Wednesday, March 12, 2014

3/10/14 Half Way

Family and Friends!

This week has been super crazy (like every other week), but so good! I don't have that much time to email either because we had to travel to the mainland today for MLC, but I will try my best to make sense. I think that I will just go by day because so much has happened!

Monday- Rosalie told us the story about how the first time Sister Lang and I came to her house she wanted to not let us in, like she she had done with all the other missionaries from other religions, but she said she was prompted by something (Holy Ghost) to let us in and then after that to let us come back. She said how thankful she is that she let us in and that it was meant to be. She told us how different her life is now and that she wouldn't know the truth if we had never come to her door. Her baptism is with two of her little girls. I am so excited for them! 

Tuesday- We taught Tatay Dominidor with a translator because he only speaks Masbateno and it was an amazing lesson! He came all the way from the mountain to let us teach him and he commited to be baptized and was relieved that he wasn't too old. At the end of the lesson he gave his first prayer without any help. It was so sweet. I truly felt that he was talking with his Father in Heaven for the first time. Sister Donato and I were both teary after his prayer. 

We also had FHE with the Ramirez family (Rosalie's family). It ended up being just Rosalie and the kids, wala si Brother, but it was still awesome! It was a lot of fun and their family got to know some of the members better! Games of course were the best part. We played the pulis and magnanakaw game-my favorite FHE game. It's about as intense as it gets here on the mish. 

Wednesday- HALF WAY! My 9 month mark here on the mission! I have no idea where the time has gone! I know that the second half is going to be twice as fast! I don't know how to feel. I am a completely different person and I hope that I will continue to grow and progress and be more Christlike for the last half (and become more fluent in Tagalog while I am at it). 

Thursday- We had exchanges this day, I was with Sister Boorau. One of our appointments we basically had to walk through the ocean to get to our appointment because the tide was so high. It was worth it though, because it was a really good lesson. 

I started to read the Book of Mormon from the start again. I am trying to do the "It is not how much you go through the Book of Mormon, but how much of the Book of Mormon goes through you." I am really trying to take my time to read and ponder. I love the spirit I feel when I read the Book of Mormon, it is different than anything else. 

Friday- I went to the doctor for my ear and apparently I have holes in my ear drum, but all is good and I have medicine and pain killers and the whole shabang. No trip to Manila. I will just be deaf for several weeks until it heals...haha. Super awesome in lessons. The sweet Elders gave me a blessing though and all way up hill from there! Blessing are always better in Tagalog. We taught Tatay Dominidor again. Poor Tatay. He has the hardest time understanding, but he has such strong faith. He stayed up until 2 am the night before trying to read and understand the pamphlet we gave him. He is making me determined to learn Masbateno! And guess what? We always tell Tatay that we want to come to the mountain and eat Buko with him, and he brought 7 Buko with him down from the mountain for us! That is SO HEAVY! He is the sweetest! 

We reviewed the baptismal interview questions with Rosalie, Katrice, and Divine. They are so ready! I just love them!

Saturday- The Ramirez family had their interview. Rosalie and Divine did awesome, but poor Katrice, she was terrified of the Elders and was just bawling because she was scared to be interviewed. We finally calmed her down though and she did awesome! 

During lunch we put those coconuts to good use Pilipino style and made coconut soup! My favorite! 
Then we had quite the adventure! We were working with a member and she gave us a referral...their house was like far into the ocean and we had to go across this bridge...this sketchy, sketchy bridge. I thought for sure I was going to fall and my comp and the member didn't know how to I would be the one to save them. It was worth it though, the family was awesome! I am just terrified to go back. I will leave my camera home that day in case I fall in. 

Divine had her first "missionary moment." Someone asked her is she was becoming Mormon and Divine told her yes, and then the other kid said that we had a different God- Joseph Smith. Divine cleared that one up fast! 

Sunday- So much happened this day, but I am running out of time! The best was when we taught Bryan and Dende (Rosalie's oldest kids). We taught by candle light and I guess that just set the climate for the spirit to be strong. There were a lot of tears in that lesson. It was about the atonement. Dende said that closing prayer and in her prayer she said that she was thankful she went to church with her mom because now she knows what she needs to do. Dende is so amazing and I can see that as she accepts the gospel into her life she is finding peace and direction. 

We also taught Marilyn and she said she will get the cenomar she needs in order to be baptized tomorrow. Rosalie set the example and now she is excited to be baptized! She is so ready! 

That about sums up the week! I could tell a million more stories but I have to save some to tell when I get home! Things are so good right now! I love my comp-we have so much fun and she is such an amazing teacher and example for me! I don't ever want to leave Masbate! I don't think I can do it! I can't leave the Ramirez family!! I love them way too much! 

I love being a missionary! The best decision I ever made was to come on a mission. I thank my Heavenly Father every day for letting me know I needed to go. I don't know why I was stubborn to go when the age change came out, but at least Someone knew what was best for me. 

I love you all! Thanks for all the prayers and support!

-Sister Gardner

3/2/14 A Bit Deaf

Family and Friends:

This week was a little crazy, but good! We had mission tour, so we traveled to the mainland and got to listen to President Ardern and Sister Ardern speak. They are so powerful. They really talked about the importance of this work. President Ardern quoted President Spencer W. Kimball "If you knew what I know, you would run from door to door.”  They talked about not only the impact we have on those we teach, but the impact that our missions will have on us and our families for generations. Each day I am thankful for what my mission has done for my life, and I know I will be even more grateful in the future. The thing that President Ardern said that stood out to me the most was that we have 1.5 or 2 years to serve, and then the rest of our lives to reflect on how we served. I want to give my mission everything that I have so that I have no regrets when I get home and I know that I gave my absolute best so that the Lord could work miracles through me! 

Work was good this week, even though due to an ear infection I had a really hard time hearing what people were saying to me. It felt like when I first got here and I might has well have been deaf because I didn't understand anyone anyway. My comp also had a few good laughs in lessons when I had no clue how loud I was talking. I finally went to a doctor though and they gave me medicine, so it should get better. The only question they asked me was if I had taken a bath in the ocean lately haha. Only in the Philippines do they ask you that at the doctor.
The best part about this week was church. The worst part was right before church when you are waiting to see who will come. These investigators like to wait until the last minute to show up. It almost gives me a heart attack each week. But literally so many people came to church! Fasting is real people! The ENTIRE Oring family came and LOVED it! Rosalie came with all her younger kids, Marilyn came and of course smiled the entire time, and even 70 year old Tatay Dominidor walked all the way from the mountain in the burning hot weather! Talk about Golden investigators! Rosalie is so ready for baptism. It is all she can talk about. I am so excited for her. She has the strongest testimony! We are having FHE at their house tomorrow and when we went over on Wednesday she was waxing the bamboo floors to get ready. She is my favorite! The work is so good right now here on Masbate! I am so pumped about our area and if I get transfered I think that maybe I will just not show up to transfer point.
My half way mark is on Wednesday! It has gone CRAZY fast! I am right on the top of the Mayon right now! 

Sorry no pictures this week, my memory card got a virus...hopefully I can get it fixed or that means all my pictures from Masbate are gone...

Love and miss you all! 

-Sister Gardner

2/23/14 Masbate Island is Great

This week was awesome! I think that I could stay on Masbate forever! I love the people here so much and I am so happy! We have the most awesome investigators ever! I could talk about all of them for days, but I'll just pick a few...

Glen and Riza! I have talked about them before. Every lesson we have with them is so awesome! They both get emotional in lessons and have such a desire to be closer to Christ. Especially Glen- he told us that he just wants to live with Christ. They always ask us questions about our mission and say that they want to serve. Future couple missionaries! On Sunday morning we went to their house to meet them for church, they wanted to go together for their first time. Glen and their oldest daughter were the only ones that ended up hopefully next week the whole family! Glen loved church though! After we asked him how he felt and he said "Masarap ang pakiramdam ko" -or I feel delicious inside haha. That sounds weird in english haha. In Priesthood they had given everyone a sheet with all the Priesthood ordinances on it and what to say and he said that he was going to memorize all of them! He is so awesome! 

Rosalie! On Monday we taught her about the Temple and it was such a good lesson! She is so excited for her family to one day be sealed. We gave her some little pictures of temples and now they are hung up all over her house. I am for sure going to save up my money so I can come back and see their family be sealed! She is so excited for her baptism though. She told us she has been facing a lot of trials lately, but she knows that it is because her baptism is getting closer and closer. I wish every investigator and member had that kind of faith! We are planning a FHE at their house and guess what? They built onto their house this week to prepare for the FHE! We went over and their house has this extention and and they said it was because they want to be able to fit everyone for the FHE! They are so cute. Yesterday at church the topic in relief society was about strengthening families and FHE was brought up and she just lit up. She is so excited about the gospel! Her kids are my favorite too. We always plan object lessons to teach them and they love it (but maybe not as much as me and my companion do). 

Ray! My favorite!! We taught him about the Priesthood this week and he is so excited to be baptized so that he can hold the Priesthood. He has such a strong desire to be obedient and to be good. He promised to come to church and he was planning on it and then something came up and he had to travel somewhere... SAYANG! Next week hopefully.

Now about Maricor. Me and Sister Lang OYMed her forever ago, but then couldn't find her house. This week my and my companion are walking a long and we hear "Sister's" and it is Maricor. She said she had been waiting for us to come. Her husband is in prison and she has a little boy that is paralyzed. Her life is so hard, but she is so happy. She started crying as we talked about Heavenly Father and families. Then I started to cry and it was just a super emotional lesson. I am so excited to keep teaching her though. If anyone needs the gospel it is her!

Nanay Elsie! My third favorite old lady! She thinks the Word of Wisdom means that praying TO Joseph Smith and that beer is okay because it isn't alcohol. She came to church yesterday and of course asked all the same questions that she asks in all of our lessons and went on and on about how disobedient her husband is during relief society. Everyone was just cracking up. Oh Elsie...

Church was good this week too! (Despite the fact that I was the last minute speaker in Sacrament Meeting and the power was out so yelling my talk in Tagalog because there was no microphone haha) We had a lot of investigators at church though! The rain was crazy that day so we though none would come, but so many came! Not many members, but a lot of investigators! I'm dreaming of a white St Patrick's day...

This week President Guanzon made a surprise trip to the island to have a meeting with all of us missionaries here. He really is an inspired man though. He said a lot of things that I needed to hear! He said that "our ability to obey should be the measure of our happiness." Happiness should not come from success as a missionary, but from our obedience. I needed to hear that because sometimes I feel like I am doing all I can, and then I get so sad when people don't show up to church or keep a commitment, but I should still be happy as long as I am being obedient and doing my best! He said that if we learn to be obedient on the mission, we will learn to be obedient forever and Satan will have no power over us! I think that is something we all want! So be obedient and you will be happy! 
President also brought the news that John, (the Guanzon's security guard that I taught in Legazpi) will be baptized in March!!! No work is in vain! I am so excited about it! 

Me and my companion also had a lot of fun this week and laughed a lot. She is teaching me how to talk like a Filipino- the accent and everything. I sound ridiculous. One day our tricey had some serious techno music and we were just jamming in the tricey while everyone looked at us like we were crazy. As if I don't already stand out enough. Then on Sunday my companion fell slipped in the mud- being the good companion that I am I laughed and took a picture before I helped her up. I also learned how to weave, and am planning to purchase a machete to eat all the coconut I can this summer. Good times in the Philippines! 

I love and miss you all! Have a good week! Mahal ko kayo!

-Sister Gardner

2/16/14 Valentine's Day In the Philippines

Family and Friends!

So this week was transfer week! My new companion is Sister Donato. She is from the Philippines and really funny and an awesome teacher! We are having fun together and working hard! It is always an adjustment and transfers, but I think that it will be a good one!

So this week was a really awesome one! We had a lot of really good lessons and we have some solid investigators that are really progressing! Well it was awesome until Sunday when most of them didn't come to church. Sunday was a rough day because it meant a lot of moved baptismal dates, but other than that it was a good week!

We were able to teach Rosalie and her family quite a few times this week. She is beyond ready for baptism! She cried in one of the lessons and thanked us for what we have brought to her family. She said that each night her 3 little girls pray together and she is so grateful that they now know what it is to pray. She really wants for her whole family to be baptized. We are still teaching her 2 girls that are 9 and 11. They will be baptized with her and then we started to teach her 2 older kids this week and it went awesome! We are still trying to catch her husband when he is home from work, but it has been a struggle! He reads the Book of Mormon though! We taught Rosalie about Tithing and Fasting this week. I am always nervous about teaching those 2 lessons, but I guess I need to have more faith. Rosalie said that of course she would live those 2 commandments after he baptism because she has faith that God will bless her and her family if she does. Golden! We are teaching her about temples tonight! It is going to be such an awesome lesson for her! 

Marilyn came to church for the 7th time and is so ready for baptism! She never ceases to make me smile! She always walks into church with the biggest smile on her face and whenever I ask her how she is, she says happy! 
We are continuing to teach Glen and Riza, and they are just so golden! They are so shy to come to church though! They had had a really hard day one of the times we went to teach them this week and after the lesson they just kept thanking us over and over. They said that whenever we are there or whenever they read the Book of Mormon that they feel peace and everything feels okay. They are so special! One night they texted us after we taught them the Plan of Salvation and thanked us saying that we have shown them the way to return to the Celestial Kingdom. So sweet! So prepared!

One of my favorite things this week was the Valentines party at the branch. We are sitting doing our weekly planning and we get a call from the branch president telling us to come to the chapel for the valentines party because no one was there haha, so we go and it is some of the couples in our ward dancing and playing games. It was literally the funniest thing I have ever seen! I was dying laughing. Filipinos sure know how to have a good time. (I will try and upload a video to my skydrive). All the members made me play this game where you have to get a candy out of a giant pile of flour. I was covered in flour after. It was funny, but I could barely breath!

On Sunday I taught Relief Society all by myself with no preparation, and even though I wasn't exactly excited to get up and teach a lesson I hadn't prepared for in my second language- after I was thankful that I can finally do that. Just get up and ramble in Tagalog!

So despite people not going to Church, it was a good week! I learned a lot about the Atonement this week. We all have disappointments, heartaches, mistakes, hurt feelings, and mountains to climb- but if we apply the Atonement we can learn from these experiences and feel the love of our Heavenly Father and the love of Jesus Christ. Their love is real and their power in our lives is real. On my mission each day I feel an unseen power each day, giving me strength beyond my own to keep going and working my hardest. No one could handle the emotional and physical stress of a mission without the Atonement. I am so thankful for my mission because without it I would not be able to begin to understand what the Atonement really means for me.

I love and miss you all!  Pray for me to survive the 100 degree weather this week!

-Sister Gardner

2/10/14 The Prodigal

Dearest Family and Friends:

This week was definitely a good one! Except for transfers...My companion will be leaving me. I am sad to see Sister Lang go. We had THE BEST 2 transfers and so much progression and many miracles! It was too good to be true! We celebrated/ mourned last night with cake and writing our names under the table that we spend so much time around (hopefully no one ever finds it)...I will find out who my new companion is tomorrow. I am happy that I get to say in the same area though. I couldn't leave right now! 

This week I read the talk "The Other Prodigal" by Jeffrey R. Holland a few times and then a new mormon message came out about it, so it has really been on my mind. It is basically about the other son in the story of the prodigal son. It is about jealousy. Holland brings up the idea of the other son being a prisoner of jealousy. He is jealous when his brother returns and therefore also needs to come to himself and find his way back to the Father. Holland says in the talk, "One who has heretofore presumably been very happy with his life and content with his good fortune suddenly feels very unhappy simply because another has had some good fortune as well." There are always influences telling us that we need to be better and are constantly comparing ourselves to others. Jealousy is something that I think every human being struggles with. It is sad because it is so hard to serve and help others when we are jealous. We all have different weaknesses and strengths. How amazing would it be if instead of being jealous of others, if we could just be happy for others accomplishments and work together! Amazing things would happen! We are all just trying to make it and return to our Heavenly Father. We should be happy for one another and help each other get there! Holland said in the talk- "No one of us is less treasured or cherished of God that another. I testify that He loves each of us-insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all. He doesn't measure our talents or our looks; He doesn't measure out professions or out possessions. He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other." 

I think that we can all relate to the other prodigal son in one way or another. I would hope that we would all try to overcome our jealous tendencies and be confident in ourselves as children of God and help our brothers and sisters by praising them and being happy for them. I think one of the things I love most about the people of the Philippines is that they really have very little jealousy. They are always happy for one another and so happy with who they are. I hope that will rub of on me! 

So about my week! Such a good one! I hit my 8th month mark! Crazy! It has been 8 months of growth, change, and miracles. I can't imagine my life without meeting all the people I have met on my mission and am so glad that I have another 10 months to keep building relationships and overcoming my many weaknesses. I really am so lucky to live in this beautiful country with the best people! I have for sure learned that the gift of tongues is real. It doesn't come all at once, but looking over the last 8 months, it comes. 

The beginning of the week was a lot of visiting investigators and telling them sorry we didn't visit them last week because we were stranded in Legazpi. On tuesday morning we went to Rosalie and when we came back later to teach her kids they had made us signs that said "Welcome Home" and "Mabuhay" and "We love you." They are the cutest! Rosalie has been awesome this week! She gave us so many referrals. She wants her entire family to listen to us and start coming to church- so we are now teaching all her kids and all her siblings. She is the best! 
Our investigator Marilyn is also going so awesome! She is so happy ever since we started teaching her and she came to church for the 5th time this Sunday! She never ceases to make me smile. Glen and Riza are doing awesome too! They are reading a ton in the Book of Mormon and accepted a baptisimal date!! Our 12 year old investigator Jeralyn read the first 4 chapters in the Book of Mormon in 3 days and then asked if she could keep going until she finished...Ummm. yeah you do that Jeralyn. I for sure wasn't asking people if I could finish the Book of Mormon when I was 12...she is so awesome! 

We had a really cool experience with our new investigator Biby. We finished our lesson with her and asked her is she had any questions or anything and she said she had something she wanted to tell us (she is really shy and doesn't say much, so it was a big deal). Anyway, she said that she has changed ever since we have started teaching her and that we are giving her the chance to repent. She said she cried while she prayed about the Book of Mormon and could feel Jesus with her telling her that it was true. As she talked to us my faith was reaffirmed that as missionaries we really do have the truth and that our job is SO important! I am always amazed and get so excited and emotional in those moments when investigators tell you that they know it is true. It is so amazing and I just can't believe that me- 20 year old me can help people recognize the truth. That is why I know that it is not me, it is our Heavenly Father working through his weak missionaries. 

On Saturday we had a branch activity about families. We showed some Mormon messages and had some speakers and then played games and had food. It was so awesome! We had 14 of our investigators show up! You best believe it was a good time. Give Filipinos some games and they go crazy! Marilyn and Riza were getting so into all the games, I was laughing so hard. The only problem was they all spend their pamesahe to get to the activity so not very many came to church...sayang. 

Now for some funny stories... We taught our investigator the 10 commandments so about taking the Lord's name in vain and then right after the lesson her little girl was being loud and so she goes "oh diyesus" (just quoting). It was so funny, but she isn't really the joking type, so I held my laugh in the best I could until we left. She kept that commandment for a good minute. Another day me and my companion were riding in a tricey and the driver was yelling out to everyone at the top of his lungs "These are my girlfriends" at the top of his lungs the whole time we were in the tricey. Gotta love the Philippines. 

That was my week! I love and miss you all! Have a Happy Valentines Day! 

-Sister Gardner