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

Week #16 (Sept.8, 2013)

Dear Family,
This week was great. We are really working really effectively together and working really hard. Both of us are being obedient (yay!) and really finding and teaching a lot of new investigators. It’s weird to think that a change is coming as my training ends on Tuesday.  We still don’t know what will happen for sure, but a change is coming.  We always have a lot of investigators who say they are coming to church and then never show up, but this week they actually seemed really committed and determined to come. We were expecting somewhere around 8 investigators to come to church…. But only one came.  It’s so heart-wrenching when the people choose not to bless their lives.  But the one investigator who did come to church is very special to us.  Brother Jofrim (28 years old) is a cancer survivor and so kind and happy to everyone.  Everyone who lives around him knows who he is just because he has the type of personality that loves everybody and everybody loves him.  We are really excited for him because he takes everything so seriously. He is really reading the Book of Mormon and asks tons of questions and really wants to do what God wants for him.   We are excited for him to receive so many blessings from the Lord for his dedication.  Since we had stake conference last week, yesterday was fast and testimony meeting.  We were sitting next to Brother Christian (our recently baptized member who is 10 years old) and asked him if he wanted to bear his testimony.  He was a little nervous, but he has born his testimony to us a lot and is a very mature 10 year old.  Brother Jofrim was on the other side of him and heard us talking and asked us what it meant to “bear your testimony.” We explained and Jofrim said to Christian, “I’ll do it with you.” It was so cute, both of them went up to the front and Jofrim went first. He still doesn’t know if our church is true and this was only his second week at church, but he shared a testimony solely centered on Jesus Christ and His love. The pure honesty that came from his testimony touched all of the hearts in the room.  The humility of this ward is astounding anyway, but to have someone bear testimony like that was a huge spiritual filling and a sacrament meeting I won’t forget in a long time. Then, when brother Christian bore his testimony, he started tearing up as he felt the spirit too.  I know that even though we don’t have as many baptisms yet as the other wards in our mission, we are really changing lives wherever we are.   These wonderful souls we are able to teach are strengthening their roots as they become fully converted to the gospel. I ‘m excited to continue to help them be able to be taught by the spirit. (Hopefully I’m not the one to get transferred, but I know that’s a selfish wish because the Lord will give us what we need.) 
Also, another spiritual experience this week happened.  We have been looking for a referral for a couple weeks now, but we haven’t been able to find them until Thursday night. When we got there, it was a neat little family – just a husband, wife, and a little toddler. They instantly recognized us as “Mormons” and invited us in.  When we started talking to them, they told us they were taught by elders over two years ago, but the missionaries just stopped coming. (probably a transfer)  They continued to read the Book of Mormon anyway and have read it every night together since then.  I was seriously shocked. They don’t know a lot about the gospel and were only taught three times, but their testimony of the Book of Mormon is stronger than a lot of the active members I know today.  I am excited to continue teaching them and help them find all the answers to their questions and really help them fill what they have continued to search for. I never fully understood the phrase, “the Lord is preparing His people.” I thought I understood it, but the literal presentation of prepared people continues to surprise me and humble me. I am so grateful for this opportunity to become strengthened as I help others receive strength that I know this gospel brings. I love all of you and your letters. I know that a lot of faith building experiences are coming as I will be humbled again and again and learn to rely more fully on the Lord.  I know it will be hard, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow. I have already learned so much about myself, patience, love, true sacrifice, humility…. And so much more that I probably don’t even realize yet. But I can’t believe how lucky I am to continue to be refined by the Lord. I love you and will never be able to repay you for helping me have this opportunity to serve Heavenly Father’s Kingdom.

Palangga Ko kamo!!
Sister Smoot