Tuesday, December 28, 2010
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.
(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,
Monday, December 20, 2010
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!
Monday, December 13, 2010
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
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,
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)