Monday, April 28, 2014

Letter # 48 (April 27, 2014)

Funny story. There was a flood, and a heavy heavy heavy rain, and my umbrella broke... I kind of got wet.  (Do these even work in the Phili's?)

So, mom asked me to tell about something funny...  One thing that was fun this week: Sister Van Slooten from the MTC is now our STL (sister training leader) here in Bacolod Central, so we were able to go on exchanges. I kept asking for advice and feedback, but she said she felt weird about giving me advice, because "we are like the same." Haha, well, I'll just rely on the Holy Ghost to tell me how to improve.  I'm still waiting for the time when Sister Smoot (Jenna) and I can go on exchanges. We will have a powerful testimony of eternal families :) 

Sister de Leon and I have been working really hard in our area. She just finished training before we became companions (her trainer was Sister Nice who was trained by sister smoot). She is really professional and hard working so we are getting a lot done. Before I got to the area, President asked us to fix it because there hadn't been a baptism since January. This month we have been able to schedule weekly baptisms. They all still qualify except for one of them who is still struggling with the word of wisdom, but it is so amazing to see how much hard work, relying on the spirit, and being exactly obedient can save any area. Sister de Leon didn't know a lot of the mission rules, and everyone knows me as the strictly obedient missionary... so after the first week, we set things straight and have seen miracles. Sometimes I really don't like being strictly obedient. Lets be honest, no one really wants to be around the missionary who is always following all of the rules, even the small ones, because everyone wants to have fun. But I can't stop, because this is how the miracles happen. Every companion I've had though has thanked me later. I'm glad I was raised by you mom and dad, because you taught me the importance of being obedient all the time, even when it is definitely not the popular option.  Don't worry, I'm not a grumpy face about it, but I don't think it's worth it to give up my integrity (which would give up the miracles for this area) in exchange for being the "every-one-loves-me" missionary. I don't know if this makes sense, but just know that we really are happiest when we are keeping our covenants and being obedient. The spirit is so much stronger in our lives and we are better protected against temptation. Each time we actively obey, we are putting on an armor against Satan. Likewise, every time we make the small little sins (even like not reading the book of Mormon or not going to class or not obeying mom and dad right away) we take off part of our armor and are exposed to Satan's temptation. Strict obedience not only brings miracles, but makes us stronger and stronger.  (wow, I'm so intense... but it's true :) ) 

It's been so hot here since it's the middle of the summer. I used to carry my umbrella for protection from the sun, but it stopped helping and it's heavy - so I left it home yesterday while proselyting. We went on companion exchanges with two relief society members in order to get more appointments done. The relief society member I was with works in the primary so she was able to help a lot of our family investigators. Half-way through our time, the deathening heat turned into dark clouds and within 5 minutes we were saved by pouring rain. The rain here is different. It's not sprinkles, it's like standing in the shower at all times. I was soaked through within seconds.  It's still pretty hot even with the rain, but I was grateful for the small relief. We still kept teaching, but the relief society member (my companion at the time) was so worried about me. She looks a lot like aunt Marcie and loves service just like her. She kept drying my off with her rag that she brought along and kept trying to help me. It felt like I was with family again and it always feels good to be taken care of again. Just know that the Lord watches out for us and gives us little tender mercies now and again to remind us that we are daughters of God and to remind us that he loves us ALWAYS. 

I love you so much, sorry this is a really random letter, with not a lot of specifics... maybe the heat is making it hard to think... haha. I love you all! Love, Sister Smoot

Week # 47 (4-20-2014) Elsie Litsado's Baptism Photos-Easter letter

Elsie Litsado's Baptism! April 19, 2014
My companion and I decided to take a picture of our beautiful WETNESS!! (Always)

More of Elsie's baptism

Happy Easter! I hope you are soaking up the spirit and love this holiday season! We have been trying to teach the people here what Easter is. Even the members are not familiar with the word... let me explain.

Easter was always such a neat holiday back home, but for this year, it was a little simpler.  Since the Philippines is mostly Catholic, I thought they would celebrate Easter, but no one I met knows what Easter is. They celebrate Holy Week. It is a whole week devoted to the Savior. They don't work, and they focus on church service and reading the bible. It is basically like our version on Sabbath day, except only one week the whole year. We get to celebrate the Savior every week on Sunday. This week was Holy Week so we tried to take advantage of all the families staying home and their extra spiritual focus so they would listen to us. It kind of worked. We were able to get into a few more homes than usual. Since Easter is well known in the Church, for sacrament meeting, Bishop scheduled all of the missionaries to participate.  Sister de Leon led the music, Elder Paano spoke on the suffering in the garden, I spoke about the suffering on the Cross, and Elder Nielsen spoke on the Resurrection.  It was a really neat sacrament meeting because as missionaries, we were all united. The spirit was really strong and we were so grateful we were able to have six investigators in the congregation.  It was nice to focus on Easter, even if it was only for one hour! All week we have actually been bringing the Easter spirit! We have been teaching an Easter Lesson to all of our less-actives and even the active member families. I hope they were able to better feel the blessings of sacrament and feel the spirit of our saviors love this Easter Sunday!

On Saturday we had a baptism for Sister Elsie. She is a mother of five kids and had rough persecution from friends, family members, and neighbors for her desire to join the church.  I met her my first week in the area and her scheduled baptism was actually for my first Saturday here. On the day of her Baptism, she got sick and couldn't leave her house. We were worried she was faking or backing out, so we went to her home and found her unable to leave the house. We prayed for her and invited her to seek a priesthood blessing. We were able to teach the blessings of priesthood and having priesthood power in the home. The next day, a Sunday, she was able to make it to church where the Elders gave her a blessing. This made such an impact on her that she continued to share her good experiences with all of her friends and even in her testimony at her baptism. She called it "her healing." Before I got to the area, her husband didn't even want missionaries near the home, he said that they could teach her, but they had to teach her in the members home. It worked out better for her personal growth. Step by step they were able to talk to her children and talk to the husband, and have started growing a relationship with the family. After I got here, we were able to start teaching in the home and have started teaching her children as well. Her husband now talks to us and calls out to us if he sees us first, and I am excited for the potential of this family. Her two oldest kids are boys and I feel they will be able to be great priesthood holders for the family and for their area. It will still take some time, but I'm excited for the potential. I've found that when we view our investigators or potential investigators with their potential in mind, we work harder to reach that potential. No matter what happens, Sister Elsie will be a great strength to her family! 

I just saw the picture of Lilly... she is five times bigger than the last picture I got, she is so tall, and standing on her own? Haha, even though I'm missing things at home, I am so grateful I am here for the Lord. I know we will all be blessed for our sacrifices. Thanks for helping me and supporting me! Love you lots! Palangga ko kamo. Pinaka-da-best kamo!
Love, Sister Smoot

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Week # 46 (April 13, 2014)

I love general conference. Every time a session ended, I got a little sad and wished it would just keep going. I feel like before my mission I started to get restless before a session would end, but here on the mission, when the announce the closing speaker, I just can't believe how fast the time went. Each session only felt like 10 minutes, yet I was able to learn so much for my personal growth and learn how to help others as well.
 I loved how so much of conference was focused on LOVE. After the Saturday sesson, I tried to specifically show my love to everyone we taught. Speak kinder, smile more meaningfully, really love and listen to what they are saying... I felt the love of the savior for them so much stronger and it made me a happier person as well. 

One specific experience was with a less active member, Sister Sherel.  She has two kids, one who is 5 and the other is 1. The father of the kids lives with them, but they are not yet married. I had only visited her two times before and the lessons were both chaotic and the kids were screaming and she wasn't really committed to listening... so I was a little apprehensive before the appointment.  We had planned a lesson about "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" because Sister De Leon was concerned with the way she was being a mother.  She said that she hadn't treated her kids very well in the past. So we planned a lesson on how to involve the church in our lives as families and how to always be examples of our savior. But when we sat down, I just watched her and noticed how lonely she seemed, how sad she seemed. Her kids were running around, screaming, hitting each other and Sis. Sherel... after Sister De Leon taught her portion of the lesson introducing the proclamation, we couldn't really hear each other talking. I just started singing "I am a child of God." The kids immediately stopped screaming and just started staring at me. I sang all three verses because I was scared to stop lest they scream again. At the end of the song, I just stared right at Sister Sherel and, feeling the Love of God come directly through me to sister Sherel, just testified of how much god loves her and how much he knows her and is aware of her worries and concerns and wants to be there with her always. We then taught her how to receive His peace and guidance through obedience.  At the end of the lesson as we were walking away, something had changed between all of us. She asked me in a really soft voice how old I was. I told her I was 21, and she looked kind of sad as she said, I'm only 20. I can't even imagine how hard it is to be a mother, let alone a first time mother at the age of 15 with no schooling, not able to read or write, no family, and a limited knowledge of the gospel with no other members around me. I am so glad I was able to follow the promptings of the spirit and change the direction of the lesson. I am also so glad that I was able to feel of the Saviors love from conference, and use it that very same day. Feeling the love of the Savior for myself is in itself indescribable, but feeling the love of the Savior for his other children is even better. I love this work. 

I am back in Bacolod Central Stake so it was a lot of fun to see all the ward members from Magsungay at General Conference. They all started taking pictures of me with their camera, I felt so famous... haha. (People still think I am Jennifer Lawrence - I just tell people, Yup, I'm a member) :) But the sweetest part of seeing the members of Magsungay, was seeing the recent converts. I saw sister Milamar (my first baptism) and Brother Jofrim. I don't know if you remember him, but I found him selling spiders. We had a lot of sweet experiences and memories with Brother Jofrim, and I was always so sad that I never had a picture or anything to remember him by because I left before his baptism.  I was sitting in the chapel waiting for conference to start when Jofrim walked through the door. He litterally jumped in the air and yelled, "Sister Smoot!" He came over and said, "I got baptized!" I couldn't say anything but, "Kamusta?" About ten times. There was so much happiness in my heart, I had to try really hard not to cry. I still tell stories about lessons and experiences with him because he is one of the strongest people I have met here in the Philippines. After the session he came up to me and asked me if we could take a picture for remembrance. I was so glad that Sister De Leon had her camera and we were able to take a picture too. Having this short sweet reunion made me think about the celestial kingdom. Even though we meet so many people and don't get to follow up on all of them, if we all keep doing our best to draw closer to Christ, we will be able to see each other again on the other side, I can't imagine how much more happy I will be to introduce you all to him! :)
This week was full of good things and learning things and I'm excited for another one! I hope you are having a good time over in Utah, because it is fantastic here in the Philippines! Love you lots!
Love, Sister Smoot

Monday, April 7, 2014

Letter # 45 (April 6, 2014)

This week was somewhat of an adjustment because I'm back in the city. The houses are bigger, the smells are stronger, the area has already been worked over, but I'm excited for the challenge. On my first day in the area last monday, we received a text from President Lopez that asked us why there hadn't been a baptism in the last 2 months. I can tell this area needs some help, I'm just hoping that I can give it all I've got, even if I don't see as many results as my last areas. My native companion Sister De Leon is a really hard worker. She's a nurse and 23 years old so she's very focused on her purpose. She's pretty new in the mission, she got here back in the beginning of December, but she has never had a baptism in any of her areas.  I hope she will see at least one while we are companions.  The way her last companions have proselyted is a lot different from the ways that I've learned. It's always hard adjusting to the unity of each companion as you combine things from past companionships, but our unity in teaching is great. From the very beginning we have been able to yield to each other and have good fluidity in lessons. We have just started setting plans to get the ward more involved and to find more investigators. The area hasn't had new investigators in a long time, so that is a huge focus right now (and always) to keep getting new investigators.  It's always fun to have a hard challenge, but with the Summer heat and the long hours out in the Sun, it's also really tiring.  Don't worry, I'm buying lots of gatorade and drinking lots of water.  We share a ward with our Zone Leaders, so I hope we will be able to combine efforts and help our ward get motivated with the work.  Right now there is not a lot of correlation.   It's neat to look back at each area that I've been in and to see everything that I've picked up from each situation.  There are always things you love and things that you don't love so much, but in the end you learn to love it all. I just pray so many times each day that I will be able to do my best everyday, because in the end... that is all the matters. Are we giving the Lord our best selves?

Saturday was a really good day. We got to watch the general womens meeting! Because of the time difference, we view all the general conferences one week after the live play. So next week we will got to watch the General Conference. We go to the stake center and watch each session on the projector with all the members.  The General Womens Meeting was just what I needed to stay motivated this week. It helped me deal with feelings of inadequacy and feelings of discouragement. Sometimes I can get too focused on myself and if I'm doing enough and if I'm good enough, but I really need to be focused on others. What do THEY need? How can i help THEM succeed? How can I help THEM feel loved? Once you focus on others, the discouragement lifts and there is just the love of Christ motivating you to keep going. I'm really lucky I'm back with a Filipina companion, because they are the best examples of Christlike service and kindness. 

One thing to share from this week is about an elderly couple. Brother and Sister Amante. They are not members, but there son was baptized back when he was a teenager and is now serving a mission in the Angeles Philippines mission as the only member of his family. The last sisters softened their hearts and they are now preparing for their baptism onMay 10.  They are the most humble people I have met.  The sincere sacrifices they are making and their broken hearts and contrite spirits and big examples to me. They are working to overcome and repent in order to become worthy of baptism, but I love being with them because of their sincere hearts. This whole week we have been teaching Fasting to everyone, because we realized that not even the members know how to fast or that it is a commandment.  So we were teaching it to everybody and it turned out to be just what the Amante couple was scheduled to learn.  On sunday, they came to church and payed a fast offering. They don't have a lot of money, and sometimes they don't even have enough money for food. But they saved all week so that they would be able to pay fast offerings, because they trust that the Lord will provide for them if they sacrifice. They fasted and payed fast offerings and I think my soul almost burst when she leaned over to me in Sacrament Meeting and asked me who she should give her money to. We helped her fill out the form and give it to Bishop. I don't think I will forget her quiet example of humble trust in the Lord!

I love my mission. I love these people. I love the challenges. I love the small blessings. I love the Holy Ghost. I love our Savior. I love that he has asked me to help in my small way! I love you family and I hope you can feel my prayers! Love you lots!
Sister Smoot