Monday, December 27, 2010

Good morning!

Kamusta! Today we're having P-day with Jerrene and Laurena (both recent converts). They both wanted to come follow us around here while we go grocery shopping. haha, what fun. Today we ate lunch with sister Young and sister Anderson. Tomorrow is transfer awareness day. I sure hope none of us gets transferred yet! :)

On Tuesday morning we had a mission Christmas conference. It was wonderful, although a little strange not to have President Jensen's wife there this year (she's in the U.S.) We watched a hallmark movie called "Front of the class" - very inspirational. I recommend it :) President Jensen gave us all toblerone and mini books of mormon for Christmas. Also on Tuesday was our ward Christmas party. As the ward was deciding on the food, I jokingly suggested that they bring balut for sister Nielsen (which she did NOT want to try). But they actually took us seriously and brought 10 balut (5 for me and 5 for sister Nielsen), and then everyone piled outside to watch Sister Nielsen try it for her first time. Haha, it was very unforgettable. Well, she ate it! the whole thing! And of course, I ate one too. She's such a good sport. We were ecstatic because of how many of our investigators showed up at the Christmas party - around 30 came!

On Christmas Eve, we made chicken nugget lumpia, and then sister Nielsen and I went out on our balcony to read scriptures about integrity, purity, and knowledge with candles (one of her family traditions) and read Luke 2 while we listened to the fireworks. On Christmas day, we Christmas caroled a bit and visited the Agustin family, who fed us "Bilo bilo" (one of my favorite Filipino desserts) and fried rice patties (kind of like scones). Maria Luna, Vicent, and Ray (ages 8, 10, 11) sang us a bunch of Christmas and Tagalog songs. I recorded it on my camera - I wish I could show you, but the email won't let me send videos. We also watched Mr. Kreuger's Christmas with them. It made us so exceedingly happy to see their whole family at church yesterday, and all of the members did such a great job of fellowshipping them and making them feel loved and welcome. Yay! Sometimes, as a missionary, my greatest fear is bringing investigators to church, because of the fear that members won't reach out and make them feel welcome. Sometimes, honestly, it can feel like feeding them to the wolves. But it's so wonderful when members fellowship newcomers. It's made me really realize how much of a difference it can make for just one member to go out of their way to be friendly to a new face.

On Christmas morning, brother Ferrer, an elderly member (around 80 years old) fed us a nice breakfast. We also stopped by the Madayag family (members) on Christmas day and they fed us a whole bunch of fruit salad. The fruit salad here is really interesting: it is sweet, has noodles, flavorless jell-o, corn, and cheese. my companion hates it, and we had to eat it 3 times in a 24-hour period. It was funny. The members here are so generous and kind.

This week we offered to "remove temptation" from one of the returning members who is struggling with quitting smoking. It was great - we swiped his box of cigarettes, and then he told us how he has decided to quit! Hooray!

I love Urdaneta! I'm pretty sure I've been assigned to the best area in the entire mission. We're so lucky -we've got the temple, the mission home, and the world's nicest people here! I love you! It was so great to hear your voices on the phone! My goodness, Jennifer and Jessica, you sound so old! Send my love to Alex!

Inayayet Kayo! (I love you - ilocano)

Love always,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Maligayang Pasko!

Merry Christmas! And Happy Birthday Daddy!

Haha, that picture of the big huge snowman is great! I really like the one where you are all leaning over mimicking it. Hehee! Way to go Jennifer and Jessica for performing in the Nutcracker! I bet you were great! This week was great. I went to a Filipino wedding (of a member/investigator). It was funny because they gave me and Sister Nielsen red-carpet treatment - we were seated at the family table right next to the bride and groom, with people waiting on us lots of Filipino food. One interesting tradition is that as they were dancing, people would go and pin money to the bride's veil. It was really interesting wedding. The couple didn't kiss or hug or show any signs of affection throughout the entire night! They weren't even smiling at each other. It weirded me out! But it was a good finding opportunity. Lots of neighbors and relatives were there, and we made a lot of contacts and handed out lots of pamphlets.

This week when we visited the Agustin family, little Jo-jo (10 years old) was really sick with a bad flu and fever. Sister Agustin was really scared and didn't know what to do because her husband was in Manila, and both Sister Nielsen and I felt prompted to ask if she wanted someone to give him a priesthood blessing. So we tried contacting a bunch of the priesthood holders in that area, but all of them were gone, and luckily our zone leaders were kind of close and willingly came over to give him a blessing. I think it really was comforting for Sister Emily (the mom) and was a great opportunity to help her understand more about the blessings of the priesthood in her home.

We visited Jerrene's mom, Josephine (who is an inactive member). Usually she has been too busy and hesitant to let us in and teach her, but when we came on Saturday, she seemed eager to have us teach her because she quickly grabbed two chairs and invited us in, even though Jerrene wasn't there. As we talked with her, she cried and expressed many things to us. She knows this is the true church - she is just having a hard time trying to let go of the past and come back, but she expressed the desire to have her family sealed in the temple. (If you remember, two of her children died when they were only 6 and 7 -- they drowned in the ocean). In this area especially I have seen and experienced many things that have really taught me the great importance of never judging or condemning others. We have no right to judge others because we don't see their whole situation clearly - only Jesus Christ is the one who truly understands where they are coming from. I've learned how important it is to never gossip or talk behind someone's back - because there is always a reason behind why people do the things they do, and we need to exercise more charity and leave the judging to the Lord. Gossiping is never helpful, and is never a worthwhile or productive use of our time. Instead we should be giving people the benefit of the doubt, and looking for ways to help and serve them. Sister Jerrene is great -- she really wants to go on a mission, and always wants to work with us. She is already being such a wonderful influence on all those around her, especially her family. Her mom talked about how they used to all go to church as a family, and her husband was taught by the missionaries and almost baptized, but then they're 2 children drowned, and it was really hard on them and quit coming. But now it seems he is warming up more to the idea of being taught again. Because she said that whenever we come over, he is in the other room listening in, and even grabs his scriptures to read along with us. She also said how Jerrene's little brother and sister are now excitedly reading the scriptures on their own, which is surprising to their mom. And Jerrene told us of how she has changed since she became a member -she used to argue a lot with her mom and they would run around the house trying to hit each other, but now whenever they have a disagreement, instead of hitting, Jerrene gives her mom a hug. You can really tell how much of a positive impact it has had on their entire family. I always tell Jerrene that she can be the light and beacon in her family.

Yesterday we had ward conference - it was one of the best sacrament meetings I've ever attended. They spoke a lot about charity. I liked this quote: You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. Bishop shared the story about the Lord feeding the children of Israel manna for 40 years, and he tied it into keeping the Sabbath day holy. It was very edifying. There are 1000 members (exactly) in our ward. Unfortunately only about 9% of those are active. Needless to say, there is plenty of work to be done.

I worked with Sister Young on Friday while our trainees went to Baguio for a new missionary training. I learned that trying to teach drunk people doesn't get very far. But at least you can leave them with something to read when they get back to their senses. I feel so blessed to be assigned here in Urdaneta, where the new temple will soon be built. It is an adventure to be training, especially since we are both Americans. I love Tagalog - I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to learn this language - I didn't even know what it sounded like before :) Filipino people are so great. We in America really are pretty spoiled in a lot of ways. In some ways, I wish Americans could be more like Filipinos: humble, childlike, affectionate, content with little, easily excited, always smiling. I just love it. I love you! Have a wonderful merry Christmas! I'll call you on Christmas day for me - probably Christmas Eve for you --- or Christmas night (morning for you). Oh p.s. our email time was increased to 45 minutes now :)

Love, Rebecca

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Christmas time!

Maligayang Pasko! (Merry Christmas!)

Hello my most beloved family! How are you???? Thank for the emails! Oh boy! Christmas is coming soon! Ok I'll probably try to call you on Christmas day then - I'll let you know when exactly next week. This week was great. On Tuesday morning, Sister Young and I left our trainees to work together while we headed to Dagupan for a 4-day training. It was a really good 4 days, and I learned a lot. President Jensen is a wonderful mission president, and very good at teaching us pure doctrine to motivate us as missionaries. He taught us about the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy, and I learned a lot. He read us Doctrine and Covenants 59 and explained that the blessings that come from obeying this commandment are very very similar to the blessings of keeping the law of tithing. Heavenly Father promises us the "fullness of the earth" and will open the windows of heaven and pour us out blessings that we won't even be able to contain, if we only give him this one day to refrain from shopping/working and to worship him. Both laws are very similar too. The law of tithing requires us to sacrifice and offer the Lord by means of our income. Sabbath day observance requires sacrifice by means of our time. It can be really easy to overlook how important it is, and to even cheat a little if we don't have a deep and abiding faith that blessings will literally be poured out on our heads for doing so. But they will. As my companion likes to say, "If we're almost obedient, than we almost receive the blessings." It's interesting to think about it that way. I learned from President Jensen's discussion that no matter what you try to do or where you look, the very best way to get out of poverty is by living the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially in keeping the law of tithing and keeping the Sabbath day holy.

I also learned that the gift of discernment is one of the most precious gifts of the spirit that we can receive, and that listening is one of the best ways to enhance our spiritual discernment. And I learned that sharing personal experiences is one of the most effective ways of teaching and inviting the spirit. Also, I've learned that the most important doctrine you could ever teach someone in 60 seconds is the "Doctrine of Christ" which is, in order to fully access the blessings that Jesus Christ offers, we must to these 5 things: have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the holy ghost, and endure to the end. Why not say that families, or community service, or temple work is the central doctrine of our church? important as those things are. Because none of those things matter unless we can access the atonement. Those 5 things are the most important thing that any missionary or member of this church could ever share in order to help others come unto Christ.

During the training, I also got to go on splits with a couple sisters in Dagupan and work in their areas, which was neat. My companion sister Nielsen, is great. She always has great ideas and has a great sense of humor about everything. Last night we taught one of our investigators about the importance of having "a mighty change of heart" and I used that carrot/cookie analogy that you emailed me. Thanks!

Last night we watched the Christmas Devotional and I loved President Monson's talk and his counsel to "discard the meaningless." Being on a mission in the Philippines has really had a huge effect on my perception of what things are really most important. Material things just really don't matter, and yet it's sad how caught up we can sometimes get with them, and how easy it is to set our hearts on things that won't ever make us truly happy in the long run.

I love you! Being on a mission is the best thing in the world! I feel so lucky to have been assigned here in the Philippines Baguio mission! And in Urdaneta as well, where a new temple will be built! What a privilege. This gospel is true. I'm so thankful for this wonderful experience to be here. Don't get me wrong, it's still sometimes super hard and discouraging, but the happy things way out the bad! I love you very much! (especially you!) Keep being great! :)

Love, Rebecca

P.S. one of the Christmas traditions here is the little children go around on the streets singing carols to people walking on the streets, and asking for candy or pesos. It's cute!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Hello everybody! Mahal ko kayo!

Guess what! Tomorrow I get to go to Dagupan for a 4-day leadership training. I'm excited. Sister Nielsen and Sister Anderson will be companions for 4 days working in both areas. They are both really nervous because they've only been here for 2 weeks and are having a hard time with Tagalog still. But it will be a great experience - they will do great!

Well, as far as our investigators, things are going pretty good. One of our investigators, Nanet, and her daughter, Christina, are getting baptized in January! We are helping them, the Agustin family, and Joanna get over their addictions to coffee. They're doing great.

Sister Jensen (wife of President Jensen) flew out to the U.S. today and won't be back until January (family emergency). It will be different not having her around for the holidays. Speaking of, let me know when you want me to call home - it can be anytime during the holidays.

This morning we went hiking as a zone. It was very hot, and my companion and I got sunburned. I'm enjoying learning lots here in the mission field. There's a lot I've learned about how to be more effective in setting and reaching goals, and I've seen Heavenly Father's hand this week in helping us to reach some of our goals and the standard of excellence. Doing missionary work is hard. But it is very enjoyable, especially when we try to keep an eye single to the work. It requires so much, so it's really hard/nearly impossible to be effective if your whole heart isn't fully into the work. I'm really grateful for this wonderful opportunity to be here. I just can't imagine my life without having served a mission in the Philippines - the culture, the people, the lessons learned, the friendships made, the language, the experiences. It's strange to think I might have never had these priceless experiences had I not decided to go on a mission. Boy am I glad I did! And how the Philippines has almost become a part of who I am now. I just am so grateful and happy that I chose to be here, although I definitely had no idea what I was getting myself into at first. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ! We are so blessed, and Heavenly Father loves us so much. The restored gospel is true, and it will do more to make us happy than anything else in the world.

I love you all! Thank you for the emails!! It's okay for others to email me but I'm not able to reply to them. If you see Alex or Karla, let them know there's a letter that will coming soon :)
Let me know if there's anything I can do for you all! Thanks for everything you are doing for me.

Rebecca Marie Boekweg