Monday, May 26, 2014

Aspire, Perspire, Inspire...

Hello All,

Those three words are on my water bottle and I felt like they pretty much summed up how I felt this week. Aspiring to do my best, perspiring constantly, and feeling very inspired. I learned so much this week from my leaders, my companion, and most of all the Spirit. It's hard to convey all of it in a short email, but I'll try my best :)

Brother Ronell will be baptized on JUNE 7 :) He is doing so great and is so excited! He is coming to church every week, reading, praying, following the word of wisdom and has truly humbled himself. He prayed in Gospel Principles yesterday and was grinning from ear to ear. He's come a long way! 

Brother Roger is also regularly coming to church. We helped him make a plan of what to do when he feels tempted to drink or smoke. We did a little role play where I pretended to be one of his friends trying to get him to smoke and he did great! He told me no and that he was going to buy candy instead of smoking. We know he can do it with Heavenly Father's help! :)

Yesterday we had a meeting with all the leaders of the branch and helped them set a goal for baptisms each month. They decided that we can reach FIVE baptisms each month together as a branch! They are all so supportive and we know we can help rescue 5 precious souls each month with their help. We will be working with our Branch mission leader, Brother Mario to set goals for referrals received and lessons with a member present in order to achieve the goal!

 Sisters at a branch member's birthday party.

I had my third and last exchanges with Sister Stokes this past week. She is a great example to me and I've learned so much from having her as my STL for the last 6 months. She has a no-stress attitude but truly gives everything she has to the people she serves. I want to be more like her! Her commitment and her love radiates from her. She is actually companions with Sister Baluyot now in Bayambang! 

I think I must be gaining weight or something...On Saturday, as we were leaving Sister Delia's house, I stood up to leave and took a step and stepped right through the FLOOR! The house is up on stilts and my knee was level with the floor! I earned myself a foot-long scrape on my leg and a few nice black bruises. I felt worse though about the floor! I'll try to figure out a way to fix it for them!

That's all for this week. The Savior lives and I am so blessed to be able to represent Him here!


Sister Gustafson 

 Dagupan Zone - Love these Sisters and Elders!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Some of my friends :)

Kamusta lahat!
As a missionary, you expect to go on a mission and inspire all the people around you with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but what I've learned is that the blessing of being a missionary is all the incredible people that you meet that inspire you with their amazing light. :) I wish I could bring all of you here to the Philippines to meet all the incredible people that I've had the privilege of associating with here, but since I can't I will try to introduce you to a few of them:

Sister Joan: Sister Joan is a 50 plus non-member mother who has been faithfully coming to church for almost a year. She lives in our branch in the other sisters' area. She cannot be baptized because she and her live-in partner don't have enough money to purchase the necessary paperwork so they can be married and she can get baptized. They are just one year short of the 5-year live in requirement for the Philippines baptismal standard. She sells mangoes and fried bananas every day in order to save her money. She comes to church every single week and has a stronger testimony than a lot of life-long members. When she talks about when she will be able to be baptized, she cries. :) Her story makes me realize how blessed I am! 

Sister Venus:  Sister Venus is a single 35-year-old mother that we met this week doing street contacting. She has a severely disabled 10-year old son that she has devoted her life to taking care of. She lovingly feeds him milk out of a bottle, pushes him in a tiny old baby carriage and washes his tiny deformed arms and legs. She is with him 24/7 and the love that she has for him just radiates in everything she does! We've been able to teach her twice and we just need to help her see that the restored gospel is what she and her son need. I want to have the kind of love she has!

Brother Rogell: Brother Rogell is the most elect recent convert I've ever had the privilege to meet in my life. He was baptized just in September and is already serving as our branch's Young Men's president. He is a police officer so it took a long time for him to be baptized because he has duty on Sundays. He told us this week that before he was baptized he sometimes had to travel more than 84 km both ways just so he could attend sacrament meeting wherever he was assigned. He also told us that he goes around to member’s houses who don't attend church and invites them back, without any assignment or recognition. I hope someday I can have that same kind of powerful conversion. 

Sister Lapura: Yes, my dear companion :) She inspires me with her life story. She is the only active member in her family and returned to church alone when she was 16, faithfully becoming active in the church and preparing herself to serve a mission since that time. She has overcome poverty, a mother dying, inactive family, and a million more things I can't mention in order to serve her Heavenly Father fulltime. She has an amazing light and an incredible ability to make friends easily. She inspires me to be a more happy and loving sister :) I love my dear companion!

We had a great week this week! We have two very solid progressing investigators, Brother Ronell and Brother Roger. We were happy to see both of them at church yesterday and they are making great progress towards baptism in June :) Brother Roger is down to 8(!!!)  cigarettes a day :) 

I wish I had time to share all the times I saw blessings from following the promptings of the Holy Ghost this week, but I'll just share one. On Friday night we were on our way to bed. Sister Lapura and I had already had our comp. prayer and I was about to climb up the top bunk to go to sleep, when I got a seriously strong prompting that I needed to check and make sure the front door was locked. It seemed kind of silly because there were 5 other sisters sleeping in our apartment and one of them surely would have checked that the door was locked. I went all the way downstairs and checked anyways and sure enough, the door was unlocked and unbolted. I quickly locked it and thanked Heavenly Father for prompting me to check the door. I know He is watching over us :)

I know Heavenly Father will watch over you too and send his spirit to prompt and protect us when we listen for it!

Mahal ko kayong lahat,
Sister Gustafson :)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day Call

Mom's Note:  We loved talking with Sister Gustafson on Mother's Day! She is truly happy in this work and loves the people in the Philippines. She smiled like this the entire call. We didn't have a great connection through Skype but felt very connected to her regardless.

Huge Shrimp and Other Adventures

The pictures are from a dinner we had last night with a member family. The shrimp were the biggest I've ever seen. :) Masarap!

Hello All!

We had such a great week because the gospel is still true and we were able to get 15 lessons with members present :) The members in the Manat Branch, especially the priesthood were really great about coming and working with us this week, driving us to our appointments in their trykes and sharing their testimonies with our investigators. Such a blessing!

We also had a great day at church yesterday with four investigators! Brother Roger, one of our investigators who is working towards baptism, was there, as well as Brother Ronell :) They are both going to be baptized and make great priesthood holders and leaders in the church someday. :) Brother Ronell is doing great with the word of wisdom. He used to drink with his buddies every night, as is the custom with most men here, but now he doesn't. When we asked him what he tells them, he says he tells them that he will go take a shower or read his scriptures instead of drinking :) He is great! 

Brother Roger is reading the Book of Mormon and is already most of the way through Mosiah! He brought his Book of Mormon with him to his vacation and read all the way from 1 Nephi to Mosiah! Reading and gaining a testimony is the key to a lasting conversion, so we are so happy to see him reading so much!

Something I've been thinking a lot about this week is how we receive personal revelation and how I can help our investigators to do the same. Receiving personal revelation and answers to our prayers takes a lot more than just simply asking for them. I've learned that He want us to exercise our faith by acting and keeping the commandments, actively studying out in our minds what we should do, and being humble and patient enough to accept His timing. Most revelation doesn't come in an instant and may not come as we sometimes expect. The miraculous heavenly visitations to Alma the Younger, Joseph Smith, and many others in the scriptures are the exception, not the rule. Most revelation comes slowly, quietly, and gently. I have seen so many times in my mission and in my life, the gentle promptings of the Holy Ghost and my own experiences with keeping the commandments by reading the scriptures and coming to church are what add to my testimony. I want to learn to help my investigators do the same. Remember that He will always answer a sincere prayer, but in His own way and in His own timing, and usually it's not all at once. :)  Nephi had some great things to say about the keys to receiving revelation in 1 Nephi 15:11, "Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said? If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with dilligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be make known unto you." I know His promise is sure! These things shall be made known unto you. 

That's all for this week :)

Mahal ko kayong lahat!

Sister Gustafson 

 This picture is of a giiinnnormous cloud that rolled in while we were working one day. The lightning was so intense, but I really liked how the sun was setting and the giant cloud was overhead. the picture doesn't really do it justice!

 Sister Cory (member) <3 went to Singapore to work for two years :(

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Another Week in the Refiner's Fire :)

Hello All, 

And when I say refiner's fire... I mean it. Weather-wise and spiritually, we were in the furnace this week!

Our bowling zone activity this week :) Sister Roberts and I rockin' our bowling shoes!

Last Monday we got to go bowling at a mall here in Dagupan :) It was a great break from the norm and i found out that I'm still not good at bowling here on the other side of the world haha..  :)

Sister Lapura also taught me to wash clothes last week... and it turns out I'm not too good at that either. She got quite a kick out of watching me awkwardly scrubbing and wringing out my clothes.. and it took a really lonng time too. I decided I'm fine with paying 275 pesos per week to have someone do it for me :)

Last Monday night we were walking to try to contact a referral and I was looking in my bag for my flashlight and the next thing I knew, I was on my knees in the MUD. It was sooo slippery and I couldn't stand up and Sister Lapura just laughed at me. I laughed too, but was covered in mud from knee to toe. Luckily, we met a nice brother who let me use his water pump to rinse off before continuing on our way :) Lesson learned: watch your step! I'm just glad i didn't fall into a fishpond haha :)

On Tuesday I had exchanges with Sister Fronk! It should almost be illegal to have exchanges with a batchmate - it was just way too much fun :) We've both seen a lot of growth in each other since the MTC - with the language, teaching, and spiritually. She is an amazing Sister and just teaches with her whole heart. I love her as my mission Sister! What a blessing to have exchanges with her!

On Wednesday I saw a miracle that was a direct answer to my desperate pleadings to Heavenly Father. I testify that he knows each one of us and the desires of our hearts. He loves each one of us SO much. We were waiting outside the Nagpalangan Barangay hall for our assistant branch mission leader to come work with us, but there was no sign of him. He doesn't have a phone, so we couldn't text him. I started feeling a little discouraged with the way our day had been going, the way our lessons had gone and the ominous clouds that started to gather overhead. I started silently pleading with Heavenly Father to help me to have a good attitude, to be filled with love for everyone that I still needed to interact with that day, and to look on the positive side. All of a sudden, a tricycle pulled up with a less-active member in it who agreed to come with us to our next appointment. Sister Dung and Sister Delia hit it off just great and it was such a blessing to have a member at the lesson. (And by the way, Sister Delia is down to SEVEN cigarettes a day! :) We are so proud of her!) I know Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. He loves me enough to give me a member to come with us right when we needed her :)

We also had great success on Saturday when Brother Arcenio and Sister Delia came to an 8-year-old baptism we had in the branch :) We know they felt the spirit and they are getting excited for their own baptisms in the coming weeks!

The rain has been BAD this week- every single day. But singing hymns in the rain is the way to go :) and it is possible to be a happy missionary even when you are soaking wet and walking through floods up to your ankles or calves- just try not to think about rats or snakes... :)

I wish I had time to tell you all about the other miracles and prayers answered I saw this week. Sister Lapura and I have a goal to look for the hand of the Lord in each day and share it during our nightly planning session and I'm amazed that every single day there are miracles! Look for the hand of Lord in your life. He is there! 

Mahal ko kayong lahat :)

Sister Gustafson