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 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. 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