Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Here!

It's your favorite Filipina missionary again! The weeks are really just flying by! the days seem so long, but the weeks fly by. It makes no sense. haha

To start off, I'd like to share some small lessons I learned this week :)

-There is nothing like a freezing cold bucket shower after a long hot day of working :)

-When taking said bucket shower, check to make sure there are no dead spiders floating in the water or you may end up with them on you :P

-If you're sitting in a member's cardboard house and they hand you a half of a coconut with a spoon, you eat it, of course!

-If your investigator asks you why your shirt is drenched and it's from all your sweating, tell them that your companion poured water on you ;)

-A three hour weekly planning session is a lot more sweaty when the power is out and you have no fans!

-Singing hymns while walking at night keeps the drunks and dogs away and the Spirit close.

Our most exciting news is the baptism of our investigator, Rachel, this coming Saturday! We are so so happy! They only way she can be baptized is if she has the support of her parents, so we've had to reactivate her less-active mother. It's so happy for the two of them! The rest of the family isn't members, but we're glad they have each other. Rachel is so sweet and happy. I just love her! I'll send pictures of her and us next week :)

We had some rough days this week where we just got punt after punt after punt. It wasn't our fault; our investigators were just not home.  It was pretty discouraging and frustrating for me, but I know Heavenly Father is trying to teach me to be patient, to rely on Him and His timing, not my own strength or my own efforts. Even though it's kind of against the culture here, Sister G and I are going to try to work on giving specific appointments so we can avoid this problem in the future :)

In case anyone is interested here is a quick rundown of a typical day here:  Wake up at 6:30, pray, exercise on the porch or tryke to the Pangasinan state U track to run,  bucket shower (!), and get ready for the day. Begin studies at 8:00, personal for one hour, companion for two hours (because of my 12 week training program), and then language study for one hour. Prepare lunch and eat until 1:30. Sister Gallego and Sister Flores are aaamazing cooks, so we eat well here! From 1:30 to 9:00 we work!! We walk and walk and walk and talk to people and teach and meet people and walk some more. It's great! 9:00 plan for the next day and review the day. 9:30 update the area book, write in journal, EAT SNACKS :) 10:30 BED :)

The walk home at the end of the night (about two miles) feels like six, but singing hymns and talking to my dear wonderful Sister Gallego and practicing my Tagalog makes the time pass a little faster :)

The schedule varies, on Tuesdays we go to Aguilar for district meeting, on Thursdays we have a 3 hour weekly planning session, Sunday of course we have church and Monday is P-day!

Life here is good, so good. Missionary work is hard and there is plenty of opposition, but the good moments definitely outnumber the hard ones :)

I was reading about adversity this week and trying to understand why there is so much adversity in our lives. It seems sometimes that at the times we or our investigators are trying our best to do what's right, the adversity is the strongest. I read a quote by Jeffrey R Holland that talked about how when we experience adversity we should be grateful. The Savior experienced the most adversity of anyone that has ever lived when he performed the Atonement and when we experience trials we should be grateful because we are standing shoulder to shoulder with the best life this world has ever known. We should be grateful to experience and appreciate a little, very little, bit of what he experienced for us. I am so grateful for my Savior and for His atoning sacrifice for me. He Lives! I am so grateful to be a missionary and to be able to share this message with my brothers and sisters! :)

Have a great week!

-Sister Gus :)

Monday, November 18, 2013


It's your favorite Filipina missionary again! We had a great and super productive week! We taught about 30 lessons even though we had partial days on Wednesday and Thursday because of a special sisters training meeting and apartment cleaning checks. We have 9 new investigators as well. We met so many cool people this week :) One of my favorite things we do is called Preaching By the Way. It's one of the key indicators president added for our mission. We talk to people along the way to appointments or just different people we meet and invite them to do something like come to church or read a pamphlet and bear testimony of a restored truth. It's so fun to meet and talk to so many different kinds of people.

So many crazy things happen here. it seems like every day Sister Gallego and I get laughing so hard because of something so crazy that happened that day. This past week we went to a former investigator's house. We asked how his Book of Mormon reading was and he said that it was really good and that he had been reading about the Word of Wisdom. That was my first clue that something was off because obviously the Word of Wisdom is not in the Book of Mormon haha. He kept talking about the importance of the Word of Wisdom, but his words were slurring and he couldn't really understand or think straight. He was DRUNK! It was soo ironic. hahaha Sister G and I got a good laugh out of that one. Whether it's a crazy bus covered in red and yellow sunflowers that blasts rap music or people on the streets calling us Elders, there's always something to laugh about at the end of the day :)

 First Jeepney ride with Sister Gallego

Speaking of walking down the street, I'm getting used to being whistled at everywhere we go. Everyone wants to say hi to us and honks at us all the time. I've never been this popular in my life haha. We were running at the Pangasinan State U track on Saturday and some ladies stopped me and wanted a picture with me. I was all sweaty and out of breath but I took the picture with them. It's so funny how fascinated the little kids are with my white skin too. They have never seen a real live breathing American before so they always scream "Amerikana Amerikana!" when I walk by. I love watching the look on their faces when I tell them that I'm actually a Filipina. They get so confused. haha

Tomorrow I'm going to Binmaley, which is about 20 minutes away, for an exchange with Sister Galos. I'm excited to see a different area and get some training from a new sister! I just want to say that I love Sister Gallego so much. She is so wonderful. I love her sense of humor, her diligence, and how patient she is with me. I am so grateful to have her as a companion!!

We got a new elder in our zone from the Tacloban mission! We are probably going to get some more missionaries and if we get sisters the ZLs said they would be coming to live at our house! We are continuing to pray for them. They've been through such a rough time- so many of their members and investigators are just gone. Dead. Please keep praying for the Tacloban area.

We had a tender experience this week with a man we were preaching by the way to. We said hi and asked how he was doing and he immediately showed us is knuckles that were all bloody with the skin peeling. He works as a pedicab driver, so all day long and into the night he peddles his bike and takes people where they want to go. He has 6 kids and he told us he drinks to drive away the pain of his difficult life. I had some bandaids in my bag, so I gave them to him along with a plan of salvation pamphlet. I told him that it was a bandaid for the soul to go along with the bandaids for his fingers. He was fumbling with the bandaids and didn't know how to use them, so I opened them and carefully put them on his bleeding fingers for him. I was overwhelmed with love for this man that I had just met. His life is so different and so much more difficult than the one I am so privileged to live. It is so comforting to me to know that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ all that is unfair about this life will be made right in the next life. I love this gospel! I love this work and I love being a missionary in the Philippines! I am so blessed!

I love you all and have a great week!

Sister Gus :)

 Our house
  The front porch

The front door and main living area

The kitchen

Monday, November 11, 2013


First of all, NO WORRIES! I'm perfectly safe and happy here in the Philippines. We really didn't feel any effects from the storm, just a little bit of rain and wind. I'm really super worried for the families of my dear companion Sister Gallego and our bahay (house) mate, Sister Flores. Please pray for their families because they haven't heard from them. The storm knocked out the internet connection, so they are very worried. We are praying for our fellow brothers and sisters who were affected by the storm. Thank you all for your concern and keep praying for these suffering people!
 Sister Flores helping make lunch.
I pulled out the picture of my family that I carry as we taught the Escano family the other night. We were discussing family prayer and I got emotional as I showed them the picture and told them how grateful I was that we always had our family say family prayer, even when it wasn't convenient. I told them that one of the reasons I could bear to leave them for a year and half was because of how grateful I am for the gospel's influence on our family. The spirit was so strong! we extended baptismal invitation to the mom, for December 21st and she accepted. The husband is really accepting as well, so we're going to give him a date soon. They have two gorgeous little kids. I love the Escanos!!
Okay, The Ward! We are over the Lingayen 2nd ward along with the other sisters that we live with. They are such a great ward! We love them!! Bishop Dapadap is the son of our ward mission leader and is probably one of the smallest men I've ever met in my life. He's only in his late twenties and he's a great bishop! The ward is about 100 people, there are a lot of part member families and less actives that we're working to reactivate. We're not allowed to only teach less actives, so we're working to get them to help us fellowship our investigators and reactivate them at the same time.

I play the piano in sacrament meeting and RS every week. The culture here is sooo different from the states. The kids run wild and free during sacrament meeting, going in and out, running up and down the isles, eating, talking, and even yelling! It's a little crazy. My first week I was so frustrated because I couldn't hear the speaker and we had all these little kids trying to climb all over us. The parenting for the most part here is so lax and kids are used to running free. We're going to try to work with bishop on teaching the parents to keep their kids in their seats during the sacrament meeting. It's hard to bring our investigators to church and help them feel the Spirit in an environment like that. 

Funny thing- it was my first week in Relief Society. I walked into the room and saw a lace tablecloth on the table with a picture of Christ and vase of fake flowers. The teacher was taping typed phrases on the board with masking tape. As the lesson started someone passed chocolates around. It was just like any other RS meeting I've ever been to. You RS sisters will know what I'm talking about! No matter where you go, the Church (and Church culture, I guess!) is the same :) I love it!

Trykes! Trykes are one of the very best best things about the Philippines. Barely anyone can afford a car here so everyone uses trykes to get around. They are motorcycles that have these side cars attached. They are so so efficient! Trykes are every every everywhere and you can always just signal one and go where ever you need to! (See the attached picture for a tryke selfie of Sister Gallego and me :)

Your long Tagalog word of the week is brought to you by Ang Aklat ni Mormon. It's... ready? ...pinakamakapangyarihan. Tada! It means "all powerful". Whew. some of these words are such tongue twisters!! Grabe! The Lord is helping me so much with the language. A lot of times during lessons I'll have no idea what to say and then I'll just open my mouth and words come out that I definitely did not put there. The promise in Doctrine & Covenants 100:6 is true. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father knows what the people we are teaching need to hear and that He trusts me with His work. I know that He puts the things in our mouths that we need to say.

If you were to visit the Philippines, you would notice a lot of things right away. The heat. The smells of trash and sewage and burning plastic and cigarette smoke. You would see houses that are made of cardboard and cinderblocks or plywood and tin. Walking down a typical street you would see naked children and drunk people on the side of the road. You would see black rivers of water with green slime. BUT if you were looking at these things you would most definitely miss the bright pink flowers blooming in the tree above you. You would miss the little kids flying colorful homemade kites. If you entered the home of a family, you might be distracted by the dog barking outside or the smell of smoke coming from the fire in the corner, but if you did that, you would most definietly miss the sweet Spirit that enters as this family testifies of their experience with family prayer strengthening them. you would miss the gorgeous little four year old eyeing you shyly in the corner. if you were watching the lizard eating the cockroach on the wall, you would miss the chance to look into the eyes of the mom as you explain how her family can be together for eternity because of God's plan for them.
Sometimes it's so hard to focus on what's really important amid the distractions and noise of the world. When we focus our minds and hearts on those things of eternal importance, we are blessed with an increased capacity to bear trials. We remember that the trials and problems in this life are but a small moment compared to eternity. Try to see the good in the world and focus on the things of true importance!

I love you all!!
-Sister Gus :)
 Sister Gustafson in front of the Urdaneta City sign, but you can't see the words. haha

Monday, November 4, 2013

Heart, Might, Mind & Strength

Hello Dearests,

This week I've learned some important things: first, it is possible to take a shower with only a bucket of water and a ladle. Second, if you buy some very expensive American cereal and leave it in the cupboard, it will become infested with ants.... let's just say I keep my cereal in the fridge now haha. Third, the proper way to pick a papaya from the tree in your backyard involves standing on a chair, bending the tree over and shaking it with all your strength while hitting it with a mop.

It was a great week! I am loving the work and the people and the culture and the food and the Spirit that's here! It's great! We now have 4 investigators with baptismal dates: Sisters Rachel, Marlene, and Rebecca, and Brother Alex. Three of them are special cases so that's been a little tricky. Let me tell you about Sister Marlene. Mom, remember how I would always talk about the Filipino babies over the summer? Well, she has six of them :) Her husband works in Manila so her life is not easy in the least. She is the sweetest woman and has such a strong desire to do what's right. I just love her so much. She has some eggplant plants in her little yard and sometimes gives them to us. When I asked her to be baptized I look straight in her eyes and said, "susundan mo ba ang halimbawa ni Jesucristo sa pamamagitan pagpapabinyag?" and she said yes with the biggest smile on her face. The Spirit was definitely there! Her baptism is on December 7th :)

One of our other investigators, Sister Rachel is only 12. On Monday we were teaching her and her mom when her brother came home. drunk. The spirit just completely left as he started going off about how he hates going to church because all they do is tell him not to drink. He was stumbling around and hitting the dog. it was awful. You could see Rachel's mom was just so heartbroken and upset. I just wanted so badly to testify to him that the commandments are the only way to be happy- truly happy, but all I could do was sit there. Right after he finished his tirade he left and we tried to resume the lesson and bring back the Spirit. It's really hard to see people who are using their agency to make bad choices that affect the rest of the family. Rachel is so great though! I am so excited to see her making good choices and getting ready for her baptism on the 30th of November.

I love you all!!
Sister Gus :)