Sunday, June 23, 2013

Week #6 (June 24, 2013) First week in the Philippines!

Thanks for you Emails Mom and Dad!! Yeah, I'm not sure how often we get the mail. We don't really have addresses down here...yeah, try finding all of your investigators on the first try. The mission office gets our letters but I'm not sure when they give them to us. I am in the same zone as Sister Jenna Smoot! So I will see her every tuesday for our meetings.  I haven't seen her yet, but there is a strict no hugging and no writing other missionaries in the mission regardless of gender. So I'm not allowed to hug her or write her. I'm really sad about it, but I know that strict obedience brings miracles... and boy do I need those. Also, we are not allowed to take pictures proselyting, so I don't really know what to take pictures of. I'll figure it out this week and send you some of the apartment next week! 

My companion, Sister Manosig, is from Manilla. She has only been here for a little while, she did her 12 weeks of training, one 6 week transfer, and now she is training me.  There are a lot of questions about the rules. I think her first two companions didn't really follow them so she doesn't know all of them.  I keep bringing some up, so slowly but surely we will be able to be strictly obedient as a companionship instead of just me. I know it's hard for her too. She is kind of stressed out sometimes because she has to take the lead in all of the lessons and keep track of all of the investigators. We have so many that I haven't even met all of them yet even though we go teach every day. I am teaching all in Hiligaynon, which is really fun.  Sis. Manosig was surprised that I could already speak it. What I say is very simple, but I'm working on more vocab for everyday use instead of just gospel vocab.  Sis. Manosig thinks I will be a trainer as soon as my 12 weeks of training are up because there are too many sister missionaries coming in, we will all have to train.  She said she hasn't heard anything wrong with my grammar either, which is a miracle. I know that the gift of tongues is real, because there is no way I would be able to teach all these children of God, without His help. Sis. Manosig speaks Tagolog and learned Hiligaynon when she got here. So I don't really know how well my grammar is, because I don't really know how well she knows it either. She speaks a little English, but we are working on communicating with one another. The first couple of days were really hard because I had so many questions, (my coping mechanism) but she didn't really know what I was saying. After the first two days though, everything was okay. She is 24 and got her nursing degree in Manilla, so don't worry mom, she won't let me die. 

To answer some of your questions... we are living in a little apartment with two other sisters (they don't speak that much english either). (This may sound bad, but it has been so long since I've seen an American or white person, and you kind of just miss it. I feel a little alone sometimes because no one really understands me and I only know how to express myself a little bit in Hiligaynon. But everytime I pray, I feel the love of Heavenly Father, and I know that I am never alone. He is our constant companion. I rely on Him now more than I ever have in my life, and I know these experiences are tremendous blessings because of that.) We have bunk beds and two little bathrooms. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who uses toilet paper, and I don't know how to ask how to do it the other way, so for now I'm just going to pray that we don't run out.  The food is okay. The first couple of days weren't bad, but now I'm feeling the effects of no fruits or vegetables. Just rice and meat, and I don't eat a lot of meat because my companion prepares it, and even though she is an amazing cook, and it tastes really good, sometimes I question my safety (healthwise). But don't worry mom, I'm being careful and I'm taking all my vitamins and drinking lots of pure, clean water! My hair... yeah, I stopped doing it in the MTC. I just shower and it dries during personal study and then sometimes I pin my bangs out of my face, (like it is in the facebook pictures Pres. Lopez took) The little filipino children are so curious about my yellow hair that is so puffy. Haha, they are so cute.  At church, all of the primary children came up to me and said in English and in Hiligaynon, "You are so beautiful!" I always tell them they are beautiful too and they smile really big. The always stroke my arms too because my skin is white and they just want to touch it.  When we go proselyting and I meet investigators for the first time, they always tell my I am so "guapo" or beautiful. At first I felt kind of awkward, because that it not the normal reaction I receive in America, but even though I still feel weird about it, because I know they just think I'm cute because I'm white, fat, and have blue eyes - I take the opportunity to complement them and start asking them questions about themselves.

Laundry is very interesting here. Haha, my companion taught me how to do it the filipino way this morning. I don't think my clothes will be clean until I get home in two years.  Haha, she said the water here is not very clean compared to where she is from, so if she doesn't think they are clean, I definitely don't. 

I love these people so much! They are so kind and loving and very patient with my slow Hiligaynon.  Even though I got homesick for the first time in my life, at least I think that is what I'm feeling, it always goes away as soon as we start working. I know that I am here for a reason and that is what I am holding on to. I love it here, even though it's hard, and I am so excited to continue to feel the holy ghost with these people. Really quick, we had an investigator who felt the spirit for the first time, and even though it was burning hot (I am consistently dripping... literally, not figuratively) he was shivering and started tearing up. I was definitely spiritually fed and I hope he never forgets that moment. Because those are the moments we hold on to and always remember so we will recognize the spirit when He comes again. 

I know this Church is true. I know that the Book of Mormon is True. I know that the Holy Ghost can give personal revelation to all of us and that we can be spiritually strengthened and edified through Him and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I love this Gospel and I love all of you and the support you give me! 

Palangga mo Kamo!!  Sister Ashley Smoot

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ashley made it safely to Bacolod, Philippines today!! Yeay!

Hi Family! 
I made it to Bacolod safely and I am already loving it. It isn't very hot here, maybe it's just the day today, or my expectations, but it's not bad at all.  Actually, I've been freezing in Provo for the past six weeks so maybe God has just blessed me to love the heat more. Anyway, I just wanted to tell all of you how much I love you and miss you. I will email you next on Monday (your Sunday) so don't think I died or anything until then. I love you all so much and thank you for all of you support. It was fun talking to some of you during my layover. I love you billions! 
Sister Smoot
p.s. One of the Sisters gave me a hug from Marcie, so tell her thanks.
Also, everyone here LOVES Jenna. She is awesome.  Love you lots!!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Week #5 (June 13, 2013)

WEEK #5   My last P-Day.  I'm leaving on Monday!

Oh what a crazy time! We are leaving for the Philippines on Monday!!!! It's very bittersweet because I am going to miss my teachers so much.  They have taught me loads about the gospel, myself, missionary work, and the people in the Philippines.  However, it's mostly sweet because we will be able to finally live with the wonderful Filipino's in the greatest place on earth and learn so much from them as we serve.  I just feel extremely lucky to be able to be in this situation! We are definitely blessed.

This last week we finished teaching our investigators and I'm actually sad to leave behind Juralyn and Rochy.  Even though we will be able to see them (our teachers) when we get home, it's like a preview of how I'm going to feel when I'm finished with the next 17 months.  You just fall in love with serving them and bringing them hope and it's really hard to let it go! But it just reminds me that I can't waste any time and I need to work my hardest to help as many souls come unto Christ as I can.

This week we had our missionary Tuesday devotional in the Marriott Center at BYU.  It was weird to be back at BYU and yet it was different because it was full of just missionaries.  The choir is preparing for the first presidency and a bunch of the Apostles who are coming next Tuesday. (Yes, I am missing them by ONE day!) But they sounded so Angelic.  It will be one of the largest choirs ever with over 1100 members in the choir singing.  The sound was incredible as they sang called to serve (which is already a tear jerker from missionaries.)  Also, I love Elder and Sister Arnold from the seventy.  They had a perfect balance of encouragement as they spoke, through complementing while promoting work ethic.  We learned a lot about the sacredness of our calling and our divine nature along with the divine nature of our investigators.  Our future investigators' ancestors are helping us as Angels on the other side so their descendants can receive ordinances and then do their ordinances in the Temple.  I don't know if this has enough context, but just know it was a devotional I won't forget for a while. 
This week we were just walking to dinner when Sis. Dixon says, "I wonder how your Filipino companions are going to react to you since you are so happy all of the time."  Yeah, I just started laughing.  I'm a little worried about cultural differences, but I know that the Lord won't give me anything I can't handle.  I'm excited to learn new ways of doing laundry (this is the last time with machines), and new food and new testimonies and new perspectives on life.  Next week as I write to you, I will have a totally different companion and I will be writing about completely different experiences. I am so excited for what the Lord has in store for me. Whether it be good or bad, I can't wait to learn from it.  I know that whatever happens, I will just become a better person because of it, and I can't wait.

This week I took on our branch president's challenge of writing down all the things we are asked to do in our Patriarchal Blessing and all the things we are promised.  It really helps me focus my studies and life on what is really important. Along with remembering all of what I am supposed to do, it uplifts my day to read through all of the promises and gifts I can receive.  The second list is twice as long as the first.  This is just another testament to me of how loving our Heavenly Father is.  He cares for us, loves us, and wants to bless us so much. He asks for so little compared to the great blessings he gives and the great sacrifices made by our Savior. We can make time for our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This last week, our sacrament meeting was on The Atonement.  I'm in charge of picking the hymns and special musical numbers for our branch, but there are so many good Hymns about our savior.  I wrote down a long list of applicable songs that were appropriate for our sacrament meeting, then prayed to know which ones I should choose.  I had a list, but it didn't feel right. Normally when I do this, everything goes really smoothly and I don't change my list very often, but this time I decided to switch out the closing song to "How Great Thou Art."  In sacrament meeting, one of the branch presidency wives was speaking, and she broke down in tears, saying she had a feeling we were going to sing this song for our closing song and told an emotional personal story about how important is was to her.  I was shocked.  I had no idea that picking a song could impact an entire meeting.  I am so grateful for my continuing relationship with the Holy Ghost.  I know I am so blessed to be able to focus my whole life on Christ and spend so much time strengthening my relationship with the gospel, Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.  I know that Jesus Christ lives, that He helps us daily, and that there is no other place I should be then right here serving His children.  I love this gospel, I love continuing to learn about it and I'm grateful for the continual strength I receive from it.  I know that testimony and conversion is a life long process that leads to eternal life, and I'm so glad that I have been able to boost my speed on that process through serving full time.  I love you all and I am so grateful for all of your love and support.

Love, Sister Ashley Smoot

P.S. Happy Fathers Day Dad!!!!! I'm sending you a real letter in the mail. Also, I'll be able to call you at one of the Airports, either in Salt Lake or in Oregon. I'm attaching a picture of the flight plans so you will know the time range.  If you don't answer then, oh well, but I think I will call mom's cell first, then dad's. I don't want to break any rules so I'm planning on using the pay phone, I already bought a calling card. But tell Brother Lowder thank you anyway!  I'm pretty sure today is the last day you could send me stuff because Saturday morning is the last time my district will pick up the mail.  I think emailing from now on is how I will contact you, but you can still Dear Elder me for free to the Philippines, just don't do it to the MTC, or I won't get it.   I love you all so much!!! 

Mail and Laundry Room. Our last P-Day at the MTC!

Temple Walk

The most awkward picture of me ever, but all of the sisters in our district. I will miss them!

Just Kidding, this one is the most awkward picture ever. Cleaning Day! We cleaned the bathrooms in the Spanish building every mondaymorning from 6:00 am to 7:20 am.  So fun... and attractive...


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Week # 4 (June 6, 2013)

Week # 4
(940 new missionaries arrived this Wednesday-New record!)

First of all, all the weeks are blurring together and they are pretty much the same, just with different growing experiences. So, sorry if this is semi-boring. I forgot to tell you last week that the west MTC Campus opened. They officially opened the Raintree Apartments for MTC housing. It's crazy to be apart of such important History in the Church.  Also this week, our district got to help host the new missionaries that arrived yesterday and help them get their books and drop off their luggage and find their classrooms.  They broke the record with about 940 new missionaries coming in one day.  It was crazy, but more impressive than that was how smoothly everything goes.  The Church is definitely organized.  I got to Host one international sister who was from Australia, and three other sisters from America.  It was kind of hard to see all the families crying and it reminded me of when I was dropped off.  Sometimes I can't believe it's already been four weeks.  Only 1 1/2 more weeks until I leave to the Philippines, and I get my travel plans tomorrow
Last Sunday we got to watch The Legacy.  I was so excited because I remember watching it every Sunday when we were about 10 years old.  However, I forgot (didn't realize at the time) how cheesy it is.  I couldn't help but laugh at the random comments. And my personal favorite line is, "If we ever meet again, it will be Zion to me!" If it's been a while since you've seen it, you should watch it. When you can feel the spirit and laugh your head off, you know it's a keeper.  Also, a random thought, it's been a long time since any of us have seen kissing, and when the main couple get married, they obviously kiss. All the missionaries started squirming and freaking out. I mean, it's a very wholesome move, it is just weird to realize how sensitized we are.  It's a good thing, just unexpected. Now I better understand the awkwardness of Returned Missionaries. 
Our language is getting better each week.  I never thought I would be able to communicate before I left, but the gift of tongues is real.  I'm pretty sure I'll be confused when I get over there and hear the "real" language, but for now, I'm really happy with how much we've been blessed.  Our teacher on Wednesday told us we were fluent.  I don't really believe him, but he kept insisting that because we were able to communicate with him and other TRC volunteers, then that makes us fluent.  Either way, it makes me feel better to know that at least I know how to say "The Church is True," and "We're fat, we need to run." JaJa Joklang.
I finally bought headphones for the gym.  There is a gym that always has Elder Holland talks, Mormon Messages, and the Joseph Smith movie playing while you work out.  I've been watching them without sound for three weeks, but this last week I finally bought them.  It's a really good time to relax your ind while still being uplifted. Also, it's good to de-stress and get moving around since we basically just Eat and Sit (even though we are intellectually and spiritually working out, our bodies are pretty much dormant.) 
This last Monday, our whole zone left for the field (that's around 55 missionaries).  So our district, just the 13 of us were the only ones left until yesterday when all 6 other district filled up.  That added 57 new missionaries at once.  That hardly ever happens.  Our first day, we got to get the tour and meet with our zone leaders and sister training leaders with only the 13 of us.  Since this was a special case, our whole district got to help.  Since we have six companionships, we all split up by companionship and each got to answer questions and give a tour to one district.  It was weird to realize how long we've been here, how many P-Days we've had, and how much we have grown since that first day.  I know I decided to serve a mission to help others, but I really have grown up way more than I expected. I am so grateful for the guidance and peace this gospel brings to me daily and I can't wait to share it with those who haven't been nearly as lucky as me. It just reminds me of the responsibility I have to serve others, since I have been so blessed.
Thanks for all of your letters and prayers! I really can't believe how lucky and blessed I am.  It's hard not to be positive and happy when the Lord has given us so much and asked for so little comparatively.  Even though we have stressors and trials and annoyances, the Lord will help us through all things if we strengthen our sacred relationship with Him! I love you all and I am so grateful for your examples and kindness.
Palangga ko kamo!
Sincero, Sister Smoot

I saw Jennessa! (one of my college roomates)

I had to go to the Immunization clinic and the line was so long that we missed lunch. So we had to find some lunch from the vending machine. Surprisingly, this was not the most sketchy thing that we have eaten.

Our Sister Training Leader Sis. Brown left to the Philippines Cebu mission speaking Cebuano.  She was the most energetic person.... ever.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I received this picture with no explanation today. It's Wednesday so I am guessing Grandma Smoot and Ashley were hosts together for new in-coming missionaries. Wow. I wish i could go give them both a big hug! Happy Day!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kendra's side note:
It was Ashley's hump day this last week- Yes, she's half way through the MTC. We sent her lots of pictures, some bottled sodas, like FANTA and CREAM soda with plastic wine glasses and said, "You're a FANTAstic missionary" and "You are the CREAM of the crop" We also sent a bunch of party favors and poppers, balloons, chocolate and mints to share and celebrate with her companions. I just can't believe she has been there more than 1/2 way. It seems to me like a very long time! Does it go slow for the MOM? xoxoxo Around the week of JUNE 17th she will be off to Bacolod!
Thanks for all your support.
Lot's of LOVE, Kendra