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