Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Maligayang Araw ng Pagpapasalamat :) (Happy Day of Thanksgiving)

Mabuhay lahat! :) Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Thanksgiving this week I just realized, so I'd like to share a few things that I am grateful for :)

I am grateful for our ten progressing investigators and 12 investigators that came to church yesterday. It is soo much fun to see so many investigators keeping commitments and preparing for baptism! I am grateful for Sis Mylene for coming to church, even though climbing the stairs is a really struggle for her lungs. I am grateful for the members that sat by her and put their arms around her frail shoulders and took her home early when she couldn't stay anymore without her oxygen.

I'm grateful for Sister Neth and her three adorable kids, CJ, JJ, and MJ for coming to church for the second time yesterday. I'm grateful for CJ's hilarious sense of humor that always gets Sis Sarte and I cracking up during lessons :)

I'm grateful for members like Sis Cleofe and Sis Ivy and Sis Tere and Bro Jared and Bro JP who sacrifice their time to work with us and bear powerful testimony as we teach and sit by our investigators at church. :)

Here is me and my lovely companion, doesn't she have great hair!!? She calls it her "Brave Princess" hair :)

I'm grateful for my dear companion, Sis Sarte who is so patient with my weaknesses and loves me and makes me laugh everyday :) the work is not easy, but at least it's fun with a companion like her by my side :)

I'm grateful for the wonderful sisters that I'm surrounded by and have the privilege of working with during exchanges every week. I learn so much from their examples. This week I worked with Sis Alvarez (Bicol, Philippines) for the third time on exchanges as well as Sis Fronk (Logan, UT) for the fourth time :) I learned so much from their positive attitudes, despite the trials they are facing in their areas. :) They are amazing!!

And this week, I am grateful for hot vans and buses and jeepneys with no aircon :) We traveled to Labrador, a huge area tucked away in the mountains about two and half hours away with about 30 active members. We visited the sisters there last Tuesday. We also had two exchanges and spent a lot of hours in vans and buses and jeepneys travelling for meetings and exchanges.... all those hours cramped in sweltering hot vans feeling the sweat dripping down your back and front and legs gives you a lot of time to think. :) I pondered on my purpose as a missionary and why I'm doing this. I came to the conclusion that all the sweat and hours travelling are worth it because, as we are taught in PMG, NO effort is wasted. Any effort we make to reach out to others in love or to do Heavenly Father's work is worth it :) I was also reminded that I need to be grateful that we even have vans (even if the air conditioning is a hopeless noisy excuse for a fan :)) because without them, we would be walking :) I wrote in my journal this week that I bet Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith had wished that they had had vans and buses and jeepneys to transport them as they did their work. So, because it is Thanksgiving this week, I am grateful for vans and jeepneys and buses that allow us to travel and do Heavenly Father's work :)

I am also grateful for all of you and for your support and emails and letters and prayers, especially my dear family:) I couldn't do this alone.

But most of all, I am eternally grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement. He is my Redeemer and my strength. I love Him and am so grateful to have his name pinned to my chest and painted on my heart each day.

There is so much to be grateful for! Look at how much Heavenly Father has given us! :)

I love you all!
Sister Gustafson :)

Me, Elder Uhi and Elder Ponce with our "trunky letters" aka travel questionnaires :)
(I'm not sure if she wants to jump for joy or melt into a puddle of tears.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

More than just teaching...

Hello Everyone!
We had an amazing week :) I love my dear companion more and more with each day. I don't think I've ever gotten so close with anyone after knowing them for such a short time. She truly inspires me every day to work harder and to be more in tune with the Spirit :) and we are having way too much fun together. Laughing is definitely something we do every day :) She is always ready to give me a hug and compliments me every single night. I am so grateful to have such a supportive and loving companion :) She is the best!!

Can I just mention again how much I LOVE the members and the amazing Filipino people I get to work with here! They have incredible resilience and optimism no matter what their circumstances are! I love it!! :) We had a member visit this week with the Lumibao family and as we were sharing a message with them before we ate, they shared with us about how their house got broken into and robbed a few weeks ago as they were sleeping on the floor in their living room. Their laptop and rice cooker and a lot of money was stolen, but the only thing Sis Luminao talked about was how grateful they were, grateful that they were safe and still alive. They were so grateful and actually smiling as they told us the story. I love the Filipino spirit and have so much to learn from these people about how to be grateful in any circumstances :)

Sister Mylene is still a miracle investigator :) She is soo smart and amazes us with her questions like wanting to know who baptized Joseph Smith and how the church is organized. We had some really powerful lessons with her this week. We taught her the restoration and invited her to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized. She could only whisper her answer, but she said it will all the strength she had- YES! It's going to take a miracle for her to be baptized, but it's a good thing we have the God of Miracles on our side :) I'll keep you updated on her progress :)

With Sister Mylene and her family
 Our part member investigator, 10 year old Jhonice (our recent convert family) is doing great. Even though he is so young we can really see his enthusiasm to come to church and to read and to pray. He didn't have school because of Pangasinan Day on Wednesday and we asked him what he did. We asked him if he played with his friends and he said no, that he read the Book of Mormon :) so cute! He should be baptized in two weeks if all goes according to schedule! :)

Most interesting new investigator of the week: Engineer Layao. He is the engineer project manager working at the new stake center site here in Bayambang. He has built 15 other LDS churches in his career, but has never actually attended a church meeting inside of one of them. He's had former mission presidents and area authorities try to introduce the gospel to him, but we are the first missionaries that have tried in a while. He's a little uncertain right now, but we'll keep trying him! He has a ton of potential to be a future leader in the church! :)

We have a great and super busy week ahead. We will be having two exchanges and be going to Lingayen for meetings and studies with the sisters tomorrow. I love exchanges and meetings with the other leaders :) Being a missionary is so fun! :)

I love this work and I love my companion! I love my Savior Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father. I know that all the trials and experiences I am having here are not only helping me to help others to come unto Them, but helping myself as well to prepare to be His eternal servant. This calling is more than about teaching. It's about becoming and helping others become. I'm grateful I'm here to BECOME! :)

I love you all,

Sister Gustafson  :)


Monday, November 10, 2014

Blessings in Bayambang

With my new companion, Sister Sarte

Hello everyone :)

This week I said goodbye to two companions and got one new one. :) Sister Sarte is my new companion! :) We've always had a special connection ever since the day we arrived in the field together. We met on the bus on the way from Manila to Urdaneta and have kept in touch ever since then :) She was the one who bought me my first coconut shake and first made jokes about my poor Tagalog and my American accent at first. She is 23 and from Bulacan, about 4 hours away from where we are, close to Manila. she worked at the international airport in Manila for 3 years, so she speaks English better than she speaks Tagalog haha. She is loving and loves to tease me and works so hard :) She is a leader through and through and has been an STL for 4 transfers now, so I know I'm going to learn a lot from her! :) 

I need to tell you about a really special investigator, Sister Mylene. Sister Mylene was a referral from a member and was referred to us because she has lung cancer. When we first contacted her, we walked into her tiny one room bamboo shack and could only stand because her bed takes up the only space there is. She is so frail and couldn't talk to us. She used a tattered notebook and pen to write short phrases and words to communicate with us. We learned that she is 32 years old, has three kids and was left by her husband. She now lives with her mother. I was so humbled by her circumstances and could barely speak through my emotion as  I testified to her of the power of the Atonement and the hope that comes from knowing Heavenly Father's plan. 

The second time we went to her, Sis Mylene was not doing well. She was hooked up to oxygen and had an IV going into her arm. She couldn't speak and all we could do was sing her hymns and pray for her. She couldn't communicate to us what she felt, but her tears said more than words could. I will never forget the look of gratitude and longing in her dark sad eyes... It broke our hearts to walk away from her house that day, not knowing if we would ever see her again in this life. 

We went back to her this past Thursday and nearly cried tears of joy when we approached her tiny house and heard a woman's voice coming from inside, It was Sis Mylene, sitting up on her bed and talking on the phone! MIRACLE!! She was able to get some medicine that gave her a lot of strength and is helping her infection. It was such an answer to our prayers!! :) We taught her and her mom and her nephew about the restoration and how families can be together forever. She cried again and told us that she though that families would be separated after death. We were so happy to see her smile and have hope for a better world after this life :) 

But the biggest miracle of all happened yesterday when Sister Mylene came to church!! She could only stay for the first two hours, but she was there! It's amazing to me to see the faith of this humble and sweet investigator. I love Sister Mylene and am so excited to see how the Gospel can change her life!
I want to be a better, more consecrated disciple because of her example :)

Have a great week!
Sister Gustafson

Monday, November 3, 2014

His Work, His Way

Sister Yakana, Sister Opeda and Sister Gustafson

Hello Everyone! :)

We had a great lesson this week with Bro and Sis Balansay. Since they are both a little older and can't read, we read 3 Ne 11 with them. The Spirit was so strong as we read about how the Savior came down after His resurrection and taught His people in ancient America about baptism. They both said they felt it too. Yesterday they came to church and stayed for the whole three hours! Bro B's smile just keeps getting bigger and bigger every time we go to their house and the Spirit is really starting to touch their lives as the live the word of wisdom and pray together as husband and wife :)

We had to move Tanya and Yechia's baptism back a little bit after an unexpected coffee drinking problem that had somehow slipped by their mother... we know they will be baptized though and are so repentant :)

With ward members

We are so blessed to have so many many many referrals from the members and the mission office here in our area. Because Bayambang is so huge, we work mainly from referrals, which is such a blessing. The members are so involved and so willing to refer their friends and relatives. I love the Bayambang 1st ward!

With Sister Opeda
Sis Opeda goes home tomorrow and I'm going to miss her so so much. She has such a gift for making people laugh. She made me laugh every single day this transfer and I'm going to miss her love and friendship so much!! :)

In Preach My Gospel we are taught that we are to do the Lord's work in His way and by His power. I would like to share a quote from Sister Eliza R. Snow that I found as I was reading  Daughters in My Kingdom ( a really amazing book about the history of the Relief Society. I would encourage all of you to read it!). She said that the Holy Ghost "satisfies and fills up every longing of the human heart, and fills up every vacuum. When I am filled with that Spirit, my soul is satisfied, and I can say in good earnest, that the trifling things of the day do not seem to stand in my way at all. But just let me lose my hold of that spirit and partake of the spirit of the world, in the slightest degree, and trouble comes; there is something wrong. You cannot impart comfort that will satisfy the immortal mind, but that which comes from the Fountain above." I am so blessed to feel that comfort and peace as a missionary every single minute of every single day. It is why I am so so happy :) I LOVE being a missionary and feeling the spirit working through me all the time! Such a blessing :)

I love you all!

Sister Gustafson

Sisters Opeda & Gustafson with Elders

Bayambang Zone

Bayambang Sisters!

More Sisters!

The last three photos came without any explanation. They appear to be from a zone activity of some sort involving funny hats, water guns and volleyballs/basketballs. Whatever it was...looks like they had fun! :)