Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Enjoying the Climb

 Exchanges with MTC Companion, Sister Brown.

We had a great, miracle-filled week as usual :)

We are teaching the most incredible father and daughter that we met at Tindahan (a small store that sells groceries and snacks). Brother Sonny and Sister Maureen (17) both have come to church for the last 3 weeks straight and are reading the BoM together. They are truly elect, humble seekers of the truth who have been prepared by the hand of God long before they met us. We will be extending a date for baptism to them tonight :)

Sister Melanie is another investigator who has also been prepared by Heavenly Father long before we met her. She will be baptized on August 22. She and her little boy, RJ are loving coming to church. Sister F and I love it when we pray and little 2-year-old RJ closes his eyes and bows his head along with us :) 

My goal right now is to "Enjoy the climb", the upward climb that I'm on to becoming a better disciple of Christ. It is a climb, but the view just keeps getting better and better each day. I see more of what God sees when He looks at me and others and I see more of what He has in store to those who keep diligently pressing forward. I learn more with each trial what I can accomplish with His help and how the Atonement can lift us to new heights that we couldn't reach alone. Christ has promised that because He was lifted up on the cross, we will all be lifted up at the last day, if we keep our end of the deal by living His Gospel. It's simple and beautiful and it's a climb that I wouldn't trade for anything else. 

Have a great week and enjoy your climb :)
Sister Gustafson 

 Sister F and our pink apartment!

 This is what happens to Zone Studies when we get locked out of the building.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tired and happy to the bone!

 Yup, that's how I felt this week- tired and happy to the bone. We had three exchanges, a baptism, and solved my first emergency pull-out situation :) It was an exhausting and fulfilling, busy week

Sister Corazon was baptized on Saturday. Her beaming smile said it all :) Next up, her daughter and son-in-law. Hopefully we can gain their trust, will be able to find them at home, and will be able to teach them!

Our weekly planning session on Thursday was one of the longest of my mission- almost 6 hours- mainly because our area is nearly exploding with investigators with a potential to be baptized and also because we had a lot of phone calls to make to remind sisters about upcoming exchanges and reporting to the zone leaders. I've really gained an appreciation for planning here in the mission. Even though sometimes it can be so emotionally and spiritually draining, it is an opportunity to receive revelation for our area and sisters and to essentially plan for people's salvation. I've really gained an appreciation for having a plan in order to use Heavenly Father's time wisely and according to His will.

Sister Brown and I had a great time on exchanges on Wednesday. We’ve both seen such incredible changes in ourselves since we've been here in the Philippines and our teaching skills (and Tagalog haha ) have improved tremendously since our time in the MTC. I'm so glad to have her as a co-ward missionary and a friend :) We were excited/alarmed/curious because we heard our first signal -3 typhoon was heading toward our province, but it turned the other way. We decided that our mission president has really strong faith and his prayers for protection for the missionaries were answered. Typhoon season sure keeps you on your toes!

We had a very powerful lesson last night with an inactive family who was sealed in the temple more than 10 years ago. The mom is currently not attending church  and is working on Sunday instead. Sister Flores was in tears and the Spirit bore such a powerful witness as we testified of the potential Heavenly Father sees in their family. We promised them miracles if they will remember their promises to Him and return to the truth they once knew and lived. Experiences like that only strengthen my testimony and gratitude for my own eternal family. We love the Sarmiento Family and know that the Atonement can heal their hearts and help them to come back to the path to the Celestial Kingdom.

On Friday I was filled with gratitude and wonder for the Spirit. I was leading an area on exchanges that I had only been to a few times, so I was praying so hard that the Spirit would guide me to know where to go and who we needed to teach. We were lead to meet a new investigator, a very lonely old man who lives all alone and really needs the gospel. I also felt calm and at peace the whole day, even though we may have gotten a tiny bit lost. I testify that Heavenly Father knows each of us individually and knows our needs. He will send His Spirit to guide us, lead us and comfort us through our long days of uncertainty and He will lead us back to the correct path when we get a little lost. 

I hope you have a great, sunny, miracle-filled week :)
Sister Gustafson

 Teaching a Filippino family

 Picture says "To Gustafson From Kent"

July 14, 2014

Hello everyone,
We had one of the most productive, successful weeks of my mission so far :) The work in our area is just exploding and we are so busy every single minute of every single day! It's so great!

We wake up every day at 6:15, pray, jog to the gymnasium to exercise, come home, shower, eat breakfast, and start studying at 8:00am. We study until 11:00, make lunch and then leave our apartment at 12:30 and go out and teach 8-9 lessons, contact 2-3 referrals, do some small acts of service, talk to people, buy hot bread for a snack for dinner, and make it home in time for 9:00 daily planning, area book updating, calling sisters, journal writing and off to bed at 10:30. It's a whirlwind and I couldn't be more happy :)

My family asked about our apartment haha... let's just say it's the closest thing I've lived in so far to "luxury camping" as my always optimistic Brazilian sister, Hannon, calls it :) we have concrete floors and our bathroom is outside, which means it has a nice, healthy, thriving population of mosquitoes living in it. I like to see how many I can kill by snatching them out of the air while I'm showering haha. It's just sister Flores and I, which I really like, but we will be having sisters sleeping over during exchanges about twice a week.

This week we have three exchanges planned. On Tuesday, we'll be going to Urdaneta to work with the two sets of Urdaneta sisters in their areas. And then on Wednesday and Friday we'll have the other Villasis Sisters (Sister Brown, my MTC companion! :)) and a companionship from Rosles Zone come to work in our area. I'm excited to be able to go on so many exchanges this transfer because I always learn so much from other missionaries during them. As a new Stl and a relatively new missionary, I feel that I have a lot more to learn from than to give these sisters, but HEavenly Father is strengthening me and Sister Flores is amazing about teaching me how to be a good friend and example to all the Sisters in Urdaneta and Rosales zones. I'm excited to work with and get to know each one of them better this transfer :)

I forgot to mention last week, but we actually have a baptism coming up this Saturday, Sister Corazon. She is the sweetest little lady and I love her so much! She is in her 50s and we truly feel that she was prepared to accept the Gospel long before she met the missionaries. She came to church the first time she was invited, gave up coffee and tea as soon as she learned the Word of Wisdom, reads the Book of Mormon every single day and is generally a golden investigator! Sister Corazon was first taught on May 30 and will be baptized on July 19. Sister Flores and I were commenting and wondering why Sister Corazon has had such a smooth conversion and no real trials or problems.... UNTIL.... Saturday, when she was supposed to be interviewed for her baptism. We walked with her to the church where her interview was supposed to be and it was LOCKED. We started calling everyone we could think of with a key and it turns out that they were all in Urdaneta for a stake training meeting. Great. Then, we started calling all the members we could think of to see if we could hold the interview at their houses. We finally got ahold of Sister Camille who said we could come over. So all 6 of us (us, Sis Corazon, our district leader and his companion, and a member who was going to work with us) got into trykes and made it to Sister Camille's. She led us to the only vacant and quiet area she could find- an empty church next door. Yes, sister Corazon was interviewed for her baptism in The Church of Christ. BUT, at least she passed and she will be baptized into the true Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday and we couldn't be more excited for her! She is a living testimony that the elect and prepared are out there. :)

Something that I've learned from Sister Flores this transfer is the power of exact obedience. Even the simplest things like going to sleep at exactly 10:30 and making sure to exercise everyday make a difference in bringing the Spirit into the work. President Monahan always says, "If you want to have 100% of the Spirit, be 100% obedient". It's so true! We can't expect 100% of the Spirit if we are only obedient 90% of the time. I know that exact obedience brings miracles. We see them every day :)

Mahal ko kayo! Ngiti :)
Sister Gustafson

Here is a lovely picture of me with a ginormous mango that a member gave us! masarap!! :)

Monday, July 7, 2014

New calling, new companion, new transfer, new area!

Yup, It's been a week of big changes! I'm now serving in my third area, the Villasis Ward in the Urdaneta Zone with Sister Flores and I have been called to serve as a Sister Training Leader (STL). I couldn't be more happy and humbled to serve :) 

Sister Flores and I lived together in my first area in Lingayen and we've had a special connection since we had exchanges and she gave me some comfort and counsel that has stayed with me my whole mission. She is 22 and from Ilo Ilo and one of my greatest heroes here in the mission. :) It is such a privilege to serve with her and learn from her in her last transfer before she goes home in August. Sister Flores is like a loving, happy, missionary energizer bunny that never runs out of spiritual insights or love. I am so blessed to be her companion and to learn everything about being an STL from her!

One of the greatest blessings of this transfer is the opportunity to serve in the "temple zone". Our area borders the sight where the next house of God in the Philippines, the Urdaneta temple, will be built. It is incredible to think that we are literally preparing this area and these wards to build a house of the Lord. There is an incredible spirit here and the work is on fire here in the Urdaneta Stake. There has been an explosion of recent converts just in our ward alone and we can really see how He is hastening His work in this area in preparation for the temple.

We have an incredible recent convert who was baptized right before I came to this area. Sister Naya is in her 60s and is almost completely blind in both eyes and only has one foot. She lives all alone in a tiny house and uses an old walker to hop around. Sister Flores cries as she talks about her love for dear sweet Sister Naya. She said that she has seen the change in Naya's life since she met the missionaries, coming from a person who was full of bitterness and hopelessness in her life, to a sister who loves God and feels the Spirit in her life. She is not able to read the Book of Mormon, but loves having us read to her and comes to church each Sunday with the members who pick her up in their tricycles. The priesthood brethren bring her up the stairs of the church to the second floor where we have sacrament meeting. She has truly been changed by the love of the saints here in Villasis and the love that she has felt from her Heavenly Father.

Leaving Manat was bittersweet. I have loved and given everything I have to those beautiful people for the last four months and it was sad to leave Margarita, the Aquino family, Sister Tessie, Brother Roger, Brother Ronel, the Molanos, The Cayados and all the others. On the way to transfer meeting on Friday, I got a text from Sister Molano (member) expressing their love for me and gratitude that I was assigned in the Manat Branch. I almost cried. I love that sweet Branch like my family, and I know I will see them again someday :) I know that I will learn to love the beautiful, humble, and hardworking saints here in Villasis as much as I loved my Manat :)

On Saturday, Sister Flores and I set our goals for the transfer. This transfer I will be focusing on seeing, loving, and serving. I wrote that I will work this transfer to see others as He sees them, love others as He loves them, and serve others as He would serve them. As His representative, I want to make my thoughts, actions, and words in harmony with the things he would say, think, and do if He were here. I know that we can become like Him!

Mahal ko kayong lahat,
Sister Gustafson