Sunday, January 26, 2014

More Pictures!

Me and sister Fotofili

Kenneth Garlet (13 years old) Baptized on Jan 25, 2014 by his father who was baptized a few months ago.
The whole group

Love it!

Sister Bandalon. she is a very spunky and cute lady who has been a member a long time. She showed us to all of her friends and we taught a lot of new investigators. (Ash looks like a giant compared to her)

Teaching a family. Their home is over the river so we had to cross a little bamboo bridge to get to their home and underneath their home through the floor we could see the ocean.

Letter #35 (Jan. 26, 2014)

We have been working so hard this week, we are always exhausted... but I would never have it any other way. The missionaries before me in this area had spent a transfer basically only focusing on helping Recent Converts. Don't get me wrong, it is so important to continue helping and fellow-shipping the new members, and this area has 26 new converts this year to take care of. But as a result, there were little to no investigators progressing. We had to take a second glance at our area and how to prioritize and focus on the important parts. I have known for a few weeks that we needed to change our schedule (which days and times in each part), but I have been studying and praying about it. Finally on Friday (our weekly planning meeting as a companionship) we re-organized and re-focused our efforts in this area. This is by far the largest area I've been in with lots of transportation because the entire area is just fields with small areas of housing. These were the areas previously focused on, but the hardest area to get people to come to church because of poverty and lack of transportation. So we refocused our attention to an area with a much higher population density and much closer to the church. They can walk if they really need to. 
I'm really trusting our answers and revelation and hoping this new schedule will bring forth much richer fruits of success.  There is as always a lot of stress to continue baptizing and helping this Branch become a Ward, and we are held to a very strict standard of success. At first, (and still do from time to time in moments of weakness) I would get discouraged when we would be chastized so personally, but now I'm seeing the true love and encouragement behind all of President's trainings, texts, and supervision.  He loves us so much, that he wants us to have a successful mission, and he has faith and trust that we are able to succeed and have weekly baptisms and high numbers.  These numbers are people, so if the numbers are high, then the number of God's children able to return to Him increases. Even though sometimes I see his chastizement as anger or dissapointment, but I'm choosing to not get offended and view it as his love for me that I can do better and he believes that I can do better. It takes more humility than I've ever had before, and I still falter from time to time... But I really am grateful for his constant pushing and high standards, because it's pushing me to become more than I ever thought I could be. As a missionary and as a person, i'm being stretched and pulled and prepared for the rest of my life. 

Sorry that was so long, I just feel I would share my thoughts on our Mission President here. There are a lot of mixed emotions about it, even within myself, but I just want you to know that I am grateful for this mission, our Mission President (President Lopez), and for this once in a lifetime chance to change my life and the lives of others. I didn't come here for a fun 18 month vacation or even for 18 months of spiritual experiences. I came here to serve the Lord as best as I can, and that includes serving our mission president, our companions, and all of the leaders, ward members, and investigators in our area. I'm just praying for the spirit to help me have the strength to continue to step up to the challenge.  I think this principal will help me for the rest of my life as we continue to serve in the church and even as I continue to serve as a mother. To keep stepping up to the potential that God knows that I have. 

Sister Fotofili is still doing awesome! She helps me take a deep breath as I sometimes take myself way too seriously (as you can tell from the novel above). :) She has such a loving and sweet spirit when she teaches. I love teaching with sisters who are still struggling with the language because they have an extra helping of humility, trust in the spirit, and makes our investigators have to pay extra attention to what we are saying. We are really working and so exhausted after each day... but that's how we know we are doing our best! :) She is really strong, even though she is still struggling with things she experienced, saw, and lived in Tacloban (she was in the eye of the storm). It's helping me learn greater love and gratitude. It's also helping me to learn that I need to be self-reliant for dealing with my stress. She is already dealing with a lot, so I cannot give her any of my stress. It's helping me turn directly to my heavenly father to receive His personal love and help and also pray for Sister Fotofili to receive His love and help. His love is there for all of us, sometimes we just have to be humbled and forced to learn how to rely on it and feel it.  

We visited one less-active this week who had not been to church in 11 years. We had never met her, but the branch members all recognized her.  She just showed up to church last week and everyone was so surprised to see her. We went and visited her and asked her what made her want to come back to church. She said she wanted to make the decision on her own and not because the missionaries told her to go. She said for years and years, the missionaries kept teaching her and telling her that she needed to go to church. But she would not make the decision because of someone else. When the new year came, she decided she would re-promise to God that she would keep coming every week until she dies. She is 80 years old, but she has now been to church 2 times. Even though we weren't able to find her in the beginning, it turns out that was what she needed. It was a good thing both Sister Fotofilli and I are new, because if we would have visited here, she wouldn't have come back. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but I'm just grateful He's helping us and changing peoples hearts, even when we don't know it. This is HIS work, not ours.
I love you and hope you are all doing well. Sorry these letters don't have more day-t0-day things, but every day is just so similar and all jumbled together. I love you lots! Palangga ko kamo!
Love, Sister Smoot 

Monday, January 20, 2014


Saying goodbye to sister natarte

This was Christmas Eve with our Relief Society President and her family in Pulupandan 1st ward. They were so kind and prepared so much food for us. They had us eat first and their whole family waited until we were finished with dinner and dessert before they got to eat. This tradition makes me very uncomfortable, but makes me love them so much more. They are a neat family and they continue to help Pulupandan, even though both me and sister Natarte have transferred.

Teaching in an area on my first day in Cadiz. I don't remember the name of the place.... but it's right next to "Crossing Carmen" Autencio Family

My area. This is us hiking to a house on top of a hill. This is actually the same hill that we got stuck on while it was raining and we were stuck in the mud up to our ankles.  We kept walking up the hill, but we weren't going anywhere, it was like walking on a treadmill. So we took off our shoes and carried our muddy shoes in one hand and our muddy skirts in the other and kept trecking up the hill to our appointment. Missionary work is really fun!

Me and sister madronio before she transferred

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Letter #34 (Jan. 19, 2014)

Maayong Aga!
This week was the real transfer week and I received a new Companion! Sister Fotofili from Tonga.  Sister Madronio left after five months of being here and now we are just two new missionaries trying to figure out where to go and who to save! Haha. It is a lot of fun though, because Sister Fotofili has such a positive and funny attitude. We can always find something to laugh about.  Sister Fotofili is from the Tacloban Mission and is still adjusting to missionary life here in the Bacolod Mission and all that comes with it, including the Language. She was only in Tacloban for two months before the storm, so she is still a fairly new missionary.  She is so strong as she works to overcome some of the damage from the storm and is really an inspiration. She came from Bacolod 5th ward and was in the same district as Sister Jenna Smoot. She said that she always wanted to be companions with Sister Smoot because she loved how nice and talented and good she was at Ilonggo and teaching. Transfers were right after their district meeting and Sister Fotofili said that when she got to the mission office and they told her that her companion would be Sister Smoot, she was excited but confused because she knew that Jenna was not transferring.  I hope I’m not too big of a disappointment and that I can live up to Jenna’s example. Just so you all know, everyone loves Jenna and she is doing amazing work!!

This week was a little challenging since we both have no idea where anything is and the area is extremely large and there was no map of the area and the area book is not updated…. Yay.  Haha, but we have been working one step at a time and really learning to love and grow close with the ward members. We ordered a map from the office and have been learning where the investigators, members, and people are. Since no one has addresses anyway, it is more like finding general areas, then asking around if anyone has met the people. It’s fun, but it’s also another learning and growing experience in learning to rely on the Holy Ghost to know where to go and who to talk to.

We have one family that I absolutely love. They have two girls and one little boy. We met the father on our way home one night because we were riding in his tricycle. We visited his family the next week and they came to church the next day! The two girls have been to church twice and young womens once. They already want to start working on personal progress and are making progressive headway in the Book of Mormon. We are very impressed with their faith and dedication in finding out if this is true. Their family is so busy because the girls go to school really far away, so they leave the house at 6:00 AM everyday, and don’t return home until 7:30 PM. Every day. They don’t have a lot of time for family time, but they are finding it in order to read and pray and prepare for Sundays. The parents have not yet come to church because of work, but we are praying for them to follow the example of their girls and find the blessings that are there when we sacrifice. We always feel the spirit so strongly in their home and even though we only get to visit them on Saturday’s, it is something that I look forward to each week. I’m excited for their progression!

I hope you all know how much I love you and how grateful I am for you all! I am so grateful for your emails and for your support. I hope all is well with you too and that you are making time for the Lord. A lot of times we think we will do more or be more dedicated when we have more time, but I’ve found that the key to success is to Make time for our Savior. I am so grateful for the many blessings and tender mercies that He gives us daily. I hope we can all recognize the millions of blessings and miracles around us each day! Until next week!
Love, sister smoot

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ashley finally received her packages from 7 months ago, Grandma Smoots (her favorite with lots of Chocolate) and her birthday box!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Letter #33 (Jan. 12, 2014)

It's so cold here!! I have officially turned into a Filipina because it has been raining every day (yes, only rain) for a week and I am freezing. Even at night I am wearing my sweat pants and sweat shirt and my blanket and I am still cold. I know I am just being a baby, don't worry, I'll get over it and the heat will come soon enough. I'm actually really grateful for the break, it's like a Christmas gift reminding me of home :)  
Here in Cadiz is the place where the storm Yolanda hit the hardest in our mission. There are still a lot of homes that are destroyed and a lot of people living in schools and with relatives and there is still a lot of mourning and rebuilding and humility here. It's really neat to see all of the members working together to help each other and even help our investigators to get back up and going.  
We are teaching two of the families that are living in a nearby school and they are some of the happiest investigators that we have. They are just grateful that their family members are alive and that they still have access to food and water.  This new storm this week is not nearly as bad as Yolanda, but has caused some panic, since the memory of Yolanda is fresh. A few days before it started, a lot of families kept telling us that a new super typhoon would be coming, even larger than Yolanda. Even the teachers at school gave their exams early to prepare in case school was canceled. Everyone was panicked, but then I guess on the news they told everybody that is was just "low pressure" and it would blow over in a few days.  
It has been kind of hard to proselyte in the rain because when it's cold, everyone just sleeps and stays inside.  We were walking down the street and could hear the howling up in the sky from the storm and we were completely soaked. Our umbrellas were pretty much useless.  We stopped to buy some bread at a nearby Tyungge because for some reason, cold weather makes me want to eat. We were talking to the old man behind the wall and he asked if we wanted to come inside while we ate since it was raining so bad (actually we were surpised his Tyungge was still open because all the others had been covered up). We went in and started talking about his family and getting to know him, then he said that he has met mormons before and left to go get her (a member lived close by). He basically just handed us a member-present investigator lesson! It was just a quick one since everyone was so cold, but I'm excited to go back and visit his family. They were very kind and being really wet makes people want to help us and listen to us. It really is a great proselyting technique. :)

I am doing great here in Cadiz. The area is so so large so I'm still trying to figure out where things are and who people are and the best/ most productive way to proselyte here. I took a picture of a section of my area. We are not in the City of Cadiz, we are in the sugar cane fields... so lots of mud, lots of animals, lots of walking/hiking, lots of puddles/lakes/wading through gutters, but lots of fun too! We are working really hard, but proselyting is so different here than in my other areas. I've always proselyted in really densely populated areas, but this one is more spread out. So we are teaching less often. I am still trying to discern the best way to be more effective. I know the Lord will help us know what to do. I really love my mission and I love each day as I keep learning new things.  It is really different just living with your companion, but it's teaching me a lot of new things. More importantly, it's giving me a lot more time to feel the spirit and just be silent with my thoughts. I feel that it's a great place to be for personal and spiritual revelation.
I hope you all know how much I love you and how grateful I am for all of you. I'm excited for all the changes in our family. (Ally's mission papers are active and almost done! In June she will be 19) I'm excited for the girls to be able to experience life on the mission and all that comes with it (if that's what the Lord has in store for them). I love you all so much and I know I am one of the lucky ones to be able to be born into your family! Thank you for taking me!!
Love, Sister Smoot

**Unfortunately ashley keeps forgetting to send her poor mother any pictures. She decided to just send me some in the mail. I know she is truly immersed in doing the Lords work so I'm not too sad. ill add them to this blog as i get them. She got my package i sent in July!! new shoes and goodies. it took 7 months to get there. WOW. Thanks for all your love and prayers! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Letter #32 (1-5-2014)

Kamusta Family!

This week I was transferred! Yes, Sister Natarte and I cried a lot. But I know that each transfer is from God, so this will be what is best. The hard part of the story however, is that I was transferred Thursday Morning, and brother Borj's baptism was on ThursdayAfternoon. I missed it by a few hours and was pained in my heart. It is hard to leave an area after so many prayers, so much time, and hard ache, and work, and dedication all towards one area. Then in just a few minutes, you learn to leave it all behind and start again. It is heartbreaking, but also exciting as we meet so many more people in each area. I'm trying not to think to much about all of the families and people I was able to meet and grow to love in just a short time over in Pulupandan. 

Right Now I am in Cadiz with my companion Sister Madronio. Every missionary in this mission says they want to go to Cadiz, so I guess I'm one of the lucky ones.  Even our Assistant to the President mentioned how lucky I was the morning of transfers. Because there are so many missionaries in this mission, they had an early transfer day a few weeks before the end of the transfer which is really on the 15th, for half of the transfers. Then the rest will be on the 15th. Sister Natarte stayed in Pulupandan and is now companions with Sister Nelson (Sister Jenna Smoot's companion in the MTC)!  I know they will take great care of that area.

Sister Madronio has been here her whole mission (4 transfers). She knows the area really well and is loved by all the people. It's fun to not have to lead everything and just be able to meet everyone and teach and not have to decide anything yet. I know that's a lazy attitude, but it's only for a couple of days so I'm going to just enjoy it. I'm still the senior companion, but that doesn't mean much since every missionary is an equal participant.  This area is a blast because it is way more developed in the culture of the church than my other areas. Even though this is only a branch (Cadiz 2nd Branch), it is more functioning than my other wards in Pululpandan and Magsungay.  They have callings, and youth!, and Single Adults!, and a huge gospel principals class! They even have someone who is active to teach it. (I had been teaching Gospel Principals everySunday in pulupandan. Also, our mission vision has been achieved in this area, so we have 26 recent converts all attending the class (that's more than our entire Elders Quorum and Relief Society combined in Pulupandan). It's a little intimidating to adjust to such a well functioning area (what if I mess it up :) ), but it's also a giant relief.  We have members who actually want to help, and then follow through. It's really a paradise over here and I'm starting to understand why everyone is jealous that I got to come.

It is just Sister Madronio and me in our apartment, so it's very quiet compared to the 6 sisters in my last house.  We also speak 0 English so my Ilonggo skills are rapidly accelerating. Actually, it is kind of hard for me to talk in English right now as I'm typing. I keep deleting Ilonggo words that are coming out.I know I should speak English to help Sister Madronio learn it, but I selfishly want to keep improving my Ilonggo. I don't know what to do yet, I will pray about it.  Sister Madronio said that I'm the best Ilonggo speaking American she has heard, so I'm trying not to get prideful. Every time I start to think I'm good at Ilonggo, Heavenly Father removes the gift of tongues and then I start stuttering and can't form sentences. It's literally like the Liahona in the Book of Mormon. If I'm prideful, it doesn't work. As soon as I humble myself and am using it for the good of others, it is understandable, correct and fluid. It is one gift that I will treasure for the rest of my life and truly a miracle from this mission that I can never forget. I hope it isn't removed when I come home!  

Anyway, I love you so much and am so grateful for all of your support and kindness. Knowing you all will love me no matter what, helps me to keep improving and motivates me to do my best! I love you all so much and know I am way too lucky to have you! Lots of Love,
Sister Smoot