Monday, March 29, 2010

Greetings from Dagupan!

Magandang Hapon! I can't believe it's almost April already.

I love being a Baguio missionary! This week we had a Tri-Zone Conference, and I got to see Sister Garma again! It was good to see her.
I know that President Jensen is called of God, and he has received this revelation to focus on reactivation during these two months. I am already seeing the fruits of that effort. This week we were blessed with many new investigators and referrals who seem to be ready to receive the gospel, most of whom we met through members.

This week we had a neat experience when we visited an inactive member, brother Elmer Cayabyab, in an effort to help strengthen his testimony and help him return to full activity in the church. His brother was there and joined in on our discussion about the Restoration, but raised a lot of questions and interrupted with objections to the things we were teaching. So we did our best to help his brother to understand the restored gospel, sharing scriptures from the Book of Mormon. After a while of this, something remarkable happened. When we brought up the need for priesthood authority in Christ's true church, brother Elmer's eyes lit up and he said "Yes! I really truly believe that! That's the thing that will answer all of this!" With tears welling up in his eyes, he bore his fervent testimony about the need for priesthood authority, and that "no matter how smart a person is, no matter how good-intentioned a church is, it is not Christ's true church unless it has priesthood authority to administer in the saving ordinances." It was really neat to see the light in his eyes as his testimony was re-awakened and he taught alongside with us. (Hehee--afterwards, Sister Niebla and I joked that we have found a new strategy in reclaiming less-active members: just bring along someone to protest against everything we believe, and then sit back and let the member rediscover his own testimony as he defends what he believes).

Lately I've been thinking about how everything that Heavenly Father does is for our eternal benefit. That's his whole purpose - He wants us to be perfectly happy, like He is. Every commandment is calculated to result in our eternal happiness. So if we truly understood his great plan for us, we would be asking him for more commandments, not complaining about the ones he has given us. In visiting these inactive members, I've also learned Satan is real. He is working hard to destroy people's faith. He is very good at convincing us that obeying small commandments doesn't matter. We've shared Alma 33:19-20 to a lot of people - because it shows that even small commandments, like praying, studying the scriptures, and partaking of the sacrament each week, truly has the ability to "heal us."

General Conference is soon! Yay! I love you! Thanks so much for everything!

Love, Rebecca

P.S. Moroni 10:27, 29 and 2 Nephi 33:10-11 are very powerful testimonies of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hey there!

Wow, another week has flown by. It's great to hear from you! Haha, Jessica biting my letter. Jessica, you crazy little girl! Way to go Jennifer and Jessica at the science fair - soap monsters and milk fireworks, haha, that's awesome. How neat that you got to go to the church history museum.

Sister Walker has been not feeling well the past few days (her eyes are really irritated because of the heat), and so me and Sister Billones have been on splits doing double duty in both our areas. It's been busy! But good. It is getting very hot here now. I hear that it's supposed to get even hotter in April. The other night we had a "brown out" where the power went out from 12AM to 6 and it woke us all up because of how hot is was without the fans blowing :)

Ok, just a few tidbits:
- Our "Rescuing effort" (reclaiming less-actives) is challenging but rewarding.
- Sister Chona is growing in her testimony. I am so excited for her! She told us that every time she reads something in the Book of Mormon, and every time we teach her, it adds to her assurance that the things we are teaching her are true. But she really wants to search and prove all things for herself, which she is doing. I lent her the Restoration video and a triple combination with a reading assignment in JSH 1:1-26. She has such a strong and righteous desire to know and follow Heavenly Father's plan. We really want to get her excited about attending general conference with us, because I know she'll feel the spirit if she sees a true living prophet speaking the world. I'm soooo excited for General Conference!
- Lea Ceralde had her baby on the 18th! It's a boy, and he is so cute and tiny.
- I got to teach a lesson while sitting on a hammock, underneath a bamboo house, overlooking the ocean. It was quite fun.
- We had buko juice (from coconut) at the home of a recent convert this week. very very yummy!

I know that Heavenly Father sent me here to the Philippines for a reason. I am learning so much. The longer I am here the more I realize how spoiled we are back in America. Sometimes I don't feel worthy to be teaching such sweet and humble people. It is such a privilege to be here serving as a missionary. I know that Heavenly Father directs this work. This is truly His church. The Book of Mormon is true, and we really do have living prophets and apostles on the earth today. What a blessing!

I love you!
Take care!
Love, Rebecca

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lots of Love to My Favorite Family :)

Magandang Umaga! (Good morning!)
Thank you for your emails! Guess what - Sister Garma was transferred on Friday! (We found this out on Wednesday) and I now have a new companion, Sister Niebla. She was Sister Young's trainer! She is from Bicol, Philippines, 23 years old, and goes home in 5 weeks. She is very cheerful and giggly :-) I just realized that I didn't really tell you much about Sister Garma, did I? Well, she was wonderful. She is from Isabella (close to the Baguio Mission) and her native language is Ilocano but she speaks Tagalog and English fluently. She was a soldier in the Armed Forces of the Philippines for 5 years before coming on a mission. Her parents were devoted Catholics before meeting the missionaries and joining the church (in fact, before being introduced to the gospel by her dad, her mom was preparing to become a nun). I learned so much from her, and I will miss her. Sister Tobias was also transferred, and Sister Walker (from my batch--the one from Mount Pleasant) is now Sister Billones' companion, and so we live together!

Hehee, so I finally gave in. Sister Billones taught me how to eat rice the true Filipino way: with my hands! Hehe, it was funny. They say it's an art, and I guess I shall learn to master it.
Also, on Thursday I learned how to peel coconut tree leaves (they use the spines in the middle of the leaf for making brooms). The brooms here are really cool looking. Not like the ones in America ;) Anyways, it was fun.

Well this week was great - it has been an adventure trying not to get lost without my navigator with me anymore, but it makes it fun :)

We had a family home evening with some recent converts on Monday, and taught an object lesson where you tie string around someone's hand - each strand of string represents one obstacle to becoming worthy to be sealed as a family in the temple) until the person is tied down with so many "excuses" that he can't break free himself. And then we talked about the Savior and how, despite all of these obstacles and our many weaknesses, we can overcome them through the power of His atonement. So we used "scissors" to represent Him - He can cut us free from the things that are holding us back, if we put put our trust in Him and seek him first in our lives. Object lessons make me happy!

Our investigator Sister Lea Ceralde is such a joy to teach. She is so desirous to be baptized! Her baby is due in one week. It's been so neat to see her grow in her testimony, and especially in her ability to pray sincerely from her heart. At first, when we taught her the steps of prayer, her prayers were very short and simple. And I've been able to see her progression. It's so cute and sweet because when she offers the prayer before we teach, she expresses simplly and honestly everything she feels in her heart. It reminds me of a little child. She truly understands her relationship with her Heavenly Father.

I am so happy because of being able to help Brother Solano, who has been sealed in the temple but had gone inactive for many years, return to church! And now he is here to stay. In our visit with him, he expressed his happiness in returning and his desire to remain active and stay true to his covenants. He is sad because his years of inactivity have affected his wayward teenage children. I shared with him about Alma the Younger, and the power of his father's prayers and example on his behalf. It really touched me how in Sacrament meeting, Brother Solano sat near the front and presented his young son to the congregation to be given a name and a blessing. What humility. I love how humble these Filipino people are. I learn so much from them. The most wonderful thing has been to see his countenance change - there is definitely a sense of peace and joy that wasn't there before. That's been worth everything :)

Hehe, I met an old man from Germany the other day. He didn't speak Tagalog and only spoke a wee bit of English, so it was fun trying to communicate with him.

I love you! Thank you so much for everything. There are still challenges, but I love it here. Thank you for your prayers!

Love, Rebecca

P.S. We fry everything in coconut oil here.
P.P.S. the visiting general authority at stake conference recognized my last name and asked if I'm related to Marilyn Boekweg who works for the church. Do you know her?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hello! :)

Life is happy. I ate whole anchovies and squid heads this week. I said, "Don't think about it. Just eat it!" and I did. Hehe!
On Wednesday, we had Zone Interviews. I always feel better after my interviews. President Jensen always has the greatest scriptural insights. I love Sister Jensen. She is so happy all the time :)

This week we started teaching a sister, Chona Deceno - she is in her 20s. She's really sharp and open-minded, and very in tune with the spirit. It seems like she's already a Mormon-at-heart. I love her! It's so neat to see how Heavenly Father seems to have prepared her for receiving the restored gospel. Our first lesson with her, we even suggested to her the possibility of her serving a mission in the future. yippee.

Yesterday was our stake conference, and we received a new stake presidency. The bishop of my ward is now the 1st counselor in the Stake Presidency, and so next week we'll probably find out who our new bishop is. At stake conference, all the missionaries and youth in our stake sang in a "missionary" choir. I was so happy because two of our "returning members" came to church yesterday for the first time. One of whom we had been working with for quite some time.

So to answer a couple of your questions: How do I normally spend preparation day? We wake up at 6:30, exercise, have personal study 8-9, comp. study 9-10, language study 10-11, and then eat lunch, email, and go to Nepo Mall and the outdoor market to shop, and then return home to clean and straighten up the apartment, and out the door by to proselyte. Sundays: our church starts at 8:30. We usually have PEC or other meetings afterwards and then we go home, prepare/study, and go and proselyte for the rest of the day.

Got to go! Time's up! I love you!
Love, Rebecca

P.S. Yes I received 2 big bundles of Alex's letters on Feb 23. I'm glad he's getting mine :) Thanks for letting me know. I love *You!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Happy March!

Hey! Thanks for the emails!! I enjoyed the pictures. I'm glad you both had great birthdays. Jennifer and Jessica, I got your letters last week, thank you! No I didn't hear about the big Earthquake in Chile - yikes. I'm pretty isolated here - not much news from the outside world. :) I also didn't hear anything about the tsunami warning for here in the Philippines. It hasn't rained at all since I've been here. We'll see I guess! That's scary about the storm/flooding in Comodoro. Stay safe!
I received 15 letters last Tuesday. Wowee what a surprise! I don't think I've ever had that much mail at once in my life! Thank you all :)

Well, it's March! Guess what. My Mission president has started a new mission plan for March and April. These are No Tracting months. We are focusing on reactivation. You'd be surprised at how many less-active member we run into when tracting. I am excited. Many members we run into no longer have a copy of the Book of Mormon because it was ruined in the recent typhoon. I am thinking about getting some ziploc bags to hand out with Books of Mormon, to keep them waterproof during rain :)

I love the elderly in this area. They are soooooooo sweet. And so hard-working. It's quite a sight to see little old ladies sitting cross-legged on bamboo benches or riding trike bikes. They always go out of their way to be hospitable and share what little they have, even when they themselves have so little. They are truly saints. I love them so much. One cultural custom that they do here, in respect for the elderly--you take their hand and raise it to touch your forehead. Whenever you do that, it's called "bless"ing them. I love it! I love the Philippines. I love being a missionary.

Not much time to write much else.
Talk to you next week!

P.S. I love you!
P.P.S. Especially *You!*