Monday, September 29, 2014

Blessed in Bayambang!

 Me with Donna and her daughter Ella. Donna was just baptized in May, but she and Ella faithfully come with us 2-3 times per week to visit our investigators near their house! I love them so much!

The APs called on Tuesday morning to tell me I was transferring, so nearly all our appointments that day ended in teary goodbyes. Every time I leave an area, I think that there's no way I can love the people in my next area as much as I loved them, but I always do and every time it gets harder to say goodbye. Heavenly Father is definitely expanding my capacity to love and even though I feel that I leave a part of my heart in each area I am assigned to, I always find that there is more I can give in the next area :) It was so hard to say goodbye to the Rabaras, Donna, Lydia, Corazon, Lala, and so many of the others. You don't realize how much the people mean to you until you have to say goodbye to them.

  Sister Opeda, me and Sister Yakana

I'm now serving in the Bayambang 1st ward with not one, but two companions :) Sister Opeda and Sister Yakana. Sister Opeda is my co-STL from Las Vegas. She is full Filipina but was born in the US and has a smile and a hug and a joke for everyone. The members fondly call her their cousin :) She loves hugs and exercising in the mornings and eating veggies and has a huge heart. She goes home in 5 weeks, but I'm looking forward to learning all I can from her in this short time we have to serve our area and the other sisters together :) Our other companion is Sister Yakana from Micronesia, from the island of Pohnpei, which is very close to the island of Yap where they do in fact speak Yapese :) She is my batch and has excellent Tagalog and loves eating canned meat straight from the can, nature, and the color lime green. We are so happy here together!

Bayambang is in the top three largest towns (area-wise) in the whole mission and with 72 barangays, it's a huge change from my last areas. It's a college town and most of the members are teachers. It's such a talented and strong ward and I already love the members so much. They've already started calling me Sister Gus and are so loving. I am so excited to see how we can use all of their skills to hasten the Lord's work here. :)

I'm loving the Lord's work so much and don't want the next 5 and a half months to go by so fast. I just want to stand still sometimes and take in how it feels to be here. I am so happy and am looking forward to a great week of finding, finding, finding and learning the area. Pray for me. I need to learn our areas before exchanges next week. I know Heavenly Father is watching over His work here!


Sister Gustafson


This is called panda pao, it's steamed hot bread filled with chocolate! masarap!!


We attended a birthday party for a little girl in our ward. The kids were so cute and so excited about the party hats we found in our apt.  :)

 Me with all the new sisters from Samoa,Tonga, Micronesia, and the Philippines :)

This dear sister, Nanay Cruz, is the kind of sister I hope to be when I'm her age. Her husband passed away a long time ago, but she is so faithful. She is 80+ and will always come and work with us. She does her VT every month and serves in the RS presidency. I will miss her!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Oh the rains came down and the floods came up...

 The birthday cake the zone got for all those with birthdays this transfer!

Sister Mau's baptism on September 13th. She was baptized by her own recently baptized father. He was glowing!

Yes, typhoon season is in full swing... I can't remember a day this week where I didn't wade through floodwater and was wet the whole day... maybe that explains my cold haha (Mom, Don't worry, I'm FINE!!) The typhoon season also means that we find surprises in our apartment, like trails of ants stretching across the kitchen and up the stairs, frogs in the bathroom, and cockroaches everywhere including in our desks and clothes's definitely more fun in the Philippines!

We had some great miracles at church yesterday. Using the Philippines area address unknown project, we have been looking for "lost" members with unsure addresses. Using the program, we found a part-member family and inactive sister Adella that hasn't been to church in years. We didn't even teach her, just invited her to church and yesterday she showed up with her two kids! We also met an inactive part member family, the Carinos, and invited them back to church as well and yesterday Sister C came with the kids. It just goes to show the power of a simple visit and invitation that lets someone know you care. I can't emphasize how important home and visiting teaching are. You have the power to change a family's eternity. Simple visits make a huge difference!

Exchanges with Sister Saniel (Philippines) and Ritati (Kiribati) :)

I had a great exchange in Villasis A area this week with Sister Aruwitit from Kiribati. Despite a typhoon and torrential rain and winds, we were able to teach an amazing lesson on the message of the Restoration to the Abalos family. Bro and Sis A gathered 7 of their 11 children to listen and it was dead quiet except for the sound of the rain on the roof as we shared of Joseph Smith's first vision. Nine pairs of dark brown eyes were locked on ours and the Spirit was so strong. We invited each one of them to follow the example of Jesus Christ be baptized and 7 of them looked straight back at us and said "opo". We are so happy for them and their potential to be an eternal family!

Sis Lydia and Bro Rodolpho have finally finished paying off a debt that they had and are able to save for their marriage now. Brother's work is picking up and their goal is in sight. The goal date is their son's birthday, Oct 25. Pray for them! :)

I don't have much time, but I can only say that it was a week of stretching and growing. There were a few times this week where I was at the end of my rope and didn't think I could do anymore. My dear companion was so sweet and just listened to me and reminded me to love the ward and the people that reject us and to humbly submit to Heavenly Father's will. I've repented of my pride and committed to become more humble and filled with charity. Pres Uchtdorf taught, "It is impossible to be lifted up in pride." I pray every day for more charity and less pride.

The mission is definitely a refiner's fire and the rejections and struggles with the ward are teaching me what Heavenly Father wants me to learn. He is so patient with my weaknesses and I am so grateful for Him.

Always remember that the challenges are the blessings...
Sister Gustafson :)


Urdaneta Temple site
Announced October 2010

 FHE with Bro Bryan, who is now in Manila. We are praying he will come back within the year and will be able to be baptized!


 Sister Naya and I  :) She leaves to go and live in Tarlac with her grandson this week. We will miss this sweet sister!

What happens when you come back from exchanges and realize you have no keys and have to wait outside your gate for 90 minutes waiting for your neighbors to come home... oops!

 New shoes, sent to me from one of my (favorite) member families,the Molanos, from Manat.  I'm not sure if these kind of shoes would be fashionable in the States but they are very "in" here :)

Happy one year to me! Sis Fui bought me my favorite bread and tried to reheat it in the toaster oven, burning it... oops!

Monday, September 15, 2014

More Pressing Forward in Faith

It was another week of our faith being tested and strengthened. On Thursday we taught our progressing investigator Bro Bryan, the single dad with two adorable little boys and a real desire to quit smoking, who told us that he was unexpectedly called back to his work in Manila and is not sure if he will be able to come back except for the occasional Sunday off. When he told us that, I didn't feel worried, just peace and calm.  While we are not sure how he will be baptized now, Sister Fui and I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for Bro Bryan and will always provide a way for His children who are willing, to keep His commandments.

We also had another golden investigator, Sister Joy, leave to go to Manila as well to take care of a sick husband. She begged us to please keep in touch with her and come back to visit her when she comes home, hopefully in the next few weeks. She has also agreed to be baptized and we are trusting that Heavenly Father will provide a way for her as well :)

We saw amazing evidence of our combined effort in pressing forward with faith during Sister Mau's baptism, performed by her father, on Saturday. We led sister Mau to the font and gave her a big hug. I whispered, "mahal kita, Sister Mau" and they was overwhelmed by the Spirit and moved to tears as we watched recently baptized Bro Rabara exercise the priesthood authority of God and baptize her. The Spirit was so strong and they were both glowing.  I don't know how else to put it- they were glowing with happiness, the Spirit and the pure joy that comes from living a commandment of God. Her baptism was completed yesterday when she was confirmed and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Part of the blessing she was given was that someday she will become a powerful full-time missionary, exactly in line with her desire that she's shared with us. :)  She's going to be an amazing member and an amazing missionary some day!

I gave a talk yesterday in church, to a very small congregation. People have a really hard time coming to church here when there are typhoons, but those who can, do. I spoke about keeping the Sabbath day holy and how it is an expression of our love and gratitude for the Savior and His Atonement. I got really emotional as I bore testimony of the Atonement and how Christ died for us.  All He asks in return is one day in 7 to leave our worldly labors and pastimes and go to His church to worship and remember Him. What a blessing it is to have the Sabbath and to be able to feast spiritually for one whole day per week!

 I'm so happy to be here and love the Savior and His work :)
Sister Gustafson

Sorry, no pics this week. next week!! :)