Monday, February 24, 2014

Sister Marlene's Baptism

Hello all!

Sister Marlene was baptized on Saturday and it was beautiful. I've learned a lot since my last baptism about going with what I call the 'Filipino Flow'. :) Filipinos have their own way of doing things and usually that way is not too focused on schedules and timetables. I've learned not to expect anyone to show up early, let alone on time. I've learned that it's okay if bishop shows up 10 minutes after the baptism was supposed to start, as long as he brings the baptismal clothes. I've learned that it's okay if the little kids are running up and down the isles and crying during the service as long as all the speakers show up. I've learned that it's okay if there are a few dead cockroaches and flies floating in the font water, as long as it gets filled. And it's okay if the baptism starts 30 minutes late, as long as the ordinance itself happens. Sister Marlene was glowing with the Spirit as she bore her testimony after her baptism. She is so ready and so excited to be an official member of the true church after so long. The thing about baptism is that it's not just about becoming a member of the true church of Christ. On Saturday she made the first step towards eternal life. We were so happy to see her make that step!

We had exchanges this week with the Binmaley sisters, so I spent Friday and Saturday in Binmaley with Sister Gomez. Talk about a happy sister! I don't think she is ever not smiling. Their area is definitely a lot different than Lingayen 2A. A lot of rich people with closed gates, doors, and hearts. We did a lot of walking and I was a little 'home' sick for my area where the people are generally receptive and it's easy to reach more than 30 lessons a week. All is well though. His work is His work no matter how difficult or where it get's done. My dear trainer would always say, "It's not about where you serve. It's HOW you serve that matters." true 'dat!

It's transfers this week and I'm 90% sure I'll be leaving Lingayen. It's hard to see my beloved first area go. I've spent the last 4 and a half months here, serving my brothers and sisters of the Lingayen 2nd ward and barangays Pangapisan Sur and North and Aplaya. It's really going to hurt to have to leave them, but I will go where He wants me to go. It occurred to me during sacrament meeting yesterday that I will go where He wants me to go, not just on transfer day, but every day and every minute and every hour. He has prepared and is placing people in my path each and every day that I specifically need to talk to. As we rely on His Spirit, we are guided to know where to go and what to do. I will go where He wants me to go, and not just here on the mission, but every day for the rest of my life. I am His daughter and I love Him so much. 

I love being a missionary and I love all of you!

Sister Mckenna Gustafson

Sister Gustafson with Shine who will be serving in the Manila Mission.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Patuloying lang!

Hello All,

Heavenly Father has taught me so much this week. I pray that I can share a small part of it with you all. 

Sister Marlene is all set for her baptism on Saturday! She passed her baptismal interview (of course) and everything is all set for Saturday! We are so excited to see her make the first step towards entering the celestial kingdom. Look for pictures of her baptism next week :)

I am constantly amazed by the power that the gospel has to changed people's lives and hearts. I read a quote by Elder Ballard this week that talked about how when the Spirit touches people's hearts, hearts are changed. I can testify from my own experiences here in the mission that that is true. My heart has been changed as it has been touched by the Spirit each day and I've seen others' hearts change as well. 

We didn't have any appointments a few weeks ago, so we asked directions to some people on the side of the road. They are related, but I'm not sure how. They all live together in one compound though. We scheduled a return appointment, but they weren't very enthusiastic about us coming back. They were not very interested, but we went back and taught them again. We now have three progressing investigators there at this compound. We have given them a BoM and Brother Samson is reading it. On Saturday I asked him if he had tried praying to know if it is true. He said that he had (every missionary's favorite answer!) and that he was surprised at what had happened. He said he had a wonderful feeling come over him and that he believes the Book of Mormon is true. wow. I think I was more surprised than he was. We never expected them to progress! The Spirit has great power to change hearts!

We had a few experiences this week where investigators who we thought were golden (the De Guzman Family, Liza, and another brother named Darwin) refused to come to church. ouch. It was a little discouraging for me because I love these people and desire their salvation! What I've learned though, is that if I am doing everything I can, I am successful. Even though I was disappointed in my brothers and sisters, I am not disappointed in myself because I am giving my best to Him.

We actually did something exciting with our p-day this week! We went to the Capitol of Pangasinan, which just happens to be here in Lingayen. It's a gorgeous building with a really cool WWII museum and park in the back. See the attached pictures! We were even lucky enough to meet a real live 86-year-old Filipino WWII veteran who was at the museum too.

 That's all for now! Ingat lahat!

Sister Mckenna Gustafson :)


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Masaya pa rin (Still Happy)

 This is Katrina our 14 year old investigator with her sister and grandmother.

Hello all!

We had another great week, despite some cockroaches and colonies of ants who decided to invade our apartment this week. Permotox spray sure comes in handy!

Last week, we taught a brother Sebrig as he was sitting on his little bamboo chicken coop outside his house. His pigs and cows and chickens and dogs were in the yard. Sister V was asking him how he feels when he has a problem or a trial in his life and he enthusiastically responded that he has no problems in his life, saying that everything is great and happy all the time. He started talking about how important the gospel is to him and was waving his hands in the air and talking about going to heaven. At the end of the lesson, our member present, Bro Zacharias, said dryly, "You know Brother Sebrig, the next time the missionaries come to teach you, you shouldn't drink so much. It's a much better experience when you're sober." He was DRUNK the whole time! Next time we'll make sure to go back when he's not so "happy" haha...

We've had a lot or opportunities for giving service lately. Last week we helped the Figuracion family from our ward pull nails out of old boards for an extension they're building on their little house. We also helped a lady we didn't even know, Sister Jennifer, with her work- washing bottle caps that she will sell for 20 pesos ($.45) per five hundred caps. We squatted by the big tubs of bleach water and used old toothbrushes and scrubbed all the old catsup and fishsauce off the bottle caps while we talked to Jennifer. I love being a missionary and having the opportunity to serve my brothers and sisters all the time. There is no greater work!! 

This week we were teaching a lesson to Sister Shine, a 21 year old mother of two kids (their names are Prince and Princess btw, not uncommon names here!) After we finished the lesson, Princess sneezed and had stuff all over her face. Since Shine's arms were full with squirmy, fussy little Prince, I offered to wipe her face with some tissues I had in my bag. Her face was all messy from dirt and some sticky candy she had been eating, so I cleaned her up. There was another little boy, probably two or three years old who was just staring at me with his big dark eyes. He wanted his dirty face cleaned too! So I cleaned up his face too. It was so cute. I love these little Filipino babies soo much. I just want to hold them and hug them and tell them that Heavenly Father loves them so much too. I just want them to know that even though they may only have rice and the occasional fish to eat, that they have a Father in Heaven who loves them so much. But alas, I cannot hug all of them and it's against the rules to hold them, so I will just have to be satisfied with wiping their adorable little faces whenever I get a chance.

Sister Marlene is so excited for her baptism on February 22nd and we are too! She is so ready. It's been a really long time in coming- she's been an investigator for about 9 months- but we truly feel like this is her time to be baptized. The light of the gospel just radiates from her face when she talks about the things she's learning from her Book of Mormon reading. We reviewed about tithing this week and when I asked her if she would follow the law of tithing, she emphatically said, "Yes, of course! It's so important!". Even though her husband doesn't have work right now and she has 5 little mouths to feed, she knows that tithing is a commandment and that Heavenly Father will provide for her needs as she is obedient. She has so much faith!

We taught the Castillo family how to hold family prayer this week. Sister Castillo leaves in a few weeks to go to Malaysia for the next two years to work as house help. She is leaving her three young kids and her husband and everything she knows in order to provide money for her family. It breaks my heart to see this happy, loving family separated, but they are so grateful for the opportunity. The Spirit filled their tiny home and my heart as I testified about the blessings of comfort, closeness, and peace that have come to my family because of our daily family prayers. We knelt down on their concrete floor and Brother Castillo offered their first family prayer. Even though they will be separated by many miles in a few short weeks, I know their family will be blessed and strengthened through the miles because I know my family feels the same way right now. I am so grateful for righteous parents who have always led our family in prayer and scripture study. I love my family so much!!

That's all for this week!


Sister Mckenna Gustafson 

 This is the market in our area. I love how colorful it is!

  This is how four sisters from three different countries relieve stress on a Sunday night after a long week of work - self timer pictures! Like my pants? You can't say no to crazy pants for 85 pesos! ($1.89)

 I got a Valentine package!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Filled with his love

My beautiful area by the sea!


We had a very busy and full week. We were so blessed to find 16 new investigators and teach almost 40 lessons. It's easy to find people to teach here. It's hard to find the elected souls that will be baptized and remain active.
This week we had some interesting encounters with missionaries of other faiths (There are a TON of them here!). We met a man from the Iglesia ni Cristo who gave us a not so brief history of the INC in the Philippines and refused to take our pamphlet we offered him. We also met a lady who is a missionary for the Born Agains and gave us another not so brief spiel. The Filipinos sure keep things interesting!

This week I was amazed at how much love I feel for the people here. Over and over again when we were teaching this week, I was surprised by the overwhelming love I felt for these people On Wednesday we were trying to contact a referral at Aplaya. We were at the referral's house talking to her sister in law, Jobelle and trying to figure out where the referral is living. Jobelle asked us why we wanted her sister in law. When we told her that we were missionaries and wanted to share a message with her about Jesus Christ, she asked if she could listen instead. (um, yes!!). We taught Jobelle and came to find out that she was a former investigator from the elders before our area was whitewashed (the sisters got put in) more than six months ago! When she was telling us that, I remembered that only her last name is in the area book and we hadn't been able to find her. I was filled with love for this 21-year old sister with the most adorable little one year old girl. As we sat on wooden benches outside her bamboo house on stilts, I also was filled with the realization that the Shepherd will not let any of His precious lambs get lost, even if the previous elders were not the best area book updaters. So we found one of His lost lambs, Jobelle, because He has a plan for each one of His precious children.

  Yesterday we had one of the most spiritual sacrament meetings I've ever been to. Testimony after testimony filled the room with the Spirit. I felt like I was being compelled by the love that was about to burst inside me. I had to get up and tell them how much I admire their sacrifices as the faithful saints of the Lingayen 2nd ward. There are many many wives whose husbands are inactive or not members who faithfully bring their kids to church all by themselves. There are youth who wake up at 4:00 or earlier in order to cook their rice and then bike, walk, or tryke to the church for 6:00am seminary. There are youth who are preparing to serve missions who are working whatever jobs they can find and are saving every peso they earn in order to serve. I love the Lingayen 2nd ward so much and I truly feel like they are becoming my family here :)

I have an I <3 SG keychain on my bag that a member gave us from their trip to Singapore! It reminds me that I love my mom, brother, the Super Gustafson family and my trainer, 
Sister G :) and this is my planner cover that I made!

Quote of the week: Sister Va'enuku, while praying over our lunch: "Please bless this food to strengthen our testimonies..." That was not our most reverent prayer after that slipped out! Heavenly Father understands, though, right?

I love you all so much! Enjoy your cold weather- it's way hot here!
Sister Mckenna Gustafson

with Sister Fronk

Our District