Monday, August 26, 2013

BAPTISM! I love Sister Lea
(Notice Ashley's companion-Can you see her? Ash is 5"8-taller than the men)

Week #15 (Aug 26, 2013)

Dear Family, 

This week was really fun. Our zone had specialty training with
President Lopez where we learned that we are a Facebook mission. So
this week we created a Facebook account for our Magsungay Ward.  It’s
been a little weird to get used to. First of all, Facebook has changed
a little, and second of all, for the first few days I totally felt
like I was breaking some sort of rule.  Haha, but we have scheduled
Facebook proselyting time every day (except Sunday). Since we have two
companionships though, we alternate days. So three days a week Sister
Manosig and I do it, and the other three are for the other sisters.
Anyway, right now we are still figuring it out, so we have just been

trying to friend everyone in the ward and all of our investigators and
post stuff from the LDS website and so on.

This week I came to the realization that I am always wet. I am either
sweating or it’s raining, so I probably won’t be dry until I come
home, but all is well.  I have actually had moments where I have been
cold. Last night it was only 82 degrees and I had goosebumbs and I had
to pull out my blanket.  I know, it’s pathetic, but my body
temperature was weird ever since I got to the MTC. I was always
freezing even when everyone was hot. And I really have not been very
hot here even though everyone else is dying. 

I know for a fact that the Lord helps us with temporal things AND spiritual things. I know
that he has helped me adjust to the temperature and is also helping me
to stay regular healthwise so far. I know that it is a miracle that I
have not gotten sick, even when a lot of the natives are getting sick.
 August is the hardest month for the Philippines both with illness and
financially, but I have made it this far alive!  I know that the Lord
looks out for us as missionaries and rewards our diligence. I am so
grateful to have a personal protection as a servant of the Lord.

Sister Manosig and I have really gone through a lot together and even
though we have different backgrounds culturally, socially,
linguistically, and even in regards to the church, I have learned so
much from each other and are working together so well. It’s going to
be weird to leave her, but I know that’s just a part of missionary
work. There was this one family and they gave us the same excuse every
time for why they didn't come to church. Sister Manosig kept saying
they said they were too ashamed. So every lesson I slipped in things
about how we can become clean and the church is a place of healing
like a hospital and it’s for everyone. Finally, Sister Manosig used
“ashamed” while talking about herself. I asked her what she was
ashamed of and she got really confused. We then discovered that she
meant “shy.” So this whole time I thought this family was ashamed,
when really they were saying they were too shy to go by themselves. I
just had to laugh! We are now helping these longtime investigators with ward
members and friends to go with so it’s not so scary.  

There are a hundred little examples of miscommunication, trials, frustrations… but
there are billions of examples of how we have worked in unity, found
success, helped entire families, created spiritual atmospheres,
cheered each other up, learned from each other both spiritually and
otherwise, and grown close to the Lord as we grow close to each other.
Let’s just say, this is the best marriage preparation class I will
ever attend.
This week, Brother Lope (our recent convert) was able to baptize his
10 year old son. It was the first time he has used his priesthood and
he was a little nervous, but he did so well. We practiced with him
during one of our lessons and he felt better about it. (It’s hard
because the ordinance is in English). He also was excited to baptize
our other investigator, Sister Lea. I love Sister Lea!! She’s 20 and
we have been teaching her for 6 weeks. She has so much faith and
regularly bore her testimonies during our lessons and is so dedicated
to the Lord.  She is so cute and since we are the same age, we really
connected on a friendship level that has been a little harder for me
to do with other investigators. She’s teaching me how to better
express myself in Ilonggo.  I’m so sad she is moving next week to a
different Island, but she is moving with members of the church so she
will still have support in the gospel. 
She was even excited to tell me that their home was right next to a “Mormon church building.” The
baptism was so exciting and I’m learning more and more how much the
Lord’s hand is in everything.  I am not responsible for their success
in the gospel, I was just trying not to mess things up. I always
thought missionaries were just being falsely modest as they said they
didn’t do anything, it was the Lord. But now I understand what they
are talking about. Some people are just ready and willing and faithful
and so close to the Lord and I am just the mouth that is giving them
the missing pieces.  I know that some investigators are a little
trickier than others, but Sis. Lea and Brother Lope are two of the
most prepared people I have met, and I know the Lord is so excited to
have them in His fold and now can give them all these blessings that
He’s been waiting to give them!
        I know that this church is true and I’m so grateful for the
opportunity to share my testimony every day. I know that as I bare my
simple/broken-Ilonggo testimony, it is growing stronger and stronger.
I love seeing lives change while also witnessing the change in my own
life. I hope all is going well back home! I love you all!
Sister Smoot

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An interesting fruit. It is really common here and not my favorite, but you eat the white stuff in the middle and suck on it until you reach the pit, and then spit out the pit.  It's kind of like sucking on balloon.  

 This is an investigator that is really special to me. Sister Lea will be baptized this Saturday.  This is in her house with her nieces and nephews. 

Laundry! It's so much fun and I actually prefer it to a laundry machine. My clothes get cleaner and the process is very cathartic and gives me time to think. Haha, it's really fun. We will have to have a teaching session when I get home and we can all try it together! 

This is the street I Iive on. We were on our way to the email shop!

Week # 14 (August 19, 2013)

Sorry last week was so short. I was in a weird mood and then my computer crashed right in the middle of my email and didn’t save anything. (maybe there was something blasphemous that I wasn't supposed to share haha). So needless to say, my email was short.  
So last Monday night, like I mentioned, I was in a weird mood. Our FHE family cancelled so we didn't have a lot of back-up plans. We decided to visit a family who has not been very interested in our message. They have a lot of different religions in their home which created a little bit of tension and they just viewed our teachings as a nice little bible study.  I was a little frustrated we were going to go to them again, because I haven’t felt like they get a lot out of our message.  But when we got there, I was definitely humbled.  They asked us why it had been so long since we last had visited (Our last lesson was a week before on the Book of Mormon PMG Lesson 1 Principals 7 & 8). The mother said that whenever we are in their home, they feel different, like the Lord is there with us. I was utterly shocked.  They had read the introduction of the Book of Mormon and wanted to know more. What was especially shocking, was that one of the sisters, who is Baptist and previously glared down her sister for accepting the commitment to read, was the one who read the most in the Book of Mormon and asked the most questions in theMonday night visit.  
I definitely know that as we teach true doctrine by the power of the spirit, the Lord and the Holy Ghost work together to teach the investigators.  I know their conversion process did not start because of the words we used or our “convincing power.” But their conversion started because the Lord was working on the hearts and softening them towards our message. I was humbled because it reminded me that we need to take advantage of every teaching opportunity. Even if I feel like they are not listening to us or that they are not interested, if they are letting us teach them, we need to continue to teach with the power and conviction of God.  
I am so grateful for the opportunity to be an instrument of God. Even if I don’t know what is going on a lot of the time, as long as I follow the spirit to know what to say, the people will hear and understand what they need.  I just need to continue to qualify for that guidance by being diligent in my studies and obedience.  Sorry that was so long and it probably seems so simple, but I guess I just need constant reminders of our power and calling as missionaries. When I start stressing out, it’s because I forgot who’s work I am doing. If I am prepared and diligent, I have peace and do not stress.
This week at church, we were greeting all of the members and at exactly 8:59, bishop came up so Sis. Manosig and I and told us he forgot to assign speakers so we would be speaking on missionary work for sacrament meeting. Also, the pianist didn’t show up so I would be playing all of the hymns.  I had a quick panic attack for a half of a second and then smiled and said, “okaylang Bishop, Salamat!”  I went to the piano and played the hymns, then during the sacrament looked up a scripture on missionary work, and since I was the first speaker I just walked right up to the pulpit and said a bunch of stuff in Ilonggo for 8 minutes. I’m not completely sure what I said, because without notes, it was kind of like a really long testimony with a scripture. You know when you go to bear your testimony and you don’t say what you were planning on? That is because the spirit knows what you need to say and is guiding you.  I was definitely guided by the spirit.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a vessel for the Lord. I’ve never been forced to rely on the spirit as much as I have here in Bacolod, but I will never be able to replace these experiences. These daily experiences are humbling me, teaching me, and pushing me farther than I ever thought possible.
Haha, then during the closing hymn, the fans had kicked on, so the fans were blowing on my hymn book, so every couple seconds I had to reach up and hold down the pages. Basically, it was really rough, but at least I was able to serve as best as I could!
Through all my experiences here I feel a little bipolar from time to time as I switch what seems like hourly from stressed to peaceful to overjoyed to discouraged, and to complete excitement. But I know that I am learning so much and I becoming more and more prepared for the rest of my life. Thank you for the guidance and support you continually give me. Even now as an adult and a missionary, I appreciate your help through your letters and your love and I know I am so lucky to have a family who loves me as much as you do! You are the best family in the whole world! 
 Kabalo ako nga palangga kita tanan sang Dios kag paagi sa iya, mangin pinaka-malipay kita sangsa mga pamilia. Palangga ko kamo!
Sister Ashley Smoot

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Baptism of Sis. Milamar' 

Awkward picture of me on my bunkbed that is too short for me to sit up all the way. Also, my feet hang off the end... super fun. 

Our front door. Since it's august, it's the hardest month of the year in the Philippines because it rains all day every day.  There is not a lot of work for the people. 

"waiting shed" for all of the tricy-kads. (no, I do not know how to spell that) When it rains they cover everything in plastic. It's a little claustrophobic, but these and jeepney's we ride multiple times every day. 

Week # 13 (August 12, 2013)

Dear Family,

Ok so I can't really think of anything that happened this week, it was all a major blur. In my journal I've just been trying to write down miracles that happen everyday so that I don't forget the Lord's hand in my life.  

A couple of miracles this week. We have an investigator who we were working with majorly for a few weeks to get her ready for baptism. We had so many lessons and were really trying to help her be prepared. But to be honest, I felt like it was more of dragging her than helping her. Anyway, she didn't pass her baptismal interview and afterward, she was actually happy/relieved that she couldn't get baptized. Obviously there was some sort of disconnect in communication between us, the spirit and the sister. She asked us not to come by anymore and we have been really sad about it. Then, a week later, she randomly texted us with a "how are you sisters!" We were shocked and we kept texting each other throughout the day. She still won't have a lesson with her, but we were able to visit her a few times to say hello and she is starting to warm up to us again.  I don't know what will happen, but I DO know that the spirit works in unknown ways.  I don't know why she decided to start talking to us again, but I know it was because of God and the Holy Ghost and I know that anyone who comes in contact with the Holy Ghost or comes in contact with the truth, will eventually want it to stay in their lives because you cannot deny the power and peace that comes from God and His restored gospel on the Earth Today. 

As far as living goes, things are going great.  There are the few little bumps in the road, like I'm still learning how to not freak out when other missionaries touch a lot of raw meat and then splatter it across the counter and then touch everything and there is no disinfectant and they don't believe that raw meat can make you sick.... okay, so I'm freaking out a little. But I'm trying to be careful and I've pretty much become a person who does not eat meat. I just eat eggs and bread and yogurt and ramen and tuna (so it's like i'm in college again haha) 
I've been seeing more rats lately so that has been fun, but I know the Lord has blessed me with peace because I still haven't even squealed  As in, my heart rate doesn't even go up when I see them. It really is a miracle.  

There is so much work to be done here and I am so grateful for the fact that we are always so busy. It keeps the time going fast and keeps us on our toes. We always need to be in tune with the spirit.  One morning I woke up and I was seriously so sad. There was not any reason, I just sat there... sad. It was weird and hormonal.  I could have stayed in bed like everybody else, but I knew I had made a promise to myself and the Prophet and the Lord when I signed my acceptance to become a missionary that I would follow all of the rules. So I woke up and exercised and was still feeling kind of sad, but as soon as I started reading the Book of Mormon, my whole spirit changed.
I know that the Book of Mormon has the Power of God. I know that they are literally the words of God. It doesn't matter where you are reading or what you are reading or how you are feeling, the Book of Mormon will help you. I can't even tell you what chapter i read or what I learned from them that day. I can only tell you that I have a testimony of the Power of God. And when we are doing what we are supposed to do, God will bless us in every aspect of our lives. Reading the Book of Mormon everyday isn't a chore or something to check off of a To Do List, but it is a way that we receive personal revelation from God and become spiritually uplifted for our day.  
I just want you to know that I have a testimony of this Gospel and of the Book of Mormon and I know that we can do all things through God and following his commandments  Because they are there to help us, not to just give us a To Do list.  I love you all and I am so grateful for all of you and for all of your support!
Lots of Love,
Sister Smoot

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Week #12 (August 5, 2013)

Wow! I can't believe president put that video online. Now I'm trying to remember what I was saying... hopefully I've improved from that practice! Haha, so apparently you want a run down of my week instead of what I was doing before, so I don't really know what that here is my attempt.

Monday: We woke up, I ran around in the kitchen, we ate breakfast and got ready then had personal study, companionship study, went to the email shop, went to the grocery store, and then came back to the apartment and cleaned and finished up all our laundry and I wrote a few letters. That night we had FHE with brother Lope's family. They obviously didn't know what it is so we wrote a program for the night and explained all the parts and had so much fun with their whole family. Our lesson was on temples and eternal families and we gave them a picture of a temple to hang on their wall as a goal.  During the game they were all laughing so hard and the spirit of love and families was very strong.  Sometimes it makes me homesick when I remember how close our family is, but then I just get so happy and I'm full of joy because I get to help other families have the same love and joy that we will always get to have together because of the gospel and the Holy Ghost in our home.  So thank you for continuing to have the spirit in our home and keeping it a sacred place. **Something funny: we were going to get them a treat at the store for FHE but then sister manosig said she was already planning on making them egg salad sandwiches. I was confused, because when I think treat, I automatically go to chocolate or something, but she was sure they would enjoy the eggs. I assumed it was a culture thing until we pulled out the sandwiches and the little kids were sniffing the sandwiches curiously and one of them didn't want to eat it. I was laughing a little bit at the situation, but only inside because I felt so bad for Sis. Manosig who worked so hard on making all of them. I ate double just to show my appreciation... but I think from now on we will stick with chocolate.
After FHE the village started flooding so we had to go home before the jeepneys stopped running. When we got home, we planned, showered from the floods (actually it's required to shower two times a day so tell brittany to bring enough garments for that, you will want them)  and then journal writing, finished updating all of our teaching records, said our prayers and zonked out asleep until 6:30!

Tuesday: District Meeting! We do all our studies after district meeting on tuesday so after exercise we take two jeepney rides to our stake center building for district meeting.  Jenna was there all packed up for her transfer and then a few minutes after I got there, the AP told her she was going to be training and moving to a new area (whitewashed and training). She started crying because it's really overwhelming, especially if you don't know the language very well yet. I just gave her a huge hug ( yes, I broke the no hugging rule) and told her that she can do this because she is so amazing and the Lord is going to be with her every step of the way and she is so good with the people.... you know, all the stuff that really doesn't help, but you say anyway.  Actually we hugged a lot until I had to leave. She really is going to do so well. I know the lord doesn't ask us to do anything that we can't do. I'm praying for her but I won't get to see her very much anymore because she transferred out of our zone. I am still with Sis. Manosig in Magsungay ward. But tuesday was hard for us because our two roommates went home. It was weird to think about when this mission will come to a close and when I will need to come home! I have so much to do still! Haha. So sister Manosig and I Were by ourselves for a few days until Thursday when we got our new Sisters: Sister Ulusasa (not sure about the spelling) from Samoa and a ward missionary. Sister Ulusasa's companion is stuck at the MTC because of problems with her passport, so for the next six weeks her companion will be a ward missionary from another stake. Every two weeks they will switch out. She is so stressed as well because she doesn't know the area and she doesn't have a companion... so we are trying to help her as much as possible and encourage the ward to help her. She is very diligent and hard working so it has been very refreshing to live with her. Plus she is samoan so very happy and fun and also taller than me so I don't feel like such a giant! Haha.
Okay, so I just realized I mixed up all the days, but I don't really like this format.

example of a regular day:
Wednesday we did all of our studies and then went out to work. We taught six less active families, and six investigator lessons, found seven new investigators and this was all between going to three different towns/areas/villages I don't really know what to call them.  So I don't really know what you want to know about my days, is this what you were talking about? 

On saturday we normally go proselyting before our baptism but on friday night President Lopez told us he would be attending our baptism on Saturday. Since our baptisms normally start late, we wanted to stop by the church to make sure everything was being prepared to start on time. When we got there, the gates were still locked. So we had to track down who had the keys and who was responsible for the prep.... eventually ( one hour later) we were able to get in and start cleaning with some other ward members. But the water pressure wasn't working for the font.... I was praying this whole day. Also, the baptismal clothes were not ironed so we left bishop in charge of figuring out how to fill the font and we took the clothes back to our apartment to iron.  Basically, we were rushing like crazy. But I could tell Sister Manosig was getting stressed so I just looked at her and said, we are going to learn something from this! I just kept smiling even though I looked like a crazy person and just kept praying in my heart, and actually praying while in the Jeepney.  We wanted the best possible baptism for Bro. Lope.  We had one appointment who has been waiting for so long at 3:00 and the baptism was at 4:00. So we decided to make it a quick lesson and still do it.  After a quick lesson, we invited him to the baptism (which we always do but no one ever comes).  When we got to the church after our lesson, the church was beautiful.  It had been cleaned, the font was filled and we had lots of ward members for support. But Lope still wasn't there. I said my twentieth prayer (haha, or something around there) and literally five seconds later, Brother Lope AND his wife Rosy walked around the corner. The baptism was the most reverent service we have ever had and when Brother Lope bore his testimony afterwards, I was full of so much joy it was just like it is explained in Alma when your heart is literally swelling. I am so happy for his family and I know that the Lord has answered so many of my prayers and I have literally seen miracles while I've been here. I am so grateful for this opportunity and I know I will continue to grow and learn and improve and I am so grateful for that. I love you all and I am so grateful that you have raised me on these precious truthes. I hope all is well! Love you tons!! 
Palangga ko kamo!
Sister Smoot  

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Week 11 (July 29, 2013)

First of all, I am now considered a "transfer baby" because I have survived it through my first transfer in the Philippines!! Haha one more transfer with Sis. Manosig and my training will be complete. It's a weird thought, but President Lopez was pretty clear that we (the Sisters in my group from the MTC) will be training other missionaries as soon as our training is finished.  There are 22 sisters coming in this week and another 21 in September. Jenna's training so over so we will see if she will train this transfer! I'll be really sad if she leaves our Zone because it has been a lot of fun to see her every week.  President Lopez said he doesn't have enough Sisters for all of them, so some will even be doubled up. (I'm hoping he leaves that sort of thing to the experienced missionaries.) The craziest part is that I feel ready. Not language-wise, but missionary wise I've learned a lot. Sometimes I feel anxiety over not being able to understand what the people are saying or how to help them, but I really do believe in the Gift of Tongues and I know that the Lord will qualify us for whatever he calls us to do. I'm working hard and praying hard so I just need to have complete faith that we will be able to do what we need to do to help these wonderful, humble, and waiting people.

This week we had a training meeting with all the missionaries from my "batch." Or in other words, all the missionaries who came in at the same time. It was so good to see everyone from the MTC. We spent so much time together for six weeks in a little tiny room so we are really like family.  I almost got a little emotional when I saw everyone because it brought back so many memories from the MTC. It really is the most wonderful place on earth. I'm so excited for all the girls to experience it if they get to go.  

Some days are still hard, but if I ever feel like I can't get up in the morning, it really does help to think of specific people we will see that day. There is no way I want them to miss out on coming closer to the Savior, so I feel the absolute need to start my day right and obediently.  This week for weekly planning, I was kind of feeling some anxiety because it's always a little stressful trying to get on the same page and figure out who we are focusing on and what we are teaching them for the week. And since we don't always understand each other, it can be a little challenging at times. So I was praying all morning and studying about companionship unity and really hoping for a successful planning sessions (they are three hours long and can be draining when you are exerting so much energy trying to understand each other and getting on the same page.)  We prayed beforehand as always and I felt really peaceful.  This was the first planning session that one of us didn't cry. I know that sounds pathetic, but that is a great achievement.  We didn't agree on everything, of course, but we communicated effectively and we finished a little early and we were happy the entire time and positive and patient (that's the one I need to work on. Sis. Manosig is very patient) and I just know that the power of prayer is so powerful in bringing the spirit. Not only just praying, but acting on the faith and striving for that peace. I am learning so much for the rest of my life.  I mean, you always learn that by praying you can feel peace and all things are possible, but it's a great learning experience to actually experience and learn HOW to apply all these principals that I've been learning all my life. I know I was a little too prideful at times and just assumed i knew how to feel peace. "You read your scriptures, go to church, pray..." We know all the answers growing up, but there is a huge difference between knowing the answers and knowing how to apply those answers. HOW do you use the scriptures to feel peace? HOW do you act on prayer to feel the comfort of the Lord? HOW do you take full advantage of the peace and spirit that is present every sacrament meeting on Sundays? It seems so dumb that I never really took full advantage of all the resources I've had all along, but I am so grateful for the opportunity and privilege of learning so much about myself and about the Lord's gospel and plan for us here on earth. I hope I continue to learn and grow even when I get home, but I know there won't be as much effective time as right here and right now. I just can't help but feel so happy and grateful for this opportunity. I don't really deserve to say I'm sad or discouraged... I am so extremely blessed and have so many reasons to be happy. I just need to continually remember all of those many wonderful blessings.  (haha, sorry for the ranting... I'm definitely in missionary mode! haha)

This week, both of our roommates have finished up their 18 months and are going home. So we are getting two new sisters here in Magsungay Ward.  The sisters, Sister Polai and Sister Tunaia were both loved by so many ward members, so we got more dinner appointments than normal. Filipino food is soooooo good. I'm glad it's only an occational thing though, otherwise I would be gaining so much weight. It's normal to eat literally three cups of rice for your first serving. I can barely shovel down like 1 1/2. I'm working on it, and the members continue to teach me and encourage me according to what is culturally correct. But we also got to eat at the couple missionary's home in our ward. The Sinema's are the best... ever! They remind me so much of home and always insist on so many hugs and it feels really good to just be in their home. It's very Americanized so it's just like being at home, especially the food. It's really great! 

This week, Brother Lope is getting baptized! He 's been interviewed and prepared and we have been so lucky to find him. I don't remember what i've told you about him, but he just had surgery and it went really well. He's had to take work off so it's been kind of a blessing since we've been able to visit him and his family every day this week to prepare him. He has been so spiritually prepared by the Lord, it's amazing. His faith and courage is so strong, it uplifts me every time we visit them. Even the Elders who interviewed him told us that they were amazed by his desire and faith.  We get to have FHE with his family tonight and we are excited to start teaching his wife and children. We are excited for him to be able to baptize his family.  We are praying that they will see the good changes that the gospel has brought to his life and want to join in on the blessings from the Lord.  I know that this church is true. I know that through the gospel of Jesus Christ we can be cleansed and changed and become better throughout our whole lives. "Change" is such a simple word that has so much meaning.  We are all changing. We are all able to change and grow until we are perfected beings in the next life. I'm excited about the changes I see in others and excited about the changes I see in myself. I know that by following the gospel we can be healed. Church is such an amazing hospital that can purify and heal all of us. I am so lucky to be apart of such an amazing work! I love you all and I appreciate and love all of the support you continually give to me! I love you all so much!
Palangga ko Kamo!!
Sister Smoot