Friday, November 29, 2013

Pictures of Sister Smoot!

We needed coconut in one of our recipes... so our housemate Sister Ang went out to our backyard and grabbed a coconut that had recently fallen, opened it, scraped out the inside, and made coconut milk out of the scrapings.... yes, I will be wonderwoman when I return!

My first package! Thanks mom and dad! I'm still praying we will get the one sent 4 months ago.

2 Americans in the middle of a Typhoon who desperately need chocolate...(yes it was that time) Sister Peterson and I can make anything! These are our infamous PAN COOKIES made with no oven. 

The elders had a baptism too. But this is my Beloved Juan Karlo!

One of our Investigators, Sister Isabel (the one who used to run away from us) has a banana tree. This year, only one bushel of bananas grew and then after they grow you have to let them ripe for weeks. She generously gave us each two of their precious banana's. ("Sagging" in Ilonggo) 

We were really stressed this day and no one was letting us teach them. So on our way through this shortcut we found, we realized it was one of the most beautiful parts of this whole town. We took a picture to relieve our stress and enjoy the beauty around us. Yes, I'm learning to take appropriate breaks to manage my stress! This is the gorgeous Sister Natarte.

#26 11-24-2013

This week has been really stressful. I'm not sure why, but it's been really hard.  President told us the times around the holidays are always hard for missionaries, but I'm also hitting my six-month mid mission crises. All sister missionaries apparently have a hard time after six months in the mission. The weird thing, is that I hit seven months in a week and a half.  Don't worry, I'm fine,   just a little extra emotional for some reason. But as we focus on our investigators, everything else just seems so insignificant.

Sister Bushman, Our Sister training Leader for our zone, has been living with us for the last two transfers and has helped me so much. I can't really explain. She's a little older, but she has really developed all of the Christlike attributes, while still keeping a fun personality. She has answered a lot of my questions just over meals and has helped me as a new missionary, as a sister missionary, and just as a human being. She is like my "older sister" that I've always wanted! Haha. This day is a little hard because she left last night to go to the city since she is going home this week. It's always weird to have missionaries you know so well go home. It's a little sad, but it also makes you painfully aware that our time here is so short and motivates us to keep working hard.  All of our investigators are slowly stopping to progress, but we are really just trying to find new investigators... like all the time. But that is just missionary work, right? We really need the members, but it's making me want to move to some other state just to help the missionaries. I wish I could double myself sometimes and live here in the area so I could get to know everyone and help them feel welcome in the ward. This is a huge work in progress over here! Haha.

This week a little girl, Aleah (age 10), came up to us as we were crossing the street and asked us if we could come visit her family. We scheduled a time with her, but weren't too excited because a lot of kids like to talk to me because I'm so different. But when we got there, her mother was excited and willing to listen and her first question was, "so what's the book of mormon?" We were so excited. Sister Aleah even came to church and wore her nicest clothes and a cute little headband. I am excited to see the progress of her family. Hopefully they all share the excitement of the Spirit that little Aleah has alread caught on to. She even read the entire lesson 1 pamplet, even though it is in Tagalog. There are miracles everywhere, sometimes I just forget to see them.
I love you all and am so grateful for you!
Love, Sister Smoot

Letter # 25 11-17-2013

This week was the Baptism of Juan Karlo. He is my favorite little 11-year-old on the planet and if I could adopt him, I would. :) His story is one that has a lot of heart-ache attached to it. Brother Juan Karlo is taking care of his family.  His mother is intoxicated from drugs 24 hours of the day and his father is intoxicated from alcohol 24 hours a day. He is the best friend of one of the active deacons (His name is Nephi) in the ward and we met Juan Karlo while visiting his family. Juan Karlo's family owns a Tyunggy (a little store) but it is up to him to stock the store, sell the goods, and keep inventory of the goods and money. And he's 11 years old. He starts in the morning selling fish at the Market, then goes to elementary school at 7:00, then after school he sells breads and foods around the neigborhood going door-to-door, then he goes to the market to buy new goods for their Tyunggy near their home, then he spends the evening in the Tyunggy selling the goods. Even though he has no time to do anything and his parents are just lounging around in their house, gambling, Brother Juan Karlo has found time to go to every activity with Brother Nephi and he goes to church every week. He is the cutest little kid but he has such a big heart. He used to be addicted to coffee every morning to help him get through the day. But he has now been clean for 2 months and said he never wants to drink it again for the rest of his life. In every lesson he is so close to the spirit and is the most mature 11-year-old I have ever met. He asks so many questions and wants to know everything and takes each assignment so seriously. Saturday was one of the happiest days on the mission when he was baptized and Sister Natarte and I couldn't help but cry because our little Juan Karlo just took his first steps towards eternal happiness.  Just wait, when we are watching general conference in our rocking chairs, he will be called as a general authority! Okay, I know I am being a little dramatic, but I can't really express how much this little kid means to me and how much I appreciate all the sacrifices he is making.

Also, we have been teaching a less-active family who has an 8 year old daughter who hasn't been baptized yet. They thought we get baptized when we are 9. So we are teaching the whole family all of the lessons because I think it has been a long time since they've heard most of it.  It's been a really good experience with their family because they actually do want to follow God, they just didn't know a lot of the commandments. They didn't know it was a commandment to go to church EVERY Sunday. We are really excited to teach people who actually want to know the message we share. Anyway, the little girl's name is Trisha and she reminds me so much of McKenna, even her looks. (We seriously have the same characteristics as Filipino's. I'm convinced our family has some in our heritage because I have been called Asian my whole life and I see people who remind me of our family all the time.) She even made me a little headband out of friendship bracelet rope and it reminded me a lot of something McKenna would make me. She decided she wanted to get baptized on December 1, so it will be a pretty special birthday this year.  We were teaching her about baptism and we told her that our sins our rinsed in the water before we are completely cleaned by the gift of the holy ghost. She got really serious and asked us if our sins stay in the water after she gets out, and she was concerned that someone might get dirty from her sins. We couldn't help but chuckle a little at her sincere worry and concern for others. She is so smart and asks questions I have never heard before, but It's so amazing how quickly we are falling in love with all of the people here. 

Negros is a little different from a lot of the other Philippine Islands up north. Sister Natarte is from Baguio Mission (Sevilla ward if Brittany ever gets assigned there) and it was really hard for her to adjust to the living conditions here and how new the church is here. Over in Baguio is a lot farther developed as far as the development of the church and as far as the development of the living conditions. But, she is doing amazing. Sometimes we can get a little bit impatient with the lack of leadership, but we know that no one is perfect and over time everything will work out. Our goal is just to leave the ward stronger than when we got here. We are doing really well and always finding new people and new less-active members. There are always new adventures and new experiences (including meeting a 12 year old little girl who is 5 months pregnant). My heart breaks when I see such pain and anguish, but it's a good motivator to keep helping and sharing. I know that the  church is true and I get to see so many miracles every day from it's peace and joy. I love you all!

Love, Sister Smoot

Monday, November 11, 2013

# 24 November 11, 2013 SUPER TYPHOON

Well, this week was sure different! I have seen many miracles here on the mission, but many more this week. Our mission president doesn't tell us a lot of the facts because he doesn't want to scare us, but we hear a lot more from the ward members.  We first found out about the storm in our zone meeting on Wednesday. Our zone leaders told us that we had strict instructions to pick up food and water after the meeting and make sure we have enough things to last us at least three days. We were to proselyte on Wednesday but finish early around 7:00 and text in that night that we were home safely, then we were not allowed to leave our house after that.  Because we have the largest house, 6 sisters, we were probably the safest. Some of the other missionaries had to leave and go to other apartments, but we were really safe because our house has a concrete foundation instead of just bamboo.  Thursday, the storm wasn't that bad, just raining all day and I really just wanted to go out and proselyte or go help all of our investigators find safety since their houses are just bamboo and leaves on the roof or sometimes if they are lucky, they have tin sheets for their roof. But I knew that there was more going on than they were telling us because President kept texting us things like, "the storm is growing, don't let the calmness deceive you..." And many more cryptic texts throughout the day. We didn't have power from wednesday until late saturday night, but we often have brownouts, so we didn't think anything of it. Then we got a text that told us the whole truth, that this was the largest Super Typhoon to ever hit the Philippines, and the eye of the storm would come over our island. Even then, we all had a calm feeling. We never got scared our felt nervous, only for our investigators. We knew the Lord would keep us safe. During the storm, we were mostly bored. After we studied so much our eyes hurt from just the candle light (it was really dark, the sunlight didn't really come through to us) we cleaned our entire house, we did all our laundry, we organized all our stuff, and we kept trying to find things to do, and we pretty much cooked more food and ate more food than I ever have in my life. (Hello early Thanksgiving).  Every hour almost, someone would get bored and cook up something amazing and full of unhealthy deliciousness.  Haha.  Even though we had no power, we had a gas stove. Also, we had to cook everything that would go bad without a refrigerator, because we had no power.  Finally, Sister Peterson and I (the only Americans) thought we better contribute something to the food fest, so we figured out how to make cookies.  They were definately not the best tasting, but I'm pretty sure we could perfect it before we leave.  Since I didn't have a recipe, I just tried to remember the estimated amounts and found a lot of substitutes. We finally finished the dough so that it didn't taste too bad, but then we had to figure out how to cook them.  We created an oven with a pot tipped over on top of a frying pan and tried it that way, but the best way was just to smush down the dough and make it like a pancake. Pictures are to come, but they are called: "Pan-cookies" They are delectible and a great end to a family FHE with the six of us sisters.

In all seriousness, even though we were staying positive and finding ways to keep feeling the spirit and keep learning, we were scared a worried for our investigators. On Saturday morning, we went out to work right away, and found minimal destruction. All our investigators had evacuated to the church or to the School, and a lot of our members as well, but their houses all remained in tact. Just a few repairs necessary.  The mountains here on the island broke up the Storm and saved our little town here in Pulupandan and a lot of other towns as well her on Negros Occidental.  Right now, our whole community is Saddened by the tragedies over in Cebu, so we have been teaching a lot of Lessons on the Atonement, prayers, fasting, and comfort. It has been amazing to see the strength and resillience of these people, and we have even found some investigators out of it. We were helping the Catholic Church clean up the front of their building, and we ended up talking to one of the leaders. He invited us to come over and talk about the gospel because he was kind of confused why we would spend so much time helping another religion. Then we were just walking to an appointent yesterday, when a women stopped us and told us that Father Ed had told the entire congregation at the Catholic Church that the Mormon Sister Missionaries had fixed their building.  She thanked us and almost started crying in gratitude. I know that people are always watching us, and I am so grateful we were able to be given such an amazing opportunity to show them that we are friends, and that we are all about Love. :)  (there are been a lot of rumors that we are trying to steal members from other religions and it kind of gave us a bad light) But I know the Lord is always providing us a way to do our work and to help our communities and to help His children prepare to live with Him. 
I am so grateful for my safety and for the safety of Pulupandan. Continue to pray for the souls who passed away in the surrounding areas and pray for gratitude that we were saved. I love you lots!

Love, Sister Smoot 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Ashley sent some pictures last week! She looks so happy-

Sister Natarte 

Letter #23 (Oct .28 2013)

Dear Family,
I’m sorry I forgot to write about the earthquake. It was a really big
deal for some of the other islands. Especially in Cebu, there was
massive destruction. For us, it was more just scary than harmful. It
started during personal study and I thought sister natarte was pushing
against our desks, but then Sis. Ang (another sister in the house)
told us to all get outside. It lasted a long time for an earthquake…
at least a couple of minutes. It felt like we were on a boat, but more
jerky. Haha, it was my first time in an earthquake so I was more
confused than anything else. Sister Natarte was really freaked out
because there was a really bad earthquake when she was little. But
this one wasn’t too bad and there weren’t any problems  here in
Pulupandan at least. But we did hear about some other problems in
other islands.
Last night we had a brown out.  (Black out) We were in a dangerous
part of our area with a lot of drunks, but we have such amazing
investigators in that area and Bishop’s house is close if we have any
problems so we are extremely careful (don’t freak out mom.) But if
there is no electricity anywhere, then it becomes a little more tricky
to remain safe. It was around 7:20 when we were walking to an
appointment and everything went completely black.  It was a cloudy
night so there wasn’t even the moonlight.  I immediately grabbed
Sister Natarte and we locked arms and I just said, “we need to leave
NOW” We were walking as fast as we could with our linked arms and she
was feeling along the wall to know which direction to walk and I was
frantically digging through my bag trying to find my mini flashlight
keychain (thanks dad, it’s a life saver) and also looking for the cell
phone. We got the flashlight and ran directly to Bishop’s house and
stayed there for around 20 minutes but there still wasn’t any light,
but the other sisters called us and told us to come home now and that
they were there. We went home and got out all the candles and we got
to study and plan all by candlelight and then cook and eat dinner by
candle light (how romantic… haha). This was actually the 3rd or 4th
time that we have had a brown out but this one was definitely the
longest. I always feel like a real pioneer missionary when we get to
study at our big wooden desks by candlelight. It really is a neat
experience. It’s just a little hard when you need to use the CR
Also this week we had a long time investigator who really hasn’t been
progressing, but she came to church on Sunday!!!! It was just two
weeks ago that she was running away from us… litterally.  We came to
her house and when she saw us she ran to the back gate, but there was
a lock on it and she couldn’t get it undone fast enough and she was
trying to get away so fast and she seemed so stressed out, so we just
said, “can we help you sister?” She just got more mad and finally got
the door open and ran away.  We were actually really depressed about
it and were about to give up, but she finally started reading her
libro ni mormon and she told us she wanted to come to church and then
she came and told us afterwards that she wants to come every week and
she now has a baptism date for Nov. 30. Her name is Sister Isabell and
just last night she defended us against some neighbors who were
mocking us and cat-calling. She will really be a force to be reckoned
with when she’s a member.  She is going to be such a great help to
this ward.
Also, there is an election going on, so there have been a lot of
campaigning parades through town.During one of them, I waved to a
couple of the kids who know me from around the neighborhood (it really
is a small town), but then the whole parade of kids started following
me instead of the candidate.  He started getting a little angry but I
really couldn’t do anything about it. We tried walking faster, but
they just kept running after us. I went up to the candidate and shook
his hand and apologized, but he was still pretty angry. I hope he
wins, just so he doesn’t blame me for anything. Haha!
Anyway, I love you all so much and I really do appreciate all of you.
Thank you for your support and stories. I really do have a testimony
that I’m supposed to be here, even though some days can still be hard.
I know that this is where the Lord wants me and I’m grateful that you
were able to help me get here! Love you lots!
Sister Smoot

Letter # 22

Dear Family,
This week was so long, because it was so packed full. It was full of sickness, travel, and one of the most spiritual experiences I've ever had on my mission.  First of all, on Tuesday we traveled the 1 1/2 hour trip to Bacolod for mission tour on Wednesday! On Tuesday night we stayed with the Sisters in Magsungay which is where I lived for the first two transfers in my mission. It was a little strange to be back, but to not actually live there. We didn't bring pillows or sheets because the instructions told us they would be provided by the hosting missionaries... but they didn't give us any. So we just slept on the floor on an extra foam mattress that was 1 inch thick on top of the tile. Sister Natarte had a horrible cough, so without any elevation while she was sleeping, she pretty much didn't sleep at all and I was trying to give her my bag or anything I could find to help her sleep better, but nothing really helped. I was just glad I had bought her some cough drops the day before. The mattress was a little questionable and I was contemplating just sleeping on the tile, but I spread out my black skirt from the day before and that's where I rested my head.  I'm really not trying to complain, I just wish we could have slept a little better the day before meeting a general authority. But the night wasn't totally horrible. We got to proselyte in Magsungay on Tuesday night since I know the area. It was really fun to know all of the people again and visit my old ward. It made me miss the area a lot, but mainly just the people. When you serve people so much you just fall in love with them.  I know every area will be like that and it is just a part of missionary work, but it was fun to see a lot of the less active families again since that was what the new missionaries there asked us to do. It was fun to be able to fully understand the Ilonggo too, since I'm still picking up the new dialect over here in Pulupandan.  Overall it was really fun, especially with Sister Natarte who is just amazing as always.  Also this week, we found out her family has been trying to contact her but they had an invalid email address for her and the one Sister Natarte had was invalid as well.  President Texted us and told us the real address of her family and he had given her family her real email address.... so now she is emailing her family today. It really has been like waiting for Christmas all week, it's the first contact from her family since she went to the MTC in the beginning of September!

Also this week we were able to listen to Elder Nielson and his wife. He is the Philippines Area President and it was so refreshing and uplifting.  The spirit that they have is just so tangible and I just loved soaking it all up.  Even though we were listening to them from7:00 AM until 3:30 PM I was so sad when it ended. I really received a re-boost in my batteries and could have listened to them for days and days. They loved all of us so much we could feel it individually. That sounds so weird, but I really did feel his love and support and appreciation.  It's been a while since someone has just told us that we are doing a good job. I love hearing how to be better and how to achieve greater things and how to be more obedient... but he also did it in a way that wasn't depressing, but was really motivating and he acknowledged all of the work that we are doing.  It really helped me to re-boost at a time I think I was wearing down. The Lord really knows what we need, exactly when we need it. Also, Sister Nielson's wife is one of the coolest ladies I have ever met.  She is such an eloquent speaker, but also very relateable and entertaining, funny, and the spirit is always there. She talked a lot about her family which made me a little homesick, but not too bad.  It's hard not to miss you all, you are just so amazing. But I know leaving the Philippines will be 100 times harder, so don't worry, I'm soaking up and enjoying every minute here.  

Then on thursday I started feeling a little tired and I kept tripping. Sister Natarte was worried about me and told me I was talking really slow. We decided to get some Gatorade and go home where I slept for the rest of the evening.  Please don't freak out, the nurse just told me that I was over-exhausted. She told me to slow down, take some rest, and stop stressing out.  So on Friday we stayed in all day while I slept and rested. Then on Saturday during our first Lesson, Sister Natarte started having sharp pains in her chest and she couldn't breathe. We told the mission nurse and she told us we needed to come to Bacolod to go to the mission doctor.  When we got there they said she had a viral infection in her lungs from her caugh, so we were to take another day resting at home on Sunday. I had the doctor check me out too just in case something was wrong with me and she told us we had both been working too hard.  In my mind, I was like, "Of course we are working hard... we are missionaries." But I talked to my district leader about it and my Sister Training Leaders and they told me that missionary work doesn't need to be so rushed and we needed to relax a little more. I don't totally agree with them yet, but I'm worried about the Health of Sister Natarte. I don't want to kill off my companion. :) She aggrees with me that this is the Lord's time and we don't want to waste it, so we are working to focus on balancing our dedication and diligence with our health. Don't worry or freak out, I am completely fine. I just thought it was funny.  No one can every accuse me of being a lazy missionary! :) 
Anyway, I love you all so much. 
Love, Sister Smoot