Friday, May 30, 2014

Letter # 52 (May 25, 2014)

This week was a little slower than the last, but we are repenting for our lower numbers and setting plans to get them back up again. We have a new district leader who was just an AP a couple weeks ago, so reporting the numbers was a little painful, but it will keep us moving.  I'm still learning to love the area, which means I am going to be here a lot longer. :) We have a lot of miracles and lot going on... I just really miss female investigators.  I know it's such a blessing that we found so much priesthood potential, and that is exactly what this area needs, but sometimes I just feel uncomfortable. I can't really explain it, I just am praying that we can find some priesthood potential who also have families that we can teach. I don't know if this makes sense. 

This week I have been feeling really heavy. That is the only way to explain it. I'm not sad or over-stressed, just heavy. All of the concerns of our investigators are sometimes very dark and confusing from past sins or past experiences and trials and their questions about the gospel very deep involving the bible and church history. I know my faith is firm in the fact that this IS the Church of Jesus Christ. But Satan is so good and feeding doubts. Over and over again I can hear in my mind the talk from Elder Uchtdorf, "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith." And that is always the first thing I do. On Wednesday, one of our investigators (the one who was a Catholic Minister) looked me in the eyes and said, "are you sure this is the only true church?" I was immediately able to say, "YES, not only is it true, but it is straight from our Savior Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven."  I could literally feel the spirit testify of what I was saying and I could feel the calming buzz surrounding us. Not only was my heart burning, but my arms and head and toes could feel it too. I know that must seem dramatic, but I am always ever thankful for the testimony that our Savior has helped me to build and the gift of faith that He has given me. Regarding all doubts and regarding all so called "deep doctrine," the invitation is always the same- Read the Book of Mormon, and ask for yourself it is true. We will always receive a witness that it is true from the Holy Ghost and that this is the only true church on the earth.

This week we taught one of our investigators, Brother Nadi. He actually has a lot of potential and a real desire to be baptized, but he is a 15 year old teenager.  He has times when he is really serious and mature, and other times when I really remember that he is... a 15 year old boy.  One day we walked up to his house and he was on the side of the house just sitting in the chair with big dark sunglasses on trying to look like the coolest kid on the block.  We asked him what his hobbies are and he said computer hacking and parkour.  I almost started laughing with the computer hacking comment (napoleon dynamite anyone?) ... especially since he said it in English... but then I laughed out loud about the parkour because we had just found out last week that he fell off his wall trying to pick some mango's out of his tree... I guess he is not that good yet. He is so sweet though and very sincere about the gospel. He has a really funny sense of humor so it gives a lot of light to our day.

I am technically not supposed to tell you about problems because President doesn't want you to worry, but I'm only telling you this because it really is not something to worry about because I am learning a lot and having some fun too. So don't freak out and call the mission president or anything. :)  We have not had running water for 5 days! 
The first two days, we used our drinking mineral water for sponging our armpits and brushing our teeth and just let the dishes pile up thinking that surely the water would turn on... it didn't. So by day three we did some research and found out that outside of our neighborhood there was a spicket that would give you about 1/2 bucket of regular water (not drinkable) for 1 peso.  SCORE! So every morning for our exercise, we make the half-mile trek a couple of times and fetch our water for the day. Do you know how many times we need water? Dishes? Washing our bodies? Cooking? Cleaning? Laundry? Flushing the Toilet? (don't think about that one too hard) DO you know how heavy water is? My back/shoulders felt like they were going to crack after the first day, but now I'm getting stronger. Don't worry, I'll be a pro when I come home.  For Sunday, we just went out saturday night and got extra.  I really feel like my body is getting stronger and healthier from the great work-out! It's like, Survivor... Philippines-in-the-city addition! Haha, it's a lot of fun and really keeping us humble. I love you all so much and make sure to take a shower using extra water for me! Love you lots!

Sister Smoot

Letter # 51 (May 18, 2014) with pictures!

Makopa! Dipped in Soy Sauce! Brother Tony our investigator who used to be a Catholic Minister will be baptized on June 7. He gave us a whole bag of Makopa (fruit).

(I looked this Makopa up: +Makopa-tree is a healthy tropical flowering fruit. Makopa is also called Tambis, +Rose-Apple or Wax Apple tree. Makopa fruit has different colors, pink, red, yellow or green. It has a waxy and crispy skin. The white fruit inside is tangy and juicy. It is sweet when it´s ripe and sometimes has a bitter taste. 

Makopa is a +Healthy-fruit which contains Vitamin C, iron, protein, calcium, phosphorous and fiber. It helps lower blood sugar. The roots, barks and leaves help against illnesses like diarrhea and sore throat.)
Sister de Leon

Dear Family, 

I think I will start with a more humorous story today.  The past few weeks, I've had extra hair damage and split ends and ripping. I had so many little "fly-aways" around my face, it was like I had some bangs, but all un-even. I decided to even it up a little bit so it would at least look like I had bangs on purpose and not so much that I was a homeless child.  So I borrowed Sister de Leons little paper scissors and started "fixing" my hair... I'm really sorry mom, but your daughter is now a little unusual looking.  I should have known better and remember the time when I was 5 years old and did the same thing. I have not improved much in my hair-cutting abilities. The best part, was that I decided to fix them on Saturday during lunch right before the baptism... yup, the pictures are awesome.  Don't worry, Sister de Leon reassured me that I am a daughter of God, and therefore it is impossible that I am ugly, because there are no ugly daughters of God. So, I'm not ugly, I'm just a little unuasual for a while. It's alright, I'm sure they will grow back in the next six months before you see me again!

Yesterday we had a miracle with one of our families. Remember brother Nephi from last week? We had the powerful lesson about mothers day combined with the Savior. NEPHI CAME TO CHURCH. Not only did Nephi come, but all of the less-active members of the family came with him.  He is the oldest child and led all of his brothers and sisters to church with him for his mother. It's always exciting to see progression, especially in a potentially strong priesthood holder, I hope he continues to help his family!

This week was the baptism of Maria Fe Valero and Mariam Valero. Their parents were baptized last year while the children were living with their grandparents in a different area. This week they were able to join their parents as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They are some of the most gorgeous little girls I have met. Guapa Guapa! Maria Fe is 11 and Mariam is 8 years old, but they are so smart and humble and kind. I love teaching kids, especially since the rest of our investigators are older males. After teaching a lot of tougher-hearted investigators, it is always such a breath of fresh air to visit their home. The spirit is so strong when you teach little kids, you can just feel the pure love that Jesus Christ has for them. Of course He loves all of us, but there is a special feeling of comfort, protection, and patience for all of the little children. I love being able to feel of that perfect love and help extend it to them.  The baptism was a sweet experience too.

This week was the baptism of Maria Fe Valero and Mariam Valero.
Also, ME with bangs!

I love all of you so much and I hope you feel my prayers! I am doing great and loving teaching and learning and growing. I'm so glad I made the decision to serve and am able to better organize my priorities in my life. Little things like ugly hair might have seemed like a bigger deal before, but it doesn't really phase me now. There are too many other sweet moments in life to let a few unusual ones get me down. I hope we can all keep our positive insights and better prioritize the things we are focusing on. Are we letting bad hair days affect our attitudes? Or can we let bad hair days give us something to laugh about. I love you all!
Love, Sister Smoot

Celebrating my ONE YEAR mark! I decided to eat some ice-cream

One of the 20 cockroaches in our kitchen. The little buggers!!
Remember how I was telling you about all the giant cockroaches that bite you and they swell up super big? Yeah, well that same day I got another one, I've decided to never talk about them again, I'll just be cursed from it :) Don't stress, the swelling went down after a couple of days. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cousins Jenna and Ashley finally meet up and stay over night with each other!

Jenna said, "We showed up at her house i gave her a hug and cried then we went to sleep. We got up talked a bit about Tanner (Jenna's Brother who is getting married soon) and what not and how it's crazy then she said see you in six months if we don't see each other again here. haha that's the details. :)" 

Letter #50 (May 11, 2014)

I'm so thankful I was able to talk to you! Next time I see you I'll be coming off the plane! (in 6 months) HAha, don't worry, I'm not trunky :) Thanks for your love and concern and most importantly HAPPY MOTHERS DAY MOM!

This week we were actually teaching a lot of lessons about mothers day and how we can better show our mom and family members in general how we love them. In this culture, people don't tell their mom's that they love them. Everyone we taught said that they had never told their mom that they loved them. We talked about how it is important to speak with our words and our actions.  We actually had a lot of powerful lessons. One in particular was yesterday afternoon with a less-active young single adult. His mom is one of our most active members, but he and his dad are less-active.  He is 23 years old and his name is Nephi (Yes, I asked sister De Leon, "What would Nephi feel to know that the other Nephi is less-active. We actually have 2 people named nephi who are less-active in this ward.)  We were talking about mothers day and I read in 1 Nephi 5:1 where Lehi and Sariah cried for the welfare of their children. I asked a question that was not from my own thoughts (those are my favorite) and asked, "What would you feel like if you knew your mother cried for you/because of you?") He looked down for a while then said he couldn't really describe it. He would be really sad. Then I asked him, what would you feel if your Heavenly Father cried because of you?” The room was just full of the spirit and we were just letting him soak up the spirits revelation for himself. Then I asked him what he should do, to show God and his mother that he loves them. He listed a bunch of commandments that he was breaking and committed to start following them. We testified that the Holy Ghost himself told him those things to work on, so keep those revelations sacred. The Lesson was a very powerful and meaningful lesson, even for myself as I learned from the things I was teaching. How would I feel if mom cried because of something I did or said. I’m sure it has happened because I am so selfish and rude (especially my teenage self). So my question to myself and to all of you (Ally, meg, kenna, lilly) How can we better ourselves in order to help our mother, and better yet, our Savior. It’s a question that I’ve been pondering, and I think it will better help to motivate me to stay Obedient in times of Temptation. 

I love you all and hope your lives are full of the gospel. It’s the only way to be happy. Our mission vision has three principals that have helped me to become the missionary I am and the person that I am. #1. Exact Obedience  #2. Preach My Gospel Scholar  #3. Weekly Baptizing. (I will change weekly baptizing when I get home to other goals, but the point is, we can do all things through obedience and powerful study… even weekly baptisms. I know that this vision has caused me a lot of stress, but has made me grow more than anything else could of. I know that this vision is from God, and I will be forever grateful as I continue to grow and change into a more holier person. I still have a long way to go, but I’m excited about the confidence I have gained in the Savior, that I have the opportunity to change myself and improve each day to become more like Him. I love you all so much and hope you remember how much I love you, but also how much God loves you!! Lots of love,
Sister Smoot

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Letter # 49 May 4th, 2104

Last week I realize I forgot to tell you about national service day! (Saturday April 26) The entire Philippines celebrates national service day, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does the most.  Almost every mission in the Philippines was able to join in with the members and work together to serve the community. Te best part about it, was that it was held in the Magsungay area (my first ward) so I got to see all of the members, even the less-actives and investigators who showed up to receive the service. It was really neat. There were a lot of different opportunities to help serve, there was a medical section, handing out food section, helping clean the beach section, and even a part to help do free haircuts and free manicures.  Since Sister de Leon is a registered nurse (and I used to be a CNA -not that that means anything since it's expired and I don't remember anything) we got to help with the free medical care.  We were working with the pediatrician, and a lot of the patients were former investigators and less-actives. Plus, we got to be inside the chapel in the air-conditioning. It was pretty much the best service project ever. 

This week was great too. We are finding so many miracle investigators... but they are all middle-aged men.  One of the ward members said they are only investigating because I am pretty, and it kind of made me upset. There are always the people who only want to talk to you because your american, but these investigators are only focused on their conversion and their relationship with the Lord.  As missionaries, we are able to discern their needs and interests and see their progression, so I was trying not to be offended at the comment because we have seen so much spiritual growth. I've repented for being offended, and we have just enjoyed being able to teach so much. Seeing the potential for priesthood power in this ward is very inspiring. One investigator who is particularly special was just baptized on Saturday. Brother Arnold is from Pulupandan (my second area). I had forgotten, but he said he already knew me because I had taught him once in Pulupandan. Talk about miracles. There was this really old active memberm in Pulupandan who would always give us so many referrals and he had so many friends who would come take care of him because he was confined to a wheel chair. Brother Arnold was a young man who would always help him (he's around 24).  We could never teach him because he said he worked in Bacolod every day and only came home to Pulupandan sometimes. Well, when I got here, one of our first appointments was at this resteraunt called "Kubo sa lawn". All of the workers live in the back of the restaurant and work every day.  Brother Arnold was one of the investigators we were teaching. It was a small world moment, but he has been so prepared and the lord really has big plans for him.  It was cool to be part of his progression in the gospel.  He has a really strong spirit and an extremely strong desire to do anything to serve the Lord.  We are working on the other co-workers and there are two who have been coming to church with him for 2 months now and are still working on getting prepared and worthy for their baptisms, they should be coming up soon too! Plus, brother Arnold just told us yesterday at church that there is another co-worker who was too shy to talk to us before, but read the lesson 1 pamphlet and wants to learn more. We scheduled an appointment for Tuesday.  

There is so much going on that the work is just exciting. We still are not as busy as I was in Cadiz, but we are working on getting there and even more busy. We also have so many miracles with a couple of young women investigators, Sister Jean Rose and Sister Ronalyn. They live in different areas, but they have kind of the  same story. Their mothers are the only members of the family, and they are both baptist. The baptist church has mostly youth as its members here and is quite the social experience. But yesterday, Sister Jean Rose finally came to church with her mom instead of her friends!!!! We are excited for her to keep progressing. Sister Ronalyn is a little older (17 years old) and asks the most intellectual questions. Lessons with her are a lot of fun because she is paying attention to what the spirit is telling her, but also using her learning and logic to do the research. She is spiritual and intelligent, so I just love teaching her. Sometimes I forget that i'm 21 now, because when people tell me they are 17 or 18 I think oh wow, me too... oh wait I'm 21. Where did the time go? Sometimes I feel so little, and other times I feel old. Haha, I'm learning to live in the moment and just enjoy everything.  Each week is full of ups and downs, but don't worry, I'm writing the downs in my journal so you can hear about them when I get home. Just know that the ups are up and I'm sad that this is my one year mark. I don't want to come home in 6 months, but I know there is a time for all things! I love you all and hope you haven't forgotten me in the last year!  :) 
love, Sister Smoot.