Monday, February 16, 2015

The Joy is in the Journey :)

Me at the beautiful Manilla Temple

The words to one of my favorite YW songs have been going through my head nearly every day this week... "The joy is in the journey, the joy is learning to become like Him..." I think He has been sticking that song in my head because He knows that I have been praying for that very thing this week- JOY in the journey and happiness in my last weeks as a missionary :)

I definitely felt that yesterday when Sis Marissa, our deaf investigator passed her baptismal interview. I am so grateful to Elder Balane our DL who is in tune enough with the Spirit to be able to communicate with her and discern that she is ready to be baptized. She will be baptized this coming Saturday! :) 

Joy is also the only word to describe what I felt when I saw Bro Sonny, a man that Sis Fui and I baptized last August (his family has since joined him as members), stand to be recognized in Stake Conference to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. He was just beaming in his white shirt and tie. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing him becoming a leader and lifetime Priesthood holder in the church! :)

Bus ride to Manilla
It was great going with my batchmates to Manila this week. After a long fingerprinting, paper filling out, signature signing couple of hours at the immigration office, we got to stop by the temple for about 5 minutes to take pictures and got to get Subway (YES, real true American- style SUBWAY!) and Krispy Kreme (YES, that Krispy Kreme). It was basically a long day of sitting in traffic on the bus and van, but it was a great bonding day with the Elders and Sisters that will head home with me in a few weeks. It also made me so so so grateful to be assigned in the province area of the Philippines and not in the city itself where things are a lot more busy and dirty. I was happy to cross back into the Pangasinan border about 8pm and hop off the bus and hug my dear companion. It felt a little bit like coming home :)

Exchanges with Sisters
Something I learned this week was about the true meaning of faith. I'll be honest- it can be a little stressful to lead my area twice a week on exchanges with sisters from other zones who come to Villasis to learn how a "model area" should look. I had an exchange on Friday and all of our plans seemed a little "iffy" I wasn't sure what to expect for the day or how things were going to work out. I prayed, set the plans, texted the investigators and members we were planning to see, and headed out the door with my companion for the day, Sis Ramsey. But I still found myself doubting a little bit, worrying that maybe it would be one of those challenging days and we would struggle to teach. I should really know better by now though, that exchanges mean MIRACLES. We were blessed with 3 new investigators and a completely full schedule with 8 lessons and all our goals achieved. It was like Heavenly Father was teaching me to stop worrying and just relax and do my best and set my plans and just leave the rest up to Him. He taught me that true faith is not fearing or worrying when I have done my best and am being exactly obedient, but that true faith is expecting miracles in every day. So this week, do all you can, then expect the miracles. They will come according to your faith!

I love you all,
Sister Gustafson 

Breakfast with Sisters during a recent exchange.

Valentine's Day breakfast I made for the Sisters on exchanges.

Love these beautiful Filipino children!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Faith is Action!

With my new companion, Sister Molina.
Hello Everyone,
As a missionary, my purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ through faith in Him and His Atonement. This week we've seen a lot of evidences of people not only believing in Him, but showing it by their actions!

Sister Marissa, a returning LA and her two beautiful kids, Michelle and Michael showed their faith this week when the learned that the word of wisdom includes coffee, which they are currently using as ulam (topping for rice) to go with their rice. They committed that even though that's the only food they have sometimes to go with their rice. They will no longer drink coffee and will eat their rice plain instead. We asked 12 year old Michael what he will do if someone offers him coffee and there's no other alternative and he told us that he will go in the corner and pray for Heavenly Father's help. If only we all could have the faith of a child!

We also saw the faith of the Rabara family, a recent convert family, when they told us that all their neighbors laugh at them and told them they're crazy when they come home from church in their tricycle as a family. Their neighbors can't understand why they don't use that day to work selling their puto pao and butsi (rice cakes) or why they spend a whole 3 hours at church instead of the one they used to attend at their former church. But we were so happy when we heard them say that they don't pay attention to them and are happier than ever that they are united in their faith as a family. I love that family so much!! 

We watched Sis Donna, a recent convert baptized last year, get up and give her first ever talk in church. She was emotional as she told her conversion story and how hard it is to be the only member in their family, but how happy she is as a member. She has true faith!

We also saw Bro Rick continue to take steps of faith as he prepares for baptism this month (see attached picture- he's usually really happy, I think he was squinting in the sun) :) He read 4 chapters straight in the Book of Mormon as he was washing his clothes this week and told us all the details of Nephi's journey to get the brass plates. We are excited to see him so happy to follow all the commandments, just like Nephi!

It's such a blessing to see so many people exercising faith by acting! I love being a missionary!
Sister Gustafson :)
It was Sis Molina's birthday this week! She's not in the picture though... we were on exchanges so we had some extra guests for our early morning surprise for her! :)

Us with Sis Camille, who is preparing for a mission. She's our neighbor!! :)


Monday, February 2, 2015

Truly Happy :)

Mga Minamahal ko sa buhay, (Beloved in my life)

As I begin the last transfer of my mission, I am reminded more and more that my mission is just the beginning of a lifetime of service to my brothers and sisters and my Heavenly Father. Yesterday we had a testimony meeting during Relief Society and 3 of the most beautiful Filipino Nanays stood up and bore their testimonies. These tiny, white haired, tan skinned nanays are some of the strongest members of the church, having served faithfully in various callings and continuing to do their visiting teaching and attend their church meetings. I couldn't stop myself from standing up after them and telling everyone that I want to be like Nanay Aurelia and Nanay Cabatbat and Nanay Alcantara and that when I am that age, in my 80s and even 90s, I want to be able to stand and say that I have faithfully served my whole life and that I still know that the church is true. I am grateful that this is just the beginning of a beautiful life filled with service and I'm grateful for the example of my parents and grandparents who have served and continued to serve their whole lives!

It's easy to say goodbye to a companion at the end of a transfer, but it's a lot harder to say goodbye to a best friend. As I hugged Sis Gregory goodbye on Friday morning, I couldn't help but shed some tears because I'm really going to miss her hugs and her love and her friendship. She's become more than a companion to me and I know we will be lifelong friends! 

I have a new companion now, Sister Molina :) She has the biggest smile and the biggest heart. When she teaches the Spirit fills the room. She is 22, an elementary school teacher, from Bicol, and loves butterflies. I am so blessed to have such a hard-working and exactly obedient companion in my last transfer! I'll send pictures next week... I think she's my tiniest companion of the 12 so far :)

Sis Marissa is so much fun to teach. This week we taught her the ASL alphabet and now she can spell words like "itlog" and "baso", "egg" and "cup", so she can ask for those things when she wants them. It's incredible progress for her to have a way to communicate after a lifetime of being mute and deaf. We are planning on getting the Relief Society involved as well in learning the ASL alphabet as well so they can communicate with her :)

Brother Rick was an answered prayer when he showed up to church yesterday in his bright red striped polo shirt and jeans. He texted us on Saturday night and told us that he had a fever and probably wouldn't be able to make it to church in the morning. We said a prayer for a miracle and were overjoyed to see him walk into sacrament meeting the next morning. There is nothing more happy as a missionary than seeing your investigators come to church! It makes it all worth it, if even one will come! We had a great lesson this week about the celestial kingdom and Brother Rick looked us straight in the eyes and told us that he is willing to do whatever it takes to make it to the celestial kingdom. We are continuing to prepare him for baptism this month!

We are also working with Michelle and Michael, two of the most beautiful dark-eyed children I've seen in my life. They are 10 and 12 and their mom is a returning less-active. Even though she has epilepsy, they also all came to church yesterday! That's true happiness- service and seeing the results as they come to church and change their lives! :)

I love you all and I love this work more and more with each day!
Sister Gustafson