Monday, September 29, 2014

Week 70! (Sept. 28. 2014)

Hello family! I love you all so much! This week was full of more changes. Sis. Hemi was transfered on Wednesday and now I am companions with Sis. Russon from Lehi, Utah. I do'nt know why i keep getting paired up with english speakers lately, but it's a lot of fun. When we showed up for transfers there were a lot of people transfering. (President likes to change things around a lot and very randomly. He does a lot of random transfers each week so that we will never know what is coming up.) When we got there, I saw SISTER NATARTE! I almost had a heart attack I was so excited. I don't think my smile has been that big in a long time. It made me think about what it might feel like in the Celestial Kingdom when we all see each other again. She wanted me to tell you that she loves you and she is still using the Journal that mom gave her for Christmas. I will miss her so much. She told me that she has been porayong that we will be companions again... haha. At least I got to see her one more time before I go. Sister Russon is a great companion and is very calm and hard working. It's been a great influence to be around. I don't know why I am still a sister training leader, or why I am on my 5th companion here in Paglaum, but things are going well. All the sisters who became STL with me have been "released" or switched to different positions, so I know my time  is approaching, but for now I'm just enjoying finding, teaching, and baptizing no matter where I am. I love Paglaum and feel so close to all the members and investigators here. 

Yesterday, Jefty (the former bully *in his own words*), didn't come to church. I was freaking out a little. He's already been 3 times and just told us on wednesday that he would ever skip church no matter what. When we got to his house, we found him super pale and weak and he told us he had gone to get a check up at the hospital and couldn't get back in time for church. I was relieved... and then I realized that it was so mean that I was glad he was sick and had to go to the hospital. He is fine now, and we gave him a prayer. They will all be baptized on OCT 11 (right after general conference).

Yesterday, one of my favorite investigators came to church finally. Her name is litterally: Princess Claire Estocado. I am 99% convinced she is a real princess from some other country because her attitude and termperment is that of a true princess. She is so pretty, so quiet, so smart, so kind, and so perfect. We found her three weekds ago, but she is already finishing up third Nephi. She hasn't come to church yet because she is too shy to come by herself. She said she had never been to any church before. She is 18, but so gorgeous. We told her we would wait outside the gate and we could all walk in together. It worked and she made so many friends and wants to come back again next week. I have really seen in this area how book of mormon reading is the key too successful and lasting conversion. The investigators or less-actives who are reading are so much stronger and fast in their inderstanding. I love the Bookof Mormon, but I love even more the excitement of Sister Claire as she explained when the Savior appeared to the people and testified of her own excitement of seeing the Savior again. I love being a missionary. There is no other work that is this important or this rewarding. I love you all back home! I hope you are really enjoying each moment in the Book of Mormon and not just going through the motions. I know it will be much more rewarding and helpful if we take the time to enjoy and learn from these sacred texts. I love you! Have a good week! 

Give Sister Smoot a big hug for me! (Ah, now she's just Jenna!) :( 

Love you!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Week # 69 (Sept. 21, 2014)

This week has been way too fun. Sister Hemi and I have both been Sister Training Leaders for 2 transfers, so we are both fairly confident in the work. It is very different to be with a companion with complete communication, trust, and unity. We have basically set the world on fire. Haha. We both have different skills and talents. She fills in all of my missing pieces and we can just work our guts out. On Saturday, we had the longest day in the history of my missionary work. :) because we didn't take time for lunch, dinner, or language study. Don't freak out, it's not a regular thing, we still ate some snacks, but we had too many appointments to go to. We were like Abish in the Book of Mormon "Running from house to house." It was quite a site and experience from 10:00 am until 8:30 pm.  We spent the rest of the night updating the gobs of teaching records.  It is so fun to be busy with a purpose! 

On Sunday, Three of my investigators from the other side of paglaum got baptized. It is now considered the "Elder's Baptism," but we were able to attend. Their testimonies are so strong and it is cool to see the changes over the last few weeks. Plus, Brother Rudy told the story of how I found him and I started crying. The three who got baptized were, #1. Rudy Alvia (I sent a picture a few weeks ago) #2. Sister Celiz and  #3 her Daughter (the family sister smoot helped me find when we were on exchanges.) Isn't that incredible? It was so cool to see their baptism. 

For Sacrament Meeting, Sister Hemi and I were the speakers, and it was cool to see how the spirit combined the themes of our talks. We have such unity in and out of teaching situations and it is something that really does effect the work. Something that I have learned on the mission is that the key to having unity in a companionship, is to love all the qualities(even the annoying ones) and then SHOW that love in word, action, and even thought. It is easier with some than others... but always effective. It just happens to be really really easy with Sister Hemi. It's been good. (But slightly too easy, so I'm sure something else is around the corner :)  

On a creepy and slightly humerous side... There is a lady. Her name is Sister Mary. The first time I saw her I got the heeby jeebies.  She is tall, really white, and it was night time, she has long, straight, black hair, and she wears long cloak like dresses. I thought she was a ghost. She yelled out to us in English, "WHERE ARE YOU GOING!" I was speechless and confused and just stared at her trying to figure out what was going on. Then she said in English again, "you don't speak english?" I fumbly started talking to her in Ilonggo, then she said again, "you don't speak English?" I started in English, but she just cut me off and said good night. It was so eery, and the same thing happened like 4 other times (always at the same time at night and the same place). The exact same conversation. Then last monday, my first day with sis. hemi, we saw her again, and this time I approached her. We started talking to her and getting to know her and we were able to get a return appointment. When we went to her house, she wanted to give us a tour of her house. It was kind of wierd. Then she was acting really weird and I started getting freaked out, still not convinced she was not a ghost. (yes, i believe in ghosts)  Then she looked interrupted us and asked us if our parents were still alive. We both assured her that they were alive. Then we kept talking about her life and trying to relate it to the gospel, and then she asked us again if our parents were alive. It was getting creepier and creepier!  
 So we quickly said another prayer and trying to leave she started telling us that she is our Mommy and asking us to call her Mom. I don't know if you remember mom, but remember when I read that book and the crazy lady told the girl, "I am your mother." That scary book was flashing in my mind and I wanted to get out as fast as possible. I was trying not to laugh I was so scared, and I looked over at Sister Hemi and just said, there is no fear in faith! When we got out, I felt like I had escaped with Hanzel and Grettle from the gingerbread house!  There is more to the story, but I will have to tell you later. Basically, we are not going to go back without a priesthood holder and other members. The spirit is always looking out for us and I know we will always be safe as missionaries. It was just a funny crazy old lady who misses her children,  I guess. She just wants more. Maybe when she joins the church, she can be a primary teacher or something. :)

After church, we had the funeral service for Brother Aventura. Even though his wife is Catholic, they chose to have the funeral service in our church.  John and Mark were with their mom and a TON of people showed up for the service. More people than sacrament people. Probably around 200.  The only speakers were me, Elder Pingol (who was the first to teach them), and bishop. Both of our topics were supposed to be about the plan of salvation, but I really pondered what to say to 200 investigators at a time of sorrow like this.  Elder Pingol went first and did a good job pretty much wrapping up the whole plan of Salvation, so I ditched my plans, and just talked about how kind Brother Aventura was to us. How he would always make sure we were safe if we went to their house in the evening. He would always make sure we made it on the jeep safe back into Paglaum. He was a very tall Filipino, over 6 feet, but he always had a smile for everyone. I honestly didn't know him that well, and I don't really remember what funeral talks are like, but I basically spent the time talking about the love he brought to the family, then translated the words to "Families can be together forever" (that was Sister Hemi's idea). The feeling in the room changed and I could feel a little more hope from the peoples faces. It was a very special moment to be apart of. Afterward, they all went to the grave side (but we were not able to accompany). We saw our ward mission leader that night, and he told us that a lot of the family members are interested and inspired to talk to us. I hope we will be able to do a lot of follow up with the family!

Thanks for the pictures and the letters! I love you all, and you better believe it!
Love, Sister Smoot

1.  Jobeta Celiz and her daughter Joanna Celiz. Oh, I miss them so much! Sister Jobeta gave me a big hug after the baptism and I just felt so much love and comfort!

2. Bullies of the Block doing scripture study!
The far left is a "special child" and the older sister of Jeanbie. 
From left to right after me: Jeanbie, Jefty, Cyber

Our feast for Sister Madronio's last day as a Missionary.
I made Tinola and Afritada (yes mom, I can cook you filipino food!) 

(oh YAY! I was asking her about cooking some food for us. I love the dessert! Right down my alley. We sent those kisses to her!)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Week #68 (Sept, 14, 2014)

This week was quite a whirlwind. Last Monday while we were emailing,  My companion Sister Madronio found out that she has to go home to her family. She didn't want to return home, but her family is mirgrating from the philippines to Canada and if she didn't go home this month, she couldn't go with them (for visa reasons). President Lopez asked her to go with her family for her once in a life-time chance to leave the country. This will be such an amazing opportunity for her and her family, but as a result, she was devastated to leave our mission here in Bacolod. Because it was in the middle of the week, I had a short-term companion for the week, Sister Robete from Bacolod 1st ward (Sister Jenna Smoot's first area.) She will leave on her mission in October and she said it was a fun week to see what missionaries actually do. To be honest, if I actually knew what missionaries did, I would not be super excited to go. Haha, I am really glad I came, but it's a little overwhelming. Sister Robete will do so amazing on her mission, plus I got to be companions with a true Ilonga (like living with a correct dictionary. Since the language is not a written language, none of our books are correct, but she knew everything and I learned so much! I hope she wasn't sick of my questions.:) ) Having a short term is also really stressful because all of the resopnsibility is on your shoulder. As the only set-apart missionary, everything is up to you, it was rather a lonely and tiring week.  Last night we got a phone call that I would have a full-time missionary and this morning I met my new companion, Sister Hemi. She is litterally the most beautiful person on the planet. Back when I was with Sister Natarte in Pulupandan, we saw her once at the store and sister Natarte was talking about her the whole week and how pretty she was. Now we are companions. She is also the sweetest sister I have ever met. She is from New Zealand and has the sweet, humble, peaceful way about her. I love her already and it's only been a few hours. Plus, it's weird not to be with a Filipina, I actually spoke English, It was kind of wierd.

That's everything as far as the details, but this week as also been incredibly rewarding. We have the most amazing investigators and recent converts. I am so lucky I get to teach them.  I have two families I want to talk about. The first is the group of teenagers I told you about last week. Sister Jeanbie, and her friends Jefty and Cyber. They are both 17 year old boys, who have gone from the neighborhood bullies, to the neighborhood angels. Let me explain. Before we bet them, all three of them were in a sort of "gang." They were bullies, they were cool, they are attractive, they are teenagers, and they know all of those things. The youth members were a little scared of them when they heard we were teaching them. When we first met Jeanbie, she was already incredible prepared as I have shared the last few weeks. But when we met brother Jefty, he was still the "cool kid." He was reclined in his chair and acting like he didn't have a care in the world with a little smirk on his face. I thought to my self, "oh brother, highschool all over again." I think he only listened to us because it is against the norm to listen to the "mormons." But after listening that first time, he said something just made him read the pamplet we gave him. After he read that, he read some other pamplets that we had given some other people in his neighborhood. He really studied everything he could get his hands on. He came to church last week, and yesterday as well, and right now is one of our most progressive and interested investigators. On Tuesday, we visited him, and I was following up on his book of mormon reading. He is almost addicted to his book of mormon and reads a lot. I asked him if he had seen any miracles from the his reading (since that is a promise we give them when we invite them to read.) He told us about an experience he had in school that day. He said his friends kept bugging him about joining them in the "bully" activities. They wanted him to help them beat someone up and tease some others. He told them no. They kept bugging him, and told him, "your sisters aren't here, it's okay." then Brother Jefty told them, "I made a promise to God that I would change, I'm not going to help you." 
As he explained this story, I just started crying, as he himself teared up with the spirit. He recognized in himself that he had changed, and it was from his promise to Jesus Christ. Change is so real. It is so powerful. The spirit was so strong in that moment, that he too realized he had changed. And he embraced it. After that meeting, his progression has only increased. he is now finishing up first Nephi! I love seeing how the bully of the block, has changed and turned his life towards christ. It truly is a sweet and beautiful miracle. 

The second one is the Aventura family. They were the two brothers who were baptized the last two weeks. We had started teaching the parents before the baptism, but they said they would only listen, they wouldn't keep any of the commitments. They did commit to come to the baptism, but the dad got a bad fever and couldn't come. On Friday, he still had the fever and actually passed away around lunch time on Friday. We found out from a member on Friday night and visited them our first appointment on Saturday. Working up to the lesson, I had no idea what to say or do to help them. They are so newly baptized, I wasn't sure how they would react to that. I didn't have a companion and I was sort of at a loss. I spent my whole personal study that morning, searching for inspiration and guidance for how to help them. The message of the Holy Ghost came to my mind, but I still didn't know how to form it into a lesson. I just decided to read a scripture in Moroni about the fruits of the spirit and the comfort we can receive. (Moroni 8:26) When we arrived, they both had red eyes, I knew they had been crying. They were both just sitting outside their house. We waved to them and they both ran inside their house, grabbed their book of mormon and came to talk to us. Remember, their ages are only 13 and 15. They were ready for their lesson for the day. We opened with a prayer, sang a hymn, and I just started as normal by asking about their book of mormon reading. They both explained that when they found out their dad had passed away, they decided to read their Book of Mormon. They said that as they were reading, they felt the holy ghost surround them and give them happiness. My eyes welled up with tears in awe and amazement and I was so inspired from their faith in Jesus Chirst and in his Book of Mormon. I cannot say that reading the book of mormon would be the first thing i do if my family member died. The spirit was so strong at that moment, and we all just spent those 10 minutes talking about the spirit and dwelling in it. I know that from their faith, the Lord had given them strength in their sorrow. Of course we are sad when tragedy happens in life, that means that we love those who have passed on. But I am so incredibly inspired by the example these two recent converts gave to me that day. The Holy Ghost is real. The power and love He gives us is real. This church is the only way to fully grasp and live in the pure love of God. I am so incredibly lucky that I can be a small part in spreading this love. I know that God loves John and Mark Aventura. I know that they felt it. I felt it. I felt it for me, I felt it for them, and I feel it for all of you at home. I know that God is our real, loving, heavenly Father. I hope you all find time to live and enjoy the sweet companionship of the holy ghost we were all given at baptism. I know it is with us at all times, especially in those hard times of need. I love you all so much! I can't thank you enough for all that you have given me. I love you!
Love, Sister Smoot

Monday, September 8, 2014


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FHE with John, Mark Aventura and their neighbor who is a member, brother Boyet. They loved it and committed to keep having FHE every monday... How is our family's FHE?

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John Aventura got baptized this week. He is 15 and also received the priesthood with his brother in church after his baptism and confirmation... what a day. He reads the book of mormon Sooo fast. Almost faster than me! He is already in 2 Nephi.

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 Brother Mark Aventura (13 years old)
His brother(16) was supposed to get baptized too, but was too scared to bear his testimony. We returned to the house later last night, and we talked about fear vs. faith. He committed again to be baptized next week after he prays to God if that is right. After the lesson he thanked us for giving him a second chance to follow God.

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Mark Aventura August 31.2014 happy birthday mom

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Our area.... all day long. We were so muddy, we had to stop and wash because our feet were getting itchy. We have less appointments because of all the hiking, but we are seeing miracles from the sacrifice. I LOVE the PHILIPPINES!

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(OHHHH...Isn't she is just the cutest!?)  (This skirt has been the best skirt and totally fitting for this mission. She picked it up at DI before she left and it's so perfect!! Especially in this picture! Forget addresses-They are in the jungle)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Letter #67 (Sept. 7, 2014) 2 months to go!

This week we moved apartments! Our house was too big for only two of us, so we moved in with the Sisters in the ward in Mansilingan. (15 minutes away). It is now a super old, dusty house, so we have been spending our time cleaning and making it more of a happy place to live. I actually really enjoy cleaning, hopefully it carries over when I come home :)

This week we have been seeing so so so many miracles. I wasn't completely doubting this area, but the miles of sugar cane were a little discouraging.  I was analyzing travel time, safety, how to find houses in the middle of the jungle with no map, etc. etc. But we do have a small area actually inside of Paglaum Village that is a lot more densely populated. So since we are not allowed to be in the sugar cane fields at night, as soon as it gets dark, we have been trying to find investigators in the Village. That is where our old house is and the houses are actual houses, not just bamboo. That means actual trackting and working hard core with the members. This is the first time in my entire mission that I have gone trackting. Because it it discouraged. But we really had nothing else to do. Through this, we now have three new family investigators. On top of that, we have been meeting with all the members and I was able to figure out a series of lessons to teach the members in order to receive more referrals and get them involved in missionary work. Through 15 minute member lessons (weekly lessons with the members for only 15 min. This is a tool president has asked us to schedule, but before we would just share a scripture. Now we are making it more useful) I just love the spirit and the personal revelation we are able to receive. The first lesson is all about the family, centered on the restoration. We focused on building their faith in the message of the restoration, and committed them to pray if Joseph Smith is a true prophet. The second lesson to the members is about the holy ghost. How the holy ghost will tell us which one of our friends are ready. Because God wants us to do missionary work, he will help us.  They get to use their faith and receive revelation from the holy ghost to know which one of their friends is ready. The third lesson, we set a specific activity or time for us to meet that friend. We practice with the family how to extend the invitation. It has been really fun getting to know the families and seeing their faith. It is so strong. It is cool to see them actually start acting on their faith as well and see it grow even more. I am so grateful that I was able to help them... even just a little.

This week we have had a lot of fun with our new families, teaching them and preparing them for baptism.  If you remember, sister Jeanbie. She introduced us to her two friends who live next door. They are both boys her same age. All three of them came to churchyesterday and have baptism dates as well. Then, after church, Sister Jeanbie asked if she could work with us. We had a relief society member come with us and all four of us visited all of our investigators. I was a little worried she might get tired, or overwhelmed with all of the different principals we discussed (because she is only on plan of salvation), but afterward, she said she learned so much and she wants to keep working with us. She said she wants to be a missionary when she turns 19 too. Even though she is only 16, and we've only known her for 1 week, her faith has grown tremendously. I am so grateful for her courage and her desire to continue in missionary work. If an investigator can do missionary work, anyone can! She is truly an inspiration. We have an FHE scheduled tonight, so pictures will follow next week with all of them! Thank you mom for praying for Sister Jeanbie, I know it has helped her a lot!

I love all of you and for your support. I really do love all of you and I am excited to continue to accelerate my speed. The thought of my time approaching motivates me to be better, more energetic, and more engaged in this cause. I'm so excited for ally as she leaves to Chile this week! Remember I love you ally! You are the best Hermana Smoot ever! Remember to always keep your expectations high, it will increase your faith which will increase the miracles. EXPECT MIRACLES! I love you!

Love, sister smoot

P.S. i'm good! my filippina comp just found out her family is moving to Canada... so she has to leave with her family because of visa things next week. she is crying. I am too because she is supposed to go home in Jan. She is so sad