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! 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 !
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)
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!