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.