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 :)
Sister Gustafson :)