Monday, August 25, 2014

The Little Things

First of all, I just want to tell the whole world how proud I am of my little grown up brother, Sam who got his mission call to serve in the Spain Madrid Mission and reports to the Spain MTC on January 20!! :) I am so happy for him and so excited to serve alongside one of my best friends in the work of God! :)

 Picture taken September 2013

Sister Lala's baptism was beautiful, simple, and spiritual. She bore a great testimony afterward, comparing the day of her baptism to the day of her wedding. She recognized that it's a once in a lifetime special day that has forever changed who she is :) She expressed gratitude for finding the true church after nearly a lifetime of searching and for the changes she's seen in her life because of it :) She told us that this is the only church with a living prophet and continuing revelation and she knows it’s the true church of Jesus Christ here on the earth. I love hearing the testimony of those who have come to know the truth for themselves! :)

Brother Rabara will be baptized this Saturday. We're praying that his 17-year-old daughter will join him. She got sick this weekend and wasn't able to attend church or her interview and his some concerns about being ready. We really feel that she is and has demonstrated it in the last seven weeks since we met them at a tindahan (store) by coming to church faithfully and keeping every commitment. We gave her 3 Nephi 27 to read and pray about. We are just trusting in His timing and know that she will receive answers to her prayers :)

We had an amazing lesson with Sis Lydia and Bro Rodolpho on Friday. They've already been taught all the lessons, so sis Fui and I read 3 Ne 11 with them. The spirit was so strong as we sat cross-legged on their bamboo floor and read about how the Savior of the World appeared to the Nephites after his resurrection. Sis Lydia also shared with us her favorite scripture, 2 Ne 31:14, the scripture that she told us keeps her going when it gets hard and she feels like she will never be baptized because of the trials they are facing with their wedding papers. She has such amazing trust in Heavenly Father's timing!

This week it was about the little things… A simple baptismal service. A great lesson with a beloved investigator. Finding a new family to teach after being rejected by two others. Buying a 15 peso ice cream cone from 7-11 before your meeting with the zone and district leaders. Having your investigator's little kids run out to greet you before the lesson. :) Your companion writing you a note and leaving it on your desk. Eating an entire bag of banana chips in two sittings. Having members work with you. Planning for three half-day missions with the ward and having trust and support from ward leaders. It's things like that that remind you that Heavenly Father loves you and is in this work. All the blessings we have are from Him. Enjoy the little things :)

Have a great week,
Sister Gustafson :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Trusting the Spirit

                               With my new companion, Sister Fuimaono from Samoa

 Hello ang aking mga minamahal :)

Wow, what a week. I was a little confused about which names to write on our Progress Record this week because I worked with 5 different companions :) After Sis Flores went home on Tuesday, I was with the Villasis A sisters Brown and Aruwititi. On Wednesday I had the privilege of hosting three brand new sisters from Samoa and Tonga and working with Sister Toai until Thursday. We passed them over to their trainers on Friday and I was happily surprised to hear that my new companion is Sister Fuimaono, that 26-year old Samoan sister I told you about with a giant, loving heart for everyone. She makes me feel so calm and peaceful and I just love her humble, hardworking attitude. It is her first transfer as an STL, but already she keeps telling me, "I just love the sisters so much!" She is going to be a great loving friend and example to them and to me :)

 New Sisters from Tonga and Samoa

We are so excited for Sister "Lala" Melanie's baptism this Friday :) She is so ready and passed her interview on Saturday with flying colors. She's attended so many different churches in her life, but has never been baptized before because she says she was waiting to find the "true one". And now she's found it :) It is such a blessing to be an instrument in the hands of God to help people find the true church, true happiness, and the only way to return home to live with Heavenly Father :)

Bro Rabara and his daughter are doing great :) They're so ready to be baptized on the 30th! We'll be visiting them nearly every day this week to finishing teaching all of the lessons they need to know for their interview on Saturday. We love them so so much!

We have a new(ish) investigator, Bro Bryan, a young dad who just has been a miracle. We met him one rainy afternoon, cooped in the house with his two very active little boys, trying to keep them entertained and out of trouble. We taught him about how the gospel makes it possible for him to be with his wife (who is working abroad) and his two adorable crazy boys forever. That's where he got hooked. He brought his 5-year old with him to church last week and then again yesterday. Last week when I was working with Sister Toai, we invited him to be baptized on September 20 and he accepted! He is working to quit smoking, but knows Heavenly Father will help him with his 10 sticks a day. He likes peanuts, so if Sis F and I have to give him all the peanuts in Villasis to keep his mind off of the cigarettes, we will :)

This week I've learned a lot about companionship unity. Having worked with 5 different companions this week and a lot more than that throughout this last transfer on exchanges, I have definitely experienced all different styles and experience levels when it comes to teaching. One thing that is always the same though, is the Spirit. This week and this last transfer I have learned to trust Him as the true teacher. I've learned that no matter if it's your companion's first lesson as a missionary and they don't understand what the investigator is saying in Tagalog, or if it's your companion's last day in the field, as long as their desire is to teach the Gospel with the Spirit, everything works out okay. I've learned that Tagalog and experience don't matter. What matters is the Spirit. HE is the real teacher. People won't remember what we say or what we did. They will remember how they felt. As long as they felt Heavenly Father's love and the Spirit, we did our best to help them understand. Sister Flores once prayed, "If all else fails, please bless that they will at least know that they are loved." That's my job as a missionary, to just spread the love of their Heavenly Father :) I'm so grateful to have that sacred duty!

Have a great week :)
Sister Gustafson 

Monday, August 11, 2014

11 Months :)

Happy 11 month anniversary as a missionary to me! :)

 American spaghetti!! Yum!
My dearest Sister Flores goes home tomorrow. I can honestly say that this has been the best companionship of my mission so far, probably just because of her never-ending happiness and our openness with each other. :) We have been close since day one because we always share what's on our minds with each other. We have been through some interesting things this transfer as STLs and as companions, but one thing I've never questioned is her love for me or for the work. :) I hope that someday I can love the people as fully as she does and give my all to serving Heavenly Father as I have seen her do. It's hard to see her go, but I like I told her earlier, I know I will see her again in the Celestial Kingdom :) Thank you for being one of my heroes, Sister Flores. You've taught me more with your unspoken sermons than you will ever know. :)

 This is a FHE we had at a member's house. There's a tradition here in Villasis where you shower the missionary going home with flour :) We were covered! 

Sister Lydia and Bro Rodolpho and their baby, Bursio came to church yesterday. :) They are so committed to saving for their marriage papers, working towards sister Lydia's baptism and eventually, eternal marriage :) We taught the law of tithing on Saturday and asked Sis Lydia how she felt about the commandment and she looked us in the eye and said with a smile, "Gusto kong sundin ang kautusan niyan" "I want to follow that commandment". Her faith is amazing! we love their sweet family so much. It's so great to see them working together to achieve their goals! :)
The Rabaras, brother and his 17 year old daughter came to church yesterday for the 5th Sunday in a row. We met them 5 weeks ago and they've come together every week since. They are incredibly ready for their baptism on the 30th! It was so sweet to see them wiping away tears as Sis Flores gave her last talk as a missionary. It's sad that Sis Rabara is not yet open to hearing the Gospel and leaves the house every time we go over, but we know that someday her heart will be softened. We had a great lesson with them this week about life after death. I am so happy whenever we teach people who really are humble seekers of truth and they accept and want to live the truths we teach! We love them so much!

We are also teaching Sister Lala (maybe I've mentioned her before). She will be baptized on Aug 22 :) Her husband is not yet interested in hearing our message either, but we know that through our prayers and fasting, someday he will be baptized as well and they will be sealed to their adorable two-year-old son, RJ, in the Urdaneta Temple :)

I wish I also had time to tell you about Bro Bryan, a single dad with two adorable hyper-active boys, who has a sincere desire to know the truth and came to church yesterday. I also wish I could talk about Bro Wilmer, who is an ex-con who feels misunderstood and just wants to change. He's come to church the last 4 weeks and hopefully will be accepting a baptismal date this week. It's amazing to see people's lives changing along with my own because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ :)

I love this work so much and couldn't be more happy!

I love you all,
Sister Gustafson 

Our new investigator friend, Brother Carlos, we met last night.

Brother Carlos with a huge bunch of growing bananas.

Here is the Gallarin family. I LOVE this family!

 The Gallarin's adorable grandchildren.

Still "True Blue!"

Monday, August 4, 2014

Adventures, Meetings, Exchanges and Miracles :)

A week of adventures, exchanges, meetings, trials, and miracles :)

Adventure first:
This week I learned what to do if you come home from your morning jog to find a waterfall leaking in all over your desk. Step one: move the desk. Step two: pray. Step three: assess the damage and be grateful that your scriptures and journal only received minor damage. Step four: tell your landlady, who will call her husband, who will bring a bamboo ladder and climb up on your roof and start chucking down clumps of rotting leaves from the gutter. Step five: study President Uchtdorf's talk about Gratitude and be reminded that you need to be grateful in every situation and not just for things :)

 My flooded desk!

I also learned what to do if you come out of the bathroom at the church to see flames shooting out of a trashcan. Step one: grab an empty trashcan and run back into the bathroom to fill it with water. Step two: dump the water on the fire. Repeat steps one and two until the fire is gone. Step three: tell the assistants, who will come frantically running, until you explain that there is no more fire. (that's the problem with Tagalog- sometimes there's no way to specify tenses). Apparently someone threw a cigarette butt in the trash and it caught a piece of styrofoam on fire. We were joking that Sister Brown was prompted to use the bathroom at just the right time so that we were able to save the church from burning to the ground

We had Mission Leadership Council this week. I definitely felt the weight of my calling and the great trust that the Lord has in us as I sat in the chapel in Urdaneta with the other 7 STLs and 18 zone leaders being taught by President and Sister Monahan and the assistants. One of my favorite parts of the calling is the opportunity to work with such amazing missionaries. Hearing how the Calasaio Zone Leaders taught 57 lessons last week and hearing the Bayambang STLs' success story about their recent convert and hearing Elder Johnson pray so humbly makes me want to be more obedient, more diligent, and more Christlike. I love these amazing sisters and elders!

We had three exchanges this week. I love  working with so many different sisters from all over the world and being able to learn from them. I had a great exchange on Wednesday with Sister Fuimaono, a 26-year old sister from Samoa with the biggest heart I've ever known. She just loves everyone! It was great to hear about her life and learn from her example of charity. 
I also got to work in Santa Barbara with the Santa Barbara A Sisters on Tuesday. They are on fire (okay, not like the trashcan, but almost ;)) Their diligence and exact obedience is really showing. They are using their elect investigators to meet other elect investigators by meeting their family and friends and teaching them as well. Exact obedience makes all the difference in the success of an area! They are baptizing nearly every week because of their diligence!

Let's just say, that a mission is full of dropped appointments, people that don't care about your eternity-changing message, rejection, cockroaches, mosquitoes, typhoons, and worms, but it's all about how you look at it. Let's move on to the miracles :)

Sister Flores and I are always commenting on how Villasis is truly a place of revelations and miracles. Maybe it's because it's so close to the temple sight :) 

Sister Lydia is the sweetest, humblest investigator with the strongest testimony. She lives with her live in partner (member) and two year old son. She loves reading and has the gentlest, most soft-spoken spirit. Yesterday the miracle was that she came to church with her husband. They are working so hard to save for their marriage papers so they can get married so sister Lydia can get baptized, but it's really hard for them with brother's construction work not being very stable during the rainy season. We really felt strongly to promise them miracles for their obedience during our lesson on Saturday. We told them that if they are obedient and are doing everything they can to follow the commandments, Heavenly Father will provide a way for them. They came to church and we know  He will bless them!

Sister Maureen and Brother Sonny accepted a baptismal date for Aug 30 :)
And we were able to teach Sister Corazon's daughter and her husband and whole family :)

I love you all so much!

Sister Gustafson 

 Sister Trainer Leaders - July 2014