Friday, November 29, 2013

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

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