Monday, October 28, 2013

Hello from lovely Lingayen, Pangasinan!!

I am so blessed and happy to be here! So much has happened in the last week so let me back up a little bit. 
Sister Gustafson's District with President and Sister Waite at the MTC before departing for the Philippines.

We left the MTC at 4:30 on Monday morning and didn't get to our hotel in Manila until about 1:00 on Wednesday morning. Crazy crazy crazy long trip. We were all at the end of our physical and emotional limits by the time we finally made it. Mom and dad, that explains the very tearful message you had on your answering machine haha. We got about 3 hours of sleep and then had to get in vans to go to the Manila MTC. There we picked up 10 other missionaries going to our mission (for a total of 22 of us). We drove in the vans again to the bus station. We got on buses and rode for about 4 hours to  Urdaneta mission. I can't even describe how happy I was to see President and Sister Monahan and the assistants smiling at us and waving from the bus stop. It was such a beautiful sight after three days of unfamiliar sights, smells, and faces. We spent the rest of Wednesday and Thursday at the mission home relaxing, having training and interviews, and eating. President Monahan is so great and Sister Monahan is so loving and motherly. All 16 sisters stayed overnight at the big "sister house" about 10 minutes away from the mission home with the STLs. They fed us a real Filipino breakfast of rice, hotdogs, and banana ketchup. Yup, banana  ketchup. It's actually not too bad! On Friday I met my amazing trainer, Sister Gallego from Negros, Philippines (I'm not exactly sure where that is ). When she stood up President said, "Sister Gallego is a very powerful teacher". He is so right. Sister Gallego (pronounced Guy-eggo) is amazing. I have so much to learn from her. I could not have been blessed with a more patient, obedient, loving, talented trainer.  I am so blessed!

 Sister Gustafson and Sister Gallego enjoying halo halo.

Our area is the Lingayen 2nd ward (pronounced Lin-guy-en). We live with two other sisters, Sister Fronk (FROM MY DISTRICT AT THE MTC!!!!!) and her trainer, Sister Flores. Sister Fronk and Sister Flores are amazing. I love them so much! They are also over our ward, so they have half the area and we have the other half. It's so much fun living with 4 sisters in our own house. Our house.  It's so cute. It has this really high yellow fence all around it and it's made of brick. We have a nice big porch and lots of sunny windows. Apparently it's one of the nicest houses in the mission- they call it the celestial kingdom haha. I'll try to send pictures of it next week! Our house is outside of our area, which is kind of a bummer, but it just means more exercise for us haha.

We went straight to work on Friday, teaching lessons and meeting members. It's incredible to me the way these people live. Their houses are mostly made of concrete or plywood and they have tin roofs usually. I thought it would be so hard to see how poor they are, but it's not so far because they are so happy! I can imagine if they were suffering and sad all the time, it would be sad, but because they are content with their lifestyle, it's okay. Their house may be the size of my room at home and filled to overflowing with stuff, but they sweep it every day and are content to eat their little bowl of rice for dinner. So far we have taught lessons inside a hut on the ground, on cinderblocks out in the yard, and on a little wooden bench by the dim candlelight. It's such a simple and happy way of life here!

 New Sisters and their companions enjoying a breakfast of rice, hot dogs and banana ketchup.

The Philippines is amazing. I love the culture, the food, the people, everything. The children are beyond beautiful. They just run around the streets all day long, barefoot and usually half naked. They'll yell "Amerikana, Amerikana!!" when they see me and then they get all shy when I wave at them or smile at them. They are so cute. Last night we were going to find a referral and there was this little 3 year old in the street with the other kids. When she saw me she started crying and all the other kids told me that she was scared of me because I'm white. haha it was so funny! I ended up giving her a sticker and after that she was my best friend. She wouldn't stop following me around and pulling on my skirt and my hands. She looked up at me with these dark eyes and my heart just melted. We joked about taking her home to be our tagalaba (housekeeper) haha.

Saturday was so productive! We (I mean sister Gallegos) taught 7 lessons! It poured on us and we were walking through the streets in water up to our ankles. It was crazy, but we just kept working. It's a normal thing here to have it pour so hard, I guess I'll get used to it! We have only 2 investigators who are progressing, Sister Rachel and Brother Alex. They both have baptismal dates, so hopefully they go through! The hard thing about the Philippines is that people are so willing to listen to our message, but they don't want to act on what we teach. This is a gospel of action. The only way we can become like Him is to act on our faith. We are trying to help our other investigators and less-actives understand that.

The Tagalog is hard, but I'm getting better and better every day. The Lord is helping me so much! People here speak Pangasanan as well, so I'll try to learn that once I get the Tagalog down!

Know that I am safe and happy and healthy! I love being a missionary and I love you all so!

Sister Gustafson :)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

In The Philippines!
New Sister Missionaries in the Philippines, Urdaneta Mission - 16 in all. This is the largest group of Sisters they've had come in at one time!

Sister Gustafson with her trainer, Sister Gallego, on their way to their new assignment.

Mission Map 
 Urdaneta Mission Map
Photos from

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mom's note

Mckenna's mission president maintains a blog at Look for pictures of her arriving in the Philippines sometime soon.

If you would like to write to Mckenna, you can use the address below. You can also write to her using All you need to do is select her mission (Philippines Urdaneta) and click "write a letter." It's free and very easy to use!

We loved talking with her this morning as she was boarding a plane in Salt Lake. She will fly Salt Lake to LA to Toyko to Manilla. She arrives in Manilla around 10:00am EST on Tuesday. The Philippines is exactly 12 hours ahead of the US east coast.  She is happy and ready for this new challenge!

Thank you for your love, support and prayers in her behalf. ~Susan

Week Six!

Friends from home - Sister Caron, Sister Gustafson & Sister Young at the Provo Temple.

October 19, 2013

Finished the last week in the MTC! woo! Such a great week!

Firstly, we're back at Main Campus. again. We're pretty sure that no missionaries have ever moved campuses as many times as we have in the entire history of the MTC ever. It's okay though because we're willing to do what is asked of us, even if it means moving every few weeks. We got this! And as our RS choir director said, "Blessed are they who are flexible, for they shall not get bent out of shape." :)

We had an incredible devotional this week from Elder Dallin H. Oaks!!! It was so awesome! He talked about three reasons why we can say that our church is the only true and living church on the earth: We have a fullness of doctrine, we have the power of the priesthood, and our testimony of Christ and His role as Savior and Redeemer. One thing I loved was at the end when he called us his "fellow servants of Christ". I had never really thought about being servants alongside the quorum of the 12, so that was a pretty neat compliment.

Remember how I said that Elder Krutsch and I got invited to do our musical number? So I was thinking that we would be doing it for a small group of missionaries or maybe at a small meeting, but nope. We're performing at the entire MTC devotional tomorrow night. A little nervous about that, but it's all good. I don't think I've ever done anything in front of 3,000 people before, let alone play the piano! It should be a good experience! I'm excited!

We had some awesome classes this week where we went to the "market" and rode on a "jeepney". Brother Poole brought in a bunch of food items and we had to try to sell them to each other in Tagalog. Haha good times! One day he also set up chairs really close together and had us practice contacting people like we were on a jeepney. It was pretty fun! I'm excited to do that for real in just a few days!

It was Elder Robison's 19th birthday on Monday, so we had a little surprise birthday party for him. We bought him a carton of Graham Canyon ice cream from the Wyview Creamery. We got his comp to make him leave the room and then we cleaned the classroom and decorated the board. We stuck 19 candles in the ice cream and turned off all the lights. When they came back we all yelled surprise. It was probably one of the funnest things we've done so far as a district haha... we know how to "party" in the MTC ;). Also, this Filipino Elder we've made friends with gave us a bunch of Filipino snacks and candies so we tried those. It was some weird banana brittle, some candy called choc-nut (which literally tastes like chalk), some puff pastry stuff, and some garlic corn nuts. It was interesting haha... we liked the puff pastry things the best. I guess we'll get used to the rest in the next year and a half :)

 A really neat experience happened last Saturday when we went to the temple. I had been feeling slightly sick to my stomach ever since we got our flight plans last Friday because of nervousness. As we went to the temple, I prayed that I would be able to feel at peace and calm about leaving for the field. During the session I felt the Spirit, but the real blessing came afterward. As we were waiting in the lobby of the temple, there was a sister sitting across from us. She asked where we were serving and when we told her the Philippines, she got sooo excited! She just got back from serving in the Philippines in May! She was one of the happiest, glowiest people I've ever met. As she talked about her love for her mission, the people, and the country, my heart was filled with peace. She expressed how much she wishes she could go back and do it all over again because even though it was difficult it was the best thing she's ever done. She just had so many amazing things to say about the Philippines. I am so grateful for a Heavenly Father who knows me and loves me enough to know that I needed to hear the encouraging and happy words of this wonderful sister. Something that simple was just what I needed  to renew my excitement to go and serve in the most amazing country in the world. :)

The next time I write will be from the Philippines! My address until further notice is: 
Sister Mckenna Gustafson
Philippines Urdaneta Mission
LDS Chapel Provincial Road
San Vicente East, Urdaneta City

I love you all! Have a great week :)

Sister Gus:)

Missionaries going to the Philippines, Urdaneta Mission on October 21, 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Wow! Week five!!

Mckenna painted this Philippines flag for a presentation she made to the Nashua Stake
 young women at girl's camp. She loved it so much she took it with her.

October 12, 2013
The biggest news of the week was that we got our flight plans!! This whole thing just got real. I have an EIGHT hour layover in LA and then a direct flight to Manila, where we will arrive at about 4 am and then proceed to take a 12 hour jeepney ride to the mission home in Urdaneta. Bring it on!! I'm just so glad a representative from the mission is meeting us in the airport because there's no way 12 missionaries with very poor Tagalog could make it to Urdaneta otherwise haha. 

Wasn't General Conference great?!? I went in with some very specific questions and received an outpouring of answers from the speakers and from the spirit. 

On Sunday we had the most incredible opportunity to hear a musical fireside from BYU VOCAL POINT. If you know how much I LOVE Vocal Point's music, you can imagine how excited I was when I found out! I've been to a fireside by them before, but hearing their messages and stories from a missionary perspective was amazing. The Spirit was so strong as we sang hymns together. I've come to realize that the Spirit really speaks to me through music. Nearer My God to Thee has become one of my favorite hymns. We sing it all the time as a district in Tagalog and it's beautiful.

Speaking of music, Elder Krutsch from my district and I have been practicing a musical number. It's this gorgeous arrangement of Savior, Redeemer of My Soul. He is an amazing singer and has had lead roles in operas at USU, so it's such a privilege to accompany him. We tried out on Thursday in front of MTC President's wife, Sister Nally (who has perfect pitch is an extremely talented musician) and she loved it! We’re going to be performing at a large group meeting sometime this week! My prayer is that we will be able to bring the spirit into the meeting and touch the hearts of those listening. 

The most incredible part of the week though was our lesson on Thursday with our investigator Ernesto. We walked in and greeted him as usual and asked how he was. He responded that he was not good and invited us in. As we sat down and talked to him, he told us that he had called his wife, who works in Saudi Arabia, and she told him that she was leaving him. It broke my heart to hear him tell us this. Ernesto looked so distraught and heartbroken as he expressed his despair over losing his dear wife, the main source of income of their family, and his kids' mother. He said he didn't know what to do or how he would provide for his kids without them having a strong source of income or a mother. We realized we would definitely not be teaching about the importance of baptism like we had originally planned. We quickly opened the scriptures to D & C 121 and explained that this is what God told Joseph Smith when he was experiencing a very difficult trial. Tears came to my eyes as I tried in my poor Tagalog to explain that Jesus Christ knows what Ernesto is going through because of the Atonement and that Heavenly Father loves him so much and has a plan for him. The Spirit was so strong. After the lesson, we left and the tears rolled down my cheeks as I realized that these are real people. These are real lives of people in the Philippines, not just some pretend game where we go and teach our teachers. I thought of the Savior and all that He suffered so that He might be able to know how to succor us in our afflictions. Although I don't fully understand the pain Ernesto feels, He does, and for that I am so grateful. Although I can't bring Ernesto's wife back or solve his financial problems, through the Atonement he can receive peace in this life and the world to come. 
This week I also learned a powerful lesson about the gift of tongues. I only know how to say a little bit of what's in my heart in Tagalog when we go to teach lessons. The part I don know how to say often comes out in the wrong word order or the wrong conjugation or pronoun form. What I've come to realize however is that when I am trying my best, the Spirit makes up for the difference. He fills in the gaps of what I can't say and brings that message straight to the heart of the listener. It doesn't matter so much that my Tagalog is less than perfect because I am simply a vessel for delivering the message that Heavenly Father wants these people to hear. Although I am a far from perfect vessel, the message IS perfect and Heavenly Father uses the weak and simple things of the earth to bring about His great and eternal purposes. I am so grateful to be an instrument in His hands that I might be the means of bringing some soul unto Him. 

I love you all so much!
-Sister Mckenna Gustafson 

Sister Gustafson's District. All of the Sisters are going to the Philippines, Urdaneta Mission.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sacrifice Brings Forth the Blessings of Heaven

October 5, 2013

Well, they say you need to make 10,000 mistakes before you can become fluent in a language. I think I've made over a thousand this week, so I'm a little closer to being there!

I can't believe I'm more than halfway done here at the MTC. We get our flight plans this week, so I'll be sure to let you know next week. I think we'll be flying to the west coast somewhere and then to either Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Japan, and then down to Manila. I can't wait to be able to talk to mom and dad in the airport!! 

Being a part of the RS broadcast in the choir was incredible!! It was amazing being in the conference center for the first time and it was even more amazing being in the presence of the living prophet here on the earth. When Thomas S. Monson walked in, the Spirit just came over me so peacefully and testified to me that he is a prophet and that he speaks with God. I am so grateful for that personal witness because I will be testifying of him as a prophet nearly every day of my mission. As we sang last Saturday night there was such an amazing spirit. I love the strength that the women of the church have. One of the best parts of the whole night for me was when the huge section of sister missionaries from the SLC area stood up and waved at us at the end of the program. It was amazing seeing hundreds of sisters from all over the world showing their love and support in that way.  I love being a part of this international work!!

Yay for general conference this weekend! We will be watching it from Main Campus with all of the missionaries in the MTC. What an incredible once in a lifetime experience - listening to the words of living prophets and apostles with 3,000 other missionaries! I can't wait!!

We had some really incredible experiences teaching our investigators this week. Confession time: my kasama and I had really been slacking off on companionship study. We would just plan out the lessons for a few minutes and then take the rest of the time to study on our own. This week we set a goal to improve our companionship study in order to teach our lessons more effectively. On Thursday we were going to teach Mark. We had a great comp study where we studied the doctrine together and planned everything out in great detail. We prayed and prayed that the lesson would go well. When we went in for the lesson it was so great! The spirit was definitely there and I just really kept feeling prompted that we needed to ask him to be baptized, but I was reluctant because I hadn't studied the baptismal commitment in Tagalog. I finally got up the courage even though my heart was pounding. I asked him in broken Tagalog if he would follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority and he said YES! It was an incredible testimony builder for me that we need to do missionary work the Lord's way. I know the plan, study, teach cycle is inspired by God and when we follow it with obedience we are blessed. We recognized that the reason the Spirit was so strong and that we were able to commit him to baptism was because of our obedience in having meaningful comp study that morning. Nothing brings me more joy that seeing an investigator come closer to Christ especially through baptism! I can't wait to do this for real in the Philippines!!! :)

I want to share my testimony in Tagalog with you all: Alam ko po na totoo an Simbahan ni Jesucristo sa mga Banal na mga Huling Araw. Sa pamamagitan panalangin puwede tayong malalaman ang katotohanan. Mapagmahal po ang Diyos at Tagapagligtas po si Jesucristo. Alma ko po na totoo propeta po sina Joseph Smith at Thomas. S Monson. Alam ko po na totoo ang Aklat Ni Mormon at kung magbabasa tayo, magbabasbas tayo. 

Have a great week!

I love you all so much!
Sister Mckenna Gustafson 

(Translation of Testimony - "I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. Through prayer we can know the truth. I love Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. I know  Joseph Smith and Thomas. S Monson are prophets. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and if we read it will bless us.")

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

General Relief Society Broadcast - September 28, 2013

We did see Sister Gustafson in the final phrase of the closing song! It was great to see her.

Photo: Thank you for sharing your beautiful daughter with the world, Susan!  I showed my kids this video this morning and I got really choked up when I showed them Mckenna on the screen.  Then Abby pointed at the screen and said, "I want to be a pink missionary, Mommy!"  Thank you for your lovely daughter and her example!  You must be so proud :)