Our bathroom. One shower for four missionaries in the morning is a lot of fun, but at least we have one! Where is the toilet paper? I'm the only one who uses it. I'm too shy to ask how that all works so I pray I won't run out!
The brooms here are so small. I am getting really good at crouching down in peoples houses, and during cleaning. Those are our desks in the back. Just me and Sister Manosig. The other sisters have desks in their rooms. Don't you just love my humid hair do?
2. This is our kitchen. It is pretty big. This is where I run every morning.... in circles and circles... it's better than running in place. Since I'm the only one who exercises I have to stay inside.
The smallest red onion I have ever seen! Everything is smaller in the Philippines! That's a saying here. This is the normal size of the onions. It's funny to cut up all these vegetables- it only takes a few seconds.
Bishop Basa and his niece Sister Milamar who is 12. One of our first baptisms
Wading through sewer water, eating with your hands, my Barbie hair, BBQ with Jenna! Following the Savior, Families are the best!
This week went fast. It scares me sometimes to think that every week is getting faster and faster. The first week, I have to admit, I just wanted time to go faster and I made a countdown of how many weeks I had left. I know, I'm a little bit ashamed of that. But I want you to know that I threw it away and I'm really learning to enjoy all of the aspects of being a missionary. It's kind of fun to wade through sewer water and eat with your hands and sit on branches or the ground. Okay, that sounds sarcastic, but it is really fun. You just have to look at it in a fun adventurous way. There is also the beautiful trees and greenery and this week I promise to take more pictures (it's on my goals list) and show you all the beautiful and amazing parts of the Philippines. This week we ate at a restaurant that has unlimited rice. Everyone loves it because they can go through like five plates of rice. (I'm stuffed after the first one). But basically there are no utensils. A lot of people eat with their hands and some of the sisters have been trying to teach me how to do it so I don't sprinkle rice all down my dress. But I normally give up half way through and use the spoon. This time, I had to use my hands the whole time. I succeeded! And I actually didn't spill that much. I'm excited to treat the whole family to a true Filipino experience and teach you because it's really way more efficient than the fork. Also, this week we got to have a Zone activity at the Sinema's house. (couple missionaries) They had all American food like potato salad, BBQ chicken, lays chips. It reminded me of being at Grandma's house for the summer parties. Especially since Jenna was there and we got to chat for a full 2 hours. It was so refreshing and fun. I know the Lord put us together for a reason and I'm so grateful for the tender mercies He always has in store for us.
While we are teaching lessons, sometimes the kids are just super hyper and loud and the others can't hear what we are saying. So I've started letting the little kids play with my hair because they think it's so fun to touch "yellow" hair. "It's like a Barbie!" Haha, so I give them each a chunk of hair and they just braid it over and over. It keeps them quiet and we are able to share.
I was talking to Sister Milamar after church yesterday and I asked her how young women was. She started beaming and told me she bore her testimony for the first time. I was so excited for her, I accidentally broke one of the rules and gave her a side hug. Her excitement and joy over every aspect of the church is inspiring. She has so much courage and determination to follow the commandments and spends the time and money each week to get to church even without her family. I know she will be a great example to them and I know there are members across the world and even in Utah that are acting on their faith even though they may feel alone. God loves His children, knows us each by name, and rejoices when we follow Him. He is always waiting for us, patiently, to run into His arms. I feel so blessed and honored to be able to share His message of hope and happiness and tell people like Sister Milamar about her Father in Heaven, and help her learn how to feel of His love and live a life that will bring her the most happiness and peace.
Families are so important in this culture and people always love asking me about my family, so thanks for all of the pictures you gave me. Every time they look at the family they always say how beautiful mom is. I definitely agree. "Woooooow, guapa mama" That's your new nick-name mom. Guapa Mama. You are so beautiful and talented and you have taught me so much. I know I would not be able to be on this mission and helping these people without you. So in a way, all of my converts, are really your converts too. Thank you for all of your advice, wisdom, encouragement, support, and love you have given me my entire life. I know I haven't always deserved it, but I just want to make sure you know how much I appreciate you.
Lots of love,
P.S. sorry if this letter is sporadic, short, and unorganized, sometimes I just have a lot going on in my head! Love you billions!
Spiders, lizards, dirt floors and tarps, Following the spirit, The Faith of Investigator Lope
I don't think there are any treats I miss.... you can get stuff here, it's just expensive:) I mostly just love letters. Emails are great because I definitely get them for the week and I can print them out for later. To address dad's questions: The money situation is good. I only use the support we get each month and it is plenty. Don't worry, I'll let you know if I need anything. My apartment is one of the nicer ones. We are really lucky we have tile floors instead of concrete and since we have four missionaries living here our kitchen is pretty big and we have two bathrooms (one shower). They have been remodeling since I got here and just finished so now it looks really nice with new paint and everything.
There are always bugs and spiders and I always have a few new bites in the morning, but nothing too harsh. I'll survive, don't freak out. There are also lizards EVERYWHERE. haha, always crawling on all of the walls, but you just kind of ignore them. They used to freak me out in the shower, maybe like a privacy issue or something. But I'm really used to them now so they're not a big deal. We don't have mice or rats in our apartment (blessing from GOD!) But we see them all the time in the members' homes. I'm trying to take a picture of one of the neighborhoods so you will have an idea of where we are serving and teaching. Mostly just dirt floors and bamboo walls and roofs (or tarps for the roofs). We teach while sitting on planks of wood or sometimes broken old plastic chairs... they offer their best always and give us everything they have. That was the hardest for me. I just wanted to sit in the mud and let them sit in the two chairs that they own, but it would be rude to refuse and they just want to give you everything. The people are so giving to everyone. The culture here is like a huge family. Everyone knows everyone and everyone lives everywhere. Haha.
Jenna is doing great! I see her every Tuesday and I love it. She is so cute about everything and loves all the new food and travel and is doing really well with all of the dirt and bugs. She fits right in and is thriving. She really has an excitement for everything and it is really neat and I'm sure her investigators appreciate and want her happiness and joy that she shares.
A couple funny things that happened this week:
1. There was a little girl who we met in one of the back ditches behind one of the villages on our way to an appointment, we were a little early and she was so cute so I was asking her her name and age and about school....She's like 9 I think. Well after a couple days we were in the same area and we saw her again. She saw me, took a deep gasp and started jumping up and down and ran straight towards me and wrapped her arms around my legs (still screaming). I was laughing so hard. I didn't know what was going on because she was talking way too fast. But her excitement seriously made my whole day. I don't think anyone has every been that excited to see me. AAHHHGGG! I'm just so excited to find her family and teach them. That's the thing here though, it's impossible to find people. Since there are no addresses, you just have to start asking around if people know certain last names and start literally searching for their house. There are so many houses and people though, it's almost impossible. We definitely need the Lord's help always.
2. During church one of the young women girls was talking about CTR and one of the young men said, "Cook The Rice?" I just died laughing. Now everytime I hear CTR, I'm going to think of the mounds and mounds of rice I've already shoveled in.
3. We were playing an FHE game similar to the "water game," but instead of throwing a thimble of water, you have to brush baby powder on their cheek. The only problem was, that since I'm white, you can't even see the powder. So all the kids were like, "give her coal dust instead!" Their mom was laughing so hard she almost fell off her chair. (I've also been called a fire fly at night because my white skin 'glows in the dark') Haha.
So on Wednesday, President Lopez and Sister Lopez came to our apartment to watch our companionship study. President Lopez stayed with us and observed how we study and took a lot of video (kind of nerve wracking). I'm not sure what the videos were for, but I'm pretty sure he came to ours because I've expressed feelings of confusion in my letters. He really helped us learn what to do and how to study. I know we are really lucky to get to have personal instruction from our Mission President. We did some practice teaching and he observed and helped critique some of the things we are doing. Basically, it helped my companion Sister Manosig and I get on the same page.
This week went a lot better than the previous weeks. Instead of getting frustrated (which just leads to anger, according to PMG), I realized I needed to have a greater Faith in God that he won't let me fail if I'm doing my best. I work hard, but I needed to stop being to prideful that I put all the responsibility on myself and forget whose work I'm doing. This is His work, and the Holy Ghost can testify of our authority and the power of scriptures and following God's plan. It's not only up to me to convince them. Otherwise missionary work would fail, because we are all imperfect teachers. But I present the information as clearly as I can and love the people with all my heat and seek to sincerely help them, then the Spirit will testify of the truth and really convince them. I've seen it work.
We have an investigator Lope. He is the first investigator that I actually started teaching from the beginning. I think I missed his first lesson, but I've been there for his whole progression. He didn't have enough money to get to church the first few weeks, but said he would try. So Sister Manosig and I told him we would pick him up. We rode the Jeepney out to his village early one Sunday and asked him and his family if they would come to Church with us. Brother Lope and one of his daughters (6 years old) came to church with us. They had dressed in their best clothes and you could really feel their excitement. We rode to church and it was just a normal church day. They had to leave after the first two hours because Brother Lope is working a lot of jobs to keep his family fed, but we didn't get to say goodbye. The next tuesday we visited with him, and he shared his experience of prayer. He said that he felt he needed to come to church, but he knew he didn't have enough money to come. He prayed to Heavenly Father to provide a way for him to get to church. On Saturday, at work, someone he didn't even know tipped him 100 pesos. (about two and a half dollars, but still, that's a lot, that's as much as some people make in a whole day) He said he knows that the Lord gave him that money. He also said he has never been this happy before since he went to Church. Basically, I was stoked. I know that the Lord is doing so much more than we even see. As much as we help and teach, the Lord is preparing these people and blessing them for their faith. Brother Lope has now been to church three Sundays in a row, and we are approaching his baptismal date on Aug. 3. I love teaching him and his family, and I know he is a great example to them. I'm excited to continue teaching his family and eventually get them to church so he will be able to baptize his family. His faith every day is inspiring. He says, he knows God will provide the way. We hadn't even shared that scripture with him yet. I know without a doubt, that this is the Lords work. That he loves all of his children, and he answers prayers that are based off sincere faith and trust in God.
I love you all! Thanks for all your letters and love. Seriously, I love you all.
First Baptism/Butt Bug Bites/Patience is a virtue/fasting works My first baptism was this week! Sister Milamar Basa is a little 12 year old girl who we found while looking for less-active families in the ward. Since no one has addresses, it's literally searching! Her father is a member but hasn't been active since high school, but allowed us to teach his daughter. She was really receptive and so excited to be baptized. She gave up Tea and Coffee and worked really hard to come to church every Sunday. She is so cute and since she was McKenna's age, I had a soft spot for her. It turns out, by coincidence, that she is our Bishops neice, so he was the one who performed her baptism. I'm sending a picture of Bishop, Milamar, my companion and I and the other two sisters in our apartment. Her family is not very supportive and it was really hard to see her all alone, but I really hope the ward continues to support her and strengthen her. Sis. Manosig and I got to help her after she got out of the font and I remembered when I was baptized and mom was helping me brush my hair before I went back in. It was a really special moment.
This week we had another zone training and I saw Jenna again! I gave her the package Marcy sent with me and she was really excited to get it. It's fun to see her and talk to someone who knows what I'm saying. Haha, it's like a breath of fresh air! Oh! By the way, thanks Dad for the hymn book and study supplies, I use them ALL the time, so thanks for taking the time to go mission shopping with me. I miss you and love you so much!
So I have sort of been struggling. Not with being here on a mission, because I know I am supposed to be here and I love helping the people. But struggling because my trainer admitted she doesn't know what she is doing or how to be a missionary and doesn't always understand what the people are saying. So..... we are working together to meet all the goals and using preach my gospel and I'm working on being patient because I know we can't change everything all at once. I've spent a lot of my prayers in full out sobs and tears and I don't think I've ever cried as much as I have this week. Lets just say it was an extremely humbling experience. My problem is not that this is hard, because I can do hard. It's just that we feel a little clueless from time to time and I don't necessarily know how to improve. If I just wanted to have a good time, I would just go along with what she is doing. But I feel personally responsible for all of the poeple we don't get to and I feel so much pressure to be a perfect missionary right now and do everything we are supposed to be doing and I've been extremely overwhelpmed. Anyway, enough with the self-pity. I was reading during my personal study, trying to find a scripture for one of our investigators, and I found one for me instead. Mosiah4:27. Read it. It basically says we are not required to run faster than we have strength. I know that Heavenly Father is watching out for me, and that eventually I will figure things out through a constant effort to succeed. I know I need to have patience with my companion and myself and have the trust in the Lord he rightly deserves. This is His work, and he won't let me fail if I am trying my best to follow Him.
So many questions! Haha, I will answer as many as I can. The days all blur together so I can't really tell what day is what, to be honest. I haven't missed a day in my journal though so you can read it when I get home! Haha. In the mornings we get up at 6:30 and I work out until 7. My roommates are still working on the whole obedience thing. Then from 7 to 8 we eat and get ready. From 8 to 9 is personal study. From 9 to 11 is companionship study. From 11-12 is language study. From 12-1 is Lunch and from 1:00 - 8:30 we are out teaching lessons to less-active members, new converts, investigators, and we were just asked to start visiting active ward members for push on member referrals. We spend time with the members to strengthen them and prepare the teenagers for their missions, receive referrals from them and gain their trust. Then from 8:30-9:00 we account for the day and update progress records for each of our lessons. From 9:00-10:00 is Dinner and shower and then 10-10:30 write in journal and pray. Mom, do you want anything else? Just let me know!! Megan: You sent the letter on June 20 and I got it July 3, so pretty fast. It probably would have gotten to me faster, but they accidentally gave it to Jenna first, so hopefully they figure that out soon!
**Funny story! I was sitting on this Sister's couch and it was actually a good lesson, but then afterwards, later in the day I realized my butt was on fire. I couldn't figure out what was wrong! That night I figured it out. I had 28 bug bites on my butt. From the Sisters couch. Don't worry, the swelling has gone down. But I officially am a little scared to sit down in questionable areas.
So Sunday morning I was really discouraged because we weren't able to teach that many families on Saturday because we didn't really have very good plans, and all of the less-active families we planned to visit were not available. (plus no one has been going to bed at 10:30 and I know it sounds stupid, but I hate being the only one who is obedient and I know we need all the blessings we can get so I was a little frustrated.) Anyway, we were waiting for church to start and at 9:00there were no investigators or less actives. Just as I was starting to lose hope, at 9:05 all these people just showed up at the same time. Three families who haven't been to church in three months came in, a couple investigators who were supposed to have surgery came (even though they barely have enough money for the bus ride to church) and one of our investigators who we thought was going to quit listening to us. It was definitely an answer to dozens of prayers I had offered that day. I know that it is only after we do all that we can and show all our faith that the Lord will bless us and show us miracles. I know it was definitely a miracle that all those people came to church and were able to feel of the spirit that is available for us. I was so happy when they walked in that I almost started crying, but I didn't want to scare them off! Later that night, we visited the family that I had fasted for. They didn't come to church, but I had hope that they would see the light. They are a young couple (28 years old) and they have two little kids around 6 and 1. They are a neat little family and they work really hard, and they have had a lot of questions about our church because they are very Catholic. I then turned my attention to Brother Fransisco and asked him how his Book of Mormon Reading was going. He said good, and then I asked him where he read. He said he read Moroni 10:3-5. (The invitation to pray about the Book of Mromon) I asked him what his feelings were about those verses, and he said this really long thing that I didn't understand. I looked at my companion and she said she didn't know what he said. I just looked at him and asked, "so, Do you believe the Book of Mormon is true?" He just nodded his head, Yes. Then I said, "So, if you believe the Book of Mormon is true, do you believe the Simbahan ni Jesukristo sang mga santos sa ulihing mga adlaw is true?" [**it's all in Hiligayon, I'm just giving you a taste of the language :) ] He nodded his head again. I just got goosebumps. My companion jumped in and started talking about feeling the spirit (we are working on unity right now, so I let her finish, even though I was really confused). I then asked him, "so since you know it's true, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized ...... you know the commitment. He agreed right then and there to a specific day (August 10). I was so happy, my smile was probably embarrassing, but I didn't even care. He was smiling too so I am so happy he has been able to feel the spirit of the Lord. I know it was not my teaching that converted him because I sound like a little kid (my vocabulary is so small right now). I know that the spirit of the Lord has touched his heart and I am so grateful to be apart of such a miraculous conversion. I know the power of fasting is real. I haven't fasted that long in a while and I've never broken my fast at 7:30 at night. But I wasn't even hungry because when you are fed by the spirit, you seriously don't even care about food.
I know this church is true, and I know that even though I have no idea what I am doing half the time, the Lord does. And I am never alone because he will always help me. I am so grateful for you prayers and support and letters! I love you lots!!!
This week was full of so many ups and downs. I'm still getting adjusted to the food and the culture and sometimes it's frustrating because I will go for so long without knowing what people are saying. The older people are the hardest to understand because their voices are more slurred and they talk really fast. But it's coming day by day and step by step. I try not to think about home because it makes me miss all of you. I'm keeping my eye single to the glory of God. It helps with the homesickness because when I start feeling sad or discouraged (mostly meaning I've been focusing on myself) I just think about all of our investigators and less active ward members and what I can do to better help them. It's challenging to keep track of all of them because we have so many, but I'm never sad when I'm focused on them. I know the Lord blesses me because of my service and I want my whole heart focused on them.
Happy Birthday Ally! I'm writing you a hand letter because I'll have more time later, but just know I love you and I can't believe you are 18!! Woo Hoo, welcome to adulthood. Everyone here thinks I am 15 years old. They are always so curious to ask me how old I am. I tell them I'm 20 and they are shocked. It's supposed to be a complement to look young, but sometimes I feel like they don't always want to listen to what I have to say because they view me as a little kid. But I know that when I speak the Truth of the Gospel, they always listen. Also, a lot of the members have been asking me if I'm Japanese. Haha! Even the Asians think I look Asian. One of the ward members, Brother Jared, told me I had Japanese Eyes. I just laughed. I think that's a Woolf gene. Thanks mom.
One day we were stopping by the apartment to use the CR (bathroom) and there was a little boy out front begging for money. We aren't supposed to give them any money so Sis. Manosig gave him a pack of cookies. He opened it up and crushed up the cookies and through them on the ground. He ran away but it kind of freaked me out. Then the next day, he came back begging for bread. I wasn't sure what to do, but he was so starving, his bones were literally jutting out of his sides. I decided to give him a few pieces of bread since we had a lot and it was probably going to go bad anyway. He took it this time and shared it with his little brother. I don't know what the rules are on giving food away, but I know that service is always the best policy. Even if they don't always appreciate it, I hope they remember the missionaries and want to investigate the church later in their life.
Seeing Jenna was so fun! Kind of hard, since it reminded me of home, but so good! We went to the bathroom to hug since there is no hugging in public. But it was good to get a long squeeze in. She is so cute, I don't know how she finds time to get ready, but she always looks so cute.
My feet! Haha, they are always dirty from all of the floods and they are still adjusting to all of the walking so a lot of the time they have soars and bug bites on them. I took a picture I'm going to try and send, but I thought it was so funny because normally I'm oddly particular about the cleanliness of my feet and I always wear shoes. Now I just live with dirt and bugs so I've adjusted. It's always dirty, but I love it because you walk into people's homes (four walls made out of boards or tarps) and realize, they've never been in a super clean place before. They literally sleep in the dirt. It's very humbling and hard to complain when we are constantly reminded how blessed I've been. The church houses are all tile to make it easier to clean, so they look a little different. We had 95 members show up for church this week, which went down from the 115 last week. I hope I'm not scaring them away! We had a baptism on Saturday, the other sisters in our apartment had three investigator children baptized. One of the little girls was the one who wouldn't stop rubbing my arms because they are so white. Haha, so cute.
The weather hasn't been that bad and the only time I was hot was the first week. Sweat was literally dripping from my chin onto a puddle on the floor. I felt kind of bad, but I cleaned it up before we left. Good thing the floor was cement. The food is okay. Haha, one day of the runs, one day of constipation, but I'm drinking a lot of water and I take breaks from the filipino food and eat American Cereal with powdered milk.
On Sunday we traveled to Villia, which is 15 minute Jeepney ride away and picked up 2 investigators and some less actives. They haven't been coming to church so we went to "remind" them. They came, but I'm praying they come on their own next week. There is only so much we can do. There are so many less active members here. Out of 600,000 members in the Philippines, only 100,000 are active. So a huge part of our work is reactivation, along with our mission vision of weekly baptisms. It keeps us busy, but I know the Lord with help us with such a large goal. I know this Church is true and sometimes I am really hard on myself because I want to help everybody right now and I'm not always patient with myself. I want to implement everything from the MTC, but I need to be patient with my trainer and be humble enough to learn from her. We don't always agree and we don't always understand each other (language wise) so sometimes I just feel like crying because I want to do everything according to the rules and Preach My Gospel and I want to go go go and teach teach teach and she just kind of takes her time. Sorry for my ranting, but I just get frustrated because sometimes I feel like I could be doing more. I'm the only one in my apartment who works out for 30 minutes, and I'm pretty sure if I didn't wake up at 6:30 no one else would. It's a lot of pressure to keep moving and being passionate about this work, so I'm praying that my dedication and diligence persists, because no one here is going to remind me of my purpose. It's up to me and I know that the Lord helps me and guides me daily. Everyday I remind myself that I will not have any regrets, and will give my all. I know that this Church is true, and I know that I'm doing the Lord's work, and it is only through Him that we will be able to get those weekly baptism and save each individual soul by introducing them to Christ. The time is going faster and faster and it scares me that I only have 16 months left. I view every day as a precious day and every hour as a precious hour. I love you all and I pray for you daily. I love your letters and your support! I got grandma Smoot's letter 10 days after she sent it, so the mail here is relatively good!
I love you so much and I'm grateful for your examples in my life. Good luck with everything!!!!
Love Sister, Smoot
There are so many pictures and I don't have enough time to load all of them (it's like 10 minutes per picture)
Two of my MTC teachers. Sister Tamang (just got back from Bacolod when we got into the MTC) and Brother Oldroyd. They are so amazing!
This one is a picture of my feet. It's not even the worst one, but walking through flooded sewer water is pretty good. Maybe it's good exfuliation? Haha. The pictures are taking way too long to load so I don't know how many I will send. I'll start earlier next week!