Monday, April 24, 2017

Week 60: Glittery Smiles

And I’m slip and sliiiiding down the wall…. or down the hill. So technically its ‘dry season’ (here in the Philippines there are three seasons: rainy (typhoons and tropical storms and just rain every day), the dry season (March-June no rain no wind just hot hot hot and freak it's hot) and the who knows season (jan -feb it's not rainy but it's cold somehow. Very windy) technically right now we are in the Dry season but it’s gotten into this weird groove where it rains at night. That sounds great right? Well no for a few reasons.

1) tricees can NOT drive up hill when it's rainy, they will slide right back down the hill… backwards
2) that water just turns into humidity so you are Dying all day even in the shade
3) all the little buggies want to take shelter in your house… killing 53 cockroaches in one-day sort of thing and
4) I am not good at walking up hills of a 45 degree angle when its wet and slippery.
So for the 1st one. We were lucky to catch a tricy even though it was dark and starting to rain and the tricy that gave us a ride was not a very strong engine so the driver gunned the engine and zoomed up the hill but only made it about halfway when he started sliding back. My knuckles were white but I didn’t scream. Then the tricee driver was just like “well that didn’t work” and just expertly maneuvered the tricee and we slid back down the hill no problem. I was scared and for a second I thought I was gonna die but now it's just a fun story to tell people. “Yup, I almost died on my mission but it was worth it!” I guess that is the closest I’ll get to a rollercoaster ride on my mission.

Then for number 3. I am not exaggerating. After I killed them all, I counted and I'm regretting watching Supernatural before my mission because now there are scratching sounds in the ceiling that I know are not demons but are just cockroaches but it's still not fun. It’s the same with the sink. Skittering and scratching sounds. *shudder* we are still trying to fix the problem but honestly idk why they like invading my house… it's so clean. This is one of the cleanest apartments I've lived in on my mission but there are a million cockroaches. We have sprayed bug killer on all the screens and door frames and left poison where we see them often. So we will just have to see. (we are also talking to the landlord about it and he is implementing some repairs to the house to try and get rid of them all.)

And number four… I’ll just let your imagination have fun with that. Just imagine me stepping very carefully over a puddle but not quite getting it.
Actually this week has been a lot of realizations. I thought I was doing good in the ‘be nice to people’ department but after a few calls I realized I’m not quite up to where I thought I was. I still need to watch the ‘how.’ As my mother would say:

Mom: ‘you sound mad.”
Me: I’m not mad
Mom: then change how you said that.
Me: that is not a good idea.*with a smile in my voice* There how was that?
Mom: you still look mad. Try smiling.
Me: I am smiling
Mom: on the inside maybe. Try letting your face know you are happy
Me: That is not a good idea  *cue butterfly eyes and sparkles in the air as I smile glamorously, birdies twitter in the air and it's like a scene out of a Disney movie*
Mom: much better.
And as usual my mother is right. This is my face, and it’s a happy face, but it doesn’t always show it.  It’s ok I’m still working on it. I studied more about Charity and Love and had a great realization on the importance of showing how much you care. (and I can already hear my mother saying “That’s what I said!”) But the more you love truth the more it will stand out to you I guess! But the best part is how the whole situation was handled. A missionary felt like I was attacking them (their words not mine) and instead of gossiping and hating me they confronted me about it, and informed their leaders by following the chain of command. The whole thing was handled with astonishing maturity and was very easily solved. I am very lucky to have these sort of people in my zone. And now I know to speak softly and with sparkles… And if I can find any more Disney birds I’ll throw those in too.

Also Vanessa Dela Cruz passed her baptismal interview! She and Mark Adrian will be baptized this Saturday April 29! That will be my 17th and 18th baptism! (which was actually my goal for my mission- to get 18.) so now I hope to get 20!! We hope Vanessa will be baptized by her older brother who was baptized last July (the area’s most recent convert) but it will all depend on how it turns out. I personally don’t believe in coincidences. Is it coincidence that she was one of the first people we met here in Vigan, or that her mom mentioned that she was not a member but wanted to be baptized? Or that she lives just across the street from us? No; it’s by design.  Everything has a purpose and a meaning why… you just got to open your heart and mind and close your eyes. (be careful to not trip) but the thing is- to quote a musical “the heart understands, the heart is too wise. So look with your heart and close your eyes tight…”

Anyways. I lost my planner this week. Or I thought I did. I was scrambling around the house and dumping out my bag and panicking (when you forget your planner at home for a few hours you feel like you’ve lost your arm because I have a fantastic memory for non-missionary related things like the difference between crocodiles and alligators but can’t remember names of investigators… hey the rhymed.)  so I was texting those we had seen earlier that day and then just gave up. Two days later I found it inside my bag inside a little hidden zipper. That I placed it in. So today my companion had us do some deep cleaning and I found my missing wallet and t-shirt and now my companion has put me on a bag-ban. I have to put things right away after using it and I can't put it anywhere else but where it belongs. I like to think I’m a tidy person but my companion does not quite agree with me.

I have also started reading the Doctrine & Covenants backwards. I should read section 1 on the plane ride home… so according to that I have 136 days left on my mission.

From the sister who is covered in glitter :\
Sister Eldredge

Monday, April 17, 2017

Week 59 in the Philippines Laoag Mission - It's the hardest thing I've ever done.

“As often as occasion would permit Harry would lie beneath the window sill hiding beneath Aunt Petunia’s daffodils listening to the news and missing Hogwarts.”

Ok so that isn’t an actual quote but for right now I am Harry Potter- but my scar is acne scarring that comes with no fancy prophesy. Too bad. But why, do you ask, am I like Harry Potter? I'm excited for summer to be over? (You may all collectively gasp in shock.) Yeah, I am stoked for summer to be over and for school to start again as that means I will be home and able to skype with my family whenever I want… since I’ll be home a grand total of 5 or 6 days before going up to school.  Am I counting down my final 19 weeks?


But does that mean that I am not working?

Don’t count on it!!

I am trying to finish my final 3 cycles sprinting!! I like to think that I am a dedicated person and that I am not a quitter- so to put myself to the test we have the Lysol and aerosol anti-bacteria on hand to keep the trunky sickness away and I’m eating that apple a day as they say is so important.  I did write a poem though! Made me feel artsy:
When the body needs something
Food, water, light & air-
It has ways of telling;
But the brain is an organ more fair.
Stretching gasping and hungrily its yearning;
This is the state of a mind so rare.
Who knew you could hurt for desire to learn?

I also have been enthralled with Proverbs which is basically scripture poetry, as well as Psalms.  Anyways so on to this week!

It’s been a lot of ‘you already know this so start acting or you are never gonna get the seed to grow!’  If you want to grow a tomato plant you’re gonna have to water and give it sun and be patient. “Nothing worth having is ever gained without effort.” (Ben 10) but in the end it is their agency if they are going to water their gospel seed. It’s honestly so easy it’s silly how some struggle- but the thing is we all struggle. We all sometimes break down and listen to that voice saying we are too busy or too tired or too--- anything!! Sometimes we all fall but the trick is getting back up. Sometimes people fall in dry patches where it’s easy to ‘cover up their sin’ so they dust themselves off and crawl away thinking no one will notice. Well you are not standing until you admit that what you did was wrong and repent. Repentance is a gift that was bought with a great price- take it and be joyful.

I had the great opportunity to work in my old area for a day (perks of being a STL I guess) and it was fun to see the reaction of the members and investigators when they saw me again! Some fell out of their chairs in surprise and some were just like ‘how was your trip?’ thinking I was staying. Sadly I couldn’t but they were understanding and, honestly, I love it here in Vigan. The buildings are old and just as beautiful as I imagined and the people are very welcoming. You would think that because this is a city it would be gruff and scary- especially since there are a million Muslims and Indians, but, no. I’ve found a branch that wants to be a ward but just doesn’t know how! We are looking forward to our first baptism in the area since July last year and the members are getting excited again! We hope to have some fun ward activities and FHE (Family Home Evening- a spiritual thought followed by prayer and games) for the whole branch but we will just have to see!  

It’s still hard planning- we spend a half hour to an hour planning our lessons and then we get there and no one is home so we have to change our plans last minute and just follow the Spirit. At least we are trying to plan and we are acting instead of thinking ‘well we tried, let's go home.’ No! if we think we want to go home we say ‘one more.’ And we mean it! If it's late and we think ‘maybe we should go home’ we go one more lesson or one more find THEN we go home. Its brought us great success.

I had a member ask if a mission was hard this week and I cannot lie. (that’s a lie- I'm very good at lying I’m just trying to quit the habit- but lying is usually me making a story more interesting by elaborating a bit…) anyways I told the member. “It’s the hardest thing I have ever done.” And it is. Never before in my life have I ever been this tired or this far out of my comfort zone. Never before in my life have I felt like the world was crumbling down around me and I could not move for fear. Before my mission I never experienced rejection like I have here on the mission, and being exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually.

Yet I have never felt so loved, I have so many people who write me and message me and sending me words of comfort and prayers. You can feel them like a butterfly on your shoulder. (It tickles and you can’t help but smile.) I have never felt so strong in my life- I can feel my spirit expanding, my understanding broadening and I can flex now better than ever before. It’s still wimpy but it’s the best I’ve ever been. Yes, so far a mission is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I did a lot before my mission, but it is the most rewarding. It will be hard to leave yet “to die will be an awful big adventure.”

From the sister who is keepin' it real,
Sister Eldredge

A Very Special and Humbling Dinner Prepared Just for Us.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Week 58 in the Philippines Laoag Mission - Conference & Barbies

At the Church for General Conference

MLC Interviews and General Conference, these are a few of my favorite things... when you get sick, when the dog bites, when your inbox is empty.... i simply remember my favorite things and then i don’t feel soooo baaaaad!  I'm kidding my mission is incredible and there are no biting dogs. (and my inbox is always pleasantly full)
MLC (Mission Leadership Council) is always fun and with tons
I've also realized God has quite the sense of humor, because I am just about fluent in Tagalog now and I can understand Ilocano… but the thing is they will go off on tangents and I'm standing there with the buffering  wheel on my face. And then it's like someone whispers ‘they said their father is a member’ even though I didn’t recognize a single word from their spiel. I can’t translate word for word but I can get the gist which is freaking cool. Why does God have a sense of Humor? I only have ever prayed to speak Tagalog and now I only speak Tagalog (and obviously English) but I can ‘translate’ Ilocano which is an interesting bonus point.
So like I mentioned in my previous emails my area has not had a baptism in about a year. At first I thought it was 2 years but now the most recent convert was baptized July 2016 so he is getting up to his year mark now. The thing is though several people- including members- now think the area is cursed. So we have been trying to help the area have a new perspective. We actually found two baptismal potentials (they will be baptized April 29… and we first arrived here in March) who actually both live just across the street from us. They are both part members and we found them by going through the old area book and looking up LA and RC members. Vanessa is super cool and has actually been going to church for a long time before we arrived- maybe the other missionaries thought she was a member already, and that’s why they didn’t teach her? Who knows, all I know is she is just soaking up the gospel and is honestly golden. Mark Adrian knows nothing about the gospel and only just started coming to church last April 2nd. His mother is LA but she is the one who introduced us to her son. We are working to help her realize that her role as a mother is the same as us missionaries. We are encouraging her to teach her son as we teach her and her son since it’s been 9 years since she last went to church.
We also had a somewhat surreal lesson with Ivy and Florence. Apparently they had been debating about the purpose of life and heaven and hell when Ivy picked up the Plan of Salvation Pamphlet we left with them and Florence opened her Bible and they both ended up reading the same scripture! Then Florence also told us how she was randomly flipping through the bible when she stumbled upon a scripture in the New Testament that said basically ‘prepare yourself for the Lord is coming’ and then 5 minutes later she saw us walking down the street. We weren’t even going to her house, and we were in a different community that she happened to be in and we found her RIGHT AFTER SHE READ THAT SCRIPTURE. Mycroft Holmes inquired “What do we say about coincidences?” To which his brother Sherlock replied “That the universe is rarely so lazy.” Yeah that happened. ALSO while we were discussing the ‘pre earth life’ Florence pointed out that if we all lived in the pre earth life we must have had pre earth friends. She then said “Sister Bustarde, we must have been friends before this life because from the very first moment I saw you I knew you were familiar- despite never having met you before.” Freaking goosebumps!  That is cool.
Besides that it mostly has been me preparing for Conference by doing a lot of reminding and inviting. I got to see the Gonda family from Santo Domingo (my RCs) and KC, the little neighbor girl sat next to me during the conference. She is about 4 and thinks I'm a living Barbie. When the conference started and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir starting singing she just sat with her jaw dropped and said “There are so many Barbie’s…” apparently all foreigners are Barbie’s. Hahaha it was adorable.
From the sister who is striving to inspire,

Sister Eldredge

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Week 57 in the Philippines Laoag Mission - Florence & Ivy & Goose-bumps

My Adorable Self

This week was hectic. I still don’t know what I’m doing but somehow we found 34 new Investigators this week, and 41 lessons. Yet I seem to keep asking my companion “What are we doing next?” We plan as best we can and try to always follow the Spirit so that tends  to make things interesting as we drop investigators and find new ones. It seems that all the previous missionaries here mostly stuck with the eternal investigators- we have found several receptive people who said :
“oh, I know Mormons, they are always walking somewhere.”
“They never talked to you?”
“No, they seemed too interested in where they were going/”
Which is a shame. These people were literally ‘perishing on the wayside’ in search of the truth and the missionaries forgot to open their mouths and speak to everyone they see. It's not that hard finding 34 people weekly as we live in a GIANT city (that probably is about the size of Spring Texas) and everyone is out on the streets.
This Monday we tried doing some finding in the public square… that was frightening and unfruitful. People kept giving us one-word answers as we tried to strike up conversations or even try just going straight to the point. After about an hour with only one person that gave us more than a two word sentence we decided that the field was not white and ready to harvest there and moved on to the whiter fields (see Doctrine and Covenants section 4.) and boy did we find those white fields! We then had an incredible lesson with Vanessa Dela Cruz and extended a baptismal goal date and she even invited her friend to the lesson. On our way to the lesson we ran into a Less Active Mormon and her partner. Raymond is very versed in the Bible and asked for a Book of Mormon because he wanted to compare it to the Bible. I dared him to prove it wrong, and he seemed a little surprised by my confidence. When we met with him later this week he had read the introduction, the testimonies contained therein, and begun the first book in the book of Mormon and could remember very clear details about it. We answered a few questions he had about Joseph smith and he kept saying ‘you have to have real intent! Real Intent!” His friend was quiet as he listened in too but quietly asked for us to come back again. Really cool.  It just goes to show that sometimes some areas are ‘not ready’ but that will NEVER mean your whole area is hard. We will go back occasionally to the plaza and try again and give it a chance to be fruitful. We Never give up hope, after all “we hope for all things.” (Articles of Faith 1:13) I’ve always had a soft spot for the number 13…
We continued  contacting some of the Investigators from the previous group of missionaries but they all seem to be the same ‘I'm not really interested in acting, but I like listening to your message” or “teach the kids but they can’t be baptized because we are going to die catholic as it is a family tradition. A family tradition of the Great and Noble House of Black was stuffing the heads of the house elves and mounting them on the wall. That doesn’t mean you keep following the tradition… I’ve been humming the tune to the song “Tradition” From fiddler on the roof and enjoy remembering that there are differences between the Lord’s traditions and worldly traditions. Godly Traditions: Ask Him and follow His guidance. Worldly Traditions: This is what always has been done so shut up and do it, no questions asked.  Am I a little biased? Yeah, but everyone has an opinion, even the referees at the ball game. Sometimes it is not about opinion but about truth and real truth only comes from God. So just ask Him! He actually said, “Weary thou me with thy petitions.” He wants us so badly to ask Him, so just do it and He will answer; maybe not in your way, but He will answer.
Another killer lesson we had this week was with Ivy Carmen, and her friend Florence. These two girls couldn’t be more different and they are close friends. We were teaching Ivy about the Book of Mormon by going through the Introduction and I flipped through the pictures at the front and told the basic story line (thank you mother for making me learn how to do that before my mission.) And in the middle of the lesson Florence sticks her head out of her room and asks if she could join. Florence apparently reads the Bible every day and is very religious although she does not attend any of the local churches as she believes they have drifted from the true word of God, and wanted to know what made our church different and if we followed the original teachings in the Bible. Which just so happened to be what we were talking about. It was honestly a kick-butt lesson and they only had one downside. They both live in the area boundaries of Baguio Mission! So if we don’t get them baptized by the end of May we will have to refer them to the Baguio missionaries!! Not to mention every weekend they have to return home to do school work as the wifi shuts off in their dorm on the weekends. Ivy has many Mormon friends so we are trying to coordinate if she can stay weekends in members’ homes so she does not have to travel so far and not be able to go to church as the closest church to her house really is here in Vigan anyways. Same for Florence, but we first have to find fellowshippers for her first. It’s funny as Ivy’s closest friend in the branch also happens to be a rather attractive single RM so we are having fun with that.
And at the end of the week we were blessed with 4 Investigators at church this week- 2 of which we think are really interested in baptism, and 1 who paid his tithing to the branch president! Which is funny as that Investigator likes to say all the time how he will ‘never become Mormon’ but he- besides coffee and wine- acts like a Mormon.
The reason I didn’t mention Conference is because that is actually next week for us so we can get the videos and translation done… but I do know that they announced another temple here in the Philippines! Last April when I was in the MTC they announced the Urdineta temple- which they still haven’t done the ground breaking for- and now another one is announced, this time in Manila.
Ether 12:40 “And only few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.” And shortness of time.

From the perpetually tired but excited sister,

Sister Eldredge