Monday, December 22, 2014

The biggest shock of my mission...

 These are our two Christmas trees in the Bayambang house.

Mga mahal ko sa buhay, 

So it was transfers this week and yes, I was transferred... back to Villasis! I was shocked when Our Zone Leader announced on Friday morning that I would be going back to my fourth area to be companions with Sister Gregory just because it had never crossed my mind that I could go back, but I'm so happy to be here. There are so many reasons I need to be back here. I need the people here and they need me and my companion at this time :) 

The welcome I received from the members here was so great. Going to church yesterday felt like I never left, but it's great to see the progress in the area. The whole Rabara (including sis Rovelia, who was baptized after I left!! :)) family is so strong and active and the Bustamantes (a family sis Fui and I found right before I left) are all baptized. The Versola family and Sis Lydia and Bro Rodolpho are working on their papers for the weddings so they can be baptized. :) It's such a blessing for me to be back in this area right now! :)

My new companion, Sister Gregory
My companion is Sister Gregory, from Randolph, Utah, 21 years old with the most beautiful curly hair I've ever seen :) She is a horse lover and sports fan and is one of my batchmates, so we've been friends for more than a year now. It's so fun to be companions with someone who I already know and love :) She is the sweetest sister and I'm so excited to be here with her!

We watched the primary children, all wearing white shirts or dresses, give their presentation in Sacrament meeting yesterday and I was filled with the love that Heavenly Father has for each one of us as His children. He loved us enough to send a tiny innocent baby, His Son, Jesus Christ to live and die for us. As I watched the adorable dark-haired, dark-eyed Filipino children singing "I Am a Child of God", it struck me how true that really is. It's the first principle we teach anyone we meet because it really is the foundation of all other gospel principles. I hope you all have a great Christmas and remember that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father who loved us enough to send His Son for us that we may return to him. That's what it's all about! :)

Merry Christmas!
Sister Gustafson 

Goodbyes in Bayambang!


Brother Romeo and Sister Merly were baptized Saturday, after I left.

Brother Carlos was baptized, as well.
Even though I wasn't there, I'm so grateful I got to teach these wonderful people.

Brother Romeo, Sister Merly and Brother Carlos at their baptism with Sister Sarte and Sister Fronk.  Brother Romeo and Brother Carlos are wearing ties donated by seminary students in NH!

I finally did it. I ate the balut- the half-formed duck egg. Actually not too bad :) just don't look at it as you eat it haha :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Blessings :)

Sister Gustafson with some of her "batchmates," those who started their missions together 15 months ago, at the Christmas Conference in Daugupan.

With Sister Brown, my MTC companion
Hello Everyone,

I really learned this week that where Heavenly Father gives trials and struggles, He will always add blessings and miracles. He will not leave us alone.

The construction site continues to be a place of miracles and is bearing so much fruit for us in our work. We received the name of a man, bro Abel who works there and contacted him, only to find out that his wife is an investigator we taught a few times last transfer and then lost contact with, sister Gina. This was two weeks ago and we really felt that the Lord led us back to Sister Gina for a reason. This past Friday we extended a baptismal date to her and her two oldest kids and her husband and they all accepted. It's an amazing testimony to me that Heavenly Father really knows and cares about each of His children and knows when the right time is for them!

We had a great baptism on Saturday, Sis Tanya and Yeschia, 10 and 11 years old. It's so wonderful to see how happy their mom, sis Emma is to finally have another member of her family as a member of the church. She cried tears of joy as she watched her two adorable dark haired, dark-eyed spunky daughters being led into the baptismal font and baptized. Sis Sarte and I have grown quite fond of them as well and have enjoyed learning how to make the gospel exciting and applicable for two very active 10 and 11 year old best friends and sisters. Love them!

Sis Merly and Bro Romeo, and Bro Carlos all passed their interviews for baptism yesterday. It has been such a privilege for me to find and teach these three fine adults. Bro Carlos has three sons who are members, one on a mission, and one preparing to serve. He's been taught for more than one year by missionaries, but it just wasn't yet his time to be baptized and with his hectic work schedule, it just hadn't yet worked out for him. I've learned from Bro Carlos that the elect really will be patient and the right time will come for them to be baptized :) Sister Merly and Bro Romeo (the Balansays I referred to in past emails) are so excited and so ready. We knew from the first Sunday that they came to church and watched general conference that they were prepared by their daughters who are members and by Heavenly Father for us. They are two of the kindest, sweetest husband and wife I've ever met and it's been a great blessing to me to be able to teach them and watch them give up their old habits of coffee and drinking for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether or not I'm still here in Bayambang on Saturday to see their baptism in person is not important. It was enough for me to teach them and to be an instrument in God's hands to bring them to the knowledge of the truth :)

I really am so blessed and there's nowhere else I'd rather be this Christmas season. I'm so grateful that Heavenly Father is allowing me to serve here. I LOVE my mission, my companion, the area, how I'm growing, and my Savior Jesus Christ. It is only a short 12 weeks and I will be back home, so I'm doing my best to treasure every single moment here :) I looked back through my nearly 1000 pictures earlier today and I was just remembering how happy I am. In retrospect all of the trials and hard days and crying moments fade into the background when compared to the pictures of baptisms and dear friends and members and investigators I've loved and served :) There's nowhere else I'd rather be!

I love you!

Sister Gustafson 

Bayambang Zone at our zone activity earlier this afternoon - capture the flag and a catered lunch with a gift exchange :)

 with my housemates

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What a week!

With Sister Monahan, Mission President's wife

Elder Adurro, Quorum of the Seventy

What a week is all I can say! We were busy every waking second this week. We had meetings and studies in Lingayen on Tuesday, Mission Leadership Council on Wednesday, weekly planning on Thursday, exchanges on Friday, a baptism and stake conference on Saturday, and more stake conference and another baptism on Sunday. We were forced to use our time very carefully and prioritize our investigators preparing for baptism.

We also had one great baptism this week- little Bro Jhonice, 10 years old. His family was baptized last month and he joined them as members yesterday :) He beamed from ear to ear as he stepped into the water and was baptized by our 19 year old ward mission leader. He bore his testimony after the baptism and just said how happy and thankful he was that he was baptized. We are continuing to work with him and his family and to prepare them all to attend the temple trip with the ward at the end of the month to do baptisms for the dead. :)

We were able to go back to the construction site this week with a member of the stake presidency and were able to teach four of the brothers that we met last week! They were very receptive and we are excited to go back to them this week! :)

Despite all the craziness in the past few weeks, the Spirit has taught me again and again that being diligent is not about frantically running around. If missionaries, or anyone for that matter, are running so quickly between appointments and activities that they forget to focus on the Spirit and what things are really important, the work that we do is in vain. It is so important to take moments to pause, reflect, say a quick prayer, take a drink and look at the sunset with your companion, put your arm around a member sister and ask about their family, stop by the side of the road to play with string tops with the little kids, or to give your companion a hug after a great lesson. It's about doing the Lord's work in His way and with His Spirit, and I just don't think the Savior ran frantically from place to place worrying about statistics and the time on His watch. That's my thought for you this week- take time each day to ponder and invite the Spirit into your life. It's the only way we can make it through :)

I love you all!!
Sister Gustafson

Sister Training Leaders with Sister Monahan - December 2014
Sister Laulu and Lavides and I in a tryke. Don't worry, Sis Sarte was there too, riding on the outside on the back of the motorcycle :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Out of the Comfort Zone and into the Miracles! :)

Our Thanksgiving celebration!


People that I love,

As a missionary, I get to do a lot of things that push me out of my comfort zone every day- talking to strangers, inviting people to do things that are completely new to them, trying new foods, trying to speak a foreign language, etc. Every single day, I do things that I never would have done in my past life and that actually really would have scared me. But it's such an awesome opportunity, because I've learned that when I'm out of my comfort zone and doing what Heavenly Father wants me to do, I feel His strength giving me the confidence and power to do what He has asked :) I felt that I was pushed out of my comfort zone quite a bit this week, but we had a lot of success and miracles because of it.

On Wednesday morning, Sis Sarte and I got up early and went to the construction site in our area where they are building a new stake center. We stood in front of about 75 construction workers and shared a message with them (definitely a little out of my comfort zone... :)). They were all wearing their helmets and squinting in the bright morning sun as they sat on piles of gravel and listened to us share about how families can be together for eternity. It felt like a Philippines construction site version of the Sermon on the Mount :) we got all of their information and yesterday we contacted one of the brothers that we met. He and his family are so excited to come to church and we really can see that there will be many more miracles from the construction site project!

We also got a text from Sis Mylene that she was not doing well on Saturday and that we shouldn't go to teach her. We thought about what we could do for her and went to a member's home. We invited their RM son right then and there to take a 15 minute tryke ride with us to visit sis Mylene and give her a priesthood blessing. He was more than willing and sis Mylene was so grateful and really wanted to receive the blessing. Bro Darren gave her a sweet blessing where he promised her peace and that Heavenly Father is aware of her situation and although she wasn't doing well enough to speak, she just wrote "maraming salamat" - thank you very much- on her paper :) she wasn't able to come to church this week, but we know she felt the power of the priesthood blessing.  Miracles!

Sis Merly and bro Romeo are also still miracles. We did what wasn't the most convenient, but we invited a former stake president who lives in our ward to come with us to teach and testify about the law of tithing. It's not going to be easy for Bro Romeo and sis Merly to pay tithing because their income is based on the harvest they get from their rice and corn field twice a year. It's a huge act of faith for them, but after hearing the testimony of Pres Balajadia and how tithing has blessed his family, they agreed to give the full 10 percent to the Lord. 

Christmas is upon us and I want to invite all of you to take 2 min and 45 seconds to watch an amazing video and remember the true first gift of Christmas. It won't be a waste of your time! Enjoy!

And this week, do something out of your comfort zone for Him :) It won't be without miracles!

I love you!
Sister Gustafson 

 I love these Sisters from all over the world!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Maligayang Araw ng Pagpapasalamat :) (Happy Day of Thanksgiving)

Mabuhay lahat! :) Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Thanksgiving this week I just realized, so I'd like to share a few things that I am grateful for :)

I am grateful for our ten progressing investigators and 12 investigators that came to church yesterday. It is soo much fun to see so many investigators keeping commitments and preparing for baptism! I am grateful for Sis Mylene for coming to church, even though climbing the stairs is a really struggle for her lungs. I am grateful for the members that sat by her and put their arms around her frail shoulders and took her home early when she couldn't stay anymore without her oxygen.

I'm grateful for Sister Neth and her three adorable kids, CJ, JJ, and MJ for coming to church for the second time yesterday. I'm grateful for CJ's hilarious sense of humor that always gets Sis Sarte and I cracking up during lessons :)

I'm grateful for members like Sis Cleofe and Sis Ivy and Sis Tere and Bro Jared and Bro JP who sacrifice their time to work with us and bear powerful testimony as we teach and sit by our investigators at church. :)

Here is me and my lovely companion, doesn't she have great hair!!? She calls it her "Brave Princess" hair :)

I'm grateful for my dear companion, Sis Sarte who is so patient with my weaknesses and loves me and makes me laugh everyday :) the work is not easy, but at least it's fun with a companion like her by my side :)

I'm grateful for the wonderful sisters that I'm surrounded by and have the privilege of working with during exchanges every week. I learn so much from their examples. This week I worked with Sis Alvarez (Bicol, Philippines) for the third time on exchanges as well as Sis Fronk (Logan, UT) for the fourth time :) I learned so much from their positive attitudes, despite the trials they are facing in their areas. :) They are amazing!!

And this week, I am grateful for hot vans and buses and jeepneys with no aircon :) We traveled to Labrador, a huge area tucked away in the mountains about two and half hours away with about 30 active members. We visited the sisters there last Tuesday. We also had two exchanges and spent a lot of hours in vans and buses and jeepneys travelling for meetings and exchanges.... all those hours cramped in sweltering hot vans feeling the sweat dripping down your back and front and legs gives you a lot of time to think. :) I pondered on my purpose as a missionary and why I'm doing this. I came to the conclusion that all the sweat and hours travelling are worth it because, as we are taught in PMG, NO effort is wasted. Any effort we make to reach out to others in love or to do Heavenly Father's work is worth it :) I was also reminded that I need to be grateful that we even have vans (even if the air conditioning is a hopeless noisy excuse for a fan :)) because without them, we would be walking :) I wrote in my journal this week that I bet Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith had wished that they had had vans and buses and jeepneys to transport them as they did their work. So, because it is Thanksgiving this week, I am grateful for vans and jeepneys and buses that allow us to travel and do Heavenly Father's work :)

I am also grateful for all of you and for your support and emails and letters and prayers, especially my dear family:) I couldn't do this alone.

But most of all, I am eternally grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement. He is my Redeemer and my strength. I love Him and am so grateful to have his name pinned to my chest and painted on my heart each day.

There is so much to be grateful for! Look at how much Heavenly Father has given us! :)

I love you all!
Sister Gustafson :)

Me, Elder Uhi and Elder Ponce with our "trunky letters" aka travel questionnaires :)
(I'm not sure if she wants to jump for joy or melt into a puddle of tears.)