Monday, June 30, 2014

Isa pang linggo sa paglilingkod ng Diyos

 Me and some of my Filipina Sisters at our zone activity.

Another week in the service of God, a fitting title. There were miracles, rain, prayers, tears, walking, and lessons learned and taught. :)

We have a wonderful investigator, Sister Margarita, a bright 23-year-old journalist we found while looking for an inactive member, her brother, who we met on the side of the road a few weeks ago. He wasn't there, so we were able to teach her instead. She has had a million questions and been completely open and honest with us from day one. We went to her house yesterday morning to pick her up for church and we thought she wouldn't come because she was asleep when we got there, but she showered and got ready and came with us! She had a million questions again at church (maybe it comes from being a journalist-she wants to know all the details, facts, and definitions!) and wanted to know the meaning of each painting on the wall. We extended a baptismal date to her last night and she accepted. She will be baptized on August 2 :) I know I will not be here then, but I am grateful that I was able to meet and teach this dear friend!

Last night as sister L and I crossed over Manat Bridge as we often do on our way home at 9:00 at night, we stopped for a moment to look out over the water at the lights reflecting on it's surface and the thousands of stars in the sky. We could only marvel at the beauty of the night and the Spirit of love that we felt. As we stood there, two Sisters, we felt Heavenly Father's love. We both looked at just the right time and saw a shooting star streak across the sky. We agreed that it was Heavenly Father telling us that He loves us and is aware of us. He, the Master of the Universe and the Creator of numberless worlds knows each of us by name and loves us personally. I was reminded of the words of one of my favorite hymns, How Great Thou Art. How great He is. He loves us so much!

That's all for this week!
Sister Gustafson 

 Missionary selfie in the tryke rearview mirror!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Blessings Falling Like Rain

Hello All,

I wrote in my journal this week. "I think I'm one of the most blessed missionaries to have ever had the blessing of serving the Lord." We were blessed with an outpouring of rain, lessons with members present, and people to teach. Completely wet, busy and successful this week :)

We left our last appointment on Friday night and planned to head to a members' house for a quick visit, but they were already asleep, so we kept walking, not sure where Heavenly Father would lead us at 8:15 on a Friday night. We were walking and it started pouring, which wouldn't have been a problem, except for the WIND. The wind blew the rain nearly horizontal at us, so we ducked under a bamboo lean-to next to a house. as we were waiting, a man stuck his head out of the door of the house and invited us in (not weird and not uncommon here- Filipinos are the most kind and hospitable people in the world :)) We went inside and met Brother Marlon and his family and they allowed us to share some Plan of Salvation pamphlets with them. Brother Marlon then drove us all the way home in his tricycle and wouldn't even accept our money! We felt so blessed to have met this angel brother and are planning on going back to teach him and his family this Tuesday. We know Heavenly Father's plan is perfect and He guided us to find them on a dark, stormy night :)

I had some unexpected creatures come a visit me in bed on Thursday night. I was just falling into deep sleep when I had the sensation of things crawling on me. I tried to reason with myself that it was just the electric fan blowing my hair, but I really felt it- all over- on my arms, face, neck, legs. I groggily got down from my top bunk and grabbed my flashlight from my desk and discovered that an army of ants had decided to march in and set up camp for the night- right next to my pillow. Great! And what I felt crawling on my skin WERE in fact about twenty or thirty ants. After picking them off and killing them with my fingernails, I ran downstairs and viciously attacked the remaining offenders with poison spray and ant-proofed the entire bunk bed. That's the last time those suckers will get me in the night!

We had a member, Sister Molano, work with us all day on Saturday, despite the pouring rain and the fact that she had to wade through ankle-deep mud puddles in her beautiful pink ballet flats. She is a convert of about 20 years from Catholicism and bore a powerful testimony to the Sarmiento family. She said that she used to have a lot of questions that her church couldn't answer- where she came from, why she's here on earth and where she's going. When she found the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she found the answers to those questions and peace in those answers. I testify that this is the only church on earth with a correct understanding of the answers to life's most important questions because of continued revelation from God and what has been revealed in the Book of Mormon. If you have questions like these, ask a member of the Church. I know you will find peace in your life as you do so :)

I love you all,
Sister Gustafson

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hati na, hati pa

Here's a quick rundown of a busy, happy week :)

Mission Tour- we were blessed to have Elder Larry Echo Hawk of the seventy visit our mission and had a complete outpouring of the Spirit during our meetings with him on Thursday.

Stake Conference- It's been a blessing to serve in the Lingayen stake for the last almost 9 months. We walked into stake conference yesterday and dear old brother Simon from the Lingayen 2nd ward (my first area) took my hand in his wrinkled one and said, "Welcome home, Sister Gustafson". I love the members of the Lingayen 2nd ward and the Manat Branch. It's a blessing to serve among them!

The Manuels- The Manuels are a couple we were blessed to teach this week. Sister Manuel is the older sister of the mayor of Binmaley and a former Barangay Captain, Her husband is the current Barangay captain and they have a lot of power and influence in the community. We were able to teach them a short lesson this week. I think I experienced a bit of what Ammon probably experienced standing before the king. They were very nice, but whenever you teach people with great power and influence like that, it just made me grateful for the power of the Spirit. I know that the Spirit has the power to touch the hearts of anyone who is open to it! We'll try to go back to them this week :)

Tag-ulan- The rainy season. Yup, it's here! It means it rains every single day, multiple times a day. It means we get to wear rain boots to proselyte through the floods and muddy streets. It means our clothes don't dry for at least three days because the humidity is so thick and it means that we can go for weeks at a time with no sunshine. Bring it on :) I have enough sunshine in my soul to last this rainy season!

Leonara-  we witnessed a miracle contacting an investigator we've been trying to get back to for more than a month. We had a bunch of appointments fall through and decided to try her. The timing was so perfect that if we had been 10 seconds later we would have missed her. I know the Lord's hand is in this work!

Keep the sunshine in your soul no matter the weather around you. Jesus Christ has overcome the world and He is our light amid the tag-ulan. :)

Mahal ko kayo!
Sister Gustafson :)

It makes it all worth it!

June 9, 2014 

Hello All,
I got a letter today from the mom of a less-active family, the Fernandez family, that we worked with in Lingayen. The only reason she was less-active is because she had to stay home with her 80+ mother who couldn't walk because of a stroke. When they did come to church it was when they had saved enough money to take a tricycle so that the grandma could attend. Sister Fernandez would lovingly help her mom out of the tryke and shuffle her feet slowly along the ground into the sacrament hall. If they didn't have money and they could leave grandma at home, they would walk the 2+ miles to church. Incredible! I love this family so much for their pure righteousness and love they showed to me. I wrote them a few weeks ago and today I got the reply. These are the things that make it all worth it. These are not stats counted or lessons taught or miles walked or tears cried, these are souls and families and peoples' eternal salvations.

I was reminded of that as well at Ronell's baptism on Saturday :) After the baptism itself, he got up to bear his testimony. He pulled out a piece of paper that he had carefully folded in his pocket and read it. He talked about how he has seen himself change because of coming to know Jesus Christ and His Gospel. He expressed gratitude that his alcohol and coffee habits have stopped and he is reading the Book of Mormon every day. I couldn't stop my grin the whole time he spoke. Wow. What a changed man, from the shy investigator who didn't want to pray and would drink every night with his friends, to a brother who shows up to church in a white shirt and reads the Book of Mormon chapters at a time. This is why it's worth it! Being a part of the 'mighty change of heart' that the people of King Benjamin experienced is the greatest calling in the whole world. Seeing that kind of conversion and change in others makes the pouring rain, blisters, tears, rejections, and mistakes all worth it. I love being a missionary. :)

Mahal na mahal ko kayong lahat. Totoo ang Simbahang ito. 
Sister Gustafson :)

PS - Exotic food of the week- baby squid. It turns out the whole thing is edible- the ink, tentacles and body. Not too bad, just a little on the chewy side :) The quote of the week comes from a catholic sister we taught on the side of the road, "Everything you just taught is exactly what we believe except for that part about the apostasy and Joseph Smith.", yes, I think that's the point, my dear sister...!  

                 With Umber, the baby goat

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Miracles are Everywhere!

Hello All,

Missionaries are so blessed to witness miracles every day. I'd like to share some of the miracles we saw this week :)

Monday- We saw incredible progress with an investigator, Anne. She used to hide from the missionaries and now is reading the BoM every day and understanding what she reads. She really is enjoying the lessons and reading the BoM. We encouraged her to pray about the BoM to receive a witness from the Spirit that it is true. Her husband is an inactive member and they have the most adorable 2 year old daughter with another one on the way! Anne is making great progress in her testimony!

Tuesday- We went to a member's house to eat dinner for the dad's birthday (pansit and cake! masarap :)) and President Cayado was there (our Branch Pres.) He was able to come with us for our last lesson to Brother Jeffrey, a 21-year old with a burning desire to know the truth. The Spirit bore a powerful witness that the Restoration of the Gospel is exactly what Bro Jeffrey needs to overcome the trials he is facing with his family. It was such a blessing to have President Cayado there to bear testimony as well. The timing couldn't have been more perfect!

Wednesday- We saw great progress with Brother Roger who is down to smoking only 3 sticks a day as opposed to the 30 he used to smoke per day! We were also able to meet and teach the Nagpalangan Barangay captain's wife, who turned out to be super nice! We'll go back to her next Wednesday :)

Thursday- We were able to contact and teach a man, Brother Jinny, who we met on the side of the road last Monday. We were walking and he called out to us and said that he wanted to listen to our message (not uncommon). We took this one seriously and he told us he really wanted to know about our church. We taught him and the Spirit was so strong as we testified of Joseph Smith on Thursday. He told us that he felt the Spirit and that he knows what we taught was true. He wants to come to church and bring his wife too! I know Heavenly Father led us to find Brother Jinny!

Friday- We were able to talk with Helen Mae, a 19-year-old recent convert in our area who just got back from a month long stay in Manila where she received a free operation form a church organization to correct her lazy eye that she's had since she was a child. What a life-changing miracle for her! She is preparing to serve her mission and was full of gratitude for the blessing of her operation :)

Saturday- We had another successful Branch Half-day mission with 20 in attendance- with 17 priesthood holders :) As a Branch, we were able to visit most of the less-actives and recent converts! We worked with a high councilman brother, a young man, and the YW president and visited all the less-actives in two barangays!

Sunday- Brother Ronel passed his baptismal interview and he will be baptized on Saturday :) He was really nervous for his interview. But he told us later that he prayed and really felt the Holy Ghost comfort him and help him remember the things he has been taught :) He is so excited for Saturday!

If there's anything I've learned here in the Philippines, it's that miracles are everywhere, you just have to look for them. Look for the Lord's hand in your life every day and thank Him for it :) mahal ko kayong lahat!

Sister Gustafson