Sunday, November 2, 2014

Week # 75 My very last letter! ( Nov. 2, 2014)

My brain is in a fuzz looking back at the last 18 months of my life. The unexpected, the unanticipated, the uncontrollable, the unforgettable. Wow.
My last day of proselyting was last night. We stayed out as late as we could, then spent an hour packing up all my things. After getting into bed on time, I couldn't fall asleep for over 3 hours. So many things running through my mind. I'm not excited to go home, I'm not sad to leave, I'm not stressed about the work... I'm just in a blur. I think my whole being is in denial. I can't really explain. I'm just going through the motions now of the day getting the things done that I need to. Sister Nielsen (my companion from the MTC) and I are companions for this week. Today we have interviews with president and time to pick up last minute things. Tomorrow we have a carreer workshop all day and a devotional/dinner at night. Wednsday we fly to Manila, go to the Temple, and wait for our flight home which is Thursday Morning. I'll get home Friday for my body, but Thursday for you because of the time change. Even as I am saying this, I don't really believe it. It's really here? I'm really going to be an RM? That title is for old, mature people.
Saturday was on of the biggest holidays in the Philippines. It's bigger than Christmas. Its called Fieste Minatay. It's the Filipino Halloween. It's the day to celebrate and remember all the loved ones who past away. What is that in america... Mamorial day? But litterally everyone celebrates and goes to the cemetary. Because of lack of space, each lot is stacked 6 tombs high with little ledges to light the candles on each grave. Because no one is in there homes, each year, the missionaries go and proselyte at the grave yard and talk and teach. We taught a lot of lessons and met a lot of prepared people. But since Paglaum doesn't have a cemetary, we were proselyting in Murcia for the day. So we ended up giving the Elders a lot of referrals. Oh, well. I hope they stay busy contacting all of them. It is tradition that after the days festivities, all the kids and teenagers spend the night in the Cemetary partying. Hence, there were no people in Church on Sunday. But that's okay, we did our best.
I did have a sweet tender mercy on my last Sunday yesterday. Remember Joshua? He was the little boy who kept talking to me while I was emailing you a few months ago. We found his house back then and found out he is an 8 year old of a really less-active family. He has been begging us to get baptized, but we didn't want to baptize him without his family returning, otherwise he might go less-active as well. But he has been coming to church on his own for the last 6 weeks. Finally we found the mom who works full time in another town. We told her that Joshua really wants to be baptized, but she needs to come with him to church to talk to Bishop about his baptism. She re-arranged her schedule and her first Sunday back was yesterday. We went up to Bishop after Sacrament meeting and told him the story. He looked at me and said, "Do you want to baptize him today on your last Sunday?" I told him to talk to the family first. After a long interview with the family, they decided to baptize him that day. We threw the baptism together and baptized little Joshua. The mom bore her testimony and said that she changed her schedule permanently so that they can keep coming to church with Joshua. I'm so impressed and amazed with Joshua. His sweet spirit, sweet desire, and honest pleading to be baptized. Miracles do happen.
I love you all more than you know!  Thank you all for all your love, prayers and support for the last 18 months! 
Lots of love, Palangga ko kamo! Kitanay kita sa Huwebes! 
Love, Sister Smoot  You can catch up a little on her letters so you can talk to her about it! haha

Monday, October 27, 2014

Week # 74 ( Oct. 26 2014)

Dear Family, 

I don't know how many letters I have written home, but they are feeling really redundant. (# 74!) There are so many good things that happen each week mixed with the stress and challenges that a mission brings. I'm not always sure what you want to know, hear, or learn about. This area has been my most challenging as far as progression of investigators. I feel like sometimes I am just chipping away at a cement wall that is 500 feet thick. Each day we see miracles that can blow out another 5 feet, they are miraculous and appreciated, but the chipping continues. I think I am learning the most about Christlike attributes, and constantly feel my patience, charity, and humility being tested. Isn't cool that even when you feel burned out, torn apart, drained emotionally and physically, you can still experience more cleansing and purifying? What a blessing. 

This week I had a tender blessing and got to go on exchanges with Sister Nielsen. (My companion from the MTC). We have been in this zone together for the whole 4 months, but last time I went on exchanges with her companion, so this was the first time to go with her. We have gotten so close here in the zone, and I am so grateful for her. We were together too when we went to Manila for fingerprinting. We are going through some of the same things, so it was great to work together for a day in her old area and find some new investigators, some old investigators, and just work together. Our teaching skills and language skills have improved a lot since our first lesson in the MTC back in May 2013. It was mostly cool to share our experiences from the mission and learn from each other. There is always still so much to learn. 

Don't worry about telling me to work hard dad- I am. I'm doing everything I can and trusting that this is the Lord's plan. I still feel like I have another month, and I forget a lot that I only have 1 more week, especially while planning. But I know that the Lord will take care of his Vineyard. He is in control. I love you!
Love, Sister Smoot

Note from Kendra: 

I was able to contact Ashley's companion Sister Russon who is from LEHI! We have been sending each other the weekly letters the last few times so we can get more information and its been so great to see both missionaries perspectives! Here is part of what sister Russon had to say about the week! i am assuming this was with sister Smoot.

This week we saw some cool miracles.  First of all on Friday we were getting ready to head home for the night when we got a phone call from Sister Ejusa, one of the members in the ward.  She called telling us that she had a referral for us!  She set up a time for Saturday for us to come teach.  It was amazing.  We went and taught her and I felt like I was in one of the Preach My Gospel videos.  The member is well off so we were sitting on couches instead of plastic chairs or bamboo benches which what we usually do.  It was really cool. 
Then Saturday night we were teaching a newer investigator named Rony.  He has a cool story of how we found him.  He's related to some members and we were looking at the CMIS for some less-active families.  The address for the member family was wrong so we ended up at Rony's house instead of the members.  But every opportunity to teach right?  We started teaching him and he seemed really interested but we weren't sure if he was drunk or not.  Then we came back to follow up and after several times were able to teach him all of lesson 1 and most of lesson 2.  He is so receptive.  He also reads everything we give him and remembers and understands it!  He had so many great questions and just picks up on things so quickly.  If you review he lets you know that you already taught it and so you just have to keep moving.  He didn't make it to church because he feels guilty.  He feels like he can't go (even though he goes to the catholic church every Sunday).  Definitely Satan working on him to keep him out.  He is so special and I know that it wasn't an accident that we found him!  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Week # 73 (Oct. 19, 2014)

Jeftie, Jeanbie and Cyber
BAPTISM! Jeanbie, Jeftie (found out this is actually how you spell it), and Cyber. It was such a cool baptism. They wanted it early in the morning so that they could feel good the whole day. :) We had their baptism at 8 am on Saturday morning. Jeanbie showed up in the skirt that Sister Madronio left her, and the other two were wearing their nicest jeans and shirts. Their excitement was tangible in the air. When they got the white jumpers on, Sister Jeanbie was almost jumping up and down, she was so excited. Bishops family is so amazing, and they all came to support the baptism. The service was really neat as well, and at the end they all bore their testimonies. Jeftie has been practicing his testimony for the last month. He said he kept bearing his testimony to all his friends and praying for his class to practice so that he wouldn't be scared on his baptism day! :) He went first and did a good job. I always feel like a mom who freaks out over every new step their baby makes. Each step they make feels like Christmas. Their testimonies are so pure and innocent and I can't even remember their bratty-ness when I first met them. They are so pure, humble, determined, and powerufl. They all spoke about serving missions in the next few years when they reach the right age. Can you just see it? All three of them serving throughout the world? Changing the world? It gives me goosebumps to think about. The most inspiring part of the day, was the testimony of Cyber. He is 18, never been to highschool, orphaned, finds his food each day by doing chores for people. For example, he will fetch thier water, and run their errands, chop their wood, cook, etc. so that he can eat with their family and sleep there for the night. He moves around families every couple weeks, but always in Paglaum. He has always been quieter in the lessons since he is not used to such a class-like setting, and is always more shy to pray or answer questions. But over the last couple of weeks, we have seen the wheels turning, and logic clicking, and the spirit filling in all the missing pieces. One lesson, he interrupts the lesson (which was about family history), looks up, and just says, "I always need to go to church don't I. Until I'm really really old." I just chuckled and said, "yes, we all do." He smiled and right there promised he would go for the rest of his life. He had committed before, and he had been to church 6 times, but for the first time, the spirit taught him something that internalized in his soul. The power of his statement still rings in my ears. So yesterday, he was last to bear his testimony. He had been so scared and told us previously that he didn't want to do it. But after his baptism, he just stood up with so much confidence and talked about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, he thanked me and all my companions who have taught them, talked about the holy ghost, and even closed in the name of Jesus Christ. He was the only one who remembered that at the end. I couldn't help but cry at his progression. It's so beautiful. This gospel is beautiful. It was the best "last baptism" I could ask for. 

I love you all and want you to know how thankful I am for all for all of you! Allyson, you are amazing, keep up the dedication, motivation, and hard work. It's the hardest when the results don't come as fast as we wish, but just as it says in PMG chapter 1, a successful missionary will know they have done their best, when they feel the spirit testify through them. They will know they have done their best. 

I love you! Palangga ko kamo!
Sister Smoot

Monday, October 13, 2014

Week # 72 (October 13, 2014)

Hello Family!
First of all, Jeanbie, Cyber, and Jeftie have not been baptized yet, but they are scheduled to be baptized this Saturday! We are excited for them, and they all came to General Conference on Saturday. Sister Jeanbie even came on Saturday too. It is harder for them because it is in all English, but it was really neat to see what the spirit taught them and listen to them explain all the things they learned from the Prophet. Their sweet sincerity and desire for more knowledge is inspiring. 

General Conference for missionaries is better than Christmas. Each session goes way too fast, and after it's all done, I feel ready for  round 2! But It's important as well that we apply the things the spirit testified to us. It has been cool to use the prophets council and teachings in each appointment and we learned from each of the talks. We are spreading their simple, but profound messages as the spirit directs in each appointment. It is really amazing how it just comes to you. If we are continually studying the word of God, what we need to teach will be given to us at the right time. This promise is fulfilled each day in the life of a missionary. I don't want that feeling to stop. The feeling of receiving revelation and then immediately acting on it. It is the best rush of joy and excitement! 

We had our missionary leadership council meeting again. And I am now addicted to Family History Work. We received council to teach Family History to every LA, active member, RC, and Investigators about to be baptized and submit their pedigree chart to the office. When we send in a new member's baptismal record, their pedigree chart has to be completed and attatched. The Spirit of Elijah just exploded in me. It is a different and fun spirit to feel. It is a very motivating spirit. We received a referral from a member to visit a Less-active and her non-member grandchildren. The children were not super excited to talk to us, but as we were talking to sister, we realized she was really obsessed with her handhed tablet. Each time she would tell us something, she would show us an example with her electronic device. By the time we could actually start the lesson, we helped her upload the app "gospel library" because it's free and showed her how to read or listen to the scriptures each day. Then we gave her the assignment about family history. She is on fire now and loves using her device for family history work. Even though she wasn't excited to listen to us in the beginning. Now she is excited for us to keep teaching her new things on her tablet. It was a first time for me to use an electronic device in a lesson, but it was cool. I love being apart of some of the changes in missionary work. And I love Family HIstory. It is a focus in this mission because we are the highest baptizing mission in the world. That means we have the most recent converts in the world. So we will be able to help each recent convert start their family history. It's just exciting... How many more times can I say the word exciting?? :) I am excited.

We had a huge tender mercy yesterday (SUNDAY). Over the last few weeks, our ward has stopped really working with us and they keep canceling all the appointments we are setting. We used to have a lot working with us, but five just left on missions. This week we had someone set up each day of the week, but they all canceled the morning of. We just kept smiling and working even though there was a huge storm that came in for 3 days and there were no people outside and everyone was sleeping so no one was answering the doors. We weren't able to proselyte one of the days because of our leadership meeting, and another day we had the zone training that we gave. Then we had general conference. Finally on Sunday, the sun came out and we were ready to go on member exchanges with two relief society members... but they both canceled five minutes before. I started crying on our way to our first appointment, but only a couple tears. These are my last weeks as a missionary, and I've been feeling everything spinning out of control. Then I realized, it is out of my control. But it is in the control of our Savior, our Master, and the leader of All missionary work. I said a silent prayer to pull myself together, and with my companion, we re-set our goals for the day. We only had 6 hours to make up for our losses that week, and visit all our investigators that have been gone, and find new investigators. Our goals were unrealistically high, but we prayed for them and ran like Abish from house to house. For our third appointment, we were in the middle of a sugar cane field with a split in the path. We were supposed to just head into the village, but I just remembered one of our investigators who hadn't been home for two weeks. I didn't really want to go to his house because it is far and we were in a hurry. But I just stopped and asked Sister Russon what we should do because the thought had popped in my head. She thought for a moment, and we went to this investigator. Five steps later around the corner, we met a HUGE family all talking and relaxing on the front of their house. We passed that house so many times but it was always empty. This time I talked to them and was joking with the little 2 year old who was blocking our path. The family was joking with him and telling him to move, and we ended up talking to the family. I asked if we could give their family a prayer... and ended up teaching a 10 minute lesson, setting a return appointment, and continued on to the investigator who was not home again. I am so grateful for the spirit and also for the spiritual sensitivity of my companion.  Within our first hour, we met and taught two families and gained 9 new investigators. We gained three more new investigators later that evening. In multiple lessons throughout the day, random less-active members kept joining us, and in one situation we found out after the lesson that one of the "investigators" was a member. We were getting member-present lessons, without a member working with us. Not only were we able to meet our goals for the day, but we exceeded them. I love my companion, Sister Russon. And I love our companion, the Holy Ghost. This is God's work. He has a plan. And anything is Possible. I love you all and for the amazing things I learned from you my whole life! Lots of love,
Sister Smoot

A cute exchange between Ashley and her dad.

On Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 11:04 AM, Steve Smoot  wrote:


Do you want any more chocolate, cookies, etc. from the store in Manila?  It is really not a big deal for me to send to you and I try to send extra so you can share.  I just don't know what you really like or how well that works.  I can order on a Sunday and it will get to you that week.  Ally got stuff while in the Mexico MTC with the same kind of service but MTC specific.  Kind of like Dear Elder but for Mexico.

I really want to do for you but wasn't sure if you liked it or not.  Please let me know and let me know what kind of things you like.


Haha, thanks dad. I appreaciate the love. I actually am okay. We can wait until I get home so I can eat the food that actually tastes good. Even though they are the same brands, they taste weird... so I will take your wonderful offer as the gift itself. You don't need to send me packages. Thank you so much for your constant letters and support. I don't know how I got so lucky to have you as my daddy! Thanks! 
Love, Sister Smoot

 After Ashley read dad's letter this week:
Thanks for you letter dad! It's kind of related to my experiences this week. Thanks for your example and for all you are teaching me through example and words! I love you so much!
Love, Ashley

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Week # 71 (Oct. 5, 2014) A trip to Manilla and the temple!

This week was amazing and hard as well. The first of the week I got to go to MANILLA for fingerprinting for my visa so that I will be able to leave the country. That took up two days, so by the time I got back to our area, the numbers were low for the week, then we were punted.... all day! We go through these times where everyone we know doesn't like us anymore. We try and take advantage of each situation. For example, if someone sends us away, we try and talk to all their neighbors and anyone in the street at that moment to try and stay productive and help their surroundings... but even those people seem to hate us. We realized they are very strongly aligned with other religions. It is still possible to help them, but slightly more tricky. Our areas are either hiking through sugarcane fields, or they are walking through huge neighborhoods with rich houses and high fences. The people who live in the sugarcane are too poor to pay for the transportation to go to church, and the people with high fences and cars in the driveway, are too "busy" to talk to us. It has been a humble experience to learn how other missions around the world function, even though it is only a glimpse. I don't know how to do that kind of missionary work. So I am re-learning and re-experimenting. It has been a fun challenge here at this time in the mission, but it is also causing quite some stress as I watch our key-indicators decreasing. We have set some new goals again for this week to hopefully be more faith-filled in our finding and proselyting! 

The Manilla trip was full of miracles and blessings and rejuvenation. It was with us five sisters from the MTC, and some other Elders who will be going home with us.  It reminded me so much of the MTC, but also made me realize how grown up we are as well. It is always exciting to see the changes. We met people from all over with lots of miracles all over, and got to spread the gospel, even though it was in a different language. In Manilla, they speak Tagalog, and we only speak Ilonggo. But since I've had a lot of Tagalog investigators, i was able to at least understand the people. When we spoke, we just mixed Ilonggo and English. We met a cute mom from California, who was going to visit her family who lived in Sister Nielsen's area. I met the lady in the bathroom at the Airport, and ran to get sister Nielsen so they could schedule an appointment. While sitting on the airplane, Sister Van Slooten was seated next to a random man who she found out lived in her area, on the other side of him was a member from another ward. So she taught a member present lesson, got a new investigator, and he committed to come to church right there. We met an RM at the restaurant in the airport and she asked to sit with us as she told us all about her mission and all about adjusting to life at home and the ways she is still doing missionary work in her regular life. WE ALSO GOT TO GO TO THE TEMPLE. I have never been so hungry for the spirit and so hungry for the temple! After waiting so long, going through again was a huge gulp of fresh air and fresh water (and it even smells like the temples in utah!) I felt like I was back at home. In our session, there was an older couple who were from indonesia. The brother had been a member for a long time, but his wife was going through for the first time so that they could be sealed that day! We were all responding and speaking in English, but there's was all in Ta-hessian. Talk about a cool experience. We saw the sister again in the dressing room getting ready to be sealed to her husband, and even though we couldn't communicate, you could feel the joy and spirit around her.  The five of us sisters took pictures in front of the Manilla Temple and they were the same as the pictures we took in front of the Provo Temple. It was neat to see and feel our sisterhood that we have built here through all of our experiences. It was also bitter-sweet because we realized our time left is way too short. I thought the trip would make me more trunky, but it just turned up the motivation to kick it up even farther... lets just pray that I don't die. I am very grateful for sister Russon and all that she is teaching me. I hope we can continue to help this area become more productive. I am so grateful for this experience and wouldn't trade it for anything! Love you ALL!
Love, Sister Smoot

Monday, September 29, 2014

Week 70! (Sept. 28. 2014)

Hello family! I love you all so much! This week was full of more changes. Sis. Hemi was transfered on Wednesday and now I am companions with Sis. Russon from Lehi, Utah. I do'nt know why i keep getting paired up with english speakers lately, but it's a lot of fun. When we showed up for transfers there were a lot of people transfering. (President likes to change things around a lot and very randomly. He does a lot of random transfers each week so that we will never know what is coming up.) When we got there, I saw SISTER NATARTE! I almost had a heart attack I was so excited. I don't think my smile has been that big in a long time. It made me think about what it might feel like in the Celestial Kingdom when we all see each other again. She wanted me to tell you that she loves you and she is still using the Journal that mom gave her for Christmas. I will miss her so much. She told me that she has been porayong that we will be companions again... haha. At least I got to see her one more time before I go. Sister Russon is a great companion and is very calm and hard working. It's been a great influence to be around. I don't know why I am still a sister training leader, or why I am on my 5th companion here in Paglaum, but things are going well. All the sisters who became STL with me have been "released" or switched to different positions, so I know my time  is approaching, but for now I'm just enjoying finding, teaching, and baptizing no matter where I am. I love Paglaum and feel so close to all the members and investigators here. 

Yesterday, Jefty (the former bully *in his own words*), didn't come to church. I was freaking out a little. He's already been 3 times and just told us on wednesday that he would ever skip church no matter what. When we got to his house, we found him super pale and weak and he told us he had gone to get a check up at the hospital and couldn't get back in time for church. I was relieved... and then I realized that it was so mean that I was glad he was sick and had to go to the hospital. He is fine now, and we gave him a prayer. They will all be baptized on OCT 11 (right after general conference).

Yesterday, one of my favorite investigators came to church finally. Her name is litterally: Princess Claire Estocado. I am 99% convinced she is a real princess from some other country because her attitude and termperment is that of a true princess. She is so pretty, so quiet, so smart, so kind, and so perfect. We found her three weekds ago, but she is already finishing up third Nephi. She hasn't come to church yet because she is too shy to come by herself. She said she had never been to any church before. She is 18, but so gorgeous. We told her we would wait outside the gate and we could all walk in together. It worked and she made so many friends and wants to come back again next week. I have really seen in this area how book of mormon reading is the key too successful and lasting conversion. The investigators or less-actives who are reading are so much stronger and fast in their inderstanding. I love the Bookof Mormon, but I love even more the excitement of Sister Claire as she explained when the Savior appeared to the people and testified of her own excitement of seeing the Savior again. I love being a missionary. There is no other work that is this important or this rewarding. I love you all back home! I hope you are really enjoying each moment in the Book of Mormon and not just going through the motions. I know it will be much more rewarding and helpful if we take the time to enjoy and learn from these sacred texts. I love you! Have a good week! 

Give Sister Smoot a big hug for me! (Ah, now she's just Jenna!) :( 

Love you!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Week # 69 (Sept. 21, 2014)

This week has been way too fun. Sister Hemi and I have both been Sister Training Leaders for 2 transfers, so we are both fairly confident in the work. It is very different to be with a companion with complete communication, trust, and unity. We have basically set the world on fire. Haha. We both have different skills and talents. She fills in all of my missing pieces and we can just work our guts out. On Saturday, we had the longest day in the history of my missionary work. :) because we didn't take time for lunch, dinner, or language study. Don't freak out, it's not a regular thing, we still ate some snacks, but we had too many appointments to go to. We were like Abish in the Book of Mormon "Running from house to house." It was quite a site and experience from 10:00 am until 8:30 pm.  We spent the rest of the night updating the gobs of teaching records.  It is so fun to be busy with a purpose! 

On Sunday, Three of my investigators from the other side of paglaum got baptized. It is now considered the "Elder's Baptism," but we were able to attend. Their testimonies are so strong and it is cool to see the changes over the last few weeks. Plus, Brother Rudy told the story of how I found him and I started crying. The three who got baptized were, #1. Rudy Alvia (I sent a picture a few weeks ago) #2. Sister Celiz and  #3 her Daughter (the family sister smoot helped me find when we were on exchanges.) Isn't that incredible? It was so cool to see their baptism. 

For Sacrament Meeting, Sister Hemi and I were the speakers, and it was cool to see how the spirit combined the themes of our talks. We have such unity in and out of teaching situations and it is something that really does effect the work. Something that I have learned on the mission is that the key to having unity in a companionship, is to love all the qualities(even the annoying ones) and then SHOW that love in word, action, and even thought. It is easier with some than others... but always effective. It just happens to be really really easy with Sister Hemi. It's been good. (But slightly too easy, so I'm sure something else is around the corner :)  

On a creepy and slightly humerous side... There is a lady. Her name is Sister Mary. The first time I saw her I got the heeby jeebies.  She is tall, really white, and it was night time, she has long, straight, black hair, and she wears long cloak like dresses. I thought she was a ghost. She yelled out to us in English, "WHERE ARE YOU GOING!" I was speechless and confused and just stared at her trying to figure out what was going on. Then she said in English again, "you don't speak english?" I fumbly started talking to her in Ilonggo, then she said again, "you don't speak English?" I started in English, but she just cut me off and said good night. It was so eery, and the same thing happened like 4 other times (always at the same time at night and the same place). The exact same conversation. Then last monday, my first day with sis. hemi, we saw her again, and this time I approached her. We started talking to her and getting to know her and we were able to get a return appointment. When we went to her house, she wanted to give us a tour of her house. It was kind of wierd. Then she was acting really weird and I started getting freaked out, still not convinced she was not a ghost. (yes, i believe in ghosts)  Then she looked interrupted us and asked us if our parents were still alive. We both assured her that they were alive. Then we kept talking about her life and trying to relate it to the gospel, and then she asked us again if our parents were alive. It was getting creepier and creepier!  
 So we quickly said another prayer and trying to leave she started telling us that she is our Mommy and asking us to call her Mom. I don't know if you remember mom, but remember when I read that book and the crazy lady told the girl, "I am your mother." That scary book was flashing in my mind and I wanted to get out as fast as possible. I was trying not to laugh I was so scared, and I looked over at Sister Hemi and just said, there is no fear in faith! When we got out, I felt like I had escaped with Hanzel and Grettle from the gingerbread house!  There is more to the story, but I will have to tell you later. Basically, we are not going to go back without a priesthood holder and other members. The spirit is always looking out for us and I know we will always be safe as missionaries. It was just a funny crazy old lady who misses her children,  I guess. She just wants more. Maybe when she joins the church, she can be a primary teacher or something. :)

After church, we had the funeral service for Brother Aventura. Even though his wife is Catholic, they chose to have the funeral service in our church.  John and Mark were with their mom and a TON of people showed up for the service. More people than sacrament people. Probably around 200.  The only speakers were me, Elder Pingol (who was the first to teach them), and bishop. Both of our topics were supposed to be about the plan of salvation, but I really pondered what to say to 200 investigators at a time of sorrow like this.  Elder Pingol went first and did a good job pretty much wrapping up the whole plan of Salvation, so I ditched my plans, and just talked about how kind Brother Aventura was to us. How he would always make sure we were safe if we went to their house in the evening. He would always make sure we made it on the jeep safe back into Paglaum. He was a very tall Filipino, over 6 feet, but he always had a smile for everyone. I honestly didn't know him that well, and I don't really remember what funeral talks are like, but I basically spent the time talking about the love he brought to the family, then translated the words to "Families can be together forever" (that was Sister Hemi's idea). The feeling in the room changed and I could feel a little more hope from the peoples faces. It was a very special moment to be apart of. Afterward, they all went to the grave side (but we were not able to accompany). We saw our ward mission leader that night, and he told us that a lot of the family members are interested and inspired to talk to us. I hope we will be able to do a lot of follow up with the family!

Thanks for the pictures and the letters! I love you all, and you better believe it!
Love, Sister Smoot

1.  Jobeta Celiz and her daughter Joanna Celiz. Oh, I miss them so much! Sister Jobeta gave me a big hug after the baptism and I just felt so much love and comfort!

2. Bullies of the Block doing scripture study!
The far left is a "special child" and the older sister of Jeanbie. 
From left to right after me: Jeanbie, Jefty, Cyber

Our feast for Sister Madronio's last day as a Missionary.
I made Tinola and Afritada (yes mom, I can cook you filipino food!) 

(oh YAY! I was asking her about cooking some food for us. I love the dessert! Right down my alley. We sent those kisses to her!)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Week #68 (Sept, 14, 2014)

This week was quite a whirlwind. Last Monday while we were emailing,  My companion Sister Madronio found out that she has to go home to her family. She didn't want to return home, but her family is mirgrating from the philippines to Canada and if she didn't go home this month, she couldn't go with them (for visa reasons). President Lopez asked her to go with her family for her once in a life-time chance to leave the country. This will be such an amazing opportunity for her and her family, but as a result, she was devastated to leave our mission here in Bacolod. Because it was in the middle of the week, I had a short-term companion for the week, Sister Robete from Bacolod 1st ward (Sister Jenna Smoot's first area.) She will leave on her mission in October and she said it was a fun week to see what missionaries actually do. To be honest, if I actually knew what missionaries did, I would not be super excited to go. Haha, I am really glad I came, but it's a little overwhelming. Sister Robete will do so amazing on her mission, plus I got to be companions with a true Ilonga (like living with a correct dictionary. Since the language is not a written language, none of our books are correct, but she knew everything and I learned so much! I hope she wasn't sick of my questions.:) ) Having a short term is also really stressful because all of the resopnsibility is on your shoulder. As the only set-apart missionary, everything is up to you, it was rather a lonely and tiring week.  Last night we got a phone call that I would have a full-time missionary and this morning I met my new companion, Sister Hemi. She is litterally the most beautiful person on the planet. Back when I was with Sister Natarte in Pulupandan, we saw her once at the store and sister Natarte was talking about her the whole week and how pretty she was. Now we are companions. She is also the sweetest sister I have ever met. She is from New Zealand and has the sweet, humble, peaceful way about her. I love her already and it's only been a few hours. Plus, it's weird not to be with a Filipina, I actually spoke English, It was kind of wierd.

That's everything as far as the details, but this week as also been incredibly rewarding. We have the most amazing investigators and recent converts. I am so lucky I get to teach them.  I have two families I want to talk about. The first is the group of teenagers I told you about last week. Sister Jeanbie, and her friends Jefty and Cyber. They are both 17 year old boys, who have gone from the neighborhood bullies, to the neighborhood angels. Let me explain. Before we bet them, all three of them were in a sort of "gang." They were bullies, they were cool, they are attractive, they are teenagers, and they know all of those things. The youth members were a little scared of them when they heard we were teaching them. When we first met Jeanbie, she was already incredible prepared as I have shared the last few weeks. But when we met brother Jefty, he was still the "cool kid." He was reclined in his chair and acting like he didn't have a care in the world with a little smirk on his face. I thought to my self, "oh brother, highschool all over again." I think he only listened to us because it is against the norm to listen to the "mormons." But after listening that first time, he said something just made him read the pamplet we gave him. After he read that, he read some other pamplets that we had given some other people in his neighborhood. He really studied everything he could get his hands on. He came to church last week, and yesterday as well, and right now is one of our most progressive and interested investigators. On Tuesday, we visited him, and I was following up on his book of mormon reading. He is almost addicted to his book of mormon and reads a lot. I asked him if he had seen any miracles from the his reading (since that is a promise we give them when we invite them to read.) He told us about an experience he had in school that day. He said his friends kept bugging him about joining them in the "bully" activities. They wanted him to help them beat someone up and tease some others. He told them no. They kept bugging him, and told him, "your sisters aren't here, it's okay." then Brother Jefty told them, "I made a promise to God that I would change, I'm not going to help you." 
As he explained this story, I just started crying, as he himself teared up with the spirit. He recognized in himself that he had changed, and it was from his promise to Jesus Christ. Change is so real. It is so powerful. The spirit was so strong in that moment, that he too realized he had changed. And he embraced it. After that meeting, his progression has only increased. he is now finishing up first Nephi! I love seeing how the bully of the block, has changed and turned his life towards christ. It truly is a sweet and beautiful miracle. 

The second one is the Aventura family. They were the two brothers who were baptized the last two weeks. We had started teaching the parents before the baptism, but they said they would only listen, they wouldn't keep any of the commitments. They did commit to come to the baptism, but the dad got a bad fever and couldn't come. On Friday, he still had the fever and actually passed away around lunch time on Friday. We found out from a member on Friday night and visited them our first appointment on Saturday. Working up to the lesson, I had no idea what to say or do to help them. They are so newly baptized, I wasn't sure how they would react to that. I didn't have a companion and I was sort of at a loss. I spent my whole personal study that morning, searching for inspiration and guidance for how to help them. The message of the Holy Ghost came to my mind, but I still didn't know how to form it into a lesson. I just decided to read a scripture in Moroni about the fruits of the spirit and the comfort we can receive. (Moroni 8:26) When we arrived, they both had red eyes, I knew they had been crying. They were both just sitting outside their house. We waved to them and they both ran inside their house, grabbed their book of mormon and came to talk to us. Remember, their ages are only 13 and 15. They were ready for their lesson for the day. We opened with a prayer, sang a hymn, and I just started as normal by asking about their book of mormon reading. They both explained that when they found out their dad had passed away, they decided to read their Book of Mormon. They said that as they were reading, they felt the holy ghost surround them and give them happiness. My eyes welled up with tears in awe and amazement and I was so inspired from their faith in Jesus Chirst and in his Book of Mormon. I cannot say that reading the book of mormon would be the first thing i do if my family member died. The spirit was so strong at that moment, and we all just spent those 10 minutes talking about the spirit and dwelling in it. I know that from their faith, the Lord had given them strength in their sorrow. Of course we are sad when tragedy happens in life, that means that we love those who have passed on. But I am so incredibly inspired by the example these two recent converts gave to me that day. The Holy Ghost is real. The power and love He gives us is real. This church is the only way to fully grasp and live in the pure love of God. I am so incredibly lucky that I can be a small part in spreading this love. I know that God loves John and Mark Aventura. I know that they felt it. I felt it. I felt it for me, I felt it for them, and I feel it for all of you at home. I know that God is our real, loving, heavenly Father. I hope you all find time to live and enjoy the sweet companionship of the holy ghost we were all given at baptism. I know it is with us at all times, especially in those hard times of need. I love you all so much! I can't thank you enough for all that you have given me. I love you!
Love, Sister Smoot

Monday, September 8, 2014


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FHE with John, Mark Aventura and their neighbor who is a member, brother Boyet. They loved it and committed to keep having FHE every monday... How is our family's FHE?

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John Aventura got baptized this week. He is 15 and also received the priesthood with his brother in church after his baptism and confirmation... what a day. He reads the book of mormon Sooo fast. Almost faster than me! He is already in 2 Nephi.

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 Brother Mark Aventura (13 years old)
His brother(16) was supposed to get baptized too, but was too scared to bear his testimony. We returned to the house later last night, and we talked about fear vs. faith. He committed again to be baptized next week after he prays to God if that is right. After the lesson he thanked us for giving him a second chance to follow God.

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Mark Aventura August 31.2014 happy birthday mom

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Our area.... all day long. We were so muddy, we had to stop and wash because our feet were getting itchy. We have less appointments because of all the hiking, but we are seeing miracles from the sacrifice. I LOVE the PHILIPPINES!

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(OHHHH...Isn't she is just the cutest!?)  (This skirt has been the best skirt and totally fitting for this mission. She picked it up at DI before she left and it's so perfect!! Especially in this picture! Forget addresses-They are in the jungle)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Letter #67 (Sept. 7, 2014) 2 months to go!

This week we moved apartments! Our house was too big for only two of us, so we moved in with the Sisters in the ward in Mansilingan. (15 minutes away). It is now a super old, dusty house, so we have been spending our time cleaning and making it more of a happy place to live. I actually really enjoy cleaning, hopefully it carries over when I come home :)

This week we have been seeing so so so many miracles. I wasn't completely doubting this area, but the miles of sugar cane were a little discouraging.  I was analyzing travel time, safety, how to find houses in the middle of the jungle with no map, etc. etc. But we do have a small area actually inside of Paglaum Village that is a lot more densely populated. So since we are not allowed to be in the sugar cane fields at night, as soon as it gets dark, we have been trying to find investigators in the Village. That is where our old house is and the houses are actual houses, not just bamboo. That means actual trackting and working hard core with the members. This is the first time in my entire mission that I have gone trackting. Because it it discouraged. But we really had nothing else to do. Through this, we now have three new family investigators. On top of that, we have been meeting with all the members and I was able to figure out a series of lessons to teach the members in order to receive more referrals and get them involved in missionary work. Through 15 minute member lessons (weekly lessons with the members for only 15 min. This is a tool president has asked us to schedule, but before we would just share a scripture. Now we are making it more useful) I just love the spirit and the personal revelation we are able to receive. The first lesson is all about the family, centered on the restoration. We focused on building their faith in the message of the restoration, and committed them to pray if Joseph Smith is a true prophet. The second lesson to the members is about the holy ghost. How the holy ghost will tell us which one of our friends are ready. Because God wants us to do missionary work, he will help us.  They get to use their faith and receive revelation from the holy ghost to know which one of their friends is ready. The third lesson, we set a specific activity or time for us to meet that friend. We practice with the family how to extend the invitation. It has been really fun getting to know the families and seeing their faith. It is so strong. It is cool to see them actually start acting on their faith as well and see it grow even more. I am so grateful that I was able to help them... even just a little.

This week we have had a lot of fun with our new families, teaching them and preparing them for baptism.  If you remember, sister Jeanbie. She introduced us to her two friends who live next door. They are both boys her same age. All three of them came to churchyesterday and have baptism dates as well. Then, after church, Sister Jeanbie asked if she could work with us. We had a relief society member come with us and all four of us visited all of our investigators. I was a little worried she might get tired, or overwhelmed with all of the different principals we discussed (because she is only on plan of salvation), but afterward, she said she learned so much and she wants to keep working with us. She said she wants to be a missionary when she turns 19 too. Even though she is only 16, and we've only known her for 1 week, her faith has grown tremendously. I am so grateful for her courage and her desire to continue in missionary work. If an investigator can do missionary work, anyone can! She is truly an inspiration. We have an FHE scheduled tonight, so pictures will follow next week with all of them! Thank you mom for praying for Sister Jeanbie, I know it has helped her a lot!

I love all of you and for your support. I really do love all of you and I am excited to continue to accelerate my speed. The thought of my time approaching motivates me to be better, more energetic, and more engaged in this cause. I'm so excited for ally as she leaves to Chile this week! Remember I love you ally! You are the best Hermana Smoot ever! Remember to always keep your expectations high, it will increase your faith which will increase the miracles. EXPECT MIRACLES! I love you!

Love, sister smoot

P.S. i'm good! my filippina comp just found out her family is moving to Canada... so she has to leave with her family because of visa things next week. she is crying. I am too because she is supposed to go home in Jan. She is so sad

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Letter # 66 ( Aug. 31, 2014)

Sorry this letter is going to be a little shorter because I wanted to write mom for her birthday. So, again, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!!!!! 

This week has been one of the more challenging weeks of my mission. But nothing to stress about. Challenge = growth. I prayed a couple weeks ago for the opportunity to really push the development of my Christlike Attributes through these last few months of the mission. I want my growth to peak instead of taper. That is always kind of a dangerous thing to pray for, but I know it will be for the overall good.  As a result I've shed a few tears, gained a little weight, added some acne, and learned a lot. I am so greatful for this never-ending molding experience. I love the word "refining." We have such an amazing opportunity to continue to change and grow. 

We spent most of our time this week trying to find new investigators. I say try because people are literally running away from us, hiding from us, telling their friends not to talk to us, and lying to us. A phrase that Sister Natarte always used to say comes to mind, "Do you want Salvation, or Not?" But everything will be okay, because I know that I am doing everything I can, and am working each day to work with the spirit to be guided to the people who are ready. We did have a miracle again on Saturday night. (I don't know why each week is the same. 1 week of desperate, endless searching. Then a miracle on Saturday night before church. I feel so bad complaining, some people have their whole mission like this without the huge miracles I get to see. I still have so much to learn.) It is a little hard here in missions like these, because there is a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations for our "outward results." Getting text reminders about how low our numbers are and how we need to repent if we don't have a baptism each week, is always a nice slice in the heart each week. On Saturday night, we were looking for more investigators by searching for some former investigators and we saw a member talking to a group of friends. We stopped and talked to them and it turns out one of them was from a family of all members (less-active) but had never been baptized. She is 16 and remembers going to church when she was really little, but when she turned 6, they started going to the Catholic church again.  We invited her to church the next day with the member who was talking to them and the member committed to go with her. On Sunday, lo and behold, This Sister Geanbie came to church. We were so excited to see her. We had scheduled an appointment with her whole family that afternoon, but when we went yesterday, only sister Geanbie was there to listen to us.  We taught her and we realized how smart and ready she is for the gospel. She basically bore her testimony about the spirit that she felt during sacrament meeting, and said even though she had been going to the other church, she felt empty/off like something was missing.  We finished the message of the restoration and after answering all of her questions, I asked her if I could then ask her a question. I asked her if she would follow her Savior, Jesus Christ, and be baptized in His church? She committed through her tears and accepted October 4 as a baptismal date. I know I am so spoiled to be in such a sacred part of our saviors Garden. There are so many more miracles and people waiting for us to find them. I am excited to continue on in this work. It brings such a spirit of peace and comfort as we help others on their path to eternal happiness.

Each day we see so much sin and sadness, but there is also so much joy and happiness. It depends on us, what we want to see. (is that correct english?) I love you all so much and especially for all that you have taught me. Thank you mom for teaching me about this gospel and the way to really find happiness no matter what the circumstances are. I know that you are the best mom in the entire world!

Love, Sister Smoot

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Letter # 65 (Aug 24, 2014)

Hello Family! 
This week has been good. A little bit hard since we are new to this side of the ward, but still exciting.  We have been trying to find all of the old investigators (they didn't leave any maps, the area book is not updated, the area consists of lots and lots of walking through fields). I'm not complaining, maybe I'll lose some weight before I get home :) It's been a fun challenge to find everyone, but it's been fun to meet some new people along the way. Our goal is always to find new investigators EVERY DAY.  It seems every person we have talked to this week has said, nope, I'm really Catholic. (Katholiko gid ako). But even some of those people have started listening to us.  We have just been praying every day for an opportunity to find some families and get the work really moving. I'm not sure what was going on in this area before we got here.... but it was pretty stagnant. I was able to receive some revelation about how to better use the members in the area, but it will take a few weeks to see the results from it. In the mean time, we are just talking to EVERYONE. Whenever we have a new person who is not at all interested, we ask them for referrals, and go find those people, then those people are not interested and we go find their referrals. It's a lot of fun... with not a whole lot of success yet. But we are working each day to better improve our finding tactics.  As a result of our hard work this week with limited results, we had a huge miracle on Saturday Night. 

A couple weeks ago, our ward had a Reactivation day. All the active members go out and find all the less active members and invite them to church. I was paired with another relief society member and assigned in the Elders area (which is our area now) and we went to the wealthiest less active member in the ward. The Elders had never visited her. She went on a mission when she was 21 somewhere near Manila, Philippines. She and her husband and her two olders kids are members, but they went less active about 5 years ago, so her younger kids are not members.  When we went to her house her cousin who is a Catholic Nun from Italy, showed up at the same time, so she told us she was busy. We didn't get to teach her, but I remembered the house.  (They are so wealthy. They have a car, a maid, and the children go to a really expensive private school and only speak English).  Well, on Saturday, almost all of our appointments fell through. No one was home when they said they would be home, and a few people even frankly told us never to go to their home. Lets just say I was a little stressed about how the day was going. But on Saturday night, I kept thinking about this Less-Active family. I was a little apprehensive about going because of the last time, and because rich people are kind of intimidating and I was already a little bruised, but I know that if it was on my mind, it was from the we went to their house.  It was late (around 7:00), so I was worried the kids were already asleep, but when we walked up to the gate, the oldest son was sitting out on the porch playing an electronic game. We called out to him and he ran inside to get his mom. She seemed calm and happy and invited us in. I figured we would share and invite her to church, but before we could speak (because it's hard to speak to people in English), she invited us to eat dinner with their family because they were just about to eat. I was trying to politely decline, but she insisted. So we ate an extremely delicious Tinola with some fresh Rambotan. While eating, she said that earlier that day, her boys (she has 5 boys and no girls from the ages of 3 to 15)  asked her if they could go to church the next day. She then realized that she too missed church. The youngest boy who is only 3 told her that they needed blessings, so they needed to go to church. They had prepared to go to church and were planning on asking us at church to visit their family so that the younger kids (9 and 10) could be baptized. She started crying as she talked about her goals to be sealed in the temple and be active again. As we shared the message of the restoration, she started crying again talking about the sweet spirit she felt and how she missed it so much. I am so grateful that I listened to the prompting to visit their family. Even though it's hard to teach in English, it is so fun to teach a family of all boys and their loving mom. (Their dad is working out of the country). I love missionary work! I love the spirit!

Another Miracle! While I was typing this letter, a little boy came up to me and was reading the letter as I typed. He doesn't know english, but he was just watching the screen. He mumbled something quietly and I asked him what he said. He said he wants to go to church on Sunday. He said his brothers and sisters are "mormons" and he wants to be mormon too. I just wrote down his address, so we will visit them this week.  OH, how glorious are these miracles. He is so cute, Brother Joshua. 

I love you all and hope you are following all the commandments! They truly bring miracles and blessings and peace and happiness. If you don't believe me, test it out! I love you!
Love, Sister Smoot

Monday, August 18, 2014

Letter #64 (August 17, 2014) added pix!

Our exchanges with the other sisters. My companion from the MTC, Sister Nielsen is training Sister Vaitaki. I was with Sister Vaitaki (from Tonga and made me miss my companion sister Fotofili. But in a good way, they are so amazing). It was fun to see Sister Nielsen again. She is such an amazing missionary! sister Madronio on the end.

So this week was really good and on fire, and ended up a little hard for me. Our bishop here in Paglaum is one of the most supportive and spiritual bishops here in the Bacolod Mission. As a result, he received a revelation that our area was too dangerous for sisters and had us switch areas with the Elders in our ward. So we gave up three family baptisms and tons of progressing investigators and received an un-updated area book with only 4 children investigators. I was a little stressed to say the least and a little sad to leave such wonderfully prepared people. But I had a realization last night and this morning during my personal study. We get to help change both sides of the ward. Not only were we able to help find and bless those families who are progressing, but we get to go find those people who are hungry for the truth of happiness on the other side of the ward. Not to mention, we get to meet and work with all of the other members in the ward. This might be a more unifying blessing as all four missionaries will now know the entire ward and all of its members. I am really excited to continue working my hardest and find some families in my new area.  Sister Madronio have been more unified this week as we have set some new plans and goals for our proselyting situation this week. We are energized with the SPIRIT of Potential!

But this last week I will tell you about a few investigators that I will miss, but I'm so grateful we were able to bless! 

Rudy. I found Rudy while visiting less-actives with a member. This was back in my first week here when Sister De Castro was just sick. I was going around with a Relief Society member, trying to meet everybody. I saw Rudy in front of his house, attached to his grand daughter's house (His grand daughter is a less-active member). Brother Rudy was smoking, but I walked over to him and offered to give him a prayer. He told me that he wasn't interested, that he was catholic. But I told him, it's just a prayer. He let me pray.  The next couple of weeks, I was then with sister Madronio. We saw him again out in a trail planting some sweet potatoes. We offered to share with him about God's message to him. He kind of caught interest and slowly agreed. We started talking to him about his family and found out that his wife died of cancer a few years ago, and he just cried as he talked about how much he loved her. Over the next week we taught him the Plan of Salvation, Restoration, Gospel, and Word of Wisdom! He smoked 30 cigerettes and drank 4 cups of coffee every day. But after only 3 day of teaching Word of Wisdom, he is now down to 0 coffee and 1 stick. We pray and hope that the elders will continue to encourage and help him through this miraculous journey. He accepted Sept. 13 for his Baptismal date. Yesterday at church he told us after sacrament meeting. "Katawhay gid kaayo and balatyagan ko subong. Salamat gid sa sining nga oportunidad. Salamat gid. Salamat gid. Nakilala ko na si Jesucristo." Which kind of means: " My feelings right now are very very peaceful/good right now. Thank you for this oportunitiy. Thank you. Thank you. I have now realized who Jesus Christ is. " There is not really a direct translation. But needless to say,he is ready for baptism and ready to change his life for the Lord. He reads the book of mormon EVERY DAY and always asks questions from his reading. In our last appointment with him, he looked me in the eyes and told me " thank you sister Smoot for inviting me. I've seen lots and lots of missionaries go to my granddaughter, but none of them have ever talked to me. Thank you for noticing me, and helping me change my life for Jesus." I just started crying right then. How can life get better than this?

Crisostomo Family. First of all, they are from Manilla and only speak Tagalog. Miraculously, I understand everything they are saying and I love their language. I just like listening to them talk, it's such a beautiful language. But I also love the fact that I understand what they are saying (YAY! SISTER BECKHAM) They are the most miracle of miracles. If you remember sister Jobeta, she is the mom of the family that Jenna helped me find when we were on exchanges. Sister Jobet is friends with Sister Crisostomo, and gave her as a referral. We went to the Crisostomo Family and they welcomed us with opened arms. This is the story that they told us. A few months ago, Sister Vergith (the mom) had a mental breakdown. She turned into a non-responsive state and could not respond to anybody. She said her mind was just blank. Her husband couldn't find work, and their kids were having troubles with some other groups of people.  Needless to say, they were in need of some help. Brother Crisostomo is an Athiest, who did not believe in Jesus Christ, or any form of religion, and used to persecute and reject all religious missionaries no matter the religion. Last month (it must be only a few weeks before I got here), the sister missionaries found them and offered to give a blessing to sister Vergith.  The father was in desperate need, and allowed it. They had the Elders go and visit the family and bless the mother. There was no follow up from the missionaries (probably because of the transfer and I didn't know that they existed, there was no record of them).  When we arrived, we found that since the blessing, the mother was completely healed, brother Crisostomo found work, and the problems from the children and resolved. They told us they will believe anything we tell them. I was a little worried at first because of the principal of faith vs. signs. vs. miracles. But I know that God provides ways to open hearts. And our goal has been to build them a foundation of faith. Brother Crisostomo is still learning to communicate with God, but last week he gave one of the most sincere and beautiful kneeling prayers for his family that I think I have ever heard in a long time. It has been a miracle and a beauty to teach their family. They should be baptized on September 20. I'm praying and have faith that the Elders will take good care of them! 

I love you all so much and am grateful for you letters and support. You are the best family ever! Thanks for teaching me about the gospel my whole life. You are the best!
Love, Sister Smoot

Ashley sent me these pictures this week-

My district  Now he's my district leader. He went to Lone peak... small world. Also, his companion, Elder B (sorry, I forgot) knew Sister Beckham, because he's new in the mission and from Baggio, she was serving in his branch when he left. SMALL WORLD. He said she's the coolest missionary ever and "hard core". :)

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Jenna and I after the best companionship study ever

Our companions in Jenna's apartment

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Letter # 63 (August 10, 2014) What? 24 new investigators? UM Is this real life? Cool story

This week was great ... Isn't that how I start all letters? It was a little surreal to get a missionary from Ally. I can't believe she is now a missionary. Of course I can believe it because she is the most amazing, dedicated, beautiful, spiritual, talented, humble, and sincere woman on the planet (except for you mom), but it's crazy that she gets to experience everything I'm still living.  It really is like a mini life full of ups and downs at a pace of 100 miles per hour.  She will do amazingly. YOU ROCK! KEEP GOING... THE LANGUAGE WILL COME, PROMISE!! 

Last week we found 24 new investigators... so this week was a lot of follow-up as we continue trying to find new investigators. We have a lot of families which is such a blessing and so much more fun to teach. Harder to schedule, but so much more rewarding while teaching.  The family that Sister Jenna Smoot helped us find led us to 2 other families and they all came to church yesterday!!! Last Sunday night we asked a neighboring, active couple to come teach with us and they became friends with all three of the families. So yesterday, they went and picked up all the families and walked to church together. It was cool to see the conversion of the active members increase as their joy from missionary work was visibly planted on their faces! This couple, the Villarez couple is actually an inspiration. Last year, brother was not a member and addicted to several word of wisdom substances. They have 1 boy who was 8 years old but died tragically in march of this year.  He was hit by a truck on the main road while walking home from school.  He was getting ready for his baptism the following week.  This active mother, Sister Villarez, relied fully on the Lord for comfort and this inspired Brother Villarez to fully listen to the missionaries.  As a result, brother turned his life around and is now our most active and powerful recent convert in our area.  The two of them are praying for another child, and in the mean time are serving the Lord and preparing to be sealed in the temple next year!   They have such a powerful testimony of eternal families and living the gospel standards and are a huge help with the three families in their village.  It was so cute to see how happy they were teaching their new friends about the church and sitting with them in Sacrament Meeting. These are emotions that cannot be bought or traded. This is what missionary work is all about!

We also have a good success story this week named Brother Aldin.  He is 19 years old and works at a tire shop on the main road where we pass by multiple times each day.  A couple of weeks ago, he approached us all smiley and bright (not to mention he is super tall, like taller than me, probably over 6 feet).  We were new in the area and thought he was already a member because he has a special countenance, but he invited us to teach him the next day. We showed up and he wasn't home. We tried back multiple times, but he was never there. Finally this week, we saw him again and he said he was out of town, but back for good and asked us to teach him again. Our lessons with brother Aldin are so smooth and purely guided by the spirit to a completely prepared individual. He is so excited about the gospel and completes our sentences before we can even teach him about the restored gospel. I don't know how he knows, it's like he has a connection to his pre-earth-life self. He accepted a baptismal date for Sept. 6, 3014 and came to churchyesterday too. 

I know missions are different all across the world with lots of different measures of success. But no matter where we are, the pure and simple happiness and peace that the spirit brings is the same. Even with the so called "Big Successes" and "High Numbers," my favorite parts of the mission are the small and simple moments during lessons when we as missionaries and the people we are teaching, connect with the spirit through the spirit of conversion. I love this work and my mission and everything I have experienced. I'm so grateful for the hard times, even though I don't want to go through them again. I know they have made me the missionary and the person that I am right now.  I wrote in my journal one night that I don't want to tell anyone how hard missionary work actually is, or maybe no one will go on a mission. Haha. But the good times more than make up for the bad, even though they are more scarce and for shorter periods of time. I am just learning how to appreciate and enjoy those small moments and spending time to be grateful as we work through and learn from the bad. I love this gospel and the simple but deeply meaningful message of repentance. Renewal, refresh, refine, relearn.... improve, polish, grow. I love it. I love our Savior, and I love all of you! I hope we all have such an amazing week this week as we grow closer to our Savior each day! 
Lots of Love,
Sister Smoot