Tuesday, December 28, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!














Hello momma!!! Hello my FAMILY and FRIENDS!! I love you all VERY MUCH!!! MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was so so so sososososoosososooooo good to talk to you all the other day. It was fun to answer all of your questions and actually tell you some of my experiences and feelings that are so hard to get down in an email or letter. It felt like I was just down the street or a little less far away from home.

I got Michelle's package this week. It was so. fun. Tell her thank you thank you thank you. Sister De Fiesta opened it with me, and she was so touched again that there were things in there for her as well. I saw the box of ornaments and thought, "Aw, cute ornaments...I can probably hang them on our screen windows or something...." And then I reached the bottom of the box and found a CHRISTMAS TREE. Sister De Fiesta and I jumped up and down and squealed and immediately began decorating and making the cute little owl ornaments.

We had our Christmas Zone Conference this week. I am sure you can read all about it on Sister Carlos' blog. We talked about our 2011 goals (weird that it's almost 2011), had our training, and ate turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and of course...rice. We played the 12 Days of Christmas game with about 60-70 missionaries total--people held props of each of the 12 items. EX: 10 Lords a leaping=10 missionaries wearing santa hats. As we all sang the song, the group being sung about had to do some kind of action in the middle of the large circle. EX: 10 Lords a leaping=10 missionaries wearing santa hats, leap into the center of the large circle as we sing "10 lords a leaping". I was one of the Lords a leaping. We did a gift exchange after. I came away with a cauayan bamboo picture frame. Then we had cherry cobbler, and ended everything with a Christmas devotional. Each zone presented two musical numbers. I sang Silent Night and Away in a Manger
with Sister Webre and our zone. :)

President and Sister Carlos invited us over for Christmas Eve day. Sister De Fiesta and I brought Sister Brees and Sister Carlos gold daisies wrapped in red paper. President made us egg rolls and rice. We ate and sat in a circle and played Apples to Apples with about 10 other missionaries. Sister Carlos said that the green card you win describes your personality. I got "fresh." Then we went around in the circle and told a Christmas memory. I talked about last Christmas where you and I stayed up until 4 or 5 in the morning and made the million cookies we always make. I told them about how we rolled grandma's recliner chair into the kitchen and she helped us crack nuts on the cutting board. We sang carols and Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer. All of the American missionaries sang the intermittent outbursts. "Like a lightbulb!" and all of the Filipinos laughed. One of the elders told us about pouring sprite into a watermelon, and Sister De Fiesta and I bought a watermelon at a fruit stand in Cauayan on the way home.

Christmas Eve there are so many children out caroling, it's almost like Halloween. People give them money when they come to their houses. Sister De Fiesta and I caroled to less active members and wished them a Merry Christmas instead of taking the money they offered to us. Around 10:30 the Marinduques--Nanay and Tatay--came to our gate calling for us. Tatay had bicycled himself and Nanay over to bring us surprise Palabok, veggie/fruit salad, and bread. They are sweethearts. We went to sleep and woke up at 12:00am for "Noche Buena" (A Filipino Christmas Eve tradition) and ate the food the Marinduques brought for us. :) Pictures included.
Christmas day I woke up to a beautiful Christmas card from Sister De Fiesta and we started off the day with a lunch appointment at the Marinduque's. We wished all of the members a Merry Christmas and ended up eating about 23 times. We taught lessons and gave away wrapped copies of the Book of Mormon to families in Pallatao and to tricycle drivers. A group of kids sang, "We wish you Americana....and a Happy Negro," to Sister De Fiesta and I.

Pictures:
(Sister De Fiesta eating Sprite watermelon, us tired of eating on Christmas day, and Nanay Luming being followed by her old dog that found her after a year or so of living with a different family-- I swear it was smiling the whole time it followed her) Christmas Celebrations Momma and Poppas Christmas Letters (Loved your Kisses--Kisses back to YOU!)

We have transfers this week.

Even though I pray about 30 times a day, sometimes I feel a little distanced from Heavenly Father. This morning I wrote Him a letter to express everything I wanted to Him. It seemed like a lot of what I wrote was worrisome and the more I wrote the more I kept thinking, "Be still and know that I am God." After my letter, I read D&C 101:16. God is truly in charge. The challenging part is letting yourself really feel and believe that. I love my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and I will follow them in spite of any of my fears. I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in THEE FOREVER 2 Nephi 4:34

I totally love you all and I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to speak with you this week. Thank you so much for all of your support. I am lucky. Despite being away from home, it was a very Merry Christmas....Thank You all for your packages and the love I feel from home. I love, love, love, YOU ALL!
Merry Christmas and Happy Negro,
Sister Fort

Monday, December 20, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!! :)




I have 30 minutes to write, so I will write FAST.

I did get Lindsay and Nathan's package this last week! It was such a sweet package. There were two of everything and I gave Sister De Fiesta her portion of the package. She almost cried as I handed her the chocolates and stockings and said, "I've been praying for a package." I very much enjoyed the drawings from my little babieeeeeeees and the sweet card from Lindsay. Thank them so much for thinking of me. The mail hasn't come in about a week and a half, cause aparently the post office had an important Christmas party to attend. Sister Breese says the mail should come in today--all of it, for all of the missionaries. I told them they are going to need a U-Haul to pick everything up from the post office.

It was Sister De Fiesta's birthday this week. I surprised her with a card and gave her a bottle of the facewash you sent me. She was so excited. Her mother travelled 7 hours from her home to see her at the mission home. She only stayed for maybe 10 minutes, and then travelled the 7 hours back. She brought us citrus fruits and T-Shirts from the beach towns by her home.

Our baptism was scheduled on the same day of our Christmas Party. We began with the baptism. We sang hymns and not many people were there, but the spirit was so gentle and apparent. Sister Sheela was able to be baptised by her husband!! It was probably one of the sweetest things I have ever seen in my life. Sheela was afraid of getting water up her nose, but Brother Rico showed her how to plug her nose and tied the tie on her little white baptismal suit for her and gently dunked her into the water. Her two little babies climbed on the stairs and watched. And Sister Sheela didn't stop smiling the entire day.

We ate pancit and played games at the Christmas party. It was pretty chaotic and lasted for 5 hours straight. There was a gift exchange and prizes and about 30+ kids running around. I am looking forward to the spiritually charged Christmas Zone Conference this week.

Sad news: a kind lady in our branch, Nanay Luming, offered to do our laundry for us, so we gave her the key to our front porch (the chicken's home). And later when we came home, we found the dress hanging up--having been washed. We rushed to see if the chicken was in its same spot, and it was. We asked Nanay Luming about it, and she said that it got startled when she went on the porch to get our clothes and the chicken thrashed its own eggs around. They were all destroyed. We've since found the owner of the chicken, and it's been returned to its respective home. Sad huh? We were thinking we'd have little chicks running around by Christmas.

Nanay Luming is such a sweetheart. The other night she helped us cook milkfish, wrapped in a banana leaf on our grill outside. As she was fanning the coals, she told us, "I will be your guardian here." She works with us every Sunday from about 1 to 8:30 or 9pm.

For Christmas, Sister De Fiesta and I are planning on giving away wrapped copies of the Book of Mormon--the best gift anyone could give or receive, right? We are fasting the day before, then finding the day after. We will probably throw some caroling in there too. I am excited to be serving the Savior this Christmas. I think this is how it should always be. This week Sister De Fiesta said, "I think sharing things is what this life is all about." And I think she's right. I know that I am the happiest when I am sharing with others what I've been blessed with.

I've been reflecting a lot on the blessings that I have in my life--that I have now, and that I've grown up with. I have been blessed with a wonderful, loving family. I have been blessed with a remarkable mother. I am blessed with beautiful memories of my childhood. I have been blessed with the gospel. And so many friends who support me and show me love. I am blessed to have been able to get an education, and to be here on a mission. I am blessed with the clothes on my back and with a bed to sleep in and water to use and drink. I am blessed every day by the atonement of Jesus Christ. With it, I can overcome my weaknesses, endure my trials, and just be happy. I am grateful for the things I have to look forward to in this life and the life to come, all because of the atonement. This Christmas, I wont have a Christmas tree or an assortment of cookies or It's A Wonderful Life, but I always have the love of my Savior and the knowledge that He lives. And really, thats enough.

I love you and I can't wait to hear from you this week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. I love you all, thank you so much for being a great support to me on this mission. Hugs and Kisses to ALL!

Your bata,
Sister Fort

Monday, December 13, 2010

I LOVE YOU MOMMA & POPPA, FRIENDS & FAMILY!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!




Hi momamaamamama, Poppa, Friends and Family!!!!
Thank you for your emails! I love being able to read them every Monday. They are a treat and I look forward to getting them. I can only communicate to family members through my e-mail (Jillian counts as family as far as I'm concerned). I only get an hour to write, which is really a small amount of time to read your emails and respond AND read others' emails and respond to them. I feel bad; I want to write everyone, but email is just too hard. Real mail is such a treat anyways! Thank you all for writing to me and sending packages for Christmas, I am sooooo grateful for being thought of and loved so much! THANK YOU!
I miss you momma and Pop, and my whole Family! I love you all so much! I love you Grandma! I think of you all very often and feel so blessed that we are all members of the true church of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I asked Sister De Fiesta where we were going between appointments as we were walking. She said, "To hell." And I was like !??!?!!!?!?!?!?! And I asked her about 1000 times to clarify. She was serious. Finally I realized, one of our investigator's names is Hel. So, this week, we will be going to Hel.) LOL!
Um, I think its funny when people say things like, "The work is good." Cause I truly believe the work is as good as you make it.
Well...the work is good. :)

It's been cold. I actually have to sleep in a sweatshirt and pants. Sister De Fiesta had to sleep with a beanie--the only beanie we could find in Naguilian had an emblem of a Marijuana leaf on it. She bought it and slept in it anyways. It's been cloudy and wet and windy most days, and few days in between it gets hot and the air is thick.

Sister Sheela is getting baptized this week--this Friday. Her testimony is beautiful. This past week we went through the baptismal interview questions with her and with simple questions like, "Do you believe Joseph Smith was a true prophet called of God?" She would expound on how knowing he was a prophet blesses her life, etc, etc. She got her newborn baby, her 5 year old, and two 3 year olds ready, all by herself, to come with her to church for her baptismal interview. We had the kids watch The Testaments on our little portable DVD player. I am amazed by Sheela's faith and dedication to the gospel already. Her husband, Rico, comes to church regularly.

Sister Lisa and her family is set for baptism still for January 1st. Sister May came to church yesterday and to the Christmas Devotional by the first presidency.
Sister De Fiesta and I went to Mansibang to contact a referral that we got from the elders. (The pictures I've attached are from there.) It was a little more rural than we expected it to be and we had to walk about 20 minutes just to get into town. Every few homes, 2 or three kids would follow us, saying, "Americana, Americana," and seriously, by the time we showed up to the person's home, there were 30 children gathered around, staring. We weren't able to teach a lesson, but we are planning on visiting him this week again.

We had the opportunity to go to a devotional this week, put on by President and Sister Carlos, for the Cauayan Stake. Before the devotional, Sister Carlos fed the missionaries Mexican rice, tacos WITH CHEESE (no cheese here), and refried beans. The chapel was decorated with a sparkling Christmas tree and garlands, and the member of the stake had formed a choir. Maybe three notes, out of all of them throughout the production, were in tune, but I found my eyes cloudy so many times. President Carlos and Sister Carlos talked about how we can celebrate the Christmas season--with our testimonies of the Savior, gratitude, and service. They played the primary song, "Whenever I hear the song of a bird or look at the blue blue sky." Sister De Fiesta and I looked at each other, and both of us were in tears. I played "Away in a Manger" on guitar. I sang the first verse, Sister Webre (I knew her in the MTC...she was my coordinating sister) and I sang the second verse together, and we all sang the last verse as a zone. President and Sister Carlos fed the missionaries ice cream and sent us back to our areas.

We have running water between 6pm and 4am. We collect our water in buckets at night, and bathe with ladels still. We buy fruit and veggies and meat from the town markets. Our money comes from the mission.

Sister De Fiesta tells me my Tagalog is getting better every day. I don't notice it. I feel like I'm saying the same things over and over sometimes, but I know that the language will come gradually. The Spirit is the most important component in teaching. P.S. I taught my first gospel essentials class on Sunday!

We are having FHE every week as a branch. We are Christmas caroling this Thursday as a branch, and we have our Christmas party on Friday after Sheela's baptism. YEsterday after church, the members made rice for us and we ate rice and tomatoes with our fingers off of large banana leaves. Cool, huh!? The members laughed at me.
I have been reading Our Heritage from the Missionary Library. It has been so inspiring to read about all of these people who have sacrificed so much for the gospel. Alam ko na sa buong puso ko na totoo talaga ang simbahan na ito. Nagpapasalamat ako na ang mga magulang ko naging myembro sa simbahan noon. Life just makes sense with it. It all makes sense. And there is so much to look forward to--in this life and in the next.

Momma, can you write me your conversion story? I keep wondering what kind of investigators you and Pop were. :) Thank you for listening to the missionaries when they came to share the gospel with you. You and Pop were true pioneers for our entire family!

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! I am out of time.

Your wandering Missionary,
Sister A. Fort

PS: People are telling me I'm getting skinny now! :)
PICTURES: 1. & 2. A very Rural area where we went to contact a referral.
3. Cauayan Stake center Devotional (We really enjoyed the Christmas celebration :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Merrrrrry CHRISTMAS!! Almostttttt!!!!!!






Hello my momma! Thank you so much again for all of your emails to me. I appreciate and read every single one.
Hello My Family and Friends!!! Thanks you all so much for your support and prayers, I love you all!!
Thank you SO SO SO SO much for the package you sent me. The face wash and face wipes you sent me are magical. I can go a whole day and my face does not get oily. I let Sister De Fiesta try it, and all day she'd touch her face with both hands and say, "Wowwwwwwww, malambot." (Soft) Also, last night we had pancit (noodles) with the Knorrs sauce you sent, and Sister De Fiesta said, "Wowww parang fettucini alfredo." :) Please thank Kiliana and Justin so so much for their package as well!!! She sent too much! But I love every single thing in there. The journal is gorgeous! One of the trail mixes is already gone, and we've tried the soup she sent. We had Lipton, and I thought of grandma and the times she'd make it for me when she and grandpa would visit. :) Thank you so much. I will write real letters soon. It's hard to e-mail everybody in the time I have. I only have an hour--which you would think would be a long time, but really...it's so short to say everything I want to say.
About my Christmas call home: I email you with my number here, and you call. President says we're allowed to skype, but I'm not sure how that works? We also don't have a time limit. President just says, "don't leave the mission."
So, there's this dress that I had made out of fabric that I thought was cute at the time. But when I tried it on, it was possibly the most hideous thing I've ever put on, and I wasn't sure what to do with it, so I decided to leave it out on a chair on our porch for the day, and I would decide what to do with it later. Well, the next time I went back to it, there was an egg inside of it--like...a chicken egg. I called to Sister De Fiesta and asked her if she had put an egg outside? And she was so confused. The next day, we went outside and there were two eggs inside of it! And the next day three! And the next day four! There are now seven eggs, and I am so happy that my hideous dress is being put to good use. We finally spotted the chicken sitting there in its urban-chic nest. It lays an egg every day at 10am on the dot. Sister De Fiesta and I sing, "On the first day of Christmas the chicken gave to meeee..." and so on.
We had a strange experience this week. Sister De Fiesta and I were tracting down a street we hadn't yet, and a woman, Belia, let us in. She was probably in her late sixties and had crossed-eyes from a cleaning accident. She rocked her nephew in a hammock while we taught her. We sang "Dearest Children God is Near You" and began the lesson with a prayer. We taught her about prophets and restored priesthood power, and she told us that when she had her sight, she used to heal people. She said that she had seen Christ's heart in a vision. We explained that priesthood authority can only be held by worthy men, and that it can only be exercised through the name of Christ. She told us that she knew we were messengers of God and representatives of Jesus Christ. She said that Naguilian needed more of us--that the world needed more of us. We taught her how to pray and invited her to give the closing prayer. She began praying and right as she was thanking Heavenly Father for sending us to her, she collapsed to the cement floor with a loud clap. Sister De Fiesta and I sat there in astonishment for a few second, then I thought, "Oh no, she might have some kind of health problem..." and I knelt down to hold her hand. Then I thought, "Umm...sometimes in the scriptures people fall because they feel the Spirit?? Buttttt...if this was the Spirit I probably wouldn't be so confused and feel so weird right now." Sister De Fiesta went to the doorway and called for help. No one came, but the woman got up after a few seconds like nothing happened. And she said, "Mas suerte kayo sa akin. Ang Diyos ay kasama sa inyo." (You are luckier than I. God is with you.) And she sat up, closed her eyes, and muttered a quick prayer under her breath. The Spirit was not there. Sister De Fiesta and I left quickly annnnd probably wont go back.
President invited us to the mission home for dinner one night--it was Sister Breese's birthday. President made ribs with Tony Roma's BBQ sauce, Sister Carlos made Texas Sheet Cake, and Sister Breese made potato salad. A little taste of home. The Breeses are so cute and remind me of you, mom and pop. They're about 10 years apart, and from Texas.
We visited Sister Lisa this week. The woman we helped do yardwork for. She told us that she had recieved her long-awaited answer that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. Her children all read the Book of Mormon every day and we had to bring a second copy so they wouldn't have to compete for the one. Sister Lisa and four of her children came to church this week. We went to their house after the meetings and for the first time, I extended a baptismal invitation to them. Her daughters Mikah (9) and Jennifer (17) accepted with no hesitancy--they nodded vigorously, smiling. Their baptism date is January 1st. Sister Lisa said that Jennifer had told her earlier, "Mom, gusto ko magmomormon." (I want to become Mormon.) Lisa says she needs a little time just to be 100 percent sure that this is what she wants to do. This has been so fun to watch unfold. I keep thinking of the day we met her...we were just tracting, walking house to house, but there has always been a different feeling about her. Her attitude towards us and the gospel changes every single time we meet with her. Her family already does scripture study and talks about the gospel every day, and I can see their countenances get brighter and their bond as family strengthen every time we see them.
Sister Shela had her baby! She is so tiny and beautiful. We brought Shela banana bread and developed pictures of her baby a few days after. She and her whole family were at church again on Sunday and she is scheduled for baptism the 17th of this month.
I love this quote: "The loveliest of women she had known had a glow of health, a warm personality, a love of learning, stability of character, and integrity. If we may add the sweet and gentle Spirit of the Lord carried by such a woman, then this describes the loveliest of woman in any age or time." :)
Thank you for your constant prayers and letters. I am carried by them.
With so much pagmamahal,
Sister Fort

The Pictures are: FHE Game Night, M&M Lipstick, Urban-Chick Nest, Flooded Apartment because we left the faucet open when we had no water, and then we did!(from bottom to top of page)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hello all my SPECIAL PEOPLE!! I Love YOU!

Hello momma! And all of my FRIENDS and FAMILY :)!!!!
I am thankful that God is answering prayers of mine. I miss you too! I am trying hard to allow myself to simulate into what God wants me to be. IT'S HARD. Will you watch It's a Wonderful Life for me? And A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? And Moonstruck? Those movies all came to mind this week. :) Goes along with our Christmas holiday spirit, remember? I will be with you, sort of, as you watch them for us ;)

Apparently, your package arrived this past Friday. I haven't been able to retrieve it yet. I will get it tomorrow at the latest. It also arrived with a package from Kiliana. THANK YOU. I love my family so much!!! Thank you all for thinking of me and praying for me! I need all the prayers I can get!!

Thanksgiving whizzed past. I didn't remember it was Thanksgiving until I sat down to write in my journal that night. I wrote things I am thankful for: the clouds, the stars, your emails and others' mail, gummy vitamins, toothpaste, papaya. You know, the usual things. It's a given that I'm thankful for the gospel in my life and for the knowledge of where I came from, why I'm here, and where I will be going. For the knowledge that I have an Eternal Father in Heaven who shapes me and blesses me every day, who I can communicate to as often as I want to and need to, anywhere I may be. Isn't that amazing? As the dust of the earth, we can communicate with the most powerful, most loving being in the universe.

I have a picture of the Savior up in my room. And maybe its just because I see the picture every day, but every time I see it, His face seems so much more familiar.

I had a long talk with President and Sister Carlos this week and was able to get a blessing from President. I've missed being able to get blessings from Pop whenever I want. I expressed concern to him about the language and feelings of inadequacy and really I think Satan tries hard to get to me. In the blessing he said something to the extent of, "The people here are able to feel the Spirit through you. Through your smile, through a simple touch of your hand. The Lord is accepting of your service." I felt overwhelmed with God's love and with the love of President and everyone who is supporting me. I am so imperfect. And I am amazed at the love that God and my Savior have for me.

Last week in planning, I looked through our less-active member's names in our area book. I kept thinking of one of the names: Benito. We continued our planning and I almost did not put Benito's name on our plan of people to visit in the week. But again he came to my mind. So, we wrote it in our planners. The day we went to visit him, it was raining. We wore our new rubber shoes and walked along a slippery muddy path, having no idea where we were going, but asking people where Benito lived. Here, if you are in the neighborhood, you can ask anyone where anyone lives and they will be able to tell you. The path was sloped downward and Sister De Fiesta and I held on to each other as our shoes slipped and collected mud and pebbles. The dirt here, when wet, is like clay--it is so slippery. We laughed and laughed, and saw a woman at the turn in the road, with a big yellow umbrella. She came to us in her rainboots and held our hands to help us onto stable ground. We asked her where Benito lived and she pointed into the distance, "doon", (this is like the boondocks) She led us to her outdoor faucet to wash the mud from our shoes and invited us in. She told me I looked like Drew Barrymore. She also told us that as few years ago she was feeling lonely and depressed in her home (she lives in a big house and her husband is always away) and she prayed that people would come to visit her. Then two elders showed up, asking for Benito. She bore testimony to us that we were sent from God, because she was in despair again, praying for visitors, and we showed up asking for Benito. She said she saw us from her window, and came to get us because she knew she wanted to hear our message. Her name is May. We taught her that God is our loving Heavenly Father and left her with a Book of Mormon.

Tatay Marinduque is well and back home now. We visited the family again and Tatay welcomed us into the home, smiled the entire time we taught about Sabbath day, and even participated in the lesson. Nanay fed us sopa. Later on in the week, Tatay rode a bike over with Ian to bring us ginataan--sooo delicious. He is so smiley now, and warm with us.

Yesterday was probably the most terrifying and humbling day of my mission. First of all, one of the speakers in sacrament didn't show up, so Brother Macutay asked me to speak on cleasing ourselves, body and spirit. I prepared a 15 minute talk in 5--record! Of course it was with the help of the spirit. I spoke, in Taglish, about how our bodies are temples for our spirits, and because God loves us and wants us to always have the guidance of the Spirit in a dark world, he has given us commandments--Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, Sacrament.

That wasn't the terrifying part though. This is: Sister De Fiesta and I were on our way to pick up a fellowshipper (a member who comes to lessons with us) and another member told us she could come with us. So, with two fellowshippers, Sister De Fiesta decided on the spot that we would do a companionship split. I would go with Krista to teach Lisa, Jannise, and Violetta, and she would go with Nanay Luming to teach others. This meant I would make conversation on my own with the investigators (in Tagalog), start the lessons (in Tagalog), teach gospel principles and ask questions (in Tagalog), and set up a return appointment (in Tagalog)...at the same time, following the Spirit. I didn't feel ready. We hadn't studied yet in the day. I had never traveled here on my own in the tricycles, etc. I prayed and prayed silently to myself and--I hate to admit--cried. (Honestly, I was a little upset with Sister De Fiesta.) But I found the courage somewhere. The first lesson with Violetta was a disaster and I'm pretty sure we left her even more confused than she was in the first place. On the way to the second lesson, in a tricycle, I prayed even harder to have comfort and the Spirit with me. I remembered the scripture that talks about how we, "treasure up the words of life and in that very moment it shall be meted unto you." I can't remember where that is. In the second lesson with Lisa, I just asked questions, and listened intently to her answers. Finally, her concern came out, and I was able to answer her questions. Later on in the split, our last appointment wasn't home. I had no idea where to go or what to do. I felt so alone and scared.

I remember when I went on the Brit Lit tour, and we were at DunAengus in Ireland. I was hesitant to go to the edge of the cliff like all of the other students and lay down. Brother Samuelson grabbed my hand and slowly guided me to the edge. It was terrifying, and I remember him telling me that I would have moments like that on my mission--where my companion would grab my hand and pull me to the edge when I wouldn't want to go. I've remembered that moment in the back of my mind and have kind of been waiting for it to happen. Well it happened. And I'm sure it wont be the last time.

I cried myself to sleep thinking about why God gives us trials like these. I was/am so humbled by the experience and I see that it happened so that I can be a stronger missionary. Sister De Fiesta talks about how here, when they want a tree to be strong, they hack it at the trunk with a machete. I know that through our struggles, we grow.

I read a talk by Elder Uchtdorf in the 2009 Ensign, talking about breaking through the clouds and storms in an airplane, then we can see the sun. God always sees the sun. Sometimes all we see are the clouds and the storms. He is all knowing. I love my Heavenly Father.

I love YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! Tell Victoria to BE STRONG! One more week til the MTC! AH! I wrote her a letter that she will get in the MTC. Tell Lindsay HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Tell all my babies that I love them so very much, and squeeze them so tight for me. I want pictures!!!!

With so much love and so many prayers and so much more to say that I don't have time for.
Your missionary,
Sister Fort
PS--Where should I send Matt Hoffman's letters next semester? Same place? For now I am sending them to his home address in California. Hi Matt!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010



Hello my mommaaaaaaa, and All of my FRIENDS and FAMILY!!!!!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING J
I always have so much to sayyyyyy.
I am happy to report that Sister De Fiesta and I are still kasamas and we are still in Naguilian. Transfers happen every six weeks, but it depends on where president prayerfully decides to put people--its that way with every mission. So you may get transfered, you may not. You never know. It almost felt like I was getting my mission call all over again...lots of excitement/fear/happiness/worry. I tell Sister De Fiesta that we will be in Naguilian para sa walang hanggan (forever). And that would be okay with both of us. I am loving the people, and I love Sister De Fiesta. We laugh every day.

We had our first FHE here with the branch this past Monday--we've been told that it's been a while since it's happened. After our experience, Sister De Fiesta and I now call FHE here Family Food Evening, and we understand why one might be a little hesitant to host. For about 20-something people, one family provided soup, sandwiches, buko salad, and juice. We taught the lesson--Love at Home. And played about a billion games I have never heard of (but I am taking notes). One is called "Bato, batobato, batotoy" and is similar to simon says. Lots of children and laughs and chaos.

The other morning we helped an investigator, Lisa, clean her yard from typhoon debris. We chopped branches with what looked to me like kitchen knives and machetes, piled the clean branches for firewood, and burned the leaves. Ashes fell on us like rain and Sister De Fiesta told me to make a wish. It was our third time to see Lisa, and we left her with a copy of the Book of Mormon.

The grandfather of the Marinduque boys was taken to the hospital this week. Usually every time we come over, he disappears somewhere after we shake his hand. He doesn't like the missionaries. His wife is the one who loves to cook for us. We rode a jeepne to Ilagan to visit him unannounced and brought the zone leaders with us. We sang "I Stand All Amazed" and "Angels We Have Heard on High," and he accepted a priesthood blessing. When the time came for us to go, he shook our hands softly and looked us in the eye and said, "Makikita tayo sa bahay." We'll see you at home.

We found the world's biggest chair in Ilagan. (Picture)

We were in Cauayan for a meeting and Sister De Fiesta and I had been looking forward to getting Zagu for days--its the closest thing to frozen yogurt here...more like a smoothie/shake thing. It was such a hot, long day. We ran out of time and ended up having to get back to Naguilian. Needless to say, I was disappointed, but you know, I lived...And this is so embarassing and dumb, but I said a little prayer that Heavenly Father would bless me with something sweet later on. Soooo we went about our work, teaching lessons, meeting people, etc, etc. We got back to our apartment exhausted and I had completely forgotten about my silly little prayer, because it was so ridiculous. And as we were both writing in our journals I hear, "Tao po...Sisterrrrrrrrrs" from outside our gate. And we ran out, and there were the Marinduque girls with doughnuts for both of us. On the way back into the apartment, I stopped when I remembered my prayer. Heavenly Father answers prayers. I know I say it in just about every email. But my eyes are so opened here. Even our silliest, smallest, least important prayers, he hears and he answers. Imagine just how he answers our more important, life-changing prayers. The answers always come in His time and in His way, but He is there. I have no doubts. And He hears our prayers. I told this story to Lisa our investigator, and she smiled, and said that she would pray to know if our message was true.

Sometimes I am so overwhelmed with the language and knowing scriptures and teaching. But I love this quote that I found in the Ensign: "My dear brothers and sisters, don't get discouraged if you stumble at times. Don't feel downcast or despair if you don't feel worthy to be a disciple of Christ at all times. The first step to righteousness is simply to try. We must try to believe. Try to learn of God: read the scriptures; study the words of His latter-day prophets; choose to listen to the Father, and do the things He asks of us. Try and keep on trying until that which seems difficult becomes possible--and that which seems only possible becomes habit and a real part of you." So, I'm trying. Always trying. And I know my Savior is right there with me.

I am so thankful for all of the support I am receiving! From you, Matt, Sarah Roughton, Jillian, Lindsay and Nathan, and Victoria. Tell them all I am so grateful. Tell Victoria I LOVE HERRRRRRRRR. Tell Alainna I LOVE HERRRRRRRrr and Jillian and everyone. Tell Sister Morgan I love her and think of her also. Tell Jared to write me!

I have the Marinduque's singing recorded! I will see if I can attach it in another e-mail. :)
Momma, I love you, and I am so grateful for all of your emails. I read them all and I think about you always. I pray for you every chance I get. I am so grateful that you have friendssss!!!! Tell them I say hi! I miss you ALL and love you ALL!!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's ME AGAINnnnnnnn!! :) I Love You ALL!!!




Hello momma!

Thank you so so much for your emails! I love being able to hear from you and I am so glad you are doing well. And going on walks with Marie? Does she make you bread? :) Sister Thaine is sweet.

I forget to answer your questions all of the time. You should watch You've Got Mail for me and Serendipity and No Reservations! And 13 Going on 30! I made a list of American movies that Sister De Fiesta should watch. Go eat some TCBY for me too. Also, President Carlos really wants some Italian recipes! Maybe send some? Or email some to him? There are some people here with lice, and I'm just paranoid... Mostly what I like here are the baked goods, but they are really few and far between. I miss frozen yogurrrrrttttt. Hair removal creme would be nice, make up remover, Lipton soup!, fruit snacks, homemade rolls or cookiesssss mmmmJ Wishful thinkingJ Anything that will make my skin stop freaking out. I also liked those socks you sent to me. Garments would be nice too. Just what you can afford, Mom. Don't overdo it.

I cooked linguine with marinara for Sister D.F. this week.

I am in San Mariano right now with the elders in my district. We went to the crocodile farm! I held a baby crocodile (picture attached) after a few of the missionaries, and right as I was holding it, it decided to pee. I was the chosen one. :) We got here by jeepne, which are big metal jeeps with the backs open and two bench seats along the windows--they're usually pretty ghetto-fied. Google them. We passed through some beautiful scenery--green mountains with palm trees, caribou, wide rivers, puffy clouds.

Oh P.S.! We have electricity again. Still no water. But at least now we can see what we're eating for dinner.

We had splits this week in Cauayan. When I came home to Sister D.F., I found a flower in the fridge and a note attached, from Sister De Fiesta. It said she had a surprise for me and told me to go about my daily activities as normal, and it would be revealed. Mysterious. We went to our first appointment of the day--Jerry and Maryann. Before our lesson, they pulled out a big white folder and Sister De Fiesta said, "This is your surprise!" I opened it, and it was their marriage papers! Finally. They have been waiting for about 5 months to get married so they could be baptized. I squealed--almost screamed--with excitement. They set the date for Saturday. So, Saturday we had a wedding here AND a baptism.

The font at the chapel hasn't been used in almost a year, so the priesthood spent a lot of time Friday cleaning it out. Then they discovered the water wasn't running from the pump. The baptism was supposed to be at 1:00pm on Saturday, but we waited for them to fix the running water. By 4:30 the water was running, but it was taking so long that Sister De Fiesta and I filled buckets from the bathroom faucet and alternated dumping water into the font to speed up the process. Many people from the branch came to support them. I played and sang "I Stand All Amazed" on guitar for them. Sister Maryann bore a simple and sweet testimony. It has been amazing to see their countenances grow brighter and brighter each time we see them. And especially now. They are so happy.

Our lessons with Sister Shela have become so beautiful. She is opening herself up to us more and more with each visit. We teach her with her two little girls (in the picture with all of the kids, they are in between Sister De Fiesta and I) about Joseph Smith and how she needs to pray to know if he was a true prophet. We haven't been able to teach her with her husband, because he works at night. Without electricity, our curfew was 6 every day. But now we are able to stay out later. We had a lesson with them all this week, as a complete family. The husband is a less active member, but is so kind and happy that his wife is being taught by us. It's amazing the difference we felt in the lesson, with the priesthood holder of the family there. Sister De Fiesta does magic for the little girls--makes candy appear, etc. One day this week, we were just passing by to say hello, and when the little girls saw us they squealed and ran and shouted, "The sisters! The sisters!" Shela wasn't feeling well, and Sister De Fiesta asked the girls, "What do we do when nanay isn't feeling well??" They said in unison, "Prayyyy." "What do we pray for?" And one of the little girls said, "For Joseph Smith." :) They are little sponges. They came to church as a whole family yesterday. :)

We taught a lesson about the creation, and Sister De Fiesta touched the Cauayan of the home that we sat outside of. She asked the investigator, "Before this house was here, where was this Cauayan?" And we bore testimony that everything comes from and is created by God.

I played guitar for Sister De Fiesta in our apartment, and she made me laugh so hard. When I was done playing she said, "Wow. Do you see my eyes?" And I was like..."What's wrong with your eyes?" And she said, "They are heart shapes!"

This week is transfer week. I am scareddddddddddddddd. I have grown to love both the people in my area AND Sister De Fiesta so much. It has been a joy being here with her. Even through our no electricity, no water days, we have had so much fun together. I almost have a feeling though that I will stay in the area to lead it and she will be transferred. We will seeeeeeeeeeee. I know that whatever will happen is what God intends. I know that with my Savior, I can fill whatever shoes are given me to wear.

I love this quote: "Our individual worth is already divinely established as 'great,' it does not fluctuate like the stock market." Neal A. Maxwell

I love you momma. Send my love to everyone. I pray for you every day.
So much love.
Your little missionary,
Sister Fort
PS: First Pic, Me with the Baby Crocodile;/ Second Pic, All the Little Girl's happy to see us :), Third Picture is Sister Maryann and Brother Jerry at their BAPTISM!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

HIiiiiiiiiiiiiiii EVERYONE! I'm Safe and Well!




Hello my Momma, and Family, and Friends:

Yesterday was a rough day for me. I started the day off with a prayer that I would see God's love somewhere. It was so incredibly hot outside, we went out of our way to visit people in the hilltops nearby, but no one was receiving us. Finally it was time to go home, and Sis. D.F. decided that we would walk. My feet hurt, and I had a pounding headache--we were still fasting. Right then a man came by on a tricycle and asked if we wanted a free ride. Sister D.F. turned to me and said, "God is giving you a ride." And I cried silently to myself a little. I knew it was a gift from God. Then we went to a less-active's home, the Marinduque family--they are such a lovely, lovely family--and the 17 year old boy Renel brought out his guitar and finger-picked "I am a Child of God." They sent us home with food. Another blessing straight from God. As His servant, we are taken care of. Sometimes my eyes are just not open to it.

ANYWAYS,
Our training meeting was fun. I can't believe Sister Carlos called me Sister Pence! It was so fun to see my friends from the MTC. It was our first time seeing each other since our first day. We all look so different, it's funny. I snuck up on Sister Pence, and when she turned around and saw me, she grabbed me SO TIGHT and hugged me for SO LONG. I could tell she's been having a rough time. We sat down and talked about some things. I shared scriptures with her that have given me strength, and she just looked at me and said, "I've missed you so much." President told us in training that we may not ever have a baptism, but one soul is great in the sight of God. That one soul could be our companion, it could be someone back home, it could be ourselves. That gave me comfort. Sometimes I don't feel like what I share in lessons is that amazing or life-changing--I am just Sister D.F.'s parasite. But she needs a companion. And I guess by just being her parasite for right now, I am doing something for the benefit of the souls we teach. She tells me that I am one of the companions closest to her heart. Maybe I'm on this mission for my companions.

For our Sister's meeting, the topic was "Bloom Where You're Planted." We made rice crispie treats and nobake cookies and flower brooches--you probably know all of this because of the blog. We talked about people who have been placed in difficult settings and are able to still bloom. Like Stephanie Neilsen--her story is beautiful. We watched it on Mormon Messages. I do believe that you can bloom whereever you are planted in life--even when you dont have a job, or when you live in a house made of bamboo, or there are no baptisms, or its 1,000,000 degrees outside and you have a pounding headache. It is not easy sometimes. Sometimes you silently cry to yourself on the way home in a tricycle. But the trick is to always try to get back up. TRY TRY TRY. I pray my guts out, and ask for my eyes to be open to my blessings, and I ALWAYS, ALWAYS see them, so clearly. Even if Heavenly Father has to send me a little angel like Sister De Fiesta to say, "Hey, God is giving you a ride."

I found some really great quotes in my study the other day: "Sometimes the Lord allows us to have trials to shape us into productive servants. His all-seeing eye is over us and ever watching us as our Eternal Heavenly Parent. When trials come, as surely they will to all of us during mortality, let us not sink into the abyss of self-pity but remember who is at the helm, that He is there to guide us through all the storms of life." Any time I hear God referred to as a parent, Mom, I think of you. Your love for me is the closest to the love that God has for me. I can't imagine it. I love you, Momma. Remember, "[You] can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth [you]." Philippians 4:13.

I love riding in the vans here. They remind me of the Dodge Caravan we have for that little while, or they remind me of road trips with friends. Everyone piles into a big van, the windows are down, and there's usually some kind of cheesy, folksy Filipino music playing.

I've tried lots of new foods this week. Yema: which Sister De Fiesta told me is made from goat poop, but I don't believe anything she tells me anymore about food. She lies to me all the time. :) I also tried ginataan gabi, which is taro root in coconut milk. It looks pretty nasty, but tastes good. You should google it. Last night we had siopao, which the Marinduque family gave us.

I love the Marinduque family! They are less-active, but they all have a testimony of the gospel, and they are such warm people. There are about 5 teenage boys and a teenage girl that live in the house, a grandma, and some of her children. Renel plays the guitar. He gave it to me to play before a lesson, and we all sang Love at Home as the opening hymn, while I fingerpicked. Now every time we go there, he plays the guitar for us. The other night while Sister D.F. and I were planning, we heard Feliz Navidad being sung and played on guitar. (I will send a picture!) We of course jumped up and went outside to see Renel, Jolex, and the girl (I forgot her name) them holding a plate of food for us. The Lola, or grandma, insists on cooking for us every night.

Time's up. But I love you so much momma. Never worry about me. God is feeding me and giving me rides and protecting me and blessing me constantly. I am in His hands.
I love love love you!
Your little missionary,
Sister Fort
PS TELL GRANDMA I LOVE HER SO MUCH AND WISH HER THE HAPPIEST BIRTHDAY. I will send her a letter, but it will be coming by snail mail.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Your Little Missionary, SEESTER WHITE!!!!!!!




Magandang araw, Momma dear!

I could not believe Peter's news. What a wonderful, wonderful blessing. I have been praying for him lots, and I am sure that he has been carried through all of this by our prayers. It is such a beautiful thing that he will be sealed to his family forever!! It's amaaaziinnnnnggggg.

This e-mail may be a little scattered. The cafe I'm in right now is playing such LOUD musiccccccccccccc; I can't think.

Our area is small and so Catholic, and it is a challenge to find people who are willing to open their hearts to our message. We teach and teach, but people refuse to let themselves believe anything other than the beliefs they've been raised on. Which is so understandable, and sometimes heartbreaking for us. (I just think about some of our family members who have needed some time to realize the truthfulness of the gospel) But something I was told in a recent letter (from Matt Hoffman) has really stuck with me this week. They said something like the most important things I can do as a missionary is: 1. follow missionary and mission rules, 2. have FAITH in the promised blessings I have as a servant of the Lord, and 3. head the counsel of PMG and my mission president. That's all Sister De Fiesta and I really have control over. We are doing those things, and I know that as long as we are, God will work his miracles in His own due time. I know it. I am so grateful for the guidance I receive from others out here--especially from home. :)

President Rigucera, of our branch, and Brother Macutay, his counselor, thank us so much for their increased numbers in church attendance. But I honestly, truly do not feel like we are doing anything. All we are doing is opening our mouths, and being obedient. God is doing everything.

President and Sister Carlos spoke to our little branch yesterday. The members there ate up every word they had to say. Sister Carlos talked about the little acts of service and sacrifice we can perform every day, regardless of where we are from, how far along in the gospel we are, how much money we have, what color our skin is--we are all indebted to our Heavenly Father and our Savior. President Carlos mostly talked about how indebted we are and how we all need to play a part in building up the kingdom of God. The members referenced their talks the rest of the day.

We had a meeting with President Rigucera after church and we asked him about who was in what auxilary positions in the branch--we had no idea. We were feeling kind of lost as to who we could go to for fellowshipping, visiting and home teaching assignments, etc. There are many inactive members who could benefit from these things. President then organized the entire branch then and there--with auxilary presidencies. I was surprised that they didn't have all of those things in place already, but I felt the spirit so strongly in the entire meeting with him. This needed to happen. We talked about activities that the Relief Society could do, despite their numbers--Sister De Fiesta and I promised to come to all of the activities and help them strengthen their foundation. There are blessings that come when we fulfill our callings regardless of our circumstances. We will be able to bring investigators to these activities and to these already functioning organizations. We now have branch FHE established every Monday, and a Halloween party on the 17th of November.

For Halloween, Sister Carlos gave Sister De Fiesta and I two starbursts each :) Yum! That was all we did to celebrate though--eat tropical flavored Starburst. Today is "Fiesta ng napatay" or like the day of the dead. Everyone goes to the cemetaries...and I'm not exactly sure what they do there...

I taught for the first time this week! It was kindaaaaa rough, not going to lie. (I didn't get the chance to teach the youth like I said a few weeks ago.) We were on exchanges. I was paired with Sister Jose, who is about 4'11" and so sweet. We went to teach some of her recent converts in Cauayan. It was an entire family. What a beautifulllll famillyyyyyy. A mother, a father, and four gorgeous daughters. There was a lovely, gentle spirit in their home, and I taught them from Helaman 12--about the power of God--and we talked about prayer. They fed us crackers and TANG, and smiled when I spoke (probably because I sound ridiculous). But it was so fun, and helped me kind of see that...it's possible? To teach in Tagalog?

One morning this week, I woke up and told Sister De Fiesta that I had a really weird dream the night before--probably because of all of the roosters and the church bells that were ringing. (Okay, I love everything about being here, even the toilets, but one thing I cannot get used to are the roosters! I want to strangle them all. Haha. When they crow in the mornings, sometimes they are all in unison and it sounds SO creepy. Like moaning...people? I dont know. It's creeeeepyyy.) Anyway, I told her my dumb dream, and then she said that she had a dream about me before I was her companion. She said she couln't see my face, but in her dream someone said, "Take care of her. She is a mother in Zion." What incentive for me to work harder and be my best out here.

Last night we taught a lesson to a family named Lagasca. They are Catholic, but the mother does our readings and asks us questions (in the past two times we've met with her). Before the lesson, the kids in the street shouted, "hello seesters!" and hung on my arms and called me Sister White and called Sister De Fiesta Sister Black. There were about 12 or 15 of them. They followed us to the house, and we all sat outside and began the lesson together. Sister De Fiesta and I sang "I am a Child of God" to them, then taught them how to fold their arms and bow their heads and close their eyes for the prayer. I couldn't help but peek at them during the lesson. What a special and adorable sight!

Sister D.F. and I want to start a cooking schedule. Any ideas for cheap meals that involve rice??? I need recipes. ALSO! President Carlos LOVES Italian food. He would love for you to send him some recipes, I'm sure. :)

Daaahhh, There is so much more I want to sayyy, but my time is up. I love you so much momma. Thank you for your prayers. Let me know how the purification challenge is going--what you are sacrificing. My dresses cost about 15 dollars to be MADE, tailored to me, with the fabric I want, and the style I want. Isn't that amazing?

Sister De Fiesta loves pistacchios. Don't worry about sending things that are too heavy. Nuts, granola bars, make up remover!, garments, face washing pads or things to keep my skin and hair healthy. Oh! That CD player that Sister Derethal gave me doesn't work. I miss music. Really, anything is appreciated.

So much love!!!!!!!!!!!!! So many prayers!!!!
Your little missionary,
Sister White

P.S. HI MAATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Typhoons, etc. (New Pictures)



Here are some new Pictures! Love and Hugs to you ALL!!!!! I am learning that washing machines are not ESSENTIAL, nor decorative BOWLS to eat out of ;)!!

WE ARE SAFE and BACK to WORK ;)!!!!!






So, I've experience my first Typhoon ever. President Carlos is a very vigilant man, and was aware of where we were and where the storm was every second of the weekend. He had the zone leaders come get Sister De Fiesta and I and bring us to Cauayan--closer to the mission home. We stayed with two other sisters in their cement boarding house type apartment. President Carlos had our entire mission on lockdown. We were not to leave our apartments until he gave us word. It was amazing that I did not feel threatened in any way by the storm. I honestly felt the protection of God, and honestly didn't realize how serious the storm was until we left the apartment. We lost our electricity of course, and wrote letters, ate dinner, bathed, prayed, and talked by candlelight. The rain was torrential and the palm trees were basically bent to the ground from the wind. Our closed doors rattled in the locks and rain water dripped in from the ceiling, but that was all really. We didn't experience a quarter of what most of the people here did.

When we left the apartment, we saw what really had transpired. Large trees were uprooted, some were just left completely leafeless, people's cauayan homes were floored, roofs were blown off, some aluminum roofs were tangled around powerlines, an entire Shell gas station had collapsed. But the minute I woke up, I heard people sweeping their floors with their walis-ting-tings and hammering the bends out of their roofs. They are such a resiliant people. When we got to our home in Naguilian, we saw that our front fence had been blown over, one window had broken, and our mattresses were a little wet, but besides that, we were blessed to have everything else remain in good condition. I feel like our home is very safe. (I will try to send you a picture soon.) We have an elevated house, all made of pure cement and brick, the windows are barred, and we have about five locks on every door (even the door to our room). We have a cell phone also. As sisters, we are very well taken care of.

We went right out the day we got back to our area, to help members and others clean. Mostly everyone refused our help (they are shy), but we were persistent and managed to walis-ting-ting some leaves from two people's entry ways and street. We also went and cleaned all of the water from our little-house-on-the-praire meeting house. :) The counselor in the branch presidency was there, and he cut open a young Buko (coconut) for us to drink from and eat. It was unlike any coconut I have ever tasted. The milk inside was like water, and the flesh was jelly-like--so good.

We have been without electricity and water since the storm, and we hear that that will be the case in Naguilian until December. Adventures! (That's why I couldn't email you last week. We went out to the emailing cafe, but there is no electricity in the whole city. We are in Cauayan right now, thats how I am able to email you now.) President has told us not to stay out past 6pm every night, because thats when it gets dark. And it gives us just enough daylight to find our candles in our house and light them before it is completely dark. We also dont have a refrigerator to use obviously, without the electricity, so finding food to eat has been somewhat difficult--veggies and meat spoil fast and we've resorted to eating lots of canned food and ketchup and fruit. Sister De Fiesta treat ourselves to an occasional pan de coco (a type of sweet bread here sooooooo gooooooooooooooooooooood) and a nightly watermelon feast. Watermelon is our "happy food," says Sister De Fiesta.

We've had some great teaching experiences. Sister De Fiesta and I are working hard to FIND people to teach. Most people will let us come into their homes and share a message about the gospel, because they are so nice. But its hard to get them to see the importance of reading a pamphlet for themselves or praying about our message for themselves or coming to church. We are teaching somewhere around 11 investigators--none yet progressing. We do have two progressing investigators--Sister Maryann and Brother Jerry. (Everyone calls everyone brother and sister here and in my first few days it was so hard for me to tell who was a member and who wasnt.) They are waiting on their marriage papers to come through before they can be baptized--it will take about 10 days. We are excited for them; they are really cute and every time we see them, they seem happier and happier.

We are also teaching a woman named Shela. Her husband is a less active member of the church, but she came to church our first Sunday here with her two children. We stopped by her house the next week to help her with laundry (She had SO much and is pregnant and was squatting to wash her clothes by hand...what a diligent, hardworking mother. Something I hope to be one day, though hopefully not having to squat.). We've decided as a companionship to serve our members and investigators more. We've taught her the message of the restoration and the word of wisdom, and she came to church again this past Sunday. We pray hard for her to know for herself that the church is true. Her baptismal date is set for November 17th.

I of course have times where I doubt myself and feeling the Spirit, but God never ceases to encourage me every day. It's been so neat to see how He does it. Like, one time we were proselyting down Querino, and when we past a house, I saw a mother, a child, and a grandmother standing outside of their home. I thought to myself in the split second we passed, "I could see us teaching them." And we kept walking. Then Sister De Fiesta stopped, turned around, and walked right to those three women. We taught them the restoration. Another time I was selecting a hymn to sing for a family and I thought, "Love at Home? Nooo..." And I asked the member with us what hymn they would like to sing. He said, "274." Which is Love at Home. Just yesterday we were sitting with a part-member family and a man I had just met was leaving. He was older and was mounting his bicycle and said, "Sister Fort, how is your patience?" And I looked at him, puzzled kind of and said, "Ok lang.." and he said, "Love the Filipino people, and hopefully we will love you too." Huh. Alma 32:23 speaks truth. God listens to my prayers. And answers them so readiliy sometimes (through people) that it surprises me.

Mahirap ang buhay dito sa Naguilian, pero I am learning to rely on my God and to be patient with myself. I take so much comfort from Alma 32--line upon line. Little by little I will become the missionary God sees in me.

I have about 5 minutes, so I'll make this fast!
Any bug repellant would be lovely--lice, ant, spider, etc. I am getting tan. I can have tailored dresses made real cheap here--the clothes I brought are SO HOT. I need garments, but can probably order them through the mission office here. ARMENIA!?!?!?!?!?!?!!? I cannot believe it!!!!!! Victoria is going to be WONDERFUL. I love herrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr so much. Tell her that. I wrote her last week but my letters are coming by snail mail now. Alainna wrote me--I enjoyed her letter very much. I love HER!! Also Jillian sent me some cool new gum flavors. Tell her I love her. I will write them as soon as I can. Tell Peter I pray for him, every night.

I love you so so much. I hope I didn't forget to answer any questions. I'm sure I did, but anyway. Know that I am safe and being smart and I'm happy and I appreciate and love you so much. I need your prayers always.

WITH SO MUCH LOVE forever and ever.
Sister Fort

Monday, October 11, 2010

I HAVE ARRIVED!!!!!! Soooo Much to SAY!

Well, I am here.

There is so much to say. We got here safely after one million hours in the air and in airports and on bus rides. After our 14 hour plane ride overseas, we stopped in Taiwan, and our terminal was behind a Hello Kitty store--I thought of Michelle and Main Place Mall. I ate the best won ton soup I have ever had in my life in the Taiwan airport, with rice and mango juice. When we arrived in the Philippines finally, we stopped at MTC Asia to rest. MTC Asia sounds pretty huge right? It's basically 1/8 the size of the Provo MTC. The people were lovely and fed us noodles with chicken, bread, and mga sanging (bananas). The bananas here are small and taste like a cross between a sweet potato and a banana--they are sweet. They also let Sister Pence and I take a shower and put our feet up for two hours (my feet did get swollen. They are still swollen, but are gradually going down. Any chance I get I try to elevate them) We took a ten hour busride from Manila to Cauayan, and the curtains were yellow and reminded me of a flapper dress. I made my first contact on the bus with a 19 year old Filipino girl. Sister Lela and I gave her a Book of Mormon and I testified about how the Book of Mormon has blessed my life.

When we arrived in Cauayan, President and Sister Carlos were there waiting at the stop to greet us. Sister Carlos knew my face and name and homestate and it surprised me. Apparently they had read up on me a little. Sister Carlos baked us bread and sweet rolls and President Carlos made us breakfast rice. They orientated us and I had my first interview with president. He said he prayed and fasted and prayed about who my new companion should be. He said the companion he chose for me is the most diligent in the mission, and in his opinion, the best sister missionary in the mission--truly a testimony to me of how much my God loves me. Her name is Sister De Fiesta. We are opening a new area called Naguilian. It's about 30 minutes from the mission home. We ride tricycles and buses to get places. But mostly we stay in our area and walk. We are trying to strengthen the priesthood in our area--there are mostly just women who come to church, around 30 that show up every Sunday. We've met with and talked to the branch president. He says he will make me teach Sunday school every Sunday so my Tagalog will get better--I'm not sure if he was joking or not...

They burn leaves and garbage here at night and it the smell is like insense--I have a feeling I'm going to miss that smell when I leave. I bathe with a ladel and bucket and sleep with only sheets and a fan blasting from my feet. They call me Sister Port, because they can't pronounce F's. I told Sister DF that some things that make me happy are: flowers, chocolate, and talks with my momma. She said she cant give me talk with my momma, but she picks flowers for me basically every day. We eat rice, noodles, and hot chocolate for breakfast. We drink boiled water, and I am basically dripping in sweat all day long. We only have running water between 4pm and 6am. The living conditions are nothing I have ever experienced, but I am getting used to them, and I am seeing just how beautiful these people are. Before we left the MTC, my teacher told us to just do what our native companions do...we will adjust so much easier. I told Sister DF that I need her to teach me, and she is. :) The people stare and stare at me. The other day we rode in a jeepne with bars and people had their faces up close to the windows. I told Sister DF that it was like we were in a Zoo, and we laughed. Everything is such an adventure, and I am growing to love it.

My first few days here were pretty difficult, I'm not going to lie. In General Conference this weekend (we watched it again here), they sang "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel." And then I was reminded of all of the blessings I have here and that God loves me so much and he called me here because he knows I can do it. I'm not sure exactly what was said in the conference that touched me so much, but something in me clicked and switched, and I am okay. I am going to work hard here, and forget myself, and remember what president Holland said when he came to the MTC. He said, "Salvation has never been easy. It wasn't easy for the Savior." I am a representative of the Savior. Last night we visited a member, Nanay Rena, and she said, "You will soon be glad that you were called to the Philippines." Nothing prompted it, she just said it. Blessings.

I can understand so much more Tagalog than I thought I'd be able to at this point. Sister De Fiesta said she prayed for a companion like me and that I am "magaling sa Tagalog." She speaks very good English and wants to speak better, so we correct and help each other. The other night though, we were at a member's home and I told Sister DF that I was having a hard time understanding that day for some reason. She turned to me and said, "It's because they're speaking Ilokhano." (Another dialect here.)

We met with a woman the other night in her home made of cauayan and sheets of aluminum, we taught her by candlelight while her children ate rice at the table. I am basically just able to bear my testimony right now, but I am teaching my first lesson about obedience tonight to the young women here. I was reading in Helaman 5 this morning, about Helaman's sons who went on missions. He told them to be obedient and go out and serve missions--I would pull out my scriptures right now to quote it, but I don't have time--and they went out and were diligent. Then they were cast into prison, but they were encircled about by fire. I believe that because of their obedience, they were protected and blessed eternally. I love that chapter. Read it.

We had a beautiful lesson last night with an 80 year old woman named Pascita. We tracted into her grandson(?) earlier, but he was at basketball. She let us in and told us about how she lost her husband a few years ago and felt alone. We taught her about the resurrection and life after this, and she reminded me of a tiny, skinnier, FIlipino version of grandma. When we shook hands after the lesson, we squeezed each others hands, and I felt so much love for her. She listened to everything we said, and we have a return appointment with her.

Today we did laundry by hand, in buckets, and hung our things to dry. Without water on Mondays, it was a difficult task. We had to walk down to the water pump in the neighborhood and pump our own water. Adventures! I truly appreciate and love the people who live here. They are so hardworking, and from what I can see so far, they have their priorities straight. God and family first. I was so humbled last night when a Nanay we met with said that God gives her so many blessings.

I should go. But I am so thankful to you for your letters and support. I couldn't do this without wonderful people behind me, supporting me.
I love love love you momma and poppa. I hope all is well. Keep me in your prayers and I will keep you in mine.
SO much love,
Sister Port

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm Leaving TODAY!!!!!

This email may be a little scattered. Like my brain right now. We're trying to get everything all ready for our flight tonight--trips to the bookstore, weighing bags, leaving some things behind, sending some things home. Momma, this is hard without you. You've always been such a help to me with these sorts of things. It's all working out fine, just know that my brain is not all here right now cause I'm thinking of a million other things.

Kamusta nanay ko! Kamusta po kayo? Kamusta ang linggo mo? My week has been great. The district has just been getting ready to leave. (I LOVE MY DISTRICT) We've been attending health and safety meetings, departure devotionals, asking final questions about Tagalog grammar, and we had our first culture day in class on Friday. I guess the teachers like to keep us focused on our purpose (weird) and they stay away from telling any personal stories or things about the Philippines for the duration of our time here, except for the last day. So Friday we talked all about what the Philippines were like for our teachers (granted they both went to the San Angeles mission) and they brought us pictures and told us stories finally about people they taught and places they went. It got me a little more pumped. I'm excited to ride jeepnes and tricycles and teach beautiful, humble people about God's love for them.

I realize more and more every day that I am to be a window through which people can see God's love for them. I am to act as my Savior would if He were here. It's tough and I am so imperfect, but I am committed to do my best.

General Conference was amazing. I'd never watched it the way we watched it here. I mean, I'm used to waking up, staying in my pajama pants and sweatshirt, cuddling up to a pillow or two, maybe eating some of Pop's cracked wheat pancakes during the first song, taking notes in my sketchbook while drawing the prophets and apostles faces, bathroom breaks, snack breaks, sleep breaks. Here we all woke up the same time as every day, had breakfast in our Sunday best, and watched General Conference on plastic riser seats. We all stood when the prophets and apostles came on screen, which is another thing I never thought to do before. It was so lovely though. I never noticed before how much the missionaries were referenced in conference, as well as the basic doctrines that we teach as missionaries. Duh, Aly. It was so neat to be included in the phrase "missionaries throughout the world." I am a missionary. Still, it hasn't completely sunk in that I am a messenger of Jesus Christ. I'll wake up sometimes and forget that I am in the MTC...ON A MISSION. All those times when I was younger I thought the missionaries were so old and wise and spiritual. I am one of them.

One theme that kept coming to me throughout General Conference was, "Safeguard the sanctity of your mind and your home." Right now, to me, kind of being out of the world for a little bit, this seems easy. But I think of my past self, listening to music and texting and facebooking. None of those things are bad, but they are difficult to regulate. Life is about sincere human connection--loving others and serving others and learning about others. It's about connecting with our Heavenly Father--praying to Him often, reading our scriptures often. It's so easy to get lost in the superficial, the artificial, the counterfeit. It's such a gift that I am able to gain this perspective from being on a mission. General Conference helped me see exactly what I want in my future, starting now.

We leave TODAY! I get on a plane TODAY! Can you believe it!? In about a day and a half, I will have a new companion (who will probably be a native), I will be eating foreign things, meeting my mission president, and speaking to people in Tagalog.

Alam ko na dito ako dahil may mahalaga na layunin. Mahal ng Diyos ang mga tao niya at tutulong ako nila makita ito. (Long way to go.) I love you so much and will speak to you sooooooooooooooooooooooooooon!!!!!!

I got your package.
LOVE YOU LOVE YOU LOVE YOU!!!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm Leaving on A JET PLANE:)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:)

Hi Mommaaaaaaaa
This week has been good. (I put Sister Pence's name and my name in the temple last week. I've prayed every day for charity and selflessness--in our companionship prayers also--and there has been a dramatic change.) We got to host the new missionaries this week. When the new missionaries come in we take them to their residence and to go sign in a get their name tags and we show them to their classrooms. I just kept thinking of what my first day was like and all the things I didn't know. I tried to make their first days as smooth as possible. It was cute...I took one girl to her room and told her we were going to drop her bags off and she'd be able to unpack later and that she just needed her scriptures, her PMG, and a notebook to write on. She looked so nervous and was rushing to get all of her things, so I told her it was okay, to calm down and take a deep breath and that there was no rush at all. She calmed down a little bit and we got to talk about her thoughts when she got her mission call and some other little things to get her mind off of the trauma of the first day. ;) It was so fun actually getting to help a real person in despair. I took three girls through total. We get to do it again next week. Exciting!

GUESS WHAT?!?!?! I got my flight plans this week!!!! It's funny cause it was our first day trying to speak in all Tagalog and we were all doing so well. But the minute we all got our flight plans and tried to spit our excitement out in Tagalog, we caved and spoke in English for a little bit. We leave next Monday--ONE WEEK. Can you believe it, mom? I'm going to the Philippines!!!!?!?!?1/1/11 h iforhfsldkf Excited ako para dito. There are five of us traveling together--Elders Thomas, Jackson, Shackelford, Sister Pence, and me. I am the travel leader. We leave the MTC around 4:30 and our first flight from Salt Lake leaves at 7:59p.m. I will be able to call you!!! From Salt Lake and from L.A. if I want. What number should I call? We go through Taipei Taiwan! AHH!!! So cool. We will end up in Manila and then take a 10 hour bus ride to Cauayan. I will make a copy of my itinerary and mail it. And I think I will be able to call you from the mission home. It's different for every mission. I might just be able to email or something.

So, pretty soon I will be bathing with a ladel and a bucket. But I'm so excited to be a representative of my Savior Jesus Christ and share with those REAL people of the Philippines the love that He has for them. Thats really what I am. I'm a funnel of His love, and I am basically doing what Jesus Christ Himself would be doing on the earth right now. I'm excited to meet people and get to know my ward members and embarass myself a ton with my Tagalog. We've done two days where all we speak is Tagalog. I can say so much more than I thought I would be able to at this point! I will show off for you at the airport. :) Sometimes I forget some english words. Good sign right?

We had a workshop this week on personal and companionship study that was SO enlightening. Brother Reis gave the workshop and he basically taught us that our personal and companionship study should be based on some kind of inspired question that we seek out the answer for. Like: How would a knowledge of life after death help John keep the word of wisdom? Just an example. And we both as a companionship can study different questions focused on the same investigators during personal study. Then in companionship study we come together and share what we learned and how we will present it. We are called to share the gospel two by two. And if we study like this we can do double the work in the same amount of time. Now I just need to know how to do this say it all in Tagalog.

We said goodbye to our branch president yesterday. He's an amazing man and I will miss him. I want to give him my blog address. I will send you pictures next week.

I have 3 minutes.
What is alainna's address mom??/ I want to write her so badly. Can you call and get it?
LOVE YOU!!!!
SIs Fort

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

THREE MORE WEEKS!! On to the PHILIPPINES :)!!

Yesterday we were able to hear from Elaine S. Dalton--the YW general president!--during relief society. I was on the second row. The minute she began talking, I felt her sincere love and humility and I thought about how badly I want to be like that. She talked about how wonderful we all are as sisters here, serving our God. She said something that I had never thought about before. She said that this isn't the first time we've done this. In the pre-existence we stood as witnesses of Christ as well. And I gained a stronger sense of my purpose here and that I am in the right place at the right time. Sometimes I forget that. We all stood and recited the Young Women's theme and it was so powerful.

I can't email Alainna as much as I can write her. All of my e-mail time is usually spent on writing you. I think I will have about an hour to email every Monday in the Philippines. Which is good. Right now I only have 30 minutes.

Can you believe I only have three weeks left here?! And I will be going to the Philippines?! A completely different planet?! We have been trying to speak our language as much as possible. Right now I'm trying to get down conjugations--they're tough. For each root-verb there are about 5 or 6 different conjugations you can use, depending on if you want to make the verb actor focused or object focused or nounified. So much to learn. But I know that I will eventually get it all down, line upon line. We taught in Tagalog this week and it was so great! I taught one of the former Tagalog teachers here, Sister Hawkes. She was supposed to act like an investigator for us, but the conversation ended up to where we began addressing her personal concerns. She opened up to us so much (This was all in Tagalog--in our broken, broken Tagalog). Throughout the lesson I was able to feel so much love for her as a child of God. It was interesting how automatic it was. Scriptures came to mind and I felt myself praying in the middle of the lesson to know what to say and how to help her with this concern she was having. I could also relate to her concern. I've been praying hard to have more charity for others. I think really the two most important things for us to have in this life is the Spirit and charity. I know I cant teach successfully without either one. I hope to instill both of those things in my children.

On Tuesday we had our devotional. Elder Lowell Snow of the 2nd 70 came to speak to us. He talked about choices. He brought up prayer and how the Bible Dictionary says that prayer is when we align our will with the Father's. And that it is up to us to CHOOSE the will of God. This requires so much faith on our end. And I thought to myself while he talked that probably the biggest trial of my faith has actually been to come on a mission. I've never wanted to come on a mission. But I'm here because I felt like I needed to come and because I exercised my faith and chose this. But I realized that even being here, my faith is still tried. I'm still constantly trying to align my will with God's. And man, it's hard sometimes. I thought to myself also, while he spoke, that God is all knowing, right? Why would I not want to align my will with a being who knows me better than I could ever know myself? Who knows where I need to be right now? And knows who I need to become and exactly how I could get there? I thought to myself, "Wow, I'm really dumb sometimes." Why is it so hard though?
Send me pictures. I need pictures of all of my family. If everyone can send some to me from each of their families that would be great! Thanks for the package in advance! I don't have it yet but will get it soon. I love you! I Love you all!!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

MTC/I LOVE MY DISTRICT

Hello momma! Thank you so much for your Dear Elders throughout the week. I heard of a girl here that hasn't been getting ANY mail in the three weeks she's been here and my heart breaks for her. It would be so tough to not have anyone writing you. I am going to write her a letter today and maybe multiple times throughout the week.

This week has been great. Sister Pence and I have been working hard together to improve our lessons. Here, to practice our teaching, they have what are called TE's, or Teaching Evaluations. You go into a room, give a lesson to a teacher or returned missionary who acts like an investigator, and afterwards they evaluate you on how you are doing. That is what I'm talking about when I say we gave so many lessons or taught so many people. This week we had some really valuable lessons: one where I was able to share a personal experience with the book of mormon to an investigator and they said they were really able to feel the importance of the book in our lives. Another lesson we gave, the teacher stopped us and asked us how we prepared--we told him we read over the lesson and each of us had been assigned a portion of the lesson and we were going to see where the spirit brought us--he told us that he is a former mission president and gave us some better pointers on how to prepare lessons specifically tailored to the investigators. We told him we would try his advice and asked him to be our progressive investigator!! (Where we go back and teach him consecutive lessons as if he were a real investigator) He agreed and we taught him about the restoration last week. We've committed him to read and pray about the book of mormon and we will have a second lesson this week. Among the many things I've learned here at the MTC, I think the most important thing I've learned is that the Spirit is absolutely crucial in conversion. I mean, I think I knew that before, but I'm actually gaining a testimony of that and seeing how it is crucial and how it works. I cannot teach one thing without it. And the spirit doesn't only come in while I'm giving a lesson, it comes also when I am preparing for one. I have access to the spirit, and it's my job to seek after it and utilize it. God knows what the people I'm teaching need--I dont. And with him I can prepare lessons and messages for people I have never met or spoken to before in my life.

I think as far as teaching goes, I COULD go out there and start now (I mean, stateside missionaries only spend about three weeks here) and I could learn more about teaching by the spirit, but right now I am trying to take full advantage of the resources I have here. Also, I can teach in English, but teaching in Tagalog is kind of a daunting thought right now, not going to lie.

Sister Pence and I had a TE this past week where we taught in Tagalog. It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I just need to expand my vocabulary. Something I've been trying to do is wake up 30 minutes early to study vocab words. Sometimes I bring my vocab with me to gym and review things there. Last thursday I took my "food" vocabulary to gym and learned all of them while I ellipticall-ed. :)

I just love Sister Pence. Really. I am so blessed to have her as a companion. When we have troubles, we are able to talk them out so calmly and we are both so understanding of one another. Our problems just iron out beautifully and we are constantly making goals to be better. I'm helping Sister Pence open up a litttle more :) since I have no problem being an open book to her.

I also love love loveeeeeeeee my district. I will send you pictures of them soon. We had district volleyball the other day and basically I just laughed for 45 minutes straight. They are hilarious. And they can also be serious when it is important to be. They teach me something new and wonderful every day. It will be sad to part ways in october. Although three of them are going to my same mission. I think sister pence will be my companion. It would only make sense. We are going to the same place and leavingg tthe same day. And I will be able to call you if you want me to? I'm not sure what time exactly thatt would be and I wouldn't find out until I got my flight plans probably. Which usually come two weeks beforee people leave.

I dont want my grad dress--it's too scandalous for this place. My black bbeelt should be in one of my drawers or in my closet or in that other room with the huge pile of stuff I left. I dont exercise every morning, because that would only givvee me 30 minutes to get ready. I exercise in the middle of the day. Usually on the elliptical or I run or I just do conditioning things. Still gaining weight. But I'm banking on losing it all in the Philippiinnes.

Soooooo yesterrday I fasted for you to get a job. Your name is also on the prayer roll. I also fasted to be a better, more focused missionary. And guesss what. I've been given the assignment by my branch president to be the coordinating sister for all of the sisters in my zone. I go to meetings with the zone leaders and I interview every sister weekly and I am in charge of missionary conduct and teaching new missionaries that come in. Neat huh? So it is now up to me to be the example--and I think that gives me some more motivation to be even better. Also, I am going to join the MTC choir this week. We might sing at general conference and you might see me on TV! wooo! Exciting.

Yesterday the missionaries in my district requested I sing for them. So sister pence and I found a secreett piano on campus and I sang them hymns. It was cute. I felt like Wendy in the mary martin veerrsion of peter pan. Singing all the lost boys to sleep. :)

I have 3 minutes!!! Ahh!!! Send me colorful clothes. Maybe some cute headbands and sudafed if you can!??

Don't worry. I will write to you in English. I love you sososososo much. Read Alma 34 38-41. It made me think of you. Alainna still hasn't written and my heart is breaking kind of. Nathan writes sometimes. Victoria too. Matt does all of the time.

Loveee youuuu!!!
Sisterrrr Forttttt