Monday, October 10, 2016

Week 32 in the Philippines Laoag Mission: Nanay Salvation Espiritu, The Queen

Some of the p eople we have been teaching.

10/10/2016’s been 220.5 days in the jungle. The little ones are beginning to lose hope. We’ve slowly been getting picked off by the rabid chickens (the natives call them ‘the dreaded manok’) and I’m beginning to think it’s more about the grave than the gravy with these birds. We’ve recruited the use of two Elders in our search for scattered Israel, however they are heavily scattered and at times we fear the manok will find them before we do. Sister Gabut has been lost to the manok, but I managed to find a replacement. Her name is Sister Ganadan from Quezon City. She is trying to find solace but without queso she is lost. She is fluent in dog and often tries to speak to them “Hi dog! Why are you barking, dog?” So far we have had no success in communication with them but soon we will earn their trust and be able to stop stepping on their bombs, which are placed sporadically throughout town..  We were able to find shelter in time for the General Conference where we received further instruction from our leaders. We are sure of success in the future and will soon destroy the enemy manok and save the scattered Israel.
Well, that all but sums up the week. It’s been something else, since Sister Gabut got transferred to the opposite side of the mission and we got two new elders (one is fresh out of the MTC and makes me feel old in the mission as I realize that I know way more Tagalog  than I think and notice how my accent has changed to match the natives. It’s mid October so obviously that means bats and owls and witches hats right? Nay nay, obviously it’s time to break out the carols and sell all the Christmas decorations. It’s strange, but I like how much emphasis the Filipino people put on Christmas. We always talk about keeping Christmas in our hearts year round but here it’s not only in our hearts it’s on the walls and  it's… everywhere. And this is only the beginning.
For this week you’d think the greatest event would have been watching General Conference and a portion of The Best Two Years (between sessions)  but really, the best thing about my week and the defining moment was Nanay Salvation Espiritu. So in English her name is Saving Spirit. (Nanay is another way of saying mother, it’s a title used for  respect to older women) She is in her 70s or 80s and cannot stand. She is a less active not by choice but by circumstance. She is healthy as a horse, just old and unable to walk or push her own wheelchair. Because of the area split I’ve had a lot of ‘well, now what do we do?’ moments but luckily we have Cathy- the resident and permanent fellowshiper (a member who accompanies the missionaries to a lesson) she works with us every day and the Elders are begging to borrow her as she knows ALL the investigators of Batac city. We ended up with some free time and so we went and visited Nanay Salvation. So I already told you her age and health, now let me tell you about her living circumstances. She lives under a pavilion with 2.5 walls. Her only surviving son lives in a hut that makes up one of the walls of her house. Her son and his family basically ignore her and she is incredibly lonely. I think she is helped to be bathed once a week by her daughter in law, but I'm not so sure. When we first went to visit the smell of BO, excrement and the various ducks, chickens and other animals that passed through were very prominent. It was night so we used flashlights to read the Book of Mormon with her and afterwards we had to return to the house so I could change my skirt as I had sat in something I will not name.

The next day we got punted (that’s what we call it when we show up to our appointment and they tell us they’re busy) so we went back to visit Nanay Salvation and  she seemed so surprised that we were back, and asked help to cut her finger nails. One of her hands is curled up in a ball and she can’t open it anymore so she has do everything one handedly. We did a CSP (community service project) and basically cleaned everything. We did all her laundry, scrubbed the floors, the chair and bucket she uses as a toilet, and I washed her hands and feet and trimmed her nails, which had grown over an inch in length and in her curled up hand had begun to cut into the skin. I kept calling her Nanay Reyna (queen) and brushed her hair and talked about how she met her husband and what their courtship was like. Her husband left her after a year and then only one son survived, the rest all died. This woman has gone through so much and she is not in the best of living conditions but let me tell you something, she doesn’t complain. She is so eager to continue to learn of the gospel and to talk and chat and giggle about the love notes her husband sent her during their courtship. She is optimistic and loving. Anyone else could have turned sour and loathing towards others and God but she simply rejoices in the little things.

This last Sunday we visited her again, this time with 4 members and she nearly wept as she had been praying for visitors.  I have been praying to know what Charity is, and how to get it. And I feel this woman is simply filled with it. She loves and she gives everything she has to make the best of her life. I’ve also been praying for patience and I will be able to exercise patience and charity as I work with her son and try to better her living conditions as well as help her attend church. Simply, well and truly, I cannot describe this woman. She is an angel.

General Conference was amazing, especially as I listened with my investigators in mind. Gwyneth (pronounced G-wine-eth) our investigator attended which makes her all set for her baptism on the 22nd (a day before my birthday, thank you very much) and she just keeps expressing how excited she is for her baptism. The ward seminary teacher has told her that since she is 13 she can’t officially be in seminary but he really wants her to come because of the unique insights she shares in class. She is really just something else. She said her favorite part of conference was the Saturday afternoon session “the youth shall lose their thumbs.” She wants to make a poster about it. I’ll try to get a picture with her this week. Anyways my favorite talk was the one on Sunday all about Joy. It made me think of Salvation. Joy is Christ. Christ is Joy. The world offers us happiness, but true happiness is in Christ. This is only further proven by Salvation,  her living conditions are horrendous, her husband left her, her son treats her like a dog, and she is confined to a wheelchair she can’t even move on her own yet she is joyous. How? Christ. He is your best friend, He is your wingman and He is in your corner trying to coach you on, even when you don’t listen to Him, He listens to you. Don’t walk away from Him, for where else will you go? Where else can you find His Joy?

From the sister who is grateful that she knows how to help old people move around and make them feel loved

Sister Eldredge

Yummy food we eat with our hands!

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