Sunday, June 29, 2014

Letter # 57 (June 29, 2014)

This week we had exchanges with our Sister Training Leaders. If you remember, my STL is sister Van Slooten from my MTC district. It's always fun to see her and we got to go on exchanges last time. But this time I got to go with her companion in her area. Exchanges are kind of different once you are pretty far in the mission. I've been here just as long as them, but there is always something to learn. That's my goal each day, is to make sure I am still progressing and learning. It's really easy to just say, "oh, I've got it all figured out." But we never will have things figured out, there is always more progression needed and always more refinement needed. This week the Lord has helped me learn a lot of things that I need to work on. It's an important learning experience to choose to be humble and learn rather than be prideful and ignorant.  I think I've been blessed to always see my weaknesses, but it's good to take a step back, and see how some of my previous weaknesses have become my strengths. It gives me motivation to keep praying searching and developing all the things I want to keep working on and developing.  I still have 4 months to fully give myself to the Lord. I feel other sisters getting "trunky" and I just don't want that for myself. I don't want to slow down and tire down or wear down, but I can feel my body weakening. I pray each day that I can continue to become a "sacred missionary." A missionary who is holy and not casual. I think I look back at this weak, and I became casual. I have been consecrated at this time, and I took it for granted this week. I wasn't disobedient, I just slacked in dilligently working my hardest every day. It's easy to just go to the same appointments and become relaxed and settled in only planned activities and not just talking to everyone you see. I guess that is disobedience in its own way. I've been spending the weekend repenting and setting goals for improvement. I know this sounds really intense... don't worry, I'm just dramatic. I am NOT trunky and I WILL continue to be a missionary who spends her time wisely and treats her mission as a HOLY and SACRED experience. :) 

On a completely different note, I got my haircut on monday because it was way too long and looked completely fried from the sun. When I walked into the Salon and the haircutter in english told me, "It's DEAD! What did you do!" Haha. Before she started cutting my hair I started talking to her about the gospel and trying to get to know her and asking about her family. I was just trying to spread the Love of God, but she kind of got irritated with me. I told her I just wanted it trimmed up a bit because the sun completely fried it, but she helped me out by just chopping off ALL of the fried yellow parts. I think she was trying to tell me that she really wasn't interested in my message. It's okay, because I'm learning. I will now wait until the end of the haircut to teach them. Wait utill they put down the scissors. :) My companion told me it looked okay, but it took me a couple of days to like it. It's been a while since I've had shoulder length hair. I just saw the picture of ally, looks like we're twins again! I promise I'm not copying you. It turns out my hair is curly when it's short and the air is humid... so good news, it's not that bad. I'm still scared of the scary lady at the hair salon. (But there's no fear in faith, so I'm having faith that the next missionary to go in can soften up her heart.)

I can't believe all the missionaries I've known my whole mission are going home. And the other sister Smoot only has two more transfers! I can't even believe it. And I don't want to believe it. I just know that I only have 4 more months to give to the Lord my full-time attention and 4 more months to completely master Ilonggo (although I love it because it is the most beautiful, fun language) 4 more months to set the rest of my life, 4 more months to change the world... I know I can not do it alone because this is not my work, this is Heavenly Father's work. But I'm glad I can consecrate myself as one of his instruments so that he will pick me as one of his daily tools. Thanks for your kind words and Happy Birthday Ally! I know you will be a better missionary than me next month because you can learn from my mistakes and successes. I'm so glad I get to write you when your over in CHILE! Love all of you! 

Palangga ko kamo! Labina si Hermana Smoot! Nalipay gid ako para sa imo!
Love, sister Smoot

Pictures (June 29 ,2014)

Brother Tony Nobleza-Who tragically died the day before his baptism while reading The Book of Mormon.

The Tillana Family! They will be baptized this July! Sister Tillana is from Cadiz and I have taught all her family when i was there in my last area. Their kids are so cute and are excited to be baptized. Plus, they are all girls, so I feel like I'm back with the family! 
Brother Ray got Baptized on Saturday.
(Lawyer/Business man that we met a couple months ago. He already wants to be bishop... great.) Haha :) Don't worry, we explained about devine revelation!

A new fruit. Mangosteen, it's really sour.
Do you love my hair cut? 

letter # 56 (June 22, 2014)

This week was good. I feel like each letter starts the same. But life is really good. So this week was good too. 

This week we had some new investigators come to church! It was really good for them because it was our ward conference, and the ward provided a lunch afterward and invited the investigators too! When the ward has food provided, it's just toppings provided and the members have to bring their own plates and rice. But they had some provided for the investigators... I was so relieved. It was a good opportunity for them to meet new members. 

One new investigator is the mother of a long-time less active. Brother Franky is a retire police officer and was baptized back when he was a teenager. He said he still knows the church is true, but he hasn't had time to follow. As we teach him, we are watching the spirit remind him of all the things he used to know, and his mom is the sweetest lady you will ever meet in your life. She is soooo old, but she is so spunky and young at heart. She is baptist, but she is learning with us and has a lot of faith. Most of the time when we teach really old people, they don't really progress very quickly, sometimes it's like pulling teeth because they are so stuck on tradition. (TRADITION is a huge block for everyone here in the Philippines because everything is centered on Honoring your parents and ancestors. One time I explained that their ancestors are Adam and Eve, and they were members of the Church from Jesus Christ... it worked... kind of :) ) But Sister Elisa just acted on our invitations, and she is receiving answers... Isn't it amazing what our faith can do? They came to church last Sunday and had a lot of fun with the members. Even brother Franky is excited to come back. They told us they'll come back next week too!

We also have one investigator who has been really fun to teach. We have about 4 investigators named James, but this Brother James has had a really hard past. Lots of regrets in his life, but he's really taking this opportunity to change and come closer to God. We taught a lot of the heavy commandments this week: Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, and some others related to his past. He hadn't gone to church yet because of work, but when we taught him word of wisdom, he just stopped everything, right there. His faith is changing his life with the help of the Light of Christ within him. It's so inspiring to see the faith in those we teach, as they act on the feelings they have and act on the personal revelation they are learning to receive. When we asked him about one commandment that he was not keeping, we asked, "Will you keep this commandment?" He just said confidently, "oo eh!" which means kind of like, "yeah, obviously." I chuckled a little and just was able to promise him all the blessings that God will give him from this faith in following. I love missionary work. When we got to church at 8:30, even though we told him 9, he was already there sitting in a seat waiting for the church to start. He had a good experience and told us he would also come next week.

The other family who came to church yesterday is the Tillana family. They have all girls, just like us. I think I already told you about them, how I taught their family in Cadiz because they are less active there in Cadiz. But the mom, Sister Sonia, told us she went and visited her family in Cadiz last week and told them that I was now teaching their family. She said they were so excited and all started freaking out. I miss them. It makes me realize how much more I'm going to miss them all when I leave.

I know that I still have 4 months, but in my mind I still have a year left. That is what I am telling myself so that I won't think about things I cannot control. I love this experience. Even though it's the hardest thing I have ever done, (even harder than multi-variable calculus and linear algebra) it's also the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I hope all of you girls are preparing even until the last day when you leave. Not only prepare spiritually, but prepare physically and mentally as well. Prepare by taking your studies in school seriously, being accountable for everything you do, learning not to procrastinate, learning to do things on your own and not making mom help you with your assignment until late at night, learning to clean the house even when no one asks, and learning to love everyone, even when you don't really like them :) I know that you are great girls because you are my sisters, but I want you to know that you have the potential to be more than you know. Learn to feel the love of the Savior and remember always that I love you too! I hope you know that. Even if I can't email all of you every week. I love you more than you know!
Love, Sister Smoot

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Letter #55 (June 15, 2014) Brother Tony Nobleza

This week was kind of rough. It started out really good and going strong, but ended with devastation. This week I'm writing my email for our investigator, Tony Nobleza.
Tony used to be a Catholic Minister and a very smart/strong "Catholic Defender." Although very strongly planted in his beliefs, he was always very kind and generous to us as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints.  When I first got to the area, I was very weary about teaching him because he wasn't reading our assignments, going to church, or really keeping any of his commitments that were unrelated to his own beliefs. But we continued to visit him from time to time because his house is in a really central location to all of our other appointments.  He is only about 50-60 years old, but often has a hard time breathing because of his Asthma, sometimes even talking was hard for him.  I used to be a little freaked out by him because he would give us so much fruit. Mangos and Papaya. I love fruit, but I thought it was a little creepy that he kept giving us things without a desire to actually follow what we were teaching. I was a little worried that he was just looking for some friends who were young adult women.  But we kept praying for him and reading with him from time to time. Then, one day we just had a very frank, straightforward meeting with him, much like the needed DTR (determine the relationship). We basically told him we would never come back to his home, unless he read in the Book of Mormon. We left the reading assignment, and told him to text us after he read. That night we received a text that told us he had read and he wanted to come to church that Sunday. We returned and started teaching a sincere investigator who began searching for truth from God, not just from the bible.  It's important for investigators to learn to use all of the resources God gave us: The Bible, Book of Mormon, Personal Prayer, revelation from the Holy Ghost. Once Brother Tony started learning from God, and not just from his brain, his progression was unmeasurable. He came to church that week and progressed toward his scheduled baptism for June 7. After a few weeks, we realized he had a harder repentance process ahead of him because of his involvement in some underground movements of the Philippines Government, but he was able to be interviewed by President Lopez and set for baptism. Every time we visited brother Nobleza, he would give us fruit and hamburgers. Every day he would send us scriptural texts of hope. He lived all alone, but would always call to cancel the appointment if it was raining for fear that we would get sick walking in the rain. (Even though we continued to work anyway) Before his baptism, he told us that he didn't actually believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. We gave him the restoration video and told him to pray and ask God. He believed in the Book of Mormon, but was having a harder time accepting a living prophet. I made the decision to move his baptism date to June 14 in order to help him feel more at peace about his decision. After much sincere prayer, he came to the realization that this church is true, everything in the Church, including our living prophet today and that Joseph Smith really was called of God. We were visiting him every day preparing him for his Baptism and he was getting more and more excited every day. He is one of the most humble men I've met here. On Thursday night we had a lesson about a dream he had. He said that God gave him a vision in his dream the night before where he saw the vision of Ezekiel. He said he could now understand what everything looked like, but asked us what it means. (Ezekiel chapter 1). I honestly have no idea, so we told him we would discuss it the next day. He even told us he had been talking to the other ministers and preists about the church and was trying to get them to go to church with him, even just one time. It was a really peaceful lesson.
On Friday Morning, we received a text from a member who lives down the street from him that brother Tony Nobleza was found dead in his home leaning over his table while reading the Book of Mormon, his reading glasses still on his head. They said it was a stroke. I'm not sure the reason for all things in this life. I'm not sure why Tony was taken from the earth mere hours before his baptism. Maybe he has another purpose in the spirit world. Maybe it was my mistake by delaying his baptism. Maybe, Maybe, Why, Why. The questions won't help us cope with what happened. But I have to choose to have everlasting hope in the plan of God. I've come to the conclusion that Tony Nobleza is among the other spirits in spirit prison, as the best fellowshipper ever, just waiting for his family to find the truth and take his name to the temple for his Baptism. I feel that he will be able to reach people that no other can. All he wanted to be was a missionary, I feel that maybe he is helping the missionaries on the other side, helping bear his testimony to the spirits who are still lost. Whatever the reasons, the truth is the same. All will be made right for those who love and follow God. I know that this work can bring sad times, good times, heartaches, miracles, devestations, powerful emotions, powerful feelings, and full-on rollorcoasters. But either way, I'm lucky and glad I was able to meet, teach, talk to, and see the miraculous conversion of brother Tony Nobleza.
I love you family and I hope you know how lucky we are to have such a knowledge and confidence in the plan of God. I hope you are following the commandment given to us last conference of finding someone for the missionaries to teach every quarter (that's four times a year). :) I know that if you ask God for the opportunity, you will be able to help someone. I love you all so much!
Love, Sister Smoot

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Letter # 54 (June 8, 2014)

This week was great! Two of our favorite Investigators were baptized on Saturday!! Brother Ronel and Brother Joemarie. Their journey was a long, rought, and drastic change, but to see the difference in their countenances just fills my own soul. Baptisms always give us more energy to work harder and longer to continue the work. Brother Ronel and Brother Joemarie both work at the Resteraunt "Kubo sa Lawn" with our recent convert Arnold. Brother Arnold received the Aaronic priesthood after his baptism and confirmation, and was able to baptize his two friends on Saturday. He was so professional and prepared and the spirit was so strong with all of them. I love seeing the change in people. Even from the first day that i met them up till now... Heavenly Father is just helping me to see their potential and they are going to be such a great strength to this ward. Brother Arnold was just recently called to be the Young Men's Secratary. We are so grateful for the support of the ward and for their willingness to help!

Saturday we worked hard all day trying to go to EVERYBODY, but almost every appointment fell through. I have to admit i was a little down because there is always so much pressure to have the highest key indicators in the district and each week has to be higher or else we receive a text telling us they are too low... etc. I was a little stressed, so on Saturday Night I got ready for bed extra fast and just spent time reading the Liahona before i went to bed. It helped recharge me and focus on faith and hope. Then during my personal study after church on Sunday, i re-focused and determined that we would receive 7 member present lessons. I shared my desire with sister de Leon and we made it a companion desire. We called some extra members so that we could do a split in order to reach more investigators. We have so many progressing investigators, but they are far apart from each other so it is hard to reach all of them. I was paired with a member that is a little hard to work with, but has such a giant spirit so her spirit just melts people's hearts. After working like the world was about to end and returning home with sprained muscles and sweat-drenched clothes and bangs, we accounted to the Lord for the Day. After totaling our numbers, we had more success in one day, than we had for almost the entire week. We were able to have 11 member present lessons, receive 3 referrals, contact 2 referrals, receive 4 new investigators and teach 3 less active members. I know that the lord truly gave these numbers to us. But it's not the numbers he gave us... these numbers represent souls. He helped us to help other souls through our faith and prayers and goal setting.  I know he won't always give us the numbers we want and won't always give us such drastic success. But I know that He is aware of us. We each receive tender mercies every day, some more drastic and miraculous than others. Yesterday, our miracles were drastic.  I know that this is His work. This is the Lord's work, SO HE WILL NOT FAIL. This means: WE WILL NOT FAIL! Isn't that such a hopeful thought? We can't get discouraged and down about our responsibilities or pressures because this is His work, we are merely the HANDS. 

Thank you for your letters even though I'm trying not to be jealous that you are in Europe without me. Tell dad Happy Fathers day and give him extra hugs for me. I'll send him his own letter next week! love you Lots!
Love, Sister Smoot

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Letter # 53 (June 1, 2014)

Each week is pretty much the same, the miracles just switch around from people to people and from place to place. I've been focusing this week on keeping the excitement going. It's kind of hard when the body starts wearing down, but the last thing I want is to be trunky. Don't worry, I'm not trunky or slowing down, I've just had some opportunities to keep boosting my motivation this week.  I feel like I have to be fully conscious about staying completely focused and working at full power and using ALL the skills that Heavenly Father has helped me to develop.  I feel like my whole mission I've been progressing and learning and improving, but over the last month or two I've looked back and haven't seen a lot of progression. I just sat down and wrote down everything I still want to develop and learn on my mission and prayed over this whole week for opportunities to keep learning and progressing. I think that is my greatest fear for my mission is to not progress. I'm grateful for this mission, for this mission president, for the high expectations, high hopes, focused mission vision, and for the guidance and cousel from leaders and the Spirit. I know we can all reach the potential God has for us. It just depends on how we use the gifts and resources He is giving us.  It just makes me smile to know how much He loves us, that he will give us opportunities to grow and become better each day. (I don't know if that makes sense... just some thoughts on my mind).

This week we met a new family. The Tilliana Family is a Part-Member family. Sister Tilliana grew up in Cadiz and all of her family are members in the Church. I asked her who they were, and they were all people I taught and worked with in Cadiz 2nd branch. I basically know her whole family. Sister Tilliana is less-active, but she has such a large desire to bring her family to church. She has three girls 14, 9, 6 years old. None of them are members and her husband is not a member. She has such a quiet and peaceful spirit about her as she talks about the church. You can just feel how much God loves her and her family. The only problem is that their family is the FARTHEST place from our area. It takes 30-45 minutes to go there, and there are not a lot of other people there to talk to or teach. There is a little chapel out there for all the people and it is another religion called, "The Church of Christ". So that's been a little confusing for people as we introduce who we are as missionaries for "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints". And they only sometimes understand that there is a difference. It's okay, we have the faith that we can reach their hearts and we can get to whole little community to travel to the true Church of Jesus Christ that is 30 minutes away. We have already had a lot of miracles in that area and found about 5 other investigators around the Tilliana home. Either way, their family is worth it - we just have to be a little more creative about our time.

SCHOOL STARTS TODAY. The summer vacation just ended and everyone has been preparing to go back. I realize that for all of you, school just ended... but it has been summer break for the last two months here. As everyone has been preparing to go back, I have been feeling the excitement of school too. I get those same exciting feelings I get when I walk into office-max or the school supply section. I know, I'm a total nerd, but I secretly miss school supplies and studying in the Library. I've had to repent for my desires to back to school. I know that there is no other place I am supposed to be. This is where the Lord wants me, and this is where I want to be. But School is fun too and I'm ready to go back when the time comes. Who knows what is in store for me? 

I know this letter is a little more scatter-brained, but I want you to know how much I love you and how much I love my mission. I could never buy these experiences in any life-time.  I am so grateful for these opportunities to grow and develop. Thanks for the support and love!
Love, Sister Smoot