Sunday, January 26, 2014

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 

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