Monday, December 2, 2013

12/2/13--Masbate is Paradise

First of all, I am beyond exhausted, so if parts of this email don't make sense, I'm sorry. I am loving Masbate! It is so beautiful and I have the best companion in the world! And we are basically celebrities in our area, so that doesn't hurt. We have seen so many miracles this week and my testimony has been strengthened that this is the Lord's work and he prepares people! This week we got 50 lessons. That is the reason for my exhaustion. It is the record for the Legazpi mission! We are super happy about it! We had 43 on Saturday so then we decided we would get 7 lessons on Sunday so we could reach 50! Since we are an open area, most of the lessons were from tracting. People love to let 2 white girls into their home here haha. My life is so unreal right now.

So I have so many stories from tracting the week! First, we tracted this lady and she told us she is scared for us to come back because she thinks we will convert her....well I guess that is a good thing? Then her brother is the happiest person I have ever met. He has a million reasons not to be, but he never stops smiling and laughing. (I'll  send a picture of him). Then another day we were walking along and this group of Ladies asked if we would teach them...we were like, of course! They were all awesome, but one in particular. We went back and taught her again and she is just so receptive and excited about the gospel.
We have taught a Pentecostal man, who is a former pastor, twice this week and the second time he invited 2 of his friends. We thought that it was going to turn in to arguing, but it was actually an awesome lesson. Hard, but awesome! We see so much potential in him and he would totally be a future leader in the church.  He is very firm in his beliefs, really knows the bible, and has a lot of questions, so it is intimidating, but he is willing to listen. We were able to handle the questions very well though and have the spirit present. He said he will pray about Joseph Smith so we are excited to see what will happen! He has a really hard time with our belief of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost being separate, but he said he will pray about it. At the end of the lessons he told us he is so impressed that we would come all the way from America because we believe something so strongly. He said he knows there is one true church and we should figure it out because how can we both be right? We are really excited about him and hoping for the best.

Then there is Evelyn! Golden! We randomly tracted her while we were looking for someone else and she let us in. She is only 13, but every time we teach her she asks if we will come back the next day. She prayed about Joseph Smith and the Restoration and she said she got an answer. She said she knows our message is true because she feels at peace and it makes her happy. She can't stop smiling ever since we showed up! She is such a miracle! We are trying to teach her family, but her parents are always at work.

We tracted another family that was taught by missionaries in the 1990's! They still have a Book of Mormon and one of the sisters said she reads it all the time. We are so excited to go back and teach them. Marilyn, I talked about her last week, came to church again this week! She is so awesome. We didn't think she would show up and so happy when she walked in. She said her husband will come next week!

We also found 3 less active members tracting! We would start talking to them and eventually they would tell us they were members. That was awesome! We have a lot to do though to get them active again. We also taught Latesha through the door, Marife on a log, and Marlina standing up. Let's just say it was a week of crazy experiences.

In case your wondering, the G grandma in the picture...we see her almost everyday. She moves along this pathway from rock to rock each day. She walks so slow it is unreal and she is like 100 years old. We can't really figure out what she is trying to accomplish and she never wants our help- so we just call her jumping rock lady. I also broke a bridge this week. I felt so bad. They build these bridge walkways to go from house to house because it is muddy ground near the beach and I was walking along and next thing I know one leg is down through the bridge. Me and my companion were dying laughing, but I felt so bad. One too many kilos of rice on my part...

For thanksgiving we made Filipino food, but made our own version of pie- graham crackers and pudding- and told the Filipino sisters on Masbate what Thanksgiving is. We need to brush up on our history... I was thankful this week though! I tried to count my blessing in the spirit of the holiday! Masbate is really poor and I see things that almost make me cry each day. I thought that I saw poverty in Legazpi, I was wrong. It amazed me how happy these people are with literally nothing. It breaks my heart. I have been thinking about how hard it is going to be to go back to normal life after seeing so many sad things each day, but I am thankful for how grateful this experience is making me! I truly love my mission, no matter how hard it may be! I love you all and miss you!

-Sister Gardner
P.S. Tingnan mo ang mga bulag, dahil and mga bulag hindi kaya tingnan ikaw. (The sentence me and my companion made during language study- we are really productive.)

11/25/13--Transferred to the Island of Masbate

I am transferred!! To the Island of Masbate! It was sad to leave Legazpi and all of our investigators there and the members, but I am really happy here! It is so beautiful here on the Island! Our apartment is right on the Ocean, not the prettiest beach, but still RIGHT on the water! It is a dream! Our area is all along the beach- basically paradise! My new companion is an American. Sister Lang. We spend much of our time walking all day. I love her so much! We have so much fun together! She was the first American sister ever on the island and I along with another sister that came with me this transfer are the second.  So yes, three Americans and one Filipino in one apartment. That never happens!

Our branch is really small, but bigger than my Brooklyn branch! The Branch President is is only 25 years old, but he so awesome and so involved with Missionary work because he served his mission here so he knows the area really well! Our area is basically an open area. My companion and her old companion split the area, but we got assigned the far area that they rarely went to. When I got here we had 4 Investigators in our area and then 2 less active members. Now from tracting we have 18 new investigators and a long list of less active members to find! So yeah we basically go tracting all day every day. So many people let us right in to teach them. The people are super nice and since they have never seen Americans before they are super excited about that! All of the little kids follow us around everywhere. One day we had a herd of 30 kids! They try to come into lessons with us, but we tell them they can't, so they wait outside until we are done and follow us to the next appointment. It is so great! Sometimes since we are both American, things get a little sketchy for us...but we have had a lot of experiences where the spirit warns us to get out of certain areas, so we feel safe. We don't work at night either. We do our studies at night now and we feel completely safe in the day. We have had so many crazy experiences this week though! 
We basically became marriage counselors in one lesson-- haha. We were tracting and then we started to teach this couple and they were listenening and then all the sudden they start asking us if it is okay if they split up. We were like ummm we are 20. The wife kept saying he is my second husband and he is madaldal (it means like super talkative in an annoying way) and then the husband kept saying she was his 4th wife. We were just laughing. But then they fed us Otap, so we were okay. 
So every time I teach about families- I always ask "Do you want to be with your family for eternity" and everyone usually responds by saying "of course," but here on the island it is a different story. Now it is a joke between me and sister Lang to see what people will say. I have gotten three no answers this week haha for various strange reasons and then yesterday this one guy said to me when I asking him "Sino ayaw." Which means like, who would not want that. I just wanted to say, you would be surprised. Haha its pretty great. 
My favorite story from the week- So we are tracting and we start talking to this lady and we asked if we could come in and share our message with her. She kept trying to make excuses and we could tell she didn't really want us to, but she finally just said okay I'll listen, but I am busy. So we sit down and are talking to her and she isn't really paying that much attention, so we are a little frustrated. She was looking down and writing in this book. So then we pray and start the lesson. Slowly she stopped looking down at her book and eventually she was completely focused on our message. She began answering our questions and telling us about her family! At the end of the lesson she told us that she felt cold when we spoke to her and that the hairs on her arms were sticking up. She told us it was something different than the wind though. She said she has only ever felt that way when she sings at church. The Holy Ghost!!! It was such a testimony builder for me to know that people recognize the spirit when we teach them. 
Miracles are really happening in our area! Yesterday we had two people that we had tracted and taught show up to church! That never happens! We were sooo excited! I am feeling the spirit so strongly this transfer and seeing so many miracles already! I know that it is because we are being obedient and working our very hardest to build up our area and bring the gospel to there people! 
I am just so happy here on the island! I am so thankful to be here serving these humble and kind people! The Lord is seriously preparing people to receive the gospel. It is amazing to be a part of it and see!
I love you all and miss you! Thanks for all the prayers and support!
-Sister Gardner

11/18/13--Typhoon Part 2

So first about the Typhoon! I keep hearing crazy stories and am honesty SO grateful that Legazpi was okay. I can't imagine being a missionary in Tacloban! So I'm sure many of you know that all the missionaries were taken out of Tacloban. Many of them passed through here on their way to Manila. The rumor is some of them will be reassigned here is Legazpi on the 26th. We will see! A bunch of members from Tacloban stayed at our chapel for a night. The members here are so awesome! They all came together and provided food for them and showers and all they needed. The members from Tacloban were ones that had cars so they drove out and then took the ferry and drove to our chapel to stay then went to Manila. We went over and ate with them and talked with them and helped out. It was so heartbreaking. They all looked so exhausted and just shocked. Their cars were full of anything that was spared and all the things they would keep from their precious life. It made me so sad. Everything they know is just gone. Good news though, Sister Gamba was able to hear that her family is safe! They said the biggest thing is lack of food though.

So this week has been pretty crazy! I got super sick with the flu and had a super high fever, which sucks in the Philippines because you can't cool down. So that affected our work on Friday and Saturday, but we still had a lot of awesome lessons! We were able to visit Angelica (the ones whose dad is a pastor for 7th Day Adventist). She always has had a problem with the Book of Mormon, but after our lesson she said she wants to know now if it's true and that it makes sense. She now understands that is doesn't replace or take away from the Bible.  She said she will begin to read from the start. The spirit was so strong! Then there was our lesson with Delia. The hard core Catholic that knows her Bible.  Inako! Basically she denies everything we say.  It was cool though because at the end we bore POWERFUL testimony and she couldn't deny that. When you bear your testimony as a missionary it is like the people become dumbfounded. They can't deny your testimony. They just go silent. 

I had my first baptism this week! That was exciting! Gino! He is 9 years old. He comes from a member family. Haha it is so hard for him to focus, but he really does have a testimony and tries to be good. He was typical Gino at his baptism, but a little more reverent. We are going to his house later for family home evening and to celebrate. I hope there will be many more baptisms to come! It is the best feeling ever! 

So my birthday was awesome here! The sisters in my apartment surprised my with cake and balloons and sung to me. I didn't know, but they had stayed up the night before getting it already, while I was dead asleep because I took Niquil haha. The best part was opening my package from home! Just knowing that it came from home made me happy! We had 2 dinner appointments haha. Both of the Derosan families found out it was my birthday and so they insisted on having me over. They are my second and third families here! I love them so much! They made my day so happy! I was so full though after I thought I was going to die. Eating mass amounts of food some days and then barely anything on others is for sure a skill gained here on the mission.

So we got transfer announcements on Saturday and I am being transferred! I am so sad to leave my first area, but excited for a new adventure! It was hard to say goodbye to a lot of the people here. It breaks my heart to leave our investigators and not be able to see their progression, but I know there are people waiting for me in my next area! Legazpi has been so good to me! I will find out tomorrow where my next area will be and who my next companion will be!

So this week I have thought a lot about happiness. I have always been a happy person due to the gospel and good friends and family, but sometime here on the mission there are days where it can be hard to be cheerful. Investigators don't progress a lot of the time, less active members are stubborn, companionships aren't perfect, and you are away from you family and friends. But happiness really is a choice. No matter what the circumstances are you can choose to be happy and look for the good. You can put a smile on your face and not let the bad get to you. True happiness comes as we embrace the gospel and choose to be happy. There are trials that await us each day when we get up, but if we will pray to find the good in the day and choose not to focus on the bad we can be cheerful. Other people will see that joy and be happier because of it. 

That is all I have! I love you all so much! Have a great week!
-Sister Gardner


The crazy week of Typhoon Yolanda or I guess there are calling it Haiyan in the U.S. First of all, I am totally fine! It was only a level 2 typhoon in Legazpi, so just a really bad storm- nothing severe! The beach area was the most affected, which is my area, but we evacuated to Daraga and stayed with the Sisters there for 2 nights. There are lots of trees down and some of the really poor houses have damage, but the people are okay. It is nothing like Tacloban here. The scariest part is that is should have hit Legazpi as hard as it hit Tacloban, but by some miracle it went around us. The people here are so thankful!
So rewind to the start of the week. We had very little work this week because of the storm. Mostly before the storm all the people we taught wanted to talk about the storm coming and after all they wanted to talk about was the storm- so basically we related every lesson to the storm. 3 Nephi 8 was a favorite this week. On Monday we taught a new couple Josalyn and Melchor. They are awesome, except for the fact that they only really speak Bicol- so I guess I will start learning Bicol now- something I have been avoiding. And the fact that it took us 45 minutes to get Melchor to pray at the end of the lesson. Haha he was so stubborn, but so were we. We also have another new investigator- Danilyn! She is 21 years old and so smart! We talked to her and left her a pamphlet last week and then visited her this week and she had read the whole pamphlet and had tons and tons of questions. They were awesome questions too like, How do we know which of all the churches is true and if the church is centered on families what do you do if you are the only member in your family. She is so awesome!!! We are excited to go back and teach her!
So Wednesday is when we started hearing about the Typhoon. We were told to put everything from the first floor of the apartment up to the second floor because at least 6 feet of flooding was expected because our apartment is below sea level. So we came back early from working and moved EVERYTHING up stairs. Including the fridge. That was a struggle. We then were told we would spend Thursday night and however long until everything was safe wit the Sisters in Daraga because their apartment would be safer during the storm. So we packed enough food and water and clothes for at least 4 days. Thursday morning we had zone training, but spent most of the time moving all the stuff in the chapel on the stage there because flooding was expected. The storm was supposed to be a level 5 here so most of the people were really preparing. After zone training and before we went to Daraga we spent a few hours going and visiting the members and investigators in our area to see if they needed help preparing. Some of them were ready to evacuate, but some of them were just chillin watching TV. Good thing the storm didn't hit bad here because a lot of people would not have been prepared!
So then we were stuck inside the apartment in Daraga from Thursday afternoon until Saturday morning. We had fun because there were 8 sisters, but we for sure got bored! A lot of studying and laughing. We kept watching the storm and thinking it was going to get worse, but it never got too bad. There were a couple really loud gusts of wind, but nothing too major! The power was out for a day and half- which meant to water, but nothing serious. Everyone here is fine!
I think the people were really humbled though and just thankful it didn't hit here like it did in Tacloban. We had so many people come to church yesterday it was insane! I guess the storm made people think about what really is important.
One of the Sisters in our apartment is from Tacloban and she hasn't been able to get in any form of contact with her family. I am super worried, but she says she feels like they are okay. We have been praying a lot for her. Last night me and my companion saw a little clip of news while were were walking by a house and we were shocked! The damage is insane! I don't even know how to react because it could have been here. I'm sure we will be doing some form of service for those affected, but I'm not sure what yet.
This week has for sure been a crazy one! One I will never forget! I am safe though and I know that in any natural disaster here I will be okay, the missionaries are very well taken care of.
This week we will get transfer announcements and I will most likely be transferred. So I will be saying a lot of goodbyes this week and getting ready to go to my second area! I can't believe how fast the time is flying! I love you all and thanks for all of your prayers for the Philippines during this time! Mahal Kita! Ingat!
-Sister Gardner
P.S. We had district activity this morning and went bowling...again...but I creamed my whole distrcit...again...I think I found my hidden talent.

11/04/13--Getting Into Details

November na! Mabalis ng oras! Sana malamig dito, pero sobrang mainit pa.
Kumusta po ang pamilya at kaibigan ko? Namimiss ko kayo palagi! Pero, maraming salamat po para yung support palagi!

So this week was not super eventful- actually most of the eventful things were not necessarily good things. Our investigators are slowly telling us basically that they will stay Catholic. Pero, okay lang- we keep tracting and talking to people and finding the people that the Lord is preparing! I know they are out there- I'm just not really sure where. So John- the golden lesson from last week, this week was not such a golden lesson. We asked if he got an answer to his prayer. He said yes and that he will stay Catholic. Pero, as we taught he opened up a little more again because we had awesome members with us that bore way awesome testimony! We are teaching the restoration to him again because that really is the foundation of testimony. I am super sad about him, but trying to have faith that he will be able to recognize the Holy Ghost! Stubborn talaga!
There were two super awesome things this week though! First, the Alanis Family. I have mentioned them before. They are a part member family- Omar, the dad, is less active, and Joann, the wife, is the most stubborn investigator in the Philippines. But they are sooo awesome! We went and visited them this week and it had been a while. Omar is a magician haha and so he showed us a bunch of majic tricks. His little girls love it, its so cute! The lesson was about keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. Omar told us how he really wants to become active in the Church again, he just doesn't know when it will happen. I told him NOW! If he doesn't decided now it may never happen. So we are walking to church yesterday and my companion goes oh my gosh look Sister Gardner- and there they were! Their whole family! We were so happy and the whole ward was too! I hope that is becomes a weekly thing!
The other super awesome thing is Erica Arsega. Our 12 year old investigator that might as well be 18. She is so smart it is insane. When we follow up on our last lesson she knows everything we taught her! Her answers to questions are amazing and she asks the deepest questions. And she is 12! Future leader in the church for sure! Now it just getting her family on board. Her parents are always so busy!
Let's just say this week there were many disappointments. I thought a lot about what can I say to help people see the truth. I thought about why the gospel means so much to me. The things that came to my mind were first the simplicity and beauty of the gospel. Life really becomes so simple and beautiful when you understand and accept the gospel completely because you know your purpose here and you know who you are. I want my investigators to understand that so badly! The next things I thought about were prophets, families, and the temple. I am so thankful for the comfort the words of the prophets bring, the knowledge that families can be together forever, and to be able to go to the temple. These things are true and they can only be found in the true Church of Jesus Christ. This week I am just thankful. Sometimes, well maybe more than sometimes missions are hard. They just are, but they are great and amazing because they are hard. Each day I think about what I learned that day and decide I would never take back the things I learn each day. Each day is preparing me for a bright future!
Oh one funny story.  So on the Jeepney you say "Bayad po" when you are passing your money up to the driver and then "Para po" when you want the driver to stop. I was super tired and I yelled "Bayad po" really loud for the driver to stop instead of "Para po." Me and my companion were laughing really hard along with everyone else in the Jeepney. White girl problems dito sa Philippines.
I love you all! I miss you all each day and hope you are happy and healthy!
-Sister Gardner