency transfer on Tuesday morning and I left my home (haha first area) in Magsungay to go to Pulupandan 1st ward in Bago stake. My new companion is Sister Natarte from Baguio and she is very good at missionary work.  She is also very beautiful. She was a model for a while, but it took me a while to learn that. She has been calling me beautiful for the whole week and insisting that I look exactly like Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) who is apparently her Idol. Then yesterday I just found out she was a model, so now we just joke all the time about how we should have the highest number of investigators now. (It is just a joke and only in the privacy of our home). We are very similar in personality and it has been the funnest week of my whole mission. Even though there is a slight language barrier, we are already really good friends and I'm excited for the rest of her training. She is a brand new missionary too and had only been in the area for two weeks before I got here. She doesn't know Ilonggo and she teaches in Tagalog, but we are slowly helping her learn more Ilonggo. Switching from training an American to Training a Filipina is a little different, but definitely a good change. She can still communicate with the members though since this is a more Tagalog area, but I'm learning a lot.  Since we are both new, it's like starting from scratch and we are doing a lot of finding activities. It's been so amazing. This area is a lot different From Magsungay. It's a lot of fields of sugar cane and rice fields, but it's a lot of fun. Let's just say it smells a lot better.  Also, this is the cutest little village ever. There are these gorgeous flowers that just grow naturally along the side of the roads and the ground doesn't have much litter. Just dirt! It's so clean compared to the city. We don't have a shower any more, just the bucket system, but it makes it a lot quicker. Still no heated water and no AC, but I'm starting to prefer the fans and cool water. We are also living in a cute little house instead of an apartment and there are six sisters instead of four. It's split into two wards. Me and Sister Natarte are in a different ward since we have two elders in our ward. But I love living with more sisters. Safety, and excitement, and two of them are our Sister Training Leaders for our zone, so I can ask any question and they can help. I feel like I'm in a paradise in this area and I'm sorry I haven't really discussed missionary work, but just know that everything is going well and this will probably be my favorite transfer of the mission! Love you all a bunch!
Sister Smoot

Week # 18 ( Sept. 23, 2013)

Hello Family!
This week was a little more stressful than last week as the Lord continues to expect me to learn then apply what I learned. The first week of training was a great motivator, and this week was more of a humbling one. We had the lowest "key indicators" of my entire mission. Those are the numbers associated with missionary work. So for example: the number of baptisms, the number of lessons taught to investigators with a member present..... and so forth. Basically, I was really disappointed in myself.  I know the Lord doesn't expect me to be perfect, and I really am putting all my effort and strength into every day, but it's a little discouraging to have such low numbers and it's a very lonely feeling to feel all of the responsibility.  Low numbers are always a motivation to do better and hopefully we can only go up from here, but sometimes I feel we are getting all of this information poured on us in trainings and meetings about all these things we need to do better and all these things we need to start doing and all these little details that have to be completely perfect or else are considered "unrepentant missionaries"... (we had a really intense zone conference last week). I think as a girl, I just need to hear that I'm doing a good job every once in a while, but that is such a selfish, human need. So I just decided to take what I learned and write everything down that I'm doing wrong or that I need to improve. Then I decided to take 5 things each week to implement. (Because to be completely honest, I still don't really know how to do the basics and right now our ward doesn't even have a relief society presidency or visiting teaching... there's other work that I feel we need to focus on before we spend a lot of energy on the details of a fireside or basketball camp.) The development of wards is so relative though, because we do have an amazing support from bishop and our ward mission leader and we are working together one step at a time to continue growing this area. Whenever I selfishly feel that things aren't how they should be, I remember from the other side of Heaven when Elder Groberg goes to a random Island without a full time mission companion to a place without a real functioning ward without an MTC for guidance or district meetings or any other communication to the outside world or leadership.... I feel a lot better about my situation. Haha, we are just taking one day at a time and the Lord is helping me to stay calm and smile even when I am tempted to cry.  I really have never felt such a constant positive attitude in myself. As you probably remember, I could be a little moody sometimes, :) but I think maybe the greatest blessing I've received from this mission is the constant positivity and hope that I feel. Even when I'm tempted to feel discouraged, the Holy Ghost helps me to feel confident and hopeful for the future.  It definitely requires action on my part to feel happy, but I could not do it alone, so I am forever grateful for the constant presence and support from the Holy Ghost. 

It's been rather difficult to train, especially since I feel like I still need a trainer to know what I'm supposed to be doing sometimes. But I'm trying to continue to have confidence in myself. I'm feeling a lot more love for Sister Manosig who had to deal with my endless questions and just me in general... and I've had some insight into how I will probably feel as a new mother and realizing all Mom had to go through with me. :)  It's a little different with Sister Bahm since we are both from Utah and have more of a similar background, but I don't always know how to help her because she is going through different things than I went through.  I'm grateful that I've learned a little bit more about following the spirit to know what to say to investigators, because it definitely applies to companions as well.  I'm just trying to offer as much support and love as I can, while mostly just listening to her and the spirit.  

There are a lot of things that I'm managing between the ward members, ward leaders, investigators, less-actives, recent-converts, less-active-recent-convers, teaching all of the lessons, planning for most of the lessons, planning who to visit and where to go, teaching someone else how to teach and plan while figuring out how to do it myself, teaching someone a language I have barely been able to grasp onto, keeping up on my own progression of teaching skills and christlike attributes, starting to implement all of the trainings from president (facebook, basketball camps, church tours, member-exchanges, mission preparation classes for youth, teaching english at the chapel, planning firesides and ward activities, working with all the members, visiting all the active members in the ward once a week), doing all the reporting... I know I'm forgetting something, but I feel like I'm always forgetting something.  Haha, basically I'm taking one day at a time and sometimes even one hour at a time, but I know step by step everything will get done. Just keep smiling because even in the midst of all my un organization and chaos, we always have time to talk to someone standing on the street or say a prayer with someone who is crying, or visit a member whose mother just passed away (last wednesday) and those small sacred moments make up for all the rest.  Even though my numbers are down right now, I was able to make someone else smile and I think I'm okay with that. I am following the spirit more than I ever have in my life, so for me, I'm doing my job. There was a quote from Elder Eyring about how whenever he feels he deserves a rest from a church calling, he remembers the savior and His calling.  He never got a rest as he was suffering for all of us, so my small inkling of a token right now I am more than willing to pay. I really have felt all of your prayers and support. I'm not just saying that, I rely on that.  I know I would not be this healthy and this happy without all of your prayers because It's just not possible. You are all such amazing family members and I'm lucky to be sent to you. Keep working every day to live closer to the spirit, because I know for a fact that's how we become happy, and that is the whole purpose of this life and the next... to feel the same happiness that our Savior is able to feel. So keep preparing for that happiness and keep searching for that happiness. Because it's there. I love you and hope you are all feeling happy and peaceful. I'm grateful for you letters.
Love, Sister Smoot

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Week #17 (Sept.15, 2013)

A lot of changes!

Hello Family!

I love you so much. I have really felt your prayers this week as I started training Sister Bahm. She is a really dedicated and hard-working missionary so I am excited to continue learning and continue teaching all of our investigators and ward members. We got to stay in Magsungay Ward so we have a lot of support from the ward since I already have established a relationship and trust with them. It really has been a great blessing.  Sis. Ulusasa and I both started training at the same time so both of our trainees were in the MTC together.  I think it helps them a little bit to have someone they know from before with all of this new stuff added onto it.
This week I have received the gift of tongues. I know that sounds silly to just say it like that, but literally over-night I was able to just have the ability to understand and communicate. My language is obviously not perfect and there are still a lot of words I don’t know, but the drastic change in my comprehension is a miracle that I can only call: The gift of tongues and it was desperately needed.

On Monday night, our Assistants to the President called us and told me that I would be training and that Sister Manosig would be transferring to another stake.  We were sad to say goodbye because we have learned so much from each other, but we knew the change was coming so it wasn’t entirely a surprise.  I had a mini panic attack, but surprisingly – no tears.  I just had to trust in the Lord that He knew what was best for me.  I continued to pray and study about how to receive strength and the Christlike attributes in Preach My Gospel, Faith and Hope.  It really helped me a lot because it focuses on having optimism that everything will work out and having true trust in God that everything we go through is for our benefit.

Then on Tuesday Morning, I received a temporary companion who would be training as well. Since we didn’t meet our new trainees until Thursday morning, me and my temporary companion stayed together for two days. Those were the hardest two days….. ever. Those days were ten times harder than even my first days here in Bacolod.

This temporary Sister and I could not communicate. She came at the same time as Jenna, but she’s from here in the Philippines. She said she speaks a lot of languages, but she barely knew English and I’m 99% sure that she was speaking Tagalog during our lessons. Since we were working in my area, I was supposed to be leading, but there was no real direction about who was the “senior” since it was only for two days. Since she has been here longer, I think she just assumed she would teach most of the lessons, and I would just navigate. With a lack of communication on so many levels, I would start the lessons (since I actually knew the people) and she would take over in a language I didn’t know then look at me after 5 or 10 minutes of just talking.  I was semi-frustrated and I didn’t have the spirit with me at all.  So my language skills were horrendous, I couldn’t even speak Ilonggo half of the time, and everything was coming out choppy and confusing.

Then after a couple of lessons, she looks at me and says, “You’re training this transfer? Do you speak Ilonggo?” I just wanted to cry. I think I did a little, but I just was so overwhelmed with the responsibility already and then to have someone else re-affirm that doubt was just too much at the time. I held it together with a few more rough lessons until that night. Sister Nielsen was staying with us (Jenna’s companion from the MTC). She was companions with Sister Ulusasa. She trained last transfer and is training again this transfer, so she stayed with us for those two days. Since she trained right after her training, I just started asking her a lot of questions and asking her how it works…. She really helped me to calm down and to re-remember the faith I have in the Lord and his decision for me to train. Plus, it was the first time there has been another native-English speaker in the house. It was just what I needed.

That night I just prayed for strength, positivity, and sincere help with the Language (just so I could at least teach the lessons since I would be teaching all of them from now on). We made it through another rough day, and then Thursday morning, my life turned around. I was positive, I had strength, I felt a support and comfort that I was lacking the few days before. I was still a little nervous as we were waiting for our new trainees but just a couple butterflies compared to the nausea I had felt previously.  I could literally feel the Lord qualify me for this “calling.” Not just spiritually, but a physical strength as well. That afternoon me and my new companion, Sister Bahm, went to our first Appointment to Brother Jofrim. (My favorite investigator by the way. He sells these gross looking spiders to little kids to play with. It’s a really popular hobby with the boys who are around 10 years old. I asked him once if the spiders bite and he just answered, “kaisa” (sometimes) haha, I’ll have to tell you the story about how we met next week.)

When I introduced him to my new companion and explained I’m training her, he chuckled a little and pointed at me saying, “You’reTraining?” I just smiled and laughed too and continued on, but for the first time, I understood everything he was saying.  I had confidence, energy, enthusiasm, and most importantly, I felt directed as to what to say, how to say it and what to talk about, and I knew the Ilonggo in order to say it.  I have never in my life relied so wholly upon the Lord and have never in my life received such specific guidance and such a manifestation of a miracle in my life. I’ve definitely felt promptings before and felt help and guidance, but not this specifically. Because I know that that is what I needed at that time. I know I can’t continue to expect that much help for the rest of my mission, because the Lord requires me work and effort too in order to continue to Learn and become better, but I do know that the Power of the Lord is a REAL power that is there right when we need it and when we are living worthily to receive it.  Sometimes, the language is harder than other times, but when it is for the benefit of others, I am able to speak with clarity and fluency and I know that President Lopez has been inspired to create early trainers in order for us to learn how to fully rely on the Lord.

Sister Bahm is a great missionary and I am excited to continue to learn and grow with her. This week I’ve been able to stay continually positive and have so much strength to get everything done. It’s still a lot of work to be the only one teaching and the only one filling out paperwork, but I really have felt physically strengthened.  I’m excited for all of the changes in our mission and I’m excited for the person I’m being molded into.  I love being able to fully communicate and love and serve another Sister Missionary like Sister Bahm, and I know the Lord will help me to help prepare her for when she gets to train too. I’m so excited for this next transfer and the many miracles I know we will be able to see. I love you all and wish you all the best. I continue to pray for you every day!

Love, Sister Smoot