Friday, February 28, 2014

More Pictures!

Baptism of Sister Rufa Mae and Brother Romil on Feb. 15
(top and bottom pictures)

Baptism with president Valero (branch president) he referred them because they are neighbors and he said it was the first time in his life that someone was baptized because of hm (he didn't serve a mission so this was his first missionary opportunity. he was so excited to baptize them)

Baptism of Sister Joyann on Feb 8

Letter # 39 (Feb. 23, 2014) Golden hair with lice? or are they bugs? A big fat eye? Pride

As I mother I worry about my sweet daughter far away and all she encounters! This one was a little hard not to be there to help her with her mystery wound and all the other weird happenings! Oh the stories she probably leaves out!

I forgot to mention valentines day! Not that much happened, but we were able to get home about 10 minutes before cerfew, so we decided to walk to a local bakery and get fresh-baked-still-hot-mango-filled pastries. Haha, that was our celebration.
This week was good, lots of new investigators and lots of golden progressing investigators. Sometimes I don't know why I got so lucky to be here in Cadiz, but I'm just trying not to ruin the good things that are happening.

Yesterday I got to speak in sacrament meeting again. This time they didn't tell us until 2 minutes before sacrament meeting started. I think I like that better though, because then you don't stress out about it. You don't think about it, just follow the spirit, and pray that the feel it.  We have sacrament meeting last and it had been a busy day in our classes before hand.  We had 15 investigators at church and a special baptismal interview for one of them with couple missionaries Elder and Sister Anderson.  When I called them for the interview, I didn't know that they were ending their mission. They told us that they would come and help us as their last appointment here in the Philippines. They leave today back to America. It's always crazy and sad to see people go home, especially when you love and respect them. But I'm happy they get to go home to their kids and grandkids.  They stayed for sacrament meeting too before they left to pack up the rest of their apartment. 
This week we went to a family of Recent Converts and one of the girls asked if she could look at my gold hair. Then she pulled out a lice.  She was so concerned that I have lice, so her mother came and brushed and picked through my hair to remove a few bugs. She said that I don't have lice, but just a few bugs from the heat. She told me to use an umbrella when I am in the Sun. The reason I am telling you this is because it felt so good to have a mother stroke though my hair. It reminded me of when I was a little girl and mom would play with our hair. It made me a little homesick, but mostly I was just grateful for her kindness and love. She also told me which shampoo to use to fix it. :)

Also, this week I got a fat eye. I still don't know what caused it, some said it was from bugs or ants or one of the giant 2-inch large cockroaches that are EVERYWHERE in our apartment, but I couldn't see out of my left eye. We still proselyted, but it was kind of distracting. Plus, it happened the day we had to take our pictures for exiting the country. Hopefully they still let me leave in November when they compare me to the picture. Haha. I will attach a really ugly picture showing you what happened. :)
My eye! don't worry, it got worse to the point where it was closed...

Yesterday on sunday was Sister Fotofili's turn to lead the area. She always does a good job, but I am still learning not to be a control freak because of my prideful ways.  I have been learning a lot of humility as I bite my tongue and smile and just follow her plans, even when I feel there is a "better/faster" way. I just have to remind myself to get rid of the pride and learn from the way Sister Fotofili does it too. Yesterday, I learned a particularly important lesson about humility. We only had time for one more appointment, and I was hoping to visit one of our really progressing investigators because there was a commandment she really needed to learn. But Sister Fotofili wanted to go to a less-active home. So I smiled and followed silently, kind of disappointed, but letting her lead. When we got to the home, there were more people there than usual. This less-active had her children home (half of them who are not members). We were able to teach them, find out that they wanted to be baptized and they want to go to church next week. Two of them now have baptismal dates for April 5. Brother Adgardo and Sister Shyrel. I learned a huge lesson of trusting our companions. We both have the same authority for this area. It's not "my area" with a helper, but its "The Lords Area." We are both working together to receive revelation and work together to help the Lord in this area. I'm so grateful for this learning opportunity and more grateful that I didn't let my pride get in the way. I really hope I didn't let my pride previously stop us from continuing the work, but we just have to keep learning and moving forward. I am so grateful for Sister Fotofilli. She will return back to the Tacloban Mission tomorrow and I will pick up my new companion. I hope she remembers our time here in Cadiz as a good time full of lots of miracles. Because that is how I see it.
I love you all and can't thank you enough for all your support! Lots of love,
Sister Smoot

Letter # 38 (Feb.16, 2014)

(I love her little nugget lessons of faith-Ashley teaches me so much in every letter- Kendra)
Sister Rotzel and her daughter

So many things happen, it's hard to know where to start. Our zone had a training with President Lopez this week so it was fun to learn better ways to teach. It was a training about how to teach lesson 4: Commandments.  It was a little bit intimidating since we were all asked to teach each other on the spot. President just called on us and said, "which commandment would you like to show us how to teach?" Sister Fotofili chose Sabbath Day and within 5 seconds we were teaching to 13 other missionaries. It's hard to feel the spirit the same as with our investigators because when you are teaching missionaries, you know they are judging the way you are teaching, the content, the way you look or act..... everything. But hopefully if we are all humble, it won't really matter and we can learn from each other.  The whole first row was a bunch of elders nearing the end of their missions who have all been zone leaders... I was kind of intimidated, but after the first few sentences I felt a really calming peace and I wasn't nervous and it felt very similar to teaching a family.  I just pictured one of our families in my mind, and everything else just flowed between me and Sister Fotofili. We just have to pray for each other and trust in the spirit. It's always refreshing to get to talk to other missionaries as well and get re-boosted.  In this mission, we are not allowed to have zone activities or activities in general with any other companionship. So we don't talk much with other missionaries. It's always fun to see some other Americans and talk to other people about the work in their wards and branches too. Plus, there are a couple of brand new missionaries still in the ultimate-stress phase. It was good to be able to talk to them and help them with the initial questions like, "What can I eat that won't kill me?" "When did your stomach stop hurting?" "What do I do when I have no idea what's going on?" "Is the time going fast for you yet?" Haha, it brought back some stressful memories, so I was glad I was able to talk to one of the sisters and help her know God still loves her and she is doing great! 

This week Sister Rufa Mae and her brother Romil were baptized! Their mother and younger sister are still preparing, but should be ready in a few more weeks. We wanted them to be baptized as a family, but their mother realized the importance of baptism and wanted them baptized as soon as possible.  Since they have been progressing a lot longer, they were able to be baptized on Saturday! They are so cute and ready for a life in the gospel.  Also, we didn't have as many investigators at church and I was feeling a little sad that there were only 9, but then I looked at the numbers again and realized that was still way higher than any of my other areas, and look at 9 new souls that can come closer to Christ. I have to remember not to be hard on myself and not get discouraged. I was reading a talk in the Liahona, and it said, "We set goals to show our faith, we follow up to count the miracles." Even though our goal would be to have an even higher number of investigators than last week, we were able to see 9 miracles at church. Obviously we need to keep being diligent and working harder, but I can't miss the miracles that are presenting themselves to me.  Count every one! :) 

One of my favorite investigators right now is Sister Rotzel.  She is pregnant and also has a 11 year daughter.  We found her about a month ago sitting outside her house with a large group of women. We stopped and shared a 5 min. lesson and asked for a return appointment.  We returned to the large group, but after a couple of lessons, we realized only Rotzel was actually reading. At first, she kept saying she was too busy to read and her life was too stressful to deal with religion. I shared a brief testimony that if our life is stressful, that is the time that we need the lord and his church to help lift us up.  I gave her Enos 1 to read, just hoping that she would actually read it. When we came back, she not only read the chapter, but also the surrounding chapters because she said she wanted to better understand it. She also said that she re-read it a couple of times. After that, everything just flowed and she started coming to church and accepting and keeping all of her commitments. She is so humble and sincere and really just wants to find truth and follow our Savior.  Even though her situation is really hard in her personal life, I can feel the love and concern that the savior has for her, and I just feel overly excited that she is finding her way back to the Savior.  Her baptism date is set for March 22.

I just want you all to know how much I love you and how much I know that this church is true. It is not only here to show us how to return to God with our families, but it is here to help us endure our burdens here in this life too. I want you to know that I have felt a real strength and happiness here on this mission that I know is only from the Savior. Sometimes in between appointments I feel tired and sometimes sad, but as soon as we are teaching and in the presence of other people, the Lord gives me the strength and happiness that I need to continue to help others. I know that the Lord is there when we need Him, but we also need those small moments of humility or sadness to recognize and appreciate the happiness. I love you all so much and hope that you can find those small nuggets of happiness in each day on earth! Palangga ko kamo!!
Love, Sister Smoot

Me in front of the carabou baths.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Letter # 37 (Feb 9, 2014) More progression! and the Ugly Cat?

Dear Family,

This week was even busier and more productive than last week. The difference in our missionary work now and the missionary work I was doing in the beginning of my mission is astronomical. (that's a long English word I haven't used in a while). This week we received even more progressing investigators, had a baptism on Saturday and had 16 investigators at church!!! We are still working on teaching the Branch how to fellowship, so I felt kind of like a mom with 16 little kids shepherding them from room to room. It was kind of a hectic day, so in or coordination meeting, we taught them how to friendship and lead and teach of our investigators as friends. I'm feeling the spirit so much and I know I am so lucky to be in this branch at this time.  We have weekly baptisms lined up until at least march 29 and we hope to keep finding and helping people enter into the waters of baptism for their salvation.  It really is crazy how much success is found in this area in such a short time. When I got here there was only one progressing investigator... now there's so many that I can get overwhelmed sometimes. But the Lord has given us such amazing gifts in this area and trusts us to take care of them.  I'm working on turning my doggy-paddle swim just trying to keep up, into a nice strong free-style stroke.  In my previous areas, it was just a struggle to find teaching appointments, but in this area... we have too many. We have to prioritize who we visit and only 20 minutes with each person. By the end of the day I just want to pass out and sleep for five days, but the alarm goes off and we start again, even though I still feel like I was run over by a truck.  When my body starts feeling weak and like I can't do it anymore, I really have to rely on the enabling power of the atonement to give me the strength that I need to do this work. Isn't amazing that we have access to not only the redeeming power of the atonement, but also the enabling power? I have really felt more strength than I know I had just on my own. I know I am so blessed to be able to have the spirit with me and learn to really rely on the Savior in this way. 

Sometimes I feel really alone, even with the spirit so close to me. My companion is still struggling with the language and teaching and everything is so new because it's a new mission president and new mission rules and a new way of teaching and finding and a new language. She is doing great, but almost 99% of the responsibility is on my head. I am trying to learn better how to give her the responsibility, but I feel like I'm back in high school doing a "group" project... but it's just me. I have been praying and trying to figure out how to help her to help me without overwhelming her... I know I still have a lot of pride to get rid of. I fully acknowledge that this work is not my own and that we have only been receiving this success from the Savior, but it's a different kind to not trust your companion. It's a struggle and a weakness I've had for a long time that I'm trying to overcome. Not just for my own sanity, but for her well-being as well. I know she is so strong and working so hard. I love her so much. We are still just learning how to work together and fully bear one another's burdens.  

This week we were teaching a part-member family and right behind the mother's head I saw a really ugly cat crawling through one of the big wooden cabinets through all the dishes. I couldn't stop looking at it until suddenly, I realized it wasn't a cat... it was a rat.  They don't really scare me anymore, I just continue to be shocked by the size of them. Their house is one that is half outside/ half covered, so the rat quickly scurried away. But I just have to trust that if they ever feed us, I will not die from the sanitation. :)    

I hope you know how much a really do love you and appreciate your emails. Even just from mom, dad, and ally. I know I'm lucky to get three awesome letters each week. Some people don't even get 1. Thank you for the sacrifice in your time and busy schedules to reach out to me over here on the other side of the world. I hope you know I love you!!! 
Love, Sister Smoot 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sister Smoot hiking through the village  


There is a lot of hiking in this area. This is a random water hole I found for all the carabou. it's kind of pretty :)

I love the Philippines

Letter # 36 (Feb 2, 2014) Miracles!

This week was a week full of miracles! We have been working so hard in this area trying to turn it around. 
Around June of last year, this branch had achieved the mission vision of weekly baptisms, which lasted until around September when the baptisms gradually died off to about one per month. Then I got here on Jan. 2 and realized a lot of things that were not effective for the area, and we have been trying to turn it around ever since. We completely changed our proselyting schedule which is kind of hard because the members were so used to the last pattern, but we were extremely prayerful and selected areas of focus that were closer to the chapel, and closer to active members of the Church. 

Last week was our first full week with the new schedule and in Church yesterday we had 10 investigators at church!! That is the highest number I've ever had on my mission! I feel so blessed to have been able to receive revelation for this area, then to have the courage to follow it, then to be able to see success because of it. We will continue to work and improve and continue to find. Last week we found 13 new progressing investigators. It really is a miracle here in Cadiz 2nd Branch! Sometimes the work can get overwhelming and I feel like I'm carrying most of the load in planning, teaching, finding, working with the ward... but I'm trying to help Sister Fotofili fully contribute in the companionship. She is still working on the Language and is really diligent and I want her to know that she can do it! I wish someone would have said that to me when I was still new and confused, so I try and tell her multiple times a day, "YOU CAN DO IT!" :) Sometimes it works, sometimes it's more of a struggle, but we are both learning from each other as we work for the overall good of the area.

The less-active that came to church the last couple of weeks, Sister Olivera, (the one who hadn't gone for 11 years) has three grandchildren who haven't been baptized. Ages 16, 13, 9.  They all want to get baptized and have been taught by missionaries before, but they said that the Elders transferred a couple weeks before their baptism and no one ever visited them again so they never got baptized. It's so sad, but it's good news for us because we immediately gained three new investigators who want to go to church every week! :) 

We have two investigators that I absolutely love with all of my soul. :) Dramatic... I know. Sister Razel (age 16) and Sister Mia (age 14) are two sisters and so excited for the church. We were driving home one night in a tricycle and talking to the trike driver who asked if we could come visit his family. He gave us the name of the village where he lives and we wrote down his name. We talk to so many trike drivers so sometimes we don't really get to go to all of them, but one night Sister Madronio said she felt that we needed to visit this particular family. We went to the village and asked around, but no one knew who they were... until a random little boy came up to us and said that he knew. We followed him to the house and met the family! They are so cute. They came to church the next Sunday and continue to go to Young Women every week, church activities and are actively doing personal progress and reading the Book of Mormon. We have only known them for 3 weeks, but they are already so excited and ask sooooo many questions. We can't help but get excited when they are so excited about it too. It reminds me to always be excited when I'm teaching because it is so contagious. Their baptism is on February 15. I couldn't really think of why I always get homesick after visiting their family until we were at church yesterday and someone said that Sister Razel looks like my twin! Then I realized Sister Razel looks exactly like Ally! I love them so much and realize that love was even extra strong because they have become like my sisters! Just so you know, they are absolutely gorgeous, just like you Ally! :) Even the young men came to us and told us to MAKE SURE that they get baptized into the branch! Crazy young men.  

Also, another member who reminds me of family is Sister Mercy.  She is our relief society president but is a young mom with two little girls. Sister Mercy is so busy with work and her kids, but she always makes us large elaborate meals and delivers them to our house.  She does so many acts of service and just has a motherly calming and loving influence on everybody.  She Served a mission in Tacloban too so she always helps Sister Fotofili feel comfortable too and speaks Wari-Wari wih her. (the language in Tacloban)  There is a funny story with this one too. We were teaching a little family pretty close to Sister Mercy and their home was destroyed in the Typhoon. So they are living in a little bamboo structure and it is just their bed inside (bamboo slats nailed together). We always sit on the bamboo as we are teaching, so at the end of the lesson I went to slide of the edge when I heard a long rip. My skirt had caught on one of the nails and ripped my skirt. I had a huge hole in my skirt over my rear-end.  I quickly put my bag over by backside and said goodbye to the family and I had no idea what to do. As we were walking past sister Merci's house, she was outside her house with her kids. She called us over and wanted to give us some bread. I told her I had a small problem and showed her the rip in my back-side. She started chuckling and took me inside, gave me one of her skirts to wear, and quickly sewed up my skirt. I was about to go change bag into my skirt, but she told me to just keep the skirt she gave me because it looked nice on me. She wouldn't let me give it back to her and just said that it was a gift. It really helped me feel loved and reminded me of how loving and service oriented my mother is. I know you would help someone in need too mom! I love Sister Mercy and don't worry, I will take a picture with her before I leave. Just know that I am being taken care of and I am loving the people just like my own family. Just like you all. Thank you for all of your love and prayers because I feel it every day. I know I am finding all of this success because of your faith and love and prayers. I love you so much!
Love, Sister Smoot