Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Because of Him

Here is a link to an inspiring short movie about Christ:

5/5/14 FHE

Family and Friends,
The internet decided to be really slow today, so I don't have lots of time, but I will try my best to give a good update of what is going on here in good old Camalig! This week was a little slow, with a lot of ups and downs and lots of heat and humidity, but of course- every week is a good week of growth and experience here on the mission! I will just go day by day I guess-
Tuesday- An okay day of work. We found a less active member that we have been trying to find forever and taught Dante- which is always spiritual. His prayers kill me. Without fail he cries every time.
Wednesday- Exchanges! I was with Sister Aholelei and so of course we had such a good time and had lots of laughs! We got tons of lessons and found lots of new people to teach, too bad it was in her area! She called a little girl "guapo" (which means handsome) because she thought it was a boy- while we were trying to OYM to this lady. Yeah, she didn't let us teach her haha. I also got to play with a puppy that lives next door to the Guino Batan sisters apartment. Definitely a highlight of my week.
Thursday- The day of zero lessons. We walked our ENTIRE area, and nothing. We were dead tired. The people LOVE us here. I slept really good that night.
Friday- We found a less active member that was Relief Society President and Young Womens president when she was active, but then has been inactive for 5 years due to being offended and the bad example of members. She was really surprised to see us, but really touched and was teary during the lesson. She says that every time she sees the church she wished she could come back. She said she will always know that this is the true church. We testified that it is never too late to come back and that just because the doctrine of the church is perfect, doesn't mean the members are. I hope that we can help her to return. It can be hard to watch members break commandments, when they should know better, but it should never affect our view of the church and our devotion to our Heavenly Father. Everyone has agency and everyone's level of conversion is different.
Saturday- A good day of work! We were busy and didn't need to tract or wonder where to go! One of out areas has two really active families and then a few part member families. We are really focusing there- trying to teach the part members and get referrals. The problem is- all these kids want to be baptized, but can't be until their parents are or their parents are reactivated. Their hearts are slowly being softened though! Our last appointment was with the Solano family- and I guess they thought that we said FHE and invited their extended family- so we pulled together an FHE in 2 minutes while pretending we knew it was an FHE all along. They even cooked for us- but we hasd to awkwardly refuse because we were fasting. I felt so bad. It was super fun though and we were all laughing hard during the games. It is tradition here that when you lose a game you have to do a talent. Their cousin- he is probably 7 or 8- sang "let it go" for us and it was so halarious. He is short and chubby and got so into it. Too good!
Sunday- A good day at church. Not too many people came, but some of the members from my first area were visiting so that was fun to see them!
That is about it for this week! I am so excited for Mother's Day! 
I love and miss you all! Have a good week!
-Sister Gardner

4/28/14 Ups and Downs

Dear Family and Friends,

This week was a lot of ups and downs as far as the week, but overall things are really starting to progress in our area. We are finding some solid investigators and seeing miracles with the less active members. Still a lot of walking, tracting and getting rejecting, but not quite as much!  The first few days of the week were the rough ones. I think the most success we saw on Tuesday was when my comp bought Balut from the 18 year old Balut guy and so I decided to give him a pass along card and tell him that our message was a lot more delicious than Balut. He just laughs whenever he sees us now. That same day we found a former investigator and she said we could teach her and so we sit down and are ready to teach and then she says to wait a minute and she goes into the back room. We wait and wait and wait and finally she sends out a little girl saying "next time na lang." That is one way to get rid of missionaries haha. Despite a hard few days, I found comfort in my patriarchal blessing and felt God's love for me as I read in the Book of Mormon. I can't imagine what I would do through the trials in my life if I didn't have the gospel. 

Saturday was a miracle day! I know that it was because on Friday night despite the lack of lessons we stayed out until the last minute tracting and trying to talk to people. Obedience bring miracles! So Saturday morning we went tracting in a new area that we found and it was amazing! We found so many new people to teach and one of them is a family! That was just the morning. In the afternoon all of our appointments worked out and we were just going from appointment to appointment with no time to tract and be discouraged. It felt so good! One of the people we taught is our investigator Blanca. She is the one with the old Book of Mormon. She had so many questions for us and they were all answered as we taught her about the Restoration and Book of Mormon. She is so prepared for the gospel and she accepted the invitation to be baptized is she come to know that this is true! She is still waiting for the answer to her prayer about Joseph Smith, but I know that it will come! 

On Sunday we were able to teach Sister Miranda. Several sets of missionaries taught her and her husband back in 2007 and Brother's brother and his wife are sealed in the temple, so they are familiar with the church. We invited brother to listen to the lesson, but he said that he was busy taking care of the baby. We taught Sister on the porch first about God is our loving Heavenly Father and then about how the gospel blesses families. Once we began talking about families brother appeared in the doorway and listened for the rest of the time. They are such a darling family and I hope that this is their time for the gospel! 

Some funny things this week... A less active member explained to us how she uses the priesthood power to heal children...umm I think she is a little confused. We also visited one of the missionaries that is in the hospital with Dengue because is was his birthday. He had one cake that said "Happy Birthday" and one the said "Happy Dengue Day." I thought it was funny. The hospital was straight out of a scary movie though. Kawawa. 

What else? I think that is about it. I am just thankful for all of the experiences on my mission that I will have the rest of my life to look back on. Some are hard, some are happy and some are halarious. They all make me smile though and I know I would not be who I am if it weren't for all of these extreme emotional experiences each day.
I love you all! Thanks for all of your prayers and support! Have an awesome week and enjoy the spring weather while I am here trying not to "overheat" (it is a real thing- you don't want to experience it).

-Sister Gardner

4/21/14 Happy Easter

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy Easter! I didn't even know that it was easter yesterday! Holy Week here takes over "Easter." Holy Week is not my favorite week of the mission! It basically means not very many people are home. It was absolute craziness! So many people crowded around the catholic church to watch the parade. Quite the experience considering our whole area is centered around the church. To say it simply, this week was for sure a trial of Sister Ilago and mine's Faith. We had all kinds of awkward rejection experiences tracting, many people dropped us (rather than us dropping them), and appointments falling through. I know that our faith is just being tested and if we just keep working hard and doing our part that the Lord will provide and place in our path the people that have been prepared. 

Despite a little bit of a rough week as far as teaching, especially toward the end of the week, we still saw many miracles! 

1. We watched the Restoration video with Jerry (an investigator) and Leo (a less active member). We have been trying to help Jerry understand the Restoration and gain a testimony of Joseph Smith for a few weeks now and so we decided to watch the Restoration video so that he could visualize what happened. We invited his cousin Leo too to watch. Both of their eyes were glued to the screen the entire time. At the end we talked about it and bore testimony to them. Jerry finally got it! In his prayer at the end he said that he knew Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Leo also said that he realized for the first time what actually happened to Joseph Smith. It was a really powerful lesson.

2. The Lobo family. Brother Lobo is a less active and has 10 children who aren't members. Whenever we go over there we meet more of his children and they are all so interested. We met one of his sons this week who has been baptized in many different churches and really wants to know where the truth is. He accepted immediately to be baptized in our church if he comes to find that this is the true church. He wants to find a place where he can stay. 

3. Yesterday a member from Tobaco brought his friend Eva to church. She is from here, Camalig, and is interested to learn more about the church. After church we taught her at the chapel and she was so interested and had so many questions. We taught her about the Restoration and were able to answer many of her questions. She really understood the lesson and committed to pray about Joseph Smith. She is such a golden investigator and I am so excited to be teaching someone that is so interested! 

4. Besides Eva we received 4 additional referrals on Sunday evening! That will for sure make for a better week of teaching this week! Referrals are like gold to us right now. All you members, give referrals to the missionaries in your ward! They are praying for them and doing everything that they can to gain your trust so that you will refer your friends and family to them to teach. You can trust them with your friends and family! Like Elder Holland said, an invitation out of love will never be seen as offensive (not word for word). 

Even if I wasn't aware really of Easter, I have been thinking a lot about Christ this week and the simple truth that because of his Atonement we all have the opportunity to return to our Heavenly Father and obtain Eternal Life with our families. I am so thankful for that knowledge that is at the heart of this gospel. I love my Savior and I am thankful for the strength I gain through the Atonement each day on my mission. I am thankful that he loved me enough to die for me.  I am most thankful that because he lives and because of his Resurrection, this life is not the end. I know that I still don't fully understand the Atonement, even if I teach of it each day, but I know that the Atonement is a real power that we can all experience each day in our lives if we just seek Christ in our lives and follow his example and his teachings.

I love and miss you all!

Ingat! Mahal ko kayo!

-Sister Gardner

4/14/14 Conference

Family and Friends, 

This week was a mix of the good and the bad- the miracles and the rejection, as most weeks are here on the mission. Despite a lot rejection, we did find some really awesome people!

First, the Lobo family! Tatay Lobo is a less active that has a wife and 10 kids that are not members, but are all somewhat familiar with the church due to random visit from missionaries, and the Book of Mormon's and pamphlets lying around their house. They all live in this small house that Tatay Lobo has been slowly working on for years, and they are awesome. We visited them twice this week and are starting to catch the attention of some of the kids and Tatay Lobo is now reading in the Book of Mormon again! Then there is Pipito. Not the person I would usually start talking to about the Gospel, but the spirit prompted me to and so I did. We left him a pamphlet and he said his house was "doon lang" and that we could come back. When we came back all his kids, his wife, his mother and many other extended family members were there. We got to teach them all. It is always hard to tell if people are surprised to see an American speaking Tagalog, or if there are interested in the message, but I think they were interested and we are going back this week. I am really excited about their family! Their 5 kids are all boys under the age of 12. How awesome would it be if they all served mission?! 

We has exchanges this week. Sister Ilago and Sister Longson were able to talk to a lady named Blanca. They said that they originally walked right by her, but then felt prompted to go back, so they followed the prompting and I am so glad that they did! We taught her last night and she is so prepared. She has a really old Book of Mormon that her sister left her before she died. It has seen many baygios, but she said she still reads it when she finds time. She had so many questions. She wondered where this book came from, why there were so many churches, and what would life be life after this life. Perfect for all of our lessons! She has such an interest and I am so excited to keep teaching her! 

We are continuing to teach our investigator, whose mother was a member, but died when he was young. He has a hard time understanding the doctrine and can never really remember what we have taught, but he told us that ever since we started teaching him he feels closer to God and feels like he is starting to change his life. That made me feel good and like we are accomplishing our purpose.

One of my favorite rejection stories this week is when we were looking for a less active family and so we asked a family if they knew them and they send us up a hill where supposedly their house was. When we got close to the end of the hill we asked a man if he knew the family and he told us that they lived at the bottom of the hill. The less active family we had been looking for was the family that sent us up the hill. That same day we were looking for another less active- found her- and mid conversation she started walking away from us down a random path. Awesome.

This week we has interviews with President and it was a very spiritual experience of course. Considering that I am getting pretty far in my mission he had a lot of questions for me about what I have learned, but mostly who have I become. He said that yes numbers are part of a mission, but the most important thing is who are we becoming. He said that too many missionaries fail to focus on the most important part of a mission- who it makes you. I think that this applies with anything that we are pursuing in our lives. The most important part of anything that we become a part of is who is makes us. So who are we becoming? Are we making choices daily that will help us meet our ultimate goal of Eternal Life? Even little sins will lead us off the path that will lead to our ultimate happiness. Things that bring only temporary happiness are just not worth it. On my mission I have gained such a testimony of obedience. We are so much better off if we are obedient to God's commandments. He knows best, NOT us. If we think differently, that is pride. We constantly need to evaluate our lives and make sure that we are becoming the person that we want to be. It is up to us who we become, regardless of our circumstances. Whether we are missionaries, children, grandparents, or somewhere in between- our choices matter and will determine our eternities. 

The best part of this week was Conference! It was so nice to just sit back and listen and feel the spirit for a good 8 hours. All the talks were good and I learned so much (including that I missed the Olympics, I had no idea that the Olympics happened). One of my very favorites was Henry B. Eyrings talk about being an example and leaving a history for your posterity (I am going to become a much better journal writer and picture taker). I also liked Russel M. Nelson's about being tied to God and not something else. Also to not segment our lives- but to always show integrity. Of course Uchtdorf always in my favorite. He always has a happy and positive message. We all need to have an attitude of gratitude and be thankful in our circumstances. "Don't wait for the rainbow before thanking God." I also loved Richard G. Scott's about righteous examples and Michael John Teh's (Filipino's are the best) about not getting caught up in wordly possessions, but rather placing our treasures in Heaven. I am sure that I will have a lot more thought about the talks as I study them more, but I felt that every speaker was telling members to just step up and be better examples. Live the commandments and do something about your faith! 

This week is Holy Week- so pray for us to find people to teach- considering Camalig is centered around a giant Catholic church- where I think 90% of the people will be this week. 

I love you all and hope that you have a good week! Thanks for all the prayers and support! 

Mahal ko kayo, 

-Sister Gardner

4/7/14 Walking and Talking

Family and Friends:

Well, this week has for sure been one of the harder weeks on my mission! Of course still a good and happy week, just hard. We have been trying to find people to teach here in our open area, but we just aren't having the best success. We tract almost all day everyday and hardly get in any doors, so different than Masbate when everyone let you in and accepted a return appointment. But don't worry! We don't give up! We keep walking and walking and talking and talking. Some days we walk down the same street over and over and everyone looks at us like we are crazy. It doesn't help that I am the only white person. My poor companion, her first week in the mission field consisted of mostly tracting and then teaching our 2 investigators and 3 less actives. I try my best to make it fun, but there is only so much you can do.

I have found comfort in the scriptures- Alma 8:11-13 and Helaman 10:2-5. The Lord is more concerned with our obedience and the commitment to the work, than our success. I know that is true. I know that He has a plan for our area and that it will all work out and that we will find those people that have been prepared for the gospel!
The Camalig ward is awesome though! We had members work with us every single day this week! Yesterday in our coordination meeting they all reported on their work and it was all "even though we just tracted and got rejected, I still learned a lot and felt good doing the Lord's work." Then after Sister Ilago and I basically begged for referrals. 

On Friday we had Zone Training and it was all about finding people to teach- so that was fitting! During the practice teaching we taught Sister Nielson- my first lesson in English! It was so hard! It went so bad! I had no clue what to say. I always thought that it would be so easy to give talks, teach classes, and work with the missionaries when I get home because it would be in English. Nope. It is harder.

Then on Saturday we got to watch the General Women's Meeting. It was so good! It was nice to sit and feel the spirit after a long week. It made me proud to be a woman and proud of my role as a woman. I loved the unity of the meeting. Girls are so quick to criticize each other! Huwag! We are all Sisters. We should be patient and kind with each other. The conference made me really excited for General Conference this weekend! I can hardly wait! 
Then this morning for pday we went and played basketball, ping pong, and scrabble with some of the members at the ward and then make bicol express and ate it with out hands. It was a good time.

That was my week! A good one, but a longer one. I love you all! Thanks for all the prayers and support! MAHAL 


-Sister Gardner

3/31/14 A New Challenge

To the best family and friends!

This week has been very different! New area and a new companion. It has been crazy! On Wednesday my trainee was supposed to arrive, but we waited and waited and then found out that their flight was canceled, so they bussed them down from Manila. I didn't get my trainee until Thursday.  In the mean time Sister and Ogden and I headed to Camalig to check out my new area. We met with the Elders to split the area and then 2 members showed us around. It is so pretty here! It is super close to the Mayon so there are always gorgeous views. There are lots of rice fields, rivers and mountains that surround a small little city. We had fun walking around and meeting some of the members. They are all so nice and willing to help the missionaries.
So on thursday I met my new companion, Sister Ilago from Butuan. So she speaks Bisaya!  She is super nice!  Missionary life here in Camalig is a lot different than on Masbate. The area is a lot bigger and it is more middle class, which I am not used to. It is harder to tract. It is a ward here, but it is a lot smaller than the branch in Masbate. I know I will come to love it though. We just need to get the work moving and get ourselves a teaching pool! Oh the joys of the first weeks of an open area! 

Here are my highlights of the week- 1. Meeting the bishop and his family. They are adorable! They have 5 kids, 4 of them are girls and they are all darling! They were so nice and made me and my comp feel so welcome here! 2. We got a referral already from the members and were able to teach him and it went really well! 3. On Saturday night me and my companion were walking back to our apartment and a guy stopped us and asked us if he could come to our church. Of course we said yes and gave him a pass along card with all of the information. And he actually showed up and then we were able to teach him later in the day and it went really well! He said he has been seeking for the truth and that he was prompted to stop us. Miracles are already happening! I know that the Lord placed him in our path!  4. This morning some members took my comp and me on a 2 hour hike where we could see beautiful views of the Mayon. It is was so fun and so beautiful! Good way to start out the week!
So even though I am a little overwhelmed with training and trying to open the area and find people for us to teach, and trying to not get us lost, I am excited. It is a new challenge. I am so thankful that I know that I have my Heavenly Father to help me each day. Without Him I could not do this work! It would simply be too much. I know that our Heavenly Father is always there for us and he knows exactly how we feel and what we need. We simply need to pray to him and be worthy for his direction. Something that we all need no matter how talented we may be. We are nothing without the help of out Heavenly Father!

Thanks for all of your prayers and support each day! I love and miss you all!

-Sister Gardner

3/24/14 Transferred to Camalig

The best Family and Friends in the world!

So the big news of the week is that I am being transferred! I was SO sad when I found out! I though for sure that I would be staying on Masbate...but nope! Transferred! Not only that- I will be training and opening and area! Mamatay ako! I am so scared! It is going to be crazy! I am excited though and it will for sure be a big adventure. We left Masbate this morning and I will have some trainer workshops and then my trainee will arrive on Wednesday and off we will go to our new area in Camalig. Hello rice fields and mountains! I am going to miss Masbate so much! I have really learned my purpose as a mission here and grown so much. Masbate is where I really came to love this work with all of my heart. The people on this island are so dear to me. 

Again this week was a crazy one, so I will just go day by day! 

Monday- Rosalie told us about her feelings during her baptism and confirmation. The Holy Ghost is powerful people! She said she felt completely clean as she came up out of the water. We taught her about missionary work and she is so excited for the whole barangay to be baptized haha. Our p-day ended with a butt load of laundry. My favorite. Never take a washer and dryer for granted. They are beautiful creations!

Tuesday- Shirley told us she wants to be baptized because of Rosalie's testimony to her about her feelings at baptism. What a good example Rosalie is! 

Wednesday- We went to the mountain in our area for the first time and found some new investigators! The Delphine family! Brother Delphine told us that he felt cold and that his hairs on his arm were sticking up when we spoke. We were meant to find them!  Later we were just walking around and Jojo (the nicest man ever) climbed a tree and got us buko and we ate it right there. The juice and the coconut part. It was so masarap!!! I love the Philippines! 

Thursday-We watched the Restoration video with Shirley and Lindol and their kids and the spirit was so strong! Shirley thanked us for bringing them the truth. We found out later that Lindol has been reading the Book of Mormon. He always tells us that he doesn't, but Bryan Ramirez caught him reading it. Haha. 

Friday- We got transfer announcements and I was super sad.

Saturday- I had one of the most memorable experiences of my entire mission. So it was district conference and during the Adult session they had two random missionaries come to the front and teach a family whatever they felt prompted to teach to help stenghthen them. Guess who got picked? Sister Donato and I. I was so terrified! I was praying so hard that the spirit would be with us and that I wouldn't choke on my Tagalog. The Lord answered my prayers. We got up to the front and taught the Laurio family about faith (using Ether 12:27). I just had to pretend that no one was watching and just really focus on them two and really listen to the spirit. The lesson was so amazing. It was just what they needed and there were tears on everyones part. My companion started out and asked them questions and the couple started to cry and tell us the faith that is requires for them to get to church each week. They live so far! All the way in the far mountain and have such a hard time coming up with the money each week to get to church, but as they exercise faith somehow the money come. I shared to verse and talked about how our trails make us humble and more faithful and more reliant on the Lord. Faith helps us trust in God and hope. Honestly, I don't really know exactly what I said, but I was led by the spirit and somehow it was powerful and my Tagalog was the best it has ever been. I'll never forget the feeling of completely relying on the spirit to guide me and I will never forget the sight of Brother Laurio as he could not control his tears. The Lord works in mysterious ways. It was an experience that we all needed. My faith was strengthened as we taught them about faith. 

After district conference was Marilyn's baptismal interview and long story short- she is ready, but she will have to wait because her and Tatay haven't been together for 5 years. Our only hope now is that Tatay's first marriage isn't valid and then they can be married. I feel so bad! She is so ready and wants to be baptized to badly! I know that Heavenly Father knows her desired and sees her faith.
Sunday- We had the Sunday session of district conference and I was a mess! I could not stop crying the whole time. I am so sad to leave Masbate! I never knew I could love these people so much!  Tatay Dominidor showed up! It was a big rain storm and he walked all the way from the mountain to church in the rain! He has such simple faith. Even though it is hard for him to understand the principles, he feels good and knows this is the right path for him, so he does everything in his power to keep the commandments. After church I had to say goodbye to all the members here. That was hard! They are so faithful and some of the strongest saints I have ever met! 
I had to go and say goodbye to the Ramirez family. It just about killed me. I know I am going to miss them everyday. They are so special to me! Dende was saying that she is sad that I won't be there for her, Bryan and David's baptism. It about killed me! I can't wait for that day though, even if I won't be there. Dende also told me that she has been reading in the Book of Mormon and she told me the story of Lehi and his family in detail. I hope she will serve a mission! She would be so great. She is going to work with Sister Donato and whoever her new companion is next week. When I gave Rosalie a hug goodbye she started bawling. It was so sad, but so sweet. She thanked me for what I had brought to their family. I am eternally grateful and humbled that I was able to bring the truth to them. I hope more than anything to see all of their sweet faces in the Celestial Kingdom. Ah I love them so death! 

So that was my week! A lot of hard goodbyes, a lot of miracles and a lot of lessons about faith! I am learning so much each day and my testimony is strengthened each day! I love my mission so much! It goes by way too fast! I can't believe I am headed to my third area already! 

I love you all so much!!!

-Sister Gardner