Sunday, December 29, 2013

Letter # 31 (Dec. 29, 2013)

Hello Family!!

Thank you for your wonderful smiles on Christmas Day!! You are all so beautiful, I don't know where I came from.  Seriously, you are going to have to make me pretty like you when I get home. Sister Natarte was watching the screen while we were talking and she said you are the prettiest family she has even seen. It was good to talk to you and see your excitement for Christmas.
According to Sister Natarte, the Philippines is normally really good at celebrating Christmas, but aparrently here in Pulupandan, nothing really happens. It was really hard for Sister Natarte, but it was kind of like we just skipped Christmas. We still had the spirit and taught about his birth and felt of his love, but since none of the people around us were celebrating, I just feel that Christmas never really happened.... but we had some fun before we went to bed on Christmas Eve. Sister Natarte's family always celebrates Christmas eve, that's the day they all open presents and eat a lot of food and spend time with family. So That is what we did. She absolutely LOVED all the presents you gave her and I also gave her the Crystal-light because the presents you gave her was the only thing she got this month. Also, her journal just filled up and she loves the one mom wrapped for her. Seriously, it made us both tear up a little bit to see all of your kindness for my companion. She really is my sister our here, so thank you for adopting her too! 

Brother Manuel got Baptized!!! He is so amazing. Brother Manuel is the brother who found us and we have felt angels guiding us in every aspect of his conversion and in all of our lessons. His wife passed away a year ago and has been guiding his whole conversion.  At the end of his baptism, he was able to bear is testimony and that is always my favorite moment. It's like seeing the product of all of our hard work, prayers, trust, faith.. and seeing this new testimony of someone who has dedicated the rest of their lives to God. He has already received the Aaronic priesthood and next week will be his first week to bless the sacrament. He also is preparing to go on the next ward temple trip to Cebu to do baptisms for the dead in May. Then he ultimately wants to go next year and be sealed to his wife. Brother Manuel reminds me so much of Grandpa Smoot. They kind of look the same (the same face structure), but they are both so humble and always want to do their best for God. Not to mention I love them both so much. Feeling the pure love of God in behalf of someone else, is better than feeling the love for myself.  When I know how much God loves Brother Manuel (because I can feel it) I can only imagine what it feels like in the Celestial Kingdom with unlimited love. I'm so happy that Brother Manuel can feel the friendship and peace that he has found in this ward.  He fits right in and I can't wait for his first calling!

Also, Brother Borj is getting baptized on Thursday! He is 26 and used to be kind of a punk. We only used to see him when we visited the members that he lives with. But he finally agreed to be taught and our first lesson with him we discovered his search for happiness. Ever since then, he has changed his whole life around. He has been through a lot, but he has helped us become better people and better missionaries as we have grown together. This brother, is the brother that motivated me to stop biting my fingernails. With that motivation and the help from Sister Natarte, I am free from my addiction! I know that sounds so silly, but even the small things are huge victories. We are excited for his baptism on Thursday!

So many things happen each day, that they seem really long. But time is going by way too fast. I can't believe I am approaching my half-way point because I still feel like I am a new missionary that doesn't have everything figured out. But I'm learning each day that life is the same way. Life is so fast, and we always feel like we have to have everything figured out, or we assume older people have everything figured out. But in reality we are all progressing and making mistakes and having small successes and large successes, and sad times and good times and learning. That's it. We are all learning. Learning how to be missionaries, learning how to be students in school, learning how to be parents, or teachers, or leaders... but as long as we learn, and act on what we learn, we are progressing to God. I love this plan of Salvation. This plan from God to help us keep going and help us keep improving. I can't believe I'm lucky enough to share this hope with all these people(whether they want to listen to me or not) :) I love you so much and I am so lucky to have you. I know I say that a lot, but really. You are the best family ever!! 
Madamo nga pagpalangga sa inyo! (Lots of love to you all)
Sister Smoot

p.s. I really was going to send pictures this week, but I lost my card reader. I will find it and send them next week. I'm so so so sorry mom! 

Week # 30 (Dec. 22, 2013)

Hey! I have the best family in the whole world! Thank you for your wonderful package!! Sister Natarte said to tell you "I love you and thank you so much!" We are having a good time here. There are so many experiences, I can't even write them all down, but I did want to share one that was very powerful for both Sister Natarte and for myself.  
Our area is incredibly small. Here in Pulupandan there are two wards so since there are two companionships in each ward, there are 8 missionaries here. However, the size of Pulupandan is similar to Superior, Montana... remember? Haha, obviously its more populated, but our ward is split really weird and the elders have all the area. So almost everyone knows us and our names in our area, so it's just a matter of getting them interested in listening to us.
We found this new area with about 9 families out behind a huge sugar cane field, but we soon found that it was just a group of people very strongly rooted in their own religion and basically casted us out of their village. But one day, we went back again, just to make sure... and I just felt like we needed to leave.  Sometimes I don't know if it is satan trying to discourage me, or the spirit telling me to leave, so I love having  companion, and she supported the decision to leave.  So very defeated, we were walking towards another part of our area, and Sister Natarte reminded us of an old investigator that stopped investigating the church a month ago. We decided since we had paid the fare to get out there, we needed to teach at least one person out there.  But on our way to their house, I just had a sick feeling in my stomach. I really didn't want to go to this sisters house. But I thought it was Satan, just trying to keep us from going so we kept walking. But the feeling wouldn't leave. So i just stopped and looked around me and saw these three little boys drawing pictures in the dirt on the ground.  For some reason (and Sister Natarte probably thought I was crazy) I just turned down the little alley to where the little boys were playing. We started talking to them and we took some pictures of their drawings and asked them where they lived and if their parents were home.  Then we saw at the end of the alley way, there was a lady who had come out of her house. She saw us, lingered for a moment, and then went inside. The little boys told us that she was their mother, so we went to go talk to her. We called for her and asked if we could share her a message from God. She was really excited to let us into her house (but most people are just excited to talk to an American).  Once we got inside,  she told us that she had seen us walk passed their alley way for the past few months, and she always hoped we would come talk to her and come to their house. She said she really wanted to learn about our religion because she had heard a lot about it... we were elated.  We soon found out that the Lord had been preparing her for a long time, and their family is so cute. The father is in Manila doing some trainings for the military, but he is coming back for Christmas, and the sister said that she was excited for him to meet us! They have a special spirit in their home and we are so lucky to be able to be a part of their conversion. Their relationship to God is very close, so we are just here to show them where the missing piece of their puzzle is. They have three boys, and she is pregnant with their forth.  Their little kids are the most well-behaved boys I have ever met in the Philippines. They are very polite and they actually listen. I will send pictures next week because we have a family home evening later tonight! I
 know that the Lord is so aware of all of us and we can all learn to follow the promptings of the spirit. My whole goal on my mission is just to be sensitive enough to the spirit so that He can tell me when I am not doing the right thing. So many times we need to use our own agency and the marvelous knowledge that he has given us to make the correct decisions. But if we ever choose wrong, he is there to correct our path through promptings. Sometimes it is hard to make decisions about school, serving a mission, which area to go to, what lessons to teach, what words to say... even the simple things like which brand of beans to buy. :) We learn in Preach My Gospel that we cannot expect the spirit to tell us answers to everything, because the Lord has given us brains and the gift of discernment... But we never need to worry, because if we choose wrong (like deciding to go to that weird village again) he will help nudge us in the right direction (like telling us to move on and telling me to go talk to the little boys). 
I am so grateful for the Holy Ghost and for this opportunity to serve a mission. Not only do I get to help other people learn how to follow the spirit and how to find eternal happiness with our Savior, but to figure out my own personal relationship with the Holy Ghost, our Savior, and our Father in Heaven. I will never be able to have such a magnified experience like this so learn so much about myself and my future. I am so grateful for your support and encouragement for this opportunity. I love you more than you know!!!
Love, Sister Smoot
Palangga ko Kamo!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Week #29 (Dec 15, 2013)

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! From, Pulupandan City Plaza.

Wow, time is going fast!

This week, I witnessed miracles. I know that sounds dramatic, but it was a relieving breath of pure oxygen after being drowned ten feet below the surface of the water. This week we had some trainings from our zone leaders that mostly make me feel inadequate, stressed, and depressed. However, this week was the most motivational, encouraging, and useful zone meeting that I have ever been to. I am so grateful for our zone leaders and the love the spirit helped me to feel in that meeting. The meeting was  a lot of different ideas and techniques to use in the mission, and there were a lot of answers to a lot of things that I have been praying for. Mostly on the mission, I have just been trying to figure out what is going on, and then figure out how to actually help people. I have felt very inadequate and very disappointed that I didn't get a followup trainer and that I have had to figure out a lot of things on my own. But day by day I've been learning how to receive a lot of personal revelation for the area, our companionship, and also for each investigator. I've learned so much from this personal revelation for others, but I'm still working on receiving personal revelation for myself. This training wasn't a particularly spectacular, but the spirit was present, and I was able to really receive some help with my "personal issues." Haha. I don't think that I am a crazy person, but the spirit helped me to realize that even if I become perfect, I will only be a perfect Sister Smoot. not a perfect Elder or Sister so-and-so.  Our potentials are so amazing, but comparing is incredibly destructive and foolish. I have obviously learned this so many times in young womens, from my patriarchal blessing, from you all as my family... but I have been comparing myself so subconsciously, that I didn't realize it until that meeting. Sorry, that was a really long explanation that probably doesn't make sense, but just know that I am doing well and feeling positive and excited to keep going.

We have a lot of new investigators with a lot of Potential. One investigator who had to decide whether to get married or to move out of his house was in tears at the end of our "Law of Chastity" lesson. We had been a little nervous for that lesson, but we had practiced and prayed and prepared. At the end of the lesson, he just said thank you at the end of the lesson. He said he knew that something was wrong, but he didn't know that it was a sin to live with a woman before he was married. He thanked us for helping him know how to live a better life. He then committed himself to follow the Law, because he now knew that it was something God wanted for him. There have been so many powerful experiences like that this week, and so many faithful people dedicating themselves to God. The past few weeks I have let myself get a little bit negative about different people and their dedication to following God, but I have repented of those negative feelings, and have since seen and felt so much faith from each individual. Sometimes faith is expressed in so many different ways, but true faith causes action. And I am so grateful for all of the action and dedication of a few of our investigators. 

Last night after our last appointment, one of the little girls in the family looked at me really seriously as we were walking out and said, (translation) " do you have a mom at your house?" Sister natarte and I just smiled at each other and said, "no, just us." Then she asked us, "what about a dad?" We just chuckled and I told her that we all have a heavenly father that is always with us, even when we are alone. But just so you know mom, a little girl is looking out for me and is very concerned that you are not here with me! 

Also, I gave my third talk in Sacrament meeting yesterday. They have all been in Ilonggo, but they get a little better each time as my fluency gets a little smoother. But I spoke about the conference talk about having a game plan for missionary work and gave them the three new commandments we received in conference. 1. To pray to bring a specific person to Christ each day. 2. to pray for the missionaries in your area and for their investigators each day. 3. to invite someone to an activity at church or in your home.  Elder Johnson, the other american missionary also spoke on missionary work and the ward's involvement. But, after I helped our ward, I just kind of wondered how our family is doing with the new commandments. Or the new commandment that Elder Johnson shared from Elder Ballards talk to invite one person into the gospel by Christmas. How is that going for all of you in Utah? Let me know, because I don't know a lot about missionary work there. 

Anyway, just know that I love you all so much and I'm excited to talk to you at Christmas! i still pray for you all every day and want all of you to feel my love, but more importantly, the Saviors love. I hope you all remember the really important things, even though you are all so busy! Lots and lots of love,
Sister Smoot

Sister Trisha's Baptism. We wore the headbands that she gave us on our first visit with them.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Letter #28 Dec. 8, 2013

Hello Family!
I love you all so much. This week was pretty incredible.This week has been a lot better and we've seen a lot of miracles in our Area. We know that ups and downs are just a part of the mission, but sometimes it’s easy to forget to endure well our stresses and trials.  But the higher the ups are, the lower the downs are, but they all fluctuate incredible fast, so I’m just hanging on tight. 
We have one investigator who is very special. Brother Manuel. We met him while trying to find a really old referral from some extremely not-progressing investigators. I don’t even know why we were trying to find him again. He wasn’t even interested. But Sister Natarte felt we needed to try again. While we were outside his gate, Brother Manuel walked passed and went inside the gate to find the other man for us. He found him and he just invited himself into our lesson with the other man. The other man was still not interested, but we set up a return appointment with Brother Manuel.  During our second appointment, he told us that his wife passed away last year and when he spoke about her, he was extremely humble and saddened. We immediately felt the presence of his wife and pulled out our little booklet about Temple Preparation. We only had it with us because we were going to show it to another ward member.  We showed him a picture of the baptismal font in the temple and told him that his wife was waiting for him to help her be baptized into Jesus Christ’s Church. He started weeping and committed to be baptized and start preparing to enter the Temple.  He is very poor and 60 years old, but he has come to church two weeks in a row. He wants to learn every day and reads more from the Book of Mormon and the pamphlets every day than we do. He literally reads every line and every scripture and soaks up everything he can. He will be baptized on December 28, 2013 and we are so grateful for his example to the ward members around him who sometimes need a push. One day he asked us why the ward members were talking and texting and taking phone calls in the middle of the sacrament. He was almost in tears as he bore is testimony of how sacred the sacrament should be (like teaching us). We explained that not everyone is perfect but we are all working to be better at showing the Lord our dedication and service. He has two sons who are not ready to listen to us, but we are hoping they at least come to his baptism. They are both young single adults and still like to just hang out and drink. Brother Manuel has already changed immensely, and we want to help his family and his wife as much as we can. We can feel her presence around us as we plan for him and teach him. One morning we were doing a “practice teaching” during companion study for our lesson with him, and I just started weeping as I felt prompted to promise him something from his wife. Sister Natarte, who was pretending to be Manuel, started crying too and that lesson was one of the most powerful lessons I’ve ever had on my mission. We are so blessed to not only be helped by the Lord, but also to be helped by the family members and ancestors who have passed on. They are guiding us to their family members who need the truth and we are never alone in the search for those that are ready. I know that this church is true and that this work is so important to the Lord. Thank you for your birthday letters and words of encouragement. I love you all so much!
Love, Sister Smoot

Sunday, December 1, 2013

#27 12-1-2013

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Birthday to me-

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Thanksgiving was fun. I have pictures but I can't send them until next week. I tried my best to make it special for me and sister Peterson. Out of the six sisters we are the only americans. I made Tuna Caserol (stove top only), homemade gravy with a chicken bullion cube, flour, and water and salt (we didn't have any pepper), and mashed potatoes (powdered milk and salt with potatoes all mashed up-again no pepper :)) It was pretty good. And our companions even helped and made their version of pie, Mango Float (mangos, cream, grahm crackers. it's really good.  
For my birthday, sister Natarte made me lunch and it was Pancit. She said that is what everyone eats on their birthday so I had a real Philippines birthday! 

Our investigators are so amazing and we are finding so many people who have amazing testimonies and amazing faith. I always feel the spirit as I'm working and teaching and listening. They are such good examples to me. One of them is Brother Borj Penafil.  He is a miracle in our work. He want's to know everything and he is incredible smart. He wants to know a lot of details, but he's willing to search for his own answers. He's only 26 but he doesn't have a job so he has a lot of time to read the Book of Mormon. We only met him on monday but he came to church yesterday and committed to be baptized on Christmas. He as a few things to work out first, but we know that he will do it because he is really close the spirit and keep receiving "revelation from God" during his nightly prayers. It's so incredible to be able to talk to these people. I just can't even believe how lucky I am so spend time with them. 

Trisha didn't get baptized because of some random ward drama, but it will be moved to middle of December. I just need to keep moving on and doing my best. It's just hard when I don't feel my best is enough.  I really am grateful for everything you have given me and for your letters this week! 

I love you, 

Sister Smoot